Carolina VonKampen

Editor. Reader. Writer.

Tag: book reviews

What I’ve Been Reading in Summer 2018

Summer: It’s too hot to exercise outside, and it’s also too busy to curl up with piles of books indoors in the sweet, sweet central air conditioning of our new apartment. I’ll admit: I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump. Or maybe it’s more like a reading slowdown. And admittedly, I haven’t been writing blog posts or book reviews, either. So before you start asking, “What have you even been doing all summer?” (hint: so much work), here’s what I’ve been reading in summer 2018.

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Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr

I’ve owned Four Seasons in Rome since fall 2016 after a professor recommended it to me, but I was waiting for the right time to read it. Back in 2016, it was too soon after my semester abroad, and I didn’t want to overwrite memories of Rome and Italy with Doerr’s accounts of it. I feared that I would never get to go back to Rome, so I would wait until I was much older to read about the place I loved but couldn’t visit. But then life took its course, and I returned to Rome for eight days in winter 2018 on my honeymoon. Now, my memories of Rome are multilayered; it is sometimes hard to remember which trip memories belong to. So I figured that summer 2018 was as good a time as any to read a writer’s account of Rome, even though I knew the book make me miss it.

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Hunger by Roxane Gay

In Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, Roxane Gay explores the interconnectedness between her rape, trying to feel safe in her own body, and gaining weight. Gay writes: “This is a book about my body, about my hunger, and ultimately, this is a book about disappearing and being lost and wanting so very much, wanting to be seen and understood. This is a book about learning, however slowly, to allow myself to be seen and understood.”

Gay holds nothing back. As she says: “I’ve been forced to look at my guiltiest secrets. I’ve cut myself wide open. I am exposed. That is not comfortable. That is not easy.” She isn’t hyperbolizing here—this memoir digs deep into her self and her body. As a reader, I was initially uncomfortable being drawn into such a personal story, but Gay handles this intimacy well. She lays it bare without giving gratuitous details—she says it’s still hard to talk about. I can see why. It’s hard to read about the terrible thing that was done to her and how she’s still healing from it, but it’s important to read in order to understand Gay’s narrative throughout her memoir and the effect that these things have on women on a societal level. Continue reading

Such Small Hands by Andrés Barba

Such Small Hands by Andrés Barba is a haunting novel about a little girl, Marina, who is sent to an orphanage after her parents die in a car crash that she survived. The other girls at the orphanage, however, aren’t so welcoming. They want to love her, but cannot; Marina wants to be accepted by them, but isn’t. Barba explores the inability to communicate and the heightened reality of childhood as his characters cannot break out of their fated roles and barrel on toward inevitable tragedy. It’s a short book at 97 pages, but the prose, mood, and intense characterization gripped me long after I put it down. Continue reading

Marbury v. Madison: The Origins and Legacy of Judicial Review by William Nelson

William Nelson gives the Supreme Court case Marbury v. Madison ample historical context and addresses new interpretations of it in light of recent scholarship in Marbury v. Madison: The Origins and Legacy of Judicial Review. Continue reading

To Read or Not to Read: All the Dirty Parts by Daniel Handler

If you don’t know, Daniel Handler is the author of A Series of Unfortunate Events, aka Lemony Snicket. I love love LOVE A Series of Unfortunate Events, but I haven’t read anything else by Handler. His latest novel, All the Dirty Parts, was recently published by Bloomsbury, so I picked up a copy to decide: To read or not to read? Continue reading

To Read or Not to Read: An Experiment in Intentionally Buying Books

I buy too many books.

I see a book that looks mildly interesting on Instagram and save it to my TBR Instagram Collection. I come across interesting articles on LitHub, enjoy the writing or subject, and save the author’s most recent book to my Amazon wish list. I realize that an author who wrote a book I liked has another book…or two…or three…so I buy more of his books for my collection, figuring that I’ll read it some day. I buy them because I write in books, so borrowing from a friend or a library would result in some annoyed friends or libraries.

But the problem is that at this rate, I’ll never read all the books I buy. Honestly, even if I stopped buying books today, I’d have years of new reading material on my shelves. I want to read more, in general, but I need to be more intentional about my choices, especially in which books I spend money on.

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These Are a Few of My Favorite Banned Books

It’s Banned Books Week! Each year, we English majors and readers get excited to celebrate books—especially those that have been banned or challenged at some point. The goal is to talk about the importance of letting people read books, even if they’re full of “dangerous” ideas and content.

With that in mind, here are a few of my favorite banned books, why they were banned, and why I like them. Continue reading

7 Essential Elements Your Book Review Policy Must Have

So you’ve decided to be a book reviewer. You’re itching to get your hands on some advanced review copies for free. But how do you go about doing this?

The first thing you need to do is make sure your book review blog looks professional and represents the type of books you like and the type of reviewer you are. Then, you need to write some book reviews. Authors and publishers aren’t going to send you books if you haven’t proven that you are capable of reading a few books and writing reviews.

Once you’ve written several book reviews and posted them to your blog and elsewhere (Amazon, Goodreads, #bookstagram, etc.), you can start to position yourself as a reviewer worthy of receiving copies of books to review. Create a new page on your book blog titled “Book Review Policy,” put it in your menu, and include these seven elements in it: Continue reading

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