Sula, by Toni Morrison, was published in 1973. The book focuses on a black neighborhood and a friendship that develops between proper and traditionally raised Nelly and free spirited Sula. The two become very close; going on adventures and making huge mistakes throughout their adolescence, until they eventually grow apart. The novel, written by a Nobel Prize winner, is a star example of enriching African-American literature. Beautifully written, shocking, and yet also endearing, it takes readers on an insightful trip to Medallion, Ohio - one full of excitement and symbolism for modern themes.
The Kingdom of Back is a historical fantasy novel about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his sister, Maria Anna Mozart. Told from the perspective of Maria Anna (nicknamed Nannerl), this novel gives readers the untold story of her musical success and childhood fame. As a girl in the eighteenth century, Nannerl knows it will never be socially acceptable for her to compose like her brother, so she makes a wish--which leads her to a mysterious land of faeries and moonlight and castles, and a magical boy who promises to fulfill her wish if she helps him in return.
As the plot unfolds, readers are given a look into the life of the Mozarts and their grand tour around Europe to play for the most esteemed audiences. Both Nannerl and Wolfgang (Woferl) are incredibly impressive child prodigies; though Wolfgang is who comes to mind when we think of the name Mozart, his sister was also a musical genius. This book highlights Nannerl's perspective very well, diving into her insecurities and fears as well as her dreams. The fantasy aspect added an interesting element to Nannerl's story; I enjoyed Lu's vivid descriptions of the Kingdom, and the fantastical side of the plot permeated the historical one in a clever, well-thought-out way. The novel ends with a creative twist, leaving readers to think back over the whole story in a different way.
My only issues with this book were the repetitiveness of descriptions and thoughts, and the fact that the fantasy plot seemed very predictable until I reached the twist. But overall, I loved how well the fantasy and historical fiction elements blended together, and that Lu shed so much light on the power of music. This novel is perfect for anyone who enjoys fantasy, music, and history. Nannerl Mozart's story is one you won't forget.
A Bend in the Stars is a fiction story about a Jewish family surviving the 1914 Holocaust. It rotates around Miri, a female surgeon in a world of Men. When the Holocaust starts, her whole life is turned upside down as the rush to America begins. I love this book for the honesty of elements like the interaction between Vanya and Kir, the two intelligent scientists, and the relationship between Sasha and Miri. I recommend this book to anyone who's looking for an interesting read.
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek was a powerful story set in the mountains and hollers of rural eastern Kentucky in the 1930s. Cussy Mary is a strong woman who has dedicated her life to providing books and other reading materials to the isolated impoverished hill folk. Cussy Mary, also called Bluet, is the last of her kind, a Blue woman with blue skin. When the ending came around, I thought I might be disappointed, but it was handled deftly and with a light hand. Very good book!
The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern, is a beautiful, exquisitely written, spellbinding novel of magic, love, and a special circus only open at night.
Celia and Marco are two young magicians, students of respective magical instructors, one of whom is Celia's father. These magicians, fierce rivals for decades, propose a challenge-- an ambiguous feat where the two magicians compete against each other in an expansive setting. At the same time, a theatrical producer, Chandresh Christophe Lefevre, creates his newest masterpiece-- The Night Circus, an expansive theatrical production, where the theatrics are not confined to the stage. Celia and Marco become involved in this circus through the will of their instructors. Celia becomes the illusionist, disguising her magic powers as stage illusions. Marco becomes an assistant to Chandresh, running the circus from the inside, and helping with the coordinated particulars instead of traveling with the circus like Celia.
The competition within the circus begins, Celia and Marco creating new tents in an attempt to outdo each other until one is declared a victor. And slowly, as they begin to realize that the other is their opponent, Celia and Marco fall in love, which sets off a chain of devastating events for the circus and all of the people in it.
Erin Morgenstern is a fantastic writer. Her sumptuous prose is gorgeous, and her level of detail in describing the circus makes it feel as if she had actually visited this place herself instead of creating it in her head. Even the smallest atmospherical details of the circus are mentioned, and such a rich and vivid setting envelopes the reader into the book. The story within the gorgeous setting, that of Celia and Marco, is exquisite. The book takes pace over a vast expanse of years, allowing them to grow and change and mature within their characters as the challenge progresses and they begin to fall in love with each other. Watching Celia and Marco grow throughout the novel from children to finally finding each other was a very satisfying process in the story.
The story does jump, from the main story of Celia and Marco to the story of Bailey, a young boy on a farm in Concord, Massachusetts, who visits the circus and becomes enamored with it, until the time of both stories intersect and Bailey's life crosses with Celia and Marco's.
I cannot say enough good things about The Night Circus. The story, the setting, the writing, and the characters are all wonderful. This book is such a gem, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys fantasy, romance, or just a good story. The Night Circus, with it's gorgeous setting and wonderful prose, is the kind of book every reader longs to read-- the kind of book that envelopes the reader into the world created in the story, one that readers will not want to leave long after the last page finished.
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe is an amazing description of pre-colonial African culture as well as a detailed description of the initial consequences and longer-term impacts of colonization. It follows Okonkwo, a man who was the most powerful member of his village up until the arrival of the colonists. Okonkwo is the manliest of men and believes he must show no weakness. Okonkwo is a representation of the African culture as the colonists arrive. His personal feelings and reactions are very similar to those of all Africans during this strange period. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about African culture, but I think everyone should try it because it is an important piece of history, telling the story of a people trying to survive against the colonial onslaught through the story of a man trying to find his way in the world.
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck is a tale of grief and hope in the midst of the great depression. It begins with two men, George and Lennie, who are searching for work on a farm. George is witty and small while Lennie is mentally handicapped but enormous and physically strong. Both George and Lennie, as well as the other workers they meet, begin to represent the nation as a whole during the depression. Showing the struggles of every person in those horrible times. I think the novel is a sad story but it is a good representation of the personal and societal impacts of the depression and I think everybody should read it at least once.
George and Lennie are two laborers searching for work in California. While George is small and quick, Lennie is a man of tremendous size and has the mind of a young child. Despite their differences, they have formed a "family", clinging to their dream of owning an acre of land and producing their own produce. When they find a job at a ranch in the Salinas Valley, fulfilling their dream seems to be within their grasp, but conflict arises when Lennie begins a flirtatious relationship with the ranch owner's wife, and even George can't protect him from that.
I liked this book! Lennie and George's relationship is heartwarming, and it shows that having close friends can make even the hardest life bearable. My favorite characters were Crooks and Lennie. Crooks, who lives by himself because he is the only black man on the ranch, shows how discrimination affects mental well-being. Like Lennie, Crooks has been outcasted and looked down upon by society for something he can't control, and I liked how Steinbeck brought two very different characters together by sharing their shared loneliness. George is a complicated character because, at the end of the book, he does what he believes is 'best for Lennie' but it begs the question of how far a friend should go if it's in 'your best interest'. I watched the movie as well, as it was also really good!
This novel follows the life of a young Indian girl named Rukmani, who is married off at the age of twelve. She marries a poor farmer, Nathan: because she has three older sisters and is not as "desirable" by Indian standards, her parents cannot find a better suiter besides a poor farmer. Throughout their marriage, Rukmani and Nathan struggle with poverty, and misfortune. In addition, British colonizers have set up posts in their town, further destroying Rukmani and her family's sense of community and opportunity.
My favorite character is Rukmani because of her complexity. She is a flawed and interesting character because, on one hand, she breaks the gender norms of her culture and often finds ways to support the family even when Nathan can. However, I will argue that Rukmani is complacent in her poverty and accepts things as the way they are knowing she could do better. I also really liked how this book touched on intergenerational conflicts. Rukmani often finds herself detached from her children because they're growing up in westernized society. Nathan is my least favorite character because he's just...there. Overall, this was a good book because it exposed me to a different culture.