​© Alison Chang

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A Bunch of (Short) Book Reviews

October 12, 2018

Since moving to Vancouver, I've discovered a few gems in this city. Namely the mountains, Stanley Park, Kitsilano Beach, and the seemingly endless amount of Irish pubs there are in the city.


In addition to its natural beauty, Vancouver is rich with culture and history. The Museum of Anthropology on UBC's campus offers a glimpse into the land that Vancouver was built on, and the First Nations people's that lived on it. 


My find today has to do with Vancouver's Public Library. Now, I'd been to the LA Public Library downtown before, and I absolutely hated it. Florescent lights, filled with fraying books and people seeking temporary shelter-- it wasn't like any library I was used to. Then again, I had been spoiled by the beautiful sweeping libraries of USC, like the Hoose Philosophy Library with it's stained glass windows and old wooden tables, or even Doheney library, where I can recall study days with my best friends and feeling like a true academic.


I was so surprised when I walked into the library next to the community center where I go to the gym to find that it was clean, well-organized, and welcoming. I snatched up a book I had been dying to read (David Copperfield by Dickens) and renewed it until I could no longer, and had to return it. I'm still in the process of reading it, but alas, my freshly graduated brain doesn't carry the reading speeds I had in freshman year. 


I picked up three new books, determined to finish these ones before my time was up. Here is what I thought of them:


1) The Little French Bistro by Nina George

After Dickens, I needed a few easy reads, and started with The Little French Bistro. The story follows a woman, Marianne, who tries to jump off a bridge into the Seine to escape her dreary life married to the controlling and manipulative Lothar. She's saved from her death, and embarks on a journey that takes her to Kerdruc where she meets an assortment of characters. 


I loved this little book. It was easy to read, had the same vibe of other travel-destination-get-your-life-together books. Great descriptions of Kerdruc and the sea (so much so that I could almost taste the breeze) and a funny lead character gave the whole book great momentum. It was honest, refreshing, and exactly what I needed. If you want an easy, joyful ride, this book should be on your list.


2) The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory


Boy gets stuck in elevator with girl. Boy needs date to wedding. Boy asks girl to be his date. Hilarity and hijinks ensue. 


This is the kind of book where you can see the ending coming from a mile away. It was sweet, fun, and full of love and descriptions of the way couples feel when they're in love. I liked each character's perspective and the way Guillory switches between them. But I felt like it lacked a real problem. Besides life getting in the way, neither protagonist had any major flaws to fix or big obstacles to overcome. I was cheering for Alexa and Drew the whole time, but it turned out that they didn't need a cheerleader. An easy read (almost too easy?) if you're looking for something really fun and lighthearted.


3) Desperate Characers by Paula Fox


Okay. I'd heard a bit about this one, from the movie that was made to Jonathan Franzen's glowing review on the cover of the book: "The first time I read Desperate Characters... I fell in love with it." 


Boy, I couldn't disagree more with Jonathan Franzen. Perhaps it's because I've been out of English literature classes for a while and have stopped looking for metaphors (The curtains were blue, so that must mean that the house holds sadness, right? Or that they're trying to create a sense of calm in this chaotic world we live in!?!?!) so I think I missed a lot of what Fox had to say. I'm a fan of linear storylines with plots that are easy to follow (maybe I'm the one that's become complacent?) and I couldn't keep up nor find the urgency to care about what was happening to Otto and Sophie. They didn't seem like characters I could relate to, and I couldn't find characteristics that I liked in either of them. I powered through this one in a little less than a day, just because I couldn't see the point. Maybe I missed the historical references? Again, I just couldn't find it within me to care enough to delve into subtelties of Fox's writing. 


Fox's dialogue though, is beautiful. She writes as we speak, often getting distracted and thinking out loud. Honestly, it read more like a play than a novel to me. The only phrase that stuck out to me was "extinguishing point", which I loved, but otherwise I think most of Fox's prose was lost on me. 


If you're a fan of subtext and character studies, then this book is one you'll enjoy. However, if you're just a casual reader like me, it might be a challenge to get through. 



Next up is The Singapore Grip by J.G Farrell, a book I happened to pick up. It's quite long, but so far humorously written, so we'll see if I can get through this one before I have to return it.


Happy reading! 



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