Thursday, November 23, 2017

Recently Read - November 2017

To date, I’ve posted an individual book review for each book I’ve read since I started working on this blog. I had planned on continuing that practice but fell behind on writing reviews when I finished 3 books within 2 days of each other. In the interest of continuing to post relatively regularly with varied content that genuinely interests me, I’ve decided to begin combining a few of my reviews into these recently read posts. Now, that doesn’t mean I will never post a review for an individual book - I still plan on doing that - but only for the ones I feel especially passionate about sharing. For those I just enjoyed, and which only need a short summary and review, I plan on sharing those books all together in a monthly series, the first of which is this post.

So read on to discover the books I’ve read in the past month:

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Recently Read Books - November 2017 | kathleenhelen

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

The Sympathizer was the 2016 Pulitzer Prize winner. The novel tells the story of an anonymous undercover operative for the North Vietnamese Army (the communists) that opens towards the end of the Vietnam War. Working as a trusted Captain for the South Vietnamese Army, the operative is instructed to evacuate to America with the General he is working under and continue to send coded messages back to Vietnam from America. As the operative gets closer to the people around him, his ideals and loyalties begin to clash resulting in a significant amount of internal conflict.

I thought this novel was an interesting look at the legacy of the Vietnam War and I was really interested in reading it because of its different perspective. The story failed to draw me in, however, and I found it very difficult to follow. I felt little to no connection to the operative which made this a difficult read for me. Although I can see value in this novel as a piece of literature, because I found it severely lacking in anything to maintain my interest, I gave it 1 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.

Recently Read Books - November 2017 - Leave Your Mark and The Sympathizer | kathleenhelen

Leave Your Mark by Aliza Licht

Aliza Licht was the voice behind the hugely successful DKNY PR GIRL persona on twitter until 2015, growing that following to over 500,000 all while maintaining her day job as the senior vice president of global communications at Donna Karan International. This novel discusses Licht’s journey from studying pre-med in college to taking on that role at Donna Karan and the rise of Twitter, along with advice for new to the workforce young people looking to make a name for themselves.

Having followed DKNY PR GIRL on twitter, I enjoyed reading about Licht’s journey from pre-med to PR at a major fashion house. I felt, however, that a particular tone of condescension and frigidity was used to give advice that any high school class covering resume writing and interview skills would provide. I may be alone in this, but I think that if you’re using “text speak” in a cover letter or networking email, you probably aren’t going to be picking up this book.

I was also surprised to see how dated everything related to social media already seemed. The book was published in 2015, but in those two short years, it seems a lot has changed. The advice related to social media also seemed to more along the lines of tweet often, reply to others, and think before you post, rather than true advice on things like how to create a personal brand. So, although I did enjoy reading about Licht’s journey, I did find the book rather lacking in any useful advice, so I gave it 3 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.

Recently Read Books - November 2017 - Women in Science | kathleenhelen

Women in Science is a beautifully illustrated book showcasing women from a variety of STEM fields throughout history. For each woman, their scientific advancements are highlights through short biographies and quick fun facts. The book contains famous women like Marie Curie and Jane Goodall, but also a lot of lesser-known names (I had never heard of the majority of women featured).

This is a beautiful, engaging, and inspiring book. It works great as a pretty coffee table book for adults, but also as a gift for any children in your life, though the font is small and sometimes somewhat difficult to read. Because I loved this book so much, I gave it 5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.

Recently Read Books - November 2017 | kathleenhelen

Le Fantome de l’Opera by Gaston Leroux

Loosely based on actual facts, Le Fantome de l’Opera, or The Phantom of the Opera, by Gaston Leroux tells the story of the mysterious Paris Opera and the perplexing disappearance of a young singer. Just before his death, Christine Daae’s father promises to send an angel of music to help guide and protect her. When she begins hearing a disembodied voice in the Paris Opera that helps her improve her ability to sing, she assumes it’s the angel her father promised. In reality, it’s a man named Erik who lives in the bowels of the Opera and has become known as the Phantom of the Opera. As Christine develops a relationship with the Vicomte de Chagny, Raoul, a love triangle of sorts emerges with both Erik and Raoul showing jealousy that could result in trouble for everyone.

I read the novel that inspired one of my favourite musicals in its original French. It was beautifully and descriptively written and was thoroughly enjoyable. Although very dark, the story quickly draws the reader in, much like other gothic novels like Wuthering Heights. I expected the book to differ more from the musical, but Andrew Lloyd Webber stayed very close to the original, and I found myself getting song after song stuck in my head while reading. I gave this novel 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.


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