books

Freshwater // Akwaeke Emezi

Thank you to Grove Atlantic and Netgalley for an early review copy of Freshwater by Awkaeke Emezi, which will publish February 13, 2018.  All thoughts are my own.


From the publisher:

Ada has always been unusual.  As an infant in Southern Nigeria, she is a source of deep concern to her family.  Her parents successfully prayed her into existence, but something must have gone terribly awry, as the young Ada becomes a troubled child, prone to violent fits of anger and grief.  But Ada turns out to be more than just volatile.  Born “with one foot on the other side,” she begins to develop separate selves.  When Ada travels to America for college, a traumatic event crystallizes the selves into something more powerful.  As Ada fades into the background of her own mind and these alters- now protective, now hedonistic- move into control, Ada’s life spirals in a dangerous direction.


Akwaeke Emezi’s debut Freshwater is one of the most talked-about books of the year so far, and with good reason.  It’s unlike anything I’ve ever read before- unique and refreshing, powerful and profound, with vivid imagery and so so so many good lines.  (I can’t even begin to count how many gorgeous quotes I underlined!)  Emezi is an immensely talented writer; she certainly knows how to style a story and keep its audience captivated.

Freshwater has a distinct narration style, told from both the individual and the collective “we.”  Each narrator is somewhat unreliable, yet Emezi still makes you feel for them and understand their motives.  I’m not going to lie, I was a bit confused by the narration at various points throughout the novel, so if you’re thinking about reading Freshwater, I’d recommend checking out this Twitter thread first, wherein Emezi explains the basic concepts of Nigerian mythology and the ogbanje.

Overall, I found Freshwater to be an eye-opening and thought-provoking tale.  I can’t even begin to explain what this book made me feel.  It’s so original, so authentic, so deserving to be read.  Do you ever read a book that just sort of quietly resonates with you, that blows your mind and makes you sick at the same time?  I think any review I attempt to write just won’t do this book enough justice, so I’ll keep it short and sweet.

If you choose any book to read this month, make it Freshwater.  It’ll blow you away.

You can find this book on Goodreads and Amazon.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Being a Minimalist Bookworm

The term “minimalist bookworm” sounds contradictory, I know.  Book lovers these days seem to be defined by the content of their bookcases- the more books we see, the more well-read we assume a person is.  I struggle with this, because as much as I dream about having a library of my own someday, I personally feel overwhelmed by too much stuff, so having a huge collection of novels isn’t exactly my ideal.  I think that’s why I was initially drawn to a more minimalist lifestyle (also because I adore tiny houses!).  The Minimalism Movement has been on trend for a few years now, and I’ve been striving to be more minimalist, so I thought I’d share some things I’ve learned on my way.

DO keep books you’ll reread.

It’s only natural that you’ll want to revisit some of the books you’ve already read, and it’s hard to justify getting rid of something you’ll eventually come back to.  Keep your favorite books, the ones that interest you, the ones you’ll want to return to someday.

DON’T hang on to books you’ve owned for years but still haven’t read.

If you’ve owned A Game of Thrones since the first season premiered but you still haven’t gotten around to it, I think it’s safe to say you won’t be reading it any time soon!  We all read at different paces, but consider setting an amount of time, anywhere from eight months to five years, after which you will get rid of books you haven’t read yet.

DO save books that have meaning to you.

Still own that battered copy of Charlotte’s Web that your mom used to read to you as a child?  Did you purchase a book as a souvenir of your trip abroad?  These are the ones you might want to save, and that’s okay.  I actually regret donating some of my favorite childhood books, so hang on to sentimental books unless you’re positive you no longer want them.

DON’T own more than one edition of the same book

Of course, there are some exceptions to this one; for example, I own a paperback copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and I also own the illustrated edition.  I can’t imagine getting rid of one or the other.  However, I think having ten editions of Pride and Prejudice might be a bit extensive (#sorrynotsorry).  You just have to determine what’s right for you.

DO utilize the library.

One of my favorite things about the library is there’s no pressure to like every book you read.  Often, when I buy a book, I feel the need to enjoy it because I’ve spent my hard-earned money on it, but at the library, I’ll pick up just about anything, and if I don’t like I’ll return it, no guilt necessary.  The library is a great resource for quick readers especially, and (bonus!) it’s free, so you really can’t go wrong!

DON’T purchase books just because they’re popular or trendy.

It’s okay, we’ve all done it, but buying a book, especially one you don’t think you’ll like, just because it’s all over Instagram, is probably not the best idea.  Eventually the popularity will fade and you’ll be stuck with a book you don’t actually want to read!  And if you’re not sure whether or not you want to read it, try waiting a few months after the hype has died down and see how you feel about it then.

DO try ebooks and/or audiobooks.

Ebooks and audiobooks are great for saving physical shelf space, and (bonus!) they’re often cheaper than paperbacks or hardcovers.  However, if you don’t like reading in either format, don’t force it: reading should be an enjoyable experience, not a frustrating one.

DON’T buy books without reading an excerpt.

For me, the writing style is one of the most important qualities of a book; if I don’t like the writing, chances are I won’t enjoy the story or the characters.  That’s why I always like to read an excerpt or chapter sample of a novel before I purchase it.

DO try a book-buying ban.

Set yourself a period of time in which you refrain from buying any books, and see how it goes.  Not only are bans great for stopping the intake of new books, but they also allow you to get around to the books you own but haven’t read yet.  It’s a win-win!

DON’T let yourself feel stressed or discouraged.

You might notice it’s difficult to strip your shelves at first, and that’s okay!  It’s not for everybody, but don’t let your feelings keep you from making the change.  It’s definitely easiest to do a little bit each day rather than all at once.  Personally, I’ve found that making the strides to be a minimalist bookworm has been challenging but absolutely worth it!

If you’re interested in reading more on minimalism and books, I’d recommend checking out Why I Love to (and Will Always) Buy Books by Cait Flanders, who went through a two-year shopping ban while paying off debt, or 12 Helpful, Practical Steps to Unclutter Your Book Collection by Joshua Becker, a longtime minimalist of ten years (and counting).

Do you have any other tips for anyone seeking to be more minimalist?  Have you tried any of these tips yourself?  Let’s chat in the comments!

xx,
Hannah

Modern Lovers // Emma Straub

With end-of-semester demands drastically increasing, I found myself craving a light, easy read, and the bright turquoise spine of Modern Lovers seemed to be calling my name.  Thus, I escaped the university insanity and transported myself to summertime Brooklyn in the hopes of enjoying a cute summery story.  But Modern Lovers was a bit different than what I anticipated.


From the back cover:

Friends and former college bandmates Elizabeth and Andrew and Zoe have watched one another marry, buy real estate, and start businesses and families, all while trying to hold on to the identities of their youth.  But nothing ages them like having to suddenly pass the torch to their own offspring.  Now nearing fifty, they all live within shouting distance deep in gentrified Brooklyn, and the trappings of the adult world seem to have arrived with ease.  But the summer their children reach maturity (and start sleeping together), the fabric of the adults’ lives begins to unravel, and the secrets and revelations that are finally let loose can never be reclaimed.


“Choices were easy to make until you realized how long life could be.”

-Emma Straub, Modern Lovers


Quirky yet one-dimensional hipsters make up our cast of characters.  There is Elizabeth, a near-50 year old real estate agent stuck in a rut, and her husband Andrew, who faces a mid-life crisis and, during an attempt to find a new life’s purpose, becomes entranced by a hip new co-op in the neighborhood.  There is former college bandmate Zoe, grappling with the fact that her marriage is in shambles, and her wife Jane, an eccentric chef with whom Zoe operates a trendy Brooklyn restaurant called Hyacinth.  Adolescent Harry, son of Elizabeth and Andrew, experiments with becoming the “cool” teenager his parents once were and begins a relationship with childhood friend Ruby, daughter of Zoe and Jane and a recent high school graduate struggling to decide how she wants to spend the rest of her life.  Together, these characters represent the complexity of human relationships, but individually, they lack development and seem engulfed by a singular aspect of their personality.

The plot of Modern Lovers seemed a bit confused.  Without getting into spoilers, I feel like a lot of different events were haphazardly thrown in but not fully explored like they should’ve been.  I enjoyed the book and its quick wittiness, but I think it could’ve been more than just a “beach read” had it gone into a bit more depth and gave more background on the various characters and their complicated history.


“Why couldn’t everyone just stay young forever?  If not on the outside, then just on the inside, where no one ever got too old to be optimistic.”

-Emma Straub, Modern Lovers


Modern Lovers truly is a book about (yes, you guessed it) modern lovers, in every sense of the word.  Straub deeply explores every kind of relationship: husband and wife, friend and lover, even cat and owner.  She expertly examines human nature, what drives and motivates us, in a way that helped me gain perspective on some of my own relationships.  Overall, I can say that I enjoyed Modern Lovers for what it is: a light beach read, but I went into it hoping for more and came out disappointed.

You can find this book on Goodreads and Amazon.