Book Reviews - Page Header Background.jp
Book Reviews - Page Header Title.png
6E15C3E3-5AEF-4087-B41D-8BFCDEAE08FA-89C

BOOK REVIEWS &
RECOMMENDATIONS
 
with Abby Kernya IG @abbigalekernya

Captured%20on%20Portobello%20Road%2C%20L

THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY

by Oscar Wilde (1890)

Genre: Philosophical fiction, decadent literature

Recommended Age:  13+ readers

Rating Scale

Educational value: 5/5

Positive message:4/5

Positive role models:​ 1/5

Violence:​5/5

Sex:5/5

Language:​2/5

Drinking, drugs, smoking:​ 2/5

Consumerism:​ 0/5

DorianG.png

“Behind every exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic.”

Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
 

Oscar Wilde has undoubtedly evolved to become one of the most famous classic authors to date.The Picture of Dorian Gray is a cautionary tale that transcends time itself. Written in 1890, this piece of gothic horror follows the fast decline from beauty to madness. Written by one of the greatest writers of the nineteenth century, this novel takes readers on a journey through the eyes of the judge, jury, and executioner. One that connects the dots between a youthful first love and ripening horrors. 

 

Dorian Gray is a simple, youthful, optimistic, and unworldly gorgeous man in upper class London. After his dear friend Basil paints a portrait perfectly capturing Dorian’s innocence, his world slowly grows demonic. Lord Henry Wotton, a rich man with a stone heart and rotten ego, convinces Dorian that life is nothing without beauty. Worried that his godlike good-looks will fade, Dorian wishes his portrait should age so long as he does not. 


Imprisoned by his obsession with the ever changing portrait, Dorian falls down a spiral of self indulgence and greed. Oscar Wilde perfectly paints the fine line that exists between beauty and tragedy. Driven into madness, the once innocent boy now struggles with the fear of his sins finding their way back to him. In a world so corrupted by greed and filth, Dorian faces the question: Is there life without beauty? Is beauty a mirror of morality? This renaissance concept is explored with vulnerability in this century old story that still stands today. With the light of Basil and the darkness of Lord Henry, Dorian must decide for himself if his beauty is enough before it's too late. After all, a beautiful monster is still a monster. If you are on the hunt for a read both philosophical and adventurous, The Picture of Dorian Gray in all its desire, might be for you.

 

HOW TO PRONOUNCE KNIFE

by Souvankham Thammavongsa (2020)

Genre: Literary Fiction

Recommended Age:  13+ readers

Rating Scale

Educational value: 5/5

Positive message:3/5

Positive role models:​ 3/5

Violence:​ 1/5

Sex:  3/5

Language:​ 1/5

Drinking, drugs, smoking:​ 1/5

Consumerism:​ 0/5

book_cover.png

"Thammavongsa’s background in poetry truly shines on every page. Words written with silk, this novel will have readers questioning everything they know about what it means to be human."

 

Souvankham Thammavongsa’s debut novel, How To Pronounce Knife, is a collection of short stories following Laoatian immigrants and their experiences in a world that never stops spinning. This arrangement of 14 short stories follows the journey of working class immigrants, a boxer turned nail tech, a father-daughter bond that transcends language, the youthful magic of Halloween, and never ending narratives that question what it means to be loved. Thammavongsa is a literary genius: Canadian poet turned novelist, she fills these pages with raw beauty and blindsiding ugliness. How To Pronounce Knife, in all its glory, is one long story about finding yourself in a world created to break you down. 

 

Throughout this novel, Thammavongsa brings readers into a world unlike any other. A world looked through the lens of a child, as innocent and blissful as it is heartbreaking. A world that follows an elderly woman so desperate for love that red flags shine green when the lights are off. Within the fourteen different narrations, Thammavongsa takes readers into the depths of her imagination, in which the struggle to adapt to a Western mold of family and love is the only constant. Yet in all the different lives lived within these pages, each one offers a different perspective on life that will change your worldview in ways unexpected.

 

How To Pronounce Knife is an adventure full of charming characters, nose jobs, and loneliness is its most purest form. Thammavongsa’s background in poetry truly shines on every page. Words written with silk, this novel will have readers questioning everything they know about what it means to be human. Stories surrounding love, loss, and the pressures of being an immigrant in Canada, How To Pronounce Knife is a gripping novel full of questions never meant to be answered. If you are looking for a read that will transform you into a world familiar, yet so unknown, then I highly recommend this read. 

 

ON EARTH WE'RE BRIEFLY GORGEOUS

By Ocean Vuong (2019)

Genre: Literary Fiction

Recommended Age: 15+ readers

Rating Scale

Educational value: ​​ 5/5

Positive message: ​3/5

Positive role models: 1/5

Violence:5/5

Sex: 5/5

Language:​3/5

Drinking, drugs, smoking:​5/5

Consumerism:​ 1/5

book_rev.jpg

"They say nothing lasts forever but they're just scared it will last longer than they can love it.”

Ocean Vuong, On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong is a letter written to a mother who cannot read. It is a letter written by a son, filled with painstakingly raw emotions reflecting on the highs and lows of growing up. But most of all, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a love story. A love story between a single mother and her son, and a love story between two broken boys desperate for an escape. Ocean Vuong opened his heart and spilled his soul over these pages, and allowed readers to step inside his world-both beautiful and tragic. 

 

The best way to describe this book is raw. Ocean Vuong writes in brutally honest poetry about the long lasting effects of the Vietnam war, exploring and understanding sexuality, racism, lower class America, and learning to heal in a world created to destroy you. As painful as this novel is to read, it is also necessary to understand and live a life different from your own. Throughout the narration, Little Dog brings readers along through his most vivid childhood memories-both good and bad. Exploring sex, drugs, heartbreak, and the fragility of all things beautiful. Ocean Vuong tours his childhood from the moment he understood what it meant to be targeted for who you are, to the moment he became the water he once drowned in. 

 

This tender autobiography is a book that will just hit you. Written in the most beautiful poetry, Ocean Vuong delivers a once-in-a-lifetime adventure that will reevaluate all you have come to know of heartbreak. A queer love story devoid of all things love, a mother and son torn apart by war, and a crumbling America told through the eyes of a child. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a desperate attempt to put into words all things that are too great to be restricted by language. If you are looking for a read that will completely flip your worldview and shatter all expectations of beauty, then I highly recommend On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. 

THE SONG OF ACHILLES

By Madeline Miller (2011)

Genre: Novel, Romance Novel, Historical Fiction, War Story 

Recommended Age: 15+ readers

Rating Scale

Educational value: ​​ 5/5

Positive message: ​4/5

Positive role models: 5/5

Violence:5/5

Sex: 5/5

Language:​1/5

Drinking, drugs, smoking:​2/5

Consumerism:​ 0/5

songofa_book.png

"We were like gods dawning of the world, and our joy was so bright we could see nothing else but the other".

Madeline Miller, The Song of Achilles


When I finished reading "The Song of Achilles", I was left speechless. And still days later, no combination of words can describe the emotions I felt upon these pages. In the most simple words I can muster: I have never read a book like "The Song of Achilles". A fable of love, sacrifice, prophecies and pride. A tale that has broken my heart and stitched it back together with every turn of the page.

"The Song of Achilles" is a legend of Greek mythology reimagined. It is told through the eyes of an awkward young prince sent to live with King Peleus’ exiled boys. It is in this kingdom, where Patroclus meets the son of a terrifying goddess, and a powerful King. A boy who is destined for greatness: a boy whose veins run rich with the golden blood of the Gods. Here, in the land of Phthia, the most epic love story is born.

Achilles and Patroclus are completely opposite in every way possible. The son of a goddess and a banished prince would normally never speak - but this is not a normal story. Patroclus and Achilles are instead, inseparable from the moment they first meet. Together they share a bond strong enough to break fate itself. Patroclus watches Achilles from the sidelines, he observes a living prophecy take flight - a prophecy that threatens to tear his most beloved companion from his arms. When the Trojan War breaks out, the two boys - now young adults, are called upon to fight. Achilles, who has been foreseen to be the greatest warrior of his generation, must now prove his birthright of fame and immortal legacy - even if it means endangering the person he loves most in the world. 

On every line, Madeline Miller beautifully writes a mosaic of emotions. She tells a story of devotion and divinity in a perspective I have never read before. "The Song of Achilles" is a legend reborn: one that proves how love is the most powerful weapon in all the heavens. If you are looking for a read that challenges every perception of fate, honour, and the purest form of love, then be ready to be left breathless with "The Song of Achilles".

THE WIND-UP BIRD CHRONICLE

By Haruki Murakami (1997), translated by Jay Rubin

Genre: Novel, Science Fiction, Psychological Fiction, Fantastique

Recommended Age:  16+ readers

Rating Scale

Educational value: ​​ 3/5

Positive message: ​2/5

Positive role models: ​2/5

Violence: ​4/5

Sex: 4/5

Language:​5/5

Drinking, drugs, smoking:​3/5

Consumerism:​ 1/5

windup.png

"You’re such a supernormal guy,

but you do such unnormal things.” 
 

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami takes place in a lonely Tokyo suburb where the life of Toru Okada begins to mold into a never ending mystery. One full of half finished stories, a doomed marriage, and the long lost history of Japan's buried campaign during World War II. Toru Okada is an exceedingly average man, who lives a superficial borrowed life he was never meant to have. The tale of a man looking for his cat - and then his wife, uncovers secrets hidden at the bottom of a dried up well, and the cry of a wind-up bird. 

After the disappearance of his cat Noboru Wataya, Toru descends down a ruthless path of unconventional women, and a well where time does not exist. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle tells a story of love and indifference that will capture the minds of readers from start to finish. Between the shocking mind of the brazen May Kashahara, the unfinished story of the Kano sisters, and the unusual help from a mother and son whose first names are a mystery, Haruki Murakami delivers a masterpiece in which the fine line between reality and fantasy is blurred.

Toru finds himself torn between seeking the truth, and understanding the past. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is an unexpected detective story like no other. A story where a pair of physic sisters have the best chance at finding Toru’s missing wife, while simultaneously raising more questions than answers. Haruki Murakami never fails to deliver mind captivating stories that feel more alive than the reality around you. If you are looking for an adventure that tests the boundaries of love and self discovery, then I highly recommend The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.

TURTLES ALL THE WAY DOWN

by John Green (2017)

Genre: Novel, Young Adult Fiction

Recommended Age:  13+ readers

Rating Scale

Educational value: ​​ 5/5

Positive message: ​5/5

Positive role models: ​3/5

Violence: ​2/5

Sex: 1/5

Language:​3/5

Drinking, drugs, smoking:​1/5

Consumerism:​ 0/5

TurtlesAll.png

In the unprecedented year that is 2020, the world is

full of one big question: “why is this happening?”

Turtles All The Way Down by John Green answers this question beautifully, by not answering it at all. Sometimes there are no answers to life's biggest questions, certainly not in the exceptional life of Aza Holmes. This coming of age novel takes readers deep inside sixteen year old Aza Holmes’ brain, as she struggles to cope with the loss of her father, obsessive compulsive disorder, a missing person, and her first love.

In more ways than one, the life of Aza Holmes will resonate with you. Whether it be learning to cope with mental illness, the butterflies of your first love, or the anxieties of growing up. John Green perfectly captures how it feels to be lost in your own world. Each chapter will have readers captivated and moved by the unknowingness that is Aza Holmes, as she  learns to accept everything in life she cannot change. 

Turtles All The Way Down paints a new definition of “normal.” If you are looking for a read that does not just touch on the struggle of mental illness, but a universal human struggle, then Turtles All The Way Down is a must read!

 
 
 
 
 
 
Reading%20In%20December_edited.jpg

MORE RECOMMENDED READS

Ariel

by Sylvia Plath

Nishga

by Jordan Abel

Dracula

by Bram Stoker

To The Lighthouse

by Virginia Woolf

The Skin We’re In

by Desmond Cole