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Farewell and Final Batch of Book Reviews



Babble of the Books began in 2020 as a personal project, and after nearly two years of blogging about books I am calling this project complete. Today’s post will be my last batch of book reviews.


Thank you, readers, for being a part of this project and for perusing my posts. I’m thankful for you, and I hope you continue to read and discuss what you read with the people in your life.


Without further ado, to the books! Here are reviews of last month’s books from DNF (did not finish) to five stars.


A Room with a View

E. M. Forster

😬DNF



The first forty pages were all right, but it went downhill from there. I found reading this book to be as odious as reading Jane Austen. (I realize among book lovers this is an unpopular opinion, but I stand by it.) So many indecipherable social rules that the plot is written around! Not all old books feel old, but this was old, stodgy, downright inaccessible. DNF.


Embassy Wife

Katie Crouch

😬DNF



What’s intended to be biting social commentary reads stale in this novel about a wife who follows her husband to somewhere in Africa for his job at the embassy. She sacrifices her own career for her insecure husband who has something to prove, yet no strength to prove whatever that something is. An unlikable embassy wife plays foil to the protagonist, unlikable yes, but don’t mistake that for interesting! Byeeeeee.


The New Me

Halle Butler

😬DNF



What does that cover remind you of? A certain vice presidential debate perhaps?


I found the beginning of this short novel promising because I enjoy a sardonic narrator; however, I tire of a disillusioned narrator.


Millie is failing at adulting, but then she has the promise of a real career corporate job. How can a story like this end? If she starts disillusioned, then the ending has to be a faux-re-illusionment. Sort of.


I skimmed ahead and basically Millie gets the “dream” career and then waits to die. Here’s how it ends:


“Friday. Blissfully free. The vast expanse of hours laid out in front of her. The countless hours between now and the end.” Good Lord!


The Last Exiles

Ann Shin

⭐️⭐️⭐️



The Last Exiles stars Suja and Jin, North Korean university students of contrasting backgrounds. Suja comes from wealth and plans to be a photojournalist like her father. Jin is a scholarship student whose family lives in rural poverty. Jin is accused of a crime that sends him to prison for life. When Suja hears of Jin’s escape she runs away to find him. While they are sure of their love for each other, neither knows whether the risks that they take will lead them to each other once again.


I read The Last Exiles quickly because so much of it was hard to read. As in, the characters endure horrific hardship as they flee North Korea. But when it was all over, I was left with the feeling, Wow that was intense.


This is one of those rare books that I think will make a better movie than book. I could picture it as I read it, and some of the scenes seemed very Hollywood rather than literary. I yearned for more character development and was overwhelmed by the plot’s quick (and somewhat unrealistic) timeline.


Sigh, Gone

Phuc Tran

⭐️⭐️⭐️



I wonder how old Phuc Tran is, not only because his memoir ends with his high school graduation, but because the story of his life lacked the analysis and wisdom I would expect to find in a memoir.


Of Vietnamese immigration memoirs, I think Thi Bui’s The Best We Could Do is better than Sigh, Gone because it has much more depth and cohesion. In contrast, Tran’s book was dull at times and I almost didn’t finish it.


I did like how he referenced literature and connected its themes to what was playing out in his own life. I just wish he had done more analysis, particularly surrounding the relationship with his parents. He could have centered the book on that relationship as allegory for the complicated relationship between his American self and Vietnamese heritage. Instead, he writes about his childhood how I would expect a recent college graduate to talk about childhood: with limited insight. I wish he had let his story percolate another 5-10 years before telling it because I think he would have shared it better.


Black Buck

Mateo Askaripour

⭐️⭐️⭐️💫



In short, I liked it. Askaripour has a unique voice that totally works for satire. This book is definitely satire given how hyperbole is used to make a point. For example, the depiction of startup culture was both spot-on (from what else I’ve read) AND ridiculous: its cultish loyalty, Buck being the ONLY Black guy there, and the white paint hazing stunt on his first day (totally symbolic).


The narrative became moralistic at the end, which seems to be happening more often in fiction as of late (The Final Girl Support Group, A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor).


While I respect Askaripour’s style, it’s not my favorite. For a good chunk of the book I felt Buck’s extreme attitude was overkill and even within the satire beyond believable. His selfishness warranted more justification.


The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories

Charlotte Perkins Gilman

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️



I enjoyed these forward-thinking stories far more than I expected to. Written between 1892 and 1914, each story showed a woman overcoming her economic oppression in inventive and subversive ways. I’m sad to think how little has changed since then, but also touched to know the long line feminism has spanned.


God Spare the Girls

Kelsey McKinney

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️



Caroline, younger sister to Abigail in a family of four, narrates the story of finding out her mega church pastor dad is having an affair. She and Abigail in their own way come to terms with the hypocrisy of the church and how the gender politics of their community affects their lives.


I found myself relating to Caroline and Abigail in turn. Caroline’s thoughts and feelings reminded me of the insecurity a younger sister feels, but as a middle daughter I’m also an older sister, so at times I instead identified with Abigail’s self-assuredness.


The novel asks who is forgiveness for? Is it for everyone? Men and women alike? Leaders and their flock? Who must do the forgiving? And the ultimate question: To keep one’s faith and one’s church, what must a woman do to make peace with the fallen man at its helm?


Silver Sparrow

Tayari Jones

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️



James Witherspoon is a bigamist. In public, he is husband to Laverne and father to Chaurisse. In private, he has a secret second wife named Gwen and another daughter named Dana. The first half of the story is told by Dana, who knows the situation and suffers the pain of being the secret daughter. The second half of the story is told by Chaurisse, who befriends Dana without knowing they share a father.


I find James’ attitude of victimization tiresome and I don’t understand how he could have convinced two women to marry him. I don’t particularly understand why Gwen gets involved with James to begin with when she knew he already had a wife. I don’t like how all these women have to deal with James’ choices while James is absent from the action. And it boggles my mind how much they enable James too.


What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat

Aubrey Gordon

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️



This book had me thinking through so many memories, unlearning and rethinking what I had been taught about fatness. I could see instances in which I had messed up, instances in which I had been hurt, instances in which I had hurt myself by the beliefs and judgments I had acquired about my body.


I hope all doctors read this book and that they reassess how they doctor fat patients. I hope everyone else reads it too and that they change not only how they talk about fat, but how they think about it. Wow.


I love how the entire last chapter is a vision for what ought to be the case regarding fat justice. There’s no hedging, no qualms about what change people are or aren’t capable of, just a pure vision of what would be good and right. I love how in a world where fat people are told to be smaller Aubrey Gordon dreams big.



Thanks again for joining me on this fun reading adventure! In a couple of weeks the url of the blog will revert to wix.com/babbleofthebooks and all that I’ve written will remain there.


Hug your people, hug your pets, and hug your books.


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Happy reading, friends.



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