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book reviews

Educated

Tara Westover’s memoir left me wondering how a life can truly change with the help of an education.

I loved going to school. Throughout my childhood, I was taught in elementary school how to read, how to write, and learned common facts and ideas about the world. This continued throughout junior high and high school. In college, I expanded my knowledge of the world around me, and chose to declare a major in English as my main (and only) focus. I grew up learning to love getting an education: I worked hard, tried to teach myself how to study, and (more so in college) what it means to have an education. After reading Educated, I’m thinking more about what it truly means to have grown up with an education.

Tara grew up with very little of that. At a young age, her father stopped her from going to school.

On the highway below, the school bus rolls past without stopping.
I am only seven, but I understand that it is this fact, more than any other, that makes my family different: we don’t go to school.

pg. xiii, Prologue, Kindle edition

Tara grew up living in the mountains of Idaho, where she lived out her days running wild and free. As she got older, she worked for her father in the junkyard, then worked elsewhere. Her brother encouraged her to get her GED and go to college; he helped influence Tara into getting out of her parents house.

With a survivalist Mormon family, with an un-diagnosed bipolar father, and with a brother who became steadily more abusive, Tara sought getting an education as a way of getting out of her dysfunctional family.

At seventeen, Tara got into college, and later went on to Cambridge University. Tara first learned about the Holocaust in college, and had to further educate herself about topics that were common knowledge to her classmates. With the help of her mentors, she learned how to think critically, and how to navigate the world of academia. Her roommates helped her, too, mostly in teaching her personal hygiene, because her father didn’t believe in using soap to wash your hands after using the bathroom.

Educated has taught me how important it is to have an education. It’s important to have a basis of knowledge about the world around you, and to learn how to challenge yourself through higher learning by attending a university.

I’m so grateful to my family for having me pursue a college education. I not only learned how to write better, but how to be independent and live on my own. Without a higher education, I wouldn’t have my amazing English degree. I wouldn’t have made the close friends I now have because I went to college. If I had just gone into the workforce, I feel like I wouldn’t be as confident as I am now. I wouldn’t have the extra classes that I took under my belt.

For Tara, getting an education meant escaping her family, and becoming independent from her parents. While her education came at a cost, she still feels grateful that she went to college: “You could call this selfhood many things. Transformation. Metamorphosis. Falsity. Betrayal. I call it an education” (pg. 328, Kindle edition).

If you like reading memoirs, and if you like compelling non-fiction, Educated should be on your reading list.

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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book reviews

Girl, Woman, Other

Girl, Woman, Other is a multi-faceted story about several women—young and old—who live in Great Britain. At first glance, it seems like the novel is comprised of vignettes, but the deeper you venture into the novel, the closer these women become. Every one of the characters is connected to someone else in some way: a daughter, a friend, a lover, or a mother.

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Divergent

Beatrice Prior lives in a dystopian world.

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book reviews

Fates and Furies

Every story has two sides. Every relationship has two perspectives.

Lotto and Mathilde get married at twenty-two years old. As a young couple, they move from the honeymoon period into co-existing with each other, to almost breaking their marriage. As the years change and test their life together, Lotto (Lancelot) and Mathilde stay together, weathering rough patches in their relationship, betrayals of trust, and months of absences from one another.

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The Immortalists

In 1969, Varia leads her other three siblings to a fortune teller, a woman who tells each of the kids when they will die. It’s no secret that this book will be about death, but it’s surprisingly about living your life.

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book reviews

The Starless Sea

Bee, key, sword.

Erin Morgenstern’s second novel cannot specifically be defined as one genre. The Starless Sea is many things: a mystery, an adventure, a multi-faceted love story, and above all, a world within a world. Each vignette from various books brings you closer to the characters, who are less random and more real than you originally think.

When Zachary Ezra Rawlins finds a book with a piece of his childhood written exactly as he remembers it in the campus library, he’s stunned. He re-reads the collection of short stories over and over, but nothing of his own story comes up. Sweet Sorrows enthralls Zachary, compelling him to take the book with him everywhere, including a gathering with fellow students.

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Symptoms of Being Human

Riley Cavanaugh is your typical rebellious teen: Riley likes to wear Doc Martins, Dad’s old Ramones shirt, and has an ambiguous haircut. Trying to fit into a box isn’t Riley’s thing, especially when it comes to gender. Because Riley is gender-fluid. 

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book reviews

By Chance Alone

Max grew up during the ’30s and ’40s. As a child, he loved spending time with his grandparents, his aunt and uncle, and his immediate family all under one large roof. When Hitler came to power, Max’s life rapidly changed. As a Hungarian Jew, he and his family members were targeted and witnessed the horrors of the Holocaust.

Now, as a Holocaust survivor, Max’s testimony to the atrocities at Auschwitz reminds fellow survivors and listeners alike that it’s important to never forget such a terrible time in history.

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book reviews

The Wheel of Time: The Eye of the World, Book 1

Leaving Emond’s Field

The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills.

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book reviews

Knit Two

In the sequel to The Friday Night Knitting Club, which focuses on an eclectic group of women who knit in their spare time, Knit Two is about the events after Georgia Walker’s untimely death. Dakota, her now college-aged daughter, runs the Walker and Daughter yarn store with Perri, a woman who makes unique pocketbooks. While the group is struggling to move on five years after her mother’s death, life finds a way for these women to meet and knit together once a week.

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book reviews

Crossover (Cassandra Kresnov # 1)

In a futuristic setting, Cassandra Kresnov must stake her claim on her autonomy and rights as an android, an artificial person, while struggling to live life as a civilian. Created by the League for wartime purposes against the conservative Federation, someone who is like the Daft Punk song: Harder, better, faster, stronger. She’s also more dangerous and more intelligent than ordinary humans. Having fled the League, she tries to find a new life among the Federation, her previous enemy.

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book reviews

Pansies

Alfie Bell has a lot going for him: he’s making good money, he’s got his own place, and he’s looking for love.

When he accidentally comes out as gay at his mate’s wedding, his world is turned upside-down. Shocked at his reveal, Alfie leaves the wedding in a rush, leaving the place of reception as quickly as possible. In a pub, he meets a handsome man around his age, and sleeps with him.

To his horror, Alfie learns that the guy he just slept with is his old classmate, James O’Donaghue. He used to torment James for being different, without realizing that he himself was just as different from everyone else, just like James–who now goes by his real name Fen, short for Fenimore.

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book reviews

Wayward Son (Simon Snow #2)

Simon Snow defeated the big baddie. Now he’s sitting on the couch.

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book reviews

Ravensong (Green Creek # 2)

Gordo Livingstone may be the witch for the Bennett pack, but he never forgot the lessons that were carved into his skin.

Hardened by the betrayal of the wolves, he finds solace working in the body shop that he owns, working alongside his best friends. It should’ve been enough. When the wolves return, with Mark Bennett among them, they take down a monster together as a pack and win. A year later, Gordo finds himself once again the witch of the Bennett pack. He’s also struggling to ignore Mark and the wolfsong howling between them.


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book reviews

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

Dear Ma,

I am writing to reach you–even if each word I put down is one word further from where you are.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, Ocean Vuong, pg. 3.

Little Dog is writing letters to his mother who is illiterate. He writes to go back to places that he remembers through memory, which “is a choice” (pg. 75). Memories he writes about include his birthplace in Vietnam, how his grandmother and mother survived death in such a war-torn country. Little Dog writes about experiencing homophobia, his first love–a boy named Trevor–his past, and his family.