Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller // A Lovely Classic

Friday, 25 May 2018 0 comments
Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller
Publication: October 28, 1976, by Penguin USA
Genre: Adult Fiction, Play, Classic
Pages: 140
Format: Paperback
Source: Borrowed

Ever since it was first performed in 1949, Death of a Salesman has been recognized as a milestone of the American theater. In the person of Willy Loman, the aging, failing salesman who makes his living riding on a smile and a shoeshine, Arthur Miller redefined the tragic hero as a man whose dreams are at once insupportably vast and dangerously insubstantial. He has given us a figure whose name has become a symbol for a kind of majestic grandiosity--and a play that compresses epic extremems of humor and anguish, promise and loss, between the four walls of an American living room.

My Thoughts:

I had mixed expectations for Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman solely because I did not want another Great Gatsby redo or copycat. I had previously heard that the American Dream is a major theme featured in this play, and I was quite skeptical of it as the message usually tends to be the same in these kinds of story: money isn't everything. DON'T LET YOUR EXPECTATIONS CHANGE YOUR EXCITEMENT FOR THIS PLAY: this was a fantastic play that was so impressive and easy to analyze. In fact, Miller's writing made analyzing fun for me. I'm usually not the type of person who's interested in seeing beyond the lines and trying to distinguish the author's purpose for writing a certain piece of literature. However, in Death of a Salesman, it was impossible to not search for some extra meaning. 

To quickly summarize the story, this basically focuses on the Loman family, specifically on Willy Loman and his struggles of living in a world which highlights the importance of gaining some kind of American Dream. Willy is a travelling salesman who travels around New England and the New York City area. The point of attack of this play allows audiences to enter the point of time in Willy's life where he is realizing that he has a greater potential and deserves a better job, and life. However, Willy establishes a facade towards his family, causing them to believe that Willy is more "well-liked" and successful than he seems. This disturbs the relationship amongst Willy and his eldest son, Biff, who views Willy as a role model.

I enjoyed reading every single page of this play. In fact, I would be totally interested in seeing this being performed live. I love the realistic aspect of the play, as it surely addresses the lives of many Americans to this very day. The tensions in the relationships of the characters were interesting to examine, and made me become more interested in the 20s era of the twentieth century. As for any flaws in the story, if I were to give this play a five star rating, it needed an extra dash of something. Some kind of entertainment or plot twist or suspense, as, evidently, the fate of Willy Loman is already spoiled to us readers from the title. Whoa, how surprising it is that Willy's story will end in tragedy and he will die. This cannot even be identified as a spoiler. It's just common sense. The ending is where I can say that the book lost its entertainment aspect and caused readers to look in between the lines of the play. I do not know if that is my favourite approach to reading a story, that's for sure.

Death of a Salesman is some excellent, classic literature that should be continued to be read in classrooms all over the world. I found that it was easy to be entertained whilst reading it, and to analyze it for academic purposes (I had to read this for school, so finding some 'greater' message was beneficial). But even if you're not a student, READ THIS. Pick it up - it is not some kind of play that is difficult to understand (COUGH Shakespeare COUGH)! 

What are some other works of literature that focus on the American Dream?

Top Girls by Caryl Churchill // Difficult to Comprehend

Thursday, 24 May 2018 0 comments
Top Girls by Caryl Churchill
Publication: July 15, 2008, by Bloomsbury
Genre: Adult Fiction, Play
Pages: 176
Format: Paperback
Source: Borrowed

Set in the early Thatcher years, Top Girls is a serminal play of the modern theatre, revealing a world of women's experience at a pivotal moment in British history. Told by an eclectic group of historical and modern characters in a continuous conversation across ages and generations, Top Girls was hailed by The Guardianas "the best British play ever by a woman dramatist."

My Thoughts:

Top Girls, from all of the books I was required to read for my English literature class, was the one I was the most excited for. However, it proved to be the worst one out of the four I read, especially due to the confusion it provided me with. Perhaps if I were to see a live performance of this play in a theatre, I would have enjoyed it more. However, this can easily be crowned as the most confusing play I have read. Move over, Shakespeare, Caryl Churchill is a playwright who may be taking your place in terms of confusing literature. To make it clear, I had mixed feelings about this play. It was quite boring and absolutely confusing - the overlap of dialogue especially made me react like: O_O

Even from the cover, it is easy to identify this book as feministic. And there's nothing wrong with that; today's society is strongly associated with the feminist movement and I feel as if this play is perfect for those interested in this topic. However, I was unable to find something unique or even shocking about this play that provided me with some huge, grand message. The message or 'moral' of the play was just cheesy and expected, which made me dislike the story more.

What I did appreciate was the abundance of characters Churchill wrote about, and how they were all women. There was not one male character (even though they were mentioned and alluded to), and this gave women more of a dominant role in this play, which I am sure many would adore to hear about. Each character represented a distinct personality trait, and they all came from different points of history, and some are even fictional characters. That was super cool, but to this very day, I am unable to distinguish why the author utilized these fictional and historical characters in the first act(?) of the play. Eeeeek.

The pacing of the play was quick and left me entertained; my class was able to read this play in two days, which is quite a record as most teachers tend to spend an abundance of time analyzing every statement and searching for dramatic devices. Whilst doing so, I was able to read this fairly quickly. The relationships created by the playwright were also very touching and heartwarming. The uniqueness and weirdness of this story will surely not be forgotten. I guess that factor makes me enjoy the book even more?

Top Girls lacked a sense of clarity in the writing which makes me identify it as a book I kind of enjoyed. Kind of. While it did entertain me with its fast-moving plot and interesting characters, the story lacked a unique message that will stun its future audiences. 

What is your favourite British play?

Instructions for a Secondhand Heart by Tamsyn Murray // Heartwarming and Simply Beautiful

Wednesday, 23 May 2018 0 comments
Instructions for a Secondhand Heart by Tamsyn Murray
Publication: December 7, 2017, by Poppy
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 313
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher

Jonny knows better than anyone that life is full of cruel ironies. He's spent every day in a hospital hooked up to machines to keep his heart ticking. Then when a donor match is found for Jonny's heart, that turns out to be the cruellest irony of all. Because for Jonny's life to finally start, someone else's had to end.

That someone turns out to be Neve's twin brother, Leo. When Leo was alive, all Neve wanted was for him (and all his glorious, overshadowing perfection) to leave. Now that Leo's actually gone forever, Neve has no idea how to move forward. Then Jonny walks into her life looking for answers, her brother's heart beating in his chest, and everything starts to change.

Together, Neve and Jonny will have to face the future, no matter how frightening it is, while also learning to heal their hearts, no matter how much it hurts.

My Thoughts:

I've read many books with a similar concept to this one, but this book is something special. Instructions for a Secondhand Heart by Tamsyn Murray was a story that initially seems to be similar to the rest, however, the author utilized a different take to the story and shocked me. This novel certainly had its flaws with being a story that was difficult to 'get into' and start to understand, however, once the understanding portion sunk into my mind, enjoying and loving the story came easily. If you're looking for a story that will possibly cause you to shed some tears and catch a glimpse of what love is actually like, read this gorgeous novel. I am especially complimenting the author's writing style, which was fresh, unique and entertaining. I can certainly call this one of the better love stories I've read about this year.

This is a dual perspective novel, focusing on two characters who initially seem to be complete opposites and have no connection. However, unfortunately, a death brings the characters together: the death of Neve's twin brother, Leo. When Leo dies in a tragic accident, Neve finds it difficult to move on and even find the will to live. Leo's death allows a teenage boy, Jonny, to receive a life-altering heart transplant which allows him to live. Ultimately, Jonny becomes curious about his donor, and eventually discovers Neve and starts a relationship with her... and things blossom.

Of course, this is a romance story. HOWEVER, IT'S NOT CHEESY. At least, I didn't find it cheesy in any way. This had two characters who had quite interesting personalities. Neve and Jonny fit each other SO WELL, but this was only because they both were different and had their own problems and flaws which were highly evident throughout the novel. Through the plot, Murray showcased the issues individuals face when they encounter death and illness, and how people can easily be connected without expecting it. 

What I loved most about this story is the ending. OH MY. It was definitely emotion-filled and will cause you to shed a tear... or two. I'm telling you: you will not want to miss this gorgeous story. It's a perfect one for a nice winter evening by the fireplace. 

READ THIS BOOK AND FALL IN LOVE. Okay? Okay. Let's all appreciate Tamsyn Murray's writing and beg her to write another novel soon!

*A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for a honest review. Thank you so much!*

What is the most recent 'heartwarming' story you've read?

I See London, I See France by Sarah Mlynowski // The Best Summer Read Ever

Tuesday, 22 May 2018 2 comments
I See London, I See France (I See London, I See France #1), by Sarah Mlynowski
Publication: July 11, 2017, by HarperTeen
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 378
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased

Nineteen-year-old Sydney has the perfect summer mapped out. She’s spending the next four and half weeks traveling through Europe with her childhood best friend, Leela. Their plans include Eiffel-Tower selfies, eating cocco gelato, and making out with très hot strangers. Her plans do not include Leela’s cheating ex-boyfriend showing up on the flight to London, falling for the cheating ex-boyfriend’s très hot friend, monitoring her mother’s spiraling mental health via texts, or feeling like the rope in a friendship tug-of-war.
As Sydney zigzags through Amsterdam, Switzerland, Italy, and France, she must learn when to hold on, when to keep moving, and when to jump into the Riviera…wearing only her polka-dot underpants.

My Thoughts:

I See London, I See France is literally a traveller slash bookworm's dream novel. THIS WAS MY DREAM NOVEL. It was my #1 most anticipated read of all of 2017, and I couldn't wait to devour it during my vacation. Although I didn't spend my vacation in Europe (I really, really wanted to), at least Sarah Mlynowski provided me with the opportunity to pretend that I was exploring London, Paris, Italy and Switzerland. This was seriously my favourite read of last year. (It's crazy to see how I'm writing this review a year later haha.)

This book has a very, VERY important theme: friendship. More books should focus on the reality of friendship in the manner that this one did. Normally, authors tend to show that every girl has a BFF and they are so alike that they will conquer the world and beat all the bullies who are stealing their boyfriends. Trust me on that one; you can find that in literally every cheesy chick-lit story. Mlynowski, as always (I love her writing!), took this premise and showed the reality of friendship and even travelling. Unless you're a millionaire, it is extremely difficult to be travelling to luxury hotels and treating yourself to expensive dinners by the riverside every night. You know what I mean? This book was just so realistic and beautiful. I am in LOVE.

As for the premise which is explored, what the book focused on was a summer trip between two best friends throughout Europe. Sydney and Leela are heading on a trip throughout Switzerland, London, France, and Italy with the main focus of Leela forgetting about her ex-boyfriend, who actually shows up on their flight. THINGS GET CRAZY SOON AFTER, and there are so many plot twists and suspense throughout the book that will surely keep you interested. I am so excited for the sequel to this beauty, and I extremely appreciated the romance and nice pacing that this provided. Therefore, this was definitely a win over a miss.

Even if you do not call yourself an avid fan of contemporary romance, I still recommend I See London, I See France. It is just a beautiful story that is unlike many others and one I will remember for years. In fact, I would really like to reread it!

What is your favourite travel-themed novel?

Coming Up for Air by Miranda Kenneally // HOLY MOLY.

Friday, 16 February 2018 0 comments
Coming Up for Air (Hundred Oaks), by Miranda Kenneally
Publication: July 4, 2017, by Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 320
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased

All of Maggie’s focus and free time is spent swimming. She’s not only striving to earn scholarships—she’s training to qualify for the Olympics. It helps that her best friend, Levi, is also on the team and cheers her on. But Levi’s already earned an Olympic tryout, so Maggie feels even more pressure to succeed. And it’s not until Maggie’s away on a college visit that she realizes how much of the “typical” high school experience she’s missed by being in the pool.
Not one to shy away from a challenge, Maggie decides to squeeze the most out of her senior year. First up? Making out with a guy. And Levi could be the perfect candidate. After all, they already spend a lot of time together. But as Maggie slowly starts to uncover new feelings for Levi, how much is she willing to sacrifice in the water to win at love?

My Thoughts:

I have really, really avoided writing this review. Why, you may ask? Why be so lazy? *giggles* Because I didn't want to let this series go. Miranda Kenneally's Thousand Oaks series has been with me since the start - the start of my obsession with reading and all things YA fiction. Coming Up For Air was just as good as the others in this series, and I am so obsessed with it. I cannot wait to see what the future has in store for the author's writing and what is yet to come! 

I feel that this series HAD to end because Kenneally ran out of sports to write about — we have been through them all: soccer, football, baseball, running, swimming, you name it! Haha - but in an honest sense, I must say that what I loved most about this book was the fact that romance was incorporated in a realistic way. Maggie and Levi had the most passionate relationship ever (!! seriously!), and I cannot get them out of my head. 

This could’ve been bad—real bad. You see, I’m used to a lot of those cheesy fluffy contemporaries with a lot of unrealism in them. I could spend hours naming them all, but I’d rather not since contemporary is probably my favourite genre. 

I feel like books in this genre could either go one way or the other. The characters in this one seemed more mature and relatable than the others of the author, and that surely shone a light onto this all, just like a little topping or sprinkle of something onto your ice cream sundae. Like really, it was the magical touch and new-thing to this series. It was what we needed to get this to a whole other level. 

Buy, loan, grab, steal (just kidding) this book IMMEDIATELY. I promise you will adore it, and if you (somehow) don't, I'll kindly (or forcefully) ask you to pick up the first books of the series and devour them. There is literally no way that you will not find this book enjoyable. Now, go ahead and go for it!

What was the best final book of a series you recently read?

Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch // AGH. I'm in Love!

Sunday, 4 February 2018 0 comments
Love and Gelato, by Jenna Evans Welch
Publication: May 3, 2016, by Simon Pulse
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 389
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased

Lina is spending the summer in Tuscany, but she isn’t in the mood for Italy’s famous sunshine and fairy-tale landscape. She’s only there because it was her mother’s dying wish that she get to know her father. But what kind of father isn’t around for sixteen years? All Lina wants to do is get back home.
But then she is given a journal that her mom had kept when she lived in Italy. Suddenly Lina’s uncovering a magical world of secret romances, art, and hidden bakeries. A world that inspires Lina, along with the ever-so-charming Ren, to follow in her mother’s footsteps and unearth a secret that has been kept for far too long. It’s a secret that will change everything she knew about her mother, her father—and even herself.
People come to Italy for love and gelato, someone tells her, but sometimes they discover much more.

My Thoughts:

It is rare for me to be in love with a book, especially during my current tough reading slump. I find that it is quite difficult to find enjoyable books that are different than the rest and contain the most important thing I look for in a book: a plot that is in no way boring. However, Love and Gelato by the AH-MAZING Jenna Evans Welch shocked me and showed me that there is hope in this world to find good books. I loved the setting of Florence, Italy, and the romantic interest, Ren. Those are just two of the mini captivating points that I am still currently obsessed with.

Even though I closed this book back in August 2017, I feel as if I just finished it. Ren and Lina's story seems to be living in my head for an extra long period of time, longer than what I averagely deal with. This is not a story that is just about the romance, hence the title. Jenna Evans Welch creates Lina's persona as one that is struggling to find the truth about her roots and who she actually is. She has little to no knowledge about her father, and what Italy really means to her. However, as she has the best summer of her life (I am still envious to this day about what she experienced, agh) the secrets begin to flood out and we as readers begin to strive to want to find out THE TRUTH. And, to not burst your bubble or anything, the truth is not leaked until THE END. But not the last page - so don't be one of those sneaky people and scan the last page for spoilers. It won't get you anywhere. *winks*

This is one of those books that is perfect for you to read on a day at the beach, a day by the pool, or on a day where you can see twenty feet of snow outside of your window. It will develop so much wanderlust in you, and you will want to email the publisher like a maniac, asking them to show you the author's next novel. TRUST ME, I've tried. (Just kidding!) But I guess that this is a sign that you. Will. Be. Incredibly. Addicted.

Lina was the most kick-butt contemporary-romance protagonist I have read about in a looong time. I loved that she was skeptical of her surroundings and what she was being told by her father. She wasn't naive, WHICH, for chick-lit books, is a trait quite easy to find in narrators. And the best thing was that she had the most amazing connection with Ren. *heart eyes* REN IS MY BOO. MY LOVE. I'd really appreciate it if Lina passed him over to me!

Love and Gelato is my love. And right now, I could really use a cup of gelato (preferably cinnamon flavoured) to make my day complete. AND ALSO, if I booked a trip to Italy, I wouldn't ~want~ anything else. GO READ THIS RIGHT NOW. If you're seeking a 'best book of the year,' this is it!

What are some other YA books set in Italy?