Review: 5,000 km Per Second by Manuele Fior

It was hard not to take immediate notice of the utterly beautiful cover for this book. When I then proceeded to check out Manuele Fior’s art style, I was completely blown away by his exuberantly-illustrated pages, his eye for color, and his passion quite visibly ooze off the book. 5,000 km Per Second 1-- bookspoils

5,000 Kilometers Per Second tells–or almost tells–the love story between Piero and Lucia, which begins with a casual glance exchanged by teenagers across the street through a window and ends with a last, desperate hook-up between two older, sadder one-time lovers. Executed in stunning watercolors and broken down into five chapters (set in Italy, Norway, Egypt, and Italy again), 5,000 Kilometers Per Second manages to refer to Piero and Lucia’s actual love story only obliquely, focusing instead on its first stirrings and then episodes in their life during which they are separated–a narrative twist that makes it even more poignant and heart-wrenching.

What originally caught my interest from the blurb was the fact that this collection explored the settings of Italy, Norway, and Egypt. I was beyond curious to see these places captured on page, especially with Fior’s talent for the hypnotic and ethereal. The artistry in here is simply phenomenal. I came to anticipate each bold brushstroke and surprising detail with every passing page.

What came to mind in particular when I saw the the color scheme was Lilli Carré’s Heads or Tails, which I’d recently read and loved. So similar to that collection, 5,000 Kilometers Per Second did not disappoint in the art department. The riotous color palette and watercolors were just out of this world stunning. I mean, so beautiful that words cannot even begin to encompass a tenth of it. In particular, it was the attention paid to the tiniest detail that really added depth to the overarching theme.

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Though I wish the story wouldn’t have been cut off so abruptly, since it would’ve given our characters more time to evolve and expand in their little universe, the art had me so wrapped around and (practically) hypnotized that I can’t even begin to delve into the minor negatives. All in all: I have Manuele Fior’s artwork on my radar from now on.

4/5 stars 

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying 5,000 Kilometers Per Second, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!

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Review: This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz

Nine interlinked short tales chronicling ruined relationships, cheating, death, family, and more. At the heart of these stories is the irrepressible, irresistible Yunior, a young hardhead whose longing for love is equaled only by his recklessness–and by the extraordinary women he loves and loses: artistic Alma; the aging Miss Lora; Magdalena, who thinks all Dominican men are cheaters; and the love of his life, whose heartbreak ultimately becomes his own.

“And that’s when I know it’s over. As soon as you start thinking about the beginning, it’s the end.”

This being my first read by Junot Diaz, I was in for a pleasant surprise regarding the writing and the tempo of each tale. The author specializes in making his short stories fly by. However, I had a hard time reading most of these tales of cheating and feeling literally zero remorse for it… And even going so far as to say that “it was just a mistake.” I have only one thing in mind for people that use that heinous excuse:

And I just wish the women in this collection could’ve listened to Dua Lipa’s New Rules:

Side note on the above song: I recently discovered this feminist, girl-power bop, and I’m completely digging it. It’s been on repeat for days now. Not only is the aesthetic on point in the music video (those color coordinations!!!), but Dua Lipa’s singing voice is one not to be trifled with.

Circling back to the actual story collection: While the first handful of stories were capturing and different enough to keep me interested, once the narrator became the same one for each coming tale I grew quite over it. Following Yunior from a teen to adulthood didn’t end up working in my favour, since his character wasn’t that intriguing to see developed over the course of a number of stories. And neither his family nor his romantic partners kept me intrigued enough, so I was disappointed with the second half of this collection.

This Is How You Lose Her is, however, a striking introduction to the author’s immaculately curated writing style. I’m not sure, however, if I’ll be eager to check out Junot Diaz’s other books in the near future. Mainly because the short stories left me extremely underwhelmed with the characters as a whole. So only time will tell on this one.

2.5/5 stars 

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying This Is How You Lose Her, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!

Review: Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin

“The only past you have a right to know about is your own.”

I was positutely ecstatic when I found out that Gabrielle Zevin was releasing a brand new fiction novel after The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry, which had quickly become a favorite of mine earlier this year. And similar to the aforementioned, Young Jane Young had me enamored from the first page, which I’ve come to realize is the author’s specialty. Even though the setting is so different from her previous work, the characterizations feel so familiar. Zevin has a special knack for breathing life into her characters, making them flawed yet still likeable as hell.

“Once upon a time, I was easily touched and easily flapped.”
“What happened?” she said.
“I grew up,” I said.

Now I know that I can always count on the author for getting me swept up into her works from page one. It took absolutely zero effort for me to get familiarized within the pages of this book. It felt truly effortless, in particular, because of the combination of the many Jewish aspects and Yiddish phrases (farkakte, oy vey iz mir, alte cocker) that won over my heart in a beat.

Thanks to my incredible excitement for a new Zevin novel, I hadn’t even read the blurb or synopsis before starting, so I was in for a treat because everything that came at me I got to experience through fresh eyes. I’m also thankful because I probably wouldn’t have read this gem had I known that Young Jane Young‘s heroine is Aviva Grossman, an ambitious Congressional intern in Florida who makes the life-changing mistake of having an affair with her boss‑‑who is beloved, admired, successful, and very married‑‑and blogging about it.

“They didn’t put a scarlet letter on her chest, but they didn’t need to. That’s what the Internet is for.”

Separated into five different parts with a different female narrator for each one, the aforementioned plot point is honestly not even a third of what this novel is about. We’re introduced to so many great, flawed, and achingly real female characters that support one another, in addition to many iconic feminist moments and sayings and t-shirts (“Women rights are human rights” and “Ask me about my feminist agenda”) in here. Speaking of which, the pure privilege of receiving the many sage feminist advice from Mrs. Morgan was worth it all. (Her side note to Ruby on the meaning behind ‘douchebag’ opened up my eyes.)

And further drove the point home by making this a female driven story. I love it more than I can put into words that the narrators were Jewish women, related to each other one way or another. Nothing is quite like what it seems, and I cherish the author for still managing to make each woman layered and just so fucking real. That’s all I could’ve asked for, really.

An added bonus: One of my favorites was Ruby Young, the most fully realized character, who’s only thirteen at the end of the book but trustworthy, neurotic, and strong for her age, to borrow her mother’s phrasing. When asked how she came to be so wise, her answer gives it all away:  “Books,” I said. “And I spend a lot of time with my mom.” Showing healthy children/parent relationships is the key to my heart.

It seems a difficult feat but I ended up liking each narrator and each generation more and more, thanks to Gabrielle Zevin’s effortless yet intricate writing style and characterization. The small details are what matter here. Like this next little moment that managed to capture such a specific feeling that it nearly made my head spin:

“I don’t know why I didn’t say no. In my defense, I was confused. I think it’s like when you’re on a cell phone call with someone and the reception goes bad and you continue to pretend as if you can hear for a bit, hoping that the cell phone reception will work itself out before the person catches on that you haven’t been hearing her for five minutes. Why don’t you immediately say, I can’t hear you? Why does it feel shameful.

And of course there were the many laugh out loud moments that I’ve grown accustomed to as the author’s signature style: “He was twenty-seven, and his handshake was too firm – what are you trying to prove, bro?” And using the most iconic of phrases: “You’re worse than a bra strap.”

This refreshing, short, and concise read with plenty of heart and more than a little humor has made a definite new fan out of me. I can’t wait for Gabrielle Zevin’s future works.

ARC kindly provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Expected publication: August 22nd, 2017

5/5 stars

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