Textbook Review: Mrs. Caliban


Class: Realism & Its Discontents

I don’t have much time to read for pleasure anymore (~sniffles~), but the reading lists in grad school haven’t disappointed me yet. In fact, I’m discovering authors and genres I never would’ve considered before. (I’ll read anything, but I’d definitely say I’m strictly a YA fiction girl.) With that said, I figured I’d review some of the textbooks that really resonate with me.

My Realism class read Rachel Ingalls’ novella Mrs. Caliban at a time when I was living off a Stranger Things high (let’s be honest, I still am). When I was “awwww”ing over Mike and his telepathic first love. Laughing at Dustin and his dangerous scientific discovery/friend. I’m a sucker for supernatural relationships. It’s why Beauty and the Beast is my favorite Disney movie, why I totally fell into the vampire craze in middle school. There’s just something so enchanting about characters finding solace in the unknown. So I took an instant liking to Mrs. Caliban‘s protagonist Dorothy.

Dorothy is a lonely housewife, while her husband is constantly out for business. Dorothy knows this “business” is all bull, but she decides to feign ignorance and stay with him. Things change, however, when she starts hearing unusual reports of a reptilian man who’s just escaped. Where does this reptilian man end up? In Dorothy’s kitchen, of course. Now, if I was Dorothy, I would scream bloody murder. I would run out of that kitchen without looking back. Instead, she just stares at him. She’s afraid… yet, she isn’t. Her first instinct is to hide him from her husband. Once they’re safe, she gets to know this creature — named Larry, of all things — and takes care of him, subsequently falling in love.

I’m sure, in my words, that all sounds ridiculous. A lab holding a giant frog man? That frog man running off to a cozy little neighborhood? And having an affair with a married woman? Yeah, it’s a little weird. But Ingalls laces all of these fantasy elements into her story with such natural ease, such nonchalance, that you just go with it. Because of Dorothy’s past and her current mental state, you’re consistently wondering if Larry is real or if he’s all in her head. At the same time, you’re just happy that these two lonely souls have found each other. I actually would’ve preferred if Ingalls kept it that way — open-ended.

My biggest problem with this novella was the ending. The story suddenly spiraled out of control, leading to some questionable coincidences. It almost felt like a Korean melodrama (without the birth secrets). The tonal shift didn’t quite sit right with me, leaving me conflicted.

So while I don’t think this is the “perfect novel” the New Yorker says it is, Mrs. Caliban does entwine fantasy with realism in a compact and charming way. And now, all I want to do is see The Shape of Water in theaters.

My Personal Rating: ★★★★☆

My Objective Rating: ★★★★☆


Goodreads Review: Holding Up the Universe


Despite what the book’s description says, I don’t see Holding Up the Universe as a romance novel. This is solely a coming-of-age novel in my opinion (more for Jack than for Libby since Libby seemed pretty badass and confident from the very beginning). Both characters had issues they had to come to accept, and along the way, they somehow came to like each other. But… why? I never felt that these two had to fall in love. I liked them as unexpected friends who came to realize that they both had their own insecurities, but I couldn’t see them as a couple, especially as we got further into the story.

I could’ve dealt with that if author Jennifer Niven hadn’t pushed the romance on us so hard. I knew she wanted me to feel their love — and believe me, I tried — but it just came off as forced and slightly cringe-worthy. That didn’t necessarily offend me or anger me; it just frustrated me every now and then. What did anger me was how infuriating some of the side characters were. There were some awful people in this book, and they did feel a little over the top at certain points. I honestly felt bad for Jack and Libby for having to go to that school. Almost all the kids were complete assholes, save for a few good friends. On the bright side, because I hated almost every other character, it made Jack and Libby pretty easy to root for. I think Niven gave her two main characters very unique, lively voices, which were only improved upon by the Audible narrators.

This is a good book. But it’s not the great book I was hoping for. I’ve yet to read Niven’s first YA novel All the Bright Places, but I bought the book a long time ago and left it on my bookshelf at my parents’ house. I may not have loved Holding Up the Universe, but it at least intrigued me enough to want to pick up All the Bright Places the next time I visit home.

My Personal Rating: ★★★☆☆

My Objective Rating: ★★★☆☆

Goodreads Review: The Silver Linings Playbook


I originally started listening to this novel on Audible as something to listen to while trying to fall asleep. Well, I quickly realized that was a mistake, because for the last few nights, I haven’t been able to sleep at all. I can blame that on the wave off thoughts I’d always get after listening to just one chapter. The Silver Linings Playbook is a very powerful novel that had me falling in love with its simplicity as well as its complexity. It’s a simple story following everyday people in the eyes of one very complex man named Pat. He’s perhaps one of the most interesting narrators I’ve come across in fiction. And although it was an extremely frustrating read at times, it was definitely an insightful read. An experience I do not at all regret.

**Have not seen the movie (only clips), but I might reconsider since I’d love to revisit this story again in a different format. 🤓👍

My Personal Rating: ★★★★☆

My Objective Rating: ★★★★★

My First Colleen Hoover Book (and My First Post!)


Well, hello! Very nice to meet…whoever may be reading this! I’m really starting this blog as my own little self-therapy, but if there is anyone out there taking a quick peek, a big warm welcome to you~

I usually blog about Korean dramas, but books are a completely different passion for me. Korean dramas may dictate a huge chunk of my life now, but books have been with me For. Ever. They’ve always been there. Through the puberty, the lonely Valentine’s Days, and, of course, the long-ass flights.

Since college, I haven’t read for pleasure as much I’d liked to (insert terribly sad face), but I hope with this blog, I can get myself back on the reading train. And the discovery of author Colleen Hoover definitely has me ready to hop back on. Which is why I’d like to dedicate my first post to her. Because, mad props to you, Colleen. You finally got me out of my reading slump! I’ve read some great books here and there, but after reading Colleen’s Ugly Love, I got excited to not only read another one of her books, but just any other book. It’s been a long time since I’d felt that excitement.

I honestly don’t remember how I heard about the hype surrounding Colleen’s writing. If I could pinpoint it, I believe it was a YouTube video reviewing one of her earlier books, Hopeless. All of her books were given so much praise in the comments that I simply had to look her up. All of her novels sounded so different, but they all piqued my interest. At first, I wanted to go in order, and start with her first book, Slammed, but the plot of Ugly Love was just calling me at the time. For whatever reason, I don’t know. It just sounded intense and sexy. And intense and sexy, I sure got.

It’s pretty hard for me to fall for romances that start off with “friends” or plain old “acquaintances” with benefits. I’ve seen the story plenty of times, in books, movies, TV shows… But this particular story with Tate and Miles was so gripping, I didn’t even care if I’d seen this kind of plot hundreds of times. Because Tate and Miles didn’t just feel like characters following a stereotype; they felt like real people going through some real life situations. And the way Colleen wrote was just impeccable, lacing together beautiful language and relatable characters.

I wasn’t sure if any of her books would be as good as Ugly Love, but I was soooo, so pleased when I picked up Confess (my current favorite) and realized each of her books was unique and special, delivering its own form of amazingness. From the comments I’ve read, each book is better than the last, but I think it really just depends which story and which set of characters you want to read about at the moment.

So now, I’m not reading any of her books in order of publication, but in order of what plot I’m in the mood for. I’ve already ordered several of them, and am currently in the mood for Maybe Someday, which I’d heard was supposed to be the least sad. I can’t wait to see which characters of Colleen’s I’ll fall in love with next.

And thanks, Colleen, for allowing me to fall in love with reading in general all over again! *hugs*