Thursday, January 19, 2017

Book Review: "The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo" by Amy Schumer

I pretty much love Amy Schumer.  From what I can tell, you know - not actually knowing her, she seems like a great, down to earth person that I would totally love to drink a bottle of wine with.  I don't necessarily love everything she does (as in maybe I don't laugh at all of her jokes, or think everything she does is hilarious) but I don't think that is necessary to like her.

So, it should not be any surprise that I wanted to read her recently released autobiography.  And you know what?  I like her even more now.  Not every chapter is laugh out loud funny, though most are quite amusing.  She has a way of telling a story that way... I felt like she was literally in my house telling me stories of her childhood, her boyfriends, life on the road and in comedy clubs, her family, and all that.  And what comes through between the lines?  She is fiercely bonded with her sister, she is passionate about being an activist for common sense gun control reform, and she's a feminist.  And while I already kinda sorta knew that about her, now there is no question and yes, I do like her even more now.

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo
by Amy Schumer
Gallery Books, 2016
336 pages
Source:  Library


Monday, January 16, 2017

Book Review: "American Housewife: Stories" by Helen Ellis

This is a collection of short stories that are quirky, creepy, subversive, and/or funny all revolving upon different kinds of women/wives/ex-wives.  I read this for our book group's January pick (even though I will miss the discussion itself).

And even though I finished this quick, short collection a bit ago, I'm still at a loss as to what to say about it.  I guess the collection was mostly hit or miss for me.  I enjoyed some of the stories, but others .. eh, no thanks.  I mostly enjoyed the shorter, almost stream-of-consciousness advice giving pieces like "How to be a Grown Ass Lady" or "Take it from Cats".  There was a story that was all emails between feuding neighbors called "The Wainscotting War" that I liked, as well as "Dumpster Diving with the Stars".

I think when I start looking at the collection as a whole is when I start feeling more unsettled.  There are really like two kinds of housewife here:  the white, rich, city dweller, or the poor, white Southern woman.  Both live for their man and how to serve him or some other entity.  It was a little disconcerting, overall.  But maybe that is why I liked those shorter pieces - they certainly apply/appeal to a wider variety of woman.  And it would be that this was the author's intention, I don't know.  This is just what I was left with at the end.

American Housewife: Stories
by Helen Ellis
Doubleday, 2016
185 pages
Source:  Library


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Book review: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I had been curious about this story for a while..  probably since that Brad Pitt movie came out, though I never did see the movie.  I do like Fitzgerald though, and so...   well, that's all it takes.

I had no idea just how short this was.  As in, I feel weird calling this post a "book review".  I read this on the Serial app, and it was only 4 issues - less than an hour's reading time.  GoodReads called it 64 pages...  so yeah, it is a pretty short story.

But it is quite constructed.  It tells the story of Benjamin Button, who at birth (just before the Civil War), appeared to be about 70 years old.  As he got "older", he looked and felt and was developmentally "younger".  He lives his life in reverse.  It is quite a concept, to be sure, and it plays out well here.  His father is quite horrified when Benjamin is born and is young, but they get along about twenty years later when they pass as brothers.  Benjamin is thrown out of Yale when he tries to enter as a freshman looking like he's 50, but attends Harvard when he looks twenty but is really much older.  Things get awkward between Benjamin and his wife, and then between him and his son.  It is a clever story, and it is really enjoyable to read.

There were just one passage that really started me with its racist tone.  When the father is trying to deal with the idea of a baby boy who is 70 years old, he wishes for a moment that the baby was black so he could sell him at the slave market.  It just seemed to come out of nowhere, but also mentioned that this was a "dark moment" for dear old dad.  I also didn't understand where Benjamin's mother went.  She apparently birthed this child/man, but there is not a single mention of her anywhere.

All in all, I'm still glad I read this.  And if you have an hour to spare, you should go ahead too.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Serial App.  First Published 1922
Approx. 64 pages
Source:  Serial App


Monday, January 9, 2017

Book Reviews: The "Anna and the French Kiss" trilogy by Stephanie Perkins

Ok, so I can't get the spacing right on those covers.  Whatever.

I decided to kick off 2017 by rereading this series.  I had actually purchased these paperbacks some time ago (I mean, they are beautiful, right?) but I had never actually read these copies.  So I did.

This was my third or fourth time reading Anna, but my second time around with Lola and Isla.  I need to admit that I somehow had it in my brain that Lola was somehow way beneath the other two..  but after reading again, that isn't the case.  All three are really really good.  I love the romance, and the characters, and the settings - ohmygod the settings - but there's more to it than that.

Spoilers galore here folks - I'm not censoring myself.

Anna - I really loved how she put herself out there for St. Clair.  The whole scene of her birthday when she asks him "Why haven't you broken up with her?" just kills me with the raw emotion and honesty of it.  She stands up for herself and what she believes they can be.  And while St. Clair STILL plays the indecisive card, we know how it ends and yay.

Lola - I am never ever going to like the name Cricket.  I'm sorry, but I'm not.  And Calliope is tough too, but easier than Cricket.  But I love Lola.  I love her dads, her best friend Lindsey (even though Lola is not the bestest friend sometimes), I love that she works with Anna and St. Clair, and I love that she doesn't just go for it with Cricket right away.  She works on herself, on "earning him" as she says.  Yes, she might take a little too long, but I really appreciated that she took that time for herself and didn't go straight from Max to Cricket.

Isla - When we got a glimpse of her in the first book, I thought she might have been kind of meek, but nope.  She does need to work a little on her self-doubts but that is what she does here.  She has crushed on Josh for the longest time and I love them together.  I really love them together.  I usually have more thoughts on them, but I just finished the book and my head is just swirling with little hearts right now.  Sorry.

Also, I didn't realize the first time I read these books that Lola and Isla kind of take place at pretty much the same time.  I had read them farther apart last time, and it just didn't click for me originally.  Not completely, anyway.

So, yeah, still a fan.



Thursday, January 5, 2017

Reading All Around the World

This is a long term challenge hosted by Howling Frog Books and Chapter Adventures.  This really intrigues me, as I started tracking this sort of this last year in my efforts to diversify my reading habits.  The basic idea is to read books set in 50 different countries.  Fiction or non-fiction works - but fiction writers need to live or have lived in that country for it to count.

I'll list at least 50 countries here, but you'll notice that on my Challenge tracking page (right now this will stay on the 2017 Reading Challenges) I'm leaving the countries blank.  I'll fill them in as I go, but I'll link back to this list so that I can continue to reference it from time to time.

If this sounds like a great long-term challenge to you too, click HERE to join in!

  1.  Afghanistan
  2.  Argentina
  3. Australia
  4. Austria
  5. Bangladesh
  6. Belgium
  7. Brazil
  8. Cambodia
  9. Canada
  10. Chile
  11. China
  12. Colombia
  13. Cuba
  14. Denmark
  15. Dominican Republic
  16. Eqypt
  17. Ethiopia
  18. Fiji
  19. France
  20. Germany
  21. Ghana
  22. Greece
  23. Guatemala
  24. Haiti
  25. Iceland
  26. India
  27. Indonesia
  28. Iran
  29. Iraq
  30. Ireland
  31. Isreal
  32. Italy
  33. Jamaica
  34. Japan
  35. Kenya
  36. Laos
  37. Mali
  38. Mexico
  39. Monaco
  40. Mongolia
  41. Morocco
  42. Nepal
  43. Netherlands
  44. North Korea
  45. Norway
  46. Pakistan
  47. Philippines
  48. Poland
  49. Portugal
  50. Romania
  51. Russia
  52. Singapore
  53. Somalia
  54. South Africa
  55. South Korea
  56. Spain
  57. Sweden
  58. Switzerland
  59. Syria
  60. Turkey
  61. United Kingdom
  62. Vietnam
  63. Zimbabwe


Monday, January 2, 2017

Book Review: "Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty" by Christine Heppermann

I came across this title when looking for some feminist poetry, and then it was suggested to me by someone on Litsy... so it was clear that I need to give this a chance.

This collection uses fairy tales as inspiration for poetry looking at gender roles, beauty standards, and the insecurities teenage girls face.  The fairy tale images are turned back on itself, or reworked with the modern twist which I thought was interesting.

There were a couple poems that I really liked, as well as many of the photographs that accompany the words.  But a lot of it I just thought was okay.  Some were written in a form that I'm not used to, and just displays my lack of knowledge or understanding where poetry is concerned.  I'm still working on that.  But others I read, and just felt like saying "okay, next."

I guess that I'm looking for poetry that makes me feel energized or emotional or something.  I feel like that exists somewhere, and I just need to find it.  I also know that whatever that will be for me is not necessarily the same as for someone else.  But I'll get there...  I just need to keep giving it a try.

Poisoned Apples:  Poems for You, My Pretty
by Christing Heppermann
Greenwillow Books, 2014
128 pages
Source:  Library


Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy 2017!

Happy 2017 Everyone!  I am eager to get started on this new year to come, and am thinking hard about what I need to do to in the year to come, at least where books and reading is concerned.

I want to be sure that I am an informed citizen, and vow to read up on issues that I care deeply about.  I also need to work on being more vocal in support (or defense) of these issues.

Somewhat related, I vow to be more cognizant of my reading choices, and to actively read works by and about women, people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, and other diverse and/or underrepresented communities.

I am also making even more of an effort to #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks this year.  Outside of my own shelves, I will borrow books from the library.  But I am really really going to try and not buy any new books for myself.  The Library Used Book Sale doesn't count.

I hope that these small resolutions will help me in my overall goal to just be a happier me.

I wish you happiness as well, and all good things.


Saturday, December 31, 2016

Book Review: "The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood

The first time I read this book, I was in my early twenties and on a three week European trip with my friend Maria.  The book blew me away; I had never read anything quite like it before.  I had read it again the summer after that trip, and then....  well, it has been nearly twenty years.

I had let some friend borrow my copy years ago.  I don't remember when I did that and I have no idea who I gave the book to.  I only know that I never got it back.  And in the past year or so, I have really wanted to read it again.  But a book like this - I needed to have my own copy.  A library book just would not do.  So this year, a friend in the "blogger book swap" that I'm a part of actually gifted me a new copy of this book for our Holiday Swap!  I was blown away!  And then I sat down to read it, and make this copy mine.

For as much as I have loved this book for all these years, I barely remembered any of the specific details.  That kind of threw me a bit.  I remembered the premise:  a dystopian society in which women are stripped of all rights, and a certain group of fertile woman (including the protagonist Offred) is used primarily for breeding purposes by the white male elite class.  I remembered that Offred often remembered her own daughter, ripped from her and given to one of the elite childless couples and her husband Luke, whose fate she did not know at all.  I had forgotten the birth scene of one of the other Handmaid's, and the secret underground network of rebels.  I had forgotten her lesbian friend Moira, what had happened to her and how she eventually saw her again.  I forgot how her relationship with the Commander changed, as well as with other household staff.  The ending is perfectly open, allowing the reader to determine Offred's fate.  Usually that bothers me, but I love it here.

This is still a wonderful book that I continue to treasure, even though the possibility of it (even in a less extreme form) scares me even more now.  One thing is for sure, I will not be lending this copy out.  This stays on my shelf - for the next time.

The Handmaid's Tale
by Margaret Atwood
Anchor Books, 1998.  First published 1985.
311 pages
Source:  Gift


Thursday, December 29, 2016

Book Review: "the princess saves herself in this one" by amanda lovelace

I really haven't read much poetry, but I'm trying to work on that.  I saw that this book won this year's GoodReads Award for poetry, so I thought I'd give it a shot.

First of all, I have to say that I admire this young woman for writing her truths here.  I think she is a brave person, as I know that I don't have it in me to put myself out there like that.  These are very personal poems, and I truly admire her for that.

Most pages are a single, short poem and I did connect with several of them.  But I was left feeling like many of these poems were really just great sentences with a lot of line breaks to give the look of a poem.  I tried reading some of these out loud, and I put the breaks in different places so I'm not sure if I'm doing it wrong or what.  Maybe that is how poetry works...  and I just don't know enough about it yet.

This book was self published, but it looks like it has found a publisher for February.  It is clear that she is going places though.  It seems she is still a college student, which means that she should have a long future of writing ahead of her!

the princess saves herself in this one
by amanda lovelace
CreateSpace, 2016
154 pages
Source:  Library

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