Friday, November 17, 2017

Sex Object: I know I'm meant to be the bigger person

Sex Object is a memoir of resignation. Valenti writes about her life and mostly her experience being treated as a sex object before being treated as a person. It's an experience many women face and she focuses on how this sort of behavior can wear a person down. Some women who write online face an onslaught of constant abuse and are often expected to respond with sarcasm and humor.
Pretending these offenses roll off of our backs is strategic--don't give them the fucking satisfaction--but it isn't the truth. You lose something along the way.
This is not the most uplifting story. There's no silver lining and no real redemption. She starts with cat-calling and guys pressing up against her on the subway, going through her own sexual experiences, and eventually having a daughter and worried about her navigating this world. How your identity gets caught up in this treatment as a sex object.
A high school teacher once told me that identity is half what we tell ourselves and half what we tell other people about ourselves. Bu the missing piece he didn't mention--the piece that holds so much weight, especially in the minds of young women and girls--is the stories that other people tell us about ourselves. Those narratives become the ones we shape ourselves into.
The book doesn't offer solutions how to handle or respond to this kind of treatment. It's why it's a memoir instead of a self-help book. It's instead and opportunity to just acknowledge what happened, how it is tiring and how a funny quip isn't always the answer.
I know I'm meant to be the bigger person; I know you're not supposed to hate people because hate is bad for your soul. But so is getting called a cunt every day for ten years. 
It's hard to get excited over this book. It's good, and I'm glad I read it, but it's not a happy read.

Gif rating:
Title quote from page 141

Valenti, Jessica. Sex Object: A Memoir. Harper Collins, 2016.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Reading Slump-date

Get it? It's like update but because it's a slump, it's a slump-date.

Anyway, I'm apparently in a bit of a blogging slump to go along with the reading slump. OK, that's not entirely true. It's mostly because the next book I need to review is Sex Object by Jessica Valenti and while it was good and I enjoyed it, it is a bit of a downer and I am not in the mood for downer stuff right now. Because everything in the world is a super downer right now? Yeah, probably.

I am getting some reading done. I decided the answer here was to go with a favorite so I'm re-reading Lamb and super loving it. Hopefully this will snap the slump and I can get to all those other books I want to read. Or I just reread another favorite. Life is hard.

Or whatever, I'll keep watching a bunch of Stranger Things and Futurama. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Reeeeeaaaading Sluuuuump

I want to read. Something. But I don't know what.

I have books. I have lots of books. (Too many? Yeah probably, but that's a different post.)

I started Aurora Leigh for a super awesome fun-time readalong but that is a whole long piece in verse and I tried but I can't.

I was going to read Where The Line Bleeds by Jesmyn Ward and while Sing, Unburied, Sing was excellent, it is also somewhat of an emotional commitment and I'm not there right now.

I'm about 100 pages into Tales of Burning Love by Louise Erdrich and I have nothing bad to say about what I've read so far, but I am also not super into it at the moment.

So right now I don't know what I do want to read. I just know what I don't want to read. Which is not super helpful.

And that's where I am. I suppose I shall listen to the Hamilton soundtrack on repeat until I figure out what to read. A real sacrifice, I know. (Like I'm not listening to the soundtrack on repeat anyway...)


Monday, November 6, 2017

Why I'm No Longer Talking To White People About Race: There is no justice. Just us.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

A few factors go into determining if I'll read a book. Am I already familiar with the author? Have I heard good things around the interwebs (but really, mostly from fellow bloggers where I get roughly 80% of my book recos)? And, while not all the time but often enough that's def a major reason, is the title and/or cover eye catching? That was certainly the case here. 

I would like to first address the title. No, this is not racist against white people, that's not a thing.* No, it's not reverse racism.
Besides all that, Eddo-Lodge talks about the irony that as soon as she published her blog post of the same title, all she did was talk to white people about race. Basically, if the title is bothering you, maybe you should just calm down a bit and try to figure out why.
Song book
ANYWAY, so I wanted to read this book based on the title and the fact that there are obviously a lot of problems around race and I need to better educate myself so let's see what this is about. What I didn't realize is that this is a book about race in the UK, which is something that I know even less about than race here in the US. 

Eddo-Lodge starts talking about how the history of POC people in the UK is not something you come across unless you're in a college class specifically on the topic. But if you're in grade school (or whatever the UK equivalent is, I didn't learn that part, shhhh) good luck getting a history about black people in your own country. Whatever is learned seems to be focused on shit going down in America. And that's sort of messed up. Not because learning about history elsewhere is bad. But as she says,
While the black British story is starved of oxygen, the US struggle against racism is globalised into the story of the struggle against racism that we should look to for inspiration - eclipsing the black British story so much that we convince ourselves that Britain has never had a problem with race.
And that, of course, is a problem. If you don't have knowledge of an issue, how will you fix it? 

From here she has essays that tackle structural racism and white privilege and being bi-racial and "color-blindness" and intersectional feminism and the role of race and class in society. 
yes, yes we are
If this stuff IS your jam, then outside of the history stuff, there wasn't a lot of new ground here. That doesn't mean it isn't worth the read cos there are a lot of excellent points and she does a good job of putting these things into words and providing examples that illustrate the problem. Like talking about the "well-meaning but guilty-feeling white liberal" that is Hermione Granger when dealing with S.P.E.W. (Oh Witch, Please would be so proud).

If this is the type of stuff that you are already seeking out, read this. If this isn't the type of stuff you typically read, maybe that's even more of a reason you should pick this up. If you aren't already familiar with structural racism or intersectionality or why "I don't see color" is not helpful, perhaps this would be a good thing to read.

Gif rating:
*You can be prejudice against white people, but given basically all of the power structures are in white people's favor, not racist. Also this book is not prejudice against white people either so hush.

Title quote from location 2455 but she is quoting Terry Pratchett. But I like the line and the title is so long I wanted something shorter for the post title so I went with it. 

Eddo-Lodge, Reni. Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017. NetGalley

Friday, November 3, 2017

October Reading Wrap-Up

This has not been a particularly fall like October. It hasn't been that cool out for the most part which one part of me wants to enjoy and other part of me is terrified because hahaha we're all going to die. But hey, other than that, fine month. Didn't do too much Halloween-y either, but whatchya gonna do? Just get to the stats? Yeah, good idea.

Number of books read
5
The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
On Writing by Stephen King
It's All Relative: Adventures Up and Down the World's Family Tree by A.J. Jacobs
Everything's Eventual by Stephen King
Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

Number of pages
1,704

Fiction
40%

POC authors
20%
US authors
80%

Book formats
ebook - 40%
paperback - 60%

Where'd I get the book
Chain bookstore - 20%
Indie - 40%
NetGalley - 40%

Reread
40%

Review book
40%

Books by decade
1990s - 20%
2000s - 20%
2010s - 60%

Books by genre
Horror - 20%
Lit fic - 20%
Memoir - 40%
Sociology/history - 20%

Review books
40%
Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge is by a POC, non-US author
On Writing by Stephen King was published in 1999 so riiiiight on the border but still counts as published before 2000

Alright so not bad. I mean, not GREAT but not bad. Let's see how February November (not sure why I decided to skip a bunch of months) goes

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Halloween Reads!

This year I didn't actually do that much in the way of Halloween/scary reads. Maybe cos it's still crazy warm in the north east and thus it was harder to get into the Halloween spirit. Regardless, I don't have too much in the way of new Halloween reads, so I thought I'd do an update of a few old "Top Halloween Reads" posts I've done in the past. It's not unoriginal. It's a remix.
Now, in no particular order, other than the order I thought of them, here are my current favorite Halloween reads.

1. World War Z by Max Brooks A feature on all of the lists, as it deserves to be. It's great. It's scary. I love it.

2. Coraline by Neil Gaiman I am on the fence about Gaiman's adult books, but the ones for children are amaaaaaaaaaaaaazing. Other Mother is terrifying. Coraline is wonderful. And speaking of Gaiman's stuff for kids
3. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman The Jungle Book, but in a graveyard. It's heartwarming and suspenseful and scary and weird.

4. Everything's Eventual by Stephen King Can't have a list like this without King on it. And this was basically my only scary read for the month because I love it so. Espeeeecially the story "1408". It's so creepy.

5. Misery by Stephen King He can be creepy even without the supernatural. Annie Wilkes is a force. A horrifying force.
6. N0S4A2 by Joe Hill Charles Manx is a GREAT villain, Vic McQueen is a great hero, this book is excellent.

7. Locke & Key by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez  I looooove this audiobook. Incredibly scary and the SUSPENSE

8. Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix Did you know an Ikea could be so scary? Because it CAN. He lures you in, makes you think it will just be some silly story. How could an Ikea (or really, an Ikea knock-off) be scary? But it can. It can.

9. My Best-Friend's Exorcism by Grady Hendrix While we're on the subject of Hendrix, we gotta mention this one. Again, he makes you think it won't be so scary but then it hits you. And so much of this is about female friendship, so that's swell.

10. Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin Ah look, a classic. Who doesn't love a story of gas-lighting and devil worship?
11. Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story by Christopher Moore There can be funny Halloween reads as well, like Moore's story of vampire love.

12. Revenge: Eleven Dark Stories by Yoko Ogawa Another collection of short stories, and they are so unsettling.

13. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach Do you want to learn something from your Halloween read? Why not learn about what happens to dead bodies? Wouldn't that be fun?

So there you go. Lots to keep you up at night.

Monday, October 30, 2017

I'm Judging You: Oh, people. We're the worst

I was on the way to the airport when - horror of horrors - I realized I had left my book at home. We found out our flight had been delayed before leaving the house, so I had pulled it out of my bag and started reading. A rookie mistake, I know. You can't mess with the bags once they're packed. Now I was on my way to travel (delayed travel at that) and had no book. So clearly I had to buy one when I got to the airport.

I mean, I did have my phone. And iPad. Both of which have the Kindle app on them. And it was a couple Kindle books I planned on reading.

BUT NO! Don't be ridiculous. I left my Kindle at home and thus I HAVE to buy a new book. Obviously. Why are you arguing with this flawless reasoning?

Anyway, so that's how I got my copy of I'm Judging You.
While I was not already familiar with Luvvie Ajayi's blog (something I should probably remedy), I am a sucker for essay collections from hilarious ladies and I could stand to do better.

If it's not clear from the title, the book is a series of essays of Luvvie judging you, from the little things (#Hashtags #I #Hate #Your #Hashtag #Abuse) to the serious (Racism is for Assholes). Her section on culture, which is mostly made up of the serious topics was probably my favorite. In addition to the racism essay already mentioned there's stuff about rape culture and privilege and homophobia.  The classics. I'm glad the entire book wasn't this because, even though her writing is hilarious, it would still be a downer so the lighter topics were welcome. Yes, rain judgement down on terrible ebehavior or people who really shouldn't live all their drama on Facebook.

Her writing style is similar to Phoebe Robinson's in You Can't Touch My Hair. There's a lot of slang (I feel roughly 200 writing that), though I believe Robinson's hashtag use is probably getting the side-eye from that lollipop on the cover. But if the writing in Robinson's book annoyed you, you may have some issues with this one (or vice versa) so heads up.

There's nothing particularly new here so it does have a bit of preaching to the choir but I was FINE with that. It was a great plane/vacation read and I was entertained so win.

Gif rating:
Title quote from page 6

Ajayi, Luvvie. I'm Judging You: The Do-Better Manual. Holt Paperbacks, 2016

Monday, October 23, 2017

It's All Relative: We're All Linked

I am a fan of A.J. Jacobs' stuff* so I was excited to receive a copy of his newest work It's All Relative: Adventures Up and Down the World's Family Tree in exchange for an honest review.

I am a fan of the guy so I was pretty sure I was going to enjoy whatever latest project he was going to immerse himself in. Turns out yes, this is true. It probably isn't my favorite among his "humble quests" but it's still a fun one.

The basic idea here is that everyone is related if you go back far enough. And in many cases you really don't have to go that far back at all. Everyone is family. Jacobs received an email from that said "You don't know me, but I'm your eight cousin" and like that, Jacobs is hooked on finding out who this family is and, importantly, throwing the biggest family reunion.

Jacobs does what he does, which is really dive into the nitty gritty about genetics (spitting in every vial sent to him by whatever groups will analyze his DNA and tell him where his ancestors are from and who he is related to), speaking with all kinds of experts is genealogy and history, and of course talking to event planners and figuring out how exactly to pull off a huge event, aka the Global Family Reunion (which happened a few years ago, in case anyone was wondering if they could attend).

 The overarching theme is that everyone is family so maybe we should all be a little kinder to one another, like you would with family. His brother-in-law refutes this idea, saying there are PLENTY of people that don't like their family and sure that is true. But still. Maybe if you realize you're family you'll be more likely to cut each other a little bit of slack.

The book has a lot of funny moments, as all Jacobs' stuff does
On the one hand, there shouldn't be alcohol [at the Global Family Reunion]: It's a family event with a lot of boisterous kids running around. On the other hand, there should be alcohol: It's a family event with a lot of boisterous kids running around.
though it felt more repetitive than his other stuff. But the book is also goes by quickly so it never totally veered into "I'm annoyed, you already said that" territory.

If you like the guy and/or are interesting in family trees and genealogy, give this a try. If you're new to him, maybe check out one of his others first (Biblically and Know-It-All are both personal favs).

Gif rating:
*Oh hey, a round up of his other stuff that I've reviewed here
Drop Dead Healthy: One Man's Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection
The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World
My Life as an Experiment: One Man's Humble Quest to Improve Himself by Living as a Woman, Becoming George Washington, Telling No Lies, and Other Radical Tests
The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible

Title quote from location 2753

Jacobs, A.J. It's All Relative: Adventures Up and Down the World's Family Tree. Simon & Schuster, 2017. NetGalley

Thursday, October 19, 2017

White Trash: How does a culture that prizes equality of opportunity explain...its persistently marginalized people?

I picked up this book for two reasons. One, I was at a local bookstore and I can't leave and NOT buy something. That would be mean, for all of us. Two, I was looking for anything to help explain what is going on right now. And this had been mentioned around the interwebs as something to check out.

The title is definitely eye catching. I'm not often stopped in public to ask about what I'm reading but I had this out on a crowded and delayed subway line, when I heard two women sort of murmuring my way. When I looked up, one of the women looked at me and said "That is quite a book title." We talked about the book for a few minutes and they seemed intrigued. See books can bring people together.

White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America is just what that subtitle describes. It's the class history of the U.S. There are apparently assumptions that the U.S. is a class-free society and all you needed to do was work hard and you could be upwardly mobile. Those assumptions feel like the type of the thing spouted in propaganda (I'm thinking the stereotypical 1950's classroom reels that would teach you about the dangers of communism) but fine.

As the title-title (as opposed to subtitle; I'm sure there's an actual word for that) suggests, this is specifically about white class. There isn't a huge amount of intersectionality going on in here. That isn't to say the book is bad but just, know its limits.

Isenberg starts in colonial America, citing many of the people who came over were indentured servants and thus the tradition of an underclass in the U.S. is begun. She goes through the Civil War to the Great Depression through today, with a focus on how "white trash" (aka, poor whites mostly in the South) were treated; sometimes with scorn, sometimes with amusement, never with respect. The book doesn't deal with much primary source from those in this lower class, though I suppose that is a problem with historic records that deals with any group other than those in power. They're just creating paper trails left and right.

The book is dense and a bit dry. I read a couple other books at the same time, cos some balance was needed here.* While I can't say I thought of the U.S. as an actually class-free society** it was still an education on a piece of American history I hadn't given too much thought to. Worth the read but perhaps there are some other books out there that provide a more complete picture and maaaaaaaaybe aren't quite so dry.

Gif rating:
*I actually thought I just stopped midway, read another book and dove back in. Not according to Goodreads. It seems I read at least 3 or 4 other books between the time I started and finished this.
**I keep writing classless and while yes, that sometimes, that's not quite what I mean.

Title quote from page 2

Isenberg, Nancy. White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America. Penguin, 2016.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Kindred Spirits: I'm guessing this is your first line

This story is so sweet. Which, yes, is what I expect from Rainbow Rowell. But still, oh man, such a sweet book.
Elena loves Star Wars. Looooooves Star Wars. And what luck? There's a new Star Wars movie coming out. She's going to get to do this right, to be part of the inevitable line of people waiting days to be among the first people to see it. But this is today; you don't NEED to wait in line to get a ticket. Fandango is a thing. The point is to be part of a group of people who love love love Star Wars.

But. The line is only 3 people (including Elena). Which is not exactly what she was expecting. But Elena won't let this (or the fact that she has to sleep on the ground, or that she has to pee in a soda cup) get her down. After all, this is Star Wars, and the line may be short but it's strong.

And like the line, the book is short but the love is clear. Rowell wrote this for World Book Day, and I was lucky enough to get a copy from Emily (which was super awesome of her, hooray book friends!) and I read it immediately. Then I finished it (it's only 56 pages) and started it over. PLUS once i got to the end, I needed to go back and see all the stuff I missed on the first read through.

Rowell's characters are always so wonderful. They feel real, like people you could easily meet and definitely people you'd want to be friends with. Even in such a short work, she still manages to give us full characters.

A part of me wishes this was longer, and another part feels like this was the perfect length for the story. I want more of these characters (because did I mention, love them?) but I felt the story was just what it needed to be.

Really sweet story (which I know I've repeated a million times but it's TRUE) and you should definitely read it.

Gif rating:
Title quote from page 3

Rowell, Rainbow. Kindred Spirits. St. Martin's Press, 2016.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

State of Wonder: Hope is a horrible thing

The thing I like about book club (other than getting to hang out with awesome people, which is basically the best thing ever) is reading things that I wouldn't normally pick up. Even if they are maaaaaaaybe not the most successful. Which is where Ann Patchett's State of Wonder falls.

The story is about a woman, Marina, who is a scientist studying cholesterol or something boring like that when she learns that a co-worker of hers has died. Which would be sad but not necessarily much to build a narrative on. But this co-worker, Andres Eckman, died in the Amazon jungle, looking for another doctor, a former teacher of Marina's, who has been studying fertility in a local tribe but hasn't been very forthcoming with those funding the research. Eckman was supposed to find Dr. Swenson, report how things are going, and ideally bring Swenson and her fertility treatments back home.

Marina goes to try to find out what happened and maybe retrieve Eckman's body. There's a lot about her reactions to anti-malaria medication that causes hallucinations and nightmares, something she had to deal with as a child traveling to India to visit her dad. She spends a lot of time hanging out in a town Dr. Swenson visits for supplies, waiting for her to show up so she can follow her back to the jungle.

I would say most of the novel takes places out in the jungle except we spend sooooo much time getting to this point. This is still the main part of the story but it takes a while to get there. And then once you're there it's still sort of...eh. The character Dr. Swenson is great, as long as you like curt, no-nonsense smart women. But the story doesn't really go anywhere. I don't just mean it meaders although yeah, that. But there are plenty of elements that are introduced (like the hallucinations) that go no where. They're introduced, you think it will be something but then nope. Repeat at least 3 more times. It's frustrating. Some of the mysteries that are introduced are resolved (I won't go into what cos spoilers) but you sort of don't care by the time they get to them. Or I didn't care so much.

The writing itself was beautiful at times. And perhaps if the story had been more focused it would have felt more successful. There's enough here that I'll probably check out something else of hers. If you haven't read her before, maybe don't make this your first. I've heard good things about her other stuff.

Gif rating:
Title quote from page 43

Patchett, Ann. State of Wonder. Harper Perennial, 2011.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Infographics!! Summer reading (and also some early fall)



A little late, but worth the wait (I hope). It's the same number of books as last time but more pages than Q2. (25% more pages than Q2 if you want to get nerdy about it.) I'm happy with the resolution share (though better would be good too), I'm surprised both by the Fiction/Nonfiction (totally even?) and the Male/Female (more dudes??) splits, but hey, that's why I like keeping these stats.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

We Were Eight Years in Power: Everything was bright. Everything was rising. Everything was a dream

This book.
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. And I picked up this book with certain expectations, coming from Coates earlier work Between the World and Me. Expectations were exceeded with We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy. 

The book is a collection of essays Coates wrote for The Atlantic. Each piece is preceded by its own introductory essay, an explanation of where Coates is now and his current thoughts on the piece. These introductions were themselves basically their own essays (in case you're worried it's not worth it to pick up a collection of essays published elsewhere). Coates has become the go-to writer when it comes to discuss race in America.

These can be difficult essays to read. Not difficult to understand but to take in, intellectually, emotionally. There were a lot of emotions as I was reading these: anger, embarrassment, disgust. Not at what he's saying but the truths he's calling out, things that I from y position of privilege I haven't really had to think about. Things I should think about. Things that I was nodding vigorously to. I did have to take a break in the middle of reading this. Pick up something light because there is a lot here and burnout is real.

The essays include:
"This Is How We Lost to the White Man"
American Girl
Why Do So Few Blacks Study the Civil War?
The Legacy of Malcom X
Fear of a Black President
The Case for Reparations
The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration
My President Was Black

I feel like I'm the wrong person to review this. There's nothing I can add. I can just say that this should be reading for everyone.
I see the fight against sexism, racism, poverty, and so on finding their union not in synonymity but in their ultimate goal - a world more humane.
Gif rating:
Title quote location 683

Coates, Ta-Nehisi. We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy. One World, 2017. NetGalley

Monday, October 2, 2017

September Reading Wrap-Up

This summer wasn't great for me in terms of reading or blogging. September was much better in terms of reading (out of a general reading slump, plus trains are running so I have my commuting time to read back) but way less blogging happened. Not for any real reason other than the weekends seemed busier than normal and I do most of my blogging on the weekends. So. Here's to October being better for both.

Number of books read
5
The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson
Locke & Key by Joe Hill (& Gabriel Rodriguez, except I listened to the audiobook so did not get to enjoy his artwork)
We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Number of pages read
2,326
Fiction
60%

Female authors
20%

POC authors
20%

US authors
100%

Book formats
audiobook: 20%
ebook: 60%
paperback: 20%

Where'd I get the book?
indie bookstore: 20%
Kindle/Audible: 20%
NetGalley: 60%

Reread
20%

Review books
60%

Readalong/bookclub
20%

Books by decade
2000s: 20%
2010s: 80%

Books by genre
Essays: 20%
Horror: 20%
Satire: 20%
Sci-fi: 20%
Travel :20%

Resolution books
20%
Only We Were Eight Years in Power (POC author). Otherwise all the books are by US authors, white authors, and published after 2000. Again, Gabriel Rodriguez did the artwork for the Locke & Key graphic novel but since I listened to the book it seems like I can't count him as an additional POC author.

Here's to October!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Mini-Reviews: A Round Up

I realize I failed to post anything last week. I don't have a good excuse. I had a couple extra days off work for a vacation that didn't end up happening so I could have used that time. But instead I started playing The Sims again so yeah, that has taken some time.
Even right now I know I NEED to get to reviewing but that doesn't seem like it's going to happen today. So instead, let's look at the books I should be reviewing. Which I will get to. Eventually.
State of Wonder by Anne Patchett
Read as part of book club and it was...fine. I suppose. I woman travels to the Amazon to find out what happened to a colleague. There are a bunch of things set up that never actually go anywhere so that was frustrating.
Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell
A gift from a fellow blogger (who is super swell and wonderful, btw) this is a short story/novella* by Rainbow Rowell written for World Book Day and it is delightful. About a girl, Elena, waiting in line to see the new Star Wars movie. It's short and sweet and I read it twice in as many days.
White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg
This book has been recommended as a "let's try to understand wtf happened to this country" read and I was at a local bookstore and you can't leave those empty handed. I got some interesting looks on the subway while reading, including two women who stopped to ask me about it. They were BIG fans of the title. The book is a bit dense and she is not kidding when she says we're going through the whole 400 years. I don't know that I had any "ah-HA" moments while reading but it is an area I think we could stand to know more about.
I'm Judging You: The Do-Better Manual by Luvvie Ajayi
I was at the airport when I realized I didn't have a book with me. I think. Like I think I had some in a checked bag because I KNOW I had more than one book with me for this trip. But regardless, I didn't have a book right then and this seemed like a good excuse to get this. Because again, we CLEARLY need to do better. Collections of essays by hilarious women are my jam and this was no exception. It wasn't quite as serious as I expected, but that's not the worst thing.
Sex Object by Jessica Valenti
Feminist memoir that can be rough to read at times because she just deals with so much shit. She talks about how you shouldn't let it get to you cos then they win but man, it can eat away at you. Very good.
Atlanta Burns by Chuck Wendig
I will read pretty much any Wendig without knowing what the book is about** so this was no exception. Except I feel like there should be a spoiler cos a good amount of the book is about dog fights so things can get violent and surprise dog violence was not my fav. It's my fault cos it does mention this in the description I failed to read. All that said, I did enjoy the book. Maybe not my fav Wendig but still quality read. Also I love the cover. He has some great covers
The Regional Office is Under Attack by Manuel Gonzales
An office of lady assassins, one of whom has a cyborg arm. Still not quite The Office crossed with ridiculous action (which I SUPER want to be a thing and have yet to find) but it comes closest and is definitely the best entry into that category. Story loses me a little as it goes on, but entertaining nonetheless.
Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino
Another book club read that was about as successful as State of Wonder. It is a very slow, very quiet book which is odd considering the topic is about a woman who is murdered. There are even multiple POVs and unreliable narrators and stuff I usually like but not in this case.
My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag...and Other Things You Can't Ask Martha by Jolie Kerr
It's a book about cleaning. And how to clean. And it was great. This is not like Marie Kondo's which was more a way of being with some advice that no, I am not thanking my purse every day. This is more practical instructions. Part of it is her tackling different projects (deep cleaning the kitchen, tackling clothing stains) and another part is her answering questions and she is SUPER nonjudgemental and will provide advice for cleaning your sex swing because dammit, cleanliness is important. Thank you, Glynis, for the reco.
One Day We'll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul
Another collection of essays by a funny lady. Perhaps not quite as successful as others in this category, but still entertaining, especially a story about the power clothing can give you and a particular skirt. I was expecting it to be a bit less memoir than it was but that's FINE and it was still entertaining.

So there we are. Some quick thoughts to keep me honest and maybe help me remember what I'm supposed to review. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go see how my Sim families are doing.

*I tried to Google the difference and it said "a novella is considerably longer than a short story but shorter than a novel" so. Thanks. That was helpful...
**Exception is the Star Wars stuff. Which, tbh, if I'm going to read any Star Wars stuff, it would be his. It's just that in general that is not my thang

Friday, September 8, 2017

Sociable: I want you to come up with a viral thing that goes viral

On my recent NetGalley jag, I got a copy of Sociable by Rebecca Harrington in exchange for an honest review.
I tend to request books from NetGalley if I'm already somewhat familiar with the book (thanks book-o-sphere) or I'm already a fan of the author. In this case I was drawn to the cover and the description seemed like something I could get into.

Elinor is living in NYC in a tiny, weird apartment (shower in the kitchen). She's hoping to get a job in journalism and finally manages to land a job at a startup Journalism.ly. Which is sort of like journalism. Think a BuzzFeed competitor (BuzzFeed exists in this book world.) She's not exactly tackling the tough topics like her boyfriend is, but she's had some pieces go viral, which is basically the only mission statement for Journalism.ly so that works. But her boyfriend dumps her and she doesn't really seem to get along with her co-workers except for two men who insist on mentoring her. Can she make it in this world? Does she want to?

Here's the thing. The book never really went anywhere. It was around 250 pages but it all felt like set up. It was a very quick read but I was watching the percentage counter inch closer and closer to 100% and wonder when is the story going to start? You know in stories like The Devil Wears Prada* where we're setting up all the problems and then there's a montage where our main character is starting to figure things out. Think Andy and all her fancy new clothes.
MONTAAAAGE
But we still have the whole second act to go.

This book feels like we're riiiiiiiight before that montage starts and then BOOM, the book is done.

We have the set up where Elinor has the crappy apartment with her boyfriend Mike who is a turdburger. He is just an emotionally manipulative shithead. She has a best friend she's known since college although she doesn't seem to really like her. It's more like, she's the only other person she knows.

She gets the job a Journalism.ly thanks to Mike's mom (someone Elinor desperately wants approval from) but it's not really what she's hoping for. There is no direction or management at Journalism.ly. There's no editorial oversight. She writes a piece about coffee that does well. I mean, I guess it does well. I mean, a few people say things about how the story really went viral, but it doesn't really go anywhere.

Most of the book is from Elinor's POV until we get a few sporadic chapters from the point of view of one of the senior members of Journalism.ly, J.W., one of the only "real" reporters at the publication. From him we learn things like the website is in financial trouble and he's having trouble finding companies willing to provide sponsored content.

One of the other senior members of the company, Peter, decides he's going to mentor Elinor. This mostly means he says "I am mentoring you" and then asks her to send pieces his way for review, though he doesn't actually look at them. Elinor is pretty annoyed at this cos 1) Peter is basically her age (they went to school together) and 2) that is shitty mentoring.

J.W. hears about Peter mentoring Elinor and gets into a dick measuring contest where he decides that he should be the one to mentor her. He follows Peter's mentoring method so nothing actually changes for Elinor other than two men randomly say "I am mentoring you" in her general direction.

At one point we're able to read one of Elinor's pieces, something she really opens up and puts herself out there. Her writing, it is...not good. There's no introspection (though she seems to think she's making a grand statement) and it's just not well-written. Maybe that's the joke? I have to think it has to be purposeful cos Harrington's stuff (i.e., all the writing around this piece) is better but I don't really know what the purpose is.

So that's the stuff we do get. What we don't get is the act two. We don't really get her actually being successful, even if it's just successful by Journalism.ly standards. I mean, her piece gets her on TV (but like, local TV, NY1) but it's not exactly what she thought. It's not really much of anything (sorry, spoilers, I guess. Not for the fact that she gets on TV, cos that's in the description but for the fact that it ultimately doesn't mean much). We get a few more scenes that really felt like they were going to be that turning point and then nope.

Elinor has no arc. There's no growth, no introspection, no anything. She basically ends up where she started.

Like I said, for the beginning I liked the writing.

I mean, OK, there were a few descriptions that made me go
Look:
Mike was propped up on his cylindrical arm
Note: Mike is not a cyborg.
He was wearing very dirty sneakers despite his old face.
Those are...unrelated things. Or maybe face age and sneaker cleanliness have some sort of correlation I am unfamiliar with.

But I could forgive these because overall the writing was entertaining. And sure, everyone is pretty insufferable (Elinor is super pathetic and also pretty self centered and as already established, Mike is an emotionally manipulative turdburger) but that's FINE. Or it would be fine if there was some growth from any terrible person OR if she really just leaned into the awful. It sometimes teeters on parody but never really makes it there. Which is too bad, I could have gotten behind this if it went there.

So yeah. I wish I had better things to say about this. I liked the start but as it became clear I wasn't getting an act two or any growth from Elinor (just LOTS of pining over Mike), I got more and more annoyed. It was a quick read. So.

Gif rating:
*Which, full disclosure, I have not read but I have seen the movie so I'm going off that. Also Meryl Streep is amazing. That is all.

Title quote from location 1045

Harrington, Rebecca. Sociable. Doubleday Books, 2018. NetGalley