Tag - suyb

Show Us Your Books: June 2019

What the hell happened to May, Kim??

Don’t know. It’s funny. I was on a reading TEAR and then got into a new book and…stopped. I kept reading a half-chapter and putting it down. And then I got distracted by life and the garden and yardwork and lovely lunchtime weather and before I knew it I had stopped reading. I went back to dorking on my phone and daydreaming while on the train. I was taking walks at lunch instead of reading. I let two of my holds get returned unread. I didn’t want to read.

yikes!

And then I felt ashamed, and, Readers, I get into these crazy shame spirals where I don’t do THING because I stopped doing THING and for some reason feel unworthy of starting THING again because I will eventually fail at THING. Many verbs and nouns can be substituted for THING. Examples include: reading, blogging, walking, exercising, flossing (!), picking up dog poop daily, breakfasts, and I think you get the picture.

What gets a reader back into reading? The right book.

For my book reviews, I used the Goodreads rating system, which is:

  • One star: did not like it
  • Two stars: it was ok
  • Three stars: liked it
  • Four stars: really liked it
  • Five stars: it was amazing
The dam broke.

Educated — Tara Westover

Deep in my non-reading shame spiral, I deleted 2 emails from the Philadelphia Library saying I had books from my hold list ready to claim. I was 35% into the book I was PLODDING through and I was going to make myself finish that one before starting another one. And then Educated became available. I had been waiting for this one for the better part of a year and I knew if I let it go I’d be eleventy-billionth in line again. I reluctantly put the other book aside and started Educated.

I finished it in ONE AFTERNOON.

This is Tara Westover’s true life story of growing up in a very poor, very religious LDS family in Idaho. Her father was distrustful of public education, so none of the kids went to school. Her parents were distrustful of doctors, so they treated every ailment, from the sniffles to massive injuries, with herbs and oils. As the children aged, two of Tara’s older brothers left home to go to school. Eventually, Tara decided she wanted to give school a shot as well. She studied on her own for the ACT and managed to gain admission to BYU. The more she learned and the more self-actualized she became, the harder it was for her to reconcile her family’s beliefs and intentions.

This book was a hard, harrowing read. It’s chock full of domestic abuse, emotional and physical. There are multiple mental breakdowns because Tara’s journey isn’t an easy, sanitized, and Disney-princess-fied one.

Five stars. One afternoon.

Becoming — Michelle Obama

When Michelle Obama’s Becoming hit the shelves, I bought it for my mother for Christmas because I knew that the time until Christmas + the time it took Mom to read it and for me to borrow it from her would still be < the time it took for me to get this from a library.

This book I took my time with because I didn’t want it to end. I loved Michelle’s stories of her family who selflessly made sure she and her brother had whatever they needed to survive. I loved the stories of her continually pushing herself outside of her comfort zones. I loved the stories about the goofy, optimistic nerd whom she fell in love with and made a life with.

And man I miss having her and her family in the public eye.

Five stars for my fellow rule-follower and box-checker. Believe the hype.

Now isn’t this the most staged book tableau you’ve seen? A real influencer would have turned the towel around but I was too lazy.

The Little Paris Bookshop — Nina George

I bought The Little Paris Bookshop from Barnes and Noble a month ago because I liked the cover. Jean Perdu has a bookshop on a boat in Paris and claims to be a literary apothecary – he asks his customers questions and then prescribes the perfect book(s) to solve their emotional ills.

But of course, our Jean is the illest of all, for he is pining for a love who left him 30 years prior. (his name translates to John Lost in English after all.) After a moment where he allows himself to FINALLY FEEL AGAIN he unmoors his boat and goes on a journey toward healing and such. I should have hated this book with its manic pixie dream “filles” and boorish, self-absorbed men on their grief journeys. But it worked its magic on me in the end.

Three stars and life begins at 50!

Currently reading: Crazy Rich Asians — Kevin Kwan

And that’s it. Three books in one month. But it’s awfully nice to be back. 🙂

All of my book lists and reviews are on Goodreads.

This a part of the Show us Your Books linkup from Jana Says and Life According to Steph. If you want to read more bloggers gush about the books they’ve read this month, click the button below and have fun!

Life According to Steph

Previously:
2019
January | February | March |April | June
2018
January | February | March | April | May | June | July | August | September | October | November | December

Show us your Books – April 2019

Oh hey, I’m late to the books party. I was in warm, gorgeous (and gnat-filled) Savannah for a work conference and WHOOSH. Gone went the blog. Thank heavens I actually smartened up and wrote a lot of this as I reviewed each book, like so many on the linkup do. I am a SHINING example of a kid who was Talented and Gifted and ended up a completely average adult.
On to the books! I use the Goodreads reviewing system, which is:

  • One star: did not like it
  • Two stars: it was ok
  • Three stars: liked it
  • Four stars: really liked it
  • Five stars: it was amazing
The library stack plus Becoming, on loan from Mom.

Over the last few years, I’ve been striving to read more works by women and women of color. I’m not trying to exclude books by men, but some months it just works out that way.

Old in Art School: A Memoir of Starting over — Nell Irvin Painter

Celebrated Princeton History professor Nell Painter retires in her 60s and decides to go to art school! It’s about as difficult as you can imagine, with professors who kept trying to tear her down and say she’d never be a ‘real artist,’ poor treatment because of her race, and classmates who practically shun her because they’re not comfortable with her age. The age thing is something I experience now at 46 — I can’t imagine how much worse it will be in 20 more years.

Nell, like all of us, is far from perfect. She’s willing to enter the art school world on the ground floor but expects the art school world to respect her past career. She disparages her classmates’ artwork, ages, body sizes, and fashion. Everything that’s slung at her, she slings at other people. Either she can’t see what she’s doing, or she gives no craps about it.

Complicating matters is the decline of her parents. As an only surviving child, it was 100% Nell’s burden to make sure her parents were taken care of. And as we all know, there is never a good time for a medical issue to crop up in the family.

Three stars! I enjoyed the memoir parts, but I really became bogged down by the art history parts, because I’ve never been interested in art history. She also LOVES New Jersey, and I’m proud to share a state with her.

The Secret Life of Violet Grant — Beatriz Williams

A lovely book with 2 stories told in parallel: Vivian Schuyler trying to become a magazine writer in 1964 and her great-aunt Violet Schuyler Grant trying to become a physicist in 1911. Hold on, let me get this out of the way…

The Schulyer Sisters

Had to.

This is a story of love and independence and passion and murder and whoa hey, war and espionage? That came right out of nowhere, but I loved it all. I had to reread the final few chapters just to make sure I got the espionage part down.

Four stars, with a trigger warning for sexual assholiness and what today we call rape but back in the 19-teens would be called men being men and women being loose. Consider Walter Grant canceled.

Off the Sidelines: Raise Your Voice, Change the World — Kirsten Gillibrand

Saw this on display at the library, and thought maybe it won’t be a bad idea to read up on some of the candidates that aren’t getting attention because the media is in love with men-who-lost-their-Senate-races-yet-think-they-were-born-to-run-for-president.

This book was written long before she entered the 2020 fray, but is probably a part of her long-range plan to enter the race. Gillibrand comes from a strong local-politics matriarchy back in New York. She’s part of the private-school-and-Dartmouth part swath of middle class. She was raised Catholic which informs her desire to help and give back, but she’s very pro-choice. She used to have an A-rating with the NRA, but has shifted her views on gun control. (Being friends with Gabby Giffords helps.)

I enjoyed this book because she often touches on the human side of the campaign and political grind. She talks candidly about how hard it is to have young children and hold her Senate job. (Some of those senators are assholes.) She has a chapter about fluctuating weight. She touches on her difficult relationship with her father without flogging us with it.

Three stars. I wish her well and wouldn’t mind if she won.

Dear Mrs. Bird — A.J. Pearce

In WWII era London, Emmy Lake applies for a job at a publisher, thinking it will put her on the path to her dream job as a Lady War Correspondent. After an interview where Emmy fails to ask what, exactly, the job is, she takes the job and finds herself instead a typist for Henrietta Bird, an “agony aunt” at Woman’s Friend magazine. Mrs. Bird has VERY outdated and strict standards for what kind of questions she answers, and insists that Emmy throw out letters that don’t reach those standards. But the letterwriters are women Emmy’s age who are in very modern circumstances. What is Emmy to do but answer them herself, but as Mrs. Bird?

At the same time, she is trying to navigate a very sad and sticky situation with her best friend Bunty. I love that nickname.

I think what struck me the most is how regular life continued on as best it could while London was being bombed. People brought gas masks to work, couples still went to dinner, young people still went to shows. Four stars.

The Library Book — Susan Orlean

This is the kind of non-fiction book that I EAT UP. I know the phrase “this book is a love letter to…” is vastly overused. HOWEVER, this book is a love letter to libraries and the people who love them.

The main topic is the fire that burned the Los Angeles Central Library in 1986. It completely destroyed over 400,000 books and the smoke and water damaged 700,000 more I was a teen in 1986, but had never heard of the fire because the Chernobyl nuclear disaster happened at the same time which stole most of the news coverage. Not knowing if nuclear winds were going to destroy Europe makes for a big story.

Orlean is an amazing writer, and weaves into her book the history of the Los Angeles Public library and its librarians (including the amazing Mary Jones), the services that libraries provide, her warm memories of the library visits of her childhood, the AIDS crisis, and how libraries are adapting to the future.

Five stars, it’s a must-read if you love libraries and I know many of you do.

Currently reading: Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez.

All of my book lists and reviews are on Goodreads.

This a part of the Show us Your Books linkup from Jana Says and Life According to Steph. If you want to read more bloggers gush about the books they’ve read this month, click the button below and have fun!

Life According to Steph

Previously:
2019
January | February | March |April | June
2018
January | February | March | April | May | June | July | August | September | October | November | December

Show us your Books: March 2019

Another month, another Show us your Books post. I’m doing well with my goal, thanks to daylight rides home on the train and putting the darn mobile phone away. Oh, and refusing to exercise and falling out of practicing my guitar. (sigh)

Onto the books! I use the Goodreads system to rate books, which is:

  • One star: did not like it
  • Two stars: it was ok
  • Three stars: liked it
  • Four stars: really liked it
  • Five stars: it was amazing

An American Marriage — Tayari Jones

This book was available at my local library so I snagged it. I was reluctant to read it, because how could a story of a young couple torn apart when the husband is wrongly convicted of a crime and sent to prison for 12 years not depress the hell out of me?

But woven into the strong narrative of being Black in the present-day American South is the story of Roy and Celestial’s marriage. And of their parents’ marriages. And even though everyone makes mistakes, you know why those choices were made. Adulting isn’t easy. Marriage isn’t easy. And all marriages have gray areas; some at the start, some at the middle, some at the very end. You can so easily make the wrong decision because you believe in the right thing.

THIS BOOK WAS AMAZING. I read it in giant gulps, in about one 24-hr period of commuting and lunch breaks. I was one chapter from the end when I got to work last week and was rooting for a train delay so I could finish it before work. Instead, I took my lunch early to get that last chapter. I was sulky when I had to put this book down.

Five stars.

What We Do Now: Standing Up For Your Values in Trump’s America — edited by Dennis Johnson

This is a collection of “omg what now??!?” essays and articles rushed into publication between Trump’s election and his inauguration. I read it to charge myself up. Instead it was depressing. These articles were written with the tone of “Candidate Trump said XYZ, but surely, President Trump won’t dare do XYZ” and today it’s all “yup, he’s doing X and Y and trying to do Z and let me tell you about the L-W that’s going on too!” Oh you sweet summer children of November, 2016…you have no idea.

It just didn’t hold up. I read the whole thing except the opening essay from some unpleasant old man in Vermont, because he gets NONE of my time, not now, not ever. The highlight for me was this passage, because of the hate-on Allan Lichtman has for Nate Silver.

“Nate Silver is a CLERK,” the historian sputtered. *chortle!*

Two stars.

When Death Becomes Life: Notes from a Transplant Surgeon — Joshua D. Mezrich

This book was on display at the library and not on my TBR. But I grabbed it, because why not? This is Dr. Mezrich’s memoir of what made him decide to go into organ transplantation (his affinity for kidneys is pretty adorable), interspersed with the ugly and failure-prone history of organ transplantation. Mezrich tells his own stories with pathos and humor. But he doesn’t shy away from ethical issues regarding organ transplantation. For example, should an alcoholic be eligible for a new liver?

It took me a while to get through this book because of the science and a bit of the sadness. Many animals and people died before the process was perfected. Many. But I’m glad I took a chance on this book.

Four stars. Are you an organ donor? Want to be? You can register here. I just did!

Belong to Me (Love Walked In #2) — Marisa de los Santos

Oh man oh man, I was so excited to read this because I gave Love Walked in five stars and it gave me all of the warm and fuzzy feelings I could stand. In this sequel, Cornelia and Teo move to a nondescript rich suburb because Teo gets a job as a pediatric oncologist in Philadelphia. And Cornelia … just hangs around. She talks of a grad degree, but she spends most of the book not doing much except being tiny. And then all of the secondary characters show up. So many characters. The snooty neighborhood wives lead by Piper and Elizabeth. And their husbands and kids. Mysterious single mom Lake and her son, Dev. And Dev’s friends from school. And Lake’s new boyfriend. And his daughter. And Clare from the first book. And Cornelia’s brother and his girlfriend.

Like the first book, the theme is family, biological and chosen. Where do you belong? Who belongs to you? Where this book pissed me off is that it stopped addressing the real, adult problems and turned into a KIDS FIX EVERYTHING book. You want a kid? You get a kid! Here’s a kid you didn’t know you had! Have kids? Here are MORE kids! Trying to resolve an awkard plot point? Fill it with kids!

At the beginning of the book, mean mom Piper insinuates that you’re not a real family unless you have children. I expected the book to prove her wrong, but it kind of proved her right.

Three stars.

The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well — Meik Wiking

Such a cute little book, but very redundant. It probably could have been edited down to half the size. The best part was the end because after 200 pages of sucking you in with candles, cakes, and sweaters, Wiking drops a truth bomb. The reason Denmark is so happy, he claims, is because they have a strong social welfare system. Knowing you’re going to be taken care of if things go poorly makes people worry less. You’re able to leave your bike outside the bakery because it’s likely not going to get stolen because people don’t need to because there is a safety net.

Three candles, er, stars. And it’s HOO-ga, but it won’t stop me from calling it Higgy. Getting Higgy with it!

Currently reading: Old in Art School by Nell Painter Irwin. It has more art history in it than I was counting on, but I’m pushing through.

All of my book lists and reviews are on Goodreads.

This a part of the Show us Your Books linkup from Jana Says and Life According to Steph. If you want to read more bloggers gush about the books they’ve read this month, click the button below and have fun!

Life According to Steph

Previously:
2019
January | February | March |April | June
2018
January | February | March | April | May | June | July | August | September | October | November | December

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