Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Book Review: I'm Judging You by Luvvie Ajayi

I'm Judging You: The Do-Better Manual

I'm Judging You is her (Luvvie Ajayi's) debut book of humorous essays that dissects our cultural obsessions and calls out bad behavior in our increasingly digital, connected lives—from the cultural importance of the newest Shonda Rhimes television drama to serious discussions of race and media representation to what to do about your fool cousin sharing casket pictures from Grandma's wake on Facebook. With a lighthearted, rapier wit and a unique perspective, I'm Judging You is the handbook the world needs, doling out the hard truths and a road map for bringing some "act right" into our lives, social media, and popular culture.
While I enjoyed Ajayi's writing, my chief observation is that it reads more like a selection of blog posts or lengthy Facebook posts than it does a cohesive essay collection. Knowing that Ajayi is an internet personality, I can certainly see that style reflected in her writing.  This isn't necessarily a negative thing - I quite enjoyed the book - but I wasn't particularly overwhelmed with her writing style. It felt very similar in style and tone to what other current events/pop culture bloggers offer.

Entertainment Value
This is where Ajayi's writing shines - she's quite funny and I particularly enjoyed her more light-hearted essays. While they were my favorite, I also feel like I learned something from her take on issues like the need for a more inclusive feminism and other issues of racism occurring in our nation. As always, some essays were better than others, but there are none that I found to be less than entertaining.

I think Ajayi's style is probably best suited for an internet audience. While I'm likely to follow her on Twitter (or would be if I used Twitter) I'm probably not likely to pick up another book authored by her. While I was entertained (and informed) by this one, it wasn't enough to motivate me to spend another 350 pages with the author. Not great, not bad, this one was pretty firmly middle of the road for me.

*I read my own personal copy of this one, in case anyone is curious about where I get my books from*

Monday, June 3, 2019

What I Read in May

While I didn't get just a ton read in the month, I did get to travel to Ohio for the Nowhere Else festival and see some of my favorite bands and favorite people. I was also quite busy moving the library where I work from one building to another, brand new building. I'm so pleased with my new space, but it took a lot of work to get it all set up and we still have some ways to go. So that's what kept me busy in May - now for the good stuff! I read:

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Sea of Strangers by Lang Leav
An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good by Helene Tursten
Tasting Grace by Melissa d'Arabian
You Can't Touch My Hair by Phoebe Robinson
The Handmaid's Tale: The Graphic Novel by Renee Nault
Loving My Actual Neighbor by Alexandra Kuykendall
The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth
Outer Order, Inner Calm by Gretchen Rubin

Highlights were The Handmaid's Tale and You Can't Touch My Hair, although Outer Order, Inner Calm has given me some motivation to get things clean and orderly around the house.

What did you read in May?

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Book Review: Women Talking by Miriam Toews

Women Talking
One evening, eight Mennonite women climb into a hay loft to conduct a secret meeting. For the past two years, each of these women, and more than a hundred other girls in their colony, has been repeatedly violated in the night by demons coming to punish them for their sins. Now that the women have learned they were in fact drugged and attacked by a group of men from their own community, they are determined to protect themselves and their daughters from future harm.

While the men of the colony are off in the city, attempting to raise enough money to bail out the rapists and bring them home, these women—all illiterate, without any knowledge of the world outside their community and unable even to speak the language of the country they live in—have very little time to make a choice: Should they stay in the only world they’ve ever known or should they dare to escape?
I really appreciate Toews style choices in this book.  It's told as meeting minutes taken by the only man left in the colony (and the only one who knows how to write), who is also somewhat of an outsider.  I really enjoy stories that are told in an unconventional manner, so the minutes format appealed to me from the beginning and I think Toews was very successful in its use.  I enjoyed all of the characters, although I feel like characterization was secondary to the philosophical side of the book. 

Entertainment Value
This isn't really a character-driven or plot-driven novel, so if you're looking for one of those things, you'll probably find it slow.  It is, as it says, made up only of women talking.  We're listening in on their discussion of how to proceed given their horrific circumstances, which leads them to discuss what I think is the best part of the book - a very philosophical look at the nature of forgiveness and the responsibility for protecting oneself and one's children.  Toews addresses these big ideas from a religious standpoint, which is something that I don't think we see often in any writing and which I really enjoyed. Being put in the place of the women who are struggling to decide how to proceed really highlighted the ethical and moral dilemma (not to mention the practical dilemma) of how to protect themselves in a patriarchal colony where women have very little voice.

I ate this book up.  I think I read it in two sittings. It's not that it's a page turner in terms of plot, but I was just fascinated by the author's take on a very conservative and patriarchal religious sect in an extreme situation and the ethical side of the women's dilemma. If you're interested in religion or the topic of forgiveness or philosophical novels, this is one you must read.

Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with a copy to review.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

What I Read in February

I'm late posting this, but I'm trying to be more relaxed about the blogging thing right now, so I'm not going to stress over it too much.  Instead I'll just give you the rundown of what I read in February, which felt like it lasted about three whole minutes.

In February I read:

Art Matters by Neil Gaiman
Wundersmith by Jessica Townsend
The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein
Fiercehearted by Holley Gerth
The Cuckcoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith
A Woman's Battle for Grace by Cheryl Brodersen
The Unwanted by Don Brown
The Mental Load by Emma
Hey Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krasoczka
Why Art by Eleanor Davis

The two big standouts for me were Wundersmith and The Cuckcoo's Calling, which are both reviewed on here.  The others were generally pretty average across the board, nothing stood out as spectacular or particularly bad, which makes it hard to post reviews. I'm reading a couple right now that I'm really enjoying and plan to review in the near future though!

Friday, February 22, 2019

Audiobook Review: The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith

The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike, #1)

After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office.

Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, the legendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man.
I've seen some criticisms that I feel basically boil down to "this isn't Harry Potter" and others that I feel may have a valid point regarding length and setting issues.  It's certainly not Harry Potter, so if you go in looking for magic and whimsy, you will definitely be disappointed.  It's a crime/detective novel through and through and though it was a little bit drawn out to me in places, I thoroughly enjoyed the mystery.  I loved the characterization and fell in love with Cormoran Strike and Robin, his newly found assistant.

Entertainment Value
This was a good, solid listen.  I immediately put the second book in the series on hold, which is evidence that I am taken with the characters and enjoying the storyline.  I like detective stories that don't delve too deeply into the hero's troubled past (although all good detectives have a troubled past) and that focus mainly on the story at hand.  I think The Cuckoo's Calling does well with this.  It is a bit slow to start, but once I was into the story I had a hard time putting it aside. I did see the ending coming, which was a bit of a disappointment, but I was intrigued enough into the how-dun-it that the who-dun-it was less important.

Love the narrator of this one!  I hope he sticks around for the rest of the books because I thoroughly enjoyed his reading.  He does just enough variation in voices to make them distinctive without being distracting.  I think I'll probably finish this series out on audio, just because I enjoy the reader's voice and style and I think it helps me get through slower points in the books.

**Checked this one out from my local public library's Libby app**

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Book Review: Nevermoor and Wundersmith by Jessica Townsend

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow (Nevermoor, #1)

Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow (Nevermoor, #2)

Morrigan Crow is cursed. Having been born on Eventide, the unluckiest day for any child to be born, she's blamed for all local misfortunes, from hailstorms to heart attacks--and, worst of all, the curse means that Morrigan is doomed to die at midnight on her eleventh birthday.

But as Morrigan awaits her fate, a strange and remarkable man named Jupiter North appears. Chased by black-smoke hounds and shadowy hunters on horseback, he whisks her away into the safety of a secret, magical city called Nevermoor.

It's then that Morrigan discovers Jupiter has chosen her to contend for a place in the city's most prestigious organization: the Wundrous Society. In order to join, she must compete in four difficult and dangerous trials against hundreds of other children, each boasting an extraordinary talent that sets them apart - an extraordinary talent that Morrigan insists she does not have. To stay in the safety of Nevermoor for good, Morrigan will need to find a way to pass the tests - or she'll have to leave the city to confront her deadly fate.
Oh man. I couldn't love the writing in these books any harder.  They both got 5 star ratings from me on Goodreads and I am anxiously awaiting the next book in the series.  The author's style is whimsical and magical and just perfect for filling the Harry Potter void in your heart. I picked these up because of all the recommendations that compare it to good old HP (particularly Lauren and the Books on YouTube) and I was absolutely thrilled when the writing lived up to the hype.

Entertainment Value
Again, Harry Potter feels left and right. Don't get me wrong, this is its own distinct story and is certainly not derivative of JK Rowling's work.  I love that Townsend has her own unique style and voice, and the story stands on its own.  But the magical whimsy of the Harry Potter universe is felt here. Townsend's magic system of Wunder is, I would say, less traditional than others I've read.  I appreciate that she's developed her own thing and steers clear of witches and wizards to make something fully and uniquely her own.

I never ever read middle grade, so this was a stretch for me.  That said, I'm so glad I ventured out of my comfort zone for this series. I can't rave about it enough and I plan to force it down the throats of all my Reader Friends on every occasion I get.

**I read both of these books via my local public library before immediately purchasing copies for myself and my nephew**

Friday, February 1, 2019

What I Read in January 2019

January was a pretty slow month for me - I didn't read just a ton of books.  I'm definitely behind on my Goodreads challenge, but for now I'm not stressing over it.  I've read when I felt like reading and that's what I want for my reading life.  I've picked up cross-stitch as a fun new hobby and did Yoga With Adriene's yearly 30 day yoga challenge, although this year wasn't as successful as others have been due to a shoulder issue.  It was also my birthday month, and I spent a full week celebrating with my family and various friends.

On to the books!  Here's what I read:

It's All Absolutely Fine by Ruby Elliot (a reread that I was somewhat disappointed in this time around)

Courage, Dear Heart by Rebecca K. Reynolds

On Being 40(ish) edited by Lindsey Mead

Camouflage: The Hidden Lives of Autistic Women by Sarah Bargiela

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

The Restless Girls by Jessie Burton

Your Idea Starts Here by Carolyn Eckert

Women Talking by Miriam Toews (not released until April, so look for the review closer to time)

And that's it for the month of January.  Not my best month, but not a terrible month either. I'm reading several books at the moment and hope that February will have a few more on the list.  What did you read in January?