Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Book Review: Hey Harry, Hey Matilda by Rachel Hulin

Hey Harry, Hey Matilda

Hey Harry, Hey Matilda is the story--told entirely in hilarious emails--of fraternal twins Harry and Matilda Goodman as they fumble into adulthood, telling lies and keeping secrets, and finally confronting their complicated twinship. 
Matilda Goodman is an underemployed wedding photographer grappling with her failure to live as an artist and the very bad lie she has told her boyfriend (that she has a dead twin). Harry, her (totally alive) brother, is an untenured professor of literature, anxiously contemplating his publishing status (unpublished) and sleeping with a student. When Matilda invites her boyfriend home for Thanksgiving to meet the family, and when Harry makes a desperate--and unethical--move to save his career, they set off an avalanche of shame, scandal, and drunken hot tub revelations that force them to examine the truth about who they really are. A wonderfully subversive, sensitive novel of romantic entanglement and misguided ambition, Hey Harry, Hey Matilda is a joyful look at love and family in all its forms.
I'm going to skip the two part review on this one because I didn't love the book and the reason why pretty much covers both the writing and the entertainment value.  I honestly just never found a reason for this book to exist.  It isn't particularly well-written and the plot isn't much of anything.  Harry and Matilda are twins who sent each other improbably witty emails about their messy lives, but they never really amount to much of anything in the way of a plot or a point.  I ended the book wondering why I read it.  Why did the author choose these snippets of life to show us?  I have no idea.  

I didn't love either character, and didn't feel like they were well-developed enough to stand on their own as just a book about interesting people.  The story itself never seemed to go anywhere, so it certainly wasn't plot-driven.  I just don't understand why it was written or published and I was kind of mad that I spent the time on it.  The best I have to say is that it's short and reads quickly, so it wasn't a huge amount of time wasted.  

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a copy to review. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Choose Your Own Adventure Book Club: Reader's Choice

Now that I'm back on the blog, I'm happy to be bringing back my posts about who read what each month for the Choose Your Own Adventure Book Club.  As a refresher, since it's been a very long while, CYOA reads by theme rather than by book.  We came up with a list of themes, tossed them in a Tardis cookie jar, and each month we draw out a new theme.  Everyone chooses any book they want to read based as loosely as they want around that theme and then we get together and discuss what we chose and if we liked it the next month.  It means that there's no pressure to read a specific book that you may or may not be in the mood for.  It never feels like homework and we always come away with a full TBR after hearing what everyone else chose for the theme.

This month we had a new member join - our friend Ann, who we met through our Forever Young Adult book club branch, where we discuss assigned young adult titles.  We also let this month be considered a Reader's Choice month.  I got busy and forgot to draw a theme for us, and didn't realize it until it was too late for anyone to have time to choose based on a theme.  We decided just to discuss whatever we had recently read and loved.  Here's what we talked about:

  • Stephanie read A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas and she can't stop talking about it. It's a definite rave from her and others in the group have also been enjoying the series.  It's one I hear about all over the place, but I'm waiting because of my "series has to be finished rule".
  • Rachel read Thick as Thieves by Megan Whalen Turner (squeee!).  We've both been waiting for this one for ages.  The group is divided on the series - some of us love it and others don't. Rachel and I are firmly in the "devoted to Eugenides" camp and she highly recommends Turner's latest addition to the series.  I can't wait to get my hands on a copy!
  • Courtney is in the midst of Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert.  Her raves about it have led me to bump it up my TBR list.  I'm reaching back for my creativity, which was misplaced somewhere in the last year or two, and now that I'm starting to find it again, I think this book could be a great jumpstart.  Courtney definitely agrees.
  • Ann read The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood in anticipation of the upcoming adaptation on Hulu.  Her mention of it immediately made me realize that I have no idea which shelf my copy is on and also that I need to read it immediately.  A search is underway.  She loved it and said, like I've heard from many other sources, that it's timely and beautiful, and worth reading. As soon as I find my copy I'll be reading it as well.
  • As for me, I'm currently listening to The Fireman by Joe Hill on audio and loving it.  The narrator is excellent. I've got a road trip planned for this weekend and hope to knock out a significant portion of it because it is quite a long one, but once you start it's hard to turn it off.
The last new adjustment to CYOA is that we decided to start trying on a food theme each month.  This month we did ice cream sundaes.  I had the ice cream and everyone else brought toppings.  We wrote down a whole list of other ideas and we're going to try making it a food and book club since we had so much fun with the sundaes!  

How about you, Reader Friends?  Are you currently reading anything spectacular?

Friday, May 19, 2017

Book Review: The Mother of All Questions by Rebecca Solnit

The Mother of All Questions
In this follow-up to Men Explain Things to Me, Rebecca Solnit offers commentary on women who refuse to be silenced, misogynistic violence, the fragile masculinity of the literary canon, the gender binary, the recent history of rape jokes, and much more.
Solnit is quickly becoming one of my favorite feminist essayists between this collection and Men Explain Things to Me.  I appreciate that she doesn't take a purely scholarly approach, but she also doesn't use as much humor as others use, which gives her voice a seriousness that is sometimes lacking in popular feminist writing.  She's funny at moments, but she's also completely serious about the difficult issues women and minorities are facing, and she's not using jokes to soften the intensity of her feelings.  She's obviously a talented writer and these essays show her skill with words and rhetoric well.

Entertainment Value
As I mentioned above, Solnit writes for a popular audience, but she doesn't do so with as much levity as other popular feminist authors, which I appreciated.  She does, however, use some humor, and her essays are easy to read and understand, regardless of how familiar you are with feminist theory.  I loved the range of topics she covered, from intersectionality to literature to film and I particularly enjoyed the essays covering rape culture.

If you read and enjoyed Men Explain Things to Me or if you are a fan of popular feminist writing, it's a must-read.  I think it will also appeal to those who enjoy reading feminist websites like Jezebel and Bustle and to those who have a left-leaning or feminist mindset and are interested in current events.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Yoga Book Reviews: Yoga Bodies by Lauren Lipton and Every Body Yoga by Jessamyn Stanley

Yoga Bodies: Real People, Real Stories, and the Power of Transformation
Artfully capturing yoga's vibrant spirit, Yoga Bodies presents full-color yoga-pose portraits of more than 80 practitioners of all ages, shapes, sizes, backgrounds, and skill levels--real people with real stories to share about how yoga has changed their lives for the better. Some humorous, some heartfelt, others profound, the stories entertain as they enlighten, while the portraits--which joyously challenge the "yoga body" stereotype--celebrate the glorious diversity of the human form. Handsomely jacketed and richly visual inside and out, Yoga Bodies is a coffee table-worthy contemplation, a meaningful gift, and a source of endless inspiration for anyone seeking fresh perspectives on how to live well.
Less instruction and more inspiration, this is a coffee table-type book full of pictures of people of all shapes, races, sizes, and ages in poses of varying degrees of difficulty and ease, accompanied with their own words about why they practice yoga or what their practice means to them.  I spent several days flipping through and looking at the images and reading the stories, but it could also be used as inspiration for your own practice.  No instruction is included, and the book is intended for those with a basic knowledge of yoga, although an extensive knowledge certainly isn't required.  I loved seeing how yoga means different things to different people and hearing the reasons various people practice - from the ultra spiritual to the very practical.

 Every Body Yoga: Let Go of Fear. Get On the Mat. Love Your Body.
It’s a book of inspiration for beginners of all shapes and sizes: If Jessamyn could transcend these emotional and physical barriers, so can we.

It’s a book for readers already doing yoga, looking to refresh their practice or find new ways to stay motivated.

It’s a how-to book: Here are easy-to-follow directions to 50 basic yoga poses and 10 sequences to practice at home, all photographed in full color.

It’s a book that challenges the larger issues of body acceptance and the meaning of beauty.

Most of all, it’s a book that changes the paradigm, showing us that yoga isn’t about how one looks, but how one feels, with yoga sequences like “I Want to Energize My Spirit,” “I Need to Release Fear,” “I Want to Love Myself.”
When I first started practicing yoga and discovered the world of yoga on instagram, Jessamyn was one of the first yogis I followed (you can follow her by clicking here).  I fell in love with her energy and body positivity, and she's still one of the most inspiring yogis I follow.  I love her strength and her pride in how amazing her body is, and it's great to see what the poses look like when they're done by a person with a body that looks more like mine than like the "traditional" yoga body.

This book is full of gorgeous color pictures and contains Jessamyn's person story and thoughts on yoga as a spiritual and physical practice, but the main draw for me was the instruction.  Jessamyn provides visual and written instruction for the basic poses and an entire section of sequences focusing on different parts of the body and attitudes to embrace.  Her practices are thoughtful and easy to understand and I found her explanations helpful.

These are both great choices for anyone seeking inspiration and guidance in beginning or continuing a yoga practice.  I found a lot to love here from both books, both visually and in terms of learning more about the practice of yoga and asana techniques.

I read Yoga Bodies through my local public library and Every Body Yoga courtesy of NetGalley.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Book Review: milk and honey by Rupi Kaur

Milk and Honey

milk and honey is a collection of poetry and prose about survival. It is about the experience of violence, abuse, love, loss, and femininity. It is split into four chapters, and each chapter serves a different purpose, deals with a different pain, heals a different heartache. milk and honey takes readers through a journey of the most bitter moments in life and finds sweetness in them because there is sweetness everywhere if you are just willing to look.

 Oh wow.  This is one that got a ton of attention when it came out and that I added to my TBR, but, because it was poetry, I thought I'd probably put off for a very long time.  I tend to let my older brother be the poet of the family.  It's just not usually my thing.  But yesterday, by happenstance, I read a tumblred excerpt from one of Kaur's poems and immediately pushed it to the top of my list.

Evaluating poetry is hard for me.  I'm not going to give this my usual writing/entertainment review, I"m just going to say this was the perfect book for me at this moment in time.  It's about loss and relationships and grieving the loss of relationships and moving forward and falling in love.  Instead of trying to explain how amazing I found this book and how beautiful I thought the words were, I think I'll just post my very most favorite portion and let you decide if it's the book for you.  It was exactly the book for me at exactly the time for me.

i do not want to have you
to fill the empty parts of me
i want to be full on my own
i want to be so complete
i could light a whole city
and then
i want to have you
cause the two of us combined
could set it on fire

Thanks to my local public library for providing me with a copy of this one.  

Monday, May 8, 2017

Book Review: Hallelujah Anyway by Anne Lamott

Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy

From Goodreads:
In Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy Lamott ventures to explore where to find meaning in life. We should begin, she suggests, by -facing a great big mess, especially the great big mess of ourselves.- It's up to each of us to recognize the presence and importance of mercy everywhere-within us and outside us, all around us-and to use it to forge a deeper understanding of ourselves and more honest connections with each other. While that can be difficult to do, Lamott argues that it's crucial, as kindness towards others, beginning with myself, buys us a shot at a warm and generous heart, the greatest prize of all.
Full of Lamott's trademark honesty, humor and forthrightness, Hallelujah Anyway is profound and caring, funny and wise--a hopeful book of hands-on spirituality. 
It's been a while, Reader Friends, I know.  I've been around, but busy and missing this blog, but also needing some tine away from feeling an obligation to it.  I think i'm ready to be back now.  It might be slow going for a bit but here I am.  Back to the books.  When I finished this one I knew it was the one to start back with.  I got divorced in December and since then I've been recovering.  It's involved a lot of things, good and bad, and I can truly say I've never been in a place before where I've needed to give and receive more mercy.  Especially lately.  Seriously, this book could not have appeared on my holds list at a more providential time.  There is so much mercy I need to extend (to myself and to others) and so, so much mercy I need to let myself receive (and ask for). 

Are there authors more readable than Lamott?  Anywhere?  Particularly in the area of Christian non-fiction?  I mean, obviously there are astounding writers in Christian non-fiction.  So many.  But Lamott just begs to be read and read and read.  I read almost the entire book in a single sitting on a day when my brain was so fried from sadness and anxiety that I literally could not move off the couch.  This is Lamott's gift.  I couldn't make myself a sandwich.  I couldn't drive my car.  But I could lay on my mother's couch and read Lamott and receive mercy.  I think that's all that needs to be said as far as the quality of her writing, right?  It isn't that she's simplistic, it's that she writes from her heart and doesn't get too wrapped up in flowery words.  She writes like she's talking to a friend, and when you're at your lowest that's what you need.  

Entertainment Value
Again, she's an author I turn to again and again when I'm at my worst because she's been there and she writes like a friend who has been there.  She doesn't try to have all the answers, but she does write love.  And who doesn't need both love and mercy.  This book felt like a friend offering a hug and advice over a cup of coffee and who doesn't need that.  It felt like being told "It's going to be ok" and "You're forgiven".  And who doesn't need forgiveness?  

This is a must read.  Even for those who don't identify with Christianity, Lamott is "spiritual" enough to appeal to a wider range than the traditional evangelical crowd.  If you've got an interest in giving mercy, you need to receive some mercy, and especially if you're hard on yourself, this book is something you absolutely need to have in your life.  

It came to me via my local public library, and I recommend you check your own for a copy!