Book Review: Shrill by Lindy West

shrill by lindy westTitle: Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman
Author: Lindy West
Publisher: Hachette
Hardcover: 272 pages
Source: BookCon 2016
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

Coming of age in a culture that demands women be as small, quiet, and compliant as possible–like a porcelain dove that will also have sex with you–writer and humorist Lindy West quickly discovered that she was anything but.

From a painfully shy childhood in which she tried, unsuccessfully, to hide her big body and even bigger opinions; to her public war with stand-up comedians over rape jokes; to her struggle to convince herself, and then the world, that fat people have value; to her accidental activism and never-ending battle royale with Internet trolls, Lindy narrates her life with a blend of humor and pathos that manages to make a trip to the abortion clinic funny and wring tears out of a story about diarrhea.

With inimitable good humor, vulnerability, and boundless charm, Lindy boldly shares how to survive in a world where not all stories are created equal and not all bodies are treated with equal respect, and how to weather hatred, loneliness, harassment, and loss–and walk away laughing. Shrill provocatively dissects what it means to become self-aware the hard way, to go from wanting to be silent and invisible to earning a living defending the silenced in all caps.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5

Andrew and I came across this book at BookCon Chicago this year. We were both already weighed down with dozens of pounds of books, but Andrew insisted that it looked good (and thought he remembered good things being said about it) and we should pick up a copy. It’s really never hard to convince me to pick up a book, so we did and I am so glad we did, because this is one of my all-time favorite reads this year. Shrill is Lindy West’s memoir, told in a collection of short essays/stories that are somewhat linked, but are easily taken a piece at a time. She writes about big events in her life, especially focusing on the way she’s been treated because she’s an overweight female. It’s a feminist masterpiece.

What I love about this collection is that Lindy puts herself out there and shares the reality of what she faces as an overweight woman in society, and then goes on to explain how our current societal outlook and culture is to blame for the shitty behavior of people. I feel like we see a lot of theories behind why women are treated so poorly by men (e.g. they are seen as objects rather than people, so they are catcalled more often, etc.), but what we need are brave women to be like: this happened to me, this is how it made me feel, and this is why it needs to change. I think a lot of people reading this book are going to realize that they have experienced similar situations and are going to better understand how we can go about dealing with those situations in order to affect change in our culture. And what’s wonderful about this book is that Lindy calls people out in such a way that left me both angry and ready to take action, yet also amused and laughing at the ridiculous situations life puts us in. I don’t know how she does it, but she does, and it is inspiring.

I devoured this book. I love how it’s written in short chapters that I can very much put down when I need to get to work or help make dinner, but it’s a joy to pick back up again and read more about what Lindy has to say. I’ve already recommended it to pretty much everyone I know (I keep begging Andrew to read it NOW), so I’ll recommend it to anyone who’s reading this right now. It’s intelligent, funny, thought-provoking, and simply wonderful. Read it. Now. And then we can talk about it. ūüôā

Advertisements

Book Review: Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby

Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby.jpgTitle: Fever Pitch
Author: Nick Hornby
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Paperback: 272 pages
Source: Chicago Public Library
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

In America, it is soccer. But in Great Britain, it is the real football. No pads, no prayers, no prisoners. And that’s before the players even take the field.

Nick Hornby has been a football fan since the moment he was conceived. Call it predestiny. Or call it preschool. Fever Pitch is his tribute to a lifelong obsession. Part autobiography, part comedy, part incisive analysis of insanity, Hornby’s award-winning memoir captures the fever pitch of fandom ‚ÄĒ its agony and ecstasy, its community, its defining role in thousands of young mens’ coming-of-age stories. Fever Pitch is one for the home team. But above all, it is one for everyone who knows what it really means to have a losing season.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

I have a lot of feelings about this book. ¬†I am pretty fanatical about my alma mater’s American football team and as a direct result, parts of this book felt a bit too real. ¬†The way that Hornby is able to describe the relationship one has with a team is truly beautiful. ¬†In the intro alone (which I forwarded to several of my friends who are not huge readers) he really delves into the emotions involved with a crushing defeat. ¬†He goes in with the opinion that to a degree, to be this big of a fan you have to be somewhat depraved and then goes on to show how this fandom is both the largest blessing and curse of his life.

First of all, his point about being somewhat literary and therefore often times making metaphorical connections between his team’s performance and his life rang incredibly true to me. ¬†Much like Hornby, I can often times take what I see from a performance of my team as grand analogy to my own life at the time. ¬†We are losing every game despite looking like a good team in the preseason? ¬†That’s my senior year where I was poised to glide through the last semester and finish early, but for whatever various outside reasons was a non-starter. ¬†We pull together an amazing season despite having no reason to do so? ¬†It’s the year I am living with my wife for the first time, I’m beginning to feel comfortable at my job, and just generally feel like I can deal with the things life throws my way. ¬†Hornby points all this out and does so through some comic, some serious, and some heart-wrenching examples from his own life.

The other thing I think this book does incredibly well is give a glimpse into football (soccer) culture in England particularly in the 70s and 80s when the majority of these events take place.  I do also quite enjoy soccer and the English Premier League is my league of choice so being able to learn a bit more about the atmosphere in grounds at this time was fascinating.  Besides that, it is wonderful to get the perspective of someone who had some of the traits that often lead to hooliganism, but for a variety of reasons was not a hooligan himself, and his reflection on these rougher fans as he grew older and distanced himself from them entirely.  There is a lot of interesting commentary on class and race, which was a pleasant surprise for me.  Finally, being able to hear about a football nuts opinions on Heysel and Hillsborough thinking back to when they happened was absolutely incredible and a perspective that has been missing from most of the other coverage I have seen on these tragedies.

My only issue with this book at all is that it was occasionally a slog to get through.  The format of each section being a game was really cool in terms of driving home just how obsessed he is, but it made it a bit daunting and disorienting at times when reading.

Fair warning: If you expect this book to be anything like the films by the same name prepare to be disappointed.

Book Review: Hunter by Mercedes Lackey

HunterTitle: Hunter
Author: Mercedes Lackey
Series: Hunter, Book 1
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Hardcover: 374 pages
Source: County of Los Angeles Public Library Overdrive
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

They came after the Diseray. Some were terrors ripped from our collective imaginations, remnants of every mythology across the world. And some were like nothing anyone had ever dreamed up, even in their worst nightmares.

Monsters.

Long ago, the barriers between our world and the Otherworld were ripped open, and it’s taken centuries to bring back civilization in the wake of the catastrophe. Now, the luckiest Cits live in enclosed communities, behind walls that keep them safe from the hideous creatures fighting to break through. Others are not so lucky.

To Joyeaux Charmand, who has been a Hunter in her tight-knit mountain community since she was a child, every Cit without magic deserves her protection from dangerous Othersiders. Then she is called to Apex City, where the best Hunters are kept to protect the most important people.

Joy soon realizes that the city‚Äôs powerful leaders care more about luring Cits into a false sense of security than protecting them. More and more monsters are getting through the barriers, and the close calls are becoming too frequent to ignore. Yet the Cits have no sense of how much danger they‚Äôre in‚ÄĒto them, Joy and her corps of fellow Hunters are just action stars they watch on TV.

When an act of sabotage against Joy takes an unbearable toll, she uncovers a terrifying conspiracy in the city. There is something much worse than the usual monsters infiltrating Apex. And it may be too late to stop them…

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

First of all, I cannot emphasize enough that I think this book is worth sticking through the first quarter or hundred pages. ¬†I only feel the need to bring this up, because I was surprised by the amount of one-star ratings¬†I saw for this book and realized the reason for them was overwhelmingly that people gave up on it about 20-25% in. ¬†I’ll be honest, I don’t blame those people who did. ¬†The first part of the book really seems like it is setting up to be another run-of-the-mill dystopian YA book like¬†Hunger Games¬†or¬†Divergent. ¬†However, while it does not go into a completely different direction I think that the latter part of the book is incredibly well done and more than makes up for the stale beginning.

There are several things that I really liked about the way this book handled itself after the initial set up.  The first was that I enjoyed the relationships between characters.  Most importantly, I liked the way the main character (Joy) was developed.  There was a lot of internal monologue by Joy, as often happens in these kinds of books, but also actually interacted with several other characters including her Otherworld hounds which greatly improved the monotony that occasionally occurs.  The friendships she developed were well written and nothing seemed overdramatic and were still quite compelling.  Most importantly to me, she was in no way spurred on purely through romantic interest of any kind.  This is a bit of a pet peeve of mine when it comes to strong female characters.  I think that she was a nice balance between still being the young girl she is and being incredibly strong and mature when the time called for it (as expected of a heroine).  The book is not devoid of romantic interest, which I think could also ring somewhat false or hollow, but it is very much a subplot that informs feelings and decisions but in no way could be considered a major part of the novel.

The other thing I thought was handled quite well that worried me at first were the Christians (referred to as Christers in the book). ¬†I hate to admit I went from laughing about the fact that they were angry that this cataclysmic event was not the apocalypse to beginning to cringe about how they were being talked about for the most part (again in the first hundred pages or so). ¬†Again though, I think that this was beautifully handled in the subsequent sections of the novel when Joy befriends a Christer hunter nicknamed “White Knight” and we get to see her much more nuanced and interesting relationship with them as a whole.

Also, the hounds are really cool and I want some.

Overall, I don’t think this book will blow your socks off and if you can’t deal with a slow start it is not for you, but if you can get past that and like this sort of novel I think you will be well rewarded with the rest of it.

Book Review: Freedom’s Landing by Anne McCaffrey

Freedoms Landing by Anne McCaffrey.jpgTitle: Freedom’s Landing
Author: Anne McCaffrey
Series: Catteni, Book 1
Publisher: Ace
Hardcover: 342 pages
Source: Chicago Public Library
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

The alien Catteni have attacked earth, emptying cities for slave labor. And other things.

Kris Bjornsen has been taken captive and finds herself dumped with many others on an empty planet–but one of the Catteni masters missed his ride back. Now Kris takes on a leadership role and has to help figure out how to protect these people and also what to do with the Catteni trapped on this plane with them.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

It has been way too long since I’ve read Anne McCaffrey, and how I have missed her. This series has been on my to-read list for years and years, so when the ReadThemAll challenge came up, hosted by Read At Midnight, I knew that I needed to use this as my Boulder Badge entry.

This book was slow going for me for most of the beginning. The very beginning was super interesting, where we meet Kris and learn about how she’s been kidnapped from Earth and is basically a slave to the Catteni, but when she gets dumped on the empty planet with Zainal, a rogue Catteni who landed himself in some trouble with his own people, I struggled a lot. Once everything got explained and set up, it was fine, but the first 80 pages or so were a slog for me.

With that said, I’ve really missed McCaffrey’s science fiction — this is the science fiction I grew up with and I have missed it so, so much. In terms of pure story, it’s wonderful, with the survival/colonization/new planet discovery aspect, with the characters discovering new technology and constantly finding themselves in danger they didn’t realize was around. It’s super realistic in terms of the characters needing to figure out what they need to have a balanced diet, how they’re going to handle hygiene and sickness, etc.

In terms of larger themes, McCaffrey has insightful and incisive commentary on race relations based on how other aliens are treated by humans, even though they’re also Catteni slaves and put in the same situation as humans — sometimes even with fewer tools and privileges for survival, like needing special nutrients for their diet that just aren’t really easy to get on the planet they’re trapped on.

One of the things I most appreciated about this novel was the way romances very slowly and organically came about. There was no, “Oh my god s/he is so hot and I need to have her right now, even though we’re all struggling to even just eat on this new planet,” which is sadly too common in some novels. Whenever romance popped up, it made sense in the context, and there was no sex for the sake of sex during times that didn’t really make any sense. Perfectly done and I wish I read more stories that were able to handle it so realistically.

Overall, this is a solid start to a science fiction series that I’m looking forward to continuing, and for those who like survivalist stories with a science fiction edge, or even just McCaffrey fans, you should give it a read!

Review: Watchmen by Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons, and John Higgins

Watchmen.jpgTitle: Watchmen
Author: Alan Moore
Illustrator/Letterer: Dave Gibbons
Colorist: John Higgins
Publisher: DC Comics
Hardcover: 416 pages
Source: Owned
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

This Hugo Award-winning graphic novel chronicles the fall from grace of a group of super-heroes plagued by all-too-human failings. Along the way, the concept of the super-hero is dissected as the heroes are stalked by an unknown assassin.

One of the most influential graphic novels of all time and a perennial best-seller, Watchmen has been studied on college campuses across the nation and is considered a gateway title, leading readers to other graphic novels such as V for Vendetta, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and The Sandman series.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5

When we first started dating, one of the first questions Andrew asked me was whether or not I’d read Watchmen, which I hadn’t. He was so appalled, we went to a used bookstore the next day and bought the book. It took a while for Andrew’s recommendations to make a regular appearance on my currently-reading cycle, so one year later, here I am, having finally read this amazing novel.

I had mixed feelings about having already seen the movie when going into this. Generally, I refuse to watch any movie based on a book before reading the book, just because I don’t want my experience to be tainted by the director’s or cinematographer’s idea of how things should look. In this case, it was a little better, because the images are supplied through drawings and not just my brain, so there is still someone giving me a guide for how the characters and places are supposed to look. I also appreciated that I was given the benefits of a second read-through without first having read it — I was able to pick up on some foreshadowing that I wouldn’t have caught onto had I not experienced the story before, so I enjoyed that a lot.

What is there to say about this novel? It’s amazing. It’s one of the few five-star books I’ve read this year, and it’s because Alan Moore just doesn’t hold back. Watchmen gives a stark look at life and human nature. Yes, it’s set in a fantasy world, but this book tells a lot of truths about how the world works and how people work. I love how there are no true “super” heroes, just people trying to get through life however they feel like they can. Some want glory or fame or really just want to do good, but they’re all incredibly realistic people with a lot of emotional baggage that they bring into their work and their lives.

There are so many literary things to appreciate as well. Parallelism between stories-within-stories (which was probably my favorite thing that the graphic/comic aspect did so much better than words ever could, a wonderful stream-of-consciousness chapter with Dr. Manhattan (again, beautifully drawn), and just so much more. It’s hard to describe the complexity and magnificence of this book, but it’s definitely a must-read for any graphic novel, science fiction, super hero, or literature lovers. The drawings are beautiful, the writing is wonderful, and the story is simply smart. Easily one of my favorite works of fiction.

Alton Brown Adventures: Good Eats Company Punch

We’re always looking for fun drinks to make on our weekends, and Andrew *loves* punch, so when we watched an episode where Alton Brown showed us how to make legitimate punch that was used by pirates, we knew it was only a matter of time before we were going to make it.

Basically, it follows the recipe of:

1 part sour
2 part sweet
3 strong
4 weak

We ran into a few snags while making it, which almost always happens when embarking on a new cooking adventure. The first was that we couldn’t find the alcohol suggested. Alton Brown makes his with Batavia Arrack, which is a golden rum, but it just wasn’t at our local Mariano’s, so we substituted with cachaca. Since Batavia Arrack is partly made from sugar cane, I figured it would be a good enough substitute and hoped that it wouldn’t change it too much.

The second is that we couldn’t find a container big enough to do the whole recipe in, so we halved it and made do with a large plastic bowl that we use for any big adventure.

IMG_1402
Lots of limes!

 

IMG_1403(1)
Make some black tea and put in some sugar
IMG_1404
Cachaca!
IMG_1407
We made spherical ice by freezing water balloons!
IMG_1410
We strained it into the punch bowl and grated some nutmeg over it

Overall, it turned out delicious, and it’s more than a little dangerous. We really weren’t able to taste the alcohol in it, and it was POTENT. Definitely more of a party punch rather than a two-people-hanging-out-on-the-weekend punch. Also, we are now converts to freshly grated nutmeg — it really made a difference and made it so much more delicious.

Want the recipe? Get it from the Good Eats page on the Food Network website!

Pokemon Indigo League Read-a-thon Progress Page

To participate and sign up for this read-a-thon, visit Read At Midnight to see the rules and sign up!

Pewter Gym – BOULDER BADGE EARNED for Andrew & Alyssa
Alyssa: Freedom’s Landing by Anne McCaffrey — COMPLETED — 342/342
Andrew: Hunter by Mercedes Lackey — COMPLETED — 394/394

Cerulean Gym
Alyssa: The Summer of Riley by Eve Bunting
Andrew: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Vermillion Gym
Alyssa: The Maze Runner by James Dashner — in progress — 66/373
Andrew: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Celadon Gym
Alyssa: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Andrew: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Fuschia Gym
Alyssa: Naamah’s Blessing by Jacqueline Carey – in progress — 26/610
Andrew: Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby – COMPLETED – 239/239

Saffron Gym
Alyssa: Naruto Vol 7: Orochimaru’s Curse by Kishimoto Masashi – COMPLETED – 192/192 pages
Andrew: Elite by Mercedes Lackey

Cinnabar Gym
Alyssa: White Teeth by Zadie Smith — in progress — 45/542
Andrew:  Shrill by Lindy West

Viridian Gym
Alyssa: Legend by Marie Lu
Andrew: World War Z by Max Brooks

ANDREW’S HAUNTER

Haunter

Starting CP: 10

Total Pages Read: 633 (+63 CP)

Gym Badges Earned: 2 (+40 CP)

Reviews Posted: 2 (+40 CP)

Tweets: 5 (+10 CP)

Pokemon Photo w/ Book Posted: 1 (+5 CP)

Evolution Bonus: 50 CP

Current CP: 218

ALYSSA’S POLIWHIRL

poliwhirl.png

Starting CP: 10

Total Pages Read: 671 (+67 CP)

Gym Badges Earned: 2 (+40 CP)

Reviews Posted: 1 (+20 CP)

Tweets: 7 (+14 CP)

Pokemon Photo w/ Book Posted: 2 (+10 CP)

Evolution Bonus: 50 CP

Current CP: 211