Saturday, May 16, 2015

Bout of Books? More Like Bout of the Plague!

I had planned to participate in this week's Bout of Books Read-A-Thon and even had a goal of reading four books.  Alas, it was not to be! 

As I have mentioned in a few previous posts, I have been struggling with environmental allergies for over a month.  Within the past week, they've got worse, moving into my chest and forming some unholy sinus infection, bronchitis, pleurisy, and Ebola hybrid. I don't feel well, y'all!

Between coughing jags and sneeze fits, I have had little time to read for BoB and, in the end, ended up giving up the ghost on participating this time around.  It's just not going to happen.  When you feel this poop, it's totally ok to just listen to Polica, drink a cup of tea, and watch old episodes of Bait Car.  

Sometimes we need to forgive ourselves for not meeting our short term goals.  It's totally ok.
Sunday, May 10, 2015

Review: Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay 2/5  
(2014; Harper Perenial, $15.99)

According to my Good Reads account, which is rarely a timely account of when I completed a book, I finished Roxane Gay's Bad Feminist in late January.  Originally, I had intended to write a review of the book soon after I had finished it, but I didn't, though not without reason.  Over the past several months, I have gone back and forth on what to rate the book, eventually settling on two starts.  Here's why:

Going into Bad Feminist, I had high hopes for the essay collection: that I would identify with Gay, that I would see some of my own idiocentricities vis-a-vie feminism represented in the text, or that the author would make a profound statement regarding the present status of feminism.  None of these expectations were met; however, the fact that they weren't says as much about me as it does about the book.

Gay's collection is deeply personal and a fine introduction to intersectional feminism for the uninitiated.  The essays that explore the tension between Gay's upper-middle class upbringing, her experiences with sexual violence, and her family's Haitian heritage gave me pause to think.  Yet, Gay's introspection never gets around to answering her book's central conceit: what is a "bad feminist" and how is (or isn't) Gay one of them?  A fondness for Robin Thick's "Blurred Lines" doesn't mean your feminist credentials are in jeopardy, it just means that you have questionable musical taste.

Rather, the "bad feminist" becomes a limp conceit that the author only touches on in her introduction and conclusion.  Nothing between these literal and figurative bookends interrogates the concept further.  Instead, what we are left with Gay's musings on competitive Scrabble; a few salient remarks on race, class, and gender; and reflections on being a first year professor.  This isn't to say the collection is a total, disappointment-- on the contrary, it's a solid book of thought provoking essays-- but it fails to live up to its evocative title.

My disappointment is that the book doesn't live up to the expectations of its title.  You would think (I thought, anyway) that the collection would attempt some reconciliation between being a feminist in the twenty-first century while still consuming (and enjoying) elements of pop culture, that Gay's experiences would be the lens through which we would interrogate these  aspects what it means to be a feminist.  But it doesn't.  Rather, there isn't anything particular "bad" about Gay's ethos; rather, I thought much of her analysis to be spot on or, at least, conventionally unconventional, even down to her distaste for Caitlin Moran, who I virulently dislike beeteadubs.  Long story short: I thought I was picking up The Feminine Mystique of my generation, instead I  got a neat primmer on intersectional feminism and competitive Scrabble.

My disappointment with the book then is less about what the book itself, it was the fact that the book didn't live up to my expectations.  Perhaps it's wrong to expect a book to be everything to everyone, to be THE answer of your generation, but I still feel cheated.  If you go into your reading with tempered expectations, there is much to enjoy.  However, if you're looking for your next Germaine Greer, keep moving. 
Friday, May 8, 2015

April Favorites

Here in the land of eternal summer April proved to be yet another uncooperative weather month.  Not only were the fabled April showers virtually non-existent, but we also managed to hit the 90 degree mark for the first time this year.  When you figure in the early blossoming the warm weather has brought on with high winds, you have the makings of allergy hell.  For the better part of a month, I have been sneezing, wheezing and trying to make due with one functioning nostril.  The struggle, dudes.

As hot, snotty, and miserable as April was,  there were a few things that made the month suck considerably less.

1 When Haruki met Snotty

April was the month that I finally started to read Haruki Murakami.  In the span of two weeks I completed two Murakamis and started another two.  For those of you who are reticent to read Murakami based on past experiences with Japanese Literature or magical realism, fear not.  The author's prose is as accessible as it is beautiful.  The experience of reading Murakami is not unlike reading one of Vonnegut's more nuanced novels.  Two reviews will be on their way later this month-- stay tuned.

2 Sun Protection Without the Spots

Sunscreen is a no-brainer for me: I'd like to prevent premature aging, reduce my risk of melanoma, and main my lovely pallor.  The problem with most sunscreens, however, is that they break me out.  Recently, I started using Bare Minerals Complexion Rescue, a mineral sunscreen and face tint that provides an SPF 30 and a light coverage that is all I need as a base, provided I set it with a powder.  Unlike the traditional Bare Minerals formula, Complexion Rescue doesn't oxidize on my skin and make me look like I bathed in a vat of Fanta.

3 Keep Calm and Drink Some Tea

I've always preferred a well brewed cup of tea to a coffee, but as of late has become life.  My sinuses are terribly congested and I'm wheezing more than Mrs. Jefferson (BAZINGA-- see what I did there?).  Tea has been the only think to lessen the pain and congestion in my sinuses.  In particular Celestial Seasons Sleepy Time tea and Twinings Lady Gray and Irish Breakfast teas have been my brews of choice.  

4 Puffs Basic Soft Pack

When you're ill, dainty pocket packs of tissue are usually all used up and grotty by the time you reach the end of your block-- you have an abundance of snot and too-few tissues.  This is where these new Puffs packs come in: flexible enough to fit in your handbag, small enough to fit in with your other purse crap, and plentiful enough to get you through a long workday on the move.  Were it not for these, I would have been lost in April.

5 Shoes but Not Really

For my birthday in March I received a pair of monochrome black TOM's Classics.  I've been wearing these to death since I got them and for good reason: they're super comfortable, light, breathabvle, and go well with most of the outfits I wear to work during the week and my weekend sweatpants.  

Those were my April favorites.  What helped you get through the month?  Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

May 2015 TBR

If you read yesterday's April Wrap-Up, you'll remember that April was a mega-super-stressful-extreme personal and professional period for me . . . but a great month for reading.  Since I managed to read ten books last month, I would like to keep the momentum going as I move into May.  

Reading, April reminded me, is a great way to relax after a stressful day and at this time of the school year, when everyone is tetchy, I could use all of the help I can find.  

For this month, my reading goal is to complete a handful of books that are on my "Currently Reading" shelf on Good Reads and to breeze through a couple of books I need to review for my student summer assignments.  I want to make sure that my summer is as fee and clear TBR-wise as possible, so a little buckling down with some engrossing reads in May will help me reach that goal.  Here is what's in this month's queue:

Love is Colder Than Death: The Life and Times of Rainer Werner Fassbinder by Robert Katz

I started reading this one months ago after picking it up out of one of my mother's MA thesis research piles.  I am finishing this one just to finish it.

Brave Genius by Sean B. Carroll

I recieved this one from Blogging for Books monthsandmonthsandmonths ago and I have yet to review it.  Ooops.  I'll get right on that.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

I love Murakami.  I really need to start exercising.  Why not marry the two, eh?

The Windup Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

We loved with a love that was more than love, I and my Ha-ru-ki!

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishaguro

I started reading this one last month and I want to hurry up and finish it this month that way I don't forget everything I have read and have to restart it in June.  

The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley and Malcolm X

I always assign this as a summer reading book for my AP English Language kids.  The text is so rich and rhetorically nuanced that I always have to re-read the book every year.  However, the books fabulous so no complaints from me. 

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston

I am going to be assigning this to my AP English Literature students over the summer and, well, need to read it.  So, yeah, that's a thing that is going to happen.

What is on your May TBR?  Let me know in the comments.
Monday, May 4, 2015

April 2015 Reading Wrap-Up

Despite April being a crazy-busy and stressful I managed to read ten books during the month.  I'm not going to pretend that all of my reads were intellectually stimulating, but they helped me decompress from an otherwise trying personal and professional period.  So, here is what I read during the month of April:

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (3/5)

I mentioned this book in early April during a "What I've Been Reading Lately" catch-up.  You can read my thoughts here.

After Dark by Haruki Murakami (5/5)

This was my first foray into the world of Murakami and I feel as though this was a great place to start with the author.  Needless to say, I fell in love with the book, with the author, and rekindled my love of contemporary Japanese Literature.  A proper review of the book will be going up next week-- watch this space!

Babymouse #5: Heartbreaker (3/5); Babymouse #10: The Musical (3/5); Babymouse #13: Cupcake Tycoon (3/5); Babymouse #17: Extreame Babymouse (2/5) by Jennifer Holm

Babymouse is a graphic novel series aimed at a female, middle-grade audience.  The series is a lighthearted read and is, according to Mama TLD who works in the county library system, very popular among the sassier little ladies in my region.  Babymouse books only take a couple minutes to read and are a humorous way to de-stress after a tension-filled day.  The titular mouse is a hot mess middle schooler who  dreams of a life that is more exciting, and graceful, than her own.  I would highly recommend this series to young and forever young readers.

The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami (4/5)

I wasn't as enamored with this one as I was with After Dark, but I still really enjoyed this novella and would recommend it to any magical realism or Murakami fans.  There will be a review of this book coming up in a couple of weeks time, so make sure to keep your eyes peeled!

Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto (4/5)

I originally read this book back in high school and, fifteen years later, I am still emotionally gripped by the book.  Along with recently-discovered love of Murakami, Yoshimoto has been fueling my reignited love of Japanese Literature.  Kitchen is a collection that includes the stories of two young, modern Japanese women who look for nourishment-- spiritual, interpersonal, as well as food-- in the wake of personal tragedy.  If you enjoy the work of Francoise Sagan, you will probably love Kitchen, too. 

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (3/5) and Are You My Mother? (2/5) by Allison Bechdel

A full review of these graphic memoirs will be going up in two weeks, so if you are interested in hearing my detailed thoughts, stay tuned! 

Overall, I am pleased with the number of books I was able to read last month, though I am hopeful that I will be able to read more books with "substance" (whatever that means) in May.  If anything, my successful April reading reinforced the importance of reading for relaxation to me and relaxation is something I need to do a better job of building into my schedule.  Hopefully, I will be able to continue the reading momentum going in May and have a similarly successful wrap up at the end of this month.

Check by tomorrow to get a look at my May TBR.
Friday, May 1, 2015

Review: Holy Cow: A Modern-Day Dairy Tale

Holy Cow: A Modern-Day Dairy Tale by David Duchovny 3/5

(2015; Farrar, Straus, and Giroux; $24.00)

TLD readers who are mourning the loss of Californication (not me) and/or are anxiously awaiting the return of The X-Files (totally me) have a lil' but o' the Duchovny to tide them over until the reboot-- Holy Cow: A Modern-Day Dairy Tale.

In his debut effort, Duchovny tells the story of Elsie Bovary, a cow on a small family farm whose idyllic days of milking and munching grass are upended when she learns what happens to all cow mothers eventually-- a date with the butcher.  With the help of a Jewish pig named Shalom (nee Jerry) and a rail thin turkey named Tom, Elsie escapes the farm in an effort to avoid becoming a burger.

Naturally, Elsie sets her sights on India, a place where cows are worships and not wantonly consumed. With Tom and Shalom in toe, Elsie breaks for the subcontinent.  Along the way, the trio learn that turkeys can in fact fly [planes] and manage to bring about peace in the Middle East.  Through their trans-global adventure Elsie and her friends learn that the grass isn't always greener on the other side.

Holy Cow, as you might imagine, is a funny book; it is an entertaining, light read that livens up a dreary bus ride home.  Duchovny makes pop cultural references and ubiquitous acronymic exclamations that, coming from the book's bovine protagonist, are funny but grate on the nerves.  Had I picked up a copy of this book two years from now instead of the month it was released, I doubt that I would have found it as enjoyable as I did.  Rather, Holy Cow is another celebrity vanity project, albeit one of a slightly better quality.

Bottom line: read it if you miss Moulder and enjoy broad humor . . . but check it out from the library!