June and July Book Review

I should confess now, I couldn’t get through Hild. I tried, boy did I try. But at one point, when you’ve fallen asleep for a second time while reading a book, that you need to cut your losses. Considering I never fall asleep while reading, this was a quick cut, though an unfortunate one.

Hild was many things, boring one, but also so long. So long with so many names of people and places I couldn’t place, couldn’t remember, and wasn’t sure what their importance was. So I gave up, and read others things.

Now to July: Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls.

I wasn’t expecting it to be about Body Positivity or how many, and few, chords it would strike in me. There were definitely a lot of lessons I learned from it, or became aware of. There were ways I started to see myself differently and the concept of fat.

It’s easy, I realized, to call yourself fat when you’re not and dig yourself into a deep pit of self-suffering. Reading this book made me realize that I wasn’t fat, not the way she describes it and how she lives it. It was kind of startling, that kind of realization, and I felt bad how often I’d kicked myself down.

It also brought great value to me in understanding that really breaking free of social expectations of what beauty should look like is trying not to be beautiful. Which is really hard for me, when I’ve been called pretty my entire life, but wanted to be more – more gorgeous and not pretty, or more sexy and not pretty. Pretty feels and continues to feel like it’s for small girls, but that lead to a lot of the lack of self-confidence I have, waiting for others to give me that stamp of approval.

So now I’m going to try to be different, in at least not waiting for someone else to tell me what or who I am. It’s a small step, reminding myself constantly in places that I feel like I want it like an itch under my skin. But, I don’t expect an overnight change, just one that I can look at a picture and think I look great on my own terms.

End of my rambling, I hope you read this book and give it a shot. You learn a lot about yourself as you read it, a lot of wrestling with yourself and your preconceived thoughts on value and beauty. It was a heavy and hard book to read, but never boring.

– Sugar Out

Book Review: Etiquette & Espionage

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A little bit late but I’ve had a crazy month of weddings, travels and general business.

This one I didn’t actually “read” as I listened to it during long flights, meal prepping and bus rides. I should state now that I loved it, Gail Carriger has the kind of humour I get and enjoy.

I loved the sarcasm and wittiness of Sophronia, I liked how, though she is 14 at the beginning of the book, she isn’t overly childish or immature. She feels like a teenager, for sure, but it’s not over-exaggerated.

I enjoyed all the characters, especially the large female cast and some recurring characters. I liked how somethings weren’t black and white and some relationships weren’t easy. I enjoyed how these characters were flawed but it was okay, no one was judging them harshly for not being perfect in every way. Dimote with her lace and jewels, Sidhe with her boyishness and Agatha with her silence. I also liked the male characters, Pillover and Soap, and I’m excited to see where the romance goes.

Gail doesn’t seem the type to pick generic romantic pairings, so it will be exciting to see how to ends and why we don’t meet Sophronia in the Soulless series.

Overall I definitely recommend it, there’s something very enjoyable in reading such a feminine book, especially one teaching girls how to use that femininity to their advantage.

– Sugar Out

April Book Review:

The Improbability of Love
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Hey girls,

It’s been a long wait but here it is, finally. I got my hands on the book, not from the library, but I gave up and purchased it. Not sure about the decision now that I’ve finished it but… what can you do. (I should mention I bent the cover by accident when I went travelling with it back home)

Overall; I am not impressed with the book. I found major failings in both the characters and the narrative choice overall. As mentioned during the book selection, we follow Annie as she accidentally purchases a priceless painting and it ends up affecting her life and career as a chef.

To begin – the narrative flips constantly throughout the novel, between chapters and even in chapters, to the large cast that is in this book. It was hard at times to keep track of each person, their journey, and how it related to Annie’s. This caused a lot of dysphoria as not only did it make it feel like Annie was not the main character but it was done half-heartedly, relying on creating caricatures for their personas. Instead of spending the time she should have on developing some depth of character for these people, she just wrote out elaborate but meaningless stories that had nothing to do with Annie.

For example: Vlad is a Russian gangster that ends up in London and decides to go into art, there is no point to him. He spends most of the novel in bed with hookers crying for his motherland. It was tedious, boring, and I just didn’t care. He ends up with the “villains” daughter and it was a “okay,cool” moment. There was no point to the match, it didn’t add to the story or move anything along for Annie in any way. Not to mention he ended up liking an artist I despise for the use of his wealth to kill rare species of animals to remind himself he will die.

Next – As mentioned, the narrative flips around a lot, so the time spent with Annie is crucial but isn’t used properly. Annie wants to be a full fledged character but ends up being a caricature herself.

She’s divorced from a man 10 years her senior whom she considered many times leaving. She ends up travelling through India to get over it, and has one of those… oriental romanticism moment, meets a poor village woman in the forest and finds the zeitgeist that connects us all. It’s such fake b-s, this white woman travels alone through India and never experiences the poverty, never gets stopped or harassed, never has to go through the 5 layers of security??? Not to mention it’s all worthless anyway – her spiritual journey doesn’t cure her of her pining because she’s still crying over said ex-husband when the book begins.

Her own story is unlikely on its own – she’s a chef, but with no training, has apparently no friends, follows the trope of “i’m just a plain jane” but every man is gagging after her. She’s 30 but acts as if shes in a YA novel, 16 and back in highschool.

The love story is also on another level of stupidity – Jesse is the typical “good guy”, he behaves in a friendly manner but only because he wants to get in her pants. On the novel excuses it by saying how -in love- he is with Annie, but he has no idea of her personality. I didn’t even consider him as a love interest as he was so…blah. There was nothing to like about him personality wise, being nice isn’t something to build a relationship over.

When Annie turns him down, I thought for sure we would meet another man and he would be the next one. But no – Jesse still remains and ends up being the ONE. (here I am thinking there’d be some diversity and she’d end up with that rich Sheikh after her painting mentioned in the summary…ahaha silly Sugar)

The painting was just annoying – it’s history was tedious to read as the character of the painting was so self-engrossed and selfish. It’s remarks about love, and Jesse and how he should be more “action” oriented when it came to his proving his love, was kind of nauseating but I can’t put my finger on why yet.

The novel itself couldn’t decide what it was – is it a history novel? Romance? Murder-mystery? Cooking-with recipes? This wouldn’t be bad if it weren’t for the jumping narrative that made this jumble just feel like a puzzle that someone had thrown into the air and, when it landed, called it the painting they were supposed to put together. You need to put in the work and connect the puzzles, not just stare at the pieces and try to connect it all together by what you see.

Alright, rant is over.

TLDR: Was highly disappointed, the whole book was a mess, character development was non-existent and everyone was a caricature. The romance elements were forced.

– Sugar out

Book Review: How to be a BAWSE

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I finished this while waiting for the monthly choice to come in.

I had been waiting for this book since Lilly started writing it. I was so excited that I ended up not only preordering the book but buying a ticket to her book tour, where I got another -signed- copy. I’m such a fangirl…

I’m not a big self-help or motivational book reader, not because I don’t believe they don’t work but, mostly, I never felt to read one. What really changed me on this one was because it was Lilly who was writing it.

I knew more about her backstory from her youtube videos, how she battled depression when she was a teenager, and how she ended up becoming a youtube star, so I trusted what she wrote and knew it would appeal to me. I have followed her content for a long time now, I love most of her comedy videos (some of them go over my head) and I’ve really respected her for her support of feminism and girl love.

Her book wasn’t a disappointed and I am hugely biased. I already knew most of the content she wrote about but having it on paper, going through the process of re-training my brain to think this way, was very important to me.

To be honest, it has been a crazy hard week at work. A girl quit and I’ve had to take on her responsibilities. While that would normally not phase me, while finishing up my masters and juggling a team with 3 members who I’d categorize as MIA, this extra stress has messed with me. There have been many mornings where not being able to load my music to my iPod has caused me to go into a ragey mess.

And the book has helped me step out of that. From not only remembering my privilege but also learning to control my outlook.

I’m going to re-read the book when I have more time and go through the activities in it, just to re-center myself now that school is done. There are still a ton of lessons I need to keep in my head and carry with me. Also there are important tips on how to conduct yourself successfully in important meetings.

Since I will be hustling for very important reasons in the next couple of weeks, I want to make sure I bring my A-game. The book will definitely help prepare me to stand out and impress.

Overall, I’d definitely recommend this book. Though these types of books aren’t for everyone, aka me, I’m glad i got it.

Now unto Improbability!

– Sugar Out.

Monstress Review

Monstress was something different then our usual choices, most obviously as a graphic novel. It only took me about an hour in total to read it leisurely, I enjoyed it nonetheless. The art was pleasing, especially the details in clothing and hair, as well as the varied expressions on cat faces’, which had me smiling. I found it occasionally a little gruesome for my tastes,  however I find many graphic novels tend towards gruesomeness, so I go with it. The story itself was intriguing; the pages that appear between chapters giving some historical context did their job, but did not always clear my confusion. I suspect a second reading would fix that. Also looking back…I can’t exactly recall what the plot was; I couldn’t sum it up for you in one sentence very well. It was rather convoluted, especially for something a little under 200 pages.

I think this novel suffers a bit with an overabundance of world building in a short 192 pages. I love stories with a rich and detailed fantasy world, societies that have history and culture that have obviously been thought out, but when  you are just thrown into them, there is the risk of getting a little lost and overwhelmed. Some details I can pick up on my own, such as noticing that Monstress seems to have women in most of the positions of power; its a matriarchy. I think if the map I found after finishing the novel was placed at the beginning, and perhaps included an outline of the 5 races I might have had a slightly clearer understanding of the world. This explosion of world building I see less in books, where the author usually has more space to build and describe the world they are presenting to us. I found the stories of the shaman-empress and the old gods intriguing, would have liked to see more of them.

The main character herself occasionally irritated me. I wasn’t sure if her “I don’t care if you live or die” was a persona; it seemed to fluctuate, but occasionally just made her look like a brat and less sympathetic as a character.

This review is certainly not filled with praises, but that’s not to say I did not enjoy Monstress. The art on some of the pages was nice enough that I stopped to admire it for a while, I was pulled by this world that seemed to be dominated by women and haunted by creepy dead gods, and I will probably try to pick up the second volume when its available.

And, hey. It has talking cats!

Book Review: Exit West

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End of term means I have more time to read!! What a crazy year it’s been.

I selfishly chose books I was already reading for April’s selection, a couple of which I was mostly halfway through. The one that was chosen wasn’t the one I am currently reading, so it all worked out in the end.

While waiting for April’s book to be available at the library, I finished up Exit West and loved it.

A friend, I want to say graciously, but have to say aggressively shoved this in my hands after he finished it and demanded I read it as quickly as possible. As he mentioned “I finished it in one night”, but we still had classes and other responsibilities so I took a little longer.

Overall, I loved the book. I really enjoyed Mohsin Hamid’s writing. I’m not always a fan of interspersing the narrative with short scenes from other people’s lives, but it actually went very well with the overall theme he created.

The idea of doors, magical doors opening that bring you forward to new places, into being new/different people, or back, to the old, was very well constructed.

I also really enjoyed how he turned gender norms on their head and how he wrote Nadia in general. She’s such a human, you can feel all her faults and edges. She’s not a romanticised idea of a woman at all.

Saeed is also amazing, the depth of their character development in such a short story shows what good writers can do. I really enjoyed how the story was told as a love-story but ended up being so much more.

Definitely would recommend, I’m most likely going to buy this book and get another suggestion from my friend. Hopefully with my time being more freed up, I can write more of these reviews.

As always though – Sugar Out!

Belated Bad Feminist Review

I could not seem to organize my ideas about this book, and although agreed with much of what Roxane Gay says, I am not convinced of the title “Bad Feminist”. I almost feel like she told me about this label, and then convinced me not to use it. I am not sure? So here is my review, as seemingly disorganized as it might be. Perhaps if I read it a second time in a shorter span of time I will have more clarity. Or not?

I am glad I chose this book; I think otherwise it would still be sitting on my shelf now, cover pristine, as I well intentionally thought “soon”. The fact that it took me so long to get through this book should reflect less on the author’s style of writing, and more on my current attention span, especially for non-fiction. I quite enjoyed how the book was set up, and found that relatively short essays were easy to read. The content of those essays, not so much at times. The author’s writing is also clear and not dry; I was interested even as she discussed the details of competitive scrabble. I think I struggled only once to really understand what she was saying, only because I was completely unfamiliar with the reference.

The book resonated with me about having “problematic faves”, because if we cut out everything that said or did something we didn’t like, would there be anything left? The sort of embarrassed ,”Yes I watch that show, but you know, I’m still a feminist .” Does the feminist part really have to be necessary? You have to defend your stance on equality because you like make up or shaving your legs? Perhaps it’s those pesky categories, Feminism with a capital F, and how society and media defines it, is becoming more rigid as a category.

I also should mention of course, that she was also speaking, writing, her experiences as a black feminist as well. The chapters on racism were interesting and educational, as well as the same time I know I won’t experience the same sort of movie going anxiety and frustration. Reading the chapter on the book The Help was interesting; I read it several years ago,  probably when I had just started university, and when I was as yet unaware of such things as the White Savior or other subtle racist tropes. Now, it was not a complete surprise to me.

This book reminded me of an essay once called “Yes, you are”. It seems to be a response, at least partially, to the “essential feminist” that Gay mentions in her book. Far as I am concerned, If we all became this essential feminist, it almost seems that our personalities would fade a bit, be taken away.

“Yes. You are. You are a feminist. If you believe in, support, look fondly on, hope for, and/or work towards equality of the sexes, you are a feminist. Period. It’s more complicated than that — of course it is. And yet…it’s exactly that simple. It has nothing to do with your sexual preference or your sense of humor or your fashion sense or your charitable donations, or what pronouns you use in official correspondence, or whether you think Andrea Dworkin is full of crap, or how often you read Bust or Ms. — or, actually, whether you’ve got a vagina. In the end, it’s not about that. It is about political, economic, and social equality of the sexes, and it is about claiming that definition on its own terms, instead of qualifying it because you don’t want anyone to think that you don’t shave your pits. It is about saying that you are a feminist and just letting the statement sit there, instead of feeling a compulsion to modify it immediately with “but not, you know, that kind of feminist” because you don’t want to come off all Angry Girl. It is about understanding that liking Oprah and Chanel doesn’t make you a “bad” feminist — that only “liking” the wage gap makes you a “bad” feminist, because “bad” does not enter into the definition of feminism. It is about knowing that, if folks can’t grab a dictionary and see for themselves that the entry for “feminism” doesn’t say anything about hating men or chick flicks or any of that crap, it’s their problem.

It is about knowing that a woman is the equal of a man in art, at work, and under the law, whether you say it out loud or not — but for God’s sake start saying it out loud already. You are a feminist.”

http://tomatonation.com/culture-and-criticism/yes-you-are/