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/

 

March Book Review

Monstress by Marjorie Liu

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This one was a quick read, I ended up starting and finishing it today. I found the link to a site where I had access to it for free. Though I had purchased it online…

Overall, as it is the first volume, it was interesting. I’m not sure where it’s going with the story or the main character. It is beautifully drawn and features a cast of mostly female characters. I can’t fault it for leaving me full of questions and a cliff hanger, as it is a comic.  Which are all pros.

Cons –  I did have some overall problems with the story: there is no context or explanation over what is happening. We’re just dropped into multiple scenes, some of which are flashbacks, and are just supposed to go along with the ride.

It’s a bit of poor writing in that sense, you can still give some context while still following the main girl. For example, there’s a war that happened, got it, that must be where they got the slaves. However, there’s also treatised land that is shared between the humans and the ‘monster’ people, and yet the ‘monster’ people are being sold off as slaves?  And experimented on? From what they say as well, the war wasn’t just an easy victory, if a victory at all for humans. So…what? I’m really confused on how there are slaves… It’s not like they imported them across the ocean to be sold into slavery. It’s literally on the same continent from what I can tell.

I’m especially confused when it’s children being sold into slavery and killed. I highly doubt that stolen children would just be a solution for one teenage girl missing an arm to solve, or to save. Which doesn’t seem to be her intent anyway, which leaves me with even more questions.

There’s also witches, we don’t know how or why. Are they a mix of the human and monster? No idea. But they are there, they also have a lot of political power, I’m guessing because of their actual power. Yet, humans will allow these women to basically come in and do whatever they want, yet still exhibit the same powers as the monsters they fought in a war against? It seems kind of…unlikely.

Also I’m not sure why, but the artists have this thing about people losing their forearms.. they dont lose eyes or legs, not they all lose their forearms in some way. Maybe that’s supposed to mean something? But overall it just seemed kind of…unnecessary? Like that kid who was being eaten, wouldn’t she prefer to just take a bite out of him every once in a while, let him heal, and then bite him again?

TBH, I wasn’t too impressed, will most likely return the physical copy when I receive it for something else.

-Sugar out

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February Book Review

Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay

I would say I’m sorry for writing this so late but it was difficult for me to finish this book in a timely manner. Not because it was a terribly written book, quite the opposite. Roxanne Gay is an amazing writer, she talks about the topics that are important to me in such an eloquent manner and puts to words the explanations I find hard to say.

If I could, I would carry the book around filled with sticky notes to pages with explanations/comebacks for moments when they are most needed. But, I also understand I’m improving my own eloquence and its through practice that I will one day, hopefully, reach her level.

The reason it took such a long time was because the book is so heavy. It covers many topics that elicit a lot of strong emotions in me that took a couple of days to think through and process. I also happened to read a couple of chapters out loud to my boyfriend when I thought they were particularly poignant in terms of past conversations we’d had. Again, she is way more eloquent in explaining things that I tend to flounder over as I let my anger get the better of me.

I love this book, I’m telling everyone I speak to how much they need to read it, how it’s important to understand a woman’s perspective and especially one of colour. I have no idea what it’s like to be a black woman or be part of that community, so I value the chapters about that experience and especially of their portrayal in the media.

I enjoyed how each chapter was an essay, I thought I wouldn’t, but it was actually really easy to read. At the end, I have to agree with her over how I am a bad feminist. I like terrible music, music that denigrates and objectifies women, I take advantage of gender roles, like making men carry heavy things cuz I couldn’t be bothered, and I am guilty of having snarky thoughts towards other women, mostly about appearance.

I am also guilty of putting myself down more than others when it comes to my own abilities, education, and appearance. It’s something I have been working on, but until I do reach that stage of not giving a fuck, I try to be as encouraging and supportive as I can of other women.

And most importantly, keeping myself as educated as I can about the experiences of womanhood other women have from various backgrounds.

So thank you girls for choosing this book, I definitely feel like I’ve learned a lot.

Sugar Out

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