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/

 

Monstress: March Book Review

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I really enjoyed this comic, like most of the Image titles that I’ve read. Monstress doesn’t hold back any punches and drops you straight into a complex and multi layered world. I’ve read similar books/ comics before which don’t have much explanation, and myself see it as an artistic/ stylistic choice. As elements are slowly explained, I love having little ah-ha! moments as I connect the dots, filled with sudden comprehension. It’s almost like mind mapping, with radial connections spinning outward.

I read the hard copy TP that collects issues 1-6, which had especially revealing revelations in extra pages at the end of each issue/chapter, and the very last one had me gasp (in my head of course :P). (It’s all connecteddddd ahhhh!! I need the next volume immediately!!).

The things I liked included a number of things. The world itself, which in the synopsis is said to be an alternate 1900s Asia, I found to be a wholly separate fantasy world, although leaning heavily on a mix of Chinese, Japanese, and European influences, as well as ancient Egypt. No mummies here, but curses still unleashed from ancient ruins… The ancient Egyptian echoes really tickled my imagination, as did what is shown so far of the mythology. I enjoyed the art overall, although every now and then I found some characters looked a bit “manga-cheesy”. The landscapes and images of floating ‘dead’ gods spanning the sky were beautiful & haunting.

I loved that basically 90% of the characters are women; villains, heroes and even passing characters, like the helpful merchant woman on the road. A huge variety of female relationships can be seen, and its fantastic to see in a comic. And so many POC! A++ on these issues for sure.

Another point that stuck out to me: the main character is not necessarily fully ‘likable’ – which I actually liked a lot. You see it a lot in male anti-heroes; surly, violent, full of conflict. Female characters are not often given the same freedom, at least when they’re protagonists. Not to say that she’s unlikable – just that she has more ragged edges than what I’m used to seeing (in a good way!).

Finally, there are explorations of many heavy topics, some of which I don’t think are really covered properly (such as the child slavery, as mentioned in the review by Sugar) but perhaps they’ll be more fleshed out in the next TP. Bits of the war reminded me vaguely of Fullmetal Alchemist, which handled similar issues brilliantly. Overall Monstress, at its core, is an adventure story with elements of mystery and fantasy, and fun to read.

I’ll be following this story & look forward to seeing how this story unfolds.

April Book Choices

Hey everyone,

As the school year is finally coming to a close, I’m taking a moment to put in my choices for the month.

  1. How to be a BAWSE – Lilly Singh

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Lilly Singh isn’t just a superstar. She’s Superwoman—which is also the name of her wildly popular YouTube channel. Funny, smart and insightful, the actress and comedian covers topics ranging from relationships to career choices to everyday annoyances. It’s no wonder she’s garnered more than a billion views. But Lilly didn’t get to the top by being lucky—she had to work for it. Hard.

Now Lilly wants to share the lessons she learned while taking the world by storm, and the tools she used to do it. How to Be a Bawse is the definitive guide to conquering life. Make no mistake, there are no shortcuts to success, personal or professional. World domination requires real effort, dedication and determination. Just consider Lilly a personal trainer for your life—with fifty rules to get you in the game, including:

• Let Go of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out): Temptation will try to steer you away from your goals. FOMO is just a test of your priorities, a test that a bawse is ready to pass.
• Be Nice to People: Treat niceness like an item on your daily to-do list. People will go out of their way to help and support you because you make them feel good.
• Schedule Inspiration: Lack of motivation isn’t permanent or a sign of weakness. Expect it and proactively schedule time to be creative.
• Be the Dumbest: Challenge yourself by surrounding yourself with people who know more than you do. It’s a vital way to learn and improve.

Told in Lilly’s hilarious, bold voice and packed with photos and candid stories from her journey to the top, How to Be a Bawse will make you love your life and yourself—even more than you love Beyoncé. (Yes, we said it!)

WARNING: This book does not include hopeful thoughts, lucky charms or cute quotes. That’s because success, happiness and everything else you want in life need to be worked for, not wished for. In Lilly’s world, there are no escalators, only stairs. Get ready to climb.

  1. Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

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In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair, and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through. . . .

Exit West follows these remarkable characters as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, struggling to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are. Profoundly intimate and powerfully inventive, it tells an unforgettable story of love, loyalty, and courage that is both completely of our time and for all time.

  1. Big Mushy Happy Lump by Sarah Andersen and She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton

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A. Swimsuit season is coming up! Better get beach-body ready! Work on those abs! Lift those butts!

…Um, or how about never mind to all that and just be a lump. Big Mushy Happy Lump!

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Chelsea Clinton introduces tiny feminists, mini activists and little kids who are ready to take on the world to thirteen inspirational women who never took no for an answer, and who always, inevitably and without fail, persisted.

I picked two because I felt that we could read more since the comics are a tad short. I ended up reading all 5 volumes of Monstress so I thought adding one more would be fun. 😀

  1. The Improbability of Love

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Annie McDee, thirty-one, lives in a shabby London flat, works as a chef, and is struggling to get by. Reeling from a sudden breakup, she’s taken on an unsuitable new lover and finds herself rummaging through a secondhand shop to buy him a birthday gift. A dusty, anonymous old painting catches her eye. After spending her meager savings on the artwork, Annie prepares an exquisite birthday dinner for two—only to be stood up.

The painting becomes hers, and Annie begins to suspect that it may be more valuable than she’d thought. Soon she finds herself pursued by parties who would do anything to possess her picture: an exiled Russian oligarch, an avaricious sheikha, an unscrupulous art dealer. In her search for the painting’s identity, Annie will unwittingly discover some of the darkest secrets of European history—and the possibility of falling in love again.

POLL

Happy choosing girls!!!

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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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