Sunday, June 24, 2018

Bachelor Nation (by Amy Kaufman)

I tried to save this to read on vacation next week, but that plan didn't last long.

I don't watch The Bachelor, although I did watch the first season of The Bachelorette and then Trista and Ryan's wedding. I tried to watch the new Bachelorette season because hooray for diversity, but I think I only made it through about half an episode.  But I do watch UnREAL (by a former Bachelor producer) and love behind-the-scenes industry gossip.

This is fun, breezy, dishy and entertaining. Would have loved more chapters and even more depth (ooh, oral history style perhaps?) but not mad at it. The interstitial celebrity interviews are fun too! Who knew that Melanie Lynskey and Jason Ritter a) are married to each other, and b) are fans of The Bachelor? Who knew that Donnie Wahlberg was a huge fan?

Enjoyed this fluffy, fun read. Hopefully the Sex and the City book will get released from my library holds at just the right moment to read on an airplane...

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Thursday, June 21, 2018

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America (by Barbara Ehrenreich)

A pretty famous pop culture touchstone, but one I had never read. It's an interesting read -- Ehrenreich spends a month each dabbling in minimum wage jobs and trying to make ends meet, works hard, and does end up with some insightful observations about the plight of the minimum wage worker (though she doesn't address the fact that so many of these jobs are done by women, but that's a whole other story). I sympathize with what critics attack as her "socialist politics" and the conclusion she draws -- that the minimum wage is unliveable for many -- is pretty incontrovertible. 

However,  Ehrenreich-as-narrator never really breaks through her privilege and simply doesn't go far enough. She starts with seed money, she walks away from jobs when she can't make them work, at one point she calls her dermatologist for a long-distance prescription! As a middle-aged privileged white lady myself, some of the parts where her privilege shows through hit a bit close to home.  Erenreich got an important conversation started, but it's a decade old now -- maybe it's time for a real minimum wage worker to tell her story.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Vacation Reads: Glamping Edition

Foolish Hearts (by Emma Mills)

Utterly delightful young adult novel. Great characters, loved the various romances and the Claudia/Iris frenemyship. God, I love a good YA. As soon as I was done with this I immediately put another of her books on hold. I don't have a ton to say about it but I really loved it and as a young adult author, admired the writing on top of that.

Love Warrior (by Glennon Doyle Melton)

I would probably not have finished this memoir, except this was an Oprah Book Club Selection and thus qualified for the Read Harder Challenge. It's not bad, but as honest as Melton seemingly tries to be, it comes across as kind of easy and superficial. So many convenient epiphanies and then smug pontificating.  At one point she's describing a scene where she "told her daughters" this long inspirational speech about beauty and prettiness and sexiness, supposedly off the top of her head, and it simply doesn't feel authentic. Doesn't hold a candle to memoirs like Blackout and Wild, which are both more authentic-feeling and way more compellingly written.

There's also the fact that it's pretty clear between the lines that she's probably gay, although the book ends with her not having reached that conclusion like, at all, except she sort of backpedals her own ending in an epilogue and now she's married to Abby Wambach so yeah.  And it turns out she got her start as a blogger, which, ugh, of course. And the title is dumb. So I don't know, maybe it's not bad but it's also not good.

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Thursday, June 14, 2018

Business Trip Reads

I went to Austin on business and read some books on the plane, as you do.

So Close to Being the Sh*t, Y'all Don't Even Know (by Retta)
I deeply enjoyed this celebrity memoir by Retta, best known to me as Donna on Parks & Recreation. She's a comedian, so she's hilarious and conversational, but she's also super smart (she studied medicine at Duke) and it shows. This does not come across as crafted or ghost-written, but as a chat with your new bestie, an actual real-life human person. (She loves Memphis Belle! She shops at Dress Barn! She's obsessed with Hamilton!) Anyway, Retta is the best and this memoir is great.

The Immortalists (by Chloe Benjamin) The premise of this novel is that four siblings find out (supposedly) when they're going to die -- how does this affect their lives, or their deaths? Also really enjoyed this, a litfic page-turner that shifts point of view from one sibling to the other. The only one that didn't really gel for me as a character was Daniel, and the climax of his story was ludicrous to me. But I loved reading about the other siblings and I enjoyed meditating on what it means to live a meaningful life.

The Word Is Murder (by Anthony Horowitz)
Yay metafiction! In this book, a Sherlock-esque detective named Daniel Hawthorne approaches Anthony Horowitz and asks him to follow him around solving a case and then write a book about it.  Horowitz weaves together real life elements (such as books he's actually published, people he's actually worked with) with the fictional murder plot to make a satisfying, page-turning read.  I'm usually surprised by murder mystery twists, but in this case there was one clue that gave away the ending for me. However, I didn't guess everything, so there were still some surprises at the end, and it all hangs together very satisfyingly regardless. So happy to hear this is the start of a series!

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Tuesday, June 05, 2018

The Female Persuasion (by Meg Wolitzer)+

I liked, but did not love, The Interestings, but the premise of The Female Persuasion (young feminist is mentored by older feminist) and the rainbow stripey cover and the fact that I now have a library card and the fact that I have read a lot of man-books this year all nudged me towards reading this, and I'm glad I did. 

Nothing in this book, particularly the exploration of different generations of feminism, is particularly thought-provoking or earth-shattering. (Intersectional feminism gets particularly short shrift here.) But it's a solid, entertaining story featuring well-drawn characters. Once again, as with the cast of The Interestings, Wolitzer draws them throughout decades of their lives, and I really liked all these characters as characters, and enjoyed watching them evolve.

The political backdrop is just that, a backdrop, but there are allusions to the political climate and to the Trump bomb dropping that made me wish we could go even further in time and see the characters' privileged white feminism more challenged in the era of #MeToo and Black Lives Matter.

So although this isn't as challenging as maybe one would hope, it is still a solid, entertaining, likeable novel -- from my privileged white feminist perspective, of course.

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Saturday, June 02, 2018

Head On (by John Scalzi)

I'm holding off on reading the latest Scalzi series because I don't like cliffhangers (by the time I read the next book, I'll have forgotten everything) so in the meantime, I read the sequel to Lock In, the delightful Head On. 

It's a fast-paced, Salzi-esque style mystery about Chris Shane and his/her partner, Leslie Vann. (The gender of Chris is deliberately unspecified; my evidence that Chris is male is the phrase "take a piss" in the first book and "barbershop" in this one.) (Chris is not canonically either gender, John has made that clear.) (But he also said the book belongs to the reader so I'm going male.) (Although if I listen on audiobook I'm totally going for Amber Benson's version.)

This was difficult for John to write (as he's been open about on his blog) but it doesn't show. It's tightly plotted, with a great cast of characters and enough suspects to make the mystery interesting. It all unfolds in a way that is fun and makes sense. There's a pretty high body count if you're sensitive to these types of things.  Obviously the best character is Donut the cat.

A fun read; thanks for a distraction from the dumpster fire, John.

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