Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Self Help

Surface reason for reading this book: My sister in law loves it and I thought it would be a fun challenge.
Underneath reason: I feel shitty and unmotivated so why the frak not?

And so started my journey with my first self help book since reading "He's Just Not that Into You."

This title is fucking exciting and validating. Anyway, I am about halfway through and the struggle is upon me. Perhaps it's because I haven't come across new ground in this book yet and I'm on chapter 12. As a person that is used to reading for plots and character growth, this is frustrating. So far, I've found the third and the sixth chapters the most helpful. The third chapter is about the importance of living the present and the sixth lists tips for radical self love. And now you know a little bit more about me.
          My favorite thing about this book is her use of quotes. I am a person who has a great enthusiasm for affirmations. Positive self talk, tailored mantras, messages taped up in accessible areas...I am all about it. I found myself highlighting and saving quotes from every chapter read thus far. She has a good mix from Anais Nin to Dolly Parton.
She makes some compelling points about retraining your brain and loving yourself. She's huge on loving yourself. I don't disagree. I believe that how you view a situation effects how you go out addressing it which then affects the outcome. Again, it's just nice to be reminded of this and read it put in a different way. This is the strongest selling point for me.
The one thing I don't like about this book is the 'it's already out there in the universe' talk. It sets off my contrary side. I can be grouch. I'm glad I started reading this book. I'm glad that I plan on coming back to it and finishing it bit by bit. Her tone is a bit more motivational speaker than I usually care for but it's a self-help book.

I would recommend this book for anyone in a shitty mood but open to suggestions.

My favorite quotes thus far:

Being present gets you out of your head

You are more than enough. Avoid comparison like the plague.

You aren’t a better person for feeling guilty or bad about yourself, just a sadder one.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Black History Month Reading

I have been known to love a theme. For Black History Month this year, I decided to read mostly Black Historical Romance novels. The reigning queen of the genre (in my factually correct opinion) is Beverly Jenkins. She's been giving you facts and steamy sex scenes for decades. I've been reading her since high school and I'm still a fan. I completed the three novels in her newer "Destiny" series.
 In this series, Jenkins tries some newer areas and it works. My favorite departure from her norm was "Destiny’s Surrender", the second book in the series. Billie, her heroine in Destiny's Surrender, was very different from the others one I've read as she was a 'lady of the evening'. She and Andrew had an ongoing sexual arrangement at the start of the book which also has not happened in any other Jenkins’ book I’ve read. Andrew is also not the only man Billie sleeps with in the book. During his absences, she doesn’t pine but continues to earn a living.  Jenkins usually likes to keep her women virgins and naive about sex. I mean, she’s still focused on being respectable and someone her new family can be proud of. It tempers some of the risk but still makes for a good read.
Another departure for her in Destiny’s Surrender was the anger between Andrew and Billie. When she comes back to him with their son, it isn’t a romantic or touching scene. She doesn’t come back for him and it is a last resort. He doesn’t fall to his knees and believe her. Instead, they exchange the harshest words I’ve heard read a hero call a heroine. Andrew’s transformation doesn’t happen immediately and they have to work to build something. It helps that they were almost in love previously. I really enjoyed this book.
For a twist, I decided to try someone new the genre. Well, new to me. I get attached to authors and I have never considered going outside of Jenkins for my Historical Black Romance needs. However, thanks to Twitter, I randomly came across Alyssa Cole. I’ve previously read ‘Be Not Afraid’ by her and liked it so I took a chance on a second one. "Agnes Moor Wild Knight’ is 38 pages of adventure, great characters, humor and romance. Based on a true story, she gives us a quick backstory and the experience of a Black woman in King James IV court. I liked the fact that she was not a virgin or naïve. She was fleshed out. I also liked how Agnes and her knight know what’s up after seeing each other.  She, of course, had to fight it and her reasons for not trusting it are valid. Overall, it was very well done and I look forward to reading more by her.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Quickie Review: The Wangs Vs The World

One of the things I am trying to do this year is read books within a year of their publication date. Amazon helped me do that on the low when this book became available for under three dollars. So...thanks Amazon for owning Goodreads and keeping a close watch on my reading tastes.

I loved this book. It starts off with the self entitled resentful voice of Charles Wang. The book then takes turns handing over the narrative to different people: Saina Wang, Grace Wang, Andrew Wang, Barbra Wang and even the car which belonged to Charles's first wife. We experience the same event, different ways through characters who are mostly likable. The event in question is the economic downfall of the Wangs. Charles Wang invested too much in what seemed like a good idea for his make up company and as a result, the Wangs are now without funds. Charles and Barbra travel across the country to pick Grace (from boarding school) and Andrew (from college) so that they can live with Saina, Charles's eldest daughter.

The most interesting character and my surprise favorite was Barbra. Before her parts of the story, she is seen as the vapid second wife of Charles Wang. No one, not even Charles, likes her very much. She saw an opportunity when his first wife died and did what she felt had to be done to take it. Through her marriage to Charles, she elevates her position and material well being but is still not happy. Barbra is mocked by her stepchildren and eventually ignored by her husband. This "Failure" however puts her through some very interesting changes. Her narrative doesn't make her all of a sudden more likable but learning her back story does flesh her out which I thought was a great way doing it.

Charles Wang is another character that surprised me. I was prepared to not like him throughout the whole book but there were moments in which I felt his desperation to hold on his life. This made me feel for empathetic towards him. Yes, he was a sexist, selfish and arrogant character but made the rest of him easier to take. He was still insufferable but at least I could go "Awww" every now and again.

The Wangs vs. The World feels like one of those books you could read in one sitting. It's not a book where a lot happens but enough to keep you going. I found myself stopping at certain points to stretch it out. It was interesting, funny and did a great job showing the contrast between first generation and second generation immigrants in America. I would definitely recommend this book to someone looking for new fiction.

Monday, January 30, 2017

We Need New Names

When Darling's way of life in Zimbabwe is wrecked by paramilitary policeman, she is 10 years old. Her childhood and those of her friends are now tragic and filled with games centered on their poverty and devastation. Her and her friends often talk about their plans for escaping and how much better their lives would be. Eventually, Darling's escape because real. She moves to America to live with her aunt. This move however presents her with a whole new set of problems and issues to face as she finds her place as immigrant. 
I almost didn't finish this book. First, there are no quotation marks. I know, I've complained about this before and I've also gotten over it. So, I got over myself and continued to read. And so when I was able to put my own petty bias away, I found myself faced with a new hurdle. This book is painful to read. Bulawayo uses first person narrative so we get Darling's perspective of the different tragedies in her childhood. Because Darling is 10, the stories feel like 'show, don't tell', leaving the reader to gather context clues. This tended to add tension to the reading experience. I found that while some scenes were difficult to read, it was also hard not to finish.
The latter half of the book goes into her experience in America. I have no idea what I was expecting but much like Darling, I was disappointed. Her new American accent and new friends aren't enough to make her feel as though she fits into America. Each chapter reads like a short story. We get glimpses into different times of Darling's life. The second half of the book goes faster chronological but still feels like it's dragging. Darling gets further and further away from the child she was at the start of the book but that doesn't mean conforms. 
This was an interesting book. I enjoyed the narration and the descriptions. The pacing was slow at times, especially at the end. I would definitely recommend this book to a friend. It isn't a quick read but it isn't terribly long. There aren't many bright spots in this book so be forewarned. You probably won't laugh. I don't know if that's important to you. Mostly, when it isn't painful, it's sad. It's becoming less important to me. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Feelings Though

I read Meaty by Samantha Irby at just the right time. I ran across her blog 'bitches gotta eat' years ago but didn't pay too much attention. I saw the cover of the book and dismissed it. I really thought it would be about food and I didn't consider myself a 'foodie' so it couldn't be for me. Like I said, I wasn't paying attention.

And then one night, for some reason I'm not ever going to remember, I tried the first chapter. I pressed click to buy immediately. I mean the first chapter is titled "At 30" so how wasn't that going to speak to me? Side note: I was previously obsessed with turning 30. I am now at best preoccupied with being 32 but I won't dally on that. I found Irby delightful, funny and candid. It was amazing. I'm not usually one for memoirs or non fiction but I felt like she got me. During this time, I was also going through a period when I hated my body. I felt betrayed by it and there were days when I felt unique in this disgust. At best, I was bitter and worst I was lonely. Reading Meaty however, allowed me to face that and laugh. This was a shock for me because I usually go to books for escape. This book wasn't a escape. This book was a confrontation.

The chapter titled "My Mother, My Daughter" affected me the most. It's the story of the role reversal between herself and her mother. Her mother needed to be taken care of by her young daughter after a car accident exacerbated her MS. I hadn't been expecting that. Plot twist: I was recently diagnosed with MS right before reading this book. Irby had been describing her own autoimmune disease (Chron's) up until this point. I remember feeling a couple of different emotions. The story is angry, sad and beautiful. It's everything and it's perfectly placed in the book. I thought that I would be too fixated on her mother's diagnosis to really get into it but the overall story was too compelling to get hung up on a detail. It was almost as if the story wouldn't allow my feelings of self pity. 

I am now officially a fangirl of Samantha Irby. I read her blog on the regular. I followed her on Instagram. I followed her Twitter. We live in the future and I suppose this is what you do when someone writes something that touches you. Meaty touched me right when I was feeling numb. It also got me interested in memoirs again. There are few books I read that fill me with gratitude and this was one of them. So, thanks. Also, I definitely recommend it. Meaty isn't just an awkward quirky gal's stab at life. Yes, she's both awkward and a little quirky but she's also more than that. This book is more than that. 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Totally meet your heroes

I've had the honor of being involved in three interviews with authors I admire. I was an active participant in two of them and a live audience in one. These interviews meant something to me as a podcaster but moreso as a reader. I was afforded these opportunities all because of Nerdgasm Noire Network. I love being a part of that podcast seems odd I haven't brought that up yet.

The first one happened at WisCon 14 and it was with Daniel José Older. We had all read Half Resurrection Blues prior to the interview and reviewed it for the podcast.  It feels odd to include the first one because I didn't actually conduct the interview. I was just in the room when it happened. Still, I watched transfixed as my friends recorded with a man whose work I had been reading earlier that day on Amazing.

Nerdgasm Noire Network Interview with Daniel José Older at Wiscon

Next up was my interview with Tananarive Due. I practiced for this one. I have a talent for fucking up words and names so I practiced. I have a tendency to lean towards long silences so I practiced. I may have also done a little dance. Unlike the other two authors I'm mentioning here, I knew about Due before this podcast. I read Blood Colony and fell into an Octavia Butler type love. No really. I believe I did really well considering I'm a fangirl. And we got a shout out from her husband Stephen Barnes at the end. He is also a writer and they just seemed so cool. She was friendly and funny. We had technical difficulties at first and were able to make jokes about it. I still get giddy when I think about it.

Finally, my most recent interview was with Olivia Cole. We'd all read her books  (Panther in the Hive and The Rooster's Garden) but we figured this interview would go better as a one on one. I think I was the first to finish the latest book so I volunteered. It was my first recording alone on Zencaster so I had nerves about that. I was also in charge of the questions which didn't freak me out the way I thought it would. I had my gentleman caller (shut up, I'm old) over that weekend so this interview was also going be done with a sort of audience. He made sure to be supportive but out of the way. In the end, I found out that I had a lot in common with her and tangents ensued. This is quite possibly my favorite because it felt more like a conversation with a new friend.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Non-Fiction Book Goals

Deep breath.

It's time for my annual "MELISSA IS GOING TO READ NON-FICTION THIS YEAR FOR REAL" self promise. The books listed below aren't the only ones I plan on reading. They are, however, the books I'm definitely going to put my best foot forward to complete.

To Tell The Truth Freely  I feel bad because this is on my back burner list. I suppose I should start with this one.

Zealot The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth   This was recommended to me and he seemed real into it. So, we'll see.

The Warmth of Other Suns.  All of my grandparents migrated here from the South so of course I want to read more about it. 

The Notorious RBG The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I'll openly admit I picked this one for the cover. I was ready to not read it due to her comments on Colin Kaepernick's protest  but she apologized and I'm curious.

Wish me luck for 2017!