Tuesday, May 3, 2016

April Reading Wrap-Up

I feel like April was an especially busy month, yet I somehow managed to read more books and pages than I have at any other point this year, so go figure.

This is a bit late since we've just come back from a long weekend up in Boston where I ate my weight-and-then-some in delicious food and saw lots of people and oh yeah, a friend got married. The entire trip was made up of meeting people for meals with some walking/napping in between, which is FINE because I spent long enough up there (not like this trip, I mean more in the years I lived there) and have no need to go sight seeing. I did of course make it to the Booksmith for what turned out to be Independent Bookstore Day and picked up copies of A.J. Jacobs' Year of Living Biblically* and Mary Roach's Gulp. And speaking of Mary Roach, Sarah mentioned her new book Grunt is on NetGalley so I signed up for that and was approved, so that's pretty exciting.

Now, onto the stats

Total books finished
4
The Lake House by Kate Morton (3 stars)
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (4 stars)
How to be both by Ali Smith (4 stars)
Zer0s by Chuck Wendig (4 stars)

Total pages read
1,683

Fiction
100%

Female authors
75%

White authors
100%
US authors
25%

Book format
paperback: 25%
ebook: 75%

Where'd I get the book
Kindle: 50%
Gift: 25%
Just the Right Book: 25%

Rereads
0%

Review books
0%

Readalong/Book club books
25%

Blogger reco
0%

Translation
0%

Books by decade
2010s

Books by genre
Cyberthriller: 25%
Lit Fic: 25%
Mystery: 50%

Resolution books
75%
It's all cos of non-US authors, which is sort of an easier hurdle to jump but STILL COUNTS. How to be both and The Girl on the Train were written by UK authors and Kate Morton (The Lake House) is Australian, though her book is set in England. lots of UK style reading going on last month.

*Spellcheck does NOT recognize the word "biblically" and suggested I meant "bionically". For the record, I would totally read that book as well.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

But honestly: since when did every little girl become a princess?

I apparently did NOT remember to write down thoughts about this book right after reading it. So. Crap. I finished Cinderella Ate My Daughter back in February. Let's see how if I can get some coherent thoughts down now.

This book had been on my radar, given it's a type of book I tend to go for (pop-psych with a feminist angle YES PLZ) and then my friend was having a daughter* so I figured it was a good excuse to read this. Also it was on sale, and that always helps.

Peggy Orenstein has a daughter of her own and despite her trying to instill strong feminist values in, has seemingly succumb to the lure of the Princess Culture, valuing beauty and being rescued over other traits and she is SHOCKED I TELL YOU.
I live in Berkeley, California: if princesses had infiltrated our little retro-hippie hamlet, imagine what was going on in places where women actually shaved their legs? As my little girl made her daily beeline for the dress-up corner of her preschool classroom, I fretted over what playing Little Mermaid, a character who actually gives up her voice for a man, was teaching her.
She also considers the flip-side, that very often feminized things are considered lesser simply because they are associated with girls and THAT'S a terrible thing too. So maybe all the princess stuff is a way to celebrate being feminine and most of the princesses had admiral traits that should be celebrated. Or maybe lighten up.

She looks at the birth of the Disney Princess Culture as a marketing strategy, which was the idea of executive Andy Mooney who noticed girls going to Disney on Ice shows dressed in homemade Princess costumes and what a wasted branding opportunity! The main Princesses are mostly white; Pocahontas, Jasmine, and Mulan are sometimes included but fall behind Sleeping Beauty, Belle, and Cinderella.

She talks about how she's yet to find a study that shows Princess Culture hurts girls either in the long-run or immediately. Though that said, there are parts of Princess Culture that do focus on being attractive and there are multiple studies that show the harmful effects of equating value with appearance, especially for girls.

It's not just princesses, but also pink everything, the lack of female characters (usually one in a group, often nice and sweet and cute and kind), pageants for little girls (aka Toddlers in Tiaras), Twilight, and even American Girl, which might seem like the answer to bypassing Princess Culture, if not for the fact that it is expensive as hell and there are so many (equally expensive) accessories and now we're sort of missing the point of this not being like the other dolls.

She does consider that girls today, when it comes to playing, seem to have more freedom than boys. Girls can play with anything but if a boys can be punished for playing with "girl" toys.
Boys were also more likely to sort playthings based on how they perceived gender roles (such as "Dad uses tools, so hammers are for boys"), whereas girls figured that if they themselves enjoyed a toy - any toy - it was, ipso facto, for girls...Consider the progressive pal of mine who proudly showed off the Hot Wheels set he had bought for his girl but balked when his boy begged for a tutu. Who's to say, then, which sex has greater freedom?
Overall, she doesn't really come up with anything new. Which is sort of fine. I didn't always agree, but liked the things she brought up and I sort of liked that she didn't end with any sort of grand sweeping moral. And she admits that, especially when it's your kid, there are no easy answers and she herself has been "hypocritical, inconsistent, even reactionary". Entertaining enough and a quick read (especially because it's like 30% notes and citations). Odds are if you picked this up it's going to be a "preaching to the choir" type of read. I'll probably re-read it should my friends' kids go through this same phase.

Gif rating
*She's out now, but not at the time of reading

Title quote from page 4

Orenstein, Peggy. Cinderella Ate My Daughter. HarperCollins, 2011. Kindle

Monday, April 25, 2016

A Day in the Life (sorry it's not more interesting)

I was (way) behind on my feedly and I saw a bunch of people had done a A Day In The Life thing where they recorded a day in the life. If that wasn't clear from the title. And I figured even though I missed the even this sounded like a fun thing so why not give it a try. I didn't pick out a particularly exciting day, so already I have not thought this through. Here's what my day was like last Thursday (when I started writing this)

6:20AM
Alarm goes off.
It says it's 6:28 because I have to trick myself that it's ever so slightly later. I don't know why. This is stupid. My just awake me thinks she got 8 additional minutes of sleep, so whatever.
I don't use the snooze in part cos I found I just end up more tired and also the alarm is currently on the other side of the room. We just bought a new mattress but don't yet have a frame for it, so it's sitting on the ground and the alarm is on a bookshelf far away.
We have dimmer switches in the bathroom. Actually on most of our light switches. Our house is kind of weird. But anyway, I cannot recommend dimmer switches in the bathroom enough cos while everything is dark instead of blinding myself by turning ALL THE LIGHTS ON, or showering in the dark, I can just turn the lights on slowly.

6:40 AM ish
I turn off the alarm clock (which Tom has continued to sleep through) and turn on Netflix since I watch one episode of some 30 min sitcom while getting ready. Right now it's How I Met Your Mother which I keep saying I'm going to stop because OMG I HATE TED but I keep going cos I can't decide what to watch instead.*
I try to pick out clothes the night before so it's one less thing I have to think of in the morning.
But I usually end up deciding that what I picked out was TERRIBLE and try to figure out something new before I have to catch the train. I pretty much wear (nice) jeans and a (slightly fancy) t-shirt to work**, so you'd think this wouldn't be hard. You'd be wrong.
I ended up wearing a new outfit Stitch Fix sent me that I'm pretty sure I wore less than a week earlier but not in front of the same people so WHATEVER, it's clean and it works. Plus the sweater is so soft and bright yellow, so that's fun.

7:00 AM
After my show ends and I change Netflix to something that might help Tom get up (recently Archer or Parks & Rec. Something we've seen a million times that I don't care if I miss.) Around this time his alarm starts going off. He's still asleep but will somewhat answer me when I say I'm leaving. It's nice I don't have to worry even a little about being quiet.
I head downstairs and gather all my stuff

7:09 AM
Head out to catch the train. I usually read a NYTimes "Morning Brief" email, so I can pretend I know what's going on in the world that day, and then I'll do a few Duolingo lessons and then read or sometimes listen to music for the rest of the trip.

8:15 AM
Train makes it into Penn. Now I get to battle the crowds and why can't they put in wider staircases? There are roughly 2 million people trying to go up this staircase  and it's wide enough for 2 people. Now it's time to rush over to the subway.
Make it over to subway platform, in what should probably only take 1 minute to do, but there are so many people, that is never the case. Also I miss the first train because I always miss the first train because the platform is always stupid crowded.

8:35 ish AM
Make it to the office.
Sometimes I'll get iced coffee on the way but trying to NOT spend so much money when there is literally a free coffee bar at the office. Also it's nice to get in before most people (typical time in is somewhere between 9-10) cos it means I can go through email and make sure there are no emergencies before everyone else gets in with their emergencies.
I'm a research analyst at a PR firm and PR is essentially a series of fires that need to be put out, or I guess sometimes fires you really want to fan. Apparently in studies done about "most stressful jobs" behind the ones that I feel like should actually be stressful (Police Officer, Military) ranks PR and while I think it's silly to compare them, I also don't think it's wrong. Luckily I'm not quite in the position they're focused on but yeah. Lots of emergencies, so that morning time can be nice. Even if I only use it to eat cereal.

9-5:20
I realize this is the whole day but do you really want to hear what I did? How about this, out of an 8 hour day, I had something like 5 hours of meetings or calls or something. I missed lunch but a co-worker wanted a snack so around 4:15 I ran out to get a sandwich that I INHALED before running to another meeting.
One nice thing about living pretty far from work is I'm tied to the train schedule, which means my day (at least at the office) ends by like 5:30 so I can run to catch the train.

5:45-7 PM
Commute home. Earlier this week NYTransit managed to first run over a guy who wandered onto the tracks (Monday) and then set the tracks on fire (Tuesday). Which caused something in the realm of 60-90 minute delays and OH MAN, THAT MAKES FOR A FUN EVENING.
Me to NJT
I apologize to anyone who follows me on Twitter cos those days were nothing but cursing at the trains. But luckily this day things actually ran on time. I do more reading on the train ride home

7-10 PM
Tom had to work late so I was going to do my own thing for dinner. But since I had just eaten at like 4:30 wasn't super hungry so I did really productive things, like dick around on the computer and watch TV. I did some light cleaning in the kitchen (unloading dishwasher, putting away things on the drying rack, wiping down counters) but that's about it. Tom was originally thinking he'd get home around 9:30 so I was going to make salad for dinner but it ended up closer to 10. Though he brought leftover pizza with him so win.

11 PM
Go upstairs, fall asleep to Bob's Burgers. I'd say repeat except I worked from home the next day so yeah. Similar but not really the same. Will we make it to the gym in the morning before work? (Spoiler, we will not. But we do go after so it's fine.)

If anyone else wants to do one of these day-in-the-life things, I find them super fascinating to read. Even if your day is super mundane (see my entire post), I am still TOTALLY THERE FOR IT

*Past shows include: Scrubs, 30 Rock, Parks & Rec, My Name Is Early, Malcolm in the Middle. If you have recommendations for other 30 min shows that are on Netflix and don't require me to pay a lot of attention, I'm looking for recommendations.
**I had a meeting at a (new to me) client's office and got a note from some members on the account team making SURE I would not dress up for the meeting and that jeans are preferable (4 out of the 5 people in the meeting were in jeans). It was the one day I was thinking maybe I would dress slightly nicer, but not too upset they shot that down before hearing my idea. Thank you, some-what-creative-field, for your lax dress code.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Onstage we remind them just how extraordinary the ordinary can be

I really liked this book but at the same time, I don't think I gave it a fair shake. Or at least not the level of attention it deserves.

I was reading it in between chapters of Hamilton during #HamAlong, which meant I was picking up the book for a few pages maybe once a week, and most of the time I couldn't really remember where I had left off and was having trouble focusing on the story. Normally I don't have too much trouble reading a second book along with a readalong one, but since Hamilton was sooooo long and also had that soundtrack to go along, non-Hamilton things were having a hard time getting my full attention.

Once #HamAlong was complete and I could go back to Church of Marvels I considered starting over from the beginning, but decided to solider on, mostly cos I wanted to be able to count the pages towards my February totals. And I found that I really liked the story and I will probably need to re-read it in the future without diving in and out of some other book.

When I first started the book, I actually thought it might be a collection of short, slightly interconnected stories, since at first all of the characters introduced seemed unrelated to each other. And of course see above re: distractions due to Hamilton. But as the book progressed, the chapters coalesced into a single story with three main characters all in their own way searching for family and wanting to be seen.

The story takes place in New York city in the late 1800s. It opens with a man named Sylvan finding an abandoned baby during his work as a night soiler (which I'm not entirely clear on but it seems to involve a lot of poop so I'm good not knowing the details). Somehow the baby is still alive and Sylvan tries to figure out what to do with the little girl.

Meanwhile out in Coney Island Odile is dealing with tragedy after tragedy. She was raised at the titular Church of Marvels, a circus run by her mother. Her sister, Belle, and the tigers were stars of the circus but the whole thing mysteriously burned down, killing her mother and the tigers. Then her sister ran off to Manhattan and Odile hasn't heard from her.

Then on Roosevelt Island there's Alphie, a woman who finds herself in a terrible (see 1890s) insane asylum but she certainly doesn't believe she belongs there. She can't remember how she got there and is waiting for her husband to come and rescue her.

I won't go too much into the plot because the way the stories unfurl and overlap and intertwine is part of the fun. New York City of 1890 is not a friendly place. It's dangerous and grimy and some really terrible things happen.

I will reread this at some point so I can really focus on the story. Even knowing the twists, it's still worth it. It's a really well-written, often tragic, sometimes beautiful story.

Gif rating
Title quote from page 3, location 232

Parry, Leslie. Church of Marvels. Ecco, 2015. Kindle

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Can I come in? Say that I can come in

I realize it's been awhile since I've done an actual book review but hey, birthday stuff had to happen. So let's jump into some Swedish vampire horror with some uncomfortable (and illegal) sex scenes.

This is a quiet horror story, with far more scenes of very lonely people finding each other. But not in a Twilight-y way.

Oskar is 12, his parents divorced, he lives with his mom but money is tight and she works a lot so he finds himself alone. He's bullied at school. He doesn't really have any good friends. And he's obsessed with the news of a teenager's body found drained of blood a few towns over.

He meets Eli, a neighbor, when he's out stabbing a tree, imagining he's strong enough and brave enough to attack his bullies. It's freezing out but she doesn't seem to notice. She's a bit dirty and has an off smell to her. She lives with a guy she says is her uncle, but something does not seem quite right there either. But she and Oskar become friends, which is something they both need.

There are other characters: a teenage neighbor that's nice enough to Oskar, his to-be step-dad who's also a police officer investigating the mysteries violence, a group of drunks that frequent the local Chinese restaurant, even Oskar's parents, and of course there's Eli's "uncle" Hakan. But really, the focus is on Oskar and Eli.

The creepy, uncomfortable stuff is all centered around the pedophile Hakan. Hakan is supposed to keep Eli supplied with blood, but he's jealous of the relationship Eli is developing with Oskar.

For much of the book the story is quiet and creepy. There aren't a lot of intense scenes, but the ones that are there pack a punch. There are also some beautiful moments, there are sad moments. And there are disturbing moments.

So if this all sounds like it's in your wheelhouse, go for it.

Gif rating:
Title quote from page 225, location 3731

Lindqvist, John Ajvide. Let The Right One In. St. Martin's Griffin, 2008.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Birthday Happenings

I realize my birthday is behind me, but Tom, master gift giver he is, extended things until this past weekend. So let's talk about that.

First up, he got me a blender and The Martian on blu-ray and I know that doesn't sound super exciting but I get pretty excited by kitchen appliances and our blender had this habit of leaking everywhere but I kept using it cos I NEEDED to make this short rib chili*, leaks be damned. And The Martian because OBVIOUSLY.
But yes, those things aren't super exciting for you to read about. However, he then had two things planned.

First up, as I mentioned in my birthday post, Hamilton trivia. There's this company that hosts all these themed trivia nights and they're super fun, despite the fact that we have never won and only once came somewhat close to ranking (Parks and Rec, I heart you). They just so happen to have Hamilton trivia scheduled for my birthday, so stars aligning and whatnot, we decided to go. This despite the fact that out of the four of us going, I was the only one who was really a fan of the show. Though my one friend decided to start listening to the album in preparation and while she didn't finish it before the show, she does not understand the joy that is Hamilton and is hooked. Also she studied up on LMM because she does trivia right. Something like 150 people signed up (what??) and we did not win, but we didn't do too shabby considering the questions are HARD. Want some examples? SURE WHY NOT

  • In the casting notes, George Washington is described as a cross between John Legend and who?
  • In one of the Ham4Ham's, (they probably named which one, but I don't remember) LMM wore a broadway shirt parodying which Jay-Z song?
  • When they met, Daniel Radcliff told LMM that he thought Hamilton belonged in which Hogwarts house? Bonus question, which house does LMM think A.Ham belongs in?

I made this face a lot
There were also rounds where they would say most of a lyric and you had to fill in the blank (though they didn't tell you how many words they omitted) and a picture round, which was pretty easy save for the double casting so you better use the tiny bit of costume you can see to get it right, in addition to 2 general Hamilton knowledge rounds, plus one round entirely dedicated to Ham4Ham.**

After this Tom told me there birthday part 3 that would be coming but he wouldn't tell me when or give any hints. After a few days I stopped thinking about it.

This past weekend we spent Saturday visiting with friends who recently made a little one and well
So we did and that was fun and the baby was adorable (I'd say aren't they all but well...no, no they are not so kudos friends!) and good times. On our way home (they're out in Brooklyn) Tom suggested we stop in Manhattan and originally I wanted to get home and get stuff done, but then he suggested food and I can always be won over with food. We park the car and Tom grabs me and yells "BIRTHDAY PART C!!!" and I spent the 3 avenue across/5 block down walk (we were not parked near the place) trying to figure out WHAT I was about to walk into.

What I was about to walk into was DRUNK SHAKESPEARE. Tom was Googling things I like and he stumbled upon this and what can I say. He gets me.

It's just what it sounds like.
This
plus this
It's a performance in this tiny library room (with a bar behind a bookshelf!) where one of the actors starts the show by taking 4 shots (plus a few more throughout) and then performs a Shakespeare play while drunk. I suppose technically the other actors are sober although that could be up for debate. They then performed Macbeth and it was hilarious (especially the chick that played the Porter and Banquo and various other roles). Plus two of our friends who I haven't seen in awhile met us there so that made things that much better.

So yeah, all of that was swell and if anyone is in the NYC area let me know cos I would TOTALLY be down for either of these things again.

Also Tom wins at gift giving.

*Seriously, though, this chili is RIDIC good.
**These were ones I actually knew. I can't remember the ones I didn't know. Or, like, most of the questions. Anyway. Answers: Mufasa (PERFECT RIGHT?), 99 Problems (The shirt was Javert has 24601 problems and Valjean is all of them), Ravenclaw and Slytherin.