Friday, May 26, 2017

The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl: Being an introvert in a world that glorifies cool isn't easy

I am so behind on reviews. I finished this book back in February. February 24th to be exact, at least according to Goodreads*. I think if I point out how behind I am it will shame me into catching up. Instead it seems to make me go "Eh, I told people. That's good enough" and then let things slide further back. We'll see if I'm able to get things reviewed at least within a month of reading them.
With confession time out the way, let's get to the book shall we?

I was at the Strand, but shopping not for myself! I was looking for a book for Tom's birthday, so I had good and noble intentions. Except they didn't carry the book he wanted (something about marketing and sports championships) so what am I going to do, NOT get any books? That's ridiculous. So I picked up a couple books, including The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae.
I apparently cannot get enough of awesome comedy ladies writing hilarious collections of essays. So this book had been on my radar for a while. But like, on the periphery. Over in the corner, waiting for me to get it together and pick it up. And I did and it was awesome.

Rae looks at her own awkward life, such as her attempt to give herself a nickname (Sloppy Jo) in grade school, her inability to dance and her lack of fashion sense. She talks about spending summers in Senegal with her family and about moving cross country to LA and really wanting to be one of the "cool" kids. She has a few chapters for her ABG (Awkward Black Girl) Guide titled things like "Connecting with Other Blacks," "The Hair Advantage," and "When Co-workers Attack". She talks about the importance of representation and family difficulties. There is a SPECTRUM of topics, is what I'm saying. And through all of them, there is a tone and wit and a lot of self-deprecating humor.
If I could go back in time and slap all of the idiocy out of my mouth, I would be a busy time traveler.
Same, Issa Rae. Same.

The book was lots of fun and short (just over 200 pages) so a quick read if you're looking for something light and funny.

Gif rating:
*Which, hey, PS, why does Goodreads now email you when you mark a book as completed to tell you that you finished reading a book? I am aware, Goodreads. I told you. And then you're just linking me back to stuff on your site, where I just came from, to tell you I finished reading it.

Rae, Issa. The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl. 37 Ink/Atria, 2016.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Hidden Figures: Once you took the first step, anything was possible

By now, you've heard of Hidden Figures. Because I'm getting around to writing this way after the book came out and the movie came out.

If you've not heard of it then I commend you for the rock you've been under. It's terrifying up here and might there be space for one more?

Anyway, back to the book, which focuses on the black, female mathematicians and engineers that are responsible for so much, not just helping put people on the moon (but there is that, and it's pretty impressive) but the smaller projects are all manner of flight. As Shetterly says
What I wanted was [for these women] to have the grand, sweeping narrative that they deserved, the kind of American history that belongs to the Wright Brothers and the astronauts, to Alexander Hamilton and Martin Luther King Jr. Not told as a separate history, but as part of the story we all know. Not at the margins, but at the very center, the protagonists of the drama. And not just because they are black, or because they are women, but because they are part of the American epic.
And this she does, setting the stage for Langley from the '40s through the Apollo missions and highlighting the work the women did, and the struggles they faced.

The book focuses on more than just the three women in the movie, though they have the largest parts. There's less drama than the movie (no one violently smashes the sign above the bathroom that says "colored") and a lot more math, which I found to not be an issue because I just skimmed over it. I'm sure an engineer would be THRILLED to go over the specifics of whatever air displacement problem or I-can't-think-of-another-sciencey-sounding-example they had to tackle, but I chose to trust the math was correct and move on.

Because the book can be a little slow at times. There's not really a story arc here (it is non-fiction after all) but at times just seems like it is listing out the events that happened or what was going on. I had some trouble keeping the different women straight and I mentioned all the math above. But overall, these didn't really bother me. I didn't pick this up assuming it was going to have a straight narrative like the movie (which I saw after reading it) and I don't have an issue skimming when we seem to be getting in the weeds.

One thing that may have helped keep me engaged is the fact that my grandfather worked at Langley on-and-off throughout the time period this book covers, though not working in the same areas. At least not to the best of my knowledge and sadly he passed long before this movie came out, so I can't ask him about it, although I would have loved to be able to.

Not a perfect book and yeah, I liked the movie better from a story perspective, but still an interesting read about an important topic that shouldn't be overlooked.

Gif rating:
Title quote from page 246

Shetterly, Margot Lee. Hidden Figures: The Untold True Story of Four African-American Women Who Helped Launch Our Nation into Space. Harper Collins, 2016. Kindle

Friday, May 19, 2017

We Are Never Meeting In Real Life: Hopefully lesbian bed death is real

As I have mentioned a zillion times, books by funny ladies are my jaaaaaaaaam. So I was browsing NetGalley and saw this book, We Are Never Meeting in Real Life and, OK, I didn't actually recognize the author Samantha Irby. But the cover has an angry wet cat on it and it says it was by the author of the blog "bitches gotta eat" which was pretty much all I needed to at least give it a try. It was my lucky day, since I was approve for a copy in exchange for a review and here we are.

The book is a collection of essays about Samantha's life. It's not really a memoir, but of course, write what you know.

The first essay, "My Bachelorette Application" is a great start. It sets the tone for Irby's humor, especially if you aren't already familiar with her.
I am squeezed into my push-up bra and sparkly, ill-fitting dress. I've got the requisite sixteen coats of waterproof mascara, black eyeliner, and salmon-colored streaks of hastily applied self-tanner drying down the side of my neck. I'm sucking in my stomach, I've taken thirty-seven Imodium in case my irritable bowels have an adverse reaction to the bag of tacos I hid in my purse and ate in the bathroom while no one was looking, and I have been listening to Katy Perry really loudly in the limo on the way over here. I'm about to crush a beer can on my forehead. LET'S DO THIS, BRO.
I know that was long, but it's gold. And like I said that sets the tone. And really, I could repeat pretty much the whole thing here because it's all hilarious.

She is self-deprecating and vulgar, not the best with money when she has it (I want to be one of those people who feels satisfied when I pay my bills rather than cheated out of whatever frivolity was sacrificed in its place), and while she's never really touching and vulnerable, she doesn't shy away from some of the tougher parts of her life.

She has essays about sex, about her cat Helen Keller that she hates but also loves, about her weight, about growing up poor, about how leaving the house is overrated.

So if any of this sounds like your thing, and it should cos it's pretty great, I recommend. Clearly.

Gif rating
Title quote from location 2946

Irby, Samantha. We Are Never Meeting In Real Life. Vintage, 2017. NetGalley

Thursday, May 11, 2017

John Dies at the End: Um, hi. Do you have any experience with, like, demon...ism?

I'm a fan of and have been for a while now, which based on what I can tell was right around the time the site became the current format that it is. Reading the site over the course of a decade*, I've found certain columnists that I was drawn to. Among those is current Executive Editor David Wong. When I knew he wrote a book and I finally got around to checking it out and...
...I dunno, you guys.

OK before I get into my opinion, a quick synopsis.

David and his friend John fight monsters that no one else can see. They were at a party when they took something called "soy sauce" (no, not like for sushi, that'd be dumb) that expands what you can perceive. In this case, it's that there are inter-dimensional monsters just all over the place. And since David and John can now see these things, even when they'd really rather not, they do what they can to fight them off and keep themselves and their loved ones safe. And sometimes strangers that come to them for help, but they're not like ghostbusters or anything for business.

Things get weirder and weird and the stakes get raised and there's a lot of juvenile humor that sometimes works and sometimes I think I would have enjoyed if I was younger when I read this.

I was scanning through reviews on Goodreads and one person said it felt like that game where someone starts a story and then another person adds to it and so on and so forth and that is a very good description. I mean, it feels like it was a bunch of very similar people playing that game, but the story took a number of turns that made me feel like perhaps this was supposed to be a collection of short, related stories. More than once I thought I was almost at the end of the book (because it felt like we had the full story arc) only to realize I had way more book to go. And that in and of itself isn't a bad thing. If it felt like it was supposed to be like that on purpose. Which this didn't necessarily feel like.

I thought it would be along the lines of the stuff Christopher Moore writes (and I've made it clear that I looooooooooooooooooove his stuff). Maybe like his stuff to like the 5th degree. Absurd and violent and funny and sure, that humor comes from things like dick jokes because sometimes those are really funny. And there were times it was like that but in an inconsistent and sort of blurry way.

There were moments that I liked. There were times that things were funny (sometimes juvenile, sometimes not). There were times that were really insightful and moving. Because he can write, as evidenced by the work he's doing on Cracked that I like so much. But these individual pieces weren't enough for me to like the book as a whole. Which is too bad because I wanted to (perhaps, not high but heightened expectations are to blame?).

So yeah. I know this is def a book for some people. Hell I am friends with some of those people. As in right when I finished I messaged a friend to say that he may have already read this but if not, he should cos it seems like something he'd like. To which he replied he'd already read it and the others in the series. So yes, there is an audience for this book but I don't think I'm in it. At least not any more.

Gif rating:
*Damn, realizing that makes me feel old

Title quote from page 63, location 1277

Wong, David. John Dies at the End. Thomas Dunne Books, 2009. Kindle

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Rich People Problems: You will quickly see that it is Su Yi who rules over everything

Things that are not normally books I go for

  • Rom coms
  • Stories that are super focused on the materialistic
  • General beach read chick lit stuff
And yet, Kevin Kwan's Crazy Rich Asians books are SO MUCH FUN. They are 100% all of the things above. It is all about money and brand names and being rich beyond your wildest dreams. The characters are really more outlines. They have one or two characteristics with little to no nuance. The story is right out of a soap opera. And I loved reading them. So I was pretty excited when I was approved for a copy of the latest book, Rich People Problems

Does it really matter what the plot is? It does? Fine, I mean I guess, kinda. Mild spoilers for the earlier books, Crazy Rich Asians and China Rich Girlfriend:

Nick's grandmother, Su Yi, the matriarch of the Young family, is on death's door. Rachel convinces Nick to go home and see his grandmother one last time, to patch things up. He hasn't seen her since her whole refusing to give her blessing to Nick and Rachel for their wedding (hence the last couple books). And of course the whole family is going crazy, some with worry but a lot is wondering what is going to happen to all of the money and especially the famous property Tyersall Park. 

Then there's ALSO a subplot about Astrid and Charlie's relationship being sabotaged by their respective ex-spouses.

Oh there's ALSO Kitty Bing (previously Kitty Tai and before that Kitty Pong) who has divorced Bernard and married Colette's father, making her even more insanely rich than before. Of course, being a step-mom isn't easy and Colette and her father Jack haven't spoken since his divorce. Kitty is determined to outshine Colette, who seems to have moved beyond the petty and shallow world she previously inhabited (but don't worry, she's still insanely rich).

Then there's ALSO a bit about Nick's family badgering Rachel about when she and Nick are gonna make babies already.

There are actually a few other subplots but I'm going to stop here because I've already described too many. So while the book was lots of fun and I loved reading it, it's probably my least favorite of the three. There's a little too much going on and many times characters behaved in ways to serve the story, but didn't really match the personality that had been set up in previous books.

Despite all of the problems I might have, I still recommend the book. If you've liked the others, for sure. If you haven't tried them, do that. They're not deep reads but hey, sometimes we need something that may not have any nutritional value but sometimes you just want some chips.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Gif rating
Title quote from location 1095

Kwan, Kevin. Rich People Problems. Doubleday, 2017. NetGalley

Sunday, May 7, 2017

What'd Red Do This Week

Back in the habit, so let's see what I need this week, shall we?
  • Reached out to local reps about the tax plan that, SURPRISE, benefits rich people and businesses. 
  • I had reached out last week about the ridiculous, stupid, and vindictive? (cos it feels vindictive) healthcare plan. While my local rep voted against it (which I mean, come on, I'm kind of responsible for) it passed the house. Now all of those who DID vote for it need to hear from everyone who is angry at that decision.
I finished The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake and now i'm making my way through both White Trash and We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby. I went on a bit of a requesting spree at Netgalley and I'm SUPER EXCITED ABOUT THIS.

I'm all caught up on My Favorite Murder which is both a pleasure and a curse so I've had to find other podcasts. Or go back to neglected ones. So I listened to a few episodes of Stuff You Missed in History Class, some Freakonomics, and then a co-worker mentioned another true crime podcast, Up and Vanished, which I've been binging on. Form pageant contestant and teacher in a small school goes missing and the case has been cold for 11 years. Yuuuup.

Still some Burn Notice, but also been going through the new Bill Nye Saves the World. Oh and Jeopardy! which I started watching again, at least when the DVR is working. Sometimes it decide that every other show will record BUT NOT THAT ONE. Rude.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Toronto, I visited you (part 2)

As I mentioned before, we recently visited Toronto because it's a swell city.

So our second day in the city (or really first full day), we did a tour of the island, the CN Tower, the zoo, but the day wasn't done yet. Well first up, I forgot to mention before going to the zoo we got bahn mis from Bahn Mi Boys and OH MAN, this might have been my favorite meal of the trip. I have no pictures of the sandwich. I typically forget to take pictures of my food cos I dive right in.

Anyway, so after the zoo we weren't done with the day yet. My FitBit was so impressed with me.

We took a quick nap ('twas necessary) before grabbing Thai food at Pai and heading off to see a Second City show. Again, no pictures from the show cos I'm not a jerk. Unlike the table of people that got kicked out for repeatedly yelling at the actors and when one of the actors made fun of them and told them (through a joke) to stop, one guy yelled "What are you gonna do about it?" Quality people, clearly. But ANYWAY, the show was fun and there were lots of sketches about how terrifying the world is cos laugh to keep from crying, y'all.

It was a long day and we slept very well that night, which was good cos there was so much more to do.

It was a rainy morning but luckily we planned to spend the morning at Casa Loma, aka this castle in Toronto that is featured in a bunch of movies such as Rocky Horror and Chicago.
After the castle we headed to The Stockyards for a BBQ lunch. Again, no pictures because food. But Tom and I split a fried green tomato BLT and a burger and they were EXCELLENT.

Since we didn't do enough walking the day before, we decided to make the 30 min walk from our hotel to the Royal Ontario museum because museums with dinosaur bones? Yes please. Of course, I mean, it's not all dino bones. There's also artwork from China and Egyptian mummies and lots of stuff. And we were only sort of too exhausted to really appreciate it. (We didn't actually fall asleep but may have come close.)
We walked back from the museum with a long break at a park to people watch before getting changed and heading out to dinner at El Local Loco for tacos. Such tasty tacos.

On our last full day we decided we really wanted to get some schwarma for an early lunch. Except our last full day also happened to be Easter so finding a place that was open was a bit of a challenge, but we managed to find something near Rogers Stadium. Oh, cos we were going to another game. Because, see, technically the first game didn't count cos we weren't actually in the stadium. Plus it was important we went to this game because they were giving out umbrellas and that was important.

The last stop of the trip was the aquarium.
After this we decided to have dinner at Marche which is basically a fancy food court, but the food was delicious and the people there were very nice when I spilled lemonade everywhere because I am super graceful all the time.

We wandered around for a bit before heading back to the hotel to pack (sigh) and head out the next morning, back to the real world. Thanks, Toronto.

Monday, May 1, 2017

April Reading Wrap Up

April has been a mix of some super fun stuff (yay Toronto trip) and some really shitty stuff so I'm looking forward to the month being over. And besides, May has some neat things in it, like going to see My Favorite Murder and heading up to Boston for a friend's wedding.

Between both the good and the bad, I didn't get a huge amount of reading done, so let's see what I did manage.

Total books read
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
Invasive by Chuck Wendig
Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan

Total pages read


Female authors

POC authors

US authors
Book formats
audiobooks: 33%
ebooks: 67%

Where'd I get the book
Gift: 33%
Kindle/Audible: 33%
Netgalley: 33%


Review book

Books by decade
2000s: 33%
2010s: 67%

Books by genre
Rom com: 33%
Thriller: 33%
YA fantasy: 33%

Resolution books
Half Blood Prince is of course by a non-US author (Thanks for the stats help, J.K.)
Rich People Problems is both by a non-US author and POC authors (Kwan is from Singapore)