Friday, April 29, 2022

Books I Read: April

 Total April Books: 5
2022 Running Total: 26

Dial A for Aunties 
By Jesse Q Sutanto 

Eye-rolling funny. 
The plot was ridiculous, 
like a slapstick comedy. 
It reminded me of Wedding Crashers or The Hangover: 
outlandish plot with scenarios 
that also make you double over laughing. 

By Will Smith, Mark Manson 

I love memoirs 
and I've always liked Will Smith, 
so not surprising that 
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.

It was a mix of funny and important life lessons. 
It was engaging, relatable, and very interesting. 
The last few chapters lost me a little bit, 
with his spiritual awakening 
(which often happens to me, 
as I've not yet reached that transcendent stage), 
but overall it was great. 

I feel like I can't end this review without addressing the Oscars incident.
(Ironically my book came off hold the day after!)
I was channeling all I learned from Sharon McMahon 
and not forming a preemptive opinion, but  
the longer I go, the more I feel like it's not my space to have an opinion. 
A black man struck a black man to defend his black wife. 
As one black influencer pointed out: 
"Historically, black men have not been allowed to defend their wives." 
Me and my white opinion will sit this one out. 

by John Grisham 

One of my oldest 10 resolutions. 
It was a short, easy read, 
and I blew threw it in 24 hours. 

Football is my favorite sport; 
I find the game complex enough to be engaging 
(versus, say, baseball or basketball), 
but I recognize it's faults 
and this book contains all of them
starting with a heavy dose of toxic masculinity
The story also glorifies the faults you find in small town football, 
e.g.: pouring money into football programs 
while critically underfunding every other program, 
a common practice that makes me seethe in rage. 

Atlas of the Heart 
By Brene Brown 

This is part encylcopedia, 
part coffee table book. 
The weight, size, and color make it beautiful display 
while the content makes it something you reference again and again. 

In no way is it a "read like a regular book" book.

There were a lot of "ah ha!" moments for me, 
as well as a lot of "I can't relate to this at all.
I plan to buy it and use it as a coffee table / book shelf anchor book.

All My Rage 
By Sabaa Tahir 

I really hated the first 2/3 of this book. 
It was depressing, 
full of bad decisions and shitty characters, 
plus hints of a big secret 
(something I don't like in books). 

But then it got good 
and I couldn't put it down. 
Last 1/3 was beautiful 
and redeemed the first 2/3 


Books I Didn't Finish

How Did I Get So Busy? 
By Valorie Burton

This was a self-help book that was unhelpful 
and a total snoozefest. 
It was vague, 
high level, 
and didn't offer any real concrete steps. 

I polled on instagram whether or not I should rate on goodreads, 
and Erika shared her rating metric 
which if she read 50% of the book 
or roughly 100-ish pages, 
she would review it. 
I stopped at page 94 (40%) 
and decided not to waste any more time. 

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Books I Read: March

Total Book Read in March: 6
2022 Running Book Total: 21

I'm Judging You : 
The Do Better Manual
By Luvvie Ajayi Jones

Very funny book, 
with a surprising number of Harry Potter references!

Luvvie covers so many topics, 
from easy ones (like being late) 
to really hard all-around us topics (racism, sexism, all the -isms!). 
The book is a bit outdated now 
(particularly regarding social media) 
but overall it was a good read.

The Good Sister 
By Sally Hepworth

I absolutely adored the autistic main character 
and all the supporting characters, 
many who exceeded my expectations 
and brought tears to my eyes with their love. 

However, the book was wildly predicable 
and that annoyed me. 

Characters: 5 stars 
Actual plot: 3 stars
Average: 4 stars

By Ashleigh Renard

My sister gave me this book 
having won a contest from the author. 

The writing is ... eh. 
It's written in an easy-to-read conversation style 
but the organization and tangent thought lines had me struggling. 

The first 2/3 of the book also has no purpose. 
It's just her narrating her life. 
You can't see where it's all going 
and it's hard to know what you should be paying attention to. 

However, in the last third, it all comes together. 
The lightbulb comes on and you see it all. 
I just wish she had introduced that to us in the beginning. 

She also has a lot of insightful comments 
about life and relationships, 
the kind you'd get from your therapist. 
(Again, all in the last 1/3 of the book.)

I recommend this book 
primarily for the shock value of the sex club scenes. 
Definitely an R-rated read.
For me, this is a positive. 
For others, it's a negative. 
Take it as you will. 

What We Don't Talk About 
By Aubrey Gordon 

Phenomenal book. 
The kind of book I want to buy a million copies 
and give it to everyone I know. 

Must read by everyone everywhere. 

Aubrey Gordon's writing is exquisite, 
her organization is on point, 
her talking points are well laid out. 

It's a very quick read, under 200 pages. 
And I cannot recommend this enough. 

The Night The Lights Went Out: 
A Memoir of Life After Brain Damage 
By Drew Magary

Upon his request, I got this book for Adam for Christmas. 
He read it immediately 
and promised me I'd like it better 
than the author's other book "The Hike" (review here). 
And he was correct. 

I naturally enjoy memoirs 
and I've always enjoyed Magary's expletive-laced humor.  
It's also a great education about "invisible disabilities," 
like hearing loss, 
loss of taste, 
and loss of smell,  
the latter two being long-term effects of earlier COVID variants. 

Overall, it was an enjoyable, easy read (even the hard parts) 
and I liked it. 

American Apartheid: 
Segregation and the Making of the Underclass 
By Douglas S. Massey & Nancy A. Denton

For all of my learning (more like "unlearning") 
about racial justice, my implicit bias, etc, 
I have never been able to answer the question: 
"So why are the inner-city black neighborhoods the way they are?
Of course, a lot is perception 
(media is more likely to emphasize crimes 
in black communities than white communities) 
but no matter how much you chalk up to perception and bias, 
something is up. 

And this book answers it. 
Written like a textbook, 
it is PACKED with data, numbers, and tables. 
I'm a numbers person but even this had me seeing stars. 

It was a long and sluggish read 
(only 236 pages but a dense 236 pages!). 
In the end, I'm very glad I read it. 
It answered many of my questions 
and helped me understand so much. 


Review from last month: 

Empire of Pain : 
The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty 
By Patrick Radden Keefe 

This. Book. Was. So. Long. 

You pick it up expecting all the juicy details 
one normally gets from the opioid crisis 
but instead of met with a lengthy (understatement) 
history of the family's patriarch, 
from poor depression immigrant to wealthy philanthropist. 
Some parts are wildly interesting 
and other parts (the art, omg the art) are just a snoozefest. 

Also, there is no end because the storyline against the family 
is still being played out TODAY in lawsuits. 

All that aside, my biggest gripe against this book 
is not actually the book or author's fault. 
As our country now devours the SCANDAL of oxycontin, 
consuming it like a juicy sitcom of horror, 
I worry about the jump from pain relief scandal 
I've heard this argument made 
and it is immensely worrisome.  

The production of pain relief for profiting drug companies
and the development of vaccines are in two different worlds. 
It is not the author's job to address this, 
but I wish someone would. 

Monday, February 28, 2022

Books I Read: February

 Books Read in February: 5 
2022 Running Total: 15

The month started slowly 
then ended with a bang 
as I finished two books the same day. 

We Are Not Like Them 
By Christine Pride 
and Jo Piazza 

This was very, very good. 
A gripping storyline 
with so many interesting, intertwined characters.  
It reminded me of a Jodi Picoult book, 
where you see the situation from so many points of view. 
I learned a lot from reading it. 

By Abby Wambach 

Given my love of Glennon Doyle, 
of course I would read her wife's book. 
I was shocked it was only 92 pages! 
It's less of a "reader's book" 
and much more a handbook manual, 
the kind you give aspiring female athletes 
or an aspiring female corporate climber 
or any female growing up in our society. 

Since it's so short, it's perfect for those 
who may not be big readers, 
but could use some encouragement as they navigate 
the imposing patriarchy that surrounds our world. 

Without Merit 
By Colleen Hoover 

I really LOVED this book. 
It was one of my oldest ten books to read 
and I'm so glad I did. 

I fell in love with the quirky characters 
and the weird dysfunctional family. 
I don't normally care for angsty teens 
but I loved this protagonist.

It would have been a 5 star book 
except the ending wrapped up a little too happy. 
I LOVE me a happy ending 
but this was unrealistically too happy for me. 
Or maybe just a bit too abrupt. 

Anyway, still excellent book. 

Apples Never Fall
By Liane Moriarty

I loved this book. 
It sucked me in 
and I looked forward to reading it. 
The last 1/3 I literally could not put it down. 
We were in Florida visiting my in-laws 
and I quite literally hid myself 
so I could finish this book, 
letting my in-laws parent my kids. 

It reminded me a lot of 
“The Last Mrs Parrish”
because of a very psychotic character. 

If I had one complaint, 
it’s that the title didn’t really fit the book. 
And that always annoys me. 

Empire of Pain: 
The Secret History 
of the Sackler Dynasty 

This was a book club book 
and, as I’ve done before,
 I’ll hold opinions until after we meet. 

[Original post comments] 

I am blogging these two books 
from my iPhone in Florida 
and can’t figure out how to insert images. 
The day this publishes I’ll arrive home 
(Lest any internet troll is thinking of robbing our house while we are gone) 
and I’ll update images once I’m back to my laptop. 

Monday, January 31, 2022

Books I Read: January

 Books Read in January: 10
2022 Running Total: 10

Concrete Rose 
by Angie Thomas 

The prequel to "The Hate U Give" 
about Starr's father Maverick. 
It's been so long since I'd read The Hate U Give 
that I forgot most of the backstory 
so reading this book I didn't know the ending. 
Classic Angie Thomas, it was well done, 
though I did enjoy her other two books better. 

It's In His Kiss 
By Julia Quinn

The 7th Bridgerton book 
and, dare I say, this was my favorite!
Hyacinth is a most delightful character. 
and Lady Danbury is wildly funny. 
I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. 

How to Raise Kids who Aren't Assholes 
By Melinda Wenner Moyer 

5 stars. 
Truly excellent book. 
It hits all the major big topics 
(racism, sexism, sibling fighting, everything
with grace and a no-judgement approach. 
It's well organized 
and has very clear steps forward. 

Aaron randomly picked this out for me
because he was intrigued by the "bad word" on the cover 
and I'm so glad he did!

The Hike 
By Drew Magary 

This is Adam's favorite book 
and after much nagging, I finally read it. 

This is not my type of book. 
It's very Alice in Wonderland-esque, 
with a pointless fantasy quest 
that doesn't mean anything until the last few pages. 

The only thing saving it from 2 stars 
is that Magary's humor is hilarious. 
But seriously, it was pointless and dumb. 

The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot 
By Marianne Cronin 


I really liked the beginning of the book. 
I thought the characters quirky and delightful. 
(Erika compared it to Fredrik Backman 
and I can see that). 
But in the middle of the book, 
you learn via flashback that the baby dies. 
And that wrecked the whole book for me. 
The following stories didn't redeem themselves 
and in the end it was a just a depressing life story. 

The Power of Writing it Down: 
A Simple Habit to Unlock Your Brain 
and Reimagine Your Life 

Interesting concept, with great science-backed research. 
I would have preferred this as a long article 
rather than a compact book (only 224 pages, but still). 
It did inspire me to pick up writing again 
and I have enjoyed writing during my naptime reading time. 

The Unhoneymooners 
By Christina Lauren 

LOVED this book. 
It gives off "The Hating Game" vibes (review here).
Wildly funny, easy read, deeply enjoyable. 
It was the palate cleanser I needed 
after a slog of mediocre books. 

Like many chick-lit books, 
it's cliché and quite predicable, 
but not so much that I didn't like it. 
Again, the humor offset any negative cliches. 

I picked it up from the library at 12:30pm 
and finish it at 9:30pm. 
My fastest book turnaround ever. 

The Uncommon Reader 
By Alan Bennett 

This short novella creates a funny scenario 
where the Queen of England becomes an avid reader... 
and the fallout that ensues. 

It's a bit dry but it's so short (120 pages) 
and if you like British royalty, you'll like this. 

The Paper Palace 
By Miranda Cowley Heller 

This book sucked me in 
and I couldn't put it down. 
The writing is stunning 
and the storyline sweeps you along. 
It has very "Wild Game" vibes to it (review here).  

That said, this book is FULL of trauma, 
particularly sexual trauma. 
In the end, it was too much trauma for me. 
When the book ended, instead of feeling satisfied, 
I felt weighed down by it's heaviness. 

People We Meet on Vacation 
By Emily Henry

This was a charming little chick lit book. 
The dialogue was funny 
and I enjoyed how every other chapter 
went back in time in their friendship, 
from the day they met and then chronologically to present, 
unraveling their past friendship. 
I struggle when books jump around in time, 
so this being chronological was very appreciated. 

That said, I disliked the "big secret" 
which was wildly predicable
Also, the book felt overhyped. 
Was it good? Yes. 
Does everyone need to read it? No. 

Friday, January 21, 2022

2022 Resolutions

Time for 2022 Resolutions!

2022 is divided into three categories: 
1. Book goals (obviously) - 5 goals
2. Monthly goals - 4 goals
3. One-time goals 4 goals

Total of 13 goals for 2022. 

Book Goals: 

1. Read my oldest 10 books on my TBR. 

This is my favorite goal every year. 
My TBR ("to be read" list)
 is stored on my library's website 
and, helpfully, the library orders it by date added. 
Every year I read (or delete) the oldest 10 books on my TBR. 

1. American Apartheid: 
Segregation and the Making of the Underclass 
by Douglas Massey

2. Without Merit: a novel by Colleen Hoover. 

3. The Natashas: Inside the Global Sex Trade

4. Bleachers by John Grisham

5. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

6. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society* 
by Mary Ann Shaffer

7. One Day: a novel by David Nicholls

8. Let's Pretend this Never Happened by Jenny Lawson 

9. Women in Clothes 

10. Dolly: My life and other unfinished business 
by Dolly Parton 

*I'm quite sure I briefly started this one but never got into it.
 Willing to try again. 

2. Read Two Books I Own 

I don't own a lot of books, 
but I do have a very small stack I've acquired. 
I thrive under library due dates that force me to read 
and struggle owning books with no time constraint. 

Books I own: 

The Night the Lights Went Out By Drew Magary 
(Adam loved this book)

Still Evangelical by Mark Labberton 

The Lies that Bind by Emily Giffin 

Moloka'i by Alan Brennert 

Swing by Ashleigh Renard 

Julie & Julia by Julie Powell 
(saw the movie and loved it)

3. Finish "The Source" by James Michener 

My father-in-law lent me this book. 
I started it April 2021 and ugh, 
it's long and tedious and... ugh. 
But I'm determined to finish it! 
It's a million pages (ok, so like a thousand) 
so maybe if I read 10 a day?

4. Read "Trans Like Me" 

I started this book TWICE in 2021 
and never got more than a few pages in. 
I know so little about the transgender community 
and I would like to know more. 

5. Learn my librarian's names. 

This is so simple but so important. 
I am terrible with names, 
but our librarians are so important in our lives. 
There are a dozen (or more?) at our local library. 
They all know me and my kids 
and greet us warmly by name 
and we chat and laugh together. 
And of them all, I can only remember two names!!!! 
I must do better!

Monthly Goals : 

These are goals I want to repeat every month. 

1. Take a class. 

I love learning about a very wide variety of subjects, 
and I find classes to be deeply stimulating and enjoyable, 
but I never make time for them. 

Specifically, I want to take at least one sex-related class. 
I won't elaborate on here for fear of the bots that will swarm this post, 
but generally it's an area of my life I want to keep improving. 

Along those lines...

2. Monthly date night with Adam. 

Continuation from 2021. 
We had about 50% success rate last year 
and I want to improve that. 
It should also be easier now that Carson is no longer breastfeeding. 

3. Write 20 minutes a day, 4 days a week. 

I'm in the middle of the book 
"the Power of Writing it Down" 
which suggests writing for 20 minutes, 4 days a week 
boosts a significant improvement in mood. 
I've blogged and journaled off and on throughout the years, 
but I want to start writing consistently. 
I already started this month 
and have enjoyed it immensely. 

4. Have Elizabeth over monthly. 

Elizabeth is the fake name I give to all the females in my life. 

In this case, Elizabeth is my kid's best friends. 
She is a charming, bright, vivid girl, 
full of potential to change the world. 
She has had a rough start to her young life 
(a lot of trauma and maybe even abuse?) 
and she still has many uphill battles to climb. 

I don't know if we can be a help Elizabeth, 
but I want to keep her close to us 
so that if she ever does need us, 
she knows we are here for her. 

One Time Goals 

1. Get my ring fixed. 

It's hard to tell in this picture, 
but two of the prongs are badly bent. 
I stopped wearing it for fear of losing the diamond. 
This is not a hard task, 
but it's one I will ultimately put off and forget about, 
unless I make it a goal. 

2. Save photos off my phone. 

As I was consolidating all the photos in our lives, 
I realized I have no permanent backup of Nov 2014-June 2017 
other than my iPhone cloud and our physical family yearbooks. 
I want to save these photos on an external drive 
along with the photos from before and after these dates. 

3. Finish wiping old laptop 

I wiped one of our old laptops in December 
but have one more to go. 
It has tons of documents on it from grad school and more, 
and I need to go through them all. 

4. Recycle laptops and fridges. 

Continuing from #3 above, 
I want to recycle our old unused laptops. 
We also have a broken wine fridge, 
mini/beer fridge, and an old printer that need to go. 
Our township used to do an annual electronics recycling day, 
but they stopped that during covid. 
If they don't restart this year, 
I want to find a place that will recycle them responsibly.