Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Review: Songs of Willow Frost

Songs of Willow Frost
Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I didn't really like [b:Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet|3367956|Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet|Jamie Ford||3407295], so I'm not sure why I picked this up; maybe I thought that, because it had such great reviews, it might be better? Not so much.

I've concluded that I just don't care for Jamie Ford's writing. While I have immense respect for anyone that can write a book and then have the guts to go get it published, I don't think he is able to successfully narrate for a child, or represent how a child would think, act, or talk. Unfortunately, this perspective constitutes the majority of both "Songs of Willow Frost" and "Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet."

I also felt the writing was incredibly spotty, and in some sections it seemed like some of the story had been hastily added in, or a chunk removed so that it didn't flow well overall. Much like "Hotel," I wasn't able to engage with the plot until the last 50-75 pages.

Things I thought Ford did well in this novel: the way he relayed the vast inequalities of the social service systems in place in the 1920s and 30s, as well as the racial inequality that Chinese-Americans faced, that, while still problematic today, was so much worse then; the portrayal of the blossoming film industry (though some of this seemed forced as well?); and showing what Seattle might have looked like during the Great Depression.

If you like "Hotel," you'll probably like this too.

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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Why Feminism?

The Belle Jar posted this comic on Facebook today, and I couldn't help but repost it. It's seriously so relevant, and so true. Original comic can be found at 'my little sketchbook' (Katarzyna Babis' tumblr).

Katarzyna Babis
Katarzyna Babis
Katarzyna Babis
Katarzyna Babis

Katarzyna Bab

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Find of the Day: Dreams Are Real

In this midst of mad thesis crunching (Thursday night's Tap-a-Tap Hour doesn't have me in tears yet!), this gave me the courage to go on:

Dreams Are Real from Ryan Barger on Vimeo.

Yes, my fine little kittens, ur, readers, dreams are real.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

"How are you today?"

Felicity is now at the ripe old age of one and half. She has opinions. She has desires. It's almost like she's a little person. (Yes, she is decidedly a tiny human).

Felicity, with her vocabulary of thirty or so words, hasn't quite grasped the subtleties of polite elevator interactions.

Last week:

A woman stepped into the elevator after us. Felicity looked up from her stroller and in a small, sweet voice, said, "Hi!"

The woman smiled at her and greeted her back. Then the woman asked, "How are you today?"

Our downstairs neighbor probably wasn't expecting a response, or maybe she was expecting to hear a tiny, "Fine, how are you?" as is the custom to respond. Not so.

Furrowing her eyebrows, Felicity briskly held a rigid index finger to her bandaged, slightly scraped knee. She uttered a severe sentence or two, which we couldn't much make out besides the word "owee" once or twice.


Ian and I have been sick with the flu since Friday night. While we are finally starting to recover, Felicity has been feeling pretty miserable today. I took the baby out in the stroller this afternoon to pick up our CSA box, and she bravely sat quietly for most of the ride, only complaining a little when we walked past the playground.

After getting back into the building with the stroller and bags of groceries, I saw one of the MBA students, resplendent in suit and tie, coming into the building after us. Kind soul that I am, I held the elevator for him.

After the doors closed and we'd pushed our respective buttons, Felicity looked up at him and greeted him with a small and serious, "Hi."

He smiled, and said hello back. He then asked how she was. He was decidedly not ready for what she had to tell him.

Bear in mind that... some of what Felicity says is comprehensible to Ian or myself. Like I said, Flick has a small (but effective) vocabulary. It was apparently not large enough (at least in English) to express how bad she was feeling and what a terrible day she'd had.

In her tirade, from the lobby to the fifth flour, she told the young man in great detail about how it was to be a toddler and feel bad, how her (mean) parents wouldn't take her to the playground, expressly against her frequent requests, and who knows what else. Pretty much, a whole lot of baby-talk in an exaggerated, complaining voice. She sounded like a grandmother talking about her sciatica in an alien language.

Exiting the elevator, the MBA student said, "That's how I feel too. That's how I feel too."

I love having a toddler.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Review: Flaubert's Parrot

Flaubert's Parrot
Flaubert's Parrot by Julian Barnes

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Flaubert's Parrot has been on my "To Read" list for YEARS. To my delight, it was available on audiobook from the NYPL, and I downloaded it to my phone to listen to whilst walking about the city, riding the subway, and doing laundry in the evening.

I hesitate to even write that I hated it because I know it's supposed to be a great book. I'm sure it IS a great book. I tried. I really, really tried. I listened to just about half of the book before giving up completely in boredom.

Okay, okay, I know this book is about Flaubert, but I didn't expect it to really ONLY be about Flaubert. I usually find Julian Barnes to be an exceptionally interesting and engaging author that could make a housefly interesting, so I was disappointed to be increasingly annoyed at Flaubert, instead of, say, interested or engaged in his life and story. I feel that either this book should've had more framing (I did enjoy the little framing there was about the doctor who was interested in Flaubert and his story), or Barnes should've just written a biography on Flaubert. Random lists of quotes and dates just didn't do it for me.

If you're interested in Flaubert (I really am not) and don't mind more of a history lesson than a novel, you'll enjoy this, I promise. Please disregard my low-brow analysis and find a copy for yourself.

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Monday, July 15, 2013

Review: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Vol. 1

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Vol. 1
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Vol. 1 by Denise Mina

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

You've read the books. You've watched the movies (and are waiting with anticipation for the second and third American installments). A graphic novel series too? Yes, please.

The artwork is fantastic, the main plot is represented well, and Stieg Larsson's original magic is present. I highly recommend this to any fans (or if you're just too lazy to read the books - you know who you are...), just be aware that this is Part I of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and so does not represent the full book.

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Monday, July 1, 2013

Review: You Make Me Feel Like an Unnatural Woman: The Diary of a New Mother

You Make Me Feel Like an Unnatural Woman: The Diary of a New Mother
You Make Me Feel Like an Unnatural Woman: The Diary of a New Mother by Judith Newman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have very mixed feelings about this book. It made me laugh and laugh - Judith Newman is an incredibly funny writer and has a wonderful way with words. While You Make Me Feel Like an Unnatural Woman is a humorous read, and it was evident that Newman was struggling with her new role as mother, with her finances, and her marriage, she never really went too deep below the surface. She allows you glimpses of her actual thoughts, but doesn't write with any depth. There is nothing wrong with this, necessarily, just don't pick it up if you're looking for a mothering memoir that deals with the meat of being a mom and how it changes your identity.

I originally read this for my thesis (I'm reviewing a number of mothering memoirs) specifically because she is an older mom, and there aren't many mothering memoirs out there dealing with age. I'm not sure I can use it though as Newman never really went to any deep emotional place. I'm not sure how I didn't know it wouldn't be more serious, certainly the title should've tipped me off!

This is a thoroughly enjoyable read, and you'll certainly have fun if you're a parent yourself, especially a new(ish) parent living in NYC.

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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Review: Why We Write: 20 Acclaimed Authors on How and Why They Do What They Do

Why We Write: 20 Acclaimed Authors on How and Why They Do What They Do
Why We Write: 20 Acclaimed Authors on How and Why They Do What They Do by Meredith Maran

My rating: 0 of 5 stars

I couldn't get through Why We Write quickly enough. Suddenly I find myself bemoaning the fact I'm working on a master's thesis and not working on a novel instead! Really though, this book is filled with such interesting essays and information. The editing is superb; the writers chosen are varied in genre, age, and experience, and I had such fun reading how they got started in their writing careers, their individual writing processes, and tips for writing well.

This is a fantastic book for a would-be writer (maybe something to help give the final push?), the discouraged writer, or the enthusiastic reader who would like to know more about the writing process.

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Review: Why Have Kids?: A New Mom Explores the Truth About Parenting and Happiness

Why Have Kids?: A New Mom Explores the Truth About Parenting and Happiness
Why Have Kids?: A New Mom Explores the Truth About Parenting and Happiness by Jessica Valenti

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've been looking forward to reading Valenti's book for several weeks. This is a great little book (and a pretty fast read, I got through it in about three hours) for anyone that is just beginning to explore the concept of finding happiness in mothering (though Valenti prefers the term parenting, which I completely get, this book is primarily about mothering). Valenti is an engaging and interesting writer and is sure to make you think about why we have children, the idea of what it is to be a good mother, and how we're all struggling to make sense of ourselves as parents.

However, after reading many, many, many books and articles on feminist mothering, empowered mothering, and the state of mothering today, this book was much the same. See how I still gave it four stars though? If you haven't done the extensive (and ridiculous) amount of reading on mothering that I have (for my graduate work), give this book a go! Really, really!

My two actual complaints about the book: Valenti could be more thorough in her reporting/research. The example off hand is her breastfeeding chapter. While I've certainly mellowed in my fanaticism for breast-feeding, I still think she might've give more research going both ways. This is one example of where she is very one-sided with her research and doesn't give a true, full picture. I generally agreed with all of her overall analysis, I felt I was only getting one side of an argument in a few places in the book.

My second complaint is never really addressing two of the three themes on the cover - why people choose to have kids and finding happiness in parenting. She covers both of these topics (most women feel obligated to have kids as society pushes women to have children; and people without children are happier than those with children, and working moms are happier than stay-at-home moms), but she doesn't really fully engage with either topic. I would've liked to see more discussion on WHY people choose to have children (or is the only reason because we believe we must, or 'oops!'), and more about what it is to be happy and be a parent (or, in particular, a mother).

It was fun reading this after working on the 50th edition The Feminine Mystique for my book club; there are so many parallels and women are still facing such crisis, even a half a decade later.

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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Review: Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook

Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook
Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I obtained a copy of Veganomicon months before making the switch over (hell, I wasn't even a vegetarian at that point), and really enjoyed the recipes even then. After becoming a vegan, Veganomicon was that much more valuable. The recipes in this cookbook are great - well thought through, easy to make (most of the time), and typically quite healthy. Isa and Terry write with humor and provide excellent information. And, of course, most importantly, these recipes produce GREAT food. Om-to-the-Nom-Nom good.

While I don't want to make it sound like this is a "Betty Crocker" cookbook of sorts (shows you how to make the basics), Veganomicon is quite comprehensive and has recipes and menus for all occasions (or un-occasions). The recipes are also sorted as well to fit specific needs: soy-free, gluten-free, low fat, fast (under 45 minutes), and "supermarket friendly."

Some of our favorites (and frequently-made): Banana-Nut Waffles (our personal favorite brunch), Cashew Ricotta, Wheat-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies, Cheezy Sauce, Simple Seitan, Chile-Chocolate Mole (out of this world!), Mushroom Gravy (referred to the "Thanksgiving Hero"), and Snobby Joes, to list just a few.

If you're a vegan or enjoy eating plant-based foods, this is a must-have for your cookbook collection.

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