Sunday, December 5, 2021

We'll Never Be Apart by Emiko Jean

 

DNF @ 8%

So I'm pretty sure I already know what the big twist is. Even if I'm wrong, though, this book just isn't cutting it for me. The writing style is perfectly fine but it's a bit too heavy on the drama with too little happening. Sometimes that works for me if it's a slow and gradual build that's heavy on the psychological horror, but this is more like E. Lockhart's WE WERE LIARS, where it seemingly tries to create confusion by inconveniently omitting info and masking this with purple prose as if washi-taping the plot holes.

YMMV.

2 to 2.5 out of 5 stars

Sorry I'm Late, I Didn't Want to Come: One Introvert's Year of Saying Yes by Jessica Pan

 

I'd been curious about this book ever since I heard about it because I do identify as an introvert, but a lot of books about introverts end up really annoying me because they either (1) act like introverts are secretly better than other people-- especially extroverts, God we hate those guys, ammirite? or (2) conflate introversion with things that sometimes but don't always accompany introversion, like depression, social anxiety, social phobias, anxiety, OCD, and agoraphobia. Number one is annoying because introversion is just a personality trait and not a defining personality characteristic-slash-secret-club that some people think it is, but number two is especially annoying because it pathologizes normal behaviors and makes it seem like being an introvert is a type of neruotic behavior (it isn't).

I liked SORRY I'M LATE, I DIDN'T WANT TO COME because it acknowledges that introverts come in a veritable crayon box of colors and flavors. It's also a fun thought experiment and as a psychology major, I'm big on those. Pan doesn't say that this is what SHOULD be done or preach from her soapbox, she just decides to live her life as if she were a bit more extroverted and see where it takes her.

This is the introvert book I think I relate to most strongly. I used to have really bad social anxiety/social phobia but now a lot of people tell me that they think I'm an extrovert and they're always surprised when I say that I'm not. Throughout my life I've been exposed to situations that required me to step out of my comfort zone and while I didn't make a systemic project out of it the way Pan did, these experiences also changed my perspective and shaped me as a person, sometimes in big and sometimes in small ways. I hesitate to label this as a self-help book because it isn't really trying to fix anything or provide a solution to something, and she says as much; SORRY I'M LATE is more of a guide to enriching your social interactions by either big or small choices, which I like.

I'm giving it a three because the second half of the book loses steam. I wasn't all that interested in the travel sections or the parts about her stand-up/improv sessions. Others might be if they're more into that, but I think Pan is better about writing about her emotions and inner-thoughts than she is about travel and events. It did make me think, though, and I quoted a lot of passages in my status updates on Goodreads that I really liked. If you're an introvert looking to read a book about introversion, I think I'd pass right over QUIET and go to this one instead.

3 to 3.5 out of 5 stars

Saturday, December 4, 2021

Shade: A Tale of Two Presidents by Pete Souza

 

First thought, well, DANG. Can I hire Pete Souza to follow me around and make me look good? Second thought, GOD I MISS OBAMA SO FREAKING MUCH. Third thought, thank goodness he's (Trump's) not my "president" anymore. Fourth thought, OH GOD BUT HE COULD BE AGAIN. NO ONE IS SAFE. NO. ONE.

I was first acquainted with Pete Souza's work through his other book, OBAMA: AN INTIMATE PORTRAIT. He's the man behind the lens for some of the most famous pictures of Obama. So when I saw that he had created a follow-up work juxtaposing Trump tweets and articles against some of these famous pictures, I was all over that like rice. I mean, I don't need to make fun of the man but lord, DO I WANT TO. And apparently, so does Pete Souza.

Now, look. Was Obama perfect? No. But he was a man of dignity and compassion who did his best-- or tried to. I didn't agree with all his policies but I also didn't think he was going to run the country into the ground. A claim I simply could not make with the orange menace. This book compares and contrasts the highs of Obama with the multiple lows of Trump and it's honestly pretty chilling. I liked that Souza ends with a call to action imploring people to vote and talk to their congressmen (and women) if they want change.

Pretty good book but I'm not sure this is something I'd want to keep around, as reading it made me both bittersweet and sad.

3.5 to 4 out of 5 stars

The Rainbow Atlas: A Guide to the World’s 500 Most Colorful Places by Taylor Fuller

 

Vicarious travel? Yes, PLEASE. With COVID, I haven't been going anywhere, so I thought the idea of paging through colorful rainbow-filled places around the world sounded delightful. Especially since this book was one of the monthly deals on Kindle. I got this to page through and go "OOH!" but there were actually quite a few locations that I really, really want to see in person now, like the lavender fields of Provence, or the Tulip Festival in Canada, or the cheese museum in Dresden, Germany, that looks like a little palace. Also, I knew Singapore was clean and culturally diverse, but I had no idea how AESTHETIC it was. My god, the street art! The buildings! THE GREEN!

This was really fun to look at and I liked how it was a collab between a number of Instagrammers who all like posting colorful things on their travel-themed pages. There were like six of them, I think, and between them all they covered most of the globe. Love.

4 out of 5 stars

If I Disappear by Eliza Jane Brazier

 

I seriously don't understand why this book has such low ratings. I bought it on impulse when it went on sale because I was attracted to the premise and the gorgeous cover. The heroine, Sera, is a divorcee with a litany of psychological and emotional problems who finds solace in listening to the voice of her favorite podcaster, a woman named Rachel who has a channel called Murder, She Spoke, where she talks about crimes and mysteries, solved and unsolved, interspersing them with a seemingly feminist bent and commentary on her own life. When she goes missing, Rachel decides that she's going to find her, so she goes to where Rachel lives, a rural California town called Happy Camp, and even gets a job at Rachel's family's ranch.

IF I DISAPPEAR has so many of my favorite tropes. It has a troubled narrator who may or may not be unreliable. It has stalking, obsession, and secrets. It's set in a small town, and better yet: a California small town. I've been to ranching towns that were like this, so it was so easy to envision the setting in my mind. The claustrophobic setting, surrounded by woods, makes this book have a veil of paranoia that really mirrors the heroine's own emotional state. I'm surprised that so many reviewers claimed that this book was boring. It's slow-paced but I felt like the psychological uncertainty inside the heroine's own mind built a setting almost as compelling as the ranch.

EVERYONE in this book is so creepy. It's clear the people in the town know something. It's also clear that Rachel's family has some issues. There are the usual Gothic tropes, too-- missing woman, filthy and oddly run-down buildings, mysterious warnings, dead animals (trigger warning)-- so it felt like a really interesting, rural ranch throwback to some of those 1970s Gothic romances I loved so much. There's even a suspicious hot guy (with a Texan accent) who has some interesting tensions with the heroines. I wish more happened with that, but we don't always get everything we want.

Overall, I would say IF I DISAPPEAR is an excellent book. I'd read more by this author in a heartbeat. Psychological thrillers are so hard to do, especially when most of the horror takes place in the heroine's own mind, and I feel like she did an excellent job capturing how we, as human beings, "hype" up our own fear, taking seemingly innocent and unconnected phenomena and building it into a kind of conspiracy. As someone with anxiety, I do this, and I could see myself freaking out like the heroine did. It makes me really sad that more readers didn't seem to see and appreciate this, but I think if you approached this book looking for more straightforward thrills and chills, you'd be disappointed.

4 out of 5 stars

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Ancient Egypt: The Definitive Visual History by D.K. Publishing

 

As a kid, I had two-- okay, three-- great loves: virtual pets, dinosaurs, and Ancient Egypt. In fact, I still think all three of those things are pretty neat today. But I only have a book on one of them, so today I'll be talking about ANCIENT EGYPT: THE DEFINITIVE VISUAL HISTORY, which is a coffee table book about... Ancient Egypt.

The production of this book is really, really nice. It's museum gift shop nice. It retails for about what you would expect to see it retail for in a museum gift shop, too, but I actually think it's worth it if you're really interested in the subject. This book covers early, middle, and late kingdoms, as well as the Greco-Roman period, and there's full color illustrations of everything from jewelry to statuettes to the tombs themselves.

There's also a ton of information packed in here. I skimmed through it pretty quickly, but thought it was interesting how even though people liked cats in Egypt, most of them weren't named (although some ancient cat ladies and cat men gave shout-outs to their kitty friends in their tombs), and I don't think they started showing up in art until about the middle kingdom and also the word for cat was "miw" (which I think is pronounced mew, lol). I also thought it was interesting how silver was apparently harder to find than gold (and therefore more prized).

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!

4 out of 5 stars

Crap at My Parents' House by Joel Dovev

 

I got this book on impulse because the title made me laugh. When I was young, I was seeing this guy and I swear, his parents were the "whitest" white people I've ever met. They had an entire fridge in the garage just for diet Cokes, put Cool Whip and margarine and mayonnaise on everything, and every viable surface was covered with crochet and doilies. He had a senile grandmother who said the N-word to me at Thanksgiving (cringe), and at their Christmas party, there was chestnut-roasting and everyone wore matching sweaters. I thought I was white until I met this family and then I realized... well, I'm still white, but not the kind of white people make memes about.

This book is a celebration of that weird, vaguely Midwestern (but possibly Southern) breed of whiteness that macrames covers for toilet paper, has shot glasses with Hulk Hogan on them, and keeps fifty-year-old vials of Bengay in their medicine cabinet. It's tacky, but endearingly so, and the captions are utterly HILARIOUS. I think the author did such a good job pointing out things that were problematic (racist statues and figurines), gently mocking poor taste, making clever and genuinely witty puns, and just in general celebrating the weirdness. In one of my reviews of a similar "found/submitted" book of content, I said that a lot of these don't hold up because the dated humor ages poorly and ends up being really, really offensive in hindsight, but this book is really well done. It's just funny.

I'd recommend this to anyone who likes going thrifting and laughing at tacky decor, or enjoys having a quiet chuckle at things done in poor taste. It's not a mean-spirited book at all and this is one of the rare examples of a book where the captions are basically as funny as the photos. So much fun.

4.5 out of 5 stars