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review 2017-06-18 21:57
A Small Revolution
A Small Revolution - Jimin Han A Small Revolution - Jimin Han

This is a pleasant surprise. It's a Kindle First book I got a few months ago, along with the audio upgrade, that had so much more to it than I expected. At it's core the story is about four college girls who are held captive by a guy with a gun for reasons that blur between the personal and the political. But this isn't about some rejected college student who wants to take out his anger by showing power, it's more of a hostages make people listen situation.

Yoona is the protagonist and I loved the way she tells the story to Jaesung. It's not done in a way that makes it sound like she is relaying it to him later and that everything is fine. She talks to him as if he is her conscience. Jaesung is another character who is not in the room with them but he is still a part of it. You know from the beginning that Jaesung has something to do with why Lloyd, the gunman, has these girls in this room at gunpoint.

I appreciated Yoona, Jaesung, and Lloyd as characters, as would-be or possible revolutionaries. I loved the niavete they possess and the way each works through that in their own way and the way the interference, or not, of parents rang true to life for me. Some are very involved, others not so much or not at all. I couldn't help but feel for Yoona, not just in that room but as other events became known. Then there's Lloyd's unraveling, what brought him to the place, what motivates his conversations with the negotiator and I loved the negotiator. Much of the book isn't even about the room they are in but the way they all came to be there and these are the scenes that surprised me most.

I enjoyed the story embodied a part of American life by being about people who were the first or second generation to be born in the US, by being about people who still have ties to the land of their parents. I appreciated it as a story about Korean-Americans, which I feel is a group we don't hear much about, but also about Korea and a dorm room in the US. The story elements fit together beautifully and the only thing I would wish to change about it was a little more denouement.

Also, I really love this cover. Its perfectly captures the feel and tone of the story without giving anything away. Every time I see the cover since finishing the book, I get a little wistful about the story and all the characters and everything they wanted to do and everything they wanted to fix about the world.

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review 2017-03-25 22:23
Princeless Volume 2
Princeless Volume 2 #1 (Princeless Volume 2: 1) - Jeremy Whitley,Emily Martin
Princeless Volume 2 #2 - Jeremy Whitley,... Princeless Volume 2 #2 - Jeremy Whitley,Emily Martin
Princeless Volume 2 #3 - Jeremy Whitley,... Princeless Volume 2 #3 - Jeremy Whitley,Emily Martin
Princeless Volume 2 #4 - Jeremy Whitley,Emily Martin

I fell in love with this series back in December when I read Volume 1, Save Yourself, and had been looking forward to this volume ever since. It did not disappoint. I loved the title for this one and the way it plays into the plot.

First of all, I totally love the theme of the series in general. We have a WOC protagonist who has decided that she has had enough with the status quo and the waiting around and takes matters into her own hands. She even uses the dragon that guarded her castle in place of a mighty stead. I mean, how could I not love it?

So here we catch up with Adrienne and Bedelia, who is her personal blacksmith and sidekick. They are going to save Angelica! Or are they? Is Adrienne the only one to take matters into her own hands? Does Angelica even want saving? Adrienne has many sisters and while it should be easy to expect that they all be different from each other and nuanced and have different points of view, I also know that expectations like that usually end in disappointment.

Not this time. Whitley has created this amazing world for us and gives us sisters who neither think the same nor act the same. The outlooks that Angelica and Adrienne have on their like situations are not at all the same and serve to manifest very different outcomes for themselves and those who come to find them.

Personally, I loved Angelica. I loved getting another view on the subject of being so admired. I loved that the writers decided to just jump right into the alternative point of view and that none of it went in the direction that I expected. I also loved the rest of the family situation and the foreshadowing of the mysterious Black Knight that I have my suspicions about.

As before, the art is wonderful. The way that Angelica is obviously a little older and is more beautiful and even a little sexy without being overdone or exposing anything was impressive. The rest of the art is fun and colorful and keep it obvious that it's an all ages comic. If you haven't jumped in on this series, I suggest you do. I've already started the third volume and plan to post it soon!

 

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review 2017-03-25 22:19
Opting Out
Opting Out?: Why Women Really Quit Careers and Head Home - Pamela Stone

I was intrigued with the premise of this work right from the beginning. Well put together and deeply researched, this book goes beyond the simple explanations to get down to the how and why of it all.

I have always hated the term "opting out" and I'm really starting to understand why. I feel like it misunderstands the choice. Opting out makes it sound like women are choosing to disengage from the greater of two goals, when I never believed that to be the case. This book gets into that part of it and even helped me put some better language to my own feelings about it.  

It begins by presenting the reason for the study and then spending some time detailing the reasons why this specific set of women were chosen to be studied for this. Stone exclusively studies married, highly educated, well off, and high achieving white women because they are, theoretically, the women with the least amount of barriers to success in the workplace. None are "opting out" for those reasons we attribute to those who are less off, which are typically attributed to child care costs.

Stone details several reasons why women are not staying at the same workplace they had their kids at and why some appear to be leaving altogether, even when some aren't. They do freelance work or volunteer locally at a professional level. 

The book makes the case that the women are more likely being pushed out of the workplace by policies that make it impossible to be good at mothering or that don't allow women to have a good relationship with their children and then are given permission to give up on their original careers by husbands who aren't under the same pressures to be available for their children and their boss in the same way and at the same time. Mothers and fathers are not looked at in the same light by employers or society at large, so fathers are not typically subject to the double bind that pushes these women out. I thought it was an interesting touch to see their husbands, most of which were similarly qualified at the beginning of their marriages, as a control group. 

The other issues that are discussed in this book alongside the why's and how's are that it's presented as a choice for women to work and therefore a privilege for women to not work. It discusses how it's seen by the women making this choice as an act of feminism rather than a defiance of it. There is also a discussion on identity and whether it is career or parenthood that identifies a person and how these women handle that question too.

Altogether, I found the book interesting and enlightening. It isn't entirely new information for me, but that's mostly on account of countless conversations with women who were also in the double bind and figuring out what to do. It didn't sound like a lot of these women had female peers to talk to about it but I have had plenty of these conversations with women who make significantly less but who are debating whether to continue difficult career paths and several with my husband as we discussed what to do when we were expecting our son. We had the same "one of us will be home with the kids" idea that some of the women in the book had, but ours came to a different conclusion. I was making more, but more important to our decision, I was under a contract that would have been near impossible to get out of. By the time my contract was over, my husband had been home with our son a few years and it would have been ludicrous to try to switch given other life situations.

This is a great book for anyone interested in researching women and the workplace, or simply interested in why women still leave the workplace for family while men still don't do it much. The end gives prescriptions for how workplaces can entice women to stay and reasons it would be good business for them to do so, but even the author has little hope of this happening any time soon.

Its pre-Lean In Movement, in fact, it's referenced in the Lean In book, which was where I first heard about it. It was only used as a reference to the way that women give deference to husband's careers, thus ensuring that husband's will be in better positions to be the one who stays at work after kids are born, but still an important part of the point that Sandberg strives to make as well. Coincidentally, this better position would also give husband's a better standing to bargain from in order to get more time or accomodations for kids, but that's not a typical expectation for them. We still tend to see male careers as important and female careers as options. Workplaces and society both do this and so women's careers suffer, even when the women are committed to them, even when the women don't have the option to opt out. Change needs to happen, but first we need to understand how our problems are created. This book digs in and looks at this one.

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review 2017-03-25 22:10
Girl Rising
Girl Rising: Changing the World One Girl... Girl Rising: Changing the World One Girl at a Time - Tanya Lee Stone

This is an incredibly informative book on an important issue all over the world. It's a quick read for anyone interested in brushing up on the subject and getting involved.

Most of the information wasn't new for me as it was also mostly covered in Half the Sky, but it was sorted and presented differently. First of all, this is based on a documentary, so the author knew that much of the information had been presented before. She chose to focus on some of the finer details of the situation rather than the overarching themes of why girls aren't getting educated. She starts with the stories of the individual girls seen in the documentary and then widened the view to show that their situations are representative of the issue in their country or region.

The other benefit that this book has over Half the Sky is that it is predominantly uplifting. Each of the girls mentioned and who the reader gets to know has found a way to school and is flourishing. The author mentions that they are the lucky ones, and that more needs to be done, but she doesn't leave the reader with the feeling that it's too big to hope for there ever being a resolution. That may seem a little less realistic to some or like there is false hope, but it depends on the reader.

The book is clearly targeted at a younger reader and as a started into the issue, so she's probably banking on the reader not having read anything like Half the Sky  yet. As a starter into the issue and a book that focused on education alone (the other one has a whole host of women's issues that it discusses), it's fanstastic. It introduces the problem well, it gives the reader someone to relate to in order to inspire the reader to help with the problem and then it even gives possible ways for any reader to help with the problem. I wouldn't recommend it to someone already familiar with this issue only because it would be redundant. On the other hand, it'd be the first book I mentioned to someone asking about the importance of educating girls worldwide alonside their brothers, especially if that person has a tendency to want to help with things they are informed about.

The ways to help aren't perfect and are centered around the reader being a youth or student. They aren't necessarily fit for everyone, but they are options to get one thinking about what can be done. They are small steps to take in that direction.

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review 2017-01-11 15:43
Burger's Daughter
Burger's Daughter - Nadine Gordimer

My first book finished for the year is for my personal Reading Nobel Women challenge. This was my choice for Nadine Gordimer who is a recipient for Literature, so I read one of her novels.

It has taken me a while to attempt to process how I feel about this book. It was difficult to get through because of the nature of the book. For starters, I know relatively little of what was going on in South Africa during apartheid and the anti-apartheid movements. I got the glossed over and sugar-coated versions in school. I knew of Nelson Mandela, even back in school, and what he was known for, but I couldn't grasp it. It was real in that I knew it to be nonfiction but it didn't really exist in my mind. As an American, so far away from South African, I just didn't get it.

While I will never understand the full impact of everything involved with apartheid, getting rid of it and getting past it, reading this book began to paint a picture I wasn't familiar with. I was lost for most of the beginning because the topic was so for it's time and place and they were still in the thick of it that I don't think it occurred to the author that it might be necessary one day. Still, I wish there was some sort of forward that was added for modern readers who aren't as familiar with the time that the story begins.

Another confusing thing in the beginning was the way it switched from the third person to the first person in some chapters, with the first person being Rosa's internal monologue talking to different people. It was mostly an old lover in the beginning but some others are added at the end.

The story itself isn't about apartheid or ending it, so much as this girl trying to live in that time and with her own heritage. Rosa is the daughter of a prominent white Communist who actively advocated for apartheid to end and for the Africans to be complete citizens in their own country. He is believed to be based on Bram Fischer. What makes the book magical in its own way isn't so much the story itself but all the little observations of Rosa when she is in the first person. She occupies a strange place in the history of South Africa where she sees things about the status of the places that other's within the story don't see.

More importantly, it's the way Gordimer says things, whether it is the way Rosa sees things or the arguments of people around her. Here is a piece of a conversation that I just don't really know what to do with:

It’s not peace at any price, it’s peace for each at his price. White liberalism will sacrifice the long odds on attaining social justice and settle for letting blacks into the exploiting class. The ‘enlightened’ government crowd will sacrifice the long odds on maintaining complete white supremacy and settle for propping up a black middle class whose class interests run counter to a black revolution.

It's just one piece of a larger conversation about whether or not the black who were invited to box with the whites at the Olympics and what it means for everyone. Is it progress that they are being invited? Is it a stall tactic for the whites who are in power to not have a full on revolution? And then what does it all mean when you take a second and look back on your own country's history? It sent me in circles for days thinking about how things work in the US and whether or not this person was on to something and what it would mean for everyone if it really worked this way. Passages like this happened several times in the book.

Rosa was a great character, not necessarily because she is likable but because she isn't always likable. A character shouldn't always have to be likable. Sometimes they are going to do disagreeable things, just as people do, if they are to be true to life characters. Her world and her problems were interesting and foreign to me and it was completely understandable to me for her to feel every way she felt, even when it resulted in her doing things I didn't think were a good idea.

The most relatable thing about the book, especially right now with the way so many people are feeling in the wake of the US's own recent political upheaval, was the way Rosa doesn't like her lot in life as one the "named" from birth. She has no chance for a normal life because of who her parents were but she also doesn't appear to want what a normal white girl there were have because of how her parents raised her. She spends most of the book in a place of hopelessness about how apartheid will never end. I can imagine that given the time it took, many people felt that way.

Altogether, it was a great book to read, it just wasn't fun or enjoyable. It was thought-provoking, it was difficult, it was heart-breaking, it rocked my world every few chapters, and it was a touch inspirational here and there. That said, it's not for everyone but anyone interested in world history should give it a try. Or anyone else interested in Reading all the Nobel Women, which I totally recommend because they are incredible women.

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