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review 2018-02-09 15:03
You're not gonna love 'em all
The Unreal and the Real: Selected Stories, Volume One: Where on Earth - Ursula K. Le Guin

I'm going to come straight out and say that I think this book was too cerebral, abstract, and "out there" for me. Ursula K. Le Guin is a well-known name in writing circles and she is touted for her sci-fi/fantasy prowess. Surprisingly, I had never read anything by her and so I set out to remedy that by picking up a short story collection entitled The Unreal and the Real: Selected Stories, Volume One: Where on Earth. I should have been wary after that convoluted title but I went in ready to be absolutely knocked off of my feet. Alas, alack! While this selection was categorized as sci-fi only one of the stories even vaguely felt like it was in that genre. If I'm completely honest I don't remember a single one of the stories and even when compiling my notes directly after reading it I felt the same. After completing each story, I would realize that I wasn't entirely sure I grasped the meaning much less any hidden meaning in the words. (See why I felt it was too cerebral for me?) I struggled to finish this book even when there were less than 50 pages remaining and I have absolutely no interest in seeking out her work in the future. I feel as if I'm some kind of a fraud because so many people herald her as a sci-fi/fantasy staple and...I just don't get it. ¯_(ツ)_/¯ Ah well! 0/10


What's Up Next: The People's Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited by Louisa Lim


What I'm Currently (Re)Reading: The Neverending Story by Michael Ende


Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2018-02-07 16:01
A moving memoir.
Real American: A Memoir - Julie Lythcott... Real American: A Memoir - Julie Lythcott-Haims

Don't remember what it was that brought me to Lythcott-Haims's book but it seemed like a memoir would be a good read. The author recalls growing up and navigating what it's like as a child of a African-American father and a white British mother and finding a place to belong. Along the way she discusses race, racism, and how that affected her and eventually her family and children.


It's really moving. I thought it would be a straightforward memoir (and it is) but also not quite. There are chapters that range from several pages to sometimes just a few lines. This can be a risky approach but it works for  Lythcott-Haims. Sometimes it can seem detached, remote, etc. But I found I appreciated that instead of all the details and belaboring the point.


I appreciated this since she covers blatant racism to having the N-word (or a close, deliberate misspelling) scrawled across her locker on her birthday to microaggressions of people touching her hair, implying she doesn't belong in X place, that she only got to X place because she's black and/or a woman, etc. Plus there's the added detail of her mother being white and father being black (plus  Lythcott-Haims herself marrying and having two children with a white man) which is also part of the conversation and how she navigated various spaces (Stanford, law firms, on vacation with her family, dealing with neighbors, etc.).


I'm glad I read it and would recommend it for Black History Month or if you need a memoir or want to read about her experiences. Borrowed from the library but I wouldn't have minded purchasing this either. 

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review 2018-02-03 23:40
Wherein Ella Progressively Loses Her $hit
We are Never Meeting in Real Life. - Samantha Irby

Samantha Irby starts this one with a bang. Last night I was forced into the world to go grab another keyboard (even though I'd already ordered one that would arrive sometime this morning.) I was in my PJs, settling in for a night of reheated pizza, catching up on my book reviews, reading and early sleep, when I realized I could no longer type spaces. So I threw on some black work boots, grabbed the audio-sync for this one and ran out the door. I was only going one place: keyboard & home! Except it took me twice as long as it should have because of Samantha Irby's first chapter, "My Bachelorette Application."


I should stop here to tell you I've never been to Samantha Irby's blog, never heard of her before a crazed cat started showing up in my recommendations everywhere, never read anything from her before last night. But I have now seen the light. Read on.


Lord, she had me rolling in the car. I was laughing so hard tears streamed down my face and I started to choke. I sat in the car howling like a loon outside of the store in 10 degree (or some godforsaken) weather. I don't know how anyone could find that chapter in particular not funny. I devised a new movement to push Chicago closer to Baltimore so Irby and I could be neighbors and neither of us have to get dressed or leave our apartments.


Since I was creating new maps, I also devised a "need" to stop at both Starbucks and Walgreens, with driving between the two, so I could listen more, and I sat outside of Starbucks ordering a coffee from my phone so I wouldn't miss anything.


She's SO right about, well, everything in that chapter. She's honest but not bogged down with ego issues that make her pretend to be anything less than a fiercely smart woman. As we would have said when I was a kid, "there's no shame in her game," and man, I needed to laugh like that. I don't want to quote because I'd end up quoting half the book. But do yourself a favor and if you can, listen to at least that first chapter.


She wants "someone who will leave her alone for extended periods of time" in a relationship. I concur. She "pretends to be interested" in lots of things, like "world issues" and "social justice" but really she just wants to watch TV and stay inside. She also has a perspective on why The Bachelorette is basically a radical feminist show (my words, not hers - she's funny.) She convinced me. I've never watched it, but I may need to. Especially since once Chicago moves closer, she apparently will watch Shark Tank with me!


I may be predisposed to love this book because I, too, am a wild child who was not raised by my parents or wolves. I too prefer saying inside. I too “shot a rod” through the engine of my car once because I had no idea oil changes were “a thing.” I too have bad credit because I thought it would be smart to simply ignore checking accounts once they ran out of money. I too think marriage and parenting are hard, expensive and notice that all my friends/family who have done that look irritated and exhausted all the time. I too am pretty sure I’d kill any PTA mom if forced to deal with her and her nut allergies these days. I, too, have given up on pleasing others and I’m increasingly happy with that decision. I have always said that if I’d ever had kids, I would have left them somewhere with my keys long ago anyway.


I did question some things about the book. I don't believe Fred (Chapter 2) really had curtains. That's just unrealistic to a point where, unless he's gay and a decorator, I don't buy it. I'm a 50-something woman and *I* don't have curtains. (Blinds rock, and you don't have to wash them.) That's really the only thing that sounded too outlandish for me to believe in this whole adventure through Sam Irby's head. (I can call her Sam. We're practically sisters now. I might be stalking her on Goodreads, or not.)


OK, so seriously, it’s not all fun and games. There’s a tonal shift that doesn’t really work once she gets further into the book. She contradicts herself. She chastises people for their attitudes toward their own pets, then she does something pretty unthinkable. And this is where the tone doesn’t work. I couldn’t decide if she was being honest or just sticking to the heartless bitch character study when she isn’t crushed by putting her old sick cat “Helen Keller” down. I’ve had to put my “feline-children” down before, and the idea of walking out really turns me off. I’m as misanthropic as this writer, but this was her “cat-child” (her words this time) not a person, and I just don’t get it. I honestly don’t know if she’s doing comedy here or being honest. Once I started thinking about that, I wondered about the rest of the book and my review, but I gave up trying to figure it out. I’m just typing on my new keyboard...


Leaving that aside, it would be nigh impossible to stay as hilarious as the beginning without killing your readers, and it has some low points or things that just didn't work for me.


I would guess that the further you get from city-dwelling, worldly, different-from-the-majority, and skeptical curmudgeon or the closer you get to being worried about matching or what other people think, the less you will enjoy this. If you have a problem with cursing in any form by anyone, this is not the book for you. It's not gratuitous. There is a time and place for FUCK, but if one is even slightly uptight about those words, then the non-cursing parts might throw you for a huge loop.


One final but very serious thing: DO NOT READ THIS BOOK if you are easily grossed out or again, if you have a hard time with explicit clarity about bodies and words. I’m serious. I am going to blog hard about Amazon “reviews” someday, but before I do, I just need to note the undercurrent of racism in the Amazon “review” universe. Most of the people who hated this book didn’t like her use of “the English language” or found her subject matter objectionable or don’t like the cursing. Did they bother to read the blurb or ANY of the reviews? And how do you leave a nasty review about a book you didn’t read more than a few pages of?


This one really just takes the cake: I’m quoting from an Amazon 1-star review:


When I hear "funny book" I think David Sedaris, Adam Carolla, Augustan [sic] Burroughs. No. This was just sad, angry, low-rent and pointless. She says she hates men, hates to learn, dislikes society in general, and automatically assumes all republicans or suburbanites are racist jerks who hate gays, blacks, the poor, etc. (she's afraid of moving to the suburbs because she knows she'll be called the "n-word." Really???

She says sexual things that are less shocking than they are gross and creepy. (Example: She has no guilt that her white girlfriend must deal with her hairy, yeasty, crotch; it's payback for Obama not getting blacks reparations for slavery. Yeah. It's there. Page 135.)


OK, first of all, it’s “Augusten Burroughs,” bitch. Second, I’d bet my white and black parts on this reviewer being a white woman. Third, [she] names three white men -- all of whom I’ve enjoyed greatly through the years -- as her benchmark, then acts shocked by the tastelessness she finds in Irby’s book? Those three white males have written some of the most raunchy pages in my memory, including straight scatology. Is it because she’s a woman that she is somehow expected not to have bodily functions? Is it her black “urban” self that is unacceptable? Carolla in particular is just pure misogynist at times, Burroughs writes explicitly of sex acts -- homosexual sex at that. I really cannot get my head around this one. I’ve never jerked off into a sock, but I don’t judge those guys for their normal human behavior simply because my experience is different. I would never have trashed a book because I find that sort of gross. Of course I do -- I’ve got lady parts! Maybe a woman should try writing a jerk-off book and see how that plays?


This is a woman who has lived and continues to do so. She's not doing it anybody's way except her own, and she really couldn’t give a shit if you approve. God bless the chile for figuring it out earlier than I did. Though this had high and low points, I’ll be reading more from her in the future.


A Few Great Chapter titles:


  • You Don’t Have to be Grateful for Sex
  • A Case for Remaining Indoors
  • Fuck It, Bitch. Stay Fat.
  • I’m in Love and It’s Boring.
  • The Real Housewife of Kalamazoo
  • Thirteen Questions to Ask before Getting Married
  • Feelings Are A Mistake
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text 2018-02-01 21:11
Well, not all real people do
Like Real People Do - D. Heidi Barnes

Disclosure:  I downloaded the free sample of this Kindle book from Amazon.  I encountered the author in a Twitter thread but I do not know her nor have I ever communicated with her about this book or any other matter outside that Twitter exchange.  I am an author of historical romances and contemporary romantic suspense novels.


I have to say that the description of the book on Amazon wasn't exactly enticing.  I personally am turned off by misused semi-colons.



Putting aside the punctuation errors, I still wasn't enticed by this outline.  Guy who has everything except the woman of his dreams finally meets her but then might have to give up something to keep her.  Ooh, wow, isn't that a new, unique, never-before-used plot line!  Not.


And when this kind of ho-hum story comes from someone who has already voiced her disdain for the romance genre, well, my enthusiasm isn't exactly enhanced.


The book opens with a poem, which is fine.  It was kinda weird, and gave no real hint as to how it tied to the story, but again, that's fine.


The first chapter, however, utterly failed to pull me in.  By about the fourth or fifth sentence, I was already bored.


Now, let me back up a bit.  The cover was meh.  I can be grabbed by a super cover and ignore a whole lot of opening weaknesses if the cover gives me a fantastic sense that something fabulous is going to happen.  I'll wade through extra pages of blather just on the strength of a great cover.  This book didn't have a great cover to draw me in.


The description didn't hold much promise either, so the reading pump hasn't been primed.  I'm not excited about this book at that point.


The poem didn't do anything positive in terms of whetting my appetite for this book. It didn't promise any great drama or threat or adventure or passion that might have stirred my interest.  By the time I reached the first actual page of text, nothing had roped me in, but three things had kind of pushed me away.  That meant the opening was going to have to be pretty damn fantastic.


It wasn't.


The opening scene is of the hero, Chris, sitting in an airplane and waiting to take off. The two-page-long first paragraph is little more than an expansion of the listing description.  The oh woe is me, I have everything in life except the one thing I want, and I wish I had a drink.  All telling, no showing, and no drama or tension.  I think the first five sentences began with "He," so there wasn't even the distraction of great writing.


Very shortly thereafter, before the plane has even taken off, the heroine, who is seated next to Chris, touches his arm and asks if he's okay.  He pretty much falls in love with her right then.


Punctuation errors stopped me again.


"My name is Jenna, by the way. Jenna Lindsay," she extended her hand to shake his, but he took her hand and pressed his lips to it, never taking his eyes off hers.

Barnes, D. H. (2017-02-18T22:58:59). Like Real People Do (Kindle Locations 70-71). D H Barnes. Kindle Edition.


". . .[E]xtended her hand" isn't a speech tag.  There should be a period and closed quotation marks after "Lindsay," followed by a capital S for "She" at the beginning of the action sentence.  Does this matter?  It does to me.  If you're a reader who doesn't mind this sort of thing, that's fine.  For me, however, I'm now wondering just exactly how strong are the author's writing mechanics, because those are the tools she has to use to tell her story, to build drama and tension, to pull the reader into the world of the novel.


Again, it may not matter to you.


Several pages in the small talk begins, and I've lost interest. He's English; she's from North Dakota but headed to Houston.  She's a waitress.  Flying first class from London to Houston. Yeah, right.  My eyes are starting to roll.


Then the focus shifts to Chris's physical description, and my eyes are rolling even more.  He's on the short side, slim of build, with brown eyes and curly brown hair, and an under-sized penis.


Rationally, he was aware that his dick was probably about average in size, and all the better that he was slight of build, pornography was just too all pervasive these days. And he'd seen too many too much bigger. He also had a few experiences with women who had ridiculed him and it had become an insecurity that he just couldn't shake.

Barnes, D. H. (2017-02-18T22:58:59). Like Real People Do (Kindle Locations 114-117). D H Barnes. Kindle Edition.


Chapter Two opens with another two-page long paragraph of telling, not showing, and I gave up.  Life is too short.



P.S.  I have a few other suspicions about this book and author, but I'll save them for later.

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text 2018-02-01 18:07
Completely messed up book entry
Like Real People Do - D. Heidi Barnes

I have already spent half an hour trying to get this book entry fixed.  I've run out of patience.

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