I wasn't exactly planning to read this book. I hadn't heard about it previously nor do I remember seeing it on any blogs. I was searching for some othI wasn't exactly planning to read this book. I hadn't heard about it previously nor do I remember seeing it on any blogs. I was searching for some other book when this one showed up in the search results. The title sounded interesting and when I read the description, I was more than eager to read it. Who doesn't like to read essays? -- Especially, when they are about topics that you can relate to.
Now is probably a good time as any to talk about something I have been doing lately. No, this has nothing to do with parenting or this particular book I'm reviewing, but everything to do with how this book even got to be read. Like most of you, I have a huge TBR - at home on my bookshelves, on my Kindle, and also on a virtual bookshelf on Goodreads. There is no way I am going to read all those books, and that's fine. That doesn't really bother me. What bothers me is that there are all these books listed somewhere (physically and virtually), knowing fully well that I won't be reading a good portion of them. In a typical reading year, only a small percent of books read are from any of those shelves. I shelve far too many new books, at a rate faster than I can read them. So what then is the point of all this shelving? This is when I decided to change my system a bit to reflect what I actually do. I generally prefer picking a random book to read, and almost always, I avoid picking a book from any of my lists. So, why not just empty my virtual TBRs and only keep the core books that I definitely want to read. This will likely be a small number and I can now guiltlessly read any book I come across. That's why, when I saw this book, I started reading it immediately - not caring much about reviews or ratings or looking at my big TBR stack with trepidation.
(Yes, I realize I am doing the opposite of what I should be doing. I should be reading only from these shelves, ignoring all the random books that line up in front of me. Sadly, that option doesn't appeal to me at all. I would rather whittle down my TBR shelves to the books I want to keep and then allow myself to discover random books for my reading pleasure.)
So, now this book. Sleep is for the Weak is essentially a collection of parenting essays written by some very popular writers and bloggers. I will admit to not knowing about any of these writers or their blogs. Their essays covered a huge spectrum of parenting - there are essays about how kids rule the house (even if parents like to believe that they are in charge), how having a baby has changed so many of them, and how even though you love your kid, you do think that they suck sometimes. As is typical with books like these, some essays are very short and some are long. But all are what I would consider blog post-length. I enjoyed all the essays but there are a few I loved the most.
Happy Freakin' New Year by Risa Green on Mommy Track'd: This is the post that inspired my blog post about living life the way my future self would want me to. Risa Green planned to adopt that as her New Year resolution (I don't know how that went though) and I loved the essay and the thought behind it so much that I wanted to live my life that way. Especially, in light of all the suffering around me lately.
More Bell Ringing, Less Crappy Treatment by Sheryl Naimark on Paper Napkin: This essay about how important it is to respect kids if you wish to teach them essential lessons the right way struck a chord within me. Most people I know from my generation and older got whipped as kids. This happens less often nowadays (phew!) but I have been part of many conversations where folks have defended being hit or hitting their kids saying everyone turned out fine. I have so many issues with that line of thinking. Yes, some kids do grow up damaged from being hit as kids but most probably don't. The danger is in their self-esteem levels, their confidence in meeting the world, their decision-making skills, and their socio-economic maturity levels. Plus, there is a higher chance that these kids will do the same when it is their turn to parent. I have no idea what kind of parent I will be but I hope I never use canes as disciplinary tools.
Be Careful What You Wish For by Susan Wagner: Susan's son has a very high IQ. His numbers are often off the charts and she mentions how this is something most parents want their kids to have. But she talks about the downsides - how her kid cannot understand emotions, how it is unfathomable to him that different people have different interests, and how he is often throwing tantrums because his mind is so logical that it cannot understand the complex emotional framework that this world is built on. She cautions that it is best to have a healthy baby than a smart one. While I agree with her, I think this is cultural as well. In some cultures, smart kids are preferred, emotional problems be damned, and to change this line of thinking, the parents need to change their attitudes.
Corn on the Cam by Birdie Jaworski: This is probably my favorite essay from this book. I loved it so much that I made the husband read it as well. This is a hilarious account of a road trip to Vegas that Birdie did with her two kids. They were planning to take PB&J for the road but the older kid suggested using the "car cookbook" (a cookbook that they bought at a yard sale) to make their meals. This involved wrapping up their meals in tin foil and placing them in the hottest part of the car's engine. (The sheer ingenuity of it! Now I need to try it too.) So, the kid planned all their meals and watched the odometer to make sure they pick up their meals after driving a certain number of miles. Other than this clever way of making food, they also learn a ton of other things on their journey. I think most of all, I love Birdie for putting this kid in charge of the meals, despite it involving opening the bonnet too many times and encountering many samaritans coming over to help.
Becoming Mama by Karen at The Naked Ovary: The lone story in the book about adoption. Also one of the most heartwarming. When Shreya was born, it took me a few days to actually bond with her. Initially I was terrified to be holding an infant but slowly I began to connect with her. For me, it was breastfeeding that did it. The husband needed a longer time but eventually he did bond as well. But when you adopt a baby, how long will it take? Movies like to show this connection to be an immediate thing but in reality it is not. In this essay, Karen talked about how it was for her. She worked on getting the baby to connect with her but she didn't know how long it was going to be for her to actually connect. When is she going to feel like a mother?...more
When it comes to graphic novels or memoirs, I rarely ever read the back of the book or try to find out what the book is about. I am usually done withWhen it comes to graphic novels or memoirs, I rarely ever read the back of the book or try to find out what the book is about. I am usually done with a graphic book within half an hour, and those 30 minutes either got wasted on a dud or spent with the most amazing comic book. Usually, it's the latter. If it's turning out to be the former, I tend to bail out very early.
I am also usually indiscriminate with graphic books. As long as they are not part of a series or are not from the manga category, they find their way to my hands. However, when it came to Blue is the Warmest Color, I found myself ignoring that book. The cover art, as gorgeous as it is, didn't fascinate me for some reason. Plus, it kinda looked manga-ish to me. I know that's a stretch but who knows what the my brain sees when it looks at a picture. It was only after coming across a few articles / reviews recommending this book that I decided to give it a try.
The 30 minutes I spent with this book turned out to be time very well-spent.
Blue is the Warmest Color is Clementine's coming out story and subsequent aftermath. Clem realizes that she likes girls when she sees Emma while crossing the road. Punkish and confident, Emma's blue hair stands out in any crowd. Very soon, they start an electric and wild relationship, which is however secret, because Emma already has a girlfriend while Clementine doesn't yet want the world to know that she is a lesbian. The facts however have a way of making themselves known and this seems to be bringing about an end to their relationship.
The first word that came to mind after I read this book is "beautiful". That's how I would describe the artwork, the characters, and the story. There is much to love here. Emma's confidence and Clem's shyness ooze out of the book. Their love itself was wonderful to be lost in. Both girls are dealing with issues. Emma doesn't want to deal with rejection and not publicly acknowledging her love for Clem is her way of keeping the status quo. Clem is horrified by the reactions of her "friends" when they learn that she is gay, but this is just the beginning of her problems. Her parents are so anti-gay that it freaks her out.
When the book begins, we already know that Clem is dead. The rest of the book is about how the two met and parted. As beautiful as this couple was, I did want to learn more about some of the auxiliary characters, such as Clem's parents and Emma's girlfriend. Their actions did much to sway the story in certain directions but not knowing much about the motivation behind what they did reduced their importance somewhat. They felt like pawns to me. I was also not a fan of the hasty ending, which reminded me of one too many melodramatic movies.
I later learned that there is a movie based on this book and that the movie has been getting very rave reviews. I am not so sure I want to watch the movie, unless one of you can convince me otherwise. The book itself is very explicit and sexual in graphics, after all it a love story. The graphics are beautiful however - no matter what they are depicting. The font, the characters, the sketches - all contributed to the eye candy factor of the book....more
By now, everyone must have heard about this book, if not actually read it. This book had a long waiting list and I wasn't initially keen on reading itBy now, everyone must have heard about this book, if not actually read it. This book had a long waiting list and I wasn't initially keen on reading it. But there are only so many conversations you can join without saying you didn't read this book. Besides, over time, I began to get curious about the plot.
The Girl on the Train was okay. Not great, and when I finally closed the book, I thought the plot was very silly and fabricated. Although I somewhat enjoyed the ride through the book, looking at the full picture once I finished the book didn't make me very happy.
The Girl on the Train is the story of two women. Rachel, the titular character, has been divorced for a few years but she is yet to move on. She has been an alcoholic even before she got divorced and oftentimes she forgets what she has been up to whenever she is drunk. Every morning, she takes the morning train to Euston and returns home by the evening train. During these train journeys, she obsesses over the residents of a certain house, whom she has named Jason and Jess. One day, she sees Jess doing something out of the ordinary but before she has time to dwell too much on that incident, Jess goes missing.
Megan has brought a lot of emotional baggage to her marriage with Scott - death of a family member, family estrangement, lots of past lovers, a shady past, and a horrible tragedy. She starts seeing a psychiatrist to help get over her anxiety attacks but things are not as they seem on the surface.
I wasn't a fan of this book going in. The first quarter of the book, which focused on building Rachel's character, lagged heavily. I wasn't intrigued by the writing either and considered abandoning the book. But once one of the characters went missing, the pace stepped up. The second half of the book was certainly more thrilling but the way everything was wrapped up felt too flimsy and lazy.
I certainly felt very sorry for Rachel, but it bugged me that she was painted as a very sorry character. She was yet to recover from her divorce - she would constantly pry into her ex-husband's life, visiting his house where he stayed with his current wife and daughter. She drank too much, didn't have much of a career, and made consistently poor decisions. Plus, I couldn't get why she had to be so obsessed with that couple. I didn't care much for Megan for a long time, until her tragedy was revealed. That put her whole story under a new light. There is a third woman who shares pages with the other two, in this book. Anna, Rachel's ex-husband's wife, is terrified of Rachel, who can be quite a spectacle when drunk.
Ultimately, I was disappointed with this one, but I was expecting that based on some of the reviews I have read. I'm not even sure if I am happy that I finally read it. Goes to show that reading something because it is hyped doesn't necessarily make you feel like reading it was time well-spent....more
Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In was released at a time when memoirs and self-help books by famous people were quite the rage. That in itself turned me awaySheryl Sandberg's Lean In was released at a time when memoirs and self-help books by famous people were quite the rage. That in itself turned me away from this book. Plus, the fact that it was seemed to be catered more towards a woman reader rather than any reader but with an emphasis on women topics made me not want to read it. I prefer to read a feminist book that I can recommend to a male reader as well - there is no way only one half of the world can fix the problems that ail that same half.
Last month, however, I went through an increased interest in feminist matters, bordering on obsession. At that point, Lean In came into my radar again. This time, I was keen to read it (interesting how your perceptive or general mood can influence your approach to a book). It was also interesting that this book was the June pick at my library's book club, so copies were limited, but they had one last copy available and I lucked out.
Let me say at the outset that I loved this book and totally related to it. One comment I read in many reviews of this book was that readers were having a tough time relating to this book because Sandberg writes Lean In from the perspective of someone working in a corporate industry, and after reading this book, I could understand that comment. Lean In is definitely very tailored to the corporate business woman and while I will only cautiously recommend this to someone who doesn't work in a company with the corporate ladder structure (with raises, promotions, managers, employees, or projects to manage), there are several valuable tips peppered throughout this book, so eventually anyone would benefit from reading it, men and women alike.
The book reads mostly as an essay collection. Sandberg focuses on a different topic or problem in each essay and I would be hard-pressed to choose a favorite. Her essays are certainly very personal and she talks about how gender had come in the way of many her actions and decisions. I loved that she inserted herself into many of the essays and not just tried to narrate how other women were doing it wrong. Personally, I have let gender interfere with many of my decisions as well and not been aware that I was doing that. Reading Lean In helped me identify them.
Sandberg talks a lot about how women have culturally and historically held themselves back - girls grow up believing that there are some things they cannot or are not allowed to do. She doesn't quite have a solution to that problem - it would require a more universal solution. But she does suggest how women can get out of its influence. She also talks about childbirth and maternity leave, and how a woman's pregnancy or plan to start a family can often derail her career, how because of a fear of that happening, many women tend to think that they always have to choose between career and family.
I loved Sandberg's honest take on many topics that affect women who work in any kind of environment - sexism and bias are very much a reality in many workplaces. It sure helps to know their signs and know that no one needs to take all that crap. It also helps to know that sometimes a woman can encourage all that crap by not speaking out (of course, that is no reason for anyone to be sexist). If you work (or plan to work) in a job that is very male-dominated or follows a corporate ladder environment, this book is definitely a must-read....more
My memories of Agatha Christie books aren't very fond. Nor of Sherlock Holmes, for that matter. Much as I appreciate and respect their super smart andMy memories of Agatha Christie books aren't very fond. Nor of Sherlock Holmes, for that matter. Much as I appreciate and respect their super smart and observant detectives, it does me little good to never be able to solve a mystery. And that's what I always feel like after reading either Christie's mysteries or the Sherlock Holmes books. Either the perpetrator is the person who was barely anywhere in the book and therefore feels like the least logical choice, or the crime itself is way too far-fetched. But most of the time, the mystery itself feels unsolvable and that's when the crime solver comes along to point out all the hints that the reader missed and then solve the crime.
Thanks, that made me feel so good! #sarcasm.
And so, I have never wanted to read any Agatha Christie books, even though she is revered heavily in the book industry. I may be selfish but I do like to solve a mystery before the detective does. But, And Then There Were None refused to step away from my radar. I may have come across references to this book twice or thrice this year alone. This book is based on the premise that if there are ten people in a room and one of them is murdered, then the murderer has to be someone in the room. (Of course, that's not necessarily true - the murderer could have slipped a little something into a drink and then left the room, but if more people in the room are being murdered in a variety of different ways, then the murderer HAS to be someone in the room).
And Then There Were None also happens to be an old nursery rhyme:
Ten little soldier boys went out to dine; One choked his little self and then there were Nine.
Nine little soldier boys sat up very late; One overslept himself and then there were Eight.
Eight little soldier boys travelling in Devon; One said he’d stay there and then there were Seven.
Seven little soldier boys chopping up sticks; One chopped himself in halves and then there were Six.
Six little soldier boys playing with a hive; A bumble bee stung one and then there were Five.
Five little soldier boys going in for law; One got into chancery and then there were Four.
Four little soldier boys going out to sea; A red herring swallowed one and then there were Three.
Three little soldier boys walking in the Zoo; A big bear hugged one and then there were Two.
Two little soldier boys sitting in the sun; One got frizzled up and then there was One.
One little soldier boy left all alone; He went and hanged himself
And then there were None.
Ten people who appear to have committed murders are invited to a remote island, where they listen to a recording of their crimes, shortly followed by the murder of one person. Soon, more of them start dying in mysterious ways and the remaining folks try to determine who the killer is. I certainly enjoyed this one more than I expected to - it was exactly the sort of edge-of-the-seat thriller that I enjoy, but when all is revealed, the story does feel implausible. Still, one does not read mysteries for plausibility so I had my belief suitably suspended while I read this one.
I wasn't a huge fan of the writing - sometimes, it was very distracted and almost shorthanded, which isn't something I would expect in a full-length novel, but that didn't bother me too much. There is also not much of a character insight in this book - again not something you would expect in a mystery novel anyways.
Overall, I'm glad to have read this one. It was more enjoyable than I expected it to be, it has certainly added one Agatha Christie book to my favorite books list. I'm hoping to read more books by her that are not necessarily cliched....more
The House at the End of Hope Street got on my radar only recently, when Wendy mentioned the book as one of her top favorites. The premise of the bookThe House at the End of Hope Street got on my radar only recently, when Wendy mentioned the book as one of her top favorites. The premise of the book sounded fabulous and my library had a copy as well. I started reading this book shortly before leaving for my Canada trip and what I thought would be a fast read ended up taking about 2-3 weeks total. Not because the book was hard to read or boring. On the contrary, it was quite entertaining, but it was not a book I could race through.
Distraught from a tragic experience, Alba was walking through her hometown when she comes across a house she had never seen before. The owner of the house, Peggy, invites her in but tells her that she can only stay for 99 days and has to turn her life around before then. Alba is glad for the offer - she didn't think she could face her family just yet. Over the next few days, Alba finds that this is no ordinary house. Indeed, the house seems capable of sending messages to its inhabitants, hiding or revealing things depending on whether anyone in the house needed extra motivation to get their life sorted out.
Along with Alba, there are two other inhabitants who discovered the house just like she did - Greer, an actress whose acting career never really took off, and Carmen, who seems to have run away from something terrible, away from her husband. As these three women try to find out what they really need in their lives, Peggy is dealing with matters of her own. Apparently, the house wants her to retire and find a successor. Retirement usually meant death for the owner of the house but Peggy loved a man and wasn't sure how to live the rest of her life with death looming in front of her.
I picked up The House at the End of Hope Street mainly because it sounded charming. And it sure did live up to its charm. The plot is mostly predictable, at least towards the ending, and that could be part of the reason why I couldn't read more pages in a sitting. It also took a long time for the plot to develop and the frequent change of narrators didn't help it much. But, my reading experience did not suffer despite those issues. There is something to love about a house that was magical - a house that suddenly revealed a whole wardrobe full of gowns, a house that gave plenty of inspiration when the going gets tough, a house where past inhabitants lived in its pictures and often talked to Alba, a house that had its own ghosts - a cat named Mog and a woman named Stella who was bent on helping Alba. Alba had a secret ability that made her extra sensitive to the house's secrets. Although Greer and Carmen were privy to some of these secrets, they didn't really know the full gamut of the house's powers.
There is much I loved in this book - it's one of those feel-good books that leaves you with a deep contentment. The house revealed itself only to women who needed a pick-me-up, and anyone else who walked through its doors were invited by the inhabitants. The past clientele includes several incredible women - great thinkers, writers, and poets. Chief among them were Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Agatha Christie, Dorothy Parker, and Beatrix Potter. Books also play a huge role in this book. I can see how you could want to read every book and writer mentioned in this book - that would make for a great women's fiction reading project. Overall, definitely charming, though predictable - this is something to read when you are looking for a whimsical read....more
Family was an ingenious book. The format was unlike any I had read before. Family follows the story of a slave woman, Clora, her daughter, Always, andFamily was an ingenious book. The format was unlike any I had read before. Family follows the story of a slave woman, Clora, her daughter, Always, and some members of a few generations of her family lineage. Clora is the narrator but she does die very early in the story. Most of the story focuses on Always, her struggles, and her successes.
Clora wanted to escape her life of slavery by killing herself. Unfortunately, her plan to kill her children didn't quite work, so Clora followed their lives from wherever she was, now that she is dead. There is so much to love in this book and I don't really have too much to say about it. It's one of those family sagas that take you on a ride. Always is a character to root for. It's amazing to see how much she learns and changes during the course of the book. This is not to say that this is a light read. There is a ton of stuff in this book that is very disappointing and tragic but there is also plenty that makes you believe in the human spirit. Strongly recommended - this is also a quick read so it can be easily read in one or two sittings....more
Nicole Georges grew up believing that her father was dead. But one day, while in her 20s, a palm reader ominously hints that her real father is alive.Nicole Georges grew up believing that her father was dead. But one day, while in her 20s, a palm reader ominously hints that her real father is alive. Of course, she isn't someone who buys into anything fortune tellers say but she couldn't help but think about her real father (her mother had since lived with and/or married several men).
Her mother isn't the kind of person one could just ask about her father, so she had to try different approaches. One of her sisters suddenly seemed to want to meet her to discuss her father and around this time, she falls in love with Radar, a singer who encourages her to find out the secret about her father.
The title of this book really refers to a radio talk-show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger, who happens to be someone Nicole and her mom listened to often, but whose impact to the story is limited to a few pages in the book. The book had a lot more going for it than just what the talk show host says to Nicole. Throughout the book, Nicole struggles with her identity, her being a lesbian, her idea of a father, and her relationships with her mom, her sisters, and Radar. A lot of it screams dysfunctional family out loud and makes you feel sad for Nicole. Radar is the most important person in Nicole's life at the time of these events, but even this relationship begins to get affected by Nicole's obsessions and insecurities.
I wasn't a big fan of this graphic memoir. It jumps too often in time and the chapters are too small and jarring. Maybe this is a book better enjoyed when reading it a second time. While I didn't love the artwork too much initially, I came to enjoy it over time. Not that the drawing is bad - it is pretty good. But I didn't find it contributing to the story too much....more