Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

It is always a bit difficult to review a book of poetry and personal essays. The work is subjective and this one in particular has a singular voice.

Not being American or black, I can not fully understand or empathize with all the experiences in this book. As a visible minority and as a human being with feelings, I can sympathize in more ways than one.

The prose and words are powerful in this book. Rankine uses images and second personal narrative to put yourself in her shoes and others who have been marginalized. It is raw. The words are unencumbered. They are emotional in their simplicity.

I found the works in this book disturbing and provocative in the best way. I was at times angry, sad, upset, and uncomfortable while reading this book. That is not often. I also loved how much it made me feel and think.

I highly recommend this work.

Read July 13, 2016.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz

It has been six years since I first read the Millenium trilogy. I remember devouring the books and being disappointed when I finished them. While they had their flaws and melodramaic moments, I enjoyed the characters. I think Lisbeth Salander was a memorable modern literary heroine.

When I heard this novel was going to be made, I had mixed feelings especially considering the estate battle that went on between Larson’s family (his father and brother) and his long term partner who allegedly owns a fourth manuscript. Lagercrantz was supported by the formal estate from the family. Profit is definitely a motivation here.

In any case, this novel took me much longer than to read than I thought. Four days is a long time for a thriller book for me especially considering how I devoured the first three Millennium books. I did like the ending and I think both Lagercrantz did Lisbeth and Mikael justice to a certain extent. While I didn’t think it was a perfect continuation, I’m glad it was not suppose to be.

Overall, I think for fans of the Millenium trilogy, this is an alright attempt to continue that universe. I am someone who has no problem with published “fanfic” as it were. I also think I would continue reading this series if Lagercrantz were to continue. Not a perfect novel, but serviceable for those of us who like the characters.

Read July 4-8, 2016.

Shopaholic to the Rescue by Sophie Kinsella

I have read many of Sophie Kinsella’s novels. Most of them are rather forgettable and not always worth the pick up. However, there is something nice and frothy about her style when she is good.

This is the eighth novel in the Shopaholic series. I did not read the last one, but I have read most of the other books in this series. At least Becky (Bloomwood) Brandon has developed as a character over the course of the books. Secondly, I think Kinsella is particularly funny when writing dialogue and situations for these characters. I had a good laugh during one scene of this book.

The writing in these books is nothing to wax poetic about. Sometimes it works for me, and sometimes it doesn’t. There were definite plot holes in this novel, but this is chicklit. I want a laugh and a quick read. For that reason, this worked. I will still probably read more Kinsella and anticipate more mixed results. That’s not to the worse thing in my reading life though.

Read June 25- July 1, 2016 (mostly July 1).

The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson

I have read most of Bryson’s books and followed his career for the last 15 years or so. I enjoy this writing and I find it gets even funnier and more amusing as he gets older. In this book, he is hilariously curmudgeony and cantankerous throughout it. All the while still being warm, perceptive, and pleasant.

There were definitely a couple of laugh out loud moments from the book and found the read fun and lovely all around. The deadpan and snarky humor writing does notwork for everyone, but it was right up my alley.

I share Bryson’s love of Great Britain and I have been to a few places mentioned in the books. Like him, I can be both frustrated and charmed by the British. He really captures the spirit of the culture and people.

Recommended for anglophiles.

First started in January 2016, but had to return to the library after about 25 pages. Picked up again June 16-20, 2016.

Lesser Beasts by Mark Essig

I think that if I ever tried vegetarianism, the meat I would miss the most would be pork. I come from a pork loving culture to the point that growing up, we would have pork and seafood almost every day. I have consumed more parts of a pig than the average Westerner as a result. My grandmother was a pig farmer and I remembered as kid spending weekends at her place watching her big sow and little piglets.

My love of pork is not all consuming as there is a little bit of guilt. Not just of factory farming, but on the whole, pigs are really intelligent and wonderful animals. I learned a lot about pigs in this book and it was really fun especially the historical, anthropological and evolutionary history of the pig and humans. I also learned that of all the meat that I eat, the pig is the only who would eat me back if given the chance.

I found this book fascinating and fun as it married my love of history, food, and evolutionary biology too. I highly recommend if you enjoy these same topics.

Read June 1-5, 2016.

Monthly TV – April/May 2016

The Night Manager (20-23 04 16) – You watch this mini series for two reasons: the scenery/cinematography and the actors. Hiddleston, Laurie, and Coleman are the stars. I think Coleman is the best actor, but Hiddleston and Laurie are excellent. Hiddles is just pretty. The story and writing have issues. It’s not something to write home about, but this is a pretty, pretty series.

Daredevil Season 2 (last week of May) – I think the first season of Daredevil was so excellent and so good in terms of being distinct. I loved the actions in S1 more. I find S2 hit or miss for me. The law drama aspect did not work. I liked the Punisher. I didn’t really care for the Hand stuff. I really liked Elecktra and Matt’s chemistry. I did feel that Matt got very annoying most of S2 as he kept lieing to everyone and himself. I look forward to Elecktra’s return, but I’m not sure Matt’s character development is moving at a good pace.

Jessica Jones (last week of May into first couple of days of June) – As a followup to Daredevil, I finally watched the first season of this show. It was good. I do adore David Tennant and he was chilling in this. I really liked the writing, but I did feel that the search for Kilgrave could have been cut short by one or two episodes. Still, a very strong start.

Monthly Movies – May 2016

The 40-Year-Old Virgin (03 05 2016) – I’m long overdue to watch this, but I do not like Apatow humor most of the time. I do like Steve Carell and Paul Rudd. Carell works for me because there is such a sweetness to him that works really well here. I did not find a lot of the humor funny, but I think the actors did well.

Hackers (07 05 2016) – So 90s. This is movie is only 21 years old and I remember 1995, but it feels even older than movies I’ve seen from the 80s or before. The fact that it heavily features technology and that the lead actors involved do not even look that old makes it feel oddly removed. The technology is so out dated compared to what we have now. Angelina Jolie looked like an elf. I’ve adored Johnny Lee Miller for years so he was cute in this too. I was a bit bored during some parts of the movie though since it got overly campy at times.

Deadpool (10 05 2016) – There was so much hype and good reviews about this that I was expecting more. Since I followed the media around it, I felt I had seen most of the movie already. Some of the humor was so-so for me, but I liked the fourth wall breaks and the meta jokes. Plot was formulaic. I do think Ryan Reynolds is meant for this role. I liked the soundtrack too.

Brooklyn (13 05 2016) – I enjoyed the book and as predicted, I liked this movie. With Nick Hornby adapting and starring Saorise Ronan and Domhnall Gleeson. I like the whole cast and loved the setting. The ending is more satisfying too.

Crimson Peak (15 05 2016) – Not enough Hiddlesbum. I do not really like horror, but I like Guillermo del Torro’s style. Good cast and everything was super creepy and stylistic. Plot was alright. It was nice seeing Charlie Hunman in a role where he’s a hero without really being the typical Hot Guy physical though.

Walk in the Woods (28 05 2016) – As someone who is a fan of Bryon’s writing, I wanted to watch this for him and the book, but also this cast. Robert Redford, Emma Thomspon, Nick Nolte, and Mary Steenburger are all in it. I do not think you see Redford in these quiet kind of roles anymore. Even though this movie has a lot of humor and talking, it is very much a “quiet” movie where not much actually happens and the pace is slow. You could almost say Thompson was wasted, but she is lovely in anything. Her and Redford had lovely chemistry too. I laughed a coupe of times, but this kind of movie is not for everyone. I think Bryson lovers will appreciate some of it. The book was funnier in other ways though.

Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure by John Cleland

Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure or Fanny Hill by John Cleland is considered the first pornography in novel form. This book was widely banned, illegally published, and denounced by its author. It is definitely a classic in an infamous way at least. But is it a good novel?
Continue reading “Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure by John Cleland”

How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are by Anne Berest et al.

This is a fun little book. It’s not exactly useful. It’s rather silly book of tips on being more Parisian. The advice ips it gives should be taken with a grain of salt and I felt it was written with a tongue in cheek style.

It will be amusing if you are a Francophile or a Parisphile. It plays on a lot of French stereotypes. I do not mean it’s all laughs or that all the tips are useless. I do appreciate a certain insouciance and minimalism that the Parisians extol. The book is a nice reminder of it.

The book even quoted the same quote I did in my review for The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides.

All in all, I’d recommend this book if you are someone with a sense of humor about their love of Paris.

Read May 16-28, 2016.

Stuart Little by E. B. White

When I was a kid, I enjoyed Charlotte’s Web so I wanted to read another E. B. White book. I have not seen the Stuart Little movies either.

This was a nice little children’s book which is written more of a series of short stories on the adventures of Stuart Little. I liked most of the stories. The characters were sweet and I liked the New York City setting too. Margola the bird and the Little parents were lovely.

Stuart has a big personality too and it borders on being egotistical. It was amusing until one of the last stories where he develops a crush on someone. It is relatable but he then becomes defeated when things don’t go his way. The story ends there and rather abruptly.

The novel too ends on a bit of a cliff hanger. You can tell White was done with the character and stories by then so he just gave up without much of a ending.

All in all, still a sweet and nice children’s novel.

Read May 15, 2016.

Manga Classics: Great Expectations

I read this on Free Comic Book Day except I didn’t want to queue for that so I read this manga instead.

Reading this again naturally reminded me of the novel and the many other adaptations I’ve seen. This is such a grim and tragic story. There are a lot of characters in the book who were treated very poorly and dealt bad hands. Pip was also really ignorant of things for most of the book and it was cringe worthy sometimes. This does not translate as well to manga where the humor is lighter and this novel is not light. I am glad that Dickens did change the ending from its original one because this is such a mirthless book.

The manga adaptation itself did a good job with the material and did make it lighter than it was. It did seem to rush through the last few bits though. It had to because even though this is one of Dickens’ shorter novels, it is still a long one.

I would recommend it only to people who like this novel and manga in general.

Read May 8, 2016.

Me After You by Jojo Moyes

This is the sequel to Me Before You. If you read the previous review, you’ll know I did like the novel even if I didn’t fall in love with it as some others have. I did like the last book enough to read the sequel the day after.

I did not enjoy this book. In fact, I wish there was not a sequel. I’m aware the fans wanted a sequel, but I think in this case, she should have just let the story end there. I felt the ending of the last one was bittersweet and hopeful. The opening of this novel ruined that right away.

I had criticized the previous novel’s prosaic dialogue and prose, but it was not as bad as this. This novel felt like mediocre fanfiction of the first one. The characters did not feel particularly real. It was depressing and contrived. At times, it felt like an After School special. The first book was dramatic and even a bit melodramatic, but this novel was a soap opera.

It introduces a new pivotal character to the lives of the characters and she is horrible. Lily is an annoying, two dimensional teenage brat raised from an even horrible mother. Her mother is such an awful parent that the character became a caricature.

I also became frustrated with Louisa again as it felt like she had regressed. Even more annoying, Louisa gets more chances in this book than anyone else that is humanely possible. She’s a damn lucky character and if I did not like her, I would have hated this book even more.

Worse with these new characters and events, I felt manipulated as a reader. Characters make speeches and monologues in this maudlin way that felt disingenuous. Bad things happen to the characters to move the plot forward, but it all felt forced and far fetched.

I kept reading hoping it would get better, but I became indifferent and wanted it to be over. Thankfully, it was easy to read too.

As someone who gave the last book only 3/5 stars, this sequel did not work for me either. Some ardent fans felt the same, but there are others who love Louisa Clark so much that they want more from her. You may get that here.

I do think this novel is a cautionary tale about sequels. I am going to watch the movie and forget this novel happens after it.

Read May 4, 2016 on Kindle.