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Review: Unabrow: Misadventures of a Late Bloomer by Una LaMarche

Brief synopsis (Goodreads): In between highbrow and lowbrow, there’s Unabrow.

As a girl, Una LaMarche was as smart as she was awkward. She was blessed with a precocious intellect, a love of all things pop culture, and eyebrows bushier than Frida Kahlo’s. Adversity made her stronger…and funnier. In Unabrow, Una shares the cringe-inducing lessons she’s learned from a life as a late bloomer, including the seven deadly sins of DIY bangs, how not to make your own jorts, and how to handle pregnancy, plucking, and the rites of passage during which your own body is your worst frenemy.

For readers who loved Let’s Pretend This Never Happened and for fans of Mindy Kaling, Tina Fey, and Amy Schumer, Unabrow is the book June Cleaver would have written if she spent more time drinking and less time vacuuming.

Rating✈  Travel companion

Long story short: At times I find memoirs and personal essays a little hard to get through. The writing style and tone are sometimes better suited to a verbal telling, so after a while the words grate a little and I have to go do something else for a couple of days. I found this to be the case with Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance (it was hard not to read everything in his voice, kudos to his editor) and to some extent with Amy Poehler’s Yes Please.

This was also true with Unabrow, though since the book was relatively short I powered through it. LaMarche’s collection of personal essays offer a glimpse into her colorful world. Naturally there were things I could relate to (eg., worrying about gym class back in middle school) and things that made my eyes glaze over (eg., almost every reference to the 80s), but overall it was a fun read.

My favorite chapter was probably “Death Becomes Me”, where LaMarche walks us through her (and her parents’) macabre obsession with death when she was a child. This included writing letters to both her and her sister when they were out of town in case one or both of them “didn’t make it back”. At one point they opened them out of curiosity. Their dad’s had instructions about his memorial service along with a music playlist, and their mom’s had contact information for their mortgage broker. “What a downer,” said LaMarche to her sister, “I didn’t know we would still have to pay for the house.” (55)

The familiar essay is one of my favorite genres, and I would recommend giving it a try. If you haven’t read any yet, I’d start with At Large and At Small by Anne Fadiman; it was the book that got me hooked!

Have you read Unabrow? What do you think of personal essays?

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Hooray for a walking commute!

After three years of driving to work (in stupid, erratic traffic no less), I’m finally able to reduce my carbon footprint by walking to and from campus. In addition to it being healthy for the environment, it’s letting me sneak in more reading time (which is always a big plus).

Do any of you get to read on your way to/from work/school/other activities?

P.S. Yes, that’s henna on my hand!

August Book Haul!

Hello everyone! I’m writing this post from my new home in Seattle! I moved over the weekend, well ahead of the start of the school quarter, to give myself time to explore my new neighborhood. After fixing up my room for the better part of three days, I treated myself to some new books this morning at my local bookstore. You’ll have to wait until the end of the month for that haul list, but here’s mine for August!

  1. The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon
  2. Birds of a Feather (Maisie Dobbs, book 3) by Jacqueline Winspear
  3. The Mapping of Love and Death (Maisie Dobbs, book 4) by Jacqueline Winspear
  4. The Case of the Missing Books (Mobile Library Mystery, book 1) by Ian Sansom
  5. Mr. Dixon Disappears (Mobile Library Mystery, book 2) by Ian Sansom
  6. The Summer we Read Gatsby by Danielle Ganek
  7. The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
  8. Birds of a Lesser Paradise: Stories by Megan Mayhew Bergman (Kindle)
  9. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald (Kindle)
  10. The Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries: Whose Body?, Clouds of Witness, and Unnatural Death by Dorothy L. Sayers (Kindle)
  11. Annihilation (Southern Reach Trilogy, book 1) by Jeff VanderMeer
  12. Acceptance (Southern Reach Trilogy, book 3) by Jeff VanderMeer
  13. The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism by Naoki Higashida
  14. Unabrow: Misadventures of a Late Bloomer by Una LaMarche
  15. Emma by Jane Austen
  16. Cabin Fever by Mandy Smith
  17. Motorcycle Diaries by Ernest Che Guevara
  18. When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris
  19. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

An eighth month update

When I began my 2016 reading challenge, I wanted to know what kinds of books I was naturally drawn to. Did I mostly read authors based in the USA? Did I prefer reading fiction to non-fiction, paperback to hardcover?

Throughout the year I’ve been keeping track of who and what I’m reading to try and answer these questions. At the moment I’m allowing myself to read any book I want (as long as it follows the reading challenge rules) so that I become aware of my biases. My goal for next year is that I challenge myself to read harder by focusing on one or more criteria that I find lacking.

Here’s a quick summary of my reading stats so far:

  • I’ve read 23 out of 40 books
  • 12 were written by male authors and 11 by female authors
  • 3 authors have been people of color
  • 12 authors are from the USA; 7 are from the UK; 1 each is from France, Nigeria, Iran, and Germany
  • 35% of the books are 0-300 pages; 65% of the books are 301-500+ pages
  • I’ve read 14 paperback books, 5 hardcover books, and 4 Kindle books
  • 17 books were fiction, 6 books were non-fiction

Based on these results I want to focus on increasing my POC readership, and I’m considering doing an “around the world” reading challenge next year where I find and read books written by authors from different countries.

Do any of you try to read outside of your comfort zone?

June and July Book Haul!

It’s been a while, but in honor of National Book Lovers Day, I thought I’d share my June and July book haul!

June was especially fun because I got a chance to spend a couple of hours at the Bay Area Book Festival in Berkeley (one of the perks of living in such a fun city!). There were so many tables hosted by small businesses and local publishers, and I was happy for an opportunity to support Asian and Asian-American authors.

festival1
They had a printing press so I made a small notebook!

July was a little slower because I was traveling. However, to prep for my trip I bought a couple of things for my Kindle. I finally finished A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings on plane and train rides, so that was exciting!

Let me know if you’ve read or are planning to read any of these!

Continue reading “June and July Book Haul!”

BRB!

I’m traveling around South East Asia for the next month meaning my reading updates will be extremely unreliable. Don’t worry though! I’ve packed enough book-things to fill in all those hours on and in-between the plane, bus, and tuk-tuk rides.

If you’re curious about where I’m going and what I’m doing, you can follow along. And feel free to email me your mailing address if you want a postcard 🙂

Hope you all are well, and I shall catch you on the flip-side. Happy reading!

I got some new books, yay!

Hello, hello! After a very lazy week spent on the warm shores of sunny San Diego, I am back home, forced to confront the tedious reality of packing and moving out of my apartment. Booorriiingggg.

BUT! I did come back to two very exciting items waiting for me:

#1: A fourth book from my Facebook book chain! I have heard amazing things about Terry Pratchett and I’m very much looking forward to Equal Rites.

Screen Shot 2016-06-18 at 11.54.16

#2: My third and final book from Book of the Month subscription box! World War II, spies, and the Galapagos Islands will make this novel a very interesting read indeed…
botm

Have any of you read these books? Let me know what you think!

Review: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Brief synopsis (back cover): Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has barely been farther afield than her tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex-Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair-bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and he is not interested in exploring a new one. Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, Lou sets out to show him that life is still worth living. Me Before You brings to life two people who couldn’t have less in common—a heartbreakingly romantic novel that asks, What do you do when making the person you love happy also means breaking your own heart? 

Rating🏡  Left behind / ✈  Travel companion

Long story short: This book is a little tricky to rate because some parts I liked and others…not so much.

I loved the insights Moyes offered into quadriplegia and assisted suicide because these are two topics I know very little about and the latter has become quite contentious over the years. I have no experience in these areas so I can’t say how accurately either were depicted (the book has been criticized for romanticizing suicide), but it was a change from what I usually read and I enjoyed learning something new.

Through Louisa we’re introduced to caregiving and all the difficult and wonderful moments that come with it. She is spunky and kind and always trying to do the good thing, the right thing, for other people. There is a particular instance in the novel where we get to see the root of her personality—why she is who she is—and it’s a vulnerable time for her. While the set up was done well I wished Moyes took more time drawing Louisa out of her shell. She was definitely my favorite part of the story.

Continue reading “Review: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes”

May Book Haul

May book haul
Not pictured: Swamplandia! by Karen Russell, American Gods by Neil Gaiman, and Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart

I got my hands on more books than I expected to this month. Most were from local bookstores, three were given to me by friends, two were e-books from Amazon, and one was from Book of the Month. As much as I could I tried to balance getting books that are on my TBR lists and new titles I hadn’t heard of that piqued my curiosity.

It’s hard to decide what to read first, but I’m most excited for 2666 by Roberto Bolaño, Delicious! by Ruth Reichl, and Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh.

May Book Haul titles:

  1. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
  2. Paula by Isabele Allende
  3. Wizard of the Crow by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o
  4. Party Headquarters by Georgi Tenev
  5. 2666 by Roberto Bolaño
  6. We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  7. The Fun Parts by Sam Lipsyte
  8. Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
  9. Hip: The History by John Leland
  10. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
  11. A Man For All Seasons by Robert Bolt
  12. Delicious! by Ruth Reichl
  13. Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
  14. Cleaning Up New York by Bob Rosenthal
  15. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  16. The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
  17. Holy Cow by Sarah Macdonald
  18. Naked by David Sedaris
  19. Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman
  20. Amor and Psycho by Carolyn Cooke
  21. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
  22. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
  23. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
  24. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
  25. The Naked Pint by Christina Perozzi and Hallie Beaune
  26. Heat & Light by Jennifer Haigh
  27. Think Like a Freak by Stephen J. Dubner and Steven Levitt
  28. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
  29. Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart

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