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reading challenge

Calling all librarians!

For my reading challenge, I need a book recommended by a librarian. If you are a librarian or know one, please send suggestions my way!

 13 rachel weisz the mummy GIF

Mid-Year(ish) Update

Hi fellow readers and bookworms! We’re well into July now, and how time flies! School and work have kept me pretty busy, but I’m grateful for all the reading opportunities I’ve had this year. Since it’s summer, I think this is a good time to pause for a moment and reflect on my progress.

I’m working through a category reading challenge with an added twist: in January I promised myself that I would read harder. This year that means reading more books by women and/or people of color (POC), and being mindful of how those specific voices are presented (or not) in every day life (i.e., trips to the bookstore, what people around me are reading, etc.).

Continue reading “Mid-Year(ish) Update”

Review: The Lady Matador’s Hotel by Cristina García

Brief synopsis (Goodreads): National Book Award finalist Cristina García delivers a powerful and gorgeous novel about the intertwining lives of the denizens of a luxurious hotel in an unnamed Central American capital in the midst of political turmoil. The lives of six men and women converge over the course of one week. There is a Japanese-Mexican-American matadora in town for a bull-fighting competition; an ex-guerrilla now working as a waitress in the hotel coffee shop; a Korean manufacturer with an underage mistress ensconced in the honeymoon suite; an international adoption lawyer of German descent; a colonel who committed atrocities during his country’s long civil war; and a Cuban poet who has come with his American wife to adopt a local infant. With each day, their lives become further entangled, resulting in the unexpected—the clash of histories and the pull of revenge and desire.

Rating: ✈  Travel companion

Long story short: I really enjoyed The Lady Matador’s Hotel. The plot is slow-moving, but that works in the book’s favor, since the characters are far more interesting and are ultimately what make the book a compelling read. In addition, the writing is charming; it has a poetic cadence that juxtaposes provocatively with the occasional gore and violent imagery.

If you’re on vacation or at the beach, I recommend picking it up! Keep reading for a more in-depth review:

Continue reading “Review: The Lady Matador’s Hotel by Cristina García”

Want to write a book review?

As summer quickly approaches—yay!—I’m working on kicking my reading challenge into high gear. I’ve been slowly making my way through the 52 books I want to read, and hope to knock out most of them in the next four months. I’m also looking forward to connecting with friends over books, something I’ve been sorely missing.

To that end, I’m inviting you all to write book reviews to post on my reading blog. I don’t have a huge number of followers, so if your goal is exposure this might not be the best forum, but it’s a fun way to flex your writing muscles and share what you’ve been reading. No rules really, except that you keep things polite and professional.

If you’re interested, let me know!

Review: Do Cool Sh*t: Quit Your Day Job, Start Your Own Business, and Live Happily Ever After

Brief synopsis (Goodreads): In Do Cool Sh*t, serial social entrepreneur, angel investor, and all-around cool sh*tdoer Miki Agrawal shows how to start a successful company—from brainstorming to raising money to getting press without any connections—all while having a meaningful life! With zero experience and no capital, Miki Agrawal opened WILD, a farm-to-table pizzeria in New York City and Las Vegas, partnered up in a children’s multimedia company called Super Sprowtz, and launched a patented high-tech underwear business called THINX. Miki has seen significant growth in her businesses. She pulls back the curtain of how you can live out loud, honor your hunches, and leave nothing on the table.

Rating🏡  Left behind

Long story short: Miki Agrawal, the founder of WILD and THINX, proves that you can’t be good at everything in her narcissistic and poorly-written debut book.

I mean, I couldn’t even finish it because her self-obsession got to me. To be fair, she has accomplished a lot at a very young age, but her tone smacks of privilege and conceitedness that goes well beyond being confident.

Agrawal went to an IVY league school, worked in finance, and had the luxury of leaving that well-paying job to pursue entrepreneurship. It’s not hard to “quit your day job, start your own business, and live happily ever after” if you don’t really have to worry about stuff like money *eye roll*.

She has also been accused of sexual harassment among other work discrimination claims while she was CEO of THINX. Yikes.

In terms of content, there are some good tips buried deep in the pages, but they aren’t earth-shattering or life-changing. Mostly normal stuff like:

  • Think about where you want to be, and then work backwards to fill in the gaps in what you need
  • Feed or offer some other incentive to people whom you’re asking for help

Sure they serve as good reminders, but this book isn’t the only way to find advice on how to be your own boss (honestly, anything else is probably better).

Then there’s also plenty of creepy stuff like:

  • Telling the soccer coach, “I like Italian men!” in Italian, as a way to stand out during tryouts
  • Accosting a restaurant owner during a social gathering to ask if you can shadow him, thereby forcing him to say yes or look like a douchebag

*Shudders*

Have you read the book? What did you think?

 

Review: Feeding a Yen: Savoring Local Specialties, from Kansas City to Cuzco

Brief synopsis (Goodreads): Calvin Trillin has never been a champion of the “continental cuisine” palaces he used to refer to as La Maison de la Casa House. What he treasures is the superb local specialty. And he will go anywhere to find one. As it happens, some of his favorite dishes can be found only in their place of origin. Join Trillin on his charming, funny culinary adventures as he samples fried marlin in Barbados and the barbecue of his boyhood in Kansas City. Travel alongside as he hunts for the authentic fish taco, and participates in a “boudin blitzkrieg” in the part of Louisiana where people are accustomed to buying these spicy sausages and polishing them off in the parking lot. In New York, Trillin even tries to use a glorious local specialty, the bagel, to lure his daughters back from California. Feeding a Yen is a delightful reminder of why New York magazine called Calvin Trillin “our funniest food writer.”

Rating✈  Travel companion

Long story short: I enjoyed stepping into Trillin’s whirlwind foodie world, where he visits and revisits cities around the globe for the sole purpose of eating his favorite dishes. As a traveler and food connoisseur, I can relate. However, the stories lack depth, and they miss the opportunity to make larger connections between humans and food that would have been interesting to explore, like why we cook what we cook, how food connects us across cultures, and what transformations in food science mean for the future of humanity, to name a few.

This is a good travel book or lighthearted read, but don’t expect to get much out of it (much of the information is dated and few specifics are given re: restaurant names and places). Have you read Feeding a Yen or any other work by Calvin Trillin?

Review: Wife of the Gods by Kwei Quartey

Brief synopsis (Goodreads)Introducing Detective Inspector Darko Dawson: dedicated family man, rebel in the office, ace in the field—and one of the most appealing sleuths to come along in years. When we first meet Dawson, he’s been ordered by his cantankerous boss…to lead a murder investigation: in a shady grove outside the small town of Ketanu, a young woman—a promising medical student—has been found dead under suspicious circumstances. Armed with remarkable insight and a healthy dose of skepticism, Dawson soon finds his cosmopolitan sensibilities clashing with age-old customs, including a disturbing practice in which teenage girls are offered to fetish priests as trokosi, or Wives of the Gods. Delving deeper into the student’s haunting death, Dawson will uncover long-buried secrets that, to his surprise, hit much too close to home.

Rating✈  Travel companion

Long story short: Wife of the Gods is an entertaining and suspenseful murder mystery led by a well-written protagonist. The plot is compelling, though perhaps a little slow in some places, and characters are colorful and nuanced.

The novel is part of my goal to read books by POC, especially those originating from countries outside of the US and Europe. Kwei Quartey was born in Accra, Ghana (where parts of this story takes place) and is both a crime fiction writer and practicing physician(!!!). I didn’t know this before, but he currently lives in Pasadena, California, which is neat!

Continue reading “Review: Wife of the Gods by Kwei Quartey”

Review: The Circle by Dave Eggers

Brief synopsis (Goodreads):When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime. The Circle, run out of a sprawling California campus, links users’ personal emails, social media, banking, and purchasing with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of civility and transparency. Mae can’t believe her luck, her great fortune to work for the most influential company in America—even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public. What begins as the captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge.

Rating🏡  Left behind

Long story short (no spoilers): Imagine if Facebook, Google, and Apple merged into one conglomerate and become Big Brother; that is what The Circle is: a huge tech company slowly taking over all public and private services in the name of open-access and efficiency.

The premise is intriguing because the themes hit close to home—over the last century we have often supported transparency over personal freedoms—but the execution is poorly done and overall the novel is disappointing.

For one, Mae’s character lacks substance. She is a pushover, easily persuaded, completely lacks a spine, and the only thing she wants is to be liked by those she works with and for. Every single decision she makes is an attempt to increase her social standing at the Circle, and she learns nothing from her mistakes. This makes it difficult to care about her and to put ourselves in her shoes, which is a wasted opportunity in a book commenting on individual vs. collective identity. What’s more, as a female protagonist in a largely male-dominated field, Mae’s character does a disservice to women in STEM, and Eggers proves he has no idea how to write a female character. From awkward sex scenes where he says things like “She could think only of a campfire, one small log, all of it doused in milk” to describe premature ejaculation, to creating a persona that encompasses nearly every negative female stereotype (easily manipulated, always worried about what other people think of her, has two men trying to sleep with her (spoiler: they both do), thinks that the 3% of people who gave her low ratings want her dead, has a doe-eyed naivety about everything and willfully swallows BS) make me so angry.

Second, for a “heart-racing novel of suspense”, the setup is weak and the climax predictable. The entire novel focuses solely on all the good things that come from the Circle’s work, such as preventing child abduction, creating a more transparent government, and consolidating medical records. Only in passing (and by that I mean a couple of phrases by Circle employees and one or two monologues by secondary characters) does it mention what could go wrong when one company has access to everybody’s most intimate details. So when Mae is inevitably confronted by the contending idea that what the Circle is doing may not be a good thing, she (and the reader) have no reason to believe it’s true or that it matters, which makes the entire dilemma irrelevant.

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Lastly, the novel does not add anything new to a conversation most of us are already having about the limits of technology and social media.We realize that technology is quickly outpacing public policy, and that innovation requires sufficient oversight to prevent privacy and ethical breaches. The Circle, however, breezes through calamitous issues without giving them the consideration they deserve, and provides no serviceable solution or warning for where we are headed. What’s the point of telling us what we already know?

Have you read The Circle or do you plan to watch the movie? Let me know what you thought in the comments below. If you want to know more, keep reading for a spoiler review.

Continue reading “Review: The Circle by Dave Eggers”

New books!

Now that Spring Break is here, I have more time to read for fun, yay! Finished up my seventh book today (The Mystery of the Pantomime Cat by Enid Blyton), and will be choosing the next one soon.

Have you read either The Circle or Dear Ijeawele? What did you think?

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