ASK Musings

No matter where you go, there you are.

Monthly Archive: July 2016

Sunday

31

July 2016

0

COMMENTS

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Five Stars

I couldn’t be happier to hit my cannonball with this book. Well, play/book. I am Harry Potter’s age. The character was born in the same year I was, and even though I was not the target audience of the books (I didn’t start reading them until I was in college), I adore them. I love the world Ms. Rowling has created, and I was so excited to read this latest story in that world.

When the sixth book came out, I went to a book release party, picked up my copy at midnight, and promptly stayed up until 4AM reading most of it. I’m older now, and so waited until this morning to get my (pre-ordered, because of course) copy. Three hours later, I’m done, and still a bit mystified at how she was able to create another story that makes sense, fits so neatly with what we know, and allows us to step back into Hogwarts, the Ministry of Magic, and parts beyond.

I don’t want to provide any sort of synopsis or spoilers. Just know that the epilogue of the final book still holds as we start this story. The first few acts move through time rather briskly, and then things … happen. I was a little unsure in the very beginning, as we were getting to know some new characters, and I wasn’t certain that a script would help us get to know these characters well enough to care as much as we care for the ones we saw grow up, but I shouldn’t have worried. Obviously. Ms. Rowling knows what she’s doing, as do the playwrights.

The feelings I had for the characters before – they are still there. I haven’t connected with this world in a few years, but man, it all came flooding back, and I was right there, refusing to put this down even as I heated up an afternoon snack, snapping (kindly, of course) at my husband as he attempted to engage me in conversation. I’m reading the new Harry Potter – unless someone is on fire, please leave me be.

If you can get your hands on a copy, go. And if you live in London and can see the play, please do so. And then report back to us.

Saturday

30

July 2016

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COMMENTS

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Four Stars

I think Good Reads is a great site for many reasons; one of which is that it lets me know when authors I have read (and enjoyed) are releasing a new book. I purchased Ms. Moriarty’s latest tome (seriously, it’s over 400 pages and has pretty small print) on Tuesday after receiving such an alert, started it Wednesday, and stayed up way too late finishing it last night.

I enjoy Ms. Moriarty’s books a lot. She has, for the most part, a formula (I say most part because I *think* What Alice Forgot strayed from it a bit). There are three or more parties. A Thing Has Happened, but we don’t know what, so we go back and forth in time. And there are twists, and you probably won’t figure them out, but they are never (at least in the four books of Ms. Moriarty’s that I have read) absurd. If you were to reread the books with all the information, they still make sense. It’s awesome.

The only reason I’m not giving this book five stars is because I really feel that it could have been shorter up front. It took way longer – or at least it FELT way longer – to get into. I still enjoyed the first hundred pages or so, but my goodness, every chapter felt like it ended with some variation on the “everything changed after that day” sentence. Like, I get it. Everything DID change. But my goodness, please show, don’t tell. It felt a bit like when Ryan Seacrest would say “and the winner … will be revealed right after the break.” Except you’d come from break, and he’d immediately do it again. And again. For like 15 minutes.

That said, for me this is still a four-star book, and one that I would recommend to anyone interested in a fun, clever read. I really appreciated the dynamics around how friends with children interact with friends who don’t have children – the mutual judgement, the lack of understanding of each other’s lives. I think Ms. Moriarty captured a lot of that quite well.

Tuesday

26

July 2016

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COMMENTS

You’ll Grow Out Of It

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Five Stars

jessiklein

I believe I first became aware of Ms. Klein when she would appear on Best Week Ever. I loved that show. I have always been someone who goes to be early, so I would miss the first airing on Friday nights, and (if I’m remembering it correctly) catch the weekend rerun. Because when you go to bed early on Friday, you obviously are up in time to watch a show at 9AM on Saturday.

I also recall squealing a bit when I saw Ms. Klein briefly on camera during Inside Amy Schumer. So when I learned she had a book out – obviously I was going to buy it.

This book is delightful. I might use that word a bit too much, but I don’t care, because that’s the perfect word to describe this book. It’s funny. It’s sweet but not sickeningly so. It feels intimate and honest but I didn’t read anything where I thought was over the top. Above all, I found it to be extremely relatable. Not because I, too, am an Emmy-award winning writer and comedian. But because the stories she tells can connect back to feelings that I think a lot of us have had.

Like that moment where you can almost observe yourself doing the absolutely wrong thing when it comes to an ex? (If you don’t have at least one of those moments, I’d love to know your secret but also, I’m kind of wondering if you’re a cyborg.) Or perhaps the moment when, just for maybe a few hours, or a weekend, you decide to go totally sincere, and just enjoy an experience without letting your cynical side take over completely. Look, she goes to what is essentially a fancy hippie spa, and has a moment, and even though I will never go to said fancy hippie spa, the feelings Ms. Klein is able to share through her exquisite writing transcend the environment and get to the soul of the emotions.

But, again, there’s also a ton of humor. Every chapter – including the final one that deals with infertility – is full of clever asides or one-liners that effortlessly raise the tone. And the footnotes! Ah, I love a good footnote, and this book is full of them.

So go! Reserve your copy at the library, or download it, or, my preference, buy a copy and read it and then gift it to a friend.

Saturday

23

July 2016

0

COMMENTS

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

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Three Stars

Funhomecover

Another book club pick, another kind of ‘meh’ book for me. It’s only the second (I think) graphic novel I’ve ever read, and while I think I like the concept of graphic novels, I’m not sure. Given that this is supposed to be one of the best ones, and I just found it to be okay, I’m guessing maybe they just aren’t for me.

The topic of the book is very interesting: it’s about Ms. Bechdel’s relationship with her father, who died when she was 20. He presented himself as a straight man, but throughout this novel we find out more and more reasons to believe that he was gay, or possibly bisexual. He also ran the family funeral (‘fun’) home as a part time job. Meanwhile, Ms. Bechdel deals with her own childhood challenges, such as not liking ‘girlie’ clothes, and eventually realizing that she is a lesbian.

The graphics are really well done, and I feel like I understand the story Ms. Bechdel is telling. I also appreciate how many literary references she includes. But one thing that bothered me a bit and led to this three-star rating was the language. It seemed overly flowery, and took more works than necessary to tell the story. I recognize that is a specific style choice, but it’s one that I don’t usually like. I found it kind of perfect that in the very beginning she talks about how her father loved restoring their home to this really ornate building, while her preference was more sleek lines, metal, modern. In terms of this book, I felt like her words were the ornateness, and I was looking for something more sleek.

Thursday

21

July 2016

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COMMENTS

Saint Mazie by Jami Attenberg

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Three Stars

It’s always a bit of a crapshoot when I purchase a book at the airport. This one jumped out at me because I lived in NYC for seven years, and because I find the 20s and 30s fascinating.

The book is based on the real-life Mazie Gordon, although it isn’t an actual biography. It’s fiction, a collection ostensibly based on Ms. Gordon’s journal. The author Jami Attenberg employs an interesting method to tell the story: the reader is the ‘author’, to a degree. We read Mazie’s diary entries, but we also read interviews that the author conducts to try to learn more about Mazie. It jumps around in time in that the interviews take place in the present and are interspersed, but the diary entries themselves follow a linear path.

Mazie never married. She worked her whole life in the ticket booth of a theater on the Lower East Side, and due to the money she made, she was able to offer money to those who were living on the street due to the great depression. She died in 1964; you can read her obituary here.

I think it’s a fine book. I wouldn’t say it’s a must read, and it’s not interesting enough for me to read it non-stop; I read about 1/3 then just put it down for a couple weeks. I only picked it up again because I rarely give up on a book. And I was mildly pleased with the ending.

Monday

18

July 2016

0

COMMENTS

Dietland by Sarai Walker

Written by , Posted in Feminism, Reviews

Three stars

dietland

Okay, there are parts of this book that I absolutely loved. And I loved most of the message, of empowerment and living your life as it is now – not waiting until you’re thinner / have a partner / have the perfect job. But man, were there some parts that I found to be ill advised at least.

Plum works for a major magazine aimed at teen girls, responding to “Dear Kitty” letters, offering advice. Plum is also around 300 pounds, and will be having stomach stapling surgery in a few months. She does her work in a café, where she notices a young woman is following her.

Then things start to happen for Plum, possibly changing her worldview. Meanwhile, across the US and the UK, a movement is rising, targeting misogyny. Rapists are murdered; magazine editors are blackmailed to replace images of naked women with images of naked men. The public is wondering who is behind this – and the reader is wondering if there is any connection to Plum’s new friends.

That’s the basics, and I won’t spoil the rest. But I will take issue with a few things:
• Part of Plum’s empowerment involves weaning herself off of antidepressants. Which is fine, but the way Ms. Walker (the author) treats this topic, it feels vaguely … Scientology – esque in its disdain for antidepressants. There isn’t even a throw-away line about how some people really need them, but Plum doesn’t anymore; it’s just accepted that clearly the medication she is taking is bad. I’m not sure if Ms. Walker meant to give this impression, but it’s the one I got.
• One target of the “Jennifer” movement is the way women are depicted in music videos, as shown by blackmail that shuts down a hip hop video station. That just seemed a bit … well, racist. Rock and country videos all have their own share of misogynistic undertones – and overtones, but the fact that our society chooses to only call out an art form that is made up of primarily Black artists is telling. Once again, the author made a choice, and where she could have chosen a broader music video station, she chose one that has some racial undertones. I don’t know if she was even aware of the implications of that choice, but it really stood out to me.
• There are obviously real moral implications about the “Jennifer” movement of vigilantism. But one of the targets is a female porn star and that, coupled with myriad other statements made me wonder whether Ms. Walker is a SWERF (sex worker exclusionary radical feminist). I appreciate the focus on how porn can skew one’s view of what healthy sex is, but my goodness Ms. Walker seems to think that all sex workers are the devil and deserve death. I can’t get on board with that outlook at all. I think there could be a more interesting discussion here, but it’s just accepted as fact in the book, and it really took me out of the story I was reading.

Okay, setting those glaring issues aside, I do think it’s an interesting book, and one that is definitely worth a read for men and women alike. It explores our ideas of misogyny, and it looks at our feelings about vigilante justice. If society creates a world where women are objects, and men treat us that way without repercussions, is it only a matter of time before women literally fight back?

Wednesday

6

July 2016

0

COMMENTS

End of Watch by Stephen King

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Three Stars

watch

As I’ve mentioned before, I didn’t read Stephen King’s work until this year, and I lucked out in starting with Mr. Mercedes, which was book one in this trilogy. End of Watch is the final book, and explores more supernatural themes than the previous two.

If you’ve read the first two: so Retired Detective Hodges is not feeling good, and we find out that has pancreatic cancer. Not a great diagnosis. He and his partner Holly are still running their private investigation business, and Jerome is at Harvard, but taking the semester off to build homes. Meanwhile, mass murderer (and attempted GIANT mass murderer) Brady is still in the forensic brain injury unit at the local hospital. But as hinted at in the last book, he isn’t in a persistent vegetative state after all – and his injury might have given him some special powers, a la Carrie.

I appreciate Mr. King’s writing, and I’m glad I finished the series. It was an interesting book, and I found myself wanting to keep reading to find out what would happen next. But even though it was handled very well, I’m still not super excited about this type of book. I don’t mind magic or supernatural, but I like it when that’s the world people live in – like Harry Potter. I’m not a big fan of mixing it into books that are ostensibly based in the real world. So while I loved Misery, maybe I’m not going to enjoy It that much.

Anyway, if you’ve read the first two books, I think it’s definitely worth finishing out the series. Not a bad book, just not my favorite.

Wednesday

6

July 2016

0

COMMENTS

Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates

Written by , Posted in Feminism, Reviews

Five Stars

sexism

This is a great, depressing book. When I talked to a friend about what I was reading, she didn’t have a lot of interest in this one because, being a woman, she knows how much sexism is out there. Why read a book that is 400 pages of statistics and examples and narrative describing how rough it is to be a woman in the world when you’re living it?

Because it’s important. It’s important to know that we aren’t alone. Plus, the book isn’t just a giant collection of depressing statistics. It’s also a discussion of how women are fighting back. It’s really well done, with chapters devoted to different areas like how politicians are treated, how young girls are treated, how mothers (or assumed-to-be mothers) are treated. The author is also well aware of intersectionality, and devotes time to exploring how the compounding of harassment comes into play for women of color, or disabled people / people with disabilities, or older women.

I was annoyed that one of the pull quotes on the cover was from Cosmo and said the book was a ‘Must read for all women.’ No. It is a must read for all MEN first. They need to see the reality of their actions. We live it, we know it. We aren’t the ones who need the education so much as men are. It’s a long book, so not as easy a sell as, say, We Should All Be Feminists, which is barely longer than a booklet. But it’s full of such solid information, in such an accessible form, that I would like to see more people reading it. I’d love to see people giving it to their sons in middle school, to start them understanding that women are not objects that exist for the amusement of men. They are people, they are not a monolith, and they deserve, just by virtue of existence, to be respected.