ASK Musings

No matter where you go, there you are.

Monthly Archive: August 2020

Friday

28

August 2020

0

COMMENTS

Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Four Stars

Best for:
Anyone who enjoys clever, interesting essays that will make them laugh.

In a nutshell:
Author Irby is back with her third collection of essays, which cover what her life is like these days, as well as just some hilariously repetitive takes on the exact same phrase.

Worth quoting:
“Sure, sex is fun, but have you ever used a really absorbent towel?”

Why I chose it:
I was looking for a book to listen to while running, and realized I both hadn’t yet read this one AND it was read by the author.

Review:
Usually when I go for runs I listen to the podcast versions of four of the MSNBC weeknight shows so I can stay up with what’s going on back in the US. But it can be super depressing these days, and not exactly motivational when one is training for a half marathon. So I decided for the last few runs leading up to my ‘race’ this week (and by race, I mean I just ran 13.1 miles one morning because the Edinburgh half was once again postponed) I wanted something funny, that could make the time go quickly and also could keep me entertained.

I chose … wisely.

I appreciate Irby’s writing style. She’s honest and self deprecating, but not in the sort of way where one thinks she’s trying to get pity. She’s just clear about how she is, what she likes, and what she doesn’t. She’s not insulting to others who might do things differently – she just lives her life, while telling stories about all the shit in it that has gone wrong (and, occasionally, right).

I definitely like her storytelling, but I also found that some of my favorite chapters and moments in the book were when she would follow a theme and provide just a bunch of funny one-liners. An entire chapter is just, what, like 100 versions of ‘Sure, sex is fun but…’ followed by a lot of mundane yet awesome things. Another chapter is just her repeated saying ‘Hello, 911?’, followed by a problem or situation one definitely should not call 911 about, but secretly people might want to (and actually would just as well if it were ‘Hello, 411?’, though she probably figured that much of her audience wouldn’t remember what 411 even was). Even in a chapter about some issues she had with her uterus, the list of things she would rather do than keep it had me in tears of laughter.

I can definitely see myself listening to this one again.

Keep it / Pass to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it:
Keep it (but I’ll recommend it to friends too)

Saturday

22

August 2020

0

COMMENTS

The Black Jacobins by C.L.R. James

Written by , Posted in Politics, Reviews

Four Stars

Best for:
Those interested in the history of enslaved people who successfully fought back.

In a nutshell:
Enslaved people revolt against the British, Spanish, and French over twelve years, eventually creating Haiti.

Worth quoting:
“The cruelties of property and privilege are always more ferocious than the revenges of poverty and oppression.”

Why I chose it:
I received this as a birthday gift this year.

Review:
You will be shocked to learn that I, a white woman raised and educated in the US, knew nothing about how Haiti came to be. I KNOW. It’s almost as though the history I was taught was incomplete in some very specific ways.

This fascinating book tells the story of how those who were enslaved in what is now Haiti revolted across over a dozen years to eventually claim victory by ensuring an end to slavery, expelling the French colonial government, and declaring independence.

The story told by this book begins 229 years ago this week (21 August 1791), and follows the complexities of race, class, slavery, and revolution. The main focus is on Toussaint Louverture, who led most of the revolution, though eventually he was taken to France and died in jail. He was a slave until 1776, then fought in multiple battles until undertaking, with others, a fight inspire by the French revolution.

I have some trouble following detailed military histories, especially when I don’t have the basics already in mind. I only recognized one name in this book before I read it – Napoleon, and he only shows up in the last 50 pages or so. I think to truly grasp everything in here, I would need to read it at least two more times, maybe more. But that speaks not to the quality of the writing, but to my lack of foundational knowledge of the subject.

I’d recommend this to anyone who is interested in history and the fight for freedom.

Keep it / Pass to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it:
Keep it

Friday

21

August 2020

0

COMMENTS

How to Machine Sew by Susie Johns

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Five Stars

Best for:
People who have never used a sewing machine.

In a nutshell:
Author Johns provide an extremely basic overview of how to use a sewing machine, and then follows it up with projects to practice on.

Worth quoting:
N/A

Why I chose it:
After the last book, I did a bit more research before clicking purchase. This one looked to actually explain how to use a sewing machine.

Review:
It’s exciting when a book meets one’s needs and desires exactly, and this is one such book for me. As I mentioned in my last review, I’m interested in learning how to machine sew, but am 100% baffled by my new (very very basic) sewing machine. And yes, I am sure there are videos to watch that will help me understand what I’ve read, I have always learned best by reading about something before I watch a video. I need context, and to take things in myself.

This book starts out explaining the parts of the machine, but also showing how it works – there are easy to follow diagrams. It also includes additional tools to have (shears, pins, etc.). And then it gets right into the projects! Each one is meant to help develop techniques – the first is literally just practicing different stitches on a fabric square that I’ll turn into a pot holder. Each project includes the exact materials needed, starts with the technique I’ll be learning, then includes step by step instructions. They aren’t the most dramatic of projects (pot holder, place settings, drawstring bag), but they are all things I could use in the house.

I’m genuinely excited to try these things out, and so happy I found this book.

Keep it / Pass to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it:
Keep it

Monday

17

August 2020

0

COMMENTS

Sew Step by Step by Alison Smith MBE

Written by , Posted in Uncategorized

Two Stars

Best for:
People who already know how to use a sewing machine (despite the title)

In a nutshell:
Author Smith shares some great detailed information regarding making garments and other items, assuming you know how to use a sewing machine.

Worth quoting:
N.A

Why I chose it:
I’m trying to teach myself machine sewing and this book claimed to be a how-to for using a sewing machine.

Review:
If this book only claimed to help with patterns, fabrics, seams, etc, it would be a 5 star review. The photos and diagrams are great, the detail seems to be about right. It’s well-organized and easy to navigate.

But.

This book claims to teach sewing machine use. The sub-title literally is “how to use your sewing machine…” The back description says “Discover how to …use a sewing machine.” It does not do any of that. There is one (1) photo of a sewing machine that is basically the same as the diagram in the instruction booklet that came with my machine, where they point out the parts. But there is zero discussion of what the different parts do! What’s the point? What the fuck is a bobbin? There seem to be two places that thread goes through – why? Seriously, how does the sewing machine work?

In a book that is more than 200 pages long, I am baffled that the author didn’t include an additional three or four pages providing even a high level overview of machine sewing. It’s odd – the book both assumes no knowledge of machine sewing (given all the detail provided in all the other sections – different seams, hems, buttonholes, etc.) and yet provides no knowledge of how to use a sewing machine.

Just … what? Why? I’d argue this is a failure of editing as much as the author – someone at some point should have said “hey, if you’re going to market this as a book to teach people how to use a sewing machine, you should include some information on how to use a sewing machine.”

I cannot recommend this book for people who are new to machine sewing, but I definitely recommend it to people who are looking for a good reference book after having a couple years of experience with their sewing machine.

Keep it / Pass to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it:
Keep it for once I actually know how to sew – the other parts seem very helpful!