Winter Reading

Now that I’m no longer commuting to work my reading time has cut down significantly. I don’t always miss taking the subway, but I do miss subway reading time (and the stories). I’ve managed to pack in a few books though and I better keep it up because I’ve set a goal for myself in Goodreads to read 40 books this year. I read 36 last year and I felt like I could have read a few more so I upped it. It’s definitely going to be harder now that I don’t have that subway reading time, but I’m trying!

In honour of Black History Month, this month I am only reading books written by a person of colour or about the black experience. I’m currently reading Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, but I’m hoping to get a few more in so please let me know if you have any recommendations!

Anyway, here are a few I’ve read lately.

It’s Not Okay by Andi Dorfman

Synopsis:

Millions of people tuned in to see Bachelorette star Andi Dorfman get engaged to her chosen suitor. But when the cameras turned off and the dust (or rose petals) had settled, Andi realized she was engaged to a man she’d known for barely two months. And as they endeavored to return to normal life, they discovered that happily ever after wasn’t as easy as it looked. In her own words, Andi delivers “plenty of surprise (and some disturbing) details” (Cosmopolitan) as she tells the whole truth about her entry into the exclusive Bachelor family, her experience on the show, and finally, what happened to make it all fall apart.

But this is much more than the diary of a very public breakup—Andi divulges her story along with some no-nonsense, straight-talking advice to other women dealing with their own romantic issues. In It’s Not Okay, Andi is the best friend we all wish we had, telling us the good, the bad, and the ugly to inspire us to always be true to ourselves and remember breakups may be hard, but it’s always going to be okay.

So like most people I really liked Andi in Juann Pablo’s season (because she stood up to him and I HATED him), but didn’t like her as much when she was the actual Bachelorette. And with her book. I enjoyed it when she was giving juicy details of the Bachelor, the cast, and her relationships, but could have done without her preachy breakup advice and to-do/don’t lists. My bestie warned me about that going in, so I was prepared, but I disliked that part of it and definitely did some skimming. I did enjoy that she wrote very conversationally.

Something that really bothered me was that she was so upset about Nick slut-shaming her on After The Final Rose (when he asked her why she would make love to him when she wasn’t in love with him), however she herself seemed to slut-shame other women MANY times in her own book. She also mentioned several times that she wasn’t slutty, wasn’t a whore, never slept around, etc. Um, we get it, but who cares? I’m not sure why that was necessary to mention. But maybe she still felt insecure due to her jealous and controlling ex-fiance who always thought she was cheating on him. That I can understand because I also have a jealous and controlling ex-boyfriend who constantly thought, for no reason, that I was cheating on him when we were together, so I also tended to get defensive about stuff like that. Josh reminded me a lot of that ex boyfriend, so it was interesting to read about his jealous behaviour because I recognized so much of it. In her book it felt like she was STILL trying to prove to him that she wasn’t slutty. That came across to me.

Other things that bothered me… Most of her stories/anecdotes seemed to put herself in the best (read: coolest and most laid back) light possible, and sometimes when she was explaining things that happened they just didn’t ring true. Especially when she described things she did after her breakup. I could sense a ton of exaggerating. And OMG when she was talking about her revised life timeline! She was saying if she wanted to get married and have kids now, by the time that happened she could be 35 and would be the oldest mother in the neighbourhood. 35. THE HORROR! She is STILL under 30. She was what, 27, 28 when this book was written? Her revised “emergency” timeline for life events is MY ACTUAL, PLANNED, TIMELINE. Ugh, STFU. It was enraging.

Something she wrote that I resonated with though was that she learned something from each of her relationships chronologically. I feel like that, too. I’ve learned things from each of my past relationships and those lessons have finally lead me to the creme de la creme, Evan. I hope she really did learn something this time and does not go back to her preferred jocky type of dude bro again. Andi, they’re all the same.

Whew, I didn’t realize how many opinions I had about that book until I started writing. Anyway, 2 stars. Not as good as Courtney Roberts’ book in my opinion, but Andi dishes!

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

Synopsis:

Sisters. Strangers. Survivors.
 
More than twenty years ago, Claire and Lydia’s teenaged sister Julia vanished without a trace. The two women have not spoken since, and now their lives could not be more different. Claire is the glamorous trophy wife of an Atlanta millionaire. Lydia, a single mother, dates an ex-con and struggles to make ends meet. But neither has recovered from the horror and heartbreak of their shared loss—a devastating wound that’s cruelly ripped open when Claire’s husband is killed.
 
The disappearance of a teenage girl and the murder of a middle-aged man, almost a quarter-century apart: what could connect them? Forming a wary truce, the surviving sisters look to the past to find the truth, unearthing the secrets that destroyed their family all those years ago . . . and uncovering the possibility of redemption, and revenge, where they least expect it.

Going into this book I had NO IDEA how graphic and sexually violent it was going to be. So, just a heads up on that. It caught me off guard and I do think there should be a warning somewhere because I could see it being triggering to many people. It was one of the most extremely graphic books I’ve ever read. HOWEVER, maybe something is wrong with me because I loved it and I was enthralled the entire time. I could not put it down and it reminded me how much I love reading a good thriller! Though it was disturbing and admittedly left me feeling heavy, I think that the extreme graphic violence was almost necessary for the punch of the storyline. It was startling. It’s not for everyone but it’s definitely going to stay with me for a long time. I thought it was a good psychological thriller and I give it a solid four stars.

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer

Synopsis:

In The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, Amy mines her past for stories about her teenage years, her family, relationships, and sex and shares the experiences that have shaped who she is – a woman with the courage to bare her soul to stand up for what she believes in, all while making us laugh.

Ranging from the raucous to the romantic, the heartfelt to the harrowing, this highly entertaining and universally appealing collection is the literary equivalent of a night out with your best friends – an unforgettable and fun adventure that you wish could last forever. Whether she’s experiencing lust-at-first-sight while in the airport security line, sharing her own views on love and marriage, admitting to being an introvert, or discovering her cross-fit instructor’s secret bad habit, Amy Schumer proves to be a bighearted, brave, and thoughtful storyteller that will leave you nodding your head in recognition, laughing out loud, and sobbing uncontrollably – but only because it’s over.

I also gave this four stars and now I’m having a hard time remembering why. It was pretty good, though I was certainly not sobbing uncontrollably because it was over. I liked it more than Amy Poehler’s book, but less than Tina Fey’s and Mindy Kaling’s. I don’t think that I’m at all a prude (um, see the book above I just gave a raving review to), but sometimes Amy gets a bit cringey for me. I like that she’s upfront about sex — I feel that’s hard for women to do without being called certain labels. However, I think she relies a lot on that shock factor for laughs, which to me has always seemed like a cheap way out. I prefer a sharp wit.

I enjoyed reading about her family life and her childhood. I’m not sure if her parents would be able to say the same, though… Overall, she seems like a real, regular person, and I appreciate that. So, it was pretty good.

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

Synopsis:

In 1949 four Chinese women, recent immigrants to San Francisco, begin meeting to eat dim sum, play mahjong, and talk. United in shared loss and hope, they call themselves the Joy Luck Club. With wit and wisdom, Amy Tan examines the sometimes painful, often tender, and always deep connection between these four women and their American-born daughters. As each reveals her secrets, trying to unravel the truth about her life, the strings become more tangled, more entwined.

One of my former coworker friends, who is Chinese, recommended this to me. I do not know a lot about Chinese culture, so that was new to me and interesting to read about, and I enjoyed reading about the mother-daughter relationships and the rivalries between the women. I also like reading stories about people who have immigrated to North America in general (both fiction and non-fiction). But, it took a while for me to get into it. I found it picked up the last third of the book or so and then I was thoroughly engaged and into the story, but it was a long slog until that point. I’m okay with that because the last third had so many redeeming qualities, but I did put the book down and read others before coming back and finishing it.

I found the characters confusing, also. I’d start reading someone’s chapter and be all “wait, whose daughter is this again?” and have to go back to the character chart at the front of the book to confirm. That was a bit annoying.

It did sort of feel like a mandatory high school read but overall it was pretty good and I’d recommend it.

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7 responses to “Winter Reading

  1. I loved the Joy Luck Club. It was my first Amy Tan book.

    My husband bought me Amy Schumer’s book forgetting that I really don’t love her. I know. I’m supposed to. But she is very cringe worthy and that gets so old. I haven’t read it and I don’t know if I’m going to. I’m not a prude…evidence being I just watched “Shameless” and good Lord that was porn. I need to bleach my eyes. I ended up watching it on my iPad so I could fast forward everyone having sex with everyone. Porn…not my favorite. But the show is kind of fantastic so if I skip the sex…damn. I got through that sucker in like a week.

    I loved Amy Poehler’s book but listened to it on audio and that was so great I bought it in hardback. I really liked it. She is closer to my age though, so I could totally relate to her.

    • It is the cringe-worthiness that gets old with her, for sure. She just makes me feel uncomfortable and uncomfortable isn’t funny. Hmmm I haven’t seen Shameless but now you are making me want to…
      I wish I listened to Amy Poehler’s book, I bet it would have been so much better as an audiobook! I did find her super relatable but I didn’t like how she went on about how hard it is to write a book. It was a while ago when I read it and that is still my main takeaway, haha.

  2. I feel the same away about Amy Schumer’s humor – it’s shock value and I don’t find that funny. I did like her movie but her show (and her) I can take or leave.

    I loved Pretty Girls too. I read that it was really graphic (there was a warning on Goodreads) so I was expecting something crazy. Then I thought…yeah, that was graphic but ehh, was expecting more. CAN’T SHOCK PAULA! 😉

    • I remember you saying you liked her movie! I had a hard time with it. It made me feel so awkward.
      Haha you were expecting something crazy. WHAT MORE DID YOU WANT??? That spray bottle part near the end really…ughhhh I can’t.

  3. Books by authors who aren’t white: Born a Crime-Trevor Noah, Year of Yes: Shonda Rimes, The Mothers-Brit Bennett, The Turner House- Angela Flournoy, literally anything Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie writes, Modern Romance-Aziz Ansari, Redefining Realness-Janet Mock, An Untamed State-Roxane Gay (this one is SO well written), The Book of Unknown Americas- Cristina Henriquez, anything by Lisa See. A friend of mine has a hashtag #liberationlit on facebook where she encourages people to read non-white authors. Just started The Underground Railroad too. The Wangs vs THe World also got great buzz, so did the association of small bombs. Haven’t read either yet but they’re on my shelves.

  4. Joy Luck Club movie is pretty good…I remember really liking it. Have not read the book though. I think it may be one of those rarities where the movie is better? Thanks for the book recommendations! I want to check out Pretty Girls for sure! Not a fan of Amy Schumer’s humor for the most part (although she is a good comedic actress) so I will pass on that, esp after reading your review.