Challenges for 2017

Happy New Year friends and fellow readers,

My tentative reading goal for 2017 is 52 books.  I plan to read various genres, as I did in 2016, and to continue to read across multiple medias.

I’ve also decided to challenge myself in a new and interesting way; though I’ll still attempt to read at least 52 books, I’m going to do so while polishing off all of the books I’ve got lined up on my Kindle so far. 

A writing goal I’m working towards is publishing 10 times this year; ideally it’ll be across a few genres and formats – I’d like to publish more poetry for my career’s sake, as well as a couple of pieces of CNF, maybe some fiction, and a few articles. With a publish count of 7 poems this year (though five are through one site), I’m setting the bar high for myself.

I’ll keep today’s post brief for y’all and say goodbye for now.

Top 5 Books I Read in 2016

Keeping in mind that I rarely buy books new, some of these are old books. One will be releasing next year, so we’re ranging 80’s to 10’s.

I’ve decided to pick a top book from each genre that I’ve read this year. This list is in no way reflective of books that have come out in 2016, simply those that I have read in 2016.

Poetry: Fat Like The Sun by Anna Swir (1986)

Fiction: Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver (2000)

Nonfiction: The Kiss by Kathryn Harrison (1997)

Self Help: The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life that Matters by Emily Esfahani Smith (2017)

YA: Blood Don’t Lie by Aaron Levy (2016)

Keep in mind that my reading taste and yours aren’t likely to be the same, though I do wholeheartedly recommend these five books! If you’d like to read my reviews on them, simply search the title or author name in the sidebar.

Travel Reading and Housekeeping 

Consider this a late, much needed housekeeping post. As you’ve potentially notices, I haven’t been posting twice a week as I previously decided. Life has caught up with me, and unfortunately posting that regularly isn’t something that I can feasibly do. With grad school coming up in the fall and makeup gigs popping up every so often, I can’t dedicate quite as much time to blogging as I have been. I need to dedicate a great deal of my time to drafting poetry and CNF for the fall in preparation for my workshop classes, and I need to deal with everyday life. 
Instead of nixing the blog altogether, I’ll continue posting book reviews and occasional concept pieces. Book reviews will come roughly once a week, not on any set day. I’ll be reviewing books as I finish them. Having a set day to post reviews has become a bit of a drag, in that I often found myself rushing through the end of books and feeling like reading was more of a task than a pleasure. 
I’m currently headed to Alabama to visit family, and I’ve packed three books for reading on the trip (my Grandmother doesn’t trust my driving, so I’m the designated passenger). I doubt that I’ll finish more than one, if I make enough time to finish one at all, but I like to pack extras just in case.  

  

I’ve packed the book that I’m currently reading, The Bean Trees, as well as two that a friend passed along, The Bridges of Madison County, and Americana. I’m pleased to be reading a Kingsolver novel, and I’m already enjoying her setting and characterization. 

I’ll be back when I’ve finished it up with what I’m sure will be a sparkling review! 
Happy reading,

Scarlett

Asking the Audience

Hey y’all! I’m here today to ask for some input.

I need book recommendations.

I have a shelf full, and I need to read them all eventually, but I’m looking for more books on identity and self that aren’t self-help oriented – I’m not having a lot of luck with them thus far (I’m the pickiest person I know).

I’m currently working on The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver, and I love her (she and Wally Lamb are my tops for fiction). I’d rather not have a ton of fiction recommendations if I can help it, but they’re also welcome.

Becoming more interactive with my audience is one of my blogging goals, so feel free to comment and discuss below!

Here’s what you can do:

  • Recommend a book and I’ll review it
  • Give me some concepts you’d like for me to discuss
  • Ask me for recommendations on specific topics
  • Ask for content that deals with other forms of media

I know that my posting hasn’t been up to par lately, and I sincerely apologize for that. I’m still trying to get back in the swing of things after so many changes, losses, and wins. Life is constantly evolving, and I’m excited for what the future holds, I just have to get past some things (old and new).

I look forward to hearing from y’all!

A Baker’s Dozen Reviews to Look Forward to

Basically, I’m here to get y’all amped about some of the quality choices I’ve made lately; I’m going to fill y’all in on the next ten books I’ll be reading and reviewing, starting with the book I’m reviewing Friday and then listing the next ten in no particular order. I’m also going to fill you in on my next double book review (though I haven’t decided when it will be), and providing some insight on a book that’s high on my wishlist. That makes 13 books to look forward to, because I can’t help myself.

Part of my reading goal this year is to read as many books as I can that deal with issues that I feel strongly about. I want to read more writers of color, more pointedly feminist books, and more books that deal with mental illness. As I’ve mentioned before, I look for books wherever I can find them; several of these books were recommended to me by friends or through celebrity endorsements, others I have found at random through free book bins on campus or at 2nd and Charles, through browsing the shelves at Goodwill and other used book or thrift stores, or through suggestions on Amazon. A few of the books I’ll be talking about came into my possession in interesting ways that I’ll tell you about.

This is my invitation to you. Read with me, learn with me, grow with me…

I’ll go ahead and get started with the book I’ll be reading for Friday’s review; How to be a Bad Bitch by Amber Rose.

Book 1
Image credit: Amazon.com

Book 1: How to be a Bad Bitch by Amber Rose

Genre: Self-Help / Personal Growth

Just like Alida Nugent, I side with Amber Rose (former stripper risen to fame through celebrity relationships with Kanye West and Whiz Khalifa). I’m impressed with her activism so far,her slutwalk, her pointed statement outfits, and her choice to always respond to attacks on her character. That being said, I was fairly disappointed at her tweet to Kanye about anal play, as it definitely seemed to be an attempt at emasculation. I picked up this book around Christmas and I’m happy to say that I’m finally picking it up now. Expect a full review on Friday with all of my pros and cons.

How to Be a Bad Bitch

Book 2

Image credit: Amazon.com

Book 2: Bossypants by Tina Fey

Genre: Memoir

I’ll be honest, I can’t call myself a huge Tina Fey fan. I’ve heard too much about her being a white feminist (see definition here) to really vibe well with her, and I picked up this book in an effort to get to know a little more about Fey and her ideology. As a mainstream feminist, there’s a lot of speculation on her views and more, so I want to try to give her a chance.

Bossypants

Book 3

Image credit: Amazon.com

Book 3: The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander.

Genre: Current Affairs / Criminal Justice

I’m quite excited about this book; I need more knowledge on mass incarceration and the criminal justice system. I picked this up at my local B.A.M. when I got the chance to go on a book shopping spree courtesy of my mother. The New Jim Crow was high on my list because I feel that I need to have more information on race relations and institutional racism than I got through college alone. I’ve heard good things, saw Matt McGorry reading it on Instagram, and decided the woker I could be the better.

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

Book 4

Image credit: Amazon.com

Book 4: What You Really Really Want by Jaclyn Friedman

Genre: Sexuality

About a year and a half ago I had the privilege of attending the Gender and Women’s Studies Department’s fair at Kennesaw State (I got to speak with students about the Ecofeminism class I took and the trip that four of us took to NYC for the People’s Climate March in September of 2014). One of the tables was covered in books from Charis Books and More, and this book caught my eye (I’m also planning on picking up some really radical coloring books for my sisters if I get to stop by anytime soon). I picked this book up and knew I needed to give it a read. Friedman’s book is intended to help the reader get what they want out of their sex life, learn about themselves and what they like, and empower the reader in their sexuality. Though it’s been sitting on my shelf for well over a year, I haven’t taken the time to read this book and do the exercises. This year I vow to get it done.

What You Really Really Want: The Smart Girl’s Shame-Free Guide to Sex and Safety

Book 5

Image credit: Amazon.com

Book 5: An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison

Genre: Psychology / Memoir

This book stood out to me as unique because Jamison is both a manic depressive and a psychiatrist, giving her insight that others might not have. Her dual perspective is what drew me in, and my drive to understand more about my own mental illness. Psychology intrigues me, and I hope to get some useful information by reading this.

An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness

Book 6

Image credit: Amazon.com

Book 6: Raising Confident Girls by Elizabeth Hartley-Brewer

Genre: Parenting

I picked this book up out of the free bin at 2nd and Charles about a year ago. I’m aiming to glean some decent advice that I can use to help guide my sisters, and eventually raise my children with. The cover advertises 100 tips for Parents and Teachers, and the formatting of the book clearly divides the two. I definitely like the fact that the commentary is directed at teachers as well as parents, because I think that teachers (as a former EDU major myself) can definitely use some guidance at times. This will be a quick read, so I’m sure it’ll come during a particularly busy chunk of time in my life.

Raising Confident Girls: 100 Tips For Parents And Teachers

Book 7

Image credit: Amazon.com

Book 7: Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi

Genre: Memoir / Women’s Studies

I went browsing through a local used book store in downtown macon recently, and I added this book to my wishlist. When it showed up on the shelves of the Goodwill Bookstore about a week later, I picked it up with no qualms. An interesting title, premise, and genre means that I should likely enjoy it. I’ve seen some less than excellent reviews on Goodreads, most of them due in part to a lack of context. I plan on giving it a go sometime later this year. I enjoyed Persepolis and I’m definitely interested in learning more about Iran during the time period.

Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books

Book 8
Image credit: Amazon.com

Book 8: In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens by Alice Walker

Genre: Essays / Women’s Studies

I found this gem in a free book box sitting outside of the restroom on the ground floor of the English building on a particularly nice day. I’d seen this when I saw that assortment from Charis and added it to my wishlist. Fate sent it my way (fate and a generous professor), and I’m looking forward to reading my first book of womanist prose. The womanist movement is something that I would like to learn a lot more about, so I’m pretty excited! The only thing better than a good books,is a good book that you get for free.

In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose

Book 9
Image credit: Amazon.com

Book 9: Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen

Genre: Memoir / Psychology

I picked this book up because I enjoyed the movie; I’m sure I’ll see a lot of differences when I’m finished, but I’ll probably also do a rewatch so I can let y’all know about it. As I mentioned before, I have a few mental illnesses of my own, and I’m looking to get more perspective from other people like me. Kaysen had what seems to have been a horrid experience when she was hospitalized for almost two years. The idea of being hospitalized deeply terrifies me, so I’m hoping to stay calm through the read.

Girl, Interrupted

Book 10
Image credit: Amazon.com

Book 10: The Rose that Grew from Concrete by Tupac Shakur

Genre: Poetry

I’ll admit, I don’t know much about Tupac. I’ve heard that he was an excellent commentator on social issues, and I’ve heard that he was incarcerated for sexual assault. I’m not one to believe that false rape accusations are frequent, and I have SERIOUSLY mixed feelings about this. I’m interested in reading his works because of how highly praised he is in social justice communities for his choice to speak out on the criminal justice system and corruption. I also want to read Assata Shakur’s (his mother) memoir when I get the chance.

The Rose That Grew From Concrete

Book 11Book 12

Image credits: Amazon.com

Books 11 & 12: This is Chick Lit edited by Lauren Baratz-Logsted and This is Not Chick Lit edited by Elizabeth Merrick

Genre: Fiction

And here we have my next double book review! It’s one I actually plan on finishing… I found these two in the free book box at KSU that I mentioned when talking about Alice Walker’s book above. After seriously disliking The Hazards of Sleeping Alone within the first 25 pages, I vowed to give Chick Lit another chance; here’s that chance! Both books look promising, they’re both full of works from varied authors, and I think they’ll be fun to compare. I have no clue when I’ll get to this, but I’m planning on having it done before September.

This Is Chick-lit

This Is Not Chick Lit: Original Stories by America’s Best Women Writers

Book 13
Image credit: Amazon.com

Book 13: Me, My Hair, and I edited by Elizabeth Benedict

Genre: Non Fiction / Essays / Memoir

I saw this sitting on the wrong shelf at B.A.M. a couple of months ago and went back for it on Valentine’s Day (when I picked up You Don’t Have to Like Me) but it was out of stock. I’m still waiting to pick it up, though it’s next on my purchase list. It’s not a long book, and I really like the concept. I’ve read somewhere that Anne Lamott discusses her choice to dread her hair in her essay (though I’m definitely not down for cultural appropriation, I’m interested to read her stance). I’m hoping to get it sometime soon, but we’ll see!

Me, My Hair, and I: Twenty-seven Women Untangle an Obsession

I suppose this isn’t quite a concept piece, but I felt like I should give y’all a chance to pick up what I think will be quality reading material in case you’d like to read them and interact. As a feminist, and as a reader, I try to make sure that I’m able to learn something from every book that I pick up, and I honestly think these books will prove to be quite educational.

Expect my review for How to be a Bad Bitch to be up Friday, I’ll see you babes here later this week!

Valentine’s Double Book Review

Hello everyone, I’m here with a little bit of housekeeping for starters; I’ve decided to add another post type to my blog – the double book review. These reviews will contain two (or potentially more) books that are somehow related in topic and/or title. This week, I’ll be reviewing two books that deal with ‘sleeping alone.’ Around Valentine’s Day it always seems fitting to include some content that deals with both loneliness/togetherness and fulfillment, and these books proved to have diverse themes and contents.

My Valentine gift to you all is this double review, coming after my regularly scheduled singular review. I wouldn’t expect a ton of double reviews, though I do have a pair of books laid out for my next. I’ll only be doing these for special occasions or when I have an easy week. 

❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

The first book I purchased out of the two, and in turn the first I read this past week was The Art of Sleeping Alone. This memoir, written by Sophie Fontanel, is about her choice to give up sex for a few years.

TW: rape

I was a bit surprised by this book; Fontanel was raped by an older man at the age of thirteen, leaving her with a very skewed perception of sex. She comments on how she often did not vocalize her “no” and “later,” which likely stemmed from her first “no” being ignored. Her terminology for having sex was ‘letting herself be caught,’ which, though tragic, is definitely thought-provoking.

When I picked up this book several months back, I was going through a stressful period. During my last semester in college I would habitually dwell on my loneliness, missing the semi-familiar and comforting presence of another person beside me, even in a platonic sense. I was sick of sleeping alone. I came to this memoir looking for advice, expecting a sense of empowerment, and I found it. Fontanel writes of coming to a point where she happily voices what she does and does not want, something that is extremely empowering.

Fontanel’s imagination is beautiful, and following her through her singular existence is both stunning and satisfying. Her wording and style ring similar to an older French film, I frequently found myself thinking that each chapter would serve well being introduced verbally before the action in a film. She writes brief stories (2-3 pages each) in eight chapters. The format was very unique, and I never quite expected the end of a chapter. The stories flowed well, and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to see Fontanel’s experience, as well as seeing how people opened up to her about their sex lives and feelings.

The Art of Sleeping Alone really made me consider how differently everyone views sex. It is a multi-dimensional topic, one that of course cannot be contained within one blog post. The various characters who approach her to discuss their sex lives, their wants, and her strength are all bringing another morsel to the table.

Though I thoroughly enjoyed Fontanel’s language, I had a hard time connecting well with the book. I loved the content, but the short chapters became too quick to keep me drawn in. Her writing was powerful, but each story was so brief that I had a hard time focusing enough at the end of one to be drawn to the next.

The feminist themes in this book are much clearer than I thought they’d be. Fontanel is the definition of a woman who neither needs nor wants a man to feel fulfilled. She takes matters into her own hands, leaving a lover and falling in love with herself throughout the narrative. She takes the good with the bad and ultimately her writing translates as a fairly organic work.

The Art of Sleeping Alone: Why One French Woman Suddenly Gave Up Sex

I give Fontanel’s book a 7/10.

BE MINE
Credit: Meg Vallee Munoz via Facebook

The second book, The Hazards of Sleeping Alone by Elise Juska, is a novel. I’m not one for general fiction, so this was a random choice amongst my frequent nonfiction, poetry, and various literary fiction. It’s referred to as “chick lit” on the cover and on Goodreads, and I find that term both mildly offensive and misogynistic. I’ll have to pick up some better “chick lit” soon to help me cope.

Juska’s protagonist Charlotte is dealing with loneliness, though it is her daughter that drew me into the book initially; Emily is labeled as passionate and opinionated. We meet Charlotte just before her daughter is to visit, and as background we learn that she doesn’t mind her solitude for romantic reasons. Charlotte is basically written as the über uncool mom, divorced from the hip dad that her daughter resonates well with.

Within 25 pages I was thrown off by Charlotte’s character; after she mentions (internally and externally) that she didn’t expect Emily’s boyfriend to be black. She doesn’t continue to protest it, but I feel extremely uncomfortable about her approach. To be quite frank, that exchange left me so uninvested in the book that I couldn’t make myself finish it. I called it quits on page 25. I understand the appeal of a dynamic character who overcomes her racism etc. but I’m really not up for reading that narrative again and again. Mild racism is still racism, and I can’t become invested in a protagonist with that stream of thought.

(Not to imply that Juska herself is racist, I’m assuming she’s quite the opposite, writing on this topic for that reason. If you feel like you’d enjoy the book from what you’ve read so far, you’re more than welcome to read it.)

The Hazards of Sleeping Alone

I don’t feel comfortable providing a rating for this book on a 1-10 scale since I chose not to finish it.

❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

You all can expect a concept/opinion piece on Tuesday, hopefully no one will mind this week’s posts being a bit different from the norm. Keep in mind that double book reviews in the future won’t read quite the same, I almost never feel compelled to put down a book like I did this round.

Next Friday’s review will be on a book whose author’s birthday is Thursday!

Book 8: All Gone by Alex Witchel

All Gone is a memoir of Alex Witchel’s mother’s dementia, something that is unfortunately close at heart for many of us. My great grandmother is unfortunately winding down a bit, and at 90, experiencing some bouts of dementia. Her current condition is part of the reason I picked up this book to start with; call me old fashioned, but I still read memoirs to learn from other people’s’ experiences. I went through an intense bout of memoir obsession right at the tail-end of high school, and the other reason I picked this book up is one of my first loves in the memoir world. Take a look at Molly Wizenberg’s blog Orangette, and consider picking up her first book, A Homemade Life. It’s spectacular, typing amazing recipes into short stories about her family. Wizenberg weaves a beautiful work of creative nonfiction.

A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table

I buy books anywhere I can find them, book stores, antique malls, thrift shops, even Dollar Tree. My copy of All Gone came from the disorganized heap of books at my local Dollar Tree, as did several others on my shelf. My copy of Wizenberg’s book came from the clearance section at Books-A-Million, so I suppose you could say I have a habit of finding gems in the thriftiest of places. Memoirs are easy to find cheap, especially those written by non celebrities, though I can’t quite understand why.

Witchel jumps right into both the dementia and the recipes, providing one or more at the end of each chapter. After meeting her pre-dementia mother in the introductory chapter, we see her begin to fade as time goes by. Though every chapter isn’t centered around the dementia, and a great deal of the book deals with Witchel’s life and setting up the relationship and her career, we see the stages of dementia progress. It is an ugly thing, stealing the memories and reliability that Witchel so desperately clung to when she and her mother were close.

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I clearly couldn’t keep myself out of the hammock.
This might become a common theme.

One of my favorite things about this book was the simplicity of Witchel’s family recipes. She describes her mother as a working woman without much time for cooking, though she clearly loved her mother’s recipes. Occasionally I find myself picking up a cookbook full of three-hour prep recipes, but Witchel’s are as quick as they are convenient. Some recipes are for small things, easy to prepare and based off of ingredients like frankfurters (hot dogs), others are as intimate as the turkey she roasts for thanksgiving.

Reading Witchel’s book, I found myself thinking about my initial rejection of domesticity as a young feminist. I went through a radical phase that to me meant marriage, domesticity, etc. were all signs of bad feminists. Now, after growing out of my earliest phase, I can bask in the joy of reading domestic memoirs like these. Cooking for your family, using your mother’s recipes, aren’t signs of bad feminism, they’re just ways of appreciating your upbringing. It’s a cultural thing, and despite not feeling exceptionally cultured, I have begun to appreciate the edible part of Southern culture more and more as time passed. I thoroughly enjoyed Witchel’s insight on women bonding over the art of cooking as well.

Witchel’s mother was in some ways domestic, but she was also a working mother and a busy, driven woman bent on personal-growth. She was a good role model for her daughter, and we as readers get the opportunity to glimpse into the 1960-80’s when her lifestyle was just beginning to become the norm. Witchel’s reflections on her family’s heritage and the role of working women during the various time periods was refreshing.

There is some discussion of disability, dealing mostly with her mother’s polio, and we see glimpses of misogyny, as well as a brief mention of support for planned parenthood and birth control advice from Witchel’s mother. Overall, this book had several themes dealing with women’s rights, all occurring during a time in which they were pivotal.

I give this book an 8/10.

All Gone: A Memoir of My Mother’s Dementia. With Refreshments

I’d also love to take a moment to promote my dear friend Shannan’s blog. She’s also taking the 52 books in 52 weeks challenge, per my challenge, and blogging the whole way through. Shannan and I graduated from the same school, same program, and had several classes together after studying abroad together in 2014. She reads a great deal of YA fiction and adventure, though she’ll be reading random books just like I have.