Tag Archives: book review

The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying by Nina Riggs

img_9131Nina Riggs, a poet, started writing a beautiful memoir upon her terminal cancer diagnosis. What follows is a beautiful composition of the scary, mundane, and loving moments that shapes one’s life as they know that it will eventually come to an end much sooner than they ever imagined. 

This is a beautiful, quick memoir that illuminates one person ruminations as they contemplate their impending mortality, leaving their closest loved ones behind, and what they feel they must accomplish in their shortened life. I finished and shed a few tears upon reading the touching acknowledgments, which were written by Riggs’s husband.

This is a good book for anyone who wants to read a touching memoir written by someone who received a terminal diagnosis that keeps things incredibly real without venturing toward overwrought territory. Read it. Hug your loved ones. Appreciate what you have. Enjoy the cozy moments with those you cherish.

Publication Date: 6 June 2017 by Simon & SchusterFormat: Hardcover.

Author: Nina Riggs

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So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

img_9147So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed is complicated and messy and will force you to examine how you do or do not participate in #canceled culture. Ronson explores how individuals have been publicly shamed after making a misstep (largely on social media), their reactions, and their responses. Ronson argues that today’s social media shamings are essentially the modern day throwing of tomatoes at people in stocks, except the shame extends far beyond the public shaming instance as search results seem endlessly tied to those who are shamed. 

Ronson details many different, nuanced examples and reactions to public shaming. Throughout the book, Ronson repeatedly returns to one specific case of public shaming and many of his arguments hinge on this one case and the reader sympathizing with a joke gone wrong. However, I don’t believe the case featured a “joke gone wrong” because it was a tweet of a racist joke that targeted a specific, marginalized group of people. Unfortunately, Ronson’s hinging on this specific case caused me to the dock the book a star because I could not view the example in a sympathetic light. Yes, no one should have one mistake/misstep attached to their name and their search results forevermore, hindering their ability to considered for job opportunities. But should someone who works in Public Relations and makes a racist joke on a public, personal social media page be fired from their current job in PR? Probably.

Ronson ends So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by pointing out that people will increasingly limit themselves in online spaces into bland existences for fear of receiving public backlash themselves. I’ve seen this evidenced by my own increasingly infrequent social media posts, but not out of fear of backlash, but moreso out of awareness that I don’t want *everything* and *every thought* to be shared online.

This was an incredibly quick, interesting, and timely read. If you’re already interested in the subject matter, I recommend you pick it up! 

Publication Date: 31 March 2015 by Riverhead BooksFormat: Paperback.

Author: Jon Ronson web/@twitter/@instagram

I Might Regret This: Essays, Drawings, Vulnerabilities, and Other Stuff by Abbi Jacobson

Screen Shot 2018-12-11 at 3.11.29 PMAuthor Abbi Jacobson, creator and star of comedy TV series Broad City, wrote a memoir about a very specific segment of her life in I Might Regret This. Before starting this book, I had assumed Jacobson would write about stories throughout her entire life and string them together into a tight memoir, as is typical with the memoirs written by comedians that I’ve read. While Jacobson does feature anecdotes from throughout her life, the stories are featured around her embarking upon a three weeklong solo road trip from New York City to Los Angeles.

This journey tinges almost every chapter of the memoir as this period of her life greatly impacted Jacobson while she was in the midst of writing up her book. Not too long before beginning her trek, Jacobson experienced a breakup from the first relationship that she had truly fallen in love during. While this memoir is a story about Jacobson and her life, it is also mostly a story about heartbreak and the effects it can wreck on your entire life, way of thinking, and aspirations as someone tries to climb outside of their grief. 

I enjoyed Jacobson’s memoir because I enjoy Jacobson and her perspective. I liked reading about her come up and navigation of the comedy scene and I found her poignant descriptions of heartbreak very moving. However, if you’re looking for a happy go lucky, punched-up tale that will make you laugh every other page, that is not the trail that I Might Regret This will lead you down. I did laugh frequently while reading this, but not in the same way that I’ve come to expect from other comedic memoirs.

Publication Date: 30 October 2018 by Grand Central PublishingFormat: Hardcover.

Author: Abbi Jacobson @twitter/@instagram

The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory

Screen Shot 2018-12-09 at 1.47.34 PMThe Proposal by Jasmine Guillory is delightful and charming … and hits almost exactly every single note of her debut The Wedding Date. Is that a problem? You decide. 

The entire plot has all of the same markers as Guillory’s debut (see my previous review to compare) — two adorable characters are attracted to each other, but don’t think they’re ready for a relationship so they lightly enjoy each other’s company under the guise of not becoming too attached until… suddenly! they are too attached and maybe they actually do want to be in a relationship and love each other, et cetera. 

Guillory packages the same story nicely with darling characters that I enjoy — I loved all of the auxiliary characters and their personalities just as much as the main characters (and maybe they’ll even be the central character in a future book? The kickboxing instructor alone made me want to quit my current kickboxing gym to seek her out as my trainer). The book opens on our two main characters who meet during a botched, public proposal. We follow Carlos, the best friend of one of the leads from The Wedding Date who is a pediatrician and helms his Mexican-American family, and Nikole, a freelance writer who is black and has a gaggle of cute girlfriends that she adventures with in the city. 

The book is perfectly packaged sweetness that delivers the same story and vibe as The Wedding Date. In the same way that romcoms often hit the same notes and can be exactly what you’re seeking, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if you’re wanting to recreate reading Guillory’s debut. However, for me, The Wedding Date was too fresh in my mind and I couldn’t stop comparing their similarities. If I hadn’t read both of Guillory’s novels in the same year, I might have felt differently. But could I see myself picking up her next book when I need something cute, cozy, and familiar to read? Definitely. 

Publication Date: 30 October 2018 by Berkley BooksFormat: Paperback.

Author: Jasmine Guillory web/@twitter/@instagram/facebook

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

image1 (19)Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler follows Tess, a 22-year-old white woman who flees her old life in favor of starting afresh in New York City and “discovering” herself. Within days of arriving in the city, she lands a job at a very in demand restaurant in Manhattan, despite only having barista experience in whatever town she was in before. The book is all about the whirlwind, yet very contained life this job lands her in.

The lead character, Tess, perpetually whines and wants people to take her seriously as a “real person”, fitting the stereotype of many people I met at this age in NYC. While Tess’s own actions are annoying, you’re not met to necessarily be rooting for her — she moves to New York to be a more exciting person than she used to be, but she spends all of her time working in a restaurant without exploring the city or her own interests while living in the city. Tess throws herself into the restaurant world, with all of the learning about fine dining and the hooking up and the drugs and alcohol that follow restaurant workers into the early hours of the morning. 

The story is mostly about a young woman who immediately gets usurped into a specific restaurant’s world and the strange rules and practices of those who have been at the restaurant for years and view it as the center of the universe. These characters are pretentious and I found the story absolutely delectable. I’m looking forward to watching the TV adaptation soon.

Publication Date: 24 May 2016 by KnopfFormat: Hardcover.

Author: Stephanie Danler web/@instagram/@twitter

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

Screen Shot 2018-11-25 at 1.04.42 PMThe Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald was passed down to me via my best friend’s mom who is very into libraries and book clubs, which once you know the contents of this plot, somehow totally makes sense.

The story centers around a visitor from Sweden coming to stay with her bookish penpal in a slow moving town in Iowa. The visitor, Sara, stays for a few months and decides to open a bookstore in the town as a way to rally the community together. She falls in love with the the bookstore, the town, and its inhabitants along the way. The entire book was charming and fluffy and had absolutely no drama. Aka when you’re wanting to get away from the terrifying news cycle, this is a perfect way to zap your brain into a cozy little town that won’t stress you out. 

The entire novel is incredibly book-centric. Sara finds her penpal from selling books internationally and starting a message chain about books with another book lover. Sara is constantly talking about books in her inner monologues and with others, even those who aren’t typical readers, sometimes giving away major plot lines of classics that you may not have read yet yourself (this didn’t bother me, but it may bother some readers). Everything is about books books books and I could see many readers wanting to get swept away with a protagonist who is just reading reading reading all of the time.

While the story was cozy, pieces of it did feel very heavy handed — there are bits about racism, queerness, etc. that feel very pointed and proud, but also strangely forced. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is a story about a small town, but really mostly about a visiting reader and her constant bookish comparisons. If you’re looking for something with a bit of charm and no harm, this is a book for you.  

Publication Date: 19 January 2016 by SourcebooksFormat: Paperback.

Author: Katarina Bivald web/@twitter

 

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies of a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou

image1 (19)Bad Blood by John Carreyrou takes the reader through the incredibly wild journey and demolition of startup company Theranos. Carreyrou writes about this scandal in a way that is utterly captivating. I could not stop talking about this book while I was reading it and hated having to put it down when life got in the way. 

Theranos, a startup company founded by Elizabeth Holmes, claimed to be initially building the capability to do and eventually claiming ability to use a single pinprick of blood to do a variety of health tests that would actually require much more blood to do accurately. However, because Theranos amassed a board of impressive, seemingly trustworthy individuals, many who were skeptical chose to let their questions and disbelief slides. The problem? Not many got close enough to see what a huge scam the foundation of the company was based upon. What happened? Theranos was able to con investors and partnered companies out of hundreds of millions of dollars by promising a technology that could not and would not be developed by the company. 

When scientists and Theranos employees raised red flags internally, they were strongly suggested to leave the company and forced to sign nondisclosure agreements that made many former employees terrified of speaking about the going ons of Theranos. When employees did speak out, the CEO, Holmes, threatened them with (and sometimes served them with) lawsuits.

Carreyrou, the investigative journalist at the Wall Street Journal who broke the first stories about Theranos being a scam, writes a full book about everything leading up to Theranos becoming the big company that it was, the terror and lies that were occurring within the company, and the beginnings of the unspooling of the company once it was publicly declared to be terrible. Every few pages my jaw dropped with new details that emerged that contributed to the creation and ultimate downfall of this company. This is a nonfiction page turner that you will not want to put down. 

Publication Date: 21 May 2018 by Knopf PublishingFormat: Hardcover.

Author: John Carreryrou @twitter