Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Reading Envy 214: Extreme Hiking with Mina

New guest Mina speaks with Jenny about her 2021 reading goals, a book club with an amazing life of its own, and books we've read and liked recently.

Download or listen via this link: Reading Envy 214: Extreme Hiking.

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Books discussed: 

Cover images for all books discussed.

Miss Benson's Beetle by Rachel Joyce
The Liar's Dictionary by Eley Williams
Where the Forest Meets the Stars by Glendy Vanderesch
32 Yolks by Eric Ripert
The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay

Other mentions:

Sea Glass by Anita Shreve
The Sellout by Paul Beatty
Deacon King Kong by James McBride
Sharks in the Time of Saviors by Kawai Strong Washburn
Family Ingredients (PBS show)
Example of extreme hiking - Waipio Valley
A Children's Bible by Lydia Millet
Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica, translated by Sarah Moses
Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
Article mentioned about Piranesi and quarantine
Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry
Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Pop Sugar Reading Challenge
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce
Scrawl Books
KCRW Bookworm - Douglas Stuart
Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey
Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart
Telephone by Percival Everett

Related episodes:

Episode 084 - A Worthy Tangent with Bryan Alexander
Episode 102 - The Reading Women Reading Envy Crossover Episode
Episode 183 - Birthing Rabbits with Jessica
Episode 192 - Sly Milieu with Thomas
Episode 211 - Rereads and Romance with Kim

Stalk us online:

Mina at Goodreads
Mina is @minamina0907 on Instagram
Jenny at Goodreads
Jenny on Twitter
Jenny is @readingenvy on Instagram and Litsy

All links to books are through Bookshop.org, where I am an affiliate. I wanted more money to go to the actual publishers and authors. I link to Amazon when a book is not listed with Bookshop.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Review: Laugh with the Moon

Laugh with the Moon Laugh with the Moon by Shana Burg
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

For the Read the World 21 challenge, this month focusing on South and East Africa, I have focused on countries I had not read books from yet. I came across this middle reader novel set in Malawi. It is more of an outsider view as the main character, Clare, is a white American who travels with her father who is in Malawi to work as a doctor for nine weeks. He has a history there and friends in the village. Clare has recently lost her mother and is struggling.

I prefer ownvoices reads but the benefit of an outsider view novel for kids can be the bridge between two cultures. The author had two readers in Malawi checking for cultural accuracy, and visited herself to study the education system, which figures pretty heavily into the novel.

It took me back to my childhood in a sideways way, when my mom coordinated missions at the church I grew up in and I had a very good friend and penpal who lived in Kenya with her missionary parents. Much of the day to day stuff including the food sounds similar to her experience, although she did attend a boarding school as she got older.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Review: So You Want to Talk About Race

So You Want to Talk About Race So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'll continue discussing this book with a group in Instagram through the end of the month but I went ahead and finished listening to it. The author has as her audience people who have confronted: the fact that there is both individual and systemic racism, that they themselves are probably sometimes racist or beneficiaries of racism, and are wanting to improve on their knowledge, yes, but more importantly their ability to talk about it more openly. It is a combination of background and contextual information on various topics and then strategies for dealing with difficult conversations about them.

Chapters are specific to subtopics and the entire book is USA-centric. The basic ideas and strategies are applicable to everyone but I think the nuance is focused on American history and context (except one memorable run-in with a Canadian internet troll.) It was published in 2018 so there are a few topics that have changed some since she wrote it - Oluo states, for example, that blatant racism is only found on the sidelines. If only. She also mentions that an Asian American has never held high office and that is no longer the case! I would not let these tiny changes interfere with the usefulness of the book.

For me personally, the topics that kept me thinking most included privilege (the conversation tips for this one were very helpful,) police brutality (a deepening of understanding it from another perspective,) micro-aggressions especially in the workplace, and picking and choosing who gets to be involved in anti-racism.

A few books this connects to -

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism (love or hate DiAngelo, I think this book is often read prior to the Oluo, so many are reading it in pairs. Please don't stop there. And if you haven't read WF, it might be useful for better identifying ways white people refuse to acknowledge their privilege. I would pair it most directly with Oluo's privilege chapter.)
Just Us: An American Conversation - Claudia Rankine demonstrates some of her own tough conversations around race, most directly connected to Oluo's chapters on microaggressions and affirmative action.
Between the World and Me - because Oluo's mother is white, there are some conversations the author relates that made me think of this book, although of course Coates has his own lived experiences to pass down and a broader historical context than Oluo's mother did.
My Grandmother's Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Mending of Our Bodies and Hearts - I'd connect Menakem's work to a lot of this but it comes from a completely different perspective. He is working inside the communities of color to move towards healing; Oluo is helping people outside the communities understand that trauma exists in the first place. But wouldn't it be nice for more people to develop empathy and humility about these differences in experience.

Also I haven't read all the books, nor do I feel even close to having all the knowledge. Some books I want to read soon that speak more specifically about the Black American experience include:
Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019
A Black Women's History of the United States

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Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Review: The Expats

The Expats The Expats by Chris Pavone
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was looking for a book set in Luxembourg and was recommended this one! A woman who has kept her job a secret from friends and family has to move to Luxembourg suddenly when her husband takes a job there. They adjust to this new world where everyone is connected to banking in some way, many people don't seem to be who they say they are, and Kate is getting suspicious.
I was all in at the beginning of this story but I'm not sure I'm satisfied by the end. I'm still thinking about it. Sometimes our former CIA operative has some pretty dumb blind spots. I wish the publisher had made different font choices because those used to differentiate the present-day timeline really hurt my head!

But I feel I learned about Luxembourg as a place, and then went to YouTube to watch people speaking Luxembourgish which some describe as sounding like a mix between German and Flemish. In a country smaller than Rhode Island, you can experience the second most wealthy nation in the world, so there are plenty of questionable financial dealings and political intrigue to make a great setting for a novel.

I see this is supposed to be the first in a series so I'm curious about book 2.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Review: Milk Fed

Milk Fed Milk Fed by Melissa Broder
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm still trying to gather my thoughts on this book. First of all, if you have any sensitivity around eating disorders, this is not the book for you. Just don't do it.

The novel starts with Rachel, who has controlled every calorie in her life to where that's all her life is. Her therapist is trying to help her see the connection between this control and the relationship with her mother but she doesn't want to see it.

Rachel is also Jewish and befriends Miriam, an Orthodox Jew who works at the froyo place. It goes far past friendship (and it all starts with Miriam insisting on giving Rachel a topping, a yogurt topping, it is really hard to talk about this book without a lot of accidental double entendre.)

There is a lot here about choice and control, identity and happiness. Much of it is explicit from the obsessive calorie counting to the 24 food binges to the surprisingly detailed sexual encounters. But I struggled because Rachel treats others the way she treats her own body, and I really feel if the narrator were male we would be calling the novel "problematic" with "consent." Even as a reader I felt some sense of the author/narrator forcing me into how she experiences every detail of an event whether that is eating froyo or a sexual encounter. I imagine the ability to bring the reader so far into that experience is also a skill in the writing but it was not always a positive.

Some of her decision making comes from dreams where magical Rabbis tell her what to do, and there is a golem/maker dialogue in her head at times.

The last novel I read by this author, The Pisces, had some weird and wonderful moments, but the narrators of both books lack the ability to see beyond what she wants to how her actions effect others. Rachel even does things people have specifically asked her not to do. I couldn't tell if this is selfishness, a lack of empathy, recklessness, a little of all of it maybe. 

Can I give a book 4 stars that I didn't particularly enjoy but feel the author has skill to make me feel that way? There we are, for now.

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Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Review: The Survivors

The Survivors The Survivors by Jane Harper
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A standalone from Australian crime writer Jane Harper, set in a coastal small town in Tasmania with a history of loss, and then a young woman dies mysteriously and old grudges come to the surface.

One thing I continue to appreciate and enjoy in Harper's writing is the importance of the landscape. Previously that has been the sparse, dry climates; this is a cold weather island, specifically on the coast where there are caves that are underwater only during high tide. What a perfect place to be full of danger and foreboding! I wish I could go there.

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Reading Envy 213: Funicular Reads with Bianca

Bianca returns to talk about last year's reading, new goals, and comfort reads like found families and historical romance. There are a lot of geeky and nerdy characters in this episode as well.

Download or listen via this link: Reading Envy 213: Funicular Reads.

Subscribe to the podcast via this link: Feedburner
Or subscribe via Apple Podcasts by clicking: Subscribe
Or listen through TuneIn
Or listen on Google Play
Or listen via Stitcher
Or listen through Spotify 
Or listen through Google Podcasts

Books discussed: 

Conventionally Yours by Annabeth Albert
The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw
The Chain by Adrian McKinty
White Ivy by Susie Yang
One by One by Ruth Ware

Other mentions:

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
Pop Sugar Reading Challenge
Book Riot Read Harder Challenge
Something is Killing the Children by James Tynion IV
The Backstagers by James Tynion IV
Hawkeye: Kate Bishop by Kelly Thompson
The Guild (tv show)
Magic the Gathering
Read or Dead podcast
Article about Spotify
It Takes Two to Tumble by Cat Sebastian
Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

Related episodes:

Episode 094 - House Arrest with Libby Young
Episode 127
- The Sadness Between Books with Bianca Escalante
Episode 145 - Things Get Dark with Bianca Escalante

Stalk us online:

Bianca is @bianca on Litsy
Bianca at Goodreads
Jenny at Goodreads
Jenny on Twitter
Jenny is @readingenvy on Instagram and Litsy

All links to books are through Bookshop.org, where I am an affiliate. I wanted more money to go to the actual publishers and authors. I link to Amazon when a book is not listed with Bookshop.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Review: Everything Lost Is Found Again: Four Seasons in Lesotho

Everything Lost Is Found Again: Four Seasons in Lesotho Everything Lost Is Found Again: Four Seasons in Lesotho by Will McGrath
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I look for books set in other countries, I always try to find ownvoices reads first. In a rare case I will read a memoir of an outsider's experience in the country, like I have done in this case.

Will McGrath spends his initial year in Lesotho (pronounced Leh-soo-too) because his wife is a cultural anthropologist focused on AIDs and resulting orphans. Lesotho's adult population is 25% HIV positive, with a lot of grandparents caring for grandchildren, so it was the right place for her to go. Will worked at a school.

Unlike some outsider writings where they seem to mock people living in a place (J. Maarten Troost comes to mind,) Will is curious about language nuances and how people think, without taking any of it too seriously. Both he and Ellen build relationships with people and seem good at going with the flow. I wish he knew that granadilla was passion fruit though. That's going to bug me forever.

I learned a lot about the country landlocked by South Africa, while also being entirely different from South Africa. This will count for the Read the World 21 challenge for this month, focusing on South and East Africa, and crosses another country off my world list.

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