Reading Sara Review: Bad Feminist, by Roxane Gay

Bad Feminist, by Roxane Gay

cover_bad_feminist

Paperback: 336 pages

Publisher: Harper Perennial (August 5, 2014)

Reading Sara Rating: 7.5/10everything everything

This book of essays by Roxane Gay was one of the most delightful things I have read so far in 2016. Gay is honest, hilarious, and smart. She described throughout these essays many of my own thoughts and opinions – but in ways that I could never express so eloquently. I had multiple lines highlighted in almost every chapter because what she wrote resonated so deeply with me.

Gay takes the approach of being a modern woman, wanting to be a feminist, but not feeling like she is as good at it as she is supposed to be (whether it was her obsession as a youth with the Sweet Valley High books or her love of totally inappropriate rap music). Most women that I know struggle with this on some level. Yes, we want equal pay. And no, we do not think rape jokes are ever funny. But we like shaving our legs and we enjoy wearing cute dresses.

It makes me sad that feminism is the new “f-word” and that it comes with expectations and stigma. Reading these essays helped me to forgive myself for not fighting for women’s rights every single day, but reminded me of the importance of speaking up and speaking out – not being a bystander in the world today. In the United States, there is a lot happening in the political world that scares me – and it is a refreshing reminder that as women we have influence and voices.

Here are a couple of quotes from Gay that gets to the gist of this wonderful book, and I think expresses a lot of what women struggle with today and if you like this and agree, you’ll enjoy these essays.

“I bought into the grossly inaccurate myths about who feminists are – militant, perfect in their politics and person, man-hating, humorless. I bought into these myths even though, intellectually, I know better.”

“It’s great to remember that reading is my first love.”

“This may also explain why in high school I became utterly devoted to Beverly Hills 90210, which took the Sweet Valley High formula and elevated it to high art.”

“Like most people, I’m full of contradictions, but I also don’t want to be treated like shit for being a woman.”

“I am just one woman trying to make sense of this world we live in. I’m raising my voice to show all the ways we have room to want more, to do better.”

 

 

 

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Summer Reading (2016 Edition) Part 1

Summer Reading 2016 Part 1

beach pic

Summer reading is on my mind in a big way – not only is this weekend a three-day weekend for Memorial Day but I also just returned from an incredible week in Hawaii where it felt like summer.  Admittedly, I did little reading while on the beach in Hawaii because I was way too busy chatting with friends (but we talked about books!), it hasn’t stopped me from making my summer reading list for 2016.

Summer reading is something that was ingrained in my life for as long as I can remember – though my reading list has adapted from reading Jane Eyre before the start of my sophomore year of high school to devouring a combination of beach reads and everything else on my TBR list. Summer is perfect for reading because whether you are on a towel by the beach or in a hammock in the mountains – or simply on your couch enjoying long days, there is just more time. Life slows down a little bit.

Last summer, I recommended these books for your beach reads (and I still stand by these if you have not read them yet!). This year, to kick things off, I have some that I am planning on reading. Later in the summer I will post recommendations and reviews. I want to hear your summer reading list too! What are you packing in your beach bag or downloading on your Kindle?

What Reading Sara TBR Summer List looks like:

Summer Books 1Summer Books 2

Modern Lovers, by Emma Stroud
I liked The Vacationers (admittedly, I did not love it, but I do like Stroud’s writing style and am excited about her newest release)
update: review here!

The Sound of Glass, by Karen White
White is a renowned author, and this book is a fictional story set in the south involving families, inheritance, and secrets. Sounds like summer to me. Her other novel, Flight Patterns, just came out this week, is also on my TBR list. Update: review here!

Eligible, by Curtis Sittenfeld
I know I said that I needed a break from the Jane Austen project after being sorely disappointed by Emma – but what can I say? I’m a glutton for Austen stories, and I know I’ll read it this summer.
update: review here!

Girls on Fire, by Robin Wasserman
I have heard a lot about this book lately, so just added it to my TBR list – small rural town, Satan worship, disappearing kids, friendship (maybe more) between two kids… sounds like a good summer book to me!
update: review here!

The Girls, by Emma Cline
It’s about a cult. I can’t wait.
update: review here!

The People in the Trees, by Hanya Yanagihara
This one has long been on my TBR list, and I promise myself I will get to it this summer!

And don’t worry, more wine reviews this summer! I apologize for the slight hiatus, drinking mai tais on the beach got a little distracting – but I am back and excited to read (and drink!) with you! I hope everyone is ready for rosé season and willing to try what is sure to be “the next rosé ” – orange wine! More to come…

 

Reading Sara Review: Emma: A Modern Retelling by Alexander McCall Smith

Emma: A Modern Retelling by Alexander McCall Smith

Emma

Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Anchor (April 5, 2016)
Reading Sara Rating: 4/10

fates and furies rating

I might be in a bit of a book slump, my friends. I had such high expectations of this book. Emma is my favorite Jane Austen book – and I was so excited to hear of a modern retelling (though a little nervous, because honestly, what could be better than Clueless??). Not only is Emma my favorite Austen novel, but Alexander McCall Smith is an incredible storyteller. I have been a longtime fan of The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency and was thrilled with this pairing.

Emma: A Modern Retelling is a part of the Austen Project, which surprisingly, I had no idea about until this book came on my radar. There has been a lot of buzz about the fourth book in the series, Eligible: a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice, which is on my TBR list, but I may wait read some other while I wait for the sting of this one to die down. The Austen Project is pairing contemporary writers to pen a modern story of each of Jane Austen’s books. I appreciate the concept because Austen’s stories are timeless, but this one did not deliver for me.

Here is the deal with the character Emma: she is spoiled, a bit selfish, and makes mistakes as she figures out who she wants to be. Because of these things she is relatable and interesting. She figures it out in the end and makes amends. Unfortunately, McCall Smith painted her character as unfeeling, mean-spirited, and not relatable. I love the character for her flaws, but if I had never read the original book, I would have hated her. Her romance with Mr. Knightley in this retelling comes out of nowhere. It felt like the author had to finish the book quickly so did not take the time to make an ending that made any sense.

Frank Churchill was remarkably awful – and Jane Fairfax was equally as snobby as Emma. Emma’s fascination with Harriet Smith was weird and a little creepy. The only characters that I found interesting in a modern version were Mr. Woodhouse and Miss Taylor, who are constant northern stars to Emma. It was fun to live in the world again for a little while, but I was left wanting to re-read the original (and obviously watch Clueless again).

McCall Smith is still an incredible writer, and that is why I finished the book. His style of storytelling is appealing, and he can describe people well. I will continue to read his work, but this story was a miss for me. I wish he would have set the re-telling in Botswana to add a new depth to the characters and story, instead of just placing them in modern day English countryside.

I recommend skipping this one unless you too are a diehard Austen/Emma fan, and then I would love for you to read it so that we can talk about it!

Reading Sara Review: The Summer Before the War, by Helen Simonson

The Summer Before the War, by Helen Simonson

summe rbefore the war

Hardcover: 496 pages
Publisher: Random House (March 22, 2016)
Reading Sara Rating: 5/10

 

Reading Sara Review: I wanted to love this book, I truly did. I loved Simonson’s book Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand. I remember her storytelling as being fluid and unexpected. And this was billed as a book for those of us still mourning the loss of Downton Abbey, a category in which I certainly fall into. I liked this book, but if I weren’t writing the review right now, I would probably forget about it quickly.

The Summer Before the War is set in 1914 in East Sussex, so, right before the first World War when times begin to change the world, but especially in England. The story follows Beatrice Nash, who arrives in town for a job teaching Latin at the local school. Beatrice is a world traveler, has unconventional ways of thought, and is more attractive than the local school expected. Beatrice is quickly thrown into the politics of the community, filled with quirky characters and afternoon tea.

Hugh and Daniel are cousins who grew up visiting the town of Rye and their aunt, Agatha. Agatha was a woman of her time, though possibly more free-thinking than she lets on, she plays the town politics game well to get things done. Agatha welcomes Beatrice with open arms and serves as somewhat of a mentor to her throughout the novel. Agatha certainly had a more interesting backstory than Beatrice, and this story would have benefitted from exploring that more.

Hugh and Daniel are opposites – Daniel is the poet and drinker while Hugh plays the role of doctor and serious companion. I wish that Daniel was better developed; he was certainly the most interesting character in the book. He was loyal, compassionate, but also had real struggles and that would have been interesting to explore. Hugh, on the other hand, was extremely one-dimensional. I felt no emotion toward him and did not care how his story was tidied up.

So, again, this book was just ok to me – nothing dramatic happens, which isn’t necessarily the problem, but it felt predictable and uninspired. I finished it, though it took me longer than usual because I kept waiting for something unusual to occur. Nothing did. I wanted to feel emotion at the end, but I was really just watching my kindle % and excited for picking my next book. When there are so many excellent historical fiction books floating around from the past couple of years, this is one that you can skip.

Reading Sara Review: All the Bright Places, by Jennifer Niven

All the Bright Places, by Jennifer Niven

all the bright places

Hardcover: 400 pages

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (January 6, 2015)

Reading Sara Rating: 7/10

modern romance

Reading Sara Review: I loved many parts of this book. For young adult readers, and adults alike, it touches on the challenges of youth in a deep in a meaningful way. All the Bright Places had been on my TBR list since it was released in 2015 to rave reviews. I am so glad that I finally had a free weekend to devour this book.

All the Bright Places follows two protagonists, Violet Markey and Theodore Finch. They come from different worlds (Violet is popular and well-liked while Theodore takes pride in being the school ‘freak’). It sounds like a tired story until you learn how they meet in the first chapter: both on the belltower of their school, contemplating a jump. Spoiler alert: neither jumps, but they do build a friendship.

Violet and Theodore face inner demons that haunt them. They are different than the rest of their friends but are brought together by a sense of their shared hurt and struggles. This book is a story of first love, of the first opening of the heart to another soul. It is also the story of depression: how it can come as suddenly as it disappears and how love and friendship (no matter how great) cannot fix people who suffer.

Throughout reading the book, I had a feeling that something terrible was going to happen, which kept the book interesting until the last page.

This is one story of mental illness and certainly does not speak to all of the forms and struggles that people (especially teenagers) face. But I felt that this story was told well. The characters felt alive – you had hopes for them, you wanted them to get help, you hated some of the adults in their lives and had empathy for others.

If you are a fan of other heartbreaking young adult books (Fault in our Stars etc.), add this to your TBR list. It has a quirky tone for a book about something serious, which did not bother me – but I have heard of others complain of it. I thought Niven wrote a lovely story, with memorable characters, unforgettable emotions and lovable writing.

Read it now, before the movie comes out! I hear Elle Fanning is slated to play Violet in the 2017 film adaption.

Some of my favorite quotes, to give a sample of the writing style:

“The problem with people is they forget that most of the time it’s the small things that count.”

“It’s my experience that people are a lot more sympathetic if they can see you hurting, and for the millionth time in my life I wish for measles or smallpox or some other easily understood disease just to make it easier on me and also on them.”

“Sorry wastes time. You have to live your life like you’ll never be sorry. It’s easier just to do the right thing from the start, so there’s nothing to apologize for.”

“Because it’s not a lie if it’s how you feel.”