Book Review: Not Quite Not White

I love reading books from a point of view that is not my own. Not Quite Not White by Sharmila Sen is about her experience emigrating from India when she was 12.

Basic Summary (Courtesy of Amazon):

At the age of 12, Sharmila Sen emigrated from India to the U.S. The year was 1982, and everywhere she turned, she was asked to self-report her race – on INS forms, at the doctor’s office, in middle school. Never identifying with a race in the India of her childhood, she rejects her new “not quite” designation – not quite white, not quite black, not quite Asian — and spends much of her life attempting to blend into American whiteness. But after her teen years trying to assimilate–watching shows like General Hospital and The Jeffersons, dancing to Duran Duran and Prince, and perfecting the art of Jell-O no-bake desserts–she is forced to reckon with the hard questions: What does it mean to be white, why does whiteness retain the magic cloak of invisibility while other colors are made hypervisible, and how much does whiteness figure into Americanness?

Part memoir, part manifesto, Not Quite Not White is a searing appraisal of race and a path forward for the next not quite not white generation –a witty and sharply honest story of discovering that not-whiteness can be the very thing that makes us American.

 

My thoughts:

I very much enjoyed reading about her experiences. I’ve never been a 12 year old leaving my country for a new life my parents think will be a positive move for our family.

In the end though, our opinions on how to address the issues of race in America are polar opposites. And that is to be expected. We have two different back grounds to draw our opinions from. I believe the way forward to is to stop naming race and color and religion as though they describe what matters about humans at all.

Perhaps that’s because I am perceived as “white”. I’ve “enjoyed'” a life being perceived as white.  But that label tells nothing about who I really am.

Am I kind person who donates money to charity or a money hoarder who cares only for her own immediate family?

Do I work at a job I love or am I miserable but chasing the almighty dollar?

Am I a lady who lunches or do I clean my own home because I think it’s weird to have another human pick up after me?

Did I vote for Trump or Hillary?

Am I brilliant or average?

Can I make you laugh or do I tell knock knock jokes?

Do I go to church?

Do I pray?

The word white doesn’t answer any of these things for you. Neither would the label black, brown, purple, or pink with polka dots. Why bother to use a label that gives no meaningful information at all?

 

Book Review: You

It’s so weird why I picked this up. On the front cover is a line about not everyone wants to be followed…I immediately thought of previous social media books I loved and grabbed You by Caroline Kepnes. So not what I thought.

Basic Summary (Courtesy of Goodreads):

When a beautiful, aspiring writer strides into the East Village bookstore where Joe Goldberg works, he does what anyone would do: he Googles the name on her credit card.

There is only one Guinevere Beck in New York City. She has a public Facebook account and Tweets incessantly, telling Joe everything he needs to know: she is simply Beck to her friends, she went to Brown University, she lives on Bank Street, and she’ll be at a bar in Brooklyn tonight—the perfect place for a “chance” meeting.

As Joe invisibly and obsessively takes control of Beck’s life, he orchestrates a series of events to ensure Beck finds herself in his waiting arms. Moving from stalker to boyfriend, Joe transforms himself into Beck’s perfect man, all while quietly removing the obstacles that stand in their way—even if it means murder.

My thoughts:

Dark, this book is madly dark.

It’s also 80-90% stream of consciousness so be prepared for a heavy lack of interaction. I loved the style but at several points it dragged for me and I found myself skimming pages looking for something to actually happen.

I found all the behavior totally believable. People do indeed act this way. Humans are flawed.

This is totally the opposite of the way I write. I am all action, either in movement or dialogue. This is all one man’s head but it was compelling. Possibly because it’s one of my own short comings. That stream of consciousness style.

Book Review: Died in the Wool

Died in the Wool is the second Knit and Nibble series by Peggy Ehrhart I have read. I liked the first one enough to grab the second.

Basic Summary (Courtesy of Amazon):

Pamela is ready to kick back and relax after a busy day selling stuffed aardvarks to benefit Arborville High School’s sports program at the annual town festival. But just as she’s packing up, she makes a terrible discovery—someone’s stashed a body under the Knit and Nibble’s table. The victim is Randall Jefferson, a decidedly unpopular history teacher after his recent op-ed criticizing the school’s sports program. But the primary suspect has an alibi, and the only clue is a stuffed aardvark found on the victim’s chest.  Now the Knit and Nibblers must unravel the case quickly—before a crafty killer repeats a deadly pattern.

My thoughts:

Despite this being a knit book there was very little yarn talk but I can tell you what the main character ate for EVERY meal for the duration of the book in nauseating detail. It felt like filler. And it made the book feel super slow moving.

On the plus side:

-all the clues to solve the mystery are laid out for you.

-The clues are put together by the main character in an inventive way.

-The little town this takes place in sounds adorbs and I think I’d like to live there but I won’t join their knitting club. The author is way too fond of the new person in town being both the killer and the victim.

I’ll read the next one to see if this laborious heavy food will continue because I do like the characters and I like the plots.

Book Review: Surprise Me

New Sophie Kinsella books, Surprise Me, on the new arrivals shelf. I love Sophie, I do. So I had to read it.

Basic Summary (Courtesy of Goodreads):

After being together for ten years, Sylvie and Dan have all the trimmings of a happy life and marriage; they have a comfortable home, fulfilling jobs, beautiful twin girls, and communicate so seamlessly, they finish each other’s sentences. However, a trip to the doctor projects they will live another 68 years together and panic sets in. They never expected “until death do us part” to mean seven decades.

In the name of marriage survival, they quickly concoct a plan to keep their relationship fresh and exciting: they will create little surprises for each other so that their (extended) years together will never become boring. But in their pursuit to execute Project Surprise Me, mishaps arise and secrets are uncovered that start to threaten the very foundation of their unshakable bond. When a scandal from the past is revealed that question some important untold truths, they begin to wonder if they ever really knew each other after all.

My Thoughts:

um, yeah. Good description. That’s the book.

The big “shock” is fairly obvious. I’ll give Sophie partial marks for trying to make the reader think one thing, while hinting it’s really something else, and then coming up with a third thing for it to actually be that is rather nasty on several levels.

It’s funny, Sophie’s books always are. And it’s believable. People do act the way she portrays them. But I knew what was coming. I knew how it would go, every time. Perhaps I read too much.

There was one thing that got me by surprise, but it made me sad. LOL.

Overall, very enjoyable read. Definite vanilla pudding for the brain category.

Book Review: Goodbye Cruller World

I was so excited to see Goodbye Cruller World by Ginger Bolton on the shelf at the library. I remembered liking her first one and mentally noting to get the second when it came out.

Basic Summary (Courtesy of Amazon):

Normally, Emily’s eyes tend to glaze over when prospective brides go on about their wedding plans. But when the owner of the clothing shop, Dressed to Kill, asks Emily to design a donut wall for her reception, she’s immediately sweet on the idea. With the help of her father-in-law and business partner—the former police chief of Fallingbrook—she hangs the treats from dowels on the wall so guests can help themselves.

But that night, when the groom ends up on the floor with signs of poisoning, Emily suspects someone has tampered with her treats. When the groom dies, there’s no way to sugarcoat it: she’s got a murder on her hands. Despite a list of suspects as long as the guest list, Emily vows to find out who created the killer confection to save her shop’s reputation and keep the bride out of handcuffs. She’ll have to move fast . . . before the poisoner takes a powder.

My thoughts:

I finished this book more than a week ago. I’ve been debating whether to review it ever since. I have a rule about this. My first year reviewing I was still figuring out the process and I posted a review of every book I read. But by the end I hated putting too much unpleasantness into the world. So this year, if I can’t find three nice things to say about the book, I just won’t review it. Hence my struggle.

I just looked at my review for the first book, the donut thing bothered me again. I get that it’s a donut shop mystery but the sixteen word long description of every donut anyone ever eats in the book is too much for me. And a lot of donut happen in this book. A lot.

It was an enjoyable read, like the first one, up til a point. I was reading along,  smile on my face, ignoring the donuts, enjoying the building budding relationship, the funny ways people lie. And then, wham, the “solution” arrived (totally predictable – I actually thought early in the book I hope it’s not going to be one of those where x did it, it was) without wrapping up any of the loose ends.

I was heinously dissatisfied. Like when I order a Dead Elvis donut and there isn’t enough custard in the middle so the peanut butter frosting overwhelms the whole thing and sticks to the roof of my mouth. Like that.

Book Review: The Education of a Coroner

When I saw The Education of a Coroner: Lessons in Investigating Death by John Bateson on the new arrivals shelf I grabbed it thinking it would be a little extra research for the second book in my murder mystery series. I had no idea I would find the book so fascinating on its own merits.

Basic Summary (Courtesy of Amazon):

In the vein of Dr. Judy Melinek’s Working Stiff, an account of the hair-raising and heartbreaking cases handled by the coroner of Marin County, California throughout his four decades on the job—from high-profile deaths to serial killers, to Golden Gate Bridge suicides.

Marin County, California is a study in contradictions. Its natural beauty attracts thousands of visitors every year, yet the county also is home to San Quentin Prison, one of the oldest and largest penitentiaries in the country. Marin ranks in the top one percent of counties nationwide in terms of affluence and overall health, yet it is far above the norm in drug overdoses and alcoholism, and comprises a large percentage of suicides from the Golden Gate Bridge.

Ken Holmes worked in the Marin County Coroner’s Office for thirty-six years, starting as a death investigator and ending as the three-term, elected coroner. As he grew into the job—which is different from what is depicted on television—Holmes learned a variety of skills, from finding hidden clues at death scenes, interviewing witnesses effectively, managing bystanders and reporters, preparing testimony for court to notifying families of a death with sensitivity and compassion. He also learned about different kinds of firearms, all types of drugs—prescription and illegal—and about certain unexpected and potentially fatal phenomena such as autoeroticism.

Complete with poignant anecdotes, The Education of a Coroner provides a firsthand and fascinating glimpse into the daily life of a public servant whose work is dark and mysterious yet necessary for society to function.

My thoughts:

That summary makes the book sound like the boring non fiction slog I thought it might be. And that is so not the case. I don’t know if Ken Holmes is just an entertainer or if Bateson wrote him that way or if their combined efforts gel in exactly the right way. This book was fascinating, a little heart wrenching, and often amusing.

I think the combination of cases, behind the scenes lore, human behavior, and a coroner’s view of the police is what got me. I like to know. Everything.

I’m immediately struck by past arguments I’ve had regarding the police. I always argue that they are good people doing a hard job. But some of the stories told in this book make me feel less secure about that opinion. I also want desperately to go the local archives and read through cases like Bateson did. No time to go down that rabbit hole though. LOL

This is a super well written, very interesting book about the complexities of death and the investigation of death.

Book Review: Jane Austen, the Secret Radical

I’m not embarrassed to admit, I love me a bit of Austen. In fact, in high school in British Literature, the Austen books were the only ones I actually read all the way through. he-he

Basic Summary (Courtesy of Amazon):

In this fascinating, revelatory work, Helena Kelly–dazzling Jane Austen authority–looks past the grand houses, the pretty young women, past the demure drawing room dramas and witty commentary on the narrow social worlds of her time that became the hallmark of Austen’s work to bring to light the serious, ambitious, deeply subversive nature of this beloved writer. Kelly illuminates the radical subjects–slavery, poverty, feminism, the Church, evolution, among them–considered treasonous at the time, that Austen deftly explored in the six novels that have come to embody an age. The author reveals just how in the novels we find the real Jane Austen: a clever, clear-sighted woman “of information,” fully aware of what was going on in the world and sure about what she thought of it. We see a writer who understood that the novel–until then seen as mindless “trash”–could be a great art form and who, perhaps more than any other writer up to that time, imbued it with its particular greatness.

 

My thoughts:

I am guilty of allowing the visual image of Colin Firth coming out of the lake in his soaking wet shirt color my reading of Austen. I read the books long before that particular mini series of course but subsequent readings, adult readings, always hark back to Colin Firth in his soaking wet shirt. Let’s take a momentary pause shall we?

Mr-Darcy-Colin-Firth

 

Moving on. Helena Kelly’s arguments were vastly thought provoking and made me immediately want to reread all Jane Austen’s books. God knows when I’ll have the time, so for now I’m fighting the urge. But I think Austen extra brilliant now. She very effectively used the pastiche of romance to critique every major institution of her lifetime. And she did it without getting her head removed from her body of treason. That is skill. The fact that we’re still reading her 200 years later is all the more impressive.