Monday, January 30, 2017

Recently Read: Viper Wine

Author: Hermonie Eyre
Genre: Historical Fiction
Page Count: 410
Rating: 2/5

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Venetia Stanley was known for beauty and the art and poetry it inspired great men to write. She has since married and the greatest tragedy known to human kind has befallen her: she has aged. She attempts to convince her alchemist husband to make her an anti-aging serum, which is all the rage in the court of Charles the I, but he refuses. Venetia is forced to find the tonic on her own in order to restore her beauty.

I had super high hopes for this book. I loved the cover and the premise, but I was disappointed with this one. This was such a slow read. It took me ages to read and I ended up just skimming the last one hundred pages because I just wanted it to be over with. There wasn't much of a plot in this novel, which can sometimes work out just fine as I love character driven novels, but in this case, it just didn't work.

Eyre attempts to weave together magic, science, and superstition into this novel by allowing glimpses of the future into the past. Sir Digby (Venetia's husband) can see glimpses of the future of science and serves as a somewhat 'enlightened' figure. I found that this element of the novel just disrupted the historic setting Eyre had built and really didn't add anything to the story. I think Eyre approached this novel with a unique storytelling voice and some very original ideas, but they just didn't match up with my reading style. 

However, this novel did make some interesting and relevant comments on how society views aging women and what women are willing to do to hide their aging. Women have always gone to drastic (and less drastic) lengths to change their appearance. In this novel, women paint their faces with lead paint as makeup and try a variety of superstitious and off-the-wall beauty remedies to hide their aging. It is easy to draw parallels between the market for Viper Wine (a beauty serum made from viper's venom and pregnant mare urine, among other unsavory ingredients) and today's market for diet pills, beauty creams, and surgical enhancements all aimed at women who are attempting to defy their age. I found this element of the novel to be intriguing, but it was not enough for me to enjoy the slow reading experience that this novel provided. 

I would be willing to check out Eyre's future works though, as I think she some very original ideas and a unique voice. 

If you liked this book, I think you would also enjoy All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders because the writing style and magic/science elements in Viper Wine really reminded me of this novel.  

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Short Reads TBR

In this post I talked about some of my short-term reading goals I have set for myself. One of those was to use February to read some of the short books that have been on my TBR for ages! I've picked out six books that are under or around 200 pages that I have been meaning to get to for ages. If you've read any of them, let me know what you thought!

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman- 241 pages
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark- 128 pages
They do it with Mirrors by Agatha Christe- 202 pages
The Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass and American Slave by Fredrick Douglas- 110 pages
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho- 177 pages
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon- 221 pages

I would love to get through all of these this month, as they are all well-beloved books. 

What are your reading goals for this month? For the year? 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Some Short-Term Reading Goals

Usually at the beginning of a new year, I make a hefty list of "stuff" I think I am going to complete in multiple areas of my life, including reading. This year, I decided not to make any large reading goals as I really don't know how my reading year will be because of an unsure school schedule, but as I was laying in bed the other night trying to sleep, I came up with a few short term goals I really want to accomplish within the next few months. I think making multiple short-term goals and resolutions is the perfect fit for my life right now, and I can't believe I didn't think of it earlier! So here are some goals I have for the next few months for my reading life. I will do another couple of posts like this throughout the year when I complete these goals, and I will be posting more about these particular goals before venturing to finish them.

My main goal for the end of January is to finish reading Viper Wine by Hermonie Eyre. I have been reading it for way too long. I'm liking it but for some reason it is taking me forever to read (it takes me forever to read one page, and I can't seem to find the time to sit down and immerse myself for long periods of time, a dangerous combination.) It's a pretty hefty book, but it's not outrageously long; I have also been reading other things while reading this too, which is just delaying the finishing process.

Because this read it taking so long to finish, my goal for February is to read a lot of my short reads. I will start on this goal right after I finish Viper Wine. I will be making a post shortly featuring the books that are on my short-reads-TBR. I'm hoping to whip through a bunch of short books (nonfiction and fiction) that have been on my TBR forever.

One longer-term goal I'm sort of setting for myself is to complete as many square from Diversity Bingo as I can. This is a reading challenge that has been set up by a bunch of bookish people (see the board below for more info.) and I think it's a great idea. I want to use this board as inspiration to find some new-to-me books. I'll be aiming to fill as many square as possible, but won't be sticking strictly to the squares or rushing to complete them all. Again, I will be posting about this goal as I work on it, and in the immediate future with some possible reads.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Recently Read: Beyond Magenta

Author: Susan Kuklin
Genre: Nonfiction- Memoir Style
Page Count: 192
Publication Date: 2015
Rating: 3.5/5

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Beyond Magenta shares the stories of six transgender teens in their own words. 

I really loved the idea of this book; young people need opportunities to tell their stories. Everyone interviewed in this novel was so honest and embraced themselves and others unconditionally. One story in particular was quite harrowing and stayed with me after finishing the novel. These teens have been through so much at such a young age. Overall, this collection had a positive and honest tone. The author made a conscious effort to include a range of different experiences and people, and I really appreciated that. I'm very glad this book exists for those who may need it, for any reason. 

Now as you may or may not know, I am fascinated by gender topics, particularly in literature and the media, so I found this book to be very interesting. Here is a book full of young people defying the gender normative set by society and rejecting the connection between sex and gender. Yet, gender stereotypes were very much present in the thinking of these teens. Gender and sexuality are both scales that cannot accurately be labeled by human beings, yet we insist on trying to do so. Many accounts from trans women that I have read or heard, value traditional "female" traits and ideas such as makeup, shopping, clothes, attention from men, etc. The idea of these items solidifying your womanhood would clash with the ideas of a lot of ciswomen. It's interesting to see these gender stereotypes existing in these circumstances. Other teens in this novel spoke about gender stereotypes as well. A trans man spoke of enjoying his new male privileges, such as taking up as much space as he wants on public transport, and getting other men to leave his girlfriend alone. It's interesting that when these young people transitioned, they embodied the gender stereotypes of the gender they identified with despite not being born into that gender. That just goes to show how deeply rooted gender stereotypes are in our society; young people are aware of the "correct" behavior of both genders and believe that in order to be that gender, they must adhere to that unwritten code of gender stereotypes. 

One quote I found particularly interesting and that illustrates these ideas is the following said by one of the trans women;
"When the going gets tough, what do tough girls do? We go shopping!" 

These ideas on gender also helped me to realize how young these kids really are. They are learning about themselves and the world everyday and forging their own path in the world of gender. I would never criticize these teens for their thoughts on gender or their wish to fulfill gender stereotypes, I am merely adding these thoughts to my 'gender bank' so to speak because gender truly fascinates me and is something I love to explore in my academic writing.

I think this book is important and I'm glad it exists. We need to continue to offer young people to tell their stories and spread their individuality and enthusiasm. I'm looking to pick up a lot of nonfiction this year, and I'm glad I started the year off with this read. Often times, teenagers are overlooked by society and written off, but as someone who spends a lot of time with teenagers, I know this is unfair as they are capable of so much.

Let me know if you have any nonfiction recommendations for me!  

Monday, January 16, 2017

Nonfiction on My Hold List- Hello Again

Hey guys,

It's been a while. School got crazy last semester and then I moved and walked in graduation. 2016 was pretty blah for a lot of us (including myself) so I'm just concentrating on moving forward. I find myself with a little bit of time on my hands now, and I debated about whether or not I should bring the blog back but I decided that I needed the creative outlet and my place to write.

So today, I'm here to share a list of nonfiction novels I have placed a hold on at the library this month. I have been loving nonfiction lately, and I have a feeling I will read quite a bit of it in 2017.

I don't know how regular my posting will be this year, but for now, I'm here.

Born a Crime Trevor Noah
I have a lot of respect for Trevor Noah and the way he presents himself. He is so articulate and smart, and when I heard he was writing a memoir, I jumped on the hold list. I'll be waiting for this one for a while though, as the list is pretty long. 

Men Explain Things to Me Rebecca Solnit
I've heard good things about this essay collection. I've put off picking it up because I feared it might serve as a catalyst to the frustration I am already feeling because of the current political and social climate, but I decided to give it a try. I haven't read very many essay collections, so I am excited to dive into the genre. Leave me some recommendations! 

Born on a Blue Day Daniel Tammet 
This memoir sounds so interesting and unique to anything I have read before. Tammet has autism and is extremely brilliant (think Einstein or Rain Man) and in this novel he lets the rest of the world into his mind. 

What nonfiction novels are topping your 2017 TBR? Hope your 2017 has been and continues to be fulfilling.