14 February, 2015

Book Review: Self-Made Man

From Goodreads: Following in the tradition of John Howard Griffin (Black Like Me) and Barbara Ehrenreich (Nickel and Dimed), Norah Vincent absorbed a cultural experience and reported back on what she observed incognito. For more than a year and a half she ventured into the world as Ned, with an ever-present five o'clock shadow, a crew cut, wire-rim glasses, and her own size 11 1/2 shoes-a perfect disguise that enabled her to observe the world of men as an insider. The result is a sympathetic, shrewd, and thrilling tour de force of immersion journalism that's destined to challenge preconceptions and attract enormous attention. With her buddies on the bowling league she enjoyed the rough and rewarding embrace of male camaraderie undetectable to an outsider. A stint in a high-octane sales job taught her the gut- wrenching pressures endured by men who would do anything to succeed. She frequented sex clubs, dated women hungry for love but bitter about men, and infiltrated all- male communities as hermetically sealed as a men's therapy group, and even a monastery. Narrated in her utterly captivating prose style and with exquisite insight, humor, empathy, nuance, and at great personal cost, Norah uses her intimate firsthand experience to explore the many remarkable mysteries of gender identity as well as who men are apart from and in relation to women. Far from becoming bitter or outraged, Vincent ended her journey astounded-and exhausted-by the rigid codes and rituals of masculinity. Having gone where no woman (who wasn't an aspiring or actual transsexual) has gone for any significant length of time, let alone eighteen months, Norah Vincent's surprising account is an enthralling reading experience and a revelatory piece of anecdotally based gender analysis that is sure to spark fierce and fascinating conversation. 

Thoughts: Oh dear, where to start. I can't even begin to tell you what a mess this book is. The amount of times I wanted to throw it across the room in sheer anger (but didn't because I was reading it on my Kindle) is ridiculously high - higher than any other book I have ever read before. Norah Vincent sells not only men short, but women as well. From what I can gather, men are poor put upon idiots who are unable to help themselves and are constantly manipulated and played by women. Women are calculating, manipulative bitches who want it all and a man to deliver it.
I stopped taking notes. I kept hoping I would come across some great epiphany about the gender divide. I finished it because it's our book group book this month. At the very least, it should provide some great discussion.

Self-Made Man is a definite 1 star.

 *        Did not like it
**       It was OK
***      Liked it
****    Really liked it
*****   It was amazing




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09 February, 2015

Book Review: Bones Never Lie

From Goodreads: The gripping new Temperance Brennan novel from the world-class forensic anthropologist and Number 1 bestselling author Kathy Reichs. Tempe is faced with the horrifying possibility that the killer who got away in Monday Mourning is back...
For a decade, Temperance Brennan has been haunted by the one who got away.
The killer of young women. The monster.
And the one who has now come back.
Feeding on fear, grief and rage.
Killing again. Killing girls.
Getting closer.
Coming for Tempe.


Thoughts: Bones Never Lies is the 17th book in the Tempe Brennan series. They're a good read. Don't go into them expecting something brilliant and new, but you can expect a good story line, a strong female character and lots of action. This is a series I will continue to read until I start to find the characters annoying and repetitive. (I found this happened with Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta series)

Bones Never Lie gets 3 stars

*        Did not like it
**       It was OK
***      Liked it
****    Really liked it
*****   It was amazing



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January in Review


This year I thought I would try and post a review of each month. We will see how we go - best intentions and all that!

Some stats for January.

Kindle - 2                                       Library - 4
Book - 5                                         Own - 1
Fiction - 4                                      Borrowed (non library) - 1
Non-fiction - 3

Female Author - 4                         New to Me Authors - 5
Male Author - 2
Australian Author - 

In January I completed 7 books.


Not a bad start to the year! My pick of the bunch would be Middlesex. I loved the story, the writing and the characters. It would be a great book group book.

Our book group book for this month was We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. It provided some great discussion and was another highlight for the month.



Anna Karenina is the audio book I'm listening to at the moment. Given it has 238 chapters and runs for 38 hours, it may take a while to get through! I am enjoying it though and with most chapters being around the 10 minute mark, it is easy to make sure you finish a chapter before getting out of the car. I am up to chapter 79, which equates to around about 12 and half hours of listening time - just short of 33% - yep, I'm in for the long haul!

That's my January. How was yours? What were your picks for the month?

03 February, 2015

Book Review: Not Quite What I Was Planning.

From Goodreads: Deceptively simple and surprisingly addictive, Not Quite What I Was Planning is a thousand glimpses of humanity—six words at a time.When Ernest Hemingway famously wrote, "For Sale: baby shoes, never worn," he proved that an entire story can be told using a half-dozen words. When the online storytelling magazine SMITH asked readers to submit six-word memoirs, they proved a whole, real life can be told this way, too. The results are fascinating, hilarious, shocking, and moving.
From small sagas of bittersweet romance ("Found true love, married someone else") to proud achievements and stinging regrets ("After Harvard, had baby with crackhead"), these terse true tales relate the diversity of human experience in tasty bite-size pieces.
The original edition of Not Quite What I Was Planning spent six weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, and thanks to massive media attention—from NPR to the The New Yorker—the six-word memoir concept spread to classrooms, dinner tables, churches, synagogues, and tens of thousands of blogs. This deluxe edition has been revised and expanded to include more than sixty never-before-seen memoirs.
From authors Elizabeth Gilbert, Richard Ford, and Joyce Carol Oates to celebrities Stephen Colbert, Mario Batali, and Joan Rivers to ordinary folks around the world, everyone has a six-word story to tell.

Thoughts: Can't quite remember where I heard about this. I knew it wouldn't be a long read, but it's an interesting idea.
It's a great concept, can you tell a story in 6 words? For me, some of these six word stories were brilliant - conveying as much emotion as a full book.

So devastated, no babies for me. 

Young optimist: proven wrong. Prematurely old.

Others read more like PostSecret's than stories.

Not What I Was Planning was a nice read, nothing brilliant, but enough to encourage me to seek out more stories. If you're interested in more 6 word stories, here's a good place to start.

http://www.sixwordstories.net/

Not What I Was Planning gets 3 stars.

*        Did not like it
**       It was OK
***      Liked it
****    Really liked it
*****   It was amazing




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24 January, 2015

Book Review: Surviving Year Zero

From Goodreads: Surviving Year Zero is the story of one young man, yet it is the story of millions of people. It tells of how Sovannora Ieng lived through the genocide that tore at the heart of Cambodia in the 1970s.
Sovannora survived in an environment where survival was barely possible. He and his family experienced starvation, backbreaking labour and constant surveillance. They learnt to be silent in a world where a casual remark could be turned into a sentence of death.
Sovannora’s experiences under the Khmer Rouge remind us of the terrible things that we humans have done to each other, and his eventual escape to Australia is a testament to his resilience and ingenuity in the face of constant danger.
Sovannora Ieng escaped from Cambodia to Thailand as a refugee before migrating to Australia.


Thoughts: I admire people who have survived such atrocities as the Khmer Rouge and are able to do something like write a book to make sure the rest of us know what happened. Admire is not quite the right word, but the best I can come up with at the moment. 
Sovannora tells us of life in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979. His story is not easy to read at times, heartbreaking and appalling at what happened and what it takes to survive. Even when Year Zero ended you realise that sometimes the liberators can make life just as difficult.
If there is a place where Surviving Year Zero falls down, it's  where many books like this do - the author, either because they are an amateur writer or have English as a second language, is unable to fully use the language to convey they true nature of the events that take place. It's almost looking like a slightly out of focus picture, you get the general idea, but the details are lost.
In these times of much debate and argument over refugees in Australia, this is a book to remind us of what some people in the world are being forced to endure and the lengths they will go to survive. It should also serve to remind us of our obligations as people of privilege, who do not live in fear of our government and of speaking out, to those who are not afforded those rights.

Surviving Year Zero gets 3 stars.


*        Did not like it
**       It was OK
***      Liked it
****    Really liked it
*****   It was amazing




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Book Review: Leaving Time

From Goodreads: For over a decade, Jenna Metcalf obsesses on her vanished mom Alice. Jenna searches online, rereads journals of the scientist who studied grief among elephants. Two unlikely allies are Serenity Jones, psychic for missing people who doubts her gift, and Virgil Stanhope, jaded PI who originally investigated cases of Alice and her colleague. Hard questions and answers.

Thoughts: With this book, Picoult continues to win back my trust. I think it's hard for prolific authors to not become formulaic. For a long time Picoult managed it, but it had started t creep in. Her last book The Storyteller let me know she was able to break away from it.
Leaving Time is a good read. People who don't like the book are drawing comparisons between it and a well known movie (which I won't name as it will give away too much about the book) and I can see where those comparisons come from. However I see it more as a variation on a theme and if she has drawn inspiration from the movie, she has made the story her own.
I am pleased that Picoult seems to be moving away from what I call her mother issues, for which I am eternally grateful, as this was becoming my biggest sticking point with her writing. 
For me though, Picoult has a solid writing style and a great storytelling ability. I love that her books make me think without taxing my brain too much. As before, I will continue to watch out for new books from her and read them safe in the knowledge that I will most probably enjoy it.

Leaving time gets 3 stars.

*        Did not like it
**       It was OK
***      Liked it
****    Really liked it
*****   It was amazing




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18 January, 2015

Book Review: The Wife Drought

From Goodreads: ‘I need a wife’
It's a common joke among women juggling work and family. But it’s not actually a joke. Having a spouse who takes care of things at home is a Godsend on the domestic front. It’s a potent economic asset on the work front. And it’s an advantage enjoyed – even in our modern society – by vastly more men than women.
Working women are in an advanced, sustained, and chronically under-reported state of wife drought, and there is no sign of rain.
But why is the work-and-family debate always about women? Why don’t men get the same flexibility that women do? In our fixation on the barriers that face women on the way into the workplace, do we forget about the barriers that – for men – still block the exits?
The Wife Drought is about women, men, family and work. Written in Annabel Crabb’s inimitable style, it’s full of candid and funny stories from the author's work in and around politics and the media, historical nuggets about the role of ‘The Wife’ in Australia, and intriguing research about the attitudes that pulse beneath the surface of egalitarian Australia.
Crabb's call is for a ceasefire in the gender wars. Rather than a shout of rage, The Wife Drought is the thoughtful, engaging catalyst for a conversation that's long overdue.


Thoughts:  The tag line of this book - Why women need wives, and men need lives - may be off putting, particularly to the male portion of the population. Don't let it fool you. It means men need lives outside of work and our social paradigm makes that incredibly different.
Crabb defines a wife as "...male or female. Whether they're men or women, though, the main thing wives are is a cracking professional asset. They enable the busy full-time worker to experience the joy and fulfilment of children, without the considerable inconvenience of having to pick them up from school at 3pm...Having a wife means that if you get caught up at work, or want to stay later...it can be done. Many wives work, but they do jobs that are either part-time or offer sufficient flexibility for the accommodation of late-breaking debacles."
So a wife can be either male or female, but the reality is that it's usually the woman.
The thing I found quite refreshing about this book is it actually had a look at the effect of how our societal norms affect men as well as women. While it has worked to keep women out of the workforce, made it harder for them to move up the corporate ladder and achieve equal pay, it has worked equally hard to keep men in the workforce and out of the home. Men who do take time out to be "the wives" not only suffer in the workforce, but also in the world of the stay at home parent. Crabb points out that we have spent too long looking at what is happening in the workplace without considering what is happening in the home. The reality is most families need someone who is willing to be the wife. I know in my own house, my role as wife is essential and allows our house to operate smoothly, but it has come at the cost of my career. In houses where both parents work full time, women still tend to pick up the slack of running the rest of the house. While chores may be shared, women still do the lions share. They are the ones to organise the extra curricula activity and take time off when the kids are sick.
In this book, Crabb suggests until we address the inequality in the home - not only towards women, but men as well. We need to make it ok for men to take time off to be the wife. We need to value the wife's role and realise that without them many of our full time workers could not do what they do. 

The Wife Drought gets 3 stars.


*        Did not like it
**       It was OK
***      Liked it
****    Really liked it
*****   It was amazing



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