5 Stars · Book Reviews · non-fiction · Reading

Review | Wordslut

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Wordslut by Amanda Montell
Harper Wave, 2019
Non-Fiction
304 pages
5/5 Stars

GoodReads Synopsis:

The word “bitch” conjures many images for many people but is most often meant to describe an unpleasant woman. Even before its usage to mean a female canine, bitch didn’t refer to gender at all—it originated as a gender-neutral word meaning genitalia. A perfectly innocuous word devolving into a female insult is the case for tons more terms, including hussy, which simply meant “housewife,” or slut, which meant “untidy” and was also used to describe men. These words are just a few among history’s many English slurs hurled at women. 

Amanda Montell, feminist linguist and staff features editor at online beauty and health magazine Byrdie.com, deconstructs language—from insults and cursing to grammar and pronunciation patterns—to reveal the ways it has been used for centuries to keep women form gaining equality. Ever wonder why so many people are annoyed when women use the word “like” as a filler? Or why certain gender neutral terms stick and others don’t? Or even how linguists have historically discussed women’s speech patterns? Wordslut is no stuffy academic study; Montell’s irresistible humor shines through, making linguistics not only approachable but both downright hilarious and profound.

Review:

I have no idea how I found this book, but I am so glad that I did.

A really big part of my personality are the facts that I’m a raging feminist, and also that I majored in English in college. This book perfectly married two of my maybe four personality traits.

Montell uses humor to explain the history of the English language and the patriarchal background behind many of the words we use.

One of the most interesting parts for me was when she debunked myths behind women’s speech patterns. Different speech patterns that are commonly used by women are often looked at as being ‘unprofessional’, but Montell explains why this isn’t necessarily true. It reminded me of the time a former coworker told me that she didn’t get a promotion because our male manager told her she used the word ‘like’ too much. I now know that using ‘like’ a lot in speech has nothing to do with the speaker’s intelligence, or ability to communicate effectively, and more to do with what exactly they are trying to communicate.

Another part I loved was the part about the history of swearing. I swear like a pirate. My favorite word starts with an ‘f’ and has four letters, and I use it more than is socially appropriate. I also really don’t care. It’s the only word that can properly express my excitement, frustration, sadness, etc. Thank God for the ‘f’ word.

But. Did you know. There is a HUGE difference behind why women swear and why men swear? For men, it’s a normal part of speech, and is rarely given a second thought. When women swear, they are doing so to express a personality, their individuality, humor, and/or a negotiation of their femininity.

I could honestly go on forever about this book. It was so interesting, and I learned so much. I guess I have to put every feminist book about language on my waiting list at the library.

Perfect for Feminist Word Nerds and Washed Up English Majors.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

5 Stars · Book Reviews · non-fiction · politics · Reading

Review | Where the Light Enters

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Where the Light Enters by Jill Biden
Flatiron Books, 2019
Non-Fiction
210 pages
5/5 Stars

GoodReads Synopsis

An intimate look at the love that built the Biden family and the delicate balancing act of the woman at its center.

“How did you get this number?” Those were the first words Jill Biden spoke to U.S. senator Joe Biden when he called her out of the blue to ask her on a date.

Growing up, Jill had wanted two things: a marriage like her parents’ – strong, loving, and full of laughter – and a career. An early heartbreak had left her uncertain about love, until she met Joe. But as they grew closer, Jill faced difficult questions: How would politics shape her family and professional life? And was she ready to become a mother to Joe’s two young sons?

She soon found herself falling in love with her three “boys,” learning to balance life as a mother, wife, educator, and political spouse. Through the challenges of public scrutiny, complicated family dynamics, and personal losses, she grew alongside her family, and she extended the family circle at every turn: with her students, military families, friends and staff at the White House, and more.

This is the story of how Jill built a family – and a life – of her own. From the pranks she played to keep everyone laughing to the traditions she formed that would carry them through tragedy, hers is the spirited journey of a woman embracing many roles.

‘WHERE THE LIGHT ENTERS’ is a candid, heartwarming glimpse into the creation of a beloved American family, and the life of a woman at its center.

Review:

I got this book a few weeks ago when Audible was having a 2-for-1 sale on select books. I voted for Biden, though I’m not his biggest fan (Being on TikTok over the summer pretty much turned me into a complete Leftist.) and I didn’t know anything about Jill Biden besides that she’s a teacher. And what that one scene of Leslie and Ben going to the White House to play Charades with Joe and Jill showed in Parks and Rec.

So, all I knew about Jill Biden was that she was a teacher, and that she thought Leslie Knope was too competitive.

Jill is an extraordinary woman. Her story follows her from her family background and childhood to her rebellious teenaged years (which to her time as the Second Lady of the United States being a rebellious teenager (which was my favorite thing, honestly) to the Second Lady (This was written before the 2020 election!) of the United States. It shows how she and Joe met (which might be my all-time favorite meet-cute, oh my God.) and how she became a mother to his sons (Fun fact, Joe proposed FIVE times before Jill agreed to marry him.)

I loved how this book was written, and since I listened to it on Audible, I got to hear Jill her story herself. I learned so much about her, Joe, and the rest of the Biden family (If a Biden is reading this, please adopt me.). She is down to earth, and takes her jobs as mother, grandmother, teacher, wife, and Second Lady very seriously. But never ever reluctantly. The way that she speaks of the work that she does, and the way she speaks about her family shows how much she loves all of it, despite the difficulties she experiences attimes.

This book is a beautiful story of how The Bidens we see in the White House became a family. It’s a story of loss and grief, of new beginnings, of faith, but mostly of love.

Recommended For: Anyone who voted for Biden and people who love stories of close and loving families.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

4 stars · Book Reviews · Reading · Uncategorized · young adult

Review | With the Fire on High

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With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
Quill Tree Books, 2019
Young Adult
400 pages
4/5 Stars

GoodReads Synopsis:

With her daughter to care for and her abuela to help support, high school senior Emoni Santiago has to make the tough decisions, and do what must be done. The one place she can let her responsibilities go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness. Still, she knows she doesn’t have enough time for her school’s new culinary arts class, doesn’t have the money for the class’s trip to Spain — and shouldn’t still be dreaming of someday working in a real kitchen. But even with all the rules she has for her life — and all the rules everyone expects her to play by — once Emoni starts cooking, her only real choice is to let her talent break free.

Review:

So, this was a hard book for me to rate. I went between four and five stars no less than three times, I swear. I really enjoyed it. The audiobook was incredible, and the imagery and descriptions really transported me. I loved the story. I loved the characters.

But. The ending disappointed me. I’m not sure what it is, exactly, it’s a fine ending!

I just felt like something was missing. It left me really wanting more in terms of Emoni’s journey, and not in a good way.

Besides that, though, I really enjoyed the book. I loved Pretty Leslie’s redemption arc, and when Emoni was cooking, I could truly feel her love and passion for expressing herself through food and creating food that moves people.

Perfect for aspiring chefs, foodies, and fans of ‘Waitress’ the musical.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

4 stars · Book Reviews · Reading · young adult

Review | The Girls I’ve Been

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The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe
G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2021
Young Adult
336 pages
4/5 Stars

Trigger Warnings: violence, abuse.

GoodReads Synopsis

Nora O’Malley’s been a lot of girls. As the daughter of a con-artist who targets criminal men, she grew up as her mother’s protégé. But when mom fell for the mark instead of conning him, Nora pulled the ultimate con: escape.

For five years Nora’s been playing at normal. But she needs to dust off the skills she ditched because she has three problems:

#1: Her ex walked in on her with her girlfriend. Even though they’re all friends, Wes didn’t know about her and Iris.

#2: The morning after Wes finds them kissing, they all have to meet to deposit the fundraiser money they raised at the bank. It’s a nightmare that goes from awkward to deadly, because:

#3: Right after they enter bank, two guys start robbing it.

The bank robbers may be trouble, but Nora’s something else entirely. They have no idea who they’re really holding hostage…

Review

I’m usually not a thriller reader, but when I saw this on Instagram, I knew I had to read it. A reformed con AND bisexual representation?? I don’t know, that sounds pretty perfect to me.

And I was NOT disappointed. This book had me on the edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen next. It was absolutely incredible to watch Nora use the lessons she’d learned from the girls she’d been (get it?!) to save her and her friends’ lives. She is clever, crafty and quick, and because of her past, she has future.

I also LOVED Nora’s relationships with Wes and Iris. The night before the story starts, Wes, Nora’s ex-boyfriend (who had suggested Iris was interested in a relationship with Nora, and whose relationship with Nora ended because of a lack of honesty) walked in on Nora and Iris. I really appreciated that Wes wasn’t upset because his ex was moving on, or was with a girl, but because he and Nora were close friends, and she didn’t tell him. Also because he knew that Nora hadn’t been honest with Iris about her past yet. But it wasn’t anything to do with his pride, and only concern for his friendship with Nora and Nora and Iris’ relationship. Wes said no toxic masculinity in this house.

I also appreciated seeing Nora in therapy. Although she couldn’t be completely honest in her sessions, (because, you know, her life was in danger.) it was really powerful to see her trying to work through her trauma in such a healthy environment.

I absolutely loved this book. Here’s to hoping for a sequel in which we get to see Nora (with the help of Iris and Wes, because let’s be honest, they’re perfect) taking down more of her demons.

Perfect for Reputation era stans,

Rating: 4 out of 5.

5 Stars · Book Reviews · literary fiction

Book Review: “The End of the Affair”

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The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
Audible Audio, 2012 (first published in 1951)
Literary Fiction
Audiobook (6.5 hours listening time)
5/5 Stars

Trigger Warnings: Infidelity, Character Illness and Death, Catholicism

GoodReads Synopsis:

Graham Greene’s evocative analysis of the love of self, the love of another, and the love of God is an English classic that has been translated for the stage, the screen, and even the opera house. Academy Award-winning actor Colin Firth (“The King’s Speech”, “A Single Man”) turns in an authentic and stirring performance for this distinguished audio release.

The End of the Affair, set in London during and just after World War II, is the story of a flourishing love affair between Maurice Bendrix and Sarah Miles. After a violent episode at Maurice’s apartment, Sarah suddenly and without explanation breaks off the affair. This very intimate story about what actually constitutes love is enhanced by Mr. Firth’s narration, who said “this book struck me very, very particularly at the time when I read it and I thought my familiarity with it would give the journey a personal slant.”

Review:

This was at least my third time reading it, the first time being in one of my English classes in college. I own the Audible audiobook that’s narrated by Colin Firth, so that makes it even better!

When I read the book in college, I was a devout Catholic, and I absolutely adored it. It became my favorite book overall, and when I decided to reread it recently, I wondered if it would live up to how I remembered it, even though I’m no longer a devout Catholic.

And ya’ll… it did. Even as a non-practicing Catholic, the book blew me away. The writing is incredible, the characters are all just unlikable enough, but not too unlikable, and the role that Catholicism plays in the story and lives of the main characters is more than just a advertisement for the religion. The story is filled with mess, and stickiness, and love, and hatred, and humanity.

Something that’s kind of cool about me is that I’ve had the same GoodReads account for over ten years, so I could see that my original rating for this book was five stars. I’m happy to report back that over five years after I initially read it… it still gets five stars from me. This book is flawless in my eyes, and further amplified by Colin Firth’s incredible narration.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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4 stars · Book Reviews · literary fiction · Reading

Book Review: “Black Buck”

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Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2021
Literary Fiction
400 pages
4/5 Stars

Trigger Warnings: Racism, the ‘R’ word, the ‘N’ word, violence, workplace related harassment and racism

Synopsis:

For fans of Sorry to Bother You and The Wolf of Wall Street—a crackling, satirical debut novel about a young man given a shot at stardom as the lone Black salesman at a mysterious, cult-like, and wildly successful startup where nothing is as it seems.

There’s nothing like a Black salesman on a mission.

An unambitious twenty-two-year-old, Darren lives in a Bed-Stuy brownstone with his mother, who wants nothing more than to see him live up to his potential as the valedictorian of Bronx Science. But Darren is content working at Starbucks in the lobby of a Midtown office building, hanging out with his girlfriend, Soraya, and eating his mother’s home-cooked meals. All that changes when a chance encounter with Rhett Daniels, the silver-tongued CEO of Sumwun, NYC’s hottest tech startup, results in an exclusive invitation for Darren to join an elite sales team on the thirty-sixth floor.

After enduring a “hell week” of training, Darren, the only Black person in the company, reimagines himself as “Buck,” a ruthless salesman unrecognizable to his friends and family. But when things turn tragic at home and Buck feels he’s hit rock bottom, he begins to hatch a plan to help young people of color infiltrate America’s sales force, setting off a chain of events that forever changes the game.

Black Buck is a hilarious, razor-sharp skewering of America’s workforce; it is a propulsive, crackling debut that explores ambition and race, and makes way for a necessary new vision of the American dream.

From GoodReads

Review:

Ya’ll. This BOOK! It was all over Instagram, and I initially bought it for a read-a-thon I participated in in January that required I read a book published in January 2021. Although I didn’t get to read it until February, I think it was the perfect book for Black History Month.

This book was incredibly well written. I immediately cared about Darren/Buck and his journey, and felt angry when he experienced the overt racism of his coworkers. I saw how the system was stacked against him, and how he was tokenized, and I was immediately mad about it.

Humor is an iffy thing for me. I have a very specific type of humor that can be summed up in two words: John Mulaney. I knew going in that this was satire, but I felt uncomfortable at many of the jokes while reading it, which is why I think it’s crucial that everyone reads this book, or at least more books that push them beyond their comfort zone.

But the shining moment was the ending. As I’ve said in previous reviews, endings can make or break a book for me. Give me an over the top proposal in a romance novel, and I’m yours. This was not a Happy Ending. It was a Enraging Ending. But my goodness, everything that happened in the last few chapters was absolutely incredibly well done. My mom tried to talk to me while I was reading the last few pages, and I yelled at her because I was so engrossed. It was heartbreaking, and unjust, and absolutely mind-blowing. I will never forget the roller coaster of emotions that the ending of this book sent me on.

Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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3.5 stars · Book Reviews · Entertainment · historical fiction · Lifestyle · Reading · young adult

Book Review: “Lovely War”

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Lovely War by Julie Berry
Viking Books for Young Readers, 2019
Young Adult / Historical Fiction
480 pages
3.5/5 Stars

Trigger Warnings: Violence, War, Death, Sexual Assault, Racism, Race Related Violence and Death, Depictions of PTSD

GoodReads Synopsis:

It’s 1917, and World War I is at its zenith when Hazel and James first catch sight of each other at a London party. She’s a shy and talented pianist; he’s a newly minted soldier with dreams of becoming an architect. When they fall in love, it’s immediate and deep–and cut short when James is shipped off to the killing fields.

Aubrey Edwards is also headed toward the trenches. A gifted musician who’s played Carnegie Hall, he’s a member of the 15th New York Infantry, an all-African-American regiment being sent to Europe to help end the Great War. Love is the last thing on his mind. But that’s before he meets Colette Fournier, a Belgian chanteuse who’s already survived unspeakable tragedy at the hands of the Germans.

Thirty years after these four lovers’ fates collide, the Greek goddess Aphrodite tells their stories to her husband, Hephaestus, and her lover, Ares, in a luxe Manhattan hotel room at the height of World War II. She seeks to answer the age-old question: Why are Love and War eternally drawn to one another? But her quest for a conclusion that will satisfy her jealous husband uncovers a multi-threaded tale of prejudice, trauma, and music and reveals that War is no match for the power of Love.

Review:

I believe this was one of those “BookTok” made me do it purchases I made at the height of quarantine this summer. Lovely War has sat on my bookshelf for months, and when I needed to read a book with a pink cover for a read-a-thon I participated in in January, I knew it was finally time to read it.

When I first started reading this book, I was absolutely amazed by the Greek mythology , beautiful love stories, and music references. It was absolutely incredible, and I decided only a few pages in that this was going to be a five star read.

Alas, it is not. Pretty quickly, some things I wasn’t a fan of began to happen. There was a sexual assault that I was not prepared for, and while it was not violent, it was described as almost identical to my own experience ten years ago. It was very triggering, and I only wish I had been prepared. There was also racism and a race-related murder that I wasn’t expecting that was difficult to read, especially in today’s day and age. Finally, the endings seemed to be very rushed, which is kind of funny, considering the book is over 400 pages. The amazing detail and imagery that I loved in the beginning seemed to vanish towards the end.

I liked this book. I did. But the sexual assault scene really, really rubbed me the wrong way. I think this goes to show why trigger warnings are important. When I was triggered, I froze. I read the same sentence over and over again as my own trauma replayed in my head. I’m grateful that with a lot of therapy, I’ve come a long way to being able to cope when I’ve been triggered. But it wasn’t always like that. In high school, I stayed away from books and movies with certain themes. I would ask my English teacher to give me a heads up, and had a plan in place with my resource counselor as what to do if I was assigned a book that could trigger me.

This isn’t a weakness. It’s self-awareness. I know myself very well, and I know what can trigger me. Trigger warnings allow me to prepare myself and cope ahead. Half of the power of my triggers is that they can blindside me. Trigger warnings take the power away from my trauma and put it back in my hands.

In all the hype I saw for this book, I don’t remember seeing one trigger warning for sexual assault. Granted, I bought the book around six months ago, so I could be wrong, and his could be my own error. But another reason that the sexual assault really bothered me is that it seemed so needless. I think the scene was only thrown in for shock value, and I really didn’t appreciate that.

If you’d like to purchase this book for yourself, please consider purchasing from an independent bookstore, or if that isn’t possible for you, please consider using my Amazon Affiliate Link.

Rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

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Book Reviews · Entertainment · Lifestyle · Reading

Book Review: “The Haunting of Hill House”

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The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Genre: Horror

Trigger Warnings: Suicide, mental instability, paranormal activity.

Summary:

It is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a “haunting”; Theodora, the lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.

From GoodReads.com

So, a quick funny story about how I came upon this book. I actually bought it for my roommate (who loves horror books) for Christmas, and never got around to giving it to her. I needed to read a mystery or thriller book for a Read-a-thon I’m doing for January, so I checked in with a few other people who are doing the same read-a-thon, and they affirmed this could count as a thriller. It’s a good thing I had it, because thrillers and horror aren’t usually my preferred genre of book!

I’ve heard so many good things about The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix, so I decided to read the book first, so this review doesn’t take the show into consideration (although I am planning on watching it soon!). The book starts off very slow. Painstakingly slow. But in a very… uncomfortable way. The beginning of the book was eerie in its slow character building. I would read it at night before bed sometimes, and I always felt so uncomfortable, and would look up, terrified that I would see a face in my window or something.

Yes, I am a chicken.

The story was absolutely terrifying. It wasn’t bloody, or gory, but the terrifying part was the question of if it was real or just the experiences of a very mentally ill woman. I found myself questioning my own authority and views, convinced that I must be wrong. It was absolutely unsettling, to say the least.

Although, the two female main characters, Theodora and Eleanor, say that they’re so alike, they must be cousins. Maybe it’s because I like girls, but my first instinct was, “Ya’ll should just date”. But this was written during a time that a romance between two women would have been extremely taboo, so maybe that’s just the English major in me finding the homoerotic undertones where there aren’t any.

The ending is absolutely wild. !!Trigger warning, as well as a spoiler alert for this next part.!!