Drive By Book Reviews

Every once in a while, I lose a weekend to Netflix. Or several. I have no excuse other than to say the re-booted Hawaii Five-0 is delightful and leave it at that…

I also did cook a dish which, well, didn’t turn out very well. I ate it, it was edible but that’s about as high as the praise goes. I am hoping for better things from the recipe tonight. I meant to cook last night but I found I’d forgotten to get an onion and it was Easter so lots of stores were closed and I was already in my comfy pants and long story short, I’m cooking tonight instead.

In the meantime, I have been reading (Netflix hasn’t completely taken over my life. Yet.) so here are some drive by book reviews from the past couple weeks:

Bossypants, Tina Fey: I read this about the same time I was also bingeing on the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt so that is a lot of Tina Fey in a girl’s life. I think one could still have more. Ms. former Liz Lemon remains one of the coolest women in show business and her memoir is everything you think it should be: funny, clever and insightful. The cover of this one continues to weird me out however.

Brilliant Mistakes: Finding Success on the Far Side of Failure, Paul J.H. Schoemaker: Failure is a big fear of mine (it gets bundled up with letting people down for me which is something I hate to do) so I found this an interesting read as it’s all about learning to look at failure from other angles to see what your can learn from them or what you can use from them to move forward on a project or goal. This could have easily gotten bogged down in lots of business jargon but Schoemaker keeps the topic approachable and interesting which impressed me and also left me with some ideas to try for projects at work next.

Texts from Jane Eyre and Other Conversations with Your Favorite Literary Characters, Mallory Ortberg: This was as delightful as the title suggests. What would happen if Jane Eyre and Rochester had been texting? What about the Bennets or really go back, what about Medea? These text conversations tell the stories we know so well through a modern lens and in doing so, pokes fun at some of our favorite stories. Of course Rochester would use all caps in his texts – he was passionate and needed a vent for it people. And let’s face it, Mrs. Bennet would totally forget about her own daughter Mary sometimes, we all have. This was also an incredibly fast read – I read it in an evening – but so enjoyable.

Travel: A Literary History, Peter Whitfield: Travel is awesome; I am fairly certain now that I am older, my dream job will always be as a travel journalist – roaming the world and writing about its people, places and wonders. I mean, hello – who would turn that down? Sadly, my lovely mountain of student debt keeps me in my nice safe desk job however, Whitfield takes a look at travel from the beginnings of recorded time through the early 20th century and what it’s meant to the development of our written record and cultures. This is a purely academic book but no less entertaining. My favorite chapters look at the beginnings of tourism as western Europeans ventured (mostly) east for fun the first time. I think what I also loved about this time period of tourism is there is so much doubt about whether the people actually went or it was still just “armchair” tourism. Makes their stories even better in my mind.

The Dress Shop of Dreams, Menna van Praag: van Praag specializes in those cozy magical stories along the same lines as one of my all time favorites Sarah Addison Allen. This latest is no exception. My one beef with the story, which I overall enjoyed immensely, was some unnecessary, to my mind, plot points which bogged the story down a bit and also made one of the secondary characters sort of reprehensible for a few chapters which was disconcerting but all worked out for the best in the end. It’s also one of those books that makes me homesick for England so I drank a lot of tea and wished I could find a cozy little bookstore in Oxford to go hide in for a few hours.

How to Be a Heroine, Or What I Learned from Reading Too Much, Samantha Ellis: I love books like this – books that are as much as my re-visiting favorite heroines as it is about the author re-visiting them in the context of her own biography. Ellis is an engaging writer and brutally honest about where she was in her life when she first read certain heroines. We had very different upbringings but I was happy to see some heroines really are universal. As Ellis finds though, sometimes you can’t go back to your childhood heroines, you’ve sadly outgrown them. That said, I did agree to disagree with Ellis on a few (Rilla Blythe is awesome by the end of her book, it just takes her awhile to get there) but overall, I came out with an appreciation for how our fictional heroines will always be with us even as we grow out of them and also some new heroines to check out so I call this a win. Bonus, I won this book through a Goodreads First Reads giveaway so it goes on my shelf with other books about books.

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