Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler

The Vagina Monologues was the book chosen for January & February for Our Shared Shelf. It's the first one I've had a chance to read in a little bit, although I do have the others and will hopefully be able to read them soon-ish. The books are all topics I want to expand my knowledge of, so they will be read.

When it come to this book, I have no strong positive or negative feelings about it. Some of the entries really spoke to me; others made me laugh; some made me a little squeamish. However, there were others that didn't have an impact on me. So here are some bits that sparked something in me.

(Source: Kelsey Darling)
"Don't wear panties underneath your pajamas, dear; you need to air out your pussycat." In Westchester they called it a pooki, in New Jersey a twat. There's "powderbox," "derrière," a "poochi," a "poopi," a "peepe," a "poopelu," a "poonani," a "pal" and a "piche," "toadie," "dee dee," "nishi," "dignity," "mokey box," "coochi snorcher," "cooter," "labbe," "Gladys Siegelman," "VA," a "pajama," "fannyboo," "mushmellow," a "ghoulie," "possible," "tamale," "tottita," "Connie," a "Mimi" in Miami, "split knish" in Philadelphia, and "scmende" in the Bronx. I am worried about vaginas."      (p. 6)

So first off, how the hell are there so many names for a vagina?! Why? And secondly, I, too, am worried about vaginas.

"I used to have dreams, crazy dreams. Oh, they're dopey. Why? Burt Reynolds. I don't know why. He never did much for me in life, but in my dreams...it was always Burt and I." (p.28)

(Source: Google Image)
This one had me laughing. I read it a few times, and even now, typing it, sends me into a fit of giggles. Burt Reynolds doesn't do it for me, even in dreams, but I know there are definitely some questionable dreams from my past, and I feel like I can safely say that everyone else has one of those weird dreams too.

"Then I met Bob. Bob was the most ordinary man I ever met. He was thin and tall and nondescript and wore khaki clothes. Bob did not like spicy foods or listen to Prodigy. He had no interest in sexy lingerie. In the summer he spent time in the shade. He did not share his inner feelings. He did not have any problems or issues, and was not even an alcoholic. He wasn't very funny or articulate or mysterious. He wasn't mean or unavailable. He wasn't self-involved or charismatic. He didn't drive fast. I didn't particularly like Bob. I would have missed him altogether if he hadn't picked up my change that I dropped on the deli floor. When he handed me back my quarters and pennies and his hand accidentally touched mine, something happened. I went to bed with him. That's when the miracle occurred. Turned out that Bob loved vaginas." (pp. 54-55)

To quote Barney Stinson...

(Source: Google Image)
"In the nineteenth century, girls who learned to develop orgasmic capacity by masturbation were regarded as medical problems. Often they were 'treated' or 'corrected' by amputation or cautery of the clitoris or 'miniature chastity belts,' sewing the vaginal lips together to put the clitoris out of reach, and even castration by surgical removal of the ovaries. But there are no references in the medical literature to the surgical removal of testicle or amputation of the penis to stop masturbation in boys.
"In the United States, the last recorded clitoridectomy for curing masturbation was performed in 1948-on a five-year-old girl."
-The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets
(pp. 65-66)

The first part of the Vagina Fact did not surprise me. Despite women continually being sexualized over the years, the thought that a woman could actually be pleasured without the help of a man, is something that still to this day is something to be hush hush about. The second part of the statement horrified me for a few reasons. One, 1948 was only 69 years ago. In the grand scheme of things, that it is not that long ago. Second, the fact that it occurred in the United States scares me. I know that this still happens in other places (and I will do whatever I can to stop that); but a part of me wanted to believe that we were better than that. And lastly, on a five-year-old! I am still wrapping my head around how that was justified.

"That night, we named her-my husband, Randy, and I. Just like the frogs. Dressed her in sparkles and sexy clothes, put her in front of the body chapel, lit candles. At first we whispered it, 'Vulva, vulva,' softly to see if she'd hear. 'Vulva, vulva, are you there?' There was sweetness and something definitely stirred. 'Vulva, vulva, are you real?'
"And we sang the vulva song, which didn't involve croaking but kissing, and we danced the vulva dance, which didn't involve hopping but leaping, and all the other body parts were lined up-Betty and Gladys and Shorty-and they were definitely listening." (pp. 89-90)

(Source: Giphy)
This one made me extremely nauseous to read. It made me even more nauseous to write. And I am doing my best to not look back up at those words because I don't want to lose my appetite. For me, that was just a bit too much detail.

It was interesting read; knowing how other women feel about their vaginas, how they discovered them. Although some monologues were cringe-worthy, they are the stories of these women and cannot be held against them. For them, they were beautiful moments, real moments, and a part of them.

Rating: 5/10
Genres: Feminism, Plays, Non-Fiction

Thursday, January 19, 2017

You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero

I was really excited for this book. I have the day-by-day calendar and I love it. It's posts are quick and witty and there's a bonus on the back of every day that tells you something interesting, or is a little puzzle, or something to get you thinking. It's great. The book version was...a let down, for a few reasons.

(Source: Kelsey Darling)

How Not To

  • So yeah, I get how repetition is good in a self help book, but this was a bit too much. If I never hear any of these phrases again, it'll be too soon: subconscious mind, conscious mind, love yourself, change your thinking, become aware. Almost every chapter contains a list of what you're supposed to do to realize that you are a badass, and every list contains all of those in some form or another. By about chapter 6, I got it.
(Source: Giphy)
  • There are a lot of "I" statements, and not the kind that instruct you to change how you structure your thoughts (those are there, too, just not as much). You Are a Badass is an autobiography of Jen Sincero's life. 
"I felt like I was going through the motions of my lukewarm life..." (p. 11)

"When I discovered my calling as a coach..." (p. 75)

"When I was a little kid,..." (p. 113)

"Here's what India taught me about taping into the Mother Lode:..." (p. 132)

"When I set out to write a new book,..." (p. 156)

(Source: Giphy)
  • I feel like there are multiple instances throughout the book where she insults the reader, and I feel like that is counter-intuitive for a self help book. In the beginning of the book, she says that the reader has picked up the book because areas of the readers life needs improvement, and then she lists multiple reasons why peoples lives need improvement. From there, when she isn't talking about herself, she is talking about people dig their heels in and set their selves up for disaster, and how all of this can be fixed by just loving yourself.
Well you know what? I'm calling BS. In the last year or so, I have figured out a lot of things, but loving myself wasn't one of them. I've loved myself for quite some time now; I made that obvious when I climbed out of my depression. I got my shit together when I was real with myself; when I had a come to Jesus moment with myself and said that I wasn't happy with my body, I wasn't happy with the fact that I had given up on my education, I wasn't happy with my lack of social skills, and I wasn't happy with pretending to be all these things I wasn't in hopes of making everyone else happy. Yes, there is love in those motions, but the big thing was being hard on myself and owning up to all of the ruts I was putting myself in.

And yes, a lot of that required with changing the way I was thinking, but even more, it required me telling people how I felt or why I did what I was doing, because without that, people thought that I was changing myself when really, I was becoming the me that I had hidden away. I always told people that I believed in God, because in America, that's the norm. Finally, I told everyone I was agnostic; I don't know what's out there, but I don't think it's a God that hates someone based off of their sexual preference or if they're pro-life/pro-choice or all of those other things that God is supposed to hate. I live my life based off of how I want to be treated. I'm not going to hate on someone because their lifestyle is different from mine because it doesn't hurt me, just how my beliefs don't hurt you, no matter what you might say.

(Source: Giphy)
And yes, I have used many "I" statements in this post, but this is my blog. This book is supposed to help other people. If people want to listen to mistakes someone has made and how it made them into who they are today, they'd talk to a friend. When I'm reading a book that is supposed to better my life, I want to know how to make my life better, not what you did. What worked for you might not work for me, and vice versa. 

I don't know, maybe I'm already a badass and that's why I didn't like it; but I really didn't learn anything new from this book that I haven't read/heard a million times before.

Rating: 1/10
Genres: Self Help, Non-Fiction

Monday, January 16, 2017

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Why am I just now reading this book? Why didn't I read this when it first came out? Why have the people who truly care about me not sat me down, put the book in my hands, and said "Read. Now." So yeah, we're only 15 days into the new year, but this is going to be a hard one to beat. Ready Player One has 2 things that I love dearly: the 80s and nerds. Really, I was born into the wrong decade, but somehow, a book that was written to take place in 2044 made me feel like I did...kinda. So yeah, if you haven't guessed my next statement, you don't know me very well. But here it is: Go read this book; even if you have already read it, read it again.

(Source: Kelsey Darling)

How to Play

The year: 2044. The setting: the OASIS, a virtual reality that has become pretty much the only way of life. The problem: James Halliday, a renowned video game designer has died and has left an Easter egg somewhere that will pass his entire life fortune to the player that can find it; but, this is not an easy task.

"'I couldn't playtest this particular game, so I worry that I may have hidden my Easter egg a little too well. Made it too difficult to reach. I'm not sure, If that's the case, it's too late to change anything now. So I guess we'll see....So without further ado,' Anorak announces, 'let the hunt for Halliday's Easter egg begin!' The he vanishes in a flash of light, leaving the view to gaze through the open doorway at the glittering mound of treasure that lay beyond. Then the screen fades to black." (pp.6-7)

It's been 5 years since Halliday died and no one has even found the first key, let alone has an idea about how to find it. Wade Watts, an 18 year old high school senior, has spent these last 5 years spending every moment gathering information about Halliday that could help him find the first key; he has watched all of Halliday's favorite movies (Blade Runner, Ferris Bueller, WarGames, and other 80s classics), classic 80s TV shows (mostly Family Ties), listening to 80s music (Def Leppard, Rush, etc), and pretty much every single video game Halliday played, mentioned, or created. Sadly, at this point, him and the other gunters (egg hunters) have made no progress and are up against the sixers (the evil people) in trying to figure everything out.

(Source: Giphy)
And then one day, Wade, while sitting in his VR Latin class, figures out the first clue. The second class is over, he makes a plan, and heads to where he thinks the first key is. And he is right! After playing an extreme game of Joust against Acererak, Parzival (Wade's avatar) becomes the first person, gunter or sixer, to get the Copper Key and the clue to find the first gate. But before Parzival can make his way to the first gate, he runs into Art3mis, a female avatar that Wade has been seriously crushing on for the last 3 years, even though he is fully aware that "she" could actually be a 50-year-old 300 pound dude and not the petite attractive avatar he knows. After a brief confrontation, they discuss how they each found the cave, and Art3mis tells Parzival that she has yet to win at Joust. Parzival lies and says he lost as well, and then the Score Board announces the truth.

(Source: Google Image)
Now there's a mad dash between the High 5, the first 5 gunters to attain the key and make it through the gate, and the sixers, who are lead by Sorrento, head creep and bad guy. The sixers will use everything they can, including explosives, stalking, and hit men to take out the real life people and not just their avatars. Only if and when the High 5 and the rest of the gunters band together can the sixers and Sorrento be taken down. But in the world of virtual reality, it's easier when it's every man and woman for themselves.

Gunters Just Want to Have Fun
  • Anyone who loves the 80s will love this book. Halliday's funeral is like a John Hughes movie on steroids, and is now what I will be requiring when I die.
"Careful analysis of this scene reveals that all of the teenagers behind Halliday are actually extras from various John Hughes teen films who have been digitally cut-and-pasted into the video."

"His surroundings are actually from a scene in the 1989 film Heathers. Halliday appears to have digitally re-created the funeral parlor set and then inserted himself into it."

"The mourners are actually all actors and extras from the same funeral scene in Heathers. Winona Ryder and Christian Slater are clearly visible in the audience, sitting near the back." (p. 3 footnotes)

(Source: Giphy)
  • The WarGames scene from the first gate is easily one of my most favorite scenes in the book, mostly because it's one of my favorite movies.
  • I really want to attend Ogden Morrow's 80s theme dance party. 
"Entering the Distracted Globe was more than a little disorienting. The inside of the giant sphere was completely hollow, and its curved interior surface served as the club's bar and lounge area. The moment you passed through the entrance, the laws of gravity changed...In the middle of all the dancers, a large clear bubble was suspended in space, at the absolute center of the club. This was the "booth" where the DJ stood, surrounded by turntables, mixers, decks, and dials. At the center of all that gear was the opening DJ, R2-D2, hard at work, using his various robotic arms to work the turntables. I recognized the tune he was playing: the '88 remix of New Order's "Blue Monday," with a lot of Star Wars droid sound samples mixed in." (p. 183)
  • I was really worried that Aech was actually one of the bad guys and was just using Parzival to advance the sixers. So when it happened that "he" was really an African American woman, I was very happy that I was wrong in that regard.
"A heavyset African American girl sat in the RV's driver seat, clutching the wheel tightly and staring straight ahead....I stood there for a moment, staring at her in silence, waiting for her to acknowledge my presence. Eventually, she turned and smiled at me, and it was a smile I recognized immediately. That Cheshire grin I'd seen thousands of times before, on the face of Aech's avatar...the young woman sitting in front of me was my best friend, Aech." (p. 318)

  • And, to make all of this better, the nerds find love.
(Source: Giphy)
I am so glad that I read this book, and I would suggest it to everyone! It's got a little something for everyone: dystopia, video games, the 80s, witty banter, thought provoking puzzles, love, a little bit of mystery. Earnest Cline is a brilliant author, and I look forward to reading other works of his, which is why I have already added Armada to my "I need to read this ASAFP" list.

Rating: 10/10
Genres: Science Fiction, Dystopia, Fantasy

Friday, January 13, 2017

Mister B. Gone by Clive Barker

Technically, I read this book in 2016, but the holidays got so hectic that it was hard to find time to write the review and then I was reading Hitchhiker's, so this kind of got put on the back burner, especially since I found it completely anti-climatic. My massage therapist actually suggested the book to me, and we have a lot of similar tastes in books, so I figured I'd give it a go. Clive Barker is  relatively well known; it wouldn't be that way if his books weren't at least decent. And the first bit really intrigued me. But about halfway through the second chapter (which aren't really chapters, just sections I've separated in my head as they always focus on a new bit of his life), I was beginning to feel let down. But I was far enough in that I knew I should finish it.

(Source: Kelsey Darling)
You Go to Hell for the Company

This is the tale of Jakabok's life. Jakabok Botch is a demon from the Ninth Circle of Hell who has always appreciated the written word. In fact, it is love for writing, mixed with him being a demon, that leads to the death of his father and him roaming the Earth until he is trapped in a book. All he wants of you now is to burn the book. He is sick and tired of being trapped between the pages, he wants the sweet release of death. But you, the reader, cannot burn the book. We have been told that burning books is wrong, regardless of demon possession or not.

(Source: Giphy)
It doesn't help, either, that the longer we forgo burning the book the more of his life's story he tells us, ending with how he got into the book. Us silly humans, we don't realize how stupid we can be sometimes, letting a demonized book continue just to hear a little story.

Jakabok's life starts in the Ninth Circle until he is captured by clergy, you know, because all clergy members go fishing for demons and use steak as bait. Jakabok escapes his captors, does a little torturing, and then is almost captured again, but luckily, another earth-side demon saves him. This demon is Quitoon, and they travel the world together, looking for the next great invention. But Quitoon is kinda a bad guy, even for a demon. He loses his shit when Jakabok says he doesn't want to travel with him anymore, and he's part of the reason he ends up in the book.

The book ends with a pissed off Jakabok because we did not burn the book.

(Source: Google Image)
Going to Hell in a Hand Basket

  • This book starts off really strong. Really, anytime Jakabok is trying to convince the reader to burn the book, the book is really good. It's really just the story of his life that isn't as interesting. Obviously, he doesn't get that when you tell someone not to do something, you want to do it even more.
"BURN THIS BOOK.
Go on. Quickly, while there's still time. Burn it. Don't look at another word. Did you hear me? Not. One. More. Word." (p. 1)

  • Jakabok really appreciates the written word, and he has some quite nice things to say about it...if you can look past his anger and aggression.
"So I kept myself from becoming a lunatic by writing down all my frustrations on anything that would carry a mark-paper, wood, even bits of linen-which I kept hidden under a loose floorboard in my room. I poured everything into those pages. It was the first time I understood the power of what you're looking at right now. Words. I found over time that if I wrote on my pages all the things I wished I could do to the kids who humiliated me, or to Pappy Gatmuss [I had some fine ideas about how I would make him regret his brutalities], then the anger would not sting so much." (pp. 5-6)

  • His sister, who is only in the first few pages, has a nice sentiment that is quite nice to hold onto.
"I asked her once very quietly why she never made any noise when my father hit her. She looked up at me. She was on her knees at the time trying to get the toilet unclogged and the stink was terrible; the little room full of ecstatic flies. She said: 'I would never give him the satisfaction of knowing he had hurt me.'
Thirteen words. That was all she had to say on the subject. But she poured into those words so much hatred and rage that it was a wonder that the walls didn't crack and bring the house down on our heads." (4-5)

(Source: Giphy)
As you notice, all of those quote are from pages 1-6. That's because after that, the interesting parts or the good parts or even the witty dialogue become less and less. There's his brief love affair, the teenagers having sex, the angry mob, and then it just kind of stalls until the last bit where angels and demons are having the great battle of good vs evil which all revolves around a book press. It is this book press that leads to Jakabok ending up in the book.

I do realize that that is kind of cruel. But this book was such a let down that I almost regret it. It didn't waste my time in a good way, it didn't teach me anything; there was no laughing or crying; it didn't make me ponder the meaning of life...it was just words on pages between a cover. I guess I'm starting off my HPB pile early this year.

(Source: Google Image)
Rating: 2/10
Genres: Horror, Fantasy, Fiction

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide by Douglas Adams

So the first book I tackled this year was The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide, which includes six stories: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy; The Restaurant at the End of the Universe; Life, the Universe and Everything; So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish; Young Zaphod Plays It Safe; and, Mostly Harmless. Because of the nature of the book, and my feelings regarding the stories is so up and down, this won't be like one of my usual posts. It would be cruel to combine six reviews into one post.

(Source: Kelsey Darling)
I read the book at the great insistence of a dear friend, and I don't regret it. Douglas Adams has a humor that I can relate to and find hilarious. Very British, very dry. And as bizarre as it is, some of my most favorite jokes were those regarding insurance. I guess, bizarre isn't the right word. I work in insurance, so of course I would find more humor in it, but I just love when insurance jokes pop up and I hold onto them. Now, of course, I cannot locate the insurance joke that I found the most hilarious; it's not my book, so I made no marks. However, in Mostly Harmless, we find this little charm.

"It's a whole complicated insurance thing. They just bury the whole thing. Pretend it never happened. The insurance business is completely screwy now. You know they've reintroduced the death penalty for insurance company directors?"
"Really? said Arthur. "No, I didn't. For what offense?"
Trillian frowned.
"What do you mean, offense?"
"I see."  (p. 732)

I do promise to edit this if I find the other one; that one had me in stitches.

(Source: Giphy)
Two of my favorite characters were easily Ford Prefect and Marvin, the paranoid android. Ford reminds me of other favorite characters, like Sirius Black from Harry Potter and Carswell Thorne from The Lunar Chronicles. He just has that carefree, devil-may-care, bad boy attitude, but when you get down to it, is kinda a sweetheart. But you really have to dig to get there.

Marvin is just a riot. He has these snappy one liners, as well as a very unhealthy attitude about life that is quite easy to agree with, and it is almost impossible not to laugh at his negativity. 

(Source: Giphy)

"Pardon me for breathing, which I never so anyway so I don't know why I bother to say it, oh God, I'm so depressed. Here's another of those self-satisfied doors.
Life! Don't talk to me about life." (p. 66)

"Life," said Marvin dolefully, "loathe it or ignore it, you can't like it." (p. 95)

"The first ten million years were the worst," said Marvin, "and the second ten million years, they were the worst too. The third ten million years I didn't enjoy at all. After that I went into a bit of a decline." (p. 236)

"The latest one was a lullaby.
Marvin droned,

'Now the world has gone to bed,
Darkness won't engulf my head,
I can see by infrared,
How I hate the night.'

He paused to gather the artistic and emotional strength to tack the next verse.

'Now I lay me down to sleep,
Try to count electric sheep,
Sweet dream wishes you can keep,
How I hate the night.'" (pp. 444-445)

(Source: Giphy)
But really, the best part is the dry, sarcastic humor that makes even the most unbelievable things seem completely possible. Apparently, this entire time, instead of scientists observing mice, the mice have been observing us. You can also travel so far into the future, you're actually in the past. You can be older than your grandfather. Dolphins are even smarter than we believe them to be. And even though there are millions of alien species out there, only homo sapiens can have children with other homo sapiens

(Source: Google Image)
If I had to rate all of the books separately, it would probably look something like this:

  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: 8/10
  • The Restaurant at the End of the Universe: 7/10
  • Life, the Universe and Everything: 3/10
  • So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish: 2/10
  • Young Zaphod Plays it Safe: -/10 (it just felt unnecessary to me)
  • Mostly Harmless: 7/10
For me, Life and So Long were so all over the place; and not just physical place, but in time. I couldn't keep track of where they were and why they were there and even how they got there. I spent much of those stories with a headache trying to wrap my brain around everything. But, like my friend and I discussed, that is kinda how life, the universe, and everything does make a person feel when they are searching for the question to the answer of the ultimate question. 

I think the line that sums up the whole series is this line from the epilogue of So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish:

"There was a point to this story, but it has temporarily escaped the chronicler's mind." (p. 611)

There is too much of a point with this book, which I kind of really like. Sometimes it's nice to read something or watch something that doesn't have a point, or a huge hidden theme. You just get to sit back and enjoy.

Rating: 6/10
Genres: Science Fiction, Humor, Fantasy