Feminism in Cold Storage

Feminism in Cold Storage

A blog about feminism and books. 

Review
4 Stars
Spider-Woman: Shifting Gears Vol. 3: Scare Tactics (Spider-Woman
Spider-Woman: Shifting Gears Vol. 3: Scare Tactics (Spider-Woman - Dennis Hopeless, Veronica Fish, Javier Rodriguez
I read the first two volumes in this run a while back and had been meaning to catch up on her. The others are reviewed here: Volume 1, Volume 2, and Spider-Women.

I finally got a chance to read this one and it was a good send off to the run. I'm not so excited that her run is over, but this is a great set of volumes for this story. Spider-Woman is a well established Marvel character and though I don't expect her to be gracing the big screen any time soon, I also don't expect her to go away either.

As far as this volume goes, it showcases some of my favorite features of Spider-Woman as well as some favorite characters in her world. Roger, or Porcupine, isn't the best guy in the world but he's always been great to both Spider-Woman and Jessica Drew, so any trouble he's in, she's in also. Part of what's been great about this single mom superhero is her support system and that it's multifaceted. When one part of it runs into trouble (which is bound to happen when everyone is a hero, right?), there are more heroes to pitch in and give Spider-Woman the time to take care of business.

I'm not a fan of this cover but Hobgoblin does make for a pretty amazing bad guy. I'm not big into the Spider-Man comics so I never realized how big a bad guy he is. He really pushes Spider-Woman to the breaking point, even making her mad enough to get reckless and not think before jumping into a fight.

The best part is the end, though. They knew it was the end of the run/series for now and included a denouement that was really everything I could have asked for. It's great because I think we've all been there with someone that our friends don't really get until they see the magic in action. It also answered a burning question of mine ever since I saw Spider-Woman's swollen belly grace the cover of the first issue in this run.

It's been fun and I'm sad to see the run over, but I have hope that Spider-Woman will grace the cover of another series one day! If you hadn't checked out her series before, this is a great time to binge through its three volumes and Spider-Women!
Review
5 Stars
Ms. Marvel Vol. 5: Super Famous (Ms. Marvel
Ms. Marvel Vol. 5: Super Famous (Ms. Marvel - G. Willow Wilson, Takeshi Miyazawa, Adrian Alphona, Nico Leon, Cliff Chiang
Volume five begins a new set of Ms. Marvel storylines where she's pretty well established and even became an Avenger along the way. It actually has two stories told in sets of three issues, beginning several months after the events of Volume Four. The first one is about her fame being used without her permission. I love that it talks about gentrification of neighborhoods and her use of the word "colonize" instead when fighting back against the corporation coming in. Still, winning doesn't quite solve her problems here and I also thought that was a great touch. Sometimes winning doesn't feel like winning.

The second set is a story about having too many things that you want to do to fit into a day for too many days in a row. What's a superhero to do? Also, I love her interaction with Iron Man and Captain Marvel at the end. Again, her family is great in these issues. I love the way they react to just about everything.
Review
5 Stars
Ms. Marvel Vol. 4: Last Days (Ms. Marvel (2014-2015))
Ms. Marvel Vol. 4: Last Days (Ms. Marvel (2014-2015)) - G. Wilson, Dan Slott, Adrian Alphona, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Kris Anka
What would you during the apocalypse?

I love the way this volume answers that question, and for more characters than our protagonist. More than that, getting back into these volumes reminded me why I love this series so much. The whole Khan family is awesome and so are Ms. Marvel's friends.

This volume also has two great team-ups. The first is with Captain Marvel and then there are two issues of Spider-Man. The Spider-Man issues even include some scenes with Silk that were part of the set up to her series that I'm glad to have caught. If you haven't checked out Silk yet, she had a short run with three volumes and I adore her. Here are my reviews: Silk, Vol. 0: The Life and Times of Cindy Moon by writer Robbie Thompson and art by Stacey Lee; Silk Vol 1: Sinister; and Silk Volume 2: The Negative Zone.

Volume four closes the first run of the Ms. Marvel series that constitute her origin and were published from 2014 to 2015.
Review
5 Stars
A Tale for the Time Being (Audio)
A Tale for the Time Being (Audio) - Ruth Ozeki
This was my pick for Read Harder 2017's Task 19. There are actually several characters of color who go on spiritual journeys. A Tale for the Time Being has two protagonists, both are women of color and then some second tier characters have their own spiritual journeys as well. The book opens with Nao, who I would call the main protagonist. She is one of those characters who live between cultures and is therefore harder to understand and has a harder time relating to people of either culture. She's lonely at school where she can't relate to other students who grew up in Japan, but also at home. Her parents have enough of their own issues that they don't have the awareness to deal with hers, until Nao's issues practically hit them in the face.

Ruth is the other protagonist. This part of the story is a little more familiar for Western audiences despite that Ruth is a protagonist of color. Also of Japanese heritage, she takes a special interest in Nao's diary after it washes up on the shores of her local beach in Canada along with other items from Japan. The assumption around town is that these items were washed away in the tsunami that had hit Japan in 2011. More than anything else that has washed up though, this diary and the few things with it are more personal to Ruth. Her character arc and spiritual journey is just as pronounced as Nao's as she searches for what may have happened to Nao.

For me, Nao's journey is by far the more interesting one. She goes through so much and her family had been through so much. There's also a magnificent shifting of perspective and the way they know and see each other. Its a multigenerational kind of story that has several beautiful layers but also several horrific and triggering scenes. Some triggers to expect in this book are suicide and suicidal thoughts, rape, bullying, depression, and child prostitution.

With triggers like that, I was also surprised to find the rather perfect way it resolved. There's some magical realism that comes into play, but it had been there from the beginning too. And perfect does not mean that life goes on as if nothing ever happened, quite the contrary. There are still mysteries left to the story too, but these are the kind if mysteries that are true to life. Sometimes we just don't get to know about some things we are looking for. I rather liked that.

Altogether, it's one of my favorite books this year.
Review
3 Stars
The Floating Garden: A Novel
The Floating Garden: A Novel - Emma Ashmere
The Floating Garden was a last minute find to replace my original Read Harder 2017 Task 21, book published by a micropress. I just wasn't into the book I had originally chosen and life is too short to read books you're not excited about, right?

Looking for a late replacement, I just went over to Goodreads and just searched for something that was in the group discussions that I could get my hands on. I know, it's not the best use of the task and probably not entirely in it's spirit, but this has been the hardest task for me between the two years I've been doing this challenge. That said, I didn't even look at the full description of the book and dove right in, hoping it would be more interesting than it's predecessor. Fortunately, it was.

I had neglected to read the description before starting the book itself and it took me a minute to figure the era and place and then I had to go back and figure out what the hell a theosophist was. I had no idea that was a thing. The story itself follows two point of view characters and some flashbacks to the mysterious past of one of them. I really enjoyed the way it all worked together. On the one hand, it's a rather beautiful story amid the natural decay of a part of town and the progress that displaces the people in those community, and on the other hand, it's a story about setting yourself free and working to stay that way.

I was intrigued to find how Rennie and Ellis's lives would eventually intersect and the way they would effect each other. I wasn't so sure how it was going to go until the very end with a little surprise. It didn't quite twist the ending but eased it, if that makes any sense. Ellis's past haunted her and it was the little hints toward it that initially drew me into the story. I was glad when we got to full on flashbacks to what it was that was bothering her so much. It was sad and sweet and by the time I got to the full extent of it, it was also quite nostalgic even though I'd never known any of those people or been to Australia or even seen pictures of Milson's Point or the Harbour Bridge.

For Rennie the problem was more a matter of present than past, and her way of dealing with it was understandable. It sounds so easy to do what she did, but I know from plenty of other reading that it's not only hard but incredibly frightening. I can't imagine striking out on my own that way, which is part of why I really understood the need for that little moment, the little sign. I loved the way she ended up where she did, all the little unnerving steps that were much braver than they sound and the shedding of an unwanted life.

The magical thing about it all is that this is a story about running away and about finding yourself much later in life than most of these stories usually take place. Rennie and Ellis are not young women but needing to be in the right place for you isn't something that goes away after your twenties. Sometimes where we found at one age isn't where we need to be or even can be at another. It's always refreshing to read stories about older women who are trapped for one reason or another by the choices of their youth breaking free and finding themselves. It shows that its never too late and that one bad choice doesn't have to define who you are forever. I also really loved that children had nothing at all to do with these women feeling trapped by their circumstances, as neither had any.
Review
4.5 Stars
The Art of Asking
The Art of Asking - Amanda Palmer

I was not prepared for what I got in this book. I knew it was a memoir, but it really does focus on asking and all ways we ask people for things and all the things we don't ask for until it hurts too much. It's a beautiful book and made me realize that  I really need to work on asking more.

I absolutely loved this book. I'll be honest, I hadn't actually heard of Amanda Palmer before seeing this book. I'm not as big into music as I am books and I've rarely gone to Kickstarter, so it's not much of a surprise either. I listened to her TED talk (and I do love TED!), which covers many of the same bases as her book. I'd consider it a really condensed version.

The art of asking is really rather genius, though it's not exactly foreign to my life. There's a connection between what Palmer refers to as the art of asking and my husband's work in the church. Churches don't make people pay for their services, they ask. But churches are dying off and Kickstarters are getting more money every day. They seem to have lost the art to it. I have recommended the book to him and I hope he reads/listens to it.

I listened to it, which was definitely the way to go. Palmer narrates the book and she even sings a song between chapters occasionally. For me, it did just as promised in the blurb. It made me rethink some things, specifically what it means to ask instead of demand and to share the process of creating art with those around us.

I hate Twitter but I understand her love of it. I've never been good at starting conversations with people in front of me. I've never been good at being seen or letting others know that I see them. With these in mind, the book has created a degree of fear that I will never get to where I want to be. But then it always comes back in a haunting sort of way. I can get there, but I have to grow first and I have to do the things that need to be done.

Plus, I want connection when I get there, not adoration or whatever. It made me pay a bit more attention to the Twitter feeds of the artists I do admire. It makes me want to connect with them on some small level. I'm working up to it. I followed a few more since reading this, mostly comic creators that I love. Reaching out for connection is a little terrifying. But I think about standing on that box, trying to give someone a flower. I want to try something like that one day.

I loved that the book began with a introduction by Brene Brown. Some of you may recall my love for her and her work. Their messages share that connection can only happen after the risk of vulnerability. It only happens when we've reached out to someone who can reject us, but doesn't. If they are forced, it's not connection.

There were plenty of adorable anecdotes, but the meat of the book rests on just what the title implies. There is an art to asking. The book also dives pretty deeply into the art that can be present in giving. Some give, and some do so artfully. There is a difference. My mother has been one of those who give artfully. She has a way of not making the recipient feel shame, which is also important to connection. Palmer sums it up in "take the donut" or "take the flower". I love food, so I prefer "take the donut". I will also have to work on taking to donut in the future. I tend to be the bashful sort that prefers people keep their donut but totally appreciates the offer.

Has anyone else read this book? Did it make you take another look at asking, giving, receiving, connection, vulnerability.....?

Review
3 Stars
Hope in the Dark
Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities - Rebecca Solnit

I read this for the Social Justice Book Club I joined and that was featured in this Book Riot article: Level Up with the Social Justice Book Club. I enjoyed reading it but it didn't completely shatter my world and I didn't absolutely love it. It's a good book for when you feel like you need to be talked out of the feeling that everything is already lost and there is nothing that can be done about it.
There were some places in the books that genuinely inspired me but it did so by putting together in better language than I can articulate, or adequately reference, things that I knew already. The trajectory of hope only seems lost when we feel that we are in a major down-spiral of all things that we have fought for and that may be true for many, but I am personally surrounded by constant change in the non-political arena that are for the better and that are feminist in nature. They may not have direct social justice implications, but they make an impact on progress as well and being a part of that end of things made most of the points here not so much a surprise or new but directed at a different audience.

Honestly, I know how many feel about Trump and I'm not advocating for or against him here. His presence is not an automatic reversal of everything that every one has worked hard for. Some things will likely revert back but I highly doubt that those of use enjoying new freedoms are about to let them be taken away so quickly. His impending inauguration has even spawned some activism on a scale that would have seemed unnecessary with a Clinton presidency and I am interested in seeing what happens next.

As Solnit points out about the environmental lobby against the ranchers, sometimes the people we perceive as our opponents can be our biggest help in achieving the final goal. I'll be interested in seeing who the new bedmates end up being as everyone strives for what they believe in for the next four or eight years. The point is that hope should not be lost on account of a single election.

The new foreword and afterword were added, but not much of the meat seemed to have been changed as it mostly attacked Bush. I am also not here to go on about the pros or cons of the Bush administration. This is about the book, right?

Regardless, a Bush administration didn't destroy the country like many, including Solnit, seemed to think it would and an Obama administration didn't either, like many conservatives that I know thought it would. And again, our level of progress only seems bleak when we only go back one or two administrations. I remember growing up in the 80's and 90's in a country that was going to be swallowed by smog while dying of AIDS that were only in this country because of people still being decried as the dregs of society. I remember movements about rampant Styrofoam usage by corporations that have since abandoned the material and movements about saving the trees. People worked hard on getting awareness of what causes these things out to the masses and others worked hard on solutions or alternatives.

The trees aren't completely safe and the LGBT community is still fighting for rights, but these issues have come a long way with successive small victories. Homosexuals couldn't serve at all in the military when I was born, Don't Ask Don't Tell came along when I was in high school and I remember the day that it was completely repealed. By the way, women couldn't serve in combat roles at all back then either, and now we're integrating into every portion of the military with no combat exclusion whatsoever. There has been a lot of progress in the most unlikely of places.

We have a lot of reasons to maintain hope that not all progress will stagnate and not all progress will be driven backwards. It won't be easy, but the progress machine keeps turning and people keep learning and listening. Yeah, it would have been really symbolically cool to have a woman as president during the centennial of women attaining the vote in this country. There's still a possibility that instead it will be the year we first vote a woman into that office later that year.

 

I had gotten a free copy of the book on the day after the election when Haymarket was giving it away but if you missed that boat, click on the cover to go to BookLikes for purchase options.

Note: I do disagree with Solnit's stance on the story of the Fall being a "central" story to the Judeo-Christian cultural outlook. While it is a story that we tell as Christians (I don't want to speak for Jewish people, so I'll just rebut for Christians), it's far from central. It's part of the setup, like a first chapter or prologue. I agree with Solnit's assertion that many conservatives spend more time looking back than forward (I mean, "Make America Great Again" is a clear example), but not that it's a Christian idea of the past being more perfect than the future. To me, the story of the Fall actually illustrates the idea that Solnit makes further into the same chapter, that humans are unlikely to be happy with any form of Utopia. I feel that story is meant to show that we disobey. that we inherently do what we feel is best rather than what we are told is best, and we strive for more than we have and that it sets up a story where this continues to be the case until God sets up a new expectation, or covenant. I haven't read through the whole Bible and I am not a theologian, but I have been reading through it for a while now and am past that story. I'm about a third through, and have covered some other big highlights of Christianity from the Old Testament and just feel really strongly that "central" is not the appropriate term for where the story of the Fall sits no matter how you slice it. At best, I think it sits in parallel to the main story of Jesus and the redemption his death brings as the original thing that we need redemption from. At best. Feel free to disagree and we can talk about it in the comments.

Review
5 Stars
The Thing Around Your Neck
The Thing Around Your Neck - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

There are a lot of reasons why these stories were each amazing and beautiful. For starters, they are #ownvoices, which in itself lends depth to them that is hard to come by from people not familiar with others experiences, but the stories are also varied in many other ways.

I remember first hearing about Adichie from her TEDtalk, the Danger of a Single Story, so I knew not to expect the stories to be similar to each other or to any idea that I had about Africa or African people. Each one is a different part of life for African people. I know that several stories were about Nigerians specifically, but not whether all were. I know Adichie is Nigerian (yes, I even looked up her Wikipedia page to double check), but I don't want to make either assumption that it means all her characters must be Nigerian nor that the experience of people from different countries within Africa are interchangeable. Instead, I'll just point out that I don't know. I do know that one story pointed out where secondary characters were from and the protagonist even refers to them by their country more than their name as they are all new to her.

Getting back to the way the stories were varied, some were immigration stories to the US and others took place in Africa, but even one of those could be loosely categorized as an immigration story because it is about a woman attempting to obtain refugee status to go to the US. It would be difficult to judge the stories against each other on a level of enjoyable as not all are happy or sad, but they all make the reader think about their ideas of how they treat people and how they are treated by people.

I was glad that I listened to the audiobook, read by Adjoa Andoh, because of the character names. Not only would I have mispronounced, but I would have missed out on the lyrical beauty of many of them. The many accents required to read through all the stories were masterfully done as one should expect from an actress of Andoh's accomplishments.

Altogether, it's an enlightening set of stories that should definitely be read by anyone interested in stories about the lives of women. This does not mean that it should be relegated to "chick lit", though. None of the stories are delivered in the "humorously and lightedhardly" style of what is often referred to as chick lit. These are serious stories about women's lives, the struggles, the many forms that heartbreak takes, the difficult decisions that must be contended with. While I wouldn't use the book alone to indicate what African or Nigerian culture is completely about (then we'd fall into the narrow view that Adichie herself cautions against), I would say that it paints an interesting picture of what it is like for some women.

So again, an excellent pick for anyone interested in women's stories, particularly those looking to expand their reading to include stories in more than one country, of moving between countries, of the way lives mix between people of different cultures in several ways. The collection on its own, it still expands the idea of what African stories are and takes us a beyond a single story.

Review
4 Stars
Spider-Woman: Shifting Gears Vol. 2: Civil War II - Dennis Hopeless, Javier Rodriguez

Spider-Woman's involvement in the Civil War II conflict is the primary focus of this volume, but the outer two issues aren't a part of the war. The first one is actually about Spider-Woman getting back out there, fighting bad guys and riding her motorcycle. It's a fun issue, but not particularly compelling.

Then it starts. She resists at first, not wanting to get in the middle of something at that level, not wanting to pick sides between those two, but the conflict proves unavoidable. Rather, Captain Marvel has a request for her that is out of the way, but important to the cause. She does the background investigations, figuring out whether or not the visions are accurate even when they're small while Captain Marvel goes around putting bad guys away before they have a chance to carry out their evil plans.

Things start to look like they're going one way until the big problem from Civil War II happens. That time "when one of the biggest heroes of all falls," and "the resulting trial of the century stokes the fire". That doesn't turn out to help Jessica and her little part of all this. It makes things that much more complicated.

I appreciate her struggles both before and after the big event. She has issues with taking sides in this, with whose side to take, with the surrounding events of the big hero who falls and with what it all means for everyone involved. I felt like her part of the story really brought home the struggle of the war because of her relationships with everyone involved. There was no side that she wasn't going to get mad at it, that didn't have people she'd mourn, that wouldn't end with hurt for her.

But then the war is over and we get one more issue. I really loved this one because she's trying to take a much deserved and needed day off. We all need to sometimes, especially when everything seems like it just exploded around you, it's important to walk away from all that stuff and take a minute to appreciate what you do have. Like your new adorable baby and a friend or two that didn't ask you to be a part of things that you didn't want anything to do with. A friend who is there for you. The last issue was mostly adorable and regenerative for the character, and I have to admit that it was those things for me too.

Review
5 Stars
Everything I Never Told You
Everything I Never Told You - Celeste Ng, Cassandra Campbell

This book was amazing. I was absolutely captivated the whole time.
Not often have I listened to a book that has prompted me turn up the speed as high as I can possibly stand it because I need to have it all absorbed NOW. This was one of those rare exceptions (seriously, it's maybe happened twice before and last time it was the finale to the Lunar Chronicles).

With a title like this, I knew the story was going to be a sad book about someone leaving some kind of way but I just couldn't help myself. I didn't even bother reading the synopsis, I had  to know. I do have trigger type issues with stories about kids dying, but my ability to persist tends to depend on either the direct actions of the parents that contributed or ill or misrepresentative treatment of the mourning process. I didn't have to worry about that here.

The book did an amazing job of walking the reader through some of the different ways that people mourn, it is not about some easy recovery and people getting on with their lives after a family tragedy. The story itself is about the mourning and recovery process for each family member, wallowing in all the sticky and depressing parts, wallowing in the guilt. It walks us through their inner lives as they go through it all.

I won't  try to defend all of their actions, people are reliably irrational during such times and do things that are out of character. Whether or not we can expect people to think or act rationally while dealing with death is questionable at best. In some stories it works, but those are usually stories where the remaining characters are still under whatever strain or stress that killed the first. This is not that kind of story. Everything was fine, or so the rest of the family thought.

Then they find out that Lydia had died. Due to the circumstances of her death, each family member, in their own way and time, has to take a look at the events leading up to her death and question their amount of fault or responsibility. The problem is that they only have questions. There can be no concrete answers for them. They have to come up with some answer that works for them and try their best to carry on. Part of the problem is that it isn't just about Lydia and her death. When something like this happens so unexpectedly, the remaining family members have no choice but to look at the family and the way that it works and realize that it doesn't work. It hadn't been working. But what could or should they do about it? But figuring that out would require the kind of rationality that isn't immediately available to a grieving family.

During the whole book, I had to wonder if this was going to be a story about a splintering or a family coming together. These things go both ways in life and in stories and Ng's treatment of her characters was realistic enough to make me wonder. I won't spoil it either. I'll just say that each of her characters are incredibly well rounded, even Lydia. We get to know plenty of options for each family member and I was satisfied with the way it did end.

The audiobook was read by Cassandra Campbell, who does an amazing job with it. I listened to the streaming version available through Amazon Channels on Audible. For me, the book satisfies Letter E for my Litsy A to Z Challenge.

Review
4 Stars
Silk Vol 2
Silk Vol. 2: The Negative (Silk (2015-)) - Robbie Thompson, Stacey Lee, Tana Ford, Helen Chen

This volume is kind of a coming home for Silk. I don't want to give anything away, but I feel like the issues cover a lot of ground in a really short period. They really expand her world.
I love Silk but she was totally eclipsed for part of this volume by the amazing cast of people that surround her. For this issue, I don't consider this a bad thing. In the last volume, we were mostly caught up with Silk and the Black Cat and being undercover for SHIELD but this time Silk's world is opening up a little. We already know her two friends from work, who I just adore, but a few more characters are introduced that I hope are here to stay.

The volume answers a lot of questions, but then poses new questions as well, as any good continuation should. I hope to see her really get on her own two feet in the future.

Some fun little things that I loved:

the friends totally geeking out when they had stumbled upon the opportunity
the introduction of Spectro
the whole Negative Zone everything
SHIELD holding up it's end of a bargain
JJJ. I know, he's such a jerk to Peter and Spider-Man but he adores Silk and Cindy Moon.
JJJ's nickname for her.
It's definitely a volume that has some crucial information for anyone keeping up with her storyline, not filler at all. I look forward to continuing the series!

Review
4 Stars
Princeless Vol 2
Princeless: Book Two: Get Over Yourself (Princeless Vol. 2) - Jeremy Whitley, Emily Martin

I fell in love with this series back in December when I read Volume 1, Save Yourself, and had been looking forward to this volume ever since. It did not disappoint. I loved the title for this one and the way it plays into the plot.
First of all, I totally love the theme of the series in general. We have a WOC protagonist who has decided that she has had enough with the status quo and the waiting around and takes matters into her own hands. She even uses the dragon that guarded her castle in place of a mighty stead. I mean, how could I not love it?

So here we catch up with Adrienne and Bedelia, who is her personal blacksmith and sidekick. They are going to save Angelica! Or are they? Is Adrienne the only one to take matters into her own hands? Does Angelica even want saving? Adrienne has many sisters and while it should be easy to expect that they all be different from each other and nuanced and have different points of view, I also know that expectations like that usually end in disappointment.

Not this time. Whitley has created this amazing world for us and gives us sisters who neither think the same nor act the same. The outlooks that Angelica and Adrienne have on their like situations are not at all the same and serve to manifest very different outcomes for themselves and those who come to find them.

Personally, I loved Angelica. I loved getting another view on the subject of being so admired. I loved that the writers decided to just jump right into the alternative point of view and that none of it went in the direction that I expected. I also loved the rest of the family situation and the foreshadowing of the mysterious Black Knight that I have my suspicions about.

As before, the art is wonderful. The way that Angelica is obviously a little older and is more beautiful and even a little sexy without being overdone or exposing anything was impressive. The rest of the art is fun and colorful and keep it obvious that it's an all ages comic. If you haven't jumped in on this series, I suggest you do. I've already started the third volume and plan to post it soon!

Review
4 Stars
The Telomere Effect
The Telomere Effect: The New Science of Living Younger - Dr Elizabeth Blackburn, Dr Elissa Epel

Most of the guidance on living better wasn't new, but the science behind it was new for me and incredibly interesting. It made so much more sense of the standard lifestyle and health advice that I have felt a little bombarded by at times.
Let's be honest, we've all heard things like eating better and spending more time outside are so good for us to the point where it's almost annoying to hear again. At the same time, what makes this book stand out from all the random advice we're given from almost every form of media is that it provides concrete biological evidence as to why these effect us the way they do. Blackburn and Epel don't just say things like, eating sugar is bad because they have calories and calories makes us fat, but they breakdown the way sugars effect us in the short and long term and why some sugary foods are worse than others. They cite research and they specify what was accounted for within it. I don't often see things like what the control was asked to do or what factors were controlled for, like whether or not the researchers had accounted for whether a person smokes. These finer details really make the book stand out among those aiming to inspire people to live better. Their evidence is way more concrete than the random correlations that I've seen others talk about.

I enjoyed the "Renewal Labs" and the "Telomere Tips" at the end of each chapter where several ideas to help with each change were given and the way the authors stress that small changes are better to make in the beginning or just focusing on one thing to change rather than trying to make a radical lifestyle change. Add something or expand the change when it has become a new normal in life. That makes sense and we all know to do it, but the writing style really gives the reader permission to take things really slowly, as opposed to some other health books I've read before. They actively encouraged that the reader make the smaller changes rather than bigger ones that have been proven to not last in what seemed like countless cited studies. I also appreciated the way they had information on how long the effects of a short change lasted on the body and whether the longer term effect was good or bad.
 
Telomeres are interesting little things that give me some hope. I come from a family t hat is generally told we look younger than we are, so I didn't come into the book concerned for my healthspan. Honestly, it was one of the books I had chosen because Dr. Blackburn is a Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine for the very discovery of telomeres and telomerase (along with Carol W. Greider and Jack W. Szostak). I had no idea how all those things that lifestyle and health people tell you are actually connected to health and looking young but it makes sense now. Especially the looking young part.
 
After having read a few self-help and diet books on this sort of thing, it was helpful to get to this one. Honestly, I wish I could have just started here. It helps me wrap my head around what I need to do to make changes to know the how behind it all and not just get what seems to me like random associations. Shortening telomeres are more quantifiable than whether or not I feel better when I do something. It also made a whole lot more sense out of how and why you can have too much of a good thing that should make you healthier but really only makes you sicker.

Review
4 Stars
The Elephant and the Dragon
The Elephant and the Dragon: The Rise of India and China and What It Means for All of Us - Robyn Meredith

I remember when this book first came out. I was a teenager and my father picked it up immediately and was so excited about it that he told me about half the book in an evening when he was done. I remember lots of stories from it but always felt like I was missing some. It was one of those books he had insisted on me reading one day and even gave me but that I didn't feel like I needed to read because I knew most of the stories (which did not turn out to be true).

Then I came across it again this month. It's been a week or so since I finished it, my reviews this month have been woefully behind. I had come across the audiobook version in my library when I was looking for a new book and it is on one of those few subjects that I knew my husband wouldn't mind listening to on our two day drive back home from visiting my parents. It turned into the easiest part of the drive.

I have always had a particular fondness for history surrounding boats and the sea, so this book was especially fascinating for me. I loved all the crazy stories about espionage and the way that became a big job for submarines to do. I don't remember all the names, unfortunately, but the man who used bets to factor intuition into calculations of where to look for things was amazing. That's an interesting concept all by itself.

It was crazy to get into the mindset of the Cold War while listening to this book. I don't remember much from that timeframe but I'm old enough to remember just a little. The fear and paranoia were strangely different from what terrorism has done in the last few decades. It's hard to explain but the book really brings you back there. I appreciated that the authors included that element, particularly since I'm reading it so long after both the period it covers and its publication.

I know herstories are normally my thing for the blog but I decided to include a review when I noticed that two out of the three authors were women. I enjoyed the narrator, Tony Roberts. He got a little monotone sometimes but kept the sense of suspense throughout the book.

Review
5 Stars
Blind Man's Bluff
Blind Man's Bluff: The Untold True Story of American Submar (Audio) - Sherry Sontag, Christopher Drew, Annette L. Drew, Tony Roberts

I remember when this book first came out. I was a teenager and my father picked it up immediately and was so excited about it that he told me about half the book in an evening when he was done. I remember lots of stories from it but always felt like I was missing some. It was one of those books he had insisted on me reading one day and even gave me but that I didn't feel like I needed to read because I knew most of the stories (which did not turn out to be true).

Then I came across it again this month. It's been a week or so since I finished it, my reviews this month have been woefully behind. I had come across the audiobook version in my library when I was looking for a new book and it is on one of those few subjects that I knew my husband wouldn't mind listening to on our two day drive back home from visiting my parents. It turned into the easiest part of the drive.

I have always had a particular fondness for history surrounding boats and the sea, so this book was especially fascinating for me. I loved all the crazy stories about espionage and the way that became a big job for submarines to do. I don't remember all the names, unfortunately, but the man who used bets to factor intuition into calculations of where to look for things was amazing. That's an interesting concept all by itself.

It was crazy to get into the mindset of the Cold War while listening to this book. I don't remember much from that timeframe but I'm old enough to remember just a little. The fear and paranoia were strangely different from what terrorism has done in the last few decades. It's hard to explain but the book really brings you back there. I appreciated that the authors included that element, particularly since I'm reading it so long after both the period it covers and its publication.

I know herstories are normally my thing for the blog but I decided to include a review when I noticed that two out of the three authors were women. I enjoyed the narrator, Tony Roberts. He got a little monotone sometimes but kept the sense of suspense throughout the book.

Review
4 Stars
To the Lighthouse
To The Lighthouse: (Annotated) - Virginia Woolf

Okay, I'll admit it, I got a little lost in the language. It took me longer than normal to get through To the Lighthouse. I had begun trying to let my Echo read it to me, which I have loved to do to get ahead on some reading while doing household chores but it let me down here. It was all the sentences that ran far too long with too many semicolons. It drove me a little crazy, so I had to change methods. I went back to reading it like a normal ebook. The magic of the book is in it's insight into normalcy. There's nothing unusual about any of its characters but To the Lighthouse looks deeper into the family and those who surround them than most books do these days. Each characters gets POV time and with each character you understand their alliances within the family, the reasons for their alliances, who they are allied against and why, their hopes and frustrations. One of the great things about reading it so far removed from the time and place when it was written is seeing the way the family of that time worked and how they depended on each other. It wasn't a fun book to read but it's a valuable book when looking at progress and the lives of women and the way that plays into the family life. While it shouldn't alone speak for the family dynamic of the time, it's very existence is proof that things were not perfect before women to work en masse in the second wave feminism. The roles of Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay may have complimented each other functionally, I hesitate to believe that either was better off than a modern family. I'd love to have read this for a college class that dove deeper into what it all meant and the inner lives of each character. I feel a little like reading it for a reading challenge for a blog took a lot of the fun out of it but I don't know anyone else who has read it. Such is fate. This was my choice for Read Harder 2017 Task 7: Read a book published between 1900 and 1950 (first published 1927).

currently reading

Progress: 30%