Sunday, January 14, 2018

Milk and Honey - Rupi Kaur

Title: Milk and Honey
Author: Rupi Kaur
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2015 (Paperback)
Length: 207 pages
Genre: Adult; Poetry
Started: January 13, 2018
Finished: January 14, 2018

From the back of the book:

milk and honey is a
collection of poetry about
and femininity
it is split into four chapters
each chapter serves a different purpose
deals with a different pain
heals a different heartache
milk and honey takes readers through
a journey of the most bitter moments in life
and finds sweetness in them
because there is sweetness everywhere
if you are just willing to look

-about the book

Piggybacking off of the more recent The Sun and Her Flowers, I decided to give the author's first book of poetry a try to see if it was as good as the second.

This first collection is shorter than the second and makes the author's age and relative lack of life experience at the time of writing fairly obvious, hence why I prefer The Sun and Her Flowers over Milk and Honey. The poems in this collection aren't as profound and don't make as much use of metaphor and allusion as the second, you read them and think, "yeah, and so..." When compared to the second collection published three years later (and who knows how much time passed between the actual writing of the poems and the time of publication of the first collection), you can see the author's maturity reflected in her more recent work. Don't get me wrong, there are still a few good ones in this volume that do make you pause to think, but they are few and far between compared to the second instalment.

Though enjoyable, I didn't quite like Milk and Honey as much as The Sun and Her Flowers. I would definitely recommend the former as the kind of book to just borrow from the library rather than owning outright like the latter.

Thoughts on the cover:
Simple yet effective. The shiny feel of the cover irks me but it certainly does look nice.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

The Sun and Her Flowers - Rupi Kaur

Title: The Sun and Her Flowers
Author: Rupi Kaur
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 2017 (Paperback)
Length: 250 pages
Genre: Adult; Poetry
Started: January 12, 2018
Finished: January 12, 2018

From the back cover:

this is the recipe of life
said my mother
as she held me in her arms as i wept
think of those flowers you plant
in the garden each year
they will teach you
that people too
must wilt
in order to bloom

-rupi kaur

This book has been on practically every bestseller list since it was released in October, but poetry can be such a hit or miss with me that I was just going to wait to read it until a copy became available at the library. A friend ended up posting shots from her copy of the book on social media and that's what finally convinced me to head over to the bookstore and just take the plunge, and I am so glad I did.

This is the second collection of poetry by the author, who is Canadian and local to boot. Her style is free verse, and not everyone enjoys that, but I personally liked the collection as a whole. The only aspect I found a little frustrating at times was the fragmented nature of the poetry and lack of punctuation, sometimes it was difficult to tell when one poem ended and another began. Eventually it all flows and makes sense, but it took a couple pages for that to happen.

The author touches on several themes of love, heartbreak, assault, immigration, self-love, sexism, and  female empowerment, among others. The poems are divided into chapters based on the general mood and theme: wilting, falling, rooting, rising, blooming. The poems are fairly simplistic, not all of them hit home, but some are quite profound. I really appreciated the middle chapter dealing primarily with the author's experiences as the daughter of Indian immigrants, there were quite a few poems concerning her relationship with her mother that made me tear up (I can see a lot of second and third generation women really identifying with that section).

If you're not sure if this would be your thing, google the author's name and take a look at some of the examples of her work. If it touches something deep inside yourself, buy this book and just enjoy it. Some of the content can definitely be considered triggering for some individuals though, so keep that in mind. 

Thoughts on the cover:
Very simple, but it goes with the recurring motif of sunflowers. 

Monday, January 8, 2018

Awkward: The Science of Why We're Socially Awkward and Why That's Awesome - Ty Tashiro

Title: Awkward: The Science of Why We're Socially Awkward and Why That's Awesome
Author: Ty Tashiro
Publisher: William Morrow (HarperCollins), 2017 (Hardcover)
Length: 261 pages
Genre: Adult; Nonfiction
Started: January 1, 2018
Finished: January 8, 2018

From the inside cover:

How can the same traits that make us feel uneasy in social situations also provide the seeds for extraordinary success?

As humans, we all feel the need to belong. While modern social life can make even the most charismatic of us feel gawky, for roughly one in five of us, navigating its challenges is consistently overwhelming - an ongoing maze without an exit. Often bewildered by the social rules of engagement or how to master the skills and grace necessary for smooth interaction, we feel out of sync with with those around us. Though we may recognize we have awkward dispositions, we rarely understand why that is - which makes it hard for us to know how to adjust our behaviour.

Psychologist and interpersonal relationship expert Ty Tashiro knows what it's like to be awkward. Growing up, he could do complex arithmetic in his head and memorize the earned run averages of every National League starting pitcher. But he struggled to add up social cues during interactions with other kids and was prone to forget routine social expectations. In Awkward, he unpacks decades of research in the fields of psychology, neuroscience, and sociology to help us better understand this widely shared trait and its origins. He considers how awkward people view our complex world and explains how we can comfortably engage with it, delivering a welcome, counterintuitive message: the same characteristics that make people socially clumsy can be harnessed to produce remarkable achievements.

Interweaving the latest research with personal tales and real world examples, Awkward offers us reassurance, and provides valuable insights into how we can embrace our personal quirks and unique talents to realize our awesome potential.

This was a Christmas gift from my better half, and when I received it I was actually excited to read it and didn't take offence to his choice of reading material for me (we're all self-professed awkward introverts in our family and we admit it proudly).

Similar to Quiet (a lovely book on introversion I highly recommend), the author outlines the subject matter and explains it (what social awkwardness is), tackles societal shifts regarding the subject, and then concludes with how the particular trait has benefits in the real world and how people with said personality trait actually bring quite a lot to the table.

The book is well-researched and decently written; I'll admit the first two sections didn't really do much for me since I realized based on the author's anecdotes that I'm actually not as awkward as I recently thought. Social experiences, though sometimes anxiety-inducing for me, are not mystifyingly difficult; so I'm pretty sure that I'm more introverted than socially awkward. The third section correlates awkwardness and giftedness in terms of the precise focus and need to master their preferred subject matter (similar to children with autistic characteristics, which as he outlines, all tend to overlap and come from the same genetic base). That though these individuals tend to sacrifice social exposure in lieu of time alone to hone their talents, they do have a lot to offer through their dedication and persistence to their craft. I particularly appreciated the advice to parents of awkward (and gifted) kids to give their child opportunities to find other like-minded kids who "get" them, which, unsurprisingly, makes social interaction easier for them.

A great book to help understand that awkward individuals need acceptance and patience while they navigate situations that don't come easily to them, and that they are worth knowing as friends and colleagues.

Thoughts on the cover:
The emojis don't make for a very professional book cover, but they sure are cute here.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Armada - Ernest Cline

Title: Armada
Author: Ernest Cline
Publisher: Crown Publishers (Random House), 2015 (Hardcover)
Length: 355 pages
Genre: Young Adult/Adult; Science Fiction
Started: January 1, 2018
Finished: January 6, 2018

From the inside cover:

Zack Lightman has spent his life dreaming. Dreaming that the real world could be a little more like the countless science-fiction books, movies, and video games he's spent his life consuming. Dreaming that one day some fantastic, world-altering event will shatter the monotony of humdrum existence and whisk him off on some grand space-faring adventure.

But hey, there's nothing wrong with a little escapism, right? After all, Zack tells himself, he knows the difference between fantasy and reality. He knows that here in the real world, aimless teenage gamers with anger issues don't get chosen to save the universe.

And then he sees the flying saucer.

Even stranger, the alien ship he's staring at is straight out of the video game he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada - in which gamers just happen to be protecting Earth from alien invaders.

No, Zack hasn't lost his mind. As impossible as it seems, what he's seeing is all too real. And his skills - as well as those of millions of gamers around the world - are going to be needed to save Earth from what's about to befall it.

It's Zack's chance, at last, to play the hero. But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can't help thinking back to all those science-fiction stories he grew up with, and wondering: Doesn't something about this scenario seem a little...familiar?

At once gleefully embracing and brilliantly subverting science-fiction conventions as only Ernest Cline could, Armada is a rollicking, surprising thriller, a classic coming-of-age adventure, and an alien invasion tale like nothing you've ever read before - one whose every page is infused with the pop culture savvy that has helped make Ready Player One a phenomenon.

After reading Ready Player One to get myself ready for the movie in March, I thought I may as well dip into the author's second book to see if it was as enjoyable as the first....sadly to say the author did not strike lightning twice.

Zack Lightman's father died when he was a baby in a freak industrial accident, so it's only natural that he would want to learn more about the father he's said to resemble so much. He plays the same types of video games his father played (and is a top scorer worldwide), as well as reads and watches all the science fiction books and movies his father loved. While reading his father's journals, Zack comes across a weird conspiracy theory penned by his father as a teenager: that the government is using science-fiction movies and video games as tools to train civilians to fight in an alien invasion. Zack worries about his deceased father's delusions, until he sees a flying saucer outside the window one day while sitting in class. Zack believes that some severe mental health issues might be hereditary, until the Earth Defence Alliance (EDA) whisks him away to fight in an alien war that's been going on since the 1970s unbeknownst to ordinary citizens.

This novel had a good premise, and similar to Ready Player One it takes a familiar concept (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for Ready Player One, and Ender's Game and The Last Starfighter in Armada) that's known to readers to hook them onto the story. Unlike in Ready Player One though, Armada doesn't really grow beyond that familiar concept to become its own story. As you read, you're getting the Ender's Game vibes and references and waiting for it to acknowledge it and move forward and it eventually does, but by that point you've lost interest in the characters and you're bored out of your mind.

Armada unfortunately isn't as good of a read as Ready Player One (and I still had my issues with that book as well), so best to skip this one.

Thoughts on the cover:
The cover has metallic accents on it that does make for an eye-pleasing image.