Reading wrap-up #27

This post will only include three reviews rather than my usual four as my last review is… well, you’ll see.

As a reminder, here is how I rate my books:

  • (★★★★★): Loved it
  • (★★★★): Really liked it
  • (★★★): Liked it enough
  • (★★): Didn’t care for it

Another few notes: I will warn if there are any spoilers with (start spoiler) and (end spoiler) so you know when to stop reading and pick up again if you don’t want to ruin the book for yourself. I no longer go out of my way to watch adaptions, but will continue to mention them and their general critiques (from Rotten Tomatoes) in my reviews. Finally, you can always check out my book review index page if you’re looking for my extremely important opinion on any book in particular.

How to be a Good Creature by Sy Montgomery

Image result for how to be a good creature book coverRating: ★★★★

Genre:Non-fiction, memoir

GoodReads rating:  4.05 / 5 (5,000 ratings)

Medium used: Hardcover (borrowed from Unalaska Public Library)

Summary: Author highlights moving moments in their life through animal companions.

Thoughts: The best way to describe this book is “cute.” Not moving to the average reader or too revealing of the author’s life; to be honest, I even found it a bit scattered. The main reason it got four stars instead of three was the mention and loss of her pet border collies and my connection to her stories as I have an aging border collie mix myself.

Speak: The Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson

Image result for speak the graphic novel book coverRating: ★★★★

Genre: Fiction, graphic novel

GoodReads rating:  4.38 / 5 (7,800 ratings)

Medium used: E-book (borrowed from library via OverDrive)

Warning: This book contains themes of rape and self-harm.

Summary: Melissa struggles with feeling alienated at school after calling the cops at a house party, and her depression and trouble at home don’t help. How would people react if they knew what really happened that night? And how can she cope with it herself?

Thoughts: Wow, this was so powerful. The original book was published in the 90’s but I was unaware of it when I saw this version pop up on my GoodReads feed. I really loved the fact that this was adapted to a graphic novel, the art really captured the feeling of being isolated, depressed and hopeless. I reckon a lot of young adults, especially women who have been sexually assaulted like our character, can relate to feeling alienated when you’re at your lowest point.

Other adaptations: The original book came out in 1999.

Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

Image result for girl wash your face book coverRating: ★★

Genre: Non-fiction, self-help

GoodReads rating:  3.74 / 5 (148,000 ratings)

Medium used: E-book (borrowed from library via OverDrive)

Summary: Self-proclaimed media mogul and event planner Rachel Hollis reveals her life behind her picture-perfect social media presence.

Thoughts: After the emotional rollercoasters that were How to Be a Good Creature and Speak, I wanted a hate-read. You know when you watch a movie not for its cinematic value but rather its so-bad-it’s-good entertainment value? Yeah, I do that with some books. I have nothing but time and no reliable Internet during this self-isolation, sue me.

I’ve been on a massive anti-muli-level marketing binge and Rachel Hollis has popped up in several of the videos I’ve seen as a keynote speaker for these wretched companies (see: The BeachBody MLM Conference Was a Mess video by Kiki Chanel timestamp 18:25 starts talking about Hollis, really important stuff). Aside from the fact that she’s supporting an unsustainable business model that ruins lives for a quick cash grab, I’ve heard some criticisms of her writing in passing, the biggest one being shamelessly plagiarizing her Instagram. Her popular books constantly pop up on my library e-reader homepage, so I decided to give it a whirl.

I found a lot of the book unrelatable (bad at sex? Bad at writing? If there are two things I’m not bad at…), which didn’t really bother me as I knew it wouldn’t change my life anyway. However, there were a lot that didn’t sit right with me about this book, I’ll stick to some main stronger, recurring points:

  • The whole book is her using slightly embarrassing stories as a vessel for boasting about her success. While either of these aren’t bad in their own right, “humble bragging” looks good on nobody. She even tries to defend herself saying she’s doing exactly not this (if she was so confident she wasn’t, why defend it?). Pick a lane.
  • A lot of the book is repetitive and generic. Her ramblings are so circular that by close to the end of the chapter, I could never remember what it was supposed to be about in the first place. Her advice was similar across a lot of chapters: take a break, find a tribe (whatever that means), go to therapy, etc. that could have been summarized in a conclusion chapter.
  • Some parts of this book are also contradictory. For example, she has a whole chapter on not taking no for an answer… and also makes a point that sometimes “that goal was never meant to be yours.”
  • While this book is about her and she’s free to mention her faith if that’s what helps her get through the day personally, it shouldn’t be part of advice. This goes to show this book has a very narrow target audience of straight, middle class, Christian white women.

Aside from my recurring issues, there are some things she’s not qualified to give advice on and what she says could be potentially harmful:

  • Relationships. As a married woman, she could dish out marriage advice all day and I wouldn’t know the difference. But as far as I could tell in this book, she only mentions ever being in a relationship with her husband. You only learn from experience and she doesn’t have any in that rite.
  • Sex. There is a lot to unpack here. Again, as far as she mentioned in this book, she has only been with her husband. What’s worse, all her sex advice comes with the caveat of anything goes only in the marriage bed, which is hypocritical and harmful. While I believe those who have only been with their married partner can still have great sex, again, you learn from experience: the good, the bad and the ugly. Also, if you sprinkle disclaimers “sorry mom” and “this is making me blush”… you probably shouldn’t be talking about sex much less giving out advice. You’re not as shameless or liberated as you claim (seriously, she mentions more than once how terrible pornography is).
  • Weight loss and body image. While she claims having a healthy relationship with your body is essential, she also makes totally unsupported claims like “If the number of calories you consume is less than the calories you burn, you’ll lose weight. Period.” and more or less advising you to ditch your fat friends. Body weight is not always an indication of health.

However, there is a small silver lining, her writing isn’t terrible and there are a few things she does right:

  • Mentions that depression and anxiety are in fact a chemical imbalance and not simply choosing not to be happy. Again, this is amidst other contradictory statements, but at least I know it crossed her mind at some point.
  • Advising to let go of relationships that don’t treat you right. “I took whatever scraps he gave me, and worse still, I was thrilled to receive them.” (Even though this is exactly what she didn’t do, but whatever.) I’m still trying to unlearn this and needed the reminder.
  • The one thing about the sex chapter that I loved was advising to demand orgasms. I, too, used to think, “Yeah sex is cool and if I don’t get an orgasm that’s fine, it’s still fun.” NO. Orgasm isn’t the icing on the cake, it is the cake!
  • Although it wasn’t until the bitter end of the book, she did eventually acknowledge her privilege briefly. I wish it was at the beginning and a constant reminder rather than a footnote.

Anyway, I could rant about this book and Hollis for days, but don’t waste your time reading this book. You probably already know everything she has to say and there are better self-help books out there… because I can’t imagine there to be any worse ones.

Have you read any of these?

Photo by Radu Marcusu.

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