Book Review | Call Them by Their True Names: American Crises by Rebecca Solnit

Authour:
Rebecca Solnit
Format:
Trade Paperback
Publication date:
September 4th 2018
Publisher:
Haymarket Books
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:

“To know history is to be able to see beyond the present; to remember the past gives you the capacity to look forward as well, to see that everything changes and the most dramatic changes are often the most unforeseen.” (p. 178)

With all that is happening in the US lately, Rebecca Solnit’s latest essay collection Call Them by Their True Names is an extremely timely read. Having been introduced to her writing from her last collection, The Mother of All Questions which I enjoyed immensely, I was excited to hear that she had a new collection coming out this year.

Unlike The Mother of All Questions, the eighteen essays in Call Them by Their True Names are not tied together as tightly under one theme. Rather the theme here is looser, as the essays are on various, scattered topics ranging from racial disparities to gentrification, to climate change and environmental justice. 

Solnit is a brilliant writer and while her short essay collections may not be the easiest and/or lightest read because they need a great deal of concentration to be able to focus and truly understand each essay it’s all worth it. My favorite essays in this collection were: “Preaching to the Choir” where Solnit argues that it is more worthwhile to motivate and encourage those who are already on your side as opposed to trying to change the minds of those who disagree with you; “Eight Million Ways to Belong ” which is written as a letter to the current US president and focuses on what the wonderful cultural diversity that makes up the “real” New York; and of course “Break the Story” which serves as both a call to arms and motivational speech that should be required reading for those who wish to get into the journalism field. The three stood out to me as they were the most compelling reads in this collection.

Once again, Call Them by Their True Names is another enlightening essay collection from Rebecca Solnit. While I did not enjoy this collection as much as I enjoyed The Mother of All Questions, I did appreciate how Solnit was able to offer hope and encouragement through her essays even while discussing the major problems society is facing today.  

 

 

 

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

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Mystery Monday | The Frangipani Tree Mystery by Ovidia Yu

Mystery Mondays is an occasional review feature here on Words of Mystery that showcases books in the mystery (and on occasion thriller) genre that we are currently reading and our thoughts on them. Feel free to comment and leave suggestions as to what we should read and review next.

Who is it by? Ovidia Yu is a Singaporean writer best known for her Aunty Lee books. The Frangipani Tree Mystery is the first book in her new Crown Colony series. The second book in the series, The Betel Nut Tree Mystery will be out later this month.

What is it about? Su Lin is a mission school-educated local girl who dreams of becoming a “lady reporter”. Instead she finds herself employed to look after the Acting Governor’s daughter while doing her own reconnaissance work to help Chief Inspector Thomas LeFroy solve the murder of the Irish nanny she was hired to replace.


Where does it take place? Singapore during it’s colonial period

Why did I like it? The Frangipani Tree Mystery served as a nice breather from heavier reads I brought with me for my Vietnam trip. Having a traditional whodunit set in Singapore during the early 1900s when Singapore was British colony made for a more interesting and unique story. While the mystery and reveal weren’t surprising or compelling, I did find the cast of characters to be charming as was the authour’s decision to tell the story using first and third person narrator. Su Lin was a plucky protagonist and it was refreshing to see a heroine who had a physical disability but didn’t let it get in the way of being kind and patient with others all while taking the initiative when it comes to solving mysteries. I also loved that Su Lin had dreams and ambitions of being free and was determined to take the risks that would put her on this path. The Frangipani Tree Mystery is the first book in Ovidia Yu’s Crown Colony series and while it had its charms I’m not sure I’m hooked enough to continue with this series. However, it was a solid and quick read making it perfect for those who want a historical mystery set in a foreign locale.

When did it come out? September 4, 2018

 

 

 

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle

Authour:
Rebecca Serle
Format:
eGalley
Publication date:
September 11, 2018
Publisher:
Flatiron Books
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
If you could have dinner with anyone dead or alive who would you choose? Until fairly recently I had no idea, but now I can say for certain I’d want to have dinner with Anthony Bourdain, who seems incredibly worldly and down to earth, and perhaps my maternal grandfather as he seemed to have lived a remarkable life.

This question is also answered by the protagonist of Rebecca Serle’s first adult novel. In The Dinner List, Sabrina suddenly finds herself at a dinner table on her 30th birthday with a rather unusual mix of guests. There’s her best friend, her estranged father, an older professor, her ex and of course Audrey Hepburn! Interestingly enough, only two of the guests with the exception of Sabrina are alive in the present day, as the others have all passed away. This contributes to an entertaining dynamic especially as the reasons behind why each of the guests were chosen are revealed.

Almost immediately, the premise of this book had me intrigued even though I have never picked up a Rebecca Serle book before. Having the story of Sabrina’s life and relationship told through flashbacks as part of a dinner conversation was a refreshingly imaginative take on your typical “love story”. And while The Dinner List definitely has its moments, it’s honestly so much more than another relationship story. In fact, The Dinner List is not your light-hearted romantic comedy instead it’s a fairly realistic portrayal of how all relationships, not just romantic ones change and it’s when you become too comfortable that the relationship begins to break down. This is particularly glaring as we watch how Sabrina and Jessica’s friendship has changed over time as both have grown into two undeniably different people.

I’d admit that I confused the premise of The Dinner List for just another fluffy women’s fiction book and this made it initially difficult for me to become invested in Sabrina’s story. However, in the end The Dinner List turned out to be a well written novel that while bittersweet does give us some hope for our protagonist, Sabrina and her ability to finally let go and move on with her life.

 

 

 

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Midweek Mini Reviews #16


This Midweek Mini Reviews post features some  non-fiction books for those who are feeling a bit lost in life.

Can’t Help Myself: Lessons & Confessions from a Modern Advice Columnist by Meredith Goldstein

I’ve always liked reading advice columns in magazines and newspapers so I was keen to pick up Meredith Goldstein’s Can’t Help Myself: Lessons & Confessions from a Modern Advice Columnist as it promised a “behind the scenes” look at one of today’s most popular columns. Unlike your typical advice column, Love Letters is unique in that it allows responses from its readers in the comments section which gives it a more modern, “group therapy” vibe. The book is divided into different sections, each starting with an introduction from Goldstein talking about her personal life and experience. This “memoir” aspect of the book is then followed by one or two questions from her column that fall under the section’s topic along with Goldstein’s response and some of the responses from the comments. I loved seeing the comments from the readers as their responses and suggestions were always entertaining and occasionally extremely hilarious. I enjoyed this refreshingly, honest look at an advice column and am looking forward to checking out the actual Love Letters column online.

Nobody Cares: Essays by Anne T. Donahue

While the first few essays in Anne T. Donahue’s Nobody Cares truly resonated with me, the majority of the essays in this collection did not. However, there were a few that stood out to me. The chief among them is the essay on not being “fun” as I hate or at the very least don’t see the appeal of the popular things she also hates although I do love brunch. Still, I loved that the takeaway was about not doing things you don’t want to anymore, thus giving you permission to not force yourself to do the things you hate, this is something I’m definitely a fan of it. The other essay that stood out to me was her essay on death titled, “It Will Never Feel This bad Again” as not only was it extremely poignant but it was probably the most honest and relatable essay about death I’ve read so far. In the end, if you’re in your 20s or 30s and feeling lost or not liking where you are in life this book will definitely speak to you. Whether it’s by providing advice that needs to be repeated for you to follow like she does in her essay “Get to Work” or being straightforward and blunt with you while oddly also being comforting as seen in her essay titled, “In Case of Emergency”, Donahue truly cements her status of the best friend you would want to have in your corner.

 

 

 

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.