BOOKS | What I've Been Reading Vol. 2

This post seems like perfect timing as Vol.1 of this series happened right at the start of Quarantine. I was still working trying to find a way to feel safe leaving my house and feeling this immense anxiety which I know I lot of you related to. It all seems so long ago. It seems like life is divided into pre-COVID and now which we can't even call "post-COVID" because folks, it's not over so wear a mask, keep your 2m of distance and don't think of it as a "mask on your freedoms". I actually only read ONE book in the 7 weeks I was off work but it WAS almost 1000 pages and had FOOTNOTES so it was a tough one to get through. I've had a hard time getting back to reading as I always want to sleep or just veg and watch my ASMR videos to get to bed, but I think it also depends on the book. I went a bit light on my reading in terms of content the last 4 months, but I plan on reading what I would consider some heavy hitters over the next couple of months so after these more fun reads, my brain is itching for something a bit more meaty!

Highly Inappropriate Tales for Young People by Douglas Coupland

"Ever wonder what would happen if Douglas Coupland's unhinged imagination met Graham Roumieu's insane knack for illustrating the ridiculously weird? The answer is seven deliciously wicked tales featuring seven highly improbable, not only inappropriate, characters, including Donald the Incredibly Hostile Juice Box, Hans the Weird Exchange Student, Brandon the Action Figure with Issues and Kevin the Hobo Minivan with Extremely Low Morals. If you are over the age of consent, seriously weird or just like to laugh, you'll love the unlovable miscreants who unleash their dark and unruly desires on every page of these unsuitable, completely hilarious tales." 

This was a very fast and easy read as I managed to read it all in one session in the tub. I laughed out loud at one story and it was the last one in the book. Maybe it just wasn't my type of humor, but I found the stories somewhat creepy with perhaps had a bit of dry humor sprinkled on top. This is something I picked up just for fun and would never want to read again. I mean, there was a story about a substitute teacher who asked students to choose who he should eat because he was a cannibal and to give their reasons. I actually laughed to that one, but that sort of stopped myself because I was like "Does this make me a horrible person?"

The List of my Desires by Gregoire Delacourt

"Jocelyne is 47 and runs her own dressmaking shop. She's a bit overweight, her husband is very ordinary and her best friends are the twins who run the hairdresser next door. Jocelyn has reached the point where she is examining her life and measuring it against what her teenage self had imagined. Jocelyn's mother dropped dead suddenly when she was 17, and her father fell ill shortly afterwards, so she had to take the job in the shop rather than pursue her dreams. But then is she really unhappy? She has her weekends away, her friendships, her sewing blog, her work and its small pleasures. . .

Then the twins persuade Jocelyn to enter the euromillion lottery and she wins 18 million euros. She could do anything with the money, change her life completely, but what does she really want? She doesn't tell anyone about the win. . . not just yet. . . Without cashing the cheque she begins to write down her 'list of desires' - a new coat, a bathmat, a visit to her daughter in England. She goes in to the Chanel shop in Paris, thinking she could buy anything she wants but will a new bag really make her any happier than the sandwich her husband prepared for her that morning? Meanwhile, her dressmaking blog is taking off, bringing her new friendships as well as business. And what if the money brings changes she can't foresee?"

This was also very fast read and one that I picked up from the top library picks. The cover also looked interesting and I thought it was going to be my "light and jaunty" book after the thriller I just finished (The Possessions), but it actually resulted in me doing much introspection. The story in itself was intriguing as we explored the relationship between Jocelyn and Jocelyne and how seemingly normal and relatable they are. Though the pages of this book are few, the themes and concepts can fill a university class. This is one of those books where you can read it as a story of woman who realizes what happiness truly means or dive a bit deeper. I enjoyed this so much more than I thought I would and though I was slightly sad in the end, I felt like I had closure.

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

"English magicians were once the wonder of the known world, with fairy servants at their beck and call; they could command winds, mountains, and woods. But by the early 1800s they have long since lost the ability to perform magic. They can only write long, dull papers about it, while fairy servants are nothing but a fading memory.

But at Hurtfew Abbey in Yorkshire, the rich, reclusive Mr Norrell has assembled a wonderful library of lost and forgotten books from England's magical past and regained some of the powers of England's magicians. He goes to London and raises a beautiful young woman from the dead. Soon he is lending his help to the government in the war against Napoleon Bonaparte, creating ghostly fleets of rain-ships to confuse and alarm the French.

All goes well until a rival magician appears. Jonathan Strange is handsome, charming, and talkative-the very opposite of Mr Norrell. Strange thinks nothing of enduring the rigors of campaigning with Wellington's army and doing magic on battlefields. Astonished to find another practicing magician, Mr Norrell accepts Strange as a pupil. But it soon becomes clear that their ideas of what English magic ought to be are very different. For Mr Norrell, their power is something to be cautiously controlled, while Jonathan Strange will always be attracted to the wildest, most perilous forms of magic. He becomes fascinated by the ancient, shadowy figure of the Raven King, a child taken by fairies who became king of both England and Faerie, and the most legendary magician of all. Eventually Strange's heedless pursuit of long-forgotten magic threatens to destroy not only his partnership with Norrell, but everything that he holds dear."

My goal was to originally finish this book with Phase 1 of COVID restrictions, but once I went back to work, I found reading hard to do especially if I was tired and a 1000 page book like this felt like reading the Bible with its tiny print. Though I gave this book a decent rating on Goodreads, it was my white whale of a book. It is split into three sections and EASILY could have been THREE BOOKS so why it was so long, I don't know. I ended up putting it on my Kindle because it was too heavy to hold comfortably in the tub!

I got this book years ago when it was "hot" and thought the footnotes were cute for about 100 pages and then kept getting lost. I still haven't decided if the book NEEDED to be the length it is for me to understand the relationships and magnitude of certain actions by Strange and Mr. Norrell, but I can tell you that there were chapters I would have to revisit because they felt so random. The actual magic and meat of the story WAS interesting though and once I made it to the last 200 pages, the story moved toward the resolution I had been dying for for almost 700 pages! While I don't think I would read it again, I did enjoy the faerie lore and "learning" how magic was born.

Open Book by Jessica Simpson

"Jessica tells of growing up in 1980s Texas where she was sexually abused by the daughter of a family friend, and of unsuccessfully auditioning for the Mickey Mouse Club at age 13 with Justin Timberlake and Ryan Gosling before going on to sign a record deal with Columbia and marrying 98 Degrees member Nick Lachey.

Along the way, she details the struggles in her life, such as the pressure to support her family as a teenager, divorcing Lachey, enduring what she describes as an emotionally abusive relationship with musician John Mayer, being body-shamed in an overly appearance-centered industry, and going through bouts of heavy drinking. But Simpson ends on a positive note, discussing her billion-dollar apparel line and marriage with professional football star Eric Johnson, with whom she has three children."

I really wanted to feel some empathy for Jessica Simpson, maybe even learn a bit from her and while I thought there might be moments where I could like her, especially with her visits to the troops, I realized that I just don't relate to this woman at all. I don't feel any empathy for her and though she mentions abuse and the loss of a loved one affecting her profoundly, the book made it evident that her parents and those she calls her friends silently allowed many of her issues to continue. This seems to be a familiar narrative with celebrities.

She also seems proud of spending exorbitantly on parties and get-togethers, but never discussed donating anything other than time to charity. I guess in her world time IS money. The $150,000 she admitted she spent on Nick's birthday really made me roll my eyes and while she says her and her family grew up poor, her parents were also in a ton of debt to maintain a lifestyle they wanted so I hope that she learned from that and isn't living off credit cards, but what do I care what Jessica Simpson does with her money? If she wants to live lavishly, go for it, but to write it out in a memoir that usually endears people to you or at least makes them understand more about why you are they way you are, I just wasn't feeling it. I have a feeling she will need to write another memoir because it seems like she is only at the beginning of it all. Her sobriety is relatively short-lived compared to the decade of addiction she has gone through so maybe she felt she needed to write this book as some sort of affirmation that she won't go back to drinking.

I do respect that she decided to work on another stream of revenue, her Jessica Simpson Collection, and even owned a few things myself back in the day. It's evident being a singer was not going to be a steady thing for her so I commend her for branching out, but other than that, she was exactly the stereotypical Hollywood celebrity I thought she was. This is only the second memoir I have ever read and while the first was Michelle Obama's Becoming and Jessica could never hold a candle to what that woman accomplished, I think I will stick to the memoirs of more non-Hollywood types. I feel like I had a bit of a rant here with this book, but I wanted something easy on the brain and eyes after Jonathan Strange and this book just made my brain die a bit.

I have actually just started the cult sci-fi series Dune because my husband LOVES these books and is always talking about them so I wanted to read and be able to discuss with him! I'm actually reading his decades old copies which is kind of sweet. I'm on the waitlist at the library for White Fragility so that one will be afterwards which I look forward to reading. Find me on Goodreads!

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