Book Review: Where’d You Go, Bernadatte by Maria Semple

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Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Rating: ★★★★★ (4.5 stars/5 stars)

I LOVED THIS BOOK! The book is mostly a collection of letters plus some narration of the days leading up to and after Bernadette Fox disappears. The parts of the book that are Bernadette’s letters are straight up, laugh-out-loud, downright HILARIOUS. These were some of my favorite parts of the book

Sometimes these cars have Idaho plates. And I think, What the hell is a car from Idaho doing here? Then I remember, That’s right, we neighbor Idaho. I’ve moved to a state that neighbors Idaho. And any life that might still be left in me kind of goes poof.

My daughter did an art project called a “step book,” which started with the universe, then opened up to the solar system, then the Earth, then the United States, then Washington State, then Seattle—and I honestly thought, What does Washington State have to do with her? And I remember, that’s right, we live here. Poof.

It’s funny because Bernadette hates living in Seattle, but I actually lived in Seattle and loved it! But then again, I was like 3, so… Anyways, her rants are just the best. I really loved her comments on seasickness.

Do you get seasick? People who don’t get seasick have no idea what it’s like. It’s not just nausea. It’s nausea plus losing the will to live.

This bit is so accurate! I get terrible motion sickness. Once I took a cruise from the Boston Harbor (which smells DISGUSTING in case you were wondering) to Bermuda. The first 2-3 days on the cruise, we travelled from Boston to Bermuda against the current. Those might have been the worst 3 days of my life! I was so sick and practically bedridden!  There wasn’t enough Dramamine in the world to help me.  I mean, totally not a real problem, but it felt pretty dire to me.

Seriously, though, this novel is an absolutely delightful read! There were some really interesting twists and turns: some of which I anticipated and some that I did not (which makes all the more fun!)

This book also jumps back in time to show more about how Bernadette Fox came to be where she is currently, and I have to say – she’s got a damn good backstory.

Also, I found out that Where’d You Go, Bernadette was turned into a movie! Here’s the link to the trailer! I’ll definitely watch the movie next!

Sincerely,

Marie

Book Review: The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer

The Female Persuasion

The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer

Rating: ★★★★☆

I really enjoyed this book! It was a fun read – I just genuinely enjoyed this book. I’d recommend it. It didn’t blow by socks off like Circe by Madeline Miller, and I don’t think it’ll stick with me as much as Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld has.

A couple of things I really enjoyed about this book:

  1. It features a number of different narrators. The book revolves around the protagonist, Greer, who idolizes the second wave feminist (think Gloria Steinem), Faith Frank. I’m not a supperr huge fan of switching narrators especially when I feel it gets in the way of the plot progressing, but Wolitzer is masterful in (mostly) further through narration changes rather than in spite of narration changes.
  2. The story jumps around in time. I love to see how certain situations unfold in the book with the additional knowledge of how the past has shaped the events of the present. For example, it is revealed that one of Faith’s dear friends had an illegal abortion that nearly killed her. This near death experience of her best friend serves as the impetus for Faith’s transformation into the feminist firebrand she is presented as in the book.
  3. There is some serious characterization happening! For Faith especially, her story often jumps back in time to present her as a more whole and well rounded character. Wolitzer’s characterization of Faith is just phenomenal. It reminds me a lot of the characterization of Marilyn in Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You in that both authors rely heavily on flashbacks to the past to develop the characters.
  4. An imperfect protagonist. Greer at times is deeply unlikeable, but her insights are interesting and her flaws show her humanity. Although she often got on my nerves, I still felt myself rooting for her to succeed.
  5. Third person narration – when describing the setting, the author often used third person narration. This was one of my favorite parts of the book. Here are some gems:

Faith, who approved of Greer. The approval was as soft as velvet, and the desire for that approval was, also like velvet, a little vulgar.

Having power meant that the world was like a pasture with the gate left open, and that there was nothing stopping you, and you could run and run.

The audience was well-dressed; it was a sea of soft pastel and the occasional basic black, because even though this was California, New York roots ran deep.

Everyone here knew that shriek, which signaled the happiness of women spending time together.

Her résumé was peppered with acronyms, the names of NGOs with which she’d consulted. All those capital letters, when looked at on one sheet of paper, had the effect of a firewall, or a code that could only be broken by someone much smarter than you.

Final Impressions

This book didn’t feel like pure fluff like summer beach reads such as those by Madeline Wickham/Sophie Kinsela. This book falls neatly into the middle: a book that feels “literary” in that it has something to say but also is approachable. I liked that. Ultimately, I’d recommend this book to a friend – that’s all that really matters.

Sincerely,

Marie

Battle of the Books: The Bullet Journal Method vs. Dot Journaling

Recently, I got into bullet journaling. In quarantine and remote learning, I quickly learned that my beloved Lilly Pultizer Agenda just wasn’t what I needed. I need a place where I could keep all of my tasks and random thoughts. Basically, a place to brain dump.

I had dabbled bullet journalling earlier. In October 2018, I bought a superrr dot grid journal from Walmart on a whim. I *hated* how my spreads looked. I was so frustrated that they didn’t look like the picture prefect spreads I saw on tumblr and pinterest. Long story short, I quit.

I’ve been using my bullet journal (bujo) off and on since then, mostly as a collection of to-do lists. Little did I know that that’s exactly how you’re “supposed” to use a bullet journal. Anyway, since quarantine, I re-entered the world of bullet journaling, and in true Marie fashion, I turned to books to help guide me.

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The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll

The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Ryder Carroll is the creator of the bullet journal method. He started this whole trend. He is to bullet journaling what Kim Kardashian is to naked bathroom selfies. Essentially, he need a framework to organize his life that was simple, effective, and ultimately analog. Working in tech, he needed a break from screens (as many of us do) and choose to pick the mode of pen and paper.

That’s all great, but you know what’s not great? This book. Urgh! This book was great, until I was on like page 250 with what felt like no end in sight. Allow me to number my thoughts so this some incomprehensible rant.

Number One

This book is so dang self congratulatory. He spends a solid fifth of this book raving about how amazing the bullet journal system is. He also goes on these pseudo-intellectuctual tangents about matters about philosophy for example. That particular tangent felt completely out of pocket because isn’t this a book about bullet journaling?

Number Two

For a book about bullet journaling, this books talks surprising little about bullet journalling. The second fifth of the book is consumed by Ryder’s absolutely random life stories. If I wanted a memoir, I would’ve bought one. The third fifth of the book is stories of people who had wonderful, life-changing experiences with their bullet journal. Like, great, bullet journals are amazing – we have established that. Now, will you finally tell me how to make and use one???

Number Three

This isn’t necessarily a complaint, but the advice in this book is just fine. It’s really not anything special. It’s perfectly satisfactory. If I was rating this book solely on the advice given in book, I’d give it a solid 3 stars.

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Dot Journaling: A Practical Guide by Rachel Wilkerson Miller

Dot Journaling: A Practical Guide by Rachel Wilkerson Miller

Rating:★★★★☆

I liked this book! I really enjoyed it. Compared to Carroll’s book, this book is fun, interesting, and concise: three adjectives you could not use to describe Carroll’s book. I enjoyed this book for three main reasons:

Number One

Rachel Wilkerson Miller is seriously funny. There were moments while was reading this book where I had real laughs out loud. In this except, Rachel talks about a list she started called “Wins” in which she writes things that went well.

“As you may recall, 2016 was a garbage year (although calling it that honestly feels a bit unfair to garbage), so I did except to find [many wins]. But I ended up filling four pages with all the good things that happened to me in 2016″ (Wilkerson Miller 152).

Number Two

This was a quick read that taught me everything I needed to know. I feel that productivity books, in particular, ought to be as concise as possible. Why delay the positive gains from reading said productivity book because it takes you a month to get through it?

Number Three

Practical Examples. For every major idea introduced in the book, there are also accompanying pictures to show you how to do it. I wouldn’t consider myself a visual learner, but seeing examples was incredibly helpful in deciding how I wanted to organize my bujo. Additionally, Rachel also shows multiple ways of accomplishing the same spread (ex. 5 different ways to do a habit tracker).

Final Thoughts

Obviously Dot Journaling: A Practical Guide by Rachel Wilkerson Miller wins! I just really enjoyed this book. It’s 172 pages compared to Carroll’s 320 pages. This is pretty trivial considering the whole point of a bullet journal, but Wilkerson Miller’s graphics are just so much more visually appealing.

Originally, I was skeptical of Dot Journaling: A Practical Guide. I thought “If I’m gonna try bullet journaling, I should go straight to the horse’s mouth”. I was wrong. Ryder Carrol’s book is truly a waste of money. That should be your big takeaway from this post. If you want to learn bullet journaling for Ryder, himself, check out his youtube channel. I do think his youtube videos are helpful. He comes across far more approachable and humble on his youtube videos than he does in the book.

The Verdict: If you’re going to buy a book on bullet journaling, byDot Journaling: A Practical Guide by Rachel Wilkerson Miller. But you really don’t need a book – Ryder’s youtube videos will be more than enough for a beginner. However, Rachel’s book is a delightful read and has new and interesting ideas and spreads.

Links to buy (Amazon):

The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll

Dot Journaling: A Practical Guide by Rachel Wilkerson Miller

Happy journaling!

Sincerely,

Marie

Book Review: Make Trouble by Cecile Richards

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Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage to Lead by Cecile Richards

Rating: ★★★★☆

Some Background

I had never heard of Cecile Richards until April 28, 2020. I was watching a virtual livestreamed interview of Stacey Abrams, the former gubernatorial candidate for governor in Georgia. Her ultra-corrupt Republican opponent, Brain Kemp, stole the election by voter suppression. It was shameful! This fact was kindly pointed out by Cecile Richards during the interview.

As soon as Richards called this out, I was like “Who is this older Southern white lady who is totally hip to the goings-ons?!?” Turns out it was Cecile Richards, daughter of Ann Richards, the late governor of Texas (my home state!). I was sold on this lady. When I saw she had written a memoir, I checked it out as an audiobook from my local library using the Libby App. (Bonus the book is narrated by Cecile, herself!) 

It should also be noted that my mom was a huge fan of Ann Richards. As a young girl growing up in Texas, she looked up to Ann Richards. I remember watching a PBS documentary with my mom about Ann Richards and being just as enamored by this powerful woman as my mom was!

My Thoughts

I loved this book! It was so inspiring and down right interesting! It was a riveting ride (mostly) from start to finish! At times it felt a bit boring, repetitive, and cliché, but that’s typical of memoirs. Still, I didn’t find that it really impacted my enjoyment of the book too much. I highly recommend. Also there is a young readers edition for all the future reproductive health activists in your life! Linked here. There were some real gems in this book:

“If you’re not scaring yourself, you’re probably not doing enough.”

“It shouldn’t be up to women to dismantle the patriarchy, but we can’t sit around and hope someone else does it either. Feminist is not a passive label; it means speaking out and standing up for women everywhere, and also for yourself. One woman calling out an injustice is powerful enough; when we raise our voices together, we can shake the status quo to its foundation.”

“There is a takeaway here for aspiring hell-raisers: We get only what we’re willing to fight for—nothing more and, I hope, nothing less.”

“This is your life. It is the only one you get, so no excuses and no do-overs. If you make a mistake or fail at something, you learn from it, you get over it, and you move on. Your job is to be the very best person you can be, and to never settle for anything less.”

Firstly, as a Texan, I was so proud to listen to the story of a great Texan!

I just really enjoyed hearing some old stories from a different perspective. For example, the story of Wendy Davis’s filibuster to stop a bill restricting women’s right to abortion in Texas. I remember Wendy Davis from when I was a kid; my grandfather always talked about how he believed she should be governor “instead of that clown Rick Perry”. My sentiments, exactly. I also watched pieces of her filibuster in the Netflix documentary, Reversing Roe. Still, I was moved to tears, listening to Richards describe the experience having been there!

This book is also a great resource for learning more about the struggle for safe and legal abortion access in the US. This is so so incredibly important. I learned a lot about what other women in different states have to endure to access adequate reproductive healthcare. It made me want to go punch Mitch McConnell in the face, but then again, it really doesn’t take much for me to feel that way…

Towards the end of the book, Richards begins recounting the final years of her time as president of Planed Parenthood. Of course, much of this time was consumed by campaigning for Hilary Clinton. This whole part of the book, I held back tears. I was completely swept away by the hope I had felt at the time. I was also reminded of how spectacularly my dreams came crashing down. This was one of the most heartfelt, visceral, and gut-wrenching parts of the book, but it totally made me want to get outside and go canvass and door knock for my candidates! So, I emailed a campaign I had worked with in the fall, and I’ll be working with them this summer!

If nothing else, this book is a call to action – and a damn good one at that!

Sincerely,

Marie

P.S.: Be strong and kick some serious ass!