Posted in ARC, Book Reviews, General Books, Graphic Novel, Humor, Non Fiction

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do… But You Could’ve Done Better by Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell – #ARC #GraphicNovel #BookReview

Goodreads: Breaking Up Is Hard To Do… But You Could’ve Done Better
Publish Date: 10 January 2017
Publisher: Animal Media Group LLC
Genre: Nonfiction, Humor, Graphic Novel
Panda Rating:

Anonymous break up stories from men and women, old and young, serious and silly and the cartoons that inspired them. Author and artist Hilary Campbell turns the painful into the hilarious, validating emotions from forgotten middle school tragedies to relationships that ended only hours ago.
Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and cartoonist. Her films have won top prizes at Slamdance, SF IndieFest, and more. She was the co-illustrator of Jessica Bennett’s critically acclaimed Feminist Fight Club.Breaking Up Is Hard To Do, But You Could’ve Done Better is her first book of cartoons.

As the author states repeatedly in her introduction (and also at the end) of the book, people can be pretty terrible. Some of these had me cracking up (mostly in shock) at how awkward and terrible a break up went. Some had me exclaiming out loud at how awful people could be. I’ve had my fair share of awful relationships and break ups and so many of these instances and feelings were absolutely relatable (as cringeworthy as many of them are). Reading these stories and having that peek into other peoples’ lives brings me a weird kind of satisfaction. Lol not that I take pleasure in other people’s unfortunate situations, but it’s honestly comforting to know that you’re not the only one who goes through some crazy heartbreaking things, and also crazy awful things you never want to repeat. Some people are seriously twisted though. Yikes!

I enjoyed most of the graphics that illustrated and complemented all the stories but I also thought that they weren’t anything spectacular. Some did make me chuckle. I guess I misunderstood the blurb and thought that the stories would be illustrated in comic format, but it was still enjoyable the way it was. Needless to say, this was a very fast, mostly fun read! The author ends the book with a note saying that she’s still accepting these break up stories over on her website, but as I just realized this book was published two years ago, I don’t know if she’s still taking any. If she is, I might go ahead and share some stories myself! Lol

Thanks to NetGalley for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review! Have you read Breaking Up Is Hard…But You Could’ve Done Better? What did you think?

Posted in ARC, Book Reviews, General Books, Memoir, Non Fiction

Probably the Best Kiss in the World by Pernille Hughes – #eARC #BookReview

Goodreads: Probably the Best Kiss in the World
Publish date: 12 April 2019
Publisher: Harper Impulse and Killer Reads
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Romance, Chick Lit
Panda Rating:

Jen Attison likes her life Just So. But being fished out of a canal in Copenhagen by her knickers is definitely NOT on her to do list. From cinnamon swirls to a spontaneous night of laughter and fireworks, Jen’s city break with the girls takes a turn for the unexpected because of her gorgeous, mystery rescuer. Back home, Jen faces a choice. A surprise proposal from her boyfriend, ‘boring’ Robert has offered Jen the safety net she always thought she wanted. But with the memories of her Danish adventure proving hard to forget, maybe it’s time for Jen to stop listening to her head and start following her heart…

I’m on the fence with how I feel about this one because there were obviously things that I really enjoyed but also things I strongly disliked, and I”m not sure which one is winning my feelings right now. I’m ngl, the cover is what had me picking this book up because the colors are fun and the design is super cute. It gives me cozy vibes and to an extent that does match with the contents of the book. I also love the title!  The story and the romance wasn’t anything new, and wasn’t entirely unpredictable, but I liked the setting and the general storyline. Minor spoiler alert for the content ahead as there’s a part of the storyline that I’m just never going to get on board with and that’s cheating. But first, let’s start with what I liked.

Likes:

I really enjoyed the banter between Jen and Yacob and their meet-cute was, well, cute. I thought they were good together and I really wish that the story of how they met was different. I think the side characters really stole the show for me. Lydia, the MC’s sister was a daredevil and go-getter who didn’t let her disability hold her back in anyway. She was feisty and full of humour and I kind of wished that the story was about her. Alice and Max were also great supporting characters and their shop sounded really cool. It would also be remiss of me to not mention the hot Danish man! Yacob was honestly the perfect package — smart, handsome, compassionate, and caring. I love how he was so supportive of Jen’s passion and always encouraged her to never give up. Can has Yacob in my life, plz? Another thing I loved was loved Jen’s passion — The Passion. Jen’s enthusiasm and love for brewing and beer shone strongly through the words of the text and it was wonderful to experience. I can absolutely relate because reading is something I’m super passionate about and when you really love something, it shines through. I’m glad she stood up for what she loved to do and didn’t give it up (for a man no less!) and I enjoyed that she didn’t let the fact that she was one of the few women who brew, stop her from winning. Go girl!

Dislikes:

Cheating. As someone who has been cheated on, I don’t support characters who do this for whatever reason and it’s always gonna be a turn off, and it’s enough to make books lose stars. Despite knowing that it would be wrong and claiming that she isn’t a cheater, the MC went and did it anyway. I personally thought she had absolutely no good reason to do what she did and it was inexcusable. She had every out, especially with everyone telling her the fiancé shouldn’t be her fiancé, and because even her subconscious was rebelling against the engagement! I just wish she would’ve been honest. Admittedly, I also wasn’t the biggest fan of Jen, especially at the start. She was obstinate and overbearing, especially with her sister and especially when it came to beer. It’s one thing to have an opinion but it’s another to be as rude with it as she was.

Although the story wasn’t what I expected, especially the beer part, I’m glad that I did read it. Parts of it were cute, but overall, it wasn’t anything new to me or the romance genre. I wish that there wasn’t any cheating but, oh well. One thing I do know is that now I want to drink all the craft beers I can get my hands on!

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing this e-ARC in exchange for an honest review. This book is now available in stores!
Have you read Probably the Best Kiss in the World? What’d you think of it?

Come let me know in the comments and let’s chat!

Posted in ARC, Book Reviews, General Books, Memoir, Non Fiction

A Random Act of Kindness by Sophie Jenkins – #eARC #BookReview

Goodreads: A Random Act of Kindness
Publish date: 13 June 2019
Publisher: Avon Books UK
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Romance, Chick Lit
Panda Rating:

It only takes a moment, to change a life for ever…
Fern is too busy making sure other people feel good about themselves to give much thought to her own happiness. But somehow, without her noticing, life has run away from her. Suddenly, Fern realises her vintage clothes business is struggling, and the casual relationship she’d always thought she was happy in doesn’t look so appealing. But sometimes, karma really does come through. And when Fern goes out of her way to help 85-year-old Dinah, little does she realise their new friendship will change her life. Dinah may have troubles in her past, but she’s lived and loved to the full. Can Dinah show Fern that even the smallest acts of kindness can make the world a better place?

This was a fairly easy, fast and fluffy read. It’s a heartwarming romance about finding yourself, learning to stand on your own two feet, letting go of fears and opening up your heart. It was an enjoyable, sometimes funny read that left me feeling content when I finished it.

I liked Fern’s character and her passion for fashion (specifically her vintage wear). She’s very focused on making other people happy by finding them the perfect fit to ‘lift’ them as she’s a strong believer that how you dress yourself can change how you think and feel. However, she faces a lot of insecurities and really puts herself down mostly because of her parents (particularly her mother who, frankly, was really awful). While she was very tolerant and understanding of her mother who treated her so badly, I do wish that Fern had the strength to stand up for herself.

I wish that we got to learn more about David. As Fern’s love interest, I felt he fell a bit flat. We don’t really get to know him other than he’s quirky, quite serious and maybe even boring, and that he’s got model handsome good looks. I liked his character but wished that he was given more dimension.

There are a lot of characters and I sometimes felt myself getting confused at how they were being introduced and how they’d suddenly appear in Fern’s life, however, I ended up really looking the eclectic bunch and I think Jenkins did a good job of including characters of all ages, genders and sexualities. For the most part everyone was also friendly, maybe sometimes almost perfectly so, but it really added to the ‘feel-good’ quality of the story. I also really enjoyed how the fashion was mixed into the story, although it was difficult for me to picture the clothes because I’m not that big on fashion; so I will say if you’re not interested in the stuff, it might not be for you.

[MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD]

One thing that I didn’t particularly understand was why we got Kim’s POV instead of Dinah’s. I understand that Fern really made a big impact on Kim’s life and that he was the reason the big show happened at the end. However, it felt a little bit random to me because so much of the story revolved around Dinah and Fern. I liked how everyone came together and became friends because of Fern, however, I felt a little unsure about Kim’s chapters and (sorry but) I didn’t feel it really added a whole lot to the story. 

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing this e-ARC in exchange for an honest review. This book is now available in stores!
Have you read A Random Act of Kindness? What’d you think of it?

Come let me know in the comments and let’s chat!

Posted in ARC, Book Reviews, General Books, Memoir, Non Fiction

Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come by Jessica Pan – #eARC #BookReview

Goodreads: Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come
Publish date: 28 May 2019
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir
Rating:

An introvert spends a year trying to live like an extrovert with hilarious results and advice for readers along the way.
What would happen if a shy introvert lived like a gregarious extrovert for one year? If she knowingly and willingly put herself in perilous social situations that she’d normally avoid at all costs? Writer Jessica Pan intends to find out. With the help of various extrovert mentors, Jessica sets up a series of personal challenges (talk to strangers, perform stand-up comedy, host a dinner party, travel alone, make friends on the road, and much, much worse) to explore whether living like an extrovert can teach her lessons that might improve the quality of her life. Chronicling the author’s hilarious and painful year of misadventures, this book explores what happens when one introvert fights her natural tendencies, takes the plunge, and tries (and sometimes fails) to be a little bit braver.

Non Fiction is a genre that I don’t normally pick, not because I don’t want to read them, but most of the time I struggle to find something to catch and hold my attention. Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come was my first NF read of the year and I absolutely loved this book! I honestly don’t know why it took me so long to finish it and I’m sorry that I didn’t get to it even sooner; although I’m convinced that I picked it up when I really needed it most. I’ve already recommended it to countless friends who’ve mentioned something in passing and my brain would ping back to things mentioned in this book. It’s not a self-help book but it’s filled with such relatable experiences. Not only that but it was just downright hilarious! I don’t think there was one chapter in which I didn’t laugh my ass off at least once (seriously). With a title like that, how can you resist wanting to pick it up right?

We follow Jessica Pan, a shin-trovert (shy introvert) who faces a bit of a ‘midlife crisis’ after moving to the UK and struggling with her increasingly introverted life and inability to make meaningful or even non-meaningful connections with people. After confronting a health-scare with a member of her family, she decides to embark on a one-year journey doing extroverted things that would make all introverted people want to curl up in a corner and cry about. Things like stand-up comedy, public speaking, improv, and *shudder* striking up conversations with strangers. What follows is a personal and hilarious recounting of all her experiences and what she took away from living life as an extrovert for a year.

This book brought me great comfort at a time when I was feeling such debilitating anxiety and stress due to an event in my life that required me to speak in front of close to 100 people, followed by networking with all those people who just witnessed me most likely make a fool of myself. Public speaking is still insanely uncool but when I came across Pan’s own experience with it in this book, I found myself completely awed and enamored by her courage to get up on that stage to face one of everyone’s greatest fears. It wasn’t smooth sailing, and to be honest, my actions at the time mirrored hers in the book 100% (i.e. pushing off making my presentation until the very last minute due to intense fear). But it made me want to steel myself and plunge forward just like her. Obviously, it wasn’t as simple as wanting to do it, but the fact that she, someone who I saw big parts of myself reflected in, could do it, then I could too, right?

There’s no greater comfort in knowing that there are others out there who experience the same fears, and feelings of loneliness, as well as anxiety about what to do with it. Like Pan all my friends are scattered across the globe and since moving to where I am now and entering my 30s, I’ve noticed it has become progressively harder to make friends. Or even to just meet people in general. While I couldn’t see myself doing half of the things she did, I liked the insight that she gave through her experiences. I think at the end of the day, it’s not really about realizing being extroverted or introverted is better than the other, but knowing that putting yourself out there, even when you really don’t feel like it, can often times lead to really great, and sometimes even life changing things.

This was such a fantastic read and I know that I’ll always want to keep it on my shelf so that I can go back to it whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed by my increasing need to introvert. This book was written in a very conversational tone so that none of the moments felt dull and it kind of felt like just chatting to a friend. I’d highly recommend it!

Thanks to NetGalley, Jessica Pan and Andrews McMeel Publishing for providing the e-ARC for an honest review.
Have you read Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come? Did you love it? Hate it? Feel ‘meh’ about it? Come let me know in the comments and let’s chat!

Posted in Book Reviews, General Books, Non Fiction

Hunger by Roxane Gay – BOOK REVIEW

Goodreads: Hunger
Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir, Feminism
Rating: ★★★★★

@dinipandareads

At the start of every year, I always say to myself that this is going to be the year you read more Non-Fiction. I think I’ve been saying this for the past three years now and the most I manage to read is still about 1-2 NF books. It’s not that I don’t like NF, I just have a wildly wandering mind, and the writing needs to flow like fiction in order for it to keep my attention. I honestly have nothing against NF and I honestly wish that it wasn’t so difficult for me to focus, but my mind is definitely less keen on “facts and figures” and more on using my imagination. Hunger was my first NF for 2019 and I swear, if all NF could be this immersive, I would likely never stop reading it!

Synopsis (Goodreads)

From the bestselling author of Bad Feminist: a searingly honest memoir of food, weight, self-image, and learning how to feed your hunger while taking care of yourself. In her phenomenally popular essays and long-running Tumblr blog, Roxane Gay has written with intimacy and sensitivity about food and body, using her own emotional and psychological struggles as a means of exploring our shared anxieties over pleasure, consumption, appearance, and health. As a woman who describes her own body as “wildly undisciplined,” Roxane understands the tension between desire and denial, between self-comfort and self-care. In Hunger, she explores her own past—including the devastating act of violence that acted as a turning point in her young life—and brings readers along on her journey to understand and ultimately save herself. With the bracing candor, vulnerability, and power that have made her one of the most admired writers of her generation, Roxane explores what it means to learn to take care of yourself: how to feed your hungers for delicious and satisfying food, a smaller and safer body, and a body that can love and be loved—in a time when the bigger you are, the smaller your world 

Review

“This is a memoir of (my) body because, more often than not, stories of bodies like mine are ignored or dismissed or derided. They think they know the why of my body. They do not.”

Since I finished reading this, there hasn’t been a day that goes by when it doesn’t pop up in my mind–whether it’s an errant thought about it or something more poignant that Roxane Gay wrote that’s currently being reflected in my life. I don’t know how to put into words how much I loved this book. It felt as if Gay reached into my head and plucked out one thought after another, put all those thoughts on paper and turned it into this incredibly painful but beautifully bold memoir. I don’t know if any review that I write for this book will do it justice, but I will do my best to share my thoughts on it.

Trigger/Content Warning: Sexual Assault, Eating Disorders, Abuse

In Hunger, Roxane Gay writes and shares a painfully raw memoir of her body. She recounts a sexual assault that happened when she was a child, and how she ultimately turned to food as a way to cope by building this barrier between herself and the world. This has resulted in the “wildly undisciplined” and “unruly” body that she lives in today. With brutal honesty, she shares her experiences with body image and her life as a “super morbidly obese” woman living in a world that values small bodies. She talks about how the bigger you are, the more your body becomes a “commodity” that everyone owns and can freely comment and give opinions on. She is unapologetic about her intimate and turbulent relationship with food and how it has become a comfort and a crutch.

“In yet another commercial, Oprah somberly says, “Inside every overweight woman is a woman she knows she can be.” This is a popular notion, the idea that the fat among us are carrying a thin woman inside. Each time I see this particular commercial, I think, I ate that thin woman and she was delicious but unsatisfying. And then I think about how fucked up it is to promote this idea that our truest selves are thin women hiding in our fat bodies like imposters, usurpers, illegitimates.”

Although I know my own situation is in many ways not comparable to Gay’s, her struggles with body image and hunger (not just for food), is something I relate to so very much. I think that her experience with body image and societal expectations is something that so many women and men can relate to. While I know I’m sure everyone’s experiences varies to different degrees, I think that many of us have felt the pressure and the difficulties of living up to it. What I appreciate the most about this memoir is how raw and honest Gay is about her experiences and thoughts. She really doesn’t censor anything, and while this sometimes makes what she has to say uncomfortable to read/hear, it’s also very much the truth. She doesn’t share anything with an ulterior motive, she’s not trying to squeeze any particular emotion from you and she’s not asking for your sympathy, she’s simply telling her story as it is. But she does make you think about things that you may take for granted every day — the things that you don’t think twice about, but for someone who lives in a bigger body doesn’t stop thinking about.

“To be clear, the fat acceptance movement is important, affirming, and profoundly necessary, but I also believe that part of fat acceptance is accepting that some of us struggle with body image and haven’t reached a place of peace and unconditional self-acceptance.”

If there’s anything to critique is that at a certain point the chapters got a little repetitive. I would read certain sections or chapters and realize that I had just read this, although it was worded slightly differently, in the previous chapter(s). I wondered if that was done intentionally, but I read that she essentially copy/pasted some of her Tumblr posts to formulate this book, so perhaps it was just overlooked in editing. There were also chapters in the latter half of the book that I felt were so full of anger and blame (towards society and others) and I didn’t agree with them, as they seemed a bit hypocritical. I saw them as the author releasing pent up rage and resentment, more than adding anything constructive to her narration. But again, this is her memoir and who am I to judge what she has to say about her life? That said, I didn’t find that these points detracted from my enjoyment of the book, and neither did it take any power away from her story.

I bought the paperback of Hunger while in transit at the airport, but started reading it as an Audiobook that I purchased on a whim (and I’m so glad that I did!). Following along with the audio, listening to Roxane Gay narrate her story, made me feel even more intimately connected with her, compared to if I had just read it. Listening to her speak is really like listening to a friend! Her writing is personable and moving, and she tells her story in such a straightforward, matter-of-fact way that makes it all the more powerful, in my opinion. Also, I don’t think I’ve ever made as many notes for quotes in any other book, as I did with this one. If you look at my copy, I’ve marked sticky notes on perhaps 85% of the pages; it’s honestly like a transcript of my mind!

This is a solid five star read that has undoubtedly worked its way onto my list of all-time-favorite books; I certainly won’t be forgetting it any time soon. Of course, I highly recommend this one (if it isn’t obvious yet)!

Have you read Hunger or another book by Roxane Gay? Do you plan to or is it just not for you? Let me know in the comments below and let’s chat books!