meghan rose allen

Review of How To Be Perfectly Unhappy by Matthew Inman

Posted by in netgalley copy

I fall in and out of like with The Oatmeal. I used to read it fairly regularly, but now -- I blame the demise of Google Reader. Still I requested this on Netgalley because why not. And so I obtained a short fifty-page treatise on happy; more exactly on how not being happy doesn't imply being unhappy.

As a fundamentally sour, pessimistic person myself, it's a concept I've read about before -- happiness is some sort of nirvanic state where all needs, wants, and desires are met. But needs, wants, and desires are constantly shifting -- everything is nice and happy and perfect and then suddenly your car breaks down or you lose a pair of socks or a huge, multinational computing conglomerate decides that google reader isn't monetizable so shuts it down and how are you supposed to read your freakin' RSS feeds now, huh? Huh? Well f*$# you google.

Instead, be interested in things. Be creating things. Be learning things. Keep busy and maybe that nagging voice that lives in the back of my head will get distracted from criticizing and start to wonder what I'm doing, then watch, then contribute.

Not that I do what Inman does (me run fifty miles ha ha ha ha ha ha), but I write. I sew. I crochet. I duolingo. It isn't that I have to learn that that is enough, but rather that chasing the dream of happiness is not something my actions can necessarily create for my mind. So yay, random dude on the internet reinforcing my world view! Everyone agree with me!

How To Be Perfectly Unhappy by Matthew Inman went on sale October 31, 2017.

I received a copy free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of Welcome to the Universe by Neil deGrasse Tyson, Michael A. Strauss, and J. Richard Gott

Posted by in netgalley copy

Ugggggg .... I have been trying to write this review for four days. Maybe it takes me a percentage of the time I took to read the book to formulate a review? It did take me over a week to read Welcome to the Universe, with Neil deGrasse Tyson's name in bigger font than the other two co-authors. At first that made me sad for the other two authors, but then I got miffed over J. Richard Gott's chapters, where there's a lot of I did this!, which probably shouldn't annoy me as much as it did, since he did figure this stuff out, but it seemed kind of braggy to me and I just want to learn abstractly about science, not be amazed that the author I'm reading now did this stuff.

So I got annoyed.

Cool idea I did get from Welcome to the Universe: think of everything as bread. Slice horizontally (like here in North America) for one slice of space-time, but slice on an angle (like a baguette) for a relative slice of space-time. The bread is still the same, but how one views what's happening in/on the bread changes. I'm glad I got to that before I got fed up with physics.

Ooh -- and something else -- I found out what word I wanted for a review of another physics book ages ago: falsifiable. I couldn't remember that word, but much of what was written in The Universe is a Machine wasn't falsifiable, so, from a science perspective, those ideas were kind of a non-starter. But that has nothing really to do with the book I'm supposed to be reviewing ...

I'm in a weird place with physics books. I probably have enough math background that if I really wanted to, I could read textbooks rather than pop-science books (albeit much more slowly, and with a pad and pencil in hand for figuring things out), but I don't want to read a physics textbook. But then I read pop-science books and get frustrated that details I want to understand (like math stuff) is missing. But I don't want to read a physics textbook. But I want to know more about what's behind the science, which is generally math that I could probably understand given enough time and pencil lead. But I don't want to write physics notes in bed. But I want to know more!

Is the moral that I should stop reading about cosmology and relativity? I mean, both of those things are going to go scootering on along in life without me understanding them or not.

Science is hard.

Welcome to the Universe by Neil deGrasse Tyson, Michael A. Strauss, and J. Richard Gott went on sale September 1, 2016.

I received a copy free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of Math for Couples by Adele Graf

Posted by in netgalley copy

I continue my quest to better appreciate poetry. This one has the word math in the title. I like math. By transitivity ...

Yeah, poetry doesn't work like that.

Again, I struggle with my attempts to appreciate poetry. Do I simply not appreciate poetry? Is Math for Couples not poetry to be appreciated? There are moments, little lines and turns of phrases that were like the snap of Lego pieces fitting together when I read it, but today, the day afterwards, I couldn't tell you what any of those lines were. I can tell you the first group of poems has lots to do with thinking about grandmothers; I think a lot of about my grandmother, so that was for me. There were also some poems that were more rhythmic, repeating syllables, mixing syllables up, getting somewhere new (i.e. yatter on page 77); poems like that remind me of playing Bartok on the piano, going back between smooth and choppy, and I like the contrast. But none of the poems rhymed, and I'm realizing that in my louche, uneducated way, I really like rhyming poetry (like A.A. Milne). Like I can say I like certain rhyming poems (say Disobedience by A.A. Milne), but other than a second here and there with the vanishing Lego click moments, I don't know if I liked the entirety of a poem in Math for Couples. Also, I didn't dislike one single thing either. I read the poems, I worked on appreciating the poems, but then I got to the end, still as befuddled about good poetry as I ever was.

And the eponymous Math for Couples poem: I saw what it was trying to do, but my math-brain shuddered at the lines with 1+1 > 2 and 1+1 <2. Put numbers in and the literal part of my brain takes over. Another poem was in a table though. I thought that was interesting.

Math for Couples by Adele Graf went on sale April 1, 2017.

I received a copy free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of All the Dirty Parts by Daniel Handler

Posted by in netgalley copy

Summary: Don't hate the playa, hate the game, and then the playa gets playa-ed. With lots of teen sex bits (Handler might have made them all over eighteen, I can't recall.)

So you want to read a creepy book about a compulsive, masturbating, teenage boy, who seems to have nothing the least bit interesting about him yet still manages to get laid (Marty Sue *cough cough*), I guess All the Dirty Parts is it. It's a mildly amusing read as an adult, but I'd be loathe to give it to a surly, fourteen year old boy; the last thing this world needs is more boys growing into men thinking, by virtue of them having a cock, that girls fuck them just because hey look, a dick!. At least he goes down on his girlfriend. Teenage boys can read all about that part. Too bad Handler didn't keep the cunnilingus and then write a book full of sex and well-rounded teenage boys with interests outside of pornography.

In any case, I defer to The Simpsons [Aside: There seems to have been a collective Stop Watching order in regards to The Simpsons. Any time any one quotes something from The Simpsons, it's always from an episode I've seen; it's never from whatever episodes are on now. I assume The Simpsons is still on now. I assume people are watching it. I'm guessing maybe I'm now too old to be hanging around with the kids quoting the new episodes, or the new episodes are barren of quotes. Either way.]: The Girl Who Slept Too Little and author Milton Burkhart:

I wanted to be a children's [writer] ever since Playboy wouldn't publish my cartoons because they were too filthy.

Yes, it's backwards -- Lemony Snicket was around before All the Dirty Parts, but I couldn't stop thinking about that quote as I read the book. I still like Lemony Snicket, but the more I read by Daniel Handler, the more I don't want to, and this book, while entertaining for an adult, still is very much ick.

All the Dirty Parts by Daniel Handler went on sale October 19, 2017.

I received a copy free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of Stitch Camp by Nicole Blum and Catherine Newman

Posted by in netgalley copy

I like crafts. I like crafts so much so that our linen closet has never been a linen closet -- it's our craft cupboard. (The joy I felt when my daughter's friend came over, opened the cupboard up with a Woah knows no bounds.) My dream job is to craft all day (with kids) and then do some math/programming with them and then some more crafting.

And so, I'm getting into reading some crafting books. I requested this one to get some ideas for Brownies, as well as ideas to do with my daughter. I think she (my daughter) would find most of the crafts too convoluted right now (she's eight, and big on instant gratification right now), but me as an eight year old would have been psyched. And I got some ideas for stuff to do with my Brownie troope, so that's good. The instructions are mostly clear -- I did find the knitting and crocheting sections to be more difficult to follow, likely because I know neither how to knit nor to crochet, and was reading the instructions, rather than reading and doing (although, after-the-fact, I did remember we have a crochet hook in the craft cupboard, so maybe I should get that out and learn so that I can start making some amigurumi little things that will make me super super super happy).

Any crafty tween-and-up would like this book. Now back to looking at kawaii craft patterns on etsy for inspiration.

Stitch Camp by Nicole Blum and Catherine Newman went on sale October 17, 2017.

I received a copy free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of Speed of Life by Carol Weston

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Another wish-fulfillment YA novel where everything works out in the end and you get that warm, fuzzy feeling of a job well-done. Sure, the protagonist's mother is still dead (as she was at the beginning of the novel -- no zombies or resurrection spells here), but everything else has worked out in a shiny, happy, people sort of way.

Is it realistic? Probably not.

Is it enjoyable? Indubitably.

Speed of Life by Carol Weston went on sale April 1, 2017.

I received a copy free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of My Brigadista Year by Katherine Paterson

Posted by in netgalley copy

I never really know how to review books where I am clearly not the audience. For example, My Brigadista Year is marketed as Children's Fiction. Since I like kidlit (well, middle-grade and on more than picture books), I still request such books, but then I read them and am like this isn't for me, what am I supposed to say?

Plot: Cuba, 1960s. Thirteen year old Lora becomes a literacy volunteer for Castro, going off from Havana into the hinterlands of Cuba to teach campesinos how to read. It's vaguely inspiring, but the whole thing is so simplistic and flatly rendered, the conflicts either trivially resolved (her father doesn't want Lora to go, but then a page later relents, some campesino men don't want to learn to read, a chapter later they decide to learn, etc.) or are related second-hand (other volunteers are killed, the Bay of Pigs happens off-stage) without any real depth. But, then again, it's a kid book from the perspective of a kid. Can I really expect some sort of deep, moral philosophizing from a child protagonist in a book marketed to children? I mean, obviously, I do expect it, but can I really be surprised when it doesn't happen?

I just wish that this book was more than it ended up being 🙁

My Brigadista Year by Katherine Paterson went on sale October 10, 2017.

I received a copy free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of The Comic Book Story of Video Games by Jonathan Hennessey and Jack Mcgowan

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A pretty dense information dump of a graphic novel. I'm a sucker for narrative and when narrative is lacking, as it is here, I have trouble focusing. Just page after page of this guy (and I mean guy in the literal sense, since the history of video games, at least in this iteration, is very dong-owning-focused. Obviously Hennessey and Mcgowan can't rewrite history to include more women, but as a woman who's been playing video games since 1987, it kind of sucks that the history is so masculine) made this game and then this guy made this other game. Also, no mention of Nethack, which I guess is okay when there are cameos by The King of the Cosmos and his son. I think I've been spoiled by Halt and Catch Fire when it comes to technology histories. I want plot and females and stories I can identify with, not just a timeline recounting of what happened when that (inadvertently) makes me feel that I'm always going to be excluded from one of my hobbies. Where are Cameron and Donna when I need them? Mutiny 4 evs!

The Comic Book Story of Video Games by Jonathan Hennessey and Jack Mcgowan went on sale October 3, 2017.

I received a copy free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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