Book 348: In Youth Is Pleasure & I Left My Grandfather’s House – Denton Welch

Welch, Denton - In Youth is Pleasure & I Left My Grandfather's HouseThe publisher, Open Road Integrated Media, reached out to me with this book as I’d previously read Jane Bowles’ Two Serious Ladies, and she is even mentioned in this work.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hesitant at first as Bowles’ work was very well written but I just didn’t like the characters. Thankfully, Welch’s characters were a bit more accessible for me. This is two shorter stories (Amazon link) so I’ve separated my response into two parts. The publisher provided a copy of this book and I received no compensation for my honest opinion.

The one over-arching them the two pieces have in common is the idea of sexuality, specifically homosexuality, before it was commonly talked about and/or accepted. I tried (aka did a brief google search) to find out about Welch’s sexuality, but again this was a long time ago before our out and proud mantras of today. Welch died young, he was only 33, and there is only speculation outside of his written works which in today’s society seem pretty explicit. Regardless, I enjoyed both of these snippets of the past for completely different reasons.

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Book 345: How to Be Happy (Or at Least Less Sad) – Lee Crutchley

Crutchley, Lee - How to be Happy (Or at Least Less Sad)When I received this book I had no idea what it was. I hadn’t ordered any books recently and it appeared in my mail and am I glad it did! I spent some time thinking about this wonderful new magic of books randomly appearing on my doorstep, thanks Perigee, I then flipped through the book and knew this would be great. Perigee sent this to me in return for my honest opinion and I received no compensation for it.

After figuring out where it came from, I spent a few more minutes having an internal crisis over whether I should blog about it. I mean is it a book? Is it a workbook? (It’s both.) Then, I remembered I’ve written about much shorter works, and loose collections of words I wouldn’t even deign to call a book so why shouldn’t I post about it? Add in that May is Mental Health month and Self-Discovery month (who knew?!) and May 4-10 is National Anxiety and Depression Awareness Week and this is the perfect time to have read it and to blog about it. But the best news for YOU, dear reader, is that the book comes out tomorrow, May 5th, so you should most definitely go out and get a copy! (Amazon Link.)

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Book 342: The Anxiety Toolkit – Alice Boyes

Boyes, Alice - The Anxiety ToolkitMy friend Caitrin (of podcast fame) sent me an article from Refinery 29 and after checking it out I knew I needed to read this book. I reached out to the publisher, Perigee Books (Publisher’s site), and they generously provided a copy of the book in return for my honest opinion. In addition to the book (Amazon link), there is an amazing free resource at theanxietytoolkit.com!

Last year I had a panic attack which resulted in a hospital visit when the lingering effects didn’t go away. I was already in therapy for stress, so I was convinced I was having a heart attack, but I wasn’t. That experience resulted in my researching more about anxiety and ways to deal with it. Between therapy last year, I “graduated” :-D last month, and reading this book I’ve come to realize I’ve always experienced a lot of anxiety but I’ve developed really good coping mechanisms throughout the years. Now on to the book!

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Book 340: Shadow Scale (Seraphina #2) – Rachel Hartman

Hartman, Rachel - Shadow Scale (Seraphina #2)Ever since I read Seraphina back in 2012, I’ve been patiently waiting to the conclusion of her story! It was well worth the wait and I couldn’t be happier about this book. I received a copy from the publisher in return for my honest opinion, and honestly, it’s EXCELLENT!

I wasn’t sure how Hartman would go about improving on the story (Amazon link), but she definitely did. She made it more inclusive, more exciting and a lot more enthralling. I have no idea how she did this, apart from taking almost three years, but it was definitely worth the wait. I know I talked about her amazing story telling and character building in my response to Seraphina, but Hartman brought it to a new level in Shadow Scale. If anything, I wish the book were longer to flesh out more of the “grotesques” and what happens after the story ends.

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Book 332: Male Sex Work and Society – Victor Minichiello and John Scott (eds.)

Minichiello, Victor and John Scott - Male Sex Work and Society

This book simultaneously highlights what is good and what is bad about the white tower of academia. It explores a specific topic in depth, while establishing absolutely nothing, other than the need for more research. I received a copy of this book from the publisher and received no compensation for my honest opinion.

I’m going to start with my frustrations with the book (or academia/academics in a broader context) first and then move to what they did well. What frustrated me most about the entire collection were the isolationist tendencies of the authors. In a move to over-compensate for any sort of collective or global identity (and not Western-wash everything) every single paper started out within the first few paragraphs by using the almost exact phrase of, “due to cultural circumstances, male sex workers (MSWs) circumstances in this country cannot be compared to those in any other country.” The reason this was so infuriating is that there were clearly overarching themes, sexual identity (or lack thereof), technology and public health, to name a few, that Manichiello and Scott picked out and even acknowledged. However, rather than encouraging the authors to use them to tie everything together within the papers across borders and identities, they were used to bridge each of the papers between the papers in editorial asides. Seriously, if they would’ve just taken this as a given, at least 50 pages could’ve been cut out of the book due to repetitiveness.

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Book 330: Waiting for the Flood – Alexis Hall

Hall, Alexis - Waiting for the FloodIf I didn’t know better I’d say one of my good friends from high school (cough *Alexandra* cough) was writing under a pseudonym, “Alexis Hall” – HA! But that aside, I requested a copy of this novella from the publisher as the synopsis (Publisher’s website) caught my attention. I received a copy from the publisher and below is my honest response.

This is the story of Edwin and how he’s finally ready to get over his 10 year relationship which ended, not on bad terms, but on terms that he wasn’t able to comprehend. Having never been in a 10 year relationship (holy shit that’s 1/3 of my life – and Edwin’s!) I can’t really relate, but I can relate to coming out of a relationship not knowing what happened because it ended in a way that didn’t make sense and we apparently both thought and had different feelings on where things were and were going.

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Book 327: What Matters in Jane Austen? – John Mullan

Mullen, John - What Matters in Jane AustenNeither a bad end to 2014, nor a bad start to 2015, this was well worth the read. It wasn’t all I thought it would be, but considering it was a galley I got ages ago (2012 I think) and never read (Sorry!) I’m glad I finally read it. I think I’m going to spend a lot of time with Austen this year. A few friends and I are doing a Jane Austen book club and I have quite a bit of non-fiction I’m looking forward to reading about Austen and her life. I hope everyone sticks with me throughout! I received a copy of this novel from the publisher and received nothing in return for my honest response.

What worked best for this book was the selecting of 20 themes and then talking about them across Austen’s novels. I’ve read all of her novels at least once and a few of them much more. You can look at the chapter titles to see the themes, but the ones that stood out most to me where when Mullan spoke about Austen’s mastery of novels and groundbreaking skills as a writer.

“She did things with fiction that had never been done before. She did things with characterization, with dialogue, with English sentences, that had never been done before.”

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