Modern Romance

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari; 2015

The trials of dating today is something that my friends and I talk/complain about often. To Tinder or not to Tinder; how much time to leave between messages when texting someone new; which social media to follow a new beau on; can guys who didn’t go to college with us actually be trusted, or are they all serial killers?; when do we give up and join a paid online dating service?; when do we really give up and fast track ourselves to spinsterhood? And that’s just to start.

Aziz Ansari’s book Modern Romance begins to address some of these modern day dating dilemmas. Aziz takes a light-hearted look at how dating has evolved over the last few decades, and takes us on a tour of today’s dating obstacles. This version of a comedian/celebrity book was refreshing, and I felt that he was mostly successful at objectivity. He teamed up with a sociologist to do all of the research for the book. It was also an effortless way to consume nonfiction because it was presented in simple layman’s terms with some comedy thrown in. Some of the material I recognized from his standup, but it wasn’t as fleshed out and thus not entirely repetitive.

I’m personally at the point where I don’t trust the intentions of people on Tinder and other free online dating apps. Each weekend when I’m out with friends I hear a new horror story about cheating or other related romantic deceptions. I’m pretty well-versed in romantic ventures gone terribly awry thanks to miscommunication over text messaging. So although Modern Romance didn’t have any information about dating today that surprised me, I did feel like it was beneficial to sit down and spend time thinking about what it means to have a “real world” and a “phone world.” Aziz offers useful advice about navigating these two world; for example, limit your virtual communication with a new person to 5 or 6 messages. After that, actually go our and meet them. Another one I liked: don’t focus on lining up a bunch of first dates. Instead, try to go for the 5th or 6th date before making a decision.

I did think that his take on dating today was fairly optimistic, if not overly so. He focused a lot more on the positives and how technology is improving our dating opportunities. This is probably a healthier perspective considering technology isn’t going to go away, however, I would have appreciated more about how all of this technology can also negatively affect us. Like how Tinder and similar dating apps encourage superficiality and give people a platform to essentially say socially unacceptable things that they would never say in person. He addresses this only at the most basic level. At times I did roll my eyes slightly, because of course his dating experiences are different – he’s a successful celebrity/comedian.

I read this in a day-and-a-half, no problem. Also, it probably goes without saying that this book is pretty hilarious and has its chuckle-out-loud moments. I highly recommend it to anyone who is navigating today’s dating world.

-M

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The Bluest Eye

I loved this book! My coworker loaned it to me and I read it in a day and a half. Morrison did a wonderful job of rationing happy to sad moments. While the main pull of the novel centered around the tragic wish of a young black girl to have blue eyes, there were also sweet, childish moments in between. These moments usually centered around the two sisters of the novel, 9 year old Claudia and 10 year old Frieda.

Claudia and Frieda are friendly with the young girl who wants blue eyes, Pecola. The novel starts after Pecola has had her baby, and then takes the reader back to the entire year before. We learn about the town where the three girls live, and how their families coexist. Claudia and Frieda plant seeds in their backyard, promising each other that if the seeds take and their plants grow, that Pecola’s baby will be healthy.

The main theme of the novel is beauty, and how the definition of beauty has been very limiting throughout history. Great read.

-A

American Gods

This book is interesting. I fell in love with Neil Gaiman inadvertently, when I saw Stardust years ago on tv. Then, two years ago, I found Stardust on the shelves of a used bookstore. I didn’t even know it was a book! I liked Stardust a lot, so I decided to try what some consider to be Neil’s greatest work, American Gods.

I love fantasy, but this one was a little out there for me. I think what made me love it so much was the tie in to mythology and religion. American Gods follows Shadow, who has spent the last three years in jail. The day before he is set to get released, (SPOILER ALERT, KIND OF) his wife dies. On the plane ride home, a weird man who calls himself Wednesday offers Shadow a job, and Shadow accepts.

Shadow’s job, it turns out, is bodyguard/chauffeur for Wednesday, who turns out to be Thor. Thor is gathering the “old Gods” (aka gods from Greek, Roman, and Norse mythology) to fight the “new Gods” of America who have taken over. The “new Gods” include Technology and TV.

There is a second, more interesting, more realistic, plot line sewn throughout the Gods dialogue. Shadow is concealed by Wednesday in the small town of Lakeside, so none of the opposition can find him before the war begins. There, Shadow begins to notice a pattern of young children disappearing each winter.

So I finished this book last week and immediately began to reread it, mainly because I MISSED THE TWIST. Apparently, at some point in the novel, the person responsible for the children’s disappearances gives Shadow a hint to where the children are, AND I FREAKIN’ MISSED IT! Thus, I am rereading the entire 522 page long (yes, I have the extended version) novel. Also, because it’s pretty amazing and I like to look up all the Gods represented to see how accurate Gaiman’s interpretations are.

-A

Pretty Girls

Pretty Girls, by Karin Slaughter; 2015

I took a break from the laborious reading process of Purity to enjoy Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter. Maybe it’s because I haven’t a read a mystery in forever, and mysteries used to be pretty much the only genre I read, but I LOVED this book.

Lydia Delgado and Claire Scott are estranged sisters whose family was broken down by their eldest sister Julia’s disappearance twenty-four years ago. After another young girl from their town goes missing, Claire and Lydia come together again to finally figure out what happened to their sister.

This reminded me of a Mary Higgins Clark crossed with an episode of Criminal  Minds. Slaughter obviously plotted out Pretty Girls carefully before she started writing; it’s fast-paced and there isn’t a moment’s letup in action. All of the characters have multiple layers with surprising twists, and no one is quite what they seem. The only drawback was that the violence against women at times was too excessive and taken too far for me. It’s not too graphic, but the implied violence is enough to disturb. So, weary readers be warned…Otherwise, I thoroughly enjoyed this mystery/thriller and though the mystery was just scary enough to not be over the top.

I’m really picky when it comes to mysteries because it’s hard for me to find a balance between engaging writing and a good thrill/scare that isn’t too low key, but isn’t crazy disturbing. But Slaughter met all of my criteria. I had never heard of her before, but now I definitely want to check out some of her other mysteries this summer to read on the beach.

-M