Unf*ck Your Habitat (CBR11 #22)

Unf*ck Your Habitat by Rachel  Hoffman

I’ve intended to read this book for some time. Down in the depths of my depression fellow Cannonballer Siege mentioned on Facebook one of Rachel Hoffman’s tips to Unf*ck Tomorrow Morning – put a little toilet cleaner in the bowl before bed. It was such a small thing, but cleaning my bathroom had become my Impossible Task and it helped get that under control that week and lift the cloud of depression just a little bit.  I knew instinctively that any author who would a) think to write that help category and b) get that specific was someone who could offer some needed help to me.

I swear I knew at one time how to clean, or maybe I didn’t. Maybe I’ve always just really known how to neaten and do a cursory clean? I don’t know, and I’m sure Ale could likely weigh in having been my roommate for several years. Either way – keeping a clean and organized home has been a struggle my entire adult life. So, a book written to conquer just that for “regular” people like me who would just like to be comfortable in a healthy living space that doesn’t expect us to be independently wealthy (no suggestions of thousand dollar closet systems) or minimalist enthusiasts featured in home décor magazine seemed perfect.

Most of what Hoffman writes is just what I needed to be reminded of: be gentle with yourself if you are struggling with a mental or physical barrier, take cleaning on as a continuing project because mess happens always, tackle the easy things every day, on a big clean don’t be afraid to slay your personal dragon – you’ll feel super accomplished having gotten the big thing done. She includes lists of core supplies that will clean nearly everything, checklists for your “basic” cleaning as well as lists of the “10 things you forgot to clean” by location, which was truly eye opening for me, so many things I have missed.

I don’t agree with everything, and sometimes feel Hoffman doesn’t follow through with her own ethos of finding what is right for you. She’s hardline on a few things, one of which I can reluctantly see the benefit of (making your bed every day) and one that I absolutely cannot (closed storage). To the closed storage thing – organized shelves and closets soothe me, and closed doors do not. I am never going to artificially close off shelving or close all closet doors (heck… I only have one closed closet door out of five in my apartment right now and that one is only closed so that another door can open) so that tip will be jettisoned. But, some version of the 20/10 (20 minutes of activity, 10 minutes of break to avoid marathoning and also get your butt moving in the first place) will be more formally added to my repertoire. Perhaps this book has similarly helpful things for you, I certainly hope so.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read.

Dating You/Hating You (CBR11 #21)

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This is a case of its me, not the book. I see all the positive things in this book that have made it so well reviewed at Cannonball Read but I still just can’t get myself to settle in and enjoy it. After nearly a month off and on I’ve given myself permission to walk away for now. I might come back to it at some point – I really do like the characters and plot framework the authors are working with – but now is not that time and there are too many other books perched on my to read pile waiting for me.

So what is the book about? We meet Carter and Evie in Los Angeles, Carter has recently relocated and Evie has lived there all her life. They meet at a Halloween party hosted by a mutual friend. There is instant attraction and chemistry. When they realize they work as talent agents for competing firms they agree to remain friendly but not pursue anything further… until they do. Following a truly fantastic hey first date, their two talent agencies are merged. Suddenly Evie and Carter are working together under the same, horrible boss and competing against each other for their livelihoods before their relationship has a chance to solidify and begins to falter.

Dating You/Hating You gives great commentary on the subtle, sexist behavior that women must deal with in the workplace. Evie is an established professional in her early thirties with a reputable career. Her boss, Brad, is the type of grade A sexist jerk too many of us are familiar with and Evie just wants to survive him. Brad undermines her and keeps Evie perpetually set up for a fall, waiting for the sword of Damocles. Everyone knows Brad has problems working with women, and no one is surprised that he is the boss or that he is pitting Evie against the younger and less experienced Carter, but women are simply supposed to deal with it. Almost every woman who has ever held a job has been in a situation like this, and by capturing it as part of an otherwise classically good hate to love romance the authors are doing important work.

Like I said, this book is good, it just wasn’t for me right now.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read.

Normal People (CBR11 #20)

It has been a long time since I absolutely demolished a novel in less than 24 hours. I had waited months for my turn to come up on the library hold list for Normal People so a soon as I officially finished Good Omens I ignored the other books sitting on my kitchen table and settled in to see what jeverett15 and dAvid experienced that led them both to rating it so highly. I very quickly understood and am myself rating it five stars, rounding up.

This book has a seemingly simple premise: rich disaffected girl and popular working-class boy date, break up, and orbit each other through their college years. It sounds simplistic broken down to that level, because if it only existed on that level it would be a very simple novel that I would have maybe read but likely would have walked away from. Rooney instead imbues real, honest, and accurate depth into her characters and uses their on again, off again relationship to poke at larger truths.

Normal People looks at the ways we hurt ourselves and other people, and both at the same time. The plot often hinges on miscommunications and misunderstandings, but Rooney stays away from my least favorite trope – she has her characters talk to each other, and want to communicate, and often try and fail. We experience with the characters the gulf between what is meant and what is understood and how that small difference can color years of our lives. There is betrayal, love, and how sometimes love isn’t enough to overcome our hurts and the walls we build between ourselves and the world around us, and even around the person we love most in the world.

When Marianne and Connell are close, they’re seemingly entirely in sync, but when things go wrong and they go their separate ways they are often destroying parts of themselves and their lives, and they seem incapable of seeing it. They can’t seem to stay away from each other either, needing some relationship with the other to serve as a touchstone to who they each are at the core of their beings, only feeling truly themselves when in relation to the other.

Rooney zeroes in on outwardly insignificant moments that are truly some of the most significant times in our lives and examines them, both from an incredibly close angle but also from a sometimes sterile distance. Mechanically she is choosing her phrasing, her language, her pacing, and her settings to do the heavy lifting but also leaves room for her narrative to breath, for the reader to bring themselves to the novel. As jeverett15 said in their review, she can break your heart in record time, and she does it with crisp, sparse language and emotional honesty. She writes with such precision and clarity that the shared territory becomes what matters and you are able to extrapolate the rest and find the empathy within for characters you don’t always think of in a very positive light.

The novel leaves the reader with a vague sense of what happens next, or what could happen next and I can see in that detail and so many other ones where dAvid felt that this is a harsher, more adult version of Eleanor & Park. Both books explore abuse, complex familial dynamics, fear of success, of feeling othered and both Rowell and Rooney write dynamic characters with finesse. It’s a very different feeling book to me, much more sorrowful and darker, but Normal People does feel like the continuation of a conversation Eleanor & Park was having with its audience.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read where we read what we want, review it how we see fit (within a few guidelines) and raise money for the American Cancer Society.

Good Omens (CBR11 #19)

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I often avoid reviewing a Book Club book before our discussion to save what I have to say until the conversation, or because I’m not sure what I want to say and am hoping the discussion will help clarify it for me. When I do review ahead of time I find myself leaving amorphous reviews without much substance, reviews that I look back on and think, but what did I really get out of that reading experience?

I’m hoping not to fall into either camp with Good Omens. I’ve read a bit of both Pratchett and Gaiman’s solo works and on the whole am a fan of both, so when the time came around to read this book I wasn’t worried about liking it, and my faith in my understanding of the writers’ styles and my affection for them wasn’t misplaced. I did enjoy this book. I enjoyed it even as I clocked the things about it that I didn’t like, that show just how far both these authors grew, and how our understanding about how to exist in the world without doing harm to others has grown.

I love a story of friendship, a narrative built around an adventure that isn’t just the hero’s journey (lord save me from pointless hero’s journey tales) and Good Omens delivers on that in spades. Its also a very telling satire on the human condition and how we interact with the larger forces of the universe, however we choose to define them. Its far from perfect, and I’m sure we’ll get into that in a few days during the #CannonBookClub discussion, but for right now I’m just going to luxuriate in the fact that the book exists at all as a testament to friendship, both on the page and behind it.

This book was read and reviewed (and book club mavened) as part of the chartiable Cannonball Read, where we read what we want, review it how we see fit (within a few guidelines), and raise money for the American Cancer Society.