Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Curl Revolution

The Curl Revolution: Inspiring Stories and Practical Advice from the NaturallyCurly Community 
by: Michelle Breyer
To be published: October 2017

Anyone with naturally curly or wavy hair knows how challenging it can be to tame. The goal of this book is to offer support and advice to women and men with textured locks. Michelle Breyer is the co-founder of which has been a resource of the curly-haired community for almost two decades.

First, we learn about the history and formation of the website and CurlTalk forums. This transitions into a section that provides emotional support to curlies. In a world that hasn't always been accepting of the "wild" or "natural" look, many people have been raised to hate their unruly hair (by well-meaning parents, schoolyard bullies, or subtle social cues).

Then, what I found most useful, the rest of the book provides information on identifying your own curl type, detailing regiments for cleaning and styling hair, as well as tips for cutting, coloring and controlling frizz. Interspersed throughout the text we see accounts of how individuals have embraced their curly hair and what their own personal routines entail. The photos taken for the book are colorful and striking and truly capture the beauty and diversity of textured hair.

4.5 out of 5 stars: None of this information is new per se (as it is all hosted on their website), but this book is an excellent resource for those who may be overwhelmed by the amount of information available online. I can also see this being a great gift for someone who is trying to embrace the wavy/curly/coily natural lifestyle but doesn't know where to start.

// I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Pretty sure I'm a 2B/2C wavy type. Houston humidity loves to destroy my attempts at curl management, can't wait to try out new hair care cocktails on these thirsty locks!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Hurricane Harvey

White Oak Bayou, before and after
As Hurricane Harvey continues to batter the gulf coast and work is cancelled for the week, all I can do is sit at home and obsess over weather reports. Oh, plus watch bayou as it inches ever closer to our apartment complex's back fence.So far so good. We're extremely lucky to be located on the top floor, and my heart goes out to the rest of the greater Houston area and areas of Southeast Texas that are experiencing 800-year flood levels.

Friday, August 25, 2017

We Were Eight Years In Power

We Were Eight Years In Power: An American Tragedy
by: Ta-Nehisi Coates
To Be Published: October 2017

We Were Eight Years in Power is a compilation of eight essays Coates published with The Atlantic. Each essay is preceded by an introductory chapter that explains why he wrote the piece, what was going on in his life, and how his perspective has changed since it was published. These "blog post-like" tidbits have an almost memoir-like quality to them, offering behind-the-scenes insight into the writing process and allowing Coates an opportunity to vent frustrations unconstrained by the more diplomatic, expository tone of the essays.

Inevitably this book will be compared to Coates' award-winning Between the World and Me as they both ruminate on racial tension in the United States. But where Between the World and Me is deeply personal, raw, poetic and often bombastically esoteric, We Were Eight Years in Power feels more academic. Beautifully written and immensely powerful, it marries heavily-researched longform journalism and unapologetic sermonizing. The essays cover a wide swathe of topics that include meditations on what it means to elect a black president, brief biographies of Malcom X and the Obamas, a case for reparations, and an appeal to recognize the continuous role white supremacy has played in our nation's history.

The title of the work references a post-Civil-War speech given by a member of the Reconstruction legislature in South Carolina. Yet, the titular "We" also echoes modern-day citizens hoping for meaningful change in the area of race relations. The parallels abound, as we too are in the midst of an intense backlash and political tidal change following the wake of progress. As we all know, those who refuse to acknowledge history are doomed to repeat it.

5 out of 5 stars: As someone who hasn't really been following the prolific Ta-Nehisi Coates beyond his last bestseller, all of the essays were new and exciting. Veteran readers of the Atlantic may not be as impressed. Still, the reflection chapters do bring something new to the table and really tie it all together. Come what may, I will definitely be referencing this book for years to come.

// I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Healthy Meal Prep

Healthy Meal Prep
by Stephanie Tornatore and Adam Bannon
To Be Published: December 2017

A colorful, friendly primer to meal-prep cooking that includes an introduction to the art of weekly prep, 12 full-fledged weeks of meal plans, and tips and tricks for snacking and storage. Each weekly meal plan offers beautiful photographs, shopping lists and recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner variations on a theme, e.g. low carb, vegetarian, Asian or Mediterranean. Overall, well organized and extremely useful. That said, if you're not a fan of eating the same meal for a few days in a row, this may not be the book for you. After all, the factory-like assembly of clone meals is basically the whole point of meal prep. Variety is the spice of life and I love rotating cuisines as much as the next gal, but I personally have no issue with repeating lunches if it means I can consolidate the tediousness of calorie-counting, macro-fitting, food-scavenging into one day of the week.

5 out of 5 stars: As someone who probably spends too much time scouring Meal Prep Sunday and mindlessly pinning meal prep recipes, I fall squarely into this recipe-book's target audience. I've even cooked recipes from the authors' YouTube channel, which is part of the reason I was so excited to check out the book in the first place!

// I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Bad Girls from History

Bad Girls from History: Wicked or Misunderstood?
by Dee Gordon
To be published: December 2017

Bad Girls from History recounts a wide array of tales of some very mischievous women. The wickedness captured in these stories ranges from the standard mistresses and adulterers, to the naughty-by-trade pirates, gangsters and witches, all the way out to the most deplorable serial killers and one-off murderers.

2.5 out of 5 stars: Each account is clearly well-researched, pieced together from what remains of records of the past, yet some of the tales still leave the reader wanting more - more historical context, more information about the society that these women found themselves in. Overall, it was interesting to learn of these women's lives and impacts on the world around them, but the book felt as though it was spread a bit thin.

// I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


by Andy Weir
To be Published: Nov 2017

Jasmine Bashara is a citizen of the Moon's first city, Artemis. Raised by a hard-working welder, but independently employed as a freelance porter (aka smuggler), she finds herself at the epicenter of an elaborate conspiracy and must use her quick-thinking problem solving skills to stay alive.

Despite the inherent pressure in being the sophomore novel following an international bestseller, Artemis truly delivers as a gripping page-turner clearly cut from the same cloth, but more than able to stand up on its own. The novel is kinetic, engrossing, and an engineer's wet dream (whether you get your kicks from reading about mechanical processes or from pedantically picking them apart). My only criticism is that the characters, endearing as they were, could be a bit immature. I curse like a sailor and love witty banter as much as the next guy, but at times the dialogue felt a little under-cooked, like the sparring of teenage affectations.

4.5 out of 5 stars: Weir continues to fill that Michael-Crichton-shaped hole in my heart with his take on thrilling lab-lit, i.e. going into excruciating amounts of detail when describing scientific and chemical processes. Honestly, Artemis takes up the torch even more than The Martian as it unravels a slightly wider spread of world-creation and plot: without giving too much away, we're talking geo-political and economic maneuverings on top of all the knee-deep science jargon.

// I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Get Well Soon

Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them
by Jennifer Wright
Published: February 2017

Each section dissects a disease that ravaged a populous and how society fought back, admirably or otherwise. My favorites were the Antonine Plague of the Roman Empire, the Black Death of the Middle Ages, Smallpox's impact on Native (North and South) Americans, and the great American cover-up of the Spanish Flu. The only chapter that felt a bit out of place focused on lobotomies, but it was still interesting.

4.5 out of 5 stars: I personally enjoyed the running tongue-in-cheek commentary that accompanied historical context and topical musings but if you're looking for a no-nonsense textbook of facts, this may not be for you. Each chapter has a built in moral lesson, but if you're an anti-vaxxer or are especially sensitive to criticism of Reagan's sense of humor you may not appreciate the sermons.

Sunday, August 13, 2017


Vacationland: True Stories from Painful Beaches
by John Hodgman
To be Published: October 2017

Former deranged millionaire John Hodgman has run out of fun false facts for us and has decided to instead to get very, very real. In a collection of essays that span his migratory patterns across New England, he has pieced together a deeply personal memoir from reflections on his life. We visit western Massachusetts to learn deference to The Dumpmen and the rock-stacking river witches : we travel to the cruel beaches of Maine to contemplate privilege, aging, and the craftsmanship of boats.

At one point, in reference to therapy, he says,
"Just having permission to talk about yourself, to let your dumb thoughts out of your head so you can see them as they hang there in silence, is an illuminating gift."
and I feel that it resonates the tone of the memoir as a whole. And really, the work of comedians in general. Whether they pour their lives into the stage as stand-up bits, or as characters on satirical news shows, isn't it all just to help themselves (and presumably the audience) deal with reality in one way or another? So if writing up a memoir is what it takes to process the existential dread that accompanies the relentless passage of time and the unruly nature of facial hair, then onward march, man. You're helping the rest of us feel less alone. Now if you'll excuse me, I have an entire drawer of mouse poop to continue to ignore.

He Who Must Not Be Named gets it.

5 out of 5 stars: As a follower of his podcast, audiobooks and Netflix special -- this is the first time I've physically read something of his. If I can even call it reading, this memoir is so true to Hodgman's voice, I literally heard it in my head. A fun brand of deadpan humor that is both self-deprecating and sincere.

Note: The aforementioned quote was taken from an advanced reader copy and may not be final. So you should probably go buy one in October just to be sure.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry
by Neil deGrasse Tyson
Published: May 2017

 A very compact, yet quite thorough sampling of astronomical topics. We bounce from the ingredients of the cosmos to particle physics, from relativity to dark matter and a quick breakdown of the electromagnetic spectrum. Woven into the science lessons, we also get some pushes toward critical thinking and humility:

"Ignorance is the natural state of mind for a research scientist. People who believe they are ignorant of nothing have neither looked for, nor stumbled upon the boundary between what is known and unknown in the universe."

Overall, well written and accessible, a must-read for anyone in need of a quick refresher course on the fabric of the universe.

4 out of 5 stars: As someone who loves to read pop-sci physics books but never made it past PHYS 101 in college (*ahem*), I knew this would be right up my alley. Then again, as someone who loves to read pop-sci physics books, I should have realized that there wasn't going to be lot of new information presented here. But that wasn't deGrasse Tyson's fault! This offers a good, solid base of information for anyone who wants to learn about astrophysics but gets overwhelmed by the trail of links you must follow when researching on Wikipedia.

Bonus: after listening to the audiobook, if you crave more NdGT, he gave the 100th commencement at Rice University which I was actually quite a bit bummed about missing (until I remembered how godawfulhot it is outside during graduation season)

Sour Heart

Sour Heart
by Jenny Zhang
Published: August 2017

A collection of stories exploring experiences of Chinese immigrants now scattered throughout the boroughs of New York. Each short stars a young girl struggling to stay afloat - dealing with assimilation, poverty, and coming of age in the City. The stories are so raw and fully-developed, it feels like we're getting tiny glimpses' into Zhang's own childhood (though some may as well have been from mine).

5 out of 5 stars: I especially liked the bits that dug deep into the dynamics of close-knit families -- how even inseparable siblings inevitably grow apart, how we must savor our grandparents' tales of the past even when they feel so disconnected from our own reality, and how our relationship with our parents ebbs and flows as we age.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Chateau

The Chateau
by Paul Goldberg
Expected Publication: Feb 2018

After losing his job, well-seasoned DC journalist Bill Katzenelenbogen flies south in an effort to stave of a budding existential crisis and redirect energies into an investigation on the untimely death of his college roommate (a distinguished plastic surgeon well known as "The Butt God of Miami Beach"). While in town, he visits his estranged father and becomes immediately entangled in a complicated web of feuds erupting from within the Chateau condo between the Board vs. Residents, Russian Immigrants vs Americans, and Jews vs. goys. Set during the inauguration of Donald Trump, this novel tackles political and social tensions from the perspective of immigrants on either side.

4.5 out of 5 stars: Overall, a fun read: satirical and subversive with heavy doses of despondence and brutal realism. I especially enjoyed the tidbits of Russian literature and poetry and vocabulary that were sprinkled throughout.

// I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Friday, August 4, 2017

Tale for the Time Being

A Tale for the Time Being
by Ruth Ozeki
Published: March 2013

A deeply spiritual and existentialist novel traverses space, time and layers of narrative. On the one hand, this is the story of Ruth, a struggling Japanese novelist living in rural Canada with her quirky eco-artist husband and her persnickety cat. Wandering the beach one day, she finds the diary of a Japanese teenager, Nao who writes about everything from the cruel torment of middle school bullies to her great-grandmother, who is a revolutionary, feminist Zen Buddhist nun.

As the stories unravel, parallels emerge and we explore how they are related- on a quantum or spiritual level- and how the act of reading is itself is a mechanism of connecting with another being, the writer, across time. Ozeki masterfully draws from Western and Eastern philosophies' musings on life and death, suicide and the meaning of existence.

Plus, the whole thing starts off with a pun! It both a "Tale for the Time Being" in that it is written of the present moment, as much as it is a tale written for a human time being, capable of existing in various expanses of time through the act of reading.

5 out of 5 stars: Extremely powerful and engaging, with a wide cast of well-developed, complex characters (some borderline autobiographical*).

* Ruth Ozeki is a novelist and Zen Buddhist priest. And much like the protagonist of the novel, she too is married to a Canadian artist named Oliver. So, guess it's a true story, calling it!

Planet Factory

Planet Factory: Exoplanets and the Search for a Second Earth
by Elizabeth Tasker
To be published: November 2017

In a fantastic primer for budding planetary scientists or armchair explorers, astrophysicist Elizabeth Tasker shares her passion and expertise for the astronomical sciences. Planet Factory chips away at the mountains of exoplanet research and presents it in approachable chunks of historical context, current research and exciting conjecture. Tasker describes how celestial bodies emerge from swirling space dust, details prevailing theories for the varying compositions of known planets and explores the incomprehensibly strange worlds that exist in distant systems (hot Jupiters, super Earths and rogue planets, oh my!).

4 out of 5 stars: There were some stretches of text in the middle that felt a bit tedious and recursive, going through the litany of possible explanations for any findings that didn't fit neatly into the currently accepted theories. But hey, that's science! The repetitive circular critique of hypotheses is both a strength and weakness in the text: it was honestly very refreshing to have each theory delineated with a little dollop of doubt, teaching the reader to question and critically assess previous explanations when presented with new evidence. It's even addressed point-blank in the introduction: any scientist trying to report this amount of interstellar research as fact with the pretense that 'we've got it all figured out' is doing a disservice to the reader and to the field. Overall, this is a very friendly introduction to the awe-inspiring mysteries of our universal neighbors.

Sidenote: I was a little surprised to see no mention of the TRAPPIST-1 system until I realized that announcement was just made February of this year, so of course the author didn't have time to cram in a whole new chapter of reactions to these 7 little buddies and their ultra-cool dwarf. That said, this book leaves me feeling well-equipped to tackle the news of exoplanet discoveries on my own.

// I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review