Thursday, February 01, 2018

Mini Rvws: If This Isn't Nice, What Is? by K. Vonnegut, Braving the Wilderness by B. Brown, Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur, and a note about a buddy read

All three of these books were purchases and none of them were particularly special, so they get the quick mini review treatment.

I bought If This Isn't Nice, What Is? by Kurt Vonnegut at our local bookstore's Going Out of Business Sale. It's a book of speeches given by Vonnegut and I'm aware that gesture and tone can make a difference when it comes to listening to a speech versus reading it, so I tried to bear that in mind. But, I still found Vonnegut's speeches a little on the hodge-podge and inconsistent side. He talked about life, shared bits of advice from his own years and advice that had been given to him, along with warnings about what's out there in the real world (particularly in the graduation speeches -- there are a couple speeches that are not to grads, but only 2 of the 7, as I recall).

I'm a Kurt Vonnegut fan so I enjoyed the reading but it's not a book I'd highly recommend because it's so repetitive. He tended to reuse his material. Still, it was occasionally entertaining. He passed on the only advice he ever got from his father: Don't ever put anything in your ear. There, I've shared some great advice. This book was responsible for the thoughtful (not impulsive, no way) purchase of two of Vonnegut's books, so there will hopefully be more Vonnegut reading in my near future.

Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brené Brown is a book I purchased after a new friend told me how much the book meant to her. She said it wasn't the best writing but it was encouraging. I was not familiar with Brown's blog.

This new friend (whom I've only talked to a couple times, since, but hope to get to know better) thinks a lot like I do, so I bought the book out of curiosity and I really enjoyed it. However, I had a great deal of difficulty figuring out what Brown meant by the metaphorical "wilderness" - a thematic metaphor that she hammered home pretty heavily. Eventually, I figured it out. And, now I've forgotten.

Although the general concept may not have stuck with me and I had a little difficulty with it, at first, there were other things about the book that I loved, particularly when she talked about collective joy and collective pain. She mentioned, for example, her experience driving along the highway as the news of the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion broke. Since the author was living in Houston and Houstonians are very connected to the space program, they took this tragedy hard and people suddenly began pulling over. Not knowing why so many cars were stopping, she drove slowly past one and saw someone crying at the wheel, I presume she turned on the radio because she figured out what was going on pretty quickly, after that. Brown used this story as an illustration of collective pain. This entire section kept me in tears. I liked what she had to say about it and I also appreciated her comment about constant negativity being detrimental to friendship; meaning, if you only ever talk about things that are bad in your life, you're less likely to build a real bond. You need positivity in your friendship, as well.

An interesting book. I didn't fully understand her purpose but I enjoyed it.

I discovered Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur was available for free download in Amazon's Prime Reading (e-book - shock!) shortly after seeing an interview with her on TV. The book is extremely popular with girls of high school age and she draws a huge crowd for her readings. I found the author very poised and enjoyed hearing her talk about how surprised and pleased she was at the success of her book and her thoughts about its success.

Unfortunately, I pretty much thought the book was crap. It's a book of "poetry" but it sounded more like the kind of thing you'd read on a poster than poetry to me. It also had entire sections that were about abuse/rape and even her line-drawing illustrations could be pretty graphic. Still, it had its moments. I photographed a few pages I liked off my iPad and then I discovered that you can look up images from the book online, so here's a favorite, snatched from the Interwebs:

Milk and Honey has so few words per page that it can be read in a half hour or less. I'm not sure whether I'd recommend it or not. I guess it depends on the individual. A teacher friend, Melissa, told me her students absolutely love it and I wondered what the appeal is. She told me they think it's about love and they find it romantic. I did not find it even vaguely romantic, so perspective is apparently everything when it comes to this book. 

And, about that buddy read . . . 

I mentioned that friend Ryan and I are going to be buddy reading Don Quixote, when the book arrived, and a couple other people have decided they may join in. Anyone else who is interested is welcome. We've chosen to read this particular version, translated by Edith Grossman, for the convenience of being able to refer to specific pages. But, any version will probably do. I'm hoping to get a Facebook page set up, so let me know if you want to join in and once that's up I'll be glad to add you.

©2018 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.


  1. You’re much better at reading short stories and poetry than I am. I don’t have much patience for either. :(

    1. Well, they're both tricky. Short stories are something not everyone does well, but in the hands of the right person they can be amazing. Poetry is more of a matter of taste for me. I either like it or I don't. Often, I don't understand poetry, so I prefer it straightforward. If you're looking to try to get into poetry and short stories, I recommend reading poets that are easy to comprehend, like Robert Frost or Billy Collins and, of course, Simon Van Booy is a mind-blowing short story writer but I also find the Russians have a particular skill for short stories (Chekov, Nabokov, etc.).

  2. I thumbed through a copy of Milk and Honey when I was working at B&N and couldn't see what the hype was all about. I especially couldn't understand how it could be on the Best Seller list for so long!

    1. I know. There's not much to it and some of it is even a little offensive. But, the teenage mentality is apparently different from that of the old middle-aged fogey. Wild what becomes a bestseller, sometimes, isn't it?


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