Scrappy Little Nobody (CBR10 #34)

Image result for scrappy little nobody

I went away this weekend with one of my favorite people and we spent our time looking at gorgeous scenery, visiting museums and historic sites, and eating and drinking local. In doing so we spent a lot of time in the car going from place to place, so my travel buddy suggested we listen to Anna Kendrick’s autobiography because he was sure I would really enjoy it. This is why he’s one of my favorites, perfectly lovely weekend away and happy to re-listen to an audiobook because I would want to read it.

39390545_10211996421521658_4811229988546150400_n

This book, in turn, was really good for what we were looking for it to be: entertaining and an easy way to keep conversation going (10 hours in and out of a car is a long time, no matter how much you like the person you’re travelling with). Kendrick is a little younger than us, and even though her life has some very different aspects to it (Tony nominated teenager, Oscar nominated young 20 something) there was still plenty of reflections about growing into your adulthood when we did that hit a very truthful note and definitely gave us things to commiserate about, remember, and laugh about.

So if I enjoyed it so much why is it only three stars? Because it doesn’t really rise above what it is, it’s a pretty straightforward memoir that clocks in at about 6 hours of audio (probably more if anyone else narrated it, Kendrick speaks quickly). She’s honest about who she is, what her experiences are, but she’s not diving any deeper. If you like her Twitter presence, you will like this book though; her authorial voice is the same.

Advertisements

Born a Crime (CBR10 #4)

Image result for born a crime

Last year there were several glowing reviews of Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime at Cannonball Read. Based on positive word of mouth I had already picked up the audio version which Noah narrates himself. I was intrigued by Noah – we’re the same age (well, I’m almost exactly a year older) but our lives couldn’t be more different, and I love a good memoir.

For the many reasons life throws your way I did not manage to listen to Born a Crime in 2017. However, fast forward to New Year’s where I am terribly sick, it was ridiculously cold, and the friends I was staying with decided to stay in and do nothing but watch Netflix and read books (there are many reasons why these women are some of my favorite humans on the planet) and we ended up watching several of Trevor Noah’s specials, and a documentary called You Laugh But It’s True which features a baby-faced 25 year old Noah breaking into the comedy scene and putting on his first one man show, The Daywalker. I was immediately mesmerized by the trajectory of this man’s career. In less than 10 years he went from comedian to respected host of The Daily Show.  (Full Disclosure, I have never watched The Daily Show with either Jon Stewart or Trevor Noah as host outside clips here and there.)

The documentary hit on some of the same stories he revisited in the book, giving a careful overview of what is was like to grow up in South Africa. In Born a Crime Noah stops being careful and instead explains in detail the realities of his life, the lives of his friends, and his mother. Noah’s mom Patricia plays a large part of his life and it is reflected in the book. I feel as though I know as much about Patricia Noah as I do about Trevor at the end of the book. She is simply amazing. Read this book, go to Netflix and find You Laugh But It’s True so that you can but faces and voices to names and see the world that Noah so lovingly recreates in his writing. The book has some pacing issues, but this is a great memoir and a fascinating look at an interesting life.

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 (with a few guidelines), and raise money for the American Cancer Society in the name of a fallen friend.

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body (CBR9 #68)

Image result for hunger roxane gay

I read Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist a few months ago and immediately put her next book, Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body on my library request list. I described the former as unpacking the racist, misogynistic, and otherwise flawed world we live in. This book is that, but turned inward. Gay reckons with the great violence which was a turning point in her life and how it created in her a need to protect herself by becoming ever larger. She also discusses candidly what it is to be aware of the judgments of your body while simultaneously giving into the various hungers you feel. Bad Feminist was complex, empathetic, and rational and if it is possible this book is even more so.

It is difficult to know how to review this book. In ways it was too much: Gay is practicing an emotional honesty in her writing that you do not often come across and it often stopped me dead. In other ways I felt too seen, I recognized the emotions and realities of Gay’s life experience in my own even though so much is different. She writes with such precision and clarity that the shared territory becomes what matters and you are able to immediately extrapolate the rest and find the empathy within.

Reading this book, with its short, crisp chapters, is like watching someone you care deeply for exorcise their demons, and if they cannot exorcise them they will name them and continue the fight. It is witnessing someone’s journey towards healing but more importantly just talking about the things that seemed too large to talk about. We heal by talking about our hurts, our hungers. This is Roxane Gay embarking on that path.

 

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 (with a few guidelines), and raise money for the American Cancer Society in the name of a fallen friend.

Spectacles (CBR9 #23)

Image result for spectacles sue perkins

I have a lady crush on Sue Perkins. I do not feel that this is an unheard of situation. I was introduced to her via my friend Ale, who was watching the series Supersizers Go from the BBC all about food history. We LOVE food history. This lead to my comfort television becoming watching Sue and Giles drink their way through terrible food.

The next great epoch in my Sue fandom was a late to the game discovery of the Great British Bake Off and Sue’s cohosting with her comedy partner Mel Giedroyc. I no longer watch many foodie television programs as I struggle with my weight and overeating and have learned over the years that watching someone cook/eat will inevitably lead to me cooking and eating an extra meal or an extra quantity of food that I do not need. Due to those reasons, I had initially avoided this incredibly popular juggernaut. And then someone sold it really hard, promised that it was more soothing than food porn and I gave in.

Just in time to get addicted before the hammer fell, as Sue and Mel announced they would not be following the series to its new home.

In solidarity with Sue, I tracked down her book and purchased it. Her standing up for what she believed in meant that I would absolutely throw a few dollars her way.

And then Ale read it first. Because I’m a slacker.

So, we’ve gotten over 200 words into this review and I haven’t said much about the book. Its really good friends, in the way that well written and thought out memoirs can be. I don’t know if its very Sue-ness would come across to the uninitiated, but if you are a Sue fan and are looking for more stories of her growing up in Croydon, or attending Cambridge, or breaking into the comedy/television presenter world then this is your book. She’s insightful and honest about her own strengths and weaknesses and you will absolutely fall in love with her parents. She uses her wit and comedic skills to unpack the world around her, and the way she sees it, and asks you to do the same with the world around you. Or just think of some really great double entendres.

Sue is very candid, and her emotions are allowed to shine through which I feel is the strength of the memoir genre. I nearly cried at the end of one of the chapters about her relationship with Mel. “But mainly we leave it alone, leave it all unsaid and carry on regardless in a thoroughly British fashion. What I do know is that this kinship will always remain. It is constant. It is a love that cannot be weathered, not by time, not by circumstance. Nothing can alter it.”

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read, where we read what we want, write about it, and raise money to support the American Cancer Society in the name of our fallen friend, Alabama Pink. 

The Princess Diarist (CBR9 #8)

Image result for the princess diarist

It is hard to know how to review this book. I had planned to read this before Ms. Fisher passed away, but following her death it seemed somehow imperative to read it as soon as I could muster my strength to do so. It was time to say goodbye to Carrie, and to the character that defined her career.

However, the very structure of this book limits its possible impact; it exists at all because Fisher discovered the journals she kept during the filming of the original Star Wars. The first third of the book is an introduction to the juggernaut that is Star Wars, the middle is excerpts from Fisher’s diary – specifically the portions about her relationship with Harrison Ford, and the final section is her reckoning with the 40 year effects of Star Wars on her life, and how she is forever linked to Princess Leia, a character who looks quite a bit like her.

The passion of youth is in here, but also the love of wordplay. Fisher was a talented writer, which is never up for debate, but somehow I was left wanting more from the book than she was willing to give us about Leia, and that seems to be by design. Fisher always kept more of herself to herself and most of what the book covers she discussed previously in the interviews leading up to The Force Awakens.

She shares some of her thoughts and memories about the auditions, filming and subsequent fame of the original Star Wars, and it was certainly enjoyable to spend some time with her reminiscing about the experience. However, I was left with the feeling that she was still very carefully curating what she shared of the experience, keeping some things (even after admitting to the Carrison affair) to herself. To which I say, good for her. But maybe not good for the book.

Fisher was also blunt about what she termed “lap dances” the autograph signing events, which she attended later in her career to help with some cash flow issues. On one hand, I grasped entirely her point and have always felt strangely about the expectation of fans that actors/musicians/artists should be put in that position and be expected to enjoy it (says the introvert), but I didn’t like at all how she formulated the chapters. Fisher was one of the all-time best script doctors, and these chapters read more like script treatments than book chapters, and that made it hard for me to focus on the beauty of her word choice and phrasings.

As ArchaeoKelly said “I am so very grateful to her for being my Princess Leia and my General Organa, and my grown-up Carrie Fisher, with all her issues.  She has been so brutally honest.  She is a warrior”. Thank you Carrie, for one more book before you left us.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read. We’ve got over 500 reviews in the first month of 2017, certainly there’s a book review for you over on the site?

Talking as Fast as I Can (CBR9 #3)

Image result for talking as fast as I can

We already have a couple of reviews of Lauren Graham’s newest book Talking as Fast as I Can over at Cannonball Read and from the people I’m also friends with on Goodreads I’m sure there will be more. I am going to weigh in now with my review, and it’s this: the book is good, in parts only okay, with moments of great. Three stars.

Wait, you want more? Okay, fine. But, I don’t like coming in with the first meh review on this one.

Graham got her writing deal based on a book she started writing on the set of Parenthood, which as a Graham aficionado I have of course read: Someday, Someday, Maybe. That book was also good, and I rated it three stars as well, but that may have had something to do with the depression I was in during CBR5. Very little got through the malaise in 2013. Her authorial voice in the memoir is different from in the novel, and that was good. Very good news actually. But… I preferred her tone in Someday.

I bet this book works better in audio. The things that bothered me had to do with repetition in the short page count (barely over 200 pages). I love a parenthetical aside, but with books written from first person singular as if in conversation with the reader, the same asides can grow old fast.  Just how many times am I expected to think it’s cute that she’s saying hello to the various hosts of the Today Show as she references the morning show circuit?

The great stuff is that Graham shares her personality with us, and it’s very much what you would expect. It was nice to get an idea of her personal history and I enjoyed the stories about her extra year, undergrad, and eventually graduate school. I loved the chapter where she assesses her career history and the loving way she talks about both Gilmore experiences and Parenthood.

Also, and this really is a nitpick; I did not enjoy reading about what a struggle it was to get this book published on time. I was excited to see where certain projects are in the pipeline (I really am excited for her collaboration with Mae Whitman for The Royal We) but, it was a little off-putting.

Hopefully those of you who are going to read this love it more than me, but know that I really did enjoy my time reading it, and thanks to ellepkay for my book exchange gift!

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

A Life in Parts (CBR8 #83)

Image result for a life in parts

When I found out that Bryan Cranston would be publishing a book in 2016, I was on the lookout. I am a late in the game Cranston fan, but there’s something about the roles he’s chosen, and the way he conducts himself in public that spoke to me, and I thought, I’d really like to know what he has to say. Since I had particularly enjoyed his reading of The Things They Carried I decided to go with the audio version.

Here’s the thing about this book: Cranston has the goods. He’s an introspective writer unpacking the sixty years of his life and his nearly forty-year career with wisdom and clarity. Badkittyuno and Caitlin D have laid out how wonderful this book is and what a good person Bryan Cranston is, not perfect, but lovable.

And here I come in with a three-star review.

I’ve had some ups and downs with memoirs and autobiographies this year. I’ve also had a bunch in the middle. Here’s what I think kept me from loving this book, even though I should have. Other than a gimmick (each chapter is categorized by a role whether as an actor or as a person) there is no real point to how the narrative is broken down. Cranston chronicles his life from beginning until the years following Breaking Bad, but that’s about all. There’s some good soundbite insights that you’ll likely see quoted elsewhere, and cautions about making sure you are making the correct decision for you, and not for someone else, but I felt myself left wanting with this one.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read. Registration is open to join us for CBR9 through January 13, 2017. Cannonball Read is an annual, memorial book challenge to read and review 52 books in a year. Or 26. Or 13. Choose your level and read to meet your goal all while fundraising for the American Cancer Society in the memory of AlabamaPink.