Tag «Memoir»

Single Sundays: How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for How to Be a Woman (from Goodreads):
Though they have the vote and the Pill and haven’t been burned as witches since 1727, life isn’t exactly a stroll down the catwalk for modern women. They are beset by uncertainties and questions: Why are they supposed to get Brazilians? Why do bras hurt? Why the incessant talk about babies? And do men secretly hate them? Caitlin Moran interweaves provocative observations on women’s lives with laugh-out-loud funny scenes from her own, from adolescence to her development as a writer, wife, and mother.

breakdown

Author: Caitlin Moran
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, Feminism, Humour
Heat Rating: N/A
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: June 16, 2011
Source & Format: Public Library–Audio Book

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

After successfully listening to my first audiobook (Stephen Colbert’s America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t), I quickly went out to find another one to listen to while I ran errands at school. I remember seeing this book everywhere when it first came out and I heard it was a pretty funny read. I was also interested in how it approached feminism. I had tried earlier to read Spinster, a book that I thought focused on the modern view of a women but instead focused on one woman’s discovery of notable female poets…at least, that was all I got from the first two chapters before I DNF’d it.

So while How to be a Woman is essentially a memoir, the promise of humour made this book way more appealing to me and so I was excited to read it.

The Concept:

The book is essentially Moran describing her growth into womanhood from her youth to now. What makes it fun is Moran’s witty and often cynical approach to the various topics, like getting her period for the first time or shaving her legs. Things every woman has essentially had to go through or every girl will go through–making it very relatable for the female reader and enticing a laugh from her simultaneously.

The Writing / The Narration:

She reminds me a lot of a Georgia Nicolson from Confessions of Georgia Nicolson, only if she was 35+ years old and lacked a filter. And I mean no filter. There really isn’t a thing that Moran does’t touch in this book and while I admire and respect that, it didn’t make it any easier to read/listen to.

Case and point: her lengthy chapter on the discovery of masturbation and pornography. First, I commend her for discussing a somewhat taboo topic in society but that didn’t make it easier to listen to while I was grocery shopping in public…

One thing I think this book struggled with was maintaining the balance between Caitlin Moran’s personal life and her observations of what it means to be a woman. I had no idea who Caitlin Moran was before I picked up this book and so I had very little interest in hearing her long-winded stories about her personal life. I understand that this book is a memoir and a lot of her stories were completely relevant to the topic at hand–but it made me feel as though this book was 20x longer than it really needed to be.

And I’m upset that I feel that way because when she actually does get to the observations of society and what it means to be a woman, I was thoroughly engrossed. Her reflections are spot on and it makes me wish she spent more time talking about them with little tidbits of her life thrown in here and there instead of having the first 5 or so chapters retelling her life story.

Did it Impact My Life?

Yes, in a way. It reminded me that it shouldn’t be awkward to talk about some of the things she does in the book and I think it shows some of the double standards we have in society with respect the men and women. There is a time and a place for everything of course, but I think my reaction to some of the topics she addresses goes to show how conditioned I am about certain things. So in that sense, I found this book to be enlightening.

It also reassured me that I am not alone in my observations of how females act or why they feel pressured to do something a certain way. As I was listening to some of the things she was saying, it was absurd to me that some of these positions/standards haven’t been challenged.

concSLOW

My Rating: 3.5/5

overall

While I think some of the humour would have been lost if I was reading the actual text, I think I might have preferred to read this one instead. The audio book clocks in at approximately 8 hours and I know it would have taken me only 5 to read it. I felt like it was slower at times and I think reading would have let me move past those parts at a better pace. But once I got used to Caitlin’s approach and she started to delve deeper into the feminist issues, I found it much easier to listen to.

Read if You Like: cynical humour, British humour, books about female views
Avoid if You: want a short audiobook

similarreads

  • Yes Please by Amy Pohler
  • Is Everyone Hanging out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

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DNF Review: Spinster by Kate Bolick

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own (from Goodreads): “Whom to marry, and when will it happen—these two questions define every woman’s existence.” So begins Spinster, a revelatory and slyly erudite look at the pleasures and possibilities of remaining single. Using her own experiences as a starting point, journalist and cultural critic Kate Bolick invites us into her carefully considered, passionately lived life, weaving together the past and present to examine why­ she—along with over 100 million American women, whose ranks keep growing—remains unmarried. This unprecedented demographic shift, Bolick explains, is the logical outcome of hundreds of years of change that has neither been fully understood, nor appreciated. Spinster introduces a cast of pioneering women from the last century whose genius, tenacity, and flair for drama have emboldened Bolick to fashion her life on her own terms: columnist Neith Boyce, essayist Maeve Brennan, social visionary Charlotte Perkins Gilman, poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, and novelist Edith Wharton. By animating their unconventional ideas and choices, Bolick shows us that contemporary debates about settling down, and having it all, are timeless—the crucible upon which all thoughtful women have tried for centuries to forge a good life. Intellectually substantial and deeply personal, Spinster is both an unreservedly inquisitive memoir and a broader cultural exploration that asks us to acknowledge the opportunities within ourselves to live authentically. Bolick offers us a way back into our own lives—a chance to see those splendid years when we were young and unencumbered, or middle-aged and finally left to our own devices, for what they really are: unbounded and our own to savor.

breakdown

Author: Kate Bolick

Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, Feminism, Sociology

Heat Rating: N/A

Point of View: First Person, Single

Publication Date: April 21, 2015

Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I don’t know how I found this book. Normally, I find out about my nonfiction reads from The Daily Show or because the author is a celebrity I like. I think I found Spinster after reading So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed via Goodreads but who knows! Anyways, I wanted to read it because I wanted to explore the topic of marriage expectations for women in today’s culture.

It’s going to get a bit personal and so I apologize. But I wanted to have this discussion because it helps explain what I wanted from this book and why I picked it up.

I’m 23 and I always thought that I would be in a serious relationship, if not possibly married by this age. But I am still single and have no romantic prospects in sight. Prior to starting university, I had a plan to find my husband, go to graduate school and then have kids before I was 30. But the more I thought about my post-post-secondary, I realized I didn’t want to spend another 4 years in school (a total of 8 years of post-secondary education) and then have kids before taking off time to have children. And so, I made the decision to pursue a different post-graduate degree and just let my romantic relationships go with the flow. I want to be clear that I have never felt pressured to be married and have kids. It’s just something that I want to have in my life when the time is right. As of right now, I know I’m not ready for kids and I’m OK with that. Out of my close group of friends, only one is engaged to be married but isn’t getting married for a while; only a few are in serious relationships and the rest are single like me. So I don’t feel like I am behind or missing something from my life. Why do young people, especially young girls, feel like they can’t remain single. It drives me crazy when I watch Say Yes to the Dress and I hear the girls say “This is the most important day of my life”. Is it really? I don’t deny that marriage isn’t an important event in someone’s life. But what about the day you graduated from university? What about the day you started your first job; or accomplished a big goal? Why is marriage SO IMPORTANT? And why is is especially for females?

That was what I was hoping this book was going to explore.

Why I DNF’d:

This book was not what I was expecting! I thought it was going to be an insightful look into the way society has viewed single women throughout the decades. Why I thought that when I reread the synopsis now is beyond me–because what the synopsis says is what you get! This book is really just a memoir of Kate Bolick and her explaining how these 4-5 women made her into the woman she is totally. Which is great and all, but I honestly don’t care! It doesn’t interest me! I’m not one to read memoirs–even if it is someone who I admire or am interested in. I also had a hard time with the writing. It was way too academic for me, making it read more like a college essay than a story. I also had a hard time with the flow. Reading the first entry lost me in terms of why this little blurb was relevant to this little blurb. I found myself getting bored and when I wasn’t bored, I was frustrated and so, I decided to DNF this book.

My Rating: N/A

overall

This book just wasn’t what I wanted it to be. I wanted a book that explored cultural expectations of single women and instead, I got a memoir about a girl who became a woman. Perhaps if I had stuck it out, I would have read the parts that I wanted but my perusal of the pages ahead didn’t look very promising

Read if You Like: memoirs Avoid if You: want an investigative look into popular cultural

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Single Sundays: We Should Hang Out Sometime by Josh Sundquist

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for We Should Hang Out Sometime: Embarrassingly, a True Story (from Goodreads): 
A bright, poignant, and deeply funny autobiographical account of coming of age as an amputee cancer survivor, from Josh Sundquist: Paralympic ski racer, YouTube star, and motivational speaker.

Josh Sundquist only ever had one girlfriend.
For twenty-three hours.
In eighth grade.

Why was Josh still single? To find out, he tracked down the girls he had tried to date and asked them straight up: What went wrong?

The results of Josh’s semiscientific, wholly hilarious investigation are captured here. From a disastrous Putt-Putt date involving a backward prosthetic foot, to his introduction to CFD (Close Fast Dancing), to a misguided “grand gesture” at a Miss America pageant, this story is about looking for love–or at least a girlfriend–in all the wrong places.

breakdown

Author: Josh Sundquist
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, Humour
Heat Rating: N/A
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: December 23, 2014
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I can’t remember whose blog it was (if it was yours, let me know!), but I found out about this book there. It was applauded for its humour–and I love a story that can make me laugh!

The Concept:

It takes a lot of guts to admit your embarrassing dating stories to your friends; but to write a book and share it with the world? Now that’s bold and takes a lot of guts. Not that anything is extremely embarrassing–it’s actually pretty typical and realistic. But I could see why, looking back, that it is embarrassing 😉 Whether or not all those things happened? I’m sure they are embelished a bit, but it sure is entertaining!

The semiscientific approach was a cute way of analyzing the events without it being like an essay. It kept the flow going and definitely added to the humorous tones of the novel.

The WRITING:

This book was super easy to read! It never dwelled on anything too long, it had a great flow and it was funny! Humour can be really hard to convey through text but I think Josh did a great job with it here.

did it impact my life?:

Not particularly, though I think a lot of us can relate to the events that happen to Josh. We all have those stories where we assumed things when it comes to our romantic lives.

To me, the main message of this book was to not let the past get you down. Reflect on the past and learn from it but move forward.

My Rating: 4/5

overall

This book is perfect for those who want a quick but uplifting, humourous read. I had a lot of fun reading this and I think most people will as well!

Read if You Like: humourous true stories
Avoid if You: want a more thought-provoking read

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Single Sundays: Death of a King by Tavis Smiley with David Ritz

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Year (from Goodreads):
A revealing and dramatic chronicle of the twelve months leading up to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination

Martin Luther King, Jr. died in one of the most shocking assassinations the world has known, but little is remembered about the life he led in his final year. New York Times bestselling author and award-winning broadcaster Tavis Smiley recounts the final 365 days of King’s life, revealing the minister’s trials and tribulations — denunciations by the press, rejection from the president, dismissal by the country’s black middle class and militants, assaults on his character, ideology, and political tactics, to name a few — all of which he had to rise above in order to lead and address the racism, poverty, and militarism that threatened to destroy our democracy.

Smiley’s DEATH OF A KING paints a portrait of a leader and visionary in a narrative different from all that have come before. Here is an exceptional glimpse into King’s life — one that adds both nuance and gravitas to his legacy as an American hero.

Review:

One of my personal goals when it comes to my reading habits in this coming year is to read more non-fiction books. I tend to stick to my romances or young adult novels but I love learning about new subjects and I love to watch documentaries. So why I don’t read more non-fiction is beyond me: I suppose it is for the fact that I could watch something about a topic and get the visual effects that I need as a visual learner. However, I watch a lot of John Stewart’s Daily Show and more often than not he has on an author and I end up finishing the interview and seeing if the book is available at my library so I can read it.

I will be the first to admit I don’t know all that much about Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK), which is why I wanted to read this book. I studied his “I Have a Dream” speech in my university English class about Rebels and I know the general gist of what he did in the Civil Rights Movement but nothing else really. So I was interested in learning more about him, especially with his work after the initial Civil Rights Movement began.

While the book is easy to read and people/things are explained in easy to understand language; it was hard for me to get into the flow of the writing. I haven’t read any biography books that aren’t autobiographies, so maybe this is a common practice, but it seemed a little fictional at times given that the author was writing how MLK was feeling at that particular time. How does he know that really? I’m sure he talked to people who were with MLK and did his research but it seemed really presumptive to me and I had a hard time getting past that. I suppose that is what happens with biographies but for someone who isn’t use to that, it is a big change and makes it a little difficult to process things.

What I did enjoy was learning about what was going on historically. And when the Smiley wasn’t trying to tell me how MLK was personally feeling and instead focused on the historical events and their implications, I was drawn into the story so much more.

One thing that really surprised me about reading this book was the fact that the struggles people faced in 1967-1968 are very similar to issues that we (at least in North America) still face today, such as racism, war and unemployment. Which is what Smiley was explaining on The Daily Show and how we should take to heart some of MLK’s messages as they still apply today (like focusing on national issues like unemployment and not so much on international issues). I think it’s easy for some of us to forget that these issues are happening depending on where you live. I know I am guilty of it and this book reminded me of that.

While MLK is an interesting person to read about and I liked learning more about him as a person and not just as a social advocate; I really want to read more about his wife Coretta. I would love to read a biography/memoir about her life because it seems so interesting to me. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for one.

Conclusion:

This is my first book about Martin Luther King Jr. so I’m not really sure how it compares to others. However, I think those who want to learn more about him in his last year of life and his work with the Vietnam war but want a condensed, easy to read way of doing that will enjoy this book.

Rating: 3.5/5
Would I Recommend this Book to a Friend: If they really wanted to know about MLK I would suggest this.

Shorthand Stats:
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography, American History, Social Justice
Recommended for: 20+
Heat Rating: N/A
Point of View: Third Person

 

Single Sundays: Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for Yes Please (from Goodreads):
In Amy Poehler’s highly anticipated first book, Yes Please, she offers up a big juicy stew of personal stories, funny bits on sex and love and friendship and parenthood and real life advice (some useful, some not so much), like when to be funny and when to be serious. Powered by Amy’s charming and hilarious, biting yet wise voice, Yes Please is a book is full of words to live by.

Review:

I love Amy Poehler! She is one of my all-time favourite comedians and I loved her on SNL. So I figured I would give her new book a shot because it was everywhere I turned. Somehow, I got my name early on the hold list at my library and had it in my hands shortly after its publication.

I have never truly read a non-fiction memoir by a celebrity before. I attempted to read Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? but I just couldn’t get into it. Which shocked me, because Mindy Kaling is another of my favourite comedians and I love her show The Mindy Project (love isn’t a strong enough word, I think absolutely adore is an apt description). Perhaps I went into the book with too high of expectations but I really think non-fiction memoirs aren’t for me and Yes Please had me reaffirming that hypothesis.

Don’t get me wrong–the book is well done and is exactly what I expect from Amy. It’s fun and I did laugh when I was reading it (not as much as I thought though); and she is very insightful and it felt like her words were very sincere and coming from the heart. You felt like you were sitting in front of her as she told her life story and it is very interesting to hear about.

But, seeing as I am half the age of Amy I felt like some of the references were a little lost on me. Bigger name celebrities I knew and I knew the names of her SNL cast members but some of the people she mentions I have no clue who they are so I felt like I was missing out on something.

The other thing about memoirs is that they are vain–and of course they are, they are MEMOIRS about a single person (in most cases) so they unsurprisingly focus on that one person. But I found that this book was mostly just Amy rehashing her life story and telling her personal philosophy on life and not humour at every turn (which I’m sure a majority of readers expected). Which is cool and all but personal life philosophy is “whatever floats your boat” so I didn’t really find it all that interesting and frankly a little boring. It also probably didn’t help that I was in the middle of exams and needed something a little more fun and dramatic to read to blow off some steam 😉

Conclusion:

This book isn’t a collection of hysterical laughs. It’s more about Amy telling her life’s philosophies while throwing in a few punchlines here and there. I guess I’ve just come to the conclusion that memoirs are just not for me. It has nothing to do with the writing or the person, they just aren’t my cup of tea so I’ll just stick with my fiction novels for now.

Rating: 3/5
Would I Recommend this Book to a Friend: Only if they are a die-hard Amy Poehler fan or they love memoir books.

Shorthand Stats:
Genre: Nonficiton, Memoir, Humour
Recommended for: 18+
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: First Person, Single
Similar Reads:

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