Tag Archives: Biography

Chelsea Handler – Are You There Vodka? It’s Me Chelsea (2008)

Are_you_there_vodka_book_coverThis is a good read if you need something to off set a really serious or tragic book. It is funny, light, and frivolous; easy to pick up and put down as needed. I know a lot of people who don’t exactly love Chelsea Handler’s humour, and I will admit in person, sometimes I find her to be a bit too much. That being said, I don’t hate her writing.

I actually love her writing style. She writes as if she’s performing stand-up and it translates really well to the page. She inserts witty comments and writes down the quick responses and insults to people’s questions, that in real life, would probably leave you stunned. It’s hard to explain, but she gets into this rhythm, and boy does it ever work for her.

I also however, don’t think she’s telling the whole truth. Sure many of the things that she writes about are probably somewhat true, but I have a hard time believing that she has really gotten herself into many of these situations. Especially when she writes about her family in such unflattering ways. I don’t think there’s a problem with this however, and authors often don’t tell the whole truth sacrificing it for entertainment value.

Her stories are entertaining, and I will probably continue to purchase and read her books. The first story in this collection, where Chelsea tells her teacher she didn’t do her homework because she is too busy staring in the new Goldie Hawn movie, made me laugh out loud. With school and so much serious reading to do, it’s nice to read something light that makes me laugh.

Rory Gilmore Update Number Three

Doing the Rory Gilmore reading challenge means reading works that are almost impossible to read, or works that you may not have a great deal to write about. So here I have three short reviews of my experiences with books from the Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge.

AnneFrank

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl (1947)
Another book that I had to read in middle school before I was mature enough to fully grasp the gravity of the Holocaust. The beauty of this novel however, is that it introduces the Holocaust to young readers in a way that is accessible and easier to take than a lot of other literature dealing with the subject. It’s written by a teenage girl, probably around the same age as many reading her diary. As a young person you understand the tragic circumstances surrounding Anne Frank, but are also sheltered from the more nightmarish aspects of the Holocaust. All that learning will come later. Anne always wanted to be a writer, and she clearly had a talent for it. The tragedy is that we will never know what she could have done had she lived.

S.E Hinton – The Outsiders (1967)TheOutsiders
A timeless and classic coming of age story, if you didn’t read this on growing up, you missed out. Essentially a story about two rival gangs separated by socioeconimc status, the story focuses in on Ponyboy Curtis, the narrator, and his brother SodaPop. Hinton himself was only 15 when he started writing this book so the characters are very easy to identify with for teenagers. I also highly recommend watching the 1983 movie starring Emilio Estavez, Rob Lowe, Tom Cruise, and Patrick Swayse, and remember “Stay Gold Ponyboy…”

PerksofbeingwallflowerStephen Chbosky – The Perks of Being a Wallflower (1999)
A book that was relatively unknown when I first read it, but is now being heralded as a classic coming of age story. It is a very well done coming of age story following the life of Charlie through a series of letters written to an anonymous stranger. I feel like its one of those books that is so amazing to read in high school, but loses its appeal upon graduation. Thats because it’s about high school and when you read things like this, everything feels so relatable. (This book totally gets me!). Its a great read, but if your high school days are long behind you, I’d leave this one off your list.

Jung Chang – Wild Swans (1991)

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Think of this as kind of a really life Amy Tan novel; the true story of three generations of Chinese women living in China from the fall of Imperial Rule through to the death of Mao Ze Dong. Chang tells her family’s story in a beautiful and illuminated way.

Chang begins with her grandmother, who grew up poor but was taken as a concubine to a high-ranking warlord through the scheming of her father. Despite living in luxury and seeing her husband only every couple of years, her life was still tense and she was never allowed to visit her parents’ home, even after giving birth to her daughter. When the General fell ill, Chang’s grandmother realized that her daughter would be taken away from her by the General’s first wife and fled, sending false word that her daughter had died. She then married a much older doctor and settled into a simple life in Manchuria.

The story now moves to Chang’s mother, a strong willed independently minded woman who became completely drawn to working for the Communist Party of China. Chang’s father was also working for the Communist Party and the two fell in love, but still insisted on putting the needs of the party first. The Cultural Revolution started when Chang was a teenager and her part of the story deals with the tumultuous political landscape in China, including her parents fall from favour and the slander, gossip, and corruption that ran rampant throughout the nation. She details her experience being sent into the countryside and the pointlessness of many of Mao’s reforms, now with the benefit of hindsight. Chang ends with her decision to leave China to study in England and how her views have changed since leaving. She is still permitted to visit family in mainland China, although her book was banned in the People’s Republic of China.

The unique perspective and storytelling ability made this a joy to read. Chinese history is fascinating, and being narrated through the voices of three women provides a unique perspective. While Chang has the benefit of hindsight when writing, her experiences living in China under Mao are highly detailed and interesting to read.

Special Post – Neal Thompson, A Curious Man (2014)

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This week I also posted a book review of Neil Thompson’s, A Curious Man, on the University of Toronto Museum Studies’ Blog, Musings. While the book was mainly a biography of Robert Ripley, it still posed some good questions relevant to the Museum community, including, can we consider Ripley “Odditoriums,” both then and now, Museums? There is a debate within the art community over whether mass produced art can really be considered “art”? Ripley entertainment owns 32 Odditoriums worldwide, can a mass produced museum, constructed specifically for tourists be a real museum? Or do our conceptions of what a museum is, dismiss Ripley Odditoriums as simply kitschy and tacky tourist traps? It’s an interesting thing to think about.

Read the whole review here.

Margaret Powell – Below Stairs (1968)

BelowStairs

Merry Christmas Everyone, I have still decided to post a review today so enjoy!

Any fan of Downton Abbey will love this true story of what it was like to be a kitchen maid in an English estate in the 1920s. Margaret Powell details the events of her life, including her childhood living in poverty to her many years in service to multiple families. She points out that, as was the case with most other girls, often entering the service was the best option available.

The families that Powell worked for however, were not always similar to the Grantham’s in Downtown Abbey. She did work on some large estates, but also spent a number of years working for upper to middle class families that only employed a handful of people. Powell always knew she wanted to be a cook (as opposed to a kitchen maid) and was able to achieve this goal by working for families of the middling class.

Powell tells her story with humor that only years of time away from the job could provide. It clearly was not nearly as glamorous as Downton Abbey makes it out to be, and many of the families she worked for barely even knew her name let alone spoke to her like a human being. Fans of the show however, will appreciate this entertaining and more realistic view of what life was really like Below Stairs.

Mindy Kaling – Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (2011)

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Another hilarious read from another incredibly funny woman. Through her writing Mindy Kaling reveals that she is a completely different person from her character on the Office. (Also on the Mindy Project although this book was published before the show started)

The best parts of her book included her anecdotes and stories about the Office, and her sworn “frien-imie” Rainn Wilson. I was always jealous of Mindy’s and B.J Novak’s interactions in real life (twitter arguments, instagram fights, etc) and her stories about working with Rainn make me even more jealous.

Mindy is a great writer, which shouldn’t come as a surprise considering her main role on the office was that of a writer. I think that in most cases her character takes over, and people forget that she is a writer first, and an actress second. My only criticism was that at times, Kailing appears to be trying a bit too hard to be Tina Fey. That being said, Bossypants was amazing so I can’t blame her. I also just have to say, I don’t think anyone will ever understand how much I appreciated Mindy’s desire to remake A League of Their Own. That movie is flawless, much like Mindy herself.

Serve With
Chai Spice Cupcakes! Like Mindy these cupcakes are cute, delicious, and amazingly simple to make. View the recipe here!

Jenny Lawson – Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (2012)

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This is by far one of the funniest memoirs I’ve ever read. I had never really heard of Jenny Lawson before, but since I’m always looking to read things written by funny women I was tempted to buy this book.

What makes this book great is that absolutely none of it is believable. Lawson however, tells the kind of stories that you just know are not made up, because there is no way anyone could make it up. Her taxidermist father who constantly “tortured” his daughters with wild animals, both alive and dead, is not only surreal but also hilarious.

The best part of this book though is Lawson’s discussions of her own mental health issues and the way she dealt with them. There’s a strength in this writing that I admire. Many compare Jenny Lawson to David Sedaris and there are similarities, but I think this book is its own entity and Lawson, her own person.

Rating: 4/5