Audiobook Review: Uganda Be Kidding Me

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Rating: 4 out of 5

Chelsea Handler knocks it out of the park again with her latest comedic memoir, Uganda Be Kidding Me. Published in March of last year, the book retells Handler’s traveling escapades in the past few years, including a ski trip at the private Yellowstone Club in Montana and a brief stint in Montenegro.

The majority of the memoir, however, covers her African safari trip with her close friends. A self-labeled ‘professional alcoholic,’ they spend their time guzzling cocktails and hitting on their South African guide named Rex.

“There’s a difference between being a class act and being classy. Peeing off the side of a jeep doesn’t mean you’re not classy, it just means you’re a free spirit with a small bladder.” – Chelsea Handler

Many readers will hate Handler for being the typical ugly American tourist, who keeps asking where the tigers are in the bush and complaining about her bit of vacation weight gain.

And yes, I admit that she is outrageous and abrasive. I’ve seen her talk show “Chelsea Lately” and read her other books, My Horizontal Life and Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea, so I know her particular brand of humor well. She is the exact opposite of politically correct, making wise cracks at every minority imaginable–little people, blacks, Asians, and the LBGT, among others.

Sometimes I just have to rock myself back and forth and say, “You’ve offended so many people at this point. Don’t try to keep track now, girl.”

The reason why I enjoy her despite her offensiveness is that she’s also self-deprecating. She has been famous long enough to know just how dependent she is on her countless assistants. It may be humble-bragging when she declares that she doesn’t pack her own suitcases or make her own margaritas, but it also goes to show that you can be a hot mess no matter how much money you make.

Case in point: Last weekend I was visiting my family and had to try to keep quiet late one night in my old bedroom, because I was laughing so hard listening to Handler share her embarrassing story of when she shit herself in her swimsuit while kayaking in the Bahamas. The joke builds and builds on itself until she sneaks into a guest house in the wee hours of the morning, only to drunkenly open the front door for someone without her bikini bottoms on. It had me giggling like a crazy person and was easily the most hilarious portion of the book.

Ultimately, Chelsea Handler is the woman you’d want at a party, because she’s unapologetic about who she is, and she definitely knows how to have fun. She also loves her dogs dearly and never, ever wants children, so I have a feeling we would make fast friends. She may not be the best role model, but I think she’s better than that, because she’s real.

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Audiobook Review: Me Talk Pretty One Day

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Rating: 3 out of 5

Well, 2015 has started off on a mediocre foot. The first novel that I read, Invisibility, was a subpar paranormal YA romance, and now I’m disappointed by David Sedaris’ Me Talk Pretty One Day after hearing such great things for so many years. I’ve got to say that I’m regretting my choice to insert this audiobook combo-breaker after listening to a long list of female comedic memoirs.

Me Talk Pretty One Day (2000) is a collection of essays about Sedaris’ childhood in North Carolina, living in New York, and moving to Paris with his boyfriend. He cracks jokes about his Greek Orthodox father and his siblings, whom I knew nothing about except that his sister Amy is also a famous humorist.

I enjoyed the essays that were more self-deprecating, especially about his struggles with language. Whether it was finding creative ways around his lisp as a kid or surviving French lessons with his sadistic instructor, I laughed at his bumbling and atrocious grammatical mistakes. Anyone who has struggled with learning a new language can relate to his verbal roadblocks.

I won’t doubt that Sedaris is a good writer, since it’s obvious that he’s a powerful wordsmith. However, I find issues with Sedaris personally, because to be honest, he didn’t seem like somebody I would enjoy hanging around. Besides his heavy drug use, his adamant refusal to use computers, and his insincere stunt as a creative writing teacher, most of the time he needs–as my mom would put it–an ‘attitude adjustment.’

Sedaris came from a privileged-enough family, raised by a meddling father who forced his children to play musical instruments and constantly berated his daughters about their weight and overall appearance. I’m not saying the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, but there were many points in this book where I felt that Sedaris was just plain mean.

Part of this is because he revels in his superiority as a ‘real New Yorker,’ a personality trait which I can’t stomach. NYC is just another city, and living there does not make you automatically smarter and more interesting than anyone else. I hope that becoming an expat–yes, I know he loathes the word–in France instilled a bit of compassion when it comes to dealing with tourists and foreigners.

And even when he’s completely justified, like when a couple of Southern tourists on a train in Paris assumed he didn’t know English and accused him of petty theft, his stories fall flat because there aren’t any punch lines. I kept waiting for him to confront and humiliate the rude couple, but that never happened and instead he goes along his way without a word. His essays include a lot of buildup, but little payoff.

I may be one of the few people who dislike Sedaris, but unless he’s eaten a giant slice of humble pie in the 15 years since publishing this book, I’ll stick to writers who can make people laugh without putting others down–or if comparing him to other caustic yet relatable comedians like Chelsea Handler and Sarah Silverman, at least do a better job about hiding the fact that you think you’re better than everyone.

I’d love to get your thoughts, though! Is Sedaris a literary genius, a pretentious bully, neither, or both? Is his writing any different in his other books, or more of the same? Should I give him another chance?

Audiobook Review: Yes Please

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Rating: 5 out of 5

In January 2012, I bought my first audiobook: Tina Fey’s Bossypants. This outrageously hilarious book led me to read a long string of memoirs by other famous women (Mindy Kaling, Chelsea Handler, Sarah Silverman, Samantha Bee, Jenny Lawson, and Lena Dunham), but tragically, none of them lived up to the reigning comedic queen. I was ready to accept the fact that no one was going to be able to rise up to that level of humor.

But then! Everyone’s prayers were answered when it was revealed that Amy Poehler would be writing Yes Please. Finally! Who better to top Tina than her “Saturday Night Live” costar and very own BFF?

I’m overjoyed to say that Yes Please is everything we’ve been waiting for and more! It’s difficult to decide where to start my praises, so here are a few tidbits from the book for you to get a sense of the awesomeness that awaits you:

“I recently hurt myself on a treadmill and it wasn’t even on. I was adjusting my speed and stepped wrong and twisted my ankle. I felt a moment of frustration filled with immediate relief. I didn’t have to actually work out, but I still got credit for trying. It was a gym snow day.”

“Please don’t drive drunk, okay? Seriously. It’s so fucked up. But by all means, walk drunk. That looks hilarious. Everyone loves to watch someone act like they are trying to make it to safety during a hurricane.”

“However, if you do start crying in an argument and someone asks why, you can always say, “I’m just crying because of how wrong you are.”

She begins her book with her preface, “Writing is Hard,” which is absolutely perfect for its tongue-in-cheek honesty about the writing process. Each following chapter is filled with her wisdom regarding body image and aging, dating and divorce, and balancing career and parenting.

Poehler talks about treating your career like a bad boyfriend and owning up to your mistakes. Her fiercely feminist views are a breath of fresh air, and the way she describes her own frustrations and insecurities as a woman are very relatable.

From the mouth of an awesome lady 🙂

What’s not so relatable is all the shameless name-dropping she does, but you still forgive her for it, because hey, it’s not her fault that she knows a ton of super cool, famous people. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be her friend? She even has a few celebrities guest-star on the audiobook, including Seth Meyers, Carol Burnett, and Patrick Stewart. Her parents also drop by to talk about marriage advice and what Amy was like as a child, making this the most sickeningly cute book I’ve listened to ever.

I also really appreciated how much time Poehler spent discussing what actually made her a star: her years at “SNL” and her famous parodies of Hillary Clinton, her experiences on “Parks and Recreation,” and her hosting the Golden Globes. As much as childhood stories can entertain, fans want to be flies on the wall of a celebrity’s most famous moments, and I’m so glad that Poehler shares hers so candidly.

And while Yes Please is filled with more sage advice and less hilarious anecdotes than Bossypants, it was so fun to listen to that I finished the audiobook in a weekend. You’ll crack up laughing at everything from Poehler’s lessons learned on mushrooms to the pranks she pulled on her costars. Yes Please is a delightfully charming read that might just make the spot of my favorite book of 2014!

Damn straight, Amy!

Audiobook Review: Not That Kind of Girl

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Rating: 3 out of 5

Hi everyone! Somehow I managed to schedule a blog post during week one of NaNoWriMo, which is going pretty well for the most part. I’ve reached 10,000 words so far, so I’m about a day behind, but I’m trying to stay positive! Only 40,000 words to go! Wishing all the other Wrimos out there good luck!

As for my latest audiobook review, when it comes to Lena Dunham, I have mixed feelings. On one hand, I love watching her show “Girls” and admire her dedication to depicting realistic portrayals of beauty, love, sex, and friendship. I respect her as a proud feminist, raising money for Planned Parenthood on her book tour and speaking out against misogyny in the media.

On the other hand, I recognize the level of privilege that Dunham has attained and understand criticisms that she has not done enough in regards to representing people of color on-screen. Let’s face it, if her parents weren’t renowned artists and she wasn’t able to attend prestigious schools like Saint Ann’s and Oberlin, it’s less likely that she would have gained such an exalted place in the arts community and impressed Hollywood enough to give her $3.5 million to write a memoir at the mere age of 28.

“A” is the key word here.

Of course, I also realize that male artists do not receive such flack like female artists do, which is why I don’t mean to single Dunham out. She’s certainly not the first rich white person who became famous thanks to the nepotistic network she was born into, and she won’t be the last.

This is why it can be difficult to relate to Dunham. Her book Not The Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s ‘Learned’ suffers from the same navel-gazing that “Girls” does. Dunham can’t help it: the first rule of writing is to write what you know, and all Dunham has known is her upper class world in New York.

Special snowflake syndrome: Exhibit A

In this world, Dunham is a special snowflake, coddled by her parents, nannies, educators, and therapists. She discusses working in retail and finally dating a nice guy after a series of jerks…which all sounds relatable until you learn that her boyfriend is Jack Antonoff, lead singer of Fun., and her part-time gig was at Geminola, a vintage boutique that supplied outfits to “Sex and the City” and is owned by the mother of her friend/costar Jemima Kirke.

That’s not to say that Dunham hasn’t experienced hardships in her life. Suffering from OCD, anxiety, and depression, Dunham has spent most of her life keeping her mental illness at bay, whether that be with her prescriptions or self-medicating with drugs, such as cocaine.

She also writes about her excruciatingly painful endometriosis and a heartbreaking incident in which she was raped by a friend of a friend in college. I applaud her for discussing these experiences and normalizing them for her readers, even if there’s little in Dunham’s life that could constitute what most Americans consider normal. At least by putting herself out there, women around the world can know that they are not alone.

I enjoyed the audiobook because it allowed me to hear her tone and get a better sense of her storytelling. Although some parts don’t shine through orally, like her unnecessarily long entries in her food diary, there were many gems of writing that either amused or inspired me.

Ultimately, I wished that Dunham would have spent less time romanticizing her own neuroticism and more time revealing behind the scenes stories of “Girls.” It’s the same issue that I had with Samantha Bee’s I Know I Am, But What Are You? Fans are less interested to hear the backstory from before you were famous than the juicy tales behind why you’re famous.

Let’s hope that the next memoir on everyone’s to-read list, Amy Poehler’s Yes Please, makes up for these disappointments by being a book that not only speaks to me, but also speaks for me.

Finally, something we can agree on!

Audiobook Review: Love Irresistibly

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Rating: 4 out of 5

Julie James does it again with yet another novel in her U.S. Attorney series. The last two installments followed the romances of the Rhodes family. In A Lot Like Love, heiress Jordan Rhodes falls in love with undercover F.B.I. agent Nick McCall, and in About That Night, her ex-con brother Kyle Rhodes (aka “the Twitter terrorist”) becomes smitten with the assistant U.S. attorney Rylann Pierce.

Love Irresistibly (2013) continues the narrative of the Chicago office with Cade Morgan, the assistant U.S. attorney who was responsible for putting Kyle Rhodes behind bars. His next assignment involves catching a corrupt senator, and he needs the help of Brooke Parker, general counsel for a prestigious restaurant company.

Brooke assists the case by allowing Cade and his team to bug the senator’s reserved table at an exclusive fine dining establishment. The case is closed without many hitches, and the rest of the novel navigates their subsequent relationship and the emotional obstacles that stand between them.

Both struggle with a fear of commitment, Brooke due to her insanely busy work schedule, and Cade due to abandonment issues with his estranged father. One of the many reasons why I like reading Julie James’ books is that even though her characters are strong and independent, they also can be afraid to show their vulnerable sides.

This story was especially enjoyable when it came to Cade’s reunion with the teenage half-brother he never knew existed. Together they bonded over football and girl problems, while working through Cade’s anger over their father who left him. The biggest lesson everyone learned was making sure not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

But enough about high-profile prosecution and family drama! Let’s talk about love scenes! After feeling major disappointment with the last two romance novels I read (Deeply, Desperately and Absolutely, Positively by Heather Webber), it felt nice to get back to the good stuff.

I can always trust that James will deliver when it comes to passion. A huge pet peeve of mine is a romance novel that lacks in romance, and this was not one of them. None of that ridiculous cut-to-black, ‘one thing led to another’ writing that is frankly both prudish and lazy.

James cranks up the heat to the point where it was difficult maintaining a poker face listening on the train. A word to the wise: if you’re going to buy the audiobook version, perhaps reserve your listening until after you complete your daily commute!

Steaminess aside, there are tons of great things about James’ books. I’ve read all six of her past novels and already bought her 7th. But for my sake, this time it’s in print!

Audiobook Review: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before

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Rating: 4 out of 5

This was a book that I couldn’t resist after reading so much great feedback from other book bloggers. Jenny Han was a new author to me, and I’m glad that I was introduced to her work.

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before is a young adult fiction novel that follows Lara Jean Song, a high school-aged middle child. Her older sister Margot just broke up with her boyfriend Josh and is studying abroad in Scotland. Her younger sister Kitty is obsessed with convincing their dad to get her a puppy. And Lara Jean finds herself in the most mortifying of predicaments.

It turns out that her habit of writing love letters to the boys she was once in love with has epically backfired, because somehow the letters get mailed. And one of those boys just happens to be Josh.

To save face, Lara Jean impulsively decides to pretend to date her old middle school crush, Peter Kavinsky, who also received a letter. Peter agrees to fake-date her to make his ex-girlfriend jealous, which adds even more drama because nobody crosses the queen bee and gets away with it.

This was a great audiobook, because Han imitates a teen girl very well with her short, simple sentences and conversational tone. However, as much as I loved the fact that Lara Jean was half-Korean (seriously, why aren’t there more protagonists of color in literature?!), you could obviously tell that the narrator was unfamiliar with certain terms, like incorrectly pronouncing the Japanese manga that she reads as “main-gah” instead of “mahn-gah.” A small quibble, but I couldn’t help but cringe during these moments.

Other than that, I enjoyed this story because it was so relatable. Lara Jean, inexperienced in relationships, must learn to adapt when her once-unrequited loves start to show interest in her. She must also navigate her changing family life, dealing with her older sister so far away from home. With their father raising three girls alone after their mother’s death, Lara Jean has to step up to be a role model to her younger sister.

I was a bit disappointed by the conclusion, since the story took too many turns toward the end that I couldn’t predict where it would stop. Once it did, I felt that I would have outlined it differently. However, I learned that Han has a final sequel planned for April 2015 called PS: I Still Love You, so hopefully the plot comes together better in the second half.

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before is a fun, lighthearted read that will make you empathize with your teen self and nostalgic for your own coming of age.

Audiobook Review: I Know I Am, But What Are You?

Rating: 3 out of 5

To call Samantha Bee eccentric would be understated. In this 2010 comedic memoir by “The Daily Show” correspondent, Bee talks about her life growing up in Canada with her divorced parents and their extremely different parenting styles.

Unsurprisingly, Bee had a series of rebellious stages–that is, after she got over her obsessive girlhood crush on Jesus Christ. I found it hard to believe that a woman whose famous persona is a total square once spent her time stealing cars and dating much older men, but it was fun imagining her doing it nonetheless.

Craziness just seemed to follow Samantha Bee, from the numerous men who flashed her to her experience working in an erectile dysfunction clinic to her cat Newton who tried to rape her head. She also attracted crazy, since she fell in love and married fellow comedian Jason Jones, also from “The Daily Show,” after they starred together in a live-action production of “Sailor Moon.” The idea that she met “The One” wearing a Japanese schoolgirl superhero costume is hilariously adorable.

Now married since 2001 with three children only four years apart, Bee and her husband balance work and family with a twisted sense of humor. I wish that she would have discussed her experiences with Jon Stewart and the rest of the “The Daily Show” cast, but alas not a peep! Hopefully, she can write a sequel of juicy career tidbits soon!

Bee’s dirtier than Tina Fey and Mindy Kaling, but not nearly as offensive as Chelsea Handler and Sarah Silverman. Her awkward, unpopular personality also reminded me of Jenny Lawson, so to sum up all the female comedic memoirs I’ve listened to so far, here’s a list from good to greatest:

So it turns out that nobody has been able to top Tina Fey, since Bossypants continues to be the funniest book that I have ever read. But we’ve got a great contender coming soon: Amy Poehler’s Yes, Please, which will be released on October 28. I can’t wait!

In the meantime, I’m welcoming more audiobook suggestions! With my long commute to and from my new job in San Francisco, I’ve got plenty of time to kill and would love some recommendations!