(Bonus) Book Review: Hyperbole and a Half

Image via Goodreads

Rating: 4 out of 5

I’m calling this book review a “bonus,” because I’m a weird book blogger who has specific rules when it comes to counting a book toward my reading quota. Currently, I’m half-way through with my 20th and last book of 2014: Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld. However, technically I have read more than 20 books this year.

As I’ve noted on the “Books I’ve Read” page, I only list novels, novellas, memoirs, and short story collections. I don’t include individual short stories, poetry, or graphic novels because their text is so bite-size that it’s feels like cheating to count them.A whole book of an author’s short stories? Sure! One short story? Come on.

I also don’t review most non-fiction genres, such as academic texts, self-help, and any of the numerous guides to cooking, crafting, health/fitness, and travel. It just doesn’t make sense to uphold these books to the same standards I follow to review fiction, because I read non-fiction for the purposes of education, not entertainment.

The only genre that blurs the line between fiction and non-fiction is memoir, which I do review, because most that I read are written by comedians. It’s safe to assume that their anecdotes have been dramatized for our amusement. It seems conventional in the book blogosphere to make exceptions for these stories.

My point is that sometimes I read something that I don’t consider official, but I find it interesting enough to share it. Case in point: Allie Brosh’s 2013 graphic novel, Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things that Happened.

I have had this book on my TBR list ever since it was published, as it’s one of the top books recommended to me. I first fell in love with Brosh after discovering her comic on the misspelled word “alot:”

“I CARE ABOUT THIS ALOT”

You’ll also recognize her work from the oh-so-popular “ALL THE THINGS!” meme:

Go big or go home!

Her childish illustrations combined with her insightful introspections make for hilarious stories. Just take a look at what awaits you in Hyperbole and a Half, the book which highlights her best work from her blog of the same name:

This is a book I wrote. Because I wrote it, I had to figure out what to put on the back cover to explain what it is. I tried to write a long, third-person summary that would imply how great the book is and also sound vaguely authoritative–like maybe someone who isn’t me wrote it–but I soon discovered that I’m not sneaky enough to pull it off convincingly. So I decided to just make a list of things that are in the book:

Pictures
Words
Stories about things that happened to me
Stories about things that happened to other people because of me
Eight billion dollars*
Stories about dogs
The secret to eternal happiness*

*These are lies. Perhaps I have underestimated my sneakiness!

If that blurb doesn’t convince you to read this book, I don’t know what will!

Pictures, words, margins, and possibly even page numbers?! Sign me up!

Brosh discusses her childhood obsession with cake, her deranged dog, and her addiction to procrastination with an abnormally heightened sense of self-awareness, which can either be extremely funny or uncomfortably painful, and oftentimes a bit of both.

Throughout her life, she has been plagued with anxiety and depression, and she reveals her struggles with finesse. Even if you haven’t experienced suicidal thoughts like she has, you find yourself relating to her, forming this bond of solidarity. Everyone has felt sad, lonely, and hopeless at times, and regardless of the severity of those feelings, Brosh becomes your spirit animal, the girl who just ‘gets it.’

So don’t be fooled by her crude drawings. Brosh’s ability to express deep and often disturbing emotions through her art is what makes this book so special. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll do both after discovering a tiny piece of corn underneath the refrigerator.

“Corn + floor = cloorn?”

Favorite Quote: “On a fundamental level, I am someone who would throw sand at children. I know this because I have had to resist doing it, and that means that it’s what I would naturally be doing if I wasn’t resisting it.”

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Audiobook Review: Yes Please

Image via Goodreads

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: 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!

Audiobook Review: The Bedwetter

Rating: 3 out of 5

As it was pointed out to me recently, I’m suffering from a so-called “First World Problem:” I’m running out of female comedians with audiobooks to listen to! After Tina Fey, Mindy Kaling, and Chelsea Handler, I gave Sarah Silverman a shot with her 2010 memoir The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee.

I knew that Silverman was a vulgar comic from watching her roasts and viral videos like “I’m F***ing Matt Damon,” but I knew nothing about her personal journey.

So it was interesting to learn that she suffered from chronic depression, anxiety, and bedwetting until she was 16 years old. Because of her mental illnesses, she has even chosen to not pass down her genes and reproduce.

The book definitely gave me a newfound respect for Silverman. I empathized with her stories of childhood bullying, and shared in her success in capitalizing on feeling like an outsider. Let’s just say I hope that there are loads of people kicking themselves for mistreating this dark-haired Jewish girl turned celebrity!

Silverman has a knack for turning dark moments into comedic gold. She manages to make tough subjects like race and religion hilarious, as you can see in these gems:

“Some people need Hell. If you’re the type of guy who sees a hooker in an alleyway and instinctively thinks, “Hey, now there’s something I could rape and kill without any consequences,” then the concept of Hell might really keep you out of trouble.”

“I’m sympathetic to the nuns’ violent impulses. I mean, if I’d given up sex to devote myself to a man who I had to just trust loved me, despite never being physically around to prove it, I’d probably be smacking little children too.” 

 

Is The Bedwetter on the same level as Bossypants? Not by a long shot, but it is funny. The main downside I had with the book was its structure. The first half was fine, with linear chapters chronicling life from before she was born to her dropping out after one year in college to focus on stand-up.

However, after her ‘mid-word,’ it’s apparent that editing got a bit lax. The chapters jumped around from her various PR scandals over her many controversial jokes to her thoughts on her Jewish identity. She wrapped it up well in the afterword (written tongue-in-cheek from the perspective of God after Silverman’s future death), but I just wish that the second half had a better flow.

And like Chelsea Handler, Sarah Silverman is an acquired taste. Not everyone will enjoy her profanity and crudeness, but I hope that people can recognize the importance of free speech in comedy. You may not like her graphic descriptions of female sexuality, but I’m glad that she fights for equal opportunity vulgarity. Female comedians are constantly criticized for not acting ‘ladylike,’ and I applaud Silverman for refusing to silence her voice and follow traditional gender roles.

So while I would recommend The Bedwetter and was happy that Silverman narrated the audiobook, perhaps the narrative might make better sense in print. As for my next audio pick, I’m leaning toward I Know I Am, But What Are You? by Samantha Bee from the “The Daily Show.”

If you’ve got other audiobook suggestions, let me know!

Audiobook Review: My Horizontal Life

Rating: 4 out of 5

After listening to Jenny Lawson’s hilarious Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, I wanted to keep up the laughs. Each audiobook that I’ve purchased since I started spicing up my road trips has been written by a female comedian, so of course I had to follow this new tradition of mine.

This time I returned to a familiar author, Chelsea Handler. I enjoyed Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea (2007), and I knew it was only a matter of time before I picked up My Horizontal Life: A Collection of One-Night Stands (2005).

My Horizontal Life was Handler’s first memoir, published when she was 30 years old. As the title suggests, it’s a compilation of her craziest trysts during her teens and 20s. Her partners include a Vegas stripper and a little person working as a waiter in a cantina.

She also shares stories about her relatives: her German mother, Jewish father, Mormon sister, and four other older siblings. As the baby of her eclectic, opinionated family, it’s no surprise that she had a dubious dating life–if only to gain some much-needed attention.

I think that the book’s subject matter is self-explanatory, but I’ll mention this anyway: Chelsea Handler is not for the faint of heart. She’s crude, outrageous, and often politically incorrect. Her stories involve heavy drinking and drug use, which are often catalysts to her sexual escapades.

She can also be extremely self-absorbed and hedonistic. Her lovers are usually chosen on good looks alone, and are tossed aside quickly when they don’t meet her superficial standards.

But you know what? Who cares! These anecdotes would never have formed if she had stuck to the straight and narrow, and I applaud her for turning her rendezvous into a successful career in comedy.

I have to laugh at all the prudish pearl-clutchers who reviewed this book poorly. What did they expect? It’s not like they intended to buy a book written by the Duggar family, and this one jumped into their tote bag by mistake. Puh-lease.

So yes, if you bought a book about one-night stands and then got upset because it was too vulgar, then you’re as naive as Chelsea’s old roommate “Dumb Dumb.”

I’m not saying that Handler is the most feminist or sex-positive person, but I respect her for living it up in her youth and not settling down with a husband and kids just because everyone else thinks that’s what you should do. As long as everything’s safe and consensual, it doesn’t matter who or how many.

You do you, Chelsea. Grab another Ketel One and keep on having a blast!

Audiobook Review: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened

Image via Book Cover Gallery

Rating: 4 out of 5

I know that I’m totally late for the bandwagon, but better late than never, right?

Two years ago I listened to memoirs narrated by three female comedians: Bossypants by Tina Fey, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling, and Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea by Chelsea Handler.

Aghast at the realization that 2013 was void of road-trip hysterics, I purchased Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, narrated by Jenny Lawson herself, a.k.a The Bloggess. Lawson is famous for her wacky ramblings, and her “mostly true memoir” highlights her most hilarious stories.

I admit that I knew nothing about Lawson when I started this book–only that its cover of a mouse dressed up as Hamlet had intrigued me since its publication. I learned that she was raised in rural Wall, Texas. Her father was a taxidermist with a penchant for traumatizing Jenny and her sister with dead animals (hence the cover).

And there’s more where that came from on TheBloggess.com!

She takes all the insanity in her life with stride, however, as well as a kick-ass sense of humor:

“I sometimes wonder what it would have been like to have a childhood that was not like mine. I have no real frame of reference, but when I question strangers I’ve found that their childhood generally had much less blood in it, and also that strangers seem uncomfortable when you question them about their childhood. But really, what else are you going to talk about in line at the liquor store? Childhood trauma seems like the natural choice, since it’s the reason why most of us are in line there to begin with.”

To get a sense of what kind of book this is, here’s a small sampling of topics: cow vaginas, vampire cougars, cat rapists, and a big metal chicken named Beyonce. Lawson’s tales seem so far-fetched, she admits that many of her closest friends can’t tell fact from fiction.

But what is true is the sadness that often takes root in her stories. Lawson suffers from depression, anxiety, OCD, and rheumatoid arthritis. She also experienced multiple miscarriages before the birth of her daughter Hailey.

“In short? It is exhausting being me. Pretending to be normal is draining and requires amazing amounts of energy and Xanax.”

I applaud Lawson for being so forthcoming about her mental illnesses, and for finding the slapstick silver lining. She managed to make a successful career out of her craziness, and I mean that in the best way possible.

Any blogger would kill to have Lawson’s self-deprecating style and witty way with words. I hope she knows that after a lifetime of dreading social situations, she’s now the cool girl on campus with many fans, who after reading her writing, would love to be her friends.

TheBloggess.com: Where creepy meets cute!

So whether life’s getting you down or you just want to hear some kooky stories, I highly recommend Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. You will literally LOL, I promise!

“Because you are defined not by life’s imperfect moments, but by your reaction to them. And because there is joy in embracing – rather than running from – the utter absurdity of life.” 

Movie Review: Some Like It Hot

Rating: 4 out of 5

If you guessed my birthday, you would be correct! I’m officially 24, transitioning from my “Screwing up is encouraged” early twenties to “Maybe we should get it together?” mid twenties.

And while I don’t always feel like a full-fledged adult–given that I ate pizza for breakfast today and am still on my family’s cell phone plan–I also don’t think that milking my metabolism and rollover minutes is the end of the world.

I mean, it’s days like my birthday where I’m actually proud of myself. I’ve got a Master’s degree and a great job, with enough money to save, invest, and pay my crazy expensive rent and student loan.

I’ve also got a loving family and fantastic friends who threw me an Old Hollywood-themed birthday party! We made martinis and margaritas, stuffed ourselves with Chinese food, and played fun games.

Did your bday party have a "Wuthering Heights" guestbook?

Did your bday party have a “Wuthering Heights” guestbook?

We also watched Billy Wilder’s “Some Like It Hot” (1959). This film is set in 1929 and stars Marilyn Monroe as Sugar “Kane” Kowalczyk, a young woman in a female band called “Sweet Sue and her Society Syncopators,” which is headed to Miami.

Actors Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon play Joe and Jerry respectively, two Chicago musicians on the run after they accidentally witness the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre. To escape the mob, they dress up as Josephine and Daphne and board the Syncopators’ train.

Image via The Guardian

Of course, with Monroe being the blonde bombshell that she is, both men compete for her affections–which is difficult and hilarious while they’re dressed as women. I won’t give anything away, but it’s definitely a fun flick to watch with your girlfriends.

I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised with “Some Like It Hot.” I’ve never been one to glorify Monroe, but I had read and seen “My Week with Marilyn.” I’ve also decided to watch more classic films, but have been mostly disappointed so far. I guess I’ll just to have to accept that I don’t understand what all the fuss is about over Audrey Hepburn. So while I may not want my breakfast at Tiffany’s, “Some Like It Hot” was full of crazy antics and funny one-liners.

And if you’re wondering why a book blogger is writing a review of this film, then check out my last post where I reviewed “Nerds Like It Hot” by Vicki Lewis Thompson. In the book, Thompson alters the plot: Instead of the male leads running from the Mafia, it’s the female protagonist with the hit on her. And to further her disguise, she puts on a blonde wig and dresses up as Marilyn herself.

On its own, “Nerds Like It Hot” wasn’t the best read from Thompson, but I appreciated this movie even more because it was fun to compare the two stories. This was the first film I watched of Marilyn, not just about her, and I’m glad that I did. I’d love to hear what you think of the actress–and would appreciate more classic movie recommendations to add to my list!

Lastly, thanks to everyone who’s been following this blog. It’s been a blast being Book Club Babe, and I hope to continue doing so for many more birthdays!