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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Book Review: Texts from Jane Eyre

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Rating: 4 out of 5

Ever since this book was published in November, I have been itching to get my hands on it, and after procrastinating on my purchase, I finally broke down and bought it this month. Was $14 worth what was essentially only a couple hours of reading? That’s certainly debatable, but you love book humor, you’ll probably find the money you spend worthwhile.

Author Mallory Ortberg is the co-creator of comedy site The Toast, and presents Texts from Jane Eyre as a collection of text conversations between literary characters of popular novels. She includes everything from classics like Moby Dick and Odyssey to bestselling YA like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games.

Want a sneak peek of the fun that awaits you? Here’s an example:

Image via The Huffington Post

Reading these will make you think that literary texts are such a perfect parody and wonder why no one else has seen this kind of success writing them. There’s something so hilarious about imagining Hamlet as an angsty teenager or Daisy Buchanan as that ditz who is always trying to bum rides off you. I definitely had many moments internally screaming, “This is priceless! Why didn’t I write this book?!?!” while waving goodbye to all that cold, hard cash I could have made.

So open your wallet and wave goodbye to your own cold, hard cash, because Texts From Jane Eyre is a bookworm’s wonderland. You’ll laugh out loud and want to text photos of the pages to all your friends. It will make a great book for your coffee table or to gift to your favorite English teacher. If I had to give stocking stuffers to all of you fellow book bloggers out there, this is exactly what I’d give you!

Let’s open the discussion: If you could snoop through the smartphones of fictional characters, whose texts would you be most interested in reading? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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?

(Bonus) Book Review: Hyperbole and a Half

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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.”

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!

The Top 25 Things Books Have Taught Me

Hi everyone! I’m back from vacation for a very special blog post. Today I’m officially a quarter century old, so to celebrate my 25th birthday, I’ve created my first vlog!

In this video, expertly shot and edited by my brother Nick Jarrett (check out his portfolio at nickjarrett.com), I discuss the top 25 things books have taught me. If you’re familiar with YouTube diva Jenna Marbles, you’ll find the theme similar to her viral videos of what hip hop and Disney movies have taught her.

I poke fun at everything from popular YA books to dystopian classics to Ancient Greek epics. Make sure to watch until the end for some funny bloopers!

I hope you all enjoy this vlog, because blogging at Book Club Babe has made my life so much more fulfilling and I appreciate all of your support. Here’s to the next 25 years!

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!