Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Very funny memoirs that I recommend you read right now

Recently there's been an upsurge in memoir writing. Everyone seems to be writing them these days. And as with any upsurge in trends, there're those who criticise them. In the case of memoirs, there's those who think they're pointless, self-indulgent tales of b-grade people adding little value to the lives of those reading them. Subsequently this lessens the quality and legitimacy of the memoir as a literary genre, which tends to irritate book snobs.

My main response to those views are that if you get irritated by the person whose memoir you've just picked up, then don't read it. It's really that simple. I'm aware that this goes against the title of this post, but I would seriously consider this option at risk of you spending a very angry few days fuming that you're reading a book about a person who gets up your nose. While this option does not guarantee the quality of the memoir you're going to read, it's a step in the right direction.

This is where I fortunately come in. Because I can almost guarantee that you'll be highly entertained by the below reads, particularly if you enjoy female comedy memoirs. Even if you're not entirely familiar with Kaling, Fey or Lawson's work, that doesn't really matter because all three memoirs are highly entertaining in their own right. But maybe not if any of these people make you want to rip your eyeballs out (refer to paragraph 2). In that case move on to a different post.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and other concerns), by Mindy Kaling

This was the first book I completely read on my phone as an e-book. I have a feeling Mindy would admire that, which is why I've included this information. But she would also hate that I'm drawing attention away from her memoir, so I'll respectfully stop talking about the fact that I read 487 pages on a 5cm x 10cm screen and continue with my thoughts on the book.

This memoir was laugh out loud funny on so many occasions, particularly because of Kaling's ability to squeeze in hilarious comments in the middle of her anecdotes, catching me pleasantly off-guard each and every time. And yes I realise Kaling is a comedian, and therefore you would probably expect this in a memoir that is written by her. But she does it so effortlessly and amusingly that it never got old and made me chuckle almost every time.

In amongst Kaling's hilarious quips and self-deprecating anecdotes, there's also a clear message that it's OK to be nerdy/quiet/ambitious/awkward. This may sound like a cliche message, but it's one that is so important in the ever-increasing perfection-seeking world we are living in. So kudos to you Kaling.

I promise Mindy hasn't paid me to write this review.

Bossypants, by Tina Fey 

I have one confession I must get out of the way before going on to discuss this book. And that is that I put off reading it for quite a while because the cover of it scared me. Those arms are just way too big for Tina Fey's face, and I'm still struggling to deal with that. I hate the fact that I feel this way, but I do. I hope I haven't offended anyone with big arms.

Fortunately when you read a book, you don't need to look at the cover of it all too often. Especially if it's a soft back, like this one was. Therefore I was able to conveniently fold the whole cover over itself so that I didn't have to look at it at all while reading the book. Which made for a much more pleasant reading experience.

Now that I've got that off my chest, I can continue talking about Bossypants, which was thoroughly entertaining and made me respect Tina Fey so much more than I did before reading it. Fey's memoir captures how all-encompassing working in the television industry is; how much one has to sacrifice if you're going to succeed in that industry; and how resilient you need to be to get through the crap times. But Fey shows us that it is all possible and has been worth it for her.

The book itself reads as if it's a conversation between Tina and you, except that you don't really get to talk. But if you're like me and you don't enjoy talking to people you don't know, then that suits just fine. My only qualm with Bossypants was that sometimes the passages read a bit awkwardly, but I can forgive Tina for that due to her witty funniness.

Let's Pretend This Never Happened, by Jenny Lawson

Welcome to the crazy-whacky-bonkers world of Jenny Lawson, best known for her award winning and very successful blog The Bloggess.

This was such a bizarre yet hilarious read, causing me to laugh out loud on many occasions next to strangers on trams who would shuffle uncomfortably when this happened. In fact, I don't think I've ever read a book that was so consistently funny. And what's even better is that most of the anecdotes in it are based on true stories. So the crazy/whacky/bonkers stuff written in it actually happened in real life.

Sometimes this meant that I had to take a break from the book just to give my brain some time to comprehend (and recover) from everything that it had just read. So reading the book was exhausting at times, but in a good way (kind of like exercise. And yes, if you're wondering whether I'm likening reading this book to doing an exertive workout, the answer is I sure am and you're welcome for this handy tip that is bound to keep you a lot less sweaty than what doing exercise would).

The best analogy I can come up with for reading this book is that it's like shrinking into a miniature person, crawling inside of Lawson's head, and having a crazy-ass kaleidoscopic party together with all of her fantastically erratic thoughts. Especially because Lawson's writing is so vivid and ebullient (thanks Lena Dunham); taking you on many unexpected and ludicrous tangents along the way. For example, it led me to: Googling whether raccoons wash lots (they do if they think it's food); learning about artificial cow insemination; Googling what bobcats look like; considering whether I should get a taxidermied animal as a household decoration; and being almost convinced that a zombie apocalypse could happen.

Yet subtly woven through Lawson's outrageous story is also the message that no matter how different you or your family are, that's ok, because you don't have to fit in. In fact, being different is fabulously glorified in this book. This, along with everything else I've just mentioned, makes it a bloody good book.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Review: Not That Kind of Girl, by Lena Dunham

I'm feeling a bit conflicted about this book. Because I divulged it in 2.5 days. I devoured it like a kid who really likes cake eats cake, except I’m a young adult and the book was only visually consumed. I would have read it quicker except that I had other commitments to attend to, such as work, sleeping and eating. All of this would lead you to think that it's a bloody good book.

At the same time I was left slightly underwhelmed by the end of it. This, I want to clarify, had nothing to do with some of the absurd criticisms the book has received in recent weeks which are deliberately inflammatory and have taken Dunham's comments in her book completely out of context*. I read the book before any of them were made. It's just that it didn't completely kick goals for me.

Not That Kind of Girl is a memoir written by Lena Dunham, the 28 year old writer, director, screenwriter, producer, actress and feminist who has taken the United States by storm. Recently Dunham is most known for writing, directing, producing and acting in the HBO series Girls. Dunham, as well as her work, often polarises people, but I like that about someone - it's generally these people who make you really consider and evaluate where you stand on certain issues due to their lack of conventionality. This book is no exception, as I have alluded to already.

The personal essays in it range from Dunham's love life, to her rejection of school from a young age, to her transition to college and the harsh (and disappointing) realisation that life doesn't really get that much clearer as you get older. Dunham’s writing is so lively and so addictive that you just feel like you’re having a very entertaining one-way conversation with her. I was also particularly impressed with her use of vocabulary, which may sound strange, but I learnt some very neat new words which I had to Google and have included in the image here >>.

At times Dunham's reflections did have the sort of depth I was hoping for as well. Like what it's like to publicly share her body (which, on many occasions, is nude) with millions of others; living with high levels of anxiety; and how to 'play along' and be taken seriously in Hollywood without compromising your values. Then there is Dunham's account of being taken advantage of sexually and the awful confusion and disgust that follows. While I'm not an expert on commenting on such horrific experiences, I do think it's brave of Dunham to give a voice to them.

So then, what more was I after? For me, the book still lacked an element of depth I was hoping to get from it, and perhaps that's due to my own misaligned expectations. Yes, it did reveal lots about Dunham, which you would naturally expect from a memoir. But I think I was hoping for more broader feminist issues to be discussed in more detail in Not That Kind of Girl, particularly for someone with the sorts of experiences Dunham has had as a young woman in Hollywood. But maybe it's unfair of me to have put so much pressure on this book. Who knows?

All in all Not That Kind of Girl is still a book I would recommend fans of Dunham to read, particularly if you enjoy Girls and the character of Hannah Horvath, who Dunham plays in it. It's a funny, unapologetic and perceptive read, and offers a great insight into navigating the confusing world that Dunham's lived in.

And if you're wondering whether Anastacia's 2000 smash hit Not That Kind of Girl got stuck in my head each time I thought of this book, my answer is that yes, yes it did. I've been generous enough to include the song below so that you too can make the same association with it and enjoy the glory of the song while you're thinking of Dunham's book. I hope that neither Lena or Anastacia mind.

*I haven't included the link to the comments because I don't want to bias your reading of the book.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

It's my birthday and I'll eat book-themed cakes if I want to

To celebrate the fact that Julia Blogs Books has lasted one whole year, and to help you work out which cake you should make me to celebrate, I've compiled a collection of flippin' awesome book-themed cakes. I've also provided suggestions as to the category the cakes fall into in case that helps you decide which one to choose. You're welcome.

1.  The cute-as-a-button cakes

I love these because they combine some of my favourite things into one edible delight - cupcakes shaped like teacups with a book on top. Just to clarify, I don't actually drink tea with cream and miniature books on top - I'm lactose intolerant. Also, actual miniature books would probably break my teeth. So if you select these, I would like the edible variety on top thanks. With lactose-free cream.

2. The I-could-totally-imagine-sitting-down-to-a-fancy-cup-of-tea-with-this-book-themed-cake cake

So classy, so chic. As the name suggests, this cake should also be served with tea in a fancy china teacup. As well as lace doilies on the table to complete the picture. Although I will definitely get crumbs (and possibly splashes of fancy tea) over the doilies so I do apologise for the mess in advance. I'm sure you'll understand.

3. The book-themed cakes for indecisive people

Remember how I've said that some books are so good that I just want to eat them? Well, it looks like this is the perfect alternative, especially for an indecisive person like me. 

4. The prankster cake

If this cake was given to me I would walk right up to it and to try pick up the book I was most interested in - probably Jane Eyre because I still haven't read it. I know, I can't believe I just admitted I haven't read Jane Eyre yet either, but it's true. Please stop judging me. Anyway, after attempting to pick up the faux book, I would end up with cake all over my hands and you would be angry with me because I'd have just ruined all of your hard work and there'd be a big chunk of cake missing and I probably won't have washed my hands so no one else would want to eat it. So perhaps this isn't the book-themed cake you should organise for me. Though I'd still be grateful if you did.

5. The nostalgic cake

This cake just makes me so happy.

6. The how-do-people-even-come-up-with-these-ideas cake

This is pretty freakin cool. Especially if the desk and lamps are edible too - shotgun those.

7. The ok-I-get-it-you-can-make-a-really-fancy-cake cake

The creme de la creme of book-themed cakes - it's ridiculously impressive, right? I'd be so chuffed if you thought I was worthy of receiving this cake that I'd feel eternally indebted to you. But that's not a feeling I'm entirely comfortable with, so perhaps we could avoid it altogether by you just choosing a less fancy cake to begin with you show off.

8. The failed attempt

Ok but I didn't mean for you to get me a cake so unimpressive that it's the laughing stock of all book-themed cakes. That's not very nice. But I give you points for trying. Only just. 

9. The I'm-pretty-sure-this-isn't-book-themed-but-maybe-it-is-so-I'll-give-it-the-benefit-of-the-doubt cake

This image came up when I was searching for book-themed cakes. I really want to work out what relevance it has to book-themed cakes because there has to have been one for it to show up in the search. Especially because no other cooked turkey pictures came up. All I've got at the moment is that perhaps it's based on a book about a turkey. A turkey who tries to escape his impending death by rounding up all the other farm animals and sabotaging their slaughter but isn't successful and ends up on his ranch's family dinner table that night - kind of like Babe but with a bad ending. What a depressing book; what sicko would want to immortalise that through cake? Nevertheless if that is the story it is commemorating, I feel conflicted about whether or not I would eat it since I am vegetarian, but if it was actually cake inside then I think I would. On the other hand, if it would just be a ploy to trick me into eating meat then I would be very unhappy and disappointed with you, you sick sick person.

Read more: http://bloggerknown.blogspot.com/2013/02/changing-blog-page-by-page-number.html#ixzz2mUXnF3wj