BOOK REVIEW: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

19501Title: Eat, Pray, Love

Author: Elizabeth Gilbert

Book Length (Audiobook): 15 hours 8 mins

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, Autobiography, Memoir, Travel

Read Start Date: September 9, 2017

Read Finish Date: September 17, 2017

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: A celebrated writer’s irresistible, candid, and eloquent account of her pursuit of worldly pleasure, spiritual devotion, and what she really wanted out of life.

Around the time Elizabeth Gilbert turned thirty, she went through an early-onslaught midlife crisis. She had everything an educated, ambitious American woman was supposed to want—a husband, a house, a successful career. But instead of feeling happy and fulfilled, she was consumed with panic, grief, and confusion. She went through a divorce, a crushing depression, another failed love, and the eradication of everything she ever thought she was supposed to be.

To recover from all this, Gilbert took a radical step. In order to give herself the time and space to find out who she really was and what she really wanted, she got rid of her belongings, quit her job, and undertook a yearlong journey around the world—all alone. Eat, Pray, Love is the absorbing chronicle of that year. Her aim was to visit three places where she could examine one aspect of her own nature set against the backdrop of a culture that has traditionally done that one thing very well. In Rome, she studied the art of pleasure, learning to speak Italian and gaining the twenty-three happiest pounds of her life. India was for the art of devotion, and with the help of a native guru and a surprisingly wise cowboy from Texas, she embarked on four uninterrupted months of spiritual exploration. In Bali, she studied the art of balance between worldly enjoyment and divine transcendence. She became the pupil of an elderly medicine man and also fell in love the best way—unexpectedly.

An intensely articulate and moving memoir of self-discovery, Eat, Pray, Love is about what can happen when you claim responsibility for your own contentment and stop trying to live in imitation of society’s ideals. It is certain to touch anyone who has ever woken up to the unrelenting need for change.

My Review: Despite the good sounding synopsis above, this book was simply terrible. People rave about this book like it’s the best thing since sliced bread….well not this girl. This book was soooo painful to get through. How did this book receive such good reviews? How is this a movie? This book is a slap in the face to women everywhere. Is this book what people think of women?? I surely hope not.

Basically, this book is about Gilbert’s staged (and pre-paid!) introspective journey to Italy, India and Indonesia. This essentially was just one big marketing ploy. Her editor was like, Hey, Elizabeth, you know what would be a great idea for a book, and would make you a lot of money and increase your “brand”? Why don’t we give you an advance, and pay you to travel around the world, and then you can write about your experiences?

Gilbert’s introspective journey ended up just sounding trite and super whiney. Gilbert, a wealthy writer decides to take a year “off” to travel to Italy (because she likes how the language sounded — really, I’m not kidding — that’s what she said), India ( to go to an ashram) and Indonesia (because a medicine man told her that she will (WTF? Self-fulfilling prophecy much?)) Anyway, even though this book was supposed to be inspiring or something, instead this whole book is about her whining about how hard her divorce was (even though she refuses to say why her divorce was so hard) and that at 34 she must go find herself. I mean, she got a paid year of traveling — boo hoo! Your life is so hard Gilbert. A lot of women have hard lives, but you don’t see us crying about it while enjoying Italy, India, and Indonesia. Try feeling grateful for once in your pampered life.

Throughout the book, Gilbert honestly sounds like a selfish spoiled brat who has major personal issues that she clearly did not solve during the book, even though she’d like to pretend she did. Ugh.

I did not like this book and never saw the movie.

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: I’ll Be OK, It’s Just a Hole in My Head by Mimi Hayes

41032261Title: I’ll Be OK, It’s Just a Hole in My Head

Author: Mimi Hayes

Book Length: 280 pages

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Autobiography, Memoir, Nonfiction

Read Start Date: May 8, 2019

Read Finish Date: May 31, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: I’ll be OK, it’s Just a Hole in My Head: A Memoir on Heartache and Head Injury is a humorous and thoughtful cross between Jill Bolte Taylor’s My Stroke of Insight and Jenny Lawson’s Furiously Happy. Shocking and funny, Hayes’ memoir shares the true story of a sudden brain hemorrhage at the age of twenty-two – and the heartache and strength that it took to overcome it. At first Hayes uses a blanket of comedy to cloak herself from her new reality—after all, sending out funny tweets is far easier than admitting to the world that she’s lost basic motor functions like walking and talking. Humbled by the pain, she must admit to herself that that she is no longer the carefree, 20-something planning to marry her high school sweetheart. With this realization, a brave young woman forces herself to confront her new normal—and to quit cracking jokes about catheters.

My Review: I got this book as an ARC from Netgalley. Honestly, I chose to read it as much for the description as the fact that the cover had pretty colors. I wasn’t expecting too much (I’ve read some pretty terrible memoirs on Netgalley recently), and was therefore pleasantly surprised to find that this book rocked! The author, even though she went through a horrendous experience, was funny, and talked about her experience with aplomb.

For example, after her bad breakup with her long term boyfriend, James, she goes out on another date. Hayes writes “our first kiss happened on the second date. We continued to walk around parks and drink coffee, which gave me plenty of opportunity to make a fool of myself. I wore heels on one date and had to take them off because my feet hurt so badly. But what did I say to explain this behavior? ‘Sorry, I need to air out my fee.'” — Ouch (and I am not only talking about feet).

Other times Hayes let us know exactly what she was thinking, and she didn’t let a little thing like being on the toilet stop her! “About eight o’clock that night, I went to the bathroom to sit on the toilet and think about my life choices. And also to take a poop, as one does.” She writes that in these moments, when she had time to contemplate and to think about her life, she was scared. She “had a google-able disease”, and she writes, “this time I could be dying. On a toilet. My last moments could be spent going poop. I was embarrassed. And I was really, really scared. I’d just found out I’d be having brain surgery on Friday. What if my brain and I didn’t have a second date? Was I going to die then? Or what if I die now, three days from the finish line and shitting on this toilet?”

Putting being on the toilet aside, I cannot imagine how scary having a brain tumor must be.

Hayes was brave. Super brave. And I think she was even more brave for having written this story about her experience afterward, and deciding to publish it for people like me to read.

If you decide to give this book a try, you will not regret it.

10 Book Reviews

Professional Reader

 

 

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

BOOK REVIEW: The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish

34974310Title: The Last Black Unicorn

Author: Tiffany Haddish

Book Length (Audiobook): 6 hours 29 mins

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, Autobiography, Essays, Humor

Read Start Date: April 8, 2019

Read Finish Date: April 10, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: From stand-up comedian, actress, and breakout star of Girls Trip, Tiffany Haddish, comes The Last Black Unicorn, a sidesplitting, hysterical, edgy, and unflinching collection of (extremely) personal essays, as fearless as the author herself.

Growing up in one of the poorest neighborhoods of South Central Los Angeles, Tiffany learned to survive by making people laugh. If she could do that, then her classmates would let her copy their homework, the other foster kids she lived with wouldn’t beat her up, and she might even get a boyfriend. Or at least she could make enough money—as the paid school mascot and in-demand Bar Mitzvah hype woman—to get her hair and nails done, so then she might get a boyfriend.

None of that worked (and she’s still single), but it allowed Tiffany to imagine a place for herself where she could do something she loved for a living: comedy.

Tiffany can’t avoid being funny—it’s just who she is, whether she’s plotting shocking, jaw-dropping revenge on an ex-boyfriend or learning how to handle her newfound fame despite still having a broke person’s mind-set. Finally poised to become a household name, she recounts with heart and humor how she came from nothing and nowhere to achieve her dreams by owning, sharing, and using her pain to heal others.

By turns hilarious, filthy, and brutally honest, The Last Black Unicorn shows the world who Tiffany Haddish really is—humble, grateful, down-to-earth, and funny as hell. And now, she’s ready to inspire others through the power of laughter.

My Review: I had never heard of Tiffany Haddish before reading this book. I am giving it 5 out of 5 stars because I actually laughed out loud when I was reading this book — and that rarely happens, even when the book is supposed to be funny. This book is not only freaking hilarious, but Haddish reveals the good, the bad, and the ugly of her life in a surprisingly intimate fashion. From being called a dirty unicorn when she was a child (because she had an ugly wart on her forehead which looked like a horn), to sexism in the work place (comedy is still predominately men), and lastly to an abusive relationship with her twice ex-husband (she married and divorced him two times) Haddish reveals in poignant (and hilarious) essays how and why she is the person she is today. Where most people would have crawled into a hole and died, Haddish turned her pain into comedy and realized her dreams. I can’t help but to salute her for her triumph in the face of so many odds against her.

The Audiobook Recording: The audiobook is read by Haddish herself, which added tremendously to the book. Not only are the words themselves funny, but the way she tells the story makes it even funnier. Even when the subject matter is not really funny (like the parts about her abusive ex-husband) Haddish finds how to present it in a humorous way to get passed the uncomfortable part and get to the story. I think people in general do not want to hear about negative subjects like poverty, abuse, etc — but if you frame it in funny terms, people actually listen.

I would definitely recommend this book to everyone!

BOOK REVIEW: A Serial Killer’s Daughter by Kerri Rawson

38915935Title: A Serial Killer’s Daughter

Author: Kerri Rawson

Book Length (Kindle): 3437 Loc (336 pages)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, Crime, True Crime, Autobiography, Memoir

Read Start Date: March 24, 2019

Read Finish Date: April 8, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: “In 2005, Kerri Rawson heard a knock on the door of her apartment. When she opened it, an FBI agent informed her that her father had been arrested for murdering ten people, including two children. It was then that she learned her father was the notorious serial killer known as BTK, a name he’d given himself that described the horrific way he committed his crimes: bind, torture, kill. As news of his capture spread, Wichita celebrated the end of a thirty-one-year nightmare.

For Kerri Rawson, another was just beginning. She was plunged into a black hole of horror and disbelief. The same man who had been a loving father, a devoted husband, church president, Boy Scout leader, and a public servant had been using their family as a cover for his heinous crimes since before she was born. Everything she had believed about her life had been a lie”.

My ReviewWhat I liked. What drew me initially to this book was the fact that the author was the daughter of a notorious serial killer, BTK, i.e., Denis Rader. Having read multiple true crime books in the past, I was interested to get a perspective from someone unique to her situation. Usually true crime books are written by third parties who have done extensive research on the crimes and the killer. In A Serial Killer’s Daughter, we not only get to read about the crimes, but we also get to experience the “behind the scenes” look at the killer himself. Family man or monster? Average guy or sadist? Through out the book Rawson struggles to reconcile these two images of her father — yet Rawson admits that her father was volitale, sometimes erupting into anger and violence without much provocation.

One of the things that stuck with me was Rawson’s description of the BTK killer weeping over his father’s death bed. Rawson’s mother said, “I don’t think your dad had ever sat beside someone who died before.” Little did she know… I have to wonder, what is the psychology of a man who can cry over the death of his own father, but then take the lives of 10 people without empathy or remorse? It is truly chilling. So was Rawson’s visceral need to love and/or forgive her father — to somehow separate the man she knew from the deeds he had done — as though they were 2 different people.

“I missed my father. That was one of the first times I’d admitted that. Was it okay to admit I missed a serial killer? That I loved one? I didn’t miss a serial killer, didn’t love one–I missed my dad. I loved my dad….It was always going to be that simple and that hard.”

What I didn’t like. I would have given this book 4 stars rather than 3 had it not been for all of the religious aspects. I understand that Kerri Rawson is a religious person, and it is obvious that religion is important in her life, but she basically wrote in stream of consciousness /  internal dialogue. For example:

“I spoke of God’s unending ability to forgive–to love. But I was stubbornly holding out on doing it myself. I didn’t know if I could forgive my dad. ‘God? Are you asking me to forgive him or to write him also–let him back into my life? I don’t know if I can–I don’t know if I can trust him.’ ‘You can trust me–I’m your father too.’ ‘But my father hurt me.’ ‘Yes. Remember Joseph?’

And

“I spent the next several weeks stuck on the couch, stewing over my latest predicament, bawling in pain as I tried to keep my toddler son out of trouble, and wrestling with God. Quiet, peaceful, easy, little life, God. Remember? But God lets nothing go to waste. We need to work on your forgiveness problem–we’ve got nothing but time. I don’t wanna God. Do it anyway.”

Aside from the distraction of reading someone’s internal dialogue, I am not a religious person, so the God references, which happened A LOT, were super annoying. I just don’t understand how the portion in italics above helped to move the story along? This is a book, not a diary, afterall.

Professional Reader

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: Becoming by Michelle Obama

38746485Title: Becoming

Author: Michelle Obama

Book Length (Audiobook): 19 hours 10 mins

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Links: Goodreads and Amazon

Genre: Nonfiction, Autobiography, Memoir

Read Start Date: January 19, 2019

Read Finish Date: January 27, 2019

The Audiobook of Becoming is read by the author, Michelle Obama. This is really fantastic because its like the author herself is talking directly to you about her own story. On the list of memoirs I have read so far this year, (Educated, The Year of Less, and Girl Wash Your Face), this book ranks toward the top.

The book is very well written and M. Obama writes with the openness and frankness that is the foundation of every good memoir. From fertility issues to the white house, M. Obama seems to hold nothing back.

As the Goodreads synopsis (link above) puts it, “In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same.”

I couldn’t have said it better. This is a must read for 2019. I have some spoilers in the rest of the review, so feel free not to read on.

Continue reading “BOOK REVIEW: Becoming by Michelle Obama”

BOOK REVIEW: Educated by Tara Westover

35133922Title: Educated

Author: Tara Westover

Book Length (Audiobook): 12 hours 10 mins

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir, Autobiography

Read Start Date: January 9, 2019

Read Finish Date: January 14, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her “head-for-the-hills bag”. In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father’s junkyard.

Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent.

Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to educate herself. She taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University, where she studied history, learning for the first time about important world events like the Holocaust and the civil rights movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.

Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty and of the grief that comes with severing the closest of ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one’s life through new eyes and the will to change it.

My Review: I really liked this book, as disturbing as it was. I would go further to say that this is a must-read for 2019. The writing is great, and it reads truly like fiction, even though, alarmingly, it is not. I read (listened) to this book in only a few days, as it is honestly hard to put down. Educated is the true story of the author’s childhood growing up in a fundamentalist Mormon family in rural Idaho. It is a revealing story, which looks into the hard truth of Westover’s upbringing, and the author’s portrayal of her family and herself is at times scathing and highly critical.

The story parallels the fiction book The Great Alone in so many ways. In both stories, the protagonist grows up in the shadow of her overbearing, paranoid father. Westover’s mother is, like I imagine most women are in abusive relationships, meek and diminutive, bending to the whims of her husband, no matter how ridiculous or crazy. This is also true in the The Great Alone. Both fathers suffer from some form of mental illness, in The Great Alone it is PTSD, and in Educated, the author’s father is (undiagnosed) bipolar. Being conservative / fundamentalist mormon adds another layer to the complications of living with such a man, as Westover’s father becomes a prophet of sorts for his harshly conservative brand of Mormonism. His “testimonies” are the bedrock of the family ethos and are not to be questioned.

I have some spoilers below, so read on with caution.

Continue reading “BOOK REVIEW: Educated by Tara Westover”

BOOK REVIEW: Sugar: My Life as a Sugar Babe by Monique X

40667863Title: Sugar: My Life as a Sugar Babe

Author: Monique X

Book Length: 328 pages

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, Erotica, Autobiography, Memoir, Romance

Read Start Date: October 28, 2018

Read Finish Date: November 5, 2018

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: After her divorce, Monique decides to inject some fun into the drudgery of life as a single mother, by dating a wealthy older gentleman, which is known as ‘sugar daddy’ dating. It all starts quite innocently, but when Monique finds a thousand pounds in her wallet after one night of hot, steamy sex, she realises that sugar dating could be her way to survive as a single mother.

Soon life is a whirlwind of wealthy men, luxury hotels and glamorous experiences. She goes skydiving in Dubai and flies to Paris, Barcelona, Vienna, Milan, Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong. Thanks to her sugar daddies Monique can take care of her children, she gets a new sense of independence, discovers her sexual drive, and experiments with a whole new range of sexual fantasies.

But when she loses her job and her ex-husband stops paying alimony, she is prepared to do anything to safeguard her children and keep a roof over their heads. Money becomes her main focus and she starts living on the periphery of the escort world. Now she realises the truth: she needs to find a way out.

My Review: I received an advance copy of this book via Netgalley.  As with all books that I read, I went to Goodreads to mark that I was “currently reading” the book.

However, the cover of “Sugar” by Monique X, is basically exactly the same as “Sugar Daddy” by Sawyer Bennett.  So, that’s super confusing.  Are these by the same person?  Or did one copy the cover art of the other??  I have included both covers for comparison.

Anyway, this book (told as a memoir) is about a single mom raising two kids after her divorce from her deadbeat husband.  In order to make ends-meat, the main character “Monique” joins a sugar daddy dating site called “Seeking Arrangements”.  Basically, a “Sugar Babe” is a woman who receives money from older, wealthy (sometimes married) “Sugar Daddies”.  In general, from what I understand, a Sugar Babe is like a kept mistress who gets a monthly allowance, and in return,  accompanies the guys on fancy dinners, trips abroad, and of course, engages in very illicit sexual activities.

Sugar Daddy (Sugar Bowl, #1)

As the author says: “what all men really want: a lady on their arm and a hooker in their bed.”

I haven’t really read many erotica books, except for maybe 50 Shades of Grey 1-3, and like 50 Shades of Grey, this Sugar story is more interesting than the writing is good.  But, as Stephen King says, a book is about the story, and not the writing technique — and this story is fast paced, entertaining, adventurous, and full of very sexually graphic scenes (which are exciting).  The men Monique met were fun and exotic and took her around the globe on world-wind adventurous filled with fine dining, high priced wine / cocktails, and mind blowing sex.

If you have ever fantasized about what it could be like to live dangerously or on the edge, this book will definitely intrigue you.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”