Bite-Sized Audiobook Reviews: WHY BE HAPPY WHEN YOU COULD BE NORMAL?

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Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson

This memoir, read by the author, jumps around between various topics and anecdotes relating to her sexuality, life with her adoptive parents, discovering literature and finding solace in libraries, looking for her birth mother, being exorcised, and other events of her life. Some of them are funny, and she does indeed inject loads of humor and wit throughout, but there are a lot of profoundly sad moments, too. Her intensely religious mother made it difficult for her to be herself growing up, and she suffered many punishments and hungry nights for it. When she wouldn't be "cured" of her sexuality in her teen years, she was driven out of her home altogether, and took up residence in a car or with a girlfriend. If you've read her book Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit, you may be familiar with some of her story, but the reality behind it is much darker, even if it did end in her freedom and successes as an adult. I recommend reading both, but you might need to keep a tissue handy.


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Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari

MR had me laughing from the very start and went by fast. If I have one complaint, it's that Aziz cracked jokes about listeners being lazy (for not reading for real...?) a few too many times, but otherwise, it's a delightful auditory experience. If you've watched some of his stand-up, or even his show Master of None, you know some of what's in this book because his comedy and writing usually have a lot to do with relationships and the way we communicate and meet new people. On its own, though, it's eye-opening and informative. Aziz teamed up with a sociologist and they did their research, and he even went to a few other countries to get some comparisons between the way we form romantic relationships here in the US and the way people do in, say, France. And Japan. Good narration, good info, and overall respectful dialogue with lightheartedness made this a fun read, even when the truth stung a little.

Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

After her sister made a pointed comment about how she's always saying no, no, no, Shonda made a decision to have a "Year of Yes," in which she says yes, yes, yes, to literally everything. Suddenly she's making speeches and attending galas, and doing all kinds of things she never bothered with before. And along the way, she makes all kinds of discoveries about herself, and even improves her life in other areas, like at home with her children. Of course, her version of Year of Yes doesn't apply to everyone, and she definitely checks her privilege, but she does emphasize there are things we can and should be saying yes to now. Yes to being happy, yes to your body, yes to saying "no" when you need to, and weeding out the people who can't stand to see you happy. She makes some great points, and listening to this book was a lot like listening to a friend.

Redefining Realness by Janet Mock

This memoir is a little bit difficult to listen to at times, but not in a bad way. Janet talks about her childhood as a male, the experiences leading up to her sex confirmation, and all of the rest. Some of it is hilarious, and some of it is heartbreaking. Depending on the topic, she drops in some up-to-date (at the time this book was published) statistics and insight about how many people struggle with coming out, with abuse, with all kinds of atrocities because they're at-risk or because they don't conform to what some people think they should. But mixed in with all that, she talks about joyful moments in her childhood, about positive friendships she's formed, beautiful Hawaii, and all the good that has come of her decision to be herself. She speaks her truth, in her own voice, and in her own words. This book is for everyone, and anyone could benefit from listening to her story.

Friday Things: 06/26 - Feeling the Sadness in Your Joy

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[Ahh, the weekend...]

Here's a look at 15 YA reads coming out next month. Some are intriguing - I may pick up a couple of them.

Great article by a new colleague of mine on Book Riot about the book Fangirl and how it impacted her life when things got tough. I have to agree - I love Levi in this story, and there's a commenter there who made an excellent point about how so many heroes are brooding, have some dark past, etc. while Levi is just.. Levi. Refreshing. Attractive.

7 Batman-inspired cocktails. I really want to try that Joker one.

Solid list of characteristics that'll make me want to follow an audiobook narrator's work (rather than the usual, following an author's work, etc). The only difference is I like little songs and diddies in between chapters, haha.

Why do all of Disney and Pixar's ladies have more or less the same face shape, while the men have hardcore face and nose shape diversity? Interesting and important criticism.

A look at what's going to go away from Netflix next month, as well as what'll be added.

This is a fantastic article about the movie Inside Out and the super important points it makes about sadness and joy. Fair warning though, it contains heavy spoilers for the film.

On Quirk Books: How to Plan Your Geeky Picnic.

[Have a wonderful weekend!]


BooksKristina PinoComment

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain (narrated by the author):

After listening to Julie Powell's Julie & Julia, I wanted to sink my teeth into another food-related memoir, and remembered I'd been interested in Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential for a long time. His narrating is solid, though the cutting/editing in the audiobook file wasn't optimal, frequently cutting abruptly or transitioning in quality from one sentence to the next.

This book is a great collection of stories that spans decades, and there's no better person to get the humor, sarcasm, disdain, adoring, and other tones the tales evoke than the author himself, who spoke them all regardless of what he imagined would be no small amount of flak. His experiences aren't universal, but they're still a super interesting peek into the world of cooking as a career for a significant chunk of people. I wouldn't trade my life for how he described his in this book, but I got a lot out of listening.

I'm also hungry for more culinary books or other chef memoirs. I'll be checking some more out in the near future.

The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen (narrated by Julia Whelan):

Of course, since watching Frozen I've been interested in seeing how different the original story is to the adaptation. I got this title for free from Audible, as Julie Whelan was Audible's 2014 narrator of the year.

As suspected, the book and the film don't resemble each other at all, except that there's a reindeer in both, and somehow the people affected by snow magic are total jerks. There are so many great characters in The Snow Queen I would have loved to see brought to life in the film! In this story, a little girl is separated from her best friend, who is taken away from her. She spends the book going after him, and gets help along the way from various animals and people. This cute little adventure is a quick read, and brilliantly narrated by Whelan. It's a nice story about growing up and being true to ourselves, though we sometimes go astray. And of course, the people who believe in us when we need them to the most.

Bite-Sized Audiobook Reviews: JULIE AND JULIA and PADDLE YOUR OWN CANOE

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Julie & Julia by Julie Powell (narrated by the author)

I love the film Julie & Julia, and I had always been wanting to read the book and kept putting off actually looking it up, until it occurred to me that there would probably be an audiobook. The book being narrated by the author was kind of the deciding factor, because who better?

Although I already had an idea of how the story went and some of the hardships Julie goes through in the course of her year of cooking through Mastering The Art of French Cooking, the film really skimmed through some of the heavier stuff that went on, and added a bit of humor and romance, and of course bits of Julia Child's own book My Life in France. This is definitely a case where I like both book and film adaptation, and they can coexist happily despite their differences. I appreciated the film for giving me a picture, and the book for going really deep and all up in those dark places the author crept in to get through that year.

Now I just need to read My Life in France. Audio or print? Gah.

Paddle Your Own Canoe by Nick Offerman (narrated by the author)

This book, along with Amy Poehler's Yes Please (reviewed previously), are the only two that I didn't clear from my phone right away as soon as I finished them to make room for new things (I just generally try to keep my phone clutter-free). It's a book I intend to re-listen to in the near future, because I loved every second of it the first time around.

Paddle is a great collection of little philosophies about life, and observations and musings on a wide range of topics. You'll get a snapshot of Offerman's life as a farmer, as a woodworker, as an actor, and as a husband, among other things. And you'll learn some stuff, maybe. But mostly you'll hear the words of someone who has figured it out: he's happy, satisfied with life, and is all about spreading positivity. He approaches even the slimiest of topics with a reasonable attitude, and delivers some solid truth bombs with plenty of humor peppered throughout. He talks a lot about being productive, honing a craft, and just overall being a good person. Also, if you listen to the audiobook you'll get to hear him sing.

I read Paddle Your Own Canoe as a part of the Book Riot 2015 Read Harder Challenge, fulfilling the audiobook task.

Bite-Sized Audiobook Reviews: YES PLEASE and WAISTCOATS & WEAPONRY

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Yes Please by Amy Poehler (narrated by Amy Poehler)

The only reason I didn't listen to this audiobook right away, like right when it was released, was because I was still deciding whether I wanted to get the print book instead. After all, if I really ended up loving this book, which I knew I would because other rad people I know have universally loved it, having a print copy is way better if only because then I can lend it out to all my friends. But then I decided that I'd rather listen to the author narrate her own book (and hear all her wonderful guests who recorded it with her), and simply buy several copies for my friends later, because it's so, so worth the money and attention.

Yes Please is absolutely hilarious, and sweet, and candid, and all of the best things I can say about it. I laughed out loud like a madwoman listening to this, and as soon as the recording ended, it took everything I had not to just hit play all over again. It's that good. It's that funny. If you're even just a little bit familiar with Amy, or are into TV or comedy or are a mom, or who knows, there are a lot of ways you can relate to this book: you need to read this. And no, I'm not just talking to my fellow ladies - my male friends have also loved and recommended it. Read it.

Waistcoats & Weaponry by Gail Carriger (narrated by Moira Quirk)

This is the third book in Gail Carriger's Finishing School series, which I love dearly. I'm sad that there's just one more book coming out later this year to finish it off, but at the same time, I prefer a nicely-executed quartet to an overly-drawn-out long series. I'll probably get into Carriger's other books after this series has finished, because I love her writing style. Also in real life she's an anthropologist (that's what I studied in Uni!) and just, yeah, that's badass.

In W&W the main characters have all matured in all the best ways, and they're finding their paths beyond Mme Geraldine's. While I wish they could all just be best friends forever and keep going on adventures together for their entire careers, it's a logical step for some of them to break away to chase their own destinies. I love all of the developments, the neat way things seem to sort themselves out whenever Sophronia and her friends put their minds to it. This is a fantastic, magical, and just plain fun YA series to get into, and I also highly recommended listening to it because Moira Quirk does such a great job narrating. Her pacing and the voices and accents she uses for the different characters are all on point. Great performance. Great story. Now's a good time to get into the series since the final book is out in November - you won't have to wait too long to get the whole thing. 

2015 Read Harder Challenge: Task 2 - PADDLE YOUR OWN CANOE by Nick Offerman

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"Parks and Recreation actor Nick Offerman shares his humorous fulminations on life, manliness, meat, and much more in his first book.

Growing a perfect moustache, grilling red meat, wooing a woman - who better to deliver this tutelage than the always charming, always manly Nick Offerman, best known as Parks and Recreation's Ron Swanson? Combining his trademark comic voice and very real expertise in woodworking - he runs his own woodshop - Paddle Your Own Canoe features tales from Offerman's childhood in small-town Minooka, Illinois - "I grew up literally in the middle of a cornfield" - to his theater days in Chicago, beginnings as a carpenter/actor and the hilarious and magnificent seduction of his now-wife Megan Mullally. It also offers hard-bitten battle strategies in the arenas of manliness, love, style, religion, woodworking, and outdoor recreation, among many other savory entrees.

A mix of amusing anecdotes, opinionated lessons and rants, sprinkled with offbeat gaiety, Paddle Your Own Canoe will not only tickle readers pink but may also rouse them to put down their smart phones, study a few sycamore leaves, and maybe even handcraft (and paddle) their own canoes."

After reading and loving Amy Poehler's Yes Please, this just seemed like a logical leap. I've watched enough Parks and Recreation that I'm an Offerman fan, though I don't know much about his life in general, so this'll be a great way for me to dive in. Also, the full title is glorious: Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man's Fundamentals for Delicious Living. I don't know much about it, but I already like where it's going.

This book will fulfill the task read (listen to) "an audiobook." It almost feels like cheating, since I already listen to audiobooks regularly, but that's a good "problem" to have when it comes to ticking off diversity-oriented tasks on a list.

I'll be starting it up this weekend.