I have wanted to read this book for a long time. Harry Potter was my life for about ten years, and the characters became my family. While the books we...moreI have wanted to read this book for a long time. Harry Potter was my life for about ten years, and the characters became my family. While the books were being published, all the other Potter devotees felt like family too. How many hours-days-months did I spend obsessing over every little detail J.K. Rowling let slip, reading MWPP fan-fiction and making fun of the people that actually thought Hermoine would end up with Harry? I'm pretty sure the amount of time I invested in this world is slightly insane - but I'm positive I don't regret a single second.
I wanted this book to capture that. For the most part, I think it does. If anyone can understand devoting yourself to Harry Potter, it is Melissa Anelli. She made a career out of it! She accurately captures a lot of great memories from the years when the books were still being released. She had me smiling through a lot of the book. So, while I enjoyed it, I can't imagine a lot of people that don't understand and appreciate the Potter years getting much out of it.
In many ways, it tells the story of my generation (it even touches on 9/11!), because no one else will ever read or experience Harry Potter the way we did. We got to be a part of the process - we were told the story a little at a time, so we appreciate each book more than anyone that gets the whole series at once ever could.
But at the same time, we can all envy new readers. Melissa Anelli says it well (to set the stage, the following takes place a few days after the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows):
I leaned against the metal pole of the subway car as we started chugging into the heart of New York City. If my music hadn't stopped playing I might never have noticed - one, two, three, four at least ten people were holding up their giant orange books. Some were halfway through, some nearly all the way through. Some propped it on their legs, and a few more had taken off the jacket so as not to be inconspicuous. They spanned all ages, and were all engrossed.
One young woman, not much younger than me, sat near the end of my eye line; she was reading too, her colorful backpack on her lap and her arms circling it, her book acting as a buckle to hold it in place. I traveled to the next pole down to get a surreptitious closer look; she wasn't reading Deathly Hallows at all. Her book wasn't orange but rose and water and sand, and featured a kid on a broomstick and a white unicorn. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. She didn't notice me staring at her.
Oh, I envy you, I thought, but was smiling for her. She had just begun.(less)
For the Duration: A Lighthearted WAAF Memoir by Felicity Ashbee might be non-fiction, but it sure doesn’t read that way. This is definitely a historic...moreFor the Duration: A Lighthearted WAAF Memoir by Felicity Ashbee might be non-fiction, but it sure doesn’t read that way. This is definitely a historical read worth picking up, no matter how far out of your comfort zone it may be.
“War?” my American friends had said, “What war?” “Hitler,” I replied. “There isn’t going to be a war,” they repeated complacently. But I knew better.
Thus begins a very engaging and entertaining memoir about Felicity Ashbee’s experiences in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force in WWII. I have been trying to increase my non-fiction reading lately, and I made a great choice with For the Duration. Before I go into the book – we have to talk about the cover. Do you guys like it? The picture is a woodcut illustration Felicity herself did for the WAAF Magazine in 1940.
For the Duration is peppered with great illustrations – from photographs to several of Felicity Ashbee’s original drawings.
I actually learned some interesting things about WWII in general. Did you know that no major military operations occurred in the initial months following Britain’s declaration of war on Germany? That period is known as the “Phoney War.” It was during this time that Felicity and the other women of the WAAF were trying to figure out their place.
For the Duration also covered a lot of the small day-to-day things that Felicity Ashbee remembered. From putting on amateur theatricals (which included songs about worn out knickers) to catching bedbugs to challenges to drink beer without touching the glass with one’s hands.
It does turn into a bit of a see-saw. Some parts make for very easy reading while some sections are really dry and hard to follow – but hey. Such is life (and this is a memoir after all). Overall, I definitely enjoyed my reading experience.(less)
Paris, My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light (and Dark Chocolate) by Amy Thomas is a really enchanting memoir, y’all (or is it primarily a travelogue?...moreParis, My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light (and Dark Chocolate) by Amy Thomas is a really enchanting memoir, y’all (or is it primarily a travelogue? I don’t know…you tell me. Pin a tail on the genre). The super accessible writing style and charming chocolate addiction of Amy Thomas won me over immediately.
It is really ironic that I decided to pick up a copy of Paris, My Sweet at all. I actually spent three days in Paris a few years ago and was less than impressed. Of course, three days didn’t really give the city a fair shake to impress me. All I got to do was the cliched touristy things. But, I was intrigued by Amy Thomas’ background and the mention of chocolate – so I let myself be lured. I’m oh-so-glad I did!
I’ve already used the words charming and enchanting – but allow me to just go ahead and say them again. Paris, My Sweet is nothing if it is not those things. Foodies: take note. Even if you have less than zero interest in reading a book about a woman living in Paris, this is still a book for you.
Chocolate isn’t our author’s only obsession. Seriously! Her orgasmic description of biting into a fresh baguette had me eyeing even my Sara Lee sandwich bread longingly.
Also, you will be insanely jealous of Amy Thomas in the first few chapters. From a life she loves in NYC to a dream job in Paris? Yeah. We can all feel free to hate her. On top of all that, she goes and writes an incredibly creative and witty novel. Now you can really hate her. (But then you have to feel bad when her love of two cities causes an identity crisis later in the book and you’re reminded she really is just human…)
Following her around the streets of Paris on her rented bicycle is an experience. Her down-to-Earth writing makes her feel like a friend that is showing you around. The things she is interested in (food, beautiful landscapes, people) are things I’m interested in.
Paris, My Sweet might be non-fiction, a memoir and a travelogue – but it felt more like a personal letter. I’m so glad that she is also a blogger! Just another level I can relate to her on.
I promise you guys – you will not regret letting Amy Thomas give you her Parisian tour in Paris, My Sweet. Grab a postcard of the Eiffel Tower and a few bars of chocolate and prepare to be transported! I might not have fallen in love with Paris when I visited, but I fell in love with Amy Thomas’ Paris!(less)
You guys, I’m not gonna lie. I have been excited about reading Banished : Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church by Lauren Drain for months...moreYou guys, I’m not gonna lie. I have been excited about reading Banished : Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church by Lauren Drain for months! I pretty much freaked out when I first saw that there was going to be a memoir from a former member of the Westboro Baptist Church. Unfortunately, I think I put a little too much emphasis on the word “former.” Because, after all, being banished means that Lauren Drain left the church unwillingly. I ended up having so many issues with this book that I’m not sure where to begin…and I’m also pretty sure I won’t be very nice about a lot of it.
(For the record, I’m pretty sure this is the meanest review I’ve ever written – but my censor button doesn’t stand a chance against the crap ton of loathsome behavior.)
Some of the problems I have with the book are my fault, I had pretty specific expectations. I wanted a former member of the church to be like “LOOK AT ALL THIS CRAZY SHIT THEY MADE ME DO!” and get a behind-the-scenes look into the minds of stupid, crazy people. What I got was a completely bizarre account of a girl, surrounded by the certifiably insane, and desperately wanting to be one of them. After reading the book, I got the clear impression that she would have never left the church on her own, and then there was a random epilogue tacked on to the end in which she bemoans the errors of her ways. Sense and sanity have left the building.
First of all – I read Banished by listening to the audiobook. Lauren Drain did the narration and I thought her voice was pleasant and easy to understand. But, HOLY CRAP, was the writing terrible. I’m not kidding. The timeline was all over the place. Things were choppy and extremely hard to follow. It was almost like she was telling someone the story and just said things as they came to mind, regardless of when they occurred. I think a lot more thought should have been put into ordering things more clearly (or hey, how about any thought at all?). I’m not sure if reading the actual book would have been more helpful or not as far as keeping things straight – but I kinda doubt it. (What I do know is that I want that 8 hours back.)
Another issue I had with the writing was the lack of emotion. I mean, Lauren Drain… this poor woman. Not only was she brainwashed by some of the most reprehensible lunatics on the planet, but even her own family pre-Westboro was awful. But, as her story progressed, it all felt like a dry recitation of facts by someone who’d researched the story – not lived it. It was actually a little weird. I was half afraid I’d have nightmares about the scary emotionless cult monsters coming to get me after reading about all the crap they’ve pulled.
Another big problem I had with the mechanics of the story kinda blends together with problems I have with the people themselves…all the contradictions! I was getting so frustrated by the time I was midway through the book that I’m not even sure how I managed to finish (it was a CHORE, believe me). One minute, Lauren Drain would be praising one of the members of the church to the Heavens, then a few paragraphs later she’d be talking about all their faults. An example of this is Shirley, one of the most important church members. One second she’d be a shining example of everything that is right in the world, the next minute she’d be a condescending harpy that refused to acknowledge faults within her own family (mainly her kids).
These ridiculous contradictions (which were often silly and passive aggressive) were only one of the ways Lauren Drain’s entire book felt like it was being written by an immature little kid. I fought between rolling my eyes at some of her moronic behavior and just feeling incredibly sorry for her. I mean, she lived her life for years wanting nothing more than to fit in with the rest of the WBC, but she insulted them in the same sentences as she expressed her fervent desire to be just like them. I know her emotional growth was incredibly stunted because of the people she surrounded herself with, but still. It was all just too much…
…especially once you get to the epilogue. All of a sudden she understands that being raised to hate and condemn was wrong and her views have changed and she is working on getting her life together. It sounded like it was being written by a completely different person. Throughout the entire book, it felt like she was disillusioned with the WBC but not able to give up on wanting to be one of them…and the short epilogue was too little too late.
Ultimately, I couldn’t find much of anything positive about this book. The hateful, ridiculous and ignorant behavior of the WBC is front and center, but I never got the impression that Lauren Drain found it objectionable until the bizarre epilogue at the end written by her well-adjusted clone.
To Sum it Up: -This book was not at all what I expected, and I was incredibly disappointed by the writing style, the attitude of the narrator and the story itself.
-Everything was contradictory and felt extremely bizarre and disjointed. Kinda like a fake WBC expose written by a devotee on a crack pipe.
-(To try and end on a positive note…) An insider’s look is what I was hoping for – and even though I didn’t like the POV of the events – many of the WBC beliefs were interesting to read about.
…okay okay, I’m not done yet.
I mostly tried to avoid talking about the WBC itself, because obviously we all hate them. No need to go there…except that I can’t quite help it. THEY PICKETED THEIR OWN HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION, YOU GUYS. She actually struggled to decide whether to attend the ceremony or just stand with the protesters (don’t worry, I won’t leave you with a cliffhanger. She did both.) If they’re so against the “homosexual-enabling” den of iniquity that was Topeka High School, may I ask why in the holy hell they attended in the first place? I actually laughed during that section, imagining someone yelling in protest of the graduation while walking across the stage to accept their diploma. It was good to find some of their stupidity amusing since mostly it just made me want to throw up…(less)