Meh. There were some perfectly beautiful moments in this book that were completely overshadowed by Kogan's insistence on turning every little story in...moreMeh. There were some perfectly beautiful moments in this book that were completely overshadowed by Kogan's insistence on turning every little story into some neat and tidy anecdote that supposedly taught some sort of life lesson. I tagged the number of pages/points that actually impressed me and at the end of the book, seven pages stood out. The rest was just fluff.
Kogan's letter to Amelia Earhart was a nice touch, though. (less)
View From The West Hill is a whimsical and touching memoir comprised of a collection of personal short stories about growing up on the family farm in...moreView From The West Hill is a whimsical and touching memoir comprised of a collection of personal short stories about growing up on the family farm in Lanark Valley, Ontario, Canada during the 1930s.
What really fascinated me about this book is that I grew up in Lanark Valley and I knew the author well, but it wasn't for her books! As a young girl, my mother would often take me and my siblings to Mary Cook's shop in my hometown of Carleton Place. I loved listening to her tell stories, but it wasn't until I was older that I realized she was also a local celebrity, historian, and the woman whose tales we used to listen to on the radio.
This is a beautiful written collection of tales that speak to me about the place that I call home. Anyone interested in learning about small town life in Ontario, Canada should give View From The West Hill a try.(less)
Lizz Free or Die is a collection of personal 'messays' written by Lizz Winstead, an American comedienne, radio and television personality, and co-crea...moreLizz Free or Die is a collection of personal 'messays' written by Lizz Winstead, an American comedienne, radio and television personality, and co-creator of The Daily Show. Lizz writes about growing up in a Catholic family in Minnesota; some of her stories such as Get Me To The Altar and Decorate to Manipulate were laugh out loud funny while others such as All Knocked Up and Wetube were written with a more important message in mind.
Throughout the book, Lizz takes us on a journey that shows us how she was never afraid to follow her dreams or have an opinion, even if it was at the expense of upsetting loved ones. At times it was difficult to read about her struggles with explaining her choices to her parents, who really didn't understand why she did the things she did, but we learn that they loved her and respected her none the less.
The Red Vag of Courage is hilarious, but it also teaches us about taking a horrible moment and defining it as your own. How you want to be remembered is up to you. The choice is yours.
I also really enjoyed how Lizz chronicled the process of finding her comedic voice and how difficult the process of writing can be. I was really able to relate to these essays in particular. Throughout her life as a writer, Lizz had always written collaboratively rather than on her own, and it took the deaths of her parents to teach her how to rely on her own skills as a writer and storyteller to make her story worth the read. I think she does an excellent job.
Highly entertaining, laugh out loud funny, with some teary and honest moments that gave me pause for thought. Let's Pretend This Never Happened moves...moreHighly entertaining, laugh out loud funny, with some teary and honest moments that gave me pause for thought. Let's Pretend This Never Happened moves straight to the top of my list of all-time favorite memoirs. Why? BECAUSE IT IS A FUCKING GREAT BOOK, YOU ASSHOLE!
Jenny Lawson first novel is as brilliantly written as her blog. She makes ample use of her signature writing style, with lots of italics, footnotes, postscripts, notes about her vagina, and sentences written entirely in upper case letters. It's like she's sitting right in the room reading to you, and *that's fucking awesome*.
Stabbed by a Chicken because it was the first post I read on her blog. I was at work that day and I laughed so hard that I started to cry. People thought there was something wrong with me that day, because every time I thought about that giant five-foot chicken, it sent me into gales of laughter all over again.
If You Need an Arm Condom, It Might Be Time to Reevaluate Some of Your Life Choices because it's impossible to believe that a person can get her hand stuck in a cow's vagina.
A Series of Helpful Post-It Notes I Left Around the House for My Husband This Week. Just hilarious.
I considered adding up all the vagina references and then realized it would be an impossible job, so I'm just going to say that I think her second book should be called The Vagina Memoirs, or something to that effect. This probably isn't a new idea for Jenny. In fact, I'm pretty sure she referred to it somewhere in her book.
Her description of her battle with rheumatoid arthritis was as accurate as it can get. I felt like I was reading about myself and my own struggles with arthritis, and that made me love her even more. Here is a woman who has lived an unusual life and has been dealt a bit of an unfair hand, but she chooses to look at the beauty of her life and not focus on the negative. In fact, she sums things up perfectly in her epilogue by writing, "...you are not defined by life's imperfect moments, but by your reaction to them. Because there is joy in embracing -rather than running from-the absurdity of life. Remember that, y'all.(less)
A personal memoir written by a woman who was given up for adoption and placed in an adoptive home where she was starved and beaten until she runs away...moreA personal memoir written by a woman who was given up for adoption and placed in an adoptive home where she was starved and beaten until she runs away from home as a teenager. Given away by her birth mother and rejected by her adoptive mother, the author grows up believing that she is completely worthless and unloved. These feelings of unworthiness stay with her for the rest of her story.
It's a sad story, compounded by the fact that even though she has the strength to run away and change her situation, she still thinks nothing of herself; she repeatedly makes mistake after mistake while trying to find her real purpose in life. Married at 18 and a mother of four at 24 years of age, Marianne outwardly looks like she's doing well, but her personal life is in shambles. She goes through several failed marriages, a cancer scare, she gets hooked on anti-depressants, and she lives with her children in utter poverty, yet she is determined to create a better life for herself and for her children. She also perseveres in establishing a better relationship with her adoptive mother (and adoptive family) and she works incredibly hard to change the path that she's on. 40 years after she was given away for adoption, she finally reconnects with her birth mother and finds the family, love and acceptance that she has been searching for so desperately all her life.
My only complaint about the book is how poorly the Kindle edition has been edited. It's rife with spelling and grammatical mistakes. It would be great to read more books by this author, but I hope she's able to find a better editor before she does so. I also wasn't big on the spiritual journey that the author embarked on towards the end of the book, but it helped her to get her point across. A triumph, indeed, for Marianne Curtis. Good on you!(less)
I've always been fascinated with North Korean culture, mainly because there is so little known about the country, but also because it amazes me that t...moreI've always been fascinated with North Korean culture, mainly because there is so little known about the country, but also because it amazes me that total dictatorships are still around in this day and age. Did we not learn many valuable lessons with Hitler's Third Reich and his Nazi concentration camps or Stalin's Soviet gulags? Nazi concentration camps existed for 12 years, while Stalin's gulags were open for 42 years. In comparison, North Korean prison camps have existed for over fifty years and there seems to be no end in sight for the endless suffering and brainwashing for the 150,000 to 200,000 prisoners that live in these camps today.
This is the remarkable story of a North Korean man named Shin Dong-hyuk. Born and raised in Camp 14, Shin lives a brutal existence in one of North Korea's worst political prisons. As a child, Shin scavenged for bark, roots and kernels of corn to keep his hunger at bay. He was constantly reprimanded, overworked, starved, beaten and tortured, and he worked under the threat of being executed every day. He had no access to healthcare, no personal possessions to speak of, and he lived in the same clothes day in and day out. Shin grew up believing that it was natural to be hungry, and that he deserved to be treated like an animal. He ate watery cabbage soup, corn flour and corn kernels every day of the year. He was encouraged to snitch on his family and friends, and he might never be able to completely face the role that he played in the deaths of his mother and brother. Compassion, love, and honor were completely foreign concepts to Shin.
Eventually Shin does the unthinkable. He escapes from prison, and becomes the first person that was born in a North Korean prison to ever escape. He makes his way to China and then on to South Korea and the United States, where he struggles to accept that his upbringing was not normal.
Today, Shin is a North Korea human rights activist and he is still trying to deal with the horrific acts of violence and atrocities that he was forced to commit as a prisoner in North Korea
This was one of the hardest books I've ever read. It's heart-breaking to read what these people go through. The poverty, the hunger and the brainwashing that these people are subjected to is simply to much too fathom.
The Voyage of the Northern Magic: A Family Odyssey was a terrific book to end my 2013 reading project with. I owe a big thanks to my cousin Kathleen,...moreThe Voyage of the Northern Magic: A Family Odyssey was a terrific book to end my 2013 reading project with. I owe a big thanks to my cousin Kathleen, who presented me with it for Christmas. She gave it a strong recommendation, and she very obviously learned a valuable lesson that our grandmother instilled in us at a very young age: Books are meant to be loved and shared. I'm fairly certain, now that I've had this book in my possession, that it once belonged to my grandmother. Thank you, Kathleen!
In short, The Voyage of the Northern Magic: A Family Odyssey has earned its place amongst my growing list of favorite travelogues. It's written by a Canadian woman named Diane Stuemer from Ottawa, Canada. In September 1997, after a year of preparation, Diane embarked on a four-year journey around the world with her husband and three young sons on a 42-foot yacht called Northern Magic. This is a classic tale of adventure and travel-lust. With no sailing skills to speak of, Diane and her husband Herbert navigated through horrific storms, a terrifying waterspout in Indonesia, pirate-filled waters and an epic fight against the North Atlantic sea. They also grew immeasurably as a family and as individuals.
The Stuemers were deeply touched by their adventures, and they undertook a number of projects to 'give back' to some of the incredible individuals who helped them along their journey. In Kilifi, Kenya, they started the Boniface and Hamisi Educational Project, which aims to provide tuition fees for students, and to help establish small businesses to provide additional income to poor families. Additionally, their efforts to help endangered primates in Borneo are still going strong today.
Written by a Canadian from my old stomping grounds no less, there was much that I could identify with in The Voyage of the Northern Magic: A Family Odyssey. I've been to many of the places that the Stuemers visited, and it was a fun and engaging read to be able to relive those experiences right along with them. All in all, a fantastic read and one that I highly recommend!