I wasn't sure what to expect from this autobiography. I had read Melissa Gilbert's memoire last year and liked it but it pales in comparison to this dI wasn't sure what to expect from this autobiography. I had read Melissa Gilbert's memoire last year and liked it but it pales in comparison to this down-to-earth and brutally honest read. This book vividly and humorously describes Arngrim's difficult childhood, her career on the Little House set as well as her accomplished life after her Nellie years.
I loved that Arngrim doesn't hold back or sugar coat her descriptions of her fellow cast mates or even her own family. She hasn't written this book to placate anyone or to name drop (which is the feeling I got while reading Gilbert's memoire). This is a raw, emotional, funny (I think her humour comes from her Canadian parents!), and honest look into Arngrim's life and those who influenced her - both positively and negatively.
One of my favourite parts of this book was Arngrim's behind the scenes look at what life was like on the Little House set. Growing up, Little House was one of my favourite shows so learning some behind the scenes secrets was awesome! From learning why baby Carrie tumbles down the hill in the show's opening sequence, what Michael Landon wore under his pants (yowzers!), to how horrible the Nellie wig was to her poor head, Arngrim brings the reader behind the scenes in Walnut Grove.
I was surprised to learn how close Melissa Gilbert (Laura) and Arngrim were in real life. They'd go from being arch enemies on screen to BFF's in real life. I have to admit that I was a little surprised and let down to learn that my favourite character, Mary Ingalls (played by Melissa Sue Anderson), was actually very sullen, stuck up and downright rude to her fellow castmates (which continues, at least with Arngrim, to this day).
Arngrim paints a very clear picture of how the cast and crew bonded like a real family. She shows how her support within the cast gave her the family ties that she sorely lacked at home. The relationship that I found most touching was the very close bond Arngrim had with Steve Tracy who played her husband Percival on the show. I have to admit that I was a little surprised to hear that the cast are still in touch and even get together regularly to catch up with each other!
Nellie was the original 'mean girl' and Arngrim played her to perfection! Little House just wouldn't have been the same without Arngrim's comedic timing and her ability to bring heart to a truly horrible character. I now have a better appreciation for the much hated Nellie Oleson! Arngrim was instrumental in the development of this infamous TV icon who is known throughout the world (just ask the people in France where Nellie is adored!).
Even with her horrible childhood and the stress of being famous, Arngrim didn't become a child star tragedy like so many young actors. She credits Michael Landon as being a firm and constant force in her childhood. By treating her with respect and expecting a lot from all of the child actors on set (which wasn't the norm at the time) Little House is one of the very few TV shows that can boast that none of their child stars were in the news for drug abuse, issues with the law etc.
I have great respect for how, to this day, Arngrim uses her Nellie notoriety in a very positive way. She is a huge advocate for AIDS causes (she started with AIDS activism when it was in its infancy) and she was instrumental in helping to pass a law in California which greatly increased the jail time for incestors (which was truly pitiful before the law was changed).
Reading this book has left me with a desire to introduce Little House to my own children. I honestly think that, even in a world filled with computers and major movie special effects, that Little House still fills an important family-oriented niche all its own. After getting this sneak peak behind the scenes I know that I will never watch another episode of Little House on the Prairie the same way again. Whether you were a Nellie fan or not, I'm sure you'll become an Alison Arngrim fan after reading this book.
Note: My sincere thanks to Doubleday Books and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
My Review: I was in the mood for a big historical saga with grand characters, back stabbing family members, rich powerful people set in a tumultuous time ... the whole saga enchilada. Belle Cora is a grand historical saga set in the mid-1800's to the early 1900's and follows the life of Arabella Godwin. Arabella goes from a meek young girl of a fairly affluent New York family to someone who struggles to find her way in the world. Eventually Arabella becomes Belle, a very confident, strong and independent woman (who also happens to be a successful San Francisco madam).
I can see how some people could be turned off reading about the life of a prostitute/madam but Belle's story intrigued me and honestly, Belle Cora is much more than a story about prostitution. This is a story about strength, ingenuity and perseverance. Belle takes her hard knocks, makes bad choices and has some choices thrust upon her but in the end those issues only make her stronger. I will admit that there were several times when life in a brothel, even one run as well as Belle's, seem to be overly glorified.
Margulies excels at vividly describing life in NYC, as well a San Francisco in it's early days. As someone who has never learned much about the colonizing of San Francisco I found the descriptions so realistic that I could easily envision life there. Unfortunately, it was during Belle's time in San Francisco where I began to lose focus in the book. The book had a different feel to it at that point and my attention began to wane. It went from more of a character driven read to one steeped in politics -- politics which were unknown to this Canadian and I felt made the overall pace of the book lag.
One aspect that I was surprised to enjoy was the little hints at the future plot that Belle, as the narrator of the book, gave her readers. You'd think that giving tidbits about what was going to happen in the future would hinder the excitement of the book but it was the opposite. It was just enough information to get my interest piqued again and have me eagerly awaiting that point in the plot.
Overall, this was an enjoyable read filled with vivid historical descriptions, good character development and some gun fights, prostitutes and murder to round it all out.
Recommended for people who enjoy grand historical sagas.
Author: Portia de Rossi Genre: Autobiography Pages: 308 Published: November 2010 First Line: "HE DOESN'T WAIT until I'm awake."
Synopsis: This is a detaileAuthor: Portia de Rossi Genre: Autobiography Pages: 308 Published: November 2010 First Line: "HE DOESN'T WAIT until I'm awake."
Synopsis: This is a detailed look into the life of Australian-born actress Portia de Rossi, best known for her work on Ally McBeal and Arrested Development. Portia shows readers her struggles coming to term with her sexuality, dealing with the pressures that were self-imposed as well as pressures put on her by the modeling industry and Hollywood.
My Thoughts: After seeing a bit of Portia's interview on Oprah awhile back I knew that this was an autobiography that I'd be interested in reading. To me, Portia has always seemed to be a Hollywood enigma. She seemed to be on the periphery of Hollywood and wasn't on my radar (after Ally McBeal) until she was dating and eventually marrying comedienne Ellen DeGeneres.
I will say that I truly appreciate the courage it must have taken to write a book dealing with such sensitive issues as accepting one's sexuality, publicly and privately coming out as well as eating disorders. That being said I did find that the book dragged pretty much the entire way. While I found the sneak peeks into the behind-the-scenes at Ally McBeal were really cool I think that I was hoping that the book would focus more on her 'happily ever after' marriage with Ellen (whom I've always admired and is one of the most positive up-beat personalities out there). But that's my fault ... I realized going in that the book would be about her inner struggle with her sexuality and her eating disorder, I just didn't realize that the book would focus, pretty much solely, on the eating disorder.
I had such high hopes for this book but unfortunately this book just didn't come close to measuring up. My favourite parts of the book were the prologue and epilogue which isn't a great sign. I didn't like the feel of the book either. It seemed more like a bunch of journal entries and the pace of the book suffered for it. The back and forth from past to present got a little weary after awhile too and at some points I had to re-read parts in order to figure out what time frame I was currently in.
I think that a big part of why I didn't like this book was that the majority of the book went over the same issue again and again -- Portia's view that she was ugly and fat, her low self-esteem, reducing her caloric intake, her self-loathing when she didn't attain her goals ... I don't want to belittle her struggles or the hell she lived through but it got a redundant and tedious reading chapter after chapter which dealt with the same issues. I found myself skimming paragraphs towards the end because I figured I didn't have to pay close attention since the same issues were reiterated again and again. Not a good sign.
It seemed to get bogged down with the day-to-day rituals of the eating disorder but didn't scratch the surface of Portia's feelings. I thought that the book would focus more on how she overcame her eating disorder and how she came to terms with her sexuality and self-worth. But her recovery was glossed over in the end and seemed a little too neat and tidy for me. The focus was on the anorexia and her lowest points but not on her recovery. I just found that odd and not fulfilling. Odder still is the fact that after reading her autobiography I still don't feel like I know who Portia is.
I admit that I do not know much about eating disorders and have only a general idea about what's involved in the daily life of an anorexic but I was astounded to learn the extent to which it affected her life. For example, not wearing lip gloss for the fear of ingesting extra calories, wearing only her underwear at home because she wanted to be as cold as possible in order to burn off the most calories possible or reducing the amount she ate daily to only 300 calories! At least I can take away a better understanding of the day-to-day life of a person with an eating disorder after reading this book.
I am very glad that Portia has found peace and fulfillment in her life and I'm hoping that by coming out about her sexuality as well as her eating disorder her story (even if I wasn't a fan of her book) can help others as they deal with similar issues.
My Review: I picked up this book recently from my local library right before a job interview. Trying to distract my nerves I sat there reading the book jacket I was quietly chuckling to myself and it honestly helped to reduce my nerves. I like funny reads. I do. But I also feel that they're really hard to write well. What is deemed "funny" means different things to different people and while I think that Jenny has a great sense of humour I don't necessarily think it came through well in this book.
There were some great, hilarious gems in this book but the overall feeling of chaos in her writing stifled those funny bits. It felt very disjointed -- like you were talking to a overly caffeinated person who would shoot out random stories that didn't necessarily have anything to do with each other. It often felt like she was just babbling and not caring about what she was talking about and after awhile that got frustrating. And don't get me started about the overused and excessively annoying footnotes! Gah! Enough already! I know you're funny Jenny! Show me!
Don't get me wrong, there were certain parts of stories where I did actually laugh out loud because Jenny is funny. But then she'd take too long to get to the end of the story and start to lose me. Or the story seemed much too unrealistic to be true and ... she'd start to lose me. Overall, I guess I just felt really lost. I read over half of the book before I finally called it quits because I just couldn't take any more of the rambling bedlam that is her memoire.
I think Jenny excels at writing funny little snippets (like on her blog, The Bloggess) but this full-fledged book didn't showcase her best comedic assets. With better editing and a more polished feel I think this could have been amazing. Unfortunately her frantic way of storytelling just isn't for me, I guess. I'll stick to reading her blog.
Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Random House of Canada for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
My ReDisclaimer: My sincere thanks to Random House of Canada for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
My Review: This was an extremely well researched, comprehensive biography that acknowledges that Josephine was much more than just the wife of an infamous historical figure.
The reader gets a very detailed look into the personality of Josephine. She was a very resourceful, conniving and smart woman as she rose from her youth in Martinique to the immense wealth and power that she accrued with Napoleon and her powerful friends. If it weren't for the fact that I know that Josephine was a real historical figure I would have thought there was no way that a woman could have survived what Josephine survived nor amass the power that she had over her very powerful husband.
While I had a limited knowledge of Josephine going into this book, Ambition and Desire went much more in-depth and even included many quotes from real letters. I also enjoyed learning a few new things about the character and the era. For example, the effects on the people who survived The Terror as well as the knowledge that Josephine was such a talented botanist and that she loved to collect rare animals and brought them to her home, Malmaison. It's those facts that I tend to take away from a biography more than the names of the vast array of secondary characters. And there were a lot of secondary characters which I unfortunately had a hard time keeping straight.
One of the main focuses on the book was, of course, Josephine's very unique marriage to Napoleon. There is no arguing that they had a very deep connection to each other even though their relationship was often volatile. I was surprised at the depth of Napoleon's feelings for his wife and the power Josephine regularly had over him. Napoleon and Josephine went into the marriage for different reasons (he for someone to love him for who he was, she to invest in her future) but the result for both of them was an inordinate amount of power and a deep fondness for each other.
While the information provided was interesting I did find the book dry in several parts due to the amounts of detail provided. Surprisingly, even though there was a lot of detail I didn't feel a real connection to Josephine and would have loved to have gotten more of a look into her emotions and how certain issues affected her. She seemed very cold whereas Napoleon surprised me with the depth of feelings in the letters that he regularly wrote his wife.
Going into this book I admittedly had a limited knowledge about Josephine. I had read one book on her several years ago but I only had a very vague notion of her when I started this book. This new book by Kate Williams, while heavy in historical detail, does provide a very extensive description of a very famous woman and wife of a truly notorious man.