Book Club Reflection: Stiff by Mary Roach

6 Jun

I read this book about six months ago but my second book club decided to read it and I thought I’d go without a refresher. It was my first meeting back after school ended so I was just glad for an easy transition. Much of the conversation was like my other book club’s discussion but I thought I’d share some of our thoughts with you all here.

Again, the main question we pondered was if the book was offensive. Some people found the humor to be too much. But we reasoned that the humor is how people can deal with working so close to death. The same way I can be light about a person not getting a job (I’m in recruiting), people have to make light of a heavy situation to deal with sad facts.

We discussed donating our bodies to science. Many in our group had living wills or insurance policies covering what would happen to them after they pass. We talked about how it’s the family, commonly the children of the deceased who have to live with the body donation. Could a child deal with what’s happening to their parent’s body? After reading the book, many of us were turned off to embalming or cremation so donating seemed like a better option. Many liked the idea of being composted into a tree.

We’ve all been to funerals and one thing the book cleared up for us is why sometimes the person doesn’t look the way you remember. If there was an illness especially, modern mortuary science can make the person look more like his or her healthy self than like they did before death.

Roach was very fearless in her pursuit of this book. We were impressed with how much information she was able to gather considering when the book was written. One of our members did question her facts, especially about automotive crash safety. She mentioned on page 92 that you can survive a 60mph crash into a wall. He didn’t believe this was a repeatable statistic from a crash lab, it seemed too unbelievable. It might have happened once, but cars are not designed for that.

This is a really fun book to discuss with a group and I’m glad I had a second go at it. We’re reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance next. I haven’t started yet but I’m looking forward to it!.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Book Review: Landline by Rainbow Rowell (3/5)

5 Jun

I waited a long time to read this one because I didn’t know if I would like it. I found a copy at the library book sale. It had been taken out of circulation after the book started being checked out less. I hadn’t found time to read it so I’m just now getting around the audio version of the book. I was wasn’t completely right about my feelings of it, but it is probably my least favorite Rowell book.

Cover image via Goodreads

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Other books by Rainbow Rowell reviewed on this blog:

Attachments 5/5
Fangirl 3/5
Carry On 5/5
Eleanor & Park 4/5

Summary from Goodreads:

Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble; it has been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems beside the point now.

Maybe that was always beside the point.

Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn’t expect him to pack up the kids and go home without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts…

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?

I’ve read Rowell’s fantasy and I’ve read her realistic fiction and liked both. I wasn’t ready for a hybrid, though. The whole magical phone thing really got me. In Carry On, I was ready for magic and how it would affect the story. In this story, it wasn’t explained and there wasn’t a culture that normalized it. It was too much for me to buy into. I liked Georgie and Neal and Seth and Heather and all the other characters, but the phone really ruined it for me. I couldn’t suspend my disbelief in a phone that talks to the past.

Rowell does an amazing job of building realistic characters and that’s why she kills contemporary fiction. I thought all of the characters were very realistic and I really enjoyed Seth. I feel like I was supposed to hate him, but he reminded me of friends from college and it was hard to dislike him. The little girls were great and Heather was super fun. As much as Georgie’s mom seemed like a caricature, I’ve met women like her. It was all great.

Seth was my favorite character. I liked his confidence and sense of humor but also his dedication to Georgie and their show. I would have been one of the girls swooning over him from a distance in college. Spoiler warning for the rest of this paragraph! Skip to the next to avoid it. I didn’t like how he admitted having feelings for Georgie at the end. That really bothered me. It was implied but I don’t think it ever needed to be spoken and I think it would really have ruined the relationship between him and Georgie which put their future success at risk. I wish he hadn’t said anything and it seemed a bit out of character for him to do it.

I could understand where Georgie’s problems came from. Even having only been married four years, I can see how the magic of dating is not a daily occurrence in my marriage. I’m sure this is not uncommon. I hope I’m never as blindly committed to my job as Georgie, but I can see how it would happen. This is a very relatable problem and I hope it doesn’t take a magic phone to solve it if I ever do run into a similar situation. I don’t think I can count on one.

Rainbow Rowell
Image via the author’s website

I liked Heather’s story (spoilers, again!). I think it would be really hard to tell my mom if I thought I was gay and the way she handled it seemed real to me. It didn’t surprise me that her mom already knew, either. The pugs being born bringing the girls together was cute. I liked that touch.

If the phone had been removed, I would have liked the story a lot more. I think it could have been. I think there could have been some home videos or letters or pictures that stirred up memories and gave Georgie the same sense of urgency and reflections that the phone did. It took the book into magical realism and that’s a genre I don’t much care for.

The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Rebecca Lowman. I thought she did well with the girls’ voices and the guys without being distracting. Sometimes a man’s voice is too over-the-top in an audiobook and with how much Neal talked in this one, it’s good that it wasn’t. She gave the women in the story just enough difference to make them distinguishable, too.

Georgie didn’t mean to put her job before her family, but that’s what happened. I don’t think our priorities get that out of whack on purpose. I know there are times I’ve put school ahead of my husband and it was never an intentional decision. The trick is to recognize when you’ve done this and make things right. It might not be as extreme as what Georgie went through, but saying you’re sorry is always important.

Writer’s Takeaway: Rowell’s contemporary characters knock it out of the park again! I think adding a fantastical element was a bit of a risk for her and it didn’t work for me. She’s had great success with contemporary fiction and I don’t know what made her deviate from that. Personally, I hope she doesn’t again. It’s risky for a writer to move to another genre. Rowell has crossed over adult and YA but maybe magical realism is a bit too far for her.

I liked the book but the premise wasn’t for me. Three out of Five stars.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Posts:
Landline – Rainbow Rowell | the book goddess
Review #3: Landline by Rainbow Rowell | forwards and bookwords
Book Review: Landline by Rainbow Rowell | Jen’s Pen Den

Challenge Update, May 2017

1 Jun

This month was a bit slower than April. I’m not surprised, though. Between my final for my Winter class and my intensive Summer class starting, I’ve been really busy. I’m actually proud of how much I have gotten through! You can look at my progress at any time on my challenge page.

Books finished in May:

The Book of Speculation // Erika Swyler (4/5)
Terra Incognita // Ruth Downie (4/5)
Seriously… I’m Kidding // Ellen DeGeneres (4/5)
Landline // Rainbow Rowell (3/5)

It’s really obvious school reading has kept my print reading down. The first is an ebook and the last three here are audiobooks! I’m so glad for those to keep me involved in stories when life gets crazy.

When Are You Reading? Challenge

9/12
One more filled in! The Book of Speculation fit right in at the end of the 1700-1799 time period so I was able to slide it in there. I’ve got some challenging time periods left so we’ll see how this goes. I need a future book as well so it might be time for me to look into a bit of SciFi.

Goodreads Challenge

22/50
Still ahead but not as much as I’d like to be! I’m only about a book ahead of schedule now. I think I’ll get a few read this month with all the books I’m currently in the middle of but I bet I can fight this one well in July when school is out. I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

Book of the Month

I’m going to say The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler this month. As much as I dislike magical realism, this book won me over and I really enjoyed its story and especially the characters. It was a joy to read and I even got an inter-library-loan of it to finish the last twenty pages after my ehold ran out! I was so determined to finish it.

Added to my TBR

I’ve got the list to 109 but I added three this month! Not my best month lately.

Personal Challenge

I mentioned in my challenge announcement post that I had some non-reading goals set for myself in 2017. I figured this would be a good place to keep myself accountable to those as well. Here goes!

  • Keep my 4.0 GPA: Going well so far! I’m keeping an A in my Summer semester class and we’re half-way through it. Final results in July!
  • Knit blankets:  I started a new boy blanket which will get me to my ‘carrying capacity,’ the backlog I like to keep for times when my cousins get freakishly fertile. I’ll go back to other personal projects when I finish this one.
  • One race per month: I did a 5K on Cinco de Mayo. It’s the shortest race I have in my lineup for the year but a friend of mine was signed up and couldn’t make it in the end so I took her slot. Two friends did it with me and it was likely the most miserable 5K I’ve ever run. It was in the high 40s (Fahrenheit for those outside the US), raining, and 15 mph winds were coming off the Detroit River. We got a beer at the end, but our hands were too numb to hold them! Tris start in June so I’m getting ready for those now.
  • Get my novel out to beta readers: I’ll get back to editing in July. I got feedback from two Beta readers I’ll work on incorporating into my next draft. I already have another friend willing to read that draft so I hope to keep working on it through the rest of the summer.

How were your challenges? I hope you made it. If you love historical fiction, give some thought to my challenge for 2017, it’s fun!

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 31-May-2017

31 May

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

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The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community.


Currently reading: I’m so sorry to say that I’ve put A Son of the Circus by John Irving aside for a while. I have some book club selections I need to get through first. I have all of the intentions in the world of finishing this one up and it makes me really sad to put it on hold.
I made some moderate progress with Love in the Elephant Tent by Kathleen Cremonesi but I’m wondering where this book is going because I’m 1/3 of the way through and they’re not in the elephant tent anymore! Is there another elephant tent coming?
My drive to work is better with Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris. I’m about half way through it now and it’s been a good distraction from traffic.
I started reading Tigerman by Nick Harkaway, one of my book club selections. It’s OK but making me miss the Irving. I was at my parent’s cottage this weekend and found some good time to read.
My husband and I started a car-trip audiobook. I hope this one doesn’t take as long as some of our earlier ones! This time it’s Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. So far, we’re really enjoying it. As much as I have my suspicions about who it could be, I know Poirot will keep me guessing until the end!
I’ve just started Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay on audio. I love the cover of this one and saw it as a popular book club pick for a while so I’m interested to see where it goes!

Recently finished: I was able to wrap up Landline by Rainbow Rowell over the holiday weekend! I’m so glad to have finished a book. With all the ones I have in process, I’m not sure how quickly I’ll finish another one, haha. I think I’m only missing Rowell’s novella now before I’ve read all of her work. I plan to have a review for this one up early next week.
No reviews this week but as I said, Landline will be coming next week so there’s one to look forward to!

Reading Next: With so much going on, I don’t really want to think ahead, haha. I do know my next book club selection will be Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Rober Pirsig. I could only find a print version of this book so I’ll be reading it in that format after Tigerman.


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Meeting Author David Maraniss

30 May

My community chose David Maraniss’s book Once in a Great City for our Everyone’s Reading book this year. I’ve already posted my book review and my book club reflection on the book and last week, I heard the author himself speak.

Maraniss was born in Detroit but spent much of his childhood in Wisconsin. He spoke about watching the Superbowl in 2011 and when this ad came on, he felt a pull to the city.

I really connected with this. I was living in Southern Indiana in 2011 and was watching the Superbowl with a bunch of other friends from the business school. As nerdy business students, we were more focused on the half-time commercials than on the game. It went completely silent in the room while that 2-minute ad went on and then when it was over, the whole room looked at me like I was the ambassador for the whole city. I just said, “Heck yes!” and grabbed more guac. It seems I wasn’t the only one with an experience like this, but Maraniss wrote a book because of it.

Once in a Great City is Maraniss’s 12th book. He uses the same research system for each book which he likens to digging an oil rig and getting as deep as he can to get all the information. The first step is to go to the place. When writing about Bill Clinton, he went to Hope, Arkansas. When writing about Vince Lombardi, he went to Green Bay, Wisconsin. Doing so has given him access to first-hand accounts and stories he wouldn’t have found otherwise. The second step is always to get the documents. For this book, it was letters from Mayor Cavanagh and Police Commissioner Edwards that were at the Wayne State University Reuther Library. He visited 11-12 other libraries and archives including an Olympic archive in Los Angeles and Duke University’s advertising archive for the documents about the Mustang. He found during his research that the Mustang tagline was originally Imported from Detroit. Well, at least it was finally used.

Maraniss’s third step is to talk to people. Being in the target area helps with this. Many of the major figures for the Detroit novel had passed but he was able to talk to a few including Berry Gordie Jr. and Martha Reeve. His final step is to look for what’s not there. For Maraniss, he saw the influence of the rest of the Gordie family, not just Berry. He saw the access to musical instruments, specifically pianos as a reason for the musical movement in the city at that time. He also saw the influence of public school music teachers and how that pushed many musicians to follow a musical career.

Maraniss expressed that the bittersweet tone of his book wasn’t intentional but grew as he wrote and edited the novel. He feels Detroit is still a great city but that the neighborhoods and schools need support to match earlier splendor. Due to length, there were other topics Maraniss chose to not cover including architects and other auto companies.  This book has been optioned into a 4-part documentary series on CNN with Anthony Bourdain that will likely release in early 2018. The makers are currently looking for home movies of that era to add to the series.

In answering questions from the audience, Maraniss revealed that on a recent trip, he went to see his childhood home and it had been knocked down the day before! He’d seen it other times on trips to the city for research but was really struck by the timing. He revealed that his next book will deal with the McCarthy era. Maraniss also said that there’s not really a set time it takes him to write a book and that the process is ongoing for him. He did say he often signs 2-book contracts and that it’s usually 8-12 months between book delivery to his editor and publication.

I decided not to buy a copy of this book because as much as I liked it, it’s not one I’ll read again and I’m trying to limit the books I own, even the signed ones, to ones I would want to lend out or read again. No pictures this time.

Until next time, write on!

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

PotterCon Detroit!

29 May

My amazing husband got me a great birthday present. I went to PotterCon! I didn’t even know about this event when I first opened the present but I got really excited all of April leading up to it.

In addition to my husband and I, another couple was coming with us. Here are our costumes. Can you guess who we are? The thing in my left hand is a book on a stick, that’s not part of the costume.

After waiting forever in line (very confusing which line to go in), we got inside the Masonic. This was the perfect location to have this event because it felt like Hogwarts. We were going up and down stairs, along passages and never really able to find our way from one room to another. If you look at the picture on the web link I included, it shows the room where they held Quidditch demonstrations and trivia. It was beautiful.

The first thing we did was get drinks! The event is 21+ so drinks were happening. I had a Butterbeer (picture below) which was scrumptious. Then we went to get sorted. Or we thought we’d get sorted. You put your name in a lottery and they drew names of people to sort. It was fun; they asked questions and the person answered and then the crowd shouted what house they thought the person should be in. None of my friends were picked, unfortunately.

We explored the castle, looking at wand making, the Diagon Alley stores, and Quidditch-pong. One of the things I really wanted to do was trivia! We ran into two more friends who joined our massive team. We decided to do intermediate trivia because a few of us are pretty knowledgeable. I think there was some kind of huge mistake. Husband and I caught the end of the novice trivia questions and some of them were WAY harder than the ones we got. We only got one question wrong and missed one bonus point. There was a grand suspicion that the questions had been mixed up. Needless to say, there was a massive tie for first and we were part of it! I was selected to represent my team and we went to the stage and were given a category. The category was Hogwarts Professors and we went down the line, each naming one until we couldn’t and were eliminated. I made it through two rounds, which only about eight people did. Not too bad!

After that, we went and got lunch, which was probably the least organized thing of the whole day. There were only 3 food trucks for 9,000 people! It took about an hour for us to eat burritos. After that, we were pretty tired and decided to go watch the costume contest finals before heading home. The finalists were amazing! I was so impressed with their costumes. My favorite was a woman dressed as Madame Pomfrey who had a freaking hoop skirt on! The woman who won was the Fat Lady, complete with frame and broken wine glass. It was really epic and well deserved.

It was a long, exhausting, amazing day. I hope there’s another event like this because it was well worth the ticket price. And I now have a cosplay costume! (Assuming at least two other people come with me.)

To my American readers, enjoy the Memorial Day holiday. I’m relaxing at the lake house.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Library Writers Group: The Power of Words

25 May

It’s always good to meet with my library writers group! Our member Gary presented this month on the power of words. We went through different ways to use words, how to avoid the bad ones and how to use the good ones more effectively. I hope this makes more sense as I get into it.

Language can be concise, precise, or both. The sentence, “Jane said with fear in her voice” could be more concise as “Jane said” and more precise as “Jane squeaked out while trembling in fear.” The perfect compromise is when these two are combined so our writing is both precise and concise. “Jane said, trembling in fear.” You can be more precise by replacing adjectives with strong ones. Purple vs. lilac, hungry vs. ravenous, short vs. petite. There are hundreds of examples.

Idioms are phrases where the literal meaning of the phrase makes no sense or is in no way related to the meaning of the phrase. Doing something “at the drop of hat” or saying someone is “barking up the wrong tree” make no sense if taken literally. While listing these, we wondered if there were any ‘new’ idioms. I could find a few: drop the mic and crash (fall asleep).

As writers, we want to avoid purple prose, which is prose so flowery and over the top that it draws attention to itself. I’d never heard this before, but smaller uses of purple prose are called purple patches. This makes me think of wildflowers, but it’s really not that pretty.

We talked for a while about similes and metaphors. One of my favorite exercises was a list of similes we were provided with a key word missing. We were asked to fill in the blank with the ‘right’ word and then make up our own! Here’s the list if you want to try. I’ve replaced the missing word with an X. The ‘correct’ answers and my answers are below.

1.       You were as brave as a X

2.       The fought like X and X.

3.       This house is as clean as a X.

4.       He is as strong as a(n) X.

5.       Your explanation is as clear as X.

6.       Well, that went over like a X.

7.       They are as different as X and X.

8.       As cold as X.

9.       As innocent as X.

10.   As white as X.

11.   As sweet as X.

12.   As sure as X and X.

13.   As black as X.

Answers: 1) lion/Marvel action hero 2)cats and dogs / Hatfields and McCoys 3)whistle/a if you had a Rumba 4)ox/Norse god 5) crystal/a lake on a calm day 6) lead balloon/bad movie sequel 7) night and day/Harry and Voldemort 8) ice/[I couldn’t think of anything witty] 9) a lamb/Baby Groot 10)snow OR a ghost/[I got nothing] 11)sugar/McDonalds Sweet Tea 12)death and taxes/[nothing] 13)night/a Sith Lord

Mine might take a while to catch on. I was feeling the nerdiness when I was doing this, but it was a lot of fun! Let me know if you come up with any good ones.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 24-May-2017

24 May

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

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The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community.


Currently reading: I made a push to work on A Son of the Circus by John Irving over the weekend and got maybe 40 pages in. I’m over page 400 now but I’m thinking this might have to go on hold for a bit so I can get through some book club selections in time for the meetings. I hate doing that, but sometimes social pressure get the best of my reading schedule!
I had some technical difficulties with Love in the Elephant Tent by Kathleen Cremonesi over the weekend but they’ve now been solved and I’m back at this one. I’ve had a bit of lunch reading time but not too much. Hope to make some steady progress going forward.
Landline by Rainbow Rowell has been fun. I’m not as engaged as I have been with other Rowell books, but it’s still enjoyable. It’s great for runs and cooking time!
I’m making slow progress with Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris only because I don’t drive a lot. Having this one limited to my car is a bit slow but I’m still liking the humor. I’ll keep enjoying it. The short essays help with my short drives!

Recently finished: Nothing new finished but two book reviews posted! The first is for Terra Incognita by Ruth Downie. This is the second in the series and I really enjoyed both so far. I hope to keep going with these as they’re all on mobile audio. Yay! I gave the book 4 out of 5 stars.
My second review is for Ellen DeGeneres’s Seriously… I’m Kidding. I listened to this on audio and my review may have been different if I’d read the book but I gave the audio 4 out of 5 stars.

Reading Next: Unfortunately, it’s going to have to be Tigerman by Nick Harkaway. I really wanted to get to The Circle but school has been more crazy than expected. I don’t think I’ll make it to the theaters to see the movie anyway. Sad day!


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

1,000 Followers! Thank you, and you, and you, and you, and…

23 May

Well, you can likely guess the subject of this post from the title. I was at PotterCon this weekend (post to follow) and got a phone notification that I’d reached 1,000 followers! Thank you all so much!

It’s been a wonderful journey blogging with you all. I’m sorry I’m not able to engage as much as I once was due to work and school becoming much more demanding of my time. I do my best to engage with anyone who comments here on the blog and I do love hearing from you all.

Hosting WWW Wednesday has been a huge part of my growth here and I thank all of you who have started reading my posts after finding me through this meme. It’s been a pleasure hosting.

Please continue to share my posts if you think they’re worth sharing. Please continue to participate in WWW Wednesday if you enjoy seeing what others are reading. Please enjoy books and stories as much as you can.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Book Review: Seriously… I’m Kidding by Ellen DeGeneres (4/5)

22 May

I love celebrity comedian memoirs. I remember listening to an Ellen book with a friend of mine in high school and laughing so hard it was inappropriate. I grabbed this book during a bag sale at the library but I found time to listen to it before I had time to read it, so here we are. I used to watch Ellen’s show when I’d get home from high school while I ate a snack so I’m a big fan of hers.

Cover image via Goodreads

Seriously… I’m Kidding by Ellen DeGeneres

Summary from Goodreads:

“Sometimes the greatest things are the most embarrassing.” Ellen Degeneres’ winning, upbeat candor has made her show one of the most popular, resilient and honored daytime shows on the air. (To date, it has won no fewer than 31 Emmys.) Seriously… I’m Kidding, Degeneres’ first book in eight years, brings us up to date about the life of a kindhearted woman who bowed out of American Idol because she didn’t want to be mean. Lively; hilarious; often sweetly poignant.

This book was exactly what I was expecting which was perfect. I wanted something honest and lighthearted. I wanted someone who was going to talk about her life and poke fun at herself but who is uplifting and a wonderful role model. This is a woman who won the Presidential Medal of Freedom and she had me laughing at silly jokes in her book. She’s a true American Icon, even if she’s not an American Idol.

Ellen portrays herself and her wife in a very realistic way. I don’t know much of de Rossi outside of her character on Arrested Development but I feel like I know Ellen from watching her show. As silly as she is and as outrageous as some things in her book may seem, I honestly believe that her life is like that. I think she embraces the silliness and things seem outrageous because of her perspective on the world.

 

I think celebrity memoirs really make the star seem very human. When I think of a celebrity, I think of someone who doesn’t do their own grocery shopping or cleaning or anything that could be work. But reading these memoirs reminds me that very few celebrities reach that level of wealth. That’s mostly reserved for businessmen. A lot of celebrities have very normal and relatable lives. They have to clean their houses and pets. They have fights with their significant others. They do a lot of ‘normal’ things and I find that reassuring.

Ellen DeGeneres receiving her Presidential Medal of Freedom with Pres. Obama
Image via NY Daily News

Ellen’s talk about a Finding Nemo sequel was really funny in light of the recent release of Finding Dory. I might not have laughed at those jokes five years ago, but today I don’t see them as bitter, just ironic.

The one thing I dislike about this style of book is the short chapters. They don’t allow for much substance but I imagine with many other books under her belt, DeGeneres might have been a bit short of solid material.

Having Ellen read the audiobook was amazing. I’m glad I listened to it instead of reading it, I don’t think it would have had the same effect. She even read the chapter numbers in funny voices to make the listening more fun. I would highly recommend this format.

I’m not sure there’s a running theme in this book, to be honest. Memoirs like this don’t always have one. DeGeneres wants to make her reader laugh and she does a good job of this. She uses a variety of jokes which I really appreciated and enjoyed. I’d read another of her books in a heartbeat.

Writer’s Takeaway: I’m not sure the variety of topics and formats for chapters would translate as well to the fiction I write. It works well for a genre that can seem repetitive after a while. She mixes up her essays with lists and commentary that keep her style in mind but keeps the reader pushing forward to see what’s going to come next.

This book was a fun listen and I enjoyed it a lot. Four out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

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