Book Review: Hyperbole and a Half

Hyperbole and a Half
By Allie Brosh

My Edition:
Paperback, 369 pages
2013, Touchstone
ISBN: 9781451666175

Do you like funny stories about dogs, goose attacks, lies about how much someone enjoys hot sauce, identity, depression, getting lost in the woods and more dogs? Then you will probably like this book. Allie Brosh, from the blog Hyperbole and a Half, gives readers cleverly worded and charmingly illustrated anecdotes from both her childhood and adult life.

This was recommended to me by a friend when I asked her for a humor suggestion for my genre switch-up challenge. When I added this blog to my list I hadn’t ever read Brosh’s blog (and it doesn’t appear to be active anymore? And as funny as her work is, I’d prefer to read it in a book than stare at a computer screen for hours) though I had heard of it and seen her self-portrait before. Boy am I glad I picked up this book.

First off, it’s full color (most of the pages even have a solid background color!) and printed on nice glossy stock, so it’s also very heavy and could be used a weapon if necessary. I love the simplicity and MS Paint vibes of Brosh’s work and I know from browsing her (extensive!) FAQ page on her blog that she spends a lot of time on these drawings, calling it a “very precise crudeness” so if you think her work looks like shit, it’s on purpose!

More important than how this book looks, is how funny it is. Brosh tells incredible stories ranging from the strange things she did as a child (like lying about how much she liked hot sauce and eating her grandfather’s birthday cake – the entire thing), to her two hilarious (and terribly behaved) dogs, to how she deals with depression and self-identity. Most of these stories had me laughing out loud and even the way she speaks about depression, while meaningful and relatable, is also lighthearted to some degree.

I thought about quoting this book, but then I wanted to quote all of it, and then I realized that the pictures really do help emphasize her stories and I can’t quote those, so really, if you like to laugh, you should buy this book. It desperately makes me wish I was funny and that I’d done more strange things as a child so I could tell amusing stories and illustrate them. Basically, I need Brosh to write at least five more books, or publish her whole blog in book format or something because her work is awesome and I need more of it right now.

Check out her blog!

Book Review: Bossypants

20141028_145632Bossypants
By Tina Fey

My Edition:
Paperback, 250 pages
2011, Reagan Arthur/Little, Brown
ISBN: 9780316056892

“You’re nobody until somebody calls you Bossy.” This wonderful memoir has jokes, anecdotes and unsolicited life advice from the hilarious Tina Fey. 

What I liked:
The whole book! My short review is just buy/borrow it, because it’s fantastic and funny and you should read it! When I posted a picture of this book on my Instagram, so many people told me how much they enjoyed the book, and many recommended that I listen to the audiobook, as Fey narrates. I’ve tried a few audiobooks over the years and I really can’t focus on information that way. I may actually give it a try with Bossypants though, because Fey is so witty and I believe hearing her jokes come from her would enhance them, especially now that I’m familiar with the material.

Fey gives readers a wonderful mix of comic insight into life and honest thoughts on a variety of topics such as life as woman, mother and comic, as well as fashion and beauty tips! Every page contained something that made me smile or chuckle and I can’t remember the last time I laughed so many times while reading a book. (It was probably last December, when I read Mindy Kaling’s book – I need to read more humor!)

I wanted to give you a few quotes, but it was difficult, because I was ready to type out pages worth, so you could get the full scope of her wit. Instead, I leafed back through the book and found a few random ones to share.

Fey speaks about her heavily Greek looks and how they affected her dating life:

“I couldn’t compete with sorority girls with their long blond ponytails and hoop earrings. I tried to find the while-boy-looking-to-rebel, but I wasn’t ethnic enough to be an exciting departure. I wasn’t Korean or African American or actually Mexican. I was just not all-the-way-white.”

Her thoughts on babies:

“They’re more than just adorable little creatures on whom you can blame your farts.”

And some practical life advice for all of us:

“Don’t waste your energy trying to educate or change opinions. Go ‘Over! Under! Through!’ [Sesame Street reference] and opinions will change orgainically when you’re the boss. Or they won’t. Who cares? Do your thing and don’t care if they like it.”

What I didn’t like:
Nothing! Wait, you know what? This book wasn’t long enough! I reached the end all too soon and wanted more of Fey’s tips and quips. Hopefully she puts out another book in the future.

~

If you like humorous memoirs, this book is for you. If you don’t like comedic books you probably have no soul you might still find some of her more insightful moments useful in your own life.

 

Book Review: Ready Player One

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Ready Player One
By Ernest Cline

My edition:
Paperback, 372 pages
2011, Broadway Books
ISBN: 9780307887443

5/5 stars

Ready Player One takes place in 2044 – the world is suffering from an energy crisis, a food shortage, and an economic decline, all creating a dystopia for all but the wealthy. But for anyone who has access, the virtual world of OASIS can be just that – an escape from reality – where you can create an avatar and be anyone you want, hunt for treasure, and even attend school. When the founder and creator of OASIS dies, he sets up a Willy Wonka-esque challenge – the first player to find his easter egg wins complete control of his company and fortune. Wade Watts wants nothing more than to escape his real life by winning the prize, but the contest is more dangerous than he ever imagined.

What I liked:
First off, this book is full of 80’s pop culture references and detailed descriptions of old video games (as far back as the text-based ones that were available on early computers) and it gave me a serious sense of nostalgia! I didn’t recognize every reference, but I was familiar with more content than I thought I would be. My hat is off to Cline for all the research (and nerdy fandom) that went into this book! I was often reminded of old shows I used to watch, or games I used to play and it was fun to see some of these references recreated in the world of OASIS for Wade to interact with. Wade was a wonderful protagonist and I enjoyed his manner of speech and personality; a nice mix of snarky, confident, self-deprecation and hopeless romantic. The rest of the characters were also well fleshed out and had surprising elements that I enjoyed (I don’t want to give anything away!) Cline also did a wonderful job of creating the immensely detailed virtual world of OASIS as well as the harsh reality that Wade spends his time trying to avoid. He describes Wade’s living environment, “the stacks”, as numerous mobile homes and shipping bins stacked atop each other, sometimes 15-20 high, held together with “a reinforced modular scaffold, a haphazard metal latticework that had been constructed piecemeal over the years.” These towers are unsafe, overcrowded and dangerous – not just the structures themselves, but the people living in them.

This book also had me thinking that a future similar to this could someday become a reality (hopefully not in  my lifetime) – where the “real world” is so terrible that people depend on an escape provided by a fully immersive virtual world. In Cline’s book, OASIS is accessed via a visor and haptic gloves that allow the used to see and sometimes feel the 3-d online world that was created. Users can explore thousands of different worlds and even create their own, if they have the money. Even OASIS isn’t a perfect escape, as it’s still profit driven and oftentimes Wade struggled with being poor both in his real life and his OASIS life. Yet he still craved that constant connection with OASIS – his only friends were the ones he met in this world, all people who spent countless hours connected into this virtual world, living the lives they’ve only dreamed of.

Later in the book Wade describes the expensive machines he’s purchased so that he can better access OASIS, to the point where he doesn’t have any body hair so that his immersive suit will fit him better. He becomes a total hermit – never leaving his apartment, even having his food delivered, so that he can spend most of his waking hours inside OASIS. He even says “The hour or so after I woke up was my least favorite part of each day, because I spent it in the real world.” This line of thought was incredibly depressing, but very realistic. I realize that even today there are some people who prefer their “life” online and the anonymity and freedom that it can sometimes give.

Bonus: I also learned a new word while reading this book! Impecunious – having little or no money; penniless; poor.

What I didn’t like:
At times Wade’s extensive knowledge of all things 80’s seemed far-fetched. He had multiple movies memorized almost completely – not just dialog, but movement as well – and he seemed to be a whiz at every video game he decided to play. I understand that he didn’t have much to do in life other than memorize thousands of shows, movies, facts and game strategies,  but at times I wondered if the human brain could really hold that much information. But really, this was a pretty minor issue.

I had this book on my radar since I read in article back in 2011, right before it released. I’m so glad I finally made a point to read it! I think even if you’re not very familiar with 80’s pop culture, this is still a fun read – it’s a technology based dystopia with likeable characters and plenty of food for thought. There’s also plenty of action. Give it a shot!

Book Review: The Serpent of Venice

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The Serpent of Venice
By Christopher Moore

My edition: Hardcover, signed first edition, 326 pages
2014, William Morrow
ISBN: 9780061779763

4/5 stars

Let me be a little vain and talk first about the physical appearance of this book. I love it! The pages are nice and thick and the edges are a rich blue that matches the cover.

20140515_191404   There are little red accents as well, for the chapter titles and the chorus. It’s a nice change of pace compared to the standard paperback (or hardcover) and I love special little touches like colored ink.

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If you’re wondering, I purchased my copy pre-signed because I wasn’t able to make it to Moore’s event in Boston this year. But I purchased it from Mysterious Galaxy – a California based bookstore. It’s one of two stores that Moore works with to sign copies for those who can’t make events and I’m so glad I was able to get my hands on one!

The Serpent of Venice follows Pocket after his adventures in Fool. He’s off to Venice to prevent a war and befriends Othello and Desdemona while dealing with the wicked scheming of Iago and his partner in crime Montressor Brabantio. As usual Pocket is constantly trying to outwit the long list of people who wish to kill him.  The book jacket describes this as “a literary satire, a dramedy mash-up rich with delights, including (but not limited to): foul plots, counterplots, true love, jealousy, murder, betrayal, revenge, codpieces, three mysterious locked boxes, a boatload of gold, a pound of flesh, occasional debauchery, and water (lots of water).” There are several familiar Shakespearean characters in this book, and of course, a ghost (there’s always a bloody ghost)! What I liked: As usual, Christopher Moore makes me laugh. The Serpent of Venice book is set after the events in Fool (see my review for that here), so it helps to read that first, however, I think that even if you’ve never read it, you can follow what’s going on easily enough and still chuckle at all of Moore’s jokes. The witty banter between characters is very Shakespearean, though much easier to read:

“I do so prefer dancing to suffering, don’t you Nerissa?” “You speak as if one must choose one over another, but as any gentleman who has turned you around a ballroom can attest, dancing and suffering can be partners in step.”

Again, as with Fool, one doesn’t need to be well versed in Shakespeare to enjoy the book (though Moore borrows from Othello and The Merchant of Venice as well as other sources), but it does help to at least know a vague outline of the plots. Personally, I enjoyed Othello and read it somewhat recently (if within the past couple of years is considered recent…) so it was nice to see how Moore played with the characters. This time around there were very few footnotes. Instead we were treated to the Chorus, our snarky, red-inked, rhyming narrator:

“Chorus: …but even though her slave was slight, she found she was not strong enough to drag him up the ramp and into the house by herself.

“I’m not strong enough to get him up the ramp.”

Chorus: She said with great superfluity, as the narrator had only just pointed out that selfsame thing.”

And one more random quote that made me chuckle:

“…I looked for the dark shadow I had seen beneath the water before, but there were only little silver fishes, wetly doing fish things near the surface.”

What I didn’t like: I didn’t feel that The Serpent of Venice was quite as funny as Fool. I can’t quite put my finger on what was missing, but it just wasn’t as powerful as the first book, maybe because I’d already witnessed Moore’s style of Shakespeare parody.  The other stylistic choice that I had a hard time getting used to was the POV switching. Fool is told from Pocket’s perspective but in The Serpent of Venice Moore decides to add in some third person. I would have been fine with this,  but he changes point of view mid-chapter. So many times we will go from third person, following Iago for instance, then there will be a switch to Pocket’s first person view and it could be disorienting at times. I do believe most switches are broken up by the chorus or the wonderful little dragon symbol, but I would have felt better about it had each chapter stuck to one POV. But if you’re already a fan of Moore and if you’ve read Fool (or if you haven’t), you should check this book out! Again, it does contain some adult language and content, so younger readers might want to stay away. If you haven’t read any of Moore’s work, I’m not sure I would recommend starting off with Serpent simply because it is intended to be a sequel. But if this book sounds at all interesting to you, go pick up something by Moore!

April Wrap Up

monthlytotals

So I keep a little  notebook and I write down each book I read, how many pages it is, and any quotes I like and at the end of the month I total  up my numbers for some nerdy statistics! My goal is to read at least 100 books each year (to try to catch up my overwhelmingly massive ‘to be read’ pile!) and I use a neat little Excel file that a friend created for me to total up all my numbers.

This month I read 6 books for a total of 2,281 pages, and I averaged 76 pages per day.

I’ve been spending more time on my phone lately, which accounts for the decline in the total number of books I’ve read compared to the last few months. I also only read 3 new books this month – having decided to read a few old favorites (Lamb, Fool and Pride and Prejudice). Normally I try not to re-read this many books in one month, since I have so many books I’ve never read before! I read:

Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff by Christopher Moore
Notable quotes:
“All books reveal perfection, by what they are or what they are not. May you find perfection, and know it by name.”
“Children see magic because they look for it.”
“Love is not something you think about, it is a state in which you dwell.”

Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen

China Dolls by Lisa See

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

Fool by Christopher Moore

The Crimson Fairy Book by Andrew Lang

 

Quarterly Progress
Books read: 34
Pages read: 11,702
Avg pages read per month: 975

And because I didn’t have this blog at the beginning of this year, here’s an overview of the past few months:

January
Books read: 11
Pages read: 3,468
Avg pages read per day: 112

February
Books read: 9
Pages read: 3,563
Avg pages read per day: 127

March
Books read: 8
Pages read: 2,390
Avg pages read per day: 77

 

My goal for May is to get back up to 8 books. How about you? What’s your monthly/yearly reading goal?

 

Book Review: Fool by Christopher Moore

Welcome to my blog! Lately I’ve really started working on a review format and trying to come up with more detailed, thoughtful reviews than I normally write. I’ll be posting reviews here, along with pictures of the books I read, pictures of books I own, little surveys, and really anything I can think of that’s related to books! Hopefully you enjoy! I’m always interested in hearing what others think about the books I’ve read, what they recommend, etc. Feel free to leave comments!

Fool
by Christopher Moore

My edition:
Hardcover, 311 pages
2009, William Morrow
ISBN 9780060590314

5/5 stars

Let me just start off by saying this book contains explicit language here and there and is definitely geared more towards adults.

Pocket is a fool in the service of King Lear and his three daughters – “selfish, scheming Goneril, sadistic (but erotic-fantasy-grade-hot) Regan, and sweet, loyal Cordelia.” In a fit of madness (or maybe hubris?) Lear demands that his daughters declare their love for him before his court, in order to divvy up his lands to his “most deserving” daughter. “But Cordelia believes that her father’s request is kind of…well…stupid” and she is banished because of it. Pocket must keep the realm from falling into the wrong hands, try to bring Cordelia back into Lear’s good graces and generally avoid being murdered. He has the help of his devoted friend Drool, as well as a bit of magical aid from the witches three, and of course, a ghost! (There’s always a bloody ghost.)

What I liked:
I’ll start right off by announcing that this is my second time reading this book and I’ve yet to read a Moore book I didn’t like. I breezed through this again in anticipation of the sequel, The Serpent of Venice which was just released.

That possible bias aside, what I loved most is that I haven’t read Shakespeare’s King Lear, and I don’t feel like I’m missing out. Moore actually references this in his author’s note:

“A few who have read Fool have expressed a desire to go back and read Lear, to perhaps compare the source material with my version of the story…While you could certainly find worse ways to spend your time, I suspect that way madness lies. Fool quotes or paraphrases lines from no fewer than a dozen of the plays…”

Personally, I know enough of the general outline of the story, and I wasn’t concerned with the details. This definitely meant to be a parody and Moore did an excellent job. Several times he had me laughing out loud at Pocket’s wit.

There are even footnotes, both humorous and educational:

“Curtain wall – the outer wall of a castle compound, usually surrounding all of the buildings.”

“Slag – British slang for slut, tramp.”

“Saturnalia – the celebration of the winter solstice in the Roman pantheon, paying tribute to Saturn, the ‘sower of seeds.’ Celebration of Saturnalia involved much drunkenness and indiscriminate shagging. Observed in modern times by the ritual of the ‘office Christmas party.'”

What I didn’t like:
I really don’t have much to say. I suppose there were some scenes regarding Drool masturbating that were fairly descriptive and disgusting. Eg: “…said Shanker Mary, rolling her eyes at the spunk-frosted wall.” A bit more of a mental image than I needed!

If you’re a fan of Christopher Moore, humorous novels, or you’re interested in reading a Shakespeare parody, then check it out!

———-

Something I started doing recently while reading, to help me collect my thoughts for a review is to use little sticky tabs in my book. This is much easier than trying to write down little thoughts in my phone or on whatever random scrap of paper I have nearby. Right now I’m using little bears that I’ve had lying around for years, as well as the odd color arrow if I happen to be at my desk at work.

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How about you? Do you use anything special to keep track of quotes, thoughts, etc when reading?