Review: Yes Please by Amy Poehler

20910157Title: Yes Please

Author: Amy Poehler

Publisher: HarperCollins

Publication Date: October 24

ISBN: 9780062268341

Synopsis from Goodreads:
In Amy Poehler’s highly anticipated first book, Yes Please, she offers up a big juicy stew of personal stories, funny bits on sex and love and friendship and parenthood and real life advice (some useful, some not so much), like when to be funny and when to be serious. Powered by Amy’s charming and hilarious, biting yet wise voice, Yes Please is a book full of words to live by.

Amy Poehler has been one of my favourite ladies in the tv biz for a few years now. I got hooked on her through Parks and Rec and subsequently became a fan of her Smart Girls posts on Facebook. When I found her book at a garage sale earlier in the spring of this year, I just had to pick it up (excellent find!). I read this book on a weekend away at the cottage and it was just the perfect thing. It was easy to pick up, hilarious and witty, and the chapters were the perfect length to put the book down after an hour of reading and rest my eyes for a moment or two before picking it back up again.

Poehler is as funny on paper as she is live. The book establishes a sense of camaraderie with the reader. Amy invites you into the book like women invites their girlfriends into their living rooms. Grab a bit glass of wine and settle in with this one! Her stories are personal, observant, and more often then not, are a bit wacky. Amy is straightforward and unafraid to share those nitty gritty details. She’s open and honest and after reading this book, one feels as though one has gained a new friend.

On top of everything, it’s an absolutely gorgeous book, complete with glossy pages (yes the do reflect in the sunlight), full colour pages, and tons of hilarious Amy pictures from all stages of her life. This book is a true testament to her tenacity and her willingness to share her life with her fans. I feel like this book is a little piece of Amy. You can really tell that a lot of hard work went in to putting this book together. It’s not just a book, it’s a collection piece.


Review: The Trick Emanuel Bergmann

32920274*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: The Trick

Author: Emanuel Bergmann

Publisher: Atria Books

Publication Date: September 17, 2017

ISBN: 9781501155826

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Sweeping between Prague during World War II and modern day Los Angeles, this deeply moving debut follows a young Jewish man in 1934 who falls in love and joins the circus as the country descends into war. Decades later, a young boy seeks out the now cynical, elderly magician in the hopes that his spells might keep his family together. 

The premise of this book is very fascinating: a story in 2 parts, in Europe beneath the big top as the Nazi occupation spreads and in the current day where magic may be the only thing to keep one family together. The story started out strong, building two separate worlds both full of sorrow but also full of possibility, but for me, it went downhill from there. So many of the reviews on Goodreads are good reviews, and perhaps I missed something along the way, but I don’t think this book lives up to the hype. Perhaps something is lost in translation (it is translated from German) or perhaps the translation is not the best, but I found this book didn’t hold my attention and was often aggravating at times.

I have a hard time stopping and giving up on a book midway through. I’m happy I made it all the way through The Trick because I really wanted to find out the resolution, but it felt like one I could have walked away from. I found the characters to be really flat and not at all realistic. The dialogue was weak and lacking throughout and it just made the characters seem a bit stock and empty. A few times, I found myself thinking that no real human would say many of the things in this book. I’m sure many of you readers will know that my favourite thing in a book is complex and realistic characters that I can relate to and believe in, so a lack of such things leaves me very disappointed and unhappy in a book.

I gave this story 2 stars on Goodreads. I liked the premise and I think it had tons of potential, and so many people seemed to really enjoy it. This one just wasn’t for me!

Review: Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy

31449227.jpgTitle: Ramona Blue

Author: Julie Murphy

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Publication Date: May 9, 2017

ISBN: 9780062418357

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Ramona was only five years old when Hurricane Katrina changed her life forever. Since then, it’s been Ramona and her family against the world. Standing over six feet tall with unmistakable blue hair, Ramona is sure of three things: she likes girls, she’s fiercely devoted to her family, and she knows she’s destined for something bigger than the trailer she calls home in Eulogy, Mississippi. But juggling multiple jobs, her flaky mom, and her well-meaning but ineffectual dad forces her to be the adult of the family. Now, with her sister, Hattie, pregnant, responsibility weighs more heavily than ever. The return of her childhood friend Freddie brings a welcome distraction. Ramona’s friendship with the former competitive swimmer picks up exactly where it left off, and soon he’s talked her into joining him for laps at the pool. But as Ramona falls in love with swimming, her feelings for Freddie begin to shift too, which is the last thing she expected. With her growing affection for Freddie making her question her sexual identity, Ramona begins to wonder if perhaps she likes girls and guys or if this new attraction is just a fluke. Either way, Ramona will discover that, for her, life and love are more fluid than they seem. 

A book-loving co-worker gave me this book after seeing it on my Goodreads to-read shelf. She told me that I was going to love it. And I did! Julie Murphy is a strong writer with a story that I think a lot of teens can relate too. Ultimately, this book is about a coming-of-age and finding oneself in the world when there are many things standing against you or holding you back. Ramona is a character who is exploring her sexuality and trying to learn who she is while supporting her family and her sister. She sets aside her own future out of love for her sister. I think there’s also a lack of confidence there as she tries to find her own identity, unsure of what it is she really wants out of life.

The author tackles issues like sexuality, race, class, friendship, loss, divorce, alcohol/drug abuse, and romance. She doesn’t turn away from tough topics, but instead guides the characters through each hurdle, helping them to learn and grow along the way. The characters struggle with these topics, trying to understand themselves and each other, even in the most difficult of times. Murphy paints a picture that life isn’t always easy, but with close friends and family and a good support system, we can be sustained and grow in loving relationships despite difficulties.

This book did receive some negative feedback regarding Ramona’s sexuality, but I think we can take away from this book that she is a young woman who is in a process of self-discovery and exploration, and that’s ok. What this book does well is open up the door for conversation about sexuality and discusses how sexuality is fluid, not fixed. Ramona is not even out of high school yet. Nothing says that she needs to define exactly who she is and what her sexuality is, or even who she is as a person. She’s really just learning about who she is–even she doesn’t understand everything that she’s feeling! She’s driven and loving and kind. She’s learning about the possibilities that her future holds. She’s discovering the things she can do and the paths she can take, and even if she doesn’t know exactly where she’ll end up, she’s learning to make decisions, to move forward, to accept consequences, and to take responsibility.

I think this is a very strong and well-written book. It’s an excellent book to see out there in the YA market and it really stands apart from a lot of the other YA out there. It’s realistic, unyielding, and honest. Murphy builds a world that is very real for many teens out there and creates a space for discussion about issues that many teens–people of any age really–face. I think that it’s a well-executed story, and I hope to see more from Murphy in the future.

Review: The Break by Katherena Vermette

29220494.jpgTitle: The Break

Author: Katherena Vermette

Publisher: House of Anansi

Publication Date: Septemeber 2016

ISBN: 9781487001117

Synopsis from Goodreads:
When Stella, a young Métis mother, looks out her window one evening and spots someone in trouble on the Break — a barren field on an isolated strip of land outside her house — she calls the police to alert them to a possible crime. In a series of shifting narratives, people who are connected, both directly and indirectly, with the victim — police, family, and friends — tell their personal stories leading up to that fateful night. Lou, a social worker, grapples with the departure of her live-in boyfriend. Cheryl, an artist, mourns the premature death of her sister Rain. Paulina, a single mother, struggles to trust her new partner. Phoenix, a homeless teenager, is released from a youth detention centre. Officer Scott, a Métis policeman, feels caught between two worlds as he patrols the city. Through their various perspectives a larger, more comprehensive story about lives of the residents in Winnipeg’s North End is exposed.

The Break is an incredibly heart-breaking and poignant book about a Métis family in a small Canadian community who are struck by a terrible attack. I’m not sure how to do this book justice in a review, because it was so raw and beautifully sad in it’s portrayal of a young girl who survives a sexual assault and the family–especially the women–that surrounds her and do their best to protect her from further harm. The story is told from many angles, most of them women. Although this terrible act divides members of this small community, the various perspectives enlighten the reader to how they are all connected through similar experiences and tragedies.

The experiences for these women are often oppressive or violent. Vermette shares with the reader the tragic reality of what they face each and every day, yet fills the reader with hope that they can find strength and support in one another, find connection and rootedness through their tradition, and find peace in the end. These are women who are suffering and fighting the cycle of abuse, but they are also full of strength. They have fear, but they also have courage. Through it all, the main family in particular, stand by one another, offering support no matter what’s happening in each of their lives. We see the bonds of women and how it raises them up, but we also see what happens when the women turn against one another and the despair that results.

This novel addresses heavy issues such as abuse, assault, shame, fear, racism, and sexism. Vermette introduces us to a dark world, yet despite this sadness, there is so much hope. This is a book about community and family. It’s so well-written and compelling. The reader is searching for healing as much as the characters. You really can’t put it down. Vermette is an artist with her language, telling a story that needs to be heard and understood. She acknowledges that there are wounds that are difficult to heal and that the lines of justice are not always clear. Shame often impedes admitting something terrible, but forgiveness and love often know no bounds.

The Break is a beautifully written tale from a master storyteller. Vermette deserves a sport among the most talented Canadian writers. I encourage everyone to read this novel.

Review: I’ll Have What She’s Having

31932935*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: I’ll Have What She’s Having

Author: Erin Carlson

Publisher: Hachette Books

Publication Date: August 29, 2017

ISBN: 9780316353908

Synopsis from Goodreads:
In I’ll Have What She’s Having entertainment journalist Erin Carlson tells the story of the real Nora Ephron and how she reinvented the romcom through her trio of instant classics. With a cast of famous faces including Reiner, Hanks, Ryan, and Crystal, Carlson takes readers on a rollicking, revelatory trip to Ephron’s New York City, where reality took a backseat to romance and Ephron–who always knew what she wanted and how she wanted it–ruled the set with an attention to detail that made her actors feel safe but sometimes exasperated crew members.  Along the way, Carlson examines how Ephron explored in the cinema answers to the questions that plagued her own romantic life and how she regained faith in love after one broken engagement and two failed marriages. An intimate portrait of a one of America’s most iconic filmmakers and a look behind the scenes of her crowning achievements, I’ll Have What She’s Having is a vivid account of the days and nights when Ephron, along with assorted cynical collaborators, learned to show her heart on the screen.

I’ll Have What She’s Having was a lot of fun to read, though it is not in my usual pick.  It’s the story of Nora Ephron and her triumphs and failures in the show biz as she reinvented the romcom and rose to fame with stars like Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. I couldn’t resist, since When Harry Met Sally is one of my favourite movies. I found this to be an incredibly interesting book. It’s a tribute to Nora Ephron and all of her hard work and creativity. She really lived for the creation of something bigger and better, and she paved the way for women working in film to become great creators.

A lot of this book read as more of a biography of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. We do get an in depth background into Ephron, her love life, her upbringing, and her career. But Carlson spends quite a lot of time discussing Meg’s growth as an actress across the decades, and Hank’s as well. A lot of the other people mentioned throughout the book were unfamiliar to me. I knew the big name actors, but I had a more difficult time following Carlson’s account for those that I was less familiar. Nonetheless, Carlson’s book is full of fun retellings of various anecdotes from the set of each movie discussed.

I would have really liked to see more personal interviews between Carlson and the actors directly. The majority, if not all, of the content in the book is derived from other interviews, compiled in quite the impressive bibliography at the tale of the text. I commend the author on her hard work to seek out and find such a comprehensive grouping of articles, interviews, and stories. For me though, the book was lacking that personal touch that generally accompanies biographies. It created a bit of disconnect for me while reading. This is what makes this book a tribute more than anything else. The one thing that shines through is that Carlson is deeply devoted to telling Ephron’s story. She brings this icon alive through her pages and tells a story that is fascinating and multi-faceted. For fans of those classic Nora Ephron films, you’ll find this book a delight to read, if just for the in depth exploration of the behind-the-scenes experience on these wonderful films.

Review: I Hate Everyone, Except You by Clinton Kelly

29430846.jpgTitle: I Hate Everyone, Except You

Author: Clinton Kelly

Publisher: Gallery Books

Publication Date: January 10, 2017

ISBN: 9781476776934

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Clinton Kelly is probably best known for teaching women how to make their butts look smaller. But in I Hate Everyone, Except You, he reveals some heretofore-unknown secrets about himself, like that he’s a finicky connoisseur of 1980s pornography, a disillusioned critic of New Jersey’s premier water parks, and perhaps the world’s least enthused high-school commencement speaker. Whether he’s throwing his baby sister in the air to jumpstart her cheerleading career or heroically rescuing his best friend from death by mud bath, Clinton leaps life’s social hurdles with aplomb. With his signature wit, he shares his unique ability to navigate the stickiest of situations, like deciding whether it’s acceptable to eat chicken wings with a fork on live television (spoiler: it’s not). Clinton delves into all these topics—and many more—in this thoroughly unabashedly frank and uproarious collection.

Bring on the sass!! I Hate Everyone, Except You, read on audiobook by Kelly himself, was a joyous, ultra-sassy account of Clinton Kelly’s life from his childhood to his rise to fame on What Not to Wear. His essays and anecdote, snarky but hilarious, reveal the man behind the show. I watched What Not to Wear religiously and took great amusement in Kelly’s fashion tips and often unflinching honesty. It’s always amazing to me to somewhat get to know the person behind the character on tv. Although Kelly is himself on tv, getting to know his past and how he came to be a successful tv personality is an interesting tale. Kelly doesn’t spare us his blatant thoughts and judgements, but his stories are full of comedic twists. Despite all of this, he’s a truly sweet person underneath, revealing these softer parts of himself throughout the text. I loved learning about how he came to be co-host on the TLC show, and getting an inside look at his friendship with Stacey London really warmed my heart. It made me nostalgic for all those episodes and I think I’m going to have to find some episodes to binge watch soon!

Review: Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

26160470Title: Kafka on the Shore

Author: Haruki Murakami

Publisher: Vintage

Publication Date: First published in 2002

ISBN: 9781400079278


Synopsis from Goodreads:
Kafka on the Shore is powered by two remarkable characters: a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who runs away from home either to escape a gruesome oedipal prophecy or to search for his long-missing mother and sister; and an aging simpleton called Nakata, who never recovered from a wartime affliction and now is drawn toward Kafka for reasons that, like the most basic activities of daily life, he cannot fathom. As their paths converge, and the reasons for that convergence become clear, Haruki Murakami enfolds readers in a world where cats talk, fish fall from the sky, and spirits slip out of their bodies to make love or commit murder. Kafka on the Shore displays one of the world’s great storytellers at the peak of his powers.  

What an excellent book from legendary author, Murakami. I am slow to the punch with this one, but the more I read from Murakami, the more I have to read. And I’m never disappointed. Kafka on the Shore reads like a dream, but it touches ones emotions in a very real way. This is a story of coming of age, full of murder, loss, self-discovery, lust, the supernatural, the absurd. The author is a master at creating mind-bending worlds that run parallel to our own, so realistic, yet so in touch with the otherworldly.

The main characters, Kafka Tamura and Mr. Nakata, are opposites in terms of age, intelligence, and life experience, but their lives, unbeknownst to them, are intertwined. They’re realistic and almost alive. While Nakata struggles with even the simplest of tasks, he views the world and the people around him with unflinching honesty, observing life as he sees it, quite literally. Kafka is young and is embarking on a journey to truly find himself. Incredibly smart despite his desire to leave high school life behind, Kafka’s observations and musing are astute and studied. Both characters are on the hunt to discover that which is unknown. Their travels take them on adventures that they could have never predicted.

Murakami’s writing is excellent and his world, despite it’s absurd twists and turns, is accessible and not to difficult to understand. I think that many readers would relate to and connect with this particular novel. The characters are complex and truly lovely and there are so many surprises that it’s impossible to know how this book with turn out. Murakami is a true artist with the pen.