Outrageous – Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

Furiously Happy

by Jenny Lawson

 

furiously-happy

Published 2015

Genres: Non-fiction / Memoir / Humour

 

“Okay. This magazine says that you can tell what you should do with your life if you just take away all thoughts of risks. So what would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?”

“I’d be a Pegasus.”

“That’s not really how this works.”

“I’d be a brown Pegasus though, because if you were a white Pegasus you’d be hounded by Lisa Frank fans and nine-year-olds. And black Pegasuses are just as bad because they’re all badass and heavy metal bands would probably want to kidnap them. But no one wants a shabby brown Pegasus. I could just flap around the neighbourhood and no one would really care. And maybe I’d wish for back herpes so that people wouldn’t hassle me for rides.”

Victor looked back at his magazine. “I’m not going to talk to you if you’re not taking this seriously.”

“I am taking this seriously,” I said. “I’d be a rumpled, brown Pegasus with back herpes if I knew I couldn’t fail.”

“That’s not how it works,” Victor said. “It’s supposed to teach you what you really want in life.”

“That is what I want.”

“PICK SOMETHING REAL.”

Jenny Lawson, a.k.a. The Bloggess, recounts stories from her life that shine a light on the mental health issues she lives with. And in no way are they dark and miserable. She relates her stories with humour, humility, and honesty. Never thought you’d laugh at tales of someone else’s mental health problems? Think again. Somehow, in Furiously Happy, The Bloggess makes it ok to laugh.

 

Janelle says…

It’s been a long time since I laughed so hard that I cried. It’s also been a long time since I had to smother my face while reading at 3am so as not to wake up my family with my giggling. Both of those things happened while I was reading Furiously Happy.

Entering Jenny Lawson’s world was like entering another dimension while on a sugar high and surrounded by cuddly, jumpy puppies who are all holding balloons. I know, it makes no sense, but it sounds damn fun doesn’t it?!

In one way, it seems a bit off to be recommending that you go read this book because you will laugh yourself silly at this recounting of someone’s mental illness. But Jenny Lawson wants you to laugh. That’s at the core of her Furiously Happy movement. To not let her mental issues be an automatic pass into a melancholy state. She is determined to be not only happy, but FURIOUSLY happy. Just like her raccoon friend, Rory. Look at his delightful little face on the cover there. Does he not make you want to join in with whatever party is going on in his head?!

Speaking of Rory, the story she tells about purchasing him and then using him to pull pranks on her long-suffering husband is so funny that I’m laughing right now just thinking about it. As is the story about her going to an overnight sleep clinic to find out if she has sleep apnoea, which was so fantastic I read it twice. In fact, I’m having so much fun reminiscing in my head about this book, that it’s making me want to re-read it immediately!

I can’t do this book justice by speaking any more about it, it would be like doing a poor job of retelling an awesome joke. That “you had to be there” factor. But I’m telling you, you absolutely MUST go there. Please. And then come back here and tell me about it so we can laugh together.

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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Raw – Like a Queen by Constance Hall

Like a Queen by Constance Hall

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Published 2016

Genres: Non Fiction/Biographical

“Every time you are expressing kindness, handing over some of your wage to a charity, giving another Queen a compliment, recognising a lonely Queen and taking the time to get to know her, offering to babysit for that single mum at school who’s doing it all on her own, sacrificing your coffee money for that homeless guy who waits at the train station every morning, choose to understand instead of judge.

You are changing the world. Every time that you are connecting yourself to someone else, you are changing the world.

Queens are the change the world needs.

This, Queens,

Is just the beginning.”

Australian “Mummy” blogger, Constance Hall’s, first book. A must read for all ‘Queens’.


Mel says…

Before I read Like a Queen, I had only read exerpts of Con’s writing on Facebook and my only memory of her was from a series of Australian Big Brother, many many years ago. So let’s just say that my opinion of her was fairly iffy, at best. But as my girlfriends and fellow Mum’s started raving about this book, I just had to give it a read.

I’ll start with the negatives first; for one, Con is up front with her lack of grammar and punctuation in her blog but I must admit, publishing a book should come with an editor, right? So I don’t think it is too much to ask for someone to have proofread and corrected the use of the words ‘woman’ and women’ in their correct context. It is minor, but something that ALWAYS irritates me. Secondly, I did get a tad irritated with how much Con used the word ‘Queen’ throughout. I know, I know, the book is titled Like a QUEEN for crying out loud, but to use it up to 5-6 times in one paragraph just irked me.
By the last 50 or so pages, I was kind of over the whole book, but I do appreciate the messages that were coming across.

Ok, I have gotten the negatives off my chest, so on to the positives. This book literally had me LOL’ing many times, once in a busy cafe with other patrons staring awkwardly at me. Con tells it like it is and when it comes to early motherhood, it was pretty bloody accurate. As a new mother myself, a lot of the stories that were told resonated with me, as they were so fresh in my memory from my own personal experiences.

From poop to sex and everything in between, this book made me cringe, laugh and hold back tears. I did enjoy reading about Constance’s life in general however, as I was not an avid fan of hers before reading her book, I wasn’t all that interested in those chapters. The chapters that were in relation to mothering and motherhood are what kept me intrigued, but I did struggle to finish it.

Overall, this is a book for women but in particular, Mum’s. New Mum’s, old Mum’s, Grandmothers and step-mothers. I think we can all relate to a lot of the stories and learn from the generous heart that belongs to the original “Queeny’ herself, Constance.

 

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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Buddy read – American Housewife: Stories by Helen Ellis

March 2016 – Janelle’s choice

American Housewife: Stories

by Helen Ellis

american housewife

Published January 2016

Genres: Fiction / Short Stories / Humour

 

Meet the women of American Housewife: they wear lipstick, pearls, and sunscreen, even when it’s cloudy. They casserole. They pinwheel. They pump the salad spinner like it’s a CPR dummy. And then they kill a party crasher, carefully stepping around the body to pull cookies out of the oven.
These twelve irresistible stories take us from a haunted prewar Manhattan apartment building to the set of a rigged reality television show, from the unique initiation ritual of a book club to the getaway car of a pageant princess on the lam, from the gallery opening of a tinfoil artist to the fitting room of a legendary lingerie shop.

Mel says…

Reading through this collection of short stories had me laughing out loud, cringing at stereotypes and wondering if women like the characters in each story actually exist.

I loved the differing perspectives of writing for each story and think that Helen Ellis nailed the variety of styles in each story. In one story you are reading it from a characters living perspective, the next through emails from differing characters and the next via a list of must-do’s.

If you are looking for an easy and quick read, this book is a must. It is light and funny and a good book to break up what can sometimes be an intense time in reading, when you have a long ‘to read list’ and just need a bookish holiday. This book keeps you turning pages until the very end. It is non-committal as protagonists constantly change and you aren’t required to make any emotional commitments to them, through their experiences.

This is one for the lady-on-the-go who needs to fill in a small amount of reading time.

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

Janelle says…

I do love a short story collection. Especially when the other book I have on the go is almost 1000 pages long. Anything to distract me from the massive commitment staring at me!

Short story collections are the anti-commitment books. Perfect “in-between” books, and great for when you’re busy. This collection had me at the title. American Housewife? Say no more, just hand it over. At 185 pages long, I can practically fit it in my back pocket.

I was expecting a snappy little collection of witty, humorous stories about the stereotypical housewife, perhaps a story or two that dared to smash that stereotype by exposing “the truth” of how much work is actually involved in being your average housewife (note: not your rich and privileged housewife) (ie. a lot). Fast forward to the contents page, with story titles such as “What I Do All Day”, “Hello! Welcome To Book Club”, and “How To Be A Grown-Ass Lady”. Oh yes, this was going to be good.

And it was good. Just good. Not fabulous. I laughed (“The Wainscoting War” – I could have read a whole book just of that one story!), but I also meh’d (“Dumpster Diving With the Stars” – which just happened to also be the longest story in the collection). I wasn’t expecting that this collection would touch on some of the not-so-funny realities of being a housewife. Like loneliness, and jealousy, and subservience. I think it’s great that it did though. That’s real life.

But I did find myself at times thinking, “ho-hum”. So for that reason, I’m ranking American Housewife in the middle, with 3 stars out of 5.

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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Wise – Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Yes Please

by Amy Poehler

amy poehler yes please

Published 2014

Genres: Non-Fiction / Memoir / Humour

 

“I stood onstage in my blue checked dress, Toto in my arms, and looked at the audience of parents, teachers, and students. I breathed in….and I had a huge realisation. I could decide right then and there what the next moment would be. I could try something new. I could go off script and give something a shot. I could say whatever I wanted.”

 

Janelle says…

This is just what a memoir/autobiography should be – a good balance of personal history, life lessons and advice, gossip and humour.

It’s also just what an audiobook should be. There’s so much content you don’t get with the printed version. There are special guest appearances, from Kathleen Turner, Patrick Stewart, Seth Meyers, and Amy’s parents. There’s snippets of extra narration from Amy along the way. She even performs a sweet little song. There’s even a haiku read by Patrick Stewart!

Amy goes into detail about her early life, her stand-up/improv/acting career to this point, and the people who have influenced her along the way. She also tackles divorce, female self-image, and most interestingly to me – parenting.

“I loved being pregnant, I loved being at work and still feeling vital and busy while this extraordinary thing was happening inside of me. I never felt alone. I always had a companion.”

This is EXACTLY how I felt when I was pregnant, especially the first time, and I remember saying basically the same words to my husband.

Amy is so honest and heartfelt in her thoughts on being a mother. At one point she speaks a lot about “mother-on-mother crime”, which is absolutely a real, sad and ridiculous thing. I love her saying, “Good for her! Not for me” – this viewpoint really needs to be adopted by mothers in general, it would save us all a lot of judgement and hurt!

This review is already a little quote-heavy, but I just can’t resist slipping in one more – in my opinion, the most hilarious moment in the book. Enjoy – and get yourself a copy of this on audio! You will laugh and nod and it will make you happy!

“But take it from me, no one knows the biz like I know the biz, I love the biz. Hollywood’s a crazy biz, and I know the biz, cause the biz is in my blood. Some say I’m a biz-wiz. Either way, show-business is my business, so you better get busy with the business I know.”

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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Read by Janelle: August 2015 – Down Under by Bill Bryson

Down Under

by Bill Bryson

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Published 2000

Genres: Non-Fiction / Travel & Adventure / Humour

In the motel, I dumped my bag and reflexively switched on the TV. It came up on the cricket, and I sat on the foot of the bed and watched it with unwonted absorption for some minutes. Needless to say, very little was happening on the pitch. An official in a white coat was chasing after a blown piece of paper and several of the players were examining the ground by the stumps, evidently looking for something. I couldn’t think what, but then one of the commentators noted that England had just lost a wicket, so I supposed it was that. After a time a lanky young man in the outfield, who had been polishing a ball on his trouser leg as if about to take a bite from it, broke into a loping run. At length he hurled the ball at the distant batsman, who insouciantly lifted his bat an inch from the ground and putted it back to him. These motions were scrupulously replicated three times more, then the commentator said: ‘And so at the end of the four hundred and fifty-second over, as we break for afternoon nap, England have increased their total to seventeen. So still quite a lot of work for them to do if they’re going to catch Australia before fourth snack.”

 

Janelle says…

The two-story compendium you see in the picture above is the first Bill Bryson I’ve ever owned, or read. I picked it up on a whim at one of our local bookfairs, knowing only that Bryson was a name in travel and adventure non-fiction and was supposedly funny. It was the first, but it won’t be the last.

I fell in love from the first few pages of the first story in the book, A Walk In The Woods (soon to be turned into a movie starring Robert Redford and Nick Nolte. Not happy about the choice of actors). Immediately, I wanted to step out my front door and walk to somewhere wild and far away. Although, maybe not as wild or far away as the Appalachian Trail. I don’t know that I’ll ever be willing to risk being eaten by bears after reading this.

But this review is not about A Walk In The Woods, it’s about the second story in this collection – Down Under. In which Bryson explores this fascinating country from east to west and top to bottom, by rail, car and foot, and manages to see more of it in 4 weeks than I have in my entire lifetime living here.

Firstly, a disclaimer. This book was written in 2000. Things have changed in Australia since then – in politics, in infrastructure, in global status, in most ways really. Bryson’s views in this book must be taken with a grain of 15-year-old salt.

Most of Bryson’s observations aren’t too surprising. The outback is vast and empty. Sydney is sparkling and sprawling. Adelaide is lush and pretty. Canberra is spacious but boring (not true! I’m offended!). But he does bring up some interesting points as an outsider. He speaks to white Australians about Indigenous Australians whenever the opportunity presents itself, persisting to ask questions and try to understand the situation even when it is clear that for some people the topic is uncomfortable. He learns of the events in our fractured history, and becomes aware that there is still a definite divide between the two peoples of the country. But although he seems to build a solid grasp of how the realities of life differ for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, and reflects on this with sadness, he admits that he doesn’t know what the answer is to solving the problems, but that something needs to be done and now.

He also comments again and again on Australia’s invisible status to the rest of the world, despite the many examples given of feats of exploration, miracles of science and nature, amazing people and fascinating tales that emanate from the land down under. By the end of the book, he seems to be stumped as to why Australia has not been given the credit he believes it does deserve.

For me, the most amusing parts of this book were the (many) parts where Bryson obsesses over our diverse and bizarre flora and fauna, in particular, the fauna of the deadly variety. I can’t help but enjoy it when foreigners become fixated on the numerous dangerous creatures we share this space with, and how the hell we manage to not be killed every day. Bryson too can’t seem to fathom how we get away with it. I don’t know, Bill, we just do!

 

“You probably won’t see any redbacks out there,’ Sonja reassured us. ‘Snakes are much more of a problem.’

This intelligence was received with four raised eyebrows and expressions that said: ‘Go on.’

She nodded. ‘Common brown, western puff pastry, yellow-backed lockjaw, eastern groin groper, dodge viper….’ I don’t remember what she said exactly, but it was a long list. ‘But don’t worry,’ she continued. ‘Most snakes don’t want to hurt you. If you’re out in the bush and a snake comes along, just stop dead and let it slide over your shoes.’

This, I decided, was the least-likely-to-be-followed advice I had ever been given.

 

Bryson learns something through his travels about the Australian way – which is generally easygoing, laidback, witty and humorous, with a sense of community and “we’re all in this together”. He is most definitely taken with the country, and I believe the connection he felt on his trip is due to the fact that he likely personally possesses these qualities too.

Down Under, and indeed, Bill Bryson in general, will suit you if you love sarcastic humour, and are curious about the world around you and the people in it.

 

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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