Review: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

Greg Gaines has made it as a senior in high school.From here on, it should be smooth riding to graduation. All he had to look forward to is hang out with his sort-of-friend Earl to make a final movie, and avoid the discussion of college. It sounds easy– until his mother crashes his plans, and makes him hang out with a classmate who was diagnosed with cancer. Suddenly, Greg’s plan of low-key profile before graduation becomes a long distance dream.

Personal Take: I watched the movie first, and I LOVED it. So much so, that I decided, maybe I should read the book because it’s bound to be more awesome than the movie. Except…I was surprised to find that it wasn’t. Many readers already warned me that I would probably prefer the movie over the book. And while I appreciate that the movie closely at least maintained the spirit of the original story not being a romance story, the characters in the book…could have been more. It seemed that Andrews tried his hardest to make our protagonist Greg such an unlikable character. He is definitely awkward, and his narrative is absolutely hilarious.  But I think towards the end, there was too much emphasis on his apathy, which I found slightly unbelievable. Or maybe he’s too realistic of a character.

Other characters like Earl and Rachel were great to read– Earl especially was amazing. Sickening sometimes, but loved each chapter he was in. The story itself lacked a connection with what Rachel was going through, but keeping observation at high-level was interesting to experience.

Towards the end though, I found that I wasn’t attached to any of the characters, which was a shame because they were so well-written. It was a good read at the end of the day, but I’d still pick the movie over the book for this title.

Audience: Older teens for language and disturbing references.

Rating:

 

Other recommendations: Andrews also authored The Haters and an anthology of new writers Take a Pique.

Review: Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari

At some point, every one of us embarks on a journey to find love. We meet people, date, get into and out of relationships, all with the hope of finding someone with whom we share a deep connection. This seems standard now, but it’s wildly different from what people did even just decades ago. Single people today have more romantic options than at any point in human history. With technology, our abilities to connect with and sort through these options are staggering. So why are so many people frustrated?

For years, Aziz Ansari has been aiming his comic insight at modern romance, but for Modern Romance, the book, he decided he needed to take things to another level. He teamed up with NYU sociologist Eric Klinenberg and designed a massive research project, including hundreds of interviews and focus groups conducted everywhere from Tokyo to Buenos Aires to Wichita. They analyzed behavioral data and surveys and created their own online research forum on Reddit, which drew thousands of messages. They enlisted the world’s leading social scientists, including Andrew Cherlin, Eli Finkel, Helen Fisher, Sheena Iyengar, Barry Schwartz, Sherry Turkle, and Robb Willer. The result is unlike any social science or humor book we’ve seen before.

In Modern Romance, Ansari combines his irreverent humor with cutting-edge social science to give us an unforgettable tour of our new romantic world. (From Goodreads.)

Personal Take: I love a book that can balance hilarity and interesting facts. Ansari did just that, in his pursuit of what makes men and women look for a romantic partner, and how they go about it. His findings offer a lot to debate about, scoff about or relate to. A lot of it was also either disturbing or intriguing, but one thing is for sure– people in general are just plain weird when it comes to setting the norms of mating. This was a repeated theme across most of the research that was conducted, focus groups (that one was just hilarious), and interviews. I liked Ansari’s honesty and his understanding of what he found, his comedic voice offering some relief in the mess that is the human quest for romance.

Though the book doesn’t get to answer anything, this is still a great read, both hilarious and insightful all in one.

Audience: Adults. For relatable and the weird stories.

Rating:

Other recommendations: This is the only printed book from Aziz Ansari, and the rest are in audio format.

Review: If the Raindrops United by Judiah Friedlander

 

Most Americans know Judah Friedlander from his role as Frank Rossitano on 30 Rock and from appearances in films like American Splendor and The Wrestler. But long before he became a film and TV star and stand-up comic Friedlander drew stuff.
Now, in this quirky, hilarious, and surprisingly profound collection of drawings, Friedlander shows a new side to his “terrifically entertaining” (New York Times) comedy. (from Goodreads)

Personal Take: I’m not sure how one reviews a book of drawings and cartoons. There weren’t necessarily many words (a few pages at most), but the doodles were enough to make readers think of what’s important to Judah. Much of it is relevant to what’s happening in the U.S, from social issues, to environmental issues. And some varies from being quickly understood to taking some time to sink in (mostly because I wasn’t familiar with the references). Much like how he is on television, Friedlander inserts intelligent humor in his doodles, which I adored.

Overall though, this is a quaint book of doodles, that packs a lot of messages with deep thoughts, sometimes bordering controversial, but it was a delight to sift through.

Audience: Older people, because even if the book is filled with doodles, there are still some adult themes in there.

Rating:

Other recommendations: The only other book Friedlander wrote was How To Beat Up Anybody: An Instructional and Inspirational Karate Book by A World Champion, which I’m assuming is a comedy. Artists/creatives who have done something similar is Heart and Brain: The AwkwardYeti Collection by Nick Seluk and Adulthood is a Myth by Sarah Anderson.

Review: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

 

Mindy Kaling has lived many lives: the obedient child of immigrant professionals, a timid chubster afraid of her own bike, a Ben Affleck–impersonating Off-Broadway performer and playwright, and, finally, a comedy writer and actress prone to starting fights with her friends and coworkers with the sentence “Can I just say one last thing about this, and then I swear I’ll shut up about it?”
In Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Mindy invites readers on a tour of her life and her unscientific observations on romance, friendship, and Hollywood, with several conveniently placed stopping points for you to run errands and make phone calls. Mindy Kaling really is just a Girl Next Door—not so much literally anywhere in the continental United States, but definitely if you live in India or Sri Lanka. (from Goodreads)

Personal Take: After reading this book, I feel guilty about one thing– that I’m not a fan of Mindy Kaling’s show. Nothing against her, I just didn’t click with the show. Which is too bad, because Mindy herself is an interesting person. Much of her childhood is very relatable, and her stories of friendships, work and just the mundane thoughts of everyday life varies between absolute hilarity to solemn truths. The wonderful thing about this book is how it encourages girls to be who they are, as that is what makes a girl beautiful.

I did wish Mindy was more specific in some chapters; more of her career, for example, or writing. Most of the time, it felt like she skimmed certain stories for the sake of humor. Her lists were entertaining though.

I enjoyed reading this book, if only to reassure myself that success comes to those who do things differently, and that even successful people waffle when doing work.

Audience: This book is definitely for teen girls and above.

Rating: 

threehalfstars

Other recommendations: Mindy wrote a second book called Why Not Me? which I’ll be reading sometime next year!

Review: More Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops by Jen Campbell

more-weird-things-customers-say-in-bookshop

Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops was a Sunday Times bestseller, and could be found displayed on bookshop counters up and down the country. The response to the book from booksellers all over the world has been one of heartfelt agreement: it would appear that customers are saying bizarre things all over the place – from asking for books with photographs of Jesus in them, to hunting for the best horse owner’s manual that has a detailed chapter on unicorns.

More Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops has yet more tales from the antiquarian bookshop where Jen Campbell works, and includes a selection of ‘Weird Things…’ sent in from other booksellers across the world. (From Goodreads.)

Personal Take: Ever since I read the first book Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops, I’d hoped there would be something similar– and there was! The sequel is just as hilarious as the first, revealing original and unbelievable takes on customers, and the wise cracks of the booksellers who serve them. My favorite too was the innocence of children and their interaction with books.

If you’re looking for a nice and quick reading break, this is definitely one to pick up, and have you rolling on the floor with laughter.

Audience: Definitely for readers of any age who deal who are familiar with non-reading friends, family and strangers.

Rating:

4stars

Other recommendations: Jen Campbell’s first collection is called Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops.

Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Harry Potter #8) by J.K Rowling

Harry Potter 8Nineteen years have passed since the defeat of the Dark Lord. Harry finds himself still struggling with his past, one that affects his youngest son Albus. With each choice Albus makes, Harry can feel the distance growing between them. When Albus decides to take up an adventure to fix a loss in his father’s past, certain things become clear: darkness still exists in the wizarding world.

Personal Take: Part of me picked this up out of loyalty, and still loved this out of loyalty. However, I’ll come out and say that while this book had my favourite characters in between its pages, along with an enchanting world, I can’t count it as part of the original Harry Potter series.

First, as everyone knows, the format is in script form because it’s a play. That means it takes into account a lot of the stage production elements– the pacing, the beat, the character motivations, etc. In my opinion (and from what I’ve observed) plays explore certain depth of themes a different way, but it has to move the scene along until the end.

And that’s what I felt when reading this book. At times, I could see my favorite characters, references to glorious moments from the books, but other things felt more for stage purposes, like characterization and dialogue. It almost felt like an alternate universe of my favorite series. And I did enjoy it (heck, there were times I wanted to cry!). But I wouldn’t come close to counting it as the 8th book, or story arc.

So my recommendation is: if you want to read this, don’t think too much into it, and just enjoy the ride.

Audience: Always, fans of the series (but maybe not the hardcore fans..)

Rating:

threestars

 

Other recommendations: I haven’t read anything by J.K Rowling other than her most popular series, Harry Potter and The Tales of Beedle the Bard. She’s also written an adult novel, The Casual Vacancy.

Review: Think Like a Freak by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner

Think Like A Freak

After the phenomenal success of their book and podcast, Freakonomics, Levitt and Dubner partner once again to release another revolutionary book. The duo take readers through ways of how to think outside the box, and provide examples of how its applied in real life, from philanthropy to business to sports. Part witty and part serious, the book presents a different way of seeing the world that anyone can benefit from.

Personal Take: I’m a huge fan of Freakonomics, and I couldn’t wait to start reading this book. Just as the hosts are engaging on their podcast, I was so happy to see the same narrative style of equal mix casual, funny, and informative present in the book. I really enjoyed reading the book, and the examples they provided. Even though I heard these examples on their podcast, the authors expanded on it further in the book, and I enjoyed the revelations.

The book also makes a list of things to consider when it comes to “thinking outside of the box” (a phrase I hate so much because its overused for the most nonsensical reasons, but somehow I accept it from the authors because they do know what they’re talking about). It was surprising to me to find out how basic these steps are. They’re things that we grow out of, that needs remembering again.

And that’s another thing the duo touch on; how to grow from your mistakes and to make the best from these experiences.

Always easy and engaging, this is a must read. I can’t wait to read their other books.

Audience: Even though it does touch on real life examples and interviews, I do recommend this to older teens. Of course, adults will also love it.

Rating:

4stars

Other recommendations: Dubner and Levitt are also the authors of Freakonomics and their recent release, When To Rob a Bank– both on my must-read list!

Review: Bossypants by Tina Fey

Bossypants

 

Before Liz Lemon, before “Weekend Update,” before “Sarah Palin,” Tina Fey was just a young girl with a dream: a recurring stress dream that she was being chased through a local airport by her middle-school gym teacher. She also had a dream that one day she would be a comedian on TV.

She has seen both these dreams come true.

At last, Tina Fey’s story can be told. From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon—from the beginning of this paragraph to this final sentence.

Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we’ve all suspected: you’re no one until someone calls you bossy. (From Goodreads.)

 

Personal Take: I LOVE TINA FEY. The moment I was hooked on her show 30 Rock, I’ve wanted to be Tina Fey. Hell, I still want to be her. And her book is an extension of the hilarious, clever, and random woman. This book isn’t autobiographical, or at least, not chronologically. Fey takes readers through different phases of her life, and adding a humorous narrative throughout the moments she shares. She covers quite a few opinions; on race, feminism, work.

I especially related to her story about balancing work. I don’t know why, but there’s something about an awesome woman admitting that things aren’t always smooth sailing. I’ve learned useful things (like how TV works), and some of the weirdest things as well.

I actually wouldn’t mind re-reading it again.

Audience: Definitely adults. There are some weird stuff in the book, and some swearing too.

Rating:

4stars

Other recommendations: Alas, this is the only book Fey released to date, but if you’re looking for another funny woman to read about, check out Yes, Please by Amy Poehler (also on my list).

Review: The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories (Volume 1) by Joseph Gordon Levitt and wirrow

From hitRECord, the immensely popular open collaborative production company, and its founder, Golden Globe-nominated actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, comes The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories: Volume 1.
The universe is not made of atoms; it’s made of tiny stories.
To create The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories: Volume 1, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, known within the hitRECord community as RegularJOE–directed thousands of collaborators to tell tiny stories through words and art. With the help of the entire creative collective, Gordon-Levitt culled, edited and curated over 8,500 contributions into this finely tuned collection of original art from 67 contributors. Reminiscent of the 6-Word Memoir series, The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories: Volume 1 brings together art and voices from around the world to unite and tell stories that defy size. (from Goodreads)

Personal Take: I bought this as a gift for a few of my friends: birthdays or as a token to cheer them up, and they’ve raved about it so much that I had to get a copy of it myself. And gosh, did I love the stories. It’s a whole combination of sorrow, happiness, hopefulness, witticism , comedy and more– all the human thoughts and emotions woven together in a string of words and art.
If you love illustrations and and small sentences that pack an emotional punch, this is the book for you. It’s a must.
Audience: There are a few stories that are geared towards adult understanding, so I would definitely say older teens and adults.
Rating: 
5stars
Other recommendations: The awesome thing about this book, or series– is that it’s serialized. So I have about two other volumes to get through!

Review: Deadly Cool (Deadly Cool #1) by Gemma Halliday

 

After experiencing the humiliation of her boyfriend cheating on her with a cheerleader, Hart has another bout of unwanted experience– absolute terror when she finds the body of said cheerleader at her ex-boyfriend’s house. All fingers lead to her ex, but Hart is convinced that someone is framing him. As she gets closer to finding the culprit, signs start hinting that Hart may be the next victim.

Personal Take: It’s been SO LONG since I enjoyed a good contemporary mystery! Just from the first few pages of the book, I knew I’d love Hartley. I loved her even more with her gutsy personality and sense of humor. It reminded me so much of Veronica Mars (with less edge), which was another reason why I loved it.The events were fast paced, the mystery was REALLY good. The secondary characters were fantastic. There were elements that Halliway decided to build up as she goes through the series, which I totally appreciate. Her writing flowed wonderfully, and the characters were so well written for such a short book.

One thing that probably knocked off a pumpkin was a minor thing with Hart doing something she promised not to do, and not feeling guilty about it– character growth/development is important!

Still, I loved every bit of the story, and if it weren’t for other reading commitments, I would have jumped to the second book instantly.

Audience: This is a teen-approved book, but I would say older teens for suggestive language.

Rating: 

4stars

Other recommendations: After researching about Halliday, I’ve come to learn she’s the queen of contemporary chick-lit mysteries. Other than her Deadly Cool series, she also authored the Jamie Bond series, High Heels series, and Hollywood Headlines , among others.