Category Archives: nonfiction

Southern Lady Code by Helen Ellis

IMG_9534This is my first dive into anything Helen Ellis, so I wasn’t riding a wave of pre-established affection. Ellis is an American Housewife (the title of one of her previous books), born in Alabama before relocating and settling in Manhattan. Southern Lady Code details her reflections on and rules of being a southerner in the elite, uppercrust world of upper Manhattan. While I smiled at a few of her comments (being a Texan who lived in Brooklyn for a few years), nothing caused me to laugh out loud. This might resonate better with an audience of similar peers, but it felt a bit too niche and out of the way for me. 

Disclaimer: I was provided with a digital copy of this book for free from Doubleday Books via NetGalley. All opinions expressed in the review are my own and have not been influenced by Doubleday Books or NetGalley.

Publication Date: 16 April 2019 by Doubleday BooksFormat: ARC e-book.

Author: Helen Ellis @twitter/facebook/@instagram/podcast

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This Will Only Hurt a Little by Busy Philips

image1 (19)Busy Philipps, longtime actress always cast as the best friend and never the star and yet also breakout star of Instagram stories, wrote a memoir that perfectly coincides with her star rising and the release of her nearly nightly talkshow Busy Tonight on E!

The tone of this memoir is one of your best friends spilling their life stories and secrets over margaritas, and just like any of your deep relationships with your best friends (at least if you’re me), there are parts of their personality that you find rather annoying. I enjoyed reading Busy’s stories of her adolescence and repeatedly trying to “make it” in Hollywood (this is tongue-in-cheek for me though… because people obviously know her name; just because she’s not “A-List” doesn’t mean she hasn’t “made it”). The honesty is her sharing her painful moments was refreshing and raw. However, it’s clear that Busy really struggles with wanting to be loved by all, cast as the lead, and the constant center of attention. These are qualities I found grating to read about, but also probably qualities you need to be an actor professionally. I would just hope that by her age and degree of professional success, she would be a bit more grounded in who she is and quit seemingly seeking validation at every turn. Busy is a cool chick — now to just get Busy to believe it, find her happiness with it, and rock it herself!

Publication Date: 16 October 2018 by TouchstoneFormat: Hardcover.

Author: Busy Philipps book site/@instagram/@twitter

The Book of No Worries by Lizzie Cox

image1 (19)Oh how I wanted to love this book! I stumbled upon it in a children’s bookshop, randomly opened it to the pages dealing with adolescent anxiety, loved how it tackled explaining the experience of dealing with anxiety to young people, and assumed I would equally love how it tackled the other subjects covered inside of The Book of No Worries after requesting a copy from the publisher.

I found the general explanation of worries (how they occur, how they deviate for people who worry more than average, how to deal with worries, and when it’s time to ask help when the worries are too much) to be very good. I thought The Book of No Worries did a great job of making mental health issues like anxiety and depression accessible and recognizable to adolescents. However, I had some issues with the examples used in sections about specific worries (such as puberty, friends, body image, divorce, etc.). While I enjoyed the general overview about worrying, I think the highlighted specific issues are related to a certain type of childhood and would not be applicable, and perhaps even alienating, to those who do not have comfortable childhoods. Granted, I hope most kids who read this book are living comfortable lives, but I could see this being very condescending to a child who is navigating far rougher situations at home and in the world.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a digital copy of this book for free from QEB Publishing via NetGalley. All opinions expressed in the review are my own and have not been influenced by QEB Publishing or NetGalley.

Publication Date: 9 October 2018 by QEB Publishing. Format: E-book ARC.

Author: Lizzie Cox

Illustrator: Tanja Stevanovic behance

The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying by Nina Riggs

img_9131Nina Riggs, a poet, started writing a beautiful memoir upon her terminal cancer diagnosis. What follows is a beautiful composition of the scary, mundane, and loving moments that shapes one’s life as they know that it will eventually come to an end much sooner than they ever imagined. 

This is a beautiful, quick memoir that illuminates one person ruminations as they contemplate their impending mortality, leaving their closest loved ones behind, and what they feel they must accomplish in their shortened life. I finished and shed a few tears upon reading the touching acknowledgments, which were written by Riggs’s husband.

This is a good book for anyone who wants to read a touching memoir written by someone who received a terminal diagnosis that keeps things incredibly real without venturing toward overwrought territory. Read it. Hug your loved ones. Appreciate what you have. Enjoy the cozy moments with those you cherish.

Publication Date: 6 June 2017 by Simon & SchusterFormat: Hardcover.

Author: Nina Riggs

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

img_9147So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed is complicated and messy and will force you to examine how you do or do not participate in #canceled culture. Ronson explores how individuals have been publicly shamed after making a misstep (largely on social media), their reactions, and their responses. Ronson argues that today’s social media shamings are essentially the modern day throwing of tomatoes at people in stocks, except the shame extends far beyond the public shaming instance as search results seem endlessly tied to those who are shamed. 

Ronson details many different, nuanced examples and reactions to public shaming. Throughout the book, Ronson repeatedly returns to one specific case of public shaming and many of his arguments hinge on this one case and the reader sympathizing with a joke gone wrong. However, I don’t believe the case featured a “joke gone wrong” because it was a tweet of a racist joke that targeted a specific, marginalized group of people. Unfortunately, Ronson’s hinging on this specific case caused me to the dock the book a star because I could not view the example in a sympathetic light. Yes, no one should have one mistake/misstep attached to their name and their search results forevermore, hindering their ability to considered for job opportunities. But should someone who works in Public Relations and makes a racist joke on a public, personal social media page be fired from their current job in PR? Probably.

Ronson ends So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by pointing out that people will increasingly limit themselves in online spaces into bland existences for fear of receiving public backlash themselves. I’ve seen this evidenced by my own increasingly infrequent social media posts, but not out of fear of backlash, but moreso out of awareness that I don’t want *everything* and *every thought* to be shared online.

This was an incredibly quick, interesting, and timely read. If you’re already interested in the subject matter, I recommend you pick it up! 

Publication Date: 31 March 2015 by Riverhead BooksFormat: Paperback.

Author: Jon Ronson web/@twitter/@instagram

I Might Regret This: Essays, Drawings, Vulnerabilities, and Other Stuff by Abbi Jacobson

Screen Shot 2018-12-11 at 3.11.29 PMAuthor Abbi Jacobson, creator and star of comedy TV series Broad City, wrote a memoir about a very specific segment of her life in I Might Regret This. Before starting this book, I had assumed Jacobson would write about stories throughout her entire life and string them together into a tight memoir, as is typical with the memoirs written by comedians that I’ve read. While Jacobson does feature anecdotes from throughout her life, the stories are featured around her embarking upon a three weeklong solo road trip from New York City to Los Angeles.

This journey tinges almost every chapter of the memoir as this period of her life greatly impacted Jacobson while she was in the midst of writing up her book. Not too long before beginning her trek, Jacobson experienced a breakup from the first relationship that she had truly fallen in love during. While this memoir is a story about Jacobson and her life, it is also mostly a story about heartbreak and the effects it can wreck on your entire life, way of thinking, and aspirations as someone tries to climb outside of their grief. 

I enjoyed Jacobson’s memoir because I enjoy Jacobson and her perspective. I liked reading about her come up and navigation of the comedy scene and I found her poignant descriptions of heartbreak very moving. However, if you’re looking for a happy go lucky, punched-up tale that will make you laugh every other page, that is not the trail that I Might Regret This will lead you down. I did laugh frequently while reading this, but not in the same way that I’ve come to expect from other comedic memoirs.

Publication Date: 30 October 2018 by Grand Central PublishingFormat: Hardcover.

Author: Abbi Jacobson @twitter/@instagram

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies of a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou

image1 (19)Bad Blood by John Carreyrou takes the reader through the incredibly wild journey and demolition of startup company Theranos. Carreyrou writes about this scandal in a way that is utterly captivating. I could not stop talking about this book while I was reading it and hated having to put it down when life got in the way. 

Theranos, a startup company founded by Elizabeth Holmes, claimed to be initially building the capability to do and eventually claiming ability to use a single pinprick of blood to do a variety of health tests that would actually require much more blood to do accurately. However, because Theranos amassed a board of impressive, seemingly trustworthy individuals, many who were skeptical chose to let their questions and disbelief slides. The problem? Not many got close enough to see what a huge scam the foundation of the company was based upon. What happened? Theranos was able to con investors and partnered companies out of hundreds of millions of dollars by promising a technology that could not and would not be developed by the company. 

When scientists and Theranos employees raised red flags internally, they were strongly suggested to leave the company and forced to sign nondisclosure agreements that made many former employees terrified of speaking about the going ons of Theranos. When employees did speak out, the CEO, Holmes, threatened them with (and sometimes served them with) lawsuits.

Carreyrou, the investigative journalist at the Wall Street Journal who broke the first stories about Theranos being a scam, writes a full book about everything leading up to Theranos becoming the big company that it was, the terror and lies that were occurring within the company, and the beginnings of the unspooling of the company once it was publicly declared to be terrible. Every few pages my jaw dropped with new details that emerged that contributed to the creation and ultimate downfall of this company. This is a nonfiction page turner that you will not want to put down. 

Publication Date: 21 May 2018 by Knopf PublishingFormat: Hardcover.

Author: John Carreryrou @twitter