Humor

How to Be Black by Baratunde Thurston

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“As I’ve reflected back on both, I realize that my neighborhood was just like The Wire. We had the drug dealing, the police brutality, the murders. Well, it was almost a perfect match. We had everything The Wire had except for the universal critical acclaim and the undying love of white people who saw it.”

I first heard about How to Be Black in a Book Riot post (which seems to be where I find a lot of my book recommendations lately.) I wrote down the name, and then later screwing around on Oyster, saw that it was available! Opened it to take a peek, and ended up reading almost the entire introduction out loud to the honeyman while we waited for our friends to come over.

How to Be Black is not REALLY a how-to guide – it’s kind of a memoir, kind of a satire, very tongue-in-cheek book about what it’s like growing up black, and being black in America. Baratunde Thurston recounts a lot of his own experiences, but also calls upon his so-called Black Panel of contributors to chime in on important issues such as “When Did You First Realize You Were Black?” and “Can You Swim?”. The Black Panel is a great group of black men and black women, and one white guy – just to mix things up a bit.

Were many parts of this laugh-out-loud hysterical? Yes. I cracked up at him referring to Denzel Washington as the “National Black Friend”. But underneath the humor and satire were a lot of critical points about race, privilege, and the dynamics of the world we live in. I basically want to type out all of my favorite passages and quotes here, but I won’t. Partly because I don’t have nearly the time for that, and partly because I don’t want to rob you of the joy (and sometimes the pain) of reading all the best parts yourself.

I think this book is perfect for all of those white people who have reached out to touch a black person’s hair, or who wonder why we don’t have a White History Month. If you know one of these people, shake your head at them and hand them this. You’ll be doing them a favor. And it’s perfect timing – the enhanced Kindle edition is on sale for $1.99 right now. I read this on Oyster, but when I saw it was on sale on Kindle too I grabbed it. I look forward to perusing it again, and lending it out to some people. Humor! Deep thoughts! Race! Social commentary! You definitely want to read it.

Sarah Says: 4.5 stars

 

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Love From Both Sides by Nick Spalding

Love From Both Sides

 

 

Hooray. I bought a cheap Kindle book on a whim and it worked out well!

Love From Both Sides by Nick Spalding is a hilarious, weird take on the romantic comedy genre, and well, I’ll let the Amazon description sum it up for you:

Dating isn’t easy these days.

Just ask hapless singletons Jamie Newman and Laura McIntyre, two thirtyish Brits who are trying to remain positive in the face of all of the awkwardness, chaos, and humiliation that pave the road to finding love. 

Jamie, who’s still licking his wounds after his fiancée abandoned him, will try just about anything to find the girl of his dreams: from disastrous blind dates to the world’s worst speed-dating event. Laura, who is getting a little nervous with the big 3-0 looming, tries to put her awful-but-sexy ex in her rear view and move on, even if it means blind dates with spandex-clad bikers and drunken first-date hand jobs. 

When Jamie and Laura finally meet each other, love starts to blossom–but throw in some bad fajitas, obnoxious parents, and exes coming out of the woodwork, and things get complicated fast. 

A hilarious, relatable romp through the travails of modern love, this book will make you laugh until you cry.

 

I’ve been in the mood for romantic comedies and love stories lately (well duh, it’s my 7-Year Anniversary with the honeyman this weekend, so I’m in that mood). This book was basically hysterical. The chapters alternate between Jamie’s blog entries and Laura’s diary entries, as they both are trying to work the dating scene and failing miserably, including when they finally meet each other and hit it off. It was a bit cruder than I’m used to (is it true that British folk are just generally less uptight about sexual things?), but it didn’t put me off any. And there were so many parts that had me laughing out loud that I kept stopping to share bits with the honeyman, who says this would make a great romantic comedy movie.

I really enjoyed this book, and I think Jamie and Laura’s story continues on in two more books, but I don’t know if I’m going to read them. Mainly because I know the next book has to do with babies, and those are distinctly not my jam. But next time I’m in the mood for literally laugh-out-loud humor, I’m going to pick a Nick Spalding book. And if you have a Kindle, the e-books are really cheap. I highly suggest checking this out.

And now because I can’t help it – favorite quotes:

” “Fanks very much. Ain’t you a gentleman?” Isobel says, her bad breath apparently strong enough to render her unable to pronounce Ts and Hs.”

“Is it any wonder I’m single when people actively think it’s a good idea to set me up with somebody called Crotch Goblin?”

“I’m supposed to be quitting, but nothing raises my stress levels like trying to hold a polite conversation with eight complete strangers in a row.”

“No relationship is ever perfect, but when you truly love each other… it doesn’t have to be.”

 

Sarah Says: 4 stars

Fool by Christopher Moore

Fool by Christopher Moore

“Heinous fuckery most foul, lad. Heinous fuckery most foul.”

I’m an idiot.

Christopher Moore is definitely one of my most favorite authors. And back in 2009, he released a book called Fool, which is based loosely on the play King Lear by Shakespeare. And because my brain instinctively fights against Shakespeare because DUDE his stuff is hard to read, I bought Fool and there it sat on my shelves for at least 3 years without being read. So, let this be a warning to you: Fool is absolutely fun and hilarious and bawdy and no previous knowledge of Shakespeare or King Lear is required.

Pocket is Lear’s royal fool, and has always enjoyed the king’s protection as such. Until Lear, in a bout of stupidity, decides to divide his kingdom among his daughters. And there starts a whole lot of plotting, conspiring, betrayals, shagging, and imminent war- with Pocket tumbling in the corners.

Moore excels at being absurd, and he totally brings the absurd in Fool. There’s so much randomness, and vague references to a long-lost empire called “Merica”, and SO much cursing and rhyming and even a few funny footnotes. But amid all that, Pocket is actually a really great character. He’s fun and sweet, but witty, cunning, and determined. Fool did for me what Sacre Bleu couldn’t – gave me a great central character to enjoy the story with, and made the lewd jokes flow naturally and smoothly.

And the truly awesome thing is that there is a sequel coming out in April, called The Serpent of Venice. It’s why I actually decided to finally give Fool a go, and I’m glad I did. If you’re looking for a great, fluffy, ridiculous book with lots of bonking in it, then here be the book for you.

Sarah Says: 4.5 stars

P.S. I actually wrote this review with that tiara on. Proof.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

The Rosie Project

 

I happy-sigh everytime I look at this book. I listened to the unabridged audiobook of The Rosie Project – the first time I’ve ever listened to an entire audiobook without also reading some of it in book form. But when I finished it, I had a coupon from B&N in my email so I went there and bought myself the hardcover. Because it was just that damn delightful.

Don Tillman is a geneticist. He’s also extremely organized, focused, and rational, and lacking in social skills. When he decides that he would like a female partner to spend his life with, he comes up with The Wife Project – a long questionnaire designed to filter out unsuitable candidates and to help him find the perfect woman for him. He goes on a date with Rosie, who immediately fails most of his criteria, but he agrees to use his expertise in genetics to help Rosie find her biological father – even though it goes against all logic. What ensues is a romantic comedy for the literary world, and it’s fantastic.

I’ve read tweets and reviews about this book that compares Don to Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory, and I think that’s a really lazy comparison. Don seems to have Asperger’s syndrome (or a mild case of autism, since Asperger’s has now been rolled into the autism spectrum). He’s perfectly capable, but he has his quirks –  he schedules his time down to the minute, he’s efficient and literal. He doesn’t do great in social situations, because he doesn’t know or get a lot of social conventions, he’s nervous, and he’s not the best at reading facial expressions. But he’s also a bit of a sweetheart. He’s innocent, honest, brave, and caring. Watching him fumble around in social adventures and unknowingly falling in love with Rosie was just fun and too darn adorable.

Rosie is a fun character too, even though it’s Don who really shines in this book. She’s a bit emotional and going through some issues, but she’s vibrant and funny and tough. The slow dance her and Don play throughout the entire book constantly had me excited to keep reading (or listening, I guess). This IS a romantic comedy for the book world, and it works beautifully. I often caught myself smiling, laughing, tearing up, and clapping my hand over my mouth in surprise as I listened. I already want to re-read it.

 

audiobook

 

Let me comment for a minute on the audiobook aspect. It was read by Dan O’Grady – since I don’t get into audiobooks very often, I have no idea if he’s a popular audiobook reader or not. Personally, I think he did a fantastic job of narrating Don. I thought he did a great job conveying Don’s emotions, and he had great comedic timing. Also, him being Australian (I think? I can’t find anything online confirming this) helped a lot, since when I read by myself I don’t really hear accents in my head. The only downside to listening to a book is that I can’t mark favorite quotes or passages. I’m really excited to read my hardcover copy and write some down.

 

Sarah Says: 5 stars

 

 

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

HYERBOLE AND A HALF BOOK

Thanks to sj’s post recently, I have been really excited about Hyperbole and a Half coming out. It came out on Tuesday, and Friday night while in the mall I decided to pop into Barnes and Noble to flip through it. I located it, and then started reading the first story, “Warning Signs”. A couple of minutes later I was trying to stifle my laughter and had tears running down my face – I’m pretty sure some of the employees were concerned. I got some weird looks. And I had to buy it. HAD to. Even though I’m broke this week (damn you, week that rent is due), I couldn’t NOT buy this book. It’s too funny, and I really, really love to laugh.

If you don’t know (and don’t feel bad, until sj’s post I didn’t know either), Allie Brosh has a website called Hyperbole and a Half where she posts hilarious recollections and anecdotes with these practically famous illustrations. (She’s the creator of that famous “CLEAN ALL THE THINGS!” image you see all over the place.) And now she has a WHOLE BOOK. And it’s a really nice book too – it has those fancy glossy, full-color pages and it’s pretty dense at 369 pages – SO worth your money. It’s part humor, part memoir, and I couldn’t recommend it highly enough.

If you want a taste of what the book might be like, visit the website and read a couple (or a million) of her posts – they’re hysterical. I suggest starting with How A Fish Almost Destroyed My Childhood, Dogs Don’t Understand Basic Concepts Like Moving, and The Year Kenny Loggins Ruined Christmas. There is some overlap between the site and the book, but from what I can tell not much.

I’m keeping this on my coffee table for a while, just to re-read the funniest bits and laugh myself silly.

Sarah Says: 5 stars

You Suck: A Love Story by Christopher Moore

You Suck by Christopher Moore

 

“She knew it should bother her more, being evil and all, but after she put on a little mascara and some lipstick and poured herself another cup of blood-laced coffee, she found that she was okay with it.”

**Just a reminder here guys – You Suck is the sequel to Bloodsucking Fiends, so if you haven’t read it yet, there are some spoilers for the first book. **

Tommy Flood wakes up to find that he’s a vampire, and his girlfriend Jody turned him into one. Without even asking. Sheesh. But being in love, they stick together and just want to settle down and live out their undead years. Unforunately, Jody was supposed to leave town but didn’t, which attracts some unfavorable attention from the cops. They have a 16-year old perky Goth minion, Abby, to try to help run their errands, and they’re being hunted down by Tommy’s grocery store buddies at the urging of a blue hooker named Blue. So you know, that all sucks.

If possible, I love You Suck even more than Bloodsucking Fiends. I don’t remember if that’s how I felt the first time I read these, but it’s definitely true this time around. It’s rare that a sequel is better than the first book. I think it’s partly because Abby Normal is in this book – she’s a hysterically dramatic Goth teenager, and cracks me up a lot throughout the book. Mostly, this book is a lot like the first though – funny, engaging, and a little sweet, despite all the vampires and blood-sucking. It’s mostly a fluff read.

What’s great about Moore though is that he puts some great bits in his stories that actually kind of say a lot, amidst all the goofiness. Like this:

“Until she had been changed and had stalked the city as a vampire, she never realized that virtually every moment she had been there as a woman, she had been a little bit afraid. A man would never understand.

The first time I read this, I was like “YES. THIS.” Because it’s pretty true – without even realizing it or conciously doing it, we women take little precautions because we understand on some instinctive level how much danger there is out there lurking, and how little prepared we are to defend ourselves (for most of us, anyways). And I love that Jody recognizes that and celebrates her new role as a vampire – that she no longer is a victim because now SHE’S the one people should be afraid of. That she can handle herself if any asshole decides to try to screw around with her. Basically, Jody is a badass and I love her. She’s easily one of my favorite Moore characters.

And well… I love that Jody kind of embraces being a vampire, whether it technically makes her evil or not (see quote at the top there). Well, because I think people put too much stock in the “vampires are damned” thing. Maybe it’s because I’m largely an athiest, but that never bothered me much.

Anyyyywho, there’s one more book in Moore’s vampire trilogy, called Bite Me. I don’t rememer enjoying that one as much as the first two, but I’m looking forward to re-reading it soon.

If you’re looking to read something in the spirit of Halloween that’s not too scary or depressing, you should check out this trilogy. I mean, you can read these books in basically a day, so what are you waiting for? It’s so awesome.

Sarah Says: 4.5 stars

 

Self-Inflicted Wounds by Aisha Tyler

Self-Inflicted Wounds Aisha Tyler

Another comedian lady memoir! And it’s probably one of the better ones.

I was browsing around the library and saw this- Self-Inflicted Wounds: Heartwarming Tales of Epic Humiliation and immediately snapped it up, thinking it would be perfect readathon material. And it was! Just to let you know – this book is not about cutting! Because, I mean, the title just kind of makes you think about a depressed person self-mutilating themselves, and I promise that is so not even close to what Aisha Tyler’s hilarious memoir is about. This FUNNY. And INSPIRING. The title is probably the only bad thing about this book.

Ya’ll know who Aisha Tyler is, right? She does the voice for Lana on Archer, she guest-starred on Friends as the hot paleontologist, she hosts Whose Line Is It Anyway? now, among other things.

aisha tyler

Aisha recounts a bunch of horrifying, embarrassing moments in her life that were usually the result of her own bad decision-making, and most of the stories were pretty funny. I laughed out loud several times, and kept interrupting the honeyman while he was trying to get some work done because I wanted to read parts to him. And as with any great humorous memoir, I learned a lot about Aisha Tyler and I have SO much more love for her now! Reading her book actually makes me want to look into the Girl on Guy podcasts that she does. I don’t really understand what the hell a podcast is, but this made me want to figure it out!

So, some specific parts that I enjoyed  –

  • Her story of peeing on herself walking home from school because she was trying to master the “mind of body” kind of ideal.
  • That before the book even really started, she made a Star Trek reference to the Borg. I love what a sci-fi nerd she is!
  • A part of the book when she talked about her fondness for hobos, and defended giving them a buck or two.
  • How much she gushed about food and her love for eating food. Fooooooooood.
  • That she got an Ivy League degree in political science and environmental studies, hated the corporate world, and decided to say fuck it and pursue her love of comedy.
  • That I kept seeing Lana in my head as I read, especially when Aisha cursed.
  • This – “Once you have endured the worst embarrassment you can think of, and you have lived, the next sling or arrow is nothing. You have formed a psychic callus over your soul, and now nothing can touch you. The world is your oyster.” And a ton of other quotable parts.

lana kane

I know it’s cliché to say that a memoir by a famous person is inspiring… but well, this one is. For me it was, anyways. Aisha talks a lot about not holding back, about going for what you want with everything you have, about working hard and pursuing your dreams with passion. MANY famous people give this schpeal, but in between Aisha’s memories of the time she puked on a boy during the first date and the time she broke her elbow snowboarding, it just worked really well. It wasn’t preachy, it was just evident. And it just made me think about how I want to work harder on my reviews and making this blog better. Not that I want a career out of this – I don’t really want a career at all. But it’s something that I love, and I don’t want to be half-assed with it, ya know?

Anyways, if you’re enjoying the recent explosion of funny-lady humorous memoirs out there, I HIGHLY recommend Aisha Tyler’s. I actually want to own this one, which is rare for these kinds of books – a lot of these comedy-memoirs I would read once and give away. I’m bummed to return this one to the library, and I’ll seek out my own copy.

Sarah Says: 4.5 stars

Bloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore

Christopher Moore book cover

If you haven’t read Christopher Moore before – WHY? You seriously need to get on that.

So this was a re-read for me, because I think it’s a shame that I haven’t reviewed more Moore on this blog. Bloodsucking Fiends is about Jody, a normal office girl in San Francisco until one night she’s attacked. She wakes up alone, as a vampire, with a mysterious fortune in cash. But it’s kind of hard to go on with life when you can’t do anything during the day, and that’s where C. Thomas Flood comes in. Tommy just came to Cali from Indiana to work on his writing career, but his plans get set aside when one night he meets a gorgeous redhead… who just happens to be a vampire.

YUP, this is a vampire novel but it’s funny and so much better than about 90% of all the other vampire novels out there. Jody is such a great character. She’s so NORMAL – she has relationship problems, mother issues, and generally has a good heart. Then she turns into a vampire, and I love that even though crazy shit is happening and she doesn’t really understand why it happened to her, she just kind of goes with the flow. I love seeing her sassy vampire side come out. She reminds me a little bit of Jessica Hamby from True Blood (but Jessica from season 2 and 3, not now Jessica). And Tommy… poor Tommy. He’s just a sweet, innocent kid from the middle of nowhere who is absolutely floored by a big city and a beautiful girl, and I love seeing him struggle to really figure things out in his beta-male way.

“You really are a vampire.” It was a statement this time.

“Yes, Tommy. I am.”

He paused for a second to think, then said, “That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever heard. Let’s do it with our shoes off.”

And now that I just re-read this, I’m annoyed with myself for already packing away the sequel, You Suck, because I really want to read it now. It’s even better than this one. Oh yeah, this is a trilogy. Did I not mention that? It is. And the first two books are fantastic – the last book is kind of good, but not my favorite but that’s because Jody and Tommy aren’t quite the main characters. Just read it, you’ll see. It’s just so darn FUN. None of that creepy stalker drama like in Twilight or long, drawn-out philosophical dilemmas like in Interview With a Vampire. This is just a good time.

Now, if you woke up as a vampire, what’s the first thing you would do?

Sarah Says: 4 stars

First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde

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Good morning there, lovers of literature! Guess what? I read the fifth Thursday Next book!

Wikipedia has some interesting things to say about the Thursday Next books – basically that the series consists of seven novels so far, in two series. Apparently the first four books are lumped together, and then this fifth one starts a separate series but still following the storyline of the Thursday Next books (there’s just a 14-year gap in between the events of the fourth and fifth books).

And because I never completely believe Wikipedia I checked out Fforde’s website and he had this to say when he was explaining the title of First Among Sequels:

This was good news to me as I have been trying to use this title for a while, and it seems perfect to have it on this, the first book in the second batch of Thursday books. Indeed. TNs one to four were essentially ‘Thursday Volume one’. First Among Sequels is the first part of the next four-parter, which will continue with One of our Thursdays is Missing in 2009.

So yes. That. And if you haven’t figured it out by now, this review should only be read if you’re already familiar with Thursday Next books 1 through 4. Spoilers be ahead.

Now, it’s fourteen years after the events of the last book, and Thursday is living a happy, boring life of domesticity selling carpets and taking care of her husband Landon and their three children Friday, Tuesday, and Jenny. Haha NOT. She’s not happily selling carpets – she’s still working for SpecOps AND for Jurisfiction, all while trying to keep up with Landon and the kiddos. Things in BookWorld are not going so hot – Readership levels are dropping everyday, the Racy Novels genre is about to go to war with Ecclesiastical and Feminist genres, and Sherlock Holmes has turned up dead. And in the real world, the government is facing a massive stupidity surplus and Thursday has to try to get through to her 16-year old son Friday, who should be stepping up to claim his destiny as a part of the ChronoGuard but would rather sleep all day. And on top of this, she has to face one of her most dangerous enemies yet – herself.

Ahhhhh these books are so delightfully strange! This isn’t my favorite of the Thursday Next series so far, but that’s only because there was SO much going on and honestly I don’t know how Thursday keeps it all straight without going crazy. And speaking of crazy, can you imagine what it must be like in Jasper Fforde’s head? That must be an awesome, scary place. But it’s SO impressive how much he must totally love literature and the written word. His references to SO many classics and characters and plot devices seems never-ending and his attention to the details is astounding.

As always, there were fun quips and bouts of humor, all wrapped up in mystery and action and bookish joys. This is the perfect series for book nerds. I wish I could go to BookWorld… And after some MAJOR events went down at the end of this book, I’m really really looking forward to picking up One of our Thursdays is Missing.

Sarah Says: 4 stars

I Can Barely Take Care of Myself by Jen Kirkman

i can barely take care of myself

“The way most people feel about loving being a parent is exactly how I feel about not being a parent. I love it.” (page 2)

Well said, Jen.

Jen Kirkman is a funny lady. She’s kind of a basket-case, but I like that about her. This book isn’t some weird manifesto for childfree-by-choice ladies – it’s Jen’s exploration of her own life and why she’s so unsuited and has no desire to be a mom. And while she’s trying to figure out her own life – her dream to be a comedian, trying to get her anxiety under control, sorting out her marriage, etcetera – she recounts how she was constantly barraged by people who wanted to know when she was having kids, and when she said she wasn’t, then why not.

I don’t have a ton to say about this book other than it was funny and I completely sympathized with her the whole way. She articulated my own feelings about being annoyed by the constant pressure to procreate way better than I could. For instance:

“For some reason, this prompted him to say, “Aw, come on, Jen Kirkman. You’d be such a good mom!” This statement is at best condescending and at worst patently false and potentially dangerous. It’s like telling a friend who you know has a paralyzing fear of wild animals that she would make a great game warden.” (page 137)

That is so true. I am a responsible, intelligent person and theoretically, I would be a competent parent. But the very fact of me NOT WANTING A KID is enough that I would not, in fact, make a great mom. I would be the mom constantly sending her kid away to the baby-sitters or hiding in the closet just to get 5 minutes of peace away from it.

There were a lot of funny moments in this book, and one section in particular had me laughing hysterically at work, which prompted a weird look from the person I was training (AKA letting him do all the work and then if he had any questions, asking me). It was about Jen’s less-than-ideal experiences as a teenage baby-sitter, in which she mistakenly led one little boy to believe that you could stab people and they wouldn’t die. I read that section aloud to the honeyman later that day and we both cracked up.

If you have EVER had any doubt about whether or not you wanted kids and experienced people rudely making it their business to tell you how much you should have a baby, you’ll probably find something in this book that you like – whether it’s the knowledge that someone else has gone through the same thing, or just a really good laugh. I enjoyed both.

 

Sarah Says: 3.5 stars