Tagged: literature

Book Review: The Tao of Martha by Jen Lancaster

 The Tao of Martha by Jen Lancaster

Author: Jen Lancaster
Pages: 344
Score: 5/5

The Tao of Martha: My Year of LIVING; Or, Why I’m Never Getting All That Glitter Off of the Dog by Jen Lancaster was one hilarious, kick ass read! I don’t read a lot of non fiction books, but when I do, I like to choose the ones that will make me laugh my butt off.

I came away from the year long memoir being a little bit jealous of the amazing way Lancaster can deliver her wit. We all have a little bit of smart ass in us, but she has the supreme capability of translating it into written form without it coming off as angry or in a negative context (well, I didn’t think it came off as negative, but I have a bit of a potty mouth just like hers so I appreciate her use of expletives). It’s a real kind of humor that is sometimes self deprecating, but this comicality only adds to the relatability of Jen Lancaster’s personality.

Most people have someone they admire, Jen’s idol just happens to be Martha Stewart. In The Tao of Martha, Jen admits to having a lackluster year in 2011 and finds herself in a rather unhappy state of mind. Health issues, professional setbacks, deaths of beloved pets (I can relate), regular power outages which affected impending deadlines, and other “first-world bullshit” had really put a damper on her otherwise positive mindset. Not to mention her clutter; the mere thought of getting her home organized is an overwhelming stressor on its own. She confesses life has been worse, and there are people who are really suffering in this world. So, she basically tells herself she needs “to buck the hell up.”

When 2012 rolls around, the wheels in her head begin to turn as she contemplates how she can make the year into a positive one. Fletch, her husband, inadvertently triggers a spark of an idea in Jen’s mind. She determines that perhaps if she tries to live by the philosophies of her icon, she might just learn how to make her life a happier one as well as the lives of those around her (including her pets).

Throughout the book, Jen takes on various Martha-esque projects and confronts a few hard times as well. But as the days go by, she figures out the dictates of The Tao of Martha, or what she interprets them to be for herself.

Some of Jen’s projects are admirable, some a little excessive and wacky (we are talking about stockpiling rations and supplies in the basement like a Dooms Day prepper, but hey, I guess you never know).

The Tao of Martha scored a 5 out of 5 stars with me. I honestly feel like Jen is someone I know. The way in which she shares her journey to happiness in her comedic way makes it feel as if she is a friend you are having coffee and laughs with. I highly recommend reading her book.

*Sidenote: Yesterday I found out she has recently completed a fiction book called Twisted Sisters. It will be released on February 4th, 2014. I didn’t realize she wrote fiction too! If you want to keep tabs on the writings of Jen Lancaster, visit her website http://www.jennsylvania.com/. Her blog is equally as entertaining as her book!

 

Book Review: Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns

revenge wears prada

Author: Lauren Weisberger
Pages: 381
Score: 3/5

Lauren Weisberger’s new book, Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns, picks up about ten years after her book, The Devil Wears Prada left off. I was excited when I heard this book was coming out, and very much was looking forward to revisiting the life of Andy Sachs to see if she had acquired the writing career of her dreams and to see what kind of  life she made for herself after she had regained her independence from magazine editor and fashion warlord, Miranda Priestly.

When I read a book and love it, I feel that when the book ends I am cheated out of knowing what happens in the futures of the characters (I know, it’s not the author’s fault). I want to continue on with them, watching their lives evolve as friends do. The sequel is a temporary fix for this. When a book is finished, it’s usually just finished. The characters go buh bye, and the reader moves on to the next literary peephole to spy on new characters. Then, the cycle continues…

Catching up with Andy years later was like a treat, but also somewhat like a curse. I had higher expectations for it. I read The Devil Wears Prada not long after it came out in 2003. I should have maybe read that again before reading the sequel to refresh my memory, as it is not the same as the movie and the differences kind of blur together for me years later. Anyway, the sequel filled in some of the memory gaps of mine. In short, the first book ended with Andy quitting her assistant job at the prestigious Elias-Clark glossy magazine, Runway, which was run by the boss from hell…Miranda Priestly. Oh, the shit Miranda made Andy do!

In Revenge Wears Prada, it begins with a nightmare Andy is having the morning of her wedding to Max Harrison, heir to the Harrison Media Holdings empire. In her dream, she is again in indentured servitude of Miranda Priestly and Max rescues her. She awakens from this nightmare realizing that today is the happiest day of her life. She is marrying the perfect man, has her own wedding publication with best friend and former first assistant to Miranda, Emily Charlton. She has only happiness and success in front of her. Or, does she? Was this Miranda nightmare some kind of bad omen?

In the world of popular fiction–yes.

While I loved catching up with the old characters and meeting the new ones, I felt very strongly that this book did not live up to its predecessor. First of all, I was shocked to learn Andy’s magazine venture was a wedding publication called The Plunge, and not some harder hitting type of journalism, and that her business partner was Emily. I thought it seemed out of character for Andy. I thought the level of friendship was unlikely based on Emily’s snide, sarcastic, and downright insulting attitude. Andy also seemed to be overly paranoid–about everything. Honestly, I was getting frustrated with her because I thought she was being paranoid over things which could have been resolved with a simple conversation. She had also become a bit of a whiny doormat. She didn’t seem to have the kind of independent woman mindset I had anticipated.

Obviously, being in the magazine business, she runs the risk of running into Miranda at various events. How she had escaped bumping into her for so many years surprised me, especially since Andy’s husband, Max, was in the media business as well. Miranda’s character remained pretty much the same; she was aloof, rude, inconsiderate, calculating, domineering, and bitchy in all her Runway glory. She makes her initial appearance at a yacht party, and seems to not recognize Andy or acknowledge her. Not long after this encounter, Miranda’s “people” contact Andy and Emily with an offer for Elias-Clark Publishing to acquire The Plunge into their high fashion fold of print media. This would put the women back in a position of working under Miranda once again, as she is the editorial director of all the publications this media mogul company encompasses. You can about imagine what kind of nightmare that would turn out to be!

The writing of the book didn’t have the same punch I remember from the first book. Maybe it is my age talking here! I am a bit more critical of writing style than I was years ago. I seem to remember finding more humor in The Devil Wears Prada, liking Andy and Emily more, and feeling more involved with the story overall. Andy lost some of her relatability for me this time around.

The most humorous line I highlighted in the book was:

“I simply had to meet the girl Max can’t stop talking about,” Mrs. Harrison said in some kind of crusty, not-quite-British, probably-just-too-many-years-on-Park-Avenue accent. “You must be Andrea.”

-Weisberger, Lauren (2013-06-04). Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns (p. 33). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

I expected more lines and character descriptions like this, and I thought they were few and far between. This line reminded me of the style in which the first book was written.

I gave this book a score of 3 out of 5. It was good enough, but fell short of the initial hit. If you like to be reunited with characters, I think you will get some sort of pleasure reading it. However, keep in mind it may not be what you think it should be. I was sort of satisfied with the ending…moderately. That part was at least a bit rewarding after the exhaustive paranoia and frustration with character communication between one another.

Book Review: The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald - 1925

[Image Source: Wikipedia]

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is a fictitious tale set in the early 1920’s New York, and told from the perspective of Nick Carraway–the only character in the book with some sense.

The movie does have something to do with me reading the book. I like to generally read a book before I see a movie so that I can decide if the film was a fairly accurate summarization of the published work (which it normally is not, however I do deem some movies sprouting from books to be satisfactory). With that being said, I likely won’t see the movie until it comes out on DVD. It depends on whether I actually make it to the theater before the movie is gone.

Maybe I should mention now, if you haven’t read it…there may be spoilers here. Also, I have no real format for my reviews at this time. I guess I am going to blog about it how I would likely talk about it. I am not trying to convince anyone to read it, I am only writing my thoughts and opinions.

Anyway, back to the review. This was a pretty fast read for me at 179 pages. It begins with some background about the storyteller, Nick, and it rolls on with the events that brought him to live in a house next door to Mr. Jay Gatsby. Around page fifty I began to get frustrated because Mr. Gatsby still had not made an entrance into the book personally besides being viewed from a distance. I began to form silent questions in my head as I continued reading. Where the hell was Gatsby, and why was he considered so great? Hm.

I began to think Gatsby was someone concocted in Nick Carraway’s fictitious brain. I knew better than that though. I had read a book synopsis.

The main players in the book are:

  • Nick Carraway – A man nearing thirty who came to West Egg, Long Island to be close to the city in order to build a career in the bond business. As I said above, he is the only character with any sense, reasonable moral compass, and is hesitant to judge others before he truly gets a feel for their character.
  • Jay Gatsby – Nick’s rich neighbor who possesses great mystery about himself throughout Long Island and into New York City. He hosts raucous parties on the weekends where uninvited guests constantly show up. Everyone seems to “know” him, but few really do. Gatsby is really a fellow who does not have a care in the world–except for one: Daisy Buchanan. Gatsby built his world in order to impress her. It is hard to really put his character into words. He is fairly self involved and scatterbrained.
  • Daisy Buchanan – She is rather naive and oblivious to the real world. In actuality, she is a frivolous twit (seems many of the characters in the roaring twenties were frivolous twits). She is a cousin of Nick’s, married to Tom Buchanan, and they have a child. She was a former lover of Gatsby. Little does she know, Gatsby lives directly across the bay from her home in order to feel closer to her.
  • Tom Buchanan – Husband of Daisy and former college peer of Nick. He is rather judgmental and scrutinizing towards others. He believes anything related to scientific studies must be true and enjoys having passionate outbursts about these scientific ideas. He looks the part of a successful man with a successful marriage, but behind closed doors his relationship with Daisy is distant and unfaithful. He is having an affair with a married woman.
  • Jordan Baker – A professional female golfer who has an indifferent attitude towards most things. Nick and Jordan have a casual relationship that isn’t focused on much. She has frequented some of Gatsby’s parties, and is a friend of the Buchanans. She is used as an accessory by Gatsby to arrange the initial meeting with Daisy.
  • Myrtle Wilson – Tom Buchanan’s mistress. She is married to a garage owner and lives in the Valley of Ashes. Her husband’s business is not doing well, but she gets a taste of a better life being the mistress to a rich man. Her affair with Tom indirectly is the end of her.
  • George Wilson – Myrtle’s poor husband. He owns his no-name garage in the Valley of Ashes. Times are tough for him, and he eventually realizes Myrtle has cheated on him. He isn’t really a prominent character until the end of the book.

It seems as if most individuals read this in their high school or college years. I had not. I suppose this book is considered a contemporary classic, and I can see why. F. Scott Fitzgerald had a beautiful way with words, and his characterization skills paint a good picture of the personalities of his characters.

Gatsby, for example, appears to be living the life of dreams. He is mysterious, somewhat self absorbed and sly–a schmoozer you might say. Ultimately, he has built his life on a lie and on dreams fueled from the past. Even though he is not an honest character (built his fortune from organized crime involvements), it appears he would like to be fairly honest with Nick and Daisy (only about certain things), unless it causes Daisy to dislike him. Many readers are enticed by love stories no matter how tragic they might be, and Gatsby’s love story makes him endearing by evoking the reader to feel a bit of pity for him. He really got the stick in the end. Not only did life rob him of love, but love robbed him of life.

Most of the other people in the book bothered me. I love reading fiction that takes place in a different time period, but were so many people in the twenties this careless and annoying? The way the characters often acted, they reminded me of this not-so-well-known movie my mom and I were lucky enough (sarcasm) to catch on TV where some rich aristocrats were staying at a mansion, and over the course of the night their behaviors began to devolve into animalistic tendencies. Their conversations made no sense. They were fragmented thoughts thrown together. The dialogue in The Great Gatsby is like this in some parts…as if human interactions were emptied of sincerity and depth. Maybe that is what Fitzgerald intended to do. If he created shallow dialogue with the characters who were meant to be disliked, the reader would side with Gatsby’s cause.

I truly felt Nick’s disgust at Tom and Daisy. I agreed they both were like children. Neither of them could take responsibility for their actions. They lacked some sort of inability to foresee the results their actions could yield. I would have liked to see them feel a bit of guilt for their parts in the madness.

One thing I was curious about that I am often curious about when I read a book, are locations and historical details. I wondered if there really had been a Valley of Ashes. It was described as a gray desert of poverty and ruin that the rich had to travel through in order to reach NYC. I wasn’t sure if it was a metaphor for something Fitzgerald was trying to convey, or if it was a physical location. It is a metaphor, but it also really existed as a location where the ashes from coal furnaces were dumped when they were collected from the city. You can read more about the Valley of Ashes at this website. Interesting!

I would recommend this book regardless of the characters in it being frustrating. If you have already read it, what were your thoughts? Feel free to share!