Monday, April 30, 2012

Life As I Blow It by Sarah Colonna

Sarah Colonna believes that we all struggle to grow up. Sometimes we want to have fun, not take things too seriously, and have that fourth margarita. Other times we would like to get married, stay in, order Chinese food, and have a responsible, secure life.
From her formative years in small-town Arkansas to a later career of dates, drinks, and questionable day jobs, Colonna attempts to reconcile her responsible side with her fun-loving side. Sometimes this pans out, and sometimes she finds herself in Mexico handing out her phone number to anyone who calls her pretty. She moves to Los Angeles to pursue acting, but for years is forced to hone her bartending skills; she wants a serious boyfriend, but won’t give up nights at the bar with her friends. She tries to behave like an adult, but can’t seem to stop acting like a frat boy. In the end, she discovers that there doesn’t have to be just one or the other. And if there’s one thing Colonna has learned from her many missteps, it’s that hindsight is always 100 proof.

I had pretty high expectations for this book, because I’ve always thought Sarah was funny on Chelsea Lately and After Lately. I wouldn’t exactly say I was disappointed; it was a good book but I just expected it to be a lot funnier. Most of the book was just her talking about past boyfriends, how much she dislikes bartending, and hooking up with guys on the first date. Don’t get me wrong, some of the chapters were actually very funny. The story of her losing her virginity to a tobacco chewing, El Camino-driving boyfriend was pretty damn funny, and actually made me feel bad for her at the same time.

If you buy this book, you already know she eventually does make it in Los Angeles and ends up being a successful writer for Chelsea Lately, but I still felt myself rooting for her throughout the book. She has an honest writing style, and the way she talks about feeling like she needs to ‘grow up’ but she still wants to go out and have fun is a constant battle I think a lot people in their mid-twenties face. She doesn’t hold back or sugarcoat anything; from failing miserably at a stand-up gig, getting blackout drunk in Cabo and waking up on the bathroom floor (and not remembering how she got back to her hotel room), or being so upset about a breakup that even burning his stuff didn’t help her get over him.  She has an endearing quality about her that is very relatable, and surprisingly refreshing.

All in all, I did enjoy it and if you’re a fan of her on Chelsea Lately, I would recommend this book. I thought there would be a little more humor, but it shows that Sarah is just a down-to-earth Southern girl working hard and living her dreams in LA, while still enjoying the occasional cocktail…or seven.  

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Friday, April 27, 2012

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?”
Perhaps you want to know what Mindy thinks make a great best friend (someone who will fill your prescription in the middle of the night), or what makes a great guy (one who is aware of all elderly people in any room at any time and acts accordingly), or what is the perfect amount of fame (so famous you can never get convicted of murder in a court of law), or how to maintain a trim figure (you will not find that information in these pages). If so, you’ve come to the right book, mostly!
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.

I have always loved Mindy Kaling’s portrayal of Kelly Kapoor on The Office, which is what encouraged me to read this book. I actually finished it in one day, and am happy to say I was not disappointed. I like reading biographies written by comedians, because I have yet to read one that I didn’t enjoy. Mindy’s comedic timing is borderline perfect, and she manages to poke fun at herself and certain people without being horribly brash. I love Chelsea Handler’s honest, no-bullshit sense of humor, but Mindy’s is more refreshing.

She incorporates comical childhood memories (the one involving her on a diving board at summer camp had me laughing out loud) with some insightful life goals that really give you a feel for who she really is and what she really wants out of life. I loved the chapter about the difference between dating a boy and dating a man, which is a situation every woman goes through at least in her life. Some of the chapters were rather short; the chapter involving men and their chest hair was only a page and half, which makes it seem a little random.

Overall, it was a quick read, made me laugh, and made me like Mindy Kaling even more. 

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Fifty Shades Darker by E L James

(Fifty Shades trilogy, book 2)
Daunted by the singular tastes and dark secrets of the beautiful, tormented young entrepreneur Christian Grey, Anastasia Steele has broken off their relationship to start a new career with a Seattle publishing house.
But desire for Christian still dominates her every waking thought, and when he proposes a new arrangement, Ana cannot resist. They rekindle their searing sensual affair, and Ana learns more about the harrowing past of her damaged, driven, and demanding Fifty Shades.
While Christian wrestles with his inner demons, Ana must confront the anger and envy of the women who came before her, and make the most important decision of her life.

WARNING: This book contains very graphic sexual situations, and frequent profanity. 

Well, I think I like this book better than the first; however I’m not sure I’m sold on this trilogy. It just seems a little hard to buy, in my opinion. This book goes more in depth to the demons Christian is battling, and explains more of why he is the why he is…mentally and sexually. I know I mentioned in my review of the first book, Fifty Shades of Grey, that I didn’t really want Christian and Ana to end up together. My mind has been swayed slightly after finishing this book, but I still don’t find him all that likable. I like that you get more of a background on Christian in this book, and honestly I did start to feel for him after hearing of all the trauma he sustained throughout his childhood. However, it seems like every time I started to pull for him and Ana’s relationship, he would do something that just flat out irritated me and made me revert back to my original opinion…that 70% of the time I don’t really care for him. The incident involving Christian and Ana’s job at the publishing company just flat out made me want to smack him!

I appreciated that the author let us know a little more about Christian and Mrs. Robinson’s past relationship, because I was intrigued by it after reading the first book. You finally get to see her through Christian’s eyes, as opposed to Ana’s view point, which is obviously not positive. The storyline regarding the other submissive that you are introduced is a little whacko. Maybe E.L. James felt there needed to be another antagonist, but I didn’t really buy into that part of the story.

Christian and Ana both take big steps in their relationship in this book, and you really get to see how his feelings towards her have changed. The end of the book was slightly predictable, but overall I’d say it was a smidge better than Fifty Shades of Grey. I’m not in love with this trilogy, but I feel like I have to read the last book just to see how this ends. 

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Monday, April 23, 2012

Beyond Belief by Josh Hamilton

Josh Hamilton was the first player chosen in the first round of the 1999 baseball draft. He was destined to be one of those rare “high-character” superstars. But in 2001, working his way from the minors to the majors, all of the plans for Josh went off the rails in a moment of weakness. What followed was a 4-year nightmare of drugs and alcohol, estrangement from friends and family, and his eventual suspension from baseball.
BEYOND BELIEF details the events that led up to the derailment. Josh explains how a young man destined for fame and wealth could allow his life to be taken over by drugs and alcohol. But it is also the memoir of a spiritual journey that breaks through pain and heartbreak and leads to the rebirth of his major-league career.

DISCLOSURE: The drug abuse in the book is quite frequent, and some of it can be disturbing to read.

I have always been a big fan of sports, so I tend to enjoy biographies or memoirs about athletes; Josh Hamilton’s is my favorite by far. This is an amazing story of how a young man with the world at his front door managed to get his baseball career back on track after years of abusing cocaine, crack, and alcohol. I have to admit that I am intrigued by stories about addiction, mainly because I have never used drugs so the idea of someone’s whole life revolving around trying to get your next high is so foreign to me. How could someone with such a bright, successful future just throw it all away to go on a binger? Josh explains his story in a way that makes you understand this is a force bigger than yourself. It changes your perspective on everything, and eventually you don’t care about anything…including baseball...other than getting high. He did some pretty awful things to his friends and family, but there was not one time during this book that I wasn’t rooting for Josh to turn it all around.  

It really broke my heart to see how self-destructive Josh was becoming, and how his amazing baseball career was slipping further and further out of reach. He was going from a #1 prospect to a crack head with wasted talent. He details how this drug use took a toll not only on his life, but his parents, his brother, and his girlfriend who would eventually become his wife. The entire baseball league looked at him as a waste of money, and a huge liability. He explains how he managed to blow through his entire $4 million signing bonus, because of the amount of money he was spending on drugs daily. My heart ached for his family and all those around him who genuinely tried to help him beat his addiction, and each time Josh entered rehab, I found myself praying this would be the time he would finally get clean. Josh finally formed a relationship with God, and hoped for a comeback with the help of his family, friends, and Savior that he neglected for years because his life revolved around drugs and alcohol.

This is just a wonderfully told story about an incredibly talented baseball player battling some incredibly large demons. I would recommend this book not just to sports fans, but to anyone who enjoys a story of the highs and extreme lows of overcoming drug and alcohol abuse. 

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Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James

(Fifty Shades trilogy, book 1)
When literature student Anastasia Steele goes to interview young entrepreneur Christian Grey, she encounters a man who is beautiful, brilliant, and intimidating. The unworldly, innocent Ana is startled to realize she wants this man, and despite his enigmatic reserve, finds she is desperate to get close to him. Unable to resist Ana’s quiet beauty, wit, and independent spirit, Grey admits he wants her too – but on his own terms.
Shocked yet thrilled by Grey’s singular erotic tastes, Ana hesitates. For all the trappings of success – his multinational businesses, his vast wealth, his loving family – Grey is a man tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control. When the couple embarks on a daring, passionately physical affair, Ana discovers Christian Grey’s secrets and explores her own dark desires.

Fair warning: This book contains very graphic sexual situations, and profanity.

Whew…talk about a book that shouldn’t be read in public! There are some exciting, erotic, racy parts of this book that would make any woman get a little hot and bothered. I was actually surprised at how much I did like this book, mainly because I had heard that it wasn’t written very well and tended to lean on the ‘cheesy’ side. It was an easy read, and didn’t feel like a 500+ page book, but I thought it was pretty well written. Don’t get me wrong, there were some parts of the book that made me roll my eyes because of the ‘cheese factor’, but those parts were few and far between.

The relationship between Ana and Christian is really rather intriguing. Here you have a 20-something year old virgin getting involved with a man who just so happens to be into some serious S&M-type stuff. The idea that she is willing to try that kind of sexual relationship with no prior experience is just so strange to me. Honestly, the way E.L. James describes Christian’s Red Room of Pain, even I would probably run for the hills after seeing that and I’m no virgin. I think that’s one reason why I enjoyed this book so much; the idea of a completely innocent girl being thrust into a very sexual world full of pleasure, pain, punishments, and contracts. Oh my goodness, the contract! It is written out in detail, and to say I was shocked at what it entailed is an understatement. I think my jaw was on the floor during that entire part of the book. That’s the whole thing; even after Ana read the contract, you’re still not sure whether she’s going to walk away from him or not. She wants to be with this man so badly that she is willing to entertain the idea of being his submissive; of being flogged or whipped or spanked when she does something he doesn’t approve of or simply so he can get his rocks off. In a sense, she’s willing to consider becoming his sex slave. To me, that shows just how completely infatuated with Christian she really is, because no matter how much I was into a guy, I could never commit myself to being his submissive. Not in a million years…then again, I’ve never really taken well to being told what to do :)

I also really like the outside relationships involving Ana, which give the reader a chance to see other people’s take on Christian. The only one I really want to touch on is her best friend and roommate, Kate. She clearly is not sold on Christian, and her concern for Ana is really heartwarming. With that in mind, I’m not entirely sold on Christian either. He is obviously a man who is used to getting what he wants, no questions asked, but his domineering ways constantly had me questioning whether or not I want Ana to end up with him. I also really don’t like his stalker tendencies, which include but are not limited to, tracking her cell phone. Call me crazy, but that wouldn’t fly with me no matter how gorgeous the guy is.

Overall, I thought this was a good read. It reads pretty quickly, and leaves you wanting to immediately start the second book to find out exactly what happens between Ana and Christian. I would recommend this book to any adult, but the content would be inappropriate for teenagers. 

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