Friday, December 30, 2011

Review: The Nerdist Way

I've been a huge fan of the Nerdist podcast since shortly after it began almost two years ago. I often bring up the show in conversation, and I've even created an embroidery based on one episode. I've followed Chris Hardwick's progress as he wrote this book through the podcast as well. There was no way I wasn't going to read this as soon as it came out.

This is not a comedian's memoir (although there are plenty of stories from Hardwick's life throughout). This is a self-help book that is hilarious and very easy to read and puts things in terms that nerds will understand. The book is built around the gaming concept of leveling your character (in this case, you) but determining strengths and weaknesses and then expanding upon them.

The concept is nothing I haven't heard before. What made me really enjoy this book, though, was Hardwick's voice. It felt like my nerdy older brother telling me all the ways he had screwed up so I wouldn't have to make the same mistakes. Am I following all the recommendations he made? No, but that's besides the point. At the very least, this book put me in the mindset to make helpful changes to my life (whether they're the changes Hardwick implied or not).

Also, anyone who is a fan of the Nerdist podcast will enjoy this book because of the little glimpses into the Nerdist life. The stories aren't the main reason for the book, but they're quite enjoyable along the way.

Buy The Nerdist Way on Amazon
Buy The Nerdist Way at a local store through Indie Bound

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Review: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)

I have a new best friend, and she doesn't even know it. To be fair, I think Mindy Kaling is going to have a lot of new best friends after writing Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns).

If you're reading Kaling's book because you love The Office, you'll get some interesting behind-the-scenes stuff (but more about the writers room and less about the acting portion of the show). If you're reading Kaling's book because someone had already taken Bossypants out of the library, you're still in for funny ride. If you're reading Kaling's book because you enjoy awkward tales of youth, you're in luck (I mean, just look at the author photo on the back cover and try not to simultaneously cringe and chuckle). But mostly, if you're reading Kaling's book because you enjoy good humorous memoirs, you've come to the right place.

The book is a good mix of Mindy's life, which I especially enjoyed because we're roughly the same age and we grew up in the same area, so I've been to ALL THE PLACES, and quirky essays about Mindy's thoughts on things like karaoke, chest hair on men, and the "Irish exit."

There is no way for me to adequately describe how funny this book is. I read it in drips and drabs during lunch breaks at work, which I take in an office shared by two women. I had to continuously stifle my laughter because I knew I was interrupting their work, but quite a few snorts, chuckles, and hoots of joy escaped. Somehow, they didn't kick me out.

4/5 stars

Buy Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? on Amazon
Buy Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? at a local store through Indie Bound

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Review: Revolution

I have to admit, when I first heard about this book last year when it came out, I thought it sounded kind of stupid. I don't think I heard more than a one-sentence description before deciding that I didn't need to read this one. It had something to do with "two girls, living two centuries apart..." and I was out.

What a difference a year makes, huh? I was scanning through titles on my library's digital audiobook catalog and stumbled upon Revolution again, but this time, I took the time to read the full description. I couldn't wait to stick it on my iPod. What struck me so differently this time? I have no idea, but I'm so glad that it worked out, because I absolutely loved this book.

The story follows Andi, a privileged girl who lives in Brooklyn, attending private school with the cast of Gossip Girl and only awkwardly getting along with any of them. She'd rather be playing her guitar, which she plays very, very well. In fact, music is her escape - from dealing with the sudden death of her brother, from her mother who has mentally slipped away from the world, from her father who has left them behind. So when her father drags her, kicking and screaming, to Paris (where he's going for work), it's no surprise that she'll do anything she can to get back home, even if that means working on her thesis (about a French musician) like her father wants. While she's pouting around the apartment they're staying in, she finds the journal of Alexandrine, a girl caught between the royals and the revolutionaries during the French Revolution - and that's when the story really starts to pull together.

Andi's voice is what really hooked me on the story. Since I was listening to the audiobook, it was like the story was being performed for me (one reader does Andi's part, including accents for the various characters, and another read's Alex's diary entries). But even now, flipping through the actual book to write this, Andi's voice jumps off the page. She feels like a real girl who has had to deal with things that no one should have to deal with (teen or not), and her being rich and privileged hasn't helped her one bit. She is in turns desperate, exhausted, exhilarated, suicidal, full of life, pouty, and a million other things (like most teens, in fact).

The story was mostly compelling. Like I said, Andi's voice kept things fresh and interesting for me. The segments that were Alex's diary entries lagged a little bit in comparison. (The might also have lagged because I find diary entries in general to be a bit of a cliche, but to be fair, they were used perfectly in this case.) Had I been reading the book instead of listening to it, though, I would have been able to skim through those bits and gone happily on my way.

I was very happy to find Donnelly's playlist on her website after finishing the book. Music plays so heavily into the story, and Andi name-checks all kinds of musicians and songs, so it was great to see them all listed (although the list seems awfully short, but I guess a lot of the songs were repeated over and over again in the book).

4/5 stars

Buy Revolution on Amazon
Buy Revolution at a local store through Indie Bound