recommendations

White Girl Problems -AND- Psychos – Babe Walker

 

 

ImageImage

“Everyone makes fun of me during group sessions. Their nickname for me is ‘White Girl Problems’. I know that Jackson and the rest of the cast of Trainspotting think that because I grew up in Bel Air, they know what I’m all about. They don’t. My life is not a joke, and that nickname is actually so f*cking rude.”

“By the time we sashayed through the door, all the pieces of my quest to lose my virginity were falling into place. I could see the finish line in the distance. I could hear the cheers of my loved ones on the sidelines; they were handing me cups of water that I was pouring on my head. They were throwing me PowerBars, and I was slapping them, because everyone knows PowerBars are nothing but carbs and sugar, with barely less regret than a Snickers bar. P.S. I would never run a f*cking marathon.”

“Genevieve thinks I’m crazy to spend so much money on my teeth, but Genevieve doesn’t know what my nightmares look like.”

“However, the most important thing I can leave you is the following wisdom: Never accept a marriage proposal from a man in open toed shoes. He’s either gay or a gypsy. Never cry. It causes swelling. Doctors, lawyers and princes come and go. Oil money lasts forever. Get your first face-lift by the time you’re forty-two after that it’s too late. Don’t go to bed with a full face of makeup on, unless you think you may die in your sleep. You should never have to work to make a living. You’re smarter than that. I miss you already, my love, and I’ll be watching over you. So spend my money with good taste. I deserve that.”

 

This week I read both White Girl Problems and the upcoming sequel Psychos (to be released April 29th). We’ve all laughed at the hilarious Twitter account that catalyzed the development of these books, but in order to properly understand the sequel I figured I should read the first one as well. As per the publisher’s request I did not include any quotes from the much anticipated Babe Walker follow up, but did include a few quotes from WGP to give you a feel for the tone of both of the books.

Normally, I am not into this kind of stuff. Ignorance and entitlement are two traits that I usually loath, so I was a bit worried about reading two whole novels that are rooted in that stuff. Right off the top I do have to say that I feel this book should be called Rich Girl Problems, instead of White. Just sayin’. Other than that, I have to admit I found these books entertaining. I couldn’t help it. If you can sit back and enjoy them without judgement, and focus on the fact that they’re a great satire on the ridiculously wealthy youth of today, they’re actually really funny.

In White Girl Problems we meet Babe Walker, a fictional twenty something daughter of a wealthy entertainment lawyer (he bankrolls her ridiculous lifestyle) who is obsessed with shopping, fashion, not eating solid food, and trying to maintain control of her alter ego Babette. After she spends nearly $300,000 at Barney’s during a mental breakdown she realizes it’s time to go to rehab for her shopping and/or substance abuse issues, but mainly her shopping. She pens this “memoir” during her time in rehab, and it covers a full range of topics. Some of the chapter titles should give you an idea of what these topics include:

Sorry For Texting You 93 Times Last Night

My Vagina is Bullsh*t

Every Job I’ve Ever Had Is The Worst Job I’ve Ever Had

I’m sure you get the drift.

Psychos, the much anticipated follow up, takes place after Babe gets out of rehab, and her dad has taken the manuscript for the first book and gotten it published. It ends up being incredibly successful, and kind of changes Babe’s life, since now she’s more than a socialite, she’s actually kind of a celebrity. I preferred this one to the first one. I felt like Babe was a much more likable character because she really was trying to get better post rehab, and she was able to step back and realize her ridiculous behavior more. Well, just barely, but she tries. In addition this one had a much better flow and I found was easier to read. I can’t include any quotes or plot points, but the tone is a slightly more mature one than that of the first book.

With summer just around the corner, I would recommend these as some great beach reads. They’re light, funny, and completely ridiculous. But, sometimes you just have to stop taking life so seriously and read something silly. I don’t think these books are for everyone, but I am someone who usually can’t stand listening to entitled people complain and I still enjoyed them. If Babe gets too annoying for you, just remember that these books are written by two males and one female as a SATIRE. They’re supposed to be absurd and larger than life.

 

Happy reading lovelies!

OMPP

A Journey to the Dark Heart of Nameless Unspeakable Evil: Charities, Hollywood, Joseph Kony, and Other Abominations – Jane Bussman

Image

“I’d run away to Hollywood to write movies. Unfortunately people who were good at writing movies got there first, so instead of writing Casablanca I found myself writing about what a fantastic bloke Ashton Kutcher was. Worse, I was by trade a comedy writer, trained to say the most inappropriate thing possible; now the reflex had mutated into some kind of cultural Tourette’s, and I was scared, because sooner or later I was going to explode all over Paris Hilton.”

“Except, as I’d learned over the years from talking to endless celebrities, fame arrests social development at the exact age it strikes. It’s not the celebrity’s fault; Britney is doing pretty well for an 11-year-old left in the care of pharmaceutical giants and K-Fed’s winkle. Michael Jackson was completely normal for a five-year-old who loved pajama parties. On the reverse side, George Clooney famously slogged through twenty-odd guest roles, including ‘Lip-synching Transvestite’, before hitting it big with ER, so he’ll be a graceful thirty-something for the rest of his days.”

“Museveni, the poor bastard, had his fair share of problems, what with poverty and AIDS-6.4% of Ugandan women were trotting round full of HIV. Luckily Museveni got budget support from Britain and America, probably as a thank you present for not being Robert Mugabe.”

“There were 150 people flopping around and one young doctor walking among them. House had more drugs in his urine than this guy had in his medicine cabinet.”

 

A Journey to the Dark Heart of Nameless Unspeakable Evil is the true story of bitter British comedy writer Jane Bussmann’s departure from her job interviewing celebrities in Hollywood, in order to try her hand as a foreign correspondent (and win the heart of peacemaker John Prendergast) in war torn Uganda. This book was originally published in the UK as The Worst Date Ever, and is now being brought over to us in North America under a different title. Amazon says it will be available to purchase on May 13th of this year.

As she says in her book, it’s Bridget Jones’ Diary meets Private Benjamin meets The Devil Wears Prada meets Out of Africa and The Constant Gardner. I’m not going to lie, it’s a weird genre to wrap your head around. I chose to read this book because I was genuinely curious; with all the initial reviews describing its hilarity, I couldn’t imagine how one could report on Kony and the disgusting atrocities facing Uganda right now, and be funny about it.

While I will admit that yes, I did laugh out loud a few times, it was really only at the beginning of the novel when the author’s focus is on poking fun at celebrities and Hollywood. Even then the laughs were limited as whenever I hear someone whine and complain about an opportunity they should be grateful for, I can’t help but tune them out. After she reaches Uganda I didn’t really laugh at all. Even during the breaks where she wasn’t interviewing abandoned children or rape victims and was instead trying to make light of a lack of toilet paper or her maxed out credit cards, I couldn’t really find the humor. How could I laugh at her complaining about a temporary living situation in a war-torn country, when at the end of it all she is able to hop a British Airways flight home and escape it, leaving behind the people that are forced to live like that without a way out? Cognitive dissonance apparently. It made me feel a little sick to be honest.

I commend Jane Bussmann for wanting to make a difference, and shining a light on several challenges Uganda is trying to overcome in a way that makes it more approachable for the layman than the often heavy and micro-focused articles featured in political publications. Perhaps it is because I am already fairly familiar with Ugandan atrocities that I couldn’t find the humor in this novel, but if you’re still really in the dark about Joseph Kony and the LRA then perhaps this is actually a good way to begin your learning. I think the most upsetting thing about this book is that its British counterpart was originally published in 2009. Here we are five years later and the situation in Uganda has changed so little that the author didn’t need to adjust it at all before its North American publication.

 

While I would have to say I disliked it, I would still recommend it for someone who knows nothing about the current situation in Uganda.

 

Until next time,

OMPP

All My Puny Sorrows – Miriam Toews

Image

 

“Nobody moves away from Winnipeg, especially to Toronto, and escapes condemnation. It’s like the opposite of the Welcome Wagon. It’s like leaving the Crips for the Bloods.”

“I’m at an age where I’m stuck between two generations, one using the term “getting laid” and the other “hooking up,” so what are you supposed to call it?”

“Yeah but apologies are what keep us civilized, I said and she said no, not at all, apologies allow for all sorts of brutality.”

“Living with my mother is like living with Winnie the Pooh. She has many adventures, getting herself into and out of trouble guilelessly, and all of these adventures are accompanied by a few lines of gentle philosophy. There’s always a little bit more to learn every time you get your head stuck in a honey pot if you’re my mother.”

“She asked me if I’d read to her from it and I said no. Just a paragraph? No. A sentence? No. Half a sentence! One word? No. A letter? I said okay, that I would read the first letter of the novel. She smiled and closed her eyes and sort of burrowed into her bed like she was preparing herself for a delicious treat. I asked her if she was ready and she nodded, still smiling, eyes closed. I stood and cleared my throat, and paused and then began to read. L. She sighed and lifted her chin to the ceiling, opened her eyes and told me it was beautiful, BEAUTIFUL, and true, the best thing I’d written yet. I thanked her and shoved the page back into the plastic Safeway bag. “

Okay, I know… a LOT of quotes this week, so you know what that means. Miram Toews has done it again with All My Puny Sorrows.

What. A. Great. Book.

I have read two other books by her over the years and I am always blown away by her writing style, and the simple beauty of her stories. Her characters are real people that you can understand and relate to, and when they mess up they don’t mess up in a contrived or predictably fictional way; they mess up in a real human way that is so honest it gives you empathy goosebumps, yet still manages to make you laugh at the same time. Her writing is flawless. I don’t even know where to begin… I guess I’ll start with the publisher’s synopsis:

You won’t forget Elf and Yoli, two smart and loving sisters. Elfrieda, a world-renowned pianist, glamorous, wealthy, happily married: she wants to die. Yolandi, divorced, broke, sleeping with the wrong men as she tries to find true love: she desperately wants to keep her older sister alive. Yoli is a beguiling mess, wickedly funny even as she stumbles through life struggling to keep her teenage kids and mother happy, her exes from hating her, her sister from killing herself and her own heart from breaking. 

But Elf’s latest suicide attempt is a shock: she is three weeks away from the opening of her highly anticipated international tour. Her long-time agent has been calling and neither Yoli nor Elf’s loving husband knows what to tell him. Can she be nursed back to “health” in time? Does it matter? As the situation becomes ever more complicated, Yoli faces the most terrifying decision of her life.

It is incredibly difficult for an author to tackle subjects like mental illness, sexual promiscuity, suicide, religion, women’s rights, and depression, and not do it in a way that is preachy, or heavy, or just generally over the top. However, Toews does it, and she does it extraordinarily well. After I had finished reading this one, I did a bit of research and discovered that many, if not most of the events in this book were taken directly from her real life experiences. While this makes my heart hurt for what she’s had to go through in life, I am so appreciative of her willingness to bare her soul. It allows her story to have such an intimate and authentic voice that it removes a lot of the social taboo surrounding these controversial issues, and allows
the reader to focus on the meat and potatoes of the protagonist’s journey and process. It was only once I wiped one last laugh/cry tear from my cheek and closed the book that I truly understood the sentence,”… just because someone is eating the ashes of your protagonist doesn’t mean you stop telling the story.”

I laughed, I cried, and then laughed again. If you’ve ever loved someone so much that the thought of losing them is crippling, then I think you will love this bookIf you are a fan of literature (it’s filled with wonderful literary allusions) then I think you will love this book. If you enjoy reading a novel with strong, smart, quirky and independent FEMALE characters, (I know – it’s rare!) then you will love this book.

Miriam, your writing is both haunting and inspiring. I bow down to you. Incredible.

 

Until next time,

OMPP

Annihilation – Jeff Vandermeer

Image

“So we just stood there, and although I could feel the heat and weight of him beside me, the steady sound of his breathing, we were living apart.”

” ‘I hope it’s only about six feet deep so we can continue mapping,’ the surveyor said, trying to be lighthearted but then she, and we, all recognized the term ‘six feet under’ ghosting through her syntax and a silence settled over us.”

“… some questions will ruin you if you are denied the answer long enough.”

Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer is the first book in The Southern Reach Trilogy, and is set to have all three installments published this year. While it’s kind of nice not to have to wait years and years between books, (cough George R. R. Martin cough) I’m not entirely sure I will read the sequel that is scheduled to come out next month. I was really disappointed that I didn’t like this book as much as it seems everyone else has… I mean, check out the publisher’s synopsis and tell me this doesn’t sound like one of the coolest books ever:

Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition died in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another; the members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer.

This is the twelfth expedition.

Their group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain and collect specimens; to record all their observations, scientific and otherwise, of their surroundings and of one another; and, above all, to avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.

They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers—they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding—but it’s the surprises that came across the border with them, and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another, that change everything.

I LOVED the idea that the entire expedition was being handled by women, and was very excited to sit down and enjoy a magical and mysterious escape for a few hours. Unfortunately I found this book so hard to get through that a few hours turned into many, many hours, and it was hard for me to finish. While the story is intriguing, and the writing is beautiful, I found it difficult to become invested in the characters, and their outcome; in fact I just didn’t really care. This is probably because it is written as more of a factual scientific report than a character driven novel, which I’m sure has an overall purpose to the trilogy, but was difficult to enjoy when I’m not yet sure what the larger picture is.

Actually, as I reflect on the story, characters, and writing style more, it really feels as though this would make an excellent script. I could very easily see this being adapted and doing well as a film. Think of an all female cast version of Alien, meets The Beach, meets… The Road. Yeah, try and wrap your head around that one. You have to admit it sounds pretty cool when it’s pitched as that.

With so many positive reviews of this one, I can’t help but feel like I missed something. You know what? Maybe I will give the sequel a chance to win me over. But until I’ve finished that and can, ideally, recommend the series, I would say to hold off on this one. Time is a very precious commodity, (as is discussed in this story) and I would much prefer any of my readers to become invested in something I can truly stand behind.

Until next time,

The OMPP

The Here and Now – Ann Brashares

Image

“Sometimes I only hear what we don’t say. I only think the things I shouldn’t think and I remember what I should forget.”

” ‘For now people are thrilled about everything digital, endless data forms, your own piece of the cloud and all that. Nobody has much respect for paper at the moment, but I think the excitement kind of dies down after a while,’ I tell him. ‘As time goes on I think people, definitely my father, come back around to respect the power of actual things you can actually touch.’ ”

“Maybe it isn’t corruption or greed that makes you cowardly. Maybe it’s not weakness, suffering or even fear. Maybe it is love.”

 

Once upon a time, I loved the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series. I think most girls of my generation will agree that they were some of the better and more realistic (despite the whole magic pants thing) novels for our age group at the time. The characters were all strong, even in their weaknesses, and they felt very well developed and authentic. It’s because of my nostalgia for the books about sacred jeans that I was especially excited to read The Here and Now, also by Ann Brashares, which is to be released on April 8th.

Prenna James is a seventeen year old immigrant to the United States, except she hasn’t immigrated from another country, she’s come from another time. In the year 2090 we have led our planet into such a place of ruin that its inhabitants can no longer survive, and decide to send 1000 of their best and brightest back in time to recolonize the world in 2010. Of course, in order for the colony to survive they must follow a strict set of rules in order to keep their existence a secret from the ‘natives’, AKA the people that are really from that time period. They can never reveal their true identities, they can never try to change history, and they can never be intimate with anyone outside of their colony of time travelers. Obviously, in true dramatic narrative fashion, all of these rules are broken when Prenna falls in love with another senior named Ethan, and the two set off a timeline domino effect by being together.

While the book started out strong, I’m very sorry to say that it didn’t finish that way… at all. Yikes.

None of the characters felt very well thought out. Prenna and Ethan have this whole love-at-first-sight-based-on-nothing thing going on that I think is awful in young adult books (actually, any book) because it sets up some seriously unrealistic expectations. There are so many holes in the plot I had difficulty following along (from big things like the time travel issues not lining up, to small things like characters using other characters names without having been introduced first; see chapter nineteen), and the motivation behind everything anyone does is convoluted at best. If you only have three (or was it two? or maybe four? I was never quite sure) days to save the world, why are you playing cards for hours on the beach, debating about whether or not to have sex and drinking sangria illegally? This is difficult for me to say, because I had high hopes for this book, but it feels like the author wasn’t sure if she wanted to write a really well thought out time travel piece, or a coming of age story about two star crossed teens. Instead she’s done both, and she’s done both poorly. And the ending? Don’t even get me started on the ending.

All that being said, I did really enjoy the letters scattered throughout the book from Prenna to her deceased brother Julius, describing her perception and understanding of our world today. She has a specific observation I found interesting about how kids today would rather sit inside playing video games than go outside and use their imaginations, which is totally foreign to her as in the future that she is from, the kids dream of being able and allowed to go outdoors. I also found the ‘history’ of how the next 75 years will supposedly play out for humanity to be extremely thought provoking, as most of it is grounded in the truth of issues we are actually dealing with today. Our potential future is terrifying if we don’t start making some necessary changes today.

 

Unfortunately, I would advise against reading this one, as much as I wish I could say otherwise.

 

Until next time,

The OMPP.

Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape – Jenna Miscavige Hill

Image

 

“Later on after the criminal charges against the Church were dropped, it was explained to Scientologists by my Uncle Dave that a conviction in this case would have endangered the Church’s tax exempt status, and thus its hold on the copyrights themselves, which would have been catastrophic to the Church.”

“In addition to calling out people publicly for mistakes, they often also made mention of highly personal things that were unethical, like that person’s masturbation habits or some other personal thing that would embarrass him or her. Usually these announcements were gruesome exaggerations of the truth, but what made them worse was that they were always sent out to the entire base of 500 people, so everyone knew your business.”

“LRH said that trying to study past a misunderstood word was the prime factor in stupidity, and was at the root of all wrongdoing and misbehavior that might lead to criminality.”

“Either way, I did what any good Scientologist was supposed to do: I didn’t question it.”

 

I’m going to be honest, other than Tom Cruise’s ramblings and couch jumping episodes, I didn’t know much about Scientology before reading this book. I knew that it had several celebrity endorsers, and that it was a relatively new “religion” as it had only been invented in the late sixties by a science fiction author, L. Ron Hubbard.

Yes, that’s right, I said invented.

It was only after LRH (since everything in Scientology is referred to by acronyms) failed at selling the idea for the basis of Scientology as a MOVIE SCRIPT, that he began to push it as a religion. He has even been quoted as saying, “You don’t get rich writing Science Fiction. If you want to get rich, you start a religion.”

Jenna Miscavige Hill is the niece of David Miscavige, the leader of the Church of Scientology. Beyond Belief is her story about being brought up as a Scientologist, and how she eventually escaped what can really only be classified as a cult. Sorry, not sorry.

While I found the content of this book to be fascinating, initially the prose was flat, boring, and difficult to get through, especially for the first half. I feel this is because of the way children of Scientology are raised to learn, speak, and accept authority. The second half of the book however was much more interesting, and it seems her writing comes alive when she does. Once she really starts to accept the simple fact that she has endured years of brain washing, child abuse, and intentional isolation from family and friends, the writing felt passionate, inspired, and strong, and I began to really enjoy it.

Her story is one of courage and strength, and I find it extremely admirable she has cofounded the website http://www.exscientologykids.com, to help and support those who wish to leave the organization. Regardless of if you know a lot about Scientology already, or you don’t know anything at all, I do recommend this book. I found it eye opening, and it inspired me to do a great deal more research into Scientology. By the way, if you haven’t checked out the South Park episode on what Scientologists really believe in? Please do. It’s a brief but precise explanation of Scientology at its finest.

The whole concept of Scientology would almost be humorous if you didn’t know about the horrible living conditions, child abuse, and exploitation of the people currently stuck within the confines of the organization. Read this one and be prepared to have your world rocked.

Until next time,

OMPP

A Beautiful Disaster – Jamie McGuire

Image

“Adopt a philosphy of ‘approval neither desired nor required.'”

“‘It’s dangerous to need someone that much. You’re trying to save him, and he’s hoping you can. You two are a disaster.'”

“It wasn’t just me, and it wasn’t just him, it was what we were together that was the exception.”

On January 2nd, one of my oldest and dearest friends sent me a text message stating that I had to read A Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire. I received a Kindle Paperwhite for Christmas this year, and considering my goal of a book a week for 2014 I wasted no time in purchasing it and getting started.

This is the summary that can be found on the GoodReads website:

“Abby Abernathy is a good girl. She doesn’t drink or swear, and she has the appropriate number of cardigans in her wardrobe. Abby believes she has enough distance from the darkness of her past, but when she arrives at college with her best friend, her path to a new beginning is quickly challenged by Eastern University’s Walking One-Night Stand.

Travis Maddox, lean, cut, and covered in tattoos, is exactly what Abby wants—and needs—to avoid. He spends his nights winning money in a floating fight ring, and his days as the ultimate college campus charmer. Intrigued by Abby’s resistance to his appeal, Travis tricks her into his daily life with a simple bet. If he loses, he must remain abstinent for a month. If Abby loses, she must live in Travis’s apartment for the same amount of time. Either way, Travis has no idea that he has met his match.”

I will admit, I was immediately hooked. My friend had said that she couldn’t put it down and frankly, for the first 30% of the book neither could I. However, the intrigued dropped off shortly after that.

Abby seems like a smart enough girl, and her and Travis’ relationship starts out innocently enough, however it doesn’t take long for loverboy to go full blown stalker on her by trashing his own apartment after she leaves without saying goodbye, beating the crap out of guys who show any interest in her, and ripping her a new one for letting some guy at a bar buy her a drink. I don’t know why so many girls seem to think that stalker behavior is attractive, but I know for myself that I am more than a little turned off by the idea of someone 1) watching me when I sleep 2) refusing to let me go to my own home for days at a time 3) not letting me hang out with my friends 4) telling me what I can and can’t wear when I leave the house 4) beating up any guy that smiles at me 5) needing me to repeatedly tell him that I’m “his” and that I “need him” and… I could continue but I won’t.

Girls, emotionally abusive guys like Travis are not sexy, or romantic, or even remotely desirable. They are the kind of guys that will sit outside your house for days when you wake up with enough sense to break up with them, and then when they actually realize that it’s over for good they will either try to kill themselves, or kill you. Travis even says at one point, “I’ll end up in prison if I hear you slept with someone else.” Okay, red flag anyone?

Barf.

While I really loved the first part of the book as it was amazing cotton candy for the brain, once Travis feels like he’s made Abby his own, I lost interest. I prefer my protagonists strong, smart, independent, and free to choose where they sleep at night. Just sayin’.

Who knows though – to each their own. As Edmund Wilson once said “no two persons ever read the same book.” If this kind of masochistic, misogynistic and derelict love story appeals to you, I hear it’s the first part of a trilogy.

Despite all this, I will not write off my friends future recommendations. She’s got fantastic taste in every other aspect, and is an absolute gem. Another friend of ours who read this book loved it, but I guess it just wasn’t for me.

On to the next!

xx

OMPP