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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Yes Please by Amy Poehler~★★★★★

Author: Amy Poehler
Title: Yes Please
Release Date: October 28, 2014
Publisher: HarperAudio
Genre: Non-fiction

Audio Book Cover: "In a perfect world...we'd get to hang out with Amy Poehler, watching dumb movies, listening to music, and swapping tales about our coworkers and difficult childhoods. Because in a perfect world, we'd all be friends with Amy---someone who seems so fun, full of interesting stories, tells great jokes, and offers plenty of advice and wisdom (the useful kind, not the annoying kind you didn't ask for, anyway). Unfortunately, between her Golden Globe-winning role on Parks and Recreation, her work as a producer and director, her place as one of the most beloved SNL alumni and cofounder of the Upright Citizens' Brigade, her involvement with the website Smart Girls at the Party, and her other gig as the mom of two young sons, she's not available for movie night. 
Luckily we have the next best thing: Yes Please, Amy's hilarious and candid book. A collection of stories, thoughts, ideas, lists, and haikus from the mind of one of our most beloved entertainers, Yes Please offers Amy's thoughts on everything from her 'too safe' childhood outside of Boston to her early days in New York City, her ideas about Hollywood and 'the biz,' the demon that looks back at all of us in the mirror, and her joy at being told she has a 'face for wigs.' Yes Please is chock-full of words, and wisdom, to live by.  

Taryn's Review: I have always enjoyed Amy Poehler's work. I liked her on SNL, but I loved her on her show, Parks and Recreation. Recently I became obsessed with the hit show Broad City on Comedy Central and was surprised to see Poehler listed as Executive Producer on the show. The comedy on Broad City is very different from Parks and Rec, so my intrigue of Poehler was definitely up. When her book came out, I opted to listen to the audio version since I love hearing celebrities read their own books.

This book was a treat to listen to. I laughed out loud while listening to this book. I cried while listening to this book. I felt inspired while listening to this book. A part of me wonders if I shouldn't just keep this book on loop in my car because I loved it so very much. Poehler was candid, witty, funny, honest, heartfelt, and humble. She admitted to some mistakes she has made in her career and I was awed that she was willing to share those mistakes with the public. Another gem in this book was when she had guests like Seth Meyers and Mike Schur on to read/discuss the book with her. It was fun to hear Poehler interact with her friends and genuinely laugh and crack jokes with them.

Poehler covered so much in her book: her early years, her teen years, her college years, career from beginning to present, marriage and divorce, her children, and life advice. It was packed full, yet it never felt overwhelming. Listening to her book was truly a pleasure. While I really enjoyed Poehler's equally famous friend Tina Fey's book Bossypants, Poehler's book was definitely my favorite of the two.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho~★★★

Author: Paulo Coelho
Title: The Alchemist
Release Date: First released in 1988; this edition released April 25, 1993.
Publisher: HarperOne
Genre: Fiction

Book Cover: "Paulo Coelho's enchanting novel has inspired a devoted following around the world. This story, dazzling in its powerful simplicity and inspiring wisdom, is about an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure buried in the Pyramids. Along the way he meets a Gypsy woman, a man who calls himself king, and an alchemist, all of whom point Santiago in the direction of his quest. No one knows what the treasure is, or if Santiago will be able to surmount the obstacles along the way. But what starts out as a journey to find worldly goods turns into a discovery of the treasure found within. Lush, evocative, and deeply humane, the story of Santiago is an eternal testament to the transforming power of our dreams and the importance of listening to our hearts." 

Taryn's Review: I have heard rave reviews about this book for many years, but for some reason or another it never made its way onto my to-be-read list. I recently joined a book club and this was our first selection, so I was pretty excited to get started!

I don't want to say that this book was disappointing or a letdown, but it wasn't rave-worthy in my opinion. It's a simple story and there was no doubt Coelho's strong religious background played a role in the themes throughout the book. I expected my world to be rocked, my perspective broadened, and a host of emotions to over my soul based on what others have told me about this book, but none of that happened.

The lessons in the story are simple: be brave, follow your dreams, and obstacles may actually be teaching moments. The story focused on Santiago (also called the Boy) discovering his Personal Legend, along with the people he meets and the places he goes during his journey. Santiago could have lived his life being a shepherd, safely tucked away in the lands he knew so well, but the discoveries he made changed his life because he was courageous enough to venture into the unknowns.

This was a sweet, simple, and short book, but not earth-shatteringly amazing for me. I don't think it is a "must-read" and I think there are far better books out there about finding oneself away from the comforts of the life he or she knows. Not disappointing, but not inspirational either.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain~★★★★

Author: Paula McLain
Title: The Paris Wife
Release Date: November 27, 2012
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Fiction

Book Cover: "Chicago, 1920: Hadley Richardson is a quiet twenty-eight-year-old  who has all but given up on love and happiness---until she meets Ernest Hemingway. Following a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for Paris, where they become the golden couple in a lively and volatile group---the fabled "Lost Generation"---that includes Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Though deeply in love, the Hemingways are ill prepared for the hard-drinking, fast-living, and free-loving life of Jazz Age Paris. As Ernest struggles to find the voice that will become The Sun Also Rises, Hadley strives to hold on to her sense of self as her role as wife, friend, and muse become more challenging. Eventually they find themselves facing the ultimate crisis of their marriage---a deception that will lead to the unraveling of everything they've fought so hard for. 
A heartbreaking portrayal of love and torn loyalty, The Paris Wife is all the more poignant because we know that, in the end, Hemingway wrote that he would rather have died than fallen in love with anyone but Hadley." 

Taryn's Review: As I began this book, I knew it wouldn't have a happy ending for Hemingway and Hadley as spouses from my previous readings. McLain, through Hadley, shared this knowledge very early in the book, so while reading one knows that terrible times are head for Hemingway and Hadley. Things seemed so damn good between the two characters that the question begs to be asked...how can things go amiss if love holds the two together?

The thing about love is that isn't a guarantee of fidelity in every relationship. Hemingway hurts Hadley, and it was sad to read how very maliciously he did it under the guise of being oh-so-hard-for-him, too, as he ran off to meet his mistress down the hall of a hotel.

Hadley's character was complex to me in the sense that I'm not sure she realized how very lopsided her relationship with Hemingway was from the beginning. It was always about Ernest, never Hadley. Sure, Ernest made her feel special at times, but he also made her feel awful. His ego always seemed to need inflating and if Hadley didn't do to his satisfaction, he simply found someone who would. It's a shame that Hadley was the one to see Hemingway through from impoverished wanna-be-published author to a literary star, yet he threw her away for the first shiny, pretty thing to give him attention.

I looked up Hadley after reading this book and it seems that McLain did a good job of sticking to the facts in her historical fiction, which I really appreciate. This is an example of good historical fiction!

Despite my love of Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms, I first learned about how volatile and horrible he could be toward women when I read about his relationship with Martha Gellhorn in Between the Sheets: The Literary Liaisons of Nine 20th-Century Women Writers. It makes me wonder if Hadley ever experienced some of the abuse that Gellhorn did.

Overall, I really enjoyed passing the time with this book. McLain is a pleasant writer and I would have no issues with picking up another book of hers to read. She presented the story in such a way that it retains its truths without being overdone by the fictional elements.