BOOK REVIEW: Binge – by Tyler Oakley

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Title: Binge
Author: Tyler Oakley
Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir, Humor
First published: October 20th 2015
Finished reading: May 18th 2016
Pages: 307
Rating 4qqq

“No person, no matter how important society deems their relationship to you, has the right to denounce you for who you are.”

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Is it weird that somehow I end up reading memoirs of people I haven’ t really heard of most of the time? Because that’s what happened yet again when I decided to pick up my copy of Binge on a whim. The colorcul cover was enough to intrigue me, and even though I didn’t know much about Tyler Oakley beforehand, I still really enjoyed reading his story. These essays are quirky, feel brutally honest, sometimes uncomfortable but mostly hilarious. And the photos and Tweets are a nice touch as well! I’m not really into watching Youtube channels myself, but this memoir without doubt made me curious about his channel. I’m not sure Binge is for everyone and you have to like reading these kind of quirky memoirs and/or at least know a little about Tyler Oakley to properly enjoy it, but it is without doubt recommendable for the right person. The essays in general have a fast pace (except one or two around the middle) and basically are a mix of personal, witty, serious and funny stories about Tyler Oakley‘s life. The prose is quite easy to read as well!

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Tyler Oakley tells us all about his past and how he eventually became a pop-culture phenomenon and the most prominent GLBT voice on Youtube. Binge is a collection of essays about both Tyler as an awkward child growing up, Tyler coming out, Tyler during high school, Tyler during his Uni years and afterwards; each essay revealing a mix of personal mishaps and other hilarious or personal moments in his life no matter how awkward or potentially uncomfortable.

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I like reading memoirs and it doesn’t really matter to me if I actually know something about the person in question, which might sound a bit weird. I guess I care more about if the memoir itself is entertaining/interesting, and Binge is without doubt a very entertaining and quirky read. I don’t know a lot about Tyler Oakley and I have never seen his Youtube channel, but he comes over as a very interesting person I could definitely see myself hang out with. The essays are personal, brutally honest and for some people maybe even a little uncomfortable, but the stories are without doubt entertaining to read. Binge might not be for everyone, but definitely recommended for the right person.

BOOK REVIEW: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? – by Mindy Kaling

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Title: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?
Author: Mindy Kaling
Genre: Non Fiction, Humor, Memoir
First published: November 1st 2011
Finished reading: March 8th 2016
Pages: 222
Rating 3qqq

“One friend with whom you have a lot in common is better than three with whom you struggle to find things to talk about.”

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I have to confess I have never actually watched Mindy Kaling‘s TV shows and I don’t know a lot about her in general. Still, since I quite enjoyed reading her other book Why Not Me?, I decided to try Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? as well. This one was actually published a few years before Why Not Me?, and it shows. While this first memoir is still quite funny and I appreciate how honest she is about her life, it misses a so-to-speak spark to convert it into something special. The prose is easy to read and there were some funny moments, but overall Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? wasn’t nearly as funny as her other book. What started out well actually turned into a slowish read around the middle, but luckily things picked up later on. It is quite an entertaining read even though you are not familiar with her work, although I suspect the part where she talks about The Office is probably funnier if you have actually seen the show. Would I recommend it? Yes, because it’s quite a quick read despite the slow middle, entertaining and hilariously funny at points. If you haven’t read her second memoir yet though, read that one first.

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Mindy Kaling tells us the tale of how she grew up and makes some honest and refreshing observations during this journey. How was Mindy during high school and how did she try to achieve her dream? She is not afraid to admit any failures and even admits she isn’t the perfect person to give advice. Mindy is simply a a ‘girl next door’ who became famous… And she not only explains things about her view on romance, friendship, Hollywood and the perfect amount of fame, but also gives us an inside view of what it is like being a comedy screenwriter and creating The Office.

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Mindy Kaling has a way of writing down her story that feels honest, refreshing and is quite entertaining as well. While not as funny as the second memoir, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? is still worth reading if you are looking for a short and entertaining read. You will find some very interesting quotes while you are reading this book! I can really appreciate how down to earth she seems.

BOOK REVIEW: Furiously Happy – by Jenny Lawson

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Title: Furiously Happy
Author: Jenny Lawson
Genre: Non Fiction, Humor, Memoir
First published: September 22nd 2015
Finished reading: February 28th 2016
Pages: 329
Rating 4qqq

“Don’t make the same mistakes that everyone else makes. Make wonderful mistakes. Make the kind of mistakes that make people so shocked that they have no other choice but to be a little impressed.”

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I have been wanting to read more non fiction lately and this memoir by Jenny Lawson looked like an interesting choice. Now that I’ve read it I can say Furiously Happy is just that! If you want a good laugh, make sure to read this book. I never thought a book about mental ilness could be this funny… It truly is refreshing how Jenny Lawson openly tells us about how she tries to live with her mental ilness and I can see why her story can be inspiring to those who are in a similar situation. In this memoir funny moments are mixed with some more serious themes, but in such a way that it’s quite easy to keep reading. The pace slows down a bit in the middle (especially the part about her trip to Australia), but not enough for me to be really bothered by it. All in all it’s a really interesting and entertaining read if you are looking for something different. Just one last warning: reading it in public may cause people to look at you funny and think you lost you marbles because you might snort/giggle/laugh out loud manically while reading this book… Don’t say I didn’t warn you. 😉

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In this second memoir Jenny Lawson talks about her lifelong battle with mental illness. She decided that the best way to live with it all is to be furiously happy without limitations whenever she can. Even if that means kangaroos in her house, use her father’s taxidermist skills to have a stuffed raccoon at home, dress up her cats and other things that people might find odd. Her husband doesn’t always agree with her ideas, but it does lead to some very funny situations… Like she writes in her memoir:

“Most of my favorite people are dangerously fucked-up but you’d never guess because we’ve learned to bare it so honestly that it becomes the new normal. Like John Hughes wrote in The Breakfast Club, ‘We’re all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it.’ Except go back and cross out the word ‘hiding.'”

Jenny Lawson shows that there can always be found a way to learn to live with mental illness and to improve quality of life. Each person is unique and has to find their own way, but being ‘furiously happy’ has helped many people during the last few years.

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First of all, I really like the way Furiously Happy is written. It doesn’t happen often that I find myself laughing out loud while I’m reading a book, but this memoir is an exception. Jenny Lawson isn’t afraid to admit the ugly and embarrassing details, and this is part of the reason why this memoir works so well. Honest, hilarious, refreshing, entertaining… If you are looking for a new way to see mental ilness, Furiously Happy is definitely recommended.

BOOK REVIEW: The Happiness Project – by Gretchen Rubin

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Title: The Happiness Project
Author: Gretchen Rubin
Genre: Non Fiction, Self Help, Memoir
First published: December 29th 2009
Finished reading: December 16th 2015
Pages: 315
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“One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy. One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”

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I normally quite enjoy reading memoirs, but honestly I’m really not that into self help books. I decided to pick up The Happiness Project anyway since I got a free paperback copy at a book exchange earlier this month. I actually quite enjoyed the first part… The idea of investing time and start a project to bring more happiness to your life sounds interesting, but unfortunately reading about Gretchen Rubin‘s own experience started to turn into something annoying after a while. I mean, she pretty much already had a great life before the project: an according to her handsome and succesful husband, two healthy little girls, a job she loves and a great home in NY. I don’t mind her wanting to be happier, but she did come over as a bit hypocrite in some chapters. I know some people see her as a great example, but I personally would have preferred reading about someone with a bigger and more genuine challenge. As far as the prose: it shows that Gretchen Rubin did a lot of research for her project and I liked that she incorporated blog comments in her chapters. Do I agree with everything she said? No. But I do believe the right person might benefit from at least part of her message.

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Gretchen Rubin was taking the same city bus as she always did when she had the realization that “the days are long, but the years are short”. She also realized she wasn’t as happy as she could be and wasn’t focusing enough on the things that really matter. Hence the happiness project was born, where she wanted to try and focus on improving a different aspect of her life each month. Every chapter tells the story of her adventures during a specific month, giving advice and contemplating both the good and bad parts. Novelty and challenge turn out to be powerful sources of happiness, money can help buy happiness when spent wisely and small changes can truly make the biggest difference… All those conclusions and more can be found in the happiness project.

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Gretchen Rubin had some very interesting ideas in her book, but I can’t say I agree with all of them nor do I think her already almost perfect ‘before’ situation is the best example of a ‘proper’ happiness project. Everybody has the right to be happier and I’m not saying she was wrong doing the project OR writing about it, but I didn’t like her tone in some chapters. Would I recommend this read? Only if you like self help books and are interested in the theme.

BOOK REVIEW: Into The Wild – by Jon Krakauer

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Title: Into The Wild
Author: Jon Krakauer
Genre: Non Fiction, Biography, Travel
First published: January 13th 1996
Finished reading: September 15th 2015
Pages: 207
Rating 3,5qqq

“Nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.”

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Into The Wild has been on my wishlist for ages and after watching the movie last month I thought it was about time I read it. This travel biography written by Jon Krakauer without doubt leaves its mark, although I do think it is one of those exceptions where the movie is actually better than the book. I’m not saying it is a bad read, but I would have prefered to have the story focused on the adventures of the main character Christopher McCandless alone. Jon Krakauer included his own experiences with nature and those of other people as well, which distracted from the main story and didn’t really add anything important. Christopher McCandless’ journey is impressive enough as it is and the other chapters are not necessary or don’t exactly help understanding why Christopher did what he did. Or maybe I was just spoiled by the movie, who knows… I’m not sure I actually agree with his ideas or actions, but I do respect Christopher for thinking outside the box and starting an adventure that most people won’t dare to even fantasize about. Therefore I cannot deny Into The Wild is a very impressive read with a tragic ending that is perfect for those who enjoy reading non fiction and travel/survival stories.

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After Christopher McCandless graduated from college in 1991, he decided he was sick of his life chained by money and belongings and he wanted to start wandering around experiencing true nature. He left his family, gave away his money, abandoned his car and possessions and gave himself a new name: Alexander Supertramp. He now felt truly free from his past and society and started traveling around without having a penny in his pocket. He experiences the many sides of the country walking, hitchhiking and meeting a lot of interesting people on the way. McCandless travels both north and south and in April 1992 he decided to hitchhike to Alaska to finally walk alone into the wilderness. He isn’t truly prepared for what Alaska has in store for him, but he is determined to continue his journey anyway…

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Christopher McCandless’ journey is truly impressive and unfortunately has a very sad ending. A lot have judged him badly over the years and I’m not saying it was stupid of him to start his Alaska adventure that unprepared, but it cannot be denied that he actually WAS able to survive for a really long time in such a difficult situation. Jon Krakauer‘s writing was interesting in general, although, like I said before, I would have prefered to read just McCandless’ story. I would still recommend this read though if you are interested in the genre. The movie is even better if you haven’t watched it yet!

BOOK REVIEW: Don’t Tell Mummy – by Toni Maguire

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Title: Don’t Tell Mummy
Author: Toni Maguire
Genre: Memoir, True Crime
First published: 2006
Finished reading: May 13th 2015
Pages: 352
Rating 4

“The smile on his lips was always the smile of the nice father, but in his eyes I could see the nasty one, the one invisible to everyone else, the one that lived inside his head.”

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This memoir is not for the weak-hearted and will probably leave you with tears in your eyes. Toni Maguire didn’t have an easy childhood. Or more precisely said: a childhood from hell. Growing up with an abusive father, a mother who prefers to look the other way and family and friends who don’t see what’s happening behind closed doors… A recipe for every young child’s worst nightmare. The author was very brave to let her skeletons out of the closet and admit all those horrible facts actually happened to her all those years ago. Don’t Tell Mummy is a truly heartbreaking story that will definitely move you… It’s not a happy story, but one that has to be told as there are so many cases of child abuse still out there. Without doubt a memoir I would recommend; it’s very well written and not only tells us the facts of the abuse, but also the way people judge her when the truth comes out.

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The first few years of Toni Maguire’s life were almost perfect, but things change when they decide to move back to Ireland where her father is born. Their new idyllic life is marked by a terrible secret… When Toni is six years old, her father made his first improper move on his daughter and he doesn’t stop there. He warns her not to tell anyone, because they would end up blaming her for allowing him to do those things… And in the end even her mother prefers to look away. When Toni finally gathers the courage to tell her father’s little ‘secret’,  her mother simply says to never talk about it again. Soon Toni is alone and isolated from friends and family, with nobody to turn to. The abuse goes on for years, and even ends up in a pregnancy; the abortion almost killing Toni. And when people find out, they end up doing what her father warned her they would do: the end up judging and rejecting her for what he has done…

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This memoir tells a truly shocking story that will leave you without words and reaching for a box of tissues. Toni Maguire has had a horrible childhood and she is very brave to write down her story. The acts of her father nearly destroyed both her and her childhood, and it’s shocking that nobody noticed something in all those years before her pregnancy. Don’t Tell Mummy is a true eye opener and a very well written story that I would definitely recommend to those who enjoy reading memoirs and true crime stories. Beware: this is not a happy story and it won’t be for everyone…