BOOK REVIEW: EMILY REYNOLDS – A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO LOSING YOUR MIND

 

English freelance journalist Emily Reynolds was a teenager when she first developed bipolar disorder. It proved a hard diagnosis because it took around a decade of visits to health-care professionals and a cocktail of different medications in order to settle on the right ones. While on this journey, Reynolds researched and read the books that were available about mental illness, but she was unable to find one that resonated with her own unique condition. A Beginners Guide to Losing Your Mind is a result of Reynolds filling this gap.

 

To read the rest of this review please visit the following website: http://magazine.100percentrock.com/reviews/book-reviews/201703/225677

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BOOK REVIEW: MESHEL LAURIE – BUDDHISM FOR BREAK-UPS

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There are many people who ask themselves, “What would Jesus do?” but in the case of Meshel Laurie, it was, “What would Buddha do?” The Australian writer, comedian and radio personality was looking towards her Buddhist faith as a way of making sense of the end of her 19 year marriage. Except that there were no self-help manuals on successfully separating, not from a Buddhist standpoint, so she wrote her own and it’s a thought-provoking, relatable and compassionate read.

Laurie’s book finds the right balance between offering her own personal tale as well as the fundamental principles that Buddhists believe. She describes her separation from her ex-husband, Adrian Lewinski in some detail, whilst also offering a template for navigating through the negative emotions of fear, grief and loneliness that are synonymous with heartbreak.

If you’re sitting there dismissing this book as a bunch of hippie nonsense then think again. This book is instead a rather practical and logical collection of different chapters. Early on Laurie has us considering the fact that we will all lose somebody close to us someday: “No relationship – romantic, familial or platonic – is absolute and forever. We will all lose someone we rely on at some point in our lives. Sometimes the other person chooses to leave us, sometimes they’re taken from us tragically, and sometimes we discover that they were never ours to begin with. But one way or another, the relationship will end.”

This means that the ability to deal with the loss of a relationship is a useful skill. Another handy lesson that Laurie offers is to learn about the Buddhist principles of “impermanence” i.e. understanding that everyone and everything is constantly changing and “dependent arising” or understanding that we never actually stop evolving or changing and that this process is shaped by the conditions around us. For Meshel she simply wants us to consider and focus on the positive aspects of a break-up – even if it’s just being able to lie in a large bed and watch your favourite shows on Netflix – you should seize this opportunity for happiness and growth.

Meshel Laurie offers us some very practical pieces of advice in her second book, Buddhism for Break-ups. This combination of well-written, well-explained and considered Buddhist teachings as well as her own real-life experiences can offer some real comfort to readers in much the same was as Chicken Soup For The Soul has done. You can really get a sense that, “If Meshel can do it then perhaps I can too.”

Buddhism for Break-ups should be essential reading for anyone that finds themselves broken-hearted and open to the prospect of learning new things and becoming a better individual. Buddhism for Break-ups may not answer all of your questions but it is certainly clever and therapeutic enough to steer you in the right direction. Namaste!

Originally published on 28 February 2017 at the following website: http://arts.theaureview.com/reviews/book-review-meshel-lauries-buddhism-for-break-ups-is-the-buddhist-dating-equivalent-of-chicken-soup-for-the-soul/

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BOOK REVIEW: HELEN RAZER – THE HELEN 100 – HOW I TOOK MY WAXER’S ADVICE & CURED HEARTBREAK BY GOING ON 100 DATES IN LESS THAN A YEAR

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There was the bride stripped bare and now there’s the dumped stripped without a care. In The Helen 100, broadcaster and writer, Helen Razer is disarmingly honest in recounting the aftermath of the breakdown of her 15-year relationship. It’s a tale that thumbs its nose at traditional, dating self-help guides and instead offers something more funny and grounded in reality (the pain and heartbreak may be real but Razer sure does know how to make ‘em laugh).

Razer begins her dating odyssey by describing the day one dry Melbourne afternoon when her partner announced without warning that she was leaving and “Needed to grow.” It was only later on when Helen reflected on things (and hacked the ex’s Facebook account) where she learned that the writing had been on the wall for the relationship for some time. Her ex-girlfriend had been cheating on her and there were several occasions where these love trysts happened when Razer was standing several metres away.

Razer takes some tentative steps into the crazy and occasionally frightening world of online dating. She does this with her sweet cat, Eleven by her side and the pair share a diet of barbeque chicken and sadness (it’s a dish best consumed in sorrowful, elasticised pants like pyjamas.) Razer also decides to publicly criticise Coldplay (thank God) and embark on 100 dates inside a year. It will be one point per date and a maximum of five per individual and no, this isn’t an Australian Bridget Jones.

This book is not a gritty tell-all. Do not expect Helen to sit there writing about date one and his bad breath or that date two didn’t turn up. Instead, Razer recounts the exchanges she had with potential suitors on a XXX app (males and females) as well as the recent events in her life (like chucking in her soul-destroying job writing copy for a discount beauty website.) She also describes her world views on politics, which make this book not unlike Lee Zachariah’s Double Dissolution: Heartbreak and Chaos on the Campaign Trail.

Razer is an opinionated individual with some very clear ideas about politics. It is unsurprising then that we see her discussing Marxism with a man in possession of a “Big Slavic cock” (in his humble opinion). We don’t find out if Razer agrees with his assessment because she actually spends her night with this Russian man and his daughter. She is also forcibly restrained in order to watch the Barbie Live show (I may have made up the part about the restraint.)

The Helen 100 is an antidote to love just like Adam Sandler singing “Love Stinks” in The Wedding Singer or if you burn rather than listen to a Cure album. Razer is one cranky and messy lady but damn, she is one we can all relate to. Her story is a fresh take on love and heartbreak in all of its complicated wretchedness. The Helen 100 is an unfiltered and bold conversation that we all need to have and we should be glad that Helen wasn’t afraid to go there- chicken, cat hair and all.

Originally published on 22 February 2017 at the following website: http://arts.theaureview.com/reviews/book-review-helen-razers-the-helen-100-is-a-brutally-honest-look-at-heartbreak-and-bbq-chicken/

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DVD REVIEW: HOW TO BE SINGLE

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How To Be Single should be renamed, “Single White Female” or “Straight White Female”. The film is an episodic one about four single heterosexual pals in New York City (does this sound familiar?) It’s an unoriginal film that isn’t excellent but it’s also not as bad as you’d expect.

The film was written Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein and Dana Fox and it shares a certain style and feel to the group’s other works (He’s Just Not That Into You and Valentine’s Day). The story is actually an adaptation of a novel written by Sex In The City writer, Liz Tuccillo, meaning comparisons between the two seem inevitable. But How To Be Single also tries to tackle some new dating phenomena (emojis, internet dating) while ignoring others (Tinder). At its heart it tries to answer the question of why people always tell their life stories through their relationships while presenting four independent women at work, rest and play and a lot of the time it seems to show said women pursuing either a relationship or a casual hook-up (or the kinds of things it was supposed to be rallying against!)

Dakota Johnson from Fifty Shades of Grey stars as Alice, a girl that was restless in her long-term relationship with the man she met at university. She tells her boyfriend that the pair should take a break in order for her to do some soul-searching. Except that this journey of self-discovery actually involves being taken under the wing of an obnoxious and drunken hedonist (Rebel Wilson at her most irritating). The latter’s character is like SITC’s Samantha on steroids and while she does offer some brutal advice here, often the context is all wrong because she is too over-the-top and ridiculous to really matter. (I’m sure we’d all love to work at a legal firm where you can arrive three and a half hours late and introduce the new girl to the office environment by showing her all the best places for a snog or a shag).

Alice’s sister’s story is actually a lot more interesting. Meg (a sweet, Leslie Mann) is working as a doctor delivering babies but she does not want a child of her own. One day she changes her mind and decides that she needs to have a baby stat and she will go down the IVF route. This story could have been a touching drama between the two sisters but instead it is too lightweight and trying too hard to be funny in other parts. Lucy (Alison Brie) has nothing to do with the other girls but she is an online dating obsessive who often finds herself in the company of a womanising bartender (Anders Holm) because she resorts to pinching Wi-Fi in the bar downstairs from her apartment. The special features on the DVD are disappointing and include only some deleted scenes.

How To Be Single is a film about identity but it’s a little unsure about what it actually wants to be. It can’t decide whether it wants to empower women or play into the cliché-ridden status quo of society- or whether it wants to be fun and comedic or make some serious, social points. In trying to be so much it often fails to do anything really well. It means it’s pleasant but ultimately a forgettable chick flick. In all, this unoriginal, straight and conventional rom-com could have been sassy and clever but instead feels like a second-rate Sex In The City where the big in this big apple is the overwhelming number of characters, plots and themes.

Originally published on 4 June 2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/how-to-be-single-dvd-review/

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FILM REVIEW: MAN UP

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Can a few dating wrongs allow you to find Mr. Right? That is the question that is asked in the British rom-com, Man Up. The film is simply one zany night stretched out to feature length. It’s an evening filled with mishaps and misadventures and it’s all madcap fun that is uncomplicated, funny and silly.

The film is directed by Ben Palmer (The Inbetweeners Movie) and marks the silver-screen debut of writer, Tess Morris who has previously written episodes of My Family and Hollyoaks. American-actress, Lake Bell (In A World…) does an excellent job playing an English character who could have been drowning in self-pity. She’s Nancy, a 34-year-old single journalist who has been burned by her previous relationships and is naturally a little gun shy. She is also in possession of two parents and a sister who are obsessed with her relationship status. Like Bridget Jones, she is an older, single gal but she’s also a tad jaded, cynical and sassy.

Nancy meets Jessica (Ophelia Lovibond) a young, over-achieving do-gooder on the train. Jessica raves about a self-help book and even gives a copy of this to Nancy. And thorough a series of contrived events, Nancy ends up underneath a clock at Waterloo station when Jessica’s blind date, Jack (Simon Pegg) turns up. Jack assumes Nancy is Jessica and rather than correct the poor man, Nancy decides to go along for the ride.

The pair hit it off but remember, this is a boy meets girl, boy loses girl sort of tale. As the story progresses, the events get zanier and crazier. There’s a cameo by a weird stalker from Nancy’s childhood (played by good sport, Rory Kinnear) and things do get a little strange when Jack’s ex-wife (a stern, Olivia Williams) turns up at the bar with her new partner. This film has a big heart and there are moments where it is quite likeable, fast-paced and funny. Thankfully, these parts tend to outweigh the predictable, contrived and clichéd moments found elsewhere.

Man Up has an unfortunate title and is actually a pleasant little film told from an interesting lady’s point of view, although it does go off on more than one screwball tangent. It’s an un-challenging and pleasant watch that can be a bit cheesy at times. But mostly it is filled with good bits of sass and witty dialogue. In all, this is one enjoyable comedy and look at modern love.

Originally published on 3 November 2015 at the following website: http://iris.theaureview.com/film-review-man-up-uk-france-2015/

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THEATRE REVIEW: JANE AUSTEN IS DEAD @ NEW THEATRE

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“It’s a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife”. This is the first line from Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice and arguably where the one-woman, Sydney Fringe Festival show, Jane Austen Is Dead begins. The story is by an Austen devotee and like its contemporaries, Bridget Jones’s Diary and Amanda Hooton’s Finding Mr Darcy; it takes the pearls of wisdom from Austen herself and uses it to negotiate the often brutal, modern dating world.

The story is written and performed by Mel Dodge and is inspired by true stories of people looking for love. The main character Dodge portrays is Sophie, a strong female lead who is 33 and works in a bar. She has observed the human mating ritual for some time and has much to say about this. She is also a romantic, an optimist and a literature fan. What ensues is a recounting of the men from her own life, which started at the tender age of five when she traded lunch with a classmate to recently catching the bouquet at a friend’s wedding and everything in between.

Along the way there are many Austen quotes and cameos from her lead characters. Dodge also plays a vast array of different roles and proves to be one excellent and versatile actress. The characters are also linked to Sophie and include: Mary, her young fellow barmaid who obsesses over texting back a recent date; a happily married and pregnant friend; her regular customer Theresa, a sultry vixen if there ever was one; and a bride-to-be who is actually marrying Sophie’s ex the following day.

Dodge keeps the energy high and the characters are well-portrayed, which makes them relatable. It is a little confusing to work out some of these things in the beginning but we do see a noticeable shift between some of them. So while it’s hard to distinguish between them as Dodge is developing their personalities for the viewers, this is thankfully righted by the end.

One of the questions posed is what do you do when your ideal man is Mr Darcy but the ones you meet are disasters like Mr Wickham and Mr Collins? It also asks how one traverses the minefields that are RSVP, Facebook, speed and video dating to find a white knight in shining armour? Dodge segues off at one point to showcase the heroes and villains in Austen’s classics and expertly links it to those all-too-familiar modern dating stereotypes like the men obsessed with war re-enactments, machinery, living on farms, etc.

The story is a light comedy that successfully juxtaposes old-fashioned manners plus Austen’s great expectations and social commentary with the modern world. It’s one relatable and familiar story that works well for the most part but could’ve been improved by the inclusion of a few more jokes. That said it does have the ability to connect with people and offer a few giggles while returning us to a more sobering portrait of life and love.

Jane Austen Is Dead plays out its story on a minimalist stage with just one woman actress but it also manages to ask some very big questions. It also offers an enjoyable and entertaining enough experience that means it ’s likely to appeal to a wider audience than just pure Austen fans. Ultimately, it’s an endearing satire and light-hearted dig at the current state and is filled with information and observations by one trully honest guide and reader.

Originally published on 18 September 2013 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/sydney/theatre-review-jane-austen-is-dead-new-theatre-sydney-16-09-13

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