BOOK REVIEW: LINDY WEST – SHRILL – NOTES FROM A LOUD WOMAN

 

Lindy West was one of the highlights from this year’s All About Women festival at the Sydney Opera House. So it is unsurprising that this Guardian columnist and Jezebel blogger’s book, Shrill – Notes From A Loud Woman is funny, accomplished and excellent. West’s book is ultimately a hybrid between memoir, with personal anecdotes, and essays, where she writes about important issues and uncomfortable truths in a compelling and articulate way.

For those people who are unfamiliar with West’s work, the Seattle-born writer first came into prominence while working as a film critic for Seattle’s alternative newspaper, The Stranger. Her review of Sex & The City 2 went viral. Initially her work focused on reviews of the arts, film and comedy but over time she started to become an activist for causes she felt strongly about, and a lot of these causes are covered in some detail in Shrill.

This volume opens with West’s account of growing up as a shy, fat girl. She admits that she was once so overwhelmed and consumed with shyness that she was unable to ask her classroom teacher if she could be excused in order to go to the bathroom. In the end Lindy peed her pants and she tried to blame this on a nearby water jug.

For years West grappled with the shape of her body and society’s demands, where women are often taught from birth that we should be small both physically and in presence. But over time West realised that she could not ignore the fact that she was fat. She also came out of her shell, and all of these things meant that Lindy eventually came to the realisation that she wanted to obliterate those views that permeate society.

Lindy’s fat activism means she’s received her fair share of negative retaliation. Her former editor, Dan Savage tried to weigh into the fat debate, using the argument that accepting fatness contributes to the obesity epidemic. West, however, addressed the argument raising the idea that fat people should not be considered acceptable human punching bags. West’s arguments were both well-considered and thoughtful. It is this same style that was particularly evident in West’s TV debate with comedian Jim Norton, over rape jokes in comedy,  and as well through much of this book.

Shrill includes a lot of things that are clearly quite personal to Lindy. One of the hardest parts to read is where she takes on one of her meanest internet trolls. They had created a Twitter page where he pretended to be West’s father, Paul, shortly after he had passed away. The troll also wrote that Paul West was the “Embarrassed father of an idiot.” This broke Lindy’s heart and she penned an essay about the ordeal. The troll eventually apologised to her and the two had a frank and open discussion on an episode of This American Life. Score sheet Lindy West: 1 Trolls: 0.

In Shrill, West should be commended for tackling some uncomfortable topics (abortion, rape, periods, etc.) and for being outspoken, witty and sassy in her remarks. West makes some compelling arguments, whilst also letting the reader in on some very intense and private moments from her own life (including her love for her husband, Ahamefule J. Oluo). Shrill is ultimately a bit of a rollercoaster ride where you’ll laugh, cry, feel rage and be jubilant at West’s uncompromising and relatable anecdotes and prose. West clearly knows how to strike a chord with readers, so some things are a laughing matter, others will appeal to your grey matter, and then there are even more topics that just matter. Period.

 

Originally published on 19 March 2017 at the following website: http://arts.theaureview.com/reviews/book-review-lindy-wests-shrill-will-make-you-laugh-cry-rage-and-feel-jubilant-at-her-uncompromising-prose/

Visit The Au Review’s homepage at: http://www.theaureview.com/

BOOK REVIEW: PAMELA HART – A LETTER FROM ITALY

 

A Letter from Italy is a romantic story that isn’t just ruled by its heart. It’s a novel inspired by Louise Mack, the first female war correspondent who worked during the First World War. It’s a book that shows how a determined and strong journalist negotiates the trials and tribulations of being a woman in a male-dominated industry and also through a time of tumultuous change.

To read the rest of this review please visit the following website: http://magazine.100percentrock.com/reviews/book-reviews/201703/226447

Visit 100% Rock’s homepage at: http://magazine.100percentrock.com/

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/

Visit The Au Review’s homepage at: http://www.theaureview.com/

BOOK REVIEW: KARLY LANE – THIRD TIME LUCKY

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Karly Lane’s book, Third Time Lucky is a lovely adaptation of a Christmas novella. It’s a story that translates well to the longer format but it’s also one that is difficult to write about without revealing some crucial plot points. It is perhaps best if we consider that this is a rural romance that poses and solves a number of questions, including: is it possible to forgive the past? Can you learn to love after you’ve been duped by your partner and left a widower?  Can young lovers that were once torn apart rekindle their relationship? Do you choose revenge or forgiveness after being slighted?

This novel stars December Doyle, a strong and relatable character who lives in a small and mountainous town in country NSW called Christmas Creek. Doyle is a kind character that only sees the best in people. She’s also the only female to be born into her family for some time. As a result of this, she is often protected by her well-meaning but stubborn father and brothers.

Doyle finds herself newly single. Her childhood sweetheart, a former bad boy-turned-successful businessman named Seth Hunter returns to town just as she is beginning to pick up the pieces and rebuild her life. What ensues is a period where the main and supporting characters meet again and reassess their past relationships, rights and wrongs.

Third Time Lucky sees Karly Lane penning another intriguing romance novel. Lane is a country girl and it is obvious in her authentic prose and descriptions that are quite detailed and multi-faceted. Third Time Lucky is an easy and breezy read that will make you want to kick off your heels, relax into a couch and enjoy a simple but satisfying romance tale.

***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a Beauty & Lace giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: http://bookgirl.beautyandlace.net/blog-tour-book-club-third-time-lucky

BOOK REVIEW: GAYLE FORMAN – LEAVE ME

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It’s interesting that in her debut novel specifically written for adults, award-winning Young Adult author Gayle Forman has picked such a mature and relatable topic. Leave Me is the story of an over-stressed, over-worked and under-appreciated mother of four-year-old twins who is forced to stop and re-evaluate her life. It’s a book that is easy-to-read and is likely to strike a chord with audiences who can see a little something of themselves in the main protagonist, even if they don’t always agree with her actions.

Maribeth Klein is a woman in her mid-40s. She is stuck in the rat race and continues going about her hectic schedule while ignoring the pains in her chest. This eventually develops into a full-blown heart attack and Klein subsequently requires emergency bypass surgery. Her mother flies in to join the family and assist with her recuperation. But instead of concentrating on her respite at home, Klein decides to pack her bags and run away/abandon her family.

This story is a very engaging one, particularly at the beginning where it is easy to relate to Klein’s role as a busy Mum working at a glossy magazine. She is a brave woman but she’s not always the most likeable or logical character. There will be some readers who will fail to understand how she could just get up and leave. Klein does embark on a journey of discovery of sorts thanks to spending time with her new young neighbours and having a flirtatious relationship with an older cardiologist. These supporting characters could have been a little more developed.

Leave Me is an interesting book about love, success, failure, dislocation, regret, fear and redemption. There is a little something we can all take away from this book, even if we don’t always agree with things or if we’re left a little dissatisfied with the questions left unanswered at the end. In all, this is one swift read that readers can connect with because at the end of the day this story is simply just a sign of the times.

***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a Beauty & Lace giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: http://bookgirl.beautyandlace.net/book-club-leave-me

BOOK REVIEW: JENN J MCLEOD – THE OTHER SIDE OF THE SEASON

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The Other Side of the Season is a mysterious, Australian novel set near Byron Bay. It’s the fourth book by Australian author, Jenn J McLeod and it’s basically like an onion. As you read the prose it’s like another layer is slowly stripped away to reveal something more and slightly different. The Other Side of the Season is a heart-warming tale that proves that there are often multiple sides to a story and that each perspective is often as valid and as important as the other.

The book begins in the present day with a strong woman named Sidney who is looking to escape her mother’s house in the Blue Mountains. Sidney found herself returning home to live with her Mum after a long-term relationship break-up. This character is named after the artist, Sidney Nolan and she is looking at discovering some information about the past. Sidney is a relatable and rich character who has never been told much about her extended family so she decides to go on a journey with her younger rapscallion brother to get some answers.

The second major thread in this novel has the reader immersed in a quaint town called Dingy Bay in Northern NSW in the late seventies. The main characters in this story are two young brothers, a 17 year old aspiring artist named David and his elder brother Matthew. The pair work on the family’s banana plantation. David is in love with the girl next door and Matthew looks poised to run the family business but one day a tragedy strikes and the decisions the characters make will have long-standing ramifications that shake their simple, rural lives.

McLeod has done a fantastic job of creating very real and interesting characters and revealing many facets of their lives so we know exactly what makes them tick. She also expertly weaves together two very different stories set in opposing periods in time. In the end the reader is offered a very vibrant, detailed and lush tapestry of life, love, family and friendship and a story that is told with a nostalgic view of the past and present. This novel is one that will tug at your heartstrings as it is so emotional. It will also make people stop and cherish life and realise that the choices we make are often more complicated than they initially seem and that you really shouldn’t live your life filled with regrets.

***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a Beauty & Lace giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: http://bookgirl.beautyandlace.net/book-club-the-other-side-of-the-season

DVD REVIEW: LUKE WARM SEX

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Let’s talk about sex baby. Luke McGregor’s doco-comedy, Luke Warm Sex is a raw, honest and no-holds-barred approach to copulation. It also promises to educate viewers in how to get better at or to have a more satisfying sex life. Across six episodes the viewer embarks on a journey with the most awkward comedian in history to learn a lot about lovin’.

Luke McGregor has graced our small screens before in sitcoms like Utopia and Please Like Me. The Tasmanian-born funnyman is a naturally rather anxious guy with nervous chuckles punctuating his speech. This man has a very awkward persona and some people may have thought this was all an act or something that would not have helped in making a program like Luke Warm Sex.

It may come across as a bit of a surprise but this nervy guy is actually quite a charming presenter. McGregor was – by his own admission – a complete novice when it came to matters of the bedroom, having only had sex twice in his 33 years on earth. To this series he brings an eagerness, enthusiasm and a natural zeal to learn more and to improve himself. He lays his insecurities out in the open and in doing so is actually quite endearing and wins over the audience. Luke Warm Sex is ultimately quite a relatable, entertaining and informative program.

In Luke Warm Sex McGregor tackles his body hang-ups and overcomes his fear of being nude while in the company of some kind-hearted naturists. He becomes comfortable with the idea of touch and contact and learns how to prepare the body for sex. The final stages he learns about are pleasure, intimacy and creative ways of getting down and dirty. In this series, McGregor speaks to various individuals including sexperts like: sex therapists and educators, tantric practitioners, sex coaches and naturists, to name a few.

The special features on the DVD include an eclectic mix of titbits. Dr Judith Glover offers a history of vibrators while Roger Butler gives us the “flip board of love”. Academics, Thiagarajan and Gomathi Sitharthan discuss porn while Amanda Lambrose makes a “sex” smoothie and Cindy Darnell and McGregor discuss sex toys. There are some comedic moments like “The STI House” (starring Dave Hughes, Hamish Blake and other comedians), “The Consent Sketch” and a little segment where McGregor visits his hometown and old school. There are also some outtakes, promo trailers and some vox pops that McGregor did in Melbourne.

Luke Warm Sex offers the viewer a light-hearted and educational look at sex. In an age where a lot of people learn about sex through porn, it is refreshing to see a program tackle some real experiments and offer facts from a guy who is painfully honest about his lack of know-how. This series is a brave one that should be mandatory viewing by everyone because we could all learn a thing or two from this endearing, gentle and original show.

Originally published on 27 April 2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/luke-warm-sex-dvd-review/

Visit Impulse Gamer’s homepage at: http://www.impulsegamer.com/

DVD REVIEW: THE FAMILY LAW

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For too long, Australian TV shows have been white-washed and white bread but a series like The Family Law looks poised to change all of that. The SBS dramedy feels authentic in its depiction of the Law family living in Queensland in the nineties. The show has real heart and it will make you laugh and it’s no surprise that it has become a swift favourite among viewers.

The program is an adaption of writer, Benjamin Law’s 2010 memoir of the same name. The TV series was also co-written with Marieke Hardy. It uses some of the vignettes from Law’s memoir where he describes growing up as a gay, Asian kid in Australia. The TV show also fashions it all into a cohesive whole by making it seem like it all took place over one long, hot Australian summer.

The six-part series is mostly told from Law’s perspective. He is a creative, enthusiastic and well-meaning middle child who is close to his large family, especially his mother. Here, Law is played by the well-cast, Trystan Go, whose acting credits include the theatrical production, The King & I. But one character’s star shines the brightest out of the Law family and that is Ben’s mother, Jenny (played by the wonderful, Fiona Choi). Jenny is the family matriarch and a rambunctious, eccentric and colourful character. Jenny can be inappropriate at times and a no-nonsense and kind woman at others. She also has no filter and has by far, some of the funniest lines.

The Law family also includes the hard-working father, Danny (Anthony Brandon Wong (who plays a villain in several Matrix films)). Danny is thrown-out of the Law house and is forced to sleep at the restaurant he owns. There are also Ben’s four siblings- Candy (Shuang Hu), Andrew (George Zhao), Tammy (Karina Lee) and Michelle (Vivian Wei). The show is a warm, relatable and amiable one that focuses on Ben’s teenage life- from aspirations of fame and entries into school talent quests, to his parent’s wedding anniversary and marriage break-up to family Christmases, engagements and visits from friends.

The special features are interesting and include a trailer as well as a series of featurettes where there are interviews with Law, the actors and director, Jonathan Brough  (It’s a Date, Sammy J & Randy in Ricketts Lane). It is fascinating to learn that the production team went to great lengths to make the setting feel like a cosy, lived-in family home. Law referred to it as a “lasagne of shit” and this is particularly obvious in the mountains of laundry and family bric-a-brac. It’s also nice to see the real members of the Law family meeting their counterparts (they make a cameo in episode one which is lovely and rather funny).

The Family Law is a fun, Australian family show that expertly straddles the lines between drama and comedy. The show has some funny moments but it also doesn’t shy away from depicting some real drama and emotion. In all, this is a long-overdue program about a dysfunctional Asian family that everyone can enjoy thanks to its rich tapestry and depiction of modern Australian life that is full of off-beat irreverence and colourful shenanigans aplenty.

Originally published on 5 March 2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/the-family-law-dvd-review/

Visit Impulse Gamer’s homepage at: http://www.impulsegamer.com/

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