Tag Archives: Non-Fiction

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher


Title: The Princess Diarist
Author: Carrie Fisher
Social Media: Twitter and Goodreads
Publisher: Transworld Digital
Format and Price: Ebook at $16.99
Rating: 5 out of 5

About The Book:
The Princess Diarist is Carrie Fisher’s intimate, hilarious and revealing recollection of what happened behind the scenes on one of the most famous film sets of all time, the first Star Wars movie. When Carrie Fisher recently discovered the journals she kept during the filming of the first Star Wars movie, she was astonished to see what they had preserved—plaintive love poems, unbridled musings with youthful naiveté, and a vulnerability that she barely recognized. Today, her fame as an author, actress, and pop-culture icon is indisputable, but in 1977, Carrie Fisher was just a (sort-of) regular teenager.

With these excerpts from her handwritten notebooks, The Princess Diarist is Fisher’s intimate and revealing recollection of what happened on one of the most famous film sets of all time—and what developed behind the scenes. And today, as she reprises her most iconic role for the latest Star Wars trilogy, Fisher also ponders the joys and insanity of celebrity, and the absurdity of a life spawned by Hollywood royalty, only to be surpassed by her own outer-space royalty. Laugh-out-loud hilarious and endlessly quotable, The Princess Diarist brims with the candor and introspection of a diary while offering shrewd insight into the type of stardom that few will ever experience.

General Observations:
~Before, During and After: The Princess Diarist goes through three phases: Carrie Fisher’s life before Star Wars, during Stars Wars and after Star Wars. I must confess the before and after periods were more interesting to me that the segment during Star Wars.

That is not to say the during Star Wars segment lacked for interest. I liked reading about how she was nervous for her audition, how she was afraid she would be fired for not losing weight, I enjoyed reading about her hair and make-up sessions and her talking to the cast and crew, these parts were genuinely interesting. But a large chunk of the section was Carrie Fisher being obsessed with Harrison Ford.

As it was a three-month affair with little substance, it was far more interesting to Carrie Fisher than it was to me, but given Carrie Fisher’s age at the time, it’s understandable. There’s a reason why some people re-read their old journals containing passages written by a love-sick teenager and wish to burn them, however, I’m glad Carrie Fisher resisted that impulse (even if it did drag on a little too long).

~Sexism in Cinema: Seriously, Carrie Fisher is one of the greatest examples of Sexism and Misogyny in Cinema, while Harrison Ford and even Mark Hamill get to move on from Star Wars and complete other projects, Carrie Fisher is immortalised in that stupid metal bikini outfit (seriously, Madame Tussauds Wax Emporium has immortalised Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia in that particular outfit with Jabba the Hut holding the chain and lurking right behind her, what the holy fuck?). Carrie Fisher is a brilliant writer and damn good actress and she deserves/deserved better than that.

~Right In The Feels: Unlike Wishful Drinking and Shockaholic, The Princess Diaries were difficult for me to get into, I suppose when you read memoirs detailing Carrie Fisher’s problems with alcohol, then read chapters from a nineteen-year-old Carrie Fisher’s perspective about how she doesn’t like to drink, there can be some disconnect.

I suppose the biggest problem I had with The Princess Diarist was that parts of the book were long segments of introspection of a young woman, starting out as an emerging artist, playing the role of entertainer to cover up the fact that she was deeply unsure and insecure of herself, in other words, it was deeply and uncomfortably familiar.

Wishful Drinking and Shockaholic are the recollections and reflections of an older woman who knows that she has bi-polar, the recollections and reflections of The Princess Diarist are from the perspective of nineteen-year-old woman who isn’t aware that she has bi-polar yet, and is struggling to figure out who she is and what she wants, as well as how to deal with undiagnosed mental health problems.

It was difficult to for me to grapple with the idea that, at one time, Carrie Fisher could be someone like myself, which I suppose was the purpose of the book, one must be a princess before one can become a general.

In conclusion, an interesting insight into the mind of Carrie Fisher, a legendary icon, at a particular stage of her life. It’s a little slow to get into, and there’s not as many jokes, but I consider it a worthy read as I was glued to every page.

Available For Purchase: Amazon | Audible | Book Depository | Kobo Books
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Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematorium by Caitlin Doughty

Image Description: The book-cover of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematorium by Caitlin Doughty. The cover is mostly white, the title text in black and red taking up most of the cover space, in between the title-text and the author-text is the picture of a silver surgical tray with a pile of ash within it.
Title: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematorium
Author: Caitlin Doughty
Social Media: Twitter, Ask A Mortician Youtube Channel, Goodreads, and The Order of The Good Death
Publisher: Canongate Books
Format and Price: Ebook at $12.59
Rating: 5 out of 5

About The Author:
Mortician Caitlin Doughty—host and creator of “Ask a Mortician” and the New York Times best-selling author of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes —founded The Order of the Good Death. She lives in Los Angeles, where she runs her nonprofit funeral home, Undertaking LA.

About The Book:
From her first day at Westwind Cremation & Burial, twenty-three-year-old Caitlin Doughty threw herself into her curious new profession. Coming face-to-face with the very thing we go to great lengths to avoid thinking about she started to wonder about the lives of those she cremated and the mourning families they left behind, and found herself confounded by people’s erratic reactions to death. Exploring our death rituals – and those of other cultures – she pleads the case for healthier attitudes around death and dying. Full of bizarre encounters, gallows humour and vivid characters (both living and very dead), this illuminating account makes this otherwise terrifying subject inviting and fascinating

General Observation:
~I Found This Humerus: The book is filled with witty and hilarious observations, it filled with fascinating and funny one-liners about dealing with people and people dealing with death, which isn’t always the best combination as Death can bring out the best in people but also the worst. The Staff of the Westwind Cremation & Burial are also hilarious and surprisingly sweet.

~Highly Educational: It’s fascinating to peek behind the black curtains of the Funeral Process, the funeral process, the embalming process, the cremation process and I loved knowing all the gory details. Caitlin Doughty also mentioned a lot of different cultures and how they proceed with their Grief and Death rituals and, surprisingly, I found myself agreeing with a lot of Caitlin Doughty’s observations. Caitlin Doughty is very passionate about Death rituals, which are fascinating all on their own, but also how the problems in Western society have emerged because we have lost our rituals and thus haphazardly implement new ones to fill the void (whether we are aware of it or not).

~Right In The Feels: As this is a book about Death, and while I highly recommend it, it is not for the fragile, as there will be moments where Caitlin Doughty is making joke or telling a funny story and it will make a sharp turn into the terribly sad (which shouldn’t be too surprising given the topic), however, these moments aren’t jarring as the comedy and tragedy is equally balanced and mixed together well. I felt it was necessary to point out the economic environment and economic hardships that impact upon people’s behaviour. The chapter about the processing the dead infants and the story about cutting the hair of an eleven-month-old baby-girl was so sad.

All in all, a hilarious book about an interesting job, anyone who has read and enjoyed Jenny Lawson’s books Let’s Pretend This Never Happened and Furiously Happy will definitely enjoy this, my friends and family are most certainly getting a copy of this for Birthdays and/or Christmas

Available For Purchase: Amazon | Audible | Book Depository | Kobo Books
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Shockaholic by Carrie Fisher

Image Description: the book-cover Shockaholic by Carrie Fisher. In the background is a light-pattern that resembles the Aurora borealis, in the foreground is a plastic doll of Princess Leia with the palms of her hands covering her eyes.
Imsge Description: the book-cover Shockaholic by Carrie Fisher. In the background is a light-pattern that resembles the Aurora borealis, in the foreground is a plastic doll of Princess Leia with the palms of her hands covering her eyes.
Title: Shockaholic
Author: Carrie Fisher
Social Media: Twitter and Goodreads
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Format and Price: Ebook at $11.99
Rating: 5 out of 5

About The Book:
Bad news… for anyone who thought Carrie Fisher had finally stopped talking about herself. This time, the electro-convulsive shock therapy she’s been undergoing is threatening to wipe out (what’s left of) her memory. But get ready for a shock of your own. Not only doesn’t she mind paying the second electric bill, she loves the high-voltage treatments. It’s been a roller coaster of a few years for Carrie since her Tony- and Emmy-nominated, one-woman Broadway show and New York Times bestselling book Wishful Drinking. She not only lost her beloved father, but also her once-upon-a-very-brief-time stepmother, Elizabeth Taylor, as well as over forty pounds of unwanted flesh, all the while staying sober and sane-ish. And she wants to tell you, dear reader, all about it. She wants you to someday be able to remind her how Elizabeth Taylor settles a score, how she and Michael Jackson became friends, or how she ended up sparring with Ted Kennedy on a dinner date. And she especially wants to preserve her memories of Eddie Fisher. Shockaholic is laugh-out-loud funny, acerbic, and witty as hell. But it also reveals a new side of Carrie Fisher that may even bring a pleasant shock your way: it is contemplative, vulnerable, and ultimately, quite tender.

General Observations:
~Diverse Books 2017: Alongside Wishful Drinking, I’m nominating this book for the “Main character with an Invisible Disability” category. In this memoir, Carrie Fisher talks about her struggles with addiction, which is connected to her adult-diagnosis of Bi-polar. It was comforting to read about Carrie Fisher’s struggles because, in a way, they were familiar and foreign at at the same time. We need more people like Carrie Fisher in the world, more people who are willing and able to talk about their struggles with mental health because the more we talk about our struggles, the more accessible they become, and gradually our collective stories will destroy the stigma of mental health.

~Expansion Pack: Wishful Drinking kind of gives a basic overview of things, Shockaholic goes into more details on some of the significant events in Carrie Fisher’s life, like waking up next to her white-republican-gay-friend and the sequential drug-addiction problems and, unfortunately, when it comes to addiction, sometimes you have to get to really bad place before you realise something needs to change. Fortunately Carrie Fisher was able to get the help she needed and it eventually lead her to pursue Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) and hence the name of the title. Carrie Fisher also uses her book to dispel some of the myths surrounding Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT), acknowledging her own previous bias towards it, but she also talks about some of the side-effects as well, such as problems with short term memory.

~Right In The Feels: Her chapters that feature her friendship with Michael Jackson and her relationship with her previous step-mother Elizabeth Taylor were amusing, interesting and insightful, however, it was the chapters that focused on her relationship with her father Eddie Fisher (who she cared for in his later years until he died) was the one that had me tearing up. It was bitter-sweet that Carrie and Eddie were able to reconnect and have the relationship Carrie always wanted with her father later in life. There’s an especially touching moment in the book when Carrie starts talking about how she has a recording of her father singing preserved in her phone, that way she’ll always be able to remember.

In conclusion, just go read it, it’s highly entertaining and you’ll whizz straight through it (I certainly did).

Available for Purchase: Amazon | Audible | Book Depository | Kobo Books

Image Description: A pink and purple coloured button with the text ‘Read Diverse Books 2017’ in white text with the word ‘Diverse’ written in rainbow coloured text. there is also the white outline of a clip-art picture of a laid open book
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Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher

Image Description: the book-cover of Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher
Title: Wishful Drinking
Author: Carrie Fisher
Social Media: Twitter and Goodreads
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Format and Price: Ebook at $13.99
Rating: 5 out of 5

About The Author:
Carrie Frances Fisher (1956 – 2016) was an American actress, screenwriter and novelist, most famous for her portrayal of Princess Leia in the original Star Wars trilogy.

About The Book:
In Wishful Drinking, Carrie Fisher tells the true and intoxicating story of her life with inimitable wit. Born to celebrity parents, she was picked to play a princess in a little movie called Star Wars when only 19 years old. “But it isn’t all sweetness and light sabres.” Alas, aside from a demanding career and her role as a single mother (not to mention the hyperspace hairdo), Carrie also spends her free time battling addiction, weathering the wild ride of manic depression and lounging around various mental institutions. It’s an incredible tale – from having Elizabeth Taylor as a stepmother, to marrying (and divorcing) Paul Simon, from having the father of her daughter leave her for a man, to ultimately waking up one morning and finding a friend dead beside her in bed.

General Observations:
~Diverse Books 2017: I’m nominating this book for the “Main character with an Invisable Disability” category. In this memoir, Carrie Fisher talks about her struggles with addiction, which is connected to her adult-diagnosis of Bi-polar. It was comforting to read about Carrie Fisher’s struggles because, in a way, they were familiar and foreign at at the same time. We need more people like Carrie Fisher in the world, more people who are willing and able to talk about their struggles with mental health because the more we talk about our struggles, the more accessible they become, and gradually our collective stories will destroy the stigma of mental health.

~Short and Sweet: The paperback and the ebook version are only 176 pages, I found myself consuming this book rather quickly, which should say something as I’ve been in a reading slump recently and have seriously struggled with motivation to read. I consider Wishful Drinking and Shockaholic to be parts 1 and 2 respectively, they’re both short books (both are 176 pages, which is about the same size as a standard manga volume), and if you liked part 1 but don’t want to continue, that’s okay. But if you want more details on some of the events and experiences that Carrie Fisher brings up in Wishful Drinking, you can continue with Shocaholic, it’s entirely up to you.

~Make ‘Em Laugh: Carrie Fisher had such an amazing sense of humor, I love and truly admire how she could take such pain and misery, and turn it into something worth laughing about.

All in all, it’s a great short read about struggling with mental health and addiction and I think the world can never have too many books like this.

Image Description: an illustrated picture of Carrie Fisher as General Organa (from The Force Awakens) standing on the deck of a space-ship with the cosmos and various planets and galactic-bodies in the background. In the corner of the picture is plain black text that reads
Image Description: an illustrated picture of Carrie Fisher as General Organa (from The Force Awakens) standing on the deck of a space-ship with the cosmos and various planets and galactic-bodies in the background. In the corner of the picture is plain black text that reads “drowned in moonlight, strangled by her own bra. Carrie Fisher, 1956 – 2016”.

Available for purchase at: Amazon | Book Depository | Kobo Books

Image Description: A pink and purple coloured button with the text ‘Read Diverse Books 2017’ in white text with the word ‘Diverse’ written in rainbow coloured text. there is also the white outline of a clip-art picture of a laid open book
Image Description: A pink and purple coloured button with the text ‘Read Diverse Books 2017’ in white text with the word ‘Diverse’ written in rainbow coloured text. there is also the white outline of a clip-art picture of a laid open book

Reading Like A Writer by Francine Prose

Image Description: book cover of Reading Like A Writer by Francine Prose
Title: Reading Like A Writer
Author: Francine Prose
Social Media: Facebook and Goodreads
Publisher: Union Books
Rating: 3 out of 5
Source: Supplied by Collins Booksellers – Bacchus Marsh

About The Author:
Francine Prose (born in 1947 in Brooklyn, New York) is an American novelist. She graduated from Radcliffe College in 1968, and received a Guggenheim fellowship in 1991. She has sat on the board of judges for the PEN/Newman’s Own Award, and her novel Blue Angel, a satire about sexual harassment on college campuses, was a finalist for the National Book Award. She is now teaching at Bard College.

About The Book:
In her entertaining and edifying New York Times bestseller, acclaimed author Francine Prose invites you to sit by her side and take a guided tour of the tools and the tricks of the masters to discover why their work has endured. Written with passion, humor, and wisdom, Reading Like a Writer will inspire readers to return to literature with a fresh eye and an eager heart – to take pleasure in the long and magnificent sentences of Philip Roth and the breathtaking paragraphs of Isaac Babel; she is deeply moved by the brilliant characterization in George Eliot’s Middlemarch. She looks to John Le Carré for a lesson in how to advance plot through dialogue and to Flannery O’Connor for the cunning use of the telling detail. And, most important, Prose cautions readers to slow down and pay attention to words, the raw material out of which all literature is crafted

General Observations:
~Academic: This is a great academic reference for people studying writing or doing literature studies at University, I definitely recommend it on those grounds. Unfortunately, the fact that it’s an academic resource did make for dry reading, I honestly think it’s difficult to make a subject like this interesting, so this could just be a problem with myself (especially since I’m easily distracted).

~How Long Is A Piece of String?: There are some literary ideas that translate well into short-stories or short essays, but don’t translate well into an entire novel, a short-story is easy to read and justify but a novel is a commitment of time and effort. I can’t help but feel that the author made their main point within the first few chapters and that this was better off being a long essay than an entire novel. The novel doesn’t appear to have an easily traceable thread to follow, when I read this novel, I couldn’t tell how the books interconnected together (apart from being considered University level-readings or books considered classics) into an overall theme or arch.

In conclusion, a good acedemic reference that was a little too dry and aimless for my interests, however, I would still be happy to recommend it to others interested in this field of study.

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson

Furiously Happy
Title: Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things
Author: Jenny Lawson
Social Media: Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter
Publisher: Picador, Imprint of Pan Macmillan UK
Format and Price: E-Book at $11.99
Rating: 5 out of 5

About The Author:
Known for her sardonic wit and her hysterically skewed outlook on life, Jenny Lawson has made millions of people question their own sanity, as they found themselves admitting that they, too, often wondered why Jesus wasn’t classified as a zombie, or laughed to the point of bladder failure when she accidentally forgot that she mailed herself a cobra. Her blog is award-winning and extremely popular.

About The Book:
In LET’S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED, Jenny Lawson baffled readers with stories about growing up the daughter of a taxidermist. In her new book, FURIOUSLY HAPPY, Jenny explores her lifelong battle with mental illness. A hysterical, ridiculous book about crippling depression and anxiety? That sounds like a terrible idea. And terrible ideas are what Jenny does best.

According to Jenny: “Some people might think that being ‘furiously happy’ is just an excuse to be stupid and irresponsible and invite a herd of kangaroos over to your house without telling your husband first because you suspect he would say no since he’s never particularly liked kangaroos. And that would be ridiculous because no one would invite a herd of kangaroos into their house. Two is the limit. I speak from personal experience. My husband says that none is the new limit. I say he should have been clearer about that before I rented all those kangaroos.”

“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’s first book, LET’S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED, was ostensibly about family, but deep down it was about celebrating your own weirdness. FURIOUSLY HAPPY is a book about mental illness, but under the surface it’s about embracing joy in fantastic and outrageous ways-and who doesn’t need a bit more of that?

General Observations:

~Late To The Party: Furiously Happy and Let’s Pretend This Never Happened are both best-selling books (as well they should be, Jenny Lawson is hilarious and brilliant) but it is difficult to review a book that everybody’s already read and enjoyed. In fact one of my major problems with writing this review is that I think this novel is so perfect there isn’t much that I can say. However, as per usual, I’ve decided to work backwards instead of forwards, so I didn’t figure out the how’s and why’s of Jenny Lawson’s family interest in taxidermy straight away (I’m not the most observant) however Furiously Happy, while it may have a slight connection to Let’s Pretend This Didn’t Happen, can be read as a standalone book and it makes perfect sense, very much the same way of Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me and Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling can be read separately but are better off being read together.

~Representation Matters: Jenny Lawson isn’t just writing openly and honestly about her struggles with Mental Illness like Depression, Suicide idealization and Anxiety (General and Social), she’s also a person with ADD and Rheumatoid Arthritis (two painful and invisible disabilities). It’s an amazing feeling to read this book and realise that despite the internal and external obstacles that Jenny Lawson faces, Jenny Lawson continues to keep going (though some days are harder than others), she has a successful writing career, she’s been married to a man who clearly loves and adores her and she has a loving and supportive family. The world needs positive examples like this more often. I get the same feeling reading this book that I got from You’re Never Weird On The Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day, this is the kind of book I needed in Secondary College whilst dealing with depression, in fact I would recommend anyone and everyone (regardless of whether or not they’ve had a direct or indirect encounter with Mental Illness) to read this book. It explains the problems with Depression so well and so clearly it was almost painful. There were so many relatable “Me too! Me too!” moments through out this book, but my favourite chapters would have to be the chapter where Jenny and Victor travel to Japan and the chapter where she and a girlfriend travel to Australia.

In conclusion, just go read it, it’s brilliant and hilariously funny and I cannot do it justice or give it enough praise.

Links:
~All Fur Coat And RA: Writer, blogger, spoonie with Rheumatoid Arthritis discussing personal experiences and societal attitudes to chronic illness and hidden disability

~5 Realities Of Having The Government Ban Medication You Need By J.F. Sargent and Lauren Ipsum

~5 Things Only Adults With ADHD Will Understand by Karen Ann Kennedy

~Falling through the cracks: one ADHD girl’s story

Did She Kill Him? by Kate Colquhoun

Did She Kill Him by Kate Colquhoun
Title: Did She Kill Him?: A Victorian Tale of Deception, Adultery, and Arsenic
Author: Kate Colquhoun
Social Media: Goodreads and Twitter
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Rating: 3 out of 5
Source: Supplied by Collins Booksellers – Bacchus Marsh

About The Author:
Kate Colquhoun was born in Ireland in 1964. She is married to literary agent David Miller and lives in west London. They have two sons.

About The Book:
In the summer of 1889, young Southern belle Florence Maybrick stood trial for the alleged arsenic poisoning of her much older husband, Liverpool cotton merchant James Maybrick.

‘The Maybrick Mystery’ had all the makings of a sensation: a pretty, flirtatious young girl; resentful, gossiping servants; rumours of gambling and debt; and torrid mutual infidelity. The case cracked the varnish of Victorian respectability, shocking and exciting the public in equal measure as they clambered to read the latest revelations of Florence’s past and glimpse her likeness in Madame Tussaud’s.

Florence’s fate was fiercely debated in the courtroom, on the front pages of the newspapers and in parlours and backyards across the country. Did she poison her husband? Was her previous infidelity proof of murderous intentions? Was James’ own habit of self-medicating to blame for his demise?

Historian Kate Colquhoun recounts an utterly absorbing tale of addiction, deception and adultery that keeps you asking to the very last page, did she kill him?

Aspects I Liked and/or Enjoyed
~Vivid Descriptions: Though I’m not a reader that enjoys lots of description, the author described everything in such a detailed way that I had no problems visualizing the era (food and fashion seemed to be the most prominent) and the environment (the Battlecrease House was often described and the author included a map). I suppose it also helps that I’m a massive Downton Abbey fan

~Detailed Research: The author has clearly done a lot of research, there’s a huge amount of effort put into the book, with footnotes and references at the end, there’s also direct quotes from people (written in italics).

~The Feminist Agenda: Lets be clear about one thing, the reason Florence Maybrick is on trial in the first place is because of the time-period, Victorian society’s attitudes towards Adultery (which is still a problem in modern British society) and the civil and legal rights of Women (which at the time were pretty non-existent). This trial would never have occurred in modern society, regardless of whether she was guilty. It was pretty clear that Florence Maybrick was on trial for Adultery and not Attempted Murder.

Aspects I Had Problems With
~Slow Plot: It took a long time to get into the flow of the plot and key elements, like Florence’s pregnancy and miscarriage, were not always clear. It took ages to get the trial stage, which was were I felt the novel had most of the momentum.

~Forgone Conclusion: In my opinion, James Maybrick’s arsenic addiction sort of made it a moot point, it didn’t matter if she killed him because he was going to kill himself anyway. As the author established, there was literally arsenic in everything during the Victorian era and very little technological ability to either improve/combat the situation or conduct conclusive testing. While I don’t think Florence Maybrick killed her husband, from my perspective she didn’t stand to gain anything from his death but would have gained a lot by keeping him alive, it was only a matter of time before James Maybrick’s death by arsenic occurred.

Overall, it’s a detailed and comprehensive read, however while I enjoy crime and mystery, I’m not a big fan of the true crime genre, which is generally more depressing (I read books to get away from reality, not to be reminded of it). However, I am happy to recommend it to either true crime enthusiasts or readers interested in gender studies.

Interview with Kate Colquhoun

RMFAO Genre Challenge 2016

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