You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day

23705512After reading Felicia Day’s memoir, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (almost), I have the OVERWHELMING desire to type in capitals (which is something I NEVER do) because this is how Day writes and it’s slightly contagious, as is her positive attitude and outlook on life.

As a result, I was SLIGHTLY in love with her by the end of the book and DEFINITELY want to be her friend (not just one of her 20 million twitter followers, which I’ve been for  a while). I also want to quit my job, throw caution to the wind, and start doing something I love instead of just something that pays the bills – which is what Day did, sort of, because hers is very much also a caution to the wind type of life.

Home schooled, along with her brother, by an unconventional mother who tried to follow the curriculum before GIVING UP and letting her kids learn naturally, the result was Felicia became really good and Math and Violin (which seems a PERFECT match), getting into college early, but had no friends other than ONLINE.  This was the early days of the internet and chat rooms were new, as were the games Felicia and her brother played.

It was the start of a lifelong love affair with the internet, online gaming and Felicia’s need to connect online, all of which came in really useful when she decided that rather than play one more bit-part secretary, she would start her own web series, The Guild, making her a star in one small (or large as it’s the internet, which is basically HUGE) corner of the universe – someone people knew as more than the geeky redhead from Buffy and Supernatural (which, if I’m honest is how I knew her *shame-faced*).

The book is ROUGHLY in three parts – the home schooling / college years, The Guild years, and then the post-Guild years take up the last third.  After all the success they were rockier than Day maybe anticipated but also written with incredible HONESTY which as they touched on mental health issues and this is an area I work in, I really appreciated.

Woven throughout is Felicia’s love story with the intranet, which changed her life, a fair dose of feminism (because gaming is by all accounts a “man’s world”), and a lot of funny – this book made me LAUGH!. By the end I felt I had been on a bit of an emotional roller-coaster but I have to say I really enjoyed the ride.  I also felt inspired.  I may not be quite ready to quit my job and move to Hollywood but I do feel like life should be about taking more risks than I ever do so you never know…

Emma

p.s. If you hadn’t have guessed, I would definitely recommend the book – loved it!.

Find on: Amazon UK / Amazon US

 

 

April Round-Up

Another month gone – hard to believe we are a quarter of the way through the year.  I know I said it last month (and the month before) but 2015 is flying by.  I am hoping that it starts to slow down so I can enjoy the glorious spring we are having.  Some days, I feel like I don’t even notice how nice it’s been until the sun goes down.  To make sure I get outside more during the week, I have made myself a May resolution to get my garden sorted – worse case, I’ll at least end up sitting out with a book and glass of wine.

Book wise, I managed to find quite a bit of time to read in April and not as much as I’d like to review them (again!).  For the most part, I really liked the majority of books I read and I don’t know if I could chose a favourite because they are all so different.  It’s probably a toss us between Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel and Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro.  A close third was Dead Wake by Erik Larson.

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Not so successful for me were Frog Music by Emma Donoghue and Not My Father’s Son by Alan Cumming, neither of which I really got away with.  Sometimes, I find I like a book more after the fact and a week or so later, want to go back and redo my review to make it more positive.  I haven’t felt like that about either of these yet unfortunately and I couldn’t really recommend them.

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A book that has stood the test of time for me was The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks, which I first read almost 30 years ago (showing my age!).  I remember it as a powerful, more than a bit disturbing book, and it was just that when I re-read it.  Definitely worth checking out.

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All in all, then, a very good month for me reading wise – especially when you add in the final book in my Play On! challenge, The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie, which I really enjoyed too.

If you follow any of the links above, you’ll get to the reviews themselves and hopefully find something that you fancy reading.  You might also notice that, halfway through the month, I decided to stop giving books ratings out of five.  You can read why here but in a nutshell it was because it didn’t feel right for me.  Saying if I liked, loved or really didn’t care for a book felt much better and it’s what I’ve decided to go with.  So far, so good – though I’m still agonising over Goodreads reviews but you can’t have everything right?

And that’s it for April.  Let’s see what May holds. How was your month?

Emma

Not My Father's Son by Alan Cumming

Recently, I caught the tale end of a BBC Radio 4 serialisation of Alan Cumming’s book Not My Father’s Son and was intrigued. In it he talked about his abusive father and his search for his maternal grandfather, which was the subject of the TV show “Who Do You Think You Are?”. When I came across a copy of the audiobook, then, at my local library, it seemed like a good choice.

The book focuses on Alan’s relatioimagenship (or non relationship) with his father, who was abusive to him and his brother whilst they were growing up. As adults, they had little, if any, contact with their dad until he contacted Alan’s older brother and dropped a bombshell, a secret he’d been hiding for years, one that explained why he had been just so hard on Alan. Or at least that’s how it seems.

At the same time as the bombshell is being dropped Alan is discovering secrets about his maternal grandfather, an ex-army man who joined the Malaysian police force before dying in a shooting accident. Only now it’s not clear if it was an accident. But if not, how did he die? And why did he die so far away from home?

The book is written in a Then and Now style with tales of Alan Cumming’s childhood and later life alternating with the now of the secrets being revealed and the show being filmed. At times, I found this more than a bit confusing and – a downside of audiobooks – couldn’t flick back through the pages to reorientate myself. I also struggled with  the linking of the stories of Alan’s father and his maternal grandfather. 

Both of these stories are fascinating in and of themselves and both having endings I didn’t expect. The problem I had is that they didn’t fit together for me, even though Alan Cumming’s makes connections between the two stories and his own life throughout, comparing the shock he feels about his father’s revelations with his grandfather’s PTSD for example. The striking examples Cumming’s talks about just weren’t that striking to me, more a stretch.

Part of me wished these were two separate books, each more detailed because I think they could stand up in their own right. I also wished I had read rather than listened to the book because I found Alan Cumming’s voice too measured. Given how emotional he must have been, it just didn’t come across to me.  

A few months ago, I read (listened to) The Mistress’s Daughter by A. M. Homes, another book about family bombshells and, listening to Not My Father’s Son, I couldn’t help comparing the two. A. M. Homes definitely came out on top and made me appreciate how hard it probably is to write this type of book, one that is so personal and close to the bone, and write it well.  Of the two, it’s the one I think I’d recommend for people looking for a memoir. A shame but this one’s not for me.

Emma


The Mistress's Daughter by A. M. Homes

Title: The Mistress’s Daughter
Author: A. M. Homes
Genre: Memoir
Source: Library (audio book)
Rating: Liked it (3 out of 5)

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When A. M. Homes was 31, her biological mother – who had given her up for adoption at birth and whom she knew barely anything about – contacted her. Homes had always known she was adopted and always felt out of place in her adoptive family. This was a chance to learn more about who she was and where she came from.

Through her birth mother she found out the name of and got in touch with her birth father, developing complicated relationships with both. Homes admits that as a child she would imagine her birth parents as being perfect (her adoptive parents were anything but); once she gets to know her birth parents she realises this is nowhere near the truth.

The truth is her mother was a teenager desperate to escape an unhappy home life who fell in love with her older, married, boss. He promised to leave his wife but never did and abandoned her once she got pregnant. Giving up her daughter impacted the mother’s entire life yet seemingly had no impact on her father.

How Homes feels about both “The Mother” and “The Father” as she calls them changes as she gets to know them – and know and understand herself. Her feelings towards her adoptive family also change as a result. This really is a journey of discovery as Homes deals with the shock of the initial contact, the lack of control over how this contact develops (it’s a bit like letting the Genie out of the bottle), and the hopes and fears the ongoing contact raises.

I found the journey fascinating; painful at times, joyful at others. It was also often funny. Although this was a memoir it was written in the same way Homes writes her fiction – humorous but with an edge. At times I laughed out loud at the absurdity of her birth parents behaviour, especially her meetings with her father. The narrator helped get the humour across. I have no idea what A. M. Homes sounds like but the voice fitted my image of her. A downside of this being an audiobook was that there were no chapters listed so I had no idea where I was in the book other than Part 1 or Part 2.

Part 1 focused on Homes’ relationship with her parents and I loved it. Part 2 takes place seven years after her last contact with them and sees Homes revisiting her wider family history. I liked rather than loved this part. At times, there were too many names to keep track of and this means it dragged a bit. It was also much drier. I would have been happier with just Part 1 to be honest. If I had though, those final questions about what it all meant to Homes wouldn’t have been answered. And they did feel like they needed to be answered – she could just have maybe done this a little quicker for my taste.

Emma

My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead

Title: My Life in Middlemarch
Author: Rebecca Mead
genre: Biography, Memoir
Rating: 4 out of 5

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What Is It About?

Aged 17 and desperate to begin life away from her coastal English town, Rebecca Mead was introduced to Middlemarch, often said to be the greatest English novel of all time. The book never left her and, over the course of her life, as she left home and went to college, moved to America and became a journalist, met and married her husband and became a mom, she read it more than once, taking something different from it each time. Here, she revisits the novel, looking at how it reflects Eliot’s life and how aspects of her own life mirror those of the characters.

What Did I Think?

Following on from my reading of Middlemarch, I was really eager to pick up My Life In Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead as I’d heard some great things about it and I was interested to see what she had to say and why the book had affected her so much.

I’m glad I read both books back to back as the original was still very fresh in my mind so I didn’t have to search my memory when Mead references sections of the book and, as my opinions of the characters were still clearly formed, I was able to take a moment here and there to reflect on how her feelings about a character might change mine (or not).