Here I Go Again by Jen Lancaster

Here I Go Again

I was a mixture of excitement and nervousness to see that Here I Go Again, Jen Lancaster’s new book, was this month’s BlogHer Book Club pick. I have been in a bit of a book slump¬† — I didn’t finish ANY other books in January despite starting a few — and had been feeling down about reading in general. (UGH. Hate that!)

In the past when I wanted a go-to book that would keep me flipping the pages, laughing out loud and following Garrett around reading hysterical passages, Jen Lancaster is who I would turn to.

(Fun fact: My favorite book of hers is hands down Such A Pretty Fat.)

She’s sharp tongued, witty, full of pop culture references that make me feel like she lives in the attic space in my brain. Plus she writes great memoirs – which, despite always getting made fun of, are my favorite genre of books to read! Then she started to write fiction. And I will freely admit, there was trepidation.

Prior to this, I hadn’t read any of her fiction because I had heard some mixed reviews. That didn’t stop me from picking it up though! But after reading Here I Go Again I sort of understand the mixed reviews. Overall the book was a very fun read, and one that definitely got me out of my slump! It was quick, funny, and I actually really enjoyed the ridiculous plot (former bitchy high school girl gets to go back in time and remedy some of that bad karma) which I was VERY unsure of when the I read the book jacket.

Luckily it delivered with Lancaster’s trademark laughs, and I had no probably breezing through it. But I guess when you are used to reading about an author’s life and hijinks though, there is a bit of built in disappointment when they start creating other characters. It would be like going to the blog of a super great writer that you’ve been reading for years and having her start to only write about other people. Certainly still enjoyable in a way, but not the same. If you love smartly written cotton candy for the brain, you will probably love this. If you are a die hard Jen Lancaster fan, you will probably like this. And if neither are your bag, skip it.

I’m hoping February with be full of MORE book reading!

****
I read Jen Lancaster’s book as part of BlogHer Book Club and while I was compensated for my time to review and provided a free copy of the book, as usual all opinions are my own.

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Diary of a Subculture Junkie

I am not at all easily offended, which I think is a plus because I’m a person with insatiable curiosity. When you want to know how things work or what makes people tick you generally need to be able to endure things that are not explicitly your experience, and I think I do that pretty well. But recently I’ve realized it’s not just something I happen upon, I often seek it out. I love to read lengthy magazine articles profiling people I had no idea about in my free time, or checking out offbeat non-fiction books from the library. You could even rationalize it’s why I watch reality television (even though we all know it’s not reality) or make time to watch more documentaries than I do blockbusters. I just love that feeling of digging into a person’s story.Heck, it’s probably why I like reading blogs so much!

But whether a person’s story is something I agree with is wholly separate, mostly I just enjoy the sport of trying to understand. If there is a super deep rabbit hole subculture that I can dive into and get more information about I am always game to do so. I like reading about how other people live, learning what informs their decisions, and I almost enjoy it more when they are completely different than mine, even if the entire time I am cringing and thinking “WAIT A MINUTE, WHAT?” Yearning For Zion hair anyone?

Which is exactly why I signed up to read BlogHer Book Club’s new selection Diary of A Submissive by Sophie Morgan.

With all the brouhaha surrounding 50 Shades of Grey, and should women be reading erotica?, and is BDSM a subculture or a psychosis? — when the newest selection was released and it was a memoir of a journalist who was very pro the BDSM subculture, I was intrigued. Until the beginning of this year I didn’t even know that subculture existed, so to read about what makes someone tick who actively participates — I have to admit, I was curious.

I certainly had my assumptions before going into this book, and I get that this type of book isn’t for everyone. Garrett and I talk about the books we read all the time and on this one, he preferred instead to not hear the details — and there are DEFINITELY details. But overall I thought it was a pretty impressive book. It doesn’t just deal with the stereotypcial whips! chains! and “Here is how it works, physically” but rather it illustrates one woman’s emotional experience of figuring out that this was the lifestyle for her, which is far more interesting angle.

It’s funny because just as this campaign launched BlogHer emailed all of us to remind us that we were all “allowed” to say “This book wasn’t for me,” if that was indeed our opinion. (We are *always* allowed to say that, but I think with the sensitive nature of this novel some people had expressed concerns about what to write.) And I am sort of curious to see how the weekly discussion groups go with such a hot-button topic. But from a completely objective perspective, I have to say I really did get a good look into what makes Sophie Morgan tick and why this lifestyle appeals to her. When I got to the end I still felt completely confident that this lifestyle DOES NOT appeal to me. :) But that’s what makes the world interesting, right? And it was fun to take a dive down that rabbit hole.

*****

I read this book as a part of BlogHer Book Club and while I was compensated for my review as well as provided a fee copy of the book, all opinions expressed are my own.

Recommended Reading: Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

2008 was a Learning Year for me. I spent all 12 months involved in an intensive leadership program at work with a group of about 15 other folks. Once a month we would get “out of the office” for a day and learn about ourselves, our personalities, our leadership styles and of course some general business acumen. It was a little bit corporate, a little bit hippie dippy but most of all it was incredibly informative.

For a year it was a Public Speaking Bootcamp (and for that I’m especially grateful for with this upcoming Colorado gig! ha!) But it was also a year of learning to gracefully take uncomfortable feedback and to manage long term projects. It was lots of goal setting and learning how to breakdown difficult discussions and also how to communicate your intentions while doing so. It was a lot of hard work and there were a number of times where I thought to myself “Why can’t you just clock in and clock out? This is your job, not your life. Why are you here?” But the truth is, I learned a lot of things that have affected my life since. That have helped me have confidence charting my own path and being who I am, and for that I will always be grateful and glad that I did the extra work.

At the end of the year we had a little awards ceremony and many of the leaders who had guided our study throughout the year made special points to congratulate us and say nice things about our progress. One of the people I really connected with that year stopped me at the end and gave me a compliment that seemed odd to me at the time, but I bookmarked it in my mind and have thought about a lot since. He said, “Your personal brand is your vulnerability. It’s a gift and it is what makes you relatable, and in a leadership role this will earn you great respect an authority.” I hate myself a little bit for using the phrase “Personal Brand” here but I think you know what I’m getting at.

For a long time I thought to myself — Crap! He thought I was a hot mess that entire year. I open myself up too easily, let loose a little too often and a little too uncensored. How the hell will people respect me if I’m just airing my business everywhere? How am I supposed to see this as a gift? And when I came across the following line is Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly, almost 4 years later, I had a little light bulb moment:

Vulnerability is based on mutuality and requires boundaries and trust. It’s not oversharing, it’s not purging, it’s not indiscriminate disclosure, and it’s not celebrity-style social media information dumps. Vulnerability is about sharing our feelings and our experiences with people who have earned the right to hear them. Being vulnerable and open is mutual and an integral part of the trust building process.

As I read this book, I was transplanted right back to that Learning Year of 2008. So much of the information in it made me think about my behaviors and motivation in work and in life. It made me think about what I want my relationships to look like, how I want to parent and how I want live. And one of the most surprising things about it is that it is so rare that a book can do all of that while also having such a charming voice and being full of great research.

While I read this book first as an obligation, I am so happy that I did. Because now? I can recommend it highly from my the bottom of my heart.

*****

I read this book as a part of BlogHer Book Club and while I was compensated for my review as well as provided a fee copy of the book, all opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review: You Have No Idea

Disclosure: This year I have decided to participate in Blog Her Book Club as it combines two of my favorite things: reading books and getting paid. I get to choose the books I want to read and I get to say exactly what I want to say about them. So while I am compensated for my participation, all opinions are my own. You can read other reviews and participate in discussions about this book over at Blog Her if you are interested.

Can you imagine how excited I was when the new Blog Her Book Club book was a celebrity memoir. HELLO! This is right up my alley and you can bet I clicked my little heart out trying to be a part of this campaign!

And then I realized, um…this book is about Vanessa Williams — do I really care about Vanessa Williams? And her mother? Who is her mother anyway? Well, it turns out I *am* actually into Vanessa Williams a little bit. Her story was much more interesting than I thought it would be, and her family relationships (including the one with her mother) were also worth reading about.

The thing about this book though, is it’s not particularly well written. What bugged me most is that the format is sort of arbitrary. Vanessa tells a story. Then at the end her mother gives some commentary. Over and over. And they usually relate, but it was sort of repetitive and to me, it didn’t really do anything to help propel the book forward.

There were parts that I enjoyed though, and stories I found fascinating. She was the first black Miss America. She had Secret Service style security when traveling though the South. She had her crown stripped six weeks before her reign was over due to a nude photo scandal (six weeks!) She was married to Rick Fox (yum!) I mean, her life certainly had some noteworthy ups and downs.

Reading this book actually me like Vanessa Williams where previously I had felt somewhat indifferent, so I guess in that way it was a success. But also, it wasn’t particularly juicy — and if I’m being honest, that’s what I want in a celebrity memoir: a little bit of tell all, a little bit of behind the scenes, tied up with a story that has glimpses of fairy tale. Or a tale of rehab. You know, either/or. :) This had shades of those things, but they were never really developed.

The updside though — it only took about 3 hours to read. Quick and dirty. Maybe a plane ride kind of book. Or something to pick up at the library? Pretty engaging overall, but in the end, nothing to write home about. More discussion happening over at Blog Her.

Next week I’ll tell you about the rest of my reading for the month of April. Man, it’s a bit of a saga.

Book Review: The Underside of Joy

Disclosure: This year I have decided to participate in Blog Her Book Club as it combines two of my favorite things: reading books and getting paid. I get to choose the books I want to read and I get to say exactly what I want to say about them. So while I am compensated for my participation, all opinions are my own. You can read other reviews and participate in discussions about this book over at Blog Her if you are interested.

With my quest to read 75 books this year, I was looking forward to starting off with something easy and enjoyable.The Underside of Joy definitely fit the bill. Written by a local northern California author and taking place in a fictionalized town (that sounded very much like Benbow, CA which I have fond memories of from my youth) it was an easy read that I enjoyed having on my nightstand over the last couple of weeks. I read it little by little at night, and while that made it a long time to finish, the story itself moves at a rapid pace. There is a lot of action and it has the familiar feel of Jodi Picoult meets Chris Bohjalian. How you feel about those two authors will be a pretty predictable way to gauge how you will feel about this book.

This story resonated with me mostly because of my history with shocking loss. It takes place in the aftermath of the sudden accidental death of the main character Ella’s husband. The story is of her recovery from that loss as a parent to two small children. There were passages in this book that dealt with grief that were so accurate that it made me breathe a little bit shallower than usual. But the real meat of the story begins at when her late husband’s ex-wife (and mother of the two children that Ella has been raising for the past 3 years) comes back to stake her claim in their life. The story surrounds those emotional and legal complications.

I think if you can relate to either of those scenarios, this is a book that will certainly be worth your time. It is equal parts heart-warming and heart-wrenching, and for a debut author, this book was a good start. At the same time, there is a part of me that gets somewhat bored with these types of books that have an emotional cum legal plot manufactured to tug at your heart strings and make you think: “What If?” So while I didn’t think the premise was highly original, the book overall was definitely entertaining and I plan to pass it on. You can heck out more discussion (and more reviews) over at BlogHer.

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