Book Review: Lena Finkle's Magic Barrel: A Graphic Novel by Anya Ulinich

As the novel opens, we meet Lena (a 37-year-old, divorced, mother of two) as she receives an offer to go on a book tour in Russia. Lena was born in Russia, but migrated to the US as a child. She is newly divorced from her 2nd husband and, until this point, has had no real independence. 

During her trip to Russia, Lena’s high school boyfriend comes to the hotel unannounced. She hasn’t seen him in 20 years but they have kept communication intact. After spending the night together, finally consummating their decades long relationship, Lena announces to her friends that she’s in love. When her friend/mentor pushes back on Lena (specifically her lack of sexual/romantic experience), Lena decides to take some time to experiment sexually in the dark abyss of Ok Cupid.

The book is beautifully drawn and though could easily be a full length novel was excellently presented via a graphic novel. The author provides astute observations of dating in your 30’s, specifically the meat market of online dating. To say this is a book about dating would be selling it short, this is a book about a woman who until this point had always belonged to a man, and for the first time she has her independence.

Favorite Quote:

 “My sexual awakening was entirely the fault of the U.S. State Department.”

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Book Review: The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer

Amanda Palmer, loathed by the internet, immensely loved by her fan-base, has written a non-fiction book based on her famous TedTalk. 

I first became aware of Amanda via her band, The Dresden Dolls, I then promptly forgot that she existed until she became engaged to THE NEIL GAIMAN. I then had to figure this chick out to see if she was worthy of my Neil (you see the crazy here right??). I started listening to her music and it touched me in a way that only books had prior. When I started looking into Amanda, I was seriously depressed. Depression seeps into my life and I don’t always realize that its happened until I’m half a year into being a complete nut job. Amanda writes songs that are sometimes crazy, sometimes non-sensical, but most of the time, her music is about accepting yourself for who you are, crazy and all. Amanda Palmer taught me to love myself, and for that I’m incredibly thankful. Anywho…

The Art of Asking is hard to classify, its part rockumentary, part self-help, and part business (business being the smallest part). Like her music, this is mostly a biography of how Amanda learned to accept herself. Her method is not for everyone. 

The Art of Asking, describes how she has crowdsourced to get to where she is today. In some ways, its unsettling, I’m not one to ask for help (ever). I would rather starve with my pride than accept help. Amanda, on the other hand, has no problem asking for help. She accepts gifts and money and love and acceptance from all the people in her life. What I found most interesting in her story was her hesitance to allow her husband to help her. For some reason, and I don’t think this is solely Amanda’s issue, it was harder to accept help from a successful man. Feminists will pounce on Amanda for this, I’ve already seen some of the reviews, its painful. There is no shame in accepting help. Especially from someone who loves you. And what Amanda gives back makes it worth it. Its not a one-way-street. Amanda is renowned for her relationship with her fans. And she speaks of this in her books. The good and the bad. The issue that this implied intimacy causes amongst her fans. I first met Amanda in Florida. And it was incredibly awkward. I knew everything about her, I knew why she was in Florida and who she was visiting. I know things about her sex life with her husband and her open marriage. I know all of this because she shares these aspects of her life with her fans. So the awkwardness of meeting her was that I knew her but she didn’t know me. So this person who meant so much to me, I was a complete stranger to her. The internet makes things weird….

If you have the opportunity to see the book tour that is currently in action, GO. Its worth it. I saw Amanda during the performance at Sixth and I in DC. It was a small venue, which is perfect for Amanda. The performance was a musical performance, peppered with book readings. After the performance, she spent HOURS signing books for her fans. 

Amanda Fucking Palmer, thank you. 


Favorite quotes:

Believe me. Believe Me. I'm real. 

The problem was that I craved intimacy to the same burning degree that I detested commitment. 

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Book Review: Yes Please by Amy Poehler

If you’re in the mood for a Hollywood tell-all, look elsewhere. Amy Poehler writes this book with the foresight of knowing that people will read this book. She keeps a great deal of her personal life to herself. This is an interesting contrast to Lena Dunham’s method of sharing EVERYTHING. Poehler shares interesting, encouraging bits of her life for you to chew on. 

Poehler splits her book into three parts: "Say Whatever You Want", "Do Whatever You Like", and "Be Whoever You Are"; which in itself should be a mantra for everyone… unless you’re a serial killer…then do other stuff. 

The book flows well and the construction of the book is GORGEOUS. Dey St. outdid themselves, every part of Poehler’s book is pleasing to the eyes; from the cover, to the spine, to the heavy magazine type pages of the book. 

There’s nothing surprising here. Do you like Amy Poehler? Go read her book…please. 

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Book Review: You by Caroline Kepnes

You was an enthralling read. Joe is a bookstore employee who flirts with a female customer and decides to follow her home. This is old hat to Joe; he knows exactly how to find out every detail of You.

We are in Joe’s head for the duration of the novel which gives an unique perspective to a stalking story. The author makes him eerily relatable, as opposed to the obvious choice of batshit insane. Joe calmly explains his outrageous actions in such a stable calm voice that it’s unnerving.

The author makes an interesting choice by making Beck (the stalkee) the worst person. She’s incredibly annoying. She’s both walked on by her friends and awful to the men that she pretends to love.

You is hard to put into a category but is well worth the read. 

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Book Review Quickie: Beautiful You by Chuck Palahniuk

Beautiful You is a satirical romp into the world’s fixation with pleasure. Through Palahniuk’s focuses heavily on erotic pleasure, this book also touches on the fixation of worldly goods.

With hints of 50 Shades of Grey and a nod to Lysistrata, Palahniuk takes a step away from his prior work (ie. Doomed and Damned) and goes back to his roots of wielding a ludicrous, skeptical look at modern society.

Well worth the read but hard to recommend.

If you are in any way prudish skip this read, 50 Shades is g-rated in comparison to the brain of Chuck Palahniuk. 

Beautiful You will be available on October 21, 2014

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Book Review: Not that Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham

The book that the entire bookish internet has been waiting for has finally arrived, Not that Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham. I have to say that I loved it. I have a love-hate relationship with Lena Dunham, which I’m sure stems from creative jealously on my part. Why is it that all her projects are amazing??

Not that Kind of Girl is a collection of personal essays on Dunham’s life thus far, split into sections, such as: friendship, romance, work, etc. The essays bring the same fearless quality of her HBO show Girls.

I was disappointed in the body image section, which isn’t fair to Dunham. I assumed that her brazen ability to bare an imperfect body in a world where perfection is key would make her in some way above body issues. She was my idol in this area, but alas, she has the same thoughts of all us peons regarding our looks.

Dunham expands upon the thoughts that my generation and hers have thought but rarely say. We are the generations waiting for our lives to begin. Forever lost. Forever waiting. Some have an inherent compass telling them which way to go, the rest of us are waiting for something in us to scream THAT, DO THAT. And again, waiting for someone to tell us how to do it.

Dunham has had a fortunate life. I think this book will be readily accepted by 20-30 something white girls from good homes and readily rejected by all others.


My favorite quote:

“Emotions are exhausted to have.”

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Book Review: The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Quentin felt different. He’s always felt different. Quentin grew up in Brooklyn, was a straight-A student, part of the gifted program in every school that he has attended.  He had the makings for a happy teenager, but never was. His only solace was in his favorite childhood books (depicting the adventures of the Chatwin children in the fabled land of Fillory – think Narnia) and his dime a dozen magic tricks.

Quentin was on his way to a college interview when his life changed. The interviewer was dead. The paramedic found an envelope with his name written on the front, inside… the never published final book of the Fillory series. Quentin was mesmerized with his findings, on his way back to his home, a page from the manuscript flies out of his hand and into a garden. He was in hot pursuit in the cold New York winter until he found himself at the end of the garden, looking into the summer sky of Upstate New York.

This was Quentin’s invitation to his real college interview, at the academy of Brakebills. After an afternoon of grueling exams, he was given an offer. He could join Brakebills, a school that studied magical arts, or he could go home and his memory would be wiped clean, he would never remember this experience. He could go on to Ivy League, eventually end up in an office, shuffling paper and pretending that life was exciting.

He chose magic.

This is the first installment of a trilogy; I’m a bit behind the times on The Magicians. I picked this copy up at a library sale several years ago; I wish I had read it sooner. Grossman’s writing mixes the world of J.K. Rowling with that of C.S. Lewis. The beginning is a bit slow as we grow to understand the rules of this world that we’ve been introduced too. This is an adult book. Imagine Harry Potter with sex and drugs, but not exactly R-rated, yet. I found it very interesting and at times sharp the way that Grossman speaks to the routines of life, the monotony of life, even though you may get your hearts desire, happiness and contentment is a much harder quest.

Favorite Quote:

“I got my heart’s desire, he thought, and there my troubles began.”

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Book Review Quickie: Fables: Camelot by Bill Willingham

Fables: Camelot is volume 20 in the ongoing Fables comic series. In this volume, Rose Red is determined to find her purpose in life. The one thing that will redeem her, a new Camelot, built on the idea of second chances.

We follow Rose while she sends the call out for heroes. Though hundreds show she narrows the pool down to six, Including a man who is no stranger to Camelot.

In the last trade, Bigby was killed, in this book is he slowly being pieced together. That is the timing of the entire book, a slow piecing together in promise of exciting things. 

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Book Review: The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness

Deborah Harkness fans may rejoice, it’s finally pub day for The Book of Life, the conclusion of the All Souls Trilogy. Was it worth the wait? Oh, I think it was!

At the close of Shadow of Night, Diana and Matthew take the first step of their timewalk back from Elizabethan England. As The Book of Life opens, we see the pair emerge into current day Sept Tours, the de Clermont family home. Diana and Matthew catch-up on what has happened while they were gone and feel the impact that this has had to their families. Diana, lost a close family member. Matthew, must once again come to terms with the death of his father Philippe, whom he was able to visit during their travel to the 1500’s.

During their time with Philippe, he made Diana his daughter. Now, that Diana is back at Sept Tours, she meets her new brother and sister (Baldwin and Verin, respectively). The greeting is not altogether warm. Baldwin is the head of the de Clermont clan and immediately tries to force his dominance on Diana, which at this point the reader’s know that no one dominates Diana.

Shortly after returning to Sept Tours, Diana and Matthew (along with a few family members) decide to return to the Bishop family home in the US to focus their search of the missing pages of Ashmole 782, aka the Book of Life.  Meanwhile, Matthew regains his focus on a cure for blood rage, an “illness” that he inherited from his vampire mother and passed down to his children. 

While all of this is going on, Diana is heavily pregnant with twins; which, is a visible assault against the Covenant, put in place hundreds of years prior by the Congregation, in order to keep the creatures (vampires, witches and daemons) separate. News of Diana’s pregnancy has reached one of Matthew’s children, Benjamin, who is controlled by pure blood rage.

I loved this book. I thought the ending was great. Its packed full of adventure and alchemy and libraries, all things that really make me happy. It was refreshing to see a strong female character in Urban Fantasy.

The Book of Life is on sale TODAY!!

Favorite quote:

“You will find me … altered.”

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