Bunny Tales by Izabella St James

As I continue my Playboy deep dive, and I found myself rereading all my Playboy favorites. This was my second time reading Bunny Tales by Izabella St. James, which is basically a manual for all things Playboy circa 90’s and 2000’s. If you want some serious inside info, this is where you should go.

The book starts off with Izabella’s back story, which includes her family escaping communism in Poland. The story is interesting but gets a little long, but it’s somewhat important if you want to get to know and understand Izabella. However, if you’re only interested in Hef and the mansion, then skip the first 2-3 chapters and get straight to the good stuff. (Fun Fact: She actually meets Hef somewhat through “Dr. Feelgood,” the dad from Playground!)

The book spends an entire chapter on all the subjects and their details that you’re dying to know:

  • The mansion layout and details, including the famous grotto
  • Previous girlfriends and the drama behind the rotation of blondes
  • The daily routines of Hef
  • The weekly routines of the girlfriends
  • The girlfriend rules and how they were broken
  • The financials spent on the parade of girlfriends and their luxuries
  • How things went down in the bedroom
  • Events and mansion parties (and the club scene)
  • All the ins and outs of Mr Playboy himself, and more!

She gets real, breaks things down, gives you the details of the drama, and probably covers her ass here and there as well, in all honestly. She definitely makes a point to paint herself in a good light in all situations, though she was not separated whatsoever from the scene and the drama.

As someone who wants to know all the behind-the-scenes of the elaborate world that Mr. Hefner created around himself, this book gave me everything I was looking for. The unique insight is captivating and fascinating, and only just scratches the surface of a multi-decade story. With that being said, I definitely intend to read more.

Thanks for reading!

Screw Cancer; Becoming Whole by Molly Kochan

An amazing human who I know and love named Nikki Boyer sadly lost her nearly lifelong friend Molly to cancer last year. Before she passed, Nikki was able to document her unique and intriguing stories through a podcast called Dying For Sex. The podcast is a 10 episode series that journeys Molly’s sexual escapades as she simultaneously entered a terminal cancer diagnosis. It’s a story that’s nothing like I’ve ever heard, offering an uncharted perspective. In addition to the podcast, Molly also did some writing as her health declined, which Nikki was able to turn into a book about a year after her passing.

Unfortunately, Molly’s story is somewhat dark, and involves a broken family and experiences of sexual abuse. This affected many many aspects of Molly’s life, which she is able to reflect on in a cathartic yet completely truthful way. Once getting her second cancer diagnosis, it’s like she dove headfirst into the insight of her life and decided actively on how she wanted to spend the rest of it. Her strength is admirable – both in her reflections and in her struggles through cancer.

The way that Molly writes is real, raw, and contains incredible clarity. You can see her thought processes laid out on the pages, and her authenticity shines through. It’s a true gift that she was able to find and share her voice, even if in the last chapter of her life.

To read Molly’s story, you can order the book on Amazon or other various vendors. I also highly recommend listening to the podcast as well, Dying For Sex, to hear Molly’s voice.

Thanks for reading.

Playground by Jennifer Saginor

playground2This is one of my absolute all-time favorite books of my entire life! I’ve read this book multiple times, and probably find my way back to it every several years (just like Go Ask Alice).  I’m a HUGE fan of Playboy, and this book was what opened the doors into all of my Hugh Hefner knowledge. Honestly, no one can convince me that this isn’t one of the greatest books that exists – it’s freaking amazing. 

This is the very real story of Jennifer Saginor, whose dad was a very well-known doctor in LA. He img_2482also happened to be best friends with Hugh Hefner, and was known as “Dr. Feel Good”. He spent ample time at the Playboy mansion, and brought his daughters along with him. Jennifer’s life is never the same after her first trip to the mansion, where she sees a playmate screwing John Belushi at just six years old. The infamous playground and the lifestyle that comes with it becomes intoxicating to Jennifer and starts to swallow her whole. From wild parties with A list celebrities, to a secret affair with one of Hef’s girlfriends, to all the drugs anyone could ever want – the journey is quite a crazy ride. 

carrie leighIn a weird way, this book has wildly impacted my life. The book made me fascinated by all the mansion adventures, intrigued by the LA lifestyle, and absolutely obsessed over the true identity of Kendall (My best guess is Carrie Leigh, but even after hours of research, I’m still not 100% sure!) It’s helped me to escape from reality, understand my sexuality, and gave me unique and amazing insight into a legendary empire. I respect and admire Jennifer so much for everything she’s been through, and for being willing to be vulnerable and share her story. I actually recently reached out to her on Instagram as a fan, and got a really nice response!

img_2483playgroundThis a fascinating, interesting, heartbreaking and infatuating story, and I HIGHLY suggest getting your copy wherever fine books are sold. I’m currently going into a full Playboy deep dive, so stay tuned as I make my way through more books as well as the full series of The Girls Next Door

Thanks for reading.

Judge This Cover by Brittany Renner

brittanyI was fascinated by Brittany Renner since the first second I ever laid eyes on her, via Instagram of course. I pressed that follow button instantly and let @bundleofbrittany level up my Instagram feed. She has this incredible bad bitch confidence – someone you want to both be and be with at the time time. She published a “tell-all” book in 2018, where she told the stories of seven high-profile men she’s had experiences with. After seeing her constant reposts on her Insta stories of everyone reading her book, I finally caved and decided I needed to see what all the drama was about. 

img_1635Judge This Cover is a compilation of seven stories with seven different men – all whose names have been changed. Now with a bit of digging on the internet, someone on Twitter was able to find the clues that led to who is who. I read the article that listed the real men behind the stories in this book, and HOLY FUCK. Like, we are talking HIGH high profile. She definitely did what she could to hide things – she flipped Tyga to an athlete, and talked about attending a game rather than a performance. And with Drake, she referred to his “team”, which also could have him mistaken for an athlete. But ya know, leave it to Twitter to uncover all the breadcrumbs. 

img_1643Her early life and what she’s been through was really interesting; I could have read an entire book on the stories that were quickly covered during the intro section. I think this project was cathartic for her, but she chose to only focus on the men in her life that hurt her. I’ll admit that it would certainly be harder to be this vulnerable with family, but it definitely would have been an interesting read. 

img_1633The seven chapters with the seven men are really not split up evenly whatsoever. The first man actually takes up the entire first half of the fucking book, so he’s clearly made a big impact on her life. I mean, she did leave school and sports for him, and the whole situation was really wild. (It should really be made into a movie or TV series someday.) The rest of the men were quick stories to flip through, but each one made an impact in its own way. I appreciate her honesty in recounting the events, as she was not afraid to tell things like it is. The way she wrote this overall was really interesting, as it was written to the men. She recounted events and feelings as if she was writing them each their own love letter. She’s speaking directly to them, while the whole world reads. This kind of vulnerability is really powerful and makes such a statement. I was truly intrigued. 

img_1634I enjoyed reading this book much more than I was expecting to. I found that I can relate to her in the fact that her story seems tied up in other people, yet she’s fiercely independent and can completely stand on her own. She is such a captivating human, and the way she loves is unique and passionate. All these stories have clearly affected her life quite a bit, and love makes you do crazy things.

img_1644She’s recently gotten into a new relationship, which looks sweet and promising. However, it’s definitely changed her Instagram just a smidge, and I noticed that she’s archived a lot of her old posts. I still recommend following her anyway, watching her YouTube videos, and definitely grabbing a copy wherever books are sold. After reading the book, I actually posted a pic to my Instagram story, and she reposted me! I’m still really hype about it. 

Thanks for reading!

Go Ask Alice by Anonymous

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Go Ask Alice is one of my most favorite books of all time. It’s a classic, it never gets old, and I could read it again and again. Actually, I have – probably over 8 times at this point. Every couple of years I get reminded of it and come back to it, and it never disappoints.

The book is a true story, and is the very real pages of a girl’s diary from the 70’s. Nothing is fabricated – it’s simply a compilation of the pages she wrote about her life. The girl gets mixed in with drugs, and she writes about the rabbit hole she goes down. She also writes about her endeavors to stay away from drugs, and how her old crown torments her. It’s a wildly interesting ride, and I continuously get back in line again and again. 

My fascination with this book runs deep, and we have quite a history. The go ask alice 2first time I obtained a copy of the book, it was from my hometown library. I wanted to reread the book and forgot to check it out again, and instead just never returned it. I only had to pay them the price of the book, so I essentially bought it from the library for like $10. For whatever reason, I liked that it had the tags and stuff on the spine. It was a special copy for me. Then in college I lent it to this girl, whose idiot brother attempted to return it to their hometown local library. Safe to say I never saw that book again, and I’m definitely still bitter! I purchased a Kindle version years later when I had found my way back to it, and this year purchased a new copy when I found my way back again.

Also, when I was in college, I took a class called “Oral Interpretation”. We basically took pieces of text and had to perform them, thus switching the intended media. For one of the assignments, I took the section of the book in which the girl does LSD for the first time and memorized it for a performance. It was roughly 3 pages stored in my head of her experience of unknowingly doing drugs and the ride she went on. I had such fun, and definitely got an A. 

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I never realized there was a movie that went along with this book, but it doesn’t do it full justice. The film was made in the 70’s and is only about an hour long. It’s definitely got that 70’s movie quality with the signature bad acting, and kinda felt like an old after-school special. Some lines from her diary entries were read as a sort of voice-over narration for the main character, and some of the lines were exact from the book. The movie overall wasn’t awful, but was very cheesy and definitely low-budget. I did love all the 70’s style clothing and the fact that it featured “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane, which is famously known for referencing the “Alice in Wonderland” metaphor as well. Feed your head.

Honestly, go ask aliceplease please read this book. It’s so crazy and fascinating and interesting and takes you through so many ups and downs. It’s a quick read, and you will get hooked and fall right down the rabbit hole with her. Available wherever fine books are sold! 

Thanks for reading. 

Storms Never Last by Joy Elaine McMillan

IMG-1329I’ve had a long time fascination with the Playboy Enterprises, Hugh Hefner, and the women wrapped up in it all. So going into reading Storms Never Last, I was definitely excited to get a perspective that was from a different time period than I’m used to reading about. However, many things were not exactly what I was expecting.

Since the tagline of the book reads, “Memoirs Of A Playboy Bunny”, I was assuming I was going to read somewhat about the earlier years of Hef (most of the stories in the book took place in the 60’s). However, this woman was not only in Cleveland, Ohio rather than LA, but also never even met Hef a day in her life. After reading that, I honestly almost stopped reading the book. But it was short, and I felt obligated to see it through til the end.

So basically, she worked in the Playboy Club that was located in Cleveland. These clubs were popular in many major cities, and there was a set of rules that came along with working as a Bunny. This was the only part of the book that I really liked or learned anything – when she was describing the rules alongside the job. Their uniforms had to fit certain ways, they had to stand in specific positions, and give branded responses to questions. None of this shocked me, given what I know about how Hef ran things in the mansion.

That being said, the part that involved the Playboy Clubs was very short, as she didn’t even work there for very long. Most of the book was just random attempts at claim to fame. She talked about her husbands (who were all fame-adjacent) and how she attempted to make it big as a model and actress. She had a very strange “little ol’ me” attitude, and honestly didn’t come off as super intelligent. She also spent a long time talking through murders of other women who worked in the clubs, and how she interacted with people who later became known serial killers.

It’s kind of as though this girl thought she was super interesting, or at least desperately wanted to be interesting. So the book is more or less about anything that could even a little bit make her remotely notable. I’m also confused if she had a writer for this or if she just had a nickname, since the author is listed as Joy but the women in the book was named Betty. I wish I had enjoyed the book more so that I was curious enough to figure that out.

I’m pretty sure that this book was given to me as a gift, so it was likely found on Amazon or other places where books are sold. I don’t know that I would recommend this honestly, unless you’ve already read playboy clubbeverything else Playboy that there is to read. If you’d like to dive into the world of Playboy, I recommend reading Playground by Jennifer Saginor or Bunny Tales by Izabella St. James. Honestly, I might just reread them both – they’re amazing books, totally worth your time. (Don’t read Holly Madison’s book… definitely NOT worth your time.)

Thanks for reading.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

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I’ve heard of Gone Girl, but I wasn’t really familiar with Gillian Flynn at all. I saw that HBO had released a show based on her novel Sharp Objects, I decided to give her a try and I was pleasantly surprised. I’m not well-versed in murder mysteries, but I was drawn right in. Gillian Flynn is a great writer, and I plan on reading more of her novels in the future as well.

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Sharp Objects really holds up as a book. She keeps the story moving and keeps you intrigued, while still slowly setting up the story. Some things are a little cliche, like the small town vibe and the thirst of a journalist looking for the next story. But without giving anything away – the ending is fantastic and something I was not expecting.

sharp objects

She show was almost identical to the book, which I very much appreciated. It was amazingly cast, and I was surprised with how much I liked Amy Adams as the main character. The ending of the show kind of ends on a climax, so you don’t get the falling out details that you get in the book, which I think was a mistake. I very much enjoyed seeing the repercussions in the end and how those around them reacted, and I think those who watched the show were robbed of that. However, I truly have no complaints other than that – it’s really well done.

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You can of course find the novel wherever fine books are sold, and the HBO show is still available to stream via HBO Max or other HBO streaming services. If you’re into this genre, I definitely definitely definitely recommend!

Thanks for reading.

GuRu and Workin’ It! by RuPaul

img_9773When DragCon was canceled, my friend Rachel and I went into a full on depression. It’s literally our favorite weekend of the year, and both LA and NYC were totally out. We were crushed. It was supposed to be this weekend, so in a world without COVID I’d be in LA right now ready to meet the queens. But instead, I’ve just been laying in quarantine, reading RuPaul’s books, and wishing that things were different.

RuPaul is really an intriguing glamazon of a creature, and I’ve been obsessed for a while now. Some of Ru’s ideas/outlooks on life have really stuck with me – two quotes of his in particular. The first is, “We’re all born naked and the rest is drag.” I love this idea that people get up everyday and whatever you choose to put on your body is your “drag.” I think about this sometimes when I’m getting ready, trying to decide what image of myself I want to project to the world. The other quote is, “What other people think of me is none of my business.” I think about this often, especially circling certain events in my life.

So RuPaul has written three books in total, although I only have books two and three in my possession. GuRu is his most recent publication, released in 2018, and Workin’ It! was released in 2010. His first book is called Lettin’ It All Hang Out, but I can’t seem to find a copy of this book that is available for less than like $50. I already made the mistake of spending $60 on RuPaul’s self-made movie entitled Starrbooty, and I’m just not sure that one really worked out for me. So I’m not quite ready to make the investment on his first book – especially since there was a lot of overlap between his second and third books.

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I’m not sure the entire timeline of Ru’s life, but Workin’ It! was definitely written sometime after season 2 of Drag Race, but before Raven was working as her makeup artist. The book is a list of many tips, tricks, routines, and rules to live by – everything from make-up tutorials to img_9775professional advice. Like I said, I love a lot of Ru’s philosophies, including the idea of “gender fuck”. People can get so hung up on putting gender into certain boxes, and this is the idea of saying “fuck that” and pulling the boxes away. Anybody can be glamorous, pronouns can be interchangeable, and your “between-me-down-there” has nothing to do with how you present yourself. Since Ru has seen and done it all, she’s ready to pass on her knowledge to the generations to come. Truthfully, I’m not sure I needed to know all the ins and outs about Ru’s colon cleaning adventures, but it was a good read otherwise.

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GuRu is probably my favorite of the two, and actually makes for a really lovely coffee table book. It’s not so much a novel, but more a collection of Ru’s thoughts, stories, quotes, and pictures. You could really flip to any page in the book and start reading, since most of the pages stand independent from one another. It’s sort of like the most glamorous self-help book you’ll ever read. It’s very very visually appealing, and reminded me of Kim’s Selfie Book with all the pictures – although there’s way more writing. I’d definitely keep this on my coffee table if I was hosting some elegant extravaganza.

You can find these two published works wherever fine books are sold… and good luck finding the first book, but please feel free to point me in the right direction.

Thanks for reading!

The Last Black Unicorn & She Ready by Tiffany Haddish

 

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While in between TV shows to binge watch, I decided to open up my Audible app and see what was in my library waiting for me to listen to. I had downloaded both of the titles available by Tiffany Haddish: The Last Black Unicorn and She Ready. I had heard amazing things about her book, and I’m a huge fan of hers overall.

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The Last Black Unicorn is something that everyone should be reading and listening to. Tiffany’s life was ROUGH, and yet she manages to tell her story in a way that made me really laugh. After listening to that, I opened up She Ready – which was noticeably shorter in length than The Last Black Unicorn. I honestly wish I hadn’t downloaded She Ready without more knowledge, because it was really just a stand-up version of a lot of the stories that were showcased in her book. I do love her stand-up, it was just repetitive after listening to her first book. I HIGHLY recommend downloading The Last Black Unicorn, but you can skip She Ready if you do.

Like I said, Timg_9163iffany had a really rough upbringing. I can’t even believe half of the things she’s been through and was able to overcome. Between her mom’s mental illness, her time in foster care, and the amount of men who tried to take advantage of her – she’s dealt with some shit. The most appalling story Tiffany mentioned in the book involves her step-dad and several life insurance policies. My jaw basically dropped to the floor. 

haddishShe was able to get through it all by being not only funny, but also extremely clever. Tiffany is also very willing to make mistakes, figure it out, and then talk about it. She’s one of the realest people that there are in Hollywood. Tiffany is so raw, authentic, honest and absolutely hilarious.

Tiffany Haddish Comedy Special 2019I have so much love for Tiffany because of who she is, her amazing talent, and everything she’s been through. Even past her upbringing, she was able to battle being a female in comedy with so much grace. She did not let people take advantage of her success and abilities and did not pay prices that others may have paid to make it to the top.

hadThe only other book that I had listened to at this point via Audible was Lamar Odom‘s book, which was not read in his own voice. (A coach or something read the text instead). It was honestly a lot better to listen to this in Tiffany’s voice. First off, because she’s hilarious and charismatic. But also because she is connected to the story, because it’s hers. There are times she is scoffing along with the ridiculousness and times she’s audibly holding back tears. It really adds another level of consuming the text when you hear it all straight from the author’s voice.

tiffanyTiffany was actually nominated for a Grammy in the spoken word category for her reading of The Last Black Unicorn – so I promise that it’s worth the hype!

The Last Black Unicorm is available now on audible and wherever fine books are sold. You can also follow Tiffany Haddish on social media @tiffanyhaddish.

Thanks for reading!

Name Drop by Ross Mathews

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I’m sure you know by now how much I love Ross Mathews – I mean, we’re basically friends at this point! We email, I’m involved in the podcast somewhat, and we’re always interacting on social media. So of course, the second that Ross announced that his new book, Name Drop, was available for pre-order, I immediately reserved my copy.

Name Drop img_5772 is a collection of the “really good celebrities stories” that he “usually only tells at happy hour.” I had to wait about 6 months for the release, but luckily for me, Ross did an exclusive reading at a DragCon panel. He read the first chapter of the book, which was about his incredible interaction with Lady Gaga. It was so awesome to see him do the reading, and it made me super excited to read the whole thing.

img_8916The stories in the book include interactions with big names, such as Rosie O’Donnell, Christina Aguilera, The Spice Girls and sooo much more! He truly did not disappoint – these stories were amazing.  They were short, sweet, but packed full of the gossip you’re looking for. Plus, Ross makes everything fun! So not only is there the collection of stories, but he also includes original cocktails and “ROSSipes” with each chapter.

Here are some of the thoughts I had while reading the book (you may have to read it all for yourself to understand fully what I am talking about):

  • Barbara Walters … what a bitch! Not just off camera – ON CAMERA! This had me HEATED!!!
  • Sherry Shepherd and her wigs!! What a woman – this warmed my heart.
  • Cannot wait to make Twice Baked Cutie Potatoes. YUM.
  • Sarah Colonna!!! I miss the days of her and Josh Wolf’s podcast. Did you know she’s on Shameless??
  • Gotta love the Spice Girls!!
  • A PIZZA OVEN?! A PIZZA OVEN!!!!! HOW DID YOU EVEN TRANSPORT THAT?! WHERE IS THIS PIZZA OVEN TODAY?? I have so many more questions. I can’t let this go.
  • “Hi folks!” – my favorite Celine Dion quote.
  • So how can I use my small friendship with Ross to get on Big Brother
  • Woah. I’ll never look at Mathew Perry and Matt LeBlanc the same. Friends is one of my absolute favorite shows, but damn. What assholes. I even watched the interview and cringed the whole time. I really lost respect there.
  • Long live the Divas. Especially Xtina.
  • Ross, you are absolutely invited to my fantasy celebrity dinner party.

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Seriously, take a minute to google Ross Mathews right now and see how much press coverage this book got – there are tons of articles written about his stories! You are not going to want to miss this!

Ross is also going on tour to 30 cities across the US and Canada! He’s got great shows planned with some stand up, games, and insight into some gossip. I’ll be attending The Phoenix show in March – as a VIP, of course! You can visit HelloRoss.com for tour dates or to grab your copy of his book! You can buy Name Drop really anywhere that books are sold – but the Target versions include an extra bonus chapter (which I have not read yet since I pre-ordered my copy on Amazon).

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I truly smiled from ear to ear while reading this book. It was seriously next level good. I mean, I read a ton of books by celebrities – but this was in a class of its own. If you only read one book this year, make it Name Drop by Ross Mathews.

Thanks for reading!

The Shining by Stephen King

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I know, I know – I’m really late to the game here. But I want to make my way through a few classic novels this year – including Stephen King’s The Shining. Both my girlfriend and my mom are avid Stephen King readers, and I had no experience with his work at all. After watching the new IT movies, I decided to finally start reading The Shining.

200 pages into the book, and I was not super happy. In my opinion, there was way too much set up. It took til almost page 250 until they were left alone in the hotel. Instead of any scary or thrilling events, we heard the same back stories from multiple perspectives and got multiple tours of the hotel. Things got better once I got past the lengthy exposition.

By the time I finished the book – I mean, yeah, it was scary. But I was definitely expecting it to be way scarier. I think it was hyped book in freezerup too much in my head. I remember the Friends episode where Joey puts the book in the freezer when it gets too scary – and I really wanted to have that reaction! So honestly, I was a little disappointed. Even though I had never seen the movie, I knew some references – such as the camera work with the tricycle or the girls who talk in unison. However, these were pretty much missing entirely from the book. Maybe this was a decision to add some scary content to the movie? I was definitely hoping it would be a little scarier to see it all come to life. I also knew the ending to the movie is different than the book, which made me more intrigued and added a level of suspense.

s-l300The movie. Holy 70’s! Very very vintage, and clearly made 30 years ago. I totally think this movie would kill if they were to remake this. I do think that the fact that this is now an older movie made some things less scary and more funny for me (especially the acting). However, Jack Nicholson is creepy all the time, even when he’s not trying to be. Can I also just say that like.. okay, I know this was a different time period. But the casual use of the N word in both the book and the movie made me wildly uncomfortable. Again, I know it was a different time.. doesn’t make me feel any less weird about it.

The book and the movie had a lot of differences actually, especially in the plot. I was disappointed to see such an awkward interaction The-Shining-Dannybetween Danny and Mr. Hallorann in the movie, because in the book they were very friendly. The awkwardness doesn’t really explain why Mr. Hallorann was so hell bent on trying to protect him, but their friendship did. Also, the hedges were completely different – which was one of the scariest parts of the book for me! My biggest disappointment was the casting for Wendy. The actress looked like the real life version of a character from The Nightmare Before Christmas. I’m pretty sure Wendy was blonde in the book, and I don’t know – she just really didn’t look at all what I was picturing. She and Jack made a super odd couple, and I spent more time laughing at her than I was hoping for her escape.

Overall, I’m glad I read and watched this. The story is cool; I can see why this is a classic. Next up, watching the new Doctor Sleep movie.

Thanks for reading.

Books I Read In 2019

img_7960I made a goal last year to read one book per month for all of 2019. I am extremely happy to announce that I have met that goal – I actually surpassed it!! One of my new year’s resolutions actually was met, and I’m very proud. Here is a list of all the books I made my way through in the past year:

JanuaryMan Up! By Ross Mathews

February It Takes Balls By Josh Wolf

MarchThe Glass Castle By Jeannette Walls

AprilAre You There God? It’s Me, Margaret By Judy Blume

MayA Wrinkle In Time By Madeleine L’Engle

JuneOrange Is The New Black By Piper Kerman

JulyOut Of Orange By Cleary Waters

AugustKaramo: My Story of Embracing Purpose, Healing and Hope by Karamo Brown

SeptemberDiva Rules By Michelle Visage

OctoberRunning With Scissors By Augusten Burroughs

NovemberOver The Top By Jonathan Van Ness

DecemberNaturally Tan by Tan France

Other Books I Read:

Desert Southwest (WildSam Field Guide)

Flipping The Switch By John G Miller

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling

Darkness To Light by Lamar Odom

Selfish by Kim Kardashian

Antoni In The Kitchen by Antoni Porowski

Queer Eye: Love Yourself. Love Your Life.

bookI have complete and full intentions to achieve this goal again next year, as well as maybe even start to work on doing some more writing of my own. I have so many things on my “to read” list, so I know I’ll be keeping myself busy.

Thanks for reading!

The Complete Queer Eye Book Collection

I’ve done lots of reading this year, which led me into a deep dive into the works of my five favorite guys. You can catch them on Netflix’s Queer Eye: Jonathan Van Ness, Karamo Brown, Tan France, Antoni Porowski, and Bobby Berk.

My breakdown for the first three books can be found by clicking the links below:

img_79241. Over The Top by Jonathan Van Ness

IMG-66542. Karamo: My Story of Embracing Purpose, Healing and Hope by Karamo Brown

img_79733. Naturally Tan by Tan France

img_86264. Antoni has a cookbook rather than a novel, called Antoni In The Kitchen.

There’s an intro in the beginning where we get to learn more about Antoni and where he drew his inspirations for food. He grew up in Montreal with two Polish parents, and experienced a variety of culture growing up. He also mentions Queer Eye of course, which includes a forward from original “food and wine” expert, Ted Allen. I also love that Antoni mentions his sexuality, because he felt insecure about being on a show starring gay men when he is really more on the spectrum of sexuality.

img_8628Though Antoni comes from Polish decent, the book is not overloaded with Polish recipes. It’s actually a lovely cultural mix of Polish, Italian, Middle Eastern, Moroccan, Aussie, American, and so much more. Every recipe is included with a paragraph of Antoni explaining the dish and why he loves it, as well as some anecdotes, tips, and detailed instructions. I also appreciate that every recipe comes with a picture, because I don’t understand recipe books that don’t show you what you’re supposed to be making. This is loaded of pictures of both food and Antoni for you to drool over. Once I make some of these dishes for myself, I’ll be sure to review.

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5. Queer Eye: Love Yourself. Love Your Life  

Bobby is way too busy renovating the houses of America to have the downtime to write a book about himself – I mean seriously, do they let him sleep?? He is, however, credited in the book that brings the Fab Five all together: Queer Eye: Love Yourself. Love Your Life. This book is a whole breakdown of everything Queer Eye (the new Fab Five). The producers of the show talk about their ideas for both the original and the reboot; The word “queer” used to have a negative connotation, and I think we can credit these shows in part for the taking back of that word completely. It’s now an empowering word that I love using to describe myself. Thanks, queens!

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I enjoyed reading about Bobby’s unique upbringing, since he was the one I knew the least about. A lot of the info on the other men I already knew from reading their individual books, so it was nice for me to see Bobby’s backgrounds included. I’ll also say that I’m just not sure about this mustache phase that Antoni was going through here – very Johnny Depp meets James Franco; it’s a whole look.

It’s a great coffee table book, but it’s also completely packed full of content. There’s so much to page through: bios of the guys, deep dives into each of their specialties, and a whole Queer Eye recipe section with dinner menu recommendations. If these guys have already found their way to your heart, this book will make you happy.

 

All books are available on Amazon or other places where books are sold!

Thanks for reading.

Naturally Tan by Tan France

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Since I already made my way through the books by Karamo and JVN, I figured I had to dive into Tanny’s book as well: Naturally Tan. Known as the style expert, Tan France has been changing the world via Queer Eye once French tuck and floral shirt at a time. His level of sass and pettiness is undeniable and also warranted and evident in the pages of this book.

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Tan has lived such an interesting life from day one. His family is from Pakistan, he grew up in the UK, but spent time in many different places. He’s an entrepreneur that works hard and makes things happen. He’s been thrown so much in life and yet has always maintained this essence of himself that shines so bright for everyone to see. I also feel that he really opened my eyes to a culture that I had not a lot of knowledge on prior, and I am thankful to know more as a result of Tan.

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First of all, it should not go unnoticed that there is an incredible amount of racism that people who look like Tan are forced to experience. His chapter about 9/11 is short but really powerful. I could never imagine what someone like Tan goes through, and I did not even understand the amount of airport privilege I have. It’s so cruel the way people can judge based on absolutely nothing but lack of knowledge. Americans are simply uneducated about so many cultures, which could be the cause of the racism.

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I absolutely love the relationship between Tan and his husband, Rob. The level of respect and love that exists between them is wonderful. I agree with so much that he says about relationships and marriage, that your normal state should not be “hard”. You should not feel like you need to “get away” from who should be your favorite person. Love should be easy, and sure there are obstacles, but it should enhance your life. My favorite parts of the book involved Tan talking about Rob, and the life they share together is amazing and inspiring. 

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Honestly, Tan is a sassy queen who can hold a grudge and lives for an “I told you so” moment. He really showed the unapologetic version of himself, which honestly kind of confused me. There’s so many kind things shown of him on the show that are gentle and compassionate, but he really sounded bitter in many moments of this book. I’m just surprised that he chose to showcase so much of this side of himself, because I know the softer side is in there.

tanReal quick: Tan, hunny. I really do love you. But your views on hair are wrong. Bangs look good on the right person, red dyed hair is bomb with the right skin tone, and it’s fine to play with the length and texture of your hair. I enjoyed going through your hair journey with you Tanny Bananny, but it’s even more of a reason not to trust your advice. Leave the female hair advice to the females, babe.

naturally tanI really did enjoy Tan’s book and the unique insights it provided. I loved that the book is written with short, anecdotal chapters that are super easy to flip through. Please watch Tan on Queer Eye for all your style needs, and you can also follow him on social media @tanfrance. Naturally Tan can be found wherever the finest of books are sold.

Thanks for reading!

Darkness To Light by Lamar Odom

lamar odomI was right in the middle of my Kardashian deep dive when I heard Khloe talk about the fact that Lamar came out with a book about his life. Sign. Me. Up. Are you kidding?! I was such a huge fan of Khloe and Lamar when they were together, loved their show, and was really rooting for Lamar’s recovery. He was also recently on Dancing With The Stars and you bet your ass I threw a couple of votes his way.

My friend gave me a subscription to Audible as a birthday gift, knowing my love for reading. She thought it would be a cool and new way to listen to img_7963some of the words by my favorite celebs. Lamar’s book was available, read by Chris Palmer, former football coach and former college athletics administrator.

On Keeping Up With The Kardashians, Khloe talks with her best friend, Malika, about Lamar’s book that is being released and the press interviews he was doing to promote it. They show a clip where Lamar expresses remorse for how he “treated that queen” and admitted that apologies were owed. Malika asked Khloe if she would consider reading the book, to which Khloe playfully replied, “yeah, but I kinda already know how it ends.”

lamarLamar has been through a lot in his life, and I only knew about his struggles with addiction in his post NBA career. The book really highlighted for me how corrupt athletic systems can be even at a young level. Many of the young athletes are not even aware of the pay offs and shady dealings that are being done to get them their success, and it’s hard to have trust in who is looking out for the best interest. Not to mention that with professional sports comes money and access to things that can really fuck your life right up. Lamar’s life definitely didn’t start out easy as a result of his family, and it didn’t get any easier when all of those athlete affects starting coming into his life.

Lamar definitely dives into the shadows of his darkness, specifically surrounding his addiction with drugs and sex. He admits to heavy drug use as well as having sex with over 2,000 women in his lifetime. That is not a type – over two thousand women. Many of these sexual encounters were infidelity in his relationships; Lamar has children from his first love, but he also had a relationship with actress Taraj P Hensen – which I did not know. And then there was of course his marriage to Khloe Kardashian, whom he spoke highly of in the book. He actually spoke very respectfully about all the women he was with and may have caused lamar and khloharm to. He didn’t, however, speak so highly of mother-in-law Kris Jenner. Lamar actually accused her of calling the paparazzi for a publicity stunt when he was trying to reconnect with Khloe. There’s also quite a lot of bitterness surrounding how his hospital room was handled during his coma, during which he and Khloe were separated but still legally married. The media was insane, and the Kardashians were trying to keep control of the narrative during this time. I truly believe that Khloe was trying to do what was best for Lamar with the information that she had, even if some mistakes were made. Lamar does show gratefulness, but all has definitely not been forgotten.

Darkness to Light by Lamar OdomThe book get really deep and truthful, as Lamar admitted to his faults, his weaknesses, and his mistakes. There’s a lot of shit that’s been thrown at Lamar in his life, and yet he takes responsibility for the way he reacted. I think it’s so brave of him to share his story and his truth, and it was certainly worth the read. You can find this on Audible like I did, or wherever most books are sold.

Thanks for reading.

Over The Top by Jonathan Van Ness

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There has been A LOT of buzz around JVN’s new book! Of course I’ve been a huge fan of Jonathan Van Ness for a very long time, but I love how much media attention he’s been getting in the past year. Jonathan originally was known for his recap show Gay of Thrones, and then earned mainstream attention after becoming a member of Netflix’s Queer Eye‘s Fab Five. The book has made headlines this year because of the secrets that JVN opens up about in the book, and his bravery is insanely admirable.

In one of the episodes of Queer Eye, the Fab Five talk about coming out img_7955of the closet. Jonathan says something along the lines of, “Hello! The sky is blue. The grass is green.” meaning that there really was no “in the closet” for him. He was clearly and obviously flamboyant from a young age, and that left for a good amount of teasing while growing up. The story of his friend from the swim team is one that I’m sure many queer people can relate to: a friend where the lines get blurry and complicated… and then in the end.. awkward. It’s sad that there was so much shame in being gay in these small towns, because it can do a lot of damage.

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I really enjoyed reading about his reflections on past relationships. Speaking in the abstract makes everything so poetic and tragically beautiful. I could feel that when JVN talked about Sergei. They clearly cared so much about each other as humans, even if their demons constantly came between them. Their story hurt my heart, but the love was clear and present the whole journey. Who gave them permission to be so hauntingly gorgeous?!

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It was super exciting to see Jonathan go to Tucson for college! However, his experiences at the U of A were not entirely positive. He was clearly in a dark place at this point in his life, and he was searching for answers in some of the worst places. I appreciate his willingness to be open about his escort experience, which left him vulnerable and broken. I’m sure it was not easy for him to be honest about his behavior during this time, but I appreciated that he shared this in his writing. There are a lot of experiences within the male gay community that is swept under the rug, and JVN was able to bring some to light. During this time of darkness, he was luckily able to reach out to his family for the help he needed, and headed home to “start over”.

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Recovery, self-love, and mental health are things that JVN is always promoting, and it’s clearly as a result of his life experiences. His words on recovery are inspiring, and he is always reminding everyone to love themselves for where they are at. He says, “One thing I have come to notice in my life is that recovery for me has not been linear. It’s more two steps forward, three back, five forward, two back, so I’m always improving but there are setbacks within the improvement.”

I love Jonathan and every single itty bitty baby gorgeous thing he ever does, and I of course loved this book. But truthfully, I think he could have REALLY JVN 4dove into his dark places and gone even deeper. It definitely would take being EXTREMELY vulnerable to do this, as Jonathan as already revealed so so much in this book. Home girl has been through some shit! I just feel like there was so many stories and deep details that we didn’t get to hear, as he barely skimmed the surface of what he’s been through. He explains the the summary of the dark places, but I was so interested in his life of tricks and compulsivity, and so I definitely wanted a little more. Still, I totally know how hard that would be for JVN, who is very much connected to people worldwide with Queer Eye and his social media presence. I still absolutely applaud him for how much he did open up and reveal in the pages.

I love the way Jonathan combats the stigmas around HIV. This is such a significant conversation! Learning about being “undetectable” is so JVN 6incredibly important to educate people on the virus, and even I learned a lot from his writing. I’m so glad that JVN was recognized for this conversation in the media!! This really can help so many people to not only get the help they need, but also feel comfortable to live a full life while managing their diagnosis. It’s so wonderful that modern medicine can allow those who are diagnosed with HIV and AIDS to live a long lives. In the book, Jonathan mentions how his doctor said he would “go on to die of a heart attack or cancer just like everybody else.” – which is of course a morbid joke, but just shows where HIV is JVN 1in terms of a terminal diagnosis. 

 

 

Below are a list of resources provided by JVN in the book. Also, if you are a member of any community that may be high risk for HIV, please ask your doctor about PrEP, or visit the CDC website or What Is PrRP? or for more information.

Planned Parenthood
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network)
Phoenix House
The Trevor Project
National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs
Advocates for Youth
GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network)
Peer Health Exchange
ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals)

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He is fierce. He is real. He is raw. He gets into it, hunny! Jonathan gets sups vuln and you need to hear all the spilled tea. Grab your little baby copy wherever the finest of books are sold and come along for the gorgeous ride! Queer Eye is of course always available on Netflix – the Japan episodes were released not too long ago, and I know they were filming in Philly this summer!! JVN 2For all things JVN, you can visit jonathanvanness.com or follow him on social media @JVN.

“In general, if you can’t take me at my raw, heated moment, you don’t deserve me at my composed Emmys glam moment.” – Jonathan Van Ness, re-quoting Marilyn Monroe ♡

Thanks for reading!

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling

img_7970I’m a huge Harry Potter fan, but I didn’t really dive into things once the 7th book and 8th movie concluded. My girlfriend, however, decided to do a Harry Potter deep dive recently, where she was rereading the books and we would watch the movie after she finished each one. She then started to look into the Fantastic Beast movies and other books and things associated with the Wizarding World. A package came one day with a Harry Potter book I had never seen before: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

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This story takes place right where the 7th book left off – 19 years later, and Harry’s children are going to Hogwarts. Ron and Hermione’s children are attending as well, and they must go through the sorting hat and deal with the regular childhood trauma of trying to fit in. Harry’s son befriends the son of Draco Malfoy, which is obviously problematic. Rumors and discovered magical artifacts lead them into a whirlwind of an adventure.

hpcc!! Disclaimer: this is not a novel. This story was actually developed into a play, and the book is a copy of the script. !! J.K. Rowling worked with Jack Thorne and John Tiffany to create this, and it exists only in script format. It’s relatively easy and quick to read as a result of the way it’s laid out, but it does not have the same feel as reading a true Harry Potter novel.

I have just a little bit of an issue with part of the plot.. it’s just a little bit of a stretch. Harry’s son wants to go back in time to save Cedric Diggory, but his desire to do this and reasoning hpbehind it is extremely random and forced. He’s angry at his father but this just seems like a strange way to act out. Perhaps if he was hoping to impress his father or earn his respect or affection I would understand, but that’s not how it was set it. It just seemed pushed in my opinion, but hey I mean what a win for Cedric!

hppThe plot certainly does not disappoint, and has lots of crazy twists and turns – in true J.K. Rowling fashion. I don’t want to give anything away, but there were definitely things that I did not see coming. It’s quite an adventure where we get to see how the wizarding world unfolded after the Battle of Hogwarts – in more than one reality. I’ve never seen the play, but the script was worth the read in book form. I believe you can find this on Amazon, but I am unsure if it’s available in all book stores, unfortunately.

Thanks for reading!

Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs

RWS2I remember reading this book sometime in high school and it being one of my favorites, and I recently reread it after discovering that a movie had been made based on the memoir. Running With Scissors – both the book by Augusten Burroughs and the movie starring Joseph Cross, Alec Baldwin, Gweneth Paltrow, Evan Rachel Wood and more – is a story worth paying attention to. The book highlights true events from Augusten ‘s childhood, where he was basically given away to his shrink, Dr. Finch, by his mentally unstable mother.

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The ridiculousness of the Finch family is what draws you in: from the Masterbatorium (it’s exactly what you think it is), to eating dog food as a casual snack, to the breastloons (balloons, one on each boob). These characters are incredibly fascinating and over the top. The house is always an absolute mess, there are no rules, and almost every relationship is inappropriate in some way. He writes so open and raw and I hang onto every word in every story. I love his level of extra and dramatics, the need for everything to be over the top and extravagant. I flew through the book even faster than I did the first time.

RWS 4Just watching the trailer for the movie had me already laughing. It seemed, at first glance, to ring very true to the book. When the Dr. was seen running down the hall to knock on everyone’s doors to wake them up, I knew immediately that was in regard to the toilet bowl readings. The RWS 5book is truly one of my favorites, so I was overly eager to see this eccentric cast come to life. The movie stays super true to the book throughout the entire movie, down to a lot of the dialogue between characters. It even shows Augusten dressing the dog up with tin foil – though young Augusten wasn’t the greatest child actor in the world.

RWS 6There was a scene in the book where the mom describes her openness in life by describing a friendship she had with a black girl growing up. In telling this story, she uses the N word to portray the way the world was at the time. I was wondering if this scene would be portrayed in the movie, and since it’s rated R, it sure was included. However, most of the sex scenes were taken out. Augusten describes his first sexual experience with 30+ year old Neil Bookman, and the visuals of walking in on his mother with the minister’s wife. These were largely skipped over on screen.

RWS 7Neil Bookman’s character was kinda exaggerated, I don’t recall him being quite unhinged in the way they created him in the movie. Though he was just as unstable as the rest of them, they really made him wig out on screen – including a dramatic scene where he brings a knife to Finch’s throat, who is lying in bed. That’s all Hollywood I guess. Aside from that, most of the movie was very accurate to the story and highly entertaining as well. 

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The book can be found wherever books are sold, and I highly recommend both the book and the movie. I was unable to find somewhere to watch the movie for free online, though it can be rented from Amazon Prime Video or YouTube for about $5, which is also what it cost me to just go ahead and buy the DVD.

Thanks for reading!

Diva Rules By Michelle Visage

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I bought this book during Drag Con, where I actually got to meet Michelle! She even signed the book for me, which honestly made it a little more exciting to read. Diva Rules is partly about her life, but also largely a self help book for the misfits and freaks who consider themselves fabulous enough to be a diva. Definitely read this if you are ready to start feeling your oats.

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It’s inspiring to hear the story of a girl from New Jersey with big hair and big dreams, who actually managed to make it big. I especially enjoyed the praise through the words of RuPaul, her best Judy. I always think it’s endearing to hear someone speak fondly of someone they love and admire, and Ru clearly adores Michelle. From both of their perspectives, they had a clear connection from the moment they locked eyes, hunty. From there the chemistry just sparked, igniting a lifelong friendship and legacy. 

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One of my childhood friends was adopted, and it’s made a lasting impact on me. I have plans to get involved in either fostering or adopting in my future, and I’m also partial to those who have some experience on the subject. Michelle was adopted, as was her brother David, by two parents whom she praises immensely. She absolutely adores her parents and appreciates the life they gave her; Michelle’s only disappointment was that she was unable to inherit her mom’s big tits. 

I’m incredibly, overly jealous of the time that Michelle got to spend in New York during the up and comings of VOGUE (!!!), and the legendary children and houses featured in 03acd17c0c4d1e0ab48aaf731026608aParis Is Burning (available on Netflix). I mean, she knew Angie Extravaganza (!!!!!!!!) and was winning trophies for voguing before Madonna even know what it was. I mean, that is ICONIC. If she had written about having a kiki with Venus Extravaganza… omg, the fan girl in me might have actually gone crazy. It was during this time that Michelle got her namesake, Visage. She was entering in categories in the balls with her house, and one of the categories was “face”. Her first nickname was “Cara” – roll the “R” – the Spanish word for “face.” But when bedazzled onto her jackets and hats, people were mistaking it for the name Cara. So instead she went with the French word for “face” – visage. Bam! *Said like Alexis Mateo*

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Michelle is inspiring because she works hard, empowers others, believes in herself, and never gives up. She is loving, kind, full of wisdom and also not afraid to clock you for the wrong hemline. Her end goal is always to make those who shine, shine their brightest, including herself. Follow her Diva rules to do just that.

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I really enjoyed this book, and it’s a quick read for anyone who aspires to live up to their full diva potential (available wherever books are sold, or at her booth at DragCons). I also recommend watching Michelle as a judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race, of course. She is also a current contestant on the British version of Dancing With The Stars (Called Strictly Come Dancing) and was on the British Celebrity Big Brother as well. You may also recognize Michelle from her many many years on the radio, or for her role in the girl groups Seduction and S.O.U.L. S.Y.S.T.E.M. The bitch works hard, okurr!

Tens across the board! Thanks for reading.

Karamo: My Story of Embracing Purpose, Healing and Hope by Karamo Brown

IMG-6654Being a die-hard fan of both Dancing With The Stars and Queer Eye, I was so excited to hear that Karamo Brown would be a contestant on this upcoming season. You may know him as “Crazy Karamo” from MTV’s The Real World, “culture expert” in the Fab Five of Netflix’s Queer Eye, and now Jenna Johnson’s partner on DWTS. Because I’m somebody who takes a deep dive into everything that I love, I ordered Karamo’s book, and I actually read the entire thing in one sitting. 

karamoWithin the first 10 pages, I could feel Karamo’s charisma, positivity, and enlightenment radiating through the words. The way he writes is so light and refreshing, and his life has proven to be wildly interesting. He is concise, clear, and incredibly wise and reflective. It was empowering to read such amazing things from a member of the LGBTQ community and from someone whom I value and admire so much. 

Screen-Shot-2019-04-02-at-9.47.26-AMI’m inspired by Karamo’s ability to openly admit and own up to his mistakes. I’m wildly impressed by him, and I hope to be able to work on taking accountability for my own actions as a result. Karamo admittedly has a number of things to apologize for, but he does just that with eloquence and grace. I also loved Karamo’s thoughts on the term “letting people in” rather than “coming out” in the LGBTQ+ community. His ideas were something I related to IMMENSELY and appreciated completely:IMG-6655

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I basically cried while reading about his relationship with his fiancé, Ian. Not just because of how adorably in love they are, but also the dynamics and interactions between him and Karamo’s sons. Karamo proposed on Ian’s birthday, just after his son’s Jason and Chris announced that their gift was that they want to call him “Pops”. Family was a clear, present, and fascinating topic for Karamo throughout the book, and Ian completed this part of him. Their relationship is truly beautiful. 

queer-eye-public-domainThere was a lot of push back at first for Karamo on Queer Eye, because he wanted to be the “culture expert” that’s really more of a life coach. The previous culture expert from the original show focused more on arts, museums, plays, etc. in terms of “culture”, but Karamo had a clear goal and intention for what he wanted this role to be. It breaks my heart to hear the negative feedback he first got, as a result of the network not being unified on the vision for his expertise on the show. As a viewer and fan of the series, I feel as though I understood Karamo from the beginning. Even in the very first episode, from which he claims his interactions were largely cut, I could see that Karamo’s impact was present and important. I see you, Karamo! Work, girl!

dwts-karamo-brownI absolutely loved Karamo’s book. It was quick, full of wisdom, and provided me with a new insight into who he is. You can binge watch Queer Eye on Netflix over and over again anytime – and I highly recommend you do so. Of course I also HIGHLY highly recommend Karamo’s book, which can be found wherever books are sold. Also – please vote for him on Dancing With The Stars this season! (Mondays at 8:00 PM on ABC.)

Thanks for reading!

Out Of Orange by Cleary Wolters

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If you watched the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black, then you are familiar with Alex Vause. If you’ve read Piper Kerman’s book with the same title, then you are familiar with Nora Jansen. The real woman is named Cleary Wolters. After finishing the final season of the series, as well as the real Piper’s book, I decided to round out my obsession by reading Out Of Orange – the memoir of the “real woman behind the glasses.”

Hearing about when she first saw the Netflix commercial – damn. I felt my own heart sink along with her reaction of first hearing the now iconic clicking of the gate. Cleary had no idea that this production was happening. She was still on parole for her crime, unable to legally communicate with Piper, and didn’t know how this would affect her status.

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She then goes back to the beginning of her story and her crimes to show us the full sequence of events. The Netflix show completely leaves out Cleary’s sister, who is an integral part of the story. She is dating the boss, or “God”, as some called him – the one running the drug smuggling operations. That’s how Cleary/Nora/Alex got involved in the first place. The book focuses more on the crime and the details of the drug ring than anything else. The story is long and elaborate, and while I did find a lot of it interesting, I found that it could definitely have been more concise. Regardless, I’m glad that Cleary got a chance to tell her side of the story and set her own narrative.

In the 7th and final season of OITNB, one of the COs shoves a condom full of heroin down Alex’s throat to hide it. Funnily enough, that’s how many of Cleary’s co-workers transported drugs. She details her first trip, where her colleague puts the heroin into the pinky of a rubber glove, ties it and cuts it off, dips it into some yogurt, and swallows it whole. He does this over and over again until he’s consumed it all, each capsule containing enough heroin to kill him immediately if accidentally released inside him before he has a chance to go through digestion. Cleary, however, has the heroin she is moving sewn into a man’s suit. They later adapt to a method where it is sewn directly into the lining of the suitcases. (This was the 90’s, so prior to drug sniffing dogs.)

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Piper is a not as big of a character in most the book as one may think, starting out just as the role of “cat godmother and babysitter” for a while in a platonic way. It did, of course, evolve into something more, but she is still a secondary, maybe even tertiary, character in the drug operations. I think it proves how someone small in your life can have such a big influence. Piper can blame Cleary for getting her mixed into the business that led to her year in prison, but it brought her wild success. And in return, Piper also put Cleary on the map; I would not have read her book or even known her name had it not been for Piper Kerman and Netflix.

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Overall, I’m not sure that Cleary Wolters is one of my favorite authors. The further I got into the book, the more I disliked the way Cleary writes. It’s scattered and sometimes repetitive in a strange way. For example, she’ll describe swallowing a vicodin down with a scoop of her miso soup, followed by the fact that she ordered sushi and miso soup. I almost wondered if she wrote a draft, and then an editor told her to go back and add more detail, and she just did that in random areas. Not to mention, I feel as though the cover and title did not accurately reflect the contents of the book. It’s not until page 234 that she finally sees prison time, and the book is somewhere around 300 or so pages. The story is almost the prologue to Pipers, and I just think that could have been portrayed more. Not to judge a book by its cover or anything. And like I said before, I very much enjoyed hearing her side of the story.

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Honestly, maybe if I was more of a cat person, I would have enjoyed this book a little bit more.

Thanks for reading.

Orange Is The New Black by Piper Kerman

orange ishte newYou probably know the Netflix show Orange is the New Black, and you may or may not know that the plot is based on a true story. I wanted the details, which is what led me to Piper Kerman’s memoir, detailing her year in a women’s prison. 

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The first season is the truest to the book, of course with its differences as well, but the nature of how, when, and why Piper went to prison are all true. The beginning of the book tells the story of her crime, when she was in her twenties, and is almost identical to the scene in the show. The blonde wig disguise, the skipping of customs, and the love affair was all true. Even certain lines were the same, such as Piper’s grandmother asking what she did with all the money – to which Piper replied, “Well Grandma, I wasn’t really in it for the money…”

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Much of her arrival to prison paralleled her real experience as well, such as getting the gift of a toothbrush from other white women and having her bed made for her so that they’d pass inspection. A lot of characters also parallel the show. The driver with a New York accent and bright red lipstick is certainly comparable to Lorna Morello, there’s a track star just like Janae, and Spanish mami’s that reminded me of Gloria and Maria. All names were changed for the show of course, and not all crimes in the show match up with those who committed them in real life.

alex cThe biggest difference between the book and the TV show, is that the real Alex Vause was not in the same prison as Piper. In the book, Piper calls the Alex character by the name of Nora Janson, but the real woman is named Cleary Wolters. The two of them did not end up together, and Piper is actually still happily married to Larry. Piper and Alex did cross paths when they ran into each other while being held in Chicago, where they were both called to testify against another man involved in their crime ring. There was a lot of tension during that time, and no romantic interactions. There was, however, a woman there who relentlessly tried to obtain Piper’s birth time and place for her chart.

piper and larryChicago also played a major factor of what was different in the book versus the TV show, as Piper’s release date actually came in real life while she was being held in Chicago for the trial. She was released from there, and had to fly home with Larry to New York. The final season of OTINB will show Piper’s release from prison, and I hope that they throw Piper Chapman the going-away party that Piper Kerman was robbed of.

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If you are an avid fan of the show, the book is a great read. There’s many quick tidbits or opinions that became major story lines in the show, which is really fascinating to see how they used the book as a resource. It’s like they have their regular story line, and they frequently go back to the book whenever they needed inspiration.

Here are some more similarities and differences that I found interesting or noteworthy:

  • Piper’s grandmother really did get sick and pass away while Piper was in prison. Piper did apply for furlough, but it was, of course, never granted.
  • There really was a girl nicknamed Pennsatucky, and she really did get new teeth! However, she had no extreme religious story line, and she and Piper were actually good friends throughout their stay.
  • Danbury becomes Litchfield. Yoga Janet becomes Yoga Jones. And Pop – who runs the kitchen, has a very long sentence, and often gets special treatment – becomes Red.
  • Martha Stewart was sentenced to prison during this time, who would be comparable to the Judy character in the show. However, she did not serve time in the same camp as Piper. Though Danbury was the location requested by Martha so that she could be close to her grandmother, the camp was conveniently and temporarily closed at that time to ensure that Martha would not be taking one of the beds there, which could lead them to media scrutiny.
  • Larry really did write a segment for a newspaper’s ‘modern love’ column. However, it had little to do with Piper’s time in prison. It was actually pretty short and very sweet, and about how much he loved Piper. Piper and Larry’s relationship is still a success to this day, and they reside together in Brooklyn.

piper kPiper was also very reflective as she got to the end of the book, and was able to understand the bigger picture of her crimes. When she was a young girl moving this suitcase of money, she was not thinking of how drugs affect the rest of the country. She reflected on women who were put in terrible situations, and were involved in drug crimes simply because they had no other options. Piper also acknowledged her privilege and how she was given opportunities after leaving prison that other women would not be so lucky to have. She talked about how the U.S. correctional system does not do much “correcting”, and does not set up prisoners to have successful lives when they are released. Piper has gotten involved in prison reform and women’s rights since her release, and I hope that her efforts can better the lives of future women who are incarcerated.

If you are interested in Piper’s cause, you can visit www.piperkerman.com/justice-reform or facebook.com/orangeisthenewblack.

The seventh and final season of Orange Is The New Black will be released on Netflix on Friday, June 26th, 2019.

Thanks for reading!

A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle

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I hadn’t read A Wrinkle In Time since I was a kid, so when Disney made the movie, I wanted to make sure I reread the book before seeing the film. I couldn’t recall most of the story from memory, and the only thing I could remember was the actual concept of a “wrinkle” in time. I can vividly remember my aunt explaining this idea to me when I was young, using a string to show the visual that was drawn out in the book.

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I am somewhat amazed by the vocabulary, especially in the beginning, given that the target age group is 10-14. The story starts off slow and is very vague and confusing, but maybe a younger audience is more okay with unanswered questions and unexplained details. This could also be a result the year we live in, where we lack patience and are used to instant answers. Since the book was published in the 60’s, where fiction often followed the natural literary story arc, it takes a long time to build up the plot.

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There’s a lot of room to create the visuals using your imagination as a result of this vagueness. I’m happy for this reason that I reread the book prior to seeing the film, so that I could compare my thoughts to the images in the movie. I could actually distinctly remember from when I was younger, reading when they went to the two dimensional planet. It was almost something I could conceptualize, but a lot of the talk of a “fifth dimension” was hard to visualize in my head.

The traveling to different planets was some of my favorite parts of the book. Camazotz is one of these planets, where everyone behaves perfectly and accordingly – or else. These different worlds, places and dimensions opened up my mind and imagination when I was younger, and was fun to revisit as an adult. Certain parts of the book got a bit wrinkle1goofy, which reminded me that this was written for the 10-14 age group. Even the names of Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Whatsit are goofy in and of themselves. Also, if they are in fact misses, where are the misters?

Prior to seeing the movie, I knew the cast included Reese Witherspoon and Oprah, so as I was reading I just assumed they were a part of the ‘Who, Which, Whasit’ crew. a-wrinkle-in-time-gets-four-brand-new-postersI was correct about my casting predictions – Reese played Mrs. Whatsit, to my pleasant surprise Mindy Kaling played Mrs. Who, and Oprah of course played the wise and knowledgeable Mrs. Which. The movie actually starts out with a scene that includes the dad (oh why hellooooo Chris Pine!), but in the book the dad has already gone and been missing when we start the story. Another small difference was that Charles Wallace was adopted in the movie, but that was not a plot line in the book. However, that could have been just a way to explain the casting choices. 

There are some more minor differences from the book to the movie, but nothing too major. They sort of combine “the black thing” into just Camaztoz and IT, throwing all the evil into one world and one thing rather than several dark planets and forces that are listed and visited in the book. The Happy Medium is also female in the original story,  but in the movie not only is this character male, but it also turns out he might be ‘Mr. Whatsit’, or at least an interest of the Mrs. (She doesn’t like labels.) urielI was honestly happy to see a version of the story where Meg was not so hard on her father, rather than in the book where she is continuously disappointed by his choices once he’s found. It was a minor change, but one that I appreciated. The adventure in the book ends abruptly, but we get a little more of a wrap up and conclusion in the films. The visuals were amazing and beautiful, of course, creating a sense of wonder in true Disney fashion.

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I will say that given the time period, it’s awesome to see a notable piece of literature that has a female protagonist, and has stood the test of time. Meg is not just there to look pretty and obey – she is unique and defiant and sure of herself in a way that is relatable. I think she is a wonderful character and role model for young kids, and hopefully the movie as a whole allows kids from different backgrounds to see themselves in one of the children in the movie.

MV5BMjMxNjQ5MTI3MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjQ2MTAyNDM@._V1_Disney’s A Wrinkle In Time is currently available on Netflix, and can also be watched in a variety of other places as well. The book by Madeleine L’Engle is available wherever books are sold, as well as many others by the author, as this adventure goes on. This is a great story for both kids and adults, and is sure to reawaken anyone’s sense of wonder and imagination.

Thanks for reading!

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

judy blume2I read last November in Entertainment Weekly that Judy Blume has finally sold the film rights to her famous book, Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret. Since I’m in full swing of my reading kick, I got ahead of the game prior to hearing anything about the film being in motion. To be honest, I can’t remember if I read this book when I was younger or not. I definitely read other Judy Blume books growing up, as she’s wildly popular for the age group. Disregarding the title, my knowledge of Judy Blume had me believing that this would be a story of a young girl starting to grow into a teenager. While that is definitely still a theme of the novel, religion is also the major discussion.

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Margaret doesn’t have a religion, as it has created outstanding problems for her family. Her father was Jewish and her mother was Christian, and both of their families had strong opinions on the matter. As a result, Margaret is told that she could decide for herself when she got older. And yet, she finds herself talking to God in the way that a young girl might write in her diary. As a part of an independent school project, she starts to explore different faiths by attending different places of worship with friends. We watch Margaret try to navigate this difficult subject on her own, while also being pulled in a variety of directions from her family.

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Naturally, Margaret and her friends also navigate growing up items for girls such as their first periods, stuffing their bras, and kissing boys at their class supper parties. Most of what Margaret is trying to learn here leads her back to her discussions with God. She prays for her breasts to grow; she prays to not be the last of her friends to menstruate. She communicates with God regularly, but says she cannot find him in religion. She only feels him when she is alone.

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The relationships between Margaret and her family prove to be the most interesting. She is close with her Grandma, who treats her a lot like an adult. There’s also a lot of tension created as a result of religion. This is heightened when Margaret’s other grandparents come to visit, ruining her spring break with her Grandma. These grandparents have not spoken with Margaret or her parents for over 14 years, as a result of a disagreement on religion. Naturally, during their visit, a fight breaks out on the subject.

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It’s honestly satisfying to see a child be right and adults be wrong about something so serious and profound as religion. In Margaret’s self discovery for faith, she is exploring options and seeing where she feels God. She is reaching out in times of need, questioning things happening around her, and wishing to be the best version of herself. To me, that’s exactly what faith should be about. And yet, the adults focus on arbitrary traditions and rules in a way that affects everyone’s relationship to each other. The grandparents push Christianity, the Grandma pushes Judaism, and Margaret’s parents end up pushing NO religion as a result – proving that no one actually wants to let Margaret figure it out on her own.

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I found this topic wildly fascinating, specifically through the innocent eyes of a young girl. You can find Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret anywhere fine books are sold. The cover has been updated many times over the years, and the most recent includes the modern looking text format. Just as an aside, you can also find Are You There Vodka? It’s me, Chelsea, wherever books are sold as well, if you are a Chelsea Handler fan.

Thanks for reading!

Desert Southwest (WildSam Field Guide)

img_3834This little book by WildSam was given to me as a Christmas present, after I expressed interest in relocating to Arizona. Pocket sized and adorable, just like the person who gave it to me, this Desert Southwest Field Guide was just the inspo I needed. That interest turned into a dream, and now a reality, so I’ve finally been able to read through the entire book and dive into the part of the country that I am ready to explore.

The book is a nice recap of information for individual places such as Santa Fe, Palm Springs, Las Vegas, and of course – my future city – Tucson. There are details of each city and state history as well as state facts and famous residents. I was excited by the list of annual festivals and events, as well as travel recommendations and so much more.

img_3832I took some time to dive into the page on Tucson that was published under the “Cities and Towns” section. Since this is going to be my new city, I was filled with excitement reading about the blend of culture and the beautiful foothills to explore. I already can’t wait to see monsoon season, and I am definitely going to try the Mexican/Seafood restaurant recommendation, Penca.

There was also a ton of other cool and interesting information, such as some history of media and films in the desert areas, and a list of outlaws and infamous figures. I enjoyed reading about different landmarks, wildlife and more things that I can explore. The book also included 14 interviews with various local personnel, artists, and writers. Towards the end, there are three short essays that are placed in Santa Fe. One is about the transience of the city, another the journey of exploring on a dangerous hike, and the last mourns the life of a good friend.

For anyone who wants to go exploring, included are several detailed guided road trips img_3833which break down the best routes to travel to the cities that were listed in the book. This gave me some inspiration for where to take some future trips, even if I don’t follow the recommendations exactly. The whole guide is truly an adorable and thoughtful present, very helpful, and got me even more excited to move than I already was. 

“People don’t take trips – trips take people.” – John Steinbeck

Thanks for reading.

https://wildsam.com/desert-southwest

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

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The Glass Castle movie was released in 2017 and quickly became one of my absolute favorites. I saw the movie originally because of the big name cast, but instantly became immensely intrigued by the ridiculousness of the family and the way they lived. Naturally, when I couldn’t get enough of the movie, I found myself reading the book by the real Jeannette Walls.

FILM-WALLS-QANDAThe book starts out with similar stories that we see in the movie, such as the fire accident while Jeanette was cooking hot dogs, and hospital escapades that followed. Then we hear more about how they move from city to city, including living in Las Vegas and a variety of other cities, which was condensed into a montage in the movie. I quickly noticed the pattern in the book that temporary solutions often became long-term, and the children are usually the ones who suffer the most. 

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The general feel of both the movie and the book are similar, and it’s easy to find times where you want to laugh along with the insane antics and funny anecdotes. However, by the end of the book, I absolutely hated both the mom and the dad. Just like the kids, I grew frustrated by the selfishness of the father’s alcoholism and the mother’s laziness and inability to care for anything other than herself. It’s easy to love Woody and Naomi in the film for their charm and familiarity, but the selfishness of the real individuals was shocking. No matter how hungry the kids were, their father would spend any money he could at the bars. No matter how much money the kids were able to save on their own, their dad would find a way to steal every single penny and drink it down. And even when the kids were able to leave their rundown place in Welch, the parents still followed them to New York City and attempted to mooch off of everything they had made for themselves there.

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Not only does the movie downplay some of the evilness if the parents, it also skips over the development of little Maureen. I feel as though both of these things were done to protect the author’s loved ones on the big screen. I certainly wish the movie had included more on young Maureen in NYC, including when she stabbed her mom before running off to California. However, it was nice to have the parallel of last scene, where they sit down together for Thanksgiving dinner and remember their father fondly, in both the movie and the book.

Jeannette WallsPart of the reason that I was so interested in reading the book comes from one of the real photos that was shown at the end of the movie, where there is a family picture that includes someone that may or may not be a drag queen, or is just wearing a whole lot of make-up. From reading the book, I was actually not able to determine who this person was. I’ve done extensive google searching, and still cannot determine the answer, so if anyone has some information on this subject please reach out to me! (I’ve also sent an inquiry in to Jeannette Wall’s email and Facebook page, so we’ll see if someone replies.) UPDATE: I got a reply from a representative of the company that works with Jeannette Walls! He was able to confirm for me that this was individual is Maureen, which furthers my point that I would have loved to learn more about her path in life after leaving the family back East. 

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You certainly go through a lot of emotions while hearing her retelling of stories, which is much how you feel while watching the film. There are, of course, many stories that make the book and not the movie. Overall, however, it stays true to the message – recounts of funny stories mixed in with some truly sad memories that will make your heart drop.

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If you haven’t yet seen The Glass Castle, it’s currently available on Amazon Prime and probably many other places as well. It stars Brie Larson, Woody Harrelson and Naomi Watts and is guaranteed to tug at your heartstrings. HIGH RECOMMEND – both the movie and the book.

Thanks for reading!

Flipping the Switch by John G. Miller

FTS 1I was given this book to read as an assignment with my team at work. We were paired up with a partner, and teach pair took a different chapter. Considering the entirety of the book was only a little over 100 pages, I just decided to read the whole thing. And to be honest, I didn’t enjoy it.

While I’m sure the author has had wild success with his books, as he has persistently made clear and evident in his writing, it seemed like half of this book was just marketing material for his other books. He clearly thinks very highly of himself and all of his published works (I mean seriously, I got it the first time..and the second.. and the third.. ), I believe I would have enjoyed this dish more if it was served with a big side of humility.

I don’t much enjoy self-improvement books that convince you over and over why their principles will absolutely change your life in all areas. I’d rather get inspired by words and feel the change rather than have it forcibly drilled into the writing again and again. I also don’t care much for arbitrary stories of successful rookies who succeeded as a result of these ideas. Again, I want to obtain that feeling naturally instead of having it force fed to me. The stories and examples he used were kind of arbirary and random, and didn’t always back up the point he was trying to make.

View More: http://sunprairiefilms.pass.us/john-millerAlmost all of the example stories star what are presumably male names: Bill, David, Bob, Michael.. the male executive on the plane..  There was a  few stories that involved women, but they were still performing stereotypical female roles (like a doctor who delivers children, or women working in pharmaceuticals ). Oh, and he mentions his wife, Karen (but not her profession – only to advertise for his book on parenting). 

FTS 4Those are my biggest critiques for the book. Anyway, the actual principles are simple: cut through the bullshit to get to the true question behind the question, and take personal accountability to get the right answers.

In any case, thanks for reading.

It Takes Balls by Josh Wolf

josh wolf 1You may recognize comedian Josh Wolf from his thirteen years of stand-up, his tours with Larry the Cable Guy and Chelsea Handler, and his TV appearances on My Name Is Earl  and Raising Hope. I discovered Josh through Ross Mathews – they both worked on Chelsea Lately and continued their chemistry on their radio show, He Said, He Said with Josh and Ross. I am now a huge fan of his, an avid listener of his podcasts, and a follower of his comedy. From my first experience with Josh, I found him absolutely hilarious and down josh wolf 2to earth. He certainly knows how to take a joke super far and make you shake your head in disgust, but he also definitely isn’t offensive. He’s a stand up guy, a solid ally, and a great comedian. Josh is from Boston, and often does shows at the Laugh Factory when he is in town. I was able to go to his show last October, where I even got to meet him afterwards and take some pictures. He does an awesome live set, so if you ever get the chance to see him don’t miss out on the fun.

jw 1It Takes Balls; Dating Single Moms and Other Confessions From an Unprepared Single Dad is Josh Wolf’s collection of his own experiences and funny stories. He finds himself, as he is breaking into his comedy career, with 3 kids and questionable help. They made it work, of course, but not without some tales to tell along the way. Josh is hilarious, and I could hear his voice as he recounted the memories. Part of his comedy comes from the fact that he’s just flat out honest, and is able to admit things that other people might be ashamed of. For example, using his kids to get dates, and going so far as to have them call him “uncle”. I was highly amused.

Part of the reason that I like Josh not just as a comedian, but also just as a human, is because I think he’s a really amazing parent. I totally respect his parenting style; he is realistic, yet encouraging and also extremely proud of his kids. This definitely comes through in his book, as he tells stories of coaching his son’s little league team and connecting with his daughter over her first kiss. He may have been unprepared, but it seems like he made out pretty good overall.

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The best part of the book was the stories about taking his buddies to Las Vegas. It starts out with antics to even get the guys on the plane, including involving one of their wives to help out. Cut to everyone taking too much advantage of their solo hotel rooms instead of hitting a night out on the town – which didn’t sit well with Josh of course. He makes up for lost time though, instigating bets and dares and getting the gang into some hilarious trouble. That’s probably the best part about Josh – he’s the kind of person that goes looking for trouble, finds it, and jumps head first into it.

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I highly recommend It Takes Balls; Dating Single Moms and Other Confessions From an Unprepared Single Dad by Josh Wolf, as well as the rest of his content and comedy. You can follow Josh Wolf on social media at @joshwolfcomedy (his Insta stories of “parenting tips” are hilarious) or visit his website comedianjoshwolf.com for more information and show dates (and a link to his YouTube channel, which includes bits from his standup). You can listen to his podcast Fairly Normal wherever you listen to podcasts, which includes audio of his Facebook TV show Controlled Chaos (which you can also, obviously, watch on Facebook TV). You can also listen to his podcast with Freddie Prinze Jr, called The Prinze and The Wolf or you can go back and binge his old radio show with Ross Mathews, Josh and Ross.

Thanks for reading!

The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman

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READ THIS BOOK. Take the quiz. And read this book.

This book addresses the fact that different things hold different levels of importance to different people. An act that you consider small may be monumental to your partner. There are so many different ways to communicate, and its important to understand which languages means the most to both you and the person that you love.

5 Love Languages:

Words of Affirmation

Quality Time

Acts of Service

Physical Touch

Giving Gifts

I took the quiz and made Ryan (my boyfriend) take it as well prior to reading the book. Just looking at the five love languages, I could spot mine right away: Words of Affirmation. I mean, I was a Communications major… words are important to me. Still, I took the quiz and was validated in my suspicions. Ryan’s answers were surprising in some ways.

My Responses:                          Ryan’s Responses:

9 Words of Affirmation           8 Quality Time

7 Physical Touch                       8 Words of Affirmation

7 Quality Time                           7 Acts of Service

6 Acts of Service                        4 Physical Touch

1 Receiving Gifts                       3 Receiving Gifts

The book speaks about spouses, but I don’t think this applies only to married people, or even just people in relationships. I think that the way you communicate in love says a lot about who you are and can help you to learn more about yourself and your relationships.

I’ve learned that I am extremely sensitive to words. When Ryan and I are able to communicate well and tell each other all these nice things, I feel good. And on the flip side, if words exchanged are negative, I hold onto them for a long time. Luckily, my need for Words of Affirmation is frequently met through meaningful text messages, small notes, and daily “I love you”s. I still think it’s important for Ryan to recognize that Words of Affirmation is my primary love language for whenever we get into fights or arguments. Knowing that words are important to me means that he can say things like “I’m sorry” and “Everything is fine” a few times and my demeanor will drastically change. I am definitely influenced largely by what is said to me.

Even though Ryan’s top two are tied, I think that Quality Time suits him best. It means a lot to him when we share experiences together or spend time doing things at home. Since Receiving Gifts clearly doesn’t hold a lot of significance to either of us, a lot of my birthday and Christmas presents involved tickets to something. We also enjoy doing small, cheap dates on Friday nights such as dinner and/or the movies. I know that planning and spending time together is something that means a lot to him (and myself as well). On the flip side, he gets upset when we are together but I am not present. There are nights where I will fall asleep early, and the next day he will tell me that I was a zombie. I try not to spend too much time on my phone when we are out or on a date, except for taking a couple pictures for Snapchat.

I would love to dive more into what makes Ryan happy after he reads the book. He doesn’t enjoy reading as much as I do, but has agreed to read sections of the book that I block off for him.

What’s important to remember is that what will make a difference in a relationship is effort. Ross Mathews has a theory about relationships, saying, “You need to meet me 100% at the 50 yard line.” Both parties need to be willing to say, Hey, I care about you and our relationship and doing what I can to make it a good one. I’m lucky to have this, but the author of the book is a marriage counselor and often talks about his theories saving marriages. I definitely think it’s possible to apply his theories to positively influence your relationship (or marriage, or love life or whatever), but only if both parties are willing to put in the effort.

Once the effort is there, a little goes a long way. 

More to come after I block of sections for Ryan and get his feedback. Thanks for reading.