REVIEW: Neil Patrick Harris Choose your own Autobiography

While attending BEA this year, I went to the breakfast featuring Neil Patrick Harris talking about his forthcoming autobiography, which is in a “choose your own adventure” format. I just love NPH and I couldn’t wait until this book came out. Lucky for me, it surfaced on Blogging for Books and I was able to snag a review copy.

If you know/remember the “Choose your own Adventure” books from the 90’s, you will remember that they are written in the second person. After a short vignette, you can then decide which way to go. NPH has set his book up in this format. You experience his family life, his early experiences in theater, his love of magic, his journey to discover his sexuality, his Broadway experiences, and more. Along the way, you choose what pages to go to next “If you’d like to hear more about your Broadway adventures, turn to page 96. If you want to learn a magic trick, turn to page 105.” etc.

I absolutely loved this book. I laughed so hard in places, that I was nearly crying. NPH has this rather cynical humor that is at times really ridiculous. I think my favorite part was when he has the altercation with Scott Caan outside of an LA nightclub. I also loved the parts when he talked about his twins. And it comes with pictures!

That said, there is definitely a strong sexual component in this book, so it’s not one I’ll be passing on to my fifth grader. Also, I had a print copy of this book, which I really recommend as I’m not sure how you would navigate it in e-book format, or through audio channels.

If you love NPH then you shouldn’t miss getting to know him even better through his new book. Thank you, Blogging for Books, for my copy!

Enjoy the book trailer:

Quick Review: AS YOU WISH by Cary Elwes and Joe Layden

I was more than thrilled when Maria at Simon and Schuster asked me if I’d like to review Cary Elwes’ new book, the full title of which is As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride. I just love that movie, and I figured it would be a fun read.

This book starts with Elwes getting cast to play Westley and goes through the entire filming and creation process. Interspersed throughout are pictures, along with quotes and snippets from other cast members, often sharing their view of the same incidents that Elwes writes about. His book is not a self-serving bit of megalomania (a worry I had since it is written by a Hollywood star!) but more of a tribute and a very touching personal recollection of what could be described as the best job of his life. Throughout it you come to intimately know the real people behind the characters, along with Rob Reiner, the director (apparently one of the greatest and most lovable guys in Hollywood). This book was a lovely and fun read, paying homage to a film classic that many of us count in our top ten favorite flicks of all time.

If you love this film, don’t miss reading AS YOU WISH.

Quick Review: ELIZABETH OF YORK by Alison Weir

Alison Weir is an amazing historian, having written non-fiction books on a variety of British history subjects, including Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. I’ve read most of her work and while it is dense, it is fascinating.

I received ELIZABETH OF YORK from Net Galley. To be honest, I had no idea who she was (except that with that name, she was British). The subtitle of this book is “A Tudor Queen and Her World”. Elizabeth was Henry VIII’s mother. Her brothers were the little princes in the Tower (who disappeared). Elizabeth lived in a somewhat chaotic and violent time in British history in the late 1400’s. After a variety of ups and downs, she became a beloved and reigning queen, and the grandmother of Elizabeth I.

While I love reading these type of books, it is dense reading! It was also quite long. I read a Kindle version, but Amazon says over 600 pages. It is filled with facts that I would have been better served to write down into a genealogy. (I also struggle with the fact that a LOT of British queens/ladies shared the same three names: Elizabeth, Anne, or Jane, with an occasional Margaret thrown in).

If you don’t know much about Elizabeth of York and enjoy historical biography of the Tudors, then this is one for you!

Thanks, Net Galley and Ballantine Books, for my copy!

Review: THE AVIATOR’S WIFE by Melanie Benjamin

Every now and then I go through a phase where I read all I can on a certain subject. Back in the 1990’s I went through a “female aviator” phase. I read about Amelia Earhart. Then it was Beryl Markham. Then Anne Morrow Lindbergh. I became fascinated with Anne Lindbergh. I read all her diaries. I read biographies. I read her book “A Gift from the Sea”. I read her book of her journey to the “Orient” with Charles. I read her daughter’s Reeve’s memoir of life in the Lindbergh household. I found Anne Morrow Lindbergh incredibly inspiring. She was so smart yet so vulnerable. She was so brave yet lacked confidence. She was so totally human. I felt like we would have been friends. I wanted to write to her and tell her how much she inspired me to be a better person in my own life, but I figured Anne had spent a huge part of her life trying to escape all those adoring fans, she didn’t need another one bothering her in her twilight years. And then I read one day that she had passed away.

Imagine my delight when I saw that Melanie Benjamin had written a fictionalized account based on Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s adult life. I felt incredibly lucky to get a copy through Net Galley – and I LOVED reading this book (NOTE: THE FOLLOWING MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS). Here was the Anne I had read about – shy and sensitive, brilliant and loving – along with her larger than life famous aviator husband Charles. I revisited their first meeting, their courtship, their marriage, their flights, and the birth of their children. I cried once again over the lost Lindbergh baby Charlie. I delighted in Anne’s ever-increasing brood of children. I became indignant at Charles for his unbending practicality, his emotional aloofness, his exacting need to always be correct. And I learned a few new things — Anne had taken a lover in later life. Charles had seven children out of wedlock. The family moved even more times than I realized. Both Anne and Charles were criticized for their ties to the Nazi party.

Melanie Benjamin has done a fabulous job in making Anne Morrow Lindbergh come to life. It is clear she has done her homework. I picture modern-day book groups criticizing Anne for her willingness to be number two to her husband, her choice to stand by him. I would say don’t judge Anne by today’s culture and standards. In the 1920’s and 30’s our society was very different. Anne was also raised as an ambassador’s daughter. A lot of choices were not her own. I did enjoy reading how Anne comes more into her own post WWII.

This book is destined to be one of my Best Reads for 2013! Thank you Ms. Benjamin for writing this story.

thanks Net Galley for my copy!

Review: “Fever” by Mary Beth Keane

Through Net Galley I received an ARC of “Fever”, the biography of “Typhoid Mary” by Mary Beth Keane. I had heard of Typhoid Mary, but didn’t know her true story. This novel, appropriate for YA or adults, gave an interesting and sensitive account of Mary Mallon’s life and experience as a healthy carrier of typhoid in New York in the early 1900’s.

Mary Mallon came to America from Ireland and worked her way from being a laundress to being a cook. She loved cooking and had a talent for it. At times she cooked for wealthy and prestigious families in New York and New England, but death followed Mary and she was accused of being a healthy carrier of typhoid fever. “Fever” follows Mary’s journey from New York to her confinement on North Brother Island in New York. Mary fights for her life back and her job and reputation. A large part of the story is Mary’s relationship with her significant other, Alfred, with whom she had lived for over twenty years before she was taken away.

I really enjoyed reading this historical biography. Turn of the century New York comes alive as Keane creates a compelling and sympathetic protagonist  in Mary Mallon.

Quick Review: Pauline Kael – A Life in the Dark by Brian Kellow

I was thrilled to get this book as a freebie from Net Galley, as I’ve always admired, though not always understood, Pauline Kael. Kellow brings us through Pauline’s life, from her early humble years to her tumultuous years at The New Yorker magazine. I found this book so interesting and easy to read, as I came to better understand Pauline – one of the harshest critics of film that I have ever come across. Years ago, in the 1980’s, when I started reading The New Yorker, I would often ponder: “Why is it that Pauline Kael never likes the movies I like? What does she like??” and I was often taken aback by her blunt attacks, particularly on films that were popular. Reading this book helped me to better understand and respect her. One thing is for certain: Pauline Kael’s impact on the field of film criticism was far-reaching and continues today.

Thanks, Net Galley and Viking Adult Publishers for my copy!