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: ON MOUTAINEERING by Radford C. West

My friends at Smith Publicity sent me this small volume to read and review. ON MOUNTAINEERING is part memoir, part travel guide, part tips and suggestions all related to mountain climbing. Radford West started mountain climbing after returning from duty in Vietnam in the early 1970’s. He covers seven different climbs, complete with pictures and his personal journal entries from the times he climbed them. Since they read almost like individual vignettes, you can easily pick up this book for a short time and revisit it later without losing the flow. The entire volume is only a bit over 100 pages.

Inspiring, interesting, and informative, ON MOUNTAINEERING is a fine read for those interested in mountain climbing – both in real life and through armchair travel!

Thank you, Kendell at Smith Publicity, for my copy.

YA Review: MAUS by Art Spiegelman

I recently was subbing in a nearby middle school and the students were reading MAUS by Art Spiegelman. I had never seen this book (though it won a Pulitzer and is widely known). After my day teaching, I found the book, THE COMPLETE MAUS, in the library so that I could continue the story. Maus is an early graphic novel (originally published in 1991). It is told entirely in comic strip form. The first part is “A Survivor’s Tale: My Father Bleeds History” and leads up to Spiegelman’s parents being sent to Auschwitz, while the second part, “And Here My Troubles Began”, focuses on his father’s experience in the concentration camp and after the war for his parents.

MAUS depicts the story of Spiegelman’s father’s survival of the Holocaust in Europe, as he relays it to his son. A Polish Jew, Vladek Spiegelman marries his wife Anja and they are wealthy and successful business owners. WWII is creeping across Europe, however, and antisemitism is on the rise. Vladek relays when they first see a Nazi flag, when their first friends lose their businesses, when people begin to disappear. Slowly you see their world deteriorating, yet through it all, Vladek’s resiliency and resourcefulness shine through. He protects his wife first and foremost, and tries to save her parents as well. They have their young son go to live with friends so that he will be safe (he ends up dying though). Their main goal becomes to survive and make it through to the other side of WWII. The stories become more and more disturbing as the war progresses, and are made all the more disturbing as you know this is a true story.

I know I’m a little late to the party here as this book has been around for a while, but I am so thankful that I came across it and read it. Spiegelman’s depictions of the Nazi’s as cats and the Jews as mice is very clever (the Americans are dogs), and this book can be a great teaching tool in the classroom, particularly with older students. The graphic novel form makes it both easy to read and yet disturbing. Peppered throughout is Spiegelman’s own relationship with his father, especially in the second volume. You can see him trying to come to grips with their relationship, his father’s seemingly eccentric ways, and his father’s failing health, along with his mother’s death several years earlier. This was a touching and brilliant depiction of a Holocaust survivor which stayed with me long afterwards.

Highly recommended for this genre/time period! I got mine at the library.

Quick YA Review: SURVIVING THE ANGEL OF DEATH by Eva Mozes Kor and Lisa Rojany Buccieri

This YA read is subtitled The True Story of a Mengele Twin in Auschwitz. Jewish twins, Eva Mozes and her sister Miriam, along with their parents and sisters, are sent to Auschwitz in 1944 from their home in Romania. While their family is sent to the gas chambers, Eva and Miriam are selected to be part of Mengele’s study group of twins. While their treatment is considered better than the regular prisoners (but don’t kid yourself- this is a concentration camp and no one is treated well!), Eva’s determination to protect Miriam and survive the war gives her an incredible resiliency and strength to carry on.

This was a very short read for me – less than 200 pages – and it follows Eva and Miriam’s story from being taken to the camps, to their experience there, to their survival after the war. Aimed for a middle to high school audience, the book is less graphic than other Holocaust stories, but it is understandably still highly disturbing. The inclusion of pictures from before and after the war are a nice touch. Written as a memoir, we get Eva’s voice throughout. Particularly touching in this book is how Eva found forgiveness in her heart years after her war experience was over.

Thank you, Net Galley and Tanglewood Press, for my review copy.

See this book on Amazon where I am an Associate: