Tuesday 15 March 2016

Mini-Reviews: Year of Yes, Modern Romance and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes
336|S&S|10th November 2015|Audiobook
Read by: Shonda Rhimes

In this poignant, hilarious and deeply intimate call to arms, Hollywood's most powerful woman, the mega-talented creator of Grey's Anatomy and Scandal and executive producer of How to Get Away with Murder, reveals how saying YES changed her life - and how it can change yours too.

With three hit shows on television and three children at home, Shonda Rhimes had lots of good reasons to say no when invitations arrived. Hollywood party? No. Speaking engagement? No. Media appearances? No.

And to an introvert like Shonda, who describes herself as 'hugging the walls' at social events and experiencing panic attacks before press interviews, there was a particular benefit to saying no: nothing new to fear.

Then came Thanksgiving 2013, when Shonda's sister Delorse muttered six little words at her: You never say yes to anything.

Profound, impassioned and laugh-out-loud funny, in Year of Yes Shonda Rhimes reveals how saying YES changed - and saved - her life. And inspires readers everywhere to change their own lives with one little word: Yes.

Shonda Rhimes is a complete powerhouse and I loved her before starting Year of Yes, but by the time I had finished? I now worship at the shrine of Shonda.

This book is completely hilarious. Shonda is glorious self-deprecating, sharp, witty and she delivers everything perfectly. Listening to her tell me her story felt like watching one of her shows. There was a heft of emotion, laughter, silliness, the celebration of friendship and a whole heap of fist-pumping feminism. This woman is a born storyteller.

During Shonda’s Year of Yes, she enabled herself to talk about all of the things that mattered to her: her shows, her children, motherhood, relationships, her social anxiety, fear of live TV and her discomfort with her body. There wasn’t a stone unturned, but it never felt over the top in anyway. Shonda learnt so much during her year of yes that I just couldn’t help re-evaluate my approach to life and the world and my life; it's entirely possible I need to find my equivalent of Year of Yes (because I don’t get invited to galas and talk shows to say no to…).

It’s real and raw and completely wonderful. I can’t recommend it enough.

Modern Romance, Aziz Ansari
288|Penguin|18th June 2015|Audiobook
Read by: Aziz Ansari

In the old days, most people would find a decent person who lived in their village or neighbourhood, and after deciding they weren't a murderer, get married and have kids - all by the age of 22.

Now we spend years of our lives searching for our perfect soul mate and, thanks to dating apps, mobile phones and social media, we have more romantic options than ever before in human history. Yet we also have to confront strange new dilemmas, such as what to think when someone is too busy to reply to a text but has time to post a photo of their breakfast on Instagram. And if we have so many more options, why aren't people any less frustrated?

For years, American comedian Aziz Ansari has been aiming his comic insight at dating and relationships, and in Modern Romance, he teams up with award-winning sociologist Eric Klinenberg to investigate love in the age of technology. They enlisted some of the world's leading social scientists, conducted hundreds of interviews, analyzed the behavioural data, and researched dating cultures from Tokyo to Buenos Aires to New York City. The result is an unforgettable picture of modern love, combining Ansari's irreverent humour with cutting-edge social science.

Everything about Modern Romance intrigued me from the moment I heard about it, and the second I saw that the audiobook was read by Aziz himself, I had to have it. 

Aziz and Eric used focus groups in several different cities across the world to ask a whole host of different people about their opinions and experiences about dating in the modern day and used them to paint a portrait of then and now. Everything Aziz uncovered was fascinating: the differences found between ages, sex (but not sexuality, unfortunately), location, and some of them were genuinely scary. The way that men treat women in South America is actually horrifying, but even though the women don’t like it, it’s normal and expected. 

I did find it a little stats and fact heavy at points – I think Modern Romance was most successful when sharing stories and anecdotes from the people Aziz interviewed, and from his own life, rather than just reeling off figures, however significant or impressive they are. Stats and figures will always shout textbook to me! But Aziz Ansari’s narration was completely perfect. His comedic timing is spot on, his side notes to the listener, everything. It was his narration that made me want to carry on even when the content got a little dry with numbers. 

Modern Romance is super interesting, and definitely worth a look for those interested in cultural and social approaches to women and relationships.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
208|Audible Studios|23rd February 2016|Audiobook
Read by: Scarlet Johansson

Golden Globe nominee Scarlett Johansson (Lost in Translation, Girl with a Pearl Earring) brings a palpable sense of joy and exuberance to her performance of Lewis Carroll's enduring classic Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. From the White Rabbit and Mad Hatter to the Cheshire Cat and Queen of Hearts, she imbues each madcap character with a distinct voice and personality that will leave a lasting impression long after the adventure is over.

One hundred and fifty years after its original publication,
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland remains one of the most widely read, deconstructed, referenced, and reinterpreted works of Western fiction. It tells the story of the young and imaginative Alice, who grows weary of her storybook, one "without pictures or conversations", and follows a hasty hare underground - to come face to face with a host of strange and fantastic characters.

Before I even start on Lewis Carroll’s classic story, I have to gush about Scarlet Johansson. Her narration is complete perfect. She doesn’t just read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, she performs it. There are distinct, wonderful voices for so many characters that never feel cringey or anything but completely authentic; everything that comes out of her mouth that carries the magic of Wonderland.

Now, story. You can’t make it to 23 without knowing the story of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by heart: I’ve seen the Disney animation and the Johnny Depp remake so many times it’s a little bit ridiculous, references to the story are part of our daily language and it’s being reworked and reimagined in every possible way all of the time. But I'd never read the original text before. It’s so odd to hear something so familiar and it feel so nostalgic when you’ve actually never read it before, but it was really nice.

I loved listening to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and I’m crossing my fingers that Johansson will narrate Alice Through the Looking Glass.


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