Book Review: Then We Came to the End

Then We Came to the End

Joshua Ferris

Little, Brown and Company

400 pages

We all know how monotonous work can be, especially the type of work that takes place in an office, at a desk, however, there is rarely a book that chooses to focus on that.  Then We Came to the End is set in an advertising company that is quickly going down the tubes after the market took a downturn.  Layoffs are abundant and everyone is tense as they wait to see whether they will be the next one to “walk Spanish”.

You also have the exorbitant amount of gossip that is common in the workplace.  Many of the coworkers are concerned that one of the partners is suffering from breast cancer, although no one can pinpoint exactly where the rumor originally started.  Not to mention that many people are fearful that a certain ex employee will come back to shoot up the building.

As someone who has held an office job, I could very much relate to the trials and tribulations espoused by the employees of Then We Came to the End.  Many portions had me chuckling aloud, while others had me nodding in agreement.

There was so much unpleasantness in the workaday world. The last thing you ever wanted to do at night was go home and do the dishes. And just the idea that part of the weekend had to be dedicated to getting the oil changed and doing the laundry was enough to make those of us still full from lunch want to lie down in the hallway and force anyone dumb enough to remain committed to walk around us. It might not be so bad. They could drop food down to us, or if that was not possible, crumbs from their PowerBars and bags of microwave popcorn surely would end up within an arm’s length sooner or later. The cleaning crews, needing to vacuum, would inevitably turn us on our sides, preventing bedsores, and we would make little toys out of runs in the carpet, which, in moments of extreme regression, we might suck on for comfort.

Although I left my office job months ago, I felt like I was right back at my desk, sipping my coffee and wondering how the hell I would make it through another day.  And I actually liked my job.

As much as I liked the book, I did feel at times that it was a little too long.  Ferris could have edited it in order to make it a tighter narrative, although that is really my only complaint.  Then We Came to the End is just an amazing piece of satire, and I am thinking I should read The Unnamed now, although I am not sure how similar the two books are.

Other Reviews:

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I purchased this book from Half Price Books.

Book Review: Lies Chelsea Handler Told Me

Lies That Chelsea Handler Told Me

by Chelsea’s family, friends and other victims and Chelsea Handler

Grand Central Publishing

304 pages

I should probably preface this review by explaining that I love Chelsea Handler.  I have read her other three books and even had the opportunity to meet her at a book signing for Are You There Vodka, It’s Me Chelsea.  Somehow it had escaped my notice that she had a fourth book coming out.  I was on my way to work a few weeks ago when I happened to catch Ryan Seacrest interviewing Chelsea as I was flipping through radio stations.  I learned this book was being published that very day, so as soon as my shift was over, I ran to Borders and snagged a copy.

The format of this book is different from that of Handler’s previous books; instead of being written by Chelsea, each chapter is written by a different family member or friend.  As implied  by the title of the book, it is a collection of Chelsea’s antics as recounted by those who know her.

My favorite story had to be the one written by Heather McDonald.

Heather McDonald

Heather is also a comedian and is a regular contributor on Chelsea Lately. Her story is actually mentioned in Chelsea’s previous book Chelsea Chelsea, Bang Bang but in Lies Chelsea Handler Told Me it is told from Heather’s perspective.  The lie, or prank if you will, begins when Chelsea goes to Heather and informs her that Lifetime has asked her to star in a movie about the Challenger explosion.  She is to play the part of the daughter of one of the dead astronauts, and she informs Heather that the script has not yet been written and Lifetime is actually asking for writers from Chelsea’s show to submit their own test scripts.  The person who gets the job will get a hefty salary, so Heather’s interest is piqued.  Chelsea then goes on to tell her that the movie is called The Sky is Crying and is actually meant to be a comedy.  Yes, you read that right–a comedy about the Challenger explosion.  Justin Timberlake is in talks to play Chelsea’s husband in the movie and one of the main plot points is that Chelsea’s mother continues to talk to her and give her advice from heaven.

Heather decides to go for it, so she has to put everything aside and put together a script to submit to Lifetime.  She finally gets a Sunday to herself in order to write, but she is forced to miss a pool party at the Kardashian home.  She is obviously bummed at missing the party, but she is able to make headway on her script. All is, unfortunately, for naught.  Chelsea gleefully tells Heather that she made the entire thing up, and there is no movie.

Overall, this was typical fare for Chelsea.  If you like her show and/or her other books, you’ll get a kick out of it.

Other Reviews:

None that I found.

I purchased this book from Borders.

Book Review: Fool Me Once

Fool Me Once: Hustlers, Hookers, Headliners and How Not to Get Screwed in Vegas

Rick Lax

St Martin’s Griffin

304 pages

I have never been to Vegas.  What’s more, I always figured Vegas just wasn’t for me.  I have had absolutely no desire to ever make the trip.  I am now going to have to rethink that stance, after reading Fool Me Once, by Rick Lax. Originally, I agreed to review this book for two reasons, the first being that I thought the title was funny.  The second reason was because I was told the humor of Fool Me Once was in the same vein as Tucker Max’s shenanigans.  I can see the comparison, but Fool Me Once is definitely a bit more polished.

Rick Lax is a lawyer by default because, while he passed the bar, he isn’t practicing law.  Instead, he decides to go to Vegas for a few weeks in order to penetrate the depths of deception.  When you think about it (which I admit I hadn’t previously), Vegas is the connoisseur of deception.  You’ve got women flaunting every fake body part known to man, magicians performing tricks on every corner (prostitutes too, and gambling going on from dusk till dawn.  Rick quickly becomes enveloped in the lifestyle, to the point where his visit goes from being a few weeks to being somewhat permanent.  The problem is, Rick thinks he is in the know, when in fact, Vegas plays his just as hard as it does everybody else.

I didn’t think the memoir was quite as seamless as it should have been.  There were points where I was unsure of what was happening, as there seemed to be absolutely no segue.  Overall though, it was a minor issue when it comes to a book that I pretty much read in two sittings.  Due to my hesitance with visiting Las Vegas in the first place, I was worried that I was too hasty in agreeing to read Fool Me Once.  What could possibly interest me about such a book?  Well, obviously I didn’t end up facing that problem.  I thought Rick was an endearing memoirist.  He seemed suave at times, but then he would act completely naïve in other situations, which made me think he would probably be pretty fun to hang out with.

If you’re looking to book that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but is able to encapsulate the chaotic nightlife of Vegas (with some Criss Angel thrown in!), you should be certain to check out Fool Me Once.

Other Reviews:

None that I found.

A copy of this book was sent to me for review by the author.

Book Review: My Fair Lazy

My Fair Lazy

Jen Lancaster

NAL Hardcover

384 pages

I feel like I need to give a disclaimer before you get into my review.  I have never read any of Jen Lancaster’s books.  Weird, right?  I know her other books have been bestsellers but I just never picked one up, despite my penchant for memoirs by funny women–Chelsea Handler, Laurie Notaro . . . you get the picture.  So anyway, I can’t tell you how My Fair Lazy compares to Lancaster’s other books.

Anyhoo . . . onto my review.  I picked up My Fair Lazy for one reason and one reason only.  I love reality TV.  We all have our vices, and reality TV is mine.  If I’m not reading, you can bet I am catching some of my favorite shows.  Usually the trashiest, most crass shows are my favorite.  Can I get a hell yeah for the premiere of Big Brother this week?

So I guess I was a little let down, because while there were many references to reality TV shows in this book, they were just tiny tidbits thrown in here and there.  The premise of the book was more about Lancaster’s attempts at a Jenaissance, which means, in short, she was trying to get away from her reality TV addiction and instead spend her time having more worthwhile endeavors, such as trying out different cuisines and going to the opera.  I may need more “culture” myself, but I am happy for now spending my time watching Flava Flav and New York try to find love, so I got a little sick of Lancaster’s attempts at her Jenaissance. 

I am guessing that fans of Lancaster’s earlier books will enjoy this one.  It is a fun summer read.  I think if I had gone into it with a different mindset and not have expected something completely different, I would have enjoyed it more.  I suppose I will have to go back to Chuck Klosterman in order to find an expose on pop culture!

Other Reviews:

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Book Magic

I borrowed this book from my local library.

Book Review: Chelsea Chelsea, Bang Bang

Chelsea Chelsea, Bang Bang

Chelsea Handler

Grand Central Publishing

256 pages

Oh Chelsea, how do I love thee . . . Seriously, I cannot get enough of Chelsea Handler.  She first made it onto my radar when she would make guest appearances on VHI shows such as Best of the and Best Week Ever.  Then she got her own show, Chelsea Lately, on E! and it was over for me.  I became a devoted fan.

Handler’s written three books, this one being the newest (released this month) and I have read all three.  Her first, My Horizontal Life: A History of One Night Stands, killed me.  In a good way.  The crap she gets herself into is laughable, especially given the fact that she has absolutely NO censor and will tell a good story whether it sheds her in a good light or not.

Handler’s second book was just as funny, although, like this book, it didn’t have the same connecting factor.  Both Chelsea Chelsea, Bang Bang and Are You There Vodka, It’s Me, Chelsea involve stories from Handler’s life, both growing up and as an adult.  Undoubtedly, the best “character” in the books, especially in CCBB is Handler’s father, Melvin.  Melvin is an over-the-top eccentric and trying to talk sense into him is an impossible effort.

Melvin’s stubborness is especially apparent in the chapter “Dear Asshole”, in which Melvin rents out his dilapidated vacation home to unsuspecting vacationers.  After spending a week in what can only be described a hell hole, the renters send Melvin a multiple page letter describing the most awful living conditions one could imagine in a vacation home, such as a broken refrigerator with liquified squid dripping from the freezer.  The letter from the renters makes its way between Handler and her siblings, who are all mortified.  However, their father sees nothing wrong with the living conditions and believes the renters are just making a stink over nothing.  His obstinancy was unbelievable and quite humerous.

If you’ve enjoyed Handler’s previous books, this is one that can’t be missed.  Now, if you are new to Handler, I would suggest any of her three books to read.  They are all ridiculously funny and entertaining.

In closing, here is a picture of me and two of my sisters at a book signing for Are You There Vodka, It’s Me Chelsea.  I am the one in the middle.  I think my enthusiasm is obvious!

Other Reviews:

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I received this book from the publisher for review.

Book Review: Eating the Dinosaur

Eating the Dinosaur

Chuck Klosterman

Scribner

256 pages

Every once in awhile, I’m in the mood for a good dose of humor.  I don’t want anything too demanding–just a book that will give me a good laugh and won’t force me to be too involved.  In that respect, Eating the Dinosaur hit the spot for me.  Much like my first foray into Klosterman’s work Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs, this is an expostulation on modern day ideas and entertainment.

While not quite as dynamic as his previously mentioned book, Dinosaur explores such topics as the popularity of Abba, the similarities between Kurt Cobain and David Karesh, and why Garth Brooks is no longer relevant.  I would say the back cover would give a better idea:

Q: What is this book about?

A: Well, that’s difficult to say. I haven’t read it yet – I’ve just clicked on it and casually glanced at this webpage. There clearly isn’t a plot. I’ve heard there’s a lot of stuff about time travel in this book, and quite a bit about violence and Garth Brooks and why Germans don’t laugh when they’re inside grocery stores. Ralph Nader and Ralph Sampson play significant roles. I think there are several pages about Rear Window and football and Mad Men and why Rivers Cuomo prefers having sex with Asian women. Supposedly there’s a chapter outlining all the things the Unabomber was right about, but perhaps I’m misinformed.

Q: Is there a larger theme?

A: Oh, something about reality. “What is reality,” maybe? No, that’s not it. Not exactly. I get the sense that most of the core questions dwell on the way media perception constructs a fake reality that ends up becoming more meaningful than whatever actually happened.

Q: Should I read this book?

A: Probably. Do you see a clear relationship between the Branch Davidian disaster and the recording of Nirvana’s In Utero? Does Barack Obama make you want to drink Pepsi? Does ABBA remind you of AC/DC? If so, you probably don’t need to read this book. You probably wrote this book. But I suspect everybody else will totally love it, except for the ones who absolutely hate it.

As always, Klosterman is great at expostulating on pop culture while also keeping it humerous.  There were some sections where I wasn’t privy to whatever he was referencing.  There were also times where the subject matter was just not something I care about.  Despite that, the entire book was interesting to me.  You could never have convinced me beforehand that I would have actually enjoyed a chapter that dealt only with football!  How Klosterman was able to pull that one off (I actually read the entire chapter and wasn’t even counting down the pages to the next chapter), I will never know.  I found out some fun stuff in the process.  For instance, there used to be no such thing as passing the football during a game, which made the game so dangerous that many football-related deaths occured every year around the turn of the twentieth century.

If you enjoyed Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs, you should give Dinosaur a try.  I enjoyed the former a bit more, only because I was more connected and familiar with the references in that book.  Otherwise, Dinosaur was on point with its predecessor and involved quite a few laughs along the way!

Other Reviews:

None that I could find!

I borrowed this book from my local library.

Book Review: The Guinea Pig Diaries

The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment

AJ Jacobs

Simon & Schuster

256 pages

I have been a fan of AJ Jacobs since I read The Year of Living Biblically.  I then read The Know-it-All, which was almost as good.  So, you see, I had high hopes for The Guinea Pig Diaries .  .  .

Publisher’s Weekly describes The Guinea Pig Diaries as  “experiments in living”.  On a whole that sounds pretty interesting to me.  And then I read the Table of Contents.  “My Life as a Woman.”  “I Think You’re Fat.”  “What Would George Washington Do?”  I was intrigued.  I figured the book had to be a laugh riot.

I was immediately let down.  The book opens with “My Life as a Beautiful Woman”.  Which begins with a picture of Jacobs in woman’s clothing.  Obviously I assumed that the “experiment” involved AJ Jacobs in drag.  Unfortunately, it was much more demure than that.  Jacobs basically ran his nanny’s web dating page on her behalf.  So yed, he adopted the guise of being a woman but not in person.  Where’s the fun in that?

There was no single essay or “experiment” that was bad.  It was just mediocre.  Most all of the essays had their moments where I was laughing aloud, but I can’t think of a single one that didn’t get boring at some point.  I admit, I was moved by “Whipped” though.  What girl doesn’t dream of having the man in her life cater to her every whim and wish.  Of course, when I mentioned that chapter to my fiance, he scoffed at Jacobs and said the whole thing was “ridiculous”.

Another issue I had was the format of the book.  It was very disjointed–there was little cohesiveness.  Most of the “experiments” detailed in the book were from Jacobs’ work with Vanity Fair, meaning they were all stunts he pulled years ago for articles he was working on for the magazine.  So it seemed to me like the idea of The Guinea Pig Diaries was a compilation of all the crazy, out-there stuff he did while at VF.  Which could have been a great idea, but it just didn’t work for me.

I would recommend Jacobs as a wonderfully humerous author, although this isn’t the book where his talents are best displayed.  If you haven’t read Jacobs, I would recommend reading either of his other two books as opposed to this one.

Other Reviews:

Ms Bookish

The Book Lady’s Blog

Books and Movies

Nose in a Book

Devourer of Books

I borrowed this book from my local library.
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