Tuesday, December 13, 2016

2016 Celebrity Memoirs, Part I

Something about 2016 made me reach for celebrity memoirs a lot. Some were gossipy, some were serious - most were a combination of the two. Here is Part I of my 2016 Celebrity Memoirs Reading List:


Is It Just Me? by Miranda Hart - 4 stars
Read February 2016

Miranda Hart is my soul sister. I laughed too loudly (and garnered so much attention from strangers) reading this book. Fun and lighthearted but a lot of truth about the modern life. Although some of her pop culture references would only be recognizable to Brits/Commonwealth residents, I think the humor would be appreciated by Americans. My favorite chapter was the second one, about Miranda's taste in music - I could have written that chapter, as I too do not have an edgy taste in music.
The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae - 4 stars
Read February 2016
Honestly, I had never heard of Issa Rae before reading this book. After reading this, I went straight to YT and subscribed to her channel. She has such a refreshing and honest voice in a world in which reality tv stars and celebrities just try too damn hard to be famous for nothing or for drama.

What drew me originally to this book was just the cover and the back cover statements from people whose work I like. If they liked Issa Rae, then I would give her a shot. Superficial? Yep. But that is how I roll in the non-fiction non-history section of the library. And I am very glad I gave her a shot. This book had parts that were relatable (especially for kids and teens growing up in the late 80s and all of the 90s) and other parts that were so different, it was eye-opening.

Down the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny
by Holly Madison - 4 stars
Read April 2016

Read until 3 am this morning, then picked it back up as I was cooking breakfast. Could not put it down.

I admit to being a big fan of the reality tv show The Girls Next Door and Holly's World, which followed the lives of Holly, Bridget, and Kendra and Holly's move to Las Vegas after leaving the mansion. Holly was my favorite, with Bridget a very close second (Kendra was too damn annoying for my taste - that laugh alone is like nails on a chalkboard to me). So I jumped at the chance to read Holly's story about her time in and after living in the Playboy cult.

And cult is the best way I can describe her experience as part of the Playboy image/marketing scheme circa 1999-2010. There were rules and politics, all enshrined to feed the bloated ego of a fading icon. I always got the impression that Holly was a lot smarter about the situation and the relationships that surrounded her than the tv show or Playboy PR machine would portray her as. I didn't buy her "love and devotion" to the old man, especially when she had more emotion and connection with Bridget or Mary (Hefner's long time secretary) in a brief scene than in all the PR stunts. And I was right; she is smart, business savvy, and has quite the work ethic. She had enough good sense to avoid the hard drugs and prostitution ring, yet emotionally and mentally broken enough to stay for nine years (seven of which she was a main girlfriend) in a cycle of abuse. She owns up to her decisions to move into the mansion and every decision afterwards. However, she also has no problem naming names and burning bridges.  I was pleasantly surprised to know that Bridget and Holly remain close friends to this day. The fact that Holly and Kendra are on the outs with each other is a healthy decision on Holly's part.

If you are a devoted HH/Playboy fan, you may see Holly as bitter, since Hef does not come out of this book looking good at all (and neither does Criss Angel). For me, it just validated that the good PR he gets is a complete control and fabrication of any and all situations. The financial mess that Playboy and HH is in now was pretty known to Holly and Bridget back when they lived in the mansion.

As far as the use of Alice in Wonderland theme to tie the book together, I think it was well done. Alice is a dark story dressed up as a children's fantasy story; likewise, Holly's time with Playboy was a dark story dressed up in sex and glamour. Needless to say, I will be reading her next book (The Vegas Diaries, out now).


Yes, My Accent Is Real: And Some Other Things I Haven't Told You by Kunal Nayyar4 stars 
Read April 2016

I should mention that I am a big fan of The Big Bang Theory, so my review may seem a bit biased.
Nayyar was born in London and raised (from the age of 4 until he left at 18) in New Delhi. That is about the extent of the usual memoir structure you will find in this book. Nayyar took the rest of the book in a different direction than most memoirs - rather than a play-by-play of his life, there is snapshots and small moments described and his life lesson learned from those times. He is not a comedian by trade or training, but a business major who took theater/acting classes for all of his electives and went on to pursue acting in graduate school and in his career; however, he admits to feeling quite comfortable with his business degree being his Plan B.
Nayyar comes across in his writing as a sweet, smart, kind, joyful, and witty man who is comfortable in his own skin. I use witty rather than funny; although this book has some great one-liners and a bit of snark in places, it was not a humor book nor was it meant to be a humor book. People seems to mix up Nayyar with his character on screen and some are disappointed this isn't a "funny" book. It is meant to be Nayyar's way of sharing his life and Indian culture with his fans.
If I had to choose one part of the book I liked the most, it would have to be the chapter devoted to his traditional Indian wedding. So much partying, yet the love for his bride and their families was evident. It was also interesting to note that the role of Dr. Raj Koothrappali was 1) originally named Dave/David and 2) not of any particular ethnicity. The writers and producers of the show reworked the character to fit Nayyar after seeing him audition. And I am so glad they did. I could have done without the poem he wrote back in 2012.


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