Mandy’s Miscellaneous Flavours: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

Mindy Kaling

Three Rivers Press (Sept. 18 2012)

Hardcover

Humour and Entertainment, Humour, Essays

222 pages

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Mindy Kaling has lived many lives: the obedient child of immigrant professionals, a timid chubster afraid of her own bike, a Ben Affleck–impersonating Off-Broadway performer and playwright, and, finally, a comedy writer and actress prone to starting fights with her friends and coworkers with the sentence “Can I just say one last thing about this, and then I swear I’ll shut up about it?”
 
Perhaps you want to know what Mindy thinks makes a great best friend (someone who will fill your prescription in the middle of the night), or what makes a great guy (one who is aware of all elderly people in any room at any time and acts accordingly), or what is the perfect amount of fame (so famous you can never get convicted of murder in a court of law), or how to maintain a trim figure (you will not find that information in these pages). If so, you’ve come to the right book, mostly!
 
In Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Mindy invites readers on a tour of her life and her unscientific observations on romance, friendship, and Hollywood, with several conveniently placed stopping points for you to run errands and make phone calls. Mindy Kaling really is just a Girl Next Door—not so much literally anywhere in the continental United States, but definitely if you live in India or Sri Lanka.

***

First off, on the extremely slim chance that you are somehow reading this, I love you Mindy Kaling and I wish we were friends 5ever.

Anyways…

After lugging around numerous dense and heavy books amid midterm season (lord help us), Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me is the perfect break from it all.

Not to say that this book is merely consisted of fluff. On the contrary, this book still has substance underneath all the jokes. Like Ben and Jerry’s after a long day filled of BS. Ice cream with the yummy brownie bits in it.

So what is Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me book about? In Mindy Kaling’s words: “In this book I write a lot about romance, female friendships, unfair situations that now seem unfunny in retrospect, unfair situations that I still don’t think are funny, Hollywood, heartache, and my childhood. Just that really hard-core, masculine stuff men love to read about.”

So it’s no surprise being the manliest manly-man out there that I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Within this book Mindy Kaling talks about her life from childhood to adulthood, her success with The Office, from her ups and downs, to bullies and best friends, all in the form of witty stories.

We are given a peek into Mindy’s creative and playful mind, with passages entitled “Don’t Peak in High School”, “Types of Women in Romantic Comedies Who Are Not Real”, “Why do Men Put on Their Shoes So Slowly?” and other clever remarks that are sprinkled throughout the book.

At times serious, at times hilarious, but always honest, Mindy Kaling manages to weave a string of what would seem as incoherent thoughts together. Among one of her musings, one story that stuck with me well after reading it was of one about the friendship between her and a girl called Mavis in high school. The story of two friends finding each other at the perfect time only to drift apart and go their own ways just seems like something everyone will be able to relate to.

At times it’s as if she was peeking into my own mind (“There is no sunrise so beautiful that it is worth waking me up to see it”) rather than the other way around. And I guess that’s what I ultimately liked about this book and Mindy herself, how relatable she is. Flipping through the books pages was like reading letters sent by a close friend, which I liked a lot…

And not because the only thing I get in the mail are bills.

Until next time!

Amanda  

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Mandy’s Miscellaneous Flavours: Griffin & Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence by Nick Bantock (Review)

Griffin and Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence

Nick Bantock

Chronicle Books- September 1991

Hardcover

Romance/Mystery/Illustrated novel/epistolary book/fantasy/Paranormal

28 pages

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Griffin: It’s good to get in touch with you at last. Could I have one of your fish postcards? I think you were right — the wine glass has more impact than the cup. –Sabine

But Griffin had never met a woman named Sabine. How did she know him? How did she know his artwork? Who is she? Thus begins the strange and intriguing correspondence of Griffin and Sabine. And since each letter must be pulled from its own envelope, the reader has the delightful, forbidden sensation of reading someone else’s mail. Griffin & Sabine is like no other illustrated novel: appealing to the poet and artist in everyone and sure to inspire a renaissance in the fine art of letter-writing, it tells an extraordinary story in an extraordinary way.

***

I have to admit I’m not quite sure where to begin with this book, but I do know that I wish I could take a picture of each page and post it here, but I’ll refrain myself. This is a book blog after all, not a picture album (also imagine the copyright issues, yikes!)

With that said, I should probably begin this review by saying that Nick Bantock’s book isn’t for everyone.

If you’re the type who prefers their books to have a clear plot and narrative, Griffin & Sabine is unfortunately not for you. However, if you’re up for an unconventional form of storytelling, and have an appreciation for art, then you should give this book a try. I know I don’t regret it.

 Also as the title suggests, yes, it’s a romance. Yet it’s so typical of me to finally read a romance “novel” that isn’t truly a romance novel.

I haven’t encountered any books like this one before, so its peculiar format instantly caught my eye. An epistolary novel, the story unfolds (literally) before the readers’ (viewers?) eyes as a series of postcards and removable letters.

Without giving too much away, Griffin and Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence, is exactly what it sounds like. Griffin, a postcard designer from London, has his life turned upside down after a cryptic postcard from Sabine Strohem, a woman he has never met. Claiming to be from the Sicmon Islands, Sabine adds a splash of colour and intrigue to Griffin’s grey and dreary existence. So of course they begin to correspond regularly, leading the two to ultimately fall for one another.

As Griffin writes in one of his handmade postcards: “Why doesn’t this alarm me as much as it should?”

I can honestly say I was thinking the same thing.

As the readers, we are not given any more insight into the characters’ or story’s development. All we have to rely on are the letters that we have before our eyes, and the unfounded trust in the words of Griffin and Sabine. We are forced to be some kind of detective, putting the pieces (or rather letters) together to better grasp what is happening. Despite being so restricted of material, it is notable how heartfelt and believable the connection is between the two star-crossed lovers. However, the “realness” of the exchanges is forever disrupted by subtleties that add to the mysterious and even mystical feel of the book. For example, a major difference between the letters of Sabine and Griffin are how they are dated. Griffin’s always have a date, Sabine’s never do. This shouldn’t really matter; however, Sabine’s timeless and dateless letters only build up Griffon’s theory of his slow descent into madness. His final letter to her is heartbreaking, while Sabine’s last letter basically says:

Shit’s gonna go down.

With all that said, the world has changed since then. This book was published in September of 1991. Now we live in a time of emails, texts messages, instant chat and tweets. Ultimately leaving one to wonder how a book in this format would be received if it were written today.

Seriously, when’s the last time you handwrote a letter?

I thought so.

Mandy

Mandy’s Musings: Of stars, books and Aztecs

This is going to be a slight change of pace from the series of book reviews we have been expertly spurting out so far (yes go us!), which is mostly due to the fact that I haven’t finished any books in time for today… my bad…

I do however have something up my sleeve, or rather, something waiting for me on my untidy desk.

That thing is this brick of a novel by Gary Jennings, an epic tale entitled Aztec.

The first time I heard of this book was in my Mesoamerican Art History and Archaeology class which I adored. The indigenous cultures of Central America have always fascinated me, especially because of my heritage on my dad’s side, and finding out that a class about them was offered in my program practically made me leap for joy.

However, I was afraid I’d have to seek out this book with no luck once vacation started, but imagine my surprise when I found it lying in a bookshelf in my boyfriend’s childhood home? I’m not really one to believe in fate or destiny, but god be damned if this wasn’t meant to be. The stars were in position for me to find this book! (…I should clarify that I don’t mean I simply met my boyfriend to find this book, this is just one of the many perks of being with him :p)

Anyways, as the title suggests Gary Jenning’s Aztec is about the Aztec civilization (or rather the Mexica as they referred to themselves), but more precisely, about the life of Mixtli-Dark Cloud before, during and after the arrival of the Spanish. Born the son of peasants, Mixtli quickly rises within Aztec society, starting as a young scribe, then a warrior, a wealthy traveling merchant, and finally a lord in the impressive city of Tenochtitlan and Motecuzoma’s emissary to the newly arrived Cortes and his Conquistadors.

I’ve heard that this book had some issues but I’ll reserve judgement until I’ve actually read the book. I also heard that this book wasn’t for the faint of heart, but having researched in countless books and sources about the sacrificial rituals of the Aztecs, I think I’ll be able to handle it (they were surprisingly graphic). Besides, faint isn’t even close to being my middle name.

Also, what is interesting is how the narrative is composed as a series of letters between Bishop Juan de Zumárraga and King Carlos I of Spain (Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor) who requested a chronicle of the lives of the Aztecs as they once were. This is where Mixtli comes in, now an impoverished old man but deemed educated enough “for his race” to share his life story, with friars transcribing and hanging on to his every word. And what an old man this Mixtli seems to be! As Zumárraga writes at the beginning: “From the very first opening of his mouth, the Aztec evinces disrespect for out person, our cloth, and our office as our Reverend Majesty’s personally chosen missionary, which disrespect is an implicit insult to our sovereign himself.”

As if I wasn’t excited enough! I hope this book doesn’t disappoint!

Mandy

Mandy’s Miscellaneous Flavours: Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares

PhotobucketSisterhood Everlasting
Ann Brashares
Random House- June 2011
Hardcover
Young Adult, Adult
349 pages

Return to the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants . . . ten years later.

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Ann Brashares comes the welcome return of the characters whose friendship became a touchstone for a generation. Now Tibby, Lena, Carmen, and Bridget have grown up, starting their lives on their own. And though the jeans they shared are long gone, the sisterhood is everlasting.

Despite having jobs and men that they love, each knows that something is missing: the closeness that once sustained them. Carmen is a successful actress in New York, engaged to be married, but misses her friends. Lena finds solace in her art, teaching in Rhode Island, but still thinks of Kostos and the road she didn’t take. Bridget lives with her longtime boyfriend, Eric, in San Francisco, and though a part of her wants to settle down, a bigger part can’t seem to shed her old restlessness.

Then Tibby reaches out to bridge the distance, sending the others plane tickets for a reunion that they all breathlessly await. And indeed, it will change their lives forever—but in ways that none of them could ever have expected.

As moving and life-changing as an encounter with long-lost best friends, Sisterhood Everlasting is a powerful story about growing up, losing your way, and finding the courage to create a new one.

***

I’ve got to say this is a record. As I stated in my first, and seemingly last entry, in true Mandy-style it was two days late. Well previous me, THIS ONE IS WEEKS LATE! BEAT THAT!

Reminder to self: no, don’t beat that.

Anyways, I’m back and this time with a review! As you might have guessed the book I’m tackling today is one I wrote about in my previous anticipated reads section: Ann Brashares’ Sisterhood Everlasting.

And boy was this book a rollercoaster for me.

As with all final instalments in a beloved series, Brashares’ Sisterhood Everlasting has left me with mixed emotions. As the summary above explains, the events transpiring in this book happen ten years after the events of Forever in Blue. Because of this, I was prepared to dive into the lives of four women that were familiar and yet somewhat strangers at the same time. Ten years is a long time and along with the years comes change, something I knew would be inevitable. I was prepared not to read, more or less, about Bridget and thoughtless antics, Lena and her struggle to come out of her shell, Tibby and her “screw the world” attitude, as well as Carmen and her search for herself.

However, at times I felt like I was reading about a group of teenagers despite the reality of the characters being 29 years old (Bridget I’m looking at you). I realize that some people don’t get their shit together by the time they’re 30, but I was thinking that maybe they’d learn something from their past mistakes and not simply repeat them once again. Although I know that some of the characteristic traits you possess don’t necessarily disappear into thin air once you breach the barrier of “adulthood” and whatever that means. Heck some of them even develop as you grow older, as is the case with me procrastination. Sometimes, old habits really do die hard.

The book started off with a nice throwback to the first instalment with Carmen narrating the beginning. Just with that first chapter the nostalgia began to set in and made me giddy with excitement with what was to come. However, the nostalgia and giddiness would end there as we are thrust into the lives of these four, now very different, women.

The most troubling is Tibby. After moving with Brian to Australia the three others know nothing of what has happened to her, and consequently, the reader is not left with much information either. As a big fan of Tibby, I was worried that something has happened to her and as you read the book you discover tidbits of how her life has been throughout the last 10 years until the present. Tibby is the reason of their week-long reunion at Santorini after she arranged the whole thing herself. Yes! My Tibby getting shit done! As always! :D However, something unthinkable happens once they all reach their destination, which ultimately triggers the rest of the events in the book as well as the tears and anger (on my part).

Carmen is now a TV actress as Special Investigator Lara Brennan on Criminal Court, and engaged to Jones who is, according to Bridget and etc, an asshole. We notice the changes within her character right away as we are given a description of her new appearance as she studied herself in the mirror: “she squinted down at her highlights. They were a little brassy, a little bright this time. She would have liked to go darker but the director wanted her light. Probably because her character’s surname was Brennan and not Garcia.” As I continued reading I got a sudden pang as I realized that she is tired and sick with everything, and not quite happy with how her life turned out. Instead of acting simply being her job, it becomes a way for her to cope and get through the day. It’s a different Carmen from the usual food-loving firecracker and headstrong person the readers are used to, but as the book progresses we witness her self-discovery once again.

And then there’s Lena. Oh Lena. Lena, Lena, Lena. Why do you love being miserable? When we are reintroduced to Lena, we discover that she has become an art teacher for Rhode Island School of Design. The only phone calls she receives are from Carmen, her mom, and Effie. Where’s Kostos you may ask? Kostos is now living in England as a successful businessman. No really, The Wall Street Journal declared him to be the youngest managing partner in the history of his bank and a couple of years later he was in Times and in subsequent business journals after that. It seemed that Kostos would forever loom over Lena, whether he knew it or not. We then discover, sadly, that Kostos and Lena were supposed to meet six years earlier in Santorini and spend the summer together, but Lena freaked out and cancelled the trip. By email. “Now isn’t the right time” she said, and made some excuses that felt cowardly to her even as she typed them.” The only reason I didn’t want to reach into the pages and slap her senselessly was her awareness of her own cowardice. It was painful reading about her stunted life knowing that it could have been so much more. However, that is something that changes with the events that happen in the book, and Lena goes from being isolated and afraid of life, to the brave person she is.

And finally there’s Bridget. (I wanted to slap you sometimes. Just a bit.) Bridget now lives in San Francisco with her boyfriend Brian, whom is a godsend. I don’t know how he can be so patient with her and can put up with her. Out of all of the characters I think she changed the least, and given some of the circumstances I thought she might have matured a bit more. However, she was just as reckless and impulsive as she was in the three previous books. Of course, this changes throughout the book, and like everyone else she changes for the better.

All in all I very much enjoyed Sisterhood Everlasting despite how heartbreaking it was at points. However isn’t that how life is like? Isn’t it the moments of pain and struggle that make us appreciate those filled with love and joy even more?

Anyways, this review is going much on longer than I thought it would! So how do I rate this? I see cupcakes and stars have been taken. Hmm… let’s see. I’m eating cream at the moment. Ice cream scoops. Yeah…Why the hell not!?

I give this book three ice cream scoops plus one for nostalgic factor out of five!

Lena and Kostos 4EVER!!!

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Mandy’s Musings: Of balloons, summer and The Pants

In true Mandy style this entry is two days late, but as the saying goes: better late than never, right?

With my semester coming to a close, my brain has been battered, pummelled, and mercilessly stuffed with information from assigned scholarly articles and textbooks. All of which will ultimately be forgotten by the final period in my endless essay, or answer in my final exam.

In other words, my brain is worn out. Exhausted. It feels like a balloon that has been emptied of its air and fallen onto the hard, cold floor after flying all over the place in a frenzy because its purpose in life is to be an air-filled balloon but some idiot decided to release its air and reduce it to its original state as a distant cousin of a condom.

There’s something deep and metaphorical in there, but I can’t make the connection.

Anyways, anyone who ends the semester saying otherwise is full of shiitakes.

With that said, even though I’m mentally exhausted I’d still appreciate a good read, albeit something lighter than Roland Barthes’ theories on intertextuality and postmodernity.

Fortunately, I’ve found the perfect book to begin my vacation.

Ann Brashare’s newest installment in The Sisterhood series is entitled Sisterhood Everlasting. As a teenager I devoured these books and could not wait to read about the summer adventures of Carmen, Bee, Tibby and Lena and wish I could have a magical pair of jeans that fit perfectly while making wonderful things happen. It goes without saying that although I was completely taken by surprise at the ending of what I thought was the final installment of The Sisterhood; I also felt that it was a fitting end to a wonderful series. Things change, and people grow up. Like me, these four girls grew up and were now starting a new phase in their life. It was a bittersweet end, but I knew I could revisit these characters by picking up one of the books, dusting it off and sitting comfortably on my couch and relive their adventures and the memories that they bring back of my own teenaged summers spent under the sun.

So imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon Sisterhood Everlasting the newest addition to the Sisterhood series! I’m not sure what to expect from this newest installment, but with ten years separating the events of the last book from this one there are bound to be major changes with the four girls, or should I say women, that I grew to know. However, I can’t wait to start reading this book and hopefully enjoy it as much as I enjoyed the others. Here’s to the Pants!

Remember: Pants=Love. Love your pals. Love yourself.

Mandy