Review: Son of a Critch: A Childish Newfoundland Memoir

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Title: Son of a Critch: A Newfoundland Memoir
Author: Mark Critch
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Publisher: Penguin Random House Canada
Source: Publisher
Release Date: October 2, 2018
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

A heartfelt and outrageously funny memoir about Newfoundland, family, and being the weirdest kid in school

What could be better than growing up in the 1980s? How about growing up in 1980s Newfoundland, which as Mark Critch will tell you, was more like the 1960s. Critch takes us to where it all began in this tremendously funny and warm look back on his formative years. A “recovering Catholic,” he recalls his many misadventures growing up on the outskirts of a small town. And when your radio-star dad is the talk of the town, and your mom can’t stop talking at all, life at home is always entertaining.

Best known as the “roving reporter” for CBC’s This Hour Has 22 Minutes, Mark Critch has photo-bombed Justin Trudeau, interviewed Great Big Sea’s Alan Doyle (while impersonating Alan Doyle), offered Pamela Anderson a million dollars to stop acting, and crashed White House briefings. But in this hilarious debut, we learn that Critch has been causing trouble his whole life. Son of a Critch will have you longing for life in Canada’s most unique province–even if you’ve never been there–and marvelling at how one person’s childhood could be so ridiculously funny.

Review:

My favourite comedians are all from Newfoundland: Jonny Harris, Rick Mercer, and, of course, Mark Critch. I was so excited to learn that Mark Critch had written a book, and I knew I had to read it!

Mark Critch is one of the funniest men on TV. The segment on his show, This Hour Has 22 Minutes, that I enjoyed the most was based on the news story of the boy who went up in a homemade hot air balloon a few years ago. The actual news story ended up being a hoax. Mark did a parody of this story, which was a baby in a grocery bag that blew into a tree. I still burst out laughing thinking about that sketch! I became a lifelong fan of Mark Critch. (Here’s the link to the clip on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AE1CW7-bFv8)

If you love 22 Minutes, you will love Son of a Critch! This book was hilarious! Mark’s storytelling from the show was evident in this book. I learned some of the history of Newfoundland from his stories. I loved the stories and I could hear my own relatives from Bishop’s Falls, Newfoundland in this book.

I loved this book! I recommend it to anyone who needs a good laugh!

What to read next:

  • Canada by Mike Myers

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  • Rick Mercer Report: The Book by Rick Mercer

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Have you read Son of a Critch: A Childish Newfoundland Memoir? What did you think of it?

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Review: The Victorian and the Romantic: A Memoir, a Love Story, and a Friendship Across Time

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Title: The Victorian and the Romantic: A Memoir, a Love Story, and a Friendship Across Time
Author: Nell Stevens
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Penguin Random House Canada
Source: Publisher
Release Date: August 7, 2018
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

History meets memoir in two irresistible true-life romances–one set in 19th century Rome, one in present-day Paris and London–linked by a bond between women writers a hundred years apart

In 1857, English novelist Elizabeth Gaskell completed her most famous work: the biography of her dear friend Charlotte Bronte. As publication loomed, Mrs. Gaskell was keen to escape the reviews. So, leaving her dull minister husband and dreary provincial city behind, she set off with her daughters to Rome. There she met a dazzling group of artists and writers, among them the American critic Charles Eliot Norton. Seventeen years her junior, Norton was her one true love. They could not be together–it would be an unthinkable breach of convention–but by his side and amidst that splendid circle, Mrs. Gaskell knew she had reached the “tip-top point of [her] life.”
In 2013, Nell Stevens is embarking on her PhD–about the community of artists and writers living in Rome in the mid-19th century–and falling head over heels for a soulful American screenwriter in another city. As her long-distance romance founders and her passion for academia never quite materializes, she is drawn to Mrs. Gaskell. Could this indomitable Victorian author rescue Nell’s pursuit of love, family and a writing career?
Lively, witty, and impossible to put down, The Victorian and the Romantic is a moving chronicle of two women each charting a way of life beyond the rules of her time.

Review:

I’m not usually a fan of nonfiction. The stories have to be very intriguing for me to read them. I loved this book and I couldn’t put it down!

The narrative switched between Nell’s modern story and the story of Elizabeth Gaskell’s life. The story of Elizabeth’s life was unique because it was written in second person, as if you, the reader, are Elizabeth Gaskell. The other stories I have read which are written in second person come across as commanding, but this one sounded like a story that you are a part of.

I’m a huge fan of Victorian literature, so I could relate to Nell’s love of it. I haven’t read any of Elizabeth Gaskell’s work, but her biography of Charlotte Bronte is on my TBR. I’m even more interested in reading it now, after learning about the controversy around it.

I could also relate to Nell’s PhD work. I’m currently working on my Master’s in Creative Writing, so I understood her need to write constantly, but it can be hard when life gets in the way and you don’t feel inspired.

Though this book is nonfiction, it reads like a fictional story. I absolutely loved it!

What to read next:

  • The Life of Charlotte Bronte by Elizabeth Gaskell

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  • Bleaker House: Chasing My Novel to the End of the World by Nell Stevens

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Have you read The Victorian and the Romantic: A Memoir, a Love Story, and a Friendship Across Time? What did you think of it?

Review: Unqualified


Title: Unqualified
Author: Anna Faris
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Dutton
Source: Goodreads Giveaway
Release Date: October 24, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

Goodreads Synopsis:

Anna Faris has advice for you. And it’s great advice, because she’s been through it all, and she wants to tell you what she’s learned. Her comic memoir and first book, Unqualified, will share Anna’s candid, sympathetic, and entertaining stories of love lost and won. Part memoir, part humorous, unflinching advice from her hit podcast Anna Faris Is Unqualified, the book will reveal Anna’s unique take on how to navigate the bizarre, chaotic, and worthwhile adventure of finding love.

Hilarious, authentic, and actually useful, Unqualified is the book Anna’s fans have been waiting for. 

Review:

Anna Faris will always be “that girl who had Monica and Chandler’s babies” to me. She’s so funny! I was so excited when I won the giveaway for her book. 

I liked her stories. All her stories of boyfriends and relationships were quite funny. She seems really down to earth and real, which was nice to read about. 

The book got off to a rough start, with Anna (and Chris in his foreword) saying over and over that she doesn’t know how to write a book. That was frustrating, because if you don’t know how/don’t want to, just don’t do it! But it improved greatly from there. 

One major problem with this book is her relationship with Chris Pratt. In August, they announced they are getting divorced. However, she references her happy marriage many times throughout the book. This really took away a lot of her credibility. If they had waited a few months to announce the divorce, it would have made this book much better (and it would have benefited him as well because he wrote the foreword to the book). I heard that she has revised the book for the final edition so that it commented on her divorce, but my ARC didn’t have these changes. 

Other than that, I enjoyed this book. Even if you aren’t looking for relationship advice, this was a fun memoir to read. 

Shoebox Funeral

Title: Shoebox Funeral
Author: Elizabeth Voltz
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Animal Media Group
Release Date: April 25, 2017
Rating: ★★★

Elizabeth Voltz grew up on a farm in Wolf Creek. She is one of ten kids. She is the second youngest. She often made her own fun by playing with the animals on the farm, particularly the cats. However, this also meant she had to bury her beloved friends starting from a young age. This memoir tells of her experiences with these animals.

I could relate to a lot of what she talked about in regards to the pet cats. She distinguished between the house cats and the barn cats. At my house, we feed a lot of stray cats. I like to play with some of the kittens and they all have names. I understood the emotional attachment she got to them, even when they weren’t really her pets. Often this attachment leads to heartbreak when they get sick or injured beyond recovery.

This is a well written book. I enjoyed a lot of it, but the heartbreaking stories of having to bury pets were too much for me. I’ve had to do that before and it dredged up too many unhappy memories. This is a good book, but too emotional for me.

Just Jen

Title: Just Jen: Thriving Through Multiple Sclerosis
Author: Jen Powley
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Roseway Publishing
Release Date: May 1, 2017
Rating: ★★★★★

Jen Powley was diagnosed with Mulitple Sclerosis at the age of 15. Now she is in her late 30s and has written a memoir about living with MS.

Jen grew up in Alberta and later moved to Halifax, where she has earned multiple degrees. Despite the many challenges she has faced since her diagnosis, Jen never gave up. Rather than dismissing her dreams, she adapted them to her new situation. For example, since she is now in a wheelchair, it would be impossible for her to go rockclimbing like she always dreamed of doing. Instead, she had a colleague strap her to his back while he propelled down the side of a building, making her feel like she was rock climbing.

Jen’s story highlights how inaccessible the world is. When she attended a lecture, she noticed that the wheelchair ramp only led to the seats on the end of the aisles rather than the front podium. This shows that the architect imagined someone in a wheelchair attending a lecture in that room but not actually giving the lecture.

Jen has a great sense of humour. This came across in her narrative. She dictated her book with the help of her assistants because she does not have the use of her hands anymore. It’s amazing that this technology allowed Jen to tell the story of her life.

I had the pleasure of seeing Jen speak at the Festival of Literary Diversity. She is truly inspiring. She has faced many challenges but she never let them stop her. Jen is also very talented, as demonstrated through her poignant, humourous, and touching narrative.

Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl

This is a memoir by Carrie Brownstein, a musician, writer, and actress. It follows her time with her band Sleater-Kinney through the 1990s and 2000s.

I picked this book up because it was one of the picks for Our Shared Shelf, Emma Watson’s book club. I really liked the first quarter of the book. Carrie talks about her life growing up in Washington state, including her mother’s eating disorder and her parents’ divorce.

The details of Brownstein’s band took up half of the book. If you aren’t familiar with it, like me, it will probably be difficult to get through. There were many details about how they wrote their songs, recorded of their albums, and toured the world. Unfortunately a lot of this was lost on me since I don’t know much about the indie music scene in the 1990s.

At the end of the book, Brownstein returned to stories from her personal life, after the band had broken up. This part brought me back into the story of her life. She is an excellent writer, which pushed me to keep reading even when I wasn’t interested in the topic. I liked her feminist commentary on how her female band was treated in a male-dominated industry. I can see why it was chosen to be a book for Our Shared Shelf.