Tag Archives: Memoir

Savvy Chic – Anna Johnson
Book Reviews
March 27, 2011 posted by Christina

Savvy Chic – Anna Johnson

“Everything you love for less!

Anna Johnson is not a tea-bag squeezer, a penny-pincher, or inherently thrifty in any way—but she knows how to enjoy the finer things in life . . . for much, much less! In Savvy Chic, she shares her secrets on how to dress, decorate, entertain, and travel in high style without breaking the piggy bank.

All it takes to live well is taste, style, imagination, and rebellious flair—and Savvy Chic will show you how. Fun, fulfilling, and frugally fabulous, here’s your indispensable guide to five-star elegance on a one-star budget.”

I’ve never been one for memoirs. Generally I find them boring – hearing the details of people’s lives, stories about the time they played in the leaves in the fall as a child followed by the best ice cream ever. Of course, there is always a certain amount of wisdom that can be passed on through the stories of people’s lives but it requires a lot of skill to bring those stories back to life.

On the surface, Savvy Chic by Anna Johnson seems like a book filled with tips and tricks about living a stylish life without having to break the bank, with a few anecdotes from the author mixed in. And yes, for the most part it is that, but it’s really more like a book of memoirs with some advice included in the mix. In the end, I don’t feel I learned very much other than if you want to make your financially humble life richer, it’s all a matter of perspective.

The book is divided into six parts – Clothes, Shelter, Income, Food, Travel and Entertainment. Johnson draws on her experiences from working for magazines such as Vogue, her many travels particularly through Australia, the United States and Europe, as well as her life as a recently divorced single mother who has the financially precarious job of being a writer.

The author grew up quite bohemian, and it’s those sorts of ideals she tries to pass along. Most of the time when you are examining your penniless situation it’s a matter of finding the bohemian romance in simplicity in order to keep your sanity before money finds its way back to you.

This is also seen as a way to get back into life. She suggests rarely watching tv, perhaps once a week (if at all), instead, going out to the opening of art galleries, free concerts or to poetry readings. This is all well and good but it made my TV loving, Glee watching heart get a bit squeamish.

I feel that probably younger readers will have trouble relating to Johnson, and her anecdotes since to us, at lot of her ideals might seem a bit….old fashioned? Unappealing? Maybe a bit too bohemian? I personally didn’t find the memoir side of the book very interesting and made the book a bit of a drag to read.

Something I found strange at first, but eventually though it was funny was the constant reference to something Indian – Indian sheets, Indian shirts, Indian sandals, Indian baskets, Indian saris…

Oh my God we get it, you like Indian stuff.

On a lighter note, the book has been BEAUTIFULLY illustrated by the author herself and added a very cute and quirky look to the book.

Of all the sections I found the travel chapters to be the most useful and interesting, as well the chapter in the Fashion section that made you reason with yourself – do you really need these boots just because they’re on sale? It’s good to get a reminder on how to restrain your impulse shopping.

The opening and closing chapters about our feelings and attitudes toward money and possessions were quite thought provoking – in the end do you own your things or do they own you?

Even if you don’t take every piece of advice given, there’ll be something in this book for everyone. A little change in your ways can do you some good, and save you money too.

Pages: 312
Publication Date: December 2010
Publisher: Harper Collins
Challenge: n/a
Rating:: ★★★☆☆

Teaser Quote: “Many large museums and art galleries offer drinks and (free) music on a Friday night. I think there is nothing funnier than looking at masterpieces when rosy and half tanked. That’s probably how half of them were created anyway”.

Map by Audrey Beth Stein
Book Reviews
June 17, 2010 posted by Nikki

Map by Audrey Beth Stein

As a late-blooming, sexually-confused senior at the University of Pennsylvania, Audrey Beth Stein was looking for love, but she never expected it to arrive via email, from someone she first knew only as catrina@juno.com…

It was 1996, a time when the Indigo Girls had just performed their first explicitly gay songs, Ellen DeGeneres was preparing to come out on national television, and eHarmony.com and JDate did not yet exist. A time when being queer was a little bit easier than admitting you’d met someone through the internet.

Using layers of introspection and insight reminiscent of Curtis Sittenfeld’s Prep and Wendy Swallow’s Breaking Apart woven into a largely present-tense narrative, this coming-of-age memoir combines the page-turning exuberance of falling in love for the first time, the disorienting clarity of loss, and the triumph of letting go of the training wheels.

This isn’t like anything we’ve ever featured on yaReads before. Map isn’t a work of fiction; it’s an actual account of Audrey’s life experiences. Because of that, I feel that talking about her in a way I would normally discuss a fictional character’s motivations and actions is inappropriate – she’s a real person with real feelings who bravely decided to share her story with the world. But this is a review, so I’ll comment on those things that are appropriately open for comment and discussion.

Map reads a lot like fiction. So much so, in fact, that unless you noted the word ‘memoir’ on the cover, it could easily be mistaken as so. This is a credit to Audrey, as it is so often the case that biographies, or true and factual stories are often dry, written without the engaging dialogue and internal monologue that we all love so much about young adult fiction. It deals with Audrey’s sexual self-discovery and her journey into the world of bisexuality with class, poise, and honesty. Although I wouldn’t go so far as to say that her process of coming out (to herself and those around her) was all smooth sailing, it was refreshing to hear a coming out tale that wasn’t completely and totally heart breaking.

Map is so much more than just a tale of coming out, though. It’s a story of first love, first heartbreak and loss, growth and personal development. I was especially interested in the online relationship that developed between Catrina and Audrey. Audrey’s account detailed a different kind of falling in love to what we’re used to reading about. With online relationships, it’s less about the physical, and more about the emotional – her take on these issues is refreshing, and a joy to read in an era where so much is placed on physical sexuality.

This is an easy one to read, folks, and I’m sure most of you out there could knock it over in no time. So if you’re looking for a left of center read about a young girl’s journey through sexuality, then I’d say Map is a must read for you. If you’re looking for a queer read that wont totally crush your spirit and burn your soul, then I’d say Map is for you. If you’re looking for something full of action and suspense, perhaps steer clear of this one. This one is more about the mind and the heart than the actual goings on of the plot.

This one has the yaReads stamp of approval.

Rating:: ★★★★☆

Teaser Quote: A few years later, when I haven’t been drawn to men in a while, I’ll start using the word queer to describe myself. I’ll choose queer because queer will fit me better than bisexual or lesbian, because queer places less emphasis on sex and more on overall identity, because it carries a connotation of confidence and empowerment, because there is space for fluidity inside, because it encompasses a larger community, because it wont be such a scary, radical word to me anymore, because it is one bold and easy syllable.