Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (and Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

MINDY
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (and Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling
Publisher: Random House
Genre: Contemporary, Non-Fiction, Humor
Length: Full Length (219 pages)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

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.

She might not be the literal girl-next-door, but honestly, does that matter? She’s a riot and I swear, I’d love to have her as my best friend.

Who am I talking about? Mindy Kaling. You might have seen her on The Office or The Mindy Project. I’d never seen either show, but I’d seen her in interviews and thought, this girl is funny as heck. So when I saw this book, I knew I wanted to read it.

A word of caution – she writes the book in a series of essays that she claims are not blog posts. In this day and age of things being written in short burst – like blog posts – it works. The writing is clean and conversational, like I was in the room with her and having the conversation. I laughed, cried and felt for her along the way.

This is a glimpse into Mindy Kaling’s world. The ups, the downs and how she got to where she is in life and it was fun to read. I loved her interpretations of college, getting a job and dealing with kids. She’s frank and unapologetic. My favorite part was her writing the plan for her own funeral.

If you want a book that’s a quick read, will pick you up and make you laugh, then this might be the book for you. It was for me.

The Retail by Joshua Danker-Dake

RETAIL
The Retail by Joshua Danker-Dake
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: Contemporary, Humor
Length: Full Length (310 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Aspiring writer Penn Reynard has just joined the ranks of America’s fifteen million retail workers: fresh out of college with an English degree, he can’t find a job anywhere except at the local big-box hardware store. Working returns, Penn experiences firsthand the often comical absurdity, chaos, and shenanigans of the retail world. At least he has a new romance with a coworker going for him—if he doesn’t screw it up. The constant pressures of dealing with hostile customers, oblivious coworkers, and overbearing management begin to take their toll on him, though, and as his desired career path threatens to fall out of reach, Penn struggles to break free of retail’s clutches.

Few things are more disheartening than being stuck in a soul-shredding job.

The amount of time that was put into developing Penn’s personality made him one of the most memorable characters I’ve met so far this year. Penn’s flaws happen to be things that deeply irritate me, so I can’t honestly say that I always liked him. I can say that he made me think, though, and that he was written in such a way that I paused about a third of the way through his tale to see if it was actually a memoir. Penn comes across as a three-dimensional person, metaphorical warts and all. That isn’t something that’s at all easy to accomplish, and it’s whetted my appetite for more from Mr. Danker-Dake .

This book includes well over two dozen different characters, many of whom have nicknames that weren’t always easy to connect to their actual names. At times I mixed up the identities of certain employees and customers that made less frequent appearances because there was such a large number of them drifting in and out of the plot. It would have been really helpful to have a brief list of their names as well an indication of whether each character was an employee of the store or one of their regular customers.

Worldbuilding is definitely one of Mr. Danker-Dake’s strengths. Not only does he create incredibly complex settings for his characters, he allows Penn to slowly change in response to the things that happen to him. In some ways the setting almost functioned as its own character due to how much influence it had on Penn’s personal development. Watching this unfold was a treat, and it made me curious about what this author will come up with in the future.

I’d especially recommend The Retail to anyone who has ever worked in the service industry or who wonders what it’s like to be on the opposite side of the booth, till, or help desk.

Stairlift to Heaven by Terry Ravenscroft

LIFT
Stairlift to Heaven by Terry Ravenscroft
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: Non-Fiction, Humor, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (127 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Stairlift to Heaven (The journal of an OAP.) Although this book is written by an old age pensioner, non-coffin dodgers should not be put off. Everyone will be old someday, and there are valuable lessons in coping with old age to be learned here. Written by Terry Ravenscroft, former scriptwriter to Les Dawson, The Two Ronnies, Morecambe and Wise. Stairlift to Heaven has been likened by one reviewer to be ‘Like Last of the Summer Wine on cocaine’ Review by Pauline R for Readers Favorite. Stairlift to Heaven is an irreverent, hilarious look about one man’s life after retirement. He pokes fun at everything, no one and nothing is spared including how to silence the neighbour’s barking dog, telephone salespeople and Christmas carolers. His long suffering wife, known as ‘The Trouble’, provides a perfect foil of sanity against the mad antics of the author and his friend Atkins. Like a grumpy old man on funny pills Terry punctures the ridiculousness of life. A particular favorite is a visit to a faith healer and an examination of the concept of a Nuclear Free Zone. There is enough in “Stairlift to Heaven” to keep the whole world laughing.

Bodies fall apart when people get old. Eventually they stop working altogether. You can’t stop it, but you sure can laugh while it’s happening!

Mr. Ravenscroft has a incredibly dry, British sense of humour that relies heavily on irony and sarcasm to get his point across. This works particularly well when he’s discussing all of the body parts that have betrayed him over the past few years and what he’s done to attempt to fix them. What I liked most about his take on the world is that he is just as likely to make fun of himself as he was to use other people as ammunition for his anecdotes.

There were a few times when I thought that the author went too far in his descriptions of certain conversations with his wife. Most of their interactions were really funny, but some of his comments about her appearance came across as unnecessarily snide to me. I suspect that I would have had a far different reaction to these scenes had they been part of a stand-up routine or some other form of comedy that also relies on tone of voice and body language. After all, the exact same string of words can be affectionate or snarky depending on how they’re delivered!

By far the best part of this book for me was the discussion about how everyone magically becomes a wonderful person as soon as they die. In this scene Terry attends the funeral of someone who was known to be incorrigibly mean-spirited and prejudiced when he was alive, but who was made out to be a saint at his burial. There is a lot of truth to this observation, and it was thought-provoking and funny to wonder why people do this.

Stairlift to Heaven kept me grinning from beginning to end. I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoy British humor.

Dear Coca-Cola by Terry Ravenscroft

COLA
Dear Coca-Cola by Terry Ravenscroft
Publisher: A Razzamatazz Publication
Genre: Non-Fiction, Humor
Length: Full Length (210 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

Putting pen to paper with hilarious results, in Dear Coca-Cola Terry Ravenscroft homes in on the Food & Drink industry. Household names such as Heinz, Ryvita, Tesco, Cadburys and of course the Coca-Cola Company are the targets for his entertaining epistles, resulting in a laugh-out-loud letters book with a difference. And you don’t want to know what he asks Jacob’s Biscuits for! But you will when you’ve read his letters to them.

You will never look at the contents of your fridge or kitchen cupboards in the same way again.

Sometimes finding a good non-fiction book to read isn’t always the easiest task. Even if it’s a subject I enjoy, oftentimes they end up being too dry for my liking. That wasn’t the case with Dear Coca-Cola. It was funny all the way through. One word of warning; if you read while other people are around you’ll get some strange looks because you will laugh out loud at some of the author’s antics because that’s what happened to me.

The idea behind the book is the author wanted to include his letters to various companies, either complimenting or complaining about their products, and their replies back to him.

Some of them begin quite seriously as to what he didn’t like about something but as the two exchanged more letters, the author’s ones got funnier with more extreme requests and suggestions.

Most of the letters back to him were also funny. You could tell they were trying to be as polite and helpful as they could even when Mr. Ravenscroft had made that an almost impossible task. As I was reading this book I thought how much fun it would have been to see the people’s faces as they read his letters and wondered just how to handle the situation. I’m sure some had a good laugh too.

Some of the letters that stand out for me are the first one and hence the title of the book, to Coca-Cola. His son wanting to eat fish food instead of breakfast cereal, and his letter asking if it was safe. A trip to a brewery with one member who had a peg leg. And a couple of them, complimenting the company for their products boosting his sex life.

The author is from the UK, so if you’re a fan of British comedies this will definitely be a book you’ll enjoy.

After reading Dear Coca-Cola I’ll be checking out some of Mr. Ravenscroft’s other titles and hopefully they’ll make me laugh just as much.