I really enjoyed both of the books I’m talking about today! Shit, Actually by Lindy West marks my eleventh nonfiction of the year, so heck yes for that! Thanks to Netgalley and Hachette for approving my ARC request, but I maybe pre-ordered the audiobook and listened to it Tuesday and Wednesday. Okay, okay, I definitely did. And Call Me Maybe by Cara Bastone was an advanced audio copy from Audible and I was so grateful! Aarya is a gem who convinced me that I’m vocal enough about my love of Cara Bastone that I should at least ask for a copy and I received one! The great news for y’all is that both books released on Tuesday, October 20th, which means they’re already available for you! I definitely recommend picking up both. Let’s jump into the reviews!
Shit, Actually by Lindy West
Shit, Actually is definitely a departure from West’s more political commentary featured in Shrill and The Witches are Coming, but if you liked the lighter essays in those and jive with West’s humor, this collection is likely to be a stand out. I’m not familiar with all of the movies discussed in this collection, in fact, I’ve seen only three or four, but I was laughing so hard. I actually called my dad in the middle of the essay on Top Gun to tell him that he needs to give this one a try.
I think, for me, the chapters that worked the best for me were ones where I was familiar with the property being discussed even if I hadn’t seen it. It also helps that when she criticized one of my favorite movies, Love, Actually, I agreed with all of her criticisms, I just still like it. I was hoping based on the introduction that there would be a little more emphasis on loving something while recognizing its flaws and I think we got some of that, I just wanted more. In one chapter about a movie I’ve not seen and can’t remember the title of, West talks about how in the wake of #MeToo, watching this particular movie seems fraught. I liked the way she walked through all of her thoughts about why she was still including the movie in the book because I think this is something we, as consumers of media of all types, have to contend with more and more frequently. Anyway, I do think that I want to return to this book as I watch more of these movies so I can understand even more of the jokes and laugh even more. I also think there are certain chapters in here that are likely to wind up being comfort re-listens because it was really great fun in a time where fun can be hard to come by.
Despite having an advanced e-copy through Netgalley, I wound up getting the audiobook and listening to it instead. I have listened to both of West’s other collections via audio so I was pretty sure my reading experience would be really fantastic if I listened and it was. My sister says the audiobook sounds like a podcast and it really does. Since West narrates it herself, it also feels like laughing with a friend a lot of the time. If you think your sense of humor and West’s mostly align and you like pop culture critique, I would suggest giving this one a shot!
Call Me Maybe by Cara Bastone
I jumped into this audiobook, thanks to Audible for the advanced listener copy, without a clear understanding of what this book is about and honestly, I think that was a fantastic way to go into the book. Cara Bastone’s authorial voice is absolutely captivating and she works within the romance genre conventions while bringing pretty unique spins on various tropes. I absolutely love the way she writes complex family dynamics and that shines in this book despite being in the background. And the romance itself between Vera and Cal? Magical. I screamed, I laughed out loud, I squealed more times than I can count. I can’t wait for more. Also, the production value of this book is incredible. It sounds like you’re listening to a movie and I loved everything about it.
Call Me Maybe follows Vera, a woman who is trying to take her business to the next level, but her website is giving her problems. She’s already been on hold for a long time when finally she gets a real human to answer her call to assist in fixing the website. The person who answers is Cal. What follows is such a long customer service call, it’s absolutely wild. The connection between Cal and Vera grows steadily throughout this long conversation, but there are some other things going on that cause that connection to get sort of halted. I truly do not want to spoil anything for you so that’s as much of the plot as I’m willing to describe.
What you need to know aside from that is that Vera has some issues because her family basically thinks she’s going to fail at the finish line with this latest business venture and she’s desperate to prove to them that she’s competent and that she can and will be successful. The family dynamics in her family were explored with such a deft touch and I really appreciate how well Bastone does family in all of her writing. Cal has family issues of his own, but those are both more subtle and more blunt and I’ll let you discover them for yourself. I think part of why I love Vera so much is that she feels like she’s messy, but honestly, she has her life pretty well together. She’s not perfect in every area (her cupboards are bare, her computer’s operating system hadn’t been updated in ages) but honestly, she’s on top of her game when it comes to her business, except for this website situation. I loved Vera for all of the ways in which she was a multifaceted and realistically drawn character.
Between Vera and Cal, there were a few moments of awkward jokes that were intentionally done to be funny, but left me feeling slightly discomfited and a few minor moments where I felt like things weren’t exactly right. But all in all, I really enjoyed this Audible Original and I’m so, so excited for the next one!
I really liked both of these! Have you read either of them? What did you think? As always, if you’re in the United States and eligible to vote, please, please make a plan or vote early or mail in your ballot. We’re getting so close to Election Day!