Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Book 11: The Rosie Project, Graeme Simsion

"I decided to read 52 books this year so that I could find & read books like The Rosie Project- books that would make me laugh, sigh and remind me why I love reading"

'The Rosie Project' by Graeme Simsion is a story about the search for love and its rather surprising results. It has been an absolute pleasure to read and review The Rosie Project as All Booked Up's 11th book of 2014. The Rosie Project is a sweet, endearing novel with many laugh out loud moments. And I mean serious, do-not-read-in-public-otherwise-you-will-look-like-a-lunatic, laugh out loud moments. None of this smirking at the page business. Simsion's writing never feels contrived, the characters are lifelike and genuine, and just like I did, you will fall in love with the main character, Don, well before the last page.
veryone who I have mentioned that I was reading this book to has had the same response, that The Rosie Project is a great novel.  It has been one of the few books this year I have loved from the very beginning and knew right away it would definitely deserve a 5 star rating.

Two different covers of The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

The Rosie Project begins with Professor Don Tillman searching for a solution to his 'Wife Problem'. That he doesn't have one. Don is a brilliant genetic researcher, bicycling enthusiast, an excellent and extremely efficient cook, and very, very single. Don also has Asperger's Syndrome, a fact of which he remains unaware despite the subtle efforts of his few friends. Don develops the 'Wife Project, setting up a survey as a way of culling potential candidates and to allow for maximum time efficiency, wasting no time on dates with unsuitable ladies. However Don's project doesn't go to plan when the spontaneous, stubborn and unique Rosie crosses his path.

I decided to read The Rosie Project because I heard that it had a main character with a disability and as I work with people with disability who are on the autism spectrum, it tweaked my interest. But make no mistake, this novel is not a book about 'disability'. The Rosie Project is a novel about love, friendship, surprises and compromise. 

The fact that Don has Asperger's does lead to many hilarious moments with Don's understanding of social situations being slightly off kilter from the 'norm'. Don acknowledges he has difficulties with reading social cues and developing friendships, and the novel has quite a few funny moments where Don puts his foot in it.

"You seem very interested in babies" (Natalie said)
"I'm interested in their behaviour. Without the corrupting influence of a parent present."
She Looked at me strangely. "Do you do any stuff with kids? I mean Scouts, Church Groups..."
"No," I Said. "It's unlikely I'd be suitable".

In writing the novel in first person, Simsion allows readers to see the world from Don's unique point of view, and laugh along at times when Don is blissfully unaware the effect his words have on others. More powerfully, in writing the novel from Don's perspective, Simsion allows readers to see that the fact Don has Asperger's Syndrome does not prevent him from leading a very interesting life. The Rosie Project reminds readers that someone's 'disability' is not necessarily their defining factor, and can even be more of an 'ability' (Don's ability to remember facts and optimise his time for maximum efficiency come in handy a few times).

The Good Bits

Throughout the novel, Don believes that all ice-cream tastes the same and plans to only date women who believe this.

Didn't want to miss a chance to fit in a Ron Swanson GIF

What is quite a humorous part of the novel actually serves as a reminder that we all get stuck in our ways and beliefs, often limiting ourselves and our ability to have different experiences and the potential to make new friends. When Don chills out a bit (get it, ice-cream, chilled, haha?) he ends up having a lot more fun.

And the best bit of all is that there will be a sequel! The Rosie Effect is coming out later this year.

The Not So Good Bits

ummm... that it wasn't longer?

But in all seriousness, there was nothing about this novel that I did not like. Simsion has created a truly excellent novel which is humorous and quirky but without being silly or disingenuous. I am thoroughly looking forward to reading the sequel. Ultimately, I decided to read 52 books this year so I could find books like The Rosie Project, books that would make me laugh, sigh and remind me why I love reading. Thank you Mr Simsion.


5 out of 5 tasty ice-creams

Want more?

Novels similar to The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion are

Getting the Girl, Markus Zusak, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, Mark Haddon, The Fault in Our Stars, John Green

 Bonus section!

If you think the cover of The Rosie Project is as cool as I do, check out this interesting look into the different covers of The Rosie Project around the world! 


The Next Book

Tell The Wolves I'm Home, a novel about a young girl who looses her beloved uncle to AIDS in the 1980's.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Book 10 Review: Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier

My 10th book this year was the timeless gothic romantic novel 'Rebecca', by Daphne Du Maurier. First published in 1938 the novel follows a young woman who marries the older Max DeWinter, whose glamorous and beautiful first wife, Rebecca, recently died.  The novel is full of eerie suspense and a sense of disquiet as the narrator recounts her tale of Manderlay, their house haunted by the memory of the late Rebecca DeWinter. 'Rebecca' is a captivating novel and not a challenging read. It would be a great read for those who don't often read the Classic novels and for those who fall asleep at the very mention of Dickens or Austen.

The book cover of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier from the 70's edition I read.
The narrator, a young and naïve woman, remains unnamed throughout the book, a clever literary technique designed to emphasise the lingering presence of the former Mrs DeWinter, however I just thought I had missed reading the narrator's name for the first few chapters and kept trying to look back for her name. Duh.

My first impression of the novel was that it was not as dark as I thought it would be. I imagined attacks in the night, hauntings, disembodied heads floating down long corridors (okay I didn't really imagine that)....

It is a common mistake for modern readers to hear the words gothic novel and expect the literary equivalent of Paranormal Activity. However, Gothic novels like Frankenstein, Northanger Abbey and Wuthering Heights rely on suspense, on a subtle yet all pervasive feeling of unease to bring a chill to reader's spines. This is a skill that has been lost in the modern age where filmmakers and authors require increasingly shocking and dramatic situations in order to make their audiences to feel frightened.
Daphne du Maurier masters the art of subtle unease and anticipatory dread in Rebecca. With each page turn you almost cringe (in my case it was mostly because my old copy was falling apart), not knowing when the state of uneasy calm will break.

One part of 'Rebecca' I found hilarious was when the characters in 'Rebecca' spoke about the weather being over 80 degrees Fahrenheit (about 26 degrees Celsius).

Well everyone could sure cope well with the weather in 1930's Britain...

For someone who lives in a rather temperate part of Australia, where the summer-time minimum temperatures sometimes do not dip below 26 degrees I had a good laugh at these wimps.

The Good bits

'Rebecca' was easy to read. The novel has all the conventions of a 19th century Gothic novel, but has been written in the 1930's and is full of familiar and not overly complex language. Old stodgy language normally turns off readers from attempting the classics (it stopped me for many years), so Rebecca is a good introduction before delving straight into Wuthering Heights or Frankenstein.

The Not So Good Bits

One character in the novel which really rankled me was a man, Ben, the 'local idiot'. This is the narrator speaking about Ben after meeting him on the beach.

This passage is meant to hold some irony, with Ben potentially knowing some crucial information later in the novel. However at the key moment, when du Maurier could have had Ben become much more than the local 'simpleton', he fails to do so, afraid of being mistreated, thus relegating Ben to the ranks of a truly useless character. It made me sad to read these descriptions of Ben, reminding me how many people with disabilities were (and still are) passed off as idiots and fools. The narrator in the passage above even supposing what Ben must be like without the slightest effort made to get to know or understand him. I am more than aware that times have thankfully changed since the 1930's, but too often in society, people with disabilities are brushed off just like Ben, not recognised for their own strengths, personalities and capacity.
Okay. Rant over.


3.5 out of 5 sweaty Englishmen

Want More?

Some other novels similar to Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier are;

The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte. Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn.

The Next Book:

My next novel is The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion.


Friday, 4 April 2014

Book 9 Review & Interview: The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price Purveyor of Superior Funerals, Wendy Jones

My 9th Book this year was the lovely novel 'The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price Purveyor of Superior Funerals' by British author Wendy Jones. It was a book I thoroughly enjoyed and only took me a day to read. In exciting news, Wendy Jones, the author of  'The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price Purveyor of Superior Funerals'  kindly agreed to be interviewed for All Booked Up 2014. This is All Booked Up's first exclusive interview dear readers, and you are in for a treat!

The beautiful book cover of The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price Purveyor of Superior Funerals by Wendy Jones

Due to the fact that Australia is ahead of everywhere else in the world (in time and number of animals per square kilometre that want to kill you), the interview was conducted via email.

Basically this interview is better than interviewing J.K. Rowling.

Amejoys: There is nothing better than having an author describe a novel in her own words. So this is the perfect time to ask if you could you please describe your novel, ‘The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price Purveyor of Superior Funerals’, to my blog readers? 
Wendy Jones: The novel is about an undertaker, Wilfred Price, in 1924 west Wales. He inadvertently proposes to a woman he likes but soon realises his mistake, especially when he meets Flora. The novel is about Wilfred's work and romantic life and the constraints and gentleness of the time. 
I have never been to the UK, let alone to Wales, yet I found myself so easily transported to the small Welsh town of Narberth in which the novel was set. Your descriptions of the physical environment almost made the town seem like a character, was that your intention?  
 I very much wanted Narberth to be a character and to give the novel a very specific sense of place, to have it rooted. 

I Imagined 1920's Narberth looked just like this
For a novel that is so often described as ‘charming’, the novel does touch on some serious issues (which I won’t spoil here for those who haven’t read it yet). When writing your novel did you aim to balance the good with the bad, as life often does? 
Mostly I wanted the novel to be comforting; there is dark subject matter and it was important that there was a range for me, of what is light and easy, and what is hard to accept. 
If ‘The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price Purveyor of Superior Funerals’ was made into a movie, who would be your ideal actors to portray Wilfred, Grace, Flora and Dr Reece? 
If the novel becomes a movie, I have no idea who would play the parts! Perhaps Antony Hopkins as Dr Reece! I see the characters in my mind's eye so clearly, I can't imagine them as anyone other than they are.


Exclusive! You heard it here first! Sir Anthony Hopkins to play Dr Reece in the movie adaption of The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price Purveyor of Superior Funerals. Haha.  
Cover art does have a large part in how readers choose books in bookstores. The old adage tells us not to judge a book by its cover, but the edition I read, with the blue and gold cover, was beautiful.  Are you happy with the look of the book? Who did the cover art?
I like the cover very much; it is clear and distinctive. I had no say in it but am very pleased with it. 
When I first finished ‘The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price..' I was almost disappointed in the choices of both Grace and Flora. I felt they both made choices that these days would make a feminist cringe. But on reflection, I realised that Grace (And to some extent, Flora) did not have the opportunities that women do today, and that their decisions were not choices, but rather the outcome of events which they coped rather well with. Did you deliberately create storylines for Grace and Flora that would in some way highlight the challenges that women faced in the 1920s?
I thought of Grace and Flora as women of their time, as we all are, and their lives were circumscribed by their time, as ours are. I am not sure how free any of us are, especially women, although Flora and Grace both think of themselves as freer than their mother's and grandmother's generations. 
Did you find it difficult to transition from writing non-fiction with your Biography of Grayson Perry, to writing a novel? Do you prefer writing non-fiction, or fiction?
I didn't find the transition from non-fiction to novel writing difficult - they are both the same in that they both demand narrative, and follow strict rules of what a writer has to do to engage a reader. I like writing both; they both fascinate me. 


The book cover of The World is A Wedding, the sequel to The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price Purveyor of Superior Funerals  by Wendy Jones 


I am very excited to have discovered that you have written a sequel to ‘The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price..', called 'The World Is A Wedding'. Where does this novel pick up, and does it still focus on Wilfred?
The sequel The World is a Wedding starts almost immediately after The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price ends and it is about Wilfred, but also Grace and Flora, as the lives of all three are interwoven more than they realise or perhaps had wanted. They are connected and need resolution and peace with each other and Wilfred, too, feels guilty about how he has treated Grace and the guilt is bothering him.


A huge THANK YOU to Wendy Jones for answering my questions.
And a bigger thank you for bringing us such a lovely novel!
Pop into your local bookstore and buy a copy of  'The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price Purveyor of Superior Funerals' or the sequel 'The World is a Wedding', you won't be disappointed!

The Good Bits:

For a novel that does deal with some complicated and emotional subjects, it is, as Wendy Jones herself described, a comforting book. It is a charming and enjoyable novel, and will make you want to snuggle up with a pot of tea and buttered welsh cakes and read for a whole day!

The Not So Good Bits:

As I mentioned to Wendy, the ending did leave my feminist senses twitching, but as Wendy explained, the lives of the female characters realistically and truthfully reflected the lives of many women of the 1920s.


4 1/2 of 5 bicycling gentlemen.

Want more?

If you liked 'The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price Purveyor of Superior Funerals'  by Wendy Jones you might like:

Notwithstanding, Louis de Bernieres, The Rosie Project, Graeme Simsion, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce
The Next book:

I have read Rebecca, by Daphne Du Maurier, a very interesting novel, which also happened to be set (and written) in the early 1900's.
I have entered All Booked Up 2014 into The Best Australian Blogs Competition. If you like what I write and enjoy my gratuitous use of GIFs please click on the picture below and send a vote my way! Tick the box in the survey next to "All Booked Up 2014".

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Book 8 Review: The Lowland, Jhumpa Lahiri

My 8th book this year is the novel ‘The Lowland’ by Jhumpa Lahiri. This novel is Lahiri almost at her best; full of cross cultural observations, complicated relationships, families who don’t always like each other and lots of beautiful descriptive language. The novel is ostensibly about two brothers from Calcutta and the divergent paths their lives take. But at its core, it is a novel about the complexities of families. The Lowland was Shortlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Price and was a National Book Award Finalist, and is certainly worth all of those honours. If you are after a light and happy novel, this is not the book for you. But if you want to be challenged, to look at the complexities of families in a different way and learn a little of Calcutta's past and the ill fated Naxalite movement, The Lowland will do all that and more.

The cover of The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

A little context to start; The Lowland is not a novel about India.
It is a novel about families. And about how screwed up people are. (Aren’t I erudite!).
The stereotype of 'Indian' books is that they are full of beautiful colour, descriptions of busy families, and descriptions of food so real, you head straight to your local Indian restaurant for some takeaway. This is not that book. The Lowland is a book of cold, strained relationships, of emotions buried, a lifetime worth things unsaid and of distance. This is a novel about universal issues.

Indeed one of the strongest themes that comes through in the novel is distance, both emotional and physical. From a very young age there is a great difference between the personalities of the measured and thoughtful protagonist, Subhash, and his brother, the impulsive and boundary pushing Udayan. This difference between them only increases as Udayan starts receding into the murky world of the Naxalite movement and Subhash moves to The United States to pursue his studies. Although the novel is about two brothers, the majority of the novel is spent with the brothers separated, and mostly follows the life of Subhash and his life in America.

The Good Bits:
The Lowland is interesting and quick to read. This is not normally something worth mentioning as an especially 'Good Bit' but I'll allow it on this occasion. The novel deals with the nature of relationships, of marriage, of duty, of truth and love, and is often as bleak as a Subhash's beloved Rhode Island beach in winter. Despite this, I never found it a slow or uninteresting read, and I powered through it in no time at all.

Lahiri's novels always include enlightening commentary on the experience of Indian migrants and observations on the changes between old and new, post-colonial India. The Lowland is no exception to this. The experiences of Subhash and his wife in America highlight some of the challenges faced by the members of the Indian diaspora to the West. 

The Not so Good Bits:
The Lowland was very truthful in its portrayal of characters. And just as in life and in families, there are characters you don't like very much. Gauri, (I won't explain who she is to avoid spoilers) and the boys' mother, are both complex characters burdened by their pasts. But for me, they were unlikeable enough not to absolutely love this novel.

Discussing the novel on Twitter with one of my fellow book lovers, she mentioned something about The Lowland:

Hochu hit the nail on the head with this one and perfectly encapsulated my feelings on The Lowland. It isn't a book that you will spend days thinking about the characters after you have finished, and perhaps this is why it didn't win the Man Booker Prize. It is emotionally taxing, and the resentments, anger and unresolvable issues that the characters face result in a novel without simple answers or happy conclusions. It is still a brilliant novel, but ultimately I prefer The Namesake and The Interpreter of The Maldives by Lahiri.

4 out of 5

The Next Book:
The next book is The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price, by Wendy Jones.

Want more?

Yes, you beady eyed loyal readers, this is a new section!

 If you liked this novel, or want something similar to The Lowland try these novels: 

Freedom, Jonathan Franzen, And the Mountains Echoes Khaled Hosseini, The White Tiger Aravind Adiga

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Second Hand Bookstores- A Visit to Elizabeth's Bookshop

Breaking from my tradition of reviewing books on All Booked Up 2014, I thought I would do a BONUS! review of a bookstore and share some photos from my visit to the lovely Elizabeth's Bookshop on Pitt Street in Sydney, Australia.

If you have never visited before, Elizabeth's Bookshop is a quirky, second-hand bookstore full of unexpected books, hilarious recommendations and lots of surprise finds.


Wooden ladders, floor to ceiling bookshelves... bliss

Some interesting book placement


They also had a super cool 'Blind Date With a Book" section. This is a brilliant idea, and a great way to get people to read more. And they are wrapped charmingly in brown paper and tied up with string (Julie Andrews eat your heart out)
I Got one myself,

which ended up being, 'On the Ropes' by Tom Schrek, a novel I would have never heard of or bought if I didn't wander into Elizabeth's Bookshop that day. Elizabeth's Bookshop also allow you return the book if you have already read it, so win-win for everyone!

The staff were friendly and very knowledgeable- the man serving me on the day I visited was just the right ratio of hipster to booklover- and it is a great place to visit to loose yourself and find a great read.

Elizabeth's Bookshop is charming, and exactly what a bookshop should be. Carrying on with my usual rating at the end of the blog post, Elizabeth's gets
5 out of 5 stars.

 For those of you who remember- I started my blog by waxing lyrical about my Kindle. But what my challenge of reading 52 books this year has taught me, is to appreciate the printed book. I have remembered how much I love browsing through old bookshops. I still appreciate my Kindle, especially when reading huge novels like The Goldfinch or The Luminaries (do all big books have to start with 'The'?), but I am also now growing to love real books and bookshops again. Thanks to Elizabeth's Bookshop for reminding me how great bookshops can be!

Elizabeth's Bookshop has its own Facebook, Twitter and Website if you would like to find out more. Elizabeth's also has other bookshops across Australia.

If you live nowhere near Sydney Australia go visit your own local second hand bookshop, take the time to explore and support someone other than amazon.


Book 7 Review: Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn

"I was so twitchy with suspense at one point in the novel I Googled 'Who Killed Amy, Gone Girl'. Those who have read the novel feel free to laugh at me now."

My 7th book this year was the Novel ‘Gone Girl’ by Gillian Flynn. This is a novel full of suspense, a mix of who-done-it and fantastically flawed characters. I try and make all my reviews spoiler-free, and this novel is extremely hard to review without giving away the major plot twists and turns. But I promise this will be as spoiler free as possible. 
I enjoyed reading the book, but I discovered while reading this that I have a zero ability to cope with suspense, and this book is certainly full of it. As a reader you have no idea of how the story will resolve itself, or indeed if the complicated lives of its characters can ever be resolved happily.


Gone Girl book cover

The novel follows lovely married couple Nick and Amy as they celebrate their  5th wedding anniversary. Nick leaves for work and by the end of the day Amy is missing and as a reader you are strapped in for a ride that doesn’t stop until about 2 days after you have finished reading and mentally processing this novel. The novel alternates between the perspectives of Nick and Amy as right from the get-go you start to realise that their relationship is not all roses and sunshine. We follow Nick as he struggles to piece together his wife’s disappearance, and as the evidence slowly begins to stack up against him.
I am certainly feeling the pressure to make this a good review because Gone Girl is definitely the book of the moment. It is a huge bestseller and is soon to be made into a movie with Ben Affleck. It has been the first time that I have been tempted to read other reviews before writing my own, simply to find a way to review this book without giving it all away.



As a reader, I was shocked when I found that both Nick and Amy were not reliable narrators. I was used to a nice, straightforward relationship between a reader and a main character. As a reader of a novel written in first person I always go in with the naïve assumption that the narrator and I have an open relationship. It is apparently not the case in this novel and I was a little bit shocked. I suppose it wouldn’t be a very good suspense novel without some suspense and plot twists and turns (fancy that!) and sure enough Flynn delivers on both fronts. If you are feeling a little outraged that I gave this away, don't worry, it is one of the smallest plot twists, a mere wrinkle in the  fabric of the novel.
My scribbles as I tried to figure out how to review Gone Girl
The Good Bits
Flynn's writing is sharp, darkly humorous and she gets the voices of Nick and Amy spot-on. Nick constantly struggles to portray himself as a grieving husband, when the reality of his relationship with his missing wife is far from straightforward. You literally groan as Nick smiles automatically to a mob of media cameras instead of breaking down in tears as one would expect a worried husband to do. You feel just as tied up as Nick and Amy are in their complicated lives, so convincing is Flynn's writing. This makes it even more shocking when you realise that they are not the most reliable narrators.
Gone Girl also delves into some interesting commentary on how the Media reports on missing women. Families, Husbands, Friends and Neighbours are all expected to conform to their roles, to grieve publically and properly, to swear to find their missing loved one, to cry and sob for the flashing bulbs and watching lenses. The power of public opinion and the media mob once someone does not play their role properly is made fully apparent in this Novel, and will make anyone question their own perceptions when reading about or watching real life cases of disappearances or murders. The current media commentary on the Oscar Pistorius trial is tinged with the exact same themes raised by Flynn in Gone Girl. Listening to daytime TV hosts talk about how he definitely did/didn't murder his girlfriend makes you realise that Flynn's observations on the media coverage of missing/murdered women are spot on.
The Not So Good Bits
I was uneasy, tense and on edge when reading this book. Which I imagine is precisely how Flynn wants her readers to feel, but something I am not used to as I have not read a triller in a long time. This year is about reading outside my comfort zone and this book certainly booted me out. I was so twitchy with suspense at one point  early on in the novel I Googled 'Who Killed Amy, Gone Girl'. Those who have read the novel feel free to laugh at me now.
The Rating
4 out of 5 missing wives
The Next Book
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri, a novel about two brothers growing up in India in the 1970's, a time a great political turbulence for India.
If anyone wants to read a much more intelligent review of Gone Girl that delves deeper into the concepts of identity, gender roles and reality read the Piratess's Tumblr post about Gone Girl. Piratess is 'the cool girl' without even trying.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Book 6 review: ‘Stories I Only Tell My Friends’, Rob Lowe

My 6th book of this year is Rob Lowe’s autobiography, ‘Stories I Only Tell My Friends’. To put it simply, this is autobiography is a great book. It was well written, insightful and funny, and just generally a good read. I had only ever seen Rob Lowe in the new TV series Parks and Recreation (in which he was brilliant) and had never seen any of his movies. So I was coming into this book cold, knowing little about Rob Lowe, and not expecting a great deal. Now Rob Lowe now has a new fan, not only of his acting, but as a writer.
The Cover of Rob Lowe's 'Stories I Only Tell My Friends'



‘Stories I Only Tell My Friends’ follows Rob's life as a young, wanna-be actor growing up in Ohio. then moving with his mother, step-father and brothers to Malibu in the 1970’s. Rob’s descriptions of Malibu in the 70’s before it became an expensive celebrity haven, are fascinating. In the audition circuit, and in his new hometown of Malibu Rob comes across so many of his fellow future stars; Tom Cruise, Robert Downey Jr, Emilio Estevez, Charlie Sheen, Sean Penn amongst many, many others. Rob then details his early struggles as an actor and his difficulty with the disconnect an actor has from the finished product of a movie.

 I know little of Rob Lowe’s work. I vaguely remember seeing him in Brothers and Sisters when I was a teenager, and absolutely love him in Parks and Recreation but have not seen any of his movies. I did not grow up with Rob Lowe as the 20-something A-list celebrity so knew little of the rumours that have surrounded his life since he was a teenager.
Back in his teenage years Rob was melting hearts with this grin...
When I mentioned I was reading his book to a colleague, she simply mumbled something about drugs and celebrities. But apart from that comment, Rob Lowe’s reputation did not precede him as I read his autobiography.

the so called ‘Brat Pack’ of the 80's 

Sure this autobiography goes into Rob’s struggles with alcohol and his multiple love affairs with every girl from Princess Stephanie of Monaco, to Cary Grant’s daughter Jennifer Grant. But Rob’s insight into the film industry and into his varied career is the real star of this book. 
What is astonishing is how Lowe discovers that Hollywood is all about missed opportunities. It is so hard to predict how a movie will turn out once a writer, director, producer and ultimately a studio have had their way with it, and often an actor can give an incredible performance that is either cut from a film, or edited in such a way that ruins it. Rob speaks about how he was so excited to watch a screening of his first movie, the iconic 'The Outsiders' but was devastated when he realised half his scenes had been cut. Lowe talks about questioning whether to take the opportunity to be the leading man in 'Dune' and mentions how Tom Cruise  was cast in Risky Business, a movie he wasn't sure would be successful.  

The most obvious sign of how much I liked this book is the fact I have been on a Rob Lowe cinematography binge for the last week since reading 'Stories I Only Tell My Friends'. I have begun watching The West Wing, I have the Outsiders, St Elmo's Fire and About Last Night waiting for me to watch this weekend. It is great when a book can introduce you to something new, and Lowe has successfully introduced me to some of the greatest films of the 80's, and to a brilliant TV show that many had previously tried and failed to get me to watch (I have a Political Science degree so there were plenty of people who tried).
The Good Bits

The most surprising part of this autobiography was how well it was written. Rob Lowe was funny, self-deprecating and above all, interesting. At no point  was I bored or uninterested. He is a great storyteller.

As I mentioned, 'Stories I Only Tell My Friends’ has inspired me to watch The West Wing for the first time. And I cannot believe how I got through my degree in political science without watching The West Wing, so thank you Mr Lowe for introducing me to this absolute gem. The West Wing holds a special place in Lowe's heart and he speaks of his absolute love of the show. Indeed, Rob starts his book describing John Kennedy Jr.'s support for the West Wing just before his tragic death and the shaky beginnings of the show. He then jumps back to his childhood, throughout his early years of fame, his breakdown and then finishes the book with his rebirth as an actor with the West Wing.
and it all comes together like this...

Ultimately, I am very grateful that this book certainly does not fit with the history of celebrity autobiographies being truly terrible.

Paris Hilton’s biography- straight to the bargain book bin with this one

David Hasselhoff’s autobiography 'Making Waves' comes in a close second for worst celebrity autobiography ever

The Not So Good Bits
I am struggling to find one thing that I didn't like about this book. It is not necessarily a book that will truly challenge you, or change your life, but it will offer new insight into the reality of life as a 'star', the difficulties of pursuing, and staying true your artistic passion, and may even make you a fan of Rob Lowe.


4 out of 5 stars

The Next Book
The book of the moment, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I was meant to read that before this novel but I decided to read Rob Lowe's book first.