Month: January 2022

Book 4 of 52: This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection by Carol Burnett

My audiobook consumption generally falls into three categories:

Hefty historical books that I’d probably never sit down to read (like Book 2 of 52 in this series)
Juvenile or YA fiction (the 2006 production of Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet as read by Peter Coyote is the tensest audiobook experience I’ve ever had)
Celebrities reading their memoirs

Book four falls into that last category.

This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection by Carol Burnett isn’t a straight memoir – Burnet wrote that, One More Time: A Memoir, in 2003. Instead, it’s a anecdotes that she often told in the Q&A sessions before tapings of The Carol Burnett Show, and then on tour. I say performances for a reason: listening to this book is like listening to her on stage.

These stories have the polish of well practiced storytelling. And there’s nothing wrong with that of course! Burnett is supremely talented performer – I would expect no less from her reading her own audiobook. This format also means that she could do her not so great Marlon Brando impression, and her wonderful and well known Tarzan yowl (my heart also broke she also struggled to read the chapter about her daughter, Carrie, who died of cancer […]

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Book 3 of 52: Saving Fish from Drowning by Amy Tan

Twelve people go into the jungle to follow a trip planned for them by a friend who recently died under mysterious circumstances. Eleven of those people go missing, their guide found knocked out with no memory, close to where they disappeared. The twelfth member of the group, who stayed behind, tries to piece together where they went and eventually how to alert American authorities. Except the jungle they’re in is in Myanmar/Burma. And where the one left behind is at? There is no phone.

This may sound like a tense thriller, but instead, Amy Tan’s Saving Fish From Drowning is a comedy of errors, told in the setting of an authoritarian regime, by the ghost of Bibi Chen, the dead friend who planned the trip. Even she doesn’t know how she died, but she does know what lies in the hearts and minds of the characters of the story, which isn’t always – of course – what they say out loud. The book is about government oppression, displacement, mysticism, colonialism, tourism and, because why not, reality TV. It was published in 2005, five years after Survivor debuted. This early send up still works.

The only disappointing part is the author’s note, which […]

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Book 2 of 52: Empire of Mud: The Secret History of Washington, DC by J.D. Dickey

Whenever I went to Washington, D.C., I think about how orderly it is. Just about everything is on a grid, with Metro riding through it. Free museums, great buildings, great works of art, lots of fun things to do (in non-COVID times). Every visit is a treat. When I started freelancing and thought I needed to move for my career, I was must closer to moving here than New York City. I wound up staying in New Jersey (and I’m glad I did), but D.C. still has a special place in my heart.

But wow, was it really a shit hole for most if its formal existence. I don’t mean that in a figurative way either. Sewage used to run right into the Washington City Canal (which still flows under Constitution Avenue), and when the canal backed up? That sewage backed up right into basements and streets.  It was a lawless, dirty, humid stinking mess, so much so that the capital was almost moved to the mid-west (with buildings!) to start all over again.

I knew a bit about D.C.’s less than wonderful beginnings through the books listed below, but J.D. Dickey lays it all out in Empire of Mud: The […]

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Book 1 of 52: Widowland by C.J. Carey

Editor’s Note (2/22/23): Earlier this week, I learned that the author of this book is transphobic. I’ve written more about that here.

In 1937, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor had a private meeting with Hitler at his home in the Bavarian Alps. This was a year after the former King Edward VIII abdicated the throne in order to marry American divorcee Wallace Simpson (hence the lower Duke title).

What happened at this meeting is still a mystery. However, what is known is that the Duke of Windsor was a Nazi sympathizer, and that the Nazis also devised a plan called where Germany would take over Britain and make Duke king again, in exchange for “peace.” In 1940, the Nazis launched “Operation Willi,” with plans to kidnap the Duke and convince him of this pact (you might know some of this if you watched The Crown. I yelled “oh these two knobs” when Edward and Wallace came onto screen).

Operation Willi failed. Widowland by C.J. Carey asks this: what if it had succeeded?

As you can imagine, nothing good! This “what if…” picks up in 1953. England is subjugated […]

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Welcome Back to Book a Week with Jen!

Hello hello! Yes, the rumors (that I started) are true. On New Year’s Day, I fired up the old Book a Week with Jen blog, gave it a new domain, and I’m going to be writing about my reading habits once again.

If you don’t know me, my name is Jen A. Miller, and I’m a freelance writer and author. I’ve been freelancing now for 17 years, and in that time, have written hundreds of articles, three books (two about the Jersey Shore and one about running), and two ebooks (both about freelance writing).

If you’re not new around here, wow a lot has changed. I wrote a memoir, picked up a regular running column for the New York Times, and put that back down again. I ran a lot of marathons, and got into ultra marathoning, which lead me to run my first 24 hour race on New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day 2020/2021. My first dog, Emily, died in 2017. I sold my first home, lived out of my car for a […]

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Coming soon…

Hey. Hey. Heyyyyyy. You there? I am. Stay tuned for something new in 2022…

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