book review: shockaholic by carrie fisher

Shockaholic is an autobiographical humor book by American actress and author Carrie Fisher, published by Simon & Schuster in 2011.  It is Fisher’s second memoir.

Category:  Autobiography/Memoir

Publisher’s Summary:  Infused with Carrie Fisher’s trademark incisive wit and on the heels of Wishful Drinking’s instant New York Times bestselling success, Shockaholic takes readers on another rollicking ride into her crazy life.

There is no shortage of people flocking to hear what Princess Leia has to say. Her previous hardcover, Wishful Drinking, was an instant New York Times bestseller and Carrie was featured everywhere on broadcast media and received rave reviews from coast to coast, including People (4 stars; one of their top 10 books of the year), Entertainment Weekly, New York Times, and scores of others.

Told with the same intimate style, brutal honesty, and uproarious wisdom that placed Wishful Drinking on the New York Times bestseller list for months, Shockaholic is the juicy account of Carrie Fisher’s life, focusing more on the Star Wars years and dishing about the various Hollywood relationships she’s formed since she was chosen to play Princess Leia at only nineteen years old. Fisher delves into the gritty details that made the movie—and herself—such a phenomenal success, admitting, “It isn’t all sweetness and light sabers.”

Review:  After hearing the story of her waking up next to a dead friend in Wishful Drinking, we hear more of the emotional and mental aftermath in Shockaholic.  The trauma of the situation led Fisher to renew her drug habit, and while I haven’t had substance abuse problems like she has nor have I woken up next to a dead friend, I can relate to the mental health side of things, which makes her emotional processes here very relatable to me.  Her constant thoughts about the impact of her behavior on her daughter Billie were both touching and heartbreaking, and I am glad that she was so open and honest about the electroconvulsive therapy and what it has done for her.  The more people with mental health struggles speak out about their diagnoses, treatments, situations, and circumstances, the more we may be able to break the stigma that surrounds mental illness in this country.

There are plenty of great stories in here.  From Bob Dylan calling her to ask her what would be good names for cologne to Elizabeth Taylor shoving her into a pool, Fisher shares these anecdotes in a funny, refreshing way that is uniquely her own.   There are more profound moments as well, such as Fisher sharing her thoughts and memories on Michael Jackson and the situations and circumstances that surrounded him while framing it with the story of spending his last Christmas Eve together with him and his children.  Her stories of Paul Simon and their relationship were witty, the ones of her stepfather Harry were quite funny, and the tale of her dinner with Chris Dodd, Ted Kennedy, and a few others was absolutely fantastic to read.

The story that got to me the most though was the theme that ran throughout the book, and that was Fisher’s relationship with her father, Eddie Fisher.  From not liking him very much to becoming drug buddies to their relationship during the final months of his life, Fisher gives an emotional yet honest take on growing up with a father who had left before she was the age of three and sort of floated around the peripheral of her existence for years afterward.  It’s a difficult to understand relationship while at the same time being a sign of how people grow emotionally as they grow older.  And Fisher’s final reflections on her now deceased father are touching and poignant.

And the Star Wars stories.  Who doesn’t love Star Wars stories?

Recommendation: I miss Carrie Fisher so much.  Her brutal honesty and insightful wisdom and tremendous wit are on display here once again, and while Wishful Drinking was perhaps funnier overall, there are moments in this book that had me laughing hysterically (see: her fake commercial for a fake psych drug).  She also speaks more about her experiences with electroconvulsive therapy and what led her to the decision to have it, and to the mental health struggles and substance abuse problems that she’d struggled with for the majority of her adult life.  Because of all of these reasons, to me, Shockaholic is an essential read.

book review: wishful drinking by carrie fisher

Wishful Drinking is an autobiographical humor book by American actress and author Carrie Fisher, published by Simon & Schuster in 2008. Fisher’s book was based on her one-woman stage show, which she developed with writer/director Joshua Ravetch.

Category:  Autobiography/Memoir

Publisher’s Summary:  In Wishful Drinking, Carrie Fisher tells the true and intoxicating story of her life with inimitable wit. Born to celebrity parents, she was picked to play a princess in a little movie called Star Wars when only 19 years old. “But it isn’t all sweetness and light sabers.” Alas, aside from a demanding career and her role as a single mother (not to mention the hyperspace hairdo), Carrie also spends her free time battling addiction, weathering the wild ride of manic depression and lounging around various mental institutions. It’s an incredible tale – from having Elizabeth Taylor as a stepmother, to marrying (and divorcing) Paul Simon, from having the father of her daughter leave her for a man, to ultimately waking up one morning and finding a friend dead beside her in bed.

Review:  Carrie Fisher is a mother f’ing goddess.  She’s so refreshing and every word I read made me more sad about the fact that she’s gone.  As someone who struggles with mental illness, her candid take on what she’s been through and her open admission to undergoing electroconvulsive therapy made me feel more accepted, more welcome in the world.  I haven’t undergone that particular treatment but I think the more people who are open about their mental health struggles and what they do to help them, the better it is when it comes to fighting the stigma that surrounds mental illness as a whole.

I also thoroughly enjoyed hearing about Carrie’s family and her life growing up.  As the daughter of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, she grew up in a world that few people can imagine, and the little insights she gives into it were interesting.  Particular highlights are her describing what she and her brother used to do when playing in her mother’s closet, the story of when her brother accidentally shot himself in the leg, or the story of when her mother came up with the idea for her to have her stepfather’s child because it would have nice eyes.

And all of the Star Wars stories, oh, all of the Star Wars stories.  She tells the best Star Wars stories, like the story of the famous hairstyle or the various merchandise that she became or how George Lucas told her she couldn’t wear a bra under the white dress she wore in the first movie because there’s no underwear in space.

Her reflection on her substance abuse and drug addiction problems was poignant and honest, and I appreciated that so much.  I have never suffered from these issues, but the psychological issues that go along with them are things that I have faced and again, hearing someone who has faced the same things talk about them is just so important to me.  Her descriptions of how she processes things is just so similar to mine that it’s almost frightening, but hearing them is almost validation of my processes, and validation is kind of a thing I search for.

Recommendation:  Carrie Fisher is a tremendous writer, and this book is full of wit, wisdom, and honesty.  Her candid talk about her mental illness and struggles means the world to me as someone who has a mental illness, and I relate to her more than I can say.  It’s a wonderful read that makes me miss her more than I have in months.  I highly recommend this.

book review: phasma by delilah s. dawson

Phasma is a novel written by Delilah S. Dawson which was released on September 1, 2017, as a part of the Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi marketing campaign. The novel centers around Resistance spy Vi Moradi and First Order captain Cardinal, and it reveals the origins and motivations of Captain Phasma.

Category:  Fantasy/Sci-Fi

Publisher’s Summary:  Discover Captain Phasma’s mysterious history in this “Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi” novel.

One of the most cunning and merciless officers of the First Order, Captain Phasma commands the favor of her superiors, the respect of her peers, and the terror of her enemies. But for all her renown, Phasma remains as virtually unknown as the impassive expression on her gleaming chrome helmet. Now, an adversary is bent on unearthing her mysterious origins—and exposing a secret she guards as zealously and ruthlessly as she serves her masters.

Deep inside the Battlecruiser Absolution, a captured Resistance spy endures brutal interrogation at the hands of a crimson-armored stormtrooper—Cardinal. But the information he desires has nothing to do with the Resistance or its covert operations against the First Order.

What the mysterious stormtrooper wants is Phasma’s past—and with it whatever long-buried scandal, treachery, or private demons he can wield against the hated rival who threatens his own power and privilege in the ranks of the First Order. His prisoner has what Cardinal so desperately seeks, but she won’t surrender it easily. As she wages a painstaking war of wills with her captor, bargaining for her life in exchange for every precious revelation, the spellbinding chronicle of the inscrutable Phasma unfolds. But this knowledge may prove more than just dangerous once Cardinal possesses it—and once his adversary unleashes the full measure of her fury.

Review:  This book was not what I was expecting.  I thought that it would be told from Phasma’s point of view, and instead, it is told from the point of view of Vi Moradi, a Resistance spy, and Cardinal, a First Order stormtrooper.  Through Vi’s storytelling, we get the point of view of Siv, one of Phasma’s fellow members of a band called the Scyre on the planet of Parnassos.  (And when I say band I don’t mean like a musical band.  It’s like a tribe.)

Siv’s and Cardinal’s points of view are thoroughly interesting, while Vi’s point of view is not as chocked full of information about her or the Resistance as much as it is about her storytelling giving us Siv’s point of view.  We learn that Vi has a brother and that she reports directly to General Leia Organa, but we don’t learn much else besides that when it comes to her role in the Resistance.  She is obviously very well informed about the subject of her mission, talking about video footage from First Order ships that she shouldn’t have seen and knowing details about the way the First Order does things that surprises Cardinal.

Cardinal, meanwhile, gives us a lot of personal information, particularly when it comes to his feelings towards Phasma and her place in the First Order, and his desperation to find some sort of information to bring her down.  He’s not above torturing Vi to get what he wants, but he comes to realize that he’ll get more information out of her if he doesn’t, and as the stories are revealed, his facade as an emotionless stormtrooper goes away and a real person emerges.  You begin to really feel for Cardinal, and when the confrontation with Phasma happens at the end, you are really invested in how Cardinal is going to come out of it.

But the most interesting point of view is Siv’s.  Of course, this is the storytelling that Vi does, and it does include comments from her every once and a while, but Siv is the narrator of these stories, and through her, a picture of Phasma begins to be woven.  Phasma was the most fearsome warrior of the Scyre, and Siv was one of her fellow warriors.  When the ship of Brendol Hux, father of General Armitage Hux (who is portrayed by Domnhall Gleeson in the Star Wars feature films)crashes to the surface of Parnassos, his coming is seen by Phasma to be the saving grace of her people, who barely survive on rock spires with little water and food.  This thought is opposed by her brother Keldo, Phasma’s fellow leader of the Scyre, and it tears the two apart.  Phasma and her warriors leave with Brendol and his stormtroopers to find his ship and leave Parnassos for a better life in the stars, and the journey they go on is filled with moments of peril, action, excitement, despair, and you begin to see Phasma grow into the cold, calculating Phasma that I found her to be in Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens and some of the subsequent canon material.  But I also cared for Siv and for many other members of the warriors that traveled with Phasma, and the end of Siv’s story was both sad and poignant and yet there was a tiny bit of hope.

This s a phenomenal read if you’re a Star Wars fan.  It is extremely well written, and vivid as well, the descriptions Delilah S. Dawson used bringing up imagery in my head to accompany the scenes.  The story weaved together beautifully, Dawson titling each chapter with where it was taking place in the timeline, either in the present on the Star Destroyer Absolution or ten years previous on Parnassos, so I was never confused about where I was in the storyline.

Recommendation:  Highly recommended, particularly if you’re interested in Captain Phasma as a character.  She was so mysterious coming into and out of The Force Awakens, and this book answers the question of who she was and how she became who she is.  The story will keep you interested from the beginning until the end, and it’s a very easy read.

book review: leia, princess of alderaan by claudia gray

Leia, Princess of Alderaan is a young-adult novel written by Claudia Gray and published by Disney–Lucasfilm Press. It was released on September 1, 2017, as part of Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi, a series of books leading up to the release of the feature film Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Category:  Fantasy/Sci-Fi

Publisher’s Summary:  It is Leia Organa’s sixteenth birthday and she participates in the traditional ceremony where she declares her intention to one day take the throne of Alderaan. But she’s much more concerned about the way her parents are acting lately: lots of meetings and late dinners and not talking to her as much as they used to. Eventually, she discovers the reason for their secrecy: their involvement in the increasingly organized rebellion. When Leia decides to become involved herself in the fight against the Empire, whether her parents approve or not, she will have to prove to them that she is a valuable asset who must be allowed to take a stand, regardless of the risk to herself. Her stand will also put her at odds with a pacifist young Alderaanian man who gives Leia her first kiss…and her first real loss.

Review:  Claudia Gray is my favorite Star Wars author in the new canon.  Lost Stars is amazing, Bloodline blew me away, and now this book has come out and once again, Claudia hits it out of the park.  Leia, Princess of Alderaan is a fantastic book that details our favorite princess as a sixteen-year-old who is making the transition from child to adult in the midst of a growing rebellion, and I cannot imagine it being written any better than Claudia has here.

There are lovely tie-ins to the rest of the Star Wars universe, especially as this is in the leadup to Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope.  We spend a lot of time on Alderaan in this story, and I will never look at the scene in A New Hope where the Empire destroys Alderaan the same way again.  Alderaan is described as a beautiful, vibrant place and the idea of it being destroyed so soon after the events of this book makes me so sad to think about.

We also spend a good bit of time with Leia’s parents, Breha Organa, Queen of Alderaan, and Bail Organa, Senator and Viceroy of Alderaan.  I was particularly happy to spend time with Breha because she is never depicted in other materials, only mentioned.  Breha is a great character with a great love for her daughter and a loving relationship with her husband, though that relationship is put to the test by the growing rebellion.  And Bail is shown to be struggling with what the rebellion must become, not wanting to go to war and refusing to admit that it was the only way.  The conflict is played out in such a natural and organic way that it didn’t feel forced, and Leia’s part in the growing rebellion and Bail’s reactions to it made perfect sense.  The way that Bail and Breha try so desperately to keep Leia from becoming a part of the rebellion showed a great deal of love for their daughter, even if I felt as much frustration at their latest block of her offer to help as I’m sure Leia did.

Leia also meets a group of people around her age during a pathfinding class that her mother arranges for her.  One of those people is Amilyn Holdo, a human female from Gatalenta and member of the Apprentice Legislature, who at first Leia finds a bit odd but eventually becomes a good friend.  Holdo will be portrayed by Laura Dern in the upcoming film The Last Jedi.  She also meets Kier Domadi, a fellow Alderaanian, and member of the Apprentice Legislature, who will become the man in Leia’s first relationship.  The relationship plays out slowly and naturally, never forced, and you believe every second of it, right till the very end of the novel.  I really enjoyed that portion of the story, and once again, Claudia nails a romance in one of these books set in the Star Wars universe, just like she did in Lost Stars.  Claudia Gray is three for three so far in her forays into the Star Wars universe and I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next.

There’s so much more I want to say but I don’t want to spoil anything beyond what I might have already.  It’s just a phenomenally written book by a fantastic author who you can tell loves Star Wars so much.  Every page is seeped in the universe and sometimes the tie-ins are so subtle yet make you so happy once you read them.

Recommendation:  If you’re a Star Wars fan, if you love Princess Leia, you really should pick up this book.  I did the audiobook version of it, and Star Wars audiobooks are always fantastic because they’re like radio plays with sound effects and music and all of that.  But whatever medium you choose, this is a fast, fun, easy read.  I finished it in a day.  It really is fantastic, and I hope that you give it a chance.