Where I Belong – Alan Doyle

DoyleOn The Cover: Singer-songwriter and front man of the great Canadian band Great Big Sea, Alan Doyle is also a lyrical storyteller and a creative force. In Where I Belong, Alan paints a vivid, raucous and heartwarming portrait of a curious young lad born into the small coastal fishing community of Petty Harbour, Newfoundland, and destined to become a renowned musician who carried the musical tradition of generations before him and brought his signature sound to the world. He tells of a childhood surrounded by larger-than-life characters who made an indelible impression on his music and work; of his first job on the wharf cutting out cod tongues for fishermen; of growing up in a family of five in a two-bedroom house with a beef-bucket as a toilet, yet lacking nothing; of learning at his father’s knee how to sing the story of a song and learning from his mother how to simply “be good”; and finally, of how everything he ever learned as a kid prepared him for that pivotal moment when he became part of Great Big Sea and sailed away on what would be the greatest musical adventure of his life.
Filled with the lore and traditions of the East Coast and told in a voice that is at once captivating and refreshingly candid, this is a narrative journey about small-town life, curiosity and creative fulfillment, and finally, about leaving everything you know behind only to learn that no matter where you go, home will always be with you.

Published: 2014

Why I Chose It: As a Great Big Sea fan I was immediately curious about Doyle’s memoir and the tales of Petty Harbour, Newfoundland.

The Review:

In the “Author’s Note” Doyle begins by saying “I am from Newfoundland. Therefore, I am a bit of a story-teller.” (p xiii) By far that is the strength of this book. The style of writing is incredibly easy to read. It seems to flow naturally off of the page, and seems almost elegant. Yet each story remains interesting and funny and entertaining. While not quite linear, the book does make its way from the childhood of Doyle to the creation of Great Big Sea. It is almost as if this book contains many short stories, yet collectively they create the young life of Alan Doyle, and it’s a really enjoyable story.

There is a really great amount of culture held within this book. As the story surrounds a Canadian, but more importantly a Newfoundlander, Doyle properly represents that heritage in his stories. There were many different aspects of life in Petty Harbour, such as working with the fishermen on the wharf, the religious culture, and of course the singing parties. There were also really great pictures capturing the heart of each story. I want to call this book quaint,  simply because I felt immersed in the culture of the coastal Newfoundland town and it was a highly enjoyable experience.

This story focuses on Doyle’s life before Great Big Sea. Doyle joined the band when he was 24, so appropriately this memoir really is about his childhood growing up in Petty Harbour. I really enjoyed the window into Doyle’s childhood, though there were perhaps a few too many stories of a young boy’s curiosity about girls and sex. While I wish there had been more stories about Doyle’s teen life or his involvement in Great Big Sea, I do like how the theme of this book stayed focused on the coastal town, and it was really great hearing about how he learned to sing and play guitar. I would be really interested if Doyle wrote more memoirs about the band or his later years. Definitely check this one out if you’re a fan of Great Big Sea or interested in the cultural life of Atlantic Canada.

Rating: 4 / 5

Quotations:

“We wondered what this man could possibly be doing there in one spot for so long, not lifting or hauling or building anything. He held a long paintbrush in one hand and a flat piece of board in the other, which was dotted with reds and blues and greens. His longer than local hair lifted and fell gently in the spring breeze. As we often did when a new person showed up in town, we came to an unspoken yet unanimous decision that we should throw rocks at him and run up behind the church when he chased us.” p 26

“(Note for Mainlanders: a lobster pound is an onshore holding tank for lobsters, where sea water is pumped in to keep the creatures alive and kicking until they’re sold and moved. I was shocked when my editor told me I had to explain this.)” p 29

“Every now and again, I’d see Sean or his bandmate Darrell Power lurking in the back of one of my gigs, listening to a song or two. Even then, they were pretty well known, so it was hard for them to hide. Bob tells me of how in the dying days of Rankin Street, in 1992, Sean returned to their packed house at Nautical Nellies and whispered to Bob, ‘I just saw the guy we need for our new band. He’s a Doyle from Petty Harbour.'” p 278

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Brunette Ambition – Lea Michele

LeaFrom Goodreads.com: The star of the hit show Glee shares her experiences and insider tips on beauty, fashion, inner strength, and more in an illustrated book that’s part memoir, part how-to, and part style guide.

Lea Michele is one of the hardest working performers in show business.  Whether she’s starring as Rachel Berry on Glee, rocking a glamorous look on the red carpet, recording her solo album, or acting as the spokesperson for L’Oreal, Lea is the ultimate multi-tasker.  She knows better than anyone that it is difficult to be your best self and keep things in perspective when your to-do list is overflowing and you are faced with challenges, so she’s developed a foolproof system for remaining healthy and centered.  In Brunette Ambition, she reveals the lessons and advice that have worked for her–from beauty and fashion secrets to fitness tips, and career insights.  Supplemented with never-before-seen photos and revealing anecdotes, it’s the book Lea wishes she’d had in her teens and early twenties: A practical and inspirational guide to harnessing tenacity and passion and living the fullest life, no matter what obstacles life puts in your way.

Published: January 2014

Why I Chose It: I have slowly grown to love Lea Michele and her music, and I thought it would be neat to take the opportunity to learn more about her.

I also wanted to share two of my favourite songs sung By Lea Michele:

“Being Good Isn’t Good Enough” from Glee


“Battlefield” from Lea Michele’s album Louder

The Review:

The one main thing that I loved about this book was that it is not filled with page after page about Lea’s life – something I may have gotten bored with. Instead, Lea highlights what she has taken from each of the major works she has done in her life, including Les Miserables, Ragtime, Fiddler on the Roof, Spring Awakening, and of course, Glee. For her family and personal life she spares only a couple of pages, and doesn’t take the time to dwell on every single detail of her upbringing. Instead, Michele focuses on how she lives her life positively, and how she hopes to inspire others to do the same.

This book gives all kinds of suggestions for people engaged in all sorts of careers. For example, Lea gives tips on how to prepare for interviews –  because whether an audition or a job, you prep the same. Here are some of the other tips and recipes you can find in her book:

  • Huge sections on taking care of yourself, including getting adequate rest and relaxation
  • Recipes for bath salts, face cleansers, hair and face masks, and step by step instructions for doing make-up, with pictures!
  • Recipes for Kale Salad, Tofu Scramble, French-Style Lentil Soup, Egg White Frittata, and more
  • Exercise plans and playlists, stories of her trying different activities, and a guide of Lea’s backyard workout – complete with pictures! (I don’t know if exercise books are all that popular, nor do I think this work out is anything special, but I really appreciate the effort Lea puts in to motivate her fans to exercise and get healthy.)
  • Finally, clothing! Every day wear, tips on how to clean out your wardrobe, how to shop smart, and lovely pictures of her in beautiful award ceremony dresses.

While realistically people might not have time to sit around for hours with their hair wrapped up in a masque, I appreciated Lea’s recommendations to make time for ourselves. I understand the book gets a lot of criticism because Lea Michele lives in a “fantasy world” where all of her concerns are her hair and makeup – but of course she does. She’s a Hollywood girl, and this is her reality. But I found that she focused on issues like making time for ourselves, taking care of our health, exercising, and most importantly just being yourself. All of these factors made the book a winner for me.

I feel that overall, the book was incredibly positive and upbeat, and Lea constantly reminds her fans to be themselves. She talks against changing your appearance because someone else tells you to, or believing criticism that goes against your instincts, and most importantly, about finding your own skills and unique qualities and using those qualities to the best of your abilities. I really liked that Michele is trying to be a positive influence on her fans, and perhaps this guide will motivate them to follow their dreams.

Rating: 4 / 5

Quotations:

“I firmly believe that where you come from makes you you – and that when you celebrate your roots and focus on how those roots make you distinct, you have the greatest chance of becoming your best self. Fortunately, the world is becoming more and more attuned to uniqueness, to celebrating everything that makes us all a bit different – so ignoring those quirks that make you stand out is a mistake.” p 11

“Be you. It’s so cheesy, but there’s no one better at being you than you. Don’t slough off the things that make you special just to fit a mold – your story is the most interesting thing you’ve got going for you, so use it!” p 25

“Making an effort to do something nice for yourself at the end of a long day will always make you feel better – both in that moment and the next morning. Treat yourself: Pour a glass of champagne, turn on Bravo, and slather on that masque! To me, that sounds like the greatest night ever.” p 61