Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Book Review: The Tao of Martha by Jen Lancaster

From Goodreads:
Jen’s still a little rough around the edges. Suffice it to say, she’s no Martha Stewart. And that is exactly why Jen is going to Martha up and live her life according to the advice of America’s overachieving older sister—the woman who turns lemons into lavender-infused lemonade. 
By immersing herself in Martha’s media empire, Jen will embark on a yearlong quest to take herself, her house, her husband (and maybe even her pets) to the next level—from closet organization to craft making, from party planning to kitchen prep.
Maybe Jen can go four days without giving herself food poisoning if she follows Martha’s dictates on proper storage....Maybe she can grow closer to her girlfriends by taking up their boring-ass hobbies like knitting and sewing.…Maybe she can finally rid her workout clothes of meatball stains by using Martha’s laundry tips.… Maybe she can create a more meaningful anniversary celebration than just getting drunk in the pool with her husband....again. And maybe, just maybe, she’ll discover that the key to happiness does, in fact, lie in Martha’s perfectly arranged cupboards and artfully displayed charcuterie platters.
Writing
I'm a huge fan of Lancaster's early memoirs, but her last few books have left me less satisfied.  Unfortunately, this one can be added to my list of less-than-satisfying Lancaster reads.  I really felt like she was reaching hard for material for a book.  It doesn't read as natural the way her earlier memoirs do.  Instead of feeling like she had a really funny/unique experience and then wrote about it in a creative way, I felt like she was trying to come up with something funny/unique so she could write about it.  That stretch for material really showed for me in the writing.

The portions of the book I enjoyed the most were the ones in which Lancaster is just living her life, not reaching for a topic to write on.  She describes the illness and then loss of her dog, Maisy, and that part really rang true for me.  I wished that the rest of the book felt as authentic as those moments.

Entertainment Value
Despite the issues I had with the writing, I still enjoyed much of my reading of the book.  Lancaster is funny, although not as funny as I found her to be in previous books.  It reads quickly and wasn't dull or boring.  I can't say I disliked the book, and I'll certainly keep reading whatever Lancaster publishes, but this one just wasn't as appealing to me as her first three memoirs.

Overall
If you're a fan of the author's, you'll probably want to read it.  It's a decent diversion and an easy read, but if you haven't read Lancaster before, I don't think this is the one to start with.  Definitely start with Bitter Is The New Black or Bright Lights, Big Ass.

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