Book Review: Bag of Meat on Ball of Dirt by Mara Altman

I’ve read a fair few of Mara Altman’s Kindle Singles already, so I knew I was going to get a fun, warm and personable read. This book sees her travel to India to find people who are trying to find themselves.

It’s interesting and she has to overcome her own shyness to talk to strangers. She then interviews them about why they’re there. She finds a world of hippies, gurus and a few stereotypes, but it does raise the question of why it’s India people go on their personal quests? Can’t you find yourself anywhere?

  These snapshots of the travellers are quite entertaining but the book feels a bit aimless.

Why Altman chose this topic seems vague and unlike her other books it doesn’t revolve around a personal life event or experience. For me it suffers because of this as Altman feels out of place, and it lacks resolution.

It’s an entertaining enough quick read but it’s a bit something of nothing.

Verdict: Altman is a skilled and likeable writer but this book feels pointless and unsatisfying. Raises plenty of smiles but the weakest of her books I’ve read. 5/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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Book Review: Baby Steps by Mara Altman

This is the fourth book I’ve read by Altmann and like the others it sees her respond to a personal issue by researching the topic and writing about it. In this case, the fact that everyone around her is having babies and that, newly married, she is being asked about her own plans around children.

Altman talks to family, friends and experts about society’s obsession with babies and the pressures on women to become mothers. It’s personal and humourous but it touches on some big issues about parenthood and gender roles.

Throughout Altman asks herself whether she even wants kids herself, and flip flops back and forth on this issue. To see if she’s suited to motherhood she tries on a fake belly, looks after a robot baby and these are quite interesting side stories but really this is about her weighing up her options and trying to make the right decision for her future.

It’s a Kindle Single so rather short, and some ideas are half explored, but it’s still a warm and entertaining quick read.

Verdict: Altman writes with warmth and humour, and this is a quick and entertaining read about one woman deciding what she wants to do with her life. 7/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Book Review: That’s What She Said by Mara Altman

This is the third book of Altman’s I’ve read and like the other two I found it very funny and quite an interesting read. Unlike the others this one is less about Altman using a personal issue as a jumping off point to examine a wider subject, and instead is just a personal story.

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Having spent a long time on a novel which is then rejected Altman finds herself at a loss and unable to write anymore. After a friend suggests trying stand up comedy, which she does. What follows is Altman describing her fears about performing and her concerns about her need for approval.

The narrative is peppered with little excerpts of Altman’s set, and to be fair, her jokes are pretty funny. It’s not a surprise, her writing is filled with humour and charm, and she’s an interesting, if slightly neurotic person.

As someone who once wanted to try stand up it’s an interesting read, and I admire Altman for going for it. The ending is quite neat too, with her finding her mojo again, and starting to write again.

I will be reading more Altman in the not so distant future as I really dig her style.

Verdict: A funny, quick and interesting read. Altman is an accomplished writer with a warm and funny style. This is a little simpler than the others but still an entertaining. 7/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Book Review: Sparkle by Mara Altman

Having enjoyed her book about body hair and having recently gotten engaged myself, I was curious to read Mara Altman’s book about her engagement, or more accurately, her engagement ring.

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Having never seen herself as the marriage or wedding obsessed type, Altman examines her own conflicting feelings about the rock on her finger. As a modern day woman she worries that it’s a sign of ownership, or her fiancé marking his territory. The ring being a “back off” sign to other men.
And what of the size of the rock? Does that matter? Is the value of the rock indicative of the man’s commitment? Or his love? (To me, clearly not)
Being the worrying, obsessive type this kickstarts the book, as Altman explores her own feelings, the diamond industry and the history of rings as a tradition (engagement rings are long standing but the involvement of diamonds is a 20th century invention, by diamond companies)
She interviews various experts, but the involving part of the book is the personal stuff. Altman wrestles with her own fears about conformity, her future and Anger at how much the ring she never thought she needed preys on her. It’s a fantastically frank and open examination of her doubts, fears and insecurity, peppered with a good sense of humour.
Altman is likable and engaging, her only flaw is being prone to over thinking things, but this is what makes her a good writer, she delves into her feelings to produce a wonderful book.
I learnt a lot about diamonds and engagement rings, but what I took was the sweet relationship between Altman and her fiancé, and a fresh insight into the way marketing and social norms effect us more than we know. And the differing views on rings, with some folks getting far too caught up in size or price, as if these two things can show how strong a love or commitment a couple shares.
Verdict: An interesting and entertaining quickread, as Altman uses her jumping off point to explore different themes is a concise, involving manner. She has intelligence and wit as a writer and I devoured this in one sitting. 8/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Book Review: Bearded Lady by Mara Altman

Body hair is something I discussed recently in a post, and while I think I got my points across well enough it’s always going to be flawed having a discussion regarding female body hair from a male perspective. Before posting it I talked to female friends about it, but decided I needed a female perspective so tracked down this Kindle Single that I remembered having cropped up on the “Top Titles” list at Amazon.

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I’m glad I did because it’s a wonderfully written book, interesting and entertaining. Mara Altman is a self confessed hairy woman and writes this book which examines attitudes towards female body hair, the beauty industry and her own feelings about her body hair.

It helps that Altman is a funny, personable guide on this journey, opening up about her own obsession with removing her own body hair and the lengths she’s gone to do so (including some painful sounding therapies). She intersperses this with research into the history of shaving and the theories behind why it’s become such a big deal for women.

These theories are conflicting but put forward interesting ideas- that shaving became fashionable in the early 20th century when women had less control so it was one area where they were in charge, while another suggests that it’s founded in misogyny and that as men are afraid of women and their power, they’re more attracted to shaved women because they seem younger and more innocent. The misogyny theory is all kinds of creepy, and tied in with robbing women of being proud of their bodies and insecure. I’m not sure whether I fully buy either theory based on this, but further reading might develop them.

The book is rather short, but I think this is a good thing and Altman’s wit and humour throughout makes it a breezy read. It makes you think about the damage beauty standards might be doing and how attitudes have changed, but it’s most interesting on a personal level, with Altman being both bothered by her hair and bothered by the fact it bothers her so much. As the child of a hairy hippy mother she admits to feeling like a traitor when she decided to shave as a teen, provoked by her hairy legs being drawn attention to and standing out compared to her classmates.

It’s this personal story, and Altman’s acceptance of her conflicting feelings that make it an interesting read and finding out that Altman has written other books on issues like motherhood, sex and marriage, which I will be adding to my Kindle wishlist.

It’s not the full story, or the universal female perspective on body hair (there probably isn’t one), but it’s a fun and interesting personal story and Altman is beautifully frank and open. What appealed to a soft git like me is that one of the continuing themes is that she’s kept her body hair hidden from her partner, and the final sequence where she tells him, and his reaction is a funny, charming conclusion for the book.

Verdict: A fantastic read, very easy and fun, with Altman showing warmth, openness and intelligence throughout. It’s an interesting personal view on the issue of body hair. 7/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.