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march book club 2018

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march 2018 book reviews

I’ve been reading more than ever the past few months. My boyfriend got me a Kindlelast fall, and turns out that has been the key to unlocking voracious reading.

Dani and I also created our own reading challenge this year: 51 categories to prompt us to pick up books we wouldn’t typically read (or books that have languished in TBR-land for too long.)

*Denotes that the publisher provided an ARC for review and honest feedback.

Note to Self: I really wanted to like this book. I really, really did. Great cover and I love the different media – between photos, essays, and poems, it seemed right up my alley. I wasn’t sure who the author was, but he makes it clear in the first couple of pages that I should – whoops, sorry about your ego. I did like the photos a lot and recommend reading on a color device or physical copy to really appreciate them if you do decide to read it. There was some pretty blatant John Green plagiarism going on, though, so I wasn’t a fan of that either.

When Breath Becomes Air: When my mom was in the initial stages of getting tested for a cancer recurrence, I picked up this book because it’s been so highly recommended and I knew the author died of cancer. I didn’t love the narrator so it was hard to really get into, but it’s a rare book that I would re-read physically after trying to listen to the audiobook.

Final Draft*: I really liked the slow unwind of this plot – the main character’s growth happens slowly over the book, which I really enjoyed. There’s not one impetus for change, there are several, and it’s believable that each change would affect Laila the way it does. The main character is a writer, and I also liked that there were parts of her stories woven in.

Other than that, I felt like the plot was a little bit confused. About two-thirds through the book, it felt like the plot changed, which seemed a little strange for me. It was also a little slow for me in the beginning, so it was hard to get into, but overall pretty good.

The Showrunner*: This was a really fun chick lit read that will be a perfect beach read. Focusing on three women who are producing an up-and-coming hit TV show, the drama between them, and what lengths they’ll go to to come out on top, there’s a twist toward the end of the book that I didn’t see coming. I liked the format of the book – entries from one of the character’s journals keeps the story moving along between scenes – and it will be great for summer vacations or road trips.

Good Clean Fun: I’m arguably not the target audience for this book, but I’ll listen to Nick Offerman say or read anything. This actually was a great memoir about the people he’s become close with because of woodworking, and I recommend it if you’re a Parks and Rec fan or if you’re into Wilco, as Jeff Tweedy performs some songs Nick wrote to accompany the book. And of course I suggest the audiobook for this one – there’s no voice more calming than Nick Offerman!

I’m Just a Person: Another book I picked up in the aftermath of finding out my mom has cancer. I love Tig Notaro, and I remembered the Fresh Air interview she did a few years ago talking about her now-famous set at Largo shortly after her diagnosis. I finally listened to that set while reading the book, and it’s so interesting how the delivery changes all the meaning. Listening to Live, the album released after the show, she sounds affable, not scared, and very funny. In the book, you hear her trepidation and fear, and they should definitely be read/listened to together.

August and Everything After*: This was a fun, easy read – a good palette cleanser between the more fact-based non-fiction I’ve been reading. The main character, Quinn, joins a band on drums, shows an aptitude for sound engineering, and stands up for herself when a boy tries to use her. YA could use more protagonists like her.

Choose Your Own Misery: Dating: This was a funny book that lets you assume different dating personas and swipe on through the book – it was really funny. First I answered as though I normally would in the scenarios, but I read through it a few more times trying to just make the dates and relationships as funny and ridiculous as possible, and the authors definitely rewarded that stance! This would be a really funny gift for any serial singles, or anyone trying to navigate the weird world of dating apps for the first time.

A Taxonomy of Love: Told through narrative, letters, emails, and chat logs, it’s a sweet love and coming-of-age story. It’s a little different from other YA romances – there’s a death and disability woven into the love story – and I liked seeing the main character come into his own, connect with his father, and get redemption after a misunderstanding lasting several years.

We Should All Be Feminists: One of my goals this year was to read more books by women, particularly women of color, and more books about feminism. This is actually taken from a TEDx talk Adichie gave, and brings up some great points. Being called a feminist shouldn’t be a bad thing – and we should all stand up and be proud to be feminist and demand equality.

Murder, Lies and Cover-Ups*: For the “book about conspiracy theories” prompt, I was struggling until I saw this pop up in NetGalley. I was pretty pumped – five celebrity deaths and a study into the conspiracy theories behind them. It was… not what I expected. My first major problem was that the author says that Elvis was discovered by Sam Phillips at Sun Records – not true. Sam had repeatedly rebuffed Elvis and finally the receptionist Marion Keisker passed along a 45 that Elvis had recorded on his own… but I digress from this lesson in Powerful Women in the Memphis Music Scene. For four of the celebrities, the author does present some conspiracy theories – then he closes the book with Michael Jackson, which he doesn’t posit any conspiracies or murder theories for – he basically says that addiction killed him, which is true. (He also, oddly, includes part of a Conrad Murray interview where he talks about holding Michael Jackson’s penis. It’s an odd thing to include, and feels very unnecessary.) I don’t really recommend this.

Mother, Can You Not?: I’m listening to a lot more audiobooks with my new role at work, and I’m finding that pithy comedy or memoirs are the best to listen to. This book is based on the CrazyJewishMom Twitter account, and it’s voiced by the real life mother/daughter duo. I can’t relate, but it’s hilariously funny.

sMOTHERed*: I’ll do a longer review on this in a few months but I LOVED it. It was great to read in conjunction with Mother, Can You Not? because those two women would have a lot of things in common.

Everybody’s Got Something: With my mom’s recent cancer diagnosis, I’ve been doing a lot of reading and listening to books by survivors. I’ve always admired Robin Roberts, and her memoir reinforces that for me. Not only is it reassuring to hear about her medical journey, she also discusses losing her mom and the hospice process they went through with her – very similar to what we went through with my grandma. It’s a nice reminder that you’re never really alone.

Hot Mess*: Reading this has been interesting. It might have just been me, but I was taken on a real journey about Benji – he went from sounding like the dream, to the reader being very skeptical of him – or maybe it’s just that I’m pretty trained to look for addict behavior (thanks, Dr. Drew.) I did think it was a pretty good book, if a few pages too long.

What are you reading this month?

April 2, 2018
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february 2018 book club

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february book reviews

I’ve been reading more than ever the past few months. My boyfriend got me a Kindle last fall, and turns out that has been the key to unlocking voracious reading.

Dani and I also created our own reading challenge this year: 51 categories to prompt us to pick up books we wouldn’t typically read (or books that have languished in TBR-land for too long.)

Some books are provided by the publisher through NetGalley or as physical advanced reading copies in exchange for an honest review.

Coming Clean: When this book was published in 2013, I heard the author give an interview on NPR. When I found it on Prime Reading, I was excited to finally read it, but… this book was hard to listen to. I knew it would be. It’s well-written, and the narrator is fine, but it’s one I can’t read at my normal speed because it’s very close to home.

Limited Edition (Ideal Standard): I read this titled Limited Edition on NetGalley, but it’s on Amazon as Ideal Standard – I assume the story is still the same. It’s about Claire, a 30-something who is neurotic about getting older alone… which would have felt very close to home a year ago. It’s a comic, which I’m getting into more and more, and I liked the story but did find it a little hard to follow sometimes. The font used for the text can be a little hard to read occasionally, and the limited colors (while really stunning) don’t lend a lot of help in keeping track of the story, but I thought it was a fun read. If you’re nearing 30 and want to get into comics or graphic novels, give this one a read.

Welcome to Night Vale (Book 1): For a long time I’ve wanted to get into the Welcome to Night Vale podcast, but it’s a little overwhelming to navigate. Do you have to start at the beginning? (Turns out, no.) One of our prompts, a book with a purple spine, proved a lot more difficult to fill than expected, so I was pretty pumped to find this book. I listened to the audiobook – it’s narrated by the voice of the podcast, so it’s a really good way to jump into this fictional desert town. The book was long and the beginning was a little slow to weave the two main characters together, but it was a really fun listen for long drives to Michigan!

Eleanor & Park: Another one that has long languished on the TBR list, I decided to use this as a palette cleanser this month. It was… fine? I liked that it did throw a little bit of a twist on the typical high school romance story, but overall Rainbow Rowell’s books have been extremely hit or miss for me, and this is another that just didn’t land.

The Reminders: I’ve long loved Val Emmich – his Little Daggers album is still one of my most often played albums. I had looked forward to this book for awhile and got it when it came out, but didn’t get around to it until now. The story is very unique – told from the alternating perspectives of a young girl and a 30-something Hollywood actor – and I hung on it throughout.

The Hate U Give: I read this book over the course of a day and a half – I just couldn’t put it down. It was very well-written with characters you care about, actions that upset you, and I just found the story very affecting. There’s nothing else to say – this is one of the rare books that is deserving of all of its hype.

Hunger: I wanted and expected to love this book, but honestly, I didn’t at all. It felt unfinished and rushed – a friend described it as feeling like a first draft, and I agree. At one point I actually screamed out loud “sis, go to therapy.”

Blackout: Drinking memoirs are my book of choice, and this was good, but not as much of a standout as Drinking: A Love Story. I liked that it was different because so much of her story is actually absent and she had to recover it along the way, and there’s a whole chunk of my life that I’d have to hunt answers down in a similar way.

the witch doesn’t burn in this one: the witch doesn’t burn in this one is really excellent prose and poetry. The poems here inspire readers to fight the patriarchy and demand more than what women have been given in the past. It’s a quick read with excellent structure and formatting, and I liked it a lot more than the princess saves herself in this one.

Go: Very meh. I liked the message but it was a confusing read – maybe things were lost in translation but there wasn’t enough background for some of the Japanese or Korean terms used – Kindle First is a new find for me, and I can’t wait for the new month to try another book. Go fulfilled a prompt in our challenge I was struggling with, so I grabbed that for February. Liked the mystery of the girl. So much fighting.

She Regrets Nothing: I did a full review of this book, but if you liked Gossip Girl but wish it was a little more grown up, this is the one to pick up.

The Assistants: This was my biggest disappointment of the month. It was nowhere near as good as I had hoped. I liked the story, and it was a fine chick lit read, but didn’t live up to the hype for me at all.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson: I love John Green, and this was a quick and fine book, but the end didn’t give me a whole lot of resolution. I’m also finding that I’m not the biggest David Leviathan fan – I’ve tried to read two other books he’s co-written and haven’t been able to.

What were you reading this month?

March 1, 2018
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She Regrets Nothing review

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I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I first heard about She Regrets Nothing by Andrea Dunlop months ago when Taylor Jenkins Reid tweeted about it, and immediately I fell in love with that gorgeous cover. Since Jenkins Reid is my favorite author, I was quick to add this to my TBR list without any further information. The book synopsis, for those not as quick to sign on to a novel:

In the tradition of The Emperor’s Children and The House of Mirth, the forgotten granddaughter of one of New York’s wealthiest men is reunited with her family just as she comes of age—and once she’s had a glimpse of their glittering world, she refuses to let it go without a fight.

When Laila Lawrence becomes an orphan at twenty-three, the sudden loss unexpectedly introduces her to three glamorous cousins from New York who show up unannounced at her mother’s funeral. The three siblings are scions of the wealthy family from which Laila’s father had been estranged long before his own untimely demise ten years before.

Two years later, Laila has left behind her quiet life in Grosse Point, Michigan to move to New York City, landing her smack in the middle of her cousins’ decadent world. As the truth about why Laila’s parents became estranged from the family patriarch becomes clear, Laila grows ever more resolved to claim what’s rightfully hers. Caught between longing for the love of her family and her relentless pursuit of the lifestyle she feels she was unfairly denied, Laila finds herself reawakening a long dead family scandal—not to mention setting off several new ones—as she becomes further enmeshed in the lives and love affairs of her cousins. But will Laila ever, truly, belong in their world? Sly and sexy, She Regrets Nothing is a sharply observed and utterly seductive tale about family, fortune, and fate—and the dark side of wealth.

 – Goodreads Synopsis for She Regrets Nothing

For me, the best part of the book was the character development woven throughout the book – there’s not a lot of it, because part of the story is how unlikable and shallow these people are. But the main character, Laila, starts out as sympathetic – she doesn’t start with the life she should have had, and you really love to hate her. After her mom dies and she moves to New York City to join the rest of her family, living with her spoiled brat cousin Nora, she starts to get engrained with high society and things take a turn as she gets deeper and deeper. Think sex, lies, and cell phone pictures.

There’s a twist toward the end of the story that I never saw coming (and I pride myself on predicting these things.) It did seem like it was just a touch too long – the first 2/3rds could have been combined a bit – but I did really like the ending and how things turn out.

This Gossip Girl-esque family drama is a really nice late winter read – get snowed in, fluff up the pillows, and spend the weekend in NYC with the Lawrences. Andrea Dunlop‘s voice is the perfect timbre for these characters, but at the same time, if those types of characters don’t speak to you… steer clear of this one.

What are your favorite snowy day reads?

February 7, 2018
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january 2018 book club

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books i read in january 2018

I’ve been reading more books than ever the past few months. My boyfriend got me a Kindle last fall, and turns out that has been the key to unlocking voracious reading.

Dani and I also created our own reading challenge this year: 51 categories to prompt us to pick up books we wouldn’t typically read (or books that have languished in TBR-land for too long.) Here’s what I read this month, including what you should pick up and what you should DEFINITELY let lay!

Marlena: This debut from Julie Buntin had been on my TBR since last May, and during our Brooklyn trip, two girlfriends were reading and raving about it. It’s easy to understand why – set in two timelines, it’s the story of a woman trying to unravel what might have really happened to her teenage best friend many years before. It’s really engaging and I struggled to put it down – it’s my favorite book of the year, and I can’t recommend it enough.

A Bad Idea I’m About to Do: Chris Gethard has long been one of my favorite comedians – his HBO special from last year, Career Suicide, is dark and funny, and I look forward to his TV show every week more than any other. I finally got around to reading this and it was just as hilarious – and the way he waxes poetic about a colonic made me want to get one, for the first time in my life.

What Made Maddy Run: At the risk of using a trope, I found this story breathtaking. I first heard about Madison Holleran in Kate Fagan’s 2015 Split Image piece on ESPN.com. When I saw that she was writing a full-length book about it, I knew I’d have to read it. It’s heartbreaking that Maddy didn’t feel like she had a way out, but it’s a feeling that’s way too familiar, and her story in particular shows that mental illness doesn’t discriminate.

Heist Society Series, Book 1 and Book 2: These were fast, fun reads. Dani had suggested I read them a while ago, and they fit two prompts for our challenge. Nothing super remarkable about them, but nice palette cleansers between heavier, meatier books. (The first book is on Prime reading, too, which is nice if you’re a Kindle user!)

The Spectacular Now: Oh boy. I don’t have anything nice to say about this at all. I used this to fill my “a book that’s been on your to be read list for too long,” and had actually looked forward to it. No one should read this book. I actually found it to be really harmful and problematic. There’s absolutely nothing redeeming about it. The (male) main character is a 16-year-old womanizing alcoholic, which they don’t mention in any of the marketing for the book. I only finished it because I felt like I had to – I was just waiting for something to make it better, and it never came. It’s up there with the James Franco mess that, upon finishing, I had to get out of my house immediately.

the princess saves herself in this one: I thought this book was just okay. There were some great poems, but more weak than strong.

Violet & Claire: This was for our “book you’ve read before” prompt. Of all the books I’ve read, I’m not sure why I picked this one. It’s obviously not meant for a 31-year-old to read, but I guess I just wanted to relive my grade 6 book choices. It’s just really trite and about as unrealistic as you can get, which is probably the point, but a high schooler getting a movie deal? Not in a million years.

What have you been reading this chilly January? Leave your book recs below!

January 31, 2018
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Taylor Jenkins Reid: a love letter

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taylor jenkins reid

In addition to podcasts, I also really like to listen to audiobooks while I drive – especially for the longer trips I have to make. Being able to start a book and finish it in one sitting helps make the trips a little more bearable for sure! Earlier this spring I discovered Taylor Jenkins Reid when I saw a book on Hoopla with a cover I really liked, an interesting title (Maybe in Another Life), and a synopsis that grabbed me:

At the age of twenty-nine, Hannah Martin has lived in six different cities and held countless meaningless jobs. On the heels of leaving yet another city, Hannah moves back to Los Angeles and takes up residence in her best friend Gabby’s guestroom. Hannah goes out to a bar one night with Gabby and meets up with her high school boyfriend, Ethan. Just after midnight, Gabby asks Hannah if she’s ready to go. A moment later, Ethan offers to give her a ride later if she wants to stay. Hannah hesitates. What happens if she leaves with Gabby? What happens if she leaves with Ethan? In concurrent storylines, Hannah lives out the effects of each decision. Quickly, these parallel universes develop into radically different stories with large-scale consequences for Hannah, as well as the people around her.

I listened to the entire book and was rattled by it by the time I got home – without spoiling too much (because you really should read it for yourself) it made me think a lot about the hundreds of decisions I make each day and how each one impacts my life. Since then, I’ve read all four of her books (and discovered that she’s also contributed to my favorite blog, The Billfold!) and enjoyed every single one, so this installment of book club is dedicated to my girl crush, TJR.

Read more…

November 16, 2016
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