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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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7 lessons from The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

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This post contains affiliate links. I received an advance galley of this book for review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Taylor Jenkins Reid is one of my favorite authors – that’s no secret since I’ve raved about her over and over since discovering her about a year ago. Her next book, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, comes out this June on Atria Books. I’ll be honest: I was not excited about this book. After all these years I know that I shouldn’t judge books by their covers, but one of my favorite things about TJR’s books is the cover art. The minimalism and the symbolism are gorgeous (and they look beautiful on the bookshelf) so when EW debuted the cover, I was really disappointed. I was lucky enough to get a galley, and soon enough I was so sucked in that I had forgotten all about my cover woes. Instead of writing a traditional book review, I thought I’d instead share some of the different lessons the book’s characters taught me.

Potential spoilers are ahead, so if you want to read the book knowing nothing, bookmark this post and come back later!

  1. Poor Ernie Diaz: Career goals can tear relationships apart. There’s nothing wrong with Evelyn’s first husband – an unassuming electrician who helps her move across the country. But sometimes working for your own career goals can take a toll on your relationship (for more than one reason.)
  2. Goddamn Don Adler: What goes around comes around. Don Adler is not a good dude. At all. So even though their relationship looks absolutely perfect from the outside, it’s impossible for anyone to see what’s really happening. Rather than risking her status and outing him for who he is, she instead suffers a career loss, getting blackballed in Hollywood after leaving him. (He seems to get his in the end.)
  3. Gullible Mick RivaSometimes other people get caught in the crossfire when keeping yourself safe. One of the most relatable parts of the books to me was the reality of how the characters behave. Though it’s set on a Hollywood stage, Evelyn doesn’t really seem to make any different choices than many of the people around me (or even myself) would make. Mick Riva plays an integral part in protecting Evelyn and the love of her life and even though he doesn’t seem too hurt or guilty in the end, it’s a good study of how we sometimes have to use each other to stay safe. I especially liked this chapter because it has some second person language, which I always really enjoy.
  4. Clever Rex North: There’s power in pairs. Possibly one of the only other characters in the book with the same drive to succeed as Evelyn, Rex North is her co-star in a smash movie – such a successful movie that the studio orders several other movies starring the couple. To make themselves even more marketable, they marry with an understanding and just like their relationship, the breakup is staged just as well.
  5. Brilliant, Kind-Hearted, Tortured Harry Cameron: The best partnerships might not be what we expect. Potential spoiler alert, sorry! Harry is present throughout the novel as one of the first people Evelyn meets when she moves to Hollywood. From the first description, they don’t seem like they’d be a great match, but he is a great example that soulmates look different than we paint them in our heads.
  6. Disappointing Max Girard: Sometimes when you get what you want, it’s not what it’s cracked up to be. Max was Evelyn’s director early in her career, casting her in a role that helped make her an international movie star. Throughout her entire life, they continued to be in contact here and there, and he had idealized her and put her on such a pedestal that he thought he was marrying the perfect Evelyn Hugo, not Evelyn, the person. He helps us learn that you can’t idealize everything – you’ll only be disappointed.
  7. Agreeable Robert Jamison: What’s meant to be will always find a way. Probably Evelyn’s most successful marriage (aside from that with Harry,) she and Robert are together until his death. They go through one of the worst tragedies possible together, and Taylor Jenkins Reid again introduces words for feelings I’ve had, but could never label: the devastating luxury of panic.

I loved the format of the book – some parts are Evelyn telling her story to Monique, some parts are her actual memoir – and I really liked the character of Evelyn (even though she says time and time again that she is not likable, and she knows it.) Vintage Hollywood isn’t usually interesting to me, but I really enjoyed this book a lot, and it never felt “old timey” since they stuck to her life story rather than her actual career. The most empowering point of the book for me was seeing a woman in charge, getting what she wanted, and protecting herself and the people she loves.

Usually, I’m very good at predicting twists but in this book, I didn’t see the major plot turn coming at all, which was fun. I read this book in one day, just walking around my house, staring intently at my Kindle app, stubbing my toes on doorframes and running into chairs. It’s not a traditional “beach read,” but it’s certainly one you must put on your list for this summer.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo comes out on Atria Books on June 13!

May 15, 2017
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ANG book club: winter 2017

Posted in Living by

This year, my goal is to just smash the last few years of Goodreads achievements – I’m blaming this on living with Dani, a noted bookworm. I’m bringing back the Book Club series to review what I’m reading, in case you’re looking for anything new to check out!

Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood by Koren Zailckas: This was actually a re-read for me, I read it about ten years ago when I was in college. It was harder to get into than I remembered – she begins the book spouting binge drinking and alcohol abuse statistics, which I found a bit dull, but once I got sucked into the story again, it was hard to put down. I stayed up far later than I meant to a few nights in a row to finish it. When I was in college I had many of the same experiences and stories that Zailckas shares – there’s a reason it took me a couple of extra years to graduate, despite all the major changes and transfers – and it’s a little refreshing to be reminded that you aren’t alone in some of the more questionable decisions you’ve made in the past.

Lucky Charming by Kate Chastain: It’s no secret that I love trashy TV, and Bravo’s Below Deck is one of the finest pieces of reality TV in recent years. Yacht stewardess Kate has been featured on every season of the show and put out a book in December on what got her into yachting and a few of her experiences on boats, but good and bad. I’m a big fan of her blog as well, so I decided to treat myself to her memoir and read it in two days. It’s a really light read perfect for the beach and puts some perspective on the fact that even if you feel like nothing is going to work out, staying positive and optimistic helps a lot.

Read more…

March 8, 2017
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