Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

Scrappy Little NobodyScrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick
Published by Touchstone

From the publisher:

Even before she made a name for herself on the silver screen starring in films like Pitch Perfect, Up in the Air, Twilight, and Into the Woods, Anna Kendrick was unusually small, weird, and “10 percent defiant.”

At the ripe age of thirteen, she had already resolved to “keep the crazy inside my head where it belonged. Forever. But here’s the thing about crazy: It. Wants. Out.” In Scrappy Little Nobody, she invites readers inside her brain, sharing extraordinary and charmingly ordinary stories with candor and winningly wry observations.

With her razor-sharp wit, Anna recounts the absurdities she’s experienced on her way to and from the heart of pop culture as only she can—from her unusual path to the performing arts (Vanilla Ice and baggy neon pants may have played a role) to her double life as a middle-school student who also starred on Broadway to her initial “dating experiments” (including only liking boys who didn’t like her back) to reviewing a binder full of butt doubles to her struggle to live like an adult woman instead of a perpetual “man-child.”

Enter Anna’s world and follow her rise from “scrappy little nobody” to somebody who dazzles on the stage, the screen, and now the page—with an electric, singular voice, at once familiar and surprising, sharp and sweet, funny and serious (well, not that serious).

I am a huge fan of Anna Kendrick. Pitch Perfect is one of my favorite movies, and I just love her style, her attitude, and she seems to have a great personality. Yes, she’s a celebrity, but she seems very down-to-earth to me and like someone I could be friends with.

I’m glad I read this book because it confirmed everything I already felt to be true about Kendrick. She’s funny, but not silly funny, she has a sharp, smart witty sort of humor that fits with my style. I enjoyed getting to know her and found her charming and interesting along with funny.

I can’t say there’s anything revolutionary in the book in terms of the actual content, but I found a lot of her stories interesting and certainly entertaining. There’s a glimpse into show business, some behind the scenes commentary on some of the movies she’s done, and a lot about her personal experiences growing up – and while some of the stories are pretty random, there were some pretty hilarious ones in there, too.

What I would say as far as criticism is that I didn’t feel enough of a flow to the book – while I realize this is an essay collection and not a classic memoir, it felt a little all over the place without anything connecting each of the different sections to each other. Other than that, though, I really enjoyed this journey through Anna Kendrick’s brain and I’d highly recommend it if you are a fan of hers.

One other thing – I listened to the audio of Scrappy Little Nobody and I absolutely recommend that if you do choose to read the book. Kendrick narrates herself so it really feels as though she is talking to you, letting you in on her life stories and the way her brain works. I really enjoyed the experience and it for sure enhanced the overall quality of the book for me.

Final verdict – if you are an Anna Kendrick fan, this is a must-read. If you’re not familiar with her, you probably wouldn’t enjoy the book too much.

Mini-Reviews: Last Books Read in 2016 Part 1

I think it’s safe to say that 2016 was a crazy year for me in a lot of respects. One thing that happened towards the second half of the year, due to a lot of personal stuff, is that my reading slowed down a LOT. But there are still a few books that I managed to get through these past few months that I haven’t told you guys about. So I thought I’d start 2017 by wrapping up 2016 in the form of mini-reviews of my final six reads of 2016. Here are the first three.

The Trespasser (Dublin Murder Squad, #6)The Trespasser by Tana French
Published by Viking

This was one of my most anticipated books of the year and, as expected, the genius of Tana French did not disappoint. I really loved detective Antoinette Conway – there’s something so incredible about French writing a female character, as she wrote Cassie in The Likeness. Of course, all of her characters are fantastic, but I have been particularly drawn to those two out of the six she’s written so far. In this book, Conway and her partner, detective Stephen Moran, are assigned to a murder case that seems pretty simple at first – a young woman is found dead from a head injury after it appears that she had a dinner date all set up and ready to go – but it becomes clear right from the start that things are not what they seem with the victim and those around her. As only French can do, she pulls together all of the different threads of this story, mixed in with intricate character development and snappy dialogue, and she had me riveted throughout the entire novel. I absolutely loved it and am ready for the next book in the series.

I'm Just a PersonI’m Just a Person by Tig Notaro
Published by Ecco

I’d heard of Tig Notaro before picking up the book from watching the Ellen show and seeing her talk about her HBO special, but I didn’t know too much about her before picking up her memoir. She’s a fascinating woman with an incredible story about going through so much personally with her own health, losing her mother at a relatively young age, dealing with heartbreak and professional setback, and she dealt with all of that by using humor and a positive attitude to mostly make it through unscathed. She’s got a dry, sarcastic kind of humor that I am drawn to and really appreciate, so I really enjoyed her take on her own life story. Also, I listened to the audio, which she narrates, and I thought it was definitely the way to go. I found myself admiring her and I really enjoyed getting to know her through reading this memoir.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 & 2Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany, Jack Thorne, and J.K. Rowling
Published by Arthur A. Levine Books

I FINALLY got around to reading this one, months after it was published, and while I liked it enough, I definitely wasn’t wowed by it. I’ll admit that it took me a bit to get into the format of reading a Harry Potter book as a play instead of a novel, but even with that issue aside, I didn’t love this like I had hoped that I would. It was definitely an interesting take on where these characters’ lives went, years after the final book in the series concluded, and I certainly appreciated getting to know the children of the characters I fell so deeply in love with while reading books 1-7, but I felt just meh about where the plot went and the choices that were made about how these characters would have reacted to certain events throughout this experience. I don’t know – on the one hand, I was grateful to get another look into these characters’ lives and to spend “extra” time with them, but on the other hand, I was disappointed with exactly how everything turned out here. Meh.

Missoula: Rape and the Criminal Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer

Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College TownMissoula: Rape and the Criminal Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer
Published by Doubleday

From the publisher:

Missoula, Montana is a typical college town, home to a highly regarded state university whose beloved football team inspires a passionately loyal fan base. Between January 2008 and May 2012, hundreds of students reported sexual assaults to the local police. Few of the cases were properly handled by either the university or local authorities. In this, Missoula is also typical.

In these pages, acclaimed journalist Jon Krakauer investigates a spate of campus rapes that occurred in Missoula over a four-year period. Taking the town as a case study for a crime that is sadly prevalent throughout the nation, Krakauer documents the experiences of five victims: their fear and self-doubt in the aftermath; the skepticism directed at them by police, prosecutors, and the public; their bravery in pushing forward and what it cost them. These stories cut through abstract ideological debate about acquaintance rape to demonstrate that it does not happen because women are sending mixed signals or seeking attention. They are victims of a terrible crime, deserving of fairness from our justice system. Rigorously researched, rendered in incisive prose, Missoula stands as an essential call to action.  

I have been putting off writing this review because I don’t even know what to say. It is absolutely insane to me that we still have to convince people that there is only one reason ever that a woman is raped: because someone decided to rape her. Not because she drank too much, not because she let a guy she didn’t know well walk her home, not because she wore tight clothes, not because she started fooling around with a guy and decided to stop, not for these reasons or any other reason besides the fact that someone chose to rape her. The fact that culturally and within the criminal justice system it is regularly assumed that the woman did something to “cause” her own rape or that the responsibility is on the woman somehow to prevent being raped is absolutely fucking ridiculous and I cannot believe we are still talking about it. I’m sickened by the whole conversation.

That being said, this book is incredible. To say that it is disturbing and sad and infuriating is also true, and to some people it may be very eye-opening. Nothing in the book was a surprise to me because I have read a lot about and studied how rape is treated in our culture and within the criminal justice system so I knew exactly what to expect while reading the book. But I was still amazed by Krakauer’s ability to get to the bottom of the issue, the real problem of rape that exists on college campuses specifically (although rape occurs everywhere, of course, the book specifically focuses on one college campus).

There’s not a whole lot more I need to say here, other than please read this book. To say it is a must-read is one of the biggest understatements ever. Oh, and the audio is pretty great, too.

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari

Modern RomanceModern Romance by Aziz Ansari
Published by Penguin Press

From the publisher:

At some point, every one of us embarks on a journey to find love. We meet people, date, get into and out of relationships, all with the hope of finding someone with whom we share a deep connection. This seems standard now, but it’s wildly different from what people did even just decades ago. Single people today have more romantic options than at any point in human history. With technology, our abilities to connect with and sort through these options are staggering. So why are so many people frustrated?

Some of our problems are unique to our time. “Why did this guy just text me an emoji of a pizza?” “Should I go out with this girl even though she listed Combos as one of her favorite snack foods? Combos?!” “My girlfriend just got a message from some dude named Nathan. Who’s Nathan? Did he just send her a photo of his penis? Should I check just to be sure?” 

But the transformation of our romantic lives can’t be explained by technology alone. In a short period of time, the whole culture of finding love has changed dramatically. A few decades ago, people would find a decent person who lived in their neighborhood. Their families would meet and, after deciding neither party seemed like a murderer, they would get married and soon have a kid, all by the time they were twenty-four. Today, people marry later than ever and spend years of their lives on a quest to find the perfect person, a soul mate.

For years, Aziz Ansari has been aiming his comic insight at modern romance, but for Modern Romance, the book, he decided he needed to take things to another level. He teamed up with NYU sociologist Eric Klinenberg and designed a massive research project, including hundreds of interviews and focus groups conducted everywhere from Tokyo to Buenos Aires to Wichita. They analyzed behavioral data and surveys and created their own online research forum on Reddit, which drew thousands of messages. They enlisted the world’s leading social scientists, including Andrew Cherlin, Eli Finkel, Helen Fisher, Sheena Iyengar, Barry Schwartz, Sherry Turkle, and Robb Willer. The result is unlike any social science or humor book we’ve seen before.

In Modern Romance, Ansari combines his irreverent humor with cutting-edge social science to give us an unforgettable tour of our new romantic world.

This book was exactly what I expected, and that’s a good thing. I was hoping for a smart, funny look at dating in the modern world and how things have evolved and changed over the years, with a few jokes throughout – and that’s what Ansari gave me.

I particularly enjoyed what Ansari and Klinenberg learned from the focus groups in other countries. It’s always interesting to me to learn how people in other cultures do things, so learning about how twentysomethings in Tokyo meet people and find love as opposed to how it’s done in Buenos Aires was fascinating. Even among different parts of the US there are vast differences – for example, dating in New York City, where there are tons of young single people to meet at any given moment, is completely different from dating in a small town where people mostly can only date people they’ve known since elementary school.

I guess I don’t have a lot to say about this one, but I really enjoyed it. It was highly entertaining and Ansari is funny even when he’s talking about the most mundane of topics. Also, I listened to the audio which was a great choice because Ansari narrates it himself, and is able to use the proper inflections and changes in tone, which is especially helpful when he’s being funny.

If you’re a fan of Ansari, don’t miss the book. If you’re interested in dating in the modern world, don’t miss this book. If you’re zero percent interested in either of those things, Modern Romance may not be the book for you. But I really liked it!

Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rimes

Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own PersonYear of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun, and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rimes
Published by Simon & Schuster

From the publisher:

The mega-talented creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal and executive producer of How to Get Away With Murder chronicles how saying YES for one year changed her life―and how it can change yours, too.

With three hit shows on television and three children at home, the uber-talented Shonda Rhimes had lots of good reasons to say NO when an unexpected invitation arrived. Hollywood party? No. Speaking engagement? No. Media appearances? No.

And there was the side-benefit of saying No for an introvert like Shonda: nothing new to fear.

Then Shonda’s sister laid down a challenge: just for one year, try to say YES to the unexpected invitations that come your way. Shonda reluctantly agreed―and the result was nothing short of transformative. In Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes chronicles the powerful impact saying yes had on every aspect of her life―and how we can all change our lives with one little word. Yes.

I loved this book. I loved it and cherished it and marveled at it the way that I did with Lean In and Tiny Beautiful Things – two books that inspired me and caused me to look at myself differently, to question if the way I was doing things and living my life was the BEST way, the most authentic way. That’s how I feel about Year of Yes – like a changed, more inspired, challenged person.

Shonda Rimes did something so brave, and that is that she challenged herself to say yes to every single thing that scared her in one year. If I did that … I can’t even fathom that. I am scared of a lot of things. So to say that her journey was inspiring to me is a huge understatement. I can’t even begin to go into detail about all the things that she did, but broadly speaking – she gave speeches, did a lot more publicity than she had ever done before, became more confident as a leader, eliminated friendships with toxic people, made a huge decision about her personal life, oh and also lost over 100 pounds and embarked on a completely new healthy lifestyle. The weight loss is SO not the point of the book, just one of many things that she said yes to, but it becomes a physical manifestation, a metaphor if you will, for all the other amazingly positive things that happened in Rimes’ life because of saying yes.

To get into how much I gleaned from the book personally would be too much to share here. Let’s just say that Shonda gave me a LOT to think about. A lot a lot a lot. I’ve been doing tons of thinking since the first chapter of the book, and I just finished it today, and let’s just say I’ll continue to do a lot of thinking for a long time. And doing. I want to do some doing, too.

I am a huge fan of Shondaland shows. I’ve watched Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away With Murder from the beginning of each show. But I don’t think you need to be a fan of Shonda’s shows, or even understand what she’s all about as a TV writer, to appreciate the book. I think a book this inspiring has the power to positively influence just about anyone to make some kind of positive change. I just had to put that out there in case you’re saying – but I don’t watch her shows, there won’t be anything here for me. Not true.

However. If you ARE a fan of Shonda’s shows, you will love this book that much more. The book is written how the characters on her show talk – the essence of Shonda Rimes just pours out of the page (and poured right into my heart and mind). It is a fantastic experience. And I listened to the audio, which she narrates herself. SO SO GOOD. I definitely recommend that choice if you’re an audio person.

So very very highly recommended. I wanted to hug the book when I was done with it. And find Shonda and hug her, too. And become her best friend. Love love love.

Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini

Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and ScientologyTroublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini
Published by Ballantine Books

From the publisher:

Leah Remini has never been the type to hold her tongue. That willingness to speak her mind, stand her ground, and rattle the occasional cage has enabled this tough-talking girl from Brooklyn to forge an enduring and successful career in Hollywood. But being a troublemaker has come at a cost.

That was never more evident than in 2013, when Remini loudly and publicly broke with the Church of Scientology. Now, in this frank, funny, poignant memoir, the former King of Queens star opens up about that experience for the first time, revealing the in-depth details of her painful split with the church and its controversial practices.

Indoctrinated into the church as a child while living with her mother and sister in New York, Remini eventually moved to Los Angeles, where her dreams of becoming an actress and advancing Scientology’s causes grew increasingly intertwined. As an adult, she found the success she’d worked so hard for, and with it a prominent place in the hierarchy of celebrity Scientologists alongside people such as Tom Cruise, Scientology’s most high-profile adherent. Remini spent time directly with Cruise and was included among the guests at his 2006 wedding to Katie Holmes.

But when she began to raise questions about some of the church’s actions, she found herself a target. In the end, she was declared by the church to be a threat to their organization and therefore a “Suppressive Person,” and as a result, all of her fellow parishioners—including members of her own family—were told to disconnect from her. Forever.

Bold, brash, and bravely confessional, Troublemaker chronicles Leah Remini’s remarkable journey toward emotional and spiritual freedom, both for herself and for her family. This is a memoir designed to reveal the hard-won truths of a life lived honestly—from an author unafraid of the consequences.

I have to admit that Scientology fascinates me to no end. All religious cult-ish things fascinate me, but Scientology in particular because it’s such a big thing among celebrities. I feel like people who are swayed by cults would typically be people who are needing/wanting for something tangible, and the cult promises to deliver that – disenfranchised people, basically. But celebrities are anything but disenfranchised, they’re some of the most privileged among us, so why on earth would they be attracted to this “religion”? For everything I’d read in the past about Scientology, I couldn’t understand that specific aspect of the religion, so for that reason it was absolutely enlightening to read Leah Remini’s story.

Remini does a good job telling the story of how her family came to be Scientologists, what life was like for her growing up in the church, and then spent a good chunk of the book on how Scientology was in the fiber of every single aspect of her life throughout her adulthood. She talks a lot about how being a celebrity in the church comes with tons of special perks, how the church actively recruits celebrities because the belief is that if more celebrities are public Scientologists, more “regular” people will also join the church.

Being a celebrity Scientologist, one could assume that Remini was friendly with Tom Cruise. She is very clear in the book on exactly what type of friendship the two of them had (knew each other and spent some time together, but they weren’t exactly friends) and how her association with Cruise was a part of why and how she ended up leaving the church. It’s a pretty jaw-dropping story and definitely one you have to read to believe. But I loved this part of the book – yes, it’s juicy celebrity gossip, but on another level it is beyond fascinating to see how the inner workings of Scientology are just so freaking weird. There is no other way to put it. This shit is weird.

I enjoyed the hell out of the ride that Remini took me on with this book. It’s no joke that Scientologists are extremely calculating and cruel, especially when a person leaves the church, so I do believe she took a risk in writing her truth for the world to see. Her bravery and honesty in the face of this cult-like organization are inspiring and honestly, the book is just incredibly entertaining. Also, she reads the audio herself – and she’s a pretty good actress, so she does a great job. I really enjoyed Troublemaker. If you are at all interested in Scientology and/or celebrity memoirs, this is a great one to pick up.

Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman by Jon Krakauer

Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat TillmanWhere Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman by Jon Krakauer
Published by Doubleday

From the publisher:

Like the men whose epic stories Jon Krakauer has told in his previous bestsellers, Pat Tillman was an irrepressible individualist and iconoclast. In May 2002, Tillman walked away from his $3.6 million NFL contract to enlist in the United States Army. He was deeply troubled by 9/11, and he felt a strong moral obligation to join the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Two years later, he died on a desolate hillside in southeastern Afghanistan.

Though obvious to most of the two dozen soldiers on the scene that a ranger in Tillman’s own platoon had fired the fatal shots, the Army aggressively maneuvered to keep this information from Tillman’s wife, other family members, and the American public for five weeks following his death. During this time, President Bush repeatedly invoked Tillman’s name to promote his administration’s foreign policy. Long after Tillman’s nationally televised memorial service, the Army grudgingly notified his closest relatives that he had “probably” been killed by friendly fire while it continued to dissemble about the details of his death and who was responsible.

In Where Men Win Glory, Jon Krakauer draws on Tillman’s journals and letters, interviews with his wife and friends, conversations with the soldiers who served alongside him, and extensive research on the ground in Afghanistan to render an intricate mosaic of this driven, complex, and uncommonly compelling figure as well as the definitive account of the events and actions that led to his death. Before he enlisted in the army, Tillman was familiar to sports aficionados as an undersized, overachieving Arizona Cardinals safety whose virtuosity in the defensive backfield was spellbinding. With his shoulder-length hair, outspoken views, and boundless intellectual curiosity, Tillman was considered a maverick. America was fascinated when he traded the bright lights and riches of the NFL for boot camp and a buzz cut. Sent first to Iraq—a war he would openly declare was “illegal as hell”—and eventually to Afghanistan, Tillman was driven by complicated, emotionally charged, sometimes contradictory notions of duty, honor, justice, patriotism, and masculine pride, and he was determined to serve his entire three-year commitment. But on April 22, 2004, his life would end in a barrage of bullets fired by his fellow soldiers.

Krakauer chronicles Tillman’s riveting, tragic odyssey in engrossing detail highlighting his remarkable character and personality while closely examining the murky, heartbreaking circumstances of his death. Infused with the power and authenticity readers have come to expect from Krakauer’s storytelling, Where Men Win Glory exposes shattering truths about men and war.

When I try to talk about this book to people, I get tongue-tied and I can’t figure out what to say to properly convey how incredible an investigator and writer Jon Krakauer is. The story of Pat Tillman is a complicated, inspiring, infuriating, disturbing, and shocking one and Krakauer made this man, his personal history, and the military in general come to life. I learned so much about not only Pat Tillman but about the military in general and about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in particular just from this one book, it was absolutely fascinating.

I didn’t know much about Pat Tillman before picking up this book. I do remember when his death was all over the news, but I had no idea how murky the circumstances of his death were, nor did I know that there was an attempt to cover up the fact that he was shot by friendly fire. There is so much information in this book – about Tillman’s life growing up, his family, his relationship with his wife, his football career, his reasons for joining the military, his military career, military history, details about two wars, a play-by-play of how Tillman actually died, the attempted cover-up after, and finally how the family dealt with his death and continued with their lives afterword – see, that’s a ton of information! Yet it never felt overwhelming, and Krakauer laid everything out in such a way that really gave the reader a solid understanding of every single element of the book.

I listened to the audio of Where Men Win Glory, narrated by Scott Brick, and it was fantastic. His voice in general is captivating, but the way he is able to use his voice to properly pace out the book, to draw the listeners’ attention to certain things, is pretty incredible to me. This is the perfect example of the best kind of audiobook.

I HIGHLY recommend both the book and the audio experience. Krakauer is truly fantastic and I need to read the rest of his books as soon as possible.