Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham

Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything in BetweenTalking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything in Between by Lauren Graham
Published by Ballantine Books

I’m not sure what to say about Talking as Fast as I Can that hasn’t been said by other reviewers – if you like Lauren Graham, especially if you are/were a fan of Gilmore Girls, this is a must read. She has tons of funny stories and reflections and some more serious thoughts about the show itself, what happened leading up to and during the filming for the Netflix 10 years later series, and all kinds of other stuff about her life, fame, etc. Graham narrates the audio herself and it is a fantastic performance, so definitely consider that if you’re an audio fan. The book was exactly what I expected, but in the best possible way. As I said – a must read if you’re a fan of the author or of Gilmore Girls.

The Firm by John Grisham

The FirmThe Firm by John Grisham
Published by Dell

It’s possible that I’m one of the few voracious readers who had never read anything by John Grisham up until this point. I always expected not to like his books as the idea of a legal thriller just doesn’t sound, I guess, thrilling to me in the least. However, when a coworker recommended that I try his books, and further suggested starting with The Firm, I decided to listen. I didn’t hate the book but I didn’t enjoy it too much, either. It was just okay for me. The writing is super detailed and over dramatized to the point where it became annoying after a couple hundred pages. The entire thing is dripping with the grossest sexism and is just not nice in its treatment of women in any way. I get that the sexism is characteristic of the firm itself and it was there for a reason, but I don’t think it had to be SO in your face and, honestly, just obnoxious. While I don’t see myself reading another Grisham novel anytime soon, I would be interested to see if all of his books are written with so little attention paid to how the women are represented in them, or if it is unique to this book because of the premise.

Despite my issues with the book, it wasn’t the worst ever and I did find myself entertained by the story itself. I wouldn’t exactly call it a thriller but the plot moved quickly enough to hold my attention and keep me turning pages. I kind of hated most of the characters, but I think that was what Grisham was going for, and the fact that he got me to care enough to hate them is a good thing. I am glad that, having read the book, I now understand what Grisham is all about and I know I won’t be reading more of his novels in the future.

Still here!

Has it really been since February that I’ve posted … and since NOVEMBER that I’ve given any sort of life update? Wow. After all of you were so kind to be there for me when I was going through such a difficult time, I am so sorry to have dropped off the face of the earth. I guess it’s safe to say that a lot has happened in my life since November. Long story short – moved out of the house I shared with my ex (although we still haven’t sold it – even longer story that I don’t need to get into now), have taken several trips to Chicago to spend time with family, have taken a few other trips (St. Augustine, Savannah, New York, and ARUBA!), and here’s the big news … I met someone! I’m currently in a relationship with someone I have known for about two years, as acquaintances, and we connected recently after learning that we both went through a similar personal situation at roughly the same time. This relationship has been fantastic in every way and at this point, I’m just incredibly happy and enjoying how great that feeling is.

Oh and also – that surgical procedure I was going to have? It is coming in August, although I am going to be undergoing a much more minor procedure than I thought I would have to have originally, and it should buy me 5-10 more years until open heart surgery. So while the fact that a procedure with a hospital stay is on the immediate horizon is scary, I am grateful that technology has advanced so much in just a few short years to afford me the opportunity to basically buy extra time until I must have major surgery.

I’ve been reading, although not nearly as much as I had in the past. I think I’ve read something like twenty-four books this year, which although I know is more than most people read for sure, I think most of you bloggers would say that’s not very many. But whatever, I’m enjoying what I’m reading and I’ve pretty much stopped any type of review copy acceptance so I’ve only been reading for fun. And I’m okay with that.

I have actively contemplated closing this blog down, as it’s clear that my posting over the past year has been erratic at best. I took some time to think about this over the past few weeks and while I’m still not 100% committed, I don’t see myself closing the site any time soon. I’d like to get back into sharing what I’ve been reading with all of you, and chatting and interacting on all of your blogs, so my goal is to do this in a more casual manner. If I post, I post, if I don’t … oh well. I have a backlog of books to talk about since I’ve barely shared a thing I’ve read this year, so I’ll start there and see how things go.

Anyway. Thank you all for being there, for understanding when things got difficult for me and when I disappeared, but I am still here, I am still reading, and hopefully I’ll be a more active presence in the community.

Happy Sunday! 🙂

I’ll Take You There by Wally Lamb

I'll Take You ThereI’ll Take You There by Wally Lamb
Published by Harper

From the publisher:

I’ll Take You There centers on Felix, a film scholar who runs a Monday night movie club in what was once a vaudeville theater. One evening, while setting up a film in the projectionist booth, he’s confronted by the ghost of Lois Weber, a trailblazing motion picture director from Hollywood’s silent film era. Lois invites Felix to revisit—and in some cases relive—scenes from his past as they are projected onto the cinema’s big screen.

In these magical movies, the medium of film becomes the lens for Felix to reflect on the women who profoundly impacted his life. There’s his daughter Aliza, a Gen Y writer for New York Magazine who is trying to align her post-modern feminist beliefs with her lofty career ambitions; his sister, Frances, with whom he once shared a complicated bond of kindness and cruelty; and Verna, a fiery would-be contender for the 1951 Miss Rheingold competition, a beauty contest sponsored by a Brooklyn-based beer manufacturer that became a marketing phenomenon for two decades. At first unnerved by these ethereal apparitions, Felix comes to look forward to his encounters with Lois, who is later joined by the spirits of other celluloid muses.

Against the backdrop of a kaleidoscopic convergence of politics and pop culture, family secrets, and Hollywood iconography, Felix gains an enlightened understanding of the pressures and trials of the women closest to him, and of the feminine ideals and feminist realities that all women, of every era, must face.

Okay, so I like the idea of what Lamb has done here. We have a feminist man who truly loves and respects all of the women in his life, who sees them as independent from their relationship to him (for example – his daughter is not just his daughter, she’s this independent, incredibly smart, talented person who he admires AS A PERSON not just as his daughter), who gets a rare peek into aspects of their lives that he never really considered before. I like that Lamb, who clearly has a ton of respect for women and I would hope considers himself a feminist, decided to explore the topic of the difficulties that women face simply for the fact of being born with a vagina and explore it through the eyes of these fictional characters. As I said, I like the idea here. I was definitely looking forward to the book.

I would say that the actual execution of Lamb’s great idea was successfulish. By that I mean, I liked the book well enough but I certainly didn’t love it, and overall thought the feminism contained within was fairly benign and the main character didn’t have much in the way of revolutionary thoughts or any real lightbulb moments, if you will. The start of the book was incredibly slow for me and I almost put it down a few times – in fact, I would have given up on it had it not been my book club read. However, once I got going and the book started delving into Felix’s past, my interest was piqued and I sped through the second half of the book in a matter of a couple of hours.

A good chunk of the book was focused on Felix’s older sister, and for fear of spoilers, I won’t explain why but let’s juts say that his fairly average looking family had its share of secrets and those are revealed through the portions of the book about his sister. She was actually the character I was most drawn to, even though she’s portrayed in a pretty negative light in the beginning of the book, Lamb carefully crafts the picture of her life and makes it very clear to readers why she’s got the hard edges to her personality that make her seem unlikable on the surface. I really felt for her and it made me immensely happy to see Felix begin to understand her and feel for her in a way he seemingly never did before this little adventure of his.

While I liked I’ll Take You There, I didn’t love it, and I think it’s probably Lamb’s least successful novel. Most of his books are sweeping, all-encompassing, emotional stories with tons of characters and complicated stories, and this was a much simpler, more relaxed novel. I guess it’s a departure for Lamb and shows a different side to his writing, but for me personally I like his other stuff much better. Still a fun read, just nothing to write home about compared to what kinds of masterpieces I know this author is capable of creating.

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.

The Guests on South Battery by Karen White

The Guests on South Battery (Tradd Street, #5)The Guests on South Battery by Karen White
Published by Berkley
Review copy provided by the publisher

From the publisher:

With her extended maternity leave at its end, Melanie Trenholm is less than thrilled to leave her new husband and beautiful twins to return to work, especially when she’s awoken by a phone call with no voice on the other end—and the uneasy feeling that the ghostly apparitions that have stayed silent for more than a year are about to invade her life once more.
 
But her return to the realty office goes better than she could have hoped, with a new client eager to sell the home she recently inherited on South Battery. Most would treasure living in one of the grandest old homes in the famous historic district of Charleston, but Jayne Smith would rather sell hers as soon as possible, guaranteeing Melanie a quick commission.
 
Despite her stroke of luck, Melanie can’t deny that spirits—both malevolent and benign—have started to show themselves to her again. One is shrouded from sight, but appears whenever Jayne is near. Another arrives when an old cistern is discovered in Melanie’s backyard on Tradd Street.
 
Melanie knows nothing good can come from unearthing the past. But some secrets refuse to stay buried….

So. You guys know I’m a Karen White fangirl, right? Especially the Tradd Street series – I have loved watching Melanie solve mysteries as she uses her powers of talking to ghosts to understand long-buried family secrets and drama, as well as watching as she slowly fell in love with Jack Trenholm, denied that love to herself, then watched with glee as he loved her back and they lived happily ever after. So fun, right?! So you’d think that another volume of the same stuff would be music to my ears, yes? I thought the same thing. Unfortunately, The Guests on South Battery was just okay to me and I’m left wondering if maybe I’m done with the series and I should leave Melanie and Jack in the happily ever after stage of my brain.

I honestly got super annoyed with Melanie. She’s just so oblivious to so many things – like the fact that she gained weight while pregnant and never really lost any of it (who cares, honestly, but everyone around her seemed to want to point it out and she either ignored them or really didn’t see it herself, either way is fine, but it was an annoying aspect of the book). She is suspicious of Jack’s every move and always concerned that he’s going to leave her – almost like she can still not let herself believe that this man loves her. He MARRIED you and the two of you have two children together – I wanted her, at some point, to just trust this guy and let go, to love him with her whole heart instead of continuing to hold back. It aggravated me to no end.

The mystery part of the book I actually quite enjoyed. It had to do with a house haunted by a mother and daughter, people who Melanie’s mother Ginnette knew when she was much younger. The mother, Anna, was a terrifying ghost and this continues to be one of the reasons I read these books – I love how Karen White makes these ghost stories scary-ish but still a lot of fun. That element of creepiness was definitely there, but it is done with a light touch. I have to admit that when the secrets these ghosts were keeping were revealed, there were really no surprises to me, but still I enjoyed this part of the story.

I enjoyed this book to a degree, but on the other hand, Melanie in general is just beginning to grate on my nerves. I’m not sure I’ll continue with these books if White keeps writing them, unless I hear somehow that Melanie’s personality drastically changes in the next novel (not likely). I’m okay with enjoying the first few books in the series and just leaving it alone after that. I’d still recommend the series, for sure – but perhaps I’d suggest reading the first four and stopping there.

Lumberjanes Volumes 3 & 4

Lumberjanes, Vol. 3: A Terrible PlanLumberjanes, Vol 3: A Terrible Plan by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, and Carolyn Nowak
Published by BOOM!Box

The third installment of the fun and feisty comic Lumberjanes has Mal and Molly going on a date (yay!) and being interrupted by none other than the Bear Woman. Meanwhile, back at camp, Jo, April and Ripley are focused on earning every badge they possibly can (and these badges are ridiculous).

This was my favorite of the series yet. I loooooooved seeing the character development here, especially between Mal and Molly – both individually and as a couple. I loved seeing the two of them separate from the rest of the group, how they navigated the craziness that was thrown at them in a particular way that only the two of them together could have done. I also quite enjoyed the silliness of the tasks the other girls were trying to complete for the most random, odd-ball badges ever. It was hilarious and fun to read and the adventures in this book were more exciting than some of the previous ones, I thought. I REALLY liked this volume in particular, but the series as a whole is just tons of fun.

Lumberjanes, Vol. 4: Out of TimeLumberjanes, Vol 4: Out of Time by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, and Carolyn Nowak
Published by BOOM!Box

This volume focused more on Jen than it does the campers – it starts with Jen trying to teach the girls basic survival skills, until a mysterious blizzard hits camp, Jen is separated from the group, and a taxidermist who says she has all the answers “saves” her. Jen quickly realizes that this person is not the safe place she claims to be, and she must save the day and find her way back to the campers.

I really enjoyed the focus on Jen in this volume, as she’s a character that has only really gotten development through the eyes of the other characters. This one was a chance for her to come into her own and show the reader more of her personality. There was also more in terms of getting the back story of the camp and of Rosie’s past. I liked this volume a lot even though it wasn’t my absolute favorite of the series, it brought development to the story and held my attention big time. This series is great; seriously, if you’re not reading it, you need to start now.