Talking As Fast As I Can – Review

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Genre: Autobiography/Humor
Rating: 5/5

I should probably preface with the fact that Gilmore Girls is my absolute favorite TV show. I remember watching it with my mom when I was in elementary school. I didn’t understand the sexual innuendos, or the pop culture references, but I understood the relationships. I remember when it went off the air, and I remember being devastated. And then, years later, we finally got our girls back via the Netflix revival. Now, I understood the references, and innuendos, and more importantly, the obsession with good coffee.

I also should preface with the fact that I do NOT enjoy autobiographies. I have a theory… that if you’re a celebrity and/or politician writing a novel, you either 1) are spending more time writing a novel than serving the population you claim to be serving, or 2) you hired a ghostwriter. Think about how truly hard it is to write a novel. I majored in the damn thing and I can’t even write a novel. It’s hard work, and I highly doubt that all of these celebrities are so multitalented that they can pull 50,000 words or more out of their rear ends and have it be even moderately entertaining. So, they hire a ghostwriter, who is the real deal and gets no credit. I dunno, the whole autobiography thing seems sketchy to me.

Lauren Graham is the exception to the rule; she majored in English as an undergraduate, so I trust that she has the skillset, and from watching her on screen in several characters, taking many different forms, I honestly believe she has a voice that is worth listening to, and that is as unique as the words on the pages of this book.

The novel, though it does talk about her time as a Gilmore Girl, talks about much, MUCH more. It talks about how she got started as a person, as an actress, as a writer. I appreciated that there was more than just my beloved show; I want to know the woman behind Lorelai Gilmore.

Graham had a wonderful voice; it was spunky, and cheery, even in moments where she discussed the tough times and the tears along the way. I was deeply impressed by the writing, and felt that it was entirely authentic. After reading, I went ahead and ordered her other books, because why not? I can’t get enough of her – on screen and off!

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Forever, Interrupted – Review

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Genre: Women’s Fiction

Rating: 4/5

Taylor Jenkins Reid, you are my hero. Yet again, you slay the literary world by providing us with entertainment that is as equally enjoyable as it is well-written.

In this novel, we see the character of Elsie battling with her grief and depression over the loss of her husband, Ben. Though the two were married quite quickly, Elsie feels as if in losing Ben, she too lost herself.

Ben’s mother, Susan, comes to the picture, shocked to find that her only son has not only met someone, but married that someone. Needless to say, there is quite a bit of tension between Elsie and her mother-in-law. The narrative follows both past and present, showing the blossoming of Elsie’s relationship with Ben in contrast to the present day, where Ben is gone and Elsie is left trying to make sense of everything. When Reid says this is not an average love story, she quite literally means it.

What I loved about this book was that there was no “happy” ending; we knew Ben was dead, and would remain dead. Instead, the story was not so much about them living happily ever after, but about Elsie learning to grieve and move forward with her life, and develop a mother/daughter relationship with Susan. It’s unusually beautiful.

The only thing that I didn’t like about this novel was that it wasn’t as happy and romantic as the rest of Reid’s work, and perhaps that’s simply because it couldn’t be. However, the optimist in me would’ve enjoyed seeing more resolve; perhaps Elsie goes on a date at the end, finding that she can love again.

However, Reid still did a brilliant beyond brilliant job, and I can’t wait to continue reading and reviewing her novels!

A Spark of Light – Review

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Genre: Literary Fiction

Rating: 4/5

The long-awaited Jodi Picoult novel depicting a shooting at a Women’s Center in Mississippi is, to say the least, heart-shattering. Following the narrative of the victims and shooter alike, this novel shows both sides to the political and religious arguments regarding abortion. As someone who is pro-choice, I felt that reading this novel helped me understand the other side, but also maintain and feel affirmed in my own opinions. I am interested to know if pro-life readers felt the same way; I wouldn’t say that Picoult was blatantly one way or another, but in an obvious way, considering the violence that was depicted against the Center, I’d say she’s definitely left-leaning and pro-choice in nature.

The story was hard to follow at first, as it is told in anti-chronological order, beginning first with the hostage situation and working backwards through the events that wound us up where the novel began. Despite the fact that it required an increased concentration from readers, I felt it was an effective strategy for the author in that it was captivating.

There’s a scene (SPOILERS) in the novel where Picoult horrifically describes a 16-week abortion. I was reading in a coffee shop and felt faint, and had to leave. Some would argue this morose; I argue it was transformative. No one has “gone there”, if that makes sense, and really tried to depict the events that a woman who has an abortion will experience. I can’t say I enjoyed reading it, but I felt there was a necessity to it, and I’m glad that Picoult, who personally witnessed several abortions in preparation to write this novel, illustrated for the novel. I think a lot of people turn a blind eye to what abortion can look like, and I think that this was an incredibly personal scene.

The only complaint I have about this novel is that the structure left me feeling unresolved. I wish there had been an epilogue that shared with us where each individual was a month, two months, a year out from the shooting. I had more that I wanted to know, questions that I felt were unanswered and not for dramatic effect.

However, despite this, I felt that the novel was brilliant, and that Picoult delivered. She is and will remain one of my favorite authors!

Forget You Know Me – Review

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Genre: Fiction – Thriller

Rating – 4.5/5

I want to start by sharing that I am a huge fan of Jessica Strawser, and I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to review her book prior to it’s publication, courtesy of NetGalley. Thank you, NetGalley!

I first discovered Strawser through Book of the Month when her novel, Not That I Could Tell, became one of the monthly picks. Having read the synopsis and finding out that the novel took place a mere 30 minutes from where I lived, I decided to give it a shot. Instantly, I fell in love. I then reached out to Strawser, who invited me to a local book signing. I saw her again later that week at the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop, where she led courses for new and upcoming writers like myself.

Her newest novel, Forget You Know Me, is just as suspenseful, if not moreso, than her other two novels. She has a knack for leaving readers at the edge of their seat.

When Molly and Liza are chatting via webcam from there respective homes, Liza sees something she isn’t supposed to. An intruder, dressed in black, entering her best friend’s home, while Molly is upstairs checking on her young children. When Liza drive six hours from her apartment in Chicago to the suburbs of Cincinnati to check on her dear friend, she finds that she is not as welcome as she thought she might be. In fact, Molly is extremely upset with Liza and utters the phrase, “forget you know me”.

Why is Molly so mad at Liza for coming to her rescue? Who was the intruder? Did Molly know him? Expect him? And where is her husband in all of this?

The questions are endless, and they continue throughout the story. Every narrative has their doubts, their secrets, their lies. Without spoiling more for you, I’ll leave you with this: you’ve got to read this book.

Most thrillers are getting cliche, and this one simply isn’t. We hear the same stories over and over, and it’s hard to find something suspenseful that is unique. But Strawser doesn’t imitate other artists, she’s not reinventing the wheel – she has her own stories, and damn if they aren’t brilliant!

A sidenote: Cincinnatians will love this book because of it’s setting. Liza goes to Graeter’s Ice Cream, they talk about Tafts Ale House (which, I might add, is where I had lunch this week, and it IS indeed gorgeous and one of my favorite places to grab a drink) – it felt entirely familiar, similar to that of Curtis Sittenfeld’s Eligible. 

I can’t wait to share this book with friends and family. I highly recommend pre-ordering now!

 

Conversations with Friends – Review

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Genre: Literary Fiction

Rating: 4.5/5

 

Sally Rooney’s debut novel “Conversations with Friends” is one of my new favorites. I fell in love with Francis, her cynical, intellectual, and highly introspective protagonist who, despite her character flaws, had an innate awareness of herself that made her all the more lovable and endearing.

The novel is narrative driven, following Francis and her relationships with both her best friend and ex-girlfriend, Bobbi, and her romantic interest, a troubled, married man named Nick. The complexities of these dynamics and how these relationships play out are what make this book so intriguing.

The situation alone of her being best friends with an ex is hard to wrap the mind around, but then to include a man in the mix who is married to another women, both of whom are significantly older – it’s an intimate mix of raw characters that are nothing if not genuine, even in their darkest moments.

I’ll admit, I might be partial to this book because I absolutely love and devour literary fiction. If I could have dinner with three characters, they would be Lillian Boxfish, Eleanor Oliphant, and now, Francis. I find their inner monologues to be equally dark as they are witty and entertaining. For literary fiction fanatics, this book should be next on your list!

Maybe In Another Life – Review

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Genre: Romance / ChickLit

Rating: 5/5

You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who reads a Taylor Jenkins Reid novel and doesn’t give it as high a rating as the scale goes. I’ve found Reid to be an author of poise and sincerity, someone who writes romance, but isn’t corny, and who attempts to ask the question: “what if”?

In her novel “Maybe in Another Life”, Reid follows the life of Hannah Martin, who just moved across country back to her hometown to live with her childhood best friend and hopefully “get it together”. Her failed romances and business ventures are what brings her back home, and she’s ready to hit the reset button.

Her ex-boyfriend from high school, the “one that got away”, Ethan, is also back home, and of course the two are destined to run into each other. The question is: will Hannah choose to explore what she has with Ethan, or take the road less travelled?

When Hannah decides to explore her relationship with Ethan, she leads a completely different life than the one she leads when she decides to just go home that night with her best friend. Everything changes, depending on one small, insignificant decision. The entire novel plays out over these concurrent narratives, and we see Hannah become two different people (though both are extremely lovable and absolutely adore cinnamon rolls!)

What I love about this novel is that it explores this idea that all of our decisions, big and small, shape us into who we are. It really makes you think: if I had gone out with my friends instead of staying in tonight, would I be a completely different person? There are endless realities, universes where we make different decisions, but we only have the opportunity to live in one, and Reid emphasizes that in her writing.

Hannah is a lovable character, despite her baggage, and it’s a pleasure to follow her through both realities and watch her develop. This novel, like most of Reid’s, is funny, thought-provoking, and romantic. I will continue to read her work – she has become one of my favorite writers!

 

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing – Review

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Genre: Speculative Fiction

Rating: 3.8/5

Hank Green’s debut novel was highly anticipated and for good reasons. His brother, John Green, has been a staple in the young adult literary community, having written several bestsellers over the last decade, most recently “Turtles All The Way Down”. The Green brothers, also known to nerd-fighters as “The VlogBrothers”, are seemingly inseparable on camera, and equally hilarious. It’s no surprise that we anticipated Hank’s debut novel, since we already adored his brother’s.

However, the brothers’ writing could not be more different. While John’s characters have an extremely dynamic depth to them, Hank’s characters are more reserved. His main character, April May, is one that we do not feel to the extent that we felt Hazel Grace in The Fault In Our Stars. But, that’s not to say it’s a bad thing. Hank’s novel was more plot focused, driven to create a somewhat dystopian society in which “Carl” can spawn at random and alien lifeforms not only come into existence but cause moral conflict among the global community.

While I tend to enjoy John’s characters more and find them to be more relatable, I’d had to compare the two solely on the fact that they are brothers. In general, Hank’s characters were not as warm and fuzzy as really any authors, especially given that we were in first-person with April May the entire time. We never saw her be vulnerable, we never empathized for her situation as the “chosen” – but that’s ok.

The novel wasn’t about her so much as it was about Carl – our anonymous main character whose origin we are still unaware. I’m hoping a sequel will be in the works. I feel very much that Carl’s story is not over.

Maybe it’s the fact that this is not my preferred genre, but as much as I appreciated Hank’s novel, I had unanswered questions throughout the novel and felt in places that the story was not entirely believable. I know that this was a “suspend your disbelief” situation, but it was hard for me to imagine some of the scenarios working the way they did, and I had a hard time really getting into the novel because of it. I would have rated it higher had I felt the story had more background that allowed me to feel as though it was really happening. I was taken out of the story because of my questions.

All in all, I think his debut novel was spectacular, and I look forward to more of his writing, but I did find myself disappointed in certain places, and I hope the gaps that exist will close up in a sequel. Until then, I wonder where Carl is…