Saturday, December 31, 2016

(104)Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham


I remember the first episode I ever saw of The Gilmore Girls. I caught an episode in syndication on the channel now known as Freeform. It was summer and there wasn't really anything else on tv to watch. I don't remember the exact episode, but I remember being enamored with the whole Luke and Lorelai dynamic.  I watched all the seasons that summer and was eagerly waiting for season seven to start in the fall.  This past summer I got the joy of introducing my step-daughter to Lorelai and Rory.  After just two episodes she said, "I'm not going to lie, it is pretty awesome."

Just like millions of other women I squealed with delight when hearing about the Netflix deal. And I was the first in line to purchase Lauren Graham's book.  I had to wait for a time that my husband and I would be traveling together to listen to it, though.  And the wait was well worth it.  In Talking As Fast As I Can Lauren Graham takes us behind the scenes of her career.  From her early days in Summerstock to getting the job on Gilmore Girls, Parenthood, and the reboot.  The book was everything I had hoped for and more.  She doesn't spend a lot of time on her early days, but enough to let the reader know exactly how much fun she was then.  She talks about when she first meets Alexis Bledel and the first days on the show.  She then goes through each season and talks about her favorite episodes, the fashion and hair of the season, and certain things that really show the age of the show.  Pop culture references or technology-related items.  Like vhs tapes or now antiquated answering machines.  Frankly, it was awesome.  It was all so fresh, just because we had watched it all with my step-daughter and husband.

Lauren then talks about her time on Parenthood and her relationship with her on-screen brother, Peter Krause. And her relationship with her on-screen children. It sounds like she has been blessed with a great work family for both shows.  And finally, she talks about the Gilmore Girls A Year in the Life.  From the early talks to the final four words.  Even she is convinced those final four words were quite the cliffhanger.  Lauren was quite open about how emotional she was through the filming of those four episodes, she was a bundle of tears.  From missing Edward Hermann (Richard) to Carol King providing an impromptu concert.  It was wonderful. Absolutely perfect. -- OH and she is working on an adaptation of one of my favorite books this year, The Royal We!

Bottom line - There was not one second of this audiobook that I did not enjoy.  Lauren Graham was funny, insightful, and honest with every story she had to tell.  The behind the scenes stories she shares were everything a reader and devoted fan hopes for in a celebrity memoir.  You will not be disappointed.

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Thursday, December 29, 2016

(103)A Life in Parts by Bryan Cranston


Like everybody else in the world I was obsessed with Breaking Bad. I resisted for several seasons, but resistance was futile. Because Walter White was such a riveting character, I was excited to read Bryan Cranston's memoir.

Bryan Cranston was a California boy with a father who was in the business.  His childhood was unusual because his father wasn’t consistently successful, so after his parents split up Bryan and his brother had to scavenge for things his mom could sell at a flea market. But the most interesting thing about his youth was the fact that he and his brother travelled across country on their motorcycles in the late 70s.  It made for some interesting stories and set the foundation for an interesting life.

Bryan goes on to tell about his early acting days. From his days on the soap opera Loving, to audition after audition. He talks fondly about his Malcom in the Middle family and then he gets to Breaking Bad.  He speaks briefly about his bond with Aaron Paul and the Breaking Bad family, but he talks a lot about the craft of acting.  Specifically what it was like fighting for what he felt would be true to the character. It was interesting and really showed that Bryang Cranston is a true  actor.

Bottom line- A lot of celebrity memoirs are full of Hollywood gossip and anecdotes of colleagues that make it a fun read.  A Life in Parts  is more about an actor's craft with a few tidbits thrown in for fun.  However,  celebrity aside, Bryan Cranston has led an interesting life and his memoir is a fascinating read.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

(102)Small Admissions by Amy Poeppel


Kate Pearson was not handling her breakup very well.   She left a very successful career path in anthropology to move to France to be with her boyfriend, so it is no wonder that the break-up did not go well.  Kate has been living a solitary life ever since.  Her family is worried about her, her friends are worried about her, and all she wants is to be left alone.   One of her friends got her a job interview at a prestigious New York City private school. The interview was a disaster, but Kate still got the job.  She now has a job in the admissions department at the Hudson Day School.  Kate's job means interviewing prospective students and their parents.  A job that opens Kate's eyes to the sense of entitlement that runs rampant in the world of private schools.  The pressure that comes with "Admissions Season" is high - will Kate be able to stand up to the pressure or will she go back to the hermit lifestyle that she was leading?

Small Admissions was a quick, light-hearted read.  Kate was the kind of character that was obviously well loved by anybody who knew her.  All of her family and friends were so concerned with her well-being after the break-up. And rightfully so, she was kind of a mess.  But after she got the job at Hudson she was putting her life back together quite nicely, but none of her friends or family seemed to recognize that.  They all kept planning for next break-down - like it was inevitable, yet none of them were willing to acknowledge that she was getting her shit together.  Well, until that one conversation between Kate's sister and father.  One of her friends was obviously a "mean girl" in disguise and I was ready to slap her silly very early in the book. It was the prospective parents and kids that really made the book fun to read.  Talk about serious wack-a-doos.  Small Admissions was a bit predictable, but I liked Kate and was really rooting for her to win.

Bottom line - Small Admissions is one of those books in the same vein as The Devil Wears Prada or The Nanny Diaries.  A light-hearted look at how the other half lives, this time the wealthy who send their kids to private school.  A fun read if you are looking for an escape!

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Monday, December 26, 2016

(101)All She Ever Wished For by Claudia Carroll


Tess Taylor and Kate King live in two very different worlds.  Tess is a personal trainer that was just promoted to Assistant Manager at her gym.  She is engaged to be married to a very safe, but very boring college professor.  The last thing she needs is jury duty.  Tess did everything she could to get out of it, but here she is, on a jury mostly comprised of the elderly.  But there is a guy, Will, who seems to be cool.  His companionship while on jury duty proves to be invaluable, but will it turn into more?

Kate King is a wealthy socialite/model.  She has been married to one of Ireland's most wealthy men for fifteen years.  It was one of those celebrity marriages that was always mentioned in the tabloids.  But now Kate and her husband are divorcing and things are getting messy.  Kate's pre-nup states that she is to keep all gifts bestowed upon her during their marriage.  For her last birthday as a married couple, her husband gave her a priceless piece of art.  Now he wants it back and their spat has been played out in the papers for weeks.  Now it is going to court and it is up to Tess Taylor and her fellow jurors to determine if the painting really is Kate's or if she deserves to go to jail.

All She Ever Wanted was a fun, relaxing read.  The story was an easy read and it was easy to like both Tess and Kate even though they were so different.   The author tells the story in a "back and forth" format.  Tess's story is always told in the present, while Kate's story starts at the beginning of her relationship with Damien fifteen years ago.  Tess and Kate are really quite opposite.  Tess is more light-hearted and easy going, but is engaged to a guy who is her complete opposite in every way.  It was easy to predict which way that plot was going.    Years of being married to a philandering husband and always in the press has hardened Kate to a point that some have accused her of being cold, but as Kate's story progresses, you realize that she is a product of her marriage. I really liked how the story turned out for both Kate and Tess.  There was some emotional growth for both of them.

Bottom line - All She Ever Wished For is everything I love about Chick Lit novels.  Great characters, an engaging story, a little bit of romance, and a happy ending.  A fun read for sure!

Details:

  • All She Ever Wished For by Claudia Carroll
  • On Twitter
  • Pages: 496
  • Publisher:  HarperCollins UK
  • US Publication Date: 12/28/2016
  • Buy it Here!


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Sunday, December 11, 2016

(100)What Light by Jay Asher


Every year Sierra and her family leaves their Oregon home to set up their Christmas Tree lot in sunny California.  The older Sierra gets the harder it is for her to leaver her friends in Oregon, Even though she has a good friend in California, it is tough.  In California Sierra and her folks live in an Air-stream on their Christmas Tree lot.  They work from sun up to sun down and Sierra goes to virtual school to stay caught up with her peers.  This year is different.  Sierra's parents are trying to decide if they want to continue running the lot in California.

Sierra isn't in California long when she meets Caleb.  A young man who has bought more than one Christmas tree from the lot.   Sierra is intrigued about this young man.  Even more so when one of the guys working at the lot warns her off of him.  Caleb is a wild card and has a violent past. Will Sierra heed the warning or will following her heart get her in trouble?

What Light was a quick and easy read. Sierra was a smart and likable character.  She was torn between two worlds - her life in Oregon and her life in California.  I liked all of her friends, even Caleb.   For the most part they were good kids.  Having been a huge fan of Jay Asher's novel, Thirteen Reasons Why, I was expecting a little something deeper or more gripping than what we find in What Light. Something with a little more substance.  He scratches the surface with Caleb's story-line, but I don't feel it lived up to it's potential. Not that having a lighter story is a bad thing, I was just hoping for more.  I was also hoping for an Epilogue, to see what the next year brings for Sierra, but no luck.  In the end, the story was your typical cheesy Christmas novel and I did enjoy every word.

Bottom line - What Light was your typical holiday novel.  Full of Christmas traditions, no matter how non-traditional they were.  A quick and easy read and likely coming to a Hallmark Channel in the next few years.

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Saturday, December 10, 2016

(99)Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris


How is it possible that I have lived this long without reading the holiday classic, Holidays On Ice?  First published in 1997 the small collection of essays is a mixture of autobiographical stories and satire so well written you will question if it is true or not.

I think my favorite was the Christmas Letter read by his sister,, Amy Sedaris.  It was the letter from a woman was obviously quite put-out by the fact that her husband's long-lost daughter from Vietnam made an appearance in their lives, and Christmas card.  Add insult to injury her own daughter got pregnant by a druggie who ran off and left them, and they were forced to take care of the baby while their daughter was off in rehab. When tragedy strikes the martyr mother is disgusted to realize that the police think that she is at fault.  I found myself laughing several times.

Another favorite was the tale of the neighbors and their insane game of one-upmanship.  It was a cautionary tale of what can happen if you get caught up in the race to "Keep up with the Jones'".

Bottom line - Holidays on Ice is a quick read for those more cynical Christmas lovers out there.  The kind of story that is more likely to make you laugh, rather than have warm fuzzies, but oh definitely worth the read.

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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Monday, December 5, 2016

(98)The Last One by Alexandra Oliva


Twelve contestants have signed on for a reality show.  The winner takes home the million dollar prize. The contestants have been labeled by the producers and cameramen.  There are contestants like "Waitress" and "Tracker", "Engineer", and "Zoo".  The contestants are in the wilderness and compete in a series of challenges, sometimes in a team and sometimes on their own.  The contestants are set loose on a solo challenge, just them and their cameraman.  The contestants are completely isolated and unaware that at a pandemic is sweeping the country.  "Zoo" is alone for several days, she was sick, but got through it and is now determined to win the million dollars.  She is completely unaware that the bodies she encounters are not "props", the desolate towns are not staged by production.  When she encounters a young man, Brennan, she assumes that he is her new cameraman.  Will "Zoo" ever realize that this world is not just a set, but truly an apocalyptic wasteland?   Will "Zoo" be able to survive this new apocalyptic world?

I really, really liked The Last One. As a fan of Survivor the similarities were unmistakable. The author alternates the timeline with every chapter.  There is the present that Zoo and then Brennan are dealing with and the other chapters are the story leading up to the present.  Zoo getting involved in the show and her relationship with her husband.  And then the early days of the game.  It was fun and fascinating.  And a little bit terrifying.  Zoo experienced my worst fear by breaking her glasses.  I am completely blind without my glasses and when she broke hers I freaked out just a bit. She adapted the best way she could, in fact, that is what Zoo does throughout the whole story.  She adapts because she knows if she doesn't she will lose.  The author does a great job at illustrating how much Zoo was in denial. Almost to the point of frustration for the reader, but one event forces Zoo to acknowledge their reality and her realization was heartbreaking.  I was pleased with the ending. It ended the best way that it could. - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS -

Bottom line - It has been a while since I have read a good post-apocalyptic novel and The Last One did not disappoint.   It ties current pop-culture (reality shows) with "the world is ending" events and the results is one book that you won't want to put down.

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Sunday, December 4, 2016

(97)The Trespasser by Tana French


Detective Antoinette Conway worked hard to join Dublin's Murder Squad.  Being the only female detective on the force is more difficult than Conway ever imagined.  She is constantly on the defensive mode against some of her fellow D's.  Conway and her partner, Stephan Moran, are coming off of a long night shift when they catch a case.  A young, beautiful woman was found dead in her flat. It appears to be an open and shut case as the young lady had a date scheduled the night before, but Conway can't shake the feeling that she has met the victim before.   A visit to the deceased's best friend reveals that she had a secret boyfriend.  That revelation sends Conway and Moran down a path that could jeopardize their lives and threaten their careers.   Will they be able to solve the murder before their reputations and lives are completely destroyed?

Tana French has to be one of the most talented writers to ever grace our planet.  Each one of her mysteries is more - everything - than the last.  The Trespasser is one of those double-meaning titles.  Does it refer to the person who killed Aislinn Murray or does it refer to Antoinette Conway, the only woman in a boys club?  Conway is tough as nails, but there were many times when I felt that she was borderline paranoid.  Her partner, Moran, was a good guy who was trying to please Conway in every way he could, sometimes going down paths that were a waste of time.   When they finally got to the truth of the matter they had two choices.   Ignore it and save their careers or reveal the truth and end their careers on the Murder Squad. -- CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS - .

Bottom line - The Trespasser is Tana French at her finest.  You have murder, intrigue, and a female detective with a chip on her shoulder in a man's world.  If you love a good mystery you won't be disappointed.

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Why I Read...

I remember the carefree summer days when I used to ride my bike to the public library to pick out new books. I would go almost daily to find books to read. I read to learn. I read to explore the world. I read to escape. I read because not reading is not an option.

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