Top Ten Books I’m Thankful For

toptentuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week’s topic is…


Books I am Thankful For (A Thanksgiving Freebie) 

51KAYSyY03L._SX346_BO1,204,203,200_1. Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans

“In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines / Lived twelve little girls in two straight lines /  In two straight lines they broke their bread / And brushed their teeth and went to bed. / They left the house at half past nine / In two straight lines in rain or shine- The smallest one was Madeline.”

The fact that I can still recite this word-for-word says everything about my childhood reading habits.

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 2. All of the Little House Books by Laura Ingalls Wilder

 

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3. Oh, look! Harry Potter

 

 

 

 

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4. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

I really hated reading for school, it wasn’t until my sophomore year that we read Agatha Christie and I fell in love all over again. This book showed me old books weren’t necessarily boring or “hard” (this was the same year we read The Scarlett Letter) and a great story and characters didn’t have to be sacrificed for enjoyment.

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5. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

It was incredibly hard to pick just one Judy Blume book for this but I decided on this classic. This is mainly due to the fact this is the edition I read as a kid because it was my mom’s.

 

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6. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Everyone loves baseball and fishing.

 

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7. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

I brought this book home from the school library when I was 9. Why it was in the school library the world will never know, but my teacher said I could read it if my parents said it was okay all concerned and teacher-like. My parents in all their glory let me not only read it, but when I finished it (because I had no clue what I just read) let me watch the movie with them and then we discussed it. That was the type of family we are and I am forever grateful. I also should re-read this at some point.

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8. Killing Yourself To Live: 85% of a True Story by Chuck Klosterman

My dad made me read this because he wanted someone to geek out with him. From here my love for Klosterman was born. Also, book recs from dads are the best recs.

 

 

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9. Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk

 

 

 

 

 

 

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10. Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts

This book is like running home and getting a giant hug from your mom.

 

 

 

 

So happy thanksgiving everyone and let me know what books (or anything) you’re thankful for this year.

Left Neglected

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Left Neglected – Lisa Genova /// Adult – Contemporary


I have mixed feelings about this book. It is different from many books I pick up (more sciencey) but it had a great story and was easy to navigate and read for people like me who use the word sciencey. It’s the second novel by Lisa Genova of Still Alice fame, so if you liked that you can be pretty assured that this is right up your alley.

The premise follows Sarah Nickerson, an overworking mother who lives and organizes her life based on statistics and spreadsheets. A few chapters into the story she is in a car accident where she is left (ha get it) with no awareness on the left side of her body. Full disclosure, I was halfway through the book before I fully realized what this entailed. Lisa Genova does a good job of explaining the science behind this, and I am not even going to attempt it.

The end result is now a working woman who can’t work and learning to function with her new handicap. Yes, it is a handicap, Genova does an excellent job of portraying the struggles this woman faces besides the general hard time walking. Simple things such as flossing, maneuvering within her own home, and eating at a restaurant become seemingly impossible struggles. Genova portrays these in an empathetic yet realistic manner and I was able to relate to character I had no reason to relate too. In the midst of realizing she had major brain surgery she looks at herself for the first time in the mirror and notices all of the changes to her body, specifically, the hairs on her chin. Without a major trauma I relate, and in that way this story felt realistic and less of a trauma story.

My biggest problem with this book, and one that distracted me when reading Still Alice, is Genova’s attempt at narrative. She is a trained neuroscientist with an amazing skill at dumbing down the terms  and concepts and turning them into a narrative without being condescending. However, in both books she attempts to bring in struggles with external family members that have nothing to do with forwarding the plot or character development. In Left Neglected this woman is struggling with getting back to regular life, realizing she never can, and defining a “new normal” with her husband and children. Concentrating on those relationships and struggles would have made for an excellent character driven plot. Then, bam! There’s an estranged mother who she also has to reconnect with at the same time as all this life changing scenarios. It was awkward for me, almost as if Genova saw that formula of family drama in another book and added it last-minute. As if the marriage and parent relationships weren’t drama enough. Some people loved it this about the work, I was not one of them, to each their own.

Favorite Quotes

“Bob keeps insisting that I can do anything I put my mind to. But he’s referring to my old mind. My new mind is broken and doesn’t give a whack about the left or my old mind’s reputation for success.”

“I know this looks pathetic, but I’m wearing black elastic-waist pants just like my mother’s, a hot-pink fleece hat, mismatched socks, and no makeup. I think it’s safe to say that vanity is no longer my biggest concern.”

Final Thoughts.

I want to hear from you guys, do you think I’m being to hard on the estranged mother character or did you also find it took away from the story?

The Heart Goes Last

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The Heart Goes Last – Margaret Atwood /// Fiction – Sci-Fi


YAY, YAY, YAY, A new Margaret Atwood novel! So this is another dystopian depiction, but much lighter in tone, as in half of the novel was Vegas kitsch, life-size sex dolls and Elvis and Marilyn Monroe impersonators. And really, what more can anyone want. The correct answer is nothing.

After an economic collapse, married couple Stan and Charmaine are living in their car surviving on tips from Charmaine’s bartending job.  Like most people in this near future they are hungry and desperate for any answer to their problems.

Here is where the Positron Project comes into play. Working at the bar one night, Charmaine sees a commercial for Consilience, a place offering homes and stable jobs. Obviously, her and Stan jump at this opportunity. They take the next bus out and prepare to be vetted by the staff before they can sign their lifelong entrance contracts. When they enter they understand how the Positron Project survives. Every month the residents live and work in the town modeled after 1950s suburbia. On alternate months they head on over to live and work within the Positron prison facility.

Already signed up, they realize that agreement isn’t all that bad. The prison is alright and it’s still better than living on the street. Things go pretty South pretty fast when Charmaine starts an affair with one of her “alternates,” the man who lives in their home during the months they are in prison. Soon she and Stan are separated and individually discover what’s actually keeping the prison alive, as well as find their way back to one another.

This book was just plain fun. It was a thinker with some pretty awesome themes without being crazy heavy. There were a few moments where I veered the story was heading too far into the absurd, but then it grabbed me back in and never let go. This absurdist writing seeing how far boundaries can be pushed reminded me a lot of this and I loved that.

The only downside, is being familiar with other Atwood stories, this contained a lot of the same tropes. However, it was still just as magical. Instead of remaining in dread, the novel progresses into something so absurd I almost forgot that I was supposed to care how it ended, I was having to much fun getting there.

Favorite Quotes

“How dare she show herself to be everything he was so annoyed with her for not being?” 

“Powerful but insecure men don’t take well to rejection. Rage could result.” 

Reread?

Probably one day, this was a library book so I will definitely be on the hunt for a copy for my bookshelf.

Final Thoughts

Overall, this book is for anyone who doesn’t mind having a few boundaries pushed in the most absurd direction. In other words, it’s fantastic and everyone should read it.

Top Ten Quotes I Loved From Books I Read In The Past Year Or So

toptentuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week’s topic is…


Quotes I Love From Books I’ve Read In The Past Year (Or So)

This is tough, I’ve read so many great books this past year and each one is filled with quotes that I love for different reasons. Some of these are super awesome and some just make me laugh. So here we go in no particular order, my first Top Ten Tuesday 🙂

“How dare she show herself to be everything he was so annoyed with her for not being?” The Heart Goes Last – Margaret Atwood

“To be successful in an area, you have to respect the people who are successful in that area, or you are disrespecting the very thing that you want to become.” Foxcatcher – Mark Schultz

“You only get one life. It’s actually your duty to live it as fully as possible.” Me Before You – Jojo Moyes

“I always thought it was what I wanted: to be loved and admired. Now I think perhaps I’d like to be known.” The Nightingale – Kristin Hannah

“Girl scouts didn’t teach me what to do with emotionally unstable drunk boys.” Anna and the French Kiss – Stephanie Perkins

“If a hiker gets lost in the mountains, people will coordinate a search. If a train crashes, people will line up to give blood. If an earthquake levels a city, people all over the world will send emergency supplies. This is so fundamentally human that it’s found in every culture without exception. Yes, there are assholes who just don’t care, but they’re massively outnumbered by the people who do.” The Martian – Andy Weir

“My heart started racing, not the bad kind of heart racing, like I’m going to die. But the good kind of heart racing, like, Hello, can I help you with something? If not, please step aside because I’m about to kick the shit out of life.” Where’d You Go Bernadette – Maria Semple

“In all my travels, only in the Midwest would someone spend their money in a place they hate simply because they feel bad for the proprietors. Also I suppose, because they know your name.” Shotgun Lovesongs – Nickolas Butler

“In yourself right now is all the place you’ve got.” Wise Blood – Flannery O’Connor

“When you’re twenty-one, life is a roadmap. It’s only when you get to be twenty-five or so that you begin to suspect that you’ve been looking at the map upside down, and not until you’re forty are you entirely sure. By the time you’re sixty, take it from me, you’re fucking lost.” Joyland – Stephen King

Shotgun Lovesongs

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Shotgun Lovesongs – Nickolas Butler /// Adult – Contemporary


Guy’s, I’m catching up…in that this book is sorta new and it hasn’t been on my ‘to read’ list as long as other titles.

This is a book I recommended to my mom, who loved it. That probably tells you more about it than any review I could give you.

The story is simply the tale of four childhood friends who are now grown and facing their very real world (kinda – one is a famous musician, here’s looking at you Bon Iver) problems. They all reconnect in their small hometown in northeastern Wisconsin and are able to seemingly pick up right where they left off. The story follows them over the years and really is a sweet tale of male friendship without being cheesy. I found this incredibly refreshing because we usually don’t get this development of friendship between male characters in an honest way. I think because I went to college in Northern Wisconsin (Go Pointers!) these guys reminded me a lot of the guys I went to school with. Being at separate schools, all heading home to their same small town, and picking up right where they left off.

My biggest problem had nothing to do with the story itself, but the structure as a whole. Every chapter was from a different characters point of view but they al had close to the same voice which made it hard to differentiate or form a strong connection to any singular character. They all blended together fairly easily and after finishing last week I cannot remember a single one of their names. As much as their voices were lacking they all did have development that felt true so I did appreciate that. Following their dreams is such a simple notion yet Butler was able to bring out the complexities of it in even distinguishing the differences in their dreams without any of them being “better.”

Overall a good read but I skimmed a lot more than I am proud to admit. Really, I think had this been a series of short stories I would have been love.

Favorite Quotes:

“In all my travels, only in the Midwest would someone spend their money in a place they hate simply because they feel bad for the proprietors. Also I suppose, because they know your name.”

“Winter in Wisconsin is the ideal time to avoid someone because our garments grow ever larger, ever thicker, and we go about the frozen world insulated beneath knit caps and mittens, our feet clad in mukluks or boots.” 

ReRead? No…but my mom just bought his book of short stories which I think look awesome

After You

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After You – Jojo Moyes /// Fiction – Contemporary


As a sequel I think this book does its job. Me Before You was heartbreakingly beautiful in a way this book couldn’t be, and I’m glad it didn’t try to be. Oh God, if you haven’t read Me Before You stop reading this now and go find it and read it. Buy into the hype that it is awesome read it and prepare to cry your eyes out. Only continue reading this review if you are some sort of rebel who doesn’t care about mild spoilers, I’ll still try not to go too in depth.

After You picks up over a year after the ending of Me Before You. In that time Louisa has squandered most of her money and feels no more fulfilled than before Will Traynor. Louisa has reverted back to Louisa(ness) – but sadder – after everything that went down with Will. She’s working a bartending job she hates and then goes home and sleep and does it all over again the next day. She is still just as Will feared she would be, stuck, and she accepts that.

After a tragic (hilarious?) accident forces Louisa to return home and recover, the events for this novel are set into motion. Part of her recovery is learning to leave home and finally set out on her own, after some glorious scenes with her family. (Her mom has become a feminist and it is wonderful). On her road to recovery, both physical and emotional, she is forced into a support group where she meets characters who are quirky (I hate that word but whatevs) and wonderful and perfect. Additional characters, Lily Houghton-Miller and Sam Fielding, are brought into her life to help her connect her past life to her present one.

I adored this Louisa because she didn’t start this book the same as she was before. Her character has dealt with a lot of things in a short span of time and we see how it affects her. The new character additions were great because they didn’t take anything away from characters in Me Before You. Lou didn’t want to forget, but she needed to challenge herself to move-on so she could live her life how Will wanted her too.

Lily and Sam were the most fleshed out new additions who brought the most challenge into Lou’s life (for the better). Lily spent her time trying to get Lou to loosen up, because now all of a sudden she is someone who needs to loosen up. Sam, oh perfect paramedic Sam, didn’t give up on her because he understood what she was going through and grieved along with her.

Sidenote: I want to once again say how perfect her family is this time around. I will never not love how loving her family is in their own way. They are flawed but they try and it’s appreciated.

Anything I didn’t like in this novel is a petty detail. The biggest thing being Louisa’s “miscommunication” with Sam. She makes a mistake then just avoided him and that’s that. Good  Lord Louisa, I love you but at some time you have to act something that resembles your adult age. I understand her charm is her naiveté and innocence and immaturity, but I hate the some of her decisions.  It’s just frustrating but it doesn’t take away from the novel.

Favorite Quotes

“You don’t have to let that one thing be the thing that defines you.” 

“You know what makes me feel down? The way you keep promising to live some kind of a life, then sacrifice yourself to every waif and stray who comes across your path.” 

“I swallowed. “Mum, you’re not going to get divorced, are you?” Her eyes shot open. “Divorced? I’m a good Catholic girl, Louisa. We don’t divorce. We just make our men suffer for all eternity.” She waited just for a moment, and then she started to laugh.” 

ReRead

Maybe, probably right around the time when I reread Me Before You before the movie comes out next year. Omigosh I could not be more excited for this movie.

Read Me Before You, cry, read this sequel, cry tears of joy for Louisa to finally try some adventure, then repeat. This book is for anyone who loves a love story that isn’t romantic comedy or a happily ever after. It’s two people who never even should have met finding out they both have more to offer the other than they think and discovery their new worlds together.

Emmy & Oliver

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Emmy & Oliver – Robin Benway /// YA – Contemporary


Guys, this is the first YA I’ve read in a while and it reminded me why I need to branch out and read more than just my go to YA authors.  I picked this up expecting a cute romance and it was that, so yay ☺ but it was also about friendships and them changing as everyone deals with the fact that high school is ending and things will change, which I loved. I’m also a sucker for a good friendship story. 

Emmy & Oliver grew up as best friends until Oliver’s dad kidnapped him at age seven. He returns, perfectly healthy 10 years later, to once again live with his mom and her new family. Oliver’s story is obviously the most dramatic, but I found Emmy’s to be much more compelling. She, and her family and friends, all deal with Oliver’s absence and return in varying ways, which I found much more interesting. Especially Emmy’s parents grappling with how to loosen the severely tight leash they have placed on Emmy out of fear. Caroline and Drew, her other friends, try to stay true to themselves and continue their lives with this huge chasm.

Oliver and Emmy’s romance is slow to develop and I absolutely loved that. I hate when relationships just happen with no development because I find it incredibly fake. This story focused deeply on family relationships and friend relationships more than other pure love stories and I loved that. It’s easier to relate and love a character who has more than one thing going on in their lives than just a boy or just family drama.

My strongest critique, and not really critique as my much as what I personally didn’t like, was the overprotective parent trope. Maybe it’s just been recently, but the majority of books I’ve come across lately contain it, and I’m just tired of it. Yes, a lot of people love this, I just don’t happen to be one of them. I grew up with “normal” parents in terms of strictness. They let me test the waters growing up instead of making every choice for me and grounded me when necessary. So I guess on top of not relating to it, overprotectiveness just annoys me so I have a hard time sympathizing with characters in that storyline.

Favorite Quotes:

“The more you start to love someone, the more you ache when they’re gone, and maybe it’s that middle ground that hurts the most, when you can see them and still not feel like you’re near enough.” 

Will I reread this? Probably not. However, I plan on serial reading other Robin Benway books because I loved her writing…Any suggestions would be great ☺

This book was great, not my favorite, but I devoured it and still wanted more. I absolutely loved the romance and the focus on friendships evolving as they always do when you grow up and move on. This is definitely a book that lured me in with the romance but I stayed and fell in love with the friendship arcs.

In A Dark, Dark Wood

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In a Dark, Dark Wood – Ruth Ware /// Fiction – Mystery


I really don’t have a lot to say about this book. It was just okay as story goes and you can probably guess the whodunnit pretty quickly. I guessed it half-way through but it was still fun to see how the characters got to that point.

The story centers around Lenora, or Nora as she goes by now. She writes crime mystery novels and really only leaves her house to go on her daily run. She is what many would call a loner, well more a hermit, and she likes it that way. Out of the blue she gets an email inviting her to a hen/bachelorette party for a friend she has not spoken to since high school. Nora doesn’t consider going until she recognizes another name on the invitation list. The old friends decide to bite the bullet and go together. The party is hosted at a secluded cabin in the woods and mystery ensues. Well really some murder and a lot of adults acting like children. This story would have made more sense to me if it was teenagers in a cabin for a party or something to that effect, not adults who stopped maturing at age 14. I think talking specific behavior would be a spoiler so talk to me after you’ve read this.

The book was good, I was just hoping for more. The writing is what saved this for me. Specifically her setting of the atmosphere and scene. Really, for as quick of a read as this is, it is worth reading for the scenery description alone. I felt as if I was trapped in the cabin surrounded by only the woods and the snow along with the party goers. The claustrophobic feeling is something Nora struggles with the entire novel even before her time in the cabin and I felt that too. Because of Ruth Ware’s beautiful description I was able to relate to Lenora and understand her actions a little bit, sorta.

Favorite Quotes

“The night was drawing in, and the house felt more and more like a glass cage, blasting its light blindly out into the dusk, like a lantern in the dark. I imagined a thousand moths circling and shivering, drawn inexorably to its glow, only to perish against the cold inhospitable glass.”

ReRead?

No, but I don’t really read mysteries again anyway. This book is definitely for people who love an easy novel that doesn’t take much thought.

Brain On Fire: My Month of Madness

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Brain on Fire – Susannah Cahalan /// Nonfiction – Contemporary


Full disclosure, I could not put this book down so there will not be much negative criticism, at all actually.  Cahalan is a New York Post reporter so her writing flows more as literary journalism than anything else. So we are just going to call this literary journalism because I hate the term memoir. I don’t even know why, I like them enough to keep reading them. I think for me at least, I equate the term memoir with someone telling me how they did so many awesome things in their life. It’s like the world’s worst humble brag. That is not this book I promise.

Susannah chronicles her life of being a healthy 24 year old reporter living an all around normal life. Then in a mere matter of weeks her life disappears from her. One day she wakes up in the hospital room strapped to her bed and unable to move or speak. Her medical records for her month long stay show psychosis, violence, and dangerous instability. As her weeks in the hospital draw longer she slips from violence into near catatonia. All of this taking place as her family refuses to accept her multitude of misdiagnosis’s that lead medical staff wanting to commit her as they cannot find anything biologically wrong. Eventually Dr. Souhel Najjar is called, nicknamed Dr. House, who comes up with her life-saving diagnosis.

This book worked for me in a lot of ways. I think a poorer written book would not have opened so many eyes to the world of neuroscience and mental health and how we are still so far behind. As Cahalan points out her disease was not discovered until the 2000s. Yet, several doctors believe it has been around since humanity began. She was originally diagnosed alcoholic, then schizophrenic. As she points out, nearly everyone in her position is given the original diagnosis of schizophrenic, not because the doctors suck, but the overworked system they are apart of does. This was the most eye-opening and the most heartbreaking part of the novel for me. It was at this point in reading that I called my mom to make sure if something happened to me that they get as many opinions as it takes.

Cahalan has few to no memories of her month in the hospital. She was required to construct what happened through hospital records, research, and interview, the most helpful being her dads journal from her days in the hospital. I think this is what made a memoir of this nature stand out so much. She is forced to consult everyone she possible without her own biased of ‘well this how I remember it.’

Favorite Quotes

“The girl in the video is a reminder about how fragile our hold on sanity and health is and how much we are at the utter whim of our Brutus bodies, which will inevitably, on day, turn on us for good. I am a prisoner, as we all are. And with that realization comes an aching sense of vulnerability.” 

“When we live in a time when the rate of misdiagnoses has shown no improvement since the 1930s, the lesson here is that it’s important to always get a second opinion. While he may be an excellent doctor in many respects, Dr. Bailey is also, in some ways, a perfect example of what is wrong with medicine. I was just a number to him (and if he saw thirty-five patients a day, as he told me, that means I was one of a very large number). He is a by-product of a defective system that forces neurologists to spend five minutes with X number of patients a day to maintain their bottom line. It’s a bad system. Dr. Bailey is not the exception to the rule. He is the rule.” 

Reread? No, no way. It scared me, started making me question if I could come out the other end of that still strong, realizing my own vunerability. It is great to think about these things and open my eyes to these things but it is emotionally draining and no way am I doing it again. However, I stand by everyone should read this once.

Also if you’re a nerd like me and research everything you can about a book you become passionate about after you read it, Cahalan did some pretty interesting interviews between the release of her article in the New York Post (inspiration for the book) and the book itself. The today show once was my favorite but they were all good.

Someday, Someday, Maybe

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Someday, Someday, Maybe – Lauren Graham /// Adult Contemporary


So I know all of you recognized the dread I experienced when it was announced many moons ago that Lauren Graham was writing a book. You get a pit in your stomach because you just know in your gut that this is not going to end well. It never does. Thankfully, this one followed through to be exactly what I was expecting (in a good way).

Now I know what you’re thinking, “Omigod this crazy girl reads novels written by celebrities and likes them,” and to you people I say “shenanigans.” I started this book because I love chick-lit and Lauren Graham and figured what the hell, I could always go for a good beach read. I should make a note though that before I dug too far into it, I said a little prayer that it would not suck as my rose tinted glasses with anything involving Lauren Graham would be ruined.

The premise is simple. Franny is an aspiring actress in New York City who at the ripe old age of 28 has not made it big yet. She has 6months left on her 3 year plan to make it as a star before she returns home to get a regular person job, probably an English teacher. The story revolves around her as she tries to make it in those 6months. She navigates the world of auditions and boys and not having money, that world we are all oh so familiar with even if we aren’t actors. Franny is constantly being cast in the most ridiculous things because casting folks find her quirky and over the course of the book she goes from listening to those crazy people to listening to herself and being comfortable in her own skin. Really what more do people want from a beach read. It’s light and funny and never taking itself to seriously. As long as I can finish it in a day or two, I’m happy. My standards should probably be higher but oh well.

This is definitely a character driven novel, and I’m okay with that. The hard part is it is told from the narration of what is going on inside Franny’s head. So the other character’s evolutions are evolutions of how Franny perceives them. This is her world and they are  just living in it. This is something I went back and forth on if I liked it. On one hand, eh, it really is just Franny so if you don’t relate to her or find her enjoyable you’re in for a tough read. However, at 22, not quite sure what I’m doing and just going along with things I relate. I never see how my friends change when I’m not around. Even if I am around I probably am just as non-observant as Franny. This book was a good reminder for me, at this point in my life, it’s okay to be selfish and go after what you want as long as it’s what you want.

My biggest problem with this book is not really one that can be fixed. I read the entire novel thinking of the main character as Lauren Graham. Even me just describing that summary to you I bet a few of you thought “oh, yay a memoir.”  I know it’s fiction but I read it as a memoir without really trying. There were a few changes she could have tweaked to bring away the similarities. The protagonist could have not been a tall brunette in 1995 who casting people would continuously refer to as quick talking and witty, but who am I to judge.  At the end of the day though I think those changes would have made the novel not quite as good, no one likes to read about the same character we get over and over again chick-lit. Besides, I would have pictured Lorelai Gilmore anyway. At least this way I enjoyed it.

Favorite Quotes

“Once again, I’ve been thwarted by the massive difference between my vision of the successful me and the me I’m currently stuck with.” 

“And dear, if you should someday become famous, don’t write a cookbook.”

Re-readability – I’m saying yes just because now I own it and I can it. It is definitely a book to throw in my beach bag and go. If I skip parts or don’t finish it who cares, I’ve already read it.


What did you guys think of it? Was it all you expected from a good beach read or did you go in wanting to hate it because you stand by the celebrities should not write books?