Review: Grace’s Guide

To sum it up. Grace’s Guide: Nailed it!

amazon.com
amazon.com

Grace Helbig is consistently hilarious, endearing and just great. In a world that’s often full of digital overload, it can be super hard to find authenticity. If you’ve struggled with that, or maybe you’re just having a shit day, pick up this book and give a chapter or two a quick read. (Or head over to her YouTube if you’ve got real time to kill.) I promise it will be worth it. If it’s not: Sorry, maybe we aren’t online or IRL friends and I just don’t get you.

Grace is humble and honest. I think. Mostly, at least. She’s not trying to mask her weird or awkward and I freaking love that about her. She’s just 100% Grace, all the time. Good job!

I think Grace and I are pretty close to the same-ish age, so these lessons are ones I’ve already learned. Hello being 29, you really snuck up on a girl. However, that didn’t make this book any less fun or good. I got to learn a few things that I maybe didn’t know before, and several instances were laugh-out-loud funny. Maybe not full belly laugh funny, but definite audible giggling.

Grace offers tips that are perfect for anyone who is still in, or freshly out of, college. We’ve all been where you are right now. Not exactly where you are, but some alternate universe version of it maybe. It’s nice to know, at any age and point in life, that you aren’t/weren’t alone in your ridiculousness. Shhh, just let Grace comfort you with that kind of solace and camaraderie.

Grace’s Guide: The Art of Pretending to Be a Grown-Up, for those who could be daydream about being Grace’s friend, will remind you just how far you’ve really come. That life after 21 (hell, even after 25) has a lot to offer. Just like you! You’re creative and smart and a great time, even without frequent all-nighters, binge drinking and walks of shame. And, ya know what, it feels pretty damn good.

And for those that are younger, more impressionable and still have a full life ahead of you: listen to Grace’s advice as you adventure through this thing called growing up. Sometimes it’s fun. Sometimes it’s scary. But at least you have some sage advice from someone you trust and can totally relate to. But, newsflash: Your mom really does always know best! Unless your mom is a junkie prostitute, then maybe don’t take all of her advice. Too far? Oops, sorry. Your mom, like Grace Helbig, is a peach. Love her. Cherish her.

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#GIRLBOSS | Book Review

#GIRLBOSS | Book Review.

A book I wanted to read, now I think I need to read. So it goes!

#GIRLBOSS sounds like something we all, at least secretly, dream of. As someone who loves writing, being creative but also super-over-disgustingly productive Sophia Amoruso could be my new spirit animal. Along with Amy Poehler, Kesha, and a strange array of other women who rock! I think I’ve silently been channeling this #girlboss energy for the past month or so, whipping myself into shape in all kinds of life aspects. As The Rocky Horror Picture Show should have taught us all, “don’t just dream it, be it!”

Hump Day, Dump Day: The Bad Book Review

I don’t have a ‘hump day, dump day’ book to write about, which may happen more often than not. At least, I’m beginning to think so. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t talk about trashing books in some way.

Personally, I’m not a fan of — and try not to write — 100% negative book reviews. Yet, as any reader knows, sometimes you pick a book because it sounds good or intriguing only to find that it’s anything but good or intriguing. Maybe they aren’t so bad that we just throw in the towel, but sometimes we have no choice. That’s totally fine! I, myself, am slowly learning when to give up on a book I can’t get into, rather than forcing myself to finish what I started.

I don’t want Hump Day, Dump Day to be all about the negative review, per se. Some books are just straight-up bad. No questions about it, hands down, BAD. But, I think what happens more often is that a book isn’t particularly to my liking, your tastes, or whatever. All the lovely, wonderful subjectivity of writing. Bad writing is bad writing, but just because I don’t like the narration, voice, style, or plot doesn’t mean the book is dictionary-definition bad. There have been books that repeatedly teased me with the hope of getting better, only to fail. Yes, I have a specific book in mind. That book, has great reviews on Goodreads. Meaning what exactly? A ton of people loved a book that I hate! Simple as that.

That’s what Hump Day, Dump Day IS about. Books we don’t like. Maybe they aren’t bad books, through and through, but there was something that just didn’t do it for me. I’m willing to publicly share my disdain, without shame, in the hopes of saving another reader the same torment I endured. I wouldn’t say that’s a negative review, just a sharing of opinions.

On that note…here’s a bit of praise, or acceptance, from The New York Times for the negative book review. It has it’s place in the literary world. And to be honest, as a writer…we want criticism, not just unadulterated praise. It makes us better writers and, maybe, people. It’s not an industry or endeavor for the faint of heart or hypersensitive; you have to know how to separate yourself from your work, to a degree. It’s your baby, yes, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the world thinks it’s cute.

More props for the negative book review can be found at The New Yorker, along with some winning examples of why positive only book reviews aren’t necessarily good (or fun to read).

Review: Eleanor & Park

Eleanor & Park
amazon.com

Likes:
Eleanor and Park, of course
Music
Dialogue
Park’s mom

Dislikes:
I’m not even going to try to pretend that I hated anything.

The Scene

Beginning of the school year. 1986. Bus. New girl enters. There aren’t any open seats. She’s dressed oddly, has bright red hair, and is just asking for “it.” Boy finally demands that she just sit down. They keep as much space between them as possible, they don’t talk, they don’t even look at one another. They have honor classes together. They silently, and weirdly, start to bond. They’re both self-conscious. They fall in love.

 

Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell, was summed up perfectly when John Green reviewed it.

Eleanor & Park reminded me not just what it’s like to be young and in love with a girl, but also what it’s like to be young and in love with a book.”

Preach, John Green, preach! I’ve never been young and in love with a girl, but I have been young and in love with a boy and more frequently, in love with a book.

I’m a pretty voracious reader, generally speaking, but when I really like a book it becomes a whole new game. Never, and I mean never-ever-ever, have I been so absolutely enthralled with a book in my life. I’ve loved books. Dearly and deeply. I’ve cherished and coveted and praised them from the mountaintops. And honestly, this isn’t even one of those books, but it was still so incredibly fantastic that I tweeted at Rainbow Rowell about it. And she favorited my tweet, which was just icing on the happiness cake.

The hype that surrounded this, and others of Rowell’s books, turned me off. Yes, I’m that reader. If it’s getting all the hype in town and everyone and their mother is swooning over it, I put off reading it as long as humanly possible because—wait for and then immediately dismiss my pretentious ass—it can’t be that good.

Everyone in real life, knows this fact about me and take it into account when recommending books. Honestly, most people in my real life don’t recommend me books. Ever. If it’s an Oprah’s Book Club book, count me out. NYT Bestseller, meh. I didn’t read Harry Potter until Book 7 was released, and guess what…I fucking loved it! My pretentious attitude toward books has changed somewhat, but will likely never be fully abolished. So, I avoided Rainbow Rowell and Eleanor & Park until now…and I love it too.

Is anyone else sensing a trend here?

Regardless, the book had me feeling all of the 16 year-old girl feels in my adult body. I spent most of the book swooning, giggling, and saying “oh.my.god” over and over and over again. On the verge of tears of joy. I mean, seriously, read this shit:

Then he slid the silk and his fingers into her open palm.
And Eleanor disintegrated.”

She disintegrated. Fucking, disintegrated! How can you not just die?! I can’t even.

Was it predictable? Totally, but that shouldn’t shock anyone when the synopsis blatantly says “…this is the story of two star-crossed misfits—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.” You know the minute they’re both co-existing in that seat on the bus that they’re bound to fall for one another.

Here’s the thing though, Rainbow Rowell shows young love differently than I’ve ever seen it. It’s not a one-sided point of view, it’s not unrequited or any of that jazz. You see Eleanor AND Park both, gradually, fall into like and then into love. Their voices are amazing and their streams of consciousness are so spot on for high school romance. Is she mad at me…I hope she’s not mad at me…I don’t even know why she likes me? He doesn’t like, OMG he totally likes me…how could he like me? It’s a big ball of awkward, self-conscious, intoxicating joy.

She’s so heavy. Heavy, heavy, heavy.

Eleanor’s home life is anything but great, and Park feels like an outsider in his own way. Neither are capable of seeing the good and beautiful in themselves, but they can easily see it in each other. Eleanor is weird, but she’s smart and funny and totally herself. Park loves, and quietly hates, it but he can appreciate and admire it without a doubt. Park is beautiful, smart, strong, and can always make her laugh. Eleanor is a bit jealous of his “perfect” family, but she’s glad that it created him.

There are some hot-n-heavy makeout sessions that aren’t explicit or dirty, because “Nothing was ever dirty. With Park. Nothing could be shameful.” It will remind you of that first time you a let a boy kiss you, let alone touch you anywhere but your hands, and what it was like to be young, in love, and a little bit reckless. If you’ve never been love, this will give you all the reasons to be jealous of those who have.

Eleanor reminded me of 16 year-old me, honestly. When she told Park to stop looking at her all the time—I feel you girl, I feel you. Then, as someone who is not-so-old, still in love and—after a long hiatus—in a relationship with her high school sweetheart, Eleanor & Park made me remember all the firsts we shared together. All the reasons I fell in love with him in the first place, and the things from way back then that are still a large part of us being, well, us. We’re weird, we’re awkward, and he can definitely always make me smile…“Because Park was like the sun, and that was the only way Eleanor could think to explain it.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower
amazon.com

And then there is end. Lord, have mercy! I don’t want to give it away, but for me, the possibilities are pretty endless. We may never know, but Park seemed to be satisfied. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is my ultimate, all-time favorite book. This is mot quite as dark or ambiguous, but Eleanor & Park is still a lot like it. Maybe, Rainbow Rowell with be the Stephen Chbosky for a new generation of readers. After reading Eleanor & Park, I’d say she’s definitely up to the task!

Review: WILD

Cheryl Strayed’s prose is magnificently beautiful and painful. Her journey from the Mojave Desert to the Bridge of the Gods is full of inspiration in so many ways. The movie is sure to amplify all the feelings the book already caused.

Check out my latest review over at Utne.

REVIEW: A Dangerous Age

Likes:
Easy to read
Cherokee traditions
Time frame

Dislikes:
Nothing special
Disorganized feel

I swiped this book from the Utne shelves because it sounded intriguing. Plus, I have a liking for Southern fiction. A Dangerous Age by Ellen Gilchrist follows the likes of three women from the Hand family. If you’ve read any other Gilchrist novels (which I haven’t) you’ll probably recognize the Hand’s. It is “a celebration of the strength” and “bonds of blood and shared loss.”

First, I must say that the term Southern is used pretty loosely, in my mind. A bulk of the story resides in Oklahoma, though many of the other Hand relatives live in North Carolina or some other more southerly state. The story follows one, Ms. Olivia Hand, though at the beginning it seems that our main character is more likely Winifred or Louise. Due to this shift, the plot and character development seemed disorganized, and somewhat unplanned.

Olivia, once in the picture, is the obvious front-runner in character though. She’s passionate, strong, and stubborn. She lives fast, and by her own rules. It seems as if nothing can get her down. Yet, the feminist in me doesn’t root for any of these women. While I may feel for their loss of love, and other problems, they fall prey to same things women are supposed to fall prey to—men—and not in a good way.

Each Hand cousin gets entwined with a US Marine. No shame in that, but their lives then seemingly revolve around those men. Olivia, once obsessed with her job as editor of the Tulsa newspaper, begins missing work because she’s fallen in love (or more realistically, never fallen out of love) with her ex-husband whom she allows to casually saunter in-and-out of her life. What once appeared, to this reader, as a strong, independent woman is now a sham.

The prose was easy to read, but nothing special. Gilchrist’s addition of Native American family and traditions was interesting. The most enjoyable parts occurred at Olivia’s grandparents’—full-blooded Cherokees—home in Tahlequah. Had the novel focused more on the mysticism of Cherokee tradition, I probably would have liked it more.

For all the praise on the front and back covers, A Dangerous Age wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. If you’re looking for a quick read, or a beach page-turner, this might hit the spot—and I strongly stress the might of it. Perhaps best left for those filling summer reading with non-textbooks and school-related literature, Gilchrist could be a breath of fresh air.

Review: Dear Sister

Dear Sister is a compilation, edited by Lisa Factora-Borchers, of essays, poems, and stories from over 50 survivors of sexual violence. What sets these harrowing tales apart from other resources on healing, is that it is written to and for survivors by other survivors. While no two experiences are the same, Dear Sister incessantly reminds us that we are not alone.

Check out the full review at Utne Reader.

REVIEW: The Natural Order of Things

The Natural Order of Things, Kevin P. Keating’s first full length novel, chronicles 15 lives in a decaying, suburban, Midwestern town. It’s former glory is only apparent in one place—the all boys Jesuit school. As thing crumble around it, the Jesuit press forward and continue their growth without a hitch.

Step into the dark underbelly that all towns, supposedly, have as you follow teachers, students, parents, and priests through the streets, beds, and jails you never imagine them in.

Check out the full review at Utne Reader.