Review: Grace’s Guide

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

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.


Review: Eleanor & Park

Eleanor & Park

Eleanor and Park, of course
Park’s mom

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 “” 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

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: Love, An Index

This month over at Utne Reader, I talk poetry!

I’ll be honest, this is the first book of poetry I’ve ever read in its entirety. I know, for shame. Even as poet, and creative writing grad, I never made it through a whole collection. Until now. Also, I haven’t talked poetry in a few years so this was actually really fun, if somewhat difficult, for me to write. Please forgive me if it’s pure gibberish.


Review: Divergent


Easy eading
Lots of action


Honestly, I only read Divergent because I saw the movie trailer and instantly wanted to see it. But, the book and Veronica Roth definitely delivered!

Roth and Divergent are probably ranked in the same vein as Hunger Games. Not that that’s a bad thing, because Suzanne Collins fans will definitely enjoy this book/trilogy. I just think that Roth is much better writer/author than Collins, and for me this book ranks up there with Lois Lowry’s The Giver.

Yeah, that’s showing my age, but…
The worlds of Beatrice (aka Tris) and Jonas are so similar that I was hooked from the start.

I remember reading The Giver in elementary/middle school and just being blown away. Literally mesmerized by this idea of society! It’s as if Roth took an idea like the Districts in Hunger Games and the lottery aspect of The Giver and melded them together. I suppose this shouldn’t be surprising since JK Rowling essentially did the same thing in Harry Potter with that sorting hat. Yet, somehow Roth’s version is so very different from those.

Not only do the citizens of the factions have to undergo the stress of being “tested,” they’re plagued by their own free will. Regardless of what results they receive, it is ultimately up to the individual to choose where they end up and the path life will take. It’s almost like the Amish Rumspringa.

Take a year off, see how you like your new environment and world, then make a life changing (or not-so-life-changing) decision. Only make that decision in a week! There are consequences and sacrifices either way. So, beware. The choice is yours. Should you return, or leave, be even more aware that if you don’t fit into the box so neatly laid out for you, things won’t go as you planned.

As difficult and stressful as life is for Tris, before and after making her big choice, there was just something about her that was appalling. She might be a quick learner, but she’s still dense as hell!

The fact that she, never once, thinks either of her parents could have been from a different faction baffled me. Given her tendency to be curious (which is outside of her allotted nature), that’s probably one of the first things that would have popped into anyone else’s mind! Yet, when she finds out her mom was Dauntless I wanted to slap her because I had figured it out when she came to visit after initiation. Lord, help that poor girl.

Then there were the relationships between characters. To say that none had depth or interest isn’t entirely true. Some did, but Tris’s relationships were where I really wanted the bulk to be. Maybe because she’s oblivious to things (i.e. her brother considering a different faction, Four liking her, her mom’s background). Maybe it’s because the story focuses so much on her, outwardly, that those relationships never really fleshed out. I’m not sure, but I wanted…and expected…more from Tris and Roth on that front.

I’ve yet to indulge and buy the second book, although it has a high chance of happening. Divergent is a way better, and more fun, choice if you’re introducing youngsters to dystopian worlds than Hunger Games would be. Tris and her friends/family are easy to relate to and there’s a ton of action to stay engaged with. There was never a dull moment and once I give in to Amazon, I’m excited to see what will happen between the factions now.


Perfect, Pretty Little Liars Book 3

Spent my evening reading, and finishing, Perfect. The story just keeps getting better!

Action between A fiascos
Hanna isn’t completely shallow


I must say I was a little bit unsure how much better the books could be than the show. Considering Sara Shepard has been working with ABC Family to produce the show in accordance with the books, I assumed it was pretty accurate. And, in reality it is, however, the books offer SO much more.  

There are some flashback memories in the show, as are in the novels, but there aren’t as many. In Perfect we get video footage of the girls together, flashbacks from scenarios with each Pretty Little Liar, as well as some major conflict with Spencer (whose character has just solidly taken the position of favorite for me–even though in reality I’m probably a bit more of an Aria).

Sure the show is filled with tons of A drama–notes, emails, texts and more–as well as other teen-girl drama, but the books offer insight into the girls’ lives outside of A. Shepard is able to illustrate the complexities of their relationships with each other, friends and family, and of course Ali, in way that the show doesn’t allow.

The biggest complaint I have with Sara Shepard’s writing is the constant reminders that “Ezra is Aria’s AP English teacher”, “nothing is ever what it seems'”, and other similar instances. Not to mention, there’s a lot of reuse of descriptors, not just between each novel but within in them as well–like Rosewood apparently smells like Neutrogena sunscreen. Yes, it’s Young Adult Fiction, but she doesn’t give her readers/fans enough credit!

Perfect brings to light more potential suspects, incriminates Spencer who seems more than just a little off kilter, destroys relationships for more than one girl, and just makes you want more! No surprise there. Of course, just when they think they know who A really is…something unexpected and awful follows.


Flawless, Book 2 Pretty Little Liars

Started and finished Flawless yesterday, during my lazy/girly Sunday.

Dynamic between characters
Little less name dropping

Not too much really

Sara Shepard’s writing seems to have gotten exponentially better in Flawless. It’s still just as much of a page turner with constant drama or action, but the chapters don’t end out of nowhere and while there are still plenty of labels name-dropped, it’s not nearly as relentless as in the first book. Thank goodness!

We get it already: they’re rich private prep school girls in a kitschy town full of seemingly perfect people!! But what makes the quartet likeable is the many, many flaws they each have.

Unlike the show, Shepard’s words are able to bring us a new look at each girl and her motives for actions and lack of action. With insight into their minds’ inner workings readers can come to more full understand that characters. As with Pretty Little Liars the personalities continue to grow thanks to this method.

As a result of getting to know how each girl thinks of herself, her surroundings, and her “friends,” the dynamic between them and those in their life gets more interesting. In the show it seems like they’re constantly running out on someone without a reason–which they also do in the novels, but here it seems vaguely less spastic. I mean, what would you do if you were in the midst of tryst with your hottie AP English teacher and suddenly got a semi-anonymous text basically saying ‘I know what you’re doing and I can ruin your lives’? Personally, I’d probably freak a little too.

With Alison’s body found, the texts from A stopped. For awhile anyway. The problem(s) seemed to be under control, until Toby and Jenna Cavanaugh return to Rosewood putting the girls on edge yet again.

Because I’ve watched the first 3 seasons, I know what’s happening…for the most part. I remember episodes that play out all the main events and all the suspense that I felt during them. What the books offer, thus far, is a lot more depth. The in-between happenings may seem insignificant for a show, but they really bring a new level of sense to the situations Aria, Emily, Hanna, and Spencer find themselves in.

Starting Perfect, book 3, today. Cannot wait!



Book One, Pretty Little Liars


Easy to read
Great detail
Kept with show almost perfectly

Abrupt endings
Name-brand name dropping

While the girls of Rosewood, on the show, don’t look exactly like the ones Sara Shepard had created in her novel, it’s a detail I can actually let slide. However, I think I like the girls in the book better. They seem fuller, more realized as characters and have way more personality. So far, Aria and Ali are the only ones that I would say were cast pretty accurately. Brunettes are blonds, blonds are brunettes but everything else is basically the same.

Spencer is your All-American girl who studies her ass off, plays field hockey, and whose relationship with her family isn’t exactly picture perfect; Hanna is the used-to-be-chubby-girl turned popular and gorgeous, she’s mean to the world, self-conscious beyond belief, but deep down still that old chubby girl; Aria is the quirky one who knits all the time, falls for the “wrong” guy, and finally was able to find herself in Iceland; Emily is the quiet swimmer with more inner turmoil than appears on the surface; and of course there’s Ali–the one who brought them all together, made them feel special, and kept all their deepest secrets. Or did she?

Each chapter directly correlates to an episode of the show, keeping in tact all the main events that make the story so addictive. But what’s different is the amount of detail you get about each of the girls. The relationship between Spencer and her sister, Melissa, is a larger part of what makes Spencer who she is. Hanna has more than ‘Daddy issues’ and struggles a lot more than she does in the show. Emily feels out of place in her own life and once she begins to make crucial decisions for her future she constantly questions herself then tries to convince herself otherwise. Aria still feels a little like an outcast after returning from her time abroad, but at least has more confidence than before, but she’s way more quirky, nervous, and anxious seeming than the show lets on.

Much is the same, but toward the end of the book, chapters started just ending. I would be reading along, the scene would get intense in some way and when I turned the page, BAM! new chapter. Then I’d flip back, press the pages together and try to separate them, sure that I had missed one by accident only to find that that’s precisely how it ended and we were moving on to the next thing. Not only was that a little unsatisfying, but it was jolting to just end at such a crucial moment. Yet, I guess that’s exactly what the show does at the end of every episode.

Because the books are set in a prep school, the fancy clothes and cars make a little more sense in the books–versus the public school version of the show, which is probably more accessible to more viewers. But I really hope that Shepard got some sort of commission or some of the residuals from all the companies/brands she’s dropping all over the place. Sometimes it helps paint the picture, but every miniskirt or pair of jeans doesn’t need a label attached to it for readers to get the idea of the setting. Eventually it becomes annoying and I just skip over it, unless it seems important for the point being made.

As texts from A start rolling in all the girls question where they may be coming from. But until Ali’s body is discovered and a memorial service is held, the four don’t turn to one another for help. Even in the moment when they all receive the same message, it’s uncertain whether they’ll come together or continue to go their separate ways. A lot has changed in the 3 years Ali has been gone, more than they probably realize.


Dump Day: The Magical Household—Spells & Rituals for the Household

I didn’t actually read the whole book. Read several chapters in full, including the Preface and Intro which were sadly the best parts I could find.

Cunningham and Harrington create a typical image of a magical person and the way they live. That’s not to say it’s wrong, but I wasn’t looking for stereotypical ideals or descriptions.

While written well, and helpful in some ways, I wouldn’t say that this a book of ‘Spells and Rituals.’ It’s a book of folk-lore, old wives tales, and other folk traditions that most of us have heard of in some form or another. There are, however, a few with chants/words to repeat to purify, protect, or garner something you may desire. There are lists of herbs and incense to be used for the aforementioned purposes and the section on cleaning house/bath were kind of interesting–mostly to see how they were viewed in ancient times and the various myths associated with them.

Overall, it was nothing special; nothing that can’t be found just as easily through a quick Google search if you have a specific purpose in mind (i.e. colors/stones/herbs/scents used for purification, etc). And Googling is cheaper and a lot faster than sifting through a book that doesn’t have the best organizational structure. But, should you choose to sift, the chapters are short as are paragraphs and excellent for skimming until you find what you’re looking…if you find what you’re looking for.


Once Upon a Prince, by Rachel Hauck

Review can be found at The Celebrity Cafe.

I started this on Friday, I believe and finished it this morning around 3am. Practically reading the majority of it yesterday and last night. I’m not usually one for romance novels, let alone Christian romance ones, but for what it was this really wasn’t bad. It was fun and easy to get through. The characters are likeable and realistic. Even the settings of St. Simons Island and Brighton are quite amazing. I’d definitely live in either place, I think.

But, what I left out of my review for publication were my feelings on the religion factor. While having faith and being Christian are all fine and good as far as I’m concerned, the prevalence of it sort of ruined the story for me. Sure the budding couple bond over their faith–great. Even the instances where each of them speaks of feeling a “Presence” in certain places, like St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Brighton or Christ Church on the Georgian island town, didn’t bother me. But when they started praying together, aloud, and handing their lives over to God’s will (so to speak) that was crossing some comfort level boundaries for me.

The difference you might ask?
Feeling a Presence or something Holy in a particular place feels natural, to me. Even outside of a Christian context that seems completely likely, plausible, and a situation that a majority of people can connect with. The presence of something divine, of something bigger and deeper that we all have a connection to–whatever it may be, or whatever name we may call it by. It’s universal and I love that!

However, handing over my entire life to that entity…allowing some plan to magically unfold before me as if I have no part in it…no thank you. That doesn’t jive with me. While I believe in a higher power, an ultimate supreme being, I don’t like to think that whatever/whoever that is has my life planned out–unbeknownst to, without any input from or consultation with me.