Tag Archives: Books

Book Review: I’m Having So Much Fun Here Without You + One Last Thing Before I Go

October 28, 2014

Book Review

Remember when we talked about loving a book other people hate? The absurdity! And yet here I am on the other side this week, rolling my eyes and sending annoying texts to friends over the injustice of poorly written stories about books so many other people loved.

I do feel guilty giving a lousy review. It feels like a betrayal; a writer saying another writer did a bad job. On the other hand, it’s probably important to be honest when talking about books and their real-life impact. It is not a good reflection on genuine opinion to sing and dance about everything one reads.

Dear wonderful, hard-working authors: Writing is hard. I’m sure there are those who really loved these two books.

(As a rule, never spoilers and I always read the book from start to finish).

Happy reading.

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1. I’m Having So Much Fun Here Without You

I am having so much fun here without you

If You’re Looking For: A predictable love story set in Paris

If You Like: The Vacationers, predictable love stories set in Paris

My Review: I sludged through this book with heavy sighing and excessive eye rolls. In short, it was monotonous, contrived, and weirdly irritating. Another story begging to be turned into a slow indie film or a major motion picture rom-com. One of those books that makes you appreciate the good beach reads. I hate to say hate so I’ll just say, “nah.” My time would have been better spent staring at the wall, dreaming of sandwiches. I only finished it so that it could finally be over.

Their Review: “Here we have the literary beach read — a book that pleases people who read two books a month and people who read two books a year. . . . The situation is timeworn and irresistible. The settings . . . are idyllic escapes, lushly drawn. . . . [Maum] is abundantly gifted — funny, open-hearted, adept at bringing global issues into the personal sphere . . . eventually creating that rare thing: a book for everyone.” -Washington Post

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2. One Last Thing Before I Go

this is where I leave you

If You’re Looking For: Dysfunction junction, Hollywood screenplay appeal

If You Like: This Is Where I Leave You

My Review: If you’ve read Tropper’s other work, this book is basically more of the same but perhaps a bit worse. The characters are predictably flawed but “likeable” as their banter leads each other into the next snappy line. There are many moments when it felt like I was supposed to garner something meaningful, but instead it all sounded a bit rehearsed. Amazingly high ratings on Goodreads, but not a book I would recommend to a friend. I believe this is how my friend Elizabeth (and roughly half of the folks on Amazon) felt about his bestseller This Is Where I Leave You. I get it now (but still really enjoyed that story). In a word: disappointing.

Their Review: “Tropper’s characters are likably zany and fallible, and perhaps more important, funny. One Last Thing Before I Go is a poignant story about facing death and celebrating life, even when things seem well beyond repair.” – The Daily Beast

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Book Review: Olive Kitteridge + Not That Kind Of Girl

October 1, 2014

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“Let’s be reasonable and add an eighth day to the week that is devoted exclusively to reading.”
-Lena Dunham

I met Lena Dunham yesterday. She is the author of Not That Kind Of Girl and the creator/writer/producer/star of the hit HBO show Girls. Her essays have been featured in places like The New York Times and The New YorkerShe is 28. A feminist. And unabashedly herself. A lot of people describe her as “intensely sexual,” which is really just another way of saying she’s honest. Her passions include animal rights, women’s rights, artistic freedom, and the very millennial idea of “being true to yourself.” I love her.

When it was my turn to stand clumsily in front of her at the book signing table, I thanked her for helping me be a better writer, awkwardly mentioned my Aztec print pants, and laughed when she added “hey pinkie” to my book because of my pink nails. She is warm and smart and when I walked away, my eyes filled with tears. At first I didn’t know why, but I then realized it was pride. She makes me proud to be both a woman and a writer and that is no small thing.

I read two books this month. A few weeks ago I was forced to read Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge for my local book club, and yesterday I read Lena’s book in a warm McDonalds in New York City while my phone charged and I waited to meet her (I finished it today).

These books are opposites from each other. One I definitely would recommend to my mother-in-law, and the other I definitely would not. Not surprisingly, I loved them both.

Here are my simple reviews (never spoilers).

Happy reading.

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1. Olive Kitteridge.

Olive Kitteridge

 

If You’re Looking For: Realistic fiction, intertwined short stories, gorgeous writing

If You Like: Birds Of America, Three Junes

My Review: A slow start followed by a series of stories so quietly moving that you don’t know you’re moved until days later when you’re showering and suddenly pondering the complexity of life. Haunting, funny, and true-to-life (for better or for worse). A beautiful and subtly heart-wrenching read.

Their Review: “The pleasure in reading Olive Kitteridge comes from an intense identification with complicated, not always admirable, characters. And there are moments in which slipping into a character’s viewpoint seems to involve the revelation of an emotion more powerful and interesting than simple fellow feeling — a complex, sometimes dark, sometimes life-sustaining dependency on others. There’s nothing mawkish or cheap here. There’s simply the honest recognition that we need to try to understand people, even if we can’t stand them.” – Louisa Thomas, New York Times

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2) Not That Kind Of Girl.

not that kind of girl

If You’re Looking For: Memoir, comedy, someone who would never use the phrase “TMI”

If You Like: Bossypants, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)

My Review: Dunham has made what are basically three versions of her autobiography by the age of 28: a film, three seasons of a TV show, and a book. So if you don’t like her show or don’t jive with someone describing the first time they masturbated, don’t read this book. Not That Kind Of Girl‘s strong points include childhood musings, observational humor, and funny lists. I love the book because I love her, but it is not a book to casually gift to your great aunt for hosting you for the weekend. Or maybe it is. Maybe that is the point. To put it simply, Lena’s words are exactly what I thought they would be: Quick, self-involved, conversational, and funny.

Their Review: “Very few women have become famous for being who they actually are, nuanced and imperfect. When honesty happens, it’s usually couched in self-ridicule or self-help. Dunham doesn’t apologize like that—she simply tells her story as if it might be interesting. Not That Kind of Girl is hilarious, artful, and staggeringly intimate; I read it shivering with recognition.” -Miranda July

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All the books.