Tag Archives: Books

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.

Book Review: This Is Where I Leave You + Eleanor & Park

September 10, 2014

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Have you ever read a book, loved it, and then had a friend hate it? Or worse, have you ever read a book, loved it, and then read a scathing review that makes you reconsider your basic human intelligence and emotional depth?

It’s like a punch to the stomach. It’s also good to get a little perspective.

The other day I finished a book, loved it, and immediately texted a friend who said, “Are you kidding? That book was a piece of trash! Do you hate women?” Okay, she didn’t actually say that. In fact, all of her critiques were fair, valid, and most importantly–hilarious. It made me rethink the book and my response to it, which is always a good thing.

Like any book hoarder, people are always asking me, “What should I read? What novel mightn’t I order? What can you specifically recommend to me according to my personal reading history and unique taste?”

It is hard to recommended books to people. Everyone has different standards they use to measure a book’s worth, different ways they receive a story. Here are two books I read last week and really enjoyed. Both are simultaneously loved and hated, torn apart and highly praised on Goodreads and Amazon. Of course they have their faults (formulaic plots and flawed characters), but I was entertained, charmed, and most importantly–kept awake by both stories.

At this point in my life, if the book keeps me awake–I consider it a good one.

Have you read these books? Tell me your thoughts (I can take it). Have you ever read a book everyone else despised?

Happy reading.

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1. This Is Where I Leave You

this is where I leave you

If You’re Looking For: Comedy, dysfunction, dark humor, inappropriate giggling

If You Like: Running With Scissors, Death At A Funeral

My Review: This is one of the funniest books I’ve ever read. There were times I thought, “Well, he obviously wanted this to be a movie…” and “Stop objectifying women, you Hollywood clown!” But I also laughed enough to make me text a half dozen friends and say, “You really need to read this.” Bottom line: The main character (Judd) is a misogynistic juvenile, but the punchlines are worth the read.

Their Review: “The novel is artful and brilliant, filled with colorful narratives and witty dialogue. … [Tropper] can find the funny in any situation.” -Associated Press

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2. Eleanor & Park
Eleanor and Park

If You’re Looking For: Coming-of-age love stories, to feel feelings

If You Like: Age Of Miracles, The Fault In Our StarsWe Were Liars

My Review: This book shot me straight through my sappy, sentimental, young adult fiction heart. I couldn’t get enough of Eleanor’s dry perseverance and Park’s quirky, heartfelt love. Heavy with sadness and light with love, the writing is clean and well presented despite some dark themes. Bottom line: Dynamic characters with a well driven plot makes this teen romance fit for adults too.

Their Review: “I’ve often said that nobody should write for teens who doesn’t remember what it was like to be one. Rainbow Rowell remembers, and has captured it beautifully in this book.” -Some lady on Goodreads

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