Yes Please

YesPlease

Amy Poehler’s Yes Please is as amazing as you would expect. It is in the same vein as Bossypants by Tina Fey and Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling, two books that I absolutely loved, but it is more honest and vulnerable. She talks about everything you really want to hear, what it was like backstage at SNL, behind the scenes stories about Parks and Recreation, and her version of how her and Tina Fey became best friends. She also talks about some more painful times in her life, like her divorce from Will Arnett. She is not afraid to get deeply personal and expose every dark area in her life, but even while she is letting you see all the skeletons in her closet, it is with humor and grace.

I want to repeat some of those stories to you know, but as I am completely opposed to spoiling a book that I am telling you to read, I will refrain. I will tell you, once again, get the audiobook version. Here’s why. Amy Poehler is funnier than you are. She reading the book to you is funnier than you reading the book to you. Moreover, in this particular audiobook, she brings in special guests, like Seth Meyers, Kathleen Turner, and her own parents to read parts of the book. All of whom read the book better than you would. And there is added banter between Amy and Seth that you do not want to miss out on. The book is a fantastic read. If you are in a good place in your own life or a bad one, listening to Amy Poehler tell you about all her ups and downs, career highs and lows, will not only brighten your day, but inspire you to become your best self.

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Britt’s Top Ten Young Adult Book Suggestions

This weekend marks a date that I have been waiting for since childhood. The Giver by Lois Lowry has been made into a major motion picture and that film is being released on Friday. This book, like few others in my life, was one that had a profound impact on my life. So, in anticipation of this film, I am writing my Top Ten choices for Best Young Adult Books. Now, Let me preface this by saying that you will not be seeing and Harry Potter or The Hunger Games on this list, and for one specific reason. I am keeping this list to books that had a profound impact on MY childhood. Harry Potter was not super popular in the US until I was a teenager. For a specific guideline, the books on my list is limited to anything published before 1995.

In alphabetical order by author:

1. My Brother Sam Is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier (1974): SPOILER ALERT! This novel is the story of two brother during the American Revolutionary War. Their father is a loyalist and the older brother Sam, comes home from college ready to fight with the Continental Army. It’s a great book that explores the family dynamic during this period of time.

What I Learned: It is better to have hope in a hopeless situation otherwise the journey will be miserable.

2. The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton (1967): The coming-of-age story of a high school boy who is caught up in a turf war between rival gangs: the Greasers and the Socs (short for Socials). As the rivalry starts to heat up, the world of the Greasers begins to crumble.

What I Learned: War is never worth it.

3. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960): I am guessing you know this one… If not, stop reading blogs and go pick up this book. Seriously. Then watch the movie starring Gregory Peck.

What I Learned: Always stand up for what you believe is right, no matter what society will think of you.

4. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis (1950): The four Pevensie children stumble upon a magical land known as Narnia. It is a story of growing up and what that looks like. The book is one in a series of seven in The Chronicles of Narnia. This was the first published and the first that should be read. It is allegorical in nature, but also a completely flushed out fantasy series.

What I Learned: You never know when you might stumble upon a magical land. And then a lot more about life and human nature as I continuously reread this book into adulthood.

5. The Giver by Lois Lowry (1993): The story of a Utopian society that is not as perfect as it seems. As young Jonas is chosen to become the Receiver of Memories, he is exposed to the truth behind the “sameness” within his society and starts to question everything he has been taught.

What I Learned: Always Question Authority.

6. The Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (1977): Jesse and Leslie become friends and create an imaginary sanctuary called Terabithia where they can go and be safe from school bullies and difficult home lives.

What I Learned: Let’s just say that this is the book that teachers in my school gave children to teach them how to deal with death and leave it at that.

7. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls (1961): This book is the story of a boy and his two dogs. After saving up for months, Billy finally had enough money to buy a pair of coonhound puppies. He taught them to become two of the best hunting dogs in the Ozarks. I love this book and also hate it and the teacher who made me read it in school.

What I Learned: Never read a book where a dog is one of the major characters.

8. The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare (1958): This is one of my top five favorite books of ALL TIME. It is the story of Kit Tyler who moves from Barbados to Puritan Connecticut in 1687. There she befriends a Quaker woman known as The Witch of Blackbird Pond. Puritans, late 1600s, do you see where this is going?

What I Learned: Not dissimilar to previous books on this list; question authority, stand up for what you believe in, but also, girls are mean and here is why…

9. The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien (1937): A precursor to The Lord of the Rings series, this book tells the story of Bilbo Baggins and his journey to defeat a dragon with my favorite literary wizard and a band of charming dwarfs. As you may be aware, this book has been turned into a pretty major film trilogy of its very own, the finale of which will be released in December.

What I Learned: Life is boring without some adventure.

10. Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White (1952): The story of the unlikely friendship between a pig and a spider. When it is time for Wilbur to go to slaughter, the spider starts spinning phrases in her web that turn Wilbur into a tourist attraction and continually delaying his cruel murder until he becomes a national treasure.

What I Learned: Bacon is not good enough to erase the memory of poor Wilbur…

Wilbur

The Luxe by Anna Godbersen

The Luxe by Anna Godberson is the first in a series of novels about young ladies living in Manhattan during the late victorian era. This book (and subsequently, the series) combines two of my favorite genres: Historical Fiction and Young Adult Novels. It has everything you want in a new YA series. The novel focuses on four teenage girls who spend their days fighting over boys, trying to out dress each other, and generally scheming to become the Queen Bee of the New York social scene. Sound familiar? I am sure it does. It gives you everything you have been missing since the end of Gossip Girl, plus the incomparable fashions of the late 19th century.

As far as the storyline goes, there are two sisters, from a very old New York family. Elizabeth is the gorgeous and perfect older sister, Diana is younger who finds herself in a bit more trouble. Penelope is Elizabeth’s best friend and biggest competitor. Lina is Elizabeth’s maid, who is insanely jealous and wants nothing more than to be a part of their world. The four girls are navigating the Victorian values of high society, trying to land husbands and have the best looking dresses for every social event of the season.

If you are looking for a book that requires some heavy thinking as we approach the tail end of summer, do not look here. This book is fun and fanciful. In truth, you can totally judge these books by their luscious covers. It is all young ladies, backstabbing one another to land the man of their dreams while wearing the most enviable clothes. It takes you back to the day where all young women had to day was shop and wait around for gentlemen to come calling to take you for a carriage ride around central park. You do get a taste of the class war, as a couple of major characters are servants to the wealthy and powerful New York socialites, and as you have seen in similar types of media, wealth and power are never safe.

I highly recommend this series of books. I read all four in about a week and a half. They are so quick and easy to read, and once you get into them, you may find the novels impossible to put down. There is plenty of intrigue and as the best of these series are written, each book leaves you in a position where you have to immediately begin the next. So don’t pick up one from the library without reserving the next, the waiting may be unbearable.

Here are the covers from the entire series, in case you are interested.

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

If I Stay by Gayle Forman is one of the loveliest books I have ever read. A seventeen year old girl ends up in a coma following a devastating car accident with her family. She spends the book reflecting on her life, all that she has and all that she has lost, while making the decision whether to leave or go.

This book is yet another Young Adult book about teens facing death with a film releasing this summer, but it has a very different vibe from The Fault in Our Stars. This book is a little heavier, I would say the feel of it is similar to that of The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. Mia spends the book following her friends and family while she remains in the coma and flashing back to scenes before the accident. It is wistful and melancholy. It is not a fluffy sunshine-y book, but it is an incredibly powerful story.

The film, which will be released on August 22nd, stars Chloe Grace Moretz who is quite perfect for this role. With only a month and a half to go, you may wonder if you have time to read it now that the holiday weekend is over and you need to spend the next few weeks catching up on all of the work you have been blowing off in the name of summer, but it is a very quick read and becomes impossible to put down pretty early on in the novel. Fair warning, the book is a tear-jerker. In fact, just watching the trailer for the film makes me tear up. The trailer is set to the song Say Something by A Great Big World which I think pretty much sums up the tone of the book. Here is the trailer if you are interested. Please ignore it if you feel it will ruin the book.

Taking this one to the grave.

Image I have notoriously bad taste in music. Not that all the music I like is bad, but I have been listening to the same music for about 15 years. I have no real interest in expanding my musical knowledge to included anything newer. I love 90s music and The Beatles and that is about it.

Oh, and I also love Taylor Swift. Now, most people would call Taylor Swift a guilty pleasure. Her music is not always synonymous with quality and when I mention her to friends of mine, they tend to cringe. The implication of calling Taylor Swift a guilty pleasure is that I should feel shame for liking her music. But I don’t. My taste in music is not something I feel the need to defend. I love Taylor Swift. Her music is fun. I like fun. Where is the issue here?

While writing this post, I am watching last night’s episode of Pretty Little Liars. This is one of my favorite shows. The target audience is teenage girls. I am a grown woman. I have seen every episode and have gotten several friends into the series. Do I feel guilty about the fact that I have spent almost 100 hours of my life watching this television series? No. A resounding No. When it comes to television, I will watch just about anything. I am not picky. Whether it is a series about a vampire/human love triangle or a sitcom about 20-somethings hanging out in a bar, I will watch it. I don’t care if the target audience is middle aged men or pre-teen girls. If it is entertaining, I will watch it. And admit it, you will too. The difference seems to be, I don’t feel the least bit bad about it.

Not every TV show I watch is an Emmy Award Winner. Not every book I read is on the short list for the Pulitzer Prize. But do I need to be ashamed of that? Absolutely not. In fact, why is it that Chick Lit and Rom Coms are so often considered guilty pleasures, when fratty, gross-out comedies are summer blockbusters?

Sure, there are some books I read that are a little more trashy than I would like my mother to realize. Not two weeks ago, I flat out refused to watch True Blood in mixed company. But these are not things I am ashamed of. In fact, that same series of books, I am responsible for passing around to half of the ladies in the last shop I worked in. I am not saying that my less than High-Brow taste is something I advertise. Nowhere on an online profile will you find The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig listed as my favorite book or playing Nancy Drew computer games as a hobby. This is not because I am ashamed, but because an online persona tends to be a highlights only situation.  I don’t hide this information. These books are not hidden under my mattress. I am in no way embarrassed to be telling you this information now. I truly do not understand why I should be.

Why are certain things considered guilty pleasures while others are mainstream and therefore ok. Why is my affinity for Taylor Swift embarrassing, when Daft Punk is acceptable. Why is The Secret History of the Pink Carnation trashy while 50 Shades of Grey is becoming a major motion picture? Who decides what is shameful and what is cool? As far I am concerned, I do. What I like is cool and the garbage you watch (read, listen to) sucks. So, there.

Just Beachy: Part II

This is the second part of a list of 100 books that I have compiled of the best beach reads for summer of 2014. The books are in no particular order, but divided into categories. The first half of this list has different categories, but are not higher or lower on the list. For the other 50 books, check out Just Beachy: Part I. In case you did not read it first, here is a refresher on what you are about to read (from the original post):

For me, the most important part of any summer is deciding what books to read. Whether I am heading to the beach, to the lake, to the pool, or sitting around wishing I was at any one of those places, choosing the right book is a very important decision. Now, I could give you MY top ten choices for Best Beach Reads, but I have chosen to do something a bit different. I asked my sounding board what their picks were and combined them with my own as well as the lists from the copious other sites that have released their own versions of this list. I would call it the definitive list of summer beach reads, but as I am the filter through which this information comes to you, I will admit, it may be a bit skewed to what sounds interesting to me personally. But, this is my blog, and you get what you paid for.

If you are into politics (or just want to look smart…):

Seem Smarter

Hard Choices by Hillary Clinton: A memoir focusing on the four years Hillary Clinton served as the Secretary of State under President Barack Obama. We are still two years out from the next presidential election and while no official announcement has been made that she will run for President in 2016, it is widely believed that she will be the democratic candidate. So get ahead of the curve and start preparing now.

Utopia or Bust: A Guide to the Present Crisis by Benjamin Kunkel: A look at Marxist theory from a contemporary standpoint. Given the current state of the economy, this book explores Leftist theories as an alternative to capitalism in its current incarnation and examines how socialist ideas could be implemented in our society.

Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt by Michael Lewis: A small group of Wall Street guys discover that in our post-crash world, the market has become even more corrupt and set out to make things right. The publisher promises an uplifting read within a pretty terrifying topic. This is really happening, happening to us, and these are the guys who are trying to make things right.

Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela: The memoir of the beloved political icon was originally published in 1995. A powerful story of one man’s struggle to make the world a better place.

Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty: A look at Modern economics from a historical perspective and shedding light on the inequalities in today’s society using social and economic patterns to determine where we are headed. He examines how political interference has protected the economy previously and how it might do that again in the future.

Young Money: Inside the Hidden World of Wall Street’s Post-Crash Recruits by Kevin Roose: An insiders look at the young men just starting out on Wall Street. “Roose’s young bankers are exposed to the exhausting workloads, huge bonuses, and recreational drugs that have always characterized Wall Street life. But they experience something new, too: an industry forever changed by the massive financial collapse of 2008. And as they get their Wall Street educations, they face hard questions about morality, prestige, and the value of their work” (amazon.com).

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The Last Summer (of You & Me) by Ann Brashares

The Last Summer (of You & Me)

 

The Last Summer (of You & Me) by Ann Brashares is my favorite beach read to date. It has everything I look for in a summer book: beaches, boys,  & besties.

This is the first book published by the bestselling author of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series for adults, so you probably know what to expect as far as writing style and general vibe goes, but the characters are a bit older.

The book focuses on two sisters in the early/mid-twenties spending the summer at their family home on Fire Island (not the Hamptons, but same general area and similar feel). The boy next door has been a friend to the two girls for most of their lives. He has been away for the past few summers, but has moved back to New York the year the book begins. The story is not all fluff, there are some heart wrenching as well as heart warming moments which I can appreciate in summer reads (it can’t be all cavity-inducing romances and torrid summer flings). I think it especially speaks to the wistfulness that our (my?) generation, especially, feels for our childhoods.

I read this book almost five years ago and it has been one of those books that has just stayed with me. The story is beautiful and the writing is excellent, as we have come to expect from Ann Brashares. For a story that is mostly about the bonds of sisterhood, it in no way made me want to vomit as most books like this would. Not that I don’t love my sister, but as a born and raised Mid-Westerner, I don’t want the topic shoved down my throat.

As always, I worry that saying too much will ruin even a fraction of the book and I hate that. So, I’ll end with this: it’s a fantastic book and I think you should read it.

Just Beachy: Part I

Well, tomorrow marks the official First Day of Summer for 2014. For me, the most important part of any summer is deciding what books to read. Whether I am heading to the beach, to the lake, to the pool, or sitting around wishing I was at any one of those places, choosing the right book is a very important decision. Now, I could give you MY top ten choices for Best Beach Reads, but I have chosen to do something a bit different. I asked my sounding board what their picks were and combined them with my own as well as the lists from the copious other sites that have released their own versions of this list. I would call it the definitive list of summer beach reads, but as I am the filter through which this information comes to you, I will admit, it may be a bit skewed to what sounds interesting to me personally. But, this is my blog, and you get what you paid for.

My final list includes 100 Book Recommendations, but 100 books seems like a lot to digest all at once, so I am posting it in two parts. Part I today of the first 50 suggestions and Part II next Friday of the final 50 suggestions. The books are separated into categories for easier navigation and next week will be totally different categories.

Without further ado…

If you want to read what everyone else will be reading:

What Everyone Else Is Reading

The Snow Queen by Michael Cunningham: Michael Cunningham is the same author wrote the book The Hours, so you can imagine the compelling nature of the novel he has crafted. This is the story of two brothers living in New York trying to figure out what life is all about in the midst of heartbreak and tragedy. This may not be a light read, but it will surely be worth the read.

The One & Only by Emily Giffin: You know Emily Giffin is always an excellent choice for the beach. This summer, she takes us to a football town in Texas where thirty-something Shea, begins to questions her life choices.

The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street by Susan Jane Gilman: Doesn’t the title alone sound like summer? This is the story of a Russian immigrant who becomes the monarch of an ice cream empire. The book spans her 70 year journey beginning in 1913. This is at the top of my list this summer, it sounds like fun take on a rags-to-riches story and you can’t beat a book about a woman building her fame and fortune on summer’s favorite treat.

The Last Summer of the Camperdowns by Elizabeth Kelly: The story of the young daughter of a dysfunctional political family in the summer of 1972 who witnesses a violent crime and what happens after. It sounds a little intense, but combined with the cast of characters and the raving reviews which promise devastating wit, I’m sold.

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King: The newest novel by the King himself, the book follows a retired cop haunted by the brutal murder of eight people under the wheels of a stolen Mercedes, as well as, the killer himself who is thirsty for more. It’s Stephen King.

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan: A New York woman, Rachel, spends the summer with her boyfriend at his childhood home in Singapore. Turns out, he is super loaded, and the most eligible bachelor in China. Hijinks ensue.

I am Having So Much Fun Here Without You by Courtney Maum: For starters, this book is set in both Paris and London, so if you have the travel bug and are unfortunately stuck stateside for the summer, this may just be the answer. It tells the story of a man realizing that he is still in love with his wife and trying to make her fall back in love with him. In Paris. And London.

The Arsonist by Sue Miller: Someone starts setting fires to homes in a small town in New England. With the tension building between the locals and the summer residents and the mystery of who is committing the crimes, this one is sure to be a riveting tale while you are summering in your favorite town.

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes: The story of a road trip with a single mom, her daughter, stepson and the millionaire who is driving them. It has been compared to Little Miss Sunshine. Who can beat that?

The Vacationers by Emma Straub: This is THE “It Book” of the summer. It is on every “must read” list, comes up in every search (if you search for any of these other 9 books on Amazon.com, this will be in the top three results). This will be the most read book of the summer. If you don’t want to be left out, be sure to read this one.

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Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn is one of the most fascinating books I have read in a very long time. I consider myself something of an amateur detective (Meaning that I play a lot of mystery based games, read suspenseful books, and watch detective movies and television shows. I pride myself on being able to solve the mystery long before the creator of the game, book, movie, or television show had intended). Reading this book, I came up with several scenarios as to what happened to Amy (the major female character in the novel), but the truth came to light exactly when Gillian Flynn wrote what had happened.

The novel tells the tale of a husband and wife from their own perspectives in alternating chapters. The wife, Amy, goes missing on the couple’s fifth wedding anniversary. As most cases of missing wives, the husband, Nick, is the prime suspect. I don’t want to say much more because I would hate to ruin even a small piece of the experience of reading this novel for anyone. If you like a good mystery, stories that are mostly shades of grey, and complex characters, this is a must read.

Like the rest of Gillian Flynn’s books I have read so far, this story is dark and twisted. If you don’t like reading stories that will make you uncomfortable, this is not a book for you. If you do, read this immediately.

The film version will be released on October 3rd. Gillian Flynn wrote the screenplay herself and David Fincher directed. The cast is lead by Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike (who you should know if you do not already). My favorite character of the book, Desi, is being played by Neil Patrick Harris. So you can’t beat that. Another fun fact is that the story is set in a town in southern Missouri and the film was shot in Cape Girardeau, not terribly far from where I grew up.

I cannot recommend this book enough. A setting that is familiar (to me), a mystery I could not solve, and a killer team of artists working on the film. Read it. Before October 3rd. Then come talk to me about. You will not regret it.