Monday, July 30, 2018

Pop-Culture Vaycay Reads

I read two books on my weekend trip to Cleveland, and they group together nicely since they're both nonfiction and pop-culture related:

Sex and the City and Us: How Four Single Women Changed the Way We Think, Live, and Love (by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong)

I love this show despite its profound flaws, and deeply enjoyed reading this and revisiting the show.  Nothing ground-breaking or earth-shattering, although I did like the observation, on the "feud" between Sarah Jessica Parker and Kim Cattrall, that nobody ever asked James Gandolfini if he was friends with everyone else on The Sopranos. As problematic as the show is -- and the book doesn't shy away from it -- it is also in many ways underrated. A fun read.

Robin (by Dave Itzkoff)

Meticulously researched, a definitive biography of Robin Williams. Well worth reading if you've ever admired his work, and absolutely full of new insight and perspective about this talented performer. Although he wasn't always my cup of tea, especially when his work got overly manic or mawkish, but I admired many of his performances greatly, especially those in Aladdin and Dead Poets Society. I also met him once, circa 1990, when I was working on a TV special, and he effortlessly cracked up the cast and crew between takes. It was the "on" and hilarious version of him that many in this memoir spoke about, and I'm lucky to have gotten to experience a sprinkle of that myself.  Oh, and I have to say my favorite part was the examination of his relationship with Billy Crystal. What a true, touching friendship.

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Friday, July 13, 2018

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine (by Gail Honeyman)

Oh wow, I fell in love with this book. I loved prickly, oblivious Eleanor and her way of coping with a traumatic past. I loved being inside her brain and experiencing the world through her.  It's funny but with an undercurrent of tragedy. I feel like I should have seen the ending coming from a mile away, but didn't.  Love, love, loved this book.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Vacation Reads: Costa Rica Edition

It's time for another edition of Vacation Reads! I went with a "light and fun" theme, because my vacation was really about relaxing and unplugging from the hellscape that is today's America. Also, all these books start with a T.

The Glitch (by Elisabeth Cohen)
Hilarious, satirical novel about a type-A CEO who is so clueless and such a terrible wife/mother, but you root for her anyway! A delightful skewering of Silicon Valley and Leaning In to the extreme.
Things I Should Have Known (by Claire Scovell LaZebnik)
A young adult romance about a girl with an older sister who is autistic. I liked the concept a lot, but I also liked it more than the execution. I didn't connect to the main character that much, and things seemed to come a bit too easily for her.

Truly Devious (by Maureen Johnson)
Part one of a planned trilogy, and I'm glad I knew that because it's definitely not a standalone (almost nothing gets resolved). A Sherlock Holmesy girl is trying to solve a 1936 murder at an eccentric boarding school -- and the murderer may have struck again in the present. A scene-setting novel, but I'm definitely in for the next one!

Tell the Machine Goodnight (by Katie Williams)
I was most excited to read this one because I loved the concept -- this is a sci-fi novel about a machine that tells you things to do (like eat tangerines or stop talking to your brother) to make you happier. I was hoping this would go into a harder sci-fit direction but it is more of a character exploration that reads as linked short stories. I ended up really enjoying it once I got into it, and could have happily lived in this near-future world much longer.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (by Becky Chambers)
This is less plotty and more of an introduction to the ragtag crew of a spaceship as they go on a mission to punch a hole in space. Although the overarching plot is a bit slight, the worldbuilding is creative and delightful, with great characters of many fascinating species. Very happy there's a sequel; I put the next one on hold immediately, of course!

The Death of Mrs. Westaway (by Ruth Ware)
Not bad -- a good page-turner for an airplane, with a good mystery plot and a satisfying conclusion. But I found it to be somewhat flimsy and desultory, somehow? I enjoy Ruth Ware but she's more of a B-minus read for me, I'm finding.

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