Mini-Reviews: Scrappy, Baker’s, Alex, Warleggan

Scrappy Little NobodyBaker's Daughter, The

Anna Kendrick, Scrappy Little Nobody — This is a fun, breezy memoir by Anna Kendrick, an actress I generally enjoy and find likable. It’s not as funny as Tina Fey’s Bossypants or Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), but fans of those books would probably like this one too. I was interested to learn that one of Kendrick’s first roles was the little sister in the 1998 Broadway production of High Society — I love the movie version with Grace Kelly!

D.E. Stevenson, The Baker’s Daughter — D.E. Stevenson is always reliable for a sweet, old-fashioned comfort read, and this book certainly fits the bill. The titular baker’s daughter is Sue Pringle, a plain and practical young woman whose life is changed forever by the arrival of John Darnay, an absentminded painter. If you like this kind of thing in general, you’ll enjoy the book.

Alex, ApproximatelyWarleggan

Jenn Bennett, Alex, Approximately — This book is billed as a YA contemporary You’ve Got Mail, but I don’t think it really delivers on that premise. Teenager Bailey is obsessed with old movies, and she’s been corresponding with her fellow cinephile Alex over the Internet. Now she’s moving to Alex’s hometown to live with her dad, and she’s excited to finally meet him in person. But she quickly gets swept off her feet by her annoyingly cocky yet handsome coworker, Porter. Fortunately, as the book jacket reveals, Porter IS Alex! But this whole You’ve Got Mail framework — which is what attracted me to the book in the first place — is the merest background, and it barely has anything to do with the plot. The meat of the story is the teen romance, which just didn’t do much for me. Another take on the YA You’ve Got Mail story is Kasie West’s P.S. I Like You, which I enjoyed a lot more.

Winston Graham, Warleggan — Things really get going in this fourth Poldark book, which is full of twists and betrayals and Ross making even more terrible decisions. I’m starting to think George isn’t such a villain; he undoubtedly does some despicable things, but after the events of this book, it’s clear that Ross isn’t exactly blameless. Demelza is definitely the true hero of this series!

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Mini-Reviews #1: Readathon leftovers

It’s pretty obvious that I haven’t spent much time on this blog lately. *blush* What can I say — life has been busy for the past couple of months, and when I’ve had free time, I’ve preferred to spend it doing other things (like reading!). As a result, I have a pretty huge backlog of books that I haven’t written about yet, and the thought of sitting down to compose a full review for each one is incredibly daunting. So, rather than continuing to avoid the task, I’ve decided to do three batches of mini-reviews — just titles and authors of the books I’ve been reading, along with a couple of sentences expressing my opinions. Once I catch up, I plan to go back to my regular style of reviewing. But for now, here are mini-reviews for the books I read during April’s 24-hour readathon:

Love, Lies and SpiesAs If!

Cindy Anstey, Love, Lies and Spies — A fun, lighthearted bit of Regency fluff for those who enjoy YA historical romance. I found the spy storyline weak, and the romance wasn’t quite compelling for me — Georgette Heyer, this is not! But it’s a pleasant enough read for fans of the genre.

Jen Chaney, As If! The Oral History of Clueless as Told by Amy Heckerling, the Cast, and the Crew — This book will only appeal to people who really love the movie “Clueless” and who are fascinated by behind-the-scenes movie knowledge. Fortunately, I fall within this demographic, so I really enjoyed the book!

Hermit of Eyton Forest, TheAlways the BridesmaidWhy Not Me?

Ellis Peters, The Hermit of Eyton Forest — Full disclosure: this installment of the Brother Cadfael series features a male character called Hyacinth. But I still love this series about a 12th-century Benedictine monk who solves crimes! (Who wouldn’t?)

Lindsey Kelk, Always the Bridesmaid — Entertaining British chick lit about a young woman named Maddie whose two best friends are at opposite ends of the romantic spectrum: one just got engaged, while the other is getting divorced. My friend pointed out that Maddie is a huge pushover, which she (my friend) found irritating. While I think that’s a fair criticism, I ultimately enjoyed the book for  its humor and romance, so I’d definitely read more by this author.

Mindy Kaling, Why Not Me? — I think Mindy Kaling is very talented and hilarious, and this book had me giggling pretty much nonstop. I like that she isn’t preachy, she’s very self-aware, and she doesn’t apologize for her confidence (some might say arrogance). As she says in the book, there’s nothing wrong with being confident — as long as you’ve put in the hard work to back it up. Bottom line: if you like Mindy Kaling, you’ll like this book.

Review: Spinster

SpinsterKate Bolick, Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own

In this book that’s part literary biography, part memoir, journalist Kate Bolick engages with the notion of “spinsterhood” and claims that, rather than being used pejoratively, it should be seen as a term of female autonomy and empowerment. She notes that contemporary society is full of single women (whether never-married, widowed, or divorced), but “spinsterhood” is still largely viewed as an aberration. In other words, as she states in the first sentence of Chapter 1, “Whom to marry, and when it will happen — these two questions define every woman’s existence…” Bolick talks about her own life as a 40-something, never-married woman and how she was inspired to find her own path by the lives of five literary women: Maeve Brennan, Neith Boyce, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and Edith Wharton. She weaves the biographies of these women into her own autobiography as she explores what it means to be a spinster and concludes that it can actually be a good thing.

This book was an odd read for me; some parts of it were very interesting and thought-provoking, while others made me roll my eyes in annoyance. I think its main problem is that it’s trying to be too many different genres; I was hoping for more of a cultural study and often found Bolick’s personal reminiscences tiresome. I also struggled with her definition of spinsterhood. To me, a spinster would be a woman who remains unmarried and uncoupled throughout her life. But Bolick’s literary inspirations, all of whom she styles as “spinsters,” mostly did get married eventually. Some of the marriages were tempestuous, and some of them ended in divorce, but these women did not live their entire lives uncoupled. Bolick herself, though technically never married, talks at length about her previous and current relationships, and she has even cohabited with some of her romantic partners. So I feel like she’s not really writing from the perspective of a spinster, but rather as a woman who is in a long-term, committed relationship — married in all but name. That said, the little biographies of the five “spinsters” who inspired Bolick were interesting, and I’d like to learn more about these writers and/or read some of their works. But overall, this book disappointed me; it just wasn’t what I expected.

Review: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?Mindy Kaling, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)

This book is Mindy Kaling’s memoir of her journey from a chubby, awkward kid who adored SNL and Monty Python to a famous TV writer and actress (and, later, showrunner, although this book came out before “The Mindy Project” got going). She writes about being a relatively unpopular child whose friends’ interests didn’t quite align with her own, about moving to New York City and finding unexpected success with her Off-Broadway play “Matt & Ben,” about meeting Greg Daniels and landing her role as Kelly Kapoor on “The Office,” about her hatred of comedy roasts and her self-described uselessness as a writer (for a brief period) on SNL, and about her funny and frustrating experiences in Hollywood. There’s a little bit about romance, but mostly in the abstract; this book is not a tell-all, by any means. And while Kaling does address her identity as an Indian American, as well as her totally-normal-but-big-for-Hollywood size, these aren’t the focus of her book, and nor should they be. Instead, this memoir offers a fun, lighthearted look at Kaling’s life and career in television.

This book is exactly what you’d expect it to be if you’re familiar with Mindy Kaling’s persona and style of comedy. It’s as if your good friend, the one whose crazy escapades you like to live vicariously though, is chatting to you after a late night of drinking wine and watching romantic comedies. It’s very light and very funny, and I enjoyed it immensely; it would make excellent plane reading. One of my favorite sections was the chapter on “Types of Women in Romantic Comedies Who Are Not Real,” which debunks the myth of the beautiful klutz. (Because seriously, “klutzy” seems to be the go-to flaw for writers who still want their heroines to be cool and witty and gorgeous and without actual flaws. Do any of us really know smart, hot women who fall down the stairs on a regular basis?) I also loved the list of possible Hollywood movies coming to theaters soon, including “Crest Whitestrips,” “Untitled Jennifer Lopez Sonia Sotomayor Project,” “Street Smart,” and “Street Stupid” (“Street Smart” sequel). Some of them do sound frighteningly plausible! So, bottom line: this is a funny, enjoyable book by a woman who is both successful and relatable. If you like Mindy Kaling, you should definitely check it out!

Review: Never Have I Ever

Never Have I EverKatie Heaney, Never Have I Ever: My Life (So Far) Without a Date

Katie Heaney is a 25-year-old writer for popular websites such as BuzzFeed and The Hairpin. Also, she has never been in a relationship — or, as she colorfully puts it, “Not one boyfriend. Not one short-term dating situation. Not one person with whom I regularly hung out and kissed on the face.” In this memoir (of sorts), Katie reminisces about her non-romantic history, from her first optimistic but doomed crush in elementary school to the humiliation of having no one to “couples skate” with during her 7th-grade field trip to the roller rink. She remembers her hopeless crush on the popular boy in high school, her romantic misadventures in college, and her almost-relationship in grad school that never quite worked out. Through it all, Katie maintains a tongue-in-cheek tone as she describes her own social awkwardness, how being dateless for so long has (and has not) defined her, and the relationships that truly matter most in her life, which are her friendships.

I picked up this book both for the topic and because I think Katie Heaney is hilarious. Overall, I really enjoyed the book, even though I think some of her other writings — particularly her Reading Between the Texts series — are much funnier. Basically this is a book that won’t surprise you: If you’re interested in the premise and enjoy the author’s sense of humor, you’ll like it. I found a lot of the anecdotes very relatable, especially those hopeless middle- and high-school crushes and the endless over-analysis that accompanies them (he said hi to me at lunch — what does that mean?!?!). But one of the most enjoyable aspects of the book, to me, was that her pursuit of romance turned out to be more of a quest for friendship; my favorite scenes were between her and her best friend Rylee, whom she obviously loves dearly. All in all, this is a fun, light read that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Recommended for plane or beach reading.