Monthly Archives: December 2014

Book Review: Bossypants

bossypantsTitle: Bossypants
Author: Tina Fey
Release Date: April 18, 2011
Rating: 4.5/5

Bossypants is comedian Tina Fey’s memoir that hilariously chronicles her life. Almost no topic seems to be off limits as Fey discusses her life beginning with her childhood. She talks about her family and her mysterious scar that has always been the root of some self consciousness. She then goes on to talk about early romances and jobs, such as her incredibly amusing stint as a receptionist at the YMCA. Finally, Fey delves into her comedy career, starting at her time at The Second City in Chicago. She then continues on, writing about what it was like writing episodes for SNL, what it was like to portray Sarah Palin, and what it’s like working with Alec Baldwin on 30 Rock. Although there is a lot of focus on her career, Fey also writes about topics that any woman can relate to. Throughout the book, Fey writes about the pressures of having a career while being married with a child and the pressures that women have regarding their physical appearance. Fey adds humor to every situation and it was a pleasure to read a well rounded account of her journey to where she is now.

Bossypants is written by Tina Fey and as I read the book, I could quite literally hear her voice in every chapter. I felt like her comedy came across the page well and there were times where I found myself laughing out loud. Although the majority of the book contains her memoir, Fey also includes a few pictures and a script from SNL. She didn’t talk about SNL or 30 Rock as much as I had expected and instead, she gave us more of a personal look at her life. Although I had expected her to talk more about her recent projects, I almost preferred learning more about the real Tina Fey.

Fey also describes the first time she met Amy Poehler and other comedians that she is famously acquainted with today. I really enjoyed reading about her flourishing friendships and to watch Fey, as well as Amy Poehler, act as a pioneer for women in comedy. Fey is never one to withhold compliments and she is very gracious in giving other comedians a massive amount of respect.

One thing that I did not expect was the advice that Fey peppers in throughout the book. With good humor, Fey discusses what is like to work in a male dominated workplace and how she handles the pressures of work, family life, and being a successful working woman. She kept all of the advice very light and uplifting and I found her journey to where she is today to be very inspiring. Fey showed the reader that she’s not perfect and provides advice from her experiences. Fey has a self deprecating sense of humor that makes it easy to relate to her and makes her advice more genuine.

Overall, I thought that this was a very funny book. It’s a very quick and easy read and if you are a fan of Tina Fey’s comedy, you will pleased to find it throughout the entirety of this book.

If you have read Bossypants, I would love to hear your thoughts as well. To view Bossypants on Amazon, please click here.

Book Review: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

unbrokenTitle: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
Author: Laura Hillenbrand
Release Date: January 20, 2011
Rating: 5/5

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption is the incredible true story of Louis Zamperini, the man who went from being an Olympic athlete to a prisoner of war in Japan. The book chronicles Louis’s life, beginning with him as a troubled youth. As an outlet for his mischievous ways, Louis’s brother suggests Louis take up track. Louis’s passion for running quickly ignites and soon, Louis is shattering records and wins a spot in the 1936 Olympics. However, World War II soon begins and Louis becomes an airman, flying in a B-24 in the Pacific. One fateful day, his bomber crashes into the Pacific and miraculously, Louis survives. He endures weeks stranded on a raft in the middle of the open ocean, with little more than dehydration, malnutrition, and the threat of sharks to keep him company. After more than 40 days at sea, the raft finds an island and Louis is captured by the Japanese and is soon sent to a POW camp. Hillenbrand depicts Louis’s time spent in the camps, illustrating the brutality of the Japanese guards and showcasing Louis’s courageous fight for survival.

Hillenbrand does an amazing job putting together pieces of history in order to formulate this book. She uses old journals, pictures, and numerous interviews from Louis and his family and friends to recreate his story. The book felt very authentic and it is obvious that Hillenbrand did an insurmountable amount of research while writing this book. The points of view from Louis and other soldiers throughout the war transports the reader back in time and although the events happened 80 years ago, Hillenbrand is able to vividly bring them back to life. She does a great job describing the different types of airplanes used in the war and goes into great detail about the bomber that Louis is assigned to. Hillenbrand also describes different events in the war, but her descriptions were a perfect supplement and never felt too heavy.

Because the book focuses around the fight for survival, there are some scenes that can be hard to read. Prisoners of war were often treated brutally and dehumanized by their captors. Although the content was dark at times, I think that HIllenbrand did a good job of writing it very tastefully. She conveys real human emotion on the pages and although his journey was a dark one, I thought that Louis’s perspective was incredibly fascinating. Although the story is predominantly about Louis, there are other soldiers that are featured in the story, such as Phil, and I think it was so important that Hillenbrand focused on these men as well. It was interesting to see how individual men endured the horrific circumstances and it was fascinating to see how Louis compared to and related to them as well.

Overall, I absolutely loved this book. Louis’s life was remarkable and the events that he lived through were unbelievable. I have always found history to be captivating, especially this time period, and I thought that Hillenbrand did an amazing job bringing the events of World War II to life. I think that Hillenbrand has a great writing style, making this book an easy read. Don’t be discouraged by the length of the book because it’s an amazing story and I would highly recommend it.

If you have read Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, I would love to hear your thoughts as well. To view Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption on Amazon, please click here.

The film adaptation, Unbroken, will be released in theaters this Thursday, December 25.

Book Review: Dark Places

darkplacesTitle: Dark Places
Author: Gillian Flynn
Release Date: May 4, 2010
Rating: 2.5/5

Dark Places is the thriller by Gillian Flynn that reflects back on the horrific murder of Libby Day’s family. Libby Day was seven years old when the murders were committed, killing her mother and two sisters. Her older brother, Ben, had been convicted for the murders and was sent to jail for life. Libby had been living off of donations and handouts, but when she finds out that her money is about to run out, she gets a letter from a man who is a part of a Kill Club. The Kill Club is interested in mystery murders and a man named Lyle offers Libby money in exchange for information on her family’s murder. As Libby attempts to reconnect with the murder that happened over two decades prior, she soon begins to question her brother’s involvement and attempts to find the true killer of her family.

The book is written in several different perspectives, much like Flynn did with her best seller, Gone Girl. The book is written in the present day from Libby’s point of view. Flynn will then complement Libby’s perspective with the perspectives of Ben and her mother, Patty, on the day of the murders. I almost preferred Patty and Ben’s points of view over Libby’s because she was such a cynical character. I also enjoyed the anticipation that Ben and Patty’s perspectives provided because it was a first hand look of the day of the murder instead of just memories.

I must say that the title is very aptly named. This book is probably one of the darkest books that I’ve ever read, and not necessarily in a good way. Flynn throws everything at the reader, from topics of child molestation and underage drug and alcohol abuse, to Satanism and gory depictions of murder. I’m not sure if Flynn added all of these for shock value, but it became a lot to handle. I could have dealt with one or two of these themes included in the book, but all of them were overkill and at times, the book became very uncomfortable to read.

I also wasn’t a very big fan of the main character, Libby. The reader obviously is meant to sympathize with her because her family was killed when she was only seven and her brother is serving a prison sentence for the murders. However, she remained so cynical throughout the book. She expected constant handouts, even into her thirties. I expected the murders to deeply affect her for life, but she was so bitter that she became unlikeable. In fact, it was hard to sympathize with any of the characters throughout the book. Libby’s aunt, Diane, and Lyle were probably the only two positive characters in the book.

Overall, I thought that the concept of the book was very interesting. The idea of having the only surviving member of the family reinvestigate her family’s murder seemed to be promising, but I feel like the book got bogged down by so much shocking and disturbing content. If you have a strong stomach and don’t mind the dark themes explored in this novel, then you may enjoy this book. Otherwise, be very wary before picking up this book. By the end of it, I was happy to be finished with the book and I didn’t really enjoy it.

If you have read Dark Places, I would love to hear your thoughts as well. To view Dark Places on Amazon, please click here.

Book Review: 11/22/63

Title: 11/22/63
Author: Stephen King
Release Date: November 8, 2011
Rating: 4/5

11/22/63 is a historical fiction novel that focuses on Jake Epping, the man who travels back in time to stop the assassination of John F. Kennedy. His friend, Al, the owner of a diner notorious for cheap hamburgers, reveals an invisible staircase to Jake that will take him back to the year 1958. Al had been planning to travel in time to stop Lee Harvey Oswald and the assassination of John F. Kennedy, but has found himself in ill health. He instead asks Jake to go in his place. When Jake finds himself in the past, he not only attempts to stop the assassination, but other very unfortunate events as well. As Jake makes his way through the past, he soon discovers that the past does not like to be tampered with. He must navigate the past with caution, in an attempt to keep his secret hidden and to avoid upsetting the future.

Although the title refers strictly to the date of Kennedy’s assassination, the book is about so much more. Jake attempts to be somewhat of a guardian angel to people who he knows will end up suffering in the future. He moves around the country to stop unfortunate events before traveling to Texas. When he finally makes his way to Texas, he begins to work as a teacher in Jodie, a town not too far from Dallas. He makes friends and falls in love with the very likeable Sadie. As the date of the assassination draws closer, his focus then turns to Lee Harvey Oswald and Jake realizes that he might have to risk everything to achieve his ultimate goal. It is very apparent that King did a lot of research into the Kennedy assassination and he presents a lot of interesting information throughout the novel.

The book has a very authentic feel to it and I felt immersed in the era of the late 1950s-60s. I absolutely loved the picture that King was able to paint, from the dreary town of Derry to the small town of Jodie. Since the book was a long one, King had the ability to add an immense amount of detail to really bring the story to life. I think that the characters were portrayed perfectly and they all seemed to fit the era. The “rules” of time travel also made sense and every time that Jake went through the wormhole, the past would reset. He was also warned of the effects of changing the past too drastically and everything about King’s concept of time travel seemed to work well.

The only thing that I didn’t really like about this book was the ending. Jake comes back from living in the past and the future is completely post-apocalyptic. Due to the ripple effects of his time travel, horrible things occurred while he was gone and history drastically changed. He then travels back in time to reset what he has done, pretty much invalidating everything that he accomplished throughout the book. I feel like it was a bit of a let down, especially since he was attempting to improve the past for over 800 pages.

Besides the ending, I really enjoyed this book. I think that the characters were interesting and I really liked reading about Jake’s journey through time. I like the concept of time travel and King’s addition of the Card Man really added something different. The whole novel seemed to flow well, I just wish the ending would have been different.

If you have read 11/22/63, I would love to hear your thoughts as well. To view 11/22/63 on Amazon, please click here.

Book Review: Stay Close

staycloseTitle: Stay Close
Author: Harlan Coben
Release Date: March 29, 2012
Rating: 4/5

Stay Close is a thriller that unites three unlikely characters in order to solve a slew of disappearances. Megan, the stripper-turned-soccer mom, had fled Atlantic City seventeen years ago, the same night that Stewart Green went missing. Ray, the photographer who has fallen from grace, remembers her disappearance and is plagued by the memories of blood. Detective Broome worked the case and has been continuing to piece together the puzzle since the night it occurred. When another man disappears, Broome believes it could be connected to the Stewart Green disappearance and requires the assistance of Megan and Ray. However, in the seedy backdrop of Atlantic City, police corruption and organized crime threaten to derail the investigation, putting lives in danger.

Although Megan, Ray, and Detective Broome are the main characters that Coben focuses on, he writes from the perspectives of his supporting characters as well. We see into the lives of Del Flynn, the desperate father of the missing Carlton, Lorraine, a bartender at the gentleman’s lounge, Dave, Megan’s husband, and several more. Although I did enjoy the different perspectives, I think a few of them might have been a little unnecessary because they played such a minor role. I did like how Coben transitioned from one perspective to the next and since it was all in the third person, it never got confusing.

Although I liked most of the characters, I did not like Ken and Barbie. The two were very sadistic and I wish that Coben hadn’t let us into their heads. I think their actions went a little too far and because they were so horrible, I didn’t really enjoy reading scenes from their perspectives. I think the scene in the law office is what really made me dislike these two because it just got to be a bit much.

I will go ahead and say that this book has a very depressing tone to it. I don’t necessarily think it’s bad and based on its setting, Atlantic City, and the crimes that it includes, I think that a depressing tone is almost necessary. However, almost every character is living with some sort of regret and I don’t think any of the characters are really happy. The book also delves into some tough issues, such as domestic abuse, and there is quite a bit of violence. I had expected this because I knew that this novel revolved around crime so it never bothered me too much. If you are the type of reader who needs an upbeat character or a happy ending, you will not find it in this book. It is well written and I enjoyed reading it, but there isn’t any happiness in it.

This was the first Harlan Coben book that I read and I really enjoyed it. The plot kept me guessing and I rapidly flipped though the pages of this book. I also enjoyed the change in perspectives and thought it was an interesting concept for a thriller. That being said, if you are a Harlan Coben fan, proceed with caution. Many fans of Coben have said that it may not be his best work, so just know that this novel may be different from those that have come before it.

If you have read Stay Close, I would love to hear your thoughts as well. To view Stay Close on Amazon, please click here.