Jan 15, 2018

Review | Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

Title: Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick
Series: N/A
Genre: Nonfiction - Autobiography
Publication: November 15th 2016 by Touchstone Books
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: Even before she made a name for herself on the silver screen starring in films like Pitch Perfect, Up in the Air, Twilight, and Into the Woods, Anna Kendrick was unusually small, weird, and “10 percent defiant.”

At the ripe age of thirteen, she had already resolved to “keep the crazy inside my head where it belonged. Forever. But here’s the thing about crazy: It. Wants. Out.” In Scrappy Little Nobody, she invites readers inside her brain, sharing extraordinary and charmingly ordinary stories with candor and winningly wry observations.

With her razor-sharp wit, Anna recounts the absurdities she’s experienced on her way to and from the heart of pop culture as only she can—from her unusual path to the performing arts (Vanilla Ice and baggy neon pants may have played a role) to her double life as a middle-school student who also starred on Broadway to her initial “dating experiments” (including only liking boys who didn’t like her back) to reviewing a binder full of butt doubles to her struggle to live like an adult woman instead of a perpetual “man-child.”

Enter Anna’s world and follow her rise from “scrappy little nobody” to somebody who dazzles on the stage, the screen, and now the page—with an electric, singular voice, at once familiar and surprising, sharp and sweet, funny and serious (well, not that serious).

Thoughts: I'd been eyeing this for a while, since it was published actually, but I don't normally read non-fiction so I didn't give it a shot until now because I was planning on going to watch Pitch Perfect 3 (which I didn't) and I am glad I got around to it.

While Anna Kendrick's life isn't particularly interesting, and she hasn't done too much in her acting career, she is a down-to-earth actress and reminded me that actors are just regular people too. She's so honest in this book about everything, from how she became an actress, to her upbringing, to guys and dating, etc. that when I was done, I felt like she and I were really good friends. I went and followed her on all her social medias and wanted to just say hi to her because it felt natural. Her biography exposed her life and personality, and I just want to chat with her every day.

I can't say that the whole biography was great. While it was awesome to learn about her, and listening to her audiobook was actually awesome because it was like she was telling me all these stories over a phone call, I felt that the writing was sort of all over the place. Her anecdotes kept flip flopping back and forth, and there was no actual time line she followed because she focused on sections of specific topics which kept bringing her back to events she had already discussed. The end of the book also had tons of small sections of things, and it almost felt like I was listening to a dictionary definition of that specific topic. The sections had a tiny story and then the next section began, and it sort of felt like filler because she needed more pages to get the book published.

Overall, I enjoyed it. It wasn't the greatest biography I've read but the experience of listening to the author read her own biography has left me wanting more and I have already picked up another. So thanks for that, Anna.

Jan 12, 2018

Review | Let it Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle

Title: Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle
Series: N/A
Genre: YA - Contemporary/Holiday
Publication: October 2nd 2008 by Speak
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: Sparkling white snowdrifts, beautiful presents wrapped in ribbons, and multicolored lights glittering in the night through the falling snow. A Christmas Eve snowstorm transforms one small town into a romantic haven, the kind you see only in movies. Well, kinda. After all, a cold and wet hike from a stranded train through the middle of nowhere would not normally end with a delicious kiss from a charming stranger. And no one would think that a trip to the Waffle House through four feet of snow would lead to love with an old friend. Or that the way back to true love begins with a painfully early morning shift at Starbucks. 

Thoughts: This was a cute read, to be honest. I didn't have high expectations because I am not big on anthologies, so I wasn't really expecting to enjoy this that much. But I did like it. All the stories had quirky characters, sweet short romances, lots of snow, and happy endings. A perfect combination to end off the holiday season.

The Jubilee Express by Maureen Johnson

This felt like the quickest story but not the shortest. Our protagonist, Jubilee, ends up on a train after her parents get arrested on Christmas Eve. That's about as much as I can share, but she goes on a mini adventure in search of warmth and to avoid cheerleaders. She makes some interesting decisions which I didn't were very smart, but everything turns out okay I guess, and it was simply a cute story.

A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle by John Green

I liked this story too, and it was a little different at the beginning, but I think had the sweetest little romance out of three. But I hated the whole "almost dying to get to cheerleaders because they're hot" plot so I think this one is my lowest rated one.

The Patron Saint of Pigs by Lauren Myracle

I think my favorite characters were in this one. Although, I felt that everyone was kind of unfair to the protagonist. Her friends kept telling her she was self-absorbed, etc. and I really didn't like them that much. But I thought the romance was really cute, but felt the plot was pretty far-fetched even though not much happens.

Final Thoughts: It was nice to see how the stories all came together at the end, although to be honest, they're a little forgettable and all the characters showing up at the end made me think, "Wait, who are they again? ohhh yeah." but that could be just my bad memory. Overall, it was a cute end of the year easy read that I'm glad I actually finished.

Jan 4, 2018

Quick Review #11 | Viscount Breckenridge to the Rescue by Stephanie Laurens // The Duke of Defiance by Darcy Burke

Viscount Breckenridge to the Rescue by Stephanie Laurens

Synopsis: Determined to hunt down her very own hero, one who will sweep her off her feet and into wedded bliss, and despairing of finding him in London's staid ballrooms, Heather Cynster steps out of her safe world and boldly attends a racy soiree.

But her promising hunt is ruined by the supremely interfering Viscount Breckenridge, who whisks her out of scandal-and straight into danger when a mysterious enemy seizes her, bundles her into a coach, and conveys her out of London.

Now it's up to the notorious Breckenridge to prove himself the hero she's been searching for all along...

Quick Thoughts: I'd been meaning to read this one for years, but when I finally got around to it, I was extremely disappointed with how boring and long it felt for such a tiny paperback. The premise was promising, with a kidnapping and a hero and an escape from captors, but the "mystery" was dull, the sexy scenes just as dull, and the whole story felt meh. Very predictable and not at all what I was expecting from a romance/historical fiction. It could be that I no longer enjoy this genre as much as I used to, and this just wasn't for me anymore. This could be read as a stand alone even though it is part of a series.

The Duke of Defiance by Darcy Burke

Synopsis: Difficult and defiant as a child, Bran Crowther, Earl of Knighton left England as a young man to pursue independence and adventure. He never expected to inherit the title and when duty calls him home, he still finds Society’s codes constricting and others’ expectations oppressive. Nevertheless, he needs a wife to be a mother to his young daughter, preferably a woman of intelligence and warmth who is, above all, immune to his idiosyncrasies—and to falling in love. 

Widow Joanna Shaw isn’t interested in a second marriage, not after the loveless, passionless union she endured. She’d much rather dote on her young niece and nephew since they will likely be the only children in her life...until she meets a precocious girl, in desperate need of a mother. But her father, the so-called Duke of Defiance, is as peculiar as he is handsome, and Jo won’t take another risk with her heart. Their rules, however, are made to be broken, even when the consequences could destroy them both.

Quick Thoughts: This one surprised me by how easily I got into the story, especially because I had tried starting it a couple times and hadn't really gotten around to actually reading it. Once I got a few chapters in though, I really dived into the story. The characters were great, different than other historical romance that I'd read, and I was really interested in where the story was going to go. It felt a little repetitive after a while though, and I have to admit I did skim a good chunk of the book. It wasn't bad, I just lost interest. This could be read as a stand alone even though it is part of a series.

Jan 3, 2018

New Year & Goals | 2018

It's already a few days into the new year, what the heck?! I can't believe this year came by so quickly. 2017 didn't go by super fast, but the end of the year sort of sped up and now it's a few days into 2018 and I am just sitting down to write my goals. I am going to make this a quick one, because other than random and extremely ambitious goals, I don't have too many "new goals" for the new year. It's mostly repeats or rollovers from previous years.

Reading Goals
- Read books that I own: I tried this last year, and didn't do so well.
- Read all the Netgalley ARC's I have: I've talked about this already.
- Read the Stephen King books I have planned to: I have a list.
- Read 100 books: I've done 52 books these last couple of years and really want to challenge myself this year.
- Limit book buying to 1 or 2 books a month, max: Because honestly, I can't not buy books.

Blogging Goals:
- Blog once a week: Trying this again.
- Catch up on reviews: I was so close.

Lifestyle goals:
- Continue my workout goals: This last year was the year I finally did it. I'd been trying so hard for so many years to be consistent about my fitness, and I always fell off track. 2017 was the year where fitness literally became priority. I workout weekly, keep track of food for the most part, and really have focused on strength instead of weight loss. It's been great.
- Limit spending: I tend to splurge a lot on things that I don't really need. I hit a bad bump in my finances at the end of 2017, had a breakdown, and vowed to be better. I don't ever want to feel so helpless about money again.
- Travel: I already have a trip planned for February but I want to camp at least once, and go on another cruise (for my birthday hopefully)
- Be happy: Always my #1 goal, even though I mention it last.

None of these are unrealistic, but some are very ambitious. I still think it's worth a try and I guess that's what new year resolutions are all about. Thanks for reading all that and I hope you had and have a happy new year :)

Jan 1, 2018

2018 Reading Goals | Netgalley ARC's

I've had a ton of books on Netgalley that I got accepted for review that I never read. I know. Shame. But I have slowly made some progress. My goal this year is to read ALL of the books I got accepted for and review them. There is only 19 on this list and that's not too many, really. I will updating this list as I get these read and the year progresses.

Dec 8, 2017

Review | The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

Title:  The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
Series: Guide #1
Genre: YA - Historical Fiction
Publication: June 27, 2017 by Katherine Tegen Books
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores. 

Thoughts: This is one of those books that I was getting myself into without really knowing what it was about, only I'd seen it everywhere and was curious. It's cool that with being on Booktube I get exposed to a lot more books than I have been in a while, and this was one of them. Everyone was talking about, and while I never would have gone out of my way to purchase it, it was available as an audiobook copy from my library.

Let me tell you, it lived up to the hype. That doesn't always happen, especially when reading something out of your comfort zone right? Well, it's not like I'm uncomfortable with any LGBTQ+ representation, because I'm not, I'm just a little unfamiliar with it still. I've read very few books that have gay characters, so I am always a little weary because I am not sure what to expect. And I mean that in the best possible way.

Anyways, The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue follows our protagonist Monty who is embarking on his last year long tour through Europe with his best friend (who he's in love with) and his little sister (much to his dismay) before he must follow in his fathers footsteps and taking over the family state (which he's not thrilled about.) Things don't go according to plan, and the story derails into quite the adventure.

Monty is a great protagonist, lovable and frustrating, but funny and charming. He had me grinning with his antics, and shaking my head *face palm* with some of the stuff he put the gang into. But he has a good heart, and really, you can't help but care about him.

The story is unlike any other I've ever read either, from highway robberies to pirates, hidden treasures to romance, it has so much packed into that you can't help but have a good time reading it.  The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue was such a satisfying and fun read, that I am really glad I picked up and highly recommend it to everyone looking for a historical adventure that has so much to offer. Definitely one of my favorite reads of the year, without a doubt.

Dec 7, 2017

Love of Reading November BOTM \\ The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict

NOTE  I recently joined a Goodreads group in which a new book is chosen every month. I thought it would be a fun idea (for myself) to answer the discussion questions, instead of writing a review, on the book we read each month here on my blog. That way I can share my thoughts on it, but also discuss it with others across a few platforms without having to write two things. These posts may contain spoilers. Proceed with caution. 

Synopsis: A vivid and mesmerizing novel about the extraordinary woman who married and worked with one of the greatest scientists in history.

What secrets may have lurked in the shadows of Albert Einstein’s fame? His first wife, Mileva “Mitza” Marić, was more than the devoted mother of their three children—she was also a brilliant physicist in her own right, and her contributions to the special theory of relativity have been hotly debated for more than a century.

In 1896, the extraordinarily gifted Mileva is the only woman studying physics at an elite school in Zürich. There, she falls for charismatic fellow student Albert Einstein, who promises to treat her as an equal in both love and science. But as Albert’s fame grows, so too does Mileva’s worry that her light will be lost in her husband’s shadow forever.

A literary historical in the tradition of The Paris Wife and Mrs. Poe, The Other Einstein reveals a complicated partnership that is as fascinating as it is troubling. 

Let me admit that I knew next to nothing about Albert Einstein before reading this. Did I know who he was and what he was famous for? Of course. But that's where my knowledge on him ended. I never focused on any aspect in him during school, and never read another book, fiction or not, of his life in all my years of reading. So what did I expect? I wasn't sure, but it wasn't the tragic, and truly heartbreaking story of Einstein's first wife.

Little is known about Albert and Mileva's lives, so there is a lot of speculation. The facts are that they did meet in school and fall in love. They did become pregnant before they married, and their daughter possibly passed away or was adopted in her early life. They did marry later and have two boys, and further on, Einstein did have an affair with his cousin Elsa, whom he married and lived with the rest of their lives together. So, the question remains on how their marital life really was behind closed doors? And did Mileva contribute to Einstein's success more than he ever admitted? It's possible.

I can say that my dislike for him grew as I read more about their story in The Other Einstein. Of course, I had to remind myself that we have no way of really knowing if their relationship was like this book details. But it's possible. And that is enough for me to think that Einstein may not have been the genius we have been taught of all these years. Yes, there is no denying that he was a brilliant man, but was it all his own work on relativity? Maybe not.

The story captivated me from beginning to end, and yes, it is a simple story of a very smart woman who gave up a lot for the man she loved, and for a family life that she wasn't hoping for. But it is so much more. It is a story of courage, and strength. It is not about a brave, feminist icon, but about a woman who struggles like woman do today, in the shadow of a man. There is no denying that then and now, women are still a marginalized group. This book shows the heartbreaking story of another woman who endures a life where she is treated poorly by the men she allows to control it.

Discussion Questions

1. Discuss the various ways that gender affects the characters in this novel. Do you think gender would influence Mileva’s life in the same way if she lived today?

Yes, definitely. That's the simple answer, but today, I think she would have to give up something in order to live the life she wanted.

Many people discuss how it's difficult to raise a family and have a career, and yes, it's possible to do both. Most women today do it, and are happily enjoying a fulfilling career and also, having a family life. But is it difficult? Yes, of course. Do they have to sacrifice time and sleep in order to get work done, or make sure to spend time with their children? Or spend sick hours caring for a child, or going to a recital, or spend weekends not resting because with children, do you really rest? I can't answer any of these questions with true knowledge of knowing what it's like.

I spent many years in college, taking my time, and lazying about. Now I have a career. I'm almost 30 years old and I'm not married. I don't have children. And according to society, I'm falling behind. Do I regret any of this? Fuck no. I am 100% happy with the choices I've made, but will I ever really make time for a family? Who knows.

But if Mileva was in today's world, and her life would've taken on the same outcomes as it did today, I think she would've still found herself in the same situation. Maybe she would've left Einstein sooner, maybe she wouldn't have cared about divorce because it is so common, but yes, I think she would've sacrificed some part of her career or schooling in order to have her children.

2. This novel can be seen as quest for understanding, a search for the divine in the natural order of the world. How does the study of math and physics become this quest for Albert and Mileva? Are they, either separately or together, successful in their crusade? Does unmuzzling life’s mysteries have disparate meanings to them?

3. Betrayal is a recurrent motif in the book and an unfortunate reality in Mileva’s life. What forms of betrayal does she experience? How does her reaction to those betrayals propel the story forward, for better or worse? Has Mileva engaged in betrayal herself?

Not only does Einstein betray Mileva as a husband (yes, he does have an affair that is publicly known about,) he also betrays her as a partner in the scientific world. Mileva contributed to so much of his work, yet Albert never gave her credit for it. After countless excuses to why he couldn't, eventually he completely ignores any contributions. To her face. It propelled the story to the conclusion we could've expected for the end, a failing marriage and lack of Einstein to really come up with any more ideas on his own later in life.

Mileva betrayed herself, yes. I wanted to scream at her to leave Albert, to find her own path. I wanted her to stop following after him, even when she wanted nothing more than to enjoy a happy life with him and a shared companionship in their work. I knew from the beginning that it wouldn't work out, and even though I secretly hoped that it would, I knew that it was her love for him that blinded her for so long.

4. Discuss the setting of the book, a world on the brink of astounding scientific discoveries, political upheaval, and ultimately horrible World War I atrocities. Does this historical setting affect the characters? What role, if any, does it play in shaping their lives?

5. On several occasions throughout the novel, the characters undergo metamorphoses. What are Mileva’s changes, and what instigates them? Do some of them frustrate you or take too long? Does Albert change during the course of the novel? If so, how would you describe his evolution?

The one change that did frustrate me for taking so long was Mileva being her true self, which happens towards the end of the book. Like her friend Helene asked her to, she needed to find her old self and get away from Albert. For the sake of her happiness, and her children, and everything she had worked to become when she first started at the Polytechnic. It took her years to see this and it was frustrating. Yet, understandable because of her situation.

Albert also becomes his true self as the novel progresses. His selfishness becomes more apparent as the years go on, and his distaste for the home life he feels he's stuck with made me wanna smack him.

6. Albert Einstein is arguably one of the most famous figures of the twentieth century, but The Other Einstein shares a story about him that you might not have otherwise heard. Did this novel change your perception of him, or about the stories we are told regarding other women in history? 

Yes, and I have stated this rather clearly in my thoughts above.