recent reads

The Actor's Life: A Survival Guide by Jenna Fischer--4 stars: If you're an aspiring actor in LA, this book is for you! If you're a midwestern SAHM who sometimes fantasizes you're Lorelai Gilmore, this book is still maybe for you. It's basically a how-to guide on becoming a working actor in LA. It covers headshots, finding an agent, auditioning, what to expect on set, etc. Here's the thing: the thought of auditioning gives me hives. Doing that for a living? I would already be dead from a stress-induced stroke. Don't get me wrong, one of my dreams is to be a Mindy Kaling and write and star in my own sitcom a la The Mindy Project, or just be Lorelai Gilmore. The point is: starring on a sitcom sounds like a dream, but actually being an actor is the last thing on this planet I would ever want to do. However, I still loved this book. It goes into the ins and outs of Hollywood and studios and a little bit of Jenna's story. I wish there was a little more Jenna and less actory stuff, but such is life. Regardless, it's an interesting look into a completely different life.

For fans of: auditioning, stories of how they cast The Office, old headshot photos

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot--2.5 stars: I have A LOT of feelings about this book. I had never heard of HeLa cells before. HeLa cells are cancerous cells taken from a cervical tumor of Henrietta Lacks, a poor black woman from the 1950s. The cells were taken without her consent, and they were the first to continue to grow in labs. They continued to grow so aggressively that other labs bought vials of them, and those cells are to thank for extensive scientific research and vaccines such as the polio vaccine. Obviously this brings up all kinds of ethical issues, and honestly I'm not even sure where I stand. I see both sides! But OBVIOUSLY it's not cool to just take someone's tumors and then make money off them, but did you know it's done all the time? When you get something removed/biopsied, it's usually not thrown away. It's kept in a lab or freezer for research. INSANE. I had no idea. It would be nice to further science, but it's also very disturbing. A lot of the book is repetitive. I find biology fascinating, but I did glaze over a bit with all the science talk. It also delves into Henrietta's family and HELLO JERRY SPRINGER. They are a disaster and completely unlikeable. I found myself wanting to shake them over and over. They're furious about how their mother was handled, rightfully so, but in so many ways they are just insufferable. However, they are also the product of a very twisted culture and time in 1950s rural Virginia. At times it felt as though the author was subtly poking fun at their eccentricities and ignorance. Overall, the book was fascinating, but it was also disturbing and strange and just left me feeling a bit gross.

For fans of: science, racial issues, medical research, civil rights, being a hypochondriac

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance--4 stars: I devoured this book. J.D. Vance comes from a family born of Appalachian Kentucky, but he later moves to Ohio--we actually grew up not far from each other! He discusses the fall of the working class people in America--how families left the hills of WV and KY to come to work in Midwestern factories following both world wars. The factories later went under, leaving teams of skilled manual laborers with no work. The culture as a whole has struggled ever since to coexist in their neighborhoods and has battled the opioid epidemic and welfare lifestyle. While I don't live in Appalachia, I live nearby, and I have witnessed the exact scenario in my hometown. J.D. is telling the honest truth. This book is very powerful and a fascinating look into an often overlooked culture in our country.

For fans of: The Glass Castle, Halfbroke Horses, The Beverly Hillbillies, Rory's years at Yale, the grandma on Napoleon Dynamite

One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus--3.5 stars: This was the perfect book to read while sick in bed. I am definitively NOT a fan of YA, but after seeing so many rave reviews and comparisons to The Breakfast Club, I decided to try it. I fully expected to hate it, but it hooked me from the first few pages. I guessed the ending early and there were aspects of the story I did not appreciate or think appropriate for a YA novel, but overall I really enjoyed it. There really is no better description than a Breakfast Club Murder Mystery: 5 students are in detention, and only 4 make it out alive. Dun dun duuuuun!

For fans of: The Breakfast Club, Clue, Columbine (the book, not the actual shooting!), murder mysteries, John Hughes movies with a millennial twist 

Bachelor Nation: Inside America's Guilty Pleasure by Amy Kaufman--1.75 stars: The reviews on this were pretty garbage, but I still read it just like a subpar dessert I have to sample to make sure I'm not missing out. It's another good book for when you're sick and on medicine making you loopy. At the end of the day, it was pretty garbage, but it distracted from my illness and that's all I was looking for. Some chapters I barely read because they were so dull, and others documenting the behind the scenes workings of the show were much more interesting. The authors is one of those who is always writing in abbreviations, and it made me want to throw the book out the window. After our experience with House Hunters, I've felt really jaded with reality TV. We all know it's mostly fake, but after seeing how things truly play out behind the scenes, it made me realize nothing is real! This book made me feel the same way. Every aspect of The Bachelor(ette) is manipulated, and while we all assumed that, it's eye opening to read just how fake it really is. Between this book and House Hunters, I've really lost my taste for reality TV.

For fans of: The Bachelor, behind the scenes, the history of dating shows, millennial writing 

Need to Know by Karen Cleveland--5 stars: When I'm having dreams about the book I'm reading, I KNOW it's a good book. This one was absolutely incredible. Vivian is a CIA analyst working to uncover Russian sleeper cells in the US. What she discovers turns her life upside down and inside out. My heart was pounding through almost every chapter. I can't say more than that without giving spoilers. This book absolutely consumed my life for the two days it took me to get through it. I'm not usually one for a thriller or mystery, but I had withdrawals from this book once it ended. READ IT.

For fans of: 24, Agent Hannah Wells on Designated Survivor, Deep Undercover by Jack Barsky

Sisters First by Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Bush--3 stars: This book was written by the twin daughters of President Bush. The chapters alternate between the two sisters, talking about growing up in the Bush family, living in the White House, going to college with Secret Service detail, dating, careers, and everything in between. Every story always looped back to being sisters. I enjoyed it. Some chapters were a little more boring, and some (especially, for me, the ones about secret service and living in the White House) were fascinating. For whatever reason the book didn't thrill me (maybe because I don't have a sister?), but there were some really intriguing stories that are going to stick with me. If you're interested in anything presidential or the Bush family, it's worth reading.

For fans of: the Bushes obviously, life in the White House, wondering what it would be like to sit next to Putin at a dinner party

Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge--4.5 stars: I LOVED THIS BOOK. It was a simpler, shorter, less insane version of Lost. Three passengers are on a tiny plane in the South Pacific. The plane crashes, and two people survive. They're washed up on an island so small it's not on any map. They have to figure out how to survive knowing the chances of being rescued are slim to none. The writing style is fantastic. It's beautifully written with an undertone of sarcasm and humor, much like Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine or The Rosie Project. I experienced the full spectrum of human emotion reading this book and could not put it down. I have some strong feelings about the ending, and there are some PG-13 moments, but I can't recommend this one enough. It's a quick read and perfect for summer.

For fans of: Lost, Castaway, Swiss Family Robinson, bananas (you'll see), wondering if you could make it on Survivor

How to Break up With Your Phone by Catherine Price--2 stars: I've had A LOT of feelings about social media and the internet lately, most of them negative. I'm very all or nothing with social media. Either I'm I'm thoroughly enjoying it or my finger is hovering over the "delete account" button every day. You can infer which mood I'm currently in. I spent an hour the other day standing in a yarn shop with a friend, pouring my guts out on all the ways instagram screws with my brain and how I see it changing so many of my thought processes, and not for the better (I could talk about this all day!!!!). After reading 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You, I've become really fascinated by the topic of how our phones affect our lives. I was hoping this book would continue in that kind of vein. It did and it didn't. The first part of the book is scientific information about the way using our phones changes our brains, and how apps are purposely created to make us feel like we can't stop scrolling. Evil geniuses! I loved the whole section and felt validated in my current frustrations. The second part of the book is a 30 day plan of how to break your habits. It was all very common sense and things I've done before. Delete the apps, turn of notifications, don't put your phone by your bed at night, unfollow people, etc. She lost me when she made a huge deal about mindfulness and "taking deep breaths" when you feel the urge to check your phone. She also had a lot of journal prompts, like "when you felt yourself wanting to check your phone, how did that make you feel?" SO MANY FEELINGS. That does not work for me. I gained nothing new. If you're looking for a book about how to have a better relationship with your phone, 12 Ways is BY FAR the best and nothing will ever compare.

For fans of: wanting to go back to a pre-social media world, the amish, feeling enraged by social media but unable to cut the cord

Have you read any of these? What are you reading? Let's talk.


  1. I've been wanting to read Jenna Fischer's book but was kind of expecting it to be more about her than acting. Maybe someday I'll pick it up.

    I just finished Amy Poehler's Yes Please (pretty good) and Gillian Flynn's Dark Places (disturbing).

    Now I'm reading Friday Night Knitting Club to cleanse my palette from the twisted creepiness that was Dark Places.

    1. It’s an interesting book, but not something I would rush to read.

      Haha!! After Gone Girl, I won’t read anything else by Gillian Flynn. Her brain is too much for me.

  2. I felt the same about One of Us is Lying! Adding a few of these to my list to read. Thanks!

  3. I love when your reading reviews pop up here- you fly through books so fast it almost doesn’t seem possible that it’s time for another list of reviews LOL. But I’m thankful because I devour them.

    I have been wanting to read Hillbilly Elegy. I’ve heard reviews from both ends of the spectrum, but the bad reviews came from people whose political ideologies don’t come anywhere close to mine so I have to wonder. Haha.

    I think I would love to read Jenna’s book. She seems as down to earth as her character, Pam and I just have a feeling her writing would be relatable like Lauren Graham’s.

    Castle of Water really intrigues me!

    1. My reading habits may or may not be playing a part in my sleep issues ;)

      I think you would like Hillbilly Elegy! And Jenna's book!

  4. So glad you loved Need to Know. I loved the Bush sisters' book, and I recommended it to my mom and she wasn't thrilled by it either. She liked it but didn't love it. Right now I'm reading "My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry" which I am loving so far! It's due at the library this weekend so I need to read fast!

  5. BRB adding Castle of Water to my list...

    I'm a little bummed about both Jenna Fischer's book and Bachelor Nation. I was really hoping for more of an in-depth biography + Office secrets from Jenna, not a manual on how to make it in Hollywood. And Bachelor Nation was supposed to be a quick, juicy read and it actually sounds pretty awful.

    Hillbilly Elegy intrigues me but I've been so far removed from anything even resembling that lifestyle/culture my entire life, I'm not sure if I could relate?

  6. You've read a ton lately! My sister just brought a bunch of books here with her for my other sister's school work...so I've been reading a lot of books, historical fiction or otherwise educational, aimed at middle- and high-schoolers. It's been really fun. I'm finally able to read and nurse at the same time, which was impossible for the first two months due to pain, needing both arms to hold baby, etc, so I think my reading rate will be much improved now. :P
    That Jenna Fischer book sounds so interesting! In another life I would have loved to pursue acting...auditioning I know would be the extremely painful part. In high school and college I was actually brave enough to audition and compete and find various plays and respond to casting calls. For years my imaginary dream was that Pirates of the Caribbean would make a sequel and I'd be cast as the long-lost daughter of Captain Jack Sparrow (so it was super fun when POTC did make a sequel and the star was the long-lost daughter of Barbossa, a role I would have also been okay with. ha!) I've always been intrigued by the world of acting and filming...

  7. I'm so glad you liked The Actor's Life! I loved it, and just made me want to fight for the life I want and not give up (even though my dreams definitely aren't of LA). You've also convinced me to read Hillbilly Elegy. I've been really cautious because, frankly, I felt like it was going to be attacking the people that make up most of my family. But your review makes me curious!

    1. Honestly, I felt like Hillbilly Elegy defended people more than it attacked them. He definitely points out some problem areas, but he's respectful and explains why people from his culture are the way they are. I loved it!

  8. One of Us is Lying is on my list! And ugh. Couldn't make it past the first few chapters of Bachelor Nation. It just felt so bland!

  9. Ooh, these sound really interesting! I just added Jenna Fisher's book, the hillbilly book, and the Bush sisters' book to my library account list. It's interesting to hear your thoughts on Need to Know! I thought that book was riveting; I read it in about 24 hours and had dreams about spies for the next two nights :) However, Vivian made me really frustrated, and I did not think we saw much development from her throughout the story. If the author writes a sequel, I think I'll be more OK with how Need to Know went, but it had better include some strong character development from Vivian!

    I'm currently reading a book about Culture & Agriculture by Wendell Berry, which is very interesting and a bit somber. I don't think I'll be able to finish it (it's due today and the library won't let me renew it and I still have 2 1/2 chapters left and a very tantrumy toddler), but there's been lots of good food for thought so far! I'm also reading a book on the Montessori Method for kids from birth-3 years old. It's pretty fascinating, especially since I've always associated Montessori stuff with kids in the preschool age range.

  10. Oh my goodness, Need To Know sounds like exactly my kind of book! I’m so glad you enjoyed Castle Of Water, I LOVED that book!

  11. ohhh LOVE your book recs! I read Hillbilly Elegy and found it completely fascinating. Have you read the old book Christy by Catherine Marshall? I just finished it (SOOOO good) and it goes into so much more of the culture of this area in the early 1900's. Loved it!


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