Books I Read In June

 

June has been a pretty decent reading month!  My birthday was this month too, so that could be why I felt extra motivated to read because I may or may not have just replenished my book supply with a birthday buying expedition.  (All of those books can be found here.)  In fact, here is an actual picture of me reading this month:

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Now, onto the books I’ve read in June.

It must have been a pretty good month for YA for me seeing as I read several YA books this month, and I gave most of them 4 or 5 stars.  

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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

5/5 Stars

Starr is a 15 year old living in a poor neighborhood and attending a wealthy private school when she witnesses a police officer shoot and kill her best friend.  Starr endures opposing ideas of what happened that night from her friends at school and neighbors and family members.  This book is pure perfection, it takes a hard look at what’s happening in the US currently, and I can’t recommend it enough.

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When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

4/5 Stars

This book follows two Indian-American teenagers who meet at a summer camp after their parents decide to give arranging their marriage a go.  It is incredibly funny and sweet and is the perfect summer YA contemporary read.  Full review here.

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Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

4/5 Stars

What if the story of Peter Pan isn’t the full story?  What if Neverland isn’t only a place full of fairies and mermaids?  These are the questions this story answers, only from Tiger Lily’s point of view with Tinkerbell as the narrator.  It’s a great set-up to a very touching story.  Full review here.

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Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda

4/5 Stars

A classmate finds Simon’s emails on a school computer.  Emails that talk about Simon being gay, which he hasn’t really told anyone yet.  Now, he is being blackmailed with the threat of outing him and the boy he’s been emailing, only named “Blue”, to the whole school.  This book was incredibly cute and it is impossible not to love Simon.  And the ending is so adorable I can’t stand it.

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My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

1/5 Stars

I’m still not 100% convinced this book is YA, but I’m putting it here for lack of a better place for it.  I have a review for this book here where I talk in depth about how much I was disappointed with book, but essentially it’s about two best friends who are trying to manage being teenagers in the 80s while also dealing with one of them being possessed by a demon.  This one was probably the biggest disappointment this month, but ah well, can’t win ’em all.

Sadly, it wasn’t one of the best months for mysteries/thrillers, which I love to read in the summer.  Still, with over two months left, hopefully I’ll find some good ones to even it out!

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The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

1/5 Stars

I read In A Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware last year and while it didn’t blow my mind, I definitely enjoyed it and was excited about her new release.  However, this book just fell completely flat.  It follows a woman who goes on a luxury cruise and here’s a woman being thrown overboard and the next day, she finds out everyone on the ship is accounted for.  I had some issues with portrayal of mental illness and the plot got more and more ridiculous and unbelievable as it went on.

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Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner

1/5 Stars

This book was another disappointing mystery for me.  I picked it up because it was compared with Tana French’s novels, which are some of my absolute favorites.  However, it became more of a character-driven story while the plot just lagged.  And the “twist” at the end wasn’t a twist at all because there is nothing at all that leads up to it.  This story follows a woman who goes missing from her house.  There’s supposedly more about the missing woman’s love life, family relationships, and other stuff, but it wasn’t really enough to make the book more exciting.

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The Last Place You Look by Kristen Lepionka

3/5 Stars

This book was definitely the bright spot on my otherwise not so great month for mysteries/thrillers.  It follows Roxane Weary, a detective hired to dig into the disappearance of a girl years ago, and the man sitting on death row who was convicted of the crime, but may be innocent after all.  Full review here.

I read one contemporary book this month, which was

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Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

5/5 Stars

Suburban moms, affairs, lies, scandals, and a possible murder.  Seriously, this book is great.  Full review here.

Lastly, I read four non-fiction books this month. Woohoo!

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Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

4/5 Stars

This book is Jenny Lawson’s memoir about mental illness and finding the humor even in the bleakest moments.  It is absolutely ridiculous in the best way possible and the chapters where she talks about her mental illness are quite touching.  The audiobook is definitely the best way to go because it’s read by Jenny Lawson, who is simply freaking hilarious.  Full review here.

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Hardcore Self Help: F**k Anxiety by Robert Duff

4/5 Stars

I have anxiety, so I picked this book up based off of a suggestion.  It clocks in at only 71 pages, but it packs a big punch for being so small.  It is incredibly vulgar in language, which I actually appreciated because when you have a mental illness, it doesn’t feel clinical and sterile, it feels like you’re at war with yourself.  I’m really not kidding when I say it is *full* of bad language (as you can see from the cover), so that is definitely something to note.

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So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

2/5 Stars

This book explores cases of mass public shaming and internet shaming culture.  I thought the premise was interesting, but the book didn’t deliver for me.  Full review here.

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Talking As Fast As I Can: From Gilmore Girls To Gilmore Girls, And Everything In Between

5/5 Stars

Whether you know her from Gilmore Girls, Parenthood, or commercials where she plays the mom in plaid, this book is perfect if you love Lauren Graham.  Do yourself a favor and listen to the audiobook.  Full page of me just gushing about her complete with gifs review here.

Those are the 13 books I read in the month of June!  As always, bless you for reading to the end.

 

 

Book Review || The Last Place You Look

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Title: The Last Place You Look

Author: Kristen Lepionka

Publication Date: June 2017

Version: Physical Book

Genre: Mystery, Thriller

Rating: 3/5 Stars

 

I have to admit, since finishing The Trespasser by Tana French (her latest in the Dublin Murder Squad series), I have been looking for a series that is equally gripping and well written filled with interesting characters.  And I definitely think this series has the potential to be really, really good.

This story is the first in a series to come that follows Roxane Weary, a private investigator who is still healing from her police officer father’s death, when she takes on a client for the money.  The only catch is that her new client’s brother is in jail and on death row, possibly for a crime he didn’t commit.  His name is Brad, and despite being from “the wrong side of town”, he maintains his innocence in the disappearance of his girlfriend, Sarah, years ago and the murder of her parents.

The premise of this book sounded excellent and the beginning definitely pulls you in to Roxane’s struggles with her father’s death and two unhealthy relationships, one with a man and one with a woman.  And like any good mystery, red herrings abound throughout the book.

However, the book lost a little momentum around the middle and though it offered excellent insight into Roxane’s life, the actual mystery lagged a little.  The other reason I didn’t rate this book higher is because the ending felt like a lucky solve on Roxane’s part, particularly since there wasn’t a ton of evidence to back her up.

The book’s strength lies in the flawed and realistic characters and relationships and despite not absolutely loving this book, I certainly liked it and am definitely excited to continue in the series and see more from Roxane.

 

June Book Haul!

It’s time for another book haul!  Since today is not only my birthday, but the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, what better way to spend my birthday than buying new books to love?

Also, how did we ever deserve the gift that is J. K. Rowling?

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“20 years ago today a world that I had lived in alone was suddenly open to others.  It’s been wonderful.  Thank you.”  I mean,

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Now that we have properly celebrated, on to the book haul!  Also, I was able to get most of these books for 1/4 or 1/5 of the original price thanks to my discounted book store.  Yay for thrifty book shopping!

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The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

Synopsis: Cassandra is lost, alone and grieving. Her much loved grandmother, Nell, has just died and Cassandra, her life already shaken by a tragic accident ten years ago, feels like she has lost everything dear to her. But an unexpected and mysterious bequest from Nell turns Cassandra’s life upside down and ends up challenging everything she thought she knew about herself and her family.

Inheriting a book of dark and intriguing fairytales written by Eliza Makepeace—the Victorian authoress who disappeared mysteriously in the early twentieth century—Cassandra takes her courage in both hands to follow in the footsteps of Nell on a quest to find out the truth about their history, their family and their past; little knowing that in the process, she will also discover a new life for herself.

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We Are The Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

Synopsis: Henry knows that his mom is struggling to keep the family together, and coping by chain-smoking cigarettes. He knows that his older brother is a college dropout with a pregnant girlfriend. He knows that he is slowly losing his grandmother to Alzheimer’s. And he knows that his boyfriend committed suicide last year.

What Henry doesn’t know is why the aliens chose to abduct him when he was thirteen, and he doesn’t know why they continue to steal him from his bed and take him aboard their ship. He doesn’t know why the world is going to end or why the aliens have offered him the opportunity to avert the impending disaster by pressing a big red button.

But they have. And they’ve only given him 144 days to make up his mind.

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The Last Place You Look by Kristen Lepionka

Synopsis: Sarah Cook, a beautiful blonde teenager disappeared fifteen years ago, the same night her parents were brutally murdered in their suburban Ohio home. Her boyfriend Brad Stockton – black and from the wrong side of the tracks – was convicted of the murders and sits on death row, though he always maintained his innocence. With his execution only weeks away, his devoted sister, insisting she has spotted Sarah at a local gas station, hires PI Roxane Weary to look again at the case.

Reeling from the recent death of her cop father, Roxane finds herself drawn to the story of Sarah’s vanishing act, especially when she thinks she’s linked Sarah’s disappearance to one of her father’s unsolved murder cases involving another teen girl. Despite her self-destructive tendencies, Roxane starts to hope that maybe she can save Brad’s life and her own.

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Everything Leads To You by Nina LaCour

Synopsis: Emi is a film buff and a true romantic, but her real-life relationships are a mess. She has desperately gone back to the same girl too many times to mention. But then a mysterious letter from a silver screen legend leads Emi to Ava. Ava is unlike anyone Emi has ever met. She has a tumultuous, not-so-glamorous past, and lives an unconventional life. She’s enigmatic…. She’s beautiful. And she is about to expand Emi’s understanding of family, acceptance, and true romance.

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Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Synopsis: One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time—from the actor’s early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as The Travelling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains—this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor’s first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet.

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One Of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

Synopsis: On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.

Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.

Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.

Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.

Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.

And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?

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Smoke by Dan Vyleta

Synopsis: England. A century ago, give or take a few years. An England where people who are wicked in thought or deed are marked by the Smoke that pours forth from their bodies, a sign of their fallen state. The aristocracy do not smoke, proof of their virtue and right to rule, while the lower classes are drenched in sin and soot. An England utterly strange and utterly real.

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Into The Dim by Janet B. Taylor

Synopsis: When fragile, sixteen-year-old Hope Walton loses her mom to an earthquake overseas, her secluded world crumbles. Agreeing to spend the summer in Scotland, Hope discovers that her mother was more than a brilliant academic, but also a member of a secret society of time travelers. Trapped in the twelfth century in the age of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Hope has seventy-two hours to rescue her mother and get back to their own time. Along the way, her path collides with that of a mysterious boy who could be vital to her mission . . . or the key to Hope’s undoing.

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A Head Full Of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

Synopsis: The lives of the Barretts, a normal suburban New England family, are torn apart when fourteen-year-old Marjorie begins to display signs of acute schizophrenia.

To her parents’ despair, the doctors are unable to stop Marjorie’s descent into madness. As their stable home devolves into a house of horrors, they reluctantly turn to a local Catholic priest for help. Father Wanderly suggests an exorcism; he believes the vulnerable teenager is the victim of demonic possession. He also contacts a production company that is eager to document the Barretts’ plight. With John, Marjorie’s father, out of work for more than a year and the medical bills looming, the family agrees to be filmed, and soon find themselves the unwitting stars of The Possession, a hit reality television show. When events in the Barrett household explode in tragedy, the show and the shocking incidents it captures become the stuff of urban legend.

Fifteen years later, a bestselling writer interviews Marjorie’s younger sister, Merry. As she recalls those long ago events that took place when she was just eight years old, long-buried secrets and painful memories that clash with what was broadcast on television begin to surface–and a mind-bending tale of psychological horror is unleashed, raising vexing questions about memory and reality, science and religion, and the very nature of evil.

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Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate

Synopsis: Paloma High School is ordinary by anyone’s standards. It’s got the same cliques, the same prejudices, the same suspect cafeteria food. And like every high school, every student has something to hide—from Kat, the thespian who conceals her trust issues onstage, to Valentine, the neurotic genius who’s planted the seed of a school scandal.

When that scandal bubbles over, and rumors of a teacher-student affair surface, everyone starts hunting for someone to blame. For the seven unlikely allies at the heart of it all, the collision of their seven ordinary-seeming lives results in extraordinary change.

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Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Synopsis: Two half sisters, Effia and Esi, are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle’s dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast’s booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. One thread of Homegoing follows Effia’s descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day, Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation.

 

And that’s it!  Those are the eleven books I bought during the month of June.  I can’t wait to dive into these!  Have you read any?  If so, what did you think?

Lastly, let’s raise our wands in one more tribute to the greatness that is Harry Potter on its publication birthday.

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Book Review || My Best Friend’s Exorcism

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Title: My Best Friend’s Exorcism

Author: Grady Hendrix

Publication Date: May 2016 (paperback with awesome cover above): July 2017

Version: E-Book

Genre: Fiction, Horror, Comedy, YA (??)

Rating: 1/5 Stars

 

***This Review Contains Spoilers***

Before diving into this review, I want to take a moment to look at the paperback (expected release 7/17) above.  The incredible cover art reflects an 80s VHS of a horror movie and everything this book could have been.

The story follows Abby and Gretchen, two sophomores who have been inseparable since they were 10 years old.  One night, during a sleepover, Gretchen goes missing in the woods and comes out a completely different person.  After days of strange behavior, Abby realizes that Gretchen is being possessed by a demon.

The book is marketed as The Exorcism, if it were written by Tina Fey.  That gave me pretty high hopes, because a horror novel that is essentially a parody of horror novels filled with camp and witty, dark humor sounds incredible.  Sadly, this was not that novel.

This book just wasn’t funny.  Dark or otherwise, My Best Friend’s Exorcism didn’t feel like a self-aware parody.  It felt more like it couldn’t decide whether it wanted to be a gritty, coming of age novel or a lighter horror novel and in the end, didn’t really feel like either.

It can also be pretty difficult to enjoy a story when there isn’t one likable character.  The “real” Gretchen is possessed towards the beginning of the book until the end and the friendship between Abby and Gretchen just fell kind of flat.

Despite the fact that this books is about a possession, the beginning took a while to take off and it was incredibly slow in parts.  By the time the actual exorcism takes place, with attempts at humor and fast pacing, I was just bored.

However, I am in the minority and the book has mostly positive reviews, so I am happy to say this book just didn’t click with me and there is every chance you will love it!

 

Also, I’m still not sure if this is YA because the price tag is more in the YA range and the book is about high schoolers, but this book definitely doesn’t read like YA.

Book Review || When Dimple Met Rishi

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Book: When Dimple Met Rishi

Author: Sandhya Menon

Publication Date: May 2017

Version: Physical book

Genre: YA, Contemporary

Rating: 4/5 Stars

I have come to the realization recently, okay like two minutes ago after I finished reading this book, that I don’t really read a lot of YA Contemporary.  Usually if I read YA, it’s fantasy or at least has some magical realism, but shame on me because this book was absolutely adorable.

It is described as a rom-com meets Bollywood and follows two teenagers, Dimple and Rishi, who attend the same summer camp before starting university, but what Dimple doesn’t know is that her parents along, with Rishi’s parents, have decided to try to arrange their marriage.  While Rishi is more than willing to live up to his parents expectations, Dimple is less than thrilled about her family’s desire to find her the IIH (Ideal Indian Husband).

The story alternated between Rishi and Dimple’s point of view, using third person narrative, and I was pleasantly surprised at how each character had a unique voice, particularly since Dimple and Rishi are both so different.  Menon did an excellent job of making the reader feel the conflict between their differing ideas on tradition, customs, and expectations.

I also really liked Dimple and Rishi’s relationship.  I definitely felt the fact that they were only eighteen because a lot happens in their relationship over the course of six weeks, but I didn’t really care because they were just ridiculously adorable.  And there definitely wasn’t a lot of insta-love (see back cover of the book for clues about how their first meeting went), which is a one of my least favorite YA tropes.

Overall, if you are looking for a funny (I may or may not have laughed out loud several times), summery, cute book that will make you smile the whole time while reading it, definitely pick up When Dimple Met Rishi.

 

P.S. Sandhya Menon has another book set to come out next year!  (Praise.)

 

 

 

 

Book Review || Tiger Lily

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Title: Tiger Lily

Author: Jodi Lynn Anderson

Publication Date: July 2012

Version: Physical book

Genre: YA, Retelling, Fantasy

Rating: 4/5 stars

 

“Let me tell you something straight off. This is a love story, but not like any you’ve ever heard. The boy and the girl are far from innocent. Dear lives are lost. And good doesn’t win.”

(And this lovely and forlorn quote is right in chapter one.)

My Goodreads review is exactly this:

If you want a book that will punch you in the feels and ruin the story of Peter Pan for you in the best way possible, this is your book.

Well, that’s it, thank you for stopping by, but everyone can go home now.

 Oh, yes, a synopsis.  Okay, Tiger Lily is basically a retelling of Peter Pan, but focuses on Peter and Tiger Lily’s story and is told from Tinkerbell’s perspective.  And it works.  In this version, Neverland isn’t all magical and fun and never growing old.  It’s dark, full of murderous creatures and humans, and paints a picture of what it is like to be young and lonely.

“Still, the longer I was around her, the more I could see the colors of her mind and the recesses of her heart. There was a beast in there. But there was also a girl who was afraid of being a beast, and who wondered if other people had beasts in their hearts too.” 

Tiger Lily is an outcast in her village and is betrothed to a terrible man.  She is resigned to her fate until she meets Peter Pan and his feared troupe of Lost Boys and realizes she finally has a place where she fits.  Until one day, a ship comes.  And on that ship is Wendy Darling.

This story is unique because it’s told from Tinkerbell’s point of view, which means you not only have insight into her motivations and thoughts, but you get intimate glimpses of the other characters as well, even Captain Hook and Smee.  And her characters are flawed and very well written, particularly since they are around 14-16 years old, but experience heartbreak and loss in a way that feels universal.  And have I mentioned how gorgeous the writing is?

“It was like this sometimes, and I felt I should look away, but I couldn’t. I wanted to be there, having my face touched, defeating a heart like Peter’s, but the next best thing was seeing it for Tiger Lily.”

Fair warning: this book is sad and lovely and will absolutely destroy any notions you may have from a certain Disney movie from your childhood.  Proceed with caution.

Book Review || Talking As Fast As I Can: From Gilmore Girls To Gilmore Girls, And Everything In Between

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Book: Talking As Fast As I Can: From Gilmore Girls To Gilmore Girls, And Everything In Between

Author: Lauren Graham

Publication Date: November 2016

Version: Audiobook

Genre: Nonfiction, Humor, Memoir

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Full Disclaimer:  I absolutely love Lauren Graham and Gilmore Girls and gave this audiobook 5 full to the brim, highly caffeinated Luke’s Coffees because once a Gilmore, always a Gilmore.  AKA, this review is basically me gushing about Lauren Graham.  If you are looking for an objective, unbiased review about this book, this 100% is not that.

Whew, now that’s out of the way, down to business.

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If you also grew up desperately wanting to be a Gilmore, live in Stars Hollow, and attend town meetings in Miss Patty’s dance studio, boy do I have good news for you:  Lauren Graham’s book packs in some seriously lovely nostalgia and talks about Lauren’s life, from when she was the star in her high school musical (her best work, per Graham) to the Gilmore Girls Netflix reboot.  And features her singing several times.  She is seriously a gift to us all.

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And if you’re wondering whether her wit, warmth, intelligence, and passion for what she does (as a writer, producer, and actress among many other things) comes through in her writing, the answer is yes.  Listening to the audiobook felt like listening to a friend and Lauren Graham is just so relatable.

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The chapters where she talked about her personal journey, including what she is and is not comfortable doing for a role, weight, body image, and perception in Hollywood were surprisingly touching and of course, when she talked about Gilmore Girls and returning to play her favorite character, Lorelai, I definitely shed some tears (ahem, cried alone in my driveway).

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Basically, if the Gilmore Girls reboot wasn’t enough to satisfy your Gilmore Girl needs (of course it wasn’t), you already think Lauren Graham is a fabulous human, and you enjoy funny memoirs, especially the audiobook versions, this one is definitely for you.

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