Book Review: I Don’t Know What You Know Me From (Confessions of a Co-Star) by Judy Greer

Essay collections seem to be becoming popular again, especially amongst high profile women. I Don’t Know What You Know Me From was my third such collection, following Tiny Fey’s Bossypants and Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

I Don’t Know What You Know Me From (Confessions of a Co-Star) is by Judy Greer, an immensely prolific actress, who will be familiar to most people who own a TV set. I picked this up because I do know what I know Greer from, having seen/owned enough films she has appeared in to legitimately start a Judy Greer collection. Greer is known for being a smart comedy actress and for playing a multitude of best friends in various romantic comedies. I like her a lot as an actor (seeing her name on a cast list usually means a plus for me when it comes to choosing films) and I think it would be fair to say that those best friend roles are usually far more interesting than our leading lady. I Don’t Know… is both a sort of memoir and essay collection, taking us from Greer’s childhood through to her move to Hollywood and subsequent acting career.

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Book Review: Never Have I Ever – My Life (So Far) Without A Date by Katie Heaney

Beware, guys – I’m about to gush. I’ve been gushing in person to everyone I know about Never Have I Ever and I’m about to do it to you, so brace yourselves.

Never Have I Ever is a memoir of sorts from Buzzfeed writer Katie Heaney. Heaney completely sold herself to me as a writer through this book. In Never Have I Ever, Heaney writes of her romantic escapades from primary school to her post-graduate degree…except that we know from the start that none of them will amount to anything. Heaney has never had a boyfriend. Ever. Nor has she had any kind of significant, ongoing romantic relationship. Heaney aims to document this rather unusual aspect of her life while examining why it might be.

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Book Review: Landline by Rainbow Rowell

As has already been well documented, I am a fan of Rainbow Rowell’s work. Though I have Attachments, Landline has ended up being the first of Rowell’s adult novels I’ve read.

Landline tells the story of TV writer Georgie and her marriage to Neal. At the start of the book, Georgie and Neal are in a pretty terrible place. Things have apparently been getting steadily worse for some time and reach a crisis point when Georgie opts to stay in LA over Christmas to work on her dream show with her writing partner, Seth, rather than make the trip to Omaha with Neal and their daughters. She is shocked when Neal decides to go anyway without her and in the days between them leaving and Christmas Day, begins to wonder whether she’ll still have a husband come New Year.

Staying at her Mother’s to avoid going home to an empty house, Georgie discovers that her old rotary phone in her teenaged bedroom still works…only instead of calling Neal in the present, she somehow calls him in the past, to the last week they spent apart, just before he proposed. Can Georgie win Neal back and resuscitate their marriage by talking to his younger self?

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Book Review: How to be a Heroine – Samantha Ellis

I’m going to be completely honest and confess that I picked up How to be a Heroine based on the title (I am always looking to be the heroine of my own story, naturally) and the book cover, which as you can see, features the spines of some of my most beloved books.

Samantha Ellis was a new name to me, but was instantly fascinating. From a culturally unusual background (Iraqi Jewish) and brought up in an insular community in London, Ellis attended Cambridge University and was a voracious reader who went on to become a playwright. I knew from the introduction – when she and her best friend make the trip up to Haworth and wander the moors thinking about the Brontës – that I’d found a kindred spirit.

After pronouncing to her best friend that being a Cathy Earnshaw was better than being a Jane Eyre and being met with astonishment, Ellis decides to revisit all her favourite heroines, from early childhood to adulthood, to see if her perception of them was correct and whether they’ve changed for her as she gets older. This results in a book that is part memoir, part feminist literary criticism.

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Book Review: Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu

Life By Committee is the story of Tabitha; high school student with no friends, a growing (and unfortunate) reputation and immature parents. At the very beginning of the book, we learn that she is falling for schoolmate she chats to on the internet… who also happens to have a serious girlfriend. Knowing no one else would approve of their relationship, Tabitha is weighed down by keeping the details to herself. Missing her friends and finding her parents occupied by the imminent arrival of her sibling, Tabitha is delighted when she comes across Life by Committee (LBC). LBC is a website where you share your secrets with a select group of people – all sharing, all anonymous. However, Tabitha soon learns that the group will award an assignment for each secret. These assignments lead Tabitha into more and more trouble with this boy and she begins to isolate the few friends she has left in her attempts to keep up with LBC…

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Book Review: Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen

Guys, this was a good one. I LOVED Sarah Dessen’s The Truth About Forever and so promptly went out and bought practically every other book she’s written and have started making my way through them. I have decided to treat Dessen’s books like Charlie treats Wonka chocolate – something to be savoured and not to be rushed through (this was also how I approached the Jessica Darling series). I saved Along for the Ride for my four hour train ride back from Newcastle, finishing it about half an hour before I got home.

Along for the Ride is about Auden (named after one of my favourite poets, W.H. Auden). It’s the summer before college and she’s preparing to spend it the way she spends all the others: alone, studying and preparing for life as an adult, which she seems already made for. Auden’s parents are not that long divorced and her father has just had a new baby. On a spur of the moment decision, Auden decides to change her summer plans and heads off to stay with her dad by the beach. When she arrives, she finds her dad holed up in his office, working on his 10-years in the making second novel (echoes of I Capture the Castle), a stressed step-mother (Heidi) and grizzly new-born sister, Thisbe. Helping out at Heidi’s store on the beach front, Auden starts to make some new friends her own age, meets the enigmatic Eli, and begins change her mind out how her future is supposed to be.

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Book Review – Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close

Girls in White Dresses is Jennifer Close’s debut novel and it is very impressive first book. There is no specific plot to Girls…; instead we follow the lives of Isabella and her college girlfriends across a ten year period, drifting in and out of several different characters’ perspectives, starting from when they graduate from university and begin making their way in the world as adults.

I really loved Girls in White Dresses. Looking at the cover and reading the blurb I had originally pegged it as ‘chick lit’ which I’m not generally a fan of. However, I had heard great things about it, so decided to give it a go. I finished it in two days and spent the whole time I was reading it going ‘oh my God, that’s me.’ It was the first book I’ve read about women my age that I felt reflected my own experience. Isabella (who we return to most often) and her friends Mary, Lauren, Shannon and Abby have absolutely no idea what they’re doing. Not in work, not in love and definitely not as adults. When you leave education – particularly after university when you are officially ‘a grown-up’ – people just sort of assume you’ll get it together, know what you’re doing and start building your life in a mature, responsible way. Except that, in my experience (aside from a lucky few friends) none of us had a clue about what we wanted to do, how we were going to live or who we were, even.

Girls… perfectly encapsulates that lost aimlessness that comes from figuring all that stuff out. What we all forget is that in our early twenties, we’re still babies really. We have no proper experience of anything and it’s sort of terrifying to make decisions for the rest of your life at such a young age.

Close’s writing style is reflective and intimate, moving seamlessly from one character to another sometimes within the same chapter. You feel as if you know these girls and are checking in on them, as we do with people we’ve lost touch with when we bump into them at weddings and parties. I also liked how well she covered the emotional turbulence that comes from going through massive changes in life. I don’t think this is covered enough in books; I cry at everything and I’m not the only one of my friends to do so, so I appreciated Close’s use of emotional response in the novel. I liked the way the narrative focused in on each character’s inner life – we saw their boyfriends and partners reflected through their eyes, instead of the other way round, which usually happens. I did feel like the characters talked about their other halves in a detached sort of way, which I found a bit odd, but then again, they weren’t the focus of the story. There is a sharp wit sewn in throughout (I was reminded of Sloane Crosley on more than one occasion) and I loved all the caustic one liners from Lauren, who was easily my favourite character.

This was a smart, funny and totally relatable book. It was well written, easy to read and seemed completely on point to me. I’m going to be passing it out to all my friends and I’m looking forward to reading more of Close’s work!