Book Review: My Squirrel Days by Ellie Kemper

My Squirrel Days by Ellie Kemper
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: AmazonTBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 9, 2018
Source: Borrowed

Meet Ellie, the best-intentioned redhead next door. You’ll laugh right alongside her as she shares tales of her childhood in St. Louis, whether directing and also starring in her family holiday pageant, washing her dad’s car with a Brillo pad, failing to become friends with a plump squirrel in her backyard, eating her feelings while watching PG-13 movies, or becoming a “sports monster” who ends up warming the bench of her Division 1 field hockey team in college.

You’ll learn how she found her comedic calling in the world of improv, became a wife, mother and New Yorker, and landed the role of a bridesmaid (while simultaneously being a bridesmaid) in Bridesmaids. You’ll get to know and love the comic, upbeat, perpetually polite actress playing Erin Hannon on The Office, and the exuberant, pink-pants-wearing star of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

If you’ve ever been curious about what happens behind the scenes of your favorite shows, what it really takes to be a soul cycle “warrior,” how to recover if you accidentally fall on Doris Kearns Goodwin or tell Tina Fey on meeting her for the first time that she has “great hair—really strong and thick,” this is your chance to find out. But it’s also a laugh-out-loud primer on how to keep a positive outlook in a world gone mad and how not to give up on your dreams. Ellie “dives fully into each role—as actor, comedian, writer, and also wife and new mom—with an electric dedication, by which one learns to reframe the picture, and if not exactly become a glass-half-full sort of person, at least become able to appreciate them” (Vogue.com).

I’m a big fan of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (I actually dressed up as Kimmy for Halloween), so I was curious about Ellie Kemper’s memoir as soon as I saw it in my library. And, after reading it, I really like her. She comes across as a really down-to-earth, genuinely nice person who hasn’t been corrupted by having a super popular show on Netflix.

But being a really down-to-earth, genuinely nice person doesn’t necessarily make for an interesting memoir. Now, don’t get me wrong, Ellie is funny. The way that she tells the stories of what’s happened to her over the years is hilarious. She can take a normal day and make it funny, and that’s great.

But does it need a whole book? I’m not so sure.

On the one hand, I was happy to read a memoir that didn’t involve anything dark. Like, literally anything at all. Ellie projects a very upbeat, sunny personality in everything that she does, and her book is no different. The parts of her life that she’s chosen to share in this book are just as cute and quirky as you might expect. But, on the other hand, reading one cute, quirky story after another gets a little tedious. Can anyone’s life really be that perfect?

Overall, My Squirrel Days is well-written, it’s a refreshingly positive memoir, and it’s very, very reminiscent of Kimmy Schmidt. I enjoyed it quite a bit, but everything was so happy and so quirky and so perfect that I don’t think it’ll leave a lasting impression on me.

I’d recommend this if you’re a big Ellie Kemper fan, but if you’re not? You can probably skip this one.


Have you read My Squirrel Days? Do you like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt?
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Book Review: Proof of Collusion by Seth Abramson

Proof of Collusion by Seth Abramson
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: November 13, 2018
Source: Borrowed

For the first time, the full, explosive record of the unthinkable: how a US president compromised American foreign policy in exchange for financial gain and covert election assistance.

Looking back at this moment, historians will ask if Americans knew they were living through the first case of criminal conspiracy between an American presidential candidate turned commander in chief and a geopolitical enemy. The answer might be: it was hard to see the whole picture. The stories coming in from across the globe have often seemed fantastical: clandestine meetings in foreign capitals, secret recordings in a Moscow hotel, Kremlin agents infiltrating the Trump inner circle…

Seth Abramson has tracked every one of these far-flung reports, and now in, Proof of Collusion, he finally gives us a record of the unthinkable—a president compromising American foreign policy in exchange for financial gain and covert election assistance. The attorney, professor, and former criminal investigator has used his exacting legal mind and forensic acumen to compile, organize, and analyze every piece of the Trump-Russia story. His conclusion is clear: the case for collusion is staring us in the face. Drawing from American and European news outlets, he takes readers through the Trump-Russia scandal chronologically, putting the developments in context and showing how they connect. His extraordinary march through all the public evidence includes:

-How Trump worked for thirty years to expand his real estate empire into Russia even as he was rescued from bankruptcy by Putin’s oligarchs, Kremlin agents, and the Russian mafia.

-How Russian intelligence gathered compromising material on him over multiple trips.

-How Trump recruited Russian allies and business partners while running for president.

-How he surrounded himself with advisers who engaged in clandestine negotiations with Russia.

-How Trump aides and family members held secret meetings with foreign agents and lied about them.

By pulling every last thread of this complicated story together, Abramson argues that—even in the absence of a report from Special Counsel Mueller or a thorough Congressional investigation—the public record already confirms a quid pro quo between Trump and the Kremlin. The most extraordinary part of the case for collusion is that so much of it unfolded in plain sight.

Proof of Collusion is one of those books that I put on my Overdrive wishlist right after it came out and then just… didn’t read. Fast forward almost an entire year and I’m working at a job where I can just listen to audiobooks all day, so I decided to check it out.

This is, without a doubt, the best book I’ve read about Trump. Forget Fear, forget Fire and Fury, Proof of Collusion is far above them. This is finally the well-written, well-researched, cohesive book I’ve been wanting to read about Trump’s campaign and presidency.

I’m not going to comment on the politics of this book. What I will say is that there is a lot of information here from a lot of sources. Sometimes Abramson would address a certain topic and I’d think, “Oh, wow, it’s hard to argue against him on that one.” Other times, I’d think, “Well… that’s a bit of a stretch.” A small nitpick is that the book can get pretty repetitive, but I’ve found that’s the case with a lot of nonfiction that I’ve read recently.

Overall, though, this is a very good book on the topic of Trump’s election and presidency and if that’s something that interests you, I’d highly recommend it.


Have you read Proof of Collusion? Is it on your TBR?
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Book Review: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: April 17, 2012
Source: Borrowed

For fans of Tina Fey and David Sedaris—Internet star Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess, makes her literary debut.

Jenny Lawson realized that the most mortifying moments of our lives—the ones we’d like to pretend never happened—are in fact the ones that define us. In the #1 New York Times bestseller, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Lawson takes readers on a hilarious journey recalling her bizarre upbringing in rural Texas, her devastatingly awkward high school years, and her relationship with her long-suffering husband, Victor. Chapters include: “Stanley the Magical, Talking Squirrel”; “A Series of Angry Post-It Notes to My Husband”; “My Vagina Is Fine. Thanks for Asking”; “And Then I Snuck a Dead Cuban Alligator on an Airplane.” Pictures with captions (no one would believe these things without proof) accompany the text.

It might be odd that I’ve now read not just one, but two, books by a blogger whose website I’ve never even visited. And yet here I am reviewing a second book by Jenny Lawson. In addition to never having read her blog, I also read her memoirs in the wrong order. But that’s not really a problem. Jenny’s life — or at least the way she tells it — is funny, and that’s all that matters.

The thing about Jenny Lawson’s memoirs is that they’re funny. Like, laugh out loud at your desk even when you’re trying to be discreet about the fact that you’re listening to a hilarious audiobook while you work. There are many stories in this book that I enjoyed, but the one that’s stuck in my memory the most is Jenny recounting her days working in HR. I’d like to say that the kinds of conversations she had to have surprised me… but they didn’t.

I enjoyed this book very much. I don’t know if Jenny Lawson is planning to publish any more books, but if she is, I’ll be over here waiting to read them.


Have you read Let’s Pretend This Never Happened? Do you follow Jenny’s blog?
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Book Review: Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered by Karen Kilgariff & Georgia Hardstark

Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered by Karen Kilgariff & Georgia Hardstark
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: May 29, 2019
Source: Borrowed

The highly anticipated first book by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark, the voices behind the #1 hit podcast My Favorite Murder!

Sharing never-before-heard stories ranging from their struggles with depression, eating disorders, and addiction, Karen and Georgia irreverently recount their biggest mistakes and deepest fears, reflecting on the formative life events that shaped them into two of the most followed voices in the nation.

In Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered, Karen and Georgia focus on the importance of self-advocating and valuing personal safety over being ‘nice’ or ‘helpful.’ They delve into their own pasts, true crime stories, and beyond to discuss meaningful cultural and societal issues with fierce empathy and unapologetic frankness.

Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered might be an odd book choice for someone who had previously never listened to My Favorite Murder and had no idea who Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark were, but something about it called to me and I decided it would be a nice audiobook to listen to at work. And you know what? It was. I had a great time listening to this one and it was so much more than I expected.

Even as someone who had no background whatsoever on the authors, I really connected with this book. I thought that the authors’ stories were really interesting, but, above all, their advice to “fuck politeness” really resonated with me. The whole idea of fucking politeness is to set aside societal norms and the idea that women have to be nice and friendly in favor of keeping yourself safe. I mean, when I think about it, the number of times I’ve been in a less-than-ideal situation just because I didn’t want to offend someone is scary.

Aside from that, I appreciated all of the authors’ stories. The one about Karen’s mom’s Alzheimer’s was heartbreaking, and I loved how both Karen and Georgia encouraged doing whatever you have to do for your mental health. I’ve never really been into true crime, but the next time I go on a long road trip, I might have to listen to My Favorite Murder.


Have you read Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered? Have you listened to the My Favorite Murder Podcast?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book Review: The Song Machine by John Seabrook

The Song Machine by John Seabrook
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 5, 2015
Source: Borrowed

There’s a reason today’s ubiquitous pop hits are so hard to ignore—they’re designed that way. The Song Machine goes behind the scenes to offer an insider’s look at the global hit factories manufacturing the songs that have everyone hooked. Full of vivid, unexpected characters—alongside industry heavy-hitters like Katy Perry, Rihanna, Max Martin, and Ester Dean—this fascinating journey into the strange world of pop music reveals how a new approach to crafting smash hits is transforming marketing, technology, and even listeners’ brains. You’ll never think about music the same way again.

The Song Machine is one of those books that I’d seen at my library countless times but never got around to reading. But ever since I started listening to audiobooks while I work, I’ve had an extra, you know, 40ish hours each week for reading, so I added this one to the lineup. While I was listening to it, I thought it was moderately interesting. I didn’t hate it or anything. But after finishing it and thinking about it, I have some things to say.

The thing is, if you’re looking for information about the actual process of creating a hit song, this isn’t your book. This book is about producers and songwriters and that’s about it. The actual artists are glossed over, except when Seabrook has found an anecdote of someone being difficult that he’d like to share.

And, quite honestly, those “difficult” artists are actually pretty relatable for me. At least, I related to them a lot more than I related to the old men telling them what to do. I mean, if Kelly Clarkson really hated a song, why couldn’t they just have someone else sing it? After all, Seabrook devoted countless pages to talking about how songs that are meant for one artist frequently end up actually being recorded for another.

And don’t even get me started on Kesha. Seabrook has such disdain for Kesha while placing Dr. Luke on some kind of untouchable pedestal. He’s clearly chosen Dr. Luke’s side, painting Kesha as a terrible person who (although he doesn’t come directly out and say it, he strongly alludes to it) has falsely accused Dr. Luke of sexual assault for no real reason.

The chapter on Katy Perry was just gross. I’m not Katy Perry’s biggest fan (I haven’t really listened to her music since the “Teenage Dream” days) but I can recognize that there’s more to her than her body. It was insulting to read and made me feel so bad for her that she can’t escape men ogling her body even in this non-fiction book about how the music industry works.

The last thing I want to mention is the lack of structure in the book. Seabrook will talk about early pop music, Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, etc, and then he’ll throw in some random anecdote about a modern pop star before jumping back to early pop again. He’ll mention Ester Dean in the middle of talking about someone else even though she gets her own chapter later in the book. It didn’t make a lot of sense and even just listening to it threw me off.

All in all, there is some interesting information here, but I can’t really recommend it.


Have you read The Song Machine? Can you recommend any good books about the music industry?
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ARC Review: The Vagina Bible by Jen Gunter, MD

The Vagina Bible by Jen Gunter, MD
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: August 27, 2019
Source: ARC via Netgalley

OB/GYN, writer for The New York TimesUSA Today, and Self, and host of the show Jensplaining, Dr. Jen Gunter now delivers the definitive book on vaginal health, answering the questions you’ve always had but were afraid to ask–or couldn’t find the right answers to. She has been called Twitter’s resident gynecologist, the Internet’s OB/GYN, and one of the fiercest advocates for women’s health…and she’s here to give you the straight talk on the topics she knows best.

Does eating sugar cause yeast infections? Does pubic hair have a function? Should you have a vulvovaginal care regimen? Will your vagina shrivel up if you go without sex? What’s the truth about the HPV vaccine?

So many important questions, so much convincing, confusing, contradictory misinformation! In this age of click bait, pseudoscience, and celebrity-endorsed products, it’s easy to be overwhelmed–whether it’s websites, advice from well-meaning friends, uneducated partners, and even healthcare providers. So how do you separate facts from fiction? OB-GYN Jen Gunter, an expert on women’s health–and the internet’s most popular go-to doccomes to the rescue with a book that debunks the myths and educates and empowers women. From reproductive health to the impact of antibiotics and probiotics, and the latest trends, including vaginal steaming, vaginal marijuana products, and jade eggs, Gunter takes us on a factual, fun-filled journey. Discover the truth about:

– The vaginal microbiome 
– Genital hygiene, lubricants, and hormone myths and fallacies 
– How diet impacts vaginal health 
– Stem cells and the vagina 
– Cosmetic vaginal surgery
– What changes to expect during pregnancy, after childbirth, and through menopause
– How medicine fails women by dismissing symptoms
Plus: 
– Thongs vs. lace: the best underwear for vaginal health
– How to select a tampon 
– The full glory of the clitoris and the myth of the G Spot

… And so much more. Whether you’re a twenty-six-year-old worried that her labia are “uncool” or a sixty-six-year-old dealing with painful sex, this comprehensive guide is sure to become a lifelong trusted resource

This was kind of an impulse request on Netgalley. As someone who worked in a hospital for seven years, I am always curious about medical texts written for the average, non-medical person. As a woman, I don’t think I can ever be too educated about my own reproductive system. Although I’d never heard of Dr. Gunter before, I liked the synopsis of this book.

Reading it turned out to be a very good decision. This book covers pretty much everything you could ever want to know about vaginas and reproductive health. It’s written in a very easy-to-read, engaging way. Although some of the chapters could be pretty terrifying (I could have lived my whole life without knowing that it’s possible to tear the rectum open during childbirth and without knowing that the cervix can literally fall out through the vagina), they were definitely educational.

Probably the best thing about this book is the constant debunking of myths about vaginal health, feminine cleaning products, and STDs. Dr. Gunter takes a no-nonsense approach to everything from Goop’s jade egg to self-diagnosing various conditions.

The only negative thing I can really say about this book is that it could be very repetitive. Dr. Gunter addresses different pieces of the same conditions pretty frequently, so there can be some overlap. All in all, though, this is a great reference for pretty much anyone and I’m glad I took the time to read it.


Have you read The Vagina Bible? Is it on your TBR?
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Book Review: Comics for Choice by Hazel Newlevant, Whit Taylor, and Ø.K. Fox

Comics for Choice by Hazel Newlevant, Whit Taylor, and Ø.K. Fox
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: August 2017
Source: Borrowed

Comics for Choice is anthology of comics about abortion. As this fundamental reproductive right continues to be stigmatized and jeopardized, over sixty artists and writers have created comics that boldly share their own experiences, and educate readers on the history of abortion, current political struggles, activism, and more. Lawyers, activists, medical professionals, historians, and abortion fund volunteers have teamed up with cartoonists and illustrators to share their knowledge in accessible comics form.

Comics for Choice is edited by Hazel Newlevant, Whit Taylor, and Ø.K. Fox, and contains comics from exciting cartoonists like Sophia Foster-Dimino (Sex Fantasy), Leah Hayes (Not Funny Ha-Ha), Anna Bongiovanni (Grease Bats), Jennifer Camper (Rude Girls and Dangerous Women), Ally Shwed (Sex Bomb Strikes Again) and Kat Fajardo (Gringa!, La Raza Anthology), and reproductive justice scholars like Rickie Solinger, (Reproductive Politics: What Everyone Needs to Know) Renee Bracey Sherman (Program Director, We Testify), and Dr. Cynthia Greenlee (Senior Editor, Rewire).


I didn’t really know what to expect when I checked this anthology out from the library. All I really knew was that it was a ton of abortion stories and that it would probably make me very, very sad. The thing is, while I can’t see myself ever getting an abortion (except in a very extreme case), I don’t think it’s my place to tell anyone else what they can or cannot do with their life and their body. That means that I’m very firmly on the pro-choice side of the debate. I thought it might be a good idea to expand my horizons a little bit and learn more about abortion.

Turns out that this book was possibly not the right place to go for that. First of all, there are a ton of stories here. A ton. Most of them are very, very short, and most of them feel like they were put together very quickly. There are a lot of misspellings and a lot of grammatical issues. A few of the stories looked more like drafts than finished art. It’s not the end of the world, I guess, but this is a book that’s been put out into the world for people to purchase. I expected more from it.

As for the stories, some of them hit me very hard. I can’t imagine being in the situation that a lot of these women were in and I can’t imagine how difficult the choice to get an abortion must be. I also found the stories from the abortion doulas and clinic escorts very interesting. I hadn’t even known that abortion doulas were a thing before I picked this book up! But some of the stories seemed to be there just to prove a point or push an agenda, which is something I don’t really appreciate, even when it’s a point or an agenda that I can get behind.

When this anthology was good, it was good. But when it wasn’t good, it was just disappointing. Overall, I think two stars is probably the best I can do here.

Have you read Comics for Choice? Do you have any recommendations for feminist nonfiction?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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