“Eragon: The Inheritance Cycle, Book 1” by Christopher Paolini

Image result for eragon bookThis series has been on my list for a little while now. I started reading this book several years ago when the “Eragon” movie came out, but I don’t think I ever finished it. I remember thinking when I watched the movie that there were several things that seemed like they would be explained more/better in the books, but I just couldn’t make it through. I also have the second book in the series, “Eldest,” but I don’t think I’ve ever cracked it open before now.

Going into reading the book this time, I vaguely remembered that the main character is named Eragon and that there is a dragon involved, but that was basically the extent of it.

The story does follow Eragon as he discovers a dragon egg, the egg hatches, and he winds up as a Rider with a dragon named Saphira. Their minds are linked so that they can mentally speak to and draw strength from each other, which is one of the coolest parts of the plot, in my opinion. However, it’s a little weakened when we discover that somewhat random characters can also speak to Saphira, so the bond isn’t as unique as I would have hoped. I guess it’s useful in some ways for others to communicate with Saphira at times, but I think it could have been done better.

The land where the story takes place is called Alagaesia, and lots of people, places, and things have similarly unique names. I like that these names lend a special feeling to the book, like that there is nothing else anywhere like them, but there was a time when we were introduced to many new names so quickly that I started getting different things confused. Even at the end I don’t think that I could match up all the places and things with the names used.

Overall, with a story like this with a land where dwarves and elves live and magic is used regularly, I feel like there was a lot of untapped potential. Even when things got interesting and there were battles and sieges, there wasn’t actually very much fighting. Maybe because it is aimed at kids there is less fighting and dying, but it makes the whole situation less realistic. I mean, even less realistic than a magical land where a teenage boy raises a dragon and learns to use magic.

Plus, Eragon is just not a very likeable character. For his youth, he seems pretty wise, but his emotional growth was stunted at some point. He feels despair over the death of a man he knew only a few weeks, and for lives lost in battle, but he seems barely phased by the death of the man who raised him for almost 16 years. He is in anguish when the wound is fresh, and then it is barely mentioned again. Same thing with his cousin, who he claimed was closer than a brother. They had such a strong bond, yet once Eragon leaves home, he barely thinks of his cousin at all. He actually seems much more affected by the town storyteller, who trained him for a few months, than the loss of his actual family members.

One final pet peeve: Saphira is described to be a gentle dragon who is very protective of Eragon. She shows affection to him and most of his mental dialogue is aimed at her. Yet in the audiobook of this story, she literally sounds like the Cookie Monster. I can’t stand it.

Anyway, I have already started “Eldest,” so I will let you know how that goes once I’m finished.

Until then,
Maegan

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“Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina” by Misty Copeland

Image result for life in motion book coverI know of Misty Copeland because she made history by becoming the first black principal dancer for American Ballet Theatre, and she has also been a guest judge on various dance competition shows that I obsess over.

I love dance and I used to take ballet when I was younger, so I was interested to get some of Misty’s perspective. Turns out, she didn’t have it easy growing up.

Misty writes about how when she was younger, her mother would pack up and move with her children, oftentimes leaving boyfriends or husbands in her wake. There were six children together, who were very close and protective of each other. Eventually, money issues led to Misty, her sibling, their mother, and her mother’s boyfriend living in a motel.

All the while, Misty took her first ballet class at the age of 13 at the Boys and Girls Club. She grew to love it and was invited to take classes at the ballet teacher’s school. Not long after Misty started dancing, her mother wanted her to give up dance because she *wasn’t spending enough time with her friends,* even though dance was Misty’s life. She ended up moving in with her ballet teacher and lived with her for two years. The one thing I couldn’t help but think is that I bet her mom feels pretty bad now that she almost destroyed Misty’s career.

The book also details what Misty faced in the dance world with her race and body type. Through it all, it seems like she had many things fall into place to get her where she needed to be. She was a ballet prodigy who turned down the opportunity to study with professional ballet companies, she joined American Ballet Theatre when she was 15 or 16 but had to sit out her first year due to an injury, and yet, she still had directors in the company who wanted her to succeed and gave her opportunities to get to where she wanted to be. It’s pretty amazing to think about.

Misty also got to do some pretty cool things, like become friends with Prince and perform at some of his concerts on tour and find mentors who were stars in their day.

This book wasn’t written like most memoirs I’ve read. Instead of short chapters in essay form or conversations, the chapters were longer and written like a journal almost. The story jumped back and forth between big events in her life, but it seemed like everything come together eventually. This was also the first audiobook memoir that I listened to that wasn’t read by the author. Then again, I’m sure Misty Copeland is quite busy.

She is so inspiring and I love watching her dance, so I’m glad I took the time to pick up this book.

Until later,
Maegan

“Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls (and Everything in Between)” by Lauren Graham

Related imageI’ve been a fan of Gilmore Girls since grade-school, when I used to come home and watch it every day at 4 when it aired on what was then ABC Family. When I found out that Netflix was doing a revival series, I was EXCITED, but I had to make sure to rewatch the entire series first to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything. I had definitely forgotten things. But I finally got around to watching the original series in its entirety and then I watched “A Year in the Life.”

Not long after “A Year in the Life” was released, I stumbled upon this book through my library. But I knew I couldn’t read it just yet because I hadn’t finished the entire series. So I added it to my to-be-read list and carried on. Not long ago, I rediscovered it and decided to take it for a spin since I knew what happened in the show and there would no longer be any spoilers.

It’s weird for me to think that Lauren Graham is actually named Lauren. When I think of this actress in real life, I either think of Lorelei or I think “LaurenGraham” as all one word. So it took me aback a little to hear LaurenGraham referring to herself as Lauren in this book.

But anyway, in the book, Lauren (it’s still weird) details her road to fame, which included some theater stops and seems to have been propelled by “Gilmore Girls.” Which is fine by all of us. I love seeing Lauren Graham in movies and on TV shows. One of the next shows I want to watch is “Parenthood,” where she plays Mom/Sister in the big ole Braverman family.

I think the best part about this book was hearing all the insider secrets from “Gilmore Girls,” which is probably the biggest reason I picked it up. I also found that Graham had already published a book prior to this memoir, called “Someday, Someday, Maybe.” It has already been added to my list. And apparently she is publishing a new book sometime next year. Lots to look forward to.

Next up is Misty Copeland’s memoir, “Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina,” and working on “The Casual Vacancy” by J.K. Rowling. I also checked out “The Royal We” by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan, because LaurenGraham mentioned in her book that she was working on adapting it into a screenplay and I am quite susceptible to books mentioned in other books.

That’s all for now,
Maegan

“Why Not Me?” by Mindy Kaling

Image result for why not meThis book is pretty similar to Mindy’s other book, “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns).” The main difference is that her last book was written while she was still an actress and writer for “The Office,” whereas now the show has ended and she is the showrunner for her own show, “The Mindy Project.”

I’ve actually never seen “The Mindy Project,” just know that one of my friends used to watch it in college and that it has since moved to Hulu.

Anyway, the book is more of the same with stories about working in TV and being a comedy writer, but there’s a little more about dating and a little less about her early years.

Overall, Mindy Kaling has gotten to do some really cool things, including meeting President Obama a few times, but her life seems extremely busy and I don’t understand how she functions on so little sleep.

I noticed that the book has some humor, but it’s not as laugh-out-loud funny as a few others that I’ve read. Still has good moments.

This book was a pretty quick read, and it made me add B.J. Novak’s books to my to-be-read list, but there are still quite a few in front of that. I’ve already started “The Casual Vacancy” by J.K. Rowling and “God” by Reza Aslan, and I have a few more lined up after that, so my mindset is I’ll get to it when I get to it.

More on that later,
Maegan

“Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)” by Mindy Kaling

Image result for is everyone hanging out without me book coverI really didn’t know much about Mindy Kaling until I started watching “The Office,” and even now I’m only a couple seasons in. I didn’t know this, but in addition to playing the role of Kelly Kapoor, Mindy Kaling also wrote several episodes. Also, according to the internet, her birth name is “Vera Mindy Chokalingam.” I wonder where Kaling came from. That was not explained.

What was explained covered a whole range of topics, from early life to college to New York to Los Angeles to “The Office” to body image to Mindy’s funeral. It was a little all over the place but I also feel like it gave you a good sense of how she is in real life.

This book is pretty short, so it only took a couple days to make it through. One thing I’ve started to notice as I read all these memoirs is that all the famous funny people seem to know each other. Mindy is good friends with B.J. Novak and Ellie Kemper, and she once worked with Kristen Wiig and Amy Poehler. She was also an intern on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.”

It’s funny, some of the things that Mindy mentions now that this book has been out for a few years. For instance, in a segment about franchises she would like to reboot, she specifically states that she would like to make another Ghostbusters movie with women as the crew. Which has now happened. I wonder how Mindy feels about this. Maybe she’ll write another book about that.

One thing I noticed in switching back and forth between the ebook and the audiobook is that the audiobook has places sprinkled in where just a word or two is different than the print book. I don’t know if they’re different versions or if it’s just what Mindy wanted to say when she was reading but I saw a couple direct quotes that were totally different between the two and it was not addressed at all.

Anyway, I have my next five books lined up now and you are not allowed to judge me.

On to that,
Maegan

“My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories” edited by Stephanie Perkins

Image result for stephanie perkins my true love gave to me book coverThis book is really just an anthology of short stories by pretty well known young adult authors, all Christmas/holiday-themed, of course.

The authors that I recognized were Gayle Forman, Rainbow Rowell, David Levithan, and Jenny Han. Other stories were written by Stephanie Perkins, Holly Black, Matt de la Pena, Kelly Link, Myra McEntire, Laini Taylor, and Kiersten White.

I really liked the variety of this book. Even though all the stories happened roughly around the same time, there were many different backdrops and cultures represented. Some of them had some common themes of unhappy-teenager-turned-happy, or “Omg I want to leave this place so bad,” but they all faced some kind of adversary that changed their perspective.

Most of them were realistic fiction, but a few were pretty mythical. For those, I almost felt like you needed more time than just a short story to explain the magic behind the plot. Like actual magic needs to be explained. Where does your power come from? Why are you the only one using it? Why are these characters not freaked out that you are performing magic?

Anyway, I stumbled upon this book on my library’s website and thought, “‘Tis the season.” It was a nice change listening to short stories instead of novels.

I haven’t decided yet what is next on the list, but I’ll figure it out. I’ve been reading “My Name is Memory” by Ann Brashares for a while, and I’m finally almost done with that one, so I’ll be posting about it soon I’m sure. Then I may tackle my to-be-read list, or I may reread something for the 14th time.

We shall see,
Maegan

“Bossypants” by Tina Fey

Image result for bossypants by tina feyThis book is hilarious. It’s been out for a little more than six years now and I have wanted to read it for a while, especially after I read Amy Poehler’s memoir a little while back, and I finally got around to it. If you ever wondered, yes, Tina Fey really is that funny.

There were several moments where I actually laughed out loud during this book. It was even better because I mostly listened to the audiobook, which was read by the author, so I heard the book exactly as it was intended, with all the little voices in Tina Fey’s mind.

Saturday Night Live was mentioned, along with 30 Rock, but it also had a lot about Fey’s childhood and her family. It was also pretty cool to get a little glimpse into what it looks like behind the scenes at a show like Saturday Night Live, but you also get that some when watching 30 Rock.

In the ebook and print versions (and supposedly in a PDF on the audiobook version) there are also lots of pictures of Fey as a kid and from different stories that she tells, which are amazing. It’s always so weird to see pictures of celebrities before they were celebrities. Like “No way, they were a real person once too!”

Overall, this book was fantastic, even if I didn’t understand all the references or know every SNL character.

Ta-ta for now,
Maegan

“Library of Souls: The Third Novel of Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children” by Ransom Riggs

Library-of-Souls.jpgThis story keeps right on trucking, into villainous territories and treacherous time loops. Just like “Hollow City,” this book picks up as if the last one never ended, and the whole things only spans a couple of days.

That’s one thing I like about these books. I don’t feel like anything has been left out. Usually when you read a book, the characters say two sentences to each other and then magically discover that hours have passed, but Ransom Riggs is excellent at explaining where the time has gone.

There are more unusual photos throughout the book. It’s kind of fascinating to think that the author built his story and his characters around these collectors’ treasures. Even though I thought they were creepy at first (and some of them still are pretty creepy), I feel now that the pictures are mostly just interesting and they make you take a second look.

Anyway, our heroes find themselves in Devil’s Acre, which is basically the time loop that outcast peculiars go to. The wights have taken over and are conducting horrible experiments on peculiars. The ymbrynes have all been captured and it’s up to two kids and a talking dog to save them. Seriously.

Of course, there’s backup from new characters who may or may not be trusted. Jacob discovers some powers he didn’t know he had, teenage romance ensues, etc., etc.

The group is split up at the beginning of the book, so for almost half the story we don’t know what’s going on with a majority of the secondary characters. I’m still upset over why Jacob was able to make his way to the present without Miss Peregrine, because that was never explained, unless you could Emma’s hypothesizing, which I don’t.

Eventually, the gates are stormed, a battle is waged, but I can’t give everything away. Jacob is reunited with his parents, who consider him certifiably insane and try to ship him off to a *treatment facility.* That part of the book actually made me angry. I know he’s spouting crazy stories, but the fact that his parents and therapist wouldn’t listen to him or let him get a word in edge-wise AND they stole his mail, it made my blood boil and I wanted to jump into this book just to smack them all.

Other than that, the story ended pretty nicely with a happy conclusion. Only thing I’m wondering about is why Ricky was even a part of the story at all. He was Jacob’s “only friend,” yet they had one spat and he was never seen nor heard from again. I guess he was replaced by the peculiars.

Too bad for him,
Maegan

“Hollow City: The Second Novel of Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children” by Ransom Riggs

hollowcity_final_300dpi.jpgBack so soon. The second book in the series, “Hollow City” picks up right where “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” left off, and the whole book takes place within just a few days. Even so, the peculiars meet many new faces and see many new places (and times).

When the last book ended, the ymbrynes were being captured by the evil wights, but the children managed to save Miss Peregrine. Then they set off on a scavenger hunt-type mission to find another ymbryne who they believed had escaped the wights, Miss Wren. Through it all, the peculiars (literally a band of children with special abilities) manage to evade capture all while blatantly demonstrating and discussing their abilities to anyone who happens to be near. I guess that’s the magic of fiction.

Like I said, the entire story spans only about five days, and the first book happened only over about two and a half weeks. And yet, main character/narrator Jacob is already professing his love to *other character* and literally choosing to leave the present, his family, and all he’s ever known to be with her. After three weeks. Dude. Stop letting your hormones do the talking.

Anyway, one thing I’ve noticed is that the peculiars tend to look to Emma to make all the decisions. Seems like it would get exhausting, but she handles it like she’s been doing this her whole life. It just makes me feel like Ransom Riggs is putting too much emphasis on this one girl, while the rest of the peculiars just wander around in the background.

Just when I was starting to wonder about how all these kids were traveling from time to time without messing up the future, Ransom Riggs tied up that loose end nice and tight. Usually, books about time travel harp on the fact that you can’t mess with the past because it will screw up the future, but in this universe, if you mess with the past then it will just heal itself some other way. I would have liked to see this in action, but it was just mentioned in passing, seemingly to keep questions about it from cropping up later.

By the end of the book, the peculiars have gotten out of one mess just to dive right back into three more and we’re left with a ton of questions, but they weren’t meant to be answered yet. It’s pretty clear that this series is written as one giant continuous story, across all three books, which I love.

I’ve already started the third book, “Library of Souls,” and I’m excited to see how the story ends.

I’ll tell you what I find out,
Maegan

“The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls

9781416550600_p0_v11_s1200x630.jpgI honestly did not expect to finish this book before next week, but it was better than I expected it to be and I wrapped it up a little early.

Of course, I wanted to read it because I saw the trailer for the movie of the same name and apparently a lot of other people felt the same way, because I had a hold on this book at the library for almost two months before it actually came my way. Before I started the book, really all I knew was that it was a memoir.

The book chronicles Jeannette Walls’s childhood, which consisted mostly of living in rundown houses and moving place to place in the desert with little or no notice to evade creditors and the law. About half the book covers her first 10 or so years, and it amazes me how much she recalls from that time. I’m assuming she got some help from other family members who were there, because I sure know I can’t remember that much about my life when I was that young. She grows up with her parents, older sister, and younger brother and sister.

Next up, the family moves to Welch, West Virginia, where Jeannette’s father grew up. Throughout it all, the family is poor and neither parent seems to be able to hold down a job. The house they live in has no running water or indoor plumbing, spontaneous electricity (depending on whether the power bill was paid or not), and holes in the roof that let in water whenever it rains.

Eventually, Jeannette’s sister Lori, who is an artist, decides that she wants out of West Virginia, and the kids hatch a plan to send her to New York. Of course, their parents try to sabotage them, but she makes it anyway, with Jeannette soon to follow.

Maybe my point of view is skewed because I grew up with a supportive parent and never wanted for anything, but I almost hate Jeannette’s parents. It seemed like more often than not, the kids went hungry (Jeannette mentions literally digging around in the school trash trying to find food for lunch) while Rex, her father, drank all their money away, when they even had money. Rose Mary, Jeannette’s mother, had a teaching certificate, but hated teaching and would throw temper tantrums when her children tried to make her go to work so they could put food on the table. Instead, she claimed she was an artist, but an artist who was also unemployed and never seemed to sell any of her work. The parents were unaffected by the multiple sexual assaults that Jeannette faced, and seemed unconcerned that they were dirty and unclean and happened to get into lots of fights with other kids.

I just can’t believe a parent would be so selfish and do such a poor job of taking care of their children. It seemed like the kids had a stronger head on their shoulders than either of the parents. They were the ones focused on budgeting money and bettering their own situations, while Rex was gone for days at a time and Rose Mary announced that she was going to “focus more on herself,” even though she barely made any contributions to begin with. It’s just outstanding to me that people like this exist, but it makes Jeannette all the more impressive for not falling into that trap and doing well for herself, despite the situation she was raised in.

Jeannette’s young adult years are barely chronicled, but by the end of the book, the family has gotten back together to celebrate Thanksgiving. They are not necessarily a close family, and each has gone their own way, but none seem to hold much resentment for their past.

The book is just astounding at some points and almost seems like a work of fiction, but I don’t even know if an author could come up with some of the experiences that the Walls kids went through. Definitely a good book, though.

Off to read more books,
Maegan