Meg Says, Read This: Big Little LIes

It’s been a long timelies since I’ve found a book that was so absolutely addicting, I’ve spent an entire day lost in the pages. My friend Jackie had shared some of her to-read list and “Liane Moriary”‘s Big Little Lies was on the list. When I found out that HBO was going to have a show for the book, I knew I needed to get my hands on a copy before it airs. Just my luck the library had it, and although I didn’t give it top preference in my haul that day, when I unexpectedly had off Tuesday this week and it was dark and yucky out all day, I decided it was the perfect time to give it a try. Oh my goodness. I just could not put it down! Though Big Little Lies is about 460 pages, by the end of the day I only had about 50 pages to go. I decided I should probably sleep so I wouldn’t hate myself at work the next day, but I devoured the last few pages on the following day, and now I’m recommending this title to anyone who will listen. (Especially my girlfriends in book clubs).

The style of Big Little Lies reminds me of one of my favorite novels Where’d You Go Bernadette? There’s a sharp wit in the structure that seems near impossible to not be amused by. The story revolves around a group of kindergartner mothers living in Australia, their financial backgrounds, age, marital status, and looks are all varied and they each describe their experiences through these lenses. There’s a murder among this group, and there are hints throughout the story, but the victim isn’t known until close to the end. The snippets of dialogue from the investigation sprinkled throughout the chapters add to the comic relief of the novel, and are a nice transition between heavily emotional scenes.

The scenes are so intricately crafted that it’s really easy to envision while reading. From screaming matches in the parent pick up line, to boozy brunches at the local cafe, to intense heart to hearts between girlfriends. This story covers such a broad range of topics, from the unexpected adventures of parenting, learning to navigate relationships when divorcees each get remarried and try to maintain some sort of balance, domestic violence, bonds of friendship, and all the secrets that everyone is unknowingly carrying around from day to day.

This novel felt like the equivalent of a Netflix binge; you know when they prompt you “are you still watching?” OF COURSE I’M STILL WATCHING! Basically that’s the highest endorsement I can give this book in encouragement for you to check it out if you haven’t yet!

(Book image from Google Books page).

Meg Says, Listen to This: Serial (Season One)

serialI am beyond late to the game, but one thing I tried to involve in my days more this year are Podcasts. It’s so easy to get caught up in Netflix binges, or listening to my favorite albums on repeat, but Podcasts bring in a whole different category of intellectual stimulation. So, on a whim (after plenty of recommendations from all my favorite people) I finally decided to give one of the most popular podcasts, Serial (Season One) a listen.

Oh my, I was hooked from the first episode. (And the fact that I can listen while I’m working out, or on my car rides to and from work made it even better.) If you’re not familiar with Serial, it’s hosted by NPR’s Sarah Koenig. Each week, we learn more about a case from the 90s in which a young man, 17 year old Adnan Syed was convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend Hai Min Lee. Koeing speaks to him on the phone several times throughout the series, along with interviewing possible alibi witnesses at the time, his friends, other people involved in the trials friends – and it just winds up with so many intriguing different plot twists. From the number of people who were originally interrogated, to the bizarre timeline, and confessed untruthful information given at different points – it’s not necessarily a story trying to prove whether or not Syed is innocent, but more trying to fill in gaps in the case. How did they arrive to that conclusion from the evidence at hand, why weren’t certain individuals called to trial, and what were all these kids involved really like at the time?

It’s just a fascinating story to listen unfold and Koenig has stupendous storytelling skills. Especially now that Syed’s case has a new hearing happening in real time – if this is something you’ve missed out on too, I’d say give it a listen! Catch up and follow along as she recounts what happens in court in new episodes of Serial.
(Image from Serial Facebook.)

Meg Says Read This: Mosquitoland

Mosquitoland_FINAL.jpgOne of the last books I read in 2015, also happened to be one of the best books I read in 2015. Scratch that. Probably one of the best books I read in years. It’d been a little while since I’d read a young adult fiction novel that really tugged at my heart strings. (Right now, I’m remembering the way Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun just completely blew me away.) Well, after I’d seen some of my favorite YA authors praise David Arnold’s Misquitoland  I knew I had to see what all fuss was about. Well, it didn’t take me long of peeking into Mim’s journey to realize, “oh my!” This was one of those characters you meet, (like Hazel Grace Lancaster) where I saw pieces of myself in her. I felt like I could be a companion on this Greyhound because I recognized her encounters. Then I came across this line, fairly early on:

mosquitoquote

I realized, Arnold gets it. I hate to even bring his gender to attention here, but having experienced being a teenage girl – it’s amazingly how acutely accurate the thoughts splashed across each page resonate. I don’t even want to ruin anything in trying to describe what this book is about (I avoided synopsis for this very reason.) Each element of Mim’s journey was such a delicious surprise. Heart-wrenching in anguish at times, shocking, surprising, heart-melting, inspiring – it’s all encapsulated in this young girl’s trip. It’s one of those where she goes out seeking one thing in the beginning (her mother,) but in the end finds so much more. As always, the revelations about friendships and unconventional relationships in this life are monumental. But they come about in the most surprising of ways. I found myself setting the book on my chest, as I just laid in my bed trying to catch my breath from the tears choking me. I know, I’m an atypical emotional reader; the tone I catch from a page may be a different experience for others, but Mosquitoland is a story that touched me to my core. If you’re looking for a read that is fresh with a witty, endearing narrator, I think you’ve met your match. The praise for this novel is well deserved. I’ve yet to find any friends who’ve read it yet, so I’d love to hear what others think!

(Cover art image from David Arnold books; Quote image from my personal instagram account.)

Meg Says Watch This: People Places Things

At this point you can probably peg me for what types of movies I go for. (Usually some intense or sentimental drama, perhaps a dark comedy, or just a quirky indie.) It’s the beginning of a new month, so Netflix spits out some different flicks to check out. Upon a weekend search, People Places Things caught my attention, so I settled in for a watch. I was intrigued from the get-go with hand-drawn opening credits, and a cute song to start off. Plus, the film just dives right in – it’s the main character Will’s daughters fifth birthday and his partner Charlie, (Stephanie Allyne) is no where to be found at the party – he hustles upstairs after checking in with several guests, only to discover…well,  you probably guessed but there she is in the middle of the act with some other guy. Like I said – it jumps right in. I like films that are basically like life – a glimpse into a period of time, a chapter, of someone’s story. People Places Things unfolds just like that. Will (Jemaine Clement) writes and teaches the art of the graphic novel. He has a roomful of passionate students. He’s a passionate guy, but he’s also plagued by the heartbreak of the crumbling of his relationship. He finds comfort in the joy that comes from spending time with his adorable daughters (Aundrea and Gia Gadsby). The girls are so ridiculously cute, and amusing – they add a definite soft element of entertainment to the story. Will has several quippy one-liners, delivered so dryly that I found myself in stitches with laughter. People Places Things is a story about the complex trials of parenting, learning to let go of lost love, and exploring new relationships while trying to find some sort of stability in a life of chaos. The characters are endearing in their honesty and realness. As odd as it may sound, I think this film is heart-warming in it’s genuine portrayal of the messiness of life. If you’re looking for a cute, original film that will pleasantly surprise you with its uniqueness, then I definitely recommend giving People Places Things a watch.

Meg Says Read This: Saint Anything

saint anything

I remember the first time I picked up a Sarah Dessen book. Sixth grade, in my middle school library, I can even remember which shelf it was on. That Summer, with it’s yellow binding caught my attention immediately. The front cover had a drawn picture of a girl, and a punch buggy in the background. I fell in love with Dessen’s writing, at once. Then the Sunday, the day before the first day of college, bid day, I met one of my favorite friends in the whole world – Leah. Freshman year we quickly discovered our shared appreciation for the young adult lit world, but particularly Sarah Dessen. She let me borrow Lock and Key and The Truth About Forever. I devoured them in that little twin bed in the corner of my fifth floor dorm (I had a lot of time on my hands about the second week of school when I caught something terrible that left me sick and struggling to breathe in bed for days.) I say all of this because here I am, at 28 now, still devouring Dessen’s each freshly released novel. (And Leah and I still discuss them like we did ten years ago.) I always have this struggle with wanting to read books at exactly the right time. I figured it was fate that the library had an e-book of Dessen’s latest – Saint Anything right before my trip to Jersey. So, it was time to dust off the old Kindle, and from the Panama City, Atlanta, and Philadelphia airports and planes, and cozy lazy November mornings, Saint Anything was a great companion.

I’ll say, I think this is one of Sarah Dessen’s grittiest novels to date. Sydney has long lived in the shadow of her ever charming, popular, but at times wreckless older brother Peyton. The story begins in a court room at Peyton’s sentencing for an act that will shake the family’s lives, and beyond. His mistake has changed the path of an innocent teenager. Sydney is well aware of the consequences, and the story unfolds as she tries to live her life carrying the guilt of her brother’s actions. Sydney’s mom buries herself in the acts of trying to bring “normalcy” to her relationship with her son, as if he’s just received detention and not serving time. Sydney’s dad pours himself into his work, and when he is home, silently goes along with her mom. This is why, though scary, Sydney welcomes a change of scenery by switching to a new school (mostly because of the cost of her expensive school being too much to go along with all of the court costs.) Basically seeking an alternative from heading straight home after school to afternoons of binge watching Real Housewives, and trying to pass the lonely hours before dinner – she finds herself at a local pizza shop, Seaside. Here she meets a fabulous family, and soon, before she even realizes it – she’s started a friendship with siblings Mac and Layla. Sometimes, you meet people who just “get it.” And you don’t know why you’re revealing personal information, and trusting strangers with intimate details about your life – but you are. Perhaps a sense of safety or familiarity or comfort in their warmly chaotic lives, nudged Sydney in the right direction.

Sydney builds a new life for herself at Jackson High School. She finds herself in new friendships she can confide in. She doesn’t have to just be “Peyton’s little sister,” and she’s no longer invisible.

Saint Anything untangles some heavy truths. Having hard conversations, facing things that have been easier to avoid, taking the leap of trusting and investing in new friendships and relationships, and seeing how the good can grow.

I don’t want to spoil it by divulging anymore, but Saint Anything was a fun read and I think Sydney’s character matured throughout the novel. It feels like we can always count on Dessen to provide a story with characters that you want to be friends with, and advice you can take to heart. Long anticipated and not disappointing in the slightest – it made me excited to see what direction Dessen will go next. If you haven’t got your hands on a copy of Saint Anything yet, I highly recommend checking it out!

Also, watch this adorable book trailer:

Meg Says, Listen to This: “Okay, Alright I’m Alive”

Typically in a season, a song will get my attention and I become a little bit obsessed. (If you haven’t noticed yet I’ve got some addictive tendencies in my nature and playing songs I find amazing on repeat falls in that category.) Last year when the lineup was released for Bonnaroo I worked my way up from the bottom of the list, determined not to miss some of the lesser known acts that would probably become some of my favorites in the months to follow. (There is such a plethora of incredible music out there that you’re bound to miss something, but I was on a mission not to let it all pass me by.) Bahamas were one of the bands I started listening to early on. Due to the difficult internal battle of making choices between overlapping amazing talent I didn’t end up seeing them last year, but they are one of the bands that I just can’t get over how awesome they are. Of course they have a lot of really great songs, but the one I think I could deem as my favorite is “Okay Alright I’m Alive” from the 2012 album Barchords. I wanted it to find a home on all the mixed CDs I was making. It seemed so applicable to all kinds of themes. And a lyrics nerd, I totally fell for “Every time George sings here comes the sun” and “Every time Sam sings a change gonna come.” It’s just beautiful. It’s upbeat and it’s catchy but it’s emotional all at the same time. The kind of song you don’t hate to get stuck in your head. And I’m a sucker for some feeling in a song. I won’t lie, I found the song relatable for a variety of reasons over the past few months, but that’s not the only reason to love it. In a blurb from The Crypt Sessions Bahamas unique sound is categorized as tropical pop, which seems totally accurate. I also found the fun fact: he spent THREE years as the guitarist/pianist for Feist. Which makes perfect sense with that sweet blend of melody and outrageous instrumental skills. I do think comparing live recordings and album versions of Bahamas songs, have a slightly different vibe but they’re both awesome. Watch the video below to see “Okay Alright I’m Alive” from The Crypt Sessions.

Meg Says Watch This: About Alex

I think I’ve mentioned before my odd habit of watching all the trailers on the Apple Quicktime trailer page. (I’ll admit, for some of these – the trailer was more intriguing than the actual film.) Anyway, I remember the first time I saw the trailer for About Alex. One of my parent’s favorite movies is The Big Chill (I think their appreciation for it rubbed off on me, even though it’s before my time) and About Alex immediately seemed reminiscent of the film. I was dying to see it but it never made it to a theater near me, so I was super excited when I saw it in the “recently added” section on Netflix. In the movie, a group of young adults who were best friends in college reunite for the first time in years, after one of them attempts suicide. It’s kind of like a modern update of The Big Chill (though if you read the IMDB message boards this is a controversial topic.) The emotional drama directed by Jesse Zwick is extremely dialogue driven, (which I guess is really appealing to me in a lot of movies.) And like The Big Chill the music is fantastic. (Hello, one of my absolute favorite songs “Funeral Beds” by The Districts!) And that would be thanks to Joel P. West, who apparently also was responsible for the music in another movie I’ve geeked out over here before Short Term 12. Let’s not forget to mention that Marshall Herskovitz is an executive producer (yes, the one who produced My So Called Life and Thirty Something!) The movie boasts a stellar cast including Max Greenfield, Aubrey Plaza, and Jason Ritter to name a few. The chemistry between the characters is charming and realistic; there was a genuine sense of nostalgia in their reunion. Over the course of a weekend, the group navigates all sorts of trials in the post-grad “real world” from relationships, choices between career and family, examining their personal successes against their once predicted futures, and recognizing how the decisions they made in college shaped the adults they would grow into. Of course, there’s an open dialogue that explores the effect of social media and smart phone addiction on the intimacy of human connection – the true difference in knowing what’s going on with one another based off a news feed, versus honest attempts at keeping in touch. Ultimately the group’s original foundation of friendship lingers on in their adult lives, proving their bond is strong enough to carry on. Perhaps you’ll notice a sappy trend in my response to dramatic film, but I found myself laughing and crying while watching this. I definitely think this is an underrated gem, and definitely worth you’re time so go ahead and check it out! (And if you’ve already seen it, as always – I’d love to hear from you!)

(Image from IMDB.)

Meg Says Read This: The Opposite of Loneliness

Screen shot 2015-11-11 at 10.08.54 AMMarina Keegan was an amazing woman, with an incredible voice. A few years ago, an essay she’d written entitled “The Opposite of Loneliness” went viral online, (literally it was popping up on the feed of each social media outlet I had.) Appropriately so, because upon reading it you’ll realize just how relatable the content is. You don’t have to be a recent college graduate to identify with concepts of nostalgia, the excitement and anxiety being on the verge of transition, the overwhelming sense of possibility. Keegan had a gift, a craft, a sense of wisdom that seemed to stretch beyond her short years on this earth. The Opposite of Loneliness is a collection of her stories – fiction and non-fiction. (Her mentors, friends, and parents worked hard to organize this posthumous publication.) The introduction alone captures Keegan’s youthful spirit and astonishing drive. Each story written in such a compelling manner that I devoured them in the span of 24 hours. Themes of optimism, relentless hope to strive for a future of worth with dedication to acts that mattered, and persistence all echo throughout each work. Keegan died tragically in a car accident, shortly after graduation from Yale. She had a promising future ahead of her, but she still created such a solid legacy. It can be eerie at times while reading, realizing how deeply she delved into ideas of purpose and death when she had no idea what was ahead of her. But none of us do, and we forge on anyway. She was self-aware, she found a way to encapsulate a modern twist to a timeless practice, and she injected emotion, reality, and energy in every word. Keegan’s voice is a shining reminder of why it’s important to find an honest passion in this life, and throw our all into pursuing it. The Opposite of Loneliness is one of my favorite reads in years, I found myself inspired and encouraged by Marina Keegan’s words. If you haven’t experienced the journey of reading it yet, what are you waiting for?

(Photo from my personal Instagram.)

Meg Says Watch This: Comet

Once again, I found myself in the rabbit hole of suggested movie picks on Netflix, based off what I’d watched recently and Comet came up multiple times. Justin Long and Emmy Rossum star in this endearing flick, that’s got a little bit of everything. The comedic timing is fantastic, but the tangled web of a love story can pull on your heart strings a little. It totally forgoes any sort of linear time line, and I think that leaves a lot of room for audience interpretation (especially in the final scene sequence.) Think Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or Science of Sleep. I’m a fan of both of those films, and I’d say this one nestles in that category of blurred lines of reality pretty nicely. For fans of star crossed love stories – here’s a film for you. It doesn’t hurt that Dell and Kimberly’s relationship starts off with a chance meeting while standing in line to watch a meteor shower in Hollywood Forever Cemetery. That encounter leads to a relationship that is tumultuous and beautiful and at times painstakingly heart wrenching as the two stumble through struggles and pitfalls, tearing away from one another only to find each other again later on. The cinematography is spellbinding, with a gorgeous soundtrack to match. If you haven’t checked out Comet yet, I encourage you to go ahead and watch it now. For those of you who’ve seen it, what did you think? Too reminiscent of similar tales, or original enough to win you over? Share your thoughts in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!

Meg Says Read This: Attachments

I first fell for Rainbow Rowell’s writing style, when reading the young adult fiction gem that is Eleanor and Park. Rowell has a way of articulating a vast variety of human emotion, and the words on the page captivate such intense feelings in a relatable format. Recently, I found myself devouring the adult fiction novel Attachments. The premise alone is fascinating – a young man, Lincoln O’Neil working a night shift at a newspaper office where he’s in charge of monitoring employee e-mail. It’s the late 90’s and the company only shifted to computers because the ribbon was discontinued for their typewriters. It’s an interesting reminder of a time when social media and cell phones didn’t dominate the majority of people’s lives and interactions. The novel is formatted where the chapters alternate between Lincoln’s perspective, and the correspondence of e-mails between two women (Jennifer and Beth) who work for the newspaper. It’s funny how telling simple e-mails can be – little personality quirks come through quips, snarky commentary, and friendly encouragement. Jennifer and Beth’s personal stories splashed out in the internet world was exactly the sort of thing Lincoln was supposed to be responsible for flagging and warning in the office, but they’re also exactly what made his job more interesting. Attachments is an interesting story of relationships, and life and risks and chance. It’s easy to see how Lincoln could fall for Beth with such an intimate glimpse into the uncensored depths of her life, and her portrayal of chaos surrounding her. But what should he do when the person has no idea he even knows of their existence? . Readers will sympathize for Lincoln’s awkward position knowing so much about stranger’s private lives – but also how he ends up ultimately dealing with the situation. Attachments is a take on what you do when life doesn’t end up exactly how you’re thinking, and what kind of changes we make when we move forward, and how that one big move can be the catalyst to shift everything. While these characters are all adults, Rowell instills the same realness as her teenage characters – kind of just a combination of the qualities that make humans so vulnerable and unique. The book took me through a rollercoaster of reactions, but it’s always endearing when the wittiness of characters can make you laugh out loud. A few elements of the story are a bit heavy, but the tone of the delivery is lighthearted overall. If you’re looking for a quick, quirky read that’s kind of like your Saturday night chick flick, but with intelligent, intriguing characters totally check out Attachments.

(Photo from the Attachments official page.