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Meg Says Read This (Maybe): The Girls

414vpuuee6l-_sy346_I woke up at 5:30 in the morning on Sunday, and I couldn’t go back to sleep so I decided to finish reading a book I’d started last week. The book had a ridiculous amount of hype last year, finding a place on so many must-read lists. I’d been excited to finally read it after being on the library wait-list for a few months, only to be turned off by the slow pace and anti-climatic story telling.

I was curious of other reader’s feedback, so I looked at some reviews on Amazon. One person shared: “Look, I’m stoked people are even still writing books, let alone reading them AND sometimes buying the actual book. However, this was just boring.”

Unfortunately, I had to agree.

The Girls focuses on fourteen year old Evie, in the summer of the late 60’s. Bored with her only friend Connie, frustrated with her mom and her string of new boyfriends, desperate and eager for attention she finds herself falling in with a cult. This story line had strong potential, but in my opinion fell flat. The descriptions of the characters, though flowery in their prose, brought us no closer to understanding any of them. The most we got were Evie’s obsessive sexual fantasies about (basically the ring leader of the woman in the group – though they claimed to live belonging to no one with an equal flow of love in all directions) Suzanne. The story is told in flashbacks of present day Evie – older, timid, living a quiet life alone. Basically the whole book just felt like a shell of a story. We don’t really learn much about Evie’s life after that summer, (she wasn’t connected to the crimes committed), except that she made a few friends at boarding school that year, and later in life she had a few different roommates. Even during the summer with the cult and it’s leader, Russell (baring uncanny descriptive similarities to Manson) the flashbacks are lacking as well. Listen, I wasn’t looking for some gruesome telling of the murders, or sexual assault but I just felt confused the whole time. The story didn’t really seem to have much to do with the bizarre practices themselves. Evie seemed to mock them, and question them regularly (mostly internally,) but it was just a means for her to be able to follow Suzanne around and be close to her. Sure – if this wasn’t fictional, it’d be great that some young teenage girl didn’t get completely sucked in. But how much reality is there to the idea that she just rode her bike to hang out with these people on a ranch, occasionally spending the night, but sometimes returning home in time for dinner? It felt non-committal.

Hopefully the other titles on my “to-read” list for 2017 are less disappointing. I know that mine is not necessarily a popular opinion regarding this book. Some people sing the praises of Emma Cline for her “beautiful style.” I wouldn’t personally recommend this book, but I still think it’s good to gather your own opinions, of what is being buzzed about.

(Image from Amazon.)

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Meg Says: Listen to This “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” (A Throwback)

After watching the news this morning and getting way more frustrated than I should be before 8am, I knew I needed to listen to something good on my drive into work. It just so happens I’d left some really old school CDs I found in a box under my bed recently, in my car. One of them was the Dawson’s Creek soundtrack (Vol. 2). Cheesy? Maybe, but also perfect. I skipped through the first few tracks, but then there was The Jayhawk’s “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me.” I was obsessed with this song from the first time I heard it on the show. (Way back when I was still using Limewire to try and find songs on the internet, and this one was so hard to find.) It’s always funny to me just how many lyrics our brains can store. Is there a point where I’m going to run out of space in there, and not be able to recall them so easily?  Anyway, this song just brought me to a little throwback happy place this morning. Sure, it’s sugary sweet but you need one of those every once in a while. It makes me think about Joey jumping off the dock onto Pacey’s sailboat and floating away into the sunset. Okay, if you didn’t watch Dawson’s Creek and have no clue what I’m talking about listen to this sweet song below:

 

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Meg Says Read This: Scrappy Little Nobody

scrappy-little-nobody-9781501117206_lg2017 has been off to an interesting start. I mentioned before I started reading A Game of Thrones which is great, but I just really needed to read a book that would make me laugh. Books can expand our horizons, provide an escape, a distraction, and some books can entertain us. In comes Anna Kendrick’s Scrappy Little Nobody as my first read of 2017. I laughed out loud reading this, continuously, hard, and sometimes until tears sprung in my eyes. Oh, Anna did I need those laughs. But also her book made me think a lot about our preconceived ideas of celebrity, and Hollywood. I can’t imagine being in a film at Sundance, and your peers having no idea, or worse just not caring a bit about it! Kendrick shares stories from her childhood, (I loved the one about how she got her first Broadway gig), her dating life, apartment living, how she still gets star struck, and everything in between. I was surprised to learn that Happy Christmas was filmed in eleven days, on an $80,000 budget, with  no script! And I guess, like Kendrick, I thought once you were famous people probably followed you around and basically made you keep yourself (and your house) together – surprise! They don’t. Kendrick writes with such ease, and honesty that it feels like it’s a friend telling you about her life. I felt like you could feel her anxiety about certain situations, or the frustration with  nothing productive happening on press tours (even if they’re necessary.) If you’re a shorty, petite girl I think you could really relate to this too. She touched on a lot of points, of experiences I’ve had all my life. (At 5 feet tall, with tiny feet, and still being able to wear clothes from first grade when I was in fifth grade – I felt like I’d just use my noise level and energy to make up for my lack of size. Anna Kendrick sounds like she totally got this!) She talks about insecurities, but also about the things she knows she should just say “screw you” about if someone has a problem. She sounds like she really takes pride in her work, and invests in the relationships she develops with her coworkers but she’s super open about the time she’s not on a job she’s at home chilling in sweatpants, watching Netflix, eating take out. She sounds like the rest of us doesn’t she? (Adulting, hmm…)  Kendrick mentions multiple times that she hopes while reading her book, the reader feels less alone – well girl, I think you more than accomplished that task. I would definitely recommend this book. It lifted my spirits a little, and it reminded me that although our paths might look different, we’re all kind of floating around in the same boats.

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Meg Says Watch This: The OA

THE OA. I’m sure you’ve heard about it at this point, or at least seen some buzz on your Facebook news feed. Friday December 16th Netflix decided to be like “hey, Surprise! here’s a new original series.” They know their binge-watching audience. I actually didn’t see the trailer prior to starting the series. I did hear some comparisons to Stranger Things though, which I don’t think are very fair. Sure there’s a peculiar female character at the center of the series, who experiences nosebleeds, perhaps possesses some supernatural abilities, and has a twisted past – but I think the similarities stop there. Anyway, I watched it all that weekend because I couldn’t pull myself away.

The series opens with a young woman jumping off a bridge, surviving, and her parental guardians coming to pick her up from the hospital. Upon their arrival, we discover this Prairie was once blind, but now can see. You think that’s weird? Oh, just you wait. It gets crazier.

Sure I could go through and give you a play-by-play of each of the eight episodes, (varying in length,) but I think that would take out the fun of watching the show yourself. I guess the mind warp it sends you on, you might want to take the term “fun” lightly.

Everything I want to comment on this show, depends on how you interpret it as a viewer. The details throughout the series are just mind blowing. The mounting information that builds upon itself, (which is a lot to remember while you’re watching,) and the metaphorical meaning within scenes is just such an abundance of creativity – I can’t think of anything quite like it.

It’s a little bit sci-fi, a little bit mystery, a lot a bit confusing and interesting. As much as this show has you trying to “figure it out” I think it’s also a beautiful story weaving together a group of “misfits” finding a common thread, and the ability to support each other through their differences.

I’ll admit the first episode made me a bit uncomfortable, mostly because I was watching it alone and I had no idea what I should expect. (Plus, the violence in the dog scene and fight scene made me terribly anxious.) But then as the story began to unfurl I just couldn’t stop. I might’ve watched the series twice. The second watch just gave me more questions.
Anyway though, a fantastic series. The amount of work Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij put into creating this is just mind blowing to me. It was shot beautifully, the music is perfect, and I think the cast is incredible. They all portray their characters in such a believable way – I felt consistently sucked into the story; nothing deterred where I felt distracted from what was on the screen. The minute details from scene to scene are so enthralling, and if we get a second season I’d be curious to see if we’re reading into things or if the meaning really is all there. I don’t think anything was done by accident in this piece of work.

I almost felt guilty recommending it to friends because of the mind bender I knew I was sending them on, but at the same time it’s such an interesting art form I’d feel guilty not to share. I have so many questions, ideas, and theories but I don’t want to spoil anything. I made a Reddit account, so I could post on there instead of driving my friends crazy with my hypotheses.

If you haven’t watched it yet, and would like to see the trailer for yourself, BUT I think it’s more fun to dive in without any preconceived ideas.

 

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Meg Says Listen to This: Favorite Music of 2016

Since I already gave you a run down of the books I was reading in 2016, I figured I should also share some of my favorite music. This wasn’t intentional, but coincidentally these all fall in a country genre. It was quite the year in country music! This definitely doesn’t all the music I stumbled upon this year from artists older work it took me too long to find and I’d been missing out on, or my obsessive playing of old favorites.

mm_hero_rgbMaren Morris Hero. Maren Morris was definitely my favorite musical discovery of 2016. You might recall the post I typed after hearing “80’s Mercedes” on satellite radio during our drive back from Key West to Tampa last March. (And I definitely thought to myself “this is what I’m missing out on?!”) Soon after, I heard “My Church” and then of course I was chomping at the bit for her whole album to hit in June. I still buy CDs, and hers was steady on repeat for quite a while. She has such a soulful voice, and raw relatable lyrics. “Wish I Was” and “Once” just get me every time. There’s a song for every emotion, and I sing along to all of them. I cannot wait to see her live for the first time next month in February! And I can’t wait to see what she does next. There’s a Crossroads special on CMT she did with Alicia Keys, that was really fun to watch.

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Caitlyn Smith Starfire
I heard Caitlyn Smith on Bobby Bone’s Podcast, and I was just like oh my goodness how have I been missing out on this girl for so long?! Of course, songs she’s written have been sung by plenty of stars, but I think she’s a star herself. “This Town Is Killing Me” and “Before You Called Me Baby” kick me in the gut. Like, I’ve found myself holding back tears on airplanes listening to her music. I hope that we hear more from her, and I hope that people keep listening to her because I feel like Caitlyn Smith puts her heart and soul into every one of her songs, each note she breathes and that’s something special.

 

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Walker Hayes Good Shit (Vol 1)/Break the Internet (Vol 2)
When an artist can inspire laughter, tears, nostalgia, and perspective on the same album? You know they’re onto something. Walker Hayes is nothing short of awesome. “Beautiful” makes me think about the past.”The Comedian” makes me cry. “Layla’s Stars” pulls on my heart strings. “Dollar Store” makes me laugh. “Halloween” I play on repeat. All the songs just take you through a gamut of emotions. This is another album I found myself playing on repeat on public transportation on my travels this year. Hayes has this music on  his website to download for FREE, so what’s stopping you?

 

yqo8ouicRyan Hurd Oh man. Ryan Hurd. We already knew his talent from some of the hit songs he wrote (“Lonely Tonight” ?!), but man he’s got a voice too. I didn’t find out about Hurd until his EP had already been pulled from the internet, (ugh crushing I know!) But then started releasing one song at a time to Spotify. Each song is so great. “Love In a  Bar” is definitely one of my favorites. “City Girl” is fantastic, so is “We Do Us” and “Hold You Back.” They all have a little bit different vibe, but I like the way they showcase his versatility as an artist. Check out the videos he’s released that are like “get to know you” and about his craft. They’re so artistically shot, gorgeous scenery, intimate setting and every word counts. He just signed to Sony this week, and I cannot wait to hear more from him. (He’s opening for MM at the Athens, GA show! And he’ll be on the Home Team tour with Thomas Rhett & Kelsea Ballerini!)

db_black_cover_digitalDierks Bentley Black This album actually came with my purchase of a concert ticket to Dierks show in Panama City Beach.The concert was awesome, and so is this whole album. Literally all of the songs have really hit me at some point. I feel like I find myself with “Can’t Be Replaced” stuck in my head a lot. But I was initially pretty dang obsessed with “I’ll Be the Moon” written by Ryan Hurd and featuring Maren Morris. “Freedom” is a fun one (love the PC shout out!) “Pick Up” “Black” they’re all so emotionally driven. Also, “Somewhere On a Beach” was one of my go to songs on that road trip to get to Key West. I’m a fan of the whole, movin’ on theme of that one. I think Dierks Bentley was really onto something with the duet with Elle King on “Different For Girls.” This whole album felt like it was full of surprises, and totally fresh.

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Jake Owen American Love 
I figured I would really get into this Jake Owen album, when “American Country Love Song” was such a staple on the  radio, and I was singing along every time. When it finally hit, I found myself loving all the songs. “After Midnight” makes me laugh because it reminds me of what my parents used to tell me when I was younger (and there’s probably a hint of truth to that.) “LAX” is so freakin’ clever, and it makes me think of Penny Lane – just the epitome of “cool girl.” “If He Ain’t Gonna Love You” with Chris Stapleton is top notch. Actually, they all are. The whole album has a great vibe, and I really love the cover art – that VW van – I want it.

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Miranda Lambert The Weight of These Wings
Miranda’s long-awaited album did not disappoint. I’m still combing through all these songs. (24 of them!) She worked with twelve different song writers, and there is so much grit in this album. You can feel how real she’s being through the songs, everything laid bare – mistakes, love, friendship, life – it’s all on the line. I just think it’s something really beautiful. “Vice” was the first released single, and I cannot tell you how many times I listened to it on a repeat. “We Should Be Friends” is just fantastic, and witty. “Pink Sunglasses” not only makes me want to wear a pair, while I belt along but it’s just so catchy and feels like she knows her audience. “Runnin’ Just In Case” quite frankly makes me feel like someone punched me in the stomach, but in the way where you breathe and say “ok, someone gets it.” I can’t wait for her to tour with this album.

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Keith Urban Ripchord
Okay, Keith Urban does it every single time. Every album. This one wasn’t any different – just hit it straight out of the park. I’m sorry to say I didn’t see his tour last year because I can only imagine how phenomenal it was. “Blue Ain’t Your Color” is definitely one of my favorite songs of the year. “Break on Me” is beautiful, and obviously so many things can make me cry and this is one of them. I’m a big fan of “Wasted Time.” I also love the metaphors in “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16.” Keith Urban is just a class act talent.

Because this list could go on forever, I’ll share a few more of my faves across the board. Of course, I’m leaving out about a million artists and albums because it’s impossible to add them all, but it was a great year for music. Drake gave us Views, the other Drake (White) gave us Spark, Gaga gave us Joanne, Brandy Clark Big Day in a Small Town, Bon Iver 22, a Million, Dawes We’re All Gonna Die, Margot Price Midwest Farmer’s Daughter, and of course Beyonce Lemonade.