she liked Imaginary Men best of all

Fangirls Fall Guide to 2016: Books Edition

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Hello Fangirls and welcome to our fourth and final edition of the Fangirls Fall Guide presented by yours truly and TV Recappers Anonymous superstar Julie Kushner. So far this month we’ve dished about TV shows we’re into, movies we love, music (and podcasts) we can’t get enough of and the websites and apps that keep us merrily clicking our days away. We’re very excited to talk to you about the books we are into— for reasons that will become clear very soon! As always we’re cross-posting at TV Recappers so let’s get to it!

Amy’s Picks

Snarky Goes to Hollywood by Julie Kushner: Start with one caustic college student with a vengeful chip on her shoulder…Add a suddenly studly childhood friend with a secret agenda…Mix in a hot, flirty, sometimes shirtless veterinarian…Sprinkle with some fabulous drag queen neighbors…Toss with an estranged father and evil superstar stepmother… Combine with a computer genius sidekick…Fold in clever pop culture references and observations on celebrity worship culture…garnish with adorable little doggies…

This is the recipe Julie blends together for her seventh novel “Snarky Goes to Hollywood” the smart, sassy, funny story of Snarky Esther Silverberg a, you guessed it, snarky girl whose parents named her after a TV character from a cheesy sitcom in their youth. But that’s not the worst thing her parents did to her—they divorced when her father invoked the rules of “The List” when he met the real “Snarky”—the actress who played the character on the beloved sitcom, and had an affair with her after first getting her mother’s permission to have a one night stand (as anyone who has ever watched “Friends” knows – there is “The Freebie List” of celebrities you are allowed to sleep with should you ever be given the opportunity).

Now in her first summer after college, Snarky has decided to get retribution on the woman she blames not only for her name but for her ruining her childhood, her family and her life, so she moves to LA for the summer with her best childhood friend Moody planning to destroy the life and reputation of the former TV Snarky, her stepmother Stephanie Andrews.

snarkyWhat seems like just a crazy tale of a girl on a revenge spree is quickly turned on its head when Snarky and Moody’s formerly platonic relationship starts setting off sparks (which may have something to do with Moody’s recent development of a six-pack!) When she’s not sparring with her best friend/possible romantic partner Snarky is locking lips with her sexy new boss Dr. Max the local veterinarian and Moody’s nemesis (did somebody say “love triangle”?) All the while Snarky and her work buddy/retaliation expert Groot work to bring down the impeccably curated life of glamorous Stephanie and by extension, Snarky’s father who abandoned her.

Julie’s writing is deft and fun while weaving some serious issues among the twists and turns in her protagonist’s journey: family ties and disappointments, challenged friendships and sexual awakenings, making choices and living with consequences. “Snarky Goes to Hollywood” is more than just a revenge tale but a unique look at one girl’s journey from a broken childhood to a sardonic young adult with plenty of hot boys, cute dogs, covert plans and pop culture in-jokes that keep the reader entertained along the way. Since Julie has whipped together this delightful concoction you should really have a taste!

Party of One by Dave Holmes: In the late 90s I was bit by the Boy Band Bug and religiously watched TRL and voted for Backstreet Boys videos like my very life depended on it. Oh, and I was in my late 20s, decidedly NOT the target demo for TRL. I became a huge Fangirl for Dave Holmes who sometimes hosted the show and would make me laugh over his excitement over Kevin Richardson’s eyebrows and one particularly enthusiastic Britney Spears back-up dancer. So when I heard Dave wrote a memoir I couldn’t wait to read it because his humor and pop culture savvy are so in line with my own. “Party of One” did not disappoint starting with the very first paragraph of the intro:

Of all the epic stories, both factual and fictional, that we have passed down through history, I identify most strongly with the journey of the Bee Girl in Blind Melon’s “No Rain” video.

BOOM. I was in. Dave’s memoir is about growing up knowing he was different and his struggles to find his own place to fit. It wasn’t just that he was gay—but gay and arty in a sporty mid-western family. His fevered interest in music and knowledge of bands set him apart in the various communities he moved through. And of course, being gay didn’t help in the pre-gay-marriage-is-legal era.

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My actual much tagged copy

Each chapter is titled after a song to form a playlist of his life story which is a clever device that will make you run to your iTunes going “Oh I FORGOT about that one!” I laughed so many times reading this and marked so many pages that I loved. It reminded me that since his MTV days I would like to be Dave Holmes Best Friend—or at the very least a casual acquaintance who can chat with him about 90210 plots (Chapter 10: The Man Who Sold the World), our shared appreciation for Robbie Williams (Chapter 12: Wannabe) and the cheesy joy of 1970s entertainment (Interlude: Seven Pieces of Pop Culture That Prevented Me from Leading a Normal Life).

I Know What I’m Doing and Other Lies I Tell Myself by Jen Kirkman: I work in a library and part of my job involves flipping through each book to check pagination, illustrations, etc. When I worked on “I Know What I’m Doing…” I happened to land on Jen’s list of all the warning bells she ignored when she got married and soon after that she was divorced. It sounded so eerily like my own wedding day red flags that I also ignored that I had to check the cover that I hadjen-kirkman not somehow, mysteriously written this book.

Like Dave, Jen is in my age bracket so a lot of her issues, complaints and desires often mirrored my own which again, made me eager to befriend her so we could discuss dumb boys from our post-divorce dating lives (Chapter 16: The Relationship Remodeler), feeling immature teen girl feelings as a mature adult woman (Chapter 9: Jen Cougar Mellencamp) and the joys of New Year’s Eve at home (Chapter 15: Dropping the Ball).

Jen is a stand-up comedian, a feminist and good writer. She is funny without trying to shock you but sharp enough that you’ll punch your fist in the air when she lands a particularly satisfying smack-down about something. Her comedy is confessional which means she does not mind embarrassing herself which makes this book feel like you are giggling with a girlfriend over an after work glass of wine and a generous cheese platter.

Julie’s Picks

The Fangirl Files: True Tales and Tips from the Fandom Frontlines by Amy H. Johnson: I already gushed a bit about how awesome and fun Amy’s memoir is at the beginning of this blog series. But for those of you who haven’t loaded it into your Kindle library yet, here are a few more tidbits that could make “The Fangirl Files” one of the coolest books you will read all year.amy-j-fangirl-cover-only

 – This woman has lived! Haven’t used all your vacation days yet this year? Travel the world with Amy as she waves her Fangirl flag proudly in pursuit of her favorite rock legend, movie stars, and television protagonists. So many of us imagine booking that trip, seeing that show, going back stage to get that coveted autograph. But Amy has done these things many times over and lived to tell the tale. Her dedication and fearlessness should be an inspiration to us all.

 – Nostalgia is a beautiful thing: Whatever your age, no matter what you are into, we tend to mark our lives by the things that surrounded us when we were engaged in what will eventually become our most memorable moments. What was the first movie you ever saw in theaters? What song was playing when you experienced your first kiss or when you lost your virginity? What television series finale did all of your middle school friends just have to watch and analyze obsessively the next day at school? What rock star headlined the first concert you attended?

Amy understands this phenomenon instinctively and uses it to tell her life story, a story punctuated by great music, excellent movies, moody musicians, and dreamy film and television stars. And whether or not her favorites are the same as yours, rest assured, her tales will bring you back to times that will remind you of the simple pleasures in life.

 – Feminism and Friendship: Ladies we are living in a great time. A time when opportunities to explore, experience and succeed are available to us in ways they have never been before. Through Fangirling, Amy found herself and her passion for life. It gave her confidence, independence and a sense of purpose. It also gave her a network of amazing friends to experience all of this awesomeness right alongside of her! And who couldn’t use a little bit of that right about now?

So, what are you waiting for? Get Amy’s memoir in paperback or Kindle right now, and see if you have what it takes to be a true Fangirl!

All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda: I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not usually a big fan of mystery novels. I find that they often sacrifice strong character development for clichéd twists, artificial red herrings, and a surprise ending that is generally more hollow and derivative than shocking.  missing-girls

That is not at all how I felt about “All the Missing Girls” by Megan Miranda. The characters were complex and well developed.   The narrator was relatable and smart.   The dual timeline story kept me guessing from page 1 to page “Please tell your Kindle how much you liked this book.” Speaking of a dual timeline story, the chief narrative of “All the Missing Girls” travels from BACKWARDS TO FORWARDS, which is exactly how I like to read novels! Spoilers first, actual plot trajectory second! It’s like that movie Memento, only the main characters are younger, hotter, and ride way more small-town ferris wheels!

So, if you are looking for a fast, fun, multiple murder mystery, with great characters, a few twists you won’t guess ahead of time, and a unique, expertly executed, non-linear timeline, make this is the next addition to your Fall 2016 To Be Read book pile.

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner: As you might have already gleaned from some of my picks, I’m an unapologetic diehard fan of all things young adult: whether it’s books, television shows or movies, if they feature characters of high school age, navigating the wide world of high school and the unbearably frustrating journey toward adulthood, I’m in 100%. By this point in my life, I’ve read pretty much every type of young adult novel out there . . . which is weird, because I didn’t even particularly like high school all that much.

serpentBut whether you like young adult books or not, I’d recommend “The Serpent King”, because it’s just a damn good book. It’s well written. It’s poignant. It’s hopeful, but in a realistic and honest way that doesn’t undermine some of the harsher things it’s trying to say about small impoverished towns and the often limited opportunities available to people who grow up within them.

Nothing irks me more than a young adult book where all the teens sound like 55-year olds, or, worse, professional stand-up comedians / sitcom stars, custom tailored with zingy one-liners for every situation. Fortunately, that doesn’t happen here. Dill, Travis and Lydia are three very unique characters hailing from a wide range of different backgrounds, despite their neighboring addresses. But Zentner is able to make each of their narrative voices feel, not only distinct from one another, but genuine as three flawed teenagers struggling to overcome a small-minded town that, for one reason or another, has already written each of them off in some way. Reading narration from real likable teens who are just as awkward, at times inarticulate and bumbling as I was at that age (and sometimes still am) was just super refreshing.

Oh, and it will make you blubber like a baby, so keep that box of Kleenex handy.

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer: Generally speaking, I tend to be a bit loath to pick up a memoir, because I often find them to be a bit self-aggrandizing and/or self-indulgent. Too many times I’ve been burned by a memoir where the author downplays his or her own flaws and portrays him or herself as a victim of others’ shortcomings. That said, I actually read two memoirs this year that I genuinely enjoyed, both of which went a long way toward altering, or at least softening, my anti-memoir stance.

schumer

When I first heard Amy Schumer wrote a memoir, my first thought was, “300 pages of booze and penis jokes, with a smattering of awkward sexual experiences thrown in for good measure.” And though that’s not the type of book I typically rush to grab, at the time, I had just come down from reading a super dark and depressing novel, and booze and penis jokes seemed to me like a real nice change of pace.

And there are a lot of booze and penis jokes / hilariously awkward sexual experiences thrown into this book, I’m not going to lie. But what surprised me was how insightful, genuine, and honest Amy was throughout the memoir, and how much she reminded me of myself in some of the chapters…except, you know, I’m not famous or the least bit talented in the art of acting / standup comedy.

Like me, and, perhaps many of you bookworms out there, Amy is actually an introvert, a revelation that shocked me more than perhaps even the juicier personal tidbits she offers up in this tome. She also battles the same type of insecurities we all have toward her weight and personal appearance, despite appearing on television as this uber confident super woman. I liked that Amy is open and honest with herself about her flaws and shortcomings, throughout the novel. And I was genuinely touched by her recounting of some of her experiences with her father, who suffers from M.S.

I also feel like a lot of women can learn a thing or two from Amy’s experiences with rape and domestic abuse. The fact that a strong, confident and successful woman is being open about the fact that she found herself in an abusive relationship goes a long way toward fighting the stigmatization of domestic abuse victims as weak and passive people. And that may help others suffering in similar relationships seek the courage to remove themselves from these dangerous situations or at least seek help.

In short, even if, like me, you hate memoirs, read Amy Schumer’s. Come for the booze and penis jokes, stay for the honesty, humility and important insights.

And there you have it—all our picks for fans and Fangirls alike! We hope you enjoyed and found some things that you can’t wait to read/watch/listen to and let us know what you’re into this season in the comments!

For more check out Amy’s book The Fangirl Files: True Tales and Tips from the Fandom Frontlines and Julie’s novels on Amazon.

Author: Amy H. Johnson

Amy H. Johnson is the author of The Fangirl Files a memoir about Boy Bands, TV Boyfriends and imaginary betrothals to 80s English pop stars. She prefers to be referred to as a "Cute Famous Boy Aficionado".

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