City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

The cover of this book caught my eye. Flipping through the book, I realized that it revolves around the New York City theater world during the 1940s. I looked into the author and discovered that this Elizabeth Gilbert was the same author who wrote Eat, Pray, Love, among other fiction and non-fiction titles.

City of Girls  by Elizabeth Gilbert tells the story of Vivian Morris. After receiving a letter from a male friend’s daughter asking for Vivian to finally explain to her what her relationship really was to her father, Vivian uses City of Girls as a long-form letter to the woman. Ninety-five-year-old Vivian looks back on her youth with a mix of sadness, regret, pleasure, and passion. Through this book, Vivian learns about her body, sexuality, and female promiscuity. She learns how to heal from various wrongs done to her and wrongs that she has committed.

In the summer of 1940, nineteen-year-old Vivian Morris arrives in New York to live with her aunt. Having been kicked out of Vassar College, Vivian, along with her suitcase and sewing machine, is relegated to New York by her parents who just don’t know what to do with her. Luckily for Vivian, she soon finds lodging and employment at her Aunt Peg’s dilapidated theatre, the Lily Playhouse, as the seamstress. Vivian learned how to sew from her grandmother and is good at making something out of nothing. By just looking at someone’s body type or looking at an outfit/type of fabric, Vivian can figure out what is wrong, what needs to be changed, and what would look best on someone.

Vivian quickly becomes the talk of the showgirl community as word circulates that she can make glamorous costumes out of seemingly nothing. The longer she stays at the Lily Playhouse, the more interesting characters she meets. Vivian meets showgirls, sexy actors, a famous actress, a disgruntled writer, and her aunt’s friend who serves as the stage manager trying to keep the Lily Playhouse alive. Vivian’s new life brings another new and exciting chapter of discovery: sex. Vivian discovers what makes her happy and that she has the power to make herself happy no matter what other people think.

When Vivian makes a personal mistake that threatens to ruin both her personal and professional lives, she is forced to start a new life again. The consequences of her actions will take her years to unravel and understand. The new life she makes for herself will lead her down a path she never imagined for herself: a life where she understands what she actually wants and how she has to behave/act/live in order to have it. Vivian also meets the love of her life while she is making a new name for herself. This love is completely different than anything else she has experienced before, but it proves to change her the most.

City of Girls is a glittery and glamorous look at ninety-five years of life. Vivian is able to look back at her life and acknowledge how the actions that she made changed the course of her life forever. Her life would have shifted to a more traditional role and been completely different if she had chosen one different path. Vivian was never afraid of what life threw at her. She was able to live an autonomous life that was not available to many women who grew up during the same time period as her.


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An Act of Villainy : An Armory Ames Mystery by Ashley Weaver

An Act of Villainy is the fifth book in the delightful Armory Ames Mystery series written by librarian Ashley Weaver.  The series of mysteries jet-sets across Europe in the 1930s with amateur sleuths Armory Ames and her husband, Milo.  In this installment, Armory and Milo find themselves back at home in London and during a night on the town, the couple runs into old friend and playwright Gerald Holloway.

Holloway invites Armory and Milo to a dress rehearsal of his latest play and the couple readily accepts the chance to be among the first to see the production.  It is only when they arrive at the theater do they realize that Holloway has cast his mistress, Flora Bell, in the leading role.  The duo quickly find out the real reason for the invitation to the dress rehearsal is that Ms. Bell has been receiving threatening notes slipped under her dressing room door.  The anonymous author has detailed her demise and Holloway needs their help, imploring Armory and Milo to investigate and find out who is threatening his lady-love.  Time is of the essence when the threats increase and Flora Bell’s life could be in danger.  It is clear that many others have motive to cause harm to the rising starlet and Armory and Milo are bound and determined to get to the bottom of the mystery before opening night.

Ashley Weaver has created two clever and enchanting characters, whose banter with each other has the ability to sting.  I have enjoyed the complicated relationship between Armory and Milo and their growth and development throughout the books from newlyweds to established couple and, at times, everything in between.  Weaver brings Armory to life with her stylish wardrobe, wealthy hobbies and pampered lifestyle.  If you are a fan of cozy, traditional mysteries with two adventurous personalities, try the Armory Ames Mystery Series!

 

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff has a gorgeous cover. I have been wanting to read this book since it came out because I wanted to figure out if the blue on the cover was supposed to be waves or feathers. (It’s waves, guys!) I listened to this book through OverDrive and was very glad that I did. Fates and Furies is told from the point of view of two separate people and the audiobook has two separate people doing the narration! That allowed me to fully invest in each character’s life and imagine them more vividly. On to the explanation!

Fates and Furies is all about relationships and stories. Lauren Groff has woven a masterful novel about relationship dynamics and the representation of both sides of a story. Each story always has two sides, while each relationship always has two perspectives. The outside world only sees the relationship as one flat surface, while each person in the relationship is really only fully aware of their side of the relationship. It’s rare for people outside a relationship or even for people within the relationship to fully know the complete truth of what is happening in the relationship. Unless a letter is left after one person dies or one person in the relationship writes a memoir, little will be known. (And yes, I know there are those who swear that they don’t keep anything from their partners. Really? You tell them everything? Hmm.. This book examines the truth behind that principle perfectly.)

Fate and Furies tells the story of a marriage over twenty-four years. Lotto and Mathilde fell madly in love at the tender age of 22. At the very end of their senior year of college, Lotto spots Mathilde at a party, pushes through the crowd, falls to his knees and proposes marriage. She says yes on the spot. Two short weeks later, they’re married. Lotto and Mathilde are both glamorous and gorgeous people and separately are the envy of their friends. Put them together and their relationship is unstoppable. Lotto and Mathilde are destined for greatness. Years later, their friends are still in awe of their marriage, but through this book and the side conversations presented, we realize that their relationship has developed some intricate complexities that has twisted them. Lotto and Mathilde have grown over the years and their relationship has matured to encompass a number of layers that have mixed, mashed, and changed the foundation of their marriage and who they are as separate people.

This novel is told from the point of view of multiple people and flashes back to the past. These different viewpoints and histories allow readers to form a better understanding of Lotto and Mathilde as separate people and also as a whole. I enjoyed seeing Lotto and Mathilde’s dynamic change over the years. The examination of how both inside and outside factors can change a relationship was really insightful. The little and big truths and lies a person has can either make or break a relationship. Our past selves also influence how we present our current selves and then our future selves as well. Highly recommended.


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Yes Please by Amy Poehler

yes pleaseYes Please by Amy Poehler is a hilarious biography full of anecdotes from Poehler’s time on “Parks and Recreation” and “Saturday Night Live”, as well as stories from her everyday life from both before she became a big star and after she gained fame. If you’ve seen Poehler in anything, then you know that her comedy comes fierce and fast, sometimes catching you off guard in regards to topic and delivery. This book is no different.

I chose to listen to this biography through OverDrive and was not disappointed. Poehler narrates this book, along with several other big name actors and, of course, her parents, popping in for cameos. (Looking for another funny woman biography narrated by the author? Check out Tina Fey’s Bossypants, available as a CD audiobook and an OverDrive eaudiobook.) Each person she has helping her narrate adds another level of humanity and unbridled hilarity to Poehler’s life growing up and her changing career in comedy as she worked to get to where she is today.

Poehler pulls no punches in this biography, talking about subjects ranging from growing up in the 70s, tips on how to deal with being nominated for an award, odes to different coworkers, sex, love, babies, divorce, family, parenthood, and her hilarious relationship with Tina Fey. This humorous book gives readers an all-access pass into Poehler’s life, allowing us to catch a glimpse into the crazy world of Saturday Night Live, letting us see how difficult it is to become a successful comedian, and just how crazy life is.

Poehler travels back to the 1990s, when she was in her 20s, working at ImprovOlympic in Chicago and then with the Upright Citizens Brigade in New York. She talks about her previous jobs and her struggle to make it. I highly recommend you listen to the audiobook because you get access to bonus material, as well as extra insight into her life from her many famous friends who make cameos. Choosing to do this book as an audiobook really lets Poehler’s creative talent shine as she weaves together both stories of success and failure to deliver her thoughts on anything and everything. Let us know what you think!


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