“Scrappy Little Nobody” by Anna Kendrick

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A collection of humorous autobiographical essays by the Academy Award-nominated actress and star of Up in the Air and Pitch Perfect.

Even before she made a name for herself on the silver screen starring in films like Pitch Perfect, Up in the Air, Twilight, and Into the Woods, Anna Kendrick was unusually small, weird, and “10 percent defiant.”

At the ripe age of thirteen, she had already resolved to “keep the crazy inside my head where it belonged. Forever. But here’s the thing about crazy: It. Wants. Out.” In Scrappy Little Nobody, she invites readers inside her brain, sharing extraordinary and charmingly ordinary stories with candor and winningly wry observations.

With her razor-sharp wit, Anna recounts the absurdities she’s experienced on her way to and from the heart of pop culture as only she can—from her unusual path to the performing arts (Vanilla Ice and baggy neon pants may have played a role) to her double life as a middle-school student who also starred on Broadway to her initial “dating experiments” (including only liking boys who didn’t like her back) to reviewing a binder full of butt doubles to her struggle to live like an adult woman instead of a perpetual “man-child.”

Enter Anna’s world and follow her rise from “scrappy little nobody” to somebody who dazzles on the stage, the screen, and now the page—with an electric, singular voice, at once familiar and surprising, sharp and sweet, funny and serious (well, not that serious).

-excerpt taken from https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29868610-scrappy-little-nobody

Review:

I had just finished reading “The Chemist” when I began browsing my shelves for a new book.  After the heavily-detailed government spy story, I knew I needed something light, funny, and effortless.  “Scrappy Little Nobody” had been on my TBR list for quite some time, and I was positive it would fulfill all my reading needs at the time.

I’ve been a fan of Anna Kendrick since she played “Jessica” in The Twilight Saga movies.  One thing you learn about her, especially if you watch the Saga’s DVD extras, is that she is naturally hilarious.  The directors said they would let the camera roll while she went off on comical tirades, specifically the scene in “New Moon” outside of the theater where she talks about zombies and leprosy, and also when she makes a speech at the wedding in “Breaking Dawn Pt. 1.”  She became much more well-known when she landed the lead role of “Beca” in the “Pitch Perfect” movies, and her song “Cups” was wildly popular, landing on many top music charts.

“Scrappy Little Nobody” is a hilarious autobiography of her life, starting with essays about her childhood auditioning and then landing different jobs.  She is reluctant to admit that she was a child actor, because “they’re crazy”, as she says.  She started mostly as a stage actor before transitioning to movies.

One thing I really enjoyed about this book was her honesty.  She spends a lot of time talking about how she struggled as a poor actress, even after landing some of her bigger roles, including “Up in the Air”, which earned her a nomination for an Academy Award.  She also talks about how parts of fame are very overwhelming and, at times, required her to “say the right thing” to the point of making her feel like a liar.

She says many times throughout the book that she doesn’t want to become an entitled famous person.  People will congratulate her in the street for trivial things like walking places instead of being driven, to which she will respond, “walking is not so bad.”  You can tell from reading this that it’s very important to her to stay grounded.  Her dream was to be a famous actress, and she “doesn’t want to get used to it” – she continues to work hard for fear of being a has-been.

Another thing that I really liked was that she threw in quite a bit of helpful advice throughout the book, mostly from learning things the hard way herself.  She suggests not dating somebody unless they meet your standards, which I wholeheartedly agree with.  She admits to not having it together completely, but says she is getting better at “adulting,” and tries to get a little done at a time so that things don’t pile up on her.  I’m still working on it too, Anna!!  I feel you, girl.

I give this book 3.5 out of 5 cupcakes (No stars for me, thanks.  Cupcakes are better.)  Well, maybe 4 out of 5 cupcakes, but one of them has a big bite taken out of it.  I enjoyed this book and it went down easy, but I thought it would be a little funnier than it was.  Don’t get me wrong, it was funny!  It just wasn’t laugh-out-loud funny, more like internal chuckle funny.  If you want a lighthearted read, and you’re an Anna Kendrick fan, I suggest picking up a copy!

“Wild” by Cheryl Strayed

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At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and she would do it alone. Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

-excerpt taken from http://www.cherylstrayed.com/wild_108676.htm

Review:

Usually I come off a book raring to write my review.  This particular story left me feeling speculative, and thankful to be quite honest.  I needed a few days to soak it in and meditate on it.  This book could not have come at a better time for me.  I read it, only knowing that many friends had dubbed it a “must-read”, and it was next on my TBR list.  What I didn’t know was that it would be therapeutic for me in a strange and sad time of my life.

This book is a memoir, and is largely about life after the loss of the author’s mother.  I lost my own mom just three months ago, on November 5th, 2016.  The similarities between the way she described her emotions and the way I have felt are so similar that I could have written this book myself.  Her descriptions are raw and honest; The story so poignant and relatable to my own grief.

She dealt with her grief first in unhealthy ways, including hard drug use, infidelity, and ultimately divorce.  She was smart enough to realize her life was in shambles, and needed to do something to get it back on track.  She decided on a whim, after spotting a guidebook about the Pacific Crest Trail (or PCT), that she would set off on a lengthy backpacking trek, starting in California and ending in Oregon, over 1000 miles in three months.  With little to no experience, she embarked on a journey that tested her physically – she lost most of her toenails, got scraped up a few times, faced dehydration, and carried a backpack (dubbed “Monster”) that was way too heavy for her; tested her emotionally – she walked mostly alone across the country while grieving the loss of her beloved mother.  The trail was long and arduous, but ultimately led to her healing.  The unhealthy life choices she was using to fill the void her mother had left were no longer her desires when she finished.

It almost feels silly to write a review on a book so many have already found and know to be wonderful.  I couldn’t leave the experience I had reading it alone, and never speak of it.  It was too profound, too wonderful, too perfect.  It helped me when I didn’t expect it to.  Cheryl Strayed, if you ever read this by some crazy chance – Thank you.  You helped me.  You spoke about a subject that tends to not be spoken about because it is painful.  Those of us who lose mothers too young are in a special club that we didn’t ask to be a part of, but can band together in the void.  We can come together and understand each other.  We can say “it’s not fair” without somebody rolling their eyes and saying “the world isn’t fair”, and we will understand each other.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.

I give this book a 5 out of 5 stars, and I wish I could give it 6.  It was the best memoir I’ve read.  I enjoyed every chapter, every paragraph, every honest word.  Everybody should read this book.

“Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness” by Susannah Cahalan

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One day, I woke up in a strange hospital room, strapped to my bed, under guard, and unable to move or speak. My medical records—from a month-long hospital stay of which I have no memory—showed psychosis, violence, and dangerous instability. Yet, only weeks earlier I had been a healthy twenty-four year old, six months into my first serious relationship and beginning a career as a cub reporter at the New York Post.

My memoir Brain on Fire chronicles the swift path of my illness and the lucky, last-minute intervention led by one of the few doctors capable of saving my life. As weeks ticked by and I moved inexplicably from violence to catatonia, $1 million worth of blood tests and brain scans revealed nothing. The exhausted doctors were ready to commit me to the psychiatric ward, in effect condemning me to a lifetime of institutions, or death, until Dr. Souhel Najjar—nicknamed Dr. House—joined my team. He asked me to draw one simple sketch, which became key to diagnosing me with a newly discovered autoimmune disease in which my body was attacking my brain, an illness now thought to be the cause of “demonic possessions” throughout history.

-excerpt taken from susannahcahalan.com

Review:

Oh, do I love a good memoir!  This book was fantastic.  We, as readers, are lucky that this particular circumstance happened to a skilled journalist.  Once she recovered from her harrowing journey of near comatose and possible death, she was able to ask the right questions to many different people and fill in the blanks of what she didn’t remember.  There was also video footage available from the hospital because she had been placed on a floor devoted to epilepsy, a place where they need to keep an eye on their patients who have regular seizures.  This story is so fascinating – once you’re finished reading you want to do research and watch videos of Susannah speaking and even video from her lost time in the hospital, and just catch a glimpse of this girl who had gone through one of the most devastating and incredibly interesting medical diagnoses.  Some of her behaviors are not only erratic, but kind of scary – reading this book alone at night sort of gave me the creeps – she had everything from seizures to vivid, scary hallucinations to loss of basic motor skills.  It’s interesting because I was thinking about how some of the things she describes remind me of demon possessions I had heard about over the years, or even scenes from “The Exorcist” movie.  Later in the book there is a chapter on precisely this subject, and how some people with the same disorder have been mistaken for possessed and never get the true medical help they actually need.  The disorder is so rare (only now being more commonly diagnosed) that there are many undiagnosed cases that lead to these people being institutionalized for the remainder of their lives – this girl only had the worst of the symptoms for a month and it took the better part of a year to recover.  Can you imagine going through severe symptoms, not receiving the diagnosis in a timely manner, and living in this state for years or even the remainder of your life?  How devastating and exhausting!  If only they could get diagnosed, the treatment is fairly simple for how seemingly complex and destructive the disease can be.

I give this book a 5 out of 5 stars.  I devoured this book in two days.  I couldn’t put it down or soak in the information fast enough.  In doing a little research for this blog I found that it is being made into a movie as well starring Chloe Grace Moretz as Susannah Cahalan.  I am very interested to see this movie when it comes out to see if they can capture the pure madness that is described within this memoir.  This is a great example that truth is stranger than fiction.