Review: The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s: An Oral History by Andy Greene

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

The untold stories behind The Office, one of the most iconic television shows of the twenty-first century, told by its creators, writers, and actors

When did you last hang out with Jim, Pam, Dwight, Michael, and the rest of Dunder Mifflin? It might have been back in 2013, when the series finale aired . . . or it might have been last night, when you watched three episodes in a row. But either way, fifteen years after the show first aired, it’s more popular than ever, and fans have only one problem–what to watch, or read, next.

Fortunately, Rolling Stone writer Andy Greene has that answer. In his brand-new oral history, The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s, Greene will take readers behind the scenes of their favorite moments and characters. Greene gives us the true inside story behind the entire show, from its origins on the BBC through its impressive nine-season run in America, with in-depth research and exclusive interviews. Fans will get the inside scoop on key episodes from “The Dundies” to “Threat Level Midnight” and “Goodbye, Michael,” including behind-the-scenes details like the battle to keep it on the air when NBC wanted to pull the plug after just six episodes and the failed attempt to bring in James Gandolfini as the new boss after Steve Carell left, spotlighting the incredible, genre-redefining show created by the family-like team, who together took a quirky British import with dicey prospects and turned it into a primetime giant with true historical and cultural significance.

Hilarious, heartwarming, and revelatory, The Office gives fans and pop culture buffs a front-row seat to the phenomenal sequence of events that launched The Office into wild popularity, changing the face of television and how we all see our office lives for decades to come.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s: An Oral History will be available March 24, 2020. 

The Office is one of my all time favorite tv shows. I can’t even tell you how many times I have binged it (though I often skip those last two dumpster fire seasons after Steve Carell left). When I saw this book, I knew I had to read it. I was hoping for lots of behind the scenes trivia and maybe some juicy scandal, but it wasn’t quite what I expected.

The format of the book is mostly excerpts from interviews from people involved with the show – ranging anywhere from cast and crew to Scranton Chamber of Commerce employees. The author did a lot of interviews with these people, but he also utilized other published interviews, quotes from dvd commentary, etc. to fill things in. The quotes are arranged in a way that almost feels like a conversation, but there were often times where it was just quote after quote basically saying the same thing (i.e. everyone commenting on what a hard worker Steve Carell is or how Greg Daniels [the man responsible for adapting The Office from the UK] was the best). It didn’t always work for me and there were a few times where I skimmed through it. Most of the quotes were also from writers, producers, or less central cast members, so I wasn’t always hearing from the people I wanted to the most.

Here are a few things I learned that stood out to me:

  • I’ve heard it said numerous times that the Chili’s Manager in The Dundies episode that bans Pam from the restaurant for being drunk was an actual Chili’s manager, but that’s not true. He was an actor. They weren’t even filming in an actual Chili’s, they had just worked with the restaurant chain to bring in fixtures, etc.
  • Instead of the big dance number at Jim and Pam’s wedding, the original script had Roy riding in on a white horse to try to stop the wedding. Then Dwight takes the horse to Niagara Falls and it was going to fall down them. Greg Daniels was apparently the only one who liked this idea and there were a lot of fights about it before the idea was finally scrapped.
  • Supposedly, Steve Carell wanted his contract to be renewed after the seventh season, but there was change in leadership at the network that wasn’t a big fan of the show and they didn’t try to make any deals about paying him more money, so he left.
  • There was a big debate about whether to make Andy or Dwight manager in season 8 and most people wanted Dwight, but the network wanted Andy because he was a bigger star at the time, thanks to The Hangover movies.
  • James Spader basically took the job because he was broke.
  • The network really wanted a spin-off and they wanted Parks and Rec to be that spin-off, but the creators wanted it to be it’s own show and casting Rashida Jones as a different character ensured the shows couldn’t be related and kind of came across as a “screw you” to the network. There was also talk of doing a family-centered spin-off and everyone was annoyed when Modern Family came out using their mockumentary style.
  • Most of the cast and crew considered Steve Carell leaving the end of the show. (I 100% agree with this.)
  • There was a plan to kind of reboot the show in season ten with a new cast and that’s why “New Jim and Dwight” were brought on, but then they decided to end after season 9 because the network wanted to work on developing new shows and the writers were pretty burned out.

Overall, there were enjoyable things in the book, but I wouldn’t consider it a “must read” for The Office fans. While there was definitely a sense of all the the cast and crew being family and loving the show, there was also a whole lot of negativity and blame coming across and it kind of made me like the show less instead of more. It will still be one of my go-to binge shows, though.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: The Murder House (DCI Matilda Darke #5) by Michael Wood

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

It’s the most disturbing crime scene DCI Matilda Darke has ever seen…

The morning after a wedding reception at a beautiful suburban home in Sheffield, the bride’s entire family are stabbed to death – in a frenzied attack more violent than anything DCI Matilda Darke could have imagined.

Forensics point to a burglar on the run across the country. But cracks are starting to appear in Matilda’s team, someone is playing games with the evidence – and the killer might be closer to home than they thought…

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Murder House will be available January 9, 2020. 

What I Liked:

-This is the fifth book in a series, but I haven’t read the preceding books. While there were lots of references to events from previous installments, I never felt lost with the characters and the main mystery worked as a standalone.

-I enjoyed the dynamic of the investigating team. There was some fun banter and I liked how close all of them were.

-Though it did take me awhile to get into the story, it did eventually pick up for me and it kept my attention.

What Didn’t Work for Me:

-Maybe I have read far too many graphic crime novels, but I really expected a lot more from the murder. The characters say over and over again how this is the worst crime scene they’ve ever seen and how horrific it was. But, it didn’t seem that bad to me? I feel like I’ve read far worse before and the characters just repeating again and again how bad the crime scene was made it seem much more like the author was trying to convince me it was bad, rather than writing it convincingly. It started me out on a bad foot with the story.

-I felt like the book was far too long. There were lots of side plots and red herrings and unneeded description. It could have been much shorter and still got all the main plot points and character development across.

-While I liked a lot of the characters, I didn’t care of Matilda. Few things she did made sense to me. I also didn’t like how she lied to her team about important things.

-I felt like there were really obvious clues in who the murderer was, which may be another reason the book felt so long to me. The big break in the case basically comes about by recognizing one of the detective’s incompetence, which also kind of annoyed me.

Overall:

Overall, The Murder House was ok, but didn’t really live up to my expectations. I expected a lot more from the premise and it left me a little disappointed. However, the character development was well done and I enjoyed reading about most of them. I probably won’t go back and read any of the other books in this series, but I’m sure fans of the series will probably enjoy this.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: Together We Caught Fire by Eva V. Gibson

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

A forbidden attraction grows even more complicated when the guy Lane Jamison has crushed on for years suddenly becomes her step-brother in this sexy and gorgeously written debut novel about the lines between love, desire, and obsession.

What happens when the boy you want most becomes the one person you can’t have?

Lane Jamison’s life is turned upside down the week before her senior year when her father introduces her to his new fiancée: mother of Grey McIntyre, Lane’s secret, longtime crush. Now with Grey living in Lane’s house, there’s only a thin wall separating their rooms, making it harder and harder to deny their growing mutual attraction—an attraction made all the more forbidden by Grey’s long-term girlfriend Sadie Hall, who also happens to be Lane’s friend.

Torn between her feelings for Grey and her friendship with Sadie—not to mention her desire to keep the peace at home—Lane befriends Sadie’s older brother, Connor, the black sheep of the strict, evangelical Hall family. Connor, a metal working artist who is all sharp edges, challenges Lane in ways no one else ever has. As the two become closer and start to open up about the traumas in their respective pasts, Lane begins to question her conviction that Connor is just a distraction.

Tensions come to a head after a tragic incident at a party, forcing Lane to untangle her feelings for both boys and face the truth of what—and who—she wants, in this gripping and stunningly romantic debut novel.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

Together We Caught Fire will be available February 4, 2020

I was in the mood for a little angst and, oh boy, did I get that with Together We Caught Fire.

The story ended up being a little different than I thought it would be, based on the synopsis. There was still angst for days, but it wasn’t all romantic, love-triangle stuff. Lane is a complete mess and had issues in every single aspect of her life, mostly stemming from discovering her mother’s suicide when she was five years old. She has nightmares every night, severe trust issues, intimacy issues, family issues, depression, the list goes on. When Grey becomes her step-brother she starts hanging out with him, his girlfriend Sadie, and Sadie’s brother, Connor. Each one of them have their own myriad of issues and dysfunction and it could all be a little too much at times. However, it was one very addicting read.

It’s kind of hard to describe any of these characters as “likable”, but I was pretty invested in them. I wanted to see them work out their issues and heal and we do see a little bit of that by the time the book ends. Out of all of them, I did like Connor the best. It’s arguable that he had the most tragic backstory, but he was still the most well-adjusted, despite his issues. I liked how he was with Lane and I definitely shipped them. I had a hard time really understanding Lane’s “feelings” for Grey. He had moments where he could be sweet, but for most of the story he acted like a jerk and he had some definite anger issues. He and Lane had a few charged moments of longing glances, but I could never really get on board with the idea of them getting together. I liked them much more as step-siblings than as romantic interests.

While religion didn’t play a huge part in the story, the two ends of the spectrum were represented here. On one end was Sadie’s Fundamentalist Christian church, which her father pastors (who are, of course, the villains of the story as hateful bigots), and on the other end is Grey, the Wiccan. Lane is firmly in agnostic land, but partakes in her family’s pagan rituals. I have to say that even though these aren’t huge points in the story, it kind of brought my overall reading experience down. It always annoys me when the Christians are portrayed so poorly (even if they are fundamentalists and not your average Christian church) and I also was a little uncomfortable with the whole paganism thing. There’s even a point in the story where Lane’s father sits her down to talk to her about her relationship with Connor because he’s so afraid he’s going to “convert” her and then he’s overjoyed to find out Connor is an atheist. I mean, honestly, my main recurring thought while reading this whole book was, “These people need Jesus.” I did like, however, how it portrayed that no matter what your faith is, we all have our issues and brokenness we have to work through.

Overall, I did enjoy Together We Caught Fire. I don’t think it would be for everyone, but if you think you can handle the angst, buckle up and clear your schedule for this addictive debut. Even though the writing was a little more flowery and used a lot more imagery than I generally care for, it is super addictive and I could hardly put the book down. I’m definitely interested in seeing what Gibson does next.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

Review: The Other People by C.J. Tudor

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

A gripping new thriller about a man’s quest for the daughter no one else believes is still alive, from the acclaimed author of The Chalk Man and The Hiding Place.

Driving home one night, stuck behind a rusty old car, Gabe sees a little girl’s face appear in the rear window. She mouths one word: ‘Daddy.’ It’s his five-year-old daughter, Izzy.

He never sees her again.

Three years later, Gabe spends his days and nights travelling up and down the motorway, searching for the car that took his daughter, refusing to give up hope, even though most people believe that Izzy is dead.

Fran and her daughter, Alice, also put in a lot of miles on the motorway. Not searching. But running. Trying to keep one step ahead of the people who want to hurt them. Because Fran knows the truth. She knows what really happened to Gabe’s daughter.

Then, the car that Gabe saw driving away that night is found, in a lake, with a body inside and Gabe is forced to confront events, not just from the night his daughter disappeared, but from far deeper in his past.

His search leads him to a group called The Other People.

If you have lost a loved one, The Other People want to help. Because they know what loss is like. They know what pain is like. They know what death is like.

There’s just one problem . . . they want other people to know it too.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Other People will be available January 28, 2020.

I think maybe it’s time for me to just give up and admit that this author’s books are not for me. C.J. Tudor is a talented writer and that makes me want to keep giving her a try, but like the books preceding it, The Other People, left me a little bored and underwhelmed.

The story had a lot going for it: murder, kidnapping, mysterious characters, secretive pasts, and a shadowy organization from the dark web. It really should have been a lot more intriguing than it ended up being. I figured out how the characters were related long before they were revealed. Gabe’s big secret past and the horrible thing he did ended up being not nearly as shocking as I was expecting. The supernatural elements didn’t really make a lot of sense to me and left me a little bit annoyed. And I thought The Other People organization should have been a little further explored.

Overall, The Other People, was ok, but left me pretty underwhelmed. I do like Tudor’s writing style and I liked the main character, Gabe, for the most part. However, the pace was pretty slow, the twists didn’t surprise me, I didn’t think the supernatural element added much to the story, and I found myself pretty bored. I have read several positive reviews for this book, though, so it might just be me. I don’t think I’ll be checking out any more books from this author in the future.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: The Wives by Tarryn Fisher

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Imagine that your husband has two other wives.

You’ve never met the other wives. None of you know each other, and because of this unconventional arrangement, you can see your husband only one day a week. But you love him so much you don’t care. Or at least that’s what you’ve told yourself.

But one day, while you’re doing laundry, you find a scrap of paper in his pocket—an appointment reminder for a woman named Hannah, and you just know it’s another of the wives.

You thought you were fine with your arrangement, but you can’t help yourself: you track her down, and, under false pretenses, you strike up a friendship. Hannah has no idea who you really are. Then, Hannah starts showing up to your coffee dates with telltale bruises, and you realize she’s being abused by her husband. Who, of course, is also your husband. But you’ve never known him to be violent, ever.

Who exactly is your husband, and how far would you go to find the truth? Would you risk your own life?

And who is his mysterious third wife?

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Wives will be available December 30, 2019. 

Tarryn Fisher is a very popular author with many of the bloggers I follow. Despite the overwhelming hype, this is only the second book I’ve read by her. While I can’t dispute that she is a good writer, I think I’ve come to the conclusion that her books just aren’t for me.

I find the idea of voluntary polygamy kind of fascinating. I would sometimes watch shows like Sister Wives and Big Love and never be able to understand why these women would agree to such an arrangement. I was hoping for some more insight into the whole thing, but the only answer the main character, Thursday, really gives is that she loves Seth and polygamy is the only way to be with him. I suppose worse things have been done in the name of love. We also don’t really get to see any of the sister wives dynamic I was hoping for since they are not supposed to interact.

The story mostly focuses on how Thursday has become unhappy with her one day a week arrangement. She decides to investigate the other wives behind Seth’s back. For about the first half of the book we just see Thursday being lonely and paranoid and obsessively investigating. I thought this part of the story drug out for way too long and it felt like just another domestic suspense story of a crazy woman and a lying man. It did start to shift into something else, though, and became more of a psychological suspense. Fisher did do a good job of making me question what was real and what was delusion, but at the end of the day, it left me pretty underwhelmed.

Overall, The Wives was just ok for me. Other than the plural marriage angle, there wasn’t much to set it apart from the same type of story I’ve read countless times before. While the book wasn’t really for me, I have seen many other favorable reviews for it and I’m sure Fisher’s fans will enjoy it.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: The Map from Here to There (The Start of Me and You #2) by Emery Lord

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Acclaimed author Emery Lord crafts a gorgeous story of friendship and identity, daring to ask: What happens after happily ever after?

It’s senior year, and Paige Hancock is finally living her best life. She has a fun summer job, great friends, and a super charming boyfriend who totally gets her. But senior year also means big decisions. Weighing “the rest of her life,” Paige feels her anxiety begin to pervade every decision she makes. Everything is exactly how she always wanted it to be–how can she leave it all behind next year? In her head, she knows there is so much more to experience after high school. But in her heart, is it so terrible to want everything to stay the same forever?

Emery Lord’s award-winning storytelling shines with lovable characters and heartfelt exploration of life’s most important questions.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Map from Here to There will be available January 7, 2020. 

I noticed that I shelved The Map from Here to There as “To-Read” on Goodreads back in September 2017. I was lucky enough to get an ARC and read this in September 2019. That is a long time to anticipate the book and hype it up. I wish I could say it met my very high expectations, but, unfortunately, it did not. Don’t get me wrong, there were still plenty of enjoyable moments. One of the things I loved about The Start of Me and You were the strong friendships and they were still on display here. Yes, there was some drama and fights, but they worked through them and were always there for each other. There were several funny, bantery moments that I enjoyed, as well. I also liked that Paige’s parents were a strong presence in the book.

There was a lot in this book that didn’t work for me, though. Paige had a lot of issues to work through in the first book and by the end she was starting to figure it out. Instead of her continuing to progress, she had a major relapse back into anxiety and it kind of made all the lessons learned in the first book obsolete. I did find the anxiety stuff relatable, but I would have rather seen Paige continue to grow, instead of spending the majority of yet another book as a mess (and still not communicating it) and then finally growing in the final couple chapters.

Some of the problems I had with this book are probably more my fault than the books, though. I wanted a cute book of Max and Paige being adorable together. Yes, I knew there would have to be some strife, but I thought (hoped) it would be a small part of the plot. Instead, we got very few scenes with them together, unless they were fighting. Paige treated him so, so unfairly and it drove me crazy. He was patient and understanding for awhile, but eventually reached a breaking point where he didn’t handle things well. There is a new character introduced – Paige’s co-worker at the movie theater – that Paige hung out with and talked to like she did Max in the first book. He was also there to stir some jealousy and insecurity in Max. And once that role was played out, we don’t really hear any more about him. Which annoyed me because even though I didn’t like his purpose in the story, he was sweet and funny and I liked him. But back to my original point, the story was much more about the anxiety about growing up and making hard decisions and dealing with change. And this made me feel a little too old for the story. As a cynical adult who has never had a job that utilized her college degree, nor is no longer friends with any of the people she was close to in high school and college, these major crises the characters faced felt a little trivial. I do remember being in high school and thinking these decisions were life and death, so I get it, but I’m just so far past that, that it was kind of hard to take so seriously. I also am not a fan of open-ended conclusions. The biggest focus of the book is where Paige will go to college and the story ends without a definitive answer and that kind of pissed me off.

Another thing that bugged me is that Tess and Ryan aren’t together. I felt it was very heavily implied in the first book that they would get together. I thought her whole arc in the story was how she was all closed off due to her abandonment issues with her parents, but Ryan slowly won her over. Instead, the author decided to fix the lack of LGBT+ diversity from the first book by giving Tessa a girlfriend instead. Not only did I not even get a hint of this in the first book, but it basically skips over the whole coming out part of the book by referencing how it happened in the summer, conveniently between the end of book one and start of book two. Don’t misunderstand, I support a more diverse cast of characters, but it annoyed me to see Tessa with anyone but Ryan.

Overall, The Map from Here to There was just ok for me. I enjoyed parts of it, but had a lot of issues with it, as well. I liked the first book much more, but I think people in the actual target audience age range will appreciate this book much more than I did.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: Reputation by Sara Shepard

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

In this fast-paced new novel from Sara Shepard, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Pretty Little Liars, a tight-knit college town scrambles for answers when an e-mail hack reveals life-changing secrets and scandals.

Aldrich University is rocked to its core when a hacker dumps 40,000 people’s e-mails—the entire faculty, staff, students, alums—onto an easily searchable database. Rumors and affairs immediately leak, but things turn explosive when Kit Manning’s handsome husband, Dr. Greg Strasser, is found murdered. Kit’s sister, Willa, returns for the funeral, setting foot in a hometown she fled fifteen years ago, after a night she wishes she could forget. As an investigative reporter, Willa knows something isn’t right about the night Greg was killed, and she’s determined to find the truth. What she doesn’t expect is that everyone has something to hide. And with a killer on the loose, Willa and Kit must figure out who killed Greg before someone else is murdered.

Told from multiple points of view, Reputation is full of twists, turns, and shocking reveals. It’s a story of intrigue, sabotage, and the secrets we keep—and how far we go to keep them hidden. Number one bestseller Sara Shepard is at the top of her game in this brand-new adult novel.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

Reputation will be available December 3, 2019. 

When it comes to reading a Sara Shepard book, I definitely expect some soapy, crazy drama and Reputation did not disappoint on that front.

The story follows the POVs of 5 women: Kit, Willa, Raina, Laura, and Lynn. It may sound like a lot of characters to keep track of, but I think Shepard did a really good job with it. Often times with this many characters I find I only like a couple and get frustrated when the POVs switch away from them, but I didn’t have that problem here. While I didn’t necessarily like all of these women, I enjoyed watching some of the petty drama play out. When that started to get a little much, it was balanced out with the development of the mystery. While I didn’t find the reveal of Greg’s killer to be all that surprising, there were definitely a good amount of red herrings that kept me guessing.

While the story did start out pretty strong for me, it seemed to lose steam a bit for awhile in the middle. Parts of it dragged on for a little longer than necessary and once some of the red herrings were revealed to be just that, I started to lose a little bit of interest in some of the storylines. I was also hoping for some kind of scandalous twist in the end, but it ends kind of quietly with basically everyone getting their version of happily-ever-after. It also tacked on some #MeToo lessons with a pretty heavy hand towards the end that I thought could have been incorporated a little more organically than it was.

Overall, I enjoyed Reputation. I have been in a bit of a book rut lately and this was the first one in awhile that I looked forward to picking up again every time I had to put it down. Though it did feel a little long in parts and it didn’t end as dynamically as I hoped, I enjoyed the soapy drama and I also liked how the mystery played out. I look forward to reading more from Shepard in the future.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars