4.5 star, adult, nonfiction

Review: Making a Scene by Constance Wu

A powerful and poignant new book by Crazy Rich Asians and Fresh Off the Boat star Constance Wu about family, romance, sex, shame, trauma, and how she found her voice on the stage. 

Growing up in the friendly suburbs of Richmond, Virginia, Constance Wu was often scolded for having big feelings or strong reactions. “Good girls don’t make scenes,” people warned her. And while she spent most of her childhood suppressing her bold, emotional nature, she found an early outlet in local community theater—it was the one place where big feelings were okay—were good, even. Acting became her refuge, her touchstone, and eventually her vocation. At eighteen she moved to New York, where she’d spend the next ten years of her life auditioning, waiting tables, and struggling to make rent before her two big breaks: the TV sitcom Fresh Off the Boat and the hit film Crazy Rich Asians.

Through raw and relatable essays, Constance shares private memories of childhood, young love and heartbreak, sexual assault and harassment, and how she “made it” in Hollywood. Her stories offer a behind-the-scenes look at being Asian American in the entertainment industry and the continuing evolution of her identity and influence in the public eye. Making a Scene is an intimate portrait of pressures and pleasures of existing in today’s world.



Overall Recommendation

A poignant collection of essays about different moments and time periods in Constance’s life, I thoroughly enjoyed the personal stories and lessons she drew from all these experiences she’s documented. Looking at both her childhood and the people/places that have shaped her into the woman she is, this isn’t just a book about being Asian in Hollywood but a well rounded story of the heart of Constance Wu and that makes it ever more so worth reading.

CW: sexual harassment, rape, suicide

Continue reading “Review: Making a Scene by Constance Wu”
5 star, adult

Review: I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy

A heartbreaking and hilarious memoir by Jennette McCurdy about her struggles as a former child actor—including eating disorders, addiction, and a complicated relationship with her overbearing mother—and how she retook control of her life. 

Jennette McCurdy was six years old when she had her first acting audition. Her mother’s dream was for her only daughter to become a star, and Jennette would do anything to make her mother happy. So she went along with what Mom called “calorie restriction,” eating little and weighing herself five times a day. She endured extensive at-home makeovers while Mom chided, “Your eyelashes are invisible, okay? You think Dakota Fanning doesn’t tint hers?” She was even showered by Mom until age sixteen while sharing her diaries, email, and all her income.

In I’m Glad My Mom Died, Jennette recounts all this in unflinching detail—just as she chronicles what happens when the dream finally comes true. Cast in a new Nickelodeon series called iCarly, she is thrust into fame. Though Mom is ecstatic, emailing fan club moderators and getting on a first-name basis with the paparazzi (“Hi Gale!”), Jennette is riddled with anxiety, shame, and self-loathing, which manifest into eating disorders, addiction, and a series of unhealthy relationships. These issues only get worse when, soon after taking the lead in the iCarlyspinoff Sam & Cat alongside Ariana Grande, her mother dies of cancer. Finally, after discovering therapy and quitting acting, Jennette embarks on recovery and decides for the first time in her life what she really wants.

Told with refreshing candor and dark humor, I’m Glad My Mom Died is an inspiring story of resilience, independence, and the joy of shampooing your own hair.



Overall Recommendation

Jennette McCurdy’s memoir is heartbreaking and consequently empowering to read. From trauma instilled from childhood, her story to where she is now is beyond her celebrity status but the very real journey towards finding herself amidst the experiences she survived. I wished this wasn’t all true half the time but it’s worthwhile to read at the end of the day. She deserves all the success in the world, and it’s really no wonder this book is a #1 seller.

TW: eating disorders, emotional abuse by a parent, alcoholism

Where does one begin to review a memoir, especially to such a calibre as Jennette’s? I’m Glad My Mom Died was eloquently written, taking us with Jennette from her childhood to her young adulthood, and showed the trajectory of recovery for someone who went through so much to get to where she is now. While the title may scream shocking for “wow” factor or something, I won’t deny its attention-grabbing ability but in reality, it seems like a fitting title for everything that transpired within its pages.

I don’t know about you but I grew up watching iCarly. It was one of the few childhood shows I was allowed to watch that wasn’t deemed “educational” by my parents. In part, I wanted to watch it for Miranda Cosgrove but I really liked what I saw of Jennette. Little did we (and even her costars) knew, things are rarely as they seem on the surface level.

I love how the writing is in present tense, like we’re seeing and feeling all of it with her in the moment without the hindsight knowledge. Each scene or moment that Jennette takes us to in her life are contained within the chapter it’s in and never crosses over midway to another chapter. There were many chapters but each was short and digestible in that way. I mean, most chapters took a while to even fully comprehend and process just what happened to her, so the short chapters (all 90 or so of them) helped me get through the hardest chapters to read.

My heart broke multiple times at the experiences and ways she bent over backwards to fulfill what was broken in adults (!!) around her when she was still just a child in every sense of the word. To say she is a strong person is not worded strongly enough. Seeing her document parts of her recovery hopefully gives hope to others who faced/currently faces similar demons or circumstances.

Most importantly, and I will end with this, the overall theme in this memoir to me is about finding yourself. It may seem callous to say her mother dying was the best thing for her, but in all honesty, it was the only way for her to truly become the woman she wants to be. And I’m so darn happy for her because she’s deserving of figuring out what is best for her based off of what she wants alone. That is worth celebrating.

5 star, YA

ARC Review: The Luminaries by Susan Dennard

Series: The Luminaries #1

From Susan Dennard, the New York Times bestselling author of the Witchlands series, comes a haunting and high-octane contemporary fantasy, about the magic it takes to face your fears in a nightmare-filled forest, and the mettle required to face the secrets hiding in the dark corners of your own family.

Hemlock Falls isn’t like other towns. You won’t find it on a map, your phone won’t work here, and the forest outside town might just kill you. 

Winnie Wednesday wants nothing more than to join the Luminaries, the ancient order that protects Winnie’s town—and the rest of humanity—from the monsters and nightmares that rise in the forest of Hemlock Falls every night. 

Ever since her father was exposed as a witch and a traitor, Winnie and her family have been shunned. But on her sixteenth birthday, she can take the deadly Luminary hunter trials and prove herself true and loyal—and restore her family’s good name. Or die trying.

But in order to survive, Winnie enlists the help of the one person who can help her train: Jay Friday, resident bad boy and Winnie’s ex-best friend. While Jay might be the most promising new hunter in Hemlock Falls, he also seems to know more about the nightmares of the forest than he should. Together, he and Winnie will discover a danger lurking in the forest no one in Hemlock Falls is prepared for.

Not all monsters can be slain, and not all nightmares are confined to the dark.



Overall Recommendation

The Luminaries sets a new secret society within our world that guards humankind from nightmarish creatures lurking in the forests at night. Beautiful worldbuilding and mystery subplots keep the momentum going that I couldn’t put this book down at all. The ending was abrupt and most things were not concluded in a satisfactory manner, but this definitely makes me all the more excited for what’s to come in the next book.

Continue reading “ARC Review: The Luminaries by Susan Dennard”