What I Am Reading: Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

It's a new new year, time to add a new book to my reading list. New Year.  If you have been following my "What I am Reading" series here on Figure Out Your Life blog, then you know that during the fall I began a movie-to-book themed reading series---that is, reading books that were the source material for movies that I have seen. I ended 2015 with the page-turning, and amazingly well adapted-to-a-movie, book "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn. Check out my other book reviews



In the spirit of starting off the new year right, I have decided to change up things and read an inspirational book. My first book of the year is "Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person" by creator of tv shows "Grey's Anatomy," "Scandal," and "How to Get Away with Murder,"and queen mother of #TGIT (Thank God It's Thursday) on ABC, Shonda Rhimes. 

I am at the very end of this book and I love it. It is funny, insightful, and inspiring. Shonda brings us in her world and holds nothing back, as she recounts her one year journey of saying "yes" to everything that made her scared, nervous, and uncomfortable. During that year, she lost 127lbs, made the commencement speech at her alma mater Dartmouth College, got closer to her family and friends, shed some toxic friends, covered magazines, to name a few of the things she did once she stopped saying "no." My favorite chapters are "Say Yes to No" and "Say Yes to Who I Am." I have already bookmarked those chapters and I am sure I will going back to them over the course of this year when I need a boost. Highly recommend this book!!! Get it today---the ebook, paperback, hardcover, or the audiobook. 

Book Summary: 

In this poignant, hilarious, and deeply intimate call to arms, Hollywood’s most powerful woman, the mega-talented creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal and executive producer of How to Get Away with Murder reveals how saying YES changed her life—and how it can change yours too.

She’s the creator and producer of some of the most groundbreaking and audacious shows on television today:

Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder

. Her iconic characters—Meredith Grey, Cristina Yang, Olivia Pope, Annalise Keating—live boldly and speak their minds. So who would suspect that Shonda Rhimes, the mega talent who owns Thursday night television (#TGIT), is an introvert? That she hired a publicist so she could


public appearances? That she hugged walls at splashy parties and suffered panic attacks before media interviews so severe she remembered nothing afterward?

Before her Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes was an expert at declining invitations others would leap to accept. With three children at home and three hit television shows on TV, it was easy to say that she was simply too busy. But in truth, she was also afraid. Afraid of cocktail party faux pas like chucking a chicken bone across a room; petrified of live television appearances where Shonda Rhimes could trip and fall and bleed out right there in front of a live studio audience; terrified of the difficult conversations that came so easily to her characters on-screen. In the


, Shonda’s introvert life revolved around burying herself in work, snuggling her children, and comforting herself with food.

And then, on Thanksgiving 2013, Shonda’s sister muttered something that was both a wake up and a call to arms:

You never say yes to anything.

The comment sat like a grenade, until it detonated. Then Shonda, the youngest of six children from a supremely competitive family, knew she had to embrace the challenge: for one year, she would say YES to everything that scared her.

This poignant, intimate, and hilarious memoir explores Shonda’s life


her Year of Yes—from her nerdy, book-loving childhood creating imaginary friends to her devotion to creating television characters who reflected the world she saw around her (like Cristina Yang, whose ultimate goal wasn’t marriage, and Cyrus Beene, who is a Republican


gay). And it chronicles her life


her Year of Yes had begun—when Shonda forced herself out of the house and onto the stage, appearing on

Jimmy Kimmel Live

, and giving the Dartmouth Commencement speech; when she learned to say yes to her health, yes to play and she stepped out of the shadows and into the sun; when she learned to explore, empower, applaud, and love her truest self. Yes.

This wildly candid and compulsively readable book reveals how the mega talented Shonda Rhimes, an unexpected introvert, achieved badassery worthy of a Shondaland character. And how you can, too. 

**book summary taken from: http://books.simonandschuster.com/Year-of-Yes/Shonda-Rhimes/9781476777092

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What I Am Reading: Gone Girl By Gillian Flynn

Next up on my movies-to-books reading series is "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn. If you have not seen the movie of the same name, starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, and directed by David Fincher, I highly suggest you go and watch it (either before or after reading this book).

I am almost done with the book and thus far I enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed watching the movie. As I move through the book, I have noticed that the movie perfectly adapted the book. The movie changed very little of the storyline and characters, only omitting things to keep the movie, I suspect, from running too long. The book has all the great extra details about the characters that you may be missing from the movie.

If you are looking for a good psychological thriller, I highly recommend you check out this book by Gillian Flynn.

Book Summary*

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

*Summary taken from 


What I Am Reading: World War Z By Max Brooks

Moving forward with my movie-to-book reading series, I am currently reading "World War Z: An Oral History Of The Zombie War" by Max Brooks. I heard a few things about the book after the 2013 movie of the same starring Brad Pitt premiered, particularly that the movie was an adaptation of the book in name only.

I am half way through "World War Z" and I can see why fans of the book were so upset about the movie. The book and the movie are thematically two different stories. The book is a series of different people's accounts of the worldwide zombie outbreak and war, as told to the interviewer/narrator. The movie (which I enjoyed despite my fear of zombies), is an action/adventure zombie movie, which features fast running zombies, armed forces fighting zombie hordes, a worldwide search for a cure, a plane crash, and a tense final scene set in a World Health Organization infectious diseases research laboratory.

I don't understand what Brad Pitt and his production company Plan B were thinking when they wrote, shot, and produced the 2013 movie, under the title "World War Z." The book's plot reminds me a more of Steven Soderbergh's 2011 multi-narrative "medical outbreak" movie "Contagion", which featured an all-star ensemble cast of Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, and Matt Damon, than the  single-narrative "28 Days Later"-type ravenous infected/zombie movie that Pitt and co. created.

Because I was expecting the book to be an action-packed zombie thriller like the movie, I have been a bit disappointed with the book's plot and pacing. So far, there has been more stories of people's reactions to the zombie outbreak than of them fighting, encountering, or fleeing from zombies. But, there are some really interesting stories about people's encounters with zombies and the absolute ineptitude of some world governments in dealing with the initial outbreak of the zombie plague.   

If you are planning on checking out "World War Z: An Oral History Of The Zombie War," I highly suggest you get the

newest audiobook version of this novel,

which features a star-filled voice cast including Common, Alfred Molina, Martin Scorsese, Mark Hamil, Rob Reiner, John Turturro, and many more.  

Book Summary: 

We survived the zombie apocalypse, but how many of us are still haunted by that terrible time? We have (temporarily?) defeated the living dead, but at what cost? Told in the haunting and riveting voices of the men and women who witnessed the horror firsthand, World War Z is the only record of the plague years. 

What I Am Reading: Kiss The Girls by James Patterson

Continuing with my movie to book series, I am currently reading "Kiss the Girls" by James Patterson. I really enjoyed "Along Came A Spider," which was the first book in the Alex Cross series. The book was ten times better than the movie, which might explain its 31% Tomatometer rating and 53% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. 

Right now, I am on Chapter 48 of "Kiss The Girls" and I am really enjoying it. The movie, which stars Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd, is one of my favorite crime movies and it seems to follow the book pretty closely. I can't wait to finish the book to see if it ends as fantastically as the movie. 

If you are looking for a good crime drama, featuring a black male lead character, check out this book. 

Book Synopsis: 

First came the stunning number-one bestseller 

Along Came a Spider

. Now comes the scariest, most unforgettable novel in several years. In Los Angeles, a reporter investigating a series of murders is killed. In Chapel Hill, North Carolina, a beautiful medical intern suddenly disappears. Washington D.C.'s Alex Cross is back to solve the most baffling and terrifying murder case ever. Two clever pattern killers are collaborating, cooperating, competing—and they are working coast to coast.

*synopsis retrieved from http://jamespatterson.com/books_kissTheGirls.php#.Vk4PiYRZnOA

What I Am Reading: Along Came A Spider by James Patterson

This fall, I thought it would be fun to mix my love for books with my love for movies by reading books that have been made into films, that I have watched (and in some cases loved). Using my library card, I have borrowed a several books from the Old Colony Library Network, which specializes in ebooks and audiobooks. Since September, I have borrowed and read, Michael Crichton's "Jurassic Park," its sequel "The Lost World," and "Congo," and Lois Lowry's "The Giver." So far, the books have been way better than the movies (with the main exception of "Jurassic Park," whose movie surpassed the book with its simpler storyline and amazing Stephen Spielberg-directed visuals.) 

Now I am diving into James Patterson's Alex Cross novels, starting with "Along Came A Spider." I am currently on chapter 27 and I wonder why the movie, starring Morgan Freeman, did not more closely follow the book's storyline. 

I am really enjoying this movie to book experience. It gives me a better understanding of the movies, including their strengths and weaknesses, and helps me better visualize the concepts and themes of the books. If you are looking for a book club theme or just some reading list ideas, I highly recommend reading a books that have been made into Hollywood movies. 

Here are my reading suggestions for books that have been made into films:

Harry Potter book series by J.K. Rowling, the Hunger Games Triology by Suzanne Collins, The Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan, Jurassic Park, The Lost World, Congo, and Sphere by Michael Crichton, Along Came A Spider and Kiss The Girls by James Patterson, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, and The Giver by Lois Lowry.


Book Synopsis*

A missing little girl named Maggie Rose.

A family of three brutally murdered in the projects of Washington, D.C.

The thrill-killing of a beautiful elementary school teacher.

A psychopathic serial kidnapper/murderer who calls himself the Son of Lindbergh. He is so terrifying that the FBI, the Secret Service, and the police cannot outsmart him — even after he's been captured.

Gary Soneji is a mild-mannered mathematics teacher at a Washington, D.C., private school for the children of the political and social elite. He's so popular that the kids all call him "Mr. Chips." And he's very, very smart. Growing up, he always knew he was smarter than the rest of them — he knew that the Great Ones always fooled everybody. He kidnaps Maggie Rose, the golden-haired daughter of a famous movie actress, and her best friend, Shrimpie Goldberg, the son of the secretary of the treasury, right out from under the noses of their two Secret Service agents. But Gary Soneji is not surprised at his skill. He's done it before. Hundreds of times before.

Alex Cross is a homicide detective with a Ph.D. in psychology. he looks like Muhammad Ali in his prime. Cross works and lives in the ghettos of D.C. He's a tough guy from a tough part of town who wears Harris Tweed jackets and likes to relax by banging out Gershwin tunes on his baby grand piano. He has two adorable kids of his own. They are his own special vulnerabilities.

Jezzie Flanaganis the first woman ever to hold the highly sensitive job as supervisor of the Secret Service in Washington. Blond, mysterious, seductive, she's got an outer shell that's as tough s it is beautiful. She rides her black BMW motorcycle at speeds of no less than 100 mph. What is she running from? What is her secret?

Alex Cross and Jezzie Flanagan are about to have a forbidden love affair-at the worst possible time for both of them. Because Gary Soneji, who wants to commit the "crime of the century," is playing at the top of his game. The latest of the unspeakable crimes happened in Alex Cross's precinct. They happened under the protection of Jezzie Flanagan's men. Now Soneji is at large again, still wreaking havoc.

Alex Cross must face the ultimate test as a psychologist: how do you outmaneuver a brilliant psychopath? Especially one who appears to have a split personality — one who won't let the other half remember those horrific acts?

Soneji has outsmarted the FBI, the Secret Service, and the police. Who will be his next victim?

Gary Soneji is every parent's worst nightmare. He has become Alex Cross's nightmare. And now, reader, he's about to become yours.

*Book synopsis taken from http://www.jamespatterson.com/books_alongCameASpider.php#.VkFN74RZkz8