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The Album Kindle Edition
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This book is like nothing I’ve ever read before. The writing style is unique and the story doesn’t follow the typical Indie romance “formula” that is so common nowadays. Have you ever seen Pulp Fiction? This series reminded me of that movie. I’m not talking about the storyline. I’m referring to the flow from one character to another, and somehow everything and everyone is interconnected. That is probably the best way to explain The Album.
Natalie is probably one my most favorite female book characters. I want Natalie to be my best friend. Heck, I want to be Natalie! She is sarcastic, funny, sexy, and outgoing. She had me smiling at times, and broke my heart at times. It really says something about the author that she is able to create a character that inflicts such a range of emotions in the reader. It’s not just Natalie either. Ashley’s telling of Chloe and Adams struggles are also very true to life.
I also love the fact that New York City is sort of a secondary character in this series. I am a New Yorker, as is the author, and I have never read a truer depiction of this city. She even writes a HILARIOUS scene about commuting on the subway, that is dead on!
Ashley’s references to pop culture are outstanding! They are mixed in throughout the entire series…the original 90210, Saved By the Bell, Licensed to Ill, to name just a few. I am a huge pop culture fanatic so it was right up my alley.
So who should read this book? If you’re a New Yorker, if you’re a Gen-Xer, if you were and still are affected by 9/11, if you have a loved one in the military, if you love pop culture, if you love music, if you’re single, if you’re married, if you love to read! I think I’ve pretty much covered everyone. Ashley Pullo has done a superb job in writing this book!
On the eve before cousins Chloe and Natalie LeGrange head to separate colleges, they make a pact to move to New York City to pursue their dreams. Years later they both make it to NYC, but things don’t quite turn out as they expect, leaving them disillusioned and wanting to find their purpose.
Three very different men have pivotal influences in their lives, and they come at a time when they are least likely to find love. Adam Ford is the controlled lawyer who just wants a woman to surprise him. Zach Parker is a lovable Marine who must make a life changing decision. And Chris Brooks is the charismatic Texan who just can't seem to find the right woman at the right time.
This is isn’t just a romance, although Ashley Pullo writes some beautiful and hot love scenes. It’s a story about friendship, outcomes and how life doesn't always turn out how we expect.
Ashley Pullo is a master craftsman at building characters. Adam, Chloe, Chris, Natalie and Zach are everyday people who are perfectly flawed and are trying to make their way in life like all of us are. She can transform a scene and make me feel as if I’m living it with them. She makes the story feel real. It becomes a true sensory experience. She can take ordinary, relatable experiences and turn them into a brilliant story where each decision made by the characters ties into the larger story. The dialogue between these characters is fresh and unique. She had me laughing out loud one minute and crying the next. She makes you feel these characters in such a beautiful way.
I didn’t just read this book. I lived it …I experienced it. I wish everyone would read this book. I guarantee you Adam, Chloe, Chris, Natalie and Zach will be characters you will never forget. What a beautiful and heartwarming story about love and life and all the experiences that happen as we live it. I never wanted it to end.
Ashley Pullo's The Album is like the book version of spending a Saturday in your PJs watching an entire TV series on Netflix. I would describe it as a mixture of How I Met Your Mother, Friends, and Seinfeld. Ashley Pullo has the sarcasm, the boldness, and the wit we are used to seeing in some of our favorite TV characters. But she also has the heart.
This ensemble piece tells the woven stories of a group of 20-somethings in NYC. Some are friends, some are relatives, some are strangers. You will fall in love with each of them as they make a mess of their lives and then try to put the pieces back together. These characters are probably the most authentic of any I've ever read, mostly BECAUSE they make mistakes. That's what people do in their 20s. They screw up and they figure out what works and what doesn't - while having a ton of fun along the way. They will make you vividly remember these kinds of situations in your own life and even make you wish you could go back and live through some of them again. These characters deal with love and romance, but also family and friendships, life and death, strengths and weaknesses, humor and angst.
If you enjoy books about a group of friends trying to make it through their 20s, this is the book for you! Let Ashley take you on a journey - not just to see the mistakes and heartbreaks, but also the fun and heart-warming moments, too.
I admit, it took me a minute to feel grounded in the story, because just as I got connected to one character, I was moved into the next and unsure of the connections. But by the time I got to Natalie, I was fully engrossed. Natalie and Chloe's relationship was one of the biggest highlights in the whole book. I don't think there are enough good girlfriends in fiction, and these two cousins were among the best. Natalie's big mouth always brought some humor to even the darkest of situations.
I've seen many attempts at writing a story that doesn't follow a formula. Where there is no beginning, middle, and end, but is just about life. It seems to me that when authors or producers try to do this, it just means that they go for a different ending that usually leaves me unsatisfied. I've longed for a story that does it well, and this is the best I've read. You can start in the middle and go backward, but then find yourself right back in the beginning. Life isn't a straight line with that beginning, middle, and end. It's a circle. As the classic saying goes, it's not about the destination, it's about the journey. As Ashley herself writes, "...it's the middle of the narrative that really counts." What makes that special is knowing I could pick this book up again and again and start anywhere, and learn something new. I've already gone back and re-read the first few chapters that I wasn't grounded in yet because I didn't know the characters. Now I connected to everything on a deeper level. I like a book that can get me to go back to the beginning and start over almost immediately after finishing!
Bonus: Tons of awesome pop culture references. I'm a sucker for 90s pop culture. Part of the reason I connected to these characters was that dream from the late 90s, early 2000s, of living the Friends or Sex in the City life. I loved how Ashley wove so many different references in and out of both the dialogue and the narrative. It all felt natural, and made everything about the story that much more real.
I would recommend this beautiful, character-driven, amazing story to everyone I know.
No really, I’m processing, and coming up with the words to describe how this book got under my skin and affected me is going to be challenging.
Maybe it takes a Gen-Xer to really understand a Gen-Xer. I’m not only a part of the generation, but I’m from Seattle; an amazing time to be from an amazing place. A city that serves as the backdrop of a revolution, both socially and musically, much in the same way New York City is in this book. New York City isn’t a place, it’s a character that contributes to the feeling, tone, and pace just like the other characters. Generation X has been defined as a generation of slackers, the first generation whose disillusion separates us from our parents. We’re the first generation that had aspirations of a life that is not necessarily the domestic dreams of our baby boomer parents and their parents before them. We’re the first generation where protest, whether it is against war, inequality or whatever you’ve got wasn’t a movement; it was a way of life. We’re the first generation that didn’t have the guarantees of becoming more successful than our parents. All of these things make up a generation of cynical dreamers, the types of characters that Ms. Pullo has managed to artfully create.
"Every great story has a beginning, whether it’s a planned meeting, a random encounter, or an impulsive jump into the unknown. But it’s the middle of the narrative that really counts…expanding the verse and building the chorus. And this story, the one that starts as soon as it ends, is a musical journey of fate and acceptance."
The Album is a chronicle of the lives of five different people from the months after high school graduation to their mid-20s, and how their lives intersect to become a group of lifelong friends. It is a journey to discover how their hopes and dreams can be realized while living in a world where reality usually has different plans. The two main characters, Chloe and Natalie, are not just best friends, they’re also cousins. In the first half of the book we meet each of the characters and each chapter sets up just how small the world or just how pre-destined our futures are.
"Madame Clarice opens her eyes quickly to peek at Natalie and gives me a little smirk. “Oh, I’m sorry to tell you this, but you will have a huge ass and whiskers on your chin.”
“…That sounds like a Laverne and Shirley shenanigan. Which by the way, you’re totally Shirley.”
“Really? I think we’re more like Tootie and Natalie.”
Natalie snorts. “Gag, no! How ‘bout Blanche and Rose? You’re definitely as dumb as Rose.”
“True, and you’re definitely a s--t like Blanche.”"
The book opens with the Canadian cousins sneaking out of Chloe’s birthday party in order to meet with their also underage friends and go drinking at a bar. It is in the first chapter that Chloe and Natalie decide their dreams, to live in New York, Chloe as a famous singer, and Natalie as an actress. The banter between the two indicates a love that runs deep. They’re hilarious and you can’t help but fall in love with them from the very beginning. A wild summer night that starts with drinking, moves on to tattoos, Tim Horton’s, a psychic and a future written in the stars.
"IT’S F--KING HOT. If I were a Yankee like my roommate, I would pat my brow and say something charming like: my, it’s stifling…let’s resign to the patio for some refreshments. But I’m not—I’m a Texan, and we say things like: phew boy, it’s so hot I could pull a baked tater from the ground."
In the next chapter we meet Chris, a college student from Texas. He is in the Chicago area, doing some community service for his fraternity. The evening of the fourth he and his frat brothers decide to attend a party to watch the fireworks over Lake Michigan. Chris and his frat brother “Frenchy”, a French speaking Pharmacy major from Connecticut, have a back and forth banter about picking up women, whether it is Chris’s tried and true one word method or Frenchy speaking… French. Regardless of the outcome there is a friendship between the two that will transcend life and death.
"I’ve known Tango since kindergarten and he’s only been right about two things: Mr. Belvedere was better than Benson, and girls with tongue rings are easy."
Next up is Adam. He and his two friends have crossed the border from upstate NY into Canada and have crashed a house party. Adam is a man of few words and a master of self-control. His attempt at getting laid gets derailed when a fight breaks out so they are left to find other entertainment. They end up at Tim Horton’s where two girls, squealing about a psychic have just left after buying all of the TimBits.
"“Oh, sorry, I was distracted by your hair and contempt for humanity. What shade is that exactly?”
Life is made up of millions of destinations; some alone, some with friends, some in fear, and some chasing dreams."
Natalie’s chapter in the first part is a little different. The first three chapters take place on July 4, 1996. Fast forward six years and Natalie is job hunting in New York City. She is taking the train from her parent’s home in Connecticut when she meets a man on the train (Zach) that will touch every piece of her; heart and soul, and forever change her life. It starts out as a purely sexual relationship but in their short time together, they find a love that will get them through their darkest hours. Unfortunately, just a short time after meeting, Zach springs it on Natalie that he has enlisted in the Marines and will be deploying to Afghanistan for a year. The two are committed to keeping the relationship alive and are not so patiently awaiting his return.
"So yeah, we just f--ked over some quotes from an ‘80s Christmas movie—and it was awesome."
Zacherie. I’m not sure where to start with Zach. Zach is just an amazing character that I fell in love with from the very beginning. He’s the embodiment of everything that is a “book boyfriend” but when you get through the book, he’s so much more than that. He is immediately drawn to Natalie and her frankness and is a champion for what is right and good. He falls for her immediately and takes her home to meet his parents right away. The events of September 11th have left him with a need to perform his patriotic duty and he enlists in the Marines. While it is not the best timing, both he and Natalie understand that their connection, while new, is far too powerful to ignore and will be the beacon to bring him home to her.
The second half of the book revisits each of the characters and further explores how each of the characters lives has become entangled with one another. What results is a story that will elicit every emotion available. You’ll laugh out loud, you’ll ugly cry, you may even see yourself in not only their escapades but in the characters themselves.
"“A guy only gets one chance to hold the boom box over his head and pull a Lloyd Dobler—so I suggest you use it wisely.”"
I’ve read a lot of amazing books this year, but I think this is the one that has hit me on a very personal level. There’s a scene in the book where Adam borrows the famous boom box scene from Say Anything (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’re probably not going to understand most of the pop culture references in the book, to which I say, I’m sorry). Scenes like these, the type that become iconic moments not only because of the sentiment they convey, but also the use of the music to express when words are inadequate, burn themselves into our minds to become a sensory memory, one that we associate not only where we were and who we were with, but the sights, sounds, and smells around us. I mean, who hasn’t had the words to Add It Up playing in their head when things get hot and heavy?
"Therapy is taboo. All artists tend to struggle with their mental health, but it’s actually that streak of insanity that creates the brilliance."
I suppose in some ways this review has become therapy, helping me to deal with the massive book hangover I was left with when I finished. I don’t think there was a single level that I didn’t connect with when reading this book. I see so much of myself in Chloe, and the fun that she and Natalie had was reminiscent of some of the trouble I got in with my best friend. This book was an amazing trip down memory lane, to see Chloe and Natalie’s voyage from adolescence to adulthood, and to see that their happily ever after turned out a lot like mine. The book was beautifully, lyrically written, the dialog was amazing, and the story was genuinely original. The story isn’t over, we have the December release of The Ballad to look forward to and I can’t wait to ride that ride. This is one attraction that I’m not yet ready to jump off of. Thank you Ms. Pullo for giving a voice to the lovers and dreamers of a generation.
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