Monthly Archives: February 2016

Review: Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson

5 Stars and a tremendous Thank You to the author.

As someone who has very dear loved ones with various different forms of mental illness but having never truly suffered from it myself, this book was a window into their world.  A way to give me a small sample of what they deal with on a daily basis and how real the struggle is to just even appear to be normal and have their shit together.  To hope that they too have the strength to own their crazy and be okay with it.  To remember that this world is so much better with them in it and there may be easier ways but they definitely won’t be better.

The author talks about being furiously happy.  Taking those moments where the depression and anxiety are somewhat dormant and testing the limits and doing things that she may have never otherwise done just to say that she’s taking control of her life and is going to make memories of happy times and fun things so that when she’s in the depths of darkness, she can look back on things like having Rory the grinning stuffed raccoon ride her cats in an amazing cat rodeo and see that little glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.  Full disclosure…I want to meet Rory and Rory II, they sound like they would be awesome to hang out with.

There’s an amazing section where the author includes an appendix in the middle of the book.  This appendix is an interview with the author where she’s interviewed by her husband.  The interaction is hilarious but her insight and her ability to make a ‘normal’ person understand what she and others face on a daily basis is just astounding.  I can only hope that I can take some of what I’ve learned by reading this book and using it to help myself understand those who I know are suffering with similar problems and do everything I can to help.  Even if that means letting them curl up in a ball and hide in their room, shutting out the world.  And that’s okay.

I think that she has an amazing voice and it’s very clear that this book, while absolutely hilarious, is also one person’s story about their own mental illness.  Something that’s been treated with so much stigma that most people hide it away and never tell anyone about it.  I would recommend this book to anyone who suffers from mental illness, cares for someone who suffers or just wants to know more about what life is like having to live in a body that constantly lies to you and wants you to harm yourself and just give up.  There is plenty of laughter (the people on the bus looked at me funny) and plenty of times where you just want to reach through and give her a hug.

The epilogue was incredibly emotional and it’s definitely a section I will find myself reading from time to time because it truly is that poignant.  The final words are probably one of the strongest statements I’ve ever read.  “Sometimes we walk in sunlight with everyone else.  Sometimes we live underwater and fight and grow.  And sometimes…sometimes we fly.”

I can’t recommend this book highly enough.  I’m actually getting copies for those loved ones that I mentioned.  They may or may not read it, but if they do, it will remind them that they are not alone.  That there are other people out there who understand, who know what they go through on a daily basis.  They don’t have to feel bad or broken.  They can own their crazy and be furiously happy because of and in spite of it.

Now where can I find a koala jumpsuit…

 

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Filed under Biography/Memoir, Humor

Review: What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe

4 Stars

I hate math.  I hate science.  Mostly because I don’t understand them enough to really have a higher opinion of either subject.  That and I’m really, really bad at them!  But this book actually made me take another look and have a grudging respect for how cool science and math can actually be.  I found myself laughing out loud at many of the questions and the hilarious responses to these questions.

Can you swim in a pool where they store spent fuel rods from a nuclear power plant?  Surprisingly, the answer is yes…as long as you stay close to the surface.  And even more surprisingly, the water actually has a lower radioactive level than the level that we are dosed with on a daily basis by just walking around the surface of the Earth.  Though the answer given to him by a friend who works in a nuclear reactor made me nearly spit out my drink.

Can you build a periodic wall of elements?  Made out of cube shaped bricks where each brick was made of the corresponding element.  This one had me giggling from nearly the beginning.  I remember memorizing that stupid table of elements that I couldn’t pronounce and had never heard of.  I didn’t know what half of them were or what they did.  But to see what each element can do, especially when you put them in contact with other elements.  Let me just give you one word of wisdom: Do not build the seventh row.

Added in are Weird (and Worrying) Questions from the What If? inbox.  Some of these questions are absolutely hilarious but at the same time, incredibly frightening.  You have to ask yourself, what kind of a person spends their time dreaming up questions like: How fast would a human have to run in order to be cut in half at the bellybutton by a cheese-cutting wire?  This is not the sort of person I want to have sitting next to me on the bus!

Added into each story are hilarious drawings.  The author is also the mind behind a popular web comic, so the drawings and little quotes really add another dimension to the question and answers.  And the answers are backed by real science.  There is an extensive reference section at the end of the book.  The footnotes to each story are also pretty hilarious.

I would easily recommend this to geeks and non geeks alike.  You don’t have to understand or even like science and math to appreciate this book.  It’s a lot of fun and I actually learned a thing or two.  Not that I can do much with that knowledge…but I’m just happy to have another perspective on two of my worst subjects during school!

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Filed under Humor

Review: Our Own Country by Jodi Daynard

3 Stars

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for the chance to read this book prior to publication.

This is a companion novel to The Midwife’s Revolt.  You do not really need to read it to be able to follow Our Own Country, but it would help to get the backstory to some of the characters and put a few things into perspective, but this book really does stand on its own very well.  And truth be told, I did enjoy this book far more than the previous.  I’m not sure if it was the style or the character focus this time, but I was definitely more engrossed in the story this time.

The book is told from the perspective of Eliza Boylston.  Oldest daughter of a well-to-do Cambridge family.  In the years leading up to the War of Independence, she lives the life of a spoiled little rich girl.  Never having to lift a hand to do anything on her own and expected to do nothing but make a good marriage match.  But she never feels totally comfortable in the world of her parents.  She’s much more at home in the kitchen with Cassie, the cook for her family and as she grows older, she finds that she’s much more at home with the family slaves than she is with her own flesh and blood, especially after multiple tragedies take those she loves most away from her.

As Eliza grows older, she begins to see that her world is at odds with the woman that she is becoming.  Gone is that brainless little girl who didn’t have a care in the world about where her food came from and how her father made his money.  Her eyes have been opened not only by the Rebel cause, but by the unexpected love that she finds.  A love that can lead to dire consequences.

The Braintree characters weren’t as fleshed out this time and I think this is the biggest reason that you really should read The Midwife’s Revolt first.  While you are introduced to them again, it’s not as in-depth.  You get to see Abigail Adams, John Adams, John Paul Jones and a number of other notable faces from the War of Independence.  So many historically correct and accurate characters and events really do lend an air of authenticity to the story and made it very enjoyable for me.

I personally wish that it had been told in third person instead of first person, solely because it would have been interesting to see the events through some of the other characters in Eliza’s life.  But I was really pleased to see how much she grew over the course of the book.  I think that there were areas that the backstory could have been either eliminated completely or fleshed out more.  There was so much packed into this book that it was easy to get a bit lost at times trying to weave all the threads together.

A strong historically accurate fiction novel.  Interesting characters and pair of star-crossed lovers whose romance was well ahead of its time.  Take a chance.

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Filed under Historical, Unsorted

Review: A Girl’s Guide to Moving On by Debbie Macomber

4 1/2 Stars

Thank you to NetGalley and the Publishers for the chance to read this book.

Nichole and Leanne are an unlikely duo.  Leanne is Nichole’s mother-in-law and now they have both left their troubled marriages and have taken up apartments in Portland near each other.  They are each other’s support and they have created a set of rules to live by in order to get their lives back.  They are now taking care of themselves, something that they lost along the way during their now broken marriages.

Nichole was married to Jake, Leanne’s son.  When she finds out that he was cheating on her and got another woman pregnant, she showed amazing strength and left him and served him with divorce papers.  Leanne drew strength from Nichole and finally got up the courage to leave Sean and their marriage of nearly 35 years.  For decades she had been quietly ignoring his cheating and indiscretions, but  in watching her son follow the same pattern as his father, she has finally had enough and walks out and starts a new life.

It is now two years since they left their respective husbands.  Jake has been dragging his feet and is finally ready to finalize the divorce.  Nichole gets this news and promptly backs her car into a ditch.  She meets Rocco, a local tow-truck owner who drags her car out of the ditch and through a series of events that were both comical and endearing, they begin a friendship that could definitely move into something more.  Rocco is the opposite of the white-collar Jake but maybe this is just what Nichole needs.

Leanne has started volunteering to teach an English as a second language class in the evenings.  This is where she meets Nikolai, a very talented baker from the Ukraine.  He soon becomes her favorite student and is taken to walking her to her car every evening and baking her bread.  He slowly begins to show her that she is lovable and desirable.  That her ex-husband was a fool.

While this is definitely part of the happy endings club of books, you really wonder through the majority of the book if this will ever happen or if this will be one of those books that defies the odds and doesn’t give the characters a happier ending.  There are more than a few tear-jerker moments and I definitely gasped out loud a few times.  It’s not all sunshine and roses for these ladies and the men in their lives.  There are plenty of conflicts and tragedies that wind their way through this story.  This is definitely not your typical romance novel and I was very pleasantly surprised by this.  It was a very engaging story and I found myself blazing through it, unable to put it down.

I loved all of the characters, even Jake and Sean.  They had an authenticity to them that you couldn’t deny.  While this isn’t my typical genre, I would definitely recommend this to anyone who likes a good romance novel with a great ending.  Authentic characters and a story that doesn’t require you to suspend belief.  This is a story that could probably happen to any of us and probably echoes some of our own marriages and struggles.  I am definitely a fan of this book and will most likely be looking into other books by the author if they are anything like A Girl’s Guide to Moving On.

 

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Filed under Romance, Women's Fiction

Review: Try Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon

4 Stars

Thank you to NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read this as an ARC.  The review reflects my own views and were in no way influenced by receiving an ARC.

Alex Dale is a broken woman.  A freelance writer who had it all and lost it.  She used to be at the top of her game with a weekly column, a husband and a good life.  Then she drowned it all, bottle after bottle.  Now she’s just going through the motions, barely surviving one night to the next.  She’s slowly working on a medical piece.  At the hospital, she sees Amy Stevenson.

Amy had been abducted and left for dead 15 years ago and since she’s been locked in a vegetative state, unable to bear witness to who attacked her and left her for dead.  Alex becomes more and more curious about what happened to Amy.  She begins to change the focus of her story from medical breakthroughs to what happened to Amy Stevenson.  Alex goes from washed up writer to investigative journalist.  She begins to slowly unravel the threads that make up Amy’s story and works tirelessly to bring her story to light and bring her attacker to justice.

The story changes perspective and changes from past to present throughout.  But the viewpoints are all seamless and mesh together in a way that doesn’t make the time shifts jarring, but they seem more like a natural progression.  Each character has a clear voice and you get a very clear picture of who they are and the events that made them the way they are today.

You don’t want to like Alex Dale.  She’s a very flawed character who does very little in the beginning to earn your empathy or sympathy.  You just want to take her by the shoulders and shake her until she comes to her senses.  As the story grows, so too does Alex.  In giving Amy a voice, she’s also giving herself a voice and a way to find the strength to save herself…from herself.

If you are looking for a good story with lots of twists and turns…definitely pick up Try Not to Breathe.

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Filed under Mystery/Suspense/Thriller

Review: The Bazaar of Bad Dreams: Stories by Stephen King

4 Stars

I wavered between 3 and 4 stars for this book and ultimately bumped it up just merely because the writing is really good and the little snippets between each of the stories is well worth the price of admission.  Getting a little insight into what went into the creation of these stories and a little peek inside Mr. King’s fascinating imagination is definitely worth an extra little star.  I will admit that it’s difficult to review this book as a whole because it is a collection of short stories.  They aren’t all show stoppers and some of them were groan worthy, but as a whole, I think they work well together.  I will pick out a few of my favorites.  But I would recommend this to any fan of Stephen King or anyone who is interested in a good collection of short stories.

In Batman and Robin Have an Altercation you meet Sanderson and his aging father.  He is the dutiful son, coming to take his father to dinner every week where he orders the same thing as though it’s the first time he’s ever been there.  But there will be times of absolute clarity where his Pop can see through that fog of dementia and have a lucid thought and a crystal clear memory of his past.  It was one of these memories that led to the altercation that they have one day at a traffic light.  The story was engrossing and the lead-in that Mr. King supplied was perfect.  This was one of my favorites.

In The Dune you meet the Judge, a nonagenarian who has a secret.  He has his own little island where he has been rowing himself as often as he can for the last 80 years.  This island has a special attraction.  On this little piece of rock there is a perfect sandy dune.  Even after hurricanes and erosion, the beach remains.  As pristine as it had been when he was first there as a child of 10.  Except from time to time, there are names inscribed on this beach.  And whenever there is a name inscribed on this beach, someone dies.  The Judge has never told this story to anyone but as he prepares his will, he brings in a lawyer and tells his story.  But why now?

In Morality a struggling couple is faced with an appealing offer.  It’s an offer that will get the creditors off their backs and allow them breathing room.  But is the cost of what they need to do worth the reward?  Can they live with their choice or will it destroy them in the process?  This one had me wondering what would I do in this situation?  Could I do it and would it change me?

I really enjoyed Afterlife and Herman Wouk is Still Alive.  I really couldn’t pick a real favorite out of the list, but I can pick out my least favorite.  And I think that it’s more because it’s been done before and done better, even by this very author.  Mile 81 has the undertones of Christine and Trucks.  It was still an okay story, but it wasn’t the strongest one in the bunch and since it was the story that led off the book, it very nearly turned me off from the whole thing.  But I am glad that I stuck with it.

Some of the stories really make you stop and think.  You are faced with questions of morality in several of the stories and you can easily slide yourself into the hot seat and try to answer the question of what would you do?  There is of course death in many of the stories, but not the gory, blood and guts variety.  In many of them, it’s the death that we’re all facing every day whether it’s by some crazy person with a nuclear weapon or the guy on the bus with a knife to your neck.  There are plenty of questions as to what happens after we’re done with this crazy life that we’re all living, what comes next?  You go from enjoying a nice little story to thinking about some really heavy subjects and you sit there going…wait…what?

This one won’t be for everyone, but for any Stephen King or lover of a good short story anthology, give it a try.

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Filed under General Fiction, Horror