June 19, 2018

Friendly advice

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life From Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed is a collection of the letters and responses that were printed in the advice column, "Dear Sugar", from The Rumpus. The topics range from love and marriage, cheating, identity (sexual and otherwise), parenting, relationships with parents/children, grief, and abuse. Strayed does not pull her punches and she doesn't apologize for it either. She somewhat softens the blows of her blunt advice and observations with endearments like 'sweet pea' and 'honey bun' but instead of sounding condescending it feels like it could be delivered by a trusted confidant. Lest you think that she gives this advice from a rather standoffish perspective it is often conveyed through her own personal experiences and struggles. When the column was originally written her identity was unknown which makes the intimacy and the rawness of the letter writers and her response to them such a unique and wonderful thing. If you've ever experienced turmoil in any area of your life (and you'd have to because that's just a natural part of things) then reading such real, honest advice delivered with love and respect is a welcome breath of fresh air. I laughed, cried, and goggled with incredulity while reading this book. It's an excellent palate cleanser if you're in a book reading rut or a great way to kick start your summer reading adventure. ;-) 10/10

Source: Amazon
The inner flap contains some great quotes. [Source: Cook, Wine, & Thinker!]

What's Up Next: The American Way of Death Revisited by Jessica Mitford

What I'm Currently Reading: Condoleezza Rice: A memoir of my extraordinary, ordinary family and me by Condoleezza Rice

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

June 15, 2018

Everyone's TV Dad

The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember by Fred Rogers was a no-brainer for me because his show was and still is the loveliest program made for children. The book is a collection of quotes, songs, speeches, and anecdotes from Mr. Rogers on his philosophies on the topics he knows best: children and being a good human. It's divided into sections which in my opinion did nothing for the organization of the book because the subjects very loosely corresponded to the material gathered under the headings. So much of this book is packed full of amazing lines that I immediately shared via social media while others sadly seemed to be added as an afterthought or filler.

A few quotes that stood out to me:
“When we love a person, we accept him or her exactly as is: the lovely with the unlovely, the strong with the fearful, the true mixed in with the facade, and of course, the only way we can do it is by accepting ourselves that way.”
“It's very dramatic when two people come together to work something out. It's easy to take a gun and annihilate your opposition, but what is really exciting to me is to see people with differing views come together and finally respect each other.” 
My favorite part was the introduction which was written by Mr. Rogers's wife and included stories of his upbringing, how they met each other, and what he was like off-camera. Turns out that he was so work-oriented that she often wondered if he was actually enjoying himself. (I really hope he was.) If you're looking for a positive lift (and I don't know why you wouldn't) then this is the perfect little book to leaf through. His message was always clear and never more so than in this little book which reminds us to always be kind and never shy away from talking about feelings with the children in your life. A simple enough concept but one which we need to hear now more than ever. 8/10

Source: Amazon

What's Up Next: Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life From Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed

What I'm Currently Reading: The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring by John Bellairs

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

June 12, 2018

What you gonna read?

Recently I re-watched the 80's classic Ghostbusters and for the first time I wondered if there had ever been a novelization of the story. Spoiler alert: There is and it's pretty weird. Much like the Star Trek screen-to-book adaptations that I've read this was written directly after the film was released and includes additional scenes and background information not covered in the original film. For example, did you know that Winston's last name is Zeddemore? And if you had only read the book I doubt you'd find Dana very charming...in fact you might think she was abrasive. While it mostly stuck to the script's dialogue, the character descriptions fell short of the mark. (Egon is still the best though.) Bonus material like movie stills, cast and crew bios, and movie credits were tacked on making this feel less like a novelization and more like a marketing ploy. (If you haven't guessed yet I wasn't overly impressed with it.) What I like about both the book and movie are all of the obvious nods to New York like the Schwarzman branch downtown. It's such a cool way to feel connected to the story. XD I can't deny that it wasn't that great though so it's a 3/10 from me.

Source: Goodreads
What's Up Next: The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember by Fred Rogers

What I'm Currently Reading: Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

June 8, 2018

Upstaged

Once more I'm delving into Caroline Graham's world of detective fiction but this time it's with the second book in her Chief Inspector Barnaby series. Death of a Hollow Man takes place primarily in the Causton theater. It begins with the death of a prominent member of the local acting community committed during a performance of their newest production. Very dramatic, eh? [A/N: I have to restate my dislike of Sgt Troy who is misogynistic, homophobic, and generally vile. I understand he's used as a literary device to highlight how different he is from the main protagonist of the novel but I really wish he wasn't in the books at all. Something I do like is the relationship between Tom and his wife Joyce which is portrayed quite a bit differently from the TV series which I am more familiar with (and like better). The reader learns more background knowledge about how they met each other and fell in love (turns out Joyce is an excellent singer while Tom possesses admirable artistic skills). In fact, a lot of relationships are explored in this sequel and the majority of them are quite ugly beneath the surface. There's quite a lot of flippant talk regarding mental illness which I didn't particularly care for especially relating to Alzheimer's. I think the only really good thing I can say about this novel is that the mystery itself is fast paced and interesting so it kept me turning the pages. Graham knows how to write a gripping mystery but I don't think she's especially adept at character portrayals (or sensitivity). All in all, I think this will be my last foray into this literary series but I will continue to watch Midsomer Murders (especially after we visited the place where it's filmed). 5/10

Source: Goodreads

What's Up Next: Ghostbusters by Larry Milne

What I'm Currently Reading: Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

June 4, 2018

Anthropomorphic leisurewear

So I had the bug to try reading more audiobooks and I only got as far as 2...for now. After thoroughly loving Yes Please by Amy Poehler I was all set for some more hilarity. To that end I picked up Grace Helbig's Grace & Style: The Art of Pretending You Have It. This is part memoir (a very small part) and part irreverent fashion and beauty guide. If you're unfamiliar with Grace she's a comedian with a super funny YouTube channel (as well as a YouTube series with fellow comedian Mamrie Hart) and this is actually her second book. The book starts off with Grace relating some very personal stories about her struggles with body image but lest you get the idea this is a very serious book it's more about trying to take things less seriously and accepting yourself flaws and all. I really enjoyed the personal anecdotes and how they related to her changing opinions and tastes when it comes to mainstream fashion and beauty standards. She also discusses how differently she views herself now that she has increased visibility due to her career. I think this would be especially good for a young woman in high school or just starting college as that's when we're most vulnerable to the pressures from media. (Note: I don't ever think we're completely immune to it but I do think there are times in our development when it's an especially powerful influence.) Because I consumed this book via audiobook format I felt I was at a bit of a disadvantage when she talked at length about specific beauty products, tips, and how-to's because I'm fairly sure the physical book had a plethora of visual aids. I do want to point out that there was a large portion of the book dedicated to a 'sweatpants diary' which I suppose was meant to be a metaphor for the pressures of the media effecting how we perceive fashion but I found it exceedingly odd. (Also, I found myself nodding off more than once during it.) For those that need reminding that fashion and beauty in general are completely subjective this is a great resource. For someone looking for a hilarious pick-me-up it's a bit short of the mark. 5/10
Source: Amazon
Source: Simon & Schuster

What's Up Next: Death of a Hollow Man by Caroline Graham

What I'm Currently Reading: Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

June 1, 2018

A character you won't soon forget

There is a reason that this debut novel has been on hold for many, many months and why it continues to be difficult to get in a hurry. Gail Honeyman has managed to create a character so unique and delightful that I found myself instantly enamored of her. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is the story of a woman who the reader learns from the outset is completely aloof to the social mores of society and is pretty content to remain so...until she sees the man of her dreams. It seems fairly obvious to the reader that this 'relationship' is doomed to fail. (Like my romance with Brian Littrell when I was in middle school.) However, having this foreknowledge does not detract from the story because the love story is between the reader and Eleanor and Eleanor with herself. She is a fragile woman who has built up a rather thick wall between herself and the entire world...and she's had plenty of time to reinforce that wall. Her past is nothing if not murky and it doesn't get cleared up until almost the very end of the novel. (And it's a doozy, ya'll.) It's exceedingly difficult for me not to spill some essential facts while writing up this review because they're the things that make this a truly gripping piece of realistic fiction. Eleanor is a character that seems to live and breathe beyond the page. Her bucking of social 'norms' coupled with her frankly hilarious inner dialogue about what is and isn't 'polite' had me laughing out loud on several occasions and made me feel so connected to her. I truly rooted for her and became emotionally invested as if I was reading an autobiography or memoir instead of a work of fiction. (Gail, you've made it into my list of top 20 authors of all time. I'm excited to see what you come up with next!) 10/10 highly recommend

A/N: The author discusses child abuse, disfigurement, bullying (from all ages), and mental illness. If these are triggering to you in any way, shape, or form then you should steer clear. Everyone else, I think Gail handled these topics very well (having dealt with 2 of the 4 personally) and I see no reason why you should give this book a pass. Eleanor will grab you by the heartstrings and refuse to let go.

So apparently this was a Reese's Book Club pick! [Source: Amazon]

What's Up Next: Grace & Style: The Art of Pretending You Have It by Grace Helbig

What I'm Currently Reading: The Outsider by Stephen King

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

May 29, 2018

Fun, insightful, and surprising

I wanted to shake things up a bit on my daily commute so I thought I would give a few audiobooks a shot. The one I started with is one that has been on my TRL for ages but for some reason I never got around to picking it up. Yes Please by Amy Poehler got some major press and accolades but was especially recommended to me as an audiobook and now I totally get why. This is the first audiobook I've read in a long time and I'm so glad that I chose this one to delve back into that medium. Having experienced it in this format, I highly advise you to do the same because it was so much fun. Amy had multiple guests join her in the recording booth (which she mentioned was built at her house well before she wrote the actual book). From her parents and Seth Myers to Carol Burnett and PATRICK STEWART it was like a variety show for the ears. I especially loved the parts where it was Amy exchanging dialogue with the people she had asked to record for her because it felt more authentic and like a gag reel. (It was hilarious, ya'll.) I learned so much about Amy from her childhood in Massachusetts to her creation of the Upright Citizens Brigade in NYC. Amy's refreshing honesty coupled with the format she chose to tell her story...it almost makes me wish it didn't exist as a print book at all because I think audio is the way it was truly meant to be enjoyed. 10/10 highly recommend if you love awesome ladies doing awesome things.

Source: Amazon

What's Up Next: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

What I'm Currently Reading: The Outsider by Stephen King

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **