This review is probably the most difficult I've ever had to write. Immortal Bird is a father's memoir that details the months leading up to his son...moreThis review is probably the most difficult I've ever had to write. Immortal Bird is a father's memoir that details the months leading up to his son's death. What this father went through is beyond my comprehension, and I knew that it would be a deeply emotional book. Unfortunately, I cannot say that the book hit the mark for me.
It's obvious that the author needed to write this book. I found myself constantly imagining him sitting alone in a room, remembering every last detail of his son's disease, and the countless hours he and his wife spent trying to find a way to battle it. I can't begin to imagine how completely devastating the writing of this book was, but it seems it was something the author needed to do in order to make some sense of the tragedy his family endured.
While it isn't terribly written, it really feels like something that would be of great interest only to his family and friends, or perhaps parents who've seen their children go through this particular disease. Overall though, the book was much more about a disease and much less about Damon, the boy who succumbed to it.
It was also a little awkward reading the author constantly trying to convince the reader that his son was the greatest/smartest/bestest ever. Obviously, as a father, you feel that way about your son. And if the book was written differently, I may have thought he was a pretty exceptional kid myself. However, it seemed that every other page was the father telling us how no kid had ever done xyz as well as his kid, and how every person who met him was just completely flabbergasted that such a perfect person could exist. It really made me wish that I could have pushed aside all the father's biased descriptions to really get a glimpse of who Damon was.
I received this book through the Goodreads First Reads program, and I was initially pretty excited about it. As I continued to read though, it became obvious that I was going to have to write a mostly negative review about an incredibly personal book, and in the end I wish I just hadn't read it. Unfortunately I cannot recommend it to anyone, because, for me, it really failed to do what it set out to do.(less)
I received At the Mercy of the Queenvia the Goodreads First Reads program, and overall I'd have to say that it was, well . . . fine. I read it over t...moreI received At the Mercy of the Queenvia the Goodreads First Reads program, and overall I'd have to say that it was, well . . . fine. I read it over the course of a week or so, and while I didn't dread getting back to it, I was also never particularly excited to do so, nor did I think about it when I wasn't reading it.
It is a historical novel based on one of Anne Boleyn's lady's in waiting. The story was . . . fine. The pacing was OK. There was just nothing particularly good about this book. I guess if you're really into historical novels set in this era, it might be worth reading. Otherwise, I'd recommend you skip it and stick with something that's better than fine.(less)
I received a copy of It's So Easy and Other Lies through the Goodreads First Read program. As a longtime fan of Guns 'N Roses, I was definitely int...moreI received a copy of It's So Easy and Other Lies through the Goodreads First Read program. As a longtime fan of Guns 'N Roses, I was definitely interested in getting some inside scoop on the band and their inevitable breakup, and Mr. McKagan did not disappoint.
It is his life story, beginning in his late childhood and traveling through the past to a positive and uplifting ending at the present day. Like many musicians, and many of Duff's friends, he dealt with a very serious addiction to drugs and alcohol. This book takes a very honest and raw look at how that affected every aspect of his life, and the steps he took to get out of that dark place.
As much a book about recovery and addiction as it is about his 'rock and roll lifestyle', this book was a fast, engaging, and ultimately inspiring read.(less)
I am so grateful to Nina Hamberg for writing this memoir. I don't remember the last time a book took my breath away quite like this one did.
Grip: A M...moreI am so grateful to Nina Hamberg for writing this memoir. I don't remember the last time a book took my breath away quite like this one did.
Grip: A Memoir of Fierce Attractionsbegins during Nina's teenage years, when a stranger breaks into her bedroom and attacks her in the middle of the night. This seemingly random event affects Nina dramatically, and the ensuing story is, in part, the story of how that event shaped her life. Much of this is such an ugly book: but so very necessary.
A lot of her difficulty dealing with this event was caused by the people in her life not understanding the magnitude of what happened. The police make no attempt to find the attacker, and her parents would prefer to pretend it never happened. Her attacker left a physical scar on her, and in one chapter Nina relates the story of compulsively flashing this scar to people. She says, "how hungry I was for someone, anyone, to express outrage over what had happened." This resonated so deeply and personally with me, because I was the victim of childhood abuse, and no one in my life gave me what I really needed: the gift of anger.
In the afterward, Nina writes about her experience writing this book:
Suddenly, I wasn't telling a hero's story at all. I had to write myself as flawed, controlling, weak and lost. I had to admit great shame . . . the scenes . . . couldn't just recount . . . passive manipulation and . . . explosive temper. They had to show my willing participation in our dance.
Ms. Hamberg did just that, and that is a large part of why this book was so exceptional and so effective. The reader gets the sense that the author is truly showing every side of the story, that the author is including every morsel of her experiences so that we, the readers, can understand the whole of her life as it unfolds.
This book is gripping, mesmerizing, and written with such beautiful, blunt and heartbreaking honesty. I cannot imagine how it must have felt to write something so raw and release it to the world, but Mrs. Hamberg - again, I am so grateful that you did.
p.s. It is my duty to inform you that I received a review copy of this book via the Goodreads First Reads program.(less)
I received a copy of How to Get a Grip via the Goodreads First Reads programs, and I was certainly interested in the idea. Like most people I know,...moreI received a copy of How to Get a Grip via the Goodreads First Reads programs, and I was certainly interested in the idea. Like most people I know, I spend more time thinking and talking about the things I want to be doing than actually doing them. Self-help books don't typically appeal to me, because they tend to be chock full of generic, eye-roll inducing, overly simplistic advice. When I read that Mr. Kimberley's book was supposed to be a humorous, no-nonsense take on getting your shit together, I thought it would be just what I needed.
It started out promising. Lots of swearing? Check! An introduction that gave me the impression the book would cater to my own problems? Check!
"That's what this book is about: defining the important shit, letting go of the less important shit, and taking your life - and yourself - a whole lot less seriously."
Unfortunately, it didn't quite live up to the expectations it set for itself. The author clearly stated that you would learn nothing new from this book, that the goal wasn't to give you secret tips and pointers that you'd never thought of. The goal was to tell you the things you already know, but aren't doing anything about, and to get you motivated to make some life changes. That's all well and good, and I appreciated the honesty. But some of the advice was, well...
For example, there's a section on separating the 'stupid shit' from the 'important shit.' Yes, indeed, I do tend to obsess over shit that doesn't matter, and yes, my life would likely be more productive if I could get away from that. But his examples of 'stupid shit' include worrying about wearing matching socks and figuring out how much to tip the server.
I am lucky enough to work from home, so yes, I could walk around in unmatching socks and it wouldn't be the end of the world. My brother the CFO of an accounting firm? Not so much. And while you shouldn't necessarily 'worry' over tipping your server correctly, you should certainly give it some thought. I found it strange that he would use these sort of non-compelling examples when there are so many things people worry about that simply aren't worth worrying about.
I did not much enjoy his chapter titled Man the Fuck Up, wherein he told you to "quit your bitching, bleating, moaning and whining." I'm sure he'll consider this to be a big ole meany whiny rant from a feminist, but the entire message in "man the fuck up," is that you should stop acting like some "namby-pamby, whisy-washy" woman. Gross.
At one point he also tells you that the best way to make work suck less? Gossip! Awesome! Also, everyone should throw out their TV and turn their cell phone off for the weekend. While I would love it if everyone threw out their TVs, that's just sort of indicative of much of the advice in this book: Yes, it's a good idea in theory, but it's not the kind of advice that most people are actually going to follow.
The funniest part was when he spent an entire chapter telling you to "read a book!" which, well, we are obviously already doing that.
There were a few some sections I liked, particularly the part where he told you to stop asking for permission to do things, and to act like you're six again:
"Quit waiting on being told stuff is OK. What are you, six? That said, you had more balls when you were six, didn't you? You just went ahead and did shit even if you knew it wasn't allowed."
The whole 'tough love' aspect of it was endearing and humorous at first, but it eventually got annoying. The constant swearing was definitely a treat for me, especially because there were quite a few curse words that were new to me.
Overall, I didn't really find any value in this book. It's certainly a different approach to this subject, but, as the author himself admits, there is nothing earth-shattering here, and much of the advice centers on changes that most people will simply be unwilling to make.(less)
I won Dangerous Ambition through the Goodreads First Read program, and overall I'm glad I did. This was a fascinating and extensively researched bi...moreI won Dangerous Ambition through the Goodreads First Read program, and overall I'm glad I did. This was a fascinating and extensively researched biography of two very intriguing women.
I didn't know much about either Rebecca West or Dorothy Thompson, but I do believe that this book gave me a comprehensive overview of their good and bad qualities. It's true that neither woman came off as a completely likeable person, but I didn't find this to detract from the appeal of the book. In fact, I enjoyed it all the more because the author clearly held nothing back.
Both women lead dynamic lives, especially considering the time periods in which they lived. Dorothy was an accomplished journalist. In fact, she was the first reporter to be granted an interview with Adolf Hitler, and was likewise the first reporter expelled from Germany, after she questioned his manhood, breeding and mental stability.
Rebecca was extremely prolific, and wrote dozens upon dozens of critiques. She was of the opinion that her female contemporaries were writing the best work, and that the 'establishment' deemed their work as 'minor fiction'.
Of course much of this book centers around the love lives of these women, which I wasn't particularly looking forward to - until I discovered that Dorothy was married to Sinclair Lewis, and that Rebecca had a long-term affair and child with H.G. Wells. The look into the lives of these accomplished authors was quite interesting in its own right, especially as the book followed their successes and falls from grace.
I expected there to be more overlap between Rebecca and Dorothy's lives, and I expected that they would be very good friends. As it turned out, while there did seem to be an awful lot of coincidences in their lives, they weren't really close friends. I thought the dual biography setup was interesting, unique and ultimately successful, though it didn't turn out the way I expected it to.
Of course, the book wasn't perfect, and my main issue was the way it jumped around in time. One chapter would cover one woman's life in 1930, and the next would jump to the other woman's life in 1915. There didn't seem to be a method behind the jumping, and it got especially jarring when while reading a chapter about one women, there would be a mention of something that happened to the other - only we hadn't gotten to that chapter yet.
Overall, this book was jam-packed with information, and was extremely detail rich and really immersed me in the world of these women. At the same time, it was quite accessible and I would highly recommend it to anyone who's interested in feminist literature, literary history, or simply a thought provoking biography.(less)
I received The Unconquered courtesy of the Goodreads First Reads program, and I will admit that I was immediately biased against it. The purpose of...moreI received The Unconquered courtesy of the Goodreads First Reads program, and I will admit that I was immediately biased against it. The purpose of the expedition on which Scott Wallace tagged along is to locate 'lost savages'. Supposedly not to contact them, but as early as the Prologue, Mr. Wallace admits his real desires:
"Any direct contact with the Arrow People could be disastrous. The tribe had no immunity to the germs we carried. We were not doctors and carried few medications . . .Yet, who among us - yes even the purist Possuelo - didn't secretly hope for a "first contact" . . . An experience for all time, a tale to recount to wide-eyed children and grandchildren . . . We'd bedazzle the world with images of the Stone Age savages, appear on the Today show, become celebrity journalists. Maybe I'd get a book contract."
Well, looks like you got your fancy book contract! Though, quite frankly, I don't understand why. While I was very uncomfortable with these modern day men trying to mess with these tribespeople's way of life (and yes, I prefer terms like "tribespeople" or "indigenous people" versus the books use of "savages" and "Indians"), I also assumed that if the man had written a 450+ page book about it, something must have happened, right? Not so much.
Basically, a group of 30 or so men set off into the Amazon, hike and camp for several months, and then turn around and come back. About half of the book is just straight up infighting and gossip regarding the group of men who were stuck with each other for months. The other half of the book was split between somewhat interesting tidbits and histories of the various people who lived in the Amazon, and descriptions of the landscape.
Which brings up another point - Mr. Wallace is extremely heavy handed with his descriptions. If I were the type to skim, I certainly would have been skimming a lot of this book, as many of his descriptions went on for several paragraphs - and very unnecessarily. They read as though he wrote down a simple concept, oh, like, "The fog rolled in and surrounded our camp," and instead of adding a few descriptive words to help the reader visualize it, he grabbed a Thesaurus and just went to town. Something as simple as some fog could easily stretch for an entire page. If I didn't know better, I would have thought Mr. Wallace was being paid by the word.
Overall, I was personally glad to see that the outcome wasn't what they'd hoped for, but as a reader the story was a bit dull and inevitably pointless. The interesting parts could have been whittled down to 150 pages or so, and the book would have been greatly improved if the author had managed to be more concise.(less)
I'm pretty much the target audience for a book like American Gangbang, or so I thought. I have certainly watched my fair share of pornography (don'...moreI'm pretty much the target audience for a book like American Gangbang, or so I thought. I have certainly watched my fair share of pornography (don't tell my mother!) and this novelization of the author's true experiences producing porn was definitely something that intrigued me. Sadly, this book was not only poorly executed, but portions of it were irredeemably vile.
It started off OK - the author graduated from an ivy league university, and after a few soul-searching sessions, he decides that his true calling is to produce 'a different kind of porn.' He felt (correctly) that most porn was cheesy, not particularly exciting and downright bad. He vowed to do something about it.
The first 1/3 or so was not great, but it wasn't awful. This book just reeks of a first novel: clumsy wording, awkward dialog (there was a lot of people saying each other's names all the time, which is a huge red flag to me that the author doesn't know much about writing realistic dialog), and full of really obvious attempts to illicit feeling from the reader. Of course, an author should try to illicit feelings - but good writing requires these manipulations to be done subtly enough that the reader doesn't notice.
Then the main character takes a fancy porn-producing job, moves into a mansion, basically loses his hold on reality - and the book takes off downhill at Mach10.
This new studio he's working for focuses solely on interracial porn, and, more specifically, black men on white women. The author handled the situation somewhat awkwardly, and said things like:
"Lucky Starr came as promised: he was black, and yet he wasn't threateningly black. In fact, he was basically harmless."
How lucky for Sam, to come across one of those harmless black people! I certainly don't have a problem with interracial porn, but holy shit there were many, many problematic issues like that.
Then we get into how the men treat these women. Again, I watch porn. I support sex workers. I also believe in fantasies, and I support other people's kinks. Consenting adults, and all that. The problem was that much of the shit that went on at this place was less than consenting.
"Tony Eveready was not opposed to being a malevolent sadist, either, and so after he felt Juliana had taken enough gulletizing, he dragged her by the hair out the bay window and hurled her stringy body onto the lawn and dragged her slowly down the set of brick steps, one brick step, two brick step, three brick step four, down to the pool, and he shoved her head into the green waters. . . she sputtered, choking, and Tone dunked her once again, his hand never leaving the back of her head where he'd clamped a death grip over her hair and Billy Banks laughed his forced, sycophantic laugh - heh heh heh, that's a white girl for you. I huffed with a pro's impatience and shouldered past all of them to get a great shot that would lure subscribers to spend another month's membership. . . the fat man danced, turning from one outturned instep to the other, snapping off a roll of photos . . . popping flashbulbs in Juliana's soaked, ruined, and crying face.
Stick that big ole dick up in her grill dog . . . came the chorus. . . I'm going to Rodney King her! . . . Yeah . . . beat that dick on her head like a baton!"
Of course eventually the author has this girl start laughing, because apparently this is just extremely hilarious! Later in the book, his girlfriend leaves him because he decides to just slap the hell out of her while she's giving him a blowjob. That is his kink, and I don't begrudge him that kink. There are girls that like to be hit while they're giving you blowjobs, but god damn you do NOT get to just haul off and slap someone in the face without having a god damn sober conversation about it!
By the end of the book, Sam does decide to leave the porn business, and he does feel sorry...sorry that he had to deal with consequences, that is. At no point does he appear to actually understand what he's been doing is wrong. He only understands that it had a negative impact on his life. Though, not nearly negative enough, from where I'm standing.
Overall, the first 1/3 of this book I would rate 2 1/2 stars. Interesting material, clumsily written. I almost felt bad for the guy. The last 2/3 gets 0 stars - unless you enjoy reading graphic details of a man participating in sexual assaults - both passively and actively.
p.s. It is my duty to inform you that I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher. I have a feeling that won't happen again. (less)
Bound is a difficult book for me to review, simply because I care so very little about it. The characters were fine. The plot was OK. The writing w...moreBound is a difficult book for me to review, simply because I care so very little about it. The characters were fine. The plot was OK. The writing was inoffensive but not particularly skilled. There was an entire subplot about a serial killer that seemed to be completely pointless, mostly because the tension wasn't built appropriately, and the resolution of said subplot was underwhelming.
I was left with the feeling that this book needed to be both much longer, and much shorter. Nothing was really developed very well, yet it seemed like the author went on and on about every detail. Overall, though I appreciate receiving it from the Goodreads First Reads program, the book was highly unsatisfying and I wouldn't recommend it.(less)
I don't know how you can read this book and not be inspired. I was excited to receive a review copy of Start Something That Mattersfrom the publishe...moreI don't know how you can read this book and not be inspired. I was excited to receive a review copy of Start Something That Mattersfrom the publisher, because, well, what Mr. Mycoskie is doing fits in fantastically with my worldview. I hoped the book would be neither too dry, nor too preachy, and lucky me, all my hopes came true!
The book is the story of TOMS, which is a shoe company that operates on a 1for1 business model: for every pair of shoes they sell, they give one to a child who is without. The book goes into great detail of how Mr. Mycoskie came up with the idea, how he implemented it, and the secrets of his success. There are also many inspiring stories from other companies who are doing similar things, and some who got the idea from TOMS and have started their own for-profit 1for1 companies.
I was pleased to see that there was some really good info on how business people and consumers can make a difference, in both big and small ways. I was also glad to see that he didn't act like everyone can just run off and start their own company tomorrow, like many of similar books do. Instead, he encourages people to start small, and gives many examples of people who did just that.
The writing was engaging, accessible and compulsively readable. Many pictures and little boxed-in stories (there has to be a name for that, right?) accompanied the text. Overall I was very impressed with the content and the writing style.
Though I did give the book 5 stars, there were one big thing I had an issue with: labor practices. I didn't dock my rating because the issue was with the ideology, not with the writing of this book. However, I was uncomfortable with Mr. Mycoskie encouraging people to hire full-time, long-term unpaid interns. Yes, I get that many start-ups do this, and it can be a great opportunity for the interns. In fact, all the interns who began at TOMS inception are still with the company. But at one point he mentions a company hiring as many as 20 unpaid interns. If you have so much business that you need that many interns, then you need to be paying your employees.
He also encouraged people to use the site 99designs. Basically, this is a site where people put up a request for a logo or other design, and then graphic designers get to work for free in the hopes that their design will be chosen. Sure, there are plenty of contests similar to this with various t-shirt companies and magazines. But if a company wants to work with a graphic designer to have a logo made, then they need to commission the work. As a freelancer, I am uncomfortable with this model and I wish he hadn't encouraged it.
That aside, the book was excellent and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to make a difference, on either a personal or professional level, or someone who's simply interested in how this very different company began.(less)
Behind the Beautiful Foreversis a creative non-fiction book written by Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Katherine Boo. She spent 3 years living amongs...moreBehind the Beautiful Foreversis a creative non-fiction book written by Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Katherine Boo. She spent 3 years living amongst some of the world's most forgotten people in a Mumbai slum. This book is a novelized version of the things she saw and experienced.
The stories she told were haunting, and more than once I had to take a break in my reading to wipe away the tears. I won't soon forget the people in this book, or the fact that they're not just characters. These are their actual lives, and their own words are used to describe those lives.
I hesitate to recommend this book only because it was just overwhelmingly sad. There were virtually no bright moments in these people's lives, and certainly nothing has changed in the months since she wrote it. These are stories that need to be heard, but I know most people would rather turn away.(less)
I've received dozens of books from the GoodReads First Reads program this year, but I was more excited about Just My Type: A Book About Fontsthan I...moreI've received dozens of books from the GoodReads First Reads program this year, but I was more excited about Just My Type: A Book About Fontsthan I had been about any of the others. What can I say, I'm a nerd for words!
It started out strong and immediately starting poking good humored fun at comics sans. There was a ton of information and really interesting anecdotes packed into the pages of this book, and the writing was mostly amusing and laugh out loud funny in a few places.
Mr. Garfield certainly did his research and I really did learn a lot from this book. I learned about a study done in the '40s that showed that the easiest fonts for people to read really have nothing to do with the way the fonts are designed, and everything to do with how frequently we see a particular font. I learned that we can read lower case much faster than upper case, and an argument was made that all road signs should be in lower case. I learned about some of the politics behind fonts, which I would never have even considered.
All that said, I did have one main issue with this book, which was that many of the chapters didn't end, they just stopped. I had an Advance Reader's Copy, which can sometimes get a bit wacky, and there were several chapters that ended so abruptly that I actually looked to make sure that I wasn't missing pages. Some topics were really delved into and tons of details and background information was given. Other topics were just touched on, or a theory was given with no information to back it up.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I would recommend it to anyone who's interested in past, present and future of fonts. However, I think there was a better book in there, if some additional details had been added or weak chapters had been deleted.(less)
Birds of Paradise had me hooked from the start, and took me on a meandering, tense journey that I won't soon forget.
The book tells the story of a f...moreBirds of Paradise had me hooked from the start, and took me on a meandering, tense journey that I won't soon forget.
The book tells the story of a family's heartbreak over the seemingly causeless runaway of their 14 year old daughter. Each chapter is told from a different perspective, and gives us insight into how each family member deals with that heartbreak individually, from the mother, father, brother – and the runaway herself.
Through much of the book, I was left wondering what exactly led to the family's current predicament, but as the details begin to slowly take shape, I realized that the 'why' was not nearly as important as the effect it had on this family. I wanted to sit down, shake each one of them, and make them listen to each other.
Diana Abu-Jaber's writing is completely breathtaking. It is books like this that make me want to give up on my own fiction. From grief, to despair, to hopefulness and back again, this is a book that will make you feel.
p.s. It is my duty to inform you that I received a free review copy from the publisher.(less)
I received a free copy of Loose Diamonds from the Goodreads First Reads program. I'd read several complex and serious books in the week before I re...moreI received a free copy of Loose Diamonds from the Goodreads First Reads program. I'd read several complex and serious books in the week before I received it, so I was greatly looking forward to a nice, light read. It certainly was light but I wouldn't describe it as nice.
Ms. Ephron isn't a bad writer and I feel pretty confident that if she found some interesting material she could do something with it, but these essays were all about really mundane topics. Most of them centered around some seriously first world problems that I couldn't really relate to, like buyer's remorse over a pair of boots and having her expensive jewelry stolen.
I also found her word choices to be confusing and a bit jarring at times. I couldn't tell you how many times she started sentences with some variation of, “I remember the time..”. The fact that she's writing a book of essays about things that have happened to her should pretty well imply that she does indeed 'remember the time'.
When I see a published book of essays, I expect to see finely tuned essays that impact the reader in some way, whether they be funny, moving or thoughtful. These felt more like reading the watered down blog of a soccer mom. Perhaps they would be interesting if you knew her but to this causal reader they were quite dull.(less)
Childish Loves is really two completely different works. Half the book focuses on the fictional Ben Markovits, who inherits several unpublished man...moreChildish Loves is really two completely different works. Half the book focuses on the fictional Ben Markovits, who inherits several unpublished manuscripts from a recently deceased colleague. After having the manuscripts published and seeing them gain more fame and attention than his own work, Mr. Markovits sets off on a journey to find out more about his deceased colleague.
It seemed to me that his goal was not just to find out more about the man, but to find out how much a reader can really learn about a writer through his work. I found this part of the book to be engaging, extremely well written and thought provoking.
The other portion of the book was excerpts from the unpublished manuscripts of his dead colleague, which consisted of the fictional diary entries of Lord Byron. It was hard for me to focus on these chapters. I didn't really understand how they were tying in with the rest of the book, or if they were, and I just kept wondering when we'd get back to the storyline that was actually interesting.
Overall, the sections of the book focusing on the fictional journey of Mr. Markovits' were excellent and I'd give them 5 stars. The Lord Byron fan fic sections really didn't work for me and as a complete work, the book felt disjointed.
p.s. I received a copy of this book from the publisher via the Goodreads First Reads program(less)
When I was notified that I'd be receiving What It is Like to Go to War through the Goodreads First Reads program, I really wasn't sure what I was g...moreWhen I was notified that I'd be receiving What It is Like to Go to War through the Goodreads First Reads program, I really wasn't sure what I was getting myself into. A book about combat? Well now, that certainly doesn't sound appealing. Luckily, Mr. Marlantes quickly put my concerns to rest.
My main fear was that this book would glorify war and combat but, though it does discuss some very ugly truths, I didn't feel that it was glorifying anything. Yes, the author saw plenty of combat in Vietnam, yes he killed people and yes he details that in this book. However, he makes it clear in the Preface that his goal is to educate people about the realities of war in an effort to better protect our military personnel:
“All conscientious citizens and especially those with the power to make policy will be better prepared to make decisions about committing young people to combat if they know what they are about to ask of them.”
This book does discuss what happens in wars but it goes far beyond a simple play by play of what it's like to pull a trigger. The author speaks at length about the psychological damage that's done and how ill prepared our troops are for this.
“The Marine Corps taught me how to kill but it didn't teach me how to deal with killing.”
“We cannot expect normal eighteen-year-olds to kill someone and contain it in a healthy way. They must be helped to sort out what will be healthy grief about taking a life because it is part of the sorrow of war. The drugs, alcohol, and suicides are ways of avoiding guilt and fear of grief. Grief itself is a healthy response.”
Mr. Marlantes is very honest about all sides of the coin. He talks about the adrenaline rush of being in combat, about the mixed emotions you feel when you've succeeded at your objective...when that objective is killing another human being. He also openly admits that if he were to be in that same situation again today, he'd handle it differently.
“I'd hope that I'd remember to respect my enemy's pain and agony.”
I was also pleasantly surprised to see that Mr. Marlantes is quite the skilled writer. He wrote for a broad audience and explained the military terms without talking down to his audience. This was a powerful and important book that I would not hesitate to recommend.(less)
The Man Who Couldn't Eat is the story of Jon Reiner, a man living with Chron's Disease. Complications from this disease lead to several months of M...moreThe Man Who Couldn't Eat is the story of Jon Reiner, a man living with Chron's Disease. Complications from this disease lead to several months of Mr. Reiner not being able to eat or drink, and to the necessity that all nutrients be pumped directly into his blood stream. As you might imagine, he became a bit unhinged and his wife, children and career suffered.
The author is certainly gifted and he made even the most technical explanations easily understandable and mostly interesting. The story is an engrossing one (emphasis on the gross), and it certainly held my attention.
I'm not sure how broad the appeal for this book is. Would I recommend it to a friend? I guess that depends on the friend, mostly because it's just a super depressing book. The worst part for me was when Mr. Reiner was finally able to eat again, only to discover that his taste buds had died and he couldn't taste anything.
Overall, I would say that if the premise of this book sounds interesting to you, then you'll enjoy the book, but, while the writing is excellent, it isn't quite such a compelling story that it would interest someone despite their initial misgivings.
P.S. The FTC would like me to let you know that I received this book at no cost through an Early Reviewers program.(less)
I had a lot of issues with You Don't Sweat Much for a Fat Girl (which I received at no cost from the publisher via the Goodreads First Reads progra...moreI had a lot of issues with You Don't Sweat Much for a Fat Girl (which I received at no cost from the publisher via the Goodreads First Reads program). First, Mrs. Rivenbark doesn't appear to be terribly bright. At one point she goes on about how she became anemic, which she apparently thinks means that she has hardly any blood. Some of her ignorant statements made me cringe but some of them she was clearly just proud of. For example:
“I got news for the New Yorker: I don't even get half those black-and-white cartoons you're so proud of.”
Congratulations. I'm not sure you should be bragging about that, though.
She's also a huge fan of racially profiling Muslims at the airport. At one point she defended her stance with some kind of dog/tiger metaphor, which didn't make much sense.
“Hey I know that the overwhelming majority of Muslims in this world are kind, decent folk who only want to work hard, worship peacefully and raise happy, healthy families. Everybody knows that. But look at it this way: you're walking down the street and you see a tiger on one side and a dog on the other. OK, it can be Mickey Rourke's Chihuahua for the sake of illustration. Which side do you want to walk on? I'll give you a hint: It ain't the tiger's.”
Yes, I would certainly rather pass a dog on the street than a tiger. But what the hell do tigers have to do with Muslims?
She further explains her enlightened stance thusly:
“But what of the trampling of individual rights, you ask? Hey, like Gandhi or somebody said, you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. And if those eggs happen to be stamped U.S. CONSTITUTION, well, that was written way before air travel so it's not all that relevant.”
In general, I just didn't find her jokes to be funny. She calls her husband 'Duh-Hubby' and her daughter “The Princess.” She thinks a t-shirt that says: “Ask Me About My Explosive Diarrhea” is super hilarious. There were a ton of pop culture references and a lot of her trying to use slang that just felt kind of gross considering she's, well, not a teenager. I'm a fan of snarky commentary but this went well beyond the point of being snarky and was just mean, plus not funny - which is a really bad combination.
Overall, I was extremely disappointed in this book and would not recommend it to anyone.(less)
I don't remember agreeing to review In a Dog's Heart, but when I received my review copy from the publisher, I was less then enthused. After briefly researching the author, I discovered that Jennifer Arnold is the founder of a non-profit that provides free guide dogs to people who need them but can't afford them. While that's certainly the kind of thing I'm into, I still dreaded reading this book, as I assumed it would be a somewhat cheesy and/or ridiculous book.
Instead, it was extremely well researched and clearly written by an expert on the topic. I've owned dogs in the past, but will likely never do so again, and yet I was completely fascinated by much of the information in this book. Where I thought she would use generalizations, she really got into specifics. For example, when she's talking about socializing a new puppy, she provides an extremely thorough and comprehensive list of different things to expose your puppy to, like children of various ages, men with hats and beards, people with packages, etc.
There were a few things in this book that I already knew, but that she really dug deep and gave more information. There was a section on pet food that was particularly enlightening, as I thought I knew the dangers of certain types of food, but the details she gave were really thought-provoking.
She also covers the domestication of dogs, and their evolution from wolves. Really, some very well written and fascinating stuff.
I would absolutely recommend this book to someone who was thinking about getting a puppy, adopting a pet from a shelter, or that already has a dog. If I enjoyed it as a non-pet owner, I feel pretty confident that it would be an invaluable resource to people who are involved with pets.
I received The Foreigners through the Goodread First Reads program and after reading the first chapter, I really wasn't sure that I'd make it throu...moreI received The Foreigners through the Goodread First Reads program and after reading the first chapter, I really wasn't sure that I'd make it through to the end. The writing was extremely laconic, to the point of abruptness. Short sentences. Telling you a few things. Sort of strung together. Abrupt, like I said.
Surprisingly though, the writing style grew on me and I eventually found myself somewhat fond of it. I don't think this was a result of the writing changing at all, but rather me adjusting to the writing. I started to see that it was actually quite melodic and lyrical.
Once I got used to the writing style, I was able to focus more on the story line. The plot centers around Daisy, an American woman who's recently gone through a divorce, and who decides that a change of pace would do her some good. She scams some company into giving her a grant to study the water in Buenos Aries (despite not being any kind of water expert or caring at all about water systems) and heads on down. Before long she's befriended two very different women, both of them foreigners. The story is that of their intertwining lives and the story of each of their struggles to escape from something.
There were parts of the plot that I found interesting enough, but most of it was about Daisy's acceptance of some terrible behavior on the part of a woman she met named Leonarda, who was a completely mentally unstable person who lied, cheated and was just generally awful. For example, at one point she convinces Daisy that they killed a man, when in fact it was all some elaborate game Leonarda was playing. I found these antics to be both annoying and dull at the same time.
Overall, I think there is an audience for this book. It was interesting to learn some things about Buenos Aries and there was one minor character, Gabriel, who I found quite endearing. Overall though, it was an overly complicated story told with very simple language. It did not manage to engage me and in the end was quite forgettable.(less)
I want to buy 1,000 copies of Blueprints for Building Better Girls and hand them out to random passersby on the streets. I want this book to be rea...moreI want to buy 1,000 copies of Blueprints for Building Better Girls and hand them out to random passersby on the streets. I want this book to be read, immediately, by everyone I've ever known or will ever know. This is incredible stuff. Easily the best book I've read this year. Possibly the best book I've ever read.
It is a series of short stories that center around women and the relationships we have with one another, with our lovers, with our spouses, our children, our parents. Most of the stories intersect with another story in some way. There was laughing, there was crying. There was one particular 8 page section that I had to read out of the corner of my eye because I just couldn't face it head on.
It is brave, and honest, and exceptional in every way. This book made me a wiser person.
Thank you, Goodreads First Reads program for sending me this book and thank you Elissa Schappell for writing it.(less)
In Malice, Quite Close by Brandi Lynn Ryder is one of the tensest books I've ever read. Not only did Ms. Ryder manage to keep me guessing about who...moreIn Malice, Quite Close by Brandi Lynn Ryder is one of the tensest books I've ever read. Not only did Ms. Ryder manage to keep me guessing about who-done-it, she kept me guessing about what they'd done. This intricate novel covered decades of time and at every twist there was a turn and where you thought there would be a turn you found a brick wall, except that brick wall turned out to to be a trick wall, except, wait, is that even brick? And who's that guy over there with the shovel?
In the hands of a less gifted writer this book would have been confusing or felt contrived. Instead it was simply breathtaking and heartbreaking and oh so delicious. Highly recommended.
By the way, I'm certainly not a person who judges a book by its cover but this one is exceptional. The picture is haunting but the cover has this weird rubbery / velvety texture that just felt sexy in my hands. Well, and a little creepy too. But mostly sexy.
Also, it is my duty to inform you that I received this book through the Goodreads First Reads Program.(less)
“We have a favorite saying at Shalom: Good people don't go to heaven, believers go to heaven.”
Before I get all nasty on Come of Age: The Road to Spiritual Maturity, which is likely the worst book I've ever read, let me make one thing clear: I am not the intended audience for this book. I am not a believer, which the author makes very clear means I will go straight to hell, without question. Not because God is sending me there. No, God does not condemn you to hell – he just convicts you! It's that big bad devil who actually condemns you to hell! I think perhaps God and Harry Truman need to have a little chat about personal responsibility.
Now, just because I'm not a believer does not mean that I went in to this book with a closed mind. I've received two other religious books from publishers this year, both of which I really enjoyed. You can read those reviews here and here. Additionally, this seems like as good a time as any to let you know that I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher. The FTC requires me to disclose that fact so you can decide for yourself if I lack the integrity necessary to be honest. For some reason I don't think that will be in question with this review.
This book was problematic for dozens of reasons, but most of them fall under the umbrella of Mr. Buchan just being a vile human being. The other religious books I read this year appealed to me because they were written for a broader audience and because they focused on faith being a positive and uplifting force in the lives of believers. In short, those books and I agreed on one thing: faith should bring you comfort.
Angus, on the other hand, is of the opinion that 'spiritual maturity' means just judging the fuck out of everyone around you. He believes that Health Ledger died as a result of three things:
1. Having a child out of wedlock. 2. Having “simulated gay sex” in Brokeback Mountain. 3. “Channeling evil” in preparation for his role as the Joker.
He believes that Mike Tyson was a victim of 'un-Christlike people' and goes on a several page rant on the tragedy of Tyson's fall from grace. What's particularly funny about these passages is the fact that he makes a whole hell of a lot of assumptions and guestimations – many of which are about things that are easily verifiable, such as Tyson's boxing record or Tyson's age when he became the world heavywight champion.
“The perfect example of that was a talented young man by the name of Mike Tyson. He let people come in and take his dream, his vision, his revelation and literally trash it – and him . . . He was taken to some boxing promoters, who put him in a boxing ring with an up-and-coming professional boxer. . . They saw his potential. An Italian-American senior gentleman took Mike under his wing, not only as a potential boxer, but as a son. I think he even grew up in his home.
This youngster was amazing. By the age of nineteen, he had had something like twenty-three first-class boxing tournaments . . .
Then tragedy hit. The old trainer got cancer and died. . . I don't think he was even twenty years old when he became the world heavyweight champion. That's when the scavengers of this world moved in and took him over. . . He ended up biting off part of a boxer's ear, he started getting beaten, which was unheard of before that, and then some woman accused him of taking advantage of her and he ended up in jail. . . ”
What's not funny is Mr. Buchan's choice of words. “Some woman accused him of taking advantage of her.” Really? Tyson is a convicted rapist who has admitted under oath that he's physically assaulted several women. I do not appreciate Angus's total trivialization of a rape case.
I do not appreciate his passive language, “he ended up in jail.” He didn't just 'end up there'. He didn't lose his map or have a faulty compass or sleep through his bus stop. He brutally raped a woman. He was convicted by a jury of his peers and was rightly sentenced to prison.
I do not appreciate him just tacking the rape case on at the end of his list of tragedies that have befallen Tyson. It is incorrect chronologically (he was a known rapist before he was a known biter) and it just altogether makes me feel sick.
Though, perhaps Angus can help me out with my nausea, because you see, he can heal people! Mostly though he uses these powers only to heal himself. One of my favorite (tall) tales is the one where he had two back-to-back heart attacks in the middle of a weekend conference, was airlifted to the nearest hospital and not expected to live, but somehow, through his fans fervent prayers and the Glory of the Lord Jesus Christ His Personal Saviour, he was completely healed and back to preaching at the conference within 12 hours.
He also has the uncanny ability to make strangers walk up to him and just start weeping. This happened at least 10 times in the book.
“A lady was standing next to me while I was talking to that young jockey. She smiled. I was able to greet her while the bus was driving us to the plane and I slipped her a little card that we have printed out, wishing her well. She broke down and started weeping. One of my armour-bearers, my song Dougal, asked her if she was okay. She replied that she was; she was just overwhelmed by the love of God in that bus. It was one of the greatest days I've had in my life.”
“One man came up to me and actually started weeping. His friend's life was completely changed at the last Mighty Men Conference.”
Angus makes it clear that if he had his way, all believers in God would walk up to strangers on the street and constantly announce their love for the Lord.
“Please do not waste time. Go and tell them about your blessed Saviour.”
His powers don't end at causing people or the clouds to weep though. Total strangers frequently approach him after a sermon and ask him to preform a wedding for them, right there on the spot. And when I say frequently, I mean that he claims that in one particular 2 day period he wed 7 couples who spontaneously decided to get married. He is really super excited about this because it's somehow a testament to the Lord and “What an example to all the other young folk!”
Yes, great example! Why don't you just rush into marriage because you were moved by the Spirit, and not because you are committed to one another and have carefully considered the personal, financial and legal ramifications of promising forever to someone. He knew absolutely nothing about these couples before he performed their marriage ceremonies and yet he says he's positive that their marriages will last forever. I guess the bible told him so.
Not surprisingly, his opinion of women is problematic, to say the least. He believes that men should provide and that women should sit around, looking pretty and raising children. He believes they should be subservient to their men.
“We met old people, young people, part-time farmers, full-time farmers, big farmers, small farmers, women farmers.... It was amazing.”
I love that passage because it teaches me that apparently women cannot be old, young, part-time, full-time, big or small – they are just women!
The only thing Angus and I agree on is that it's disgusting to have hideously wealthy people while others starve to death. He believes that any man who leaves the earth with a significant amount of money in his bank account has committed a sin. He believes that there is much good that could have been done with that money.
Sadly, his record on other social issues is a bit... different. Let's take a look at how he thinks we should treat 'simple' people:
“You'll find no mental asylums in those rural areas. If there's a man or woman who's simple and has the mind of a child, that person will just wander from village to village and sleep in anybody's house. They'll be given food to eat and clothes to wear. I'm sure that's the way it was meant to be.”
What a great plan! Let's just let 'simple' people wander the streets and enter into the homes of any old neighbor they choose. I'm sure those 'simple' people will never be abused or taken advantage of by the complete strangers they're staying with. I'm also pretty sure the options aren't limited to A) Let 'simple' people wander the streets or B) Lock them up in a mental asylum.
In case anyone is still considering reading this book, I will leave you with a piece of advice from Angus that I do agree with, though it is a bit ironic coming from him.
It's difficult to separate the novel All Our Worldly Goods from the true story of what happened to Irene Nemirovsky. This book is haunting, in larg...moreIt's difficult to separate the novel All Our Worldly Goods from the true story of what happened to Irene Nemirovsky. This book is haunting, in large part because I could feel the ghost of the author, looking over my shoulder, begging me to understand.
I've read several reviews of this book and it seems that many people felt unsatisfied because they weren't sure how they were supposed to feel, or what lessons they were supposed to take from the story. For me, that was the power of this book. I believe that everyone who reads it will take something different from it.
It is a tale of true love, of a couple who's willing to turn their backs on arranged marriages that will surely lead to simple lives, and who instead embark on a life together that's full of hardship. Through wars and deaths and the complete annihilation of the lives they once knew, they never regret their decision.
I was struck by the way that the lives of numerous characters intertwined. I won't ruin the book for anyone else by giving too much detail, but this book really drove home the point that you really just never know what could happen. How awful would it have been for them to marry the people they were 'supposed to', for the purpose of a simple, wealthy and easy life . . . only to find that it was none of those things?
* * * *
I received this book courtesy of the Goodreads First Reads program.(less)
After the Party is a sequel, and I suppose it's possible that if I'd read the first one, I would have enjoyed this more - but I find it unlikely.
Th...moreAfter the Party is a sequel, and I suppose it's possible that if I'd read the first one, I would have enjoyed this more - but I find it unlikely.
There really wasn't much for me to like here. I imagine that Lisa Jewell was trying to write a book about a couple with two kids, who found themselves drifting apart, but really it was just a gossipy, ridiculous, and not terribly amusing story about a family unit that wasn't functioning very well.
The writing style certainly wasn't prize-winning, but it wasn't terrible either. She managed to turn a few phrases that I found endearing.
"He was the sort of man who made no first impression at all but climbed his way slowly inside your consciousness, grew outlines and texture and color like a photo in a tray of developing film."
There were several main problems running throughout the narrative:
1) I disliked all the characters from the beginning, and grew to hate them by the end.
2) It appeared that the author consulted a book of possible plot devices, and instead of choosing one or two, she crammed every one into this story. Abortions, miscarriages, infidelity, indifference, stalking, abandonment, being stood up at the alter etc.
3) There were numerous inconsistencies that were jarring as hell. For example, on one page, a guy shows up for dinner with some beer, and says, "I thought, curry, it should really be beer." On the very next page, the woman to whom he just handed the beer says, "I hope you don't mind but I got a bit inspired in the new and improved Sainsbury's and thought I'd cook rather than order out. Are you okay with Thai food?" Also, she'd invited him for dinner via text, and specifically mentioned that they were having Thai food. This happens several other times in the book; a character will say something as though it's never been discussed before, even though it was just covered. I suspect the author wrote this book in a few sittings and didn't bother to go back and re-read it for the sake of consistency.
4) It's clearly supposed to be Chick-Lit, but I'd prefer my Chick-Lit to not have numerous instances of shitty misogyny. For example, "Jem was taking a masculine approach to the situation, a practical, realistic approach." Ah, so men are practical and realistic, while women are totally irrational at all times. Good to know!
Overall, I obviously wouldn't recommend this to anyone, and though I do appreciate receiving a free copy from the GoodReads First Reads program, I will be donating it to my local thrift store. My apologies in advance to whomever unwittingly reads it.(less)