The writing isn't great, especially because I read an uncorrected advanced copy, but this book made me so darn happy. Worth reading for the joy if you...moreThe writing isn't great, especially because I read an uncorrected advanced copy, but this book made me so darn happy. Worth reading for the joy if you're a fan of The Princess Bride.(less)
A few days ago, I had to put my cat to sleep. She meant a lot to me, and after it was done I couldn’t help but think about that instant where she was...moreA few days ago, I had to put my cat to sleep. She meant a lot to me, and after it was done I couldn’t help but think about that instant where she was a breathing, sentient lady, and the next, when she was just a shell of organic compounds, laying there with eyes that no longer could see. It’s so hard to wrap my head around the death of another, but in Mortality, Hitchens takes it a step further by mediating at length on his own impending end, due to stage four esophageal cancer. Not that I can really compare the death of my cat with the death of Christopher Hitchens, but reading this book right now seemed appropriate.
This is a very short book, but with a subject as dark and universal as our own mortality, I don’t think it is necessary to linger longer. If we focus only on our impending deaths, we forget to enjoy our current lives. However, I do think it is important to approach the subject from time to time because a) death comes for us all and better to know your enemy, and b) it makes living that much more valuable to know that someday it will be taken from us. Hitchens’ voice in this is clear as a bell, until the last chapter, which remained unfinished and fragmentary due to his death. And as much as he knew he was going to die, reading this makes me wonder if he ever truly could wrap his mind around it until the final moment.
As grim as it was, reading Mortality actually helped. Hitchens brings forth the irony and humor of the horrors he went through, and even though he no longer believed that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, the strength of his final writings show that he continued to live, even while dying.(less)
I don't often read memoirs, although I'd like to read more. This one seemed interesting to me because I had an idea of what Bacharach must be like, af...moreI don't often read memoirs, although I'd like to read more. This one seemed interesting to me because I had an idea of what Bacharach must be like, after listening to his music for so long. I was totally wrong. Bacharach's voice comes through loud and clear, and I didn't always like what I heard. Memoirs are largely dependent on the person they're representing, and early on I didn't think I'd like this book. The reason was Bacharach's callous talk about women in general, as well as the women that were in his life. He came across as a womanizer and a cad. I hated whenever he called a woman a "dog" to indicate that he thought she was ugly, or how he casually talked about cheating on his wives and girlfriends.
At a point, though, the book transitioned to be less about his romantic escapades and more about his music, which is where I got sucked in. It details how he was the pianist, arranger, and conductor for Marlene Dietrich, and traveled the globe touring with her.
I loved reading about how he met and began working with Dionne Warwick, who became famous singing the songs written by Bacharach and his songwriting partner Hal David. She had the perfect voice for these songs, and really made them iconic. Too bad Bacharach, Warwick, and David all fell out of favor with each other and embarked in a circle of lawsuits. They made up later, but missed out on a lot of potential years of more hits.
Even better were the songs that I didn't realize Bacharach wrote. For example, Baby It's You, which was recorded by The Beatles. I also didn't connect him with That's What Friends Are For or Neil Diamond's Heartlight, both songs that were the foundation of the soundtrack of my earliest years (I was born in the early '80s).
It was great reading about the instrumentation Bacharach would use in the studio, like five (count 'em, FIVE) pianos playing on the recording of Tom Jones doing What's New Pussycat?, or the amount of takes he would make the musicians do to get the perfect take. He'd have them do it over and over again, but when Herb Alpert recorded This Guy's In Love, Alpert insisted that they didn't need anymore takes because the first take was perfect, and it turns out it was. He also talks a lot about how musicians were irritated by his use of complex meters and time signatures in his music, but he wrote the song that wanted to be written without forcing it into 4/4 time. This comes across when you listen, because with the exception of songs like Promises, Promises, the melody flows so gently that the transitions in time signatures is hard to detect by most ears, which is a real testament to Bacharach's songwriting.
I also had fun reading about the writing of Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head, because it was my favorite song in the whole world when I was a kid. Really.
While I wasn't in love with Bacharach (he loves himself enough already), I am still in love with his music. I enjoyed getting insight into this aspect of music history, and am glad Bacharach's still with us. He talks about future projects, and you have to admire a guy who is still working so hard in his mid-80s. This is worth the read if you love the songs.(less)
January First broke my heart and made me question how much devotion I’d be able to commit to my future child or children. To have a kid, think that sh...moreJanuary First broke my heart and made me question how much devotion I’d be able to commit to my future child or children. To have a kid, think that she is normal, and then find out that she is intensely mentally ill, to the point that she endangers herself and other members of your family is kind of too much to take. But what can you do, really? You can’t abandon her, because if you’re not there for her, who will be? Schofield’s account of what it was like to go through this really got to me emotionally, and I just couldn’t stop reading. I read this one fast.
I don’t remember much about the writing, other than it got his point across. Really, who pays attention to the details of writing when the story is this compelling? I do know that Schofield’s style didn’t get in the way for me. I was left thinking about this book for days after I finished it, and felt mixed emotions. There was the horror of the knowledge that this could happen to me and my future family, but also thankfulness that I haven’t had to go through what Schofield’s family has had to endure. This is a great read for anybody who is interested in living with people with mental illness.(less)
Know what's more fun than a bunch of ghost stories? A bunch of ghost stories that take place in a funeral home! This book is completely about the ofte...moreKnow what's more fun than a bunch of ghost stories? A bunch of ghost stories that take place in a funeral home! This book is completely about the often creepy, but sometimes touching, encounters with the spirits of the dead in the place where most of us will eventually wind up.
A part of me really wishes that this book had been written and marketed as fiction rather than as a true encounters kind of book. I love hearing the stories, but if somebody is trying to convince me that all of these things really happened to her, my inner skeptic is going to speak up. I've heard de la Croix interviewed a few times before, and she really does maintain that she is a psychic. It's the kind of thing you just can't argue, but I also have a really hard time believing. It seems too convenient to have ghostly encounter after ghostly encounter when so many of us have had no experiences. Granted, a funeral home might ratchet up the spook-factor.
De la Croix's writing voice didn't always work for me. It can be overly saccharine at times. I think this is a problem with the chemistry between my own personal tastes and her way of expressing herself, so others may not share this viewpoint. Subjectively, I would have preferred a bit less of calling people "dear" or the way she spoke to the spirits to get them to stop what they were doing.
What I enjoyed most about this read were the ins and outs of working in a funeral home. De la Croix shares some of the practicalities of embalming and cremation, but she also gives us an idea of the many little things that come with the job, like bringing in more tissues for mourners, or setting alarms and turning off lights at the end of the day. This provided a nice grounding and insight into this as an actual career, rather than simply a setting for the stories.
Restless in Peace is a fairly quick read full of plenty of ghostly encounters, and is a fair choice for those who are curious about funeral homes and want some creepy stories.(less)
I was so looking forward to reading this book since I'd first seen the cover and blurb on Edelweiss all those months ago. The cover looks quirky and f...moreI was so looking forward to reading this book since I'd first seen the cover and blurb on Edelweiss all those months ago. The cover looks quirky and fun, and just like DiDonato says at the beginning of the blurb, I really wanted to know firsthand what it's like to live with dwarfism. Sadly, the book just didn't deliver on any of those counts. Instead, this is one woman's story about her own life up until her very early thirties. Still, it could have been compelling, except that I just did not care about Tiffanie DiDonato.
I actually came to actively dislike Tiffanie. If I hadn't been rushing to finish my yearly reading challenge, I probably would have abandoned this book. Tiffanie comes across as a childish, self-aggrandizing, spoiled brat who happens to have been born with a serious medical condition that made simple things, like brushing her own hair, impossible. Tiffanie was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to stretch (get it!?) the limits of the newest medical innovations for limb lengthening that were available to her in her childhood and teen years. Tiffanie got blowback from some of the dwarf community for her drastic body modification, but can you blame her for wanting to be self-sufficient? I can't.
What I can blame Tiffanie for is how she never mentions in this book the monetary costs of her operations. These are procedures that can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. I see two probable ways these were paid for: a) her parents, b) her insurance. If it was by her parents, then she does not even come close to giving them the huge thanks they deserve for what would be a huge sacrifice. Her parents come across as well-meaning and indulgent, but in their concern for her I think she became very spoiled. At one point, she gets into what she calls a "fender bender" on her drive back to college. When her sorority sister suggests she get her car fixed soon, she laughs it off and has her parents just buy her a new BMW Z3. Yes, seriously. Her sweet sixteen involves a limo ride to a fancy restaurant, as well as other flippantly offered shows that money is clearly not much of a concern of hers. Scenario b, the insurance, would mean that the cost of her surgery, surgery that many doctors would not have been willing to do, was passed on to the other insurance subscribers, raising the rates for everyone. But I'm sure Tiffanie deserves it.
Another reason she was so detestable? When ONE teacher mentioned her dwarfism, her parents tried to get that teacher fired. When that didn't work, Tiffanie set out with the internet to try to bring the teacher down with a computer virus, and spread her phone number around for awful phone calls. She never seems sorry for any of this, but is gleeful. Time to get over it, "Tiffie."
I gagged at the end when I came to the description of her fairytale wedding, complete with real trees her parents decorated at her insistence of it looking like an enchanted forest.
Yes, this book was a quick read, and I'm really glad for that, because I wouldn't want to spend another moment with Tiffanie.(less)