Judy bought Michael and me this book four years ago on our first anniversary, since the traditional gift is paper. She bought us a copy on audio and i...moreJudy bought Michael and me this book four years ago on our first anniversary, since the traditional gift is paper. She bought us a copy on audio and in print. The audio is read marvelously by Jeremy Irons (yum!). But I have the print copy and decided to read it as well this time. My book club's waiting list has gotten so long that we formed a splinter group, which will now meet on Sundays. This is the first book that group is going to read together, and I'm really looking forward to discussing it, since I had forgotten how great this book is.
The tale is that of a Spanish shepherd named Santiago who is haunted by a dream of finding his treasure under the Egyptian pyramids. He is encouraged to do so by a gypsy and an old king, and so he sells his flock and makes his way across the desert, having many grand adventures as he does so. He learns many important lessons about life, such as not doing something just because that's the way you've always done it, and the importance of following your heart. The book is kind of self-helpy without being self-helpy, and I really like that about it. It's also just a great story. Without getting into overblown detail, you feel as if you know exactly what each place looks like, you can envision each character, you can nearly smell and taste each experience yourself. The writing is exquisite. I'm jealous! (less)
There came to a point earlier this year when I would visit my sister's house and our conversations would be like this:
Me: How are you guys? Joe: All li...moreThere came to a point earlier this year when I would visit my sister's house and our conversations would be like this:
Me: How are you guys? Joe: All life is travesty. Judy: I hate everyone. The entire universe is a bunch of f'ing idiots except for me.
If I called on the phone, it was the same. I was getting to the point I couldn't take it any more. I went to Barnes and Noble and out of the blue, How to Be Happy Dammit! called my name.
The book is a quick read full of interesting pictures, funny sayings, and stories. The bright orange cover catches the eye, and the first couple of lessons really grab you and don't let go. But it's not a sugary or saccharine type of self-help book either.
There are 44 lessons in the book and they are all interconnected. It begins with the idea that when you're first born, you're tiny, you don't know what's going on, you've been warm and cozy in your little womb, and then all of a sudden: WHACK! Some idiot on the outside smacks you when you're 3 1/2 seconds old and you've learned your first lessons: Life is not fair, and life occasionally hands out pain for seemingly no good reason. But without it, your little baby self would not grow, and instead you would be dead. I love, love, love this story. And the entire book has these interesting points of view and analogies.
If you're looking for a serene and calming self-help book, this might not be the one for you. BUT! If you want to have some fun learning to have a more positive outlook on life, and you find yourself a little bit cynical of the self help industry, this might just be the one for you.
The book is a very quick read, I read it in about an hour and then Michael and I re-read it outloud together in about an hour's time. Although I was loathe to do so, I did give it to Joe and Judy, and as best I can tell, they've put it in a cupboard and neither one of them has read it. C'est la vie. This book was fun, colorful, and interesting. READ IT! (less)
This is the sequel to a previous favorite read, How to Be Happy, Dammit!, which I read earlier this year. Enough Dammit again has lots of pretty graph...moreThis is the sequel to a previous favorite read, How to Be Happy, Dammit!, which I read earlier this year. Enough Dammit again has lots of pretty graphics and 44 life lessons, but challenges you to quit sabotaging yourself and start getting what you want by doing what needs to be done to get to your goal.
The book tied in nicely with my general state of mind right now. I didn't want to hear the message of the book, which is basically that change is painful, but living the life you're living right now where you don't have what you want mentally, physically, and emotionally is also painful, and a little different pain will put you in a happier place. I recommended this one to several people I know need the message like I do, I hope they'll get it and read it. Unlike How to Be Happy, Dammit, I can see myself coming back to this one several times, to refresh my memory and re-learn the lessons. This was a lot harder to read, since I generally consider myself a happy person, but not necessarily motivated to change. (less)
Jodi Piccoult is one of my favorite writers and I was desperate to get my hands on a copy of this book--so desperate in fact that I actually broke my...moreJodi Piccoult is one of my favorite writers and I was desperate to get my hands on a copy of this book--so desperate in fact that I actually broke my recent rule about only reading what I could get from Paperback Swap and had my sister pick me up a copy of it. Nineteen Minutes centers around the events in a small New Hampshire town when young Peter goes literally ballistic and shoots up his high school. Peter has endured years of abuse, beginning in kindergarten, at the hands of his peers and teachers, administrators, and his own parents have been unsympathetic about his torment. He goes to school, detonates a bomb, and in the ensuing panic, starts shooting.
The story follows two different families, that of Peter's and that of Josie's--Peter's sometimes friend and the daughter of a judge he may potentially face as part of his trial. Josie leaves Peter behind in grade school, becoming a queen bee, but she has her own personal demons behind being a popular kid and not feeling much like herself--or even knowing who she is if she's not Matt's girlfriend or the smart or pretty girl.
The story was un-put-down-able until the end, and then I thought the end was basically bullshit. (Pardon my Francais, gentle readers) There was a little twist at the end and I thought, "Huh, why the hell did she do that?!" which was also what I was thinking when I read another Piccoult classic, My Sister's Keeper. So I'm going to accept it as "what she does" and come away saying this was a darned good read. Fortunately not the tear jerker My Sister's Keeper was, but good nonetheless. (less)
I absolutely love A. Manette Ansay, she is definitely one of my favorite writers. I adored Sister and Vinegar Hill and to a lesser extent I enjoyed Mi...moreI absolutely love A. Manette Ansay, she is definitely one of my favorite writers. I adored Sister and Vinegar Hill and to a lesser extent I enjoyed Midnight Champagne. I was unaware that she had written Blue Water, so I was excited when I ran across it unexpectedly on Amazon.com and even more thrilled when it was available on PaperbackSwap.com.
Blue Water is the tale of Meg and Rex Van Dorn, an ordinary couple living in an ordinary Wisconsin town. One day, Meg is driving their son Evan, age 6, to school and her car is rammed by Cindy Ann, her best friend from high school. Evan, Meg and Rex's miracle baby, is killed instantly. Cindy Ann and her three daughters walk away without a scratch. It is later shown that Cindy Ann was drunk at the time of the accident and has had a serious drinking problem due to abuse suffered as a child at the hands of her step father.
Unable to cope with the sight of Cindy Ann, and the fact that her own brother Toby is marrying Cindy Ann's sister, Meg decides to leave Wisconsin and she and her husband rent out their house and take up residence on a boat, sailing to escape the pain of their son's death. Rex and Meg can't agree upon what to do, whether they should launch a civil suit against Cindy Ann, who refuses to quit drinking and narrowly avoids jail time, or whether to let the whole thing drop, as Meg feels guilt over not helping her friend more during the years of torment in high school. Adding to the complicated feelings is Toby's impending wedding and his desire for his sister to be present and supportive of his new life.
This book was definitely very good, if perhaps a bit over-the-top with the complicated relationships. I found it a bit hard to swallow that Toby would completely ignore his sister's feelings and go ahead and marry a woman so close the source of his nephew's demise, and I didn't feel that Toby and Meg's brother-sister relationship, which was almost more of a father-daughter relationship, would have survived that. Meg wound up making the most sacrifices to ensure peace in the family and ultimately, I found it incomprehensible that she would wind up caring for the woman who killed her son. Still, I liked the book on the level of Midnight Champagne and was glad to have read it. (less)
David Gerrold, a science fiction writer, decided he wanted to become a father. Single and gay, he chose to adopt through the California Foster Care sy...moreDavid Gerrold, a science fiction writer, decided he wanted to become a father. Single and gay, he chose to adopt through the California Foster Care system. One day, while looking through a book of adoptable children, he came upon a picture of Dennis, a troubled young boy that the social workers had labeled unadoptable. Dennis was convinced he was a Martian, got into fights with other kids, and destroyed property. But David was ready to take him on. Together, they built a family.
This was a great book! I happened upon it by accident in Borders and I read it immediately. Gerrold does gloss over almost all of Dennis's behavioral problems, making lists like "of course, he got into trouble, stole money, destroyed books, but he was a great kid". So we never really know much about the real struggles they went through.
The book instead focuses a lot on Dennis's obsession with being a Martian. Gerrold finds other examples of children who think they're Martians too, and speculates that they might, in fact, be Martians! Of course, he doesn't pursue this line of thought, for fear he'd be found crazy and put the adoption in jeopardy.
The book won a Hugo and a Nebula Award, which I gather is a big deal in the Sci Fi community. However, it really was just a heartwarming story of a dad and his son, and the growing pains a kid in the system faces as he struggles to become part of an average family in America. I have great respect for foster parents--I am a volunteer for the Orphan Foundation of America, which helps youth aging out of the foster care system, and I listen to the kids I mentor talk about it and wonder how the system and the families can be improved. It's a tough, tough job. I'm glad it worked out for these two. (less)
The story of Susan Polk, whose husband Felix was founded stabbed to death in their California home, centers around the couple's relationship, their fa...moreThe story of Susan Polk, whose husband Felix was founded stabbed to death in their California home, centers around the couple's relationship, their family life, Felix's murder, and Susan's conviction for said murder. Susan and Felix met when Susan was a teenager and underwent psychiatric care with Felix, who was 20+ years her senior. Apparently during their therapy sessions, Felix would put Susan under hypnosis and sexually assault her. Somehow, she wound up marrying him, bearing 3 sons, and then, continuing to struggle with her mental health issues, went off the deep end and murdered him after years of alleged emotional and physical abuse. She decides to represent herself at trial and is convicted. (There is little doubt in my mind based on this book that she would have been cleared by reason of insanity had that been her defense and she would have allowed a competent lawyer to represent her)
This book stretched on for miles, included a lot of useless facts (ie what Susan wore to court every day, how she styled her hair, etc). Towards the end, Michael and I just wanted to be done with it and skipped over a chapter or two to reach the end. And I don't think we missed a damned thing. Awful. Singularly awful. Although it was entertaining to read, "Susan stabbed her husband in the chest and abdomen" out loud. hehe Catherine Crier, host of a show on CourTV, needs to take a few true crime writing lessons from John Grisham or someone. We just finally gave up. "Uncle!" (less)
The beauty of swapping books on line is that I don't have to pay for books I've been interested in reading but not interested enough in to go purchase...moreThe beauty of swapping books on line is that I don't have to pay for books I've been interested in reading but not interested enough in to go purchase or get from the library. This was one of those books. I read A Child Called It ages ago, which details the horrifying abuse Dave Pelzer suffered at the hands of his mother. The Lost Boy is the follow up to that book, in which Dave details his struggles to find a home in the foster care system. Dave's first taste of freedom from fear, hunger, cold, and hurt send him on a headlong path to crazy-little-boy-dom as he just goes off the wall for a while. He switches families a good amount, as he gets into serious trouble while trying to learn how to behave in a world he doesn't understand. Eventually he finds a place where the people understand him and are willing to work with him to help him become a healthy and productive teenager.
I have thought often of becoming a foster parent, although I know it's a difficult journey to follow, and reading this makes me question my own patience even more. It's sad to know there are children out there like Dave was, who need a good home and a place to feel safe as their own families either cannot or will not care from them appropriately. I am currently an on-line mentor to two such youth and it's nice to know that I am doing my part to try and give them a little guidance. (If you think you'd like to become an online "vMentor" to a youth aging out of foster care, please visit www.orphan.org and click on vMentor today.) I enjoyed reading The Lost Boy and learning what it took for Dave and his family to get his act together and help him clean up after years of unbelievable abuse. (less)
This book was not as good as the two previous books, How to Be Happy Dammit! and Enough Dammit! I enjoyed it, but I didn't love it.
The idea behind thi...moreThis book was not as good as the two previous books, How to Be Happy Dammit! and Enough Dammit! I enjoyed it, but I didn't love it.
The idea behind this book is that the seven deadly sins can actually be a path to inner fulfillment and help you get what you want. There are 7 other sins that are much deadly, among them worry and apathy, which rob us of our joy for living.
The book was as colorful and graphic and easy to read as the previous 2 installments, but didn't speak to me as loudly as they did.(less)
This story of an autistic boy, who is sole witness to the murder of a classmate, is riveting. The story does sometimes meander away from the main plot...moreThis story of an autistic boy, who is sole witness to the murder of a classmate, is riveting. The story does sometimes meander away from the main plot, delving into the life of Adam's mother and her past and the lives of her friends, but overall, a very satisfying read.(less)
I found the ending EXTREMELY disappointing. Rather than a real "up yours" attitude to the kids who were absolutely rotten to her, she inquires why the...moreI found the ending EXTREMELY disappointing. Rather than a real "up yours" attitude to the kids who were absolutely rotten to her, she inquires why they were mean to her, they all say, "oh, we weren't that bad, we were just kids" and she's like, "ok, yeah" and they're all chummy. What a sell out. I would no sooner speak to the kids who were mean to me in high school than I would jump off a cliff, much less forgive them without so much as a true apology.(less)