If You Feel Too Much by Jamie Tworkowski (5 out of 5)

•May 26, 2015 • Leave a Comment

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I spotted this on the New Release cart on Saturday. Saturday was a long day at work, namely because it was so quiet and my coworkers were talking about music that held NO interest for me. Thankfully, I was able to tune both of them out with this book. It also didn’t take long for me to get into the book. For those who have no idea who Jamie Tworkowski is, he founded a non-profit organization called TO WRITE LOVE ON HER ARMS after he wrote a story based on a friend of his who was struggling with addiction, depression, and self-injury. That story went viral and nine years later, he founded TWLOHA, which is a recognized leader in suicide prevention and offers encouragement, hope, and resources for people who are struggling. My mother committed suicide when I was 23. It seemed like I was meant to pick up this book.

Don’t expect a weighty tome or know-it-all wisdom. There is none of that here. Tworkowski writes sparingly, not needing many words to get the simplest lessons in life across to us. By reading this, you know immediately what launched TWLOHA, and whom has inspired him to continue the fight. His mission, plain and simple, is to get through. To those who are reading this, who may know someone similar to those he writes about, to those he has lost, to those who are starting to sink and can find only darkness. Like it or not, people, there are a lot of people out there without anchors. What the author has managed to convey here with his small volume of stories, is that there is always hope, you just have to fight like hell and find it. And don’t feel bad for doing so, because it doesn’t make you weak, it makes you human. I felt this book deeply. More deeply, in fact, than I can possibly put into words here. People may be afraid to pick this up and give it a spin, simply because it’s “dark” and some quasi “Suicide Prevention Guide”. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are those who can’t be saved, and there are those who still can be saved. There need to be more people out in the world like Tworkowski, who are unafraid to tread that line between the unspoken and unknown, and offer some form of salve to heal those scars. It’s not a self-help book, it’s not a mind, body, and spirit, and no, it’s not a religious book. It’s simply a beautifully written collection of hope. And that’s exactly why you should read it.

I Regret Nothing: A Memoir by Jen Lancaster (4 out of 5)

•May 25, 2015 • Leave a Comment

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I’ve read all of Jen Lancaster’s books. The minute I see a new title coming out, I immediately order it and buy it. I’m a loyal fan and find her brand of crass candor refreshing to the max. (PS- I have no idea what the hell that whole sentence means). So, I’m a fan. I often have to remove myself from the fandom to post an objective review. Not hard when it’s a book that’s entertaining, laugh-out loud funny, and thought provoking at the same time. This one has all three. Great job, Ms. Lancaster. (PS- still waiting for Fletch to write a book. I’m a fan of your husband..and NO, not in the way that entire sentence sounds).

This time around, Jen is writing her bucket list. She has a girls’ weekend in Savannah and comes to the horrifying realization that she is MIDDLE-AGED(I hear ya!). This leads to her deciding to make a bucket list and Carpe Diem! and all that crap… so Jen begins to make her list, check it twice, and learn to ride a bike. And learn Italian, attempt a juice cleanse, start a new business, and training for a 5K. As always, I laughed at a lot of this, and yet not as much as I have laughed in the past. I think she spent a lot of time in this book going off on social media. Face it, it’s not going away anytime soon. And if you are a published author, radio personality, actor, or anyone in the public eye, social media can be an impenetrable tool as far as getting the word out about your talent and your passion. This is something I feel very strongly about. That’s why blogging is important. If reviewers didn’t do blogs for products coming out, how would the word get out? There’s a fine line between appreciating that powerful tool and depreciating it. Parts of this book, it seems like Jen would rather not have any part of this at all. There’s quite a story about someone on Facebook going nuclear over something that she joked about. And that probably, maybe, had something to do with her displeasure, but come on, you take the good with the bad. The same can be said about parts of her book. The other real irritating thing is that Jen goes out of her way to get the word “Sidebar” put into contention for “word of the year”. It becomes a very distracting word and expression she overuses throughout the book. I don’t quite understand how this sharp, hilarious woman would need to go to such a drastic extent with overuse of that word. Again, all little things. In the overall picture, I still loved the book.

With age comes wisdom. So they say. I agree with this, and obviously Jen does as well, because she spends a lot of time talking about things that happened in the past, as well as things that happen in the present. Although, hence the title- she regrets nothing. I kept thinking “the way she wrote these chapters, there certainly seems to be an emotion strongly resembling regret in several parts of the book.” So, therein lies the rub. I love the book, and laughed, and thought it fantastic that parts of what she addresses in her bucket list are mirroring a few things I’m doing- or more accurately, thinking of doing- in my life. She buys a bike and learns to ride it. Nicole has been after me to get the bike out of my shed and start riding that (since I’m on this weight loss journey/healthy lifestyle/gym crapola). I daresay that by the end of the week, that motherfucker is going to be out of the shed and I will be riding it. Jen tries a juice cleanse; I had been contemplating it after the chick at the gym who does the Zumba was talking to me about its benefits (that option? Highly unlikely, in terms of full disclosure). The 5K? I’m thinking of taking up running. Something that Darren, Raz, and Juneda are encouraging me to do- because they’re all doing it (and we’re all in that same age group, although I think J is behind us ten years or so). And it’s likely something that I’m going to enjoy, as well as being healthy. Also the line “Sorry doesn’t work for me”? Brilliant- and becoming more true by the day! See, here’s the thing- you could do shit in your twenties and thirties and most of the time skate by, but when you hit 40 and start climbing upward, you examine things a lot more closely. You don’t just jump into shit- or if you do, more often than not, you regret it. Regret. Not only a great New Order song (top 5), but definitely what I felt Jen was trying to tell us. That eventually you may feel it seep into your bones, and in the forties, well, they ache and you sometimes do as well. Life is to be lived, and Jen is trying to do that and accomplish her bucket list- and more power to her for it! I loved that spirit, and love that spirit, and I am trying so hard to incorporate parts of what she’s written about here, and I hope I succeed in some capacity, as she has. I also hope, again, that she gets Fletch to write a book. So, I don’t regret reading this book. I don’t regret only giving it 4 stars, because parts of it just didn’t strike chords but rather broken strings. I don’t regret recommending it to people, because she’s still hysterical and makes many a valid point. I just think that the word “Sidebar” needs to be stricken from her written record.

Anger Is An Energy by John Lydon (3 out of 5)

•May 20, 2015 • Leave a Comment

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Well, John Lydon (AKA Johnny Rotten, lead singer of The Sex Pistols and PiL) isn’t the type who shies away from anything. This is not, contrary to belief, his first autobiography. He had one come out in the late 90’s called Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs. That book? Wildly entertaining. This one? Well, let’s just say, like the rest of us, Mr. Lydon is getting older. Softening. Ever so slightly. The first book was more about the Sex Pistols; this one focuses more on PiL and the family. Lydon’s seen some fair share of family tragedy; namely, his raising his grandchildren after their mother cannot raise them and then dies at a young age. In those anecdotes, you see a whole different John Lydon. You see it in the love that frequents the pages; for his wife, the lovely and lifesaving Nora. He does, as always, not back down from those who have pissed him off, and yet, as funny as those stories may be, something about it comes off as somewhat bitter and “getting old”. Much like Mr. Lydon (and all of us) is getting older. Those things that used to piss us off so much when we were young? They tend to fade as the nights grow longer, days grow shorter, and our waistlines expand, along with the crow’s feet. It’s life. This is life now, courtesy of Mr. John Lydon. And while it’s got its moments (largely in the first 170 pages, to the point that I told my friend Dave it was better than the first. I have to withdraw that statement, Dave. Apologies), it’s not as entertaining as it was years ago. It’s still an entertaining read, it’s just more of a curmudgeon getting his last rocks off about the newer things and people lighting his drapes on fire. It doesn’t have the same rapid fire response as the first book did. Sadly.

There are parts of the book where you are chuckling because, well, shit, it’s Johnny Rotten! But it’s not. It’s John Lydon, who despite his moments here and there of volatility, unpredictability, and swear words that make me look like Martha Washington, projects an air of measured manners and (gasp!) courteousness. Balderdash, you may exclaim! Truth, I would exclaim. Unfair as it is to judge a book by the age of the author, you find yourself silently doing so, especially if you read his first book. I still laugh my ass off anytime I pick that up to re-read it. This book? I think it may just go to show that despite protestations of never being put in a linear box of expectations, that age does mellow us, and that determination sometimes leaves us if our lives are overall not too bad. Lydon shows a hearty appreciation for all that he has and how far he’s come and been, and you have to admire that. And I do! I just can’t sit here and say that it riveted me, although his unwavering adoration for his wife and grandchildren is touching and sweet. It’s just the sort of Brady Bunch book you would recommend for your teenager, to keep them from wearing that damned padlock necklace and playing bass in a Johnny Thunders tribute band. The first book? The exact opposite. Which is why I would say read the first, and give this one a cursory glance, but move on! There are better rock autobiographies to read out there. Unfortunately, this one is just passable.

We Are All Made of Molecules by Susan Nielsen (4 out of 5)

•May 17, 2015 • Leave a Comment

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I’ve been trying to read lighter books recently. More lighthearted, funny, heartwarming stuff. I tend to do this when the going gets tough, and it has been lately. A lot of that heavy stuff, so I have been reading books that are more fun and quirky. My music has been happier, more uptempo. Television has been sports- so when I get aggravated that the home team is not winning, I yell, swear, and vent, which gets all the negative energy out. Why am I telling you all of this? Well, in case you follow this blog and wonder where all my “serious picks” have disappeared to (yes, I will eventually get back to the biography of Napoleon’s crazy sister! Thanks for asking, Alison). Now you know! They will eventually return at a time when it’s not all dark in the life sector. The one was buried in a pile of many, many, many teen and year 8 titles that I still have to read. I looked at the date on the side and saw it was this month, so I read it. In 2 hours. What fun! I always love the books where the opposites attract and attempt to make that elusive gold standard known as a relationship work. Even when it’s teens- because we all have to start on that dysfunction junction somewhere, don’t we? This book is a ton of fun, that’s the simplest way I can sum it up!

Stewart is a 13-year old ridiculously book smart kid, but he has no damn social skills. Ashley is the 14-year old “Ms Thang”, but she sucks at school. Things are about to get crazy, and I don’t mean maybe, when Stewart and his dad move in with Ashley and her mom. I loved Stewart right away because he’s a cute, affable kid who just wants people to like him for him. Ashley’s kind of a stuck up little witch at first, and took awhile for me to warm to, but eventually you see the vulnerability hiding, and then you begin to like her. Again, my POV, yours may differ. You see that the parents may be treading down the path to the obvious, and the fact that it did head in that direction kind of made me shake my head. There could have been a different character thrown into the mix, and mixed things up even more, but they went the route of “mom and dad falling in love, and opposite sides of the social and academic scale must learn to live together and tolerate each other for peace”. A few hurdles are thrown at Stewart and Ashley, including a doozy at the end, and by the end of the book, the opposites have found a way to co-exist. So all’s beginning is a happy ending, but the in between is a lot of fun. I laughed aloud quite a bit, and I felt good all over when I finished this book. I would highly recommend it to anyone who likes John Green, but with a HAPPY ending, not that “Fault In Our Stars” tomfoolery. I think Nielsen has a bright future if she sticks to these happy, fun books with a nice morale center. The only thing that drove me into a bit of a tizzy was Ashley’s cantankerous attitude in the first half of the book, but angsty teenager has an attitude? Yes, I know. And the parents ending up together was a bit too predictable for me, but otherwise, don’t stop yourself from buying this for your teen. It’s a great book with a good message, and a lot of laugh-out loud moments.

Hostile Takeover by Shane Kuhn (5 out of 5)

•May 15, 2015 • Leave a Comment

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I’m going to tell you once. Only once. If you have not read Shane Kuhn’s debut, The Intern’s Handbook, you’re going to be REAL LOST picking up this book when it’s released. That’s right, Shane Kuhn fans, you have to wait a few months for this one. I’m sorry, it sucks, I know. Except I don’t..because the lovely Wendy at Simon & Schuster sent me an advance. Yes, I begged. I did. There’s no way I wasn’t after I fell head over heels in love with the first book ( https://generationgbooks.wordpress.com/2013/12/04/the-interns-handbook-by-shane-kuhn-5-out-of-5/). This is the next chapter of John Lago, our assassin extraordinaire posing as an intern. I love John Lago. Really- if I could find a man like that (minus the bloodshed), I’d be a happy girl. Instead, I’ll just live vicariously through reading everything Shane Kuhn writes. And you should too! Start with the Intern’s Handbook.

Since we’ve seen our happy-go-lucky assassin last, the unthinkable has happened. He and Alice have indeed gone through with marrying (The wedding? Perfectly staged for these two). Immediately, the dynamic duo begin plotting a hostile takeover of Human Resources, Inc, the “job placement agency” that trains young assassins to weasel undetected into huge corporations and kill high profile targets. Again, if you did not read The Intern’s Handbook, you’re going to be very lost. However, our crafty couple may have misjudged how different they are in ways; and their wholly different ways of handling the way things are running. Not only do they grow apart, but they blow apart in a spectacular fashion. Worry not, readers and fans of these two, they do not buy cement shoes, but begin working against the other, believing that they were backstabbing each other the whole time. And that’s where the genius is. I was really quite convinced that Alice was a complete turncoat and a vile bitch (I REALLY like John Lago!) who had broken this man’s heart. Things get much worse on all fronts because not only have the two “broken up”, but Alice has a new HR target, and John has to go back and do the one thing he thought he was done doing- being an “intern” AGAIN. And he has to work gun-in-hand with Alice, despite their mutual loathing of the other at this point, to try to save the company, their asses, and their marriage. And I’m telling you, up until almost the end, I had NO IDEA what the hell was going on, or where it was going. Where it ended up going? Brilliant. I absolutely loved it.

Marriage with these two brings out all sorts of odd dimensions that were only hinted at with the relationship between them in the first book. Not only that, but if it’s EVEN possible, I think this was more darkly comedic than The Intern’s Handbook was. And I really didn’t think that was possible. I’m also one of those people who groans aloud at the “sequel” tag. Usually, especially in movies, they suck. And a lot of books in the past five years that have had a sequel? Should have just left it at one. I am so happy to report that this is not the case here. Another thing that really excited me was that Sue gets more of a role in this book, so you get to see what the kid is truly made of. I hope he continues to get significant airtime in the next novel. And yes, I REALLY hope there is another John Lago thriller coming. Because this is one sequel that doesn’t suck!

Hostile Takeover is out in July, via Simon & Schuster. That gives you time to read the first, if you haven’t already done so. Do it, and then read this one!

This is What You Just Put In Your Mouth? by Patrick Di Justo (5 out of 5)

•May 12, 2015 • Leave a Comment

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Most of you who know me are probably laughing at that title and THINKING THE WORST (I have a mind constantly in the gutter, those who don’t know me). Not so this time! This is a title I received from Random House, free of charge, through Blogging For Books,in return for a honest review. Now that we’ve gotten the pesky disclaimer out of the way, I can safely say that I enjoyed this, while simultaneously being horrified by parts of it (namely the parts on coffee and red wine. Talk about maybe needing to rethink some of my reliable drink options!). I’m sure anyone who picks it up and gives it a spin will also have the same reaction. At the same time, SOMEONE needed to write a book like this.

Overall, Di Justo scales the food chain and beyond, from coffee to Listerine to lubricants to heroin to Alpo (do NOT feed that crap to your dogs, please!), to red wine, to Midol. There is no zone in which he doesn’t fly his plane of inquiry. For some backstory on Patrick Di Justo (because you may ask yourself, “Who is this dude? What gives him the right to give us some well-needed info? Why did he write this book?”, as I did): He wrote a hugely popular feature for Wired magazine called “What’s Inside”. Maybe that’s why the name sounded somewhat familiar to me; I love Wired magazine, as does my entire staff (rearrange the letters of Wired and you have a good description of my staff and I). He’s also written columns for the New Yorker, Gizmondo, Popular Science, and he’s an editor at Make Books. So, he knows his stuff. The interesting thing about this book is not only the systematic breakdown of the singular items that are in each product he’s researching, but more eye opening are his stories about how quick corporations are to try to put the kibosh on any article he’s writing for a national magazine. I mean, it’s not surprising that those poisoning us with sugar would eventually get their hands slapped for putting them in the cookie jar, but some of the reputable companies he names? Wow. Eye opening. And again, not so surprising what those wooed by the almighty dollar will do to cover up the poisons that are in the everyday items they sell the consumer. I was sickened by a good portion of this book. Rest assured, if there was anything in this book that Di Justo broke open the secrecy seal on, he got zero cooperation from those companies. So now that I have knowledge of some of this stuff going on, I’m no longer buying some of these items. I hope those who read this book with the knowledge that he has put here, in incredibly simple terms and yet with a side order of authentic humor to match, and make some changes. Find a product that doesn’t contain the equivalent of endosperm, and use that instead!

For your easier browsing, this book is separated into two separate sections: “This Is What You Put In Your Mouth” and “This Is What You Don’t Put In Your Mouth”. Meaning- stuff you can eat (Spam with Bacon; although I will NEVER eat Spam), and stuff you don’t (Axe Deodorant). So there should be no mixing one up with the other. Now, if you ask me for favorite anecdotes or moments from this book, I have a few: Di Justo comparing the Kardasians to Potato Starch (I have no problem admitting I laughed for a good five minutes, the story of Southern Comfort Egg Nog (I like the SoCo without the nasty nog, but the story is fascinating), Fix-A-Flat (sorry, dude, I laughed my butt off at that story too), Samuel Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale (his glee is infectious, as well as making me want a beer. Darn it!), and the Doritos All-Nighter Cheeseburger Chips (Thank some diet god that I NEVER saw those. For I would have indulged. And likely regretted). The partnering with the cop to get the 411 (911?) on heroin was a great story, as is his experience with Freshburst Listerine. I can’t recommend this book enough to anyone. I used to love to read the series of books that Mental Floss put out yearly, back in the early 2000’s, but we’re 15 years on now, and I don’t think they publish those books anymore. This is more than a worthy counterpart to those books; I hope Di Justo has plans for another. You should buy this, read it, and get others to read it, because while parts are horrifying, half the battle is KNOWING.

Omega City by Diana Peterfreund (4 out of 5)

•May 5, 2015 • Leave a Comment

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This one is out now! I believe it just came out last Tuesday (Holly throws so many books at me that it’s hard to keep track) via Balzer & Bray (Harper Collins). I don’t read a lot of middle school books, but this one, well, this one I did because it sounded like a great book. And it was! There are a few boring spots toward the end, but once you read past those, holy smokes, what a great read. A lot of middle-reader action and adventure. Those who like Rick Riordan will like this one.

Gillian Seagret hears a lot of crap about her father and his conspiracy theories; she simply doesn’t pay much attention. Her dad’s area of expertise is Cold War scientist Dr. Aloysius Underberg, and his research loses him his job and they end up in the middle of nowhere, but Gillian finds a missing page from a Underberg’s journal in her father’s office, and feels like she’s just found the missing manifest from a magical treasure hunt- and one that could save her father’s reputation. But is it? Or is it going to lead to WWIII? With the help of her naysayer brother and several other friends, Gillian sets off to the ruins that are Omega City, a doomsday bunker set deep within the earth. But where there are magical adventures, there are often mystical consequences, as Gillian and her friends quickly find out. What secrets does Omega City hold? Does it hold salvation for Gillian’s beleaguered father, or eternal damnation?

I liked many things about this novel. Mainly, the spirit of adventure that continues strongly, although quietly, through some parts of the book. You never know what is going to be uncovered or revealed next. The merry band of Omega City pirates are incredibly likable characters who never give up on getting to the truth of the matter. Gillian is a GREAT female character. I daresay that I really did love this little novel, and I am SO happy it is going to be a series so we can see what’s in store for Gillian next. I didn’t have too many childhood middle-reader books that stuck with me, outside of my all-time favorite A WRINKLE IN TIME, and a few others that escape my mind at the moment, but if I had this book around then, this would definitely have made my list. A lot of good fun with just the right amount of action for the 7-11 set (the age group, not the store posse!).

 
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