Category Archives: Book Reviews

Alphabet Soup Challenge: R is for Reading

My reading choices are varied. I devour anything from articles in Esquire magazine (there are some great articles in there on the regular) to self help books (How to Be a Bad Ass by Jen Sincero is an all time favorite) to comedic memoirs/essays by authors like Chelsea Handler, David Sedaris, Sarah Silverman, Amy Schumer, and more, to fiction (family sagas like “The Nest” and psychological thrillers are my “go tos”).

I read to reduce stress. I read to learn something new. I read to escape. I read to laugh. I read to find connection. I read to obtain wisdom so I can improve myself.

Why do you read?

Currently, I’m working through “Untamed” by Glennon Doyle. While waiting for a response to my online request to borrow “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou from my local library, I thought I’d read something “self-helpy”.

Now, I haven’t finished “Untamed” yet, but there are numerous pearls of wisdom within these pages. This is a book that gets more interesting and thought provoking with each new chapter. Glennon shares stories about failure, pain, and triumph. Stories about love, bravery, and “Knowing”. I’m very intrigued by it. It’s speaking to me in a multitude of ways.

I must finish this book soon so I can get on with it and finally read Ms. Angelou’s masterpiece (from what I know of her and what others have said, I think calling it a “masterpiece” is a fair assumption).

While on our two week “Great American Road Trip” last month, I read a couple of great books.

The first was “Woman in the Window” by AJ Finn. It’s a psychological thriller told through the lens of a female child psychotherapist who’s agoraphobia was caused by deep psychological trauma. She witnesses violence through her window at the house across from her one night and struggles to make sense of it through her alcoholic haze. Seemingly, no one believes what she saw was real. The story was heartbreaking and unpredictable. I appreciated the surprising but creepy twist at the end. It was shocking to learn “Whodunit”.

The movie version of this book has been finished and was recently acquired by Netflix, so hopefully we can all see it before too long. Some of my favorite actresses-Amy Adams, Julianne Moore, and Jennifer Jason-Leigh star in it.

During the first leg of our vacation, spending time with Hubs’ folks and sister, MIL gave me a copy of “The Silent Patient” by Alex Michaelides, which she raved about. Since I had but a mere 50 or so pages left of “The Woman in the Window”, I decided it’d be a good idea to start reading it since we had “only” 2,000 miles left of road to cover and 10 days before we got back home.

I could hardly put it down. It was in a similar vein as “The Woman in the Window”, in that it was a murder mystery/psychological thriller. Total escapism. And the surprises were mind-blowing, like “I didn’t see it coming till the very end” kind of mind-blowing. It took me some time to process that ending.

The story is told through the lens of both Theo and Anna. Theo is the psychoanalyst who works with Anna, who is a completely silent patient in a mental institution. Anna, a prolific artist, was placed there after being charged and convicted (all the while not speaking a word) for her husband’s violent murder. Both Theo and Anna are psychologically complicated people who come from troubled childhoods. Theo’s goal, at the outset, is to get through to Anna. Unlock the key to why she did what she did. And that he does. The twist and turns to how he gets there are nothing less than shocking. It was even more of a page turner than “The Woman in the Window”, if I’m being honest.

I of course had to google whether or not this book was going to be made into a movie and found out it indeed is. Brad Pitt’s production company has acquired the rights. I have ideas in my head about who plays what characters already. Hopefully it’ll show up on one of our video streaming services before long, since re-opening movie theaters appears unlikely to happen anytime soon.

Please share your comments on these books if you have read them and/or share your “must read now” book titles.

Read With Me: 5 Tips to Foster a Love for Reading | Edutopia

Dear Choice Books

This spring, Hubs and I attended a church fundraiser where I “won” a self-care basket in a silent auction.  It included lots of lovely items, such as a various sugar scrubs, a gift card for Starbucks, a cd of piano music. It also included a little book entitled “Letting Go and Trusting God”, with 180 devotions for “Life’s Tough Decisions”. As a Christian, I thought this would be a comforting, uplifting read. This turned out to be mostly true.

However. 

The other night, I hopped into bed and grabbed this little book of mine with the intention of reading a passage or two before I conked out. Here is the passage I chose that night:

But first: the following was written by the female author, who will remain nameless in this post as my commentary, after I share this with you, may put me in jeopardy of being sued.

I’ll pretend you don’t know how to use Google.

Side note: on the back of this book, the publisher, Choice Books, states “We Welcome Your Response”. Well,  I think I will take you up on that offer, kind sirs. 

I will highlight in red the parts that infuriated me the most, for reference. 

“One Small Decision”

One day, Dinah, the daughter of Jacob and Leah, went to visit some of the young women who lived in the area. But when the local prince, Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, saw Dinah, he seized her and raped her. 

Genesis 34:1-2 NLT

No question about it, the bulk of the blame for Dinah’s rape falls on Shechem and his unbridled passions. He looked, liked, and acted on impulse, with no thought for the consequences. Certainly he never cared what this would do to Dinah’s life. He made an awful choice with terrible results for Dinah, himself, and his people.

But that awful decision would never have happened had Dinah also not made a bad decision. Here she was in a strange place, and she went out alone. You might compare it to a lone woman going out in a less-than-savory neighborhood today. 

Though Dinah’s mistake doesn’t remove the blame that can be placed on Shechem, it did open her up to the rape. Savviness about dangers is something both genders need to have, but women just have to look out for themselves in ways that men don’t. It’s not fair but it’s the way things are. 

One small decision had an impact on Dinah’s life. It’s the same with us. Are we careful about the places we go, always considering how they could affect us physically or morally? Do we use good judgment about the people we spend a lot of time with? Those small choices can impact our lives, though perhaps differently from Dinah’s.

Okay, now for my commentary. 

First off, the “bulk of the blame” falls on Shechem Phleghm? For real? This “insight” from the author was written in the current times. This book was published in 2016, for fuck’s sake. Excuse me, but the “blame” is 100% on Phlegm, not Dinah. And his “unbridled passions”? From my view, “passion” is not a part of this or any rape situation. It’s more like “unbridled evil, anger, and hatred for women”.

Can I get an “Amen”, brothers and sisters?

Then there’s that “awful decision” that jackwad Phleghm made that would “never had happened had Dinah also not made a bad decision”. So, a gal decides to go and see her girlfriends in an unfamiliar place so that means she asked for it? Blame the victim much?

“It’s not fair but it’s the way things are”. Oh. My. God. You bet it’s not fair, sugar, but does that mean we as women are to accept it? It is what it is, you say? I don’t accept that notion. I refuse to. Instead, I will do what I can as a grandmother to my 4 year old grandson to instill in him respect for women and ensure he comprehends that “no” means “no”, no matter the environment, the circumstance, or the way the woman is dressed. My hope is that all mothers, grandmothers, aunts and other females that have boys in their lives will do the same so we can turn this shit around.

Sometimes the Bible sucks. Yes, I said it. But what sucks even more is people’s small-minded, backwards, idiotic, misogynistic interpretations of passages such as this.

Anyone want to join me for a book burning party? And I’m not referring to the Bible here, just for clarification. I am a Christian, after all.

Books I loved in 2017

I’ve been wanting to write a blog post about books I’ve read this year for the longest time.  For many years, between raising kids, working full time, and other obligations, I didn’t do much reading beyond the magazines Hubs and I subscribed to.

When we moved to Colorado in the summer of 2016, knowing that I, at least for a time, would not be employed and therefore would have ample time to get back to regular reading, I totally went for it.

I read a fairly eclectic variety of books, from self-help to fiction to biographies. Whatever tripped my trigger as I perused the local library or bookstore.

Here’s some of the ones I read, all of which I highly recommend you check out:

Girl with the Lower Back Tatoo by Amy Schumer: an honest, self-deprecating, mostly humorous read. Amy includes stories of her coming up in the world of stand-up comedy, sprinkled with funny anecdotes about her family during her formative years. She is frank, personable, and fierce in her convictions.

Left, Neglected by Lisa Genova: This is a story told very convincingly from the perspective of a high-powered career woman, married with kids, who has a strained relationship with her mother. She is involved in a major car accident due to distracted driving on her way to a work meeting. Her entire world changes, as the accident left her with a brain injury that rendered the left side of her body invisible to her. This forces her to re-learn how to complete basic tasks, and it forces her to take a long, hard look at the drawbacks of how she lived her life prior to the accident. She finds herself having to rely on others for help, which for a take-charge, type-A personality, is incredibly challenging and humbling. Thankfully, it does have a happy ending.

Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal: I had never heard of this writer until she died in 2016. What drew me to her most was her open heart, her creativity, and her optimism. This is not a typical book by any stretch. It is very random and feels as if she is writing down her thoughts as they come to her. She includes funny little stories about experiences she had in her life. She gives great advice on how to live a joyful life. It is playful, heartfelt, and unique. And it is a very quick, light read.

The Nest: This book weaves a tale about a wealthy-ish  family from New England whose siblings have been counting on a large inheritance upon their father’s passing. What three of the four of them don’t know is that much of this inheritance was spent by their aloof mother on legal fees for the charismatic, alcoholic, “black sheep” of the family, who was sued by a young woman he dallied with in a car, which resulted in a major car accident which left her with a missing foot. The characters are drawn beautifully, to the point where I couldn’t help but visualize specific actors playing each part. I’ve heard that it is supposed to be made into a movie, and I sure hope that comes to pass.

Giant of the Senate by Al Franken: Hubs and I started listening to this one on audio book probably 2 months ago. I found Al to be a terrific storyteller and appreciated hearing about how he started in comedy, his time on SNL, and his hard fought battle to get elected to the senate. Then came those sexual harassment allegations on the news. This development reminded me of the time I awkwardly introduced myself to Al during a campaign event in Minnesota, which I chronicled here. For the record, Al did not sexually harass me. In case you were wondering. These allegations also brought up one anecdotal story Al told of in this book, where he talked of a time he made a joke about 60 Minutes anchor Andy Rooney raping Leslie Stahl. That really gave me pause. He realized upon making this joke that it was highly inappropriate so he didn’t include it in whatever book he was writing at the time. But the fact that even for a nanosecond, the man thought that was a funny joke…well, that put me off. It remains to be seen whether Hubs and I are going to pick up wherever it was we left off on this audio book. That said, I think it is a damn shame Al ended up resigning from the Senate. But I fully understand why he did it and why people thought he should.

The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain by Barbara Strauch: Okay, it’s been some months since I read this one but I do recall learning quite a bit about the middle aged mind. From what I can recollect, please take this with a big grain of salt as I am approaching 51, the reason why those of us in the throes of middle age sometimes have trouble coming up with a word or recalling a certain memory is because there is so much knowledge we have accumulated through the years, that the stuff that is non-essential gets buried deep within. In middle age, the book tells us, our brains are better at recognizing patterns and coming up with creative solutions to problems. So, there’s still hope.

The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho: A gorgeous, spiritual book. The story is about a shepherd boy and his journey to seek a great treasure. It has an uplifting message about not giving up on your dreams, which is referred to as your Personal Legend. The story emphasizes the importance of the people you meet along the journey of life. It is such a special book that I sent it to one of my very best friends for her to read and pass along to her tween daughters.

Please tell me, my fellow bookworm readers, what books might you recommend for me in 2018?