Sunday Book Club! Damned by Chuck Palahniuk

Hey everyone!
Today’s Sunday Book Club Review is “Damned” by Chuck Palahniuk.

Initial Thoughts:
I was excited to read this book because I’d heard really good things about Palahniuk’s writing – he’s the author of the book, which later became the wildly popular film, “Fight Club”. However, his writing is known to be extremely honest & descriptive in terms of violence, sex, death, substance abuse, etc, topics I usually don’t enjoy reading about. I was introduced to “Damned” as sort of a beginner’s guide to Palahniuk as it’s more “reader friendly”, just a simple dark comedy. Danny is also interested in reading this book, had purchased it, & kindly lent it to me for this review 🙂 *Insert shameless plug* Subscribe to the Savage Squad YouTube channel!

Plot:
“Damned” is the story of 13 year old Madison Spencer’s journey though the afterlife. Well, part of her journey. Semi-Spoiler, the book ends with a “To Be Continued” cliffhanger, so the reader doesn’t get total closure on the story. Madison comes from an extremely wealthy family with multiple mansions in countries around the world & goes to a Swiss boarding school, all the makings of a stuck up, spoiled brat. However, she’s more of an introvert, preferring the company of books to her peers, making her a target for childish teasing & gossip. After her death, Madison finds herself in Hell & slowly makes friends with a “Breakfast Club” inspired group of prisoners. They have many adventures but eventually Madison wants to know WHY she ended up in Hell & begins a journey to confront Satan & get some answers. Along the way she encounters all the dangers of Hell, some interesting historical figures, & ends up finding her inner strength.

Characters:
-Madison: As always, my fear when reading a story about a teenage protagonist is that I will hate them, simply because I have no patience for children. Some stories like Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple & Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer have excellent young protagonists that I enjoyed reading about & identified with. To Palahniuk’s credit, it’s because of the high quality of his writing that I hated Madison. He delivered an incredibly on point description of the mind set of an average insecure 13 year old girl. Oh my gosh, she’s the worst. She’s your typical “poor little rich girl”, really annoying, & thinks she knows everything. It sounds strange, but Palaniuk did too good of a job creating her. She’s so realistic I felt like I was interacting with a teenager, which is something I generally never want to do.

Quotes:
– Pg 6: “No it’s not fair, but what makes earth feel like Hell is our expectation that it should feel like Heaven. Earth is earth.”
DAMN. Is that a pun in this context? Anyway, wow, this really spoke to me & made me think about my perspective on life. I think this is true, we expect to be showered with gifts (love, friendship, money, intelligence, etc) & then we become bitter & angry when those things aren’t given to us. Earth is earth, it’s what we make it. Heaven & Hell come after – if that’s what you believe in.

Overall/Rating: C+
“Damned” is probably the most…unique coming of age story I’ve ever read. Palaniuk has an amazing way with words. His descriptions are detailed & make you feel like you’re really in the moment, which in a book about Hell, was often uncomfortable. I think that’s his goal though, to make you think/feel, even if you’re out of your comfort zone. I admire his style of writing, but my original fears were correct & this novel just wasn’t for me. While there were some occasional moments of enlightenment, I didn’t really connect with the story or characters. I most likely will not bother to read the continuation of Madison’s story unless Danny enjoys “Damned”, buys the sequel, & lends it to me.

Have you read or heard of “Damned” or any other Chuck Palahniuk novels? If so, what are your thoughts? Please feel free to share your thoughts & book suggestions with me in the comments below!

The next Sunday Book Club is “Harry, A History: The True Story of a Boy Wizard, His Fans, & Life Inside the Harry Potter Phenomenon” by Melissa Anelli.

Sunday Book Club! Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Today’s Sunday Book Club Review is “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” by Jonathan Safran Foer.

Initial Thoughts:
I was a bit hesitant to review this particular book once I saw the date it would be posted, the 15 year anniversary of 9/11. ELIC centers around the aftermath of 9/11 from the fictional perspective of 9 year old Oskar Schell, who lost his father in the WTC attack. I didn’t want this post to come off as attention seeking, I didn’t intentionally choose to review a book about 9/11 on 9/11, but I think there’s something a bit…poetic, in that it just happened to occur this way. One of the themes of this book & a message I’ve been seeing passed around a lot today, is that life must go on. We must continue to find joy, entertainment, & happiness, despite the horrific tragedy of 9/11. With that, I proudly present my review on this amazingly well written & thought provoking story in the hopes that literature like this continues to be created so that we truly never forget this day.

Plot:
Oskar Schell is not your average 9 year old. He doesn’t have much time for kids his own age, preferring to learn French or take photographs on his grandfather’s old camera. Many of these photographs can be seen throughout the book, almost like illustrations, an interesting addition in a Fiction novel. Oskar carries many heavy emotions as he struggles to cope with his father’s death in the World Trade Center on 9/11. One day while looking through his father’s things he finds a key in an envelope labeled “Black” & thus begins a quest to figure out his father’s final mystery. Along the way Oskar connects with many people struggling with the aftermath of  9/11 or their own personal tragedies, learns a lot about his family, & life in general. There is another plot line & narrator, but it’s hard to say too much without spoiling the twist. The other storyline centers around WWII Germany & not only explains some character’s backstories but shows a time where people experienced similar tragedy & terror like 9/11 & how history repeats itself. The use of this other storyline speaks to what I was saying above, the world will always know chaos. It’s up to the survivors to take that tragedy & create something beautiful from it that will make the world a better place.

Characters:
Oskar Schell – I’m always anxious to read novels where the main character is a child because, to be frank, I don’t really enjoy children. However, I felt a kinship with Oskar in that, we both didn’t really connect with kids our own age, preferring relationships with our family or other adult mentors. Oskar is written in a clever but often naive way. There are a few plot lines, such as his mother’s “love life” after his father’s passing, where Oskar definitely shows a more standard child like attitude. However, at the end of the novel, the reader sees how Oskar has grown & his eyes are opened to another perspective he didn’t see clearly before. Again, not your typical child character, which I appreciated & was able to connect with.

Overall/Rating: B+
Without giving too much away, I was a bit disappointed in the ending. Oskar’s journey to find something about his dad really led him on a journey to find himself & some peace, which is ultimately more important. However, as a person who lost their dad at a young age too, I understand Oskar’s frustration at that abstract concept. I can sympathize because I too wondered for many years, why was there not one last “I love you”, “goodbye”, or bit of grown up advice? The truth of that unfortunately, is that there is always one last something, we just never know it’s the last until it’s too late. I highly recommend this story, especially if you’ve ever struggled with grief or loss of any kind. ELIC made me laugh, cry, think – it made me feel! Obviously I wasn’t in NY on 9/11, but from my point of view this novel has its heart in the right place. I honestly believe Foer didn’t write this story for attention or to make money on a hot button topic. This is not a political story, the focus is on the people that lived & died on that day & how the survivors still struggled. It’s a noble effort to take an event that hit so close to home & explore it with a child-like sense of curiosity & naiveté & create something that can speak to a variety of people.

Have you read or heard of “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”? What about the film? I’m interested to watch the film based on the book & see how it compares. Please feel free to share your thoughts & book suggestions with me in the comments below!

The next Sunday Book Club is September 25th & the book is “Damned” by Chuck Palahniuk.

Sunday Book Club! The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell

Happy Sunday!
Today’s Sunday Book Club Review is “The Other Typist” by Suzanne Rindell.

Initial Thoughts:
One of the biggest benefits of making my way through my Books to Read List is, I’m starting to get a much better sense of what I really enjoy reading as far as genre, time periods, & types of characters. I was excited to start “TOT” because it seemed to be right up my alley, a mystery centered around a strong female character taking place during 1920’s America. My excitement waned a little as the story moves pretty slowly, but once the drama starts – WOW!

Plot:
“TOT” is about Rose Baker, a reserved, plain, young woman that works as a Typist for the NYPD. Growing up an orphan raised by nuns, Rose never knew much about friendship, luxury, or adventure, but that all changes when another young woman named Odalie starts work at the precinct as, of course, a typist. Odalie is Rose’s exact opposite, she’s alluring, gorgeous, & rich. Eventually the two women form a friendship based on, it seems, Odalie’s desire to help Rose break out of her shell. She invites Rose to move in with her at her posh, expensive hotel penthouse apartment, she dresses her in fabulous clothing & jewelry, & takes her on wild adventures that usually involve finding their way to a speakeasy. Rose is very quickly out of her element & realizes that Odalie’s lifestyle is not the pure, virtuous, law abiding life she had. Unfortunately, she’s in too deep, Odalie has bigger plans for Rose than just helping her break out of her shell & the friendship becomes obsessive & controlling on both sides. I won’t get into the actual mystery because I don’t want to spoil anything, but there are some dark twists & turns that really surprised me, although, if you’re really paying attention, there are scattered clues as to how the story will end.

Characters:
Rose is an extremely complex character. Rindell did an excellent job of revealing details about Rose through small doses. At first you think they’re inconsistencies in the writing, but upon closer examination, you see Rose is changing, losing hold of her convictions & the way she presents herself. At first I felt like she was a relatively modern woman, enjoying her lifestyle, secure & proud of the choices she’d made. I found her attitude relatable & refreshing for a story set in 1920’s Prohibition Era. Later, however, she reveals herself to be terribly insecure & prudish, desperately seeking approval from Odalie & willing to do anything to strengthen their bond. She becomes very stalker-ish & it’s almost amusing to see how she rationalizes her crazy actions.

Overall/Rating: B
“The Other Typist” was a little slow & dry at parts, but for the most part, was a quick & easy read. I don’t want to compare this story to “Gone Girl” because I think that gives away the nature of the big twist. However, the front of the book offers the comparison so it’s not like I’m really spoiling anything. “TOT” is the result of “The Great Gatsby” & “Gone Girl” having a literary baby. When this book was published Rindell was in the dissertation phase of her Ph.D program, concentrating on 20th century American modernism. The influence of her education is clear in a few monologues where Rose contemplates innocence, youth, & the effects WWI had on her generation.If you’re at all a fan of 1920’s America you’ll at least enjoy the imagery & those monologues, even if you’re not a fan of the actual mystery within. In regards to the mystery, I still had unanswered questions which frustrate me because I’m not sure if I’M missing something or if Rindell left it vague on purpose. Please read “The Other Typist” & let me know what you think!

Have you read or heard of “The Other Typist”? If so, what are your thoughts? What’s your favorite genre or time period in history to read about? Please feel free to share your thoughts & book suggestions with me in the comments below!

Sunday Book Club! Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante

Happy Sunday!
Today’s Sunday Book Club Review is “Turn of Mind” by Alice LaPlante.

Initial Thoughts:
As I usually say each Sunday, I don’t remember why I added this book to my list. This is an especially painful irony given the subject matter of “Turn of Mind”. The fact that the main character has dementia hit close to home for me, but my interest was also piqued because of the overall mystery. Keep reading to see if this is a book you might be interested in as well!

Plot:
“Turn of Mind” is a fictional story that focuses on the life of Dr. Jennifer White, a successful hand surgeon who suffers from dementia. Her husband James has passed away & her children, Mark & Fiona, now have control over various aspects of her life. The story shifts back and forth between past & present as Jennifer struggles with dementia – plus that fact that her best friend Amanda was murdered & she’s the prime suspect! While Jennifer mourns the loss of her friend, when she actually remembers she’s been murdered, she also can’t help but wonder if she DID murder her. While extremely close, the women shared a tumultuous past with many secrets & when her mind is right, Jennifer fears one of those secrets was Amanda’s undoing.

Characters:
– Dr. Jennifer White: Jennifer’s dementia & the way LaPlante formats her story make for a unique relationship with the main character. The reader gets their information through Jennifer’s eyes, so we’re just as in the dark as she is. She can’t remember if she killed Amanda, so you aren’t sure either which leaves you with mixed feelings towards her. You feel sympathy because of how dementia is ravaging her brilliant mind, but on the other hand, if she’s a psychopathic murderer, you want nothing to do with her! Normally in a story like this the main character tries to prove their innocence, but Jennifer isn’t sure she’s innocent, most days she can’t even remember she’s a suspect. All of this adds up to an extremely complex character that provokes a lot of thought & discussion.

Overall/Rating: B+
The depiction of dementia is SPOT ON with what I’ve witnessed from my grandparents. It was so accurate that I wonder if LaPlante knows someone with dementia or if she did a lot of intense research. If it’s the latter, it really paid off! This is great insight to the fragmented mindset of someone with dementia & how they become increasingly confused, frustrated, agitated, & even dangerous. Some may find the disjointed nature of the narrative confusing, but that goes with the territory of the disease, so I felt that was an authentic choice for LaPlante to make for a character with dementia. I rated down a bit because I felt like once the mystery was solved, I wouldn’t want to revisit this story again. I also rated down because the pace was pretty slow, barely moving enough to keep my interest. You don’t get an answer to the big whodunit until literally the last few pages of the book, & I was a little disappointed because I still had some unanswered questions!

Have you read or heard of “Turn of Mind” or Alice LaPlante? If so, what are your thoughts? Please feel free to share your thoughts & book suggestions with me in the comments below!

The next Sunday Book Club is August 28th & the book is “The Other Typist” by Suzanne Rindell.

Sunday Book Club! The Fates Will Find Their Way by Hannah Pittard

Today’s Sunday Book Club Review is “The Fates Will Find Their Way” by Hannah Pittard.

Initial Thoughts:
Marketed as a cross between “The Virgin Suicides” & “The Lovely Bones”, “Fates…” promises a mystery surrounding a teenage girl & all the boys who loved her. I enjoy mysteries, although I find stories involving young girls almost always include scenes of sexual violence that I find too graphic. I was hoping that Pittard wouldn’t find it necessary to create a plot that centers around rape, although the comparison to “The Lovely Bones” didn’t fill me with great confidence. Also, I don’t generally like stories about teenagers because as a “grown up”, I find it hard to sympathize with teenage rebellion/whiners/young love. However, the intrigue behind the mystery plot was too strong to throw me off of this book so despite the potential negatives I began reading, albeit with trepidation, nervous to see what would unravel…

Plot:
All the boys are obsessed with Nora. She’s a mystery to them, the perfect girl they all long for yet can’t have. Nora becomes an even bigger mystery when she disappears, never to be heard from again. Told from the point of view of the neighborhood boys, the story follows how the people in her hometown handle her disappearance & how rumors of what happened to Nora represent a tale of caution, adventure, & intrigue for years to come.

Characters:
– The neighborhood boys: It was a little bit difficult for me to keep track of all the names & stories, but I think that’s pretty true to life. Imagine a group of boys from your youth or current neighborhood. There are certain kids that just fade to the background or others that you had/have more of a connection with so they stay in your mind – same concept for this group of characters. Also, some of the boys are ultimately more important to the overall storyline so they get more “face time” with the reader but then another kid will pop up & you’re thinking, “Wait, who is he!?”.
– The Narrator: About halfway through the book I realized, I didn’t know who the Narrator was. It’s an interesting storytelling device on Pittard’s part because it kind of keeps the Narrator safe from any scrutiny because you don’t know what his backstory is or what role he plays in certain events. I felt like the Narrator was an anonymous boy, but in the Author’s Notes, Pittard says the narration was moving from boy to boy. For example, George tells a story about Trey & Danny, & later Danny tells a story about George. I almost want to go back & re-read the book focusing on which boy is NOT mentioned & using a process of elimination, figure out which boy is speaking.

Quotes:
– Dedication: “For Malcolm Hugh Ringel, who disappeared from our lives 6/16/06”
This doesn’t have anything to do with the actual story, but started the book on an intriguing note. I assumed this was someone important to the author that passed away or went missing, perhaps the inspiration for the story, & was prepared to do some follow up Google searching of my own, however, the author addresses the mystery in her Notes at the end of the novel. I was pleasantly surprised she did this & was happy to have at least one mystery resolved. I won’t say any more, but the dedication is a very touching tribute.

Overall:
Pittard kept me intrigued & eagerly reading. As I predicted, there is a storyline centering around a rape, but I appreciated that she didn’t describe it in any detail. It has nothing to do with the disappearance of Nora, but provides another layer of complexity to this group of kids & how that horrible event weighs on them as they grow up. I think that’s kind of the main point of this story – the idea that life is a series of wild & crazy events & sometimes we misinterpret their meaning. Events that seem huge at the time reveal themselves to really not matter, or small things really mean a lot & can change everything. The continued mystery of who the Narrator is & some other plot points that I don’t want to spoil is maddening but references the idea that we never really know each other or what goes on behind closed doors. Overall, this story isn’t really a mystery. Nora’s disappearance serves as a backdrop but ultimately the plot doesn’t revolve around solving her case. The main focus is on those left behind & how they move on & grow up.

Rating: B-
I rated “Fates” down a bit because I was disappointed that – SPOILER! – there is no resolution to Nora’s disappearance, but I suppose it gives the story an air of realism as many similar real life cases go unsolved all the time. As mentioned above, it was hard to really get to know the characters & that kind of keeps you disconnected. The mystery was definitely the driving force of the story, that’s what kept me reading, hoping that eventually Nora’s disappearance would become the main focus again. I didn’t really connect to the story in a big emotional way & I was a bit unhappy that it turned out to be a reflection of life rather than a “real” mystery but it was still well written & entertaining.

Have you read this book or another Mystery I might like?  If so, what are your thoughts? Please feel free to share your thoughts & book suggestions with me in the comments!

The next Sunday Book Club is July 24th & the book is “Bossypants” by Tina Fey.

Sunday Book Club! The Reflections of Queen Snow White by David Meredith

Today’s Sunday Book Club Review is “The Reflections of Queen Snow White” by David Meredith. The exciting announcement I mentioned last Sunday is that I was asked by the author to read & review this book! Yay – my first Sunday Book Club Collaboration! Disclaimer: I did receive this book for free, but that in no way influences my Review.

Initial Thoughts:
When David first emailed me & offered me the chance to review his book, I was surprised, extremely flattered, & excited. I love this Genre of Fairy Tale retellings or examination from a modern authors point of view, as you’ve probably noticed with my past Book Reviews such as Beastly, Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic Tale, The Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, & others coming up on my Books to Read List. I’ve never read an E-Book, which is the only way this novel is currently available, so I was a little nervous about how I’d feel using “new technology”, haha! I was also nervous because of the collaborative spirit of this Sunday Book Club. It’s tough to be fair when you know the author will most likely read your Review, but I believe I was unbiased. Keep reading & let me know in the Comments if you feel I was being too easy, fair, or too harsh!

Plot:
As the title implies, this story is of course, about Snow White. Meredith continues forward from the tale we know & starts his story with an older Snow White who is not the cheerful, upbeat Disney princess many know & love. She is now bitter, sad, & lonely because Prince Charming has passed away. Snow’s depression & grief have caused a rift in her relationship with her daughter Raven to the point that she is not even involved in the planning of her upcoming wedding. One day while wandering the castle in a state of despondency, Snow stumbles upon the Evil Queen’s old chambers. She finds the Magic Mirror has been stored there & embarks on a magical journey into her past to try & find some peace in this new chapter of her life. I will leave it at that to prevent any Spoilers.

Characters:
– Erfruet – It took way too long for me to piece together that Snow’s “right hand man” is one of THE dwarves. You know….one of the seven! I thought this character was used as a clever & cute way to pay homage to the original story & show how the Dwarves’ relationship with Snow continued after her marriage, connecting the old & new story.
– It seemed like all of the characters had some type of accent & foreign name, except Snow White & Prince Charming. I thought perhaps this was an homage to the Grimm Brother’s & their German heritage, but the accents didn’t seem German so I’m not certain.

Quotes:
– Acknowledgements: “To anyone who has ever known loss, wrestled with grief, & struggled to find themselves again”
This is really what the story is about & I admire Meredith for taking on such a difficult topic & trying to make it more relatable by involving a beloved Fairy Tale character. It’s an interesting topic for this Genre, one that’s not too often explored because most readers don’t want to think about the reality that comes after “happily ever after”. I will touch more on this idea below in the “Overall” section.
– Magic Mirror: “What happens, happens. The past is the past and your past is ever a part of you! Only by facing it can you truly leave it behind. Otherwise, it will ever intrude upon your present”…She felt as if she stood alone on the edge of a precipitous gorge, filled with despair at the impossibility of her predicament, but knowing that her only choice was to descend into its shadowy depths, cross the unseen rocky path at its bottom, and pull herself out once more on the other side.”
The beginning of this passage is really so true, not just about grief, but anything that plagues us from the past. The second half of the Quote seemed like a subtle, or perhaps not so subtle, metaphor for the process of grieving.

Overall:
I could definitely see this becoming a film. While I enjoy Fantasy stories, I sometimes take issue with how unnecessarily lengthy they can be. I know I’ve complained on here a few times about endless pages of scenery. I enjoyed Meredith’s extremely descriptive but mostly concise style of writing. However, it’s worth mentioning that there are scenes of abuse & sexual content that made me rather uncomfortable. Meredith has a knack for creating an intriguing story & providing resolution. There were several times I found myself wondering about a “plot hole”, but later receiving a full explanation. Overall I enjoyed the theme of the story & the unique idea of this stereotypical happy go lucky Princess dealing with grief. I think Meredith was trying to touch on an important point about loss & love. He presents the reader with the idea that throughout our lives we have way more than one chapter, way more than one “happily ever after”. Just because one type of love has left our lives doesn’t mean all love is gone & there’s nothing to live for, it just means our idea of happily ever after has to change. SPOILER! I also appreciated the Feminist angle of the story. The Magic Mirror is trying to make Snow see that although Charming helped her, she played a huge role in her own destiny. She saved herself, but gave the Prince all the credit & after his passing, felt she was lost without him because she did not see her own value.

Rating: B-
Unfortunately, my rating was influenced a bit by the production value. Any book I catch typos in automatically gets knocked down a peg. While I did enjoy the overall theme & message of the book & find them to be important topics to tackle, I can’t support the sex scenes & some of the discussions the characters have about sex/body fluids. I can very well see the interactions taking place, especially in that time period, but that doesn’t mean I want to read about them. That’s the beauty of reading, I’m supposed to be able to use my imagination, haha! Some of those scenes were too descriptive for me & I would imagine other readers may feel the same. While those scenes were not too frequent, they did weigh heavily enough on me that it was almost a distraction from the book as a whole. I would say it’s 50/50 – Great topic/message but some really uncomfortable character interaction!

What do you think? Will you be heading to Amazon to download your own copy of “Reflections”? Please feel free to share your thoughts & book suggestions with me in the comments below! Big thank you to David Meredith for asking me to do this Review – I congratulate you on all of your well deserved success.
If you’re an author or PR team looking for Reviews, please reach out to me – MissAl.Leigh@gmail.com

The next Sunday Book Club is July 10th & the book is “The Fates Will Find Their Way” by Hannah Pittard. Stay tuned & thanks for reading!

Sunday Book Club! Pictures of You by Caroline Leavitt

Hello again!
Today’s Sunday Book Club Review is “Pictures of You” by Caroline Leavitt.

Initial Thoughts:
“Pictures…” is yet another book I don’t remember any initial details about like where I first heard about it, or why I wanted to read it. After reading the back of the book again, I was intrigued by the mystery, but concerned that this would be nothing more than a sappy romance novel. Unfortunately I was right. I want to keep Spoilers to a minimum so this is going to be a short review as there’s not a lot I can say, but keep reading to see my overall thoughts on this novel & if it’s worth picking up!

Plot:
“Pictures…” is marketed as the story of two women, & that’s kind of true, but it’s more about what happens to their loved ones after their lives intersect. Isabelle has been trapped in a loveless marriage essentially since she was just a kid. April is basically the polar opposite, or so you’d think if you saw her & her “perfect” family. Isabelle discovers her husband is not only cheating on her, but has gotten his girlfriend pregnant, something he & Isabelle had never been able to do. She leaves him & is in a horrible car accident with none other than April. She is also leaving her husband, Charlie, & has taken their son, Sam. Sam & Isabelle escape the car accident relatively unharmed, but April is killed. The book follows everyone’s journey to find peace & answers – along the way discovering that sometimes the people you need most, are the most unexpected.
SPOILERS! Yes, Isabelle & Charlie eventually start a relationship, which ends for the sake of Sam. He finds out about the romance & is distraught because he believed Isabelle was an angel meant to help him communicate with his mother, not get in bed with his dad. I think the idea of a child having a hard time adjusting to his father having an intimate relationship with someone other than his mother is quite normal, so I didn’t really find that part of the story particularly interesting or dramatic. Eventually readers also find out that April was leaving Charlie because she’d been carrying on an affair with a married man, so her perfect life, isn’t as perfect as it appeared. In the end, everyone figures their lives out in an ending that doesn’t quite make sense to me, but maybe when you read the book you’ll be able to shed some light for me!

Overall:
This was a fairly quick & easy read, but honestly a bit boring. I’m not sure where all these amazing reviews are coming from, but I felt like the mystery of why April was leaving Charlie drove all of my interest. Once I found out she was cheating, I felt kind of let down because it was such a “normal” thing. I thought the big reveal was going to be something much…bigger! In the end, they were all just normal people trying to get through another day, making bad decisions & a tragic accident brings it all to light & then they have to learn how to function again. Maybe because I’ve had tragedy in my life I don’t find the topic extremely stimulating anymore? I’m not sure, but I just didn’t quite connect with this book in the way other reviewers seem to have.

Rating: C
I gave this book a C rating because it was a quick read that kept me somewhat entertained. However, as mentioned above, once you actually broke down the idea of what was happening, it was all rather average & boring. I’m not really sure who this book is intended for because I think even the most hopeless romantic would be soured by the ending. Not going to reveal any SPOILERS! there, you’ll have to read it for yourself if you’re interested – or send me an email & we’ll talk about it 🙂

Have you read or heard of “Pictures of You” or Caroline Leavitt? If so, what are your thoughts? Please feel free to share your thoughts & book suggestions with me in the comments below!

The next Sunday Book Club is June 26th & the book is “The Reflections of Queen Snow White” by David Meredith. If you’re not already a Follower of this blog, you’ll want to hit that FOLLOW button to get notified when that Review comes out as there’s also a pretty cool announcement along with it!

Sunday Book Club! The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, & One Man’s Quest to be a Better Husband

Hello again!
Today’s Sunday Book Club Review is “The Journal of Best Practices…” by David Finch.
Disclaimer: In no way do I intend to offend anyone with my Review. I have very limited knowledge of Asperger Syndrome or the mental health community as a whole, so please take my personal spin on this with a grain of salt, or feel free to educate me/start a conversation in the Comments below.

Initial Thoughts:
Many years ago I dated someone whose brother had AS & I was somewhat convinced my ex did too to some degree. As I’ve stated many times before, my To Read List is THAT old! I came across this book because I was researching AS, desperate to find an explanation for my ex’s awkward/bad behaviors. I realize now how sick it was to wish that he had AS, but I wanted an explanation that would be “fixable” & I felt like there might be a connection because of the family history & the many similar symptoms/traits the brothers shared. What gave one the diagnosis of AS & what made the other “just acting like a guy”?  Obviously that relationship ended long ago but this book has stayed on my To Read List mainly to educate myself somewhat on AS & out of curiosity to see what I’ll take away from it at this point. Keep reading to find out what that is…

Plot:
“The Journal of Best Practices…” is the Memoir of David Finch, a regular guy with a regular life that seems to be going downhill at a rapid pace – until he’s diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. While it seems odd that a diagnosis such as this would be a change for the better, Finch & his wife Kristen are thrilled at this discovery because it explains so much of Finch’s behaviors. He’s not an insensitive jerk, his brain just doesn’t process life the same way. With Kristen’s help, Finch sets out to identify his most destructive behaviors & try his best to change them. The Journal of Best Practices is a reference to Finch’s numerous notes, reflections, & realizations that he comes upon during this journey. “TJoBP” tells the story of a couple fighting to make their love work despite great odds.

Characters:
David Finch – I have mixed feelings about Finch. On one hand, I found him to be relatable yet a refreshing depiction of a married man. He loves being married to Kristen & sees the value in their friendship. Once diagnosed he goes out of his way to better their relationship, including reading Cosmopolitan in an effort to find ways to connect with her. I think it’s noble he made the effort to admit changes needed to be made, & then he tried to his best to make them, even at the sake of his masculinity. There are several instances where Finch could continue to let AS get the better of him, but he remembers his marriage is at stake & even though he’s uncomfortable, he fights it. I can somewhat relate to this because my aforementioned ex had PTSD & would pick & choose when it bothered him. For example, we couldn’t go to Disneyland because there were too many people & he would be uncomfortable. However, he was able to go to Galaxy games with his friends in a huge stadium full of people. I tried to be sympathetic/understanding, but eventually it became obvious my kindness was being taken advantage of, so I appreciate people that don’t use their mental health as an excuse to get out of things they don’t want to do. On the other hand, it’s hard to look past Finch’s egocentricity, although that’s part of AS. It’s kind of sad that he didn’t feel a need to change his behaviors until he was diagnosed. I understand because of AS he was quick to shift all the blame to Kristen, but at the same time, it’s a little hard to swallow that he felt NO responsibility for his own happiness.

Quotes:
– Pg 1: I quickly found myself enjoying Finch’s style of writing. It has a real stream of consciousness style that is relatable & comical.
– Pg 94: “Transformation is always an option”

Overall:
“TJoBP” reminded me of “The Vow” by Kim & Krickitt Carpenter. Both are told from the husband’s point of view & tell the story of a young couple fighting for love against neurological medical odds. “The Vow” was a whirlwind romance that seemed hard to believe, but I think readers will find “TJoBP” much more relatable. There’s always that moment when you realize your partner is NOT the person you fell in love with & you have to figure out what that means for the future. To the best of my ability, I understand why the diagnosis was a welcome relief to the Finch family. I was looking for that relief in regards to my ex, as mentioned earlier, because if something’s wrong, there’s an excuse! They aren’t acting this way on purpose, it’s their brain! It’s something that can be fixed with medication or therapy, they’re not an inherently bad person. Finch unknowingly let AS get the best of him & was willing & able to take steps to create a better life. Not everyone with AS is willing & able to do that, so it’s important to note that every diagnosis is different & the severity of each case ranges. Also – note to self – it’s best not to go looking for a diagnosis where none is needed. Sometimes people just change, or rather, reveal their true colors & while it’s difficult to come to terms with, deep down, we know what’s right. On another note, your interpretation/enjoyment of this story will definitely depend on your connection/feelings about Mental Health/”Invisible Illness” issues.

Rating: C+
While I found Finch’s writing clever, I think I’m growing tired of Memoirs. It got a little stale in the middle. I put the book down & almost didn’t care to pick it back up. After the diagnosis, there are some funny, poignant moments but otherwise it’s just the day to day story of this man’s life. While his journey is certainly admirable, is it entertaining? After a few chapters of “Here’s something I’m not good at, Kristen helps me, I struggle, I’m better at this thing”, I was thinking, “OH MY GOOOOSH WE GET IT!!!”

Do you have any experience with AS or other Mental Health issues? If you’ve read this book, would you recommend it? Please feel free to share your thoughts & book suggestions in the comments below!

The next Sunday Book Club is June 12th; “Pictures of You” by Caroline Leavitt.

Sunday Book Club! I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag by Jennifer Gilbert

Hello again!
Thanks for joining me for another Sunday Book Club! Today I’ll be reviewing “I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag” by Jennifer Gilbert. Please hit that FOLLOW button to subscribe to the blog, if you haven’t already & SHARE with your friends!

Initial Thoughts:
Surprisingly, I found this book at the Dollar Tree. I was intrigued by the idea of reading about someone with a successful career in Event Planning – my future career – hopefully! I was hoping to simply pick up some career tips, but I found so much more inspiration than just that! This book was also bought for me as a Christmas gift, which makes me happy that someone knew me well enough to know I would appreciate this story.

Plot:
“…Goodie Bag” is the story of Jennifer Gilbert. She’s the creative, ambitious, girl next door living a relatively normal life…until a horrible crime is committed against her in her early twenties & everything changes. The details of the crime are truly disgusting. They make me lose my faith in humanity even more, & I’m talking about Gilbert’s “friends”, not just the criminal. The scenes where she discusses the immediate aftermath of the crime are pretty intense. I raced through them because I wanted to absorb all the information as quickly as possible, but ended up going back and re-reading some passages because I wanted to make sure I was processing everything correctly. After the attack Gilbert finds a career in Event Planning, eventually starting her own company, Save the Date. The memoir follows her life as she learns to cope with her attack & struggles to find a sense of normalcy again.

Characters:
– Jennifer: OH! MY! GOSH! Jennifer Gilbert is my spirit animal. I love everything about her, I hope she reads this Review & decides to hire me, haha! I connected with her sense of humor, work ethic, and struggle with her inner demons. At some points Gilbert seems to be a bit ungrateful – something she acknowledges & struggles with. Yes, she went through an extremely traumatic experience but ultimately ends up having a wonderful life otherwise yet can’t always appreciate it. However, I think we all can sympathize with what it’s like to want something so badly (in her case, a normal life) & have it taken away. It’s hard to focus on a new target when the one you had in mind & had been working towards has been destroyed, especially when you’re as competitive as Gilbert. It feels nearly impossible to admit defeat & start over, but eventually we have to learn that starting over is just part of life. It’s a learning experience that helps us grow & become better. I appreciated that she’s not afraid to admit she needs professional help in the form of a therapist. I feel like so many people brush aside this notion as “crazy”, but I think therapy can be extremely helpful if you allow it to be.

Quotes:
– Before the book even begins I’m in love with chapter titles like “This is Not My Fabulous Life” & “Keep Calm & Carry On”.
– Pg 4: “…while I was fixing things for other people, I didn’t have to think twice about myself. Obsessing over every tiny detail of other people’s most important events was what I did best. It was the perfect way to avoid thinking about the dark, scary void inside me”
Working hard & challenging myself has helped me move past some of my hardest struggles, so I understand where she’s coming from.
– Pg 109: “My mission…was to surround myself with people who were celebrating, and to know that I had helped them make their joy tangible”
THIS. This is why I want to be in Event Planning. Events can sometimes seem a little frivolous & self involved but joy can be so hard to come by these days. If I could help bring awesome memories to someone through a spectacular Event – that would give me such a great feeling of accomplishment & personal satisfaction. With quotes like this, the readers sees how Gilbert changes throughout her narrative, moving from someone who uses Events to hide herself away to someone that wants to connect with others & help them.
– Overall there were MANY quotes I pulled from this book that really spoke to me, some even made me cry because of how spot on they were to feelings I had or have. However, for the sake of lengthiness, I’ve chosen to not include any more.

Overall:
This book was a quick & easy read, especially because I was interested & highly entertained by the subject matter. This book really spoke to the issue of no matter what’s going on in our life, if we can’t move past our demons, we lose all perspective. A few years after the crime, Gilbert is living a life many only dream of. At 25 years old she’s extremely successful in her career, starting her own business, & has a huge social circle including a long term boyfriend. However, none of this matters to her as she can’t move past the trauma of her attack. Her story reminds me of a Joseph Campbell quote, “We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us”.

Rating: A+
If you can’t tell, I LOVED this book. I would 100% recommend it. Maybe I’m a bit biased because I could relate to the author so much, but I found it to be a non preachy tale of triumph & perseverance in the face of much adversity. Gilbert’s story inspired me, made me feel, & gave me hope for my own future. The book doesn’t have a ton to do with Event Planning in the sense that I was able to gain ideas of how to begin my career, but that was still a fun personal touch/connection for me.

Have you read “I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag” or a book related to your career field? If so, what are your thoughts? Do you enjoy learning about your field from someone else’s point of view? Please feel free to share your thoughts & book suggestions with me in the comments below!

The next Sunday Book Club read will be May 15th & the book is, “Straight From the Source” by Kim Osario.

Sunday Book Club! “The Little Giant of Aberdeen County” by Tiffany Baker

Hey everyone!
Today’s post will be a review on “The Little Giant of Aberdeen County” by Tiffany Baker.
I hope you’ve been enjoying these Sunday Book Club posts. Even if you’re not reading the book before the review is posted, hopefully you’re discovering some new literature/authors you’re interested in.
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Initial Thoughts:
My Book List is at least 5 years old, so sometimes I don’t remember why I put a book on it. “Little Giant” is one of those books. Even when I read the back of the book I was still wondering why I’d wanted to read it. The description was too vague. I couldn’t figure out if there was going to be actual magic in play or if it was metaphorical. However, if a book made it to my Book List, 99% of the time I read it even if I don’t understand why I wanted to in the first place. I figure that at one point something piqued my interest so it deserves a read. Keep reading to find out what I thought of “Little Giant”!

Plot:
“Little Giant” is the story of Truly, a huge girl in a small town. Her parents die & Truly & her sister Serena Jane are left to fend for themselves. Their lives take them on completely different journeys yet ultimately keep them close & bring them together despite tragedy after tragedy. The story follows Truly as she figures out where she fits into her world despite her big size & insecurities.

Quotes:
– Pg 1: Not a specific quote, but the Prologue was kind of confusing & didn’t start the book off in a great way for me. It’s a flash forward covering a scene from the end of the book & I was thinking, “What? Who?! What does that mean?” There were a lot of details, but no real information & for whatever reason it didn’t pull me into the story but kind of made me turn my nose up at it.
– Again, not a specific quote, but just a warning that this book can be pretty dark. There’s quite a lot of death, a rape scene, & several graphic passages about war in Vietnam.

Rating: D
This wasn’t the worst book I’ve ever read but I did have a hard time finishing it. I was able to put the book down for days at a time & feel no desire to keep reading, which is extremely strange for me. Even if I’m not loving a book I usually feel a strong urge to keep reading simply just to finish & move on. This book made me feel lethargic. It just didn’t have enough oomph! It was boring. I realize the story is taking place over a lifetime, but even so, it moved so slow & was often predictable. I found the characters unlikeable & therefore didn’t care what happened to them, which of course only increased my lack of desire to keep reading.

Have you read this book? If so, what are your thoughts? Am I being too harsh? Please feel free to share your thoughts & book suggestions with me in the comments below!

The next Sunday Book Club will be posted May 1st & the book is “I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag” by Jennifer Gilbert. I just started reading it & I already love it!