BlogHer Book Club Review: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened

I have been reading The Bloggess since 2008, when my friend Megan introduced me to her through this post, which is an open letter to her husband (this post also made it as a chapter in her book). I laughed so hard I cried. Ever since then, Jenny The Bloggess has been my writing/blogging/funny lady idol. IDOL. When I was given the chance to review her book (I’m a horrible fan, really, for not picking up a copy sooner) I was so excited.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened is Jenny’s memoir of her unusual experiences so far in her life. She writes about growing up poor in the beautiful city of Wall, Texas (where’s Wall?), her taxidermist father who often brought home truckfuls of bloody animal pelts, the time she was stabbed in the face by a serial killer, and her pet raccoon, Rambo.

This book is laugh-out-loud funny. It is also a very honest look into the ways Jenny has had to deal with issues with social anxiety, depression, feeling like a misfit, multiple miscarriages, and other things that aren’t so light-hearted in nature. She writes with an honesty that I admire so much.

One of the things I love most about her is her openness and willingness to talk about things that not everyone wants to talk about. She is one of the reasons I am also so open here on my blog. Jenny has always made me feel like less of a misfit because she shows me that there ARE other people out there who are socially awkward, who have the same sense of humor that I do, and who swear and are still successful writers (this book was a New York Times #1 Bestseller, y’all.)

If you haven’t read Jenny’s blog, do it now and go ahead and just buy a copy of Let’s Pretend This Never Happened – you won’t regret that you did.

DISCLOSURE: I received both monetary compensation plus a copy of Let’s Pretend This Never Happened for this post as part of the BlogHer Book Club. You can read more about this book or join the discussion by visiting the BlogHer Book Club’s discussion of Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. I really do read The Bloggess and she is truly my funny lady writing idol.  These thoughts and words are 100% authentic, and 100% my own.

BlogHer Book Club Review: A Good American

I had the pleasure of reviewing Alex George’s debut novel, A Good American.

A Good American is the story of Frederick and Jette, two young Germans that fall in love who, after running out of options in their home county, decide to make themselves a new future in America. The year is 1903 as they embark on the journey that will define the rest of their lives.

Frederick and Jette end up in the fictional town of Beatrice, Missouri through a series of unexpected events. There they settle and the lives of the Frederick and Jette Meiseinheimer and the lives of their descendents unfold within the pages of the book. The story goes through four generations of the family.

“Always, there was music.”
The opening line of the book immediately spoke to me.  The continuing musical theme of the book (of course I don’t mean it was literally a “musical book”, I mean music was involved in the characters’ lives from the start)  continued to hit home for me. Frederick loved music, loved singing and performing and passed that love to his descendents. I was raised in a musical family, so the way Alex George described the music and the way it made each character feel spoke to me immensely.  The characters are introduced to a wide variety of music including opera, ragtime, blues, and barbershop. The barbershop  in particular made me all gooey inside, because I have performed in a barbershop quartet.

I have to say: of all the books I’ve reviewed so far, this one was my absolute favorite. From the moment I read the first page, I was in love. The writing is beautiful, the characters wonderful, colorful, and are brought to life very well. I came to love this family of German immigrants. I cheered with them in their joys, gasped during their times of drama, and shed tears (yeah, real ones) when tragedy struck. As soon as I closed the book upon finishing the last page, I immediately opened it again and began to read from the beginning. I reluctantly parted with it to pretty much shove it at my best friend with the insistence that she read it RIGHTNOW.
A Good American has secured a space in my top ten favorite books of all-time. I highly suggest you go get a copy right now. As in, immediately. Why haven’t you gotten your copy yet? GO.

DISCLOSURE: I received both monetary compensation plus a copy of A Good American for this post as part of the BlogHer Book Club. You can read more about this book or join the discussion by visiting the BlogHer Book Club’s discussion of A Good American. I really did adore this book. These thoughts and words are 100% authentic, and 100% my own.

 

 

BlogHer Book Club Review: The Willpower Instinct

I’m a fiction girl. I rarely stray outside my preferred genre, but this year I decided that I wanted to challenge myself, particularly with the books I read… So I agreed to review a self-help book, which I’ve never read before. Turns out this book was kind of perfect timing.  I made the decision at the end of December to finally shed my 40+ pounds of baby weight, so a book about willpower and taking control of it was perfect for me… Especially since I’ve tried and failed multiple times to lose the weight in the last three years.

I’m exactly the kind of person this program has in mind. McGonigal seemed to be speaking directly to me when she wrote, “Most people feel like willpower failures–in control one moment but overwhelmed and out of control the next.” With this book she advises readers to examine how and why we lose control; to understand the “science of willpower” we must really get to know ourselves – especially how we find ourselves in “willpower trouble.” To accomplish this, she has designed the book to teach us how to become “willpower scientists,” through a series of assignments designed to help us pay attention to how our behaviors are already operating in our lives. McGonigal advises I pick a specific will-power challenge to test every idea against. Perfect! Let the weight-loss battle begin!

The willpower challenges that she suggests are the “I will” power challenge, the “I won’t” power challenge, and the “I want power challenge”. The challenge that spoke to me most was the “I will” power challenge – mostly because the positive “will” language appealed to me. She describes this as choosing “something you would like to do more of, or stop putting off, because you know doing it will improve the quality of your life”.

This book gave me a lot of tools that I can implement, as well as some good knowledge as to what, exactly willpower is and what part of the brain it comes from (the prefrontal cortex, if you’re wondering). I’ve begun taking small steps from this book and can’t wait to continue my willpower challenge even further! If you’re looking to make sure some of those resolutions stick, pick up a copy of this book to glean some little tidbits on how to take control of your willpower.

DISCLOSURE: I received both monetary compensation plus a copy of The Willpower Instinct for this post as part of the BlogHer Book Club. You can read more about this book or join the discussion by visiting the BlogHer Book Club’s discussion of The Willpower Instinct. These thoughts and words are 100% authentic, and 100% my own.

 

BlogHer Book Club Review: Diary of a Submissive

 

The latest book I read is described as a “real life Fifty Shades of Grey”. I was hesitant about whether I wanted to read this book – not because I’m a prude or shy away from things sexual in content – but because I know what Fifty Shades is about; I skimmed a few pages on my best friend’s Nook, and I had no desire to read it. One, the subject didn’t appeal to me. Two, it’s fanfic. Three, it’s TWILIGHT fanfic. Two things I despise more than anything are Twilight, and fanfic. Ugh.

I digress. I decided to read this book because of the fact that it was a memoir and not a work of fiction. I thought that, if nothing else, it’d give me a glimpse into a world I knew nothing about: a world where women submitted completely and totally to their “doms” (dominants) in a sexual nature.

WELL, friends. WELL. Let me tell you something about this book. I am hard to shock. Vulgar language and sexual conversations usually don’t phase me but OH MY GOD THIS BOOK.

It’s the true tale of Sophie Morgan (not her real name for OBVIOUS REASONS), a British journalist who happens to like to get the crap beat out of her in the sack. You may chuckle at that, but I’M NOT EXAGGERATING. At first, when she described her first submissive experiences, I was kind of into it. I mean, who doesn’t like a little spanking in the heat of the moment? Oh, I’ve been a bad girl? What? You want to pull my hair? Well, okay. That’s pretty – I’m sorry, did you say you want to hit me with a belt? And a cane – wait, a CANE? Like, as in CANING? LIKE WHAT THEY DID TO THAT KID IN SINGAPORE IN THE ’90s? You’re joking, right?

Sophie described her experiences with being beaten as punishment. With belts, canes, and even a paddle with raised letters to form the word “SLUT” that she allowed a boyfriend to repeatedly whack her with until she was branded. And the entire time she’s describing these things, she reiterated how much she loved it. How much of a turn-on it was for her. I’m sorry, Sophie, but you lost me at “slut paddle”.

This book was actually really difficult for me to finish. I had a very hard time reading about this woman who enjoyed being degraded, beaten, humiliated, and treated like an object. It was fascinating at first, and toward the end I just felt kind of sad for her. I just didn’t understand how she could put up with that, let alone find it a turn-on. I’m not trying to judge her – she’s a consenting adult – but I can’t help but wonder why? Why does she enjoy men treating her like that?

I appreciated Sophie’s honesty and candid writing. She didn’t shy away from graphic details – no “love handle” or “throbbing member” imagery here. She was very explicit. Toward the end, she and her boyfriend had an entire 24 hours of D/s debauchery and the degradation and whipping was so bad, I had to force myself through the last few pages.

If you enjoyed Fifty Shades, I guess you’d probably like this? I’m not really sure, because I haven’t read Fifty Shades myself. If you enjoy being tied to chairs and slapped in the face with a penis, you’d probably enjoy this book or, if you want to peek into the bedroom of someone whose lifestyle is a complete mystery to you – you’d might enjoy this. Personally, I think that I will pour salt over this book and burn it to make sure the spirit of Sophie’s sadistic “dom” doesn’t manifest in my living room and try to brand me with his slut paddle.

DISCLOSURE:  I received both monetary compensation and a copy of Matched for this post as part of the BlogHer Book Club. You can read more about this book or join the discussion by visiting the BlogHer Book Club’s discussion of Diary of a Submissive These thoughts and words are 100% authentic, and 100% my own. 

BlogHer Book Club Review: Matched

 

Matched is a young adult novel set in a dystopian future where The Society governs everything, and everyone’s life is carefully controlled and regulated. Everyone dresses the same, extracurricular activities limited to a handful of things; even the food one eats is chosen for them.

Cassia Reyes decides to be Matched – the Society will pair her with a boy who has been deemed her ideal mate in every way. At her Matching Ceremony, Cassia is Matched with her best friend, Xander. She is ecstatic until a glitch in the system causes a second face to flash on the screen before her. Ky, the mysterious boy who came to her town years before suddenly smiles back at her and Cassia is floored.  Cassia finds her faith in The Society shaken to the core – how could this be? What if they don’t know what’s best? What if she could have a choice? What if they are wrong?

I found Matched easy to read, but the writing isn’t what I’d call simple. I found it easy to imagine myself living  in this future where choice is almost non-existent. I enjoyed the storyline and the characters. I liked that Cassia changed and grew through the story; at first, she is a naive teenage girl who wholly believes in The Society, but she ends up questioning authority in a very ‘damn the man’ sort of way. The love triangle is a little typical and predictable of a young adult story, but it wasn’t too sappy. And there were no sparkly vampires involved, so that’s ALWAYS a plus.

Matched is a trilogy and though I liked the book, I haven’t made up my mind if I’m going to continue reading the series. I have some other books on my “to-read” list that take precedence. Overall, I enjoyed Matched and recommended it to my best friend to read. If you like the Hunger Games, try Matched. It’s not as good, gritty, or poignant as the Hunger Games but it is enjoyable and nice, light reading.

DISCLOSURE: I received both monetary compensation and a copy of Matched for this post as part of the BlogHer Book Club. You can read more about this book or join the discussion by visiting the BlogHer Book Club’s discussion of Matched. Though this was a compensated post, I really did enjoy this book. These thoughts and words are 100% authentic, and 100% my own. 

 

BlogHer Book Club Review: Trust Your Eyes

 

Meet Thomas Kilbride: Reclusive, socially awkward, obsessed with the computer program Whirl360 (think Google Earth), which allows you to virtually tour the streets of any city in the world. Convinced that he is an employee of the C.I.A. and that his “job” entails traveling the world via Whirl360.

Meet Ray Kilbride: Illustrator. Brother to Ray. Returns home to Promise Falls after the death of their father, partly to take care of his father’s affairs and partly to figure out what to do with his brother, who he fears has become so obsessed with his “job” that he cannot live independently.

After Thomas “witnesses” what he believes is a murder while virtually roaming the streets of New York City, the Kilbride brothers find themselves thrown head-first into a terrifying series of events. Conspiracy, murder, missing persons and kidnapping become their reality and together, they must quickly navigate their way through an elaborate maze of twists, turns, and deceit…. before the truth comes knocking on their door.

Trust Your Eyes was the first Linwood Barclay novel I’ve read, and I found myself quickly engrossed in the story of the Kilbride brothers. Trust Your Eyes kept me on the edge of my seat (and couch, and, er, bathtub) the entire time I was reading it. The author introduced several characters who were seemingly unrelated to one another, only bring them crashing together later in the story in an intricate and mysterious plotline that kept me guessing every step of the way. I thought setting the stage for murder and mystery by using modern technology in the way that he did was very clever and intriguing.

Trust Your Eyes will leave you wanting more with every turn of the page – and it comes with a delicious twist at the end that will make you gasp.

DISCLOSURE: I received both monetary compensation and a copy of Trust Your Eyes for this post as part of the BlogHer Book Club. You can read more about this book or join the discussion by visiting the BlogHer Book Club’s discussion of Trust Your Eyes. Though this was a compensated post, I really did enjoy this book. These thoughts and words are 100% authentic, and 100% my own.