Tuesday, November 21, 2017

You Do You Review

As I've mentioned on the blog before, over here and here, I'm a big fan of Sarah Knight's books. Well, I'm actually just a big fan of Sarah Knight. I love her TED talk, her tweets, her writing style, her sense of humor, and her newsletters. So when I saw that she had a new book coming out, I could not WAIT to read it! And when Netgalley sent me a copy to review, I practically jumped out of my skin, I was so excited. HUGE GIGANTIC thank-you's to Netgalley and Little, Brown and Company for sending me a copy...and making this fan girl's day.

I'll try to mop up my drool, stop swooning, and write a proper review now. 😁

You Do You: How to Be Who You Are and Use What You've Got to Get What You Want is the third in Knight's No F*cks Given trilogy of fabulous self-help guides, following The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck and Get You Sh*t Together.

In this book, our favorite "anti-guru" details how to let your freak flag fly, and be yourself...eschewing the norm, and figuring out how to respond to the pressures of well-meaning (and some not so well-meaning) people who always have an idea of what you should be doing, wearing, how you should be behaving, etc.

Although I would say that, out of all of her books, this one is maybe the least pithy? Or maybe it's the one that I personally have to do the most work with?? I felt like I needed to highlight more, and probably need to give this one a third reading, instead of just a second one, like I did with the other two. Now, that's not saying that it isn't as good...or that I didn't enjoy it as much as the other ones. I just felt like it maybe hit more of a nerve, or was a little more serious than the other ones??

But this is still the same construction cone-wearing, swear word tossing lady...and this time she's really trying to get us to stop listening to "Judgy McJudgerson". I personally need to hear things like "There is nothing wrong with liking things the way you like them and asking for what you want." and "You don't get what you don't ask for." It doesn't matter how many times I read those things in books, I seem to need to hear them a few more times. And Knight's trademark sassy delivery seems to resonate so well with me, that for some reason her sayings stick.

The book goes over Do's and Don'ts, Wills and Won'ts, Shoulds and Shouldn'ts, along with a whole lot of discussion on why it's not a bad thing to be labelled "difficult". I think one of the stories that stands out to me the most involves her discussing the issues she's had with anxiety. I have a very good friend who struggles with debilitating panic attacks. Anyway, Sarah Knight shares that she snuck a litter box and craft sand into her office at work, so that when she got overly stressed, she could take her shoes off and place her feet in the sand...close her eyes, and imagine she was on the beach. She used that tactic to help ease her anxiety, so she could get over it and get on with her day. Did people probably think she was weird because she had a litter box full of sand under her desk?? I'm sure they did. Did she give two craps about it?? Nope. That is something to ASPIRE TO.

So, I highly recommend this book...as I do the other two in her No F*cks Given trilogy. I think they're amazing books that tell some terrific truths in a unique and saucy voice that speaks to me, like the girlfriend/sister you always wanted. Plus, she makes me laugh maniacally...at weird times, which tends to scare my dog and weird out my husband. Buy yourself a copy, and then buy a copy for your best friend. They'd make good Christmas gifts. 🎄

I may not get another review up this week because it is both my favorite daughter's 20th birthday (EGADS!!) and Thanksgiving!! I want you all to know that I'm eternally grateful for all of you. I'm still amazed that anyone reads my thoughts about books, or anything else. So Thank You again, and I hope you all have a fabulous holiday.

Monday, November 20, 2017

A Beautiful Work In Progress

I love self-proclaimed Plus Size Ultramarathoner Mirna Valerio. She is an incredibly intelligent, well-educated, grown-ass woman, who is kicking stereotypes to the curb left and right. I've enjoyed periodically reading her blog Fat Girl Running, although she doesn't update it as much as she used to, now that she's writing for things like Women's Running Magazine. I also recently watched a show on t.v. documenting a run of hers, which was incredibly inspiring for someone like me.

When I saw that she had a memoir coming out, I honestly couldn't wait to pick it up and give it a read. Other than her being a plus sized runner, I didn't really know a whole lot about her or her journey. I follow her on Instagram and Twitter, so I know that she's tireless in sharing her story in the hopes of helping others who might feel that they can't do something like run, because they don't look like what they think a runner should look like. But other than that, I didn't know much.

A Beautiful Work In Progress is a very inspiring read of a woman from a fairly poor but hardworking family in New York City, who as a gifted child ended up attending boarding schools and now works as a choral director and Spanish teacher at a boarding school herself. She was a runner and athlete as a teen and young adult, but gained weight as an adult. When she had a health scare, she started running again. She gradually went from run/walking 5Ks to regularly running ultramarathons and coaching cross-country. She also teaches diversity and speaks out on body positivity around the country.

If I were writing this review as a book critic, I would say the memoir probably needed a little more editing before it went to press. It hops all over the place, and is occasionally hard to follow. The timeline bounces around so much, and in a manner that doesn't follow any discernible pattern, that you spend a lot of your reading time trying to figure out when the story takes place and if the race she's in is the same one she was talking about earlier or if she's in a different one now?? It would've been a better book if the flow made more sense.

BUT, I don't think many of the people reading this book are going to be reading it as a critic. Because I write a book blog, and I certainly didn't read it as such. One part of my brain made a tiny mental note, but it wasn't the impression that stuck with me...and I didn't think much about it until I went on Goodreads before writing this review. I got a lot out of this memoir...and I enjoyed it, which I think is what Mirna was going after. I don't think she was expecting to win any awards for her writing style. I believe she was probably trying to get her story into more people's hands.

I had no idea that racing involved so much work and preparation. I also can not BELIEVE there are people out there who enjoy running as many miles as some of these folks do. It blows my mind. I also love that this woman, who has watched so many people in her family give and give and give of themselves to the detriment of their own health, has decided to focus her life on a healthy pursuit in spite of not having a body type that society deems "ideal" for the task, is also incredible. If, in sharing her story, she makes even one of us decide to go for a walk...or join a gym...or sign up for a 5K...or any other healthy activity, that we wouldn't have done for fear of what we look like, then she deserves all the praise and kudos that she has received and then some.

My big take away was to never keep myself from doing something fitness related for fear of what someone else might think of me for doing it. That may sound like common sense, but I have been afraid to go to the gym for fear of what I would look like. This is a thing for some people, but it's not going to be a hang-up of mine anymore. (If you know me in real life, hold me to this one!!!)

So, the best written memoir I've ever read? Probably not. Inspiring? It is to me, a plus-sized woman who is working to get healthy and take better care of herself.

You would probably like this book if you've ever struggled with weight, or you are part of the fitness and running community.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Origin Review

My son beat me to the punch, and read Origin by Dan Brown within days of it being released. He then preceded to hound me until I finally picked it up, and then stared at me...and peppered me with questions for the entirety of my time reading the book. We do this to each other sometimes. It's a "thing" in our house. I think it was punishment for my not having picked up The Lord of the Rings for a re-read yet, like he wants me to do. 

We have read all of the Dan Brown/Robert Langdon books, and both have different favorites. They are slightly tainted by which cities in Europe we call our favorite. I have purchased the Illustrated editions because it's not fun having to look up the art work and architecture that's referenced CONSTANTLY while reading, and much easier to have the work done for you. Of course, those are purchased AFTER we've already read the regular novel. 

I guess what I'm trying to say is, I enjoy the Robert Langdon book series. I find them entertaining, which is what fiction is trying for...most of the time. I have a half-finished blog post about genre bias in fiction, and my issue with people who think certain books are better than other books...and I feel that the Dan Brown novels get tossed into the mix of authors who are snubbed, and treated as less than in the bookosphere. I don't want to go on a gigantic tangent, but there are a lot of folks out there who missed the fact that 1) his books are fiction, and labeled as such, and 2) if the formula works, why tweak it. 

Origin once again finds Robert Langdon in the middle of a crazy turn of events, this time in the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao Spain, and once again has to solve a mystery to help a former student who was killed reveal a discovery that he's promised will "change the face of science forever" and destroy religion as we know it. With the help of the lovely Ambra Vidal, the museum director and fiance of the future King of Spain, he hopes to reveal the discovery and keep the two of them alive. 

That is probably a horrible summary, I'm sure Goodreads has done a much better job of it! Langdon is running around with a smart and beautiful woman trying to solve a mystery, with a bad guy chasing after him. 

I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Spain through the eyes of Robert Langdon. I Googled a LOT while reading this book. I found a few sites to add to my bucket list, and I really liked that it wasn't a location that had been covered in his books before. 

I analyzed the crap out of this book while I was reading it! At one point in time, I thought everybody was the bad guy. Well, everyone but Langdon himself. I sussed it out earlier than I'd liked to have, but was still guessing...and when I realized I'd hit the jackpot I practically jumped up and down! I was so damn proud of myself for figuring something out before it happened, because it NEVER happens. 

Now, although I enjoyed this book, as I've done all but The Last Symbol, this wasn't my favorite Langdon novel. I thought the first half of the book was pretty good, but it fell apart towards the end...and I found myself skimming, which is never a good thing. The big reveal wasn't nearly as exciting as I'd hoped it would be, and it all got a little too wordy and convoluted. 

So, if you're a fan of the Dan Brown books, I would say definitely pick this new one up to read. It's not the worst one in the series, in my opinion. But it's also not the best, by a long shot. Angels and Demons is still my favorite of his, but that's also the first one I read. If you've never read a book of his, I'd go with that, or Da Vinci Code before this one. 

But it was still entertaining, folks. 

And it did nothing to change my faith in God, thank you very much. Fiction, ladies and gentleman.

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Dirty Book Club

I am a HUGE fan of Book Clubs. I think everyone should be in one, and I'd be in 20 if I could find enough people to be in them with me. So, this book by bestselling author Lisi Harrison, of YA Monster High and The Clique fame, really caught my eye. A big Thank You to Netgalley and Gallery Books for sending it my way!!

The Dirty Book Club starts off by introducing us to a group of girlfriends in the 1960's who start a secret Dirty Book Club. They will wrap their books with the cover of a prim and proper housekeeping title, and meet once a month at the full moon to discuss what they've learned. And once all their husbands have died (because the men always go before the women), they vow to drop everything and run away to Paris together.

The book then skips to modern day, and we meet M.J., a career woman in New York who is grieving for both the loss of her family in a car accident and what she perceives as the loss of her career. She decides to relocate to her hot boyfriend's home in California, and lick her wounds. In an effort to meet people, she befriends Gloria...the mature woman next door. When Gloria drops everything and runs off to Paris with her girlfriends after her husband dies of a heart-attack, she leaves a letter on M.J.'s doorstep...passing on her membership to the Dirty Book Club.

We are then introduced to a new generation of the Dirty Book Club. Four women who have nothing in common, and aren't sure they want to be in a book club...or be friends. Can they learn anything from the notes that the previous generation left behind? Is there wisdom to be found in Fear of Flying or Fifty Shades of Grey? And can M.J. truly become a happy and fulfilled California girl, or will she run back to New York??

I really enjoyed this book, although I think I found the bits surrounding the older generation of women a bit more interesting than the present day ladies. I liked the idea of these ladies secretly meeting, martini and Salem Light in hand, discussing all of the things they'd read in whispered giggles with each other. The whole idea reminds me of late nights at my house in North Dakota, drinking wine with my girlfriends at my Wine & Words book club, laughing over something incredibly naughty. It's the best of the Book Club cliche, really.

But to me, this was a fun book. It had it's serious moments, and at times it was a little disjointed, and the plot/dialogue got a little wonky. But if any of you ladies out there are looking for pure entertainment, this book has it. It made me want to start my own Dirty Book Club, complete with Ya-Ya level smoke-blowing ceremonies under a full moon.

And I may be a little nutty, but I've never handed out a gift-bag like one of the characters in this book did. Feel free to thank me for that later. Or maybe not...it depends on how you look at it.

This novel really has a little bit of everything in it, from infidelity and work/home drama to domestic abuse and hidden homosexuality. It really covers a lot, but does it in a way that doesn't feel too heavy handed or melodramatic, with some of the bigger issues coming in letters that were written by the older ladies, that are being read by the younger ones during their meetings. I think it was a clever way to keep that generation of original DBC women still in the picture, while staying in the modern timeline.

For me...I considered this book to be one for the win column. One could probably pick at it...and some of the things others found issue with, I found endearing. You can maybe tell the author has been writing YA books for a while. But, I was just smirking so much while reading it, my eyes didn't rest long on the flaws.

So, how do you feel about Book Clubs? And would you ever consider a Dirty Book Club?? Oooh, and more importantly, do you think you can learn anything from Fifty Shades?!? LOL 😁 Let me know in the comments!!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Christmas at the Graff

If you're a regular reader of the blog, you know that I have a friend named Kaylie who writes books. I call her a friend because we grew up together in Southern Oregon, but we haven't seen each other since I was 14...so it's more of a long distance acquaintance admiration really. I just like calling her my friend. Her kids and dogs are adorable. I love that she's best friends with one of my favorite people in the world (I love you A!!!). So, because of this long-distance admiration, I've done an interview over here and she did a guest post over here, if you missed them. 😀

So, when Kaylie offered me a chance to read her new book Christmas at the Graff, I jumped at the chance.

I should put my love of Christmas in context for you, before I get into the review. I am a HUGE fan of the holiday season. I love listening to Christmas music, my house is very decorated, I enjoy watching old movies like White Christmas and It's a Wonderful Life...but I've never watched a Hallmark Christmas movie. And I only occasionally read Christmas themed literature. I'm a fan, but not obnoxiously so.

Christmas at the Graff made me want to rethink my aversion to Hallmark and Lifetime Christmas movies. Now, don't get me wrong...there's some hanky-panky in this book. Kaylie is great at writing the...um...lusty sections that garner her romance moniker. But this book had me ready to pull my decorations out of our attic, and it's not even Thanksgiving!

Christmas at the Graff tells the story of Jemma and EJ. Jemma has come to Marietta, Montana to help care for her father following a surgery. He left her mother during the holiday season when she was 15, and their relationship has been strained since. She wouldn't be there if he had anyone else. Jemma's plans are to protect her heart, and stay until he's healthy enough to take care of himself...and then get out of Marietta.

EJ is the physical therapist who's helping Jemma's father get back up and moving, but is also his friend. He has seen a side of Joe that she's never seen, and considers him to be the father he never had. EJ talks Jemma into helping him with his charity Christmas tree decorating project since her father is unable to, and sparks fly. Will Jemma find a reason to stay in Marietta a little longer? Will she be able to build a new relationship with her father? And will she decide she likes Christmas again?

I think Kaylie really hit this one out of the ballpark! This book is a warm and fuzzy ball of Christmasy goodness. It made me want to make a peppermint hot cocoa, a warm fire, put some xmas tunes on, and canoodle snuggle. This is the perfect book to put you in a Christmas mood, while still having a great plot including family and relationship issues.

The struggles Jemma's character goes through, trying to figure out how to get past the hurts of her childhood while worrying she's treading on the memory of her mother who's passed away, was dealt with very realistically. And everything wasn't perfectly wrapped up in a bow at the end.

The historical Hotel Graff is pretty much it's own character, and is probably my favorite in the entire book. I could picture it in my head, all decked out in it's holiday finest, ready for the Mistletoe and Montana Auction. With Bob at the counter, ready to check in guests.

And also, having a Hemsworth-looking snowboarding, physical therapist as the hunk, while still keeping him a well-rounded human, took mad skills. Honestly, you can tell from this review that I don't read a constant stream of romantic type books! LOL I just kept thinking...wow, he's a stud...but he can't ice-skate...which is GREAT! 😁

But really, I loved this book. I enjoyed everything about it, and can't thank Kaylie enough for sending it to me. It was the perfect read for me, especially while I was miserably sick. If Marietta, Montana was a real place, I would want to visit and stay at the Graff. And you can't really get a better recommendation than that, can you?

Let me know if you're already in the Christmas mood, or if you think it's WAY too early?? And also, do you watch Hallmark Christmas movies?? Did you think that was disparaging of me...to either the movies, or to Kaylie?? 😉