Audio Book · funny · nonfiction

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

One of my longstanding personal quotes is, “Laugh or Cry, you choose!” I say this to myself when I become overwhelmed and I try to reflect on the humor in the situation. But, I know that mental health is no joke and it can rob people of the ability to control this choice. So what do you do if your life is deeply affected by mental health? Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess) forced herself to be “furiously happy” to balance those times her mental illness makes her unfathomably sad. She invited us on her journey in accepting her mental health and the hilarity of it all in her new book Furiously Happya Funny Book about Horrible Things.

furiouslyhappyI have never read Jenny Lawson’s blog, I didn’t follow her on Twitter and, honestly, she wasn’t on my radar at all.  But, someone highlighted her book on WWW Wednesday and I dutifully added it to my to-be-read pile. Mostly, I fell in love with the hilarious taxidermy raccoon (Rory) on the cover of the book. When the audiobook caught my eye I downloaded it simply because I needed something to listen to during my commute and it was immediately available. All of these cosmic connections resulted in my listening to and falling deeply in love with Jenny Lawson. (I hereby promise I will not stalk you Jenny, tell Victor not to worry).

Now see how I have referred to this total stranger by her first name? And, I write as though I know her husband? This is the talent of a well-written memoirist. They make the reader feel like they have a new friend, one they know and understand on a deeper level. But what elevates this memoir to a whole new level is that my new friend Jenny managed to weave awareness and understanding of mental illness through her book so seamlessly. After listening to her read her own story I feel like I have a much better understanding of mental illness, taxidermy, depression, the perils of traveling through Australia, and the power of acceptance in equal measure.

Jenny’s decision to live Furiously Happy has changed her life. Perhaps her book will alter yours. All I know is that I would really like to thank her for explaining the nuances of mental health to me. And I would really like to hold Rory for a bit. Please?!?


Tell me, please!

What books do you recommend for understanding mental illness?


Audio Book · fiction · humor

Today I Will Be Different by Maria Semple

I was surprised by how much I loved Where’d You Go Bernadette? and so when I saw that Marie Semple had a new book out I knew I would read it. I was even luckier to have the opportunity to enjoy the audiobook version of this book because the narrator, Kathleen Wilhoite, did an amazing job capturing the feeling of all of the characters. Perhaps that is why she also narrated Bernadette!

todaywillbedifferentIn Today I Will Be Different Eleanor Flood, her famous husband, Joe, and her son Timby live in Seattle. Eleanor and Joe are New Yorkers and atheists. While Joe has found grand success as a sought-after hand surgeon in Seattle, Eleanor has been struggling to fit into their community and especially with the parents at Timby’s school. She begins the morning by setting small obtainable goals that she feels will make today different. She makes a promise to herself to shower and get dressed, to take her son Timby to school and then attend her poetry lesson, and to initiate sex with her husband. But before she can quietly change her day in these small ways her son Timby plays sick. That small change in her plans, unintended by Eleanor, alters the course of her life dramatically.

Maria Semple delivers, in Eleanor, another complex female character that I could not help but connect with deeply. Her problems may be first-world ones but they are so common that if you can read this book and not see women you know then you either; (a) don’t know any women or (b) you aren’t paying attention. Eleanor’s quick wit and self-deprecating sense of humor furthers my love of this character and keeps the story moving. As Eleanor and Timby work through their day we see the subtle (and not-so subtle) layers of Eleanor more and more clearly. Much like Where’d You Go Bernadette there are twists and turns. But, for me, the characters drive this story and Eleanor will stay with me much longer than any the plot.

The narrator for this audiobook has a wonderfully gravelly voice that captures both the New Yorker feel of Eleanor as well as the other characters, especially Timby, perfectly. Perhaps it is because I just finished The Princess Diarist but her voice reminded me of Carrie Fisher’s. This is also a short audiobook, only about six and a half hours, and it goes too quickly.

If you enjoyed Maria Semple’s first novel you are sure to enjoy Today Will be Different.


Tell me, please!

If you read this book, what did you think?

If not, what are some of your favorite female characters?


Audio Book · nonfiction

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

I remember hearing long long ago that Carrie Fisher did not love Princess Leia and she was tired of being compared to her. I vividly recall being crushed by that idea. Princess Leia was my hero growing up. She was strong, confident, beautiful, smart, capable…basically the total package. If you had become famous and synonymous with a character, wouldn’t Princess Leia be the ideal?! But, as I grew I began to understand how having your personal identity become confusingly intertwined with a fictional character might be difficult. When I saw that Carrie Fisher had recorded her audiobook of The Princess Diarist I wanted to listen to it and I hoped she would be able to explain her complex feelings about one of my favorite sci-fi characters.

The Princess DiaristI was thrilled that Carrie spent a great deal of time in her book addressing her lifelong relationship with her silver screen alter ego. Of course, there were some wonderful stories about her childhood and adolescence, her experience auditioning for Star Wars, and the long hidden affair she had with Harrison Ford. But her beautiful words about her ever-changing perception of herself and how being identified interchangeably with Leia affected her were truly life changing for me. Her story helped me redefine how to reconcile self-identification with the public’s perception of who they think you are.

I cannot talk about Carrie Fischer without stopping to reflect on her amazing writing skills. Her daughter, Billie Lourd, read the diary sections from her time filming Star Wars and her writing skills at 20 were jaw dropping. I found myself sitting, parked in my car, just letting the gorgeous phrases roll over me. I knew that Carrie had worked as a script doctor and I have read at least one of her prior books but, truly, I had not taken the time to recognize incredibly talented she was as a writer.

It has been almost a year since Carrie Fisher’s untimely death. I could not have imagined listening to this audiobook earlier in the year but as the anniversary came closer and closer I craved just a few more minutes with my first Princess. The book gave me that and so much more. If you are even vaguely interested I heartily recommend listening to this Grammy award winning audiobook.


Tell me, please!

Who is your favorite Star Wars character?

Please, if you don’t love Star Wars, don’t admit it to me because then I will have to defend my fandom and I have huge chunks of time in the coming weeks that I can dedicate to this.

Audio Book · nonfiction

So That Happened, by Jon Cryer

The movie Pretty in Pink came out in 1986. I’m not sure how old I was when I saw it but I remember absolutely hating everything about it….except Ducky. Since the moment Andie chose Blane (for the love of all that is holy….Blane??) over Ducky I hated Molly Ringwald and pink dresses forever. But, I have held a special place in my heart for Jon Cryer. So, when I saw he had a celebrity memoir out I wanted to read it. I worried that he would stoop to gossip but I still wanted to take the opportunity to spend more time with the delightful actor whose career I have followed all of these years.

sothathappenedHe has wonderful stories of growing up in New York City and of his mother’s and father’s careers on Broadway. Truthfully, I didn’t realize how incredibly varied his talent was until I heard about his life. The sheer amount of work he put into honing his craft is impressive but learning that he attended the prestigious Bronx School of Science added an additional, and alluring, facet to the actor. Since he frequently plays neurotic or anxious individuals who are nerdy it is nice to know that he connects with these characters on a personal level.

With celebrity memoirs there is always the possibility of gratuitous gossip. Jon does talk about his first famous girlfriend (Demi Moore), his costars in Pretty in Pink, and a variety of other famous people who have crossed his path. But, at no time did I feel like he was being mean or spiteful. I didn’t learn anything about anyone else that I didn’t already know. He kept the focus on himself and his own drama. Still, when you work (twice) with Charlie Sheen and you have a front row seat to the implosion that was Charlie’s last year on Two and a Half Men it is hard to tell your story without including Charlie. I would argue that he did so in an incredibly respectful manner. In fact, I would have been comfortable listening to this book with Charlie Sheen.

Now, I did learn a whole lot about the movie business and how a storyline can dramatically change. For example, did you know that Ducky and Andie were supposed to end up together? But the test audience (those horrible people) thought Andie deserved the rich guy and they had to re-film the ending!! They ruined it. This and many other wonderful anecdotes were shared by Jon.

I had the added bonus of listening to the audio version of this book. Jon Cryer read it himself and he is as talented a narrator as he is a storyteller. I enjoyed the way he loved the characters he portrayed and you could certainly feel the his enjoyment he gets from acting.

My only complaint about this audiobook was it was only 9+ hours long. I could have spent at least another 9 listening to Jon’s stories. He may not actually be Ducky but he managed to make me love that character even more.


Tell me, please!

Have you ever loved a character enough to follow the actor forever?

Middle Grade

The Wild Robot and The Wild Robot Escapes by Peter Brown

I want a robot. I’m absolutely willing to take the risk that my AI robot might one day imprison me for my safety so that I can have a robot friend. I have one of those vacuum robots and I named him, I talk to him, and he is my tiny friend. Middle Grade books like The Wild Robot and The Wild Robot Escapes only encourage me to believe that one day I will be able to have a smart and kind robotic friend.

thewildrobotThe Wild Robot introduces readers to robot Roz. After being shipwrecked on an island Roz awakens for the first time alone and surrounded by wilderness. As a robot she knows that she must have a purpose but what is it? She battles storms and dangerous animal attacks on the island before she understands that she must adapt to her environment in order to survive. As she begins to learn the language of the animals, make friends and form connections, the island starts to feel like home. But then, Roz’s past comes back to haunt her.

The Wild Robot is lauded as a wonderful for examining where technology and nature overlap. However, the more profound aspect of this book for me, and the children I have read it to, it Roz’s struggle to fit in. Children have told me that Roz is like being a new kid in class, an immigrant in a new country, or someone learning a new language. All of these important issues came to these middle grade readers while watching Roz try to adapt to her wild environment. And, for me, I strongly identified with the cultural and social struggle that accompanies learning a new language.

wildrobotescapesThe Wild Robot Escapes begins with Roz on a farm. As she meets the owner of the farm and his two young children she tries to hatch a plan to return to her wild island and her animal family and friends. But how will a wild robot adapt to working in a civilized situation?

As a sequel, The Wild Robot Escapes is almost as enjoyable as the first book because Brown created, in Roz, a character that the reader cares about deeply. It is slower to start but when the action does begin it is incredibly fast paced – especially for a middle grade book. Roz continues to struggle through situations where she begins as an outsider and has to work to be considered part of her community. The real question starts to become, will Roz be able to leave this new home to return to her wild island?

In both The Wild Robot, but even more so in The Wild Robot Escapes, we see Roz using two things in order to make friends and belong: kindness and honesty.  In so many middle grade books the parents are removed from the story so that the child can be the in charge of the action. But Brown’s use of an innocent robot has made for a unique protagonist that is simultaneously wise and immature.  But Roz is smart enough to be honest and mature enough to be kind and those two things work for her over time.

Middle grade books are a perfect reminder of the difficulties children face. And these two books arm us with a story that explains how it feels to not fit in, how a person can cope with those feelings, what is our higher purpose, and how using kindness and truthfulness will help us become who we want to be in the end.


Tell me, please!

Do you read middle grade books? Why?

nonfiction

NonFiction November Week 5: New to My TBR

I have finally arrived at week 5! I have loved every minute of my chaotic NonFiction November and I cannot wait to participate next year. It is hard to say goodbye to such a wonderful event but I am walking away with so many new books added to my TBR. This week is hosted by Katie at DoingDewey and the prompt is:

It’s been a month full of amazing nonfiction books! Which ones have made it onto your TBR? Be sure to link back to the original blogger who posted about that book!

EatingAnimalsEating Animals I found on Rita’s site and she assures me that this book will give me the environmental and scientific principals behind and vegetarian / vegan diet without the scare tactics. As a former vegetarian I try to follow a quasi kind diet but perhaps this book will bring me back completely into the fold.

 

 

 

diaryofabooksellerAmy-Louise gave me two of my new-to-my-TBR books. The first one, The Diary of a Bookseller is a sure fire win for me because, obviously, it has a bookstore on the cover. Any book featuring maps or bookstores goes automatically on my TBR list.

 

 

the secret barristerThe second one from Amy-Louise is The Secret Barrister. The cover of this book looks like  a Sherlock Holmes novel and reads “stories of the law and how it’s broken.” I have to read it.

 

 

 

 

searchingforamazonsI’m always in the mood for strong women and so Searching for the Amazons really caught my eye when I saw it on Luna’s blog. I cannot wait to get my hands on this book!

 

 

 

 

 

conandoyleFinally, the book I am most excited to have found this month is Conan Doyle for the Defense which I spotted on the wonderful site, WordsandPeace.


Tell me, please!

If you have been participating in NonFiction November or following along, what have you added to your TBR?

nonfiction

Nonfiction November Week 4: Should Nonfiction Read like Fiction?

I am running behind but determined to continue with NonFiction November! This week’s assignment is:

Week 4: (Nov. 19 to 23) – Reads Like Fiction (Rennie @ What’s Nonfiction): Nonfiction books often get praised for how they stack up to fiction. Does it matter to you whether nonfiction reads like a novel? If it does, what gives it that fiction-like feeling? Does it depend on the topic, the writing, the use of certain literary elements and techniques? What are your favorite nonfiction recommendations that read like fiction? And if your nonfiction picks could never be mistaken for novels, what do you love about the differences?

The short answer: YES. But, not necessarily. Allow me to elaborate.


The Short Answer

First, what does “reads like a novel” mean to me? For me to enjoy a novel I like the story to build before me. I need character development, growth, change, internal or external conflict (preferably both) and momentum. And, for nonfiction I don’t think my criteria is all that different except I put a lot more emphasis on momentum in nonfiction than I do when I read a novel. Some of my favorite nonfiction books read like novels to me because they capture my imagination and send me on a journey. In my opinion, this is the escapism quality of fiction.


My favorite Nonfiction that reads like Fiction.

poisonhandbookThe Poisoner’s Handbook by Deborah Blum has separate chapters for each of the poisons. But, in each she introduces you to a problem, a murder, or a group of individuals that grab your attention. She gives you characters. And, as the science identifies the poisons we are off on a journey, a race against time, to stop the people from being exposed to the newly identified substance. I always say that this book reads like a procedural crime drama. Which is why I recommend it every single time.

Meanwhile, there are a number of other fine books about poisons that I have read and not one of the them pulled me in or stuck with me the way The Poisoner’s Handbook has for all of these years. I try at all costs to avoid negative reviews here at SilverButtonBooks so I won’t mention them but just know, you have seen them in bookstores and non of them read as well as this gem.


messyMessy by Tim Harford is another fantastic book that uses character driven or news worthy anecdotes to draw you into a problem. Then, the solution is delivered via information, statistics and science in a way that solves said problem. Messy was a fast paced read that used jumping off points like, plane crashes, man made eradication of nature and terrible situations to show how disorder can positively transform our lives.

Messy reads less like a novel and more like a podcast. But each chapter blends seamlessly into the next and the sum total of the book ends up feeling like a fantastic television show.


askanastronautAsk an Astronaut by Tim Peake reads like an epistolary novel. Much like Rainbow Rowell’s Attachments or Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple, Tim responds to written questions. But it is how he answers the questions that takes this NonFiction book from Dear Abby format to a back and forth between the famous astronaut and the general public. He organized the book like a memoire but gives you the action, adventure, terrifying facts and love of space in his answers. I will NEVER go to space but Tim convinced me why he did.

 


Speaking of Celebrity Memoirs…

Most of the celebrity memoirs that I have enjoyed through the years also read like well written fiction. They certainly have a character-driven feel, they often show us personal growth despite internal and external conflict and they are (if well written) fast paced. I think that is why they are easily accessible to the novel loving readers out there. Some of my favorites include:

Homey Don’t Play That, The Story of In Living Color and the Black Comedy Revolution by David Peisner. Peisner sets the stage for the enormous success of In Living Color with the history of Black Comedy but keeps the momentum up through the interweaving stories of the cast members and all those involved with the rise and fall of this hilarious show.

Bossypants by Tina Fey might be the celebrity memoire that everyone has read but there is a reason for this. Fey’s ability to tell her childhood stories (including how she got that scar) and weave her personal and professional stories together is just simply fun to read. But, at a closer look, it is a fantastic look at the rise of female driven comedies.

So…That Happened by Jon Cryer is my new favorite celebrity memoire. I just listened to it as an audiobook and it was like driving around with a friend for nine hours. He hits all of the gossipy checkmarks without becoming mean or spiteful and I loved him for it. It was also a great story about how a broadway kid experienced movie making and television for the last three decades.

Canada by Mike Myers is another favorite of mine. My giant crush on all things Canadian lead me to this book which is part celebrity memoire and part history of Canada. I would not only recommend the book but also the audiobook for the wonderful accents and explanations by Mr. Myers himself.

The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell will always be highly recommended by me. The comedian (who was unknown to me before this book) delivers his own celebrity memoirs but with the added relevance of the ongoing issues for Black people in America.


To further elaborate…

Does good nonfiction need to read like a novel? No. But, it makes it more fun, easier to consume and far easier to recommend. I have read many other NonFiction books that are so far from a novel they may as well be a textbook but loved them all the same. So, while I will still read a nonfiction book that is clearly not novel-like authors who write nonfiction as though it is to be enjoyed will always be appreciated for their efforts.


Tell me, please!

Do you think good Nonfiction reads like a novel?

WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesday November 28, 2018

WWW

It has been a long start to the week but now it is Wednesday!! Time to start looking forward to the weekend and planning what I will be reading. Thanks (as always) to Sam at Taking on a World of Words for hosting this!


What Did I Just Finish Reading?

I have been deep (DEEP) into NonFiction November and it has made me ever so slightly crazy because I cannot seem to get organized or stick to any one book. But, I know that I recently finished these three fantastic audiobooks while I was driving around town. I highly recommend them all and I will be reviewing them soon.

Jon Cryer’s book, So that Happened has become my celebrity memoir to beat. With his frank conversational style and the sheer amount of weird experiences he has had during his life / acting career his book felt far too short even at 9 hours.

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple was another five start audiobook. If you loved Where’d You Go Bernadette I feel confident that you will want to go on the adventure that is this book. Maria Semple just has a way of capturing how complex women’s lives can become. The narrator delivered the story so beautifully I just need someone to listen to it so they can agree with me already.

The Princess Diarist by the late great Carrie Fisher covers some things about Carrie Fischer’s experiences filming Star Wars that were new to me. I have always been a devoted fan of Carrie and the book is worth a look just to languish in how beautifully her journal entries from her youth were written. If there was ever a doubt of her talent, this book extinguishes it. This audiobook is read by Carrie and her daughter and made me miss the Princess a little more.


What am I currently Reading?

I’m a bit of a mess right now. I think I have 40 NonFiction Books going but I am planning to focus on these three books this week. The Alice Network by Kate Quinn became a forgotten book (one you drop, can’t find, find later, dust off and start again). I am approximately half way through this novel and I love the shifting perspective.

The Two Towers will not defeat me!!! I refuse to welcome the New Year until the damn Ring is destroyed. I have a cunning plan to get it done but my friends have started taking bets.

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson came highly recommended and I grabbed the audiobook version. It vacillates between making me laugh so hard its not safe to drive and desperately sad for those struggling with mental illness. I am also half way through this book but with my new extended commute I am ready to go!!


What Will I Read Next?

These are the five books that the library wants back from me in the next two weeks. I feel strongly that two of them will go back on the shelf unread. But, if anyone has a suggestion on where I should start, please let me know!


Tell me, please!

What’s on your WWW?


nonfiction

Nonfiction November: Week 3. Be The Expert

I am still running behind on my Non Fiction November postings but I refuse to give up! This week is hosted by Julz at JulzReads. The directions are as follows:

Three ways to join in this week! You can either share three or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).

I am fairly new to reading non fiction but the majority of my choices are lead by sheer interest at the moment. I enjoy medical, social, personal improvement, and celebrity memoirs equally. The one section of non fiction I can never resist is those books which help me become a more enthusiastic or well rounded reader. So, for my expert non fiction books I give you the following selection of books about books!

1000booksThis book, 1000 Books to Read Before You Die, A Life-Changing List by James Mustich is reminiscent of a grown up Rory Gilmore’s to-be-read list. Paging through this book I never fail to be impressed by the number of wonderful books that are there to be read. I keep this one handy for when I want to feel challenged and I’m looking for a book that I “should” read.

 

 

 

booklust

Book Lust, by Nancy Pearl is one that I have just recently picked up. Who could resist having a book on hand with recommendations “for every mood, moment, and reason?”

 

 

 

 

1001books

And speaking of books for every mood, this one is a veritable bible for me. 1001 Books for every Mood, by Hallie Ephron, Ph.D. was out of print when I stumbled across it at the library. I felt so lucky to find my own copy and I use it constantly to find books for when I am sad, happy, or in the mood to be scared. I cannot recommend this book enough and my only wish is that they put out a new version every year.

 

 

 

myidealbookshelfMy Ideal Bookshelf is one that many of my book loving friends has oogled over. This book takes individuals perfect bookshelves and turns them into art. I have spend many an hour trying to figure out my Ideal Bookshelf in the off chance I ever become famous enough to have someone want to paint it. This book does make you re-think certain celebrities as well when you realize that someone you admire reads books you hate and vice versa.

 

thebookofbooks

And finally we have the newest of the new books on books – The Book of Books. This is supposed to be America’s 100 best-loved novels but I will tell you honestly, the way in which they gathered the data for this publication gives me great pause. Some of these books are, quite simply, just very popular books (you all know these books, the one book your friend read on vacation and talks about constantly because it is the only book they read last year! Sorry for the mini rant.)

WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesday November 14, 2018

WWW

Between taking down the Halloween decorations and pondering when precisely was too early to put up the Christmas decorations I have made an absolute mess of my book piles. I spent the last week trying to re-organize everything using the Libib.com app and I found three (THREE) books I didn’t even realize I was still in the middle of reading.

Now it’s WWW Wednesday to the rescue. Thank goodness for Sam at Taking on the World of Words for this post and its ability to get me back on track!


What did I just finish reading?

insicknessandinhealthThe only book I can say I have finished is In Sickness and in Health by Ben Mattlin. It is a frank discussion about the advantages and disadvantages of a interability relationships. Ben Mattlin himself is in an interabled marriage. His insight into what issues arise and face couples in a similar situation made for an extremely interesting read. I highly recommend it and you can read (slightly) more on my post here.  I know I read more but this is how unorganized I have been.


What am I currently reading?

It is more like, “what aren’t I currently reading?” Here are my books.

Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart was found abandoned with only 20 pages remaining. The Alice Network by Kate Quinn I left only half completed. And, I think everyone knows I stopped helping the Hobbits get to Morder when Galdalf the White returned. Meanwhile, I started reading The Problim Children by Natalie Lloyd because I lack self control.


What do I plan to read next?

I have Paperback Crush, the Totally Radical History of 80’s and 90’s Teen Fiction by Gabrielle Moss and The Radium Girls by Kate Moss. I have been trying to prioritize nonfiction for Nonfiction November and I have really been enjoying the wonder that is nonfiction publishing lately. I cannot wait to finish some of my current reading and get started on these two books.


Tell me, please!

What books made your list this week?