Review | Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture edited by Roxane Gay

In this valuable and revealing anthology, cultural critic and bestselling author Roxane Gay collects original and previously published pieces that address what it means to live in a world where women have to measure the harassment, violence, and aggression they face, and where they are “routinely second-guessed, blown off, discredited, denigrated, besmirched, belittled, patronized, mocked, shamed, gaslit, insulted, bullied” for speaking out. Contributions include essays from established and up-and-coming writers, performers, and critics, including actors Ally Sheedy and Gabrielle Union and writers Amy Jo Burns, Lyz Lenz, and Claire Schwartz. Covering a wide range of topics and experiences, from an exploration of the rape epidemic embedded in the refugee crisis to first-person accounts of child molestation, this collection is often deeply personal and is always unflinchingly honest. Like Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to MeNot That Bad will resonate with every reader, saying “something in totality that we cannot say alone.”

Searing and heartbreakingly candid, this provocative collection both reflects the world we live in and offers a call to arms insisting that “not that bad” must no longer be good enough.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This should go without saying (and I knew this going in) but anyone who is a survivor of sexual assault or rape is likely to be very triggered by the stories told in this book. It took me a while to get through because it was so triggering. In it we get a wide range of stories including stories of people who were assaulted as children to people who were assaulted or harassed as adults. It is a very hard read and in some ways crafted to be uncomfortable, but it is a valuable and important collection of experiences. Some of the stories were more clinical or journalistic in a way, but the ones that touched me the most were the personal experiences. As a survivor myself who heard plenty of “it’s your fault,” reading the experiences of people with not necessarily the same experiences but many of the same emotions and thoughts was a comfort even while I hurt for these other people. Again, it’s a very hard read, but it’s also a very important one.

Happy reading!

Review | Ghosts of Boston by Sam Baltrusis

It should come as no surprise that one of the nation’s oldest cities brims with spirits of those who lived and died in its hundreds of years of tumultuous history. Boston, Massachusetts, boasts countless stories of the supernatural. Many students at Boston College have encountered an unearthly hound that haunts O’Connell House to this day. Be on the watch for an actor who sits in on rehearsals at Huntington Theatre and restless spirits rumored to haunt Boston Common at night. From the Victorian brownstones of Back Bay to the shores of the Boston Harbor Islands, author Sam Baltrusis makes it clear that there is hardly a corner of the Hub where the paranormal cannot be experienced as he breathes new life into the tales of the long departed.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Having enjoyed Ghosts of Salem by the same author, I was excited to pick this one up. While it was formatted in the same way and had equally compelling and interesting stories, the language used and the flow wasn’t as good as the other book to me. I found myself struggling a little bit to get through this one. The stories were definitely packed full of information and history, as well as interesting ghost tidbits, but I felt like the language used and sentence structure didn’t flow as well as the author’s other writing. Still, it’s a solid entry in the series and the stories were enjoyable and interesting.

Happy reading!

Review | The Comfort Book by Matt Haig

A small book for anyone in search of hope, looking for a path to a more meaningful life, or in need of encouragement.

Happiness occurs when you forget who you’re expected to be. And what you’re expected to do. Happiness is an accident of self-acceptance. It’s the warm breeze you feel when you open the door to who you are.

Years ago, Matt Haig began writing notes to his future self. These notes were meant as gifts to his future self: offerings of hope to help himself through anything from the darkest periods of his life to a not-so-great day. As time went on, he added new thoughts and stories, and he turned them into The Comfort Book so that everyone could draw on this well of reassurance and encouragement. Each of its short meditations gives a new perspective on life and all of its highs and lows–small islands of hope for anyone looking for a more fulfilling, more uplifting way through life. Incorporating a diverse array of sources from across the world, history, science, and his own experiences, Haig offers warmth and reassurance, reminding us to slow down and appreciate the beauty and unpredictability of existence.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I’ve loved what I’ve read of Matt Haig’s writing so far, so when I heard about this one I had to pick it up right away. It spoke to me so much – I’m not someone who tabs or annotates (except in poetry collections) but this one now has a ton of tabs because there were so many passages I wanted to go back to at a later time. It’s a collection of vignettes and passages, ranging from a few lines to a couple pages, some discussing Haig’s emotions and experiences and other being more introspective, about the world or about figures in the past. Though this is a book you can read passages from here and there, there is a clear story/journey throughout the book. The theme is mainly on hope, but also encompasses so much more. Keep in mind that Haig talks very openly about his experiences with anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts (which he’s talked about in his other nonfiction books), but it’s good to know if these subjects trigger you.

Happy reading!

Review | Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh

Allie Brosh returns with a new collection of comedic, autobiographical, and illustrated essays.

Solutions and Other Problems includes humorous stories from Allie Brosh’s childhood; the adventures of her very bad animals; merciless dissection of her own character flaws; incisive essays on grief, loneliness, and powerlessness; as well as reflections on the absurdity of modern life.

This full-color, beautifully illustrated edition features all-new material with more than 1,600 pieces of art.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I’ve followed some of Brosh’s work for years and was excited to see that she came out with her second book. The way she tackles hard topics with her usual sense of reasoning and also humor. It’s exactly the brand of humor I like and is totally relateable. With this book there are definite trigger warnings for grief, depression, anxiety and death of a loved one. She rehashes what she went through during some traumatic events in her life, which happened in some of the years she was absent. She also recounts tales from her childhood and other parts of her adult life. It’s not always cheerful but is always brutally honest.

Solutions and Other Problems definitely tackles not only the traumatic experiences she went through but also the awkwardness that comes with being a human in general and not knowing how to cope or continue with everything, but knowing you have to find a way to.

Happy reading!

Review | Girl Logic by Iliza Shlesinger

From breakout stand-up comedian Iliza Shlesinger comes a subversively funny collection of essays and observations on the secret genius of irrational behavior.

Have you ever been pissed because you’re not pretty enough, and then gotten even more pissed that someone didn’t find you as pretty as you think you are? Have you ever obsessed over the size of your thighs while eating dessert, all the while saying you’ll work out extra tomorrow? Or spent endless hours wondering why you have to bear the brunt of other people’s insecurities? I mean, after all, I’m pretty great. Why cope with insecurities I don’t already have?

That last one’s just me? All right, then.

But if the rest sounds familiar, you are experiencing Girl Logic: a characteristically female way of thinking that appears contradictory and circuitous but is actually a complicated and highly evolved way of looking at the world. You end up considering every repercussion of every choice (about dating, career, clothes, lunch) before making a move toward what you really want. And why do we attempt these mental hurdles? Well, that’s what this book is all about.

The fact is, whether you’re obsessing over his last text or the most important meeting of your career, your Girl Logic serves a purpose: It helps push you, question what you want, and clarify what will make you a happier, better person. Girl Logic can be every confident woman’s secret weapon, and this book shows you how to wield it.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Since I really enjoy Iliza Shlesinger’s comedy I was eager to pick this up as soon as I knew about it. If you do not enjoy her comedy style or jokes, then you will likely not enjoy this book. It’s like an extended comedy show with anecdotes and stories to illustrate her points. I do recommend picking up the audiobook for this one since Iliza narrates it herself and this makes it even more like one of her shows. I did enjoy the background she gave through her childhood and up and could definitely relate with what she said about how your 20s definitely differ from your 30s.

If you enjoy Shlesinger’s comedy style, then you will likely enjoy this book, but if you don’t like it then you may not enjoy this book. It is infused with her specific style, especially in the audiobook.

Happy reading!

Review | The Complete Notes from the Universe by Mike Dooley

The New York Times bestselling author of Infinite Possibilities brings “his signature wisdom, wit, and warmth” (Mike Robbins, author of Nothing Changes Until You Do ) to this inspirational collection based on his bestselling Notes from the Universe trilogy, featuring a new foreword, introduction, and fresh, invaluable truths.

For the first time ever, the hugely popular Notes from the Universe trilogy is presented in one volume, making it even easier to share the love and wisdom of Mike Dooley’s Universe.

Since 2000, Mike Dooley has created empowering and positive affirmations to remind us that we have power over our lives and a say in our destiny. In order to bring about change, we must simply ask and show up. His insights can help you harness the metaphysical laws of the Universe so that you can be swept off your feet and carried along, as divine intelligence puts the right people in your path at just the right time. Soon you can find yourself living in a physical world that mirrors the life you thought could only exist in dreams.

Now, you can discover fresh and inspirational notes in this ultimate volume, spread goodwill, and bring happiness and hope to your everyday life. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Since I had previously read one of Mike Dooley’s works I was excited to get to pick up another of his titles. This one compiles all three books from the Notes from the Universe trilogy, which contained all of the “notes” that Dooley sent out starting in 2000. Most of the messages are humorous, poignant and positive. They can range from a few lines to a full page in some instances. This is a perfect book to use as something that you pick up each day and read a random passage from it. It also reads really well if you decide you want to read a chunk at the time.

Happy reading!

Review | Lighthouse Ghosts by Norma Elizabeth

Thirteen tales of ghost haunting American lighthouses. Includes photographs of each lighthouse by Bruce Roberts. The lighthouses included are:

  • Old Presque Isle Lighthouse on Lake Huron, Michigan
  • Plymouth Lighthouse, Massachusetts
  • Heceta Head Lighthouse, near Florence, Oregon
  • Big Bay Point Lighthouse, Lake Superior, Michigan
  • St. Augustine Lighthouse, Florida
  • Batter Point Lighthouse, Crescent City, California
  • Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, Outer Banks, North Carolina
  • Seguin Island Lighthouse, near Georgetown, Maine
  • Seul Choix Point Lighthouse, Lake Michigan, Michigan
  • Old Port Boca Grande Lighthouse, Gasparilla Island, Florida
  • Minots Ledge Lighthouse, near Scituate and Cohasset, Massachusetts
  • Point Lookout Lighthouse, near St. Mary’s City, Maryland

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Anyone who knows me know that I have a special love for ghost story books, especially those that have a good mix of the factual history and the stories that have been passed down. I did feel that this one had a pretty good mix of those two elements, but there were some portions where the writing didn’t blend or flow as well as I would have liked it to. Still I did find all of the stories enjoyable and it’s a good addition to my ghost story books collection.

Happy reading!

Review | Everything You Wanted to Know about the Afterlife by Hollister Rand

From the world class spiritual medium and author of the “compassionate yet educational” (John Edward, author of Infinite Quest) I’m Not Dead, I’m Different comes an insightful exploration into what it’s like on the other side.

Is there really an afterlife? Do spirits still feel love for us? What is it like when we cross over?

After more than twenty-five years of bringing comfort to tens of thousands of people, Hollister Rand brings her incredible knowledge and experience to this accessible and comprehensive book that takes you on an eye-opening journey into the afterlife.

With warm-hearted sincerity, Rand offers you a clear-eyed and uplifting view into an unknown universe and teaches you how to navigate your life on this earthly plane with eternity in mind. In an increasingly uncertain world, there is only one guarantee: we all face the same outcome. Featuring her signature humor and infused with authenticity regarding her own spiritual journey, Rand provides comfort, clarity, and laughs along the way.

As soon as I heard about this book my interest was piqued and I wanted to give it a read. I’ve always been interested in the afterlife or what could possibly happen after death, so I was very eager to read this one.

I loved the question and answer format that Rand uses in this book, and really appreciated how a lot of her answers included personal stories and anecdotes. The information she provides is very informational and in a lot of ways very heartwarming or comforting. This is a great book for anyone who might have questions or be wondering about what may happen after death, or if there is anything beyond death. It could also in some ways be a good read for people who may be grappling with the loss of loved ones and have questions about the afterlife.

Thank you again to Beyond Words Publishing for providing me with a copy of this book, I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Happy reading!

Review: Why Does Daddy Always Look So Sad?

Author: Jude Morrow
Publisher: Beyond Words Publishing
Date of Publication: April 7, 2020

Why Does Daddy Always Look So Sad? is the story of one man’s journey to parenthood, and how his autism profoundly affected that journey, for both better and worse. Growing up autistic, Jude Morrow faced immense challenges and marginalization, but he was able to successfully—though not without difficulty—finish university and transition into the working world and eventually parenthood. This book is a view of life and love through the eyes of an autistic adult, who went from being a nonverbal and aggressive child to a hardworking and responsible father to a non-autistic son.

In this poignant and honest memoir, Jude defiantly uses his voice to break down the misconceptions and societal beliefs surrounding autism, bringing hope to all who live with autism as well as those who care for someone on the spectrum. Jude views his autism as a gift to be shared, not a burden to be pitied, and as he demonstrates through his candid recollections and observations, autistic people’s lives can be every bit as happy and fulfilling as those who don’t have autism.

I knew that Jupiter has seventy-nine known moons and where the swimming pool was located on the Titanic, yet I didn’t know how to connect with this beautiful child who called me “Daddy.”

I wasn’t entirely knowing what to expect with this memoir as I’m not hugely knowledgeable about those on the Autism Spectrum, but it is something I would like to know and understand more about. This book follows the author’s journey as he grew up and moved through life, living with having Asperger’s. There were a number of struggles that he expertly described in a way that the reader could really understand and empathize with. It was touching to see it through his eyes as he came to realizations and came to accept his condition so that he could not only enjoy his life but build a wonderful relationship with his son. Though I’m not on the spectrum in any way, there were situations he described that I empathized with greatly due to having high anxiety.

I really enjoyed going through Morrow’s story the way he told it. His introspection and self examination allows the reader to fully immerse themselves in what he describes and his emotions during his experiences, even when he has a hard time understanding them himself. It was a wonderful view not only into what he has experienced with his condition, but also what other’s around him experienced.

Jude Morrow presented with communication and social difficulties early in life, which led to a diagnosis of Asperger Type Autism at the age of 11. Despite having educational challenges, Jude progressed through secondary school and graduated from the University of Ulster with an honors degree in social work in 2012. Jude now works as a social worker and is a motivational speaker and advocate for all things autism. When not speaking, writing, or social working, Jude loves spending time with his son, Ethan, enjoying the outdoors, cooking, and reading.

Thank you again to Beyond Words Publishing for offering me a copy of this book. Happy reading!

Review: Of Thee I Sing

What’s your dream? Do you believe that God will answer your prayers so that you can fulfill that dream? Do you really believe that He is faithful? Unrealized dreams can cause deep pain that lasts for years. What takes away that pain? The journey through life is a learning process that each human must endure. I say endure because the learning is not always comfortable. You are not alone in anything you do. The lessons learned and talked about in this book can help anyone who is dealing with trouble, pain, human interaction, or faith. By reading this book, the author hopes you will learn a little about music, a little more about life, and a lot about the love of God.

Full disclaimer, I do know the author and did help with preliminary edits before the book was published, but that didn’t factor into my review or reading experience.

That being said, this is a wonderful telling of a story through different stages of music and musical terms. Musical terms are used to describe different stages of life as well as different personalities. The author weaves parts of her life through these terms, exploring some of her defining moments and how music and faith have changed and shaped her. Essentially how she became comfortable in her skin, secure with her faith and even showing that even now she still deals with vulnerabilities. It’s a wonderful story of life as it is, rough patches, bright spots, love and laughter.

I feel even if you aren’t religious you can still find valuable content and lessons within this book. It’s a great story of finding yourself and finding your way towards enjoying your journey as it takes you through life.

Happy reading!