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This is going to be a multi-faceted post. (I think I’ve always wanted to use that hyphenated word to describe something I did. So…there it is.)

Firstly, if you’re anything like me, you love fall. I totally get it up for fall and yes, even the ubiquitous Pumpkin Spice Latte. Though, I have to say, the recent advertisement boom for my favorite latte is a little annoying. Just call me a wannabe hipster, but I totally drank it before it was in magazine ads. Anyway! I love fall and all things pumpkin. And this. is. hilarious. Pumpkin In Stable Condition After Being Humped by Blogger (stolen from Rachel Wilkerson) – yes it is what it sounds like and yes, you can laugh at yourselves, fellow pumpkin-humpers. That being said, I made these tonight and they are fantastic. Jenna at Eat, Live, Run literally has the best recipes. You can’t screw them up. Go check her out.

Secondly, I think it’s time again for Things-I’m-Good-At-Thursday (or, GAME DAY SATURDAY BITCHES! GO BLUE!). After spending the labor day weekend in glorious Plymouth, MA (see photo below) for my (extremely successful) cousin’s wedding, I could use some reminders about things I’m good at before I cry myself to (I’m-a-failure-and-I-can’t-get-out-of-bed) sleep. Here’s a couple I had saved in my phone for such a time.

Plymouth Rock - underwhelming.

Making Everyone Feel Awkward

Now, I can’t remember the instance where I decided this was important to add to my list, but I’m sure I blocked it out of my mind due to embarrassment. I say the strangest things sometimes and generally it just makes people uncomfortable. Whether it’s going into too much detail about my missing front tooth (long story – it involves an Amish community, gin and tonic, cement steps and college), or saying something that’s completely out of context to a polite conversation, I’m the champion awkward times creator.

Gift Giving

I love buying people gifts. I don’t even have to know you that well to buy you a gift either; if I find something that I think you’ll love, I’ll get it. (Within reason of course  – this might relate to the “making everyone feel awkward” category above.) I am creative with my gift giving and I love surprising people. You probably should be my friend.

Filling Out Forms

I read a book once where the girl was rich (I think?) and lost everything and realized that the only thing she was really good at was filling out forms. When I read that book, I realized, Hey! I’m good at that too! As we can see from this post and the last one above, I’m good at more things than just filling out forms, but it is another one of my stellar traits. I can probably beat you in filling out medical forms. Don’t even try to race me on a questionnaire. I got that in the bag!

Remembering People I Meet

I suppose most of us all good at this to some extent, or else you probably have that disease where you can’t recognize faces, even people who are your family. (That is sad.) I have a knack for remembering everyone I meet or even hear about in a small capacity, which makes things awkward for people 5 years later when you tell them that you already met at a party of a friend of a friend and they were the ones peeing in the corner on top of the keg. Not that that’s ever happened. Hypothetically. It can either make you sound like a stalker or just crazy. It never really works out well. No one is flattered, really, when they don’t remember you back…which is why I started to pretend I don’t know anyone. I think it’s probably lose-lose, because now people who remember meeting me just think I’m a self-absorbed a-hole.

Remembering Song Lyrics

I’d give my left arm (useless anyway) to be about to be a performer with an Adele-like voice (or even Katy Perry). I want to be a singer. I don’t understand why I can’t be a singer. Voice lessons didn’t help me, either. I just have to live with the curse of being a lyrics savant and not be able to do anything about it. One time, I whined to my good friend Tara, asking, “Why are some people good singers and some people not? It’s not fair.” It was supposed to be rhetorical, but she told me it had to do with the positioning of my vocal cords. I finally stopped feeling sorry for myself that day. Just kidding, I still feel sorry for myself. Sue me.

Well, now it’s your turn to think about things you’re good at. Are you a good singer? If so, sing into my shell right here…

ahh-ahh-ahhhhh, ahh-ahh-ahhh! (That's Ariel singing.)

On my way home from Plymouth, I read the book Visions In White (Bridal Quartet Book #1) by Nora Roberts. My two sappy friends recommended this series to me and at first I wasn’t really interested. I like romance, but Nora Roberts never really seemed like my thing. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book by her before and if I did, I don’t remember it. I was afraid the book would be terribly cheesy, which, I’ll admit, it was a little in some parts, but otherwise, it was good. I look forward to finishing the series.

The basis for the series are four friends who own a successful wedding business together called Vows. Mac, the photographer, is the main character in this first book. She is single (oh, but not for long, I’m sure you can guess) and lives on the property of the business. It is an estate that was owned by Parker’s (the manager, essentially) family. When her parents died, unexpectedly, Parker and her brother inherited the land. That’s when Parker and her friends took over and made it into a business to put happy memories into a sad time.

There’s really not a huge plot to this story. It isn’t overtly intelligent or thought-provoking, but I liked that. It was an easy read, but there was still enough depth to keep it interesting. The top three things I liked most about this story were:

1. The information about photography and the description about Mac’s photos. It made me wonder if Nora herself dabbles in photography. I think this added a nice element that made the story more “real.”

2. I love the idea of owning a business with your friends, especially something so fun (most of the time) as wedding planning. Wouldn’t you love to own a business with your friends? Oh, it’d probably tear you apart and ruin your lives? Money changes everything? That’s why this is FICTION. So you can pretend it’d be perfect.

3. I love that we learn bits and pieces about the other characters that will most likely tie into their stories in the other three books. I love any story with connections to other stories. (See : Stephen King books, Emily Giffin books on smaller scales.)

Now there is one thing I didn’t like about this book and it was the dialogue! Well, not all of the dialogue, but some of it. In the nicest way possible, Nora tries to be “young” in her phrases and rhythm of dialogue and it doesn’t always work. The characters are in their early 30s and they say the most ridiculous things sometimes. I’m all about turbo-weird phrases and exclamations (see), but hers were distracting. I can’t even think of an example of one right now, but the characters said some strange,  not-in-anyone’s-vocabulary phrases.

If you’re looking for an easy read this lovely fall day, pick up this book. And maybe a pumpkin spice latte. PUMPKIN HUMPING!

 

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In an attempt to be not-so-pessimistic, I decided to add a little special section to my blog on Thursdays called “Things I’m Good at Thursday.” (It might be on random days of the week, actually, because if there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s being inconsistent.) I think it’s a good idea for everyone to think about what their strengths are, no matter how seemingly silly or weird, just to give yourself a little ego boost once in awhile. So before the book review about Stiff by Mary Roach, here are some things I’m good at:

Being Inconsistent

I think I mentioned this one before. This goes along with my own personal vow to write in my blog every two days. Woops!

Reading Fast

I don’t need any speed-reading lessons or to run my hand over the page while I read (who remembers those commercials!?). I am a viciously fast reader naturally. And I remember what I read. (Unless it’s characters’ names. WHY?)

Guessing Plotlines or Endings

Maybe it’s because I’ve read a ton of books from being a super fast reader, but I can guess an ending like nobody’s business. Or maybe I just read too predictable of books or watch too predictable of movies. Whatever, I’ll take it. I’m good at it, okay?

Following Confusing Storylines

Memento? That’s easy. Inception? Never a confusing moment for me. I’m not kidding. This stuff just makes SENSE, which is weird, because everyday stuff is kind of confusing for me. Like I don’t understand the phrase, “behind the 8 ball.” Don’t even try to explain it to me. I won’t get it. Because I have my OWN way of explaining it okay? Or, I never understood why a goatee was called a goatee until I saw a picture of a goat and my boyfriend said, “Look at his little goatee” while pointing at his goat beard. Ohhhhh.

Remembering Conversations

I will remember nearly every conversation I have with someone…given that I am interested in what the other person is saying. Don’t ever get into a competition with me about what I said or didn’t say. You won’t win. I remember things too clearly sometimes.

Kids Love Me

I am the baby whisperer. Or the child-under-the-age-of-twelve-whisperer. Kids just get me and I get them. I’d love a job working with kids, but I don’t like all kids. And I don’t really want to babysit full time. Sooo where does that get me? Suggestions welcome.

Goateeeeee...ohhhhhh

So now that we’ve established six things I’m good at, you should think about things you’re good at. Now. Before you read the book review.

Okay, now that you’ve thought of your five things, today’s book review is going to be a quick one. This book is hard to explain but you’ll either be into it or not. So go with it. It’s called Stiff as I mentioned and it’s by a columnist/comedian named Mary Roach. Now, I’m not sure if it’s the same Mary Roach we all remember and love on American Idol a few years ago with the major camel toe, but it doesn’t look like it from her author photo. Maybe it’s because the author photo was devoid of camel toe. But irregardless, Mary Roach writes some awesome stuff…and maybe has some pants issues.

Hard to see, but maybe that's a good thing.

Mary (I really have an urge to call her “the roachmeister” but I can’t explain why) wrote Stiff after spending many hours with dead bodies. Yes, dead bodies. She traveled to other countries, many different U.S. states and learned as much as she could about the history of cadavers and what we have done with them historically. This book is incredibly interesting. I’m not really into death – in fact, I’m terrified of it. This sounded like a book I would absolutely hate, but I decided to give it a try and I loved it. Completely, utterly loved it. (It was recommended by the awesome blogger Rachel Wilkerson a while back and she had me convinced it’d be good. Actually, she might have recommended Boink, Mary’s book about sex, but regardless, I knew it would be equally awesome.)

There’s not much to say about this book in terms of plot line, naturally, as it is non-fiction, but the book is a fairly fast read, even for people who aren’t crazy fast like me. She adds a lot of humor to her writing, which is refreshing, especially in a book that talks about composting dead bodies in Sweden. No lie. Look it up. It’s interesting, albeit a little (a lot) horrifying. Go green when you die! Let your family grow veggies with you! Just kidding, they recommend non-edible things.

If you’re looking for something different to read, this definitely is your book. You can fill your mind with facts about uses for dead bodies and what really happens when you donate your body to science! You can learn about body snatching! Most importantly, you can learn that maybe death isn’t so terrible. I’m lying. That’s not a message at all in this book. (I wished it was.)

Go read it now. And then don’t forget to think about five things you’re good at. Every Thursday. Or sometimes Tuesday.

 

 

 

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Did you know that most fireflies use their bioluminescence (fancy word for glowy butts) to attract mates, not for warning purposes? From Wikipedia :

Fireflies are a classic example of an organism that uses bioluminescence for sexual selection. They have evolved a variety of ways to communicate with mates in courtships: steady glows, flashing, as well as the use of chemical signals unrelated to photic systems. [Me: Photic systems? This is how people get lost in Wikipedia, clicking to new pages constantly, and then forgetting what they looked at in the first place.] Some species, especially lightning bugs of the genera Photinus, Photuris, and Pyractomena [There are different species?!] are distinguished by the unique courtship flash patterns emitted by flying males in search of females. In general, females of the Photinus genus do not fly, but do give a flash response to males of their own species. [Ladies get the shaft in many species, apparently.]

This has nothing to do with book reviewing except for the title but I always wondered why fireflies have glowy butts and now I know. As long as whoever wrote that page wasn’t lying. If they are, they’re really creative. And weird for lying about bugs.

Glowy butts!

The book for today is by Kristin Hannah. I had never read a book by her until I read Firefly Lane. I had heard many good things about her, but she is so ubiquitous (or so it seemed) that I kind of resisted reading her books. (Just like my resistance to Harry Potter that just ended about 2 weeks ago. I’m in love.)

Pretty glowy butts on a cover!

When I scanned through my nook for titles by Kristin Hannah, this one stuck out to me the most. I’m a sucker for friendship stories (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, anyone??) and this one seemed pretty decent. It was definitely beyond decent. And surprising.

The book centers around Kate and Talullah “Tully” who become best friends in middle school. Kate is the shy, nerdy, intelligent girl and Tully is the exotic, daring, beautiful new girl in town. (Anyone want to guess which one I relate to?) Their friendship, as most friendships seem to be in friendship stories, is unlikely but it works. Tully has a hippie for a mother who comes in and out of her life (“Cloud”) and Kate has the perfect nuclear family. Both, naturally, are jealous of each others’ lives. (Well, I wouldn’t go as far to say that Kate is jealous that Tully has a kooky, dazed-and-confused mother, but she’s jealous can do and wear whatever she wants with no parental supervision.)

The books spans their childhood, growing up on Firefly Lane, to middle aged adulthood. Normally a book that covers that much ground would be choppy or even long-winded, but this book is not. It flows perfectly and you don’t feel as though you’re missing any pieces. Tully and Kate both have goals to become reporters, a la Diane Sawyer, but Tully is the one with the passion for it. She will stop at nothing to get to her goal. I am mega envious of anyone with a passion that strong. I’m just going to blame my perfectionism for my lack of passion.

Kate and Tully have tumultuous periods, like any friends do, and Tully definitely has the stronger personality of the two. You will wind up, if you relate to Kate like I do, feeling angry at Tully for being selfish, but feeling pity for her as well. If you relate to Tully, you feel angry at Kate for letting Tully walk all over her (stand up for yourself, girlfriend!), but feel pity for her as well because she never quite seems to get what she wants like Tully does. Actually, I don’t think  you need to relate to either/or to feel that way. Both of them made me mad and sad at the same time.

The  overall theme of this book is obviously friendship, but also going after what you want in life and not apologizing for it. (Does anyone else notice a theme in all the books I review? I certainly have.) You’ll find out what Kate’s real passion in life is, and maybe you won’t understand. I did and didn’t. You’ll want Tully to settle down, but you’ll want Kate to stop being so settled. This book was about life and learning to live it. It’s also about the unexpected turns that happen in everyone’s lives. You can’t plan for everything. And it may or may not have a happy ending. Or maybe it has a teary ending. Or maybe it has a choke-on-your-own-sobs, ugly cry ending. (I have never looked ugly while crying. Nope.) You’ll just have to read it and find out.

Before you read it though, you probably should watch this video. Don’t worry, it’s sort of about reading…

Told you books and cats are two of my only passions. I can feel you judging. Stop.

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Now, in starting this blog, I vowed (in my mind) to give readers a variety of books to choose from and give honest reviews. The book I’m about to review definitely fits with the title of my blog in that it is a book that isn’t boring, but I think maybe the topic was such a downer, I couldn’t really love it. I liked this book a lot and from a psychological standpoint, I loved learning about the inner-workings of the human mind, especially one that is depressed enough to attempt or succeed in committing suicide. (I sound like a psycho. I don’t LOVE what they did or attempt or that they were depressed. I find it interesting and sad. I like books that depress me, okay? Don’t judge. Sorry I’m not sorry.)

I can't find an image for this book that is working for me, so enjoy this postsecret that reminded me of working at Disney. Not because we had coffee issues, though I'm sure there have been many. People are so entitled. Now, back to the book...

The author, Jill Bialosky, had a younger sister who killed herself at the age of 21. She is quite a bit older than her sister (Kim) and is devastated by her death. From Jill’s own words,

“Kim’s suicide has forever altered the way in which I respond to the world around me. It has transformed the way I think and feel about intimacy, motherhood, friendship, and ones responsibilities to others. Her early death changed every preconceived idea I had of suicide, depression, suffering, parenthood, and our debt to another person. Before Kim ended her life, I thought, like most people, that someone who would take his or her own life was somehow different from the rest of us. I was wrong.”

That passage in the intro to the book explains this book perfectly. Jill poetically spells out her journey in attempting to understand why her sister did what she thought she had to do. She sees psychologists, researches suicide and faces her own guilt that she was not able to save her sister. She transcribes passages from Kim’s diary that lets the readers into her sister’s mind. She shares her own poetry and poetry of others to better explain how she as a survivor feels. I do know a fair amount about depression and suicide, but Jill definitely gave me a lot to think about. You may not be able to ever truly know a person, or ever save them if they don’t want to be saved. That’s a hard thing to realize.

I think this book was hard for me to love because of the content, naturally and as previously mentioned, but also because the whole time I just wished for Kim’s death to be an accident. She gets in a fight with her boyfriend and locks herself in her garage, car running. She leaves a suicide note. But part of me just can’t let go of the possibility that maybe she just fell asleep. She was drunk and high. Maybe she wanted to go and just got tired? Maybe that’s all suicide ever is. You want to go somewhere and you just get tired, but a different kind of tired. You learn in the book that not all attempted suicides or successful suicides are planned for a long time – it’s like the person just snaps and realizes that it’s what they want to do. That is so sad to me. There’s no way for someone to help or intervene.

I don’t have much more to say about this book and I feel weird trying to be funny about such a sensitive topic, so I’ll leave this review short but sweet. (Sweet? Maybe short but bittersweet.) This book is a great read. Like I said, I won’t lie, I did not love this book, but I did like it and it’s great enough to make it to my blog so that counts for a lot. To me. And it should to you, too. If you’re interested in psychology at all, you’ll like or maybe even love this book. If you’re interested in the bond of family at all, you’ll like or maybe even love this book. If you’re interested in mysteries, you’ll probably like this book. I feel that it’s a huge mystery that may never be solved. So I guess if you’re interested in Unsolved Mysteries, this one’s for you. That’s not a joke. Go read this book!

I need to include something happy now after such a sad topic. Here’s a video that makes me cry with laughter every time I watch it. There’s a lot of swearing, so if that offends you, you’re fucking out of luck. Maybe there’s a bleeped version. But watch this if you love cats just as much as I do.

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I’m starting to realize that every book I will review on here will probably be one of those “just do it” books with no real review necessary, including the one below. You’ll just have to take my word for it. But if my word isn’t good enough (and WHY not??), I’ll keep doing reviews to keep my readers satisfied. My legions of readers. (Hi, Kirstin.)

The Opposite of Love by Julie Buxbaum is up there in my top five favorite books all time. I’d even go as far to say top three. Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin (yes, people, GIFFIN. Not Griffin.) and The Opposite of Love both hold an extremely special place in my heart because their heroines are completely wonderful and I feel that they are me. And this is cool.

Yeah, they used poor coloring for the first 3 words. But I still love it. Don't judge...you know the rest.

I picked up The Opposite of Love not too long after I went through a terrible break up. Gut-wrenching, to be honest. I had been, in fact, been in a relationship before for a much longer period of time, but I was the dumper for that relationship’s demise, not the dumpee as I was this time. This book was so awful to read yet so perfect.

The main character, Emily Haxby, is a lawyer at a big law firm. (My favorite books seem to involve lawyers as the main character. I work in lawsuits. Coincidence? Probably not at all. Just thought I’d point it out.) She technically hates her job, but doesn’t really know it because she just doesn’t really feel anything. She has a perfect-beyond-perfect boyfriend named Andrew who she dumps right in the beginning of the book because…because…well, you’ll find out her underlying reasons throughout the book, but basically she dumps him because she knows he’s going to propose to her. For some reason, this is deplorable to Emily. Her friends think she’s nuts, her grandfather (Grandpa Jack!) thinks she’s nuts, and so does her grandfather’s BA lady friend Ruth (a former attorney).

Emily, on the other hand, is “blah” about the whole situation. She is a lot like me in that she’s bubbly on the outside, possibly, or even maybe not bubbly, but content on the outside, but inside, it’s a whole ‘nother story. I feel that a lot of women (maybe even men? I don’t know. never been a dude) can relate to this. Not to quote Buffy songs, but Emily’s definitely “going through the motions” in her life and is completely lost.

I think the overarching theme in the book is lost and losing. Lost in your direction, lost in love, lost in life, lost in mind. Losing your direction, losing your love, losing your life, losing your mind. The characters are all complex and I love that. I have read this book about 10 times now and it never fails to surprise me and suck me in. No pun intended, I get “lost” in this book. Emily is so self-deprecating, yet has bitter humor, and that is what I relate to. She is real.

Her emotions, when she lets them happen, are complex and real as well. If you’ve ever been through a break-up, you can relate to her. (Yes, I realize most of my descriptions of characters are that they’re “relatable” and “real,” but you know what, sorry I’m not sorry, this is what I love about books.) To quote one section of the book where I literally sobbed and choked on my own tears and saliva:

“I miss Andrew so much that I stop and keel over and put my head between my knees. I miss Andrew so much, I begin to rock back and forth, hugging myself to make it stop. I miss Andrew so much that I throw up in the bathroom, emptying my body into the bowl in one violent motion. I miss Andrew so much, I flush it all away.”

I mean, UGH. That hollowness. When you fall asleep (finally) and you wake up in the morning, completely fine, until you remember again that they’re gone. And you’re hollow again. This doesn’t just pertain to a break up. A death can punch you like this times 100. Sometimes I dream about my grandparents (by sometimes, I mean like every dream is set inside their house) and I wake up, happy, until I remember again that they’ve been gone for 10 years. And I am hollow again. It’s strange when you feel something so strongly and then it’s put into words and you feel it again, but it’s not so bad. Because someone else feels it, too.

Another quote (I swear I’m not spoiling anything):

The opposite of love isn’t hate; it isn’t even indifference. It’s f*cking disembowelment.

Sigh. Love. Ain’t it grand.

Now, don’t get me wrong. This is not a love story in the traditional sense. It focuses on Emily and her lost love, but also on so much more. Her love for her deceased mother. Her Grandpa Jack. For Ruth. And even, maybe, for her t00-busy-for-his-child-or-father father. Most of all, though, it’s about her love for herself. I think everyone could use a bit of self-love, don’t you? (No, not “that’s what she said.”)

The tone, if you haven’t figured it out by now, isn’t exactly cheery. It has darker humor, it’s pretty melancholy (and the infinite sadness? anyone? bueller?) and it’s downright sad. (I said I sobbed by brains out, remember?) There are parts that will catch you by surprise and you’ll feel what Emily feels. She’ll be puke-stained and hung over and run into Andrew on a train platform for the first time since the break up. You’ll feel her mortification. When she’s in bed for days, you’ll feel her desperation and depression. When she mourns the loss of people close to her unexpectedly (no spoilers), you’ll feel that someone you knew and loved has passed.

That is how amazingly well-written this book is. So go read it. Immediately. Just do it.

Read it. Now.

SPOILER SPOILER : Okay, I know I said I don’t like spoilers, but I’m giving you fair warning on this one. I will spoil something that is a major plot point, but not the most major. I just feel that it is my duty to warn people about a plot point as I wish I had been warned. I will be vague but it won’t take a rocket scientist to figure out who I’m referring to in this spoiler. (I don’t think, I could be a master vaguess. I don’t know what that means. You understand.) I’m warning one more time. SPOILER SPOILER! You’ve been warned.

Totally serious, not-attempting-to-be-funny at all paragraph coming up. Alzheimer’s runs in my family. My great-grandma had it, my grandma and when I read this book, my 48-year-old aunt had just been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s is a bitch of a disease and it was beyond awful to watch it take my family members’ minds and lives. One of the characters in TOOL (um, this is a little funny, I’ll admit) has Alzheimer’s. I was NOT ready for that story line and it made the book even more heart-wrenching for me, especially after learning about my way-too-young aunt. So, in knowing many other people affected by this terrible disease, I wanted to give a heads up. Because I know how hard it is to even see commercials for Aricept, let alone read a book where a lovable character is deteriorating. I still love this book, and I’m happy to have read it (multiple times), but there are times where I would not have read it. (Like when I brought it along after not reading it for a year…for the car ride to go say goodbye to my aunt this January…and on the way home got to the part with the character…I had to stop. I had forgotten, ironically, that detail. It is too much.)

END SPOILER. So back to the happy. Just do it. Go read this fabulous book.

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Before I get to my review of probably the most important book you’ll read in 2011 (…or 12…whenever you get to it), I wanted to share this pretty rad website – 15 Super Cool Bookcases for the Modern Home. Now, some of them are downright ridiculous and I do not live in a “modern home” by any stretch of the imagination, but everyone’s entitled to their own ugly tastes. The one I absolutely loved was the Contemporary Q one but I’m pretty sure my dad could build that for about $20.00, not $2000.00. I also enjoyed the one that totally looked like a Plinko board, but only because it looked like maybe I could win up to $10,000 if I slid a book down it or something. Love me some TPIS and of course, Drew Carey.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a photo like this of myself.

Anyway, when I heard about the book My Year With Eleanor by Noelle Hancock, I immediately (okay, after I got a gift card for a bookstore…I’m poor, sue me) went and bought it. It had all the elements of a life-changing book for me.

I  am admittedly afraid of everything, but I never realized it completely until I read this book. Sure, I’m a little terrified of being outside my house at night (there could be GHOSTS, people!), I don’t love flying, I’m not really into committing to things and I refuse to eat anything out of a microwave. Just kidding, the last one was a total lie. I just won’t eat anything cooked in PLASTIC out of a microwave. But, overall, I wasn’t aware of how much fear controlled my life and still totally does. (Changing your life takes time, okay?)

Noelle, the author and main character (it’s a memoir!), loses her cushy six-figure-paying job writing about celebs (hello, dream job) and is contemplating her next step. She sees a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt on the chalk board at a cafe – Do one thing every day that scares you. 

This is when the heavens opened and angels started singing.

Noelle set up a plan to do one thing that scares her every day starting on her birthday that year to continue to the next birthday. She researched Eleanor Roosevelt the entire time, weaving stories about Eleanor’s life into her own fear story, and it made me have a newfound respect for that particular FLOTUS. (Or I suppose FFLOTUS…Former First Lady of the United States?) I never knew Eleanor was so BA! She stood up for gay rights (why have we not progressed much in this area since the 1940s?), she was an independent thinker and she put up with a certifiably crazy mother-in-law. I think anyone who can put up with a woman like her mother-in-law deserves accolades and probably something named after her. (This has probably happened, though probably not because of the MIL.) The crazy mom-in-law kept a “birthing room” in her home, designed all museum-like to look just the way it was the day she gave birth to Franklin. If that’s not crazy, I don’t know what is. (It’s crazy. Don’t even try to argue. If you want to argue, you’re  probably a mother who is too involved in your son/daughter’s life. Cut the cord, woman!)

In addition to Eleanor’s awesome stories, Noelle’s fear conquering is equally as awesome. Noelle has a lot of support from close friends, her boyfriend “Matt” (names have been changed to protect the innocent…or just for funsies) and from her therapist Dr. Bob. I wish my therapist was Dr. Bob. He helps her discover that fear isn’t just “fear of public speaking” or “fear of being mauled to death by rabid raccoons.” It can be avoidance, which is a caused by a fear of fear. Confusing? No. It makes sense. Do you avoid speaking your opinion in a large group because you don’t want to offend people? Do you work at a job you hate because it’s easier than quitting? Do you pay full price for things at flea markets because you are nervous to barter? Noelle uses a lot of these examples in her book and it completely resonated with me. I avoid EVERYTHING. I even sometimes put off getting ready for bed because it’s so time-consuming and I really hate when my face is wet. What? It’s annoying. Dr. Bob also explained a lot of evolutionary reasons for having certain fears, which was interesting. I can’t think of any good examples right now, but you’ll learn about yourself. And our ancestors. And that babies don’t like to go over cliffs or something. It’ll all make sense when you read the book.

This book will make you want to start really living your life. Maybe you do already and if you do, good for you. Naturally, we can’t all sacrifice a year and do something scary every day. We especially can’t afford it (big props to Noelle’s daddy for giving her some cash for Mt. Kilamanjaro.) But, I’m in the process of making some smaller scale “no more fear” changes in my own life. In all seriousness, I wanted to re-read the book as soon as I finished it. I need more motivation to do what I want with my life instead of what’s easy. I learned that like most perfectionists (guilty), I have trouble finishing tasks and ideas because I’m afraid of failing. Failure is a huge fright for me. I always thought I was even a failed perfectionist – I’m not very motivated, I don’t really like anything (see : My Prerogative) and I’m pretty apathetic about anything controversial – but it turns out all of us perfectionists have these similar traits. It’s all avoidance! If I don’t finish something, I can’t fail! Brilliant plan, Angie. If only there were a job where you received raises on what you don’t finish. I’d have it in the BAG.

Again, I’m not into spoilers, but here’s a short list of the best things about this book (I really like lists):

1. Noelle is relatable and witty. I could learn a few lessons from her in this area.

2. She does so many cool fear activities that I wish I had money to do and yes, the guts – flying a plane! (Just kidding, that sounds awful…I mean…I need to face my fear!) Swimming with sharks! (um…face my fear…from land!) Trapeze! (I could handle that.) Stand up comedy show! (This so would bomb.)

3. Eleanor Roosevelt. I can’t say it enough. She is the best part of this book, besides, of course, Noelle facing fear. The biographies Noelle used to supplement her memoir are on my list of books to read now because of it. There just are not enough strong female role models in society and I think everyone could learn something from her. Especially me. Who knew nothing about her. At all. Thanks, Kenowa Hills high school social studies classes!

4. Dr. Bob. He says wise things like, “Goofiness is threatening to people who want to be in control of themselves all the time, who want to be serious. What stops us from acting goofy is our fear of being evaluated. But silliness can be empowering. I think you need to stop being afraid to be goofy.” I LOVE being goofy, but I could always be more goofy. Huck-yuck!

I used to work at Disney. I couldn't resist. I apologize.

5. Lastly, I loved that each chapter starts with a quote from Eleanor. I know, I already listed Eleanor as one of the reasons I loved this book, but even if it WASN’T Eleanor quotes, I’d like that there were quotes at the beginning of each chapter. I’m a sucker for quotes.

In conclusion (aren’t you never supposed to write that or something? too bad, I’m facing my fear of breaking proper grammar rules.), My Year With Eleanor is my favorite book I’ve read this year so far. Doing something every day that you’re afraid of would be amazing. I can think of a million excuses why I won’t do it, but I’m pretty sure the point of this book was to stop making excuses, so I think one day I will. Is procrastinating caused by fear? I’ll figure it out tomorrow.

Until next time, go buy this book immediately…or when you get a gift card. (Or better yet, visit your local library! This has been a PSA from the Library Enthusiasts Association.)

 

 

 

 

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I could have thought of a better title for this post. This one sounds like I’m going to review my past. “Yeah, it was okay, she had a lot of awkwardness with some studying thrown in, and there were a lot of times she missed social cues and just kept talking when she shouldn’t have…and shit got weird…”

YEAH, we’re not going to do that.

I was just browsing good ol’ Amazon when I found a list that I made in college (circa 6 years ago) of books I loved titled, “(A Plethora of) The Best Books You’ll Ever Read.” Now, I feel like this list title must have been created for me because that literally sounds like nothing I’ve ever said. But, irregardless, it was interesting to read. I apparently had simpler tastes then, since most of my books were ones I loved as a pre-teen and teen. I mean, most studious girls were into Tolstoy or Anna Karenina (wait…) or something smart like that, and I was all yayyy Princess Diaries. Please don’t judge me. Just kidding. I really mean Sorry I’m Not Sorry I’m in crazy stupid love with these books. (Click that link. Seriously, just do it. I love this blogger and her lessons and rules and she’s just, well, owning it. So click that link. I swear it’s not porn. She might talk about porn from time to time, but it’s totally not porn. Then once you read about owning it, go read every entry on her blog. You go, Rachel Wilkerson.)

So, since I went to a minor league baseball game with my “roommates” (soo NOT my parents) tonight (go whitecaps!), I didn’t have time to review the next book I wanted to :

 

My Year With Eleanor by Noelle Hancock. Yes, that’s a photo from my iphone. What’d I say about judging?

I decided to give you this gem of a list from my college years. You’ll enjoy at least one of the books and try very, very hard not to fall in love with my genius, witty and downright beautiful 1-2 sentence reviews.

Without further ado, run along little readers and check out this list. (A Plethora Of) The Best Books You’ll Ever Read. Please don’t judge me. Totally kidding. Sorry I’m not sorry, Miss Nelson Is Missing is as legit as they get.

Oh also, don’t forget to check out my qualifications for being a reviewer – “I’ve read since I was 2.” I mean, really. I’ve been potty trained since I was 2 as well, but that doesn’t make me qualified for anything except for maybe not making an ass (no pun intended) of myself in public with “accidents.”

That probably should be added to my profile somewhere.

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