Wednesday, December 21, 2011

More Than Words Can Say

No, this isn't some schmoopy post about how my life is horrible and I've made friends with the side of a bridge. Nope. This is actually a book review for a really great book you only wish were available in December... but you'll have to hold firm on your panties because it isn't released until January.

More Than Words Can Say - Robert Barclay
Chelsea Enright never expected to inherit her grandmother’s lakeside cottage deep in the Adirondacks—a serene getaway that had been mysteriously closed up decades ago. This is no simple bequest, however, because when Chelsea finds her grandmother’s WWII diaries, she’s stunned to discover that they hold secrets she never suspected . . . and they have the power to turn her own life upside down.

Even more surprising is the compelling presence of local doctor Brandon Yale, and Chelsea soon finds her “short stay” has stretched into the entire summer. She cannot put this cottage and her family’s past behind her easily—and the more she learns about the woman her grandmother truly was, the more Chelsea’s own life begins to change . . . and nothing will ever be the same again.

I will tell you right away I liked this book. I really love a book that will suck you into it within the first ten pages. The hook in this book is that right from the beginning- you are intrigued by the letter Chelsea's grandmother leaves her and you just have to know what is going to happen. I don't want to give anything away so I'm going to be annoyingly vague about it.

Some great things about this book are that it's about a woman's self discovery in a not cheesy way, there aren't sweeping romances or things that realistically probably wouldn't happen. I also really love books about multi generational connections and learning about your family history and secrets- which this book definitely has. The only thing that I find annoying, and this is just a life annoyance I have, is that people are too easy to say that a revealed secret can change everything in their world or who they are. No it can't, don't be stupid. I'm starting to think I really am one of a kind in that I don't let history or weird family things or whatever to hinder what I do now. Basically- I don't let any of that stuff be an excuse for how I am today. Does that make sense? So when I felt like this is where that book was going, I'll be honest- I felt stabby. But in the end it didn't matter because I loved it just the same.

It is a very fast read because you want to dig up the secrets with Chelsea and you almost feel like you're her summer camp buddy on a mystery hunt. I am the first stop on this tour, but check back here to see what other people are saying!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The First Annual Ugly Sweater Christmas Party.

I have always wanted to do an ugly sweater party but every year something else has come up and it just didn't happen. This year when Amy told me she wanted to do one too, I decided that dammit- we are doing this. It started out as a moderately sized group was all invited and pretty much all at the last minute, some people had to work, some were sick (which totally OK- I do not want nor need your sick germs, folks), some had last minute things that came up, etc. We ended up having a total group size of six for dinner that dwindled to five for the bar stop.

The original plan was to go to dinner, go over to an ice bar that was just built in Canal Park, head over to Bentleyville which is this huge tour of lights that used to be in this guy's yard but has now moved to Bayfront Festival Park, and then head out to a few bars.

Dinner was at Old Chicago, which I love but don't get to go to very often. Hands down the best was when we realized that Chad and Matt were wearing the same ugly ass Christmas shirt. Unintentionally. I wish I would have had enough sense to take a picture of it, because it was kind of awesome.

After dinner, we headed over to Bentleyville because it was kind of cold and we had a feeling we'd be in line for a LONG time for Santa. Oh, you heard me right- we were going to visit Santa.
 After almost two hours of standing in really fucking cold weather, we saw Santa. We got some dirty looks at the restaurant, but Santa laughed at us. Flat out laughed at us. Whatevs. But we got a great picture. Some special things you should note- is that my sister in law has a festive green for her hair color but the best part of her outfit? The fact that she shrunk her sweater so it was cropped. Matt and Chad with their matching shirts, me with my fugly sweater with giant white balls dangling from the zipper, Amy with her festive vest and snappy denim shirt and her amazing knee high socks, and Tammy's gigantic jingle bell earrings kept falling off. Which was kind of hilarious.
 So after leaving Santa we basically hustled our asses through the rest of Bentleyville because Amy's legs were numb and Tammy couldn't feel her feet. My thighs were pretty much numb as well but seeing how Matt and I had done Bentleyville with our kids the weekend prior, I was OK. It wasn't as cold during party night as it was with the kids.
 After Bentleyville we headed to the standby dive bar in my town. Usually? That place is hopping with weirdos and terrible karaoke singers- but that night it was DEAD. The guy who runs the karaoke sang two completely depressing songs- something about growing up in the ghetto (mind you, this is coming from a middle aged, overweight and balding white man) and something about being sad in Texas. I have no idea. If we didn't have the guys with us and it was just a regular girls weekend- I would have completely suggested we go to the gay bar down the road because that is truly a place to see. Maybe next time!
All in all, it was fun... but it could have been more fun. I had a lot on my mind and as excited as I am for Christmas, I'm not quite loving it yet. I'm just a little stressed out so I wasn't feeling like partying so much. But next year? I'm excited. I think next year we'll do it again because honestly? Half the fun was just trying to find such ugly shit to wear.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


OH man. Oh man, oh man, oh man. If you need a book that is perfect to give to your girlfriend (Christmas, Birthday, Kwanzaa, National Popsicle Day, etc) then this is it. If you unfortunately do not have a vagina but instead have a penis and are confused by women lingo? You need this book.

CHICK-tionary by Anna Lefler
The Chicktionary: From A-line to Z-snap, the words every woman should know
Your bestie, biffle, and GMF rolled into one! You’re all over the definitions of “low lights,” “ruching,” and a “tankini.” But can you spot a “Mrs. Potato Head” when you see one? That’s where The CHICKtionary comes in. The CHICKtionary is a humorous dictionary of the words and phrases women use—and what they really mean when they use them. The book corrals more than 450 terms, including some you know (uterus) and some you might not (flexting), and defines each from the perspective of a typical contemporary woman—a woman who avoids accidental pageant hair, is frenemies with her robotic vacuum and only occasionally relies on her high-waisted jeans to hold up her strapless bra.

I will tell you I normally don't love books meant to be funny. I also don't really like jokes or when people are intentionally trying to make me laugh. It's never funny and I think it's dumb.

But I LOVED this book. I loved it because I can relate to it, because I say all of these things, and it's like I'm chatting with my biffle about these things. Yeah, that's right- I use the word "biffle" and if you don't know what that is you are A) a loser without a biffle and B) probably not a woman. In case you don't know what a biffle is, let's educate you:

Biffle, noun: Variation of BFFL, or best friend for life. Your biffle is your homegirl, your wingwoman, the top of the female friendship hierarchy- and you are the same for her. Your biffle knows where you hide your spare key, the home address of the guy who landed you in the women's clinic with those nasty red bumps, and the real story behind that thing that happened that time at the cabin. Not even your kryptonite guy (see also: kryptonite guy) can destabilize the bond you share with your biffle.


I love how it's put together just like a dictionary, it's all alphabetical. I learned some new words that made me spit out my Pepsi and strain my already busted up shoulder, but I'm OK with that.
Another definition that made me literally worry that I maybe leaked some pee in bed? (Because I've had two kids- this could happen.)

Childbirth, noun: Part miracle of nature, part slasher film, childbirth is one of those things that has to be experienced to be believed, particularly the first time around. Like skydiving, you can listen to the instructor talk all day long, but until someone pushes your ass out of an airplane, it's all academic. Luckily, every woman's body is slightly different, so no matter how experienced your doctor/midwife/cabdriver is, there will be a moment when he or she looks truly perplexed by something happening between your legs. It's comforting at that time to remember that women have been giving birth for centuries and the body knows what to do. After all, it's as simple as slipping a cannonball through a keyhole.

The only definition I would add for a part two that I feel should never be left out is when someone says "Have a nice day". That right there? That's code for "Eat shit and die" when it's from someone who you know doesn't like you such as a frenemy. So Anna- please add that to a sequel, because it's important.

So overall? I loved this book. LOVED IT. I cannot emphasize how much I loved this book because it's beyond words. Beyond, people. Buy it for all of your friends. It's that good. (See what other tour stops are saying about it HERE)

But one of you lucky lambwhores are going to win a copy, so follow the rules and we'll draw a winner on Monday!

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Good luck babes!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Conversations and Cosmopolitans- GIVEAWAY

Easily one of my favorite books this year.

Conversations and Cosmopolitans by Robert Rave and Jane Rave
Conversations and Cosmopolitans: Awkward Moments, Mixed Drinks, and How a Mother and Son Finally Shared Who They Really Are
After moving from the Midwest to New York City at the age of twenty-one, Robert Rave finally found the resolve to mail a letter to his parents informing them that he was gay. Once Robert was “out,” both he and his mother Jane felt a new found freedom to be more honest with each other. From the discrimination Jane experienced as a pregnant teenager in a small town, to Robert’s “manscaping,” almost no topic. was off-limits in their conversations. Soon, Robert was creating a “gay glossary” so that Jane could understand the lexicon and Jane was giving Robert the same dating advice that she used to give Robert’s older sister (“men are jerks”). Conversations and Cosmopolitans is a frank, funny, and heartfelt look at coming out from both a mother’s and son’s perspective, and an inspiring memoir about building family relationships based on honesty, openness, and acceptance.

First off, anyone who knows that I am a huge supporter of LGBT rights and advocacy. It's a damn shame that even in 2011 a person has to live in fear because of who they love yet we as a society praise young men and women to be absolute whores (hello, Jersey Shore) and that's totally fine. It's kind of ass backwards if you ask me.

What also is a shame is that there are thousands of people out there who face shame and disapproval from their families because of who they are. As a parent myself my hopes for my children is that they lead the life they want and are happy. I think there are two ways to really tell how great a parent you are: 1. Does your child still worry about your approval well into their adulthood and 2. Are they able to talk to you?

Both of these are answered by the mother and son duo of Robert and Jane Rave. Robert starts this memoir by talking about the letter he wrote to his parents explaining that he is a gay man, he's OK with it, and he hopes they are OK with it. Not going to lie, it breaks my heart as a mom to think that a child would ever feel like they would be less loved by their parents but it's a reality.

This book was absolutely fantastic because Jane sounds like a really supportive and loving mom. I also really appreciated Robert's openness of his life and how he was feeling at such a turning point in his life. And to be honest, I don't think I would ever feel comfortable having the experiences and conversations he has with his mom with my own. But maybe that's why I loved the book- you can read the chapter and feel just as awkward as Robert did. I also loved how Robert would tell a story and the following chapter is Jane's point of view or add commentary that just makes the whole thing even better.

Bottom line? You need to read this book. If you are a parent then you will love this and end up hoping you end up as cool of a mom as Jane.

But one of you will get to win your own copy (US/Canada only)! 

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I will close this giveaway on Monday, loves!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Watershed Year

In time for the holidays... a book review!

A Watershed Year by Susan Schoenberger
A Watershed Year: A Novel
Months after the funeral of her best friend Harlan, Lucy McVie continues to be haunted by what was left unsaid between them when she receives the first of Harlan’s emails, arranged to be sent after his death. So begins Lucy’s watershed year — a year in which she travels to Russia to adopt a young boy and starts a new relationship that takes her by surprise, all the while learning about how Harlan truly felt when he was alive.

Before I get into my review I will tell you that I liked the book. Is this a book I would grab off my shelf and re-read? Probably not, but mostly because I feel like I understood all aspects of the book enough that re-reading it wouldn't help me understand anything any better.

I kind of loved Harlan's character and wished he had more time in the book. I realized he dies almost right away and that is what kicks off the rest of the novel, but I felt like he could have been used more, if that makes sense. I also really respected his outlook on life and impending death. Sure, he could have continued with treatment but only to gain what, another couple of years? Are you really going to accomplish everything in those couple of years? Is it fair to just prolong the process of death for those around you and even yourself? I don't know and perhaps I would feel differently if it were me in those shoes. But his outlook on life and death was refreshing and real to me.

Lucy kind of annoyed me though. I'm kind of a hard ass when it comes to things and I have very little time for the people who feel like their world is over when someone dies. I get she was in love with Harlan but come ON. Get a grip on life you Debbie Downer. That's pretty much what I would say to Lucy if she were a real person. But then she goes through the process of adopting a little boy from Russia for what I feel to be wholly selfish reasons and that irked me too. Yay for adopting a little boy but is it fair to the boy if he's going to a home with someone who decided on a whim to adopt him? Kind of seems terrible to me.

But one line in the book I absolutely loved because it really is true: "It was more like resolve, a determination to go through the motions of parenthood until, on day, she would stop remembering what it was like to be a nonparent and embrace what parenting seemed to be: experimental treatment that might or might not work, the results too far in the future to know." How perfect is that? That is probably the best description of parenting I have ever heard. You just do what you think is right and hope that it works and your kid doesn't grow up to be a serial killer. I figure if you can keep your child out of jail you've done something right at least.

So overall, it was a good book. You can tell some logical thought was put into the process because the plot moved along at just the right speed, all of the necessary road bumps you expect are there, and yet you are left satisfied at the end. It would make a really great gift for the reader on your list.

You know I don't ask you just to rely on what I say, so please check out the other tour stops for this novel!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Breaking Dawn- midnight movie, bare feet, cup frenzy, and condom head.

Maybe you didn't know this about me, but I'm a Twi-hard. I am and I am not ashamed of it. I have been counting down to Breaking Dawn since Eclipse came out and it definitely did not disappoint. Was Kristen Stewart amazing? No, but she never is and you just expect that her happy, sad, and constipated face all look the same. Was Robert dreamy? Of course. Is this the movie where Jacob reveals himself to be a pedophile that can lick his own ass (in theory)? Why yes. Yes, it is.

First off, we got to the theatre at 4:30 like crazy people and proceeded to make friends with the first two girls in line. The strategy here is that they open the first (and largest) theatre at 10 for seating, and if you are in the front you can go sit down in actual chairs, get your pick of seats, and get ramped up to sit for another two hours... just in a different location. But while waiting the just under six hours to do that, we admired the artwork.
 We got into a cup frenzy when we realized for the low price of $6.95, you can get a large soda in a collectible Twilight cup. So I went up and got one. And got a fucking Jacob cup. I hate Jacob. I can't be attracted to someone who, hypothetically, could lick his own ass. So then I decided to make Kate go up and get me an Edward cup. Unfortunately, the theatre people are pretty hard core and would not let you pick... and you guessed it, she comes back with a fucking Bella cup. I don't think KStew has any kind of discernible talent, so I don't want that. I decided at almost 10 that I would suck it up and try for a third time (just tally up what I've spent so far). I got another Jacob cup while my friend Tammy behind me? Got Edward. Not cool, man. Not cool.

But I decided it was either not meant to be or I could hope someone throws theirs away and I would dumpster dive. Don't question my love for Edward or even for Robert Pattinson, because RPatz was my date.
 I even had my "I love Vampires" shirt on. And blood red nails. I thought I grabbed my red lipstick but I apparently didn't.

The other bonus to sitting in a crowded room for two hours is that you notice the people around you. OH! Before I talk about that- let's talk about personal hygiene. The people behind us in the lobby (group of 6 or so) smelled horrible. So horrible that when it was close to 10 and we really had to squeeze in, I could barely breathe. It wasn't just me, Tammy and Lisa also had a hard time breathing while Kate and Angie were OK, but they were dealing with a woman who came drunk. I know. Class it up, right? But here's the thing- daily showering is kind of awesome. Not just for your own cleanliness, but because nobody wants to smell your stank ass. Seriously. Combine that with them chain smoking the entire time? The fact my lungs are still inflated is kind of a miracle.


So once we got in, we noticed some fun people around us. There was of course, your expected teenage couple on a date too nervous to make up but being over the top touchy feely it makes you want to barf. I can say 100% that I was not like the couple in front of us. I think I told Ang that this is how that show Teen Mom came about. That right there.

Then there was the woman with an unfortunately small hat for her head... and it made her head look like a ribbed for her pleasure condom.
 Or the person who thinks it's OK to stick her BARE FEET on some one's head rest. No, it's not ok. First off, it's November and it was damn cold that day- you have no business wearing no socks you freak. Second off, nobody wants your feet grazing their hair. What if you have a fungus? Now the person in front of them has foot fungus in their hair.
Anyways. I had other pictures but they were blurry and you can't really tell what they are meant to be. But the movie was good. It was pretty much what I expected it to be. The only thing I kind of didn't like was the birthing scene- first off, kind of gross and gory for PG 13? I covered my eyes and almost threw up once. I also love it how Edward is all holding the baby as Bella is dying and I'm all, "DUDE! Put the baby down!" and that is so typical guy. A woman pops a baby out and the dad is all, "Wow-- this is awesome" as the mom is all writhing in pain or dealing with a placenta, or having to get a shot in her va-jay-jay for stitches and just you know- completely oblivious. So rude. Anyways. I was also really wanting more sex scene. It better be more graphic in the deleted scenes on the DVD otherwise I'll be stabby. Fucking teenagers ruin everything.

But overall? It was a good time with some great friends. I'm already excited for the final installation of the series... and you know I'll be there at midnight. Or more realistically, at dinner time.

And for those of you who want to know.. did I ever get an Edward cup? Yes. Yes, I did. Because you know my stealthy ninja ways totally grabbed the cup from the schmoopy couple in front of me when it became clear they had more pressing issues to deal with than the cup. Then I also grabbed another one that someone foolishly left behind. So now I have two. And a Jacob cup. I gave my other Jacob cup to Angie because she loves him and I won't fault her for that because she's young and will see the light some day.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Hometown Girl and GIVEAWAY

I know most of you want a play by play of my midnight shenanigans at the Breaking Dawn premier last night. I know you do, but it will have to wait my lambwhores. Mostly because I have to get this review out tonight and I'm also tired. Because I am apparently challenged when it comes to scheduling things so not only did I get home at 3 am last night but I was up at 6 (which is not glorious because I didn't fall asleep until 4:30) and was at work by 8. I am dragging ass so I really hope this book review reads as clearly as it sounds in my head.

Hometown Girl by Mariah Stewart
Hometown Girl: The Chesapeake Diaries
Life was always just about perfect for Brooke Madison Bowers. She was the prettiest, most popular girl in small-town St. Dennis, Maryland, a prom queen, local pageant star, and the pride and joy of her loving parents. She even married the man of her dreams. But the promise of happily ever after fell to pieces when her husband was killed while serving in Iraq. Brokenhearted and longing for the solace of better days, she returns to the idyllic world of St. Dennis, and the familiar comfort of the family farm. Surrounded by her loving family and friends, she’s determined to build a new life, complete with her own cupcake bakery. She’s equally determined never to fall in love again.

For Jesse Enright, life has been a challenge. A fourth-generation attorney, he’s spent his life fighting to escape the shadow of his irresponsible father. Now he’s moved to St. Dennis to run the family law practice, and he’s ready to find the right girl, get married, and settle down. But his carefully laid plans go out the window when he meets Brooke and finds himself caught between the unbreakable law of attraction and Brooke’s resolve to go her way alone—despite the undeniable feelings Jesse stirs in her. But just like catching lightning in a bottle, is it possible to fall head-over-heels, heart-and-soul in love all over again?

You should know going into this that this is the fourth book in The Chesapeake Diaries series because I did not. I thought it was kind of weird that some previous story lines were mentioned or hinted at but didn't realize this was part of a series until the end. And then I felt cheated because now I wish I had read the first three books first because when all of the previous characters are mentioned I feel like I maybe would have enjoyed them more had I known more of their back story.

But with that aside I will say this was a fast and easy read. Will it keep you on the edge of your seat with suspense or romance? Hardly. Is it a run and entertaining read? Sure. I do enjoy reading a romance novel that isn't about lust and sex every now and I really think Mariah Stewart nailed this relationship as a practical, real life scenario. You know you have friends like this, you feel like you live in the town, and you don't find yourself saying, "Right- that would never happen in real life!" which I can appreciate. I understand fiction is supposed to enlighten your imagination but sometimes for books to be enjoyable (especially in a contemporary romance genre) you want things to feel realistic and they did in this book.

I'm a big fan of reading other reviews before you commit to a book, so check out what others have to say HERE. Also check out Mariah's website to find information about upcoming books! 

One lucky reader (US/Canada only) is also going to win a copy of their own as well. Drawing entries are easy as usual...

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The drawing for this will take place on Wednesday, November 23 so hurry and enter! Also check the side bar to your left for other giveaways that are still current.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Rochester Girls Weekend

So this weekend I spent with some of my favorite friends on a girls weekend in Rochester, Minnesota. I've been there once to basically connect with Amy before our Milwaukee trip but basically didn't know anything about the area other than that's where Mayo Clinic is.

Our main adjective was to celebrate Amy's birthday but we figured we would throw in a touristy trolley ride and a comedy show in the mix. Basically- it was a jam packed but very fun weekend.

Me, Tammy and Emily left way early on Saturday morning so that we would have a really full day in Rochester considering that is about a four hour drive from us. We obviously stopped in Hinckley for drinks and snacks, but on our way out we saw this beast:
I am very sad I did not get a picture of the rapist van with a tricycle strapped to the top for you though because that really was a special sight.

Then obviously we had to stop to pee. Mostly Tammy because the one thing about her that I love and it cracks me up, is that she must have the world's smallest bladder. She did really great though, so I think our mini road trips together are conditioning her bladder. Anyways. We stopped in Cannon Falls but the first thing we saw was this grocery store. So we pull over and start walking through the store. Obviously, we couldn't find the restroom so we asked and was told to go through double doors that looked like the back room. And it actually was. But the bathroom smelled SO bad. Pretty much the equivalent to a dirty adult diaper. Times ten. It was also pretty filthy, but they have these dispensers:
 Conveniently, they were all empty and looked like they have been for quite some time. So here's where the bathroom was- this is just one side view because employees came and I felt like a spy.
 Once we got to Rochester we headed over to a hotel to get onto the trolley that does a tour of the city and talks about the history of Mayo Clinic. For $15 it was a damn good deal because I learned a lot of stuff. Most of which I'm not going to tell you about for the sake of time, but if you are in Rochester you should do that tour. Plus our trolley had a bell. It was kind of bad ass.

For dinner we met up with a couple of Amy's local friends at McGoon's, which is next door to the Goonies comedy club. The food was hella expensive for what it was and wasn't that great BUT... our server? Her name is J-Wow. She was absolutely terrible and I know we all left a shitty tip. Try to come back at least once to refill drinks. Especially when you only have 3 tables. Get your shit together honey.
 So here is a picture of me and the girls. I look kind of tall here but I wasn't wearing heels. So that was weird.
 Since we had time to kill we decided to head for drinks at O'Dooley's which is basically up the street. Very cool restaurant/bar that feels very "city" to me. The only down side was the hostesses. There were three of them, all very wonky looking. By that I mean they are size 0, fake baked tan, giant boobs and the most unfortunate hair extensions. See the blondie below.
 She was the better of the three. I think they are waiting for employment at Hooters or something. But O'Dooley's was fun and we got to meet more of Amy's friends that live there, both of which were named Amy. Which kind of was nice because then you don't have that awkward moment where you forget someones name. But they were really great and I enjoyed talking with them over drinks. The down side to O'Dooley's was that my one Pepsi? Was $6.50. Um, what the fuck? The nice thing about Duluth/Superior is that if you say you are the designated driver, your soda is free. Apparently not the case in Rochester, so bring cash, DD's.
After O'Dooley's we headed to another bar I can't remember the name of for a quick drink before heading back to Goonie's for the late night comedy show.

The comedy show? God I hope Amy got the opening woman on film because she was really horrible. She was an older woman- easily 60's, possibly even in her 70's who at one point lamented about Spanx. Then, just when you think that was done, she start pulling a pair of Spanx out of her pants and you are promptly grossed out. Honestly, I didn't think either of the two comedians after her were funny either. There were people laughing but I think this is one of those things that is awesome when you're drunk? I don't know. The downside of being that person that doesn't drink is that I don't always think things are as funny as my friends who have a beer or two do. But I really enjoyed hanging out with everyone and having the side convo's, because those alone were hysterical.

After the comedy we parted ways with everyone and got Amy home and headed to our hotel. The next day Emily, Tammy and I ended up going to IKEA and the Mall of America, but Amy had to pack for her big move to the Cities. But the highlight of that? Is that I found my sweater for the Ugly Sweater Christmas Party we're having in December. Oh, yes. We're doing it and we've got some kind of awesome plans in place. I just need to get more people on board because I think the more people we have dressed in hideous attire, the more fun it will be.

But it was a long weekend in a good way. You know it was successful when you can say, "God- is tomorrow Monday" because it feels like Friday was forever ago. We got home kind of late on Sunday but it was totally worth it. I am completely thankful that I have such great friends I love spending time with, and thankful for such an awesome husband who tells me to go do something fun. I don't think I could have gotten a better combination.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Airborne Toxic Event and the beginning of birthday extravaganza weekend.

Good lord, I have a LOT of stuff to update you on, but let's start with last Thursday. Mostly because I can't really remember anything previous to that because my brain is currently *full* and I need to get some of this stuff out of it.

So on Thursday I drove down to the Twin Cities to meet up with my very good friend Amy. It was her actual birthday and we were going to go shopping at Mall of America, have some lunch and then head over to the Airborne Toxic Event concert at First Avenue. But before I get to that? I am giving a HUGE shout out to my little anonymous reader Meryl who insisted I listen to ATE because she was certain that I would love them. She obviously knows me better than my husband because she was totally right, so if she had never emailed me I would never know about them and I would not have had such a great night. So thanks, Meryl!

First up, let's talk lunch. We ate at Cadillac Ranch in the Mall of America which I think is kind of new? It was really good and Amy can vouch for the fact that they don't skimp on liquor in their Long Island Teas.
 Birthday girl got free dessert. As much as I wanted to hi-jack that plate of awesome, I didn't.

Then we shopped. And took pictures in ugly fucking hats courtesy of H&M. I don't know what it is, but I think getting my picture in ugly hats is fun. AND, the bonus is that I found a faux dead fox scarf which sadly, is not fully highlighted here.
Then off to the concert we went. We were first in line at First Avenue and we pretty much froze our ass off for 90 minutes. But it was OK because we made friends with a sixty-something guy next to us who was telling us he goes to about 75 concerts a year and when he retires in a year, he hopes that he can do many more. Pretty much my hero because that's how I want to be when I'm old- a cool concert goer to the end, babes.

The first band to come on stage were the Drowning Men, which I had never heard of but was pleasantly surprised. I actually really liked their set and kind of loved the fact that they had what I believed to be dueling organs/pianos/something with keys. It was kind of amazing. I was really sad that there were less than 100 people there to see them play because they were actually really great.
 After the Drowning Men played we had two fucking LOSERS come right next to us. Like, literally RIGHT NEXT to us. Amy and I were first, so we stood close to the stage on this ledge. The glory of the ledge is that you can sit and/or stand. We were alternating between the two because I know my back, legs, and feet will kill me if I stand through an entire concert. But these people chose to sit RIGHT NEXT to us. Notice the lack of people, and then notice the girl (sitting next to/behind Amy) and her boyfriend, who chose to stand although there was the entire rest of the ledge.
 They remained like this through the next band but right before ATE? The guy says to us, "Are you guys sitting or standing?" Amy looks at me, but we both replied "both", because she was sitting at the time, I was standing but kind of kneeling on the ledge because my hip felt like it was literally going to give out. Here's the convo from there on out:
Guy: Oh no, it's one or the other.
Me: Um, no it's not. We've been here since 4 so that's what we're doing.
Guy: It doesn't matter, it's one or the other.
(Now, for a standing room only event because there are no chairs, it's just common sense that you get their early to get prime viewing of the stage. Which is what we had.)
Me: No, we're going to do both.
*At this point we start ignoring them because honestly, this guy can fuck a duck for all I care.*
Girl: You know what? You are a bunch of bitches.
Me: I know and that's OK.

That kind of ended it right there, but honestly- NEVER in all of my years of going to a show at this venue have I ever had a problem with people. Never. I've been that person who got there too late for the ledge and while it sucks... you deal with it. You don't coerce others off the ledge. Anyways. Eventually I looked over and the guy was sitting so I don't know what the fracking deal was. You can't take up more than your own ass width of ledge. It's just a rule. ANYWAYS.

The second band was Mona. They were kind of great as well and after the set the singer walked by me and patted my back. I would have totally let him slap my ass for the record. They were that good. The only irritating thing is that I kind of hate when singers get cocky on stage? Towards the end of their set he kind of got the "We're so anti-establishment and badass" attitude and yeah. I can do without that.
 OH! And there was a girl in her mid 20's that came with her parents! They were very obviously her chaperone's and kept eagle eyes on her. The parents were obviously not in their element. OH! And it should be noted that there were a lot of older people at the show. Weird.
 Then Airborne Toxic Event came on and though I loved Mikel Jollett before, I pretty much love him more now. He's just so cute and his voice is fantastic and he's like a butch hipster. I pretty much love it.
 They played every single awesome song which means almost everything off of their two albums which was amazing. Definite highlights were the crowd sing a longs to "Sometime Around Midnight" and "All I Ever Wanted".
It was a pretty kick ass concert and I am very glad I got to go. If you don't know this band you should definitely check them out- they put on a pretty amazing live show.

On my drive home I was exhausted. I haven't been that exhausted driving home in awhile and I was really looking forward to my stop in Hinckley. I stopped at Tobies to pee and then I got some donuts for Matt and the kids. Then my next tradition is to stop at Hardees to get a Big Roast Beef sandwich and large Coke. Not because I love the food but because it makes me physically ill but that's what keeps me awake for the second half of my drive. That section of my drive is particularly awful because there literally is nothing on the highway, it's pitch dark and I have to be alert enough to watch for deer and other woodland creatures with insomnia.

But guess what? Fucking Hardees was CLOSED. Their entire store was dark, drive through turned off yet the "Drive Through 24 Hours!" sign was lit. The level of anger and feelings of disappointment was pretty high. So I had to go to McDonald's which I can't stand anyways. I hate McDonald's. Have you noticed you don't really have to chew their hamburgers anymore? At least the Quarter Pounders? Because it pretty much dissolves in your mouth and that's disgusting. I only took one bite and realized it had the consistency of styrofoam and my fries were cold and wiggly. I don't like wiggly fries. McDonald's FAIL.

I think I climbed into bed around 1am? I had to work right away the next morning which was kind of rough. Then I was off to Rochester for the weekend. More on that tomorrow.

Monday, November 14, 2011

People Tell Me Things (GIVEAWAY)

The first thing anybody should know about me is that people like me. People tell me things that I really should not know. Not just friends, even though I don't think that is so strange... you expect friends to tell you really random and bizarre things. It's one of the perks of having friends, knowing that you aren't the only crazy person like yourself out there. But absolute strangers will come up to me to tell me about all kinds of things in their lives. Every single day of my life I am told things that I not only don't want to know, but things that I absolutely should never know about a person. Ever. I don't even care WHO you are, there are things that nobody should know about you. But I know them, and that makes me feel dirty some times.

So.. it's book time.

People Tell Me Things by David Finkle
People Tell Me Things
In PEOPLE TELL ME THINGS all of the stories feature the narrator who is the friend, lover, confidante, good listener, etc. In his position he is often asked to lunch where he learns about the exploits of friends like Peter in the title story PEOPLE TELL ME THINGS. Peter has been cheating on his wife and has been caught because a woman (he was not sleeping with) lost her earring in his pants. And Bonnie, Peter’s wife, who discovered the earring, knew the real story of how it happened, but took the opportunity to leave him anyway.

When people aren’t availing themselves of their confidante’s empathy and discretion, he talks about some of his desires. He wants to be represented as a character in a novel in HEY, THAT’S ME UP THERE ON THE PRINTED PAGE!. An affair with a married man ironically is the action that gets him there. In MEMORIAL he reads about Noah Goodman’s death in the obituaries. He and Goodman were lovers for a considerable period of time. The nature of their relationship, how they parted, and the memorial service at his passing is a bitter-sweet ending to the collection.

Finkle’s characters and their relationships are at once messy and glorious. And the magic of Manhattan shines through–where everyday people mix with the famous and the infamous, sometimes for just a moment, with an impact that lasts a lifetime.

Here's what I absolutely loved about the book: I think I would fit in with David and his friends. A lot of them reminded me of people I knew in my own life and I absolutely loved that. I often find myself being that person in the middle of things and hearing every side and then having to keep it all straight in my head. I would by lying if I said I didn't write things down just so I could keep it all straight. It's a precarious position to be in sometimes.

What I didn't love... is that while I understand that each story is meant to have a different narrator, it never really felt like it. And then when I really think about the title of the book, I really feel like I would have enjoyed it more had it all been the same narrator- it would have seemed even more incredible that one person is being told all of this. Does that make sense? The disadvantage by having different narrators is that it comes off feeling more, "so what- everybody has at least one story, but who has that many stories?"

I will tell you that it is a fast read with chapters being relatively short. This would be a great book to through in your purse or murse (I know there has to be at least one man reading this post carrying a purse) to read a quick chapter. I will agree that it's insightful and funny as well. The other added bonus is being able to read these things as an unbiased account of something and be able to see how ridiculous people are sometimes.

You know I would never ask you to rely on just my review, so I encourage you to see what others are saying, HERE. One lucky reader will also be able to win their own copy (US/Canada only, please). To win...

*Be a follower of my blog via GFC and leave a comment on this post (with your email!)

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This giveaway will end on Monday, November 21.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Happy Birthday to one of my most favorite people AND a coming soon!

I have to just say it....


We are going to have fun this weekend during girl's weekend where Tammy, Emily and I are driving to hang out with Amy for her birthday. A trolley, some comedy, some food, some drinks, lots will happen and I'm super excited. Look for that post sometime next week.

But today? I am driving down to the Mall of America to meet with Amy, have some lunch, do some shopping and OH YEAH, go to the Airborne Toxic Event concert today. WOO HOO. I am super excited about it and it feels like a fun weekend kick off basically. I hope, hope, hope they play this song tonight.

And I have to just mention this because if there was ever a person I am so thankful for having, it's Amy. She is the best friend and she is so kind and you know how I know this? Because on her birthday week, this is what I got in the mail:

Cake decorating goodies. Seriously, Amy? I love you to bits. :) I had a shit day yesterday and to come home to find this completely made my day and made me love you even more. So happy birthday, friend! We're going to have fun tonight and this weekend.

And for the rest of you? Havea great day/night. Email me questions for Dear Sara tomorrow to sarastrand9438(at)hotmail(dot)com and you know I charged my camera battery fully this time.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Questionable Bar, Manchester Orchestra, Friends, and Swingers.

If you need any more proof that just being with me can bring the crazies, look no further than my last Saturday night.

Let me set you up. First off, Manchester Orchestra is easily in my top five favorite bands yet I hadn't seen them in concert yet. On Facebook they made the announcement that the tour they were embarking on was going to be it for at least two years.. maybe longer so I knew that come hell or high water I was going to a show. Fortunately, they were going to be in Minneapolis on Saturday but at some bar I didn't know in South Minneapolis (which immediately waves some red flags), but tickets were only about $20. So I get my friend Tammy and sister in law Kate to come.

We basically left later than ideal because people had stuff going on, but assuming we didn't get lost, we would get there about 30 minutes before the doors opened. But guess what happened?

Maggie, the turning out to be unreliable GPS, got us fucking lost. First off, there is a difference in Cedar Avenue and Cedar Avenue South. Mostly because Cedar Avenue will tell you that you have arrived as you are crossing what I think was the Mississippi River. Cedar Avenue South takes you into what I think is maybe a college neighborhood (think bars, apartment buildings, random weird stores that aren't open after 5). So we ended up being 16 miles out of our way, and get there in time to see that the "free parking" consists of four spaces on either side of the building. Awesome. Obviously everything within reasonable distance is full so we end up parking behind a Taco Bell, on a residential street with an embankment ideal for homeless people, a closed bus shelter, and oh yeah- there are no street lights. This is totally a safe parking spot. But we did it because it was a quicker walk to the venue.

Which was questionable too. It is next door to a bar/restaurant called The Joint and that is primarily a biker hangout. Not going to lie, there were some pretty sketch people just hanging out. Thankfully we didn't have to wait outside for too long, but Kate was complimented on her green hair by a drunk guy!

 I also want to say it because it's true... the Cabooze? Is a TERRIBLE venue for a concert. As Andy Hull (singer of Manchester Orchestra) said, "There is no way to flip this tetris setup to make it right" because it's true. I would say about half of us were standing to the side of the stage because there isn't much room in front of the stage. If I had mad Paint skillz I'd draw you a picture but just go with it. So that really sucked. I secured a spot next to the bar, right where the bartenders come in/out with cases. Which means my right arm, back, and ass kept getting slammed with cases of beer. Unfortunate because there literally was nowhere else for me to go- I was kind of stuck in that one spot.

The first band to come on was The Deerhunter, who I had never heard of, but were really good. They sound a LOT like Manchester Orchestra and at first I thought it was them. I know- what was I thinking. But they were good enough that I'm downloading some of their stuff this week because I enjoyed them.
 After they played this lovely hipster couple next to us started chatting with me saying that band was really good, etc. They mention they don't really know Manchester Orchestra but bought tickets because their favorite band was an opening act. Enter White Denim.

White Denim sucks so much ass I was yawning. YAWNING during a club concert. They blatantly rip off guitar riffs from classic rock hits, kind of make it their own or at least try to, and then mumble stuff into the microphone. They could be described as hipsters who hate life? I have one picture of them but deleted it because they sucked. But holy god- this couple? Went CRAZY for them. The woman was all jamming out to herself and almost ramming into Tammy. It was quite a sight on its own.

So after White Denim, hipster couple leaves. Enter.... middle aged married couple of swingers. Oh, you read that right. Tammy and I met Tom and Karen. (I want it noted that Kate ditched us for a seat on the floor because her foot hurt and she was tired. So Tammy and I are on our own here). They both appear kind of tipsy if not the beginning stages of drunk which is fine. They order some drinks, ask us what we're drinking and we say we aren't because we have a long drive home. So then we start talking about where we're from, etc. Out of nowhere Tom hugs me and says, "If it doesn't work out with your husband I will take you. My wife could use a friend." Um, weird. But I brush this off as a drunk person rambling about shit that makes no sense. I get this all of the time being the sober person in a group.

Manchester Orchestra comes on and starts the show with "April Fool" and I basically lose my shit because I love them and Andy Hull. I don't like beards so much, but I would make an exception for Andy. And Robert Pattinson.
 They played almost every one of my favorite songs, but I had to call me good blog buddy Matt when they played "Shake It Out". Mostly because it's a great song, but also because Matt is the one who introduced me to Manchester Orchestra after I heard him play that song on his radio station when he was in college. So from that one song, I became a HUGE fan of the band.
They played for quite a while and they were great.

But about a few songs in I look at Tammy who tells me that the woman? Is feeling up her boob. Which is funny because at this point, the guy? Is grinding on my right leg. And I'm laughing hysterically because you know this is what I do in stressful situations only amplified by my exhaustion and low blood sugar. So I kind of move more into the bar area thinking he'd get the hint but no. That does not work.

Almost towards the end of the set, Tom grabs my waist to let me know that him and Karen were leaving. I said "Oh, that's good" and he replies with, "Do you want to come with us? We've got a place nearby and we can have fun." Um, no. NO, you crazy ass swinger-probable-serial-killer. NO. So they leave, Tammy and I breathe a huge sigh of relief so we can enjoy the last few songs.

Here's what I will tell you that was amazing about this concert:
  • Even in between sets the bar just plays music. Well you know you have a kick ass crowd when we all start singing along to the Black Keys' "Howlin For You".
  • Almost every guy had a beard and wore flannel. Some women appeared to have beards as well.
  • The band is immensely talented anyways, but when Andy Hull sang all alone with no back up instruments or vocals? Wow. Talk about a concert moment. Not a sound in that entire bar except for his voice gave me goosebumps.
  • I was so happy they made the song "Virgin" sound as creepy in person as it does on the album.
  • Same with "Simple Math"- it oozes sex (to me) on the album and it was even better in person.
  • The crowd ate up "I Can Barely Breathe" and you can hear that HERE. Someone at the show taped it and put it on YouTube. :)
  • We also sang word for word to "The Only One".
Overall it was a great show, a great night with some of my favorite people. It really was a good show but it would have been epic if it were at say... First Avenue.

And the walk to car? Uneventful. I almost made the decision to pee in someone's front yard because I had to go THAT BAD but I didn't. We ended up finding a gas station outside of the cities and I peed a lot, only after landing on the seat (lost my footing on the wet floor) only to realize the seat? Was wet. Public bathroom fail.

It was a super late night and I crawled into bed at exactly 2:35 am. Yikes.

I get to do it again on Thursday, though! I am going to be meeting my friend Amy for lunch, shopping, and the Airborne Toxic Event concert.. only to drive home. I am going to be so exhausted. Really tired. I just need to keep myself awake for the ride home. Then this weekend is girls weekend/Amy's birthday extravaganza/shopping trip, but Tammy and Emily are coming with me. It's going to be great... just wait for the pictures!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Proof of Heaven

Raise your hand if you like a tear jerker book that puts your life into perspective sometimes? Well then grab your Kleenex and this book.

Proof of Heaven by Mary Curran Hackett
Proof of Heaven: A Novel
A mother’s faith, a child’s courage, a doctor’s dedication—a moving and thought-provoking tale of hope, love, and family. He might be young, but Colm already recognizes the truth: that he’s sick and not getting better. His mother, Cathleen, fiercely believes her faith will protect her ailing son, but Colm is not so sure. With a wisdom far beyond his years, Colm has come to terms with his probable fate, but he does have one special wish. He wants to meet his father who abandoned his beloved mother before Colm was born. But the quest to find the dying boy’s missing parent soon becomes a powerful journey of emotional discovery—a test of belief and an anxious search for proof of heaven.

I will tell you right now that as a parent of two children this book hit home. Not because I have an ill child or have ever had to experience making decisions all the while knowing that your child is still going to die you just have to make him comfortable on that journey, but because I know what it is like to love a child so fiercely that you would do anything to make it all better. Nobody can ever understand what it's like to love a child like a mother can- between carrying that child and knowing that it's solely you nurturing the baby to existence and then knowing that you can't always protect them is something you can't experience unless you've done it. So with that, I knew reading this book my heart would break and I would hug my kids extra tight and thank my stars that I have been so fortunate with good health and happy hearts.

What I liked about this book is that you know upfront how it's going to end and that a child's untimely death is really maybe timely and purposeful. It sounds terrible but I think that every death is timely- we are all meant to go when we go, but if you don't take something from that death then it makes it tragic. So with Colm's death as sad as you know it's going to be, I think the story the author weaves around him is beautiful. He wasn't meant to live a long life, but he was meant to change the lives he was a part of and he does that.

I will be honest, the part of the story where he questions heaven breaks my heart. To think of a child as young as him questioning whether heaven is real or not is sad. Maybe that's what I found to be the saddest part of the book for me. Not so much that we was going to die, but that he is more worried about what will happen to him and what will happen to his mother. It breaks my heart to think of that because Colm reminded me a lot of my own Jackson.

I don't want to go into too much of the book but I really encourage you to read it. It will break your heart, it will make you cry, it will make you thankful but above all- I think it makes you look at those in your life and really think about their purpose in your life. A quote that is in the book that is remarked as belong to C.S Lewis was, "Prayer doesn't change God, it changes me." It's food for thought.

I'm the first person on this book tour, but I encourage you to check back as the tour progresses to see what others are saying about it HERE. Mary also has a website, Twitter and Facebook so to learn more about her, please check those out as well.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Picture of Lies

HA! I bet you thought this was going to be about me ranting about a picture... of lies. Well, it's not. Maybe another day? No, this post is about a pretty cool book that kept me intrigued to the very end.

Picture of Lies- C.C. Harrison
Picture of Lies (Five Star Mystery Series)
Investigative journalist Keegan Thomas is living a nightmare of guilt and grief since her little girl Daisy was kidnapped practically in front of her eyes. When the police investigation dead ended, she turned her grief to anger and buried herself in her work. The result was an award winning series of articles on unsolved child abductions. Her entire life became shaped by a continual search for missing children, her own included. On what is supposed to be a working vacation, Keegan travels to Monument Valley on the Navajo Indian Reservation seeking the whereabouts of people in an old photograph found in her grandfather’s belongings after his death. Her assignment? Write an upbeat human interest where-are-they-now feature story for Arizona OffBeat Magazine. But the Indians do not welcome this prying stranger carrying a picture of their old ones, some of them dead. Archaeologist Dante Covelli, a walking wounded with secrets in his past, helps her navigate the mysterious ways of the Navajo, and eventually Keegan is told one of the children in the photograph was kidnapped by missionaries and taken to boarding school. What follows is a web of deception that stretches back fifty years, and the truth Keegan learns about her own family is the most shocking betrayal of all. Nothing can prepare her for the danger she encounters when she becomes the target of a powerful senator who will do anything to stop her from telling what she knows about the PICTURE OF LIES.

Here's what I tell you: it's a great mystery book that goes fast, keeps you on your toes and doesn't bore. There are no unnecessary details to bog you down but you get a really good background on everyone and the author keeps you moving. I did NOT see the ending coming as I didn't think.. well I can't tell you without ruining it, but someone close to Keegan is involved. I definitely did not suspect that. I also loved how at the end when you think things are wrapping up, the author punches you again and throws a curve ball. I really appreciated that because otherwise it just felt too neat of an ending. I also like that there was a bit of a love story... even if it didn't end the way I wanted it to. If there was anything about the book that bummed me out or disappointed me, it was that.

I will say I like how it is set up for sequels because Keegan's character is interesting and I would read more. The other thing was that her story with the kidnapped child reminded me of Linda Howard's Cry No More which is a fantastic book as well, so I wondered if the author had read that at all because it was reminiscent of that for me, at least Keegan's character.

So if you are looking for a short read that is good and keeps you reading- definitely check out this book! I also encourage you to see what other bloggers are saying!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Holy Ghost Girl- GIVEAWAY

If you are looking for an absolutely fascinating book for yourself or maybe as a gift- look no further.

Holy Ghost Girl by Donna Johnson
Holy Ghost Girl: A Memoir
A compassionate, humorous story of faith, betrayal, and coming of age on the evangelical sawdust trail. She was just three years old when her mother signed on as the organist of tent revivalist David Terrell, and before long, Donna Johnson was part of the hugely popular evangelical preacher's inner circle. At seventeen, she left the ministry for good, with a trove of stranger-than-fiction memories. A homecoming like no other, Holy Ghost Girl brings to life miracles, exorcisms, and faceoffs with the Ku Klux Klan. And that's just what went on under the tent. As Terrell became known worldwide during the 1960s and '70s, the caravan of broken-down cars and trucks that made up his ministry evolved into fleets of Mercedes and airplanes. The glories of the Word mixed with betrayals of the flesh and Donna's mother bore Terrell's children in one of the several secret households he maintained. Thousands of followers, dubbed "Terrellites" by the press, left their homes to await the end of the world in cultlike communities. Jesus didn't show, but the IRS did, and the prophet/healer went to prison. Recounted with deadpan observations and surreal detail, Holy Ghost Girl bypasses easy judgment to articulate a rich world in which the mystery of faith and human frailty share a surprising and humorous coexistence. We have all seen those revivals on TV. You see the passionate preacher and see the fanatics that come to the tent in the hopes that Jesus will touch them and they will receive a miracle. Some just come to see if a miracle happens to someone else. Irregardless, it's hard not to get wrapped up into this when you have an enigmatic person basically screaming at you to confess your sins and get yourself right with God. Even the harshest critic wouldn't leave such a thing without feeling something.

This book is a really incredible memoir into the life of a traveling tent revival told through the eyes of a young child. The things she sees, her experiences growing up, and the abandonment she experiences when her mother is basically the preacher's piece on the side. I really enjoyed this book because not only could I believe that this is what it's really like for these people, but specifically in these times. It begins in 1960 and continues over two decades and to be quite honest- for me it read as a first hand witnesses account into the decent of a mad man. I have always viewed this preachers as crazy people who just believe so much into what they are preaching because they have no other option. You know when a person lies over and over again, they begin to believe it? That's basically how I viewed Brother Terrell, a crazy, selfish, narcissistic conman. I was so intrigued after finishing this book that I obviously had to Google search him and wow. He's still at it. Even after prison, he is still out there collecting money from people who think Jesus is going to bless them.

So really hearing how people are so willing to give up what very little they have to hopefully get a miracle or spread the word of Jesus is kind of sad to me. But maybe that's because I don't really understand any of it myself. But the other sad tale is that Donna and her brother Gary really had a tough childhood. They were essentially shuffled around to different homes and sustained quite a bit of child abuse and neglect at the hands of these caretakers. And as a parent... I can't imagine just leaving my kids with strangers really and just hoping for the best. So it's kind of a tragic story to me but the most astounding part?

Is the end. I really did not expect the author's reaction years later when she comes face to face with Brother Terrell. I wonder (and hope) she has had some kind of closure in her own life because I didn't feel like the book really expressed that. As a reader, I ended the book feeling angry and sad for her and her brother because they are just innocent victims caught in a man's whirlwind.

So overall- GREAT book. It was so fascinating even for a person like me who doesn't really read anything religion based because I don't understand it. I would highly recommend this for anyone because if nothing else, it provides a really interesting insight into tent revivals, the human spirit, and American history too. Of course you can check out other reviews of this book HERE too.

One of YOU can win the book too! The giveaway will end on Monday, October 31!
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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Th1rteen R3asons Why

I'm going to break my rule of doing two book reviews in one night because this one? Is a must read. I don't care if you never read another book again, read this one. I don't care if you don't like to read at all, read this one. If you have a child, you need to read this book. If you have been touched by the loss of someone who has committed suicide, you need to read this book. If you have treated someone badly, not apologized for something you thought maybe you should have handled differently, or you think your actions (however meaningless to you) don't effect others, you need to read this book. I am not kidding when I tell you this will change your perspective in life.

Th1rteen R3asons Why by Jay Asher
Thirteen Reasons Why
When Clay Jenson plays the cassette tapes he received in a mysterious package, he's surprised to hear the voice of dead classmate Hannah Baker. He's one of 13 people who receive Hannah's story, which details the circumstances that led to her suicide. Clay spends the rest of the day and long into the night listening to Hannah's voice and going to the locations she wants him to visit. The text alternates, sometimes quickly, between Hannah's voice (italicized) and Clay's thoughts as he listens to her words, which illuminate betrayals and secrets that demonstrate the consequences of even small actions. Hannah, herself, is not free from guilt, her own inaction having played a part in an accidental auto death and a rape. The message about how we treat one another, although sometimes heavy, makes for compelling reading. Give this to fans of Gail Giles psychological thrillers.

I don't want to give away all of the reasons why this book has made such an impact in my life but I will tell you that since finishing it about a week ago I have not been able to stop thinking about it. As the above paragraph says, this book is basically the self given eulogy of a teenage girl who commits suicide. The thirteen people who receive these tapes all played a part in her ultimate decision to end her life. She not only talks about her own experiences and failures, but she talks about how others failed her.

The sad and very tragic reality is that there are so many kids going through the exact same things. What starts off as her first kiss which then snowballs into the boy saying they did much more and you know how that ball will roll, you see the actions of other students and how she internalizes them. You can read this book and put these character's names and faces to real people you know with no trouble at all and maybe that's what is so disturbing.

But what I really appreciated about this book is that not only does it talk about the students (and in one instance, staff) who did terrible things to this poor girl for the sake of being cruel for fun, but I think it highlights an even larger problem that "society" overlooks- the bystanders. Especially in the news as of late we are hearing of bullying at its worst and while it's easy to target a bully and say- he's a bad kid or target a victim and say- you shouldn't be like that and you won't get picked on, what about the kids who just stand there and watch it happen? I can't remember what show it was on but a commentator mentioned that when people, but mostly parents, say, "What is wrong with society?" in relation to bullying- you should be looking at your own kid. Maybe you're lucky and your kid isn't being picked on or isn't the bully- but they probably know someone in either or both roles and yet they do nothing to stop it. What's wrong with them?

We are living in a generation that has the potential to do such extraordinary things that others will study in history books in the future but we won't get there when you have people treating each other like they do. There is really something wrong when two people can't get married when they are in love based on their genders being the same. The sheer ridiculousness of that astounds me. The fact that people feel like they should be able to control that kind of thing boggles my mind. The fact that you have kids bullying kids based on their economic standing in the community. Really- the kid dresses badly because he's poor not because he has nothing worthwhile to offer someone. Yet we teach our children that these kinds of biases are OK.

Something else that just pulled at my heart as a parent is how Hannah talks about how her parents had no clue that she was feeling this way because they were dealing with their own financial crisis and stress. How many of us stay up at night worrying about our bills, how we'll make ends meet, things that are coming up, etc? Of those people, how many of you have really been able to sit down with your kid and talk to them about their life. Can anyone really say who their child's friends are, who they don't get along with, why, who they sit with at lunch, what their insecurities are, etc? Very few. I would bet my next paycheck that very few of you can really do that with your child. In the book Hannah talks about one of her classes had bags with student's names on them and fellow students can put positive comments in them anonymously and how she looked forward to them. Those end up being her last lifeline to feeling good about herself but then another student ruins even that for her.

This book challenges you and how you deal with others. You might think the revengeful or "I'll teach her" moment is not a big deal, but you don't know how many more of those are happening to a person at that same time. It might be your one act that tips them over the edge. It makes you ask yourself is it worth it? Is it worth ignoring a friend over a miscommunication? Over something you could be completely wrong about because you made an assumption and never asked for yourself.

I think this book should absolutely be required reading for parents, for teenagers, for teachers, for those who help any of these people day to day. It is so tragic and your heart will break because you know you know someone like this.