Friday, March 23, 2018

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co. #1) - Jonathan Stroud

Summary: A sinister Problem has occurred in London: all nature of ghosts, haunts, spirits, and specters are appearing throughout the city, and they aren't exactly friendly. Only young people have the psychic abilities required to see-and eradicate-these supernatural foes. Many different Psychic Detection Agencies have cropped up to handle the dangerous work, and they are in fierce competition for business. 

In The Screaming Staircase, the plucky and talented Lucy Carlyle teams up with Anthony Lockwood, the charismatic leader of Lockwood & Co, a small agency that runs independent of any adult supervision. After an assignment leads to both a grisly discovery and a disastrous end, Lucy, Anthony, and their sarcastic colleague, George, are forced to take part in the perilous investigation of Combe Carey Hall, one of the most haunted houses in England. Will Lockwood & Co. survive the Hall's legendary Screaming Staircase and Red Room to see another day? 

Readers who enjoyed the action, suspense, and humor in Jonathan Stroud's internationally best-selling Bartimaeus books will be delighted to find the same ingredients, combined with deliciously creepy scares, in his thrilling and chilling Lockwood & Co. series. (Summary and pic from

My Review: My husband has been bugging me about reading this book for months now. Months and months. It started out subtly—suggesting it, saying he liked it, etc., and then escalated to him buying it and putting it on my reading table (At the head of the line! He was cutting in line!). It’s not that I didn’t want to read it or was putting it off, but it obviously felt like that to him. Anyway, so I finally got to a place where I was ready for it. I have enjoyed lots of books that my husband has recommended, because although we don’t necessarily read the same kinds of books, there is some overlap, and when he recommends something to me, I’m always excited to discover something that possibly hadn’t been on my radar.

So. He has been telling me I would really like this book. And he was right! I did. I’ve come to like creepy things in my old age. I think it’s often tempting to overlook and dismiss YA Fic creepiness. I mean, its kid stuff, right? Not so. Many many books I have read that are creepy are YA Fic, and I really like it when it is. Being YA Fic I think they’re able to avoid some of what adult genre authors think they need in a scary book—gore, language, unnecessary violence. YA Fic, because of the nature of it, is able to breeze past this in a way that hints at it and certainly has some description, but is also able to leave just enough bite to it to give it some impact. YA Fic readers can handle quite a bit of scariness, and for me, it’s pretty much just the right amount. I felt like The Screaming Staircase was comfortably in this place—it had some really scary parts. They weren’t horrifying to the point of distasteful, but they were horrifying in a fun way. I liked the creepy vibe. Plus, I really think ghosts are fun. These ghosts were so well-thought out and the world building so good that it didn’t just feel like an alternate history, it felt like something that could have happened and possibly just been skipped over in the mainstream history books. You know paranormal fiction is good when the descriptions and world building are such that it feels authentic and as if it fits in smoothly to the already-existing environment.

I really liked the characters in this book. True to the case of many YA Fic books, they weren’t extremely detailed and layered, but there was enough there to produce some meaty content. It’s exciting that there are more books in this series because I think there will be lots of opportunities for getting to know these fun characters and seeing them interact with one another and with the ghosts. The ghosts were fun characters, too—just the right amount of humanness to be a little chilling. It’s a perfect rainy day or October read. Or, you know, a random Tuesday when it just seems right to have a little creepiness in your life.

This book is a few years old and therefore I feel like it has flown under the radar in some ways. It has some really good acclaim and Stroud is no novice author. Perhaps you’ve heard of it and I have just been living in oblivion. If you are into YA Fic, especially of the paranormal ilk (and ghosts are so fun and refreshing after the onslaught of vampires and other creatures like that) you should definitely check it out. It was definitely a fun, fast read, and I’m looking forward to the next one in the series. Which we own. Which my husband will probably start not-so-subtly moving to my nightstand. But I’ll be glad for the distraction!

My Rating: 4 Stars

For the sensitive reader: There is some ghost violence and descriptions of violence, but it is rather clean. There is also some mild language.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Book of Awesome - Neil Pasricha

Summary: Sometimes it's easy to forget the things that make us smile.  Sometimes it's tempting to feel that the world is falling apart.  But awesome things are all around us:

- Popping bubble wrap
- The smell of rain on a hot sidewalk
- Hitting a bunch of green lights in a row
- Waking up and realizing it's Saturday
- Fixing electronics by smacking them
- Picking the perfect nacho off someone else's plate

The Book of Awesome reminds us that the best things in life are free.  Based on the award-winning blog, it's a high five for humanity and a big celebration of life's little moments.  With wise, witty observations, The Book of Awesome is filled with smile-inducing musings that make you feel like a kid looking at the world for the first time.  (Summary from book - Image from

My Review:  The Book of Awesome is the brain baby of a blogger named Neil Pashricha who wanted to find joy in the everyday moments that we often overlook, so he started a blog about the all little things that delight us.  Sounds great, right? Here are a few examples (mostly selected at random):
  • Catching someone singing in their car and sharing a laugh with them
  • High tens
  • The thank you wave when you let someone merge in front of you
  • Finding the last item of your size at the store
  • The smell of gasoline*
  • Using Q-tips the way you’re not supposed to use them.
  • Eating a free sample of something you have no intention of buying
  • Using all the different soaps and shampoos in someone else’s shower
  • Sweatpants
  • When there is ice cream left at the bottom of the cone. 

Now, as you can see, Neil doesn’t delve too deep, passing over the joys of hearing a baby bust a gut laughing or watching your toddler take their first steps for the decidedly less monumental.  Instead, he focuses on highlighting the often-overlooked, wildly unappreciated pleasures of the human experience.  I absolutely love the concept, applaud the author’s effort to bring more light into the world, and even identified with the majority of his “awesome” experiences, but sadly have some issues with the execution.  Here’s why: 

Some of Neil’s entries were short and sweet – I could read them swiftly, smile and nod in agreement (yes, that IS awesome!) and then move on, but on far too many occasions he expounded for pages about some awesome thing that didn’t quite seem to merit the tremendous word count.   Reading the longer entries felt like Neil was writing to reach a word quota rather than convey an idea.  Ultimately, I think I would have preferred this content in its original format – blog post.  In that way, I could read one post a day and be gently reminded to look for the small and simple signs of joy in the world around me.  As a book, well, I felt bludgeoned over the head with it.   By the time I was halfway through I was just reading to finish.  Slogging.  And if you’ve ever slog read, you’ll know that it’s exhausting.  I finally stopped about 20 pages from the end, because it took me that long to call time of death.  Life is too short to read books you don’t want to read. 

All that unpleasantness having been said, if you’d like to read a little more about Neil and check out his blog you can head on over to .  He seems like a pretty nice guy who is committed to doing some pretty awesome things.  Just because I didn’t like the book doesn’t mean I don’t think his ideas are AWESOME!**

*Whaaaat?  Neil and I are totally at odds with this one.
**Here's hoping I got all those double negatives right...but just in case I didn’t that was supposed to be a compliment.  He seems cool.

My Rating: 2.75 Stars (great concept but annoyingly long-winded execution)
For the sensitive reader:  Nothing I can think of….

Monday, March 19, 2018

All Fish Faces: Photos and Fun Facts about Tropical Reef Fish - Tam Warner Minton

Summary: Photography and Fun Facts about tropical reef fish, ALL FISH FACES will entertain people of all ages! Getting to know our underwater world is a fascinating journey into the unknown! It is so important to introduce children, kids, and adults to our ocean and its animals so we can protect it for future generations. 10% of profits will go to the Marine Megafauna Foundation so they can continue their scientific research to protect our oceans and ocean giants. (Summary and image from  I was provided a copy in exchange for an honest review.)

Review: I read a book!! I read a book!! Guys, since starting this new assignment (teaching AP Government and AP Economics at our local high school), I haven't read anything except for text books and essays that need to be graded! It's been really difficult, and I apologize to the amazingly talented (and patient) Tam Minton for being so understanding.

I'm the parent to three budding scientists, and one of those has decided that marine biology is her calling in life. Never mind the fact that the one time we took her to the ocean, she wouldn't get within 20 feet of the water, that's what she wants to do. And I'm sure there are ways to overcome that. It's not like she's leaving for grad school tomorrow! However, this aspiring marine biologist of mine has a deep love for conservation and preservation of our Earth, and is absolutely fascinated with the beauty (bizarre and conventional) that our oceans hold. 

So, what does this say about this book? Well ... part of the reason (aside from balancing teaching and parenting) that this book review took as long as it did was because my little girl absconded with the book within seconds of its arrival and refused to give it back.  The photos that Minton has captured and shared seem to jump off the pages. Their vibrant colors and the unique expressions of each fish are so incredible, I can understand why my daughter wasn't quite ready to share. But the photos are really only part of this book's charm. Tidbits about the species of fish highlighted, conservation efforts anyone (even those of us not lucky enough to live near the ocean) can take, and information regarding sustainable fishing are all shared appropriately for the age intended. It doesn't come across as preachy, or as condescending, rather as useful and necessary information anyone should be armed with. BUT. What good is it to hear from me? Let's hear from the marine biologist to be:

Clara's Review: Honestly, I thought ALL FISH FACES would be worse than it actually was. It's really good, but that's probably because I LOVE marine biology right now. It has some tough words, but I think it would be okay for younger readers. Some people might like the Scorpion Fish section because to look at the pictures, you have to find the fish. It has good tips on how to save the ocean.

It has some amazing pictures, facts, captions, and more! Each fish even has its section.

Me again: I asked the girl why she thought the book would be worse, apparently, author bios aren't her thing yet!! Ha!

Rating: Five Stars

Friday, March 16, 2018

Quicksand - Malin Persson Giolito, Rachel Willson Broyles (translator)

Summary: A mass shooting has taken place at a prep school in Stockholm’s wealthiest suburb. Eighteen-year-old Maja Norberg is charged for her involvement in the massacre that left her boyfriend and her best friend dead. She has spent nine months in jail awaiting trial. Now the time has come for her to enter the courtroom. How did Maja—popular, privileged, and a top student—become a cold-blooded killer in the eyes of the public? What did Maja do? Or is it what she failed to do that brought her here? (Summary and pic from

I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

My Review: As soon as I saw that this had won Sweden’s Crime Book of the year, I knew I had to have it. I mean, we all know that the Scandinavians have been writing some seriously epic and awesome crime novels. It seems to be their thing, of late. Many of the books from this genre have really taken the crime genre up a notch—it’s grittier, it’s edgier, it’s more violent, the mysteries are more complicated, the characters are deeper, it’s just more. If you are a crime genre reader at all I’m sure you’ve been at least aware of the Scandinavian crime novels, even if you haven’t read one. I’ve read several from several different authors, and so although it is not the genre I always read from, I do enjoy it when I do.

Despite the fact that I’ve read many different authors in this sub-genre, I‘ve mostly read books in a series with one main detective or at least one main character. This book was different for several reasons and therefore intriguing. First, the main character was a teenage girl. That was a new twist. Although most first-person novels do not have completely dependable narrators, having a teenage girl be the first-person narrator really brought a level of chaotic storytelling and a different viewpoint. I liked it. Nothing like having a crime novel that is as unpredictable as the story is. Having a teenage girl be the narrator also made the actual events seem more unpredictable. The reader was only given one opinion and viewpoint, and the nature of this book is such that it would take many different viewpoints in order to make the story completely whole. There wasn’t one person overlooking the case, like a detective or a police officer. The narrator was a part of the crime and therefore she was both intentionally and unintentionally biased in what happened.

The book was also different from the normal fare because I’m not sure we ever actually know the whole truth, and that’s enticing. There is a conclusion, but whether or not you find it satisfying is something you’ll have to find out on your own. Either way, there’s a certain amount of chaos in the conclusion that makes you feel equally satisfied (or not) and also unsure. It’s a fun balance.

I liked the voice in this book; I feel like I can relate to teenage girls even if I am very far removed from them age-wise. I like the sassy and sarcastic. There were times when I didn’t find her completely authentic and even found her to be a little too adult, but that may be my interpretation. Also, I wasn’t sure how old she was and that kind of made it difficult at times to decide how appropriate some situations were.

The story itself is interesting and varied. There were some confusing parts, and there were some characters I wish had been fleshed out more, especially considering the role they played in the conclusion of the story. However, I think overall, it was a strong and interesting story. And given the school shootings going one, it’s very relevant today.

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

For the sensitive reader: Although this is on the lighter side of most Scandinavian crime novel fare, there is still language, sex, and violence. In some ways it seems harsher because of the young narrator, although I think it’s comparable to others in the crime genre as a whole.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Most Feared Books of All Time Infographic sent us an awesome infographic a short while ago that I just couldn't help but want to share with you! I always find it so fascinating to see what has been challenged or banned and why. We here at Reading for Sanity believe in the right to choose which books you want to read for yourself. While we have chosen collectively not to read certain genres, that is a personal choice for each of us. Now, as for you, I'm going to go indulge in some communist teachings and read Green Eggs and Ham again! 
 PS.  If this infographic won't zoom for you...head on over to and check out the original. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box - The Arbinger Institute

Summary:  Since its original publication in 2000, Leadership and Self-Deception has become a global phenomenon with sales increasing year after year and editions available in over thirty languages.  Its powerful ideas are based on Arbinger's work over the last 35 years -- work that has fueled the success of thousands of organizations around the world.  Through an engaging story about a man facing challenges on the job and in his family, the authors expose the fascinating ways that we blind ourselves to our true motivations and unwittingly sabotage our own efforts to improve performance and achieve success.  Read this extraordinary book and discover what millions have already learned -- how to tap into an innate ability that dramatically improves both your relationships and results. (summary from back of book - image from

My Review:  About a year ago, my dad sent me this book with a little note that indicated I should read it and that it had the potential to be life-changing.  My dad doesn't read much from a recreational standpoint but what he reads is always meaningful, so it might have taken me a while to move it up the stack, but I listened.  Here are my thoughts:

Leadership and Self-Deception is bestseller that looks like assigned college reading – and it is in some colleges -- but when I stopped focusing on its outward appearance and actually started reading, I found a book that was easily accessible, insightful, reflective, and infused with simple wisdom.  At just under 200 pages, I tore through it in a matter of hours, spread out over a few days (because KIDS).  Although this book was presented in a business setting, its principles can be applied to any kind of interaction – work, family, marriage, friendships, and even casual daily interaction.  Its story form was fluid and relatable with a series of helpful lists and illustrative diagrams that shifted my perspective on how I interact with the world around me. 

While I am almost sure to bungle my explanation (the book does it far better), I will try to at least introduce a little of what the Arbinger Institute teaches, even though I’m highly unqualified to do so.  
  • It starts with the concept of a person being either IN or OUT of the box.  When we are IN the box, we see the people around us as objects and are really only concerned with how they affect us.  When we are OUT of the box, we see the people around us as people with their own unique sets of strengths, weaknesses, needs, worries, and experiences.  Our chosen perspective affects our treatment of others in positive or negative ways. 
  • We can be either in or out of the box at any given moment with any given person.  It’s entirely subject to change and choice, though we can to make a habit out of it.
  • Secretly, we crave conflict.  I know that sounds weird but hang on for a bit.  Conflict allows us to feel superior to others as it encourages the I-am-right-and-you-are-wrong mentality.  In this situation, we tend to inflate our own value and in turn inflate the faults of others.  In doing so, we feel justified to continue acting however we’ve been acting and blame others for our problems. 
  • When we are IN the box, we invite others to enter their own boxes.  As you can imagine this is utterly counterproductive in virtually every situation. 

Leadership and Self-Deception also introduces the concept of self-betrayal (when we think of something that we should do for others then talk ourselves out of it) and self-deception (the process of justifying our behavior in a way that distorts our own reality).  Each concept was psychologically fascinating and I haven’t been able stop mulling them over with friends and family. 

I love books that change the way I think in a positive way and this was definitely one of them.  It invited me to question my own virtue and, in doing so, opened up windows of thought that I had to bend my brain around.  I’m not going to lie.  It hurt a little.  Do I thrive on conflict?  Am I part of the problem?  Am I THE problem?   I hadn’t read very far before drawing some fairly uncomfortable conclusions about my daily interactions with others, especially in regards to some of the more strained relationships in my life.  I may not be the only person IN the box, but I am in it and I put myself there.  Thankfully, this book also talks about how to get OUT of the box and move toward healthier, more meaningful, productive relationships.  The good news is that the “how” is simple and straightforward.  And staying out? They talk about that too.  If you keep reading, there is even an additional section in the back of the book (mine is the 2nd edition) that gives some specific ideas for how the book can be used in during the hiring process, for team building, conflict resolution, and personal growth. 

My suggestion?  Even if you don’t think Leadership and Self-Deception applies to you, get your mitts on it and read it.  You are bound to learn something; I know I did.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who thinks they aren’t the problem, to anyone who knows they are, and to anyone who simply wants to live a better life.

My Rating: 4.5 Stars (I'd give it a 4 for writing style and 5 for content)

For the sensitive reader: One swear word of the jack*** variety. Not sure if that’s even a swear word, to be honest.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Momming It Up

Image result for mom imagesYou know that Family Guy clip* of Stewie trying to get his Mom's attention?  No?  You should watch it.  Prepare to be annoyed.  Anyhow, that's how I have been feeling lately.  I love my kiddos, but I am approximately one MOM MOM MOM MOM MOMMA MOM MOM MOMMY away from losing my ever loving mind. 

I read for sanity, but books aren't happening today so you can imagine how well I'm doing.  But just because I can't read today doesn't mean you can't.  Here is an awesome link to 25 Books for the Modern Mom.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Woman in the Window - A.J. Finn

Summary: Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.

Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.

What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems. (Summary and pic from

My Review: I loved the premise of this book. First off, these exciting crime novels with fun twists and easy-to-read plots and action are just a lot of fun. Who doesn’t love a good pot boiler to break up the serious literature? Or even quench your thirst for some real drama instead of just the dramadramadrama of chick lit? Come on. You know you soared through Girl on the Train like it was nobody’s business. Even if that wasn’t the best book written of all time, it was still exciting and compelling. I think this book is on that same wavelength.

Agoraphobia. It’s fascinating. It’s debilitating. It’s heartbreaking. It’s all the things. I’ve heard of agoraphobia, I’ve heard of people who are “shut ins” (I think I’ve encountered a few in my life, but I don’t know for sure that they qualify to the level of agoraphobia). I was not aware of the actual mechanics of agoraphobia, and this was a very real-life and interesting look into what agoraphobia is like and how it affects someone. I heard Finn interviewed about this book, and he apparently went through a period of depression that manifested itself through agoraphobia and so he was writing this from his own personal experience. It felt that way, too. The pain and the debilitation felt authentic and realistic, which I think was key to pulling off this novel. It didn’t feel like a shtick. It felt like the real deal.

So from the summary you can see that there is a woman who is trapped in her house due to agoraphobia that was onset due to a traumatic situation. Her whole world is observed from her home. And then she witnesses a murder. I cannot tell you how awesome this premise is. Well, ya know, not that I like people being murdered…erm…anyway. So she’s limited in what she can see, and yet she sees a lot because she has learned to be so observant from the limited viewpoint she has. I think one could make an argument that she actually sees a lot more than many people on the outside do just because she is so observant, and is also left with only so much to observe. This makes her acutely aware of the neighbors, their comings and goings, etc. There are many twists and turns in this novel, and like any good mystery thriller, the plot turns and twists in ways that make even the reader uncertain. Which is awesome. In this case some of the plot turns are more obvious than others, and I wouldn’t say that I was surprised all the time, but I was certainly joyfully taken aback when something would happen that I wasn’t expecting.

I don’t want to give too much away because I think this is a book that is fun and quick-moving. It’s interesting and challenging, but in a way that is the perfect thing to cuddle up with on a dark and stormy night. It’s not a huge commitment, but it’s certainly worth the short amount of time it took to read it, despite the fact that it’s a decent-sized book. I read it in just a day or so. I love books that make me look forward to them. If you love crime and mystery thrillers, this is one you should definitely check out.

My Rating: 4 Stars

For the sensitive reader: This book has some language, drinking, sex, and murder. However, I would say that it is on the lighter side for its genre. I would give it a PG rating. It is not clean, but it not overwhelmingly offensive or gratuitous.

Monday, March 5, 2018

The Incredible Book Eating Boy - Oliver Jeffers

Summary:  Like many children, Henry loves books. But Henry doesn’t like to read books, he likes to eat them. Big books, picture books, reference books . . . if it has pages, Henry chews them up and swallows (but red ones are his favorite). And the more he eats, the smarter he gets—he’s on his way to being the smartest boy in the world! But one day he feels sick to his stomach. And the information is so jumbled up inside, he can’t digest it! Can Henry find a way to enjoy books without using his teeth?  With a stunning new artistic style and a die-cut surprise, Oliver Jeffers celebrates the joys of reading in this charming and quirky picture book. It’s almost good enough to eat.

My Review: The Incredible Book Eating Boy tells the story of a young chap named Henry who loves books so much he full-on consumes them.  No, seriously.  He eats them.  Not only that, but each time he munches on a math book, chews up a Chernow, or devours a dictionary he gets smarter, and smarter, and SMARTER.  Henry anticipates that his steady diet of books will soon make him the smartest person in the world!  Unfortunately, it isn't long before a major case of literary indigestion leaves Henry in a state of total discombobulation and he must find another way to savor the written word.   

I found this book yesterday while perusing our local libraries "for sale" shelf  (also known as the-place-I-get-my-book-fix-without-breaking-the-bank).   To be perfectly honest, I was pretty sure I was going to buy this book when I read the title, but the book-loving theme and the giant BITE taken out of the back cover (and a few pages) are what sealed the deal.  The illustrations are creative, with an antiqued, album-like feel, and show Henry in various states of book consumption.  Of course, (small spoiler here), Henry eventually learns that books can be even more illuminating when read, and I just couldn't leave a message like that sitting neglected on the for-sale shelf.

My Rating: 4 Stars

For the sensitive reader:  If you value your books, you might not want to read this to any kids who are young enough to take it literally.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth (And Other Useful Guides) - "The Oatmeal" aka Matthew Inman

Related imageSummary: Cleverly whimsical yet oddly informative, The is an immensely popular entertainment site full of comics, quizzes, and stories. This collection presents classic favorites as well as all-new hilarity with many never-before-seen comics, such as 8 Reasons to Keep a Canandian as a Pet, 6 Reasons Man Nipples Are Awesome, and 5 Reasons to Have Rabies Instead of Babies. (Summary from back of book – Image from

My Review: My first exposure to Matthew Inman (aka The Oatmeal) came via a particularly informative comic, Ten Words You Need toStop Misspelling. It’s a must-read (so read it).  I’ve come across a few of his other comics since then (e.g. How to Use a Semicolon, When to Use i.e in a Sentence, and the oh-so-helpful How to Use an Apostrophe) – and was impressed at how he distilled concepts Americans have been bungling since grade school into easy-to-understand infographics. If, only, he, had, one, for, commas. *sigh* Alas, he does not. 

Last week, I found this collection of his ‘classic’ comics at my local thrift store and picked it up expecting more of the same kind of work.  I got a little of that -- and a then some.  For reviewing purposes, I tried to divide the Oatmeal’s comics into two different types: Oddly Helpful and Clearly This Guy is a Whack-a-Doo. Let’s start with a few of my Oddly Helpful favorites:
  • How to Suck at Facebook
  • How to Build a Campfire and Not Look Like an A**hole (**added)
  • How to Use a Semicolon (The Most Feared Punctuation on Earth)
  • How to Not Sell Something to My Generation
  • How to Use an Apostrophe 
  • How a Web Design Goes Straight to H*ll (*added)
  • Why Nikola Tesla is the Most Awesome Geek Who Ever Lived
  • Why I’d Rather Be Punched in the Testicles Than Call Customer Service
  • Why It’s Better to Pretend You Don’t Know Anything About Computers
  • 7 Types of Crappy Airline Passengers
  • 10 types of Crappy Interviewees
  • 7 Types of Crappy Pedestrians
  • 10 Words You Need to Stop Misspelling
  • 20 Things Worth Knowing About Beer
  • 15ish Thing Worth Knowing about Coffee
  • 14ish Things Worth Knowing About Cheese
  • 17 Things Worth Knowing About Your Cat

Many of these were informational with a comedic bent, while others served as more of a hyperbolic what-NOT-to-do guide for certain situations. As you might have guessed from the titles, quite a few of these are NSFK. I really enjoyed (and appreciated) the more informational comics, but found author’s predilection for sophomoric humor and cartoon gore was a little much, even for my less-than-delicate sensibilities.

The other type of comic is what I affectionately call Clearly This Guy is a Whack-a-Doo. These comics were obviously and intentionally absurd. Here are a few examples:
  • 8 Reasons to Keep a Canadian as a Pet
  • 8 Ways to Tell if Your Loved One Plans to Eat You 
  • 6 Reasons Bacon is Better than True Love
  • 6 Ways to Improve Your Home Using a Human Corpse
  • 7 Reasons to Keep Your Tyrannosaur Off Crack Cocaine
  • The Three Phases of Owning a Computer
  • 10 Things that Bears Love
  • The 8 Phases of Employment
  • A Polar Bear’s Guide to Making New Friends (in 5 Easy Steps)
  • There are a lot more.  I'm just tired of listing them...
This was my least favorite part of the book.  I found it was hard to read these comics in rapid succession, rather than individually, as you might expect in the paper or on a website.  The routine felt worn out from repeated use.

The Oatmeal’s comics on grammar, punctuation, and how-not-to-behave-in-public provide a much-needed service to the English-speaking population, but, to be perfectly honest, I can’t recommend this book to the people in my life. Most of them are sensitive readers who would find this book more offensive than funny.

That having been said, I know several people who would probably pee their pants while reading this book. I’m not going to point fingers *coughmybrotherMattcough*, but it takes a certain personality. With than in mind, I would recommend this to anyone who loves cartoon gore and highly off-color, filter-less humor. I’m not judging. I’m just saying that if you are obsessed with Cards Against’d probably like this book.

My Rating: 2 Stars.

For the sensitive reader: This probably isn’t the book for you. There are a few great comics that you’d probably like, but they are mixed in with a bunch that you would find offensive. It contains crass humor, surprisingly graphic cartoon gore, swearing, and sexual references/innuendo.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Cherry Bombe: The Cookbook - Kerry Diamond & Claudia Wu

Summary: Recipes & stories from 100 of the most creative and inspiring women in food today

It's the first-ever cookbook from the team behind Cherry Bombe, the hit indie magazine about women and food, and the Radio Cherry Bombe podcast. Inside are 100+ recipes from some of the most interesting chefs, bakers, food stylists, pastry chefs, and creatives on the food scene today, including:

Mashama Bailey, chef of The Grey
Jeni Britton Bauer, founder of Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams
Melissa Clark, New York Times columnist and cookbook author
Amanda Cohen, chef/owner of Dirt Candy
Angela Dimayuga, executive chef of Mission Chinese Food
Melissa & Emily Elsen, founders of Four & Twenty Blackbirds
Karlie Kloss, supermodel and cookie entrepreneur 
Jessica Koslow, chef/owner of Sqirl
Padma Lakshmi, star of Top Chef
Elisabeth Prueitt, pastry chef and co-founder of Tartine and Tartine Manufactory 
Chrissy Teigen, supermodel and bestselling cookbook author
Christina Tosi, chef and founder of Milk Bar
Joy Wilson, of Joy the Baker
Molly Yeh, of my name is yeh

The Cherry Bombe team asked these women and others for their most meaningful recipes. The result is a beautifully styled and photographed collection that you will turn to again and again in the kitchen. (Summary and pic from

I was given a free copy of this book from in exchange for an honest review.

My Review: There is pretty much nothing cooler in the world than the premise of this cookbook—a collection of recipes and stories from 100+ of the most creative and inspiring women in food today. I mean—don’t you just want to go out and get this book? You should. It’s really cool and I feel like I’m part of the cool girls club just owning it. Here are a few amazing things:

1.      The cover of this book. It’s beautiful—it’s the prettiest pink and it is made out of this really thick material that makes it feel old timey in the best way—like it could be passed down from mother to daughter and on and on because it’s meant to last and look cool forever. It has beautiful gold writing and a big cheery cherry on the front. There is no mistaking this book that it’s written for women. It’s like a siren call for women who collect cookbooks, I’m telling you. It’s the prettiest thing.
2.      The premise? Love it. I own quite a few cookbooks. I consider myself somewhat of a collector, actually, and I have a wide variety. One would look at my cookbook stash and wonder what the heck I’m going for, but I just believe that I want All The Cookbooks. That being said, I think collaborative cookbooks are a lot of fun, especially when they come together for a really fun premise. I love that these recipes and stories are from top women in the culinary field. I can’t speak to what they’re thinking, but I imagine they were also pretty happy to be a part of such a hip collaboration of their peers. If I were a chef, I would want to be asked to be in this cookbook.
3.      The recipes are a really nice, wide variety of a lot of different things. As you can imagine, there are as many different recipes in this cookbook as there are women in this cookbook. There are recipes from different cultures, areas, varying cuisines, varying styles, varying difficulties. It’s just a really fun, eclectic combination. That being said, many of these recipes look amazing and like something I would totally do (and have done), while there are others that are maybe not something I’ll ever try. Some of the ingredients are difficult to acquire, and the techniques might be more than I’m ready to try (and I’m a pretty knowledgeable home cook), but I still like having them. It’s not the kind of book where I’m telling people that I LOVE every recipe in there because I make them and try them every night, but it is the kind of cookbook that has got some amazing recipes and I’m keeping it for that, let alone the fact that—did I mention this?—that it’s the pretties thing ever. It makes me want to organize my cookbooks by color, which would be super fun and something I would do if I possibly had a place to do that. But I don’t. But I like having this in my kitchen because people think I’m part of the cool girls club.

If you are a person who collects cookbooks (especially if you are a person who collects cookbooks) YOU NEED THIS RIGHT NOW. It is beautiful. It is timeless. It is super cool. Really. You won’t be disappointed. If you are a person who only buys cookbooks because you’re going to use every.single.recipe then maybe you should check it out before making the purchase (it is a little expensive because it’s hardbound and very large), but I still think you’d be happy, especially because you’d be getting a whole bunch of top women chef’s favorite recipes, and that alone is worth a lot. Also: check out their podcast of the same name, “Cherry Bombe.” It’s innovative. It’s creative. It’s inspiring.

My Rating: 4 Stars

For the sensitive reader: This book has some language.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict - Laurie Viera Rigler

Summary:  Jane Mansfield has long wished to escape the confines of life as a gentleman’s daughter in 1813 England.  But awakening in the urban madness of twenty-first-century L.A. – in the body of Courtney Stone – is not what she had in mind.  With no knowledge of Courtney’s life, let alone her world, Jane is in over her head.  What is Jane to make of carriages that run without horses, lights that glow without candles, and people who talk to the air while holding a small object against their ears?  Granted, she does enjoy the shiny glass box in which tiny people act out her favorite book, Pride and Prejudice.  And she savors her first taste of privacy, independence, even the chance to earn her own money.  But when Courtney’s romantic entanglements become her own, Jane realizes that the machines of the twenty-first century are much easier to master than its rules of love.  Can a girl from Regency England survive in a world in which flirting and kissing and even the sexual act raise no matrimonial expectations?  (Summary from book - image from

My Review:  Heads up.  This book is actually the sequel to Confessionsof a Jane Austen Addict which I reviewed a few weeks ago.   Feel free to read that review first if you’d like….but I really wouldn’t bother unless you feel like clicking to up our stats.   I didn’t much like that book, in part because it left a lot of loose ends, but was still curious as to whether this book was more of an extension of the story than a stand-alone sequel.  Only one way to find out (barring Google, of course), so, I read it.  

I have good news and bad news.  

The good news is that this book did answer more of my questions and tie up a few loose ends. It was, in some ways a continuation of the story begun in the first book, with the same main characters, different supporting characters, and a specific character that appears in both books at random times and doles out sage advice.  The bad news: ^^^^ I hated that character.  Like, please-evaporate-because-you-annoy-me kind of hate.  She was a come-and-go character, so I didn’t have to put up with her all the time, but my eyes would involuntarily skim whenever she showed up.  My eyes are picky like that.  They give annoying characters the cold-shoulder.

Now, Rude Awakenings wasn’t all bad.  I found that I enjoyed this book’s Austen-to-L.A. transition much more than I enjoyed the L.A.-to-Austen transition of the author’s last novel.  It was quite entertaining to watch Jane (now Courtney) react to modern conveniences that we take for granted (e.g. electricity, cell phones, cars, airplanes, indoor plumbing, air conditioning, movies, and refrigeration.  It was refreshing to see her delight at the freedoms women enjoy in today's society and the prospect of making her own choices.  

Part of the reason I disliked the last book so heartily is because I wanted more resolution to the real Courtney's story.  And some chemistry between the characters.  Thankfully, I got a little of both in this book, but it wasn't enough.   Eventually the awestruck amnesiac shtick got old and the story collapsed under its own weight.  It just didn't hold my interest.  Old became done and done became tedious and before long I was just mindlessly reading to get. to. the. end.   That is just no way to read.  Even if things do end ‘happily-ever-after’.  This series is going in my ‘donate’ pile.  May someone else find more happiness in them than I did.

My Rating:  2.25 Stars

For the sensitive reader:  A handful of swear words, some suggestive memories that surface, and some mild sexual situations.  

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Language of Flowers - Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Summary: The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, asters for patience, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it’s been more useful in communicating mistrust and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings. Now eighteen and emancipated from the system with nowhere to go, Victoria realizes she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But an unexpected encounter with a mysterious stranger has her questioning what’s been missing in her life. And when she’s forced to confront a painful secret from her past, she must decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness. (Summary and pic from

My Review: I have to admit that the concept of the language of flowers from the Victorian era was not really something on my radar. I think I’ve heard of it, and I thought that I knew some basic flowers (red roses: love, yellow roses: friendship, that’s pretty much it, maybe a few other types of roses...) but boy was I wrong. And actually, I found it to be fascinating.

This is an interesting little book. It was another book club choice (welcome back to the book club, distant readers!) and it’s not what I expected. First of all, the cover makes it seem like some innocent little coming of age novel, possibly one from the Victorian era (because of the discussion of the language of flowers). So from there I have to admit I wasn’t really looking forward to it being my New Favorite Read, but figured I’d probably like it okay, or at least tolerable enough to finish it so that I could participate in the book club discussion. Boy was I wrong. This book cannot be judged by its cover. Within its pages is not a gentle story of Victorian love and girls in petticoats flitting about tending their gardens. Oh, no. This book is about very heavy things—love and loss, the tragedy of a girl who experiences the worst of the foster care system, and those who surround her for whatever reason, whether they’re obligated to or feel like they connect with her or feel sorry for her. It’s a take-no-prisoners type of situation where the main character is actually quite difficult to like. You can empathize with her for sure—she’s obviously seen some very horrible things in her life—but it is hard to actually like her all the time. You can appreciate her talent, you can understand why she does what she does, but she is, for all intents and purposes, quite toxic. That makes the book difficult. But it also makes it easy. Because the story is a complex but satisfying one, and although there is a particular part in the book (which I will not divulge as I don’t want to spoil it) where I really didn’t like what was happening because not only was it horrible but it was also unrealistic. Some of the characters do not act true to what I think they would have done, either, which made for a somewhat manipulative feel of the story line as opposed to something organic. But it is what it is. The book is heavy and yet healing.

One of the coolest parts of the book was the language of flowers. The more I learned about it, the more I liked it. Be sure not to skip the glossary at the end, either, because it is a huge list of flowers and their meanings. We had a great time at book club reading over the meaning of flowers. Some of them were quite hilarious, actually, and archaic in their use but almost charmingly so. I love what the main character does with the meaning of flowers (and again, I have to be vague here) and I love what it becomes as more and more people also embrace the power and meaning of the flowers. It almost has a magical realism element to it, which is fun. I really wish I could go into more detail about this, but I don’t want to spoil what is perhaps the most charming and memorable facet of the book.

This was actually an excellent choice for book club. There was a lot to discuss, and although different people had different feelings about the plot twists, I think everybody liked it. I’m happy that I read it. Even though it has been on my “to read” list for awhile, it’s not one that I would pick up before the other ones that seem to be popping out to be read, and there are a lot of those.

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

For the sensitive reader: There is language and some discussion of sex, although nothing explicit or too disgusting. There are some hard parts to read about abuse in foster home situations. I did not hear any complaints from my book club of some very conservative women.

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Dogist Puppies - Elias Weiss Friedman

Summary: The Dogist Puppies, the follow-up to the New York Times bestseller The Dogist, is a beautiful, funny, and endearing look at puppies. And with their sweet faces, soft bellies, and oversized paws, the puppies in The Dogist Puppies make this book even more irresistible than Friedman’s first one! Presented documentary-style, every portrait tells a story and explores each puppy’s distinct character and spirit. The book presents a gallery of puppy portraits arranged into themes including Ears, Big Paws, Cones of Shame, Learning to Walk, and Fancy Outfits, giving every dog lover something to pore over. With the author’s 2.4 million and growing Instagram followers, The Dogist Puppies is poised to reach a large audience of puppy lovers looking for the perfect gift book this holiday season. (Picture and summary from

My Review: Elias Friedman makes his living taking photos of dogs.

I know.  Right?

Sign me up for that job.

I first discovered Friedman from his instagram account @thedogist, where he frequently posts photos of dogs he's met, along with a little tidbit about them from their owner.  He's met and photographed so many dogs that he's gathered and put a bunch of them into books.  This one focuses on the puppies.

Cute, adorable puppies.

This book if filled to the brim with gorgeous photography of many differing breeds.  Friedman has a stellar way of capturing the perfect pictures of dogs (involving tennis balls and lots of dog treats), and he explains in this book that it's more difficult to catch the perfect shot of a puppy because, well, they're puppies--they do not sit still or focus.  But his patience pays off as you flip through photo after photo of delightful puppies.   

Throughout, he intersperses paragraphs about various breeds, and about the responsibilities that come with getting and owning a puppy.  It's informative as well as entertaining, especially seeing all those cute little puppy faces.  So cute.  Who's a good boy?  Who's a good booooyyy?

My Rating: Four Stars

For the sensitive reader: Nothing offensive. 

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Ninth Hour - Alice McDermott

Summary: A magnificent new novel from one of America’s finest writers—a powerfully affecting story spanning the twentieth century of a widow and her daughter and the nuns who serve their Irish-American community in Brooklyn.

On a dim winter afternoon, a young Irish immigrant opens the gas taps in his Brooklyn tenement. He is determined to prove—to the subway bosses who have recently fired him, to his badgering, pregnant wife—“that the hours of his life belong to himself alone.” In the aftermath of the fire that follows, Sister St. Savior, an aging nun, appears, unbidden, to direct the way forward for his widow and his unborn child.

We begin deep inside Catholic Brooklyn, in the early part of the twentieth century. Decorum, superstition, and shame collude to erase the man’s brief existence. Yet his suicide, although never spoken of, reverberates through many lives and over the decades—testing the limits and the demands of love and sacrifice, of forgiveness and forgetfulness, even through multiple generations.

The characters we meet, from Sally, the unborn baby at the beginning of the novel, who becomes the center of the story, to the nuns whose personalities we come to know and love, to the neighborhood families with whose lives they are entwined, are all rendered with extraordinary sympathy and McDermott’s trademark lucidity and intelligence.

Alice McDermott’s The Ninth Hour is a crowning achievement by one of the premiere writers at work in America today. (Summary and pic from

My Review:  I’ve been sitting here trying to decide what to say about this book. Did I enjoy it? Yes. It’s not like I’m trying to formulate a tactful way to say how horrible it was. No. It was a great book, actually. The story itself isn’t super complex either, so it’s not like I’m trying to decide how to formulate a response to a book that just can’t handle a response. No. I think the reason I’ve had such a hard time deciding what to say about this book is because I want to give it the right amount of gravitas without making it sound like it’s the Bible or something.

This novel is quite short actually, but it took me awhile to read because it’s one of those situations where you can tell the book actually means something, and when you read it, it feels heavy. Not I-just-ate-16-pounds-of-turkey-myself-and-I-want-to-die heavy, but more like the kind of thing where you don’t just read it flippantly while also stirring your chicken noodle soup just to get it done. No, the book commanded more respect than that. I can think of a few reasons why this is.
1.      The writing is beautiful. It’s lyrical and measured. McDermott is a talented, experienced author. This is not her first rodeo, and it shows. The writing flows beautifully in a way that isn’t just not-getting-in-the-way, but in a way that makes it feel purposeful. This kind of writing always makes me take pause. I read very fast, but this type of writing forces me to read more carefully as I know the author is choosing to write what she does for a reason, and I don’t want to miss that reason.
2.      The content was heavy. Nuns who devote their lives to take care of the sick and afflicted are no laughing matter. They see situations most of us would never choose to see, and step in when those in need have been abandoned. There was a certain level of respect that the content itself commands. It was sometimes hard to read about these unfortunate situations, and it made me grateful for these women who so willingly gave their lives. It also made me feel a little sheepish when I complain about the minor things I have to deal with as being a mom of five busy (read: completely bonkers) children.
3.      The story came from almost nowhere, and it floated along so gently I almost missed it. I mean, it was a big deal, don’t get me wrong, but the story is gentle as much as it is heavy. In fact, it quite mirrored the nuns whose lives it followed, which is another sign of that talent of McDermott.

I enjoyed this book quite a lot, actually, and I think that it is one of those books that is quiet enough and cerebral enough in some aspects (but not cerebral in a confusing sort of way) that it may be overlooked by the casual reader. You, dear blog readers, are probably not that. By the very virtue that you read a book blog I think you probably read more than the average person. So go ahead and give this one a try—it’s beautiful, it’s quiet, but also quite eventful and poignant. It is simple and yet complex in a way that only a few authors can pull off.

My Rating: 4 Stars

For the sensitive reader: This book has some minor language and some alluding to an affair but it is clean.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018


May you be snuggled up tonight with your special someone...
...or a good book
...or both.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict - Laurie Viera Rigler

Summary:  After nursing a broken engagement with Jane Austen novels and Absolut, Courtney Stone wakes up and finds herself not in her Los Angeles bedroom or even in her own body, but inside the bed chamber of a woman in Regency England.  Who but an Austen addict like herself could concoct such a fantasy? 

Not only is Courtney stuck in another woman’s life, she is forced to pretend she actually is that woman; and despite knowing nothing about her, she manages to fool even the most astute observer.  But not even her level of Austen mania has prepared Courtney for the chamber pots and filthy coaching inns of nineteenth-century England, let alone the realities of being a single woman who must fend off suffocating chaperones, condomless seducers, and marriages of convenience.  This looking-glass Austen world is not without its charms, however.  There are journeys to Bath and London, balls in the Assembly Rooms, and the enigmatic Mr. Edgeworth, who may not be the familiar species of philanderer after all.  But when Courtney’s borrowed brain serves up memories that are not her own, the ultimate identity crisis ensues.  Will she ever get her real life back, and does she even want to?  (Summary from book - Image from

My Review:  Hi. My name is Mindy and I am an avid Jane Austen fan.  I loved reading Pride & Prejudice and have seen nearly all of the movie adaptations for her various novels.  I especially adore Lost in Austen, a delightfully cheesy, slightly saucy TV mini-series that came out a while back about a girl who travels through her bathroom wall and gets sucked into shenanigans of the Bennets of Longbourne.  In fact, it was that particular story that led me to snap up Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict when I browsed my way into it at our local used bookstore.  What Austen fan hasn’t imagined what life was really like back then?  

Courtney Stone doesn’t know how or why, but she’s woken up in Regency England in a body and a time that is not her own.  Now, people keep calling her ‘Jane’, her memories keep getting mixed up, Jane’s mother wants her to marry someone she’s pretty sure is a scoundrel, and she seems to have been dropped smack in the middle of an upstairs/downstairs relationship with a complete stranger.  Quickly smitten by the dignified manners, elegant ballrooms, and dashing gentlemen, she is equally appalled by the medieval medical practices, bacteria-laden bathing pools, and restrictions placed upon women.  Courtney needs to figure out how she got here – and how to get back! 

This book starts out with an entertaining premise and has some delightful little moments.  There are plenty of Austen references to entertain (including a cameo by the infamous author herself), and I enjoyed some of Courtney’s more modern observations about the Regency era.  However, there were a few things that bugged me about this novel:
  • Courtney has none of her new body’s memories, but all of its skills.  She has all of its skills, but can't seem to understand why her outlandish (for the times) behavior might have lasting repercussions.  
  • Courtney and her main romantic interest registered ZERO on the chemistry-o-meter.  Oh, there were professions of chemistry...the words were there…I just didn’t buy them.  Also the relationship I was rooting for went absolutely nowhere.  It just evaporated.  
  • The question of how Courtney got in this particular ‘sitch’ and how she was going to get back were not answered to my satisfaction.  It’s hard to imagine that they will be answered to anyone’s satisfaction.  That’s all I’ll say about that. 

Unfortunately, the entire story didn’t feel consistent.  It bounced around some times, dragged here, raced there, had some weird moments, and then sort of imploded.  I really wanted to like it, but the ending left so many questions unanswered (and in such an unsatisfactory way) that I can’t in good conscious recommend this book to anyone.  At least, not on its own

Now, bear with me.

When I picked up this book at the used bookstore, I also picked up its sequel, Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict.  (What can I say?  I had credit and they both had the word “Austen” in the title!)  Now, it turns out that the second book tells the reverse story – of a Jane Mansfield who wakes up in Courtney’s apartment in modern day LA.   So, is it possible that Courtney’s story isn’t quite over?  Maybe the end of the first book was more of a transition to the rest of the story?  I’ll have to let you know.  I’m going against my own better judgement here (kinda like Darcy, eh?), reading a sequel when I didn't really like the original, but I want to make sure I’ve given the series a fair shake and I'm mildly interested in the idea of a Regency-era woman trapped in LA.  I will keep you updated and if I finish the sequel, I’ll review it and link it here (<-----i 2="" coming="" it.="" nbsp="" o:p="" read="" review="" ve="">

My Rating; 2.25 Stars  (Translation: Mehhh.)

For the sensitive reader:  Some profanity and suggestive situations.  The main character is a “modern woman” in every sense of the word and far too carefree with her affections than is sensible or acceptable in Regency England.  

Friday, February 9, 2018

Vincent and Theo - Deborah Heiligman

Summary: The deep and enduring friendship between Vincent and Theo Van Gogh shaped both brothers' lives. Confidant, champion, sympathizer, friend, Theo supported Vincent as he struggled to find his path in life. They shared everything, swapping stories of lovers and friends, successes and disappointments, dreams and ambitions. Meticulously researched, drawing on the 658 letters Vincent wrote to Theo during his lifetime, Deborah Heiligman weaves a tale of two lives intertwined and the love of the Van Gogh brothers. (Summary and picture from

My Review: Everyone knows who Vincent Van Gogh is, but I'll admit my interest in the man was piqued several years ago by the episode of Doctor Who where he featured as a main character.  It was a touching episode that let you into the life of this troubled man and how he saw the world, the art all around.

I'm not one to voluntarily pick up a non-fiction or biography book, I'll normally shy away from them unless they have lots of pictures or are in comic form.  However, I heard about this book at a conference I attend every year where they spotlight new books for young readers that have come out, picking the best to share with us, so I put it on my Goodreads to try out later.  

Recently, I saw a trailer for a hand painted, animated film called 'Loving Vincent,' and my interest in the man was sparked yet again, and I remembered this book.

First off, I found this book reads like a painting.  That may sound strange, but the way the author crafts her words and scenes feels like you've stepped into one of Vincent's pieces.  It's vibrant and loose and real.  The author has broken the book into different galleries, so that it's almost as if you're walking through an art gallery of the Van Gogh brothers' lives.  It also read so well.  Even though it clocks in at over 400 pages, it didn't feel long.

It was so fascinating to deeply learn about Vincent, and even more so, learn about his beloved brother, Theo.  I never knew he had a brother before I heard about this book, and as you read it, you start to realize that without Theo, there really would have been no Vincent Van Gogh as we know him today.  Most people know the basics about Vincent, that he cut his ear, that he painted pictures, that he killed himself.  What I love is how in depth this story goes, how much research the author did, and from primary resources too, the letters Theo and Vincent wrote to each other over the years, letting us see into their very souls and what beautiful, troubled souls they were.

The author doesn't shy away from the pain and heartaches, the struggles and the triumphs.  It really makes you feel for both Vincent and Theo, and in Vincent's case (and even Theo's to an extent), it's interesting to see how mental illness was viewed in that time period.  Scholars suspect now that Vincent suffered from many illnesses, such as bipolar disorder, manic depression, anxiety, and even seizures.  But in this time, nobody knew what was wrong or how to help or treat it, so most people were simply committed to mental asylums.  Some of Vincent's last words were "The sadness will last forever."  It's interesting to read Vincent's words to his brother, to see into his troubled mind and how he eventually uses art to try and survive his pain.

It really also gives you a lot of sympathy for Theo, for how much he supported his brother, not only financially, but emotionally too.  I like how the author kept referring to a promise the brothers made at a windmill one day, to always be there for each other, that their bond was stronger above all else.  Even though they went through their dark times where they didn't communicate and were severely frustrated, they always returned to each other, more than brothers, souls tied together in their heartache and love.

My Rating: Four Stars

For the sensitive reader: As a book for young readers, it manages to discuss delicate situations well, but it doesn't shy away from the time period and the bohemian lifestyle. The brothers often visit brothels and prostitutes, and contract diseases spread there.  There is also some very minor swearing.


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