You Do You by Sarah Knight

This is Knight’s third No F*cks Given Guide.  Honestly, I think that this is my favorite.

In The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck, she introduced us to the idea of mental decluttering.  This is a term she uses for the theory of appropriately handing out your f*cks.  For example, this means not going to a baby shower (but sending a gift because we are not assholes) in favor of doing something that you want to do.  (This one stuck with me.  I don’t remember who was at any of my showers and I absolutely hate going to showers so it makes sense to me.  I also ask people not to write me thank you notes because hell is writing thank you notes.)

In Get Your Sh*t Together, she helps to “cut through the bullshit cycle of self-sabotage.”  I expected to like to book a lot because my most googled query is “how to get my shit together.”  It was full of simple, useful ideas that were probably great for someone who doesn’t google this subject quite so frequently.

Now, You Do You was about mental redecorating.  I am kind of in a place in my life where I need this sort of thing and this book was like a little cheerleader for a couple of weeks, riding along in my bag and shouting, “Yeah!  You’re awesome!  Let that freak flag fly!”  everybody needs to hear that there is nothing wrong with them once in a while, even if I actually suspect that there is something wrong with all of us.  We need the confidence booster to remind us that not fitting into the mold doesn’t mean we’re broken.  Knight covers the social contract and why breaking it makes people uncomfortable but also why it should be done.  She covers things that we’re told not to do, things we’re told that we’ll regret, even body issues.  It’s kind of nice.

Above all she reminds us, “If you’re not doing you, you’re screwing you.”  And that’s the kind of tidbit I like to write in my journal so that I don’t forget.

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Meet Me in the Strange by Leander Watts

I ordered this book for the library after reading a review that mentioned how the world had a David Bowie glam feel to it.  I checked it out a couple of weeks after it arrived and it sat in my TBR long enough for me to forget anything that I read about it.  I’m glad, though.  I don’t know what I would have expected if I remembered the summary I read.  I think this one was better to go into blind.

Watts crafts a world that is much different from our own without feeling completely otherworldly.  The city where most of the action takes place is some kind of holy city and there is talk of the New World without there ever being any real explanation of what the New World is.  The whole book has a surreal, otherworldly 1970’s feel to it.  Django Conn, the rock star that everyone loves, definitely feels like Bowie and the fashions that he’s ushered in fit the glam rock scene too and there is a lot of talk about the moon landing and what it might mean.

Davi has always lived in the Angelus Hotel.  His family has owned it for generations and there he has access to almost anything he could want.  He spends his time listening to music in his room and coming and going as he please, him and his sister having chased off any tutors long ago.  When Davi goes to the Django Conn concert, he spots a girl who is completely lost in the music and he can’t help but feel like they are the only two people who really get it.  When the girl, Anna Z, shows up with Davi’s sister’s boyfriend, Davi follows her, desperate to find out who she is.  Anna Z is unlike anyone Davi has ever met before.  She talk-talk-talks about strange things until they seem to be the absolute truth.  But Anna Z is trying to escape and she needs Davi to be more than he ever has in order to free her.

This was an iffy book for me.  It was short and had short chapters, which I loved, and it reminded me a lot of Francesca Lia Block, which is honestly what kept me reading.  There was a lot here and I would like to see it with more ratings and reviews because I definitely think it’s worth the read.  However, I was a little put off by the portrayal of Anna Z.  She’s almost the definition of a “manic pixie dream girl” but I still liked her as a character.  I liked this book enough that I would like to seek out some more of Watts in the future but it is definitely an acquired taste.  Read it if you love music enough to think it’s everything and don’t mind a few strange ideas being twisted page after page.

Stalking God by Anjali Kumar

It’s been a strange year for me.  The Little Dude is now 14 months old and the discussion of what religious views to raise him with have pretty much dissipated completely.  That doesn’t mean that I haven’t been thinking about it, though, and thinking about it has led me on a bit of my own search.  It seemed to me like Kumar’s book might be a bit of a shortcut (by at least cutting some things out) and also might help me to feel less alone in this search.

Kumar decides to take a deep dive into spirituality because she wants to have answers when her daughter starts asking the big questions.  She visits spiritual healers, toys with the idea of hallucinogenic drugs, goes to ceremonial mud rituals and sweat lodges, and even joins a laughing yoga group.  The final two chapters are spent at Burning Man and a silent meditation retreat (that isn’t very silent).  Through all of this, Kumar is honest.  She shares her big leaps and big fails in an entertaining voice and she grapples with the big questions with what reads as a light heart.

Along the way, we learn that big questions cannot be answered in big swoops but only stumbled toward with little steps.  That’s something that everyone on this kind of journey needs to be reminded occasionally.

The Outsider by Stephen King

In my life, a new Stephen King book is all like:

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The excitement started for me a few years ago when a number of things came together to make new releases super exciting.  First, I decided to read all of the new King as it came out (or else I’ll never catch up).  Second, I had a real job making real money that I could spend because I had just bought a house and wasn’t saving for it anymore.  It was glorious.  I went to Kroger on my lunch and drooled over the book for the rest of the day.

Well, I got my hands on it a touch early this time and I cried from delight and unbridled joy.  And, y’all, I was not disappointed.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  I loved the audio, which kept me absolutely hooked.  Then I finished reading the hardcover, because I wasn’t going to be in my car, and that was great too.  Though, I do think that I enjoyed the audio better.

When a local baseball coach who is a pillar of the community is accused of kidnapping, raping, and murdering a boy, it seems the town of Flint City is turned upside down.  The detective in charge of the arrest, Ralph, makes it publicly, at a playoff game.  Ralph has his reasons for this.  Didn’t Terry coach his son a few years earlier?  Hadn’t Ralph considered Terry a friend?  Now this pedophile is surrounded by young boys who trust him.  The evidence is rock solid, anyway: prints and witnesses and DNA.  It’s a shut and close case.

Or is it?

When Terry’s alibi appears to be air tight, Ralph gets the first feelings of doubt.  Then another tragedy strikes and he is forced to dig deeper into the case.  Unfortunately, Ralph is on administrative leave.  When he manages to gather a group of concerned and interested people, including one Holly Gibney of Finders Keepers, Ralph find himself on the trail of someone who could be the real murderer and who may be something not quite human.

I liked this book a lot.  It started off with a solid foot in reality but the reader has doubts before anyone else.  A number of times I caught myself yelling at the characters and tut-tutting to myself.  It was also a very quick read that kept me hooked.

The Secret by Rhonda Byrne

When it came time to give this book a rating, I started at 4 stars but as soon as I did it I had to go back and give it 5.  There are reasons for this.  In the week and a half that I read The Secret, I can honestly say that my life has improved visibly.  I might even say that it has improved vastly.  The reasons for giving 4 stars mostly had to do with presentation.  The hardcover copy I was reading had a shitty binding and I was irked by the design that was obviously meant to make it look ancient and I was bothered by the formatting.  I gave those 4 stars and then I realized how much I didn’t care that those things bothered me.

When you work in libraries, there are books that you just hate on principle because they explode in popularity and you see them everywhere.  This was one of those books.  The reason I decided to give it a try was that I’ve been listening to a podcast called By the Book where they read a self-help book and live it for two weeks and then review.  I love the podcast.  It’s funny and I love self-help and listening to this first episode made me run right out into the stacks and grabbed our copy because, I mean, it’s only 184 pages…  I had realistic hopes and I had the idea that I was going to end up making fun of it a lot with my husband, who is a noted fan of physics and this definitely has some shaky science and stretching.

That being said, I have to confess:  I am, like, 100% in for The Secret.

Here was a reminder of all of the things I practiced when I studied Paganism in the late 90’s/early 2000’s.  Here were the lessons that I lived when I felt the most connected to the world.  I believe that it is within the first five pages that Byrne writes, “Thoughts are things.”  This mantra was said over and over in my early studies.  I get it.  I get that we are all energy.  I get the emit frequencies.  These are things that I have a foundation in that I just kind of forgot.  Reading, I thought of the ways that I have used The Secret without thinking about it.  Things like, I always tell myself that everything works out and everything always works out.  I always say that I’m really lucky and I’m really lucky.  When friends and family kept telling me to go to the doctor and make sure that I was healthy, I kept saying it was a waste of time because I feel great.  I was described as “healthy as an ox” and sent on my way.

I had been having a rough year and I was feeling depressed and had even admitted that I “couldn’t remember the last time I was happy.”  That’s not necessarily true.  I remember being happy and energized and excited back in January but the time between then and the end of April was a wasteland of “wtf can I do to get through this day.” While I read, I started working to apply The Secret to my life.

Here’s what happened:

My mood improved A TON.  One day, I decided to smile for a whole minute while I drove to work and, holy shit, I smiled lots the rest of the day.  Not only that but I felt better.  I used the secret to increase my energy and focus.  I used it to attract a couple of little things to myself, like wiper blades and one of my all time favorite meals.  I was happier, calmer, more relaxed.  I realized how very grateful I was for everything in my life and I started to “see things in color” again.  When I focused on love and not annoyance, I loved my family so much that I could barely stand it.  I applied the secret to a couple of relationships that have given my some cringe worthy moments recently and they were suddenly easy and enjoyable relationships.  When I did have a cringe moment, I quickly recovered instead of feeling like a garbage person the whole day.

Has The Secret solved all of my problems?  Not yet.  And maybe it won’t at all!  Still, I will take all of this awesome and keep it going as long as I can.

The Ghost of Windy Hill by Clyde Robert Bulla

When I was growing up, I used to see this book in the library all of the time.  I loved the cover, dark blue with the silhouette of a creepy house.  I think I may have even owned a copy at one point.  I always wanted to read it but for some reason I never got around to it.  I was thinking about it randomly one day and requested a copy through the library.  Finally, I sat down and read it all in one night.

It’s a simple book, aimed at young readers and not scary at all.

This is the story of a family that is asked to stay at a house in order to prove that it isn’t haunted.  The owner’s wife refuses to live there because she has seen mysterious things.  Windy Hill is a strange place.  There is a boy who cannot walk who begs at the corner and a woman who walks through the woods wearing all white and is very shy.

This was a short, simple story and I really can’t tell you much more without giving it away.  I’m glad that I finally got to read it!

Graphic Friday: The Graphic Canon, vol 1

Hey, hey, hey!  We still do Graphic Friday around here!  I finished one this week and I am psyched to be back on track-kind of.

The Graphic Canon, vol 1 runs from The Epic of Gilgamesh to Dangerous Liasonsi and is comprised of a number of short comics from different artists adapting classics of literature into ye olde sequential art.  On a whole, I loved it, though I am willing to admit that there were some misses for me.  Most of the works were treated with respect but sometimes I felt as if the artists were poking fun at other cultures.  I think that out of all of the comics, I skipped maybe three.  For instance, I had a hard time reading Lysistrata just because the art style jumbled my brain.  But it was also really cool to see Revelations done in comic form.  There were a number of stories that left me awestruck because they were just so well done, things of beauty.

This was a hella big book, 500 pages and large.  If you intend to read it, I would suggest picking your way through it slowly, not carrying it to and from work with you, and not holding it while you read.

A short break, and then I’ll be onto volume 2!