The Great American Read on PBS

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The moment we’ve all been waiting for . . .

a Television Show about books!

That’s right, The Great American Read premieres tonight on PBS

 

I’m so excited for a show that celebrates reading. Of course I’ve perused the website already here and taken the quiz to see how many of the books I’ve read so far. My answer is 18 books out of 100. 

Take the quiz yourself here and see how many books you’ve already read. Who’s got me beat at 18?

The premise for the show makes my book nerd heart so very happy. I really hope the show lives up to all the hype!

 

So get ready all you readers, set aside the time, and let me know if you will be watching The Great American Read on PBS!

 

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Book Review: Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History by Bill Schutt

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Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History by Bill Schutt

Published by Algonquin Books on February 14, 2017

Pages: 332

Genres: non fiction, science, history, anthropology, biology, nature, psychology

Rating: 4 stars

Recommend to fans of: books that include a comprehensive mix of multiple sciences to uncover the facts, science nerds

Read with food: 100% vegan salad

 

Synopsis: 

For centuries scientists have written off cannibalism as a bizarre phenomenon with little biological significance. Its presence in nature was dismissed as a desperate response to starvation or other life-threatening circumstances, and few spent time studying it. A taboo subject in our culture, the behavior was portrayed mostly through horror movies or tabloids sensationalizing the crimes of real-life flesh-eaters. But the true nature of cannibalism–the role it plays in evolution as well as human history–is even more intriguing (and more normal) than the misconceptions we’ve come to accept as fact.

In Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History, zoologist Bill Schutt sets the record straight, debunking common myths and investigating our new understanding of cannibalism’s role in biology, anthropology, and history in the most fascinating account yet written on this complex topic. Schutt takes readers from Arizona’s Chiricahua Mountains, where he wades through ponds full of tadpoles devouring their siblings, to the Sierra Nevadas, where he joins researchers who are shedding new light on what happened to the Donner Party–the most infamous episode of cannibalism in American history. He even meets with an expert on the preparation and consumption of human placenta (and, yes, it goes well with Chianti).

Bringing together the latest cutting-edge science, Schutt answers questions such as why some amphibians consume their mother’s skin; why certain insects bite the heads off their partners after sex; why, up until the end of the twentieth century, Europeans regularly ate human body parts as medical curatives; and how cannibalism might be linked to the extinction of the Neanderthals. He takes us into the future as well, investigating whether, as climate change causes famine, disease, and overcrowding, we may see more outbreaks of cannibalism in many more species–including our own.

Cannibalism places a perfectly natural occurrence into a vital new context and invites us to explore why it both enthralls and repels us.

Review: 

A book about cannibalism seems like it would be weird and horrific, but it was actually quite intriguing. That is not to say I want to engage in cannibalism … actually quite the opposite.

The book discusses the history of cannibalism in animals and humans, and the mainly evolutionary and survival purposes for the practices. Young animals, especially amphibians, would engage in cannibalism by eating other smaller animals of the same species to increase their chance of survival. I found this fact intriguing and informative, as my preconceived notions were that cannibalism was only creep psychotic serial killers.

In humans, the practice of medical cannibalism throughout history occurred in some cultures. Mainly as an attempt to cure health conditions or periods of extreme famine.

Overall, I found this book to be incredibly interesting. The author is truly trying to understand the practice of cannibalism, not sensationalize it. A bit of an odd book choice for some, but if the topic intrigues you, then I definitely recommend this book.

 

So . . . I want to know, what’s the weirdest book you’ve read?

Reader Confessions Tag

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While I didn’t get officially get tagged for this, Life Should Be Lit said anyone who wants to do the tag, can … so here we go

Don’t forget to check out her blog here: Life Should Be Lit

 

My Reader Confessions

 

  1. Have you ever damaged a book?

Probably … I’m fairly careful with my books so I don’t damage them too much. Although a few days ago I knocked over a mug of tea and spilled some on the front cover of a paperback. Not cool. Dried it off, and the book’s okay in case all of were wondering. 

2. Have you ever damaged a borrowed book?

Nope. One of the books I spilled water on was a library book, but it was hardcover with a plastic covering on it, so no harm done. 

I have lost a library book though … left it in my human anatomy lecture hall in college. Definitely had to pay the $25 to replace it.

I’m fairly careful with my books and items in general, so no horror stories here.

  1. How long does it take you to read a book?

That completely depends on how many books I’m reading at once. I usually read 2-3 books at a time. If I’m only reading one book, then 3-4 days for fiction or memoir. A non fiction book will probably take me about a week. 

  1. Books that you haven’t finished?

Check my DNF list on Goodreads here: DNFs on Goodreads

I used to rarely DNF books, but I’ve learned that life is too short to read books that I’m not enjoying. 

  1. Hyped/popular books that you didn’t like?

The Hunger Games and Twilight Series

Truthfully, I’ve never read them so I can’t officially say that I didn’t like them …. but no matter how many people have absolutely raved about them, I’ve had absolutely no desire to read either series. 

  1. Is there a book you wouldn’t tell anyone you were reading?

No, I don’t think so. I might not tell every person, every book I’m reading, but I put it all on Goodreads, so it’s pretty much an open book.  Pun intended.

Am I going to tell my Dad about the romance novel I’m reading? Errr, … probably not, but if he asked me, I wouldn’t lie either.

  1. How many books do you own?

Books from my childhood: a lot, probably over 200. My sisters and I shared them, so they’re not all strictly mine. 

Books I’ve acquired as an adult: maybe 50. I rarely reread books, and I borrow a lot from the library so I don’t have a huge physical collection. I think I’m a rarity in this case.

  1. Are you a fast or slow reader?

Fairly fast 

  1. Do you like to buddy read?

No!

Probably an unpopular opinion, but I don’t like feeling pressured to read a specific book in a certain time period as to not let someone else down. 

Also, reading is my escape from other people and the stress of the world, so I don’t really want to make it a social thing for me. Which makes no sense, that I’m blogging about reading, active on Goodreads, and social media talking about books … but I think it’s because I can choose when I want to share my reading experiences. 

  1. If you were only allowed to own one book, what would it be and why?

Doesn’t really matter to me. I rarely reread books, so there’s not one specific book that I would have to reread again and again. Maybe a cookbook, that seems practical. 

Now, that I keep thinking about it, I would own a Kathy Reichs book. She’s the author that got me back into reading as a late high schooler/early college student. So here books will always hold a special place in my heart.

 

I tag: all of you

I want to hear all of your responses to this book tag! So if you write a post about it, send me the link in the comments so I can check it out.

Peace and love,

Amanda

 

Book Review: Don’t You Ever: My Mothers and Her Secret Son by Mary Carter Bishop

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Don’t You Ever: My Mothers and Her Secret Son by Mary Carter Bishop 

Published by Harper on July 3, 2018 

Pages: 256 

Genres: memoir, non fiction

Rating: 2.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: unique memoirs, stories about unfair childhoods

Read with food: fried chicken and ice cream … perfect for siblings catching up after years apart

 

Synopsis:

From a prizewinning journalist, Mary Carter Bishop, a moving and beautifully rendered memoir about the half-brother she didn’t know existed that hauntingly explores family, class, secrets, and fate.

Applying for a passport as an adult, Mary Carter Bishop made a shocking discovery. She had a secret half-brother. Her mother, a farm manager’s wife on a country estate, told Mary Carter the abandoned boy was a youthful “mistake” from an encounter with a married man. There’d been a home for unwed mothers; foster parents; an orphanage.

Nine years later, Mary Carter tracked Ronnie down at the barbershop where he worked, and found a near-broken man—someone kind, and happy to meet her, but someone also deeply and irreversibly damaged by a life of neglect and abuse at the hands of an uncaring system. He was also disfigured because of a rare medical condition that would eventually kill him, three years after their reunion. During that window, Mary Carter grew close to Ronnie, and as she learned more about him she became consumed by his story. How had Ronnie’s life gone so wrong when hers had gone so well? How could she reconcile the doting, generous mother she knew with a woman who could not bring herself to acknowledge her own son?

Digging deep into her family’s lives for understanding, Mary Carter unfolds a sweeping story of religious intolerance, poverty, fear, ambition, class, and social expectations. Don’t You Ever is a modern Dickensian tale about a child seemingly cursed from birth; a woman shattered by guilt; a husband plagued by self-doubt; a prodigal daughter whose innocence was cruelly snatched away—all living in genteel central Virginia, a world defined by extremes of rural poverty and fabulous wealth.

A riveting memoir about a family haunted by a shameful secret, Don’t You Ever is a powerful story of a woman’s search for her long-hidden sibling, and the factors that profoundly impact our individual destinies. 

Review: 

I received this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways. As always, an honest review.

I have a lot of mixed feelings about Don’t You Ever, but overall I finished the book feeling quite neutral and unengaged about it all. The author tells the story of her simple but well loved life compared to her brother’s much more difficult upbringing. He was treated much differently by his parents and society. Mary Carter was even told that he was her cousin, not brother, which is incredibly telling.

Eventually the author learns of her brother and reunites with him. He’s had a difficult adulthood as well, with multiple health problems. Mary Carter and Ronnie learn about each other. During this process she uncovers many of the reasons for her family’s actions. Emotions such as fear, guilty, shame and self doubt drove their actions.

Don’t You Ever speaks to the time and place in which these people grew up. Through her family we learn a lot, but I still didn’t connect with them. I felt myself reading the pages just to finish the book. It’s not a bad book, but I mainly felt indifferent to the story.

Maybe other readers will connect more to the characters and story. 

Book Review: Believe Me: My Battle with the Invisible Disability of Lyme disease by Yolanda Hadid

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Believe Me: My Battle with the Invisible Disability of Lyme disease by Yolanda Hadid

Published by: St. Martin’s Press on September 12, 2017

Pages: 288

Genres: memoir, autobiography, health

Rating: 5 stars

Recommend to: people living with chronic illness, caregivers, really almost anyone 

Read with food: watermelon, aloe and honey slush to nourish your body with a tasty treat 

 

Synopsis:

From the star of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills comes an emotional and eye opening behind-the-scenes look at her descent into uncovering the mystery of chronic Lyme disease.

In early 2011, just before her wedding to David Foster, Yolanda fell ill. From an outspoken, multi-tasking social butterfly she became trapped in a paralyzing mental cocoon. She suffered from severe debilitating fatigue, migraines, joint pain, anxiety, insomnia, Bell’s palsy, tremors, muscle weakness, severe brain fog, word retrieval difficulty, memory loss and intermittent loss of eyesight. As a diehard health fanatic, Yolanda always knew she had an infection in her brain, but due to the lack of proper diagnostic testing she landed in a dark maze of medical establishments that were quick to treat her symptoms but without clear answers to the cause. She fought tirelessly and traveled the world to find an answer; her determination left no stone unturned. Her perfect marriage became strained and let to divorce; but the strong bond with her children Gigi, Bella and Anwar was her motivation to fight through the darkest days of her life.

After a year of searching, discharged by Cedars Sinai with a chronic fatigue label, Yolanda Hadid was finally diagnosed with chronic neurological Lyme disease. She was honest, unapologetic, and raw in how she shared her battle with Lyme disease on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and her social media outlets. She received thousands of e-mails and letters, and met families who were suffering, lost, and scared, throughout her journey. She calls, gives advice, and lends support whenever she can to share her words of wisdom and hope.

In her book, Yolanda shares details of the western and holistic treatments she has done over the past five years, lab results, intimate details of her personal diary; her spiritual growth; the trials and tribulations regarding the stigma around chronic Lyme disease, how her relationships on camera and off have been affected by her illness; and how she uncovered the mystery of her own chronic disease through research, hard work and in a matter of fact and systematic fashion.

Review:

Let me start by saying this: I always have a blank sheet of paper as my bookmark to jot down notes as I read, to refer back to later while writing my book reviews. I didn’t write down any notes for this book. Not one! That wasn’t on purpose. I was completely engrossed in Believe Me, and forgot to do anything but read.

I’ve never watched the Real Housewives franchise, so I wasn’t coming into this book as a fan of the show. But I left this reading experience as a fan of Yolanda Hadid. Her strength, courage, tenacity, and kindness in the face of a very difficult chronic illness is inspiring. I learned so much about her journey and battle for health. She embraces conventional and unconventional medical treatments, doing her research to find out what may help her. I learned so much from this book, and I can’t recommend it enough. 

The only slight downfall that I should mention is that Yolanda had a lot of unconventional, untested by the FDA treatments, that cost a lot of money. I hope that people don’t randomly think to try all the treatments without extensive research and guidance by a health care provider. She does warm about this multiple times throughout. 

Believe Me is a book I will be thinking about for a long time. 

Book Review: Heart Like Mine by Maggie McGinnis

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Heart Like Mine by Maggie McGinnis

Published by: St. Martin’s Paperbacks on April 5, 2016

Pages: 368

Genres: romance, contemporary romance, contemporary fiction

Rating: 3 stars

Recommend to fans of: sweet romances, hospital romances, good people who experience personal growth, Grey’s Anatomy

Read with food: tiramisu and red wine ~ the perfect pairing to go along with the romantic dates between Joshua and Delaney

 

Synopsis:

Delaney Blair loves her job at Echo Lake’s Mercy Hospital, where she’s developed a reputation for being smart, fair, and driven. When she’s assigned to cut funding, she has to temporarily relocate her office, put on borrowed scrubs, and go toe-to-toe with Dr. Joshua Mackenzie, the interim head of the pediatrics department. His killer smile and rock-star body are distractions Delaney could do without, but she’s determined to stay focused while she brings his budget into line. It’s not working.

Beloved by his colleagues and patients alike, Josh is too busy caring for sick kids to talk numbers with the sexy, stiletto-clad Delaney. Every time they talk business, tensions run high…but so does a powerful attraction neither of them can ignore. When an emergency brings Mercy to its knees, Delaney and Josh must work together to save lives. But can they also find a way into each other’s hearts?

Review:

I’ve had Heart Like Mine on my TBR list for awhile now. I finally got around to reading it, but sadly I was a bit disappointed.

The gernal story line and romance was only okay. I enjoyed it more as a contemporary fiction than romance novel. The romance supposedly checked all the right boxes: lakes at sunset, handsome doctor who loves kids, great Italian food, etc. But it didn’t really draw me in that much.

What did really pull me in was the eye opening experiences that Delaney had on the pediatrics floor. Forced to make budget cuts to the pediatrics unit, she is invited to spend time there by none other than Dr. Joshua Mackenzie. He wants her to really learn how important all the hospital services are to the sick children. Spending time on the unit, Delaney grows as a person and rekindles her passion for her career. I really enjoyed this story line.

I also really appreciated the in depth justification of all the services and personnel required to care for the children. I think it will definitely open some people’s eyes.

I wouldn’t recommend it for the romance, but Heart Like Mine ended up redeeming itself in the end. 

 

Reader Question . . . how do you feel when a book that you’ve so wanted to read ends up being a bit underwhelming? Comment below and let me know! Or just say hi!

Mental Health Awareness Through Reading

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

The more we talk, tweet, write blog posts about mental health, the more people are aware of these conditions. 

I think there’s more to awareness than just the basic “hey, now more people know about depression or binge eating disorder or schizophrenia”. 

Truly understanding the challenges, struggles, and daily life of a person who deals with these mental health conditions is more ideal.

 

What better way to do this, than through books? 

 

Reading is a unique way to experience the human condition of mental health. As many of you all know, books allow us to transport ourselves to another country, lifestyle, personal situation, etc.

Below I have listed some books that center around mental health. It’s definitely not inclusive, but rather books that I have read, enjoyed, and think represent mental health and illness well. 

 

Fiction

Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh (depression)

Black Box by Julie Schumacher (depression)

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn (agoraphobia, anxiety)

Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Temple (anxiety, panic disorders)

OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu (OCD)

This is How I Find Her by Sara Polsky (bipolar disorder)

Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert (bipolar disorder)

Paperweight by Meg Haston (eating disorder)

Saving Ruth by Zoe FIshman (eating disorder)

Pretend We Are Lovely by Noley Reid (eating disorder, grief)

Speak by Laure Halse Anderson (trauma) – also check out the newly released graphic novel by the same name

Cutters Don’t Cry by Christine Dzidrums (self harm)

 

Memoirs

When They Call You a Terrorist: a Black Live Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors (mental health system)

Floating: a Life Regained by Joe Minihane (depression, anxiety)

Pound for Pound: A Story of One Woman’s Recovery and the Shelter Dogs Who Loved Her Back to Life by Shannon Kopp (eating disorder)

In the Water They Can’t See You Cry by Amanda Beard (depression, bulimia, self harm, alcohol & drug abuse)

 

If you want more information about about mental health in general visit NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness at https://www.nami.org

Peace and love, 

Amanda