3.5 Star Books · ARC Book Reviews · Book Reviews · contemporary fiction · Sports · Uncategorized

ARC Review | Late Air by Jaclyn Gilbert

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Late Air by Jaclyn Gilbert

Published: November 13, 2018

Publisher: Little A 

Pages: 316

Genres: contemporary fiction, sports

Rating: 3.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: college athletics, the toll life can take on a person, relatable characters 

Foodie Vibes: egg white omelets, dry toast, black coffee — perfectly measured out and calorie counted 

 

Synopsis:

Breadloaf and New York Public Library fellow, Jaclyn Gilbert’s LATE AIR, a tale of a fanatical Yale cross country coach sent reeling into the ghosts of his past after an early morning practice run on the golf course goes horrifically wrong, injuring his star runner and churning up all that has lain dormant around the coach’s fragmented life and marriage.

 

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, the author and publisher for a free ebook copy to review. As always, an honest review from me.

Late Air can best be described as an odd book in a mainstream way. The coach shows he cares about his athletes, himself, his wife and their child through actions. He obsesses about counting things, keeping in control, and producing results. By staying regimented he can achieve what he wants for himself and others. Much of the book is about his goals and coaching his Division 1 athletes. It’s fascinating, sad and a bit horrifying to read about the inner workings of his brain. The book can be seen as a warning against a singular focus mindset. 

Despite the catch being so focused, the story was a bit all over the place. At times I got lost and other times I didn’t really care. There are many life lessons to be learned, but I didn’t really care about the characters. 

All in all, a cautionary tale against obsession, but not as amazing as I had hoped.

 

Answer me this:

What’s your favorite sport?

Let’s get to 5 comments, and I’ll share my favorite sport!

3.5 Star Books · ARC Book Reviews · Book Reviews · LGBTQIA+ Books · non fiction · religion

New Release | She’s My Dad by Jonathan Williams

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She’s My Dad by Jonathan Williams 

Published: November 8, 2018

Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press

Pages: 200

Genres: non fiction, LGBTQIA+, religion

Rating: 3.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: modern day religion, real trans people’s stories, church and the LGBTQIA+

Foodie Vibes: sensible healthy meal to fuel your mind and body

 

Synopsis:

Jonathan S. Williams was three months into pastoring a new, evangelical church plant when his father confessed a secret: he was transgender. His father, Paul, a prominent evangelical pastor, soon became Paula, and Jonathan’s life and ministry went into a tailspin. Feeling betrayed by his mentor and confidante and scared that his church would lose funding and support if Paula’s secret was exposed, Jonathan sunk into depression and alcoholism.

She’s My Dad explores Jonathan’s long and winding journey toward reconciliation, forgiveness, and acceptance of his father as well as his church’s journey to become one of the few fully LGBTQ-inclusive, evangelical churches in America. Jonathan and Paula offer insight and encouragement for those with transgender family members, empathizing with the feelings of loss and trauma and understanding that even being LGBTQ-affirming doesn’t mean the transition of a family member will be easy. Jonathan writes of his family’s continuing evolution, the meaning of remaining loyal to one’s father even when she is no longer a man, the ongoing theological evolution surrounding transgender rights and advocacy in the church, and the unflinching self-scrutiny of a pastor who lost his God only to find God again in his father’s transition.

 

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, the author and publisher for an ARC ebook copy to review. As always, an honest review from me.

She’s My Dad tells the story of Jonathan’s Dad transitioning to her true self, Paula. The book is honest about the challenges, learning process and love that goes into having a family member transition. The process is made even more complex, because Paula is a pastor in the Evangelical church. 

I liked that the chapters alternated perspectives between Jonathan and Paula, allowing the reader to better understand the story from all perspectives. I didn’t realize the focus in religion would be so great. I’m not religious, but I learned a lot about churches excluding or choosing to include LGBTQIA+ people. I think the book could be very helpful and validating for people who are religious and identify as LGBTQIA+. 

While it was hard to hear Jonathan’s struggles about his dad transitioning, it was honest. For awhile he didn’t seem very kind to Paula, which bothered me. I think a lot of people can relate to the loss and confusion they may also feel. I feel like the book focused on the church a lot, and maybe would have been more well rounded by including a wider variety of experiences. 

Overall, an honest, educational and heartfelt book about Jonathan and his dad, Paula’s story. 

  • In the book, Jonathan refers to Paula as his dad, so to my knowledge I’m not misgendering anyone. But if I’m wrong, please correct me.

 

Answer me this:

How can churches work to better serve their LGBTQIA+ congregation?

3.5 Star Books · Book Reviews · coming of age · Literary Fiction · mental health · Young Adult

Drowning In Light by Anna Benoit

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Drowning in Light by Anna Benoit

Published: August 5, 2017

Publisher: Self Published

Pages: 350

Genres: young adult, coming of age, literary fiction, mental health

Rating: 3.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: flawed characters, books about drug abuse

Foodie Vibes: meals you don’t finish, more alcohol and pills can you can comprehend 

 

Synopsis: 

It all started with a single pain pill.

Up until that pill, high school junior Matt Davidson had it all—or, at least, everyone thought he had it all. A star athlete from a good family, no one suspected the trouble lurking beneath Matt’s carefully constructed façade. And Matt was just fine with that. Because if anyone could hear the dark thoughts that cluttered his mind, they’d know what a selfish, miserable mess he really was.

Matt thinks he can stop. He knows he can stop. And he will, just not yet. Because nothing but the pills can give him a break from his thoughts. Nothing else makes him invincible. Nothing else halts the sinking spiral of his depression.

Nothing… until he meets Amy, a mysterious and beautiful classmate who sparks a passion in him he’s never felt before. As their relationship progresses, Matt knows he can’t have them both. But he also knows he needs his pills. And when he’s finally forced to choose, the decision isn’t as easy as he’d hoped.

 

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley and Anna Benoit for an ebook copy to review. As always, an honest review from me.

Drowning in Light tells the story of Matt, a guy in high school. On the outside he seems to have to all. But if you look closer, his dad’s abusive and has alcohol problems of his own. His mom means well, but doesn’t realize the extent of her son’s problems. She’s content to let things go and believe it will all work out in the end. Matt struggles with drug abuse that has him in a downward spiral. He’s miserable, not coping well, and really doesn’t have a handle on anything anymore. 

The book is not your typical manic pixie dream girl type story. It’s real, raw and complex. His friend/girlfriend doesn’t magically make things better. She tries to help, but has her own baggage to deal with so it’s not a perfect recovery story by any means. I like that it’s a fairly realistic story of drug abuse. I don’t have personal experience with drug abuse, so maybe I’m way off base here. 

However, it was very frustrating at times to read about all of his mistakes and refusal for help. I felt very annoyed towards Matt at times. Also his lifestyle wasn’t that enjoyable to read about. Duh, it’s drug abuse, doing whatever you need to score more pills, and lying to everyone. But I guess I was hoping for more positivity at some point. I was also so frustrated with the adults in his life. Nobody was taking responsibility for making sure Matt got the help he so desperately needed. 

All in all, a realistic portrayal of drug abuse that made for a frustrating read. A good book that doesn’t gloss of the difficult parts of mental illness and drug abuse. 

 

Are you a fan of books with flawed characters? 

3.5 Star Books · Book Reviews · Medical · memoir · non fiction

Dispatches from the Heart: Transplanting One Heart and Transforming Many Others by Ed and Paige Innerarity

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Dispatches from the Heart: Transplanting One Heart and Transforming Many Others by Ed and Paige Innerarity

Published: June 6, 2018

Publisher: River Grove Books

Pages: 202

Genres: non fiction, memoir, medical

Rating: 3.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: using faith to get through a difficult time, heartfelt stories, inspiring reads

Foodie Vibes: healthy foods that protect your heart

 

Synopsis:

Ed Innerarity was a regular guy: He liked to fly fish, ride his bike, and laugh with his family, and he attended church every Sunday. He also had a heart condition called cardiomyopathy and needed a new heart. Ed refused to even consider a heart transplant until his doctor gave him two options: Get a heart transplant or check in to a hospice care facility. He didn’t want to die.

Dispatches from the Heart is a compilation of emails from friends, family, and the authors themselves describing Ed’s journey through the heart transplant process. Full of compelling, inspiring, and often witty insights into this life-changing event, Ed and Paige share the challenges and triumphs they both faced before, during, and after Ed’s life-saving surgery.

This book is a tribute to those who helped make a second chance at life possible, an invitation into the intimate inner dialogue of a family ever changed, and a beacon of hope for those who may be part of a similar journey.

 

Review:

I won this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways. Thank you to Goodreads, the author and publisher for the ebook copy. As always, an honest review from me.

Dispatches from the Heart is the life journey of Ed, who needs and ends up receiving a heart transplant in his 60s. The touching insightful memoir highlights the importance of healthy life choices. Even if they can’t prevent illness, they can help the person live their best life during the struggles and potentially slow the progression of the health issue. Ed has cardiomyopathy, a genetic condition in which the heart gets weaker and less efficient over time. Due to his family history he got tested and knew he would eventually succumb to the same disease his mother passed away from. 

The book is a unique look into the journey a lot of families go through. Knowing you need an organ transplant, but not knowing if you will get one. His story is told through different forms: passages from him and his wife looking back, emails from him or his wife, email responses from loved ones, photos, song suggestions, and occasionally short descriptions of the medical terminology. It gives an authentic look what the family was going through during this difficult time. The family looks towards their faith a lot during this challenging time, as they do throughout the rest of life as well. 

I liked that he highlights the important of pre-hab while on the waiting list for a cardiac transplant. It shows the importance of strengthening your body before the transplant, so you can have the best chance for a good outcome. 

While the outlook is extremely positive, it may be difficult for people who are struggling with the transplant process, because they may not see themselves in his process. While he struggled, as well as his family, it wasn’t shown that much. That’s fine. Completely his choice what he shares, but it could alienate some people who are struggling to deal with and relate. 

Overall, an enlightening, inspiring book that shows Ed’s journey in the organ transplant process. A great read for someone who may know someone going through something similar and wants to know more about it. 

3.5 Star Books · ARC Book Reviews · Book Reviews · history · non fiction · POC · politics

New Release | We Can’t Breathe: On Black Lives, White Lies and the Art of Survival by Jabari Asim

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We Can’t Breathe: On Black Lives, White Lies and the Art of Survival by Jabari Asim

Published: October 16, 2018

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Pages: 208

Genres: non fiction, POC, politics, history

Rating: 3.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: African American history, justice

Foodie Vibes: family meals made with love

 

Synopsis:

In We Can’t Breathe, Jabari Asim disrupts what Toni Morrison has exposed as the “Master Narrative” and replaces it with a story of black survival and persistence through art and community in the face of centuries of racism. In eight wide-ranging and penetrating essays, he explores such topics as the twisted legacy of jokes and falsehoods in black life; the importance of black fathers and community; the significance of black writers and stories; and the beauty and pain of the black body. What emerges is a rich portrait of a community and culture that has resisted, survived, and flourished despite centuries of racism, violence, and trauma. These thought-provoking essays present a different side of American history, one that doesn’t depend on a narrative steeped in oppression but rather reveals black voices telling their own stories.

 

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press and Jabari Asim for an ARC ebook copy to review. As always, an honest review from me.

We Can’t Breathe describes the injustices and outright atrocities committed against black lives throughout U.S. history. Spanning from before the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement to current day. 

A great compilation of important historical moments and movements. Some information I knew, some was new to me, and all was put together to form an impactful book. The author combines facts with anecdotes from his life for the biggest impact and understanding.

However, at times some chapters seemed disjointed from the common theme of the book. It was all relevant important information, but those sections took me awhile to make sense of them, in terms of the greater story. Also some chapters captured my attention more than others, but this is common in many non fiction books.

Overall, an important relevant book that many people should educate themselves with.

3.5 Star Books · Book Reviews · Comics/Graphic Novels · politics · War

Graphic Novel | Yallah Bye by Joseph Safieddine

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Yallah Bye by Joseph Safieddine, illustrated by Kyungeun Park

Published: January 16, 2015

Publisher: Le Lombard

Pages: 168

Genres: comics, graphic novels, political, war

Rating: 3.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: political graphic novels, engaging ways to bring complex events to the masses

Foodie Vibes: a few drops of water at the bottom of your glass

 

Synopsis:

July 2006. Gabriel El Chawadi says goodbye to his family at the Paris airport as they leave for their summer vacation in southern Lebanon. But a conflict at the Israel-Lebanon border escalates into a full-blown aerial attack, and for the next few harrowing weeks, the family hides for cover with friends and relatives, watches helplessly as people and buildings are destroyed all around them, and hope against all hope that France will evacuate them to safety. Back in Paris, Gabriel watches the events unfold on television with growing horror and sends out desperate calls for help to anyone who will listen.

 

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, Le Lombard, the author and illustrator for an ebook copy to review. As always, an honest review from me.

Yallah Bye is a beautifully illustrated, heartbreaking graphic novel. It shows the atrocities of war through it’s depiction of families struggling to survive a conflict at the Israel-Lebanon border. It shows how different people are coping with the terror, but yet are still all terrified, hurting and trying to get through each minute. The people’s fear of getting bombed is palpable throughout the intense writing and illustrations. 

Yallah Bye is a great way to learn about parts of history that often overshadowed by bigger wars. I can see it being required reading in high school history or literature classes, as a foray into teaching about these conflicts. A great way to get teens and young adults excited about history! 

However, I still didn’t fully understand all of the political and historical aspects mentioned throughout. I’m not that familiar with these, and the graphic novel can only cover so much. I wish there was a little bit more education for people who are a bit unfamiliar with the political scene during the conflicts. 

All in all, Yallah Bye is great graphic novel that educates, entertains, and connects on a human level with the readers. 

 

Have you ever read a graphic novel/comic for education purposes?

What was your experience like?

3.5 Star Books · ARC Book Reviews · Book Reviews · Christmas · contemporary romance · Holidays · romance

Release Day | Mutts and Mistletoe by Natalie Cox

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Mutts and Mistletoe by Natalie Cox

Published: October 9, 2018

Publisher: G. P. Putnam’s Sons

Pages: 320

Genres: romance, contemporary romance, holiday, Christmas

Rating: 3.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: lots and lots of dogs, feel good but slightly grumpy holiday reads, ridiculous holiday sweaters

Foodie Vibes: eggnog because what else?

 

Synopsis:

Her boyfriend has left her for his personal trainer, her mother has absconded with her latest husband for the holidays, and–adding insult to (literal) injury–her London apartment has just been destroyed by a gas leak. Single, mildly concussed and temporarily homeless, Charlie realizes there’s only one place to go: Cozy Canine Cottages, where she’ll spend the season looking after her cousin Jez’s doggy day care center. And if she’s not exactly a dog person, well, no one has to know…

But her plans for a quiet Christmas in a quaint country village are quickly dashed. Peggy the pregnant beagle and Malcolm the anxious Great Dane seem determined to keep her up all night. A strange man has been casing her cousin’s house. And where is Cal, the unbearably patronizing but disturbingly handsome local vet, when she needs him?

As the days tick down to Christmas, Charlie’s life has never felt so out of control–but with some help from her new four-legged friends, she just might learn a thing or two about living in the moment, embracing the unexpected and opening herself up to love…

 

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, G.P. Putnam’s Sons and Natalie Cox for an ARC ebook copy to review. As always, an honest review from me.

What’s not to like about lots of dogs, their cute antics, and a very attractive local vet, while you’re on vacation for the holidays? Except the fact that the vacation is being forced to care for your cousin’s dog kenneling business when you have no idea how to care for a dog, much less 7 of them including a very pregnant pooch. And that you’re forced to live here for the time being, because your apartment is completely uninhabitable at the moment. Needless to say Charlie isn’t in the mood for Christmas this year. 

So it’s your typical Hallmark over the top sappy holiday romance. In theory I liked that the characters and circumstances were more relatable. But in reality it became a bit annoying hearing the complaining after awhile. The cute antics and faux pas didn’t last long. I think my biggest issue is that I didn’t really connect with the main character. I was hoping for more of an escapism type holiday book, not a problem filled reality of the typical holidays. 

Over time the characters did grow on me. Also the last 50 pages almost completely made up for the negatives. I can’t say what happens, but it’s so cute and fun. 

Overall, a mix Christmas stocking of a book. A realistic version of the holidays that to which many people can probably relate. 

 

Question: What is your favorite holiday tradition?

3.5 Star Books · ARC Book Reviews · Book Reviews · contemporary romance · fiction · Literary Fiction · Women's Fiction

New Release | A Dancer’s Guide to Africa by Terez Mertes Rose

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A Dancer’s Guide to Africa by Terez Mertes Rose

Published: October 2, 2018

Publisher: Classical Girl Press

Pages: 374

Genres: fiction, literary fiction, women’s fiction, contemporary romance

Rating: 3.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: self exploration through travel, the world of dance, experiencing different cultures

Foodie Vibes: the African version of American pumpkin pie created with American spices and African fruits/vegetables

 

Synopsis:

Fiona Garvey, ballet dancer and new college graduate, is desperate to escape her sister’s betrayal and a failed relationship. Vowing to restart as far from home as possible, she accepts a two-year teaching position with the Peace Corps in Africa. It’s a role she’s sure she can perform. But in no time, Fiona realizes she’s traded her problems in Omaha for bigger ones in Gabon, a country as beautiful as it is filled with contradictions.

Emotionally derailed by Christophe, a charismatic and privileged Gabonese man who can teach her to let go of her inhibitions but can’t commit to anything more, threatened by an overly familiar student with a menacing fixation on her, and drawn into the compelling but potentially dangerous local dance ceremonies, Fiona finds herself at increasing risk. And when matters come to a shocking head, she must reach inside herself, find her dancer’s power, and fight back.

Blending humor and pathos, A DANCER’S GUIDE TO AFRICA takes the reader along on a suspense-laden, sensual journey through Africa’s complex beauty, mystery and mysticism.

 

Review:

I won this book through a Goodreads Giveaway. Thank you to Goodreads, Classical Girl Press and Terez Mertes Rose for a free ARC ebook copy. As always, an honest review from me.

A Dancer’s Guide to Africa is the story of a young woman who went to Africa with the Peace Corps to appease her father with a real job, instead of dancing. She learns so much about herself, other cultures, and people in general. I loved reading about the experiences the Peace Corps workers had in different cities, so far away from their homes. It absolutely captivated me. The writing and storytelling is beautiful. Perfectly blending the art of ballet and African dance into a wonderful symphony of words. I felt as if I was right there with the characters. The story is fictional, but it almost reads as a memoir. I actually thought it was for a bit. 

However, some of the characters were very arrogant, judgmental, and/or whiny. Not to say I would be any better in their situation, but at times it became frustrating to read when these segments went on for many chapters. 

Overall the book is a beautiful read that absolutely transports you to another world filled with dance, spirit, and passion. I definitely recommend giving it a read. 

 

How many of you have been to Africa? 

3.5 Star Books · ARC Book Reviews · Book Reviews · Literary Fiction

ARC Review | When All Is Said by Anne Griffin

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When All Is Said by Anne Griffin

Published: March 5, 2019

Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books

Pages: 356

Genres: literary fiction

Rating: 3.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: heartbreakingly beautiful novels, stories that honor the older generations

Foodie Vibes: liquor that reminds you of certain loved ones

 

Synopsis:

A tale of a single night. The story of a lifetime.

If you had to pick five people to sum up your life, who would they be? If you were to raise a glass to each of them, what would you say? And what would you learn about yourself, when all is said and done?

This is the story of Maurice Hannigan, who, over the course of a Saturday night in June, orders five different drinks at the Rainford House Hotel. With each he toasts a person vital to him: his doomed older brother, his troubled sister-in-law, his daughter of fifteen minutes, his son far off in America, and his late, lamented wife. And through these people, the ones who left him behind, he tells the story of his own life, with all its regrets and feuds, loves and triumphs.

Beautifully written, powerfully felt, When All Is Said promises to be the next great Irish novel.

 

Review:

I won this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways. Thank you to Goodreads, Thomas Dunne Books and Anne Griffin for an ARC copy. As always, an honest review from me. 

My rating is actually 3.5/5 stars but since there aren’t half stars I always round up. 

When All Is Said is a heartbreakingly beautiful and poignant piece of literary fiction. The main character, ____________, is near the end of his life. When we find him, he’s in a bar ordering very specific drinks one evening. One drink for each important person that he would like to toast.

Each chapter is about one important person over his lifetime. The chapters about his late wife and sister in law are especially touching. The writing is elegant without being overly pretentious or stuffy. I think this book is a wonderful way to tell the stories of a person’s life.

However it made for some very long chapters. Over 50 pages for most to be exact. I hate stopping in the middle of chapter, which I was forced to do. It’s not realistic to finish up the few pages left in the chapter when you have 35 pages left. Also, while some of the people’s stories were captivating, others didn’t hold my attention at all. Very hit or miss. 

All in all, When All Is Said is beautiful, sad, and relatable. A wonderful way to honor the older adults in society. Often their feelings and wishes are overlooked with others telling them what they must do. The author tells a story of a man honoring his own life and making decisions for himself. The book will stay with me for a long time. 

 

Have you read this book yet? What did you think?

3.5 Star Books · ARC Book Reviews · Book Reviews · Essays · memoir · mental health · non fiction

ARC Book Review | Nobody Cares by Anne T. Donahue

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Nobody Cares by Anne T. Donahue

Published: September 18, 2018 

Publisher: ECW Press

Pages: 240 

Genres: non fiction, memoir, essays

Rating: 3.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: relatable tell it like it is memoirs, people in their 20s and 30s who don’t have it all together but feel like they should 

Foodie Vibes: wine, noodles with butter because it’s cheap and helps numb out life

 

Synopsis:

From the author of the popular newsletter That’s What She SaidNobody Cares is a frank, funny personal essay collection about work, failure, feminism, and the messy business of being alive in your twenties and thirties.

As she shares her hard-won insights from screwing up, growing up, and trying to find her own path, Anne T. Donahue’s debut book offers all the honesty, laughs, and reassurance of a late-night phone call with your best friend. Whether she’s giving a signature pep talk, railing against summer, or describing her own mental health struggles, Anne reminds us that failure is normal, saying to no to things is liberating, and that we’re all a bunch of beautiful disasters — and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, ECW Press and Anne T. Donahue for an ARC ebook copy for review. As always, an honest review from me.

My rating is actually 3.5 stars, but since there aren’t half stars I always round up.

Nobody Cares is funny, poignant, relatable and ridiculous in all the best ways. Through the author’s essays we experience her highs and lows, struggles and life lessons learned. She’s like the older sister/friend with the cautionary life tales to help you feel less alone and avoid her mistakes. Number 1 being figure out your stuff, be vulnerable and don’t be afraid to seek therapy. It will save you a lot of difficulty and heartache along the years.

I really liked her honesty. She says the things that people often sugar coat, without going out of her way to be edgy and dramatic. Her story is so dang (damn? I still feel bad about swearing in reviews, like I’m going to get in trouble for doing so) relatable. The life lessons that she passes on to the reader are validating.

However, some of the stories bounce around a bit so there’s an adjustment when reading. Also, it became redundant reading about her making the same mistakes multiple times. While it’s authentic to her and life in general, I felt frustrated after awhile.

Overall, an incredibly relatable and funny memoir of essays. I think the tone of the book is best summer up by this quote.

“In our small section of the galaxy, many of us are dealing with things that aren’t ours enough to talk about, but are still ours enough that we have to deal with them.” Bam! That’s so it.

 

What advice would you give your 20 something year old self?