Thursday, November 19, 2015

"Almost Interesting: The Memoir" by David Spade

I am a total Saturday Night Live fan, so I was very excited to learn that David Spade was writing a memoir. After seeing him promote his book a couple times on morning news shows, I was even more excited to hear that he, himself, would be the narrator for the audio version. "Almost Interesting:The Memoir" is David Spade's retelling of his early life,his time on SNL, and the friendships he made with other SNL cast members.

This memoir starts at the beginning. Spade explains his life as a child. From his father leaving, growing up poor but not realizing how poor they are, being bullied at school for being so small and short, life with his stepfather, and even his quest for girls. Of course, it's all told in his sarcastic, smart-ass, no nonsense tone of voice which makes it even more hilarious. I really do feel like autobiographies and memoirs should always be listened to if the audio version is by the subject themselves. It just adds so much more to the experience. 

We are then told about his early days of trying to break into the comedy scene. He tells of his time on SNL and how he watched his friends rise to stardom while feeling like he wasn't getting the same caliber of recognition.  We do hear stories about Chris Farley and his movie making time during Tommy Boy. Spade always seems honest and willing to address most rumors. 

Then the story kind of fizzles out. He doesn't really get into his years after SNL on sitcoms, which was surprising since he confessed that sitcoms were his goal when first getting into comedy. The book ends with the infamous "Skippy Attack", but has absolutely no mention of the last 15 years of his life.

I would have loved to hear about why he chose to leave SNL, his struggles landing roles on sitcoms, and of course what he has been up to since 2000. This book was interesting... almost interesting. Funny stories about the past but I wish he also talked about his present life.

I give 4 stars for the first 2/3 of the book and 2 stars for the last 1/3, which I will average to a 3 star rating.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Sara Raasch's "Ice Like Fire"

I am not sure that I actually enjoyed this book or if I just raced to finish it because I loved the first book of this series.

 Sara Raasch's Ice Like Fire is the second book in the Snow Like Ashes series. This second book is slow. Very slow. Nothing even remotely exciting happens until the very end. The story was constantly moving and hinting towards something- a major achievement, a battle, or even an unforeseen plot twist- but for the majority I was just being strung along. I kept reading, in hopes of some excitement and thinking I would soon get there, but then I was left hanging and having to wait for book 3 to be published.

The first problem I had was the crazy amount of character names thrown out at me from the start. It has been a year since the first book, and now I am expected to remember every side character and their purpose? Really? To add insult to injury I was also supposed to remember every place previously mentioned in this vast magical empire as well. I just felt confused. I had remembered main characters and the gist of the previous book, but this was a bit much.From the get-go this book was a mess. I spent a lot of the beginning of the book going to Book Series Recap so I wasn't lost.

This book is told in first person narrative, switching back and forth between Meira and Mathers' points of view.  I am not sure why Raasch chose this path because both characters are pretty much obsessing, pondering and wallowing about the same issues. It is non-stop repetitive emotions and sorrows. Constant self pity and being anxious about what to do next for the Kingdom of Winter, but doing nothing to move forward. Like I said, very little actually happens.

The entire time I read Ice Like Fire I was thinking how disappointed I was, primarily because I absolutely LOVED Snow Like Ashes. Perhaps Raasch just used Book 2 as a set-up for an epic ending in Book 3? Whatever the plans, this book seems like just a filler. Something the overall story probably could have done without. 

The characters weren't one bit likable in this story. What happened to strong-headed, kick-ass, willing-to-do-anything, fearless Meira? All she did was whine, complain, and wallow in her own self pity. Obsessing over and over again about what to do, but taking no action in actually getting it done. It's like her character development took a giant step backwards. They rest of the characters were so boring they aren't even worth mentioning. 

Don't get me wrong, the last 25% of this book was interesting, however it was too little too late. By the time I reached the exciting part of this journey I had no more patience. Just when it starts getting good (the last 10%) we are left in a cliffhanger. Overall it lacks the magical, fantastically entertaining action that Snow Like Ashes was all about. This book was nothing but a drawn out, painful read to set us up for Book 3. Classic "middle book syndrome". It did not justify the empty feeling I felt while reading the majority of it. I hope the third book doesn't leave me this disappointed

I hate to be such a downer. This series started off so wonderful that it pains me to write this review. I look forward to the last book. I give Ice Like Fire a 2.5 star rating.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Leah Remini's "Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology"

Less than 24 hours. That is how long it took me to finish Leah Remini's book Troublemaker. I chose listen to the audio book for various reasons and I am so glad I chose the audio route. It is actually read by Leah Remini herself! Every smart-ass comment, every bitchy tone of voice, every angry accusation she makes, all of it is wholly felt when you listen to this book read by the author that wrote it. I can't imagine experiencing this book any other way. 

I am not what I would describe as a Leah Remini "fan". I mean, sure, I remember watching her on Saved By The Bell and a few other parts she had in various movies. I have honestly never watched an entire episode of The King of Queens or Dancing With The Stars. I will occasionally stop flipping through channels and watch her TLC show Its All Relative because I do find her funny, outgoing, beautiful, and a little bit crazy. 

I will admit that I am a tad bit obsessed with all the Scientology books and documentaries that have been published and aired recently. My liking of Remini along with my fascination of all things related to cults made this book a must read (or listen) for me.

This is the 3rd book I have read from an ex-member of the Church of Scientology. A few days ago I wrote my book review of Jenna Miscavige Hill's book Beyond Belief and you can read my post about it here. 

Remini's book is is a no nonsense, no bullshit, no excuse account of her life, both as a child and adult, in the world of Scientology. She describes how she was brought into the cult, what she had to endure as a child and teenager in the Sea Org, and her life as a married woman & mother as a church member. She was a woman who devoted her entire life to the belief system that Scientology and Dianetics founder L. Ron Hubbard wrote in all of his books. 

The way she tells her life story is such an honest, hilarious and shocking story that I was immediately sucked in. The entire book is not about blaming the church, but rather she explains (in her no-holds-barred attitude) why she made the life choices she made. She goes into exquisite detail on the reasons behind her departure from the church. She even lets readers know her emotions and feelings throughout the different times of her life. She explains what her mindset was that made her both stay and ultimately decide to leave.

Although she claims that she no longer believes in the entire cult, she is very detailed in stating why she left. Greedy, money-hungry, and abusive (both verbally and physically) higher ups in the church made her start to question her beliefs. She claims that thier actions and behavior no longer aligned with the teachings of L.R.H.. It is something I could relate to, since I spent the first 17 years of my life deeply involved in a non-denominational Christian megachurch. It made me realize that organized religion can quickly turn into a horrific, overpowering nightmare in a person's life. It doesn't matter if a person believes in God, Allah, Buddha, Joseph Smith, or Thetans, any church has the power to ruin lives and families if the people in charge are corrupt. 

I do feel like Remini gave a truthful account in this memoir. She doesn't hold back. She tells it like it is. She doesn't play the victim but rather fully confesses to the awful things she has done and takes full accountability for the bad decisions she has made. 

In the final chapters of the book she explains how she has moved on with her life. It is still a hard road for her. Finding out everything you have ever believed in is a lie can be jaw dropping to anyone (think Neo in The Matrix movies). I could relate because there was a period of shock and awe I went through after leaving my church. She is thankful that her family has left the church also and they are all together to support each other after the horrific experience of breaking from the church.

This is a great read for those who are interested in Scientology. If you haven't previously read or learned the basics of Scientology beliefs, you might be a bit lost, as Remini explains the very basics. I would suggest Going Clear or Beyond Belief be read before diving into this book since those two books give much more detail into the church. Still, this is a 5-star read for me! 

Happy Reading! 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Readers Of Broken Wheel Recommended by Katarina Bivald

Sometimes you just need to take a break from the thrillers, mysteries, sci-fi, fantasy, and nonfiction books to just read a cozy, feel-good book. That is exactly what my plan was when I requested Katrina Bivald's The Readers Of Broken Wheel Recommended: A Novel from Netgalley

Once you let a book into your life, the most unexpected things can happen...
Broken Wheel, Iowa, has never seen anyone like Sara, who traveled all the way from Sweden just to meet her book-loving pen pal. When she arrives, however, she finds Amy's funeral guests just leaving. The residents of Broken Wheel are happy to look after their bewildered visitor -- not much else to do in a small town that's almost beyond repair. They just never imagined that she'd start a bookstore. Or that books could bring them together – and change everything.
There's a book for every person ... and a person for every book.

Sara is a spinster bookworm. She has taken a chance, shaken up her normal, mundane routine and all she has ever known to travel abroad to the United States. She arrives in Broken Wheel, Iowa from Sweden in hopes of meeting her pen pal and book exchanging friend. However, when she arrives she is shocked and confused to find out that her "friend" (she has only written and never actually met her) has passed away. Residents of Broken Wheel immediately take in Sara and try to make her at-home. 

This book is a mix of narrative and letters exchanged between Sara and her (now diseased) friend Amy. Bivald does a phenomenal job describing the town with its quirky, big-hearted,  but opinionated residents. The character descriptions in this book are so vivid that it made me feel like I was a resident of Broken Wheel also. It's so full of charming, lovable characters.

Broken Wheel is a town on it's last leg. It is a town that is holding on to all it has known to save it from dying. The residents have their issues and quirks, but Sara feels she must somehow contribute to this town full of residents who have, for some reason, welcomed her with open arms. They don't allow her to pay for anything. Rent, groceries, etc. are all offered up free of charge. She decides to give back with what she knows best- books! She opens a bookstore of sort.

Sara is on a visa so she is not allowed to make money. She decides to open an exchange bookstore- a library for the town. She is determined to find a book that is a perfect fit for everyone, yet at the same time introduce them to a genre that is a bit out of their comfort zone. She has a huge love of books and her contagious book love spills over to the residents. 

There are a few twists and turns that were surprising and made it easy to keep reading. Any good book needs a bit of mystery, adventure and a plot twist! I don't want to give too much away. If you need a relaxing, easy to follow, feel good, quick read, you need to pick this book up! 

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommended is set to be released January 19, 2016. Add it to your TBR list! It's a perfectly cozy winter read! I give it 4 stars!

Thank you to Sourcebooks Landmark and Netgalley for allowing me this eARC! 

Happy Reading! 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology... by Jenna Miscavige Hill

I will admit that I love reading, listening to podcasts (Sword & Scale Podcast episode 50 is an AMAZING recount of Jonestown) and watching shows about cults. I'm not sure what attracts me to them, but perhaps it stems from my own upbringing in a non-denominational Christian megachurch, multiplied by 1000% of course. From the Branch Davidians, to the Manson Family, to Heaven's Gate, and The People's Temple, I just can't get enough. Scientology is my newest cult obsession. 

My obsession with The Church of Scientology started when I watched the HBO documentary "Going Clear". I was immediately intrigued and decided to also read the book of the same name. It is a very good documentary and book and I suggest watching and/or reading it if you are also cult obsessed. This book has been my favorite Scientology book to date. I do have plans to read Leah Remini's new book Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology soon. 

If you are unfamiliar with the Church of Scientology and their beliefs you can read this overview.

Jenna Miscavige Hill with co-author Lisa Pulitzer wrote Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape. Hill was a 3rd generation Scientologist and is the niece of current Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige. Her parents were also at one time high ranking church officials before they left the church. In this tell-all memoir she describes her life as a child raised in the highest ranks of the church's ministry called "The Sea Org". 

I like this book because it is a first hand account of this cult with the majority of the story taking place when she was a child. A minor with no say in how she should live her life. This is a disturbing look inside the cult and what it does to children and their families.

Hill's parents joined the Sea Org when she was a toddler. Most of her childhood is absent of both her parents. They left her to fulfill their calling in the church and to be raised by other church members.   Her life on "The Ranch" was day in and day out of doing hard labor with other children of high ranking Scientologists with very little to no knowledge of "the outside world". The whole experience seemed to be children in the middle of nowhere taking care of other children with very little adult supervision.

Despite her horrible and scary childhood, she stays devoted to the church and decides to become a Sea Org member herself. Flip flopping between Church bases in both California and Florida she describes her chilling and, at times, unbelievable climb up the ranks. Living in "dorms" not suitable for even an animal to inhabit, making little to no money to live on, and spending hours on end in sessions to "clear" her- aka brainwash her into their beliefs.

To me the most interesting part of the book was at the end when her and her husband (also a Sea Org member) decide to leave the church. It is amazing the horrific things the church did and said to keep them from talking to both each other and their families. It is chilling the power church officials thought they had over its members.

I highly recommend this book. It is a one of a kind glimpse into the Church of Scientology from a child/teen's point of view. Hill does a wonderful job explaining church beliefs and it really helped me understand the basis of the church's practices. 

Still married to her ex-Scientologist husband and now a mother, Jenna Miscavige Hill  runs a website to help support others who also want to leave the church. You can visit the site and read other ex-member stories about this horrific cult here. 

I "read" this book as an audio book that was narrated by Sandy Rustin. It was engrossing and very easy to follow along. I also checked the physical book out from my library because it included personal pictures. Whichever way you decide to read this book, you won't be disappointed! 

Happy Reading! 

Friday, November 6, 2015

Ransom Riggs' "Library of Souls"

So this has never happened. This is my first "almost" book review. "Almost" because life happened. We have had a crazy busy last few weeks and I was 97 pages away from finishing this novel before it was due back to the library. I didn't get to finish it. I couldn't renew it due to others waiting on it, but I have reserved it yet again so I can finish reading it to the very end! 

For those who don't know, our youngest son has an ultra rare form of Congenital Muscular Dystrophy called Muscle Eye Brain Disease (MEB). He requires constant care. His 5th birthday was this week, along with his 4th cast on his leg/foot to correct some muscle atrophy, along with pre-exams for a sleep study and EEG to determine if what is waking him at night is seizure activity and/or sleep apnea. He also got measured and molded to make leg braces to wear after the casts come off. I spend hours on hold with the insurance company to argue over what expenses they would cover. All while my husband was working overtime out of state. It's just been me holding this house together. Like I said, it's been busy.  That's why I had no time for reading.

Although I didn't finish the book, I still feel I read enough of it to give a mostly complete review. So, here it is. 

 I remember reading the first book, Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children , at night while laying on the living room floor next to my (then) 1 year old who refused to sleep more than 30 minutes at a time. It was almost 4 years ago when the "we don't sleep at night anymore" started. In my dark living room I read and was intrigued, scared (yes, actually scared while reading it as an adult) and I fell in love with the first book immediately. The second book I liked, but in my opinion was not as good as the first. This third book in the series, Library of Souls , was my absolute favorite.

Library of Souls starts up exactly where the second book, Hollow City , leaves off. I admit that it had been awhile since I finished the second book and did have to Wiki Hollow City so I wasn't so lost (it ended in a cliffhanger, but I couldn't remember the exact details). 

As the story opens, sixteen-year-old Jacob discovers a powerful new ability, and soon he’s diving through history to rescue his peculiar companions from a heavily guarded fortress. Accompanying Jacob on his journey are Emma Bloom, a girl with fire at her fingertips, and Addison MacHenry, a dog with a nose for sniffing out lost children.

They’ll travel from modern-day London to the labyrinthine alleys of Devil’s Acre, the most wretched slum in all of Victorian England. It’s a place where the fate of peculiar children everywhere will be decided once and for all. 

Like its predecessors, Library of Souls blends thrilling fantasy with never-before-published vintage photography.

I feel that Library of Souls is the most exciting and adventurous of all three books. It was interesting (unlike Hollow City in my opinion) and kept me invested. I truly couldn't wait to read it any time I had the chance. The characters were more interesting, both old and new. Riggs imagined a world so vivid and wild, dark and eerie, crazy yet believable, it was hard not to get sucked in. 

Because this is the third book in the series I don't want to say a lot about the overall plot. It took me to places I never imagined. There were twists and turns I never saw coming. The main characters have grown and matured, as they should. It was so astonishing to read and realize how much Jacob has changed since the first book. 

Once again, we get the strange photographs embedded throughout the book that go along with the story. It always amazes me to stare at them and wonder how Riggs found them and then created these amazing books to coincide with the wonderfully eerie pictures.  

I am told that the ending is phenomenal. That it is something you never saw coming, but is also a fulfilling ending to a book series. I honestly can't wait to finish this book. I will update this post once I have. 

Happy Reading!