{ESC} BOOK FOURTEEN: MORE HAPPY THAN NOT

Dear Reader,

This isn’t the fourteenth book I’ve read this year, but I’ve been really slacking on book reviews. So I’m getting back into the swing of things with–I kid you not–the best book I’ve read this year.

If you’re not familiar with the way that I do most of my reviews, I hate spoilers. So, I try to give as little information as possible, while still recommending the good books that I stumble upon. The reason is because I absolutely love indulging in a story with absolutely no idea where it will take me.

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So here’s what I will say: I am in a class this year that is helping us future teachers be able to implement different reading material into the curriculum in order to relate to more diverse audiences. All I knew of this book was that it is about a guy who is coping with his father’s suicide with the help of his girlfriend, but he starts becoming confused when he starts talking to this new guy.

Sounds kind of interesting, right? Eh, maybe not. I even thought it wasn’t the most gripping story before I read it. But I honestly couldn’t put it down and started gasping and making exclamations when things happened–which is how you really know I was lost in the story. I even cried in the suite (discreetly, I might add) because I couldn’t hold back. Who knows how many tears would’ve come out if I were alone.

But I really, really don’t want to say more–not that there’s not more to say, but because everyone gets one chance to read this book for the first time. And I have a problem with over-promoting my recent obsessions to the point where they can’t possibly meet the expectations of those I recommend them to, but I don’t think that’s the case with this. I truly think this is a story that will stick with any reader for a long time. I think it’s shocking and touching, but also heart-breaking as well as eye-opening.

Basically, I’m just really excited to use this in my future classrooms and I can’t wait for the conversation it’s sure to provoke. And I understand that this book deserves a much better review, so I’ve made one. It doesn’t have spoilers necessarily (don’t worry, I won’t give away the ending), but if you don’t want to read a book with such little information, then you can go ahead and check it out here, using the password: esc (I hope this works… I’ve never done this before) 

Anyway, I really, really hope you read this. And I hope you love it as much as I do because I certainly played it up enough.

Sincerely,

Sammy

{ESC} BOOK THIRTEEN: NINETEEN MINUTES

Dear Reader,

This book took FOREVER to finish. Yeah it’s almost 500 pages and it’s not always the most action-packed reading, but it’s more than that. It’s a lot different than the books I normally blow through. I mean, if you look at my most recent books, I’ve read about happiness and road trips and memoirs of people living out their dreams.

This book is about a school shooting.

I’m not going to give away more than that, but I’m going to be honest. It was hard for me to get through. If I read it before bed, I’d often dream about guns and violence or sometimes not be able to sleep (this was during my second semester of college, as well). And then I wasn’t particularly eager to make time in my day to read it, but I did want to finish it. Mostly because my sister said she read it and it “messed her up,” but she still highly recommended it.

And I’m glad I finished it. It was a really good story, and the first book of Jodi Picoult’s I read–and I’ll definitely read more. She’s an amazing writer, but all of her books are about such heavy topics. Still, they’re worth it to read. They make you think and figure out more about yourself, as you notice your own reactions and feelings towards these characters and their story.

Most importantly, though, it made me think about how I’m going to be when I’m a teacher. This shooting was done by someone on the inside–a kid who had obviously been struggling. And as someone who’s going into education, I’ve learned about school shootings, and I’ve been taught how to prepare and how to act not “if” it happens, but “when.” That’s how teachers these days must be taught, because school shootings seem to be happening more often these days.

And I know it’ll be my job to teach students about “The Great Gatsby” and prepare them for the ACT, but a bigger, debatably more important, part of my job will be to be there for the students. Every one of them. In the best way that I can.

And I’m determined to learn how to do that to the best of my ability.

So. This book. I say 5 stars, and I say take the time to read it. Make the effort, because it’s worth it.

Sincerely,

Sammy

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{ESC} BOOK TWELVE: THE HAPPINESS PROJECT (and intro to my own Happiness Project)

Dear Reader,

I adore this book. I picked it up at a bookstore in Columbus (post about that road trip coming soon) and immediately started reading it when I got home. And I don’t mark in every book I buy, but about four pages in, I knew I would have to for this.

Whether or not you want to start your own happiness project, I would recommend that you read this book. It’s full of awesome quotes, really cool resources (how did I not know about the website lulu.com???), and good tips on how you should go about making yourself happier. I finished this book last night and I already have a mental list of people I want to lend this to to read, as well as an actual list of resolutions I want to start implementing in my life.

In 16 days, I go back to school. And while I’m extremely excited, I’m also kind of nervous as well. I haven’t talked about it on here yet (though I’m sure I alluded to it), but freshman year was really hard for me. I found myself struggling with feelings of unhappiness and signs of depression–which was very new to me. But this year, I’m determined to be better.

So today, on August 1st, 2015, I am starting my own Happiness Project. I may not be as prepared as Gretchen was when she started hers, and it may seem kind of weird to start a year-long project in August, but waiting until January seems dumb to me. I don’t want to wait. I can’t wait.

So today, it begins.

Sincerely,

Sammy

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{ESC} BOOK ELEVEN: AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES

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Dear Reader,

On Friday night, my sister and I decided to see Paper Towns. I read this book last summer, loved it, and was ecstatic when I found out that they were turning it into a movie. And I am glad to report that it did not disappoint, and might be my favorite movie of the summer so far.

After it ended, we headed down the street to our local Books-a-Million, where I dropped $78 on books and road maps (I was very influenced by this movie). But one of the books I picked up was another John Green book, An Abundance of Katherines. I had no idea what it was about, but I like John Green, and I own all of his other books, and it was $10. So I bought it and read it within 12 hours. And here’s what I thought.

First of all, it’s a very weird premise. This child prodigy has been dumped by 19 Katherines, and, in fact, has never dated anyone by another name. Bizarre, right? And I really don’t want to spoil it (though there’s not much to spoil), so I won’t say much else about the actual plot. But I will say that the characters were very interesting and it was very informative. I feel like I know a lot more random facts that I found interesting (even if the supporting character, Hassan did not).

But here’s the thing: it’s a John Green novel. So, if you like stories that follow the same formula as Paper Towns and Looking for Alaska, you’ll like this one. There’s a boy who really doesn’t do much. He’s not necessarily opposed to adventures–I mean, he’ll certainly follow the main female character into one without question–but he’s just used to staying home. And then he falls in love with this quirky, interesting, intelligent, beautiful girl.

That’s really all I can say without giving away the ending, but if you asked me if I would recommend it, I still probably would. It has tons of overlaps with his other stuff (the above formula, discussion about oblivion like in The Fault in Our Stars, characters obsessed with road trips), but there were still some interesting differences from AAOK that I enjoyed. I especially liked the last bit about the stories we tell and how they can impact people.

So, I’ll give it 3 stars, and probably won’t be dying to read it again any time soon, but it certainly wasn’t a waste of time. Parts of this story will definitely stick with me.

Sincerely,

Sammy

 

{ESC} BOOK TEN: A WORK IN PROGRESS

Dear Reader,

I finished this book a while ago but didn’t write a review on it right away, so I ended up forgetting about it. And, actually, that pretty much sums up the experience I had while reading it. It was fine. Some of the advice given might be worth hearing (if you haven’t heard it before). But overall, it was pretty forgettable.

This is the first book I’ve read that was written by a YouTuber, and only because I got it as a gift. But I was a big Connor Franta fan for a while. He’s constantly cheerful and ambitious and is always ready for an adventure, or able to turn something into a good story–characteristics I find admirable in anyone.

But in his writing, I started getting kind of annoyed. Mostly because every chapter ended with a piece of advice–and one that I had already heard before. One that everyone has heard before. Things like “go for it” and “chase your dreams” and “look up from your phone every once in a while.” Not bad advice, by any means, but it was also the way he said it that bothered me. I felt like Connor was the annoying brother who, just because he’s a few years older, feels qualified to pass on all of his wisdom. But he’s only 22, and while he has done more than most guys his age, I found myself annoyed when, at the end of each chapter, without fail, there was some corny sentence along the lines of “What are you waiting for? Start climbing.”

That’s an actual concluding sentence from one of his chapters.

Another is: Time to hop on that high-speed train.

And another says: Start living today, not tomorrow.

And: So what are you waiting for? Let go, my friend.

Do you get my point?

But he knows that he’s young and that he still has a lot to learn–which is part of the reason why he titled it “A Work in Progress.” So maybe I’m being too hard on him. I mean, if was writing my memoirs at this age, I’d have no idea what I would say.

So, I don’t think this is going to be my favorite book written by a YouTuber, and I still have hope for those written by Carrie Hope Fletcher and Mamrie Hart and a lot others (but those two specifically). And if you can get past the lame advice and want a visually pleasing book (the pictures are great) with amusing stories that will take a day to read, then this is probably for you.

But for me, I’ll just sick with giving him 3 stars out of five and continue to watch the occasional collabs with him.

Sincerely,

Sammy

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{ESC} BOOK NINE: DIRTY RUSH

Dear Reader,

I’ll admit it: I love this book. Let me tell you why.

According to Rebecca Martinson, this book “fucking tells is like it fucking is.” Unfamiliar with that name? She’s also known as the “deranged sorority girl.” The one who wrote an email to her entire chapter, threatening to “cunt punt” them for being boring and undesirable to frat boys. You can find a hilarious reading of this letter by Michael Shannon here.

So I was scared that a girl who seems to care so much about such pointless, judgmental things claims that this is a book that actually tells the real truth on sorority life. But, it kind of does.

Now, I’ve only been with my sorority for a semester, and I’ll admit that I didn’t relate to about half of what this “Taylor Bell” experienced, but that’s not saying that it doesn’t happen. I’ve talked to girls in other sororities who have group messages that are dedicated to getting adderall and cocaine. And hazing is still a very prevalent thing in greek life, even though I’m fortunate enough to truthfully tell you all that I was in no way hazed.

But this book actually did have some good morals, and the ending was great. I love that the main character, Taylor, was so nonjudgmental, and even most of the other characters stayed that way, too. Plus, the friendships she made were true and even the clichéd theme of sisterhood was portrayed really well.

So yeah, it’s kind of weird that this book was as refreshing to me as it was, and yeah there are certain aspects of it that I didn’t so much enjoy (like how everything was “crystal cute”), but it was a quick read, and a book that I’ll definitely lend to my friends. And then ask for it back so I can read it again.

Sincerely,

Sammy

{ESC} BOOK EIGHT: LET’S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED

Some of my favorite books to read are autobiographies–especially those written by women. The ones that shatter the ridiculously outdated notion that women are not funny. To anyone who may still think this way, I’m sure you’ve been encouraged to read those of Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling, Chelsea Handler. Theirs could all gladly prove you wrong. But here’s another suggestion.

Jenny Lawson. Don’t know who that is? I didn’t either, but I continuously saw her book ranked high on the lists, sitting pretty, ahead of some of these greats. So I asked for it for Christmas, knowing nothing more than the fact that this woman is called “The Blogess.”

And now I feel like I know too much. I certainly know more than I had asked for.

But let me tell you: this book may be the funniest book I’ve read to date. I found myself laughing out loud within the first five minutes of sitting down with it. And it couldn’t have come at a better time. Lately, I’ve been pretty disappointed with my book choices, so it was great to finally read a 5-star one again.

Lawson’s life has been absolutely ridiculous since her beginning–so ridiculous that I often found myself believing that there’s no way all of this actually happened. But then I thought, okay, if she is making half of this stuff up, I’d still have to give her props, because there’s no one alive with a crazier imagination.

There’s not much I have to say about this book, not because I’m worried about spoiling it, but because you just have to read it for yourself to fully appreciate and try to understand the life of Jenny Lawson.

Yeah, good luck.

Sincerely,

Sammy

{ESC} BOOK SEVEN: THE EX FILES

A few months ago, I was walking through Half-Priced Books, and I came across The Ex Files. After reading the back, I decided to buy it for $4. Was it worth that $4? Hard to say…

Here’s what I gathered from the back: Kendall’s husband left her for her sister, Sheridan’s husband left her for another man, Asia’s baby daddy left her for his wife, and Vanessa’s husband committed suicide. Each woman deals with heartbreak in a different way–from depression to revenge. Interesting plot, right?

That’s what I thought! But now it’s over a month later and I’m just now finished.

Part of this is due to it being almost 400 pages long, but part of it, too, is because I actually had to put it down at one point.

It says on the cover that it’s a faith-filled novel, but I didn’t even consider everything that meant. So when I got to the part where two characters are casually talking about how homosexuality is a choice–and a wrong one at that–I was floored. It shouldn’t have come to me as a surprise, especially since one of these characters is a pastor, but I was shocked to be reminded that some people truly believe homosexuality to be a sin.

This along with some of the comments about suicide made me a bit uncomfortable, and when I first set it down, I didn’t pick it back up for three and a half weeks. Part of this is because second semester started and all of a sudden I was really busy, but it was also hard for me to go back to a book that was preaching ideas I just couldn’t get behind.

So that’s part of the reason why I give this book 3 stars. Other than that, the characters were alright, but not ones that I fell in love with. I didn’t really understand Sheridan or Vanessa, so I didn’t connect with them, and by the end of it I was so done with Kendall, I didn’t even want to read the chapters devoted to her.

Then we have Asia. I didn’t mind her, but her morals were pretty questionable. And I don’t want to spoil anything (in case this review for some reason prompts you to read the book for yourself), but what she does it horrifying and awful. I enjoyed watching her character develop, though.

Another sidenote is that some parts were really cheesey. There was one part at the end with Sheridan that actually had me rolling my eyes.

Also, I found a blatant typo, and I always find that to be weird. I mean, didn’t someone read this before it got sent to publishing? How was “reuion” missed? Did the editor just get bored and skip that part to get to the end? Because I’m not sure I blame them.

Well that’s all I’ve got for you. The Ex Files was a bit of a disappointment, but I’m holding out hope for Book #8.

It’s a good one.

Sincerely,

Sammy