{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 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

{ESC} BOOK SIX: MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN

Dear Reader,

This is another review where I’m not going to give anything away because I actually picked it up without knowing anything and I really enjoyed it. So, because I don’t want to spoil anything, I’ll just tell you this:

Read this book if you want a particularly quick read. Read it if you enjoy looking at spooky little pictures that go along with a story. Read it if you like mystery and magic and peculiarity. But don’t read it if you want to be shaking from fear in your bedroom, unable to put it down at 1am.

I really liked it. It was an interesting, well-written story, and I’m looking forward to reading the sequel and seeing the movie in 2016. But when I went onto goodreads to give it four stars, I saw that the top four reviews all gave it two.

Confused and curious, I decided to see what their reasons were, and they all seemed to be the same: not scary. Sure, the pictures are creepy enough to send a chill down your back, but sometimes that’s not enough.

Now, I don’t particularly like being scared–partly because I spook easily and partly because I’ve just never seen the appeal of horror stories and films, and even haunted houses for that matter! You want to get an adrenaline rush? Go ride a roller coaster. Don’t give yourself nightmares!

So I say read it. It’s a great book and I’m glad the storyline is to be continued. I’ll definitely be reviewing the sequel once I get around to reading it.

Hopefully Ransom Riggs didn’t read the reviews from goodreads and decide to avenge his reputation and show the critics something truly scary.

If he did you can bet my next review on his work will be far from raving.

Sincerely,

Sammy

{ESC} BOOK FIVE: IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY

Dear Reader,

If you’re just skimming or stopping by: yes. That’s all you need to know. Yes to this book. I. Love. This. Book.

The main character, Craig, is having some problems with depression and finds himself in an adult mental hospital after almost killing himself one night. I think this is a very important book for anyone to read, whether they’re in high school, out of it, or even way past it. Mental illnesses aren’t always treated as they should–like actual illnesses–which is kind of ridiculous. With so many people struggling with things like depression and anorexia and OCD, we really need to not be ignorant in this topic area.

It’s now to the point where 1 in 5 Americans (yeah I googled it) suffer from a mental illness, yet many aren’t comfortable getting help or even talking about it. And, like Craig, there’s not always a specific reason for why people become depressed or anorexic or what have you. It’s a chemical imbalance, one that doesn’t necessarily occur because of a traumatic event or an extremely difficult life. Just because Craig has a supportive family and is in a good school and is a smart kid doesn’t mean he’s going to be okay, or take everything the same way everyone else does. It’s okay for him to get help. Just like it’s okay for a person with a broken bone to get help from a hospital, it’s okay for someone with a mental illness to, too.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story is a beautiful, refreshing, and, yeah, funny story. And this part on the last page (after the story) just made me love the book and Ned Vizzini, himself, so much more:

Ned Vizzini spent five days in adult psychiatric in Methodist Hospital, Park Slope, Brooklyn, 11/29/04 – 12/3/04. 

Ned wrote this 12/10/04 – 1/6/05. 

I’ll definitely be looking into this author some more.

Sincerely,

Sammy

{ESC} BOOK FOUR: BOSSYPANTS

Dear Reader,

Get ready for a very quick review because I have a lot to do today and not a lot to say about this book.

This is not to say that this book is bad in any sense–quite the opposite, actually. It’s great! But, I mean, isn’t that what we’re expecting? People rave about Tina Fey’s autobiography. And this is just another one of those reviews, so I don’t want to waste any more time.

If you’ve never read an autobiography by a comedian (or, should I say, comedienne) before, I highly suggest you start. Tina Fey, Mindy Kaling, Chelsea Handler, and now Amy Poehler! They all have books out and they’re all hilarious. I mean, laugh-out-loud-funny. Seriously, don’t read them in public if you’re not comfortable smiling goofily at a book or chuckling to yourself with others around.

And, actually, I can’t even speak for Amy’s because I haven’t read Yes Please yet, but why would it be any different? It’s Amy Poehler.

Which brings me back to Bossypants: it’s Tina Fey. Of course it’s hilarious and charming, while still insightful and, well, informative of her past. It is still a biography.

So, no more time to waste. If you feel like laughing, and especially if you watch 30 Rock or follow Tina’s career in any way, pick up this book. You won’t be sorry.

Sincerely,

Sammy

{ESC} BOOK THREE: WARM BODIES

Dear Reader,

If there are two things I want you to get from this review it’s this: 1. Warm Bodies is definitely worth the read. And 2. The book is sooooo much better than the movie (shocker).

That actually made me sad, though. I bought the book the same day my sister bought the movie and I read it in a night (it’s a quick read, which I loved). So we watched the movie and, though I adore Nicholas Hoult, I was just mad the whole time. Sarah, on the other hand, had never read the book, so she loved the movie.

But obviously the book is going to go into things that the movie just doesn’t have time for, but that’s what made the book so amazing! I had heard of it before–I knew it was about a zombie who fell in love with a human, but the book explained life before the apocalypse so much better, and it went into the backstories of the characters. I mean, I loved Perry in the book, and his story was heartbreaking, but in the movie he was just a jerk. And we didn’t get to understand why.

Anyway, Warm Bodies is now one of my favorite books. I’d recommend it to anyone who loves a good romance story but doesn’t mind a bit of action, blood, guts, and brains, or an insight into our civilization and what might cause its downfall.

Sincerely,

Sammy

PS. The song for this post is actually from the trailer of Warm Bodies: Lonely Boy – The Black Keys. I hope you enjoy the official music video, which is just a man dancing to the song.