My 10 Most Popular Posts of 2018

It’s always fun for me to see my most popular posts. There were a few posts on this list that surprised me, and a few I’m just happy to see other people seemed to like as much as I did. The content varies so much that I still have no idea what I should write more of and less of… I guess I’ll keep using the spaghetti method, throw things on the wall and see what sticks.

11 Best Non-Fiction Books About Mental Illness

This was one of my most popular posts for 2017, and I’m glad to see it made #1 this year.

Don’t Ban Eleanor & Park

I passionately love this book. I’m always against censorship, but this is a book I wish had been around when I was growing up.

Old Things and Abandoned Places

Apparently, I’m not alone in my love of these things.

10 Best Novels from Over 100 Years Ago

This has been one of my most popular posts ever since I wrote it back in 2011.

Our Dark Duet- A Review

This is the sequel to This Savage Song, and I have strong feelings about them both.

“Master Yoda, Is The Dark Side Stronger?”

My philosophical musings on good vs. evil.

12 Responses to Excuses About Why You’re Not Reading

I’ve seen a lot of posts about “how to read more,” but for me, what it boils down to is, we do what we prioritize.

I Highlight in Books, But Only Monsters Dog-Ear Pages

Seriously though.

10 Best Fiction Books About Mental Illness

I’m glad that people are so interested in books on mental illness.

The Dinner List- A List & A Review

I didn’t expect to enjoy this book as much as I did.

A Prayer for Owen Meany- A review

On Throwback Thursdays, I review an older book.

thI didn’t have high hopes for A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving.  Published in 1989, it’s on my list of 100 Classics that I’m working my way through.  A friend of mine has consistently stated that this is one of her favorite books, and though I love her, she and I often have opposite reactions to books.  She’ll race through things I find dreadfully boring, and I’ll rave about a book she thought was just okay.

I’m also doing a book reading challenge to read a specific type of book every month this year, and that month’s book was to read a book you’ve “been meaning to read.”  I figured that reading this book would kill three birds with one stone.

It’s not the easiest read.  The story captured me from the very beginning, and then promptly had long stretches of boring. It took me awhile to get through it, but I read the last 100 pages breathlessly, shushing my husband when he tried to talk to me.  Sometimes books make you wait until the end to pay off, and you’re like, “That wasn’t worth it.”  This one is.  It’s worth reading the whole thing to get to the ending.  I’m not saying that the ending is the only good part of the book, not at all.  The book is interesting, but the plot moves slowly at times.  Unlike some books that I can read in a single sitting, I read this one a little, put it down, picked it back up, and so on.

I definitely recommend it with two thumbs up, but if you read it, be prepared to put some work into it.  And be prepared to clear your schedule for the ending; you won’t want to take a break at that point.  Trust me.

To my readers, if you read this book, what did you think of it?

Watership Down- A Review

For Throwback Thursday, I review older books that are awesome.  ‘Cause if you can post a picture of you with that awful hair from the 80’s, I can certainly talk about a book that’s been around for awhile.

th-1Is there anyone who hasn’t read Watership Down by Richard Adams?

This is a book I can re-read over and over, and it just gets better every time.  This book is like spending time with an old friend.  I love all the characters, and I love following the adventures of Hazel, Fiver, Bigwig, and their band of misfits.

I first read this book when I was in 6th grade.  All the kids were on the waitlist to read this other book that was popular (I don’t even remember what it was).  When I added my name to the waitlist, the librarian handed me this book and told me to check it out.

No one believes Fiver when he predicts the destruction of his warren, and he and his brother, Hazel, decide to leave.  They invite anyone who wants to come along to flee with them, and a small band of misfits starts a journey into the unknown.  Along their adventure, they experience hardship and deception.  They make friends with creatures who aren’t like them, and find true bravery in themselves.  They learn to trust one another, and learn not to trust something just because it looks good on the surface.

Although the book’s main characters are rabbits, it’s not a children’s book.  This is a book that every adult should read.

Have you read Watership Down?  What are your thoughts?

Watchers, a review

On Throwback Thursdays, I post a book review.  The best books stand the test of time, and only get better on rereading, so most of the books I review will be at least a few years old, and will be strong recommendations.  I’d love to hear what you have to say about the books I talk about in the comments.

I'm pretty sure this is the original cover, and it's my personal favorite.

I’m pretty sure this is the original cover, and it’s my personal favorite.

Watchers, by Dean Koontz, was the very first book I read by this author, chosen mostly because it had a dog on the cover.  I was 12, and would read anything, but I was drawn to that picture, and the enigmatic description on the back of the book.

This book immediately became my all time favorite book, and surprisingly, nothing has ever been able to disrupt it from the #1 spot.  Other books have been added to my favorites list, but I’ve never found a book more perfect than this one.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read it, but I’m sure it’s in the double digits, and may be approaching twenty times or more.

Travis Cornell isn’t sure there’s anything left to live for.  He goes out and tries to recapture that feeling from when life was good, and he fails.  He literally runs into Einstein, a Golden Retriever who saves him from something in the woods, and helps him remember what’s good in life.  It doesn’t take him long to figure out that Einstein is special; he’s an unusually intelligent dog who finds ways to communicate with Travis.

Einstein is an escapee from a laboratory doing genetic research, and a monster escaped along with Einstein.  Travis and Einstein team up to avoid government personnel and the monster.  Along the way, they meet Nora, an intensely shy woman with an abusive past who has the patience both Travis and Einstein need.

I love this book because it’s a story about friendship and redemption.  Both Travis and Nora know that something is missing from their lives, and through the pure joy that is Einstein, they discover the best of themselves.  They find good people on their journey who are just as dedicated to protecting Einstein as they are.

This book never gets old for me, and I’ve found different things in it as I’ve discovered different things in my life.  Originally published in 1987, it’s a true modern classic.  Dean Koontz gets a reputation as a horror writer, but his books are so much more than that.  This book is an adventure, a romance, science fiction, and other genres I’m probably missing.

If you happened to see the 1988 movie of the same name, please, please, PLEASE strike it from your memory.  Pretend it didn’t exist.  It is NOTHING like the book.  In fact, only two good movies have been made from Dean Koontz books: Phantoms and Odd Thomas.  But that’s a different post.

If you’ve read Watchers, what did you think of it?  And if you haven’t read it, when are you going to?

What’s New In 2015

Sedona, Arizona Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Sedona, Arizona
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

I’ve decided to make some changes in my blog in 2015.  In an effort to blog more regularly, I’m going to start doing certain topics on certain days of the week.  January is another blog challenge, so I’ll be blogging daily every day this month.  After January, I’ll drop back to Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.  Five times a week is more than enough for most of you to hear from me, even though Mondays and Thursdays will probably be pretty short.

My blog is primarily about positive mental health, reading, and writing, things I know the most about.  While those might seem like unrelated topics, I don’t see it that way.  For me, reading and writing are all about my own mental health.  I think that stories reflect the culture they’re set in, and can have an effect on the way we think about topics.  When writers tackle topics like depression, body image, bullying, substance abuse, and suicide in their stories, it gives readers a way to relate and understand in ways they may not otherwise have been able to.

So, here are the features I plan to implement.

Drumroll please…

Mondays- Motivational Mondays will be all about starting the week with a reminder or a quote to get you in a positive from of mind for the week.

Wednesdays- Wellness.  On Wednesdays, I’ll post about some topic related to positive mental health.

Thursday- Throwback Thursday will be book reviews from the past, things I’ve read before with staying power, and what I think of them.

Fridays- These will remain Feel Good Fridays, where I’ll post links to positive news stories.  I may add a feature where I talk about something positive that happened for me that week.

Saturday- Spontaneous Saturdays will essentially be a wild card.  This will be whatever random thing I think about.  Be warned.

As always, this blog is a work in progress.  If you have ideas for features or particularly like/ dislike any of these, please tell me in the comments.

Walking Disaster- A Review

imagesApparently I never reviewed this book.  Oops.  It was released April 2.  Well, actually, I ordered it on Kindle, and it was delivered just after 10 p.m. on April 1.  I finished it around 3 a.m. on April 2.

Walking Disaster by Jamie McGuire is written from Travis’s point of view, whereas Beautiful Disaster is written from Abby’s.  I liked Walking Disaster very much.  Not as much as Beautiful Disaster, but it was still really engaging.  Long stretches of the book were the same, and I enjoyed being in Travis’s head.  That being said, some scenes were missing from this book that were included in the original.  Scenes that made me wonder what was going on from Travis’s point of view.  For instance, what did Megan say on the phone to Travis?

It’s worth reading, and I’ll be buying it in paperback eventually.  But the first was the best.

On a related note, I wondered something as I read this book, so bear with me.  In Twilight- Eclipse, I was a little disgusted by Bella when she fell apart after Edward left.  I thought, “Really?  This is how we fall apart when a man leaves us for no good reason?”

When Travis fell apart after Abby left, it seemed romantic.  Now that I think back, maybe it was a little stalkerish.  Okay, I know it was.  And dysfunctional.  And probably pathetic.  But you know what?  I.  Don’t.  Care.  I loved this book.  🙂

Reached- A Review

imagesReached is the final book in a young adult trilogy by Ally Condie.  The preceding books are Matched and Crossed.  The story is about Cassia, who’s life is simple.  She’s just been matched with Xander, her longtime friend and all around good guy.  Everything seems right in the world, until she sees a second match flash across her screen.  Ky is also her friend, but she doesn’t know him very well.  That changes when that instant of contact makes her curious, and makes her ask the question the society she lives in doesn’t want her to ask… what if?  What if we had choices?  What if things weren’t set?

In Crossed, Cassia sets off to explore a different life, and in Reached, she joins the rebellion.  It’s a trilogy worth reading, especially now that all the books are out.

The books are set in a dystopian future, where everything seems great.  People don’t get sick, and every moment of life is structured.  No one has time to wonder or dream.  Cassia drifts along until her grandfather hands her a restricted poem.  In this time, all art, music, poetry, and books have been whittled down to an acceptable 100.  The Society says that any more than that is just repeats, and asks why you would need more than a hundred.  Creativity is repressed.  No one creates.  They just stagnate.

The one hundred of each were chosen by committee.  What if I had to choose only 100 books for the rest of my life?  Or 100 songs?  Or 100 pieces of art?  I don’t know if I could do that.  I think I read more than 100 books this year.  I know for sure I’ve listened to more than 100 songs.

I liked these books.  They’re not the best young adult novels I’ve ever read, but they’re interesting enough and fast paced enough to read once, and would make a good series to read with friends.

The Good Dream- A review

imagesLast time I was at the library, I saw a book cover with different colored bottles called The Good Dream by Donna VanLiere.  I liked the cover and the title enough to read the description.  It’s women’s fiction, and not my usual thing, but I’ve been reading a lot of different books lately and enjoying them, so I decided to pick it up.

Ivorie is an “old maid,” but doesn’t care.  She’s content to help her aging parents and do her own thing.  When her parents die, she’s left adrift, until one night she finds a little boy who doesn’t talk raiding her garden.  He’s one of the hill people, and the whole town cautions her not to get involved, but can she really leave a starving little boy with an abusive father just because it’s “none of her business”?

This is an engaging, well-written book told from the point of view of Ivorie, her brother, and the little boy.  Each has their own unique voice and struggles with their own beliefs versus the town’s censure.  This is a good book to read and discuss, but I won’t be compelled to buy it for my bookshelf.

600 Hours of Edward- A Review

imagesMy book club picked 600 Hours of Edward by Craig Lancaster for the month of December.  This is definitely not a book I would have picked, or even heard of without my wonderful book club, but I absolutely loved it.

Edward is 39 years old, diagnosed with Aspergers Disorder and OCD.  He lives in a house his parents pay for, and he eats the same meals every week.  To others, his life sounds boring, but to Edward, it makes him feel safe.

This book is fiction, but written like a memoir about the 600 hours (or 25 days) in which his life was changed by a single mom and her son.

Some people in my book club thought this book had a slow start.  I liked it from the beginning, but everyone who thought it started slow agreed it was worth it to finish.

I highly recommend this book.  It’s a good discussion book as well, and I like that it portrays someone with a mental illness in a positive manner.  Apparently, a sequel to this book is coming out, and I look forward to that one as well.

The Casual Vacancy- A review

I recently tried to read the Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling.  I wasn’t expecting it to be like Harry Potter, since all the ads said that it was for adults and it was much different.  The problem was that I expected it to feel like Harry Potter.

In my opinion, Harry Potter was all things good in fiction.  The characters were likable and flawed, made good choices much of the time, and made me feel good toward humanity in general.  Even the characters I was most convinced were irredeemable (like Draco Malfoy) came though in the end, though it wasn’t hearts and flowers.  It felt real to me (the themes, not the magic… work with me here) and made me feel hopeful toward humanity.

A reviewer on Amazon summed up the Casual Vacancy best… it felt like watching the Jerry Springer show.  Not that I don’t love me some Jerry Springer, but I don’t watch the show for plot or meaning.  The Casual Vacancy was full of characters I didn’t really like, and there was no main character to even root for.  Some of them were interesting, but got lost in the mix and mush of all the other characters.  I need someone to identify with or root for, even if it’s a villain.  In this book, I just didn’t care.  I got a 3rd of the way into the book before I just decided that it wasn’t worth my time.  If it weren’t JK Rowling, I wouldn’t have given it that much of a chance.

Now, for the caveat.  The book was well-written and the characters were well-developed (though not likable… I can’t stress this enough).  I don’t like literary fiction, and that’s what this read like.  I like story… and plot… and characters.  So… If you like literary fiction, it might be worth a try.  If you care about a good, entertaining story, I wouldn’t bother.