Review: ‘Broken (in the best possible way)’ by Jenny Lawson

If you want to know about anxiety and depression and how it impacts you mentally and physically, then look no farther than Jenny Lawson. She has a way of taking such a serious topic and writing about it in the most hilarious way.

Lawson takes a lightened attitude when it comes to her mental health because I think she knows that there is nothing she can do about the craziness that is her life other than laugh about it. And while her antics may seem improbable to most, many others probably find themselves relating to her in more ways than one. I know I do.

“Broken (in the best possible way)” follows the same path of her other books – funny anecdotes with a hard mix of reality. However, I found that Lawson opened up a little more in this book about the more serious parts of her disease. Her letter to her insurance company, lamenting about the prescriptions they refuse to cover that keep her from committing suicide, is a real eye opener. It is a cry for everyone who suffers from mental health and has to decide whether to put food on the table or whether to pay for medicine that can keep them alive. While Jenny is lucky to be able to afford the absurd prices, it makes one wonder how many people have succumbed to their disease because they couldn’t afford it.

Lawson also delves more into the demons that plague her – from the cycle of depression that runs so deep that she is bed bound for days, the pharmacy of medications that have a domino affect on her overall health, to her tumultuous relationship with her husband, which she jokes has only been salvaged because she is too lazy to get a divorce. And because she is so honest about her life, it makes me realize that I could have it so much worse.

My husband suffers from anxiety and depression and is also medicated. Once in a while he says that he is glad that I didn’t know him when he wasn’t medicated – that it was really bad. I have seen him once severely depressed due to a lapse in his prescription at the pharmacy and I never want to ever see him that way again. But even though we deal with his ups and downs, we know that there are others – like Lawson – who have it so much worse.

I am glad that Lawson that is so open about what she goes through because whether she knows it or not, she is helping people who are dealing with similar issues. Hell, I may only suffer from anxiety but I find that I can relate to her – I also step out of my shoes, though none have taken a ride in an elevator.


Have you read “Broken”? What did you think? What other books about mental health would you recommend? Let’s discuss!

Review: ‘Project Hail Mary’ by Andy Weir

Imagine waking up, hooked up to a bunch of tubes, not knowing where you are, how you got there or why. That is how you feel when you first crack open Andy Weir’s latest book, “Project Hail Mary,” because that is how we find the main character, Ryland.

Ryland wakes up in what seems to be a medical unit, being cared for by a robotic machine. However, after a few days of slowly coming out of the lethargic fog that he woke up in, Ryland takes a precursory glance around to deduce that he is on a space craft on a mission. What that mission is has yet to be known, but he knows that it must have been super important. As he struggles to regain his full memory, Ryland tries to move forward with the mission.

This was my first Andy Weir book and I was immersed from the first page. I have never had any aspirations to go to space so the fact that we are joining Ryland on this journey was a nail biter for me. Not only does Ryland not know what he is supposed to do, he is alone, so it’s like learning a new job on the fly. I couldn’t help but hold my breath every time that he touched an unknown button or did something that was clearly not a good idea. Luckily, although Ryland’s memory is hazy, he realizes quickly that many of the things on the ship come easy to him, helping him conclude that he has some type of background.

This book can get a little technical with the scientific terms and the numeric calculations, but it didn’t hinder my understanding of what was going on or what Ryland was trying to do. I was more than happy to let him drive the ship so long as we didn’t crash or he didn’t die. But then I got to thinking – could this actually be possible? Could we build a ship that was able to travel so many light years away and survive?

Are we alone in this universe? It is the age-old question that there is still no clear answer for. Yet, Weir would have us believe that not only is the answer a resounding no, but we can communicate with them and live with them despite our differences.

I loved the relationship between Ryland and Rocky and how the two work on each other’s strengths to get the job done.

I liked the way that Weir used flashbacks to flesh out the story as well as Ryland’s character. Sometimes in books, the flash backs are random but not here. Ryland will look at a piece of paper and what may seem like numeric garble at first, suddenly triggers a memory of him working in a lab on Earth and looking at similar numbers.

I am not one to read science fiction, which is probably why it has taken me so long to pick up one of Weir’s books, but this book was a fast read and thoroughly enjoyable. Now I can’t wait to pick up the “Martian”, which I have heard nothing but good things about.


Have you read “Project Hail Mary”? What did you think? What other Weir books would you recommend? Let’s discuss!

‘The Viscount Who Loved Me’ by Julia Quinn

The second book in the Bridgerton series was just as delightful as “The Duke and I”. Since Daphne is off and married, it is now Anthony’s turn.

Anthony is the oldest of the Bridgerton clan taking care of the estate that his father left behind. It occurs to Anthony that he must get married if he is going to provide an heir. However, he doesn’t want to marry for love for his own personal reasons. A simple wife with whom he can respect but isn’t too dependent upon him will do just fine. He has his sights on Edwina Sheffeld, a beautiful woman who has many admirable suitors. But then Anthony meets Edwina’s sister Kate, who is determined not to let her sister marry the biggest rake there ever was.

I loved the love-hate dynamic between Anthony and Kate. It is every entertaining and you can’t help but keep turning the pages only to find out what happens between the two of them. I found the events that unfold between the two highly comical, especially the scene where the two are chasing after Kate’s Corgi through the town and end up in the lake. I could picture the whole scene in my head and couldn’t help but chuckle out loud.

I also liked how Quinn develops Anthony’s character. His father dies at an age when Anthony can use his wisdom the most and it effects him in a way that it doesn’t the others in his family. His father’s death further goes to shape how he lives his life and who he plans to marry. That is, until Kate shows up and throws a wrench into his plans.

If you love the banter between the Bridgerton clan in the first book, you will not be disappointed as it appears in this book as well. In the “The Duke and I” the banter between the siblings comes during more serious moments, whereas in this book, we catch the family just having pure fun. Though I am not sure if the Bridgerton’s annual Pall Mall game would be considered fun since its a highly competitive game. However, as the reader just observing, one can’t help but laugh at it all. If anything this made me love the family all the more.

And of course, we can’t forget Lady Whistledown, which I think is the secret star of the books. I realized after posting my review for the “Duke and I” that I had completely left her out of the review and I can’t believe it. She is what makes the books even more enjoyable. Her gossip column about the goings on of the members of the Ton sets up each of the chapters and you can’t help but wait with baited breath, like each of the characters, as they see what Lady Whistledown has to say about a particular event. However, we don’t know who Lady Whistledown is yet, though if you watched the Netflix show, it has probably been spoiled (I can’t believe they did that!) Though I can’t help but wonder if she/he is the same person in the book as the person they made Whistledown to be in the show.

Anyway, if you are wondering whether you should continue on with the series, I would have to say yes. You don’t necessarily have to read “The Duke and I” to read “The Viscount Who Loved Me” to understand Anthony’s story. However, there are mentions of a few things that happened in the first book. Though you can always go back later.


Have you read “The Viscount Who Loved Me”? What did you think? Let’s discuss!

‘The Duke and I’ by Julia Quinn

So I wasn’t going to get on the “Bridgerton” train but thanks to boredom, I ended up watching the Netflix show about a month or so ago. And of course, I loved it. I didn’t even know it was a book series until I began seeing all the blog posts about the first book and the comparisons to the show. Well, because the book is (almost) always better than the movie/show, I couldn’t help reading the first book.

I was rather surprised by how closely aligned to the book the show is in regards to Daphne and Simon’s storyline. I really liked how Quinn set up these two characters. Simon is a duke who swears never to marry to spite his father who hated him and Daphne, debutante who is looking is on the marriage market, searching for her husband. These two characters couldn’t be more different if they tried. They end up using these difference for a common purpose. Of course things don’t necessarily work out the way they planned but alas, does it ever?

I have come to rather like the Bridgerton family very much and the banter between the siblings. They are a close family and I enjoyed their family dynamic. However, I noticed upon reading the book, that Quinn doesn’t get too much into the background of the other characters in the first book, whereas the Netflix show does. I think the show is going to follow the books so that each seasons will follow a different Bridgerton, but with some storyline around these characters already outlined in the first season, it will be interesting to see how the show begins to veer away from the books, as I am sure that it is bound to happen.

What the book provides that the show doesn’t is a little more insight into Simon’s character and what is going through his mind about his decisions. While the show did a good job of showing us why Simon’s character is the way he is, there is something to be said about reading a characters thoughts in the moment, especially when it came to Daphne’s character.

Overall I enjoyed the book and have since bought several of the others in the series. As you know, I am not one to follow through with a series but alas, I need to find out what happens to each of the Bridgerton clan.


Have you read “Bridgerton: The Duke and I”? Have you seen the show? Which did you like better? Let’s discuss!

‘The Survivors’ by Jane Harper

I struggled what to rate this book and I am between 3 to 4 stars. I thought it was a good story but I just wasn’t dazzled by it. This is my second Jane Harper book, having read “The Dry” a year and a half ago, and to be honest I can barely remember it.

In “The Survivors”, the main character Kieran Elliott returns home with his girlfriend Mia and their baby daughter, for a visit with his mother. Elliott hasn’t been home since a mistake over 10 years before changed his life forever. And upon his return, old memories begin to resurface – the night of the storm, his brother dying and a girl gone missing. Then 24 hours after arriving back home, Kieran is thrown right back to the past when a young girl is found dead on the beach and questions begin to surface. Then as Elliott and the rest of the town wrestle with this latest development, they end up back on a familiar path that leaves more questions than answers. However, Elliott is determined to find some of those answers this time and maybe in the process put old ghosts to rest.

If there is one good thing Harper is good at doing, it;s creating a complex plot that grabs the readers attention and keeps them wanting more. We know right away, when Kieran returns to his hometown, it’s the last place he wants to be and instantly you want to know why. Then he is accused of being a murderer and now you really want to know what happened. I mean it’s either just a misunderstanding or he really is a murder. So you keep turning the pages wanting to know more. At the same time you want to know what happened to the girl on the beach and how it all ties in, and gradually Harper provides those tidbits.

With the mounting tension, I expected a great unveiling. The point when the past ties with the present so that we not only find out the murderer of the current dead body but also what happened years before. And that’s where this book fell short for me. While we do eventually find out, I was left disappointed. All I could think was “That’s it? That’s what happened?” It almost felt like upon arriving at the point where she had to give the big reveal, Harper didn’t know what to do and picked a random character and a random act to tie it all together. I don’t know, it kind of didn’t fit for me.

Maybe it was because I really liked the characters. Harper did a good job creating this tight knit ocean side community where everyone has their secrets. Then you have this small group that includes Kieran and his group of friends that he hung around with in high school, and even that group has their own secrets. I just thought that there was going to be something bigger – either a huge betrayal or a dark side of someone he thought he knew.

Overall I thought it was an easy, entertaining read, but I thought this was going to be more of a thriller novel than it really was.


Have you read “The Survivors”? What did you think? Let’s discuss!

‘Concrete Rose’ by Angie Thomas

This review is long over due but I would be remiss not to say anything about it. I absolutely loved this book. Though it is the prequel to “The Hate U Give”, it stands on its own as its own.

We are back in Garden Heights but this time Thomas focuses on Maverick Carter who is 17-years-old and is at a crossroads in his life as he made to decide how he is going to make a living. Is it going to be following in his father’s footsteps and dabbling in the gang life where you can get “rich” quick, or is he going to get a “real” job, where the pay sucks but its an honest living. The decision becomes all the more difficult when he suddenly learns that he is a father and now has someone depending on him – his son Seven. Maverick’s decision becomes all the more difficult as he tries to do the right thing by his son but struggles to give him everything he needs.

Once again Thomas puts a difficult issue right on the table – gangs – and forces the reader to understand that sometimes, what you see on the news or hear in the public domain is all as it seems. That though society thinks people who are a part of the gang life choose this life, sometimes they feel like they have no other choice. It’s easy to form an opinion when you don’t actually live the life, and just like she did in “The Hate U Give”, she puts the reader right in front of it. And you begin to understand that sometimes it comes down to pure survival.

Maverick wants to leave the gang life. He saw what it did to his own family as his father is currently behind bars and his own mother struggles to pay the bills. What was a difficult life before is now even more difficult with the presence of a baby and all the costs associated with raising a child. Maverick is only 17, struggling to juggle school, work and raising his son. With his father as an example, Maverick knows that the gang life is not what he wants and vows to break the cycle so his son doesn’t follow. He gets a job that pays with a real paycheck, but as he barely makes ends meet, he wonders if doing a few odd jobs is so bad, at least until he gets enough money under his belt so they are more stable.

What also makes this book great is how Thomas tackles the subject of being a teenage parent from the male perspective. There are so many books about the teenage mom – the book that kept coming to mind while reading this book was “With the Fire on High” – but by focusing it on the teenage dad, Thomas also tackles themes of loyalty and duty. Maverick has a duty to take care of Seven and raise him right but often times that duty comes in conflict with the loyalty he feels toward the Kings. When one of their own is gunned down, Maverick’s loyalty is questioned as he struggles whether to retaliate.

Thomas said in an interview that she wrote this book because she had so many fans who wanted to know about Maverick’s life. While she could have presented his story in the present day of “The Hate U Give”, I am glad that she presented the story in the past because Maverick’s story deserved to be told on its own.

For those who have read “The Hate U Give”, you won’t be disappointed with the prequel.


Have you read this book? What did you think?

‘American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic’ by Andrew Cuomo

It’s hard to believe that it has already been a year since the coronavirus changed our way of life. For New York, the invisible threat was a little late, with our first case starting in March, but we were one of the first major outbreaks in the country. Yet, I can still remember it like yesterday.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo began his daily press conferences, updating New Yorkers on what was happening in the state, how many new cases there were each day, the number of deaths and how they were trying to handle it. For four months, I watched every single press conference along with our County Executive’s press conferences so I could provide updates to the members of the County Legislature, so they can be better informed for their local constituents.

Cuomo’s book “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic” starts with inevitable early morning phone call on March 1, informing him that New York had its first confirmed cases of COVID-19 and then goes from there. In a diary sort of setup, each chapter is an important date, with the number of cases and death. He recaps the major points in the COVID-19 journey from the first cluster that hit Westchester, NY and caused the first “lockdown” to the shutdown of the entire state, what he ends up calling New York on PAUSE.

What makes this book interesting is the behind the scenes decisions that were being made as New York had to deal with each new crisis as it unfolded, even as Cuomo has to deal with his own family and staff that were being exposed or infected. Cuomo goes into detail about his negotiations with the federal government, particularly with President Trump and he doesn’t hold back on his derision for the decisions that were being made. He goes into the conflicts he had in making certain decisions and how at times he didn’t agree with any of the options laid out before him.

Cuomo has gotten some criticism for writing this book before the pandemic was officially over, but I think the intention of the book was not to take a victory lap but merely to describe how New York got over the first wave. Of course this book is a bit subjective as it is his personal account and there are a few times where he seems to be patting himself on the back, but honestly this book is merely a recap of what happened during those first few months.

Recently, there has been more and more news that has come out about those decisions, particularly about the nursing homes. Some of it he explains in the book, but it will be interesting how it plays out.

To be honest, I wasn’t a huge fan of Cuomo previously, but I think he did step up and lead during the crisis. I honestly believe he was doing the best he could given that this was an entirely new virus, and that goes for a lot of our officials – at least the ones that acknowledged that the virus was real and was trying to stop it. He was a calming voice who was trying to reassure people who didn’t understand what was going on. No one knew what they were doing. So were mistakes made? Most definitely. But that is what happens when local officials have to figure it out as they go along.

This is just one individual’s perspective and I am sure more and more books will be coming out about what has happened. Cuomo’s book is just a part of the narrative. Whether you choose to read it or not is completely up to you.

‘Shirley’ by Charlotte Bronte

I was first introduced to Charlotte Bronte in high school with “Jane Eyre”, one of my all-time favorite classics book, and one that I have read multiple times. I figured now was the time to try to read something else by Charlotte Bronte. Some of her books are on my reading list for The Classics Club and as luck would have it, “Shirley” got picked for the latest CC Spin and we had 9 weeks to read it. Easy enough.

So here we are, January 30th, and I am sorry to say that I have yet to finish it and I am even debating whether to set it aside for good. I’m so disappointed with this read and honestly, I am kind of bored with it at this point.

For one thing, the pacing of this book is sooo slow and while I understand some authors want to unfold story little by little, I feel that it takes forever to get to the character for which this book is named. Shirley is not introduced to the reader until halfway through. Rather it would seem that the main character is Caroline as we learn about all about her and she becomes front and center to the story. Even when Shirley is first introduced, the author narrates Caroline’s movements more.

While I know that this is the point in the book where things may pick up, I feel like I shouldn’t have to work so hard. I can’t relate to any of the characters and honestly feel like Caroline’s story line has gone flat. Basically, she is in love with Robert Moore and her woes as she tries to make him see her in the same way. Nothing new has happened in the last 50 or so pages. I want to keep reading but I am afraid to be disappointed if nothing changes.

This is becoming more of a rant than a review at this point, so I will leave it here. I am going to keep the book to the side and pick it up at random, with the hope of eventually finishing it. Perhaps I may surprise everyone in a few months with a new review. Or I may DNF it permanently. Whatever its fate, I am just glad that “Jane Eyre” was my first Charlotte Bronte read.


Have you read “Shirley”? Are there any other Charlotte Bronte books I should try? Let’s discuss?

Book Club Discussion: ‘The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian’ by Sherman Alexie

I wasn’t sure if I was going to like this book. I thought I had read it before and I couldn’t remember it. Usually, a book I like leaves some type of impression on me, but even rereading it for book club, I didn’t remember anything. However, I actually liked it this time around.

It’s a coming-of-age story about a teenage Native American boy who tries to break away from the life he lives on the Spokane Indian reservation. Junior aka Arnold has dreams of one day going off to do bigger and better things, but he knows that if he doesn’t leave the reservation, he is destined to follow in the footsteps of many before him. So he goes to Reardon High School, a school 45 minutes away, where he is the only Native American at the school. However, Junior quickly learns to navigate the dual life he now lives and is the better for it.

For me, I liked how the author brings to light the challenges Native Americans face and how they have been affected by alcohol, casinos and just living on a reservation in general. The fact that it is semi-autobiographical makes it all the more meaningful.

I also liked watching Junior grow through this book, especially while he is at Reardon. The author did a good job pointing out that although Junior is Native American, he is just like any other teenage boys who thinks about girls, sports, friends and just navigating his tumultuous teenage years.

I was one of the few in book club who did like the book. However, there was a pretty even split in terms of this book. Those who liked it thought it was an important work about Native American life and one of the few that were around. Those who didn’t like it, thought that they would have probably enjoyed it better if they were younger. Others didn’t like Junior and his attitude and couldn’t connect with the characters at all.

And then during the book club discussion, one of the organizers read up on the author and found out that he had been accused of sexual harassment in 2018. This created a whole new debate as to whether we could separate the works from the author. Some argued that since this was semi-autobiographical you couldn’t and some who liked the book before regretted doing so now that they knew about the authors’ actions. Others continue to defend the book, arguing it was still just as important because it was one of the few about Native American life that needed to be told.

Usually we would go on to dissect the book, but after this discovery, the discussion began to swing to other works that we were reading and recommendations for future reads. I was kind of disappointed because I thought there was so much to discuss in this book.

Book Club Discussion: ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’

The Modern Library’s January discussion was “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” by Ken Kesey, a book I read a few years ago but didn’t quite remember it. I am glad that I got a chance to reread it because I think I actually enjoyed it even more. In fact, my review bumped to 5 stars.

If you are not familiar with this book, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” is set in a psychiatric hospital ward, run by the infamous Nurse Ratched. She runs a tight ship and makes sure all the patients keep to a strict schedule. That is until the ward gets its newest patient, Randle McMurphy, who swaggers into the ward on his first day and pulls rank among the patients. Immediately, McMurphy defies Ratched’s rules and begins to be seen as a troublemaker by the nurse. It becomes a battle of wills as Ratched tries to keep reign over the ward and McMurphy tries to get the other patients on his side.

I thought that the setting of the book in a psychiatric ward was brilliant because it ultimately made the book a page turner. Not only it’s an unpredictable environment, but you throw McMurphy into the mix, and it’s anyone’s game. I found myself laughing aloud at some parts, because Kesey’s writing makes the reader feel they are right in on the action. I was particularly amused when McMurphy has an overnight party on the ward and those involved get drunk on smuggled alcohol and cough syrup. Hilarious.

Yet, even with its comic relief, Ken Kesey also brings to light some of the harsher truths about psychiatric hospitals and the stigma of society to conform. This book was written in the 60s when psychiatric hospitals were run a little more cruelly and this book provides a bit of reality of what patients went through. Kesey highlights how when people didn’t conform to what society dictated as ‘normal’, they were considered crazy. How to treat that condition differed pending on who was in charge of your care. In the case of Nurse Ratched, if you didn’t follow her rules, you could either being punished with electro-shock treatment or by a lobotomy.

Kesey uses McMurphy as the weapon to reveal these truths, particularly with his power struggle with the nurse. Yet, we don’t see all this through McMurphy’s eyes. Rather Kesey uses another character, Chief Bromden, a Native American patient who has been on the ward for 10 years as the narrator. It actually works with the plot as Bromden provides perspective on how things were pre-McMurphy and the changes that McMurphy causes during his stay.

You get to know everyone on the ward and slowly Kesey reveals why they are truly there. That even though they have been label “crazy” by society, they are anything but. Sure they have their quirks or challenges, but they are still humans who have emotions and needs that should not be ignored, simply because society says. Kesey also reveals what can happen if they don’t get what they need.

There were mixed reactions to the book. No one hated it but some were surprised by the amount of racism and misogyny described, which raised a discussion. There was some debate about Nurse Ratched, who is characterized as being firm and manly, running the ward like the army and how McMurphy goes about undermining that, even at one point revealing her as the female she is. There was some debate about whether McMurphy’s actions were warranted as well as whether Nurse Ratched was truly a villain. Were her punishments against the patients effective? How cruel is too cruel and at what cost?

The ending is particularly shocking but everyone thought it a fitting end to the battle between Nurse Ratched and McMurphy. I won’t say more than that except that the group agreed that this was a book that deserved to be recognized for what it was, at the time that it was written. This is definitely book club worthy as there are many topics to discuss.


Have you read “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest? What did you think? Let’s discuss!