Monday, March 30, 2015

Holy Week Post - Religious (or Religious-ish) Books on my To Be Read List

Hi everyone, just wanted to let you know that this week on the blog is going to be a unique one. For Christians all around the world this week is Holy Week, where the death and resurrection of Christ is celebrated/observed. I'm a Christian so I am also celebrating/observing this week. I thought I'd take the opportunity to make my celebrations/observation reach to the blog too. 

Here's a couple of books (among the many others) on my TBR. Anyone read any of these? Any I should add? (Click on covers to go to their goodreads page)


There's been a lot of talk about the high pressure and expectations that we put on ourselves lately. I saw this and thought that it might be a good reminder for me!


This book was written by the brother of famous (recently-ish deceased) atheist Christopher Hitchens. I thought it could be an interesting perspective. My library had this, someone lost it, and it hasn't been replaced yet. Argh!


First of all, meow cover. You foxy. Also it's about CS Lewis so obviously I'm in. Jamie at Books and Beverages just did an interview with the author and he was great!


I keep trying to win this book through a Goodreads giveaway. (I used to win those things all the time and now I never do. I don't understand. I always read and reviewed what I won...Anyway). Thought this book would be fun because it talks about travel too!


I've heard about this author a lot but not actually read anything by her. I like the sub title, so many days roll by that I think are just blah, so this might help me appreciate more.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Living Abroad- "How to Be Danish" by Patrick Kingsley (Denmark)

Usually when I do a Living Abroad post, it's about someone who moves to a new country and their floundering around as they adjust to a place much different than their own. Slight change in the formula today! This book centers on what it is exactly to be Danish, or how to be Danish, as the title says. This is a complicated country, I tell you what. But it's also interesting because some of the struggles that they have are the same struggles a lot of European countries are having. So let's get in on it!

To be Danish you have to: ride a bike. And not just for exercise or as a Sunday jaunt through the country. Your bike is your car, especially in Copenhagen. According to the book 1/3 of Copenhagers cycle to work. There's even a blog called Copenhagen Cycle Chic which highlights how good these people can look and STILL  bike to work. (It helps that, square mileage wise, Copenhagen isn't large).

To be Danish you have to: pay a lot of taxes. Like, an incomprehensible amount, to this American. It can be up to 60% of your annual income (we will talk about what that get's you in a minute). "80% of Danes pay 1% to the Church" even if they aren't necessarily religious.There's also a 25% VAT tax, and "high levies on commodities like cars (180%! )". A 25% tax on food makes eating out a rare treat.

To be Danish you have: a government that subsidies a lot of things. Childcare, education, health care are all subsided to some degree. There is also a lot of help for people who need it through programs like welfare. However, there seems to be a cultural shift away from so much welfare support because of incidences of extreme abuse, and the fact there are more people pulling out of it than putting into it so there are questions of sustainability. So you're paying a lot in taxes but you're getting a good chunk of it back in different ways.

To be Danish you: might sometimes be at a loss to deal with your new immigrant population. (I'm sure there are a lot of Danes who personally welcome new diversity with wide open arms, but it seems like as a whole there is some growing pains, perhaps).Integration seems to be a hot topic but what about when people don't want to integrate? This is obviously not an exclusively Danish problem.

(OBVIOUSLY not all people from Denmark ride a bike, or follow any of these other rules. Just a little disclaimer)

So Denmark, it sounds really nice but also really expensive and I'm not a very good bike rider. I'm especially not a good bike rider in a skirt and heels, but I am super impressed by those that are! I wish there was a book like this for every country! Kind of a weirdly specific read, but if you love Denmark or really focused books this could be for you! 3 out of 5 stars!

Also, fun  cover!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Form Letter for a Book Review Request: A Dream

Everyone who has blogged for any length of time has a story about a terrible review request from an author or a publisher. I was talking with T of Traveling with T about this the other day, because I feel like she gets a lot of doozies. (The most recent one someone used "plz" instead of "please" in a request. Oy. It's an email. There's no character limit. Feel free to actually spell.)

There have been several great posts on this topic and I really hope that people who send review requests are reading them. Here is my humble offering. (In a perfect world, we'd all have individual personalized pitches pitched to us, but this is not a perfect world. Let's just make do).

I joked that I was going to make a good form letter and sell it to people to fund my travels. (Joking, sort of.) But really as a public service, here it is.

(Publisher/not author version)

Dear _________ (This should be the human being who runs the blog's name, not the name of the blog.)

My name is ___________ and I'm representing _________ and their new book ____________. When I was reading (blog name) I saw that you're a fan of (genre or other author or other book). I think that you will really enjoy (book) because it has a lot of the same elements that (genre or other author) employs. (If you want to be super awesome throw in a personal something here like: "Loved your review of /some book/, I loved that book myself"!)  I understand that your time is valuable and that there are many great books waiting on your to-be-read list; however if  (book name) sounds like something you would enjoy, and maybe review, please email me back and I will get you a copy.

Here is a summary of (book's name) and (author's name) social media information if you'd like to learn more.

Thank you so much for your time!
(Persons name)

Short, easy, personal. Right?

(author version)

Dear _________ (This should be the human being who runs the blog's name, not the name of the blog.)

My name is ___________ and I'm writing to you about my new book  ________________. When looking through your blog, I saw that you're a fan of ___________; and because of that I think you'd really enjoy my book! (If you want to be super awesome throw in a personal something here like: "Loved your review of /some book/, I loved that book myself"!)  I understand that your time is valuable and that there are many great books waiting on your to-be-read list; however if  (book name) sounds like something you would enjoy, and maybe review, please email me back and I will get you a copy.

Here is a summary of (book's name) and my social media information if you'd like to learn more.

Thank you so much for your time!

(Person's name)

An email like that would definitely give me more pause and make me consider something that has been obviously copied and paste. Obviously good spelling and grammar and correct information and link should all be givens.

So simple, yet so difficult for some people. You're = you are. Come on people!

What should be added or deleted from these letters? Is this a useless pipe dream and should we all just move on?

UPDATE: T got another terrible one today!

@whoffs :) :) got another doozy of a request- title, pg #, open to interview, but no info about book. Ai yay yi, ppl!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Book Review: "The Countess' Captive" by Andrea Cefalo (HFVB)

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Remember where we left Adelaide in "Fairy Tale Keeper's Daughter"? The second book picks up right where we left off!

Adelaide, her father, and Galadriel are off to G's estate. They are homeless, and if anyone finds out Adelaide's actions on the night the cathedral burned down they will be fugitives in a whole heap of trouble too. The journey to the new estate is long. (I think the whole book takes place in time about a month or month and a half).

(This book also made me appreciate the fact that I can just get in my car and drive for long periods in relative comfort. I have heat, I have air conditioning, I have a radio station playing the same 9 songs, I have an occasional McDonalds stop for french fries and bladder emptying. This group would have probably died of thankfulness for just one or two of those things.)

After a couple of trials and tribulations (and a maybe murder attempt) they get to the estate. Adelaide is surprised by how big it is, and basically immediately starts plotting her escape back to Cologne and Ivo. (Which considering her and his actions that might not be the safest plan of action, but hey, she's a girl in love). There's some very nice people at the estate (her nursemaid) and some kind of terrible people (some of G's ladies in waiting) and even a woman who looks remarkably like Adelaide's mother. The way they keep mentioning her I kept waiting for a big shoe to drop regarding her, but maybe that's the next book!

As Adelaide struggles to figure out how to make due at the estate, and biding her time to escape she gets hit with 2 pieces of news that set up the next book and change all of her plans! (Dum dum duuuuuuum)

It's funny because my thoughts for this book are so close to the first one. It's short and it reads really, really fast. Also, the fairytale retelling part of this one is, to me, even less pronounced than in the first one. I mean, it comes up in little ways but I still wouldn't call this book a retelling. The third book is scheduled to be out this summer and I'm excited to see what happens next!


And just like the first book there's a fun quiz to take and a cool giveaway!

About the Author

Andrea Cefalo is an award-winning author and blogger on Medieval Europe. The next three novels in The Fairytale Keeper series will debut in 2015 and 2016. She resides in Greenville, South Carolina with her husband and their two border collies. For more information please visit Andrea Cefalo’s website. You can also find her on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Guest Post at Book Bloggers International!

Hello everyone! Today I'm guest posting over at Book Bloggers International. We are talking about movies (that are based on books) that feature libraries! I once again attempt to sound like I know what I'm talking about in regards to Harry Potter even though I haven't read any of them. Check it out here!

Also, thanks to everyone who stopped by the blog this week. My Monday and Wednesday posts were two of my most viewed posts ever (that weren't tied to an event like Bloggiesta or Armchair BEA). So, woohoo!

Have a wonderful weekend and enjoy this first day of Spring! (Even if it will only be low 40s. Sigh. #midwestlife)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Book Review: "The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect us from Violence" by Gavin de Becker

You're probably thinking that this sounds like a book that will make you paranoid and a little bit crazy. It will, but it will mostly make you feel empowered.

I'm a little bit paranoid about my safety.  I kind of always have been. I always make sure doors are locked, windows are closed, I park under lights in parking lots, I have pepper spray on my key chain. (Though I've never been mugged or assaulted or anything). This book pops up on a woman named Heather Poole's twitter account alot. She is a flight attendant and travels (a lot of time alone) a lot and she said she recommends this book to everyone. I was intrigued so I dove in.(Also if you want any proof for sure that people turn from people into animals the second they step on an airplane, follow her on twitter and passenger shaming on instagram. Lord help us)

Gavin de Becker had a very unpleasant childhood. But he grew up to be a safety expert and the author of this incredibly interesting book. It breaks down into a couple of different sections: workplace safety, relationship/spousal safety, "why you don't ever want to be a celebrity" (my title), and "it's okay to be a "bitch" if it makes you feel safe (also my title but I think very accurate).He gives different stories that follow under each of the sections I mentioned above.

Here's what it boils down to: trust your instincts. That weird little voice in your head that alerts you to an uncomfortable situation but you might not know why, don't ignore that. The one story that stuck with me the most was this (me paraphrasing): two men received a package at their office. It was suspicious. One man wanted to open it, one did not. The man who didn't want to open it made an offhand comment, something like "I'm getting out of here before that thing blows up". He walks into the hallway, the other man opens it, it explodes. Isn't it interesting that even a weird offhand comment that probably just popped into his head was his unconscious trying to send him signals that he's in danger.

He also brought up a really interesting point: in a movie, when a man relentlessly pursues a woman in a lot of cases it's supposed to be romantic and they end up together. He uses The Graduate for a longer explanation but uses other movies as well. But if a woman pursues a man in the same way in a movie, she's generally seen as crazy or psychotic and odds are that she will be dead by the end of the movie: Fatal Attraction, Basic Instinct, The Hand That Rocks the Cradle.

Also, if you are a lady and see another lady struggling with groceries or something and you want to be kind, ask if you can help her. Women feel less threatened by other women (which is not to say there ain't some crazy women who would jab a gun in someone's ribs, because there are) so maybe we need to circle the wagons around ourselves and each other a little bit.

I generally don't read psychology-ish books but I really think this one is worth reading. It's not often that you read a book that could literally save your life, but this one could. 4 out of 5 stars from me!


Monday, March 16, 2015

"I read books, I should be smarter than this..."

So the other day I'm reading a book (I don't remember which) and I came across a sentence that said
something something something "scotch the rumor". And I was like, " that's a weird misprint. It's *squash* a rumor. Isn't it? Right?" And then I googled, and I am wrong. So my whole life I've been saying "squash a rumor".

This doesn't really surprise me because I have a history of making an idiot of myself in this way. I remember 2 occasions from when I was little. (Okay, to be honest, the second one was when I was probably about 13).

So there's a famous hymn (Let All Things Now Living) and there is a line that is : "His law he enforces, the stars in their courses, and sun in it's orbit obediently shines". So the problem is that I always sang it as "His law he enforces, the stars in their corsets, and sun in it's orbit obediently shines". What is funny is that my little child brain wasn't like : "so that's weird, what other word could it be?" But it's still one of my favorite hymns and even now when I sing it I picture little yellow cartoon stars in corsets with their insides all smushed.

Another instance was when people talked about "the pearly gates" I always thought that they were saying "curly gates". Like, super ornate curly topped wrought iron fences, because why wouldn't God want the fanciest gates he could have? That time I showed it to my mom, (it was in a book) and was like "what is that about?" and then we spent ten minutes saying "Wait, you thought it was curly?" and "Wait, why would they be pearly? What does that even mean? Shiny? Of course their shiny, it's HEAVEN". I think I'm right and the world is wrong on this one. The gates are both shiny and incredibly ornate.

Last one: this is from 2014. It's actually "cardsharp" but I always thought it was "cardshark". Doesn't shark make so much more sense? Like someone whose aggressive and menacing? This is another one that I think I'm right and the world is wrong.

Moral of the story: I always think I'm right until I'm proven wrong in print. Also, you can read lots of books and still be an idiot sometimes. Or at least have terrible hearing. Anyone else do this?

Friday, March 13, 2015

Book Review: "The Fairytale Keeper: Avenging the Queen" by Andrea Cefalo (HFVB)

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We meet Adelaide on not a great day in her life, at the funeral for her mother. She was taken by a fever that had ripped through the medieval town of Cologne. It was just Adelaide, her mother and her father, who was a cobbler by trade making their lives together. However, recently her mother's cousin Galadriel had come to visit after her baby and her husband had been killed by the same fever. She was there to try to take care of her cousin but it was no use.

Adelaide's life isn't the only one in uproar. All over Cologne there's pockets of unrest, especially against a number of corrupt religious figures more concerned with lining their pockets than with the good of their flock. There's even a copy of the Bible in German available, so the literate people could read it for themselves and not just trust what their clergy were saying!

A stable presence in Adelaide's life is Ivo, the love interest. His life is harder than Adelaide's due in part to a drunk, no good father but he still finds time to sneak out at night and catch fireflies with her.

Then things really start to unravel: a family betrayal, arson, false imprisonment, torture, revolution and more. Does Adelaide get out of this whole mess with her loved ones intact and herself alive?

I'll be reviewing the sequel to this book, the Countess's Captive, in a week or two, so you don't have to wait to find out what happens next!

This book was a super fast read. I looked down at the page percentage on my Kindle while I was reading and was always surprised by how fast it was moving!


Are you curious about what character from the book you are? Take this quiz and find out! (Isn't that fun?)

There's also a giveaway for a $25 gift card and a custom clutch. Enter here!

About the Author

Besides being the award-winning author of The Fairytale Keeper series, Andrea Cefalo is a self-proclaimed medievalist, hopeless bookworm, and social media junkie. She graduated with honors from Winthrop University in 2007 where she studied Medieval art history and children’s literature. The next three books in The Fairytale Keeper series—The Countess’ Captive, The Baseborn Lady, and The Traitor’s Target—will debut in 2015 and 2016. She resides in Greenville, South Carolina—ever perched before her trusty laptop—with her husband and their two border collies.
For more information please visit Andrea Cefalo’s website. You can also find her on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Book Review: "Near Enemy" by Adam Sternbergh

I don't know if any of you read it but a great book came out last year called "Shovel Ready". The cover was drool worthy and I loved the story. Here's the goodreads summary:

Spademan used to be a garbage man. That was before the dirty bomb hit Times Square, before his wife was killed, and before the city became a bombed-out shell of its former self. Now he's a hitman.

In a New York City split between those who are wealthy enough to "tap into" a sophisticated virtual reality for months at a time and those left to fend for themselves in the ravaged streets, Spademan chose the streets. His clients like that he doesn't ask questions, that he works quickly, and that he's handy with a box cutter. He finds that killing people for money is not that different from collecting trash, and the pay is better. His latest client hires him to kill the daughter of a powerful evangelist. Finding her is easy, but the job quickly gets complicated: his mark has a shocking secret and his client has an agenda far beyond a simple kill. Now Spademan must navigate the dual levels of his world-the gritty reality and the slick fantasy-to finish the job, to keep his conscience clean, and to stay alive.

Love this cover!

So, spoilery, obviously Spademan survived the first book because the second book is here and stars him! (If you think that the first book sounds intriguing, I'd encourage you to stop reading this review and go pick it up. Don't want to spoil it for anyone! Ugh, now I remember why I don't review sequels that often, but I love this series and wanted to share!) :)

So Spademan is still alive, and after narrowly escaping with his life the first time, is back to his normal job. Killing people with a box cutter for money. The change this time around is that he's a family man. Persephone (a name I love, that would probably never actually give to anybody) and her baby are stowed safely out of reach from the fanatics who have anger from the breakdown of her dad's megachurch. Spademan is out on a "job" when his intended target tells him something very disturbing. It was always the assumption that when you were "plugged in" to thecomforting virtual reality that was created, you were safe. You could be killed in this alternative world, but all it would do was force you to wake up in the real world. Lesser, Spademan's target and someone who becomes an important part of the book, says that he saw someone die in the "limn". And it was permanent.

This lures Spademan into a world of cops (some dirty, some good), a shadowy "off the books" political figure, an alluring nurse, and a host of other characters, some from the first book. Everything isn't as it seems and Spademan knows that it's not in his best interest to trust anyone. But he can't do it all himself. What will that cost him?

Also there's a character that lives in the Cloisters of New York City. Apparently it's still beautiful and impressive even without the art in it. #NewYorkCityBucketlist. Anyone been and want to tell me about it and make me jealous?

Favorite sentence in the book:"Power is often built on the back of ruin". (True that)

What I like about this book: I love the writing. The sentences are crafted like you're reading them in Spademan's head. It's like stream of consciousness except it makes sense and doesn't drive you crazy. Our man is "just" a garbage man, but he's smart and clever and surprisingly kind for a professional killer. It's not that long, about 300 pages, and it moves fast! You regret there isn't more (well until the next book, right Adam Sternbergh, RIGHT?) It bums me out that it kind of ends on a cliffhanger, but what are you gonna do, authors gotta eat :) A 3.5 out of 5 stars from this girl!

Book was provided for free in exchange for an honest review from Blogging for Books

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Graphic Novel Review - "V for Vendetta" by Alan Moore and David Lloyd, with bonus movie talk!

I've been not great about keeping up with my "1 graphic novel a month" resolution" but I knew that one of them would be this one.  Basically because I really liked the movie, opposite world I guess; movie than book for me!

Here's the basics: England is possibly one of the only countries left after a worldwide nuclear war took out several countries around the world. It's not run by an incredibly scary dictatorship that controls and monitors absolutely everything. People who are enemies of the state/party are swept up into concentration camps where predictably terrible things happen. So suddenly anyone who is gay, black, outspoken against the government, threatening in any way to the "peace" that's been accomplished has disappeared. This leaves a lot of orphans, and one of them is Evey, one of our main characters. She decides that she needs to take to prostitution to survive, but on the night she decides to start she runs into a scary situation where she is saved by a masked man.

This masked man takes her to his subterranean lair that is filled with wonderful, illegal things; like art and music and movies. He explains that he is "V" and that the explosion of a nearby government building was him, he's out to fix England and force her people to make a change.

So throughout the story we hear how the government reacts to "V" and his little anarchy fueled mischief, why he is the way he is, and more. I was surprised how closely the movie followed the novel, it hit all the same major points, even if sometimes it took some different paths to get there. There was a lot more side action about wives of high ranking officials in the novel who were cut out of the movie, which I think is fine. They weren't super crucial.I thought it was interesting that parts of the branches of government were named after body parts, like the surveillance team who spies on everyone was "Ears"; which makes sense. And the policemen who almost kill Evey are "finger men".

Movie talk: I love the casting in the movie, especially Hugo Weaving. That's not really fair because I love Hugo Weaving in general so I might be a little biased. Not everything is followed from the novel to a T (but when is it ever?) but I think that it's close enough that a lot of people won't be that angry!

If you are looking for a classic graphic novel to read I highly recommend this one. It's pretty straightforward, the text is clear to read and it's kind of a familiar story. 3.5 out of 5 stars!


Monday, March 9, 2015

Book Review: "Last Night in Montreal" by Emily St John Mandel

You've probably heard of "Station Eleven", Emily St John Mandel's incredibly popular (and incredible) book that got all of the book blogs and book people talking. The book that we are talking about today was actually written and released before S11 and so everyone who read this book knew how special ESJM was before all the rest of us suckers. (Yeah, we're going to be doing a lot of abbreviations I think in this review).

I don't want to talk about the book because I walked into it knowing almost nothing about it, and it made for a really fresh/no expectations reading experience and I want that to be the same thing for you. I'll just give you a brief outline.

A girl walks out of her house in the middle of a Canadian winter and is never seen by her mother again. She grows up crisscrossing the United States, teaching herself languages, never staying in one place for long. As a young woman she hasn't ever learned to stay in one place for long and leaves a string of hurt and sad people in her wake. (Sometimes she desperately wants to stay in places with these people but she just can't bring herself to physically do it). The story revolves around this girl with many names, people who love/d her, one person whose family is destroyed because of her and an ever watching presence that follows her for a lot of her life.

This is a book of obsessive personalities as well. Yikes.

I think ESTM writing style is consistent between this book at S11. She has this kind of wonderful, breezy quality to her writing that manages to still be substantial and impressive. I still can't think of a great way to describe it. I like her writing style very much. There we go, haha.

People say that this book might be better than S11. I think it's unfair to compare them that way because they are such dramatically different books. I personally would give a slight edge to S11 just because I like the realistic dystopian setting. But I think if you liked the interwovenness of S11 you'll also like it in this book. I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars!

That's a pomegranate on a plate in case anyone is confused by that.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Are There Any Books Written About This? Why not?!

Do you have that thought? Or another favorite of mine "Someone should write a book about that, I feel like that would be awesome". I started keeping track of things that should be books. If there happens to be books about this stuff, please please pass it on to me, because I want to read it!

Here's the couple that I remembered long enough to write down:

Apparently a bunch of anarchists were blowing stuff up not long before WWI,which was one of the things (besides the  assassination) that put the wheels in motion for our first World War. Wouldn't that make for an interesting book?

With the first World War there came injuries the likes of which no one had ever seen. This included a lot of face injuries (trench warfare = hell). I'm curious about facial reconstruction, prosthesis development. Like, that had to be risky and uncomfortable and awful. I can't believe people with face injuries didn't die from from infection and loss of blood. I don't mean to be insensitive about people's sufferings, it's just that this had to be some of the first surgeries and processes of the time.

It seems like there were soldiers from neutral countries fighting in armies in WWII. I think there were some Finns that fought for the Germans? Also there were apparently Siberians that fought for Stalin that rode reindeer, who doesn't want to read that book?

(I was watching a lot of the Military channel there for a couple of weeks, so pardon the weird theme...)

Do you remember that horrible day when that plane crashed over Lockerbie, Scotland? (And when I say crashed I mean sabotaged by terrorists and brought down.) Is there a book about the city, like how there was this little town and then this terrible thing happened and media converged from around the world and the trial and everything? That hand to be surreal for the residents.

But I guess when it comes right down to it:

Anyone else have a list like this?

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Rapid fire book reviews #4

Silent Sister - This book wasn't bad, I think it just wasn't really my taste. Sometimes these types of mysteries are just hohum for me. Having said that, I thought the main character and all of the feelings that she expressed were totally authentic feeling and relatable. This book just appeared in my mail and I don't know where it came from so if I promised someone somewhere a whole review somewhere I'm sorry.

Neighbors - I like WWII books that have a really tight focus, like that highlight one particular group or area or what have you. So this book is all about one tiny village in Poland where "one half of the killed the other (Jewish) half". It wasn't Nazis who did the killing. It was people they'd known for their whole lives. It was incredibly well researched, short in length and heartbreaking. Humans are capable of terrifying things. Also, poor Poland. They've had a lot of crappy stuff happen.

Unruly places, lost spaces, secret cities, and other inscrutable varieties - This book is all really short little essays about a variety of "non places". This includes cities that aren't inhabited anymore due to catastrophe (Chernobyl, land poisoned by environmental problems), islands that aren't on any maps, and all kinds of things. The short stories are nice for little bites of reading!

Yes, Please - Amy Poehler's memoir. I liked that she is really honest about her past and what she feels like her failings are. I love that her and Seth Meyers are BFFs. I didn't enjoy it as much as Mindy Kailing's or Tina Fey's books but I still enjoyed it.

Silver Screen Fiend - Patton Oswalt's film addiction memoir.He isn't joking about being addicted, like this consumed his whole life. I wanted to just adore this book, but I ended up just liking it. Got some good film recommendations though!


Monday, March 2, 2015

Book Review: "The Invisible Front" by Yochi Dreazen

Mark and Carol Graham were kind of your normal military family. She followed him around the world with each new assignment, from Germany to Korea and all around the United States. They had 3 kids, Kevin, Jeff and Melanie. All of the kids were close, probably due to the fact they constantly had to change schools and often only knew each other. This was a family where military service was seen as one of the highest callings you could have.

Jeff always knew he wanted to be in the military. He was friendly and gregarious, but also an incredibly hard worker and very smart.

Kevin was also very smart, but was more reserved and introspective. He didn't know if the military life was the one for him, but some pressure from his family and the fact that the ROTC would cover his schooling in exchange for some military service made him go that path. Kevin suffered from depression and mood swings. Mental illness ran in both Mark and Carol's families, but it was never really talked about.

Kevin hangs himself just as military career is about to start. Jeff dies in Iraq about a year later.

This is obviously emotionally devastating for the remainder of the family. What makes an already terrible situation worse is the different way that the family is treated after each of the boys deaths. Jeff's funeral is attended by hundreds of people, he's called a hero, people say the Graham's should be proud. When Kevin died people were less supportive, especially a few of his ROTC instructors who told his parents that Kevin was a coward and was probably in hell. (Yeah, said that to his parent's faces.)

Mark and Carol's eyes are opened to the problem that the military has with dealing with mental illness and it's treatments. If your superior officers find out that you go to therapy it could negatively affect your career. If your peers find out you could be ostracized and even harmed. Military suicide is not a small problem. In 2004, 67 soldiers committed suicide; in 2005, 87. And that doesn't even take into account when a soldier harms others (I think everyone can remember at least one incident of hearing a soldier that shot their spouse, maybe others and then themselves.) Mark and Carol begin several different initiatives to help soldiers get the help that they need, even though Mark knows that he will ruffle many feathers and that it could negatively affect his career (he does and it does).

One thing that the author only talks about in the epilogue is the link between military sexual assault and military suicide. We will probably never have accurate numbers about these incidents because so many sexual assaults go unreported for fear of reprisals. I'd be interested (and probably really saddened and disheartened) to know more about this.

 (On a side note, women who serve in the military are , I don't even know. They need all of our respect and help when and if they need it. I could never be in the military so the women who are brave enough to face the dangers they do will always have my humble thanks and utmost gratitude. Rock stars.)

Basically here's what it boils down to:

- The stigma against mental illness needs to stop. It prevents people from getting the support and the help that they need in many cases. This doesn't just include the people who are sick but their family and friends as well.
- Human beings need to be decent to each other, it's really not our strong point but we need to try harder.
- The attitude in our armed forces needs to change. If you have PTSD you're not a "coward" or a "pussy". You're someone who has been traumatized and needs help. The Graham family is working so hard to make this a reality.

You know how sometimes you read a book and the subject matter is hard and frustrating but the book is well written and you learn so much that you're so glad you read it? This is one of those books. 4 out of 5 stars.

* I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review from Blogging for Books*