The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Geeks

HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY!

JUMPS UP AND WAVES ERRATICALLY AT ALL MY FELLOW GIRL GEEKS, NERDS, OBSESSIVE LOVERS OF EVERYTHING.

I HAVE FOUND THE FANGIRL FEMINIST BIBLE.

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*phew* Ok. I’m tired now. Sometimes being that enthusiastic can be exhausting, but this book gave me ALL THE FEELS. Because ladies, it is all about us! And it’s amaaaaazing. I’m not kidding, I was internally screaming the whole time I was reading, like FINALLY someone stood up and said HEY! We need this. We deserve this. This is ours.

I basically want to post myself at the doorway of every high school and just hand out copies of this book. Because girls need to read it. It would change so many young girls’ attitudes about so many things.

I should probably tell you about it, huh? *deep breath* Ok. Calming down. Just a little bit though.

Sam Maggs is a fan girl. And like many of us, she’s gotten all of the resistance from the patriarchy about being a “fake geek girl.” What even is that anyway? Ugh. So, she’s written a book about how to fly our fan girl flag so high that the guys can have absolutely nothing to say about us being fake. Because we are pretty freaking awesome, ladies, and we should show it.

This book covers all the bases of geek–from cosplay to Tumblr, cons to YA lit. But the real underlying theme is confidence and feminism. It’s time to believe in ourselves and stop letting the world outside tear us down and stop us from being who we really want to be. The most wonderful thing about being a geek is that we love something with everything we have, which makes us different than anybody else. Why not show everyone what that one thing is?

If you couldn’t tell, I really loved this book. It’s coming out on May 12, and you bet I’m going to have this one on my shelf. Are you a fan girl? FLY THAT FLAG!

 

Fulfills PopSugar #24:  A book based entirely on its cover

NetGalley provided this ARC for an unbiased review.

Life on the Mississippi

Sometimes you find a book so old and beautiful that it demands to be read. That is how I feel about the beautiful set of 1920s Mark Twains I found recently. They were a steal at $8 a piece and while the leather spines are a bit roughened, it is obvious these have been tucked away on a shelf for a very long time.

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They have that perfect old book smell–wood, dust, and yellowed pages. And though I have to be very gentle not to crease or tear the stiff paper, I could not get as much joy out of reading these books on a Kindle. I considered it–to save the brittle book, but I’m glad I proceeded. It has been much more of a pleasure this way.

Life on the Mississippi is the memoir of Mark Twain’s time as a cub pilot on a Mississippi River Steamboat. He looks back (for the most part) fondly on all he had to learn and the adventures he found traipsing up and down the big brown river. Then, later, while making his career as a journalist, he returns under the name “Smith” to see how much has changed since the Civil War.

The only other book I’ve read by Mark Twain is Huckleberry Finn, and the dialect in that one is so hard to follow–which is why I haven’t yet read Tom Sawyer. This book is so much different than that. It’s heartfelt, and funny. You get a ton of different voices from all the different people young Samuel Clemens met in his travels. You’ll even find out exactly where his pen name was borne and what it means. This is a lovely, old-fashioned (though it was quite modern at the time–the first manuscript submitted to a publisher that was typewritten) memoir from one of our best American story-tellers. I’m glad I read it, as it will set the stage for his other books.

The True American

A few weeks ago, deep into my reading slump and looking for brain food, I flipped through TED.com and found a talk given by Anand Giridharadas titled “A Tale of Two Americas, and the Mini-Mart Where They Collided.” He told the compelling story of a young man from Bangladesh working at a Dallas gas station, and the white man changed his life forever with a rifle full of birdshot. After listening to the speech, I had to order the book from the library. Not only was the story incredible, the fact that it was literally so close to home–I just had to read the whole thing.

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I was not disappointed. The author/narrator of this true crime (for lack of a better genre) story is relatively silent. You know who is telling the story, but as he states in his Author’s Note–he tries to stay out of the picture. This story isn’t about him. It is almost documentaryesque in form because of that.

This creates a very informative and involved picture of multiple points of view:  Rais (the victim), Mark (the shooter), and their families and friends who were involved afterwards.

Why is this such an interesting story? Some guy shot another guy at a convenience store. We hear about that all the time. There’s a few differences.

First, the shooting itself. This was only a month after September 11, 2001. Mark was enraged after the attack and in his words, became a “white terrorist.” His hatred for Arabs caused him to shoot 3 men, Rais being one of them (and the only survivor.

The second half of the story is what Rais does after he heals. I mean this guy is just…Captain America, basically. Seriously, if anyone deserves to wear that shield, it’s this guy. I’m not even going to tell you. At the very least, watch the TED talk. I would encourage you to read the book. It’s going to change your perspective on some things, I promise.

In this day and age, we really all need to think a bit more like Rais.

Good Girl

I geek out about a lot of things, but music has never been one of them. Don’t get me wrong–I like music, and I have really eclectic tastes in music. But mostly I listen to it in the shower, in the car, or when I’m working on something. I almost never listen to it when I’m reading–which is most of the time–or when I’m on the clock–which is the rest.

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However, I know some serious music geeks who Good Girl reminded me of. This book has 80s & 90s punk references out the wazoo. Most I didn’t know at all, but The Cure is listed in there, Zepplin…and a whole bunch of garage and grunge and I should stop talking because obviously I don’t know what I’m talking about! Let’s just say if you like true stories about the teenage music scene, you’re going to love this (*nudge* Nicole *nudge*).

Sarah Tomlinson is mostly a ghost writer, with a few journalistic credits. Good Girl is her memoirs of the rocky road she had to take to get to where she is. Her Goth party girl 15 year old college admissions, a tragic school shooting, all kinds of messy daddy issues, and boy after boy after needy fucked up boy.

This is by far one of the darkest and drama packed memoir I’ve ever read. It’s like if Sylvia Plath grew up in the 80s, that’s how much self pity there is in this novel. There is definitely a journey to take, and you can feel Sarah growing stronger, even though she does take some pretty heavy falls.

Good Girl comes out on April 21. This book won’t be for everyone, certainly, but some people are really going to connect with it.

 

NetGalley provided this ARC for an unbiased review.

Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea

Some books have been on my TBR for so long I can’t remember when or why they got added. When I finally get around to reading them, I almost feel obligated, even if I am not interested in them anymore.

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Chelsea Handler was one of those. Slapstick humor…not so much my thing anymore. But, who the heck knows how long she’s been on my list. Probably since Are You There, Vodka? came out in 2007. Seems about right. And since it was on audiobook, which is best for these sorts of memoirs, I decided to give it a try.

Raunchy is the only word I can really use to describe it. And while I am not a modest or easily offended person…this one was a bit (ok a bit more than a bit) over the top. Whoa Bessie. This is one of those that will offends in every single way possible. I’m pretty sure it is the entire purpose of the book. And when that’s the only point? It doesn’t make for quality entertainment, in my opinion. I may have smirked a few times, but mostly I just shuddered, and there were quite a few “ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwws.”

No thanks.

Killing Kennedy

Certain moments define a generation. They are the points in our history that we talk about forever, the stories we put in our books, the memories we tell our grandchildren.

For my generation, that moment was 9/11. I will never forget sitting in a testing room with 20 of my classmates, finishing early and hearing the buzz of the nervous teachers, then watching in horror when they turned on the TV.

Before that poignant day, I heard so many adults say, “I’ll never remember where I was the day Kennedy was shot.” And I always thought that was such a weird comment, but now I get it. Those memories really do live forever.

Until recently, the 1960s seemed so long ago. Camelot seemed so old-fashioned and unrealistic, and I was never really interested in that time period. It bored me to death, to be honest. But now, with civil rights issues suddenly exploding, the 1960s are no longer boring…they are happening all over again.

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My husband has been reading…or at least buying…Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Series, and so far has found them very interesting. I don’t lean quite so Right, so I was avoiding these, afraid that they would be a little too political for me. However, Killing Kennedy really didn’t have any political slant at all, for being a book about a president. Most of the base details I already knew, but it was interesting to ready about the finer points of what happened leading up to the days of the assassination and what happened after. The book was obviously well researched and well written.

My only real criticism is that the authors (not sure who did most of the writing) use the world “belie” waaaaaay too much. Seriously, it’s a weird word and they use it over and over and over again. I know. I’m nitpicking. But it stuck out at me.

If you like histories, this is a good one. It reminded me of the Pearl Harbor history that I read of FDR not too long ago. It wasn’t a full biography of JFK, just a moment in time. I won’t be so hesitant to read the other three O’Reilly books in the series now.

 

Counting this for PopSugar #43. It takes place in Dallas, which is not my hometown but it’s where I live now. My home town is a tiny town of 10,000 people.  #43. A book that takes place in your hometown.

Lying

Psychology has always been one of my favorite subjects of study. The brain is such a complicated infrastructure that I never cease to be amazed by its never ending facets. There’s just so much to learn and to discover. I have often wished I were more scientifically inclined so I could study it as more than just a hobby and interest.

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Lauren Slater’s so called memoir makes a fascinating case study. At first, she writes simply as a girl with epilepsy, learning how to balance her disorder with puberty. But the further into the book you get…the more you start to realize something is just off about Lauren. Maybe the epilepsy isn’t real. Maybe it is, but she’s exaggerating, as she claims herself to be doing…or maybe you are just trapped in a completely different fantasy of Lauren’s brain.

By the end of the…memoir…it is hard to tell what end is up. What kind of story did I just read? There’s even a chapter to the publisher with instructions on how to market it. Should it be fiction? Nonfiction? Faction?

It makes me think of David Sedaris–who I hate, by the way, because his “nonfiction” is so clearly exaggerated in a very disgusting manner. But this is different, somehow. Lauren is completely upfront with the fact that her fiction is not altogether fact. It’s almost as if she’s trying to figure out herself if her brain is making up her life or if her life is making up her brain.

Either way, if you are interested in the field of psychology at all, this book is definitely a great read. Be prepared for a wild ride that will twist your brain all over the place!

Dear Millie

I guess by now you have figured out that there isn’t a subject that I won’t read about. Nearly every part of the human experience is interesting to me–romance, psychology, war, birth, death, just life in general. People interest me. Everyone has a different story to tell and I want to read them all–fiction and nonfiction.

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In this case, Marco Previero has written the true story of his daughter’s fight against a rare form of brain cancer, or at least the first year of it.

His seven year old daughter Millie was diagnosed with a brain tumor after she complained of “fuzzy eyesight.” What she didn’t tell Daddy was that she could just barely see out of her left eye, and no longer had vision at all in her right! Thus began a long and painful journey through lots of doctors and tests and treatments.

Marco’s diaries are very detailed and full of scientific language–it’s obvious he did a lot of necessary research during the course of his daughter’s treatments. This is not “Grey’s Anatomy” doctoring. This is the nitty gritty, really unpleasant, “what happens while those TV surgeons are off doing God-knows-what in on call rooms” stuff. It isn’t really all sunshine and rainbows like our TV-watching brains like to think. I’m sure somewhere in the back of our minds we know that…but it sure is nice not to think about recovery time or reoccurring tumors or the long drawn out and lethal kinds of cancer.

That’s the kind of information Marco gives us in this book. And it is very informational–more than emotional, as I expected it to be. Now, don’t get me wrong, the author definitely discusses his emotions. But he is almost removed from them, as if he is describing someone else. And maybe that is on purpose. I would imagine the stress and grief and everything else a person in Marco’s position would experience would be extraordinarily overwhelming to feel, let alone write about. However, it does come across a little cold and medicinal.

The main purpose of this book is a letter to his daughter. It also thanks a great number of people who helped the family through this difficult time. Those are the first two audiences. Past that, the book is mostly informative, and seems to be directed towards people in a similar situation–families battling cancer. Overall I think it is a well written narrative from an extremely brave father who went to hell and back in a year.

This book is to be released on March 28, 2015.

 

Fulfills PopSugar #26:  A memoir

Disclaimer:  NetGalley provided this ARC for an unbiased review.

Hyperbole and a Half

Depression sucks.

Like literally sucks. It sucks the life out of you–feelings, desires, motivations, all of it. But the apathy is only the second part of depression. First comes the pain. Blinding, draining pain that does all the sucking.

For those of us who experience or have experienced the beast that this sickness is–because it is a real sickness–it can be really hard to put into words how depression feels. How it completely consumes everything. To anyone on the outside, those who have not experienced anything like this…it’s very hard to grasp what exactly is happening.

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Allie Brosh has found a way to bring her journey through the darkness to light not only through words but pictures. To say I related to her crude sarcastic sense of humor is an understatement, and I am pretty sure there are creases on the side of the book where I was grasping so tight at certain times because it just relates SO HARD.

Her book Hyperbole and a Half isn’t all about depression–there is quite a bit of comic relief about her dogs and her childhood. But the major chapters, which are taken from her blog (at least parts of them are…I know I’ve read pieces of them there), are very real and very poignant views into the mindset of someone suffering from clinical depression. The anxiety, the self-doubt, the rocky and sometimes nonsensical climb to recovery. It’s all there, in technicolor.

I will say that the book did not end as happily as I needed it to. There was no “YOU CAN DO IT!” mantra at the end. And maybe that’s fitting, because this isn’t exactly a self-help book. Still, the last chapter left me feeling a little…”But, I know I’m a shitty person. I FEEL SHITTY. TELL ME HOW TO MAKE MYSELF FEEL LESS SHITTY!” I dunno, I would have rather had another chapter about too much cake.

That’s my only criticism about the book. It’s a really really great book. It’s an important book–if you’ve ever suffered from depression, or know someone suffering from depression. If you are currently suffering…just be wary of that last chapter. It’s a little dangerous.

 

Because this post is all about depression…guys if you are suffering, please please please ask for help. It’s scary, TRUST ME I KNOW. But the other option leaves so many people without you in their life, and there will be a lot of people missing you, I promise.

If you need help, there are a lot of options, and a lot of people standing by waiting for you to ask:

 

Fulfills PopSugar #40:  A graphic novel

Grandma Gatewood’s Walk

I’ve read a couple of books about long wilderness hikes–Wild, about the Pacific Crest Trail, and Bill Bryson’s account of his trek on the Appalachian Trail, and every one makes me more and more intrigued. I love the woods, and camping…but I don’t know if I have what it takes to do that big of a hike. I sure do like to read about it though!

Grandma Gatewood's Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail

Grandma Gatewood’s Walk was no exception. In fact, it may be the best one so far. A grandma loving to walk in nature is not foreign to me–my own grandma would take us for walks on the River Greenway all the time when I was young…but always before it got “much too hot,” and always with a picnic basket full of ham and butter sandwiches on white bread. She still gets out on a regular basis, even well into her 80s. (She’d probably give me a very special look, if she knew I was telling you how old she was. Sorry Grandma.)

As fit and fiesty as she is, I cannot imagine her walking from Georgia to Maine, and certainly not alone! But that’s just what Emma Gatewood did, and in the 50s! She just set off, without hardly telling anyone where she was going, in Keds, with a 30 lb sack. Well, ok then.

Seriously, if this book doesn’t make you want to get off your hiney and do…anything…I don’t know what will. I sure do want to go camping now! But with a tent. And a sleeping bag. Let’s not go too crazy.

 

Fulfills Popsugar #19:  A book based on a true story