Don't Panic - Megan's BookLikes

I really like books. Some favorites: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (duh), Pride & Prejudice, The Martian Chronicles, True Grit, The Idiot, Daughter of Smoke & Bone, and so on. I tend to be pretty eclectic in my reading habits. I definitely favor sci-fi & fantasy, classic literature, YA fiction, memoirs, and non-fiction (usually art-, craft-, or history- related). I might have a book hoarding problem, but that's okay. I don't mind.

Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex - Mary Roach Well thank god that's over. (That's what she said.) This book had lots of interesting studies and facts and tidbits about sex and how our body parts work and what turns people on and off, but after a while I just started to get bored with it so it took me forever to finish. There's only so much discussion about vajayjays and penii functions that a girl can take before she feels like she's reading a medical journal. Or some kind of really weird, specific porn. This is definitely way more entertaining than a medical journal, don't get me wrong, Mary Roach kept it light and funny in parts (especially for the first half of the book), but eventually I started to feel a bit bogged down with facts that just seemed sort of useless and uninteresting. Like the penis implant procedure - I don't really need to know the specifics of that surgery since I have no plans to do it anytime soon. So maybe a little less time could've been spent there (I'm sure male readers would have liked a break from crossing their legs and holding onto their business for dear life through that part as well).

Things I learned:

"The stereotypical ideal female - Barbie tall with Barbie big breasts - is the one least likely to respond to a manly hammering."

"The Science of Orgasm says that people who have regular orgasms seem to have less stress and enjoy lower rates of heart disease, breast cancer, prostate cancer, and endometriosis. They also appear to live longer."

"Cheese crumbs spread out in front of a copulating pair of rats may distract the female, but not the male." [Because everybody knows bitches like their cheese]

I definitely enjoyed [book: Packing for Mars] more and thought it was much funnier, but I'll continue to read Roach's other books for future laughs and strange educational experiences.
Tell the Wolves I'm Home: A Novel - Carol Rifka Brunt This is one of those books I don’t want to review because I know I won’t be able to do it justice and because I don’t even know how to say how it made me feel. But this book was incredible and I’d like anyone and everyone to read it because it was such an unforgettable experience and I want others to feel it too. It’s one of those rare books with such a beautiful, honest story and such amazingly stunning writing that you just want to share it in any way that you can. When you share a quote from this book (like I did with my reading updates), you feel you’re offering something special, like a piece of treasure or something. That sounds super lame, but I don’t know how else to put it. The writing just blew me away. I can’t wait for this lady to come out with another book, because I’ll be right there waiting for it.

Carol Rifka Brunt’s ability to portray (not just describe, but actually put forth and show) relationships, especially those between a child and its parents and between siblings, was remarkable. Everything in this book was spot-on – the characters, the relationships, the emotions and expectations that come with a death and “moving on”… just everything. This book deals with that awkward transition from childhood to adulthood and how everything changes. You realize your parents aren’t perfect, that they actually had a life before you in which they made a lot of mistakes, and that you’ll never treat each other quite the same way as you used to – there’s less trust on each side and you’re bigger and supposed to be more responsible, and you’ll never fit on their laps as easily or as comfortably as you used to in your times of need. Everything changes and you feel like you’re on the other side of something that you can never get back to, and that’s terrifying. The same goes for siblings – you can’t just run around and play with wild abandon anymore without worrying about what’s cool or whether or not your brother/sister is just luring you out of the house to beat the shit out of you for something you can’t even remember you did – it becomes much more complicated and confusing and hard. Brunt understands all these things and she writes them brilliantly.

This book is about love and loss and growing up and family and art, among other things, and I absolutely adored it. I need to get my own copy so that I can read it again once my heartstrings untangle themselves properly (p.s. this book will probably make you cry several times, or at least make your eyes well up a lot at inopportune moments at your workplace). An amazing and unforgettable read which I highly recommend.
Doctor Who: The Ripper (Eleventh Doctor Comics, #1) - Tony Lee, Andrew Currie, Richard  Piers Rayner, Tim Hamilton This was my first time reading a book/graphic novel about Doctor Who, which I've recently become slightly obsessed with. It wasn't as funny or exciting as watching an episode (probably because I couldn't watch the amazing actors bring the story to life) but it was entertaining nonetheless. There were several collaborating artists so I didn't love all of the illustrations but most of them were pretty cool. Also, I'm not super familiar with Jack the Ripper history, but if you are I think you'd really enjoy this super nerdy sci-fi explanation of events. If you want a nice Doctor Who break at work, this definitely fits the bill. And now I have the theme song stuck in my head... :)
Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir - Jenny Lawson This is a hard one to rate because on the one hand, I can't remember the last time I laughed out loud as hard or as often as I did while reading this. Like I'm pretty sure my co-workers thought I was crying uncontrollably in my cubicle for a couple days in a row because I was trying to stifle my periodic bursts of screeching laughter and it came out a kind of awkward muffled sob. On the other hand, Jenny Lawson annoyed the shit out of me several times while reading this - like I wanted to shake her and tell her to stfu and just quit trying so hard for god's sakes. I guess the middle ground would be 3 stars, but since I laughed so much I'll give it 4. Because I'm nice like that.

I had never heard of Jenny Lawson before, but after reading this book I looked at her blog (thebloggess.com) and found a couple amusing things and then followed a link to her pinterest and decided that this lady has some pretty sweet style and my kind of humor. The problem is that in her memoir she has these long rambling almost incoherent moments that are just completely irrelevant to the story she's telling. She has a lot of notes and asides to her editor and in my opinion most of them should've just been left out. A few were funny but not funny enough to warrant distracting the reader from the task at hand, namely, getting to the fucking point. And that's where she started to piss me off, with those stories where she'd start off with some over-exaggerated superfluous statement (like, this one time I got mauled by a bear while putting out a forest fire) which ended up being a complete and total lie to pull you into the story which ultimately ended up being an anticlimactic disappointment (actually, it was just my dog licking my leg while I was frying bacon on the stove).

Other than that though, the woman knows how to tell a funny story. And she's actually very relatable, in a quirky, weird, I-hide-in-the-bathroom-at-parties-too kind of way. [Although, there's no way in hell a person with an anxiety disorder as severe as she claims to have would ever call attention to herself as much as this woman does. Anxious, anti-social people don't do that on principle. Because it would freak us the fuck out. Unless it's a side effect of her medication, and then I guess I can let this discrepancy slide.] Also, Jenny ended up teaching me some invaluable lessons. A big one being that when you have a baby they have to literally sew your vagina back up. I'm adding that to the top of my list of reasons not to have kids. I also learned a lot about taxidermy and now I'm strangely attracted to the idea of having a dead animal or two in my house (just tiny cute ones though - and they have to be in a costume, otherwise it's weird). A baby deer in a flowery dress or something would be awesome.

Overall, I'd recommend this book if you're looking for an entertaining memoir. It's the funniest one I've read since [b:Bossypants|9476337|Bossypants|Tina Fey|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1307825121s/9476337.jpg|14302659]. I would warn you that you're likely to get annoyed at some point but the chuckles you'll get out of it are definitely worth it. Also, if you're offended by talk of vaginas or the rampant use of profanity, this is not your book.
The Headache Cure: How to Uncover What's Really Causing Your Pain and Find Lasting Relief - Joseph Kandel I found this book to be extremely helpful for dealing with my headaches. I already knew what type of headaches I have and some of the treatments available, but if you don't, this has great explanations of each kind and what you and your doctor can do to cure them. It also has some good tips on how to keep a headache journal to track triggers and try to find patterns. I've had migraines since I was a teenager and for the past six months or so I've also had recurring (almost constant, super annoying) headaches, so I've been looking for ways to cope with them and hopefully get rid of them. I tried a couple medications which didn't work out and I also went to physical therapy, which ended up being a huge waste of money. If you're having a problem with recurrent or cervicogenic headaches, I'd suggest you start with this book, especially if you're considering physical therapy. There are several exercises included in the book which you would learn in physical therapy (and you won't get charged an arm and a leg for them). I really wish I had found this book before I went so I could've saved myself hundreds of dollars and hours of wasted time. Very informative.
Star Trek: The Next Generation / Doctor Who Assimilation 2, Volume 1 - Scott Tipton *nerdgasm* Eeeee, I need this!!
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business - Charles Duhigg This was a very interesting topic, and the book made me want to read further about "predictive analysts" (like those at Target who crunch numbers to figure out what we're going to buy before we even know ourselves), habit behaviors, and similar research (especially in regards to how to break bad habits like overeating or biting nails
and replace them with healthier ones). Also, I'll be much more aware now of how much information I'm sharing with companies. It's kind of scary how much they can get to know you and your spending habits just by using a loyalty card and some coupons.

The organization in this book was horrible in my opinion. It was very annoying the way he starts off with an interesting story/situation and then breaks off in the middle of it to talk about an almost completely unrelated topic that he then tries to tie in to the previous story/situation. It would've been nice if he would've just gone from beginning to end with each point and each anecdote so that you could just skip over the boring and repetitive ones.

He was also very repetitive in his points - he really likes to drive home what he's saying, especially with the little cartoon diagrams (about half of which are totally useless). The subject matter was surprisingly fascinating but the delivery was somewhat taxing and became quite boring in parts. I'm definitely interested in learning more about habits and human behavior though.
Whiter Shades of Pale: The Stuff White People Like, Coast to Coast, from Seattle's Sweaters to Maine's Microbrews - Christian Lander As I suspected, I'm pretty freakin white. Pretty entertaining read.
Flowers for Algernon - Daniel Keyes I'm having a difficult time rating this (its between 4 and 5 stars) so I'm just going to split the difference and say 4.5 stars. I wouldn't say that it's one of my all-time favorite books, but it definitely had a deep emotional impact on me and I won't soon forget about Charlie. In fact I'm looking forward to renting the movie when I get off work so I can revisit the story. I had heard of this book before but I didn't know that it was based on a short story and subsequently made into a movie. I think all those remakes say something about the subject matter - it bears repeating.

This is a science fiction novel unlike any other I've ever read. I've never heard of any other stories with this premise so it was very refreshing reading about something so unique and new (to me anyway). It's about a 30-something young man named Charlie Gordon who is mentally retarded. He wants so badly to learn new things, especially reading and writing, so he takes adult education classes when he's not working as a custodian at a bakery. A group of scientists has been working on an experimental operation to stimulate the brain and create genius which has proven to be quite successful on animal test subjects, particularly in a white mouse named Algernon. The scientists are looking for their first human test subject and end up choosing Charlie.

Charlie is so easy to invest all of your emotions in, so it's a tumultuous ride for the reader through his ups and downs. Add to that the first-person narrative and you feel an even tighter bond to him, like you're his best friend and he'll only talk to you after everyone else has left him. It's very intimate. The author did a wonderful job making you care for Charlie as well as all the social issues that his struggle brings to light: how mentally disabled people are treated and perceived by others, how disabled people view the world, and how society handles the handicapped. There's just so much inside of this seemingly simple book. I highly recommend it.
Holidays on Ice - David Sedaris This is a pretty hilarious collection of short stories/essays about the holidays, from Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas. I laughed at some point while reading almost all of them and I only really disliked one of them, “Based Upon a True Story” (I thought it was way too drawn out and uninteresting and didn’t really fit in the rest of the stories). I loved reading about Sedaris’ experiences as an elf at Macy’s in “SantaLand Dairies.” “Jesus Shaves” was very funny and reminded me of a similar situation we had in one of my French classes in college. “Six to Eight Black Men” was definitely my favorite story, and it had me laughing so hard at work that I had to take a break so I'd quit sounding like a crazy person giggling away in my cubicle. I’d recently read “The Cow and the Turkey” in [b:Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk A Modern Bestiary] so it was nice to revisit that as the holiday season approaches. An entertaining read to get you in the mood for the holidays and everything (good and bad) that comes with them.
Ready Player One - Ernest Cline Freaking…epic. That’s the best way I could think to describe this book once I finished it. I absolutely loved it, from start to finish. Anyone who has any inkling of nerd/geek tendencies – whether you’re obsessed with Star Wars or you enjoyed reading Tolkien’s classic Lord of the Rings trilogy or you like to play video games or watch movies (especially video games and movies from the late ‘70s/‘80s) – you need to read this book. You will love it. I hadn’t even heard of half the movies and games Cline referenced throughout the novel and I still loved it (I was born in ’86, so I think I’m a little younger than the target demographic). And now I’m probably going to be a true nerd and research those games and movies I was unfamiliar with and learn a bit about them. I might even *gasp* try playing Dungeons & Dragons just so I can get a better insight on what I think the heart of all these games is and what video games were built on (role-playing board games like D&D are kind of like the grandfather of all RPG computer and video games). Omg I sound like a total nerd. Please don’t run away. I’m cool, I swear.

Essentially the plot of the novel is that it’s about 40 years into the future and there’s a terrible recession and most of the population is extremely poor – like volunteering to become an indentured servant just to get three square meals and safe housing poor. But when James Halliday, the richest and most revered man alive, dies with no heirs, everyone is given a glimmer of hope after the reading of his will. He has left a stipulation in it that whoever can find the Easter egg in his creation OASIS (the Web-based alternate reality in which everyone lives and plays to escape the bleakness of reality), he/she will inherit his billions of dollars and empire. Poor orphan teenager Wade Watts has been searching for James Halliday’s Easter egg since the beginning of the contest 5 years ago and he is the first person to make any progress. This of course makes him famous, and also puts him in the spotlight of the evil corporation IOI, an organization that’s trying to control and capitalize OASIS, which has always been free and available to the public due to Halliday’s philanthropic ways. Halliday reminded me of a mixture of Steve Jobs, Willie Wonka, and Sheldon Cooper – an odd but incredibly enjoyable combo. In fact, all of the main characters (with the exception of Sorrento, the major bad guy, who was more of just a face for the whole evil corporation) were extremely three-dimensional and I easily became invested in each of them.

This book contains amazing and fantastically realistic world-building. There are literally thousands of worlds and planets in OASIS and Cline describes each of the ones that they visit brilliantly and completely. The real world is also portrayed so convincingly that you can easily believe that this could be our future one day. I thought this book was an awesome, amazing adventure and I just couldn’t put it down. It reminded me a lot of Ultima Online, a MMORPG I used to play, especially with the quest in the dungeon at the beginning of the book. It’ll probably bring back good memories of old games and movies you used to play/watch too, so it’s a nice little trip to nostalgia-land. I highly recommend it and plan on making my husband (an über nerd – and I mean that in the most loving way possible) read it because it was pretty much written for him.
Hint Fiction: An Anthology of Stories in 25 Words or Fewer - Robert Swartwood, Kathleen Ryan, Donora Hillard, Mercedes M. Yardley, Barry Napier, Jeremy D. Brooks, Tara Deal, Jane Hammons, Randall Brown, Val Gryphin, Madeline Mora-Summonte, Sophie Playle I had never heard of flash fiction or micro fiction or any of that other stuff before I read this little book. Hint fiction is apparently a new concept made popular by Robert Swartwood, the editor. He hosted a contest in which people had to submit stories that were 25 words or less with the full impact of a regular-sized story. He says “a story should do four basic things: obviously it should tell a story; it should be entertaining; it should be thought-provoking; and, if done well enough, it should invoke an emotional response.” I thought this was a pretty cool idea, and I enjoyed reading this anthology. Most of the stories do fit into that criterion, but there were definitely some that I didn’t think had enough influence to be included. The whole notion of writing such short stories does remind me a bit of Twitter though, which I despise. It’s just a bunch of people vying for everyone else’s attention, writing the most stupid, mundane shit that ever runs through their minds, hoping desperately that someone will talk to them and reassure them that they’re important. But now I’m rambling. I’ll just include some of the stories I liked best:

“Through the Tiny Windows” by Barry Napier
When they opened the cadaver, they found a house. A couple argued inside. There was rhythm to their words, like the beating of a heart.

“That Moment” by Jack Ketchum
The old cat blinked once, focused. Then was lost to her forever.

“Pushover” by Nicky Drayden
He shoves me aside to get a better view. I never fight back. He’s worn me down, weaker than that railing at the canyon’s rim.

“Philip” by Jason Rice
The sound of breaking glass got Philip out of bed, and then he remembered he was no longer in love with his wife.

“Mein Führer” by David Joseph
By now I’ve burned more pages than I’ve read.

“Art Alone Endures” by William J. Brazill
The Art League had a competition for artists to depict the future. By accident Bogdan included a blank canvas among his submissions. It won.
Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary - David Sedaris, Ian Falconer This was quite entertaining. It’s a collection of seventeen fables featuring various animals being exceedingly human, dealing with politics, parenthood, marriage, greed, and assholes (literally and figuratively), among other things. It’s pretty raunchy and dirty at times, especially with the graphic illustrations, but I think it works here because these are, after all, animals. They may act and speak as humans would, but we can’t expect them to be completely proper, can we? Same goes for many humans, actually. I didn’t get a few of the morals of the stories (maybe there wasn’t one for every story, maybe they just went over my head), but I did enjoy them and laughed out loud at several. My favorites were probably “The Crow and the Lamb,” “The Sick Rat and the Healthy Rat,” and “The Grieving Owl.” It was bizarre seeing the illustrator of the Olivia books (good clean familial fun) do these crazy, bawdy drawings; it was very unexpected and I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to look Olivia straight in the eye again. I’d recommend this to anyone looking for a quick laugh, but only if you’re cool with dark humor. Otherwise, you’ll probably be offended/disgusted.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time - Mark Haddon I am torn on how I feel about this book. I really enjoyed the first half of the book – not only because that was the part of the book that contained the murder mystery which the book was marketed to have, but also because it was interesting to learn about autism by reading a book from an autistic 15-yr-old boy’s perspective. I liked reading from Christopher’s pov because it was an unusual and atypical one. He focuses on mathematics and physics (his favorite subjects) and tries to figure out what’s happening in the world based on those concepts. Abstract ideas like love and unscheduled time confuse and frighten him and that made me feel bad for his parents, who could only hold out their hands for him to touch since he wasn’t comfortable with being hugged or kissed. Christopher does have a fondness for animals though (I guess that’s typical of autistic kids? I have no idea. Do they only feel comfortable giving affection to animals instead of humans?). Christopher has a pet rat named Toby and he likes the neighbor dogs, so he is shocked (or as shocked as he can get) to find that the poodle from across the street, Wellington, has been killed. This murder mystery element was fascinating because Christopher tries very hard to be like Sherlock Holmes and it was interesting to see how he reasoned and worked things out to find the killer.

But then about halfway through the book, the killer is abruptly revealed and the focus suddenly turns to everything Christopher is feeling and how he cannot express those feelings properly. I guess I am a terrible person, but I can’t handle children for more than a day or so before I feel like I am losing my mind and can no longer stand their presence. I can’t even imagine trying to babysit an autistic child that was groaning and freaking out all the time. So I think that, plus the fact that this was such a quick and easy read and I spent so much nonstop time with it, added to my losing patience with Christopher. There was a whole lot of freaking out and groaning and thinking about stabbing people with his Swiss army knife whenever they tried to help him in the second half of the novel and I just couldn’t stand him anymore. That might be what the author was trying to do though, give the reader a glimpse at what it would be like to have an autistic child and show how exhausting and nerve-racking it is. I give props to everyone that takes care of kids with special needs like this and readily admit that I could never do it. I could only handle it for the first half.
A Wolf at the Table - Augusten Burroughs I absolutely hated the first half of this book. I became suddenly aware that I had been swindled into thinking I was getting an amazing deal by finding this at the dollar store, and in the future I will be much more wary about buying books at any and all dollar stores. I really wanted to give up after about a third of the way into it but since I am stubborn and also belligerently cheap (I was going to get my dollar’s worth, damn it!), I kept reading. And I did enjoy parts of the second half of the book and liked that it kind of set up what would happen in Running with Scissors (which I’m pretty sure I enjoyed reading a few years ago, if my memory is correct). But jesus christ, I wanted to punch child-Augustus in the face. And maybe even adult-Augustus too for writing and publishing this crap (although that would be more dangerous since I’m sure he could kick my ass, being a grown man and all). First off, no one remembers their thoughts and memories from babyhood. That’s just impossible and it annoyed me that he wrote about that period with such vivid detail. That was one of my first tips that much of this book was going to be elaborated on and given little flourishes of not-quite-the-truth. Secondly, there’s a lot of “this is what happened, but I’m not going to elaborate on it because it doesn’t drive home the point that my father was, in fact, a monster – so I’m going to elaborate on some other shit that’s not even important to the point I’m trying to make just to prove that I have such an amazing memory of everything that happened to me from fetus-hood to today.” He hints at a lot of abuse (mainly psychological) but he doesn’t really show anything to prove that his father would ever actually physically hurt him or his mother. Sure, his father was definitely fucked up in the head and he should’ve been tortured and/or killed for what he did to those animals, but if all that were true, why would you invite this psycho to your new apartment after you’ve finally escaped from him? Wouldn’t you want your location to be top-secret so that he could never hurt you again? Oh, and speaking of those animals, the mental image of that poor little guinea pig Ernie’s dead face just cannot be wiped from my memory. It was traumatizing. So if you can’t handle talk/writing about animal abuse and torture, you might not want to read this book. But then again, you might not want to read this book at all because it’s pretty much just AB talking about how horrible his childhood was because his dad was such a crazy bastard, how nutty (and stupid for not leaving) his mother was, and how he ended up blaming his alcoholism and later fuck-ups on this stuff that he just couldn’t let go. This is why I have trouble reading memoirs (and I think they piss me off more and more as I become older and closer to becoming a crotchety old lady), because there are always people who have had it so much worse than these authors and yet those people either suffered quietly until they died or just learned to move past it and never gained any fame for their much more horrific childhoods/situations. So maybe I should give up on trying to read memoirs. I am intrigued to read AB’s brother’s perspective of their childhood though and I think I might try Look Me in the Eye next to compare the two stories.

P. S. I was horrified to discover that Augusten requested that one of my favorite bands ever write a song for him about this book. Oh, Tegan and Sara, why did you tie yourselves to this awful book? So disappointing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oIxQ1Z_yn2c

Rosemary's Baby

Rosemary's Baby - Ira Levin This was excellent pre-Halloween reading to get me in the mood for the upcoming festivities. I'm pretty sure I saw the movie with Mia Farrow when I was a little kid (one of many horror flicks my mom unfortunately let me watch and scar me for life) because several scenes seemed very familiar. I couldn't totally remember the ending though so it did come as a surprise to me. The suspense leading up to it definitely kept me enthralled but Rosemary's ditziness and lack of awareness of the obvious clues going on around her pissed me off. That's another reason I don't like scary movies - the main protagonist/unsuspecting bimbo never sees what's coming and you just want to scream at her to take a freaking look around. I think a lot of that might have been the time period in which this book takes place - there were a lot of outdated ideas and phrases used which bothered me a little. Still a really good, scary book though. Definitely a classic for Halloween time.

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