The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chobosky. A Review. Book 19 out of 52

“We accept the love we think we deserve.”

Living the life that I have, perhaps the reason that “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky has evaded me is its realism. There is something about knowing someone’s life, or at least seeing it come alive on paper, that causes us to account our own. I mean, that is what good books SHOULD do, right? Make you think. Put you in the time and place and see how your life, your experience, your heart, would conflict or commiserate with the protagonists. Perhaps it is just me. Maybe I hold many authors to a higher standard. I am okay with that. The question is, are you?

This book, this story, is like looking through a lens at life as I was coming to age. God, that makes me sound old. But it is true. The world that I grew up in is a fading memory, severed from the one we are in now. But this book captured it. It took me back. Recalling my memories of friends, people I knew. Reviewing this book without spoilers is difficult. So my recommendation is that you read it.

4.5 out of 5 for “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky. Do not let the lack of a perfect five fool you, this one is near the top of the list of the ones that I have read this year for my reading challenge. I am not sure why I had not read this before, but I am glad that I did now.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Steven King. A Review. Book 18 out of 52

“Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.”

I had no idea how much I needed to read this book. “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” by Steven King is a tale of tales. I tried to go into this book with an open mind, fearing that it was going to be a writers guide. Afraid of what that would bring out of me. But this is so much more. King is a master of this craft, and it is utterly refreshing to see what has driven him as an author. Yes, even the rougher times.

Transparently, King walks through the struggles, missteps, and flaws in an attempt to show perseverance. Along the way imparting knowledge about drive, application, and voice. In a very real, and very raw way, this book put even more pressure on me to write.

Oh, the crazy journey of my reading challenge. Self-improvement, introspection, igniting passion, correcting vision, and so much more. It seems that this is another book that you should have on your shelves. Who knows in what ways it will inspire you?

I am giving “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” by Steven King a sold 4 out of 5 stars.

The Bone Clocks by David C. Mitchell. A Review. Book 17 out of 52

“One moment you’re carrying this loveable little tyke on your shoulders, the next she’s off, and you realize what you suspected all along: However much you love them, your own children are only ever on loan.”

Ok, so the quote does not jive with the story. But, that does not detract from the quote. “The Bone Clocks” by David Mitchell has a weird way about it. A story about the inner drive to keep moving forward, even in a parallel dystopian world on the brink of absolution. The protagonist is littered through the various stories, the various times, in a way that makes it a little slower of a read. Not due to its complexity, that stands alone by itself. More in the way that Mitchell uses literary devices to make you think. To make you say “What. Just. Happened.” driving you to read the last few pages over again.

It is hard to express that this recursive reading is not out of frustration (which is what I usually experience due to poor writing). But there are countless, and very wicked, moments were the dialog goes from highly complex diatribes to practical common sense, in one line. Between this, and the overall story as you follow the protagonist in her world, all around good read.

4 out of 5 stars for “The Bone Clocks” by David Mitchell. Would recommend for a good autumn read, more than spring.

The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling by Henry Fielding. A Review. Book 16 out of 52

“No one hath seen beauty in its highest lusture who hath never seen it in distress.”

Filled with a menagerie of characters “The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling” by Henry Fielding is an amazing novel. Not just for the time in which it was written, but even today. Part way through this book, or a collection of books as it were, I did something that I do not do and looked up some critiques. There was one that stood out to me, that I did not fully realize until I had almost finished. I feel that Samuel Coleridge put it better than any could when he stated that “Tom Jones” has one of the “three most perfect plots ever planned.”

Picking up such a hefty tome is daunting. It is a little easy to get lost in its seemingly massively detached story arcs. But as you endure, reading on, you see that the first sentiment, that of ‘exploring human nature’ is an understatement. I would not recommend trying to read this book (okay, it is a collection, I mean, there are 18 books) in a week as I did. Would be better to savor it.

All together I would give “Tom Jones” by Henry Fielding 4 out of 5 stars. Just give yourself some time to read it properly, and let the story come together amazingly.

Jesus Land: A Memoir by Julia Scheeres. A Review. Book 15 out of 52

“Life may not be fair, but when you have someone to believe in, life can be managed, and sometimes, even miraculous.”

Right out of the gate, this book shook me. I was barely into reading it when I mentioned a fair amount of dislike for the path the story was going to the person that suggested it to me. She encouraged me to keep reading. So I did. Boy am I thankful. ‘Jesus Land: A Memoir’ by Julia Scheeres is NOT the book that you think it is. It is a wild ride from start to finish. Some parts brought on disgust and worry. While others brought on laughter, tears, and eye-opening realizations.

There were parts of this book that made me worry about the plans that we have for our family. Those parts were the reasons I wanted to put the book down. But many other parts made me see how lucky we are. The journey this book takes you on is complicated but easy to fall in love with as you read through it all.

I will also say that the most important part is after the book is over. READ THE EPILOGUE. Though all that this book brought to me, the epilogue had me crying in bed in the middle of the night. The book, in and of itself, is truly incredible. But the epilogue makes the whole thing beautiful.

I am giving ‘Jesus Land: A Memoir’ by Julia Scheeres a coveted 5 out of 5. Trust me, buy it, read it, do not stop when you think you should, and you will see why it gets a solid five from me.

Appointment With Death by Agatha Christie. A Review. Book 14 out of 52

“They have been in prison so long that, if the prison door stands open, they would no longer notice!”

One of the things that I have enjoyed with the Agatha Christie novels that I have read is her propensity to make the solution a surprise, but entirely logical. I have a deep love for crime novels, but I will forgo my diatribe regarding the “who-done-it” to avoid spoilers. I will say that it is a little disappointing that Christie took as long just setting up the crime. Making you see the reasons the victim met their end is essential, but this was a bit drawn out. Instead, following the journey that this reading challenge has taken me on, I want to dissect the underlying theme.

Sometimes we live in a prison, constructed by others, only to realize it when it is too far-gone to escape. We often grow content, even proud, in our assumption that we know what life is all about. As children, life is a game. There are magic and mystery, for most of us, that enthrall our minds. But, what if that was taken away as well? Instead of it falling by the wayside as we grow, it was stricken away from us like a prize unearned. I, for one, do what I can to ensure the world is filled with magic and mystery for my kids. I want them to explore its vast trappings fully. Trust me; I KNOW that this book was not written to make you think of such things. But, that is not how my mind works.

I am giving 3.5 out of 5 stars to “Appointment With Death” by Agatha Christie. Not the worst I have read, not by a long shot. But far from the best Christe novel that I have read to date.

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. A Review. Book 13 out of 52

“If you are under the impression you have already perfected yourself, you will never rise to the hights you are no doubt capable of”

I love when stories have the same effect as peeling back an onion layer by layer. Be it through a thrilling crime novel, or through the eyes of discovery. Done right, it is a brilliant device in literature. In The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, brilliant is an understatement. Though it took a little to get into, to figure out what was going on, this was a joy to read. But only in the sense of one lacking introspection. Be it Ishiguro’s intent or not, taking what the protagonist is working through, and applying it to my life is what I do.

This book leaves me asking questions about potential, perception, and drive. All of this, in every aspect, is a good thing. Perhaps it is only adding to the foundation of what this year is turning into for me. This journey, my 2018 Reading Challenge, has had a sudden impact surrounding self-discovery. This book is yet another fantastic catalyst in the process. While being a delight to read, it may leave you questioning quite a bit about what you think you know.

4.5 out of 5 is what I give “The Remains of the Day” by Kazuo Ishiguro. Add it to your shelves, give yourself a couple of quiet nights, and enjoy the ride.

The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin. A Review. Book 12 out of 52

“In my experience, successful people shoot for the stars, put their hearts on the line in every battle, and ultimately discover that the lessons

learned from the pursuit of excellence mean much more than the immediate trophies and glory” – Josh Waitzkin

I did not think that I would glean as much as I did from a book about chess. Granted, I understand that there is a lot one can learn from game theory. No, not just the mathematical conflict models, the actual practice of playing games with others. Perhaps it is in part my desire to be the best at whatever I am doing. It could also be that my drive is based more on the overall success and not just the momentary ones.

Regardless of what my idea was about this book, it provided a ton of introspection as Waitzkin walked through the trials and tribulation of striving for excellence. Not just with chess, but with martial arts as well. The parallels and similarities drive through and through this book. I think that I am going to need to revisit this one once my 2018 reading challenge is over. There is more to pull from this.

All in all I would give The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin a 3.5 out of 5. Lower than most would expect, but based purely on the fact that I am going to have to re-read it to understand it a little more.

#Sigh, getting caught up.

Blah, blah, blah, life is crazy. But in all honesty, we are rapidly approaching the due date for #4. For the last several weeks we have been rolling through the checklist of things before we become a family of six.

Such a daunting number.

Six.

Four kids teeming with life and wonder. Two adults living on coffee and love.

It is crazy to think that in what seems like yesterday we were excited to have one. Now, in a few short weeks, our fourth will be here. Our little home will be bursting at the seems, as will our hearts. This journey has been far quicker than the previous three. Continually fighting the hands on the clock to slow down, trying to capture the milestones. Meanwhile watching the other three grow and develop. It is both exhausting and invigorating.

But I am finally in a place to post some of the backlogged book reviews (yes, I am still reading a book a week for my 2018 Reading Challenge).  So, sorry in advance for the flurry of posts that you are about to see. Afterall, posting reviews for books 12-19 will be awesome. Perhaps I should stagger them a bit. We will see.

 

We hope to resume some level of reasonable posting in the days to come. Perhaps after our, MUCH NEEDED, short family vacation this weekend.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

The tale of the CT scan

Many of us know, all too well, that Cranio makes our lives forever different. This week we had a reminder of this.

On Monday Zoey was playing with David on the couch. In a typical sibling outcome, she ended up getting pushed off the couch. Her arms failed to catch her, and with a sickening crack, she landed face first on the carpet. While in the middle of a meeting I received a text message from my beloved letting everyone know about this, and that she believed Zoey broke her nose.

A flurry of fear filled me, and my heart was pounding. I tried to focus on what must happen, as I was methodically tracing my next steps. I was shocked with the thoughts flying through my mind. As an adventurous boy, and adult, my nose has ended broken 20+ times. I know the game. Ice, time, black eyes for a bit, and move on. But not for Zoey. For her, ‘normal’ has a new definition. Anything involving the face or head is not a small deal. So much time, so many surgeries, and more to come, all mean that things are different.

We debated on rising her to the ER. Spending the countless hours waiting to be seen, all for an x-ray. Instead, we reached out to her Craniofacial team. We sent pictures, a narrative, and our fears. Then we waited. We waited for an email or a call. Something to tell us we were crazy, or what our next step was.

 

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It came, a CT scan was needed. I knew what this meant. Surgery, either to fix or the next one we have been discussing was rushing back to the table. My fears were only lit aflame by the bruising that Zoey had the next day. It was telltale and bad. But every time I looked at Zoey, I could see the braveness forcing itself through. I saw my sweet little girl smiling, but I saw the pain.

So, today we loaded up the family and made our trek to the hospital. Zoey was in high spirits. We told her what was going to happen. As our silver van sailed the laughter wafted from the back while Zoey and David joked. My heart was still.

Check in was fast, and our wait was short. When it came to be our time, Zoey took my hand, and we walked. The long hallway caused our footsteps to echo, click, click, click. We almost made it past a beautiful mural filled with butterflies. As I feigned exuberant excitement to point them out to her, I looked at her. And my heart fell a little out of my chest. For the first time, in a very long time, I could see a little fear poking through her eyes.

We walked into a room that, to be fair, I wanted in my home. Freshwater fish scenery adorned the walls and hid the machines. Bass, trout, otters, even a carp with moss covered rocks and flowing plants. There was a light show on the ceiling giving the appearance of rippling water on a lavender and rose summer evening. I bent down to look at Zoey. Her eyes missed all of this, and we’re locked in the machine in terror. Her little hand quickly tightened around my finger.

For the next few minutes, we had to fight her. Her strength and agility were providing a great deal of surprise to the experienced technician. Every breath from Zoey was a scream of “No!”, “Mommy!”,”Stop”, and “Daddy.” That last one ripped shreds off my heart. It was full of fear, anxiety, and hurt. I fought tears as I kept reminding her that I was not going to leave her, that I was there, that I would never let anything bad happen to her. But I know they were falling on deaf ears. Undaunted by this, I kept talking to her. Holding her, and taking my place right next to her.

The fretted bindings that were holding my heart together wholly unraveled as she fought through those that were holding her down. The technician looked at me and asked if I wanted to call it off. My heart was screaming “Yes, please stop this!”, but my mind knew better.

It’s a tough row to hoe being a dad. Our entire job is, or at least it should be, vying for the welfare of our children. Protecting them from any harm that comes our way. And as my daughter lace screaming for this to stop, writing on the table, fighting against the straps, and the hands, I knew that this needed to happen. So, we fought on.

Finally, I found a way to hold her. Though it was not soothing her in any way, I was able to contain her. In a matter of moments, the X-ray and ct-scan were over. As they pulled her bed out of the machine, I can see the streams of Tears along her cheeks. Like Jewel filled streams of water against the blackened eyes from a broken nose. I Let Go. I stepped back just take a photo of this moment, preserving it and posterity and something else that she has yet again had to fight through. Something that her adult self may look back upon as she wonders about the journey her life has been. The time that she can look back and see her little 6-year-old body strapped to a table and remember that she overcame it.

The moment that the straps were freed she bolted upright. She left into my arms and held me tight as I could quickly feel her tears soaking my shirt. I held her so damn close. Whispering to her that this was over, that she did it, and telling her how proud of her I was. It was at that moment that she finally saw the fish, the Otters, the plants, the light show on the ceiling. “Like daddy’s fish tank” for nearly hoarse voice proclaimed in my ear. With a shuttering thump, I felt my heart begin to beat. My smile matched hers as I looked deep into her eyes. That brilliant sparkle of wonder was finally returning.

A few hours later, after copious amounts of cookies and regaling of her day, who received the long-awaited email. Her nose is fractured but not displaced. No worries about surgery at this time. Reading these words brought great elation to me after a long day.

It’s my job as her dad to protect her. I do not, and will not ever, take this aspect of my life lightly. But it is also my job to remember these moments period to capture them for her and her brothers. So that some dark day, when I’m no longer here to do my job, she will remember these hard days when I did my best.

Leading up to these events I was amazed private care an outpouring of affection that we received from so many others. Before the moment when we walked in that room, crossing the threshold, I was confident that this would have been easy for Zoey. “It’s just a CT scan,” I told myself over and over again. I had failed to remember the fact that nothing is as it should be. That many of the things that many other parents take for granted are entirely different for us. I’d also done the disservice I forgetting that my daughter can be scared. By failing to remember that countless things can disrupt the brave face that she puts on every single day. But for now, and I listen to her sleep in the room next to mine, I find peace. This was only helped by finishing some fine scotch and getting these words out.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.