Find Me- Laura Van Den Berg


My unconscious mind is very powerful and it wants me to live.

Before I talk about the above book I have a confession to make. I gave up on a book. Yes, it’s true. I had been carrying it around with me like an albatross around my neck and I just couldn’t bring myself to open it. I started it, don’t get me wrong, I just couldn’t get into it. I voiced my concerns to my coworker JB: “It always makes me nervous when, on the back of the book, instead of praising the book you currently have in your hands it’s praise for their other book.” But let’s be honest. It’s true. Whenever a back cover says wonderful things only about the first book the book you have is usually not so great. That’s what happened. I’m sure it was a fine book, but at this point of the year it just wasn’t for me. I’m not going to tell you which book it is, because I feel like that is unfair, and who knows maybe I’ll pick it up again and love it. Such is the life of a reader. Anyway, onwards and upwards.

As I was walking around the library last week feeling utterly ashamed that I gave up on a book I stumbled on the “Lucky  Days Collection”.  It is described as such:

 “Lucky Day is a collection of the most popular, current, in-demand books,” explains Library Director Jessica Keyser. “We have filled the Lucky Day shelves with best-sellers and other books that currently have a long waiting list. We hope that our patrons will be surprised and delighted by their ‘luck’ in finding these titles on the shelf when they walk in the door, no waiting required. The Lucky Day collection is our love letter to the Ferndale community.”

The catch is; you can only keep the book out for one week. One week? I’m a fast reader at the best of times, especially if I have the time and am completely engrossed in the book. (I read The Other Boleyn Girl in two days and finished the bulk of Winter’s Tale in one.) Even so, one week is not a long time, since I don’t take the train anymore that has eaten in to my reading time. The industry I’m in also is conducive to reading either. It’s hard to come home at 3 o’clock in the morning and crack open a book when all you want to do is mindlessly watch that episode of Friends you’ve seen a million times. That’s neither here nor there.

So, I had seen Find Me on a few lists for “books you should read in 2015″ and after glancing at the synopsis on the inside flap; and checking to see how many pages it was I decided to go for it. At 278 pages it was a quick read. Now, I’m not saying that the amount of pages makes a book any easier to read, Jude the Obscure was pretty short and that was brutal!

It is told from the eyes of Joy a girl who was abandoned when she was only a month or so old at a hospital, it is there she was given the name Joy. She is then pushed through the foster care system and lives in a few different homes. She keeps her sentences short and to the point but filled with emotion. She is a girl who has been beaten down by the system and a life of floating from place to place where people don’t seem to really want her around. After she is on her own for a while an epidemic sweeps through the country. People, everywhere, are forgetting everything. She happens to be one of the lucky few that is immune. She is taken to a hospital where the “lucky” people are being held so that scientists and doctors may examine them day in and day out trying to find a cure.

It’s not until she breaks free that the book really grabbed my attention. Joy starts to remember things from her past that have long been hidden away. It’s in these parts that she becomes more relatable. Now, I’m not saying that the things that happened to Joy happened to me, no, I’m saying that we all have things that we would like to bury deep in to our psyche and never let out again.

A theory on why we stop remembering: there is a part of our story that we do not know how to tell ourselves and we will away its existence for so long that finally our brain agrees to a trade: I will let you forget this, but you will never feel whole.

Find Me is a fantastic book that turned bloody brilliant as it kept on. You find yourself identifying with Joy and her best friend Marcus on their journey to forgiveness and life. This being Ms. Van Den Berg’s first novel I’m interested to see what else she has up her sleeve. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I ended up really enjoying this book. I finished it at the laundromat last night and every time I read a great line I looked around searching for someone to tell. “Hey, listen to this…”

The Psychopath Test – Jon Ronson


There is no evidence that we’ve been placed on this planet to be especially happy or especially normal. An din fact our unhappiness and our strangeness, our anxieties and compulsions, those least fashionable aspects of our personalities, are quite often what lead us to do rather interesting things.

A few months back while I was still deep in the land of Fillory I was having a glass of wine and stumbling about on the internet when I found a website dedicated to finding books that “you” would enjoy reading. Say, if you read The Chronicles of Narnia  you would enjoy The Magicians Trilogy. I somehow clicked my way through and made it to The Psychopath Test. Now, Emily after a few glasses of wine loves buying things off of Amazon, and since we had just started our free membership with Amazon Prime I decided it was time to try out our free two-day shipping.

Two days later the book arrives and I’m staring at the cover and I think “My father read this book…he told me I should read this book.” I call him up and sure enough it was, in fact, the book that we had been talking about months earlier and I now had it in my hands. So, I finished The Magician’s Land  and decided that it was time to read The Test. If you’ve been following me for a while you will know that I don’t read a lot of non-fiction. In fact, I read next to none, but since I’m interested in the human condition and I was told that it read more like a novel than a memoir I was determined to give it a try.

It took me a while, not gonna lie to you. The first half was slow, a lot of bouncing around and talking about a book that was sent to academics and laments a like called Being or Nothingness and while the mystery of “why” is fascinating I found myself asking “why”? Once Ronson moves on from that and really dives in to his quest of “what makes a psychopath” that’s where it really starts to get interesting. He travels to Broadmoor, a psychiatric hospital in England, home to many notorious prisoners. This is where the book started to grab me but not until he starts talking to a notable conspiracy theorist did it fully engross me and I was able to finish the last third in one sitting. As with most books of this size I’m ashamed that it has taken me this long to finish, but since it is not within the realm that I usually dwell I’ll give it a pass. I also blame The Killing.

All in all it was a good read but I think I will head back over to a world I’m familiar with and settle in to a nice fiction book. As a friend who also read the book said “I convinced myself that several people I knew were psychopaths.” I admit, I did too.

Once a year… – Emily DeBias


“Emmylou-who! Hullo to you!” – Mama

My mother is a great many things. When my mother was younger she wanted to be a clown. Correction. My mother is a clown. She may not have the official title and she doesn’t go around town with a big red nose on, but make no mistake. If papa was a rolling stone; my mama is a clown. My mother was the first one to make me laugh and I find great joy in making her laugh in turn. She kind of screams actually. She kind of sounds like a goat…I mean that lovingly, ma. When she really truly laughs she screams and then goes completely silent. The only way you know that she is laughing are her shoulders. Bobbing up and down, up and down.

My mother is a salesperson. There are sayings about people like my mother; “She can sell sand to an Egyptian.” “She can sell glasses to a blind man.” Etc, etc, etc. My mother would go a step further though, she would ask if she could help the Egyptian carry said sand back to Egypt, just for the adventure. She would ask the blind man if she could walk with him and have tea just to hear his story. My mother loves people and people love her. She treats everyone equally, the way people should be treated. I’m honestly surprised I haven’t heard of her protesting on behalf of people. Yet, that is also how my mother was raised. Which is strange to hear about in that time. People not seeing color or sexual orientation in the early 50’s and 60’s, but that is how she was raised and I am ever grateful for that because that was how I was raised.

My mother worked in a cubicle, a laser hair removal office, a talent agency, and a children’s theatre; but most people remember her as a waitress. She was good. Well, to an extent. If Joycie brought you the fried fish instead of that burger you actually ordered you just ate it. You know that song “Dizzy”? That’s my mother. But you can’t help but love her.

My mother calls me…a lot. Usually just to say hi, but sometimes there’s a story. A funny story. A story so funny that we’re both in tears and she can barely get the words out to tell me what happened. It’s a language only her and I can speak and I’ve spent years mastering it. I’m a Joyce-linguist-master. If you want an example of such a story, head over to my old blog and check out the time she called to tell me about the time she “accidentally waxed her cat”. That is not a euphemism folks. That actually happened. My mother also likes to call and tell me the weather. “Emmy, it’s cold out there.” I live in the Midwest. She calls me at Christmas time and tells me to “look at the Christmas lights.” This is why I love my mother.

The reason I tell you this is because today is my mama’s birthday and once a year I actually get to tell people what an amazing person she is. For those who don’t know anyway. My mother had me when she was young and some times I feel like we were meant to be together. She was meant to teach me the meaning of laughter and taking life as it comes, and I, well I was put here to teach her structure. That is not to say that my mother doesn’t get anything done. She can, when she puts her mind to it. And come on, she raised two kids practically by herself and she managed to always remember when bills were due.

My mother is everyone’s champion and everyone’s biggest fan. I feel blessed everyday to be referred to as “Joyce’s daughter”, and when the day comes I hope my children are even half the person their Mimi, Nanny, Ninja, Grandma, Granma-Dukes is. She is simply amazing and I’m convinced there is no one in the world like her. There will also never be anyone like Joyce, Joycie, BOP, Ma, Mama, Momma, Momma-dukes. So, no matter what you call her, take a second and wish her a happy birthday or just stop and think about that one time you went to such and such a place with Joyce or, at the very least, fill today with joy. For that is her name. Joyce.

Happy birthday, to my mighty hermaphrodite! Love you, mama!

The Magician’s Land- Lev Grossman


There was no end to Fillory, no end to the beauty and strangeness, except there was, and this was it.

The last book in The Magician’s trilogy is by far the best one of the set. Not without its fault, the end of the series is a roller coaster ride of adventure. Without wasting any time Grossman plunges us right into Quentin’s world post-Fillory and in to a life of magical crime. Always looking for the next big adventure Quentin takes sides with a talking bird, a stoic stranger, and a misfit band of magicians to steal a suitcase. What’s in it? Don’t know. Why do we want it? Not sure… ‘Kay.

So starts The Magician’s Land. He also takes us back to Fillory where Janet, Eliot, Josh and Poppy are doing their royal best at trying to keep the seams from breaking apart. Come to find out, that’s impossible. Now, without giving too much away, this book does jump around quite a bit and some times I had trouble keeping track of where I was. Especially when it comes to the back story of Plum, a vivacious undergrad from Brakebills who also happens to be living a life of crime, and Quentin. You have to just be ok with the fact that you’re going to be confused for a couple of chapters. Are they lovers? How did they meet? Why do they not want anyone to know that they have met prior to the talking bird? That being said. I love Plum! She is a fresh young voice that the, now grown, Physical Kids needed. He definitely makes the fact that the gang has grown up by adding a lot more “adult” language.

As with The Magician King loved characters come back in to the fold and also places that you never thought you would hear of again make a triumphant return. Fillory is always there, even when it’s not specifically being referenced. You’re always thinking of Fillory. I know. I know. I was a huge Fillory hater when I first started the series but I can’t help but love it now. As a good friend of mine said once; “I want to go to there.” We would all be lying if we said we never thought about getting accepted to Hogwarts, crawling through a wardrobe to Narnia, or holding a button to get to the Neitherlands. Grossman brings the feelings and wonder of wanting to be in a magical world when you’re young and makes it possible for us to entertain the notion as adults of flying on the back of a hippogriff. It is a satisfying end to a satisfying reading experience. Magic is everywhere friends, but remember it all comes at a price, dearies.

The Magician King – Lev Grossman


Maybe this was one of those times when being a hero didn’t involve looking particularly brave. It was just doing what you should.

For those playing the home game; you know that while I really enjoyed Lev Grossman’s novel The Magician’s I had a hard time getting past the fact that Fillory was basically Narnia. I enjoyed the sequel more than the first to be honest, sometimes that happens. Maybe it’s because they’ve had to time to flesh things out. Either way I feel like Mr. Grossman did a phenomenal job returning us to the loving arms of Fillory.

First, he plunges you head first into Fillory where the Kings and Queens have been ruling for some time and they are comfortable in their roles as caretakers. That is, except for Quentin, who is always looking for the next big adventure. He finds it in the form of a quest for magical keys. What they are used for? He’s not really sure. But an adventure is an adventure. A quest is a quest.

Among his companions on this trip is the ever mysterious Julia, whom we met in the first book. She had a such a juicy story and a pretty disappointing exit in the last book. What happened to Julia? Why did she remember Brakebills? Why did she so resemble a junkie last time her and Quentin met? Why is she suddenly flying outside of his office window with Janet and Eliot? Wait, how did she even know Janet and Eliot? These questions plagued me at the end of the first book and I am happy to say that all these questions and more are answered in the sequel. Grossman takes turns chapter by chapter shifting from the present and Julia’s past  and her story arc is satisfying.

In this epic adventure that Quentin and Julia are on, you follow them to the Outerislands, back to Earth, back to Fillory, and round and round you go. It is easy to keep track of where they are since Grossman has a knack for describing the surroundings. You meet new endearing characters and some people, albeit pretty predictably, return. You are left wanting more at the end of this novel. What’s going to happen to Quentin? What’s going to happen to Fillory? Is Alice ever going to make a return appearance? (Something I’m sure fans were asking with the release of the final novel published last August.) I’m excited to see how this epic tale of Quentin and Fillory ends. I hope it’s as satisfying as I want it to be.

As You Wish- Cary Elwes


Well…you know.

Everyone who knows me can attest to the fact that I am a nerd about The Princess Bride! My Aunt and Uncle sat me down to watch it when I was around seven or eight, along with another wonderful fantasy film Willow, because they were flabbergasted when I had told them I hadn’t seen it. So, to them, I say thank you. The film The Princess Bride has been my favorite since that day back in Texas when the first shot of the old 80’s baseball video game flashes on the screen. To this day I still watch at least five times a year…at least. I could go on and on about the random trivia I know about the film or how I love being the first person to tell someone that S. Morgenstern isn’t a real person. But this isn’t what this post is about.

I was completely bowled over with emotion when I received this book from my fiance’s family for Christmas. I unwrapped it half way, saw the title, jumped up and hugged them. What a better way to start the new year than with a book about my favorite movie?!? It is a breeze to read and anyone who has any love for the film should read it. Even though you can feel the love that the cast has for each other it’s nice to read about how close they became on set and how close they all still are.

I was pleased to find out that I don’t know all of the “behind the scenes” things that went on during filming. For example; one of my favorite lines is during Greatest Swordfight in Modern Times when the Inigo asks the Man in Black:

“Who are you?”

“No one of consequence.”

“I must know.”

“Get used to disappointment.”

Then something amazing happens. Inigo just shrugs and says “Kay.”  It was completely unscripted! One of the greatest responses to a series of questions!

This book just deepened my love for the film, which I didn’t think was even possible. I have grown up watching these characters and can recite lines at the drop of a hat and yet I still never tire of climbing the cliffs of insanity, going in against a Sicilian when death is on the line, battling R.O.U.S’s, hoping it’s enough to buy a miracle, not going swimming for a good hour, storming the castle, and finally finding true ‘wuv.

The Magicians- Lev Grossman


I got my heart’s desire, and there my troubles began.

I remember being in Borders on the corner of State and Lake in Chicago one particularly rainy afternoon when this book came out. I picked it up and read the back which toted such names as George R. R. Martin saying “The Magicians is to Harry Potter as a shot of Irish whiskey is to a glass of weak tea.” I realized that I wanted to read this “Harry Potter for adults” book, but I didn’t have the money at the time or what have you so I put it down. Now, flash forward to a few months back where I’m perusing the stacks of the Ferndale library and come upon the book I discarded years back. Again, this wasn’t why I was in the library so I put it down.

Then, as luck would have it, I had nothing in my queue to read. I couldn’t for the life of me remember the title or the author’s name, but I remembered the tree. That damn tree on the cover plagued me. I went to the library and thought “I’ll just walk through the stacks around where I saw it the last time.” And what? Pull out every book within the range of where I think I remember seeing it? Yep. That’s exactly what I did. And people! It worked! My stupid plan worked.

Now, I have to say that if you look on my page (linked below) you will notice that I finished this book back in early December. The delay on this post is simple, friends. Gilmore Girls. Yes, again I was distracted by the damn Netflix! Also, I was given a copy of Cary Elwes’s book As You Wish for Christmas, which I am almost done with and will blog about it promptly this time. Enough of my prattling. On to the book.

I tore through the first half of The Magicians where you are introduced to Quentin, Alice, Penny, Eliot, Josh, and Janet. You also meet, Julia, a girl with whom Quentin is infatuated with at his highschool. Julia bugged me. She seemed like she was going to go somewhere, like she was going to have an arch then she just disappears. Either way, Quentin dreams of living life in Fillory a fictional place, much like Narnia (I’ll come back to that in a second), when out of the blue he is transported to a school in upstate NY that is safeguarded by magic. He takes a strange written test and then goes through a rigorous physical magic test as well. Not really sure what he’s doing he passes anyway. Enter the Physical Kids, that is what the gang mentioned above call themselves. They go through school together and grow to really care about one another; a romance blossoms between Quentin and Alice, which you see coming from the first time they meet but it’s satisfying non the less. All of the magic happenings and all the things they go through at school are thrilling! I couldn’t put the book down…that is…until they “graduate” from magic school.They laze around a New York apartment, drinking, having sex, dabbling in magic. They become so severely bored that they betray one another. Which just made me sad, honestly. Then Penny stumbles back into the picture, he had been absent for a while, he’s come with amazing news. He has a button. A button that will get them to Fillory.

Now, folks, I have a problem with Fillory. I love Fillory. I think it’s a great place and it picked the pace of the book up again, but it’s too much like Narnia. The parallels are so similar that I would have to stop reading, especially if I was at work having my shift drink and ask my literature major friend JoBeth; “Did this happen in Narnia? Did that happen in Narnia? Wait, weren’t there four kids in Narnia?” I asked her so many Narnia questions that I think I may have annoyed her (Sorry, JB.) but she finally looked at me one day and said “Fillory is really bothering you, isn’t it?” Yeah, it did. I couldn’t get over the similarities. Correction, I still can’t get over the similarities, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy the book. I loved the book and I’m looking forward to returning to Fillory and Quentin and the gang in The Magician King. 

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