Thursday, February 12, 2015

the 2014 book report part two

Picking up where we left off yesterday, here is the continued rundown of the books read (listened to) in 2014... the next ten are pretty amazing...

My 11th book of the year was one recommended immensely by so many people... "Love Does" by Bob Goff.  The whole premise of the book is that "Love does... everything".  It's about love when it comes to a relationship with God, how to share that love with everyone and anyone and Goff's life stories and lessons learned in life.  The only thing I didn't like was that sometimes, Bob is unrelatable.. in one story, albeit great, he talks about making his kids an offer that if they would write letters to leaders, he would take them to meet the leaders... so when a head of state from a Middle Eastern country writes back and invites the family for ice cream, they go.  Who does that?  Great story, but I know few people that could do that. 

The next 2 books were let downs... first, Daniel B. Kline and Jason Tomaszewski's "The Worst Ideas Ever" started fun, chronicling the worst public mistakes in history, like New Coke, Wendy's "Where's the Beef" fiasco and TV shows that jump the shark... but then it dives into politics and social affairs that derails the last third of the book.   Then, "Not a Match" by Brian Donovan, stories of the author's bad dates in a search of a relationship.  Good at times, boring at times, it was amusing but forgettable. 

Then, I picked up Carlos Whittaker's "Making Moments", and let me tell ya, it hit me.  This book resonated with me in a way that few books do.  I love this completely through, especially the one line that simply says:

I make moments on a daily basis, because I want to know that when life has decided it's had enough of me, it's gonna be because it's exhausted from trying to keep up.

Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  That.  That's exactly my goal for being.  It's not very long, and it's a quick read... could be my favorite book of the year?  Maybe?  We'll see.

The next one off the shelf was another winner... Judy Greer's hysterical memoir, "I Don't Know What You Know Me From: Confessions of a Co-Star".  She's one of my favorite actresses, and to me, one of the most beautiful women in the business, so when I heard she had something coming out, I actually had it on pre-order (she joins Stephen King and Jon Acuff as the only three that I've ever pre-ordered on Audible), and started it the day it was released (and finished it the next day).  It's a riot.  Judy tells stories about movies, her co-stars, anecdotes about blind dates and random happenings in and around Hollywood... and she also talks about doing her own laundry, cleaning her own house and cooking the family dinner.  If Hollywood and/or celebrity and/or funny lady stories interest you at all, pick this one up.

An older John Grisham novel, "The King of Torts" came next, telling the story of a young public defender who takes on the case of a homeless dude accused of a random street killing.  But we know there is more to it than this, there is always more to it than this, and so the story unfolds, involving Big Pharma, large settlements and suspense all around.  And unlike many of his more recent works, the ending of the book was quite satisfying.

Then we get to Bryan Bishop's "Shrinkage: Manhood, Marriage and the Tumor that Tried to Kill Me".  He's known as "Bald" Bryan on The Adam Carolla show, one of the most popular podcasts in the world (and one I listen to daily) and he's also the co-host for another great show, The Film Vault (which I also listen to)... Bryan was diagnosed with an inoperable brain cancer several years ago, and this memoir tells the story of his upbringing, his involvement with show business, radio, production and podcasting, his meeing of the love of his life, Christy, and then the discovery of, diagnosis of, and treatment of brain cancer.

On one hand, its a riot, as Bryan keeps it lighthearted, telling stories from his life, and on the other hand, its heart breaking as he and Christy spend hours, days in tears, unsure of the next step, as she--his fiance when diagnosed--loves him fiercely and takes care of him beautifully.  In many ways, its a love story as much as a biography of survival.  I listened to this while on the way to my hometown last year, to meet up with family and divide up my grandmother's (who helped raised me) belongings, so this story of life and love got me at just the right time. 

After three home runs (Whittaker, Judy, Bryan) and a double (Grisham), I was due for a strike out, and one came in the form of "Double Down" by Mark Halpern and John Heilemann, which is the recap of the 2012 elections.  They are the same guys who wrote the absolutely brilliant "Game Change", which was the 2008 elections, and though you can easily tell they are on the left wing side of the political aisle, "Game Change" was compelling story telling while not going too far left in its opinions.  Even a excoriating of Sarah Palin was permissable, as it also did a number on Hillary Clinton and especially John Edwards (full disclosure: I love Sarah Palin. Don't want her as my president, but love her still). 

"Double Down", however, is essentially one long love letter to Barack Obama.  Sure, it does give a little ding in the armor of The Big O, but it steamrolls Mitt Romney like crazy.  For every slightly negative remark on Obama--which it then makes up for by trying to explain it away--it blasts Mitt for any number of issues.  While it didn't surprise me, it was disappointing to have the book head south quickly, especially after "Game Change" was so great.

Book 19 of the year brought it back, with Stephen King's "Mr. Mercedes"... oh, so good.  While people line up at a job fair in the early morning hours, a driver plows a Mercedes Benz through the crowd, killing 8, injuring over a dozen more, especially after he backs up and charges again.  The car is found empty, the killer having gotten away.  He then sends a letter to retired cop Bill Hodges, taunting him with what has happened and promising more.  Bill pulls himself out of his depression and is determined to find the killer before more violence happens.  And unexpectedly, he's joined by a few people to help him do it.  It's not a horror story, its a good-vs-evil cat and mouse game, and it's well done. 

"American Me" is the name of Adam Carolla's third book,. and while I liked it, it's likely the least favorite of the three he's done so far.  It's his take on the American government, his rants against how stupid our country is right now, and how he'd fix it.  Obviously, its filled with language and insults, which is what makes him funny.  I enjoyed it, but "Not Taco Bell Material" is much better in my opinion. 

I was strangely drawn to "The Law of Superheroes", written by James Daily and Ryan Davidson, but I'm not sure why.  Perhaps it was the premise itself... taking comic book characters and some of their more popular storylines and see how they would fit in the American legal system.  Like, should Wolverine's adamantium claws be declared weapons when coming across the border?  Should Superman's X-Ray vision be banned as an invasion of privacy?  When Batman ties up a criminal and leaves him hanging, should that criminal be released immediately by the cops for unlawful capture?  How does Nick Fury get away with what he gets away with when leading S.H.I.E.L.D.?  When Captain America is killed, should his murderer be released from prison when Cap comes back to life? 

I know you have been thinking the same things... and I would tell you about it, but I don't remember how to.  It explains the legalese as it goes along, but it does get mired down in legal terms that had me struggling to keep up.  I loved this book as I was reading it, but forgot much of it after I finished it, because I'm not good at retaining the information. 

Not sure how I heard of Paige Rawl, but somehow I clued in on her biography "Positive".  She was born with HIV due to a bad father, and has had to live with that growing up.  She kept it a secret until early in middle school when she confided in her at-the-time best friend.  Somehow that best friend shared it with the wrong person, and it was then spread everywhere that Paige had AIDS.  She was then the subject of relentless taunting, teasing, bullying and so on, not only verbally, but through notes left in her locker, text messages she would get, phone calls and so on.  Worse yet, the school she attended would do nothing about it, almost considering it to be her fault. 

The book is heartbreaking and infuriating at the cruelness of kids (and especially teachers and people who could've helped) and sad when the low point involved a bottle of sleeping pills.  But when Paige emerges through the darkness... you knew she would... its cheer worthy and makes you smile.  Unfortunately, it's when the book turns really happy that the narrative itself drops off, so the last 1/4th of the book became a "gotta finish this", but the first 2/3rd of the book does make it worth it.

Book 23 of 2014 was a football book I found, called "The System: The Glory and Scandal of Bigtime College Football", by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian.  Each chapter takes another story and/or scandal from the world of college football and spells it out--from the hiring and firing of Mike Leach at Texas Tech for locking the player in a storage shed to how Alabama wrangled Nick Saban from the Miami Dolphins to the horrible way Lane Kiffen sold out his Tennessee hostesses when they (as the story goes) did exactly what the coaches asked them to do in recruiting to the horrible BYU rape scandal where (again, as the story goes) a few football players walked away unblemished while the girls were left to deal with it.

It does tell several great stories from BYU and other colleges as well, though, so it's not just a "football sucks!" book. I was thoroughly entertained.

After seeing the movie, I dove into "This is Where I Leave You" by Jonathan Tropper, and was delighted.  I don't read a ton of fiction, and even then, its either classic stuff I felt I should have read (I've been putting off Anne of Green Gables for two years), or by authors that I am very familiar with (King, Grisham, maybe now Gillian Flynn), so picking up a book by someone I'd never heard of was a little rare.  Of course, the movie helped, but still.

I loved this book all the way through.  Judd Foxman, his older sister Wendy, older brother Paul and younger brother Philip all come together for the first time in a long while to mourn their father who had just passed, all under the watchful eye of relationship author and over sexed mother.  Each of the siblings have their own issues, significant others, children and so on, and I found the characters to be rich and even while some are horrible people, they are still entertaining.  Great story.

My 25th book of 2014 was a quick read, as podcaster, author and speaker (and of course, Disneyphile) Lou Mongello released "102 Ways to Save Money For and At Walt Disney World", and being a Disney magic planner, I had to read it.  I actually read most of it while eating a solo lunch at the Ghengis Grill (the book was fun, the meal was meh), and for someone who has been involved in Disneyana for some time now, most of it was reminders.  For the newbies, its a lot of great information--and even has a bonus section of "40 Free Things To Enjoy, Eat, Do & Collect" which is fun and full of ideas.

Alrighty... tomorrow, just a few more to go.... PLUS, my top ten favorite books read in 2014...

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