Five Books I Recommend

I love to read and I have done book reviews for quite a while.

As some of you may know, I’ve been able to read since I was three years old. I’m almost 38 so I have read a LOT over the years. My tastes have changed over time. Currently, I like psychological thrillers, memoirs, some random fiction and of course, books related to the Holocaust.

My absolute favorite book is “The Diary of Anne Frank”. I’ve read it repeatedly and know how it ends, but I still enjoy reading it. As of yet, my kids haven’t read it. They’re not big readers, but they know the background of the story. It’s family history around here. For some reason, I haven’t done a review on this book.

For those of you who may not be familiar with this book, it is the diary of Anne Frank, a young girl born in Germany but was forced to move early in life because her family was Jewish and they were trying to outrun Hitler and his army. They ended up in the attic of a warehouse with another family and a dentist, relying on good luck and help from friends for two years. It’s still unclear who exactly made the call, but they were found by SS Agents and were sent to various concentration camps.

The only person that survived was Anne’s dad, Otto. He later died in 1980. He was able to recover Anne’s diary after the war was over and he had learned that his wife and daughters were dead. The book was published in many languages and has been read by people all over the world.

I recommend it because, quite honestly, I’m seeing some parallels to what Anne witnessed while writing in her diary. Without getting too political, certain recent events in the government will remind anyone of Nazi Germany. Kids struggle more than we think they do in times of war, civil unrest and other world events. Besides all this, Anne was a teenager, like I once was with a lot of similar thoughts and ideas.

Speaking of family history, another book has always kept my interest. Alice Walker, author of “The Color Purple” was once married to a white man and together, they had a daughter, Rebecca. I’m not sure how I heard of this book, but I am so glad that I found “Black, White and Jewish”. It describes me well.

Rebecca split time with her parents, but never fully felt like she fit in. She had friends who thought she was “too black” or “too white” and this is one of my biggest pet peeves with the world at large. There really isn’t such a thing as that, and we shouldn’t have to prove who we are to anyone. I don’t think I had the “identity crisis” that people seem to think most, if not all, biracial people do, but I definitely struggled to fit in as a kid.

I hate barbeque sauce, but I will throw hot sauce on many foods. My favorite band is Fleetwood Mac, but Megan thee Stallion is on my list of favorite rappers. My music tastes are diverse. As of the time I am writing this, Billy Joel’s “Allentown” is the most often played song on my phone.

I was able to identify so much with Rebecca and she was able to write this memoir without sounding whiny about growing up the way she did.

“Night Film” is a bit long, over 600 pages, but it is worth it. If you are into thrillers and a bit of mystery, this is a good novel to read. I read about this book on Buzzfeed and it did not lead me wrong. There are so many twists and turns to keep you occupied. I loved how everything fit together in the plot.

“Random Family” runs through many years in the life of a New York City family. Friends come and go, siblings go to jail, the matriarch gets sick as she ages and the children born to teen mothers are teens themselves as the story ends.

I was so intrigued by this book- LeBlanc’s details are incredible. I have a hard time putting this down once I start. I don’t know how many times I have read this, but I really enjoy it. There’s a little of everything in it- drama, romance, comedy, confusion, among other emotions and situations.

LeBlanc, the author, actually followed this family over 11 years. She interviewed friends that became family and basically became family herself while working on the novel. I haven’t found any other books by this author, but I imagine that I would enjoy just about anything she writes.

“Random Family” kind of reminds me of a soap opera, but in a book.

My final pick is “Ravensbruck”. This was the only concentration camp exclusively created for women during the Holocaust. Like most camps, the weather was awful most of the year, the women were worked until their bodies gave out and they lost everything while in these camps. They dodged the gas chamber daily, had abortions they didn’t want or had to watch their newborns die of starvation.

Parts of this book can be difficult to read, no matter who you are. This story, however, tells of strength and courage. These women were not going to back down or die as those who ran the camp wanted them do. Staying alive was a daily battle. They were smart and for the most part, bonded together to figure out what to do next.

More than all that, these women weren’t about to die without the world knowing what was going on. They sent notes to family through interesting methods, but unfortunately, this camp still isn’t commonly known to everyone, even though it should be.

The ending is spectacular and I won’t ruin it for you. It’s a plot TWIST.

This novel reminds me of what I have inherited from my ancestors- the will to keep going even when things looks really bad, intelligence, a caring spirit and of course, that they did not die for me to not live a kickass life.

That’s it! Five books for you to explore and enjoy. Feel free to leave comments, let me know what you think.

Book Review: “He’s Not Lazy”

I haven’t done a book review in some time. I haven’t been reading as much as I used to, even during a pandemic and quarantine. There was a lot of Netflix involved!

I’m back with a parenting book. I don’t quite get teen boys so I thought I’d read up a bit.

Title and why I chose this book:

“He’s Not Lazy” by Adam Price, PhD.

I have two sons and I don’t get them sometimes. Both of them have “opted out” and I have to admit, I am not sure what to do. I was hoping to get some direction and this book delivered.

Who do I think this book is intended for?

Myself! If you are a parent with teen sons then this is a must-read. I’m sure it also applies to daughters, but slightly different. I read with my sons in mind. If you’re new to the blog, Cameron is 15 and Julian is 14. Cameron is now a sophomore and Julian is a freshman, they are going to the same high school.

What I did like about this book: it is so relatable! The language is clear, hopeful and thought-provoking. I was even able to find some fun facts in the book that I didn’t know about before. For example, during adolescence, boys will lose up to half the gray area in their brains. By 8th grade, half of the boys questioned in a survey still decide things based on whether they will get in trouble or not.

The main idea of this book, at least to me, is to let go. This is a hard thing to do, as we are so used to running things for our kids. At some point, they have to learn things on their own. Mistakes will be made and your son will face failure. It’s part of life. They need to learn to trust themselves and that they can ask for help, should they need it. These young boys need to learn to be confident with themselves or they will get stuck in a web of shame.

I can type that all I want to, but I am having the hardest time letting go of my boys. I know I am not the only mom that feels that way. It’s a difficult part of parenting. I just don’t want to see them fail and make bad choices, but they do have to learn to rely on themselves because I will not always be there to tell them what they should do in certain situations.

Page 103 discusses not taking your son’s failures personally and I felt that in my soul. How can I not take it personally and not bash myself internally when my kid screws up? That’s a hard one.

The foreword made me do some serious thinking- “While on the surface, opt-outs do look lazy, dig a little deeper and you will often find a very conflicted boy who wants to do well but is afraid to fail, and so does not try.”

Whew, if that’s not my sons… they’re both so smart, but I know Cameron for sure has opted out. I hate it because I fear he is wasting his potential, but now I have a way of trying to reach him. When he went into the sixth grade, he wanted to try out for the basketball team at his middle school. He went into the gym and walked right back out after seeing the bigger kids.

I was crushed that he felt so intimidated, but Cameron is a quiet kid who doesn’t exactly express his feelings. He was cleared by his cardiologist but I think he was a little scared that his heart wouldn’t cooperate. He just didn’t want to say so. I wasn’t mad, however, but I was sad for him. I let him live with that decision and he went back to playing in the neighborhood with a water bottle nearby.

Julian is a bit different in this sense- he will try new things but isn’t always sure it’s a good idea. He’s not great at expressing his feelings and he tends to want to fade into the background. I don’t try to change this because I know this is who he is.

Both boys do try their best academically, because they know I accept nothing less. They’ve made pretty good grades, except for an AP Human Geography class that Cameron took last year. As long as he passed it, I really didn’t care what he got. I just didn’t want him to have to take it again or take a different class to make up for it before he can graduate in 2023.

What didn’t I like about the book?

I had a hard time staying interested in the book. There are a lot of good points made but some sections were a bit dry. I also didn’t like a section that discussed the differences between boys and girls in school.

It seemed to label the sexes a bit. There are boys that are brilliant but still struggle in school. Maybe there’s ADHD involved, a mental health issue, both, or another learning disability that hasn’t been diagnosed. Maybe there’s issues at home. If a child has any or even all of these issues, it’s going to be difficult to concentrate and behave appropriately at school.

The fact that girls also struggle is largely ignored in this section. Girls can also be aggressive- my older sister hated school and often got into fights. On the other hand, she’s super smart and a great artist. School just wasn’t her main area of interest.

All kids struggle in certain subjects- Lily and I struggle in math but write wonderfully. Lily loves science. It’s one of the reasons I chose Clinical Psychology as a major. Lily really struggled in fourth grade with word problems. To this day, I want to punch whoever came up with them. Both boys struggle with Language Arts, but do great in math.

I don’t know what bothered me so much about that section, it just seemed like a bit of stereotyping was going on.

Biggest takeaways:

Teen boys still need their parents-just not nearly as much as we think. They need the space to be able to learn on their own but still ask for help. They need that confidence. Most boys are focused on looking as “manly” as possible, which leads to them sometimes making bad choices- dangerous stunts, drugs/alcohol, etc.

Also, the more we bug them to do things, the less they want to do it.

WOW. That’s an eye-opener.

This gives them more reason to complain and they realize that we can do the worrying for them. It’s giving your son the out he wants.

I don’t know if reading this book is going to make me a better mom, but I think I have a smidge more understanding than before.

Photo courtesy of Google

Book Review: “Prozac Nation”

I meant to start book reviews again in January but none of the books I read were review material- until I re-read “Prozac Nation”.

The author, Elizabeth Wurtzel, died in late January. She was 52. This is one of the best mental health-related books I’ve ever read.

Prozac Nation cover

Who do I think this book is intended for?

Anyone who wants to try to get a deeper understanding of what it’s really like to live with mental illness.

What did I like about this book?

Her honesty.

What didn’t I like about this book?

Hard to tell. She was a great author.

Plot:

Tells the story of her mental illness starting at age 11 but gives background all the way back to toddlerhood.

Elizabeth’s view of her life and those around her as she grows and changes- she becomes aware of the effects if her mental illness. She describes her attempts to treat her diagnosis. She also attempts suicide.

The story ends with her being healthy and happier. Elizabeth was one of the first people to be prescribed Prozac after the FDA approved it.

Quote that I liked: “Sometimes I wish I could walk around with a “handle with care” sign stuck to my forehead.”

I understand this so much. It would be nice to have this kind of sign where people can see it.

If you want to read more book reviews:

Fall To Pieces

Fight Club

A Year in Books

I haven’t had time to do a book review since my break, but I will likely bring them back in 2020. No worries, I haven’t stopped reading.

This post is a bit of a refresher or maybe even a first time read if you’re new.

Enjoy!

One of my top ten favorite books

Gone Girl

A memoir of a mom in recovery- I hope she remains sober. It’s a daily struggle.

I’m Just Happy To Be Here

A mother has to make tough decisions.

72 Hour Hold

Book? Movie? You decide which is better.

Fight Club

Friendship is EVERYTHING.

Valley of the Dolls

Book Review: “Girl, Interrupted”

This month’s book review is for another movie/book combo.

Feel free to comment or email me with your thoughts at wraemsanders@gmail.com.

I’m not sure which I like more- the book was intriguing, but the movie is a bit more in-depth. I guess it depends on whether you are more of a book or movie person.

**TRIGGER WARNING** This book review does briefly discuss suicidal thoughts, attempts, and similar topics. Please read at your own discretion.

Book cover

Title and why I chose this book:

“Girl, Interrupted” by Susanna Kaysen

It’s not often that people tell their story of mental illness- at least not from the time frame that Susanna does. This book was based on her story in the 1960s when it wasn’t acceptable to tell anyone you had a mental illness, much less write a book about it. I think it’s interesting to look at a person’s story from another angle, even if it’s a different time.

Who do I think this book is intended for?

If you aren’t familiar with what it was like to be a patient in a mental health facility during this time period, Susanna’s story will give you a peek into it. Many of us are a bit curious about that, myself included. I think it’s because of my work in similar facilities. I’ve read quite a bit about facilities in the past and how patients were treated, and it wasn’t always positive.

What did I like about this book?

I like Susanna’s honesty. She breaks down her thoughts and the events that occur in the story so that the reader can understand exactly what is going on. Some of those events may be a little hard for us to comprehend because we weren’t there to witness them, but she tries her best.

What didn’t I like about this book?

I thought that the book could have been a little longer, I think it ended a bit abruptly. Everyone has their opinions on this, so maybe it’s just me. The tone of the book was a bit formal for me, but I had to remind myself of the time the book was set in.

Plot:

Susanna is hospitalized at McLean Hospital in 1967. Her hospital paperwork is actually included in the book, with some things blacked out. This wouldn’t have happened today, thanks to HIPAA. I’ve seen this in other books, but it still astounds me.

She is hospitalized following a suicide attempt- I won’t include details, but she does detail the attempt and events that follow it. She also discusses suicidal thoughts and means.

I had a laugh while reading her description of “maximum security” and McLean’s checks system. This is the way that mental health workers (“orderlies” in the book) are able to assess patients on a 1:1 (constant), 7.5, 15 or 30-minute basis for their safety. Try doing 7.5-minute checks while hugely pregnant. I did this while pregnant with Lily and it was a bit challenging.

Susanna signed herself in voluntarily and thought she would be there for two weeks- this became almost two years. She got along with her roommate and the other patients around her, and after her release, was able to find two of them. She was released after she was offered a proposal for marriage.

What was Susanna’s diagnosis? I won’t spoil that for you. It’s in her paperwork.

I’ll let you find it in the book.

Quote that I liked:

“Crazy isn’t being broken or swallowing a dark secret. It’s you or me amplified.”

Just because you’re broken inside doesn’t mean you’re “crazy”. Everyone’s a little broken, right?

Come back next month for another book review!

Picture courtesy of Google