J-Dubs Review of Last Girl Before Freeway The Life, Loves, Losses and Liberation of Joan Rivers by Leslie Bennett

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Say that title 3 times fast :).  

Spoiler Alert – You have to know as a public figure there is nothing I can say here that you may not already know about the illustrious Joan Rivers.  But in case you’ve been living under a rock in the middle of nowhere, I added the alert.

A single word describes Joan: DRIVEN

She succeeded in a man’s world.  She gained and lost fortune and experienced devastating lows fighting her way back to the top.  Her husband Edgar committed suicide leaving her 37 million dollars in debt.  She amassed her fortune all over again; branching out beyond the comedy arena.  She worked right up until her death with no intention of retiring it is said.  The night before the procedure that would end her life, she gave one of her best routines yet.

I guess I never really understood how mean she could be.  And I am not talking about Fashion Police mean but cutthroat humor.  When she went on the attack; it was of people in the public eye “big boys and girls who can take it”.  And she refused to apologize no matter how tasteless the joke.  She was a comedienne, her job was to tell jokes and that she did.  If you didn’t like it then screw you.  I also did not realize her connection to Johnny Carson and her permanent guest host spot on the Tonight Show.  I also did not realize she was the host of the Late Show on the fledgling Fox network.  I guess I’m the one living under a rock during these years.  

Joan was known for her philanthropic works and despite the tough and biting exterior, she was a sad girl yearning for love and acceptance.  She was a heavy-set child, in the shadow of her older sister Barbara.  Joan wanted to be beautiful and was out-shined (in her mind anyway) by many.  Her struggles with eating disorders surprised me.  She may have been anorexic living on Altoids and lettuce leafs fearful of ever gaining the weight back.  She had disdain for women who “let themselves go”.  And all that plastic surgery – obsessed with the attainment of beauty.  Back in the day when getting a nose job was not exactly a safe thing to do, she did it.  A pioneer on many fronts.

The book was long, 432 pages.  There are some mundane parts about business but overall an interesting worthwhile read where you can play “Can you spot the celebrity or I knew her when?” The psychology of it all and what makes someone as larger than life as Joan tick was really very good.  My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars. 


J-Dubs Review of Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

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“Where do I begin
To tell the story of how great a love can be
The sweet love story that is older than the sea”

Screeeech!!!!!!!! Halt.  Back up the bus.  This is not LOVE Story written by Erich Segal.  No Ali Mac Graw and Ryan O’Neal waiting in the wings of this novel.  Though I must say, this story is about LOVE.  And lust.  Relationships.  Motherhood.  Some revenge.  Oh and elephants.  Who can forget the elephants?  Not them … < see what I just did there? > An elephant NEVER forgets.  Haha! I slay me.

Modern day fiction reading as non-fiction right up until the twist at the end when we are left with highly implausible fiction.  But I will not spoil this for you … I never do.  Well … not since I completely ruined We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver for some poor unsuspecting soul who happened upon my Amazon review.  Shame J-Dub, shame on you.  Lesson learned.  Never summarize verbatim.

Now I just talk esoterically about how the book made me feel and I attempt to relate to my “real” life as opposed to “fake” life.  I sometime ramble and go off in tangents.  In the end I will let you know if I recommend the book or not.

The cast of characters in this missing persons case: Alice scientist/mother studies elephants, meets and marries Thomas scientist/father.   Has baby Jenna/Teenage Jenna.  Who now lives with her grandmother.  There is also Gideon and Grace (names I should have given to my two children).  Who work the elephant sanctuary with Alice, Thomas and Grace’s mom Nevvie.  Serenity Jones psychic and Virgil Stanhope cop turned PI.  And each elephant is named too but I cannot remember them all except for Maura and Hester.

Almost at the end we find out why the title Leaving Time was chosen.  Blink and you miss it.  Makes sense and works.  I try to pick my blog post titles that same way.

Let’s get to the heart of it, shall we? My sister-in-law Barb collected elephants and now she is gone too soon, damn cancer.  She was a good mother.  A very good mother despite all her humanly flaws.  This book is about motherhood (human and elephant) and grief (human and elephant).  I thought about Barb the entire time I was reading this book.  I was reminded to appreciate what I have; to take time to stop and smells the roses.

What I learned:

  1. Motherhood is hard.  Damn hard.  But in the elephant village of alltomothers, the load is lessened.  We should take a cue from the animals.
  2. Grief has no timeline.  Grief can make you do horrible things.
  3. I am glad they no longer give elephant rides at the San Antonio zoo.  I wish there were no zoos.  Sorry to all my zoo loving friends; my opinion only.
  4. No matter where I look, the topic of mental health is somehow brought into focus.
  5. People are flawed and you never really know anyone.
  6. Yet we get by with a little help from our friends.

And I will wrap up now.  Just a quote or two or … a gazillion (I wrote 3 pages of quotes after all).  I do that now, read and cite.  Jotting done nuggets of gold as I read has become a habit.  The following are some of what I extracted from the text as I read Leaving Time:

  1. The moral of the story is … a) sometimes you can attempt to make all the difference in the world, and it still is like trying to stem the tide with a sieve and b) no matter how much we try, no matter how much we want it … some stories just don’t have a happy ending.

  2. When you desperately want to believe something is true, you can convince yourself of anything.

  3. I think grief is like an ugly couch.  It never goes away.  You can decorate around it … eventually, you learn to live with it.

  4. Children are the anchors of a mother’s life ~ Sophocles, Phaedra, Fragments.

  5. A mother and daughter stay together until one of them dies.

  6. And I thought – not for the first time – that forgiving and forgetting aren’t mutually exclusive.

  7. People are always afraid of things they don’t understand so they dress them up in ways that are understandable.

Realistic, current humanistic themes with a touch of escapism; a pleasant way to spend my time.  Recommended read.  I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

As always, more to come.

J-Dubs Review of small great things by Jodi Picoult

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Worth every minute.  Contemporary fiction that reads more like real life.  Racism is at the core of this story seen from the lens of a black nurse – Ruth, a white supremacist father – Turk and the public defender- Kennedy. 

Life lessons are plentiful and I immediately felt drawn to Ruth.  The indignity she endured.  I was outraged. I wanted to go to battle with her.  I wanted her story to be heard. Yet all the while I asked myself who am I?   I’ve got no idea what it’s like.  I’m privileged.  Through luck of the draw, I was born this way.  I wondered how could I use my privilege to make a difference?  

The author offers “When it comes to social justice, the role of the white ally is not to be a savior or a fixer. Instead, the role of the ally is to find other white people and talk to make them see that many of the benefits they’ve enjoyed in life are direct results of the fact that someone else did not have the same benefits.”

Kennedy says  “She doesn’t need my advice because really who am I to give it when I haven’t lived her life?”

I am Kennedy.  

As usual with Picoult the relationships are deep and overlapping.  Mother and daughter (Ruth and her mother.  Kennedy and hers).  Sisters – Ruth and Adisa.  Mother and son (Ruth and Edison. Brit and Davis).  Father and daughter (Francis and Brit, Micah and Violet).  Coworkers and supervisor.  Neighbors and other assorted characters making the story. Real.  Gritty.  Hard to admit.   

Here are two of my favorite lines from the book:

  1. … that really to make her see with her own eyes how love has nothing to do with what you’re looking at and everything to do with who’s looking
  2.  We all do it, you know. Distract ourselves from noticing how time is passing. We throw ourselves into our jobs. (That’s so me!) We focus on keeping blight off our tomato plants. (That’s so Billy Bob).  We fill up our gas tanks and top off our metro cards and do the grocery shopping so that the weeks look the same on the surface. And then one day you turn around and your baby is a man. One day you look in the mirror and see gray hair. One day you realize there’s less of your life left than you’ve already lived. And you think,  how did that happen so fast?

There’s so much more to say but there really are no words to say it and the adage of actions speak louder than words really does apply here.  Read the book if you’re so inclined.

As always, more to come.

J-Dub’s Review of One Perfect Lie by Lisa Scottoline

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No spoilers here just a two thumbs up recommendation if you enjoy the suspense genre.  About half way through the book, you realize the bad guy is really the good guy.  Such a skillful writing job to convince me otherwise.  I hated him until the reveal of true character.

There is action packed heroism at the end.  True life current events yet just a tad over the top in places and a predictable happy ending.  I could actually picture a Sylvester Stallone Rambo or maybe Bruce Willis (Yippee Ki Yay mother fucker) in a summer block buster movie.  Who knows, that might already be in the works?!??  If not big screen, at least this novel could be turned into an excellent made for TV movie.

I got this book at the express check out at my local Schaeffer Public Library.  I have been going old school lately.  I just realized today that they have as many videos (even some blu-ray) as they do books.  Media in all forms.  Squirrel!!! Anyway, that’s for next time.  For now, I returned this gem and got a new Jodi Picoult.  I am in heaven :).

As always, more to come.

J-Dub Reviews The Girl Before by JP Delaney

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First and foremost there are no spoilers contained here.

It’s a good sign when I finish the book in about a day and a half.  The older I get, the harder it is to concentrate.  With the back and forth, I was able to hold on.   

This is written in a series of alternating paragraphs between two female tenants occupying state of the art home space then and now. 

There is a narcissistic architect by the name of Edward who is eerily reminiscent of one Christian Grey.  For the record, I’m not a 50 shades fan and this book is not that.  

The characters are sufficiently developed.  You’d recognize them anywhere making this fictional account feel all the more real.  The story keeps you guessing until the end. Several plausible theories are one by one discounted until way-la.  I was not disappointed.  

The other reason I was drawn to this story is that in between the back-and-forth there’s a series of questions. Behavioral type questions. And that my friends will always fascinated me.  What makes people tick?  We don’t know the answer to those questions as they’re simply placed in between the chapters to make us pause and think.  

I admit I did answer them as if I was the one being surveyed instead of the tenant.  Oh how I love to get my hands on an answer key to see how cuckoo I really am.  Lol! 

3 1/2 of four stars.  Read it if you have the time and you like the genre of psychological suspense.  

As always, more to come.

Woke Up To The Sound Of Pouring Rain and Boston Strong

Book Club, Music To My Ears

Last week I got three books. I started reading all of them pretty much simultaneously. My attention span is getting shorter as I age. I believe the expression is shorter than the gnat’s ass.  And that’s pretty small.  However Urban dictionary also says a gnat’s ass could be considered a near perfect measurement.  As close as one can get to exact aka being on the money.  

Here I’ll review two of the three books:

This morning I actually woke up to the sound of pouring rain. How coincidental that I am three quarters of the way through 18 and Life on Skid Row by Sebastian Bach.  The band was part of the soundtrack of my youth.  I learned how he played in clubs and other places to earn his due.  He did get a lucky break through a friend of a friend and connecting with Bon Jovi. By all rights he is respected Broadway actor.   For a birthday present many years ago, Billy and I saw Mr. Bach at the Majestic theater as the lead in the touring company of Jesus Christ Superstar. I learned he had other roles on TV.  I’m sure I’m the only one who has never seen him in Gilmore Girls. I’m sure I’m the only one who’s never watched a single episode of the Gilmore Girls. Now with the reboot I might have to check the show out. 

Anyway I’m always amazed at how someone can triumph over the shit they’re dealt. Part of me is surprised he still alive. As life gives me lemons I pucker up for a while. Then time passes and things get better.  Or things still suck but at least they change. The only thing that is constant in life is change.  Well change, death, and taxes.  My motisoperandi is to ride out any shit storm.  

If I feel moved to add to this review after I finish the remainder of the book, I’ll certainly do so.  For now, I’ll move on to the next gem. 

I finished Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova in the wee hours this morning.  I just couldn’t quit reading. This fictional family pulled me in. One of those stories ripped from the headlines.  Though not quite the same as a Law and Order episode because the end gave no neat tied with a bow answers.  Much like “real” life.  As opposed to the faux life we’ve been living.  

The patriarch of the Joe O’Brien family (a Boston strong policeman, blue collar townie) has Huntington’s disease like his mother before him.  Hers was mistakenly thought to be alcoholism at least by the townsfolk and her two children: Joe and his sister Maggie. Joe unknowingly passes Huntingtons on to at least to two of his four children.  His oldest, gene positive may or may not have passed Huntingtons to his firstborn son.  

This story moves gracefully along with many twists and turns. Ballet-like.  Read it and see how dance is included.  Dance as a metaphor for life.  Or maybe one could say the story moves along with several stops and starts and jerky movements similar to Huntingtons itself.  Like Huntington’s, the story is raw, gritty, and broken. Though there is no final scene of closure and we’re left to wonder what happens to this family, a sense of triumph remains.  One wonders, what would I do if faced with a deadly disease? Would I live life to the fullest to enjoy every moment of what’s left? Or would I jump off the Tobin bridge?  

Overcoming adversity is the theme of both of these books.  I recommend you read them and I hope in doing so you find encouragement.  As I conclude these reviews,  it’s storming outside.  We’ve lost the satellite signal.  We are preparing for the week and hunkering down as Stephen King would write. What better way to sign off than with a song.  I Remember You.  I hope you enjoy. 

As always, more to come. 

A Must Read – get your SH*T together by sarah knight 

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I have to say, Evelyn Wood would be proud!  And if you were born after 1970, you probably have no clue who Evelyn Wood was or is … if she is still alive.  I have no idea.    She may have even been a fictional character. 

Anyway Evelyn Wood had a method for speed reading.  Skipping the a, an, and the … and other little techniques to whip through whatever you needed to finish in a hurry.  I don’t like to speed read. I like to take a leisurely stroll.  And even when I read a single book in 24 hours, it’s because I don’t stop reading.   

I read for hours and hours and hours and hours in a row.  Last night B asks “Are you coming to bed?  Soon let me just get to the end of this chapter.    Which turns into the four chapters.  Followed by are you coming to bed yet?  To which I finally say sssshhhh  then No! Leave me alone!” He knows I love him even when I snap. Grrrr 🤣

Get your sh*t together is not a traditional self-help book. Because of that I can skip around and read chapters out of order and get little nuggets of gold to use or not as I see fit.  I love the author’s sarcastic wit thus far Sarah Knight is very good.  

She gives no magic serum.  No absolutes. Try it. like it. try it. don’t like.  Not made to feel like a failure because you don’t follow these golden rules of getting your metaphorical sh*t together.  

Her first book was aptly titled The life-changing magic of not giving a fuck. I think Billy Bob’s therapist took a line from that play book to help treat Billy.  Back in 2014, after he had his accident. You know the one where he almost died. You know the one where he says “quit saying that.” 

Well it’s true … he almost died. He was on some very heavy medication. From the beginning, they knew he was going to have to detox from it.   Doing so was planned and very heavily scripted … how many to take … over what period of time and then how to wean himself off.  Like a champ, he followed the orders explicitly. 

Though as one might imagine, detox was no picnic. And at that point in time he did see someone for a very brief maybe two or three week period. On day one, the therapist says to Billy “here’s how you deal with it when you start getting anxious and things are out-of-control, you just say fuck it!”   And that’s all it took.  Simple really.  For the rest of his life, from that day forward he goes about thinking “fuck this. fuck that. fuck you. and I don’t care”.  To date, he is the least anxious person I’ve ever known.  And I have known some pretty laid back mofo’s. Lol! 

Anyway I highly recommend you read the book and get your shit together.

As always, more to come.

Worth More Than Gold

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I’m not even sure in which category to drop this post. The teacher that Lulu is named after was Pony’s  second-grade teacher.  We had a different name all picked out and after a day in the hospital, we changed it. I don’t even remember why other than a surge of hormones taking over. Or some other such reason.  

Anyway, this teacher was wonderful. She had a little boy of her own about two years old. She was a working mother like we all were … struggling to get by. We would often talk and give each other parental advice.  What we shared in common was a LOVE of reading. She would often say books are worth more than gold.   

I wholeheartedly concur.  However Pony and I are the only readers in the family. Wise now too. But Lulu and Billy Bob haven’t touched a book just because in years.  Anyway one man’s trash is another man’s treasure as they say.  

Since I finished my library book a less than 24 hours, I went back to return it and get some more.  A kid in a candy store. I can never decide.   I’ve always had a very eclectic taste which makes deciding that much more difficult.   If liked but a single genre, it might be easy.  

Anyway today I went with a non-fiction biography,  a self-help, and a fictional story but based on real life disease of Huntington’s.  I actually know a lady in real life whose husband and both of her boys have the dreaded disease.  What she went through was unbelievable.  It is simply amazing that she was able to power through day after day.  We’ve lost touch over the last five years or so and I often wonder how things are going (if they are still going). 

So here’s what is on tap for my reading leisure. 

I really do need to get my sh*t together so I’ll start that one first!

As always, more to come.