Category: Book Review


So I’m an old fashioned book reader. To me this means that I love the tactile component of reading an honest to goodness paper and ink book. That being said I will on occasion read digitally, to try out new authors mostly, but what I am here to tell you today is that I believe some books are even better as digital copies. For instance Emotional Rescue: Essays on Love, Loss, and Life – with a soundtrack by Ben Greenman. This book was on the editors pick list (Amazon) and after reading the title I pondered for less than a minute before I started downloading. They were right, it is every bit as good as the title suggests and then some.

For those of you who stoped at the word essays I urge you to keep reading because they don’t feel like the writing assignments you might recal from undergrad they feel like internal dialogue. Let me explain. Mr. Greenman uses essays to have the liberty to jump topics between chapters which you cannot do, or rather it would be very difficult to do, in a typical story format. As such we can go from talking about pain/pleasure to sense/nonsense to distance/nearness. What is great about the essay format other than the wide array of topics that become available is that is has the feel of listening to the radio. As if, for instance, you are cruising down the highway rocking out and feeling happy and alive then all of a sudden the station plays a ballad and you remember your junior prom date. It was done to such a tremendous effect too. 

Let me also state outright that I love Mr. Greenman’s narrative voice. It felt very comfortable almost as if he was posing the questions he answers directly to me. I do honestly believe he has the large pool of friends who just call to talk that his essays suggest, and who could blame them as his perspective it quite interesting.

Now although I loved the book and I have already been recommending  it to anyone who will listen I’m not sure I would love it as a paperback. With my digital copy I highlighted amazing points that he makes regularly through out the entire narrative. I could also immediately look up songs which I had never heard or needed to hear again. The magic of technology allowed me to listen to the soundtrack of Mr. Greenman’s life while I read about the highlights. Which *gasp* fulfilled my need for multi sensory reading. As such a traditional book read of these essays would have been a completely different experience.

Should you still not be sold on this book please allow me just two more points. First, while Emotional Rescue is a far cry from the typical linear story telling most of us readers have come to love and expect by the end it came to an actual end. By which I mean that at the end all of the story telling (including the hard left turns) makes sense and even comes to a nicely tied up conclusion like a well constructed stand up comedy skit. The second point is perhaps more of a me point but I cannot help myself. In my mind this story would make an amazing musical… There I said it! I can completely picture it and I hope that someone else can too because this is a book I don’t just want to read it’s a book I want to experience!

I’m not saying that all the answers to the questions of restlessness, energy, intensity, and comfort—how long to hold a job, how long to keep a lover, how long to stay in one place before hopping on a train or a plane or into a balloon—reside in two minutes of a never-released song recorded by a virtually unknown novelty singer. But I’m not saying that they’re not.     -Ben Greenman

I found a misused copy of this paperback on the shelf of my local swap shack (basically a large lean-to filled with “free to a good home” items) and it begged to be picked up. Like many I knew about the Lovely Bones, it was a bestseller after all, and I had seen the movie, but I had not read the book. So nearly 15 years after it had originally been published I started my secondhand copy with the dark ring shaped stain (suggesting it had functioned as a coffee mug holder way more than as a stunning piece of literature). I am happy to report that where it fails as a coaster it more than succeeds as a work of fiction.

This book opens with one of the most hit you in the chest lines I have ever read.


In my opinion books live and die in the first chapter, if I’m not hooked by the end of Chapter 1 it’s going to be a slog. This book had me by paragraph 1!

There are many things to love about this book, and just as many ways to approach this review. I won’t be sumerizing, go find another review if you are looking for a book report, or doing an in depth character analysis. I will instead give you 5 reasons why you must read this book (as I see them anyway).

  1. The tension- If you love a good who done it mystery or crime drama don’t pass this book up. You may know who did what but believe me there is tension in spades. Will the guilty party be found out? Will Susie figure out how to live in her heaven and in her family’s world? What impact will this have on everyone who was touched by Susie? Can a family torn apart by violence pull together? I could go on too. Don’t be fooled, knowing the killer’s identity does not mean that this story will disappoint in the surprise or gasp worthy moments.
  2. It is not a let’s hold hands and cry cathartically book-So I recently tried to convince someone to read the book and the response was “I don’t like books about little girls being murdered” followed by the “is something wrong with you?” look. That is not this book! Yes of course there are sad moments, Susie and her family grapple with some very serious things, but for me at least it was way more joyous than depressing. For example I felt sheer joy when Lindsey falls in love, laughed out loud at/with Grandma Lynn, and smiled from ear to ear as Ruth cajoles Ray into friendship. Don’t let the emotion behind this story scare you off, embrace it. The young feel everything as passionate extremes allow yourself to get swept up in it, it is Susie’s story after all take this opportunity to look through another’s eyes.
  3. For the lines you will want to highlight and quote (though I cannot condone book disfigurement)- This book is full of memorable lines and I am sure different ones will stand out depending on what you need. Goodreads lists over 200 and I am sure there are even more quotable lines. As I read The Lovely  Bones I was struck by how many people could be reached by Alice Sebold’s words. I found lines to share with those struggling with loss, that I would love to text to my young cousins, to help the many who never felt like they belonged in their current situation, to inspire, to encourage, and to just mull over. The words in this book are living things and each read breaths new life into them.
  4. It is better (longer) than the movie- Now I know that every time you hear this sentence it is accompanied by a look of disdain, but that’s not how I mean it. What I mean is the movie is constrained by time. There is only so much time which can pass during a normal length feature film before the audience loses focus. Whereas books can be as long as they want spanning decades of time. So while the movie keeps us focused on let’s say the next five years surrounding Susie’s murder The book reaches further into the future where we see Lindsey graduate college, Ray working towards an MD, and an aging Mr. Harvey. The reason I like the extended time line is twofold. Firstly, it suggests, with subtlety, the timelessness of Susie’s heaven. The jumps in time are not the same from chapter to chapter and we follow her friends and family for different stretches of time as well. To me this makes perfect sense and is a wonderful way to show the disconnect between Susie and everyone still living on earth. Secondly, it puts a fine point on the fact that Susie doesn’t get to grow up. A little harsh I suppose but true. This is a life and death story told by a young adult and her perspective cannot change because she cannot change (which is important to how the story ends). Mr. Harvey is a man and Susie is a girl if she becomes a woman the fear of him will lessen. So in my opinion the time in the book is critical both explaining and being explained by the story making the book better than the movie.
  5. Karma- So whether or not you believe in the religious component of karma most of us like the idea of good things happening for good people and bad things happening to bad people. Believe it or not, but I think this book adheres to this universal ideology. Yes, something horrible happens to Susie but she is not lessened by it George Harvey is. She is in a perfect world and she receives the ultimate gift in the end (not to give anything away here is tricky). While this may seem like a small consolation I still believe it counts because Susie gets joy, love, and wonder while Mr. Harvey does not. His fate is darker and well deserved.

Susie’s voice is refreshing and the story is captivating, hit the library stacks you will be glad you did.

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Okay so Bookworm first…

On my second reading of Hamilton The Revolution I fell in love with Jeremy McCarter’s narrative. Beyond the beautiful imagery and quotable text Mr. McCarter creates a wonderful story within a story vibe. This allows The Revolution to be told both from his perspective and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s. For reasons that I cannot fully explain this made me think of The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux. Regardless, the flow of The Revolution surprised me. Mr. McCarter frames each of Mr. Miranda’s beautiful scenes/songs with more than just informative background information he instead acts as MC setting up each scene with precision. Each song is in turn highlighted by Mr. Miranda’s various footnotes which give the reader an even more behind the scenes look at the how/why/when/ and where of it all. The overall effect left me with a dizzying omnipresent fly-on-the-wall feeling.

What was interesting to me, other than the interlocking narrative, libretto, and footnotes, were the design elements of the story being told. The selection of pull-quotes (which I initially thought would be distracting) were actually nice ways to underscore the tone or feeling of each chapter and were very well selected. The placement of photos was also well done adding rather than detracting from the story. Even the choice of page colors echoed the emotions specific to individuals or scenes. However, my favorite additions were the chapter names. While reading a book with numbered chapters is not impossible reading one with titled chapters is much more fun. I love the titles of The Revolution’s chapters as much as I loved the tiny illustrations at the beginning of each Harry Potter chapter (which is saying a lot).

I will also say that as a bibliophile this book is amazing to read. The cover and binding are surprisingly stunning, the actual pages have a lovely weight to them, and it opens flat (which I love in a hardback). I could go on but I won’t gush; let it suffice to say that while this 288 page monster of a book is heavy and all around sizeable I was happy to carry it around because I loved reading it.

Now for the Fangirl…

I ordered this book the day it was released on Amazon which it turned out was a huge mistake as I had to wait almost a month to receive it in the mail, but the wait was worth it. As most Hamilton Revolutionaries (and I am not sure if this is the official term for those of us obsessed with Hamilton An American Musical but it should be) I have scoured the internet for videos, pictures, and interviews, and therefore could not wait for another piece of the Hamilton puzzle. Enter the Hamiltome. It is everything you could have wanted, minus Mr. Miranda narrating the audio-book. The pictures are top quality and include both candid and professional shots. The interviews with collaborators, actors, and assorted Theater Greats are to die for. The footnotes are an insane inside view of the complicated genius that is Mr. Miranda’s brain, and the stage notes are fabulous additions to my own internally choreographed rendition of the play.

On my first read through I treated the Hamiltome like a Disney read-along (with record for those of you old enough to remember these). I read each chapter then listened to the corresponding song. It was a ridiculously fun way to absorb the narrative. It spotlighted tiny things which my mind had overlooked like the gasp in Satisfied, the violin cords under “Only nineteen but my mind is older”, and the fact that Hamilton sings “Hey! At least he was honest with our money!” in the Reynolds Pamphlet (in a funny yet sad plea for understanding).

There are so many great finds in Hamilton The Revolution whether you read it as a book, a read-along, or the latest Hamilton related item to be obsessed over. I have both devoured it over a weekend (in my first reading) and read it slowly (over a week in my second go-round). It is well written, has a wonderful pace to it making you want to read more, and has tidbits of information I have yet to hear via any other interview. The Hamiltome is in a word amazing, in two a must read! To steal a line “beg, steal, borrow, or barter” but read this book!

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