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Uncommon Type Book Review

A few months ago, my husband and I took a trip to Portland, OR.  It was a book lover’s/coffee lover’s/food lover’s/nature lover’s dream come true! We stayed in a little Air B & B apartment with a wonderful couple who filled us in on all the must-see things in Portland…one of which was going to Powell’s Book Store.

I had heard of Powell’s before…it was described as “a big Barnes & Nobel”…which is easy to imagine.  But “big” isn’t really a big enough word for how large this bookstore is…for a bibliophile, it’s near impossible to spend less than an hour in that store.  The shelves are stacked up to the ceiling with books…and the store itself is divided into several rooms, each filled – I mean FILLED – with books, gifts, and more. I was in trouble.

Since we flew into Portland with just one suitcase (#pros), I didn’t want to leave with a butt-ton of books that would weigh our luggage down…so I told myself I would buy one book.  Just one.  One lonely, little book from the City of Books.  And I stuck to it!

My one and only purchase at Powell’s Bookstore was a signed copy of Uncommon Type, a collection of short stories by the adorable Tom Hanks.  The book had just come out, so I hadn’t heard much about it…but how could you go wrong with Tom Hanks?

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Much like Tom himself, these stories didn’t possess any flair or flash…they didn’t promise to be anything other than what they were – small glimpses into the lives of American people.  What ties all these stories together is the appearance of a typewriter – sometimes the main character in the story, other times just an object on a desk.

I hate to say that I struggled a bit through some of these stories…not in a bad way, just in a nothing-really-exciting-is-happening-and-I’m-getting-a-little-bored kind of way. Don’t get me wrong, I really did enjoy this book and I love Tom Hanks as an actor and as a person, but I guess this book just didn’t live up to the hype I selfishly created for it.

Three stories in this collection really stood out to me above the others. One, titled “The Past is Important to Us”, tells the story of a man who travels back in time to the 1939 World’s Fair, drawn by a young woman in a green dress (slightly similar, yet more disturbing, than the film, Somewhere in Time). Another titled “These are the Meditations of My Heart” talks about how a young girl copes with her breakup by finding a bit of solstice in an old vintage typewriter. Finally the third story, “Welcome to Mars” is about a boy discovering his father’s infidelity. I found it so honest and true that it might just be my favorite one in the collection.

Was this my favorite collection of short stories ever? No. It didn’t surprise me or shock me or leave me wondering about a hanging ending; however, it did entertain. The stories in Uncommon Type were true and honest, albeit normal. They were about everyday people doing everyday things. Some stories are better than others, some stories are funnier than others, but just like Toy Story, You’ve Got Mail, or Sleepless in Seattle, it will most likely leave you loving Tom Hanks all the more.

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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Anatomy of a Song Book Review + GIVEAWAY!

WIN A COPY OF Anatomy of a Song BELOW!

Whether it’s Taylor Swift’s “All to Well”, R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion”, or Led Zepplin’s “Whole Lotta Love”, every great song usually starts with one hell of a backstory.

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In Anatomy of a Song, based on the ongoing Wall Street Journal column, writer and music historian Marc Meyers brings five decades of music to life through his oral histories of 45 songs that have had some impact on rock, R&B, or pop culture. Writers, producers, musicians, and singers talk about the emotional meaning behind their songs, as well as the inspirations and techniques that helped every mistake, every nuance, every one-take recording all the more amazing.

When I first read Anatomy of a Song, it was a full sensory experience. After each chapter, I would take a break to pull up each song on YouTube and listen to it in its entirety. I’d listen for the little instrumental queues in “Shout” by the Isley Brothers…or the nods to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony in “Proud Mary” by John Fogerty. Listening to these songs in order of release (they are in order of release in the book, also) really shows how musicians and singers are influenced and motivated by each other. I even put together a YouTube playlist with the songs in order for your listening pleasure!  For anyone with an appreciation for music and writing, this book is a fascinating read.

Check out my Anatomy of a Song playlist on YouTube to listen to all the songs featured in this book!

Filled with interviews by Mick Jagger, Jimmy Page, Rod Stewart, The Clash, Stevie Wonder, Keith Richards, Cyndi Lauper and many more, Anatomy of a Song is a love letter to the music that defined generations of listeners.

GIVEAWAY! 
Want the chance to read this book yourself? Well, you’re in luck because I happen to have a copy to give away to one lucky reader!  All you need to do is write a comment below with your favorite song growing up and what it meant to you.  I’ll pick a random winner from the comments on December 8th!  Good luck!

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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Hygge Week:  The Little Book of Hygge Book Review

There’s a reason Denmark has been named one of the happiest countries in the world.  Despite the cold harsh winds and the snowfall and the dark stormy winters, Denmark remains #2 on the list of the happiest countries (for comparison, the US is placed at number 14).  Put simply, the reason the Danes remain so content is that they are one of the only countries to fully and completely embrace the hygge lifestyle.

As we’ve been talking about all week, hygge is all about being comfortable.  It’s the art of creating intimacy and taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things, such as big comfy blankets, candles, hot drinks, warm socks, and delicious food.  Hygge cannot really be explained…it’s there to be felt.  It’s cuddling up on the sofa with a loved one or sharing a rich pot of stew with your closest friends.  It’s staying in your bed on a Sunday afternoon or listening to the fire crackle as you read your favorite novel.

While you don’t need a book to tell you how to feel comfortable, it certainly can’t hurt!  Filled with great advice on how to turn your living space into a cozy, intimate wonderland, The Little Book of Hygge is your ultimate guide into embracing hygge.  It was the “Bible” my husband and I used to make our home more hygge, and we find ourselves coming back to it again and again for more ideas, recipes, and party suggestions.

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Written by Meik Wiking, the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, this book is best read alongside a cup of hot tea and a piece of cake (or two!).  Meik has spent years studying the hygge lifestyle, and his research has found that hygge really is the magic ingredient that makes the Danes one of the happiest nations in the world.

As we’ve discussed this week, this book was the fuel that encouraged us to embrace the hygge lifestyle and I’m telling you…THIS WORKS.  You can read all the self-help books you want…watch all the shows and read all those quotes on Pinterest…but just the simple act of making your life more meaningful, spending time with the people you actually like, eating foods that are delicious and sensual, and filling your home with soft candlelight, warm blankets, and comfy furniture…this is the secret.  Rather than buying a lamp, try some candles.  Instead of buying wall art from World Market, try making something yourself using natural items.  Rather than buy a blanket from Walmart, knit or crochet one yourself!

It’s not hard to make your home a happy place.  Some simple changes can not only improve your dwelling, but can maybe even improve your overall happiness.  So get those winter socks out of storage…wrap yourself up in a cozy blanket and turn off that freaking phone.  Make some rich hot cocoa or some tasty spiced cider and give yourself over to the magical world of hygge.

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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The Snowman Book Review

Remember this scene in The Office where Dwight tortures Jim with a bunch of snowmen?

Now add an alcoholic police investigator, an insane killer out for revenge, and a few body parts tucked comfortably into those icy cold torsos and you’ve got Jo Nesbo’s crime thriller, The Snowman.

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The inspiration behind the recent film of the same name (which SUCKED, by the way), The Snowman is the seventh novel in the Harry Hole detective series, but you don’t have to have any prior knowledge of his books to enjoy this one.

Set in Oslo, Norway, The Snowman is a murder-mystery thriller that will leave you questioning everyone in this story.  Just when you think you have the murderer pegged, something changes and you’re left right back where you started…and you’re not alone.  Police investigator, Harry Hole, is left just as confused…for the closer he gets to the killer, the terrifying game the killer is playing with him is suddenly revised.

Always striking after a fresh snowfall, the killer chooses his victims specifically and with reason…then leaves clues for the police buried inside a freshly made snowman.  Some snowmen sport decapitated heads, others hold cell phones or scarves.  The victims all have something in common…the only question is what?

Though this book was somewhat slow to start, once it got started, The Snowman was impossible to put down. Fiercely suspenseful, this novel is filled with amazing characters that seem to come to life right on the page. I have to admit that this book had me guessing the whole time and the ending was totally worth the wait, if I do say so myself!

Now, if you’re the kind of person who thinks, “Why read the book when I can just see the movie?” do yourself a favor and actually read the book this time.  The movie makes the killer way too obvious and leaves out MAJOR plot holes that heavily drive the story along in the novel.  Even though Michael Fassbender is in it, I’m telling you it’s not worth it.  Watch him in Shame instead.  Trust me, you’ll thank me later.  😉

A cold-blooded murder mystery thriller that will have you looking twice at any snowman that pops up in your neighborhood, The Snowman is a creep-tastic novel that will chill you to the bone.  Bundle up for this one…just like the first snowfall of winter, this book will leave you cold and shivering.

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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Rhett and Link’s Book of Mythicality Book Review

Rhett and Link wrote a book.  Let’s talk about that.

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If you’re not familiar with Good Mythical Morning, allow me to educate you.  This is Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal:

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They are the “Internet-tainers” behind YouTube’s most popular daily talk show, Good Mythical Morning.  Every weekday they release a video where they try new things for the good of science.  Want to know if LEGOS make good shoes?  Want to know the hottest hot sauce in America or the best-tasting pumpkin spice item at Trader Joe’s?  Rhett and Link put their taste buds, stomachs, and sanity on the line for us in this highly addicting and amazing YouTube series.

I’ve been a Mythical Beast (GMM fan) for at least four or five years.  I tune in every morning to watch GMM and even crafted my own Rhett and Link poster for my workspace!

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I’m seriously in love with these guys.

When Rhett and Link announced that they were working on a book, I was literally gitty with excitement.  I knew it would be nothing but MYTHICAL in its amazingness and I have to say, it met – nay – EXCEEDED my expectations!

Rhett and Link’s Book of Mythicality is everything Mythical Beasts would want and more.  Filled with hilarious stories, amazing photographs, and top-notch advice for how to be your mythical best, this book is an intimate look into the lives of Rhett and Link and is a testament to true, unadulterated friendship.

Want to throw a party that will go down in history as one of the best?  Rhett and Link show you how.  Want to know the secret to eating tarantulas, pig’s blood, and other disgusting things for possible post-apocalyptic survival?  Rhett and Link show you how.  What to learn how to tell someone you love them in the most mythical way possible?  Rhett and Link show you how…well, at least their wives do.  Want to know about Rhett’s dog curse, Link’s standards for quality BFF material, and their mutual love for Merle Haggard?  It’s all found in the colorful and hilarious pages of Rhett and Link’s Book of Mythicality.

Just like the show that inspired its birth, Rhett and Link’s Book of Mythicality aims to teach readers new things:  how to laugh more often, how to eat things that scare you, how to invent something ridiculous, and how to own your hair style.  Complete the fun activities and prompts along the way, this book is even more fun to read with your BFF…plus you earn Mythical “merit badges” as you make your way through the book!

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For those who don’t know, Rhett and Link have actually been BFF’s since the first grade when their teacher made them miss recess for writing profanity on their desks.  They spent their time drawing and creating mythical beasts and, thankfully for us, it was the start of a beautiful friendship.  After rooming together in college, attempting (and failing) to start a band, and abandoning their degrees in engineering, Rhett and Link decided to take to the Internet as a way to talk about their lives, air their grievances, and just make each other laugh…

Now with more than 12 million subscribers, Good Mythical Morning has spawned several other YouTube channels, including Good Mythical More, which airs after GMM, Rhett & Link which features behind-the-scenes content and other fun videos, This is Mythical, which is a channel devoted to the beloved Mythical crew behind GMM, a YouTube Red series titled Rhett and Link’s Buddy System, and even a pod cast titled Ear Biscuits where Rhett and Link continue their discussions about creativity and tomfoolery.

Here’s the fact of the matter…If you love GMM, you’re going to love Rhett and Link’s Book of Mythicality.  And if you’ve never seen GMM, allow me to share some of my favorite episodes:

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What I love the most about Rhett and Link is that they are 100% authentic to who they are, something that is ever more apparent in their mythical field guide.  With heartfelt stories that will literally make you laugh out loud, Rhett and Link’s Book of Mythicality is like the BFF you always wanted: filled with great advice, funny stories, and plenty of heart.

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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Lincoln in the Bardo Review

When I was about 11 years old, I watched a made-for-TV movie about Abraham Lincoln titled, Tad.  It starred my crush at the time, Bug Hall, as Lincoln’s son Tad, as well as Jane Curtain as Mary Todd Lincoln and Kris Kristofferson as Abe Lincoln.  I don’t remember much about it, but that movie changed my life in two major ways:

  1. It was the motivation behind me wanting to take up the trumpet, which became a massive part of my middle school, high school, and college career
  2. It instituted in me a life-long obsession with Abraham Lincoln

If you’re REALLY interested in watching Tad, it is available on YouTube.  I’ve been on the fence about wanting to watch it again, but you can check it out in all its glory right here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JBedzZ7QAW0

I honestly can’t tell you what it was about the movie that made me love Lincoln so much…but it was enough for me to ask for a family trip to Springfield, IL so I could dwell in Lincoln nostalgia.  It was enough for my family to start buying me any book with “Abraham Lincoln” in the title.  It was even enough for me to dress up like Abraham Lincoln for Halloween one year and have an Abraham Lincoln-inspired birthday cake.  The love was real, guys.

I still have a soft spot in my heart for Honest Abe…and I think I always will.  I still gravitate to TV shows, movies and books about him, which is what led me to pick up today’s book, Lincoln in the Bardo.

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Told from the perspective of several ghosts two nights after Abe Lincoln loses his son, Willie, to typhoid fever, Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders is unlike anything I’ve ever read before.  Organized more like a play than a novel, this book begs for a stage or film adaptation, and a rather creepy one at that (word is that actor Nick Offerman and his wife, Megan Mullally have purchased film rights to this book…so read it before it hits theaters)!

The entire book is set over the course of one night and is narrated by a handful of spirits, some long since dead, some only recently so, and is a thrilling exploration on death, grief, the afterlife, and the powers of good and evil.

In Tibetian Buddhism, The Bardo is a sort of limbo state between death and rebirth into the next life.  Willie Lincoln lingers there, unable to move forward, along with a collection of spirits who are all being held back for one reason or another.  And Abe, who would often visit the crypt of Willie after his death to stroke his face and hair (true story), also lingers in a bardo of sorts, trying to steer the country forward during the brink of the Civil War while also dealing with the death of his beloved child.  If that’s not enough to break your heart, Willie’s narration throughout the book helps give insight into Abe Lincoln’s character as only a son can…with deep understanding, respect, and love.

I’m gonna be honest…this book was hard to read at times…not because of the content, but just because of the way it’s written.  It’s different.  There are parts that are repetitive and there are parts that don’t really flow, but as you read on, things begin to make sense…and though it’s not a heart-racing dash to the big finish, the ending is just what you need it to be…honest and meaningful and bittersweet.

Lincoln in the Bardo stands up to its reputation of being bizarre and irreverent; heartbreaking and surreal.  It’s a profound meditation on grief, loss, and how painful it is to let go of something we hold dear.  It’s not for everyone, but for those who look for a book that will challenge you to think differently or a book that will help give you perspective, you cannot go wrong with at least giving this book a try.

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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Hostage Book Review

In the summer of 1997, Christophe Andre, a humanitarian worker with Doctors Without Borders, was kidnapped in Nazran by men seeking a ransom.  He was blindfolded, driven to some unknown location, and locked up in a small room with nothing but a mattress.

In Guy DeLisle’s biography of Andre’s kidnapping, aptly titled Hostage, Andre’s story comes to life in simple illustrations and, with the highest form of complement intended, is pure torture to read.

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With little to no dialogue and illustrations that show Andre’s first-person nightmare, Hostage is based on DeLisle’s recordings of Andre’s accounts of the abduction and his attempts at escape.  What it lacks in action it makes up for in hundreds of pages of inaction…adding to the pure boredom, terror, and monotony that comes with being locked up in a room for months on end.

A limited color palate also helps add a dream-like feel to this story and in a sense becomes a character itself, helping us feel limited, enclosed, and claustrophobic.

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Over the course of four months, we sit patiently with Andre, eating…sitting…eating…sitting, just waiting for a rescue that may or may not ever come.  The only thing driving the story forward are the thoughts in his head…and as Andre’s story continues and races to a heart-quickening finale, Hostage becomes quite a page-turner and has an ending that will not leave you disappointed.

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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