Book Review: Tormented By Ghosts

review-cover-tormented by ghostsTitle: Tormented By Ghosts: True Life Experiences

Author: Lynda Bogert, Darrell Gibbs

Genre: Paranormal, Non-Fiction, Memoir, Horror

Rating: 1 Star (DNF)

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Description/Synopsis:

She wants to be normal, but the spirit world has other plans. Tormented by Ghosts is a true story about unfortunate encounters with ghosts and other otherworldly paranormal phenomena that have greatly affected Lynda’s life. The struggles include harrowing encounters of unwanted Out of Body Experiences (OBEs), her Near Death Experience (NDE), her horrifying visit from a demonic apparition, and mysterious bone-chilling ghostly visits. This book encompasses her thirty years of coping to learn and educate herself to understand and utilize her spiritual abilities and tools to help herself and others. Her daily battle is to overcome the paranormal and control the abilities that she has been given! Is she seeing and hearing ghosts that may have a message for her or to let themselves be known or to simply taunt her? This is a story with many stories. You’ll want to sleep with the lights on because it could also happen to you, too…

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Think what you will, I’ve been a long time believer in the supernatural—though I still consider myself a skeptic. Because of this, I am a huge fan of ghosts stories, but I also like to view ghost stories with a healthy amount of skepticism. I want proof. Evidence. Unfortunately, the way Tormented by Ghosts by Lynda Bogert was written it was very difficult to believe that these were true stories—and maybe they were—who am I to judge? My hesitance is not so much a product of the stories themselves, but the way they were presented.

Honestly, the book was not well written. The narrative rambled from topic to topic with no clear format or breaks to delineate what was happening. The writing wasn’t fluid or clear and concise, but instead hard to follow. The dialogue was about as believable as a Carebear’s scripted speech and throughout the narrative, the author threw in big bad thesaurus words like stymied and invidious that really didn’t fit the context or style of the writing.

I tried to get through this book and stick to following the story, but I just couldn’t. I didn’t like it, and I don’t know that I could recommend it. It needs another strong round with an experienced editor. Lines like “I’ve never vibrated this much in my life.” Should never have made it into the final copy.

Book Review: My Journey Through War and Peace

review-cover-my journey through war and peaceTitle: My Journey Through War and Peace

Author: Melissa Burch

Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

“My Journey Through War and Peace: Explorations of a Young Filmmaker, Feminist and Spiritual Seeker” is based on Melissa Burch’s experiences as a war journalist for BBC, CBS, and other networks. Her team was one of the first documentary crews allowed in the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War, and she was featured in a New York Times story about her time in Afghanistan. She was just in her twenties when she traveled with the mujahideen, filmed an attack on a Soviet convoy, slept with an Afghan commander, and climbed 14,000-foot mountains in the Hindu Kush.

“My Journey Through War and Peace” examines how, through outward action and inward exploration, life can unfold in mysterious ways, far beyond cultural and family expectations. In looking back at this momentous decade, Burch shares why she pursued such dangerous and difficult circumstances at such a young age and continued to live on the edge. She now understands that she was seeking self-discovery, a connection to something greater, and ultimately inner peace. This exciting memoir will resonate with fans of “Eat Pray Love,” “Wild,” and other popular memoirs that describe extraordinary inner and outer journeys.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

My Journey Through War and Peace by Melissa Burch was a strange adventure through the life and career of a young war journalist. The story explored the ups and downs of this young woman’s life, her career in journalism, her experiences with feminism and sexuality, and ultimately her spiritualism. I found it to be an interesting story of disillusionment, understanding, fear, and ultimately a sort of peace as she worked her way through her early career and relationships and tried to ultimately come to terms with who she was and what she wanted out of the different aspects of her life. It wasn’t an easy tale—there were many terrifying moments, questionable choices, and compromises that were to be made, but it was certainly interesting.

To be frank, it wasn’t the type of story I normally read. I very rarely delve into non-fiction and certainly not memoirs, and I can’t say that it’s something I would pick up and re-read, but I am glad to have read it. If you’re interested in autobiographical memoirs dealing with some pretty heavy topics, I think there’s a good chance you might find this a really interesting read.

Book Review: Five Weeks in the Amazon

ww-8Title: Five Weeks in the Amazon

Author: Sean Michael Hayes

Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

If you enjoy a fast-paced read and a true story, Five Weeks in the Amazon is the book for you. It’s packed with humor, full of unexpected twists and there is never any way to know how it will end. Author Sean Michael Hayes has written a book in a similar style to current blockbuster success, Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild”. His adventure puts him face to face with universal problems that we all must overcome in life. His search is a desperate attempt at something he has fought for since first being diagnosed with depression–how to live a happy life.

Hayes presents solutions which seem like wins not just for himself, but for the reader that’s right there with him. Want to find out what happened to a backpacker that hiked alone into the Amazon jungle and live with a shaman? Buy the first edition now.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I don’t often read memoirs or other non-fiction works. They are a difficult genre to review. I can’t rate a memoir like a fictional story, the characters involved are as they are presented and can’t be judged on their complexity or the pleasantness of their personalities. So going into this review, keep in mind that I’m limited on what I can rate on a book such as this.

As far as the technical aspect of this book goes, the book was decently written. There were a few typos, missing lines, and added words, but mostly these were inconsequential. The book did drag for me in the second half, but I realize that there is only so much that can be done about pace when the topic of the book is mostly the existential wanderings and philosophies of self-awareness being described by a man on a drug-induced vision quest.

To be honest, the book wasn’t what I expected, and certainly not what I thought I’d picked up. It may be my own fault for not reading the description thoroughly, but I thought I’d be reading a book about a man who went into the Amazon jungle looking for adventure and didn’t come out for five weeks. That both is, and isn’t what this book was about. I expected tales of being lost, surviving on foreign wildlife, maybe some near-death moments of adrenaline… instead, I got a tale about a deeply depressed man who met all sorts of strange people, did a lot of drugs, and who spent the better part of five weeks self-analyzing himself while hallucinating.

Though interesting, the book wasn’t what I’d expected, and I don’t think I was in the right mindset to enjoy it as thoroughly as I may have had I been looking for what this book actually was. I got bored at parts. I couldn’t relate to the drug use. It just wasn’t something I was interested in. Still, it made me think, and even if the book wasn’t what I was looking for, I do think it taught me something and I am glad that I read it.

I think if you are looking for a little self-introspection, you should give this book a try. If you’re looking for an adventure story about the Amazon, you may want to keep looking. This was an adventure, and yes, it did take place in the Amazon, but not in the way you are probably expecting.

Book Review: You’re Never Weird On The Internet (Almost)

cover-felicia dayTitle: You’re Never Weird On The Internet (Almost)

Author: Felicia Day

Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

From online entertainment mogul, actress, and “queen of the geeks” Felicia Day, a funny, quirky, and inspiring memoir about her unusual upbringing, her rise to Internet-stardom, and embracing her individuality to find success in Hollywood.
The Internet isn’t all cat videos. There’s also Felicia Day—violinist, filmmaker, Internet entrepreneur, compulsive gamer, hoagie specialist, and former lonely homeschooled girl who overcame her isolated childhood to become the ruler of a new world…or at least semi-influential in the world of Internet Geeks and Goodreads book clubs.
After growing up in the south where she was “homeschooled for hippie reasons”, Felicia moved to Hollywood to pursue her dream of becoming an actress and was immediately typecast as a crazy cat-lady secretary. But Felicia’s misadventures in Hollywood led her to produce her own web series, own her own production company, and become an Internet star.
Felicia’s short-ish life and her rags-to-riches rise to Internet fame launched her career as one of the most influential creators in new media. Now, Felicia’s strange world is filled with thoughts on creativity, video games, and a dash of mild feminist activism—just like her memoir.
Hilarious and inspirational, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) is proof that everyone should embrace what makes them different and be brave enough to share it with the world, because anything is possible now—even for a digital misfit.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I don’t usually read or review non-fiction, especially not memoirs, but I’ll admit it: I’m a huge Felicia Day fan. I’ve been following her work since she was on Buffy The Vampire Slayer, all the way through The Guild, and the very beginnings of the Geek & Sundry Channel. She is my geeky, gamer girl hero. I regularly participate in her Romance/Fantasy book club, Vaginal Fantasy… so when I heard that she was writing a book nearly a year ago, I was already planning ahead to add it onto my early Birthday list. I repeatedly reminded my family for several weeks that August, and my birthday were fast approaching, with not-so-veiled hints that the book’s release date was soon approaching just two weeks before my B-day. Needless to say, I not only received the book as a birthday present, I was allowed to access this present early, and devoured it the same day it was bought.

For someone who hardly ever reads non-fiction let me say: this memoir was everything I hoped for. Felicia’s writing was hilarious, filled with awkward stories of childhood, adolescence, and her many geeky endeavors. The book was easy to read and from a technical standpoint, pretty flawlessly executed. I didn’t notice any grammatical errors or awkward sentences, and the candid photos and photoshopped meme-like additions were an amusing touch.

I found Felicia’s story both relatable and inspiring. As an awkward girl growing up in the first vestiges of the internet myself, I found something nostalgic and endearingly familiar about her stories of naïve attempts to find a niche in early games and forums. I too lived through those times, and did some of the same questionable things that I still can’t believe my parents let me get away with (anyone else live through one of those awkward early-internet meet ups fueled by parents desperate to see us gain relationships outside our family? Yup. Been there.) Her adventures in being homeschooled and being the awkward almost-too-old-for-her-age type of kid reminded me a lot of my own homeschooled daughter, and I immediately decided that at some point, my daughter too would have to read this book, if for no other reason than to show her that: Hey, it’s okay to be yourself. It’s okay to be weird.

In a lot of ways, Felicia and her stories of being an anxious, awkward, geeky girl reminded me a lot of myself, and when I read about her determination to follow her dreams and the struggles with shutting down her inner critic—well, it struck a chord. I think a lot of us struggle with our inner anxiety… I certainly know I have. Reading about her procrastination, the endless excuses, and self-doubt, I wanted to close the book and get to work on all the stuff I’ve been putting off for ages. I’m there, in that place right now. I didn’t put the book down in the end—because I wanted to finish the book—but I promise you, the procrastination and second-guessing is going to come to an end. Thanks, Felicia. If you ever read this review: Sincerely, from my heart, thanks.

I loved this book, and I am so glad to have read it. If you’ve ever been that awkward geeky kid with off-kilter interests and a lack of social skills, you should pick this up. There are a lot of us out there—especially on the internet. *fist bump* I’m one of them…and that’s okay. Be weird. All the best people are.

Book Review: Wild

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Title: Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

Author: Cheryl Strayed

Genre: Non-Fiction, Autobiography

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State — and she would do it alone.

Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

What an amazing, wonderful, and strange journey I have just been on. Wild by Cheryl Strayed isn’t a book I’d normally pick up. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever read an entire biography in my life—on anyone. Ever. So why did I pick up this book? I happened upon a trailer for the movie, and I thought “I need to see that.”… and I did. Immediately before I read the book, I watched the movie—and I’m glad that I did for a lot of reasons.

Wild is the true story and memoir of Cheryl Strayed, a woman who, when she was 22, went on a self-discovery hike along the Pacific Crest Trail in order to find herself. She walked over 1,100 miles (give or take a few) from the Mojave Desert all the way up to the border of Washington and the Bridge of the Gods. The reason this story intrigued me is that it sounds like something I’ve always wanted to do. I grew up in Oregon, hiking, camping, hunting, and enjoying the outdoors. I’ve been to a lot of the same places that Cheryl went on her journey—and I was intrigued to find out what she may have learned along the way. Like Cheryl, I too lost my mother to cancer at a young age (though I was just a teen), and I couldn’t help but identify with some of the commonalities between our lives as I read through her journey.

It’s difficult for me to quantify this story in the way that I normally would in a review. Normally I’d pick apart the language, sentence structure, characters, and world building. I can’t do that here. Cheryl Strayed is a real person, and the events of the story really happened. It would be insulting to try and quantify this story on any sort of literary level. So instead, I’ll say this: Thank you.

This book took me two days to read—which is longer than most books take me. The story delved into aspects of life that I try to avoid in fictional stories… drugs, promiscuity, death, abandonment… but I’m infinitesimally grateful that I read this story. When the last page was finished and Cheryl’s hike came to a close, I felt like I too had been on an amazing journey. Wild made me think. It made me consider the importance of life and the people in it—of who all of us are once we strip away the needless things of our daily lives.

There were some differences between the movie and the book. I felt a lot of the original printed story was cut out for the movie, and some details were definitely altered and re-arranged for the cinematic screen, but deep down, the story at its core was the same. Honestly, I’m not sure how I would have felt about the movie or the book had I not seen/read both. The movie wasn’t particularly engaging, and neither was the book… but I couldn’t help but be drawn into the story anyhow. Watching the movie ahead of time made it easy for me to visualize the landscapes, people, and events that occurred in the book, and I think because of that, it made the book easier to read in a way.

Overall, I loved the book. It’s a weird thing to say because the book failed at every turn if I were to compare it to the fiction I normally read. The writing wasn’t particularly engaging or fluid. The main character wasn’t particularly sassy or endearing, and the plot? What plot? This was a true story—it didn’t need a plot. I can’t rate this book on the same scale I’d normally use to decide if a book was “good”—but oh, how it was. When the story was over I was left with a feeling of wonder and joy. I am so very glad that I read it.

Book Review: Valentina Goldman’s Immaculate Confusion

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Title: Valentina Goldman’s Immaculate Confusion

Author: Marisol Murano

Genre: Memoir, Chick-Lit

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis: Since her arrival in the United States from Venezuela, Valentina Goldman isn’t exactly living the American Dream. She’s living the American Nightmare. Her late husband, Max, has left her a young widow, a step-daughter whom Valentina didn’t want, and a bi-polar ex-wife. And oh, having given up her dream job in New York, Valentina is also unemployed in Arizona. Part “Bridget Jones Diary,” part “Modern Family,” “Valentina Goldman’s Immaculate Confusion” is the story of a woman trying to get a handle on her whacky life in America. In breathless, blog-like snippets, Valentina compares her own story with that of her eccentric sister, Azucena, who has bizarre troubles of her own down in the tropics. “Valentina Goldman’s Immaculate Confusion” is a funny and moving story about what happens when a passionate South American woman moves to the USA and, like so many of us, ends up with a life she never imagined.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I received this book directly from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Cover: Well done. It’s contemporary, clear, and the text doesn’t obscure the model much. Thumbs up.

This book was one of those books that when I picked it up, utterly threw me for a loop. I was expecting a narrative tale of Valentina Goldman’s life—and that’s what I got, just not in the way I expected. This story is written completely in the telling voice as if the main character, Valentina, is telling a story to a young girl named Emily. To be honest, it took me a long time (four or five chapters) to really reconcile with the strange way it was written, and it did almost have me putting the story down. For a very long while I wasn’t sure if the voice was going to change to a more narrative approach later on, who Valentina was talking to, or who that person was in relation to herself. I’m still not sure how old Emily is. This lead to a very confusing read at times.k

Another thing that threw me off was the constant jumping around. One chapter Valentina would be telling Emily about her sister’s marriage, and then the next she’d be talking about her own step kids. A chapter later, she’d be back to her sister… or her aunt, or her childhood. I felt like I was getting jerked around quite a bit, and it made the story a bit hard to follow at times. I had to spend way too much time piecing the story together for myself than I would have liked.

That aside, I’m not entirely certain what the point of the story was. There didn’t seem to be a theme, moral, or even explanation of why Valentina was telling this story to Emily. There was no discernable plot.

This book did do some things right however; The main character, Valentina, had a very strong Latina voice that was both authentic and entertaining. I live on the border of Texas/Mexico, and I’d dare to say that a lot of the Mexican women I know have the same brash, outgoing personality and sensibility that I found in Valentina. (I mean that in the most positive of ways) Sometimes I found her voice rude and crass, but by the same token, Valentina sometimes found our American ways baffling and absurd, it’s just a difference of culture, and it was interesting to get that kind of perspective on America and to compare the differences.

Did I enjoy the book? Meh… it was all right. I sometimes found the stories Valentina told entertaining, but there were a lot of them that never seemed complete. I do think Valentina as a character was well written and well voiced, but in the end I’m not sure it was the type of book I normally would have picked up off the shelves. The way in which it was written (jumping all over the place, and being told with very little active narrative) made it hard for me to enjoy and follow a long. Still, it wasn’t a bad book, just very confusing. Overall, I consider it a mixed bag, some of it was done really well, and some of it wasn’t. I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys quirky, humorous memoirs, or who may enjoy different cultural perspectives given in a South American, female voice. It was certainly an interesting read.