Review: Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach

If you can put the “gross factor” out of your mind this is absolutely fascinating. I liked it so much more than “Stiff”. I loved “Stiff” at the start but soon found myself loosing interest and felt it a bit long drawn. With Gulp I was sad to see it end. I wanted more! All I will say is that having read this I am sure I shall never ever ever use another tablet of alka seltzer.

As in the past, Mary Roach proves herself to be very funny and her curiosity knows no bounds. She doesn’t hesitate to show and share her excitement no matter the subject. No question she can dream up is too embarrassing for her to ask. I can’t imagine what a nightmare she was to her mother growing up (hahahaha, I mean that in the best way possible).

Just keep in mind that they book is aptly named “Gulp” but what goes in must come out as well (or else there are lots of problems!) and this book goes into great detail on both processes! Having said that, don’t let that put you off…this really was fascinating, and quite funny at times as well…and I bet you have at least one jaw dropping “Whoaaaaaa” moment as well!

Until next time…
Urania xx

Buy it now Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach

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Review: When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Won’t lie, parts of this short novel were a bit hard. My father died of cancer. Cancer that started in the lungs and metastasis to the brain. When I read Kalanithi’s words about fatalities of that type of brain cancer…well…it was a like a punch to my stomach.

I was a bit gobsmacked at times reading this. I mean, when we are talking about brain surgery a mm can mean life or death, functional or nonfunctional. I just can’t even imagine the skill it must take. I found most fascinating Kalanithi’s reasons for choosing this field. The concept of our minds and actions just being a byproduct of our brains…well, that might seem simple in concept but I still find the entire concept too all-encompassing to grasp.

I hate what happened to Kalanithi and his family. What they went through, I mean, how could anyone not? I would have loved to read a b by book by Kalanithi that wasn’t sure to end the way it did. I found his subject matter and how he discussed his cases and brain surgery fascinating. I wonder if he would have been a different type of writer had he not had cancer. Was his writing style and his reflections modified because of his diagnosis? Did his future make him more humane? Please, understand, I’m not trying to imply that he was anything but compassionate before…I…well…maybe I am kinda wondering if he was less compassionate before….not by a conscious meaning to be…but just by the circumstances of that type of work. Of any type of work really.

If any of us were to sit down and write about ourselves and our current path, wouldn’t it be different from the words we were to write if we knew our death was imminent.

I’m glad I read this book. It gave me so much to think about. It offered insights I’m not sure I’ve had before…but I would have loved to read a different type of book by Paul Kalanithi as well…for so many various reasons…

Until next time…
Urania xx

Review copy provided by Netgalley for an honest review

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Review: The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater

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This was an interesting nonfiction book. There are many different things going on, many instances of social injustice.

It’s the story of Sasha who doesn’t identify as either a boy or girl. As a teenager, this has got to be incredibly difficult. However, Sasha is lucky to have the complete support of both parents and support systems at school. It’s also the story of Richard, a black teen who lives a completely different life than Sasha. Their paths cross one afternoon on the 57 bus, and things will never be the same for either of them.

You’ll feel so bad for what Sasha has to go through, but you’ll also feel bad for Richard and his circumstances. Go into this one with an open mind, and be ready to honestly examine your preconceived ideas.

~Thalia

Buy It Now:  The 57 Bus

Review: Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977-2002 by David Sedaris

Maybe not my favourite of David’s (NOT DAVE) books, but it was the most telling for me. It was fascinating to note the difference from the start to the finish. How different he was at the start. Still somewhat sarcastic and funny, but I felt that there wasn’t much enjoyment (I guess that’s pretty understandable when you’re sleeping in vomit covered rooms and showering in tubs that have your own vomit in them).

A couple of things. It was a lightbulb moment for me when David writes in his diary towards the end about his birthday wish. When he wished for not more…but for less. When he reflects how he can just go and buy what strikes his fancy, whilst in the past he was content with just being able to borrow a book for a library and have a cup of coffee uninterrupted at McDonald’s. I imagine we have all been there. Hopefully we are all in a better place than we were a couple of dozen years ago. I mean that’s how it’s meant to work. You work hard and then you can enjoy and stress less as you’re older….but how nice to remember that you were perfectly able to survive with less and still be happy. Seriously…it was a stop the book for a moment and reflect moment for me.

Another thing. Poor Hugh. I mean seriously….Poor poor Hugh. And thank goodness for Hugh. The honesty in David and Hugh’s relationship, in even a few short sentences from a diary entry…well…it’s amazing…and humbling as well. I wonder where David would be if he hadn’t met Hugh. I also wonder where Hugh would be. Talk about two opposites attracting. And the strengths of one complimenting the other…whilst the weaknesses of one smooth the rough edges off the other at the same time. I just imagine a household where there is a lot of eye rolling on both sides!

Another thing…I challenge ANYONE to read one of Sedaris’ novels without laughing out loud. I just don’t think it can be done.

Finally, when I’ve thought of diaries, or have kept journals in the past, I always imagined they had to have some sort of deep thought process…or that they had to be pages and pages long. Now I know they don’t have to be daily…and they don’t have to be word for word. They can be random. They can be funny. They can be sad. They can be angry. They can be just a single sentence. They don’t have to thought provoking…but funnily enough, a single sentence about an observation of a stranger CAN be though provoking!

So glad he published this one. Sure, I’ve read his other books and I know he’s had a substance and alcohol problem…but reading this novel really was an eye opener for what has really made David Sedaris the person that he is today. From social attitudes, how strangers have treated him, from family, to jobs, to being poor, from teaching, from lack of taking control, from a thousand different things that have shaped him…I think I love him even more…as if that was possible…and as only David can make you feel, I at times, absolutely dislike him…but that’s only the social pressure that says you shouldn’t allow people to say some of the things he does out loud….but I can’t help it…his honesty is one of the reasons I love him the most…and how can you stay annoyed at someone whilst at the same time you’re laughing your head off as well?

Until next time…

Urania xx

Buy it now Theft by Finding by David Sedaris

Review: The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan

Okay…this should have been enlightening…and it was…I should feel better about my new understanding of food in the USA…..I should take the knowledge and do good with it. There are so many “shoulds” with this book…instead I find my blood boiling…I find myself so pissed off yet again by how my government has decided to control yet another aspect of my life. I am pissed that I have little or no choice in the matter. I am pissed that our choices are hidden within layers of lies and false advertisement, that no sane person would be able to wade through with a true understanding. I am pissed enough that I could go on and on…

but what I am most pissed about is that I sound like just one more conspiracy theorist…

Until next time…

Urania xx

Buy it now The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan

Review: Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

wildI really enjoyed this book, but it was a bit depressing. It really gives me pause and makes me think about how many people are out there like Chris McCandless. If he had chosen any other place he might still be alive today….but what would he be like? How many people do you know that march to a beat of a different drum? So many of those people who do so are geniuses in disguise. If we don’t find an outlet for the thoughts that go though our minds, what happens? Obviously, Chris wasn’t stupid. He obviously had a lot going on inside his head. It also appears that he kept a lot of that to himself. What if he had found someone to share those thoughts with? What if he had some type of outlet to deal with those thoughts? What is “wanderlust”? Was Chris rebelling? Was he protesting? Was he trying to find himself? Was he trying to reconcile his past relationships in his head? Or was it nothing so complex as that? Was he simply just “being” and going where that led him?

I’ve known people who I’ve thought could seriously live anywhere and with nothing and they would be happy…..material items mean nothing to them. They don’t worry about tomorrow….they know it will come regardless of how you prepare for it…and they know that it usually takes care of itself. I’ve often admired their courage to set forth and not know where they shall end at the end of the day. Staying in hostels or sleeping under the stars…..I’ve also though that there was a bit of madness there as well 🙂 I’ve wondered if they are running from something. Or just simply living life as they *want* to live it….

I’ve often wondered about really successful artists. Authors. Musicians. Painters. Really anyone that is successful doing things in a different way. I’ve often wondered what would happen if they hadn’t found their chosen fields. Or if they hadn’t been successful in those outlets. IOW if Stephen King couldn’t make a living from writing, what would he do? If Prince couldn’t do the same with music, where would he be? If Steve Jobs has never found tech…..The list goes on and on. Of course there are plenty out there that couldn’t…and they died penniless…only to be discovered long after their deaths…

But take it a step further….what if those people had never found that outlet in the first place? Would their search for it be termed “wanderlust”?

Face it, you see someone a bit unkept standing on a street corner and *if* you see them, you might make an automatic assumption…..if you see a young guy standing on the beach going, “Whoa, Dude”, again an assumption is made….

I’m pretty f**king sure the co-workers of Chris McCandless’ at McDonalds who jokingly offered him a bar of soap to get rid of the smell were making assumptions as well. However, they were wrong. Turns out that he was probably the most educated person there. He wasn’t stupid and unable to get work somewhere else. He wasn’t unmotivated. His family was probably more “well-to-do” than any one else’s. Chris didn’t have to be alone. Chris didn’t have to be flipping burgers at McDonalds. He *chose* to…..

I’m not saying that Chris was a closet genius and he would have changed the world. I’m only saying that these are the thoughts that ran though my head as I read this book.

It just all reinforced what I already know….We ALL have these *things* going on inside our head. Some of us just mask them better…..or find a way to deal with them…..no one ever knows everything that goes on with someone….even our loved ones…..we all have our secret thoughts and feelings….and sometimes motivations aren’t clear….even to ourselves…..

a little bit of kindness can go a very long way…..but so can a little bit of judgement…so be generous with your kindness and stingy with your judgement….

and finally…..

“we are all stories in the end”……

Until next time…
Urania xx

Buy it now Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Review: Choices by J.E. Laufer

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I’m always looking for great historical fiction and nonfiction to read.  And the World War II/Holocaust era is one of my favorites to read about.  So it was a pleasant surprise when I stumbled across this true story.

The time is different, but the situation is very similar. Just because the Holocaust was over doesn’t mean that Jewish families were suddenly safe.  When Russia invaded Hungary in 1956, many feared that it was starting all over again.  So families made the decision to flee the country, leaving behind everything they knew and loved.

This is the remarkable tale of the journey faced by the author’s parents.  It’s a great read for young adults, providing names and faces to historical facts making the story come alive.  And it’s quick and easy to read, guaranteed to keep the attention of younger readers.

~Thalia

Buy It Now:  Choices