• Book Reviews,  Writing

    Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life – a book review

    ✂️✂️✂️✂️✂️/5

    Have you ever read a book and felt like you were reading a letter from a friend? Or listened to an audiobook and it seemed like a long conversation with a friend who moved away?

    That is what a book by Anne Lamott feels like. A letter from an old friend.

    I had been living under a rock because it took Amazon suggesting this book, after loading other books in my cart, for me to figure out who Anne was. Sure, I had seen some of her quotes floating around the interwebs but I didn’t realize she wrote books – really good books.

    November is probably my toughest month depression-wise. Everything is dying around me and even though fall comes every single year, it takes it’s bite out of me before winter comes. Couple that with some some other stressful situations completely out of my control and you get this super-fun November 2018.

    I try a lot of different things to feel better, most of them healthy, and I’m thankful that I started this blog a few months ago because writing for it has been one of the things to keep me afloat this month.

    I wrote last week about NaNoWriMo and that is going well so there’s another bright spot in the Month of Dead Leaves. In my preparation for it, I bought a few books on writing because let’s face it – I’m a numbers person with a degree in economics & finance. I sure sound super fun and interesting.

    Anne has very unique writing voice which is what made it feel conversational for me.

    Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and your shitty first draft. … Besides, perfectionism will ruin your writing, blocking inventiveness and playfulness and life force (these are words we are allowed to use in California). – Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

    Girl, I know. About the the perfectionism and people from California (like my husband).

    See what I mean?

    This book was about the writing process but wove in life, hard lessons, family, friends, and even religion. I appreciated her take on writing because it felt like a manual on writing for people who have a million things going on besides waking up, making coffee, and sitting down for the day to write: see yesterday’s post as exhibit 562.

    Her methods of observing life and capturing those moments have become a part of my daily thoughts and it’s made these tough weeks a little more fun and interesting.

    The last chapter was my favorite and I had my husband pausing a football game so I could read to him. He really loved it. No really, he did.

    The basics were this: avoid libel by changing details in your writing with the last detail being a tiny appendage. No one is coming forward claiming it was written about them if they have to admit to that last little part.

    I enjoyed this book immensely and I have since read another one of her books, Stitches, which I’ll review soon. Who would I recommend this book to? Anyone who is interested in writing and would enjoy a perspective from an author who doesn’t take herself too seriously.

    And that tiny appendage part? Since I read it to him, my husband and I have laughed multiple times about that and who I could write about.

    See, I told you that he loved it.

  • Book Reviews

    Running From Scissors: a book review

    TCW

    ✂️✂️✂️✂️/5

    Running From Scissors (A Running Store Mystery #1) by T.C. Westcott

    How could I possibly pass up this Advanced Reader’s Copy with this blog name, Blunt Scissors Book Reviews, and my Instagram handle, @thatgirlrunswithbluntscissors ?

    I’m also a runner so a murder mystery that takes place in running group based out of a local running store was really appealing. Add to that, Staxx, the best friend of the protagonist, Lacy, owns a local bookstore that she and her brother inherited from their parents.

    • Scissors – check
    • Running – check
    • Books – check

    I’m in!

    Lacy, recently divorced, starts her life over in a small Oklahoma town. As part of her fresh start she takes up running. Her local running store hosts group runs on the weekends as well as during the week for all levels of runners.

    There are the usual group dynamics that are a part of any group including the queen bee and her friends. Marlene is not well liked outside her own little group of friends and even that is a bit questionable. Lacy has made her dislike of Marlene quite clear but remains a part of the group.

    Someone starts sending Marlene messages in the form of barber scissors; most notably a pair stabbed in her car tire. This is obviously troubling to Marlene and but life continues on.

    Then on a long trail race, Marlene never crosses the finish line.

    The whodunit commences here with a cast of characters from the running group and store all being examined for their motives.

    Ruby, one of the group’s older and slower runners, was a best-selling mystery author in her former life. She still has her mystery solving skills and ropes Lacy and Staxx and running a parallel investigation to the police investigation.

    From there, suspects are brought in, then eliminated, and brought back again once Marlene’s body is found and the missing person investigation intensifies into a murder investigation.

    This was my first exposure to the “modern cozy mystery”. If you’re unfamiliar with the genre, it’s basically a murder mystery without the gory details of violence and mystery solving using detective skills rather than the latest and greatest forensic testing.

    Ruby added an Agatha Christie flair to the plot which I enjoyed immensely as a life long Christie reader.

    This was a quick read with quirky characters in a quirky town. It was a nice change of pace after reading several sad and/or intense books.

    What I enjoyed about the book: the return to the cozy crime fighting methods. It was executed well in this book and Ruby was a wonderful character to bridge the gap between the old style and the more modern style of the genre.

    What I enjoyed less about this book: this is small because a character is who they are but Staxx, a character intended to be a bit over the top and rough around the edges, irritated me at times. Again, this is small in the grand scheme of things but I did find myself skipping some of her dialogue toward the end because I already knew that whatever she would be saying would be grating to me.

    Who would enjoy this book? Anyone who loves running (or not), appreciates the quirks of runners, and likes the cozy mystery genre. An Agatha Christie fan would be at the top of my list of someone to recommend this book to.

    This was a quick and fun read and I’m looking forward to reading more from this author.

    Thank you to BooksGoSocial and NetGalley for the Advanced Reader’s Copy that I received for free in exchange for my honest opinion.

  • ARC's,  Book Reviews,  Bookish

    Hope and Other Superpowers: a book review

    ✂️✂️✂️✂️✂️/5

    A book about superheroes, our current political landscape, and hope? And they go together all in one book?

    Yep.

    I have followed the author, John Pavlovitz since 2016, shortly after Trump was elected. He popped up in my Facebook feed and I headed to his blog to read more. He is viewed as polarizing pastor in some circles but oddly enough, it’s primarily the church circles who view him as such.

    So, a book review about politics, religion and a polarizing pastor? This should go well.

    It will. I promise. Because this book is about hope and I don’t know a single person, in the church or out of the church, who doesn’t need hope. I know I do.

    And did I mention superheroes? He uses all the well known superheroes to beautifully illustrate the points of his book. I’m a sucker for superheroes so I was hooked.

    What this book boils down to is how we treat each other and how we inspire and give hope to others. That issue is something that has been on my mind a lot lately, and really, the past several years.

    John gave an example of watching coverage of Hurricane Harvey and rescue after rescue – others helping others without a care as to what their political views were, what church they attended or didn’t attend, their race, or whether they were legal citizens or not.

    That was eye opening to me because he was right; I watched the same footage and I never wondered if the woman stranded in her home voted for Trump or Clinton.

    I would be lying if I said that my heart doesn’t hurt for how our president treats others or that I can support that behavior just because he is our president. I can’t look past it in favor of policy. But at the same time, I can’t directly influence a change in him either and that realization has been deeply dividing for our country.

    This book helped me to refocus.

    He wrote about activism; a word that scares a lot of people. But it’s really not frightening at all when it ends up as simply looking to help those who have been marginalized in your own community. I don’t have to 100% agree with someone to be kind and helpful.

    I don’t even agree with the author on every point but I took from the book what I needed for my heart, for my life. And that’s the approach I’m going to start taking on a daily basis. It’s hard to be angry and despondent when you are focused on helping others.

    From a writing perspective, John is a great writer. He is passionate and he has a way of conveying his passion through examples, like the Hurricane Harvey passage, and of course the superheroes.

    This was a fairly quick read and left me feeling better than I did before I started the book. I am still thinking about what he wrote and that is typically a sign of a good book – if it sticks with you after you turn the final page.

    Who would I recommend this book to? Anyone in need of hope; especially the weary and the hurting. And please don’t let the pastor thing scare you off. This book was written for everyone and quite possibly more for those who have been hurt and turned away by the traditional church.

    This book is available on November 6th which just happens to be Election Day. Well played, John Pavlovitz. Because no matter how the results come in, hope is still needed whether you are red or blue.

    Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher, Simon & Schuster, for the advanced reader’s copy. I received this ebook for free in exchange for my honest opinion.

  • Book Reviews,  Bookish,  mental health,  parenting,  Recommendations

    Book Review: This is How It Always Is

    IMG_9670

    Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

    – Martin Luther King Jr.

    Rating: ✂️✂️✂️✂️.5/5

    If you want to read a book that will make you laugh, cry, think, and easily find your way into someone else’s shoes, This is How is Always Is is a great pick.

    I was raised conservative Methodist, went to private parochial school, and was indoctrinated with conservative southern views and politics just by living in the buckle of the Bible Belt. Today I classify myself as a moderate liberal but more than that, I classify myself as pro-kindness and believe it’s important to extend respect and grace even when we have different views.

    This book does a beautiful job of illustrating just that: grace.

    When Claude, the youngest of five boys bounds down the stairs in a dress and insists on wearing it outside the house and eventually to school, everything this family knows as normal is turned upside down as Poppy emerges as their youngest family member.

    Remember the part about being in someone else’s shoes? That happens a few minutes into the book and the author doesn’t let you change your shoes until the end. And at that point I don’t really think you will want to anyways.

    From each family member’s perspective, the reader gets to question, grieve, get angry, keep secrets, and learn to accept their youngest sibling/child as Poppy.

    There were the expected struggles in school, with friends, and most often with other adults but you also got the unique voice of Poppy, an intelligent, insightful, and brave girl. The author did a fantastic job giving us a glimpse of the inner dialogue of a child trying to figure out who they are; just like all kids.

    It gives the reader plenty of time to consider what they would do and for me it was obvious: I would love my child and support them as they figured out the world.

    We all have our differences, be it mental illness, a physical disability, personality quirks, or even something that happened in our past that permanently changes who we are. Despite that, we all want to be who we are and to be accepted. Same with Poppy.

    The characters were all well-developed and I especially enjoyed the relationship between the husband and wife, Penn and Rosie, who also had non-traditional roles. Penn is an author and stays at home. Rosie is a physician. The dialogue between the two of them was real, honest, and accurate for parents navigating raising five children.

    My one problem with the book as a whole was when Penn and Rosie referred, multiple times, to having four and a half boys. It’s their story but it felt like a minimization of their youngest child. A kid is never half a kid.

    I enjoyed this book immensely and while I found the writing a tad sloppy at times, it never distracted from the story or the very timely message. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys stories about real families dealing with real issues. Don’t be afraid of an “agenda” because it’s just not there.

    The only agenda here is that parenting is messy and all we can do is love our kids for who they are, not who we want them to be.

  • Book Reviews,  Bookish,  Feminism,  Writing

    Dead Girls Don’t Need True Crime Addicts to Rescue Them: Part Three

    Part one – my book review of True Crime Addict: How I Lost Myself in the Mysterious Disappearance of Maura Murray by James Renner

    Part two – my book review of Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession

    Welcome to part three of my discussion of the true crime genre and the sensationalism of missing and murdered women. “Dead girls” as they are referred to in Alice Bolin’s book.

    In Renner’s book, he took a personal approach to the case of missing woman, Maura Murray. Woven into his “investigation” were intimate revelations, such as him scoring a like a psychopath on a psychological exam given to him by his therapist. Then there was his own family secrets revealed and his “falling in love” with a picture of a missing girl when he was a boy. Besides the psychopath thing, Renner has issues for sure. Rage, alcohol, and stalking tendencies all come to mind.

    He claimed he lost himself in the investigation but what we really lost was a young woman full of life and potential. Renner made little to no progress (I’m being gracious here) in his investigation so he turned his book into his personal pedestal of redemption and the recovery of the (never) missing James Renner.

    He worked out some of issues through the Maura Murray investigation and in that process he harassed her family, made some terrible insinuations, and created a lot of questions around Maura’s character that had little to do with his investigation. The book went no where and I’m honestly surprised it was published. It was pure sensationalism.

    Alice Bolin wrote her book of essays to combat people like James Renner and the “websleuths” who do his bidding. The true crime junkies who can’t get enough and go as far a finding ways to insert themselves into the investigations. There is a fine line here because there are obvious benefits to extra attention given to a case.

    But that line is crossed when the attention is focused on the perpetrator, the gritty details, or the true crime addicts like Renner who make it about themselves. And then the absolute worst outcome: they distract law enforcement with far reaching theories that directly harm the progress of the investigation.

    A criticism of Bolin’s book was that it wasn’t only about the obsession with dead girls. She addresses the use and abuse of living women as well and that bothered some people just there for the “dead girls”. However, I think Bolin subtlety and brilliantly proved her point which brings me to my own opinion of this genre.

    If we weren’t so obsessed with the “dead girls” would there be as many of them? What if we focused on the treatment of the living women and the behavior of the others, turned true crime junkies?

    Now, there is certainly a place and time for the appropriate attention to the missing and the murdered but even that we have to get right. Just look at the news, it’s the pretty, young, white girls who captivate the nation. But what about women of color, women on the fringes of society, the sex workers, the addicts, the economically disadvantaged, etc.?

    There are good people doing good work, I wholeheartedly believe this. But the obsession with hurting women has to stop. It’s not entertainment to watch or read women being raped, tortured, murdered, abducted, etc. It just perpetuates the dead girl obsession and desensitizes the viewers/readers.

    And these dead girls don’t need to be saved in a 47 minute TV episode. The missing girls don’t need to be rescued by the true crime addict who wants to run a podcast or write a book. They needed to be treated better while they were living and because it’s too late, their memory needs to be honored.

    How do we honor them? By treating each other better. By speaking up for the marginalized. By not partaking in sensationalized accounts of murder, torture, and abduction. And when we do come across a tragic story, asking ourselves if it is told in a respectful, truthful, and necessary manner. Both books certainly caused me to examine my own approach to these kinds of stories and I hope other do the same.

    And finally, James Renner and people like you, leave these poor families alone and let the professionals do the real work. You know, the investigators who aren’t writing books for profit.

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