Review: Choose Your Own AutobiographyTitle: Choose Your Own Autobiography
Author: Neil Patrick Harris
Genre(s): LGBTQ+, Memoir, Non-Fiction
Pages: 291
Source: Library
For: Book Club
Rating:
Sexual Content: 1 Flames

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There's a trigger warning for this book. See Trigger Warning section at end of review for more details.
Goodreads Synopsis

Tired of memoirs that only tell you what really happened? Sick of deeply personal accounts written in the first person? Seeking an exciting, interactive read that puts the “u” back in “aUtobiography”? Then look no further than CHOOSE YOUR OWN AUTOBIOGRAPHY! In this revolutionary, Joycean experiment in light celebrity narrative, actor/personality/carbon-based life-form Neil Patrick Harris lets you, the reader, live his life. Choose correctly and you’ll find fame, fortune, and true love. Choose incorrectly and you’ll find misery, heartbreak, and a hideous death by piranhas.

My Thoughts

My IRL book club has done a memoir-of-choice-month in July for the last three or four years. This year I chose to read CHOOSE YOUR OWN AUTOBIOGRAPHY by Neil Patrick Harris (NPH).

I’ve been a fan of NPH for a while. I loved him as Barney Stinson in the sitcom HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER and as Dr. Horrible in Joss Whedon’s DR. HORRIBLE’S SING-ALONG BLOG. And, I thought it’d be fun to read his memoir.

CHOOSE YOUR OWN AUTOBIOGRAPHY is written in the style of the choose your own adventure novels. This style lends mostly to true stories about NPH with the occasional “if you want to listen to your own horrible death, keep listening” anecdotes. Like most celebrity memoirs, NPH narrates his own audiobook. He even breaks out into song every now and then. Even though the choose-your-own-adventure style would’ve worked better in book form, I think the audiobook is still worth listening to.

So pluck up your courage and take that risk! Add another story to the book of your life. Even if it doesn’t go the way you planned or wanted, you’ll still learn from it.

CHOOSE YOUR OWN AUTOBIOGRAPHY focuses on NPH as a whole rather than just one aspect of his life. It focuses on his acting, love of magic, coming out, finding love, and starting a family all while giving him a chance to be funny. I really loved a lot of the over-the-top parts. I especially loved listening to the sometimes true, sometimes comedic notes from his friends. My favorite parts, though, were the stories about his husband and their kids.

Despite the choose-your-own-adventure format not quite working in audiobook form, CHOOSE YOUR OWN AUTOBIOGRAPHY was fun to listen to and I’m glad I read it.

Have you read CHOOSE YOUR OWN AUTOBIOGRAPHY? If so, what did you think?

Trigger Warning

There is a trigger warning for bullying, derogatory comments toward gays, and drug use.

I read several books this year that I haven’t reviewed on my blog. Instead of writing individual reviews for them all, I thought I’d do a mini review of each of them. The first two are non-fiction and the rest are fiction.

Non-Fiction

Mini Reviews #1Title: Atomic Habits
Author: James Clear
Genre(s): Non-Fiction
Pages: 306
Source: Borrowed
For: Recommended
Rating:
Sexual Content: 0 Flames

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Earlier this year, I told my therapist I was having a hard time following through with my goals to exercise more and eat healthier. He suggested I read ATOMIC HABITS, stating that most of the things James Clear had to say were spot on. I decided to listen to the audiobook because Corey already owned a copy.

The audiobook is narrated by James Clear and is very well done. I thought he had a lot of great ideas, like habit stacking. To my surprise, a lot of his ideas align really well with DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) skills. I’ve decided I need to read a physical copy of ATOMIC HABITS so I can annotate the things that are helpful to me to implement what I learned.


Mini Reviews #1Title: Radical Love
Author: Zachary Levi
Genre(s): Memoir, Non-Fiction
Pages: 224
Source: Borrowed
For: Book Club
Rating:
Sexual Content: 0 Flames

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In July, we each read a memoir of our choice for book club. I had already read Marsha Linehan’s memoir but I have wanted to read Zachary Levi’s for a long time. I decided to read RADICAL LOVE a couple of months later.

I’m so glad I decided to listen to the audiobook because Levi, himself, narrates it and talks about his struggles with depression, suicidal ideation, and his feelings of worthlessness. I truly enjoyed RADICAL LOVE. It was raw, emotional, uplifting, and hopeful. It helped remind me that none of us are alone and there’s always help when we need it. I’m glad he sought help during his darkest moments, start the healing process of managing his mental health, and forgiving the abuse he suffered at the hands of his parents.

Fiction

Mini Reviews #1Title: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight
Author: Jennifer E Smith
Genre(s): Contemporary, Romance, YA
Pages: 236
Source: Borrowed
For: Personal Interest
Rating:
Sexual Content: 1 Flames

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During the first half of the year, I was trying to participate in the POP Sugar Challenge. One of the prompts was a book that takes place all in one day. I had wanted to read THE STATISTICAL PROBABILITY OF LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT (mouthful) for a while.

THE STATISTICAL PROBABILITY OF LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT was the perfect book to get me to actually sit down and read, something I struggled with for most of 2023. I really enjoyed reading Hadley’s story. Jennifer E Smith’s writing helped draw me right in. I loved the chemistry between Hadley and Oliver. I also found myself grinning stupidly as I read the bantering between them. I also loved watching Hadley and Oliver deal with life’s ups and downs during the day they were together. You may think that the story seems fantastical to happen all in one day, but it just added to the magic.


Mini Reviews #1Title: The Measure
Author: Nikki Erlick
Genre(s): Science Fiction
Pages: 353
Source: Borrowed
For: Recommended
Rating:
Sexual Content: 1 Flames

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Last December, one of the people in my book club recommended THE MEASURE. When I was trying to decide what to read in August, THE MEASURE came to mind.

I decided to listen to the audiobook of THE MEASURE and I was hooked from the beginning. The narrator did a fantastic job. The story’s so compelling that I’d find time to listen to the audiobook and I kept thinking about the strings and characters in between listenings.

I loved Nikki Erlick’s twist on the mythology of The Fates. Just like all the characters, I wanted to understand the mysteries of the boxes and strings. I cared about most of the characters and how their lives were affected by the strings. I also loved the message that life can be meaningful no matter how long it is.


Mini Reviews #1Title: The Only Girl in Town
Author: Ally Condie
Genre(s): Contemporary, YA
Pages: 336
Source: Own
For: Personal Interest
Rating:
Sexual Content: 1 Flames

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I had the chance to attend the book launch for THE ONLY GIRL IN TOWN. Ally Condie is such a sweet, down-to-earth person. Hearing what she had to say about THE ONLY GIRL IN TOWN made me want to read it right away. I chose to listen to the audiobook. The narrator was fantastic and had a lot of emotion in her voice. The short chapters and pacing almost gave the book an “in verse” feel. Sometimes hearing “chapter …” several times in less than five minutes took me out of the story.

As always, Ally’s writing is a joy to read. She has such a poetic and lyrical way of expressing what she wants to write. I was very surprised by the actual story. I have trouble choosing a genre because of that. THE ONLY GIRL IN TOWN wasn’t what I was expecting at all. Despite my surprise, I soon found myself all in as I experienced July’s story and her effort to figure out what was going on around her. THE ONLY GIRL IN TOWN is immersive and a beautiful take on how depression, loneliness, disappointment, and the inevitable changes in our relationships can affect our thinking and choices.


Mini Reviews #1Title: Meet Me at the Lake
Genre(s): Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 336
Source: Borrowed
For: Personal Interest
Rating:
Sexual Content: 4 Flames

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I adored Carley Fortune’s debut novel EVERY SUMMER AFTER so I was super excited to read MEET ME AT THE LAKE. As with most of the books I read this year, I read the audiobook and I liked the narrator a lot.

As far as the story goes, I wasn’t disappointed. I loved Fern and Will’s story. I loved the premise of them getting a second chance at love. Even though MEET ME AT THE LAKE is mostly fluff, there’s some meat to the story too thanks to the inclusion of how mental illness and the loss of a loved one can mess with our plans and intentions. It made the characters and story feel more real.


Mini Reviews #1Title: The Christmas Murder Game
Author: Alexandra Benedict
Genre(s): Holiday, Mystery
Pages: 325
Source: Borrowed
For: Book Club
Rating:
Sexual Content: 0.5 Flames

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I read THE CHRISTMAS MURDER GAME for book club. I thought the concept of THE CHRISTMAS MURDER GAME sounded fun and suspenseful. While I was never bored, I just didn’t think the execution was done very well and the writing was very clunky. I thought Benedict tried way too hard trying to think up the anagrams. Fortunately, listening to the audiobook helped hide the weird spellings.

As far as the story goes, I knew who the main antagonist was pretty early on. I didn’t mind Lily but I thought some of her choices were a little suspect. Every other character was either annoying, selfish, or not developed very well. The circumstances that had to happen so the story could take place weren’t very realistic either.

Review: Building a Life Worth LivingTitle: Building a Life Worth Living
Author: Marsha M. Linehan
Genre(s): Non-Fiction
Pages: 384
Source: Borrowed
For: Recommended
Rating:
Sexual Content: 0.5 Flames

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There's a trigger warning for this book. See Trigger Warning section at end of review for more details.
Goodreads Synopsis

Marsha Linehan, PhD, ABPP, tells the story of her journey from suicidal teenager to world-renowned developer of the life-saving behavioral therapy DBT, using her own struggle to develop life skills for others.

My Thoughts

If you’re a frequenter of this blog, then you probably know my history…. I have been in therapy off and on since I was 16 to treat a myriad of problems–depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, PTSD from sexual trauma, etc. It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) in 2020 and spent a week in the hospital in March 2021 for overdosing on lithium that my psychiatrist and therapist at the time recommended I find a DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) program. I graduated from that program in May 2022.

In one of my recent conversations with my current therapist (a DBT-trained PsyD), he recommended I read Marsha’s memoir. I had been struggling with depression and anhedonia due to health problems. Instead of using the skills I learned in DBT to help me cope with them, I started falling back into my old behaviors. I was severely discouraged, thinking I’d have to deal with the same mental health problems for the rest of my life. I wanted a magic pill to get rid of them for good.

You can’t think yourself into new ways of acting;
You only can act yourself into new ways of thinking.

Reading Marsha’s memoir was very eye-opening. Before I read her life story, I knew one thing about her–she developed the life-saving behavior therapy known as DBT. What I did not know is that she used her own struggles with depression, anxiety, self-harm urges, and suicidal ideation to develop these life skills to help others. She explained that when she clawed her way out of her own personal hell, she made a vow to God and herself that she’d find a way to help others out of their hells too.

She not only used science and research to create easy-to-use skills to help highly suicidal individuals, she also sought help from different spiritual advisors along the way. She, a devout Catholic, spent months in Zen monasteries, learning the skills of mindfulness, acceptance, and willingness.

She persevered through countless setbacks of invalidation from her parents and skepticism by colleagues. She endured sexism and outdated Freudian ideals in the psychological industry. And, she persisted in publishing her findings despite rejection after rejection due to being deemed a poor writer.

I’m so grateful she was so determined to fulfill her vow. DBT has changed my life. As I mentioned above, I still struggle with the same urges and extreme emotions I had before going through DBT. I also feel more confident in my ability to cope and work through my struggles. I know if I use the skills I’ve learned, I can build a life worth living.

Have you read BUILDING A LIFE WORTH LIVING? If so, what did you think?

Trigger Warning

There is a trigger warning for suicide, suicidal ideation, cutting, and institutionalization.

Review: BrokenTitle: Broken (in the best possible way)
Author: Jenny Lawson
Genre(s): Humor, Non-Fiction
Pages: 285
Source: Library
For: Play Book Tag, Trim Your TBR Challenge
Rating:
Sexual Content: 0 Flames

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There's a trigger warning for this book. See Trigger Warning section at end of review for more details.
Goodreads Synopsis

As Jenny Lawson’s hundreds of thousands of fans know, she suffers from depression. In BROKEN, Jenny brings readers along on her mental and physical health journey, offering heartbreaking and hilarious anecdotes along the way. With people experiencing anxiety and depression now more than ever, Jenny humanizes what we all face in an all-too-real way, reassuring us that we’re not alone and making us laugh while doing it. BROKEN is a beacon of hope and a wellspring of laughter when we all need it most.

My Thoughts

Back in 2017, I read Jenny Lawson’s FURIOUSLY HAPPY and loved it. It actually kind of changed my life. I realized in a very profound way that I’m not alone. And, even when I’m in the depths of depression, it’s okay to laugh and enjoy life. Because I loved FURIOUSLY HAPPY so much, I’ve wanted to read more of her books. I finally got the chance by reading BROKEN (IN THE BEST POSSIBLE WAY) for a couple of reading challenges.

BROKEN didn’t have as profound of an effect on me as FURIOUSLY HAPPY did. And, I still appreciated Lawson’s candor and openness with her struggles with mental and chronic illness. I find the way she describes things to be a very raw, honest, unique look at how someone deals with their pain. At times, I felt like she was stealing parts from my own life as she described hers. I feel like she and I are kindred spirits.

I didn’t fail in responding to past treatments … those treatments failed to work for me.

Lawson’s humor and writing are definitely not for everyone. In fact, if you’re easily offended, then I wouldn’t even attempt to read her books. I’m glad I found her, though, and I’ll keep reading more from her. I also think that if we knew each other IRL, we could be friends.

Have you read BROKEN (IN THE BEST POSSIBLE WAY)? If so, what did you think?

P.S. I used the paperback cover in my post because it has a llama on it. I couldn’t pass that up, even though I read the hardcover edition.

Trigger Warning

There is a trigger warning for suicidal ideation.

Review: How ToTitle: How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems
Author: Randall Munroe
Genre(s): Humor, Illustrated, Non-Fiction
Pages: 308
Source: Own
For: Play Book Tag
Rating:
Sexual Content: 0 Flames

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Goodreads Synopsis

For any task you might want to do, there's a right way, a wrong way, and a way so monumentally complex, excessive, and inadvisable that no one would ever try it. HOW TO is a guide to the third kind of approach. It's full of highly impractical advice for everything from landing a plane to digging a hole.

My Thoughts

My husband turned me onto the xkcd webcomic about a decade ago. I’m not the most religious follower, but I do like his humor. I found out about HOW TO through my library’s “Best in Books 2019” event and actually won a copy of the book while I was there. I was really excited that out of all the books I could’ve won, I won Randall Munroe’s.

I loved HOW TO. I loved all the crazy things Munroe thought of doing using absurd, over-the-top scientific methods accompanied by his typical stylistic stick figure drawings made HOW TO a delight to read. I also loved that since I was in a physics class last semester, a lot of the physics he used and talked about were things I had just learned, albeit on a much simpler level.

Physics doesn’t care if your question is weird. It just gives you the answer, without judging.

One of my favorite chapters was “How to Throw Things” because he has an interactive element on his website with the physics built in. I think it’s hilarious that Thor AND Chris Hemsworth are available throwers. I recommend playing around with it because it’s fun, even if you haven’t read the chapter.

Anyway, I’m glad my Goodreads group’s tag this month was science and prompted me to finally read HOW TO. It was 9 hours well spent (thanks, Bookly, for the stats).

Have you read HOW TO? If so, what did you think about it?