Audiobook Catch-Up Quick Takes on Caliban’s War by James S.A. Corey, Jefferson Mays (Narrator); Heartless by Gail Carriger, Emily Gray (Narrator); Demon Born Magic by Jayne Faith, Amy Landon (Narrator); Stardust by Neil Gaiman; Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy, Eileen Stevens (Narrator); Funny, You Don’t Look Autistic by Michael McCreary; Paradise Valley by C.J. Box, Christina Delaine (Narrator)

The point of these quick takes post to catch up on my “To Write About” stack—emphasizing pithiness, not thoroughness. This is a little longer than most of these that I do, I just wanted to get caught up on my Library Book Audiobooks (I’m so thankful that I can get audio downloads from my library right now—I’d be lost without them!)

Caliban's War

Caliban’s War

by James S.A. Corey, Jefferson Mays (Narrator)
Series: The Expanse, #2
Unabridged Audiobook, 21 hrs.
Hachette Audio, 2017
Read: April 6-14, 2020
Grab a copy from your local indie bookstore!

(the official blurb)
90% of the reason I’m doing this in a Quick Take post is because if I don’t cover it in a paragraph or two, I’ll take 15 pages (or the equivalent). I’m kicking myself so hard for not jumping on each installment of this series as soon as it was published (although, if I did, I would be missing out on the audiobooks). I read the first book shortly after publication, but missed the release of this bookso before I realized it I was two novels and over a thousand pages behind, and I just couldn’t find the time to catch up.

Anyway, this might not have been the right time to listen to a novel about an unexpected, largely unknown, biological enemy of all humanity and the inexplicable reactions of several governments to itthrough the eyes of people living in fairly enclosed spaces. Still, it’s gripping, imaginative, wonderfully told and very compelling. I can’t wait to see what’s next (although, I’m pretty apprehensive of it, too). I loved the new characters and hope they stick around.
4 Stars

Heartless

Heartless

by Gail Carriger, Emily Gray (Narrator)
Series: The Parasol Protectorate, #4
Unabridged Audiobook, 11 hrs,, 19 mins
Hachette Audio, 2011
Read: April 1-3, 2020
Grab a copy from your local indie bookstore!

(the official blurb)
I think I’m about over this series, but maybe it was just this novel. Alexia seemed to run around oblivious to what was going on for almost the entire booksure, it’s kind of explained by the effect “the infant inconvenience” is having on her mind, but I don’t totally buy that. (maybe that’s my maleness talking). The first couple of chapters and the little bit at the end with the newborn were the highlights for methe climactic battle sequence was fun, I just didn’t like how we got there. Still, it was a fun listen and I enjoy the characters. I hope the series finale is better.

That said, Emily Gray is a delight. I seriously cannot listen to her enough.
3 Stars

Demon Born Magics

Demon Born Magic

by Jayne Faith, Amy Landon (Narrator)
Series: Ella Grey, #4
Unabridged Audiobook, 8 hrs., and 52 mins.
Tantor Audio, 2017
Read: April 24-27, 2020
Grab a copy from your local indie bookstore!

(the official blurb)
Ella now knows where her brother is, but she’s been cut off from her power, so she can’t move on it. Due to her lack of power (and some other stuffincluding a total and inexplicable lack of due process), she loses her job. She and Damien start a private consulting business, make a Faustian deal and will deal with the consequences over most of this book and the next. Along the way, Ella learns why her brother is off the grid.

The luster has really worn off this series for me. I think it’s possible that Faith will stick the landing and I’ll be happy with the set as a whole, but I think she’s squandered a good start. If there was more than one book left, I’m not sure I’d bother.
3 Stars

Stardust

Stardust

by Neil Gaiman
Unabridged Audiobook, 6 hrs., 23 mins
HarperAudio, 2006
Read: April 28-29, 2020
Grab a copy from your local indie bookstore!

(the official blurb)
I remember being disappointed when I read the book a few years ago, because the movie version (that I love) was such a lousy adaptation. The text eventually won me over, but it took a long time. This is backward, I realize, but what are you going to do?

Anyway, I came into this audiobook with low expectations, but I wasn’t in the mood to spend money on an audiobook and everything I wanted from the library was checked out. Listening to Gaiman’s always fun, so I gave this a whirl. Between Gaiman, low expectations, knowing it’s not the movie, and a story that’s really good when you give it a chance, I had a great time.

It’s a fairy tale that isn’t. Gaiman draws on every convention, every trope and uses them the way a child uses a play-doh set.
4 Stars

Dumplin’

by Julie Murphy, Eileen Stevens (Narrator)
Series: Dumplin’, #1
Unabridged Audiobook, 9 hrs., 45 mins.
HarperAudio, 2015
Read: April 29-30, 2020
Grab a copy from your local indie bookstore!

(the official blurb)
This was just cute. Another “don’t make me spend money on audiobooks while I wait for holds to become available” listen. A YA story about a fat girl (her words, not mine) who joins her small-town beauty pagent, and the scandal that ensues. It’s almost entirely predictable, but Murphy’s style makes it feel fresh, and you just don’t care about the predictability. Steven’s narration is spot-on, too. I had a lot of fun with this.
3 Stars

Funny, You Don't Look Autistic

Funny, You Don’t Look Autistic: A Comedian’s Guide to Life on the Spectrum

by Michael McCreary
Unabridged Audiobook, 3 hrs., 37 mins
Annick Press, 2019
Read: March 31, 2020
Grab a copy from your local indie bookstore!

(the official blurb)
McCreary was five when he was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, but it had challenged him and his parents far before then. In this short memoir, he talks about growing up with ASD and finding his place in performing and comedy. This wasn’t as funny as you might hope from a comedian’s memoir, but given that the focus of it was on the way he got through life and learning his craft while learning how to live in a neurotypical world, it’d be hard to be funny. Still, there was a light-heartedness to the entire book that made it pretty appealing.

I had plenty of fun listening to this, and gained some insight (much needed, I expect) into ASD. I think the hard copy might be a bit better because there are charts, graphs, etc. he mentions throughout (yes, there are pdf versions available on the publisher’s site, but who listens to an audiobook when they can stop and look at a pdf?).
3.5 Stars

Paradise Valley

Paradise Valley

by C. J. Box, Christina Delaine (Narrator)
Series: The Highway Quartet, #4
Unabridged Audiobook, 10 hrs., 6 mins
Recorded Books, 2017
Read: March 26-30, 2020
Grab a copy from your local indie bookstore!

(the official blurb)
Here we go. Cassie Dewell vs. The Lizard King: The Final Battle. Kyle Westergaard comes along for the ride, toobecause we can’t have a Highway novel without a young person’s perspective. A lot of other characters from the entire series make appearances (important ones), too.

This was a solidhorrifying, but solidconclusion to this arc. And it does set up a way for things to continue beyond this point.

I’m really glad that I started this series (it, too, started with a “don’t make me spend money on audiobooks while I wait for holds to become available” listen)
3.5 Stars

2020 Library Love Challenge
This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase from any of them, I will get a small commission at no additional cost to you. As always, opinions are my own.

What the Dog Knows Young Readers Edition By Cat Warren, Patricia J. Wynne: A MG Version of Great Book about Man’s Best Friend

What the Dog Knows Young Readers Edition

What the Dog Knows Young Readers Edition: Scent, Science, and the Amazing Ways Dogs Perceive the World

by Cat Warren, Patricia J. Wynne (Illustrator)

Hardcover, 325 pg.
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2019

Read: December 4-5, 2019

Grab a copy from your local indie bookstore!


I wasn’t sure what to expect from a Young Reader’s Edition of this book, was it going to be dumbed down? Was it going to be a soup-to-nuts rewrite of the book, telling the story in a cutsie fashion? Or . . . well, I don’t have a third idea, but you get my opinion. But what we got was the same book (as near as I can tell, it’s been 4+ years), just pared down—not dumbed-down or anything. But a lot of the detail has been removed, every chapter boiled down to its essence. Simplified, yes, more accessible for younger readers than the dense “adult” text, but it’s the same book at the end of the day.

After the end of the text, there’s a section directing the readers to some more information and a Young Readers Info section of Warren’s website.

As it’s so similar, I’m just going to use a lot of what I wrote back in 2015 to talk about the book, sorry for the re-run (I’ll focus on this edition in a few paragraphs).

Warren was a journalist, is now a professor, and knows her way around a sentence. She clearly cares about the subject and has invested a lot of time and effort into getting to know it, her style is engaging and charming (I was chuckling within a couple of pages), and she doesn’t mind showing her own failings and weaknesses.

Warren basically covers three topics: there’s the science and history of using working dogs (of all sorts of breeds, not to mention pigs(!), birds, and even cats) to find cadavers, drugs, bombs, etc.; there’s the memoir of her involvement with cadaver dogs via her German Shepherd, Solo; and anecdotes of other cadaver dogs and trainers that she’s encountered/learned from/watched in action.

The history and science of dogs/other animals being used for their sense of smell, is probably the most fascinating part of this book, but it’d be really easy for the material to be too dry to bother with—Warren’s voice keeps that from happening. I think it’s terrific that at the end of the day, no one knows what it is about the smell of the human body that dogs sense—she’ll explain it better than me, but that’s the kernel the story. I just really enjoy it when the best and the brightest have to shrug and say, “I don’t know.” The chapter she spends on the future of dogs and/or digital replacements is good for similar reasons. Actually, I could just keep listing little facts/factoids/ideas here, but I don’t want to steal Warren’s thunder.

The best part of the book—the part that I found most interesting, and most frustratingly small—is the Warren’s story about getting Solo, discovering he had just too much energy and personality, and needing to find an outlet for it all. Which is followed by the trials and tribulations of a newbie cadaver dog handler and her pup-in-training, growing into a capable working dog. Anyone who has a dog lover as a Facebook friend knows just how easy it is for someone’s stories about their dog to get to the point where you can’t stand to hear another*. Somehow, Warren avoids this totally—not an easy feat. It probably helps that dog does far more fascinating things than just hiking through the woods or chasing a ball.

* Of course, your friends don’t have dogs as cool as mine. Let me tell you a little bit about her . . .

The stories about the others—her friends, colleagues, teachers, etc.—round out the book. It’s not just about Warren and Solo, it’s not just about the military/police efforts with training animals—it’s about dedicated volunteers, K-9 officers and dogs all over the country (and the world) making a difference. In places and ways you wouldn’t expect. Really? Sending in one guy and his dogs into Vietnam decades later to search for POW/MIA? Also, seeing how different dogs act differently, yet get the same job done was mind-boggling. Especially for dogs trained together/by the same person, you’d think they’d act similarly.

I imagine it’s to spotlight the work of others, to not brag about Solo too much, to talk about things that she and her dog haven’t done/seen/smelled—or whatever reason there is, I wanted more Solo. A lot more. I have no problem with the rest of the book, it’s just that there’s not enough Solo (or Coda, her younger dog).

This new edition features some illustrations and instructional graphics. There were a couple that I wondered about the placement of, but they were all helpful, eye-catching and attractive. They added to, instead of distracting from, the text. Good stuff.

A fascinating, entertaining, and educational book—can’t ask for much more than that.


4 Stars

2019 Library Love Challenge

This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase from it, I will get a small commission at no additional cost to you. As always, opinions are my own.

Flying Alone by Beth Ruggiero York: A Young Woman Takes Flight

 

Flying Alone

Flying Alone: A Memoir

by Beth Ruggiero York

eARC, 202 pg.
2019

Read: October 14-15, 2019


When she was 14 years old, Elizabeth flew for the first time—as she says, it was the first time she’d been that excited since her father died the previous year—and she made a promise to herself that she’d learn to fly.

Her plan had been to join the Navy and become a pilot, which would put her on the fast track to being an airline pilot (her ultimate goal). This was derailed by a diagnosis of probable MS, the Navy would no sooner train a pilot who’d likely develop MS than they would one who had the disease. So, that door closed, she’d go the private sector route—it’d take longer, but it’d still get her where she wanted to go.

The book really takes off (ouch, sorry, didn’t mean that pun, but I can’t bring myself to edit that) as she’s about to get her private license at a small flying school in Massachusetts. The book traces her development as a pilot in a culture not really receptive to female pilots (but not hostile to the idea, it didn’t seem), through various stages in her progress—eventually through different employers. We see her navigating through both successes and setbacks, and how she’d move on from either up to the point of making it to her goal—flying for TWA.

A near-constant presence in the book is her primary flying instructor and eventual significant other, Steve. I never liked the guy, and I am not sure I can understand why anyone would. But, this is written years after Steve and the author had gone their separate ways, and she’s writing with the full advantage of hindsight. So York displays all the warning signs she spent years ignoring while they were together because it seems like she can’t understand all of what she was doing with him either.

If this were a novel, I’d be complaining about how little we get of Elizabeth’s friend and student, Melanie. Melanie sees Steve for who he is and encourages Elizabeth to take some of the early steps she’ll need to advance her career. She also encourages her to get away from Steve—advice that is rejected (but maybe takes root). I enjoyed her presence in the book and can imagine she’d have been fun to hang out with at the time.

For me, seeing the various kind of jobs that a pilot can hold—and what they entail—was the best part of this book. Yeah, it’s disillusioning how many corners were cut (when not ignored) along the way (and I’m guessing the statute of limitations has passed for many of these)—but the various companies and duties were fascinating. It was also refreshing to see some of the pilots worrying about things like that, as well as displaying that there were people around her that had her best interests at heart (or at least would back her when needed).

It’s been a while since I saw anyone do this, but remember back when movies would end by telling us what would happen to various characters in the future? York finishes this book with a quick summary of what befell many of the people/companies we’d met along the way. It’s a nice touch here.

But before that, we get a very quick recap of her life in the last chapter and epilogue. Between the penultimate and the final chapter, she jumps a little over a year in time to get us to her interview (and hiring) by TWA. After taking things so methodically up to that point, it felt abrupt to make that jump, like we’d missed a lot. There’s probably a good reason for York’s choice there, but it felt like she was in a rush to meet a deadline so she skimmed over that year. And then didn’t really give us a lot about the early days with TWA. I think that’s my major criticism of the writing—she just sped past that last year and stopped. I think a little time talking about her initial experience flying for a major airline would’ve been nice—maybe she’s saving that for the sequel? (It didn’t seem like that was the intention, but it’d work)

You really feel like you’re getting behind the scenes of small airports, freight and charter companies. People like Tom Wolfe can make maverick pilots sound exciting and romantic. York makes the idea sound dreadful and a real threat to safety in the air and on the ground below flight paths. Superman tried to reassure Lois when he said, “I hope this hasn’t put you off of flying. Statistically speaking, it’s still the safest way to travel.” Frankly, after reading parts of this book, I could use someone telling me that.

The book feels honest—it doesn’t seem like she glossed over her own faults or highlighted others’ at her own gain (or the other way around). There’s a sense of “here’s some smart things I did,” “here’s a bad decision I/he/they made,” “here’s stuff that happened that could have gone either way and worked out okay.” It’d have been pretty easy to make herself “the good guy”, or everyone else “the bad guy”. Instead, we got a bunch of humans being human.

This is a quick read, an insightful read, and an effective read—I wasn’t sure what to expect out of Flying Alone, but I don’t think I got it. What I got, however, was better—I’d recommend it. A story about a woman succeeding on her terms—while overcoming issues and problems beyond her control and as a direct result of her choices—not overly romantic, not overly sentimental, and not afraid to show her own deficiencies. This is the kind of memoir we need more of.

Note: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for this post and my honest opinion. Which is what she got. Honest, not timely—I do feel bad about not getting this up in late September, or anytime in October. I tried.


3 Stars

LetsReadIndie Reading Challenge

Relief by Execution by Gint Aras: Reflections on Societal Woes from a Different Angle on the Holocaust

Relief by Execution

Relief by Execution: A Visit to Mauthausen

by Gint Aras

eARC, 94 pg.
Little Bound Books, 2019

Read: September 21, 2019


This is a short book (long essay), that to really get into would render the reading of the content pointless, so I’ve got to hold back some of what I want to say. The official blurb is a good starting point for a few thoughts I have in reaction to this essay:

Between the years of 1996-1999, Gint Aras lived a hapless bohemian’s life in Linz, Austria. Decades later, a random conversation with a Polish immigrant in a Chicago coffeehouse provokes a question: why didn’t Aras ever visit Mauthausen, or any of the other holocaust sites close to his former home? The answer compels him to visit the concentration camp in the winter of 2017, bringing with him the baggage of a childhood shaped by his family of Lithuanian WWII refugees.

Thus far, I’m on board with it—Aras blends recollections of the visit with glimpses of his past—the racism, the abuse, the ways of thinking that he was raised in, and then applying that to American society. I think this is a solid idea, but not terribly uncommon. What makes this better is the perspective Aras brings to it. Rather than identifying with the inmates, the victims of the holocaust; he puts himself in the shoes of the guards, of the soldiers carrying out the orders that those of us separated by a distance of miles, years and context can’t imagine.

Or, as the blurb concludes:

The result is this meditative inquiry, at once lyrical and piercing, on the nature of ethnic identity, the constructs of race and nation, and the lasting consequences of collective trauma.

It’s this part that I found wanting. The length of this essay didn’t work for me — Aras either spent too much time on things he didn’t properly develop, or he spent too much time talking about things that didn’t add enough value to the essay. Either fully developing things—which would probably take another 50 or so pages (just a guess)—or trimming about half the length to give a tighter, more controlled argument would have made this a stronger piece of writing.

I enjoyed the writing generally, but too often (not really frequently, but not rarely enough) his writing got in the way of what he was trying to do. His style was too elaborate, his vocabulary obfuscated, and he just got in his own way.

Lastly, I think the essay would’ve been better served with more about his actual time in Mauthausen.

In summary, I think this is a great concept, but I couldn’t get behind the execution—often overwritten, and either too short or too long. Still, this is worth your time. You’ll end up thinking about things in a different way, which is always beneficial. It’s a short read. It’s a compelling read. Sure, it’s a problematic read—but the positives outweigh that.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from the author via Lori @ TNBBC Publicity in exchange for this post—thanks to both for this.


3 Stars
LetsReadIndie Reading Challenge

Riding the Elephant by Craig Ferguson: Heartfelt, Amusing, Occasionally Inspirational and/or Hilarious.

Riding the ElephantRiding the Elephant: A Memoir of Altercations, Humiliations, Hallucinations, and Observations

by Craig Ferguson
Hardcover, 266 pg.
Blue Rider Press, 2019
Read: July 1 – 18, 2019

The following year, 2009, I actually sang ”Sweet Caroline” along with Neil Diamond on stage—he put his hand on my shoulder! ”Reachin’ out. . . touchin’ me. . . touchin’ you . . .,” which means, no matter what you may achieve in your life, I’ll always be that little bit more awesome than you.

Early on, Ferguson talks about his approach to the writing of this bookafter years of writing the monologue-type things he started his talk show with (I call them type, because they’re not like your standard late night monologue), he’s continued to think in those terms, he finds it natural to write in. So, he wrote a few of those looking back on his past. Prestoa new memoir.

The timeline jumps around a lot, so there’s no real linear storyline. But there are trends, if you’re looking for them. More than that, there are themessobriety, family, and personal growth would be at the top of the list.

There are some wonderfully-written passages, not enough for my tastebut it’s not that kind of book, so those moments shine. Mostly, it’s a showcase for Ferguson as story-teller. And he’s a good one: whether it’s about a fishing trip, a vacation in Japan, performing somewhere, teenage romance (unrequited, I should add) or meeting his wife (for example) — you get caught up in the tale. Maybe the lessons he takes from the story or the point he was trying to raise, aren’t quite as good as the story itself, but frequently it is.

I could read the account of his learning to fly a couple of times a year and find it amusing and inspiring each time. I loved his discussion about his tattoos, tooit made me wish I had a session lined up.

One of the most prominent themes (maybe the most) is sobriety and his alcoholism. As you’d expect, Ferguson balances the harsh truths about both with his signature wit.

The problem with trying to hide active alcoholism from someone you live with is one of balance. You have to drink because you’re an alcoholic, but you don’t want to appear too drunk because then the poor unfortunate that is supposedly in a relationship with you might insist on you getting help. That’s the last fucking thing you want because every drinking alcoholic knows ”getting help” means stopping drinking, and that is unthinkable. Keeping your shit together is a tightrope act and is only halfway possible with luck, good timing, and cocaine. Even then it doesn’t always work.

Let’s be honest, it hardly ever works.

It never works.

I do think I would’ve enjoyed this more if I’d listened to the audiobookalas, it wasn’t available at my library. I think I’d have responded better to Ferguson’s voice telling me the stories, not reading them with frequent approximations of his voice in my head. But it was nice enougha few chuckles, some really well-written passages, some good insight into Ferguson. It wasn’t spectacular, as I’d hopedbut it was good. I’m glad I read it, and I bet if you like Ferguson to any extent, you’ll enjoy reading this, too.

—–

3 Stars

2019 Library Love ChallengeHumor Reading Challenge 2019

✔ A memoir or biography of a favorite celebrity.
✔ A book written by a comedian.

Don’t Panic by Neil Gaiman, David K. Dickson and MJ Simpson: An Indispensable Guide to Douglas Adams and his Work

I’d intended to get this up and ready for Towel Day last week — but, obviously, I failed. Schemes once again, Gang aft a-gley. It’s pretty fitting, really that this is late.

Don't PanicDon’t Panic: Douglas Adams & The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Third Edition)

by Neil Gaiman; Additional Material by David K. Dickson & MJ Simpson
Series: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy (related)

Hardcover, 207 pg.
Titan Books, 2003
Read: May 22 – 23, 2019

          
The idea in question bubbled into Douglas Adams’s mind quite spontaneously, in a field in Innsbruck. He later denied any personal memory of it having happened. But it’s the story he told, and, if there can be such a thing, it’s the beginning. If you have to take a flag reading THE STORY STARTS HERE and stick it into the story, then there is no other place to put it.

It was 1971, and the eighteen year-old Douglas Adams was hitch-hiking his way across Europe with a copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Europethat he had stolen (he hadn’t bothered ‘borrowing’ a copy of Europe on $5 a Day, he didn’t have that kind of money).

He was drunk. He was poverty-stricken. He was too poor to afford a room at a youth hostel (the entire story is told at length in his introduction to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Trilogy in Four Parts in England, and The Hitchhiker’s Trilogy in the US) and he wound up, at the end of a harrowing day, flat on his back in a field in Innsbruck, staring up at the stars. “Somebody,” he thought, “somebody really ought to write a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

He forgot about the idea shortly thereafter.

Five years later, while he was struggling to think of a legitimate reason for an alien to visit Earth, the phrase returned to him. The rest is history, and will be told in this book.

I distinctly remember purchasing the first edition of Don’t Panic from BookPeople of Moscow in the fall of 1991 — I remember being blown away by the idea that someone would write a book about Douglas Adams’ work. I had no idea who this Neil Gaiman fellow was, but I enjoyed his writing and loved the book he wrote — and read it several times. It was a long time (over 2 decades) before I thought of him as anything but “that guy who wrote the Hitchhiker’s book.” The Hitchhiker’s Trilogy had been a favorite of mine for years by that point, and getting to look behind the scenes of it was like catnip.

This is the third edition, and as is noted by Gaiman in the Forward, it “has been updated and expanded twice.” The completist in me would like to find a second edition to read the original 3 chapters added by David K. Dickson in 1993, but the important change was in 2002, when “MJ Simpson wrote chapters 27-30, and overhauled the entire text.” If you ask me, Gaiman’s name should be in the smaller print and Simpson’s should be the tall letters on the cover — but no publisher is that stupid, if you get the chance to claim that Neil Gaiman wrote a book, you run with it. Overhauled is a kind way of putting it — there’s little of the original book that I recognize (I’m going by memory only, not a side by side comparison). This is not a complaint, because Simpson’s version of the book is just as good as the original, it’s just not the original.

This is a little more than the story of The Hitchhiker’s Trilogy, but it’s certainly not a biography of Adams — maybe you could call it a professional biography. Or a biography of Adams the creator, which only touches upon the rest of his life as needed. Yes there are brief looks at his childhood, schooling, etc. But it primarily focuses on his writing, acting, producing and whatnot as the things that led to that revolutionary BBC Radio series and what happened afterward. Maybe you could think of it as the story of a man’s lifelong battle to meet a deadline and the lengths those around him would go to help him not miss it too much.

Once we get to the Radio series, it follows the The Hitchhiker’s Trilogy through each incarnation and expansion — talking about the problems getting it produced (in whatever medium we’re talking about — books, TV show, movie, stage show) and the content. Then the book discusses other Adams projects — Dirk Gently books, The Last Chance to See, his computer work, and other things like that.

It’s told with a lot of cheek, humor, and snark — some of the best footnotes and appendices ever. It’s not the work of a slavish fanboy (or team of them) — there are critical moments talking about problems with some of the books (some of the critiques are valid, others might be valid, but I demur). But it’s never not told with affection for the man or his work.

Don’t Panic is a must for die-hard fans — and can be read for a lot of pleasure by casual fans of the author or his work. I can almost promise that whatever your level of devotion to or appreciation of Adams/his work, it’ll increase after reading this. Any edition of this book should do — but this third edition is an achievement all to itself. Imagine someone being able to say, “I improved on Gaiman’s final draft.”

I loved it, I will return to this to read as well as to consult for future things I write about Adams, and recommend it without hesitation.

—–

5 Stars

Humor Reading Challenge 2019

And Drink I Did: One Man’s Story of Growing Through Recovery by Jay Keefe: An underdeveloped, but powerful memoir of addiction and recovery

And Drink I DidAnd Drink I Did: One Man’s Story of Growing Through Recovery

by Jay Keefe


Kindle Edition, 154 pg.
2018

Read: March 2 – 5, 2019

This is one of those books that’s pretty well summed up by the title and subtitle. There’s not a lot more to say, really. But I’ll flesh it out a little — the first two chapters are primarily focused on his pre-alcohol life to gain some insight into his alcoholism. He begins by saying that he doesn’t know why he’s an alcoholic, he doesn’t know what made him one — moreover, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that he is an alcoholic. That doesn’t stop him from thinking and writing about his childhood — not in an effort to justify or explain away his alcoholism, but to understand it. He explains some early emotional experiences, as part of this — and even his earliest memories of OCD.

This might be the closest I’ve gotten to understanding the compulsion’s sensation:

I didn’t feel right or complete until I had done specific tasks.

Even after I did them, there was still a lingering sense that something was off. When people ask me to describe it, the best I can do is to say it’s like an itch that can’t be scratched- kind of like when the top of your mouth tickles, and you use your tongue to scratch it, but it doesn’t really help because your tongue just isn’t the right instrument to scratch an itch.

It’s like that.

Kind of.

Then he explained his initial drinking experiences and how alcohol made him feel. It reminded me of a similar passage in Mose Kasher’s memoir of addiction.

I always felt a void and had no idea how to fill it.

Alcohol filled that void perfectly.

It took me out of myself.

I could relax. . . .

Alcohol quelled the OCD too.

I didn’t clean when I was drunk.

It didn’t bother me that things weren’t in their place.

I didn’t sweat the small stuff, so to speak.

And I knew I wasn’t sweating it. That was the beauty of it.

It’s so easy for people — especially for non-addicts — to pin drugs and alcohol use and abuse to people who are partying or having a good time and can’t stop. For Kasher, it was about feeling normal; for Keefe it’s about quieting the OCD, about not having the self-doubt and insecurities that plagued him. It’s about self-medicating. Addiction’s never more understandable to me than when I hear someone talking like that — who wouldn’t want that experience? Forget about feeling good, just getting to neutral — no problems.

Anyway, from there Keefe spends a few chapters talking about his experiences drinking — at one point he says that other addicts’ war stories never impressed him, and initially you get the feeling that’s hypocritical because he talks a lot about some of the stupid or out of control things he did while drinking. But he never glorified the experience, he never celebrates what happened — it’s just a list of things he did. Like reciting the tasks (largely routine) at work you completed one week. More than once I found myself wondering how Keefe is still living — and he probably did, too, while writing it.

He then talks about his early days of recovery — his early 12-Step days and when it started to work for him, and how that changed his life. How being sober didn’t fix all of his problems, and how he still has impulse control issues and what he’s done to minimize the problems that causes him. Then he discusses his current circumstances, with a few years of sobriety behind him — how he’s doing, what he’s doing with himself, and that he’s still an alcoholic, living in fear of stumbling.

Those last couple of chapters, in particular are really powerful.

I’m a little of two minds about this book — you can see from what I’ve quoted how this book reads. Paragraphs that are 1 or 2 sentences long (there are some that are a little longer), some aren’t even complete sentences. The book largely reads like a very detailed outline — at best like a good first draft. Also, the timeline’s a little fuzzy and his knack for not using names all the time when talking about his life doesn’t help keep things clear.

None of that keeps the book from making an impact. It’s moving, it’s powerful, and you have a very real sense of what he went through. So Keefe’s not Tobias Wolff or Frank McCourt — who cares? The book accomplishes what he sets out to accomplish, is insightful, touching and inspiring. That’s good enough for me.

—–

3 Stars
Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for this post and my honest opinion, which is what I provided.
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