Monday, July 29th 2019

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Smoke Gets in Your EyesSmoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty
Published by W. W. Norton Company on September 28th 2015
Pages: 272

Most people want to avoid thinking about death, but Caitlin Doughty—a twenty-something with a degree in medieval history and a flair for the macabre—took a job at a crematory, turning morbid curiosity into her life’s work. Thrown into a profession of gallows humor and vivid characters (both living and very dead), Caitlin learned to navigate the secretive culture of those who care for the deceased.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes tells an unusual coming-of-age story full of bizarre encounters and unforgettable scenes. Caring for dead bodies of every color, shape, and affliction, Caitlin soon becomes an intrepid explorer in the world of the dead. She describes how she swept ashes from the machines (and sometimes onto her clothes) and reveals the strange history of cremation and undertaking, marveling at bizarre and wonderful funeral practices from different cultures.

Her eye-opening, candid, and often hilarious story is like going on a journey with your bravest friend to the cemetery at midnight. She demystifies death, leading us behind the black curtain of her unique profession. And she answers questions you didn’t know you had: Can you catch a disease from a corpse? How many dead bodies can you fit in a Dodge van? What exactly does a flaming skull look like?

Honest and heartfelt, self-deprecating and ironic, Caitlin's engaging style makes this otherwise taboo topic both approachable and engrossing. Now a licensed mortician with an alternative funeral practice, Caitlin argues that our fear of dying warps our culture and society, and she calls for better ways of dealing with death (and our dead).

I wish I could remember exactly where I heard Caitlin Doughty’s name first. I feel like she was referenced in a podcast that I listen to. It might have been Last Podcast on the Left. Either way, when I heard that she was a mortician with a YouTube series called “ask a mortician,” I knew I had to look her up immediately. And I am so glad I did.

This book reminded me of my favorite Mary Roach book, Stiff. She is just so candid and no-nonsense about the whole process. From cremation to embalming, to putting make-up on the dead, it is a fascinating read and I love her humor sprinkled throughout. If you have any interest whatsoever in what happens to our bodies after we die, I highly recommend this book and her YouTube channel.


Sunday, July 28th 2019

Beautiful Boy

Beautiful BoyBeautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction by David Sheff
Published by Mariner Books on January 6th 2009
Pages: 340

What had happened to my beautiful boy? To our family? What did I do wrong? Those are the wrenching questions that haunted every moment of David Sheff’s journey through his son Nic’s addiction to drugs and tentative steps toward recovery. Before Nic Sheff became addicted to crystal meth, he was a charming boy, joyous and funny, a varsity athlete and honor student adored by his two younger siblings. After meth, he was a trembling wraith who lied, stole, and lived on the streets.

David Sheff traces the first subtle warning signs: the denial, the 3 A.M. phone calls (is it Nic? The police? The hospital?), the rehabs. His preoccupation with Nic became an addiction in itself, and the obsessive worry and stress took a tremendous toll, but as a journalist, he instinctively researched every avenue of treatment that might save his son and refused to give up on him. Beautiful Boy is a fiercely candid memoir that brings immediacy to the emotional roller coaster of loving a child who seems beyond help.

This book was INTENSE. It is not only a memoir of a father with an addicted son, but it was also very informative as he discovered more and more about addiction. I really felt for him and I could not imagine the amount of stress and anxiety his son’s addiction caused not only himself but the entire family. They never knew where he was or if he was even alive.

This book was a difficult read but I am glad I picked it up. The son also wrote a memoir but I have not yet had the chance to check it out. There was also a movie recently made based on their story and I cannot wait to see that as well.

I highly recommend this book to everyone. I feel it should be a required read as addiction becomes more and more prevalent.


Saturday, July 27th 2019


DryDry by Neal Shusterman, Jarrod Shusterman
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on October 2nd 2018
Pages: 390

When the California drought escalates to catastrophic proportions, one teen is forced to make life and death decisions for her family in this harrowing story of survival,

The drought—or the Tap-Out, as everyone calls it—has been going on for a while now. Everyone’s lives have become an endless list of don’ts: don’t water the lawn, don’t fill up your pool, don’t take long showers.

Until the taps run dry.

Suddenly, Alyssa’s quiet suburban street spirals into a warzone of desperation; neighbors and families turned against each other on the hunt for water. And when her parents don’t return and her life—and the life of her brother—is threatened, Alyssa has to make impossible choices if she’s going to survive.

I enjoyed this book for the most part even though I thought parts of it were pretty unrealistic. I am pretty sure I rolled my eyes a few times. However, this was the best dystopian I have read in a while.

What really works for this dystopian is a plot that seems completely realistic and could happen any day now. Two things happened to me while reading this book; I became very thirsty and I wanted to start doomsday preparing. No joke. This book was very effective at unsettling me.


Friday, July 26th 2019


HeroineHeroine by Mindy McGinnis
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on March 12th 2019
Pages: 432

When a car crash sidelines Mickey just before softball season, she has to find a way to hold on to her spot as the catcher for a team expected to make a historic tournament run. Behind the plate is the only place she’s ever felt comfortable, and the painkillers she’s been prescribed can help her get there.

The pills do more than take away pain; they make her feel good.

With a new circle of friends—fellow injured athletes, others with just time to kill—Mickey finds peaceful acceptance, and people with whom words come easily, even if it is just the pills loosening her tongue.

But as the pressure to be Mickey Catalan heightens, her need increases, and it becomes less about pain and more about want, something that could send her spiraling out of control.

I had just finished reading Beautiful Boy when I picked this one up. So I went from a non-fiction/memoir written by a father of an addict to reading a fiction book about an addict. I was in a mood apparently. TW for addiction and drug use.

This book didn’t really surprise me with where the storyline went but it did surprise me with how much I ended up caring for the main character. I was yelling at some of her choices and trying to will her to do the right thing rather than continue the trend on a downward spiral.

What I really appreciated was that in the end, her relationships were messy or ruined. There is a friendship that is highlighted throughout the novel that starts to unravel as she becomes more and more addicted and some friendships cannot survive the stress and alienation. It felt real.


Thursday, July 25th 2019

Midnight in Chernobyl

Midnight in ChernobylMidnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World's Greatest Nuclear Disaster by Adam Higginbotham
Published by Simon & Schuster on February 12th 2019
Pages: 538

The definitive, dramatic untold story of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster, based on original reporting and new archival research.

April 25, 1986, in Chernobyl, was a turning point in world history. The disaster not only changed the world’s perception of nuclear power and the science that spawned it, but also our understanding of the planet’s delicate ecology. With the images of the abandoned homes and playgrounds beyond the barbed wire of the 30-kilometer Exclusion Zone, the rusting graveyards of contaminated trucks and helicopters, the farmland lashed with black rain, the event fixed for all time the notion of radiation as an invisible killer.

Chernobyl was also a key event in the destruction of the Soviet Union, and, with it, the United States’ victory in the Cold War. For Moscow, it was a political and financial catastrophe as much as an environmental and scientific one. With a total cost of 18 billion rubles—at the time equivalent to $18 billion—Chernobyl bankrupted an already teetering economy and revealed to its population a state built upon a pillar of lies.

The full story of the events that started that night in the control room of Reactor No.4 of the V.I. Lenin Nuclear Power Plant has never been told—until now. Through two decades of reporting, new archival information, and firsthand interviews with witnesses, journalist Adam Higginbotham tells the full dramatic story, including Alexander Akimov and Anatoli Dyatlov, who represented the best and worst of Soviet life; denizens of a vanished world of secret policemen, internal passports, food lines, and heroic self-sacrifice for the Motherland. Midnight in Chernobyl, award-worthy nonfiction that reads like sci-fi, shows not only the final epic struggle of a dying empire but also the story of individual heroism and desperate, ingenious technical improvisation joining forces against a new kind of enemy.

It feels weird to rate/review a book based on this event. I listened to the audiobook during the same weeks the HBO miniseries was on. The miniseries stayed pretty true to the real events that took place. But this is not my thoughts on the miniseries (but it was great. Go watch it.)

This book is an amazing account of the events that lead up to the Chernobyl disaster and the aftermath. It is a very comprehensive look at what caused the disaster, the people involved, and the coverup. If you have ever wanted to know more about Chernobyl I highly recommend this book (and the HBO miniseries).



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