If You Feel Too Much

If You Feel Too Much coverIf You Feel Too Much: Thoughts on Things Found and Lost and Hoped For by Jamie Tworkowski
Publisher: Tarcher
Number of pages: 208
My copy: ebook, advance readers’ copy from Netgalley/Publisher

In 2006 Jamie Tworkowski wrote a story called “To Write Love on Her Arms” about helping a friend through her struggle with drug addiction, depression, and self-injury. The piece was so hauntingly beautiful that it quickly went viral, giving birth to a non-profit organization of the same name. Nine years later, To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA) is an internationally-recognized leader in suicide prevention and a source of hope, encouragement, and resources for people worldwide.

Jamie’s words have been shared hundreds of thousands of times online. They’ve shown up on T-shirts and posters and even tattoos. Now, for the first time, Jamie’s writing is available in the form of a book. If You Feel Too Much is a celebration of hope, wonder, and what it means to be human. From personal stories of struggling on days most people celebrate to offering words of strength and encouragement in moments of loss, the essays in this book invite readers to believe that it’s okay to admit to pain and it’s okay to ask for help. If You Feel Too Much is an important book from one of this generation’s most important voices.

I first heard about Jamie Tworkowski from my friend Isa, after she shared with me this quote:

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that i don’t like love. i love love – i think it’s the best thing that happens on the planet. It’s the biggest dream inside me. But i bought a lie somewhere along the way. i bought the lie that says i’m not alive if i’m not in love. i bought the lie that says if i love someone but then they stop loving me or they start loving someone else, then i must have no value or power or worth. i bought the lie that says if i’m not in love, then i’m as good as dead.

I had no idea who he was until then, until I found out that he is the founder of To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA), “…an American non-profit organization that aims to to present hope for people struggling with addiction, depression, self-injury and thoughts of suicide while also investing directly into treatment and recovery.”1 I found out about TWLOHA back in college, I think, because some of my favorite bands (Switchfoot, Anberlin, Dave Barnes, Matt Wertz, etc) support the organization. That’s the most that I knew about Jamie and TWLOHA, and I was vaguely aware that there was a book coming out. When I received an email from the publicist asking if I wanted to review the book, I immediately said yes because if most of the book contained nuggets of wisdom like that quote that Isa shared to me last time, then I definitely want to read this book.

If You Feel Too Much is, at its core, a collection of Jamie Tworkowski’s blog entries through the years. The topics range from work, family, friendships, romance, love, addiction, depression, self-injury, and brokenness. That’s a lot to digest, but since these came from blog entries, they’re really easy to read. If you’re reading this as a memoir with a chronology of events, you might get a bit disappointed because some of the chapters feel a little bit disjointed, and sometimes some of them seemed to carry the same thought. Some of them may even be seem too short, but that’s easy to overlook because the everything here is full of heart. More than being readable, this book is super relatable. It doesn’t matter if the context of the entry is different – there’s some sort of universal truth that makes the reader connect to the things you read in this book.

Jamie’s thoughts focused a lot on reaching out, on being a friend, on opening up to people and offering love. Inversely, he also talked about how if we don’t have the strength to reach out and to offer love, then it’s okay. We don’t have to be strong all the time — sometimes, we need to be on the receiving end, too. If You Feel Too Much does not just tell its readers that we are not alone, but more importantly, we all have a part to play in this life. As Sierra De Mulder (who was mentioned in the book, too) wrote: your voice is someone’s favorite voice, your face is someone’s favorite face. 

If You Feel Too Much is all about the pain and beauty and loss and hope that makes up our being human. If you feel too much, too, then this is the book for you. Read it all in one sitting, or read it bit by bit – if only to remind yourself of the truths that we often forget about ourselves.

If you feel too much, don’t go.

You are not alone in these places.

Other people feel how you feel.

You are more than just your pain. You are more than wounds, more than drugs, more than death and silence.

There is still some time to be surprised.

There is still some time to ask for help.

There is still some time to start again.

There is still some time for love to find you.

It’s not too late.

You’re not alone.

Rating: 

Number of dog-eared pages: 42

Favorite dog-eared quotes:

Your heart is writing a poem on the world and it’s being turned into a thousand songs.

That guy with tears in his eyes and ghosts in his heart. He loved her, and you could see it. You could see it and you told him it wasn’t his to carry. You told him about grace, and you told him about the song. And you believed it. You were certain of it. So if it’s true for him, isn’t it also true for you?
Wake up. You’re alive.

And that diamond ring. I know you think about it a lot. That ring does not define you. It never did. Then or now. You can wear it around your neck. You can throw it in the sea. It doesn’t matter. It’s not your name. You are free.

Love is a thousand things but at the center is a choice. It is a choice to love people. Left to myself, I get quiet and bitter and critical. I get angry. I feel sorry for myself. It is a choice to love people. It is a choice to be kind. It is a choice to be patient, to be honest, to live with grace. I would like to start making better choices.

If you do some losing or you walk with someone in their defeat, live with dignity and grace. It is a middle finger to the darkness.

If you love somebody, tell them. If there is conflict, let it go and fight instead for peace. Break the numb false silence and break the distance too. Laugh and cry and apologize and start again. This life is short and fragile but friendship is among the greatest miracles.

More than anything, my wish for you is this: that when hour awful darkest days come, you will know you’re not alone. Pain will tell you to keep quiet, but that’s a lie. Life is fragile and we all break in different ways. I hope you know you can be honest. I hope you know you can ask for help. Did you catch that? It is absolutely positively okay to ask for help. It simply means you’re human.

About the Author:
Jamie Tworkowski, credit Jonathan FrazierJamie Tworkowski is the founder of To Write Love on Her Arms, a nonprofit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and thoughts of suicide. TWLOHA has one of the largest online audiences of any non-profit, and Jamie has been interviewed by NBC Nightly News, CBS’s Sunday Morning, andRolling Stone magazine, among others. He is the only nonmusician to win an MTVU Woodie Award. Jamie speaks frequently, telling the TWLOHA story and encouraging audiences at universities, concerts, and music festivals. A proud uncle, Jamie lives in Melbourne Beach, Florida, and loves surfing, music, and basketball.

Pre-order/order the book here!

  1. Source: Wikipedia []

This Song Will Save Your Life

This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila SalesThis Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Number of pages: 288
My copy: e-ARC from Netgalley

Making friends has never been Elise Dembowski’s strong suit. All throughout her life, she’s been the butt of every joke and the outsider in every conversation. When a final attempt at popularity fails, Elise nearly gives up. Then she stumbles upon a warehouse party where she meets Vicky, a girl in a band who accepts her; Char, a cute, yet mysterious disc jockey; Pippa, a carefree spirit from England; and most importantly, a love for DJing.

* * *

I’ve only read one Leila Sales book, Past Perfect, and I had fun with it because it was so, well, fun. I remember really liking the setting and the characters and how it felt like such a good summer read, so I dove into This Song Will Save Your Life with the same expectations: that this will be a light, fun read, a perfect companion for my recent trip.

But…I was wrong.

I was wrong about the light and fun part, actually. I honestly thought This Song Will Save Your Life is about a girl who builds a playlist and all that, and the “saving your life” part was just metaphorical, a symbolism of sorts. Well, it as kind of like that, but I didn’t expect it to be so serious. In a good way, that is. Elise Dembowski is unpopular, but not because she did something. Or maybe she was unpopular because she tries so hard, too hard. But all Elise wanted was to be seen, to have friends, and when her last attempt failed, she gives up (and this was the part that shocked me and told me that this might be different from the previous Leila Sales book I read). Then Elise discovers an underground warehouse party where she meets people who knew nothing about her and calls her their friend. Ellie finds herself spending more time with them, until she gets into the DJ booth and realizes that there was something else to love about her new secret: DJing.

So this book is about Elise and her quest to fit in, a secret club, and DJing. The last two were a bit unexpected, but it was only unexpected because I didn’t read the summary when I got the book; I just requested it because it was Leila Sales (and the cover was pretty). Like I said, I was surprised at how heavy this book felt at the start, at how big Elise’s problems were to her. I didn’t expect that at all, but that development was gripping enough for me to want to find out what happens next.

The book was a bit slow at the start, and again, because I didn’t read the book’s summary, I wasn’t really sure what would happen. I wasn’t sure about the secret party warehouse angle at first, until the other characters grew on me and I wanted to know what would happen to them. The romantic angle made me cringe a little, and you know how when you read something like that that it was doomed from the start, and you’re not sure how to feel if it didn’t end up doomed? I had that feeling in my stomach while I was reading it. The writing was clear and vivid that I could almost feel how it was to be in that party, to dance and sing with other people as Elise changes the music, to be one with the crowd and all that jazz. And this is coming from someone who doesn’t really party.

The other side of Elise’s life really hurt to read, too, and it made the contrast between her day life and her night life really stand out. It made me realize yet again how high school kids can be mean even if they didn’t intend to — how a simple act of ignorance of another person can really break someone, even if you didn’t intend to do that. There was that particularly mean action made for the sake of “postmodern art” that really got to my nerves, but I liked how it was handled in this book, and how in the end, Elise found a reason to like herself more than wishing that other people like her too. And isn’t that the point? That we be convinced of our worth, to know that it has never been tied to someone else?

I was really liked This Song Will Save Your Life, and I think not knowing what it was about when I first read it contributed to how much I liked it overall. I didn’t end the book wanting to be a DJ, nor wanting to find secret warehouse parties, but I did end it feeling a little bit more compassionate for other people and for myself, too. And I think that’s good enough.

Number of dog-eared pages: 8

Favorite dog-eared quotes:

I thought about how my back hurt from standing and my ears rang. But I also thought about how exciting it had been. How powerful I had felt, knowing that I alone had the ability to make people dance, the ability to make them happy.

I’m telling you, never fall for a music man. It only ends in heartbreak.

True, things don’t stay the same forever: couches are replaced, boys leave, you discover a song, your body becomes forever scarred. And with each of these moments you change and change again, your true self spinning, shifting positions-but always at last it returns to you, like a dancer on the floor. Because throughout it all, you are still, always YOU: beautiful and bruised, known and unknowable.

Rating:

Other reviews:
The Midnight Garden
Good Books and Good Wine

 

Hyperbole and a Half

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie BroshHyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
Publisher: Touchstone
Number of pages: 384
My copy: ebook from Netgalley

This is a book I wrote. Because I wrote it, I had to figure out what to put on the back cover to explain what it is.

I tried to write a long, third-person summary that would imply how great the book is and also sound vaguely authoritative—like maybe someone who isn’t me wrote it—but I soon discovered that I’m not sneaky enough to pull it off convincingly.

So I decided to just make a list of things that are in the book: Pictures. Words. Stories about things that happened to me. Stories about things that happened to other people because of me. Eight billion dollars. Stories about dogs. The secret to eternal happiness.

These are lies. Perhaps I have underestimated my sneakiness!

* * *

I’ve loved Hyperbole and a Half ever since my colleague told me about the blog. I remember there were days when I’d read the blog and start laughing uncontrollably at my desk, reading and rereading my favorite entries and hoping for more, more always more because the world needs more stories from Allie. I loved the drawings, the seemingly impossible stories about her dogs, the stuff about cake, the Alot and stories of her childhood. They were funny and crazy and just a delight to read, and the blog became one of my go-to places whenever I need some cheering up.

So I was thrilled when I found out she had a book coming out, because like I said, I can’t get enough of her stuff. It took a little while, because of her adventures in depression, but I was glad when I saw the book up on Netgalley. It came at a pretty good time, too, because I needed something quick and funny to read, and this was just the one I needed.

Hyperbole and a Half contains some of the stories that you can find in Allie’s blog, with some new stories, too. I had fun reading the stories in this collection, although I have to admit that some of them didn’t make me laugh too much because I have read them too many times in the blog. I guess I can only laugh about them so much?

The other never-before-seen stories were funny, though, and I especially loved the one with the goose. Oh my Lord, I had a grand time reading that one, and I can’t stop laughing over the images of the goose trying to get in the room, and the scene in the car. The funniest part of it were the actual photos of the goose to prove that it really happened — you know what, even if it didn’t really happen, I don’t care. It was just so unbelievably funny that it is now a part of the favorite Hyperbole and a Half stories in my head.

I think most of my reading experience was hampered a bit by the device I used to read the book and the ebook formatting. I read the book in my phone because reading it in Hannah the Kindle Paperwhite won’t be fun because the illustrations aren’t colored. My phone has an itty-bitty screen though, and it made reading just a little bit bothersome compared to say, if I read it in an iPad or a bigger tablet. Plus the formatting was sometimes wonky, so I wasn’t sure if I was reading a new story  or if it’s a part of the previous story until I’m sort of halfway through.

But I think Hyperbole and a Half is best read in print format, because of the illustrations. I liked it a lot (alot, heehee :P), and it was still pretty funny despite the technological limitations I faced. If you’re a fan of her blog, go and get this, at least to have a print copy of the stories you loved. But if you’re sort of new to her, you can dip your toes in her stories by browsing through her blog.

Oh, and like everyone else who reviewed this book said, I have to say it too: I missed the Alot. :(alot

 

Number of dog-ears: 6

Favorite dog-eared quote(s):

Nobody can guarantee that it’s going to be okay, but – and I don’t know if this will be comforting to anyone else – the possibility exists that there’s a piece of corn on the floor that will make you just as confused about why you are laughing as you have ever been depressed.

Sometimes expectations arise as a result of oversight on my part. But when there’s a snag in my plans because I failed to account for something, it still feels like reality’s fault. Reality should know about my plans. It should know when I’m not expecting to deal with the unexpected, even if it isn’t very unexpected.

Rating:

Parasite

Parasite by Mira Grant Parasite by Mira Grant
Parasitology # 1
Publisher: Orbit
Number of pages: 512
My copy: ebook review copy from Netgalley

A decade in the future, humanity thrives in the absence of sickness and disease.

We owe our good health to a humble parasite – a genetically engineered tapeworm developed by the pioneering SymboGen Corporation. When implanted, the tapeworm protects us from illness, boosts our immune system – even secretes designer drugs. It’s been successful beyond the scientists’ wildest dreams. Now, years on, almost every human being has a SymboGen tapeworm living within them.

But these parasites are getting restless. They want their own lives…and will do anything to get them.

* * *

Mira Grant is back, and she’s not writing about zombies. This time around, she’s writing about worms — tapeworms, to be exact. Genetically engineered parasites that everyone in a future world has, that somehow keeps the world healthy. It seems impossible, but SymboGen Corporation made it so, and everyone in the world has those tapeworms that they try to keep healthy. Even Sally Mitchell, a girl who survived a freak accident. She was almost dead, but suddenly, she’s alive, with no memory of her old self. She’s considered a SymboGen miracle, and she tries to live her life as normally as she can while she tries to live a new life from the old Sally that everyone knows. But it’s not so easy, especially when people are starting to have a sleeping sickness, the kind where people start to shamble like…well, zombies. And they’re getting violent. And somehow, they’re always all around Sally.

So Parasite got me excited because this is Mira Grant, the woman who wrote my most favorite zombie series so far. When I started reading this, I kind of felt bad that she wasn’t writing about Shaun and Georgia and the rest of the Newsflesh gang, but I was excited to dive into this new world that she wrote. As with Feed, Parasite‘s world-building is very detailed, so much that I felt that if I tried to look for research about the SymboGen implants, I felt that I would find some. The articles and the passages inserted in between read like real ones, and I actually read them instead of just ignoring them (like I do sometimes), so I can get into the story.

Sally/Sal reminded me a little bit like Georgia, but less of the bad-assery that the latter had. I liked her, because she seemed like a genuinely nice person, albeit a little confused. But it’s understandable given her predicament. I liked her family, too, even if it felt a little strange that they seem to be all high-profile ones. Truth be told, almost all the characters in this book seemed to be different shades of gray — I’m not sure who’s really a good guy or if they’re somehow a part of the bad group or something. The only person I was convinced was on Sal’s side was Nathan, her boyfriend, but then sometimes I don’t feel that too much, either.

The story was action packed at some, but it got a little too long and rambly at some point. I knew Feed was also like that, but I didn’t really notice it then because I got the topic (blogging) and I liked the zombies. In Parasite, I struggled a little, because sometimes I felt like I couldn’t keep up with the science talk. Kind of like how I felt sometimes with Deadline. That being said, though, there were a lot of parts that kind of made me go “WTF?!” because of pure…well, strangeness of it. Like, I don’t know, extracting x number of pounds of tapeworm from someone’s body? Er, right. :/

Overall, though, I liked Parasite. As always, there was a time when I truly worried for the characters, and I really wanted to get to the bottom of the story. Of course, since this is a part of the series, I didn’t get most of the answers I wanted because they will be revealed in the next books. My prediction did come true, though, and I saw it coming the moment it was explained in the book. I won’t say what it is, but it’s definitely kind of…well, surreal and again, WTF?!

If you’re a fan of Mira Grant’s Newsflesh trilogy, Parasite may be a hit or miss, depending on how attached you were to the former. I liked Parasite, though, even if I terribly missed my zombies. But there were some kind of zombies in this book anyway. Not quite the zombies I know, but I’ll take it anyway. If you’re into medical science fiction (is my term correct?), then you will probably enjoy Parasite. 

Now the next question is: will you ever agree to have a tapeworm inside you if it would make you live longer?

Number of dog-eared pages*: 8
* Since this is an ebook copy, I counted the total number of highlighted/bookmarked parts. :D

Favorite dog-eared quote(s):

After all, what’s the point of helping create an apocalypse if you’re not going to be around to see it?

But there were too many people I truly cared about for me to ever agree with a plan that started “we’re going to wipe out the human race.”

Rating: 

Other reviews:
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Tea & Fangirling

The Next Best Thing

The Next Best Thing by Kristan HigginsThe Next Best Thing by Kristan Higgins
Publisher: Harlequin
Number of pages: 400
My copy: ebook review copy from Netgalley

Lucy Lang isn’t looking for fireworks…

She’s looking for a nice, decent man. Someone who’ll mow the lawn, flip chicken on the barbecue, teach their future children to play soccer. But most important: someone who won’t inspire the slightest stirring in her heart… or anywhere else. A young widow, Lucy can’t risk that kind of loss again. But sharing her life with a cat named Fat Mikey and the Black Widows at the family bakery isn’t enough either. So it’s goodbye to Ethan, her hot but entirely inappropriate “friend with privileges,” and hello to a man she can marry.

Too bad Ethan Mirabelli isn’t going anywhere. As far as he’s concerned, what she needs might be right under her nose. But can he convince her that the next best thing can really be forever?

* * *

I read The Next Best Thing by Kristan Higgins because I need to get into the “romance” mood while I was writing my romance novella. Back that time, all the books I was reading were not in the romance genre and I needed the appropriate feels, as well as a reference for my story, and this was the closest I could pick. (Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to read this as much as I wanted to during the time I was writing the first draft of the novella because I was too busy. Plus my mind just won’t get into the mood without it being influenced too much)

I’ve had my eye on this book ever since I read (and liked) Somebody to Love. I met Lucy and Ethan in that book from Parker’s POV, and I liked them so much that I wanted to read how they got together anyway, especially when the dad of Parker’s son is Ethan. Strange set-up, don’t you think? In The Next Best Thing, Lucy Lang is a young widow who is ready to date again. She isn’t looking for spark — just a nice man who wouldn’t die on her anytime soon or even make her too in love because she’s not sure if she can suffer the loss again after her husband died. With that in mind, she had to take the first step: she had to tell Ethan Mirabelli, her brother-in-law and best friend, that they have to stop hooking up. But Ethan isn’t convinced that Lucy needs anyone else — will he be able to convince her that he’s what she wanted all along?

This was lots of fun. I loved Lucy and the people that surrounded her in that small town. The entire town felt so real, with Lucy’s mom and aunts who were also all widows (The Black Widows), Lucy’s in-laws, her ‘nemesis’ Dorall Anne and even Jimmy, her deceased husband. I love that Lucy is a baker, and she’s also as neurotic and lovable as Kristan Higgins’ other heroines are. I liked how Lucy and Ethan’s relationship was shown, from when they met to how it all finally ended — the push and pull, the tension and how they tried to be around each other. I loved how Lucy got to the realization at the end, and how she made peace with her past. That “grand gesture” in the end was messy and funny but still perfect for the two leads.

I really liked The Next Best Thing, and I think I liked it especially because Parker was also there and her character was quite consistent there as it was in the spin-off. If I were ever to have Lucy moments, I would want to have a friend like Parker. (But I think I already have several Parkers in my life :D)

The Next Best Thing is another really good book from Kristan Higgins. I’m still working through her back list, but I won’t read too fast because I want to make sure that I always have one of her books unread in my shelf whenever I need a pick-me-up. :)

Rating:

Other reviews:
Good Books and Good Wine