Between Breaths by Elizabeth Vargas

vargas-elizabeth-between-breaths( thumbs_side ) Even though I’ve been trying to lay off memoirs a little more lately, I knew i had to take a gander at this book because of how much I can relate. Anxiety has always been a huge issue for me and my brother, and I know that at least for me, it’s hard to always deal with it in a healthy way.

The author has hidden and struggled with severe anxiety and panic attacks most of her life. She slowly developed an addiction to alcohol that helped her suppress the symptoms over a long time. She eventually got sober, but as with developing the full-blown disease, it was a long process for her.

It’s good, and really makes you wonder how many people suffer from mental illness but are able to hide it or mask it with addiction as well. However, it was a hard story to keep my attention on because she never had any momentous consequences from it, the way a lot of other addicts that have written memoirs have. But Vargas was incredibly high-functioning. She was and is a famous news reporter with children.

See Me by Nicholas Sparks

sparks-nicholas-see-me( thumbs_side ) I expected a little bit more from this book based on the reviews I read online. But then again, this is not usually the type of genre I read because most of it tends to be so stereotypical – in my opinion. This story definitely fit that description.

Basically it starts out as a romance between the usual suspects: a quiet, innocent girl from a respectable background and a bad-boy turned good. It’s cute, but that’s it. (I always feel like I’m frying my brain cells a little when reading the societal-accepted norm of the most common fantasy romance.) However, it turns into a plotted stalking and harassment mystery. This doesn’t really make it that much better in my opinion though.

Down the Rabbit Hole by Holly Madison

madison-holly-down-the-rabbit-hole( thumbs_side )  A memoir of a Playboy Bunny: that’s a story! Being a live-in Playboy Bunny is a lifestyle not many people can relate to.

Holly Madison does a good job of articulating herself and analyzing her thought process when she was young in the bunny house. She sought it first as to start a career in acting and gain the fame she knew she deserved. However, that didn’t seem to be happening, so she soon convinced herself she really was in love with Hugh Hefner to justify her being dependent on the bunny house.

Madison finally left after a build up of psychological abuse by Hef and frustration with not being able to develop herself outside of the bunny house. From there, she finally found her way, though with some additional learning experiences along the way.

This is a good book detailing how often we can make bad choices when we’re young (or not young), and that its easy to let it define us. However, we can choose to do and think differently, like Madison did.

This is a cute, entertaining book. My major gripe though is how picture perfect and innocent Madison portrays herself. I want to hear about more than your insecurities as imperfections. That’s not reality – everyone has their faults that amount to more than low confidence and disillusionment. She makes herself the victim in all circumstances, and it gets tiring.

The Girls by Emma Cline

cline-emma-the-girls( thumbs_up.gif ) This is basically a historical fiction made about the Manson family cult. They used different names and probably created their own unique situational ideal about a random make-believe member, but this is it.

It starts off with the main character (who was once a member of the cult) revisiting her past after being pressured to by her current social surroundings. She was a girl desperate for love and acceptance, as she wasn’t getting it with family or friends. Extreme manipulation and brainwash eventually incurred in the group. She knows she was only just lucky that she didn’t end up participating in any of the murders.

What I loved most about this book was that it had great, intense quotes about life – especially living as a woman.

“That was part of being a girl – you were resigned to whatever feedback you’d get. If you got mad, you were crazy, and if you didn’t react, you were a bitch. The only thing you could do was smile from the corner they’d backed you into. Implicate yourself in the joke even joke was always on you.”

“Though I should have known that when men warn you to be careful, often they are warning you of the dark movie playing across their own brains. Some violent daydream prompting their guilty exhortations to ‘make it home safe.'”

The Bitter Taste of Dying by Jason Smith

smith, jason - the bitter taste of dying( thumbs_up ) I’ve read a lot of intense memoirs, especially about drugs, but damn – this is the first prescription drugs memoir I’ve read that surprised me and educated me. Fentanyl patches? I didn’t even know those existed.

The author came from an intense background. He found his uncle dead from a heroin overdose. And yet he still turned to drugs – trauma will do that. Genes might play an even bigger role. And then they’re given to us by doctors after an injury and preached as “safe”… well, that’ll get anyone.

The author found himself in numerous crazy situations after he developed his addiction, as many do. A Tijuana jail where he is drinking mop water is just one of them.

This is an enthralling read, especially if you’re not familiar with the more recent plague of legal drug addictions.

Dietland by Sarai Walker

walker, sarai - dietland( thumbs_side ) As much as I want to like this book because of the lesson it holds, the whole context of the story just seems a little too extreme. Self-acceptance and empowerment is great, but the level of feminism this book encourages is a bit intense and the scenarios not too believable.

It’s trying to describe a possible revolution that could happen – that there is still an abundance of sexism that needs to change. This is true, and I’m impressed. I do believe all women should love themselves the way they are and we do need improvement in societal gender equality. However, I don’t like that there is no mention about also loving yourself enough to be concerned about not hurting your health. Being overweight is a health concern, and is based on an addiction to food. You wouldn’t tell a drug addict to just accept and continue the damage they are doing to themselves because they need to love themselves. Loving yourself should be different than not ever trying to change your behaviors.

Also, the main character almost gets herself mixed up in vigilantism, and gets a free $20,000 from a woman she barely knows. It’s unrealistic, and I also don’t see how the main character’s mindset did a 360 so fast. She went from planning weight loss surgery to yelling and turning over the table of a group of people making jokes about her size.

Beyond Belief by Jenna Miscavige Hill

hill, jenna miscavige - beyond belief.jpg( thumbs_up ) Oh. My. God. I had heard general rumors that scientology was a twisted religion, but I had no idea to what extent.

This is a memoir of a woman who spent her entire girlhood in the atmosphere of a tyrannical religion. I don’t think I’ve ever read about such deep measures of brain washing and abuse before. I was really intrigued by how complicated the church is yet so unorganized and subjective. If I hadn’t already known this religion existed, I would have guessed that this was fiction.

I’m so glad the author finally got out, but it’s also very saddening to know that so many people subject themselves and their families to this corrupt institution. I learned so much from this book.