Love, War, & Rabbits-Monthly Book Reviews: Can’t Hurt Me, A Man Called Ove, Watership Down, The Reason, Etc.

 Since I discovered the wonder of listening to audiobooks while doing art, I’ve been able to get back into “reading” fiction a lot more than usual. 

Of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t still read nonfiction. In this month’s set of featured books, I cover three memoirs — by a girl saved from suicide by a (literal) miraculous church visit, a man who turned his life around so drastically he went from “overweight loser” to “overachieving record-breaker,” and a woman who started her writing career covering “trashy TV” — and a couple fantastic fiction samples, including one featuring a grumpy old man, and another one that includes tyrannical rabbits.

Yep, you read that right. Who knew fluffy bunnies could also become fascists? Well, they can, in fiction, and that my friends, is the fantastical function of fascinatingly-crafted fiction.

…Okay, okay, I’m done 😀

And here are the books!

What’s inside this TBR Wrap Up Article:

  1. List of books read this month
  2. Brief reviews of selected books

(To learn more about the Tic-tac-TBR Game, join our Brilliant Writer Merry Band!)


May 2022 Book List & Prompts:

Key

(F) = Fiction. (NF) = Nonfiction.

  1. Prompt: Penalty Book
    American Sherlock by Kate Winkler Dawson (NF): The story of one of the first criminal profilers/scientists in America.
    How I did: Finished about a third of it.
  2. Prompt: Penalty Book
    Creativity by Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi (NF): The scientist who coined the concept of “flow” researches creativity by interviewing multiple creative individuals.
    How I did: Started, didn’t finish. Would like to, though!
  3. Prompt: Penalty Book + Originally written in a foreign language
    A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (F): A widower deals with a rambunctious new family of neighbors.
    How I did: Finished audiobook.
  4. Prompt: Written by an author over 40+ years old
    Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins (NF): The nearly-unbelievable true story of a man who radically transformed his life, becoming a Navy SEAL, running ultramarathons, and more.
    How I did: Finished.
  5. Prompt: Main Character is not human
    Watership Down by Richard Adams (NF): A group of rabbits must leave their home to save their lives, and have many adventures along the way.
    How I did: Finished audiobook.
  6. Prompt: Penalty Book+BookSetinSpring
    Why I Hate Green Beans Lincey Ray (NF): A humorous autobiography of a TV writer.
    How I did: Took two tries, but finished.

Selected Book Reviews

Personal Ratings & Review

I use 2 criteria to rate every book on a scale of 1–5:

  1. Content: the ideas in this book are interesting, edifying, and worth learning. (Out of ★★★★★ stars)
  2. Craftsmanship: the work is polished, skillful, and well-written. (Out of ★★★★★ stars)

 

Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins

Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins (NF)

“In the military we always say we don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.” — David Goggins

  1. ★★★
  2. ★★★★

Can’t Hurt Me is David Goggin’s nearly unbelievable biography of how he changed his life: from a traumatized young man, depressed and overweight, working a gross job, to Navy SEAL, military man, ultramarathoner, Guinness World Record breaker, and inspiration to other young men just like he used to be.

I’ve heard about Goggins’ story for years and finally picked it up, and was, I’ll admit, a little mind-blown by his life. This is one of those books that you are going to take some time to process. Goggins’ basic theme throughout his book is that most human beings don’t fulfill their full potential, which I believe is true.

But it also brings to mind the question of, what sacrifices are worth making for which goals? Goggins’ dramatic life turn is dramatic and fascinating, but it’s not totally a happy story — there is a lot of trauma and overcoming, but there’s also a great deal of continuing sadness and pain. It reminds me that life is messy and transformation is messy, too.

Still, definitely a worthwhile read. For some, Goggins’ life story will be extremely inspiring. But even if it’s not exactly your cup of tea, at least it is very thought-provoking.

 

The Reason by Lacey Sturm

The Reason by Lacey Sturm (NF)

“What would happen if we understood how our lives touch every person we encounter in this world?” — Lacey Sturm

  1. ★★★
  2. ★★★★

In her autobiography, The Reason, rock princess Lacey Sturm (of the band Flyleaf) tells her story about faith and unbelief, bitter disappointment in God and returning to her roots, in this autobiography. When she was young, Lacey lost her beloved younger cousin to murder. The incident damaged her so badly that it, along with several other painful situations, helped her to become an angry destructive teenager.

Then, on the day that she decided she’d had enough and would kill herself, a raging argument with her grandmother, a forced trip to church, and a strange pronouncement by a pastor and an elder whom she didn’t know changed her life entirely.

Today, Lacey is still making music, mothering her sons, and telling her story of pain, hope, loss, and redemption, and she’s written several autobiographies in addition to this one (I’m definitely interested in looking those up in the near future, as well).

I wasn’t familiar with Lacey or her band or story, but I saw an interview with her on Youtube and decided to borrow her book. There was a lot in there that resonated with me, although the specific outward details of our lives are vastly different. The lies she lived in and told herself for years, the longings and anger and despair that she dealt with, those are all familiar to me, even though I experienced an upgringing not at all like hers. The fact that she’s into music also resonated with me, although I’m not familiar with her style of music.

If you’re interested in music, stories of faith, learning how one person overcame depression, despair, and bitterness to become a healthy and loving woman, wife, mother, daughter, speaker, and writer, this book will hit the spot.

 

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (F)

Men are what they are because of what they do. Not what they say.” — A Man Called Ove

  1. ★★★
  2. ★★★

A Man Called Ove was one of the first audiobooks I listened to when I discovered the utility of listening and painting at the same time. One complete art session usually lasts me 4–5 hours, and if I play an audiobook at 2x speed, I can get through an entire book in one session. Perfect.

Ove was recommended to me by a booktuber I stumbled on (Merphy Napier), and overall I think the book wasn’t terrible. Backman has a strong storytelling writing voice, and also a sense of humor

The story follows (who else?) a man called Ove, who is a grouchy old widower with rigid ideas about right and wrong. One day, a rambunctious family moves in next door, disrupting his entire orderly life. As the story progresses, you learn more about Ove’s idiosyncratic background, his life with his father and his wife, his disappointments and heartbreaks, and the stories that led him to become who he is.

There are a few twists and interesting reveals, one of Backman’s specialties, apparently (I only read another Backman book before this, Anxious People), but overall this story wasn’t really “for me.” There were a lot of things I liked in it, but also something I really didn’t. However, I willingly concede that Backman is quite a good writer, and I may read a few more of his books to learn more about his writing style in the future.

 

Why I Hate Green Beans by Lincee Ray

Why I Hate Green Beans by Lincee Ray (NF)

“With the onset of online dating, one might think this would be my introvert jam since it takes the initial human contact out of the equation. One might be wrong.” — Lincee Ray

  1. ★★★
  2. ★★★

In all honesty, I nearly didn’t finish Why I Hate Green Beans. I read the required 50–100 pages and then returned the book, thinking it wasn’t worth it. Lincee Ray had an acceptable writing voice, tries to be humorous, and is alright at it, but her subject matter (her own life) was pretty boring, at least in the beginning.

But then something made me give the book one more try. I skipped ahead to the final chapter to see if anything changed between the first few chapters and the end, and some offhand comment in there made me skip to the middle of the book.

And I realized that Lincee Ray actually did have a more interesting (and tragic) life than I was led to believe in the introduction, where she mostly talked about her love of The Bachelor and some other childhood stories.

The anecdotes in her book that stood out to me most were her divorce and its aftermath, and what she did when she had a chance to get her dream job, but found out that the gatekeepers were stuck-up [insert-choice-words-here] people. And I was impressed by how she did manage to keep her sense of humor, even when relating some of the most horrendous moments of her life.

It reminds you how unfair and painful and even downright awful life can be, and yet you can find reprieve through humor, writing, and (I guess) even trashy TV?

(I don’t think I’d personally recommend that last one, at least not for long, but there are less productive ways to deal with heartbreak, and apparently Lincee Ray was able to leverage her love of The Bachelor into a paid writing gig, so there’s that…)

I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this book to everyone, generically, but I wouldn’t UN-recommend it, either. If what I wrote about it sounds interesting to you, go ahead and give it a try.

 

 

Watership Down by Richard Adams

Watership Down by Richard Adams (F)

“You know how you let yourself think that everything will be all right if you can only get to a certain place or do a certain thing. But when you get there you find it’s not that simple.” — Watership Down

  1. ★★★★
  2. ★★★★

Who knew a story about a group of rabbits could be so riveting? That’s exactly what Watership Down is about: A saga about rabbits trying to survive humans developers, a long journey, and then a tribe run by an evil, violent dictator rabbit (yep, this may be a book about rabbits, but it’s not exactly a feel-good kids’ story, at least not totally)

I didn’t technically read this book, but listened to the audiobook reason. Ironically, I was working on a picture of rabbits while listening to this book about rabbits. Timing worked out pretty well, there.

The main critique I have about this book is more of a me-thing: I think I came across this book for it too late for it to really capture my imagination. (Either that, or I was too distracted by painting rabbits to pay 100% attention to an audiobook about rabbits).

Otherwise, this book has a brilliant concept, is well told, comments on some important ideas (good conversation starter, for those who like to think about what they read).


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