Book Review: Spaghetti Head by Sarah Tyley

I’ve probably said a million times that one of the things I love about being a book-blogger is the opportunity to read new and interesting books by indie authors. Spaghetti Head by Sarah Tyley is a perfect example of why!   
Spaghetti Head

I received an ARC of the book from Sarah after weighing in on her book blurb via Twitter and I’m SO GLAD I volunteered to take the few minutes to comment on her blurb and get to “meet” Sarah, and through her, Nell and Sid/Cyd.

This book truly defies classification. There are sci-fi elements, as it’s set in the future with all sorts of new technology and gadgets — some of it scares me, to be honest. I’ve read and blogged a bit about AI before – freaks me out. No doubt it takes a lot of creativity to come up with the future world and all it’s accompanying technological advances (which, truthfully, seem mostly plausible).

Beyond sci-fi, there’s the whole post-apocalyptic thing – which really is two-fold. First, there’s the new world order and governance structure (The System) that comes about. Tyley creates an entirely new system of world government, taking gender, technology, and–she seems to argue–inevitable power struggles into account. Along with this, she adeptly brings to life the societal structures and shows us how people actually live in this new world order. The second and equally important part of the post-apocalyptic story: what was The Disaster? This Tyley does equally well. It’s introduced very creatively, weaving the backstory seamlessly into the action of the story. It’s also very believable — I think most readers are at least vaguely familiar with the natural phenomenon (no spoilers!) that Tyley employs to bring about the destruction of the Earth as we know it. It was one of my favorite parts, a super important and fully-fleshed out history for what could easily have been treated as an afterthought to the story.

Sci-fi, apocalypse… what else? Romance! Motherhood! Relationships! These are central themes without being so overpowering that the book would only appeal to women. The book has so many angles to it that I think it could be universally enjoyed.

The parts of the book that are most memorable and with which I identify the most involve mental health and mental health treatment. Nell attends a multi-week mental health “retreat” of sorts to help her deal with her inner voice and unravel the “spaghetti” in her head. The mental imaging techniques used in the treatment would be AMAZING if they truly existed – I couldn’t help but wonder what my own treatment would look like with such techniques available. Having experienced a significant amount of intensive mental health treatment, I also felt that Tyley’s portrayal of therapy techniques, as well as the characters’ varying paths to recovery–including how much effort they must expend, even when treatment is “over”–were spot-on just like so much of the rest of the book. It’s believable and really realistic.

Overall, there are so many complicated aspects to the novel that Sarah Tyley weaves together flawlessly. I am impressed by the creativity and depth of knowledge she demonstrates in writing such a complicated and yet utterly relatable story, not to mention the incredible amount of effort it must have taken to put that story into words and edit it to a point where it reads so smoothly!

Five stars!

** Thank you to Sarah Tyley for a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review!

Book Review: The House of the Soul by Annie Dawson

The House of the Soul: A Novel

Ok, friends, this book was SO GOOD that I’m seriously embarrassed it took me so long to review. I read this book almost all in one night, while I held my newborn on the couch because it’s the only way she’d sleep…I would have finished it all that night but my Kindle died around 3am and I was forced to watch TV instead. That child is now 18 months old… so, it’s been a LONG TIME. But anyway – the book!

This book was EXCELLENT. Part of the book synopsis says, “THE HOUSE OF THE SOUL is a journey of love, loss, and friendship, and a treasure map for anyone brave enough to embark on the precarious voyage of self-discovery.” And it’s true — but it spoke to me most because the central character is a mother. The book follows Ella as she struggles to figure out if there’s “more” to her than “Mom,” and how to reconcile her past (educated, photographer, Peace Corps volunteer) with her current life (stay-at-home-mom of two). I think any woman who has struggled with motherhood and personal identity will identify with Ella’s struggle.

We follow Ella as she struggles with friendships, her marriage, and herself and ultimately see that it’s only Ella who has lost her ability to see all the varied parts of herself. Her true friends and her husband know and recognize Ella for the woman she was, is, and will continue to be.

I identified David (her husband) with my husband for the care and love he shows Ella both in allowing her to explore her own insecurities and struggles and in the support he shows for her as a person.

Beyond the sort of heavy life themes, the book appears to be semi-autobiographical and gives us some insights into life as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ghana, which is super interesting!

Overall, fantastic book – well-worth a read, particularly for women in the throes of the self-evolution that comes with parenting!

Five stars!

(Sorry, I forgot to mention: I received this book for free in exchange for an honest–though very belated–review. Thank you!)

Book Review(ish): 9 Days to a Deeper Prayer Life with the Holy Spirit

I got this short e-book for free when it was first released (in December 2014), but didn’t pick it up and actually open it until 10 days ago. Since the authors, John-Paul and Annie Deddens, run a website called praymorenovenas.com it probably should have been obvious to me that a book called “9 Days to a Deeper Prayer Life with the Holy Spirit” would be a novena to the Holy Spirit…but for some reason it never occurred to me. So, I opened it up to see what this book was all about and discovered it’s an e-book version of a novena the authors wrote for the express purpose of praying for a deeper prayer life. While I’ve been a subscriber to the authors’ site for a couple of years, I have to say it’s been a long, long time since I’ve actually prayed any of the prayers…so I decided to “read” (ie, pray) the book. Below are some thoughts I have about the book!

So, firstly – I’m impressed that the authors made the effort to get an “imprimatur,” which is a simple declaration from a representative of the Catholic Church that a book is “free from doctrinal or moral error.” Essentially, you can be sure there is nothing in the book that will expressly contradict established teachings of the Church. There are lots of books that have one, and lots that don’t. I like it when they have one – then I don’t feel like I have to weed through and be attentive that I’m not leading myself astray.

Secondly, the book gives a nice little background explanation about what a novena is, how it came to be, and why one might consider praying one. I’d never read about the origins of novenas before and so I found this to be quite useful and interesting. The authors also provide some background thoughts on why it’s important to strengthen our relationship with the Holy Spirit. While this is super basic and takes only a few pages, I think it was a great section to include and touches on some important ideas. If you’re interested in understanding the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives, this provides a nice, short explanation.

Finally, the book then goes into the nine days of prayer. The prayers are short and simple and took me between five and ten minutes to pray each night for nine nights. I don’t know exactly that I’d say I have a deeper relationship with the Holy Spirit today than I did ten days ago, but I can say that reading the book motivated me to actually pray every night for the past nine nights. As important as my Catholic faith is to me, I fall very, very easily into an “academic” or “intellectual” rather than a truly lived faith. I appreciate and make an effort to understand the doctrine and the “rules,” but have a hard time talking to God or allowing an emotional connection. Alas, all the thinking is nothing without the relationship, and I do feel this book was, for me, one small step in the direction of strengthening that relationship.

What surprised me the most reading this book is how easy and comfortable it felt to simply open up my Kindle every night before bed and pray the short prayers. I’ve tried a lot of different formats in the past with little success (this has more to do with me than the formats, of course), and this, I think, could be a winner for me. It occurred to me that I could even put all the prayers of a novena together (if that’s what I chose to pray) in a Word document and email it to my Kindle…and then just do the same thing I did with this book. It’s occurred to me since reading this book, also, to get an e-copy of the Bible – maybe it would feel less intimidating to read a short passage on my Kindle before bed than to break out the actual book? Who knows… the point is, I think, that the authors accomplished their purpose with me (a year + after gifting me and their other subscribers with the book) – I prayed more because of this book, and I’m thinking about praying more than I had been before. It’s a perfect, almost-effortless way to touch your toes back into the waters of nightly prayer.

5 stars!

*While the book was free, the decision to review was my own. Many thanks to John-Paul and Annie Deddens for the book and the service they provide through praymorenovenas.com. You can buy the book here on Amazon for only $.99!