Stuff That Sucks – A Mental Health Book Review

Time for another book review!  This one is a little different from my last few.  Usually I pick one of my favorite fiction novels, as I tend to read when I’m stressed.  This time, however, I want to review a book we picked up for my daughter on a whim.

Before we get too far, I do use affiliate links to bring in income for site costs. As such, there may be links within this post to allow you to purchase items discussed. If you chose to purchase, I get a small fee but you don’t have to pay anything extra. If you have questions, see my disclosures here. On to the post!

Stuff That Sucks Ben SedleyStuff That Sucks is a teen self-help styled guide written by Ben Sedley, and it talks about exactly what the title suggests, a whole bunch of sucky stuff (including the stuff that makes the stuff that sucks suck more). Thankfully, he also talks about ways to accept this and not let it get in the way of what’s important to you.

Confused?  Let me clarify a little.

This book is based on a form of therapy called acceptance and commitment therapy, or simply ACT.  The main premise behind this particular therapy is learning to accept that sometimes things really do suck.  Sometimes you will be worried about something, or scared, or ashamed, or any number of awful feelings, and that’s alright.  The idea is to acknowledge the feelings, accept their value, and not let them get in the way of your goals in life.  That’s the commitment part.

ACT focuses on creating a value driven life. Think of it like this: We all have something that we care about, a major driving force in who we want to be and something that gives us the reason to continue.  Those things are our values.  For me, teaching is something very important to me and it influences almost every decision I make in life. In order for me to live a value driven life, I do things that uphold that value.  For instance, I regularly make time to tutor, and I always look for new ways of teaching and connecting with my students. I will even find ways to incorporate teaching into my daily life, from being open to answering questions, training at work, to this blog.  All of these actions bring me closer to my values.

Stuff That Sucks, in particular, focuses on identifying emotions as they occur, learning ways to feel and accept them. Once the reader has passed that point, the book walks them through how to identify their values and how to create a value driven life.

Who should read this?

Stuff That Sucks is technically marketed as a quick help guide for teenagers, and I’d say they’re a good option. But beyond that, almost anyone could benefit from this book.  The fact is, we all go through things that suck now and then, and learning how to live with it is a giant step toward a better life. With that said, I would honestly recommend this for kids as young as 8 or so, depending on their needs.  The reading is not overly complex and the content could do a lot for an anxious or depressed child. As for adults, well, lets just say I read it quickly, but I’ve also gone back to it again and again.

Needless to say, I highly recommend this book.

Who shouldn’t read this book?

Avoid it if you live a life without anything bad in it at all.  Or maybe don’t avoid it, because I suspect you have someone in your life that could really benefit from it.

A final note

This book is by no means a fix for all that ails you.  It is a great tool, but anxiety and depression often require more than just one tool.  Proper therapy, medication, and support are also often critical in managing a chronic mental illnesses, so please keep that in mind.

Also, note that this is a “quick guide” and so it’s not going to cover everything that could be learned about ACT (which is also only one of many different therapies for chronic mental health conditions).

And with that, I say…

Go get this book!



Return of the Dapper Men – A Book Review

Return of the Dapper Men – A Book Review

Most of the books I review here are ones I discovered in days long ago. Truth be told, I don’t have a lot of time for reading these days, between work, the kids, the dog, the rat, and just general chaos.  So, imagine my delight when I found a new book at the library, and ripped right through it. Amazing, right?

Okay, before you get too impressed, it’s a graphic novel I found in the kids section at the library.  So, the fact that I finished it quickly shouldn’t be too amazing. That said, I was very pleasantly surprised. It was one of those moments where you’re wandering the shelf, you glimpse a cover out of the corner of your eye, and give it a try.  There’s no way to know how it will end.  Today, I will share my discovery with you.

Before we get too far, I do use affiliate links to bring in income for site costs. As such, there may be links within this post to allow you to purchase items discussed. If you chose to purchase, I get a small fee but you don’t have to pay anything extra. If you have questions, see my disclosures here. On to the post!


Please, allow me to introduce Return of the Dapper Men, by Jim McCann and Janet Lee.

Ahem, allow me a little liberty in setting the scene here…

Two households, both alike in dignity, In Fair Anorev, where we lay our scene…. Okay, so it’s not quite Shakespeare. The story, however, at least at start feels somewhat similar to that of the great bard.  Our story starts in Anorev, a land without time.  The children (for there are no adults) all live underground and do nothing but play and create, although play has lost meaning and feels more like work.  Above is the land of the robots who work, although that work seems to have lost it’s meaning as well. Neither side interacts with the other, for the feud is ancient.

However, as in all good stories, there is an exception.  Ayden and Zoe are friends that defy the norm.  Ayden is a curious young boy who asks questions, even though he doesn’t really understand what the questions are.  Zoe is a silent robot with a massive destiny that no one seems to know how to start.  No one, until the Dapper Men arrive. With the return of the men comes the return of time.  With the return of time, comes the end of time.  Or maybe it’s the beginning?

Who should read this?

Oh man…that’s a tough question. I really enjoyed this book a lot, but it’s a bit harder to pinpoint why.  The prose is beautiful. The whole book reads like a poem, slowly drifting through the pages and revealing a bit more of itself with each line and each page. The art is stunning, at times simple, and others spectacular.  Both together…

If you are an adventurer when you read, read this book.  If you want a book to drift through, read this book.  If you want something very different from pretty much anything you read last…read this book. It’s worth it.

Who shouldn’t read this?

If you’re not comfortable with being a bit confused for a while (if not the whole time), then I really would not recommend this one.  While I found the storytelling style to be interesting, I can definitely see how others would find it incredibly frustrating.  Even when our protagonist finds out exactly what’s going on, we the readers have no clue.  It’s definitely a mystery the whole way through.  Or rather, a journey.

Another note, while I found it in the kids section at our library (and the words themselves are not too complex), the story style might be a bit difficult for some readers.  Honestly, I haven’t decided whether I’ll recommend it to my daughter even, because it tends to wind about itself quite a bit.  If you have a kiddo who’s still working hard on their reading comprehension, you might want to shelve this one until later.

Also, obviously, if you’re not a fan of graphic novels, this one isn’t likely to be your cup of tea.

And with that… I say give it a go!  As I said, I was pleasantly surprised considering this was a random grab.  In fact, I intend to read it a few more times before I return it because I suspect it will be the sort of book that keeps on giving.

And if you do read it, let me know what you thought!



Edit: I did end up giving this to my daughter to read and she decided she really loved it.  When I asked her why, though, should couldn’t say.  So, yeah.  Good book but it’s really hard to pinpoint why!

The Codex Alera

Jim Butcher is relatively well known for his long lived series, The Dresden Files, but he has written many other books along the way.  Top of that list: The Codex Alera.

What?  You say that’s a series and not a book? You’re right!

Before we get too far, I do use affiliate links to bring in income for site costs. As such, there may be links within this post to allow you to purchase items discussed. If you chose to purchase, I get a small fee but you don’t have to pay anything extra. If you have questions, see my disclosures here. On to the post!

Furies of Calderon Cover art (Ace Books)

The first book of The Codex Alera published by Ace Books.

I know I typically review books and not series as a whole, but I feel this one is best served by recommending the whole bunch.  Butcher is a fantastic author, and The Dresden Files is still one of my favorite reads no matter my mood, but it wasn’t until I picked up The Codex Alera that I realized just how skilled a writer he actually is.

I devoured The Furies of Calderon within the first day.  Your main character, Tavi, is a true outcast in his society as one of the only people without any control over the furies of their land. Through a series of events (not too unexpected for those who are familiar with fantasy as a genre), Tavi is thrust into a quest to save the land he knows and loves.

I know.  It’s interesting, but that doesn’t mean Jim Butcher is an amazing author by any means.  I mean, it’s a fairly standard fantasy plot line! True.  This actual genius of the series isn’t something you’ll really catch until the third or fourth book.  Butcher shows his skill along the way through the carefully woven plot lines that span the entirety of the series.  I remember being shocked in the fourth book at one major reveal, and even more so when I realized he’d hinted at it in the first few pages of the first book.  Either he’s a master of planning, or he’s just really good at catching little details and running with them!

Who should read this?

Well, pretty much anyone who loves your traditional fantasy novel.  Tavi is really the underdog and it’s so easy to root for him as he grows and finds his place in the world.  If you’re a fan of Butcher’s other stuff, you will likely enjoy them and his writing style, although this series is less humor filled (or rather, more subtly humorous) than The Dresden Files.

If you’re a fan of well woven series, and ones that have a defined story arc with a known ending, this is also a great choice.  You know exactly what you’re getting when you start the series…no worries of the author dying off before you get to finish the tale (*cough * cough*).

Who shouldn’t read this?

It’s a fantasy novel that fits very firmly in its genre, so if you want something that’s going to bend and blur the lines between genres, you probably won’t enjoy it as much.  Honestly, though, that’s about all I can think of.  With this series, you get what you expect, so you’ll be able to quickly decide if you’re not interested.

And with that….get reading! Curl up with a warm beverage and a blanket for a solid fantasy adventure.  Cheer for Tavi as he fulfills his destiny.  And then let me know what you thought!


The Invention of Hugo Cabret

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Take a moment with me to try something a little different.  Chances are you’ve heard of the book I’m reviewing today, since it is one of the few novel style books to win a Caldecott Medal.  It is undoubtably unique in style, and so, we are going to take a unique approach to this. Close your eyes….

Wait…don’t close your eyes!  That might make it a little hard to read.  Just follow along with me here.

Before we get too far, I do use affiliate links to bring in income for site costs. As such, there may be links within this post to allow you to purchase items discussed. If you chose to purchase, I get a small fee but you don’t have to pay anything extra. If you have questions, see my disclosures here. On to the post!

Invention of Hugo Cabret by Selznick

Imagine you are in a movie theater.

The lights go dark…

The curtain rises…

Suddenly, you see a whole new world appear in front of you.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick perfectly blends two different art forms while paying homage to a number of others. A mix of traditional writing and intricate sketches, the illustrations don’t show you what the words say but instead fill in the pieces the words miss. As a reader, you’ll spend hours getting lost in the intricate sketches and along the way learn about the history of movies and automotons.

Hugo Cabret is a young orphan boy living in a Parisian train station.  His life depends on staying hidden, but that changes when he meets a young girl and a crabby old man.  From there, he is slowly drawn out into a mysterious new world and a new way of living.

Who Should Read This?

This is a fantastic book to help die hard graphic novel fans transition into traditional reading.  Graphic novels have done a wonderful job getting the reluctant readers to sit and enjoy books, but there are few that can bridge the gap toward a more traditional novel.  This book does exactly that.

This is also a great choice for anyone interested in movie history, exciting mysteries, beautiful art, non-traditional formatting of books, and so much more.  One of my favorite aspects of this novel is the way the author makes you feel like you’re involved in some magical mystery, but everything that happens is based in the real world and could actually happen.

Who Shouldn’t Read This?

If you’re the sort of reader that gets frustrated by books doing weird and different things, you probably won’t enjoy this as much.  It requires a bit of mental flexibility to bounce between the story told in words and the part told in pictures.

Also, if you’re looking for a meaty novel, this is not going to be it.  The book is thick, but it’s largely illustrations and even the text has wide margins and borders around it.

And with that… I’ll say if you haven’t read this book yet (and I’ll admit, I’d be surprised if you haven’t), you NEED to read it.  Honestly, most skilled readers can easily finish this book in an afternoon, but you’ll likely take longer just soaking in all the details in the art.  That said, I hadn’t realized just how hooked I was until the chase scene in the middle.  Instead of leisurely flipping through pages, I was frantically flipping to see if he would get away.  Any book that can do that is worth the time!

I Am the Messenger

I Am the Messenger

There are very few books I feel I can recommend to just about anyone, but this is one of them. Many of you have probably heard of Marcus Zusak simply because The Book Thief went crazy a few years back, but few have looked at his other titles for young adults. I read (and loved) The Book Thief, but honestly I Am the Messenger is hands down one of my favorite novels and between the two, easily the winner.

Before we get too far, I do use affiliate links to bring in income for site costs. As such, there may be links within this post to allow you to purchase items discussed. If you chose to purchase, I get a small fee but you don’t have to pay anything extra. If you have questions, see my disclosures here. On to the post!

book cover for I Am The Messenger by ZusakOur hero, Ed Kennedy, is very much not a hero.  In fact, he’s a self proclaimed loser who had to lie about his age just to get a job.  His hobbies include playing cards and pining over his best friend, Audrey, who he’s loved forever but never had the nerve to pursue (Audrey, on the other hand, claims she loves him too much to mess things up with something as common as sex). All of this changes, though, when he accidentally foils a bank robbery and becomes something of a local celebrity.  That day someone decides to single him out to become a true hero.

Soon after the fateful bank robbery, Ed receives the first of four playing cards in his mailbox, an ace of clubs with three addresses and three times listed on the face.  It is up to him to figure out what the clues mean and what he needs to do to help the ones that need him.

Who should read this?

Honestly, as I said at the beginning, I feel just about everyone should read this book at least once in their life.  This is the sort of book that you will think about for weeks after you finish it, and it will make you think back on all the decisions you’ve made in your life and how they’ve turned you into the person you are.  If you’re interested in a real world type of story, drama, romance, soul searching, or any combination of the above, you will most likely love this book.  There’s even a bit of mystery for those that need that, and a bit of my mystical for those who enjoy it.  All in all, this is a book that has just about everything.

An added bonus, chances are good you can finish this book in a matter of a few hours even if you’re a moderately slow reader.

Who shouldn’t read this? 

If you’ve got serious issues with profanity, you might not get too far in this story.  Ed and his friends are pretty generous with the swearing and if it bothers you, chances are good you won’t be able to settle in a really enjoy this book.

Also, if you’ve struggled through abusive situations and are still trying to work through that, you might find this book a bit triggering.  There are some very dark situations right out of the gate so you should save yourself the pain.  This is a book that can wait until you’ve healed.

And with that… get reading!  Set aside a couple afternoons, find a quiet corner, and go on a journey through your past.

Added note: if you’ve got a teen that’s a reluctant reader, I highly recommend this book!  When I worked at the bookstore, this was one of my top recommendations, and easily number 1 with teachers trying to get students to actually engage in their reading.  Remember, though, LOTS of foul language. This might be a bonus or a negative depending on your reader!



I wanted to take a moment and celebrate the book (and series) that got me truly hooked on science fiction and fantasy, Dragonsong of the Harper Hall trilogy by Anne McCaffrey.  It was one of a rare breed of novels back when I discovered it, due to the fact that it actually was geared toward a younger audience in an age where young adult novels just weren’t a thing.  Imagine, if you must, me with an old, creaky voice saying “Back in my day….” but that’s what it is.  Back in my day, we made do with a few classics and your parents prayed you didn’t run out of options because adult novels just weren’t okay.

Before we get too far, I do use affiliate links to bring in income for site costs. As such, there may be links within this post to allow you to purchase items discussed. If you chose to purchase, I get a small fee but you don’t have to pay anything extra. If you have questions, see my disclosures here. On to the post!

Dragonsong CoverEnter, Dragonsong.

There’s a decent chance if you’ve read Anne McCaffrey’s work you’ll have heard of the Harper Hall trilogy.  This story takes place within the same time frame as the second and third novels in the Dragonriders of Pern series for adults, and in fact, one of my favorite aspects of this series is how you can clearly see events from other novels throughout this one.  When it comes to world building, there’s no doubt in my mind that McCaffrey was a pro.  This story follows the adventures of Menolly as she’s forced to transition to life without her beloved friend, the Harper of Half-Circle Sea Hold.

In Hold culture on Pern, women are often relegated to the very particular roles fit for a woman (I’m sure you can imagine what those would be), but Menolly doesn’t fit that mold.  At a young age, the Harper recognizes her talent for music making and takes her under his wing.  Her parents allow it because no one dares refuse a Harper and because it was easier to let her take care of him than to deal with her attitude, but when the Harper passes on, everyone is faced with the reality that a girl is just not supposed to tune.  Music making is a man’s job.

When the pressure of Hold life gets to be too much, Menolly sneaks out and hides out in the cliffs.  She makes herself a home along the cliff face and, at that moment, her life begins and the lives of everyone on Pern change in an instant.

Who should read this?

Fantasy readers will likely love this book.  As I said before, Anne McCaffrey does an amazing job of building a world with history, culture, conflict, and everything else you’d need to feel like you are living there with the characters.  The people in her world face some of the same troubles we face, but they also are challenged with the dreaded Thread, a spore that devours almost everything it touches.  Her world is rich and believable and, oh yeah, full of tiny and giant dragons!

It’s a fantastic young adult novel, so anyone in the 10 to whatever range should be able to enjoy this book.  I first read it when I was 7 or 8, but I was a pretty aggressive reader.  Still, if you have a kid that loves devouring books, this is probably a great pick for them too.  As always with younger readers though, it’s a great idea to read the book yourself first (or at a minimum, scan through it) to make sure it’s subject and reading level appropriate for your kid!

Who shouldn’t read this?

Kids who don’t enjoy fantasy novels probably won’t get a lot out of this.  I mean, they might, but it could be an uphill battle getting them sit down and actually read it.  Similarly, you’d want a kid who’s comfortable figuring out definitions from context.  I passed it along to my daughter (who loves fantasy) and she didn’t get past the introduction because she got frustrated with the unfamiliar words.  If they struggle too much, it might be worth shelving this book until they get a little older and more skilled at reading.

And with that, I say… enjoy!  The trilogy was recently re-released as a boxed set.  I managed to snag a new copy at the book store (because my old ones fell to shreds) but if you’re not wanting to spend the money, this one is common enough to find at the library or even sometimes at a used book store. Not too often at the bookstore, though, because people tend to hold on to it once they find it!

Also, if your young reader doesn’t like reading books because the main character is a girl, then you’ll be happy to know that the third book in the series follows a young boy in the Harper Hall.  So, if they balk at reading Dragonsong, give Dragondrums a try instead!