Review: Made For You and Me: Going West, Going Broke, Finding Home by Caitlin Shetterly

Book: Made For You and Me: Going West, Going Broke, Finding Home by Caitlin Shetterly
Published: March 2011
Genre: Memoir
Pages: 256 pages
Where I got it: received an e-book from NetGalley
Buy It: Amazon

Summary (from Goodreads): Newlywed Caitlin Shetterly and her husband, Dan Davis, two hardworking freelancers, began their lives together in 2008 by pursuing a lifelong, shared dream of leaving Maine and going West. At first, California was the land of plenty. Quickly, though, the recession landed, and a surprise pregnancy that was also surprisingly rough made Caitlin too sick to work. By December, every job Dan had lined up had been canceled, and though he pounded the pavement, from shop to shop and from bar to bar, he could not find any work at all.

By March 2009, every cent of the couple's savings had been spent.
So, a year after they'd set out with big plans, Caitlin and Dan packed up again, this time with a baby on board, to make their way home to move in with Caitlin's mother. As they drove, Caitlin blogged about their situation and created audio diaries for NPR's Weekend Edition and received an astounding response. From all across the country, listeners offered help, opening their hearts and their homes.
And when the young family arrived back in rural Maine and squeezed into Caitlin's mother's small saltbox house, Caitlin learned that the bonds of family run deeper than any tug to roam, and that, with love, she and Dan could hold their dreams in sight, wherever they were.
Made for You and Me captures the irrepressible spirit and quiet perseverance of one small family and offers to share that strength with any reader willing to make the journey.

My thoughts: Caitlin Shetterly's Made For You and Me was a breath of fresh air for me. Everything about their struggle to survive as a family during the current recession is so relatable because we are all still living it today. For Caitlin and her husband, Dan, they have had a particularly hard time as freelancer's in such uncertain times. This memoir follows the couple as they embark on a journey across America (twice) and learn just how important family is along the way.

Before I begin gushing, let me explain to you all that this book resounded with me more so because my boyfriend and I did the same thing that this couple did. Last summer, I quit my job and we moved across the country from New England to California for a change of scenery. Luckily in our case, my boyfriend was able to continue working his same job so we still had his income. It was difficult and exhausting looking for a job when I arrived here. The connections I had always seemed to fall through and even though I was getting called for interview after interview, I would find out I'd made it to the final few candidates, only to lose out to one of the others. I also passed up on a couple of opportunities along the way because I was holding out for that "perfect" job. It took me 5 months before I realized I needed to hunker down and take anything I could get and that's where I am now, almost a year later.

I've read reviews about this book from others who criticize Caitlin and Dan for not trying hard enough but I think it's pretty easy to say that when you aren't in that situation. It takes a lot to give up your home and move everything you own clear across the country to a foreign place, and I think their story is a great one to read about. In Made For You and Me, we follow them on their journey to LA and then back to Maine about a year later. Along the way, they gain a family member and lose another. There are so many emotional moments in this book and I really enjoyed Caitlin's style of writing. There's such an inspirational message about perseverance and family values. There were many moments where I thought if I was in her shoes, I would have had a complete meltdown or flipped out at Dan, but the two of them always pushed past their differences.

I loved the parallels she drew between her life and that of Laura Ingalls Wilder in the Little House series so much, I'm actually planning to reread them myself. Also, the way she wrote so fondly about motherhood had me all teary eyed and excited about having children of my own someday. Her outlook on family is so bright, despite their imperfections. This memoir came about from Caitlin's blog which I definitely plan to read through since I still felt a sense of wanting more at the end. I'm hoping her blog will pick up where this memoir left off.

My rating: 4 stars


Review: My Favorite Band Does Not Exist by Robert T. Jeschonek

Book: My Favorite Band Does Not Exist by Robert T. Jeschonek
Published: Clarion Books, July 2011
Genre:  Fiction
Pages: 272 pages
Where I got it: e-book from NetGalley
Buy It: Amazon

Summary (from Goodreads): Sixteen-year-old genius Idea Deity believes that he exists only in the pages of a novel written by a malevolent, omnipotent author . . . and that he will die in chapter 64. Meanwhile, an older teen named Reacher Mirage sings lead vocals for the undercover rock band Youforia . . . a band that exists in Idea’s world only as an Internet hoax that Idea himself perpetuated. Then there’s beautiful and mysterious Eunice Truant, who links their destinies. When Idea and Reacher plunge into the reality of Fireskull’s Revenant, the twisted epic fantasy novel they’ve both been reading, chapter 64 bears down on them like a speeding freight train on an unstoppable collision course. Being trapped in a bad book can be a nightmare. Just ask Idea Deity.

My thoughts: Wow. This was one of those books that was just not for me. Going into My Favorite Band Does Not Exist, I expected something much more focused on music. I wasn't quite sure what was happening for much of the first half of this book. Once I caught on and was able to remember which character was which, I had pretty much lost any interest I had. I only finished it because of that nagging I get when I try to throw a book into a corner, forgotten. I attempted reading this on my Nook, but it kept crashing it and I think I should have gotten the hint when that first happened. I ended up having to read it on my laptop which made it much easier for me to get distracted. I've never played Dungeons and Dragons nor do I really know anything about it, but for some reason the premise of this book reminds me of what it would be like to play a game like that. For some, it may be an exciting adventure to read this book, but that was not the case for me.

In My Favorite Band Does Not Exist, Idea Deity believes he is trapped in the book he is reading, Fireskull's Revenant. In an alternate universe, Reacher Mirage is reading that same book. Both characters believe that they will die in Chapter 64. When Idea and Reacher's lives clash and they switch places, I thought it had potential to turn itself around for me, but I still couldn't get into it. I was hoping for something more than a sci-fi, Hitchhiker's Guide to The Galaxy-esque story. The book is described as "School of Rock meets Alice In Wonderland" and the book cover is what got my attention in the first place. Sadly, this one fell flat for me.

My rating: 1 star 


Review: Greyhound by Steffan Piper

Book: Greyhound by Steffan Piper
Published: AmazonEncore, 2010
Genre: YA
Pages: 240 pages
Where I got it: ordered from Borders.com
Buy It: Amazon

Summary (from Goodreads): Ushered out from his Stockton, California home by his emotionally detached mother and her latest boyfriend, twelve-year-old Sebastien Ranes must fend for himself and travel two thousand miles across the country. He is on his way to live with his grandmother and sister in Pennsylvania. Along the way, he will learn that sometimes caring, guidance and understanding can come from some unlikely people.
Marcus, a fellow bus passenger, is a man who has been neglected more by society than his family. As a young black ex-con, he is not the epitome of the person most would pick as a chaperone for their child's cross country trip. Yet rather than be held apart by their differences, Marcus and Sebastien are drawn together by the things that make us all alike.
Along the way, he acts as both guide and protector, as Virgil was to Dante and Jim to Huck Finn. Imparting his own style of wisdom, he shows Sebastien that, despite the darker parts of the human condition, people can and do care for one another. This is a modern day journey not just from one house to another. This is a journey taken by a young boy into manhood, and by the reader into his world. Like every trip, there are many stops along the way. But this journey differs in the way young Sebastien arrives at his destination. Greyhound is the story of this journey.

My thoughts: I love reading about cross country road trips so when I heard about Greyhound, I was definitely interested in giving it a try. Then when I saw the book design featured an old cassette tape, I just knew I was going to love this. Sebastien Ranes was such a loveable leading character which made it all the more enjoyable to read his story. A day before his 12th birthday, his mother puts him on a bus to travel from California to Pennsylvania all by himself. Throughout the four days of his trip, Sebastien encounters more excitement and drama than many people do in a lifetime and also manages to do a lot of growing up in such a short amount of time.

Along the way, he befriends the ex-con Marcus, who takes Sebastien under his wing for the remainder of the trip and actually saves his life at one point. The adventures these two men have kept me on the edge of my seat and had me laughing out loud quite a few times. They may have been an unlikely pair but I thought the friendship they developed was so cute. I admired the way Marcus looked after Sebastien and let him in on some of life's little secrets. It was touching and sad thinking that this was the most genuine friendship Sebastien had ever had. For someone who came from such terrible parents, he was amazingly level headed and curious. If Sebastien's story had continued, I could definitely see him doing some wonderful things with his life.

In Greyhound, Piper did a great job of eliciting emotion from the reader. One minute I was so angry about the way Sebastien's mother treated him, the next I was disgusted by the creepy guy in the suit and then right after that I was oohing and ahhing at how adorable Sebastien was. I felt as though I was occupying the third seat in the back of that bus, right next to Sebastien and Marcus. I found myself very protective of him as well. Anytime there was a hint of danger, my senses were heightened, like I knew something bad was coming but I had the ability to keep him safe.

This was a nice change of pace from what I've been reading lately and I would highly recommend it to anyone who needs a quick fix for their wanderlust!

My rating: 4.5 stars