Book Review: Band of Brothers by Stephen E. Ambrose

Band of Brothers Review

You know, it’s about time I read this. I have seen the series a bunch of times (I’ve rewatched it more than once since my last big rewatch as a historian, which you can read about here), I’ve at this point read several of the guys’ autobiographies, with more of them on my TBR list – but I never actually bothered reading the source material.

I went in kind of expecting the worst to be honest. I’ve read a number of online reviews of the book that hammer hard on the fact that Ambrose didn’t really seem to use much reference material beyond the company memory books, newsletters, and interviews, while still presenting the writing as basically a research book. These criticisms made me skeptical – as you can see from my review of the mini-series. I have no qualms with the occasional “truthiness” of the HBO series, since it’s not presented as a documentary, but I expected to have some massive problems with that in the book.

I was pleasantly surprised.

Ambrose is actually very clear throughout that this information is always coming from recollections – recollections that might be a little fuzzy after 60+ years, and quite possibly a little biased too. He is clear that the story is being told through the eyes of the men of E company, not through the eyes of historians – and based on what I had read beforehand, I had not expected this.

He includes little reminders of the book’s nature as a collective memoir throughout, but nowhere is it more clear than in the treatment of Sobel. Throughout, the man is largely portrayed by the men of Easy as a bit of a villain. He is universally hated and the guys hammer that home throughout their interviews and in their various writings. As a result, his portrayal in the HBO series by David Schwimmer gets roughly the same treatment.

Ambrose, however, on several occasions softens the words of E company with his own assessment, even calling the great Dick Winters into question on occasion. He gives Sobel a lot of credit for preparing E company to deal with what they dealt with, and that, to me, says a lot about Ambrose’s approach. He does not present the testimony of the men as absolute truth, and the result is a really fascinating collective memoir.

A few parts did get a little plodding for me, mainly because I’ve seen the HBO series several times and in its treatment of the big battles it stays pretty faithful to Ambrose’s retelling – and in some cases even makes it more exciting (for example, Bull Randleman killing the German in the barn is like half of an episode in the series but only has like two or three lines devoted to it in the book). But even if you’ve seen the miniseries, I’d still say this is worth the read.

Overall Rating: 8/10.

In other news, I should really decide on a consistent scale to use when rating my books! Suggestions are welcome, since I can’t seem to make up my mind!

Have you read anything good lately?

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Review

Harry Potter

So look what I bought and read yesterday!

Warning: Spoilers, ahoy – so scroll no further if you haven’t read it yet and don’t wish to be spoiled (although they will be on the mild side).

Okay, so last warning, seriously, there be spoilers ahead…

Alright. So.

I kind of really liked it, and I wasn’t really expecting to.

Let me explain.

I was kind of disappointed when they announced it was simply going to be a release of the play script instead of a novelization but frankly I wasn’t super duper hyped about the announcement either way. Because while I love the Harry Potter series, I do need to be honest about the fact that I enjoyed each of the last few books a little less than the last. One through four remain sort of the pinnacle of the Harry Potter world for me, with five through seven each being slightly more “meh” than the last.

And I was expecting the same sort of “meh” from this, so I wasn’t super excited. I didn’t even pre-order it. In fact, I was basically operating under an “I’ll get to it when it comes out in paperback” sort of attitude until my friend Kathleen read it and said she was super upset and disappointed with it.

And of course, I’m a rubbernecker at heart, so if it was that much of a disaster – I HAD to read it.

So to the bookstore I went.

Four hours later I was done with it, and was pleasantly surprised. It seems that I really liked it, for all the same reasons that it seems a lot of die-hard Potter fans didn’t.

To be honest, the plot itself was sort of meh in the big picture. I’m kind of over the whole time-travel-messes-things-up-in-the-past-gotta-fix-it trope, to be honest. But that’s not what really shined for me in this script. What was the true gem of this was the dialogue and the character writing. I love the way the adults have grown slightly complacent, and how their flaws are allowed to shine. I love the way the cruelty of kids is laid bare. I love the slightly melodramatic conflict between Harry and his son, and how Albus’ teenage angst is handled in a FAR less annoying way than Harry’s was in Order of the Phoenix. I love how they handled the first few scenes, establishing the conflict and resentment that grows between Harry and Albus, and how both Albus and Scorpius are having a rough time at school over the first few years using short snapshots to move time along. I even love that Ron has become king of the Dad jokes (I ALWAYS knew that would happen).

I think a lot of what I’ve been seeing in terms of disappointment is that people aren’t taking it for what it is… a script. It seems to me a lot of people really built this up in their heads because of the way its been marketed as the “8th Harry Potter book.” But it’s not a book. It’s meant for a stage performance, and I think maintaining sight of that as I read through it helped me enjoy it. Because I can see how upset you could end up if you were expecting a story of the magnitude of the novels. I really can. And in that sense, I think me not really having high hopes for it to begin with really helped me avoid disappointment and just have fun reading.

Because that’s really what it is. A fun little read.

Final Verdict: 4/5 stars.

What’s Up, Wednesday?

During the lull of the last few months I’ve been…

antm logo

… listening to: America’s Next Top Model. I can’t really say that I’ve been watching it, as it’s mostly just been on in the background as I work. I like seeing the results of the photo shoots, and there’s something about Tyra Banks that I just really like for whatever reason. I don’t really have words for why I like her so much, but I do. I know she’s got a reputation for being a little bit cuckoobird, but I love it. She just seems like she’s so unabashedly her, and I admire that. I imagine it’s far easier to just be YOU, weird and goofy and all, with no worries when you’ve got a bazillion dollar empire behind you, but even so. So old seasons of ANTM have been my soundtrack for the last few weeks.

brush calligraphy

… learning: brush calligraphy. This was one of my New Years Resolutions, and unlike some other resolutions that I’ve made in the past, I’ve been working pretty consistently on this one for most of the year. I’m still just okay, but I can actively see improvement from a few months ago, so that’s pretty cool.

game of thrones

… watching: Game of Thrones. Oh. My. God. How did I not hop on this train earlier!? nnngghhhhhhh. Jim and I started watching a couple of weeks ago after my brother bought my Dad season one for Father’s Day (my dad read the first book back in the day, and enjoyed it), and after I accidentally watched the “Battle of the Bastards” episode (the apartmentmate was watching it and I perked up at the SUPER AWESOME depiction of a pitched battle… I love me a good medieval murderfest…) We’re on season 3 now. This show, man… It makes me angry and frustrated, and sad and then mad all over again… but (generally) I love every second.

sansa stark red

…obsessing over: my new Sansa Stark red hair. Basically this is the exact color I’ve always wanted. Sort of ginger, sort of brown, with just a little bit of blonde depending on the light… it’s like, perfect. And after starting to watch game of thrones? I FINALLY had something other than like a video game screenshot (my Inquisitor and my Sole Survivor have this exact color) to use as reference for my stylist. Sansa Stark red. Perfect.

pokemon go

…playing: Pokemon Go. Because who isn’t? Well, plenty of people. But I’m playing, so yea. RIP my phone battery.

armpit cuddles

… enjoying: getting to know this little brat. Sieglinde. My parent’s new Goldendoodle puppy. And brat is definitely the right word for her… But I love her. Full post on her to come.

… working on: getting my life back together. Those of you who have been around on this blog journey with me for a while know that the past year and a half have been rough for me thanks to a persistent anxiety problem. My attempts to get a handle on it by myself just really weren’t working, as the continued silence here probably made clear. So I’ve finally started therapy to get it under control, and so far the experience has been a very positive one. I feel more relaxed and in control of my life than I can remember, really since I left school.

I have what’s been referred to around the internet as “high-functioning” anxiety. It’s not something that you’d see or that you’d know I was struggling with unless you were super close to me. This article describes what it’s like to have that constant “worst case scenario” running through your head but still appear “well adjusted” (whatever that means) to the rest of the world. My triggers are different, and my version of “learning to live with it” looked a bit different, but the overall idea is the same. Someday I’ll feel like the time is right to share my whole anxiety journey with you. Because I’m still in the process of working on changing my thought patterns, that time isn’t now. But I’m feeling like there’s a real light at the end of the tunnel for the first time in a long time.

So that’s like, super great.

What have you been up to the last few months?

“You think dogs will not be in heaven? I tell you, they will be there long before any of us.” —Robert Louis Stevenson


So I mentioned in my “easing back onto the blog” post that this spring has been just kind of hit after hit – it in many ways exemplified the saying, “When it rains, it pours.” But there was one hit that was significantly harder than the others…

We had to say goodbye to our older family dog Rusalka a few weeks ago.

tired plooper

It’s hit us all very hard. I’m still sort of at a loss for words, because she was… something really special. From the very day we brought her home.

Rusalka Puppy Picture

And that description is so incredibly insufficient.

genghis cuddling with rusalka

You know, when Genghis died two springs ago, I was full of words. Full of eloquent eulogies and willing remembrances. The post I wrote back then was originally three times the final length. I just had so much to say – I gushed sorrowful words and tearful memories for weeks.

Chakka and Plooper

When Chakka died last spring, it was a quieter affair. I didn’t get a chance to post about it on here, as it was in the middle of a lull in my posting, but while her loss was felt keenly, somehow the blow was softer. She had been so far gone at the end that it just seemed the natural order of things. It had certainly not been a shock, and it was a relatively smooth transition for us from sorrow to being able to remember her with a smile and a fond chuckle. But again, talking about her came easily.

christmas rusalka

With Rusalka…

snow frisbee

It’s different somehow. It’s difficult for me to put anything into words that don’t feel cheap and deficient. She was just so… good.

posing with tennis ball

I even waited a few weeks to allow it to sink in, hoping that maybe some distance would give me some time to sort out my writing. No luck.


There’s just this labrador shaped hole that I don’t know how to describe. And every time I try, it all just feels so completely… inadequate. No attempt to verbalize how amazing she was really seems to even come close to giving the full picture.

hashtag cool

So I guess the best I can do is leave you with some photos. A visual memorial of sorts. One I’m sure the internet doesn’t actually care too much about – ya’ll never met her anyway – but one that I feel like I need to post for myself.

my big baby

Rest well, Rusalka. You are missed more than you know.

Still Here.

So, I’m still here.

Yup, still here.

Been quiet lately. Still got major anxiety issues. Still heavier than ever.

But I’m still here.

Making my way out of the hole of anxiety, inactivity, and stress induced physical illness.


Very slowly.

But surely.

This spring has been just hit after hit after hit. Just as I would feel like I was making progress, something else would happen. Another crisis. Another panic. Sometimes of my own making. Sometimes 100% out of my control.

I still haven’t figured out which is worse.

But I am resilient. I am strong. I will get there.





And that’s what’s important.

On Anxiety, Motivation, and Feeling Comfortable In My Own Skin

So, recently I realized I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been. While I’m aware I’ll probably never ever ever be my high school and college weight of 120 lbs again (nor do I think I would I want to be – I feel like more of an adult with some curves on me and my frame just really isn’t built to be that tiny), and that even at my current weight I’d still be considered “thinnish” by national averages – the last year I have really ballooned in size to a point where I’m starting to feel uncomfortable in my own skin.

It started last year when my anxiety got really bad. In recent years I have become a comfort eater, and a retreater. Part of this has to do with how I originally reacted the first time my anxiety problem reared its ugly head in college. At the time I threw myself into work and working out while basically not eating more than a bird because my stomach was so upset all the time from worrying (my anxiety journey is a long, personal story – maybe someday I’ll be comfortable enough in my bloggy persona to share it in detail here, because anxiety is a bitch and nobody should feel like they’re the only one struggling).

I worked very hard to brake those coping habits once I realized that honestly, they were just making me sicker. Once I got back home and started grad school, I was pretty successful. However, that success has kind of gone TOO far at this point. Now in times of high anxiety I find comfort in food, and well, giving myself time to breathe. Mainly by escaping into video games or fiction.

And that was GREAT when I was 22, constantly stressed because of grad school and then feeling in over my head teaching, and my metabolism was running at top speed. Not only did it help me manage my anxiety, but it helped me manage this very new stress load without burning out.

However, as it turns out these are not great coping mechanisms to have when you’re 28, getting older, and your metabolism isn’t what it used to be. When my anxiety got bad again last year, I found myself eating more, being far more sedentary in my down-time, and as a result, gaining both weight and inches.

And since then it’s become sort of this horrible self-feeding cycle. The bigger I get, the more uncomfortable I feel in my clothes. The more uncomfortable I feel in my clothes, the worse I feel. The worse I feel, the more I want to just sit and eat. The more I sit and eat, the bigger I get. The bigger I get the worse I feel. The worse I feel, the worse my anxiety gets. The worse my anxiety gets… you get the idea.

And as you can probably tell because of the quietness around here, this cycle has an immense impact on my productivity during my free time. I just don’t feel creative when I feel awful about myself. I have a thousand amazing ideas – everything from cooking, to decorating, to pysanky (I can’t believe I haven’t picked up a kitska yet this year), to embroidery… but I just can’t seem to motivate myself to get off the couch, put down the controller, and DO THEM because I just feel shitty about everything.

And working out? Pshhhh, fat chance.

But I think I hit a breaking point yesterday. I was getting dressed for work, and had an “oh shit” moment when I realized exactly how limited my wardrobe has become. I went to put on what was always my go to “I’m bloated, but still wanna look good” sweater – and I didn’t like the way it fit.

My shirt that is supposed to look great on me even when I’m having a big day was too tight. I feel like shit physically, I feel like I LOOK like shit (even though I know that that’s me being too hard on myself and I actually don’t)… It’s definitely time to change something.

And so I turn to you, blogosphere. I’ve resolved to do SOMETHING physical every day, just to get me feeling better. With you all as my witnesses.

But I also need ideas. I will eventually start running again, but I have to get into some sort of basic shape (other than couch blob) before I start again so I don’t hurt myself and so I enjoy the run enough to actually make it a habit again.

What are your favorite at-home workouts? Videos? Has anybody used this Daily Burn service I keep seeing commercials for on Hulu? Is it worth it? What about the FitBit? Have any of you recently (or not so recently) had a similar “must-get-fit” experience? How did you do it?

Any tips would be greatly appreciated, and hopefully you can all help keep me accountable as I embark on this journey to once more feel comfortable in my own body – and to get my creative mojo back!