The World’s Strongest Librarian

librarian

An inspiring story of how a Mormon kid with Tourette’s found salvation in books and weight-lifting.

Josh Hanagarne couldn’t be invisible if he tried. Although he wouldn’t officially be diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome until his freshman year of high school, Josh was six years old and onstage in a school Thanksgiving play when he first began exhibiting symptoms. By the time he was twenty, the young Mormon had reached his towering adult height of 6’7″ when — while serving on a mission for the Church of Latter Day Saints — his Tourette’s tics escalated to nightmarish levels.

Determined to conquer his affliction, Josh underwent everything from quack remedies to lethargy-inducing drug regimes to Botox injections that paralyzed his vocal cords and left him voiceless for three years. Undeterred, Josh persevered to marry and earn a degree in Library Science. At last, an eccentric, autistic strongman — and former Air Force Tech Sergeant and guard at an Iraqi prison — taught Josh how to “throttle” his tics into submission through strength-training.

Today, Josh is a librarian in the main branch of Salt Lake City’s public library and founder of a popular blog about books and weight lifting—and the proud father of four-year-old Max, who has already started to show his own symptoms of Tourette’s.

The World’s Strongest Librarian illuminates the mysteries of this little-understood disorder, as well as the very different worlds of strongman training and modern libraries. With humour and candour, this unlikely hero traces his journey to overcome his disability — and navigate his wavering Mormon faith — to find love and create a life worth living.

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It’s funny, all the lines one could draw between my life and Joshs’, the parallel direction we both seem to have taken at some point. I randomly came across this book on Goodreads – it was recommended based on other things I had read – and the title and cover immediately drew me in. My interest was piqued.

The fact that Josh was a librarian, writing his memoir, was one of the original things that drew me to this book. While those professional experiences took a backseat in the book, it is hilarious how relate-able some of his interactions with customers were to me. Some of the conversations I swear I have had almost verbatim at my own library. I particularly loved the old woman who described her favourite genre to be “the nakedest of romances”. Well okay then.

I have worked in a library since I was sixteen years old, and still do. Librarians in my experience are rarely men, and even more rarely, men super into fitness or sports. So I checked out the audio book from my library’s streaming service and started listening. This is how I found out that Josh is Mormon. One questioning his faith by the end of the book, but a self-identified and fully baptized Elder none-the-less.

I am also Mormon. Unlike Josh, I wasn’t raised in the church, I didn’t go on a mission, and I don’t currently attend meetings. My faith is questionable at times, and I don’t feel a sense of urgency about it at the moment. Though I’m sure this would be hard to explain at the Pearly Gates if I was killed tomorrow, I know that I will get more serious about religion when I have children of my own. Right now it feels like I have time to be young, and in my precarious job field, you take the extra Sunday shifts while they’re offered, lest they dry up.

Unlike Josh, I don’t have Tourettes. THANK GOD. But one of my best friends does. I see her physical tics and slight vocal tics every time we hang out. They aren’t severe like the authors’ but I know she wishes she didn’t have them. They can be frustrating to deal with for her friends and family as well, but mostly I wish that she could have freedom from them for her own peace of mind. I know this friend was interested when I started taking about The World’s Strongest Librarian and his Tourettes. She had never thought to name hers the way Josh did, and told me that his description of his disorder was exactly how she had always felt and never been able to express in words.

I hope she chooses to listen to this book. I would highly recommend it for anyone with Tourette Syndrome or anyone looking to find out more about it.

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You are a BADASS

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The #1 New York Times Bestseller YOU ARE A BADASS IS THE SELF-HELP BOOK FOR PEOPLE WHO DESPERATELY WANT TO IMPROVE THEIR LIVES BUT DON’T WANT TO GET BUSTED DOING IT. 

In this refreshingly entertaining how-to guide, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author and world-traveling success coach, Jen Sincero, serves up 27 bite-sized chapters full of hilariously inspiring stories, sage advice, easy exercises, and the occasional swear word. If you’re ready to make some serious changes around here, You Are a Badass will help you: Identify and change the self-sabotaging beliefs and behaviors that stop you from getting what you want, blast past your fears so you can take big exciting risks, figure out how to make some damn money already, learn to love yourself and others, set big goals and reach them – it will basically show you how to create a life you totally love, and how to create it NOW.

By the end of You Are a Badass, you’ll understand why you are how you are, how to love what you can’t change, how to change what you don’t love, and how to use The Force to kick some serious ass.

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I picked up this audiobook from my local library because it has an attractive cover and a person had recommended it to me a couple of years ago, but I didn’t get around to reading it at the time.

The audiobook was read by the author herself, and her voice is … pleasant? She doesn’t grate on my nerves, the way some narrators do, but I also found that I tended to drift off a lot. I’m not sure how much of that is due to her narration skills or her writing skills, but I had a very difficult time connecting to her and paying attention.

I found that Sincero had some interesting and inspirational ideas throughout the book, and I liked that her book was full of “real talk”. She seems to be trying to reach out to the self-doubters, my term for people who scoff at the “self-help” genre, and the author fully admits that she used to be one of those people.

However, Sincero mostly came across a someone who “drank the Kool-Aid”, IMHO. In Part II, she talks about certain profound meditation experiences where she has ‘seen the walls melt’ and ‘people levitating’. Uh-huh. Backing away slowly now.

It may be “boring”, but I am trying to put Christ and financial security at the forefront of my life, and when I have a family of my own, I know that they will jump into first place. I’m definitely not talking about earning millions of dollars, but I am working really hard and making sacrifices to be debt free and then eventually buy a house of my own one day (renting sucks. Am I right or am I right?!).

The author of You are a badass talks a lot about trips, expensive things, and taking tons of chances to make yourself happy even, if the consequences could be dire. She is all about finding the thing that makes you happy.

That is one way to look at life I guess, but personally, I think happiness starts from within. We all need certain things to be happy and what I need is different from what you need. My happiness stems largely from a strong sense of security and self-sufficiency, as well as a close romantic relationship and one of the things I desire most in the future is to have a large family, and a family-oriented existence.

So financial security, owning a home, these things that might seem arbitrary are actually feeding into what I need to be happy, those senses of belonging and of safety, of home. But if I can’t find some degree of happiness in my life now, as I am pursing my dream, that is a problem. To borrow an oft-repeated phrase, life isn’t about the destination, its the journey along the way.

Sincero doesn’t take into account that not everyone is operating on an equal playing field, and appears to scoff at others, creating the idea that she is judging others, and by extension, the reader. I particularly detest that she is of the opinion that depression and anxiety are reflective of an undisciplined mind rather than (in many) actual illnesses.

Her official blurb describes the book as 27 hilarious and inspiring stories, but I didn’t find them to be either. I also had difficulties with following the book. Perhaps this was because the book didn’t hold my attention and I drifted off, but I didn’t find that each chapter was building to a conclusion, that “aha” moment that pulled everything together. Instead, it felt more like a random series of self-congratulating moments and “you had to be there” stories.

You are a badass is a polarizing book. A quick glance at Goodreads user reviews showed that reviewers tended to love or hate this book. Many found her to be incredibly inspiration and there is no denying that Sincero has created “buzz”, but too many others had similar opinions to mine.

If you give this book a chance, I recommend you pick it up from the library until you know whether it is for you or not.

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Beyond the Horizon – a Sons of Templar novel

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From Goodreads: 

Life is counted in tiny breaths, ones that measure the length of your existence. Life stole the ability to make those breaths easy when Lily was nine years old. Turned her quiet. Made her curl into herself, and shut out a world that threatened to bury her under its weight.

The end of her world is what brings him back—her biker. His chocolate eyes pierce her soul while his club tempts her with a life that she didn’t know she could ever have. Especially not when she was clutching the tattered remains of her existence, and with a weight bearing down on her which makes her unfit for the role of Old Lady. Asher changes that. He wants to set about repairing it, repairing her and her broken world. The problem is, even his strong shoulders can’t carry the burden of her sorrow.

Asher doesn’t take no for an answer. She may have given him her heart three years ago, but never in her wildest dreams would she imagine she had possessed his for the same amount of time.

Just when it seems like she may be able to ride off into the horizon, the world isn’t quite finished trying to rob her of breath. Of life.

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This review was really hard to write. I’ve been sitting on it for months and months. Because Beyond the Horizon was really hard for me to read. Straight up trigger warning here.

The book opens with the heroine on the day of her mother’s funeral. She died from cancer. I don’t think there are many people out there who haven’t had cancer touch their lives in some way. I have lost several family members to cancer and didn’t last five pages before I was bawling my eyes out.

The book in large part comprises Lily’s grief and attempts to get on with life. There are also numerous flashbacks to the years where she is her mother’s primary caregiver. Beyond the Horizon has more heart and is much more of a tear-jerker than any other Sons of Templar MC novel. The story is great but it was so difficult to read that it will probably only ever be a book I can skim in future, rather than properly re-reading.

So if you don’t want to read about cancer or a daughter overcoming her mother’s death, skip ahead to Dauntless. If it is a topic you can handle, read on because you are in for a great story.

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xx

Evocation by William Vitelli

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Eileen falls further down the rabbit hole, as her husband continues her training. A deep passion is ignited within her, and Eileen finds herself adapting to her new role more fully than she would have dreamed possible.

As her training continues, she is awakened to a world of new possibilities, more daring and exciting than she would have dreamed of.

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Evocation is the follow-up book to Elicitation. It includes all the sexual practices exhibited in the previous book and also focuses heavily on enforced availability and orgasm denial. Anthony’s goal is to train Eileen’s body and mind to constantly crave sex, especially his type of rough sex.

This book follows the same pattern as the first, in that it is focused on sexual content rather than plot or character development. It is purely erotica with little romance included, but it is so well written that I still enjoyed the story.

If you had to ask me to name the dirtiest book I’d ever read, these two would be vying for top spot!

Not for the faint of heart! If you have concerns about a certain practice triggering a negative memory, please read the story tags for this post before reading the books.

I hope that one day the author will write book three in the Training of Eileen.

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Elicitation by William Vitelli

Okay. Real Talk. This book is straight up porn. I usually hate when people refer to romance or erotica this way, but sex is the main driver of this story. Not plot. Not character development. Sex. But it is incredibly well-written, as is the sequel and it is a book that I really enjoyed.

elicitation

Eileen was happy to begin a new life with her new husband. Visions of fairy tales and “happily ever after” filled her head; as the wife of a wealthy and handsome architect, she thought she would have everything she ever wanted.

And she did, though not quite in the way that she might have imagined.

Her husband Anthony, seeing beneath her repressed exterior someone who wanted nothing so much as to be kidnapped and carried away by pirates, set out to train her as his new sex slave…whether she wanted it or not. What followed was an intensive introduction into a new world she could scarcely have imagined.

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Trigger warning: dubious consent, multiple partners (at times), anal play, humiliation, public play. See the story tags for further details if necessary.

Elicitation contains awesome long sex scenes that are well-written and better than most of the erotica you will find online. If you are looking for something super kinky, this might very well be the book for you!

Anthony and his fiance have discussed her rape fantasies in the past but never acted upon them. Anthony decides independently that Eileen is a woman who could learn to enjoy living the life of a sex slave to her husband, and believes that “wifely duties” are how a woman earns her keep as a stay-at-home-wife. So he uses their European vacation as a means to isolate Eileen from the real world and introduce her to a crash course of expectations.

Something that I found surprising was my reaction to the lack of descriptive butt play in this book. Even though Anthony and Eileen “play” with butt plugs multiple times and also have anal sex, those scenes were mostly glossed over in a couple of paragraphs, rather than the more in-depth descriptions of oral and vaginal sex that the author uses throughout. This was something that struck me as odd throughout and when Anthony finally reaches his goal of training Eileen’s ass to take the largest, plug, it felt anti-climactic.

Elicitation is one of those tales that can be titillating to read about, even though it is nothing you would ever want to experience in real life. Escapism is a leading reason for fiction sales, and I liken a person’s reasons for reading a book like this to those behind the decision to read something like the Hunger Games trilogy. I’m not judging. Yet, even though I am pretty open about reading romance and erotica in RL, this is not a blog post that I will link to my Goodreads. This is my dirty little secret, so we’ll just keep it between you and me, ya?

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The Dom’s Dungeon

cherise sinclair

Foster child. Teenage whore. Now a veterinarian, MacKensie’s turned her life around, but the scars remain. She saves her affection for the animals who never judge or scorn her, but it’s time to get out, move on from her past in Iowa. So, she arranges a vacation exchange to job hunt in Seattle.

Although the house is lovely, one room is locked. Her years in foster care have given her two ‘gifts’: a neurosis about locked doors and the ability to open them. After she gets into the room, she’s appalled…and intrigued. Chains and manacles, whips and paddles, odd benches with straps…

When Alex returns home days early and finds MacKensie draped over the spanking bench in his locked dungeon, he’s furious. But her wariness arouses his protective nature and curiosity, so he strikes a deal to keep her close—she’ll act as his submissive in exchange for a place to stay and help finding a job.

He’d planned to use the veterinarian to deter an ex-girlfriend, not replace her, but with MacKensie’s compelling mixture of strength and vulnerability, the little sub slides right into his well-defended heart.

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Cherise Sinclair is one of favourite authors (possibly my ACTUAL favourite) and I have been reading her for years now. I started in early when she had only published five books or so and never got off the crazy train to sexy-ville.

One of those stories that has always stuck with me was a standalone, set in the Seattle bdsm club “Chains”. The Dom’s Dungeon tells the story of Mackensie, a young veterinarian with serious trust issues who house swaps for two weeks with a wealthy, sexym dominant beast who is travelling to her hometown for a conference. Alas, he misses his flight and walks back into his house to find Mac in an *ahem* compromising position.

This is a shorter story than I usually prefer, coming in around 250 pages, which is characteristic of this author’s earlier writing. However the steamy sex (spanking anyone?!), and strong character development make up for the shorter length. One of the things that I really liked about the Dom’s Dungeon is that the story focuses on the heroine, Mackensie, and her story. Normally I like balance between the couple, but it works in this case and the author doesn’t resort to “hero does something goofy and learns from his mistake” trope to add to his arc just because.

The Dom’s Dungeon is an excellent book to read if you are looking for steamy scenes in a well thought-out plot that actually makes sense and doesn’t have any flowery prose such as “thrusting members” and “womanly petals”.

I have long hoped that Ms. Sinclair would turn The Dom’s Dungeon into a series like she has with the Shadowlands. Steel and Drake have stories that need to be told!!! And although everything is SSC, the vibe I got from Chains is that its a little scarier than the Shadowlands. Maybe because of the extremely negative experience that Mac runs into in the story, or because her nemesis Cynthia got a much more extreme (though just) punishment than I think she would have gotten in the other series. I have commented on the author’s social media a couple of times this year, hoping for a book for Drake or Steel, so who knows, maybe I have put the bug in her ear and she is as ready for a change of pace as I am!

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A Life in Parts – Bryan Cranston

This summer seems to have been the era of Hollywood biographies! I have gone through quite a few of these audiobooks this summer. Not my usual fare but it has been fun to break out a little, especially since I have been in a long romance rut in 2017.

The most recent memoir I listened to was Bryan Cranston’s A Life in Parts. It is funny, poignant, and well-paced. Per my usual fare, I picked a memoir that was read by the author himself. I have written many blog posts on the benefits of this and I loved Bryan’s voice performance so my preference is definitely still holding true.

a life in parts

A poignant, intimate, funny, inspiring memoir—both a coming-of-age story and a meditation on creativity, devotion, and craft—from Bryan Cranston, beloved and acclaimed star of one of history’s most successful TV shows, Breaking Bad.

Bryan Cranston landed his first role at seven, when his father cast him in a United Way commercial. Acting was clearly the boy’s destiny, until one day his father disappeared. Destiny suddenly took a backseat to survival.

Now, in his riveting memoir, Cranston maps his zigzag journey from abandoned son to beloved star by recalling the many odd parts he’s played in real life—paperboy, farmhand, security guard, dating consultant, murder suspect, dock loader, lover, husband, father. Cranston also chronicles his evolution on camera, from soap opera player trying to master the rules of show business to legendary character actor turning in classic performances as Seinfeld dentist Tim Whatley, “a sadist with newer magazines,” and Malcolm in the Middle dad Hal Wilkerson, a lovable bumbler in tighty-whities. He also gives an inspiring account of how he prepared, physically and mentally, for the challenging role of President Lyndon Johnson, a tour de force that won him a Tony to go along with his four Emmys.

Of course, Cranston dives deep into the grittiest details of his greatest role, explaining how he searched inward for the personal darkness that would help him create one of the most memorable performances ever captured on screen: Walter White, chemistry teacher turned drug kingpin.

Discussing his life as few men do, describing his art as few actors can, Cranston has much to say about creativity, devotion, and craft, as well as innate talent and its challenges and benefits and proper maintenance. But ultimately A Life in Parts is a story about the joy, the necessity, and the transformative power of simple hard work.

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Bryan is a few decades older than I am but I think one of the remarkable things about A Life in Parts is that I didn’t feel as though his stories of yesteryear were old-fashioned, or as belonging to a different generation. He talks about making movies at home with this father and brother as a young child, of his parents divorce and going to live with his grandparents on a farm for a while, of belonging to a police foundations organization for youth as a teen and then going on an extended motorcycle trip on the open road as a young man, crisscrossing America with his brother.

But at no point did I stop and think “that is something that only would have happened in my parents’ generation – or my grandparents'”. He could have been someone my own age talking about his upbringing.

I knew of Bryan as that goofy Dad on Malcom in the Middle growing up, and as the infamous Walter White of Breaking Bad more recently, but I was never a “fan” of his as an actor or a person. I didn’t follow his career, go see something just because he was in it, and quite frankly knew next to nothing about him. I doubt I could have named any other show that he had been in, but I had heard good things about A Life in Parts and I am glad I picked it up.

Bryan doesn’t sound like a celebrity. He’s just a normal guy, albeit one who has had some pretty memorable roles. Of course, he has been happily married to the same woman forever, doesn’t appear to live a flashy life, and is super close to his siblings who no doubt take great joy in keeping their brother down-to-earth.

I really enjoyed this audiobook and would definitely recommend it to my fellow readers, even (especially) ones who don’t normally read about celebrity lives.

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xx