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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Mission 2 B :) by Michael McLean - Book Review

Title: M2B:) (Mission to be Happy)

Author: Michael McLean

Publisher: Deseret Book

Published Date: November 2009

ISBN#: 978-1-60641-203-9

Hardcover, 88 pages, full-length CD included

It's hard to NOT feel happy looking at that cover.

Author/singer/songwriter Michael McLean, well known for his
Forgotten Carols, has written a handbook for those who are ready to go on a Mission 2B:) with him. Not only has he written the handbook, he has also composed a number of songs to go with it.

So many things are working to bring us down these days - poor health, economic problems, environmental issues, relationship troubles - and Michael McLean offers a bit of br
ightness with his short encouraging chapters and the upbeat music included with the Mission 2B:) handbook. He's also started a blog, missiontobehappy.com, to document his experiences on his own "mission."

The book is slightly larger than a standard jewel case, an ideal size for slipping into a purse or briefcase. The hardback cover ensures durability and provides a place to store the CD.

Michael McLean was kind enough to do an email interview with me, and I'm glad to be able to share it with you below. My review and a sample song from the CD follow the interview:

SHANDA: Once you decided to write the M2B:) handbook, how long did it take you to complete the project?

MICHAEL: I started consciously pursuing the idea of M2B:) back in February of 2009. While waiting for the songwriter bailout package (which never arrived by the way. I only got a note from the government that said I, unlike Chrysler and AIG, was NOT too big to fail) I wondered what kind of an “Inspirational Stimulus Package” I could offer myself and my friends to get through difficult times. My first draft of the book and the corresponding collection of songs was submitted on June 11th, and then there was tweaking through the summer with the goal of an early release in time for the FORGOTTEN CAROLS tour, and then a full blown released starting January 1, 2010.

SHANDA: Did the subject/chapters for the book or the music & lyrics for the songs come first?

MICHAEL: The title track and a few of the other songs were written and scattered about without being given any particular focus until I started writing the book in earnest. Then, with the idea firmly in mind for a handbook, I mapped out chapters that begged for songs to accompany them. As I wrote more I found new ideas for songs and as I explored songs I’d been thinking about they would often inspire chapters. What I love about the CD that accompanies the book is that after reading the book (and it’s a short read) all of the songs are put in context SO when you’re jogging or driving or sitting on a plane somewhere the songs can remind you, over and over again, what the book was trying to communicate.

SHANDA: Which song did you have the most fun writing?

MICHAEL: All the songs were fun to write because I needed them to help me get over some of the obstacles a middle aged, clinically depressed, type 2 diabetic faces. I chose fun, upbeat, toe tapping, make-me-smile-knowingly or laugh-out-loud songs to make the point. The song WITH PAUL AND JOHN was a hoot to write and even more fun to record because we tipped our hat at all the Beatle-esque signature production ideas. I still crack up when I sing the “ooohs” in concert.

But the TOODLE-OO song and the PILLS song were super fun as well.

SHANDA: Which chapter or song holds the most meaning to you personally?

MICHAEL: Since every chapter in the book comes from a very real chapter in my life they ALL have deep personal meaning EVEN WHEN it’s approached in a light hearted tone. Read between the lines and the real power of the book reveals itself. But as of this writing I believe Chapter 6 on FAITH and the song I DON’T NEED A SIGN THIS TIME would be my answer. Next week might be different. That’s the joy of creating a handbook that needs to be adaptable to your life as you life. (or maybe I should say “your M2B:) as you experience it”)

SHANDA: What do you feel is the most important message for readers to come away with after reading Mission 2B:)?

MICHAEL: I hesitate to answer this because I gave the first copy of this book, hot off the presses, to a friend of mine and asked for his feedback. He wrote me back after a week of listening and it was clear that what he got out of it was very meaningful and profound BUT NOT what I thought to be the most important message. His big “ah ha” moment and song were so meaningful for him at that moment that I’m glad I hadn’t defined for him what I wanted him to receive.

I can tell you that one of the things that motivated me to see this project through was my own experience of “missing” so many great moments in my life because I believed the real happiness I desired was going to happen sometime in the future. I’ll be happy when (this or that happens)…or…I’ll endure this challenge so sometime in the future I’ll get a great reward….or….Won’t it be easy to find happiness when I’ve got more money, when we get through this crisis, when my meds kick in, when I’ve lost 10 pounds, when I write that big hit song, when my musical makes it to New York, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. The happiness, the real, authentic happiness, has got to be in this moment. If I can’t find it in writing you these words, expressing myself and answering your questions right now then I’m never going to find it because this moment is all I’ve got. If I think that my joy will come AFTER I write you these answers and maybe you share my answers as part of something you’re writing and then somebody reads it and they decide to check out the missiontobehappy.com website and maybe take a chance and buy the book and CD and listen to it and it’s something they love and so they write me a thank you email THEN, maybe then, I’ll be happy. If that’s how I’m living (and I’m embarrassed to say I’ve done that too often in the past) then I’m missing it.

What’s happened to me since I’ve tried living this way is that I’m finding joy in the process as I never have before, and taken the time to celebrate the unexpected joys that manifest themselves in my life everyday.

Plus, for the first time in my life, I’ve got a CD of my own songs that I love to work out to.

Thanks Shanda for the questions and your willingness to help people discover my

SHANDA: You're welcome. Thank you so much for taking time to answer my questions and for sharing your talent with us!

Here is the title track from the CD. You can find the rest of my review below:

What worked for me: As I read the book for review, Chapter 7- "Your Happiness, Your Way" stood out to me. It's a chapter about deciding who we will allow to influence us, as well as trusting in Heavenly Father. I really liked one sentence in particular: "He invites us to worship Him because He knows we become like what we worship, and He wants us to share in His incomprehensible joy."

I also like that there are journal pages provided for recording personal experiences.

A song that quickly became my favorite is #4 on the CD, titled "You Don't Know (How Long This Thing is Gonna Last)" - with vocals by Rick Logan; produced by Michael McLean and Guy Randle. It's headed straight to my playlist.

What didn't work for me: My first time through the CD, as I followed along with the lyrics in the book, I wasn't sure it would be something I would listen to repeatedly. But as I listened to the CD again in preparation to write this review, more of the songs started to really grow on me. The upbeat rhythms and tone of the music is pretty catchy- exactly what Michael McLean was aiming for, I'm sure.

Rating: 4 out of 5 (I appreciate the positive messages)
Would I read it again? There are a few chapters I wouldn't mind revisiting from time to time.
Would I recommend this book? Yes; especially for those who need encouragement from someone who can relate.
Would I read more of Michael McLean's books? Sure.

FTC FYI: LDSWBR received a free review copy of this book from the publisher. It did not affect my review of the book.

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