Tag Archives: nonfiction

markmanson

Review: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck is THE book right now. It’s this year’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up or The Little Book of Hygge – everyone wants to read it and be seen reading it. In short, the book is everywhere.

Which explains why – even though my library has 30 copies of the ebook – I waited 5 months for it. FIVE MONTHS PEOPLE.

Was it worth it?

Yes and no.

The first thing I’ll say is that if you’re going to read it, be aware that Manson uses the word f*ck (not the censored version) approximately 4000 times in the first chapter. If you’re like me and this kind of thing drives you batty, hang in there. It gets better, and in the rest of the book, f*ck is used somewhat sparingly.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way. I’m still sorta torn on how I feel about this one. On one hand, Manson has a lot of really solid advice or thought or whatever you want to call it. What he’s saying is pretty reasonable. Basically, there’s no need to care about everything, but make sure whatever you do care about is in line with your values. Oh, and have good values. And don’t strive for happiness because pursuing happiness only reinforces the idea that you’re dissatisfied and/or unhappy to begin with.

Did I just lose you?

That’s kinda how I felt reading Manson’s book. I’m no stranger to personal development books or theories; I read a fair amount of them, and have spent my fair share of time on a therapist’s couch. But even I had to stop over and over again to suss out what I’d just read. And that’s why I have such a hard time with this one. While Manson’s ideas are sound, they’re difficult to comprehend the way he’s written them. I actually think people would get a lot more out of hearing him speak about these ideas. Perhaps the audiobook version is better because of that very fact.

I didn’t hate it, and like I said, Manson has a lot of really solid stuff in here. Stuff that everyone would benefit from hearing or reading. My favorite quote from the book is one I’d like to shove under the world’s nose:

There is a simple realization from which all personal improvement and growth emerges. This is the realization that we, individually, are responsible for everything in our lives, no matter the external circumstances. 

PREACH, Mark Manson, preach.

What do you think? Will you give this one a try, or have you already read it?

Hardcover: 210 pages    Published: September 2016 by HarperOne    Source: Library via Overdrive

Buy it on Amazon

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck on Goodreads

In this generation-defining self-help guide, a superstar blogger cuts through the crap to show us how to stop trying to be “positive” all the time so that we can truly become better, happier people.

For decades, we’ve been told that positive thinking is the key to a happy, rich life. “F**k positivity,” Mark Manson says. “Let’s be honest, shit is f**ked and we have to live with it.” In his wildly popular Internet blog, Manson doesn’t sugarcoat or equivocate. He tells it like it is—a dose of raw, refreshing, honest truth that is sorely lacking today. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k is his antidote to the coddling, let’s-all-feel-good mindset that has infected American society and spoiled a generation, rewarding them with gold medals just for showing up.

Manson makes the argument, backed both by academic research and well-timed poop jokes, that improving our lives hinges not on our ability to turn lemons into lemonade, but on learning to stomach lemons better. Human beings are flawed and limited—”not everybody can be extraordinary, there are winners and losers in society, and some of it is not fair or your fault.” Manson advises us to get to know our limitations and accept them. Once we embrace our fears, faults, and uncertainties, once we stop running and avoiding and start confronting painful truths, we can begin to find the courage, perseverance, honesty, responsibility, curiosity, and forgiveness we seek.

There are only so many things we can give a f**k about so we need to figure out which ones really matter, Manson makes clear. While money is nice, caring about what you do with your life is better, because true wealth is about experience. A much-needed grab-you-by-the-shoulders-and-look-you-in-the-eye moment of real-talk, filled with entertaining stories and profane, ruthless humor, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k is a refreshing slap for a generation to help them lead contented, grounded lives.

This post contains affiliate links. 

puppyfurstenberg

Review: Puppy (12 Months of Rhymes and Smiles) by Patricia Furstenberg

Oh, puppies. Is there anything better? The snuggles, the antics, the puppy breath.

Olga, more affectionately known as The Shark, at 9 weeks old. She clearly didn’t have enough toys.

I’m pretty sure my version of Heaven involves nothing but puppies. And maybe peanut butter. And beer. But definitely mostly puppies.

Patricia Furstenberg clearly has a thing for puppies too. She also knows I’m a sucker for anything with a dog, and reached out to see if I’d take a look at her new picture book. Duh. I enjoyed Joyful Trouble, and having recently been through life with a brand new puppy, knew I’d enjoy Puppy as well.

Puppy is a children’s book that goes through the first year of a puppy’s life with his new family. Each chapter is a different month, and a different adventure. My favorites were July, August, and February, probably because I could easily see Olga doing everything Pup did.

This is a fun little book that would be a great gift for a child with a new puppy, or an adult who simply wants to relive those puppy moments – without all the teeth.

Kindle Edition: 106 pages    Published: October 2017    Source: Author Provided

Buy it on Amazon

Puppy (12 Months of Rhymes and Smiles) on Goodreads

A puppy’s first year is filled with findings, wiggles and laughter.
Puppies squirm in all the odd places, sniff all the strange objects, lick everything they can and find something to splash into even when we don’t want them to!
This book of poems explores the first year of a puppy’s life, going through an adventure after the other, one month at a time.
Puppy’s first days, puppy’s first weeks in a new home, puppy’s encounters with snow and the school bag, puppy’s duty to protect… What happens when puppy is full of good intentions, yet his actions go wrong?
Read the rhymes and laugh with your little one.

“Puppy, 12 Months of Rhymes and Smiles: is an auditory feast for children, a fun read-aloud for parents, and treat for dog-lovers, young and old.

From the author of “Joyful Trouble”, No.1 Bestseller Children’s Historical Fiction, No.1 Most Gifted Young Adult and Top reviewed Kindle Storyteller book.

This post contains affiliate links. 

Review: You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero

About You Are A Badassyou are a badass

Paperback: 256 pages
Published: April 2013 by Running Press
Source: Library via Overdrive

Buy it on Amazon

Goodreads DescriptionThe #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.

If you’re wanting to kick some serious ass in the money department (you wanna?) and start making the kind of dinero you ain’t never made before, pre-order the next book in the series that’s all about your financial badassery: You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth, coming April 2017 from Viking Books.

My Review

You Are A Badass seems to be EVERYWHERE lately. So everywhere, in fact, that I thought it was a recently published book, not one published 4 years ago. Ah well, not that it matters, I suppose.

You Are A Badass is a self-helpish book about really going for it, whether that “it” is starting a business, traveling the world, starting a family, or just putting down the potato chips. There’s no shortage of motivational “kick in the pants” books, but somehow, Jen Sincero manages to keep hers short, sweet, and fresh.

A lot of self-help/motivational books fall short in the “action step” department. They focus too heavily on the need for improvement, and spend very little time actually telling you how to improve. I understand the difficulty, and many of these books are still worthwhile reads. However, when an author gives you concrete suggestions for putting your money where your mouth is, it really sticks out to me.

Jen Sincero does that with You Are A Badass, and she does it in a way that isn’t overbearing. Her suggestions are more like guideposts – she leaves it open enough that everyone will get something different out of her suggestion, but she still sets a direction. (That said, I did get tired of being told to love myself in every single chapter.)

For me, You Are A Badass wasn’t earth-shattering and really didn’t contain anything new and unusual. But, Sincero’s no-nonsense talk and to-the-point snippets were just what I needed. I’ve let a few areas of my life slide, and have been living the “Big Snooze” as Sincero calls it. Reading books like You Are A Badass helps keep me focused, and gets my wheels turning. In my mind, that’s what makes a self-help book a success – it inspires.

This post contains affiliate links. 

Review: Manny the Frenchie’s Art of Happiness

mannythefrenchieAbout Manny the Frenchie’s Art of Happiness

Hardcover: 160 pages
Published: June 2017 by Touchstone
Source:
 Netgalley

Goodreads DescriptionBased on his popular Instagram feed @Manny_the_Frenchie and Facebook profile, this is an illustrated and humorous guide to living a happy and fulfilling life by “the most famous French bulldog in the world…who’s downright amazing” (Buzzfeed.com).

In 2011, Manny was the runt of the litter and on his way to a shelter. But when his parents scooped him up, named him after the world famous boxer, Manny Pacquiao, and began posting photos of him sleeping in their sink accompanied by humorous, optimistic captions, Manny went viral.

Whether he’s wearing sunglasses, hitting up music festivals, or sleeping in adorable costumes, this little Frenchie always encourages a positive, do-gooder outlook to his followers. Packed with cheeky humor, witty wisdom, and charming anecdotes, Manny the Frenchie’s Art of Happiness will satisfy dog lovers of all breeds.

My Review

I’m ashamed to say I didn’t follow Manny the Frenchie on Instagram until after reading his book (you can bet I do now!). How I’ve been missing out! What a cutie. I mean, really, French Bulldogs might be the most endearing dogs in the entire world. Those squishy faces, those expressive eyes, those bat ears. When I get old and can’t handle big strong dogs anymore, I’m going to have a French Bulldog, a Corgi, and an Italian Greyhound. They’re all going to be best buddies.

But back to Manny.

His book is full of adorable photos of him and his siblings, and lots of words of wisdom about the important things in life: family, food, and of course….naps. It’s a great reminder about priorities, and about the beautiful beings we are fortunate enough to share our lives with. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it’d make a great gift for any dog lover.

3 stars

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the ARC. All opinions are my own.

Review: Eyes Wide Open by Isaac Lidsky

isaaclidskybookAbout Eyes Wide Open

• Hardcover: 320 pages
• Published: March 2017 by Kensington
• Source:
 Netgalley

Goodreads DescriptionIn Eyes Wide Open, Isaac Lidsky draws on his experience of achieving immense success, joy, and fulfillment while losing his sight to a blinding disease to show us that it isn’t external circumstances, but how we perceive and respond to them, that governs our reality.

Fear has a tendency to give us tunnel vision–we fill the unknown with our worst imaginings and cling to what’s familiar. But when confronted with new challenges, we need to think more broadly and adapt. When Isaac Lidsky learned that he was beginning to go blind at age thirteen, eventually losing his sight entirely by the time he was twenty-five, he initially thought that blindness would mean an end to his early success and his hopes for the future. Paradoxically, losing his sight gave him the vision to take responsibility for his reality and thrive. Lidsky graduated from Harvard College at age nineteen, served as a Supreme Court law clerk, fathered four children, and turned a failing construction subcontractor into a highly profitable business.

Whether we’re blind or not, our vision is limited by our past experiences, biases, and emotions. Lidsky shows us how we can overcome paralyzing fears, avoid falling prey to our own assumptions and faulty leaps of logic, silence our inner critic, harness our strength, and live with open hearts and minds. In sharing his hard-won insights, Lidsky shows us how we too can confront life’s trials with initiative, humor, and grace.

My Thoughts

If you’ve never seen Isaac Lidsky’s Ted Talk, stop right now and watch. It’s 12 minutes long, and worth the investment. It’ll also give you a good idea of what to expect from his book.

It took me a while to read Eyes Wide Open, though that has less to do with the book and more to do with my own time management skills. Lidsky writes well, with humor and grace, and it’s almost like having a conversation with him. He’s an inspiring man, that’s for sure.

I appreciated that Lidsky doesn’t hold back, but he also doesn’t fall into melodrama. He’s straightforward about his sight (and the loss of it), and then even more so about moving forward. Reading Eyes Wide Open, you really understand that while his experience shaped him, the lessons he learned are ones that can apply to all of us.

3 stars

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the ARC. All opinions are my own.

Blog Tour: How To Be Everything by Emilie Wapnick

emiliewapnickbookAbout How To Be Everything

• Hardcover: 240 pages
• Published: May 2017 by HarperOne
• Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours

Goodreads DescriptionWhat do you want to be when you grow up? It’s a familiar question we’re all asked as kids. While seemingly harmless, the question has unintended consequences. It can make you feel like you need to choose one job, one passion, one thing to be about. Guess what? You don’t.

Having a lot of different interests, projects and curiosities doesn’t make you a “jack-of-all-trades, master of none.” Your endless curiosity doesn’t mean you are broken or flaky. What you are is a multipotentialite: someone with many interests and creative pursuits. And that is actually your biggest strength.

How to Be Everything helps you channel your diverse passions and skills to work for you. Based on her popular TED talk, “Why some of us don’t have one true calling”, Emilie Wapnick flips the script on conventional career advice. Instead of suggesting that you specialize, choose a niche or accumulate 10,000 hours of practice in a single area, Wapnick provides a practical framework for building a sustainable life around ALL of your passions.
You’ll discover:
•  Why your multipotentiality is your biggest strength, especially in today’s uncertain job market.
•  How to make a living and structure your work if you have many skills and interests.
•  How to focus on multiple projects and make progress on all of them.
•  How to handle common insecurities such as the fear of not being the best, the guilt associated with losing interest in something you used to love and the challenge of explaining “what you do” to others.

Not fitting neatly into a box can be a beautiful thing. How to Be Everything teaches you how to design a life, at any age and stage of your career, that allows you to be fully you, and find the kind of work you’ll love.

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Emilie Wapnick

Emilie Wapnick is a speaker, career coach, blogger, and community leader. She is the founder and creative director at Puttylike.com, where she helps multipotentialites integrate all of their interests to create dynamic, fulfilling, and fruitful careers and lives. Unable to settle on a single path, Emilie studied music, art, film production, and law, graduating from the Law Faculty at McGill University in 2011. Emilie is a TED speaker and has been featured in Fast Company, Forbes, The Financial Times, The Huffington Post, and Lifehacker. Her TED talk, “Why Some of Us Don’t Have One True Calling,” has been viewed over 3.5 million times, and has been translated into 36 languages. She has been hired as a guest speaker and workshop facilitator at universities, high schools, and organizations across the United States and internationally.

Find out more about Emilie at her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

My Thoughts

Guys, I honestly don’t even know what to say about Emilie Wapnick’s How to Be Everything, other than if you’ve ever felt like there was something wrong with you because you simply couldn’t pick just ONE THING, you need to go read it right now.

When I picked up How to Be Everything, I hadn’t watched Wapnick’s TED Talk. I’d never heard of her, never heard of the term “multipotentialite.” I simply liked the description of the book.

I read the entire thing in one night.

As I read, I felt like Wapnick was speaking directly to me. Like she was in my head, in my heart, and in my soul. She got me. For the first time, someone was telling me it was ok – no, it was awesome – to have a million interests and passions and ideas. That just because I’m not an “expert” in one thing, that I haven’t devoted my entire life to one career or one purpose, that I struggle with defining what I want from a career – that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with me. Quite the opposite, in fact. It means I have tons of potential, and that I need to embrace my ideas.

How to Be Everything is full of affirmation for those of us who’ve struggled with boredom or the feeling of jumping around and around with no idea which way is up. First, Wapnick describes what it means to be a multipotentialite, and what our strengths are. I actually laughed out loud in this part – superpower #1 is “Idea Synthesis,” which just so happens to be the first thing my manager brings up in every single performance review.

Then, she suggests four different types of multipotentialites, including ways each type can incorporate their interests into their lives. These chapters also have exercises to help us put into action some of what we’ve read. To be honest, I typically ignore exercises like these, but Wapnick’s are both meaningful and doable, and I’ve found myself pulling the book out and working through them. (I’m an Einstein with a touch of Group Hug.)

Finally, Wapnick tells us how to avoid and work through some of the pitfalls multipotentialites face, such as staying focused and not getting discouraged. I love her idea of tracking small wins – something I do in other areas of my life, but never considered doing for my career.

This book certainly opened my eyes. For the first time in a very long time, I’m excited about the possibilities instead of feeling overwhelmed. I may not have all the answers yet, but I feel like I have a path forward. And who knows – maybe someday I’ll reach my full multipotential.

Check out the rest of the Blog Tour stops below, and show your fellow readers some love!

Tuesday, May 2nd: Tina Says…

Wednesday, May 3rd: Jathan & Heather

Friday, May 5th: Sapphire Ng

Tuesday, May 9th: Books & Tea

Wednesday, May 10th: Wining Wife

Thursday, May 11th: WildmooBooks

Monday, May 15th: She’s All Booked

Tuesday, May 16th: Creating My Kaleidoscope

Wednesday, May 17th: Everyone Needs Therapy

Thursday, May 18th: Jathan & Heather

Monday, May 22nd: Brown Dog Solutions

Tuesday, May 23rd: Unabridged Chick

Wednesday, May 24th: Dwell in Possibility

Thursday, May 25th: Becklist

Friday, May 26th: Read Till Dawn

TBD: Literary Quicksand

Huge thanks to TLC Book Tours and HarperOne for the chance to participate in this tour! 

Review: The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking

About The Little Book of Hygge

• Kindle Edition: 240 pages
• Published: January 2017 by William Morrow
• Source:
 Library (via Overdrive)

Goodreads DescriptionDenmark is often said to be the happiest country in the world. That’s down to one thing: hygge.

‘Hygge has been translated as everything from the art of creating intimacy to cosiness of the soul to taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things. My personal favourite is cocoa by candlelight…’

You know hygge when you feel it. It is when you are cuddled up on a sofa with a loved one, or sharing comfort food with your closest friends. It is those crisp blue mornings when the light through your window is just right.

Who better than Meik Wiking to be your guide to all things hygge? Meik is CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen and has spent years studying the magic of Danish life. In this beautiful, inspiring book he will help you be more hygge: from picking the right lighting and planning a dinner party through to creating an emergency hygge kit and even how to dress.

Meik Wiking is the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen. He is committed to finding out what makes people happy and has concluded that hygge is the magic ingredient that makes Danes the happiest nation in the world.

Why The Little Book of Hygge?

Raise your hand if you’ve seen Hygge articles all over the Internet lately.

Yeah, me too.

Of course, I read them, because when you see a word like hygge you automatically want to know what it’s about. And then you read one article and it sounds amazing and you read every one that comes across your plate, and then you see The Little Book of Hygge on your library’s Overdrive page and of course you request it.

At least, that’s what happened to me.

You’ve got me. I requested The Little Book of Hygge partly because I didn’t want to be the only person in the world who didn’t really know what hygge was. Ok, mostly. So I read it, and now I know, and I kinda like the idea, even if I don’t really fully comprehend it.

My Thoughts on The Little Book of Hygge

The Little Book of Hygge is a short little introduction to the Danish way of living. Danes are big on hygge, which doesn’t translate strictly to English but roughly means that feeling you get when you’re sipping coffee wrapped in a fuzzy blanket, wearing a sweatshirt and thick socks, with a puppy on your feet, in front of a roaring fire. Or that same feeling when you’re sitting on a picnic blanket in a summer afternoon, wearing a floppy hat and big sunglasses, eating bread and cheese and drinking wine. Blissful contentment, in other words.

For me, reading The Little Book of Hygge was more about getting an introduction than it was about making life changes, but I do think there’s a bit of applicability in the book. Take the Hygge Manifesto, for example – 10 basic tenents of Hygge. You’ve got Atmosphere (think candles), Presence (living in the moment), Pleasure (this is more about things like chocolate and coffee than anything else), Equality (thinking of others), Gratitude (being thankful), Harmony (again, thinking of others), Comfort (sweaters and socks and baths), Truce (check the drama at the door), Togetherness (be with people you love), and Shelter (have a hygge home).

What’s not to love in all of that?

Blog Tour: Extreme You by Sarah Robb O’Hagan

About Extreme You

• Hardcover: 320 pages
• Published: April 2017 by HarperBusiness
• Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours

Goodreads Description“Every once in a while, you need someone standing by your shoulder, inspiring you, cheering you on, pushing you to go further. Sarah might be just the coach you’re looking for.”—Seth Godin, author of Linchpin

As a child, Sarah Robb O’Hagan dreamed she could be a champion. Her early efforts failed to reveal a natural superstar, but she refused to settle for average. Through dramatic successes and epic fails, she studied how extraordinary people in sports, entertainment and business set and achieve extremely personal goals. Sarah became an executive at Virgin Atlantic and Nike, and despite being fired twice in her twenties, she went on to become the global president of Gatorade and of Equinox—as well as a wife, mother, and endurance athlete.

In every challenging situation, personal or professional, individuals face the pressure to play it safe and conform to the accepted norms. But doing so comes with heavy costs: passions stifled, talents ignored, and opportunities squelched. The bolder choice is to embrace what Sarah calls Extreme You: to confidently bring all that is distinctive and relevant about yourself to everything you do.

Inspiring, surprising, and practical, Extreme You is her training program for becoming the best version of yourself.

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Sarah Robb O’Hagan

Sarah Robb O’Hagan is an executive, activist, and entrepreneur, and the founder of Extreme You, a movement to unleash high performance. As the global president of Gatorade, she led its reinvention and turnaround, and she is the former president of Equinox Fitness Clubs. Named one of Forbes’s “Most Powerful Women in Sports” and one of Fast Company’s “Most Creative People in Business,” she has also held leadership positions at Nike and Virgin Atlantic Airways. She is now the CEO of the fitness company Flywheel Sports. A sought-after expert on innovation, brand reinvention, health, fitness, and inspiring human performance, Sarah lives with her family in New York.

Follow Sarah on Twitter, and check out the website for Extreme You.

My Thoughts

 

Extreme You came to me at just the right time. I was feeling uninspired, stuck, and frankly, purposeless. I went into the book with no expectations, and quickly realized it was the book I’d been looking for.

In Extreme You, O’Hagan encourages us to embrace what makes us us, and to develop those skills to the utmost or extreme. She breaks the book down into eight chapters, focusing first on how to identify what sets us apart from others. Then she gives us a little tough love, and a reminder to “Get Over Ourselves” – in other words, to recognize that while we’re awesome, we’re not the world’s gift to xyz. The last half of the book talks about how to translate our gifts into action, and make change.

While there wasn’t anything profound in O’Hagan’s ideas, I appreciated her no-nonsense approach and straight talk. Reading her book is a little like having a conversation with someone – someone who happens to be inside your head anticipating all your excuses and reactions. Her writing is approachable, and as is true with all personal growth books, full of both things I took to heart and things I passed on.

I also enjoyed reading about O’Hagan’s life – the book is made up largely of anecdotes (both hers and those of people she knows). I’d never heard of her, and it’s always fun to me to read about people who’ve made such strides. I admire her for her passion and commitment, and definitely think she’s a role model for women at all stages in their careers. Men too, I suppose!

Like I said, Extreme You came to me when I needed it most. I needed a not-so-subtle reminder that I am worthwhile, that I do have talents to share with the world, and that I’ve been slacking off and letting life happen instead of taking the bull by the horns. For that alone, Extreme You gets my vote.

 

 

Check out the rest of the Blog Tour stops below, and show your fellow readers some love!

Tuesday, April 11th: Jathan & Heather

Wednesday, April 12th: Fearless Creative

Thursday, April 13th: Luxury Reading

Friday, April 14th: Stephany Writes

Monday, April 17th: Good Girl Gone Redneck

Wednesday, April 19th: Wining Wife

Thursday, April 20th: Become a Healthier You

Monday, April 24th: Writing and Running Through Life

Tuesday, April 25th: Everyone Needs Therapy

Wednesday, April 26th: Creating My Kaleidoscope

Thursday, April 27th: Kissin Blue Karen

 

Huge thanks to TLC Book Tours and HarperBusiness for the chance to participate in this tour! 

February Book Reviews (2015)

I actually didn’t get much reading done this month! I was trying to read several books at once, mostly nonfiction, and it took me a while. Needless to say, I’m ready for some fun stuff – not that these weren’t fun, but I need a brain break! Plus, I realized that it’s now past time for me to read the next book in the Outlander series…and I still haven’t finished book 3 of Game of Thrones. March may be “epic books month.” We’ll see.

Ratings

I use the Goodreads rating scale of 1-5 stars. I know sometimes it’s hard to stick to only 5 options…lots of times we want half stars!! But, half stars make things messy. My ratings tend to be on the somewhat conservative side, so keep that in mind. Also keep in mind that a 3 star rating doesn’t mean a book is bad. Generally, I choose books that I expect to enjoy (don’t we all?). If I do enjoy them, then they’ve met my expectations…so I give them a 3. Anything lower than 3 didn’t live up to my expectations, and anything above 3 exceeded them. I’m generally not looking for certain writing styles or plot lines or technical aspects. If something stands out (for good or bad), I’ll comment on it, but in general technical aspects won’t be the sole influencer on my rating.

Any questions on my ratings? If so, just ask, and I’ll try to clarify!

And now, on to the books!!!

Groomed For Murder (Pet Boutique #2)3 starsI loved the first one. The second was good….but I didn’t love it quite as much. Izzy kinda got on my nerves this time and the story was a little too predictable. The rest of the characters are great, and I still love the setting. Plus, I can’t wait to try the enchilada recipe in the back. (Don’t worry, I’ll tell you how it goes if I ever get around to it.) The third book should be out sometime this summer, and I’ll definitely pick it up.

One Brave Dog: Journey Beyond the Forbidden River3 starsRead the review here.

How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer3 stars

This was our February book club book. I’d never heard of Montaigne. Turns out he’s considered the father of the modern essay (not school essay, but personal essay). Bakewell’s book is a pseudo-biography that uses examples from his life and his writing (sorta) to answer the question, “How to live?”

Montaigne would have been a blogger, I think. He was all about looking inward and figuring out why he did the things he did. In a way, the book was a mix of philosophy and psychology with a good bit of history thrown in. I was expecting to read Montaigne’s writing – but other than short quotations, there isn’t any of it in here. I’ve got his Essays on my list for next month.

This is the kind of book that I think you really have to be willing to give a shot. It’s not an easy read, but it’s not terribly tough either. But, if you’re not at all interested in philosophical musings it’s probably going to put you to sleep. What I liked was that it made me think, and it made me curious.

That said, there was a lot…and I mean, a LOT….that I think could have been left out. At times, reading the history of the time periods was pretty interesting. Other times, I had no clue why it was being presented, because it made no difference to the “answer” Bakewell was presenting. I thought about half of the chapters made sense, but the other half felt like she was grasping at straws. I also think that I went into it expecting something different, and that probably messed me up a little. I was looking for more of a commentary on Montaigne’s writing, and this book wasn’t that. It was a biography, but that’s a little hard to remember with a title like “How to Live.”

What Are You Hungry For?: The Chopra Solution to Permanent Weight Loss, Well-Being, and Lightness of Soul

2 starsThis was a Blogging for Books book, and by rights, should have its own post. Meh.

I was really excited about this. I read Intuitive Eating last year, and this book seemed like it would be similar. Plus, Deepak Chopra is supposed to be THE GUY.

Honestly, I had to force myself to finish this. There were a few things that were valuable, but mostly, I just felt like I was being lectured. Like Chopra himself was standing over my shoulder berating me. He wants you to give up all the bad stuff (including alcohol and cheese and meat), and he wants you to love doing it. He wants you to pay attention because as soon as you do, you’ll realize you don’t like alcohol and cheese and meat. And he wants you to sit at the table with your family because if you don’t you have an unhealthy home life.

And then there was this line…”Self esteem allows you to look at chocolate cake and think, “I’m not doing that to myself.” EXCUSE ME? Since when is chocolate cake the devil? (In context, I think what he’s attempting to say is that if you feel good about yourself you can make a conscious choice about whether you truly want the cake or not, but the connotation is that chocolate cake is bad.)

I mean…ok. It’s not that I necessarily disagree with him on everything, but the whole thing was so black and white. Like, just do what I’m telling you and you’ll be happy. And thin. Because you can only be thin if you do these things.

I’m sure that’s not what Chopra intended (or maybe it is?) but I got really tired of his self-importance. I did enjoy the medical information – there are a lot of good explanations about how nutrition and your body works. Would I recommend this book to anyone? No. I especially would not recommend it to someone looking for “a solution to permanent weight loss.”

Station Eleven5 starsWait, what?! A five-star??!! Have we even had any of these since I started doing these monthly reviews? (Yes. Two – Ready Player One and A Little Something Different.) They’re rare. Sometimes Jimmie tells me I’m too strict in my ratings. Sometimes I think he’s right, but then I come across a book like this and I think, nope. This is why I’m strict. Because if I gave every book I enjoyed a 5-star rating, then there’d be nothing that told you THIS IS AWESOME. Because they’d all be awesome. Anyway.

This book made its way onto my radar when our book club decided to read a National Book Award finalist (you may remember that book. Ugh.) I’d read a couple reviews of it, and finally got around to reading it. First of all, this book is 10 million times better than All The Light. And. Since it didn’t win, I can’t even imagine how good Phil Klay’s book is, so I’m going to have to read that to find out. Station Eleven is a post-apocalyptic story – it’s a little hard to explain, so I’ll honestly just refer you to the description. I’d make a mess of explaining it.

I think this is the kind of book you either love or you hate. I was about a quarter of the way into it, thinking, meh, this is ok…not bad, but not really grabbing me either. But I was curious, so I kept going. It’s not a hard read, though I wouldn’t call it easy either. A little over halfway through, I was hit with the most visceral reaction. I had to stop reading. All I could think was….when did this book become so real? When did I start to feel like I was in the story, and when did it suck me in? Days after finishing, I still have no idea when it happened, but it did. All of a sudden, it was real and I was both terrified and horrified and knew I was going to have nightmares. Don’t get me wrong – this isn’t a horror story at all. But, it’s intense. If you’ve ever read The Road, it’s the same kind of feeling.

The more I read, the more beautiful the book became. I loved the ending – if you can even call it an ending. Most of the book you’re kinda scratching your head thinking, where is this going, and then you find out, but the story is left open. Not open like there’s going to be a sequel, but open like there’s any number of possibilities and the author wanted to let you choose. It’s one of those books that this ending works…I was so glad she didn’t feel the need to wrap it up nicely with a bow.

I couldn’t stop thinking about this book for days – and I woke up twice in the middle of the night with my heart racing and feeling like I’d been scared to death. Will I read this book again? No. Will I recommend it to everyone I know? No. Do I think it’s an excellent book that fans of this style of fiction should read? Absolutely.

Hunted (Spirit Animals, #2)

4 stars

This is the second book in the Spirit Animals series, about four kids who call “Spirit Animals” and then have to save the world. Basically. Each book is written by a different author, and it shows a little bit…I enjoyed Book 2 more than Book 1. That said, Maggie Stiefvater tends to get a little too “romantic” for my tastes, so I got kind of annoyed by the not-so-subtle flirtations going on between two of the characters. I kept thinking…this is for kids. Get that out of here.

Otherwise, though, I really enjoyed the book. Meilin is still a whiny brat, but she’s growing on me. Rollan is flippant, but we’re starting to see a little more depth. Conor is the classic hero, and Abeke is the underdog. It works.

There was a lot more action in this book, and the battle scenes were fairly well done. I love that the Spirit Animals play such a big role in the story – sometimes I like them more than the main characters.

Blood Ties (Spirit Animals, #3)3 starsStill enjoying this series! I didn’t like this one quite as much as #2, but I’m still definitely hooked on them. So far, it seems that each story sort of features one of the kids a little bit more than the others. This one was Meilin, and she’s just not my favorite. I do love Jhi though, her spirit animal.

One thing that kinda bugged me though – and that I hope doesn’t continue as the series progresses – is that there are characters in Book 2 that I really enjoyed. Some of them you sort of know what happens, why they aren’t in Book 3. But some of them, it’s like they never existed. I want to know what happens to them!!!! I realize the story isn’t about the extra characters, but still…give me a little more closure!!!

Book of the MonthThis shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone after that review….. February’s book of the month is….

 Station Eleven

What books did you read this month? Any keepers?