Books I Read This Week 2019 – 17

I read a bunch this week, thanks to Spring Break. Here are my goodreads reviews. If you’re on goodreads, add me as a friend so I can see your books too! I’ve also started an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.

The Path Made Clear (2.5 stars): This was mostly full of others’ wisdom collected, organized and packaged by Oprah. I am not an avid follower of Oprah but I also don’t have the cynical hatred others seem to have. I think she’s done amazing things with her life, I think she’s worked hard to help others, and I think she’s been trying to learn and grow along the way. All of those things make her pretty awesome in my book.

This book was a fine read, there are lots of little gems in it but, in my opinion it’s not really about Discovering Your Life’s Direction and Purpose. It’s just sound bites from different shows she’s done with wise guests over the years. Not a thoughtful distillation of all that imbued with her wisdom, which I would have loved to have seen.

Queenie (3 stars):  I have a lot of mixed feelings about this book. I’ll start with what I didn’t like:
– It has nothing to do with Bridget Jones. I wish publishers would stop doing this. It hurts the audience and the writer. Just stop making simple comparisons that are not true, it sets up an expectation that inevitably ends in a let down.
– There were many tidbits of issues around racism in this book, and maybe I am not one to judge as a white woman, but it felt to me like the author glossed over all of them. None of them were given the due they deserved. To me, this is worse than if it weren’t there at all. If you’re going to mention it, I’d prefer you give it the attention it deserves.
– I completely understand that there were many reasons for Queenie’s behavior and choices and I’m not judging it but as a mom there was so much here that made me both cringe and be really, deeply sad. I was so worried for her and angry that none of her friends supported her more and that distracted me a lot. 

Now on to what I liked:
– I am grateful for novels that don’t sugarcoat and besides the racial issues I mentioned above, I feel this novel did a good job not sugarcoating what was going on with Queenie. This is not a novel you want to read (or listen to as I was doing) with kids around. The author did not shy away from telling it like it is. And I always appreciate that even if the truth makes me cringe/sad/angry.
– The chat group with her friends was likely one of my favorite parts of the book.
– The conversation around mental health and Queenie’s journey to fighting for hers. I really liked the way this was handled. I also liked that it wasn’t like she woke up one day and was all better. Life doesn’t work that way and neither did this novel.

So there you go. Mixed emotions. One I will think about more.

The Porpoise (2 stars):

He does not understand yet that there are things that keep one awake at night which are more terrifying than pirates or reefs, and cannot be avoided by dousing of lights at dusk and the possession of a good map. He does not understand yet that sometimes the monster is other people, sometimes the monster squats unseen inside one’s own heart, and sometimes the monster is the brute fact of time itself.

I’ve read and liked Mark Haddon’s previous books, so I was looking forward to reading this book. Alas, it’s wildly different from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time so if you’re picking this up in the hopes that it will be similar, I want to make sure to caution you. I also want to mention that this book has a lot of violence in it. Murder, incest, lots of fighting, etc. If I hadn’t received an ARC, I likely would have put it down. I think the blurb downplays the plot quite a bit. I don’t want to give away too much but please beware of trigger warnings. Also, about a third of the way in, one of the characters morphs and it becomes a Greek tale, and then Shakespeare also comes into the story so it has three interweaving stories, making the whole plot quite surreal.

Having said all of this, I decided to persevere, and by the time I finished the book, I was quite interested in the fates of the characters. The writing was good, some of the characters were interesting, but in the end this book has way too many triggers and way too much violence for me.

Thank you to netgalley and the publisher for an advanced copy in return for an honest review.

Understanding Numbers (4 stars): I love math so I knew this book was going to make me happy and it delivered 100% on its promise. This relatively compact book shows the readers how so much of our daily life contains math. It talks about concepts like mean vs median and relative vs absolute numbers. Concepts like game theory and Prisoner’s Dilemma.

It focuses on five core areas: health, environment, society, relationships and communication. For each of these areas, it gives four examples of cases where math figures greatly into the core of that field/area. For example, in society, it talks about voting, in relationships, it talks about evolution of kindness, etc. Each section is short, to the point, and introduces the problem and shows how math is a part of how we tackle the problem. At the end of each section there are concise and precise learnings that help shift your thinking/perspective so you can remember what they covered.

I’m relatively familiar with many of these concepts in math/statistics and there still was much interesting content here for me and the concepts were put so simply and clearly that I had multiple discussions with my nine year old son over some of what was in this book.

Highly recommended.

Thank you to netgalley and the publisher for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

An Uncommon Atlas (5 stars): What a fantastic, fantastic book! If you’re interested in data and like visual representation of information, you will love this book. There is a huge range of information in this book from asteroids, to water usage, to bug variety, to drifters, and so, so much more. Each piece of data overlaid beautifully onto a world map and explained with interesting tidbits. Here’s a tiny selection of things I highlighted as I read my copy:

“In Hong Kong, about 80 per cent of residents flush their toilet with seawater”

“Hydropower makes up nearly 100 per cent of electricity production in Paraguay.” 

“There have been six different manned missions to the moon, but there have only been two crewed trips, down the almost 6 miles (11km) to the deepest part of the ocean.”

“About 300 cable systems carry almost all the world’s transoceanic data.”

There are three sections: “land, air, and sea”, “human and animal”, and “globalisation.” My favorite was the first one. But all three are phenomenal.

I have enjoyed every single minute I spent with this book, I can’t recommend it enough.

Thank you to netgalley and the publisher for an advanced copy in return for an honest review.

The Silver Ladies of Penny Lane (1 star): When I saw the title of this book, I thought it would be a fun, light read that ideally would make me laugh. I am sorry to say it wasn’t so. This book is about an older, divorced woman, Tess, who is worried about how fat she’s getting and how she might not have a date for her daughter’s wedding so she and her friend sign up for a dating app.

Half the book is about how she mustn’t eat all the food she’s eating and how the woman who runs the sessions at the WW-like place where she goes tells her (and others) how they must never be ok with being fat. There are at least a hundred mentions of how she shouldn’t eat this or drink that and then another as many of how such and such food is worth it or oh well she’s on vacation, blah blah. In this day and age of body neutrality and body positivity, this alone drove me insane. 

But then as if tying your worth to food wasn’t enough, the main character goes on these disastrous dates, at two of which she drinks too much to the point of not being in her right mind. At one of which she has sex without remembering that she does. Only to find out later that the guy is a player and does this all the time (this being getting women drunk and having sex with them.) I am pretty sure we call this non-consensual sex. As if the fact that she experiences this isn’t enough, when her supposedly good friend finds the same man in the app, she doesn’t even warn her to not go there. This is friendship? 

Tess and her “friend” Orly talk unkindly to each other all the time, they put each other down, they are snide and catty. All of which might be real-world but none of which is “hilarious feel good.” And even as Tess starts to feel better about herself, the fact that it’s 100% correlated with a man and with looking thinner, made me so disappointed. The only person I maybe liked was Shirley but of course she was one of the smallest characters in the book. 

Overall, for me, this book was neither funny, nor feel good. 

Thank you to netgalley and the publisher for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

Grace After Henry (3 stars): I liked pieces of this story because I felt they were real and raw. The grief, especially the mom’s grief and also Grace’s grief and the way she sees him everywhere she looks. The biggest part of this book is a twist enough that it’s hard to review it without giving away anything. I think, to some, this will be a sweet novel and to others, who maybe have experienced grief like this, it might be a bit too cutesy. I read it relatively quickly.

I did like the ending as I was worried it might go the other way. It was a sweet, little novel, but unlikely to stay with me for very long.

The Ditch (3.5 stars): “The second time, though, I listened to the sentences as if they had a false bottom.”

This story is about Robert, the mayor of Amsterdam, who sees a moment pass between his wife and one of his aldermen and decides that his wife must be cheating on him and the rest of the story is imbued with his suspicions and he revisits everything his wife says and does through that filter.

I had read and liked several other Koch novels before, but after I received this, I was worried it would not be like the others. At first, it felt like maybe it wasn’t. I didn’t like any of the characters and didn’t really feel like the story was going anywhere. 

By the time I finished it, it felt exactly like his other books to me. There’s one central thing going on, but most of the story is about the characters and “ordinary” lives and how people’s own lives intersect with others’ and create these textures and layers. I don’t even know how to explain it. What I know is that even though I don’t love any of his characters, I find Koch’s novels stay with me and this one is no exception.

“This time I would look at them differently. I would look at them through the eyes of a husband who knows he is being deceived.”

Maybe because he knows how to portray human nature so well. 

Thank you to netgalley and the publisher for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

How to Raise Successful People (4 stars): I read this book in one sitting. I will start by saying that I am not a fan of parenting books in general. I find that they are either written by people who aren’t parents or people who tell you there’s one right way. Neither of which works for me. I have a teenager who rolls his eyes each time he sees me look at a parenting book and tells me that they are not worth it.

Alas, I picked up this book anyway because I am always open to learning, growing and trying to do better. There’s much in this book about how we get in the way of our kids’ because of who we are. 

“The first thing every parent should do, then, is reflect on their experiences. It sounds simple, but we often fail to do it.”

and how many parents are making choices or taking action from their own insecurities, doubts, anxieties, etc. So their kids approves, needs, etc. them. It’s about letting the kids lead, letting them take detours if need be and being there and knowing that they will be ok. It’s about honoring and respecting who your kids already are. It’s about not letting your own definition of success/your goals/your ambitions get in the way of your kid’s life. 

“The lesson in all of this: Children will listen to you – they want your approval and love – but if they want to be happy, they’re going to have to listen to themselves.”

It’s about respecting your kids so they can respect themselves, so they can take risks and become independent. It’s about giving them independence, choice, responsibility and trust at a young age and continuing it all throughout. 

The author recommends a system she calls TRICK ( Trust, Respect, Independence, Collaboration and Kindness). Both giving it to the kids and modeling it yourself. 

As with all such books, I don’t agree with every single word the author says. There are parts where I thought she was too opinionated, too judgmental, or too preachy. Parts where it sounded like patting oneself in the back. But there is so much gold in this book that I didn’t care at all. At its core, this was a fantastic book and her message resonated deeply with me. It is one I will work hard to remember as I continue to raise my kids.

Thank you to netgalley and the publisher for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

The Places that Scare You (4 stars): Pema Chodron is one of the few people I go back to again and again. I find that the lessons, the stories, the perspective is something that I need to remind myself of with some regularity. Words of wisdom. To me, there isn’t much new here, just a remembering of things I know but seem to always forget. A way to make sure that I can stay practicing, keep remembering. I am never going to get it right but I am grateful she’s there to remind me that it’s ok each time.

My Lovely Wife (3 stars): Fast paced thriller. I listened on audio while on vacation so it went even faster than usual. Yet another mystery with unlikeable characters, shocking revelations and on and on. A bit less annoying, for me, than some of the others I read. I will be happy when the unreliable narrator, unlikeable character, and the shocking twist trends all go away and we can be back to good old fashioned well-written mysteries.

On the list of all the ones I read, this doesn’t do terribly poorly but it also likely won’t stand out. I gave it 3 stars because I pretty much read it in one sitting and any book that can make me do that deserves at least 3 stars.

Lights All Night Long (4 stars): I absolutely loved this coming-of-age novel. It’s about two siblings from Russia, where one gets an opportunity to study abroad in America. There’s so much here that resonated with me. The writing is absolutely stunning and the love of siblings, the poverty, the hopelessness and the mother-son relationship (as well as the mother-daughter) are part of this tender, hard, deep and beautiful story.

While there’s a mystery at the heart of it, this, is not a mystery novel. It’s a character-driven story about the struggle between your life and future and saving the ones you love. It’s about family and roots and aspirations and hopes and love. It’s a really beautiful story and I highly recommend it.

And there we go, an ok week of reading. Here’s to a great week next week.

Books I Read this Week 2019 is a year-long project for 2019. You can read more about my projects for 2019 here. I am also tracking my books in real time on Good Reads here. If you’re on Good Reads add me so I can follow you, too! I’ve also started an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.

Stories from 2019 – 17

This story is about a night away that Jake and I got to have while my parents were in town.

Here are two more stories from my 2018 album. The content for these comes from the “joy” kit. 

This one is about how Nathaniel finds creative ways to find joy again and again.

Stories from 2019 is a year-long project for 2019. You can read more about my projects for 2019 here. Everything on the pages is from Ali’s Story Kits unless mentioned otherwise.

Everyday Magic – 17

Weekly Intention: This week will be a bit broken up. Nathaniel and I are going to Orlando to celebrate his tenth birthday. When David turned ten, I surprised him with a trip to Harry Potter Land so as soon as he was old enough to understand what that means, Nathaniel’s been counting the days down to his tenth birthday and it’s finally here. He and I will be there until Wednesday and then I have work on Thursday and Friday. So here’s my intention for this week: I will be super present with Nathaniel, I will celebrate him and make sure this trip is special for him. I will then come home and be present at work. I look forward to both my vacation and my work.

This month’s intention is: Making Magic: Go on adventures. Take trips with your family, make small and big bits of magic in your life. So I booked one vacation for summer, woot! and booked 3 weeks of camps, too! I have one more vacation on my list. Then 2-3 more camps. I might then be done with summer, magically. As for April, we’re making Magic for Nathaniel this week.

One way I will show up this week:  I am going to work hard to make Nathaniel as happy as I can.

One magic I will make this week: Harry Potter land here we come!

This week, I will pay attention to: Nathaniel. My little boy is turning double digits!

This week, I will be kinder to: Nathaniel and also maybe take some time for myself if i can.

This week, I will focus on pleasing: Nathaniel. It’s his week.

One new thing I will learn this week: Hmm maybe how to draw a little better?

I am looking forward to: 1-1 time with the little boy.

This week’s challenges: I am keeping an open mind. Thursday and Wednesday will be long days and two all-day travels but still I am hoping nothing will be particularly challenging.

Top Goals: 

  • Work: initial PM summit plan, IO follow up, offsite next steps.
  • Personal: daily drawing, journal, and yoga, sleep. Make some new exercise plan. Make food diary, too.
  • Family:  broadcom, figure out summer #2, book final camps. celebrate nathaniel. prep david for spain. prep Nathaniel for camping. Prep David for Cal Science Fair.

I will focus on my values:

  • Love: Love this magical life I am given and worked so hard to make.
  • Learn: learn to really pay attention and be grateful.
  • Peace: peace with all that’s going on.
  • Service: my kids who have a lot going on in the next few weeks.
  • Gratitude: for being so healthy so much of the time.

This week, I want to remember: that i am so lucky to be so loved and so appreciated.

Everyday Magic is a year-long project for 2019. You can read more about my projects for 2019 here.

Weekly Reflection 2019 – 16

Magic I Saw this Week: This week was full of magic. Most of all the magic of nature and laughter and togetherness. We went away on a short vacation and it was wonderful.

Magic I Made this Week: I took time off, read a lot, played some games, took a vacation with my family, went to seder dinner at my cousin’s, hiked some and rested a lot.

Magic of Me that I explored Week: Well can we count the art and yoga. Though I was pretty sick last week so I skipped 4 days of yoga. but I drew every day. I am trying pretty hard.

Top Goals Review:  

  • Work: I’ve been doing the occasional email checking, pretty quiet thankfully.
    Personal: i’ve done daily drawing, a little journaling, not enough yoga. i’ve slept a bunch and as a bonus, i did a bunch of scrapbooking too.
    Family:  making progress on broadcom, booked vacation #1, booked three camps, rested, hugged my kids a lot. hugged my husband a lot, too.
  • figure out summer, book camps. rest, hug kids, hug kids some more.

I celebrate: booking our summer vacation (hopefully.)

I am grateful for: a little time away together as a family.

This week, I exercised: i did yoga for two days, this was likely the lowest week as I was sick last weekend and then only did yoga one of the nights we were away. we did go hiking for three days, though.

Self-care this week: took a lovely bath this week. took vacation. read and drew and just tried to be kind to myself.

I showed up for: our family.

I said yes to: unplugging from work and being present.

I said no to: doing work that could wait.

Core Desired Feelings Check-in:

  • Embrace: i am embracing how i feel and trying to honor who i am.
  • Alive: vacation always makes me feel more alive.
  • Lighter: i feel lighter now that some of the summer things are booked.
  • Kinder: trying super hard to be kind.
  • Surrender: surrendering to where i am and how i feel.

What I tolerated this week: i was pretty sick all weekend and my schedule really got disrupted but i am dealing with it. i will be okay.

My mood this week was: sick, joyful and numb at different times.

I am proud of: getting some of our summer work done.

I forgive myself for: how i feel. how i’m showing up. who i am.

Here’s what I learned this week: I am learning to speak up for myself and be heard.

What I love right now: I love that we have some time off and spending time together.

Weekly Reflection is a year-long project for 2019. You can read more about my projects for 2019 here.

Moments of Gratitude – 10

I’ve been neglecting on posting these even though I’ve been doing them so I figured it was time to catch up.

This is from our weekend in Los Angeles and San Diego.

at SFMOMA and San Diego Zoo and San Diego Public Library.
Venice Beach Google office and a day at the beach.

Here’s to Seeing more Magic in 2019.

Moments of Gratitude is a year-long project for 2019. You can read more about my projects for 2019 here.

Joy of Art – 15

learn to embrace the things you don’t love. everything serves a purpose.

These are small pieces I do at work or at home at night to help remind me why I love doing art. 

Joy of Art is a year-long project for 2019. You can read more about my projects for 2019 here.

Books I Read This Week 2019 – 16

I read a bunch this week, though several books weren’t super long. Here are my goodreads reviews. If you’re on goodreads, add me as a friend so I can see your books too! I’ve also started an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.

Rumi: Unseen Poems (4 stars): I grew up in Istanbul, Turkey. In middle school, I read several of Rumi’s poems. But at the time, it was annoying school work written in old Ottoman Turkish that was hard to decipher. Years after I moved to the United States, I rediscovered Rumi, this time in English.

His poems enchanted my soul. 

So when I heard of this new book, I knew I wanted to read more Rumi. And this book doesn’t disappoint. There is a wide range of poems here, some very similar to what’s been translated before, and some closer to what I studied at school and some that are different than both.

Here are a few clippings from some of his poems that I loved:

My face is a hundred times brighter when I see your face. 
My soul is a hundred times happier when your soul is near. 
When the mirror of my life is polished by your love, 
The mirror of the world is no longer dull and dark….

Look into the face of the beloved until his hues come alive.
As the hues reflect in your face, O pale one, come alive!
Every atom is whirling until they feel alive.
You, atom, don’t you wish to come alive?
You were like a stone. Touched by his life,
Sweet running steams from stones come alive. 
In the mirror, I looked into a vision of transcendence.
I asked, “Who are you?” 
He said, “I am light come alive.”

You are at peace when you don’t need more or less,
When you don’t need to be a king or a saint,
When you’re free from the sorrows of the world,
When you’re free from the tiniest atom of yourself.

I can go on and on. If you’re a fan of Rumi, this book will not disappoint.

Thank you to netgalley and the publisher for an advanced copy in return for an honest review.

Brand Identity Essentials (4 stars):  This book outlines 100 principles for building your brand and each of the ideas are explained with wonderful, specific examples. It’s very comprehensive and detailed even though the description of each principle is short and to the point which makes it a perfect companion and a fantastic reference book.

I am not a designer but I thought it would be fun to read a book on the topic and this completely delivered. I loved this section:

If your brand was a person, what would they sound like? Are they loud and boisterous or quiet and shy? Are they funny? Educational? What do they say? It’s an easy way to personalize the brand voice, and whether or not you use a spokesperson, successful brands have a deliberate voice.

And here’s another bit:

Staking a claim is giving customers a meaningful reason to choose your brand. What is significant to a customer depends on their motives and what they value. As a brand builder, your job, is to make your case for the brans in a clear and compelling way.

and finally:

A brand identity is a valuable asset – the symbolic face of the company. Once an appropriate approach is established, the organization needs to commit to it. Change is inevitable. Business must evolve with their customers, but the most successful businesses evolve strategically.

All of these are conversations we are having at my workplace about our product. These are great questions to ask, perspectives to explore and wisdom to keep in mind. Even if you’re not brand designer, you can get a lot of value out of this book.

Thank you to netgalley and the publisher for an advanced copy in return for an honest review.

Realistic Portraits in Colored Pencil (4 stars): This book is really one of the most fantastic art books I’ve read in a long time. While I try to dabble in sketching and some portraits, the artwork here is the kind that makes you do a double-take each time because you can’t believe it’s not a photograph. From the layer of film on the iris to the spit in a crying kid’s mouth, there is so much detail in these portraits it’s incredible.

This book is broken into several sections. Like most art books, it starts with materials. I have read at least 20 of these in the last few years and yet, I learned some new things from this book. And then she moves on to show some colored pencil techniques with great examples of each and why you would use one over the other.

She then moves on to a section where she breaks down every facial feature. She has the obvious ones like eyes and nose and mouth, etc but then much more detail like freckles, wrinkles, pores, membranes, etc. She gives detailed explanations of what you do with each (but not step by steps. In fact there’s very little drawing instruction in this book at all, it’s very coloring focused.)

The last section is the most awe-inspiring section. She walks you through a few very detailed projects, step by step with every single color she used. There is a lot of detail here, way more than I’ve seen in other books, and yet there’s still, of course, but swathes of areas where she just does it and you have to practice a million times to resemble anything that looks like a human. 

For those of you who are comfortable drawing portraits and have even colored some, I think this is a fantastic book. For beginners, this might be a bit intimidating, but I’d still recommend you add it to your arsenal even if just for the incredible inspiration it provides.

Thank you to netgalley and the publisher for an advanced copy in return for an honest review.

Creative Lettering and Beyond (4 stars): I am always amazed at other people’s beautiful calligraphy so I always seek books that teach it. If only one could learn by osmosis, I would be a master by now. Alas, what you need is practice.

This book has lots of valuable information about materials, different practice exercises, script styles and even ways to make your own ink. She walks you through a whole bunch of different alphabet styles from Roman to Copperplate to Italian and more. 

But my favorite part was the last section where she has the step-by-step projects. I’ll admit that often step by steps skip so much of how-to that it drives me mad. This was a bit like that where she goes right to “pretty hard” and then jumps to “holy cow how did she do that!” but I loved the ideas so much and I especially loved all the embellished capitals that I am happy to stare at them for hours and try to figure out how to emulate them. 

One of the things I learned from this book which in retrospect seems super obvious but I had never specifically read elsewhere is that each of your letters have to be slanted at the same angle for great lettering (also the spacing and size should be consistent, which I had known.) As I said it seems obvious but it was an a-ha moment for me. 

The other little tidbit I loved is that the ampersand originates from the Latin “et” which means “and” so it originally contained both an e and a t. Apparently it’s no longer clearly visible but now that I know this, I am going to look for that e and t each time I see an ampersand. 

Overall, this was a wonderful book if you’d like a general reference and idea book. Absolutely beautiful to look at and some lovely extra tidbits of information as a bonus!

Thank you to netgalley and the publisher for an advanced copy in return for an honest review.

Hughie Mittman’s Fear of Lawnmowers (3.5+ stars):  I didn’t read the reviews of this book until after I’d requested it from netgalley and then I was worried that it wouldn’t be great. I kept dragging my feet and then finally sat down to read it today and I couldn’t disagree more with the ratings.

This story is the story of a boy named Hughie who has some terrible tragedies all at once and then has to grow up in the shadow of all that loss. Yes, it’s a coming of age story, but it’s much more a story about grief, in my opinion. And some of the language in this book will stay with me for a long, long time. 

I realised that sometimes you need the presence of other people to allow you to understand just how alone you are.

It didn’t sound like my normal voice, but the sound did come from inside me somewhere. I knew I was crying, but I didn’t know if the tears were falling outside of my body or inside. For all I could tell, they might have been cascading along the inside of my cheeks and spilling down into my heart.

…went back to the cocoon of my inner world, which, I was beginning to believe, was the only place where I would ever be able to survive.

‘Sometimes there’s something inside people that makes them believe they’re not good enough. Not a good enough mother, not a good enough wife, not a good enough person even. There isn’t always a cure for that, no matter how we try to help.’

I didn’t know back then that people and places really only live and die in our hearts…..IT’s a little like knowing that the people you love continue to live on inside you, even after they have gone.

I can go on and on. I loved Hughie’s relationship with his friend Nyxi and with his grandmother. I even liked that the dad was so flawed though I would have liked that character a bit more developed since he is such a pivotal character.

There’s so much good in this story. Touching, charming, sweet, sad, and it will stay with me for a long time.

Thank you to netgalley and the publisher for an advanced copy in return for an honest review.

Stretched Too Thin (3 stars): Depending on where you are on your journey and your background and how much you’ve read on this topic, this book has the potential to offer different paths for you. In some ways, I fall square into the demographic this book is catered to and in other ways I am very far from it. 

I’ve read many different books over the years around this topic so this wasn’t my journey into exploring these topics. My philosophy with books like these is that it generally helps to have regular reminders around these topics and that I almost always learn something new either about myself or just a new idea/approach altogether.

Turner’s book was no exception. There is a lot of content here and not all of it might apply to you. In fact, if you feel the need to all the things in this book at once, it might overwhelm you. My recommendation would be to focus on the 1-2 areas that need most focus for you right now. It might be that you want to deepen your personal relationships with your female friends (or make some!) or it might be that you want to figure out how to prioritize time with your spouse. Or how to use your time better as a family. Ideas for all that, and many many more, are in this book. 

And because there’s so much here, you can read the sections that you want to work on the most at the moment and then come back in a few months (or years) and read another 2-3 sections then. Of course, there are sections of this book that won’t apply to you. Books that are written for the masses will always contain sections that have nothing to do with your day to day. For me, the bar is whether i can find a handful of interesting new ideas to go ahead and try. 

And this book is full of those. Full of ideas you can try, areas where you can experiment and it also comes with a lot of support and reminder that you are not alone in struggling. Always a good reminder.

Outer Order, Inner Calm (2 stars): I’m usually a big fan of Gretchen Rubin’s books. I’ve read and enjoyed many of her previous novels and found lasting ideas/approaches in them. This one, not so much.

Maybe because I wasn’t in a place to declutter at the moment. Or because I feel there’s already so much written about this topic. Or maybe because there was much repeated here from her other books. It just didn’t feel new enough, full enough, deep enough. 

I’ve come to expect new or well-synthesized ways of thinking from Rubin and this just didn’t deliver on that account. There are a few tidbits but overall it didn’t deliver as much as her previous books have for me.

The Parade (4.5 stars): What a fantastic, fantastic novel. With the amount of books I read each year, it’s very rare for me to find a story that surprises me. I’ve read several of Dave Eggers’ novels and I always love his writing but have had mixed luck with his stories.

This story started our without much fanfare. I knew nothing about the plot, hadn’t read the synopsis so it took me a while to grasp what was going on. On the surface, this is about two men Four and Nine building a road in a country through towns that have been ravaged by civil way, to ensure residents can get from one end to the other. 

There is so much conflict in this novel: personal, between the two main characters, between the two characters and the society around them. There’s a constant level of tension, sometimes low and sometimes much higher. I felt a bit on edge the whole time and kept waiting to see what would happen. 

Up until the ending, this felt more like a character study. And then the ending is completely wild and shifted everything for me, making this whole novel extraordinary, for me. A great read.

Lot (3 stars): Sometimes I read a book at a time when my mind is busy and elsewhere and then I can’t tell if it’s the book that wasn’t solid enough to pull me in or if it’s just that I was at a place where that wasn’t possible. To top that off, I am not usually a fan of short stories. I like to get to know the characters of a book, sit with them long enough to have them become a part of my life and short stories rarely have the heft to make that happen. I was almost reluctant to pick this up because of that but it had fantastic reviews and the short stories here are interlinked so the same characters show up again and again. I thought it might do the trick for me.

Alas, this was mostly an okay read for me. I really enjoyed some of the stories and wasn’t a fan of a few others. What kept me the most from loving it however was the distance. There seemed to be a distance between the characters (their lives, their stories) and me. So the characters never got under my skin. I didn’t feel for them. I was always alongside them.

That, I think, is what kept me from loving these beautifully written stories.

One True Loves (3.5 stars): Yesterday I was in that place where every book I picked up felt wrong. I knew I needed something that would be like a warm blanket on my soul and when I saw this on my list, I knew it would be just the thing.

And in many ways, it was. It took me out of my reading slump, I read the whole thing in two sittings and I certainly enjoyed the experience.

I’ve read enough of TJR’s novels to know she is an amazing writer. Especially her last two, for me, were full of rich characters, long and interesting plot, beautiful weaving of emotion, which is a lot to expect out of a novel, but she delivers. 

In my opinion, this novel fell short of much of that. I felt like none of the characters were developed enough to the depths that made them interesting to me, not even the main character. Everyone was a little too perfect for my taste. Even the imperfections were a little too perfect. 

And while I appreciated her journey to figuring out her path, I just didn’t connect with the way she responded to what was happening to her. I didn’t like the way she showed up to the situation which made it hard for me to connect with her. Not to mention the super neatly tied ending.

Having said all that, I still enjoyed this story and it definitely warmed up my soul the way I knew she would.

ps: I can’t get over the grammatically annoying title. I don’t care if it’s a clever play, it’s driving me mad.1 like

The Salt Path (4 stars): This is an unusual memoir of a middle aged couple who have lost their home, find out that the husband has a rare degenerative brain disease. They decide to buy minimal supplies and walk England’s South West Coast Path from Minehead to Poole. They are backpackers but they are also homeless and penniless. 

The story of their homelessness and personal lives is juxtaposed with the beautiful nature descriptions and the lively bits of people they run into along the way who both show unexpected kindness and unexpected cruelty.

It’s a reminder that there are a lot of homeless people and we don’t know their stories. It’s a reminder that most of us live lives that are more precarious than we think and that life can change in a moment. It’s a slow, lyrical story that I am glad I spent time with.

And there we go, an ok week of reading. Here’s to a great week next week.

Books I Read this Week 2019 is a year-long project for 2019. You can read more about my projects for 2019 here. I am also tracking my books in real time on Good Reads here. If you’re on Good Reads add me so I can follow you, too! I’ve also started an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.

Stories from 2019 – 16

This story is about hurting my back while doing body pump, ouch.

Here are two more stories from my 2018 album. The content for these comes from the “rest” kit and the “learn” kit. 

This one is about a summit i helped organize and all that we’ve tried to do (at work).

Stories from 2019 is a year-long project for 2019. You can read more about my projects for 2019 here. Everything on the pages is from Ali’s Story Kits unless mentioned otherwise.

Everyday Magic – 16

Weekly Intention: The kids are off from school and I am off from work this week. We have a bunch of different adventures planned that go on for quite some time so my intention is to just be present with as much as possible. I want to be here in this moment as much as I can.

This month’s intention is: Making Magic: Go on adventures. Take trips with your family, make small and big bits of magic in your life. From February, on my plate still has summer vacation+camps but I think i am getting closer. I am working hard to make some magic for my family.

One way I will show up this week:  i am going to be slow, intentional and rest a lot. hug my kids a lot too.

One magic I will make this week: go to magical places.

This week, I will pay attention to: my husband and my kids and my body too since i might be getting sick.

This week, I will be kinder to: all my boys. let the vacations be awesome.

This week, I will focus on pleasing: myself. i need rest.

One new thing I will learn this week: what we’re doing for the summer, I hope. [keeping this still here!]

I am looking forward to: some vacation time together.

This week’s challenges: We have car travel, plane travel, appointments and work to get done. i am optimistic for now.

Top Goals: 

  • Work: no work this week, just occasional email checking.
  • Personal: daily drawing, journal, and yoga. and sleep, more sleep.
  • Family:  broadcom, figure out summer, book camps. rest, hug kids, hug kids some more.

I will focus on my values:

  • Love: love my boys so so much.
  • Learn: how to slow down.
  • Peace: peace with having to take longer to make decisions here.
  • Service: to rest and relaxation
  • Gratitude: having some time off.

This week, I want to remember: that all will work out okay. we will find solutions.

Everyday Magic is a year-long project for 2019. You can read more about my projects for 2019 here.

Weekly Reflection 2019 – 15

Magic I Saw this Week: This week had magical moments. Monday and Tuesday were pretty ordinary and long work days. Wednesday through Friday, I worked from home. I saw lovely magic in sunshine. In my kids shining at school, my husband shining at work. I had the magic of friend time on both Thursday and Friday, how lucky am I? Overall, I didn’t work hard enough to look for magic this week but it still was inevitable in my life.

Magic I Made this Week: I called my mom which was magical, and talked to both of my nephews. I met with two different friends on two different days. I took time off. I made art. I did yoga. I showed up and I rested, too.

Magic of Me that I explored Week: I am not doing super well here but I am trying to not give up on myself.

Top Goals Review:  

  • Work: did not write two more docs sadly, but did keep up with email, i did have some conversations. i didn’t get it done as much as I wanted to but i still made some progress.
  • Personal: i did my daily drawing, i journaled some, and did daily yoga. and slept, but not enough.
  • Family:  i bought kids packing list items, we started broadcom stem registration, i prepped for LA, i am closer to figuring out summer, and to booking camps. Did writing and math with N, did not cook dinner, did work with D a bit. Spent some time with love of my life.

I celebrate: David who had his recital night at school, a big culmination. and Jake who started consulting this week and is killing it.

I am grateful for: getting to meet with my friend Kelly.

This week, I exercised: i did yoga every day, but that was it since I injured my neck and decided it was best not to do body pump.

Self-care this week: met with a friend for breakfast and a friend for lunch. worked at home. i do appear to be getting sick but i am trying to rest as much as possible. i also went to the dentist!

I showed up for: my kids. my husband this week.

I said yes to: making it work so my husband could make space+time for his work.

I said no to:  nothing comes to mind this week weirdly.

Core Desired Feelings Check-in:

  • Embrace: i am embracing the stage of our lives at this moment.
  • Alive: this was a down week but being with friends really does help.
  • Lighter: i am not there yet. will feel lighter when a few more items are off my list.
  • Kinder: trying really hard here.
  • Surrender: surrendering to the pace of our lives and to not having all the answers yet.

What I tolerated this week: a little sickness, allergies, not being super productive.

My mood this week was: lower than i’d like.

I am proud of: how much we are each supporting each other.

I forgive myself for: how long it’s taking me to make progress.

Here’s what I learned this week: I am learning to give myself grace, to recognize what’s hard for me, and to get help wherever i can.

What I love right now: I love that the sun is back, that we are coming towards a season of (hopefully) some magical experiences together and individually.

Weekly Reflection is a year-long project for 2019. You can read more about my projects for 2019 here.

Joy of Art – 14

find ways to add color to your life.

These are small pieces I do at work or at home at night to help remind me why I love doing art. 

Joy of Art is a year-long project for 2019. You can read more about my projects for 2019 here.

Books I Read This Week 2019 – 15

This was an okay week, nothing too terrible and one really good book. Here are my goodreads reviews. If you’re on goodreads, add me as a friend so I can see your books too! I’ve also started an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.

The Opposite of Always (3 stars): I’ve been thinking about this book since I finished it. I was thinking about it even as I was listening to it because I felt annoyed almost immediately and I couldn’t put my finger on what was annoying me. I kept losing my focus and I knew the reviews were solid but I just couldn’t feel the story.

The gist of this story resides in Jack’s trips back to the beginning of their story so that he can live different permutations and figure out what he’s supposed to do and why he keeps getting sent back in time. Parts of it reminded me Lauren Oliver‘s Before I Fall which is one of my favorite YA novels and maybe that’s why I didn’t feel as interested in the plot this time because I felt like I’d already read a novel like this. (And that one resonated more with me for very different reasons.)

Having said all that, I liked the characters but wished they were developed more. I liked the diversity and that it was not the focal point. I liked the writing at parts. And I liked the friendship and the parents in some sections, too.

In the end I would have liked a story that was a bit deeper, I felt like there was a lot there and the author could have gone one click deeper and made the characters and this story much richer. I still enjoyed it and felt both happy and satisfied when I finished it.

The Wildlands (3.5 stars):  I loved the beginning and the ending of this book. I know you can always read the blurbs so I am loath to regurgitate the plot here, but in just a few words this book is about 4 siblings who survive but are orphaned after a category 5 tornado. (Their mom had already passed away at childbirth.) Three girls and a boy. The brother soon disappears and comes back after an eco-terrorism bombing. He comes back to take the youngest sibling and the story splits between the two on the run and the two that stay behind.

I loved both Darlene and Cora who are definitely the most developed characters in the story. I struggled a bit more with Vincent and I feel Jane was quite under-devopled though I liked the little bits of her we got.

I love the way the story wrapped up. I loved that it was real and not a Hollywood version of life. I also loved the writing, it was so visual, so poetic. A joy to read.

I’ll be honest, I checked this book out in the past but didn’t feel like reading it. I work in Silicon Valley, use Apple products and have worked with Apple before, so I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read a book about Apple in my spare time, but someone at work told me this is one of his favorite books and when people tell me that, I usually read the book.

This book is a very fast read. I started and finished it today. It’s about the design process, like the title says, but the two areas the writer has worked the most in is browsers (which I’ve worked on as well so it was fascinating to me) and the keyboard for the iphone and later ipad. The storytelling is excellent and keeps you engaged the entire time.

If these types of stories fascinate you, I am confident you will enjoy this book.

On Being Human (4 stars): There’s so much I want to say about this book that I don’t really know where to begin. I had never heard of Jen Pastiloff before I picked up this book. I picked it because the title (and the cover) spoke to me.

This book is mostly a memoir of the author as she goes through her life’s journey and then there are many sections that could be qualified as self-help through the realizations she’s sharing along the way. But the whole time it’s about her and it’s not lecturing you as if she knows what’s right for you. So in that way, it’s not really self-help 🙂

The book starts when the author is really young and loses her dad at a young age which has a profound impact on her life. The family then moves back an forth from California to New Jersey a few times and then she moves to the Los Angeles area and is a waitress there for a long long time before she finds yoga and love and herself and starts running retreats all over the world.

The writing is honest, raw, introspective, unvarnished in the most beautiful way. At times it pained me to read how she was self-destructing so much and to read her pain. But then I was also cheering for her and I took so much of the journey along with her because the writing is so real and you come to care for her so much.

There was much I underlined here, here are just a few:

The idea was this: I can give this away, this love, I do not have to keep it here in the dark, I can give it away and create more, even if I don’t remember what it feels like to be loved. I can create it.

I loved this. The giving it away and creating more.

This was a moment my sister lived with me where we were truly happy so I tacked it on the wall above my desk to remind me that nothing is ever one thing, that although there were moments where we hated each other and couldn’t stand living together, there were also times like this.

This is so true. I feel this so much of the time, especially with people I love.

Depression is a response to past loss, and anxiety is a response to future loss.

For some reason, I had never thought of this, in this way, before. This helps reframe somethings for me.

We can only be where we are.

Obvious maybe but hard to keep remembering this.

I’m worthy to receive.

I loved this because it’s not just about being worthy but about being worthy to receive. Loved this sentiment.

There will always be the one who doesn’t like you, the one who says, No, you should not do this, Yes, you suck. And we always always have two choices: keep going or shut down.

Ain’t that the truth. Who’s going to win? The one?

I have no idea who she is or was or what she’s ever done or might do, but my point is, life’s pretty filled up with all of us walking around telling stories about each other and to each other and about ourselves.

This also made me stop and think. It’s so true that we have our own stories about ourselves, about others, the stories we share. On and on. There’s so much noise. Who knows what the truth is.

Instead of getting caught up in who doesn’t like you, get caught up in who does. It’s much more interesting.

i loved this idea. hard as it may be to implement.

“No one is going to give me a fucking medal,” I yelled into the phone as if she were the deaf one. “I have to give myself one.” There is was. My whole life I had been waiting for permission, waiting to be discovered, waiting to be acknowledged, chosen, given permission to take up space. All of my life I had been waiting for someone to tell me I was enough.

The lady who left my retreat gave me a gift. She gifted me with the revelation that you have to do all the ard work of loving yourself yourself. In that moment in the kitchen with those ladies and the wine and the chocolate ganache, I finally realized that no one was ever going to save me. No one was ever going to give me permission to be me. I had to do it.

And this. So much this. Not waiting. Giving permission. I have to do it.

If any of this resonates with you, I highly recommend this book, it will stay with me quite a while. I’m grateful for people who share their stories honestly. Even though this author and I have so little in common in our lives/histories, there is still so much I share with her and so much I’ve learned from her journey and her openness.

Thank you to netgalley and duttonbooks for the advanced copy in return for an honest review.

Golden State (3.5 stars): I’m still thinking about how I feel about this book. I originally picked this book up right when it released. The premise seemed interesting and I thought it would be the kind of book I like. When I first started it, I couldn’t get past the first scene. I couldn’t understand what was going on, the narration was off aggressive, loud and felt invasive and I just decided to put it down.

When I finally picked it back up this week, I just willed myself past that scene and I am super-glad I did. The book got much better for me as soon as I moved past that scene. It was fast paced, enough ambiguity mixed with consistent pace of revelations and good character development.

For me, it fizzled at the end, which is why i eded up with 3.5 stars and not more. I felt like it shifted too drastically and the story wasn’t as interesting, for me. Overall, I am still glad I went back to this one.

If Cats Disappeared from the World (3 stars):  I enjoyed this story especially because it was such a different one. I’ve spent some time reading Japanese authors in the last few years and I enjoy the different rhythm and dialogue and perspective they tend to have.

In this case, some of those elements were there. The plot is unusual and interesting. The characters and some of the dialogue drew me in, especially the parts that had the ex-girlfriend and the cat. I enjoyed reading the backstory of his parents and all of it had the familiar yet unfamiliar sense I get from reading novels that are set in different cultural backgrounds than mine.

At yet, I don’t know if it’s the translation or not but the sentence structure and the word choice left much of this novel stilted for me. It was hard for me to connect to the dying man and the rhythm just felt off. I can’t even really put my finger on what exactly made it hard to really love this novel. This is the kind of story I would usually love. But alas, it fell a bit short in this case.

I wish I could read the original.

The Night Tiger (3.5 stars):  I know I must be in the minority for this book. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to read it but then I got it in my library queue and it was Reese’s pick at Audible and I felt like the universe was telling me I should read it.

It took me a while to get into it. The beginning was slow and a bit discombobulated, for me. But then the middle was pretty great. I liked the characters and grew to really care about them, especially Ren. I didn’t like much of the dream sequences but even that didn’t deter me too much.

I felt like by about 3/4ths in, I was ready for it to end. My interest and excitement had waned and it went on much longer than I though necessary. In the end, I am still glad I read it. The characters, the plot, the setting were all unusual, for me, and I appreciate how much I learn from books like that. It just wasn’t as magical as I’d hoped it would be.

And there we go, an ok week of reading. Here’s to a great week next week.

Books I Read this Week 2019 is a year-long project for 2019. You can read more about my projects for 2019 here. I am also tracking my books in real time on Good Reads here. If you’re on Good Reads add me so I can follow you, too! I’ve also started an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.