Books I Read This Week 2019 – 11

Big reading week this week and quite a variety in both genres and author diversity.  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 Island of Sea Women (4 stars): I’ve read many Lisa See books over the years and she never disappoints. This wonderful novel is no exception.

At its core many of See’s novels have the same theme: female friendship. They are often overlaid against a historical background and the history is of course inextricably linked to the experiences the women are having and how their friendship evolves (gets impacted) by everything in their lives.

This book in its most basic has the same premise. It’s about two women who meet as girls and are as close as siblings from a young age. They are on the Korean island of Jeju and they are part of an all-female diving collective. This culture is characterized as matrifocal, which is, focused on females. The women do all the hard, dangerous work, earn the keep and the men cook and take care of the babies, etc.

The story takes place over a long tumultuous period, including Japanese colonialism in the 1930s and 1940s, World War II, the Korean War and what follows, and then ends up in current day era, a few generations later. There are some horrible horrible things that happen in the book. I am sure much of it is historically accurate and it was tough to read. 

The overarching story, as always, is the friendship between the two women. What we keep from each other, even in our most trusted friendships. How we can destroy each other even as we’re trying to protect each other. How we can hold on to hatred and resentment for much longer than it serves us. And, of course, regret.

I am grateful for the time I spent with this book, to Lisa See for both teaching me about a time and place in history I knew little about and weaving a deep, touching and thought-provoking story into this time period to make it come even more alive for her readers. 

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

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

An Anonymous Girl (2.5 stars):  This was your run-of-the-mill psychological thriller, something reasonably rare in these days when all the books have to be filled with twists and turns and unreliable narrators. I didn’t love it but I also didn’t dislike it. I don’t think the characters were developed enough for me to care about them in any deep way. The plot moved fast enough that I kept listening to it without wanting to take a break, so that’s likely the best thing I can say about it.

I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening) (4 stars):  I have never heard of these authors, nor have I listened to their podcast but I always love the idea of grace-filled conversations in any area, let alone politics. I had a few friends mention this so I thought it would be a good read.

And it was. There are some thought provoking recommendations here specific to politics but the premise of adding nuance and not being extremist and not completely ruling out a person based on categories we put them into, being comfortable with the uncomfortable, exiting the echo chamber and getting curious are applicable in every area of being human. So we can all learn something from this book.

For those of you, like me, who have not listened to these authors before, I want to mention that there are references to religion and scripture in the book. I am not religious (and have a different religion than the authors) and this didn’t bother me or take away from the book in the least but I always think it’s important to mention so people are aware and don’t write off the whole book on account of that. 

It’s a well-organized, thought-provoking book and a very worthwhile read.

The Art of Visual Notetaking (5 stars): This book is fantastic! 

I am always fascinated by the videos and pictures of people taking visual notes as they listen to a lecture. I wish I were that talented and able to not only listen to, process but distill and visualize information so quickly and well.

This book breaks down the process for you step by step and highlights all the important factors in creating a visual representation. Emily makes sure to mention all the “basics” that are really the crucial aspects of where to sit, how to listen, how to prioritize and how to plan.

Then she talks about handwriting which she breaks down to simple steps and shows you exactly what you need to practice to get to a place that you like for yourself.

And then comes the part that I consider the hardest: the visuals. Here, too, Emily is fantastic at breaking it down and introducing a concept I’d never heard before called leveling it up where you start with the basics and keep adding to them in little bits to make it better and better. 

Emily also talks about adding color, creating a visual library, headers, containers, correcting mistakes, using metaphors and other parts of your visual notetaking journey. Like with all the other chapters, she builds it up in a very consumable, practical way that makes it look achievable.

Like everything else, the only way to really get good at this is by lots and lots of practice which she makes a point of mentioning and giving lots of examples of her progression so you know what pace to expect and she also has exercises at the end of each chapter so you can practice what you just learned. 

I know she makes it look much easier than it is and it will take a lot lot lot of practice but this book is inspiring and informative and encouraging in all the right ways. If you’re even remotely interested in this area I cannot recommend it enough.

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

The Happiness Diary (4 stars):  I’m a big fan of living with intention. To me, this means being clear about many different areas of my life and aware of the choices I am making and paying attention to the way those choices impact me both day to day and cumulatively.

Being happy is something that doesn’t come as naturally to me as it might to others. My natural state is lower than average and I have a tendency to remember the negative more strongly than the positive. So this is an area where I make a lot of extra effort to be even more intentional.

This book is the perfect tool to do that with. This is not a “reading” book, it is a “working” book. You have to work with it, live with it, think and take the time to really be intentional. It has eight different sections from definition to focusing on present moment to changing your brain to capturing the small things, etc. There are future looking exercises, ones that encourage repetition, ones that you revisit in intervals of time, etc.

Some of the exercises encourage introspection and you can do them in one sitting. There are others that are about making future commitments. And then there are ones that are about remembering the past or the present. Ones that encourage practicing new behavior and ones that encourage practicing new ways of thinking. 

There is a wide variety in this book and while my digital copy didn’t allow me to take advantage of the beautiful way this book is laid out for writing, the prompts and exercises are all easily transferable into your own journal. It’s not about the looks (though it’s so pretty too) it’s about the content. 

This book will be my close companion all throughout 2019 encouraging me to be intentional and thoughtful about my life so I can welcome more happiness (or be more aware of the happiness that’s already there.)

with gratitude to netgalley and the publisher for an arc in exchange for an honest review.

Where Reasons End (4 stars):  What an unusual book. This short book is an imaginary dialogue between a mom and her son who committed suicide. They talk about ordinary things: her writing, the world, poetry, etc. So I know some of the negative rates think there’s no emotion in this book when it’s clearly such a horrible emotional tragedy but I actually felt like there was a lot of emotion there. It was subtle and more acute in small moments but it still felt really sad to me. (Maybe because I listened to it on audio.)

I’m still not fully sure how I feel about the book but I am glad I read it.

The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls (4.5 stars):  This is one of the few cases where I felt like the blurbs that quoted The Mothers and An American Marriage did a little bit of justice to what this book feels like as opposed to just throwing titles on there to encourage readers to buy and then sorely disappoint them because of the lack of actual resemblance. Even though I’d say The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls is not like either of them, it does have the same feel as both of them in some ways.

This book is about a couple who go to jail for embezzling from their charity and the siblings of the mom, as well as their two teenage kids. The chapters shift perspective mostly among the three adult siblings but there are a few chapters with the dad, too, but not as many. While much of the book is the impact of the incarceration on the kids (and the adult siblings), it gets intermixed with the history of each sibling going back in the past and revisiting abuse in their own childhood, dealing with the scars of that and in some cases working hard to make peace with things. In fact, I’d say each character is on his/her own path to peace in this book. And there are varying levels of getting to it, just like in the real world. 

This book was very well written, the characters are deeply developed and there is a wide range of issues raised that are so real and told with such honesty that it’s hard not to connect with the characters. 

This is definitely up there as one of my favorite reads of 2019 so far.

Territory of Light (3.5 stars):  This small, quiet novel takes place during the year after the narrator separates from her husband and lives with her young daughter in an apartment. What I liked so much about this novel is that it’s told in little vignettes and moments from their lives. 

There is the sorrow, loneliness, and journey of the mom overlaid with the wonder, joy, and sometimes agony of the little girl. There is a lot of detail of simple every day things, the small pleasures, the small things that cause us deep sadness.

One of my favorite scenes happens pretty early on in the story when the water tank in the building has a leak and water floods everywhere and the two of them sneak out at night and go play in the water. There are so many little scenes like that. 

I am really enjoying reading novels that are different in the rhythms and language they use and this was one of the ones I am really glad to have read.

And there we go, a small week of reading. Here’s to another good 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.

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