Books I Read This Week 2019 – 28

A lot of reading this week! 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.

Fix Her Up (3 stars): This is a fast and cute read. If romance is your cup of tea and you can overlook some of the shortcuts the author takes on behalf of the characters, you will enjoy this sweet novel. Fair warning that this is much steamier than the many of the similar looking romance novels that are popping up. I wasn’t a huge fan of the main character being a clown, it just seemed unnecessary and distracted from the story in my opinion but otherwise, I was perfectly happy reading this one. Light, easy and fun.

One Strategy (3.5 stars):  I read this book at the recommendation of someone at work and I knew it wouldn’t be a light read but, for some reason, the first part felt exceptionally dry to me. I didn’t connect with the content until the second part where the ideas were laid out more clearly with a combination of idea and then application (blog post) example. When he started talking about planning specifically, I finally connected with the book and was fascinated. I with it had been sooner than 36% into the book. The last 60+% went fast, was enjoyable and interesting and thought provoking. In fact, I likely could have just started there and still gotten most of the value out of this book. 

This is Home (3 stars): This story managed to both be light and still cover some serious topics. I enjoyed the variety of characters in the story even though I felt like there wasn’t enough depth in any of them. I still liked seeing them come together, form a community of their own and help each other. It’s not a story that will likely stay with me for a long time, but I still enjoyed reading it.

The Ruin (4 stars): Loved this book. This author is new to me but the reviews indicated that this would be a character-driven mystery novel which was spot on. I really enjoyed reading it despite some of the dark content. The story and character development was rich, the pacing was fantastic and unwinding all the lies and deceit and the flawed characters in this story made it a fascinating read. 

I really enjoyed that every single character was flawed in some way, which made them all so 3-dimensional and real to me. The dialogue and writing were also fantastic. I look forward to reading more of this series and author.

Celestial Watercolor (3 stars): This book has beautiful paintings and a lot of information on each of the zodiac signs. It is a light and quick read, and worthwhile if you’re interested in zodiac constellations. While it has a lot of paintings and some quick steps, I would say it’s pretty light on the instructions on how to paint so if you’re looking for step by steps, this is not the ideal book for you. If you’re mostly looking for inspiration, this is your cup of tea.

Thank you to netgalley and Quarto Publishing Group for an advanced reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review.

How Not to Die Alone (3 stars): I think the cover of this book led me to think it was different than it was. Not in a good or bad way just somehow I thought it would either be much more serious or much much lighter. Instead, it was somewhat in the middle. The story was relatively light with serious undertones and it was sweet. I enjoyed reading it but I am not sure any of the characters or the plot will stick with me for a long time, which is perfectly fine.

Own Your Everyday (3 stars): I had never heard of this author. Apparently she has quite the following online and she’s a Christian author. I picked this book randomly from the library and liked the title and the cover. Once I started reading it, I liked the author’s voice and her down to earth style. Much of this book is not amazing new findings or a completely different perspective. I’ve read a lot on subjects like these so I wasn’t expecting it to blow my mind but it was touching and honest and open. It reinforced many of the ideas I am working on and I really appreciated reading it. 

The part that will stick with me the most is this one quote: “one can’t be 99% free and call it freedom.” This really rang true for me and made me think about all the areas of my life where I am still not choosing freedom over other possibilities.

The Friend Zone (3 stars): Hmm ok, let’s talk about this one. On the surface, this is another cute romance story like many others that have come out for the summer of 2019. In some ways, it’s more than that. The characters are more complex and there are serious issues being discussed and addressed in this book. They are not addressed deeply but they are there and make the lives of the characters more 3-dimensional and less like a glossy magazine. Some really sad things happen in the story. I liked the characters, I loved their chemistry, I enjoyed reading about their stories, their interactions and especially the main female character being both a little fragile and a lot sassy.

And. It had all that and, it also had a few trite tropes I wish weren’t there. I am trying to not give away any spoilers so I will say it has a few literary devices that are common to how people shift their thinking and make change in their lives. More significantly there are some serious issues in this book that are then handled as if by magic they are less serious. This, to me, is a big no no. I don’t want to say too much but I am absolutely not ok when a writer takes a serious subject and swings a magic wand all over it. You do not have to handle serious topics in your book, but if you choose to, please give them the respect they deserve.

Other than that, I really enjoyed my time with this novel and I am looking forward to her next book, hoping is has a little less of what I didn’t love and more of what I did.

For the Love of Books (3.5 stars): As a person who loves reading and books, I knew there was no chance this book would not be enjoyable for me. In my family, we have books that we like to keep in the car because they are perfect books for reading in snippets and it gives us the joy of having an option in case we find ourselves stuck somewhere and with nothing to read. This is a perfect car book. 

This book is organized by themes and each theme has lots and lots of snippets of stories about different books or authors. Each story is about a paragraph or a page. It’s not an essay collection, it’s not the author’s feelings or thoughts about these stories, it’s the stories themselves. For me, this was perfect. 

I was reading my book over 4th of July and had family visiting. There were so many fascinating bits in here that I couldn’t stop quoting them out loud to my family. If you’re a book nerd and like reading about authors, the stories behind the books or the characters, I have no doubt that you’ll find something to treasure in this book.

Thank you to netgalley and Skyhorse Publishing for an advanced copy in return for an honest review.

Dawn (3.5 stars): I don’t usually read short story collections. Since my preference lies in character-driven plots, I generally don’t find short stories as satisfying. But I wanted to make an exception here because of my own roots even though I knew nothing about this author except what I found out from the blurbs. I knew the collection was short and decided to give it a try.

I really liked the first story, the symbolism, the strength and the writing. But then the second story was so over the top that I worried I made a mistake. Not sure why I kept going, maybe it’s because the stories are very short and compelling enough that I was willing to continue even if I didn’t care for one or two of them. There’s a good mix of optimism and tragedy in the stories. 

I listened to the audio version which was narrated by two Turkish narrators because they clearly knew how to pronounce all the names and places properly which was great. However, there were also many, many turns of phrase in the book that were clearly transliterated instead of being translated properly. For example, in Turkish we have something called bird language which a lot of kids use to talk to each other. It’s made up by adding an extra syllable between syllables of a word so it sounds like gibberish but is not. The author refers to this in the first story as how he can still remember it and understand the birds in the story. This concept doesn’t really exist in America. Kids here have something similar in called pig latin which does a similar play on words by “transferring the initial consonant or consonant cluster of each word to the end of the word and adding a vocalic syllable.” Even though the concept is similar, clearly what they call it here has nothing to do with birds. A proper translation would have referred to it as pig latin so it makes sense to the local audience but then the whole correlation to the birds would have fallen apart. Hence the conundrum I assume.

This is one example but there are many examples in the book where I could clearly tell that the translation was a turn of phrase that makes sense in Turkish but doesn’t really translate and thus its power is lost in translation. 

For me, this didn’t take away much from the powerful stories since I could switch back to Turkish in my head. Many of these stories are thought-provoking and profound and enjoyable. Despite the handful that I really didn’t connect with, I am glad I read this collection. 

And there we go, an okay 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.

Books I Read This Week 2019 – 27

Between travel and vacation, I got a reasonable amount of reading done this week. A few good ones and a few mediocre ones. 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 Flatshare (4.5 stars): How I love love loved this book. Sometimes a book comes at the right time for the exact story that you need. From the moment I started this sweet story, I didn’t want it to finish, I just kept reading and reading so I could stay in their world a little bit longer. 

This story reminded me of the British movies like Four Weddings and a Funeral or Notting Hill etc. It’s sweet, quirky in all the good ways and puts a big big smile on your face even as it deals with serious life issues like abuse and wrongful imprisonment. It’s a romance story at its heart and it’s an absolute joy to read.

Definitely recommended. 

Stop Doing that Sh*t (3.5 stars):  I liked this book because while there’s nothing new in here for me, there’s so much good reminder and this is the kind of book I have to read every few months to knock some sense into myself. I find that a reminder that I get to charter my own path and that it should be influenced by the future I want to create and not the past I’ve had never comes at a bad time. This is my life, i’ve got only one that I get to live and I am in it right now. I get to decide how this goes. I get to build the life I want. This means making a million little choices every single moment in every single day. And I get to make every single one of them. And then they accumulate into the life I want for myself. Easy and difficult as that. 

I liked Bishop’s previous book for it’s no-nonsense tone and this one doesn’t hold anything back either.

The Scent Keeper (4 stars): I loved this beautiful book. The writing, the atmosphere, the characters all came together to create the kind of story I enjoy deeply.

For many, this might be a slow book, but I love these kids of books, especially when they can get both the atmosphere and the characters right and this one does both wonderfully. 

I discovered this book randomly through my library, so grateful for such lovely surprises.

City of Girls (4 stars): Elizabeth Gilbert’s books make me so happy. They are beautiful journeys into other worlds and deep, beautiful character studies. I go on their journeys with them and experience the ups and downs of the choices they make. I learn about new ways of living, perspectives, and find myself cheering for these amazing characters.

City of Girls was pure joy to read from beginning to end. I loved all of the characters and did not want the story to end. I loved all the color from the 40s of New York, the bits of history integrated into the story and the ways in which affects (and doesn’t affect) Vivian’s life. I loved all the variety in the characters and the journeys each of them took in their lives.

I will miss these characters so much and can’t wait until Gilbert gifts us with another story.

When We Found Home (3 stars): This is a sweet book about three step siblings who find each other later in life, two of them are grown ups and one’s twelve. The story is about what it means to become siblings, create a family and learn to trust. It’s sweet and kind and and easy read.

The Perfect Date (2 stars): Ok so this is the weirdest thing I’ve ever experienced in the over 400 books I’ve now read from all the different libraries in California. I checked out and thought I was reading a book called The History of Living Forever but alas once I started listening to the book it turned out to be this one instead. So I just kept reading instead of stopping when I should have. This book is fine if you like books that are not substantive and you don’t care about character development or even likable characters much. Each character is quite unlikeable in that they are not nice to each other at all. Plot is predictable and doesn’t really go anywhere imho. It’s a quick and easy read. Just not sure it’s worth the time.

Boy Meets Depression (4 stars): It is rare to read an honest and open book about depression. I hear this is based on a TED talk but I have never watched it nor have I heard of the author. Nonetheless I am grateful to have read this book and his perspective and learnings will stay with me as I go through my own light and darkness.

Magic for Liars (2.5 stars): I was really looking forward to this book. Magic is my word for 2019 and I thought this would be a great fiction story but alas it was too disjointed for me. 

The main character wasn’t likeable, in fact none of them really we’re except one or two. The world building didn’t really exist. Normally I don’t love books spending half the book world building but this one had no explanation at all and just felt like the magic bits were planted into a normal world with no explanation. 

The ending was totally weird and off. I didn’t even get what the author was trying to do. Quite a lot of serious subjects here and yet all are glossed over. Meh.

Still gave it a few stars for the unusual story and solid writing. Just wish it was more magical than that.

And there we go, an okay 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.

Books I Read This Week 2019 – 26

This was a okay reading week, for me. A few books but long ones. 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.

Middlegame (3.5 stars):

Smart kids get put on a pedestal by parents and teachers alike, and the rest of the class gathers around the base of it throwing rocks, trying to knock them down. People who say ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me’ don’t understand how words can be stones, hard and sharp-edged and dangerous and capable of doing so much more harm than anything physical.

Ok like many others, I am going to have a lot of trouble explaining this novel. I’m a huge fan of the wayward children and even though I wasn’t sure I was going to like this, there are enough similarities that I wanted to give it a chance. And then I just kept going, though I will say this was likely about a third too long. It could have been a tighter story without as many repeats. I know some of them were on purpose but some just felt like lack of editing, to me.

I think whether you like this novel or not hinges a lot on whether you connect with the two main characters. All the negative reviews I read seem to have felt no connection and the positive ones seem to have loved the two characters. I was mainly on the second camp. I loved these twins. I loved the math vs words split. I loved their connection. So I was willing to endure much to get to keep being in their world. I also loved Erin and really enjoyed watching her evolve.

There are many many interesting references here that I likely missed which could deepen the story in a second or third read but alas it’s unlikely I will. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed my time in Roger and Dodger’s world and can’t wait for more Seanan McGuire novels.

The Wisdom of Anxiety (5 stars):  “As Rilke said, ‘Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart, and love the questions themselves.’ When embarking on inner work, it’s essential to remember that life is a work in progres, and there is not end goal to healing. As humans, we are both whole and broken, formed and unformed. But there is a critical difference between having broken parts that need attention and believing that there’s something fundamentally wrong with you. There is nothing wrong with you. You are intrinsically good, loved, and whole.”

I usually read a book in 1-2 days. I will sit with it, dive into it and then come up for air when I am done. I expected to do that with this book as well and I couldn’t have been more wrong. This book turned out to be a journey for me. A journey through my own anxiety, my own childhood, my ability to be kind and generous with myself. I could not take this journey in one day, I needed it in bits and pieces, I needed to sit with it all.

I have highlighted 73 different sections in this book. I can’t quote all of them here but here’s one more that is the most resonant for me, especially as a parent but also for my own child-self:

“As a parent, one of my deepest desires is for my sons to know that they are loveable and loved exactly as they ae, no matter now angry, loud, messy, or disrespectful they are. I want them to know that all their feelings are welcome and important. I may not always like their behavior – and I let them know – but it doesn’t alter my love for them, which is unchanging and eternal. I’ll say to them “I didn’t like how you treated your friend today, but nothing will ever change how much I love you.” The message I hope to impart is: I love you because I love you. I don’t love you because you’re beautiful (even thought you are.) I don’t love you because you’re creative (although I do reflect back an awareness of your creativity.) I love you because I love you. And that will never change no matter what you do. “

This book is a reminder that anxiety is about a call inward to fill your well, it’s an opportunity to be curious and to be kind and to learn. It’s an opportunity for wisdom and growth. What a kind and generous perspective. It’s the kind of book that encourages action and growth through curiosity, openness and self-kindness instead of blame and shame. I am so incredibly grateful for the time I’ve spent with it and I know there will be times I will refer back to this to remember all of the wonderful and kind lessons she imparts.

Huge thanks to netgalley and sounds true for an early copy and for the opportunity to read this wonderful book.

The Sentence is Death (3.5 stars): I read the first book in the Hawthorne series last year and really enjoyed it, so I was looking forward to the second one and it did not disappoint. If you liked “The Word Is Murder,” I am pretty optimistic you’ll like this one, too.

I really enjoy the juxtaposition of Horowitz being the writer in the story and having the story within the story aspect to the whole novel. I enjoy Hawthorne and Horowitz’s characters both immensely and the interaction even more. I liked the first book slightly better just because there was so much joy in the newness of the concept and the introduction of the characters.

While I wasn’t able to guess the full whodunnit in this story, there were some twists and turns I was able to see coming and I actually enjoyed that the most. It managed to get me excited about how clever I was as a reader but also kept me guessing until the end in some ways.

Horowitz doesn’t disappoint. Looking forward to #3

The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna (3 stars): This detailed and thought-provoking novel of a family saga starting in Cambria, Italy and ending in Connecticut over the course of some 100 years started out as a five-star read for me. This is exactly the kind of novel I usually like. It’s character-driven. It takes place over a long duration where you see the characters grow and change and find yourself getting more and more attached to them.

All of which happened. Especially for Stella, her sister, Tina, and her mom. But then the story was too long and my interest (especially over the repeating themes) started to wane. I don’t usually like reading around the topics of rape and incest and they play a reasonably major role in this story so that also started to get to me after 12 hours of audio and I had a hard time staying with it.

I am glad I finished the story and there were so many bits that I loved but, for me, it didn’t finish as strong as it started. And yet, I know it will stay with me for a while.

And there we go, an okay 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.

Books I Read This Week 2019 – 25

This was a meh reading week, for me. 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.

Marriageology (3 stars): I am a big fan of reading about marriage (and other topics) while things are going well. I feel like at moments like these, I am open to learning and receiving because I am not constantly triggered by what I might be upset about. So all potential ideas feel like options I can try out and use to strengthen my marriage. This book has both anecdotal stories and academic research and statistics. I would say that if your marriage is in trouble and you’re reading this book for ideas, the tone might throw you off a bit. It’s funny and jokey, not in a bad way but it might rub you the wrong way if you’re hurting or angry. 

For me, I enjoyed this reminder of several different areas to pay attention to in my marriage and to always keep working on it.

The Better Sister (2.5 stars):  This was a relatively fast paced novel that started with an interesting premise but then didn’t keep up the pace as much as I would have liked. If domestic mysteries are your thing, you will likely enjoy this and the few twists it contains. I didn’t really want to put it down while I was reading it which is definitely a sign of good pacing and plot, for me. But alas I don’t think it will stay with me for long.

The Invited (3 stars): I had read that this story was going to be creepy and while I am not picky in my reading tastes, I generally try to stay away from creepy. After hemming and hawing I decided to pick it up anyway and I am glad I did. This is a medium paced character driven novel, you get attached to the characters through slowing learning more and more about their lives. 

The chapters are short and pacing is much faster than a typical character-driven story though I’d say slower than a typical mystery. For me, this didn’t turn out to be creepy at all. There is a twist here and there and I was able to guess several pretty easily but it didn’t take away from the story, for me, since there’s more depth here than a typical mystery story. 

In the end, I am glad I picked it up.

With the Fire on High (4 stars): Acevedo is such a good writer. Her characters are so 3-dimensional they come off the page. They stick with you and you find yourself thinking about them all the time. This novel was very different from Poet X and still had some of the similar themes. It was fun, deep, thought-provoking, fast-paced and meaningful all at once. It’s hard to pull off all of those things in one story and she does such a good job with it!

The Farm (3 stars): Golden Oaks is a surrogacy farm. Women host children for the wealthy. Many of the women who are hosts are immigrants who need money and jobs and a leg up in life. The clients are wealthy and white. This story is dubbed as dystopian but it’s not that far from a potential truth. 

While it was character driven, I still found myself unable to get into it as much as I would have liked. There was not enough variety and inflection in the story. The characters were each different but they all fell a bit flat for me. I felt the story went on longer than it needed to be (especially the epilogue.) 

While I think there are some very interesting ideas in this book and it’s a valuable social commentary, I think the execution wasn’t as tight as it could have been. Having said that I still enjoyed reading it and am glad these kinds of books are getting printed and read.

And there we go, an okay 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.

Books I Read This Week 2019 – 24

This was a meh reading week, for me. 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.

A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World (3 stars): “Better a brain than a fist. A brain can hold anything, from giant things, like distant stars and planets, to tiny things we can’t see, like germs. A brain can even hold things that aren’t and never were, like hobbits. A brain can hold the whole universe, a fist just holds what little it can grab. Or hits what it can’t.” There are so many beautiful bits in this book, and yet, for me, it mostly dragged. I just couldn’t get into the story and didn’t ever really connect with the main character. In a book where the main character is alone 60+% of the time, this was a major issue.

While there is indeed a twist toward the end of this book, I couldn’t decide if the twist was at all necessary. I couldn’t decide if it added to the story in any way. Sometimes the twist makes you go back and revisit everything you held to be true while you were reading a story. In rare cases where that’s executed perfectly, that’s great. In most cases it’s just a disaster, in my opinion, where the author just assumes the reader is dumb and they can drop a huge twist with no hints along the way that just makes the first half of the story completely unimportant. I hate those. In this case, though, I felt it was neither. It didn’t do much to serve the story, and I think I would have enjoyed the end of the story just as much without the twist being presented in such a twisty way. 

I did enjoy the end of the story but I am not sure it made up for the whole time I invested in this one. If you like beautiful writing, dystopia, or twists, this might be your cup of tea.

Exhalation (4 stars):  I read Ted Chiang’s previous book after I’d already seen the movie Arrival. While I enjoyed the writing, I couldn’t get into the stories. I figured it was my inability to focus at the time so when this new collection came out, I was looking forward to it but also a bit apprehensive. I don’t usually read short story collections, so that only added to my overall worry that I wouldn’t like this book.

Alas, my worries were unfounded. If you’re a fan of science fiction and good writing, you will find something to treasure here. There are a wide range of stories and one of the best parts is the author’s note at the end of each story, telling you about how the idea came to be and what area of science it was based on. To me, that was icing on the cake. 

I loved many of the stories but for me the first and the last stories (“The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate” and “Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom”) were the best. I also loved “Omphalos” and chatted about it at length with my fourteen year old. Even his titles make me smile.

So glad I decided to tackle this one.

The Unpassing (3 stars): “It was a kind of violence, what my father had done. He had brought us to a place we didn’t belong, and taken us from a place we did. Now we yearned for all places and found peace in none.”

This is a story about grief told from the perspective of a young boy of an immigrant family from Taiwan. The boy gets meningitis and is in a coma, when he wakes up, he finds out that his sister also got it and died. The story is about all the ways in which the family grieves the girl on top of the struggles they have as an immigrant family in Alaska. Things do not get better and there’s a lot of sadness in this character-driven story. 

The news from the time (80s) are also incorporated into the story, things like Challenger explosion, etc. The themes around grief, immigration, racism, bullying are all covered. The book is slow and grim but also has beautiful prose. 

If character-driven stories are your cup of tea, you will appreciate this one.

Rules for Visiting (3 stars): This is a very quiet novel and not much happens in it. But in a sweet, wonderful way. This book doesn’t focus on what’s going on but more about what does it mean for us to be human, what does friendship mean, and how do we make or keep friends. What does it mean to foster relationships in your life. 

I am more like the main character in this book than not, I have friends but i don’t really do the work to foster them too much. I prefer to be alone with my books. Unlike the main character I have a family so when I feel the need to connect, I have my wonderful family which makes it even less likely for me to try to foster and grow friendships. This book made me think a lot and I made a list of all the people who’ve been in my life that I’d rather have a closer relationship with so that I can also work on growing those relationships over the coming months. 

Any book that makes me more intentional about my life is a good book, for me.

Everything is F*cked (2 stars): I try to never ever give low ratings because I know that a lot of effort and care and blood and sweat goes into writing a book. And who am I to judge a book and say it was bad. But then again, these are just my opinions and I find that when I am looking around picking a book to read, the variety of opinions matter to me so I think it’s important to be honest about how I felt about reading a book so that other people can make choices that work for them.

I’ll say that I read and really liked Mason’s first book so I was very much looking forward to this one and hoping it would be more of the direct and honest style I’ve appreciated from him. And this book had some of that but it attempted to be so philosophical, so high level that I didn’t at all feel the personal connection to it like I did in the first book. It was all over the place and much less organized than the first book. 

It had some interesting and thought provoking ideas but many of them were from other books I’d already read, so not new to me. I did like much of his philosophical points and historical examples but it just didn’t really coalesce into a solid delivery in my opinion. 

I will still read more books by Manson and look forward to his next one, this one just wasn’t a home run for me.

Noble Heart (5 stars): I am a huge fan of Pema Chodron and this is a very comprehensive set of lectures. This was likely a recording at a retreat so the format is: lessons/learnings and then meditation over multiple days. It’s not ideal for listening to in one shot while running errands, etc. But to be honest, I can and will listen to Pema anytime, anywhere, under any condition. 

Her ability to take concepts and make them human, add a layer of humor and a layer of personal touch is unparalleled. She is such a good teacher because she’s fallible and the audience can relate to her so well because it’s clear she understands why we all seek these learnings because she clearly does, too. 

There is such a density of content here that I can listen to it again and again and appreciate it deeply each time. So grateful for teachers like her.

And there we go, an okay 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.

Books I Read This Week 2019 – 23

This was a so-so reading week, for me. 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.

How to Draw and Write in Fountain Pen (4 stars): This book is a gem! if you like drawing and want to start simple and not buy a ton of art supplies, this is the book for you. 

It’s broken into three parts: basic drawing guidelines, a bunch of examples of things to draw, and several projects.

In the first section, the author breaks down fountain pens, how to hold one, how to make lines, what type of ink to get, etc. It’s simple, clear and organized.

The second part if chock full of simple drawings: food, clothes, plants, trees and so much more. Each drawing is broken down to three steps and feels very achievable. The book also has several alphabets.

The last section has several project ideas, things like cupcake toppers and gift tags, etc. All of them relatively simple and elegant and very useful.

If you have wanted to venture into fountain pens, drawing, or fun little projects, this book is a great place to start.

The Algebra of Happiness (3.5 stars):  This was a very quick read. This author, while apparently famous in some worlds, was completely new to me. While the book wasn’t at all what I thought it was going to be (info/data/learnings) it was really enjoyable. I liked his style and mix of no nonsense strong opinions mixed with self-deprecation that he kept having. His focus on people you love, family and focusing on what matters is always a good reminder.

The Printed Letter Workshop (3 stars): It took me a while to get into this book. I’m not sure if that’s because it had sort of a slow start or if it’s because I was distracted. I listened to this on audio and in the beginning the three women didn’t have distinctive enough voices to differentiate which made it hard for me to develop any sort of interest and empathy. But over time, as their stories developed, I found myself rooting for each of them and getting to know each of them. I still wish they were developed even further because they were each women I’d like to have gotten to know more. The book was sweet, even if a bit predictable, and I never regret a story about books and bookstores.

Anywhere, Anytime Art: Illustration (4 stars): This is a great starter book on illustration. It starts with a section on materials, media, and different styles. It talks about color theory and why it’s important to be thoughtful about the color palette you choose to evoke different feelings. 

It then moves to a wide range of projects, some of which I loved like drawing your neighborhood or hand lettering a meaningful word/phrase and others didn’t speak to me as much but I still loved seeing what the author produced.

There’s some step by step in this book but it’s a combination of instruction and inspiration, generally staying on the simple/introductory side of things. If you’d like to experiment of illustration, I think you will love this book as a starting place.

It’s a Numberful World (5 stars): I am squarely in the target audience of this book! 

I loved every single page of it, underlined pretty much half this book and have had several long conversations with my family as I was read it in. In fact, while we were driving to the beach, I read parts of it out loud to my kids. This book is the perfect combination of math, fun, learning, fascination, and joy! 

This book is broken into chapters, most of which are not intercorrelated (with a few exceptions) where there’s a new mathematical concept covered in each chapter. It mentions all things math like fractals, algebra, chaos theory, graph theory, encryption and more. I knew many of these concepts and yet it was still delightful to reread what I knew and fascinating to read what I didn’t know. 

If you’re a fan of math or have someone in your life who might not appreciate how magical math is and how it’s a part of every single aspect of our life, I think this would make an excellent gift. I hope they will love this book as much as I did.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek (3.5 stars): Historical fiction is not usually my genre of choice. But when it’s done well, it can be my favorite genre. This novel is about a time and region in history that I know very little about. At first, I thought the author made up the “blue skinned people” but as the story progressed, I thought it’s an odd detail to make up in a book that is otherwise not at all science fiction. 

I really enjoyed reading all of this novel. I liked the main character and several of the secondary characters and I really appreciated learning all the details about the small town. The bigotry and judgement are both woven into the story in ways that absolutely break your heart. And it’s another book about books. I loved learning about this time in history and this wonderful book delivery project.

Really enjoyed this one. If historical fiction is your genre, I am sure you will love it.

When We Left Cuba (3 stars): I enjoyed reading this historical novel. I did not read the previous novel by Chanel Cleeton so I can’t compare the two. I know nearly nothing about the history of Cuba and very little about the political period in American history. So I enjoyed learning about that period. 

It took me a while to get into the novel. I almost abandoned it twice but I am glad I stuck with it. It was interesting and a worthwhile read. I also liked the questions around where one’s home is. The topic of allegiance and patriotism are a big part of this story.

Inward (5 stars):

i was never addicted 
to one thing;
i was addicted to filling 
a void
within myself
with things other
than my own love

This book is wonderful. It was what I needed, when I needed it. It will resonate with you if you’re you’re interested in topics around self-love, freedom, and peace. Many will call it not poetry, and many won’t like it. That’s totally okay. I loved it.

All That You Leave Behind (2 stars): I just didn’t connect with this book as much as I’d hoped I would. I enjoyed the lessons Erin’s learned from her dad and I also enjoyed hearing about their family story but I just felt disconnected about the story the whole time. Sometimes it’s just the right book at the wrong time.

This Song Will Save Your Life (5 stars): I loved this book. 

I have not read anything else by this writer and I knew very little going into this book except that it covered topics around suicide. The thing I loved about this book is that I think it’s a real representation of high school and what it feels like to feel different and like you will never belong. There was so much I could relate to in here and yet it was completely not melodramatic in my opinion. It was real, raw, and not over the top. 

I loved the character’s voice. Many of the secondary characters weren’t super well developed but in this case it made it stronger because it brought the reader in the same telescope place as the main character where we were really limited to her perspective and her knowledge of each of these characters (including the parents.)

This one was a good novel for the younger me who would have really benefited from so much of this. It will stay with me for a while.

And there we go, an good 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.

Books I Read This Week 2019 – 21

This was a low-reading week, for me, but most of the reads were fantastic, so that’s a great week in my 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 Honey Bus (4.5 stars): What an absolute gift of a book. I am so glad I didn’t know much about this book because I might have not read it thinking it was yet another memoir, or a book about bees, or whatever excuse I might have had for thinking it wasn’t for me. But it was. It so was.

This wonderful book is about a girl whose family falls apart after the separation of her parents when her mom goes back to her family home with the two kids. The mom is (for her own reasons) uninterested in paying attention to the kids and there’s so much neglect, yearning, need for belonging in this book and yet also so much salvation, hope and kindness.

The story is so beautifully told, pulls you in so much and makes you root for her and feel for her and cheer for her, and live all these moments with her. Beautiful observations from Meredith about family dynamics, school dynamics, and life dynamics. To top that off, there are great stories about the bees, that makes you realize the amazing creatures that they are.

An absolutely beautiful story about bees, a family, and how much of a difference one single person’s love can make in a person’s life. Absolutely recommended.

Ask Again, Yes (4.5 stars):  I loved every bit of this book.

“The thing is, Peter, grown-ups don’t know what they’re doing any better than kids. That’s the truth.”

I’ve noticed that sometimes the quietest stories are my favorites. Stories where I slowly get to know each character and before I know it they have grown on me so much that I can’t imagine waking up another day and not finding out about how they’re doing. The best novels are like that for me. Characters that I miss deeply. Characters who are flawed and so deeply lovable and so deeply real.

“She’s learned that the beginning of one’s life mattered the most, that life was top heavy in that way.”

And this book is full of them. Almost every character is imperfect. They are messed up, broken, struggling, and just working hard to move forward in life. Terrible things happen in the book, and sad realities of life surface. There are heavy issues like parental abandonment, substance abuse, mental illness, and sexual abuse. The scars of life’s experiences and the intermingling of all this deeply affects these characters, all of whom I had come to cherish in some way or another.

“It wasn’t that she didn’t love him, he knew. It was that she loved him so much that it frightened herm loved him so much hat she worried she might have ti protect herself from it. He tried to let her know that he’d figured that out, finally, that there was no need to explain, but then he realized that she might not know it herself.”

It’s hard to get the ending of such a book right. But this author does it just perfectly. It’s true. It’s real. It’s not a pretty bow tied perfectly and yet it still manages to leave glimmers of hope. I have enjoyed all my moments with this book and I am glad I stuck with the slow simmer. These characters will stick with me for some time.

With gratitude to netgalley and scribner for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

Miracle Creek (4 stars): I had heard so so much hype about this book that it was almost impossible for it to live to all the gushing reviews. But, alas, for the most part, it totally did.

I love character driven stories, and if the author manages to put together a character-driven story and then add an interesting plot on top of it, and then weave some fascinating courtroom drama on top of that, how do you not love what the result is? This book handles a lot of serious issues like autism, immigration, motherhood, disability and more.

Each of the characters is flawed and struggling with their own lives/truths and trying to find their way through their lives. And then there is so much lying, so many layers of hiding the truth that all peel back layer by layer as the story unfolds that the reader’s grief just incrementally gets deeper.

I loved how much this book made me think about immigration, about family dynamics, about what it means to do the right thing, about secrets we keep from each other. About moral decisions. About being true to who you are. And so much more.

If you’re like me and are afraid to pick this one up due to all the hype, you won’t be disappointed. It’s really deserved.

How to be Yourself (3.5 stars): I’ve started this book a few times before I made my way through it. I didn’t read the full title so I didn’t realize at first that it was about social anxiety. I am definitely introverted (though likely not shy) and it’s rare that I’d choose a social setting over a book on any day. But I know that it is important to socialize and this book has some simple, tangible tips on how to make it easier for people like me. Some of these I have tried and already found to be true. For example, I find it easier to socialize at my kids’ school if I have a role to play and a purpose to be there. I also find it easier to socialize in settings that have a common interest like book club or crafts or a class etc.

The biggest little piece of nugget this book left me with that I will remember, however, is that when I am anxious about looking a particular way around someone new I meet or in an environment that’s anxiety inducing for me, I just have to remember people want you to be kind to them. That kindness is valued and remembered over anything else. Like the saying goes: people might not remember what you said but they will remember how you made them feel.

This makes it easier for me. All I have to do is show up and be kind. I can do that much.

The Mother-in-Law (4 stars): I really enjoyed this book so much more than I thought I was going to. I thought it would be another twisty thriller with unlikeable characters. I’ve read too many of those. I hadn’t read anything about this book nor had I read this author so I had no idea what to expect.

First thing I loved about this book is that it’s actually quiet and not hysterical. None of the characters felt over the top to me (well maybe except for one but that comes in at the very end). They were all interesting, flawed but reasonably real characters. The men were not as developed as I wish they were but the mother in law and the main character were and I really enjoyed reading about the characters. While there was the underlying “whodunit” it was so much more about the people and not the mystery for me. And yet I felt the book moved really fast and I kept wanting to read more.

A pleasant surprise for me.

And there we go, an good 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.

Books I Read This Week 2019 – 20

Another mixed week this week. A handful of reads I loved and the rest were so so. 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.

There’s a Word for That (3.5 stars): There’s always the opportunity to make dysfunctional families look too over the top and just ridiculous when you write a book like this. And the beginning started off a little like that for me but then the story unfolded and I got attached to each character a little bit in different ways and they each were so endearingly human that by the end of the book I was rooting for most of them. Lovely, sweet story. I really enjoyed this one.

Feast Your Eyes (4 stars):  Myla Goldberg is such a good writer. I loved Bee Season and was anxiously awaiting this book. It did not disappoint. Feast Your Eyes is about Lilian who is a photographer and a single-mother. It’s a story about being a woman in the 50s, being willing to pursue your dreams, take chances, make a statement. 

The book is told from the perspective of Samantha, her daughter, who interviews Lilian’s friends and colleagues. She also includes journal entries and letters. When you listen to this book on audio is actually has a bit of a similar structure to Daisy Jones but it’s a completely different topic.

This is a beautiful story about the unintended consequences of a moment in public, the multi-layered texture of loving both your job and your kids, the journey of finding yourself and trying to find freedom in the 50s as a woman. It’s a beautiful story and it’s beautifully told.

Weight of a Piano (4 stars): I absolutely loved every moment of this book. I am always weary when books claim to be like other books I’ve loved and this one had some hefty comparisons to live up to but within moments of starting to listen to it, I was lost in its world, vested in its characters and did not want to put it down. I loved the characters, the writing, the intertwining, all of it. This book is about family, immigration, love, loss, identity, belonging, the power of music and so much more. The pacing of the story was just right for me and at different times I was more invested in one character than the other but overall I found myself just wanting to be in this story for as long as possible. It even managed to end in way that felt just right. I’ve never read this author before so I don’t know if all her novels are just the perfect ones for me but I can’t wait to explore them if they are anything like this quiet, lyrical, beautiful and profound story.

Maybe Someday (2.5 stars): I read this whole novel in one sitting. Well, I listened to it. That’s 5+ hours on a week day. I just could not stop once I had started and that alone makes this novel a 2.5 star rating for me. I liked the story and I liked the two main characters, even a few of the side characters. But here’s where things come to a halt for me, this story felt empty in the end for me. It felt like an appetizer or a dish with empty calories. It didn’t satisfy me deeply. Maybe because it felt like it stayed too on the surface for the kind of stories I like to read. Sometimes I am in the mood for this type of meal/book but maybe this time I wasn’t. It felt like I was since I pretty much inhaled the novel but alas afterwards I was left with an empty feeling. Much of the character development/depth was either offscreen or through telling and not showing and maybe that’s why I felt like I wasn’t really experiencing the novel. Having said all that, dialogue was great, and the pacing is just so unputdownable. Sometimes empty calories are just fine.

Reasons to Stay Alive (3.5 stars): This is a short but not light book. I imagine that’s obvious from the title but I felt the need to mention it just in case. While, for me, this book was a bit too short and I found myself craving more. More on how to help get better. More on things to try. More on figuring my way out of the dark. I know that’s not the point of it so I don’t want to duck the author for that. This is a profound and honest story and we need so many more of these. I deeply appreciated the candor, the vulnerability, the openness. I am deeply grateful for the courage it took to write this. I just wish it were a bit more tangibly helpful for me (and I know that’s a lot to expect from a book with where I am at this moment.)

Have More Fun (3.5 stars): Super quick read. I didn’t know anything about Mandy Arioto and there are bits of this that don’t resonate with me but the overall sentiment is so near and dear to my heart and something I really want to do. There are so many little pieces of gems here but the part I loved the most is how she talks about putting having fun with your kids and liking your kids above trying to fix all the things they do wrong. I can’t remember her exact wording but the idea of liking them as people and having fun with them is exactly what I want to put as #1 in our lives. I want them to look back on these years and smile with all the fun we had.

The Girl He Used to Know (3.5 stars): I read this whole story in one shot. I loved the characters. My biggest complaint is that I wanted to know them more, I loved the scene with Annika’s mom because it was such a resonant scene as a mom and it showed so much of who she was. There weren’t a huge number of cases where there was that type of depth of showing. Glimmers here and there but I yearned for more. Especially with Annika’s roommate whom I adored. I know she is not a main character but she added so much depth to the story. Overall though, this was a quick and loving story for me.

Fifty Things That Aren’t My Fault (3 stars): This book is written by the creator of the Cathy comic strip. I didn’t grow up in America so I read only a few of these comics but I’ve enjoyed them and this book got really high ratings so I thought I would give it a try. It’s an honest, sweet book at times but it also has a some dark undertones and parts where it feels like she’s highlighting all the millions of things we women grapple with. It’s resonant and sad and serious and also funny and sweet and tender.

And there we go, an ok week of reading. I am on book 166 for 2019, so much for reading less this year. 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.

Books I Read This Week 2019 – 19

A mixed week this week. A handful of reads I loved and the rest were so so. 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.

Era of Ignition (3 stars): I find that there are a few different kinds of books that I benefit from reading with some regularity. Books on mindfulness, self-awareness, intentionality, happiness/positivity, and books on bias and privilege. When it comes to these topics, I am always willing to try a wide range because I never know what will resonate the most.

There are parts of this book I really enjoyed reading. Any reminders to not take my privilege for granted, any reminders to learn, stretch and push myself are always welcome. I appreciate Tamblyn’s vulnerability and honesty. I appreciate her sharing her perspective, her own growth and her willingness to be open. 

I think this book was a bit all over the place but I still found myself learning new things, widening my own perspective and being curious. Always grateful when that happens.

Any Ordinary Day (4 stars):  I am not sure what drew me to this book. I assume the cover looked pretty so I decided to check it out of the library and see. And then I looked at the rating and saw how high it was so it stayed on my pile. When I finally picked it up a day before it was due, it was compulsively readable. I do not like reading stories about terrible tragedies so I was worried I wouldn’t like it but the tragedies themselves are not dwelt on in this book at all. It’s mostly about the survivors and how they coped after and the author’s own story is woven throughout. But what’s going to make this book stay with me is the author’s compassion and empathy throughout. It’s written with so much respect and a deep love and resilience.

In the end, it’s a reminder that things can turn on a dime and do all the time for lots of ordinary people and that the ordinary day is a gift and not the norm. A reminder to be grateful. A reminder than we are each a lot more resilient than we might think we are. And to appreciate this ordinary moment right here.

Life is Short so don’t Wait to Dance (4 stars): I put off reading this book twice at the library. I have no idea why. I started it once and it just didn’t speak to me (but i stopped about 10 minutes in so that tells you how much of a chance I gave it.) I know nothing about gymnastics or dance and I had never heard of Valorie. I checked this book out because the title spoke to me and I can always use advice and inspiration around living more fully.

And this book delivered in spades. There’s a lot of great storytelling here but there’s also a lot of good advice, food for thought, and perspective. Much of what she said will stay with me for a long time and I am going to have to go buy it now because I know I will want to revisit some of her lessons and her advice. Great read.

Mostly Sunny (3.5 stars): I knew nothing about Janice Dean. I don’t watch FOX or any TV at this point but somehow this book called to me and then the ratings were so high that I decided I should read it. It was a good read and kept my interest the whole way through. I am not sure that I learned a lot from it except for a lot of empathy for her and how resilient she is and how it’s always the best idea to be who you are. But I still enjoyed it quite a bit and am grateful for the work she is doing to help forward conversations around MS, her willingness to be vulnerable and how she is so unapologetically herself.

Skin (3.5 stars): The reviews on this book were mixed and I’ve read enough dystopian novels to not be thrilled about reading a mediocre one. But alas, I think there’s a lot of gold in this story.

First of all, unlike most other dystopian novels I’ve read this one focuses on one family and their journey through this new world. The story alternates between the beginnings of the outbreak and the family’s transition and the “now” world of many, many years later. The main character is the mom of the family. All of this already made me more curious since most of the dystopian novels I’ve read are either YA or not focused around a family in general.

Also instead of focusing on all the gory details or even on a lot of what’s different (though there’s some of each) the main focus here is the psychological impact on the individuals in that family and the acute sense of isolation. This, too, felt novel and interesting to me. 

I do wish the characters were a bit more developed. I think we got some peeks into the daughter but the son was almost comically evil and I would have liked to know more about him and same goes for the husband. I understand that the mom was the storyteller and a lot of the boy’s transformation is post-separation so maybe she didn’t have enough insight there but clearly there was a lot about the husband from before and while we did get some glimpses there, I still craved more. I felt like I wasn’t as attached to the family (except for the daughter) as I would have liked to be for the separation to feel awful. Instead it felt like each member of the family was fine with it for their own reasons (which of course meant it didn’t feel as devastating.)

I really enjoyed reading this story and really appreciated its unique perspective and protagonist.

Thank you to NetGalley and Legend Press for an early copy in exchange for an honest review.

The Memory of Light (4 stars): Sometimes the best novels are the quietest novels. Especially when it comes to heavy topics like depression, suicide, substance abuse, etc. The Memory of Light is just such a novel. It’s so quiet one can almost think it’s devoid of emotion and yet that’s its most powerful message. When you’re depressed, much of the time things are muted and not loud. There isn’t always a reason or one event that created the one moment that finally caused you to decide to end things. You can’t explain why. And there’s no magical moment when all is well again. There’s no magical cure. It’s ongoing and it’s hard. And like all paths, it’s curved and windy.

This book does such a good job of representing depression in the quiet way in which it can destroy your life, your choices, and your hope. In the slow and steady giving up of everything you care about. In the unwillingness to fight back or to even disagree. In the lack of caring. And what I loved best is that there wasn’t a magical ending. Some glimmers of hope and a lot of hard truths. The reality that it’s a long journey. 

I loved reading this and recommend it for both those depressed and those trying to understand depression of their loved ones.

Inspection (2.5 stars): I loved the premise of this book but as several others already commented, I felt the execution was slow. Several of the reviews I read said it really picked up in the last 100 pages so I decided to stick with it and yes, the plot really starts moving, but in the end I found much of the book unfulfilling. I felt like so much more could have been done with this premise.

Only Ever Her (3 stars): This is an unusual novel in that on the surface it appears to be a mystery but usually mystery novels are very plot-driven and fast-paced whereas this story is slow burning and is very character-driven.

It’s about Annie, who days before her wedding goes missing. While she tells a few bits of her story in the very beginning, most of the book is told from the perspectives of 4 other people: her cousin, her aunt (who is the mother figure because Annie’s mom was murdered when she was a kid and she was raised by her aunt), her high school secret best friend, and another high school classmate (not friend) who is back in town working for the local paper. 

I usually love character-driven stories and when thrillers take this route I am even happier. And this was totally my kind of novel where the mystery of what happens to Annie (and what happened to her mother) were what united the story but it was really more about the small town, each of the people and their individual stories and their journey. The biggest reason this is not a 5-star read for me was that I didn’t end up connecting with any of the characters. I think this is because there wasn’t enough depth, vulnerability, connection built between them and the reader. Maybe that’s cause there was more telling than showing, or just not enough in general but even though I can’t quite put my finger on the why, I just didn’t feel connected to the characters as much as I like to in this type of story. I will say, though, that I didn’t find any of them dislikable. None of them are two-dimensional, comical, or unreliable. Which is already a huge win compared to so many of the mysteries that seem to be coming out lately. 

This was a solid read for me. I enjoyed the time I spent with it.

Thank you to netgalley and Lake Union Publishing for the early review copy in exchange for an honest review.

Utopia for Realists (2 stars): I really wanted to like this book. I saw it had very high ratings and I was excited to read it. It started out well and I really liked the beginning section on homelessness and the solutions/experiments different countries have done around it. I do not disagree with any of the premises he mentions in this book around open borders (i am an immigrant after all), 15-hour work week (yes oh yes to this, i worked 3 days a week at once of my previous jobs and I was more productive than i’ve ever been since) and universal basic income sounds promising on the surface.

Now here’s where I completely was done with this book: these issues are complicated, nuanced and layered. Please please please do not write a book where your opinion, arguments and perspective is so slanted, so biased that it’s just obvious you haven’t looked at both sides of this argument and presented me good content to think about. I am not interested in a book that gives me information only about one side unless it’s in an area like inequality where one side is so dominant that we need more books on the other side alone. Otherwise, present both sides of the argument, be compelling, make your case, but give me more than just your bias. I really dislike when authors assume I am too dumb to realize when the content is so one-sided.

After I Do (3 stars): I will say that having read Reid’s latest books and then going back to read some of her earlier ones, I like her later ones much more. Not because these older ones aren’t good but really because I feel like there is now so much more depth in her stories and characters. 

This story of a couple who takes a year off to see if their marriage is redeemable or if it’s a lost cause is sweet and despite some serious ups and downs still has a “Hollywood” feeling for me. It didn’t feel as raw, honest, and deep. Which is completely okay as long as that lines up with your expectations going into the story.

I look forward to more of her future stories.

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.

Books I Read This Week 2019 – 18

I read less that I’d have liked this week but I still read a few I really liked. 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 Other Americans (4 stars): I loved this book.

Even though her previous book won awards, I had never read Laila Lalami before and had no idea what to expect. On the surface, this book is a mystery about a hit and run that kills Driss Guerraoui. But it’s about so much more. The story is told from multiple points of view, one of the daughters, an undocumented witness, an Iraq veteran that’s a friend of the daughter, a detective trying to solve the murder, a neighbor, and the murdered man himself. There are also cameos by the other daughter, her husband, the dead man’s wife and more. For me, all the perspective shifts added wonderful layers to this story and made it richer.

There are so many issues in this book from racism to war and being a veteran to belonging to family dynamics to affairs and more. So much more. It’s told beautifully and while there’s a lot here, none of it felt didactic to me. It all meshed together in a naturally connected way that is so representative of the melting pot that is America. It felt quiet and yet poignant. 

I loved this so much that I am looking forward to going back and reading her previous novel.

Juliet’s School of Possibilities (3.5 stars):  This was a super-quick read. A parable about time management and making choices that are right for you. The idea of balancing priorities with time and choosing how to live your life as opposed to feeling like choices are being made for you by your inbox etc. Our priorities determine our choices which determine our actions which determines the life we live. So pick accordingly. Work vs friends vs family vs life. Make sure you’re balancing in a way that honors who you are. And find what makes you come alive, what feels resonant and true to you.

All of these are good reminders and important to keep in the forefront of your life, especially as the daily noise interferes.

Billion Dollar Whale (3.5 stars): Yet another story of how the world is not as orderly and “safe” as we might thing. How everything hangs in the balance of most people doing the right thing. How things are not what they seem and how it’s easier than I’d like to swindle people, companies, and banks. 

How you can just steal money and get away with it. How people can be bought. How it’s not as hard to fool people as one would wish it were. It’s just despicable to read all this and made me cringe pretty much the whole way through. 

I hadn’t heard of any part of this story but sadly after reading American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road maybe it just doesn’t surprise me anymore. The part that was most new-to-me here was how purchasable some celebrities are. Which I guess might not be that surprising either. If you liked Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup and American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road you will likely enjoy this, too.

The White Book (3.5 stars): Han has a way with words. She has a way of writing about people, emotions, connections that just stays with you. I have read both The Vegetarian and Human Acts and they have both affected me in ways hard to express. The books have stayed with me even as they traumatized me. 

This one is softer, subtler but just as sad and just as touching and just as deep. Her words are beautiful, her imagery is vivid and her stories stay with you.

Senlin Ascends (3.5 stars): I read this book during a flight from California to Florida with a ten year old next to me. It’s possible that without all that distraction, I would have rated it higher as it was hard to keep track of all that’s going on in the book. This story of a man who loses his wife during their honeymoon trip to the Tower of Babel is crazy in all the great ways. The story becomes a thrilling, mind-bending adventure within moments of his entering the Tower to look for his new wife.

There are creatures, time travel aspects, and even pirates. The minor characters are just as much fun as the major ones and the whole story is just absurd in all the best ways. It was a hectic but enjoyable way to spend a plane ride.

Wolfpack (4 stars): I loved this little book. I knew it was going to be most of the graduation speech but I was pleasantly surprised to find a bit more and sometimes the right book comes at the right time, this book, for me, was just that. It came when I needed a good pep talk and Abby Wambach delivers just that. Good advice, good perspective and a really solid pep talk. It’s not a to-do list, it doesn’t have numerous examples from many different people. It’s a super quick read and a boost when you need one.

I Miss you When I Blink (4 stars): I read this little, wonderful book on the flight back from Florida to California. I had never heard of this author and within moments of starting the book, I was absolutely hooked. Her honest, straightforward prose and beautiful writing captured my interest immediately. Her vulnerability and authenticity kept me reading. I loved every page of this book. Reading nonfictional essays like this tends to be something I don’t enjoy as often because the writer tries too hard to be funny, cynical, or too clever in my opinion. This was none of those things. It was down to earth, honest, and open.

The Poet X (5 stars): I have no idea why I waited as long as I did to read this book! It’s absolutely fantastic. I listened to it on audio and it was just as magical as reading it in verse. This story covers heavy, important topics like immigration, religion, sexuality, and most importantly family. It’s raw, it’s beautiful and it’s poignant. It’s a super fast read but it will stay with me for a long time and I know I will be coming back to it again and again.

The Dream Peddler (4 stars): I had heard nothing about this book and just checked it out because it sounded interesting and I liked the cover 🙂 What a pleasant surprise. This beautifully written book is about a small town that’s visited by a man who sells dreams. The magical realism was just the right touch to a book about sorrow and loss and grief. It’s also about identity, religion and community. The characters in this book were well developed, real and they stay with you. It’s a quiet but touching story.

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.

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.

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.