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.

Books I Read This Week 2019 – 15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We can only be where we are.

Obvious maybe but hard to keep remembering this.

I’m worthy to receive.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I wish I could read the original.

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

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

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

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

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

Books I Read This Week 2019 – 14

Some fantastic reads 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.

The Self-Love Experiment (2 stars): I started this book because it was recommended in a list I had read over the summer. Pretty soon after, I thought I should stop. I don’t shy away from self-help, not even the woo woo kind, but this book was getting under my skin pretty much right away and that’s generally not a good sign.

The author is telling her own story and applying the learnings she talks about to her own life situation, which in her case is dealing with her body/weight issues so a lot of the examples she gives are around that which normally I’d be interested in except at some point she says she cleaned out her car and then dropped 10 pounds. At which point I stopped the audio book. (If i were reading a book, I might have thrown it out the window.) I understand she was trying to make a point but no, just no.

So I stopped.

And then, I decided to tackle it again (honestly, not sure why.) And here’s what I will say: I wish the author hadn’t narrated this book. I think that was one of the things that didn’t connect with me. The narration experience is a big deal on audio. I also wish she would have brought a few other examples from other people because here’s the thing, even though this is totally the author’s journey, there’s very little sharing around the actual journey. There’s a lot of here’s where i was and here’s where i am now, isn’t that awesome!? And here’s what I now believe. But none of “here’s what helped me get there.” She even says that she can’t tell us get there but man once we do, it’s awesome.


She didn’t even really help me figure out how to design my own self-love experiment. She didn’t highlight all the things she tried. The journey itself felt like it was completely missing from the book, for me. So then it became just her examples of her negative thinking and then her awesome accomplishments. Which fell flat without the growth curve in the middle.

I did like some of her principles and i also liked her letter about what she learned. I think this book had potential and I know every book is a labor of love and it’s hard work, I don’t want to discount that hard work. It might be a super-useful, life-changing book for someone else. It just wasn’t for me.

Creative Selection (4 stars):  What a fantastic, fascinating read.

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

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

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

American Kingpin (4 stars): This is not the kind of book I would have ever picked up on my own. I usually don’t read nonfiction (at least not as often as I read fiction.) and I hadn’t heard of The Silk Road, and this is not a topic that would have fascinated me enough for me to pick it up naturally. (Even the cover didn’t call to me.)


A colleague at work recommended it as a book he loved so I checked it out of the library and once I started reading it, I couldn’t stop. It was compulsively readable and an absolutely fascinating story. Even more fascinating that he had no computer background and didn’t really scale his life up at all as he accumulated piles of money. Quite a character.

I am glad I read it and will be thinking about this story for a while.

PS: This is why I ask everyone their favorite books. I’ve found so many gems this way. If you read this, I’d love to know your favorite book, too!

The Urban Sketching Handbook: Working with Color (4 stars): I have read and enjoyed several Urban Sketching books in the past and this one was no exception. This book sits at the intersection of useful and inspiring. There are two major sections. The first one covers key areas around color like pigments & mixing, color & value, color relationships, etc. And then the “galleries” section covers things like mood & atmosphere, light & shadow, etc.

The author does a fantastic job of covering the basics without dragging it out. If you know absolutely nothing at all about color, this book doesn’t really do a step-by-step. It’s more structured as: introduce a concept, give an example on how it’s used, and then encourage practice with an idea or challenge. It’s intended to be practical and not super instructional.

For me, it was the perfect mix of enough instruction and inspiration. I especially liked learning some new-to-me things like what a local color is and then the specific examples the author showed when she used several techniques in one drawing. Once I saw her break it down, it helped clarify the concepts for me. I immediately used some of her ideas in my next sketch (especially the ones on how to paint a sky.)

And finally, the variety of sketches, both by the author and by other sketchers, is the best part of this book. There’s a huge range and you are guaranteed to find something that inspires you.

Overall, this is another winner from The Urban Sketching series.

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

The Penguin Lessons (3.5 stars):  I really enjoyed this little book about a rescued penguin. There isn’t too much depth in this story but there are some lovely anecdotes and some beautiful scenes and if you’re a penguin fan like I am, you won’t be sorry you read it. Doesn’t everyone wish they had a pet penguin (safely of course)?

Before She Knew Him (3 stars):  Messed up is likely the best way to describe this thriller. There were parts where I seriously considered putting it down but it went so fast that I couldn’t really get myself to stop. I apparently wasn’t listening closely enough to figure out the twist, either. In the end, i liked it ok but these thrillers that are so super plot focused just never leave me satisfied.

You Do You (3 stars):  This book was due at the library in 24 hours so I decided it was now or never. I had tried to read Knight’s previous books and had not been successful so I am not even sure what made me want to tackle this little book.

This book, as the title might suggest, focuses on being who you are. Celebrating what makes you, you and leaning into it instead of shying away from it/covering it up, etc. It’s fully aligned with one of my areas of focus this year so it was right up my alley.

There’s profanity in this book, which doesn’t bother me one bit but I know it can trigger some. She’s straight and speaks with confidence. Her message is not one I disagree with but like so many of these books what she doesn’t really outline is how to get there from here. In some of these cases where I might be hesitant to make my move, what holds me back isn’t that I don’t know these things, it’s that I can’t myself to do them 🙂 so the lecture doesn’t help me.

Anyhow, these books consumed occasionally aren’t bad in my opinion. But, of course, action is what really moves life forward in the end.

Dare to Disappoint (3.5 stars):  My son’s English teacher sent this book to me when she found out that I grew up in Turkey. I immediately fell in love with this little book mostly because there’s so much of my childhood in there.

The author/artist grew up around the same time I did so a lot of the history she covers overlaps with mine and it was such a walk down memory lane for me. There were many parts where I chuckled out loud remembering so many little bits of my own story.

Her story is very different than mine for a multitude of reasons, I grew up in Istanbul (to her Izmir) and have very different parents and I also am not Muslim. I went to different schools and left the country to attend college in the US. But even with all that, there was so much here that reminded me of my own upbringing, of the truths we held to be true at the time, of the way my country developed and shifted and changed shape in those years and how we shaped who we were under that umbrella.

There are some terrible moments in this book but most of them are mentioned without too much depth. I couldn’t decide if that bothered me or not. Likely, I was too busy having my own walk down memory lane and if this weren’t a story that hit so close to home, I would have wanted more depth. My biggest beef with this story ended up being the ending. I felt like there was so much detail in her story and then when the ending came, it all fell flat for me. I wanted to see how her story evolved as she shifted and evolved. Even if it were some sort of epilogue. I was so invested in her by this point (which says a lot about the graphic novel) that I felt let down.

Overall, this story had a personal impact on me so it’s very hard for me to gauge if others will love it. But since the original recommendation came from an American, I think others will like it as well.

When All is Said (4.5 stars):  I loved this book.

When I originally started listening to it (in the first 5 minutes to be fair) I wasn’t sure if I would like it. So I put it down. A few weeks later, I decided it was time to tackle it again and I am so glad I did. This book had a similar feeling to John Boyne‘s The Heart’s Invisible Furies which was one of my favorite novels of the last five years. But it was lighter and a faster read.

This is the story of Maurice Hannigan who is now old and sitting at the bar of a hotel and telling the story of his life through five specific toasts he makes. He recounts some of his saddest moments and some of his happiest and the people whose lives had a profound impact on the choices he’s made in his life and the impact his choices have had on others’ lives.

There is so much gold in this book. So much introspection. So much perspective. It’s kind, deep, honest and true. It shows how all humans suffer and how all humans are flawed and how the experiences we have impact so many of the choices we make in life. It made me think a lot about the consequences of the reactive decisions we make in life. It made me think about my own life and all the places where I made choices which were to “get back at” or respond to a life event at the time of my childhood. All the stories I am still holding inside myself. It made me realize that others’ likely have their own stories of those same moments and what life was like for them.

It made me think deep and wide and revisit so much of my own life. And if that’s not a fantastic book, I don’t know what is.

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

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

Books I Read This Week 2019 – 13

If it weren’t for two super great reads, I would have said this is an average/not great week. But two super good reads in a week is pretty excellent.  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.

Tangle’s Game (2.5 stars): As someone who has a history in both finance and tech, I was excited to read this book. I wasn’t exactly sure what the plot would be but I thought it had potential.

I am loath to say anything bad about a book because I know a ton of effort goes into writing a book and it’s a huge accomplishment. This book has an interesting story line and I liked the last 15% more than the rest of the book. For someone who’s looking for an interesting, plot-driven story, it might just be the thing.

For me, there were several things that made the book less than ideal. The beginning of the book dragged quite a bit longer than I would have liked. It took a long time for the reader to find what was in the drive and what this whole thing was about. This would have been interesting in a character-driven story but in a story that was mostly about the plot, it made me impatient and frustrated. Some of the details of this future world were interesting to me but I felt the author didn’t give me the depth I would have liked. The characters were reasonably under-developed with possibly the exception of the main character. Even Ichi did a lot of telling of her backstory as opposed to feeling like a 3-dimensional character for me. Most of them didn’t change or grow much (except Amanda) so it just fell flat for me.

What ended up being the most frustrating part for me was the lectures the women gave each other (and the men) about how hard it was being a woman (or being biracial). It felt super didactic and super condescending. As a woman, I felt offended and annoyed. As a reader, I felt like the characters were taking a pause in the middle of the plot to lecture each other. It just really didn’t fit at all. There were several other political commentary sections that felt the same way. Like the author was lecturing through the characters. It bothered me enough that I almost put the book down.

I don’t want to give away the interesting parts of the plot but I did enjoy Tatsu and found the plot around Tatsu to be interesting and enjoyable. I think this story would have been more enjoyable without some of the extra commentary, especially if you enjoy plot-driven stories.

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

The Secret of Clouds (3 stars):  I saw this book in my library and the cover looked so beautiful that I wanted to read it. I knew nothing about the book and had never heard of the author.

This book is about a teacher who is tutoring a sick boy and through her relationship with him, her perspective (and then life) changes. It’s a good book but it’s not a book that will stay with me. It’s more in the sweet, little story category. It felt more plot, less character development and those books are usually not my favorite.

If you want a sweet, easy-to-read book that’s touching, this is not a bad pick.

Be Angry (3 stars): I’ve never read a book that contained the wisdom of the Dalai Lama that didn’t teach me something important. This was no exception. This book was a bit disjointed and that made it hard to keep up with but the wisdom, the teachings, the thought-provoking perspective is all there.

Being Creative (3 stars): I like the message this book is imparting. That creative is something you are. It’s inside you. The book is broken into 5 sections, each with 4 ideas around how to get you more and more into the creative mindset and to unlock the creativity within you.

The first section really resonated with me, the idea of beginner’s mind, starting small and reducing the size, and even consistency. I have done all of these in my own work and they do work like magic. I love the sentiment that “we don’t push the difficulty away. we don’t put it off until tomorrow. We stay with it now – with all the terror it induces.”

I also liked some of the new-to-me ideas like “internal camera” and “prepared piano.” There are other ideas that I don’t use regularly but make sense tome like making small changes daily, like your first thought being your best one, like not theorizing.

I also loved this: “Remind yourself each day that you have some responsibility for your creativity. You can change things.”

At its core, this book comes with this message: “Abandon the illusion of creativity. Instead, address what’s there….Be free of the mess.”

I love the ideas in this book.

Here’s where it fell a bit short for me: The format of the book was hard for me to get into, I felt like there was a lot of repetition, the chapters were too short, not enough details for the ideas and not enough solid examples. It was a bit too abstract at parts where I wasn’t sure I understood what he was saying fully. I could have used a bit more depth.

At the end of each section, there’s a “further learning” section which is full of things to read, listen, study and visit. They are delightful and wide-ranging and add so much depth to this book. I loved reading each of them and I can’t wait to dive into many of them.

On the whole, I am glad I read this book and I feel energized to keep creating and to heed the reminder to “stay with yourself as the only source of creativity – it’s not out there but inside you. You are the receptacle of all things creative.”

How can one not be inspired by that?

i received an advanced copy of this in return for an honest review. thank you to netgalley and the publisher.

Shout (4.5 stars):  I wanted to read this from the moment I heard it was coming out. If you’ve read any of her previous novels, you know Laurie Halse Anderson is a powerful writer and this memoir in verse is no exception. It’s powerful writing at its best.

too many grown-ups tell kids to follow
their dreams
like that’s going to get them somewhere
Auntie Laurie says follow your nightmares instead
cuz when you figure out what’s eating you
you can slay it

if you have never read LHE, there are a lot of trigger warnings to be had with this book, so please be careful before you pick it up. I am grateful for people who tell their story and for people who tell their truth. We need so many more books like these.

Beautiful, deep, heart-wrenching, and truth telling. Thank you, Laurie Halse Anderson.

A Woman is No Man (4.5 stars):  I have so many thoughts about this book. I was very much looking forward to reading this book even though I didn’t know too much about it. The most consistent thing I’d heard about it was that it was harrowing. So I braced myself as I started reading it and I will say that I think knowing there was going to be devastating parts of the book really helped me so I wanted to make sure to pass this on in case in helps other readers too.

This book is about three generations of Palestinian women living in America (Brooklyn, NY.) The mother-in-law, the bride, and the daughter of the bride is how I think of it in my head. Each of their stories is raw, honest, and has heartbreaking parts. Each, in their own way, highlights the difficulties of growing up as a woman in this very patriarchal society/community.

There is a lot that happens in this book, and since I grew up in Turkey so much of this rang close to home for me. I heard so many of the same messages around a woman’s worth when I grew up (even though I am not Muslim.)

Each of these women’s stories makes you feel deep sadness. How they had to sacrifice their soul and identity to exist. How they had to endure. And how they just passed this on from generation to generation (that’s the part that made me both angriest and saddest. that it’s not just the men who do this but the women do it to each other.)

This novel doesn’t hold back. It’s not sensationalist, it’s not trying to be loud, it’s not trying to preach, it’s not trying to do anything but tell the truth. A terrible, sad truth.

I will also say this novel is compulsively readable. It’s well written, the characters are deeply developed and you feel for each character, even the ones doing horrible things. You can feel each person’s brokenness. The author did a terrific job.

We need more books like this. We need to tell our stories. We need to speak our truths. To me, it’s one of the best gifts of books, that I get to learn about others’ truths. I get to relate. I get to feel empathy. I get to care. It helps connect us and make each of us feel less alone. I am grateful for those who choose to be brave and who choose to tell their stories.

Riots I Have Known (2.5 stars):  I wasn’t even sure how to rate this book. I requested this book because it sounded intriguing and it sounded like it would be funny but also thought provoking. “Smart, wry, and laugh-out-loud funny” said the reviews. In retrospect, I should have known better than to attempt a book on satire. Satire, sarcasm, and dark humor are not my thing. I like heavy/serious books, I like light/funny books, I like a very wide range of novels but I have historically never been a fan of satire. It feels off to me. If you have a point to make, make it. Don’t make it in a way that’s belittling and underhanded.

I know this is a point of view and completely my opinion. I also know that it’s hard work to write a novel so I am going to do my best to make sure this review is not colored by my anti-satire bias as much as possible.

This is an interesting story by a Sri Lankan prison mate during a riot. He is locked in the media room in the jail and narrating the events of his life. It’s mostly written in a stream of consciousness style and it weaves in and out of present day and is set against the backdrop of this big riot so there’s a lot of rhythm to the story. For me, this style made the story hard to follow and I kept losing my focus. But it also added a layer of both urgency and a bit of deliriousness into the story which I felt viscerally.

Despite my dislike of satire, there were parts of this book that were just laugh out loud funny, even for me. I couldn’t help myself. I shared some of them with my 14-year-old who also thought it was hilarious. There are many, many mentions of our daily lives and twitter, and kickstarter and things that are both obnoxious and so true. And while it’s exaggerated of course, it never veers so of course to be unbelievable. Sadly, for our society, most of this crazy was still in the plausible range which is what made it so much more funny.

If satire is your thing, and you do not shy away from stream of consciousness novels, I am confident this will be a winner for you. It might even be one of your favorite novels of 2019.

I received an advanced copy of this in exchange for an honest review.

The Perfect Liar (3 stars):  I was tired yesterday and in a mood where no book felt appealing. All the books I was looking forward to reading felt heavy, complicated, too much. I don’t know if I am the only one who has days like that. Anyhow, when I saw this on my list I decided it would be just the thing.

And it was.

It’s a simple mystery novel. Not trying to be all twisty and turny and shock the reader though it has some twists and turns but none of them are super unpredictable in my opinion and, for me, this kept the book more fun and enjoyable.

By Invitation Only (3 stars):  I was feeling in a slump and wanted to read something light and fun and this book was due back at the library in 3 days so I decided it was time to tackle it. Just as I had hoped, it was totally able to take me out of my slump. It’s light, sweet, and funny in parts. I don’t think much of it will stay with me but I still enjoyed it while I read it. Sometimes that’s all I need from a book and I am grateful to be able to be sure I will find it.

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

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

Books I Read This Week 2019 – 12

Another solid reading week this week and quite a variety.  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 Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper (3.5 stars): This sweet book is about an older man who discovers a charm bracelet that his deceased wife owned (that he knew nothing about.) This discovery starts a journey for him to find out the story of each charm and through those, bits and pieces of his wife’s life before him, and through that journey him examining the bits and pieces of who he is and reconnecting with the people around him.

It’s a lovely story with touching bits, real-life bits, and covers some serious topics alongside some very funny moments. It was the perfect read for a long and arduous week.

Wingspan (3 stars):  This is a very short play that takes place during a transatlantic flight to London. There are two flight attendants, one veteran and one for whom this is the first transatlantic flight. The latter is also afraid of flying. We get to hear their conversation as the plane takes off and endures several bouts of turbulence.

I don’t want to describe much of the plot because it’s so short that there’s no way to tell it without really giving it away. I will say I was surprised at the content compared to what the blurb says and if you’re easily triggered, it might be sensitive. There isn’t much detail and the conversation stays reasonably on the surface, which I found to be so unlike Chris Bohjalian’s usual style. What I usually like about his books is how deep they are willing to go into emotional impacts of the consequences of his characters’ choices/lives.

I’m still thinking about it, pondering what the author was trying to tell with this particular story. And a story that stays with you is always a good story for me.

[i received an arc of this in exchange for an honest review.]

The Unhoneymooners (4 stars):  I have read several of Christina Lauren‘s standalone books in the last few years (as a side note, was i the last person on earth who didn’t know this is two people and not one?! How super awesome is that?!) Ok back to the book, I’ve read and enjoyed several of their books so I was looking forward to digging into this one.

And it charmed me from page two. The characters, the dialogue, the scenes in this book are funny, touching, vivid and joyful. It’s the kind of book that effortlessly transports you into a little world the authors have created and keeps you in this lovely cocoon that you don’t want to leave.

I really enjoyed the characters in this book and laughed out loud quite a few times. I loved that some parts were predictable and others not as much. This book delivered what I’ve come to expect from the authors and what I’ve come to love about them, too. For me, these are the best kind of romance books because they don’t feel fluffy and cookie-cutter. I grow to care for the characters, they are not two dimensional or thrown in there for the sake of plot. Maybe Dane is the only one where I would have liked to see a bit more balance because most of us are many layers but in this case it didn’t bother me.

I expected this book to be a lot of fun and it delivered on that 100%.

Thank you to netgalley and Gallery Books for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

Brave Love (4 stars): I read this book without stopping. I’ve known Lisa Leonard and her jewelry for quite some time. Back in 2008, she designed a beautiful piece of jewelry for a creative site I used to host. I only talked to her online briefly and she was very kind and generous. I’ve also bought quite a few of her necklaces. But it had been almost ten years since I’ve followed her career since then. Kids, life, work got in the way.

When I saw she had a book out, I was excited to read because I knew it would likely be touching and true as most of her jewelry feels to me. It was all that and more. The book starts honest and real but gets deeper and more raw and more truth telling with her kind and gentle and loving tone.

Lisa is excellent at putting words around the struggles of finding oneself after we’ve regularly made the choice to give up who we are to serve others around us. So much of her book, her thoughts, her struggles resonated with me. So much of what she wrote are reminders I will have to repeat daily so I can remove some of the tapes in my own head so I can take up space and have my very own red bowl.

Thank you Lisa, for your honesty and reminder that we all deserve love. May we all love bravely.

Girl, Stop Apologizing (3 stars):  I have lots of mixed feelings about this book.

On the one hand, parts of this book speak to me and the part of me that likes to get things done. I am inspired by Rachel Hollis’s determination and bottomless drive and energy to reach her goals. She worked hard, she had big goals, and she achieved many of them. I don’t think that’s deniable. I think if this book was a memoir, I could read all of it as a path that worked for her and a path that is inspiring for others, too.

But where it gets a bit stickier for me is that this is a book to help others how to achieve their goals. And it’s supposed to be shame-free and yet, there are some very specific recommendations she makes. Not to figure out what works for you but to do what she tells you to do. Every single story is about her life experience. The path she walked. The choices that worked for her. So if you’ve done this and it doesn’t work for you, or if, for whatever reason you can’t/won’t do it, then what? There isn’t enough variety or research here that can help adapt some of these ideas.

I also know it can be a lose-lose situation where if she doesn’t make specific recommendations, the readers will say “there’s nothing tangible here” but then when she recommends something, there’s the potential that her recommendation only works for a segment of people.

So I did what I always do with these books: I took what works for me, and left the rest. There are parts of her story I don’t connect with at all and parts of it that resonate with me. Some of her ideas inspired me. Some of her story made me want to get up and write my own story. I took those parts and let them really excite me. (And I ignored the rest.)

There’s no one advice book out there that works for me. This book has lots of ideas from people I’ve already read and sometimes hearing it again helped and at other times it felt repetitive. That’s ok, I am not looking for a 100% here. I am looking for something small, something that inspires me even if just a little bit.

On that note, for me, this book delivered.

Daisy Jones and the Six (4.5 stars):  This book had so much marketing that I approached it with a lot of trepidation. I am a firm believer that expectations built around a book impacts your experience with it. While I had read and liked Taylor Jenkins Reid‘s previous book, I didn’t understand why there was so much hype around this new one. Her writing is good, her story telling is strong and her characters are generally interesting and well developed but I still wasn’t sure if a book could live up to the amount of hype that seemed to surround this one.

I listened to this on audio and almost immediately felt captivated by the story. I will say that I am not one of those people who is into bands. I didn’t have any posters on my walls as a kid. I like music but I don’t spend too much time thinking about the musicians themselves. So I wasn’t even sure if this story would be appealing.

But it was. Because while this book is about music and musicians, it’s about so much more. It’s about connection, love, striving, addiction, family, what it means to give second (and third and fourth) chances, what it means to let people down. It’s about dreams and having them come true and feeling empty anyway. Just like her previous book, it’s about the journey the characters are taking and the thing that’s wonderful about her books is that the characters grow, learn, do better. They also fail, falter and are just imperfect.

I did end up loving this book. It was different, well-told, interesting and I felt connected to many of the characters even if I shared values with almost none of them. When you have characters so different from me and yet I can care about them so much, I feel like you’ve done a fantastic job as an author.

I will say that I still don’t know if all the hype is deserved. This is a good book. It’s not the best book I’ve read. Not even the best book I’ve read this year. But it’s a really good book. And I am really glad I read it.

Factfulness (4 stars):  This book is a fascinating read.

At a high level, it’s very accessible and easy to read. When I first started reading the book, it quickly shifted my perspective of my understanding of the world and helped me realize how off I was (which is pretty much the point of the book since he spends much of the book repeating how most people, just like me, have an incorrect view of the world.)

The rest of the book is highlighting the different ways in which we make assumptions/mistakes that cause this disparity between truth and our knowledge.

There are a lot of interesting and valuable insights and anecdotes in this book. There’s a section where he highlights how the sizes of monuments in Vietnam put things in proportion. Wars with China lasted on and off for 2000 years vs the French occupation which was 200 years vs Vietnam War (which they call “resistance war against america”) lasted 20. This reminded me how we each hold such engrained perspectives that we often don’t even realize it’s a perspective and assume it’s the “truth.” There’s also a story around a company that was able to charge a low price for a bid (lower than raw materials) because they (instead of being a scam) actually came up with an innovative approach. That story really stuck with me as well (in this case it was about generalizing due to the innovative company being “pharma”.)

I don’t think this is the perfect book, there are details it’s defining and there are cases of repetition that makes you roll your eyes. But, what it does accomplish is make you take a big step back and revisit your perspective of the world. It helps remind you that things are moving in a positive direction. It helps remind you that you should seek data from its source. That you should not assume things. It gives specific examples of pitfalls to avoid.

All of this is tangibly helpful. It spurred a lot of discussion in my household and helped me revisit a lot of my thinking. Any book that does that is a win.

The Cassandra (2 stars):  I was so looking forward to reading this book. I will openly admit to not knowing very much about the Cassandra myth except for the very basics about her having visions and about people not believing her. I didn’t even know the myth has a brutal rape in it, if I did I might have not chosen to read the book.

Nonetheless, taking that concept to working in a Research Center in the 1940s in what ends up being the atom bomb sounded very interesting.

And yet.

I feel the author did not much with it. The beginning was compulsively readable but each of the characters were pretty much 2 dimensional and there to serve a purpose. They never grew/learned/changed. The story got darker and darker and the main character became harder and harder to connect with (for me.)

By the end, I didn’t much care and couldn’t get myself to invest in the ending. What a missed opportunity.

The River (4 stars):  I am a big fan of Peter Heller. I’ve read The Dog StarsThe PainterCeline and have loved all of them. There’s a big range and variety in subject matter amongst his books but at the core of each of these, for me, is his ability to write beautiful descriptions and the depth of his characters.

This book is no exception. The descriptions of nature, especially in the first part are beautiful. Even later with the fire, he is so good at putting words into details and the feeling those details inspire.

But the best part of any novel, for me, is always the characters. I love 3-dimensional, deep, complicated characters with back stories and Peter Heller never disappoints when it comes to that. The two main characters at the heart of this novel are unique, well-developed and characters I’m thinking about long after I am done.

I am really glad I discovered this author and I am looking forward to reading more of his beautiful novels.

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

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

Books I Read This Week 2019 – 11

Big reading week this week and quite a variety in both genres and author diversity.  Here are my goodreads reviews. If you’re on goodreads, add me as a friend so I can see your books too! I’ve also started an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.

The Island of Sea Women (4 stars): I’ve read many Lisa See books over the years and she never disappoints. This wonderful novel is no exception.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Books I Read This Week 2019 – 10

After all that wonderful reading last week, I only got to read four books this week. It was a long work 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.

The Valedictorian of Being Dead (4.5stars): This is a powerful book. Despite a few jokes here and there, it’s not a funny book. It’s not your typical dooce stories. It’s an honest and raw book on the profound toll depression can take on your life and the lengths to which one might be willing to go to release themselves from the grip of it.

Back when my kids were in their toddler years, I used to read dooce and while I didn’t relate to many of her stories, her blog was compulsively readable. It was honest (maybe honest is not the right word since everyone writing online is presenting a version of themselves) and funny and it gave me something to do during those endless nights with little babies. I stopped reading it over the years and have maybe checked in on her site twice in the last ten years. 

Nonetheless, when I saw this ARC, I knew I wanted to read it. I have my own stories with depression and knowing how raw she can be, I wanted to read what she wrote. I knew it would be well written in her compulsively readable style.

This book was probably one of the rawest descriptions of depression I’ve ever read. The feelings and thoughts were articulated with such honesty that it hurt to read them. It was hard to get through much of this book, especially if you can connect with any of the feelings/thoughts. I found myself connecting with her mother and feeling such an overwhelming sadness of watching your kid go through all that and also such awe at her showing up for her daughter again and again.

It’s so easy to believe that the pieces of ourselves we share online (or even offline for that matter) are who we are. But they are far from it. The truth is always far from what we see. It’s layers and layers of complicated truths. And of course even with this book we won’t ever know the full story but I am still grateful Heather chose to write this story, chose to articulate what depression can feel like. We need more stories of the not-so-pretty but honest parts of life so all of us can feel less alone in our mess. So all of us can be more compassionate towards each other.

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

The Unwinding of the Miracle (4 stars):  Reading two really sad books back to back was maybe not the best idea. Two books about death that both also have bits that are really hopeful and both remind you to live life.

Like The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying and When Breath Becomes Air, this is a book about dying. The main character starts by telling you that they are dead by the time you read this. 

Much of the book comes out of the blog Julie had while she lived with colon cancer. It’s heart wrenching in bits, inspiring in others, and beautiful in yet others. What I really appreciated was the honesty she shares in its raw form in many, many parts of this book. The anger, the resentment, the frustration and the total unfairness of it all. 

The whole time I was reading this book I was thinking that I need to be more grateful for my life. I am not that far from the age Julie died. Life is unpredictable and it’s short and it can change on a dime. It’s hard but important for me to remember. 

The Last Romantics (4 stars):  I really enjoy stories about families and this one has all the bits I love. It’s about siblings who are deeply affected by their dad’s passing and the impact that has on their mom. Their journey over the years as they are close, get upset with each other, keep things from each other, support each other and all the other things siblings do.

Early Riser (2 stars): It’s clear I’m going to be the outlier here. As someone who has never read Jasper Fforde before, I am not exactly sure what compelled me to pick up this book in the first place. I do read a bunch of science fiction and I’ve read many dystopian novels and I can be a big fan of the absurd, clever humor. I’ve devoured and loved every book by Douglas Adams so I thought this might be fun.

But then I got lost almost immediately. One review I read said it might be fun to read this on audio but I am wondering if that’s what went wrong for me. If I should have just read it on paper instead. Or if I should have read it more in one long sitting, etc. I just kept getting disconnected from the story and never had any attachment to any of the characters. 

I thought of putting it down many many times throughout and in retrospect that’s exactly what I should have done. Midway through this would have been a 3-star read but by the end I was so tired and frustrated that I could not possibly give it that. 

There are many, many fans of the author and maybe one day I can pick up a different book and give it a shot but for now, I’ll move on.

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