Monday, April 04, 2016

30 Second Book Reviews: 2016 so far!

With the addition of kid responsibilities and all that time consuming parenting stuff on top of work, marriage, a social life, some hobby art classes, and the occasional Netflix binge watch, I'm reading less, but I'm still reading. Granted, half of these were audio-books that I listened to on my work commute, but those still count. So here's what I've read so far in 2016, you might find a gem or two for yourself, or at least a weird new way to fold and honor your underwear:

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo - I loved certain parts of this book and they've really changed the way I organize my drawers, folding socks, underwear and T-shirts differently, and keep certain household areas tidier. But honestly, I'm not unpacking my purse every night so that my purse can rest. I'm not thanking my house when I walk into my home, or god forbid, getting rid of books I own that I haven't read yet. That's just crazy talk. And no one who really cooks or has kids is going to have completely clean, empty kitchen counters. That's just nuts. But otherwise, totally useful and aspirational.

Solsbury Hill by Susan Wyler- I have to admit, with the addition of the kid, my energy for reading is limited, so I'm not reading as much heavy dark stuff as I used to. It's a phase I'm certain. But this was just the exact right book at the right time. Perfectly light, but well written, minimal conflict, windswept moors, likable characters and a lovely happy ending. Might have loathed it in a different mood, but got swept up in its romance. And it's got a bit of a story line based on Wuthering Heights but less silly and angsty if you ask me. You might like it. I did.

Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton - I adore Brandon's blog and Facebook posts. Joe and Xavier bought me this for Christmas and I've probably read it all the way through three times. Lovely photography and it lays out in each story the wide range of human thought and experience in a thoughtful and approachable way. I'll read it again next month I bet.

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty - Fluff, pure and simple. But charming, scandalous Australian fluff, I enjoyed this audio-book and had some fun guessing at what might happen next. Read it at the beach or in your dentist's waiting room, because fluff is necessary sometimes.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates - After a group of fluffy, fun novels to open the year, I read my first serious book and was glad I did.  Poetic, disturbing, thought provoking and sad. I respect his gorgeous lyrical writing style and his challenging, repetitive reveal of the ongoing pain of being the back upon which the "white American" dream has been built, but I feel like this book must be read along with others with some kind of vision to improve the world rather than the bleak unchangeable world view Coates himself shares. Maybe this is my blurry hope as a "white" woman who has some belief in our ability to create a better more equitable world, but without some kind of hope to change it, why bother?

Parenting the Hurt Child: Helping Adoptive Families Heal and Grow by by Gregory C. Keck, Regina M. Kupecky, Jim Petersen - This book is a life line for families parenting children who have had complex beginnings in foster care or adoptive settings, it's been hugely helpful for Joe and I, and I've recommended it when our families have needed more insight about our kiddo's experiences, reactions, behaviors and background. I'll read it again in a month or two, I'm sure.

True Evil by Greg Iles - I love a good serial killer mystery and this hit it out of the park. Multiple killers, FBI agents, plotting adulterous spouses, you've got it all. A fun, frightening mystery with one of the deadliest, creepiest killers I've read in a novel in a long time.

The Kazdin Method for Parenting the Defiant Child by Alan E. Kazdin - Another strong parenting guide, but this one, while useful, doesn't quite work in our situation. Though I highly recommend reading it to better understand kids and their thought processes and the flawed way many of us use discipline vs. punishment.

Silver Bay by Jojo Moyes- Thank god the acting in the audio-book was so good, otherwise I would have fallen asleep while driving and listening to the too long and boring first half of this book. The second half was great and while all the conflicts were tied up in an improbable bow at the end, I was so taken with the characters, setting and story that I didn't care. Push through the first half and the pay off is a joy. Plus whales and dolphins, lots of whales and dolphins. Just make sure you're caffeinated.

The Golem of Hollywood by Jonathan and Jesse Kellerman - Started strong and lost me about half way through. Another murder mystery, and usually I can handle and enjoy a little supernatural thrown in for good measure, but this one jumped back and forth between two different storylines so abruptly that it was jarring and unpleasant. Eh. Weird. Disjointed and the ending felt rather slapdash.

The Delirium Series by Lauren Oliver - Ok, here's where I admit that I'm kind of embarrassed that I even read these books, and I kind of liked them. I love youth fiction, or young adult books now and then, but these just aren't very good and yet I found myself reading them, all three of them. I liked the second one probably best of all, but the ending was a disappointment. Now I don't know whether to recommend the series or not. If you like dystopian authoritarian teen romance, this might work for you, and while I thought plot device 100+ years into the future love is now viewed as a disease, and treated with a "cure" that sounds shockingly like a lobotomy, I kept wanting more history and world setting. Why did love get diagnosed as a disease? What tragedy befell the nation to prompt this response? What's happening outside of the US? I wanted more, even just to the Hunger Games level. And Oliver never delivered. And then that ending, all loose ends. So I don't know what to tell you, I don't need the "cure" to deal with any kind of love for these books, just a mild, friendly like.

Next up, in an effort to get my own butt in gear and start exercising and eating better, I've picked up Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin, the author of The Happiness Project, and I'm hoping to create some new healthier habits, now that I finally feel like I've come out of the fog of that first year of parenting, which for me came along with weight gain like I was actually pregnant! So I'd like to feel better, and hope some advice from Ms. Happy herself can help. Now what are you reading, friends? What should I add to my library hold list?