12/12/17

December Book Reviews 12/12/17

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Welcome to my December Book reviews! As always I try to keep my fiction reviews free of any major spoilers for those who haven't read the book. I'm also experimenting with the fiction review format this month to make the reviews a little more skim-friendly. I've done this format in the past but somehow fell out of the habit, probably because it doesn't work as well for non-fiction books. Regardless, I'm giving it another go so on with the reviews!


Fiction:
Don't You Cry by Mary Kubica
Plot: This story is told from two alternating perspectives. In the first, a girl (Quinn) wakes up one weekend morning to find her roommate missing...looking as though she took off in the night through out the fire escape. Clues and mysteries pile up as the days pass with no sign of the roommate and Quinn realizing she didn't know her roommate as well as she thought. The second perspective is Alex, a waiter in a small town restaurant who crosses paths with a new girl in town. He gets an instant crush on her and wants to know more about her, but she's evasive and confusing.
My Verdict: I was hooked on this very quickly, although I found Quinn's narrative easier to follow and enjoy than Alex's at first. It was very suspenseful, a little creepy in parts, and completely engaging all the way to the end. Definitely recommend!

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
Plot: A family of three teenagers comes of age in New York the 60s and becomes aware that they have special abilities. They come from a family of witches, and with their gifts come particular challenges, especially in love. This is isn't book with a strong pivotal plot focus, but more of a family saga.
My Verdict: I liked it! I didn't love it and it won't make my top ten list this year, but it was an enjoyable, interesting story. I appreciated the author's creativity in making modern day, believable witches. Thanks to Tracy for the recommendation! Tracy shared her top books of 2017 (so far) in this Instagram post and I'm sure I'll be reading a few more on that list eventually!

The Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana Zapata
Plot: A 27 year-old woman takes a job as the personal assistant to a professional football player (whose nickname in football is The Wall of Winnipeg, hence the book title) because it gives her the flexibility to pursue her dream job on the side. She always goes the extra mile for her boss but he never treats her well or acknowledges her or her effort, so she's counting down the days until she can save up enough money to quit. When that day comes...things get interesting!
My Verdict: Such a fun read! Easy to get into, easy to get hooked and keep reading. At first I thought the main female character was a doormat and it drove me crazy that she wouldn't speak up for herself. But then she acknowledged as much about herself and developed a plan to quit/stand up to her boss, so I was able to get over that. (And in retrospect, that was a very tiny portion of the book as a whole, but I just remember worrying in the beginning whether she would be this way the whole time.) I definitely recommend this if you generally enjoy chick lit or romance with a solid plot. This would be a perfect holiday/vacation read. Thanks to Kristen for the recommendation! I never would have picked this one out on my own!

Non-Fiction / Audiobooks:
The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer
To sum up my opinion on this book, it just really just wasn't my style and didn't click with me. It did have some nice, pleasant sentiments and ideas about I could appreciate about learning to separate yourself from the voices in your head thereby freeing (i.e. untethering) yourself from pain and unhappiness. It's also a purely spiritual book with no scientific basis or even a small amount of anecdotal "proof" from people who have learned this method and thereby improved their lives. I think the lack of a strong foundation in one or both of these areas just didn't work for me. My standards for self-development and life-improvement books have increased a lot this year based on all of the other books I've read that had a well-researched basis or a more credentialed author. Throughout the book I kept wondering, "Who is this guy and what makes him an expert?" I finally Googled while writing this review and there's not much in his credentials (Yogi with a Masters in Economics, fined in a government fraud case) that inspires me, so I'm still left a little "meh" on this book altogether. If you want a purely spiritual, moderately uplifting book this could be just the thing for you, but it just didn't connect with me.

The Teenage Brain by Frances E. Jensen
I am so glad I read this book! I highly recommend it to parents of teenagers or tweens. It started off just a little slow for me (with a lot of anecdotes about the author's personal experiences raising her teenage boys), but then it got into the "meat" of the book with plenty of well-researched substance on the teenage brain: how it develops and specifically which parts are not developed until adulthood and how that significantly impacts the decision-making skills of teens. It also discusses best and worst strategies for helping teenagers make better choices and helping them understand some of the possible long term consequences and worst-case scenarios for various decisions. This is one I plan to re-read, possibly once a year until I survive the teenage years! (And just by contrast to the previous author, Frances Jensen has an impressive list of accomplishments and published research.)

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams
Well this was a surprisingly fun, interesting, and practical read. Scott Adams is the creator of the Dilbert Comic strip, so knowing that I didn't expect this book to be as practical or insightful as it was. And yes, he did insert some humor but it was not overdone at all, and he even explains in the book why he takes this approach. Scott tells the story of his career path and his many failures along the way to success with Dilbert...followed again by additional failures. He shares what he learned in the success/failure process from his own experiences and careful observation of other successful people. He gives very practical, detailed advice, even down to diet and exercise habits. I was pleasantly surprised by how well-organized and interesting this book was, and I was pleased when he quoted a couple of my other favorite authors such as Malcolm Gladwell and Robert Cialdini. His last chapter did get a little Matrix-y, but he was aware of that and self-deprecating about it so it didn't take away from any of my other enjoyment of the book. I will be recommending this frequently to people, because even if you don't agree with 100% of his points, it's guaranteed to be good food for thought and discussion.

Coming Up Next Month:
If you want to read along with me and share thoughts next month, here's what's next on my to-read list:

I'm not allowing myself to start another fiction book until I finish sending out my holiday cards, but I did order "Confessions" on a Black Friday deal so I'll be starting it ASAP. And clearly Scott Adams made a fan out of me. This book sounds equally interesting so that's what I'll be listening to on audiobook while I prep the aforementioned cards!

Looking forward to your thoughts on any of these you've read or plan to read!


Linking up with:

CONVERSATION

20 comments:

  1. i'm seriously dancing in my seat that you liked the wall of winnipeg and me. honestly never would have expected you to! yay!!!!!
    the rules of magic is on my list - i haven't read any of her other books (i tried the dovekeepers but ... blah) and was thinking of reading that or practical magic first.
    the Scott Adams book sounds really interesting! as does the teenage book but.. i might wait till i have teenagers (or any kids) for that one.
    i'll be curious to hear what you think of Confessions of a Domestic Failure - i haven't read it, but i've heard about it :)

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    1. Ha! I like a wide variety of books! I was in the mood for something light and fun so it was perfect. And I hope you heard good things about "Confessions!" :)

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  2. I have both Don't You Cry and Confessions of a Domestic Failure on my audible wish list and your review and plans may make me push those up. I am so behind on reading and can't seem to get through my list. I'm a little intrigued by the The Teenage Brain although I'm a couple of years away--my daughter thinks she's a tween though.

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    1. LOL, I don't doubt that you would enjoy Teenage Brain now...I think it's helpful for any parent or anyone who works with teens, although if you're like me it will be hard to remember anything you read a few years from now so you might as well wait. I know I'll be re-reading that one.

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  3. How to Fail sounds really interesting! And I really liked Confessions of a Domestic Failure, so I hope you do too! It's got some good humor.

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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    1. Oh good! I'm glad to hear a good review for Confessions! Looking forward to starting it.

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  4. I loved The Rules of Magic, it was a wonderful prequel to Practical Magic, and I don't always like when authors go back and write the book before The Book.

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    1. I feel so silly that I didn't even know it was a prequel until this post! I haven't read Practical Magic but I guess I might as well add it to my list!

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  5. The Wall of Winnipeg and Me sounds interesting! I am putting these on my reading list when I have time for reading again!

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    1. It's a really fun, cute story. I think you'd like it. :)

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  6. I have had the Kubica book on my TBR forever. Still haven't read it despite all the good reviews.

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    1. It was my second book by her (I've also read The Good Girl) and I actually think I liked this one more than the first!

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  7. I didn't realize that Scott Adams did more books, I remember learning how to properly call off from one of his Dilbert books.

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    1. Ha, I didn't know he even had more books before this! Depending on how much I like the new book I'm reading I may end up going back through his previous ones as well.

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  8. Rules of Magic is on my TBR. I feel like I need to read Practical Magic first, even though Rules takes place before PM but I want to read them in the order written. The Wall of Winnipeg and Me is already on my TBR. It's not my normal genre but Kristen spoke so highly of it and I figured it's a good choice for when I need a change of pace. I'm also glad you mentioned her doormat personality was temporary because that would drive me nuts and is one of my biggest complaints about romance books.

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    1. Funny but I didn't even know this was a prequel to Practical Magic! I haven't read that (although I've heard of it), so I'll probably end up reading that eventually. And hope you enjoy Winnipeg! I do like to alternate between genres and this was just the right change of pace for me.

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  9. I read Don't You Cry and thought it was an okay read. I am adding the Teenage Brain to my to read list. With an almost 12-year-old daughter, I need all the help I can get! LOL!

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  10. Like you, I ran with Kristen's recommendation of The Wall of Winnipeg and loved it too. Such a cute story!

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  11. Cameron and I read How to Fail a couple of years ago and also really liked it! Very practical information, and helped me realize how small things can make a big difference.

    Winnepeg and me sounds fun! I'm going to look for it!

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  12. I'm definitely adding The Teenage Brain to my list!

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