Thursday 30 April 2015

Ender's Game

Book 15 of 2015 is Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card.

This is one of the best sci-fi stories I've ever read, if not on of the best of any genre. I was intrigue the whole time. The action was written so well that I felt I was watching it all play out.

I don't even want to watch the movie because it is as though I've seen it already. That takes great descriptive text.

I love this book and highly recommend it.

5 buggers out of 5.

Should I read this? This is an absolute must read. I may read it again to take in all the bits I missed this time.

What did I learn? Propaganda is powerful because we want to believe it to justify our own views and actions.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Book 14 of 2015 is The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving.

I've seen the movie with Johnny Depp. In fact, that movie is the reason I bought my first DVD player. I'd ordered books from Amazon and they sent me that DVD so I thought "might as well get a DVD player" and I did.

It is hard to call this a book. I'd call it a short story. I always count it as a book when it looks like a book. Maybe I'll call it half a book.

The writing is quite brilliant. I haven't read anything like it in a quite a while. It could be that short stories like short films can have much more flair without it overwhelming the reader or viewer.

The most enjoyable thing about this book is that Ichabod Crane is not the usual hero. He is a normal guy who I'd go as far as to call a dorky guy with a crush.

4 heads out of 5 headless horsemen.

Should I read this? Yes.It's a great classic story.
What did I learn? Legend has a life of its own independent of the truth.

Wednesday 29 April 2015

The Power of Habit

Book 13 of 2015 is The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.

This is one of those books you read that changes the way you see yourself, others and the world. I'd liken it to Outliers and recommend it in the same way.

This is a must read for people who want to know how to break and make new habits. He gives practical advice and backs that with research and anecdotes.

5 habit loops out of 5.
5 habit loops out of 5.
5 habit loops out of 5.

Should I read this? Yes.
What did I learn? Cue. Routine. Reward.   ... and Belief.

Monday 27 April 2015

Funny Girl

Book twelve of 2015 is Funny GIrl by Nick Hornby.

I always want to love Nick Hornby books because I do like the movies based on them. Unfortunately, I just can't enjoy his writing in the way others do. I own that. It is quite possible that he is the amazing engaging writer everyone talks about but that just isn't how I breathe it.

Funny Girl is interesting enough. It is written mainly in the place of the female protagonist and that really isn't Hornby's thing. He writes men and bromance well. He needs to stick to that.

Two Lucille Balls out of five.

Should I read this? Only if you loved every other book this man ever wrote. Otherwise, waste your time on any other book.
What did I learn? Even amazingly beautiful women are insecure about how attractive they are.

Mirror, Mirror

I sat at dinner with my two closest Seattle friends, Vanessa and Candace. We spoke of many things but one thing resonated with them. I know this because they both mentioned it in days to come. To me, it was a passing comment but to them it seemed more. I realised that I had said something so true and personal that most people won't admit it... out loud, at least.

That however is my signature stupidity/charm.

I am a mirror.

It is a social skill and helps me build rapport faster than any other skill.

People think mirrors are out to mirror behaviour and that it is insincere. That is not the case.

Being a mirror is a great social skill. However, it is not about giving up who you are to satisfy the audience No. It so is not.

Being a mirror is about understanding the level of authenticity and emotional investment that each individual needs. Not about giving up who you are.

Some people need to connect intimately, some superficially. Some need to fall in love and others need to emotionally bounce off you and boost their ego. We walk in and out of the lives of people to give them what they need. That's a good way to see the world.

Recently, I felt a lot of emotion for an amazing man. He didn't want a relationship but needed support. I gave him that and we are no longer friends. That challenged me because I fell in love a little. My sadness is warranted because I helped him and thought we wanted the same thing but I was mistaken. I needed to remember that sometimes we give and don't receive and that is ok. We walk in and out of people's lives but mirrors carry a massive weight.

We know what you need and we give it because we care about you. Most people don't get that.

Sitting with two mirrors at dinner, I realised I am not alone. We find each other to help carry the weight that is thrust on us. I'm grateful to you two, Nessy and Candy. Even when those we carry for don't ever realise it.

Sunday 26 April 2015

A Cool Breeze on the Underground

Book eleven of 2015 is A Cool Breeze on the Underground by Don Winslow.

I think this book would appeal to Americans and their view of the English rather than British people and Australians alike.

The story is simple and exciting but nothing new. Sometimes, that is ok. It is a quick read and written in a digestible way.

3.5 con men out of 5.

Should I read this? Yeah, it's ok. Maybe if you don't have anything else you really want to read and want something light and easy.
What did I learn? From reading books, I know too much about detoxing someone addicted to heroin.

Thursday 23 April 2015

The Martian

Book ten of 2015 is The Martian by Andy Weir.

I giggled and smiled through this entire book. Mark Watney is the kind of person I'd like to be if I was ever abandoned on Mars or in the equivalent awful situation on this planet.

It is written as a series of log entries and that flows beautifully. I'd go as far as to call it a travel journal.

Usually swearing in books comes across as unnecessary and contrived but this was like listening to the thoughts in someone's head. Completely perfect.

The science doesn't get too deep and I think that is what saves this book. You get the idea of how difficult what he is doing is but you don't feel as though it is condescending or worse, gets the science wrong by oversimplification.

The Martian is one of the most balanced and entertaining books I've read in a while and certainly in 2015.

Five potatoes out of five.

Should I read this? Do it. This is worth the read.
What did I learn? Human waste can be used for many things but I never want to get to the point that I need to use it.

Tuesday 21 April 2015

The Shadow of What Was Lost

Book nine of 2015 is The Shadow of What Was Lost from The Licanius Trilogy by James Islington.

I read this because it was likened to Jordan's writing. It is in his style for sure but less rambling. If you like Robert Jordan but can't commit to a 21 book series then read this instead.

The protagonist starts as the usual annoying ignorant fool who makes bad choices and changes to a young man who shows innate wisdom. It became enjoyable very fast after the initial first five lingering chapters.

I don't think I'll read the trilogy but the first book is good. I'm tempted but it won't be something I run in to.

Three gasps out of five.

Should I read this? Yes, if you like Jordan.
What did I learn? I can love fantasy again. That's pretty cool.

Monday 13 April 2015

The Girl on the Train

Book eight of 2015 is The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.

This is also the fourth book I have completed this week so it is a bit of an overload but a pleasant one.

As someone who often avoids fiction about women who are struggling with their divorces, I took the chance with this book. A friend gave it to me to read and I refused the book with fear that it would trigger my own failings in this area. It did and it didn't. That would be because I'm mostly OK these days. The past does not break me.

It has been a while since I've read popular fiction executed so well. The journey of Rachel from crazy, drunken pathetic divorcee to... well, to who she finally is in the end is sad, tragic and touching. Not sure if I was ever happy for anyone in this book but because Hawkins writes so well, that was OK.

This is a mystery so I won't go ruining it for anyone.  I will say that I understand more about the main character and the voice of the woman who this whole murder mystery is about, than I care to admit. Where there is pain, we will seek to numb it but facing it is what makes us stronger.

For me, love is not always easy sailing but it isn't endless pain. The only exception to that is parents and children.

Four ex-men-in-your-life out of five.

Should I read this? Yes. It is a light an easy read because it is well written. The story keeps you engaged and it is deserving of its best seller status.
What did I learn? Love makes people look perfect when in fact, they are just people. Life makes people look messy when in fact, they are just people.

Friday 10 April 2015

The Practicing Mind

Book seven of 2015 is The Practicing Mind by Thomas M. Sterner.

I picked this book up because it is a short one and has such a good rating on all the different reading sites. Plus self improvement is my life's journey.

There is a lot about mindfulness in this book that I already know but Sterner has extended this by giving me new tools to use in trigger situations.

The best thing I got from this book is the Four S technical - Simple, Short, Small and Slow.

For me the Slow part is one I have always loved and have to refocus on. I often remind people that rushing around makes you do things over and over and isn't as efficient as it seems. It is satisfying the anxiety, the ego. The thing is, I have remember this.

I've recommended this book to three people within 12 hours of finishing reading it. It is a good quick read for those of us set on self improvement.

Five slow breaths out of five.

Should I read this? Yes, if you are already in to mindfulness or want some tips on how to start.
What did I learn? Slow down.

Wednesday 8 April 2015

Red Queen

Book six of 2015 is Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard.

Yes, yes, another teenage book. I didn't realise it when I chose it. It was on a list of most popular reads at the moment so I tried it based on the blurb.

This one is not original in any way but is a rehash of classic fantasy where a poor disadvantaged person finds they have a special power that catapults them in to power, intrigue and adventure. In this case it is a teenage girl, in style of Hunger Games and Divergent.

It could be because I've read so much fantasy and teenage post apocalyptic fiction that I'm unimpressed. Stick with Hunger Games and Divergent for teen fiction. If you want a very well written and more original series in this style with a strong female protagonist, read the Black Magician series by Australian Trudi Caravan.

One thing I did like about this book is that it is fantasy written by a woman so the female characters have depth and multiple dimensions, as opposed to the usual vacuous side characters that a lot of male fantasy writers create. That helped this book along. The inner dialogue wasn't too hard to believe.

It was very easy to read. I smashed through it in about 5.5 hours.

Three red bloods out of five.

Should I read this? Best for teenagers. This book does not span to the adult reader.
What did I learn? Someone has to create a new popular genre because the teenage post apocalyptic books are starting to get very weak.

Monday 6 April 2015

Love in the Time of Cholera

Book five of 2015 is Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

It has been eight years since I moved a book in to my top ten all time reads but this is more deserving than more than half of those in that list.

Considering this was written in Spanish and translated (by the amazingly consistent Penguin Books) in to English, it is brilliant. We have been embarrassed in our own language.

When I first started reading this, I described it to a friend and she said "oh, it's a romance novel" but oh how it isn't. This is a book about love that happened too early and too late in life. It is about duty and the love found in commitment. It is about passionate love and about sensible love and about the ease we find in both.

At this exact point in my life, this is an apt and poignant story that made me see love as an activity for grown ups.

Five reasons to love out of five.

Should I read this? Yes. Just yes.
What did I learn? How to see love as something that is forever. I forgot that.