Photo Review – Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

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Nine Perfect Strangers

by Liane Moriarty

Summary: Could ten days at a health resort really change you forever? In Liane Moriarty’s latest page-turner, nine perfect strangers are about to find out…

Nine people gather at a remote health resort. Some are here to lose weight, some are here to get a reboot on life, some are here for reasons they can’t even admit to themselves. Amidst all of the luxury and pampering, the mindfulness and meditation, they know these ten days might involve some real work. But none of them could imagine just how challenging the next ten days are going to be.

Frances Welty, the formerly best-selling romantic novelist, arrives at Tranquillum House nursing a bad back, a broken heart, and an exquisitely painful paper cut. She’s immediately intrigued by her fellow guests. Most of them don’t look to be in need of a health resort at all. But the person that intrigues her most is the strange and charismatic owner/director of Tranquillum House. Could this person really have the answers Frances didn’t even know she was seeking? Should Frances put aside her doubts and immerse herself in everything Tranquillum House has to offer – or should she run while she still can?

It’s not long before every guest at Tranquillum House is asking exactly the same question.

Combining all of the hallmarks that have made her writing a go-to for anyone looking for wickedly smart, page-turning fiction that will make you laugh and gasp, Liane Moriarty’s Nine Perfect Strangers once again shows why she is a master of her craft.

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Source: I borrowed a Kindle copy from the library

Review:

Nine Perfect Strangers was a crazy story!

I loved the different points of view and figuring out how each of the characters may come together throughout their time at the wellness center.

This book was one of her more unrealistic ones, since it got a little far fetched towards the end. Still, I was on the edge of my seat trying to figure out what would happen next and if any of the spa participants would band together.

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Star 4

Photo Review – The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

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The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

by Mark Manson

Summary:#1 New York Times Bestseller . Over 1 million copies sold

In this generation-defining self-help guide, a superstar blogger cuts through the crap to show us how to stop trying to be “positive” all the time so that we can truly become better, happier people.

For decades, we’ve been told that positive thinking is the key to a happy, rich life. “F**k positivity,” Mark Manson says. “Let’s be honest, shit is f**ked and we have to live with it.” In his wildly popular Internet blog, Manson doesn’t sugarcoat or equivocate. He tells it like it is—a dose of raw, refreshing, honest truth that is sorely lacking today. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k is his antidote to the coddling, let’s-all-feel-good mindset that has infected American society and spoiled a generation, rewarding them with gold medals just for showing up.

Manson makes the argument, backed both by academic research and well-timed poop jokes, that improving our lives hinges not on our ability to turn lemons into lemonade, but on learning to stomach lemons better. Human beings are flawed and limited—”not everybody can be extraordinary, there are winners and losers in society, and some of it is not fair or your fault.” Manson advises us to get to know our limitations and accept them. Once we embrace our fears, faults, and uncertainties, once we stop running and avoiding and start confronting painful truths, we can begin to find the courage, perseverance, honesty, responsibility, curiosity, and forgiveness we seek.

There are only so many things we can give a f**k about so we need to figure out which ones really matter, Manson makes clear. While money is nice, caring about what you do with your life is better, because true wealth is about experience. A much-needed grab-you-by-the-shoulders-and-look-you-in-the-eye moment of real-talk, filled with entertaining stories and profane, ruthless humor, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k is a refreshing slap for a generation to help them lead contented, grounded lives.

Source: I purchased a Kindle copy

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Review:

I really needed this book.

I’ve been trying to embrace positivity and I am always looking to improve, but I’m highly skeptical to most things people say. I tend to scoff at most mindless nonsense disguised as self help and motivational advice because I find it to be fake and ridiculous, but I’m also somewhat open to things I find to be genuine.

A lot of people who did not like The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck accuse the author of spouting nonsense about things he doesn’t understand because he’s never had any true tragedy strike him and he comes from a place of privilege. Maybe they are right, but I really thought the book was genuine for the most part and full of hard truths we all kind of already know with the right amount of humor to make it enjoyable.

Life sucks and our desire to always be happy and positive is both great and terrible in the grand scheme of things. Overcoming adversity has always and will always feel better to us than living in paradise day in and day out. It’s why kids who never want for anything become entitled brats. We already know that. It was just kind of nice to read a reminder that we are flawed as people and the culture of happiness chasing and social media and endless comparisons are ruining us.

This isn’t really self help I’d recommend to someone who faces tragedy or a great stressful moment who needs real advice, but for the rest of us who just want something refreshing instead of cursive Live Your Best Life tee shirts, it’s a fun read. It’s full of the kind of stuff we already know, but need to hear sometimes because the “be happy” yoga mat, coffee cup, messy bun, my-life-is-perfect Instagram selfies are endless.

We accept what we think we deserve, we let others be blamed for things we need to accept responsibility for, we are the only ones that can really make ourselves feel inferior, and we shouldn’t act like happy robots or victims of circumstance 24-7. Stop giving a f*ck about things that don’t matter.

This book was full of some helpful things I will keep in mind.

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Star 4

 

Some quotes:

We joke online about “first-world problems,” but we really have become victims of our own success. Stress-related health issues, anxiety disorders, and cases of depression have skyrocketed over the past thirty years, despite the fact that everyone has a flat-screen TV and can have their groceries delivered.

Because when you give too many fucks—when you give a fuck about everyone and everything—you will feel that you’re perpetually entitled to be comfortable and happy at all times, that everything is supposed to be just exactly the fucking way you want it to be. This is a sickness. And it will eat you alive.

Because when we believe that it’s not okay for things to suck sometimes, then we unconsciously start blaming ourselves. We start to feel as though something is inherently wrong with us, which drives us to all sorts of overcompensation, like buying forty pairs of shoes or downing Xanax with a vodka chaser on a Tuesday night…

In some cases, experiencing emotional or psychological pain can be healthy or necessary. Just like stubbing our toe teaches us to walk into fewer tables, the emotional pain of rejection or failure teaches us how to avoid making the same mistakes in the future.

When we feel that we’re choosing our problems, we feel empowered. When we feel that our problems are being forced upon us against our will, we feel victimized and miserable.

The biggest problem with victimhood chic is that it sucks attention away from actual victims. It’s like the boy who cried wolf. The more people there are who proclaim themselves victims over tiny infractions, the harder it becomes to see who the real victims actually are.

Bukowski once wrote, “We’re all going to die, all of us. What a circus! That alone should make us love each other, but it doesn’t. We are terrorized and flattened by life’s trivialities; we are eaten up by nothing.”

Photo Review – Circe by Madeline Miller

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Circe

by Madeline Miller

Summary: In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child—not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power—the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

Source: I purchased a hardcover

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Review:

Circe was beautifully written and crafted well, blended with the Greek myths most of us are familiar with, woven into the tapestry of mythology quite nicely.

The Odyssey is one of my favorite Greek mythology stories, full of adventure and monsters and gods and I was happy to see Circe’s story was woven into that one more so than other myths. The presence of familiar stories and faces was so much fun.

Circe’s character was difficult for me to like and it felt terrible to feel that way because her family treated her like she was dull and ugly and boring as well. I wanted to root for her, but she was utterly dull and boring to a large degree. (Her family was quite terrible, so I really didn’t want to agree with them!)

The most epic of her moments were choices she came to regret or actions she later undid, or words she spoke when her actions spoke otherwise. She let a lot of the people she met walk all over her and she apologized for it quite often in my opinion. I wish she was more stubborn and strong willed and full of terror, like many of the Greek mythological characters typically were and were that way unapologetically. In some ways, that’s what made the story great, though. She was very human in the end.

I enjoyed Circe, but I wished it was either shorter or more relevant. It was beautifully written and I recommend it if you enjoy Greek mythology.

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Star 3

Photo Review – My Lady’s Choosing by Kitty Curran and Larissa Zageris

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My Lady’s Choosing: An Interactive Romance novel

by Kitty Curran and Larissa Zageris

Summary: The romance novel that lets you pick your path, follow your heart, and find happily ever after.

You are the plucky but penniless heroine in the center of ninteenth-century society, courtship season has begun, and your future is at hand. Will you flip forward fetchingly to find love with the bantering baronet Sir Benedict Granville? Or turn the page to true love with the hardworking, horse-loving highlander Captain Angus McTaggart? Or perhaps race through the chapters chasing a good (and arousing) man gone mad, bad, and scandalous to know, Lord Garraway Craven? Or read on recklessly and take to the Continent as the “traveling companion” of the spirited and adventuresome Lady Evangeline? Or yet some other intriguing fate?

Make choices, turn pages, and discover all the daring delights of the multiple (and intertwining!) storylines. And in every path you pick, beguiling illustrations bring all the lust and love to life.

Source: I borrowed a Kindle copy

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Review:

Choose Your Own Adventure books are making a return of sorts, especially with the success of the Choose Your Own Adventure movie from the Black Mirror people on Netflix. It’s a category for the 2019 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge, so I tried to find one that would best suite me, but I’ll be honest, I did not want to read one. That’s why this book is also for the Fox and Wit Reading Challenge prompt of book outside my comfort zone.

Honestly, the book was actually pretty fun. It’s not an amazingly well written or thought provoking book, but it was enjoyable and lighthearted and fun to read, so I enjoyed myself more than I thought I would. I only read through my own decision, but there were so many possibilities!

 

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Star 3

Photo Review – On Writing by Stephen King

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On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

by Stephen King

Summary: “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.”

In 1999, Stephen King began to write about his craft — and his life. By midyear, a widely reported accident jeopardized the survival of both. And in his months of recovery, the link between writing and living became more crucial than ever.

Rarely has a book on writing been so clear, so useful, and so revealing. On Writing begins with a mesmerizing account of King’s childhood and his uncannily early focus on writing to tell a story. A series of vivid memories from adolescence, college, and the struggling years that led up to his first novel, Carrie, will afford readers a fresh and often very funny perspective on the formation of a writer. King next turns to the basic tools of his trade — how to sharpen and multiply them through use, and how the writer must always have them close at hand. He takes the reader through crucial aspects of the writer’s art and life, offering practical and inspiring advice on everything from plot and character development to work habits and rejection.

Serialized in the New Yorker to vivid acclaim, On Writingculminates with a profoundly moving account of how King’s overwhelming need to write spurred him toward recovery, and brought him back to his life.

Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower — and entertain — everyone who reads it.

Source: I purchased a hardcover

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Review:

I absolutely loved On Writing. It is both a memoir of bits of Stephen King’s life and a guide for writing that is relevant to any aspiring writer. I read it because I’m a fan of Stephen King, but I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to write. It’s short and to the point with great advice that comes from a good place, regardless of whether you admire King or feel like he’s a hack and writer of less than stellar popular fiction. (He totally talks about that, too!)

For me, as a King fan, it was like reading an extra long foreword in one of his novels. I always love his forewords because I feel like I get insight into why he wrote the book or how he feels about it. It’s like talking to an old friend and his memoir felt the same way. If I’ve ever wondered how he does it, what it’s like being married to another writer, how he’s coped over the years with alcoholism, etc, it’s all in here, but with ties to writing advice itself. He talked about a lot of his own books, books that inspired him, and writers he looks up to and why. It paid homage to a lot of great books and authors, while explaining the craft of writing.

I think I didn’t rate it 5 stars because I already rated Bag of Bones 5 stars this year and it feels biased to rate another King book so highly, but I also tend to dislike nonfiction a little bit. All I really wanted to do was dive into more of his books while reading this, despite wholly enjoying it, so I feel like 4 is fair.

Whether you are a King fan or someone who wants to write, this book is awesome.

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Star 4

Fox and Wit Reading Challenge – A book about books.

 

Photo Review – Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

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Practical Magic

by Alice Hoffman

Summary: The Owens sisters confront the challenges of life and love in this bewitching novel from New York Times bestselling author Alice Hoffman.

For more than two hundred years, the Owens women have been blamed for everything that has gone wrong in their Massachusetts town. Gillian and Sally have endured that fate as well: as children, the sisters were forever outsiders, taunted, talked about, pointed at. Their elderly aunts almost seemed to encourage the whispers of witchery, with their musty house and their exotic concoctions and their crowd of black cats. But all Gillian and Sally wanted was to escape.

One will do so by marrying, the other by running away. But the bonds they share will bring them back—almost as if by magic…

Source: I purchased a Kindle copy

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Review:

I don’t think I’ve ever watched Practical Magic all the way through, but I have seen parts of it, so it was hard to get my image of the characters and who the actresses were in the movie to separate. I feel like there is a list of movies from the 80s and 90s that everyone loves that I just never felt like I had the time for, so I was also trying not to let whatever preconceived notions about popular things like that impact whether or not I enjoyed the book. At first, I wasn’t sure I liked it very much and probably would have rated it 3 stars, but as I started to separate the movie bits from the book I was reading, I found myself enjoying it quite a bit.

It was weird, like any magical realism book tends to be, but it was also interesting and full of practical magic tips here and there as the story unfolded. It was a book about family and women and growing up different ways and becoming who you are supposed to be in a lot of ways.

I would recommend the book and I kind of wish I would’ve picked it up sooner, as it could have been a favorite of mine had I read it years ago as I was discovering the genre of magical realism.

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Star 4

Photo Review – The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

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The Joy Luck Club

by Amy Tan

Summary: In 1949, four Chinese women, recent immigrants to San Francisco, begin meeting to eat dim sum, play mahjong, and talk. United in shared loss and hope, they call themselves the Joy Luck Club. With wit and wisdom, Amy Tan examines the sometimes painful, often tender, and always deep connection between these four women and their American-born daughters. As each reveals her secrets, trying to unravel the truth about her life, the strings become more tangled, more entwined…

Source: I borrowed a Kindle copy from my library

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Review:

I really enjoyed The Joy Luck Club. At first, I wasn’t sure how I felt since the narration kept changing from person to person and it was difficult to figure out which person’s story was being told. After a few chapters, I realized that they connected to each other once again and it was a lot simpler to piece together.

My favorite aspect of the book was that it was about the mother daughter relationship as Chinese immigrants raised American daughters who have very different lives. Their culture impacted their relationship as the Chinese and American ways of life were so different, it was hard for mothers to truly bridge the gap with their own children. Still, despite being a book about mothers and daughters, it didn’t overdo it like so many contemporary books can sometimes do.

I loved getting the POV of the mothers talking about their childhood and how they arrived in America, as well as getting the POV from the daughters about growing up in America, often with mothers who did not speak the language and trying to fit in, but hold on to their heritage.

I definitely recommend this book and it would be a good book club book since it brings up so many relevant discussion topics.

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Star 4

Fox and Wit Reading Challenge – a book about immigrants

2019 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge – a book you see someone reading on TV or in a movie (Gilmore Girls)