Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Surprise Yourself by Lisa Currie

Surprise Yourself by Lisa Currie

This book was sent to me for review consideration by the publisher, Tarcher Perigree. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you click on one of them and make a purchase, I might make a tiny commission.

Surprise Yourself is a life workbook designed, in its own words, to be both "an adventure guide and a comfort blanket." I think it fulfills that purpose quite well! I really love the idea of having a journal like this that requires you to be both introspective, but also gives you opportunities to push yourself outside of your comfort zone and do some fun things. There are a lot of different topics covered from exploring the world that is already deeply familiar to you, to creating your own works of art, interviewing people who are different than you and more!

There are also checklists included so that you can keep track of the different parts of the book as you do them. It's not necessary to do the book in order, you can pick and choose which parts you want to do at which time.

I really like the idea of this book because it can also serve as record for yourself. The ideas to push you out of your comfort zone are fun and seem designed to really make you a better more thoughtful and empathetic person. They can even lead to new friends! And the tasks about yourself also seem fun and like they will cause you to really think about yourself and why certain things are the way they are. I think books like this are great because sometimes we need to be forced to slow down and look at things differently and really consider the people around us and also why we feel and think the way we do. But Surprise Yourself makes all of that fun and accessible and easy and possible for anyone.

For example, there is an activity that asks you to focus on some traits you notice about your co-worker. I think this is great for really becoming a more thoughtful person. A lot of times we do notice things about people without really reflecting on them. There is also an activity to host a themed dinner party. This resonated with me because it's the sort of thing that always seems like it would be fun to do but I haven't. But making it a goal to finish the activities in this book makes it more likely.


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Mad by Chloe Esposito

Mad by Chloe Esposito

I received a galley of this book from the publisher for review consideration. This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summer's not over yet! Despite some cooler than normal weather we've been experiencing in Southern California, the kids heading back to school, and even though the Halloween and Fall decor is hitting store shelves much my extreme delight, the temperatures are starting to rise again and well summer technically has some time left.

I say all of that because Mad by Chloe Esposito is a perfect summer read. It's what you might call a beach read, but not everyone gets to go to the beach, so instead we'll just stick with summer read! This book is not so unlike it's title...it's crazy! It's a kind of shock read, but I kept turning the pages to see what would happen next. It was also kind of funny. The compulsively readable nature of it makes it easy to recommend, but I gotta say...

If you can't stand unlikable characters, by which I mean characters that may not even be particularly clever and completely out for themselves, you might not like this. However, for me the fact that I was reading a book with a female character like this was kind of a novelty! I also didn't feel like I neeed to like Alvie to enjoy the story because there were plenty of twists and turns that kept me engaged and going with it.

In short, Alvie is kind of a mess. She's working a job she doesn't particularly love and makes some pretty poor life decisions when her twin sister invites her to come visit Italy. (Alvie is located in England). She decides to go once she realizes it will be paid for and she basically has no other choices. However, not everything is as it seems when she arrives and she quickly finds herself in a situation much bigger than she imagined..which will only be intensified by her selfish poor decisions.

This was a unique and fun read for me and I do recommend it! I think it's perfect for summer! So if you're looking something a little light that veers towards fun you might want to pick this one up. However, if you're easily offended, it might not be for you. Also, it looks like it's part of a trilogy which makes sense. Looking forward to more.

Friday, August 18, 2017

You're Weird: A Creative Journal for Misfits, Oddballs, and Anyone Else Who's Uniquely Awesome by Kate Peterson

You're Weird

I received a copy of this book for review from the publisher. This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

I really do love these hand-lettered books! I love that they are creative in and of themselves and I also love that they encourage creativity. This one is for letting loose your inner oddball and the topics are pretty fun and what you might expect. The pages encourage writing, coloring, and drawing. If you aren't a great artist like myself, I still think you can use this book (and this kind of book) because really it's for you.

Since You're Weird is all about, well, being weird the pages inside encourage the participant to focus on what makes them unique and celebrate it. Some of the topics include thinking about what you do differently than other people, thinking about famous people who are a little different that you admire, picking words that describe you, and reflecting on the events that shaped you into your uniquely wonderfully weird self.

Some of the creative activities include drawing an apple that fell really far from the tree and coming up with a slogan for yourself. There are also some challenges of weirdness to complete.

The book is delightfully hand-lettered and illustrated. It's cute, spunky, and fun. I think it would make an ideal gift for any young person that might be struggling with accepting their own weirdness or rather uniqueness. It really gives you space to celebrate the things that make you different which is needed and important especially at ages where peer pressure is intense, but really at any age. A book like this can be considered a journal and become a respite against difficult times or simply a tool to help you enjoy your unique oddballness even more.

Recommended fun!

I haven't done a Things You Might Want to Know About in ages but I do want to mention the book uses the term "spirit animal" and while I know it's used popularly in the mainstream culture, it has come to my attention that it's cultural appropriation. It's not a term I ever really understood in the pop-culture sense and learning that actually helped make sense of it for me! It's just one page/activity, but it's worth mentioning. If you give this as a gift to your teen you could talk about the use of that word and why other words like patronus are better to use.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Breakdown by B.A. Parris

The Breakdown by B.A. Parris

I received a digital galley of this book from the publisher. This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

I thought BA Parris's first book, Behind Closed Doors, was a good thriller. I'm not going to lie, parts of it forced me to remember it was fiction as certain plot points stretched what I could realistically believe. Even so, it was super engaging and kept me with it and the conclusion was very satisfying and made me glad I read the whole book. Sometimes, coming to an ending can really make the journey worthwhile.

Is it cheating to say I had much the same feelings about her follow-up, The Breakdown? It was a good thriller and it kept me with it even if I could generally figure out how things were going to unfold long before they happened. I thought the psychology of it was good (and I guess I should amend everything I am saying to note that her books really are psychological thrillers). The beginning was so great and pulled me in right away. Because I think it offers so much of the enjoyment of the book I don't want to explicitly spoil it. But it sets up an atmosphere in which the following events can take place. It also forces you to really put yourself in the shoes of the protagonist which might be uncomfortable considering what she does.

A lot of the book focuses on well, the breakdown. Cass doubts everything in her life and is worried she's suffering from the same condition of her mother. The overwhelming sense of dread, fear, and uncertainty really fill the story. Additionally, Cass starts to feel hunted by a murdered but no one in her life will believe her.

Like I said, the book was very engaging and kept me with it. I appreciate that Parris's protagonists feel human and do things that are kind of startling. It makes them interesting. However, I saw where this book was going before we got there and I think it would have been more enjoyable if that were not the case. Still, I will read her next book and I enjoyed this one and recommend it!

It's been fun to discover some new thriller writers in the past couple years. I really enjoy the genre quite a lot as I find the stories generally keep me with them but they have some unexpected depth as well. What is the best thriller you've read recently?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Text Don't Call by INFJoe

Text Don't Call: An Illustrated Guide to the Introverted Life by INFJOE

I received a copy of this book for review consideration from the publisher. This post uses Amazon affiliate links.

Introverts! Have you always known or understood your introversion? Aaron Caycedo-Kimura didn't so when he took a test (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and learned he was it was like everything in his world fell into place. Thanks to the glorious marvel of the Internet, he hopped online and began sharing little cartoons about being an introvert and now he has a book! And it's a cute little gem of a book for introverts.

Text, Don't Call's subtitle is: An Illustrated guide to the Introverted Life and that's just perfect. This isn't a book that gets into the deep nitty gritty of life as an introvert, but it does offer a quick run through of what it means to be an introvert and provides many assurances that it's okay to be an introvert. I like how he explains that extroverted qualities are idealized and it certainly makes sense why it's that way given the nature of the personality types. But as an introvert myself, I do think it's important to understand and to learn to accept the particular strengths of being introverted.

Text, Don't Call pokes fun at introversion in a charming relateable way through the illustrations. The comics are cute and in most cases felt pretty spot on! He even captured several little moments you've experienced as an introvert but maybe never expressed before. In addition to the charming illustrations, there are little tips for navigating life as an introvert. Everything from holidays to finding people who understand you, you can find it in this book. He draws inspiration, I think from the hashtag, #introvertproblems which I've never checked out before, but I'm going to have to since I think I'll probably be able to relate to a lot of it!

I think this is a fun read for any introvert but also would make a great gift for a young introvert in high school or college that you know. That's about the age you start realizing who you are as a person and having a fun little book like this would be a great relief and comfort.


Monday, August 14, 2017

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

I received a digital galley of this book with no expectations from the publisher, Simon & Schuster. This blog post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you click on them and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission.

I loved Ruth Ware's In a Dark Dark Wood a lot and also really liked The Woman in Cabin 10. She has a wonderful style of writing for thrillers, interesting flawed characters who feel relateable, intriguing premises, and a knack of really giving you a sense of empathy for the characters you might not otherwise feel. There's a lingering sadness under the surface of all her stories, every single one! And I suppose that's part of why they are so attractive to me.

So I was excited for The Lying Game. A group of friends get a text that is both chilling and urgent. I need you, it reads. While they were friends in their youth, their adulthood has brought them along mostly separate paths until this point. We enter the story from Isabel's perspective. She's a young mother and full of dread at the prospect of going to meet up with her friends, but she does anyway. She has to. When she goes we learn the history behind the tight knit group of friends, the reason their friend has called them so urgently, the strains in their present life, and so much more.

While the group harbors a secret, I feel that is uncovered fairly early. There's more to the story than that...another dark truth that threatens them all.

I loved it! It's interesting as I was googling in preparation for writing this review I saw glimpses of extracts of other reviews. They were pretty negative, but I actually think it's Ruth Ware's best book yet. There's so much depth to it and the detail of how these women are living their lives and the feelings they experience matter. It's a thriller, yes, but it's also deeply human. This fantastic combination she has of really getting into the skin and heart of her characters and combining it with a mystery is what I love best about her books! The setting is also rich and atmospheric and contributed to my overall enjoyment of the book.

And the story is about so much more than "the secrets." It's about our relationships to one another, growing up, cliques, and the secrets we keep and why. It's a pretty fascinating examination of love, friendship, and family.

So I definitely recommend it, especially if you're read her other books and love them. As I got into this one, I suspected it was going to cement her status as a favorite author of mine and it did just that. So I definitely do recommend it to anyone looking for a good thriller with great characterization, some quotables, some mystery, and a good read.