Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Healing Power of Mindfulness | Jon Kabat-Zinn | Mini-Review

*Image and book provided via NetGalley for an honest review.


Review:

I picked up this book because I've recently been trying out mindfulness meditation to help with my anxiety and depression issues. It's been kinda working so I decided to read this book to see if I couldn't get more structure in my meditations and get some guidance. While there is some of that in here, the majority of the book is Kabat-Zinn's history with mindfulness in a professional medical setting. From helping patients undergoing treatment for psoriasis to working with psychologists to incorporate the meditation in their treatments. It was still a highly informative book and had several chapters on what I was looking for. The biggest flaw, however, is the number of paragraph long sentences. Several times I would read a sentence that went on for way too long only to have to re-read it because I couldn't figure out what Kabat-Zinn was trying to say. Maybe it would make sense in an audiobook, but reading it left my brain feeling frustrated. I never did figure out one or two of them, and I had context from the book. Overall, the book is okay and definitely informative. Kabat-Zinn just needs to tone down some of the wording. 3.5 hoots!

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Saturday, August 4, 2018

Daughters of Forgotten Light | Sean Grigsby

*Image and book provided via NetGalley for an honest review.

Summary:

The city of Oubliette, floating in space, had originally been meant to be used by the rich to escape the climate change. Once resources were diverted for the war, it became a women's prison city. The territory is divided into three gangs and there is a thin agreement to truce. Between a baby showing up in the one of the shipments to the city and the government wanting another option if they lose the war, things are about to get even more interesting, and bloody, in Oubliette. 

Review

Long story short, this is a book that shows multiple ways of being a bad ass woman. Each character perspective we get, Senator Linda Dolfuse, Lena "Horror" Horowitz, Sarah Pao, each of them is a bad ass in their own right. Admittedly Dofluse and Pao kinda need some time to grow into it, but when they get there, you're rooting for them. Lena is introduced as the leader of the gang Daughters of Forgotten Light, maintaining her cool when confronted by the other gangs, the Amazons and the Onyx Coalition. She's got your attention right from the start.

I'll admit, I thought the whole baby-triggering-maternal-instincts would be a worn out stereotype at play, but it really only ended up being a couple of characters triggered. Heck, for some of the women, the baby was just something new to break the monotony. The book does focus on women characters because there's an international war going on and all men, or boys sold by their parents, are shipped off to the military. That means women make up the remaining roles, government, business and other. 

Oh yeah, in this world, parents legally own their children. At the age of 11 they can have their children shipped off to join the military or to Oubliette. Some parents are forced to do this to pay their debts. Others do this because they can't handle the kid. One of the first cases we see of this is in the latest shipment of girls to Oubliette. A little girl who showed symptoms of autism. It was guessed she was shipped out because her parents couldn't handle raising her. Other times it's simply if the child does something the parents disagree with. Spangler knew his parents would've sent him to the military if they found out he was gay.

I have no problems saying that the world this took place in was incredibly interesting. Not just the dystopian stuff. In Oubliette, everything is made from glass. Their motorbikes (which run silent) are completely glass. Even their leather is made from glass! It's something different that I absolutely loved. Then there were the weapons that the gangs had, called rangs (short for boomerangs because the ammunition comes back to you). It was definitely something different.

I will warn you, this is not a book for the faint of stomach. It's not grossly detailed, but there is a lot of fighting, blood and cannibalism. Don't worry, only one gang consists of cannibals and the book does actually cover some of the health problems associated with that diet. But, yeah, be prepared for blood, foul language and violence.

In case you can't tell from how long this review is, I really did enjoy this book. And the ending is quite what I wanted, but I was very happy with it. 4.5 hoots!

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Saturday, July 14, 2018

Only Dead on the Inside | James Breakwell


Summary:

A collection of survival tips as well as do's and don'ts for being a parent in the zombie apocalypse. 

Review:

I laughed so friggin' hard at this book I'm sure I got looks while I was reading it on the bus. But I didn't notice because I was laughing too hard. I've already bought a copy of this for my Mom! Yes, some of the jokes rely on sitcom family stereotypes (the "inept dad" stereotype being the predominant one). And yes, I don't have any kids myself. However, the humor of there is so much humor based in truth. Anyone who's spent any time with any kids knows the truth of the dangers of a temper tantrum!

My favorite part about this book is how it covers so many things that other zombie lore glosses over. The idea that disposable diapers will be a new form of currency rings very true. Plus, how many other zombie stories talk about how children are just inherently good at finding dangerous things? "It takes skill to make an inert wooden crib spontaneously burst into flames, but if anyone can do it, it's a six-month-old." That's why there are so many warning labels on toys. That's why being a parent in the zombie apocalypse is so dangerous for all parties!

But the book doesn't spend the whole time complaining. There's actually some good advice in here. Like how most guidebooks would tell you to remove a staircase and use a retractable ladder to keep the second floor zombie free. Breakwell reminds you that carrying a baby, plus loot, means you're not climbing up that ladder. He also talks about how escaping from zombies, with your family intact, is more about situational awareness than actual speed. Then there's the chapter on punishments where he talks about punishment only being effective if the kid understands why they're in trouble.

Some of the best parts of this book are about using your children to your advantage. Using their natural talent to create messes to make your house an obstacle course for zombie or looter. Using their smaller size to help you loot more places (not to mention their enthusiasm at getting to take home whatever they want). They also come with some very useful accessories, like strollers and toys that can be used as weapons. Like a mini-van that can still play DVDs even after the house has lost power. 

I absolutely loved this book. I shared some lines with my Mom and she wanted a copy. There are cartoons, charts and other visuals and the book is short so it's easy to stay engaged the entire time. I happily give 5 hoots!


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Saturday, June 23, 2018

Killer Librarian | Mary Lou Kirwin


Summary:

Karen Nash is packed and ready to go to England with her boyfriend, Dave, when he calls her up and dumps her. Literally hours before she's supposed to finally visit England, he says it's over. She decides she'll pay the extra expense of a last minute ticket and goes anyways. She's been looking forward to this trip and has been planning it for a long time. What she didn't plan for was waking up from a hangover at the B&B and finding a dead man holding an upside down book. What she also didn't plan was finding Dave in England with his new, much younger, girlfriend. She also didn't plan on having feelings for the owner of the B&B who has a motive for murder.

Review:

This was such a delightful book. I'll admit, if you're a mystery fan, you'll probably be disappointed. This is so much more slice-of-life than it is murder mystery and that's probably why I enjoyed it so much! 

That and the main character, Karen, is a middle-aged librarian who's lived in the American Mid-West for many years. How could I not relate to that demographic? I adored Karen and her determination to move on and have fun. She and I don't share tastes in literature, but that "thrill of the hunt" she gets when visiting Hay-on-Wye and its many, many stores is something I understand. Her feeling stunned when she sees herself in a shawl for the first time? I felt similar the first time I realized I look good in cardigans (and that they're comfortable). I hope that I can be son independent when I'm her age.

The vast majority of the story is her wandering London. She only thinks about the death here and there. As a result, we get to experience more of the city from her than if she were hard-set on solving the mystery. I rather appreciate that. I also learned, from her mistakes, that an English pint is way more than an American pint. Something I'll have to remember should I ever get to visit. 

The other characters are only so-so in terms of depth and entertainment. Caldwell, the owner of the Bed & Breakfast was well thought out, but he was also the main love interest so that was kind of needed. I did love her depictions of him while he was at work in the kitchen. And the kindling romance between two book worms is so much fun to read.

If you're looking for a slice-of-life about a woman who's determined not to let being dumped stop her, I do recommend this book. It's probably not one for the die-hard mystery fans, but it's a lot of fun for others. 4 hoots!

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Sunday, June 17, 2018

Fool if You Think It's Over | Jo Thomas



Summary:

Elkie seems to have everything she's been wanting. She got Ben out of the Institute and Dave locked in. She got the girls to a safe place with their father. She's even been getting along better with her mother. Unfortunately, other people's plans for her keep getting in the way. Roar, the head of the Valemon company, believes her to be sent from Odin to answer his prayers. Ben and the Greywolves believe her to be an obstacle to their happiness. David believes her to be a traitor to her species and their friendship. Yeah, she's gonna have a rough time.

Review:

I'm not gonna lie, this book gave me a serious emotional hangover. I couldn't pick up another book for a long time because of how this one ended. And I mean that in a good way.

When we got introduced to Roar and his beliefs about the magic provided by faith in the old Norse gods, I was worried that this world was going to go over the top with the fantastical elements. Fortunately, this does not happen. Yes, we get a lot more magic, but it is world developing instead of world changing, if that makes sense. Because we only get Elkie's perspective, and she is more of a skeptic, we get a more controlled inclusion of these elements.

What surprised me was Elkie's strong return to violence. Yes, self-defense was the primary reason, but with the new elements of the world it ended up taking a bit more of a sinister turn. Fortunately Elkie is still the kind of person who doesn't forget she is human and she is affected by this as much as I was, if not more. She's not a mindless killing machine. She's a human who's reaching her breaking point. It ended up making me feel even more sorry for her.

While this wasn't as humorous as the previous books, I still found it to be a fitting end to the trilogy. The kind of ending that makes you realize just how much you enjoyed having a character in your life and how much you wanted to keep reading about them. This trilogy as a whole was a wonderful adventure and a testament to one's ability to find contentment with their lot and the strength to keep moving. I am so glad to have read this trilogy and this book helped me realize that even more. 5 hoots.

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Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Genius Jokes | Frank Flannery | Mini-Review

*Image and book provided via NetGalley for an honest review.

Review:

Good news! I'm evidence that you don't actually have to be a genius to enjoy these jokes. Some of them were a bit on the dryer side of funny. Others literally made me laugh out loud. The topics cover science, history, politics, and more. My favorite part, I actually learned things! The explanations of the jokes in this book are well written and concise. They are clearly meant to educate without being boring and they succeed. I really enjoyed this book and recommend it for anyone who wants some fun filled, quick learning. 4 hoots!

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Saturday, June 2, 2018

A Pack of Lies | Jo Thomas


Summary:
Elkie Bernstein is having werewolf problems of a different kind. The kind that involves long-term strategy and paperwork, neither of which she's very good at. She needs to get Ben (and maybe David) out of the Institute and away from Olsen who seeks to use Ben to find more werewolves. She needs to keep her farm going after her partnership with the Williams' family dissolves. Most importantly, she needs to protect a couple of young were-pups from the hands of those that would use them.

Review:

This book does pretty much everything that I want a sequel to do: it expands upon the world of the original in a way that makes sense. In the first book we were pretty much as "stuck" as Elkie in the middle of nowhere in Wales and we didn't get any sense of werewolves being known in the world. In this book, not only do we get to see a sliver of Norway, but we also get to see a werewolf pack. Well, we get to see that such things exist. In all honesty, I'm glad we still get to focus on Elkie and her struggles as opposed to side trips to the perspectives of others. 

Elkie remains one of my favorite female protagonists. She is very down-to-earth, self-aware, and kind hearted. I love that she openly admits to being a bad chess player and how that translates to her real life (I often have very similar frustrations). I love the fact that, even with everything stacked against her, she focuses on finding ways to make it work. She gets anxiety and I think some depression, but she keeps moving. I love that in a main character. She reads like a very well rounded character who is making the most of what she's been given in life and is finding contentment in it. Well, she would be if others would give her the chance to actually be content, but that's the cost of being a protagonist. 

While the book doesn't have more characters than the last one, the characters that are in this one last a lot longer so it feels like there are more, in a good way. Thomas does a wonderful job of keeping them well balanced. I'll admit, May's character wasn't as well played out as the others, but maybe that's the idea and she'll play a bigger role in the third book (which I'll be looking to get my hands on). I also liked that, while there are little kid characters, it rarely, if ever, reads like the little kid tropes. They're were-puppies who have distinct personalities and are learning to love books. What's not to love?

As the summary suggests, there wasn't nearly as much action in this book as there was in the first. There are still some werewolf fights, but the vast majority of the book is more strategy and positioning than actual fighting. Which makes sense. Elkie doesn't enjoy killing werewolves and only ever does out of self-defense. In this book there are few situations where she finds herself in need of defense. I can't say that there's more drama than I usually like because, well, Elike's personality and Thomas' sense of humor really keep it from feeling that way. That's quite the feat considering we get a lot of Elkie and her mom talking about Elkie's long lost dad and family issues. 

In case you can't tell, I enjoyed this book. Elkie is a wonderful, relatable character whose independence (stubbornness) and enjoyment of the simple things in life (hazelnut spread) make for an engaging read. In fact, I've already purchased the third book. This world, these characters, are very interesting to me and I'm loving finding out more about them all. 4.5 hoots!

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