The subtitle for We Were Liars should be, "I Can't Remember the Really Stupid Thing I Did LasThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
The subtitle for We Were Liars should be, "I Can't Remember the Really Stupid Thing I Did Last Summer." I read this book because there was a lot of hype around it. "Crazy Twist Ending! Must Read!" is what everyone said. I don't normally read contemporary YA books, but I decided this one might be fun because of all the hype around it.
My first impression of We Were Liars was that there was a map at the beginning. I LOVE MAPS. Are there more contemporary books out there with maps? Because if there are, you need to tell me so I can read them all.
The short sentences and broken lines made the writing feel very poetic. It also showed the broken mind of the main character, Cadence. To me, I didn't enjoy the reading experience as much as I could have because it felt like I was impatiently waiting to get to The Twist. The Twist was pretty cool and unexpected but it's not like a twist that has never been done before. Ironically, I read this because of the hype about the ending but because I knew there was a crazy ending I couldn't enjoy it all the way.
The biggest questions I had while reading this were: "What happened to Cadence?" and "Why does she keep giving her things away?" The first question is eventually answered, but I felt like the second question was left up to me as the reader to decide. Cadence's attitude towards things and objects was really interesting.
"...the accumulation of beautiful objects is a life goal. Whoever dies with the most stuff wins. Wins what? is what I'd like to know."
- E. Lockhart, We Were Liars pg 46
Overall, it was an interesting read with beautiful writing but the over-hyped ending left me a little disappointed.
Quiet changed how I view introverts and made me realize how many biases there are against theThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
Quiet changed how I view introverts and made me realize how many biases there are against them. Our society values people who are outgoing and people who are shy are considered to have some sort of flaw even though that is their natural personality. I had never thought about or even realized how our society values a very "narrow range of personality styles. (pg. 3)" As an introverted person, I didn't think I would have any biases against people who are labeled as shy. Was I wrong. Many shy people are encouraged to be social and change which gives them a feeling that something is wrong with them instead of them just having a different personality.
Introversion— along with its cousins sensitivity, seriousness, and shyness— is now a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology. Introverts living under the Extrovert Ideal are like women in a man’s world, discounted because of a trait that goes to the core of who they are.
-Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking (p. 4)
My favorite thing about this book was how it showed that introverts have strengths just by being who they naturally are. An example she used was Rosa Parks who was "shy and courageous (pg. 2)." Susan Cain points out that the Civil Rights movement wouldn't have gotten started if Rosa Parks had been an outgoing and loud person. It succeeded because she was a quiet, well respected person and the fact that she stood up for herself gained more attention because it was easier for people to realize the huge injustice of it since she was acting against her personality.
Here are a few of the strengths that an introverted person naturally has:
Function well without sleep (pg. 3)
Good at negotiating because their mild-mannered disposition allows them to take strong/aggressive positions and be accepted more easily (pg. 8)
Think before they speak or act (pg. 8, 168)
Prepare more for speeches and negotiations (pg. 8)
Asks lots of questions and listens intently to answers that leads to strong negotiation skills (pg. 8)
Work slowly and deliberately (pg. 11)
Ability to focus intently on one task and high abilities of concentration (pg. 11)
Relatively immune to the temptation of wealth or fame (pg. 11)
Able to delay gratification (pg. 163)
Don't give up easily (pg. 168)
Leadership style that wins people over (pg. 197)
Work independently which can lead to innovation (pg. 74)
I loved hearing the definition of an introverted person that wasn't framed in a negative way compared to an extroverted person. An introverted person enjoys less stimulation which is why they tend to like things like reading. They recharge by being alone while extroverted people recharge by socializing. All introverted people are not necessarily shy. I really liked Susan's illustration of how shyness and introversion were two different things.
Shyness is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation, while introversion is a preference for environments that are not overstimulating. Shyness is inherently painful; introversion is not.
- Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking (p. 12)
There's a quiz in the book to see which end of the spectrum of introversion/extroversion you fall on. She states several times that no one is completely extroverted or introverted. I did get 15/20 on the test which means I fall heavily on the introverted side. So this book felt very relevant to me. But even if you don't feel like an introverted person, this book has so much value because it's pretty much guaranteed that you know or are related to someone introverted and it can help you understand and relate to them.
One epiphany I had about myself was learning that some introverted people are sensitive. There's a study in the book about babies who had personality assessments when they were babies and again when they had grown up. They found the babies who were sensitive, who cried at loud noises and bad smells more easily turned out to be mellow, introverted adults. The babies who were easy going and didn't react much to new things grew up to be more outgoing. It seems like it should be the other way around, but it makes sense. If an introverted baby is overwhelmed by stimulation, they choose to be around less stimulation as they become adults. I immediately called my mom when I read this study because I will never live down the stories of being the baby who was scared of the orange rug every time I sat on it, the lamp from just looking at it, and my aunt's braces when she smiled. And when Susan Cain is talking about sensitivity she is using the psychological term.
Many introverts are also “highly sensitive,” which sounds poetic, but is actually a technical term in psychology. If you are a sensitive sort, then you’re more apt than the average person to feel pleasantly overwhelmed by Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” or a well-turned phrase or an act of extraordinary kindness. You may be quicker than others to feel sickened by violence and ugliness, and you likely have a very strong conscience.
-Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking (p. 14)
It’s as if, like Eleanor Roosevelt, they can’t help but feel what others feel.
-Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking (p. 138)
I wasn't expecting this book to help me think about what I really want to do with my life. Introverts are more likely to ignore their own preferences for career choices. The author talks about her career choice as a lawyer and even though she was good at it, she didn't enjoy or even want to do it. She listed three steps to finding out what you love to do.
First, think back to what you loved to do when you were a child. (pg. 218)
Second, pay attention to the work you gravitate to. (pg. 218)
Finally, pay attention to what you envy. Jealousy is an ugly emotion, but it tells the truth. You mostly envy those who have what you desire. (pg. 218)
When I went through these steps I realized that I love reading and reviewing books. Go figure after studying music and then finance in college that I would eventually come back to reading which I have loved doing since elementary school. Blogging about books has been such a great outlet and way for me to write which I also loved doing. I had to giggle when I came across this quote because my husband can't believe some of the things I post on my blog for the world to see sometimes.
Studies have shown that, indeed, introverts are more likely than extroverts to express intimate facts about themselves online that their family and friends would be surprised to read...
-Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking (p. 63)
If being introverted is so great, why isn't it valued in our society? There's an entire chapter that talks about the shift in American culture to over-emphasize the value of extroverted people that led to a devaluing of introverted people. It was very interesting. It involves industrial change, work force changes, and even parenting changes. She compares other cultures to America's (like China) and shows how their value of extroversion is not as strong or even the opposite and how that affects their culture. The biggest thing that contributed to extroversion being over-valued has to do with the business world. Loud, fast talking people are seen as leaders even if it negatively affects others. Harvard Business School teaches that true leaders have quick and assertive answers which might have led to many of the financial crises since the slow and cautious decision makers were mostly dismissed. There was a study in the book that questioned whether extroverted people are always the best leaders. It turns out they are excellent leaders if their employees are very passive, but in a work environment where the employees are more proactive an introverted leader is actually more efficient at utilizing the knowledge and experience of their employees.
You would think that as an introverted person it would be easy to parent an introverted child. That's not necessarily true and I enjoyed the parenting tips in the book. I need to remember that my child is just sensitive to things that are new in general and not to label him as shy or anti-social.
I feel like I know myself a little better after reading Quiet. I can recognize now when I’m feeling overwhelmed from stimulation and I make it a point to take time to myself to read or spend time on my own. It’s made me a lot happier. I also have been standing up for myself more, but in my own way by asking lots of questions and not being afraid to speak my mind just because I’m not a loud person. It also made me realize the social pressures I had been putting on myself and my kids. I always felt guilty for not having “enough” play dates and social time. And by “enough” I mean daily play dates. I realize now that the pace of a few times a week makes both my and my kids happy. I don’t feel pressure to have them constantly doing something with other kids anymore. Most of all it helped me realize that I am not an anti-social person. Now that I'm aware that going out with lots of friends or to parties will drain me, I make time to wind down afterwards and I no longer turn down social invitations since I understand my personality better. I feel like for me, this book accomplished what Susan Cain wanted it to.
If there is only one insight you take away from this book, though, I hope it’s a newfound sense of entitlement to be yourself.
-Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking (p. 16)
Overall, Quiet shifted my perspective on what it means to be introverted and I learned a lot about myself in the process. I highly recommend this book.
Proof of Heaven is not the kind of book I usually read. I'm not a fan of reading near death eThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
Proof of Heaven is not the kind of book I usually read. I'm not a fan of reading near death experiences since they seem very personal to me and I have a hard time connecting with them. I wasn't a huge fan of the descriptions of Eben Alexander's near death experience because they felt a little weird to me, but overall I actually liked this book. Proof of Heaven talks about his family life before his experience and the things he personally learned during his experience which was enjoyable to read.
My favorite part of the book was Eben learning about his past. He was adopted and felt loved by his adopted family, but as he grew older and had kids he started to wonder if his biological parents ever loved him. He compares not knowing if he was loved by his biological parents and how it made him unhappy to not knowing if we are loved before we came to this Earth by God can make you depressed and unhappy. Until he went into a coma he didn't believe God loved him. It was beautiful to read about how learning that God loved him brought a lot of joy and happiness into his life.
There were a few life-changing things he learned that really resonated with me. Evil is necessary for free will and free will is so important in our mortal life. He learned that God is human and personal. One of the unique things about Eben's experience was the fact that he was a brain surgeon before this experience and he realized that you don't have to sacrifice science to believe in the spiritual. If we as a society continue to pursue science without also pursuing the spiritual then we will be "relatively bereft in the realm of meaning and joy, and of knowing how our lives fit into the grand scheme... (pg 152)."
Eben had such an interesting view on the brain and how it relates to consciousness. I had never thought about it like that before, but it made sense to me.
The brain itself does not produce consciousness. That it is, instead, a kind of reducing valve or filter, shifting the larger, nonphysical consciousness that we possess in the nonphysical worlds down into a more limited capacity for the duration of our mortal lives.
- Eben Alexander, Proof of Heaven pg 81
Narrator Rating: 4 Stars
This was a great audiobook. It was read by the author which always seems to help clarify what exactly they meant when they wrote it just based on how they read it. He had a mellow, southern voice and read at a nice pace. There's also an afterword in the audiobook that was not in the print version. He blended the ideas of East and West religions and clarified why he chose the words he did in the book which was interesting to listen to.
Overall, even if you are skeptical of near death experience memoirs I think you should still give this one a try since I found his scientific perspective unique and enjoyed the spiritual learning that he did.
I loved the writing in A Study in Scarlet. The dialogue was catchy and natural. I found the bThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
I loved the writing in A Study in Scarlet. The dialogue was catchy and natural. I found the book surprisingly easy to read especially considering how old it is. The thing that really stands out in this book and the thing that has made it last for so long are the characters. Sherlock is very cheerful, eccentric, sarcastic, loves to be flattered, and is bluntly honest. And of course the thing that makes his character so fun to watch on TV in the modern adaptation - his cocky genius. I couldn't hate this guy if I tried. I loved seeing these two iconic characters meet (Sherlock and Watson) to set the stage for the rest of the Sherlock Holmes series.
The first half of this book was a fascinating mystery. I was glued to the story, turning pages, dying to know what happens next. Then we get to Part 2. The second half of the book was the longest, most drawn out and boring flashback I have ever read. We find out the solution to the mystery at the end of Part 1. Part 2 goes into why he did it. Apparently Mr. Doyle doesn't believe in recapping what happened. We get to live it. If we're going to live through it, at least make it interesting. It was not at all interesting because almost nothing happens for most of Part 2. I skimmed a lot of it. It also felt very disjointed to go from a mystery in London to the American West. It felt like I was reading two different stories that had nothing to do with each other. Part 2 is only tied in to Part 1 by the very end.
Portrayal of Mormons
I have to say as a Mormon, reading Part 2 of this story was a little difficult for me since Mormons are not painted in a good light for this part of the story. But let's start with this hilarious quote first.
In the central portion of the great North American Continent there lies an arid and repulsive desert...
- Arthur Conan Doyle, A Study in Scarlet p. 63
Repulsive! Arid! My home this is! Yoda and I are highly offended. Okay not really. But he kept describing the whole state of Utah like it was entirely covered in the Salt Flats where everything was covered in "alkali dust" and used words like "barren", "misery", "despair," and my personal favorite "gloomy." The whole thing just made me laugh. While it is true that the west side of the Great Salt Lake is all those things, the pioneers settled on the EAST side of the lake which was your more run-of-the-mill desert with snakes and cacti and stuff. And regular desert dirt that almost nothing can grow in thank you very much. I mean if you're going to insult my state at least get it right. :)
The thing I struggled with the most was the portrayal of Mormonism as a cult. And when I say cult I mean a group forcing people to do things by threats or brain-washing. Mormons believe the point in life is to make choices. There is a point in the story where Mormon pioneers find a starving, wandering man and his daughter and say they can join them only if they become Mormon. Brigham Young (or any Mormon) would NEVER force anyone to be Mormon. Not cool Mr. Conan Doyle. I did some research and in Mr. Doyle's defense, he believed these things to be true at the time. Still - forcing people to do things is against our religion and always has been.
The murderer's motive was based on their hatred of the practice of plural marriage (or polygamy). While Mormons did practice it, it was portrayed in the book that if you didn't get married to more than one person you were kicked out (and then hunted down by a secret band of murderers. Say what?? That most definitely didn't happen). Not everyone practiced plural marriage. Many early Mormons were monogamous and were in fine standing with the church. I won't go into tons of detail in this review, but if you're interested the official Mormon (also known as Latter-Day Saints or LDS) website has more information on plural marriage and Mormonism. It's an interesting article that talks about the trials the people who lived it faced, how long it was practiced and more. And just to be thorough Mormons don't practice polygamy today and haven't since 1890.
Overall, I adored the first half of the novel and meeting the most iconic characters in literature, but I found the second half to be boring and the anti-Mormonism made me uncomfortable. I would give the first half of the novel 4 stars and the second half like 1/2 a star....more
Cold Sassy Tree was a great book for book club. It brought up a lot of things to discuss abouThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
Cold Sassy Tree was a great book for book club. It brought up a lot of things to discuss about religion, women, and gossip set in early 1900s South. It's always interesting to me to read historical fiction like this and see how women were treated. Women were often blamed for the things that men did. Like Rucker marrying Love even though his wife only died a few weeks ago. You would think that the gossip would be about the insensitive man but it wasn't. It was all about Love and what an awful person she was. Society also largely viewed woman as free or cheap labor. You can clearly see how quickly their society would fall apart without women (Rucker can't even feed himself or wash his clothes) and yet they are treated as second class citizens. That didn't mean women didn't have any power. Love would march for women's right to vote and she was very clever about getting Rucker to do things she wanted by making it seem like it was his idea.
My favorite part of this novel was the discussions about religion that Rucker has with his grandson, Will. They discuss prayer and what you should really be praying for. Rucker believes that God doesn't interfere with whether people live or die. God gave us brains and he expects us to use them. And sometimes bad things happen to good people and what we should really pray for is the strength to get through hard things. I really liked this and the other discussions that Will and Rucker had.
Another thing that was fun to read about was the modern changes coming to this small, southern town. Cars appear for the first time. Some people have phones and some don't. Some people have plumbing and some don't. It was like redneck Downton Abbey.
Cold Sassy Tree shed a fascinating look on gossip. Gossip is focused on the outward appearance of things and disregards the more important internal thoughts and feelings of people. Will points out that there is a difference between "being in mourning" like wearing black etc. and actually mourning. You can see the tragic effects throughout the story when people focus on the outward things people are doing and forget to see them as people.
Narrator Rating: 5 Stars
Even though this is my very first audiobook, I thought the narrator did an excellent job with reading this novel. He had a southern accent that really added to the atmosphere of the book. Also, it was easier to understand the accent when I heard it. The southern accent in the book was spelled phonetically and I found it hard to read. But it was delightful to listen too. I would recommend the audiobook over the book for this novel. I got me here a southern accent before I wus done with this here aud-ee-o-book. Yes um.
Overall, I really liked this look at southern life and the ideas it had about religion.
Content warning: rape scene. It's not very graphic but it was disturbing. There may have been some language but I can't remember....more
The first thing that The Secret Diamond Sisters reminded me of was the song Royals by Lorde. The idea of criticizing the insanely rich but wanting to live that life at the same time was really present in The Secret Diamond Sisters. My favorite of the three sisters was Courtney who was ambitious, hard working, and really wanted to go to an Ivy League school. When she finds out that her dad is a billionaire, she resents it a little and feels like all her hard work at coffee shops was worthless. I thought it was a wonderful and honest reaction. Although I think it's easy to imagine that having lots of money suddenly would be fabulous (and one of her other sisters does feel this way), Courtney's reaction really stuck with me.
There wasn't really an overall conflict in the story. It goes from one drama to the next and focuses more on the characters and their relationships with people than a strong plot. Not that that's a bad thing, but I do wish there had been a little more driving the story. It's implied that there are secrets the sisters need to find out and even though we do find out a few, I was honestly expecting a little more about their past and some mystery to find out more to move the story forward. The things that happen to the sisters are interesting and I did find it entertaining, but the story just kind of ends with no real resolution.
I thought all of the characters, especially the sisters, were very well-rounded and interesting. My only complaint was that they seemed to act too adult for teenagers. They drank a lot like it wasn't illegal or like it didn't even really have consequences, they went to night clubs etc. Maybe that's how it really is in Las Vegas with everything focused on being an adult, but I still found it kind of weird.
Overall, if you like a story with lots of scandal and drama with interesting characters then this one is for you. Content warning: a lot of teen drinking, language, and a make-out scene that turns inappropriate....more
If Dr. Seuss had ever written a chapter book, it would have come out like Fortunately, the MiThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
If Dr. Seuss had ever written a chapter book, it would have come out like Fortunately, the Milk. The illustrations were fun, detailed, and slightly strange. The story was quirky and imaginative. It made my kids giggle a few times. There were aliens and dinosaurs and a lot of other crazy characters in between. It was a fun, short story to read out loud to my 7 and 5 year old every night. If you’re looking for something different to read to your kids, go pick this one up. It’s a book adults can enjoy too. I looked forward to reading this as much as my kids did....more
Dreams of Gods & Monsters was an epic and beautiful finale to one of my new favorite fantThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
Dreams of Gods & Monsters was an epic and beautiful finale to one of my new favorite fantasy series. The romance made my heart melt. There was a Star Wars joke about using a Tauntaun to keep warm which I loved. There was more of the blunt, honest humor that I laugh out loud at. Behold my favorite joke ever.
Razgut paused as though he were thinking up a reply, and then he farted. Squinching up his face, he did so with effort. The reward was slight in resonance but grand in aroma, and the emperor was not amused.
- Laini Taylor, Dreams of Gods & Monsters pg 367
I'm certainly amused by Razgut. Speaking of Razgut, I kind of wondered when he was going to say "my preeeciousssssss" because he totally reminded me of Gollum. He was pitiful, ugly, scheming and for reasons I don't understand I kind of liked him and felt sorry for him.
The book before this one, Days of Blood & Starlight, was very dark. Dreams of Gods & Monsters did a good job showing that no matter how dark things get, love and mercy matter.
But all he could think, in answer to that, was what Karou had said earlier, about the darkness we do in the name of the dead, and whether it’s what they would want for us.
-Laini Taylor, Dreams of Gods & Monsters pg 264
The writing is beautiful and just sucks you right into the story.
She’d spoken of their happiness as though it were an undeniable fact, no matter what happened— apart from everything else and not subject to it. It was a new idea for him, that happiness wasn’t a mystical place to be reached or won— some bright terrain beyond the boundary of misery, a paradise waiting for them to find it— but something to carry doggedly with you through everything, as humble and ordinary as your gear and supplies. Food, weapons, happiness.
-Laini Taylor, Dreams of Gods & Monsters pg 413
As much as I loved this book, I wish it had ended 100 pages sooner than it did. Not because I thought the book was too long but because I felt like the final subplot that took up those last pages was unnecessary. The final subplot goes into the epic territory of Where This World Came From. Honestly, I don't like knowing that much detail because I feel part of the beauty of an amazing fantasy is leaving a little left unanswered especially about the origins of a fantasy world. For example, J.K. Rowling describes a hidden world of witches and wizards but she never attempts in the narrative to explain where the first witch and wizard came from. I think if she had, it would lose a lot of it's magic. Laini Taylor literally answers all the questions and to be fair she did foreshadow this plot in the previous books so it is nice that she didn't just abandon it. But I felt like the story would have worked much better without that final subplot because I felt like the plot really dragged through those last 100 pages.
Overall, it was a very satisfying conclusion to my favorite series but I was not a fan of that final subplot about the origins of the world because I felt it was unnecessary.
Content warning: a few suggestive scenes and some language....more
As dark and epic as Days of Blood & Starlight was, I found it surprisingly funny. I especThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
As dark and epic as Days of Blood & Starlight was, I found it surprisingly funny. I especially loved the Monty Python references. While Daughter of Smoke & Bone was more of a love story, this sequel was more a story about war. The author does an excellent job of showing how pointless war is.
Mercy, she had discovered, made mad alchemy: a drop of it could dilute a lake of hate.
- Laini Taylor, Days of Blood & Starlight pg 205
I thought I would lose interest in this book since the romance wasn't as prominent, but I care so much about the unique and interesting characters that I couldn't put this one down. This is one of those books where I did nothing all day but read and my house was a complete mess by the time I was done.
The only way I can think of to describe the writing is "intelligent." There are witty references and Laini Taylor can play with my expectations like a violin. And like I said - the writing is just so funny.
Well, Karou wanted to retort, with all the gravity and maturity she could muster. Duh.
-Laini Taylor, Days of Blood & Starlight, pg 45
Karou, the main character, grows so much in this book. You can see the small steps of her becoming an adult. Karou learns about forgivness to herself and others, seeing the big picture, and not blaming herself for everything. The huge amount of character growth like this is one of the reasons I love to read Young Adult. Laini brings up a lot of interesting questions about Akiva, too. The book brings up his past, his people, and hints at what role they might play in the next book.
Overall, I loved this beautiful and intelligent sequel as much as the first book in this series. It's a great look at how pointless war really is.
Content warning: an attempted rape scene, frequent language, violence that was sometimes kind of graphic....more
Rump is a fun, humorous retelling of a traditional fairy tale that we all know, RumplestiltskThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
Rump is a fun, humorous retelling of a traditional fairy tale that we all know, Rumplestiltskin. The writing was charming. The characters were funny and interesting. Here's a little demonstration of both the delightful writing and the great main character, Rump, who wrote this poem.
Home is a place to get out of the rain
It cradles the hurt and mends the pain
And no one cares about your name
Or the height of your head
Or the size of your brain
- Liesl Shurtliff, Rump, pg 8
This book was written before Once Upon a Time came out, but I can't help comparing the two since they are both intelligent retellings. There's a scene in this book where Red is talking about the consequences of magic and I couldn't help but hear my favorite character, Rumplestitlskin from Once Upon a Time, say "All magic comes with a price!" Another similarity to Once Upon a Time is the ability of this story to get us to empathize with the "villain." I was really impressed that Liesl Shurtliff was able to keep the plot so close to the traditional fairy tale but give us back story and motivations in a way that made me see the story in a new light and not see Rump as the bad guy. It also kind of felt like a prequel because of the back story about his parents that the author went into.
Rump has a beautiful message about the importance of names and labels and our destiny. It's a story about not only learning from your own mistakes but the mistakes of others.
My one and only (and very small) complaint is that it felt like it ended very quickly.
Overall, it was a charming fairy tell retelling about finding your destiny that will appeal to everyone - especially if you are a Once Upon a Time fan....more