This book is well-written and extremely interesting. The story begins in the late 1700s with the first twenty years of Henry Whittaker's life, as well...moreThis book is well-written and extremely interesting. The story begins in the late 1700s with the first twenty years of Henry Whittaker's life, as well as the entire eighty years of his daughter, the main character, Alma. They are fascinating people, and the times as well as the settings are wrought in expert detail. I was astonished at the effort Gilbert put into it.
The subtext (if not the theme) of the book is evolution, both biological and sociological, and I think the reason Gilbert went into so much detail, however well-crafted and entertaining, was to demonstrate various aspects of evolution - or the resolute lack thereof - in of each of her characters. Thus we follow the lives of Alma, her father, her mother, Prudence, the insane friend, the insane husband, the Tahitian missionary, the Tahitian missionary's son, et. al. And I'm just getting started. Even Roger the dog evolves in order to triumph at life. Okay, I'm kidding about him. Sort of.
I'm not going to describe the entire book. Plenty of other readers will do that. However, I will say that there is a transcendent scene toward the end, when Alma and another scientist/big thinker debate the evolutionary logic of altruism. I was entranced by this unanswerable question and their discussion of it. However, that was just the icing on the cake. The main takeaway of the story, for me, was that we all have a chance to live our biggest life possible, if only we try as hard as we can and never, never let ourselves weaken. It's an empowering theme. I recommend this book, with the caveat that the evolved reader manage its length by discreetly skimming, thus saving her energy for the rest of life's battles. (less)
The objective of this book, according to the author, is "to inspire people through storytelling to imagine their own future in powerful and positive w...moreThe objective of this book, according to the author, is "to inspire people through storytelling to imagine their own future in powerful and positive ways." Pauley weaves her story into the telling of those anecdotes, so there's a nice rhythm. She's relentlessly cheerful and self-effacing, and uses her broadcaster cadence in telling each story. The result is a kind of tonal flatness, no real highs or lows. Yet there is still enough in this book for me to feel it was worth reading.
Here are some takeaways:
*instead of empty nest syndrome, one reinventor saw the newly available time as "a gift box that I could fill somehow." That was a refreshingly take. *the idea of "packing for your future." What might you take with you into very old age, that you can look back upon and think, "I'm glad I did that. I'm at peace because I did that." Also, to be willing to happily give up on some things, like running a marathon or learning a foreign language. *the idea that "self-discovery is not a prerequisite for reinvention. It's the payoff."
The only knock on this book is broader than one book or Jane Pauley herself: it's a lack of candor about the fact that only a certain economic group can indulge in unpaid dream-chasing. A good number of older people will never have that luxury, and I think we should acknowledge that. Now, if somebody would come along and write a book about "How I Reinvented Myself While Enduring Chronic Illness and Simultaneously Working Three Minimum Wage Jobs," that would be noteworthy.(less)
I bought this book when it first came out, read most of it, got overwhelmed and put it away. Recently I went through it again, and now that I'm a more...moreI bought this book when it first came out, read most of it, got overwhelmed and put it away. Recently I went through it again, and now that I'm a more experienced entrepreneur, I was able to evaluate what was helpful and what was less so. Overall, I was pleased with how much information is in it. It's a great resource.
Although the book is packed with information, at times it almost seems to try to do too much. The title stands for Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur, and in my opinion the first of the three is a bit superficial. If you don't know how to write, for example, the chapter on how to write a book won't help you much. And if you're buying this book, you already know you're going to self-publish, so the chapter on making that decision is kind of pointless. And the chapter, "Tools for Writers," in which Guy concludes you should use Microsoft Word? I think most of us knew that.
However, the latter two-thirds of the book are seriously helpful, especially if you're close to finishing your manuscript. At this point, you'll need to know how to polish, publish, and market it. This is where the book offers detailed, easy-to-absorb information.
APE is available as an ebook and a paperback, but the former provides dozens of useful links, so I recommend that version. My favorite chapters:
• How to Sell Your Ebook through Amazon, Apple, etc. • Self-Publishing Issues: how not to get ripped off by author-services providers • How to Navigate Amazon. Helpful not only from an author's point of view but also a customer. (Guy deserves a five-star review just for deconstructing this behemoth.) • How to upload your book to a publishing service, using Kindle as the example • Really helpful chapters on building "an enchanting personal brand" (platform) and how to use social media for that purpose • How to guerrilla-market your book
This is a book that deserves to be in the library of any self-publisher, from one-book memoirist to career-building author. Many thanks to Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch for their efforts. (less)
*Moderate spoiler alert* I enjoyed this book very much. It's the story of a powerful man evolving out of the destructive grief following his daughter'...more*Moderate spoiler alert* I enjoyed this book very much. It's the story of a powerful man evolving out of the destructive grief following his daughter's death. It's well written, lush, with unbelievably great descriptions of settings. As I write this review, the story is provocative in retrospect. There are soaring positives and aggravating negatives.
Positives: Great narrative voice, reminded me of Kent Haruf's, but edgier. The descriptions of the landscape and settings, of the art of fishing and the art of art, the richly drawn characters, and the non-tedious weaving in of backstory enticed me. Heller's way of portraying the characters is spare but rich.
There's a plot twist that sets the story on a new path at about the 25% mark, and it was here that my high opinion of the main character, Jim Stegner, began to falter. At the time, his actions seemed gratuitous, but it's the pivot for the plot, and does a good job with that.
I very much enjoyed the descriptions of fly-fishing and painting, how an artist works and sees things. Made me want to go to a gallery and see what happens. However, much of Stegner's internal monologue as he reflects on his work (e.g. "Crow and Horse" was engaging but went on too long) could sometimes be as perplexing and open to interpretation as an abstract painting. Which is pretty cool, but also somewhat exhausting. To do this book justice, you'd need to hash it out with friends over a couple days.
There are some really good things going on with this novel. Stegner had such compassion for his victims, even though they were monsters. And he's self-immolating with guilt, which will need resolution. The twists and turns of the plot are original and compelling. Lastly, everybody seems to know he's guilty, and he almost wants to turn himself in to end the perverse circus his illegal actions have created (the value of his art goes through the roof and he becomes even a bigger celebrity). I was intrigued, sensing his character arc would involve coming to grips with his violent narcissism.
Negatives: What was at first a charming affectation - the plainspoken use of the word "Well" as a complete sentence - became overused and tedious. Also, the device of ending a sentence before it's complete. Let me show you what I. Well. Both began to take me out of the story to wonder why Heller did it.
And why, of all the surnames he could have given the main character, did Heller choose Stegner? Was he trying to put us in mind of Wallace Stegner, the great author who also wrote about that locale and in a similar style? Again, it took me out of the story to wonder about Heller's intentions. UPDATE: An erudite friend alerted me that Heller intended an homage to Stegner, so I apologize. But I didn't see that at the time. So a risk on the part of the writer, nevertheless.
I was underwhelmed with Heller's use of women characters. Of the main three, one is dead. The other two are in the story to heal and inspire Stegner, largely with their sexuality. I guess I should have seen it coming. Stegner is a man's man. In an early description, he thinks:
"Now as I drive by, Bob looks up from the tire he is changing, waves. Sometimes I think that's all you need. A good man with a fishing tip, a wave. A woman once in a while. Some work to do that might mean something. A truck that runs..."
"A woman once in a while?" Why not just use your hand?
Revealing: After a devastating party, Stegner escapes to a stream on the way home to fish all night (he always carries his gear with him), leaving his still-dressed-to-the-nines model/muse/girlfriend to sleep in his truck like a faithful hound.
Maybe a guy would enjoy this character more. He's very masculine. Clutching a lit cheroot in his teeth during a back-country car chase? Very early Clint Eastwood.
Stegner's self-indulgent personality was, for me, the weak point of this story. I should have been moved by the extremely well-crafted ending, but I didn't care enough about Jim Stegner to feel the emotion the author intended. (I was more moved by Jason, his judge.) It's not fatal; there's enough in this good story to make it well worth the read anyway. In fact, just the lushness of his descriptions made me slow down and sink into them. Like a painting that arrests you unexpectedly, that makes you feel you can smell the sage and feel the late afternoon sun in your face, his descriptions are art. And much like abstract art, my interpretation of this work is my own individual reaction. Yours may vary.
This book is about three middle-aged women who buy an old mansion together, which is a rich setting for a story through which women can live vicarious...moreThis book is about three middle-aged women who buy an old mansion together, which is a rich setting for a story through which women can live vicariously. Unfortunately, it's a rough start, with lots of narration, none of which is in the point of view of any of the three characters. There's no internal dialogue, just a lot of talking, acting, and the narrator providing loads of scene description and exposition.
But the women are likable and funny; as the story progresses we grow to care about them and other characters. There's decent dramatic tension. Best of all, the author has the woman thing down. I laughed at such passages as this: "The women gathered on the porch for their evening ritual, comfortable in cotton drawstring shorts and tank tops without bras...when the workmen were around (they dressed better). But when the day was done, and they sat splay-legged in their rockers, or with their feet propped up on the railing, sipping wine and watching the evening, it didn't matter whether their armpits were shaved or their varicose veins were showing. They were home."
There's a lot to like in the overall story, and I recommend it.(less)
I loved this book. Could not put it down. It's a memoir, the story of an unlikely friendship between the superintendent of a massive construction proj...moreI loved this book. Could not put it down. It's a memoir, the story of an unlikely friendship between the superintendent of a massive construction project and the old woman who refuses to sell her tiny house that sits in the way of the project.
The superintendent, Barry, a likable man of fifty, meets Edith (she's in her early 80s) when he begins the project. On his first day, he goes around (what remains of) the neighborhood, introducing himself to the people who'll be impacted by the dust and noise. One day she calls his cell to say she needs a ride to her hairdresser, and Barry obliges.
Over the next three years, as she declines, he steps in, doing more and more for her (this is made at least somewhat more manageable by the fact that his office trailer is thirty feet from her door.) From making her breakfast and taking her to doctor appointments, he progresses to cooking all her meals and cleaning up after her when she falls and has accidents. Finally, he ends up shepherding her through her last days, fulfilling his promise to help her die at home rather than in "a facility," as she calls it.
There's so much in this story to love. Edith herself in her youth was an almost mythically heroic figure, and even now she's fiercely independent and a handful; Barry is the kind of guy you'd want for a son, dad, brother, but at times he blows his top trying to care for her; and his family and coworkers are all stand-up people. There are lessons aplenty in this book, which is well-written, well-paced, and well-edited. If you'll bear with me, I'd enjoy sharing a couple of passages with you.
On old people needing some autonomy and independence as they wane: When Edith finally allowed her condition to be diagnosed, although it was dire, she seemed happier, and Barry realized it was because "...now she was the boss again. Chemo? Radiation? Surgery? If nothing else, she got to make the decisions, the big, big decisions. That is the one thing that diminishes as you get older - and the one thing that those of us who help out need to remember. They've spent their lives making enormous decisions about their own destiny, and the destinies of others...So to be given, one last time, the power over life and death...must be a very deeply reassuring feeling. More reassuring than life itself, I guess."
On the need to stand up to doctors and the health care industry: Barry says, "I handed the prescription to the girl behind the counter with a little sense of pride, like I was showing off a report card full of A's...I guess I've always been a little feisty when it comes to doctors, but I'd never had a real reason to confront one before. What do people do when there's no one to be an advocate for them?...It's not enough (when you're a caregiver) just to show up. You have to show up ready to fight."
I cried plenty toward the end of this book, which, although it's non-fiction, has a beautiful character arc. Barry learns about how to work with and respect the independence of older people just in time to help his own dad deal with impending Alzheimer's, and for this, he is so grateful to Edith. And for this book, I am grateful to the author.(less)
Sometimes a book just doesn't ring your bells. I felt it was too slow getting started, with too much repetitive conversation in place of any significa...moreSometimes a book just doesn't ring your bells. I felt it was too slow getting started, with too much repetitive conversation in place of any significant action. A husband leaves (via a Dear Jane letter), a mother dies (in her sleep one night), a stranger torments a friend (phone hangups and a dead rat left on a porch), a brother of a friend is missing...but the protagonist is quite passive. Mostly she talks and checks her computer. At about the 25% mark (as read on a Kindle), it appears she is on the verge of traveling to France via a house exchange, but I still don't feel anything for her, so this is where I must, with apologies to the author, leave the story.(less)
I enjoyed this story so much that I read half the first night. I liked that the main character, Daisy, is an old woman, almost 80, and she's smart and...moreI enjoyed this story so much that I read half the first night. I liked that the main character, Daisy, is an old woman, almost 80, and she's smart and determined. In fact, there are a half-dozen characters in this book who are over forty, and they're portrayed as smart and inventive. There are several related subplots going on at once, which makes the book much more interesting. The characters are well-developed; you can see them, and they're sympathetic and relatable. They have goals and fight their way through obstacles to try to reach those goals (often with a lot of humor); they learn and grow. The only thing a bit off is that the author's style is to employ frequent use of incomplete sentences, but it's a minor objection. Keeping Time is a good enough book that I am curious to know if she's written anything else. A pleasure to read. (less)
This is a long review. If you want the Readers' Digest version, skip to the last couple paragraphs.
Not ten minutes into the recent televised interview...moreThis is a long review. If you want the Readers' Digest version, skip to the last couple paragraphs.
Not ten minutes into the recent televised interview of Hillary Clinton by Diane Sawyer, the UPS guy rang our doorbell. It was HRC's new book, Hard Choices. As soon as the interview was over, I cracked open the book, and read one hundred pages the first night. It was more interesting than I expected. I enjoyed reading about her travels, the difficult and complex situations that arose in the world and the challenges to resolve those issues when the Obama White House said fix it.
I also enjoyed the occasional stories with more of a personal touch - her love for her mother; her walks with Bill to puzzle out tough answers; the kindness shown to her by the other Secretaries of State, most notably the warmth of Condoleeza Rice; and the affection she and Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma felt for each other. There isn't much humor in this book, but you do get a sense of the profound irony sometimes. Like when the tenacious Richard Holbrooke continues arguing his point while following her into the ladies' room. In Pakistan.
A hundred pages in, she acknowledges her mistake in voting for the war in Iraq, and she uses that word several times. She expresses deep regret which I appreciated. (I've been voting for presidents since 1972, and I remember that the Clintons are not apologizers. But this one was essential.)
As I'm reading about Afghanistan, the peace efforts and attempts at negotiations are so complex, and her accounts so detailed (and this is only one country, albeit a hugely problematic one) that I can't imagine any other candidate being president. She's just too experienced and knowledgeable - probably the reason she wrote the book. Hard Choices is called a "memoir," but if it's a memoir, then a world atlas is TripAdvisor. Would be cool to read more personal accounts, such as the time Hill and Bill got to rendezvous in Bogata', Columbia for dinner and a walk, but this isn't that kind of book.
One day later, I have read about Pakistan, Europe, Russia, and now I'm starting on Latin America. Pakistan was interesting because of its involvement with the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and its corrupt military. Russia is interesting and scary because of Putin.
We're into Africa now. Very informative and educational (although I wonder how objective it is, considering her plans). She does give the Bush administration credit at times, while also dropping occasional criticisms - although thankfully the tone of the book is fairly positive and I'm sure she could say a lot worse if she chose.
Another sixty-some pages and I've been educated as to Mrs. Clinton's perspective on Israel and the Arab countries, including the Arab Spring. Her book has been out a few days now, and pundits, even friendly ones, are criticizing her careful descriptions and rationalizations of her actions while on the world stage. I'm not as smart as her, and I trust that she has a keen sense of the dynamics between and among countries, but the book is lacking something. I can't quite put my finger on it, but I think it's candor. Or objectivity. This is like a textbook, only a shade more chatty. Hillary is definitely laying out her view of America's relationships around the globe.
I'm about to start on Libya and I fear it's going to be a full-blown defense of her role in the Benghazi attack.
Okay, Libya is interesting, but I'm so tired of the phrase, "on the ground." You hear it everywhere these days, and Mrs. Clinton uses it exhaustively. On page 367, I began counting, but by page 403, she had used the phrase thirteen more times, and I figured I made my point, so I stopped. Where was the editor?
I'm reading all about Iran now, and I realize that the reason this book is so interesting, in spite of being pretty dense writing, is because there is a certain degree of dramatic tension. As I read about the machinations of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for example, there's always the question of what is going to happen, which pulls you along and keeps you reading. (Of course we know "what is going to happen" on one level, but I mean behind the scenes.)
Okay, we're through the tour of global countries, and now we're covering issues, which is not captivating. If Mrs. Clinton isn't laying out her campaign platform, she's lobbying for a professorship. She's addressing climate change, jobs (relative to foreign countries, trade, and an even playing field - she's making an argument that the Secretary of State must engage, as she did, in "economic statecraft"), the foolishness of Congress re debt limit ultimata, working conditions around the world, human trafficking, energy policy at home and abroad, the middle class here and abroad, global sustainability, and the situation of women and girls everywhere.
I'm skimming now. I've churned through a hundred pages a night for the past five, and frankly, I can't read any more. If I were a campaign strategist, I would feel differently, but as a normal citizen reader, I've done my best.
I like Mrs. Clinton, and I think she'd be a capable president, but I can't recommend buying this book. It's for political operatives. If you really want to know where she stands, wait until the campaign heats up.
On the plus side, I feel I've just audited a course on world politics and economics. It's a complicated, dangerous, and fascinating place. Personal relationships with world leaders seems critically important, and Mrs. Clinton probably knows more of them than anyone on the planet. And even if you discounted half of everything she says, the woman is a skilled negotiator who succeeded in bringing about solutions between unwilling parties. She talks about using "smart power," but I think her account is equally a testament to "soft power," and I think it's time a woman had a chance to show what she could do from the Oval Office.(less)
Reading about slavery in American history is almost too painful; to me it seems comparable to the Holocaust. Yet Sue Monk Kidd has created a wonderful...moreReading about slavery in American history is almost too painful; to me it seems comparable to the Holocaust. Yet Sue Monk Kidd has created a wonderful novel based on the life of the Grimke' sisters, two real-life abolitionists. I savored the historical detail, both in regard to American cultural history and African - and oh, how creative was Mauma's quilt!
The theme of the story is growth and resilience, and I enjoyed the feminist aspects of Sarah's development. The parallels between Handful's slave status and Sarah's mental enslavement were significant, although nothing could compare to the horrors of "the peculiar institution" as it was so ridiculously labeled. I recommend this inspiring book, not only as a reminder of a past we must face, but also as a great story of the bond between two women, and the courage they demonstrated.(less)
I respect Ignatius for his writing and his thinking. I've enjoyed listening to him on various newsmaker talk shows and I subscribe to the WashPo. Havi...moreI respect Ignatius for his writing and his thinking. I've enjoyed listening to him on various newsmaker talk shows and I subscribe to the WashPo. Having said that, I think this effort is subpar for him.
The good guys - mainly, Weber, the protag, and his ally, Weiss, weren't believable. They were smart but oddly passive. The most aggressive thing Weber does some investigating, the most critical of which comes from his asking some highly placed secret friends to investigate the prime suspects, which they do, allowing him to move forward in his quest to find the main villain.
And when the book wraps up, it breaks a cardinal rule in storytelling called deus ex machina, or ghost (God) in the machine. Meaning the hero has to drive the triumphant ending, not be saved by having the Marines show up just in time (that would be Dr. Weiss, armed with - paperwork). Not DI's best work.(less)
I read this book because I loved the Harold Fry story. However, Perfect is pretty depressing. It's well written, it's compelling, and I was very much...moreI read this book because I loved the Harold Fry story. However, Perfect is pretty depressing. It's well written, it's compelling, and I was very much drawn in, not wanting to put it down, but it's such a tale of sadness.
Rachel Joyce is extremely skillful. Maybe it's just me. But there are some books that leave me wishing I could ask the author point blank, "Why did you feel compelled to write this?" It may be that she wanted to explore the question of why a person becomes mentally ill, what has to happen to cause that poor soul to buckle. In that sense, it's well done. And at the end, the relentless negativity lifts a bit, but my overall reaction is sadness. (less)
I don't usually read crime novels (murder mysteries) but I am a loyal John Sandford fan. I LOVE the characters in his stories, the continuing saga of...moreI don't usually read crime novels (murder mysteries) but I am a loyal John Sandford fan. I LOVE the characters in his stories, the continuing saga of Lucas and his family, Del, Jenkins and Shrake, Rose Marie, and That Effin' Flowers. There's always tension and humor and as with this one, a really nice finish. Just a really good read.(less)
The Confidence Code by Claire Shipman and Katty Kay is a wonderful book. It's funny (Katty Kay learning to kiteboard), relata...moreReview of Confidence Code
The Confidence Code by Claire Shipman and Katty Kay is a wonderful book. It's funny (Katty Kay learning to kiteboard), relatable (stellar international leaders Christine Lagarde and Angela Merkel comforting each other when male politicians beat up on them), and easy to read. Well researched, the book contains pages of helpful information, not only to understand why we as a gender tend to lag in confidence but also what to do about it. (Although the book would be good resource for any adult who lacks confidence, it's aimed at women.)
Apart from making you feel good, why is confidence important? According to the authors, ..."there is evidence that confidence is more important than ability when it comes to getting ahead," on the job and in life generally. Good compensation, happiness, and professional fulfillment may depend on confidence. Not born confident? Don't worry. "The newest research shows that we can literally change our brains (to make us) more confidence prone."
There's a lot of wisdom in the Confidence Code. One nugget is this: "Most people believe they need to criticize themselves in order to find motivation to reach their goals. In fact, when you constantly criticize yourself, you become depressed, and depression is not a motivational mindset." Also, "...Of all the warped things that women do to themselves to undermine their confidence, we found the pursuit of perfection to be the most crippling...you'll inevitably and routinely feel inadequate."
But most of us are perfectionists. How do we overcome these behaviors?
To get answers, Shipman and Kay interview and cite many thoughtful and engaging experts, who are quoted throughout the book, but the short course is this: Stop overthinking everything. Have courage, take action, congratulate yourself for trying regardless of outcome, and move on. Engage in self-compassion. Practice / do the work. Mastery in one thing spills over into other areas. Meditation can shrink your amygdalae (the region of the brain that amps up fear) and stimulate your prefrontal cortex (the calm, rational area). If that's too much work, concentrate on how you present yourself physically. Practice power positions. Spread out. Take up space. Keep your chin raised. Don't use "upspeak" (i.e. sound like a Valley Girl when you talk).
There's so much more, but here's the thing I want you to remember: the development of confidence is volitional - a choice. Or as Shipman and Kay put it: "Our biggest and perhaps most encouraging discovery has been that confidence is something we can, to a significant extent, control." What an important life skill for women of all ages to learn, and to teach their daughters and granddaughters.
Really enjoyed it. There was plenty of tension and suspense, the characters were believable, the emotion compelling, ending was pretty good. I only ha...moreReally enjoyed it. There was plenty of tension and suspense, the characters were believable, the emotion compelling, ending was pretty good. I only have a couple of knocks on the story.
For one thing, I like an ending better when the main character is the primary actor in bringing about resolution. In this case, and I'm saying this carefully so as to avoid spoilers, there are two main characters, with one seeming to me to be the more important. And that more important main character did not bring about the resolution. We're taught that story problems shouldn't be resolved with the Marines dropping in to save the main character. This wasn't quite that, but close. Unless you accept that the less important main character - oh, never mind. I'm becoming tedious.
Secondly, Picoult is a serious writer - she works very hard, obviously researching the heck out of everything she writes. But in this book, she goes a little far in sharing that research. At one point, I thought she was trying to do a good deed by tipping off attorneys and advocates who fight for the rights of gay people. Not that that's not a real service to humanity, but it slowed the story down enough that when I saw a soapbox moving into position, I began skimming.
Still, it was a fairly well-written story which enlightens the reader about a timely issue, so I give it a B+.(less)