Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A Few Book Reviews

I can't believe I've let over a month go by without blogging about all the books I've been reading! It's been 6 weeks since I posted my reading list, so I think it's high time I told you about the books I've finished so far.

A Life of Being, Having, and Doing Enough by Wayne Muller

I enjoy reading books about self-discovery and generally only read self-help books that are aimed more about the emotional/spiritual side of things. This one seemed to fit the bill. It wasn't available in my local library system, so I had to get it through inter-library loan, which took a while.

The book is more a series of short essays, so the book as a whole doesn't really seem to be whole. The writing was not terribly impressive, often feeling hurried and disjointed. But there were some tidbits of wisdom that I liked enough to make note of.
"If we are reluctant to update our position, we will live our days presuming that wherever we set our course when we began, however long ago, obviously describes precisely where we should be by now."
Overall, this book did help me see a different perspective on things like how I view myself, my responsibilities, my life, and my relationships.

Would I recommend it? Yes, but with reservations.

Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing

This book was recommended to me by a friend, who discovered it in a book club. This is a book I probably never would've sought out without a recommendation because it doesn't seem like it would be all that interesting. But it really was.

This is an historical account of Sir Ernest Shackleton's 1914 voyage to Antarctica. The original goal of this voyage was for a group of men to be the first to cross the Antarctic continent. The book documents the events leading up the voyage, then the voyage itself, which failed at its goal after the ship got stuck in the ice pack and eventually sunk.

This really is an incredible story that shows how resilient people really can be in the most difficult times. I especially loved that the book is written around first-hand accounts from interviews and journal entries and it even includes photos taken by the crew. If you like historical non-fiction, this is a great one.
“In that instant they felt an overwhelming sense of pride and accomplishment. Though they had failed dismally even to come close to the expedition's original objective, they knew now that somehow they had done much, much more than ever they set out to do.” 
Would I recommend it? Definitely yes.

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

I love mother-daughter stories, and this one did not disappoint. This book is about a group of Chinese mothers and their Chinese-American daughters. Each chapter is told from a different person's perspective, so you get to know all the mothers and daughters. While their stories are so different, by the end, you can see how they are very much the same.

This was a fun and insightful read that really makes you think about relationships with those closest to you and how everyone has hidden parts of themselves. Ultimately, I think this book is about reconciling what you think you know about someone with who they really are. I think that is a universal struggle for aging children to come to see their parents as the complicated people they really are, and this book captures that perfectly.
“For unlike my mother, I did not believe I could be anything I wanted to be. I could only be me. ” 
Would I recommend it? Yes.

Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English by Natasha Solomons

This is a fun, though sometimes frustrating story of a German immigrant family living in England during and after World War II. The book follows Mr. Rosenblum's obsessive desire to be viewed as a true Englishman, no matter the consequences. He does everything he can think of to be accepted, but when his requests for membership at various golf courses throughout England are all rejected, he is forced to take drastic measures.

The book follows Mr. Rosenblum as he sets out to build his own golf course, and in the process, learns a lot about himself, his family, and those he has tried so hard to be accepted by.

The family dynamics - particularly between Mr. and Mrs. Rosenblum - truly make this a book worth reading.
“It was much better to share it with him; if he was a madman then at least they were crazy together.” 
Would I recommend it? Yes.

Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool

This juvenile fiction is a wonderful read. I sought this out after enjoying Vanderpool's first book, Moon Over Manifest. The books have similar themes, centering around a child who is lost in an adult world, discovering themselves, their friends, and their parents along their journey. Navigating Early is about two friends who set out through the Appalachian wilderness and the things they discover along the way.
“Finding your way doesn't mean you always know where you're going. It's knowing how to find your way back home that's important.” 
Would I recommend it? Definitely yes.

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

This book was not quite what I expected, though I'm not sure what I expected. This is the story of two newlyweds. The story cuts back and forth between past and present -- the present being their wedding night. Needless to say, the present is all about sex. But the interwoven story of these two people, their backgrounds, their personalities, and their secrets was very interesting. The book is not really about sex, but it is about how a person's entire life can be changed in an instant by what they do or do not say. It is thought-provoking, and actually quite frustrating, to see these characters struggle and ultimately fail.
“She knew very well that people fell out, even stormily, and then made up. But she did not know how to start - she simply did not have the trick of it, the row that cleared the air, and could never quite believe that hard words could be unsaid or forgotten.” 
Would I recommend it? Probably not because of the sexual content.

The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence

I picked this up from my local library's Reader's Choice shelf. It is a long book, but totally sucked me in. From the very start, the protagonist and the story are unexpected and surprising. This is a story largely about relationships.

The story is told by Alex Woods, a kid who has a very unusual life, and follows his friendship with the elderly Mr. Peterson. It is a sometimes funny, sometimes tragic story of how their lives intertwine over years.

It does have some language, but I absolutely loved this book and can't wait for Extence's next book to come out.
“The first thing I learned that day was this: what you think you know about a person is only a fraction of the story.” 
Would I recommend it? Definitely yes.

I'd love to hear your thoughts about any of these books or recommendations for things I should read in the future. And come be my friend on Goodreads by clicking here.

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