Good Reads // March & April 2015

ReadingBench

Hello friends and fellow bookworms!  It’s time for my monthly book reviews post!  March was pretty light compared to the first two months of the year, but I was able to sit down and relax a bit more in April.  Enjoy!

Rating System

★★★★★ = Amazing!
★★★★ =  A great read
★★★ = It’s good
★★ = Just ok
★ = Not for me

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BookExcusesTitle: The No More Excuses Diet 
Author: Maria Kang
Series: NA
Published: March 2015
Pages: 224
Category: Non Fiction, Fitness
Overall Rating: ★★★

The first lines: “What’s YOUR EXCUSE for not having the body that you want?  Are you unmotivated, tired, or frustrated?  Do you lack time, energy, finances, or support?  What’s holding you back?  What’s preventing you from being healthy, fit, and confident?” 

Summary from Goodreads:  We all know that we should exercise and eat right, so why is it so hard to follow through? We make excuses for why we aren’t taking better care of ourselves, saying things like, “I’m too tired,” “I don’t have time,” or “I’m just not built to look that way.” But Maria Kang, the mother of three behind the viral “What’s Your Excuse?” mom photos, is here to say that the excuses stop now.  The No More Excuses Diet combines short term goals with healthy habit-forming behaviors to create permanent lifestyle changes. Using a specially designed transformation calendar, readers set clear, personal goals and make an easy-to-follow plan for each day.  The program uses a balanced diet of 30% carbs, 30% protein, 30% fats, and includes a 10% flexible portion that can be customized depending on your goals— whether it’s extra protein for building muscles, or a sugary treat at the end of the day. The No More Excuses Diet also provides a completely customizable workout guide, with over 50 illustrated exercises designed to build strength, flexibility, endurance, and to shed fat. The program also includes 7 weeks of worth of exercise programs that can be done at home with no extra equipment. Packed with meal plans, grocery lists, lots of encouragement and a clear plan of action, The No More Excuses Diet is a must-read book for anyone who is ready to bust through the excuses the hold them back and take their health and fitness to the next level.

My thoughts In addition to my “real-life perspective” review HERE (I was given a copy of this book for review via From Left to Write book club), I wanted to give a few thoughts on this book.  I don’t believe I’ve ever read a “diet” book, but was intrigued by the controversy surrounding this book.  To be honest, I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to Maria Kang when her picture went viral…I just thought…holy crap…to look that good after 3 kids is amazing.  And that was it.  But as I read the book, I was literally making page after page with sticky notes…little bits of paragraphs or stories that really resonated with me.  This book, to me, reads like a really dedicated athlete, who MADE the time to look the way she does.  I agree that it takes a special type of person to be continually motivated, but Maria lists, multiple times, various excuses that pop up in everyday life, and how she, personally, would overcome them.  Her ways won’t work for everyone, of course, but it makes you think…what if I changed the way I approached that obstacle…what if I gave just another 10% effort…  There is no “fluff” in the book, or big words, or truly pivoting ah-ha moments, but overall, I enjoyed it.

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Huff_9780804140867_cvr_all_r3.inddTitle: Thrive
Author: Arianna Huffington
Series: NA
Published: March 25, 2014
Pages: 352
Category: Non Fiction, Business, Self Help
Overall Rating:  ★★

The first lines: “On the morning of April 6, 2007, I was lying on the floor of my home office in a pool of blood.  On my way down, my head had hit the corner of my desk, cutting my eye and breaking my cheekbone.  I had collapses from exhaustion and lack of sleep.  In the wake of my collapse, I found myself going from doctor to doctor, from brain MRI to CAT scan to echocardiogram, to find out if there was any underlying medical problem beyond exhaustion.  There wasn’t, but doctors’ waiting rooms, it turns out, were good place for me to ask myself a lot of questions about the kind of life I was living.” 

Summary from Goodreads: Arianna Huffington’s personal wake-up call came in the form of a broken cheekbone and a nasty gash over her eye — the result of a fall brought on by exhaustion and lack of sleep. As the cofounder and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group — one of the fastest growing media companies in the world — celebrated as one of the world’s most influential women, and gracing the covers of magazines, she was, by any traditional measure, extraordinarily successful. Yet as she found herself going from brain MRI to CAT scan to echocardiogram, to find out if there was any underlying medical problem beyond exhaustion, she wondered is this really what success feels like?

As more and more people are coming to realize, there is far more to living a truly successful life than just earning a bigger salary and capturing a corner office. Our relentless pursuit of the two traditional metrics of success — money and power — has led to an epidemic of burnout and stress-related illnesses, and an erosion in the quality of our relationships, family life, and, ironically, our careers. In being connected to the world 24/7, we’re losing our connection to what truly matters. Our current definition of success is, as Thrive shows, literally killing us. We need a new way forward.

In a commencement address Arianna gave at Smith College in the spring of 2013, she likened our drive for money and power to two legs of a three-legged stool. They may hold us up temporarily, but sooner or later we’re going to topple over. We need a third leg — a third metric for defining success — to truly thrive. That third metric, she writes in Thrive, includes our well-being, our ability to draw on our intuition and inner wisdom, our sense of wonder, and our capacity for compassion and giving. As Arianna points out, our eulogies celebrate our lives very differently from the way society defines success. They don’t commemorate our long hours in the office, our promotions, or our sterling PowerPoint presentations as we relentlessly raced to climb up the career ladder. They are not about our resumes — they are about cherished memories, shared adventures, small kindnesses and acts of generosity, lifelong passions, and the things that made us laugh.

In this deeply personal book, Arianna talks candidly about her own challenges with managing time and prioritizing the demands of a career and raising two daughters — of juggling business deadlines and family crises, a harried dance that led to her collapse and to her “aha moment.” Drawing on the latest groundbreaking research and scientific findings in the fields of psychology, sports, sleep, and physiology that show the profound and transformative effects of meditation, mindfulness, unplugging, and giving, Arianna shows us the way to a revolution in our culture, our thinking, our workplace, and our lives.

My thoughts: To be honest, I did not fully read this book.  I was so very excited to read this, as it’s been on my To Read list since it came out.  But I ended up heavily skimming through some chapters, and completely skipping others.  For me,  I just could not get into the layout or the dialogue…I couldn’t connect.  I’ve read a lot of reviews of people who truly loved this book, but it just wasn’t for me.  As I was given a copy of this book for review via From Left to Write book club, I did provide my “real-life perspective” review HERE.

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Book_FangirlTitle: Fangirl
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Series: NA
Audiobook Narrated By: Rebecca Lowman, Maxwell Caulfield
Length: 12 hours, 48 minutes
Published: September 10, 2013 (Audiobook: September 10th 2013 by Listening Library)
Pages: 461 (paperback version)
Category: Fiction, Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Overall Rating: ★★★½

The first lines: “There was a boy in her room.  Cath looked up at the number painted on the door, then down at the room assignment in her hand.  Pound Hall, 913.  This was definitely room 913, but maybe it wasn’t Pound Hall – all these dormitories looked alike, like public housing towers for the elderly.” 

Summary from Goodreads: A coming-of-age tale of fan fiction, family and first love.  Cath is a Simon Snow fan.  Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan… But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.  Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.  Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.  Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.  For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?  Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?  And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

My thoughts Honestly, I was expecting a little more out of this book.  It was sweet and funny in a quirky way but it was not a 5★ book.  Don’t get my wrong, I absolutely love Rainbow Rowell and the worlds that she creates – that in and of itself is 5 stars.  And I think the relationships between the characters was very well conveyed through the writing. I loved the interactions, and the emotional projection of the characters. You could really feel what they were feeling.  Yet there other parts of the story that I could not connect with, such as the obsession with the Fan Fiction – as a young adult going into college.  It seems to me (who has never been a part of the fan fiction world), that there would always be a place for it in your heart…but not to the point that it causes crying and fighting and being hurt and offended at that age.  It just didn’t resonate with me.  The actual fan-fiction part, which was very Harry Potter-esque, but with a gay twist, was just so-so for me.  Also, the relationship with the sister was frustrating.  I’m sure it was supposed to be that way…but there was something off about it too.  The relationship between the main characters, however, felt very real.  There was a slow, but real, development between them.  They were discovering each other, and ultimately, themselves.  That to me was what college was about.  Overall, as a “coming of age” young adult tale…it’s good.  I finished it quickly, and was never disappointed in the writing.

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Book_LandlineTitle: Landline
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Series: NA
Audiobook Narrated By: Rebecca Lowman
Length: 9 hours, 3 minutes
Published: July 08, 2014 (Audiobook: July 08, 2014 by Macmillan Audio)
Pages:
Category: Fiction, Romance
Overall Rating: ★★★★

The first lines: “Georgie pulled into the driveway, swerving to miss a bike.  Neal never made Alice put it away.  Apparently bicycles never got stolen back in Nebraska – and people never tried to break in to your house.  Neal didn’t even lock the front door most nights until after Georgie came home, though she’d told him that was like putting a sign in the yard that said PLEASE ROB US AT GUNPOINT.” 

Summary from Goodreads: Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble; it has been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems beside the point now.  Maybe that was always beside the point.  Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn’t expect him to pack up the kids and go home without her.  When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.  That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts… Is that what she’s supposed to do?  Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?

My thoughts How I got two Rainbow Rowell novels in one month, I’ll never know…but I certainly won’t complain.  This is just one of those authors that I really, really connect with.  I love her writing style, her points of view, the feelings she gives her characters…all of it! Honestly, Rainbow writes some of the best dialogue and characters in contemporary fiction.  I fall in love with them and replay snip its of conversations in my head.  I was rooting for Georgie and Neal the entire time and with every new flashback to their beginnings I hoped they found a way back to one another in the present even more. That is why I enjoyed most of this book. I LOVED the writing even if I only liked the story.  The subject matter is heavy and real from a relationship perspective, but as always, there is humor infused throughout and plenty of witty quotes.  There were passages I read that made my stomach flutter, and that made me smile in sadness…both very real.

“You don’t know what it really means to crawl into someone else’s life and stay there.  You can’t see all the ways you’re going to get tangled, how you’re going to bond skin to skin. How the idea of separating will feel in five years, in ten – in fifteen.  When Georgie thought about divorce now, she imagined lying side by side with Neal on two operating tables while a team of doctors tried to unthread their vascular systems.”

“It wasn’t just that she let him down, and put him off, and continually left him waiting–It was that she’d tied him to her so tight.  Because she wanted him.  Because he was perfect for Georgie, even if she wasn’t perfect for him.  Because she wanted him more than she wanted him to be happy.”

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What are you currently reading? 
Jen
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