Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin

IMG_0467“The fact is, no one-size-fits-all solution exists.  It’s easy to dream that if we copy the habits of productive, creative people, we’ll win similar success.  But we each must cultivate the habits that work for us.”

In Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin tackles the subject of habits, and how we can not only change them but understand them.  The key to change being knowing ourselves and understanding our habits.  The author presents a framework through which we can do this, starting with The Four Tendencies as described in the book:

Upholders – respond readily to both outer expectations and inner expectations.
Questioners – question all expectations, and will meet an expectation only if they believe it’s justified.
Obligers – respond readily to outer expectations, but struggle to meet inner expectations.
Rebels – resist all expectations, outer and inner alike.

By recognizing your tendency, you learn what may or may not work for you, which allows you to develop a foundation for success.  From there the author explores a variety of tools and topics related to habits, from strategies to excuses.  Better Than Before recognizes that everyone is different and what works for others, what is successful for them, may not yield results for you.

I developed a much better understanding of my own tendencies (a total Obliger), and traps I fall into when trying to develop habits that will benefit me.  A lightbulb went off for me several times while reading this book.  I recognized the excuses, and more importantly why certain methods I was using were absolutely not working for me and what I can do that will work for me.  That is what I truly appreciated about this book.  It doesn’t sell or promote one specific idea, but instead gives you the information and the tools you need in order to learn what strategies may work for you.

The book is very well researched and the author’s passion for the topic is evident.  Her voice, humour, stories, and examples make it not only an informative but an enjoyable read as well.  I would love to see a more condensed version of this book that would act as a pocket guide or quick reference as I know I will be re-visiting its ideas often.

If you struggle with making the changes you want in your life, or find yourself stuck in any way, I absolutely recommend you check out this book.  At the end of the day, the work is yours to do, and Better Than Before is a great place to start.

“Whenever you read this, and wherever you are, you’re in the right place to begin.”

Lexicon by Max Barry

BLOG“People resist a census, but give them a profile page and they’ll spend all day telling you who they are.”

In looking for a good science-fiction read, I came across Lexicon by Max Barry.  With excellent reviews and even comparisons to V. E. Schwab’s Vicious, it’s safe to assume that it is one good book, right?  In this case, absolutely.

In this world, there exists a school where select students are taught persuasion, using words and language to manipulate and control others.  The best of the best graduate to belong to a secret organization, with each person being classified as a “poet” and given a new name, one of a famous dead poet.  The book goes back and forth between two storylines.  One follows a homeless young girl named Emily Ruff, who does card tricks on the streets of San Francisco.  She is discovered by a recruiter, and after undergoing a series of exams, she is admitted to the exclusive school.  The other storyline follows a man named Will who is abducted from an airport and is being pursued by very powerful people. As the two stories progress they begin to merge and the pieces of the puzzle start to fall into place.

Action packed form the beginning, Lexicon is an intriguing, fun, page-turning read that I couldn’t put down.  I was completely drawn into the story and enjoyed the back and forth between the two narratives, which are equally engaging.  When the significance of the two storylines slowly begins to reveal itself, I was completely absorbed and couldn’t wait to see where it would go next and what else would be revealed. Towards the end of the book however, it did slow down for me with certain parts being a little confusing, where I was unsure about where the events fell into the grand scheme of things.  The book as a whole is really well structured and written, and I found the premise of using words and language as a weapon to be thought-provoking and compelling.  Overall, it is a highly enjoyable book and I would recommend it if you’re looking for an exciting, fast-paced read.

No Matter the Wreckage by Sarah Kay

IMG_0306“When I am inside writing,
all I can think about is how I should be outside living.

When I am outside living,
all I can do is notice all there is to write about.”

I have been a big fan of Sarah Kay’s spoken word poetry ever since I watched the video for her poem with Phil Kaye called When Love Arrives.  Since then I have watched every video featuring her poems as well as her TED Talk, which is excellent by the way.  So recently, as I’ve started to explore poetry books, No Matter the Wreckage was a must read.  I found it to be a great collection of poems, many of which I ended up re-reading many times, and memorizing as a result.  There is a variety of subjects and emotions that are explored, such as love, family, and insecurities.  Certain passages just reach out, perfectly expressing thoughts and feelings that are not always easily put into words.  My personal favourites are: The Type, The Paradox, Here and Now, The Shirt, and Evaporate.  This is a strong collection that I would recommend even if poetry is not typically your thing, as I feel there is something here for anyone to connect to.  And do check out the videos of Sarah Kay.  As good as her poetry is in print, it is that much more strong and powerful when she is reciting it.

Two Across by Jeff Bartsch

IMG_0197“Fate will never intervene on your behalf.  The universe will not come to your rescue.  You are yours and yours alone to save.  The work is yours to do.”

Recently while browsing bookstore shelves, I came across Two Across by Jeff Bartsch.  The crossword puzzle theme caught my attention and the endearing description had me making it my next read.  It tells the story of Vera and Stanley, two spelling bee champions and their relationship, starting from the time they first meet as teenagers.  They are both very intelligent and had a similar upbringing.  Stanley longs to distance himself from his mother’s plan for his life, and instead make a living as a creator of crossword puzzles.  Vera, on the other hand, is driven by impulse and longs for something to happen.  With a shared desire for independence and freedom they agree to fake a wedding in order to cash in on the gifts, with each taking their share and using it for a new beginning.  However, life is a complicated thing.  The feelings they have for one another and the guilt of their deception follows them, affecting their lives and relationship.

Two Across was not what I expected, but interesting nonetheless.  I went into it expecting a lighthearted, fun story, however it was more on the serious side than I thought it would be.  I didn’t mind this at all and found it to be a layered story that is told very well.  It deals with growing up, longing to be free, the desire for a relationship and connection, and figuring out life as you go along.  Also, escaping the confinement and expectations of family but being imprisoned by the lies used to escape those expectations.  I enjoyed the exploration of these themes and the quiet, slow paced nature of the storytelling.  However, I felt an overall lack of connection to Vera and Stanley and do wish the challenges of their relationship were explored more; What does Vera want?  Where does Stanley stand?  I also had a hard time understanding Vera and her actions, as there was a level of selfishness and general unawareness.  The lack of connection did take me out of the story itself, however there are aspects of this book that work quite well: the depth and emotion of the different topics explored, the lovely writing style, and the uniqueness of the crossword theme throughout.

About a Book is on Instagram!

IMG_0308“Taking pictures is savoring life intensely, every hundredth of a second.” – Marc Ribaud

Personally I’m not a huge social media junkie, and have found that quite a few sites just aren’t my cup of tea.  However, I absolutely love photography and have found Instagram to be a great platform to not only share but also to discover new books, authors, and general bookish inspiration.  This week I created an account for About a Book (@aboutabook_reviews) in order to share everything I’m reading and discovering.  I would love for you to join me there!

Happy reading! (and picture taking 🙂 )

Beatlebone by Kevin Barry

IMG_0198“He is so many miles from love now and home.  This is the story of his strangest trip.”

When I came across this novel I was very much intrigued by it and its premise.  At times poetic, at times odd, Beatlebone tells the fictional story of a 37-year-old John Lennon as he journeys to an island he owns off the coast of Ireland.  His goal is to spend three days there, alone.  The tale that follows is one that provides insight into the mind of a man who is in need of stillness and anonymity.  We learn that this occurs during a time in his life where he was a stay-at-home dad and struggling creatively.  It is written in a unique style that is not easily described and quite different from anything I have read before.  It is not a straight narration, but instead part dialogue, part stream of consciousness, part screen-play, part narration, and sections that feel quite poetic.

“Why should I run the way that I run?”

Beatlebone is an interesting reading experience, to say the least.  It feels like several books in one with the various styles used throughout.  Stylistically it is an intriguing novel and really takes us inside the mind of a man who is struggling.  Because it does mix different forms of storytelling, I had a mix of emotions while reading it as a whole.  There were moments where I was completely engrossed and in love with the language and the writing, and then there were moments where I felt disconnected and a little lost.  I enjoyed having such a unique reading experience, however I personally found many of the sections difficult to follow.  Beatlebone is odd and different, and may or may not be your cup of tea.

“Never name the moment for happiness or it will pass by.”

Lost in Translation by Ella Frances Sanders

IMG_0224Sometimes there is no one word that perfectly sums up an emotion, a feeling, or an experience.  At least, there may not be in your native tongue but they can be found throughout different languages.  Discovering these words is such a lovely thing.  Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World is a beautiful collection of words from a number of different cultures that don’t have an English equivalent.  It includes words in Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Inuit, and Arabic, just to name a few.  As a word nerd I was excited to go through this book and found it very enjoyable.  Especially the bookish terms:

IMG_0209

Lost in Translation is wonderfully put together and accompanied by lovely illustrations.  The only thing I wish was different would be the font used for the definitions as it’s not the easiest to read.  Overall it is a beautiful book that makes a great bookshelf addition.