Book Reviews–November 2019 Part Two

Welcome!  I have large stacks of books TBR (To Be Read) on my nightstand, plus electronic stacks of books lined up in my Kindle, as well as books on hold at the library.  As I read these books, I love to share my thoughts and opinions of what I’ve read here in this space, because I enjoy sharing my passion for books with others.  I do have an eclectic taste in books, and will choose books based on my mood, or what’s going on in my life that week.  Finally, the page numbers I list here reflect the number of Kindle pages, not paper pages.  Thank you!)  I hope you enjoy this series.

Book #1: 

Career of EvilCareer of Evil by Robert Galbraith (Length: 609 pages).  This is the third book in the Cormoran Strike series written by JK Rowling under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.   It’s a WHOPPER of a long book, so beware of this before starting, as once you start, you’ll want to finish it to find out whodunit.  There are some very violent scenes in this novel, about a serial killer.  But I will say that these scenes aren’t gratuitous and absolutely are necessary to the plot.  I have read that this book gave JK Rowling nightmares while she was writing it, and I get it.  The central mystery in this novel is VERY well-executed.  I never put the clues together while reading it, and in fact, had to go back and re-read certain passages after the killer was revealed to see what I missed.  I really enjoyed how the dynamic between Cormoran and Robin continues to change and grow.  I absolutely will continue reading more of this series–JK Rowling is a masterful writer in my humble opinion!

From the publisher:

When a mysterious package is delivered to Robin Ellacott, she is horrified to discover that it contains a woman’s severed leg.
Her boss, private detective Cormoran Strike, is less surprised but no less alarmed. There are four people from his past who he thinks could be responsible–and Strike knows that any one of them is capable of sustained and unspeakable brutality.
With the police focusing on the one suspect Strike is increasingly sure is not the perpetrator, he and Robin take matters into their own hands, and delve into the dark and twisted worlds of the other three men. But as more horrendous acts occur, time is running out for the two of them…
Career of Evil is the third in the highly acclaimed series featuring private detective Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin Ellacott. A fiendishly clever mystery with unexpected twists around every corner, it is also a gripping story of a man and a woman at a crossroads in their personal and professional lives.

Book #2: 

Do You Mind if I CancelDo You Mind if I Cancel? by Gary Janetti (Length: 155 pages).  I am a HUGE fan of Gary Janetti’s Instagram account, where he pokes fun at the Royal Family via snarky captions on photos of Prince George.  This book is NOT that.  I found this memoir/book of essays to be self-serving, and the author comes across as arrogant and whiny.  He is a writer of several successful TV shows (Family Guy, Will & Grace among others) but this didn’t read as very funny.  (Or very well-written as I found a few syntax and grammatical errors throughout).  There are a few funny parts, and I do appreciate the author’s perspective as a gay man coming out in a tough era (70s/80s) but this, unfortunately, is not a book I’d recommend.  

From the publisher:

Fans of David Sedaris, Jenny Lawson, and Tina Fey… meet your new friend Gary Janetti.

Gary Janetti, the writer and producer for some of the most popular television comedies of all time, and creator of one of the most wickedly funny Instagram accounts there is, now turns his skills to the page in a hilarious, and poignant book chronicling the pains and indignities of everyday life.

Gary spends his twenties in New York, dreaming of starring on soap operas while in reality working at a hotel where he lusts after an unattainable colleague and battles a bellman who despises it when people actually use a bell to call him. He chronicles the torture of finding a job before the internet when you had to talk on the phone all the time, and fantasizes, as we all do, about who to tell off when he finally wins an Oscar. As Gary himself says, “These are essays from my childhood and young adulthood about things that still annoy me.”

Original, brazen, and laugh out loud funny, Do You Mind If I Cancel? is something not to be missed.

Book #3: 

Atomic HabitsAtomic Habits by James Clear (Length: 319 pages).  I LOVE this book!  The author discusses how to create good habits, using concrete tips (such as the “Two Minute Rule””), conveyed with an engaging and straightforward writing style.  This is a book I’m actually considering buying to add to my library, because I can see myself going back to re-read it again and again, as needed.   Here are some of the top tips that stood out to me: 

1)  Improving something  incrementally over time–just getting 1% better each day–will translate into huge changes in your life.   In other words, “Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement.” SO true! 

2)  Your outcomes are a lagging measure of your habits . . . for example, your weight is a lagging measure of your eating habits.  Little changes add up. 

3) This one is so key–change your identity to stick with a habit.  For example, “The goal is not to run a marathon, the goal is to become a runner.”  So if you believe in what you want to identify as, you’re more likely to act in accordance with that belief.  And sharing this identity with others is key to success–which is one of the many reasons I love the CrossFit community! 

4)  He also discusses how “the costs of your good habits are in the present.  The cost of your bad habits are in the future.”  An example of this is how it can be hard to get to gym and actually exercise because you’re not going to see results right away, and conversely, it’s easy to be sedentary when you won’t see the results of that lifestyle right away.  

There are so many different habits/lifestyle changes these apply to–I’m just using fitness as an example.  Definitely check out this amazing book!

From the publisher:

No matter your goals, Atomic Habits offers a proven framework for improving–every day. James Clear, one of the world’s leading experts on habit formation, reveals practical strategies that will teach you exactly how to form good habits, break bad ones, and master the tiny behaviors that lead to remarkable results.

If you’re having trouble changing your habits, the problem isn’t you. The problem is your system. Bad habits repeat themselves again and again not because you don’t want to change, but because you have the wrong system for change. You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems. Here, you’ll get a proven system that can take you to new heights.

Clear is known for his ability to distill complex topics into simple behaviors that can be easily applied to daily life and work. Here, he draws on the most proven ideas from biology, psychology, and neuroscience to create an easy-to-understand guide for making good habits inevitable and bad habits impossible. Along the way, readers will be inspired and entertained with true stories from Olympic gold medalists, award-winning artists, business leaders, life-saving physicians, and star comedians who have used the science of small habits to master their craft and vault to the top of their field.

Book #4: 

Let Your Mind Run

Let Your Mind Run by Deena Kastor and Michelle Hamilton (Length: 298 pages).    This was another motivational read for me!  It’s a VERY inspiring memoir by Olympic medal holder and American record holder of the marathon, Deena Kastor.  What I appreciated about this book is its very concrete tips about how positive thinking can really affect your running (and every day) life.  She also discusses how to banish negative self-talk during your runs, which is something I deal with during my CrossFit workouts.  I’ve implemented some of her little tips already and I’ve noticed they really work.  I also appreciate that she used a co-writer, which doesn’t always happen, but this translated into a very well-written book.  Definitely recommend to anyone who participates in any kind of athletic activity.  (This would make a fantastic holiday gift for any high school/college athlete as well!) 

From the publisher:

Deena Kastor was a star youth runner with tremendous promise, yet her career almost ended after college, when her competitive method—run as hard as possible, for fear of losing—fostered a frustration and negativity and brought her to the brink of burnout. On the verge of quitting, she took a chance and moved to the high altitudes of Alamosa, Colorado, where legendary coach Joe Vigil had started the first professional distance-running team. There she encountered the idea that would transform her running career: the notion that changing her thinking—shaping her mind to be more encouraging, kind, and resilient—could make her faster than she’d ever imagined possible. Building a mind so strong would take years of effort and discipline, but it would propel Kastor to the pinnacle of running—to American records in every distance from the 5K to the marathon—and to the accomplishment of earning America’s first Olympic medal in the marathon in twenty years.

Book #5: 

The NeedThe Need by Helen Phillips (Length: 273 pages). Wow.  I am not sure what to say about this one.  Let me start with the positives:  this novel is the epitome of the unreliable narrator, which can be fun as it keeps the reader on his or her toes.  The writing is excellent, it’s fairly fast-paced, and the beginning of the book absolutely will have you hooked.  The author seems to be exploring motherhood, especially how it can emotionally impact mothers of very young children.  After the first few chapters, however,  you may wonder what the heck you’ve gotten yourself into.  The author seems to have a real obsession with lactation/nursing, which is odd and a bit off-putting in the context of the story.  The plot line is very strange, and if it’s not sci-fi, it’s a treatise on mental health, but the ambiguity is very annoying here because the reader can’t really empathize with the protagonist unless they know what’s really happening.  The surprise “twist” at the end is very ambiguous too.  I’d say this is a hard pass, but I can see how some readers (perhaps smarter than I?) would appreciate the themes of this novel.  Let me know in the comments what you think if you’ve read this one.  

From the publisher:

When Molly, home alone with her two young children, hears footsteps in the living room, she tries to convince herself it’s the sleep deprivation. She’s been hearing things these days. Startling at loud noises. Imagining the worst-case scenario. It’s what mothers do, she knows.

But then the footsteps come again, and she catches a glimpse of movement.

Suddenly Molly finds herself face-to-face with an intruder who knows far too much about her and her family. As she attempts to protect those she loves most, Molly must also acknowledge her own frailty. Molly slips down an existential rabbit hole where she must confront the dualities of motherhood: the ecstasy and the dread; the languor and the ferocity; the banality and the transcendence as the book hurtles toward a mind-bending conclusion.

In The Need, Helen Phillips has created a subversive, speculative thriller that comes to life through blazing, arresting prose and gorgeous, haunting imagery. Helen Phillips has been anointed as one of the most exciting fiction writers working today, and The Need is a glorious celebration of the bizarre and beautiful nature of our everyday lives.


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