Tuesday, April 02, 2013

What I've Been Reading Lately

I'm still not reading a lot. I got ahead for school, which was good, but once the pressure was off, I got a little lazy. And I slacked on workouts. It's weird, if I'm not walking or running very often, that usually means I'm not reading as much. When I get out and exercise all the time, I want something to listen to besides music, which means I tear through the audio books. Lately, not so much.

But I've done a little. More, when I was on vacation.

I'm breaking a little bit from my normal formatting here, not that anyone out there gives a rip, but two of these books are by people I know, and the other is just plan lame. (Fortunately, the two that are by people I know are great, but the other one is just sucky.) So I feel like the general weirdness of all of this necessitates that this not be a regular book post for me. Not that anyone cares, like I said. There are no blog book review formatting police.


Book #1: The sucky. Let's just get this out of the way.

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz

No, I'm not going to hyperlink his title because I think homeboy needed an editor if he wanted me to spend money on his book.

I'll get this one out of the way. The thing is, I want this book to not be as bad as it is. Because the ideas in it are really actually kind of good. And they are legitimately helpful things to know as a human. So on that level, I was able to glean some things from it--a lot of things, actually--to make me a better person. Am I glad I read it? Yeah, okay, fine.

And this book was recommended to us by a therapist. So it's not like someone said hey, check this out, it's the best thing I ever read. Or, read this before the movie comes out. It was more like please work on yourself, and here are some helpful tips.

But you see, here is my problem with this thing. And this brings me back around to why I would use words like "sucky" and "bad" (which, ordinarily, I would not) when writing about a book: It was SO convoluted. And there was so much here where I was just like WHY. I am not thinking that is a feeling you want to inspire in your reader, no matter your genre.

I feel like if you want to HELP people (and you write a book that goes in the SELF HELP section), maybe you can stop showing off with all your Toltec bullshit and just get to the good stuff in your book (which is totally there), like BE NICE TO OTHER PEOPLE and DON'T TAKE THINGS PERSONALLY OR TYPE IN ALL CAPS.

Okay, I added that last part. This book had some good stuff, but trying to read it made me angry. Not angry enough not to do my therapy homework like a good girl, but angry.

Book #2: A book by someone I know

Disneylanders by Kate Abbott

I feel weird writing about books by people I know, but in this case I feel like my household was a good "test" house for the book because my daughter is in the right age range for it (10), and we both genuinely loved it. So here's what I wrote about the book on Goodreads:

What my ten year old daughter liked about it:

She said that it felt like the author really knows about Disneyland, and did a really good job of making you feel like you are there. She also felt like the characters were believable and the story was interesting.

What I liked about it:

Lots of Disney trivia and detail. My family has been taking nearly-annual trips to the park since I was a kid, so there was so much here that was familiar. (Even Mom with her fanny pack and Dad with his trivia...) As a Disneyland geek I appreciated how I was appropriately placed in time--many of the characters' memories of the Disneyland of "yesteryear" are my own, and even several of the attractions/places in the park that are present in the time the story takes place are not there anymore, which is noted in the section on the chapter titles. Lots of Disney trivia and facts throughout the story. The two days in the park move well, like someone wrote them who actually goes to the parks and knows how long it would take to do these things. I enjoyed the insertion of all the little idiosyncrasies that make the park fun for those of us who love to go so often. Abbott knows her park, and it shows.

I also felt like the main character, Casey, rang true to age. Abbott manges to capture perfectly the angst of being thirteen and wanting to enjoy vacation with your parents at a "family" destination, yet also wanting to try to get your first taste of "safe" freedom to hang out with someone you choose. The conflict in this book comes from Casey wanting to be grown up but not really knowing how to do that. Disneyland provides for Casey (like it did for many of us) a safe place to take off for a few hours on her own for the first time. The book is age-appropriate and I felt comfortable having my daughter read it. I feel like there are healthy messages here about independence, growing up, and family.

I would recommend this book for any child between 9 and 12, particularly girls.

Book #3: Another book by someone I know

We Only Know So Much by Elizabeth Crane

Betsy Crane is my fiction professor this term, and after finishing this book I'm so excited to work with her. The strange thing was that I started to read it before I knew I would be. I loved it so much, though, and it was just the right kind of story at the right time for me.

We Only Know So Much is narrated from an omniscient multiple "we" perspective (the type of thing, it occurs to me as I write this post, I should know the proper term for), an unnamed group  that observes this family, the Copelands, from afar, and comments on their comings and goings and thoughts, etc. Like a mix of omniscient third person and "royal we." (<--Yes, I know. Real literary, I am.) There are multiple generations living together under one roof, and each storyline was as funny as it was touching.

I thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm nervous to write a whole lot about my professor's book right as I start the new quarter, but I can honestly say it is a great book. Wholeheartedly recommend. You should read this, because you will like it.

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