Saturday, December 6, 2014

No, I don't think so. We only booked two.

I realized that it is suddenly December and that means it's almost time for an end-of-year book review. And I am so far behind on my regular book reviews! So on this seriously rainy Saturday, I'm catching up.



10% Happier by Dan Harris

The Story:
News anchor Dan Harris writes about his experience and exploration with meditation. It's part memoir and part practical explanation of the power of meditation. He starts by telling a story about his first on-air panic attack, and then explains how he got assigned by Peter Jennings to focus on spiritual stories and practices which lead to an interview with Eckhart Tolle and his exploration of meditation and building his own personal practice.

The Review:
I thought this book was really cool. As he tells his story, Harris focuses on the really practical side of meditating. He repeats that he isn't into the super hippie side of meditation (that's his disdain, not mine), and he just focuses on stopping your mind for a bit. Despite not being into "the hippie side," he does some things that definitely fall into the hippie side -- like going to meditation retreats. But he gears the book to new meditators and he had good, practical ways to start meditating and to incorporate the practice into your life.

I highly recommend it.



***

My Life in France by Julia Child

The Format:
Audiobook

The Story:
This is Julia Child's memoir about her life and cooking. She writes about moving to France with her husband, Paul, how she enrolled in the culinary school, started her cooking school with her friends, and began writing her cookbook. 

The Review:
This is a great story. Julia Child had an amazing life. It was a really entertaining telling of the story. I felt like I was in France and that all her wonderful friends were my friends. And I definitely wanted to start cooking bouillabaisse. 

I highly recommend it. 



***

Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique

The Story:
This novel details a family drama. The family lives on the St. Thomas Island in the Carribean, and the story focuses on the two daughters as they are born and grow into adulthood. The story continues as they are adults and have their own children, and each face their own separate troubles. 

The Review:
Honestly, I had a hard time getting into this story. 

The family dynamics are twisted and I wasn't expecting that. This is not a spoiler, because it is revealed in the first few pages, that the father is molesting the older daughter. She believes that they are in love, and that shapes her entire life. 

Beyond the twisted family dynamics, the novel follows a really long time period -- from the childhood of the oldest daughter into their old age. It's very complicated and drags in some strange magical elements. I was interested in some of the folklore aspects, but I couldn't connect with the characters. And without the connection, I didn't care about any of it. 

I don't recommend it. 


***

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

The Story:
This is a complicated sweeping narrative that is told from the perspective of 5-6 different narrators who are all living at different times and on different continents. But the fundamental beginning of the story takes place in Afghanistan. A family is struggling to survive and they give their daughter to a wealthy family. She is raised by the husband and wife, and then by the wife after the husband suffers a stroke. As the novel continues, it brings in many different characters and goes beyond the story of one girl to tell the story of a people. 

The Review:
This is an interesting story. It's interesting to switch narrators the way that Hosseini does. It is interesting to see how it shifts all over the world, and how many people are involved and connected to the same story. 

But the book is not great. It is choppy because of all the switching narrators and jumping time. Besides the choppiness, it is also rather contrived. I felt like it was really predictable. 

Rather than recommending this, I suggest you read The Kite Runner

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