Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Happiness Project

The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun
By Gretchen Rubin
301 pages

Gretchen Rubin is an author living in NYC who, on a random bus ride one day, contemplates how to attain true happiness for herself. She spends a year researching happiness and how others try to attain happiness, and applies these methods to her life.  Each month is dedicated to a certain aspect of her life (for example, february is dedicated to her marriage).  In her words, she tries to "change her life without changing her life".

This book may have changed my life. Seriously. One of the things Gretchen says repeatedly in the book is "it's easy to be heavy, hard to be light". Essentially, you have to choose to be happy. 

So that's what I'm going to try to do. Every day, good or bad, I will choose to be happy.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Seriously...I'm Kidding

by Ellen DeGeneres
241 pages

This book contains some personal recollections, but most of it is just humorous ramblings.  I listened to the audiobook that Ellen DeGeneres narrates, which kind of cool.  However, I didn't find this book all that funny.  I do appreciate that Ellen is a sweet, caring person, but I do not share her sense of humor.  Some of her book was rather random, and I was expecting it to be a bit more biographical in scope.  I probably wouldn't recommend this to others.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things
by Randy O. Frost & Gail Steketee
290 pages

I don't know about you, but I am *slightly* obsessed with the show "Hoarders" on A&E and "Hoarding: Buried Live" on TLC.  It boggles my mind that some people can live among what most people would call trash.  The more severe hoarders also live among waste and dead animals. How can they not see how detrimental to their well being their living situation is?

 "Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things" gets inside the minds of those with this disorder.  Some psychologists label hoarding under Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, due to the fact that many believe hoarding to be a compulsion.  Other psychologists would label hoarding under it's own label.

The study of hoarding is fairly recent, although it's been mentioned in literature since at least the 1400's.  The onslaught of these hoarding shows, however, is bringing the study into the light.  This book definitely helps with the understanding of how people become hoarders in the first place.

Monday, May 21, 2012

"Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obsure" by Larry Smith

225 pages

Legend has it that Earnest Hemingway, when asked to write a six-word story, came up with "For sale: baby shoes, never worn." His words proved that a powerful tale can be told in just a few words. Inspired by this idea, Smith challenged hundreds of people to write their memoir in six words. His collection contains the work of famous authors, including Joyce Carol Oats and Elizabeth Gilbert, as well as ordinary people. The six-word memoirs vary from hilarious to touching to heart-breaking. Some of the really special ones blew me away. Others, I thought, are just ho-hum. Overall, though, I enjoyed reading the collection, and it definitely got me thinking about what would me in my six-word memoir. Having so few words to work with really forces you to be creative and break your life down to its most essential parts. This is a good one for anyone who is at the point (one of the points, actually) where he or she is wondering what life is all about. 

"Birthmarked" by Caragh M. O'Brien

361 pages

Sixteen-year-old Gaia has always stayed under the radar. Her mother is one of their District's best midwives, and she dutifully turns over the first three babies born each month to the Enclave. The residents of the Enclave live lives of luxury that those in the impoverished outside can only dream of. Some parents on the outside resist the idea of giving their children over to strangers, but most accept it because it offers their babies a better life. Now Gaia is training to be a midwife herself, and it looks like she's going to be as good at delivering babies as her mother. Then, one awful night, both of Gaia's parents are arrested and taken to prison inside the Enclave. Gaia vows to break into the Enclave and get her parents out or die trying. In the process, she learns that not all is at it seems inside the Enclave, and she begins to question everything she's been taught about the society she has been raised in. 

I enjoyed this story, but I had some major problems with the premise. I didn't have trouble believing that the outsiders had been subject to the Enclave's tyranny for so long--real-life history has shown us how good one group can be at subjugating another. However, I did think it was weird that they had given up their babies without much of a fight or even an explanation. Also, when I read the part where Gaia found out why her parents had been arrested, I felt sort of disappointed. I was expecting something bigger, I guess. I know governments can be paranoid, but this goes way beyond that. It just doesn't make sense to me that the leaders of the Enclave would go through so much trouble to prevent something that is so random. I'm trying to explain my complaint without giving too much away, and it probably makes no sense. Sorry about that. Anyway, I still enjoyed the story. There's lots of action so it moves along at a quick pace. It leans more on the romance and less on the dystopia, so I don't think hard-core scifi fans will like it too much. I would, however, recommend it for fans of  recommend it for fans of dystopian romances like "Wither," "Delirium," and "Matched."

A Feast for Crows

A Song of Ice & Fire, Book 4
by George R.R. Martin
753 pages

This fourth book in the Game of Thrones series is a little thinner than previous volumes.  Many new perspectives appear in this volume, though many are only minor voices.  These voices cover what is happening on the Iron Islands and in Dorne.  I will say that I was intrigued by the Dornish characters and hope to see more of them.  Cersei's and Brienne's perspectives are also shown in this novel.  Cersei proves in this novel that she is not fit to rule because she is short-sighted, impulsive, and stupid.

Many old characters are included as well.  Arya becomes a novice in a Braavosi temple.  Sansa is still posing as Littlefinger's bastard daughter.  Samwell is on his way to Oldtown (with Maester Aemon and Gilly) to become a maester.  Jamie is finally realizing the truth about Cersei and is becoming a better man for it.  All in all, our old favorites are changing and developing.

However, some of our favorites are missing from this novel.  Jon, Bran, Tyrion, Davos, & Daenerys are absent from this novel.  (At the end of the book, Martin explains why they are absent.  However, trying to figure out why all these characters were missing put me through unnecessary stress.)  They will reappear in Book 5.  Apparently, events in Book 4 and Book 5 are happening concurrently because Martin decided to divide the story into two books by character instead of chronologically.

"Partials" by Dan Wells

468 pages

When sixteen-year-old Kira was a small child, the world fell apart. The "Partials"--genetically engineered human-like creatures that were created to fight mankind's wars--revolted against their makers, destroying nearly every human being on the planet. Most of the people who weren't killed in the initial war succumbed to a deadly virus released by the Partials. Only the few who were immune survived, and now they huddle together on Long Island. The Partials have left them alone for more than a decade, but the survivors have another devastating problem--not a single child born since the Partial War has been immune to the virus. Not one has lived more than a few days. Kira, who works in the maternity ward of the hospital, vows to find a cure someday. When her best friend becomes pregnant, however, Kira's goal takes on new urgency. She decides that the only way to discover a cure for the virus is to go to the source--the Partials. But venturing into their world might disturb the fragile peace that exists between Partials
and humans...

This is one of my favorite recent sci-fi novels. The premise makes sense to me, unlike several other teen dystopias I've read lately ("Pandemonium" and "Fever," I'm looking at you). The characters and their internal struggles ring true and I connected with them right away. Kira is having a hard time figuring out what she believes: Should Congress do whatever it takes to ensure that humanity survives? Or should individuals retain some of their rights, even if it means risking the survival of the human race? Kira's debate with herself gave me a lot to think about. There's almost nonstop action and a nice twist at the end. Good stuff all around!

100 Unforgettable Dresses by Hal Rubenstein

209 pages, 2011.
The cover of this book jumped out at me from the non-fiction bookshelf at the way the perfect dress beckons you from a store window--I've got to have it!

If you follow fashion, enjoy the history of fashion, or recall certain events/movies based on a show-stopping gown, then you are sure to enjoy this book.

InStyle fashion editor Hal Rubenstein brings to our attention 100 dresses that made an impact on fashion, whether good or bad, and in some respects shaped the way women dressed.

The stories of the designers, models and actresses behind these creations are just as delectable as the dresses themselves. Learn how Princess Di's wedding dress held wedding fashion back for years and the origins of the little black dress. 

From Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly to modern style icons Kate Blanchett and Lady Gaga, Rubenstein reminds us that no matter how gorgeous the dress, it's the woman in the dress that makes it unforgettable. I will happily go back to fawn over this book time and again.