Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Review: Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
Published September 2015 by Bloomsbury
Paperback, 276 pages
Read: September 20-27, 2016

This is the book I needed to read right here, right now in this chapter of my life. I saw this sitting on a friends coffee table in May. I've been struggling with finding my inspiration and sticking with it. Gilbert managed to tell me in her own unique way that maybe, just maybe, what I'm doing isn't so wrong after all and that I'm on the right track. Keeping my day job to pay bills is the logical thing to do until I feel confident that I can rely on my artistic endeavors to support me. There's also nothing wrong with taking the leap into the unknown and quitting your day job to focus solely on your artistic projects. This same friend of mine who read this book in the spring, took such a leap and she's doing very well for herself. We met through our day jobs and she got to a point where she was no longer feeling appreciated and creative so she took a leap to quit her 9-5 job in April to go to work for herself as a marketing and social media consultant for non-profits, start-ups, and small businesses. She couldn't be happier, and it's reassuring to see it work for her and so then maybe, just maybe, it might work for me too.

From Elizabeth's personal stories to others stories she's shared, each one had a purpose of being an example of the point she was trying to make. It was obvious that she wrote this book for herself, not for any one else. She even flat out said so and that's where I knew I had to keep reading. She drove home the fact that to create your own big magic you need to do it for you and only then will it actually happen. As soon as you start doing it for others, it'll take away the happiness, the real inspiration, and will block the creative juices from flowing, and your break through will fail to happen. And if you're not getting the results you want, take some time away from that project and focus on something else for awhile and that new project just may even be the answer or solution you've been looking for all along.

I could keep going and will stop here to say that you need to read the book for yourself because you might even get something completely different out of it depending on where you're at in your life journey.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Review: Dune by Frank Herbert

Dune by Frank Herbert
Published 1999 by Ace (first published December 1st 1965)
Hardcover, 517 pages

On Goodreads, I set the "Date finished this book" as "Date I gave up on this book" because I had a hard time getting into it and following everything. Reading sci-fi is just not my thing, but I persevered and somehow made much more progress with this book than I did with The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. That book is a post for another day if I could ever get into it again.

With Dune, I made a point of reading as much as I could, which was 83 pages out of 517, and still attend the discussion tonight with Vermont Books 'n' Brews at Cattails Restaurant in Brandon, VT. Generally speaking, I felt like there are way too many details to remember for me to be engrossed in it early enough to stick with the story. Being a stubborn reader though, I gave it a chance and took the advice of the person who recommended it and kept reading. He pointed out that the first time he read it he struggled for the first 100 pages or so, but then cruised to the end.

Because of Herbert's writing style, I could tell right away and understand why it's such a classic, especially in the sci-fi genre. That helped a little bit in keeping me interested - that and it's subtle similarities to Star Wars, which made me wonder if George Lucas drew some inspiration from Herbert's stories. Although I picked up right away that there were some dated material (like blatant sexism and technological advances of the time), I was able to recognize why Frank Herbert has been hailed a classic sci-fi author and why so many people who enjoy sci-fi enjoy his writing.

That said, I'm not sure that I'll be able to ever finish the book since it was such a struggle for me to even get into. I feel comfortable being able to say no to this one and be okay with not finishing it, and therefore I am not going to rate this book because it would be an unfair subjective rating of something I highly dislike. Certain genres are not for everyone.

Rating: Abandoned (0 out of 5 on Goodreads)

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Review: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
336 pages

Station Eleven is such a hauntingly beautiful dystopian work of art. I don't normally enjoy dystopia futuristic type genres, but this one definitely held my attention once I sat down and made a point of reading. I loved the traveling symphony orchestra and Shakespeare caravan. I was also fascinated that people were living out of gas stations and restaurants instead of abandoned houses - it made me question why? Are the houses filled with ghosts of the past? Are they too much of a reminder of what was? This is just one example of how the tension between the old world and the new surfaces as the population revert back to an age where advancements only exist in the minds of those old enough to remember.

The characters are as much tragic as they are charming, looking for answers in an age where curiosities can no longer be entered into a search engine. I was curious to know if any of the characters in the separate stories cross paths at some point, especially Clark, Jeevan, and Kirsten, and if they figure out how they're connected.

St. John Mandel's writing style is a bit lyrical, which gives the story a character all its own in a sense, which is a great touch, and perhaps on purpose because of the symphony orchestra. The different perspectives and stories of the characters also gives the story an interesting and attractive twist. It's something that Jodi Picoult, my favorite author, does that I love. St. John Mandel and Picoult both have a way of seamlessly moving between character plots and making the story work over all.

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Saturday, September 3, 2016

Review: The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This took me over a year to finally finish reading, and of course it was a book club read. With the 2016 Summer Olympics having just happened I figured it'd be a great time to finish it. I particularly enjoyed the story and the writing style, which is what kept me going once I sat down to read. I think knowing I'd enjoy the book once I sat down to read it is what hindered me. Knowing that I'd need a few hours of uninterrupted time kept from reading it. So I finally decided tonight that I'd keep reading until I was done and 2 hours later here I am writing my review and I don't feel guilty about staying up too late.

In all, Brown's writing style made me feel like I was one of the young men who grew up poor, and then I felt like I was right there on the water vying for a spot on the varsity boat, and eventually as if I were a member of the crew team that won the Olympics.

This is an amazingly written book based on a true story of underdogs. It's an inspiration to every reader and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good, hardy story about overcoming the odds. One does not need to have an interest in sports, let alone crew. This story is so much more than crew. Like any great team sport, the story is so much more than the sport. It's about individuals coming together to form a team, a bond, a family, and a connection that is beyond breaking. It's about working through the obstacles together, only to make celebrating the successes that much sweeter. The Boys in the Boat is all of that, and so much more. It's about the small town underdogs with little to no experience on a national level, let alone an international level, giving their home country hope, excitement, and pride during a difficult time during our nation's, and world's, history.

A tear-jerker of happiness for sure, The Boys in the Boat, left me feeling proud of these boys, and proud of my country, for working their asses off and representing us in an amazing way on the international stage. 

Friday, September 2, 2016

Review: The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

The Art of Racing in the Rain
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
My rating: 5 out of 5

I read this, or rather listened to an audio version, for a book club I found out about from a member I usually see at my usual book club called Vermont Books 'n' Brews. This other one is run out of the Maclure Library in Pittsford, VT. The library itself has so much history that I could write a post just about the building! But that's for another day.

The Art of Racing in the Rain was the perfect book for me to read for the first time with this club because I was immediately drawn in and felt accepted by the dog as the main character. I thoroughly enjoyed how the story was told from the perspective of Enzo. His temperament and character is so well developed that I felt immediately welcomed and at home. We were immediately friends! I couldn't stop listening to the audio version and one day I'll go back and read the book. I have a feeling that I won't be able to put it down and will most likely finish it in one sitting.

Enzo and his owner manage to stay together despite everything that happened. Stein did an excellent job of showing how a dog is truly a part of the family from the dog's perspective. And then the sign at the end just tugged at the heart strings and made me cry, which is significant because I never cry when I read a book, watch a movie or show. I would've been upset if it had ended any other way.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Review: Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult

Published February 28th 2012 by Recorded Books

Jodi Picoult never fails to write a wonderful story that keeps you wondering what's going to happen next. I love that she keeps the punchline a secret until nearly the end of the book. It's the suspense that keeps me from putting the book down (or stop listening in this case)!

I kept wondering whether Luke was going to wake up or if they'd take him off life support or keep him on it for any length of time. I feel like it could've gone either way and the decision/result is ultimately what was needed for the story and for the characters.

I'm not sure how I feel about the ending and the ultimate choice the family made. I also didn't understand the point of the epilogue and how it tied, or rather didn't, into the rest of the story. I think it would've had a better impact on the reader had the epilogue been about how the family members are doing after their decision and what they're all up to now. If that's the only complaint I have of Jodi's story, then it's not much of a complaint or critique is it?

Rating: 5 out of 5