Making the time to read is a must in our home, and putting up book reviews regularly, a pleasure. Having the team at Penguin Random House sending me books to review has been a great source of warmth (albeit not the kind that translates into short sleeve weather, unfortunately.)
In the last few months, I have received five great titles; although I enjoyed them all, you will notice that some of them were a harder read than the books I usually pick up. And I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing, at least, not in the case of the following five books.
Book Review: Design Your Next Chapter, by Debbie Travis
We recently moved and I’ve been having a lot of fun discovering new spaces where I can take pictures!
Including this timely one.
The thing with self-help books is that more often that not, it’s the voice that matters and the order in which ideas are presented. The content, for the most part, is similar enough that I won’t touch upon it in this review.
Debbie Travis’ “Design Your Next Chapter” feels a lot like reading the transcript to a talk show hosted by a peppy, energetic, perfectly coiffed and dressed host in her early forties. She has enough life experience to give her pep talk a very personal edge, and enough positivity to make everything seem shiny and new. Her chatter is peppered with exercises you can do straight in the book, helping readers reflect on their own lives.
I personally used a notebook instead of writing in the book (because **gasp** writing in a book?!?!?) and it worked out well–I found myself, at times, writing a lot more than anticipated. Travis’ approach makes sense; a little bit like “The Secret” but thankfully a lot more hands on and grounded, it starts with a section focused on your dreams, followed by a set of chapters focused on doing, all tied up by a series of chapters on living one’s best life.
As someone organised with planners and agendas and lists and vision boards, I thought that this kind of book would not be of much use. But I was wrong. There was something about Travis’ boundless energy and optimism that helped me go beyond my comfort zone. It was really nice, and I have found a couple of things that I never thought of that I could do help me design my own next chapter.
I do think that readers looking to improve their lives and are willing to spend a couple of hours working on a plan (or on adjusting their current plan) would benefit from, at the very least, taking a look at Travis’ book in order to determine if she could potentially be that little je-ne-sais-quoi that their life just might need.
Book Review: Final Report, by Rick Mercer
Proving yet again that the written word is better, at least for me, “Rick Mercer Final Report” gives lovers of the show, as well as anyone interested in various social and governance issues in Canada and the rest of the world, the means to take on Mercer’s rants in a much calmer way.
Think Adam Levine’s recent take on Cher’s “Believe”. For my non-Canadian followers, think of Rick Mercer as the child of John Oliver in Last Week Tonight and Lewis Black in Back in Black; not as angry as Lewis Black, and not as adorable as John Oliver.
Some of these rants are over ten years old, and yet they are as important to read today as they were important to hear over a decade ago. There is something refreshingly enlightening, reading these rants in the calm of my own home. I must admit that they never had as much of an effect on me when I listened to them, and I can’t help but wonder what kind of an effect they are going to have on readers across the country.
I would strongly suggest a group read of this book, and even a series of book club meetings going through a couple of these rants each time. We live in times where the status quo needs to be shaken up, and where we need to be able to coherently rant about general frustrations in order to find much-needed solutions. And although this is supposed to be a comedy book, it actually is a much needed reflection on timely topics that can general much needed discussions to create, hopefully, much needed change.
Book Review: The Au Pair, by Emma Rous
Excuse me, WHAT?
That pretty much sums up how I felt throughout most of Emma Rous’ “The Au Pair” — in a very positive, complimenting way.
Much like an unknown Monet painting in puzzle form, I got a general sense of where the book was going early on, but without enough of a final image to keep me very intrigued. Many times, when I thought a piece would go in one place, it would end up fitting in a completely different place. Creepy moments abound, and a dénouement that left me a little bereft after turning over the last page. Because yes, the book was over, but no, I didn’t want it to be so. And it was a little hard to believe, but not enough to make me regret reading the book.
Personal life choices aside (some characters in this story sleep together WAY too early on), each character was well developed and consistent within their own set of life rules. Ultimately, that’s what matters; for characters to make sense, if not to the reader, to the rules within which they have been created.
A great first novel by first-time author Emma Rous.
Book Review: The Water Cure, by Sophie MackIntosh
Dystopian it is not. Confusing it is. But ultimately, The Walking Cure is thought provoking, which is such a great reason to read.
Sophie Mackintosh’s book is a quick read and yet, also a hard read. Readers aren’t given a lot of information for a large part of the book, and are left to figure out a lot of things for themselves. It does go on, in my opinion, for a little too long. It’s worth pushing through the first part, although it may deter a lot of readers.
Without giving anything away, the bulk of the book can trigger a lot of great conversations about gender issues and the suble ways that the obvious issues in The Water Cure are part of the fabric of today’s supposedly modern society. Book Clubs will enjoy picking this one apart.
Overall, I liked The Water Cure, but would only recommend it to readers who enjoy being kept in the dark and plots that unveil slowly and with confusing detours that make readers go back a few pages.
Book Review: The Matchmaker’s List, by Sonya Lalli
I was expecting The Matchmaker’s List to be a “Bollywood” book–that is, light, fun, and ultimately, uplifting. I had to put it aside for a little bit after my initial attempt to read it, because although it deals with an Indian family and has been presented as a light and fun read, it is a lot heavier than that.
The Matchmaker’s List is, however, a thought-provoking read on how far people are willing to go to avoid painful conversations and setting boundaries between dated expectations and modern-day reality.
I really appreciate how the main character is so challenging to like completely; so often, characters have little depth and appear to be perfect, despite the mistakes that they make. In this case, however, we are treated to someone who could be our friends; overall loveable, but incredibly annoying at times.
I’m still on the fence about the ending… But, again, it offers a depth to the book that makes it a lot more realistic than the neatly tied bows at the end of rom-com books. Speaking of which, despite a bunch of amusing moments, do not go into this read expecting a rom-com; rather, think of it as an almost gritty look into modern day romance clashing with dated expectations that should make us all uncomfortable as we look into our own romantic expectations.
What books have you been digging into lately?