Monday, May 21, 2018

Quiet

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop TalkingQuiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So now I go around asking everyone if they are an introvert or an extrovert. This was a compelling look into how and why introverts think the way they do and gives good arguments about how (forgotten) qualities of introverts are just as beneficial as those of extroverts. She gives good advice on how to get along with an introvert partner or parent an introverted child. (Weirdly, it did not cover introverts raising extroverts, which can still be a challenge). This book answered a lot of my questions and gave some credence to thoughts I’ve always theorized about. In the end, it’s a book about appreciating our differences and valuing each other.


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We like to think that we value individuality, but all too often we admire one type of individual— different kinds of introverts and extroverts. Introversion and extroversion interact with our other personality traits and personal histories, producing wildly different kinds of people. The number of Americans who considered themselves shy increased from 40 percent in the 1970s to 50 percent in the 1990s, probably because we measured ourselves against ever higher standards of fearless self-presentation. Extroverts tend to experience more pleasure and excitement than introverts do— Extroverts’ dopamine pathways appear to be more active than those of introverts Introverts, in contrast, are constitutionally programmed to downplay reward—to kill their buzz, you might say—and scan for problems. “As soon they get excited,” says Newman, “they’ll put the brakes on and think about peripheral issues that may be more important. Introverts seem to be specifically wired or trained so when they catch themselves getting excited and focused on a goal, their vigilance increases.”

Morning Star

Morning Star (Red Rising, #3)Morning Star by Pierce Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a really good series. I did not see all the twists and turns coming. I also appreciated that some of the negative aspects of revolution were emphasized (even if they were never resolved) like refugees and the question of what to do with prisoners of war. Darrow has been through a lot in these books, but he has grown as a leader and realizes building is part of the revolutionary process. Like always Brown does not downplay the horrors of war, and though some might find it uncomfortable reading, I appreciate that he doesn’t glorify it (much). At well over 500 pages I did find that some of it dragged. (We don’t need 10 pages of goodbyes every single time the friends part to wage battle in different parts of the galaxy.). But the ending was delightfully twisty and wonderfully hopeful.


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Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Comstant Gardner

The Constant GardenerThe Constant Gardener by John le Carré
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It almost pains me to give le Carre less than 4 stars, but this just wasn’t my favorite book. The reason may be found in the afterword he wrote where he is careful to explain that the story was not based on any particular experiences of his. Maybe there is more truth to his other spy books, which make them so riveting. And those stories without twisting plotlines usually have deep characters. This one seemed to be built around the issue of pharmaceuticals instead of plot or character and it felt a bit lackluster. There was no real mystery, and I didn’t feel tied to any of the characters. It may have been a statement about the reach of capitalism and its consequences, but it’s a story that’s been told before and so it was neither shocking nor fulfilling. Sorry le Carre, but this one wasn’t a keeper.


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Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The Nix

The NixThe Nix by Nathan Hill
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An interesting read about family, choices, and the interconnectedness of life. Still, as with most long novels, I found this could have been edited down a bit. Each character, (and there are several) discovers the truth of the nix...that the things you love will be your undoing. There’s even a bit, superfluous as it is, about a tangential character who is addicted to video games and it almost kills him. Not really necessary to the plot, but I do want to send that chapter to all the kids I know addicted to video games...it really goes into the science of how it rewires your brain. The fact that this is the bulk of my review maybe tells you the gist of the book....slightly interesting, good writing, but overall not compelling.

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 He did not know she had been leaving for many months now—in secret, and in pieces.

 Samuel heard a story about a certain kind of African turtle that swam across the ocean to lay its eggs in South America. Scientists could find no reason for the enormous trip. Why did the turtles do it? The leading theory was that they began doing it eons ago, when South America and Africa were still locked together. Back then, only a river might have separated the continents, and the turtles laid their eggs on the river’s far bank. But then the continents began drifting apart, and the river widened by about an inch per year, which would have been invisible to the turtles. So they kept going to the same spot, the far bank of the river, each generation swimming a tiny bit farther than the last one, and after a hundred million years of this, the river had become an ocean, and yet the turtles never noticed.

And come to think of it, maybe this is the most important lesson the school could teach them about the American workplace: how to sit calmly at your desk and surf the internet and not go insane

. “You take responsibility for your actions by facing the consequences for them.”

 was easy to forget when looking at the chaos of the cereal aisle that all these hundreds of options were actually one option.

This was the price of hope, he realized, this shattering disappointment.

 “Because when all you have is the memory of a thing,” she said, “all you can think about is how the thing is gone.”

What kept people where they were, in their normal orbits? Nothing, he realized for the first time. There was nothing to stop anyone from, on any given day, vanishing.

Anyway, what they discovered is that our memories are tangible, physical things. Like, you can actually see the cell where each memory is stored. The way it works is, first, you have a perfectly pristine, untouched cell. Then that cell is zapped and gets all deformed and mangled. And that mutilation is, itself, the memory. It never really goes away.”

 “Every memory is really a scar.”

Faye sits and waits for the orchestra to begin playing again and thinks about this—harvest—and how it always makes her sad, how the cornfields in November look like battlegrounds, the chopped-down plants blanched and bonelike, cornstalks like femurs half buried and poking sharply out of the ground.

 There’s a certain essential lack of courage among people who seem to be good at everything.

Not heavy, exactly, but given enough time, any weight can become too much to bear.

 Tonight, it was carnal. Tomorrow, carnage.

Sometimes what we avoid most is not pain but mystery.

 What Faye won’t understand and may never understand is that there is not one true self hidden by many false ones. Rather, there is one true self hidden by many other true ones. Her belief that only one of these is true obscures the larger truth, which was ultimately the problem with the blind men and the elephant. It wasn’t that they were blind—it’s that they stopped too quickly, and so never knew there was a larger truth to grasp. And the more she believes she only has one true self, the more she flees to find it. She’s like someone trapped in quicksand whose efforts to escape only make her drown faster.

 That when he looked at her he never really saw her. And she wonders now if all her panic attacks and problems had been elaborate attempts to be paid attention to, to be seen. She’d convinced herself she was haunted by ghosts from the old country because—even though she didn’t understand it in these terms—maybe she was trying to be Freya for him.

 It would be a memory that sustained him his whole life, but it would also be the thing that haunted him.

 “even the things we do to break the routine become routine. Even the things we do to escape the sadness of our lives have themselves become sad. What this ad acknowledges is that you’ve been eating all these snacks and yet you are not happy, and you’ve been watching all these shows and yet you still feel lonely, and you’ve been seeing all this news and yet the world makes no sense, and you’ve been playing all these games and yet the melancholy sinks deeper and deeper into you.

Civilization had this unintended side effect, which is melancholy. Tedium. Routine. Gloom.

Lilac Girls

Lilac GirlsLilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Good historical fiction of WWII. It seems like you’ve read everything about a certain time era but there are as many stories to tell as the people having the experiences. This one told of the experimental operations that went on in Ravensbruck concentration camp, as well as the American socialite who championed the girls after they were released. Continuing the story after their release was definitely a new perspective...how do you go back to your “old” life? Kelly also attempted to tell part of the story from Herta, one of the nurses at the camp. Although it was a good and new perspective, I felt like she was the least developed character, and her point of view was abandoned in the later part of the novel. Still, an amazing story.

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Thursday, May 3, 2018

Barkskins

BarkskinsBarkskins by Annie Proulx
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is an epic book spanning several generations and locales from Canada to America to South America. But don’t expect to cozy up to any character too long. The real character is the forest and the forestry business. It makes for some interesting facts and is obviously anti-clearcutting. It is also about the erasure of the Native people and their culture. A good history, some eye-opening details, but not enough character connection to make you really care.

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Did You Ever Have a Family?

Did You Ever Have a FamilyDid You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was like a set of nesting Russian dolls. Each chapter was a different point of view and each added just a bit to the whole story so that in the end you know what happens from all different points of view and why but without being redundant. Although it starts with tragedy it is ultimately hopeful story about family and forgiveness.

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