Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Book Review: Strange Contagion by Lee Daniel Kre

Strange Contagion: Inside the Surprising Science of Infectious Behaviors and Viral Emotions and What They Tell Us About Ourselves



Social contagion. We all know that ideas, emotions, and actions are communicable—from mirroring someone’s posture to mimicking their speech patterns, we are all driven by unconscious motivations triggered by our environment. But when just the right physiological, psychological, and social factors come together, we get what Kravetz calls a "strange contagion:" a perfect storm of highly common social viruses that, combined, form a highly volatile condition. 
Strange Contagion is simultaneously a moving account of one community’s tragedy and a rigorous investigation of social phenomenon, as Kravetz draws on research and insights from experts worldwide to unlock the mystery of how ideas spread, why they take hold, and offer thoughts on our responsibility to one another as citizens of a globally and perpetually connected world.  
Writing
I love nonfiction that reads like fiction, and this title certainly falls into that category.  You can tell that Kravetz is a journalist at heart because he reports events in such a gripping and straightforward manner that is both easy to read and interesting.  It avoids the danger territories of dry and overly academic and sticks with being what I would consider popular social science - strongly researched but very readable for the common reader.

Entertainment Value
Again, the research here is strong and well cited, which is always a plus for me.  It's also an interesting topic that the author reports like a story, rather than a textbook, which keeps the reader moving from chapter to chapter without being dull or dry.

Overall
If you enjoy a good pop social science along the lines of Malcolm Gladwell, this is one you'll want to pick up.  Kravetz has great insight into the social phenomenon of contagious ideas and how they spread and what it means for people.  I appreciate that he looks at how it can be used positively as well as the negative consequences.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for having me on the tour and providing me with a copy to review.  Click here to see a list of all the stops on the tour and click here to see the publisher's page for the book.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Mid-Year Book Survey, Just for Fun!

June marks the halfway point of the year, and I thought it would be fun to do a little mini-survey about what I've read so far and how the year is going in terms of reading and books and literary loves and disappointments.  I found this via Shout at Me, a book tuber I particularly enjoy.

1. Best book you’ve read so far in 2017
    Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren - I actually read this one twice in 2017 alone, so yeah,     it's earned it's spot as my favorite of the year.

2. Best sequel you've read so far in 2017.
    March, Book Three

3. New release you haven't read yet, but want to.
    Things We Lost in the Fire by Mariana Enriquez - I actually have this one sitting on my desk waiting         for me to pick it up, I just have to make myself do it.

4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year.
    A Beautiful Terrible Thing: A Memoir of Marriage and Betrayal by Jen Waite - seems like it's going to         be both a difficult book to read and also one that could be healing and meaningful to my own life.

5. Biggest disappointment.
    Before the Fall by Noah Hawley - I was very excited to read this one, and it just didn't live up to the           rave reviews I'd heard it receive.

6. Biggest surprise.
    My Lady Jane - I didn't expect this to be my kind of book at all, but I listened to it on audio for book         club and was delighted by how funny and charming it was.

7. Favorite new author. (Debut or new to you)
    Marilynn Robinson - I can't wait to dive into the Gilead Trilogy after finishing Housekeeping last week

8. Newest fictional crush. 
    I always hate this question because it's one that I just don't seem to connect with.  I can't think of a           fictional crush.  They're all...fictional and I am just a boring pragmatist.

9. Newest favorite character. 
    I feel like this is cheating, but without having read much fiction this year I'm going to have to choose a     real person.  Congressman John Lewis from the March series.  What an inspiration.

10. Book that made you cry.
    I've had several of those this year, but the first to come to mind is The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp.

11. Book that made you happy.
     Big Mushy Happy Lump by Sarah Andersen

12. Favorite book to film adaptation you saw this year. 
     Haven't seen one yet, but I do want to see My Cousin Rachel

13. Most beautiful book you've bought so far this year (or received)
     I just received a copy of The Essex Serpent in the mail and it is absolutely gorgeous in hardback.  I          can't rave enough about how beautiful it is and how much fun it is to touch.  I haven't read it yet, but        man is it nice to have on the shelf.

I'd love to know all about your reading years and how they're going.  Feel free to copy and paste this in the comments or leave a link to your own blog or youtube or instagram or wherever you post about books!  I'd love to see other readers tell what they've been up to this year!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Audiobook Review: The Fireman by Joe Hill

The Fireman

The fireman is coming. Stay cool.

No one knows exactly when it began or where it originated. A terrifying new plague is spreading like wildfire across the country, striking cities one by one: Boston, Detroit, Seattle. The doctors call it Draco Incendia Trychophyton. To everyone else it’s Dragonscale, a highly contagious, deadly spore that marks its hosts with beautiful black and gold marks across their bodies—before causing them to burst into flames. Millions are infected; blazes erupt everywhere. There is no antidote. No one is safe.
Writing
This is my first book by Joe Hill and I'm quite pleased with the quality of his writing here.  I have a few quibbles, but overall I found the book to be well done.  I loved the characters, particularly Harper, who has a Mary Poppins obsession.  I also thought the world building was very well done.  The worldwide reaction to the pandemic is believable and fascinating and everything I wanted it to be.  My biggest problem with the writing is that I felt like the story built to something major and then ended quickly without quite living up to the level of tension created in the rest of the book.

Entertainment Value
I couldn't get enough of this one.  It was another car trip audiobook and kept me fully entertained while driving.  It's quite long, so listeners should be prepared for a bit of a commitment but know that the story won't let you down.  Again, the ending had me a bit disappointed, but not enough that I regretted any part of the experience.

Narration
I thought this part was just ok.  It wasn't my favorite narrator and I definitely didn't love the accents she used.  It could have been worse, but I've heard better.

Overall
The book itself is a must read for fans of dystopias or pandemic novels, although I think whether your read it in print or listen is just a matter of preference.  The narration isn't great enough to make it specifically preferable on audio.

I listened to this one via Hoopla, provided by my local public library!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Book Review: The Blessing of Humility by Jerry Bridges

The Blessing of Humility
We all admire humility when we see it. But how do we practice it? How does humility--the foundational virtue of the normal Christian life--become a normal part of our everyday lives?

Jerry Bridges sees in the Beatitudes a series of blessings from Jesus, a pattern for humility in action. Starting with poverty in spirit--an acknowledgment that in and of ourselves we are incapable of living holy lives pleasing to God--and proceeding through our mourning over personal sin, our hunger and thirst for righteousness, our experience of persecutions large and small, and more, we discover that humility is itself a blessing: At every turn, God is present to us, giving grace to the humble and lifting us up to blessing.
Writing
There's a reason Bridges is a bestselling Christian author.  His writing is easy to understand and he presents difficult concepts clearly and concisely for a general audience.  That said, there is a simplicity to his writing that can also feel a bit shallow at times.  This book on the beatitudes for example, is more of a brief meditation than an in depth look.  At just 106 pages, you aren't going to go too deeply into any concept and still manage to cover each of the beatitudes.  That doesn't mean that there was nothing to learn, just that it was limited in scope and depth.

Entertainment Value
As I mentioned above, this is quite easy to read.  Being a shorter book, it moves along quickly and makes for a great devotional book, with short chapters and discussion or meditation questions at the end of the book for further reflection on each chapter.  I read a chapter each night and found that to be a good way to move through the book, although it certainly would have been fine to read in one sitting as well.

Overall
I enjoyed the read, although I did wish for more depth.  I was pleased to learn new things about the beatitudes that I hadn't known before.  One of my favorite new pieces of information was that "blessed are those who mourn" refers not to those who mourn in terms of sadness or grief for something sad that has happened to them but those who are grieved by their own sin.  I love finding new things to consider in Scripture and was pleased to find an entire chapter devoted to this in the book.

Thank you to Tyndale for providing me with a copy to review!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Book Review: My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward by Mark Lukach

My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward: A Memoir
A heart-wrenching, yet hopeful, memoir of a young marriage that is redefined by mental illness and affirms the power of love.

Mark and Giulia’s life together began as a storybook romance. They fell in love at eighteen, married at twenty-four, and were living their dream life in San Francisco. When Giulia was twenty-seven, she suffered a terrifying and unexpected psychotic break that landed her in the psych ward for nearly a month. One day she was vibrant and well-adjusted; the next she was delusional and suicidal, convinced that her loved ones were not safe.

Eventually, Giulia fully recovered, and the couple had a son. But, soon after Jonas was born, Giulia had another breakdown, and then a third a few years after that. Pushed to the edge of the abyss, everything the couple had once taken for granted was upended.

A story of the fragility of the mind, and the tenacity of the human spirit, My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward is, above all, a love story that raises profound questions: How do we care for the people we love? What and who do we live for? Breathtaking in its candor, radiant with compassion, and written with dazzling lyricism, Lukach’s is an intensely personal odyssey through the harrowing years of his wife’s mental illness, anchored by an abiding devotion to family that will affirm readers’ faith in the power of love.
Writing
It's a heartbreaking story, and I think Lukach does a great job of capturing the vast range of emotions he experiences as he and his wife spend years going through the roller coaster of mental illness.  I felt like he really went deep with his emotions and didn't keep much back from the reader - he was raw and honest, even when his emotions were hard to understand or explain.  He does a wonderful job of putting the reader in his position.

Entertainment Value
While it's hard to say you're entertained by such a raw view of another person's distress and suffering, this book is engrossing and does keep the reader involved in the story from the first page.  You want to see Guilia recover and reunite with her family as a mentally whole person.  The reader is firmly invested in the outcome, which means that the book is certainly gripping.

Overall
This is definitely a must-read for fans of mental illness memoirs, which sounds like a crazy genre unless you're a fan of the genre, in which case you know it is its own entire genre.  It's also a great read for anyway who has an interest in enduring love stories and memoirs about overcoming insurmountable obstacles as a couple.

Thanks to TLC for providing me with a copy to review!  You can click here to see the other stops on the tour!


Thursday, June 8, 2017

Graphic Novel/Comic Book Minis





I've got a bunch of these to cover, as they've made up a lot of my reading in the past few months, so I'm going to do several mini reviews over the coming months as I try to catch up on reviews and keep you posted on what I've loved and what I haven't enjoyed as much.  I'll just jump right in with the first batch:
Snow Blind

This one is about a teenage boy who has a distant relationship with his parents that becomes even more strained when he learns that they aren't who he has grown up believing them to be.  The artwork here is beautiful.  I love watercolors and I love the muted palette and style used here.  The story wasn't as gripping as I had hoped it would be and I didn't care all that much about the characters or for the writing, but it was amazing to look at.

Brave New Girl: How to Be Fearless

This is probably better characterized as a gift book or inspirational book than a comic book or graphic novel.  It's a series of drawings featuring Brave New Girl, a character who inspires us to be powerful, fearless, and to overcome every obstacle.  It's cute and was fun to flip through and would make a good graduation gift to someone who enjoys this kind of book.  It's not something I would probably purchase for myself, but I enjoyed looking through it.

Yvain: The Knight of the Lion

I've read M.T. Anderson's novels before and knew I'd want to try out his first graphic novel, especially when I saw some of the gorgeous artwork.  This is his take on the tale of Sir Yvain, one of Arthur's Knights of the Round Table and his adventures.  I loved that the style of the artwork reflected the Middle Ages and I loved the story itself and the research the author had obviously put into his story, while still making it his own.  I have lots of raves for this one and few quibbles.  If you're a fan of the Arthur stories, if you're a fan of graphic novels or this style of art, or if you're a fan of the authors, this is a solid choice.


The Creeps

This is the second book of cartoons published by Krause and it follows the same simple premise as the first - Krause takes people's odd and unusual, but entertaining, fears and illustrates them.  That's it.  It's delightful to read and the best part is not seeing the strange fears of strangers (although that is definitely fun) but stumbling across something you are secretly and oddly afraid of as well.  I highly recommend this one.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with digital copies of each of these for review!

Monday, June 5, 2017

What I Read in May


May has been all about learning new things for things me - making new discoveries about myself and what I'm capable of, where I can go and what I can do.  I spent a lot of time with my parents this month, which was lovely, and a lot of time with friends.  My church family has blessed me in ways I can't begin to describe.  They've truly been Jesus to me in difficult times and I got to spent lots of time with them in the past few weeks, which is always a joy.  I also made a trip to Ohio with my best friends, Jacki and Jennie, for the Nowhere Else Festival, where we heard some amazing folk music and, most importantly, had quality BFF time.

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, closeup and outdoor

I'm also slowly and steadily starting to read again after a terrible year of almost no reading (for me at least) last year.  I'm turning to books more and more as I feel more and more like my old self and as I'm relearning who I am on my own.  Books are so much a part of me and I feel like they are my old friends, gradually coming back into my life.  Lots of people and things that I had abandoned are returning and becoming part of my life again, and it's a change I'm thrilled to see happening.  

Here's what I read in the month of May:

The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp
Hallelujah Anyway by Anne Lamott
milk and honey by Rupi Kaur
Celebrate Everything! by Darcy Miller
Real Sex by Lauren Winner
The Mother of All Questions by Rebecca Solnit
The Big Book of Tiny Art by the Walter Foster Creative Team
Yvain: The Knight of the Lion by M.T. Anderson
The Shape of Ideas by Grant Snider
Hey Harry, Hey Matilda by Rachel Hulin
You Will Not Have My Hate by Antoine Leiris
One Trick Pony by Nathan Hale

It's a long list, but a lot of these are graphic novels or essay collections, even art books.  I'm not pushing myself into anything I'm not in the mood for at the moment.  I've signed up for a few TLC tours this summer and that's all as far as committing to a book goes.  I'm letting myself read as I feel led and enjoy everything I pick up, bringing back the friends that feel right and passing up the ones that I think need more time.  

What did you read in May?