BOOK REVIEWS

"A beautiful thing never gives so much pain as does failing to hear and see it." – Michelangelo 

In this Book Review section, I write short blurbs on fiction I have read and recommend (as not to give away the entire story.) I do the same with nonfiction books I recommend. Once a month I review a nonfiction book in more depth, one that really stands out, in the format of a blog post.


I update this section on a regular basis, with the most recent reviews on top,

10 per page. This page represents Reviews #31 – 34, my most recent reviews.


TAKE OFF YOUR PANTS!

Outline Your Books for Faster, Better Writing


By Libbie Hawker

The Naked Truth About Outlining

For a die-hard pantser, it was refreshing to read the (naked) truth on the why and how of taking off your pants while outlining your novels. Books on and about the writing craft abound—Hawker’s Take Off Your Pants! stands on firm legs with its head held high, comfortable among the best.


Not since King’s On Writing and James’s Story Trumps Structure, have I enjoyed a “how to” book as much, especially since it makes a compelling case for plotting more, and pantsing less. Her solid argument for outlining manuscripts for any writer who hopes to make a living off of their writing stands, since quality and speed is of the essence. A valuable book to add to any writer’s bookshelf.



WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING



By Delia Owens

Through the eyes of a scientist and the hand of a poet

Refreshing, if not remarkable to come across a work of fiction that sweeps one along from the first paragraph, speaking with the bold, brazen, and gentle voice of the poet, filtered through the keen and meticulous eyes of the scientist and nature-lover.


Owen delights and surprises in equal measure as her coming-of-age tale soars and plummets as briskly as the marsh grasses and the long-legged birds she so loves, celebrating the beauty and brutality of man and nature, interwoven with the intricacies of surviving a dysfunctional family, abandonment, and being cast aside by society.


A work that will linger with one for a long time, begging to be reread and shared.



JUMPING OUT OF THE MAINSTREAM

An American Family's Year Abroad


By Caroline DePalatis

With uncanny mastery of her art, in an unpretentious fashion, Depalatis sweeps her reader along on much more than a rendition of a year-long stay of an American family in modern-day China. By paying attention to minute detail, by utilizing all the senses, and by demonstrating the importance that every person (friend or stranger) matters, (an intricate thread woven throughout her writing), the reader is rewarded with an intimate look into the lives of a family of five—and in the process, also discovers the brave and at times uncertain heart of a “new and emerging” China and its wonderfully complex people.


Depalatis makes you laugh out loud, gasp, and cry—all within the span of a single short chapter.


Having grown up in Southern Africa and being exposed to multitudes of languages and people groups for decades, and now living in North America, I had my reservations about reading the book. What was there to be learned? I was wrong. Leaving Africa years ago, I had no intention of ever visiting the Far East. Not only has the author opened my eyes to how it is possible to forge family ties and faith on foreign soil with foreign friends, but has now sparked an interest in me to visit the land of the high mountains and the deep waters.


Many times over the years have I been the wàiguorén (the foreigner.) Caroline has added some sweetness to the word—now it at least had a touch of homeliness, harboring the possibility of belonging.


SMARTER, FASTER, BETTER

The secrets of being productive in life and in business


By Charles Duhigg

Pulitzer Prize-winner, Charles Duhigg has done it again. In Smarter Faster Better he takes cutting-edge science, business psychology and a wide range of stories to give us a better understanding of productivity. Working harder doesn’t guarantee success in life and business. Productivity relies on making certain choices, every day. By applying these principles in our personal and business lives, we can obtain extraordinary results, without becoming more busy. We can learn how to turn organizations into more effective workplaces where employees are valued team members, are encouraged take initiative and where trust and loyalty is the norm. A must-read for anyone who wants to be more effective in the world and get more things done.


FLOW

The psychology of optimal experience


By Mihaili Csikszentmihalyi

Hungarian psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi explores his now famous theory of optimal experience, called flow. Flow is the state of mind in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter. The best moments often occur when the body and mind are stretched to the limit in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Such experiences do not necessarily occur when circumstances are ideal or are pleasant at the time they occur. It is more than simple happiness. In the midst of chaos, with practice and discipline, it is possible to find serenity (and meaning.)


THE MUSEUM OF INNOCENCE


By Orhan Pamuk

Orhan Pamuk won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006. In The Museum of Innocence, he paints an extraordinary love story. It spans decades as it follows Kemal and Füsun, exploring the width and depth of friendship, passion, love and obsession. It’s set against the backdrop of the class struggles, the position of women in society and the political upheaval in Istanbul during the late twentieth century. His depiction of erotic obsession metamorphoses into one of boundless patience and self-centered love. It is a tale equally of heartbreak as it is one of happiness.

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