Book Review | The Wasting of Borneo by Alex Shoumatoff

wasting of borneo cover.jpgPalm oil is the devil. This is one of the clear take away messages from Shoumatoff’s latest book The Wasting of Borneo. This accessible read offers a clear picture of the devastation that has been occurring in the rain forest of Borneo and its far reaching implications. Sharing wisdom from field experts, the book uses both scientific data and real life anecdotes to educate readers about an important, but lesser known calamity that is impacting indigenous people, animals and the environment.

I approached this book with no previous knowledge of the topic. More than just educating me, Shoumatoff’s writing drew me in and explained to me why the wasting of Borneo’s rain forest is a catastrophe, and also how it concerns me as a consumer on a personal level. It’s scary to learn that just because certain processes are being labeled sustainable, that doesn’t mean they really adhere to strictly sustainable standards. I highly recommend this book as an introduction to the topic for any readers who care about the environment and man’s negative impact on it. Check it out from a library near youI received a copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

*Fans of The Wasting of Borneo may be interested in Songs of the Baka and Other Discoveries by Dennis James (2017). 


Book Review | Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life – Héctor García & Francesc Miralles

ikigai cover.jpgFor those interested in longevity with happiness and keys to living a longer life, this book will certainly be interesting and thought-provoking.

Ikigai is a quick read broken into digestible chapters covering topics including longevity, diet, movement, resilience, finding your flow, and more. Written for all audiences, the authors have provided insights based on interviews with Okinawan centenarians, observations of their lifestyle and other applicable philosophical scientific information. The book aims to help the reader find the intersection of passion, mission, profession and vocation, also known as Ikigai. Further, the reader will be able to apply the topical introductions and logical observations immediately in every day living. Any reader will be able to take something of this value from this text. Check it out from a library near you!

*Fans of Ikigai, may be interested in the film How to Life Forever by Mark Wexler.

Book Review | 5 types of people who can ruin your life : identifying and dealing with narcissists, sociopaths, and other high-conflict personalities by Bill Eddy

5 types of people who can ruin your life.jpgEddy’s subtitle sums up the book he’s delivering. This quick read will help the reader in his/her daily interactions to identify individuals exhibiting characteristics of a personality disorder, to distinguish between various disorders, and to more aptly deal with these sometimes challenging people. Examples and anecdotes presented also serve to foster personality awareness that would likely be helpful to all readers. Eddy has clearly devoted a lot of time to working with challenging personalities and is sharing some of his important findings here.

Non-fiction psychology books are not something I would generally think of as enjoyable reads, but this text proved to be interesting and thought-provoking from the start. Although the text is repetitive at times, it seems Eddy is just trying to drive important points home since this will be most people’s first time addressing the subject matter. The book is appropriate for all audiences and all concepts are explained clearly. 5 Types of People Who Can Ruin Your Life would be a good read for anyone who is concerned they may be dealing with someone who has a personality disorder, those hoping to learn more about personality disorders, or those looking to gain general insights regarding interpersonal relationships. Check it out from a library near you.

I received an uncorrected proof of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

Book Review | Insomniac Dreams : Experiments with time by Vladimir Nabokov; Gennady Barabtarlo

IMG_3742.jpegIf you miss reading papers in grad school, this will be a friendly reminder. Insomniac Dreams is made up of five sections, and includes much text from the editor, Barabtarlo. The first section introduces the ideas that led Nabokov to his dream study project. This section is quite scholarly. The following two chapters, much easier to progress through, focus on Nabokov’s and his wife’s dreams. Then, two more heavy sections include dream examples from Nabokov’s previously published works.

This book is a challenging read, both in good ways and bad. Full concentration is needed for continuing clarity while reading. Some of the ideas presented about the passage of time are thought provoking. An average reader will likely need a dictionary at least once and probably feel s/he does not have enough background knowledge of Nabokov’s literature to make the most of this book. Be prepared for a scholarly academic text here, more than just dreams by Nabokov. Check it out from a library near you.

The Polygamist’s Daughter : a memoir by Anna LeBaron

lebaron daughter cover.jpgBased on her experiences as one of more than 50 of Ervil LeBaron’s children, The Polygamist’s Daughter relays Anna’s life story from it’s beginning growing up as a cult member to her exit from the cult as an adult. The book recounts many of Anna’s specific memories about activities that she was involved in as a youth, as well as her emotional and spiritual journey into adulthood. The first part of the text focuses on her difficult time living with a type of host family in Mexico. Next she moves often in the US between Colorado and Texas as she attends school. Finally, she breaks away from the cult and finds God and a family of her own.

As a memoir, this book serves as a keyhole looking back on another time. The recounted details were mostly interesting and kept the story going. Times in Mexico and unconventional activities provided the best insights in this text. Though the book flowed decently, adjectives are often overused and result in frequent repetition. The repetitive sentences also appeared in several chapters, making the book ultimately seem more like a YA text than an autobiography. A shorter, more direct book may have been a better choice. The religious emphasis is quite heavy in the book’s second half. This book would appeal to those interested in polygamy, religious coming of age stories, or Christian non-fiction. Check it out from a library near you.

I received a copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

Best & Worst of the 46 Books I read in 2017

During 2017 I expanded my reading horizons to include many books I wouldn’t normally choose. The selection contained mostly novels, a few memoirs, other various non-fiction works, an art book and a screenplay. In an attempt to make this post useful to readers, I’ve created sections to group the books based on my overall enjoyment of the texts. Most, but not all of the books I read during 2017 were released in 2017. The overall selection was heavily influenced by copies I received freely from publishers through Goodreads giveaways. A full list of titles appears at the end of the post.

My six favorite books:

Taduno’s Song – An African musician must find his lost voice in order to rescue his lover from a corrupt government.

The Clairvoyants– A Cornell student who sees spirits of the deceased unravels the mystery surrounding a missing persons case.

Songs of the Baka* – A writer and photographer share their travels to several uncommon destinations.

Spaceman of Bohemia* – A man on a solo mission in space is abandoned by his wife and encounters a strange creature aboard his ship.

Shelter in Place – A bipolar man falls in love with a woman who comes and goes after his mother is imprisoned for killing a man with a hammer.

The Fortunate Ones* – A painting stolen from a Jewish home by the Nazis during World War II resurfaces in Los Angeles decades later and brings together an unlikely pair of women.

After those six, my next nine top picks:

Under the Harrow – A suspense thriller involving the murder of a woman in England.

The One Eyed Man – After becoming a widower, a man lets his true self shine through resulting in his own reality TV show.

Brussels Noir* – Short stories, some bizarre, that take place in Brussels.

Soldier Boy* – Based on a true story, this YA book relays the stories of two boy soldiers in the Ugandan civil war.

Men without Women – Short stories from Japan focused on men without women.

Oola* – Thought-provoking story of boy meets girl and their hermetic existence.

Twig* – A woman coming of age in 1950’s America deals with life’s struggles.

A Fortune Foretold* – A woman coming of age in 1950’s Sweden deals with life’s struggles.

Sourdough – A tech industry workaholic is transformed into a breadmaker after being gifted a unique sourdough starter.

Four books that should have been better:

The King is Always Above the People* – Short stories involving Latinx characters.

O Glorious City : A Love Letter to San Francisco – A collection art commissioned for the anniversary of San Francisco’s City Hall.

A Loving, Faithful Animal* – A girl in Australia comes of age in a broken home.

As Red as Blood* – Scandinavian teens find a bloody bag of money.

Four books I feel would be better to pass on:

We’ll Sleep When We’re Old* – An Italian media mogul plots and schemes to hype an upcoming film failure.

Malafemmena – Short stories focusing on female protagonists in untraditional situations.

Schadenfreude, A Love Story* – A memoir by a German major about her time abroad and PhD struggles.

A Life of Adventure and Delight* – Short stories of everyday life involving characters of Indian descent.

All titles appear below in alphabetical order by author’s last name. Title links above and below are to book reviews I’ve written. Carey, Currie, Maksik, Murakami and Sloan are the only authors I’ve read before this year. I’m happy to answer any questions about these books or provide suggestions for further reading if there’s a certain title you’ve particularly enjoyed.

So Much I Want to Tell You* – Anna Akana
The King is Always Above the People* – Daniel Alarcón
The Leaf Reader* – Emily Arsenault
Taduno’s Song – Odafe Atogun
Mexico Stories* – Josh Barkan
Under the Harrow – Flynn Berry
The Clairvoyants*- Karen Brown
Wrong about Japan – Peter Carey
The Hanging Girl*- Eileen Cook
We’ll Sleep When We’re Old* – Pino Corrias
Book of Moon* – George Crowder
The One Eyed Man – Ron Currie Jr.
The Slave* – Anand Dilvar
Brussels Noir* – Michael Dufranne
Malafemmena – Louisa Ermelino
The Sunlight Pilgrims* – Jenni Fagan
O Glorious City : A Love Letter to San Francisco – Jeremy Fish
Soldier Boy* – Keely Hutton
Songs of the Baka* – Dennis James
Spaceman of Bohemia* – Jaroslav Kalfar
White Fur* – Jardine Libaire
Bluebird, Bluebird* – Attica Locke
The Infinite* – Nicholas Mainieri
Shelter in Place – Alexander Maksik

The Beauty of the Fall* – Rich MarcelloBright, Precious Days* – Jay McInerney
Leopard at the Door* – Jennifer McVeigh
Men without Women – Haruki Murakami
Wolf Haven* – Annie Marie Musselman & Brenda Peterson
The Gun – Fuminori Nakamura
Oola* – Brittany Newell
Twig* – Madelon Phillips
A Fortune Foretold* – Agneta Pleijel
Rebels like Us* – Liz Reinhardt
A Loving, Faithful Animal* – Josephine Rowe
Fantastic Beasts Original Screen Play* – J.K. Rowling
Schadenfreude, A Love Story* – Rebecca Schuman
Lola* – Melissa Scrivner Love
A Life of Happiness and Delight* – Akhil Sharma
As Red as Blood* – Salla Simukka
Sourdough – Robin Sloan
Our Own Private Universe* – Robin Talley
A French Wedding* – Hannah Tunnicliffe
The Fortunate Ones* – Ellen Umansky
Fraulein M.* – Caroline Woods

*These titles were given to me through Goodreads Giveaways in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review | Schadenfreude, A Love Story by Rebecca Schuman

schadenfreude coverAs a memoir, Schadenfreude, A Love Story introduces the reader to Rebecca Schuman and many years of her life experiences. After meeting her high school boyfriend, join Rebecca in Münster as she lives the roll of misfit with a well-off host family. Then, travel along to Prague where she courts a dirty traveler from the train station. Enjoy her love of Kafka as time goes on, and then return with her for a stay in Berlin. After leaving the cool neighborhood and loft life, return to the States to suffer through her MA, PhD and seemingly never-ending job search.

Reading this book was more entertaining than I had expected it to be. I admit to laughing aloud several times, meaning the author’s humor and sarcasm were well-received. The book may not have fit together as well as I would have liked, with certain chapters being much more inviting than others. Shorter chapters with more frequent breaks would have made it easier to progress through this text. Recommended for those who’ve studied abroad in Germany and have a strong connection to academia. Check it out from a library near youI received a copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.