Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Carry The One

Title:  Carry The One
Author:  Carol Anshaw
Publication Information:  Simon and Schuster. 2012. 253 pages.

Book Source:  I read this book based on reading about it on GoodReads.

Favorite Quote:  "Guilt, she discovered early on, was the easiest, the simplest response. Much more complicated was living past guilt, eating the permanence, accommodating the weight of having done something terrible and completely undoable."

Carry The One follows a set of siblings and friends over a course of twenty five years. The book begins with a wedding, and in the aftermath of the wedding, friends traveling together hit and accidentally kill a young girl. The book is meant to look at how one tragic moment impacts these individuals throughout their lives.

Unfortunately I did not enjoy the book at all. The book starts off with a wedding. The characters introduced sadly are not very likable ones. The description of the wedding includes descriptions of casual drug use, casual relationships, and the fact that even the wedding itself is precipitated by an unplanned pregnancy. Following this is the fact that these individuals in an alcohol and drug haze get in a car and drive. All that in the first few pages of the books. Not a positive start.

Given these circumstances, it is unclear that what transpires in the characters' lives is due to one tragic moment or a series of unfortunate choices. The premise of the book does not follow through because even in the first few pages, the accident is not a surprise and is a result of decisions made. To then turn around and present that accident as the cause in all that follows lacks conviction and makes for poor reading.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Gilly Salt Sisters

Title:  The Gilly Salt Sisters
Author:  Tiffany Baker
Publication Information:  Grand Central Publishing, Hachette Book Group. 2012. 372 pages.

Book Source:  I read this book based on reading about it in a magazine.

Favorite Quote:  "Grief has turned her indifferent to life's big decisions, even while it made the tiniest choices impossible."

The Gilly Salt Sisters is the story of a small Cape Cod Village called Prospect and the two most influential families - the Gilly and the Turners. The two families could not be more different. The Turners are the wealthy leaders of the town, shaping and changing the town on the basis of their wealth. The Gillys are a mother and two daughters, who are poor and live on the outskirts of town, and yet their salt farm holds a mystical power over the town and its fortunes.

The story focuses primarily on Jo and Claire - the sisters. Surrounding them is a cast of interesting characters. Their mother. Whit Turner, whose friendship begins with Jo but who ends up marrying Claire. The town priest. Ethan Stone, Claire's childhood sweetheart. Whit's mother's Ida. These characters and the other townspeople bring the story to life.

The story spreads over two generations and moves seamlessly back and forth over time. The book brings out family relationships, disagreements, secrets from the past, friendships, marriages, accidents, and affairs all surrounded by a little magic and mystery. Add to this vivid descriptions of Cape Code and the isolation of the village. The book is definitely melodramatic, but in an enjoyable way. All these elements weave together to form an intriguing story that pulls you into its world. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Flight of Gemma Hardy

Title:  The Flight of Gemma Hardy
Author:  Margot Livesey
Publication Information:  Harper Publishing. 2012. 464 pages.

Book Source:  I read this book because the book is billed as an homage to the classic Jane Eyre.

Favorite Quote:  "I'm just saying that people's feelings aren't like arithmetic; they don't always add up."

The Flight of Gemma Hardy is billed as an homage to the classic Jane Eyre. I tried, however, to not read it in comparison, but just to enjoy the book for the story it tells.

Gemma is born in Iceland. After the death of her parents, she is taken in by her uncle. Upon her uncle's death, life takes a turn for the worse. Gemma struggles to find her place in the world. She ends up as a caretaker to a child. She falls in love, but learns some truths prior to her marriage that cause her to leave that situation. Ultimately, the book becomes a search for her own identity and a place to belong.

The book does take some elements from Jane Eyre, but then proceeds down a very different path. So, read the book for itself because it will certainly suffer in comparison.

As a story, I loved the first two-thirds of the book. The plight of Gemma as a child is one you hope never to see for a child. The characters, emotions, and situations felt real. Unfortunately, that was the high point of the book. It goes downhill from the point Gemma begins her relationship with Mr. Sinclair.

To me, the "shocking" revelation that causes Gemma to leave her groom seemed a bit of a let down. The book after that point seemed to lose its reality for me. The character of Gemma became less compelling and less likable. The ending seemed improbable and left too many loose ends. Overall, a good beginning but a disappointing end to a book.

Friday, March 16, 2012

A Better High

Title:  A Better High
Author:  Matt Bellace
Publication Information:  Winter Oak Press. 2009. 143 pages.

Book Source:  I read this book because the author spoke at a local school recently. I was unable to attend the presentation. So, I read the book as the next best thing. The book was borrowed.

Favorite Quote:  "Living a naturally high lifestyle requires being a leader in your own life. The four points of LEAD are:  Leaning healthy people for support, Expressing your emotions in a healthy way, Achieving natural highs every day, and Don't be afraid to take a stand."

A Better High is a book based on a youth program called "How to Get High Naturally." The target audience is teenagers and young adults. The goal is to teach the youth the advantages of find healthy ways to expressing themselves and finding their "highs" and, of course, staying away from unhealthy behaviors such as drugs, cutting, alcohol, and excessive behaviors.

Some of the natural highs discussed are familiar ones - laughter, exercise, eating well, service and giving, and loving relationships. Interestingly, the book also raises the point that even some of these positive highs can turn negative if taken to excess. For example, the enjoyment of delicious, healthy food is a natural high. However, the same thing in excess can lead to obesity and eating disorders. So, the concept of balance is important.

Matt Bellace is a neuropsychologist, a motivational speaker, and a comedian. He uses all these areas of expertise, personal stories, and comedy to deliver his lesson. The message is a very positive one. I am always happy to seeing the message coming from multiple sources and being reinforced for our youth.

The book reads like a series of talks being delivered. As such, I don't think it has quite the same impact as listening to the same message would. I think the book would be great as an accompaniment to the author's presentation. I really wish I had been able to attend and hear him speak!

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Power of Habit

Title:  The Power of Habit
Author:  Charles Duhigg
Publication Information:  Random House. 2012. 400 pages.

Book Source:  I received this book through the GoodReads First Reads program free of cost in exchange for an honest review. The book came as a paperback advance reader's copy.

Favorite Quote:  "All habits....have three components....There's a cue...a routine...and a reward."

The Power of Habit is subtitled Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. It presents one approach to why individual and organizational habits form and what can be done to change them. It presents the idea of the habit loop - a trigger, a routine or habit, and the reward.

The book presents numerous examples of the application of this habit loop at a personal and corporate level. Examples range from army operations in Iraq to Pepsodent toothpaste and Febreeze, from a person's mid-afternoon snack to the operations of large companies like Starbucks and Alcoa.

The idea is a conceptually simple one. Change the routine in a way to respond to the trigger and get the same reward. Practice it over and over again until you do it without thinking - in other words, until it becomes a habit. I find it a useful framework to keep in mind but not a magic solution to changing all bad habits. Implementing this idea is the real challenge. The examples in the book provide a glimpse of how individuals and companies have successfully done so.

I really enjoyed reading this book. At a basic level, the book is an entertaining read, and the example stories are a fun look at our culture and some people and companies that are household names. At a more thinking level, the framework in the book provides a valuable tool for personal growth. It is not the answer for every bad habit, but definitely for many. Now the question is, can I apply it effectively in my life to change some habits? Can you?