Life By Kristen

Go, and embrace your liberty. And see what wonderful things come of it. – Little Women

Archive for the category “Books”

Book Reviews: Wait for the Rain and Bridges

Wait for the Rain and Bridges are two titles by author Maria Murnane that follow the characters of Daphne White, KC, and Skylar, three best friends from college who gather in their 40s to deal with the various curve balls and milestones that life has thrown their way.

The first novel, Wait for the Rain, brings together the the trio on the event of celebrating Daphne’s 40th birthday on a getaway to a fictitious island in the Caribbean.

The second novel, Bridges, has the gals gathering in New York City to celebrate Skylar’s engagement.

I enjoyed both of these titles. Even though I read them one after the other, I don’t think it’s necessary, but adds layers of character development and story line that I found to be delightful. Both novels are love stories for female friendship, as well as celebrating the idea that life is constantly evolving and people grow/learn, no matter our age/stage in life.

In Wait for the Rain, a lot of the novel resonated with me as Daphne is a divorced mom coming to terms with her new life, as well as lamenting the missteps  of the past that led her to that moment. Even though I’m not a mother, I definitely related to many of the regrets and tortured thoughts related to divorce that Daphne expresses, especially as she deals with how to overcome the failed marriage and disappointment in the life she had versus the life she wanted in college. Totally been there. There was even a line in the book that I know I said myself during my divorce process– “I’m divorced. There I said it, and the world didn’t end.”

I definitely think I’ll check out some other Maria Murnane titles over the summer as her writing was fluid, easy to read, and enjoyable– both Wait for the Rain and Bridges are the perfect pick for beach bags or rainy days! She’s also a former corporate person who chose a fulfilling life of writing over the rat race, so she’s another beacon of hope for me that I can get to my dream of full-time writing some day!

Book Review: Maisie Dobbs

Synopsis: Maisie Dobbs, Psychologist and Investigator, began her working life at the age of thirteen as a servant in a Belgravia mansion, only to be discovered reading in the library by her employer, Lady Rowan Compton. Fearing dismissal, Maisie is shocked when she discovers that her thirst for education is to be supported by Lady Rowan and a family friend, Dr. Maurice Blanche. But The Great War intervenes in Maisie’s plans, and soon after commencement of her studies at Girton College, Cambridge, Maisie enlists for nursing service overseas. Years later, in 1929, having apprenticed to the renowned Maurice Blanche, a man revered for his work with Scotland Yard, Maisie sets up her own business. Her first assignment, a seemingly tedious inquiry involving a case of suspected infidelity, takes her not only on the trail of a killer, but back to the war she had tried so hard to forget.

maisie-dobbs

My review: 4 stars.

As always, I’m late to the game when it comes to popular fiction series, so when I had the opportunity to read Maisie Dobbs, I took it. It’s a title on many to-read lists for fans of historical fiction, as it was first published in 2003. Author Jacqueline Winspear is about to publish her 13th (!) book in the series. And I can see why– the characters are endearing, Maisie Dobbs is a fascinating woman, and Winspear skillfully blends suspense/detective work with a little bit of romance and great story lines.

Maisie Dobbs takes place after World War I, and the first book in the series establishes her life story and experiences that brought her to her role as a private investigator who has great instincts and the ability to connect with people/clients in meaningful ways. The story starts in 1929, then shifts back to her younger years and then the War, before then shifting back to 1929 present day to wrap up the novel. This sort of structure worked for me, as it kept me reading through the first section as I wanted to figure out more about her back story.

This novel’s great mystery involves a place called The Retreat that is essentially a rest home for World War I veterans who had major injuries, as well as the unseen injuries of “shell shock,” which we now call PTSD. One of the nights I was reading the book, Q was watching the movie The Hurt Locker on TV, and it was an interesting comparison of the similar emotional struggles and trauma of the soldiers written about in Maisie Dobbs and those in modern-day Iraq.

Serious subject matter aside, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and will definitely be adding the 12 other titles to my reading list. You can check out more of them here and learn more about Jacqueline Winspear’s other titles on her website.

 

tlc tour host

As part of the TLC Book Tour of this book, I was provided a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: Dragon Springs Road

Synopsis: From the author of Three Souls comes a vividly imagined and haunting new novel set in early 20th century Shanghai — a story of friendship, heartbreak, and history that follows a young Eurasian orphan’s search for her long-lost mother.

In 1908, Jialing is only seven years old when she is abandoned in the courtyard of a once-lavish estate near Shanghai. Jialing is zazhong—Eurasian—and faces a lifetime of contempt from both Chinese and Europeans. Without her mother’s protection, she can survive only if the estate’s new owners, the Yang family, agree to take her in.

Jialing finds allies in Anjuin, the eldest Yang daughter, and Fox, an animal spirit who has lived in the haunted courtyard for centuries. But Jialing’s life as the Yangs’ bondservant changes unexpectedly when she befriends a young English girl who then mysteriously vanishes.

Always hopeful of finding her long-lost mother, Jialing grows into womanhood during the tumultuous early years of the Chinese republic, guided by Fox and by her own strength of spirit, away from the shadows of her past. But she finds herself drawn into a murder at the periphery of political intrigue, a relationship that jeopardizes her friendship with Anjuin and a forbidden affair that brings danger to the man she loves.

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My review: 3 stars.

Dragon Springs Road is essentially a coming of age novel set in early 20th century China– a time period that I know little about, though this book didn’t entirely have me searching for more information or googling events or people.

The major themes of growing up and learning about what matters in life, identity, and overcoming societal stereotypes and biases are clear throughout the novel as Jialing struggles to make her way in the world as an orphan and mixed-race girl. It was about way more than just finding her mother, but also about what a person may be willing (or unwilling to do) for love, friendship, money, status, education, and so on. With those things in mind, I wanted the book to be so much more in these areas, especially as Jialing became an adult and was finding her way in the world.

There is a huge element of Chinese folklore and mysticism in the book with the Fox character, who plays an important role in Jialing’s life from her childhood. This part of the book was interesting to me, but I also found I was often lost in the details of those encounters between Jialing and Fox. This might say more about my ability to suspend practicalities while reading and less about the author’s writing and the role of Fox within the story.

Not knowing a ton about this time period in Chinese history– really about a lot of Chinese history in general– was one of the reason I wanted to read the book as I look to expand my literary horizons. I found myself more interested in the brief insights into missionaries in China during this time period more than anything else, and after reading the author’s notes at the back of the book, understand that this was some of her original intent for the book. Had I not read that it would have seemed more random for this part of the storyline, but it makes sense to me now.

Learn more about the author or purchase the book here!

 

tlc tour host

As part of the TLC Book Tour of this book, I was provided an advanced copy of the book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

 

 

Book Review: The Wicked City

Synopsis: New York Times bestselling author Beatriz Williams recreates the New York City of A Certain Age in this deliciously spicy adventure that mixes past and present and centers on a Jazz Age love triangle involving a rugged Prohibition agent, a saucy redheaded flapper, and a debonair Princetonian from a wealthy family.

When she discovers her husband cheating, Ella Hawthorne impulsively moves out of their SoHo loft and into a small apartment in an old Greenwich Village building. Her surprisingly attractive new neighbor, Hector, warns her to stay out of the basement at night. Tenants have reported strange noises after midnight—laughter, clinking glasses, jazz piano—even though the space has been empty for decades. Back in the Roaring Twenties, the place hid a speakeasy.

In 1924, Geneva “Gin” Kelly, a smart-mouthed flapper from the hills of western Maryland, is a regular at this Village hideaway known as the Christopher Club. Caught up in a raid, Gin becomes entangled with Prohibition enforcement agent Oliver Anson, who persuades her to help him catch her stepfather Duke Kelly, one of Appalachia’s most notorious bootleggers.

Headstrong and independent, Gin is no weak-kneed fool. So how can she be falling in love with the taciturn, straight-arrow Revenue agent when she’s got Princeton boy Billy Marshall, the dashing son of society doyenne Theresa Marshall, begging to make an honest woman of her? While anything goes in the Roaring Twenties, Gin’s adventures will shake proper Manhattan society to its foundations, exposing secrets that shock even this free-spirited redhead—secrets that will echo from Park Avenue to the hollers of her Southern hometown.

As Ella discovers more about the basement speakeasy, she becomes inspired by the spirit of her exuberant predecessor, and decides to live with abandon in the wicked city too. . . .

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My review: 3 stars.

As one of my ‘must read’ authors, it’s always exciting when there is a new Beatriz Williams book. Even though the Jazz Age isn’t my favorite period of American history, this story had more of the 1920s Prohibition history in it which I do find fascinating.

This book was part ghost story, part finding oneself after life falls apart around you. Overall, a quick read but it left me wanting more. First of all, I’m not entirely sure the contemporary story of Ella was needed. I understand that the author is trying to make connections with other characters from her other novels ( which is something as a reader I enjoy), but this felt forced to me. There were connections in the 1920s story with one of the characters from her other books ( Julie Schulyer), so I’m not sure that it was necessary to add the Ella storyline. I almost think the book could have just been Geneva Kelly’s story alone without the contemporary angle added in at all. I was far more interested and intrigued by Geneva than Ella in any way and like in other Williams’ books that have the same setup of past-present, I didn’t think there were connections made between the two women beside being in the same building.

The Ella story line had SO many plot points and details that were not capitalized on or explained. As a reader and a writer, it definitely is something I notice and wonder what the point is to certain details or plot points that are mentioned, but never resolve within the larger arc of the narrative. I did learn from Williams’ Instagram that she just finished a sequel to Wicked City that will be out sometime in 2018- I can only assume that some of the big questions I’m left with at this point will be explained/resolved in that book, or at least I hope so! Even knowing that about the sequel, I still feel like some details of the Ella storyline could have been resolved better.

As a reader, I feel like the parallel storylines across time concept is becoming a bit overdone– or I may have just read far too many books that are in this vein ( Sarah Jio comes to mind). That doesn’t mean I won’t keep reading Beatriz Williams– in fact her next book, Cocoa Beach, will be out in July and it definitely will be a summer weekend read for me.

Buy the book!

tlc tour host

As part of the TLC Book Tour of this book, I was provided a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Reading Resolutions

Reading is by far one of my favorite things to do. My love for books has increased significantly in the past few years as audiobooks have transformed my daily commute and allow me to tackle more of the titles on my ever growing ‘to-read’ list.

I think I probably could have read more books if I didn’t spend a lot of my evenings reading articles and blogs on the iPad so hope to focus on bettering my reading habits in the new year.

2016  was filled with great books- some out of my comfort zone, reading the backlist of my favorite authors, and new discoveries for me like finally reading Harry Potter.

For 2017, my goal is, as always it seems, to read more from my own bookshelf and the books I own. As a general rule since about 2008 or so, I have tried to not buy any brand new books. This is mostly because of the aforementioned issues of never getting around to reading books I own. This is apparently not a problem only for me, but for millions of other bookworms and is called tsundoku.

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Many of these books were purchased at a local bookstore that a few years ago had a month-long $1 book bonanza. My mom and I thought this meant the store was going out of business, so we went a bit crazy. And after their $1 month, they announced they were ALWAYS going to be a $1 bookstore from then on! Good marketing for them, as it totally got us there to buy books when we weren’t planning on it.

I’m also trying to pass books along after I read them, either to friends/family who I know will enjoy or donating to the library. I used to be a person who kept every single book as a badge of honor of my reading prowess, but as a quasi-minimalist, I like the idea of passing along good titles to the next book lover instead of keeping them to myself. There have been a few books over the years I’ve held onto and make sure are returned to me when I lend them out ( Baker Towers being one of them), but overall, I read and pass along.

This year, I’m also trying to read outside my comfort zone, particularly with both fiction and nonfiction that will expand my horizons and get me out of my bubble of white privilege. The election and the happenings of the world have me wanting to retreat more into the bubble to escape the news and events, but I’m fighting hard against that because I realize doing that is part of the issues we have in the country. So while I look to reading as my entertainment and escape, I also need it to be more of my education too.

 

Book Review: A Certain Age

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Synopsis: As the freedom of the Jazz Age transforms New York City, the iridescent Mrs. Theresa Marshall of Fifth Avenue and Southampton, Long Island, has done the unthinkable: she’s fallen in love with her young paramour, Captain Octavian Rofrano, a handsome aviator and hero of the Great War. An intense and deeply honorable man, Octavian is devoted to the beautiful socialite of a certain age and wants to marry her. While times are changing and she does adore the Boy, divorce for a woman of Theresa’s wealth and social standing is out of the question, and there is no need; she has an understanding with Sylvo, her generous and well-respected philanderer husband.

But their relationship subtly shifts when her bachelor brother, Ox, decides to tie the knot with the sweet younger daughter of a newly wealthy inventor. Engaging a longstanding family tradition, Theresa enlists the Boy to act as her brother’s cavalier, presenting the family’s diamond rose ring to Ox’s intended, Miss Sophie Fortescue—and to check into the background of the little-known Fortescue family. When Octavian meets Sophie, he falls under the spell of the pretty ingénue, even as he uncovers a shocking family secret. As the love triangle of Theresa, Octavian, and Sophie progresses, it transforms into a saga of divided loyalties, dangerous revelations, and surprising twists that will lead to a shocking transgression . . . and eventually force Theresa to make a bittersweet choice.

Full of the glamour, wit and delicious twists that are the hallmarks of Beatriz Williams’ fiction and alternating between Sophie’s spirited voice and Theresa’s vibrant timbre, A Certain Age is a beguiling reinterpretation of Richard Strauss’s comic opera Der Rosenkavalier, set against the sweeping decadence of Gatsby’s New York

***

My review: 3 stars.

I actually read this book back in June when the hardcover first came out as Beatriz Williams is one of my “must-read” authors. I enjoy her style of historical fiction– well-researched and developed characters, great story, and a peppering in of real-life historic events and people.

But this one fell a little flat for me.

Maybe it was the time period ( the 1920s) which isn’t one I’m particularly interested in or the premise of a married woman with a younger man, even though she’s married. There were story lines and details that felt underdeveloped and left hanging without explanation, though I wonder if this is just setting things up for future Williams’ books, as she is known for placing characters from other titles into each book, creating a well-developed universe of people. I think that might be my favorite thing about her as a writer– she leaves you wanting more and wondering about a character well after a  book is finished, and then writes another title exclusively about that person.

The story line is also Williams’ loose interpretation on a well-known opera, which she explains fully in the author’s note at the back of the book. Knowing very little about opera this didn’t mean much for me, though I appreciate the retelling and interpretation on a creative level.

 

tlc tour host

I did not receive a copy of this book in exchange for this review. All opinions are my own. 

Harry Potter

Almost 10 years (!) later, I finally read Harry Potter. Only the first one, but I’ve already got the next 2 from my coworker and they’re on deck after I read a few library holds.

What took me so long? The books came out when I was in high school and I had no interest in fantasy or magic. I probably thought the books were silly since a lot of young readers were into them, though I can respect and appreciate that the series and J.K. Rowling are the reason so many younger readers fell in love with books and reading.

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And why now? Partly out of curiosity to see what the hype was all about, especially as this year brought some new Harry Potter related books and movies that brought the subject back onto my social media feeds and had many friends and coworkers talking about it. I originally thought it might be something Little Man and I would read together, but he didn’t have much interest yet ( he is very clearly a Star Wars kid and not much else right now). I also have realized in the past year or so that I do have some interest in fantasy, as I’ve expanded my cultural horizons with the movie interests of Q.

Of course, I loved it. It took me longer to read than I would have liked, as the busy pace of the month of November took over. If I had an uninterrupted weekend to sit down, I likely would have read it in one or two sittings. As it was, when I had 150 or so pages left, I let Little Man watch an extra hour of cartoons on a Sunday morning so I could lose myself in the book ( a perfect way to spend a Sunday morning in my opinion).

And the funny/weird/amazing thing about the timing of my reading it. With the Thanksgiving holiday and the upcoming 3rd anniversary of my Dad’s death, I was particularly emotional last week. I found myself missing my father more than I have in awhile and feeling a bit lost in grief and life. Sunday morning I was emotional and thinking a lot about my Dad after spending Saturday night at La Salette Shrine’s Christmas display (more on this tomorrow), I got to the end of the book, and this passage below. It gave me goosebumps and made me teary, but made me feel comforted in a way I needed.

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“…To have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever.”

I’ve always believed in the power of books for many things, but at that moment, it was exactly what I needed to read.

 

Book Review: Another Brooklyn

Another Brooklyn cover

About the book:

The acclaimed New York Times bestselling and National Book Award–winning author of Brown Girl Dreaming delivers her first adult novel in twenty years.

Running into a long-ago friend sets memory from the 1970s in motion for August, transporting her to a time and a place where friendship was everything—until it wasn’t. For August and her girls, sharing confidences as they ambled through neighborhood streets, Brooklyn was a place where they believed that they were beautiful, talented, brilliant—a part of a future that belonged to them.

But beneath the hopeful veneer, there was another Brooklyn, a dangerous place where grown men reached for innocent girls in dark hallways, where ghosts haunted the night, where mothers disappeared. A world where madness was just a sunset away and fathers found hope in religion.

Like Louise Meriwether’s Daddy Was a Number Runner and Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina, Jacqueline Woodson’s Another Brooklyn heartbreakingly illuminates the formative time when childhood gives way to adulthood—the promise and peril of growing up—and exquisitely renders a powerful, indelible, and fleeting friendship that united four young lives.

***

My review: 3 stars.

I listened to the author’s critically acclaimed memoir Brown Girl Dreaming over the winter during my morning commutes to work and really enjoyed it.

Another Brooklyn is fiction and has some basis in the author’s own life. I liked the look at 1970s Brooklyn through the lens of four girls and their dreams of their adult life. This coming of age story made me think of another tale set in the same place– A Tree Grows in Brooklyn– though a totally different time, scenario, and even style of writing. But it captures that moment in time when you’re a teenager and learning about the tough things in the world like race and money, while still having some innocence left.

It’s a short, unique book that I read in a weekend ( probably would have been in one sitting had I not had other things going on that weekend). The poetic quality of the writing helps to soften some of the more tough elements of the time and girls’ life, but no less powerful.

I think the only reason I gave this 3 stars is because I wanted more of the character development and inner thinking, which the lyrical writing of the book doesn’t quite allow. There also is a few shifts in chronology that were a bit confusing and unclear to me. If I hadn’t previously read Brown Girl Dreaming ( based on a rec from a blog reader friend), I may not have opted to read this title because it falls outside my normal reading interests, but it’s always good to break habits too!

I enjoyed this interview with the author about the book and its various themes.

tlc tour host

As part of the TLC Book Tour of this book, I was provided an advanced copy of the book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: Lift

Lift cover

About Lift

A riveting cultural history of fitness, from Greek antiquity to the era of the “big-box gym” and beyond, exploring the ways in which human exercise and physical ideals have changed over time—and what we can learn from our past.

How did treadmills and weight machines become the gold standard of fitness? Why have some of us turned our backs on the mirrors and gleaming devices of the traditional gym? What is the appeal of the stripped-down, functional approach to fitness that’s currently on the rise?

In this captivating narrative, Daniel Kunitz sets out on a journey through history to answer these questions and more. What he finds is that, while we humans have been conditioning our bodies for more than 2,500 years, we’ve done so for a variety of reasons: to imitate gods, to be great warriors, to build nations and create communities, to achieve physical perfection, and, of course, to look good naked. Behind each of these goals is a story and method of exercise that not only illuminates the past but also sheds light on aspects of the widespread, multi-faceted fitness culture of today.

Lift begins with the ancient Greeks, who made a cult of the human body—the word “gymnasium” derives from the Greek word for “naked”—and then takes us on an enlightening tour through time, following Asian martial artists, Persian pahlevans, nineteenth-century German gymnasts, and the bronzed bodies of California’s Muscle Beach. Kunitz uncovers the seeds of the modern gym in the late nineteenth-century with the invention of the first weightlifting machines, and brings us all the way up to the ultimate game-changer: the feminist movement, which kicked off the exercise boom of the 1970s with aerobics, and ultimately helped create the big-box gyms we know today.

Using his own decade-long journey to transform himself from a fast-food junkie into an ultra-fit—if aging—athlete as a jumping off point, Kunitz argues that another exercise revolution is underway now—a new frontier in fitness, in which the ideal of a bikini body is giving way to a focus on mastering the movements of life.

***

My review: 3 stars.

I’m in no way a fitness freak. I do yoga, walk for exercise, lift weights occasionally. I used to take Zumba and have tried my fair share of workout DVDs in my basement. If I had been born twenty years earlier, not many of those things would have been in my world, as they are recent inventions of our image and health obsessed society.  I was interested in the book because I find cultural and social history fascinating, and the history of fitness and working out in the country has changed as our society has become more focused on sedentary work time and leisure activities.

Of course, throughout history, there was no need for fitness machines or classes because people did HARD WORK almost every single day, working on farms, at jobs that involved physical labor, and so on. They didn’t sit in front of the TV or computer for hours on end and didn’t eat processed, fast foods eaten from paper sacks. Our fitness revolutions came largely in the 20th century, mostly during the last 40 years of it, at pretty much the same time and rate as the rise in consumer culture. Kunitz does a great job of that later part of the history of fitness– it’s not that the early civilization history is not well-done, but I have less of an interest in that time period.

For the book overall, I liked Kunitz’s arguments. I enjoy learning about at the changing nature of society through a common topic like fitness. I think there could be a whole other book about fitness and identity with women, as that issue is wrought with other social and cultural changes happening from the 1940s on, similar to one I read in grad school about history of women’s roles with housekeeping and cleaning in the United States.

It was interesting to read this book in July, a month out from the upcoming Summer Olympic Games in Rio. It’s always fascinating to me– and to other people I’ve talk with as well– that we could care less about swimming or track and field any other time of the year, but there is something about the Olympics that makes us interested in these sports more than ever. Part of it I think is because these are events that only happen every couple of years, but the other I think is part of the fitness culture that Kunitz discusses– it’s almost mesmerizing and mind boggling at the same time that a person could devote their life– and their body– to one specific endeavor for so long.

While I liked the light history slant, the academic inside me wanted more primary sources and less of Kunitz’s personal story as the book went on. In his note on sources at the back, he does say that he wasn’t seeking to write the definitive history of exercising and fitness, but I think because I come from the academic world, I always want more background and less personal slant.

tlc tour host

As part of the TLC Book Tour of this book, I was provided an advanced copy of the book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: Greetings from Utopia Park

About the Book:

In this engrossing memoir, Claire Hoffman recounts the remarkable years she spent growing up in an increasingly isolated meditation community in the American heartland.

When Claire Hoffman’s alcoholic father abandons his family, his struggling wife, Liz, tells five-year-old Claire and her seven-year-old brother, Stacey, that they are going to heaven—Iowa—to live in Maharishi’s national headquarters for Heaven on Earth. For Claire’s mother, Transcendental Meditation—Maharishi’s method of meditation and his approach to living the fullest possible life—promises world peace and Enlightenment just as their family is falling apart.

At first this secluded utopia offers warmth and support, and makes these outsiders feel calm, secure, and connected to the world. At the Maharishi School, Claire learns Maharishi’s philosophy for living and meditates with her class. With the promise of peace and Enlightenment constantly on the horizon, every day is infused with magic and meaning. But as Claire and Stacey mature, their adolescent skepticism kicks in, drawing them away from the community and into delinquency and drugs. To save herself, Claire moves to California to live with her father, breaking from Maharishi completely. After she works for a decade in journalism and academia, the challenges of adulthood propel her back to Iowa, where she reexamines her spiritual upbringing and tries to reconnect with the magic of her childhood.

Greetings from Utopia Park takes us deep into a complex, unusual world, illuminating its joys and comforts as well as its disturbing problems. While there is no utopia on earth, Hoffman finds, there are noble goals worth striving for: believing in belief itself, finding inner peace, and reaching a firm understanding that there is a larger fabric of the universe to which we all belong.

Greetings From Utopia Park cover

***

My review: 3 stars.

I can’t quite remember the first memoir that I devoured, making me a lifetime lover of the genre, but I enjoy reading stories of people’s lives, maybe because it makes me think in greater depth about my own life and blessings. In any case, I enjoyed this book for the most part because of the memoir aspect and that the experience of the author is so vastly different from anything I know about life.

I’m mildly interested in communes, cults, and compounds– not in a want to join them sort of way, but more that people are so dedicated and involved with a belief system that they break off from the mainstream to immerse themselves in it. The whole idea of living in a transcendent, meditation-obsessed place as a child is an interesting contrast- kids are supposed to be wild, play around, explore and so on, but the author was in a place where quietness and reflection were valued. Like other memoirs about bizarre childhoods ( Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls kept coming to mind when reading), this memoir definitely highlighted how wacky it can be for a kid when their parent(s)’ self-interests and obsessions become the thing that defines your life.

As a person who does yoga and is trying to build a meditation practice, I enjoyed learning about this extreme meditation practice. I like reading about people who have committed their lives to the cause and taking it to extremes. It made feel similar to how I felt when watching the movie Somm— that people are so into and aware of one single subject/cause that they devote their life to it. The memoir is not entirely about that, but more the author’s perspective on that and the effect it has on her life going forward as an adult. I thought she gave enough perspective to me as the reader to try to understand the people who took on transcendental meditation, though the book is less about that, and more about the author’s experience growing up in that environment.

The middle section was a bit slow for me and I enjoyed the author’s recollections as a younger child than her experiences as an adolescent. I think this may because we are often more perceptive when we’re younger, so I felt like some of her observations and memories from that time were more pronounced than in her teen years when she was maybe a bit more self-aware and paying less attention to the various things going on around her.

tlc tour host

As part of the TLC Book Tour of this book, I was provided an advanced copy of the book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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