Midweek Mini Reviews #20

This Midweek Mini Reviews post features two “self-help” books, perfect for starting a new year.

Happy Go Money: Spend Smart, Save Right and Enjoy Life by Melissa Leong

One of my New Years’ resolutions for 2019 was to learn to manage my money better. This is where my copy of Melissa Leong’s Happy Go Money came in. Unlike the majority of other personal finance books that I’ve tried to pick up, but failed to get through, Leong’s book was easy to follow, light-hearted and entertaining. Part personal finance, part self-help I appreciated how Happy Go Money combines psychology and happiness research with finance tips and tricks to give the reader advice, conversation starters and tasks that the readers can start to tackle their financial goals. While a lot of the material in the book may seem like common sense, it was a good reminder for me. I love how Leong encourages people to spend money on experiences and “time-savers” and I wholeheartedly agree with her advice on opening a separate, no-fee bank account with a debit card for all your non-essential spending. I’ll definitely be doing this, as soon as I have enough money to start another account without having any of my other accounts suffering as a result. Happy Go Money is perfect for people who don’t really read “finance” books but want to learn more as it manages to mostly maintain a decent balance between being warm and friendly while still being informative.

Design Your Next Chapter: How to Realize Your Dreams and Reinvent Your Life by Debbie Travis

Debbie Travis is well-known for her home and design shows on TV. However, Design Your Next Chapter isn’t another book about decorating or painting. Instead, it is more of a self-help book that is packed with tons of tips and inspiring stories about people who’ve taken the leap and pursued their dreams. While a lot of the material in the book seems geared more towards an older demographic, there are some takeaways for younger people as well. In particular, I loved the sections that allow you to fill in the blanks with your own hopes and dreams. I also found the Ten Commandments chapter, especially the section on losing your “fear” and the section on budgeting to be incredibly useful. For anyone who may find themselves thinking “what’s next?” reading this is book is a good start and for those who are curious, Design Your Next Chapter is an easily digestible and comforting read that can be relatable to many people.

 

 

 

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above reviews consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Midweek Mini Reviews #17


This Midweek Mini Reviews post features two of the books I brought with me on my trip to Vietnam this summer.

Vi by Kim Thúy

What I loved most about Vi was how family was truly the focus of the story this time around. Readers learn about the title character’s family history (starting with her grandparents) well before we get to Vi’s story and even after she goes out on her own, her family continues to have an impact on her life. I also appreciated the fact that another one of the central aspects of this novel was the Vietnamese Canadian immigrant experience which does differ from the experiences of Vietnamese Americans. I also fell in love with Vi’s family, including her brothers who all looked out for her in their own way as well as her mother who “gave” Vi to her friend, Hà to raise so that she can have a better education and future. As a result of this upbringing, Vi is able to have many adventures across the globe which I loved reading about. All that being said, however, I felt that Vi was not as well written compared with Thúy’s earlier novels, Ru and Mãn and the ending left much to be desired. Furthermore, despite being the titular character readers barely get to know Vi before the book ends. In the end, Vi was a decent read as it has Thúy’s trademark stripped-down, exquisite prose, however the lack of lightness in Vi’s story a

Lands of Lost Borders: Out of Bounds on the Silk Road by Kate Harris

Lands of Lost Borders is a memoir that details the journey and life of the author Kate Harris. Harris has always dreamt of being an explorer and it was interesting to read about how she discovered and harnessed her writing talents to get funding for her adventures as a student. That being said, this was a slow and tough read for me because felt long-winded at times with all the history lessons and technical details of biking embedded in the book. I would’ve liked there to have been more on her adventure in present day, including greater details on the characters she came across and the cities and towns she and her friend travelled through. I did, however, appreciated the fact that Harris doesn’t gloss over the difficulties of her journey as they do face many challenges along the way. So as far as travel literature goes, Lands of Lost Borders isn’t high on my favourites or recommend reading list, however I did learn about Central and Western Asia from it. In the end, I think I probably would have been better off with an audiobook for this one given the type of story it was. 

 

 

 

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Midweek Mini Reviews #15


Moshi Moshi by Banana Yoshimoto, Asa Yoneda (Translator), Mai Ohno (Illustrator)

Moshi Moshi was my first Banana Yoshimoto novel, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Similar to several other well-known Japanese writers, there is an element of magical realism to the story. However, in this case, it is extremely subtle and takes the form of a not quite a ghost story since the “ghost” of the protagonist’s recently father haunts the pages of the book and remains a significant “presence” despite not actually being present. Yoshimoto’s writing is incredibly minimalist and cool, yet she manages to provide some fascinating commentary on the traditional gender roles and expectations in Japan today. Furthermore, she does an excellent job of capturing the grief and the process of trying to move on when someone you love dies in a remarkably traumatic manner. In addition, it was refreshing to see an accurate portrayal of a mother-daughter relationship where both are now grown yet neither are completely dependent on the other. But what I loved the most about Moshi Moshi, was the setting of the novel. Set in the Tokyo neighbourhood of Shimokitazawa, the book made me want to visit the area and check out the restaurants for myself. The only issue I truly had with Moshi Moshi was the romantic development and conclusion in the book as it was a bit unsettling and awkward. Nevertheless, Moshi Moshi is a soothing read in spite of its weirdness.

Feeding My Mother: Comfort and Laughter in the Kitchen as My Mom Lives with Memory Loss by Jann Arden

Jann Arden’s latest book, Feeding My Mother: Comfort and Laughter in the Kitchen as My Mom Lives with Memory Loss touches upon a topic that is near and dear to my heart. Having worked with patients suffering from Alzheimer’s, I was looking forward to this memoir of caring for elderly parents who have dementia. Told in dated journal entries interspersed with personal photos and recipes, the Canadian singer-songwriter brings readers into the daily realities of her life as a caregiver to a parent who has dementia. At times, the book feels almost too real however that’s the beauty of it. Arden’s candor about what it’s really like for the families of those with dementia makes Feeding My Mother resonates so much more for those whose loved ones also have dementia. The design of the book is also beautiful and soothing, and I loved the gorgeous photos included in the book. I also liked the theme of food in the book, and will definitely be attempting to make some of the recipes in the book like the Four-Cheese Mac. An absolutely heartbreaking yet warm, and comforting read.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

 

Book Review | The Elephants in My Backyard by Rajiv Surendra

elepAuthour:
Rajiv Surendra
Format:
Hardcover, 288 pages
Publication date:
November 22nd 2016
Publisher:
Random House Canada
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:

” I had no choice here. This was the clarity I needed–Pi was everything to me, and here on out, it was all or nothing.” p. 166

As kids we are taught that if you work hard, you will succeed. No one (or rather few people) ever talk about failing to realize their dream or major goal. Sure, it’s easy to tell a person to just pick themselves up after failing, and to just shake it off the feelings of hurt and disappointment to move forward, however that is something that is without a doubt easier said than done.

Thus I was enticed enough to pick up Rajiv Surendra’s The Elephants in My Backyard. The premise of The Elephants in My Backyard follows Rajiv as he goes on this journey to obtain is dream acting role, “Pi” from Yann Martel’s renowned novel, Life of Pi. Non-spoiler alert, but despite the lengths Rajiv goes through to be the best possible “Pi”, he doesn’t land the role of “Pi”. In the end, while he doesn’t obtain his dream role, he does end up making several new friends throughout his journey which furthermore results in him becoming acquainted with himself and accepting who he is as a person.

Rajiv’s passion for Life of Pi, and in particular the character of “Pi” truly shines through his writing, which made you root for him even more despite knowing the outcome. And while a few of the sections felt as if they went on forever and it took time for me to immerse myself into the story. However, there were certain sections that had me completely engrossed. Among them were the one where he shares his experience of learning how to swim in addition to the chapter detailing his dysfunctional family life and how it affected his personal life.

Part memoir, part travelogue The Elephants in My Backyard also has several gorgeous hand drawn illustrations done by the authour. This is one story that is both powerful and emotional and will resonate with those of us who have put our all into something only to be passed over for it in the end.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | The Name Therapist by Duana Taha

nameAuthour:
Duana Taha
Format:
ARC, 347 pages
Publication date:
April 5th 2016
Publisher:
Random House Canada
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
What’s in a name? According to the authour of The Name Therapist there’s a whole lot. To be honest, I never had any issues with my name growing up, it’s rarely misspelled and almost never mispronounced. In fact I couldn’t imagine having another name. My parents, who were immigrants picked it for the reason that it was simple plus it easily translated from English back to Vietnamese. Still I found Duana Taha’s The Name Therapist to be an intriguing read.

Duana Taha is a self-styled “name therapist” who writes for the gossip blog, Lainey Gossip additionally she also works in Television where she gets to name characters which is basically the dream for a “name nerd” akin to herself. And while I’m not much of a “name nerd”, Duana’s enthusiasm for the subject had me slightly excited about it too. Part memoir, and part social science study throughout The Name Therapist readers are introduced to a bit of history behind certain names and their popularity in addition to how Duana’s love and fascination with names started. My favourite aspect of, The Name Therapist was learning about the various different types of name research and theories exist, including an app that tells you what careers has the greatest amount of people with your name. (In case you’re curious apparently there are numerous people named Lynne that are Interior Decorator/Designers).

Another section that intrigued me what, when the topic of anglicizing your name was brought up, especially if you’re an immigrant with a name that is definitely not a “Western” name. While there was never a need for me to anglicize my name, it made me remember an odd incident back when I was an undergraduate student. Back when I was trying to find a thesis supervisor, I often was required to send emails to professors expressing my interest in working with them. For some reason, I noticed that whenever I signed the email off with my full name which contained a very Vietnamese last name in my email was ignored, however when I signed the email with just my first name I often received replies, and invitations to meet with the professor in person to discuss potential thesis ideas. While it may have just been a coincidence, it struck me as strange at the time and I would be lying if I said it did not bother me. Anyways other than that, I do not believe my name has caused me any problems.

I guess it’s true what Duana writes in her book, there’s always something to be talked about when it comes names and it’s quite entertaining to hear stories behind people’s names. Thus if you are looking for an amusing and a different type of nonfiction read, you should give The Name Therapist a shot. Or if you’re just looking for another perspective on naming your unborn child The Name Therapist is the book for you.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only. <

Book Review | A Robot in the Garden by Deborah Install

a-robot-in-the-garden-by-deborah-install-book-coverAuthour:
Deborah Install
Format:
Trade Paperback, 284 pages
Publication date:
June 30th 2015
Publisher:
Random House Canada
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:

“Why would there be a robot in the garden? Have you left that bloody gate open again, Amy?” (p. 7)

Although I had lukewarm feelings towards The Rosie Project, a book which A Robot in the Garden has been compared to, I did fall in love A Robot in the Garden. The premise of A Robot in the Garden is basically what’s stated in the title; however it contains a greater amount of substance. The story takes place in a world and time when androids not uncommon and we get to travel to different countries as Ben and Tang embark on their journey to find out more concerning Tang right around the time when Ben’s life starts to fall apart.

Surprisingly, enough while I was not fond of Ben or Tang as individuals, I adored them together. The bond that forms between the two is incredibly endearing to witness, as is the mental and physical journey the two embark on together, which takes to places far from Ben’s home like Japan and the USA. And while I found the transformation Ben undergoes to be slightly difficult to believe, I did appreciate how as a result of his new found maturity he doesn’t rush into anything when he returns home from his journey with Tang. I also love the various characters that Ben and Tang encounter on their journey, and I found it hilarious when Ben and Tang were mistaken as lovers.

A Robot in the Garden is a truly lovely story that warmed my heart and gave me hope simultaneously. Additionally, it’s also a story concerning family, marriage, loss, and love with a slightly surprising reveal regarding Tang’s origins that shows that ultimately it is up to you to decide how you will live your life. Deborah Install has written a simple yet highly enjoyable and amusing adventure story that is a wonderful summer pick and should be on everyone’s reading list for the beach or a summer vacation.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.