Monthly Archives: May 2019

‘Decluttering at the Speed of Life: Winning Your Never-Ending Battle with Stuff’ by Dana K. White

Even though I am a thrower and live in a comfortably but not excessively cluttered house, I enjoyed listening to this book and came away with some good ideas. Marie Kondo’s book Spark Joy has been very popular of late, and I have always liked her advice which goes something like, “Keep only that which you regularly use or really love.” Kondo’s method includes sifting through stuff and deciding to keep only that which “sparks joy.” But what if there is too much joy (and therefore still too much stuff)? What if all that decision-making feels exhausting? What if it’s all too emotional? What if it’s paralysing because it all takes too long and keeps getting interrupted?

Dana White has some far more quick-and-easy, highly practical strategies in this book for every room in the house, and indeed, for the house itself, that solve the problem of loving too much or seeing too much ‘possibility’ in things we just might need ‘one day.’ She offers less emotional and more objective solutions. I especially liked her “container concept” and her “procrasi-clutter phenonenon.” It’s about living with space limitations and making things fit into the spaces you have, rather than adding more spaces for the things you want to keep.

Her simple strategies really make sense. Her principles are easy to understand, remember, and transfer to any and all situations. Following her method will improve the enjoyment of the spaces you live in, assist in keeping things clean, and help you find things that you need more quickly. She also includes chapters on how to help children, spouses, and downsizing parents with their decluttering, without being bossy or naggy. Highly recommend!

‘The Great Alone’ by Kristin Hannah

From the author of The Nightingale, comes a spellbinding novel set in Alaska, inspired by the author’s own experiences.

Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier. Thirteen-year-old Leni, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. She is desperate for a place to belong. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if it means following him into the unknown. At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. In a wild, remote corner of the state, they find a fiercely independent community of strong men and even stronger women. The long, sunlit days and the generosity of the locals make up for the Allbrights’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources. But as winter approaches and darkness descends on Alaska, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture. Soon the perils outside pale in comparison to threats from within. In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in eighteen hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: they are on their own. In the wild, there is no one to save them but themselves.

A compulsively readable, powerful novel of survival, love, beauty, brokenness, and redemption. The pace of this novel is unrelenting, with multiple twists and turns, and much of the time you feel you can cut the tension with a knife. The harshly unforgiving yet breathtaking beauty of Alaska are cinematic, and the exploration of human frailty and resilience are riveting. I’d be surprised if this isn’t made into a movie.

‘The Moon Sister’ by Lucinda Riley (The Seven Sisters # 5)

Tiggy’s story takes place in the Scottish Highlands as well as the hills and caves of Granada, Spain. Tiggy has a gift for working with animals and has inherited a sixth sense from her ancestors. If you are already following the Seven Sisters Series, this is the last one in the series that is available for now. The sixth instalment is still being written and is due to be released in the fall of 2019. It will focus on Electra, the famous yet troubled sister.

If you are new to the series, it is recommended to read them in order. Pa Salt, a mysterious wealthy man, adopts 6 daughters from various corners of the globe and names them after a star constellation. Upon his death/disappearance, the girls are given clues about their origins and each one embarks on a journey of discovery. Each book focuses on one sister, and the books just keep getting better and better. In this one there are a few more clues about what will be coming in the final book which has been top secret all along. However, there is a mystery building about the 7th sister called Merope, who is mentioned but was never found, and about Pa Salt’s disappearance. Is he really dead?

For a complete list of the books in the series, visit Lucinda Riley’s website. I also found an article about her personal life which reads like a page-turner in itself: click here.

 

‘Almost Everything: Notes on Hope’ by Anne Lamott

“Be joyful, though you have considered all the facts.” Wendell Berry

Another great book by Anne Lamott, although not everyone enjoys her meandering style. I listened to the audio book available on Overdrive from the library. She narrates it herself; I find her voice very down-to-earth and soothing.

Her thoughts on life and love and God are refreshing, funny, ecumenical, and universal. She is honest about her personal struggles and has a realistic view of self-help: she says simply “be kind to yourself and try to do a little bit better everyday.” It’s a crazy world and putting unrealistic pressure on yourself to improve, isn’t going to help. Her message of hope is wise, accessible, approachable, and helpful without being bossy. She may not deliver many answers in her message, but for me she has the power to gently coax me out of some dark thoughts and into the light, in other words, to find some hope.

Here Anne answers questions from fans while she signs books with her fiancé Neil. It’s a delightful impromptu interview:

‘Out of My Mind’ by Sharon Draper

(Age 10+ ) Melody has cerebral palsy. She can’t walk or talk so people tend to think that she isn’t smart, or fun, or someone who you can be friends with. But Melody is the smartest kid in the school, has a photographic memory, sees colour in music (synesthesia), has a great sense of humour, and she’s brilliant in so many ways that people never get to see because communication is so hard for her. The best thing about Melody is that neither she nor her parents allow her to be defined by her illness and the best thing about this book is that it really gives the reader a glimpse of the challenges and misunderstandings that are common to families living with special needs.

Reminiscent of Wonder by R.J Palacio, even though it is classified as a Young Adult novel, it is one of those amazing cross-over books that adults will love as well: easy to read, but with powerful insights and very affecting.

‘Nine Perfect Strangers’ by Liane Moriarty

Can a health retreat really change your life forever?

Nine people gather at a remote resort in Australia. Some are there to lose weight, some are there to heal from grief, and some are there for reasons they are not even aware of themselves. Even though they are expecting some luxury and pampering, they also know that giving up some things might be necessary to reach their goals. However, none of them could ever have imagined how challenging it would actually be!! The novel felt to me like an old Agatha Christie mystery with all of the possible culprits assembled in the same hotel with some sinister event lurking just around the corner. Will it be Miss Scarlet in the gym with a rope? or will someone be found floating in the pool?

It’s hard for me to talk about this book without giving spoilers. If you are a Moriarty fan, (as I am) you will not want to miss it, even though it wasn’t my favourite. It does have her trademark mildly satirical sense of humour, this time taking on the wellness industry. My favourites of hers, so far, are The Husband’s Secret and Big Little Lies. I do always love Moriarty’s characters and enjoy reading her books, but I had hoped for a better plot line in this one. Though there is psychological suspense as the main twist is slowly revealed, it all seemed a bit too cheerful to be a thriller and too character driven to be a page-turner. The ending was mystifying and I want to talk about it when you’ve read it!

Was Moriarty teasing us and poking fun at herself halfway through the novel when one of the characters is asked how she likes the book she is reading? The reply is this, “The book was meant to be another murder mystery but the author had introduced far too many characters too early, and so far everyone was alive and kicking. The pace had slowed. Come on now. Hurry up and kill someone.” Pretty tongue-in-cheek because at that moment I was feeling exactly the same about Nine Perfect Strangers! 🙂

 

‘The Truth According to Us’ by Annie Barrows

In the summer of 1938, Layla Beck’s father, a United States senator, cuts off her allowance and demands that she find employment on the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP). Within days, Layla finds herself far from her accustomed social whirl, assigned to cover the history of the remote mill town of Macedonia, West Virginia, and destined, in her opinion, to go completely mad with boredom. But once she secures a room in the home of the unconventional Romeyn family, she is drawn into their complex world and soon discovers that the truth of the town is entangled in the thorny past of the Romeyn dynasty. This is part coming-of-age, part American history, and part old-fashioned family saga set during a very hot and sweltering summer in the southern US.

Though there are several narrators in this post-depression story, the primary one is twelve-year old Willa, a headstrong, bright, and observant member of the mysterious Romeyn family. She has a sister Bird and twin aunts who also live at the house, her mother is gone, her father ostensibly does some kind of work selling chemicals, and the household is run by her spinster Aunt Jottie. Layla enters this strange household, chocka-block full of family secrets, as a boarder while she writes the town history for the FWP.

Annie Barrows is best known for co-authoring The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society with her aunt Mary Ann Shaffer. As in Guernsey, there is a delightfully lively sense of humour in the writing of this novel and an ability to create charmingly eccentric characters. The novel begins a bit slowly, but picks up around the p. 200 mark.