Sunday, May 19, 2019

Review: Can't Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds

Can't Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds Can't Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds by David Goggins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“You are in danger of living a life so comfortable and soft, that you will die without ever realizing your true potential.”
If you follow my reviews, you know this is my favorite genre – badasses telling their story of pain and suffering, achievement and greatness, redemption and inspiration. Well, Goggins is that badass … on steroids.

He is now a retired Navy SEAL and is the only member of the U.S. Armed Forces to complete SEAL training (including two Hell Weeks), the U.S. Army Ranger School (where he graduated as Enlisted Honor Man) and Air Force Tactical Air Controller training. He has completed 60 ultra-marathons and ultra-triathlons. He’s an insane endurance athlete. Crazy fact? He did most of this super-human stuff with a hole in his heart. Seriously.

“Pain unlocks a secret doorway in the mind, one that leads to both peak performance, and beautiful silence.”
The quotes in this book alone make it worth owning. I borrowed the book from my library, read the first half, and then knew I had to own it. I bought my own copy and finished the second half. I wanted to circle stuff, make notes in the margins, and interact with it. I sure did put some ink on those pages.

All of us can relate to the need to wrestle our demons to death; Goggins confesses that rage and frustration fueled him while a calloused mind protected him. He knew disappointment. He knew failure. He knew what it felt like to be a nobody. When the world had dismissed him, wholly unimpressed with his performance ….he woke up, found inspiration in his goal to be a Navy Seal and never was the same.

“They say there’s always light at the end of the tunnel, but not once your eyes adjust to the darkness, and that’s what happened to me. I was numb.”
From that day on, through thick and thin, through tragedy and major physical setbacks, he never changed his tune. He was somebody. He had goals. Nothing could get in his way. He changed the conversation he was having with himself, raised the bar in his life, and got to bloody work.

It’s what you tell yourself that matters. The most important conversations you’ll ever have are the ones you’ll have with yourself. You wake up with them, you walk around with them, you go to bed with them, and eventually you act on them. Whether they be good or bad.”
I love this quote. In a way, the whole book is about this quote. Make sure you tell yourself the right stuff. Don’t lie and don’t deny. Just get to work.

I loved readying the story of this guy’s life. My accountability mirror’s been installed. #canthurtmeeither

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Saturday, May 18, 2019

The Writer's Guide to Grammar by Roy Speed

I am so impressed with this book, I could not resist sharing.  It is my very first review of a textbook.

The Writer's Guide to Grammar is outstanding in every realm.  It really does have it all - mechanics, organization, conventions, sentence fluency and all essential grammar.  I've seen dozens of grammar books for young teens.  Too many to count.  This one offers the most succinct, easy-to-remember explanations for all the glitchy grammar issues while striking a perfect  balance between definitions and practice.

The author also strikes balance with his clever illustrations - not too many, not too few.

It was written with students in mind.  There is a Teacher's Guide (superb) and a Student Workbook (consumable).  I have tutored writing to middle school and high school students for the past 15 years, so I was eager to find a fresh approach to showing the way through the grammar jungle.  Home run here!  I've already recommended it to several families and have adopted it as the backbone for my tutoring.  Bottom line - it takes all of the mystery out of applying the rules without ever getting dull.

But, hey, adults can learn from this, too!  Our digital days have left many of these grammar basics to rust and ruin.  This book can be a go-to for writers of every kind or for anyone who wants to be a better and more accurate communicator.

Two thumbs up!

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Review: Where the Crawdads Sing

Where the Crawdads Sing Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was pure magic. It was as though all of nature exhaled and these words, warm and rich and teeming with life, fell into order on the pages. The author's lyrical language lifted question after question upon the reader's plate - the kinds of questions that really matter. They stilled my heart, my mind, my world.

You will be drawn into Kya's world. So simple, so exquisitely beautiful, so in sync with nature - this Marsh Girl will to steal your heart, I promise.

The story of Kya's life is filled with drama, hatred, love, violence, justice and injustice - from the brutalities of abandonment and hunger, to the extraordinary ways she chose to be excellent. Your heart will be punched down and lifted up as well, but the redemption folded deep into this story delivers... it truly delivers.

And all of this is set in the untarnished, wilderness of a swampland. A marsh. This author makes it all so beautiful, so vivid, and so desirable. You will hear the gulls, feel the squish of stepping through muddy reeds, and smell the grits with onions on the stovetop.

I wish I had more than two thumbs for the thumbs up to this soulful plea from the marsh to all of humanity.

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Sunday, May 5, 2019

Review: Miracle Creek

Miracle Creek Miracle Creek by Angie Kim
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There is always so much more than meets the eye in any family drama or tragedy. But, Miracle Creek is not your typical tragedy. Nor is it your typical whodunit. With unusual elements like occupied hyperbaric chambers exploding in the residential garage of a Korean immigrant family, the conflagration takes on a weirdly alluring form.

Angie Kim does a great job creating the individual streets of insidious intent in each of the suspects and she keeps the culprits and the motives in the shadows until the end. She does an especially good job capturing the tug-of-war in the heart of every parent with a disabled or autistic child ... the desperation which sometimes overcomes the hope; the hope which sometimes overcomes the desperation.

I did find myself impatient for evidence which went beyond a casual conversation or the placement of a pack of cigarettes, for example. But the author's slow reveals of sad little mistakes that the main players made - the kinds of mistakes to which all readers can relate - kept my eyes moving from page to page.

It is perhaps the most peculiar setting for a whodunit story but this is also what pulls the reader in at once.

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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Review: How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius

How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius by Donald J. Robertson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Do not act as if you will live 10,000 years. Death hangs over you. While you live, while it is in your power, be good

I really didn't want this book to end - and it was work ; not a beach read. The wisdom that poured from each chapter had a hypnotic effect, which felt like so much relief from life's storms. I think it actually lowered my blood pressure every time I picked it up and read.

Donald Robertson took an old topic and breathed new life into it creating a truly unique brew - kind of a modern-day antidote to confusion and anxiety. And I'm hooked on the topic of Stoic philosophy.

One snapshot: An emperor is facing assaults from barbarian tribes (as well as unrest among his own!) but he stops to consider the most virtuous course and he takes measured steps to dispel feelings of revenge or anger before considering his actions -- wow, that is humbling.

The author segues from history, to Stoic philosophy, to modern cognitive behavior therapy with grace and art. The sensible and peaceful mind that Marcus Aurelius cultivated was revealed and then recast into the 21st century so that we can learn to harness the power of Stoic thinking, too.

I especially enjoyed learning about the people who had the greatest influence on Marcus Aurelius. Epictetus is up next on my to-read list!

I loved this book and know I will return to it often.

Failure to observe what is in the mind of another has seldom made a man unhappy; but those who do not observe the movements of their own minds must of necessity be unhappy.

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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Review: Faithful

Faithful Faithful by Alice Hoffman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

To be fair, I did not know that this was a Young Adult/Youth/Teen book when I picked it up. To be fair, I saw Alice Hoffman and thought Alice Sebold. Don't know why.

I started reading it and thought it was boring. I like my books to send me ideas like big ocean waves. I like sentences that fall on me like a thunderclap. This was just chapter after chapter of soft, tame lapping water -- kind of every day stuff, apart from the tragedy in the beginning, which is definitely not everyday stuff. I only finished it out of a sense of duty. I don't like leaving things undone.

It was predictable and not objectionable in any way. It was fine , but felt like a waste of time.

Again, to be fair, a young person might connect to the content in the lives of the characters in this book. I absolutely could not.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Review: The Silent Patient

The Silent Patient The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

100% diverting! She shoots her husband five times in the face ... out of the blue ... for no apparent reason. She gets committed to an insane asylum and goes mute. Boom.

Then one young shrink tries to reach her, tries to give her back her voice while counseling her at this slightly creepy place called The Grove.

It might disturb you just a tad - lots of psychological intrigue, betrayal, violence, and general treachery - but I found all of that devilishly amusing. It is unrealistic, yes. Her diary entries are woven into the story and these detailed entries are implausible, really. But, it is an entertaining story, and, credibility aside, sometimes a reader just wants to be carried away.

The very best parts in this story are the unexpected twists. A great whodunnit ~

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