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Summer Reads and Reviews

*WARNING - This post contains foul language.

There's nothing better than reading in the grass on a hot summer's day with a cold drink in hand. Or, camping with a fire crackling, kitty leashed up and hiding in the ferns, with a good book by your side.

This summer was guaranteed to be different than others because of COVID-19. After a strange school year, and not knowing what school would look like in the fall, I decided to forego the mountains of professional development (teaching) books that I would usually peruse, and instead focus on getting through another of Robin Hobb's lengthy novels. Of course, eventually I needed a book (or three) on the side to break up the novel a bit, and ended up reading far more books than I had intended this summer.

Below are reviews of the books, as well as links to their GoodReads pages and author biographies.

Mad Ship - Robin Hobb

The second book in the Liveship Traders Trilogy, I recommend you check out my review of the first book, here, to learn about this series (rather than me giving away spoilers by explaining partway through). I love Hobb's writing, because it's very detailed and contains interconnected plots with lots of twists, but I find her books very long to get through so if you're looking for a quick read, these books aren't for you.

GoodReads Link -

Author Bio -

The Last Fairy Door - N.A. Davenport

The Last Fairy Door is a great tale for lovers of magic and adventure!

There are many aspects of this book that make it well written. First, within the first fifty pages, the author paces it beautifully. Right away, the reader is introduced to the main character, setting, and the problem, including carefully written detail that doesn't take away from the pace of the story. There are also gentle clues of foreshadowing throughout the entire book that would make it great for practicing predicting and inferencing!

The characters themselves are very relatable, and I think even moreso nowadays for children, as the main character speaks at times about feeling anxious. It normalizes this, showing that there are stressful situations where one can feel anxious, and the character pushes through and bravely faces her fears. The main fairy in the story is a male, which I think is just a lovely way to reverse gender stereotypes - plus the chemistry between the two works much better this way I think than if this fairy were female.

When I first got this book, I really wanted to read it to my 7-year-old niece, as she loves fairies! I wasn't sure with the context of the main character's dad being on his deathbed whether or not it would be okay for her to listen to, so I decided against it and just read it on my own. I think after having read it, I would invite my niece to read it with a parent, as the scenes in the hospital are quite detailed and might be a bit much for a 7-year-old. I would love to hear the age it was targeted for, as it isn't written on the cover. If I were to guess, I would think it's probably written fro 9-11 year olds, as it's a chapter book with a couple of tougher words throughout it that might help this age group further develop their vocabulary, and they are old enough at that point to think about loved ones dying.

Overall, great read! Looking forward to checking out more by Davenport.

GoodReads -

Author Bio -

Yoga for Hikers // Yoga Anatomy

These aren't typically the type of book that you would read start to finish, so over the years I have flipped through these on numerous occasions. This summer though, I really wanted to understand more of the mechanics of yoga and interconnected pieces backed with science, so I read the first few chapters of these books to learn more. After having done so, I've been able to flip throughout the book and be able to better apply what I've read and am reading to myself during yoga practice and day-to-day.

Yoga Anatomy 2nd Edition -

Yoga for Hikers -

The Dalai Llama's Book of Awakening

This tiny book introduces Buddhism and the schools of thought behind the main teachings. Having read other books on Buddhism, I found this one had far too much jargon and was not very easy to follow - it was informational, not focused on practices, but the teachings behind them. I hate that I didn't love it, but would recommend a few other books before this one to someone who is just getting started to mindfulness or learning about Buddhist teachings related to mindfulness. - I should do a post for you on mindfulness books that I've found useful, as I've read quite a few over the years.

GoodReads -

Author Bio -

Swamp Thing - Vol. I & II

It had been a few years since I had read Swamp Thing, and I had forgotten both how enjoyable and quotable it is!

There is a large collection of Swamp Thing issues written and illustrated by numerous people. It is one of the classic comics that has been around for years, but this one by Alan Moore is the only version I've read. A comic-lover friend of mine had recommended it as being the best one, but I can't really speak to this since I haven't read others. However, there are many aspect of this one I enjoy. For example, when Moore took on this, he decided he wanted to rebuild who Swamp Thing is, so the first book looks at Swamp Thing's story and sort of revamps it in a way that shares what's needed about previous issues, but also sets him up to take on a new life of his own.

The artwork and story are kind of a gothic horror, with underlying themes in politics and the environment. A perfect combination of darkness and life!

GoodReads -

Author Bio -

How to Stay Human in a F*cked Up World - Tim Desmond

Fantastic title, isn't it?

This one came up in a list recommended by Wholesome Culture, and right away I went to Indigo to order it. This title is exactly how I feel about the world. My depression and anxiety stems from the decisions society makes/creates as a whole, like mass pollution, ignorance around the Coronavirus, the ways in which the government is corrupt... Basically the lack of humanity in the world.

This book is a survival guide.

Upfront it says, yes, the world IS fucked. And you have a choice. You can choose to focus on the lack of humanity, or, you can find the glimmers of humanity and amplify them.

...So very true.

This book looks at mindfulness and how it can be used to cultivate more happiness in your own life, and less pain. But it does this through a completely original lens that I've never seen before. The author writes:

"They say mindfulness is about taking deep breaths, sitting on a cushion on the floor, or watching your thoughts and feelings with disinterest - like you're watching a boring TV show.

When Thich Nhat Hanh uses the word mindfulness, he's describing a way of relating to the world (and specifically to suffering) that contains compassion, joy, equanimity, and wisdom. It is precisely the quality that allows us to stay human in fucked-up situations - to stay open, caring, and able to relate." - p. 13

He also simplifies the Four Noble Truths in a way that really makes sense to me:

Everyone suffers sometimes (Noble Truth of suffering)

Suffering has causes (Noble Truth of causation)

Well-being is possible (Noble Truth of cessation)

Well-being also has causes (Noble Truth of the path)

Doesn't this make far more sense? The book works through each of these, however I'm only about 1/4 through the book. Already I've tried some of the exercises, and have noticed how they've already started reshaping the way I see things, and evoking more compassion from my heart even in difficult times.

If you're looking for a different take on mindfulness, I highly recommend this book!

GoodReads -

Author Bio -

Zero Waste Home - Bea Johnson

As someone who cares deeply for the planet (I'm actually writing a YA graphic novel with themes around environment and mental health), I couldn't put this book down when I first got it! I read the first hundred pages within the first few days, making notes, and adding stickies to pages for easy reference.

At this point, I've decided to take a break from reading it, simply because once I read about a way to reduce waste, I want to implement it right away, and already I've completely turned around our household in the last week since getting the book.

One thing I really like about Bea's writing, is she shares about her journey to Zero Waste, and it becomes clear how much groundwork she's done for her readers. She's researched, tested, retested, tried and failed, succeeded, and simplified. Zero Waste can literally take over your life, and some things that sound like a great idea really take so much time and effort, one has to wonder if it's sustainable. She shares these things in her book to A) give her readers an out - you don't have to do it all! That's not possible to sustain on top of regular life. And B) to help readers save time and energy by learning from her own trials.

She also shares straight up that Zero Waste is not truly possible with the world we live in and systems in place for dealing with waste. BUT, one can certainly significantly reduce their waste. There are five steps the author shares, which also shifts the way we look at all things in the home: