Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Book of Awesome - Neil Pasricha

Summary: Sometimes it's easy to forget the things that make us smile.  Sometimes it's tempting to feel that the world is falling apart.  But awesome things are all around us:

- Popping bubble wrap
- The smell of rain on a hot sidewalk
- Hitting a bunch of green lights in a row
- Waking up and realizing it's Saturday
- Fixing electronics by smacking them
- Picking the perfect nacho off someone else's plate

The Book of Awesome reminds us that the best things in life are free.  Based on the award-winning blog, it's a high five for humanity and a big celebration of life's little moments.  With wise, witty observations, The Book of Awesome is filled with smile-inducing musings that make you feel like a kid looking at the world for the first time.  (Summary from book - Image from

My Review:  The Book of Awesome is the brain baby of a blogger named Neil Pashricha who wanted to find joy in the everyday moments that we often overlook, so he started a blog about the all little things that delight us.  Sounds great, right? Here are a few examples (mostly selected at random):
  • Catching someone singing in their car and sharing a laugh with them
  • High tens
  • The thank you wave when you let someone merge in front of you
  • Finding the last item of your size at the store
  • The smell of gasoline*
  • Using Q-tips the way you’re not supposed to use them.
  • Eating a free sample of something you have no intention of buying
  • Using all the different soaps and shampoos in someone else’s shower
  • Sweatpants
  • When there is ice cream left at the bottom of the cone. 

Now, as you can see, Neil doesn’t delve too deep, passing over the joys of hearing a baby bust a gut laughing or watching your toddler take their first steps for the decidedly less monumental.  Instead, he focuses on highlighting the often-overlooked, wildly unappreciated pleasures of the human experience.  I absolutely love the concept, applaud the author’s effort to bring more light into the world, and even identified with the majority of his “awesome” experiences, but sadly have some issues with the execution.  Here’s why: 

Some of Neil’s entries were short and sweet – I could read them swiftly, smile and nod in agreement (yes, that IS awesome!) and then move on, but on far too many occasions he expounded for pages about some awesome thing that didn’t quite seem to merit the tremendous word count.   Reading the longer entries felt like Neil was writing to reach a word quota rather than convey an idea.  Ultimately, I think I would have preferred this content in its original format – blog post.  In that way, I could read one post a day and be gently reminded to look for the small and simple signs of joy in the world around me.  As a book, well, I felt bludgeoned over the head with it.   By the time I was halfway through I was just reading to finish.  Slogging.  And if you’ve ever slog read, you’ll know that it’s exhausting.  I finally stopped about 20 pages from the end, because it took me that long to call time of death.  Life is too short to read books you don’t want to read. 

All that unpleasantness having been said, if you’d like to read a little more about Neil and check out his blog you can head on over to .  He seems like a pretty nice guy who is committed to doing some pretty awesome things.  Just because I didn’t like the book doesn’t mean I don’t think his ideas are AWESOME!**

*Whaaaat?  Neil and I are totally at odds with this one.
**Here's hoping I got all those double negatives right...but just in case I didn’t that was supposed to be a compliment.  He seems cool.

My Rating: 2.75 Stars (great concept but annoyingly long-winded execution)
For the sensitive reader:  Nothing I can think of….

Monday, March 19, 2018

All Fish Faces: Photos and Fun Facts about Tropical Reef Fish - Tam Warner Minton

Summary: Photography and Fun Facts about tropical reef fish, ALL FISH FACES will entertain people of all ages! Getting to know our underwater world is a fascinating journey into the unknown! It is so important to introduce children, kids, and adults to our ocean and its animals so we can protect it for future generations. 10% of profits will go to the Marine Megafauna Foundation so they can continue their scientific research to protect our oceans and ocean giants. (Summary and image from  I was provided a copy in exchange for an honest review.)

Review: I read a book!! I read a book!! Guys, since starting this new assignment (teaching AP Government and AP Economics at our local high school), I haven't read anything except for text books and essays that need to be graded! It's been really difficult, and I apologize to the amazingly talented (and patient) Tam Minton for being so understanding.

I'm the parent to three budding scientists, and one of those has decided that marine biology is her calling in life. Never mind the fact that the one time we took her to the ocean, she wouldn't get within 20 feet of the water, that's what she wants to do. And I'm sure there are ways to overcome that. It's not like she's leaving for grad school tomorrow! However, this aspiring marine biologist of mine has a deep love for conservation and preservation of our Earth, and is absolutely fascinated with the beauty (bizarre and conventional) that our oceans hold. 

So, what does this say about this book? Well ... part of the reason (aside from balancing teaching and parenting) that this book review took as long as it did was because my little girl absconded with the book within seconds of its arrival and refused to give it back.  The photos that Minton has captured and shared seem to jump off the pages. Their vibrant colors and the unique expressions of each fish are so incredible, I can understand why my daughter wasn't quite ready to share. But the photos are really only part of this book's charm. Tidbits about the species of fish highlighted, conservation efforts anyone (even those of us not lucky enough to live near the ocean) can take, and information regarding sustainable fishing are all shared appropriately for the age intended. It doesn't come across as preachy, or as condescending, rather as useful and necessary information anyone should be armed with. BUT. What good is it to hear from me? Let's hear from the marine biologist to be:

Clara's Review: Honestly, I thought ALL FISH FACES would be worse than it actually was. It's really good, but that's probably because I LOVE marine biology right now. It has some tough words, but I think it would be okay for younger readers. Some people might like the Scorpion Fish section because to look at the pictures, you have to find the fish. It has good tips on how to save the ocean.

It has some amazing pictures, facts, captions, and more! Each fish even has its section.

Me again: I asked the girl why she thought the book would be worse, apparently, author bios aren't her thing yet!! Ha!

Rating: Five Stars

Friday, March 16, 2018

Quicksand - Malin Persson Giolito, Rachel Willson Broyles (translator)

Summary: A mass shooting has taken place at a prep school in Stockholm’s wealthiest suburb. Eighteen-year-old Maja Norberg is charged for her involvement in the massacre that left her boyfriend and her best friend dead. She has spent nine months in jail awaiting trial. Now the time has come for her to enter the courtroom. How did Maja—popular, privileged, and a top student—become a cold-blooded killer in the eyes of the public? What did Maja do? Or is it what she failed to do that brought her here? (Summary and pic from

I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

My Review: As soon as I saw that this had won Sweden’s Crime Book of the year, I knew I had to have it. I mean, we all know that the Scandinavians have been writing some seriously epic and awesome crime novels. It seems to be their thing, of late. Many of the books from this genre have really taken the crime genre up a notch—it’s grittier, it’s edgier, it’s more violent, the mysteries are more complicated, the characters are deeper, it’s just more. If you are a crime genre reader at all I’m sure you’ve been at least aware of the Scandinavian crime novels, even if you haven’t read one. I’ve read several from several different authors, and so although it is not the genre I always read from, I do enjoy it when I do.

Despite the fact that I’ve read many different authors in this sub-genre, I‘ve mostly read books in a series with one main detective or at least one main character. This book was different for several reasons and therefore intriguing. First, the main character was a teenage girl. That was a new twist. Although most first-person novels do not have completely dependable narrators, having a teenage girl be the first-person narrator really brought a level of chaotic storytelling and a different viewpoint. I liked it. Nothing like having a crime novel that is as unpredictable as the story is. Having a teenage girl be the narrator also made the actual events seem more unpredictable. The reader was only given one opinion and viewpoint, and the nature of this book is such that it would take many different viewpoints in order to make the story completely whole. There wasn’t one person overlooking the case, like a detective or a police officer. The narrator was a part of the crime and therefore she was both intentionally and unintentionally biased in what happened.

The book was also different from the normal fare because I’m not sure we ever actually know the whole truth, and that’s enticing. There is a conclusion, but whether or not you find it satisfying is something you’ll have to find out on your own. Either way, there’s a certain amount of chaos in the conclusion that makes you feel equally satisfied (or not) and also unsure. It’s a fun balance.

I liked the voice in this book; I feel like I can relate to teenage girls even if I am very far removed from them age-wise. I like the sassy and sarcastic. There were times when I didn’t find her completely authentic and even found her to be a little too adult, but that may be my interpretation. Also, I wasn’t sure how old she was and that kind of made it difficult at times to decide how appropriate some situations were.

The story itself is interesting and varied. There were some confusing parts, and there were some characters I wish had been fleshed out more, especially considering the role they played in the conclusion of the story. However, I think overall, it was a strong and interesting story. And given the school shootings going one, it’s very relevant today.

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

For the sensitive reader: Although this is on the lighter side of most Scandinavian crime novel fare, there is still language, sex, and violence. In some ways it seems harsher because of the young narrator, although I think it’s comparable to others in the crime genre as a whole.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Most Feared Books of All Time Infographic sent us an awesome infographic a short while ago that I just couldn't help but want to share with you! I always find it so fascinating to see what has been challenged or banned and why. We here at Reading for Sanity believe in the right to choose which books you want to read for yourself. While we have chosen collectively not to read certain genres, that is a personal choice for each of us. Now, as for you, I'm going to go indulge in some communist teachings and read Green Eggs and Ham again! 
 PS.  If this infographic won't zoom for you...head on over to and check out the original. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box - The Arbinger Institute

Summary:  Since its original publication in 2000, Leadership and Self-Deception has become a global phenomenon with sales increasing year after year and editions available in over thirty languages.  Its powerful ideas are based on Arbinger's work over the last 35 years -- work that has fueled the success of thousands of organizations around the world.  Through an engaging story about a man facing challenges on the job and in his family, the authors expose the fascinating ways that we blind ourselves to our true motivations and unwittingly sabotage our own efforts to improve performance and achieve success.  Read this extraordinary book and discover what millions have already learned -- how to tap into an innate ability that dramatically improves both your relationships and results. (summary from back of book - image from

My Review:  About a year ago, my dad sent me this book with a little note that indicated I should read it and that it had the potential to be life-changing.  My dad doesn't read much from a recreational standpoint but what he reads is always meaningful, so it might have taken me a while to move it up the stack, but I listened.  Here are my thoughts:

Leadership and Self-Deception is bestseller that looks like assigned college reading – and it is in some colleges -- but when I stopped focusing on its outward appearance and actually started reading, I found a book that was easily accessible, insightful, reflective, and infused with simple wisdom.  At just under 200 pages, I tore through it in a matter of hours, spread out over a few days (because KIDS).  Although this book was presented in a business setting, its principles can be applied to any kind of interaction – work, family, marriage, friendships, and even casual daily interaction.  Its story form was fluid and relatable with a series of helpful lists and illustrative diagrams that shifted my perspective on how I interact with the world around me. 

While I am almost sure to bungle my explanation (the book does it far better), I will try to at least introduce a little of what the Arbinger Institute teaches, even though I’m highly unqualified to do so.  
  • It starts with the concept of a person being either IN or OUT of the box.  When we are IN the box, we see the people around us as objects and are really only concerned with how they affect us.  When we are OUT of the box, we see the people around us as people with their own unique sets of strengths, weaknesses, needs, worries, and experiences.  Our chosen perspective affects our treatment of others in positive or negative ways. 
  • We can be either in or out of the box at any given moment with any given person.  It’s entirely subject to change and choice, though we can to make a habit out of it.
  • Secretly, we crave conflict.  I know that sounds weird but hang on for a bit.  Conflict allows us to feel superior to others as it encourages the I-am-right-and-you-are-wrong mentality.  In this situation, we tend to inflate our own value and in turn inflate the faults of others.  In doing so, we feel justified to continue acting however we’ve been acting and blame others for our problems. 
  • When we are IN the box, we invite others to enter their own boxes.  As you can imagine this is utterly counterproductive in virtually every situation. 

Leadership and Self-Deception also introduces the concept of self-betrayal (when we think of something that we should do for others then talk ourselves out of it) and self-deception (the process of justifying our behavior in a way that distorts our own reality).  Each concept was psychologically fascinating and I haven’t been able stop mulling them over with friends and family. 

I love books that change the way I think in a positive way and this was definitely one of them.  It invited me to question my own virtue and, in doing so, opened up windows of thought that I had to bend my brain around.  I’m not going to lie.  It hurt a little.  Do I thrive on conflict?  Am I part of the problem?  Am I THE problem?   I hadn’t read very far before drawing some fairly uncomfortable conclusions about my daily interactions with others, especially in regards to some of the more strained relationships in my life.  I may not be the only person IN the box, but I am in it and I put myself there.  Thankfully, this book also talks about how to get OUT of the box and move toward healthier, more meaningful, productive relationships.  The good news is that the “how” is simple and straightforward.  And staying out? They talk about that too.  If you keep reading, there is even an additional section in the back of the book (mine is the 2nd edition) that gives some specific ideas for how the book can be used in during the hiring process, for team building, conflict resolution, and personal growth. 

My suggestion?  Even if you don’t think Leadership and Self-Deception applies to you, get your mitts on it and read it.  You are bound to learn something; I know I did.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who thinks they aren’t the problem, to anyone who knows they are, and to anyone who simply wants to live a better life.

My Rating: 4.5 Stars (I'd give it a 4 for writing style and 5 for content)

For the sensitive reader: One swear word of the jack*** variety. Not sure if that’s even a swear word, to be honest.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Momming It Up

Image result for mom imagesYou know that Family Guy clip* of Stewie trying to get his Mom's attention?  No?  You should watch it.  Prepare to be annoyed.  Anyhow, that's how I have been feeling lately.  I love my kiddos, but I am approximately one MOM MOM MOM MOM MOMMA MOM MOM MOMMY away from losing my ever loving mind. 

I read for sanity, but books aren't happening today so you can imagine how well I'm doing.  But just because I can't read today doesn't mean you can't.  Here is an awesome link to 25 Books for the Modern Mom.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Woman in the Window - A.J. Finn

Summary: Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.

Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.

What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems. (Summary and pic from

My Review: I loved the premise of this book. First off, these exciting crime novels with fun twists and easy-to-read plots and action are just a lot of fun. Who doesn’t love a good pot boiler to break up the serious literature? Or even quench your thirst for some real drama instead of just the dramadramadrama of chick lit? Come on. You know you soared through Girl on the Train like it was nobody’s business. Even if that wasn’t the best book written of all time, it was still exciting and compelling. I think this book is on that same wavelength.

Agoraphobia. It’s fascinating. It’s debilitating. It’s heartbreaking. It’s all the things. I’ve heard of agoraphobia, I’ve heard of people who are “shut ins” (I think I’ve encountered a few in my life, but I don’t know for sure that they qualify to the level of agoraphobia). I was not aware of the actual mechanics of agoraphobia, and this was a very real-life and interesting look into what agoraphobia is like and how it affects someone. I heard Finn interviewed about this book, and he apparently went through a period of depression that manifested itself through agoraphobia and so he was writing this from his own personal experience. It felt that way, too. The pain and the debilitation felt authentic and realistic, which I think was key to pulling off this novel. It didn’t feel like a shtick. It felt like the real deal.

So from the summary you can see that there is a woman who is trapped in her house due to agoraphobia that was onset due to a traumatic situation. Her whole world is observed from her home. And then she witnesses a murder. I cannot tell you how awesome this premise is. Well, ya know, not that I like people being murdered…erm…anyway. So she’s limited in what she can see, and yet she sees a lot because she has learned to be so observant from the limited viewpoint she has. I think one could make an argument that she actually sees a lot more than many people on the outside do just because she is so observant, and is also left with only so much to observe. This makes her acutely aware of the neighbors, their comings and goings, etc. There are many twists and turns in this novel, and like any good mystery thriller, the plot turns and twists in ways that make even the reader uncertain. Which is awesome. In this case some of the plot turns are more obvious than others, and I wouldn’t say that I was surprised all the time, but I was certainly joyfully taken aback when something would happen that I wasn’t expecting.

I don’t want to give too much away because I think this is a book that is fun and quick-moving. It’s interesting and challenging, but in a way that is the perfect thing to cuddle up with on a dark and stormy night. It’s not a huge commitment, but it’s certainly worth the short amount of time it took to read it, despite the fact that it’s a decent-sized book. I read it in just a day or so. I love books that make me look forward to them. If you love crime and mystery thrillers, this is one you should definitely check out.

My Rating: 4 Stars

For the sensitive reader: This book has some language, drinking, sex, and murder. However, I would say that it is on the lighter side for its genre. I would give it a PG rating. It is not clean, but it not overwhelmingly offensive or gratuitous.

Monday, March 5, 2018

The Incredible Book Eating Boy - Oliver Jeffers

Summary:  Like many children, Henry loves books. But Henry doesn’t like to read books, he likes to eat them. Big books, picture books, reference books . . . if it has pages, Henry chews them up and swallows (but red ones are his favorite). And the more he eats, the smarter he gets—he’s on his way to being the smartest boy in the world! But one day he feels sick to his stomach. And the information is so jumbled up inside, he can’t digest it! Can Henry find a way to enjoy books without using his teeth?  With a stunning new artistic style and a die-cut surprise, Oliver Jeffers celebrates the joys of reading in this charming and quirky picture book. It’s almost good enough to eat.

My Review: The Incredible Book Eating Boy tells the story of a young chap named Henry who loves books so much he full-on consumes them.  No, seriously.  He eats them.  Not only that, but each time he munches on a math book, chews up a Chernow, or devours a dictionary he gets smarter, and smarter, and SMARTER.  Henry anticipates that his steady diet of books will soon make him the smartest person in the world!  Unfortunately, it isn't long before a major case of literary indigestion leaves Henry in a state of total discombobulation and he must find another way to savor the written word.   

I found this book yesterday while perusing our local libraries "for sale" shelf  (also known as the-place-I-get-my-book-fix-without-breaking-the-bank).   To be perfectly honest, I was pretty sure I was going to buy this book when I read the title, but the book-loving theme and the giant BITE taken out of the back cover (and a few pages) are what sealed the deal.  The illustrations are creative, with an antiqued, album-like feel, and show Henry in various states of book consumption.  Of course, (small spoiler here), Henry eventually learns that books can be even more illuminating when read, and I just couldn't leave a message like that sitting neglected on the for-sale shelf.

My Rating: 4 Stars

For the sensitive reader:  If you value your books, you might not want to read this to any kids who are young enough to take it literally.

Friday, March 2, 2018


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