Saturday, March 19, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo



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ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

This #1 New York Times best-selling guide to decluttering your home from Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes readers step-by-step through her revolutionary KonMari Method for simplifying, organizing, and storing.

Despite constant efforts to declutter your home, do papers still accumulate like snowdrifts and clothes pile up like a tangled mess of noodles?

Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you’ll never have to do it again. Most methods advocate a room-by-room or little-by-little approach, which doom you to pick away at your piles of stuff forever. The KonMari Method, with its revolutionary category-by-category system, leads to lasting results. In fact, none of Kondo’s clients have lapsed (and she still has a three-month waiting list).

With detailed guidance for determining which items in your house “spark joy” (and which don’t), this international bestseller featuring Tokyo’s newest lifestyle phenomenon will help you clear your clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home—and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire.

MY REVIEW:

People seem to be really into the *idea* of minimalism these days.  I often see posts from my friends on Facebook and other social media platforms rejecting the idea that we need so much stuff in our lives.  But sometimes I wonder if what people are really doing is putting out an excuse to the world for why they don't have as much stuff as other people. Or maybe they really believe that having more stuff isn't what makes them happy, but they've never been able to connect that belief with the actual practice of minimalism (getting rid of the stuff they don't need and avoiding buying more stuff they don't need).

Ultimately I don't really know anyone in my day-to-day life who truly practices minimalism.  I myself have never really gotten into the fad.  While I don't necessarily think of myself as someone who loves stuff, I also don't like the idea of getting rid of things like old craft supplies I've held onto for years thinking someday I will have the time again to do something with them.

Marie Kondo's book is convincing, though. She claims that decluttering your home will also help declutter your mind and help you become a happier, more productive person in general. She shares with the readers her step-by-step approach to getting rid of all the excess stuff in our homes -- the things that don't really give us joy.  Although some of her advice was a little odd for me personally (i.e. telling each of your items thank you for serving their purpose each day), her method is simple and her tips are easy to follow.

So, what if you spent six months focusing on getting rid of all the stuff in your home that you don't really need?  If that's something that weighs heavily on your mind/heart, then I highly recommend this book.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: The Giver by Lois Lowry



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ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

Jonas's world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear of pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the community. When Jonas turns 12 he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.

The Giver, the 1994 Newbery Medal winner, has become one of the most influential novels of our time. The haunting story centers on twelve-year-old Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory does he begin to understand the dark, complex secrets behind his fragile community. Lois Lowry has written three companion novels to The Giver, including Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son.

MY REVIEW:

Imagine a world where no one is allowed to think for themselves.  Everyone simply follows the rules and nobody questions anything.  Each person has a specific purpose, which they carry out without petition, and everyone is content.  There is no suffering.  Everything is under control.

This is the world Lois Lowry created in The Giver. This world is seemingly perfect and harmonious; however, this world does not come without a price -- and that price is something Jonas alone discovers when he turns 12 years old and is assigned the role of "The Receiver."  There is one person in the community, known as "The Giver," who holds all of the memories (and with those, all of the pain), and it is now time for him to pass all of it on to Jonas.

The book is beautifully written.  The story is thought-provoking and powerful.  It seemed a little intense for a YA book (at least for a 12 or 13 year old), but I'm sure it would spark a very interesting discussion for young readers.  I recommend this for anyone (young or old) who enjoys dystopian fiction. 

Friday, March 4, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Finding Time by Leslie Perlow



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ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

Why do Americans work so hard? Are the long hours spent at work really necessary to increase organizational productivity? Leslie A. Perlow documents the worklife of employees who assume that for their own success and the success of their organization they must put in extended hours on the job. Perlow doesn't buy it. She challenges the basic assumption that the more employees work, the better the corporation will do.For nine months, Perlow studied the work practices of a product development team of software engineers at a Fortune 500 corporation. She reports her findings in detailed stories about individual employees and in more analytic chapters. Perlow first describes the individual heroics necessary to succeed in the existing work culture. She then explains how the system of rewards perpetuates crises and continuous interruptions,while discouraging cooperation. Finally, she shows how the resulting work practices damage both organizational productivity and the quality of individuals' lives outside of work. Perlow initiated a collaborative effort to restructure the way team members worked. Managers who were involved credit the project for the rare and important on-time launch of the product the engineers were developing. In the end, Finding Time shows that it is possible to create new work practices that enable individuals to have more personal and family time while also improving the corporation's productivity.

MY REVIEW:

With the title Finding Time: How Corporations, Individuals, and Families Can Benefit from New Work Practices, I thought this book was going to be very interesting, but for me it fell short.  It seemed more like a dissertation that got published.  There was plenty of research, but very little practical application. Perlow demonstrates a lot about the problems within a specific corporation, which probably translate to many others, but doesn't spend enough time substantiating the solution(s) that the title suggests.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Country by Danielle Steel


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ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

Stephanie Adams is a devoted stay-at-home mother, married to a successful lawyer in northern California, in a dead marriage she’s stayed in for years for the sake of her children. Then, on a ski trip in Squaw Valley, her fifty-two-year-old husband dies suddenly and all bets are off.

Despite her children’s grief, and her own conflicting emotions and loneliness, Stephanie tries to move on, but struggles to find herself as an independent individual after years of giving up her life for everyone else. A spur-of-the-moment road trip and fork in the road lead her to Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, and a chance meeting—and her whole life changes forever.

She meets country music megastar Chase Taylor, who opens his whole world to her. Stephanie is no longer the same woman, and can’t be anymore. A new man. A new life. The excitement of Nashville. She discovers not only Chase, but herself. The music is bittersweet and the lyrics true in his dazzling, exotic, and honest world.

As it deftly explores the complex ties between spouses, children, lovers, and friends, and dances between the past and the future, Danielle Steel’s moving novel brilliantly captures the shock of sudden loss, and the freedom it can bring. Here America’s most beloved novelist shares the enduring power of seizing the day. Carpe diem.

MY REVIEW:

One of my ongoing reading challenges is to branch out to categories and/or authors I've never read before. Danielle Steel is one of those names that I'm very familiar with, but I had never read any of her books. After reading Country I can see why people enjoy her writing so much.

Country is a nice, clean romantic story about a woman named Stephanie Adams whose husband dies suddenly at just 52-years-old.  Stephanie is left with a lot of money, an empty house and no career or life of her own to keep her busy.  Not long after her husband's death, Stephanie unexpectedly meets Chase Taylor, a handsome country music star who is about her age.  The two begin spending time with one another and fall in love, but Stephanie approaches the relationship cautiously. For various reasons she is unsure about entering into a relationship with Chase, one of which includes the reactions of her grown children who aren't ready for their mother to move on with her life.

It is easy to get caught up in this story.  I found myself getting a little bored towards the end, but I still enjoyed it and would certainly read anything else by Danielle Steel. If you're a fan of romantic fiction, I recommend this one.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: P.E.T. Parent Effectiveness Training by Dr. Thomas Gordon



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ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

P.E.T., or Parent Effectiveness Training, began almost forty years ago as the first national parent-training program to teach parents how to communicate more effectively with kids and offer step-by-step advice to resolving family conflicts so everybody wins. This beloved classic is the most studied, highly praised, and proven parenting program in the world -- and it will work for you. Now revised for the first time since its initial publication, this groundbreaking guide will show you:

How to avoid being a permissive parent
How to listen so kids will talk to you and talk so kids will listen to you
How to teach your children to "own" their problems and to solve them
How to use the "No-Lose" method to resolve conflicts

Using the timeless methods of P.E.T. will have immediate results: less fighting, fewer tantrums and lies, no need for punishment. Whether you have a toddler striking out for independence or a teenager who has already started rebelling, you'll find P.E.T. a compassionate, effective way to instill responsibility and create a nurturing family environment in which your child will thrive.

MY REVIEW:

Parent Effectiveness Training is a must-read for parents of all stages.  Whether you feel you have a good relationship with your child(ren) or one that needs work, Dr. Thomas Gordon will teach you how to improve upon what you have with practical tips and advice that anyone can follow. He walks the reader through Active Listening, I-Messages, and creating "win-win" situations rather than "win-lose" situations, which many of us rely on in our parenting ("Because I said so!"). Keep in mind that his methods do not present a "quick fix" for parent/child relationships. To heed his advice will take a lot of time, patience and practice, but I highly recommend this book if you are up to that challenge.