Happy Show Us Your Books Link-up Day! Spoiler alert: I didn’t *love* anything I read this month. And I get really wordy in my reviews. (But that’s nothing new.) Here we go!
Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris
Um, you guys? I read this back in June but forgot to include it in last month’s SUBY post because I completely forgot I read it. I re-opened it in mid-July and couldn’t figure out why my Kindle showed I was at the end. Didn’t I just read the first couple of chapters and then get distracted by something else? Nope.
This is one of those psychological thrillers where I figured out the twist REALLY early on, but then convinced myself that I had to be wrong. This does get bonus points for having a really good red herring, but overall it was just ok. The ending was a little too unbelievable to be satisfying. I reviewed “Behind Closed Doors” by the sane author back in August of 2016 (wow it doesn’t seem like that long ago!) and I think I enjoyed that one more. Not sure I’ll pick up a third one by this author, though.
(Complimentary e-book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Decluttering At the Speed of Life
Clutter is something I’ve been dealing with in a major way lately. If you didn’t know, I’m living in my mom’s house while she’s in a nursing home, but a lot of factors have prevented me from ever really “nesting” here, mostly that she wants to move back home as soon as she’s strong enough to, and that I want to move back to Florida as soon as I can afford to. The main problem is that my mom has SO MUCH STUFF everywhere that there’s not really room for *my* stuff, too, so the house pretty much always looks cluttered. (For instance, since every dresser and closet is packed full of her stuff, I’ve picked up little plastic bins at the dollar store that I’ve organized socks, underwear, t-shirts, etc. into.)
I’ve also realized in the past year or so that unless an item either makes my life easier or is really useful, I’m probably not going to get that much joy out of it. Cute decorative thing? Meh. Extra phone charger that I can just leave in the car so I can keep my main one at home? SO WORTH IT.
So hey! A book on dealing with clutter!
This book strives to make decluttering really simple by establishing basic boundaries and practices. For example, if you have a sock drawer, you’re limited to the number of socks that will fit in that drawer. Seems obvious, but how many of us have tons of “homeless” objects because we have more than will fit into their designated space? Her methods remove most of the emotion from decluttering. Rather than “does this pair of socks bring joy to my heart?”, it’s more, “Okay, my sock drawer holds 20 pairs of socks, so which 20 do I use most often or like the most?”
You know how there are a lot of Self Help books that don’t really have revolutionary new ideas, but they still motivate you to change by whacking you over the head with basic things you already know (at least on some level) until they sink in? That’s where this book falls. It’s hard not to read a page about cleaning out your pantry without wanting to go check for expired food that might be lurking in yours.
I do wish they had included checklists in each section. Most chapters follow the structure of following a de-cluttering process in a specific room or area of your home. While the steps of the process are firmly stuck in your head by the end of the book, it would have been useful to have something to glance at as you worked on that room when you get overwhelmed and need a nudge in the right direction.
I did love the quote, “There’s a difference between something being useful and actually using something.” I also liked when she addressed people who may be dealing with physical limitations (from mobility disabilities to anxiety that makes things like decluttering super hard) with “Do what you can, whenever you can, as often as you can.” I can sometimes only handle 5 minutes at a time without getting overwhelmed and exhausted, but if I do those five minutes as often as possible, real progress happens.
I think that with this kind of book, it’s all about finding the one that offers a method that really speaks to you. If other decluttering books haven’t worked for you, this one is worth picking up – it might be the one that finally hits home. I liked it well enough, but it wasn’t one that resonated strongly with me.
(Complimentary review copy via NetGalley)
Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis
So.. this book. The cover and title caught my eye on NetGalley and it sounded kind of interesting, but I’ve been trying to only request books I REALLY want to read so I passed on it. But then I saw a couple of people highly recommend it online, so I went back like a month later and downloaded it. I am so sorry about how long this review is going to be, but….arrrrgh.
This is one of those instances where judging by how the author writes, I’m supposed to know who she is? But starting out, I have zero clue. I eventually deduce that she’s a lifestyle blogger, but… dude. I’ve been in this blogging thing since 1999, so I’ve seen more “famous” bloggers come and go than I can even begin to count, and bloggers with followers in the bazillions are a dime a dozen now. Given the “you probably think this and that about me” tone, I’m guessing the intended audience is mostly her blog readers, not the public at large?
I looked this up on Amazon to get the link for this post fairly early on in reading it, and noticed that 94% of its almost 3,000 reviews are 5 stars. Am I the only one that gets a little suspicious about that kind of thing? I mean, even Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (which is obviously the best one in the series) only has 76% five star ratings. I later learned that the author promised to reply to anyone who left a review and sent her a screenshot of it, so out of 300k Instagram followers, it totally makes sense that 1% were happy to type up some lavish praise in exchange for a message from someone they like following. (I read through a LOT of reviews to try to figure out what the hype was. I do find it amusing that most of the two and three star ones said it was either too religious or not religious enough.)
Overall, I was pretty “meh” on the book. The topics are kind of all over the place, it often feels more like a memoir than a self-improvement book (and a lot of her personal life stories seem pointless and mundane), and while the author seems to try to be relatable by sharing her “flaws” and referring to readers as “girl” and “sister” (?), she’s just… not. At one point she describes getting Bell’s palsy, which temporarily paralyzes part of her face, while on vacation in Paris. She literally says, “I’ve never felt sorrier for myself than in that moment” to describe when she was getting her photo taken in front of the Eiffel Tower because she had to wear sunglasses and couldn’t smile normally. I don’t know about y’all, but the most “poor me” moments of my life have totally been on multi-country European vacations, too. (I learned from reading reviews that her husband used to be a Disney exec, so… they’re doing pretty okay in the dollars department. I feel like authors in that category often don’t understand how impractical their life advice might seem to other 99% of the population, and how we might be less impressed by your successes knowing how many huge advantages you had that helped you achieve them.)
I think that the main problem with books written by bloggers or YouTubers is that they have so many people who comment on everything they post saying how brilliant and perfect and inspirational they are that they begin to, at least on some level, truly believe it. Most people with even a moderate following can Instagram a picture of their morning coffee and get a hundred, “OMG I want to be you, you’re so perfect.” comments. Most chapters felt like she just wasn’t qualified to be offering advice on the topic she was covering. (The chapter on diversity is cringe-worthy, and the chapter on fitness is horrifying. She refers to losing weight as, “literally the easiest thing in the world.” Did you guys know that you just need to burn more calories than you consume? That’s it!)
She writes about how raw it feels to share with the book’s readers about things like the way she allowed herself to be treated in her first relationship (before the guy magically became awesome overnight and she wound up marrying him?), but the unhealthy relationship that it’s so embarrassing to write about? Sounds like almost any 19-year old’s first relationship. Of course you did stupid things to try to make sure he liked you – you were a teenager who had never been on a date! So many of the stories in the book are along those lines – completely un-noteworthy. Things you’d probably tell your best friend about when they happened, but not at all the kind of thing you’d still be talking about years later.
Overall? I think this would have been much better off as a memoir with a bit of “inspiration” mixed in than an attempt at giving advice. A good self improvement or motivational book is about the reader, while this is 95% about the author and 5% “You can, too!” Since the writing is clearly aimed at people who are already fans of hers, I think it would have been just as successful in sales if it was written as a memoir and could have avoided the “let me tell you how to live despite having zero qualification to do so” thing. Also might be better if she’d picked a side on it being a religious book or not, since as I mentioned above she seemed to annoy people on both sides by trying to straddle that line.
Again, sorry for the novel of a review, but the inflated ratings make me want to put a truly honest review out there to balance things out a tiny bit. I read a bunch of 1-3 star reviews that were like, “I saw that this was a bestseller and got amazing reviews so I bought it… am I the only person that doesn’t understand the hype?” I’m not trying to be harsh or look down on anyone who DID love it and got inspiration from it. That’s awesome. I just want to save others who get a few chapters in and start thinking, “This isn’t great. What am I missing? Everyone else seems to love it, it must get way better.” from wasting precious dollars and reading hours. I didn’t hate it, and some chapters were interesting to read, but it’s not the masterpiece that reviews seem to imply.
A note unrelated to the actual book: I will *never* request a title from this publisher again, because someone thought it was a great idea to put notes about the ARC being copyrighted material in the middle of the text on EVERY SINGLE PAGE. Advance copies generally have a note about it being an uncorrected proof and not quoting the text without checking the final copy at the very beginning of the book, but I’ve never seen one have anything after that, let alone on literally every page. To make it worse, something got messed up in the formatting so instead of “DO NOT DUPLICATE”, in the middle of a random sentence you’d have the word NOT (which often made me think the author was being sarcastic) and then in the middle of the next line, “DO DUPLICATE”. It’s impossible to get into a book when you’re trying to read a sentence and you get yelled at by caps lock words on LITERALLY EVERY PAGE.
Before now, my biggest pet peeve for ARCs was when the publisher didn’t at least give it a perfunctory run through Grammarly or something before releasing it into the world to thousands of reviewers, but this was so, so much worse. Imagine going to the screening of a movie and someone’s phone blaring the original Nokia ringtone every two minutes. At first you’re like “Wow, that’s annoying, but surely they’ll fix it soon?” but then no. Every two minutes. It rings during the quiet, sad moment. It rings during the hero’s dramatic monologue. You seriously consider just walking out of the theater after 20 minutes (or in my case, after 5% of the book), but you want to at least try to see what happens. Still, you can only put like 70% of your energy, at best, on trying to concentrate on the plot, because the other 30% of your brain is busy plotting ways to kill the idiot with the phone set to super loud ringer.
And it’s not like this is a new Harry Potter book or something. I’ve seen a couple of people mention it online, but it’s not a book with big hype. Chill, publisher dudes. Nobody was considering duplicating it. Judging by other ARC reviews I saw on NetGalley, they just annoyed the hell out of reviewers (and probably caused a TON of people to give up on trying to read it) for no reason. Uggggh.
(Complimentary review copy via NetGalley)
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
The recent movie adaptation made me want to re-read this, so I got the ebook from my library. I know we read it in 4th grade, and I may have re-read it sometime after that, but I had zero memory of what happens. Like, ZERO. And it was nothing at all like I expected, but still a fun re-read as an adult. I can’t help but wonder how much of it I understood as an 8 or 9-year old? I know it made a big impact at the time because it was so different from any other books I’d read, and even now when sci-fi and fantasy are way more prevalent, it stands out as unique. It wasn’t as amazing as I remember it being, but if you, too, haven’t read it in a few decades, it’s a fun way to pass an afternoon. (And I’d be curious if you have the same, “Wait, did I understand any of this as a kid?” reaction, too!)