Friday, August 16, 2013

What I've Been Reading - May/June/July/August

It's been ages since I've done a post about books I've been reading! Figured it was time to catch up. As usual, this isn't everything I've read in the last few months, since that would take forever to cover. This was actually just going to be a May/June/July post, but it took me so long into August to finish up one of the books that I decided I should just add on this month, too!

Here's what's been keeping me company so far this summer:


Never Look a Polar Bear in the Eye: A Family Field Trip to the Arctic's Edge in Search of Adventure, Truth, and Mini-Marshmallows

I know I'm way behind in writing about this book because I remember getting it before it was published, and it was released way back in January. Oops. This is a memoir written by a man who temporarily moved to a remote town in Manitoba with his family to study polar bears (and the effects climate change are having on them) by spending time with various experts. Although it takes a while to really get rolling and drags a bit in places, the writing is solid and at times quite funny. One interesting thing I learned: While black and grizzly bears hibernate, polar bears don't. They may eat a bird here or some seaweed there, but they mostly starve all summer. No wonder they're so grumpy.



Yoga Sparks

This is another book I received an advance copy of via NetGalley. As someone who tries to do yoga daily (but doesn't always find the time), the cover caught my attention. As the cover says, the book contains 108 ideas for small things you can do in a short period of time. These include postures, breathing, meditation and principles. They are then divided by where you can do each "spark" - anywhere, around the house, on the go, at work, and with others. The ideas included are things that anyone can do, regardless of experience with yoga. If you do have a bit of a yoga background, a lot of these practices will be old hat to you, but reading through the book can be a nice reminder of basics you may have forgotten.

Rather than reading straight through (other than maybe once to familiarize yourself with the concepts), this book is probably best kept somewhere like your work desk to flip open when you need a moment to relax or re-center. For most of the sparks that involve stretches or poses, there are illustrations to clarify the written instructions. Overall, it's a nice introduction to the non-physical aspects of yoga for those interested in moving beyond just poses.



Divergent and Insurgent - Veronica Roth
I've heard so much about these books that I finally decided to pick them up. I'm not generally much of a YA reader, but every now and then I get in the mood for a quick read, and these are perfect summertime beach reads (You can easily get through both in a weekend). This is another dystopian novel series (think Hunger Games, Delirium, etc.) but I was impressed by the writing and the fact that the story felt fresh, not like a carbon copy of all of the other books of this type that have been flooding the market. I never quite knew where it was going next, which was nice.

The third book in the series is set to come out in October, and I'm definitely looking forward to it. They're also doing a movie of Divergent (and the others, I would assume), but I'm on the fence about that. I saw pictures from it, and most of the cast looks nothing like what I imagined, which throws me off a little. But anyway, thumbs-up to both books. Oh, and another bit of praise- Insurgent is pretty much as good as the first book, which doesn't always happen in a series. I was happy that it picked up exactly where Divergent left off and didn't waste a bunch of time filling the reader in on what happened previously. It's really one story just divided between books. Hopefully the third will be on par.



Karma Gone Bad: How I Learned to Love Mangos, Bollywood and Water Buffalo
(This book isn't due out until November.)
I'm a sucker for a good "moving to a new country" memoir. This book follows the author's move from NYC to India, which is (needless to say) a bit of an adjustment. As much as I'd love to live abroad eventually, I don't know if I could manage India. She mentions her blog in the first chapter, so of course I had to look it up, but it is now set to private, which is kind of annoying. I did find her new blog, but I wanted to see her pre-book life, ya know?

What I appreciated was that the author wasn't shy about sharing the harder parts of her journey. When you're preparing to travel or move somewhere, all that usually comes to mind are the great, exciting things. You're going to eat new foods and try new things and totally excel at this new place you're in! But then the reality is harder. You miss certain things about home, things aren't quite what you expected, and it's hard to go out and have all of those adventures you dreamed of when you're dealing with everyday frustrations. The author does a great job of sharing her difficulties without coming across as whiny. It's a good mix of funny, heartfelt and relateable.



 Dead Ever After
This is the 13th and last book in the Sookie Stackhouse (True Blood) series. I'm a little sad to see it go- they're fun, quick, enjoyable reads- but it was probably time to say goodbye. The story has gotten fairly complex by now and since there's been some time between most of the books I've read from this series, I found myself getting a lot of minor characters confused as I read this one. There are a LOT to keep up with by now, not to mention countless subplots. Still, it's a fun series to read, perfect for poolside in the summer. It will be interesting to see if the TV series follows the same ending as the books.

I actually just discovered while writing this that in October, the author is publishing After Dead: What Came Next in the World of Sookie Stackhouse, which is a sort of epilogue that will tell what happens to each character in the series after the end of the last book. It must be fairly in-depth, since it's 208 pages.



 Yoga for Emotional Trauma: Meditations and Practices for Healing Pain and Suffering

As both a yoga nerd and a psychology nerd, I had to check this out. I love improving my understanding of how the brain works. For instance, one of the first things I picked up in this book is that the frontal lobe and limbic system are basically at odds with each other. When your limbic system revs up (such as when you're frightened), it steals the blood from your frontal lobe, which is why it's so hard to think clearly. Oh, brain, you're so silly! (Alternately, engaging the frontal lobes can calm down the responses of the limbic system.)

If you have anxiety or panic attacks, the opening chapters of this book do an excellent job of explaining why your body has a lot of the reactions that it does. As someone who experiences both of those problems, I'm tempted to keep copies of the section that explains what a pain in the ass the amygdala can be (in slightly more scientific terms) for people that just can't grasp the concept when I try to explain it to them.

One other thing that I found interesting is that we're not always naturally drawn to the type of yoga practice what may help us most. For example, if you're feeling depressed and sluggish, you may tend to want to do a gentle, relaxing series of poses when what would be more beneficial is something more energetic that will get your energy moving. Definitely something I need to put thought into.

Have you guys read anything awesome lately? Share!

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