Wuhu Diary - Emily PragerI picked this up on a whim at a thrift shop a while back, and ended up enjoying it a lot more than I expected. It's part travel diary, part exploration into the dynamics of adoption, especially when it involves adopting a child of a noticeably different background. As you can probably guess from the book cover, it's the story of the author taking her four year old daughter back to the Chinese city from which she was adopted.
One of the most interesting parts of this book to me was watching how LuLu processed the concept of her adoption through play. I like psychology, so it was fascinating to hear about how, for example, she wanted her mother to act out giving birth to her, or to reenact the day the orphanage handed her over. It was also an interesting change to read about a part of China that I'm not at all familiar with - very few travel books visit the average, non-touristy city to show what everyday life is like there.
How to Be a Heroine - Samantha EllisOn a visit to the house that inspired Wuthering Heights, the author decides it's time to revisit all of the literary heroines she grew up with to see if her impressions of them are still the same now that she is an adult with a different outlook on life, love and what it means to be a woman. You don't need to have read all of the books covered to enjoy this, but it may be a bit spoilery if you haven't, since major events decisions the heroines make are discussed. Luckily, the spoilers of books that I hadn't read yet kind of blended together and faded from my memory pretty quickly, so no harm done. I enjoyed this one a lot - a good mix of examining classics from a fresh angle with a bit of memoir thrown in.
A Field Guide to Happiness - Linda LeamingI have a bit of a fascination with the countries that surround the Himalayas, so I had a feeling I'd enjoy this book about the author's time in Bhutan. The book itself is sort of half self help-ish guide to happiness (think along the lines of Gretchen Rubin's Happiness Project) and half tales of living abroad and adjusting to a very different life there.
I'm not sure that I learned anything new in terms of how to live a happier life, but a lot of the tips/lessons were nice reminders of things that haven't been in the forefront of my mind in a while. For example, in the introduction I was reminded that "Happiness doesn't just happen; It's a result of conscious action (and sometimes that "action" is to do nothing.)" This is technically two ideas that I needed to be reminded of. The concept that happiness is not our default state is something that was pointed out to me a couple of years ago, and it was sort of a major revelation for me at the time. I mean, think about it - When you picture happy people, you generally picture them *doing* something. In contrast, how do you picture depressed people? Probably curled up on the couch. Improving your mood takes effort. You have to actively get up and do things that you know bring you happiness. And, as the second half of the idea that I quoted mentions, sometimes those things might feel like nothing. Lying on the floor in a restorative yoga pose for 20 minutes can make your day a heck of a lot better, but it can also be super hard to prioritize above the dozens of other things that you feel like you should be doing instead.
But back to the book itself... I wish that I could say that more of it stuck with me (It's been more than a month since I finished it - I need to get better at writing up reviews while they're fresh in my mind!), but I did enjoy it in general, and was pleased to see that the author actually has an earlier book that came out in 2011, and it's only like $2 on Kindle, so I might read that one in the near future. You can find the author on Twitter at @LindaLeaming - she shares some fantastic photos of life in Bhutan, as well as her husband's artwork, and all kinds of other interesting stuff.
The Curious One - Chelsea BerlerI requested an advance review copy of The Curious One: From Food Stamps to CEO from NetGalley because it sounded intriguing - the story of how a woman took herself from a childhood of struggle and heartache to running her own business and living on her own terms. Since my copy wasn't a final proof, I'm hoping that it went through quite a bit more editing before publication, because the writing was pretty rough - lots of telling instead of showing, lots of stories that you expect to lead somewhere or have a point, but turn out to just be extraneous detail. I definitely found myself pulling for Chelsea after reading about all of the hardships she went through as a kid, and she seems like a genuinely nice, driven person. I just didn't find much actual inspiration in the book - there wasn't much about how she got from point A to point B other than working really hard. I feel like maybe I missed something, because all of the reviews on Amazon are positively glowing.
Vibrational Healing by Jaya Jaya MyraThis is a really tough book to sum up in a few sentences. The most simplified version I can come up with is that it helps you identify yourself as certain body or personality types, and then offers ideas and practices to help balance your health and well-being based upon those types. It's definitely on the "new age-y" side, but I happen to like that kind of thing, so I found it to be an interesting read. A lot of the suggestions offered (time in nature, grounding/earthing, etc) were pretty standard, but there were some new to me ideas, too. I wish I had time to flip through it again before writing about it here, but the review copies that I get from Net Galley expire after like 55 days, so I can't reopen it to jog my memory. It's definitely the sort of book that works better when you can refer back to it, rather than just read it through once and expect to absorb everything.
What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding by Kristin NewmanIt feels funny to describe What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding as a great beach read since I read it in the middle of January, but that's a pretty solid way of describing it. Fun, witty, and a quick read, this appealed to me as a single woman in my early 30's with no interest in going the marriage and babies route anytime soon. (Or at all, on the "babies" part of that.) Kristin is a TV comedy writer for shows like "How I Met Your Mother" by trade, so she excels at telling a witty story. There was a point where the book almost started feeling repetitive (yet another trip to an exotic locale where she encounters yet another super sexy local), but it switched gears shortly afterwards, and quickly pulled out of that rut. There was a lot that I related to in this book, but it doesn't rank up there as a favorite.
I think the author does a fantastic job of summing up the feel of the book in her comment on its Goodreads page: