Book Review – The Tea Planter’s Wife

It turned into a golden morning, full of delicate light, and with a pale blue haze drifting over the lake. It seemed strange that after such a terrifying night everything should be so still and normal at the lakeside, with the fresh wetness of the trees and the dew coating the grass. (Excerpt from The Tea Planter’s Wife)
If you’re depressed, or just on your period, don’t start The Tea Planter’s Wife. It begins (and carries through) with an ominous tone. It reminded me of The Miniaturist – one of the few books I have started and promptly stopped. When something makes me sad and anxious, I show it the door.
However, let it be known that I tried reading The Miniaturist in the midst of a dark depression, that I have since conquered. And I started The Tea Planter’s Wife in the midst of PMSing like they warn you about in health class. (You know the kind – everything is awful and the world is ending…oh wait I just checked the calendar, never mind, we’re fine.) Since I’d received this book from Blogging for Books, I decided to carry on and keep reading, lady feelings be damned.
Here we are now, (entertain us), at my blog post for this lush novel by Dinah Jefferies. It was well worth the fight.
Let’s start with the writing. Lush is indeed the word for this novel. It is written beautifully and carefully. The landscapes are vivid even if you’re a literary jerk like me and skim instead of read half the time. And the characters! They are vivid too; in fact, I miss them already.
Now the plot. You will not see any of it coming, really. There were so many roller coaster moments where everything went to crap right after being okay, that I started to think, “oh gosh, this is so dramatic, not realistic.” And then I remembered real life and went, “oh gosh, this is so dramatic, it’s realistic!”
From dragging my feet page to page in the beginning, I read the last two pages as if my eyes were starving. Similarly to my experience with The Fifth Avenue Artist’s Society, The Tea Planter’s Wife made me want to cuddle up to my fiance and never let go till we have lived our own beautiful roller coaster. Damn it, I hate when books make me feel.
The Tea Planter’s Wife is the perfect summer novel for someone who can’t stand crap romance novels and vapid plot lines. It sweeps you away with the story but also leaves you feeling like you enjoyed something of substance. If silly women’s lit is The Real Housewives of Literature, this is the Netflix original series that surprised you into being a fan.
If you’re looking for an escape that won’t make you feel like a twit, grab The Tea Planter’s Wife and enjoy your read.

 I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

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The Inkblots by Damion Searls – Book Review

Drink, oh eyes, all your lashes can hold / Of the golden abundance of the world.

An important man in psychological history loved dearly these lines by Gottfried Keller.

If you were a psychology major, like myself, you’ve heard the names Freud, Jung, Milgram, Skinner, and perhaps even Rorschach. You may even have staunch opinions on their theories. No one ever told me, however, what they thought of each other and their work. I never was told that B. F. Skinner was a total snob about the Rorschach inkblots, nor about the strange feud surrounding Freud and Jung, as they pushed aside a smart man you’ve never heard of.

If you are a regular citizen of the world, like myself, you’ve heard of The Nuremburg Trials, Andy Warhol, and Ray Bradbury. No one ever told me, however, how each of these were deeply connected to the inkblots in some way.

 

The Inkblots, by Damion Searls, is no boring account of a stuffy psychologist. In fact, the decidedly not stuffy Hermann Rorschach dies halfway through this thorough non-fictional account. I reacted to his death like I would a character in a novel. It hurt. But Searls didn’t end there.

 

At first, I took a little while to get into reading The Inkblots consistently. (Sleeping on the train home almost always feels like the right choice, at the time.) But every time I did force myself to read, I was completely absorbed. This book, with as much information as a textbook, if not more, was anything but dry. Searls categorizes himself as a word person, and this shows in his writing in the best way.

 

By the halfway point, I was happy to cuddle back up with this thick book when I could. It made me miss being a psychology student. The familiar faces I “knew” in college of Jung, Freud, Rorschach, and Skinner came back into my life. More importantly, I have a newfound respect for Hermann Rorschach – no longer a weirdo with some pictures, in my mind.

 

Searls paints a portrait of the inkblots through history, from the events that led to their conception, all the way through the author’s own experience taking the Rorschach test today. In narrating the history, he takes the reader on an emotional journey. I found myself rooting for the original integrity of the inkblots as Rorschach intended them.

Finally, I was struck by the sheer impact of one man’s (short) life’s work.

From war crimes, to treating patients, bitter controversy, to pop culture, the inkblots have been used and abused by humanity. To know the story of the man, and the roller coaster of his legacy, opens our eyes to the deep human ability to change the world, in all it’s ‘overabundance.’ I think that’s what Rorschach would have wanted his biography to teach us, after all.
Note: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

My 35 Book Journey in 2016 – Answers to your Questions & Stats

My Goodreads goal for 2016 was to read 30 books. But because I am such a nerd, I actually read 35.

Just as last year, beating this goal was a joy. I read many great books, learned a lot, and it felt great to brag to people about the number of books I’ve read. I may be a nerd, but I do love to flaunt it.

First, let’s take a look at some fun stats:

i-am-an-open-bookha-haQ&A

I had my friends on Facebook ask me questions about my Goodreads challenge. Here are the questions and answers. Thanks to everyone who participated!

Swift Kick’s new intern Dee asked me a bunch of awesome questions. So we will start with hers:
 
Which books were most meaningful for you to read?
I would have to say that The Gospel of John and I Love a Cop. 
The Gospel since it was a big step spiritually for me to read a little of a book of the Bible every night until I read the whole thing. I highly recommend reading isolated books at a time if the whole Bible seems overwhelming.
I Love a Cop was incredibly meaningful because it was a fantastic handbook on how to be married to a police officer without going nuts. Since I am about to do  just that in 2017, this book really eased my fears by giving me clear steps to take for the issues that only police families face. I covered this book in notes and highlights, and then handed it to Kieran so he could learn about our future marriage as well, through my eyes.

Which books challenged you (or your thoughts/ideas/current mindset/etc) the most? (This question was echoed by Kristen as well.)
I think Superbetter did this! It’s all about viewing your life, and biggest challenge, with a ‘gameful’ mindset. This book came at a time during which I was getting over the deepest depression of my life, and, coupled with the Superbetter app, helped me take some control back of my happiness. I still use some of the language from this approach today.

At the same time, Superbetter also affirmed some of the things I knew about thinking positively, while framing them in the science-backed psychology mindset that I am so comfortable with.

Which authors would you love to have dinner with?
I actually HAVE had dinner with one of the authors. Katie Cotugno, author of Fireworks, is married to my fiance’s brother. Bet you didn’t see that coming, did ya?

 

The next questions are from a few of my other friends. 

Elisa: How did last year’s book list affect this year’s choices?
I don’t know that it did too much, to be honest. I will say that my discovery of Ready Player One lead me to read that author’s new book Armada, and also more books of the science-fiction realm.

 

Last year’s list probably also helped me be more adventurous with looking for books to read, instead of just going with what I know. On the other hand, doing a book club with my company put a lot of books on this list I never, ever would have read on my own. (For example, The Untethered Soul, The Five Agreements, Deep Survival, Quiet, You Might Be a Zombie.)

 

Sarath: What book do you think you would need/like to reread to understand more fully? Or to take more out of?
I thing that the one book of poetry I read, 99 Poems by Dana Gioia, is a prime example for this. You can always re-read poetry to get a better understanding. I tend to read quickly, so to read it more slowly would certainly give me an even greater appreciation for the collection. Of course, the same should be said for The Gospel of John, since the Bible is meant to be understood more deeply with each reading.

 

K’yla: Did you ever feel it was a chore? Or more of a goal? Like did it ever feel burdensome or overwhelming to have a stack of books to read?
Hm, good question. No, I never did. I tend to fly through books so quickly that I knew I was going to surpass my goal back in October. Since I don’t have a predetermined list at the beginning of the year, each new book choice is full of possibilities. I would say the reading challenge is one of those goals that are more to make me feel great than challenge me, since I will always be reading and hitting that number.

 

I wonder what number of  books will be my downfall…? ;)

 

Alright, that’s my wrap up about my wonderful 35 book journey! I will say, I think I had altogether better book choices in 2015, because how can you beat Ready Player One and The Martian?

Wishing you a book-filled holiday season and New Year!

PS – Read my official review of The Never-Open Desert Diner here!

The Never-Open Desert Diner – Book Review

feat

A red sun was balanced on the horizon when I arrived at the Well-Known Desert Diner. Sunrise shadows were draped around its corners. A full white moon was still visible in the dawn sky.

Those opening lines truly set the tone of The Never-Open Desert Diner, by James Anderson. My guess is that Mr. Anderson decided to write a story about the desert on Route 117 first, the plot second. And I mean that as a compliment. Like the desert setting of the novel, Anderson spins a tale that is at once peaceful and uncomfortable. Reading it was a journey that felt like home, but a home you were slightly nervous to go back to.

Let’s go through the book review checklist, shall we?

Beautiful prose? Check.

Satisfying dialogue? Check.

Characters? Compelling and real.

The story starts out slowly, with only an immediate hint that there might be a mystery afoot. For a while, you don’t remember that mystery. But like the prevalent desert flash floods throughout the novel, everything important happens at once. And then it’s over and you are forced to think about what you’re left with how.

The Never-Open Desert Diner makes you feel two things at once, always. Joyous, and sad. Calm, and nervous. I put down the book after the last sentence and wished I could run to my fiance’s house and hold him tight.

In other words, this book did exactly what it was supposed to do, and did it well. 

When I finally climbed into bed after finishing the novel, I looked at the clock on my cable box. It was 1:17am. I smiled knowing that I now knew the story of 117. 

Note: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

 

How To Find Cheap and Gorgeous Old Books for your Wedding Centerpieces

I may not have the dress or the guest list finalized, but my wedding will at least have centerpieces! Oops.

old books wedding centerpiece
-swoon-

That’s right, I had the brilliant idea (thanks Pinterest)  to incorporate old books in my wedding centerpieces, along with flowers and pearls. In about a month’s time, I was able to gather 40+ books. It was shockingly easy and inexpensive. So I thought I’d share the wealth of knowledge with you!

Step 1: Tell everyone, and their mother.

Tell your friends, your mom, your bae’s mom. Your brother and sister. Your neighbor. You will have an army of people bringing you old books and then you will have a surplus to choose from. Everyone wants to be involved in the wedding planning, and this is an easy way to get them to help out.

Step 2: Sign up for estatesales.net

You can set up alerts for sales in your area that list what you’re looking for, in this case, old books. The site will send you an email every time one of these sales is coming up so you can plan to drop by!

Step 3: Hit up your local library sales.

Often, they will have deals that if you fill up a bag, you can pay $10 for all the books inside. Or, hardcovers can be $1-$2 each. Seriously, the majority of my books came from these sales. It’s crazy how little they are giving these books away for!

Step 4: Be spontaneous!

I got my first few books at an estate sale that was on the lawn at the historical society in my town. I saw the sale while I was driving by, stopped the car, and started hunting. I found the most gorgeous books, and the lady sold them to me for $5 each! (And those were the most expensive books of all the ones I bought.) That’s when I knew my centerpieces were going to come together. Because when you’re holding a gorgeous copy of Pride and Prejudice, things just work out.

Now I just have to figure out where to keep these books for the next 300 or so days…

old books wedding centerpiece
(A small sampling of my stash.)