Thursday, March 31, 2016

Modern Romance

Modern RomanceModern Romance by Aziz Ansari
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Listening to this audiobook was much more interesting than I expected--Ansari did actual research! I didn't think it was going to be an genuine nonfiction title, so I was pleasantly surprised. It was fun to hear him read his own book, and I presume most of his asides to listeners were just for the audio version.

After listening to the book, I am more thankful than ever to have used eHarmony to meet my husband. Ansari mostly focuses on Tinder, OKCupid, and when he looks at online dating, which fascinated me because of the difference in approach and philosophy they have as compared with eHarmony, and hence the clientele they seem to attract. I guess if you are just looking for a way to meet more people, and you're not ready for or interested in a serious relationship, it makes sense that you wouldn't want to invest the time it takes to fill out the long questionnaires eHarmony has you complete. My personal experience (over 8 years ago, so it may have changed since then) was that the process of the questionnaires and the stages of communication functioned as a way to essentially weed out the people you wouldn't be happy with anyway and allows you to just explore relationships that actually have potential for long-term success. It's too bad that the people in Ansari's focus groups don't appear to have caught on to this, since many of them mentioned being exhausted by this process of trying to find someone, and some even realized that too many choices could be overwhelming. If you're basing your dating decisions solely on profile photos (or even brief online profiles), particularly ones which may appear to you in an app purely due to GPS proximity at that precise moment, odds are, it'll take A LOT of bad dates to meet someone who's right for you. Ugh. No thanks!

It was also fascinating to hear about other cultures' current trends in dating and marriage. For example, I had no idea Japan was having such an issue with people not wanting to get married and have children. And the differing views of fidelity around the world were likewise captivating...and often sad. There was a lot of unnecessary and preventable anguish in those too-high statistics on global cheating. We need to take better care of ourselves and each other.

Another relatively recent phenomenon I am thankful to be old enough to have avoided (and which terrifies me when I think about my daughter's future) is sexting. Some younger women apparently choose to sext because they see it as being in charge of their own bodies and sexuality. I'm all in favor of empowering women, How do they not realize that they lose all of that supposed control the moment someone else has those photos? Talk about being poster children for the science of brain development and how the ability to foresee consequences often doesn't mature until your mid-twenties!

Dating in the modern age isn't all bad, though, and I don't want to dissuade anyone from reading this book because my review points out some of the downsides. It's not all gloom & doom out there; I'm merely thankful to be happily married and not dealing with the anxiety of texting etiquette, etc.

For readers' advisors: Ansari is a male comic who swears like a sailor. Do not suggest this book to anyone who doesn't enjoy off-color stand-up comedy routines. I can deal with a certain amount of profanity, but I got REALLY tired of it by the end, especially his overuse of the word "boning" and all its variants. It can take a long time to listen to the entire book when you can only listen while alone in the car--this is NOT a book for children to hear. It would be fun to analyze and debate this book, so if your book group members have a high tolerance for foul language, it might be a great choice to foster a lively book discussion.

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Sunday, March 20, 2016

Sweet Haven

Sweet Haven (Home Sweet Home, #1)Sweet Haven by Shirlee McCoy
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Addie is stressed. Really stressed. Her To Do list is taller than she is and includes things like running her grandfather's chocolate shop while he recuperates from a fall, losing ten pounds in about a week so she can squeeze into a hideous bridesmaid dress for an elderly friend's wedding, making hundreds of candies as wedding favors for said wedding, coping with her hypercritical mother, and figuring out how to keep her oversize puppy from escaping and wreaking havoc on the small town of Benevolence, Washington. She's frustrated by her inability to replicate the famous fudge the store is known for and worried that the business will fail if she can't learn to master it in time to meet not only walk-in demand from tourists and locals, but also the many online orders awaiting fulfillment. The very last thing she needs is the gorgeous new tenant upstairs distracting her. She's been burned before in the romance department, and she is Not Interested.

Sinclair is only back in town for as long as it takes to help his brother clean out their grandfather's house so his pregnant sister-in-law will come home. He harbors bad memories of growing up where his family name signifies lazy alcoholics, and he's worked hard to build a thriving business restoring old buildings, so he can't wait to get back to it. His PTSD and old injuries don't always let him sleep well, however, and soon he finds himself helping to capture Addie's runaway dog who interrupted his jog. In spite of himself, he's drawn to the frazzled accountant-turned-chocolatier and her misbehaving pooch, and before long, fudge isn't the only thing simmering in the kitchen.

This was a very sweet romance. Only a couple of mild swear words kept me from categorizing this as officially a "clean read." There are some steamy kissing (and almost-kissing) scenes, but no sex.

For readers' advisors: character and story doorways are primary. Only the most particular readers would likely object to the "clean reads" label.

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for letting me read an advance reader's copy (ARC) in exchange for my honest review.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and OrganizingThe Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondō
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

2 1/2 stars, but I'll round up.

I have mixed feelings about this book, but some of the things I liked include:
* Flipping around your perception of purging to view the process as "choosing the things to keep" rather than the more negative concept of "getting rid of stuff."
* Choosing to keep the things that spark joy in you, no matter if they might not for someone else.
* Getting rid of items you don't like or use, no matter how expensive, new, or who gave them to you. Let them go with gratitude for the service they provided or the thoughtfulness they represent. (This allowed me to give away some clothes I never liked but had always felt I "should" keep.)
* Treat your belongings with respect and make sure each has its own place.
* Gather all items of a particular type together and handle each one to give you the best picture of what you own and which you like best when you are choosing what to keep.

Some things that made me question her sanity:
* SHE DEFACED BOOKS!!! She actually tore pages out to keep just the parts she liked best. I wanted to (metaphorically speaking) kill her when I read that! NO. Just, NO. If you like certain parts, make a photocopy of those bits and donate the book whole so that someone else can enjoy it. Don't destroy it!!
* Likewise, the books she kept now fit on ONE SHELF in a SHOE CUPBOARD. Say what?! Again, no. Just, no.
* There is no way I am going to empty my purse every single time I come home in the evening. No. Way. Yes, I need to go through it more often to empty out the receipts and expired coupons, but doing that every day is a waste of time and effort. The rest of the things in my purse are in there on purpose because I need them frequently. It would be very bad to accidentally leave something at home--this is the same reason I do not change purses to match my outfits.
* What is her problem with manuals? Talk about throwing the baby out with the bathwater! Yes, some might be unnecessary, but I referred to our refrigerator & microwave manuals several times just since I began reading this short book, & I've referred to our camera manual numerous times. Get rid of manuals for things you no longer own, but keep ones for things you do, otherwise you will end up asking your local librarians to track down copies, and we can't always find them for you!
* Likewise, get rid of all guest bedding unless you have frequent guests? buy and discard bedding every time you have infrequent guests? Um, NO. Our linen closet is not musty, and there is plenty of room for a spare set of sheets, thanks. Not to mention, when we had a guest room, the sheets could simply stay on the bed. This may be a cultural difference that doesn't translate well from Japan to the US.

Some reviewers have commented on the animism she displays in talking to homes and possessions. I admit, it's a little "out there" for me, but she does say you can do it in your head, and I'm not one to judge--as a child I used to think my stuffed animals and dolls had parties when I was asleep or out of my room, and I still silently thank all green traffic lights, so.... (Had the Toy Story movies been out when I was young, I might have thought they were proof positive!)

Overall, it's worth reading this book if you're looking for help streamlining your possessions to get your life back under control. Just take a few things she says with a grain of salt. And don't stress over her origami sock-folding instructions because she's written a follow-up book with diagrams to better explain her methods: Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up

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