Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Book Review Club (September 2017)

Welcome to the September edition of The Book Review Club. We're glad to be back following our hiatus and have lots to recommend after a summer of reading. We never know from month to month who will choose to review in which genre. It's always fun to see if there's a pattern. This month, we have more reviews of adult fiction and nonfiction than of young adult/middle grade. Must've been something in the water, I guess. Enjoy!

by Dr Amit Sood (self help)

I don't often read a book from the self-help shelf. But in August, I had an interesting chat with someone who is physically disabled. She described the accident at age 25 that broke her neck, the rehab for learning to walk again, the return to college for a new career. "I met a lot of depressed, bitter people in rehab and decided not to be that way." It was the word "decided" that grabbed me. This person consciously decided to be happy. I thought back to my twenty-something self, to a time when I was profoundly miserable (relationship, job and grad school angst).  Could I have chosen to be happy or, at least, less unhappy? Maybe? And this is how I ended up reading The Mayo Clinic Handbook for Happiness.

In a nutshell, Dr Sood divides brain activity into "focused" and "wandering." When we're in the default wandering mode, which is over 50% of the day, we stress and worry and drift toward depression. I swear there are days when my brain wanders 90% of the time! Social media has only worsened the condition. I could join Wandering Brains Anonymous (if such a group exists)!

The Handbook for Happiness is a four-step, 10-week program. The steps are: Train Your Attention, Cultivate Emotional Resilience, Start a Mind-Body Practice, Pick Healthy Habits. Each step comes with a series of exercises. For eg., Cultivate Emotional Resilience (weeks 3-8) provides strategies to "refocus thoughts" away from stress.

Does this all sound a little simplistic? Yes. Maybe. But, yet, yet, there could be something to it. Something important. We all know if you want to improve at a skill, you need to practice. On some level, it makes sense to practice being happy. I think the book is worth the read. I love the "Food for Thought" maxims, such as "A step back is often a move forward." I'm going to try some of the exercises.

(Dear FCC: Bought the book)

And now....onto the rest of our reviews. Please click through. You won't want to miss a single one!


Jody Feldman: A WHOLE NEW BALLGAME by Phil Binder (MG, contemporary)

Sarah Laurence: AMERICAN STREET by Ibi Zoboi (YA, contemporary)


Ellen Booraem: HONEYDEW by Edith Perlman (historical)

Linda McLaughlin: THE MOON IN THE PALACE (Bk 1 of duology) by Weina Dai Randel

Patti Abbott:  IN A LONELY PLACE by Dorothy Hughes

Stacy Nyikos: A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW by Armor Towles

Tanya Sutton: EMMA IN THE NIGHT by Wendy Walker (suspense/thriller)


Jenn Jilks of Cottage Country: UNSETTLING THE SETTLER WITHIN by Paulette Regan (adult)

Lucy Sartain of Ranting and Raving: INTO THE WILD by Jon Krakauer (biography)
                                                            THE WILD TRUTH by Carine McCandless (biography)

Margy Lutz: LISTENING TO WHALES by Alexandra Morton (memoir)


Stacy of the Cat's Meow:  CORK DORK by Bianca Bosker (memoir)

Note to Reviewers: Any errors (broken link, missed review, etc), just shoot me an email or leave a comment. Thank you so much for your reviews!


  1. Happy to be back, Barrie!
    Your review sounds like an excellent book. I almost finished my M.A. in Counseling Therapy, and this is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, but a lot cheaper for those without the money for such.

  2. Interesting theory on conscious happiness! I suppose that's why writing and reading optimistic YA fiction is fulfilling. Thanks for hosting!

  3. It is good to be back after a long hiatus. Love your choice for this month, Barrie.

  4. Like you, my reading doesn't typically run toward self help types of books but this does sound promising. It's also interesting to hear what lead you to read the book. Thanks for the recommendation. :)

  5. I literally just, this morning, bought the TIME special edition on the science behind happiness. Great minds think alike!

  6. I tend to be a worrier. I find building confidence in a wide variety of situations helps. The more "normal" something feels, the less I worry about not being able to cope. - Margy


Comments are always welcome!