What Color is the Wind?

What Color Is the Wind?What Color Is the Wind? by Anne Herbauts

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is built around the premise that sometimes when we want to define something that is abstract, we can’t always find just one definition that gives us a true understanding. Instead, sometimes it’s an experience or the journey to understand the abstract that gives us a better idea of what it is.

The child in this book is wanting to know the color of the wind. He travels around asking different people and objects what color is the wind. Of course, there’s a different answer from each person he asks. This frustrates him until an adult explains to him that the wind can be all these colors; that the sum of all these colors IS the color of the wind.

Children tend to see the world as very binary. I think this book is a good challenge for a child’s way of thinking in that it gets to see that many things in life are complicated and have many nuances. Sometimes the sum of its parts is what defines something.

I also think this is a great book for adolescents and adults in that it reminds them/us that even when we think we’ve figured out a concept like love and acceptance, there may be more to learn and maybe what we understand now isn’t the “true” understanding.

Along with the great message, there’s beautiful artwork that is fun to appreciate while you’re reading the book.

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What Do You Do With a Chance?

What Do You Do With a Chance?What Do You Do With a Chance? by Kobi Yamada

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Just like the other books by Yamada, this book does a brilliant job of taking an abstract idea like a chance, and making it something concrete for readers to analyze. While this is aimed at children, I think adolescents and adults could benefit from this book. Especially since chances don’t stop coming into your life just because you’re an adult.

The basic premise of this book is that a boy comes across a “chance” or a shiny gold thing. He tries to pursue it and is never able to catch it. Instead, he embarrasses himself in front of his family and decides to never try to catch a chance again. During this period, he notices that chances stop coming. Then one day there’s a big chance on the horizon. He reflects on what happened in previously and decides that he doesn’t have to be perfect at catching a chance everytime, just at this one time. If he’s going to succeed, he knows that he’s going to have to give it all he can in order to succeed that this chance.

It’s a great message, this idea that sometimes when we take a chance we will fail. But it’s not about being successful everytime we take a chance. It’s about committing to act of taking a chance and giving it our all. There’s also this idea that we have to be evaluating and analyzing what made us successful, or not, in the past and how we can learn from these experiences without letting them define us.

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This is a Poem that Heals Fish

This Is a Poem That Heals FishThis Is a Poem That Heals Fish by Jean-Pierre Simeon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a children’s book in which a young boy is trying to find a poem to heal his fish. He asks many different people and objects about a poem to try and heal his fish and everyone gives him a different answer for what a poem is. The boy doubts he knows or can create a poem all on his own. In the end he learns that by asking questions and exploring the world around him, he’s taken bits and pieces of what he’s learned and he’s made them his own poem.

I thought this book was great for instilling in readers the idea that everyone has a poem inside him/her. Just because your poem may not be up to the standard that you feel constitutes a poem, it doesn’t make it any less of a poem.

It’s also a strong idea that poems are just our distillation of the world around us. A take on the idea that art imitates life and that each artist sees life in their unique way. This is a great message for kids as they sometimes feel they have to have someone else’s perspective in order to feel grown up. Ironically, once we do grow up we learn that having our own perspective and embracing our uniqueness is what makes us truly “grown up”.

In my classroom, I would use this book to introduce my unit on poetry. Even though I teach high school, I think this book is great not only for the message but the way in which it develops the message. We forget sometimes that we all like a good story and that just because you’re not a kid doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate a good kids book. Plus teenagers are still partly kids and tapping into their more child-like nature and challenging them to think like adults is a great way for them to feel affirmed and challenged all at the same time.

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I’m Judging You

I'm Judging You: The Do-Better ManualI’m Judging You: The Do-Better Manual by Luvvie Ajayi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“I’m Judging You” is a collection of essays/blogs compiled into a book. I enjoyed the shade that Ajayi threw at the subjects she writes about, from friends, pop culture, to politics, and relationships. I appreciated her humor and willingness to say what needed to be said.

Two of her chapters that stood out to me were her pieces on feminism and race. While Ajayi isn’t saying anything that most informed people already know, her perspective and tone add a new element to the discussion. Many times when feminism and race are discussed it seems like a lot of people zone out, tune out, or try to be too academic. Ajayi, on the other hand, boils down these topics to their most basic elements and explains the complexities as if she’s sitting in our living rooms talking directly to readers. While she still adds her blend of humor and sarcasm, she doesn’t take the topics any less seriously. For me, this made it that much more powerful because it made it relatable.

When discussing feminism, Ajayi lays out some of the biggest criticisms that feminists are struggling to deal with: ignoring the role of women of color. Until recently I hadn’t considered feminism being a White women’s movement, but in recent years I have started to see how many feminists don’t consider the issues relating to all women, instead focusing on issues pertaining to White women. We’ve seen this several times in recent elections for example, in which White women abandon all other women because their White politics are at stake. Then there’s the sometimes hypocritical statements some White feminists say when they speak of sisterhood. Where’s this sisterhood when women of color need support?

Using the same approachable tone, but still not avoiding the issues, Ajayi addresses race and racism in the United States. One of the points she brings up that really impacted how look at the issue is when she talks about how there’s in the United States there’s an expectation imposed on Black citizens without taking into account the fact that there’s only been about two generations since the end of the Jim Crow era and the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s. How can we as a society expect a culture that has been oppressed for centuries to suddenly be the same as the White culture that has been oppressing them for so long? Ajayi further explains how in many ways there’s still oppression by White culture to subvert Black progress. Just look at 2017 alone and you can see this playing out.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in pop culture and who enjoys opinions on current issues in society and culture. It’s a better read if you know going into it the book’s a collection of essays rather than a cohesive narrative.

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25 Days

25Days: A Proven Program to Rewire Your Brain, Stop Weight Gain, and Finally Crush the Habits You Hate--Forever25Days: A Proven Program to Rewire Your Brain, Stop Weight Gain, and Finally Crush the Habits You Hate–Forever by Drew Logan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“25Days” is different from a lot of other health books I’ve read. It starts with the story of how the author, Drew Logan, ended up dying three times in the same day due to his heart not beating. Due to so many times with lack of circulation, he suffered some short-term memory loss. This created problems for Drew as he couldn’t remember his workouts and diets. To counter this problem, he started investigating our brain and how it relates to our behavior. This, in turn, lead him to developing his 25Days theory for fitness.

The basis for 25Days is that it takes about 25 days to rewire our brain to avoid the cravings for unhealthy food and instead look forward to healthier provender. Instead of dictating what you can an dcan’t eat, Logan gives guidelines on what you should look for in each meal. Lean proteins, healthy fats, and fibrous carbohydrates are the pillars of your meals. He gives a list of the most healthy in each category, but leaves it up to each individual to choose how they pare them in food.

The other element that he adds in is a workout schedule. He alternates between strength-training and stretching workouts with active recovery days built in. What I liked about this is that it’s customizable and is not exclusive to any light-to-moderate cardio workout you might already be doing. Just like with the food, I feel like this allows everyone to make this a part of what already works for them rather than excluding what they do in order for what Logan thinks is best. To be honest, none of the workouts look overwhelming to anyone who’s starting this program from scratch. It looks just challenging enough to get results but not something that non-athletes should be afraid of.

My one critique is that there’s not a discussion for how vegetarians can adapt the dietary guidelines. Out of the list of lean proteins listed, only eggs are vegetarian. While eating plant-based proteins may not fit exactly into Logan’s idea of a good diet, it should have been addressed in the book somewhere.

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Dark Matter

Dark MatterDark Matter by Blake Crouch

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“Dark Matter” is a sci-fi thriller with a side of romance (but in a good way). Jason Dessen is a physicist at a small college in Chicago. That is until he’s kidnapped, drugged, and wakes up in a world that is familiar and foreign all at the same time. Soon he realizes that the only way he can get back to his world is to remember what anchors him to his reality: his wife and son. Thus begins his journey back to his world and to find those he loves most.

Due to its thriller nature, it would be unfair of me to say more. To prepare yourself for this read, you’ll need a basic understanding of Schrodinger’s Cat (don’t ask me what the actual theory is). This becomes the basis for what happens in the plot; each time Jason attempts to get back to his world another reality is created. If you’re already feeling overwhelmed, the science really doesn’t take a major role in the book but every now and then there’s a few scientific tangents. If you can power through it, you’ll not become too bogged down.

One of the problems I did have with the book is the amount of science that is discussed and yet, by the same token, not really follow-through on. For instance, Jason delivers this monologue about how they’re safe in the box and reality, blah, blah, and then they hear someone else enter the box and another Jason walks by them, wounded and terrified. They never come across him again yet he’s mentioned later, but there’s not explanation given for how he would find his way into box. It might be a minor point, but it drives me crazy when there’s such a dramatic deal that ends up meaningless in the end.

The last item that really impacted my reaction to the book is the ending. After this thrilling journey back to home and loved ones and even then having to fight off pretenders to what Jason values most, the ending just happens. Some may like the open endedness of the ending, I found it lazy. I wanted more of a pay off after giving so much time and effort.

While the elements that I mentioned above impacted my rating for the book, I would still recommend it. It’s a very humanized look at science that you don’t often see in science fiction. The author was able to portray a man who is strong, but who also has weaknesses. His love for wife and son aren’t a distraction for him, but his anchor to reality. There’s also the many action scenes are very well written and make for an entertaining read.

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Eat Well, Move Well, Live Well

Eat Well, Move Well, Live Well: 52 Ways to Feel Better in a WeekEat Well, Move Well, Live Well: 52 Ways to Feel Better in a Week by Galina Denzel

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I can’t remember where I came across this book, but it’s a unique take on starting new healthy habits. Galina and Roland Denzel are health/life/movement coaches who selected the top 52 healthy habits that make for better health and better life in general and outlined a plan to try just one new habit a week. The explore the hows and the whys of each habit and explain what steps to take in order to begin and maintain this habit in our lives.

Some of the habits that interested me were making and eating fermented foods (i.e. sauerkraut), walking, chemicals in household products, posture and movement, fasting (both food and from electronics), as well as how to vacation (it’s sad they need to tell people to do this). None of these were new to me, but the Denzels have a unique take on them that piqued my interest. I’ve noted some of the books they recommend and I’ll be hunting those down from my library.

What I found unique about the book is that each chapter just barely scratches the surface of each healthy habit. It’s just enough to help you understand what they’re talking about, yet not enough that just reading the chapter is going to give you all of the details you need. The desire to know more about some of the habits lead me to looking over their resources section, which is organized by chapter, to learn more. They also “conveniently” refer you to their website to find out more information. I gotta respect their hustle. At the same time, I think the brevity of each chapter avoided the information overload that can happen when you read a book on health and it delves into all of the science and anecdotes behind it. By avoiding this deluge of information, it made me feel like I wasn’t being forced so much as being lead to learn more about each habit.

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Behold the Dreamers

Behold the DreamersBehold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Behold the Dreamers” is one of those books I appreciated but didn’t always enjoy. It’s very frank in its portrayal of the characters in which they are all flawed, yet very real. I enjoyed and disliked this as I tend to “escape” into books and I don’t always like having to dislike a character all the while recognizing that the character could very well be someone I’ve met in real life. In this sense I’d say Mbue’s art reflected life.

The novel focuses on Jende and Neni as they attempt to make a new life in NYC just prior to the 2008 economic collapse. Jende and Neni knew each other in their native Cameroon, and after sometime Jende has been able to bring Neni and their son Liomi to join him in NYC. What awaits them is not only the scary prospect of a collapsed economy and one, in 2008, no one knew where it would stop. They also faced many of the barriers that immigrants face all the time: expiring visas, inconsistent work, balancing work, family, and school, racial tensions, socioeconomic divides, etc. Mbue paints a picture of the struggle some immigrants face in just getting their foot in America’s door.

Many of the people who flesh out the Jende and Neni’s story are just as flawed as they are making the book a great choice for a book club selection. Jende has the biggest dreams, yet he doesn’t always understand what it will take to achieve the dream nor does he realize that the “foundation” his dreams are built is the generosity of others. He quickly learns that when push comes to shove, this generosity can be withdrawn and suddenly his dreams don’t seem so achievable. Neni, on the other hand, has a much more independent foundation for her dreams. In fact, without giving away much, I was cheering for her to fight more for her dreams in the end than was actually written.

The ending, this is the one thing that I feel I would change about the book. I feel that how the ending is written, it makes it seem like everything is just going to be ok. Yet some very consequential decisions have been made it doesn’t seem like the characters are taking ownership of the consequences. It felt more that they were at best in denial and at worst being rewarded for their choices.

I do recommend this book as there are many layers to it and a great piece to discuss.

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10-Day Green Smoothie Cleanse

10-Day Green Smoothie Cleanse: Lose Up to 15 Pounds in 10 Days!10-Day Green Smoothie Cleanse: Lose Up to 15 Pounds in 10 Days! by J.J. Smith

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“10-Day Green Smoothie Cleanse” is pretty much self-explanatory. Author JJ Smith starts the book with a questionnaire to reveal to readers how much they may or may not need to detox. Then she follows this up with an explanation for how green smoothies can accomplish the detox and remove some of the results of a stressful, poor-diet lifestyle.

Before the first chapter closes she outlines what the 10-day green smoothie consists of. Obviously it’s for 10 days and you drink green smoothies, but she goes into details that you’re supposed to eat green smoothies only for meals and that any snacking in between needs to be healthy, plant-based snacks such as nuts, vegetables, or fruit. The rest of the book is made up of chapters about why green smoothies are a valuable tool for detoxing, many recipes for green smoothies, and a lot of feedback from other readers about how the green smoothie cleanse has impacted them.

I’m a skeptic when it comes to cleanses and detoxes. There’s a lot of them out there and none of them seem to actually be healthy in the long run. What attracted me to Smith’s idea is that she’s not taking away anything, she’s replacing whole, processed food with healthy smoothies. I already drink smoothies for breakfast and try to eat on an intermittent fasting cycle, so the idea of just consuming smoothies and healthy snacks (if need-be) inbetween is not a new concept to me. What was news is the idea of eating ONLY these types of foods and for 10 days.

I tried the lite version of the cleanse meaning I only did two smoothies a day and I cheated and ate regular food on the weekends. Due to my schedule and friend group, there was just no way that I could do just smoothies on the weekend. However, even just that little effort I did see some results when it came to weight loss. I was hoping for some more dramatic results in other areas, but considering I wasn’t doing the cleanse strictly speaking, and maybe I’m just not that unhealthy, I’m not too disappointed. There’s some time coming up when I’m going to try and do just the smoothies for 10 consecutive days and see if I don’t get more results.

This book would be a good resources for anyone who’s curious to try a cleanse and/or a fast. I think that doing this cleanse isn’t putting your health at risk and I honestly didn’t feel hungry. The first few days were the hardest, but I chalk that up to be being a change in my routine. Once I realized I wasn’t starving it wasn’t a big deal.

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Eva Luna

Eva LunaEva Luna by Isabel Allende

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“Eva Luna” is the story of a young woman who grows up in turn of the century [insert Central/South American country here]. We are never given the name of the nation in which this story is based, but there are many hints and my personal prediction is that this is set in either Chile or Argentina. Anyways, Eva Luna, the character, finds out that while her life is chaotic and seemingly destined to a live in service, she finds that she has a knack for story telling. This gets her out of all sorts of scrapes, but in the end it complicates what we know about her.

“Eva Luna” is the third book I’ve read cover to cover in Spanish. It’s been a personal challenge to read more in Spanish. The positive takeaway from this experience was that while reading “Eva Luna” I was able to imagine what was happening in my head rather than just concentrating on each word. It felt like that moment when it first happens around middle-school where you stop reading at the word level and you start reading at the image or idea level. The negative from the experience was that I still had to put a lot of effort into reading the book which resulted in me taking twice as much time to read the book than a book in English.

I want to like this book more than I do. I don’t like vague endings especially after such random events. It makes the time I put into the book a waste since we’re told she may have made it all up. At the same time Eva captures my attention and I was invested in her life and the people who fleshed out her stories.

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