The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo – Book Review

This review is a little different for me, since I usually review fiction; and this is a “how-to” book, but I thought that I should do a review as I found this book to be both a little bit odd, and also very helpful.

The oddest bit about this book was of course, the culture gap. In Japan the usual home is small, and here in the U.S. our homes and apartments are usually larger. So, some of the advice wasn’t very useable for me, personally. I also understood why she felt that bookshelves should be put in closets (!), but that was definitely a no-go for me. However, much of the advice was really interesting and I will be using some of it in the future, with a little bit of personal tweaking.

She talks a lot about the shear madness of clutter, and having excessive stuff. I really enjoyed the book when she discussed that, since I think that I myself have too much stuff that I just keep because…why, I don’t really know. Also, she give me a lot to think about regarding not knowing what I have because I have too much of it.

So, if you can get over the cultural differences, I recommend this book, since Kondo does have valid points to make. Do I feel like it changed my life? Well, that remains to be seen.

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Emma: A Modern Retelling by Alexander McCall Smith – Book Review

Apparently this book is part of a retelling of three of Jane Austens’ books, Sense and Sensibility, (which has been published, written by Joanna Trollope, Emma, and Pride and Prejudice which will be updated by Curtis Sittenfeld), in honor of the 200th anniversary of the publishing of Pride and Prejudice.

I love McCall Smith, and love what I call his “Bertie Books” otherwise known as the “44 Scotland Street Novels”, so I went into the reading of this book with the expectation that I would enjoy it.  I really liked how he updated this book. But, I also have to admit that I had forgotten how much I disliked Emma. She was simply way too full of herself. So, McCall Smith did indeed follow in Jane Austens’ footsteps by making this character extremely hard to like.

What I’ve found interesting about the long-term staying power of the original Emma is how the book has remained so popular for so long, while at the same time having such an unlikeable main character. Of course, the original book had the old-fashioned time-frame going for it; McCall Smith had none of that here. Yet, I continued to read it. Why? Because even though Emma was highly unlikeable, I kept thinking that, just as with the original, she would eventually “get hers” and, would learn her lesson.

Of course, as anyone who has read the original knows, Emma does indeed get served her comeuppance, and becomes who she should have been all along. While the book was difficult to update; the realities of life in the original Emma would be hard to replicate in our modern age, I did enjoy the way in which it was updated. I found this to be a really good read, as anything that McCall Smith writes is. I highly recommend it.

Tracks by Robyn Davidson – Book Review

I must say before I start this review that I saw the movie before I read the book; and unfortunately, I had never heard of Robyn Davidson. This is incredible to me, since I would read National Geographic from cover to cover at the time (1977) when she was making her journey across the Australian Outback. Apparently I either missed the story, or it resides totally forgotten somewhere in the cobwebs of my brain.

I loved this book. Davidson decided, for no reason that we are told, to walk across the desert with three camels. Just to see if she could do it. Since she had no money, she knew that she’d have to learn how to train and control camels herself. So, she headed off to Alice Springs to learn about training and leading camels. This was no easy task, and almost two years went by before she was able to begin her trip.

Due to money issues, Davidson had to sell her story to National Geographic, and then she had to “put up” with the photographer assigned to her story. This she felt was changing the purity of her vision, but like all of us, she had to live in the real world. If she hadn’t taken the money, the trip would never have happened.

I really enjoyed the way that she wrote the book. Her observations about herself – she had the ability to see herself for what she was, which is always a refreshing thing. The book is a reflection of her, as she was, warts and all. While I had a problem with some of the things that she does (camel hitting), I enjoyed the book immensely. I found it to be an uplifting read. Here was a woman who overcame the odds and finished the trip that she set out to do. I highly recommend it.

The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had by Kristin Levine – Book Review

First of all, this is a Young Adult book. Secondly, I highly recommend this book to all adults. It’s a wonderful story about Harry “Dit” Sims coming of age. The novel takes place during the years 1917-1918 in a small town in Alabama. Dit’s parents rent out a cottage to the local postman, and this is the heart of the novel. Dit waits with anticipation for the new postman and his family to arrive since they are supposed to have a boy his age. As the middle child in a big family, Dit feels as though he is lost in the shuffle (his father routinely calls him by his brother’s names). Dit is looking forward to making a new friend.

When the postman and his family arrive on the train, there is no boy, only a girl his age and the astounding realization that they are black. Remember, this is small-town Alabama, 1917. Regardless, Emma Walker and her family become good friends with the Sims, and Dit and Emma become best friends.

It is during the time that Emma lives next door that Dit grows up. Simply by being friends with Emma, his world-view changes; and he begins to stand up for what he believes is the “right thing to do”. This book is exciting; there are the usual high-jinks associated with childhood in the rural South; along with changing views and a wrongfully convicted local barber.

Along the way, Dit and Emma learn about the world, people and each other. Each is changed in a profound way and gains a greater knowledge of the world they live in, each other, and themselves. A wonderful read!