Book Review of The Strength Switch

strength switch.jpgWhile this is a parenting book, Lea Waters presents us with some brilliant strategies for working with young people by helping them to get to know and utilise their character strengths.

To me, introducing people to character strengths – something that is entirely positive and empowering – is an exciting opportunity.  I’m doing a lot of work to try to expose the young people I work with to this whole concept.

Waters hypothesizes that not only do character strengths assist young people to know and appreciate what is special about themselves, but they also provide us with a terrific platform for reframing behaviours we would rather not encourage. It also provides us with a different way of having conversations.  Turning on the ‘strength switch’ allows us to be specific about what we admire and want to strengthen in you people and provides us with a vocabulary so that we correct behaviours positively and constructively.

The book is full of specific examples on how the be the kind of parent/ mentor/ teacher/ friend we all want to be.  It’s the book you want to buy everyone you know who spends time with young people.


Book Review of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

eleanorThis book wasn’t quite what I expected – although good nonetheless.

Eleanor Oliphant is conservative – both in her appearance and thinking.  She doesn’t engage well with others, and lives on her own with a plant she is reasonably fond of.  She’s also fond of vodka and Tesco’s.  She doesn’t enjoy her job.  She doesn’t have any hobbies or any family with the exception of an absent mother she speaks to weekly on the phone.  Somehow though, the new IT technician at her work – Raymond – manages to make himself a part of her life when they witness an elderly man collapse on the street one day and rush to his assistance.

From here, I was expecting a heart-warming story of a quiet, shy individual finding herself and transforming her life, learning that she can form relationships and have a pathway to  happiness.  And there is plenty of that – and plenty of moments where you marvel at how life can change dramatically in such a short period of time.

But this was actually much more serious that than, delving into the reasons for reclusive Eleanor’s quiet lifestyle and rigid thought patterns.  Eleanor has a tragic backstory that gradually unravels as the narration continues.  This is unusual in a book that has a generally light feel.

The real genius of this fairly engaging novel is not just in the careful portrayal of Eleanor’s journey, but also in the colourful characters she encounters along the way.  The minor characters are beautifully detailed and quirky.  There’s something real in the beauty of this, and in the transcendence of everyday lives.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is getting a lot of attention right now.  It’s definitely not one of the stand-outs of the year for me, but worth a look nonetheless.


Raving Book Review of The Power

the power.jpgThis book has been sitting on my bedside table for months… and I have been making my way through the pile with the sneaking suspicion that this would be amazing.

It was.  This is the best book I have read this year.

The Power imagines a world where women begin to demonstrate a capacity to cause pain via electric shock via touch.  First a few teenage girls cause pain and injury to those around them, but gradually they discover a capacity to wake the power up in each other.  Some have tremendous capacity, some learn ways to control, master, use and abuse it.

It causes a dramatic shift in the power structure of society on all levels – politics, religion, and the armed forces.

The narrative follows a few select characters witnessing and in fact shaping events that create an entirely new society – one based on female domination and complete subjugation of men.  No longer the weaker sex, I would argue that women do to men all that they have been subjected to across history – and more.

It’s a frightening but completely absorbing vision that asks us to acknowledge the transformative nature of power and how absolutely it can corrupt everyone.

The ending of the story is brilliant, as is framed equally as cleverly as a work of historical research looking back at the events that framed their civilisation by a tentative male author, and an understanding female critical friend – and even in this relationship is the dynamic of men and women explored.

This is everything – smart, well-paced and incredibly readable.  This is worthy of the award it received and the acclaim it is starting to get.

Book Review of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck

subtleHard to resist picking up this title at some stage, just to see what it was about.

And it was completely different to what I had expected.  There was a whole heap of completely awesome advice in this book packaged cleverly as the anti-self-help book.

“What problem do you want to have?”

This is probably the most poignant part of the book.  We can’t escape issues in life, so Manson instead suggests we think really carefully about what we “give a fuck” about.  If it’s not important, he suggests we stop giving a fuck about it.  Only spend time on the things that matter and the things you are willing to work on and well, suffer for.  Since he is telling us that suffering is inevitable too.  Asking ourselves what we are willing to go through the ringer for is actually surprisingly revealing.   And if not, we let it go.

Letting go can be harder than it seems – but also surprisingly liberating.  Manson also suggests we liberate ourselves from a whole bunch of other things including the need to be positive all the time.  Don’t judge your emotions, he suggests.  Just decide how much time you need to be devoting to them.

An interesting read – and one that certainly kept me hooked.


Book Review of Star Wars Psychology

star-wars-psychologyOne for the fans.

This series of essays links psychology principles to the Star Wars films – well, Episodes 1 – 6 that is (imagine the field day they would have with Kylo Ren!).

Some of the essays aim to use psychology to help readers understand characters, for example many focus on Anakin Skywalker across the six films and others aim to use Star Wars to help us understand psychological principles (i.e. the reverse). Both are pretty successful.

It was recommended to me by a friend who is a psychologist who had never seen a Star Wars film until the Christmas holidays, and has now seen them all multiple times and has several of these books (even I’m only planning on reading one!).

The content varies from dealing with grief, to mindfulness, relationships, the nature of good and evil and small investigations of how we view droids, loss of limbs (which happens to both Luke and Anakin), mentoring and the portrayal of women in the series.

There were some fascinating essays but I wouldn’t recommend you read this in one sitting – it’s better spread amongst other reading.  Just pick it up and read an essay when you feel like it.

Book Review of The Good Girl

thegoodgirl.jpgNothing is quite as it appears in Mary Kubica’s The Good Girl – and this is probably why I found it on a list of unexpected mysteries.  I’ve read a lot of mixed reviews since, but I thought this was a really interesting, light but entertaining read.

The story moves between the kidnapping of a young woman and the aftermath of her  return.  Mia Dennett is the privileged but disgruntled daughter of a prominent lawyer.  But instead of following in her father and sister’s footsteps, she becomes an art teacher.  But somehow – she is also a target.  Down on his luck Colin stalks and kidnaps her for a mere $5000 payment.  But the two form a connection, and Colin finds he cannot hand her over to the dark characters who want her – but nor can he let her go.  And as months pass and the two hide in a remote and cold cabin, something strange begins to happen.  The girl who returns home is not the girl who left.

Interesting characters with complex backstories make this better than average – although it is firmly in that pile of fiction that you read lightning-fast on your holidays.  I listened to it on audio, and found myself looking for excuses to put it on.  My house got cleaned extra this week!

Book Review of the Sun and Her Flowers

sun flowersIt was International Poetry Day recently, so I thought it was a good time to pick up a copy of Rupi Kaur’s second published collection of poems, The Sun and Her Flowers.

I loved Milk and Honey, a study of the beauty and pain of our relationships, especially our heartrelationships with our bodies as women. I enjoyed the accompanying illustrations as well.  I had high expectations for this second collection, which was broader and more political in scope…  Two new foci emerge in this collection – the role of her mother in her life, and anmother emerging sense of herself as part of a history of immigration.

But perhaps this was too much of a good thing.  There weren’t as many stand-out for me in this one (which is not to say there weren’t some wonderful moments!) and at times, I struggled with the voice and tone.

Nonetheless, Kaur remains one of the most powerful modern poets and well-deserving of her success.  Get a little taster of this collection here.