Book Review of Character Strengths Matter

character strengths matterThis is a really good primer for anyone wanting to become more familiar with the 24 VIA Character Strengths.  It gives a good outline of each, discussing them in depth as well as how they manifest in over- and under-use. It even does a good job of making you more excited about some of what might appear are the more ‘tame’ character strengths such as prudence of humility, showing how necessary and beautiful each of these are. Each character strength is accompanied by one or more short pieces to help in the reader’s consideration of them – sometimes a poem, or an extract from literature, a speech or an article. There are also five straight-forward and sadly unimaginative tips for developing each, and while not exciting these are achievable and relevant.

The end of the book is a collection of interesting articles about applying these and working with them in different areas.  Certainly will be a useful one to have on the work bookshelf.

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Book Review of the PROPSER School Pathways for Student Wellbeing – Policy and Practices

PROSPERThis is another work read recommended to me by a Wellbeing expert. Although I’ve been using Seligman’s PERMA model in my own work, PROSPER is similar although makes a few other elements concrete such as the need to teach resilience.

This is a very clear discussion of all the elements with some basic ideas for implementing each.  There are helpful even helpful hints for making and implementing policy around student wellbeing at your school.  A really useful read for anyone working in this area or looking to learn about PROSPER as a model in schools.  Nothing earth-shattering or new, just a good clear reference guide.

Impressed Book Review of The Interestings

meg-wolitzer-interestings-MFBSMeg Wolitzer is incredibly easy to read – and in fact The Interestings is responsible for so many late nights in the last week.  But don’t make the mistake of thinking that all books with pacy and punchy narration are slim on content.  The Interestings is an insightful study of a group of friends who meet at a summer camp for young artistic types – and their changing relationships over the course of their lives.

Jules is on scholarship, and feels largely like an imposter at the camp.  But when she is invited to join the cool crowd in TeePee 3, she finally finds a niche that will last a lifetime.  She begins acting in comedic roles, a passion that lasts into early adulthood.  Ash and Goodman are wealthy twins, and Ash soon becomes Jules best friend and fellow actor.  Goodman is troubled and dangerous – and ends up disappearing from their lives after crossing boundaries that should not be crossed. Jonah is the son of a legendary folk singer, hiding secret trauma.  And Ethan… awkward overweight Ethan is the most talented of them all and his adolescent animation Figland is destined to become one of the most popular television shows of all time.

Over the years they dynamic of the relationships change and grow and sometimes warp. Family and money cause fractures but also heal.  Some truths are hidden but still all are bonded by those summers, and by friendships that saw them through the most difficult of times.

A wonderful read, with no dull moments.  Just perplexing, beautiful and complex stories of love and friendship.

Book Review of The Boy on the Bridge

2017-05-02-boy-on-bridge-carey-0032-azambelich2015’s The Girl With All The Gifts was a breathtakingly original dystopian fiction. Sadly the follow up – a prequel – The Boy on the Bridge lacks some of the magic of the original.

We return to the world of the first novel – one dominated by “hungries”, where a small group of survivors led by an organization called Beacon, are either soldiers or scientists looking for a cure. A particular expedition is the focus, and the only points of interest are the fact that they are in the same vehicle eventually commandeered by the exceptional Melanie at the end of the first novel, and by the fact that one of the doctors finds herself illegally pregnant on a Tour of Duty.

As Dr Khan’s time of birth nears, the tension finally builds (in the last third of the novel) when they discover the same group of more conscious zombie children that have somehow managed to retain enough consciousness to function beyond the hunger that traditionally dominates the “hungries”.

We know the team piloting Rosie are doomed, but not how. A delegation to the young hungries has devastating consequences for the crew and leaves a young whizkid scientist with the key to solving the zombie virus – but it comes at an unthinkable cost.

Fans of the first novel might be interested in this, but I found it slower paced and less engaging. The mystery of the first novel has already been solved. The end is interesting – as it leaps forward several years to give us clues as to how the whole series is going to conclude. What I can say for M. R Carey though is that he is exceptional at creating characters and fleshing them out with great skill and care. You will care about the characters at the end of this book.

STAGGERED BOOK REVIEW OF MILK AND HONEY

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When I heard that one of the nominees for the Man Booker this year was a collection of poetry, I was surprised.  How can a collection of poems compare with some of the rare and beautiful stories that have taken the title before?

But Milk and Honey is exceptional. Every so often you pick up a volume of poems and feel like the poet is speaking your language. Rupi Kaur is such a poet for me.  Concerned with themes of love, loss and feminism, almost every page of poetry was relatable and exquisite – from the short four-line poems to the longer epics charting whole relationships.  I have included some in this review just so you can experience it yourself.

I was inspired by this collection – and have thus made two promises to myself.  The first is to write more poems – because if a volume like this can have this impact on me, then maybe poetry is worth pursuing.  Secondly, I will pick up any volume of poems that resonates with me like this.

I haven’t read the title that eventually won – Lincoln in the Bardo – but I have picked up Kaur’s second volume of poetry. And that says something powerful.

 

Book Review of The Melody

Unknown-3This novel by Jim Crace was a little confusing to me.

The blurb was a little misleading – dramatising elements of the narrative that were arguably not central to what I felt was the emotional core.

The main character is an ageing singer, widowed and grieving, clinging to his home town  and his ageing property that holds to many wonderful memories of his wife.  But his grief is blinding him to the issues of the community that surrounds him – the push to modernise and create luxury waterfront apartments exactly where Busi lives, a plan spearheaded by his nephew and heir.  A shocking attack in the middle of the night – where Busi believes he finds a young boy in his pantry – leads him to consider the plight of those living in the poorer end of town.

Busi’s attack – although not believed by any around him as perpetrated by a child – allows a platform for factions in the community to pursue their own aims.  An attention-seeking and ruthless journalist suggests that the attack occurred by remnants of mythical neanderthal humans hovering on the edge of town, whereas the developers use it to scare the populace into accepting drastic measures to ensure their safety.

Neither storyline, Busi’s grief nor the power struggle in the town, are entirely done justice here.  I’d like to have seen one or the other reach a more dramatic conclusion.

Book Review of The Happiness Equation

Unknown-2This is an easy and pleasant read by Neil Pasricha.

In it, Neil writes about his nine tips to improve your overall happiness (pictured here in the post).  Some of this is common sense , and the rest good insight.  He starts with your motivation and your goals before moving into ways to view life, to view challenges and to view yourself.

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The chapters are short and to the point – this is the ideal book to have on the shelf for a quick re-read every now and then, or to share with colleagues when the message is relevant.

I really enjoyed the first couple of chapters, but then it kind of blurred into a lot of the sameness…. but I’d still find this a useful book to have under my belt and in my collections.