The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

I listened to the audiobook version of this and really related to the message and advice. This book is all about embracing who you are, loving yourself, and finding your joy in life. It's a really quick listen (or read) and the narrator has a clear, easy to listen to voice. It emphasizes giving up on perfectionism and loving your imperfect self and imperfect life with its all its quirks and flaws. I found it inspiring and motivating and especially interesting as her findings are based on a large body of qualitative research she has conducted. While self-help can feel contrived, simplistic, and/or rote to me, Brene Brown's books always leave me feeling restored and refreshed. The memoir aspects of the book were actually my least favorite because they seemed cheesy to me and I didn't always identify with her personal story, but I didn't find that it took away from the overall message of the book. Four out of five stars. Back to Book Reviews  

The Atlas of Beauty by Mihaela Noroc

Beautiful collection of photographs of women from around the world. The author even traveled to North Korea to capture some of the photos. A perfect coffee table book that would make a great gift. My only criticism is that I thought the captions of some of the photos were either a little silly and frivolous sounding or just weren't especially well-written. The author's strength is obviously photography as most of the pictures are well-composed and stunning. Four out of five stars. Back to Book Reviews  

Faith Vol. 1 by Jody Houser

I heard so much about this comic that I thought there was no way I wouldn't love it, but I'm afraid I just don't understand the hype. I didn't find Faith to be a very interesting character and this seemed like such an ordinary superhero story to me with no nuance. I also found a few small things problematic. For example, I've never seen a character in any comic I've ever read eat so frequently. There were so many scenes where she is eating things like greasy Chinese food. Is it because of her size that we have to see her eating all the time? Also, she fantasizes frequently about men with washboard abs and perfect features (and these attributes are emphasized in her fantasies). I don't understand why a supposedly body-positive comic would emphasize this so much. She certainly doesn't need to fantasize about heavy men or anything, but it seems like a weird double standard and I think people would call that out if this were a male superhero. I was excited about Faith as the real world female superhero I've always wanted to see, but this seemed like a lackluster attempt. Two out of five stars. Back to Book Reviews  

Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet Vol. 1 by Ta-Nehisi Coates

An interesting and complex story, I was intrigued enough by this first volume to have some interest in reading the next. There's several story lines running at once, so it did get a little confusing at times and I felt like I had to pay close attention to keep up. Also, we don't really get any origin story for Black Panther which is always something I look forward to in a first volume with a new take on a character. While the story and visuals were captivating, it seemed obvious Coates is not used to the comics medium. The dialogue felt really awkward in spots and he relies on narration a lot more than I'm used to in a typical comic. If you're interested in comics, I wouldn't miss this one, but, if you're new to the format or only marginally interested in it, I'd read something else. Three out of five stars. Back to Book Reviews  

The Happy Traveler by Jaime Kurtz

Travel always sounds really exciting to me until I actually have to do it, so I thought I could use some tips from this book. The author has a lot of great suggestions on how to be happier traveling and I liked the way she pulls from current research and human psychology for those suggestions. A lot of it, though, seemed like common sense suggestions and it was incredibly repetitive, so I eventually started skimming the book and just reading sections I was interested in. Anyone about to travel or that travels frequently would probably enjoy giving this book a look through. Three out of five stars. Back to Book Reviews  

Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash

A coming of age tale in which a young girl at summer camp comes to terms with feelings she has for a female counselor. This is a graphic memoir so it is entirely illustrated with simple yet emotionally fraught artwork. Maggie is a complex, witty, flawed, sympathetic character who I loved reading about. She captures the feeling and spirit of summer camp perfectly. Maggie's crush is innocent, sweet, and obsessive much like any 15 year old girl crush making her relationship with Erin (the female counselor) incredibly relatable. Watching Maggie navigate the norms of Southern tradition that are emphasized both at home and at camp, while harboring a secret that could ostracize her, underlines the ways in which we compartmentalize ourselves to fit in, especially in our youth. Maggie also rebels against these norms in many ways often without much grace but with a spirit and heart that I found very admirable. I have a soft spot for coming of age tales with comic relief and precocious narrators and this one completely fit the bill! Five out of five stars. Back to Book Reviews  

Run Fast, Eat Slow by Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky

There is very little diet info or nutrition recommendations tailored to athletes in this book (other than eat whole foods), but I've enjoyed a few of the recipes so far such as cilantro lime cashew sauce, double chocolate teff cookies, and cocoa coconut macaroons. Many of the entrees are fairly basic and do not necessarily reinvent the wheel, but I got lots of inspiration and menu ideas flipping through the pages; for example, I recreated Shalane's Breakfast Meets Dinner Bowl with my own twists and it was delicious and simple. Allergy-friendly, nutritionally dense recipes throughout. Three out of five stars. Back to Book Reviews  

Rivers of Oregon by Tim Palmer

Beautiful photographs and vivid descriptions abound in this coffee-table style, loving tribute to the waterways of Oregon. The author describes what must amount to many trips across these great rivers with an enthusiasm that had me excitedly plotting out my next great adventure. His knowledge of Oregon's riparian ecology provides for informed essays that are fascinating and informative. My only complaint is that it should have been a larger book to really showcase the fantastic photos. Four out of five stars. Back to Book Reviews  

The Girl in Green by Derek B. Miller

A horrific incident in Iraq in 1991 just after Desert Storm, in which a girl in a green dress is killed, intertwines the fates of the two protagonists in this authentic, resonant, rich novel by an author with experience conducting diplomatic missions to the region. Arwood Hobbes, a solider, and Thomas Benton, a reporter, find themselves back in Iraq twenty-two years later to solve the mystery of the seeming reappearance of the girl in green. The humor and sharp insights cleverly interlaced in the dialogue make this book infinitely readable and profound in its assessments. One of those novels that is difficult to put down and sticks in your mind long after. Great for political thriller enthusiasts as well as anyone that just loves a witty, taut, affecting novel. Five out of five stars. Back to Book Reviews  

Arab of the Future by Riad Sattouf

Great slice of life graphic novel that provides a glimpse into everyday life in the region during that time. The story is told through a child's eyes making the political fervor surrounding them seem somewhat muted but still present, often in the background via the stunning visuals. Riad's parents are well-developed characters with complexities that are captured subtlety and artfully. Full of humor and a poignant memoir of family and place. A great read-alike for fans of Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (especially if you enjoyed the family dynamics more than the politics), or anyone who enjoys memoirs and/or glimpses of life in this region. Four out of five stars. Back to Book Reviews