The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles that Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People’s Lives Better Too) by Gretchen Rubin

Book— If you like personality tests and putting people into categories, you might enjoy The Four Tendencies, Rubin’s newest pop psychology book about human personalities and how to work with your (and other’s people’s) native propensities to achieve your goals. In short, Rubin proposes that you can sort all of humanity into four categories based on one key trait: their response to internal and external expectations. Upholders respond readily to all expectations; Questioners follow inner but resist outer expectations; Obligers fulfill external obligations but neglect inner ones (the commonest category); and finally, Rebels instinctively reject all expectations. Rubin is quite hyperbolic about the import of her “discovery,” pompously comparing it to the Fibonacci sequence or the double helix pattern of DNA. The book’s organization is reminiscent of an astrology book, wherein each tendency is explored in detail with a zodiac sign-like profile, then elaborated on in chapters like “The Obliger Employee” or “The Upholder Child.” Despite the allure of sorting people into little boxes, I came away from the book thinking that Rubin’s system had little more merit than sorting people based on blood type, or favorite color, or skull shape, or any of the other too-neat heuristics people have used to pigeonhole themselves and each other.

Rubin would expect me to say all this, of course: I got sorted into the Rebel category when I took her included 4 Tendencies quiz. Despite me giving Rubin a hard time, I genuinely did enjoy this book. Not, mind you, as a meaningful psychological tool, but as a fun diversion akin to taking the Sorting Hat Test on Pottermore and gleaning what insight one may, no matter how specious. Definitely pick this one up if you enjoyed Rubin’s other books or if this particular personality test speaks to you.

Seeking Calmness Through Art – Books to Clear Your Mind and Explore Your Creativity

Book – Coloring books are not just for kids.  There are a ton of drawing and art books out there for adults meant to help relax and embrace your creativity.  The following are just a few that our library offers, from drawing to painting, to Zentangle and more.

Drawing Calm: Refresh, Relax Refocus with 20 Drawing, Painting, and Collage Workshops inspired by Klimt, Klee, Monet, and More first and foremost has an impressively long title.  Written by Susan Evenson, this book is perfect for getting your artistic juices flowing.  The projects are relatively simple and each is inspired by a specific work of art.  My favorite craft from the collection is very simple.  You tear apart pieces of tissue paper, lay them on a sheet of watercolor paper and then brush over soaking them with a paintbrush and water.  Leaving it to dry, you then peel off the tissue paper and are left with a beautiful stain from the shapes that can be used to write on, color a pattern in sharpie and anything else you can dream up.

Paint Yourself Calm: Colourful, Creative Mindfulness Through Watercolour  by Jean Haines is strictly dedicated to watercolor techniques.  I love using watercolor paints because they’re so multi-functional.  You can create something abstract or detailed, blending colors, and changing the intensity with just a drop of water.  Simply browsing through the images in the book can have a calming effect!

Florabunda Style : Super Simple Art Doodles to Color, Craft and Draw by Suzanne McNeill is a great book if you love drawing floral designs.  The designs in this art book are simple, beautiful, and easy to follow, and McNeill also introduces fun crafts projects.  Check out McNeill’s book on Zentangle art The Beauty of Zentangle : Inspirational Examples From 137 Tangle Artists Worldwide, and explore the maze-like designs.  Happy doodling!

 

 

 

 

 

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Book – Living on an illegal mining colony in the middle of nowhere makes for a pretty boring life. Until, that is, a fleet of ships from BeiTech Industries show up out of nowhere and start blowing everything up. Seventeen-year-old Kady is one of the survivors, picked up by the science vessel Hypatia, and her recently-ex-boyfriend Ezra has been conscripted aboard the warship Alexander. But the Alexander‘s artificial intelligence was damaged in the battle with BeiTech, and it’s getting a little trigger-happy. Meanwhile, a disease is spreading through the fleet, one with disastrous consequences. Frustrated with the lies and misinformation being spread by the fleet’s commanders, Kady starts hacking into the ships’ networks, trying to find the truth, and she winds up much deeper in the intrigue than she ever expected to be.

Illuminae is an intense, cinematic science fiction novel that’s got a little bit of everything: spaceships! Explosions! Corporate intrigue! Romance! Plague zombies! I love a good epistolary novel, and this one is killer. The variety of document types allows for great character-building dialogue and action sequences both, and also builds in some great opportunities for unreliable narrators (of which there are plenty). I loved the relationship between Kady and Ezra; it’s not often in a YA novel that the love interests already have an established relationship, and it was a nice change from the more common will-they-won’t-they romance. If you like this, you’ll also enjoy the Expanse series (both the novels and TV show) by James S.A. Corey, another science fiction series that subscribes to the Rule of Awesome.

A Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo

Book–Amateur comic book artist and high school student Jess Wong is painfully, unhealthily in love with her best friend Angie. Jess is content to obsess over Angie secretly until Angie enters into a relationship with Margot Adams, a beautiful student from the nearby posh boarding school. Naturally, Jess thinks Margot is no good for Angie, but is this just sour grapes on Jess’s part or is Margot really bad news? When tragedy strikes at an off-campus party and everyone is a suspect, Jess must face up to what really happened that night. Or must she?

This is a dark, twisty thriller, like Pretty Little Liars meets Gone Girl meets The L Word. The book is split in two parts: the beginning is told in first person from Jess’ POV and the end is made up of police interviews and third person limited POV following multiple characters. This allows Lo to build up the tension without giving it all away too quickly. If you enjoy A Line in the Dark, you might also like twisty young adult books like We Were Liars and Last Seen Leaving.

Get Out (2017)

Movie–I don’t really like horror movies. But, I do like good movies, and I’m always motivated to see as many Oscar-nominated movies as possible. So, that’s how I found myself checking out and somewhat begrudgingly watching Get Out, a horror movie with serious racial themes.

Chris, an African American photographer, hesitantly goes to his white girlfriend Rose’s house for the weekend to meet her family. His best friend warns him that no good will come of this. In scenes reminiscent of The Stepford Wives, Chris notices that something is “off” about the African American groundskeeper and housekeeper. Then the family’s friends come for an annual party, and things get even weirder. Chris quickly realizes he needs to leave. But, will he be able to get out?

Written and directed by Jordan Peele (of Key & Peele fame), Get Out has been getting critical acclaim since its release in early 2017, so it was really no surprise when it earned nominations for four of the big categories at the Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Actor for Daniel Kaluuya). Although it was outside my comfort zone, I’m glad I watched it (well, all except for the parts that got so violent that I covered my eyes). If you are interested in a well-made horror movie that also tackles race issues and might just win an Oscar, then this is for you.

The Shape of Water (2017)

Movie – Elisa lives a life of quiet routine. She goes to work, where she has one friend with whom she can converse (Elisa is mute, and communicates with sign language). She scrubs the floors and the bathrooms and the labs at a government laboratory, and then she goes home. She watches old movies on TV with her neighbor, accompanied by his cats, and she goes to sleep to wake up and do the same thing again. That is, until a new specimen is brought into the lab – an amphibious man or a humanoid amphibian, captured in South America and brought here to be studied for the secrets of his biology. Moved by his obvious suffering, Elisa starts making friends with the creature, bringing him eggs from her lunch, teaching him sign. But Colonel Strickland, who is in charge of the project to research the creature, is under a strict deadline and is coming unraveled under the pressure, which puts not only the creature but everyone else around him in danger.

Guillermo del Toro is well known for his love of monsters, and The Shape of Water, his first Academy Award-winning film, feels like a distillation of everything he’s made before: political tension as a backdrop to a fantastical story; the triumph of the powerless banding together against the powerful; the monster as the most human character in the film. Less bleak than Pan’s Labyrinth, more forthrightly fantastic than The Devil’s Backbone, The Shape of Water is the not-so-doomed love story we all need right now. Once you’ve seen the movie, be sure to check out the novel, co-written with award-winning horror novelist Daniel Kraus simultaneously with the film’s production.

Talk to the Paw by Melinda Metz

Book- Jamie a grade school history teacher has had many poor relationships in the past. This year, its all about her! She is determined to use the gift money her mother left her after recently succumbing to cancer to decide what she wants to do for the rest of her life.  She packs up her apartment and moves to California with her cat MacGyver (Mac). She isn’t interested in any of the nephews/dentists/grandsons etc. her nosy neighbors keep trying to set her up with. She has been trying many new things like surfing, acting classes, talking to street vendors, and photography to name a few. She is making new friends in her new community including a quirky Hollywood set designer, a baker, a TV series actor, and an cranky teenage girl.

MacGyver has other plans. He is determined to find Jamie a pack mate. Being a superior being he knows what she needs and has figured out an escape route in the new house. He travels the neighborhood taking items with strong scents (of various types) and gifts them to the people he knows needs whatever it is that particular scent is giving off.

I found this book to be a fun easy read. Its probable 70% told from Jamie’s point of view and 30% told from MacGyver’s point of view. Being a crazy cat lady myself, I thought it was a very creative way to tell a story I highly recommend this if you are looking to just sit back and simply giggle here and there through a pleasant storyline.

Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw

Book – Greta Helsing is a physician with a unique specialty: she treats the undead and supernatural creatures of London. Whether it’s providing anxiety medication for ghouls or treating the chronic lung infection of a gentleman who’s been a family friend for centuries, she has her work cut out for her. When a vampyre turns up with an unusual stab wound and a terrifying story of fanatical monks, her already unusual life suddenly gets a whole lot stranger.

I cannot tell you how much this book delighted me – a massively enjoyable romp through undead London, featuring ghouls, vampires, vampyres (not the same thing), and a mysterious cult of evil monks living underneath the Underground. And best of all, made families: a strong group of friends, people who learn to trust and care for one another, a central female character who is strong and competent and still gets to freak out sometimes because, well, mysterious cult of evil monks trying to kill her friends. I could have wished for more of Greta’s female friends – hopefully we’ll see more of them in future installments.

Nothing Rhymes with Orange by Adam Rex

Books–Nothing Rhymes with Orange by Adam Rex is a picture book that begs to be read aloud—and is perfect for sharing with elementary aged readers. The illustrations include pictures of fruit with sparsely drawn arms, legs, and facial expressions. The fruit are celebrating their fruitiness with rhymes, but Orange is feeling left out because, well, nothing rhymes with “orange.”

Orange reacts with increasing exasperation as the fruit in the celebration goes from the recognizable (apple and banana) to the rare (quince and lychee). Things definitely go in an unexpected direction when German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche shows up in the illustrations and text as a rhyme to both “peachy” and “lychee.” Shortly after, Orange declares, “This book’s sorta gone off the rails” before admitting “Oh, who am I kidding…this book is amazing.”

I agree. This book is amazing. It’s fun in unexpected ways. The amount of emotion that the illustrations convey with small amounts of ink added to the fruit is impressive. It’s fun to listen to and read aloud. It will likely introduce young readers to a new fruit or two, and there’s even a message of inclusion.

Too often, when children start to be able to read to themselves, they move into Beginning Reader and chapter books and never look back at picture books. Picture books can keep things fun and interesting and can pack a big punch in a small number of pages. With this book, the older the child the more of the jokes they will understand and the more involved they will be able to get in the fun of reading it aloud themselves.

A few other fun picture books to read with elementary students include My Awesome Summer by P. Mantis, The Book with No Pictures, and The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors.

Version Control by Dexter Palmer

Book–Set in the near future, Palmer’s novel follows Rebecca Wright, a thirty-something recovering alcoholic, and her physicist husband Philip. Philip has been working fruitlessly for many years on a causal volatility device (in layman’s terms, a time machine), and as far as he knows, has not been having much luck. Meanwhile, Rebecca has been having a nagging sense that something is not right; the president is not the right person, her friends’ personalities aren’t quite right, her life isn’t what it should be. Palmer has an interesting take on time travel that, without spoiling anything, powers much of the narrative. For me, the attraction of this book was the depiction of the near-future society, where the president delivers personalized messages to each citizen and cars drive themselves.

While the main character is not, in my opinion, likeable, she is very real and flawed. Palmer’s views on race, gender, marriage, and technology are very much on display here and, regardless of whether you agree with them, they are certainly interesting to read about and only occasionally preachy. Version Control is a perfect sci-fi and literary fiction blend sure to appeal to fans of Atwood’s Oryx and Crake and Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow.