Book Review – A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin (ASOIAF, #1)

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Title: A Game of Thrones
Author: George R.R. Martin
Publisher: Bantam
Genre: Fantasy

I’m handling this review a little differently than most. I know I’m late to the game, but I also went into the first book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series with a bit of trepidation and wariness. Mainly in regards to the sexism and treatment of women. And to be sure, there are many women in Game of Thrones depicted as sexual tools; women who have no rights, and a hearty share of rape and sexual assault. There IS too much rape in this series, and as someone who is a survivor of sexual assault, sometimes this is a deal breaker for me. However, Martin’s female nipple obsession aside, I do feel that there is a hidden criticism of patriarchal society, feudalism and war hidden amongst the pages. Or, if there’s not, as a reader, I am going to create that criticism.

Do you know what can be hard? Being a progressive, intersectional feminist who enjoys all varieties of science fiction and fantasy, including the older stuff. Traditionally, these genres were not designed to be read by women. They are often filled with misogyny, female objectification and racism. Game of Thrones falls into this trap. There are some really cool aspects: this is highly creative fantasy, the world-building is incredible, the court intrigues and plot mysteries are addicting, but what I don’t understand and get annoyed about is the reliance on violence against women.

So why do I still plan on continuing with the series? Because I find it highly insightful to read Game of Thrones critically, keeping in mind its firm place in popular culture. Because some of the characters are incredible. Daenerys is tough and smart, Arya is a fighter. Jon Snow is…well, Jon Snow. And the stories of male violence that dominate so much of this story is something that needs to be discussed. Additionally, I always have a penchant for stories filled with twists, turns and surprises. A part of me hopes the series ends with Daenerys unleashing her dragons on the Seven Kingdoms, burning down every idiotic man in the process.

“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.”

The next part of the discussion contains spoilers for the first book in A Song of Fire and Ice. Consider yourself forewarned!

I love digging up little details and analyzing them, and I have a feeling this first book in the series contains a boatload of foreshadowing. Here are some of my thoughts on what happened in Book 1, and what may be to come

The White Walkers. I don’t think it is a random fact that the White Walkers appear at the very beginning, in the Prologue. All of the attention right now may be on the inner turmoil and civil war in Westeros for the crown, but I have a feeling that will eventually be overshadowed by the return of the Others.

The wildlings are not as they appear. The wildlings are described as..well, as the name applies…wild people, cruel and savage. Descriptions of them are filled with superstition and myth. I would also guess we will get to know the wildlings much better in the future, for who they really are, not the mythology that surrounds them. I bet they are surprisingly normal people who are just trying to survive in a harsh landscape.

He remembered the hearth tales Old Nan told them. The wildlings were cruel men, she said, slavers and slayers and thieves. They consorted with giants and ghouls, stole girl children in the dead of night, and drank blood from polished horns. And their women lay with the Others in the Long Night to sire terrible half-human children.

The mother direwolf.The foreshadowing here felt as if it led up to the events at the end of this book. The deceased mother direwolf had an antler in her throat: the Baratheon sigil is a stag, and the Stark sigil is a direwolf. Did this scene foretell Ned Stark’s killing on Joffrey’s orders (Baratheon in name, if not DNA)? Or does it point to a future development, a downfall of the Starks at the hands of another Baratheon, such as Stannis or Renly?

A sudden silence descended over the party. The men looked at the antler uneasily, and no one dared to speak. Even Bran could sense their fear, though he did not understand.

Red Priests. The red priests are mentioned multiple times in the opening chapter for Daenerys, especially one in particular. Thoros of Myr, “a madman who shaved his head and fought with a flaming sword.” Thoros is mentioned once more towards the end of the book, when his name makes the list of traitors to the throne. It seemed out-of-place alongside Tully’s, Baratheon’s, and Tyrell’s. Who are the Red Priests?

Viserys. Boy, is he annoying! Although he may have been right about one thing, although not in the way he meant:

“When they write the history of my reign, sweet sister, they will say that it began tonight.”

Viserys says this the night that Drogo and Daenerys first meet. Except it won’t be his reign. I have a feeling that Daenerys will be the one worth writing about. And this was one character I was happy to see get the ax.

Starks. I really love the Stark’s, almost all of them – I have lukewarm feelings towards Sansa at the moment – and I am frustrated in both Catelyn and Ned Stark for trusting Littlefinger so easily and carelessly. But I really hope this quote from Ned Stark turns out true:

“The winters are hard,” Ned admitted. “But the Starks will endure. We always have.”

Tyrion. Despite his dalliances with “whores” (ugh, I hate that word which Tyrion uses ad nauseam), I have to admit to liking him. His kindness towards the Stark children shows a side of him he keeps well hidden – giving Bran a specially designed saddle, and his kindness towards Jon Snow at The Wall stand out. This is a guy that definitely plays the long game, and is not averse to playing dirty to get retribution. He’s filled with contradictions, which makes him an incredibly fascinating character.

“My mind is my weapon. My brother has his sword, King Robert has his warhammer, and I have my mind…and a mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.”

Okay, maybe I just like him because he reads so much.

Bran’s dream. There are many things I don’t understand about the dream Bran had right before he woke up. Are there seers in Game of Thrones? If so, Bran certainly seems like he is on his way to becoming one. In his dream he sees things that have happened while he was in a coma: the wasting away of his body into skin and bones, his mother in a cabin on a ship and the seasick Ser Rodrik, and his sisters’ grief on the Trident. The crow tells him to forget about the scene he witnessed between Jamie and Cersei, to “put it aside, put it away”, which he does forget upon awakening.

In his dream, Bran also sees shadows surrounding his family: one shadow dark as ash, with the terrible face of a hound. Another armored like the sun, golden and beautiful. The third loomed over the others, a giant in armor made of stone, his visor filled with nothing but darkness and thick black blood.

I would put the Hound and Jamie as the first two shadows, but who is the third? Possibly Gregor Clegane, who is known as “The Mountain That Rides”. Whoever or whatever it is supposed to represent, it is bigger and scarier than the other two shadows.

Finally, the three-eyed crow – which has to mean something important – takes him beyond the curtain in the North, to look deep into the heart of winter. I can’t wait to find out more on what this means.

Now you know, the crow whispered as it sat on his shoulder. Now you know why you must live.

“Why?” Bran said, not understanding, falling, falling.

Because winter is coming.

What Arya overheard. I’m still mulling over the conversation that Arya overheard in the dungeons of the Red Keep. It is a conversation that is full of half-secrets. One speaker has the “liquid accent of the Free Cities”; I’m guessing this is Illyrio. The second speaker is likely Varys, based on the description. So does this mean that Varys supports the Targaryens? Or is he playing a scheming game? And who are his fifty birds?

Varys. Varys is another highly complicated, intriguing character. Just whose side is he on? Can you believe anything that comes out of his mouth (the same could be said for Littlefinger)? The Master of Whisperers is an extremely cautious and calculating man. At first, I took him at his word in his conversation with Ned Stark in the dungeons, but I am starting to second-guess that decision. This is a character that is designed to be untrustworthy, but for what end purpose?

Rating: 3/5 stars.

Mini Review – Saga Vol. 1 & 2 by Brian K. Vaughan

I have to admit to my heart not being into writing book reviews for the past few weeks. My life has been quite topsy-turvy this month. I’m currently dealing with all the emotions that followed meeting my biological family for the first time, only to come home to one very sick kitty.

Our older cat, Isabel, has been struggling with a lot of gastrointestinal issues over the last seven days, and has needed a lot of love and attention (as well as multiple trips to our beloved veterinarian, and one stint at the ER vet). We’re currently waiting for the Prednisone to kick in and hopefully help ease the symptoms, as our vet thinks we are dealing with inflammatory bowel disease. If she isn’t any better by Monday, they will probably want to do a biopsy to rule out cancer.

Also on Monday my father will be entering the hospital for a 3-day stay for a heart catheterization after cardiac symptoms recently re-appeared. Hopefully we will know by Monday afternoon if he needs a stent, or another bypass.

Needless to say, this will be a short review!

Saga, Volumes 1 & 2

Author: Brian K. Vaughan
Illustrator: Fiona Staples
Publisher: Image Comics
Genre: Graphic Novels, Science Fiction

Marko and Alana’s love story reminds me of an intergalactic Romeo and Juliet. Alana is a soldier from Landfall, a planet this has been at war with the citizens of its moon – Wreath – for…well, for a very, very long time. The Moonies are magic wielding and the Wings are brutally nationalistic and militaristic. Within that context, you have this duo that are so funny and lovable that you can’t help but root for them as they hustle to try to get out of danger and protect their newborn child. They love each other. They argue and bicker, they get on each other’s nerves. But the love they share is pure and true, and is an inspiration, considering their people hate each other’s guts.

Most definitely not for a young audience, you never know quite what you’re going to see when you turn the page. Ghost children/babysitters missing the lower half of their body, Robotic royalty with TV heads, a lie detector cat, torsoless sex workers, there is definitely some odd stuff in this graphic novel series! If Saga were a movie, it would be directed by Quentin Tarantino.

The grandparents come on the scene in Volume 2, and the family dynamic is oh-so-wonderful! In Volume 2, we also get the back story on how Alana and Marko met…it was definitely not instalove.

The narrator in both volumes is their daughter Hazel, which is brilliant. And also a relief, her narration makes it quite clear that she lives at least into young adulthood. You see, one of the main reasons Marko and Alana are being chased is due to Hazel. Her very existence undermines the ongoing war, and defies the odds, as it had been believed that a “Moonie” and a “Wing” could not conceive healthy children together.

The cast of supporting characters are equally interesting: freelancers The Stalk and The Will, Robot Prince IV, Marko’s scorned ex-girlfriend Gwendolyn, and Marko’s parents. It makes for quite an adventurous….Saga.

ARC Book Review – The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda

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Title: The Perfect Stranger
Author: Megan Miranda
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: April 11, 2017
Genre: Mystery, Psychological Thriller

*This ARC was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

About the Book

In the masterful follow-up to the runaway hit All the Missing Girls, a journalist sets out to find a missing friend, a friend who may never have existed at all.

Confronted by a restraining order and the threat of a lawsuit, failed journalist Leah Stevens needs to get out of Boston when she runs into an old friend, Emmy Grey, who has just left a troubled relationship. Emmy proposes they move to rural Pennsylvania, where Leah can get a teaching position and both women can start again. But their new start is threatened when a woman with an eerie resemblance to Leah is assaulted by the lake, and Emmy disappears days later.

Determined to find Emmy, Leah cooperates with Kyle Donovan, a handsome young police officer on the case. As they investigate her friend’s life for clues, Leah begins to wonder: did she ever really know Emmy at all? With no friends, family, or a digital footprint, the police begin to suspect that there is no Emmy Grey. Soon Leah’s credibility is at stake, and she is forced to revisit her past: the article that ruined her career. To save herself, Leah must uncover the truth about Emmy Grey—and along the way, confront her old demons, find out who she can really trust, and clear her own name.

Everyone in this rural Pennsylvanian town has something to hide—including Leah herself. How do you uncover the truth when you are busy hiding your own?

Megan Miranda’s latest release, The Perfect Stranger, will make for an excellent beach read this summer. While it doesn’t have the punch of All The Missing Girls, I was still caught up in the story and characters, especially in the second half of the novel. This is a slower-paced thriller, which isn’t for everyone, but really hooked me by the halfway point. I love the quiet, sleepy Pennsylvanian town that Megan created, especially since I grew up in Pennsylvania!

There are quite a few mini-mysteries going on in this novel: what exactly happened in Leah’s past, and the strange mystery surrounding Emmy being the two biggest. While I figured out certain aspects fairly early on, other parts of the mystery definitely caught me off guard twoards the end!

Leah is an interesting character, albeit occasionally annoying, and you really get to know her as the plot progresses. She’s a strong woman that doesn’t give up, and the whole storyline brings up some interesting questions. Does the end justify the means? Can you ever really “start over” somewhere new, in a new life? Kyle, the police officer assigned to Emmy’s missing persons case, is one of the weak links in the story. He seemed to be written to be a likable, good guy….but I wasn’t a fan. I do wish his character had been flushed out a bit more. And then there is Emmy, always in the background, a big question mark that is slowly unraveled.

My absolutely favorite part of The Perfect Stranger was the last chapter! I won’t say anything to spoil the ending,  but it was definitely a perfect way to end the book.

If you like mysteries/thrillers that take place in quiet, sleepy communities that hide their secrets well, you’ll probably enjoy The Perfect Stranger.

Rating: 4/5 stars.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

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Title: The Hate U Give
Author: Angie Thomas
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Genre: Contemporary YA

Kudos to Angie Thomas for writing a debut novel that is so profound and powerful. How to describe The Hate U Give – or THUG, an author-coined acronym for her book? Let’s start with this:

THUG LIFE – “The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everyone”. ~Tupac

The title of the novel is taken from Tupac Shakur, and his meaning underlying those words. That what society tells our youth has a way of coming back and affecting all of us. We see that in the protests, and riots against police brutality and police killings of unarmed black men. We see that in the anger and frustration that so many feel.

THUG revolves around Starr Carter, a teen that moves between two worlds: the impoverished neighborhood where she grew up, and the expensive suburban private school that she attends:

I get out of the car. For at least seven hours I don’t have to talk about One-Fifteen. I don’t have to think about Khalil. I just have to be normal Starr at normal Williamson and have a normal day. That means flipping the switch in my brain so I’m Williamson Starr. Williamson Starr doesn’t use slang–if a rapper would say it, she doesn’t say it–even if her white friends do. Slang makes them cool. Slang makes her “hood”. Williamson Starr holds her tongue when people piss her off so nobody will think she’s the “angry black girl”. Williamson Starr is approachable. No stank-eyes, side-eyes, none of that. Williamson Starr is nonconfrontational. Basically, Williamson Starr doesn’t give anyone a reason to call her ghetto.

I can’t stand myself for doing it, but I do it anyway.

When Starr is the only witness to the shooting of her childhood best friend, at the hands of a police officer during a traffic stop even though he was doing nothing wrong, she is forced to confront the dichotomy between her two personas.

I’ve seen it happen over and over again: a black person gets killed just for being black, and all hell breaks loose. I’ve tweeted RIP hashtags, reblogged pictures on Tumblr, and signed every petition out there. I always said that if I saw it happen to somebody, I would have the loudest voice, making sure the world knew what went down.

Now I am that person, and I’m too afraid to speak.

THUG is an unapologetic – and rightfully so – evocative look into a subject that needs to be torn wide open across the country: the shootings of unarmed black men by police officers. The school to prison pipeline in poor, urban communities. The New Jim Crow era of mass incarceration, the biases institutionalized within the criminal justice system and the policies that control said system. The story is emotionally charged, important, and really, REALLY good.

Putting the important political message aside for a moment, Angie Thomas is a brilliant writer. THUG is incredibly well-written, and the storytelling is so incredibly powerful, not only due to the message, but the sheer intelligence and creative ability of the author. It is very rare that I gush over contemporary YA novels, but here I am! Gushing. In a debut novel, no less!

To go along with the fantastic storytelling is all the wonderful characters that truly made the story shine. Starr is…well, Starr is someone you root for from the very beginning. And her family!! I love when a contemporary YA novel includes a well-flushed out family and Starr’s is one of the best. I love all of the relationships in this book, whether it is between Starr and her parents, or her brother Seven, or her friends. All of the relationships were well-developed and I love how a few of the minor characters really experienced their own growth throughout the story, it is very much an ensemble cast, and they all shine.

Take this conversation between Starr and her Dad:

“Now, think ’bout this,” he says. “How did the drugs even get in our neighborhood? This is a multibillion dollar industry we talking ’bout, baby. That shit is flown into our communities, but I don’t know anybody with a private jet. Do you?

“No.”

“Exactly. Drugs come from somewhere, and they’re destroying our community,” he says. “You got folks like Brenda, who think they need them to survive, and then you got the Khalils, who think they need to sell them to survive. The Brendas can’t get jobs unless they’re clean, and they can’t pay for rehab unless they got jobs. When the Khalils get arrested for selling drugs, they either spend most of their life in prison, another billion-dollar industry, or they have a hard time getting a real job and probably start selling drugs again. That’s the hate they’re giving us, baby, a system designed against us. That’s Thug Life.”

Daddy Carter gave me all the feels in this book. And that is what The Hate U Give does: it breaks your heart, and gives you the warm fuzzies – all in the span of a few pages.

Read this book. No matter where you live – read this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin


Title: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
Author: Grace Lin
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre: Middle-grade fantasy

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is a rarity in the American children’s fantasy genre: an adventure story set in China. Inspired by various Chinese folktales, this is a story of a young girl named Minli who lives in a poor village at the base of a desolate mountain. In the Valley of Fruitless Mountain, the villagers work tirelessly just to put enough food on the table. Minli’s parents work from sunrise to sunset in the rice fields, but her father always makes time for a story or two in the evening, despite Ma’s grumbling.

One day, believing her father’s stories of an Old Man of the Moon and a jade dragon, Minli sets off an extraordinary adventure to travel to Never-Ending Mountain to find the Old Man of the Moon and ask him how her family’s fortune can be improved.

One of the things that I loved most about this book was how the folktales seamlessly scattered throughout the text really came to life during the course of Minli’s journey. The stories each connect one to the other as the book progresses, and then further tie in to what Minli experiences. I loved this approach! The accompanying illustrations were absolutely gorgeous. The story as a whole made me want to learn more about Chinese folktales and legends.

It is rare in children’s literature to find both parents alive and well. Kid lit is filled with absent parents and orphan children (Harry Potter, Boxcar Children, James and the Giant Peach, A Series of Unfortunate Events, etc) or children who have lost one parent, either through death or divorce. When a parent is present, they are often clueless or mean. It was refreshing to see some fleshed out parents in this one, and the importance placed on family and the community. In fact, family is one of the major themes of the story. This is not just a story of a young girl finding her place in the world, but it features her mother’s transformation as well. In the beginning, Minli’s mother is discontent with her lot and life, wishing for more food, a more comfortable place to live,  nicer things. During Minli’s absence, her mother’s perspective on life changes completely. As a parent reading it, it makes one think about the impact my unconscious actions – or moods – have on my daughter.

The character’s are all unique and delightful. Her dragon friend is a kind-hearted soul who has a question of his own, why can’t he fly? There is a benevolent king who offers Minli the most sumptuous meal she has ever eaten, and a fierce Green Tiger that is a malevolent force pulled straight out of the folktales. Minli herself has a generous spirit with a healthy dose of independence, and an unshakeable belief in the power of stories.

For those who, like me, want to learn more about folktales from China, here are a few resources shared in the back of the book:

Tales from China (Oxford Myths and Legends) by Cyril Birch.

The Ch’i-lin Purse: A Collection of Ancient Chinese Stories by Linda Fang.

Folk Tales of the West Lake by Various.

Auntie Tigress and Other Favorite Chinese Folk Tales by Gia-Zhen Wang.

A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

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Title: A Conjuring of Light
Author: V.E. Schwab
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: YA Fantasy

What an amazing end to the this trilogy!! I finished A Conjuring of Light a few days ago and I have been gushing ever since. How to review the final book in a series that has become one of my favorite fantasy series?

A Conjuring of Light picks up right at the end of A Gathering of Shadows. Unlike the previous two books, ACOL includes a lot of back story on Holland, via flashbacks scattered throughout the story. Looking back at the first two books, my only criticisms were that a few of the characters were not fully flushed out: Rhy, Holland, the king and queen of Red London. I spoke too soon, and all of those complaints have disappeared upon finishing the trilogy!

One of the great things about the Darker Shades of Magic trilogy is the humor in the midst of chaos:

“You drugged her?”

“It was Tieren’s order,” said Hastra, chastised. “He said she was mad and stubborn and no use to us dead.” Hastra lowered his voice when he said this, mimicking Tieren’s tone with startling accuracy.

“And what do you plan to do when she wakes back up?”

Hastra shrank back. “Apologize?”

Kell made an exasperated sound as Lila nuzzled– actually nuzzled– his shoulder.

“I suggest,” he snapped at the young man, “you think of something better. Like an escape route.”

“I told you to keep him safe, not cuddle.”

Alucard spread his hands behind him on the sheets. “I’m more than capable of multitasking.”

“What are we drinking to?”

“The living,” said Rhy.

“The dead,” said Alucard and Lila at the same time.

“We’re being thorough,” added Rhy.”

There are many things that have drawn me into this trilogy: the writing, the world-building, but most especially, the characters. And there are many moments in ACOL that gives me all the feels:

  • The brotherly love between Kell and Rhy. They will do anything for each other.
  • Rhy’s character growth. This was one of the small complaints I had in the first book, and I swallow my words. More than any of the other characters, this trilogy is truly his “coming of age” story.
  • A greater depth to many of the supporting characters, including Queen Emira, King Maxim, and Holland. While I am still left with a few unanswered questions about the king and the queen, their roles as mother and father really shined at the end.
  • Holland. Do I dare say I feel sympathy for Holland. Yes, yes I do. In fact, I want to give him a big hug and tuck him into bed with a nice cup of tea.
  • The Antari’s together. I can’t say anything more without giving away some spoilers, but WOW!!!

The next quote is partially a BIG FAT SPOILER for the earlier books, so don’t continue reading if you don’t want to be spoiled. It is my favorite moment in the entire trilogy.

LAST WARNING: Spoiler ahead, if you have not read the first two books in the series!

Three silver rings caught the dying light–Lila’s and Kell’s the narrower echoes of Holland’s band–all of them singing with shared power as the door swung open, and the three Antari stepped through into the dark.

I get the shivers every time I read that paragraph, don’t you?

Warning: Comments section may also contain spoilers.

Rating: 5/5 stars.

If you have read ACOL, how did you feel after finishing it? Do you think it was a satisfactory end to the trilogy?

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

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Title: The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent A Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean my Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun.
Author: Gretchen Rubin
Publisher: Harper
Genre: Nonfiction, self-help

I seem to have a special weakness for the “stunt genre” style of memoir: where an author spends a year doing something extreme, and then writes about it. Books like Julie and Julia, The Year of Living Biblically, A Year of No Sugar, and now The Happiness Project have all graced my bookshelves. They are usually fun reads, written in an entertaining and engaging style.

The Happiness Project is definitely one of the better ones I have read from this genre! The book follows author Gretchen Rubin as she dedicates an entire year to improving her personal happiness. Each month is focused on a different theme: vitality, marriage, work, parenthood, leisure, friendship, money, eternity, books, mindfulness, and attitude. She sets up a personal resolutions chart, adding to it as each month passes.

Coming off ofjust reading  A Year of No Sugar, which I did not like, and browsing the plethora of 1 star reviews on Goodreads for The Happiness Project, I was prepared to hate this book. Rubin leads a thoroughly privileged life…I was skeptical as to how she would pull this off.

You can tell straight away that she has done a tremendous amount of research. She references philosophers, happiness researchers, psychologists, theologians and great spiritual masters. Each monthly experiment is backed up by detailed research. I loved that! Too many non-fiction authors that are targeting a mainstream audience fail to add in resource lists, and footnotes; Rubin did not fall into that trap.

Some of my key takeaways from The Happiness Project:

“Be Gretchen”. Throughout the book she is continually reminded to be herself. It is the first of her twelve personal commandments (another great idea). I, too, need this mantra, to “Be Alisia”. To let go of all the things I am not and enjoy and embrace the things I am. For example, I am not a crafty person at all. I am not very good at it, and more importantly, I don’t enjoy it. So, a few years ago, I let it go. No more did I struggle with ridiculously complicated childhood craft projects for M. You will never see me volunteer to make the decorations for the school book fair, or change out the themed bulletin boards. It was one of the best things I ever did!

THINK. Think before speaking, and listen before you talk.

T – is it True?
H – is it helpful?
I – is it inspiring?
N – is it necessary?
K – is it kind?

Nagging Tasks. She has a small piece of advice in the January chapter that has turned out to be tremendously helpful – to schedule one hour every week on your calendar to tackle nagging tasks, those annoying household chores that have no real deadline. I immediately tried this out, adding a weekly “Power Hour” to iCal, and in only two hours across two weeks, I have successfully: replaced a broken light switch plate, renewed M’s passport, sorted and purged all of our old reusable water bottles and food storage containers, took a stack of clothing donations to a local nonprofit, bought new cutting boards, cleaned out my Inbox, and made progress on my huge stack of papers that need to be scanned and filed digitally. This small piece of advice has definitely been a mood booster!

Don’t expect praise or appreciation. Overcome the need for people to applaud the nice things you do, that are in actuality just a regular part of life. Start telling yourself, “I’m doing this for myself. Because I want to.”

Spend out. Use the nice stationary instead of hoarding it. Buy new toothbrushes regularly. It’s amazing how much that actually hit home! We are quite good at using items until they fall apart. In many ways, that is a good thing, in some ways it is not. Toothbrushes should definitely be replaced before they look…well, like you used it to clean the shower grout. Razors should be thrown out before they get rusty, not one month after the first rust spot appears. Etc.

Forget about results. Focus on the process, not the outcome.

Give positive reviews. Enthusiasm may seem easier than criticism, but in fact it is harder to embrace something than to disdain it. Stop making unnecessarily negative statements: “The food was too rich” or “There’s nothing worth reading in the paper.” Instead, look for ways to be sincerely enthusiastic.

The Happiness Project has been out for a few years now. Have you read it before? Did it make any lasting impact on your life?