I suppose this is a set, since there are eight bowls, four with a green slip, four with a blue-green slip, and four different designs. Once they’re washed, we’re going to use them for soup and cereal.
Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World by William H. McRaven
McRaven sounds like he’s a pretty badass action hero, a good commander, and an all-American hero. He’s not a good speaker. His voice is almost painful to listen to, with no inflection, as if every word were an extreme effort. Despite the fact that this audiobook is less than two hours long, at least half of it is a repetition. He gives the speech, talks about the speech, and then gives the speech again. The added material was mostly fond recollections of when he was tormented and made to suffer at Navy SEAL training. If the measure of a man is his willingness and ability to endure suffering, this guy is the tops. But I don’t see the world that way. They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, but with alarming frequency, what doesn’t kill you still damages you permanently and you’re never quite as whole as you were before. I’m not super fond of the idea of suffering building character, however often my parents told me that as a child.
I’d heard about this book and it got glowing reviews on audible, so I picked it up when it was on sale. I generally like self-help books, listicles, and things of that nature, so I thought I would like it more than I did. I was hoping for some kind of amazing epiphany, or at least a good tip or two.
Some of his points, such as “make sure you accomplish one thing every day” and “surround yourself with friends because you can’t achieve greatness alone” are good points. Other points are less so, like “sing when you’re in the mud” and “never give up.” Singing when you’re in the mud isn’t the kind of thing that really translates easily to civilian life. And “never give up” is how people waste their lives doing unachievable goals, or die in the attempt of things that were impossible to begin with. Sometimes when things aren’t working, it’s valuable to take a step back and re-evaluate if the thing you want to achieve is really the best way to get to your end goal. Sometimes you’re holding Jack-high garbage. Sometimes you dig furiously in pursuit of clams without realizing you’re digging in a bed of oysters. Life is more subtle than “never give up.”
McRaven is an amazing guy who has had an adventure-filled life, and I bet he has enough material for a fascinating memoir. This, however, is not a fascinating memoir. It’s tantalizingly interesting bits and pieces loosely tied in with some stoic advice. Even though I paid less than ten bucks for this audiobook, I don’t really think it was worth the money. Even though it was less than two hours long, it could have been shorter by 20-30 minutes and not lost anything. His name and his fame sold the book, but the content isn’t there.
This is one of the most interesting memoirs I have ever listened to. I’m glad I listened to it instead of reading it, because Noah says a few things in other languages that I wouldn’t have been able to pronounce in my head. What made it so interesting was how far removed from my own upbringing his childhood was. Noah’s life was literally and figuratively on the other side of the world from me. It made me realize how little I actually know about South Africa, for example, that as a mixed-race child, his very existence could get either or both of his parents thrown in jail.
Unlike many comedian’s memoirs, this didn’t really hit me as depressing. It could be because the author himself read it, or it could be that he misses some of that self-deprecation. At times he does kind of mock himself, like when he naively misunderstand why the Jewish-sponsored cultural day might have an issue with his main dancer being named Hitler. Other times he mocks other people, like when they ask him to identify someone in a photo when it’s clearly himself. His line asserting his innocence in the “burning down the house” episode made me chuckle for days (something like “yes, there were matches, and yes, the house burned down, but this is merely circumstantial evidence.”), but most of the other stories, while certainly interesting, were not laugh-out-loud funny. I now know what the texture of a goat’s eyeball tastes like, and which cars are the best for sleeping in.
Each chapter was arranged around a theme, where he’d start out by telling you why secondhand cars resulted in him being thrown from a moving vehicle and why his mom eventually got shot in the back of the head, and then he’d start talking about how he went to three churches every Sunday and end the chapter with the story of him getting thrown out of a moving car by his mom. Noah is a great storyteller. By the time you got to the climax of each tale, you would have had all the information you needed to understand the situation without having the plot spoiled for you. I don’t think “childhood so fraught with peril it makes nonfiction read better than fiction” is a contest anyone wants to enter, much less win, but Noah would certainly make it past the first round.
What I’m hoping to get every time I read a memoir is to learn a little more about a different kind of person’s life. (That’s what I’m hoping to get out of novels as well.) Noah’s stories were perilous enough to be interesting, and yet his attitude was positive enough that as a reader I was cheering him on instead of feeling like I was having my pity solicited. I ended up listening to this memoir in less than a 24 hour period, and after I finished it, I just stayed silent for a while, needing to digest. It’s rare that something is so interesting and thought provoking that I feel the need to hold off listening to or reading anything else. It’s even rarer if it’s something that’s billed as comedy.
I listened to or read all the rest of these books and somehow skipped over this one, so I was glad to see what happened in the interim. I didn’t know who Junichiro was, for example, and missed how Temeraire and Izkierka came to have an egg and why it was in China.
On one hand, it’s a fun rollicking adventure novel, as always. Laurence is Lawful Good alignment, which gets him into heaps of trouble and creates problems for everyone around him. In this novel, he’s lost his memory of the previous eight years, which made for a few absolutely delightful comedic scenes as his current situation was revealed to him. I liked the Japanese water dragons, though the physics of some of their abilities seemed hard to wrap my head around. No weirder than a flying 4 ton dragon, I suppose.
On the other hand, this novel just kind of feels like filler. One thing happens, and then another thing happens, and then another thing happens, but it didn’t feel like there was much in the way of an overarching plot or theme. The first part of the novel takes place in Japan, and then they are not in Japan, and they don’t really seem to return to that story line. I was hoping to find out what happened with Roland and Demain, but that entire plot seems to take up no more than a paragraph. Some of the characters, like Hammond and O’Day get more and more themselves, while other characters, like Baggy and Roland, just seem like background extras.
Is it worth reading? Yes, if you’re into the series, it will provide some of the same adventure and fun that the others did. But it’s not the strongest by far, and while it told me how they got from point A to point B, and how they came to have Chinese legions in Russia, it didn’t really move the story the way some of the other novels did.
I think I’ve read all of Brene Brown’s books by now, and while they all start to run together, I think of them in aggregate as a “how to be a better human” required reading list. Or, listening, in my case, as I got it as an audiobook, read by the author. This one starts with an anecdote of when Brown didn’t make a cheer squad that she’d wanted to join as girl, and how much it hurt to feel like she didn’t belong. The general theme is that to belong everywhere, you have to stop trying to fit in and be true to who you are, to be true to your own values.
While there were several times listening to this book I felt the need to rewind 30 seconds to really grasp what Brown was saying, I think that this is going to be one of those books I have to listen to over and over again to really get it. Main takeaways are “talking smack about other people is fun but not a good way to make real friends” and “funerals and live concerts are good for the same reason–shared emotional experiences.”
The best thing about all of Brown’s work is that it’s based on actual research which she did herself. Also, she doesn’t suck as a writer or as a speaker, so she’s able to successfully convey the information she’d gained from this research. This book, like many of them, isn’t easy to hear, but it’s easy to listen to.
This is an amazingly well written book with deeply flawed characters who are in turn both understandable and detestable. My opinions on the characters changed so much over the course of the novel.
It stars out when Yejide finds out her husband Akin has–against her wishes–taken a second wife. The reason is that after four years of marriage, she has still not conceived. They’ve been to doctors and the doctors tell her she’s perfectly fertile. He says he’s fine too. But still no baby.
Then Yejide does a mystic ceremony with a shaman and when she comes down from the mountain she says she is pregnant. Her belly begins to swell and she shows all the signs of pregnancy, except that when they do the ultrasound and other tests, they find that there’s no baby in her. It’s a strange madness. The desire to have a baby controls her life, and the focus of their marriage.
The story is told in alternating sections from present day to past, so we get hints that Yejide has babies that are lost to her. We also learn in the present day that Akin and his brother Dotun have had a grievous falling out and have not spoken to one another for a very long time, and that Yejide has been away from her husband for a very long time as well. As the novel goes on, we see the cause of both of these estrangements as stemming from some choices that the main characters made. I have to be coy about the plot, because it would spoil the story to know too much.
In the background, the country of Nigeria is undergoing political turmoil and they’re about to have elections which will supposedly supplant the military rule. There’s death and tragedy aplenty in this story, but it’s not about the political situation, just among it.
What was brilliant about this story is the way in which the characters make huge sacrifices for the sake of their loved ones which end up hurting the people they care most about. I almost stopped reading at several points, because the characters did things I thought were unconscionable. But it was for book club so I trundled on, and I’m glad I did. The story made me cry in several parts, but it had a very satisfying ending. I feel like it would merit a second reading, because there were things that happened in the first chapters which weren’t really understandable until I knew the backstory. Since I almost never reread books, I’m going to dock a star for that, making this merely an excellent book and not necessarily a flawless one.
These are the seedpods and buds that I made for my tile mosaic project. To make the seedpods, I rolled out a cone and indented it to show where the inner seed capsules had dried and shrunk in on themselves. then I added a disk at the top, incised with lines to look like the …
These are the stems of the poppies I made for my number plaque tile mosiac project. They aren’t very interesting, but they are necessary. I made them by extruding clay through a clay gun using the triple-circle die. I made more than I needed, because I’m not sure what shapes and sizes I’m going to …
This is another set of tiles I made for my number plaque mosaic project. These were harder to make. I rolled out slabs of 1/4 inch cone 06 clay, and then used a razor blade to cut around the leaf shapes. Poppy leaves are deeply lobed, which makes them a difficult shape to reproduce, not …
I have a plan to make a number plaque, and I wanted it to be more than just functional, I want it to be beautiful. I decided upon poppies as an appropriate botanical motif. I sketched it out, and my design will fit about five poppy flowers on it. These are the tiles I made. …