Book reviews: Year 2018

The Bands of Mourning (Mistborn, #6) by Brandon Sanderson

I really enjoyed it.

Artemis by Andy Weir

This wasn't a book for me. The main character is completely unlikable and most characters are one-dimensional. The plot is alright, it's similar to the Martian: problem? Solution! Oops, solution had problems! Etc, which has its ups and downs. The one cool thing that kept me going was Artemis, the city on the moon and how it works, how it all could work and develop. Really cool and dreamy. Another positive point is that it's really easy to skip ahead. Long technical explanation of how or why something works? I trust the author that it would work that way, don't need the details. Main character being an asshole? Skip three paragraphs ahead. Main character being full of crap, feeling superior or learning PhD level sciences etc in 10 minutes? Skip a page or three ahead. A quick read. Nice to think about life in spaaace.

When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times [Audiobook] by Pema Chödrön

If you get the audio book, make sure to find the version read by the author. From listening to the sample and other reviews, the other narrator's voice doesn't quite work for the topic. Lots of food for thoughts, about life and resilience. The kind of in-depth thinking that will require multiple listens/re-reads to give it all a chance to sink in.

The Winter Queen (Erast Fandorin Mysteries, #1) by Boris Akunin

I had some difficulty immersing myself into the book. The prose is extremely rich and flowery, which makes for fun contrasts during action scenes but were a bit of a slog for me when places or thought processes are described. The plot and the characters are interesting though, and it's often hilarious to follow Erast Fandorin's brilliant deductions and actions as they usually pop up in the middle of not fully thought through plans that can only go horribly wrong. I'll read more books in the series, although not immediately.

Entropia (Autre-Monde, #4) by Maxime Chattam

J'ai été déçue par la fin du tome 3 et malheureusement par cette suite aussi, des développements trop faciles. Ça reste agréable à lire tout de même.

Just fucking ship by Amy Hoy

I really enjoyed it.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: A simple, effective way to banish clutter forever by Marie Kondō

Interesting ideas. Now to apply them?

Rich Dad Poor Dad: What The Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not! by Robert T. Kiyosaki

An interesting book that challenges conventional wisdom (well, the one I was raised on anyway!) and feeds your brain tremendous amounts of food for thought. Delightful.

(Added later) Wow, I didn't realise the book had so many negative reviews, including among my reading buddies! I dismissed the stuff that didn't resonate much with me, and didn't suddenly start thinking "wow I don't want to be sucker so I'll stop saving now and buy tons of stocks instead! And do that before making sure I can even pay my bills, too!"

My personal takeaways were more along the following:
- It's important to think about how to build up your "Assets" column as well, and not just focus on how to increase your Income
- To do this doesn't necessarily mean buying shares or real estate - or maybe it does, you should figure out what works for you and invest in yourself/your mind/learning first regardless. If you invest in anything without knowledge it's just as good as gambling
- Shift your thinking from the disempowering "I can't afford this" to "How can I afford this?"

Some of the diagrams and examples were a bit of a slap in the face. Doesn't mean I'll completely change my attitude toward taking risks but really good for carefully considering stuff that I took for granted and perhaps had never really stopped to think about before.

Your takeaways might be different but I found value in the book. And got it from the library so if this truly is just a pyramid marketing scam at least I didn't contribute money into the system :-)

You Need a Budget: The Proven System for Breaking the Paycheck to Paycheck Cycle, Getting Out of Debt, and Living the Life You Want by Jesse Mecham

Bunch of interesting ideas and strategies on how to make your money align with your values and priorities.

The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz

300 pages of pep talk on not sweating the small stuff and thinking positively. Sometimes that's exactly what one needs to hear 😊

Oz (Autre-Monde, #5) by Maxime Chattam

J'ai beaucoup aimé les 2 premiers livres de cette série, un monde très intéressant et des personnages attachants... au début... Mais depuis qu'on commence à avoir des réponses je suis de plus en plus déçue par chaque nouvelle révélation. La découverte de l'Europe aurait pu être intéressante cette fois mais non, c'était plutôt une corvée à lire. Je suis très déçue, j'étais vraiment contente d'avoir trouvé un auteur de fantasy qui écrit en français et qui me plaise. Il reste 2 bouquins dans la série mais je vais abandonner là. Dommage.

The 5 Choices: The Path to Extraordinary Productivity by Kory Kogon

The book is roughly divided into 3 parts - Decision Management, Attention Management, and Energy management. I didn't find the last two particularly interesting or innovative (about the use of to do lists, how to handle emails and organise yourself for Attention Management, and the usual exercise/eat/sleep well and maintain strong relationships for the last one). Decision management on the other hand I found more interesting although the ideas are probably not that innovative either :-) I liked the concrete advice on how to distinguish between what is important and what is only urgent, and how to organise yourself (and your life really) to try to reduce stress and time-wasting due to the less important stuff taking over. The bigger questions around reflecting on the different roles you have in your life, how they matter to you and how to create a fulfilling life around them left me thoughtful as well.

50 Economics Ideas You Really Need to Know by Edmund Conway

Not quite the book I was recommended, but interesting nonetheless. It explains different economics concepts, starting at the very basics and slowly building up to what we know today. Every chapter contains a timeline with historical events, seminal books, or other concepts learnt about in the other chapters to show how everything links together. If you're already comfortable with all the terminology there's probably not much for you in there, but I found it useful to clarify some of the vocabulary I see in the news and only vaguely understood in context. Published in 2008 so goes up to the late 2000s financial crisis.

Tricks of the Rich: How to Make, Grow and Save Money by Paul A. Overy

I've been looking for personal finance books more relevant to Ireland lately. The ones I read so far are good but once things go past "live within your means" the advice tends to assume a tax and legal landscape that is very US-centric. This book is probably the closest I'll ever find: the author is Irish, worked in the Irish financial industry for decades and all the examples are either based on the UK or Ireland. There's a lot of advice similar to what you'll find in Rich Dad, Poor Dad, down to "this is what rich kids learn" quotes, and the same scorn towards savings, but all in all I found the ideas interesting and challenging.

The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America's Wealthy by Thomas J. Stanley

Interesting although repetitive at times. Basically, don't base your idea of a millionaire on looks: some people are wealthy but don't look like it, and your neighbour who spends like one may not be so well-off. The case studies are interesting; it's a good look on frugality, thinking about both offence (income) and defence (controlling spending), as well as multiple chapters on bringing up children and all the ways in which affluent parents accidentally create or nurture bad habits in their kids.

ホンモノの日本語 (角川ソフィア文庫) (Japanese Edition) by 金田一 春彦



The Money Doctor 2018 by John Lowe

Really recommended book for a look at personal finances from an Irish perspective. There's a ton of how-to chapters on all sorts of financial matters with proper numbers all up-to-date with the latest Budget. I found the chapter on Insurances and the one on Pensions particularly interesting (I'm the life of the party). You're meant to pick and choose what chapters to read based on which topics are relevant to you, but for a first encounter with this series I found nearly every one had something relevant in it.

On the downside the generic personal finances bits are very light and not very good, though there are other books for that. I found the chapter on getting out of debt particularly disappointing, even more so after a subheading promising to "pay off all your loans quickly and easily." The text very weakly suggests that maybe borrowing for lifestyle expenses isn't the best idea and then offers two strategies to get out of debt - with a later caveat that actually one of them is "currently virtually impossible in Ireland." This is a book that's updated every year and it can be felt in the organisation at times (I'm guessing that strategy wasn't "virtually impossible" at a time but the author didn't want to remove it for whenever it's back on the table).

All in all I found the book useful, it left me with good food for thoughts and things I want to investigate, and I'll be getting my hands on the 2019 edition when it's out.

眠りの森 [nemuri no mori] (加賀恭一郎, #2) by Keigo Higashino


Quiet Power by Susan Cain

I picked up this book accidentally, thinking it was the original one so I'm not actually the audience for it. It's definitely targeted at younger people, pulling together a ton of anecdotes from different people who managed to live their life just fine and to the fullest, and who happen to be introverted. There's a couple of concrete strategies on how to do just that at the end of every chapter. It read more as a giant pep talk to me, a bit on the light side although some interesting topics are touched on (introverts and extroverts have a different nervous system??) and the studies that are mentioned in passing are referenced at the end. Hoping to read more about these bits in the main book.

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink

I really enjoyed it.

Promise of Blood (Powder Mage, #1) by Brian McClellan

Wow, that was good. Powder Mage has a wonderful fantasy setting with a world that's different enough from the usual tropes to keep you engaged, on the way to industrialisation. The most delightful though is how good the storytelling is. Right from the first few pages, even though you don't quite understand what's going on you already find yourself caring about the characters you meet. The world opens up as the story unfolds without it ever being just shoved into your face. There is a lot going on and I can't wait to get started on the next book.

The Crimson Campaign (Powder Mage, #2) by Brian McClellan

I really enjoyed it.

The Autumn Republic (Powder Mage, #3) by Brian McClellan

The fast pace and good storytelling continues to careen onwards with little respite and the conclusion is quite decent, though also disappointing in some aspects. There's a bunch of questions left unanswered, some at the world level and some at the individual level - and they don't all feel like they're voluntarily left open for a sequel. Some plot resolutions felt a bit rushed and sometimes it's a little bit obvious which characters the author favours and which have little depth beyond their given role in the story. Still an enjoyable, easy read in an interesting world - just some expectations could have been met better.

Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall B. Rosenberg

Powerful concepts. It goes beyond "how to communicate with people" by also touching on how your own thoughts get in the way of communicating effectively and empathetically, because the way we learn to express ourselves contains judgement and blame and other barriers to connecting with others. "She's lazy." "He's an asshole." "I'm worthless." We've already judged someone because they've done something that did not match with our values in some way. The book describes a simple framework to go beyond this in the words we say, receive and think. I liked that it assumes the best about people and also found the bits on personal responsibility and taking ownership of our thoughts and feelings interesting. I was also impressed with the short exercises at the end of some chapters, that ask you to look at sentences and decide whether they're truly neutral or include a form of judgement, or whether the sentence is phrased like a request or a demand. Making people feel defensive is not conducive to good conversations and yet it's quite easy to do when not being careful.

Quiet : The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain

An interesting study of introversion. Many personal anecdotes like in the sequel but most are related to historical figures or well-known people. Lots of studies referenced. Lots of food for thought.

This Book is Worth €25,000: Easy ways to save thousands of euro right now by Karl Deeter

I thought the book was older but actually it was only published last year, so still very relevant to saving money in Ireland today. It's a pragmatic book, organised in different topics and explaining why and how you can save money by doing something differently and how much effort that will take. No generic personal finance advice. I thought the format worked quite well and enjoyed it. It's an easy ready and I learnt a few things.

Some of my personal highlights: to find out the generic equivalent for your regular medication. for setting up your will without visiting a solicitor's office. No loyalty discount for staying with the same home insurer, switch every year. The Cross-Border Healthcare Initiative, to consider when the public waiting lists get too long. Wrap the stem of bananas in cling film to increase their shelf life.

A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine

A lot of thoughtful ideas. Also interesting when there are quotes from the ancients to realise how constant human nature remains 2000 years later.

Body Keeps The Score by Bessel van der Kolk

I really enjoyed it.

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom - A Toltec Wisdom Book by Miguel Ruiz

A lot of food for thought that I'll be ruminating on, particularly from the beginning of the book (the dream of hell, domestication, an impeccable word). Some interesting echoes with Stoic philosophy in places.