Set Boundaries, Find Peace by Nedra Glover Tawwab

4 stars

The cover of Set Boundaries, Find Peace displayed on an e-reader.
Set Boundaries, Find Peace offers practical advice to help readers learn to set healthy boundaries.

I discovered Nedra Glover Tawwab, a licensed counselor, through Instagram, and was inspired by the helpful advice she offered on setting boundaries on her feed. 

As helpful as her posts are, I felt like I needed more depth than the collection of quotes and lists on her feed provided to truly apply her advice to my life. 

Her book “Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself” introduced me to the definitions, practical advice, and examples I needed to be able to set healthier boundaries in my personal and professional life. 

She makes a strong case that boundaries are critical to healthy relationships and to personal peace. Her assertion that boundaries are the root of self-care was a powerful insight for me. 

Tawwab also offers practical tips, exercises, and quizzes that empower readers to assess whether they have porous, rigid, or healthy boundaries and feel more assured in setting healthy ones.

I appreciated that the book discussed a variety of settings (social media, work, friendships, dealing with toxic people) where boundaries can be applied, although it was a little repetitive at times. And, like most expert advice books, some parts resonated with me and my circumstances, and parts weren’t really relevant at all.

Recovering people-pleasers or individuals who frequently feel overwhelmed and resentful but aren’t sure why will find this book helpful. This guidebook will be most useful to those who need a foundational understanding of what boundaries are, but even expert-level boundary-setters stand to pick up a tip or two.

Stop Overthinking by Nick Trenton

The cover of the book Stop Overthinking

For many of us, stress levels have skyrocketed since the start of the pandemic. And, as a founding member of the overthinkers club, a book with nearly 2 dozen tips for stopping stress in its tracks sounded promising. 

The basic premise of this book is that we should not see ourselves as “helpless in the face of stress” because we have many tools at our disposal for eradicating (or at least minimizing) this negative emotion.

The book is very straightforward and doesn’t go into a lot of detail about how your brain works like some other books on the subject. It makes the point that a lot of the stress in our lives is voluntary and the best way to reduce stress is to say no to unnecessary stress. 

One of the observations that really made me think was about how “your schedule can become one of your greatest stress reduction tools.” The concept of reframing my schedule as a stress-reducer rather than an endless to-do list was very powerful for me.

Some of the other advice is really basic. For example, when you encounter a problem, Trenton urges you to “physically see that the problem is separate from you.”

Another simple piece of advice: “Validate your own emotions and accept them.” Both of these tips are easy to understand, but a lot harder to put into practice.

The advice might be overly simple for some, but for me, there was something about the simple, uncomplicated advice that was appealing to me. However, it might not have been as appealing if it was my first read on the subject.

What is your best stress reduction tip? What other stress-reduction books have you read?

Refraction by Terry Geo

5 stars

A paperback copy of the book Refraction by Terry Geo.
Refraction by Terry Geo

Based on the reviews and the Twitter hype, I had high expectations going into this book. In fact, I was so excited about it, I bought the e-version and the paperback  so I would have my choice of formats when I was ready to enjoy.  Refraction did not disappoint!

With a lot of build up and a clear turning point for the action, Refraction feels like two different  books in the most amazing way. Geo takes his time setting up the adventure, planting little seeds and letting you get to know each of the characters who will go on an action-packed, head-spinning ride in the second half of the book. 

From there, we encounter a unique world where reality and dreams collide in unpredictable and unexpected ways. 

It is truly difficult to pick out what I enjoyed most about this book. From the London setting, the truly imaginative plot, the fun pop culture references, to the diverse cast of likable characters, there is so much to love and enjoy.

I read The Cracked Reflection, Geo’s introductory novella, first. After reading Refraction, I want to go back and reread it to see if it changes how I interpreted Maria’s story.

My review of The Cracked Reflection is available here.

Both books are available on Amazon and Terry Geo’s Refracted World website.

The Mother by J.E. Clarkson

4 stars

The cigarette smoking detective Kate Monroe is back on the scene, investigating a serial killer in this sequel to The Lamb. The book takes us right back to Barnsworth, where Monroe and Halifax are pulled back in with fresh murders, one of which might be the new girlfriend of Monroe’s ex-husband.

The Mother: A Detective Kate Monroe Crime Thriller displayed on an iPad.
The Mother by J.E. Clarkson

I adored that Clarkson included a glossary of characters in the front of the book. As someone who has read several books since reading the first installment in this series, I appreciated the refresher on the cast of characters. I was also glad to get an answer to a major item that the first book left unresolved.

Clarkson’s distinctive writing style is present in this fast-moving tale, which can be consumed in a single sitting or savored at a slower pace. Again, I was able to add a few new British colloquialisms to my vocabulary, which is always fun.

Reading this respectable follow-up to The Lamb reinforced my love for J.E. Clarkson as an author and for Kate Monroe as a character. I continue to be a dedicated Clarkson fan and intend to keep auto-buying all of her new releases.

My review of The Lamb: https://bookpicksandpics.com/2021/12/11/the-lamb-by-j-e-clarkson/

To read my reviews of all of J.E. Clarkson’s books, browse her category on my blog.

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict

3 stars

In this novel, Marie Benedict hypothesizes about what happened during Agatha Christie’s most famous unsolved mystery, her own 11-day disappearance. 

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie

The book alternates between Agatha’s life when she first met and married Archie Christie and each day of her disappearance. In many ways, Archie Christie was the main character of this historical fiction work, and the portrait Benedict paints of Colonel Christie isn’t a flattering one. He comes across as demanding, domineering, and narcissistic, with all of Agatha’s actions centered on him.

It was interesting to read this book so soon after reading The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont. While the books cover the same time period, the two fictional accounts are very different. I’d give de Gramont an edge in the writing – her prose was more captivating than Benedict’s flatter style. 

However, de Gramont definitely took a lot more creative license in her story. Benedict’s account was much more believable and seemed much closer to what could have actually happened. 

Both portray Agatha as a strong, talented woman but in different ways. The Mystery of Mrs. Christie deals more with her relationship with her mother and sister, her affection for her daughter, and the pressure she felt to be the perfect wife. For most of the book, The Christie Affair portrays her as a colder, more career-oriented person who seems ambivalent toward her daughter.

My full review of The Christie Affair is linked below: https://bookpicksandpics.com/2022/04/03/the-christie-affair-by-nina-de-gramont/

Don’t You Know Who I am? by Ramani Durvasula

4 stars

The cover of Don't You Know Who I am" by Rumani Durvasula, Ph.D.

Unfortunately, all of us will encounter a narcissist at some point in our lives.

When it inevitably happens, this book about the proliferation of narcissism in America and how it negatively impacts society and individuals can help you understand how to cope.

Durvasula is clearly an expert on the subject, and this book is full of great insights on how to deal with narcissists in your life. She reminds us that insecurity is at the core of narcissism, and as the subtitle promises, gives us tips on how to stay sane amidst the chaos these individuals create. 

“Stop handing over your kindness to a narcissist.”

Ramani S. Durvasula, Ph.D.

She does not sugarcoat what optimists and people who believe in fairness need to do to protect themselves from the toxicity of being around a narcissist. She reminds us throughout the book that life isn’t fair and that “there are no exceptions to narcissism — everyone gets hurt.”

I listened to this as an audiobook, and while I got a lot from it, I’d recommend reading this one in hardcopy if you are able. The citations were a little tedious in audiobook form, and it was hard to skip to the chapters that relate directly to the reason you sought out the book.

Despite my challenges with the format, it was one of the better books I’ve read on the subject of narcissism. Years after reading the book I still find myself referring to its helpful reminders such as “stop handing over your kindness to a narcissist.”

Dreamtaker by L. Krauch

5 stars

The cover of Dreamtaker by L. Krauch

Darker than its predecessor, Dreamtaker features many of the same characters as the original 13th Zodiac story. However, the sequel adds a few new players, most notably the evil Damien who takes the story in a new, more sinister direction. 

Dreamtaker is a riveting read that boomerangs you through a wide range of terrifying emotions for your favorite characters, particularly for the King and Queen of Chall.

Although Jase and Liya are prominent in this story, other familiar characters have their stories fleshed out a bit. The author’s trademark vivid descriptions of the action scenes and running jokes (apples, anyone?) are also present in the sequel. 

While I wouldn’t have thought it possible, I am even more excited for the next installment of the 13th Zodiac series than I was for Dreamtaker. As readers, we are set up for so many different possibilities, that I can’t wait to see what direction we are catapulted into next.

My review is based on an e-ARC provided to me by the author. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Dreamtaker releases on May 13, 2022, and can be purchased through Amazon.

My review of The 13th Zodiac: https://bookpicksandpics.com/2022/01/08/the-13th-zodiac-by-l-krauch/

Waiting for Saturday by Catherine Morrison

5 stars

Waiting for Saturday by Catherine Morrison

I picked up a digital copy of this book because I was intrigued by the title – in some ways, aren’t we all “Waiting for Saturday” to come around? 

Based on the crushed red lollipop on the cover, I was expecting this book to be either a lighthearted YA romance or a sinister thriller about a young villain. Instead, I found an unexpected gem of a story about a young woman slowly opening her eyes to the mistreatment she suffers and regaining trust in herself. 

On the surface, Abi seems to have it all – a beautiful 4-year-old daughter, a gorgeous house in an upscale neighborhood, and a husband who provides for her every need. One Saturday morning, she meets Henry and his son at the play center. A friendship develops that gives Abi a new perspective on what’s really happening in her life. 

I devoured this fast flowing 150 page story in one weekend morning, cheering for Abi with each page. Not everyone will be satisfied with how this books ends, but I appreciated some of the warnings and the hope Abi’s story offers.

After reading Waiting for Saturday, I definitely plan to check out more of Morrison’s work.

The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont

4 stars

The cover of The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont.
The Christie Affair

I picked up The Christie Affair because it is my book club’s pick this month. A historical fiction work, the novel imagines what happened during Agatha Christie’s brief, unexplained disappearance. 

Told from the point of view of Nan O’Dea, Archie Christie’s mistress, the story opens with a glimpse into O’Dea’s past and jumps to the present, a few days before Agatha vanishes. The story alternates back and forth between the two time periods, weaving in a lot of grief, heartbreak, and intrigue along the way.

The author’s explanation behind why the famous author disappeared is both fascinating and moving, though some of the events seemed a little far-fetched. The lovely prose, shrewd observations about humans, and a surprising take on the relationship between Nan and Agatha helped me look past some of the implausible moments. 

“I hadn’t learned yet. In this world, it’s the obedient girls who are most in danger.”

The Christie Affair

One of the lines that resonated with me in the book was, “I hadn’t learned yet. In this world, it’s the obedient girls who are most in danger.” I think every woman wonders at some point whether following the rules is going to be her downfall in the end.

Overall, this was a pleasant, well-written read that has me wanting to learn more about Agatha Christie. In fact, I’ve started to read The Mystery of Mrs. Christie, which is Marie Benedict’s take on the unsolved mystery of Agatha Christie’s 11-day disappearance. It will be interesting to compare the two novels once I’ve finished.

Are you an Agatha Christie fan? Have you read either of these books attempting to explain her disappearance?

Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney

4 stars

In a last-ditch effort to save their marriage, Adam and Amelia Wright go on a free weekend getaway to a renovated chapel in a remote area of Scotland. Shortly after the Wrights arrive, strange things start happening at the cottage. 

This atmospheric thriller with touches of horror is my first Alice Feeney read. I quite enjoyed her writing style. Short chapters – alternating mostly between Adam and Amelia’s points of view and interspersed with anniversary letters written to Adam – really keep the story moving.

Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney

Although the book paints a depressing portrait of marriage, it is cleverly written and has several funny quips. One of Adam’s lines that made me laugh was, “There are forests less shady than my wife.”

The story focused on a small set of characters, and I appreciate it when an author can keep a story interesting with fewer than a handful of characters. As a word lover, I also enjoyed that she included a word of the year, many of which were new to me. 

I did guess many of the twists in the book, but for the most part, I didn’t guess them until a few pages before the author was ready to reveal them to the reader.

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys: twisty thrillers, stories where the setting can be considered its own character, or books where some of the main characters are writers.