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Why Her – Nicki Koziarz

I am a book reviewer for NetGalley, which means I received this book for free in exchange for a review. Click here for more information.

The Details

Author: Nicki Koziarz

Genre/category: Non-fiction/Christian life

Where can I buy it? Here

Release date: 6th March 2018

Review

If you’re familiar with the Bible, you might remember the story of Rachel and Leah. Both sisters (in a kind of complicated turn of events) end up married to the same man – Jacob. What ensues is what can only be described as a battle for dominance, involving as many babies as possible.

Koziarz explores the intense feelings of bitterness, self-doubt, and jealousy that both Leah and Rachel must have felt, and through their story, she explores how we can deal with similar feelings, too. (Minus the popping-out-babies competition. And the polygamy. Or at least I hope so.)

I’ll admit now – because, you know, honesty is good – I do sometimes struggle with this. It’s taken me years to combat the feeling of immediate self-doubt when I learn of someone else’s victory, particularly if I’m not in a good place emotionally. So I was intrigued when I was accepted to review this book.

Koziarz identifies the struggles that come from a warped perspective of our identity, and how the same core issues that we face today can be found in Rachel and Leah’s story, too. The feeling of inadequacy. The way we so easily place ourselves in competition with others. How, instead of celebrating when another woman succeeds, we find ourselves asking ‘how come she gets that? Why her and not me?’

She offers six truths to reflect on when you are asking the question ‘why her?’:

  1. You Need To Be Honest
    ‘We love to shout our successes but seldom show our secret sorrows.’ Why is that? How has the advent of social media enabled us to gloss over our troubles and present a glossier, happier side of our lives? How does being pummeled with constant perfection impact us, and how can we be honest in the face of it?
  2. See It Like It Really Is
    Building from the first truth, this section explores what the stories we see vs. the stories other women are actually living out day to day. We need to develop the ability to understand – or at least question – what is going on below the surface of it all.
  3. You Don’t Always Have To Be Okay
    I particularly enjoyed this chapter. Koziarz has a hearty dislike of the phrase ‘I’m fine!’ which I completely understand. She explains how important it is to learn to just be sad sometimes. To be unafraid of looking weak in front of other people. How important it is to not pretend to be okay when you’re really not. And how to connect with others on a deeper level by keeping an eye on each others’ ‘soul health’. She also explores some ‘soul-care strategies’ that I found useful.
  4. You Didn’t Do Anything Wrong
    When we ‘fail’ – when we don’t land that job, when we don’t get that house, when we try to pull something off but we don’t succeed – how should we take it? Koziarz explains that perhaps that house, or job, or situation, was not yours to take in the first place, and how to be okay with that.
  5. Her Gain Is Not Your Loss
    I feel like I could have done with tattooing this somewhere on me a few years ago. (Alright, I may have regretted that later on. Which might also be why I don’t trust myself to get a tattoo.) Because how true is this truth? We make the mistake of believing that other people stepping into their calling means there’s less left for you to do. When others win, we all win.
  6. Let The Success Of Others Encourage, And Not Discourage You
    In this last section, Koziarz explores how to avoid the feeling of being discouraged by other peoples’ success, particularly if you work or serve in similar areas. Instead, she gives some practical steps as to how you can allow other peoples’ successes to inspire you to move forward in your own calling, instead of feeling threatened.

The whole book was full of ideas for prayer, scriptures to dwell on, and practical exercises. I took a star off because I didn’t find it as easily ‘readable’ as other books I have read recently, but I feel if this is an area you need help with, I’d definitely recommend it.

whyher

4stars

Find Out More

Author website  /  Twitter  /  Instagram

B&H Publishing on Facebook  /  Twitter  /  Instagram

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In Bloom – Kayla Aimee

The Bronte Sisters: Life, Loss and Literature – Catherine Rayner

I am a book reviewer for NetGalley, which means I received this book for free in exchange for a review. Click here for more information.

The Details

Author: Catherine Rayner, life member, trustee and the Chair of Conference and Publications Committee for the Bronte Society

Genre/category: Non-fiction – biography

Where can I buy it? Here

Release date: 28th February 2018

Review

I knew surprisingly little about the Bronte sisters before I read this book.

The book takes you through the tumultuous lives of the Bronte children, focusing specifically on Emily, Anne, and Charlotte. Their lives were, at times, dark and difficult – their mother died at an early age, followed by two of their siblings. They each struggled with illnesses and physical pain. And all three had extra issues to contend with – wrestling with their faith, their position in society, unrequited love, intense homesickness, bereavement, and dissatisfaction in their jobs.

Despite this, they had something that a lot of girls their age didn’t – an education. Their parents were dedicated to giving all of their children the best possible academic experience, and so, from their home overlooking wild, endless moors, they learnt about music, art, literature, philosophy, science, and writing, a never-ending well of information for them to feed their curious minds.

And curious they were, as well as fiercely intelligent and creative. As the children spent hours playing and exploring on the moors, they came up with entire worlds together, a whole race of people, political systems and individual personalities and romances of the people that lived there. They then transcribed their worlds into tiny books, some of which can still be seen today at the Bronte Parsonage museum. (As a side note – I really, really want to go there.)

The first part of the book gave me a lot of food for thought. Is genius born, or is it to do with the way we educate? What if some children would suit more of a free-flowing education, with the time and space needed to really fulfill their interests? What if we allowed children hours to play outside? The Bronte children, particularly Emily and Anne, never really let go of their imaginary worlds, to the point where it interfered in their adult lives – is this level of obsession healthy? How would the Bronte sisters have turned out if their parents didn’t so passionately believe in educating them?

The second part of the book moves on from their life story, concentrating instead on the individual works of Anne, Charlotte and Emily, going into each book in-depth and exploring how their lives influenced their writing. It explores how their brief experience with boarding school had a huge negative influence on all of them and resulted in the first part of Jane Eyre; it covers how Emily’s struggles with God and the afterlife can be seen in Wuthering Heights. This part of the book was fascinating and it made me want to sit down and read each one of their books in turn, now understanding the context.

The one issue I had with this book is that it was repetitive and felt, at times, a little jumbled. At some points I found myself re-reading the same story, about their brother Branwell’s alcohol dependence, for example, three different times in the same book. It could have done with being cut down. If the repetitive parts were cut, it would be a sharp book bursting with information – and a bit of an easier read.

However, the writing style was brilliant and I really enjoyed reading this. What makes a non-fiction book enticing enough to read is largely to do with writing style, for me – I can’t read page after page of dry, boring facts. Rayner writes this in a way that makes it feel like a story, and it made it enjoyable to read despite the repetition.

The Bronte sisters were incredible writers. When you really understand their lives and how their childhood shaped them into the women they became, their books become even more fascinating. If you’re at all interested in the Bronte sisters, or you know someone that is, I would highly recommend it.

 

A1t3otPHYSL

3stars

 

Find Out More:

Life, Loss and Literature on Goodreads  /  Pen and Sword Books on Facebook

Zadie Smith – Feel Free

I am a book reviewer for NetGalley, which means I received this book for free in exchange for a review. Click here for more information.

The Details

Author: Award-winning British novelist Zadie Smith.

Genre/category: Non-fiction – essay collection

Where can I buy it? Here

Release date: 8th February 2018

Review

About ten years ago, I stumbled upon two books in a charity shop: On Beauty and White Teeth by Zadie Smith. I’d seen them both featured heavily in our local Waterstones, so I picked them up.

I finished On Beauty. I turned to the front page. And I read it all over again.

The thing that I love about Smith is her writing style. It is beautiful, fluid, funny, and readable. Her characters are so interesting that I found myself completely gripped by their stories.

So when I was approved by Penguin to receive an advanced e-copy of Feel Free, Smith’s collection of essays, I was excited.

The essays range from Smith’s thoughts on Brexit and the impassioned defense of public libraries, to interviews with Jay-Z and the excellent comedic duo Key and Peele, to her musings on films, music and works of art.

Smith’s writing style is, as usual, beautiful. Her observations are sharp. and I found her perspective interesting. Her essays on Joni Mitchell and Facebook were particularly good.

The downside? I really struggled with some of these essays.

I think this is the inherent risk you take in picking up a book of essays on a variety of topics – some of them will chime with you, others won’t. I pushed my way through essays on films I hadn’t watched and works of art I hadn’t seen, and Smith writes so intelligently about them that I found myself a bit intimidated. I ended up skipping whole chunks of essays just to move onto the next one. You don’t get the impression of length with an e-book, but it turns out, this is quite a hefty tome with a good amount of content. It feels more like a book that you would pick up and read whenever you fancied a well-written essay, rather than something you could devour from cover to cover.

If you are a fan of a well-written essay, and a fan of Smith, I think there is treasure to be found here. On the plus side, I discovered new things thanks to this collection. As Smith explores in the essay Some Notes on Attunement, sometimes we are narrow in our appreciation of culture, mostly due to time constraints – ‘Busy changing nappies. Busy cleaning the sink or going to work … you can understand why many people feel rather pushed for time’ – and it can bring a sense of loss when you realise that you just don’t have enough time to appreciate everything the world has to offer us. But Smith’s essay collection helped me to discover new things, and open up my mind a little more, for which I am grateful.

Zadie-Smith-Feel-Free

3stars

Find Out More:

Author website  /  Goodreads  /  Facebook

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