Category Archives: Book Reviews

Book Review: This is How We Grow by Christina Hibbert

Title: This is How We Grow: A Psychologist’s Memoir of Loss, Motherhood, and Discovering Self-Woth and Joy, One Season at a Time
Author: Christina Hibbert
Enjoyment Rating: ****
Content Alert: none

Christina Hibbert was an LDS mother of three, working as a psychologist, when her brother-in-law and sister died within months of each other. Christina and her husband became their two boys’ guardians just a few weeks before she gave birth to a daughter, so the family grew from three kids to six in about a month. In This is How We Grow, Hibbert writes about the experience of how her family changed, how they processed their grief, and how they came to see themselves as joyful, whole people again.

I think This is How We Grow is a book where the strengths of the story are also some of the weaknesses. Hibbert kept a journal during this time in her life (now about six years past), and the book is largely sourced from the journal. This means that sometimes readers have to wade through the minutiae of her life. But I think that’s also kind of the point. Lives are often made up of minutiae and small, seemingly insignificant moments. And the life of a stay-at-home mom of six is sometimes a mind-numbing rotation of crisis management and wiping bums. She also does enough stepping back and taking a long-view look at the experiences to make them feel relevant. However, I wish the book had a different title, because I think I would have read it a lot sooner if I had known that it would be such a good mirror for my own experience.

Like Hibbert, I’ve also adopted two kids. They were both abandoned as newborns and lived for about a year in an orphanage. Then we adopted them and they gained a family, but they also lost everything familiar. A lot of times, I don’t think people (myself included) recognize how much loss in involved in adoption, and how much grief my little ones carry, and will have to process at some point in their lives. My experience parenting them is so different from my experience with my biological kids, and a lot of it comes from the grief and loss they have suffered. I think I highlighted more passages in this book than in any book I’ve read since college, and I was both pleased and surprised to find a book that recognized and reflected my own parenting experiences.

This is the first of a two-part conversation with Dr. Hibbert, who we’re pleased to have the opportunity to interview on Wednesday. So come back Wednesday to read the interview, and check out the book!

Mental Fairy Floss

I’m in my mid-semester uni break, and seem to be deficient in Vitamin Fiction. So I’m self-medicating with the (at last count) thirty-seven fiction books I have scattered around my bedroom. At the moment I’m glutting myself on magical, fantastical fare and while it’s not my usual preference, it is hitting the spot right now. Nothing serious, nothing challenging, just great reads and escapes, adventure and fun. What’s not to love about that?

I truly believe that while our brains and selves can hugely benefit from a healthy, varied diet of intelligent, thought provoking reading materials, there is also a time for a bit of sugary, light deliciousness. Continue reading

Book Review: My Name is Resolute

MyNameIsResolute_Final_coverSeveral years ago, one of my favorite reading buddies recommended a book to me and promised I would fall in love with it. I reluctantly agreed to try it, though the title sounded a little strange and I was afraid it would be cheesy. However, just as my friend promised, I quickly fell in love with the book and became an ardent proselytizer of its many virtues. These is My Words, by Nancy Turner, is one of my favorite books to share and I’ve rarely met a person who didn’t enjoy reading it. When I worked at a public library it was one of our top recommended titles and one of our most popular book group reads. Continue reading

The Quantum Breach, by Denver Acey (Book Review)

The Quantum Breach Cover Art

Denver Acey’s novel The Quantum Breach had me second guessing every piece of paper (bank statement, bulk mail out, envelope with my grandmother’s address on it) I put in my recycling or bin and invading the personal space of every ATM I used. When Ebay admitted last month that it had been hacked with millions of user account details copied, I realised again, thanks in increased part to The Quantum Breach, how much information about me is readily available in hard- and electronic-copy, even without entering the walls of my home (hence my glaring at stuff I’d have normally tossed out without thinking about it and changing several identical passwords online). Continue reading

The Martian – by Andy Weir

Mark Watney is not having a good day.

It started out great: he’s on Mars, part of a manned mission of exploration.

His day got a bit worse: A savage storm blows in, its intensity and size enough to warrant the crew deciding to ditch the mission. Immediately.

Promptly went awful: Mark gets hit by a piece of communication equipment, and his suit is punctured. He flatlines.

Absolute worst: The crew scrambles to evacuate, abandoning Mars and Mark’s body.

Only thing is, Mark is still alive.

But he’s the only person who knows. He has to survive his injury, get back inside shelter, and work out what to do next.

The Martian is one of the few books in the last year that has had me sneaking paragraphs and pages at every opportunity. More telling is the number of times I grabbed whichever son was nearest to read aloud a particularly wonderful snippet – it’s been years since I’ve done that!

While being mostly set on Mars, The Martian  is far more an action filled adventure than science-fiction. There is science, of course – it’s a book about astronauts and Mars, of course there’s science! – but any detailed science is explained smoothly and easily in the course of the story.

“The oxygenator will turn it [CO2] into oxygen in its own time.

Then, I’ll release hydrazine, very slowly, over the iridium catalyst, to turn it into N2 and H2. I’ll direct the hydrogen to a small area and burn it.

As you can see, this plan provides many opportunities for me to die in a fiery explosion.

Firstly, hydrazine is some serious death. If I make any mistakes, there’ll be nothing left but the “Mark Watney Memorial Crater” where the Hab [Habitat] once stood.

Presuming I don’t f*** up with the hydrazine, there’s still the matter of burning hydrogen. I’m going to be setting a fire. In the Hab. On purpose.

If you asked every engineer at NASA what the worst scenario for the Hab was, they’d all answer “fire”. If you asked them what the result would be, they’d answer “death by fire.”

Not only is The Martian a gripping read, told mostly from Mark’s diary entries, but it’s carrying a whole lot of humour, dry wit, determination and emotional impact as well. Mark’s efforts on Mars are interspersed with the fallout on the crew (still months from landing back on Earth) and within NASA. There is some swearing (c’mon, he’s stranded on Mars without means of escape or long-term food supply, who wouldn’t curse?) but there’s also disco, heartache, refusal to give up, adventure and a guarantee that you will never, ever look at a potato the same way again.

Rated: PG – intermittent swearing, survival and mature themes

Recommended to:

  • The adventurous (at heart, in reality, in books read)
  • Anyone wanting a thrilling, exciting read
  • Stargazers, adrenalin junkies, scientific-bent types
  • Potato farmers
  • McGuyver fans and wannabes

Not recommended for:

  • Agoraphobes
  • Claustrophobes
  • Strictly “romance-only” readers
  • Anyone on medical advice to stay calm and relaxed