I have a particular interest in self-awareness, so reading this book is for pleasure and professional purpose.
Title: Insight: The Power of Self-Awareness in a Self-Deluded World Author: Tasha Eurich Publishers: Macmillan Format: Paperback Pages: 357 Genre: Non-fiction, Psychology, Self-help
What’s it about?
Author, Tasha Eurich, begins with a lament on the self-delusion of today’s people, identifying blindspots to how well we know ourselves.
An organizational psychologist by profession, Eurich claims self-awareness is THE meta-skill of the 21st century for success. In a world of operating in the shallows and privileging opinions of the external world, self-awareness separates the achievers and mediocrity. She referred to studies which showed self-awareness to be lacking despite claims by many leaders to the contrary. The “cult of self”, Eurich states, prevents us from approaching with humility and self-acceptance to truly seeing ourselves.
Insight expounds what insight is, referring to internal self-awareness and external self-awareness, and strategies to survive in a unaware world. Eurich differentiates insight from introspection, stating that introspection does not a self-aware person make. “Thinking isn’t knowing” as a heading to one chapter says.
Being self-aware, or having insight of ourselves, helps us make better decisions in aspects of our lives.
Insight puts forth that no one will ever be entirely self-aware. It is an ongoing process and one which requires us to let go of the search for absolute truths.
This book feels like a self-help book and yet at times, disguising itself as a theoretical text, or vice-versa. On occasions, the flow is interrupted by anecdotes from Eurich’s professional life.
Would I recommend it?
Yes. It is an interesting read on how we delude ourselves, in our personal and professional lives.
For those who want to better engage and relate with others say, within their organizations, this is a worthwhile read.
As promised, today I bring you an interview. If you remember, I brought you Lola Mariné’s book, Havana Jazz Club when it was in pre-order and being shared in Net Galley for early reviews. Now that it has been published, it’s a great chance to have a chat with the author. First, a little information about her:
Lola Mariné is a writer and has a degree in Psychology.
She has taken part in four anthologies of short-stories: Tiempo de Recreo (2008), Dejad que os cuenta algo (2009), Atmósferas (2009) in aid of the Foundation Vicente Ferrer, and Tardes del Laberinto (2011).
Nunca fuimos a Katmandú (We Never Went to Katmandú), her first novel, was published by Viceversa in 2010. Two years later, the author published the e-book herself in Amazon and it became one of the bestselling books in Amazon Spain in 2012.
Gatos por los tejados (Cats on the roof), a book of short stories on varied subjects, was published in 2012 through Amazon.
Habana Jazz Club (Havana Jazz Club) , her second novel, was published in Amazon in 2013 and has been recently translated by AmazonCrossing to English and German.
In 2014 Parnass Publishers launched her book on travel Nepal, cerca de las estrellas (Nepal, close to the stars), also translated to English.
And in 2015 she published a children’s book called Aburrilandia, el país sin libros (Boredomland, the country with no books). She has also recently entered the second Amazon contest for independent books written in Spanish with a thriller El caparazón de la tortuga (The tortoiseshell) that is one of the five finalists. The winner will be announced on the 15th of October.
She is hard at work on a new novel and teaches courses on Creative Writing.
I started writing when I was eight years old, more or less. Before that I would always tell stories out loud that I would invent them as I went along according to the requests of my listeners: love stories, horror, adventures… My audience used to be my friends and the other girls in the same class in school. The nuns (it was a religious school) would always ask me to tell stories to keep the class under control and quiet when we were doing sewing, crafts and those kinds of things.
I wrote my first novel when I was 12.
How have you found your experience as an independent writer?
The truth is that my first novel, Nunca fuimos a Katmandú, was first published in paper through a traditional publishing company (Viceversa). Luckily I hadn’t sold them the digital rights, and a year after its publication I decided to upload it to Amazon. It became a bestseller and it was one of the books that sold more copies in Spain in 2012. That encouraged me to carry on writing and publishing books and up to now I’ve already published seven. The last one, El caparazón de la tortuga, is a finalist in the 2015 Contest for Independent Writers in Spanish organised by Amazon.
Is there a moment you remember with special affection from your experience as a writer?
Without a doubt when I saw my first novel, Nunca fuimos a Katmandú, published. The day when it reached the bookshops we celebrated it with cava, and afterwards we went to visit the biggest bookshops in Barcelona to enjoy seeing it among the new books in the shelves and take pictures. It was one of the happiest days of my life: a dream come true.
There have also been wonderful moments in my interaction with readers: letters, comments, messages that moved me, where they explained to me their thoughts after reading the novel, their feelings and they also told me they admired my work. Writing is a lonely and uncertain job and obtaining that feedback from the readers is the best reward.
What’s your favourite genre (both as a reader and as a writer)?
I like to write the types of books I enjoy reading: basically stories about women, actual, real, what is called Women’s Fiction. Although in fact, among the seven books I’ve read there have appeared other genres; I have written a travel book (also translated to English), a children’s book and even an erotic novel, and now my last novel is a psychological thriller.
What made you decide to translate your book? And how did you find a translator?
Well, in my case it wasn’t my own decision but Amazon’s. They offered (as a publishing company) to translate Habana Jazz Club to English and German. And with that I also reply to your second question: they found me and they took care of everything.
Tell us something about your book
Habana Jazz Club (Havana Jazz Club, in English) is a love story, but it’s not a romantic novel. Love is force that drive the protagonist throughout her life, but it’s not only romantic love, it’s also the love she feels for her family, for her parents, her son, and her friends, and even for somebody who cannot return her love in the same way. It’s a story of fighting against the odds and courage and a little homage to the great Billie Holliday, whose name is shared by the protagonist.
Any advice for your peer writers (especially for new writers)?
The best advice I can give them is that they should be self-critical and humble. A lot has been said about the ego of the writers and probably there’s some truth in that. We all believe we have written the great work of art the world had been waiting for. But there are many and very good writers. If a publishing company (or several) rejects you, it isn’t because they know nothing about literature or they don’t like you; probably your work isn’t as good as it should be. Carry on working and never give up.
I’ve had the pleasure of reading Havana Jazz Club and I leave you my review:
Love doesn’t conquer everything but art is a great consolation
The novel Havana Jazz Club by Lola Mariné narrates the adventures of Billie, a Cuban girl, daughter of a woman who adores jazz and decides to call her Billie as an homage to Billie Holiday, despite everybody telling her that ‘it’s a boy’s name’. Billie inherits her mother’s love for music, particularly jazz music, and luckily for her, that love never disappoints her. Unfortunately, the rest…
I’ve never been to Cuba and I only know about it what I’ve read in books or watched in movies. I wouldn’t dare to comment on how realistic or not the description of Billie’s life before leaving Cuba is, but her home life is endearing and loving and shows us a close and happy family. Although we all know mothers’ are always right, unfortunately Billie ignores her mother’s advice and her mistrust, and marries a boy, who isn’t only handsome but also knows it, Orlando. Billie leaves Cuba and a big chunk of her heart there, and follows her husband, and things don’t work well for them. Billie’s story once they arrive in Spain becomes one of domestic violence and exploitation. And things only go from bad to worse, to the point when she ends up living in the streets of Barcelona, where she is rescued by her guardian angel, Armando. And when things start to look up, the men in her life continue making her miserable. And I won’t tell you anything else because you must read the novel.
Lola Mariné has written a masterful melodrama. There are irredeemable baddies, goodies as sweet as sugar, terrible suffering, and talent and music, plenty of music. There were moments when I couldn’t help reading ahead convinced of what would happen, and that it would be bad, but the same as when we’re dragged by a fast current, I couldn’t do anything else but let myself go and see if I came up, unscathed, at the other side. And despite her trials and tribulations, and the disasters that pepper her journey, or perhaps because of them, the protagonist makes her dreams come true (in a small-scale but…), and creates a family made up of people who love her because she is who she is, and not because she’s been born here or there, or because it is their duty.
The part I enjoyed the most (and I loved it all) was when towards the end, the author, first through Gerardo and later through Billie herself, reflects upon the nature of creativity, about what the really important things in life are, and the tranquillity of feeling happy and comfortable in one’s own skin, without pretending or having to worry about appearances. I hope we can all reach such a state at some point in our lives.
If you enjoy novels with a heart, with unforgettable protagonists, and the stories about self-improvement and personal achievement, I wholeheartedly recommend it to you.
Thanks so much to Lola Mariné for bringing us her novel and answering our questions. Thanks to all for you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment and CLICK!
Title: Life or Death Author: Michael Robotham ISBN13: 978-0316252034 ASIN: B00HP4HABG Published: July 2014 Pages: 449 Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Thanks to the publishers for providing me a free copy through Net Galley.
This novel’s tagline is The Shawshank Redemption meets No Country for Old Men and it is fairly accurate.
Audey Palmer escapes prison the day before he was due to be released, and everybody, including the inmates of the prison, wonder, why? This question propels the novel where Robottam makes a skilful use of third person point of view that alternates between a large cast of characters, but they are all so distinct that the reader never loses track.
From Audey, whose memories are slowly uncovered, to a diminutive but feisty FBI female agent, Moss, the prisoner of the next cell and a deeper character than at first appears, a sheriff hell bent on revenge, we get to see things from their perspective, whilst at the same time we’re not shown the whole story until the very end. The pieces fall into place eventually, and although we might have our suspicions, everything fits in beautifully. Considering the times and the stories in the news, unfortunately the truth behind the case does not feel like a huge stretch of the imagination.
Audey is a survivor against all odds but at the same time has an uncanny talent for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. When asked about it, he comments that he must have broken a mirror and found a horseshoe in the same day. There are many coincidences throughout the plot, but then life is full of them and there is an internal logic to the characters and the story that pulls it all together. Audey has something of the tragic hero as fate seems heavily stacked against him but he never gives up. And those on his side seem to grow in stature by coming into contact with him.
The style of the novel is easy to read, well-paced and at the same time beautifully written, with some gems of insight and style. I also loved the dry sense of humour and the pathos. The plot and the story keep us engaged, but the level of writing and the skill lift it above the humdrum standard thriller. This novel will work equally for people who enjoy complex characters and those who prefer an action filled adventure. A great book.
Here I leave you the description and some editorial reviews:
Why would a man serving a long prison sentence escape the day before he’s due to be released?
Audie Palmer has spent ten years in a Texas prison after pleading guilty to a robbery in which four people died and seven million dollars went missing. During that time he has suffered repeated beatings, stabbings and threats by inmates and guards, all desperate to answer the same question: where’s the money?
On the day before Audie is due to be released, he suddenly vanishes. Now everybody is searching for him – the police, FBI, gangsters and other powerful figures – but Audie isn’t running to save his own life. Instead, he’s trying to save someone else’s.
Michael Robotham has created the ultimate underdog hero, an honorable criminal shrouded in mystery and ready to lead readers on a remarkable chase.
“Life or Death is a nerve-shredding thriller with the heart and soul so often missing from lesser crime and suspense novels. I couldn’t stop reading, yet I didn’t want Audie’s story to end. Robotham is an absolute master.”―Stephen King
“A pitch perfect plot with a stunning twist that involves a sheep in wolf’s clothing. Talk about topsy turvy — but it works — big time.”―Steve Berry, author of The Lincoln Myth and The Jefferson Key
“Robotham has a talent for creating fascinating and complex characters, and Audie Palmer may be his best yet.”―Booklist (starred review)
[A] prison-break tale with a twist . . . The writing is top-notch . . . Plenty of edge-of-the-seat excitement, forcing readers to frantically turn the pages to find out how all these different strands intersect. Robotham’s skill as a writer remains undeniable: He offers memorable characters caught up in an irresistible story.”―Kirkus Reviews
“Michael Robotham is the real deal.”―David Baldacci
“Robotham is a first-class storyteller.”―Associated Press
About the Author
Michael Robotham is author of Watching You, Say You’re Sorry, Bleed for Me, Shatter, and other novels of suspense. A former investigative journalist who has worked in Britain, Australia and the US, Robotham is one of the world’s most acclaimed authors of thriller fiction. He lives in Sydney with his wife and three daughters.
Ratings: Realistic Characterization: 4.5/5 Made Me Think: 5/5 Overall enjoyment: 5/5 Readability: 5/5 Recommended: 5/5 Overall Rating: 5/5
Title: Normal Author: Graeme Cameron ASIN: B00OY2769S Published: Kindle version due on 6th April. Hardback available from 31st March and paperback due in September 29th ) Pages: 301 pages Genre: Thriller (serial killer)/romance
Thanks to Net Galley and to Harlequin Mira for providing me with a free copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
Normal takes another look at the ever popular figure of the serial killer. This one is not only British, but also fairly “normal”. The author choses to use first person narration as a way of keeping the main character anonymous (no description, no personal details other than his own narration of his actions and his environment, not even a name) and of offering the readers and insight into the mind of the murderer. And this was where the problem resided for me. Of course a serial killer deserving of that name would have to appear “normal” to society at large, otherwise he would be easily spotted and stopped. But there are certain psychological characteristics that would be expected, like superficial charm, callousness, lack of empathy… All of these are present to a certain level, and even give rise to pretty humorous (in a dark humour kind of way) situations, but unravel when he seems to fall in love and becomes… an utter disaster.
From being a man who had managed to kill an undetermined number of young women, never getting caught and who had a pretty organised system, he becomes one who starts making mistakes, forgetting to bury bodies, and getting himself caught in all kinds of dangerous situations. At some point, cruelty and all, the novel becomes somewhat slapstick in its situations, and it seems that if he doesn’t get caught sooner is only down to his good luck and to the utter lack of skills of the local police (who pay dearly for their mistakes).
I wasn’t sure if the lack of psychological consistency in the character was meant to indicate a crisis (of conscience, a moral crisis) or to point out at the redeeming powers of love. The characters comments towards the end (that I won’t reveal, although the actual end is not completely closed) indicate the second option, and that stretches somewhat the limits of credibility, but maybe I’m just too cynical. As the book is a Harlequin Edition, this makes some sense, and it’s an interesting move within their line of publications.
Some reviewers have queried the lack of explanation of the motivations for the character’s actions that are only vaguely hinted at. Although that is true, the main character never seems to entertain deep reflections about himself other than in relation to his immediate plans, actions and the likely consequences of these and there doesn’t seem to be much space for biographical reflection in the way his brain works.
The character that I found intriguing is Erica who is totally unexplained and unexplainable, and in some ways I wonder how the novel would have been if she was the narrator of the story (or this had been a third person narration to allows us some insight into her).
This is a good read (if you tolerate violence, although is by far not as violent as other books on the subject), the language flows easily, and it has enough intrigue, and dark humoured moments to keep most readers of the genre happy. Being a psychiatrist (and a forensic psychiatrist at that) I wasn’t totally convinced by the psychological portrayal of the character and his behaviour in the last third of the book but I don’t think I’m the intended reader of this novel. In my opinion most readers of thrillers looking for something a bit different will enjoy it, but maybe not the hard core of the genre.
Ratings: Realistic Characterization: 3/5 Made Me Think: 4/5 Overall enjoyment: 3.5/5 Readability: 4.5/5 Recommended: 4/5 Overall Rating: 3.5/5
Buy it at: Amazon Format & Pricing: Paperback: $ 13.04 (Available from 29th September) Hardback: $ 18.71 (Available from 31st March) Kindle:$7.25 (Available from 6th April. Currently on pre-order)
Thank you all for reading, and you know what I say, like, share, comment, and if you’re really interested, get pre-CLICKING!
I was checking through some blogs and found one that I felt spoke to me and I thought I’d share it with you to see if it resonates with you too. The original post was in Problogger and it’s a guest contribution by a psychologist, Dr Alice Boyes. You can read it here. Although the title of the post is: 5 Psychological Blocks that Stop Bloggers Going from Good to Great, I felt those apply to writers in general, and of course, many of us are also bloggers.
To summarise, Dr Boyes mentions five blocks to developing a blogger’s (read writer’s) career:
Imposter Syndrome. You aren’t good enough, you aren’t really a writer, how can you compare with others, who are you trying to fool…This blocks you as you don’t feel you should reach to others whom you view as true… (bloggers, writers, authors…), or you don’t challenge yourself and put yourself to the test. Her suggestions of solutions include looking at the evidence, realising that this is just a thought (a negative thought indeed), asking yourself what would you be doing if you were the real deal and doing that, and understanding and giving yourself self-compassion. On the note of self-compassion, one of the things I used to tell my patients who came up with very negative comments about themselves was: what would you tell a friend, or somebody you knew, who came and told you what you’re telling me? Would you really think they were no good at what they were doing or not as professional…or whatever the issue was? Sometimes we are so much harder on ourselves than we are on others.
Avoidance Coping. When you’re avoiding doing the things that should be your first priority by doing other less important things. I think we can all relate to this. I’m not pointing any fingers other than at myself. She suggests as solutions having a very simple to do list, putting limits on other tasks and being mindful of them (she suggest an App you can check although I’ve seen many advertised), and keeping a balance (80/20 anybody?).
All-or-nothing Thinking. Everything should be done and done to perfection. Therefore as that is impossible, we give up completely on what could be a good idea. Although she doesn’t call it that, I think her suggestion for dealing with this would be ‘embrace the middle ground’ or ‘compromise’. If a task seems overwhelming, try and compromise on something workable you can do or break it in little chunks and do them at your own pace. Remember: Rome wasn’t built in one day.
Running your Willpower Back to Empty. In talking about blogging Dr Boyes suggests that due to the many things one could do to ensure success at blogging, people might end up running round in circles, exhausting themselves and forgetting to take into consideration the big picture (the reason why we started doing something in the first place). And also losing sight of the goal (the doing becomes the end in itself). That’s also the case in writing and promoting/marketing. The amount of information, suggestions and new ideas are mindboggling. You can end up feeling like a hamster running on the wheel. She suggests shorter (microbreaks) and longer breaks, including disconnecting completely from the computer and going away, as that will give you a new perspective (the same most writers recommend doing once you finish your manuscript).
Unwillingness to Tolerate Knockbacks. It doesn’t matter how well you do something, there will be people who don’t like it, or who think that it could/should be done differently. Dr Boyes says it’s important to build a level of tolerance (not insensitivity) to it, particularly if you’re prone to ruminating and overthinking what you could have done wrong. (She here recommends her book, but as I haven’t read it I won’t, although if the post is an example of what she offers, it might be worth a look). There’s much written about negative reviews and I think most of us know that however objective or neutral they might be (and not all are) they tend to feel personal because our books are our creations. As possible solutions she suggests: Expecting a 50% success rate rather than 100% (I guess we could call it redefining success). Also accepting your sensitivity rather than fighting against it and she recommends quick mindfulness meditations to help the negative thoughts pass quickly (with links). I have been meditating for over a year now, and although I’m sure it’s not for everybody (and I was’t very convinced it was for me) I’d say it has helped me.
Thanks so much to Pro Blogger and Dr Bloye for her article and inspiration, thanks to you all for reading, and let me know if you think those apply to writing too. And any tricks to deal with these or other blocks are welcome!
I had read this book when it was first published in 2013. The second print was released in January 2014. It is a book to share, a book that will change your perspectives which is why I have chosen to review it for my first post in LitWorldInterviews.
Though trained in therapy, this review is written not from the perspective of a therapist but rather that of a reader who happens to be a therapist.
Title: The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves Author: Stephen Grosz Publisher: Chatto & Windus (3 Jan 2013) ISBN-10: 070118535X ISBN-13: 978-0701185350 Website: http://www.stephengrosz.com/usa// Pages: Hardback, 240 pages Genre: Literary Non-Fiction – Psychology
What’s it about?
The Examined Life is a collection of essays based on Stephen Grosz’ case histories of his work as a psychoanalyst. In Grosz’ words, it is a book about ‘change and loss’.
Grosz’ art in story-telling is apparent. The human-ness of each client, and the interaction between he and his clients cannot help but make the reader realise all of us share common experiences such as pain and suffering in our living, and we are creative and versatile of ways to protect ourselves by whichever means possible.
In telling these stories, Grosz manages to enlighten the reader to the hidden meanings of his clients’ lives. There are the ‘facts’ obvious to all, and then his narratives which distil the motivations leading to a depth of understanding of the human psyche.
The reader is also acutely aware the therapy process occurs within the confines of a therapist’s room, and the accounts told by the clients are rarely verified or corroborated. As a therapist, I am aware therapeutic ‘conversations’ are about honouring the client’s perspectives, not seeking ‘universal truths’. So the reader is left with stories of people as seen through the eyes of a highly experienced psychoanalyst and poignant narratives which prompt the reader to reflect on humanity. Take for example, the young man diagnosed as HIV positive who had spent some 3 years of his therapy sessions with Grosz mostly sleeping because it is there that he felt safe and thus could rest. That was a place of healing. Now reconsider the judgment we have of the benefits or the necessity or the efficacy of those sessions.
This book is inspirational, thought provoking and highly entertaining. Most importantly, by the absence of technical jargon, it is accessible to all and not just those interested in or within the field of psychology.
The essays illuminate and clarify the process of psychoanalysis – the conversations in therapy and the skills of listening, talking and being present with clients – without advocating for this specific technique or method.
I recommend this most certainly to readers curious about the complexities of human mind and behaviour.
Perhaps Grosz said it best:
“The philosopher Simone Weil describes how two prisoners in adjoining cells learn, over a very long period of time, to talk to each other by tapping on the wall. ‘The wall is the thing which separates them, but it is also their mean o communication,’ she writes. ‘Every separation is a link.’
This book is about that wall. It’s about our desire to talk, to understand and be understood. It’s also about listening to each other, not just the words but the gaps in between. … It’s something that is a part of our everyday lives – we tap, we listen.”
Enjoy! LWI Rating:
Realistic Characterization: N/A Made Me Think: 3/5 Overall enjoyment: 4/5 Readability: 5/5 Recommended: 4/5 Overall Rating: 4/5