Review: Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

Format read: ebook from NetGalley
Formats available: Hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genre: Self-help, Psychology
Length: 256 pages
Publisher: Gotham
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Researcher and thought leader Dr. Brené Brown offers a powerful new vision that encourages us to dare greatly: to embrace vulnerability and imperfection, to live wholeheartedly, and to courageously engage in our lives.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; . . . who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” —Theodore Roosevelt

Every day we experience the uncertainty, risks, and emotional exposure that define what it means to be vulnerable, or to dare greatly. Whether the arena is a new relationship, an important meeting, our creative process, or a difficult family conversation, we must find the courage to walk into vulnerability and engage with our whole hearts.

In Daring Greatly, Dr. Brown challenges everything we think we know about vulnerability. Based on twelve years of research, she argues that vulnerability is not weakness, but rather our clearest path to courage, engagement, and meaningful connection. The book that Dr. Brown’s many fans have been waiting for, Daring Greatly will spark a new spirit of truth—and trust—in our organizations, families, schools, and communities.

This is a difficult book to review, because it doesn’t tell a narrative. Instead it deals with tough concepts like shame and vulnerability, and the need that all humans have to be connected to each other. About how easy it seems to disconnect, and how much it hurts us when we do.

Of course, reviewing could be said to count as “criticism” in that famous “Man in the Arena” speech from Theodore Roosevelt that Dr. Brown quotes from above and throughout the book. Except that by putting my name on my reviews, by being “out there”  and owning the writing of them, it counts as being “in the arena”. I set myself for being criticized in turn.  Reading the passages in the book about the self-talk that can weigh you down before starting any new venture sounded pretty darn familiar.

I was amazed that Brown managed to link that “Man in the Arena” speech to the even more famous (to me, at least) quote from Margery Williams’ The Velveteen Rabbit about “What is REAL?” (here’s the full quote, it’s worth a read) and make it work, because that negative self-talk isn’t real, and learning to get past it and get out there and “Dare Greatly” is part of Brown’s premise.

Another point that Brown was making was that our pursuit of perfection and overabundance is just another way of keeping us from connecting with the people around us, because we’re too busy comparing ourselves to others (and always falling short) to connect with them. Instead of feeling shame at what we don’t have or haven’t achieved, we should be seeking wholeness, or wholeheartedness to use her term. It reminded me of a little story on the net, “I wish you enough.”

Reality Rating B+: Daring Greatly will make you think. For a book of this type, that may be the most important thing. Many of the points the author made are still rattling around in my head, and all too many of the stories had resonance. I’ll be thinking about this one for a while.

If you’re interested in the social consequences of disconnectedness, you might want to take a look at Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone. It may be a little dated, but it still has some important things to say in its conclusions. Brown deals more with the individual and Putnam with society, but I think the two complement each other.






***Disclaimer: I was compensated for this BlogHer Book Club review but all opinions expressed are my own.

Review: Trust Your Eyes by Linwood Barclay

Format read: print book from publisher
Formats available: Hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genre: Thriller
Length: 512 pages
Publisher: NAL Hardcover
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Thomas Kilbride is a map-obsessed schizophrenic so affected that he rarely leaves the self-imposed bastion of his bedroom. But with a computer program called, he travels the world while never stepping out the door. That is until he sees something in a street view of downtown New York City. Thomas’s keen eyes have detected an image in a window…an image that looks like a woman being murdered.
Thomas’s brother, Ray, takes care of him, cooking for him, dealing with the outside world on his behalf, and listening to his intricate and increasingly paranoid theories. When Thomas tells Ray what he has seen, Ray humors him with a half-hearted investigation. But Ray soon realizes he and his brother have stumbled onto a deadly conspiracy.
And now they are in the crosshairs…

There will be an inevitable comparison to the movie Rain Man.  But Ray Kilbride is in no way as self-centered at Tom Cruise’s character in the movie. And Thomas is a lot more functional than Dustin Hoffman’s. In the end, also more self-centered.

But if we’re talking about movies, think of Trust Your Eyes as Rear Window crossed with Google Earth, viewed by a map-obsessed shut-in. Thomas Kilbride could go out, but he doesn’t. He thinks he’s working for the CIA, memorizing cities in the event of an unspecified computer viral pandemic that will wipe out all the GPS systems in one swell foop.

While the computer virus and the CIA assignment are illusionary, or delusional, Thomas Kilbride’s map memorization capabilities are all too real. And do we really know what Google sees when it maps our streets? Whose car is parked in which driveway in the middle of the day when it shouldn’t be?

Thomas Kilbride sees a murder. In New York City. Several months ago. And no one believes him because people are all too used to not believing Thomas Kilbride. After all, Thomas thinks that Bill Clinton phones him every night for updates. Yes, that Bill Clinton.

But after Ray comes home to figure out what to do about Thomas after their father dies in a rather suspicious lawn mower accident, things start to unravel. Thomas convinces Ray to take a printout of that possible murder to New York, just to take a look at the scene. Ray has a meeting in NYC, so he thinks he’ll humor his brother.

The thing is…there really was a murder. And the killers had no idea that their crime has been posted on the internet for anyone to see. Anyone obsessive that is.

All they knew was that it was a totally botched job, one that they’ve covered up as much as possible, and have been waiting for months to see if anyone would come snooping around.

Ray Kilbride just snooped. Because his brother was obsessive about maps. Now everyone’s world is about to come crashing down.

Maybe someone should have listened to Thomas a little sooner.

Escape Rating B: Because Ray is genuinely a nice guy who is in over his head, the reader does feel for him. He wants to do the right thing, and Thomas is a challenge, to say the least. His father just died, the circumstances are weird, and Ray is stuck. He’s a freelance political cartoonist, so he can take some time to figure things out, but not much.

Thomas can’t be totally on his own, but he is fairly high-functioning. Also very self-centered. He can be reasoned with, up to a point. Late in the book, his condition is defined as schizophrenia, but I wonder if there’s more to it.

There are two parallel lines to the plot, and they eventually meet. Thomas sees a murder. One line is the track of convincing someone, poor Ray, to look into it and the results. The other half is the murder itself, what happened and why. The plot, motivations and people on the side of the “bad guys” was less clearly drawn for this reader than the Kilbride side.

Of course, the murder was very badly planned and executed and we’re not meant to sympathize, but I just didn’t get the motivations of the perpetrators as well, and that side of the story seemed a bit choppy.

At the end there was one last piece of business. Ray was still puzzled about his dad’s death. The solution to that final puzzle, that, that sent chills up my spine.

***Disclaimer: I was compensated for this BlogHer Book Club review but all opinions expressed are my own.

What’s On My (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand? AKA The Sunday Post 7-15-12

It’s going to be a very busy week here at Reading Reality. And I’m not just talking about the blog.

For those of you in the library world, I’m going to do one totally shameless plug. I’m speaking at the ALA Virtual Conference on Wednesday, July 18. My topic is one that is near and dear to my geeky little heart. Of course I’m referring to ebooks. “Beyond the Bestseller List: Filling Patron Demand for Great eBooks Without the ‘Big 6 Publishers'”.

Back to the blog. I have two tours scheduled this week.

Tuesday, Donna Del Oro will be visiting, and guest posting, to talk about her very cool paranormal romance/romantic suspense novel, The Delphi Bloodline. I’ll also have a review. A psychic female meets her match when a family friend becomes her guardian. Then the skeptical FBI wants to use her as bait in a plan that nearly turns deadly. Oh, and the Pope is involved. Lots of surprises in this one.

And on Thursday, Jeffe Kennedy stops by to answer a few questions about Rogue’s Pawn, the first book in her new urban fantasy/paranormal romance series, Covenant of Thorns. Of course, I’ll also have a review of this twisty new book, where a woman from our world crosses into fae.

Looking ahead to next week, there are a few books on the radar that I’m really looking forward to diving into.

I’ll be reviewing The Virgin Huntress, the second book in Victoria Vane’s Devil DeVere series over at Book Lovers Inc. on July 27. The first book, A Wild Night’s Bride, was an absolute hoot, a glorious romp. (BLI review here, Reading Reality here) If you want to laugh along with your sexy romance, give AWNB a read. I’m hoping The Virgin Huntress is even more delicious fun.

Series set up expectations. That true for Laura Anne Gilman’s Dragon Justice, the next book in her Paranormal Scene Investigations Series book. The publication date is July 24. Again, I enjoyed the rest of the series (Hard Magic, Pack of Lies, Tricks of the Trade (Tricks reviewed here). I loved Gilman’s Retrievers series. I’m seriously looking forward to the night I’m going to spend reading Dragon Justice. Enough said.

Last but definitely not least. I’m in the next upcoming BlogHer Book Clubs. Those bring interesting books that I might not otherwise read. The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty starts next week. That book I did want to read. Not just because the book is a hot pick on a whole lot of lists, but because the Roaring 20s are so fascinating.

The Small Blogs Big Giveaways Blog Hop will be running all this week here and and on all of the participating blogs. So don’t forget to pop on over to the entry post and get your name into the hopper for all of the prizes. There are gift cards, books and ebooks. One riffle down the rafflecopter gets you entered into all the hop stops.

That’s enough for one week (or two weeks!) on this blog. Whew! What’s happening at your place?

You Have No Idea

You Have No Idea by Vanessa and Helen Williams  may be the perfect book for Mother’s Day reading. Why?

As the long, but very accurate subtitle says, it’s about “a famous daugher, her no-nonsense mother, and how they survived pageants, Hollywood, love, loss (and each other)”

This story is both autobiography and biography, as Vanessa and Helen take turns writing about their own lives, and then say what they did, and more importantly, how they felt, as they weathered the storms of their life together.

Because there were definitely storms. Some were the typical battles between teenage daughters and their moms. And college-aged young women and their moms.

And then, there’s the big, famous one. Which, when you read the Williams’ story, actually started because a typical college-aged young woman wanted to prove her independence. And it came back to haunt her at the worst possible time. Doesn’t it always?

Reading the events of Vanessa Williams’ life pre-Miss America, it’s easy to see the events from her perspective. A young woman looking for scholarship money, she entered the contest thinking she didn’t have much of a chance against the veterans of the pageant-circuit. Then she won, and her life changed forever. Fame, fortune and notoriety, all embodied in those words, “There she is, Miss America.”

The first African-American Miss America. The first Miss America to receive death threats. The first Miss America to resign after nude photographs of her were published in Penthouse.

The autobiography she wrote with her mother Helen is not just about her year as Miss America, and the aftermath. It’s about how she pulled herself up afterwards.

Vanessa Williams had always intended to be on Broadway. She never meant to be a pageant queen. The story is about picking herself up, dusting herself off, and getting her dream back. No matter how many detours it takes.

If you detour often enough, the wreckage isn’t even in your rear-view mirror any longer.

Reality Rating B+: I read this pretty much straight through, which isn’t something I often do for biography, so that’s a big plus. The parts where Helen and Vanessa (I can’t call them both Ms. Williams, it’s just confusing) gave different perspectives on the same events, was absolutely fascinating! Being a daughter and not a mother, I saw Vanessa’s side so easily, I wonder more what my mom was thinking about some of the things I did at those same points.

I really felt for both of them at the sudden loss of Mr. Williams. I lost my own dad in similar circumstances, and I teared up in those scenes.

There’s a lesson in Vanessa Williams’ story, one that made me think. When those photos were taken, she trusted the person who took them, and assumed they’d never come to light. If she hadn’t become famous, they would probably have been lost forever. They only had value because she became famous. She (and I) grew up at a time when one’s youthful excesses were not recorded. No Facebook, no cellphone cameras. You embarrassed yourself in front of your friends and they would probably remember, but there wouldn’t be any actual evidence to haunt you 5 or 25 years later.

Today, with Facebook and cellphone cameras the Wayback Machine, does anything ever really go away? Especially the stuff that you really wish would?

***Disclaimer: I was compensated for this BlogHer Book Club review but all opinions expressed are my own.

If you want to join this month’s discussion of You Have No Idea on the BlogHer Book Club, you can join the discussion by following this link to the Book Club. If you want to connect with Vanessa Williams, you can connect with her on Twitter at @vwofficial, or by liking her Facebook page.


Hot Buttons Syndicated!

Yesterday I received an email from BlogHer that they wanted to syndicate my post Hot Buttons Popping, which is about discrimination against same-sex romances in writing contests.

I was so excited when I read the email, I think the neighbors heard me squeeing from a couple of blocks away. I’m still amazed. And so very glad I decided to participate in NaBloPoMo.

BlogHer syndicated the “Hot Buttons” post today, so please check it out here, if only to take a look at the marvelous photo they used for illustration. It’s perfect!


Syndicated on


NaNoWriMo no, NaBloPoMo, yes!

Everyone has heard of NaNoWriMo. It’s the month where people all over the United States commit to writing so many words per day, in order to kick-start themselves into writing their novel. It’s like a global support group for novelists. NaNoWriMo is a not-quite abbreviation for National Novel Writing Month. But I’m pretty sure it’s expanded way beyond the U.S. boundaries, at least unofficially.

NaNoWriMo is held in November every year. And it’s a really neat idea. But I’m not writing a novel. I write pretty much every day, but so far, there isn’t a novel screaming to come out of me. Someday, maybe, but not today.

Today, I’m here to talk about NaBloPoMo, which does not quite roll as trippingly over the tongue as NaNoWriMo, but is way more relevant for me.

NaBloPoMo is National Blog Posting Month, and is organized by the terrific ladies at BlogHer. Signing up for NaBloPoMo is a commitment to post something to my blog every single day for an entire month. The absolutely fantastic thing about NaBloPoMo is that it’s NaBloPoMo every month!

Yes, I’m committed. I’ve signed up to be one of the Book Bloggers on NaBloPoMo for the month of February. The complete list of February bloggers is here on BlogHer, so please take a peek at my fellow inmates. If you are interested in joining us, the blogroll will remain open until February 5.

Because my primary focus lies someplace in the ebook and book world, defined as broadly as possible to include libraries and bookstores, I always have something to write about because NetGalley kindly provides egalleys for me to review. There is never a lack of material. I run headlong into the “so many books, so little time” conundrum more than anything else.

For participants without that, let’s call it a saving grace, NaBloProMo provides a writing prompt that bloggers can use for inspiration if needed. The February prompt is “RELATIVE”.

My mind went to “relatives” as in family. Not so much to my own family as to families in books. J.D. Robb’s Celebrity in Death is due out at the end of February, and I’m looking forward to slurping it up as soon after midnight as my iPad will process the download. Eve Dallas is an orphan, and as we find out during the course of the series, for damn good reasons. But she does have a family. The family she made, not her birth family. And yet, they are very much her family, and they love each just as much, if not more, than many families. After all, they put their lives on the line for each other every day.

How many series, especially mystery/detective series, do you follow just to keep up with the “family”?