Jul. 13th, 2011

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Title: The Geography of Bliss
Author: Eric Weiner
Genre: Memoir
Rating: 3.5/5
# pages: 345
Date read: July, 2011

The Geography of Bliss takes the reader from America to Iceland to India in search of happiness, or, in the crabby author's case, moments of "un-unhappiness." The book uses a beguiling mixture of travel, psychology, science and humor to investigate not what happiness is, but where it is. Are people in Switzerland happier because it is the most democratic country in the world? Do citizens of Qatar, awash in petrodollars, find joy in all that cash? Is the King of Bhutan a visionary for his initiative to calculate Gross National Happiness? Why is Asheville, North Carolina so damn happy? With engaging wit and surprising insights, Eric Weiner answers those questions and many others, offering travelers of all moods some interesting new ideas for sunnier destinations and dispositions.

Part happiness project, part travel memoir. I really liked reading about Eric's experiences and have to agree with him that Tolstoy got it all wrong - people are happy for all kinds of different reasons, and what works for some won't necessarily work for others. It's an incredibly quotable book, and I've jotted down a number of quotes in my little notebook :)

I liked that he limited himself to 10 countries, and then spent quite a lot of both physical time and page time on each, so the reader got the impression that he'd really done his research and gotten a true picture of the country.
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Title: An Echo in the Bone
Author: Diana Gabaldon
Genre: Historical romance
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 824
Date read: July, 2011

Jamie Fraser, erstwhile Jacobite and reluctant rebel, knows three things about the American rebellion: the Americans will win, unlikely as that seems in 1778; being on the winning side is no guarantee of survival; and he'd rather die than face his illegitimate son - a young lieutenant in the British Army - across the barrel of a gun. Fraser's time-travelling wife, Claire, also knows a couple of things: that the Americans will win, but that the ultimate price of victory is a mystery. What she does believe is that the price won't include Jamie's life or happiness - not if she has anything to say.

Claire's grown daughter Brianna, and her husband, Roger, watch the unfolding of Brianna's parents' history - a past that may be sneaking up behind their own family.

Long book is LONG! Worth it though. I'd have to say that this is probably better than both book 5 and 6. Wasn't quite as heart wrenching, and for once Gabaldon gave her characters a bit of a break. Not much though... otherwise it wouldn't be her!

One of the weaknesses of the later books is that Gabaldon tries to tell the story from too many different characters' viewpoint, and the reader will invariably be more interested in some story lines than others. Personally I loved Claire, Jamie and Ian's, liked Brianna and Roger's and only cared slightly for Lord John Grey's and William's. I did warm up to the latter though, and loved the way they all connected in the end.

I did think that this book ended with quite the cliffhanger... more than any of the others. Can't wait to read the next one, which I think I've heard may also be the last one? Can anybody confirm or deny this?


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