Noisy Deadlines


  1. Torn (The Unraveled Kingdom #1) by Rowenna Miller, 480p: This was not the book I was looking for. The blurb mentions it is French Revolution-inspired in a fictional world with magic. The magic system is interesting: a few seamstresses can cast charms into their stitches, making charm protected garments. The protagonist, Sophie, is one of those expert seamstresses and has her own business. Her brother, Kristos, is a revolutionary that wants to overthrow the monarchy (hence the French Revolution inspiration). But the revolution didn’t seem convincing. It was a bit of a slow burn towards political revolution from the POV of someone who is connected to it (Sophie) but doesn’t really want to get involved. Sophie was so reactive and her lack of agency annoyed me at times. There was not enough texture in the story to make it a compelling revolution inspired story.

  2. Bringing Down the Duke (A League of Extraordinary Women #1) by Evie Dunmore, 356p: I’m truly enjoying these historical romances with a modern twist. In this one the main character, Annabelle, is a bluestocking in 1879 studying in Oxford, who joins the suffragette movement. They are fighting to get the “Married Women’s Property Act” amended, so that women can keep their own property after marriage. Annabelle is tasked with getting the Duke of Montgomery to back the cause, and romance ensues! It has a rich plot with believable political background. Beautiful romance story with a strong female character.

  3. Poison or Protect (Delightfully Deadly #1) by Gail Carriger, 180p: a stand-alone romance novella set in Gail Carriger’s steampunk universe. Lady Preshea Villentia, a deadly, accomplished assassin, is hired for a job in a country house party. The plot is simple, so the story is self-contained, and the focus is the romance between Lady Villentia and Captain Gavin. Delightfully entertaining and cute.

  4. Time Surfing: The Zen Approach to Keeping Time on Your Side (Stressontknoping #1) by Paul Loomans, 176p: This book discusses how we can concentrate on doing our work intuitively. The approach suggests using to-do list as merely checklists to see if we are forgetting something. The author says he doesn’t even use lists anymore, unless he’s very busy. I liked the idea that we have to face the “gnawing rats”: all the things in our lives that we put off and which then start to “gnaw” at us. He suggests we visualize the next actions of what is worrying us, identifying what we find difficult or scary to make the solution real, and leave it to our intuition to carry out the task later. Also, lots of good ideas: do one thing at a time, give things your full attention (no multitasking), take short breaks often to recharge, practice mindfulness. Some of the ideas were familiar to me, but he manages to present them in a fresh and simple way. The illustrations are gorgeous!

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

A while ago my book club was deciding what the next sci-fi read was going to be, and we decided to use an online random number generator to choose from our list of book suggestions (that were numbered from 1 to 46).

It turns out the randomly selected number was 9, which corresponded to “A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe” by Alex White. A member who has read it before mentioned that it was Science Fantasy. So we pondered: “Should it be classified as a science fiction or fantasy read”? This dilemma sparked conversations, particularly because we like to alternate our monthly picks between sci-fi and fantasy.

The definition of Science Fantasy, as complied by Wikipedia is:

Science fantasy is a hybrid genre within speculative fiction that simultaneously draws upon or combines tropes and elements from both science fiction and fantasy.

Pretty broad, huh?

So some might say that Star Wars is Science Fantasy, while others will think that Star Trek can also be Science Fantasy, and not good old hard Sci-Fi.

I wasn’t familiar with this sub-genre, but the description reminded me a little bit of the 80’s movie called Krull” from 1983. There are swords and lasers. And magic, or magical things happening. It’s an interesting mixture of medieval and space themes, because there are also aliens!

And then I reminded myself that I have read a Science Fantasy book before: the classic “Dragonflight (Dragonriders of Pern #1) by Anne McCaffrey, first published in 1967. This one has dragons, and magic and space travel. I only read the first book, but it is at least a trilogy.

Looking at all the books I’ve read, I can probably spot only 2 or 3 books that are clearly Science Fantasy. And from the reviews I wrote back then, I’m not a super fan of this sub-genre. But I remember when I was a kid I loved that movie Krull, and I also loved its soundtrack (which I still might have in MP3 format somewhere).

So, do I like Science Fantasy or not?

I guess for me it depends on the tone. I’d prefer a fantasy book, set in a medieval-ish inspired world that has some advanced technology in it, rather than a full-on sci-fi book with spaceships and some magic. The book I mentioned above (“A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe”) is in the latter category and the magic in it disturbed my suspension of disbelief. I had to disregard the magic elements to enjoy the story (which was fun, by the way!).

In our book club discussion, we discovered the complexity in categorizing works that draw from both futuristic technology and mystical elements. There was no final consensus. And the guy who only reads sci-fi, for instance, hated this sub-genre. It’s not for everybody.

Science Fantasy is a thing. It’s one of those interesting genre mashups and I think it’s hard to do it well (based on my personal preference). It’s that unique intersection between science fiction and fantasy, where the boundaries blur and possibilities are limitless.

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

There is nothing like a good book. And by that I mean a book that I can’t put down, not some old classics or a book that won fancy awards like the Pulitzer or the Hugo awards. Just a book that is good for me.

Now, don't get me wrong. The classics and those award-winners have their place in the literary hall of fame, but there's something magical about stumbling upon a book that feels like a perfect fit.

Just read anything that you enjoy, whatever you want to read. Don’t read to show off as an intellectual, read to have fun!

“Reading isn’t important because it helps to get you a job. It’s important because it gives you room to exist beyond the reality you’re given. It is how humans merge. How minds connect. Dreams. Empathy. Understanding. Escape. Reading is love in action.” ― Matt Haig, Notes on a Nervous Planet

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

This month I finally finished reading the Planetfall series by Emma Newman. The interesting thing about this series is that the 4 books can be read in any order because each book is set in different places and timelines. It's sci-fi with touches of thriller, mystery, psychological themes, very engaging.

If you are interested, I'd only recommend reading “After Atlas (Planetfall #2)” before “Atlas Alone (Planetfall #4)” as these two books are the only ones that are very close together in terms of timeline (Atlas Alone is a close continuation of After Atlas). My reading order was:

1. After Atlas (Planetfall #2) – Nov, 2022

2. Atlas Alone (Planetfall #4) – Apr, 2023

3. Planetfall (Planetfall #1) – Jun, 2023

4. Before Mars (Planetfall #3) – Jul, 2023

And here goes all the books I read this month:

  1. Axiom's End (Noumena #1) by Lindsay Ellis, 336p: This one is an alt-history first contact story set in 2007. I kinda liked it, it's action packed, the writing is good. The focus was more on the relationship between the main alien and the protagonist, which was well done. There is lots of focus on the communication aspect: how to develop something that translates totally different language structures and alien sounds. That was cool. I thought that the CIA agency was too nice to be true in terms of letting outsiders in and treating people nicely (for the most part). It is a page turner with cinematic action scenes.

  2. Planetfall (Planetfall #1) by Emma Newman, 338p: Planetfall is the first novel in the Planetfall series but I read it after “After Atlas” and “Atlas Alone”, since it is set some 20 years after “After Atlas” in the universe's timeline. It focuses on the colonists who left Earth  on a mission to find God and landed on this new planet, where there is a bio-mechanical alien structure they named “God's City”. Things get complicated when one day the grandson of the missions' leader wanders into the colony from the wilderness, having survived all these years far from the colony. The main character is Renata Ghali, an engineer knowledgeable in 3D printing. The books features anxiety disorders and extreme hoarding themes in an intimate way, all through the lens of the main character. Big secrets are revealed, with a more mystical ending than the other books in the series.  It's the slower paced book of the series.

  3. Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg, 171p: I heard about this book when I was researching about a technique called free writing. This author developed this method of “writing practice” where you set a timer and free write whatever is in your mind, nonstop, flow-of-consciousness style. The book is a compilation of fun small essays about writing. It's light and amusing!

  4. Duchess by Night (Desperate Duchesses #3) by Eloisa James, 384p: This book had some interesting elements, like the main character cross-dressing pretending to be a man. That had some hilarious dialogues and situations. But romance wise, I didn't find the couple attraction convincing enough. It's a light and fun read, but I found it a bit tedious towards the end. Also, it has the very predictable trope of happily ever after with kids, which may just be in all this author's books. I picked it up because I wanted to get back into this series, but I feel like it's not my thing anymore.

  5. Before Mars (Planetfall #3) by Emma Newman, 352p: A brilliant sci-fi book with emotional and psychological depth. Set on a base on Mars, it's  a mysterious thriller with untrustworthy AI's, conspiracies, personal trauma and complex characters. We get a lot of the main character's thought process, it's very intimate. The main character is a geologist and a painter, and she struggles with her decision to leave behind her husband and her daughter on Earth to pursue a one-in-a-lifetime job opportunity. Weird things happen at the base and from the first chapter I was totally into the mystery, wanting to know what happened. It features excellent mental health representation, it's raw and real. I had tears in my eyes when I finished it.

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

I have not read any non-fiction this month! Well, I actually started an audio book called “A Thousand Brains: A New Theory of Intelligence” by Jeff Hawkins but I stopped at 42% because it wasn’t catching my attention anymore. It could be I didn’t like the narrator’s voice. I’ll give up trying audio books, it’s not really my favorite format.

  1. Legendborn (The Legendborn Cycle #1) by Tracy Deonn, 511p: This one was intriguing: a secret society that hunts creatures from another dimension, in which the members are descendants of King Arthur’s knights, with magic. The Arthurian legend lore of the book was the least interesting to me. It had a well done representation of feeling of grief by the main character (Bree), who is a smart black young lady. She has just gone to university and she experiences a lot of stuff: joining a secret society, fighting demonic creatures, magic powers, discrimination, grief, learning about her ancestors struggles. I didn't see the plot twist at the end coming and it actually a delightful surprise! But it is still a YA book with its genre tropes, so it felt a tad longer than it should be to me.

  2. A.I. Apocalypse (Singularity #2) by William Hertling, 262p: I didn't like this one as much as the first one in the series. It is still a sci-fi thriller, with lots of insights into how a virus that turns into a powerful A.I.  would start evolving and basically take over all digital systems in the world, from smart devices to cars and computers. The chapters describing how the virus developed intelligence and its communication with each other were a bit boring.

  3. A Lady's Formula for Love (The Secret Scientists of London #1) by Elizabeth Everett, 336p: This was a perfect summer read. Delightful romance with a smart scientist protagonist in Victorian 1800's trying to fight patriarchy. Lady Violet Hughes is a widow who founded a secret society composed of brilliant female scientists. I love women in STEM stories! It was super fun with all these women in their 30's/40's blowing things up and inventing new things! Lady Violet is working on a confidential mission for the Crown and she needs some professional protection. That's where the body guard romance comes in: Arthur Kneland, hot scottish dude. It's more of an instant attraction trope, not slow burn at all, and it was great.  They were both mature and open with each other, I enjoyed that! There were some fun dialogues of Lady Violet explaining Avogadro's law to Arthur (or whoever was close by). I want to read more from this author.

  4. The Mimicking of Known Successes (Mossa & Pleiti #1) by Malka Ann Older, 169p: Cozy space mystery set in Jupiter. The setting is interesting: humanity has fled a dying Earth and has build rings around Jupiter with interconnecting platforms. All transportation is made through rail cars that connects to stations.  A university professor mysteriously disappears: did he jump off the rings? Was it murder or suicide? It has Sherlock Holmes vibes with Investigator Mossa and her scholar girlfriend Pleiti. Intertwined with the mystery, there are discussions about ecosystem's equilibrium and the hope to transform Earth into a habitable place again. There is also some romance but it's very subtle. The language was a bit over the top to me, too formal. It made the dialogues seem unnatural. One thing bothered me: Jupiter is 10 times bigger than Earth in diameter, and building rings going around the whole planet seems....impractical? almost impossible? It wasn't clear if those rings were actually surrounding the whole circumference of the planet.

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

  1. Machinehood by S.B. Divya, 416p: This book is full on ideas and questions about artificial intelligence and how it can integrate with humans. It presents a future dominated by the gig economy, humans have to take advanced enhancement pills to compete with bots and weak AI's (WAI) in the labour force, people have online “tip jars” to receive money from other users that are watching their live social media feeds. It is a disturbing view of the future where there are swarms of nano cameras everywhere, watching and broadcasting everything you do to the internet. The main plot point is the conflict raised by a movement to defend WAI's and bots rights and end the inequality between humans and artificial intelligence. It also touches on the human+machine integration, and how that could change the world. It has lots of interesting ideas, it shows personal insights of the day to day lives of the characters, new views on religion, glimpses of life in space stations, some simplified politics conflicts. I thought that the final resolution of the plot was too easy, and a little bit too rushed.

  2. Children of Time (Children of Time #1) by Adrian Tchaikovsky, 599p: Earth is dust, humans are looking for new planets to settle. Generation ships travelling for thousands of years, genetically engineered spiders, failed terraformed planets, first contact, a look into an alien society evolving through the years. Even though there are wars and the classic conflicts for power, I liked the optimistic ending.

  3. Honor and Shadows (Starlight's Shadow #0.5) by Jessie Mihalik, 70p: Short story, not much to it. Just another day in the life of Captain Octavia Zarola, trying to do good in the world.

  4. A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses #1) by Sarah J. Maas, 419p: It was not my cup of tea. I didn't really like any of the main characters, I thought the Fae magic powers were loosely explained, it felt limitless and inconsistent.  The romance didn't convince me at all. Can’t say more without huge spoilers.

  5. Avogadro Corp (Singularity #1) by William Hertling, 302p: What if a generative artificial intelligence is incorporated into an email program to help users write more compelling messages based on data from all the emails that are sent back forth? Sounds familiar? What if this AI receives a directive to benefit its own development and starts to write emails on its own?  The book was written in 2011 and it already talks about generative artificial intelligence.  An interesting premise, it got me hooked till the end.  It made want to continue reading the series.

  6. Homo Distractus: Fight for your choices and identity in the digital age by Anastasia Dedyukhina, 282p: Lots of references about how technology is impacting us and possible strategies to fight the downsides. I enjoyed the first chapters talking about how devices affect our focus, the advantages of deep reading, the ineffectiveness of “multitasking” and the importance of making space for boredom. It is still relevant today.

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

  1. Foundryside (The Founders Trilogy #1) by Robert Jackson Bennett, 503p: I enjoyed the magic system of giving the power of sentience to objects. It adds a whimsical feel to the story. I loved the main character, Sancia: she's a rogue/thief, living in the outskirts of society getting by as best she can. She is smart and independent. She has a dark past, being a victim of unmentionable experiments that left her with uncomfortable (but useful) abilities. One of her goals is to get enough money to cure herself. The world building is cool with an everyday magic aspect based on using ancient alphabet to imbue commands to objects and convince them to behave in certain ways. This process is called “scriving”. For example, a sword can be “scrived” to believe it is as sharp as ten blades in one, capable of cutting through nearly anything. The last third of the book dragged a little bit, but overall, it was very interesting with a main character that I sympathised with.

  2. The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter by David Sax, 304p: It's an interesting account of some analog technology that came back after the phase of digitisation that started with the first computers in the 60's and 70's. My favorite chapters were the ones about the revenge of Vinyl and Moleskine notebooks. After the music industry distribution went digital, culminating in music streaming services, there was a movement to get back to vinyl. Records pressing plants were restored and put into operation again.  Moleskine started a designer trend towards nice and beautiful paper notebooks. Film directors helped the movement for analog film movies again, film producing factories were re-opened and it's possible to get new Polaroid and Instax cameras nowadays. It also touches on board games, meditation sessions in the workplace, high-end analog wristwatches, print books: all things that are contrasting with the digital environment we live in today. The author praises these analog experiences, reasoning on why we need them more than ever and points out these markets tend to grow even more. Sometimes I found the tone of the arguments too geared towards consumerism and these non-digital options were just creating a market for wealthier people to consume more things. I've been reading digital books for years and I don't plan on going back to paper books (the irony of reading a book about non-digital things in an e-reader).

  3. Atlas Alone (Planetfall #4) by Emma Newman, 320p: This book takes place 6 months after the events of Planetfall #2 (“After Atlas”). We have Dee as our main character and she gets unknowingly involved in a suspected murder inside the colony ship. As we know from the previous book, Dee is an avid gamer, and she soon joins elite game servers, or “leets” where the gamers real life abilities are represented in game, making these games extremely challenging. This is another unputdownable book by Emma Newman with virtual reality immersive games, discussions about AI and consciousness, corporate indenture, social justice and revenge. It's all intertwined with the main character's journey confronting her traumatic past while she investigates and plans for the future. It's intense, thrilling and the ending was breathtaking.

  4. Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself by Nedra Glover Tawwab, 282p: This is a light read on the topic, offering practical examples on phrases to express verbally our boundaries. I had the impression the topic was over simplified. The author mentions a lot of “results” from polls she conducted in her Instagram account with her followers and that took away some of the credibility of the facts presented.

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

  1. The Blacksmith Queen (The Scarred Earth Saga #1) by G.A. Aiken, 304p: Not what I was expecting. It caught my attention because of the strong female characters (women blacksmiths), but the writing style didn't please me. It follows the trope of the death of a ruler and then a prophecy that will point to the new heir. It has brutal and bloody battle scenes that were treated so childishly as if they were of no consequence. It uses an amusing tone for everything (even violence), and that bothered me.

  2. The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton, 507p: It's a well-crafted murder mystery. It was fun to try to figure out who was the killer. It's complicated, there are lots of moving pieces, but it all fits together in the end. There are a lot of characters, tho! I started a list, and I got to at least 30. It was hard to keep track of everything. I felt a lack of emotional connection to the characters, and the mystery itself kept me engaged. It reminded me of puzzle games, and it was a book that I loved thinking about while I was not reading it. Also, it was excellent for a Book Club session!

  3. How to Be a Productivity Ninja: Worry Less, Achieve More and Love What You Do by Graham Allcott, 368p: Lots of good advice in this book, but it clearly uses most of the ideas from David Allen, who wrote “Getting Things Done” (which I've read more than once). So for me, there weren't too many new things added to my toolbox. It was fun because the author uses ninja references and imagery to get his point across.

  4. Dance with the Devil (Mercenary Librarians #3) by Kit Rocha, 352p: I loved this series, I loved the characters and their positive overall mindset to try to make their dystopian futuristic reality a better world. This one was faster-paced than the second one but not overly so. It had a good rhythm, alternating between world-building, the big plot to turn down big corporations, and the characters' personal drama. The romance is not cringy, sex scenes are very well written. I would read more stories in this universe! Hopefully the author writes one more.

  5. Life is Hard: How Philosophy Can Help Us Find Our Way by Kieran Setiya, 222p: I listened to the audiobook, and for me the beginning and the end were good, I wasn't as interested in the middle chapters. It brings some philosophical discussions about grief, happiness, hope, and the meaning of life. I enjoyed the reference to the “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams.

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

Only after putting this list together I realised that my fiction reads were all romances! All of them lighthearted, hopeful and relaxing.

I totally failed at finishing a book for my local Book Club because it was a grim-dark fantasy from the 80’s and I couldn’t get past the second chapter. Well, I guess I needed some lightness this month. No regrets.

  1. Legends & Lattes (Legends & Lattes #1) by Travis Baldree, 318p: This is a book that made me happy. It's a cozy fantasy and I loved every word of it. An orc barbarian decides to retire and open a coffee shop. That's it! And I loved following her steps, from acquiring a place, renovating, getting the coffee machines, finding friends, and baking delicious cinnamon rolls and pastries in her coffee shop. Friendship with romance and all the good vibes.

  2. The Devil You Know (Mercenary Librarians #2) by Kit Rocha, 416p: I'm enjoying this post-apocalyptic world quite a lot because although it's a dark reality, the series focus on the group of characters that are trying to make the world a better place. This second book was hopeful and had some intense character development. I’ll read the next one for sure!

  3. Below Zero (The STEMinist Novellas #3) by Ali Hazelwood, 121p: Another adorable romance story with a female scientist. This time the protagonist works for NASA on one of the Mars rovers project (super nerdy), a big misunderstanding, a rescue mission on an island in the Arctic Ocean, and, yes, romance. I had a good time.

  4. Winning the Week: How To Plan A Successful Week, Every Week by Demir Bentley, 269p: This book covers detailed steps on how to plan our weeks so that it gets done regularly. I learned a few things that I will start implementing in my own routine. The most valuable message for me was the idea that I need to accept my reality:

“…look at your life with zero wishful thinking. Be able to see when a timeline isn't realistic and accept that reality without getting emotional.”.

It talks a lot about perfectionism and encourages us to ask ourselves what “good enough” looks like and where we can accept a lower level of quality and move forward. I thought there were too many steps to the process, tho. I'm not sure I would go ahead and plan EVERY hour of my week in advance, as the method seems to suggest. I prefer to do daily planning and allocate time for tasks on a day-to-day basis.

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

1. Deal with the Devil (Mercenary Librarians #1) by Kit Rocha: I gotta say the series’ name combining the words “Mercenary” and “Librarians” was what attracted me to this book. And I enjoyed it! Strong female characters, information brokers who just want to help people, near-future post-apocalyptic setting, super soldiers against the power of corporations, augmented humans,  librarians, mercenaries, and romance. The characters grew on me, the plot was intriguing, enough, and the romance was NOT the usual  “alpha male” dynamic. It made me want to read the next in the series.

2. Ancestral Night (White Space #1) by Elizabeth Bear: This book starts with space opera feels, then turns into a more introspective narrative inside the main character’s head. It’s a far-future society, people have implants that can record memories, search for information and communicate with each other. There are spaceships AI’s who can be citizens, implants that can regulate hormones on the fly and enhance or avoid certain feelings, alien technology, a problematic cult, personal trauma discussions, humans enhanced to live in low gravity, and pirates. There is a lot going on! Did I mention space alien giant whales and a mantis cop? Also, there are discussions about social freedom versus social responsibility. The pace of the book was uneven, and it felt super slow in some parts.

3. Still Life (Chief Inspector Gamache #1) by Louise Penny: I wanted to get more into mysteries, and this was a good start. This is the first book in the series, and I wanted to read it mostly because the story location is a small fictional town in the Eastern Townships region in Quebec. The detective, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, is a lovable character: he is kind and smart, but also firm when needed. I wasn’t sure who the murderer was until it was revealed. This book is very sensible as well, and we get to know what the characters are thinking and feeling, making them believable. I just wanted to hang out in the local B&B (brunch and breakfast) with them someday!

4. White Night (The Dresden Files #9) by Jim Butcher: Nice page-turner, with vampire courts conflicts, lots of ghouls, Harry Dresden working together with more allies (so it’s not himself alone against the bad guys) and a lot is happening in this book.

5. Unwinding Anxiety by Judson Brewer: This book discusses how anxiety can become a habit we barely notice and suggests some ways we can get out of the loop. I enjoyed it because it focuses a lot on mindfulness practices, and how they can help in the process of noticing the anxiety habit. My main takeaways were: mindfulness meditation is an excellent practice to notice what is going on, loving-kindness meditation helps with resilience and well-being, and it reminded me to not fall into the “Why am I having these thoughts” question loop. It doesn’t matter why thoughts are happening, what matters is how we react to them.

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.