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The Invisible Man

22 Jun

invisibleman(SKIP IT)

Author: H.G. Wells

Genre: Classics

First Published: 1866-1946

Page Count: 159

Type: Paperback

Film/ TV Adaptation: Yes*

Rating: 2/5 Stars

Wells imagines what it would be like for a man to get his hands on the power of invisibility in a somewhat interesting piece of fiction.

__________________Positives__________________

*Interesting Look at Invisibility

___________________Negatives_____________________

*Unlikable Main Character     *Predictable/Dull

“And I beheld, unclouded by doubt, a magnificent vision of all that invisibility might mean to a man – the mystery, the power, the freedom.” A man has unlocked the secrets to invisibility, yet having the power turns out to be not only a powerful advantage, but a burden when it comes to day to day living. His discovery shocks a small town into a frenzy of fear when they meet this invisible man. Will he be able to find a way to live life with the challenges of invisibility or will humanity put an end to this unnatural way of living?

One thing that really struck me about this book were all the advantages and disadvantages Wells fleshed out when it comes to having the ability to be invisible. He really imagined what it would realistically be like for someone to discover this power. I never thought about something as simple as trying to sleep if you were invisible; you don’t have any eye lids to block out the light and to “turn off” your eyes! It seems so obvious but you never really consider things like sleep when you think of invisibility. You immediately think of how you’d be able to eavesdrop on conversations or steal money or goods. This is what makes this book and the main character so interesting – the fact that being invisible, while it does make you a strong adversary, has serious disadvantages as well that most men or women probably wouldn’t consider until it was too late and they had already agreed to take on that power.

However, once you get over the initial mind-blowing logic of the invisibility aspect of the story, there wasn’t a lot to hold my interest. It felt a bit repetitive that the main character either would have to go hurt, steal, or break into someone’s lodgings in order to maintain his lifestyle. It seems like the most obvious outcome for a story about someone just learning to become invisible, but after this scenario plays out a few times the story drags. I also couldn’t stand the man character’s personality. He is a short-tempered, irrational, rude human being and I’m not convinced that these characteristics were directly related to his struggles with the challenges of invisibility that he didn’t account for. I felt absolutely no sympathy for him whatsoever in anything that happened to him. I don’t think the invisible man is necessarily supposed to be a villain but he made himself out to be one because he was simply not a nice dude. I’m sure a more reasonable person, newly made invisible with all the challenges he faced, could have still robbed to cloth and feed himself but not have turned to violence so easily and for no reason.

Luckily this was a short book because I could not have handled more than a couple of pages of that main character. Invisible or not, he needed some serious anger management. The story is an interesting concept, but this is definitely not my favorite of H.G. Wells books because of the repetitive nature of the plot dealing with the challenges of invisibility. After reading this book, I at least know if someone ever asks me what super power I’d like to have, I will not be choosing invisibility unless it is something that isn’t a permanent state like in this book.

*Film Adaptations: (Starring Claude Rains 1933)

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Moonlight in the Desert of Left Behind

17 Jun

Moonlight(PICK IT)

Author: Jan Baumgartner

Genre: Nonfiction

First Published: 2017

Page Count: 320

Type: Paperback

Film/ TV Adaptation: No

Rating: 5/5 Stars

A first hand, honest glimpse at one woman’s difficult journey caring for her terminally ill husband.

__________________Positives__________________

*Touching Storytelling

___________________Negatives_____________________

*Wanted Pictures

“Terminal illness covers the gamut of emotions and response, in its poignancy and depth of human experience it makes us take a hard look at life and living, and what truly matters.” Soon after moving to their dream home in Maine, our author, Jan, and her husband, John, learn that John has ALS. Suddenly, all their life plans and dreams come to a halt with this terminal diagnosis. Dealing with the challenges of this degenerative disease takes over their lives, but they still manage to use what time they have left to create lasting memories.

The author wastes no time jumping into her and her husband’s journey with ALS. While John’s diagnosis was the inspiration for this book, so that the author could document this difficult and last moment in time with her husband, it is not all that you will find in this book. There are passages about the terribly hard routines of caring for someone so ill, and descriptions of the devastating physical deterioration. However, there are also beautiful scenes of Jan and John experiencing things most everyday people can only dream of seeing and doing. They tour through picturesque Provence and traverse the wilds of Africa, savoring these final moments together in some of the most beautiful places on Earth. Both the difficult moments the author documents of the illness and the peaceful times spent just enjoying each other before the more challenging trials occur are touching in their own right.

The one thing I would have loved to have seen included in this book were some personal pictures, if the author would have been comfortable with that. These types of stories lend themselves perfectly to having a section of pictures. It gives the reader a visual reference for some of the main points of the book. I could have easily imagined this book filled with pictures of exotic expeditions in Africa, aged buildings in Europe, the author’s beloved home in Maine with all its critters, and, of course, some candid shots of the author and her husband. Baumgartner is such a descriptive writer that it isn’t hard to imagine all that she describes, but pictures would have given the book that extra, personal touch for the reader.

There is no question the author has been through a lot in her life; we can tell this just from the little over three hundred page glimpse we are given into this moment in time in her life. Yet, even through all the pain, she has experienced and seen incredible things, some of which I, myself, could never imagine doing, like her harrowing treks through the African wild. Baumgartner shows us that life can be hard and unpredictable but her book also shows that there are beautiful things right in front of us if we choose to look.

 

The Demon Lover

12 Jun

DemonLover(SKIP IT)

Author: Juliet Dark

Genre: Romance

First Published: 2011

Page Count: 416

Type: Paperback

Film/ TV Adaptation: No

Rating: 2/5 Stars

Note: Book 1 of the Fairwick Chronicles 

The Demon Lover wavers between wanting to be a supernatural love story and saga about a magical school.

__________________Positives__________________

*Semi-Interesting Romance Story

___________________Negatives_____________________

*Disappointing Romance Scenes     *Overwhelming Plot

“Is a lie really the worst thing if it’s told out of love?” Callie McFay has accepted a job as a professor at Fairwick College located in a remote area of New York. As soon as she shows up in town, mysterious things begin to happen. Her vivid childhood dreams that often featured an unknown entity she named her fairytale prince, start to occur more often and to feel more real. Could the fairytale prince of her childhood dreams be an incubus ready to prey on her as an adult and is he the only mythical being in her new town?

This is one of those books whose cover and title were enough to sell me on buying the book. The idea of the main character of the book being seduced by an incubus is an interesting one that I had never read in a fictional book. Callie’s struggle between resisting a demonic entity and being charmed by this mysterious being were the main things that I found engaging in this book.

From the outline on the back cover of the book, I knew there would be some additional supernatural beings introduced to the story once the main character entered Fairwick. However, I didn’t realize their place in the story would be so large. I felt a bit deceived because instead of a love story focused around Callie and her dream Casanova, there was a whole other plethora of side stories Callie gets caught up in related to the college, the town, and its residents. I was not interested in this aspect of the book at all and felt the story really suffered whenever it moved away from Callie and her other worldly lover. Even more disappointing was the fact that the romantic scenes between Callie and her “prince charming” always seemed to get cut off right when things would be heating up. I could have used a bit more seduction in these scenes because they always ended way before I was ready to be done with the scene.

Hopefully I’ve learned my lesson about mindlessly purchasing a book merely because the cover is pretty and the title intrigues me. The Demon Lover was not what I had imagined the story would be like when I picked up the book. I wish it had stuck to what was promised with the cover and title instead of trying to branch out into making this whole X-MEN type universe of fairytale beings living in the real world. There was a good premise here but it got lost as the story tried to fit too many different mysteries for the main character to solve in one book.

 

Lean In

29 May

81ByyJ2+rpL._SL1500_(PICK IT)

Author: Sheryl Sandberg

Genre: Nonfiction

First Published: 2013

Page Count: 172

Type: Hardcover

Film/ TV Adaptation: No

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Sandberg’s book is the call to arms for the war on gender equality that the women of the 21st century have been waiting for.

__________________Positives__________________

*Excellent Research References     *Personal Stories     *Wide Variety of Topics

___________________Negatives_____________________

*Limited View

“A truly equal world would be one where women ran half our countries and companies and men ran half our homes.” Women may be able to vote, drive a car, wear what we want, and own property, but even the modern woman of the 21st century is still far from being seen as an equal compared to the opposite sex. In Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg goes beyond the topic of the glass ceiling to illustrate how in the home, in our relationships with our partners, and in the raising of our children, women still get the short end of the stick. She cites important studies and famous examples, but also poignantly uses her own personal stories to illuminate how common it is for women to encounter instances where they are treated as if they are not on the same playing field as men.

I had never heard of this book and was completely oblivious to all the discussion about it on social media and in the news. However, as I started reading, I understood how this book could inspire so much talk. Sandberg sprinkles factoids throughout her book, like this little gem from a survey of a Princeton class in 2006, where 62% of women predicted having a work life balance conflict if they had kids, but 46% of the men who also anticipated a work life conflict from having children expected that their partner would drop their career to raise the kids. The studies and cases presented in the book inspire a lot of pent-up, deep-seated anger because it is something I can relate to, something that I deal with everyday of my adult female life, and something that I’ve felt helpless to change. Then you add her personal stories, things ranging from crying at work to hearing her son cry out for the nanny instead of her, and that final barrier is broken where I mentally fell to my knees in awe of how accurately she has captured the fears and struggles of every modern woman, of someone like myself, in this book. She doesn’t just talk about the struggles of women in the work place; she covers what feels like every aspect of life in which a woman might feel a lack of equality compared to her male counterparts.

If I had to have any qualm with this brilliant book, it would be that it is still limited in fully detailing all the real struggles of woman in this century. It’s limited by her age; for example, as a millennial there is a lot of pressure to do so much before you get married (let alone procreate) that isn’t even related to work. It’s as if you are less of a person if your Instagram profile isn’t well stocked with vacation photos from every country in the world as you joyfully immerse yourself in exotic cultures.  Even as a COO of a huge social media company, I think Sheryl has narrowly avoided the pressures that come with growing up in the MySpace/Facebook/Snapchat/Instagram era that I’ve navigated as a young adult. The book is also limiting because, as she admits, she lives a lifestyle where she can afford great child care, etc. Living in Northern California myself, the cost of living is a huge barrier that prevents mothers (or fathers) from “making it home for dinner every night.” Being able to afford a house while also juggling the cost of child care and every other expense is one thing; there’s also the fact that most people’s commutes here can easily be an hour plus in the Bay Area. Living in the Bay Area and I’m sure in other places around the country has become a complex balancing act since this book was written. Between braving 2 plus hour commutes to work 5 days a week roundtrip, long work days, high cost of living, and no money left over at the end of the day to hire help around the house, most people’s free time is spent catching up on whatever housework falls through the cracks during the week. And that’s without throwing kids into the mix. It’s incredible men or women have not gone bonkers with what is on their plates in this day and age. Asking for flexibility in any shape or form in your career feels more daunting than ever because we can’t afford to lose that job or be seen as less committed than our coworkers, even though that flexibility is sorely needed by all.

This book has given me so much insight into my own inner struggles as a woman moving through this world and a lot of confidence that I’m not alone in my feelings or observations. It gives me hope that things might change and gave me the slap on the wrist I needed to realize that I’ve got to do my part to continue what Sandberg has started with this book and many other women have done before her. This eye-opening book should be read by all men and women as a first step in trying to make all our lives a little easier and to make our world a better place.

Judgment

26 May

Judgement(SKIP IT)

Author: Noel M. Tichy & Warren G. Bennis

Genre: Nonfiction

First Published: 2007

Page Count: 370

Type: Hardcover

Film/ TV Adaptation: No

Rating: 2/5 Stars

A book on the basic concept of judgment that may not have needed 370 pages to educate its readers.

__________________Positives__________________

*Some Interesting Case Studies

___________________Negatives_____________________

*Repetitive     *Basic Concept     *Short Case Studies

“JUDGMENT: the essence of effective leadership.” Being able to make good judgment calls is essential to being a great leader, but is applicable to anyone in everyday life as well. In this book, the authors take a formulaic approach to teaching readers how to approach the judgment process in order to attempt to make the right call. From crisis situations to people judgments, the authors try to cover every area that a leader might come across where they have to make a tough decision.

I figured the topic of judgement would be easier reading then everything I had been taking in about business strategy lately. I was pleased a lot of the case studies weren’t ones that had been popping up in a lot of the business books I had been reading (i.e. Apple, IKEA, etc) as well. A few real world examples the book goes into in the most depth were very interesting to me; my favorite of these stories was of how Best Buy stores came about. I had no idea how independent each store was in deciding how the merchandise was laid out or how products were bundled. The section about how they also tried to market more toward the female shopper was also much appreciated by myself since women and tech are not usually the first things companies choose to associate together. It’s fascinating to use a service or store regularly in your life but never notice these unique characteristics that have set the store or service far apart from its competition.

That being said, the case studies that I so enjoy in a good business book were rather short and felt repetitive in Judgment. In fact, the whole book felt repetitive. I could never tell if I was going crazy or just having déjà vu but it felt like the case studies and the graphs that describe the judgment process were repeated multiple times. Repetition might be good in order for making information stick in your mind but it doesn’t make for an enjoyable reading experience. There is also a handbook at the end that makes up about 80 pages of this book and I, of course, read it because I didn’t want to miss out on anything or feel that I didn’t truly read the whole book. To my immense annoyance, the handbook is literally a summary of everything I had just read with a few tables and activities that let you test yourself with the concepts. Judgement is a pretty basic concept, and I can appreciate how the authors were trying to break it down in this book to guide people to make better choices in different scenarios. However, I think a bit of this book was overkill in describing the topic.

I had never seen any business books related to the topic of judgment. I try to branch out and read a variety of books on different aspects of business and this was definitely different then what I had on my shelves at home. However, I think this book could’ve been more effective by lopping off the handbook section, and giving a larger sampling of real world cases that are described in greater depth. As it stands, I would suggest looking into other business books that might be a better use of ones time.

A Court of Wings and Ruin

13 May

23766634(PICK IT)

Author: Sarah J. Maas

Genre: Fantasy YA

First Published: 2017

Page Count: 699

Type: Hardcover

Film/ TV Adaptation: No

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Note: Book 3 of A Court of Thorns and Roses series

While it isn’t the strongest in the series, it is the satisfying ending that fans have been waiting for.

__________________Positives__________________

*Mass of Characters     *Rewarding Conclusion

___________________Negatives_____________________

*Not Enough Tamlin

“Only you can decide what breaks you, Cursebreaker. Only you.” Even though Feyre has returned to the Spring Court with Tamlin, she will do everything in her power to undermine the forces that threaten the people she truly calls family at the Night Court. Feyre must play a dangerous game of deceit to learn anything she can about the threat Hybern’s army poses and to find a way to get back to Rhysand. The biggest battle in Prythian history is about to take place and all the lives of the people she loves are at stake if they can’t stop the king of Hybern from taking over.

The conclusion to one of the most epic series I’ve read that has been released within the  last couple years is finally here. It had a lot to live up to with two fantastic books before it, but it more than delivered with the conclusion to Feyre’s story. The best part for me were all the new and old characters that come together in this book. Whether they are Feyre’s enemies or allies, it was interesting to see them all together and how they interacted with each other. Another bonus were all the new and unexpected back stories we learned with the appearance of these characters. Maas also made sure that the final chapters were massive enough in action and twists that it could stand up to the other two books and give us an exciting end.

If there was one thing I missed in this book, it was Tamlin. He was a huge part of my love of the first two books for many different reasons, but he’s not as big a focus in this one which means less page time. This is understandable because a lot is going on that doesn’t concern him and those scenes were just as awesome. But what I really craved was a one on one confrontation between Tamlin and Feyre where they really talked through all that had occurred between them. That aspect of the book felt unfinished to me but maybe that’s because Maas has a good reason for not exploring that…yet.

If I’m being honest with myself, this book is my least favorite of the three and would be a four out of five stars compared to the others. However, as a book compared to any other it definitely ranks as a five out of five. The story is just as engaging as the others, tears were shed, and the ending was concluded in a very satisfying way. I wanted a bit more Tamlin and Feyre interaction but maybe my wish will be granted in the future. While the series could end here, Maas has left readers with a few unanswered questions that could easily lead to more adventures with these characters we love so much.

 

The Prince

3 May

princemech1.indd(PICK IT)

Author: Niccolo Machiavelli

Genre: Non-Fiction

First Published: 1513

Page Count: 122

Type: Paperback

Film/ TV Adaptation: No

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Machiavelli’s ‘how to’ guide to becoming the best ruler you can be.

__________________Positives__________________

*Interesting POV on History

___________________Negatives_____________________

*Dry

“Since love and fear can hardly exist together, if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved.”  Niccolo Machiavelli was heavily involved in Italian politics, so who better than he to give the world a primer on how to be a proper ruler. He covers everything from who to surround yourself with to how to treat the common people versus the aristocrats in his in-depth guide to what makes a good and bad ruler.

I don’t know if I would’ve ever read this book if my mom hadn’t already had an old copy. It is a classic and is so tiny, I thought that I’d see what all the fuss was about. One thing I didn’t expect to learn was how little I knew about how violent ancient Italy was. When Machiavelli references different historical events to make his points I got to learn a lot about Italy through his eyes. I’m surprised anyone could stay ruler for any amount of time with all the assassinations that took place. It’s also interesting to see a moment in time through someone who actually lived through it.

This book is definitely dry to read other than the parts where Machiavelli talks about various historical events. It literally reads like a text-book of what you should and should not do if you want to be a successful prince. That may not be a possible career path these days, but I’m sure a few tidbits from this book could be used in order to become a good leader in anything else the reader might pursue. On the flip side, there are those sections like ‘what to do with a conquered leaders houses’ that are a bit too dated to consider as advice for any scenario.

I wouldn’t recommend this book unless you are interested in history or just have to say you’ve read every piece of classic literature there is. It is so short so you don’t have much to lose compared to other classic books if you want to take the plunge. It feels nice to check this off the list of classics but I doubt I will remember much about this peek into how to be a proper ruler.

The Bloody Chamber

29 Apr

51M-N0h8tLL._SX315_BO1,204,203,200_(PICK IT)

Author: Angela Carter

Genre: Fantasy

First Published: 1979

Page Count: 126

Type: Paperback

Film/ TV Adaptation: No

Rating: 4/5 Stars

 

The fairy tales you know retold in a sensual and sometimes horrifying way.

__________________Positives__________________

*Mix of Horror/Fantasy     *Unique Retellings

___________________Negatives_____________________

*Too Strange     *Some Stories Better than Others

“She herself is a haunted house. She does not possess herself; her ancestors sometimes come and peer out of the windows of her eyes and that is very frightening.” Vampires, Beauty and the Beast, Puss and Boots, and many other familiar fairy tales and legends are retold by Angela Carter in this collection of short stories. However, these retellings are very different from the tales as you know them. Violence, gore, sex, and the horrors of the supernatural add a layer of sensuality and terror to the fairy tales of our childhood.

While I love a good old romantic retelling of my favorite fairy tales, getting to read a few retellings that have more of a horror angle to them was a treat and a breath of fresh air. Stories like Beauty and the Beast have the basics of the original fairytale, but mostly Carter completely revamps the story into something totally new. And because these new versions are so dark and different, you really don’t know if there will be a happy ending this time around. Of all the short stories in this book my favorite is the first and the one that gives the book its title: The Bloody Chamber. I don’t know if it’s an original story by Carter or a retelling of a story but I wasn’t familiar with it. It reminded me a lot of Rebecca but it is definitely a different ending then that classic novel.

While I appreciated the strangeness of the retellings, some of the stories were beyond bizarre. At the close of the story, you would literally sit there and wonder what on earth you had just read. The events were either too over the top in its strangeness to be believable even in a fairytale or too over the top to the point that you wonder why that addition was necessary. And even though there are some great retellings in this book, not every one is going to be a hit with the reader. I think this is just a personal preference; for instance I’ve never been a huge fan of Puss and Boots so that story was one I wanted to get through quickly to move on to something new.

If you aren’t a horror fan, I’d probably leave this book on the shelf. For some it can be a bit too macabre or intimate to see their beloved fairy tales retold in this way. However, I loved the twisted spin Carter gives these classics and would highly recommend it if you can stand or even enjoy Tarantino-esque violence in your Little Red Riding Hood story.

 

 

The Heart’s Desire

26 Apr

Volume_4-The_Heart's_Desire(PICK IT)

Author: Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, & Cliff Rathburn

Genre: Graphic Novel

First Published: 2009

Page Count: 136

Type: Paperback

Film/ TV Adaptation: Yes*

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Note: Volume 4 of The Walking Dead series

Even with the sturdy prison walls of the gang’s new sanctuary protecting them from the walkers, they find that danger might not just be limited to the undead.

__________________Positives__________________

*Differs from TV Show     *More Character Driven

___________________Negatives_____________________

*None

“In a world ruled by the dead, we are forced to finally start living.” After a struggle to make their new pit stop safe, the gang has started making the prison their home. But with the addition of a new arrival and building tension over events from the past, the group finds themselves again bracing for battle. However, this time it is a fight between members of their own community and not against the undead.

Once again I was riveted by this volume of the graphic novels because these events were never present in the TV show. We are introduced to a new character, Michonne, who happens to be one of my favorites from the show. However, the entrance of her character in the comics was way off base of how Michonne would act in the show. On the one hand, I hated her; she is just complete trash in this volume. But on the other hand, it made for interesting reading. This volume, though packed with action, is more character driven then the previous ones. The characters are confronting their actions and assessing their relationships which is giving the story more depth than just a zombie battle comic.

Because I never knew what to expect in this volume and I was so thrown aback by Michonne’s personality, I didn’t have anything that I disliked about volume four. While I prefer the Michonne in the show, this preference for the TV show characters seems to be a trend for me when comparing the comic book characters with the ones in the TV show. It’s nice to read something different so it doesn’t feel like a re-tread of what I’ve already watched on TV. With all the tension building in the prison and from what I know about where things go on the show, I can’t wait to see what volume five has in store.

*TV Adaptation: (The Walking Dead Starring Andrew Lincoln 2010-Present)

Good Strategy Bad Strategy

25 Apr

good-strategy-bad-strategy-book-cover(PICK IT)

Author: Richard P. Rumelt

Genre: Nonfiction

First Published: 2011

Page Count: 298

Type: Hardcover

Film/ TV Adaptation: No

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Rumelt uses in-depth, detailed examples without mincing words to teach the reader about good and bad strategy.

__________________Positives__________________

*Blunt Honesty     *Interesting Case Studies

___________________Negatives_____________________

*Dry Spots

“A hallmark of true expertise and insight is making a complex subject understandable. A hallmark of mediocrity and bad strategy is unnecessary complexity—a flurry of fluff masking an absence of substance. FAILURE.” Richard Rumelt knows good strategy when he sees it and he knows bad strategy even better. After years working in different industries and studying various real world cases, Rumelt is revealing what makes a good strategy so great and what you can do to avoid bad strategies.

What I liked about this author right off the bat was his brutally honest voice. At some moments Good Strategy Bad Strategy almost felt like Rumelt’s personal burn book where he finally found his platform to say “I told you so” to all the people who didn’t follow his advice on strategy. However, what could have come across as whining and bashing of someone’s judgement actually gave the book a unique voice that felt more relatable then other business books. His case studies and examples used to prove his points more than make you respect the man and where he is coming from. I also liked that the real world examples were detailed enough that they had a beginning, middle, and end, and weren’t just quick mentions where you didn’t know how the case actually played out.

As with any book in the business section, this one had its dry points. I found my mind drifting when the talk on strategy got too technical or I wasn’t particularly interested in the current case study being presented. That being said, this happened less than usual in this book then with other business books I’ve read. I felt the author does a good job of balancing between educating us on strategy and providing interesting world examples to keep the book engaging.

I’ve read two strategy books back to back now and I definitely recommend this one over the last. It is more relatable and entertaining; these two factors will help make the concepts in the book stick because the reading experience is more enjoyable. With so many real world examples presented in this book, you also can’t help but believe in what the author is saying. This is an approachable strategy book for readers of any level looking for some insight on the subject.