Wednesday, December 16, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: If I Stay by Gayle Forman


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ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

In the blink of an eye everything changes. Seventeen ­year-old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall what happened afterwards, watching her own damaged body being taken from the wreck. Little by little she struggles to put together the pieces- to figure out what she has lost, what she has left, and the very difficult choice she must make. Heartwrenchingly beautiful, this will change the way you look at life, love, and family. Now a major motion picture starring Chloe Grace Moretz, Mia's story will stay with you for a long, long time.

MY REVIEW:

Sometimes I accidentally pick out juvenile fiction and don't realize it until I'm so far into the story that I can't turn back. In this case, however, it worked out just fine because this book is amazing!

There was just one thing I didn't like about the story -- a (completely non-graphic) sex scene between the main character and her boyfriend, both of which are in high school.  I was picturing my daughter reading the book and felt that the reference was completely inappropriate for the audience.  Granted, my daughter is only 11 (a little younger than the target audience for this book), but her 13-year-old friend mentioned to me that she had read this book and I just don't like that being in it at all.  In my opinion, the story would have been just fine without it.

Besides that, this book is phenomenal.  Seventeen-­year-old Mia is in a fatal car accident with her family.  As her body lies in a hospital bed recovering, Mia is in a coma, but her mind is working overtime -- assessing all that has happened, what she has lost, what she has left on this Earth and whether she should "stay" or go.

While telling this story, the author provokes a range of emotions in the reader.  Despite the subject matter, the story isn't just sad.  There are funny, sweet, light-hearted moments as well.  Overall, it is bittersweet.  It makes the reader think about life and love and the bonds that we have with those around us, even at just 17-years-old.  I recommend this book to any fiction lover, even if you don't typically read books in the "juvenile" category.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: The Good Neighbor by A.J. Banner


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ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

From a phenomenal new voice in suspense fiction comes a book that will forever change the way you look at the people closest to you…

Shadow Cove, Washington, is the kind of town everyone dreams about—quaint streets, lush forests, good neighbors. That’s what Sarah thinks as she settles into life with her new husband, Dr. Johnny McDonald. But all too soon she discovers an undercurrent of deception. And one October evening when Johnny is away, sudden tragedy destroys Sarah’s happiness.

Dazed and stricken with grief, she and Johnny begin to rebuild their shattered lives. As she picks up the pieces of her broken home, Sarah discovers a shocking secret that forces her to doubt everything she thought was true—about her neighbors, her friends, and even her marriage. With each stunning revelation, Sarah must ask herself, Can we ever really know the ones we love?

MY REVIEW:

Recently married to Dr. Johnny McDonald, a well-known dermatologist in their quaint little town, Sarah Phoenix's life is flipped upside down when a fire next door kills two people and destroys her home. Johnny wasn't home when the fire broke out and he didn't answer his phone when Sarah tried to call him.  As things begin to settle down, Sarah discovers the fire wasn't an accident and she finds herself beginning to question everything and everyone around her, including Johnny.

If you're looking for a fiction "quickie," this is it.  There's a little bit of action, a little bit of mystery/suspense, even a little bit of romance, but nothing terribly intense or deep or thought-provoking.  It's worth reading if you enjoy fiction and you're looking for something interesting, but it won't necessarily knock your socks off.


Monday, December 14, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron


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ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

How much of an impact can an animal have? How many lives can one cat touch? How is it possible for an abandoned kitten to transform a small library, save a classic American town, and eventually become famous around the world? You can't even begin to answer those questions until you hear the charming story of Dewey Readmore Books, the beloved library cat of Spencer, Iowa.

Dewey's story starts in the worst possible way. Only a few weeks old, on the coldest night of the year, he was stuffed into the returned book slot at the Spencer Public Library. He was found the next morning by library director, Vicki Myron, a single mother who had survived the loss of her family farm, a breast cancer scare, and an alcoholic husband. Dewey won her heart, and the hearts of the staff, by pulling himself up and hobbling on frostbitten feet to nudge each of them in a gesture of thanks and love. For the next nineteen years, he never stopped charming the people of Spencer with his enthusiasm, warmth, humility, (for a cat) and, above all, his sixth sense about who needed him most.

As his fame grew from town to town, then state to state, and finally, amazingly, worldwide, Dewey became more than just a friend; he became a source of pride for an extraordinary Heartland farming town pulling its way slowly back from the greatest crisis in its long history.

MY REVIEW:

Left in a library drop box on a freezing cold night when he was only a few weeks old, "Dewey Readmore Books," as he was later named, was adopted by the Spencer Public Library.  First he charmed the library staff and then the community of Spencer, Iowa and eventually his fame spread worldwide.

I lived in Spencer, Iowa for a few years and even though I frequented the library when I lived there, I never got the chance to meet Dewey.  He was the king of the Spencer Public Library for nearly 20 years, but I moved into town just a couple of years too late.  According to Vicki Myron, an employee of the Spencer Public Library and author of this book, I really missed out on something special!

This story is touching.  Yes, it's a book about a cat who lived in a library, but there are also pieces of the author's life story, small town drama and history of the town of Spencer (and northwest Iowa).  The author had me in tears one moment and laughing out loud the next.  The book is lighthearted and heartwarming.  Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World is a must-read if you love cats (or any animal, really) or you love libraries or you live (or have ever lived) in Iowa!


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng


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ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet . . . So begins the story of this exquisite debut novel, about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee; their middle daughter, a girl who inherited her mother’s bright blue eyes and her father’s jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue—in Marilyn’s case that her daughter become a doctor rather than a homemaker, in James’s case that Lydia be popular at school, a girl with a busy social life and the center of every party.

When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together tumbles into chaos, forcing them to confront the long-kept secrets that have been slowly pulling them apart. James, consumed by guilt, sets out on a reckless path that may destroy his marriage. Marilyn, devastated and vengeful, is determined to find a responsible party, no matter what the cost. Lydia’s older brother, Nathan, is certain that the neighborhood bad boy Jack is somehow involved. But it’s the youngest of the family—Hannah—who observes far more than anyone realizes and who may be the only one who knows the truth about what happened.

A profoundly moving story of family, history, and the meaning of home, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, exploring the divisions between cultures and the rifts within a family, and uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.

MY REVIEW:

This is by far the best fiction book I have read in a long time.  The writing style is absolutely beautiful.  Celeste Ng begins the story in the present time (late 1970s) where a family has just lost a daughter/sister, and she floats the reader back and forth in time, seamlessly weaving in pieces of the puzzle that lead to what happened to Lydia Lee.

But the story isn't just about Lydia, and it isn't just about the Lee family.  It's about society in the 1960s to 1970s, the struggles of a mixed race family, lost dreams, internal conflict, family, secrets, lies and love.  The themes in this book are extremely powerful and the story evokes a range of emotions for the reader from beginning to end.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys fiction/literature.

Friday, September 11, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: The Girl She Used To Be by David Cristofano


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ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

When Melody Grace McCartney was six years old, she and her parents witnessed an act of violence so brutal that it changed their lives forever. The federal government lured them into the Witness Protection Program with the promise of safety, and they went gratefully. But the program took Melody's name, her home, her innocence, and, ultimately, her family. She's been May Adams, Karen Smith, Anne Johnson, and countless others--everyone but the one person she longs to be: herself. So when the feds spirit her off to begin yet another new life in another town, she's stunned when a man confronts her and calls her by her real name. Jonathan Bovaro, the mafioso sent to hunt her down, knows her, the real her, and it's a dangerous thrill that Melody can't resist. He's insistent that she's just a pawn in the government's war against the Bovaro family. But can she trust her life and her identity to this vicious stranger whose acts of violence are legendary?

MY REVIEW:

I really enjoyed this book.  It's definitely a page-turner. The general story line is very interesting - a young woman who basically grew up in the Witness Protection Program, Melody McCartney is tired of reinventing herself and not really knowing who she is.

Although I think David Cristofano does a great job of writing from a woman's perspective, there were a few times where I felt like it was obvious that the book was written by a man rather than a woman. I hadn't even noticed whether the author was male or female when I downloaded the Kindle format, but at one point I stopped reading and checked because the things that Melody was thinking during a certain scene were so over-sexualized that it just didn't feel like something a woman would have written.  I also felt that there were a few parts of the story that were so far-fetched it was hard to get over it in my head as I was reading.

Despite these minor criticisms, the book is very enjoyable.  There is romance and suspense and it was hard for me to put it down until I was finished.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf


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ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

It happens quietly one August morning. As dawn's shimmering light drenches the humid Iowa air, two families awaken to find their little girls have gone missing in the night.

Seven-year-old Calli Clark is sweet, gentle, a dreamer who suffers from selective mutism brought on by tragedy that pulled her deep into silence as a toddler.

Calli's mother, Antonia, tried to be the best mother she could within the confines of marriage to a mostly absent, often angry husband. Now, though she denies that her husband could be involved in the possible abductions, she fears her decision to stay in her marriage has cost her more than her daughter's voice.

Petra Gregory is Calli's best friend, her soul mate and her voice. But neither Petra nor Calli has been heard from since their disappearance was discovered. Desperate to find his child, Martin Gregory is forced to confront a side of himself he did not know existed beneath his intellectual, professorial demeanor.

Now these families are tied by the question of what happened to their children. And the answer is trapped in the silence of unspoken family secrets.

MY REVIEW:

I was surprised by the first two chapters of the book.  I thought they were giving the entire story away until I got further into it.  It ended up that there were several twists and turns in the plot, right up to the very end, and it kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time.

I did not like that the narrative rotated between characters - each chapter being told from the perspective of a different person in the story.  I got used to it, but it was just odd for me.

That said, the story is beautiful and sad, suspenseful and heart-wrenching.  If you like Lifetime movies, you'll enjoy this book. 

Monday, September 7, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg


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ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

In The Power of Habit, Pulitzer Prize–winning business reporter Charles Duhigg takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. Distilling vast amounts of information into engrossing narratives that take us from the boardrooms of Procter & Gamble to sidelines of the NFL to the front lines of the civil rights movement, Duhigg presents a whole new understanding of human nature and its potential. At its core, The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, being more productive, and achieving success is understanding how habits work. As Duhigg shows, by harnessing this new science, we can transform our businesses, our communities, and our lives.

MY REVIEW:

Have you ever wondered how someone else's house can always be clean when you can't seem to keep up in your own home?  Or how certain people remain thin and fit while others pack on the pounds year after year?  This book will help you understand how powerful habits are in our day-to-day lives, even when we don't realize it, and how just a few habits (good or bad) can have a domino effect on many others.

I found this book to be fascinating. Understanding how habits work in our lives allows us to consciously make the changes necessary - eliminating bad habits and initiating good ones - in order to achieve the things that we want in our lives. The hard part is simply making the choice to take control of our habits and our lives.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling


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ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

Mindy Kaling has lived many lives: the obedient child of immigrant professionals, a timid chubster afraid of her own bike, a Ben Affleck–impersonating Off-Broadway performer and playwright, and, finally, a comedy writer and actress prone to starting fights with her friends and coworkers with the sentence “Can I just say one last thing about this, and then I swear I’ll shut up about it?”

Perhaps you want to know what Mindy thinks makes a great best friend (someone who will fill your prescription in the middle of the night), or what makes a great guy (one who is aware of all elderly people in any room at any time and acts accordingly), or what is the perfect amount of fame (so famous you can never get convicted of murder in a court of law), or how to maintain a trim figure (you will not find that information in these pages). If so, you’ve come to the right book, mostly!

In Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Mindy invites readers on a tour of her life and her unscientific observations on romance, friendship, and Hollywood, with several conveniently placed stopping points for you to run errands and make phone calls. Mindy Kaling really is just a Girl Next Door—not so much literally anywhere in the continental United States, but definitely if you live in India or Sri Lanka.

MY REVIEW:

I first knew of Mindy Kaling from the TV series The Office, but in a portion of her book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Mindy tells the story of how she got there.  What's interesting to me is how incredibly humble she is and lacking in self-confidence, which she plays off as kind of making fun of herself.

The book is cute, funny and lighthearted. Mindy tells stories from her childhood, dating, her rise to fame (although she certainly doesn't talk about it that way), her time on The Office, and much more.  She is an extremely likable person and her book in enjoyable.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: The Next Thing on my List by Jill Smolinski


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ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

After a car accident in which her passenger, Marissa, dies, June Parker finds herself in possession of a list Marissa has written: “20 Things to Do by My 25th Birthday.” The tasks range from inspiring (run a 5K) to daring (go braless) to near-impossible (change someone’s life).

To assuage her guilt, June races to achieve each goal herself before the deadline, learning more about her own life than she ever bargained for.

MY REVIEW:

I got behind on book reviews over the summer, so I'm going to try to get caught up this week.  This book was an audiobook recommendation from a friend.  I downloaded it before a road trip and listened to it almost all in one sitting.  I didn't want it to stop.

34-year-old June Parker attends a Weight Watchers meeting with the goal of losing a few pounds.  After the meeting, she offers a ride to another meeting attendee, Marissa Jones.  What happens next will change June's life, and the lives of many other people, forever.

A freak car accident moments later takes Marissa's life and leaves June with intense feelings of guilt over her part in the tragedy.  But when June discovers a list that Marissa left behind of 20 things to do before she turned 25, she decides she must complete the list to honor Marissa's life.  Some items on the list are easy, like try "boogie boarding," but "change someone's life"?  June's journey to cross off every item on the list before Marissa's 25th birthday is a transforming experience that keeps the reader on the edge of their seat the entire time.

This book is a light read and the story is heartwarming.  I highly recommend this book for fiction readers.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: The Art of Social Media by Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzpatrick


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ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):


By now it's clear that whether you're promoting a business, a product, or yourself, social media is near the top of what determines your success or failure. And there are countless pundits, authors, and consultants eager to advise you.

But there’s no one quite like Guy Kawasaki, the legendary former chief evangelist for Apple and one of the pioneers of business blogging, tweeting, Facebooking, Tumbling, and much, much more. Now Guy has teamed up with Peg Fitzpatrick, who he says is the best social-media person he’s ever met, to offer The Art of Social Media—the one essential guide you need to get the most bang for your time, effort, and money.

With over one hundred practical tips, tricks, and insights, Guy and Peg present a bottom-up strategy to produce a focused, thorough, and compelling presence on the most popular social-media platforms. They guide you through steps to build your foundation, amass your digital assets, optimize your profile, attract more followers, and effectively integrate social media and blogging.

For beginners overwhelmed by too many choices as well as seasoned professionals eager to improve their game, The Art of Social Media is full of tactics that have been proven to work in the real world. Or as Guy puts it, “great stuff, no fluff.”

MY REVIEW:

Guy Kawasaki writing a book about how to "rock" social media is like Michael Jordan writing a book about how to rock the basketball court. Kawasaki has achieved a level of stardom in the social media world that most of us can only dream about. That said, his tips are invaluable whether you are a newbie or a seasoned social media marketer.

This book is a quick read and covers all of the basics you need to know about the most popular social media platforms. I highly recommend it, although I'm only giving it 4 stars because it's so short and really could be more detailed.  Amazon says it's 208 pages, but the content is really only 184 pages.  The format is about 5x7, so if it were a more normal size (i.e. 6x9), it would barely be 100 pages.


Monday, June 22, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo! by Nicholas Carlson


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ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

A page-turning narrative about Marissa Mayer's efforts to remake Yahoo as well as her own rise from Stanford University undergrad to CEO of a $30 billion corporation by the age of 38.

When Yahoo hired star Google executive Mayer to be its CEO in 2012 employees rejoiced. They put posters on the walls throughout Yahoo's California headquarters. On them there was Mayer's face and one word: HOPE. But one year later, Mayer sat in front of those same employees in a huge cafeteria on Yahoo's campus and took the beating of her life. Her hair wet and her tone defensive, Mayer read and answered a series of employee-posed questions challenging the basic elements of her plan. There was anger in the room and, behind it, a question: Was Mayer actually going to be able to do this thing?

MARISSA MAYER AND THE FIGHT TO SAVE YAHOO! is the inside story of how Yahoo got into such awful shape in the first place, Marissa Mayer's controversial rise at Google, and her desperate fight to save an Internet icon.

In August 2011 hedge fund billionaire Daniel Loeb took a long look at Yahoo and decided to go to war with its management and board of directors. Loeb then bought a 5% stake and began a shareholder activist campaign that would cost the jobs of three CEOs before he finally settled on Google's golden girl Mayer to unlock the value lurking in the company. As Mayer began to remake Yahoo from a content company to a tech company, an internal civil war erupted.

In author Nicholas Carlson's capable hands, this riveting book captures Mayer's rise and Yahoo's missteps as a dramatic illustration of what it takes to grab the brass ring in Silicon Valley. And it reveals whether it is possible for a big lumbering tech company to stay relevant in today's rapidly changing business landscape.

MY REVIEW:

Have you ever asked yourself, "What IS Yahoo?"  This is a question Yahoo executives have been trying to figure out for more than a decade.  This was one of my favorite quotes from the book:
He said "Google.” People wrote down “search.” He said “eBay” and they wrote “auctions.” After a few more companies, he said “Yahoo.” He collected the thirty pieces of paper on Yahoo. Everybody had a different word. What was Yahoo trying to be? No one inside the company knew anymore.
It was an aha! moment as I was reading.  It wasn't just me.  Nobody knows what Yahoo is anymore, including the employees!

Carlson takes the reader through the history of Yahoo - from the very beginning when it was created as a website directory by Jerry Yang and David Filo in January 1994 to its rapid growth and time period when Yahoo practically was the Internet to its long-term struggle to maintain relevant as the Internet seemed to grow up around it.

Although "Marissa Mayer" is in the title, this book is really about the history (and current state) of Yahoo.  Once all of that is laid out chronologically, including Yahoo's history of CEO failures, Carlson takes the reader through Mayer's personal background (including dating Larry Page, cofounder of Google), her beginning days at Yahoo where employees pinned up posters of her face with the word "HOPE" to the end of that honeymoon period and the beginning of her real struggle to keep Yahoo alive after Alibaba's IPO.  [If you just asked "What is Alibaba?" and/or "What is IPO?" This is all explained in detail in the book, but basically Alibaba is what has kept Yahoo afloat for the last several years.]

The book is not flattering toward Marissa Mayer, and yet it is not all out negative either. To me, it feels unbiased and realistic.  There is no doubt that Mayer is a hard worker and extremely talented.  But does she have the ability to "save" Yahoo?  Nobody knows yet, but Carlson keeps the reader on the edge of their seat the whole time.  The book is an easy read (even if you know very little about business).  I highly recommend this for anyone with an interest in business and particularly Yahoo.

Monday, June 15, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Always Looking Up by Michael J. Fox



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ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

At the turn from our bedroom into the hallway, there is an old full-length mirror in a wooden frame. I can't help but catch a glimpse of myself as I pass. Turning fully toward the glass, I consider what I see. This reflected version of myself, wet, shaking, rumpled, pinched, and slightly stooped, would be alarming were it not for the self-satisfied expression pasted across my face. I would ask the obvious question, "What are you smiling about?" but I already know the answer: "It just gets better from here." 

-- from Always Looking Up

MY REVIEW:

I listened to the audiobook format of this book, and I almost cried through the entire first chapter.  I have fond memories of Michael J. Fox from my childhood -- watching him in Family Ties, Teen Wolf and all of the Back to the Future movies.  I remember when the news came out about him being diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease (or "PD" as he refers to it throughout the book).  It was shocking and sad.  What made me cry through the first chapter, though, was not the sadness of it, but instead my own guilt over his optimistic outlook on life.

Despite suffering from PD since the age of 29, Fox is upbeat about life and thankful for everything he has (including a beautiful wife and 4 children, fond memories of his childhood and an amazing career).  His attitude is simply infectious.

After the first chapter, Fox delves into the politics of stem cell research, which was something I knew nothing about previously and it seems to be a pretty controversial subject.  He also talks a little about his religious beliefs, but then goes back to more autobiographical content.  The stories kind of jump around to different times in his life, so they are not in chronological order, but more theme-based.  Overall, the book is quick and lighthearted and very inspirational.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: One Click: Jeff Bezos and the Rise of Amazon.com by Richard L. Brandt



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ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

Amazon’s business model is deceptively simple: Make online shopping so easy and convenient that customers won’t think twice. It almost can be summed up by the button on every page: “Buy now with one click.”

Why has Amazon been so successful? Much of it has to do with Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO, whose unique combination of character traits and business strategy has driven Amazon to the top of the online retail world. Richard Brandt charts Bezos’s rise from computer nerd to world-changing entrepreneur.

Through interviews with Amazon employees, competitors, and observers, Brandt has deciphered how Bezos makes decisions. The story of Amazon’s ongoing evolution is a case study in how to reinvent an entire industry, and one that businesses today ignore at their peril.

MY REVIEW:

The subtitle could not be more appropriate.  "One Click" is a fascinating look at Jeff Bezos and the rise of Amazon.com.  I never knew much about Jeff Bezos other than the fact that he started Amazon.  He's always seemed to exist behind the scenes.  This book offers insight into Bezos's background, beginning with his childhood.  From being adopted by his step-father to his passion for reading in elementary school to his early entrepreneurial ventures, Bezos almost becomes a likable person.

For some reason, before reading this book I had in my mind that Bezos was not a very likable person. Brandt also shows the reader the ruthless (ugly) business side of Bezos - from the various lawsuits Amazon has been involved in to Amazon's PR/marketing war against Barnes & Noble to Bezos's own poor people management skills.

Whether or not Jeff Bezos is a likable guy, however, it's clear that he is a truly amazing person in what he was able to accomplish in a relatively short amount of time. His story inspiring.  If you're interested in Jeff Bezos and/or the business of Amazon, I highly recommend this book.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: ProBlogger by Darren Rowse and Chris Garrett



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ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

An update of one of the bestselling blogging books, written by two of the world's most successful bloggers 

There's a reason why the first two editions of this book have sold thousands of copies worldwide. Written by two of the world's most successful bloggers, it's one of the clearest books out there on how to earn an income from your blog. This new edition gets you up to date on the very latest changes that affect the blogging-for-business landscape. Featuring new material on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn; plus new ways and tools to grow your audience and expand your business beyond your blog, this professional blogger's bible is better than ever.

  • Helps novices choose a blog topic, analyze the market, set up a blog, promote it, and earn revenue 
  • Gives aspiring bloggers proven techniques and the tools they need to succeed in building a business from their blogs 
  • Reveals 20 key ingredients for a successful blog post 
  • Offers solid, step-by-step instruction on how bloggers actually make money, why niches matter, how to use essential blogging tools and take advantage of social media and content aggregators, how to optimize your advertising, and much more 
  • Includes techniques for attracting and growing an audience and how to mine new business opportunities beyond your blog 
Written by two fulltime professional bloggers, this exciting, updated edition of ProBlogger tells you exactly how to launch and maintain a blog that makes money.

MY REVIEW:

Authors Darren Rowse and Chris Garrett are accomplished bloggers who have compiled their years of experience into this extremely helpful guide for bloggers.  Whether you blog for fun and simply want to grow your readership or you want to learn how to earn real money from blogging, ProBlogger will walk you through everything you need to know.  From the design of your blog to the content of your posts to social media marketing - Rowse and Garrett cover it all in great detail.

This book is an amazing resource that all bloggers should read.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: What the Plus! by Guy Kawasaki


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ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

Learn how to master Google+—the world's fastest-growing social-media service

Attract followers. Engage enchanting people. Promote your brand. 

The former Chief Evangelist for Apple knows a superior product when he sees one, and he sees one in Google+. Hands down. In What the Plus!, Guy Kawasaki explains how to get started, create an enchanting profile, optimize for social searches, share posts and photos, conduct hangouts, and gain followers.

MY REVIEW:

I read this book as I was doing research for the book I am writing on the topic of book marketing (if you are interested, I am blogging the content for that book here: www.bookmarketingwithsocialmedia.com).

I have been on Google+ since 2011 but I hadn't really understood Google+...until now.  Although I learned a lot from this book, the biggest take-away for me came down to one phrase: "Google+ = Passions."  When I thought about that in reference to the comparisons Kawasaki presented (Twitter = Perceptions, Facebook = People and Pinterest = Pictures), it was like a lightbulb went off for me.  I thought about what I was passionate about and suddenly I understood how to post on Google+.

If you have any interest in growing your Google+ community for any reason, this book is a must-read.  Guy Kawasaki will help you see the benefits of Google+. His passion for it is infectious.  And he will walk you through every single thing you need to know about using this social media channel. This book can be read in just a couple of hours, but be prepared to take your time as you read it so you can follow Kawasaki tips as you go.


Saturday, May 30, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: The Abortionist's Daughter by Elisabeth Hyde




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ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

Two weeks before Christmas, Dr. Diana Duprey is found floating face-up in a small lap pool in her back yard. A medical doctor with an abortion practice, and a national figure who inspired passion and ignited tempers, she had been the target of violent threats by right-to-life activists. Her husband, Frank Thomson, a lawyer in the district attorney's office, fought bitterly with her on the morning of her murder. To reveal the nature of their argument would cost him his career, and more.

Diana's daughter, Megan, also quarreled with her on the day of her death. The Reverend Stephen O'Connell, founder of the town's outspoken Lifeblood Coalition, had reasons of his own to want Diana's practice shut down, including her involvement with his troubled teenager. The investigation of the case unleashes a flood of secrets in Duprey's small Colorado town, whose residents must face haunting questions, and the accusations of their own consciences.

MY REVIEW:

Diana Duprey, an abortion doctor, is found dead in her pool with signs of trauma.  Who killed Diana?  Was it an anti-abortion activist finally making good on their threats?  Was it a distraught client?  Was it her husband Frank Thomson?

The story is centered around Frank and Diana's daughter Megan, but takes you into their troubled marriage, Diana's controversial medical practice, and Megan's risky choices as a college student transitioning into adulthood.

I was surprised to read some of the negative reviews for this book.  It makes me wonder if those negative reviews are due to the controversial topic of abortion rather than the book itself.  I personally did not feel that the author took a strong stand for or against abortion in this book, but if you read it and disagree with me, come back to this post and add a comment below!

The Abortionist's Daughter is full of fascinating characters, plot twists and scandal.  I highly recommend this book for fiction readers.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World by Gary Vaynerchuk


ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

New York Times bestselling author and social media expert Gary Vaynerchuk shares hard-won advice on how to connect with customers and beat the competition. A mash-up of the best elements of Crush It! and The Thank You Economy with a fresh spin, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook is a blueprint to social media marketing strategies that really works.

When managers and marketers outline their social media strategies, they plan for the “right hook”—their next sale or campaign that’s going to knock out the competition. Even companies committed to jabbing—patiently engaging with customers to build the relationships crucial to successful social media campaigns—want to land the punch that will take down their opponent or their customer’s resistance in one blow. Right hooks convert traffic to sales and easily show results. Except when they don’t.

Thanks to massive change and proliferation in social media platforms, the winning combination of jabs and right hooks is different now. Vaynerchuk shows that while communication is still key, context matters more than ever. It’s not just about developing high-quality content, but developing high-quality content perfectly adapted to specific social media platforms and mobile devices—content tailor-made for Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and Tumblr.

MY REVIEW:

If you use social media to promote a business or a product, this book is a great resource for you as you develop your social media strategy.  Gary Vaynerchuk covers just about everything you need to know about marketing on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr, and he provides examples of good and bad marketing attempts on each of these networks.  He also briefly covers what he calls "emerging networks" - LinkedIn, Google+, Vine and Snapchat.

Vaynerchuk mentions a few times how quickly things change in the world of social media, so it is no surprise that some of the things he talks about are already outdated just two years after publication.  This is a reality when it comes to social media marketing, but it does not affect the overall points he makes about presentation on each individual network.

My only criticism of this book is that I don't like the two column layout on each page.  It is pretty, but I found it a little awkward when reading.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Platform by Michael Hyatt



ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

Michael Hyatt, one of the top business bloggers in the world, provides down-to-earth guidance for building and expanding a powerful platform.

To be successful in the market today, you must possess two strategic assets: a compelling product and a meaningful platform. In this step-by-step guide, Michael Hyatt, former CEO and current Chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers, takes readers behind the scenes, into the new world of social media success. He shows you what best-selling authors, public speakers, entrepreneurs, musicians, and other creatives are doing differently to win customers in today’s crowded marketplace. Hyatt speaks from experience. He writes one of the top 800 blogs in the world and has more than 100,000 followers on Twitter. His large and growing platform serves as the foundation for his successful writing, speaking, and consulting practice.

In Platform, Hyatt will teach readers not only how to extend their influence, but also how to monetize it and build a sustainable career. The key? By building a platform. It has never been easier, less expensive, or more possible than right now. . . The book includes:

  • proven strategies
  • easy-to-replicate formulas
  • practical tips

Social media technologies have changed everything. Now, for the first time in history, non-celebrities can get noticed―and win big!―in an increasingly noisy world.

MY REVIEW:

I have been a fan of Michael Hyatt for many years, so I already knew before reading this book that I was going to enjoy it.  Every time I visit his blog (www.michaelhyatt.com), I get sucked in and want to read post after post after post.  He writes on topics like productivity, leadership, social media and personal development, and every post is inspirational in some way. 

When I think of a "platform," I think of a comprehensive presentation of a person or brand, particularly online, that is constantly growing and adapting.  When I think of Michael Hyatt, two things typically come to mind: blogging and Twitter.  Not surprisingly, those were the two biggest themes in this book.  He does talk about Facebook, which he admits that he doesn't really like, and some other things, but I felt the book could have been a little more comprehensive.

Despite that minor critique, this book is a must read for anyone who blogs or wants to develop their online platform in order to promote a particular product, service or message of some sort.



Thursday, May 14, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss

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ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

Forget the old concept of retirement and the rest of the deferred-life plan–there is no need to wait and every reason not to, especially in unpredictable economic times. Whether your dream is escaping the rat race, experiencing high-end world travel, earning a monthly five-figure income with zero management, or just living more and working less, The 4-Hour Workweek is the blueprint.

This step-by-step guide to luxury lifestyle design teaches:
  • How Tim went from $40,000 per year and 80 hours per week to $40,000 per month and 4 hours per week
  • How to outsource your life to overseas virtual assistants for $5 per hour and do whatever you want
  • How blue-chip escape artists travel the world without quitting their jobs
  • How to eliminate 50% of your work in 48 hours using the principles of a forgotten Italian economist
  • How to trade a long-haul career for short work bursts and frequent “mini-retirements”
The new expanded edition of Tim Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Workweek includes:
  • More than 50 practical tips and case studies from readers (including families) who have doubled income, overcome common sticking points, and reinvented themselves using the original book as a starting point
  • Real-world templates you can copy for eliminating e-mail, negotiating with bosses and clients, or getting a private chef for less than $8 a meal
  • How Lifestyle Design principles can be suited to unpredictable economic times
  • The latest tools and tricks, as well as high-tech shortcuts, for living like a diplomat or millionaire without being either

MY REVIEW:

First things first -- I want to make it clear that I didn't totally know what this book was about before I started reading it.  I swear. 

I don't remember how I first discovered Tim Ferriss, but I think I had read an article or blog post by him a couple years ago about delegating work to a virtual assistant.  I thought this book would be similar - a business book about working smarter and delegating.  When I received the book, however, there was a sentence on the back cover that said something like "Do not read this book unless you want to quit your job." [I've already returned the book to the library, so I'm not sure if that was the exact quote, but it was something like that.]  I was immediately embarrassed that I was going to be writing this review and you all would think I was having a mid-life crisis.  Rest assured I am not. And, despite that sentence on the back cover, this book is actually what I thought it was about in the first place.

In the first portion of the book I started to get the feeling that Tim Ferriss is a genius and at the same time must be completely off his rocker.  He begins by telling us that we can all live an exciting life of adventure and travel right now and we don't have to put everything off until retirement when it might be too late.  In order to do this, we must give up the idea that we need to do the daily 9-5 grind for 40 years with the house and the cars and all of the stuff that ties us down in the process. Ferriss explains how travelling the world is much less expensive than people think and how anyone can do it, even those of us with children.  Totally crazy idea, right? But genius from a marketing perspective (who wouldn't want to buy that book?) - cha-ching for Ferriss!

I almost stopped reading, but I kept on and I'm glad I did.  This book is not about quitting your job (or delegating 90% of it), selling everything you own and travelling the world.  Unless you actually want to do those things, then I guess it is.  But to me this book was about learning to work smarter, focusing on the things (i.e. customers) that are most profitable for you, firing those customers who drain your time and energy (and, therefore, are not profitable for you), and delegating the work that can be done by others.  Ferris reminded me to think about work with this perspective: "Am I being productive or just active? Am I inventing things to do to avoid the important?"

Sure, he's probably sold a lot of books because his marketing tactics are brilliant, but this is definitely one worth buying (or just get it from the library like I did!).





Wednesday, May 13, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Foul Play by Janet Evanovich



ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

When Amy Klasse loses her TV job to a dancing chicken, handsome veterinarian Jake Elliott rescues her with an offer to be his receptionist. Jake just can't resist a damsel in distress, and Amy certainly doesn't mind Jake's charming sincerity.

Then suddenly the job-stealing chicken disappears and Amy is suspected of foul play. Amy and Jake search for clues to prove her innocence. But will Jake be able to prove to Amy that love, too, is a mystery worth solving?

MY REVIEW:

I'm kind of new to romantic fiction.  I typically read non-fiction (various categories), but I recently read Home and Broken Home by Rachel Smith and I enjoyed them so much I wanted to read more in this category.  I picked out a Janet Evanovich book because that was a familiar name and I've never read anything by her before.

Foul Play is an easy read with an interesting balance between silly (the whole story is based around a job-stealing chicken after all) and slightly risqué.  The risqué part is probably normal for romantic fiction, but new for me.  I found the story light-hearted and fun.  If you're a fan of romantic fiction, you will probably enjoy this book. I will definitely read more by Janet Evanovich.




Tuesday, May 12, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris



ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

Tired of memoirs that only tell you what really happened?

Sick of deeply personal accounts written in the first person? Seeking an exciting, interactive read that puts the “u” back in “aUtobiography”? Then look no further than Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography! In this revolutionary, Joycean experiment in light celebrity narrative, actor/personality/carbon-based-life-form Neil Patrick Harris lets you, the reader, live his life. You will be born to New Mexico. You will get your big break at an acting camp. You will get into a bizarre confrontation outside a nightclub with actor Scott Caan. Even better, at each critical juncture of your life you will choose how to proceed. You will decide whether to try out for Doogie Howser, M.D. You will decide whether to spend years struggling with your sexuality. You will decide what kind of caviar you want to eat on board Elton John’s yacht.

Choose correctly and you’ll find fame, fortune, and true love. Choose incorrectly and you’ll find misery, heartbreak, and a hideous death by piranhas. All this, plus magic tricks, cocktail recipes, embarrassing pictures from your time as a child actor, and even a closing song. Yes, if you buy one book this year, congratulations on being above the American average, and make that book Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography!

MY REVIEW:

I've loved Neil Patrick Harris ever since his Doogie days. His autobiography is classic "NPH" (as he often calls himself):

1) it's creative - written in a "choose-your-own adventure style"
2) it's unique - written in the second person
3) and it's fully entertaining!

Neil talks about his Doogie days, getting cast as and playing Barney on How I Met Your Mother, meeting his partner David, coming out in Hollywood, having twins, his experience on Broadway and much more!  

If you've loved NPH as Doogie or Barney or any other role, this book is a must-read!


Sunday, April 26, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: The Smashwords Book Marketing Guide by Mark Coker



ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

Learn how to market any book. This popular book marketing primer has helped over 100,000 authors and publishers dramatically improve their book marketing results.

The Smashwords Book Marketing Guide contains practical, easy-to-implement advice on how to market any book. 41 simple, do-it-yourself marketing tips explain not what you can do to market your book, but also explain the context and thinking behind each recommendation. The marketing techniques apply equally well to both ebooks and print books.

MY REVIEW:

The Kindle format of this book is free.  In print format, it would only be 52 pages, so it can easily be read in about an hour or so. It's definitely a marketing tool for the company Smashwords, but it also has lots of good book marketing tips for authors.  Coker covers topics like: "How to reach readers with Twitter," "Organize a blog tour" and "Join LinkedIn, post links to your books."  If you're a newly published author and/or overwhelmed by 1001 Ways to Market Your Books by John Kremer (which is 704 pages),  The Smashwords Book Marketing Guide is an easy place to start. 



Sunday, April 19, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Getting to 50/50 by Sharon Meers and Joanna Strober



ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

Sharon Meers and Joanna Strober are professionals, wives, and mothers. They understand the challenges and rewards of two-career households. They also know that families thrive not in spite of working mothers but because of them. You can have a great career, a great marriage, and be a great mother. The key is tapping into your best resource and most powerful ally—the man you married.

After interviewing hundreds of parents and employers, surveying more than a thousand working mothers, and combing through the latest government and social science research, the authors have discovered that kids, husbands, and wives all reap huge benefits when couples commit to share equally as breadwinners and caregivers. Mothers work without guilt, fathers bond with their kids, and children blossom with the attention of two involved parents.

From “baby boot camp” for new dads to exactly what to say when negotiating a leave with the boss, this savvy book offers fresh ideas to today’s families offering encouragement, hope, and confidence to any woman who has ever questioned her choices regarding work and family.

Winner of the Independent Publisher Award Gold Medal in Parenting

MY REVIEW:

As a working mother, I feel like I am supposed to love this book.  I did like it, and I enjoyed reading some of the statistics and encouragement for working women, but I'll be honest that I found it a bit dull.

The title of the book is "Getting to 50/50" and on the cover it states "How working couples can have it all by sharing it all and why it's great for your marriage, your career, your kids and you."  There are three parts to the book:

Part 1 -- The Good News About Work: Why Two Careers Are Better Than One
Part 2 -- Three Truths to Bust the Myths About Work, Women and Men
Part 3 -- The 50/50 Solution and How to Make It Yours

I found the first part fascinating.  It is full of studies and data about why a woman staying home with her children is not necessarily the best thing for the children or her marriage and how one of the most important factors in a child's development is actually the father's involvement (whether or not the mother works outside the home).

The second part is where I started to lose interest. It started to feel a little whiny to me about how women with children are so persecuted in the workplace.  I think that's because I personally couldn't identify with many of the examples, although that's actually part of the point -- I probably do experience some of the things the authors describe and I'm just not paying close enough attention.

I was hoping the third part would be a good conclusion, but I found it more tailored to brand new working mothers.

I like that the authors make women think about their own part in the responsibility of the 50/50 split (i.e. communicate with your partner about sharing the responsibilities, don't expect him to read your mind and allow him to do things his way).  However, I do think the authors missed an important piece of the whole thing -- i.e. "what happens when your husband is not on board with the 50/50 mentality?"

Overall, I think the book is good.  I would recommend it more for newer working mothers who are just starting to navigate this new world of balancing family and career.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni



ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

There is a competitive advantage out there, arguably more powerful than any other. Is it superior strategy? Faster innovation? Smarter employees? No, New York Times best-selling author, Patrick Lencioni, argues that the seminal difference between successful companies and mediocre ones has little to do with what they know and how smart they are and more to do with how healthy they are. In this book, Lencioni brings together his vast experience and many of the themes cultivated in his other best-selling books and delivers a first: a cohesive and comprehensive exploration of the unique advantage organizational health provides.

Simply put, an organization is healthy when it is whole, consistent and complete, when its management, operations and culture are unified. Healthy organizations outperform their counterparts, are free of politics and confusion and provide an environment where star performers never want to leave. Lencioni’s first non-fiction book provides leaders with a groundbreaking, approachable model for achieving organizational health—complete with stories, tips and anecdotes from his experiences consulting to some of the nation’s leading organizations. In this age of informational ubiquity and nano-second change, it is no longer enough to build a competitive advantage based on intelligence alone. The Advantage provides a foundational construct for conducting business in a new way—one that maximizes human potential and aligns the organization around a common set of principles.

MY REVIEW:

My first experience with Lencioni was The Three Big Questions for a Frantic Family, an audiobook I think I got for free on Audible.  It was a fable and I thought it might be cheesy, but it wasn't.  It was very thought-provoking and practical.  I listened to it last year and have been meaning to listen to it a second time so I could try to absorb more of it and write a review.

In the meantime, I came across The Advantage, Lencioni's first book that was not a fable.  I figured it was worth reading, and it was.  In The Advantage, Lencioni makes a case for the importance of "organizational health," which is often ignored by organizational leaders.

"An organization has integrity, is healthy, when it is whole, consistent and complete.  That is, when its management, operations, strategy and culture fit together and make sense."

Lencioni walks the reader through six critical questions for organizational health and the practical steps that a leader must take in order to create and maintain a healthy organization.  I highly recommend this book for anyone who is a leader/manager in any organization (church, business, non-profit).

Thursday, April 16, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won't) by Betty White



ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

The New York Times bestseller from the beloved actress who's made us laugh on shows from The Mary Tyler Moore Show to Saturday Night Live! In this candid take on everything from the unglamorous reality behind red-carpet affairs to her beauty regimen ("I have no idea what color my hair is, and I never intend to find out"), Betty White shares her observations about life, celebrity, and love (for humans and animals). Filled with photos, If You Ask Me is funny, sweet, and straight to the point-just like Betty.

MY REVIEW:

I've never seen Hot in Cleveland, and The Mary Tyler Moore Show was before my time, but I remember Betty White's ditzy character "Rose" in the Golden Girls.  I remember thinking she was old then, but that show ended nearly 25 years ago and she's still going strong!  She was 89 when she wrote this book.  Now she's 93 and still filming Hot in Cleveland!

I don't know how anyone could not love Betty White.  Even if you haven't seen her shows, it's fun to hear* her talk about her experiences in Hollywood (where she has worked in a variety of roles over a period of about 70 years!) and her love of animals.  If You Ask Me is lighthearted and funny.  I recommend it if you are a Betty White fan.

* NOTE: I "read" the audiobook format.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris



ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

A guy walks into a bar car and...

From here the story could take many turns. When the guy is David Sedaris, the possibilities are endless, but the result is always the same: he will both delight you with twists of humor and intelligence and leave you deeply moved.

Sedaris remembers his father's dinnertime attire (shirtsleeves and underpants), his first colonoscopy (remarkably pleasant), and the time he considered buying the skeleton of a murdered Pygmy. The common thread? Sedaris masterfully turns each essay into a love story: how it feels to be in a relationship where one loves and is loved over many years, what it means to be part of a family, and how it's possible, through all of life's absurdities, to grow to love oneself.

With LET'S EXPLORE DIABETES WITH OWLS, David Sedaris shows once again why he is widely considered the "the funniest writer in America" (O, the Oprah Magazine).

MY REVIEW:

I've never read anything else by David Sedaris, so I don't have anything with which to compare this book.  It's a collections of essays and there's no overall theme throughout the book.  I'm not sure if that's typical for Sedaris or if this one was different from his other books.  It definitely made me laugh out loud in some places and certainly made me want to read more from Sedaris.

If you like humor books, I would recommend this one.

Monday, March 30, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Broken Home by Rachel Smith



ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

Charlotte Winston had the perfect life. Doting husband. Wonderful son. On one fateful day, in a matter of seconds, everything changed. Heartbroken and alone, Charlotte is left to pick up the remaining pieces of her shattered existence. Only to find that some pieces were not what they seemed, which not only threatened any chance for true happiness...but also her life.

David Lyons vowed to never let another woman under his skin. Bitter and resentful, he never takes a woman to bed twice. He learned that lesson the hard way. But everything he stood for dissolves when he meets a green eyed beauty from the city.

Can two people, so beaten down by life, so broken, move on from the past? Can love restore their light after being blanketed in darkness for so long?

MY REVIEW:

Last year I read and reviewed Home by Rachel Smith.  Broken Home is the second book in the Glenview series.  You don't necessarily need to read them in order, but once you read one of them, you're going to want to read the other (and every other book Rachel Smith publishes in the future).

I absolutely could not put this book down!  I am blown away by the writing skills of this indie published author.  Between the developing romance and the plot twists, I'm pretty sure I did not breathe through most of the second half of the book.  It is a must-read for fans of romantic fiction.  I cannot wait for the third book in the series to come out! 

I do want to mention there is a lot of language and some sexual content in this book, so if these things offend you, this may not be the book for you.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: First Things First by Stephen R. Covey


ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

What are the most important things in your life? Do they get as much care, emphasis, and time as you'd like to give them? Far from the traditional "be-more-efficient" time-management book with shortcut techniques, First Things First shows you how to look at your use of time totally differently. Using this book will help you create balance between your personal and professional responsibilities by putting first things first and acting on them. Covey teaches an organizing process that helps you categorize tasks so you focus on what is important, not merely what is urgent. First you divide tasks into these quadrants:
  1. Important and Urgent (crises, deadline-driven projects) 
  2. Important, Not Urgent (preparation, prevention, planning, relationships)
  3. Urgent, Not Important (interruptions, many pressing matters)
  4. Not Urgent, Not Important (trivia, time wasters)
Most people spend most of their time in quadrants 1 and 3, while quadrant 2 is where quality happens. "Doing more things faster is no substitute for doing the right things," says Covey. He points you toward the real human needs--"to live, to love, to learn, to leave a legacy"--and how to balance your time to achieve a meaningful life, not just get things done. --Joan Price

MY REVIEW:

I couldn't help thinking most of the time while I was reading this book that it's kind of like a diet book: "All other diets are useless...This isn't a diet, it's a revolutionary new way to approach eating...Do what we say in this book and your life will be transformed forever...blah, blah." When the bottom line is really: Think about what you're eating and make smarter choices. Most time management books are probably similar: "Follow these guidelines, rather than every other time management gimmick you've read about, because this is not a gimmick. This is the right way to approach time management."

Needless to say, I was not a huge fan of this book.  It took a long time to get to the point and then there were some great take-aways (about chapters 2-5) and then the rest was just painfully boring.  If you're hungry for some time management advice, read chapters 2-5 and that's really all you need to know.  The bottom line is: Don't get caught up in urgency addiction, plan your days according to what you really need to get done and don't get caught up in things that are unimportant.

Monday, March 9, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Remote by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson


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ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

The “work from home” phenomenon is thoroughly explored in this illuminating new book from bestselling 37signals founders Fried and Hansson, who point to the surging trend of employees working from home (and anywhere else) and explain the challenges and unexpected benefits. Most important, they show why – with a few con
troversial exceptions such as Yahoo -- more businesses will want to promote this new model of getting things done.

The Industrial Revolution's "under one roof" model of conducting work is steadily declining owing to technology that is rapidly creating virtual workspaces and allowing workers to provide their vital contribution without physically clustering together. Today, the new paradigm is "move work to the workers, rather than workers to the workplace." According to Reuters, one in five global workers telecommutes frequently and nearly ten percent work from home every day. Moms in particular will welcome this trend. A full 60% wish they had a flexible work option. But companies see advantages too in the way remote work increases their talent pool, reduces turnover, lessens their real estate footprint, and improves the ability to conduct business across multiple time zones, to name just a few advantages. In Remote, inconoclastic authors Fried and Hansson will convince readers that letting all or part of work teams function remotely is a great idea--and they're going to show precisely how a remote work setup can be accomplished.

MY REVIEW:

I started working remotely 8 years ago for a company that is 100% remote. After working my way up within the company, I now oversee all of the day-to-day operations. 

I am a strong believer in remote working. I personally thrive in this environment, but over the years I have learned that working remotely is not for everyone. I felt that the authors of Remote did not get as deep into the real life issues of remote work environments as I was hoping they would.  Their approach was more of a sales pitch on allowing employees to work remotely (and using their software program to manage those remote projects).

Regardless, Remote is a quick and easy read.  If you're considering allowing workers in your company to work remotely - or if you're trying to pitch the idea to your boss - this book has a lot of helpful information.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Detroit by Charlie LeDuff



ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

Back in his broken hometown, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Charlie LeDuff searches through the ruins for clues to its fate, his family’s, and his own. Detroit is where his mother’s flower shop was firebombed in the pre-Halloween orgy of arson known as Devil’s Night; where his sister lost herself to the west side streets; where his brother, who once sold subprime mortgages with skill and silk, now works in a factory cleaning Chinese-manufactured screws so they can be repackaged as “May Be Made in United States.”

Having led us on the way up, Detroit now seems to be leading us on the way down. Once the richest city in America, Detroit is now the nation’s poorest. Once the vanguard of America’s machine age—mass production, blue-collar jobs, and automobiles—Detroit is now America’s capital for unemployment, illiteracy, dropouts, and foreclosures. It is an eerie and angry place of deserted factories and abandoned homes and forgotten people. Trees and switchgrass and wild animals have come back to reclaim their rightful places. Coyotes are here. The pigeons have left. A city the size of San Francisco and Manhattan could neatly fit into Detroit’s vacant lots. After revealing that the city’s murder rate is higher than the official police number—making it the highest in the country—a weary old detective tells LeDuff, “In this city two plus two equals three.”

With the steel-eyed reportage that has become his trademark and the righteous indignation only a native son possesses, LeDuff sets out to uncover what destroyed his city. He embeds with a local fire brigade struggling to defend its city against systemic arson and bureaucratic corruption. He investigates politicians of all stripes, from the smooth-talking mayor to career police officials to ministers of the backstreets, following the paperwork to discover who benefits from Detroit’s decline. He beats on the doors of union bosses and homeless squatters, powerful businessmen and struggling homeowners, and the ordinary people holding the city together by sheer determination.

If Detroit is America’s vanguard in good times and bad, then here is the only place to turn for guidance in our troubled era. While redemption is thin on the ground in this ghost of a city, Detroit: An American Autopsy is no hopeless parable. LeDuff shares an unbelievable story of a hard town in a rough time filled with some of the strangest and strongest people our country has to offer. Detroit is a dark comedy of the absurdity of American life in the twenty-first century, a deeply human drama of colossal greed and endurance, ignorance and courage.

MY REVIEW:

I will be traveling to Detroit early next year, so this book caught my interest.  I'm glad I read it, but it is certainly not a feel-good book!

Journalist Charlie LeDuff returns to his hometown of Detroit after several years away.  He tells the story of Detroit from its rise to its decline, interwoven with bits and pieces of his own life. LeDuff describes the realities of life in Detroit, from the rampant arson for the sake of entertainment to the deteriorating firehouses (one specifically that cannot park its engines inside the building because the floors are unstable) to the government paper trail showing millions of dollars that supposedly went into fixing the firehouses (some of which did not even exist).  He talks about the effects of the changes in the auto industry from the perspective of the people who work in the factories (or used to) and the drug abuse and murders.

It is depressing yet fascinating.  I recommend this book for readers who have an interest in Detroit and/or American history.


Saturday, February 21, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Quiet by Susan Cain


ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over working in teams. It is to introverts—Rosa Parks, Chopin, Dr. Seuss, Steve Wozniak—that we owe many of the great contributions to society.

In Quiet, Susan Cain argues that we dramatically undervalue introverts and shows how much we lose in doing so. She charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal throughout the twentieth century and explores how deeply it has come to permeate our culture. She also introduces us to successful introverts—from a witty, high-octane public speaker who recharges in solitude after his talks, to a record-breaking salesman who quietly taps into the power of questions. Passionately argued, superbly researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet has the power to permanently change how we see introverts and, equally important, how they see themselves.

MY REVIEW:

Things I knew about myself before reading this book:

  1. I hate small talk, but I love spending hours in deep conversations with close friends or family members.
  2. I have a huge fear of public speaking and prefer to express myself in writing.
  3. When I worked in a building with other people around (before I worked from home), I used to close my office door to "get work done."  I never understood how everyone else ever got anything done when they were hanging out and talking all day.
  4. I would rather spend an entire Saturday by myself (or with my family) than "out with the girls."
  5. I hate answering my phone unless it's my husband or a handful of people I know will only keep me on the phone for a few minutes.

What I learned about myself from reading this book:

I am an introvert!

Okay, so I would have described myself as an introvert even before reading this book, but it gave me a new understanding of what it means to be an introvert.

In Quiet, Cain writes about introversion in the workplace, in the school system and in relationships, and she discusses parenting/teaching an introverted child. She talks about how introverts are perceived by the outside world and what is really going on inside those heads.

Even though I was absolutely fascinated by the book, there were just two things I wish she would have covered more about:

1) Statistics on introversion.  She mentions that 1/3 to 1/2 of the population is introverted, but I'm also curious about statistics specifically on introverted people, i.e. gender and birth order.

2) Being an introverted parent with an extroverted child/children.  After reading this book, I've decided I now need to go find a book on this topic!  Let me know if you have any recommendations!

If you are (or think you might be) an introvert or if you are married to an introvert, this book is a must-read.