The Power of Communication

The Power of Communication: Skills to Build Trust, Inspire Loyalty, and Lead Effectively

The Power of Communication

By: Helio Fred Garcia

Synopsis: Dominate the world with your words.

Thoughts: Ok, so that synopsis isn’t really true – or maybe it is, but I should probably expand since it’s actually a pretty cool concept for a boring old business book. So this cool cat Fred teaches communication based on the principles of a book called Warfighting (which I believe is basically THE book that all Marines are expected to read and know and love). Anyway, he takes the principles from Warfighting and turns them into communication tips – sounds strange, but it actually works in an odd sort of way.

For example….

“War is fundamentally an interactive social process” (from Warfighting)

“Effective communication is fundamentally an interactive social process (from The Power of Communication)

You guys see what he did there? He swapped “War” with “Effective Communication” and wrote a whole book about it! Ok, I’m being kind of a cynical jerk here and will stop. Overall, I felt a little iffy about the book because many parts seemed a little contrived and/or repetitive. HOWEVER…likening war to communication (and illustrating the concepts with passages from Warfighting) was a pretty creative way to teach the subject. And if communication (including putting together and delivering presentations) isn’t your strong suit, I think you could actually learn a lot from this book.

Also…apparently Warren Buffett swears by this book. And while I’m not sure how I feel about his powerpoint skills, I sure as hell admire his business sense. So there’s got to be some magic hidden inside this little doozy.

Overall Grade: B

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An Invisible Thread

An Invisible Thread: The True Story of an 11-Year-Old Panhandler, a Busy Sales Executive, and an Unlikely Meeting with Destiny

An Invisible Thread: The True Story of an 11-Year-Old Panhandler, a Busy Sales Executive, and an Unlikely Meeting with Destiny

By: Laura Schroff

Synopsis: Laura Schroff was hustling down the street when she walked right by young Maurice. And just then, something (an invisible thread, if you will) yanked her backwards and right into Maurice’s life. The close friendship that follows makes for an interesting story and a strong case for the existence of fate.

Thoughts: So what do I do with myself with my last fairly (a.k.a. entirely) empty day left of an internship and I’m running on fumes in my motivation tank? I suppose I kick that nasty procrastination habit and update the old blog! Hopefully that will carry me through to lunch, which will carry me through to my afternoon coffee break, which will carry me through to my afternoon Sudoku session, which will carry me through to the last of my commutes from hell. Just absolutely killing it on life right now, huh?

Ok, so book…book….book…I have to confess that I finished this about two weeks ago. But never fear, this steel trap of a memory is amped up on coffee and about to kick into high gear.  Anywho…

An Invisible Thread was a really lovely and touching story. I feel like I’ve been having a sort of weird, introspective summer and the idea of fate and random connections with people kind of gets me going these days. I loved learning about Maurice’s life – he’s of one of those wise-beyond-his-years little fellas – as well as seeing the positive impact that Laura and Maurice had on each other over the course of the book.

One teeny tiny complaint – I think Schroff’s insistence on telling us every little detail of her life took away from the main point of the story a tad. It wasn’t a terrible thing –just made me sort of zone out during the Laura chapters and zone back in during the Mo-Lo (a.k.a. Maurice/Laura – I’m a wizard with nicknames) chapters.

Overall Grade: B+

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Magical Thinking

Magical Thinking: True Stories

Magical Thinking

By: Augusten Burroughs

You guys, we’re getting really exciting up in here today. For the first time ever, I’m reviewing an audio book. I know, I know – big changes! But why, you ask? Well, if I’ve talked to you in the past 7 weeks, you’ve probably heard me mention (read – bitch, complain, bemoan, etc.) my 3 hour per day commute. I came to the realization last week that I should probably look out the window of my train once in a while – and that definitely wasn’t going to happen with my nose constantly buried in a book. And while diving into the world of audio books feels a tad as though I’m being unfaithful to my lovely books, I kind of just felt like a change. You know, #YOLO and all that (I’m terribly sorry for writing that. I’ll never throw YOLO into a post again).

So here goes – audio book review numero uno.

Synopsis: Tales of an ex-advertising New Yorker turned author. You’ll come to learn things that you’ve always wondered about, such as: what it’s like to date an undertaker, how to kill a mouse that has found its way into your bathtub, and the best method for dealing with a thieving dwarf house cleaner.

Thoughts: I used to listen to audio books all the time. Traffic in LA is always a bit of a monster, and audio books provided a nice distraction from road rage. The thing with audio books is that there are two components that can make or break the experience. First (and most important) is the content. A bad book is a bad audio book. Full stop. And second (also very important) is the narrator. A bad narrator can turn a great book into a painful experience. And on the flip side, a good narrator (a.k.a. the master of audio book narration, Stephen Fry, who expertly narrated the Harry Potter series) can really make a book come to life.

So first – the content of Magical Thinking. Augusten Burroughs reminded me very much of David Sedaris – just a little raunchier and a bit less funny. I think each of his stories made me laugh out loud at least once which A. is a pretty good sign and B. makes me look like a crazy on the train. My one complaint is that he seemed a tad full of himself. I think what I like about Sedaris is his self-deprecating nature. Burroughs, on the other hand, talked a tad too much about how attractive he was for my taste. But looking past that, I did enjoy most of his stories.

And the narrator. Well, in this case, the narrator was Augusten Burroughs himself. Especially in the case of a memoir-type book, I felt like hearing the stories from the author gave me a better understanding of the nuances behind some of the stories. Which, at least in my opinion, enhanced the experience.

So there you have it. Overall an enjoyable listen (and I’m sure the same goes for the read). If you haven’t read any David Sedaris, go for his stuff first. But if you’re looking for something else, this wasn’t half bad!

Overall Grade: B+

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Everything I Never Told You

Everything I Never Told You

By: Celeste Ng

Synopsis: Lydia, clearly the favourite child of the Lee family, goes missing and is soon found dead. As the police work to solve the mysterious death, the Lee family begins to do their own detective work, analysing the final weeks of Lydia’s too-short life. The various perspectives of the Lee clan paint a unique picture of Lydia’s life. And we soon begin to realise just how little anybody really knew about this strange little birdy.

Thoughts: Come on!!! What does a girl have to do to get a good book around here?

Ok in fairness, Everything I Never Told You wasn’t awful…it was just less than satisfying. I think the concept as a whole was pretty interesting. Death…check, revelations about a family member who was completely different that any of her nearest and dearest ever suspected…check. But the execution of said concept definitely fell short of expectations.

I think the problem here was that I desperately wanted to like this book. I’ve gone through such a string of mediocre books this summer that I just wanted something that I could actually recommend to you delightful folk. And so I tried as much as possible to fully immerse myself in this one. I found myself trying hard to like the characters (who were all a tad annoying), and I tried really hard to find some deeper message behind the plot line. And at the end of the day (a.k.a. book), I realised that you just shouldn’t have to try so hard. No amount of hoping and wishing and praying will ever turn a so-so book into a work of art.

Overall Grade: B-

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Tenth of December

Tenth of December

By: Geroge Saunders

Synopsis: Ummmm….????

Thoughts: Sooo it’s probably not a good sign that I just sat here for 5 minutes trying to remember what book I had finished a mere 4 days ago. And it’s also probably not a good sign that as soon as I remembered the title, my first thought was, “woof”. So I’ll keep this brief because, well…I just don’t want to spend much more brain time with this book.

Basically I struggled with this book for two reasons. First of all, I think George Saunders is a crazy mofo. I mean, I love me some good crazy every now and then, but most of these stories are so far out into la-la-land, I just couldn’t wrap my head around the majority. And second (and I think I’m probably not alone in thinking this), I just don’t like when a book makes me feel like an idiot. Suuure, I like having a solid think as much as the next guy, but you know that feeling when you’re reading through a book and you realise you just don’t (i.e. not even remotely) get what’s going on? And no amount of postulating or pondering or brain jazzercise will get you closer to the point? Yeah the combo of those two reasons – definitely didn’t make for an enjoyable reading experience.

Like I said…woof.

Overall grade: D

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Behind the Beautiful Forevers

Beautiful Forevers

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity

By: Katherine Boo

Synopsis: Slummmmmmin’ it!

Thoughts: So….I think I might have missed something here. Behind the Beautiful Forevers had good reviews – no, scratch that…Behind the Beautiful Forevers had wonderful, sparkling reviews. I’ve even gone back and read through some of them since finishing the book. And I just…don’t…get it?

For some reason, I had an incredibly difficult time getting into this book. When I decided to read it, I figured that Mumbai slum living seemed like something so foreign and far-removed from my life that I would have no choice but to be completely and utterly enraptured by the subject matter. I mean, yes…the book was interesting (in that sort of horrifying car crash, can’t look away way), but I never really found myself immersed in the book. It’s never a very good sign when you realise that you have to read passages multiple times because your mind continues to wander mid-way through. And let’s just say the back button on my kindle got a nice little work out during several sections of this book.

I did like Boo’s writing style (and also her last name is rad) – it was clearly a well-researched book, and I appreciated that it read more like a novel than a work of nonfiction. For me, it was a book of “should haves”. The characters should have made me feel stronger emotions. And the descriptions of the slums should have tugged at my heart strings more. Color me an unemotional robot, but this one fell just short of the mark for me.

Overall grade: B-

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Orphan Train

Orphan Train

Orphan Train
By: Christina Baker Kline

Synopsis: Two foster children – one, a modern-day gothic trouble maker, and the other, a 1920s Irish immigrant. Will their stories magically intertwine? We shall see….

Thoughts: Orphan Train proved for the most part to be a relatively enjoyable read, however I feel a bit obliged to review each story line separately.

Niamh’s story line (a.k.a. historical fiction delicious yum) was amazing. I honestly would have rather had this section expanded to fill the whole book. As I find with so many of these novels, the characters and setting are easy to fall in love with. I also sort of like the on-edge feeling of being unsure of how the story line will turn out. With such deeply sad sections, it becomes hard to imagine that things will improve. So when they do – what a lovely surprise – and when they don’t – ahhhh angsty emotions!

Now cue the Molly story line. Womp womp. Every time these sections came up, I almost wanted to just skip forward to continue with Niamh’s story. It’s not that they were particularly bad, but they just didn’t add anything for me. In all honesty, I probably could have guessed ahead of time exactly what those Molly filler chapters contained (ahem…cliché much…) without having actually read them. They sort of had the effect of turning a book that had the potential to be something truly great into a somewhat mediocre work of modern fiction.

Overall Grade: B+ (solely for the Niamh story line)

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