Category Archives: Mediocre Marvins

We had our good times, we had our bad times. In the end…we just weren’t meant to be.

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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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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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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David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants


David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants

By: Malcolm Gladwell

Synopsis: You’ve spent your whole life rooting for (or fighting the urge to root for) the underdog. Gladwell smacks you in the face with facts and logic to explain why the underdog might not have it so tough after all.

Thoughts: Well shoot…this is a funny feeling…I don’t really have a whole lot to say about this book (cue me rambling for a paragraph or two to validate that I actually did read the book). David & Goliath sort of went down like angel food cake. You know – it looks good and dense, but then you realize you’ve just digested a whole bunch of air? I guess you could say that Gladwell’s latest book fell somewhat short of memorable.

I liked the overall concept – I mean, who doesn’t like a good underdog story? And I think many of the examples resonated quite strongly with me at the time – education and health care? Bring on the fun! But after finishing the book, I’m left somewhat unaffected by the whole shebang. It was an entertaining read at the time, but I think the examples that Gladwell chose were a tad weaker than his norm. So days later, I’m left feeling somewhat dissatisfied. Angel food cake, I tell ya!

Overall Grade: C+

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Lean In

Lean InLean In by Sheryl Sandberg

Synopsis: Power, equality, and all that jazz.

Thoughts: I typically steer a bit clear of these rather controversial books. You know, keep this little ditty somewhat light-hearted. But after all the buzz surrounding Sheryl Sandberg’s new(ish) book – and really just Sheryl Sandberg in general, I sort of felt like it was my duty to give this book a try. And for the most part, I’m really glad I did. Sandberg clearly has a powerful voice and expresses her thoughts well. As a self-proclaimed data nerd, I also really appreciated that her claims were almost always backed up with studies or numbers of some sort.

Unexpectedly, some of my favorite passages in the book involved her work relationship/pseudo-friendship with Mark Zuckerberg (not someone who I would typically think of as a feminist/equal rights advocate/all around awesome person). It seems like they have a very open and effective relationship, and he comes across as a pretty with-it guy (Given his success, I probably shouldn’t have been as surprised by this.). One of his nuggets of wisdom that really resonated: “He said that when you want to change things, you can’t please everyone. If you do please everyone, you aren’t making enough progress”.

I really only have two complaints, which aren’t huge, but definitely did alter my overall view of the book. First of all, I felt like some of her points were a tad contradictory…i.e. she blabs on about how women should not settle for anything less than what they want because a man would not be willing to settle. Yet then goes on to cite an example of a woman who took a big demotion in a field she wasn’t interested in just to get her foot in the door of Facebook. Now I’m not saying that one point is more valid than the other, however I felt that those kinds of contradictory points took away from some of the validity of Sandberg’s message.

The second thing that bugged me a little was that throughout the book I felt that a lot of her points sort of perpetuated some of the age-old stereotypes of women in the workplace. Maybe it was just her mentioning said stereotypes over (…and over…and over…) again that made me feel this way, but I walked away from the book questioning whether deep down inside, little miss Facebook doesn’t fully buy into everything she says. Eesh, drama!

Overall Grade: B

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Dark Places


Hi guys, remember me? Your trusty, albeit a tad rusty, source for book recs? Well after a somewhat unanticipated and lengthy break from the world of reading (who knew the first year of my MBA would keep me entirely occupied and away from reading??), I’m hopping back on the saddle. I’ve managed to land an internship with a 3 hour per day commute, so bring on the books…the non-business books, that is.

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Synopsis: Libby Day is a pretty screwed up individual, something that comes as no surprise considering her brother, Ben, is currently serving life in prison for the murder of basically her entire family. But when Libby receives a strange phone call bringing her brother’s 20-year old case into question, she is forced to dive back into her past to discover the truth, however horrifying it may be.

Thoughts: I actually feel a tad sad that the first book to review is kind of meh. I was extremely excited to get started with Dark Places, as Gillian Flynn has proven to be one of the more entertaining authors I’ve encountered in the last little while. But sadly, this one lacked a bit of the pizzazz that kept me so captivated with her last two novels.

For those of you who have read Gone Girl, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Its success lay in Flynn’s ability to make her words reach off the page, lasso you around the neck, and smash your face into the pages of her novel until you emerge gasping for breath, feeling confused, intrigued, and a tad exhausted. Sure, Dark Places still contained some of those twisty turns that Flynn has become so well known for. But to me, it seemed as though these plot twists were a tad of an afterthought…not quite as meticulously planned out as I was expecting.

It took a while to get to the main point of Dark Places, but once there (about halfway through the book), things started to pick up a bit. It wasn’t the best thing I’ve ever read (or close, for that matter), but at least it held my attention (intermittently) during a couple of flights across the States.

…Although I suppose that’s not saying much considering my options were either keep reading or lovingly watch the stranger next to me sleep (creeeeepy!!).

Overall grade: B

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