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

D&G

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

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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The Fortress of Solitude

Fortress of Solitude

The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem

Synopsis: Dylan Ebdus is a white, motherless boy growing up in Brooklyn in the 70s- where it really isn’t easy to be growing up as a white, motherless boy. When Dylan befriends Mingus Rude, he becomes somewhat protected in his street life. The story covers their unique and somewhat turbulent relationship from adolescence through adulthood.

Thoughts: Good lord that was a struggle to get through. I can’t even pinpoint exactly what it was that I didn’t like about this book – I just had the most difficult time connecting with it. And when you’ve got a 500 page book on your hands, that lack of connection can become a little tiresome. The characters weren’t particularly bad, but I just didn’t fall in love with, or really even like, any of them. I suppose it was also about 100 pages too long, but that’s never been the kiss of death before…

I think the thing that turned me off was the superhero aspect. We were going along fine with a nice story about a white kid growing up in the ghetto, and then all of a sudden, this superhero plot point comes completely out of left field. Then we’re back to the normal story like nothing happened…and then it happens again…and again…and again. I just think this would have been a lot stronger without all the fluff.

Overall Grade: D

Up Next: The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp

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Tigers in Red Weather

tigers in red weather

Tigers in Red Weather by Lisa Klaussmann

Synopsis: Nick and her cousin, Helena, spent their childhood summers together in their family’s estate on Martha’s Vineyard. They now both have children and though there are more players in the game, the dynamic between Nick and Helena is still intact. Some things (people) really never change.

Thoughts: You know, I thought this book got a bit of a bad rap. I would definitely throw it into the category of summertime read (as in, there’s nothing special about it, but it will keep you fairly interested), but it wasn’t as bad as some of the reviews made it out to be. I liked the way Klaussmann used multiple points of view throughout different points in time to tell a single story. Though a bit of a surface level book, I did enjoy sifting through the information to decide upon a true story.

I did have a couple issues with the book, but in dubbing it a “beach read”, I think I let some of this slide. For starters, the characters were a little too contrived for my taste. Let’s see…we had the attention-hungry hot mom, the naive daughter who would do anything to please “mummy”, the hunky dad who made some mistakes but has since atoned for them, the drug addicted aunt with a crap “movie producer” husband at home, and a psychopathic cousin who may or may not have murderous tendencies. And yup – that’s the cast.

The other small gripe I had is that it didn’t stay true to form. Again, think beach read – it was going along that path…contrived characters and all…and then during the last 30 pages, it tries to get all up in our faces with a serious plot. No siree Bob – you’re either serious or you’re not. Don’t try to be both, because it just doesn’t look good on you.

Overall Grade: B-

Up Next: UNDECIDED!!! (eek!) I’m halfway through a book that I’m not really into. I have a soon-to-be-due-library book about cadavers. And I have a CIA book that I’m really jazzed about. Who knows where the wind will blow me…

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The Kitchen House

Kitchen House

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

Synopsis: Lavinia is orphaned aboard a ship from Ireland to America. The ship’s captain takes pity on the poor girl and allows her to come to live and work at his plantation with his slaves. Though she clearly stands out in her new home, she is welcomed warmly into the family. Soon enough, Lavinia is accepted into the big house because of her white skin. But the more she becomes a part of that world, she realizes she can never leave behind her true family.

Thoughts: Oh my gosh, you guys, go buy (or borrow…or steal…) this book right now. I’m serious. Don’t even read the rest of this – just get yourself this book, find yourself a comfy seat, hunker down for a few hours and get yourself ready for a terrific read.

What are you still doing here? Go!!!

Ok, I’m done. But as you can tell…this book was SO GOOD!!! It’s been a while since I read something that truly grabbed at my emotions as much as this did. I honestly could not put this book down – I loved every bit of it. Every character was strong, regardless of how big or small a role they played, and each character played a very integral part in the story. It was one of those stories in which the bad guys were so vile that you wanted to reach through the pages and slap them, and the heroes (mostly heroines in this case) were the perfect combination of delightful and sorrowful.

I could go on and on, but I’ll save you my ramblings. I will say that one of my absolute favorite touches of the novel was that the main character Lavinia was dubbed “Abinia” by her new “family”. It was so simple an addition to the book, but it managed to be one of the most powerful parts.

Overall Grade: A

Up Next: Tigers in Red Weather by Lisa Klaussmanm

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Bright Lights, Big City

Bright Lights

Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney

Synopsis: A young man takes New York City by storm.

Thoughts: I’m failing you guys so badly here. Life has been extremely hectic lately (ahem, UK visa approved! Woot!!) and I just haven’t carved out any time for my reviews. I finished this book two weeks ago and I’m in struggle city because though I really enjoyed this read, I’m having trouble getting myself back into it.

So the quick and dirty…this book reminded me a tad of Jesus’ Son (probably due more to my just having finished it, rather than any exceptionally significant ties. And since I’m running somewhat on empty here, I’m going to stick with the comparison). The overall themes and subject matter were quite similar, however the glaring difference lay in the tone of the main characters’ thoughts and actions.

While I thought Jesus’ Son was a decent enough book, I enjoyed Bright Lights oh so much more. The narrator in the former was sad and hopeless and I found it difficult to understand where he was coming from. The narrator in Bright Lights is essentially just as pathetic, however there were momentary flashes of positivity, which captured my interest and allowed me to connect with him a little easier.

And for bonus points…in searching for a pic to post, I discovered that this book was turned into a movie in the late 80s with Michael J Fox and Kiefer Sutherland. Now this I’ve gotta see!

Overall Grade: A-

Up Next: The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

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