Saturday, January 24, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: A Good Marriage by Stephen King



ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

What happens when, on a perfectly ordinary evening, all the things you believed in and took for granted are turned upside down?

When her husband of more than 20 years is away on one of his business trips, Darcy Anderson looks for batteries in the garage. Her toe knocks up against a box under a worktable and she discovers the stranger inside her husband. It's a horrifying discovery, rendered with bristling intensity, and it definitively ends a good marriage.

MY REVIEW:

How well does anyone really know anyone? is the question Darcy Anderson finds herself asking when she discovers a horrifying secret about her husband Bob while he is away on a business trip.  After 27 years of marriage, she realizes that he has a dark side that she would have never imagined.  And that dark side changes Darcy's life forever.

I had never read anything by Stephen King before, so I don't have any of his other works with which to compare this one, other than the well-known movies that were made from his books (Carrie, The Shining, Misery, etc.).  A Good Marriage is certainly disturbing, which I expected, but due to the sexual nature of the disturbingness, this book not for everyone.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Yes Please by Amy Poehler



ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

Do you want to get to know the woman we first came to love on Comedy Central's Upright Citizens Brigade? Do you want to spend some time with the lady who made you howl with laughter on Saturday Night Live, and in movies like Baby Mama, Blades of Glory, and They Came Together? Do you find yourself daydreaming about hanging out with the actor behind the brilliant Leslie Knope on Parks and Recreation? Did you wish you were in the audience at the last two Golden Globes ceremonies, so you could bask in the hilarity of Amy's one-liners?

If your answer to these questions is "Yes Please!" then you are in luck. In her first book, one of our most beloved funny folk delivers a smart, pointed, and ultimately inspirational read. Full of the comedic skill that makes us all love Amy, Yes Please is a rich and varied collection of stories, lists, poetry (Plastic Surgery Haiku, to be specific), photographs, mantras and advice. With chapters like "Treat Your Career Like a Bad Boyfriend," "Plain Girl Versus the Demon" and "The Robots Will Kill Us All" Yes Please will make you think as much as it will make you laugh. Honest, personal, real, and righteous, Yes Please is full of words to live by.

MY REVIEW:

I have mixed feelings about this book. While I do think Amy Poehler does a nice job of balancing humor and stories of her time on SNL and Parks and Rec with serious topics (like her experience working with children in Haiti), something just seemed off to me. Poehler does talk a lot about how hard it was to write the book, so maybe that's what I felt as the reader - her general lack of "love" for the project. Don't get me wrong, it's still worth the read in order to get to know Poehler off-stage and have a few laughs.

Overall, it's not quite as funny as Bossypants by Tina Fey and doesn't quite master the balance that I felt with Girl Walks Into a Bar by Rachel Dratch, but it's cute and funny, just like Amy.

Favorite quote: "talking about the thing isn't the thing, doing the thing is the thing."

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: The Last Noel by Michael Malone



ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

Award-winning author Michael Malone's The Last Noel is a beautiful gift to American fiction. In a deeply touching tale, The Last Noel captures the exuberance and poignance of a lasting friendship between a man and a woman from very different backgrounds. Noni Tilden and Kaye King grow up and grow close as their lives come dramatically together through four decades of tumultuous change in a small southern town.

The story begins in 1963 when Kaye first meets Noni on the eve of their seventh birthdays. On that Christmas Eve, Kaye climbs through her bedroom window to invite her to come sledding with him in a rare southern snowfall. Over the next thirty years on twelve days of Christmas, they meet to share the passion, the sacrifice and the romance of a lifetime. At once exquisitely written and tearfully joyful, The Last Noel is one of the great love stories of our time.

MY REVIEW:

Noelle "Noni" Tilden was born on Christmas Eve to a wealthy Southern family in the 1950s.  The story begins on her seventh birthday when she meets Kaye King, the grandson of the servant family who lives in another house on her family's property.  Kaye was born on Christmas Eve the same year as Noni, and the two immediately develop a sweet and unusual friendship  -- unusual given their racial and social differences.

The story contains a "Christmas" theme in that each chapter takes place around Christmas time (which is also their birthdays) of a different year.  It spans a period of about 40 years, which allows the reader to experience, through Noni and Kaye's developing friendship, the progression of civil rights (particularly in the South), the Vietnam war, and the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s.

I am rarely moved to tears by a book, but this one just about did it.  I kept thinking I knew where the story was going to go and then Malone kept surprising me with new (and always tragic) twists.  In the end, the story is heartbreaking.

If you like tragic romance stories, this one is for you!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: All Marketers Are Liars by Seth Godin



ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

Seth Godin’s three essential questions for every marketer: 
“What’s your story?” 
“Will the people who need to hear this story believe it?” 
“Is it true?”

All marketers tell stories. And if they do it right, we believe them. We believe that wine tastes better in a $20 glass than a $1 glass. We believe that an $80,000 Porsche is vastly superior to a $36,000 Volkswagen that’s virtually the same car. We believe that $125 sneakers make our feet feel better—and look cooler—than a $25 brand. And believing it makes it true.

As Seth Godin showed in this controversial book, great marketers don’t talk about features or even benefits. Instead, they tell a story—a story we want to believe, whether it’s factual or not. In a world where most people have an infinite number of choices and no time to make them, every organization is a marketer, and all marketing is about telling stories.

Marketers succeed when they tell us a story that fits our worldview, a story that we intuitively embrace and then share with our friends. Think of the Dyson vacuum cleaner, or Fiji water, or the iPod.

But beware: If your stories are inauthentic, you cross the line from fib to fraud. Marketers fail when they are selfish and scurrilous, when they abuse the tools of their trade and make the world worse. That’s a lesson learned the hard way by telemarketers, cigarette companies, and sleazy politicians.

But for the rest of us, it’s time to embrace the power of the story. As Godin writes, “Stories make it easier to understand the world. Stories are the only way we know to spread an idea. Marketers didn’t invent storytelling. They just perfected it.”

MY REVIEW:

As usual, Seth Godin is amazing! If you are in marketing or management, All Marketers Are Liars will make you think about the story your company (or product) is telling, whether or not that story that will resonate with the right people (worldview) who will then buy your product, and whether or not the story you're telling is authentic (which it must be!).  Throughout the book Godin provides many examples -- good and bad -- of the various stories told by businesses, from restaurants to car manufacturers to cosmetic companies.

Marketing is storytelling.  As a marketer, your job is to tell stories, and in this book Godin will guide you in doing that effectively.

If you are in marketing, I highly recommend this book.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Blink by Malcolm Gladwell



ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

In his landmark bestseller The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell redefined how we understand the world around us. Now, in Blink, he revolutionizes the way we understand the world within. Blink is a book about how we think without thinking, about choices that seem to be made in an instant-in the blink of an eye-that actually aren't as simple as they seem. Why are some people brilliant decision makers, while others are consistently inept? Why do some people follow their instincts and win, while others end up stumbling into error? How do our brains really work-in the office, in the classroom, in the kitchen, and in the bedroom? And why are the best decisions often those that are impossible to explain to others? In Blink we meet the psychologist who has learned to predict whether a marriage will last, based on a few minutes of observing a couple; the tennis coach who knows when a player will double-fault before the racket even makes contact with the ball; the antiquities experts who recognize a fake at a glance. Here, too, are great failures of "blink": the election of Warren Harding; "New Coke"; and the shooting of Amadou Diallo by police. Blink reveals that great decision makers aren't those who process the most information or spend the most time deliberating, but those who have perfected the art of "thin-slicing"-filtering the very few factors that matter from an overwhelming number of variables.

MY REVIEW:

I found this book fascinating -- an incredible amount of information in just 250-ish pages.  It is worth reading just for that.  Basically, Gladwell talks about how our unconscious mind knows what we are thinking/feeling long before we can even verbalize what is going on inside of our head.  He tells a number of stories that illustrate this phenomenon, including an experiment with gamblers, a true situation with art curators and a number of stories about police officers.

Overall, I feel the delivery is lacking in that Gladwell never really discusses what we can do to overcome our unconscious biases and make better decisions?  The final chapter discusses this, kind of, but I don't feel that it lives up to what the synopsis implies the book is really about.

Regardless, it is a fascinating read, and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in learning more about how our minds work.