This is solid book on branding that moves beyond the usual hype. I thought the last third of the book seemed less rich and was somewhat repetitive but...moreThis is solid book on branding that moves beyond the usual hype. I thought the last third of the book seemed less rich and was somewhat repetitive but I liked Mc Ghie's approach overall. His main message is that "brand" is a market response and not a verb. So in some ways your brand is out of your hands but positioning is not. Most of the book is focused on how to effectively position oneself.
As with many of these books by marketers who have been in the game for some time, the references to the old school of marketing were the most opaque. I've never known a world in which a company could have a captive television audience or where social media were not a reality, so these examples seemed weird.
Still, a pretty easy substantive read. I can definitely see myself going back to specific chapters for a refresher.(less)
The Personal History of Rachel Dupree is a fictional account of black homsteaders in the early twentieth century. I picked this one up because I love...moreThe Personal History of Rachel Dupree is a fictional account of black homsteaders in the early twentieth century. I picked this one up because I love novels which explore the experiences of little-known communities. I hadn't known there were black homesteaders and wanted to know what life was like for them. After all the accolades this book received I was expecting to be wowed but ended up being disappointed.
The writing is good and all the themes I was most interested in about race and discrimination are there but something just felt missing. Weisgarber touches on the tensions between African Americans and Native Americans, between Blacks and Whites, and the contradictions of identity within the black community. And yet ... the characters all had a generic quality to them. Race didn't feel like a lived experience but something external and theoretical. I felt like the Duprees could have been anybody, at any time, and certainly not black people in the hardscrabble world of pre-Depression America. Beyond the interactions with the Native American family that appears in the book, racism was portrayed as something that happened in the South or in the cities and as hard as I tried I could not find this plausible. Not in 1915.
The treatment of gender had the same generic feel to me as well. Again, the inequalities were there, but so much of it was layered under the force of Isaac's personality that the sense of this dynamic between men and women being systematic was weak. I kept flipping to the spine of the book to make sure I hadn't picked up a young adult novel, because that is how it felt to me--educational, vivid but sanitized in its portrayal of the hard themes.(less)
I'm still haunted by As Meat Loves Salt so when I found out that Maria McCann had written another book, I had to get my hands on it.
Jon Dymond is a y...moreI'm still haunted by As Meat Loves Salt so when I found out that Maria McCann had written another book, I had to get my hands on it.
Jon Dymond is a young cider-maker who has led a life of ease and prosperity. The only child of loving parents, he has wanted for nothing. Like the cider he presses, his life has been a stream of clear and golden sweetness and he has little inkling of the darker side of the world. All of this changes when a letter from his dying uncle summons his father to his bedside. From that moment, Jon is obsessed with learning more about the circumstances of his uncle's death. His curiosity leads him to the home of his Aunt Harriet, a cold and formidable woman. There, he meets a young servant named Tamar, and his attraction to her unearths secrets so terrible that they change everything he's known about the world.
The Wilding is as tightly woven and as rich in detail as As Meat Loves Salt but I found it to be less complex and the plot more predictable. As Meat Loves Salt is a novel of turmoil, where hope and despair are fused so tightly together that the reader is left gasping. The Wilding by contrast is more hopeful. The lines between good and evil are clearly drawn and though Jon is drawn deeper and deeper into his family's ugly secrets, a clear sense of what is just still remains. There is a tradeoff. On the one hand, I found The Wilding to be a more satisfying read; on the other, none of the characters are as robust as they might be (with perhaps the exception of Tamar). Aunt Harriet, for example, is unremittingly bad in a way that defied reason. McCann is too skillful of a writer to make her seem unbelievable, but I still missed having a little more dimension to the characters. Still, I found this to be a good read, well-written and well-paced and would recommend it to fans of historical fiction.(less)
Anastasia Steele is an inexperienced college student who falls into the hands of the rich and powerful Christian Grey when she agrees to cover a journ...moreAnastasia Steele is an inexperienced college student who falls into the hands of the rich and powerful Christian Grey when she agrees to cover a journalism assignment for a friend. Immediately, Ana is drawn under Christian Grey's spell. The only problem is, Mr. Grey is a man with very particular sexual preferences, and Ana is thrown into a world she never imagined.
I didn't come to Fifty Shades expecting high literature. I hoped for fun and titillation. In the end, there was not enough of either to make the read worth it. So here is my take on Fifty Shades of Grey--the good, the bad and the gray.
The Good If there is one good thing about Fifty Shades it is that it revived my love of book discussion. The writing is so bad and the scenarios so incredulous that this was the perfect book to chuckle over with girlfriends.
For all its flaws it was also a quick read and so I have to give it 2 stars for the sheer entertainment factor alone. Unfortunately,that is where anything good about this book ends.
Given all the press this book has received I was hoping to be shocked (excited even) by the sex scenes. Instead I found them to be uninspired and repetitive. While Christian and Ana are surrounded by all the trappings of BDSM, most of their encounters center around spankings or the threat thereof.
Similarly, the contract which Christian presents to Ana lays out a plethora of activities which they never really get to. Instead we are bombarded ad nauseum with Ana's vapid inner dialogue. And this is were Fifty Shades fails the most.
The protagonist is insufferable.
The problem with creating an impossibly magnetic character like Christian Grey, is that the author must then go to great lengths to convince us that the woman he chooses is as remarkable as he is. James fails miserably on this front.
We are told by random passersby that Ana is amazing. Christian too insists that she is fiery and headstrong. Ana continues to insist that she is not really submissive but it is never convincing.
Submissive and entirely lacking in self esteem are the only ways I can describe a young woman who has so little self respect that she lets a man she has just met arrange her first gynecological visit, and who must constantly be reminded to take her birth control.Forget the sex scenes, it is Ana's complete lack of selfhood that is most distasteful in this novel. Less repugnant perhaps only than Christian's ridiculously controlling behavior.
The characters' failures are exacerbated by the worst parts of James' writing. It is unbelievable that a college student in the 21st century is as technologically challenged as Ana is. There are mentions of "blue screens" and "booting up email programs" in ways that are just anachronistic.
Then there is the fact that no one in this novel ever changes clothes. Ana is forever dressed in the plum sheath dress. Christian is the only millionaire on the planet who wears flannel pants to every occasion and puzzlingly pairs this winter fabric with linen.
There are other details that made me wonder how a modern woman could have written them. Ana makes a point of telling Christian that it's okay for them to have sex while she's on her period because she took her pill this morning. Yet, the pill would be completely irrelevant because if she is bleeding it means she is taking her placebo pills.
Most egregious however are the mentions of stalking and pedophilia that are cast about with almost light-heartedness. I kept blinking and wondering if I was actually reading about a woman joking about her boyfriend's stalker tendencies.
Lastly, the book hinges on a half-formed premise. James cannot seem to decide if Domination is merely a sexual preference or a pathology. Couldn't Christian love being Dominant in the bedroom while still being a perfectly adjusted gentleman otherwise? James seems to say no.
This is problematic in a number of ways. Firstly it sets up a dynamic in which Ana's role is to "fix" Christian. But the way to fix Christian is to move away from open communication and consent into a grey area where no means yes and in which Ana and Christian are constantly and deliberately probing at wounds that each has asked the other not to venture into.
This seemed like the anithesis of what a healthy loving relationship would be built on, and which ironically Ana so desperately wants. Again, it was these interactions outside the bedroom that were more troubling than any spankings in the bedroom.
I found it remarkable that the book opens with Christian using the contract to ensure that their interactions are all based on consent. Yet, by mid-novel, the contract is mostly abandoned, safe words mean nothing and the two move deeper and deeper into territory where explicit requests and outright refusals are ignored.
Ultimately it is these faults which rendered the novel very unsexy.
Fifty Shades could have been fun but it was just too jumbled and amateurish to hit the mark. (less)
Major Pettigrew's last stand was a funny gentle romance between the very British ex-military man Ernest Pettigrew and Jasmina Ali, the owner of the lo...moreMajor Pettigrew's last stand was a funny gentle romance between the very British ex-military man Ernest Pettigrew and Jasmina Ali, the owner of the local convenience store who is of Pakistani descent. When the Major suffers a loss in the family, the two are thrown together in an unlikely romance that everyone in their small community has an opinion about.
It was refreshing to read a romance between an older couple. Though the book is named after Major Pettigrew, Mrs Ali was the star of this novel. She's smart, witty and strong but entirely believable, and it is her bravery that really inspires those around her to rise to the occasion.
The novel started out a bit slow but Helen Simsonson has a real gift for infusing everyday thoughts and interactions with humor and meaning. I was really struck for example by the relationship between the Major and his son Roger and what it must be like to see a child grow up and in many ways become a stranger. Simonson also masterfully reveals the characters' shortcomings that they may not even be aware of through humor. True to life, characters who first appeared as types or caricatures eventually turn out to be complex and contradictory creatures. My only quibble is that I was disappointed that Roger never turned out to be quite as developed or likeable as the other characters but even he redeemed himself in the end.
This by no means an action-packed read, but it's paced well, genuinely funny and the two main characters truly make you root for them until the end. Recommended for anyone who loves to watch "Doc Martin" or any British dramas set in beautiful rural settings :)
On the scale of yaoi novels this was an okay read. The writing is fine but my major problem was with the romance between the characters. Junya and Kob...moreOn the scale of yaoi novels this was an okay read. The writing is fine but my major problem was with the romance between the characters. Junya and Kobayakawa are a sheltered student and the son of a yakuza boss who are thrown together by a twist of fate. They're separated by an act of betrayal and are re-united years later as adults with much ensuing angst.
The portrayals of their young love were sweet, but beyond that I found the sex scenes awkward and the seme brutal. Of course Junya still professes his love to him in the end, which for me is always bothersome. If I take a look at volume 2 in this series it will be in the hope that there will be less manipulation and emotional abuse and more true romance between these two characters.(less)
Many friends recommended The Hunger Games so I finally decided to give it a try.I'm still breathless from this fast-paced well-plotted novel. This may...moreMany friends recommended The Hunger Games so I finally decided to give it a try.I'm still breathless from this fast-paced well-plotted novel. This may be fiction for young adults but it's wonderfully complex. I found the story of Katniss and the brutal environment she's thrust into to be very vivid and moving. She's the heroine, but she's also flawed. Her practicality and resilience are her strengths but they're also her weaknesses. She lacks the kind of idealism that inspires introspection and therefore tends to bumble about when it comes to the subtleties of human nature. She also doesn't seem to have a very strong moral compass and that leads to many problems.
I'm really looking forward to reading the next book in this series and seeing how these characters develop.
This book had some interesting insights about why change can be so difficult and how to overcome these obstacles. A centerpiece of the Heath brothers'...moreThis book had some interesting insights about why change can be so difficult and how to overcome these obstacles. A centerpiece of the Heath brothers' approach is this idea that we are divided beings--that our subconscious or the irrational part of us is constantly barely leashed by our rational mind. In the first chapter, the metaphor of the rider (rational/logical mind) and the elephant (irrational mind) worked quite well but at several points in the book I felt that the metaphors were applied inconsistently, leading to some confusion about what strategies would be most effective for trying to bring about change in the face of specific types of obstacles.
Culturally, I also think the idea that the best way to bring about change is through small individual actions and not through top-level policy change is something that resonates strongly with a North American audience but may not be entirely realistic.
Overall, I enjoyed Switch but I think the meat of the book is really in the first chapter. Many of the other chapters seemed repetitive. Worth a read, but could have been a little more precise.(less)
I wanted to like this book but I thought it was too florid, too pointless and self-indulgent. The book opens with a 90-year old man contacting a Madam...moreI wanted to like this book but I thought it was too florid, too pointless and self-indulgent. The book opens with a 90-year old man contacting a Madam about fulfilling his fantasy of spending the night with a young virgin. What seems to be a scandalous proposition actually turns out to be a rather confused rumination on love. I wanted to like this but just couldn't. The ending was quite abrupt and weak as well.(less)
I didn't know what to expect when I picked up Callisto, but this turned out to be the best book I've read this year.
O'dell Deefus is not exactly what...moreI didn't know what to expect when I picked up Callisto, but this turned out to be the best book I've read this year.
O'dell Deefus is not exactly what one would call a genius but he is patriotic and determined to help protect his country from Muslim extremists. So, with his favorite book in hand he decides to travel to Callisto, Kansas to sign up at the recruitment office there. O'dell's problems start however, when his car breaks down and he's forced to stay at the house of Dean Lowry. Before he knows it, he's embroiled in a murder, suspected terrorism plot and is being followed by the FBI not to mention many other unscrupulous characters.
On the surface, Callisto is just a comedy that picks fun at the stereotype of the American innocent but Odell is a surprisingly engaging and sympathetic character. Despite laughing at his misadventures, you really are rooting for him and some of his moments of insight are so simple and clear that they're heartbreaking. At the end of the day, Odell really does have a heart of gold.
Most importantly, for all of the knee-slapping hijinks there is a serious and dark undercurrent to Odell's story. When he is taken to Guantanamo Bay we get a pointed and scary commentary on Government-sanctioned torture.
This is all in all a fantastic read and I strongly recommend it. You'll laugh you'll cry and at the very least you'll get to read about probably one of the only men to have a crush on Condoleeza Rice.(less)