Monday, January 14, 2019

The Go Giver: A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea by Bob Burg and John David Mann

Happy New Year, nerds! As you all know, January typically brings a big sigh of relief and a chance at a brand new, fresh start. For me, 2018 was a pretty good year and I was a tiny bit disappointed to see it go. 2018 brought a TRUE fresh start for me, as a lot of 2017 was, to put it bluntly, a DISASTER. 2018 was a chance to pick up the pieces, start over, and figure out who I am/want to be. That was my resolution and I was pretty darn successful with it, if I may boast.

Since I got a lot of the big stuff out of the way in 2018, I have decided to focus on smaller, day-to-day changes in 2019. One of these changes is gaining some additional control and understanding of my finances, as well as the business world as a whole. This is not to say that I’m a total idiot with no sense of control already, but I do have some considerable room for improvement. To get my motivation rolling, I decided to read a few financially-inspiring books. The first one I read is called The Go Giver: A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea by Bob Burg and John David Mann. This book presents what the authors have termed to be, “The Five Laws of Stratospheric Success,” which are: Value, Compensation, Influence, Authenticity, and Receptivity.

Overall, these laws stress that in order to receive, you have to be willing to GIVE. “Your true worth is determined by how much more you give in value than you take in payment” (26). If you want to be truly successful, you must be willing to take risks. Will all of your risks pay off? Absolutely not, but that in itself is a risk we all need to be willing to take.

While this book is classified as nonfiction, it is written in a narrative style with characters and a plot, which makes it a lot easier to read and follow. It’s a little cheesy, but in a good way. What I loved most about this book is that the business principles presented can be applied to other aspects of your life (something the authors do mention at some point). I found this book particularly useful when leading discussions at church regarding charitable service and time management.

As always, I don’t want to give too much away about this book. I give it my highest recommendation and hope you’ll give it a go. I found it to be a quick, breezy read. If you’re looking to dip your toes in the entrepreneurship pool, this book is a fantastic place to start. All the ideas in it are presented in relatable, accessible, user-friendly ways. This isn’t just some other dry, boring business book. I guarantee you will walk away feeling both entertained AND inspired.

Happy Reading!  -Lena

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Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Season of Storms by Andrzej Sapkowski

Who does one summon to hunt and kill the monsters of the night that plague humanity like werewolves, vampires, and goblins?  I present to you Geralt of Rivia, a man known as a Witcher, who kills beasts for money — using magical signs, potions, and the Witcher’s trademark: two swords of steel, and of silver. This post speaks on the excellent writing of Andrzej Sapkowski in his 8th book Season of Storms, written in 2013 but published in English in 2018.

The Witcher series is a high fantasy saga following Geralt of Rivia.  The man turned mutant can see in the dark with cat eyes, and is familiar with all folklore and superstition of mythical monsters such as griffins, leshens (frightful beings with elk skull as a mask controlling animals), gargoyles, etc.  The great thing about the Witcher series is the mix of western and eastern mythological creatures, superstitions, and how to destroy them.  Geralt’s primary focus is to protect the people these creatures harm, but at a hefty fine.  Witchers are contracted beast killers.  Geralt’s best weapons are his steel sword used for men and his sacred silver sword used for the more robust, mythical monsters.  He is in love with a sorceress named Yennefer of Vengerberg, and he loves wine with his best friend, a poet named Dandelion.

If not familiar with the Witcher series, Season of Storms is the 8th novel written by Sapkowski but falls between the first and second books, which are collections of short stories.  Sapkowski wrote the novel as a “midquel” to the series.  Here in Season of Storms, a town hires Geralt on a contract to kill a monster, but when he goes to get his reward, his name-sake swords, he discovers that someone or something has stolen them!  Following conspiracy after conspiracy, Geralt finds himself in a rabbit hole, forcing him to hunt more monsters but without his swords.

The universe of the Witcher has expanded in many forms, including games, novels, and comics. The comic series Fox Children elaborates on a chapter from Season of Storms, involving Geralt protecting a ship of men who stole a child from a Fox Mother, a magical creature known as a vixen who turns young girls into her kind.

Though this is a midquel to the collection of short stories, I also recommend The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny.  These three books make you laugh, cry, contemplate philosophy, and fill with adrenalin when the Witcher hunts dragons, sorcerers, and comes to the aid of a young girl name Ciri, who is destined to be by Geralt’s side.  -Patrick

Monday, January 7, 2019

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

This librarian just read a library book called The Library Book. Obviously, I’m going to say I loved it. But even if you’re not a superfan of libraries and librarians – tsk, tsk – I think you will love it too.

This book is centered around the devastating fire in 1986, which burned for seven hours, wreaking havoc on the downtown Central Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library. Nearly every firefighter in LA was called to the raging blaze. It reached 2000 degrees and melted steel shelves. Rare volumes, classic fiction, microfilm, art books, new bestsellers, historical records, patents, and music burned or melted. It destroyed four hundred thousand books, and damaged seven hundred thousand more. Don’t be surprised if you never heard about it. The meltdown at Chernobyl happened the same day and got all of the world’s attention.

Investigators looked into the cause of fire. It might have been arson. A public library welcomes any number of people through its doors each day, but it might have involved one young wannabe Hollywood hero who might have been the man acting suspiciously that morning. The fact that his story changed each time he told it made him hard to pin down. The mystery tantalizes through the course of the book.

But Orlean moves beyond the events of the fire to tell a story about the history of the grand old Art Deco building itself, the history of the young city that valued learning and built it, and the stories of the wild characters who led or influenced the institution of the Los Angeles Public Library. She depicts the various services of the library, the people who staff them and the people who use them. She outlines the civic debates about budgets and services and why they mattered, and continue to matter, to the community the library served. And even further, she talks about the role libraries play in people’s lives, in that community, across the United States and around the world.

Orlean is a remarkable storyteller, and proves it again in The Library Book. It’s a beautifully written book, with meticulous research backing it. I cried twice reading the first fifty pages. Admittedly, my emotional connection with libraries runs deep. But even if you are not so deeply connected, the book is going to keep you spellbound to the finish.

Nonfiction writer Susan Orlean is best known for The Orchid Thief, which inspired the movie Adaptation. She has also written a bestselling profile of a superstar movie dog in Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, as well as The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup: My Encounter with Extraordinary People and My Kind of Place: Travel Stories from a Woman Who's Been Everywhere. All of these are available to check out from the library.  -Dee Ann

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Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

Here we are, in the first week of 2019, and my turn to recommend something to you here in the Readers' Corner.  As I pondered this task, I began going over the books I've read in the past year with the help of  There were Turning Page book group selections and audiobooks, quite a few graphic novels, and more fluff than I'd like to admit.  But in sorting and remembering my favorite reads, this memoir rose to the top pretty quickly.

Like many Americans, I saw Trevor Noah for the first time as a correspondent for The Daily Show, and began paying more attention to him when he became Jon Stewart's replacement as host in 2015.  Before this gig, though, Noah had already become one of Africa's most popular comedians, and this book makes it easy to see why.  As a narrator of his own experiences, he is charming, funny, and also insightful and open when talking about the changes that have happened in his native South Africa since the end of apartheid. He is equally unflinching regarding his childhood and the troubles that his family went through, whether due to poverty, an abusive stepfather, or his status as a mixed-race child.

Noah was born to a black South African mother and a Swiss/German father during the final years of apartheid, when it was illegal for two people of different ethnicities to date, much less have sex or get married.  While his father remained in his life during his early years, he was largely raised by his strong-willed mother Patricia and her family, though his appearance meant that he was not entirely accepted by either the black or white communities at large.  Even once the oppressive system ended, he struggled to find an identity and a place.  He explains in a chapter about his family moving into a white suburb, "In Soweto I was the only white kid in the black township.  In Eden Park I was the only mixed kid in the colored area.  In Highlands North I was the only black kid in the white suburb--and by 'only' I mean only." (pp. 151)

This is not to say that the book is grim;  in fact, just the opposite. Noah couches almost everything in humor, even up to his clear-eyed explanations of how apartheid worked and how he worked his way through the black market that was used by almost everyone, from high school kids and up. The humor only stops short when the book deals with a stepfather who abused both him and his mother.  For most of the people in his life, though, a warm fondness shows through the anecdotes he tells.  He especially admires his mother's strength and dedication to creating the life that she wanted, and his grandmother's perseverance and unconditional love. 

It helps that he is very funny.  I listened to the audiobook for this title, which Noah reads, and I highly recommend this version as sheer entertainment.  He has a knack for dialect and can quickly sketch a person's attitudes and characteristics through his or her dialog, which adds so much to the experience of the book.  Whether you listen or read, I think you will find his voice engaging and charismatic, and the book a memorable one. -Barb

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Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany by Jane Mount

(Goodreads summary, abridged a lot)  The ultimate gift for book lovers, this volume brims with literary treasures, all delightfully illustrated by beloved artist and founder of Ideal Bookshelf, Jane Mount.  In this love letter to all things bookish, Mount brings literary people, places, and things to life through her signature and vibrant illustrations.

My review: This very entertaining book is essentially lists of books and places to find books. The first sentence of the introduction says, "The goal of this book is to triple the size of your To Be Read pile." The author is not kidding, and she succeeds admirably. The lists are categorized, for example Dystopia, Southern Lit, Reference Cookbooks. The illustrations are of book covers, book stores, libraries, and are all done by the author. They make the book light reading, and fun.

Between lists are vignettes of bookstores (Beloved Bookstores) around the world, and descriptions of the writing spaces used by famous authors, as well as several fun book quizzes. Several pages are devoted to interesting/famous libraries from all over (Striking Libraries).

The author also defines several types of fiction, clarifying a few things I had long been confused about. For example, "picaresque" fiction is described as "Originating in 16th-century Spain, these stories recount the episodic adventures of a wandering rogue, or pίcaro." Her examples for each definition cover the type over time, so for Picaresque she has Don Quixote by Cervantes, Candide by Voltaire, and Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown.

There are also recommendations for reading by bookstore owners, librarians, schoolteachers, and authors. I was quite pleased with myself in that I had read at least one book on most of the lists - and several books on quite a few of them (War, History, and Space & Aliens were the biggies for me). I confess I have not read a great many cookbooks, especially regional cooking, so I missed out on those lists except the Reference Cookbooks (Joy of Cooking & Betty Crocker). I also missed on the short story list, because the short story authors I have read weren't on the lists. Otherwise, I think I did pretty well. Now I have a lot more stuff to get around to reading...

Altogether an enjoyable read.  -Lynne

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Thursday, December 20, 2018

Dumplin' (Netflix, 2018)

Today we have access to an unlimited amount of TV shows and movies which sometimes can make it
challenging to choose what to watch. I often rely on reviews to determine if I’m going to spend my time watching something, which is why I’m writing this review about the movie Dumplin’. Dumplin’ is available to stream on Netflix and I’m going to start out by saying that it is fantastic!

Dumplin’ is about a teenage girl named Willowdean. Her mother, Rosie, was a former beauty queen and is still obsessed with all things related to beauty pageants, so much so that she runs the Miss Teen Bluebonnet pageant every year. Will (Willowdean) and her mother seem to have little in common and Will makes it clear that her aunt Lucy, whom she idolized, was the person that she felt had raised her. The movie takes place after Will’s aunt has passed away and is about her relationship with her mother, friends and herself. Will believes that her mother is ashamed of her because she isn’t like the girls who participate in the beauty pageants, and her mother’s nickname for her, Dumplin, doesn’t help the situation. In order to embarrass her mother she signs up for the Miss Teen Bluebonnet pageant and plans to sabotage the event. This is only a tiny part of what this movie is about. It’s truly hard to do this movie justice in writing. I promise the impact is greater when you are surprised!
Danielle Macdonald (Will) and Jennifer Aniston (Rosie) were both fantastic in their roles. They played well off of each other and their oftentimes strained dynamic felt genuine. The rest of the cast was just as good. I especially loved that Maddie Baillio, who played Millie, got to showcase her amazing singing voice. Speaking of music, Dolly Parton and her music played a major role in the movie, which just added to all of the awesome things that were happening on screen.
This movie made me cry, laugh and cry happy tears.  It is an emotional rollercoaster but one that is worth watching if you’ve ever felt for any reason that you weren’t enough, weren’t understood or didn’t deserve to be loved. There are a lot of positive messages in this movie about relationships. We see how important it is to be a good friend and what that means. We also get to see Will and her mother’s relationship grow as they became aware that they are both suffering from the loss of Lucy. The movie also explores Will’s unwillingness to accept that she is beautiful, smart and funny and that a good looking boy could believe all of those things about her.
I watched this movie alone for the first time and I will be watching it again with my 9 year old daughter. Even though there are some rough spots because of the bullying that Will and Millie go through I think the overall message of self-acceptance makes it a must see for everyone! - Cassie

Monday, December 10, 2018

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

I’m a bit of a latecomer to the myriad works of Neil Gaiman, but since I discovered him a few years ago I’ve slowly and surely begun to explore his (prolific) works.  Norse Mythology is Gaiman’s interpretation and retelling of traditional Norse myths, beginning with the origin story of the nine worlds and ending with the terror and destruction of Ragnarok. Of course, there’s a lot that happens in between too.

Gaiman begins with “Yggdrasil and The Nine Worlds,” describing the creation and connection of the different words, including those of the gods, Asgard and Vanaheim, as well as Midgard, the world of men.  Other stories tell of how Odin lost his eye to gain the wisdom of the world, the adventures of Thor and Loki (as well as other gods) in the land of the giants, and the story of how Frey lost his sword to gain his true love. Several of the stories feature Loki the trickster god, causing problems for gods and men alike. Loki’s story arc culminates in the tale of his imprisonment until Ragnarok comes, where he will fight against the gods on the side of the dead.

What I really enjoy is how approachable this book is. Gaiman translates centuries-old mythology into modern language and easy-to-read narrative chapters. Although it takes a wide arc, literally from creation to end-times, each chapter allows the reader to intimately understand the motivations of individual characters. Much of the narrative is driven by how unabashedly human the gods are—brave, loyal and loving, as well as sly, traitorous, and cowardly.

I’d recommend Norse Mythology to anyone who loves Neil Gaiman, has an interest in Norse mythology, or simply likes a good adventure tale with likable, frustrating and ultimately interesting characters.  -Carla

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