Review: Colm Toibin – Brooklyn (A)

Colm Toibin

Eilis is content living in 1950s Ireland and expects to keep on living there for the rest of her life – until her charismatic sister Rose books her on a ship to America. She is sent away in search of better opportunities than home can offer post-war, and sure enough in NY, Eilis works in a shop and is studying bookkeeping. She remains desperately homesick though, until she meets Tony, an Italian golden retriever-esque plumber. But her family suffers
a tragedy, and on her return she is swept up in the life she could have lived back home. Eilis is torn between two promising, parallel versions of a life she will have to choose for herself.

I’ve loved the movie adaptation for years but somehow never thought to check if it was a book – until I heard there was a sequel being released. Brooklyn was super short – I finished it in two evenings – but pretty weighty. I was moved by the compassionate portrayal of so many ordinary people with unimportant lives, for whom the little things that happen are the big things that make up a life. Toibin wove a lot between the lines; even though these characters leave most things unsaid, you can feel the tug of desires and duty, motivations malicious or sacrificial, as an undercurrent to most interactions. Though it was written with a light hand – deft and funny, it felt real and complex.

I also sympathised with Eilis’ actions – some self-sabotage, some in avoidance or confusion. She tended to go along with everyone’s expectations whilst privately ignoring her own reservations until the last minute, then blowing everything up. There was also that warped sense of place in regard to travel: that feeling that you’re growing and changing when you’re travelling and everything seems so vivid and tangible you believe it of yourself, then the ease of returning home and slotting into your old self with the trip becoming like a dream.

I understand not much actually happened in this book, but maybe that’s why I loved it, and could recommend to others who enjoy character rather than plot driven novels. I am very curious to read the sequel now.


Review: Vi Keeland – The Invitation

The Invitation
Vi Keeland

Stella’s roommate bailed on her with a bounced check for the last two months rent, so Stella feels as if Evelyn owes her something… an invitation to a swanky wedding at the library?! Stella and her bestie crash the wedding, enjoy the food, and then Stella is caught out by the bride’s brother. Uh oh! Little does Stella know that this chance invitation could help her get her startup off the ground.

Many reviewers hated this book for the same reason I liked it! Thankfully, a lot of the text was dedicated to how the venture capitalists could support Stella’s Signature Scent start-up. There aren’t too many loooonnnngggg sex scenes that have them going at it like bunnies all night (and getting a blow by blow of the action). Does anyone read those $3X scenes and actually enjoy them? I’m also very over people saying ‘is it spicy?’ No, there’s no delicious cooking in this novel, just home-made mac’n’cheese.

Is there anything more stereotypical at the moment than the female male character having a gay male bestfriend? I feel like this trope is one of the top picks of the season (yes, I realise that it’s a 2021 book). There’s a bit of #enemiestolovers, but it’s not like you don’t already know how a romance is going to work out. I did like the slight twist, but again, I saw it coming from a while off and I knew that Stella and Hudson would make it up anyway.

This shouldn’t have been called ‘The Invitation’, it should have been titled Signature Scent! The business idea behind this book, which is for someone to answer questions and decide how much they like each of 10 scents to create their own scent, is brilliant. In fact, I could have sworn that I’d read a book on that premise before… anyway, I enjoy reading about chemistry and perfumes, and anything with at least a bit of science I can get excited about.

Given that other reviewers give this book a bad rap due to the lack of sex, I’m not going to be reading any more of this author’s novels. I’m giving this one a solid 3 stars – an enjoyable way to pass the day, but not really nailbiting or rereadable.

Review: Josh Kaufman – The Personal MBA (S)

The Personal MBA
A World-Class Business Education in a Single Volume
Josh Kaufman

“Getting an MBA is an expensive choice-one almost impossible to justify regardless of the state of the economy. Even the elite schools like Harvard and Wharton offer outdated, assembly-line programs that teach you more about PowerPoint presentations and unnecessary financial models than what it takes to run a real business. You can get better results (and save hundreds of thousands of dollars) by skipping B-school altogether. Josh Kaufman founded as an alternative to the business school boondoggle. His blog has introduced hundreds of thousands of readers to the best business books and most powerful business concepts of all time.”

This book lives up to its title by effectively condensing an MBA into a single volume. It provides a concise overview of many essential business topics. While it doesn’t delve deeply into each subject, it serves as an excellent starting point if you want to read just one business book on MBA concepts. This book is a valuable guide for beginners and equips you with the necessary information and tools to further your business education.

It’s also a great reference for future use by helping you refresh your memory and pointing you towards resources for more detailed information. It offers a high-level summary of many important topics in both business and personal development.

Did Kaufman convince me I don’t need an MBA? I was already skeptical about getting one before reading the book, so it reinforced my existing opinion. This book helps you understand not only how businesses operate but also how people work, and it offers insights into increasing your productivity.

“The Personal MBA” is the perfect read for anyone starting in business that is too busy to dedicate hours at a time to reading.

Review – Lauren Roberts – Powerless

Lauren Roberts

Paedyn Gray is not only a thief, she’s also an Ordinary. Having no gift is a fate punishable with death and banishment of any hiding her. Paedyn has been trained as a psychic to cover her Ordinary-ness but also has a dab hand at fighting. She usually tries to stay out of trouble but unwittingly saves one of the Princes and finds herself battling for her life in the Purging Trials…

Sooo, it’s kind of like Hunger Games but a little less predictable because it’s not always obvious who needs to be the survivor, and who is going to win. I enjoyed the various powers that Kai got to play with, and I think more could have been done with it. Also, as if you’d fall for the illusionist twice…

The romance scenes were completely cringe-worthy. I found myself skipping over them and hoping I wasn’t missing important story details. Of course, #enemiestolovers trope is a thing, but can’t we have a book or two that is just epic battles? My dissatisfaction with this type of thing is entirely the fault of Fourth Wing. At least there’s no sex?

I don’t think this book is remarkable enough for me to recommend to other readers, but it’s also not terrible. Maybe when you’ve read as many books as I have, it’s all too predictable? That sounds very full of myself, but I’ve read A LOT of books recently that I just haven’t reviewed. This could be a book for you if you enjoy #friendstolovers, #lovetriangle and #awkwardlove. Just don’t go looking for any deeper meaning.

Review: Frank Figliuzzi – The FBI Way (S)

The FBI Way
Inside the Bureau’s Code of Excellence
Frank Figliuzzi

“The FBI’s former head of counterintelligence reveals the Bureau’s field-tested playbook for unlocking individual and organizational excellence, illustrated through dramatic stories from his own storied career. Frank Figliuzzi was the “Keeper of the Code,” appointed the FBI’s Chief Inspector by then-Director Robert Mueller. Charged with overseeing sensitive internal inquiries, shooting reviews, and performance audits, he ensured each employee met the Bureau’s exacting standards of performance, integrity, and conduct. Now, drawing on his distinguished career, Figliuzzi reveals how the Bureau achieves its extraordinary standard of excellence—from the training of new recruits in “The FBI Way” to the Bureau’s rigorous maintenance of its standards up and down the organization. Unafraid to identify FBI execs who erred, he cites them as the exceptions that prove the rule.”

This book offers an insightful look into the inner workings of the FBI, narrated through the lens of an experienced agent. It demonstrates how the following principles are fundamental not only to FBI operations but also to broader applications in business and personal life. The author delves into the Bureau’s adherence to the seven C’s:

  • Code
  • Conservancy
  • Clarity
  • Consequences
  • Compassion
  • Credibility
  • Consistency

Despite initially questioning its relevance to my interests, I found the book to be a compelling exploration of leadership and ethical conduct within a high-stakes environment. Through storytelling and practical examples the author provides readers with a deeper understanding of the FBI’s culture of excellence.

The book prompts reflection on individual and organizational ethics, making it a valuable resource for anyone seeking to enhance their moral compass or improve their company’s framework.

In a world where integrity is paramount, the author’s work serves as a beacon of inspiration, offering practical insights for navigating complex ethical dilemmas. I wholeheartedly recommend “The FBI Way” to professionals eager to cultivate a culture of integrity and excellence within their organizations. 3.5 stars.

Review: Samantha Parent Walravens – Geek Girl Rising (S)

Geek Girl Rising
Inside the Sisterhood Shaking Up Tech
Samantha Parent Walravens

“Meet the women who haven’t asked for permission from Silicon Valley to chase their dreams. They are going for it — building the next generation of tech start-ups, investing in each other’s ventures, crushing male hacker stereotypes and rallying the next generation of women in tech. Geek Girl Rising isn’t about the famous tech trailblazers you already know, like Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer. Instead, veteran journalists Heather Cabot and Samantha Walravens introduce readers to the fearless female entrepreneurs and technologists fighting at the grassroots level for an ownership stake in the revolution that’s changing the way we live, work and connect to each other.”

I had high expectations for this book, hoping to find compelling case studies and valuable insights about women in the tech industry. While it does touch on those aspects, I found the book to be disorganized and lacking a clear structure. It begins with a captivating short story about GoldieBlox, which instantly grabbed my attention. However, this story is only briefly explored and not revisited until the very end, which left me eagerly waiting for more throughout but left me disappointed.
The book presents numerous anecdotes about different companies but they are presented in a seemingly random order. It even jumps between companies within the same chapter or paragraph, using examples we’ve already encountered and expecting us to remember all the names. We never get a comprehensive understanding of any particular company or gain any valuable insights into their achievements or methods. There is an excessive reliance on statistics highlighting the under representation of women in the tech field.
The chapters fail to establish a clear argument or purpose, making the entire narrative feel disjointed and confusing. Many of the terms mentioned are specific to America, such as Trump and the Super Bowl. Come on, the rest of the world exists too.
I found the excessive focus on the appearance of the women mentioned in the book to be irrelevant and uninteresting. I had hoped to delve into the core content of the book and learn about their strategies for success and the challenges they faced, but unfortunately, the book falls short in delivering that. It felt more like a collection of disjointed magazine articles lacking an unifying theme.
The constant bouncing around made it difficult to extract any meaningful takeaways, to the point that I don’t feel I gained anything substantial from reading it. It could have gone a lot deeper. I don’t want to come across as anti-feminist, but I have to say that the book was poorly written. Despite my initial enthusiasm for the first 8 pages, I must admit that I couldn’t develop a genuine fondness for this book, leading me to rate it two stars.

Review: Brandon Webb & John David Mann – Mastering Fear (S)

Mastering Fear
A Navy SEAL’s Guide
Brandon Webb and John David Mann

“From New York Times bestselling author and former Navy SEAL Brandon Webb comes a simple yet powerful five-step guide to transforming your life by making your fears work for you instead of against you. As a Navy SEAL, he learned how to manage the natural impulse to panic in the face of terrifying situations. As media CEO and national television commentator, he has learned how to apply those same skills in civilian life. Drawing on his experiences in combat and business, along with colorful anecdotes from his vast network of super-achiever friends from astronauts to billionaires, Webb shows how people from all walks of life can stretch and transcend their boundaries and learn to use their fears as fuel to achieve more than they ever thought possible.”

I approached this book with a sense of uncertainty, unsure whether it would be exceptionally good or disappointingly bad. To my delight, it turned out to be a truly commendable read, deserving a solid four stars. I was concerned that it might be overly centered on Navy SEAL anecdotes at the expense of practical business applications, but I found the abundance of such stories surprisingly captivating. Despite my initial reservations, the author successfully bridged the gap between the SEAL experiences and their relevance to the business world to create a compelling narrative.

What set this book apart for me was its departure from the typical business book formula. While it offered unique perspectives, it still delivered substantial knowledge and valuable takeaways. Although not compelling enough for a re-read and thus falling short of a five-star rating, the practice points at the end of each chapter serving as both summaries and exercises added a practical dimension.

The author’s concept of mastering fear, as expounded in the book, revolves around leveraging fear, steering internal dialogues, and focusing on positive outcomes rather than potential pitfalls. The advice to filter out distractions, dismiss unwarranted concerns, and recognize that fear is genuine while safety is an illusion was particularly resonant. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone facing tough decisions or seeking personal mastery over their fears.

Review: Morten Münster – I’m Afraid Debbie From Marketing Has Left for the Day (S)

I’m Afraid Debbie From Marketing Has Left for the Day
How to Use Behavioural Design to Create Change in the Real World
Morten Münster

“Barack Obama used a secret competitive advantage to win two elections. Companies such as Google, Amazon and Novo Nordisk use the same insight to stir up innovation, increase compliance, improve the work environment and sell more products. And successful management groups in the C20 index have started using it as their preferred strategy. But what kind of insight are we talking about here? The answer is – behavioural design. Because people in the real world don’t actually behave like the people we build all our usual strategies for. We are opposing human biology and psychology when we insist that good arguments, burning platforms, classic change management, pamphlets, campaigns, and joint meetings are the way to go.”

This book hooked me right from the start with its engaging storytelling. The first section, “Misconceptions about the Real Work,” was packed with interesting studies, statistics, and stories that highlighted the importance of behavioral design. However, I didn’t really learn anything new from that section. Things went downhill from there, with less exciting sections that didn’t hold my attention. The ending was a bit of a letdown. It seemed like it was building up to a solution, but then it shifted focus to testing and case studies, which weren’t anything groundbreaking since they had already been discussed throughout the book. So, it felt like we circled back to the solutions section was the real end earlier on, which was anticlimactic.

The part about habits was vague and forgettable. If you’re interested in delving deeper into habits, I’d recommend checking out “Atomic Habits” by James Clear. The author covered a lot of different general topics but didn’t provide much actionable advice. It did give me some food for thought in some sections, but it lacked real-life business examples to make the ideas stick. I found myself getting distracted and not being fully engaged because it lacked depth. The author referenced a few other books which made it feel like they just re-told other stories.

One that stood out to me was “Made to Stick” by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, which was mentioned a few times. I guess I noticed it as I read it. Overall, I’d say this book is good for people who haven’t read much about marketing or psychology. I’d give it three stars.

Review: Cal Turner Jr – My Father’s Business (S)

My Father’s Business
The Small-Town Values That Built Dollar General into a Billion-Dollar Company
Cal Turner Jr

“Longtime Dollar General CEO Cal Turner, Jr. shares his extraordinary life as heir to the company founded by his father, Cal Turner, Sr., and his grandfather, a dirt farmer turned Depression-era entrepreneur. Cal’s narrative is at its heart a father-son story, from his childhood in Scottsville, Kentucky, where business and family were one, to the triumph of reaching the Fortune 300 — at the cost of risking that very father/son relationship. Cal shares how the small-town values with which he was raised helped him guide Dollar General from family enterprise to national powerhouse.”

The readers are treated to a comprehensive exploration of the company’s history. The narrative seamlessly weaves together the personal stories of Cal Turner Senior and Cal Turner Jr, offering a delightful blend of humor and insightful anecdotes from the company’s journey.

The book sheds light on the founding fathers of Dollar General, individuals rooted in small-town values, emphasizing hard work, honesty, and community spirit. The fundamental principles of the company—providing everyday items at the lowest prices and cherishing the core customer base—are consistently underscored.

For those who appreciate authentic tales of real people navigating the business world, presented in a straightforward manner, this book is a captivating read. While the narrative occasionally lapses into repetition and unnecessary details, the overall experience is engaging and informative.

The genuine charm lies in the depiction of the Turners’ lives and the humorous accounts of pivotal events. The book offers a compelling glimpse into the challenges and triumphs of maintaining retail stores, making it a worthwhile read for anyone intrigued by the intricacies of business operations.

I particularly enjoyed the insights into Cal Jr. and his family, and the book’s focus on the economic aspects of running a business. I recommend “My Father’s Business” to aspiring entrepreneurs, and those fascinated by the inner workings of retail establishments. Despite minor flaws, the book successfully captures the essence of Dollar General’s success and the values that propelled it to become a billion-dollar company. The book is well written and a good read, 4 stars.

Review: Book Grocer Leadership Boxed Set (S)

Vendor: Book Grocer
Type: Hardback
SKU: 9781492664505


The 7 Secrets of Exceptional Leadership
Brian Tracy

“In The 7 Secrets of Exceptional Leadership, Brian tells us that the wonderful thing about leadership is that your ability to grow as a leader never ends. You can learn anything you need to learn to become an excellent leader in your field.”

Short and sweet little book on leadership. I don’t think it’s anything new, but great self help, motivation and encouragement. Short little reminders on the important things that you can refer to again in future without re-reading a long book. The pictures of sailing boats don’t do anything for me. But overall a good little succinct book to inspire a leader. 3 stars.

Leading with Passion: 10 Essentials for Inspiring Others
John J. Murphy

“John J. Murphy, author of the best-selling book on teamwork, Pulling Together, follows up this best-seller with a leadership audiobook like no other. Learn the 10 essentials to inspiring others and you will find that not only are you performing better has a leader, but your team is sharing your vision and following your lead to ultimate success.”

The cover, boasting fiery imagery, promises a visually captivating experience to empower you as a leader. However, the book doesn’t fully deliver on this front. I value the brevity of the book and its straightforward approach. It serves as a handy reference for quick reminders. The inclusion of images depicting candles, matches, and fire to “ignite your passion” is noteworthy, but the choice of wording could be improved. Overall, upon completing the reading, it doesn’t leave you with a profound sense of motivation and inspiration. I would rate it 2 stars.

Your Most Valuable Asset: 7 Steps to Growing Rich
Brian Tracy

“From this day forward, decide that you are going to earn the amount of money you are truly capable of earning. Take complete control of your career and your income so you can survive and thrive in any economy. The greatest successes of your life are still to come. This book will show you how to get them.”

A short and motivational book that emphasizes personal responsibility and the importance of continuously upgrading your skills. Your most valuable financial asset is your ability to earn money. This can be defined as your ability to get results that people will pay you for. If you are not becoming more valuable by upgrading your skills everyday, you are automatically falling behind, as the market keeps moving ahead. Today, the rate of change is faster than ever before. Having knowledge, skills and expertise, positions yourself as valuable. Specialise in a job, and be the best you, you can be. The market only pays for excellence. Your greatest successes in your life are still to come. Good short book for motivation and reminding yourself to take personal responsibility. 4 stars.