Still Life with Bones
GENOCIDE, FORENSICS, AND WHAT REMAINS
“An anthropologist working with forensic teams and victims’ families to investigate crimes against humanity in Latin America explores what science can tell us about the lives of the dead in this haunting account of grief, the power of ritual, and a quest for justice. Working with forensic teams at mass grave sites and in labs, Hagerty discovers how bones bear witness to crimes against humanity and how exhumation can bring families meaning after unimaginable loss. She also comes to see how cutting-edge science can act as ritual—a way of caring for the dead with symbolic force that can repair societies torn apart by violence.”
Sections of this book were haunting. The sheer number of atrocities that have occured under government rule and the ones that are still happening today is almost overwhelming. The people trying to identify their
deceased murdered loved ones is heart rending. As Hagerty says, there is no way that all the bones can be identified with the amount of (wo)manpower in the job, and the funding problems and pushbacks of current politicians. It should be a powerful reminder that the story being told is always the one told by those who have gained power – maybe one day a different group of leaders will emerge who make identifying the genocide victims a priority but don’t expect it.
I don’t really know what I expected from this book. Perhaps I was looking for some more scientific / gruesome details. Someone in one of my classes this week showed me a picture of a toe they’d received for molecular testing. I’m always curious about the science, but this book is by a social anthropologist, not a anatomy major! That being said, there were still some interesting points to consider. I really enjoyed the descriptions of how Hagerty drew the stories from the families, and yet she was able to convey the utter shock of accidentally snapping a bone in the next breath.
I’d love to read more by this author – particularly if she starts writing fiction! That being said, this book is honestly horrifying. Humans shouldn’t be able to do that to other humans and get away with it. If reading this book prevents even a single murder, that would be fantastic. If it encourages someone to learn more about forensics and history, that’s also amazing. I highly recommend this non-fiction for anyone who has an interest in history, genocides and forensics.
Hachette | 14th March 2023 | AU$32.99 | paperback
Head and Heart: The Art of Modern Leadership
“Leadership is simply a series of moments and every moment gives you the opportunity to leave a positive legacy for those you lead. In this ground-breaking book, award-winning leadership expert and business leader Kirstin Ferguson has written a much needed practical guide for every modern leader. Whether you are the head of one of the largest companies in the world, supervising a small team or guiding your family, it will be your ability to integrate your head and heart that will influence your success in leading others and navigating our complex world.”
This book is very slow. It spends a good chunk of the start of the book “rethinking leadership” in a modern way. Although I agree that some leaders do need to rethink how they lead, the people that have picked up this book would already agree with the title and modern leadership and do not need to be convinced.
The author’s writing of convincing the reader of modern leadership isn’t really convincing. It makes references to all people who can be leaders even in small ways or as parents. I don’t disagree with this, but I don’t think that it needs to be repeated throughout the book. Each of the eight trait chapters doesn’t explain anything tangible a leader could do to improve that area of themselves.
The examples provided have no depth. They are generic and basically say this person uses their head or heart, with no depth of exactly what they did and how they did it. I also did the test and did not find it helpful at all. It is hard enough to judge yourself but it’s particularly hard when the questions are direct and not in any context such as “Am I very aware of my limitations”. I also feel that the trait “perspective” should be a heart trait as it relates to empathy, but the author has it as a head trait.
Overall, don’t waste your time on this book. It should be titled “anyone can be a leader” as that’s the only point the author has and doesn’t get further than that.The test is like reading a horoscope. You can read whatever you want out of it. I finished it out of duty, but this is only one star from me.
Penguin | 31st January 2023 | AU$34.99 | paperback
The Deming Management Method
“Whether you are the owner of your own small business, a middle manager in a mid-sized company, or the CEO of a multinational, this book aims to show you how to improve your profits and productivity, following the principles of the Deming management method.”
This book is an interesting read, but not for everyone. It is clearly an older book that is written in an older manner, but it is still applicable and not completely outdated. It’s a little dense and takes a while to get into it. I felt that the long introduction / background on Dr Deming was very interesting.
It does go through The 14 Management Methods and 7 Deadly Diseases. However the points are very brief and don’t go into much detail. I thought it was interesting reading about the history and the key takeaway is to focus on quality.Unfortunately it doesn’t explain this in a lot of detail. Along with most other business books, their examples are always product based. I would love to see some service industry examples.
The methods all really common sense and I can’t believe there are still companies out there that do not run like this today. They need this book and the right attitude. Overall a nice story, but not enough depth. 3.5 stars.
The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive:
The Four Disciplines at the Heart of Making Any Organization World Class
“In this stunning follow-up to his best-selling book, The Five Temptations of a CEO, Patrick Lencioni offers up another leadership fable that’s every bit as compelling and illuminating as its predecessor. This time, Lencioni’s focus is on a leader’s crucial role in building a healthy organization–an often overlooked but essential element of business life that is the linchpin of sustained success. Readers are treated to a story of corporate intrigue as the frustrated head of one consulting firm faces a leadership challenge so great that it threatens to topple his company, his career, and everything he holds true about leadership itself. In the story’s telling, Lencioni helps his readers understand the disarming simplicity and power of creating organizational health, and reveals four key disciplines that they can follow to achieve it.”
This is a pretty good book but not as riveting as his others. Like Lencioni’s other books, the majority of the book is told as a fable. You get invested in the characters and it’s realistic and relatable. For this particular book we see two CEOs at competing firms. You can’t help but feel sorry for them both and want them both to succeed despite them being direct competitors.
The author also explains the 4 disciples (the theory) in a short, succinct chapter at the end. The fable makes you remember and relate to the theory and having the direct theory chapter is helpful if you want to refer to it later.
I personally didn’t gain heaps from this book, as I think I’m applying a lot of this already. It also touched on some points which are in his other books, so it was a little repetitive in that respect. I recommend this book for anyone who is a leader in some way – it’s not just for CEOs. 4 stars
Every Little Piece of my Heart
Sophie has been abandoned by her bestie, Freya. Sophie’s trying to deal with her chronic illness, having no friends at school and just generally feeling abandoned. When she receives a parcel with her name on it, she can’t wait to open it. But the parcel isn’t even for her, she needs to pass it on to someone she barely knows…
It’s nice to have a character with a chronic illness that makes it difficult for her to be a main character! It’s very unfair and biased that many heroes are strong or even just plain healthy when the reality is that many people live with unseen conditions. Spoons! So in a way that almost made this book redeemable, but not quite.
This book also suffered from multiple perspectives. I say suffered because I didn’t feel like it was done particularly well. Despite flipping through the four view points, each doesn’t add anything particularly new in my opinion. Ok ok, we see four different people but I don’t think that there’s enough depth that each seemed unique. Maybe it passes for teen fiction, but not YA fiction.
Average. So, so average. And the ending was terrible – was it left open for a sequel where there’s a big happy reunion? I mean, I finished it, but only because I was hopeful that the end would answer some big questions I had. It didn’t. If you love books with open endings, you’ll love this one. I’m giving it 3 stars, which is extremely generous of me.
Out of Character
Cass is a fat lesbian who knows who she is and who she likes. When her mom up and leaves (for an internet guy no less) she is left a little lost and dressless (literally and figuratively). Cass has her online roleplay friends to fall back on, but she also still needs to exist in the real world. She’s finally dating her crush, but is it actually the happily ever after she was looking for?
Aw, how cute! I liked this novel because the main character was fat, and didn’t care, and was a lesbian, and didn’t care. She even had the freedom to do that! But she definitely fell into the category that she still wanted to hide some of her identity. The author didn’t harp on about her being queer or anything, which was quite refreshing. I did however feel frustrated with how stupid Cass was sometimes. I’m really not sure how you can get from being a B student to a D in the space of a term without twigging that there’s something wrong…
Once upon a time, a long time ago, I participated in some role-play forums. It sounds like it has moved on so far from that now though! Discord is the way of the future. I still wasn’t 100% sure how the logistics of the server worked or how many people were actually involved. The most similar book I can think of at the moment is Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl – go on, go and read both!
It’s truly delightful how many queer YA and teenage novels there are at the moment. Previously I might have kept reading a poor quality queer novel because I had nothing else inthe genre to read. Now I can afford to be choosy! This novel isn’t groundbreaking, but it is still comforting fiction.
A Tale of Magic
Brystal Evergreen dreams of a world where she gets to do something other than clean houses and marry a man. She desperately wants to be specific – and she desperately tries to read every book that passes her by. Unfortunately she’s not going to fly under the radar for much longer.
This is a kiddie book! Everything is explicitly spelt (haha) out, there is no independent thought involved. The reader is told how to react to each ‘revelation’ and everything is foreshadowed so much that you can see the ending coming from a mile away! Everything every character does contains why they did it, how everyone reacts, and how the reader should react. The big secret isn’t really a secret.
The main character is of course lovely and kind and compassionate, and magic is something you pick between being a fairy and a witch (which doesn’t work, everyone knows that fairies are another species and witches are just evil humans). Also, anyone else feel a bit odd about the fact that all of the magic-users were females… except one boy who liked to play with dolls? I’ve revisited how I feel about that, and I still don’t know. I read the preview into the next book in the series, which continues to go along with the toxic masculinity vibe. Oh well, the typical, intended audience isn’t going to care.
This book was very happily gobbled up by a 11 year old girl who pronounced it ‘very good’. That’s probably the upper limit of the age for this book, as I found it too easy to read. So many words! 3 stars.
Six Times We Almost Kissed (And One Time We Did)
Tate and Penny’s moms are best friends. When Penny is in an accident, Tate’s mom looks after Penny’s mom. When Tate’s mom is sick, Penny’s mom looks after her. But who looks after Penny? Tate does, but what is the feeling between them? (it’s love, of course!)
Is the title long enough? The timeline in this and the in-brackets asides made this novel not really work for me. I had trouble keeping track of whose perspective I was reading, and so I didn’t really follow who didn’t like who or not? This, combined with essentially flashbacks, made it very tricky for me to follow. Ultimately it didn’t really matter though, because it’s pretty obvious how this novel is going to end. It wouldn’t be YA if it didn’t have a happy ending!
I knocked this easy novel over in a couple of hours. I was feeling uninspired to read and I wanted something simple. There’s nothing particularly wrong with this novel, but there is nothing outstanding either. It briefly covers dealing with trauma (or rather, not dealing with it) and the implications of a long-term illness. However, it lacks details and backstory that would have helped me connect better to the characters. I sympathised with both girls, but I was never really sure why the kiss hadn’t happened the first six times?
If it’s on your library shelf, sure, read it. But I wouldn’t rush out to buy it. You know what the ending will be from the blurb, and there wasn’t enough depth for me to want to reread this. I think it had potential, but failed at producing vibrantly different characters. I am going to seek out another novel from this author because I think something from a single perspective might be perfect. 3 stars from me.
Hachette | 14 February 2023 | AU$19.99 | paperback
Felix Ever After
Felix has the whole summer ahead of him to develop his application for Art school. He’s got his best friend Ezra and a handful of people that he hates to hang out with. He’s completely open about his life post gender-confirming surgery, but he still hasn’t settled into the ‘right’ label. When his pre-transition Instagram photos go public Felix is consumed with finding and blaming the person responsible.
I didn’t feel gripped by this novel. I picked up and finished a couple of non-fiction books concurrently with this one because I wasn’t drawn to Felix. The way that Felix didn’t seem to see love when he was looking for it felt true to me. I felt a little blindsided though by the ending, because I didn’t see how Felix could be so oblivious. I don’t see why a poly relationship couldn’t have worked as well.
It starts out provocatively with a gallery of Felix’s dead name and fake gender in the local art school, and follows with Felix’s confusion and pain at his evolving friendships. However, there were a number of things that weren’t likely or logical.
I was a bit grumpy over the entitled nature of Felix’s summer school. If your parent has had to sacrifice their home for you to go to a selective school, that’s probably a bad thing! And also, is everyone there Queer? Everyone is talented and fantastic! I can’t think of a single example of this in Australia. Even at talent-entry art schools (I’m thinking of the VCA) aren’t just composed of Queers. Not to mention that the idea of a scholarship to a top-tier university would be subsidised to some extent in Australia by our nominally public higher education system and integrated system of support.
I didn’t really get the connection to Felix’s mother. I felt like there could have been a deeper level of understanding here – even a sense of closure from something? He could have chased her down? What about his dad’s feelings? The poor guy seems to be struggling on trying to keep a meaningful relationship with his son and Felix is too wrapped up in his own problems to ‘get it’. Felix wants more out of everyone else and that seems unfair to me.
I cannot truly understand how it feels to be a trans individual, but I’d like to hope that by reading more and listening to more lived experiences I can be a compassionate and active advocate for Queers like me. This is particularly true in my current role where I assist science graduates with finding jobs – employment of trans and non-binary individuals is a thorny problem with no one right answer. 3 stars from me.
“Kiara Johnson and her brother Marcus are barely scraping by in a squalid East Oakland apartment complex optimistically called the Royal-Hi. Both have dropped out of high school, their family fractured by death and prison. But while Marcus clings to his dream of rap stardom, Kiara hunts for work to pay their rent—which has more than doubled—and to keep the 9-year-old boy next door, abandoned by his mother, safe and fed.”
I could not bring myself to finish this book. I felt pretty grimey while reading it, and I just couldn’t get the point of it. Everything was so passionate and big that I didn’t know what the actual important parts were. Oh no, Kia has to turn to prostitution. Yes, it’s a dangerous ‘job’. She feels like she has responsibility for the boy next door, yet doesn’t invite him into her own home? So like, paying twice the rent she needs to?
I felt like I was slogging through the book and I couldn’t bring myself to keep reading it. Did I just miss something when people were handing out awards for this book? It’s overly descriptive and filled with metaphors that go nowhere. There’s a certain something in describing a pool filled with dog poop, but it didn’t need to come back again and again to the spotlight. Even after the reader learns why the pool is important to Kiara, it still doesn’t make sense in the wider context of the novel.
Not everyone has a happy ending, and not everyone has choices in life. That being said, I just couldn’t keep reading this. The prose was too dense, and too many topics were being covered at once. I’m tagging this as ‘literature’ – I’m sure that at some point someone will want to read and critique it. Not me though, I’ve had enough. 1 star from me.
Bloomsbury | 7 June 2022 | AU$29.99 | paperback