Review: Jimmy Soni – The Founders (S)

The Founders
The Story of Paypal and the Entrepreneurs Who Shaped Silicon Valley
Jimmy Soni

“Today, PayPal’s founders and earliest employees are considered the technology industry’s most powerful network. Since leaving PayPal, they have formed, funded, and advised the leading companies of our era, including Tesla, Facebook, YouTube, SpaceX, Yelp, Palantir, and LinkedIn, among many others. As a group, they have driven twenty-first-century innovation and entrepreneurship. Their names stir passions; they’re as controversial as they are admired. … The Founders is a story of iteration and inventiveness—the products of which have cast a long and powerful shadow over modern life. This narrative illustrates how this rare assemblage of talent came to work together and how their collaboration changed our world forever.”

I’m a little mixed on this review. There were some good parts and some bad. The book takes you through the whole journey of PayPal. I found it rather slow at the start. It gave the back stories for the main characters but I felt this could have been condensed a lot. The author wanted all of the PayPal employees to have their experience and share their story. At times I felt this wasn’t relevant and whole pages could have been cut out. In saying that, there were some funny parts and parts that you just had to keep reading to know more.

It picked up as it went. The book definitely went into a lot of detail. I felt that it could have ended differently, but it’s not like you can change what actually happened! Regardless, it still ended abruptly after four years had passed from the founding. It would have been nice to hear a bit more in the later years and what it looks like now.

If you are after a business book on the story of any startup in actual detail, this book nails that and is the book for you. The only downside is it drags on at times. 3.5 stars

Allen & Unwin | 1 March 2022 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: Seth Godin – Purple Cow (S)

Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable
Seth Godin

“You’re either a Purple Cow or you’re not. You’re either remarkable or invisible. Make your choice. What do Starbucks and JetBlue and KrispyKreme and Apple and DutchBoy and Kensington and Zespri and Hard Candy have that you don’t? How do they continue to confound critics and achieve spectacular growth, leaving behind former tried-and true brands to gasp their last? … In Purple Cow, Seth Godin urges you to put a Purple Cow into everything you build, and everything you do, to create something truly noticeable. It’s a manifesto for marketers who want to help create products that are worth marketing in the first place.”

I can’t believe it has such good reviews and ratings on GoodReads! Honestly, it’s not that bad of a book – my issue with it is that it was written 20 years ago (first published in 2003). As such, it’s very outdated. The companies and examples it uses are very outdated and not relevant anymore. A lot of the companies I think must be in America only and are therefore not relatable to other people in the rest of the world. The style that it’s written in is also very Americanised.

There are some good things. The author has a short but sweet point, and sticks to this same topic throughout which is great. I hate it when an author is trying to say too much and everything gets lost in the end. It’s a nice quick short book and everything is related. It’s not really in chapters, just all mini case studies and topics about the same thing. I just felt a bit lost at some points and not interested and not wanting to keep reading.

I was really looking forward to reading this book, but it didn’t live up to expectations. I also expected the updated version to be a little more updated, but it was pretty much the same with some extra bonus bits at the end. A quick read, but I don’t feel like I came away from this book with anything new. Nonetheless, it’s still a good point to be reminded of, to be a Purple Cow! 2 stars.

Review: Dinesh Palipana – Stronger

Stronger
Dinesh Palipana

“A puddle of water on a highway changed Dinesh Palipana’s life forever. Halfway through medical school, Dinesh was involved in a catastrophic car accident that caused a cervical spinal cord injury. After his accident, his strength and determination saw him return to complete medical school – now with quadriplegia. Dinesh was the first quadriplegic medical intern in Queensland, and the second person with quadriplegia to graduate medical school in Australia.”

I didn’t really expect to enjoy this book, but Dr Palipana brings a hint of humour into everything. You’d think reading a book about someone who lost almost all his physical abilities would be quite depressing. Instead, this book is a tribute to the author’s resiliance and persistance. To some extent, it also exposes some of the negative aspects of living across different countries and having family that you aren’t sure how to work with.

This was quite easy reading, despite being a potentially tough subject. I finished it off in two sittings, and didn’t really need a brain-break in between. I wasn’t rushed to finish it, but I did want to know the ending. I still don’t know how he manages to get enough sleep!

The fact that the Australian medical system can change even a little to prepare an excellent Dr is amazing, and I hope to see more evidence from the author creating change from his experiences. I meet many doctors in my work, and I know that they are scarily smart! But, as Dr. Palipana says, it’s less about smarts, and more about the emotional connection that you can form with patients. Being a doctor isn’t about being ‘able-bodied’, being a doctor is a vocation and needs someone with compassion. Let’s hope for more of that in the future.

Pan Macmillan | 26 July 2022 | AU$32.99 | paperback

Review: Alice Boyle – Dancing Barefoot

Alice Boyle
Dancing Barefoot

Patch has crushed on Evie for forever! Unrequitedly, of course. Patch knows she’s the least likely person for Evie to get involved with – but that doesn’t mean she can’t ogle Evie when she gets the chance. There’s only the tiny hurdle of not having even admitted to herself that she’s gay, her terrible hair and trans best friend. Can Patch make it past the things working against her?

This novel was phenomenal, and I don’t use that term lightly. I’ve just finished reading it and I’m still having happy thoughts and feeling a warm cuddliness towards the characters. I loved Patch, I loved Evie and I loved Edwin. I even loved Abigail just a slight bit too – even if when her motivation came out it didn’t actually make sense with the time chronology of the novel. I read an ARC, so maybe that’s been ironed out by the time this review goes live.

I’m not 100% in love with the title, but the cover makes up for it I think. It nicely reflects that even if you’re in love for the first time, it can’t just be about two people. Patch knows she has great things in life, but that doesn’t mean that she isn’t nervous. Most of the action time in this book really is action time without too much ‘this is highschool and it sucks’.

What I particularly liked was the treatment of Edwin being trans. Some other authors make a huge deal out of it and their main character often struggles to remember the right pronouns for their best friend. Here, Edwin is already one of the guys. It’s a fact. I also like how Patch still feels awkward to come out to anyone, even if it’s probably that Edwin won’t care.

Is it too niche for Patch to be gay, with a single dad, a trans best friend, a scholarship kid at a swanky private college and amazing at art? Have I read too many novels where the lesbian main character is special in some way? Ok, maybe. But this novel makes it into my top of the list for lesbian teenage romances.

In the same way that I loved Jack of Hearts (and other parts) and Camp for their ‘real’ dramas, this novel creates a genuine Melbourne feel and an Australian-ness that isn’t overdone and beachy. I want to spread my love of this novel as far as possible! I want it to be on recommended reading or as a highschool English text.

I feel so distracted and unable to stop thinking about this novel. I don’t feel ready to leave Patch’s home turf – maybe I’ll just have to read a non-fiction book next instead. 5 stars from me.

Text Publishing | 30 August 2022 | AU$24.99 | paperback

Review: Megan Whalen Turner – The Thief

The Thief
Megan Turner

Gen has been rotting in a cell for what feels like forever. Caught for boasting about his thieving prowess, the only way he will escape is to be transferred – or perhaps there will be an impossible mission to undertake. Slung along with the magus’ apprentices and a body guard, Gen is sure he will go hungry on the way to the treasure (if it even exists).

I knew Gen was up to something, I knew it! This is definitely a novel about the journey, and not about character development. I don’t know why I was quite so invested in Gen – maybe because I just knew there had to be some reason behind everything that seemed to be reasonable at face value?

I wanted something physically small to take with me to read, and also wanted something light that didn’t require much brain power to enjoy. This book fit it perfectly, and I really enjoyed it. I actually think that I’m going to read it again in future, although the twists won’t be quite the same.

Imagine my horror at getting to the end, and then discovering there was a next book! Then, backflipping, because it appears this book is old (in book years at least – 1996!), and so all the other books already exist for me to read! I’m very excited to go and find the others, and very grateful that this book made its way to me so that I could discover a new author.

This is light, innocuous reading that’s suitable for perhaps ages 10+ depending on the maturity of the reader. There’s some violence, but it’s not gratuitous or particularly vivid (although Gen’s aches and pains following it are nicely described!). 4 stars from me.

Hachette | 1st March 2022 | AU$19.99 | paperback

Review: Mercedes Lackey – The Silver Bullets of Annie Oakley

The Silver Bullets of Annie Oakley
Mercedes Lackey

Annie’s got an eye to shoot and a brilliant husband who doesn’t care that his wife out shoots him! In her past she’s haunted by a hungry childhood in which she encountered a He-wolf who tried to take her magic for himself. After realising that magic is real, Annie has to make a decision – to train as a magician or go back to her regular life.

It’s obvious that Lackey has been paying attention to the media in terms of trying to get more obvious acknowledgement of poverty into the spotlight. There are hundreds of people who go hungry every day, including those who starve to death. I really like it when my favourite authors try to bring visibility to these issues.

However, this was a disappointing novel. It unfortunately followed the format of many of the most recent Elemental Masters by Lackey in that a lot of time was spent on the minutiae of life as a travelling circus performer and very little on the magic side of things. The handful of encounters with ‘baddies’ were unsatisfying and average. I also think I picked up a handful of plot holes.

Three stars from me. I’m unimpressed by this latest offering and I won’t be purchasing it for my shelf. Lackey, please go back to writing your original ideas rather than trying to take existing historical figures and trying to write magic into them.

Review: Lindsey Stirling – The Only Pirate at the Party

The Only Pirate at the Party
Lindsey Stirling

“Electronic and dancing violinist Lindsey Stirling shares her unconventional journey in an inspiring memoir filled with the energy, persistence, and humor that have helped her successfully pursue a passion outside the box.”

I had wanted this book for a long time! Finally, I remember that eBay exists and that I should be able to pick up a second-hand copy for a lot less than what it was on Amazon. It appeared on my doorstep faster than I expected and I abandoned my other reading to dive in.

I knew nothing about Lindsey’s background and it was a delight to go into this book with no preconceived ideas on what ‘should be’ covered. Thus I enjoyed it with a lighthearted joy and found myself laughing and quoting parts out-loud at times. It will likely be read by another family member, then passed onto the teenage Lindsey fan I know.

I was so devastated when I found out that Gavi died of a heart attack before the book being published. Gavi is/was such an important figure and support in Lindsey’s personal and professional life. I checked the wikipedia page for them both, but didn’t really discover very much new.

Obviously this memoir is quite old now, and I hope for an updated one at some point from Lindsey! Not however, if it’s going to delay her release of further music. 2020 was the year I was finally going to see her in concert – but the tour has been indefinitely postponed. Sad face 🙁

An enjoyable and uplifting memoir for anyone who loves Lindsey Stirling. If you don’t know who Lindsey is, go listen on YouTube right now!

Review: Deborah Cadbury – The School that Escaped the Nazis

The School that Escaped the Nazis
Deborah Cadbury

“The extraordinary true story of a courageous school principal who saw the dangers of Nazi Germany and took drastic steps to save those in harm’s way. In 1933, the same year Hitler came to power, schoolteacher Anna Essinger saved her small, progressive school from Nazi Germany. Anna had read Mein Kampf and knew the terrible danger that Hitler’s hate-fueled ideologies posed to her pupils, so she hatched a courageous and daring plan: to smuggle her school to the safety of England.”

This book is again a tribute to all of the children and their families murdered during the rise and fall of Nazi Germany. I found myself again horrified at the sheer number of children murdered in the Holocaust. This book flips between the school as it is established in Britain, and then into its students’ origins as well. There are some children who survived largely in the ‘wild’ of Germany, and we also see their perspective.

This is not nearly as confronting as Always Remember your Name, thankfully. It’s an interesting read, and I’d recommend it to anyone interested in alternative schooling perspectives as well as those who would like to further broaden their understanding of the traumas visited on children during the wars.

It is becoming more and more obvious and acknowledged in society today that children often suffer from trauma that has repercussions throughout their lifetimes – and which may never be resolved. It is the same for the adults who managed to survive and that may never be able to recover. This can also be seen in the novel The Little Wartime Library, which briefly narrates what one of the incarcerated adults looked like after the freeing of POWs.

Reading this book was heavy going at times and it took me a number of sittings to digest it. I’m normally not interested in history, but I’m not sure that can be said of me any more! I have read quite a few books about the Holocaust now, including Always Remember Your Name, The Dressmakers of Auschwitz and The Keeper of Miracles. I have yet another waiting on my bedside table for me to read.

Hachette | 10 May 2022 | AU$32.99 | paperback

Review: Mercedes Lackey – Beyond

Beyond
Mercedes Lackey

Duke Valdemar has always loved his land and his people. Forever watching out for the Emperor and his spies, Valdemar plans for the future – an escape to the West where the Empire does not yet reach. When he is summoned to the capital, it is up to him to deflect the Emperor’s interest from his home dutchy, and trust that the Plan can take place without him.

I liked Duke Valdemar and I didn’t have any objections to the second perspective of his sister-in-law. The opening pages make it seem as if Delia will have a big role to play, but as yet, she hasn’t achieved anything major during the novel. The Duke on the other hand has his nose poked in everywhere, and is devious to boot! His compassion and humility could read as trite, but his approach to life is always consistent.

This is the first Lackey novel I have read for a while. After reading the Collegium Chronicles, The Herald Spy and Family Spies (so bad, I didn’t even review it) I felt burnt out and disappointed. Lackey seemed to be pumping out weaker novels that didn’t follow her original pattern of duology/trilogy and were poorly edited, written and unnecessarily wordy. Thankfully, Beyond breaks that pattern in being a well-written first novel. I hope it is a trilogy and not a pentology.

The second book in the series is due to be published this year, and I await it with bated breath and the hope that it is equally as good as this one. We will see. 4 stars for this novel.

Review: Kathy Reichs – Temperance Brennan Series (books 1-8)

Temperance Brennan Series (books 1-8)
Kathy Reichs

“Dr. Temperance “Tempe” Brennan is a forensic anthropologist, who investigates human remains at crime scenes where the flesh is too degraded for a coroner to obtain evidence (victims of arson, mutilation, advanced decomposition, etc.). She is a native of the Carolinas and one of only fifty board-certified forensic anthropologists in North America.”

Let’s hear it for a middle-aged, moderately attractive, highly skilled scientist. One of the best parts about these novels is that Tempe is highly flawed and quite relatable. I love the science that is inherent in everything she does, and I have a morbid interest in death in all its forms!

Let it be said that the only reason I decided to read these is because I enjoyed the TV series “Bones”. The reason I stopped watching Bones is very much like the reason I stopped reading these – they became repetitive. I mean sure, it’s a different victim and a different death measure, but overall the theme is the same. Temperance always catches the bad guy, and her sidekicks are always telling her she knows nothing.

These did make good retelling stories when asked to fill a silence in the car! My only problem was that I wasn’t sure how much of it was likely or true. For example, there is a case where the victim has been removed from Mt Everest in an icey form! There is a ‘Death Zone’ which is just colourful from all the jackets of people who have frozen to death there… Likely? Maybe (yes it is, and you can check out this link for more!).

I’ll give these 3-4 stars – once I started each novel, I had a compulsive need to keep reading it, but I wouldn’t go and reread them now that I know who the bad guy is!