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: Laura Garnett – The Genius Habit (S)

The Genius Habit
Break Free from Burnout, Reduce Career Anxiety and Double Your Productivity by Leveraging the Power of Being Who You Are at Work
Laura Garnett

“Both inspirational and practical, The Genius Habit introduces a methodology that has helped Laura’s high-profile clients at LinkedIn, Capital One, and Verizon transform their careers and their lives. The Genius Habit gives employees—from entry-level assistants, to middle managers, to CEOs of major companies—the tools they need to gain clarity about who they are and where they are going, and to proactively create the career of their dreams.”

I thought this book was about habits, but it’s not at all. For a book with such a long title, it still didn’t explain what it’s about. This book is about doing your strengths in work and life, which the author calls “your zone of genius”. It’s a drawn out way of saying ‘know thyself’ – this book focuses on building a career on those things you already do well and enjoy. The thoughts and ideas of this are fine but I feel like it’s also just common sense. I also feel this is not possible 24/7, there are always times you need to do something that you enjoy less, and it doesn’t give you any tips for this. The book also has a bunch of other wishy-washy topics on mindfulness, meditation, getting sleep, and perseverance.

One aspect I struggled with was the explanation of the “performance tracker”. The idea of measuring when you’re in your “zone of genius” makes sense, but the execution leaves much to be desired. Numerous variables such as location and who you’re working with are not thoroughly explored, leaving me questioning the reliability of this tracking method.

The message is fine, but I just didn’t feel for this book. It just wasn’t well executed? I found myself not wanting to continue to read it. It was a long book regarding only one topic, yet still didn’t get much out of it. It’s common sense and basic knowledge to me. Unfortunately the writing style was not super engaging for me and the overuse of words like genius made me not enjoy and connect with it as much as I would have otherwise. The author spoke a lot about their own experiences and in a voice that just annoyed me.

There was not any new or unique concept in the book that would make it stand out.
Overall the main points can be summarized very quickly and it wasn’t written in an engaging way. Basically, do work in your strength areas. 2 Stars for me. If you’re after a book on habits, try Atomic Habits instead. Or just try a few pages to see if the style works for you.

Quick Reviews of Non-Fiction Business Books #3 (S)

The Conversation Yearbook 2017: 50 Standout Articles from Australia’s Top Thinkers – John Watson

I was really hoping this book would be all about fascinating individuals or businesses considered as “top thinkers.” Instead, it’s filled with essays covering topics like climate change, same-sex marriage, public school education, Indigenous issues, and Australian politics – and all of them are from 2017, which makes them feel pretty out-of-date now. A bunch of these essays are just plain boring and hard to get through. I managed to read most of them, but there were a few that I had to skip. Plus, the way the book is organized feels a bit messy. The themed chapters don’t flow together smoothly. If these essays are supposed to represent the best thinking from our top minds, I’m not feeling very optimistic. I’d give it a 2-star rating.

The Golden Passport: Harvard Business School, the Limits of Capitalism, and the Moral Failure of the MBA Elite – Duff McDonald

Who would be interested in reading this? It’s essentially a history of Harvard Business School (HBS). It comes across as quite dry and unengaging, and I fail to see its purpose. I initially expected more content related to prominent business figures, akin to a textbook, but even those sections fell short. For instance, when I saw the discussion of Frederick Taylor in Chapter 3, I hoped to have fond memories of his accomplishments for that era. However, this book somehow managed to render his historical contributions as mundane and uninteresting, not reflecting Taylors true significance. I would rate it with only one star, as I was unable to finish it, but I do acknowledge that it might appeal to a different audience, warranting a two-star rating.

Flying Solo: How To Go It Alone in Business Revisited – Robert Gerrish, Sam Leader, Peter Crocker

I found this book to be quite good. It’s an enjoyable read that covers all the basics, so don’t expect groundbreaking insights. Nevertheless, it’s definitely worth checking out, especially if you’re looking to embark on your journey into self-employment. The book provides essential tools for planning and starting a solo venture, offering a mix of motivational advice and practical strategies. Despite being released a few years ago, the content remains surprisingly relevant. It challenges the old assumptions of the 9-to-5 grind, introducing concepts that are increasingly gaining popularity. The book not only gives you the basics but also includes some practical examples, making it a valuable resource for those considering or already navigating the world of self-employment. 3 stars.

Quick Reviews of Non-Fiction Business Books #2 (S)

SMART Time Investment for Business: 128 ways the best in business use their time – Kate Christie

I’m sorry but I didn’t love it. The 128 ways to best use time felt very basic and repetitive, some were also not explained enough. The book is meant to be short and to the point, and “time saving” which was fine. It then had a bunch of quotes from each business person after each point. I don’t mind a few quotes, but that many seemed to lose its point with not enough context. I find that quotes can be very contradictory, there seems to be a quote for every situation. There were a few short case study examples but again not enough context to really get the point across. The 128 ways to save time were not new tips. Maybe you’ll pick up a handful of new tips by the end but that about it. I recommend it for anyone who is not an organised person. 2 stars.

Superminds: The Surprising Power of People and Computers Thinking Together – Thomas W. Malone

This is an intriguing book that explores the concept of collective intelligence. While not aligning with my typical reading preferences, it managed to capture my attention to some extent. The beginning of the book was challenging to get through, but it improved as I progressed. Some sections stood out as particularly engaging, shedding light on the possibilities and implications of collaboration between people and machines. However, I found it lacking in substantial takeaways and not engaging throughout. It was very general and referred to already fairly outdated technology. I felt this book was much longer than it needed to be, with lots of repetition and multiple examples illustrating the same issue. Overall I give it 2 stars. It was not intriguing to continue to read it.

So Now You’re a Leader: 10 Precepts of Practical Leadership – Peter Stokes and John James

Since the book is quite old, it’s hard for me to give it a proper review. I guess it was okay back in the day, but in today’s world, it feels pretty outdated. The principles it presents are still relevant, but the stories and writing style feel old-fashioned. It’s written in a very textbook-like manner, and it even throws in theories like “SMART” goals and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It’s a bit dense and dry, but the points it makes about being a better leader are valid and serve as good reminders. However, there’s nothing really new or groundbreaking here, just the basics. I’d give it two stars.

Review: Bina Venkataraman – The Optimist’s Telescope (S)

The Optimist’s Telescope: Thinking Ahead in a Reckless Age
Bina Venkataraman

“A trailblazing exploration of how we can think more strategically and effectively about the future–our own, our family’s, and our society’s. Many of us never learned–or have forgotten–how to make smart, long-term decisions, so we avoid making them. In a world where immediate satisfaction is the norm, it’s easy to do. Whether it’s decisions about our health (our chronic overuse of antibiotics has triggered a shocking rise in immunity to them), our finances (20% of us have nothing saved for retirement), or our jobs (we slash R and D to improve short-term balance sheets and then can’t keep pace with competitors), we avoid mastering the skills to make smart choices about the future. Yet today more than ever, we need to understand how to make such choices–for ourselves, our families, and the world.”

Considering that the book is titled “Optimist” it did not leave me feeling optimistic, as it primarily focuses on a pessimistic view of the future. While I comprehend its message, it fails to inspire motivation for future action.

Despite some historical tales and scientific insights, the book’s structure feels all over the place, leaving you a bit lost amidst the mishmash of stories tied to future thinking. It does have its engaging moments, but there are also some political and dull sections.

The book doesn’t deliver on its promise of offering tips on staying optimistic and thinking ahead, as suggested by its subtitle. Instead, it takes a gloomier approach to what’s coming our way. If you’re looking for strategies or fresh ideas on changing your mindset when dealing with current and future challenges, you won’t find them here.

In a nutshell, “The Optimist’s Telescope” may leave you feeling a bit let down, as it doesn’t provide the practical guidance or inspiration needed to tackle the uncertainties of the future, although a need to discuss the topic. I’d give it a 2.5 star rating.

Review: Donald Roos & Anne de Bruijn – Don’t Buy this Book (S)

Don’t Buy this Book: Entrepreneurship for Creative People
Donald Roos, Anne de Bruijn

“The sequel to the highly successful Don’t Read This Book – Time Management for Creative People. Like its predecessor, it uses the “To Don’t List” method to help you make the right choices – choices that help you achieve your goals as a creative entrepreneur. Don’t Buy This Book walks through the necessary steps: testing your idea, getting it ready for business, and building on it. It covers everything you need to get started or improve your business as a creative and offers practical exercises to clarify who you want to be as an entrepreneur.”

I should have listened to the cover and not bought the book! It’s a quick read, throws some good ideas your way, but let’s be real, it’s not the be-all and end-all of entrepreneurship guides. This is more like an Instagram-worthy motivational pep talk with quotes galore. They toss around some practical questions to get your brain working, but don’t expect actual answers – it’s more like a brainstorming session without a whiteboard.

Sure, there are snippets about some companies, but they barely scratch the surface. Oh, and they keep bringing up their first book, “Don’t Read This Book,” but don’t stress – you don’t need to read it for this one to make sense. It’s not really a sequel.

If you’re just dipping your toes into the entrepreneurial pool and need a little inspiration, go ahead and give it a shot. But if you’re after the real deal, check out “Twelve and a Half” by Gary Vaynerchuk. My verdict? Two stars – it’s okay, but nothing to write home about.

Review: Danielle Paige – Wish of the Wicked

Wish of the Wicked
Danielle Paige

“For centuries, Farrow’s family—the Entente—have been magical advisors to the Queen. Until a new queen, Magrit, takes power, outlaws magic, and executes the entire Entente race. Only Farrow survives. Since that day, Farrow has dreamed of revenge. The best way to reach the evil queen is through her son, Prince Mather, who is nearing the age when he must select a bride. When a special ball in his honour is announced, Farrow sees her opportunity. All it will take is a young woman named Cinderella who dreams of true love. But the closer Farrow gets to the prince, the more she finds herself drawn to him.”

I thougth because this had a fairy godmother aspect it would just be like the Twisted Tales I kept seeing in the newest releases brochure – and therefore that it would be a standalone and I’d be free to read it and then move on. But nooo, it has to be the first in a series. I wondered why the first half of the book took so longer to get started – it was just setting the stage to painfully draw things out to a non-conclusion.

I’ve read Stealing Snow by this author a long time ago and I found it to be just ok. Wish of the Wicked isn’t even ok because it’s written clearly to be the start of a series. I polished this off in an evening of fevered reading because as I got towards the end  and saw the 480th page coming I thought that the ending would be swift and deadly. Nope.

I love the idea of being a wishing fairy rather than any of you standard transformation, lightning and food fairies. I also appreciated the ideas of the Fates – I thought their embodiment was pretty cool. But ugh! The ending just killed the rest of the boom for me. So disappointing.

I read this as a proof copy, and there were definitely some awkward turns of phrase and subpar dialogue that I assume will be solved in the final copy. Could I have loved this book? Yes, if it had been condensed and a standalone. I could tolerate Farrow, I thought the idea of body double companion was neat and I was ok with the queen just dying. Not neat enough for me to recommend that you read it. Sorry.

Bloomsbury | 7 November 2023 | AU$17.99 | paperback

Review: Larry Bossidy & Ram Charan – Execution (S)

The Discipline of Getting Things Done
Larry Bossidy & Ram Charan with Charles Burck

“Execution shows how to link together people, strategy, and operations, the three core processes of every business. Leading these processes is the real job of running a business, not formulating a “vision” and leaving the work of carrying it out to others. Bossidy and Charan show the importance of being deeply and passionately engaged in an organization and why robust dialogues about people, strategy, and operations result in a business based on intellectual honesty and realism.”

I couldn’t shake the feeling that this book is showing its age. It’s clearly targeted at those super high-level corporate giants, which might not sit well with folks from smaller or less traditional companies. If you’re not in a place where you can delegate tasks to an army of direct reports, you might feel a bit left out.

My biggest gripe is that the book remains stubbornly high-level throughout. It’s a bit like listening to a long-winded lecturer who uses too many big words without giving you much actionable advice. I even found myself skipping over some parts because they felt like they were going around in circles. And sadly, “Execution” doesn’t bring anything particularly groundbreaking to the table – it feels like business textbook material.

The central theme revolves around setting expectations and holding people accountable, which is a solid concept. The book is a broken record on scrutinizing business plans and making sure people are doing what they said they would. It lacks clear, practical steps on how to do this effectively.

As I trudged into Part 3, I was hoping for more detailed examples to illustrate the execution process. But, to my disappointment, there were only a few of these, and they didn’t provide the guidance I was looking for.

I felt like I didn’t get much out of “Execution.” I had read another business book recently that blew me away (Twelve and a Half), so maybe my expectations were a tad too high. Given my experience, I can’t wholeheartedly recommend this one. On a different day, I might give it three stars, but for now, it’s a two-star read for me.

Review: Non Pratt – Every Little Piece of my Heart

Every Little Piece of my Heart
Non Pratt

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.

Review: Alice Ryan – There’s Been a Little Incident

There’s Been a Little Incident
Alice Ryan

Molly runs. Molly travels. Molly brings the life to the party. Molly is running away from death. She’s run off again – this time we aren’t sure where, but we will track her down!

This novel was.. average. I kept reading it because I expected something to happen. I was hopeful the ending might redeeem it, but I was disappointed. It potters along throwing out tidbits about Molly’s life, and the life of her siblings/aunts/uncles/cousins and poor ?brother? who is far away in Australia. Come on! It’s not forever away any more! And I don’t see why they need to track down Molly at all. I received no sense of closure when the book was finished.

I received this as an ARC so I already felt invested like I should enjoy it. Sadly, it let me down. I hate books with multiple perspectives, and I hate books with inserted text messages / poems / songs. This book had both and I don’t think either of them added anything! The multiple perspectives weren’t awful, but because I didn’t really care about whether they found the main character (Molly – she could be dead for all I cared), I didn’t care about each of their own minature stories.

There’s an attempt at a twist as a young nurse has gone missing, but it’s not really enough to catch anyone’s interest. It does eventually entwine with the rest of Molly’s family, but it doesn’t seem to have very much significance. If you asked me, they are all just running around crazily and could probably benefit from some paid psychological help.

Ugh. 2 stars because I finished it, but don’t waste your time. I’m really not sure who this novel would appeal to.

Head of Zeus | 1 November 2022 | AU$29.99 | paperback