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: 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: 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: 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.

Review: Sean Ammirati – The Science of Growth (S)

The Science of Growth
How Facebook Beat Friendster – and How Nine Other Startups Left the Rest in the Dust
Sean Ammirati

“The lean entrepreneurship movement has captivated Silicon Valley and entrepreneurs across the country. It provided an agile framework to develop the right product solution for a given target market, and is now used by almost every fledgling company to do just that. The next challenge is growth – to achieve the financial returns and, more importantly, the impact they dreamed of when starting off on their adventure. Why do some companies realize the VC’s goal of a 10x return on investment, while others flounder? What differentiates the companies that become part of the fabric of our lives and remain responsive, no matter how big they get from those that quickly fade?”

The author gives us a big-picture view of how Facebook outshined Friendster and why nine other startups aced the game. The book, though, doesn’t go deep into the juicy details like numbers, how they thought, or the tools they used. Most of these companies are already big shots, and you might have heard their stories already.

The book’s structure is well-organized, guiding readers through the critical stages of startup development. From the initial idea to execution and scaling. The author did their homework, but it feels like it just scratches the surface. A lot of it is about the popular tech startups and viral growth. It could’ve thrown in different types of companies. The book has this thing where it looks back and says, “Look, this is why these guys made it!” but doesn’t really spill the secret sauce for success.

Overall, it’s okay. If you’re not drowning in business books and just want a quick rundown, it works. I’d give it a 3 star rating – not bad, not amazing. Just right if you’re starting out in the business book world.

Review: John C. Maxwell – Developing the Leader Within You (S)

Developing the Leader Within You
John C. Maxwell

“In this repackaged bestseller John Maxwell examines the differences between leadership styles, outlines principles for inspiring, motivating, and influencing others. These principles can be used in any organization to foster integrity and self-discipline and bring a positive change. Developing the Leader Within You also allows readers to examine how to be effective in the highest calling of leadership by understanding the five characteristics that set “leader managers” apart from “run-of-the-mill managers.” In this John Maxwell classic, he shows readers how to develop the vision, value, influence, and motivation required of successful leaders.”

In this book, there are both commendable and average aspects. Some sections can be skimmed through, while others provide valuable insights. Unfortunately, the author’s frequent use of poems, motivational and self-help language didn’t resonate with me.

I was captivated by the first portion of the book. However, it then went downhill and didn’t improve for the rest of the book. Although there is a wealth of valuable content within these pages, locating it can be challenging due to poor organization and vagueness. Certain sections suffer from being overly general, and much of the information presented seems to rely on common sense rather than groundbreaking ideas. Examples and stories would have enhanced the reading experience. It’s worth noting that the book does incorporate thought-provoking questions and self-evaluations regarding one’s leadership abilities.

Overall, I rate this book 3.5 out of 5 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: Robert I. Sutton – Good Boss, Bad Boss (S)

Good Boss, Bad Boss
How to Be the Best… And Learn from the Worst
Robert I. Sutton

“If you are a boss who wants to do great work, what can you do about it? Good Boss, Bad Boss is devoted to answering that question. Stanford Professor Robert Sutton weaves together the best psychological and management research with compelling stories and cases to reveal the mindset and moves of the best (and worst) bosses. This book was inspired by the deluge of emails, research, phone calls, and conversations that Dr. Sutton experienced after publishing his blockbuster bestseller The No Asshole Rule. He realized that most of these stories and studies swirled around a central figure in every THE BOSS.”

The way the book is set up didn’t quite click with me. The chapters and sections felt a bit all over the place, and I couldn’t really see the clear connections between them. It’s like everything just melted together without any standout points. A bunch of it was things I’ve seen and heard a million times before – nothing groundbreaking, just common sense stuff. I guess if you’re new to this kind of thing, it’s a decent overview that gets you thinking, but it doesn’t dive deep into anything and tends to repeat itself here and there.

I also noticed some contradictions that made me scratch my head. My advice? Take what you like and leave the rest. There’s some humor in there, but I didn’t always catch the punchline.

It’s nice to see someone trying to make the whole work and management scene better with their examples and tips. They’re onto something when they say pretty much everyone can relate because we’ve all had a boss, have a boss, or are the boss. So, there’s some wisdom in there for sure. If you’re into business and leadership books or just want to up your boss game, “Good Boss, Bad Boss” is a solid stash of info that goes down easy and I recommend it for those getting into management. 3 stars.

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: Hisashi Kashiwai – The Kamogawa Food Detectives

The Kamogawa Food Detectives
Hisashi Kashiwai

“Down a quiet backstreet in Kyoto exists a very special restaurant. Run by Koishi Kamogawa and her father Nagare, the Kamogawa Diner treats its customers to wonderfully extravagant meals. But that’s not the main reason to stop by… The father-daughter duo have started advertising their services as ‘food detectives’. Through ingenious investigations, they are capable of recreating a dish from their customers’ pasts – dishes that may well hold the keys to forgotten memories and future happiness.”

The concept is quite novel, yet something that we all should know the basics of. It’s not just about the taste of a meal that evokes the memory, it’s also the scent and sight – the anticipation of it. This is a great bite-sized (haha) read for those who enjoy Japanese cuisine and love to hear about each of the dishes in turn. It made me crave some sushi or sashimi (which is sort of odd, since that wasn’t really the food the Kamogawa’s specialised in).

I found the set up of the Detective’s Agency quite weird. Why was it Koishi who did the interviews? It seemed like Nagare was the one with the expertise who might know the right questions to ask. Koishi also let a lot of her own feelings and perceptions out when doing the interviews – something that I felt would hinder it rather than adding to the memories brought out in people. The concept would never work if Nagare didn’t seem to have a geographical and food memory running the spread of Japan.

I didn’t understand why, if their food was so popular, Nagare complained about sushi being too expensive! Why not make a little more money by advertising to just a couple more people. I get not wanting to be run off their feet like a popular resturant, but also, making enough money to cover Nagare’s trips around Japan might be useful?

Pan Macmillan looks for books with great translators, or take the effort to choose novels that read well in their non-original language. I felt that this translation could have been a little more nauanced in tone, but I can only think that the original text was a little stilted.

This is more like short stories rather than a novel – so go into it expecting that. I don’t care much for short stories so it was never going to get more than three stars from me. If I had any say in what comes next in the series, I’d recommend having at least 10 stories in the book to make it a decent read (rather than the 1 hour or so I spent reading it). If there is a plot outside each of the eaters, I didn’t see it.

Pan Macmillan | 10 October 2023 | AU$19.99 | paperback