Fall 2016 Books

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don'tGood to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't by James C. Collins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was a mediocre read. I had higher hopes, but it failed to keep me engaged and took me 6 weeks to force myself through. I felt that the details went too deep on too few examples; so multiple chapters kept referencing back to the same Walgreens and Wells Fargo studies. Lots of graphs and stock trajectories—is that the marker of success? Would have been valuable to see other types of stats, like employee retention and units of x product sold, ubiquity, etc.

As an entrepreneur and wife of another entrepreneur, I was hoping to glean some small-business tactics. I did jot down some notes for the future, and while we wait for those big leap moments, it's good to note the importance of people, leadership and culture.

I would recommend this for people who are currently part of a large organization, and have some comparable competition in order to benchmark their success against.

Pioneer Girl: The Annotated AutobiographyPioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography by Laura Ingalls Wilder
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was simply wonderful. I have read the beloved 9 books to shreds, and it was fascinating to see behind the scenes, marvel at the difference of the original draft, all the historical details. A must read for any Little House on the Prairies fan.

The Firebird (Slains, #2)The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was a little torn by this book. We started off with Nicola and Rob as MCs, both psychic but Nicola resists her powers--and Rob. Then, as the two adventure into the past, we follow little Anna's orphaned journey until she becomes a young woman with beaus.

The first half of the book pulls you in--makes you fall in love with Rob, and empathize with Nicola. But then that's replaced with long passages of Anna's story, until Nicola's journey reduces to staccatoed whinings of self-doubt and unrequited longing for Rob. It's disgruent, and jarring because you realize Anna is so much the better heroine.

When Anna meets Edmund, you can't get enough of their sarcastic exchanges. And you realize with surprise that you don't really care about Rob and Nicola anymore. They've failed to retain your loyalty and interest. I think that's a loss, and also misleading for the reader.

The story ends up becoming quite another story, and the inevitable "lover's spat" between Rob/Nicola is so minimal and predictable it hardly counts. Conversely, Anna & Edmund's story twists unexpectedly, several times, each one clever and heart-wrenching.

There was quite a lot more history than I could handle--I confess I skimmed a lot of it, too engrossed in the characters to bother about setting (and a lot military/strategic dialogue felt like thinly-veiled exposition). The author ought to have replaced some of this with a cleverer plot line for Rob/Nicola.

But Anna's story carries the book. If the point was to have Nicola grow and gain courage through simply re-living and experiencing Anna's life, I'm not convinced. I don't have a lot of sympathy for shrinking violet heroines. So, despite the fact that I was compelled to read the book in one setting, despite its drawbacks, I am so impressed by the complex characterization of Anna that it gets 4 stars, even if its shortcomings should really drag it down to 3.

The Ghost BrideThe Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Enchanting. A rich, clear narrative peppered with salivating cuisine and sensory sounds and silks. As my mother is Malaysian-born Chinese, this setting had particular meaning for me, and the detail Choo describes of the Chinese superstitions and after-life is mesmerizing.

A heroine whose shoes I walk in, whose heart flutters in time with mine. Some predictable twists, but utterly satisfying, and never simple. A book I highly recommend, and want to add to my bookshelf.

QTA: Do you ever really know someone's motives? How much of the spiritual world affects the physical one around us? Short of death, what has to happen to make you take charge of your own life?

ObasanObasan by Joy Kogawa
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


In the Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor's Journey in the Saudi KingdomIn the Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor's Journey in the Saudi Kingdom by Qanta A. Ahmed
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Intriguing glimpse into a foreign culture and the worlds of Islam and Saudi Arabia. Deeply spiritual and at times blandly historical, the glossy, voluptuously sensory writing is enchanting. Worth reading, no matter your background.