Review: The Thin Wall

The Thin Wall
The Thin Wall by R. Cyril West
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m keeping this shorter than my other reviews, but that doesn’t lessen the impact this book had on me. If anything, it increases with brevity. The story was exciting, and at times, heart-wrenching. All around, author R. Cyril West has brought about an excellent book: the other reviews, the blurbs, the map—but what created the most effect on me was after reading the book, going back and re-reading the intro by William Beck and reading the end-book historical notes from the author. To realize other human beings, let alone Americans, have been held in secret…well, it is agonizing to think about. Our recent news only highlights how much government involves themselves in covering of secrets that deal with human life, and carnage.

I will add this: I appreciate the author’s involvement with Czechoslovakia in his story. Similar to me recently learning about Chechnya in A CONSTELLATION OF VITAL PHENOMENA, so I learned about so much in West’s story. To read this is to raise awareness of many things outside our protected boxes of information.

Thank you to the author for reaching out to me and providing an electronic version of this book for my review.

You can find this book and a preview on Amazon (along with the other reviews): The Thin Wall: A POW/MIA Truth Novel

Enjoy!

Review: Tigerman: A novel

Tigerman: A novel
Tigerman: A novel by Nick Harkaway

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ahhhhhhhh! You ever read a book and think, “Meh, that was nice.” But then after you close it, it just builds on you. There was something between the lines that planted a seed in you and it grew and grew and grew. That’s what happened to me with Nick Harkaway’s TIGERMAN. I was ready to give it a four-star rating, walk away, and call it good. Nope.

First, Harkaway knows me. He’s one of my people. As soon as I saw him mention “gold farming”…I knew. In-game chat channels, leet speak, comic culture: all my people’s language. So that was nice. As Harkaway writes, “it had a digital flavor, merry and modern.”

Second, there’s the island as a character. Right away we witness a pelican swallowing a pigeon. Amusing. But then it dawned on me later, “Hey! That was symbolic, wasn’t it?” On one hand, we see an island lose its culture and people, being assimilated into the larger world social scheme. On the other hand, we find those who embrace the simplicity and roots of who they are. And, as the author points out, those Leaving were in a majority, while “staying had not been dignified with a capital letter.”

Finally, there’s the relationship between man and boy. That’s the part eating me alive. In this book we witness what a man will become—how he changes—in the face of parental responsibility. And, as a result of that willingness to change, how the child molds, reflects, and responds to that change. “Endearing” would be a good starting word to describe the emotion while witnessing this change. There’s plenty more.

This book has everything else: action, romance, adventure. But, at the risk of sounding like a movie announcer, let me stick to those first three points above. The context of TIGERMAN goes way beyond the story and penetrates the heart. That, to me, is full of what I want in a story. Something that makes me think outside the pages and turns me into a more retrospective person because of it.

My final thoughts reflect those of the boy: “”Tigerman,” the boy said fervently. “Full of win.””

Thanks to Knopf for providing this book electronically for me to review. Do you folks have a Tigerman outfit I can review, too? I want one.

You can check out the book’s reviews and preview (including the pelican story) on Amazon: Tigerman: A novel

Or, you can rock out via independent bookstore at Powell’s:

Tigerman
by Nick Harkaway
Powells.com

Please, enjoy!

Review: How Do I Keep My Employees Motivated?

How Do I Keep My Employees Motivated?
How Do I Keep My Employees Motivated? by George Langelett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After reading many other books on both mind function and employee motivation, it is great to read George Langelett’s HOW DO I KEEP MY EMPLOYEES MOTIVATED? This book rings true. In it, Langelette answers the call of the WALL STREET JOURNAL article in 2009 that questioned how business schools have failed businesses. Langelett began by seeking a way to impart ethics into the college courses he teaches, then moved into mental development studies, and finally produced the answer: empathy.

From reading this, it sounds like Langelett and I have a similar fascination with Daniel Pink’s DRIVE. If you haven’t already watched Pink’s TED Talk on YouTube, do so now. The old “stick and carrot” approach is not producing the results we are looking for. I will take this a step forward and say that previous methodology produces near-criminal intent due to folks trying to obtain the proverbial carrot. Langelett shows that if we take a step back, focus on the intrinsic needs of the employee, our business will then improve. (Charles Duhigg’s THE POWER OF HABIT has a section devoted to the habits of corporations and how focus on an unexpected measurable will produce pleasing investor results.)

My favorite part of this book is Langelett’s included worksheets for managers to build empathy with their team. Keep in mind—this is NOT just for managers. As we progress into more lateral organizations, these new branded methodologies will prove invaluable to all players involved. Langelett even produces a Bible verse toward the end of the book to echo this sentiment: all we need is love. (Brené Brown has some similar pages in her book DARING GREATLY that include phrases that build empathy within a team—how we can work together through exposure of our vulnerabilities.)

Langelett also includes a section on the management theories of motivation. It is interesting to see the transition from (what a lot of companies still hold onto) McGregor and McClelland to (motivation 3.0) Daniel Pink. I’m surprised though that Langelett didn’t speak on Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s FLOW, which encompasses the mind and motivation that was also a primer to Pink’s book and philosophy.

And while Langelett does an excellent job of describing brain function, I would be remiss not to recommend Daniel Kahneman’s THINKING, FAST AND SLOW. Keep in mind (like the pun?) that Kahneman’s book can be quite daunting, while Langelett moves forward in quick, absorbable pace. You’ll learn the key essentials from HOW DO I KEEP MY EMPLOYEES MOTIVATED? in a sitting or two.

Overall, this book comes with my highest recommendation. This is the most modern, fundamental understanding on how we can make our business better. One that is authentic; one that is natural; one that feels right; and one that produces. This is a truly win-win situation for all involved.

Thanks to Dr. George Langelett for reaching out to me and offering this book for review. I have offered my true opinion, along with many suggestions to prove the soundness of the material.

You can see this book’s other reviews and its preview on Amazon: How Do I Keep My Employees Motivated?

Or, you can find this book at the independent store Powell’s:

Enjoy!

Review: Doing Harm

Doing Harm
Doing Harm by Kelly Parsons
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

“Like a good CSI episode.” That’s how one of my friends described this book. I agree with him. The writing was capable, informative, and overall entertaining. However, the plot was entirely predictable and the female characters had no umph.

What got me to read this book was Stephen King’s quote, “Best…medial thriller I’ve read in 25 years. Terrifying OR scenes, characters with real texture.” This reminds me why Gabrielle Zevin’s character A.J. Fikry called these blurbs “the blood diamonds of the book industry”. First, 25 years is a long time frame; this book was okay, but I hope it isn’t the standard for medical thrillers. Second, “character with real texture” is a push. The main character, maybe. All the others? They are pretty thin, especially the women (both in development and author’s male-oriented description).

Surgery wise, this book is great. I love going into the operating room scenes with this author. The terminology is lush with detail, bringing us right into the blood and guts without pulling punches. The author makes no amends for the plethora of medical terms, and I’m grateful for it. I have my doubts about letting a Chief Resident have this much reign in a hospital, but I’m willing to disbelieve.

I have a quote to replace King’s: “the most predictable book I’ve read this year”. I opened the book, I knew how it would end. I think I set a record. The author laid out every stereotype possible and fulfilled each one. Don’t get me wrong, it was still a lot of fun and I was entertained, but no guesswork was involved.

Bottom line: if you enjoy medical thrillers, this one utilizes accurate terminology in an entertaining manner. Don’t expect any shockers and you’ll be quite satisfied.

Weird Al has been popular this week, so here’s a bonus surgery GIF:

Speaking of bonuses, you may enjoy this intereview between the author and the folks at BookPage: http://bookpage.com/interviews/16147-kelly-parsons#.U5nDMRaViqQ

Thanks to St. Martin’s Press for sending this book over for review. It was fun, especially the OR parts.

A lot of folks seem to really dig this book. Check out those other reviews, plus see a preview of the book at Amazon: Doing Harm

Or, you can check it out at the independent store Powell’s:

Doing Harm
by Kelly Parsons
Powells.com

Enjoy!

Review: The Stone Boy

The Stone Boy
The Stone Boy by Sophie Loubière

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You may wonder, how interesting is a story about an old lady that thinks she sees a small boy outside her window? Let me put it this way: my jaw is still on the floor. Even after finishing THE STONE BOY, I have no idea how Sophie Loubière pulled it off—every page was interesting; every page held my attention.

Loubière’s main character Elsa Préau held a certain “je ne sais quoi”. In other words, “She had a talent as a storyteller that gave credibility and gravitas to her tales.” In those descriptions from the book, you sense…no…you feel a certain way toward the character. And that’s the magic of it all: you become emotionally invested in the story through the power of the author’s words.

It goes beyond that. It’s not just the masterful display of words on the page, but that mystery, suspense, and intrigue are added to take it to another level. No, it’s not just beautiful words, but the slight insinuation that leads to sudden surprise that makes the entire package exhilarating. The author Loubière leads us along with narrative, thoughts, journal entries, and letters until we’ve reached the breath-taking conclusion. And yes, my breath was taken away (pages 148 and 190-191, to be exact) by things I had not fully expected.

Cheers to Nora Mahony for taking this award-winning novel and bringing it into the English language. I am glad to be sharing this experience with our friends across the seas. The power and flow moved naturally, without any hesitation on misunderstandings. The writing felt enriched and authentic.

There is not much to add besides this: if you want an interesting and emotional story that entertains and informs, then this is it. What you’ll read will hover in your mind long after the final page is closed.

Thank you Grand Central Publishing for reaching out to me and sending this book over for review. Magnifique!

Be sure to view the book’s preview and other reviews on Amazon: The Stone Boy

Or, rock the independent thing via Powell’s:

The Stone Boy
by Sophie Loubiere
Powells.com

Enjoy!

Review: The Butterfly and the Violin

The Butterfly and the Violin
The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my third time writing this review, but I think I’ve got it. My struggle is this: I love the historical fiction and the story of the Auschwitz girl; I’m not such a fan of the modern portion of story with overly convenient circumstances and borderline insta-love. Overall, I would recommend this novel based on the beauty of the entire picture and the personal lessons learned.

The story of the girl of Auschwitz tells of the artists and musicians of the time. Though my interest waned in the other story with modern setting, it served well to expand the context of that girl. Heartbreaking as it was, the story taught me something new and painted the already indelible picture with greater vividness and clarity. We have all been touched by stories of this tragic time period, but music and art add something more personal and endearing.

Other reviewers have made note, to which I agree, that this book moves beyond the Christian literature boundaries. Yes, faith in God is discussed, as well as scriptures quoted, but those discounting these things are themselves a disservice. This is a story that resonates with the soul, making us all better for having read it.

I’d be remiss not to mention the beautiful cover. I get lost staring into it.

My sincere congratulations extend to Kristy Cambron for researching and penning this work. My life has been touched, and for that I’m appreciative. Thank you, too, to Thomas Nelson for providing an electronic copy of this book through NetGalley for my review.

You can see this book’s preview and other reviews on Amazon: The Butterfly and the Violin (A Hidden Masterpiece Novel)

Or, you can rock the independent book store thing at Powell’s:

Enjoy!

Review: The Harlem Hellfighters

The Harlem Hellfighters
The Harlem Hellfighters by Max Brooks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“In 1917 we left our home to make the world safe for democracy even though democracy wasn’t safe back home.” Despite 191 days in combat (longest for any unit, black or white, in World War I), despite being one of the most decorated units, and despite having the first American (black or white) be awarded the French Croix DeGuerre (Cross of War), the Harlem Hellfighters are still largely unrecognized in many historical accounts of World War I. Thanks to the writing of Max Brooks and the illustrations of Caanan White, this will change. After reading this, the Harlem Hellfighters’s story will not be forgotten.

The images and pain of racism are war have been etched forever into my mind. Our American men, who volunteered to fight on another land, were treated worse than dogs. While in training, they were teased, provoked, and beaten. Our own government provided inadequate training, broomsticks for guns, and tin can boats instead of parades. These men stood up and fought in trenches that smelled of a “mix of charcoal, gunpowder, unwashed bodies, and rotten meat. A lot of rotten meat.” They were there, “so while our own country didn’t want us…another country needed us.” They even forbidden to fight alongside their own army, but they were strong enough to never lose a single trench and were the first soldiers, of any race, to reach the Rhine River.

Anyone dismissing graphic novels, I beg to differ. This is the perfect medium to share multi-facets of a oft-times dismissed war. Through this medium, we learn in words and illustration of the tragedies of “the great war”. 16,000,000 dead: as the book describes, equivalent to “a whole town gone, every day for four years”. This book describes the advent of the machine gun, without the change in battle strategy. In the “meat grinder of Verdun” 160,000 Frenchmen were lost in 11 months. In “the great [f-up] of the Somme” 20,000 British were lost in one day. (Curse words in this book use #, $, and * in place of the letters.) We learn of the Spanish flu, shell shock, influenze, Pnomonia, phosgene gas, rats, body lice, mud, and “Jack Johnson”. Again, if you dismiss this medium, I beg to differ.

The back of the book has some pictures which I’m sharing on my blog. Looking up “Harlem Hellfighters” in Google or Bing will yield others. Henry Johnson was the winner of the French Cross of War. James Reese Europe, known as “the king of Jazz” or “the Martin Luther King of music” is also featured.

Bottom line: read this!

Thanks to Crown Publishing for this book. You can find an interesting interview with the author on their site: http://crownpublishing.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/A-Conversation-with-Max-Brooks.pdf (Come on Hollywood, make this a movie!!)

Comment time: what are your thoughts regarding graphic novels as a serious reading medium?

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review. You can find this book’s preview and other reviews on Amazon: The Harlem Hellfighters

Or, you can rock the independent thing over at Powell’s: