David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling GiantsDavid and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell
Published by Little, Brown and Company

From the publisher:

In his #1 bestselling books THE TIPPING POINT, BLINK and OUTLIERS, Malcolm Gladwell has explored the ways in which we understand and change our world. Now he looks at the complex and surprising ways in which the weak can defeat the strong, how the small can match up against the giant, and how our goals (often cultural determined) can make a huge difference in our ultimate sense of success. Drawing upon examples from the world of business, sports, culture, cutting-edge psychology and an array of unforgettable characters around the world, DAVID AND GOLIATH is in many ways the most practical and provocative book Malcolm Gladwell has ever written.

I’m a huge fan of Malcolm Gladwell. I like his take on unusual topics and I love how he turns typical wisdom completely on its head. He always makes me think, and I love challenging my brain. David and Goliath was no different from his previous books in that way – it definitely helped me see things in a new and very different way.

The main thing I got out of this book is that the “Davids” of the world can’t beat the “giants” of the world using the same tactics as the “giants”. Does that make sense? New and innovative ways of thinking and doing things must be discovered in order for underdogs to win. Also, underdogs can win by finding the weakness of the powerful and using that to their advantage.

Gladwell uses several real-life examples to illustrate his point and I really liked the variety of examples used. None of them were an obvious comparison to the David and Goliath story, but each one worked in its own way. The different examples and how he showed how the underdog won against the powerful each time kept my brain buzzing – it was the perfect amount of thinking with entertainment, too.

I love Gladwell’s books on audio. He narrates them himself, and his speech has this strange, almost over-enunciating quality to it that for some reason I just love. I listened to this one, too, and it was just as great a listening experience as his previous books.

I’ve really enjoyed all of Gladwell’s books. If I had to rank them, however, this would probably be my least favorite of the four. That being said, I enjoyed it quite a bit! So definitely pick up one of his if you haven’t, and if you’re already a fan, David and Goliath is a must read.

The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell

The House We Grew Up InThe House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell
Published by Atria Books
Review copy provided by She Reads

From the publisher:

Meet the Bird family. They live in a honey-colored house in a picture-perfect Cotswolds village, with rambling, unkempt gardens stretching beyond. Pragmatic Meg, dreamy Beth, and tow-headed twins Rory and Rhys all attend the village school and eat home-cooked meals together every night. Their father is a sweet gangly man named Colin, who still looks like a teenager with floppy hair and owlish, round-framed glasses. Their mother is a beautiful hippy named Lorelei, who exists entirely in the moment. And she makes every moment sparkle in her children’s lives.

Then one Easter weekend, tragedy comes to call. The event is so devastating that, almost imperceptibly, it begins to tear the family apart. Years pass as the children become adults, find new relationships, and develop their own separate lives. Soon it seems as though they’ve never been a family at all. But then something happens that calls them back to the house they grew up in — and to what really happened that Easter weekend so many years ago.

I don’t really know where to start with this novel. The summary is one that will make you think these children grew up with a perfect life, until one horrific event shattered everything, but truth be told, that’s not really the case. The Bird family had never been perfect – in fact, it seemed to me that they were only hanging on by a thread when everything suddenly spiraled out of control. All that being said, this book is about a family with some MAJOR problems.

While each character in this novel is flawed in their own way, Lorelai – the matriarch of the family – really takes the cake. She is unable to deal with the devastating event that happened to this family, so she turns away from her husband and kids, and begins a relationship with another woman, and begins hoarding so much stuff to the point that, eventually, no one can even live in the home. When they siblings and their father eventually come back to the house, years have gone on like this and they are shocked to discover what Lorelai’s house has become. Most of the book is about the family coming together, figuring things out and learning to deal with one another – learning to forgive when forgiveness doesn’t seem possible.

There’s a lot to take in here - The House We Grew Up In isn’t an easy, quick read by any means. This family’s problems run far and deep, and every single person in this novel has issues that they are unable or unwilling to deal with. But these are the kinds of novels I tend to really enjoy – these family drama type books, where you get to know the characters intimately and coming away feeling like they are real people, like you just got to know another family. This is the way I felt upon finishing this novel, and I ultimately enjoyed it quite a bit. It was incredibly sad to watch this family unravel so quickly, but that made the efforts each one put in towards coming back together that much more meaningful.

Lisa Jewell is a new author to me and I really appreciate everything she’s done with this read. I will definitely be looking for more of her books in the future!

Hard Choices by Hillary Rodham Clinton

Hard ChoicesHard Choices by Hillary Rodham Clinton
Published by Simon & Schuster
Review copy provided by the publicist

From the publisher:

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s inside account of the crises, choices, and challenges she faced during her four years as America’s 67th Secretary of State, and how those experiences drive her view of the future.

“All of us face hard choices in our lives,” Hillary Rodham Clinton writes at the start of this personal chronicle of years at the center of world events. “Life is about making such choices. Our choices and how we handle them shape the people we become.”

In the aftermath of her 2008 presidential run, she expected to return to representing New York in the United States Senate. To her surprise, her former rival for the Democratic Party nomination, newly elected President Barack Obama, asked her to serve in his administration as Secretary of State. This memoir is the story of the four extraordinary and historic years that followed, and the hard choices that she and her colleagues confronted.

Secretary Clinton and President Obama had to decide how to repair fractured alliances, wind down two wars, and address a global financial crisis. They faced a rising competitor in China, growing threats from Iran and North Korea, and revolutions across the Middle East. Along the way, they grappled with some of the toughest dilemmas of US foreign policy, especially the decision to send Americans into harm’s way, from Afghanistan to Libya to the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

By the end of her tenure, Secretary Clinton had visited 112 countries, traveled nearly one million miles, and gained a truly global perspective on many of the major trends reshaping the landscape of the twenty-first century, from economic inequality to climate change to revolutions in energy, communications, and health. Drawing on conversations with numerous leaders and experts, Secretary Clinton offers her views on what it will take for the United States to compete and thrive in an interdependent world. She makes a passionate case for human rights and the full participation in society of women, youth, and LGBT people. An astute eyewitness to decades of social change, she distinguishes the trendlines from the headlines and describes the progress occurring throughout the world, day after day.

Secretary Clinton’s descriptions of diplomatic conversations at the highest levels offer readers a master class in international relations, as does her analysis of how we can best use “smart power” to deliver security and prosperity in a rapidly changing world—one in which America remains the indispensable nation.

I don’t read a ton of political memoirs, but this one really appealed to me because I’ve always admired Hillary Clinton, for a variety of reasons. This isn’t a place where I discuss politics at all, so I’ll just say that in general, I get where she’s coming from and share many of her beliefs, so I was very interested to learn more about her politics, what she stands for, and the experiences she’d had over her four years as Secretary of State. The fact that she’s obviously considering a presidential run in 2016 certainly didn’t hurt either.

Hard Choices is not an easy read, not by a long shot. Clinton dives deep into her years as Secretary of State and really gets into the politics, risks, and consequences involved in many of the conflicts that arose and decisions that were made throughout those years. That being said, it’s not a difficult read either. Everything is put together in a really accessible way, helping even the most politically naive of us understand the who, what, where, when, and how of many international crises. I learned a TON from this book as a lot of what’s discussed are the things that go on behind the scenes – the situations that America (and the world) never get to hear about as these conflicts are taking place.

I listened to the audio of this book and it was very well done. Kathleen Chalfant was a new voice to me and she did a pretty good job. The only thing that I didn’t love was that Clinton herself narrates the first chapter – making the switch to Chalfant very awkward for my brain to comprehend. Once I got into the audio, though, I was good with Chalfant’s narration.

I found this book exceptionally interesting and got a lot out of it. I think even those who disagree with Clinton’s politics would find something to chew on in this book. So much of it is about international relations and very little of it has to do with her actual beliefs – it’s really just a peek into those four years she spent as Secretary of State, what that actually looked like and what happened in the world throughout that time. Really fascinating stuff.

Highly recommended! Even if you don’t like her. ;)

 

 

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Big Little LiesBig Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Published by Putnam Adult

From the publisher:

Big Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads:   Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?).

Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.

New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.

I was so happy when my book club chose this as our October read because I was dying to read it anyway. Liane Moriarty is one of those authors who just gets it. She doesn’t write light fiction – she writes books about Big Issues, dressed up in a pretty package to throw you off the scent. But this, my friends, is no fluffy stuff. There are major things happening in this book.

In the beginning of the story, you learn that someone has died at a school function. But you don’t know who, or why, or how, only that the police are suspicious that foul play was involved. As the book goes on, the puzzle pieces slowly click into place and you begin to think about what might have happened, who could have died and who might have had something to do with it. But it’s not crystal clear until the very end. All of that added up to a very suspenseful novel, besides the fact that the book is filled with all kinds of other drama.

There is domestic violence in Big Little Lies. Moriarty doesn’t shy away from the reality of that, from what it feels like to be abused, physically and emotionally, and what it feels like to love that person and want desperately for them to be different. She doesn’t shy away from how terrifying it is for a person to know that they are trapped in a situation in which they have zero control, that if a woman leaves her abuser he is more than likely going to find her and hurt her worse than ever, even attempting to kill her. This is not a joke, and Moriarty treats it with the seriousness it deserves. This character needs help, desperately, and as a reader you can’t help but get that awful nauseous feeling in your stomach every time these characters have an altercation – it is horrifying and sad and incredibly, terrifyingly, real.

There’s so much to love about this book and I don’t know quite what else to say. The characters are incredibly well-drawn, the dialogue is spot-on, and the plot moves along at a perfect pace. Moriarty totally gets it and I want to devour everything she’s written. She’s truly fantastic and you need to read Big Little Lies.

Reunion by Hannah Pittard

Reunion: A NovelReunion by Hannah Pittard
Published by Grand Central Publishing
Review copy provided by LibraryThing Early Reviewer’s Program

From the publisher:

Five minutes before her flight is set to take off, Kate Pulaski, failed screenwriter and newly-failed wife, learns that her estranged father killed himself. More shocked than saddened by the news, she reluctantly gives in to her older siblings’ request that she join them–and her many half-siblings, and most of her father’s five former wives–in Atlanta, their birthplace, for a final farewell.

Written with huge heart and bracing wit, REUNION takes place over the following four days, as family secrets are revealed, personal deceits are uncovered, and Kate–an inveterate liar looking for a way to come clean–slowly begins to acknowledge the overwhelming similarities between herself and the man she never thought she’d claim as an influence, much less a father.

I didn’t really like Pittard’s debut novel, The Fates Will Find Their Way, but to be honest when I saw this book I only recognized the name of the author and couldn’t remember why. Upon finishing Reunion, I realized who the author was and my reaction to this read overall made perfect sense. I definitely liked this one better than her first novel, but it still wasn’t a home run for me.

What I did like about this book were the intricate, completely dysfunctional, family dynamics at play. I’m not sure you can even consider everyone in this book “family” – three ex-wives, one current wife, and their children – basically five separate families all came together for this one guy’s funeral. There’s obviously going to jealousy and tension and all kinds of crazy emotions, and Pittard got those aspects of the book so, so right. Also, the core group is Kate and her older siblings, Elliot and Nell, and, as I usually enjoy reading about siblings, really liked the dynamic of the three of them. Each one is deeply flawed individually, but they each in their own way aim to make one another better – and although they certainly don’t succeed every time, there is a current of unconditional love running through their bond. Basically, they are all the “real” family the three of them have, so they value that family above just about everything else.

Unfortunately, I didn’t like Kate at all – I found her spoiled, selfish, and completely out of touch with how her actions affected those around her. Her brother and sister were slightly better, but still – these people had been seriously scarred by their father’s behavior and by events from their childhoods. While I often can enjoy a book with characters I don’t like, in this case I found that difficult. Also I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the ending – while some loose ends were wrapped up, and some relationships ended up in a better place than they began, I still didn’t see much character growth happening. Kate still seemed selfish and shallow when the book ended, and that was frustrating for me.

But I do like Pittard’s writing, and I think she takes ordinary situations and adds a creative edge to them that makes her work more interesting than most. I’m still up for whatever she’s got next, with an open mind, because her concepts are so unique, although Reunion was just good for me – not great.

The Sparrow Readalong Wrap-Up

sparrow readalong

Well, September is over which means The Sparrow Readalong, hosted by Trish, is officially over too. Most of you know that this is my favorite book ever, so I will spare you a review – the whole thing would say READ IT READ IT READ IT – and just give some of my thoughts upon finishing this marvelous novel for the third time.

Warning – I’m answering some of Trish’s questions so there will be definite spoilers. Please skip this part if you plan to read the book yourself.

As far as Emilio’s confession goes, I too felt that he was unfairly judged by the priests. Reading it a third time illuminated for me how they assumed, without a shadow of a doubt and before even asking Emilio what happened, that he was guilty of the crimes they believed were committed. Not one time did one of those guys say “hmm, prostitution, that seems a little out of character for our guy Emilio here. Maybe this wasn’t exactly a choice he made, perhaps there was some force involved?” Not ONCE. I remembered that, vaguely, from the first time I read the book but this time it shocked and disgusted me how they were so convinced that he had asked for this – WHO in his right mind would ask for what happened to Emilio? I am not sure if, after confessing, he felt absolved of the choices he made and of the horrible things that were done to him, but I do think it was cathartic for him to finally tell the priests what really happened on Rakhat. He carried so much grief, sorrow, shame, and mostly guilt for what happened to his friends and himself, he needed everything out in the open. I’ve only read Children of God, the sequel, once, but I do plan to read it again because I believe some of Emilio’s emotions become a little more clear and he begins to forgive himself in the second book (if I remember correctly).

Supaari. I don’t know. On one hand, I don’t think he thought of the humans, even Anne, on the same level as himself. It is clear that the Runa are a lesser species, and definitely Supaari thought of the humans on a similar level – yes they were obviously more intelligent than Runa, but they weren’t the *same* as Supaari, if that makes sense. So I don’t know that what he did to them was SO awful, according to the standards of his culture, and I think knowing the ending made me suspicious of him all along. I could definitely see, from early on in their relationship, that it couldn’t possibly end well for Supaari and the humans – they weren’t going to live in a castle together happily ever after, that was evident from the start. But, ultimately, I would say I felt betrayed by him too. He could have made different choices and he chose to hurt people for his own good. But again, in his culture, he was raised to believe that’s the only way to get ahead – at the expense of others. So I don’t know – I’m almost mad at the humans for putting so much faith and trust in him, without really understanding his background and culture before doing so.

Askama. I have no words. That scene has me bawling every time.

I loved the religious aspects of the book. The first time I read it, I was a non-believer, and every single thing Anne said was like gold to me. I still deeply love everything she said and find so many of her quotes moving – for a non-believer, she’s pretty darn spiritual and does believe, in her own way. But I am Christian now, and I do connect deeply with Emilio. I cannot even consider the idea of what he went through – he gave and gave and gave, and in return he received, from his God, the ultimate betrayal. Words cannot express what that must feel like, but Russell did a pretty damn good job doing just that. When I think of Emilio, I just get all the feels and I can’t even talk about it. I just … how do you even keep believing when that happens to you? How do you reconcile the God you love and trust with the same God who would put you in that position? These are questions that have plagued Christians for centuries, and will continue to do so forever, I’m sure. Which is one reason I love that Russell gives no easy answers – only individually can we come up with the answers for ourselves in our own lives.

Spoilers over.

Anyway, I’m so happy I read The Sparrow a third time and I’m looking forward to reading the sequel, Children of God, at some point before the end of the year. Thanks Trish for hosting! I had fun. :)

The Sunday Salon – Vacation Time!

If you’re concerned that I disappeared this week, fear not – I’m still here! I only had time to schedule the one post last weekend, and had a pretty busy week, so there you have it. And by the time you read this, I’ll be on a plane, headed for vacation! The hubby and I are flying to San Juan, Puerto Rico today to embark on a seven-day cruise! We’re hitting St. Thomas, Barbados, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, and St. Maarten and I have to tell you, I couldn’t be more excited. We typically do one big vacation every year, and this is it. I CAN NOT WAIT!

So things will be dark this upcoming week, too, but I do have a few books waiting to be reviewed that I’m excited to talk to you about when I get back. AND I plan on reading both the new Emily St. John Mandel AND the new Tana French over vacation (as well as at least one or two others) so I’m looking forward to coming home with LOTS of bookish goodness to share.

For now, I hope you are enjoying your Sunday and have a pleasant week ahead. I am looking forward to lots of reading, relaxation, and a few adventures (we’re zip-lining. I’m already having panic attacks.). Oh, and yummy drinks. Lots and lots of yummy drinks. :)

Talk to you in about a week!