Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop TalkingQuiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
Published by Crown

From the publisher:

At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking, reading to partying; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over brainstorming in teams. Although they are often labeled “quiet,” it is to introverts that we owe many of the great contributions to society–from van Gogh’s sunflowers to the invention of the personal computer.

Passionately argued, impressively researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet shows how dramatically we undervalue introverts, and how much we lose in doing so. Taking the reader on a journey from Dale Carnegie’s birthplace to Harvard Business School, from a Tony Robbins seminar to an evangelical megachurch, Susan Cain charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal in the twentieth century and explores its far-reaching effects. She talks to Asian-American students who feel alienated from the brash, backslapping atmosphere of American schools. She questions the dominant values of American business culture, where forced collaboration can stand in the way of innovation, and where the leadership potential of introverts is often overlooked. And she draws on cutting-edge research in psychology and neuroscience to reveal the surprising differences between extroverts and introverts.

Perhaps most inspiring, she introduces us to successful introverts–from a witty, high-octane public speaker who recharges in solitude after his talks, to a record-breaking salesman who quietly taps into the power of questions. Finally, she offers invaluable advice on everything from how to better negotiate differences in introvert-extrovert relationships to how to empower an introverted child to when it makes sense to be a “pretend extrovert.”

This extraordinary book has the power to permanently change how we see introverts and, equally important, how introverts see themselves.

This book was all over the blogosphere in the past couple of years, which should surprise exactly no one, since many bloggers consider themselves introverts. I have always known that I’m more introverted than extroverted, but was interested to see what this book could teach me about myself and was wondering if I’d even be surprised by some of Cain’s findings and conclusions. And I was fascinated by this book – it was everything I was expecting and hoping for, and I came away from it with a better understanding of the introvert/extrovert spectrum and how I fit into that mix.

I truly believe that all introverts, and anyone who is married to, dating, friends with, or close family members with an introvert (so probably everyone) should read this book. I recognized myself in so much of what Cain talked about and it was interesting how much I recognized other close friends and family members in my life – even people I would have sworn were extroverts!

I found the sections on successful introverts very interesting and I saw myself in a lot of the people Cain spotlighted. I too am a “pretend extrovert”, especially at work, where I have to talk to strangers all day long. Small talk has never been fun for me, but I am able to fake it when I have to and I know that even though I may feel awkward inside, people have no idea that I am any less than completely comfortable with meeting new people in the workplace. I also loved what she had to say about introverts in leadership positions, because I’m in that exact situation and I found myself recognizing a lot of the strengths she mentioned in myself. Reading about how successful introverts can be in leadership positions boosted my confidence and made me even more ready to embrace my introverted self, even while in my management position at work.

There’s a lot that I could talk about in regards to Quiet but honestly, I’d rather you just read it for yourself. There’s so much to think about and discuss in this book and I so highly recommend it. This was the one book I was really hoping to get to this year, and I’m so glad I gave myself the opportunity to read it right at the start of the year. Please read this!

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

The Good GirlThe Good Girl by Mary Kubica
Published by Harlequin MIRA
Review copy provided by SheReads

Mia Dennett is the twenty-something daughter of a prominent Chicago judge, a woman who was rebellious in her teens and unconventional in her adulthood – to the disappointment of her parents – but is now settled as an art teacher in an inner-city school. When she meets Colin Thatcher at a bar one night, she likes him enough to decide that a one-night stand is a good idea. Unfortunately for Mia, Colin was hired to kidnap her and deliver her to someone who he assumes will attempt to get ransom from her father. When Colin decides he can’t hand her over to his unknown employer to be hurt, raped, or worse, killed, he takes her to a remote cabin in Minnesota. Mia’s mother, Eve, and the detective on the case, Gabe Hoffman, work around the clock in hopes of finding them, but Colin is sure that he has a plan to keep them both safe – if they can survive Minnesota’s cold winter long enough to act on his plan.

What a roller coaster of a book! What’s unique about The Good Girl, to me, is that for a thriller it was not at all what I’ve come to expect from that genre. While the kidnapping itself was thrill-rideish and the drive to the woods made me have heart palpitations because I didn’t know what the heck this guy was going to do with her, once they got to the cabin the book settled down a LOT. As in, they were basically stuck in this cabin, just the two of them, for days and weeks on end and it almost got a little boring. But it never did because I continued to be on the edge of my seat, just waiting for something to happen. And I wasn’t disappointed in that something, when it did eventually come. But no spoilers.

I loved how the book was told from multiple points of view, but never Mia’s. Some readers might have found this annoying, but to me it worked really well. It was almost as though Mia was the center of the story, but she wasn’t the point of the story at all. Instead, Eve, Gabe, and Colin got to tell their stories and it was all about how Mia defined their lives during this period of time.

The writing in this book was excellent. It was the perfect mix of being evocative and just giving me enough so that I couldn’t stop turning the pages. Kubica really knows how to write a feeling and sense of place, and she did such an incredible job with this one. I felt like I was in that cabin with them, subsisting on canned chicken noodle soup and being so close to freezing to death.

The ending wasn’t exactly shocking – the whole book is rushing toward something, and you know it can’t possibly be good but you can’t stop reading anyway – but I was somewhat surprised by what Kubica chose to do with these characters and their story. Overall, The Good Girl is an excellent book and one that I won’t soon forget. I’m very much looking forward to what Kubica does next.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – Reread for HP Read-along

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter, #4)Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
Published by Scholastic

If you didn’t know already, Sheila at Book Journey is hosting a Harry Potter read along, and I’m happy to participate. :) Here are some brief thoughts on the fourth book.

  • I forgot how LONG this book is! Although it reads very quickly, it took me a lot longer than I anticipated to get through this one.
  • No quidditch? Sad! Although the competition was probably more exciting than quidditch matches, I did miss that element of the books in this one.
  • We finally see how evil and horrific the Death Eaters are in the very beginning of the book and it is really just some foreshadowing of what else is coming. Poor muggles!
  • I loved Hermione’s sass and ability to tell Ron how much of an idiot he was being throughout this book. I laughed out loud during the part when they were trying to figure out who to ask as dates to the ball and neither Harry nor Ron could believe that some other guy actually asked Hermione. It’s like, wake up and realize your best friend is a girl! And a pretty damn awesome one, too!
  • Over and over again while reading this book I just kept shaking my head in disbelief that the wizards and witches in charge actually allowed Harry to compete in the Triwizard Tournament. Yes I get that there are “rules” and I guess you can’t break magical rules but still … come on now!
  • On that note, I was also shocked that no one really questioned, at least in all seriousness, the fact that Harry’s name was put into the goblet under very suspicious circumstances. Who but a dark wizard would be able to circumnavigate all the hexes that Dumbledore put on the thing? Even though I have read this book before and therefore knew the ending, I was shocked by the fact that no one thought of the extremely obvious culprit behind Harry’s name getting into the tournament.
  • While the last book felt like a bridge between the simpler times of Harry being a preteen and the darker times that are to come in the last four books, Goblet of Fire felt like a perfect middle of the series to me. For most of the book, while Harry is dealing with trials and tribulations and competing in some extremely difficult challenges for the tournament, his life is relatively innocent. Until the end, and at that point it’s ON and bad things happen rather quickly – which is the perfect set-up for the final three books in the series.
  • I remembered the whole ending except for the fact that Moody was involved, and the details of that whole situation. That was a welcome surprise because I love when I forget things in these books so I get to experience it as if it were the first time in the re-read!
  • I love these books. And that is all.

The Sunday Salon

47289-sundaysalonGood morning and welcome to The Sunday Salon. I wish I was the kind of person who has a Sunday morning routine that includes a post every week, but I am just not that person. So you get updates from me sporadically and today is one of those days when I felt motivated enough to turn on the computer this morning and chat.

So this week was mostly uneventful at work, which is a good thing. December was one of the busiest months ever, and while I had an amazing time back in Chicago for Christmas, the rest of the month leading up to it was nonstop busyness as far as work is concerned. January so far has been much calmer.

I’ve been reading! I have finished seven books so far this year, and they have all been very good! That’s a good track record so far, and I’ll take it, but I’m still waiting for my first five-star read of 2015. I’m in the middle of The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah right now and I’m REALLY enjoying it. I’d only read one of her books in the past and liked it a lot, but for some reason haven’t picked up any more. If the second half of this book is as great as the first half has been, I’ll definitely read more of her this year. I’m also listening to Consider the Fork by Bee Wilson and while I’m enjoying it, it’s not the kind of book that I find myself excited to come back to. So I really have to make myself listen so I can finish it and move on to something else.

And also, so far this year I’m actually blogging somewhat consistently. I’ve posted a few reviews every week so far, and I have my two scheduled and ready to go for this upcoming week. I’m seeing a lot of chatter out there about book blogger burnout and I go back and forth on that. Some weeks and months I have my shit together and I’m reading and reviewing like clockwork, other weeks and months it just doesn’t happen. And I’m okay with that. I don’t have to be perfect or consistent – I do this when I want, how I want. And lately that means reading a few review copies and actually writing about them in a reasonable time frame. Maybe in a few months it won’t. And that’s cool too.

Let’s talk about the stuff I’m not doing so well. Exercising, for one. I had a great day (yes, day, ugh so pathetic) last week when I woke up at 5:20 am and went to the gym before work, and that lasted exactly one day. Booo. That’s something I really need to figure out and get on some kind of schedule. Cooking, for two. I said months ago that I was going to work my way through one of Rachael Ray’s cookbooks and then post about it here and then … radio silence. To be fair, I did make two recipes from the cookbook (and they were both great) but I still need to post about them. I would like to make one more before reviewing the cookbook overall, though. We’ll see if that happens.

This past week I had two book club meetings. Monday one of my book clubs met at BJ’s Brewhouse and discussed You by Caroline Kepnes. I actually got organized and found discussion questions online, and we had a very lively discussion (and delicious food and drinks). Then on Thursday, my other book club met at Vanbarry’s Public House and we were supposed to discuss Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. It was a great group, probably 13 or 14 people showed up, which meant we had a lot of fun and great conversation but almost no talking about the book – just too many people. It was fun anyway, though.

This has been a nice weekend so far. Yesterday I ran a few errands, did some stuff around the house, then my husband and I met another couple for dinner at one of our favorite restaurants. Today we have no real plans, but we’re considering spending some time at SeaWorld or possibly Universal. This is what we love about living here – we can go to a theme park for a few hours, not get overly exhausted, and head home.

So… what’s on your agenda for today? Happy Sunday!

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult
Published by Ballantine Books

Thirteen-year-old Jenna has always known her mother loved her, even given the fact that her mom, Alice, mysteriously disappeared after a horrific accident involving the elephants that both of her parents dedicated their lives to protect and save. Although Jenna spent the first three years of her life on the elephant sanctuary ran her parents, for the past ten years she’s lived with her grandmother while her mother has remained missing and her father is locked up in a mental institution.

She finally decides that enough is enough and determines that although she’s young, she’s perfectly capable of discovering what happened to Alice. She enlists the help of a formerly famous but now disgraced psychic named Serenity Jones, and the very man in charge of her mother’s disappearance originally, Virgil Stanhope. Over the course of their search, Jenna learns more than she ever bargained for about her mother’s life, disappearance, and just how much love Alice always had for her daughter.

Jodi Picoult is a guilty pleasure author for me. I’ve read all of her books, and while I certainly wouldn’t call them great literature, I wouldn’t call them fluffy either – they are good stories about complicated people and interesting subjects. They can be a bit formulaic, and some are better than others, but I’ve never actually disliked one of her novels. Anyway – Leaving Time follows a lot of the same Picoult patterns I am used to (multiple narrators, a book built around a unique “issue”, a fast pace that barrels toward the shocking ending) but gets rid of some others (no courtroom drama in this one, and thank GOODNESS one font throughout the entire novel). I have to say that I was really impressed by this book. There were a lot of things I liked about it, and not much I didn’t. I was torn between a four and five-star rating, that’s how much I enjoyed it!

Elephants! I love elephants and I learned a lot more about them while reading this book. Although there were a few times I simply had to put the book down because the descriptions of abuse that the elephants at the sanctuary suffered before being rescued were just so hard to read. Yes I know it’s fiction but it’s based on fact and one thing that I can’t handle is animal abuse. Picoult uses a ton of metaphors throughout the book comparing the behavior of the elephants to the humans’ behavior, but for some reason I never got annoyed by them – if anything, I grew even more interested in how the elephants were handling different situations.

I liked Jenna a lot but couldn’t help wonder how it was possible for a thirteen-year-old to be so independent, articulate, smart, resourceful, all of that. And where the HECK was her grandma when she was traipsing all around town attempting to solve the mystery of her mother’s disappearance? These questions made it hard for me to fully engage with her character. But I did like Serenity and Virgil and the three of them made a really good team.

The ending of this book is one I loved, totally didn’t see coming (even though I have read enough of her books to expect the unexpected), but can say absolutely nothing about. Read it yourself and please let’s discuss!

I liked this book a LOT. Picoult may be formulaic, but she strayed a bit with this one and I very much appreciate what she did here. This is definitely one of my favorite of her books.

Have you read anything by Jodi Picoult? People tend to love or hate her. What do you think of this author and would you consider reading Leaving Time?

The Magician’s Lie by Greer Macallister

The Magician's LieThe Magician’s Lie by Greer Macallister
Published by Sourcebooks Landmark
Review copy provided by SheReads

The Amazing Arden is a famous female magician, running her own show and her own empire in a male-dominated world and industry – it is the early 1900’s and traveling circuses, usually headed by men, are all the rage. When Arden’s husband is found dead inside one of her famous illusions, young detective Virgil Holt is determined to get her confession, so he finds her in a bar, brings her home, and traps her until she gives him the information he needs. But the story she spins is unlike anything Holt’s ever heard before, and he’s torn as to whether she’s telling him elaborate lies, or if her crazy story could actually be the truth.

This book appealed to me because it had been compared to Water for Elephants, a book I loved years ago. The novel begins with Virgil watching The Amazing Arden’s act and finding himself shocked and confused by what he’s seeing – he doesn’t know how she’s making these illusions happen, but he instinctively doesn’t trust the woman behind them. When her husband is found dead, he just knows that she’s either responsible for the death or involved somehow. Macallister draws the reader into the story right away – Arden’s husband is found within the first few pages, and a few pages after that, Virgil tracks down Arden and basically kidnaps her. After that, the majority of the novel is Arden telling Virgil her life story.

And what a life story it is! Arden’s past is filled with tragedy and the life she made for herself only came about through a mixture of determination, patience, circumstance, luck, and sheer will on Arden’s part to not go back to where she came from. But the whole time Arden is telling Virgil her life story, he’s questioning everything she says and wondering if he can trust even one word that comes out of her mouth. When she finishes her tale, Virgil is shocked and the reader is left feeling the same way.

I liked The Magician’s Lie well enough. I found myself spellbound by Arden’s story, alternately horrified by the things she experienced and proud of her for turning such a difficult life into such a successful one. But at the same time, I didn’t love this novel as much as I wanted to. The characters were a little too much for me – the good guys too perfect and the bad guys had not an ounce of humanity in them. Arden herself is a mystery because while as a reader, you want to like her and root for her, you also suspect that she’s playing you and Virgil for fools. Because I could never trust Arden, I couldn’t exactly like her, even though I found myself hoping that what she was saying was the truth – until the very end. Without going into detail, while I didn’t quite see the ending coming, it did feel a bit contrived to me. Almost as if the author knew she had to do something shocking with this story, and what she chose to do may have worked really well for a lot of people – but for me, not so much.

I don’t know. I’m torn with this one because while I really liked the journey and was highly entertained by most of the novel, there were aspects of The Magician’s Lie that I didn’t love. But I think that a lot of people will really enjoy this book and I do commend the author for an incredibly unique and successful debut novel.

Mini-Reviews – End of 2014 Reading part 4

The Rosie Effect (Don Tillman #2)The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion
Published by Text Publishing Company
Review copy provided by Netgalley

I loved The Rosie Project so I was super excited to see that Simsion wrote a sequel. In this book, Rosie and Don have been married just under a year when Rosie becomes pregnant. Unfortunately, this sends their relationship into a tailspin – the two of them aren’t communicating, Don has moved a friend into their apartment, and Rosie continues to insist that everything is fine even when it so obviously is not.

I have to be honest and say that I was so disappointed in this book. What was endearing and cute about Don in the first book became redundant and quite annoying in this one. Further, it bothered me how Don and Rosie both acted exactly in character, yet for some reason neither one was able to figure out how to deal with the others’ issues – even though they figured out how to communicate and get along perfectly fine in book one! Wouldn’t you think that Rosie would understand how Don sees the world and acts in the face of adversity and know how to handle it when things out of the ordinary happen (as she did in the first book)? And vice versa? I was, quite frankly, bored with most of the book and if I hadn’t gotten it from a review copy source I would have abandoned it. I like Simsion’s writing but I’m ready for him to create some new characters.

Yes PleaseYes Please by Amy Poehler
Published by It Books

I have been a fan of Amy Poehler since she was on Saturday Night Live. I love Parks and Recreation (and really, really don’t want this to be the last season – SO SAD!) and I knew I’d read this book as soon as I could. Yes Please was everything I wanted and more. Funny, honest, authentic, true, Amy Poehler is everything and I just love her. Everyone says that the audio is better than print, so I may have to reread it this year in audio format. But either way, it’s fantastic and if you are at all a fan of Poehler’s, this is a must-read.

Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged HospitalFive Days at Memorial: Life and Death at a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sherri Fink
Published by Crown

If you haven’t heard of this book, chronicling the five days nurses, doctors, patients and their families spent at Memorial Medical Center after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, you must have been living under a rock. I am here to tell you that the praise this book has received is absolutely worth it, Five Days at Memorial is an incredibly fascinating, if terrifying, read. There’s so much here to think about and discuss it boggles the mind but the biggest lesson I took from this book is that disaster planning is so necessary, especially for big companies. There are individuals who Fink kind of points the finger at here, but at the end of the day, the structures that are supposed to be in place to protect people from having to make life or death decisions in the face of very little food, sleep, and water were just not in place here. I cannot recommend this book enough. I didn’t put it on my end of year survey because I hadn’t quite finished it when I wrote that, but Five Days at Memorial is one of the best books I read all year, hands down. And the audio production is fabulous. Please pick up this book in audio or print – either way you will not regret it.