logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: pop-culture
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-11-05 21:25
For lovers of clever and witty dialogue, geeks, sci-fi, popular culture and Oscar Wilde. A great YA story.
Not Now, Not Ever - Lily Anderson

I read and reviewed Lily Anderson’s first book The Only Thing Worse than Me Is You (you can check my review here) last year. I loved it and I mentioned that I would be watching out for more of the author’s books. When a publicist from St. Martin’s Press got in touch with me offering me to take part in the blog tour for the author’s next book, I had to check it out. When I read that this time the author’s inspiration was Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest I knew I’d fight tooth-and-nail to take part if necessary. Thankfully, it didn’t come to that, but it would have been worth it.

Elliot/Ever (if you know Wilde’s play, you’ll know that there are several people using false identities for a variety of reasons, mostly to live a different kind of life away from prying eyes) is a seventeen year old African-American girl, who lives in California, with a somewhat complicated family background (the Lawrence, on her mother’s side, have a long tradition of joining the Air Force, and her mother, in fact, teaches at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, while she lives with her father, a lawyer of French descent. Her step-Mom, Beth, is an estate agent, white, and an amateur actress, and she has a half-brother, Ethan). Her mother and all of her mother’s family expect her to join the Air Force, while her father wants her to do anything but that (mostly go to College somewhere nearby). And Elliot… Well, she wants to study Science-Fiction Literature. She is a geek. Her step-mother is about to play Gwendoline for the sixth time in an amateur production of The Importance of Being Earnest (that Elliot knows by heart from so many performances and rehearsals) and she decides to take control of her life and avoid another farcical summer. She lies to everybody around her, creates a fake identity (inspired by Wilde’s play), and after passing a genius exam to enter a summer programme (to win a fantastic scholarship to the college of her dreams, mostly because they have an amazing sci-fi collection in the library and they offer a degree in Science-Fiction Literature) she sets off to Oregon, determined to win no matter what.

Elliot/Ever soon discovers that you cannot outrun Wilde and that there’s nothing more farcical than a camp for geniuses. She has a few surprises (she’s not the only one to use a fake identity or lie), meets wonderful people (and some not quite so wonderful), finds love, and discovers what’s really important.

Like in Anderson’s previous novel, we have a first-person narration, this time by Elliot, who is a clever, witty, and determined girl. In this case she was not aware she was a genius (another member of the family was always considered the clever one), but the summer camp is not that dissimilar to the high school in the previous novel, although in this case everybody, apart from the college students who facilitate the camp, are new to the place, they don’t know each other and are thrown together in pretty stressful circumstances. We have, again, many pop culture and bigger Culture references (some, I must admit went over my head, but I didn’t mind that), a diverse group of students, but all clever, studious, dedicated, nerdy, and quirky. I loved Leigh, Elliot’s roommate, Brandon (a guy who carries a typewriter around. Come on, I’m a writer too. Who would not love him), and most of the characters. The dialogue sparkles and the quotes from Wilde’s play, that keep popping up into Elliot’s head, are sometimes humorous (I particularly like the ‘A tree!’ ‘A handbag!’ comparison) but sometimes the author chooses quotes that reflect the serious matters at hand. Although at first, it seems the furthest possible setting for such a play, the summer camp works well, as we have many restrictions, a lockdown, rules that can be broken and people hiding secrets, overhearing things they shouldn’t, and getting into all kinds of problems.

There is cheating, friendships, betrayals, bizarre but vividly portrayed contests (Star Wars based fights to the death, The Breakfast Club themed memory tests…) and young romance.

I don’t know if it was because of the build-up and the identity changes but it took me a bit longer to get into the story than it did the previous novel, but once at the camp and when I got used to Elliot/Ever’s voice and her accurate descriptions of people and things, I felt as if I was there and could not put the book down.

The ending… Well, you’ll have to read it. It’s probably not what you expect but it’s good.

Once again I’ve highlighted many bits. A few random ones:

And he was wearing loafers. I couldn’t get my swoon on for a guy who didn’t wear socks.

Two narrow pressboard wardrobes that were less Narnia, more IKEA.

She sounded as though she really meant it, but that could have been because everything she said sounded vaguely like it was licensed by Disney.

He was cute and presumably very smart and, unlike so many other white dudes, he’d never told me how much hip-hop meant to him like my melanin made me a rap ambassador.

Another great YA novel that I’d recommend to people who enjoy sci-fi and pop culture references, people who love books and libraries, and who appreciate young female characters that have interests beyond school balls and boyfriends. And of course, if you love witty dialogue, farcical plots, and are a fan of Oscar Wilde, you are in for a treat. I’ll for sure be waiting for Anderson’s next novel.

Thanks to Wednesday Books (St. Martin’s Press) and to NetGalley for providing me an ARC copy of the novel that I freely chose to review.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-10-29 20:47
The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't by Robert I. Sutton
The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't - Robert I. Sutton

In this book, Sutton 1) defines workplace assholes, 2) describes the damage they can do to their workplaces and to themselves, 3) outlines how workplaces can try to implement a “no asshole” rule, 4) describes how you can keep from being an asshole, 5) provides tips for dealing with workplace assholes if your workplace isn’t making a concentrated effort to keep them out or deal with their behavior in some way, 6) and describes some of the benefits of occasionally being an asshole and/or having one around. And probably a few other things I forgot to list.

Sutton’s workplace assholes are basically what other books call workplace bullies, although I agree with Sutton that “asshole” is probably a better word to use. I think the average adult would probably connect with it more.

I started reading this in the hope of learning more and better strategies for dealing with workplace assholes. Unfortunately, although this was an engaging read that I largely agreed with, it didn’t really give me what I’d hoped for.

It started off promisingly. I loved that, in his introduction, Sutton never once said that people dealing with workplace assholes should probably just quit. Quitting isn’t an option for a lot of people. Maybe you’re tied to a particular geographic area because of your family, spouse, kids, etc. and there are few or no similar jobs in the area. Maybe the job market is terrible. Maybe your finances are tight and you can’t afford the uncertainty of a job search or possibly having to move somewhere else. Maybe you prefer the “devil you know.” What it comes down to is that there are lots of reasons why people might not want or be able to leave a bad workplace situation. I was hopeful that Sutton would have some good suggestions.

I agreed with a lot of the stuff that came after that. Yes, people with good leaders are more likely to admit they've made mistakes - there’d be less fear that they’d be punished for them, so they could admit them and then try to rectify them instead of hiding them. Yes, workplace assholes tend to make more enemies than they know. Yes, their employees waste a lot of time complaining about them and trying to work around them. Yes, a workplace where assholes aren’t tolerated is more likely to run smoothly and have better morale.

There were a few examples that made me wince. There was one organization that went to the effort of determining the TCA (Total Cost of Assholes) for one particularly nasty high-performing employee. Although he was considered a high-performer, he’d also cost the company when his company-provided anger management courses and high assistant turnover were taken into account. The total amount he’d cost the company was determined to be around $160,000, although in reality it was probably higher than that if the effect he had on everyone who had to work with him was taken into account. Management sat him down and told him that $96,000 of this total would be taken out of his year-end bonus. I was incredulous. From the sounds of things, a demotion, an actual cut in pay rather than just his bonus, or possibly even firing him would have been more appropriate.

To be fair, Sutton also thought that the company went too easy on the guy. I wished that he’d been able to do some kind of follow up. It would have been nice to know if the guy’s bad behavior had continued and he’d eventually been fired, or if this apparent slap on the wrist had somehow managed to serve as a wake-up call for him.

There are other things that made me raise an eyebrow, though. At one point, Sutton talked about how Southwest Airlines strived to create an asshole-free workplace by hiring people who fit their culture. Specifically, employees needed to be warm and friendly to both passengers and fellow employees. Unfortunately, not everyone wants to be friends with their coworkers. In Sutton’s anecdote, one particular employee who felt this way was told that he might be happier elsewhere, and he eventually did get a job with another airline. This entire anecdote bothered me because it wasn’t really about a workplace asshole - it was just a guy for whom his job was just a job.

Also, as a book reviewer I took issue with another one of Sutton’s examples. Near the end of the book, Sutton talked about how workplace assholes will sometimes be nasty towards others in front of senior management because it can make them seem smarter than their targets and those around them who are quieter and kinder. In order to explain this, Sutton brought up an article in which perceptions of “nice” and “nasty” book reviews were compared. “Amabile found that negative and unkind people were seen as less likable but more intelligent, competent, and expert than those who expressed the same messages in kinder and gentler ways.” (161) I haven’t read the article in question, but I very much disliked the way Sutton made use of it. There’s a vast amount of difference between book reviews and people talking to colleagues in front of senior management.

The two chapters that seemed like they’d be the most helpful were Chapter 3, which discussed implementing a “no asshole” rule in your workplace, and Chapter 5, which included tips for individuals faced with workplace assholes. Chapter 3 was actually pretty decent...except that it required the entire workplace, but especially upper-level management, to be committed to an asshole-free workplace. Saying that your workplace is committed to open communication and friendliness is nice, but it means nothing if, say, employees are permitted to make biting remarks about each other in public with apparent impunity. And besides, what do you do if your workplace assholes are your upper-level management?

I was excited to see what sorts of suggestions Sutton would include in Chapter 5, but I was ultimately let down. He didn’t quite come out and say it (at least not until the last couple pages of the book), but it was clear that most of the suggestions were aimed at surviving your workplace until you could finally leave. The suggested strategies included things like: remember that the abuse isn’t your fault, lower your expectations (hope for the best but expect the worst), develop indifference and emotional detachment, try to limit your exposure to workplace assholes, build support networks in your workplace, and look for small ways to seize bits of control over your workplace life. There were a few helpful tips here and there, but most of them were things that people dealing with workplace assholes are probably already doing. Several of them were things that even Sutton admitted could potentially make the situation worse.

This wasn’t a bad book - it just didn’t have much of what I was looking for. If you’re currently dealing with a workplace asshole (or several of them) who’s above you on your organizational chart, I’d say it’s pretty safe to just skip to Chapter 5 and see if you can get anything helpful out of it. If you’re in a truly terrible situation and are in a position where getting a job somewhere else is a possibility for you, reading the whole book might give you the push you need. If you're upper-level management at an organization or if you supervise a lot of people, Chapter 3 could be very useful to you. In the end, though, don't expect this book to be some kind of magic bullet, and be prepared for some of it to be a bit contradictory.

 

Rating Note:

 

I struggled with rating this. My disappointment with Chapter 5 and my frustration with the book's sometimes conflicting advice made me want to give this 2.5 stars, but overall I decided it was more of a 3-star book. It did at least have a few helpful nuggets of info.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
text 2017-10-11 02:39
Just read it.
Transforming a Rape Culture - Emilie Buchwald,Emilie Buchwald,Pamela R. Fletcher,Pamela Fletcher
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-09-28 23:01
Malay flavored YA
The Ghost Bride: A Novel - Yangsze Choo

Ghostly, entertaining jaunt. Foreign setting, lots of fantasy, family intrigues and romance. Teens and young adults would be a good audience for this one.

 

I liked it well enough, though I wanted to thump some sense into Li Lan several times. And she does the distressed damsel quite a bit. And some issues are managed in somewhat simplistic ways. But it was a speedy read, and I had a good time.

 

 

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?