David and Goliath – Malcolm Gladwell – A Partial Review

I haven’t finished this book yet.

It’s not a work of fiction, either.

It is, however, a book that teaches through telling stories and that’s worth writing about.

If you were to ask me in high school whether or not I thought of myself as an intelligent person, chances are I wouldn’t know how to answer that. By looking at my grades alone, I might have told you no. Though I might also have to caution you that throughout all my years in school, I never tried.

During my bitter, dark days I like to blame the way education is handled. It’s a system focused more on memorization and thoughtless obedience than the type of creative free thinking that leads to ingenuity in solving long-standing problems like harmful cultural teachings.

By no means am I going to sit here and try to convince you that I’m some type of genius. I am not. If anything I’m a fake masked by eloquent speech, great posture and a slightly inflated sense of importance. If I’m being honest, a great smile also helps. What I want o highlight here, is a word of caution.

Chapter three of Malcom’sDavid and Goliath is titled, ‘Caroline Sacks.’ It tells the story of a young girl who wanted to be a sicentist. Ever since she was little she would go out into the backyard with a sketchbook and a magnifying glass to look for bugs. Unlike me, she excelled in academics – never knowing what it might be like to do less than an A-. In fact, she did so well that, when it came time to find a college, she was accepted into Brown University.

The entire chapter explores the Big Fish Little Pond theory – asking those to ponder whether or not it’s better to be a little fish (Caroline Sacks) in a very big pond (Brown) Or a Big fish (Caroline) in a little pond (Her second choice university.) The simplest way to put it is to imagine being the best at something among the people that you know – and finding your merely average or, worse, under average when surrounded by those considered specialists in that thing. In more cases then not, this leads to giving up.

davidandgoliath-malcolmWhen I was still in school, many friends and close family got to telling me about all the things I was going to regret one day. I was going to regret not going to prom. I was going to regret not getting out to party more. I was going to regret not taking those AP classes. They also said I was going to regret not going to college.

I never regretted a single thing. Not after graduation. Not after years deep into customer service, minimum wage jobs. I already had a dream and once school was over I finally had space and time to tear into all the books, articles, and talks on that one thing I was passionate and excited about. (It was writing in case you didn’t know.)

Here I stand ten years later unpublished and newly moved into a haunted Bed and Breakfast to work as a live-in Inn Keeper, (I will write about this eventually) writing my confession of regret.

I wish I had gone to college.

No, wait.

At the root of it, I regret never learning how to try.

As I was reading this chapter (ignoring all the creaking floorboards over my head) I started to wonder how different my life would look if I hadn’t been so stubborn. Or, rather, that stubbornness was harnessed. what would have happened if someone picked me up and dropped me in the middle of a school or a class that was so far over my head I thought I might drown in it? I like to believe I would have learned what it was like to struggle for my effortlessly average standing.

I graduated without ever doing a single scrap of homework or project. If it required even a small amount of at homework, it wouldn’t be done. That included studying. Maybe if I had tried I would have learned more of my passions in time to strive for something greater. Maybe I would have noticed that my passing love for psychology, was actually an ignited passion for neuroscience and brain psychology.

I regret that.

Don’t get me wrong, the education system needs to change. Every year it seems to become more inaccessible to those of limited means. But it’s important to appreciate education when you have it, and make the most of every tool you have before it’s gone.

I’ll write more on this book once I finish it, but so far three chapters in, I say it’s well worth the read.

City of Ghosts – Victoria Schwab – A Review

Life has a way of happening, you know? As it turns out, so does death.  City of Ghosts is V. E. Schwab’s first book in her new Y.A. book series, narrated by Cassidy Blake. A girl who, after drowning in a river, comes back to realize she can cross the veil separating our world from the personalized purgatory of ghosts. Oh, and her best friend is a ghost named Jacob who can read her mind.

This strange ability is making life interesting enough, but then her parents get a T.V. show deal that lands them in one of Europe’s most haunted cities, Edinburgh, Scotland. There, she meets a girl who shares her peculiar gifts, discovers her purpose, and goes head to head with an urban ghost story, The Red Raven.

A quick side note, this book isn’t available to buy, yet. (It will be very soon.) I was fortunate enough to get a signed, uncorrected proof during my last minute book con dash that involved a lot of luck and magical timing. You can read that adventure here.

Now, Onward with the review!

I do not believe in a reality where I pick up a Schwab book and go away dissatisfied. That being said, this was no, “Kell wore a very peculiar coat.”, either. What I love about

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Personal artwork loosely inspired by The Red Raven.

Schwab’s work is the seemingly effortless way she draws you fully into the setting and world of the characters. (Anyone who writes knows it is not, in fact, effortless but sometimes grueling and soul-sucking.) She does this not by plastering saturated words over soggy loaves of prose, but by finding the essence of a place and breathing life into with a few well-placed sentences.

 

She does the same in City of Ghosts. I’ve never been to Edinburgh, but when I’m following Cassy through the dreary haunted streets, I feel like I have been. I feel like I know the smell in the air and cobblestone streets and the gift shops and the ghost tours. It’s a delicate skill that she’s mastered.

Another thing I always look forward to in Schwab’s work is character. There wasn’t a single one who I didn’t love. Cassidy’s parents, the ghost hunter and the professor, were delightful. They didn’t get much time in the book itself but the few pages they had dedicated to them made me smile. I adored Jacob the ghost. He is the epitome of the ghost all of us aspire to be one day. If I have any complaint at all it was that I didn’t get to learn more about the main protagonist, the Red Raven.

In a small way, it also felt like a head nod to Vicious what with the whole, coming back to life with strange powers. I’m not complaning. It’s lovely to imagine that these two series take place in the same universe.

On the whole, it was an enjoyable, if not slow start to what is going to be a fun adventure in future books. It does what the first in a series if supposed to do. The characters are fleshed. The setting is shifting. The plot dice are rolling, and I’m eager to find out where they land next.

Happy reading.

-Side note: Have you ever heard of Shelf Love Crate? Every month you get a themed box shelflovebox1based on different Y.A. Fantasy novels. You get a signed book, and tonnes of other fun things like puzzles, books marks, candles, socks and more. My next review is going to be on the Y.A. book, The Bird and the Blade by Megan Bannen that I got in my July crate. Check out their website here if you’re interested.

Nod- Adrian Barnes, A Review

This was one of those books I picked up on a whim. I usually try to avoid bookstores. My shelves are stacked to the point of bending and the paper bricks are starting to pile up next to my bed. For that reason, I try to buy the authors I know I love and take the rest out of the library. Despite all this, somehow Nod made it into my collection.

Was it worth it?

To be honest, I was originally going to write a bad review for this book. The main character felt emotionally detached from everything that happened and I was less than pleased with the lack of woman characters throughout the book – and where one was, the only purpose she seemed to serve was for the sake of the main male character to have something to lose. (To be fair, I can understand someone becoming emotionally detached when faced with a cruel and dangerous new reality. He did change halfway through the book, but it was a jarring switch that I felt could have been built up better)

Nod-Adrian-Barnes-616x956Let me back up.

Nod is a 271-page book (If you include the author’s note which I highly encourage) about a man named Paul who lives in Vancouver at a time where the world ends. It was published first around 2012 and was shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke award. You can find it in the fantasy section.

Instead of world war three, zombies, or a crazy viral outbreak doing humanity in, it was insomnia. One day, for reasons never explained, 90% of the population loses the ability to sleep. In the weeks that follow, they gradually lose their sanity before their bodies give out and they die. Paul is of the remaining 10% who do sleep, and so becomes the observer to the madness.

One of the first things I look for in anything I read – is it written well? Call me a snob, but I need to enjoy the style to get into the story. It happened around the time I began studying writing and story craft, and I think it a sacrifice a lot of committed writers make in pursuit of literary ambitions. The writing was… passable. In that, so long as no one was speaking, I loved it. The style was crisp and simplistic. I’m not sure if it was a purposeful thing or what, but he had a tendency to put character names into speech.

“I still love you, Paul.”

“Go see your Tanya, Paul.”

“But what about your work Paul?”

It got to me.

What I found most difficult, was the ugliness of the book. The setting was ugly, the smell was ugly, the people decrepit. I tend to be a sensory person, so it was difficult to dedicate time to a world that made me cringe no matter what corner I turned. At its heart, it was an angry, mean little book with little hope of a satisfying ending.

So, why did I change my mind?

For starters, I finished the book. I was about the write this review without finishing it if I’m being perfectly honest but I’m glad I waited. That isn’t to say it had a miraculously happy ending. I probably would have hated it more if it did. It simply made me realize how good we have it here.

My view of modern life and society on the whole is… er… cynical at best. Which is why books like this are hard for me to swallow. It takes all that infuriates and disgusts me and puts it under a high powered telescope.

I won’t give it away, but Nod drifts off leaving a lingering feeling of gratefulness tinged with hope for the potential of the future. It’s a book that’s okay with leaving questions unanswered. Simply put, that’s exactly how life is anyway.

Dose Nod make it to my top five? No, but I know it’s going to be in my head for a while to come. I think it’s worth checking out if you go in prepared.