Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Book Review: Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Malone Scott

I don't normally read business books, but over the last few years, I've tried to read about one a year, just so that if I ever get into management, I have some knowledge of what I'm getting into, and also because my years of fanatical reading of AskAManager have given me new insight into the working world from other angles, and has made it much more intriguing to me.

This book has an interesting idea and mostly divides up our interactions into 4 types, one really bad, two mildly bad, and one good. Most of us are familiar sadly with bosses who are too mean and not at all empathetic, but bosses can also be too nice and way too empathetic (they tend not to ever fire anyone no matter how bad at their jobs.) It's not at all good to be yelled at daily but it's also not good to never get any negative feedback that you could work on.

Personally, I feel the subtitle of this book does it a great disservice, because it's not at all just about managing. The last third of the book is, but the majority is about our interactions with others, and I could think of times when I exhibited these tendencies and created these negative interactions with my spouse, and with family. Not only do you not have to be a boss to get benefit from this book, but it also doesn't only have to apply to the workplace. But basically her message is to kindly tell t he truth. Trying to not hurt someone's feelings, or fix things yourself, or saying you're too busy to correct a staff member or colleague, is just as damaging i the long run as is yelling, slamming doors, giving contradictory instructions, having unrealistic expectations, and a load of other obvious behaviors that lead to negative work environments and relationships. Ms. Scott writes without using much business-speak, she is very open about her own failures as a manager (and what she's learned from them and how she should have done things differently), and it's an easy read. Personally, as a non-manager, the last third didn't do much for me, but that's not a big problem overall. I think her message is really important.

I got this book for free from the publisher at Winter Institute. I now work for the publisher although I didn't at the time.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Book Review: American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang and Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol

These are two middle grade-YA graphic novels about not feeling American and not fitting in.

American Born Chinese was awesome. Initially I was confused as there are 3 storylines that at first, really seem like they're not going to come together. Heck, they're in three different styles. One tells the straightforward story of our main character, a Chinese-American boy, Jin, in a new grade school, trying desperately to fit in and make friends. Then there's the story of the Monkey God. Finally, there's the story of Danny, an American boy, whose Chinese-caricature of a cousin comes to visit and humiliates him at every turn. In the end, they do in fact all come together and make sense and make the main story line (Jin) much richer, although one is a folktale and one is a farce/fantasy. I can see why this book has won so many awards and why it's so popular. I made a big impact on me and I want to read Yang's other books.

I didn't know anything going into Anya's Ghost and I was a little surprised to find it was another story of an outsider perspective (Anya emigrated from Russia when she was little). Anya has been fitting in, mostly, although she's embarrassed by her mother and the food she cooks and she's impatient with her mother not understanding that Anya's style (despite her school uniform) is very American and that she's purposeful in her short skirts and thigh-high tights. Then one day Anya's in the woods and she falls into a deep hole. Down there, she meets a ghost, Emily, who keeps Anya's hopes up in the two days it takes before she manages her way out. Emily comes with Anya, and is her new secret friend, who can help Anya on tests and find out what cute boys are saying. Then, things start to take a scary twist... and I won't tell you any more!

I think graphic novels are wonderful for school-age kids, partly because it's just wonderful to have the combination of words AND picture to enrich the storytelling. But also because some people are just naturally much more visual than textual, and so these books not only don't leave them out, but for once they might even have an edge. They're an especially effective format for books about different races/cultures because when you're just reading words on a page, it's possible to forget the main character is from another country or looks different from you. That's much harder to forget with constant visual clues. Both excellent books, highly recommend.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

I checked both of these books out of the library.

Both of these books are published by Macmillan, my employer.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Book Review: Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death, and Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh, narrated by J.P. Barclay

I love medical memoirs, and when this book first came out I had suggested it to my mother as a possible good read for her husband, a retired heart surgeon. It's the memoir of Dr. Henry Marsh, a now-retired British neurosurgeon.

Henry jumps back and forth between his current job, training young doctors at a teaching hospital, and periodically travelling to the Ukraine to perform surgeries in rather difficult conditions, and his early days as a young neurosurgeon, learning the trade himself. The British medical terminology takes a little getting used to, but I think that's one time when an audio has an advantage, as you don't have to wonder how on earth to pronounce technical terms, Brit-isms, or difficult Ukrainian names. His frustration comes through quite a bit, as he is irritated by the hospital administration, by young doctors who won't speak up or own up to problems, and by mistakes made by others and by himself, and yet he moves past those fairly quickly (except the administration. That irritation is constant. I love that one solution was that he planted a rouge garden that is now the favorite spot of all the patients and staff at the hospital.) I really though loved the parts of the book when he became a patient himself. He has a big problem with his eyes at one point, which could imperil his career, an outcome many of us would not face in the same situation. And true to form, as a doctor, he doesn't make for a very good patient. It does though seem to increase his already robust empathy for his own patients.

Because of that, I am really looking forward to his second memoir, which I understand is even more about his life as a patient, as he's already in the twilight of his career in this book and the second book continues in his life as he gets older. And we all have more health problems as we age, no matter what. Thoroughly enjoyable.

I downloaded this eaudiobook from the library via Overdrive.

This book is published by Macmillan, my employer, although they were not yet my employer when I read it.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Book Review: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

This is a wildly imaginative middle-grade long chapter book set in Fairyland, which most 9-12-year-old kids would love. September is a girl from Omaha in an orange dress who goes to fairyland. Her father is off at war and her mother is off making airplanes and she is mostly home alone, bored, and fairyland will prove much more interesting. She befriends the Green Wind, a flying tiger, a Wyvern whose father is a library, and a blue boy named Saturday. She has to defeat the wicked Marquess who has taken over fairyland and imposed rules that means the Wyvern (like a dragon but not) has to walk everywhere because he's not allowed to fly, making their journey much more difficult. (At one point they travel by September managing to catch a wild bicycle in a herd of wild bicycles travelling to their mating ground.) She needs to return a witch's spoon, rescue some imprisoned friends, and all along the way a magical key is trying to catch up with her. She meets a girl made of soap, loses her shadow, and gains a heart. Wild adventures ensue.

I think at this age, when I read every single Wizard of Oz book, I would have just adored September. It's a longer and harder book than a lot of books for kids this age (like the Oz books), really allowing a child to get fully lost and immersed in fairyland, as it this is not an easy book to zip through in a couple of hours. Like all fairytales the book is deceptively superficial but of course it's all a metaphor for the angst September is experiencing with her father off fighting and her mother rarely home. It probably isn't a good book for a struggling reader, but for a reader who needs a challenge, it's perfect. It isn't overly difficult, but it isn't at all a simple book either. But very enjoyable and a great escape.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

I checked this book out of the library.

This book is published by Macmillan, my employer.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Book Review: Landline by Rainbow Rowell

I was skeptical of this book's premise. I don't especially like books with magical realism, and it didn't seem to fit with the other Rainbow Rowell book I'd previously read, which was very realistic, and that was one thing I liked about it. But I did like it very much so I thought I'd give this one a try, and see if she managed the magical realism part without being annoying, and she totally did!

Georgie is a TV writer, and right before the holidays, she gets an amazing deal, where the spec script she and her writing partners wrote years ago, their dream project, gets picked up, but only if they can write a half-dozen scripts in less than a week, and deliver them on December 26. Georgie knows this will royally tick off her husband Neal, who's been the house-husband and who finds her writing partner irritating. And it might break her kids' hearts. But she just can't turn her back on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. So Neal packs up the kids and goes to his parents'. Has he left her? Or has he just taken the kids to visit their grandparents for the holidays? Why won't he return any of Georgie's calls or texts? The anxiety needles Georgie so much that she ends up not getting much work done herself, defeating the whole purpose of ruining Christmas. She goes to her mother's house, mostly to not be alone (although it's also closer to her work.) And she tries calling Neal again, but this time on an ancient landline phone in her childhood bedroom. And she reaches him, finally. But... she reaches him in college. Over the Christmas break which starts with a fight and ends up with him showing up unexpectedly and proposing. So she is talking to a Neal from about 15 years ago.

Is she supposed to be? Is that why he showed up and proposed? Or will she mess that up if she keeps talking to him? Does it even matter if she can't manage to talk to him in the present day? Is it worth possibly ruining her marriage over this career opportunity, if she squanders it away, being too exhausted to work on the scripts after staying up all night long to talk to her husband-in-the-past?

I didn't love this book as much as Attachments, but that was a high bar, and I still liked it very much. She did totally pull off the magical realism without annoying me. It was a pretty realistic picture of a relationship. About 10 pages from the end I didn't know how she was going to wrap it all up but she does. It really does make you think about how the past shapes events today, how the person you thought you met long ago impacts your relationship with that person today, even if neither of you are the same person, and how to decide about competing priorities--when does career trump family and when should family trump career? Really easy to read and issues that most of us can relate to.

I checked this book out of the library.

This book is published by Macmillan, my employer, although they were not yet my employer when I read it.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Book Review: American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst by Jeffrey Toobin, narrated by Paul Michael (audio)

I don't get to read a lot of non-Macmillan books these days but the selection of available audiobooks is much smaller than print or even ebooks, so that's where I am giving myself some flexibility. And I thought this book sounded fascinating when I heard about it in the fall. I have heard about Patty Hearst my whole life but I didn't really know much at all except that she was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), and later joined them or possibly had Stockholm Syndrome, and participated in or was forced into participating in a bank robbery. That was 100% of my knowledge.

First of all, a real basic that no one seems to know: she didn't even go by Patty. Her father was the only person who called her that and because he used that nickname in press conferences, the media latched onto it. She was 20-years-old, engaged to a man who used to be her high school teacher (ew. He was only in his 20s though, but still. Ew), a college student. She was wealthy, sure, but William Randolph Hearst did not trust his silver-spoon kids with either his money or his media empire, and so no one had as much money in this family as was commonly assumed.

The SLA was a small ground of radicals who I believe possibly also had some mental dysfunction and/or had a small-scale version of mass hysteria a la Jim Jones. They were lead by Cinque, one of only two African-Americans in the group, and they presented themselves as a division of a large worldwide army. There weren't even 10 of them. Before the kidnapping, they murdered a school board leader in San Francisco, which was pretty awful. Two of their members got picked up after that, and the original plan was to trade Patricia for their two imprisoned members, and barring that, they wanted to use her to ensure their imprisoned members would get decent treatment, saying they'd treat her as they heard their "comrades" were being treated.

What I also didn't know was that it was 19 months before Patricia was rescued/captured/found. I had no idea this went on for so long!

Mr. Toobin lays out a strong argument that Patricia was not intentionally brainwashed or coerced. But that she was naive, inexperienced, and always fell hard for figures of authority. Not to mention, that it was the rational thing to do--to go along with the kidnappers. So he does give her more agency than the brainwashing contingent, but also argues that she wasn't evil or a radical or anything like that, but that she made expedient decisions based on her situation. which she did again after being found when she reverted back to being a dutiful Hearst heiress (even falling in love with and eventually marrying one of her bodyguards, a police officer.) Would you or I have reacted in the same way she did? Likely not as we are different people, but it's hard to say we'd have done "better" or that we would have been harder to  convert to the SLA way of thinking. It's difficult to understand why Patricia made the decisions she did, but it's not difficult to empathize with the horrible circumstances she found herself in, kidnapped by a group of heavily-armed, unstable individuals.

Overall, the reporting felt thorough, even-handed, and gave good context to the times when all this happened. It was eye-opening to a seminal American event that in some ways defined a generation. Mr. Toobin brought his legal expertise without drowning the narrative in legalese. In fact, it was very readable. The audio was excellent, although you do have to overlook the very deep male narrative voice that often had to speak Patricia's words, in a light, simpering tone. But that sort of thing is inevitable in any audiobook.

I downloaded this eaudiobook from Overdrive via my library.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Book Review: Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly, narrated by Robin Miles

This is one of those stories from history that is so incredible that we didn't already know this. And yes, I was completely inspired by the movie (which I loved) to read this book. And I'm so glad I was! These woman are so inspiring, aspirational, and impressive. What's sad is that I don't see women in these numbers excelling in math and science-based careers today, let alone women of color, and opportunities ought to be so much more expansive today than in the 1940s (when this book begins), let alone the 1960s (when the space race reached its pinnacle.)

In case you've been living under a rock, this books follows three women of color (primarily--a dozen other women are featured less prominently) who worked at NACA—late NASA—as "computers" and who proved instrumental in both pushing forward the rights of women and people of color, and also in forwarding the cause of NASA. I think the most impressive was Katherine whose calculations were so unfailingly inaccurate that John Glenn asked her to double-check the electronic computers, which he didn't trust, for things like his reentry trajectory. But Dorothy's story spoke to me the most, as a woman who rose in the ran ks and was a supervisor at a time when it was hard for any woman of any color to hit that level, but then finally when the color barrier was removed and the two units of white and black computers were merged, lost her position. That's a side effect of different rights' movements that is rarely focused on—the setbacks along the way even in the wake of—and sometimes as a direct result of—progress.

I also didn't realize until partway into this book that not only were these African-American women working in Jim Crow-era Virginia, but they were in Prince Edward County. In 2015 I read the book Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County by Kristen Green about the horrific racial tensions in that county which led to the complete defunding of the public school system for several years in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education enforcement, and which resulted in segregated schools until 1986. That's not a typo! So the political and social environment surrounding these women was even worse than I think either the book or the movie let on.

Their accomplishments were towering. The environment in which they excelled made those accomplishments even more impressive, if that's possible. Thank you, Ms. Shetterly, for uncovering this story and writing about it so well that everyone wants to read about it (as they well should.) I'm very excited to hear what her next book will be about! I hear she's been meeting with publishers and the contract is expected to be a well-deserved large one!

I downloaded this eaudiobook from my library via Overdrive.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

My month in review: March

The Month in Review meme is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date.

My reading has been weird this month. First I went to Sales Conference for a week which meant that even though I was surrounded by publishers talking about books for 14 hours a day, I read almost nothing. A little on the plane, but I was pretty brain dead during the very little free time. Then I got home and I dove into a backlist promotion as I could get those books instantly from the library. As you'll see, I mostly am focusing on children's books for this. I don't count anything below solid middle-grade books as read books. (In addition to what I have listed below, I have read 18 picture books/beginner readers/early chapter books this month).

Finally I got my access to the Macmillan warehouses so I placed several large orders for ARCs and finished books. Lastly, I got my iPad so I can also read downloaded books even earlier than I can get ARCs. (I can even get early audio books!) And I built a new bookcase. I mean, duh, you saw that coming, right? Next month I will be reading books coming up in the fall, so you'll be getting a sneak peek, although I am way behind in my reviews as well.

Books completed this month:
Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton
Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson (audio)
Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke
American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki
My Life as a Book by Janet Tashjian
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (audio)
Glass House: The 1% Economy and the Shattering of the All-American Town by Brian Alexander
Toys!: Amazing Stories Behind Some Great Inventions by Don L. Wulffson
Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol
A Night to Remember by Walter Lord
Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Malone Scott
Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson (audio)
Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin
How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Bragg
Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly (audio)
Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
Breaking Stalin's Nose by Eugene Yelchin
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst by Jeffrey Toobin (audio)
The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup: My Encounters With Extraordinary People by Susan Orlean
Up in the Old Hotel by Joseph Mitchell

What I acquired this month (non-work books):
The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder edited by William Anderson

Review of Two Middle-Grade Nonfiction Books

Okay, I should just read kids' nonfiction books all the time. Well no, not really, but they'e sure chock-full of fun, mostly random facts, presented in a fun way, so they're right up my alley!

Toys!: Amazing Stories Behind Some Great Inventions by Don L. Wulffson, Laurie Keller (Illustrations)

This book, naturally, is about toys. Very few toys were invented by someone who just said "I want to think of a toy!" In fact some have some rather unusual background like the Slinky and Silly Putty, both of which were developed for use in the military (which neither product was good at). Some took a while to take off. Others were instant hits. Some have changed a bit over the years, such as Mr. Potato Head didn't used to come with a potato—you would use a potato out of your own vegetable bin (which also meant the accessories had very sharp spikes on them to get them in the potato, not like today's dull plastic nibs.)

How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Bragg, Kevin O'Malley (Illustrator)

One nice thing about this book is that the author manages to die all these famous people together, even though if you look at the table of contents you'll wonder how (and in the endnotes she has a chart showing exactly how everyone is tied together.) The book is mildly gross, perfect for middle grade kids, and the famous people are famous enough that they should have heard of them (Cleopatra, Napoleon, Albert Einstein). It treats the subject lightly, but not irreverently to be disrespectful. But always with the perfect tone for the audience in mind.

I know kids this age often have trouble finding good nonfiction books for reports or for reading assignments, but these would both be excellent choices. And if you are an adult assisting a struggling reader, know that you will enjoy these books as well.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

Both of these books I checked out of the library. 

Both of these books are published by Macmillan, my employer.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Book Review: Schadenfreude, A Love Story: Me, the Germans, and 20 Years of Attempted Transformations, Unfortunate Miscommunications, and Humiliating Situations That Only They Have Words For by Rebecca Schuman

In college after I squeaked out of my final German class with a D, my father apologized for passing along the Siegfried-can't-learn-languages gene. I had taken German because A) it was in my blood and B) English is a Germanic-based language which I thought meant some parts of it would be easier and C) it might be the only class where I wouldn't have to explain how to pronounce my last name. Mostly C. (And B is completely true and when I later took Chaucer in college, my background in German was super-helpful in understanding Middle English.)

Rebecca took German for an equally stupid reason, although her decision had much bigger ramifications than mine: a cute boy she liked took German. Well, that's as good as reason as any in high school! She just wasn't expecting it to stick. She went to Germany for a year in college, where she mostly partied, pissed off her host family, and learned as little as possible. And yet, it still didn't leave her. Later, after futzing around for a bit, she finally decided to go to grad school in German. And now she teaches it. She never had an "Aha!" moment when she discovered a love for it, but it just got into her blood and wouldn't let go.

The first half of the book when she was partying and rejecting all learning, wasn't really speaking to me (although it may well have when I was that age.) The end of the book when she was finally pursuing her life's goal and making a career, was when I really fell in love with the book. Now I can't blame her for the early half—I might not have done things that way in my twenties, but we've all made terrible choices/decisions out of ignorance/naivete, and the important thing is to learn from it. But I really identified with her not knowing what to do with her life, even though it seemed to be staring her in the face, and her fitful starts and stops along the way. I was almost proud when she finally got her life on track, as if I had something to do with it. Even if you aren't interested in German, this book is totally relatable to anyone who's ever felt adrift, not understood where their life was headed, and maybe didn't step out of college and onto the career ladder instantly. If you are a language aficionado, even better!

I checked this book out of the library.

This book is publisher by MacMillan, my employer.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Book Review: If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo, narrated by Samia Mounts (audio)

I don't listen to a lot of fiction on audio but I've been trying it a little more lately. And this was a highly superior audiobook! In fact, I'd venture that it might be better than the print version (although since you can only read a book one way—at least the first time—one can never really know.)

Amanda has moved in with her Dad after a bad bullying incident at her last high school where she lived with her Mom. They're in the stretch of Georgia between Atlanta and Tennessee, which isn't known for being the most open-minded. Which is a concern because, you see, Amanda is a trans girl. And her identity is part of what led to her parents' divorce. But hopefully that won't be a problem as much this time, as her transition is complete, and as no one in this new town knows about her past.

Right off the bat she makes friends: an arty girl, and a group of three cooler girls. They're even cooler than they first appear because they're not purely mean girl caricatures at all. They're popular without being mean. And she meets a boy she likes, who likes her.

And that's all I'm going to say about the plot because I want you to know as little going into it as I did. Some plot twists you can guess, although you don't necessarily know when or where or how they happen. And others might surprise you.

I was very impressed with the narration. As a Southerner myself, I often hate the way Southerners are portrayed in the media with accents as thick as hominy, to the point where they often are purposefully made to sound ignorant. Luckily, the editor of this novel (who I happen to know, caveat), is also Southern so the book wasn't written that way in the first place. But the narrator also had just the right touch of Southern but not too Southern in her accent. More importantly, the emotion that came through in her voice was spot-on, and impressive. Not only at times did I feel you could hear the hitch in her voice, like Amanda was trying very hard not to cry, but other times I swear I could hear her smiling. I will look for more books narrated by her!

And I will look forward to move novels by this author! It felt very true and honest and open. I know, as she says in a note at the end, that she idealized Amanda's transition in an unrealistic way in order to make a point about society rather than about the technical details about transitioning, but the emotions behind it were entirely honest, so that one blurring of the lines didn't matter. In fact, I agree with her because in these situations, the technical details often overwhelm the emotions, when it should be the other way around.

I downloaded this eaudiobook from my library via OverDrive.

This book is published my Macmillan, my employer.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Book Review: Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton

This book began as a blog of a photojournalism essay. The author/photographer Mr. Stanton, takes pictures of people in New York. Sometimes they're kind of staged, where he finds a cool place, like an abandoned lot, and he asks passersby if they'll stand in the space for him to take a picture. But that's it. Initially, he didn't know much of anything about the people but later he started talking to them and their brief stories, of their life, their love, what got them to this place (good and bad), are riveting. These vignettes truly are slices of life, and of New York City. Most of these people could be in any big city, and many of them could be anywhere. He may have taken them all in NYC, but it's their universality that speaks to the reader/viewer.

I checked this book out of the library.

This book is published by Macmillan, my employer.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Children's book reviews round-up

I've been reading a lot of children's books lately and given my rate of reviewing, I thought I could better tackle several of the middle-grade books in a single post. So here they are:

Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke

A cute chapter book about a girl who finds a weird thing which transports her friend... elsewhere, probably another planet. Zita goes after him to save him, and meets several odd, cute, endearing friends along the way. She manages to send him home but she's stuck, so she has to get home the old-fashioned way--flying home through space. Teaches the meaning of friendship, about loyalty, and about not giving up. All great lessons, in a fun, inventive new setting, with a girl as a space explorer which I love.

My Life as a Book by Janet Tashjian

This slightly older chapter book would be perfect for boys that are reluctant readers. Throughout the story, the main character draws little stick figures of his vocabulary words in the margins (drawn by the author's teenage son!) which makes the margins very fat, so the book reads even faster. Derek wants to have fun all summer but he is thwarted by his mom who wants him to go to learning camp. He wants to visit his friend who h as gone to the East Coast for the summer, but again is thwarted. In the end his parents agree to go to Martha's Vineyard to visit his grandmother, which means Derek will have an opportunity to investigate a newspaper clipping he saw that his mom hid, about a teenage girl who died on Martha's Vineyard when Derek was a baby.

The Worm Whisperer by Betty Hicks

Ellis has to help out around the house in his rural North Carolina town. His father hurt his back and can't work, so his mother has three jobs and Ellis does everything he can (and being excellent example to kids about doing their chores). He wants to win the $1000 annual Wooly Worm race at the Wooly Worm festival and he thinks he has found the perfect Wooly Worm. Meanwhile he figures out that his classmates actually like him for him, not just because he's funny, he stands up to the bully, and he does help his family, just not in the way he thinks.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

All three of these books I checked out of the library.

All three of these books are published by Macmillan, my employer.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Book Review: Brief Histories of Everyday Objects by Andy Warner

I think all readers of my reviews probably know by now that one of my favorite things about reading is learning new, hopefully bizarre or truly odd, facts. Which means that books like this are always right up my alley as they're chock-full of them.

The illustrations were fun and of course, made the reading easy, and distracting enough that those who aren't as fond of learning might not even notice how much they are in fact learning. However, the learning is of limited usefulness, as it's about how items like the toothbrush, the Slinky, and the coffee filter came to be invented (or reinvented in a few cases.) It's organized by room/use and then within each chapter there is a final list of additional related random facts that didn't fit into the narrative (which I often found to be the most interesting part.)

The book is listed in my library as YA, and I suppose the topic and the writing would be great for a teen who might struggle with reading. But there's no reason it can't also be a quick, fun read for an adult. When I was done, my husband swiped it and also read it, which doesn't happen often. It's a thoroughly entertaining read.

I checked this book out of the library.

This book is published by MacMillan, my employer.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Book Review: Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson (audio)

See! Not everything I read is a Macmillan book!

So after loving Jenny Lawson's second memoir, Furiously Happy, I went back to read (listen to) her first one. And it was truly hilarious, of course! I was laughing out loud more than once, and I probably looked pretty silly walked back from the gym, bent over with laughter, but I don't care. Naturally, the story that introduced me to Jenny as The Bloggess, about Beyonce the giant metal chicken, was one of the out-loud laughing stories, but I also loved the story right after that one almost even more. This one really focuses on Jenny's childhood, on her meeting Victor, their relationship, her difficult pregnancies (and yes, she does only have one child, hint hint), and the beginnings of her health issues. She sounds more mentally healthy in this book, but that might be more about what she's omitted rather than an actual higher level of mental health, I'm not sure. But it was more about taxidermy, her crazy father, moving houses, working in human resources, and her daughter, than it was about battling depression and her myriad other issues. It is lighter than the second book which made it a more enjoyable experience, if also more lightweight. I truly do see her as a new David Sedaris, who can mine her bat-shit crazy childhood and life for a dozen memoirs for a decade to come. Which makes me really excited!

A note on the audio. It was both better than and less than the book. Like the previous one, if we audio listeners were missing a photo (inevitably), Jenny would describe it to us. And we got a bonus chapter (although with the caveat that it didn't make the cut for the printed book so don't expect too much, although I enjoyed it.) And at first I enjoyed that there were some odd/random sound effects at the chapter intros along with Jenny singing the chapter titles. The sound effects at times got to me a bit much and while I enjoyed the first few, towards the end of the book I was over them. There was also 15 minutes of outtakes/random Jenny thoughts at the end that would have been cute at 5 minutes but 15 minutes was way too long for bizarre stream-of-consciousness about how the recording studio smells like cat pee, or is it her tea that smells like that, and does Lady Gaga also record there and if so, does she smell like cat pee? That would have been better left on the cutting room floor.

These caveats shouldn't at all stop you from picking this book up! They might bring it down from an A++ to an A+. Jenny is awesome.

I checked this eaudiobook out of the library via Overdrive.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Book review: A Night to Remember by Walter Lord

My library has this book listed as a YA but I'm not sure why exactly. There's no YA angle, it's not written in a simplistic way. I think it's just because, as an older title the language is a less complicated than an adult book of today might be, and that it's short.

But this book is the definitive account of the sinking of the Titanic. It was published in 1955, when some of the survivors were still alive. The author interviewed around 60 of them. He breaks down the sinking minute by minute, and you see it from multiple perspectives. He really did his homework, even trying to find out what happened to the steerage passengers and to the staff of the ship. The restaurant staff was particularly hard to track down as only one survived, they weren't considered real staff (they were contracted out) or passengers, The obvious big problem was not enough boats, although as fast as the ship was sinking, they were still trying to free the last two collapsible boats when the ship went down (they were freed and people were saved by them--one half collapsed and the other upside down.) The not-obvious bigger problem was a ship only 10 miles away ignored the first distress calls, then shut their telegraph down for the night. They saw the Morse code lights (and tried to signal back unsuccessfully) and they pondered the meaning behind the 10 rockets the ship set off without actually doing a single thing to find out more or look into the distress calls. The Carpathian that did rescue everyone was 50 miles away. The Californian could have gotten to the ship within minutes of its sinking if they had responded to the first distress call, saving hundreds of additional lives.

The action moves along very fast. The descriptions are rich with detail, and the research was super-thorough. I do hate that all of the women are referred to as "Mrs. John James Astor" although that is accurate to the time the ship went down, and was still quite common in formal language at the time of the writing. And it is confusing in the end when he is talking about the aftereffects of the trauma on people decades later, and many of the women's names seem to have 100% changed due to them getting married. But that is a small detail. This is a riveting read.

I checked this book out of the library.

This book is published by Macmillan, my employer.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Book Review: This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki, Jillian Tamaki (Illustrator)


I don't read many graphic novels. And that's an understatement (until last week I never truly had--the only graphic books I'd read were all nonfiction). And this one blew me away.

Rose and her parents go to the beach every summer for a week. Another kid a bit younger than her. Windy, is always in a nearby cottage and that's true this summer again. The old friends hang out, swim, rent movies, and speculate about the teenagers who work at and hang out at the little village store. And it sounds lovely and all, and it somewhat is, but there's an undercurrent running through the book that eventually comes to the forefront: Rose's mother is sad. Very sad. She's been sad for a long time. She wanted a second child for a long time, and they tried for a long time, and they recently gave up, although she doesn't seem like she did entirely. Rose resents that she isn't enough, that her mother can't just snap out of it, and the implications of the fact that Windy is adopted, and it seems one of the teenagers in town is pregnant and being blown off by her boyfriend, the main store employee. Finally, Rose's mother can't entirely hold it together anymore, she and Rose's father get in a big fight and he goes back to town for a few days "to work." But Rose overhears things. She's very perceptive. Adults talk and they don't always realize that little pitchers have big ears.

Even though Rose is fairly young, and Windy even younger, these preteens are mature for their age (not inappropriately so) and the book deals with some heavy issues that kept making me think it was more YA. It's not for a faint-hearted or very naive 10-year-old. But it's perfect for a more mature, thoughtful preteen who, like me at that age, wants to know more about the cruddy things that can happen in life so that she's prepared. The images were evocative and beautiful, with a limited palette that eloquently conveys the tone and emotions.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

I checked this book out of the library.

This book is published by Macmillan, my employer.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Book Review: Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson

Okay, so Jenny Lawson is a new favorite author of mine.

I have loved her for years. I didn't follow her blog, but someone linked me to her post about Beyonce the Giant Metal Chicken and I have never laughed so hard in my life. Once a year or so I'd return to it. Then a couple of years ago a college student I was mentoring had a super shitty week, and I read her that post as a cheer-you-up moment. She later gifted me with a mug featuring Beyonce herself.

This is exactly the kind of memoir I love—a mix of heavy stuff with hilarious crap. Jenny is uproariously funny. I was listening to this (she reads it herself and her high-pitched voice just increases the humor) and there were times when I barked out loud with laughter.

In this book Jenny tackles her many mental and physical health problems (mostly mental health) with aplomb! She starts off coming out of a real depressive funk. It goaded her for quite some time, and it's jarring but also awesome to really gain understanding when she describes how this illness is so sick, that it's actually trying to trick her brain into killing her. That was an eye-opening explanation. She decides afterwards, to be "furiously happy" as a middle finger to the world in general and her depression in particular. So she embarks on continued adventures with taxidermy, and eventually a trip to Australia. In between, she spend time in therapy, she takes a lot of prescription drugs, and she does other things like go to a sleep clinic. She has such a light touch that my husband unfortunately assumed I was listening to a really fluffy, silly book. It was hard to convince him otherwise until I told him about Jenny's coda at the end where she talks about how many people have reached out to her via her blog and told of how she literally saved their life or the life of someone they love who was suicidal, until they read Jenny's radically honest stories of her own battles. Usually when I say that books can save a life, I mean something more amorphous and metaphorical, but it's impressive (and chill-creating) to realize that Jenny Lawson has literally saved lives. Kudos! That's quite impressive.

I am so looking forward to her first book and I'm definitely going to listen to that one too. (There was a bonus chapter on the audiobook, BTW, for you Jenny Lawson completists.) She reminds me of David Sedaris. And if you know me, you know that is sky-high praise!

I checked this eaudiobook out of the library via Overdrive.

This book is published by Macmillan, my employer.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Book Review: Glass House: The 1% Economy and the Shattering of the All-American Town by Brian Alexander

If you've heard all the hype in the last few months about Hillbilly Elegy, consider this book as a companion to or alternative to that book. It also posits to give some explanation about how America got to where it is now, taking one single town as a concrete example.

Lancaster, Ohio was a once thriving, adorable, Leave-It -to-Beaver type of town. There were great manufacturing jobs at the glass plants, which lead to good schools, and a wonderful community. Of course nothing lasts forever and the glass plants did eventually merge into Anchor Hocking. But things were still fine. Until the 1980s. Until "Greed is Good" and unfettered money  grubbing and deregulation became the name of the game. Carl Icahn set his eyes on Anchor Hocking and from there on, everything went down the toilet. It was bought by one Wall Street firm after another who wrung it out for every last penny, neglected maintenance, sold off assets, took out huge debts in its name, and basically ran the company into the ground. One CEO after another came to town (and a few didn't), said some platitudes, made things worse, and disappeared. Naturally, with the erosion of stable, well-paying jobs, everything around them began to crumble. The town fell into disrepair pretty much across the board. Drugs came in, in large amounts. While townspeople like to think that all the druggies and junkies are out of towners (why on earth would people come to Lancaster, Ohio for that?) they're not. The local cops regularly arrest former high school classmates. There are still a few locals who try to do what they can to support the community, but it's too little too late. And Lancaster, like hundreds if not thousands of medium-sized factory towns across the country, is flailing, and slowly sinking into an abyss.

The most powerful thing in the story is the author. Mr. Alexander is a respected journalist who can write eloquently and yet plainly about complicated buyouts and turnarounds and other financial machinations. But more importantly, he's from Lancaster. He grew up there. He knows some of the subjects of his book personally. He really has an insider's understanding of the history and how it's fallen out over the years, he has the perspective of someone who's moved away, and yet t he fondness that makes him not write off Lancaster entirely. Also you get the feeling that no other writer would have gotten the junkies and drug dealers of Lancaster to let him into their lives as Brian is able to get.

At the end of this book, I'm just sad. I feel I now have a much better understanding of how we've gotten where we are (and I pretty much detest Friedman economics!) but no solutions. Still at least insight and understanding is a big step towards... what? Help? A plan? I'm not sure. But it can't hurt. It's the first step towards a solution, as far away as that answer might be.

I checked this book out of the library

This book is published by Macmillan, my employer.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

My month in review: February

The Month in Review meme is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date.

So if you're really astute, you'll notice that the books I've read this month are mostly one publisher: MacMillan. I got a job! I started as a field sales rep for MacMillan! This means I will mostly be reading MacMillan books for the rest of the year, I'll continue listening to a lot of audios, and my reading will drop down from my current crazy-high levels. Partly that will be due to having to read just chunks, 20-50 pages, or dozens of books instead of reading complete books. I'll also be reading a lot of picture books which I don't track. And I know the FCC doesn't like us promoting products we benefit from, so like I did when I worked at Soho Press, I will note the MacMillan books as ones from my publisher. And my reviews will be a little more sporadic, as my schedule is a bit wonky.

Books completed this month: 
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast
Before the Fall by Noah Hawley
Rise: How a House Built a Family by Cara Brookins
Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong
Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton (audio)
I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life by Ed Yong
Good Night, Mr. Wodehouse by Faith Sullivan
Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death, and Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh (audio)
Schadenfreude, A Love Story: Me, the Germans, and 20 Years of Attempted Transformations, Unfortunate Miscommunications, and Humiliating Situations That Only They Have Words For by Rebecca Schuman
Landline by Rainbow Rowell
Brief Histories of Everyday Objects by Andy Warner
If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo (audio)

Books I am currently reading/listening to: 
Glass House: The 1% Economy and the Shattering of the All-American Town by Brian Alexander
Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Malone Scott
The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup: My Encounters With Extraordinary People by Susan Orlean
Up in the Old Hotel by Joseph Mitchell

What I acquired this month:
From Kristen (BookNAround) from Winter Institute, yay! So many fun and exciting books that are coming out in the next few months! I will be getting a jump on 2017 with these books:
The Futilitarians: Our Year of Thinking, Drinking, Grieving, and Reading by Anne Gisleson
The Reminders by Val Emmich
Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta
Careergasm: Find Your Way to Feel-Good Work by Sarah Vermunt
Tower Dog: Life Inside the Deadliest Job in America by Douglas Scott Delaney
What To Do About The Solomons by Bethany Ball
Deviate: Why Disrupting What We See Leads to Innovation by Beau Lotto
The Lotterys Plus One by Emma Donoghue
The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women by Kate Moore
Pretend We Are Lovely: A Novel by Noley Reid
Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory
Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Malone Scott
Miss You by Kate Eberlen
Small Hours by Jennifer Kitses
Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Our Little Racket by Angelica Baker
Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout
Just Fly Away by Andrew McCarthy

Friday, February 24, 2017

Book Review: I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life by Ed Yong

Rarely have a read a science book more accessible, more enthusiastic, and more interesting (although Mary Roach's books are the exception, as being even more in all categories.) This book about microbe and our microbiomes was so cool. It was interesting and filled with new facts and exceptionally well-written. I especially loved that it had a photo insert. As you can glean from the cover, some microbes are really pretty. Others are found on bizarre creatures. I don't know if I've ever read a science book with a photo insert but after this one, I'm left wondering why all of them don't include one. I went back to this one over and over.

Parts of this book are a little icky, like when talking about fecal transplants, but Mr. Yong keeps the ickiness to a minimum and treats those parts very factually. But basically, you have to get used to a new paradigm when reading this book as we ourselves are more than half microbes. We have more microbes in/on us than we have cells. We think of "germs" as intrinsically bad, but they are not (neither are all viruses or all bacteria.) Some are quite good, and some we can't live without, literally. I especially like the posited idea that one day we'll be able to treat conditions and illnesses by running a check of our microbes, see which essential ones are missing, and take a pill for that, instead of taking chemicals.

If you are at all science-minded or just science-interested, this book is a top-notch read. It was helpful that I read The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee first, but not essential. (If you are going to read them both, reading the Mukherjee first gives an excellent basis for understanding DNA and how genetic mutation work.) If you only read one science book this year, this one should be at the top of your list.

I checked this book out of the library.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Publishing Career Question #3: What kinds of jobs should I be looking for?

As my WNBA intern, Elaine Ruth Boe, prepares to begin her job hunt in publishing, I've been answering some of her questions about the industry and the job hunt process. Here is her third question in our mini-series:

What kinds of job titles should I look out for as a fresh-out-of-college graduate with no “real world" experience (aside from summer internships!)? Are there key words or phrases that indicate entry level positions?

Some publishers actually separate out entry-level positions on their career pages on their website, so those are easy. Basically, no matter what department you're looking for a job in—editorial, marketing, sales, production—you're going to be an assistant to start. And the first rung on the ladder is editorial (or sales or publicity) assistant. A minor detail but important is that an editorial assistant is a different position from, and a rung down from, an assistant editor. If you already have a little experience, you can apply for that second one. And you can also look at coordinator positions, although there are very few of those.

These positions might all say they want 1-2 years of experience, but keep in mind that is a "want." Don't worry about it—it's entry level so go for it. (Especially you women. Women are often scared off by a job listing they don't meet 100% but it's just a wish list and you should always go for it if you meet 70%.) One thing applicants often seem to misunderstand is that when you're applying for a job as an assistant, your resume and cover letter ought to emphasize the skills you'd be utilizing as an assistant—not any editorial experience. First of all, any editorial experience you claim to have, unless you actually were doing real work in an editorial department elsewhere, is discounted. That's not what you're being hired for. It's great to have, but it's not why you're here. You're here to answer phones. Open mail. Water plants. File. Run Excel reports. Put together mailings. Make appointments. If you have any clerical experience at all, lead with that. An assistant will make her boss's lunch reservations, send faxes, and do data entry. Will you also be talking with authors, reviewing copyedited manuscripts, and writing catalog copy? Yes, but that's a smaller part of the job than the assistanting part, so showing off those skills and experience will get you further in the hiring process.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Publishing Career Question #2: What should I read in my free time as I prepare for interviews?

My WNBA intern, Elaine Ruth Boe, wants to start hunting for a job in book publishing for after graduation in May, ASAP. It's a little early for that so she's asked me some questions about what she can do in the meantime, which I'm answering this week. Here's her second question:

What should I read in my free time as I prepare for interviews?

This might seem like a simplistic question but not for this industry. For another industry, the answer is usually to read What Color Is My Parachute and maybe a book about interviewing or the workplace. But if you want to work in book publishing, you should expect "What have you read lately?" to be an interview question and it's not a gimme question at all. It's a very important question.

The most important thing you can be doing before it's time for applying, is reading. Read a lot. Read widely. And read recently. I know, as a college student it can be hard to know what's recent and good to read. Go to your local bookstore and your local library. Look at the display tables up front, or the library usually has a whole section for recent books. Talk to someone. I know, you're an introvert. This industry is filled with them. But you've got to become comfortable talking about books with other book people. Explain the problem, and they'll be thrilled to help, trust me! Any librarian or bookseller can stock you up. Try to read 2017 books. I know, it's only February. But I've already read four 2017 books. (And I read four 2017 books last year but no one expects you to do that!) Join Goodreads and check out their lists of recommended new releases.

Read a few books you wouldn't normally. You've been reading 99% classics for the last 16 years. You will be asked, and it's helpful for you to know, what kinds of books you like. Classics isn't a genre you can work in (they've all already been published). It's hard for you to know if you like and can work with romances, sci-fi, business books, or political books, if you haven't read any. If you go into an interview saying you only like literary fiction, that doesn't indicate much contemporary reading, much stretching yourself, or much willingness to try new things. Everyone likes literary fiction. You're also setting yourself up for a bigger pool of applicants to compete with at the literary imprints. However, not as many of your competition will be applying for jobs at romance publishers or business book publishers.

While you're reading this book, do think critically about them. You might even want to write a review on a website like Goodreads or Amazon in order to get some practice. Even if you dislike a book, you ought to be thinking, who would like this? Who is the audience for this book? How could I sell it to them? Every job in publishing (except production) is selling. As an editor, you have to sell this book to your boss to persuade her to approve you the funds to buy it. Later in the process you will write the description in the catalog that the sales force will use to sell your book to retailers and libraries. If publicity you'll be figuring out how to pitch the book to reviewers. In marketing, you'll be figuring what will help get the attention of booksellers and readers. Obviously, in sales, and as a bookseller, the selling part is obvious. In publishing, you will at some point have to work on some books you don't like, but everyone has their individual taste, and it's important that you know how to sell a book you personally don't especially like.

If your focus is on editorial jobs, keep in mind that as part of the interviewing process, you might be given a manuscript to read and come back to the interviewer with a reader's report. It's important that you not focus on plot at all. It's good practice to try a few of these on books you're reading. Every book could use some tweaks or improvements (or simply editorial choices you'd do differently.) Think about the market and the end reader and what changes in the development and construction of the book could lead to a better reading experience (and think big-picture; don't worry about grammar). But a reader's report should have no more than one sentence of plot description.

Pay attention to the publishers of the books you're reading. Try to read a book from each of the Big Five publishers (Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Hachette, and MacMillan). Go to their websites and they will show you recent books that are popular, right on their home pages. Try an audiobook. Look at children's books from the last few years.

Obviously if you get an interview with the rare benefit of a few days' lead time, specifically try to read on or two of their books immediately before the interview. You won't always have time (I've had quite a few interviews be "tomorrow.") But I've also had three days' notice and managed to read three books in that time.

And lastly, read the blog Ask A Manager. Read the comments. Read the archives. And read the book Presence by Amy Cuddy. It seriously changed the way I prepare for interviews and how I gain confidence for them. Just read, read, read. If you are destined to work in book publishing, this should be a joy, not a chore.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Publishing Career Question #1: How do I job hunt before I graduate?

My WNBA intern, Elaine Ruth  Boe, had some questions about the job hunting process in the field of book publishing and she agreed to let me post her questions and my answers here, so everyone who might find them helpful can see them. First up:

I’m still an undergraduate student. I don’t live in NYC, and I can’t start a job until May. Does that mean I have to wait until I can move to NYC to look for jobs? Will publishing houses go through the application process with current undergrads?

Most everyone has this problem, regardless of field, unless they happened to go to college in the same town they want to start their careers in. 

First, while there are a lot of other things you can be doing to prepare for job hunting, there's not much purpose in starting to actually apply for jobs, until you're about 2.5 months out from graduation. So for Elaine Ruth, that means she can start in March (she graduates mid-May). In this industry, particularly for entry-level jobs, once you've been offered a job, they'd really like for you to start in about two weeks. They can be a little more flexible, up to a month, especially if you're moving, but if you need more than that, they're probably going to go with someone else. Entry-level publishing jobs are all being someone's assistant. When they get to the part of the hiring process where they're making someone an offer, the position has already been vacant for at least a month. And being someone's assistant, while important, isn't brain surgery, and there are a lot of other people who can do it so they're unlikely to hold it. It's a sad fact but it's also important if you don't want to find yourself with pulled offers and an unreasonable start date you can't comply with.

Not being in NYC is also, obviously, tricky. While it's possible to have a few phone interviews, the majority will want to meet the candidates in person. And companies don't pay for people to fly in for entry-level interviews. That means it's going to be on your own dime. I have found decent last-minute flights, and I recommend The Pod Hotel as reasonably priced and located in Manhattan. It's small, no-frills, with most rooms having a bathroom down the hall. Talk to the career center at your school. Are there any English majors from last year who are in NYC? Anyone you can crash with for a night or two? (Keep in mind, you might have to have more than one interview—and no, not back-to-back so you might need to make more than one trip for a single job opening.) Figure out what your budget is. Job hunting expenses are tax deductible so keep track of everything. (So are costs for moving for a job!) I was able to stay for a week with a friend who was attending grad school at Princeton University and commute in from New Jersey every day. Another friend in Manhattan let me crash on her couch when I was apartment-hunting. But on more recent trips, I did The Pod. 

You no longer need to put your address on your resume. Really, it isn't a necessary field. And everyone these days keeps their old cell phone number so it's very common in NYC, especially with twenty-somethings, for an out-of-state area code to mean nothing. Although you can also set up a Google Voice number with a NYC area code. You can even use a friend's address (if you clear it with her first) although be judicious with this as you don't later want to say you need four weeks since you also have to find an apartment and move, and have them giving you side-eye, thinking you lied on your resume about living here. Do note that your graduation date is "expected," as that ought to clue them in (but not highlight it). 

Talk to your parents. Talk to your career center. Talk to your friends in the city. See if there's an alumni Facebook group you can join for NYC. Get on LinkedIn and look up recent grads from your college that live in NYC. If you went to a small college, you can even hit up virtual strangers who went to your college to see if they know of anyone subletting a room/with a sofa to spare/have a spare room themselves. Be wary of Craigslist listings as NYC is ground zero for scams.

The way the time frame works is that you don't want to try to find a closing date for a job listing and wait until then to apply. You want to apply as soon as you see an opening that fits for you. Hiring managers and HR tend to look at applications as they come in, and when they have enough good candidates, pull the listing. They tend to bring candidates in for 2-3 interviews (some do just one but more companies do at least two). Depending on the time of year and schedules, it can take about a month for the hiring process. That's why you really don't want to start earlier. In fact, 2.5 months is even a bit far out, but some companies' processes do move more slowly. 

Another option is to not job hunt now. If you had a reliable summer job at home that will have you back, and if your parents will let you crash at home, it's not a bad idea to not job hunt on top of finishing up college. Go home and work your summer job. Save money. Apply for jobs in the fall. There are more openings then and less competition. And you don't have the worries of exams/honors theses/finishing school on top of job hunting, which is already a stressful experience by itself. Postponing for 3-4 months would not be a bad thing at all, and at least it's a good back-up plan in case things don't work out in the spring.

The timing won't work out perfectly. Resign yourself to that fact now. You might have more time at home after graduation than you'd thought. You might have a job fall into your lap that wants you to start before graduation! You might end up crashing on that friend's couch in the city for longer than planned. The only thing you can know for sure is that it won't go the way you'll ideally like it to. 

Friday, February 17, 2017

Book Review: Good Night, Mr. Wodehouse by Faith Sullivan

Oh, what a delight! I loved this book.

I just saw that a panel discussion with authors was being held where the main topic was why it's important to keep writing during a time of turmoil, and that is this book's thesis. Nell has some wonderful things happen in her life, like her darling son Hillyard (Hilly or short) and great friends and eventually, a lover interest. But she's had some bad things too, such as her first husband, and eventually the death of people close to her. The book spans about 50 years so some of the sad things are inevitable (although towards the end it did feel a bit like a piling on). And when bad things happen (the sinking of the Lusitania with friends on board, the outbreak of The Great War and Hilly's enlistment), time and again, she turns to the wonderful, witty, often hilarious novels of the inimitable P.G. Wodehouse. Nell is a teacher and a great lover of literature, and while the small town of Harvester, MN doesn't have a real library (at least not until the end of the book), Nell is able to borrow books, and a wealthy family does endow an honor library at the local power company early on. At one point Nell even writes Mr. Wodehouse a fan letter, which expresses something I've said many times myself (although she says it more eloquently), about how books can save a life. It might not feel that way, especially for novels that might even get dismissed as lightweight and silly, but there are times when our own trials are so difficult to bear, that we need to escape, and to find humor in life, most especially at times when we might otherwise fear we'll never know humor again.

Personally, I read Life With Jeeves, a Wodehouse collection of 4 novels during my wedding planning, which was one of the most stressful times in my life. I wholeheartedly agree with Nell that Wodehouse is one of the best distractions from life, when life is being a jerk. And sadly for Nell, who is a smart, kind, decent woman, life is often jerky. Sometimes we all feel that life has been unusually jerky. 2016 was like that. And why didn't I read any Wodehouse in 2016? Why didn't I read this lovely book? I meant to, but I kept getting sidetracked. I am overjoyed I finally got to it, and annoyed that I didn't read it sooner. This book was occasionally delightful, sometimes heartbreaking, but always thoughtful and touching. As a novel of small-town Midwest in the first half of the 20th century, it is a wonderful slice of Americana with a heart of gold.

I checked this book out of the library.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Book Review: Before the Fall by Noah Hawley, narrated by Robert Petkoff (audio)

Almost all of the audiobooks I listen to are nonfiction. But I decided to give this one a try. I listened to one audio novel last year, which was the first in a very time, and thought I should try one again. Also lately I'd changed up my audiobook listening tactic a bit in a way I thought would work better for fiction: trying to listen to it in a few giant chunks over just a few days. And this one was great. I had planned to listen to it over 3-4 days but I got so sucked in that it only took me 2 days to listen to the whole thing.

The narrator started out sounding like a news reporter which was exactly the right tone for this book, as news plays a big role in it. A small private plane goes down off the coast of Martha's Vineyard and Scott survives. He's about to start swimming away from the fiery wreckage when he hears a small voice and he finds a young boy who also survived. He swims 10 miles to the Massachusetts coast with the boy clinging to his back and with a dislocated shoulder. Naturally, the news media jumps on this story. But Scott, a not very successful painter, isn't interested in being famous, especially not due to an event that killed many other people. But the man who chartered the plane was the CEO of a Fox-News-like news channel, so it's big news nevertheless and he finds himself pursued relentlessly. Meanwhile, the NTSB and others are trying to piece together what  happened. And the "now" chapters about Scott and the investigation and the little boy are interspersed with chapters telling each of the other passengers' and crew members' stories leading up to the fatal flight.

It was a gripping story, with plenty of intrigue and suspense. Another passenger was a banker, essentially laundering money from countries illegal for Americans to do business with who was due to be arrested the following day. Scott painted pictures of disasters—including a plane crash. There are rumors of sabotage or even a bomb. If so, who was the target? If not, what went wrong and how and why? The anchor on the new channel keeps the stories going and keeps up the pressure on the government to find out answers. At the very end (this isn't a spoiler) I was unclear about what and when Scott knew what he suddenly knew, but that isn't very material to the story overall. The narration was terrific. One character was a British ex-pat, another was Israeli, and there was the boy, and several women, and the voices were all terrific. I just had to find out more. And more. And I kept listening and couldn't put it down. A perfect distraction for a wintry weekend.

I downloaded this eaudiobook from my library via Overdrive.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Reading by Publisher - Update 1

Mid-January I assigned myself a mini challenge of reading books by more diverse publishers. It's pretty obvious that I love Penguin Random House titles because last year I read a disproportionate number of their titles (and two of the first three books I read this year were published by PRH). This year, I want to get out more. (Also it should help me when interviewing with other publishing houses.) So I'm going to do an update in the middle of the month about how I'm coming on my mini-challenge. Here's the basics:

5 Hachette books
5 Simon & Schuster books
5 HarperCollins books
5 MacMillan books
5 "other" books

And here's how I've done so far (along with books I'm thinking I might read for the publishers in question). I've got two publishers more than done! And the other two started.

For Hachette I have read:
  1. The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander 
  2. Class by Lucinda Rosenfeld 
  3. You'll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein 
  4. Twenty-Six Seconds: A Personal History of the Zapruder Film by Alexandra Zapruder 
  5. Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
  6. Before the Fall by Noah Hawley (read but not reviewed yet)
For Simon & Schuster my current plan is:
  1. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
  2. The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery 
  3. Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper 
  4. Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen 
  5. Madison's Gift: Five Partnerships That Built America by David O. Stewart (for my book club so not going to change) 
For HarperCollins my current plan is (interestingly, these are all nonfiction):
  1. I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life by Ed Yong (read but not reviewed yet)
  2. Marrow: A Story of Love, Loss, and What Matters Most by Elizabeth Lesser 
  3. There Is No Good Card for This: What To Say and Do When Life Is Scary, Awful, and Unfair to People You Love by Kelsey Crowe, Emily McDowell 
  4. Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly 
  5. Searching for John Hughes: Or Everything I Thought I Needed to Know about Life I Learned from Watching '80s Movies by Jason Diamond 
For MacMillan my current plan is:
  1. Finding Perfect by Elly Swartz 
  2. American Girls by Alison Umminger 
  3. Rise: How a House Built a Family by Cara Brookins 
  4. Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong
  5. Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton 
  6. Radical Candor by Kim Scott (currently reading)
  7. Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death, and Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh (currently reading)
For "Other" my current plan is:
  1. Pancakes in Paris: Living the American Dream in France by Craig Carlson (Sourcebooks) 
  2. The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis (WW Norton)
  3. Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast (Bloomsbury USA)
  4. Good Night, Mr. Wodehouse by Faith Sullivan (Milkweed) (currently reading)
  5. Garth Williams, American Illustrator: A Life by Elizabeth K. Wallace, James D. Wallace (Beaufort Books) 
  6. Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South by Andrew Maraniss (Vanderbilt University Press) 
  7. Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit (Haymarket Books) 
  8. The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal Behind the World's Favorite Board Game by Mary Pilon (Bloomsbury USA) 
  9. Chain of Title: How Three Ordinary Americans Uncovered Wall Street's Great Foreclosure Fraud by David Dayen (The New Press)
  10. The Radium Girls by Kate Moore (Sourcebooks)
Initially I had thought I'd read these in order, or at least in chunks of all one publisher at a time but I quickly gave that up. Partly that's for a very good reason: I have gotten some more interview in my job search! I'm also expanding the "Other" category to 10 books. And while in my year-end wrap-up I did count the audiobook publishers that aren't the Big Five separately (Recorded Books, Brilliance Audio, Highbridge, etc.) However, for the purposes of this exercise, I'm going to count these books under their print publisher.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Book Review: Love Warrior: A Memoir by Glennon Doyle Melton (audio)

I heard great things about this book, both from reviews and from my friends. But the book wasn't for me.

From the start, I was not enamored of the narration, which was performed by the author. Her voice is very high-pitched and squeaky. It felt, at times, like it was being read by a twelve-year-old girl. But that's appropriate in a way, as I found Glennon to be rather naive and not fully mature.

She becomes bulimic at the age of ten and is hospitalized for it twice. She never discusses why or what her therapy in the hospitals discussed or how sh e's dealing with is going forward. When she starts drinking in college, in short order she is a raging alcoholic occasionally doing drugs. After college, as an elementary school teacher, she gets wasted every night and spends most of her next day at work, hungover. She starts dating a guy, Craig, and gets pregnant. She gets an abortion. She gets pregnant again. She decides this pregnancy is a message from God (but why is this one a message but the first one wasn't?)  and she and Craig get married and she has the baby and quits drinking cold turkey. They have two more kids, have a very conventional marriage, but almost no sex. Early on, Craig asks her to watch a porno and afterward, she insists not only on not watching any more, but that he gets rid of them all, and he never watches porn ever again.

Fast forward 10+ years and Glennon figures out Craig was watching porn on the family computer. Granted, the fact that their kids also use this computer is a big problem. However, she acts like he's committed murder (she also around now relapses with her bulimia, but doesn't tell Craig, and passes it off as no big deal when he finds out.) She then finds out he's been cheating on her for years, starting six months after their marriage, all one-night stands. She kicks him out.

Now, you might be thinking that's a reasonable reaction but she's very hypocritical in all this and she never acknowledges that her issues with sex, her refusal to deal with those issues, and her black-and-white one-sided declaration that he will Never Watch Porn while she also mostly refuses to have sex with him, might have been contributing factors. That's right, she isn't purely a victim here, but she is also somewhat to blame. No, I am not victim-blaming, I am acknowledging that in a relationship, when one puts up barriers, makes one-sided declarations about what the other person Can and Cannot Do, and refuses to get any help for one's mental issues, there will be consequences.

Eventually Glennon starts seeing a therapist and she does seem to address some of the problems (although nothing about what's at the root of all of them. She still seems to be just addressing the symptoms, not the underlying problems causing those symptoms). She finds a new church. (Caveat: while the book was a little churchy for my taste, I was just fine, until at the end she is just baffled to find that not all churches think the translation of Genesis is that God created Man and Helper. It never occurred to her to question that her sole purpose on earth is to Help Men. She has lived a rather unexamined life. Which is also rather odd for someone with a personal blog who has written now two memoirs, and appears to be a big fan of naval-gazing.)

I was glad at the end that she took on a little bit of the responsibility that I think she deserves for the problems in her marriage (don't get me wrong—Craig bears a huge burden of that too. But it sounds to me like it's pretty 50-50 whereas Glennon seems to think it's 90-10 Craig's fault.) Which was more than I thought she was going to pony up to halfway through the book. She never acknowledges that perhaps two kids who get pregnant accidentally (twice!) while perpetually drunk and don't even know each other for a year, isa bad recipe for marriage success. She doesn't acknowledge that she's made any mistakes. Except maybe trusting Craig. (And really, she set him up to fail, so that broken-trust is mostly on her.)

I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt. I know that finding out one's spouse cheated can't be at all easy. I know that raising kids is a hard thing to do. But I also know that pointing fingers while refusing to acknowledge her own failings and culpabilities is not a road to success. I know that their issues with communicating (Craig is a physical person and she is a mental/verbal), while a big part of their problem, is not their sole problem that will fix everything when it is fixed. I get to the end of this book, and I feel like I did in college after reading Blake's "Songs of Innocence and Experience." I don't believe the "Experience" poems show any experience at all. They went from saying everything is white to saying everything is black. Experience and maturity don't make you switch from thinking everything is good to everything is bad. True understand and maturity mean you understand life is all shades of gray. I think that Glennon and Craig are both, sadly, large children pretending at being adults, without doing the hard work and heavy lifting of truly figuring out who they are, who they want to be, and then doing the hard work of getting there. They think if they keep punching down the symptoms of their problems, like Whack-a-Mole, everything will work out fine and eventually all the moles will just go away. Life is not a carnival game and she's really going to have to figure out what is at the root of her terrible coping skills, her body issues, her inability to admit wrong, and what she is hiding from. If she doesn't, these problems are going to keep coming back, again and again. I don't have any problem with any one who has any mental health or coping issues. I do have a problem with denying they exist and refusing to get help. That said, it was a riveting story that I couldn't put down, even if partly that was because I was so infuriated with her. I know other readers love this book and will disagree, but this is my opinion.

I downloaded this eaudiobook from the library via Overdrive.