Friday, October 24, 2014

The Everything Store by Brad Stone

Sorry for skipping a day yesterday. I spend more time than expected doing the paperwork for, and setting up my new phone. 

I heard about this book, not because of reviews from other bloggers, but because of the one star review written by MacKenzie Bezos on Amazon.com. It sparked my interest, because Amazon.com is one of the main ways I buy print books in Japan.

This book basically covers Amazon.com from its inception to around 2012. That means that there's no coverage on the Amazon-Hachette dispute (although it is mentioned three times), which is a pity. And considering the developments made by Amazon in the past two years (in Japan, we got the Kindle! I'm quite curious as to know how that happened), I'm guessing that quite a lot of things have been left out, which makes this book *gasp* dated. But I guess that's what happens when the company you're covering moves so fast.

Since I'm not related to anyone working at Amazon, I have no way of knowing how many errors are in the book. But, the review by Kaphan shows at least one inaccuracy, and the review by MacKenzie shows another one. So I'm guessing a few, but no major errors.

As for author bias, I think it's rather even-handed. While the author does call loyal employees "Jeff Bots" and refer to their oft-repeated words as "Jeffisms", he does praise Amazon.com several times as well. He talks about how Jeff Bezos can be very generous (even though he can be ruthless at times), and gives plenty of examples.

I really like this book. It's easy to read, and it covers Amazon.com's history in quite some detail. I finished this book with a deeper respect for Amazon.com, although I can't tell whether this is a company that I'd like to work for (I get the sense that I won't truly know unless I get the chance to work there). Amazon's story is more than being in the right place in the right time, it's the story of being tenacious, and taking daring risks.

If you've been curious about Amazon.com, and want something more than One Click (click to see my review), then The Everything Store may be what you're looking for. On the whole, it's an even handed and comprehensive look at the history of Amazon.com.

Now, my wishlist for the next Amazon.com book is for someone to look at Amazon's impact on self-publishing, and its impact on other countries, such as Japan and the rest of Asia. I'm curious as to see how Amazon competes with other companies like Rakuten (who released the first eReader, Kobo, in Japan), and the Chinese counterparts.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ruth's Journey by Donald McCaig

Last year, I finally read and reviewed Gone With The Wind, it's a good book, but definitely pro-slavery. One of the characters, that I didn't mention in my review, was Mammy, a black slave that took care of Scarlett and Ellen, Scarlett's mother. I was so focused on the main characters (Scarlett, Rhett, Melanie and Ashley) that I basically neglected everyone else.

As a belated add on, I should mention that I found Mammy endearing.

In this spin-off, Mammy is given the name Ruth and her backstory is told. From her beginnings with Solange (Ellen's mother and Scarlett's grandmother) to her marriage to Jehu, and how she ended up going to Tara with Ellen, the author has used the small bits of information to re-tell her story.

For the most part, I found the story to be very interesting. However, while I was reading the book, I kept thinking:
Isn't Mammy supposed to be the main character? 
Most of the book isn't told from her perspective and the first section seemed to be about Solange and not Mammy. In fact, if I didn't know that this story was about Mammy, I would have assumed the protagonist was Solange. It's only when Mammy leaves and gets married to Jehu does the book start to focus on her. And only the last section (the last 90ish pages out of 290ish pages on my kindle) is told from her perspective.

And yet, while Mammy is telling the story, the focus is on Ellen and Scarlet. All in all, I had this curious sense that mammy, again, wasn't the central character of the book. She certainly is present throughout the book, but she feels like a supporting character rather than a main character.

Which is a pity because I was very interested in learning more about Mammy. In the original book, she's a loyal slave, and that's about it. While she certainly has more passion and feelings in this book, I think that it wasn't explored to the fullest extent.

In conclusion, this spin-off could have been great. The author has given Mammy a complex back-story, which could have evoked a lot of emotion from me. However, the nagging feeling that Mammy is, yet again, relegated to the sidelines is a major flaw that can't be overlooked.

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Teaser Tuesday - Nutcracker and Mouse King by E.T.A. Hoffmann

For reasons, I've started reading Nutcracker and Mouse King, which most of you will recognise as the famous ballet.

I borrowed this from the NLB eReads program, and I just realised this book contains two versions of the story - the original and the French retelling. I'm looking forward to seeing how different they are!

My teaser:

"Marie supposedly is still queen of a land where you can see sparkling Christmas Forests everywhere as well as translucent Marzipan Castles - in short, the most splendid and most wondrous things, if you only have the right eyes to see them with. 
And that was the tale of the Nutcracker and the Mouse King." 
What is your Teaser Tuesday?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Fly Away by Kristin Hannah

I haven't read Kristin Hannah's books lately, but when I first started blogging (I took a look, and I can't believe my reviews were so sparse and short last time! But that's for another blogpost - how reviews change :p), I went on a Kristin Hannah kick. I think it started when I went to the US and came back with a bunch of her books. So far, my absolute favourite book of her's is Magic Hour.

But this isn't a review of Magic Hour. It's a review of Fly Away, the sequel to Firefly Lane. And, for some reason, I don't think I've read Firefly Lane, although the title sounds really familiar to me.

Fly Away looks at what happens to a friendship when one of the two dies. Tully and Kate are best friends, through life's ups and downs. But then, Kate dies from cancer. Before that, the two had a two year quarrel, which I assumed was the focus on the book but wasn't (I guess that was the subject of Firefly Lane). The book looks at how Tully and Kate's family falls apart following Kate's death, as a critically-ill Tully tells Kate what has happened. At the same time, Kate's husband Johnny habours a grudge against Tully (I'm not too sure why, but I think it's about the quarrel), and tries to raise his three kids successfully. Tully's mother is trying to recconect with the daughter she believes is going down the same dangerous path she went. And Tully's accident is what brings them together.

I must say, this book kept me near tears from the start. I was actually reading this on the way to golf, which explains why I didn't actually cry. Any other time, and I think the waterworks would have flowed.

This book covers a whole host of issues, from abusive relationships, to grief, to parenting. I find it a complex novel, and I loved how all the characters existed in this web of relationships, instead of several different subplots. If you like character-driven novels, you'll probably like this.

I'm torn between wanting to pick up Firefly Lane, and not wanting to read it, for fear that it'll be spoilt because of this book.