Is your dictionary sexist?

By Lisa | Filed in Commentary | One comment

I found this article really interesting: Why People are Calling the Oxford Dictionary Sexist – And Why It Matters

That last bit is really important.

That’s the key here: people look to the dictionary for definition and explanation. If the dictionary’s definitions are sexist, then they are perpetuating that offensive language. I’d never really thought of it that way before, but it makes perfect sense.

I try to gently correct people when I hear that sort of language (I’m a woman working in IT with an all-male team, so I hear it fairly often). Guess it’s time to correct our dictionary definitions as well.

in wildI am woefully behind on reading and reviews, but this is a great story to get me back on track. In Wilderness by Diane Thomas is a fascinating story told with a beautiful, poetic writing style. I was immediately drawn to the characters and the lyrical way the story is told made it a real pleasure to read.

It’s 1966 and Katherine Reid is dying – an unidentifiable, wasting illness that the doctors cannot put a name to and can do nothing to stop. Her life has been slowly disintegrating for the last four years, a series of tragedies, leaving her on her own with her failing health. She can’t keep food down. She is growing thinner and weaker, fading away, and the doctors can’t offer her any solutions.

One doctor tells her how, a hundred years ago, they would have told a patient like her to try a change of scenery, take a grand tour of Europe, live a little before the end. This gets her thinking. On impulse Katherine buys an isolated cabin in the North Carolina wilderness. She plans to hike in with a duffel bag full of food and warm clothes, the few things she will need in the weeks she has left. She chooses it as her place to die.

Instead, she begins to get well. She can keep food down, she’s getting stronger, and she is enjoying the quiet isolation of the forest. But when you’ve come to the wilderness to die…and then you don’t…what do you do next?

Danny is barely out of his teens and crippled with PTSD. After his discharge and a horrifying incident in California, he came to the wilderness to get away from people and his fear of what he might do. He watches Katherine as she works in the garden, as she walks to the privy, he sleeps by a chink in the cabin wall, where he can hear her breathing. When he finally storms into her life, it’s just a matter of time before he can’t keep his demons at bay.

Katherine’s story is compelling all on its own. I was amazed at her strength and thought about how satisfying it must be to choose the way you will go out; so few of us are able to do that. Danny scared me from the moment he appeared on the page. The stalking was terrifying, even moreso since Katherine doesn’t even know she’s being stalked. Their meeting was inevitable and I found myself holding my breath, waiting for the clash that had to be coming.

In Wilderness is an intriguing story and a pleasure to read. My copy was provided free of charge through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer Program.


By Lisa | Filed in Quotables | No comments yet.

“The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.”

— Mark Twain

Hot Guys with Books…

By Lisa | Filed in Hot Guys with Books | No comments yet.

This one is naughtier than usual, but it’s cold outside and I need something to warm me up! Can anyone make out the title?

Boy with a book

New on the Shelves…

By Lisa | Filed in New Books | One comment

From the nice folks at HarperCollins, Missing Pieces by Heather Gudenkauf:

missingSarah Quinlan’s husband, Jack, has been haunted for decades by the untimely death of his mother when he was just a teenager, her body found in the cellar of their family farm, the circumstances a mystery. The case rocked the small farm town of Penny Gate, Iowa, where Jack was raised, and for years Jack avoided returning home. But when his beloved aunt Julia is in an accident, hospitalized in a coma, Jack and Sarah are forced to confront the past that they have long evaded.

Upon arriving in Penny Gate, Sarah and Jack are welcomed by the family Jack left behind all those years ago—barely a trace of the wounds that had once devastated them all. But as facts about Julia’s accident begin to surface, Sarah realizes that nothing about the Quinlans is what it seems. Caught in a flurry of unanswered questions, Sarah dives deep into the puzzling rabbit hole of Jack’s past. But the farther in she climbs, the harder it is for her to get out. And soon she is faced with a deadly truth she may not be prepared for.


By Lisa | Filed in Quotables | No comments yet.

Alan Rickman



New on the Shelves…

By Lisa | Filed in New Books | One comment

Downloaded my review copy of a new book I am really looking forward to! Back in 2011, I gave a great review to Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan’s Tiger in the Kitchen. Now, I get to review her first novel, Sarong Party Girls:

sarongOn the edge of twenty-seven, Jazzy hatches a plan for her and her best girlfriends: Sher, Imo, and Fann. Before the year is out, these Sarong Party Girls will all have spectacular weddings to rich ang moh—Western expat—husbands, with Chanel babies (the cutest status symbols of all) quickly to follow. Razor-sharp, spunky, and vulgarly brand-obsessed, Jazzy is a determined woman who doesn’t lose.

As she fervently pursues her quest to find a white husband, this bombastic yet tenderly vulnerable gold-digger reveals the contentious gender politics and class tensions thrumming beneath the shiny exterior of Singapore’s glamorous nightclubs and busy streets, its grubby wet markets and seedy hawker centers. Moving through her colorful, stratified world, she realizes she cannot ignore the troubling incongruity of new money and old-world attitudes which threaten to crush her dreams. Desperate to move up in Asia’s financial and international capital, will Jazzy and her friends succeed?

Vividly told in Singlish—colorful Singaporean English with its distinctive cadence and slang—Sarong Party Girlsbrilliantly captures the unique voice of this young, striving woman caught between worlds. With remarkable vibrancy and empathy, Cheryl Tan brings not only Jazzy, but her city of Singapore, to dazzling, dizzying life.

Hot….dogs with books?

By Lisa | Filed in Book Review | No comments yet.

How about a little something different?

New on the Shelves…

By Lisa | Filed in New Books | No comments yet.

I added a few things to my personal library over the holidays. First up, a little something from Kindle First: The Oddfits by Tiffany Tsao


Eight-year-old Murgatroyd Floyd doesn’t fit in—not as a blue-eyed blonde living in Singapore, not in school, and certainly not with his aloof expatriate parents, who seem determined to make his life even harder. Unbeknownst to him, there’s a reason why he’s always the odd boy out: he is an Oddfit, a rare type of human with access to the More Known World, a land invisible to most people. Yet unfortunate circumstances keep Murgatroyd stranded in the Known World, bumbling through life with the feeling that an extraordinary something is waiting for him just beyond reach.

Seventeen years later, that something finally arrives when a secret organization dedicated to exploring the More Known World invites Murgatroyd on a mission. But as the consummate loser begins to grow into the Oddfit he was meant to be, the Known World becomes bent on exterminating him. For once in his underachieving life, will Murgatroyd Floyd exceed expectations and outsmart those trying to thwart his stupendous destiny?

smartcutsThis review is part of my New Year’s Clean Up My Review Pile project. I finished this book months ago, but somehow never quite got around to the review. Something always came up – something else to review, or my Kindle had a dead battery, or something. But I came across it on the finished list a couple of weeks ago and I have since been recommending it like crazy – mostly to my coworkers. Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success is a terrific book about lateral thinking and how looking at problems from new angles and not taking the same old path can bring you real success.

In this book, I’m going to show you how overachievers throughout history have applied lateral thinking  to success in a variety of fields and endeavors. In doing this, I plan to convince you that the fastest route to success is never traditional, and that the conventions that we grow up with can be hacked. And most important, I want to show you that anyone – not just billionaire entrepreneurs and professional mavericks – can speed up progress in business or life.

That’s a pretty tall order. But I found things I could glean from this, things I expect to use in my career and the rest of my life. The most powerful lesson for me was that creating that path to success, that unconventional path, means thinking about the whole problem differently.

Snow provides great examples that are great fun to read. How Benjamin Franklin got his start in publishing. The paths that our greatest presidents took to get to the White House. How Jimmy Fallon got to be on Saturday Night Live. One of my favorites was about how Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) in London had improved the survival rate of the children it treated by working with a Formula 1 racing team.

You see, the hospital acknowledged that they had a problem with “handovers” – the process of transferring one of their tiny patients from the care of the cardiac surgery team in the operating room, to a transport bed, then to a bed in the ICU. Lots of opportunities to screw that up, to make mistakes, and it was costing patient lives, until two tired doctors sat down in front of the television in the break room and had an epiphany while watching an auto race:

“In seven seconds, the pit crew tore off four tires, filled a tank of gas, screwed on four new tires, and leapt out of the way for the car to scream back onto the track. Working as if controlled by a hive mind, the Formula 1 crews made the GOSH staff look like monkeys fighting over ventilator tubes.

So we phoned them up.”

The rest of the story is fantastic, a real pleasure to read. They worked with a Ferrari pit team in Italy and observed key things about the processes they used. They mapped out every potential problem, they worked with physical space between the crew members, they had a crew member who oversaw the entire process, they worked silently, without chatter. The hospital team found ways to adopt many of these ideas, including hiring dance choreographers to help team members learn how to work around each other without getting in each others’ way. And in doing so, they reduced their worst handover errors by a staggering 66%.

The thing that is most amazing to me: that they got someone to even consider the idea of running an operating theater like a Formula 1 race pit.

But that’s really what the book is about – it’s about unconventional ideas and how to look at a problem differently. The final section of the book is on SpaceX (fitting for me, since they are a client of the company I work for). As you might have heard, SpaceX recently did what no one has done before: they launched a rocket, brought it back to Earth, and landed it safely, ready to be reused. Conventional wisdom has always said that was impossible, but conventional wisdom is often wrong. My takeaway from that section: you can make something (a widget, a process, or a rocket) 10% better, or you can make it 10 times better, but to get to 10 times better, you have to be willing to completely tear it down and start from scratch, no preconceived notions, no sacred cows. How can you not think of a practical, business application for an idea like that? My company has herds of sacred cows, things that no one is willing to change, but I hope that in my little corner of the corporate office, I can get someone to rethink those ideas. Even if the only person I can persuade is me. That will be a start.

Smartcuts is an engaging read, full of great ideas and terrific stories. It’s proof that a useful business book does not have to be dry and tedious. My copy of Smartcuts by Shane Snow was an Advanced Reader Copy, provided free of charge by the good folks at HarperCollins.