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January 3, 2014 / Leslie

Mini Reviews: Wrapping Up 2013

2013 has ended and I still have a few books that need to be reviewed. In an effort to catch-up and start fresh this year I’m posting some quick thoughts in the form of mini-reviews.

Quiet by Susan Cain

Quiet by Susan CainGenre: Non-Fiction
Publisher: Random House Audio | January 2012
Format: Audio CD | 10½ hours | Rating: 4 stars

Passionately argued, impressively researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet shows how dramatically we undervalue introverts, and how much we lose in doing so.

This was very enlightening. I had no idea that, by definition, so many people are introverts. In a world filled with reality TV, social media and ‘selfie’ photos, people push themselves to be more outgoing in order to fit in a society, both business and social, that rewards extroverts.

Filled with research studies and examples of real life people, the author did a nice job of creating an interesting and compelling narrative. While extroverts may get more notice, introverts do their share of contributing to society. Individuals such as Steve Wozniak and Eleanor Roosevelt are two that come to mind but there were many more examples.

This was chosen by my bookclub for our December read. I never thought of myself as introverted but as I was reading I fit a lot of the characteristics. A fascinating subject which resulted in a lively discussion.

Audio production: Nicely narrated by Kathe Mazur in a smooth, calming tone.


Brief Encounters with Che Guevara by Ben Fountain

 Brief Encounters with Che Guevara by Ben FountainGenre: Short Stories
Publisher: Harper Audio | October 2013 (orig. 2006)
Format: Audio CD | 7½ hours | Rating: 2½ stars

The well-meaning protagonists of Brief Encounters with Che Guevara are caught—to both disastrous and hilarious effect—in the maelstrom of political and social upheaval surrounding them. Ben Fountain’s prize-winning debut speaks to the intimate connection between the foreign, the familiar, and the inescapably human.

I really wanted to like this book but unfortunately it didn’t work for me – probably because I chose a book by its cover rather than the subject matter. Yes, the birds swayed me, however only one of the short stories was about birds and it was one of the two stories I liked. In Near Extinct Birds of the Central Cordillera, a student on a ornithological research trip is captured as a spy. I enjoyed the dark humor and the clever twist to the ending. The other was Reve Haitien, where an outsider befriends the locals by playing chess and ends up involved in smuggled art and diamonds with disastrous results.

All of the stories take place in third world countries filled with rebels, militants and the poor. They were well-written but I had a difficult time engaging and relating to most of them. Don’t let me dissuade anyone from reading this – judging from the majority of the reviews, this collection was well-received.

Audio production: Believable accents and excellent narration by Christian Baskous.


Driven to Distraction by Edward M. Hallowell

Driven To DistractionGenre: Non-Fiction
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio | Nov 2013 (orig. 2003)
Format: Audio CD | 7½ hours | Rating: 3 stars

Procrastination. Disorganization. Distractability. Millions of adults have long considered these the hallmarks of a lack of self-discipline. But for many, these and other problems in school, at work and in social relationships are actually symptoms of an inborn neurological problem: ADD, or Attention Deficit Disorder.

The author uses examples and case studies of both adults and children to illustrate the different forms of attention deficit disorder. Many of the patients suffered for years before receiving a correct diagnosis and treatment resulting in a life-changing transformation.

I have long suspected someone near and dear to me of having ADD – easily distracted, forgetful, and leaving notes is a must – and I wanted advice and a better understanding of the problem. Most of the case studies were of adults looking back on their childhood and finally knowing why they respond they way they do plus some general suggestions on how to live with ADD.

An interesting read for anyone desiring a better understanding of ADD and how the brain works.

Audio production: John McDonough does a nice job narrating in a slow, deliberate manner reminiscent of a classroom lecture and fitting the tone of the subject material.


Who Owns the Future by Jaron Lanier

Who Owns The Future by Jaron LanierGenre: Non-Fiction
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio | August 2013
Format: Audio CD | 12 hours | Rating: 4 stars

Lanier asserts that the rise of digital networks led our economy into recession and decimated the middle class. Now, as technology flattens more and more industries – from media to medicine to manufacturing – we are facing even greater challenges to employment and personal wealth.

The author certainly knows his stuff in this well-researched look at our economy, digital information, technology and what it means for the future. He contends that the current thinking that “information should be free” isn’t going to work in the long run. Power will end up concentrated in the hands of a few and a better solution is a system of micro payments. Today’s wealthy companies hire few workers yet make a lot of money by having free access to our information (ie Facebook or Google). How much are we giving up to get something for free?

The book gets a bit rambling at times and some of the ideas can be a little difficult to follow, but I still found the material interesting and thought-provoking. I listened in my car over a span of several weeks as this was the kind of book you could easily start and stop.

Audio production: Excellent narration and pacing by Pete Simoneilli in a voice that is pleasant and easy to listen to.

Short Review Format

Sometimes I just don’t have a lot to say about a book, even those I like, but I still want to post a review.

What do you think of the shorter format?
Does it have enough information about the book?

© 2014 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.
Review copies of Driven to Distraction, Brief Encounters with Che Guevera and Who Owns the Future provided by the publisher.
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Leave a Comment
  1. Mary / Jan 3 2014 9:37 am

    Your mini reviews are the length of most of my regular reviews 🙂


    • Leslie / Jan 3 2014 11:27 am

      Sometimes it doesn’t take a lot of words to get our point across. These are about half the length of one of my full reviews and much easier to write.


  2. BermudaOnion / Jan 3 2014 10:30 am

    I’ve been hearing a lot about Quiet and really want to read that one. I think I’m in between and introvert and an extrovert if that makes sense.


    • Leslie / Jan 3 2014 11:33 am

      That makes perfect sense. I fall in the middle too. I should have mentioned that there is a personality test – the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator – mentioned in the book that can be taken online.


  3. sagustocox / Jan 3 2014 11:02 am

    I like these mini reviews…at least we get a sense of what you read and what you thought…


    • Leslie / Jan 3 2014 11:34 am

      I’m hoping that by adding more mini-reviews I’ll be more likely to stay current.


  4. Lloyd Russell / Jan 3 2014 11:10 am

    Leslie, have you read Ben Fountain’s book, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk? I was browbeat into reading it, but it’s very good. I gave it a 3.0 out of 4.


    • Leslie / Jan 3 2014 11:35 am

      Yes, I have but I haven’t read it yet. I recognized the author’s name and that, along with the bird cover, made me give this book a try.


  5. Beth Hoffman / Jan 3 2014 11:42 am

    I’m a card-carrying introvert. QUIET is on my radar and I hope to read it soon.

    As for mini-reviews, I like them a lot; they save time for both the writer and the reader.


    • Leslie / Jan 3 2014 12:16 pm

      It often takes me an hour or so to write a full review whereas quick impressions from my notes takes about 15 minutes. I wrote almost 100 reviews last year – that’s a lot of hours!


  6. Jennifer Wallace / Jan 3 2014 11:55 am

    I’m looking forward to reading Quiet at some point soon. I quite like mini reviews, great to get a quick impression of a reader’s view of a book. From a blogger’s perspective I also find them very handy as a way of rounding off on titles I haven’t had time to review fully. A format that works well I think!


    • Leslie / Jan 3 2014 12:17 pm

      I like the mini reviews too both as a reader and a blogger. I’m planning on doing more of them this year – maybe every month or two to get caught up.


  7. irene / Jan 3 2014 3:53 pm

    Great reviews, 3/out of four of your books sound great, The future, for me, should stay there, I’m not all that interested in it. Quiet is on my TBR and I understand buying a book for the cover, and ADD is a topic I’m so interested in, thank you, I’ll check it out.


  8. Diane@BibliophilebytheSea / Jan 3 2014 8:03 pm

    Love the mini reviews! I have 2 I still need to do for Dec of 2013.


  9. Sheila (Book Journey) / Jan 3 2014 11:14 pm

    I am introverted and this book really spoke to me.


  10. stacybuckeye / Jan 13 2014 10:24 pm

    Everyone seems to have good things to say about Quiet I should get to it this year!
    My husband have the conversation from Who Owns the Future a lot. I’ll have to see if the library has this one.



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