Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Method Method by Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry - Learn About Method's Seven Obsessions

Pros: Excellent introspection, great advice, good motivation
Cons: Not that I can think of.

The Bottom Line: Recommended for entrepreneurs just starting out, big business CEOs that need to re-educate themselves, and people who just love Method (like me!)

When I got the email that Method was putting out a book, I thought, “Cool.”  It wasn’t until I was on a serious Method kick that I saw it on the bookshelf at work and grabbed it.  Mainly I was curious.  How do two random guys just suddenly start making earth-friendly soap?

Well, turns out Eric Ryan worked seven years in advertising and Adam Lowry worked as a climate scientist that included projects like the Kyoto Protocol.  So maybe not so random after all.  But after their initial How We Got Started story, the two discuss the seven obsessions that they have within and surrounding their business.  Their beginning wasn’t easy and they had to learn several of these along the way, but their goal with this book is to help other entrepreneurs looking to make a difference in the world with whatever it is they may want to create.  Frankly, I think a lot of current CEOs and their underlings could benefit from this book as well.

Here’s a really quick rundown of the main chapters (which I normally don’t do but for some reason want to today).

Method’s Seven Obsessions:

Obsession 1 – Create a Culture Club  It’s all about having an amazing work environment without having to work at it – or at least, work too hard.

Obsession 2 – Inspire Advocates  That would be me.  Don’t just get customers – get people who love your products and tell everyone and their grandma about them.

Obsession 3 – Be a Green Giant  Be earth-friendly, be human-friendly, and rock at it.

Obsession 4 – Kick Ass at Fast  It’s not about being the fastest to market, but knowing how and when to be the fastest.

Obsession 5 – Relationship Retail  Make your retailers a part of the process and they’ll be more enthusiastic about selling your goods.

Obsession 6 – Win on Product Experience  If people have used it before, it’s not special.  Give your product an edge by turning it into an entirely new experience.

Obsession 7 – Design Forget about the same old, same old.  Be new, and be stunning in more ways that one.

Those are the obsessions that the Method team lives by in a nutshell.  There are a lot of great things in this book that entrepreneurs will find motivating, engaging, and downright useful.  I just work in a bookstore and I wanted to go out and try something new!  It’s almost as though the enthusiasm of Eric and Adam is put right into the pages.  With the way it’s written, perhaps it is.

As a Method Advocate (yes, I call myself this), I found this book to be highly interesting because I learned so much about the company.  It’s not facts and figures, but instead how they function within their walls, how they learn, how they grow, how they work with their suppliers and retail outlets.  About some of their values, known collectively as their Methodology; “What would MacGyver do?” and “Keep Method weird.”  You see how hard they work to find just the right people to fill positions, keeping a spot empty for months on end until they have someone who is close to perfect for the job.  Discovering all these things made me want to work for Method.  Did you know it took them 8 years to finally be satisfied with their toilet bowl cleaner?  That’s how long they worked on it because they wanted to get it right – not just put out some mediocre product.

Entrepreneurs are likely to be inspired by this book.  The information offered is useful and practical.  Eric and Adam don’t lecture and regurgitate facts about their business.  They point out people who have inspired them, ideas they’ve borrowed from other companies because of their usefulness (like Google and, and things they’ve discovered over the years as their company grew.  They also make sure to point out areas where they have made mistakes, such as expanding too quickly or realizing the faults in one of their Methodology values.  They show how they grew from those mistakes, how they’ve learned from them so they don’t make any repeats in the future.

Other established companies should really take a look at this book too.  Method does many things that most of us regular folk would absolutely love for other companies to do.  Things, in fact, that these other companies truly should do for many very good reasons.  Excellent customer service.  Hiring quality people instead of just anyone off the street to fill the position and provide awful results.  Handling marketing and advertising in smarter, more efficient ways.  Changes that could be made in current, sadly lacking companies would be beneficial to everyone.

My love of Method aside, I really do think this book is an excellent resource.  I hope it does help some people, and I hope those people create some amazing things that change the world for the better.  I know that would make Adam and Eric pleased as punch.

**Fun fact: These two have such faith in their products that when at a UK presentation, a reporter asked Eric that if their toilet bowl cleaner was so nontoxic, why didn’t he drink some?  Eric promptly pour a shot and downed it.  Two others followed his example.  (Not that they or I am saying drink Lil’ Bowl Blu, but geez, tell me that’s not trust in your product or commitment to it?)

Notes from the playlist: "Hey, Soul Sister" by Train

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Into the Land of the Unicorns by Bruce Coville - My First Adventure with Unicorns

Pros: A really good unicorn book

Cons: There is the occasional cliché, but can be easily overlooked (most probably won't notice anything)

The Bottom Line: Bruce Coville knows his unicorns, so you won't be disappointed.

For some reason I’ve always been the one to read my little sister’s books before she does. Like all the Harry Potter books – the first one was meant for her, but now it’s mine and I’ve bought all the rest on my own. Heck, I just bought the second book of The Unicorn Chronicles for Christmas and read it in two days – time enough to be done with it so she can have plenty of time to read it and I’ll be off to college.

Ok, enough about how I’m a fan of good fantasy and still read books that are meant for those much younger than me. Into the Land of the Unicorns is(obviously) a book about unicorns with 21 chapters and is 159 pages long. The author is Bruce Coville – a name I’ve come to know quite well upon my travels to every bookstore in search of the second book. Don’t know Bruce Coville? My Teacher Is An Alien? No? He has a dog named Booger you know. Anyway, that’s Bruce Coville.

This is Into the Land of the Unicorns, book one of The Unicorn Chronicles. Meet Cara, a young girl who lives with her grandmother on Earth. Sounds simple enough doesn’t it? However, right off the bat Cara and her grandmother find themselves being followed by a strange man, and in the midst of their escape, Cara’s grandmother gives her a strange amulet and tells her to A.) say “Luster, bring me home.” and then B.) jump from the top of a bell tower upon the twelfth chime.

Cara does just that and a moment later finds herself in a strange and beautiful land called Luster. Here she meets Lightfoot, a young (only about a hundred years old) unicorn, the Dimblethum (a man-bear), and the Squijum (a sort of monkey creature that is always rambunctious and hungry). It is with these three that Cara begins her journey to a place called Summerhaven where the Queen of the unicorns dwells so she can return home to her grandmother. On their way they meet Thomas the Tinker (who has a rather remarkable cart he takes with him) and must avoid nasty creatures called delvers, the arch-enemies (aside from the hunters) of the unicorns. They even have a run in with a dragon and someone Cara has not seen for a long, long time.

But why do these hunters seek to kill the unicorns so badly? What is so important about the amulet? What secrets will Cara unveil that will shed some light on her cloudy past? And if Cara is able to return home – will she find her grandmother? These are things that I cannot tell you – you must read The Unicorn Chronicles.

As for me, I enjoyed it. This was the first book I’ve read where unicorns have a big part. ...Actually this was the first book I’ve read with unicorns in it (aside from Harry Potter – but that poor unicorn was dead). It definitely gave me a new perspective on unicorns aside from the perfect and proper way we always think of them. How is that? Well one never thinks of unicorns talking in a, well, casual manner. Or being gruff and possibly unpleasant to be around. Everyone (character wise) develops quite fast but Coville manages it without much problem (trust me, if there was a problem I would have shot it down by now). The story behind the hunters is also quite an interesting tale, something I never would have thought up, and there is a lot of richness in this book despite its size, in the ways of detail that is. And there are tons of great ideas, I might add (such as Cara's run in with the dragon and Thomas's cart), but then I’m a fan of fantasy writing myself so I have a little log in my brain of what creatures are made by what authors to do certain things etc. etc.

As for the cliché thing I mentioned, well, most people won't notice anything in the least. For people who read a lot of fantasy however, I don't know about you, but I get kind of tired of some of the names people come up with. You know, the joining of two everyday words to make a name that occasionally makes me think of Native American names. "Lightfoot." "Skydancer." "Firethroat." The name of the unicorn world is "Luster." And why not? Shiny, beautiful, magical - it's only natural the place should be called Luster I guess. But then that's what everything translates into English I suppose, so I guess it's all right. Except then there are random other names like "Squijum" so it's not exactly consistent. I dunno, that's just me.

Either way, I think this is a great book and I’d let my kids read it if they were into fun fantasy type things. Except I don't have kids. But maybe you do. Oh well, even if you don't you can still read it. Who cares if it's supposed to be for the younger generation? But then, of course, you have to get the second book…

But that is another story.


Notes from the playlist: "My True Love's Eyes/The Cottage" by Jerry Goldsmith

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott – The Shortest Space Between Life and Death
Pro: The kind of book that isn’t afraid to tear deep into grief
Con: A lot of repetition in places; takes some time to get rolling

Bottom Line:  If you’re not looking for something bright and perky, here you go – it’s like a really simplified Jodi Picoult book. 

The cover of this book caught my eye (which is what all authors hope their covers do), and then the inside flap summary pulled me in. It’s certainly not a very long story, and though the concept the story is based on has been proven not to really work, we’ll skip all that and just go with suspension of disbelief.
Emma’s mom is dead. The baby her mother was carrying is not. So for the sake of the baby, her mother’s body is kept functioning until the baby can be born. This isn’t something Emma wanted or asked for – to see her dead mother every day. After all, how can she let go when even her mother isn’t allowed to? She blames a lot of things – especially Dan, her stepfather who made the decision without even asking what Emma thought. But things seem to change a little when the local druggie/badboy Caleb somehow gets into her life. Loss is something he understands more than anyone else around her, and perhaps with his help Emma will learn how to live again.
This is a book that is absolutely full of grief and isn’t afraid to pull any punches about it. It’s kind of like a teen Jodi Picoult or even Kristen Hannah in some ways, where everyone is so sad all the time and so angry about the things that are happening to them. To be honest, I didn’t expect that much depression and grief to be crammed into one teen book – and not even a long one at that.
At the same time, I think because of this book’s length and subject matter, that’s probably why after the first 30-50 pages or so I started to get irritated and a little bored because all we get is Emma being mad about her mom being dead. At one point I actually started to wonder that if I were to use the Ctrl+F function on the book, just how many times would the words “mom’s dead” show up. I kind of feel like a jerk saying this, but it got to the point for a bit there when I wanted Emma to get over it, grow up, communicate with her stepfather Dan, and stop being such a, well, a whiny teen about it. Emma kept assuming throughout the entire book that Dan just wanted the baby and didn’t care one whit about her mother, although through memories Emma brings up it’s very, very clear that Dan cared and still does. But she’s so stuck in her beliefs that she refuses to see it. Frankly, I wanted Dan to finally lose his cool at Emma, but he never does and instead always remains soft and attempts to be helpful to absolutely no avail.
Things did finally start to pick up, though, so the book became interesting again since we weren’t constantly hearing about how much it sucked that mom was dead and Dan only wanted the baby. Caleb coming into play wasn’t as intricate as I thought it might be – you quickly realize what his deal is, why he isn’t so bad, and why he’s the only one that “gets it.” He’s got his own scarred past and his parents certainly don’t help – although I find their actions a bit unrealistic, and what Emma finds in Caleb’s house only adds to the never-ending theme of sadness and anger so dark it’s like a black pit without a bottom.
Characters do sort out most of their issues, grow, and move forward, which was good to see. You also do finally realize Emma has other issues besides just hating on Dan for wanting the baby (although she never does seem to fully acknowledge that Dan is in just as much pain as her, if not more). And I did cry near the end because saying goodbye sucks no matter what. While Emma isn’t back to fully normal, at least she – and maybe Caleb too – are on their way as long as they stick together.
Not a bad book, overall, but it’s not going to become a favorite any time soon. I expected a little less anger and hate (at one point I did think of Yoda and how anger leads to hate and giggled a bit) throughout the book, thinking perhaps it might have more of a focus on Emma and Caleb, but no dice. Still, if this sounds like your kind of book then it’s worth the read. I’m off to go read something with a bit more pep in its step.

 Notes from the playlist: "A Father's Wish" by Randy Edelman

Saturday, April 5, 2014

One for Sorrow by Christopher Barzak – If You See God's Finger, RUN
Pros: Probably one of the weirdest ghost stories I’ve read
Cons: Mm, not really.
The Bottom Line: It's a story about a ghost, but it's not a murder mystery. It's a story about dying, but it’s actually about living. It's weird, but in a good way.
While participating in a book club, our host also threw out the occasional "dare" book - a little something extra to read between book club sessions. Shadowbridge by Gregory Frost was one of them. Another month it was Libyrinth by Pearl North. But last month it was this book, One for Sorrow. It sounded quite interesting to me, so I resolved to read it, even if I didn't get to it within the dare time frame.
Adam McCormick is fifteen, his home life isn't that great, and overall things are just "meh." When a boy from school, Jamie Marks, is found murdered, Adam realizes he can see Jamie's ghost. All Jamie needs is a friend. Adam knows what it's like to be unwanted and on your own, so he does what he can for Jamie. But that may mean dying, something Adam isn't at all concerned about. But will that really help Jamie? And is Adam dying for Jamie or for himself?
It's a hard book to summarize, really, though I think the back of the book does a better job than myself. Ha. It's a good story, one that keeps you engaged and one that is really weird in a lot of ways, though all of them good. I didn't want to put the book down, and even when I did, I was always surprised at how far in the book I wasn't. Like I was chugging right along and somehow not making progress. That's not a bad thing, it was just odd. Chalk it up to the subject matter of the book I guess.
Even though Jamie is murdered and his ghost is still lingering around, don't think that this is a murder mystery. This story is about Adam and the things he does. The things he feels, the things he thinks, and what he decides. He's a very interesting character and I was hooked on following him around as he made his way toward dying. There are some questions in this book that you may not have answered (or were they? You might not even be sure about that), such as why it was Adam decided to die or my question, what was it that made him decide to stay? Don't worry, I'm not ruining anything, it's pretty hard to ruin this book in any fashion because it's just so off the wall. It's nothing you'd expect.
And that's another thing that gives this book high marks. The author, Christopher Barzak, comes up with some cool ideas like closets leading into Dead Space, the strange things that linger in that space, and things that they want, and all the little things that Adam's grandmother used to say and do that turn out to be pretty much on the button. A lot of the things that frustrate Adam will frustrate you as well, so you'll be able to sympathize with him in a lot of the things that he does, whereas others you'll just wonder about some of his thought processes and decisions.
There are some odd moments in here where you might wonder, "Is Adam gay?" Indeed, I had that question a few times as well, but I almost want to say no, feeling more like he saw Jamie as a kind of extension of himself which is why certain things were okay. That's not to imply that there's a bunch of homosexuality in this book. Certainly not. Rather, whatever Adam and Jamie experience feels normal, natural. It's just another weird thing about this book that really works. And then of course, there's Grace, the girl that Adam really connects with in more ways than one.
It's strange, almost surreal, but at the same time it all makes perfect sense. It's a great book to read if you're in the mood for a ghost story in spring. At the same time, it's also good for being thankful. It's an odd duck, but I say give it a shot and see where it takes you.

Notes from the playlist: "Waiting Game" by Banks

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Whoops! I completely forgot to mention this. Last month I reviewed Stephanie Garber's amazing book Caraval for the web blog I curre...