Monday, January 26, 2015

Mistborn: The Final Empire (Mistborn 1) by Brandon Sanderson

Mistborn: The Final Empire (Mistborn, #1)Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It feels like it has been a long time since I have read something that was written for me: adult fantasy fiction that draws me in, engaging my mind rather than pointlessly entertaining it. Mistborn did just that. I don't think I can list all of the things I loved about this book, but I'll try to pick my top three.

1. The setting. As all good fantasy writers must, Sanderson creates a whole new world and finds ways to weave their politics, history, and culture into the main plot line. The back story IS the story, and it unrolls seamlessly.

2. The action. While good fantasy has always relied on enthralling action scenes, contemporary fiction has raised the bar on vivid action. Books are competing with movies for mindshare, and in more and more cases they are feeding the competition with substantive stories to share. Mistborn is full of detailed, fast-paced action scenes that win out over any action movie.

3. The intricacy of the plot. The plot unfolds, dropping bits and tangles of foreshadowing all over the place, but you don't know what is going to happen until it does. I know I've found a gem when I can go back through the story and gain insights into the eventual resolution that tie in perfectly, but were so subtle I missed them. It has been a while since I encountered such a story, and this book did just that.

So I have said multiple times that good books (in my humble opinion) are all about characters that connect with and become real to the reader. This book is no exception to that, but you might have noticed that the characters are not in my top three. I guess that is because I have come to expect it. The characters here were good, very good in fact. But I am feeling like I can find great character development in any book, including the YA Fantasy that I like to read. The setting, action and plot in this one are way above what I would expect in a YA book, so I guess that is why I'm giving them special attention.

My recommendation? Drop what you are doing and read this book. Right now. When you are done you can send me a thank you note.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries

The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful BusinessesThe Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So overall I thought this was a helpful book on the topic of entrepreneurship. The concepts are very similar to the Nail It Then Scale It book I read (but didn't review) in 2012, but I would guess that this book came out first. It is better written, and definitely had a wider distribution. Even with those benefits, I don't feel that the Lean Start-up would lead to any better outcomes than its competitors. The key concepts of a minimum viable product, fast feedback cycles and brutal honesty about your market and your results are now common place ideas. The tips for implementation were not as scripted as in other books and the examples were largely focused on IMVU, a company that seems to be over-studied relative to its notoriety. (In B-school we did a case study on the same company.)

So if you haven't ever read a book on entrepreneurship, this is a good one. So are a dozen others.