Monday, January 15, 2018

My take on: This Could Hurt

I never thought a book about corporate America could be funny or entertaining, but Jillian Medoff found a way with her latest book This Could Hurt.

It's 2009 at the start, and Ellery Consumer Research is feeling the impact of the market crash. Rosa Guerrero is the longtime head of human resources. She's the leader of an eclectic staff. She can be a demanding boss, but Rosa also knows how to lead with grace and humanity. But the lines between supervisor and friend are often blurred.

The No. 2 man in HR embezzled thousands from the company and Rosa had no idea. The theft is not Rosa's fault, but she can't help feeling guilty. Associate director, Rob Hirsch, and his protege Lucy Bender have far too much emotional intimacy for people who aren't married to each other. Rob loves his wife and kids, but he finds himself drawn to Lucy. They often take walks, arm-in-arm, to a local grocery store -- just to walk the aisles. Don't know many co-workers who do that with someone who is just a friend. Lucy is unmarried but feels the same connection to Rob, even though she doesn't quite have the words to describe her feelings. Kenny Verville, a senior manager, sees Ellery, and every job he's had before, as just a stepping stone. Kenny is the arrogant, alpha male type of co-worker that everyone hates. He thinks he's better than everyone. Even in his personal life, he thinks everything is perfect until the ish hits the fan!

Rosa has her own issues as well. After the death of her husband, Ellery is basically her whole life -- inside and outside the office. Lucy and Leo are frequent guests at Rosa's home, drinking and eating the night away. Sounds innocent, but Lucy and Leo get more insight into Rosa's personal life than they should. Rosa has some serious medical problems, which could put her career in jeopardy. But Rosa is the type of woman who is too full of pride to admit she has a problem. She needs help but just doesn't want to admit it. Can she be the same effective manager without help? It doesn't matter because Lucy, Leo, and even Kenny work together as team to save Rosa from herself.

Sounds just like your average office politics? I don't know. But there were many moments that rang true. Ever need a little quiet in the morning? So much quiet that you need to be away from everything and everyone? Leo sets up a little alcove on an empty floor, just so he can enjoy his breakfast in the morning. I can relate. I like the people I work with, but I started coming in earlier just so I could enjoy my breakfast and read the newspaper in quiet. Getting too involved in another co-worker's life? It's not in my nature, but I can see how it can happen. Overall, the book started out a little slow but it picked up halfway through. There were some unexpected, and sad turns, including one character who was revealed to be wayyyy more manipulative than I thought. Read the book to know what I'm talking about!!

Rating: Give it a try

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (HarperCollins) in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

My take on: Modern Lovers

The cover of Modern Lovers by Emma Straub is pretty, and I let myself be swayed by a pretty cover -- with a little help from the Black Friday sale on Book Outlet.

Modern Lovers is about a group of close friends, navigating college, adulthood, friendship, marriage, family, and children. Sounds like a recipe for a good book. wasn't. In my opinion this was a book about a bunch of self-absorbed, shallow, annoying, hipsters.

Zoe and her wife, Jane, are going through a mid-life crisis. Their teenage daughter, Ruby, doesn't want to go to college and has no idea what she wants to do with her life. While Zoe and Jane contemplating divorce, their next door neighbors and best friends, Elizabeth and Andrew "think" they have a happy marriage but of course they don't. Their son, Harry, is bursting with hormones and has a crush on Ruby. There are several subplots, but the central focus is on the two families. Their problems were just plain BORING! I wanted to stop reading this, but I persuaded my co-workers to read this for our book club. So I felt an obligation to finish reading this book.

The characters are not likeable or relatable. Zoe doesn't always know what she wants, despite having everything she needs right in front of her. Jane is a workaholic. Ruby is a know-it-all brat. Harry is a lovesick puppy. Andrew is a gullible slacker, nearly losing thousands of dollars to a scam artist. Elizabeth spends too much time inserting herself into Zoe's life and marriage to realize her own problems. All of this could have been interesting, but nothing really happens. Any conflict gets wrapped up into a neat little bow at the end, but real life just isn't like that. This book was just so blah! If that makes sense!

Rating: Meh

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The year that was, 2017 is over!!

Politics and the world at large are a mess. No one can ever convince me it's not because of the orange menace in the Oval Office. I have to hope 2018 will be better. Until that day, I'm going to focus on the positive. As in the many good books I read in 2017.

My goal for 2017 was to read 50 books. As of December 23, I read 38 books. I think I can make it to 40 books before the final minutes of 2017 come to a close. Either way, that's still more than 2016. Perhaps I would have read more if I hadn't started and stopped 13 additional books. Yes, life is too short to read books I'm not really interested in. Sooooo....lets get to it. The best books of the year!

Best Books of 2017
(Please note, not all of these books were published in 2017. I just happened to read them in 2017)

1. The Hike by Drew Magary: If not for my office book club, I don't think I ever would have picked this one up. This was one of the weirdest and funniest books I've ever read.

2. The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee: Youtube videos turned me on to this gem! A funny historical romp through Europe.

3. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty: Loved the book and the loved the HBO adaptation. But....HBO why are you doing a season 2? I think one season was enough.

4. Shine by Lauren Myracle: I should have read this sooner. This was a page-turner. A horrific crime rocks a small town to its core.

5. Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter: This one surprised me. I was expecting a formulaic crime thriller, and got so much more.

6. Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen: This was my first foray into a Sarah Dessen book and I loved it. This reminded me of a Jodi Picoult book.

7. On Writing by Stephen King: I didn't review this on my blog. I read it for inspiration. Like a lot of people I have aspirations about writing professionally. I'm a looooonnnnnnggg way from doing that, but I got a lot more confidence just by reading this book.

8. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: Given the current political climate, Angie Thomas' book came at the right time. This book shines a light on a hot-button issue, police brutality.

9. The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins: This was one of the strangest books I've ever read. It took me two tries before I could make it all the way through. The second time was the charm.

10. The Bookshop at Water's End by Patti Callahan Henry: A book about people who love books!

The not so good books of 2017
(Please note, not all of these books were published in 2017. I just happened to read them in 2017)

1. Exit West by Mohsin Hamid: I didn't review this on my blog, but I did read it for my office book club. I know this book is on a lot of "best o 2017" lists but it's not on mine! This is a book you either love or you hate. I hate it. I found it incredibly BORING!!

2. Night Film by Marisha Pessl: I invested 600-plus pages into a book that was a big load of nothing. It was a book without an identity. It was trying to be literary, magical realism, thrilling and it didn't work for me.

3. The Mothers by Britt Bennett: Another office book club pick that just wasn't for me. It had potential but I didn't like the narrative style. It was supposed to be told by a group of mothers, but the voice was too inconsistent for my taste.

4. Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett: Yes, yet another office book club pick that I didn't review on my blog. Sensing a theme? Perhaps I need to stick to reading books that I pick?

How did I do with my reading resolutions in 2017?
I think I did okay. My goal was to read 50 books. I've currently read 38 books, but I think I can get to 40. What were my other resolutions for the year? Keep a reading journal: Done, I plan to continue doing that. Finish the Lunar Chronicles: Yeah that didn't happen and I don't know if it will happen in 2018 but I will try. Read a book I assume I will hate: Not yet!

Reading resolutions for 2018
So what am I going to do for 2018? No. 1 goal? Have fun reading!! I want to try for 50 books again, but I want to have fun doing it and not get caught up in the number. What else? Read more of my own books. Read more non-fiction. Read out of my comfort zone; I rarely read fantasy, horror, or sci-fi and it's time for a change! Finally finish It by Stephen King!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Where have I been?

The million dollar question...where have I been? I'm always reading, but I confess I don't always have the drive to do blog posts. I also started reading, and then stopped reading several books that I just found a little boring. And I made the genius decision to start tackling several books that are 400-plus pages at the same time. Add all that up...and I haven't posted in more than a month.

But I digress, lets catch up with what I have finished reading lately.

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

I bought Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen when it first came out -- two years ago. I remember braving a loooonnnnggggg self-checkout line at Walmart to buy this book. Then, like a lot of my books it started to collect dust on shelf. But this year I was determined to read more of my own books. On a whim, I finally decided to read this. It's also my first foray into reading a Sarah Dessen book.

The short: Teenage Sydney has long lived in her older brother, Peyton's, shadow. He gets all of the attention, no matter how badly he screws up. And now, after a drunk driving accident leaves a young boy in a wheelchair Peyton is headed to prison. Even with Peyton gone, Sydney is still questioning her place and self-worth within her own family. That is until she switches schools, makes new friends, and is welcomed into the arms of the Chatham family. Has Sydney finally found her place in life?

Thoughts: I LOVED this! It kind of reminded me of Jodi Picoult's writing. The strong friendships and family dynamics are what make this story work. Sydney's mom is someone who always has to have it together. She always has a plan, even when it comes to Peyton being in prison. Sydney's mom can find any reason to excuse Peyton's behavior. She can find any reason to rally behind him. But it takes so much more to see the pain that Sydney is in. Sydney's new friends, Layla and Mac can see that pain and help her through it. Sydney just needs to find the strength to tell her parents her true feelings...before it's too late.

Rating: O.M.G.!!

When We Were Worthy by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen
The short: A car crash changes the lives of just about everyone in the small town of Worthy, Georgia. In one car, three teenage girls are killed instantly, leaving their families and friends to pick up the pieces. In the other car, a teenage boy named Graham is left with severe injuries and the lasting memory that he took three people. But everyone, not just Graham, will be forced to take a hard look at their own lives in When We Were Worthy by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen.

Thoughts: A short but impactful book. Every character has some issue, some flaw that they were able to ignore until the accident. Finding the strength within and truly knowing your worth is the only way to move on.

Rating: Superb

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (Lake Union) in exchange for an honest review.

Wilde Lake by Laura Lippman

The short: Luisa "Lu" Brant is the new state's attorney. A grisly murder committed by a homeless man, offers Lu the chance to make a name for herself and step out of the shadow of her father -- a man who once occupied the very office she now holds. But what seems like a routine case will spark memories of the past. A past that could have dire consequences for her family in Wilde Lake by Laura Lippman.

Thoughts: I had high hopes for this one. The cover seemed to imply that something sinister took place. I was expecting a payoff that never came. It takes until the last 75-80 pages before the real plot is revealed. I felt like this book was a big buildup to nothing. The larger plot also seemed to come out of left field. I do like Laura Lippman's writing style, but I was a bit indifferent to this book as a whole.

Rating: Give it a try

Note: received a copy of the book from the publisher (William Morrow) in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

My take on: Night Film

In my continuing efforts to read more of my own books, I finally tackled the monster that is Night Film by Marisha Pessl. I bought this two or three years ago, and I'm not sure what attracted me to it. I think it was probably the cover or the discounted price. I'm certain I picked this up from a bargain bin at Barnes & Noble.

The cover certainly hints at something ominous. Something sinister is going on with the woman on the cover. She did something or something happened to her. When I bought this and when I finally started reading this book, I was convinced there had to be a great story ahead. After 600-plus pages, this was a bit of a mixed bag.

Young Ashley Cordova is dead. Her death is ruled a suicide, but bulldog investigative reporter Scott McGrath is not convinced. Scott is certain there is more to the story, possibly even foul play. Ashley is the daughter of the reclusive horror director Stanislas Cordova. Scott has come up against Stanislas before. He once tried to expose the celebrated director's sinister lifestyle and film career, even going so far as to compare Stanislas to cult leaders like Jim Jones and Charles Manson. Actors on his films were worked to the point of exhaustion and even mental breakdowns. But no one will ever go on the record. Stanislas has followers that would do anything and everything for him, including protecting him from people like Scott. The pursuit of Stanislas turned out to be a big failure, leading Scott to become a pariah in the journalism world. That is until Ashley's death. Solving the mystery surrounding Ashley's death could be Scott's ticket to redemption or it could be his downfall.

McGrath's life is in shambles. One day melts into the next. He's estranged from just about everyone in his life. He loves his young daughter, Samantha, but barely makes an effort to spend time with her. It doesn't seem like Scott should be going down the Cordova rabbit hole, but he is. One tip leads to another, and another, and another. Enough clues to fill 600 pages. Along the way Scott gets some help, forming his own squad--reminiscent of Woodward and Bernstein in their pursuit of the Watergate scandal. Yes, Woodward and Bernstein are a running gag throughout the book. Youngins Nora and Hopper, both with connections to Ashley, join the investigation.

It's hard to know what type of book this was trying to be. Horror? Literary? Mystery? Magical Realism? I didn't even get to the mixed media component of the book. Throughout there are fake newspaper articles, magazine articles, web pages, and photographs. They're supposed to enhance the story and there used to be a website/app for the book, but it looks like that's no longer active. The articles, links, and photographs are another character, an annoying character. They don't enhance the story, they slow it down. There are parts of this book that are really good, but some that are just boring, slow, and unnecessary. If this book had 200 less pages, it would have made for a better read. For all of the pages, the final payoff was a big letdown. Without giving too much away, the true story behind Ashley's downfall was not what I was expecting at all. After investing so much time I was disappointed in the ending. Looking at this as a whole, I felt like the whole investigation was pointless because it led to nothing!

Rating: Give it a try

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

My take on: Shine

I'm not sure how many years ago I bought Shine by Lauren Myracle, but I'm glad I finally I dug it out of my TBR pile.

Seventeen-year-old Patrick is beaten and left to die at the gas station where he worked. The horrific crime rocks the small town of Black Creek, North Carolina. People in town and local law enforcement are certain it's a hate crime and it has to be the work of outsiders. Why a hate crime? Patrick is gay. It's easier to believe that outsiders did this rather than admit that someone from Black Creek committed this crime. While it was hard to be himself in such a small town, but Patrick never stopped being himself or denied who he was. Patrick was left to fend for himself after the death of his beloved grandmother, Mama Sweetie; going to school and supporting himself by working at the gas station. He was friends with the local jocks/popular kids in town, Tommy, Christian, and Beef, despite the many times they teased him about his sexuality. Patrick dealt with whatever life handled him with dignity and grace. Now, he's literally in the fight of his life.

Many in town offer their prayers of support for Patrick, but the truth is they would much rather gossip about Patrick than actually try to help him. Except for Cat. As kids, Cat and Patrick used to be best friends. Cat often spent more time with Patrick than her own family. As teens they drifted apart. After a sexual assault, Cat chose to retreat within herself than to seek solace from her best friend. Now that Patrick is in the hospital, Cat is full of guilt and regret. Does she deserve to feel sad after rejecting Patrick for so many years? In some ways she feels responsible for Patrick's attack. Maybe if she hadn't shut him out, Patrick would be OK? Cat is convinced that the only way to alleviate the pain and guilt is to find Patrick's attacker. It won't be easy. There are some, including Cat's brother Christian, who are convinced that Cat should leave well enough alone. Investigating forces everyone to confront their own feelings about Patrick, when they would rather avoid them. Investigating forces Cat to face her own feelings and insecurities, when she would rather avoid them. And more importantly, investigating could be dangerous.

This was very well-paced. Each chapter is an insight to small-town life, small-town "values", and small-town prejudices. It's easier to ignore what's uncomfortable than facing it head on. Cat wants to face everything head on. She's afraid but can't give into fear because she would be letting Patrick down. Patrick's attack is the catalyst for the overall book, but this is really Cat's story and her journey. Although, I do wish we could have heard a little bit more from Patrick's perspective. Everything we know about him comes from other people. It would have been nice to get just a little bit more of Patrick, but overall I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Rating: O.M.G.!!!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

My take on: The Gentlemen's Guide to Vice and Virtue

Several times a week, I find myself losing countless hours watching YouTube videos. What intrigues me so? I follow a lot of booktubers. I like watching book hauls and books reviews on YouTube. It's because of a review I saw on YouTube that The Gentlemen's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee caught my eye.

This was 500 pages of lighthearted fun.

It's the 1700s, and Henry "Monty" Montague has no desire to be like all the other teenage boys his age. Boarding school is not for him. Besides he got kicked out. Coming home at a decent hour is not for him. Besides there's too much fun to be had staying out late, partying, gambling, and drinking. Being a proper "gentlemen" like his father is not for him, especially if it means denying who he is. Who is Monty? A fun, self-absorbed, reckless but often thoughtful young man. He also loves the company of young ladies and young men. Although, Monty is certain the love of his life is a young man. And not just any young man, Monty is in love with his best friend, Percy.

Given the time period, a man being in love with another man was taboo. Especially a man like Percy. Who is Percy? A gifted musician, who just happens to be of mixed race. When people look at Percy, they don't see a talented man. All people see is his skin color. Everyone but Monty. He sees a beautiful talented man, and Monty wants to be more than just his friend. However, Monty's father has had enough of his son's antics. It's time for Monty to grow up. It's time for Monty to take over running the family estate. In his father's eyes, it's also time for Monty to give up the sins of the flesh--a.k.a. stop being gay. Monty isn't ready to change in any way. He shouldn't have to after living with a father who not only beats him, but also hates Monty with a passion. But Monty has a little time before deciding on the future. Now he's getting ready to hit the open road.

Monty is about embark on a yearlong Grand Tour of Europe. Percy and Monty's sister, Felicity, are along for the ride. It's supposed to be a year of growth, education, and reflection. Not exactly high priorities for this young man. Nope. Monty desires a year filled with pleasure and alcohol. The trio's chaperone, Mr. Lockwood, will have none of that. Lockwood is determined to keep his group of youngsters in check. Yeah, that doesn't work for long. Monty easily outsmarts Lockwood, and heads out for fun with Percy. Anything to distract himself from the hellish future his father wants for him.

Monty is constantly fighting his feelings for Percy. He wants to love Percy, but what if Percy doesn't want to love him back. There are brief moments of passion between Percy and Monty, but they always stop short of discussing their true feelings for each other. This yearlong trip through Europe also doesn't go as planned. It quickly goes off the rails after Monty, Percy, Felicity, and Lockwood are attacked by roadside pirates. The youngsters get separated from Lockwood and are forced to fend for themselves without money, a place to sleep, and a steady source of food. Without actually intending to, Monty does "grow up." He's forced to think about other people instead of just himself. Monty even sees Felicity as more than just his annoying little sister. He sees that Felicity is actually a resourceful and intelligent young woman. Health problems for Percy finally force Monty to face his true feelings for his best best friend. Faced with the opportunity to "cure" Percy's health problems, Monty is determined to take it. But at what cost?

At times Monty, Percy, and Felicity's romp through Europe was a stretch of the imagination. Every time you think they're finally going to get some relief, something else happens. They have all kinds of people chasing them. But altogether this is a funny, romantic, and endearing book. Please read it!

Rating: O.M.G.!!!
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