Thursday, June 30, 2016

June 2016 Bookshelf

Necessary Endings: The Employees, Businesses, and Relationships That All of Us Have to Give Up in Order to Move Forward by Henry Cloud
256 pages

When a book is so rich in content it is hard to give any sort of adequate review. But I can try! This book came to me by way of recommendation once the news came out that the organization I currently work for is going to go through its first ever President/CEO transition in the next year. What do necessary endings look and feel like? What is the impact of that ending on the person going through it and the people around them?
Us humans tend to shy away from endings. We find them unsettling, uncomfortable, and a host of other "un's" - none of them positive. But endings happen because they are a necessary part of life. And if they are going to happen, and they should happen, then we might as well learn how to do them well. Because most of us?  We don't do them well, we execute them in a way that makes them messy and more uncomfortable than they need to be.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said,"Great is the art of the beginning, but greater is the art of ending." As it turns out, how things end and our role in it matters more than we think. Chapter 6 of this rich book is titled, "Hoping Versus Wishing: The Difference Between What's Worth Fixing and What Should End" and that chapter is a key reason why some endings that should happen never do, or when they do it is messy and more hurt and anger are birthed unnecessarily. Cloud walks the reader through when to hang on and when to let go - when there is still hope and when it's just a wish that will never be anything more. He provides examples of litmus tests, so to speak, to apply to discover if there's any reason to keep moving forward or if it's time to end. But before he gets the reader there he tries to get the reader to accept that endings are a part of life, whether we like them or not. He talks with the reader about making endings a normal part of thinking and behaving. If you've ever read Ecclesiastes 3 from the Holy Bible then you know that way back in the day King Solomon, and God, were also trying to get people to understand that endings are a part of life that is better to accept rather than kick against. At some point in time us humans decided endings were bad, awful, something to shy away from. But in reality endings bring new - new growth, new opportunities, new challenges, new relationships, etc. Cloud is asking the reader to learn to embrace endings. When we can a couple of things happen, one - our role in something ending will be executed in healthier and more positive ways and two - the others involved in the ending will hopefully be able to begin to see endings as okay. The more people that can begin to accept them the more things will begin to end well, or at least better than they have been.
I'm pretty sure I highlighted at least 1/3 of the book. As I said earlier, it is rich in content. Lots of moments where I would read something and do a jaw drop and pause in reading to consider what Cloud was saying. Every chapter held treasures and important information to consider. The important thing to remember, however, is I can only be responsible for myself and my role - I can't force others to participate in healthy endings, That's the frustrating part of self-awareness and self-growth, you can't make anyone else do it also!
As I said earlier, our organization is going through its first ever major ending with the President/CEO retiring and a search for a new one underway. People are nervous, unsure, insecure - including the current President/CEO. So far things aren't ending well - decisions are being made that are setting up dominos of damage and failure once the first one tips over. Someone gifted the soon to be retired President/CEO with this title and we are hoping and praying it is read and taken to heart. We are hopeful the messy ending that is happening right now can be corrected. For my part? Well I participate in appropriate and healthy ways and that's all I can do - that and gift the book to my boss, another executive, for him to read and consider.

Peaceful Neighbor: Discovering the Countercultural Mister Rogers by Michael G. Long
Kindle Edition - 223 pages

Thank you to NetGalley and Westminster John Knox Press for this free readers edition. In exchange I am providing an honest review.

Growing up I didn't watch Mister Rogers' Neighborhood very often. Sesame Street was more my thing, perhaps it was more my parents thing? Regardless, I watched enough to know references to the show - Mister Rogers, his cardigans, the residents of the Make-Believe Neighborhood, the song. It wasn't until I was an adult that looking back, er watching back, I could appreciate Mister Rogers for what - and who - he was. And the older I got, the more I saw him outside of his show and appearing on different talk shows etc the more I began to realize what a life rockstar the man was. But I still didn't realize all that Fred Rogers was setting out to accomplish until someone pointed it out to me.
That someone was Michael Long with this title.
In this book Long takes a deep look into the values and mission of Fred Rogers and his Neighborhood. A vegetarian, pacifist, and follower of Christ Rogers used his Neighborhood, real and make-believe, to reach children with a different way/message than the cultural one. His messages were pointed but his method delivered them with a gentleness - of course they did, this was Fred Rogers' way.
As Long puts it early on in the book, "What I found, much to my delight, was a quiet but strong American prophet who, with roots in progressive spirituality, invited us to make the world into a countercultural neighborhood of love - a place where there would be no wars, no racial discrimination, no hunger, no gender-based discrimination, no killing of animals for food, and no pillaging of the earth's precious resources. This is the Fred Rogers I have come to know: not a namby-pamby, mealymouthed, meek and mild pushover, but rather an ambitious, hard-driving, and principled (though imperfect) creator of a progressive children's program designed to subvert huge parts of the wide society and culture." Long goes on to prove each of those points about Rogers in subsequent chapters. Rogers, it turns out, tuned in to the messages being broadcast by the culture, and crafted his shows to counter those messages. Between 1968-2001 he and the Neighborhood attempted to communicate to children (and their parents) that there was another way to consider. And he was often successful at communicating it. Driving his motivation was the ministry of Jesus, Rogers was intentional in allowing his beliefs to drive his messages. He wrote to a friend, "What a tough job to try to communicate the gift of Jesus Christ to anybody. It can't be simply talked about, can it? Jesus himself used parables - so I guess that's our directive: try to show the kingdom of God through stories as much as possible." Welcome to the Neighborhood.

The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict by The Arbinger Institute
288 pages

The Arbinger Institute looks at conflict in a very different way, we either honor or betray our way of being and the choice we make determines the kind of conflict we get involved in. Continuing with the ideas presented in Leadership and Self-Deception, as well as in Bonds that Make Us Free, The Anatomy of Peace dissects conflict and turns it upside down, freeing it from traditional thought and methods.
Using a relationship between an Arab and Israelite peace, and the heart of it, is explored in story form. Yusi and Avi run a camp for troubled youth and part of the intervention is a two day parent/guardian seminar. It is during this seminar that the reader gets to listen in and learn about what lies at the heart of conflict and how to turn from war to peace - in our relationships, homes, workplaces, communities. It all centers on our way of being and whether we honor or betray people and our hearts. Generally we operate through dealing with things - and people - that are going wrong and neglecting helping things go right. But when we learn to honor people and our hearts then our focus becomes helping things go right and conflict changes.
There's a lot of conflict happening in my current workplace and I'm always interested in learning more about conflict resolution and learning about my role - willingly or not - in it and how I can improve my communication, etc. This is an excellent resource with profound insights. I highly recommend it, highly.

Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum
Kindle Edition - 336 pages

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House for this free readers edition. In exchange I am providing an honest review.

I finished reading this title and immediately went to read reviews on it. Why? Because I was perplexed about the book on the whole. I read the last line and thought, "That's it? WTH?" All in all this title was a disappointment.
Anna, an American living in Zurich with her husband and children, is at loose ends. She blames everything and everyone but herself and her choices. She's been living the Swiss life for 9 years but still can't speak the language very well. She is indifferent to her husband, even more so toward her mother-in-law, has no friends to speak of, and is mildly resentful of her children. We meet her when she has started German language lessons and entered into psychotherapy at the "request" of her husband, Bruno. What the reader is then subjected to is about 2-3 months of Anna's life as it spirals out of control. And by subjected I mean held hostage. Anna is a self-absorbed, petulant, needy, and altogether unlikeable character. Her husband is unlikeable as well. In fact, none of Essbaum's characters in this title draw the reader in. They are all rather bland. Anna is underdeveloped. She keeps bemoaning her lot in life as if some tragedy had befallen her to set her on the path she is on. If there was an actual tragedy Essbaum never let the reader in on it.  Anna's parents died in a car crash when she was in her early 20's but that is the only allusion to tragedy Essbaum gives and in no way serves as a reason for the dysfunction Anna is in. It does not give foundation for the mindless affairs Anna has, for the quicksand she insists on wading in. Bruno is a confusing character - he's an absolute arse for 3/4 of the story and then uncharacteristically becomes "loving" after confronting Anna for the first time about her secret life of affairs. It makes me wonder if Essbaum was drawing a sketch of the Swiss and their personalities or stereotyping or what. Bruno's somewhat sudden personality change was jarring and disrupted the flow of how Essbaum had portrayed him throughout. The only time I feel like Essbaum put some feeling into the story was when she would describe the many sexual encounters Anna has. Dear Lord. One wonders if Essbaum was vicariously living through Anna in those moments.  They were a little much.
One review I read commented that it felt as if Essbaum was trying too hard to write a novel of profound characters and thought. I agree with that review. You could absolutely feel the effort Essbaum tried to give this story but it fell short and that also was evident in the lack of character development, storyline, etc. It was a tedious read, full of weird analogies - dull characters - lacking plot. It tried too hard to be smart and deep. But the book cover is pretty.

The Beautiful Daughters by Nicole Baart
Kindle Edition - 385 pages

Thank you to NetGalley and Atria Books for this free readers edition. In exchange I am providing an honest review.

Baart is an author that isn't afraid to tackle the tough issues and controversial characters. Stephen King has advice for writers in his book, On Writing, which is - be true to your character. If your character is rough around the edges then don't shrink back from those descriptions. Baart follows this advice, whether she realizes it or not. She's been labeled a Christian author but she doesn't shrink back from staying true to her characters and I'm guessing this might be offensive to some. In this title Baart keeps it real with her characters in their late teen years and their late 20's. And, as in other titles, she isn't preachy or a user of those Christianese phrases. So refreshing.
Five years ago, from when the story opens, The Five were a united front in life. But as time and maturity happened their unity became fractured until it was no more. Fast forward to the opening of the book and we meet Adri in Africa. It's where she sought refuge from the dissolvement of The Five. But she's been called home to Iowa under an obligation she never thought she would have to bear. Eventually we meet Harper, hiding in plain sight in Minneapolis. A series of choices made as a form of self-punishment have led her to a prison of sorts. Adri and Harper haven't seen or spoken to each other in five years but something, fate?, brings them back together to confront what has had them running all these years. What we are running from will always catch up to us, it's time to stop running.
Another story from Nicole Baart that doesn't feel improbable. She explores the different extremes us humans will go to in order to avoid feelings, truth, hurt, etc. She highlights a couple of different forms of abuse and reminds the reader there are options for safety available. She keeps it refreshingly real.

The Art of Unpacking Your Life by Shireen Jilla
Kindle Edition

Thank you to NetGalley and Bloomsbury Publishing for this free readers edition. In exchange I am providing an honest review.

Hmmm. I am conflicted about this book. I was bored with the story for about the first half and then the second half picked up its pace, in my opinion.
Connie and her longtime group of friends are in Africa on safari for her 40th birthday. They have significant others with them, if they exist, and they are all dancing around one another and the little secrets that have built between them in the last 20 years. Some of the secrets are more just things not discussed, like Connie's husband who has multiple affairs and everyone, including Connie, knows about them. The week spent together in Kalahari will serve to expose secrets, reveal truths long denied, and unearth the core of who each is as a person. It will be a chance to cast off regret from past decisions and to look forward to what could, and perhaps should, be. Two scenes stand out to me as poignant, a stand up and a fly over. You'll have to read the book to discover those scenes for yourself.
Jilla takes the milestone age of 40 and takes the reader on a journey of unpacking a life lived thus far. As humans it is natural for us to do some reflecting at some stage of our life and milestones seem to be the most common times to do so. A life in review, so to speak. Sometimes what we discover surprises us, other times we find we are not surprised at all.

Trust No One: A Thriller by Paul Cleave
Kindle Edition - 353 pages

Thank you to NetGalley and Atria Books for this free readers edition. In exchange I am providing an honest review.

Wow. I closed the book and am still unsure of the truth! Does Cleave even know the truth? He doesn't necessarily need to in order to craft this story of a crime writer that has early onset Alzheimer's.
Jerry is a 49 year old fiction crime writer who has Alzheimer's. It has progressed rapidly and the reader is taken back and forth between the diagnosis and the present which eventually meet up. In the present Jerry is confessing to crimes - but they are all crimes his books featured, none of them actually happened. Right? People say they didn't but Jerry, on his his more lucid days, isn't sure what to think or who to listen to. We follow Jerry as he progresses into Alzheimer's. It manifests differently with people and with Jerry it makes him more aggressive and unpleasant. Or could that be who he really is and the Jerry without Alzheimer's is just faking? Jerry isn't sure and he doesn't know who, if anyone, he can trust - including himself.
Great read. The storyline is so intriguing and Cleave develops it well. He had me going back and forth between a few characters the entire book - and even now, after the book is finished. I'm still wondering who did what and when. Cleave does a fantastic job with Jerry's character - the man lucid and the man Alzheimer's has made him. No matter what the truth is the reader, at least this one, is left feeling sad for Jerry and how things have turned out for him.  I'm not sure what kind of research Cleave did for the Alzheimer parts of this story and character but it highlights the cruelty of the disease.

The Girl in the Maze by R.K. Jackson
Kindle Edition - 261 pages

Thank you to NetGalley and Alibi for this free readers edition. In exchange I am providing an honest review.

Jackson's debut novel takes the reader into the marshes of the south and into the recesses of a mind affected by schizophrenia.
Martha Covington is discovering what a normal-for-her life is after spending the past few months in a psych ward receiving help and treatment for her recent schizophrenia diagnosis. She's part of a therapy program that assimilates her back into public life once her meds have evened her out and she understands the voices that speak within her aren't real. She finds herself in Amberleen, Georgia as a summer intern for the historical society. But from the moment of her arrival Martha has a hard time keeping reality and fantasy separate. She's hearing voices and seeing things and is working at testing out their validity. There's a fight going on locally that Martha finds herself a part of unwillingly. Amberleen is surrounded by a complex system of creeks and waterways, only the locals can figure out the maze it creates. Martha, following a series of events she isn't sure are real or not, finds herself in the maze of the marshes and the maze of her mind. If she makes it out of the maze what kind of reality awaits her?
The storyline and characters Jackson has created have potential. And this first attempt didn't disappoint but it did lack a wee bit.  I can't say what it lacked exactly but it was just shy of totally engaging. There were parts of it that felt rushed or underdeveloped, maybe a little of both. There were parts that probably should have been sketched out in more detail. But it didn't disappoint and in fact he created Martha to be an interesting enough character and the town of Amberleen and the nearby Shell Heap Island to be intriguing enough that I will read the next book in this new series. He did a very detailed work with Martha's schizophrenia - so much so that compassion for people who have it was elicited once again from this reader.

Smoke by Catherine McKenzie
Kindle Edition - 352 pages

Thank you to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for this free readers edition. In exchange I am providing an honest review.

I always appreciate a good analogy. I appreciate the word play that some authors excel at. McKenzie does so in this title. She takes the actions and terms of actual firefighting and uses them in this story of love.
Elizabeth is a firefighter and an arson investigator. Or she was. These days she sits at a desk and spends time investigating minor offenses. She's a firefighter, she should have known that a little bit of smoke leads to a fire and a fire can be a signal that something isn't right. Elizabeth and her husband, Ben, make a life altering decision the same night she is awakened by smoke and they have to evacuate their home due to a literal fire threatening their neighborhood. The fire on the mountain places their action about the decision on pause as it consumes Elizabeth's time with investigation. As the fire gains momentum the investigation has stops and starts just like Elizabeth and Ben's marriage has had. So many questions run through her mind during the week of investigation and firefighting - can the town be saved? What about her marriage? And what about the friendship that disintegrated a year ago? Can it be revived?
McKenzie builds a strong story and characters with fire as the backdrop. The story was engaging from the start and a super quick read for me. I started and finished it in one sitting which I hadn't intended to do. She kept the story moving along and kept the characters interesting all the way through. She brushes the surface of many serious topics but keeps the book moving in such a way that the reader would have the potential to be annoyed if she stopped at any one of those topics for too long. She pays them just enough attention to help her story and characters, it's as if she knows that there are other titles out there that can focus in on each of those issues in a better way. She stays committed to the purpose of her story.

Life and Other Near-Death Experiences by Camille Pagán
Kindle Edition - 254 pages

Thank you to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for this free readers edition. In exchange I am providing an honest review.

I really liked this title about a woman who gets a double dose of life-changing news on the same day and decides to not give in to the fear of it.
Libby has had a bad day, a really bad day. Her doctor and her husband have dealt some hard blows to her heart. In response she decides life is too short, literally, to sit around moping. She takes off for a caribbean island to come to peace with what her life has suddenly become. A small cast of characters help Libby see things a little more clearly than she was and she realizes that maybe life is worth hanging around for.
There was nothing spectacular about this book except I really liked it - I liked the storyline, the characters, the working out of the conflict into a resolution. I may or may not have liked it because Libby took some risks that I'm not sure I would have and I'm okay living vicariously through people - real or fictional.

The Word Game by Steena Holmes
Kindle Edition - 222 pages

Thank you to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for this free readers edition. In exchange I am providing an honest review.

Steena Holmes isn't afraid to talk about hard issues and in this title she highlights abuse.
Alyson is a helicopter parent, it drives everyone a little nuts. Due to a traumatic experience she had when she was a child she is hyperalert to anything that hints toward abuse. So when she sounds the warning bell again, this time with a close family friend's daughter, tensions run high due to her tendency to overreact. But what if this time Alyson's gut instinct is right? What if this time it's true? But what if this time it's not? What is the truth and what isn't?
Holmes correctly taps into the transference people who have been abused struggle with. They read into situations and/or people the abuse that they have also experienced. Sometimes they are right, other times they are wrong. Steena Holmes also explores the family dynamics that occur during and after the abuse situation. Everyone handles their guilt differently and Holmes includes that in her story. Holmes is growing as an author, it's fun to read her books and experience the growth.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

May 2016 Bookshelf

The Palest Ink (Tales of the Scavenger's Daughters 0) by Kay Bratt
Kindle Edition - 418 pages

Thank you to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for this free readers edition. In exchange I am providing an honest review.

I've not read Kay Bratt before, she's a new-to-me author. This title is the prequel to her series Tales of the Scavenger's Daughters and I'm glad to have read it first before starting the series which I am definitely going to do.
This is the story of the definitive beginnings of China's Cultural Revolution led by Chairman Mao. Benfu and his best friend, Pony Boy, have grown up in a China that has been speeding toward Mao's anger with the classes. Now Mao has taken control and the Red Army is wreaking havoc on the citizens of China. Unable to conform to Mao's directives Benfu and Pony Boy attempt to put out a newsletter that tells the other side of the Red Army's actions. It is a dangerous action that can bring death not only to them but to their families if caught. Due to the fear now present in the lives of the people of China, Benfu gets sent away and Pony Boy is left to carry on by himself. Chairman Mao and his Red Army are determined to kill off the beauty of China but can they kill off hope?
I really enjoyed this title and the way that Bratt weaved history into a story. Based off of the other book reviews it seems this story is based an actual true story so I'm curious to read the other titles. What Bratt highlights, knowingly or not, is that nobody can kill off hope - hope lives even in the darkest of times.

Candidate by Tracy Ewens
Kindle Edition - 300 pages

Thank you to NetGalley and IBPA for this free readers edition. In exchange I am providing an honest review.

This is a predictable "love story." I think I might at that age/place where these cutesy lust, er love, stories are getting under my skin because they are so unrealistic. Girl and boy meet, both have life baggage of some sort, they eventually get together, there's a conflict of some sort and they choose to misunderstand each other and break up, and then they decide to apologize and they live happily ever after. Sigh.
The story isn't written poorly, that's not the problem with this book. The problem I have with it is it's a cookie cutter book, there are already so many just like it. Another part of the predictability is one or both of the people are always wealthy. There's no way. It's nothing like real life. I would love to read a love story that was realistic.
Ewens doesn't deserve my sighs but reading this book was frustrating overall due to its lack of depth. Not her fault, totally on me.

Brilliance (Brilliance Saga #1) by Marcus Sakey
Kindle Edition - 434 pages

Thank you to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer for this free readers edition. In exchange I am providing an honest review.

"Normal people are frightened, and frightened people are dangerous." (chapter 19)

Sakey writes in a genre I only dip my toes into from time to time. And I confess as I was reading this one I wasn't entirely comfortable reading it. Several things about it bugged me and it wasn't Sakey's writing - it was the storyline. Which, if I felt disturbed by it is probably a compliment to Sakey and his abilities to craft a story that can evoke emotions.
In 1980 a small percentage of the population was born brilliant but it wasn't discovered until they turned 6 and started interacting more socially and academically. From 1980 "brilliants" have been born every year and a division was formed in the country, an us versus them kind of mentality. In response to these "abnorms" (which, along with the term "brilliant", makes my stomach hurt - labels can be dangerous) the "normals" started taking measures to *protect*. Every year the division becomes more apparent and more violent. Nick Cooper is an "abnorm" hunting down other abnorms, a traitor of sorts to his people. But he is doing in the name of equality and for his children and the world he wants to see them to grow up in. He's part of a government arm that hunts down abnorms that are terrorists. Cooper is as normal as he can be for being a tier-one brilliant and he fights hard to keep life normal for his ex-wife and two children. But as with all things, nothing is black and white and the truth is never one side or the other but rather in the middle somewhere. Nick's most recent case has opened a can of worms for Cooper personally and for the divide between the normals and the brilliants. Now what?
Something about this story line is under my skin. I can't quite figure it out yet - even having finished the book. Sakey definitely drew from some historical moments for the title, not so much the actual events but the attitudes and ignorance that led to the moments. WWII and the Muslim backlash because of 9/11 were rather obvious examples he drew from. Perhaps that is what is under my skin, the ignorance, and danger, that is birthed and acted on due to labels. Even though I'm a bit unsettled by the story I am captured enough by it to continue on and read the rest of the trilogy. Good job Sakey for keeping this unsettled reader hooked.

A Better World (Brilliance Saga #2) by Marcus Sakey
Kindle Edition - 390 pages

Thank you to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer for this free readers edition. In exchange I am providing an honest review.

"Right had been warped to do so much wrong." (chapter 13)
"Frightened people want action more than they want correct action." (chapter 32)

I finished this book and immediately jumped into book 3 so now I'm backtracking and hoping I can summarize this title separate from the third book.
In this second book of the trilogy the division between the normals and the abnorms is widening. The abnorms are fed up and declaring a sort of civil war. Because of their gifted abilities they are able to go places and do things the normals can't or wouldn't think of. It's about a month after the first book ends and agent, well former agent, Nick Cooper is a bit at loose ends. He could go back to work at the agency he's been with or he could do...what? Nothing that Nick does is ever normal. He wasn't meant for normal. Reports of increasing unrest are multiplying and Cooper knows he has to be a part of some kind of solution. Unwilling to take sides in the "us versus them" war escalating Cooper sets out to handicap both sides in hopes that people will wake up and realize there are no sides, just humans. The abnorms are working on something that they think will make a better world and the normals are working on eliminating the abnorms completely to reclaim a better world. Problem is, neither side is right because both sides have forgotten what Nick wants them all to be reminded of.
This title didn't unsettle me as much as the first - perhaps I just decided to get over some of the verbiage that makes me unsettled. Not only do I see Sakey continuing to draw from real life examples for the civil war erupting in his trilogy but his own thoughts and views are contained within as well. It's one of the things I think is fascinating about authors - they can communicate controversial or hard thoughts in fiction form that makes it easier for many different kinds of people to read and think about. It becomes a platform of sorts.

Written in Fire (Brilliance Saga #3) by Marcus Sakey
Kindle Edition - 345 pages

Thank you to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer for this free readers edition. In exchange I am providing an honest review.

"Mostly, people believe they're doing the right thing. Even the ones who are doing bad things usually believe they're heroes, that whatever terrible thing they're doing is to prevent something worse. They're scared." (chapter 9)
"Not monsters; just men. Men who had lost loved ones or lost faith, who were too panicked to see beyond the animal side of themselves. Steeped in fear, hardened with pain, and released from bounds. There's nothing more dangerous." (chapter 29)

And so the Brilliance Trilogy concludes with this third title, Written in Fire. America is at a crossroads. And at the center are the major players for the normals and the abnorms. The abnorm heading up the civil war is John Smith (not his real name) and as things progress his end game becomes clear. He isn't planning on warring the traditional way, he's going the biological route and if he succeeds the normals could cease to exist. But the normals aren't ready to give up the fight, they have picked up their guns - literally - and are advancing on what they perceive to be the threat. Unfortunately their perception is a perfect cover for John Smith's real activities. Nick Cooper is unwilling to let either side see victory, he doesn't want one side to win and the other to lose - he wants humanity to win. Cooper has to figure out how to beat a chess grand master at his own game and hold back the militia that has formed from killing thousands of people they can only see as threats. Can a chess grand master ever be beat at his own game, that he created?  There's only one way to find out - play it.
In this title I was reminded of the "us versus them" war we are having these days between straight people and those of the LBGT community. This book really highlighted, in my opinion, some of the possible reasons for the unrest in our world due to other people's choice to be different/live different/etc. It's interesting to see from a fictionalized perspective. And it is sobering. Sakey, in all three books, provided some very profound thoughts about people, labels, and our responses to them.

Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting out of the Box by The Arbinger Institute
216 pages

I started reading this title, in my self-formed CE of the workplace, and thought, "Gosh, some of this sounds so familiar - in fact the same kinds of ideas etc as in Bonds That Make Us Free" - which happens to be a favorite book of mine and I highly recommend to people. And then the dots connected. It is the ideas and thoughts in that book and crafted into how they can be implemented in the workplace! Same people. Love it.
The visual used in this book, however, I connected with a bit more or better than in Bonds so I'm super glad to have read this book.  I found it to be very helpful and not just for the workplace. For life in general. It gave me a lot to think about and consider. It highlighted what I like to call the "Philippians 2 Default" and encourages me to reexamine my motivations etc.
Written in the highly popular genre of workplace fiction, the reader learns about the box through employee Tom's POV. What I loved, in part, about this story were the examples from life - in and out of the workplace - used that were spot on in terms of realistic and relevant. I've got a lot of chewing and considering, and for my personal approach - praying, to do in light of this "refresher" read about self-betrayal and how that affects our interactions.)

Death by Meeting: A Leadership Fable...about Solving the Most Painful Problem in Business
by Patrick Lencioni
260 pages

Another leadership fable. It's the title that caught my attention - Death by Meeting. How many hallelujahs are being said upon reading that title? We all know how it feels to be stuck in a meeting in which we can feel our very life being sucked out of us. I read this in my CE of the workplace.
This was a really interesting and informative way of looking at the problem of meetings and how to solve them. I realized while reading this that the current ELT at my workplace has either read this book and implemented its ideas or just somehow "knew" to follow this model for meetings. I'm guessing one of them read the book. I don't mean that as an insult but they follow this model so closely that somebody on the team had to have brought it to the table, so to speak.
Lencioni writes a leadership fable (it's all the rage you know) about bad meetings and how they impact the entire organization - morale and productivity. Every action or lack thereof touches and affects others, nothing is 100% isolated and contained to itself. Workplace morale, productivity, engagement, etc are all created by how the ELT conducts their meetings because what happens, or doesn't happen, in those meetings filters down to everyone each of the ELT oversees.
About a year ago I started changing the way I recorded and had meetings with my boss. Reading this gave me reminders of practices I had considered but never implemented and ideas of how to improve the meetings we have and how I can help him troubleshoot other meetings he may be having that aren't getting any results. I found this book to be a great resource.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni
227 pages

Clearly I'm on a leadership fable binge. In this one an executive team is introduced to the five dysfunctions of a team and put to the test. Some survive and some don't. I think the biggest and best piece of information in general and in this book is tolerating someone's bad behavior just because they may do good work is detrimental to the company, the work done, and the morale. Do not tolerate bad behavior - deal with it. Do not tolerate the bad behavior of one at the expense of many. Do not avoid what needs to be confronted and discussed - whether that is a business decision or a personnel decision. Not only is this information important and necessary for executive teams to practice but it can be practiced in any kind of team at any kind of pay level. The other great piece of advice in the book is this, becoming a team and staying a team is hard work - you have to commit to the hard work of you want it to succeed.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

April 2016 Bookshelf

Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School by John Medina
301 pages

No joke, one of my first thoughts as I got into this book was: John Medina is more of an advocate for evolution than Darwin himself was!  I'm joking, but maybe not. *wink*
Excellent book from Medina on our brains. Just excellent. It's irony at its best when you are reading a book on your brain and are hoping you can remember the information - ha. Medina knows the human brain, inside and out. He's also not afraid to say what he doesn't know and is still learning. His humility on the subject is refreshing.
John Medina takes 12 principles that affect our brains and breaks them down, one by one, into ways that us normal, non-sciencey, people can understand and assimilate into - as the title suggests - work, home, and school.  He covers exercise, sleep, stress, wiring, attention, memory, sensory integration, vision, music, gender, and exploration in regards to the brain. All of it fascinating. Spoiler alert: Vision wins over all other senses.
Medina writes for all. He isn't dry or overly academic. He doesn't pontificate. He keeps his topic relateable. I don't know if he has to work at keeping it relateable or if that is another of his talents but it comes off to the reader as effortless. Not only does he educate about the brain but he also expands what he has observed and learned all these years into ideas for how to improve the workplace and education to utilize our brains to their fullest potential. Great ideas which make so much sense. I'm crossing my fingers I can remember the most important points of Medina's teachings.

Counting Stars by Kathleen Long
Kindle Edition - 354 pages

Thank you to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for this free readers edition. In exchange I am providing an honest review.

Counting Stars is a follow up title to Long's Chasing Rainbows. I wouldn't say sequel, although it certainly is, but follow up because it can be read as a stand alone and Chasing Rainbows is not required reading to pick this story up.
Bernie is blocked. She has writer's block and isn't sure what to do about it. 31 days, seven hours, and approximately 32 minutes ago her brother Mark had died from a sudden and unavoidable heart complication. She hasn't been able to write since then. The problem is writing is her livelihood, it's how she pays the bills. 31 days, seven hours, and 33 minutes after her brother Mark died suddenly his widow, Jenny, shows up in tears on Bernie's front porch. Carrying a book in her hand and babbling about not taking Mark seriously Jenny pushes the book at Bernie and flees back to her house and her children. It's Mark's "Bucket List" book - created long before bucket lists were a thing. And Bernie decides that the best way to unblock her writer's block and honor her brother is to travel his bucket list and mark it off for him. She manages to coerce her Mom, Jenny, and her best friend Diane, into riding along on this "in memoriam" adventure.  With a body switch the day of departure, Bernie and the girls hit the road in an RV named Georgie and a lot of reluctance that this bucket list is going to do much good.
I really liked this book. It may partially be due to the fact that I just lost my Aunt, who died unexpectedly and entirely too young, and so living life to the fullest is at front and center of my heart and mind. It's also partially due to the intrigue of bucket lists and living them out. And Long's bucket list theme for Mark is especially intriguing to me. Cheesy but lighthearted and oh so fun. I want to take the trip and make those stops - and I hate road trips! So kudos to Long for making me want to hit the road, in an RV, and tour the nation for kitschy tourist stops.  Long's characters are warm, relatable, and easy to empathize with. There are some important lessons about the grieving process woven into the story as well. All in all a really good read.

The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
274 pages

Let's first address the genre the book falls under. Many call it sci-fi based on a few inclusions in the book like rocket ships. I totally disagree with that genre label. It is really, and firmly, a member of alternate history. Now that we've gotten that out of the way... *grin*
Dick writes a book in which WWII was won by the Germans and Japanese. Clearly that would be a very different world. Any research points that way - the research Dick did to write the book as well as other research done for other alternate history accounts (for example, The Children's War by Stroyar). So we find ourselves, as the reader, located in the PSA - the Pacific States of America. It's about 15-20 years after the end of WWII and the Japanese are the ruling power in the PSA. The East Coast is governed by the Germans. There is a neutral zone called the Buffer zone consisting of the Rocky Mountains and the states it covers. Slavery is legal, Africa has been decimated through genocide, any remaining Jewish people are still being found out and burned up. The world under the rule of Hitler and his SS is as oppressive as we all feared it would be. Germany is looking at taking out their once ally Japan and truly taking over the world. Factions for both sides, as well as people residing in the Buffer zone, are making moves and deals to try and gain momentum for their side. A book is making waves - the Germans have banned it, the neutral zone is selling it, and the PSA is tolerating it - because it tells a tale of a different ending to the war, one in which Germany and Japan lose. In an ironic twist the book we, the reader, are reading of alternate history also contains within it a tale of alternate history. It's a different history than what has actually happened but Dick couldn't write it verbatim or see into the future. What I found interesting about the alternate history the book's characters are reading about is that they scoff and jest at the idea that Germany and Japan would or could have ever lost the war and life could and would be very different than what they experience under the govern of those two superpowers. But we, at least me and the people in my circles, do not scoff and jest at the idea of Germany and Japan winning the war, we breathe a sigh of relief and feel a bit unsettled and scared at the thought of the "what if." It literally strikes a bolt of fear through my heart to consider the idea.
There are some main characters in the book but I'm not going to review them or the book based on them. I'm more focused on the overall theme and ideas of the book than the characters that Dick creates to carry it out. If anything what the characters prove is that there is always - always - a remnant of people in each culture and society that fight the establishment and kick at the goads of injustice. And the book's characters are doing just that in their own circles and with the methods and opportunities afforded them. Juliana, living in the Rocky Mountains, does so when confronted with the choice to follow Inner Truth. Frank, living in California PSA, does so through his artistry and craftsmanship. Mr. Tagomi, working for PSA Government in California, leans upon the Oracle for his guidance in political matters. Mr. Baynes, a Swede, figures into the story in his way and in his time. And then Bob Childan, an American Artifacts Dealer, finds himself involved in a bigger story than he thought. The commonality between all the characters is their secret hope that somehow things will change - that somehow Germany and Japan could be thwarted and life could become pleasant and safe once again.
Dick published this book in 1962 when the war was still rather fresh in the minds of the world. It was bold of him to release a book that imagined a different outcome with still so much angst present due to the toll it took on humanity. I thought it was well-written and imagined for its time. Dick entertained the thought of writing a sequel but a couple of books that started out with that intent became different stories all together. He finally admitted at one point that in order to write a sequel he would need a co-author and someone to do the research for he didn't think he could bear to go back and read anymore about the Nazi's. What they did was too much for him to continue to research for the sake of a book. The Man in the High Castle is very open-ended, it does leave things wide open for a sequel but it also leaves things wide open for the imagination.
**The Man in the High Castle Amazon Series** - the series is based, loosely, on the book. Dick's novel could only be transformed into a movie/show to a particular extent. At the point it is fulfilled or realized further imagination, storytelling, speculation needs to happen in order for it to become anything worth watching. And the Amazon series IS worth watching. It is a fantastic visual of Dick's book and beyond. I wonder what Dick would think of it were he still alive. It realizes his "what if's" in spectacular ways and the series brings to Dick's book a human element slightly lacking in his written tale.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

March 2016 Bookshelf

Fly Away (Firefly Lane #2) by Kristin Hannah
Audio Book - approximately 16 hours (13 CDs)

It's four years after the conclusion of Firefly Lane. The Ryan Family and Tully Hart aren't doing well. At all. The heart that held them together is gone and they are at loose ends. Marah is off the rails, Tully is numbed by alcohol and prescription drugs, Johnny and the boys are slugging through the days. But in one instant an accident brings all of them back together again, including Tully's estranged mother, and the past four years is waded through and reconciled. Their heart, while not physically with them any longer, still had presence and helped them find their way back to one another.
Hannah penned this sequel about 5 years after Firefly Lane. She clearly didn't feel like the story was concluded. I'm not sure if I liked it or not. I felt the same way about Firefly Lane. Parts of it I liked or responded to, others parts I was just exasperated. I really did not like the character of Marah - from beginning to end. She was unlikeable as a toddler and became a real pain in the ass, near the end of this book she might have been growing out of that. It's another book checked off my "to do" list, never a bad thing.

272 pages

For Lent 2016 I used this book to guide what I call my "Lent warm up." I wasn't practicing Lent as much as I was/am warming up to the idea of practicing it. See, I'm not about the whole fast from something for 40 days only to gorge on it Easter Sunday and no difference has been made in my life or heart as the result of my 40 days of denial. Lent is more than giving up coffee, Faceook, beer, or slurpees for 40 days. Lent is supposed to be a season of preparation that leads to transformation. So when I found this book I internally leapt because it was describing the kind of Lent (or 40 days) practice that I am about.
I'm SO glad I got the book.
In 40 Days of Decrease Chole takes the reader through a decrease of the things that truly clutter our lives - most of them unseen to the naked eye. This book helps guide the reader through a decluttering of faith. As Chole says in the Prologue, "Though I had purposed to live simply, clutter was collecting around my faith. I was becoming more vulnerable to sin, but sin of a slightly different strain than in earlier years. We all guard against sins of commission and we are vigilant toward sins of omission. But achievements - even in small doses - can make us vulnerable to sins of addition: adding niceties and luxuries to our list of basic needs, adding imaginations on the strong back of vision, adding self-satisfaction to the purity of peace." Strike a chord?  It did, it does with me. I can see it in my own life and I can see it in the lives of many other believers I know. But I can't do anything about them, just me.
The clutter that collects around a faith that Chole chose to discuss and decrease from was so deep and profound, not obvious. Which made it even more meaningful. Day One Fast Suggestion? Lent as a Project. Selah. Other decreases Chole walks the reader through included regret, rationalism, neutrality, God-as-job. I highly recommend this book for a guide during Lent or a season in which you know God is calling you to decrease so that he can increase. This won't be the only time I use this book, I anticipate it becoming an important guide in the decrease of me and the increase of HIM.

Brother by Ania Ahlborn
Kindle Edition - 336 pages

Thank you to NetGalley and Gallery Books for this free readers edition. In exchange I am providing an honest review.

Whoa. From the first two sentences Ahlborn lets the reader know this story is disturbing. And it is. It is very, very disturbing.
Michael Morrow lives in a secluded rural falling down farmhouse in Appalachian West Virginia. He lives there with his Momma, Wade (his Daddy), Misty Dawn (his sister), and Reb (Ray, his brother). The family business is gruesome and has driven Misty Dawn to a fairly crazy, detached existence. Michael detaches as much as possible, when Reb isn't forcing him to go on ride along's and stakeouts. Michael didn't come to the Morrow family by birth, he came to them by force. He wants to run, he wants to get away, but his fear of Reb and of the world at large is stronger than his desire to leave and so he stays, submitting to Reb's control. One day, on a drive into town Reb and Michael go into a record store and there is Alice. Alice is like a magnet to a better life, a normal life, for Michael and he begins to foolishly hope that maybe he can make a break for it. But Reb has different plans, only Michael can't figure out what they are and that determines the course of Michael's future - he's got to figure out Reb's plans before all hope is lost.
Whoa. Part of the disturbance of this title is that Ahlborn wrote it - that she imagined such a story. It's very unsettling. But I can't help admire the talent it takes to write such a story either. She wrote it so well that it was very easy, too easy, to believe it to be a real life account. That is very disturbing, in my opinion!  She draws a portrait of a very sick and dysfunctional family that still has an undercurrent of love for each other under all the sickness. It's an interesting look at family loyalty and the power of that even in acts of violence. It's so well-written but I'm not sure I will read any more of her titles, it's a genre that I have to really prepare myself to read and stick with - the violence is a little too realistic for my tastes.

The Determined Heart: The Tale of Mary Shelley and Her Frankenstein by Antoinette May
Kindle Edition - 412 pages

Thank you to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for this free readers edition. In exchange I am providing an honest review.

Confession: I have never read Frankenstein. I have never seen a movie adaptation of Frankenstein. I have never seen a stage performance of Frankenstein. I don't think I have even sat all the way through Gene Wilder's tongue-in-cheek version of it either. Sci-Fi is not my thing, not my genre so Frankenstein was never of interest to me. Plus, I'm not as an accomplished reader as some think I am. Reading books with old language in them is tough work for me. I don't like to work that hard when reading.
My interest, however, has been stirred recently by...well, old age perhaps?  The idea that I really should at least attempt to read some of the classics. So when I saw this book become available to read I decided I would read a story of how the story came to be. I have added Frankenstein to my "to read" list, only time will tell if I ever actually get to it.
This title is part biography and part fiction of Frankenstein's author, Mary Shelley. How much of each is the book composed of?  I don't know yet May offers a rather extensive and impressive bibliography in the back of the book so I assume it is more biographical of Mary Shelley than fiction. Don't mistake this book to be about Mary's creation of Frankenstein, it is less about that and more about her life as a whole. Daughter of two famous parents, one whose life ended prematurely, Mary Shelley grew up in the early 1800's with no moral foundation, free love was admired, and radical ideas about women and their role in society (i.e. they should be seen AND heard). By age sixteen she was involved with the up and coming poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, drawing him away from his wife and children. Shelley, however, was a cad. It's the word that immediately and often came to mind while reading this title. And then near the end of the book Mary herself acknowledges what a cad he was. What a deplorable man, he and Lord Byron it seems. Ick. Men so totally into themselves that they left a train wreck of women and mostly deceased children behind them. And Mary allowed herself to be in the train wreck. Frankenstein was birthed out of a suggestion Lord Byron made. He challenged all the writers in their little friend group to create a story. Mary had already been fiddling with the idea of bringing the dead back to life and thus Frankenstein was created. She went on to write several other pieces of work and was taken quite seriously in her time, despite being a woman.  *grin*
May did an admirable job of bringing the life of Mary Shelley to life and not allowing it to be dry. She lived a very controversial life, full of trysts and sorrow. There were threads of happiness in Shelley's life but the overall arc was that of loss - her mother, her children, Bysshe - and the loneliness she felt despite friendships. Bysshe forced her into a vegetarian lifestyle which added to their misery because of the moods it brought upon him, he was also a devout atheist which he insisted she adhere to as well. In the end all of these things combined to make it one dysfunctional life. The theory in Shelley's day seemed to be that the more miserable and the more weighed down by life one was, the better the poetry and writing that came from them would be. I'm not sure I can agree.

Who Kidnapped Excellence?: What Stops Us from Giving and Being Our Best by Harry Paul, John Britt, Ed Jent
168 pages

Another parable for workplace culture. In this tale Excellence has been abducted and replaced by Average. Average is an imposter of Excellence and uses N. Different, N. Ept, Miss Communication, N. Flexibility, and Poser to accomplish a dismantling of morale, quality, productivity, and customer service. Through trying to recover Excellence Leadership discovers that the team compromised to bring Excellence needs a re-boot and to include employees in the process of making the organization the best it can be. Leadership learns that top-down management weakened Excellence and introduced Average as a replacement. When it is discovered who and why revealed Excellence had been abducted and replaced the organization made a choice to listen to its employees and make the necessary changes and re-boot to once again welcome Excellence back.
Not only do the principles in this parable apply to professional life but the authors also created a sub-story to show how they can, and should, be applied to our personal lives as well.
I feel like I am slowly building a library of books all based on workplace culture, at some point I'm going to create a box set and present it to some people who need to reevaluate their management styles and methods. *grin*

The Doll's House (Helen Grace #3) by M.J. Arlidge
434 pages

I'm quickly becoming "obsessed" with Arlidge and his writing. He is fantastic. The third book in his DI Grace series and it is just as good as book 1. What does concern me, however, is the imagination Arlidge uses to craft his thrillers. How is he coming up with this stuff? Of course I wonder that about Steven King as well. I'm interested in the process Arlidge uses to create these thrillers and how they affect him psychologically - if at all. But moving on.
DI Helen Grace has had a rough couple of years, to avoid spoilers all I will say is read books 1 and 2 before this one to get the full picture. She's lost a couple of key detectives, has a boss who would like nothing more than to get rid of her, controversy keeps following her around and she keeps dodging it - but for how much longer? Called to a secluded beach after a body is discovered buried deep Grace is on the cusp of another serial killer, maybe. While she's at the beach one of her detectives is sent chasing a missing girl case. But certain parts of this girl's life is matching up with certain parts of the buried girl's life and suddenly the missing person's case becomes a hunt for a girl before she is also buried. Grace feels the pressure to find this girl before she becomes another victim of some sick person's fantasy. In the meantime, Helen's personal life continues to hold drama as her boss is out to get her fired and her lonely life continues to be the source of intrigue for others.
I love what Arlidge is doing with the character of Helen Grace and the other supporting characters in these books. Only a few keep "surviving" from title to title and I love the development of Helen's relationship with each. Arlidge writes a detailed, and creepy, thriller - brilliant in so many ways.

Confrontation: Challenging Others To Change by June Hunt
96 pages

I hate confrontation. I mean, who actually LIKES it?  But it's a fact of life, a reality so I want to make sure I do it well - with respect, clarity, and confidence. And because I am also a believer in God I also want to do it under his direction and suggestions. A few years ago I read a life-changing book for me personally about biblical conflict resolution but every so often I need a refresher. This book was a much needed refresher right now. I'm in the midst of a conflict that is going to require confrontation and I want to make sure I am doing my part well. I am only responsible for my part.
This short but powerful book about confrontation, biblically, had several great reminders and new points for me. It outlined 4 styles of confrontation and gave evidence for why one of them is the most effective, and respectful, out of the 4. I really appreciated how Hunt unpacked each and made the case for the most effective one, biblical assertive confrontation. I just have to keep reminding the "fixer" part of my attitude that I am only responsible for myself and my part - I can't fix anyone else. *grin*

The Face Transplant by R. Arundel
Kindle Edition - 361 pages

Thank you to NetGalley and AuthorBuzz for this free readers edition. In exchange I am providing an honest review.

I got 14% in and gave up. I just couldn't keep going and every time I thought about pressing on I would turn to other things to avoid reading it! That's a sure sign to give up the title and move on.
The idea, the premise, is so intriguing. The execution too tedious. There were way too many characters from the start and their dialog was, well, cheesy. I just couldn't get into it which is to bad, because like I said the idea is a good one but it needs a more experienced mind authoring it I think.

The Kill Box (Jamie Sinclair #3) by Nichole Christoff
Kindle Edition - 283 pages

Thank you to NetGalley and Alibi for this free readers edition. In exchange I am providing an honest review.

Jamie Sinclair is Christoff's PI/Security Specialist, aka a badass woman. This is the third book with Sinclair fighting for justice but the first book I've read. I'll be backtracking and reading the other two for sure.
Disclaimer: I don't believe that real life is anything like these kick ass women that I love to read about. Heck, I don't think real life is as exciting and adventure filled as any book makes it out to be. But it doesn't stop me from reading the fiction and loving the fiction, or rather the idea of justice happening.
Jamie Sinclair follows a trail that leads from her home in D.C. to rural New York. In attempting to talk some sense into her soldier boyfriend she stumbles on to a 20 year old cold case that has connections and ties to many people in the town, including her boyfriend. Determined to find out the truth about the crime from 20 years ago, Jamie sets off a chain of events that keep tumbling down like a domino train. But when the events stop knocking into one another will the truth be exposed finally or will it just be a dead end?
Christoff is a strong author. She writes good characters, has interesting crimes for her PI to solve, and develops the stories at just the right pace. She's only written this series so far featuring Sinclair and they are only available by eBook but now that I have read this one I am willing to hunt down numbers 1 and 2 and keep up with the series as long as Christoff writes it.

Stars Over Sunset Boulevard by Susan Meissner
Kindle Edition - 400 pages

Thank you to NetGalley and NAL for this free readers edition. In exchange I am providing an honest review.

I'm a little "meh" about this title. It's not the writing or the characters, it's the execution. When a book is described as having two stories in one then that's what I am expecting. This title, described that way, was actually one story with a snippet of the present day here and there. The present day parts were unnecessary and detracted from the real story, in my opinion.  The real story could have, and actually was, told without any present day influence. When the brief present day snippets interrupted the actual story I felt irritated and skimmed through them to get back to what seemed to me the true story.
Audrey and Violet are in the secretary pool at the company producing the newest feature film, Gone With the Wind. Audrey dreams of being an actress while Violet dreams of being a wife and mom. Both of them discover they will do what is necessary, in their opinion, to protect their secrets and pursue their dreams. Through the years, and the choices, they keep choosing each other and the friendship they share even when it's each other they are hurting.
I think I would have enjoyed this more if the present day bits didn't distract the story.

The Brontë Plot by Katherine Reay
Kindle Edition - 351 pages

Thank you to NetGalley and Thomas Nelson for this free readers edition. In exchange I am providing an honest review.

Katherine Reay has taken her love of Jane Austen and crafted titles around her stories. She throws in other author works as well to round out the story she wants to tell.
Lucy works with and for an interior designer that goes beyond eye pleasing style and gets to the heart of a person. Lucy herself has a good eye for quality and style, some of which is fed by her love - nay, her obsession - with books. She runs a book buying business as part of the interior design side and has been wildly successful at obtaining and selling classic works of writing. But she hasn't done it with a clear conscience or above reproach methods. Her boss doesn't know how she procures what she does and she tells him stories that seem to make sense. This doesn't bother Lucy much until she meets James. James has a way about him that compels Lucy to honesty. But honesty scares Lucy and she isn't sure about how to do it. As all deception does, it catches up to Lucy and sends her on a trip to discover what honesty living can and should look like. But can she? Can she forget her lying ways, her lying lifestyle, and begin to live in and for truth?
I read this book straight through, didn't want to put it down. BUT. (Did you sense that but coming?) But upon finishing it I felt dissatisfied. I can't quite put my finger on the why but I do know throughout reading I was irritated more often than not with Lucy and Helen, the two main characters. I might have also been annoyed at Reay's inclusion of Austen works. Admittedly I'm not a huge fan of Austen but I don't think that is why I was annoyed. It was just so much. And felt like a stretch at times. It kind of makes me wonder if Reay can write books without the influence/inclusion of her influences. It's one thing to be influenced by certain authors etc but it's another thing to lean too heavily on them. This is Reay's third title based on Austen works, or leaning heavily on them. Can she write without the foundation of Austen?  Overall the story had a disconnected feel to it - the progression of Lucy and James' relationship, Lucy and Helen's relationship, etc.

The Myth of Multitasking: How "Doing It All" Gets Nothing Done by Dave Crenshaw
138 pages

Multitasking has been held up as the goal for a long time. All mothers feel like multitaskers and feel like rock stars when they can do 15 tasks at once. I used to pride myself for multitasking. Turns out I was actually switchtasking. But more on that in a minute. In the past few years, working outside the home especially, I have discovered that my perceived multitasking skills have waned. At first I attributed it to my age but then I started hearing about the myths of multitasking and I started to relate to the cons of such work "ethic." For at least a year now I have been thinking about single tasking and moving toward a work style that reflects that rather than the scattered, almost frenetic style of multitasking. On my own and supported by articles and such I saw that the cons of multitasking numbered, outweighed, any perceived pros.
This parable by Crenshaw supports the growing research that multitasking is actually one of the least effective methods for accomplishing work, tasks, etc. Bolstered by actual research Crenshaw's parable proves that multitasking isn't even real, it's actually switchtasking that is happening so quickly that it appears it is multitasking. But the facts are the brain can't do it. Ever. It's not possible. Not even a high functioning CPU can multitask, it switchtasks. Crenshaw goes on to tell the tale of the costs of humans switchtasking. And the costs are real and high, personally and professionally. One simple test to prove the cost of time and concentration of multitasking was to write a sentence and number it simultaneously and then to do both separately and see what kind of time and mistakes were made during both tests. Crenshaw doesn't just unpack the problem, he presents realistic solutions as well. This parable, based on actual research, serves to affirm my decision to kick multitasking to the curb - professionally AND personally - and focus on single tasking for the best efficiency, productivity, and for my relationships.

Who Killed Change?: Solving the Mystery of Leading People Through Change by Kenneth H. Blanchard
143 changes

Ah change. Us humans hate it. We kick against it, we fight it, we whine about it. It unsettles us, makes us uncomfortable, and we squirm when it's presented. In this parable Change has died and the suspect list is long. Through a two day interview session with all the suspects the Agent discovers why Change passed away. It turns out it wasn't just one person/responsibility to be blamed for the demise of Change but it was the culmination of many neglects, refusals, lack of teamwork, and laziness. Not only did I glean some good points in regards to times when Change is introduced but I gleaned some good points for why a current workplace might be experiencing low morale, productivity, etc already. A major character in the problem of workplace morale, productivity, change is Convertible. Convertible is the one who always drives everything from the top down. This leadership style has proven to be the biggest inhibitor to needed change in an organization. It neglects the employees in the organization that the Change will actually impact. It takes an entire team of people - with different jobs, positions, salary levels, and strengths - to ensure a healthy and productive workplace.

The Wiregrass by Pam Webber
304 pages

When a title is reviewed as "reminiscent of To Kill a Mockingbird, Tom Sawyer, and Of Mice and Men...." then I am hoping it's a good read and lives up to the review. Those are big shoes to fill.
After reading it I can see why it is being compared to those titles. It IS reminiscent of those titles.
This is a coming-of-age, deep south culture, danger lurking in the dark, novel. Every summer a group of cousins live with their Aunt and Uncle and engage in harmless fun. But this summer things feel different from the first day they are in town. People seem more guarded, the yards are empty during times when they had been full in summers past, and Aunt and Uncle are issuing warnings they haven't before. The cousins go about summer business as usual but with a growing awareness that something is changing and something is wrong. Curiosity leads the kids to go places they shouldn't and find out things they can't quite understand. In the end a secret is exposed and their lives will never be the same again. The lessons they learn this particular summer will shape the rest of their lives.
Pam Webber is a new author and is receiving high marks for this debut novel. It is a simply told story but one filled with warmth. Her description of Ain't Pitty makes me want to crawl up in her lap. The story is told through the voice of Nettie, one of the cousins. She's a great narrator for this tale and the reader catches the coming-of-age growing pains Nettie is experiencing and recognizing in her cousins.  This is a lovely story with a message of grace and good triumphing over evil.