Monday, August 27, 2018
The Death of Truth. Individuals are taking actions to tear down the pillars of society. Our institutions and our democracy have been hobbled by those who have found it easier to tear down than to build. Whether you disagree or agree with her analysis, read this book to think about the issues facing our society. Then, do something to help rebuild. Rating: Five-star (I love it) Click here to purchase The Death of Truth from amazon.com.
The Dependents, Katherine Dion describes the ways in which protagonist Gene learns what life is all about after many years of marriage. Following the sudden death of his wife, Maida, Gene tries to focus on happy memories, but friends and his daughter, Dary, help him understand all that he didn’t know about himself, Maida and Dary. The prose is finely written and should appeal to those readers who enjoy literary fiction. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase The Dependents from amazon.com.
The Perfect Mother, introduces readers to the May Mothers, a group whose children were born at the same time, and who provide support for each other. During a rare night out for the moms at a bar, one of the children goes missing. Molloy picks up the pace and races through the next two weeks of anguish, tension, revelation and a surprising twist. Fans of thrillers are those readers most likely to enjoy this novel. Any reader with a young child doesn’t have the time to read this novel, and that’s a very good thing. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase The Perfect Mother from amazon.com.
The Tyranny of Metrics. He argues persuasively that there has been a growing obsession with metrics, and often the wrong things are measured for the wrong reasons. So many measures are “gamed” that those responsible for setting them must reconsider the effectiveness of what has moved beyond effective tools for applying judgment. Muller packs this book with examples of metrics gone awry and offers ways to think differently about improving the use of quantitative measures. Rating: Five-star (I love it) Click here to purchase The Tyranny of Metrics from amazon.com.
The Poisoned City: Flint's Water and the American Urban Tragedy, journalist Anna Clark provides interested readers with a comprehensive account of the recent Flint water crisis. Every chapter describes incompetence, neglect and negligence on the part of those who are responsible for delivering clean and safe water to citizens. There’s also a story here of racism and disenfranchising citizens, while providing exemptions for corporations. Readers interested in public policy are those most likely to appreciate this book. Rating: Five-star (I love it) Click here to purchase The Poisoned City from amazon.com.
The Captives, is set mostly in a prison, and presents a story from the perspective of two troubled protagonists who continue to make poor choices. Frank Lundquist is a psychologist who lost his private practice and now works in a prison. When his high school crush, inmate Miranda Greene, arrives in his office, Frank knows what professional behavior requires. Immergut informs readers of that in chapter headings and excerpts from professional rules. Frank makes other choices. In her own way, Miranda also makes sub-optimal choices. Both characters are captive and are looking for freedom from their circumstances. I’m a bit tired of spending time with disturbing characters, but this novel is well-written, and I was entertained. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase The Captives from amazon.com.
Something in the Water. Erin and Mark deserve each other, given the secrets they keep from each other, and their separate and equal amoral behavior. After Mark loses his investment banking job shortly before their wedding, they constrain their spending: the minimum but large cost of their wedding reception; and a shorter-than-planned honeymoon in Bora Bora. While on that trip, they find something in the water that brings out the worst in both of them. Steadman moves the plot at a thrilling pace, and captures the venality, selfishness and amorality of these characters. Rating: Five-star (I love it) Click here to purchase Something in the Water from amazon.com.
War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence, about the transformation of diplomacy by the United States. He interviewed lots of people for this book, many on the record, including all living former Secretaries of State. The result in a comprehensive, well-footnoted book that describes through stories the ways in which diplomacy is changing, along with American influence. Readers interested in public policy are those most likely to enjoy this finely written account of a dramatic transformation in world affairs. Rating: Five-star (I love it) Click here to purchase War on Peace from amazon.com.
Hope Never Dies. The two investigators are Barack Obama and Joe Biden, finding new things to do now that they have left political office. No reader would mistake this novel for fine writing, but I found the premise funny, the mystery interesting enough, and the new roles for familiar characters a real hoot. Readers looking for quick escapist reading should consider this novel. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Hope Never Dies from amazon.com.
Days of Awe. The characters in these stories are flawed, just like us. They learn new things about each other and we learn something about ourselves, whether we want to or not. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Days of Awe from amazon.com.
Friday, August 17, 2018
A Spy Named Orphan, Roland Phillips tells the story of another one of the infamous Cambridge Five, Donald Maclean. This comprehensive book covers the full range of Maclean’s life and his treachery. Phillips tells this story with gusto: lots of information in a readable and exciting narrative. Any reader who enjoys history or espionage will find a lot to enjoy from this finely written book. For some readers, Russian spies are not relegated to the past, and there may be readers who are concerned with contemporary issues and can find insight in this book. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase A Spy Named Orphan from amazon.com.
In Praise of Wasting Time. Based on a TED talk, this is a book of ideas, and the title discloses the key message. Out of respect for the author, I set the book aside for a few hours instead of reading it all at once. During the gap, I let my mind wander a bit, and might have wasted a bit of time. It felt good. Rating: Three-star (It’s ok) Click here to purchase In Praise of Wasting Time from amazon.com.
Assume the Worst: The Graduation Speech You'll Never Hear. Structured as advice to individuals graduating from college, there are plenty of real-world reality checks that will generate smiles or laughs. This is a book that a kindly uncle or aunt would buy for a niece or nephew, and it would never be read. I think many copies will be read while standing in a bookstore, but not purchased. If that’s your method, at least buy a coffee, but don’t spit it out while you’re laughing. Rating: Three-star (It’s ok) Click here to purchase Assume the Worst from amazon.com.
The Kiss Quotient, falls under the Asperger’s end of the autism spectrum. She’s an endearing and complex character, great with algorithms, not so good when it comes to interpersonal skills. After her parents press her toward getting married, she decides she needs to learn how to be successful in a physical relationship, so she hires an escort to develop the necessary skills. At this point, the exposition takes a porny turn that quickly became more boring than erotic. After the physical relationship with escort Michael Phan becomes established, lessons and all, a romance develops, and that part of the novel is sweet. I’m not a romance reader, so I’m sure I don’t appreciate this genre, but I expect loads of readers will enjoy this novel. I didn’t. Rating: Two-star (I didn’t like it) Click here to purchase The Kiss Quotient from amazon.com.
The Glitch, is not an everywoman. Shelley Stone is a Silicon Valley CEO who seems to have mastered the elements of a successful life. As CEO, she is ready to travel around the globe at any time. As wife, she schedules sex for efficiency. As mother, she gets her daughter the best care possible. Sounds like a normal life, right? Cohen uses tension and humor to shake up Shelley’s life, including introducing a younger woman with the same name, and injecting a corporate crisis that tests Shelley’s mettle. Shelley has to reset her priorities and decide what is most important in her life. If Bernie Sanders reads novels, he would have a lot to say about this portrayal of the top 1% of the 1%. The rest of us can read and enjoy this clever and funny novel. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase The Glitch from amazon.com.
Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine. The title refers to the author’s sensation while on his boat that he was part of some unity much larger than himself. Any reader who thinks about meaning and truth will find this book worthwhile. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine from amazon.com.
There Are No Grown-ups: A Midlife Coming-of-Age Story. Once I settled into her lively writing, self-deprecating humor and overall cleverness, I laughed through to the end. In the midst of the humor, there’s an exploration of the meaning of maturity in contemporary life. Personally, I didn’t consider turning 40 to be as big a deal as Druckerman did, but when my older son turned 40, that caught my attention about maturity and mortality. I still laughed with Druckerman and her foibles. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase There Are No Grown-ups from amazon.com.
Little Sister, because I became frustrated with sorting out reality from dreams. Gowdy’s fine writing kept me turning pages, and before long I came to enjoy this exploration of the deep bonds that attach us to those with whom we have the closest relationships. For readers patient with what can seem unusual, there are rewards to be discovered in this finely written novel. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Little Sister from amazon.com.
Us Against You, and the ensemble cast from the previous novel set in this rural Hockey town in Sweden face new challenges. Events from the first novel led players to leave the Beartown team to skate for the team in the neighboring town of Hed. A new coach for Beartown changes the dynamics, and a politician knows just what it will take to feather his own nest. What Backman does so well in this novel and others is lead us to insights about people, from their good and bad behaviors. Packed with love, friendship and loyalty, this is a story of survival, for a town and for its people. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Us Against You from amazon.com.
The Fleur de Sel Murders. The famous salt from Brittany features prominently in this novel, as Dupin continues to shed his Parisian perspective as he learns to love Bretons and their beautiful area. Dupin’s partner on a murder case is a Breton, Commissaire Rose, and she is a formidable and independent ally. This pair works fast and hard to get to the bottom of a scheme and to uncover the villains. Fans of crime fiction are those readers most likely to enjoy this novel. Readers will learn lots about salt from this novel and fans will look forward to the next novel in the series. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase The Fleur de Sel Murders from amazon.com.
Friday, August 3, 2018
Upstate. Protagonist Alan Querry leaves England to visit his daughter, Vanessa, in upstate New York. Alan’s younger daughter, Helen, a music executive, joins the visit. Wood presents deep insights into these characters and their relationships within a compact novel that wastes no words. While he doesn’t show off, he can make writing seem easy with his perfectly crafted sentences. He provides great contrasts between the UK and New York and explores depression and happiness with skill. Rating: Five-star (I love it) Click here to purchase Upstate from amazon.com.
Give People Money: How a Universal Basic Income Would End Poverty, Revolutionize Work, and Remake the World
Give People Money: How a Universal Basic Income Would End Poverty, Revolutionize Work, and Remake the World. Like the consumption tax, I think UBI could be a policy embraced by both Democrats and Republicans if presented effectively. Democrats will like the idea of providing a stable source of income for all, and Republicans will like the idea of eliminating all the government workers who administer multiple rule-based government assistance programs. My eyes opened a bit wider after reading this book and understanding Lowrey’s claim that implementing a UBI is a matter of will, not math. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Give People Money from amazon.com.
The Other Woman. The role of the villain in this novel is played by Russia, as Gabriel is set up for the murder of a Russian intelligence officer. He brushes closer to death than he should in this fast-paced novel, and he uncovers a Russian mole to the embarrassment of some of his allies. Fans of spy fiction are those readers most likely to enjoy reading this novel and this series. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase The Other Woman from amazon.com.
Clock Dance, Anne Tyler describes the ways in which Willa Drake finds purpose in life and comes to learn new things about herself and her capabilities. Fans of Tyler will find an engaging story, well-written dialogue, and insight into the lives of contemporary women in the United States. There’s a large cast of interesting and well-developed characters, including a husband who calls Willa, “little one.” Imagine how Tyler (and Wilma) deals with that and then read this novel to find out. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Clock Dance from amazon.com.
From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin’s Russia. McFaul tells stories in this book: his own and others. Instead of leaning on the academic side, McFaul makes readers feel like they are with him in various situations. McFaul places blame for the tension in the American-Russian relationship on Putin. Progress made under Medvedev was reversed when Putin decided to set a different course. It’s clear that McFaul sees many benefits in a good relationship between the United States and Russia and he hopes such a relationship can be achieved. Readers interested in public policy and international relations are those most likely to enjoy this well written book. Rating: Five-star (I love it) Click here to purchase From Cold War to Hot Peace from amazon.com.
Stay Hidden. This installment has the Maine game warden sent to an island on his first big detective case. Bad weather and luck cause him to do much of the work on his own. As expected, outsiders like Mike aren’t welcomed with open arms by the island residents. A cast of characters, new and reprised, are well-drawn and the plot moves briskly. Fans of crime fiction and this series are those readers most likely to enjoy reading this novel. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Stay Hidden from amazon.com.
We Begin Our Ascent. Sol is a professional cyclist and his wife, Liz, works in a research lab. They are new parents and face an array of challenges as Sol rides in Le Tour de France and stumbles into doping. Reed explores a theme of loyalty, Sol to the team, and Liz and Sol to each other. Reed’s writing is top-notch, and you need not be a cycling fan to appreciate this novel. Anyone who has faced one’s own ambition and goals will appreciate the ways in which Reed explores competition and the consequences of a powerful desire to win. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase We Begin Our Ascent from amazon.com.
Political Risk: How Businesses and Organizations Can Anticipate Global Insecurity, this is a primer on the steps to follow when managing risk, especially political risk. What could have become a boring business book became enlivened through the stories of the successes and failures of companies described in this book. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Political Risk from amazon.com.
Fight No More, Lydia Millet uses a single protagonist, a real estate agent named Nina, to link the stories together. Through Nina’s eyes, readers learn about these individuals and Millet raises the tension as we learn what goes on behind closed doors. The writing is superb, and the stories are well-told. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Fight No More from amazon.com.
Futureface: A Family Mystery, an Epic Quest, and the Secret to Belonging, her search for answers about who she is and where she belongs. Wagner tells readers about her family and her search in Burma and Luxembourg for paper evidence about her family. Those trips came across as more hapless than organized. She shares some results from DNA testing by multiple services with different results. By the end of the book, she reaches a conclusion that will seem obvious to most readers and at last brought her searching to an end. Rating: Three-star (It’s ok) Click here to purchase Futureface from amazon.com.