Saturday, September 28, 2013

(79)Outliers by Malcom Gladwell


Pages: 320
Publication Date: November 8, 2008

Yeah, yeah, yeah.   I am late to the game on this one.  I am pretty sure just about everyone but me has read at least ONE Malcolm Gladwell book.  Well until now at least. I chose to read Outliers for  book club at work just because I had heard how wonderful it was from so many different people.

According to one of the definition of Outliers is the following:

someone who stands apart from others of his or her group, as by differing actions, beliefs, religious practices, etc.: an outlier among Muslims; an outlier among conservatives. Synonyms: outsider, nonconformist, maverick; original, eccentric, bohemian; dissident, dissenter, iconoclast, heretic.
Knowing that, the author gathered many different stories on people who are the best in their fields and examines why they are so successful at what they do.  Everyone from sports figures to pioneers in the computer industry, and then there are the Beatles.  You know, that original boy band from across the pond?  Gladwell doesn't just cover success, though.  He also examines a scenarios where people "failed" like one of the most brilliant minds in Physics (I think it was physics) who never  finished college and is living in rural Missouri.  And then there is the Korean pilots, who because it went against their culture to question those in command and resulted in multiple airline crashes and hundreds of deaths.

The thing that really struck a chord with me was when Gladwell was talking about the 10,000 hour principle. Basically it takes a minimum of 10,000 hours of practice before a person can really master something.  Whether it be the Beatles playing their set or a member of the orchestra, the 10,000 hour principle is pretty typical for everything.  And knowing that, I figured I have another six years  or so before I have completely mastered a significant skill in my profession.

Bottom line, Outliers is not your typical business book.  The format is easy to read and the stories within the book are high-interest and very engaging.  If you are looking for something to reignite the passion you once had for your career, your hobby, or anything really, then Outliers is a must read.

Monday, September 23, 2013

(78) Covet by Tracy Garvis Graves


Pages: 320
Publication Date: September 17, 2013

It has been over a year since Tracey Garvis Graves took the publishing world by storm with her self-published e-book, On The Island. It was one of my favorite books of 2012 and like so many others, I was eagerly awaiting her next book.

Covet takes place in the affluent suburbs of Kansas City.  Claire Canton and her husband Chris seem to have it all to the casual observer, a great home in a great neighborhood with great friends, but the last year has been a real trial for them.  Chris lost his sales job with the recession and despite his best efforts he was unable to find a job.  Claire and Chris burned through their savings paying their bills and keeping up the medical insurance necessary because of Claire's Type 1 diabetes.  The stress has taken a toll on Chris, Claire, their marriage and their children.  Now here it is a year later and Chris has started a job that will take him on the road all week every week. While the job is an answer to their prayers, the travel time is just another blow to their marriage.  Enter the very handsome, very single Police Officer, Daniel Rush. They meet when he pulls Claire over for a taillight and he keeps showing up in random places and in her thoughts.  Claire and Daniel develop a deep, meaningful friendship, but will Claire be able to draw that line in the sand that keeps their relationship at just friendship?

Covet is a novel about a marriage on the rocks.  Thousands of women all over the country are in marriages that are running on auto-pilot and that is exactly what Claire and Chris have in their marriage.  When Chris lost his job they spent all of their energy to hold on financially that they lost their intimacy, their connection, their strength.  Getting that back is critical to Claire's happiness, but it does not seem to be for Chris. While I do think that Covet lacks the intensity that was portrayed in On the Island, it was a great novel to read. I loved how the author included the other wives in Claire's neighborhood.  Although all of them appeared to be living charmed lives, each one of them have struggles. From an alcohol abuse problem to infertility and gambling issues, it was good to see that Claire wasn't the only one with struggles.

Bottom line, Covet is a novel about the ebbs and flows of marriage.  The ups, the downs, the pendulum that swings one way or the other.  The mark of a successful marriage is how a couple works through those ebb and flows.  I think that this novel will strike a chord with women of all ages and walks of life. Life is not perfect and neither is marriage, and Covet makes that fact abundantly clear.  Give it a read and let me know what you think. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

(77)Empty Mansions by Bill Dedman

Empty Mansions

Publication Date: September 10, 2013
Pages: 432

My love of houses and real estate is no secret to anyone who has read this blog. So when a book called Empty Mansions crosses my path how am I to turn away? But  Empty Mansions is about more than just empty buildings.  Empty Mansions is a book about American History, extreme wealth, eccentricities, love, devotion, and especially greed.

Huguette Clark was the youngest child of wealth copper king, W.A. Clark.  Huguette's father came to wealth during the Gilded Age and that is evidenced in the opulent mansions he built all over the country.  The author sets the scene by taking us all the way back to to W.A. Clark's childhood and his move out West.  We follow him through his first marriage, the birth of his children, his short lived stint in Congress, and his second marriage which resulted in the birth of Huguette and W. A. Clark was nearly seventy when his youngest child was born.  We follow the building of his extravagant homes and then his death, leaving Huguette a very wealthy heiress.

The Pulitzer Prize winning author then takes us through the rest of Huguette's eccentric and semi- secluded life.  Huguette was notoriously media shy and kept the public at bay by never leaving her Fifth Avenue apartment until cancerous tumors on her face forced her to the hospital that soon became her home for the remainder of her life.  What she left behind in her apartment was truly something out of a TLC show.   She had millions of dollars of art, but that was just the start of her collections. She had collected thousands of dollars of dollhouses and dolls.  I am not talking about just a display case full of dolls, I am talking every hallway lined with chairs that housed these dolls.  Eccentric to say the least.

The circle of people who surrounded Huguette was very small.  She had a personal assistant that she used for personal business like running errands and buying "stuff" for her.  She also had a private nurse who never left her side in twenty years, and was also the recipient of millions of dollars of gifts. A lawyer, accountant, and a few doctors rounded out the small circle of people who saw Huguette on a regular basis.   Even though Huguette was rarely seen in public and never after she entered the hospital, she kept up with friends and family all over the world via her devotion to the art of letter writing.  When Huguette passed away in 2011 she was 105 years old and left an estate in excess of $300 million dollars.  This is where greed enters the game and the legal battle over her estate.  Her heirs, many of whom she never met or had not seen in over fifty years still wage a battle against those that Huguette chose to surround herself with and whom she left large sums of money.   The legal battle may continue to this day, but Huguette's story will forever live on in this fascinating book.

Bottom line, I know Empty Mansions is a bit of a deviation from the kind of books that I usually read, but it was incredibly fascinating.  With over 70 photos of said mansions this book gave me a heavy dose of eye candy.  If you enjoy history and houses and strange, eccentric characters then you must pick up Empty Mansions.  You will not be disappointed, I promise!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Saturday, September 7, 2013

(76)The Good Wife by Jane Porter

The Good Wife

Pages: 432
Publication Date: September 3, 2013

The third book in the Brennan Sister's series is centered around the baby of the family, Sarah.  Sarah and the kids are back in California for a family funeral and even though she is glad to be surrounded by family, but she desperately misses her husband, Boone Walker.

Sarah and the kids are staying with her sister Meg to help their father adjust to his "new normal" and things are going as good as can be expected until the police show up at the door.  Jack, Meg's husband, was killed in a car accident sending the Brennan family further into chaos.  Sarah, especially, she lets her feelings manifest into concern over husband's fidelity.  You see, Boone is a professional baseball player who did cheat on Sarah three years ago.  They have been trying to rebuild their marriage, but it is hard when temptation always surrounds Boone and Sarah just won't let the past go. Their marriage is on the verge of collapse and Sarah is hanging on by a thread.  Things come to a head when Boone gets picked up by the Oakland A's and they move back to the Bay area.  Will the move be the final nail in the coffin that is their marriage or will Boone and Sarah be able reconcile and finally put the past in the past?

It was great to see the Brennan family again and to catch up on their lives.  Especially Kit and Meg, since the last two books were about them. In The Good Wife .  The author introduces us to Lauren and her sister when they cater Jack's funeral and they remain a central part of the plot throughout the entire story.  At first I wan't sure why the author had brought these women into the Brennan family story, but soon the reason reveals itself.  I found myself flying through the pages of this book, so interested in finding out what happens to Boone and Sarah, and even Lauren.   The only thing I wish the author had done was given us more about what happened with Meg after Jack's death. It would be interesting to see if another book shows up with the conclusion of Meg's story.

Bottom line, if you have read the first two books then you must read The Good Wife, it was like catching up with old friends.  Fun, quick read and a great story, where could you go wrong?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

(75)The Good Daughter by Jane Porter

The Good Daughter

Pages: 384
Publication Date: February 5, 2013

Kit Brennan has always been The Good Daughter  of the Brennan clan.  She is a teacher at a Catholic school, she looks after her sisters and helps out her parents, just as expected.  After ending a ten year long relationship, Kit  is ready for her "time" though. Ready to find her "true love" and ready to start her family, even though with the dating pool as wretched as it is, she seriously doubts she will ever find true love.

After dating some real duds Kit is starting to believe that "the one" is just a myth and thinks that being alone is a good thing.  One of those "one date wonders" even shows up at school in a manner that makes the hair on the back of her neck stand on end. And it gets even worse when he enrolls his Step-Daughter in Kit's school and Kit finds herself smack dab in the middle of one teen's nightmare.  That is when an unexpected "knight in shining armor" shows up in Kit's life. Will he be able to convince Kit that they will be really good together?

There is a lot of action packed into The Good Daughter, but I don't want to reveal too much of the plot so I will just leave it as is and say you gotta just read the book.  I love Kit and I loved her dynamic with Jude.  It was sweet and hot and something that every good little Catholic girl dreams about.  I will say that it was hard to watch Kit's mom get sicker with cancer.  It just brought back so many ugly memories that it only made it seem that much more real for me.   The entire Brennan family pays a huge role in this book, just like the previous book, and made me miss my own Irish-Catholic family.

Bottom line, if you read Meg's story then you have to read Kit's story.  Another tender novel about the importance of family and how love fits into that family.  A truly good read.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

(74)The Good Woman by Jane Porter

The Good Wife
by Jane Porter

Pages: 368
Publication Date: September 4, 2013

Meg Roberts is the "perfect one" of her large, boisterous Irish Catholic family.  As the eldest sister of the Brennan clan she has always been the "perfect one".  She married the perfect man, had three perfect kids, and has a great career as a publicist for a winery in Napa.  At forty-two Meg seems to have it all, so why does she feel so unsatisfied with her life?  Maybe it's because her husband travels all the time? Maybe it is because he pays more attention to his work than to her?  Maybe it's because her kids take advantage of her?  Whatever it is, she feels like her life is lacking something. When one of her handsome bosses, Chad starts to show more than a professional interest in her she is confused, scared, flattered, and actually interested.  Meg makes the biggest mistake of her life, she has an affair with Chad.  A steamy, hot, passionate affair that has her feeling more alive than she has in years.  Except the guilt is eating her alive.  Does she stay with her husband and try to save her marriage or does she leave her husband and her family for Chad?  Either way Meg will never be the same again.

I really enjoyed The Good Woman. It was refreshing to read about a woman, a "good woman" who has an affair. In Women's Fiction it is not unusual to read about a husband cheating and the aftereffects that causes on a marriage, but rarely do we read about a woman making such a horrible decision.  I am about as anti-adultery as you can get, but I did find it easy to empathize with Meg.  All she wants is to feel loved and appreciated. I also enjoyed the family dynamics between Meg and her siblings. The dynamics there are interesting, especially Meg and Brianna.  So different in every way, yet they still have a connection and will be there for each other no matter what.  I will say that the end of this book was not what I was expecting, but it was a good way for it to end.

Bottom line, The Good Woman is a great novel that will introduce you to a great family, the Brennan family.  Full of love, happiness and imperfections.   If you are looking for a quick read that will touch your heart pick up The Good Woman on your next trip to the bookstore.

Monday, September 2, 2013

(73)Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain

Necessary Lies

Pages: 352
Publication Date: September 3, 2013

It was a different time and a different mindset when newlywed Jane Forrester starts her new job working for the Department of Welfare deep in the South nearly fifty years ago.   She is eager to help people, but her sheltered life and protective husband leave her in for a world of shock when she first visits her new clients out on a tobacco farm in rural Grace County,North Carolina. The Hart family have not had it easy. Ivy's father was killed in a horrific tractor accident, their mother was committed after his death, and Mary Ella had a baby at fifteen.  

Ivy Hart is fifteen now and her Grandmother is terrified that she will end up just like her sister, Mary Ella.   Pregnant with no father around and an inability to really care for her child, so she asks the Social Workers for a permanent solution.   Ivy and Jane hit it off from her very first visit while still in training, Jane wants better for Ivy, too, but is concerned when she starts hearing about a "surgery" that some of her other clients, including Mary Ella have received. A surgery that will permanently prevent any more pregnancies, wanted or otherwise.  Jane soon realizes that if she wants to help Ivy avoid the "surgery" she will be going up against a system that has deemed it necessary. Will Jane be able to save Ivy from forced sterilization or will the system run right over her like it has many other innocent women?

Do you want a book club book that will generate hot conversation, then you have found your book. For a very long time in the state of North Carolina, the Department of Welfare used forced sterilization in order to control poverty.  Diane Chamberlain has taken this dark time in history and woven a gripping tale of two young women from opposite sides of the tracks who are both struggling to survive in this world. Jane is such a naive character and to see her deal with such a heavy topic was great to see, especially when she knew her new husband disapproved. i was very pleased with the character development in all of the characters, but especially with Jane.  I was almost proud of her by the end of the novel, if you can believe that.  My emotions were all over the place with this novel, I started out being appalled and went through a whole range of emotions, including anger and hatred. I guess an argument (insert heated debate here) could be made that this form of eugenics would save the government a lot of money, but when the women are not even told what is happening to them, well it was absolutely horrifying.

Bottom line, I have gushed endlessly about Diane Chamberlain for years now and with good reason. Her writing is so gripping that her books are the kind of books that stay with you long after the last page.   I can easily say, though, that I think Necessary Lies is one of her best books.  Like I mentioned earlier, the perfect book for a book club, guaranteed to generate a lively discussion.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Why I Read...

I remember the carefree summer days when I used to ride my bike to the public library to pick out new books. I would go almost daily to find books to read. I read to learn. I read to explore the world. I read to escape. I read because not reading is not an option.

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