Thursday, October 18, 2018

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou

Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Length: 341 pages
Published: May 2018

After reading journalist John Carreyrou's investigative book, Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, I do believe truth can be stranger than fiction. How in the world did such a young lady fool so many tenured business people and politicians? This book is an in-depth look at Elizabeth Holmes and her startup, Theranos. The genesis of the book was derived from Carreyrou's October 2015 Wall Street Journal report. 

Simply put this book is investigative journalism at its finest. 

I think the prevailing theme in this book is that we, as a society, have to get back to the facts. The lies and deception have to stop. We are not better off having been persuaded to one person (or group's) way of thinking. Rather, the truth shall set us free. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the way Carreyrou presented this fact-based story. He was very detailed, explaining complex science and medical processes in a way that made it easy for this liberal arts major to understand. Having said that, some of his format caused confusion for me. The way that he interchanged the identification of key players by using their first names and last names made it difficult to follow because there were a lot of players involved. Also, I found the change of perspective midway through the book troublesome. He told the first part of the story in third person, and then when his role was introduced, he abruptly changed to first person. 

Googling "Elizabeth Holmes" will generate a plethora of articles, videos, and photos. Check out the free Way Back Machine to get some insight to the now defunct Theraonos website. I've watched some online videos, and I can certainly see the effectiveness of her persuasive communication skills. She doesn't offer up a whole lot of science, but she uses her words very well. It is easy to see how her charisma and charm won over so many people (especially older men who were ridiculously memorized by her). 

The saddest thing about this whole story is that Holmes had a good idea. Despite knowing the outcome, I found myself pulling for her technology to work. What if she wouldn't have gotten in her own way and succeeded? What if she had listened to the many voices of reason and developed a societal-changing product? She not only robbed her investors, partners, and customers but also society as a whole because tunnel vision and greed resulted in Theranos' demise. Instead, the only thing Holmes succeeded in was proving the old adage true - If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. 

Recommendation: If you want to learn more about this fascinating true story, please check out Bad Blood. This book offers so much more than what you can glean online. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Karma's A Killer by Tracy Weber

Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Length: 9:19:00

Narrator: Anne James
Published: March 2018

Karma's a Killer by Tracy Weber is the third in a series of cozy mysteries that features Kate Davidson, a yoga instructor, and her faithful canine companion, Bella. While this book is the third in the series, it stands alone and can be read independent of the other books in the Downward Dog Mystery series. The story centers around the murder of an animal rights activist, Raven, and the murder suspect, Dharma, who happens to be Kate's estranged mother. As a result of these tumultuous events, Kate finds herself in the midst of an informal investigation and race to find out the truth about her mother. 

I know the old saying is you can't judge a book by its cover, but this cover art was just so fun and piqued my interest. Once I started listening, the author wasted no time getting right to the action, thus engaging me as a reader. Weber's writing style is certainly suited for audio reading/listening. You can really see what she is describing. James, the narrator, also did a good job acting out the character's voices, making it easy for the reader to follow the plot. Overall, I found the story to be fast-moving with enough mystery elements and captivating dialogue to keep the reader following along. I also appreciated the strong portrayals of women in this story, specifically that of the protagonist and her best friend, Rene. 

I have very few critiques. At the beginning, I found the audio to be a little muffled and not as clear as some other audiobooks I've listened to; however, over time it got better and there was more clarity. I also could have done without Kate's seemingly obsession with weight. I would classify this book as chick lit, and I think the focus on women's physical appearance was a bit problematic. 

Recommendation: I really enjoyed this book, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in cozies, mysteries, or just a good book to enjoy over a relaxing weekend. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Thanks to Midnight Ink and Audiobookworm Promotions for an copy of Karma's a Killer by Tracy Weber. Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Old Buildings in North Texas by Jen Waldo

Genre: Literary Fiction / Dramedy
Publisher: Arcadia Books
Date of Publication: April 1, 2018
Pages: 213

After rehab, Olivia, a 32-year-old cocaine addict, is required to move back in with her mother and pregnant sister. Having left a promising career in journalism in New York, she’s now working as a sales assistant for a family friend in her home town in North Texas. 

Under pressure from her court-mandated counselor – an old high school friend - to take up a hobby, Olivia decides on "urbexing." Soon she’s breaking into derelict homes, ex-prisons, and old drive-ins across North Texas, and it’s not long before she’s looting state property and making money off the possessions, fixtures, and fittings that have been left behind.

Old Buildings in North Texas is about a modern woman’s search for personal equilibrium and wild adventure -- the attempt to find stability in existence without losing sight of what makes life worth living. Jen Waldo’s style modulates effortlessly from domestic nuance to taut adventure, tackling social and moral transgressions with incisive observation and vivid humor.

Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars 

Old Buildings in North Texas is a comedic drama (aka dramedy) set in the fictional town of Caprock, Texas written by native Texan, Jen Waldo, and centers around Olivia who is recovering from a cocaine addiction and heart attack. This results in the 32-year old moving back home with her mother who has legal custody of Olivia as she attempts to put her broken life back together. Adding to this court-appointed relationship and living arrangement, is Olivia's 20-year old sister, who is in a predicament of her own, Olivia's former high school friend who is now her therapist, and Zachary, who is her new boss and close family friend. 

In an effort to find a new hobby (you know, besides getting high on illegal drugs), Olivia turns to urban exploration (aka urbexing) where one gains entry into abandon buildings and snoops around. As she embarks on this hobby, she toes the line of legal versus illegal and learns more about herself and her loved ones in the process. The reader is treated to a fast-paced story that doesn't necessarily provide a detailed conclusion but does result in a satisfying ending. 

The book is just over 200 pages with short chapters that are titled in such a way that help push the plot forward. (As an aside, I think a lot of authors miss opportunities to further connect with their readers when they simply number their chapters. I really appreciated the descriptors in this book.) Due to personal obligations, I had to read this book in four days, but I quickly finished it in a day and half. The story flowed well, and the content kept me interested until the very end. 

Jen Waldo is an excellent writer. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and appreciated her vivid prose. This small blurb on page 17 where Olivia describes her first urban exploration experience grabbed me right from the beginning: 
The first thing I notice is the silence. And the stillness. I don't know that I've ever been in a place so suspended. For several seconds I remain unmoving as I inhale the passage of time. 
In reading the synopsis, one might believe the book is about urbexing, but it's more a story about family, relationships, and identity. This might cause some readers to feel misled, but I found it refreshing. I do wish there would have been a little more diversity among the cast of characters. And as a Christian, I didn't mind the Biblical scripture that was included in Olivia's meditation time; however, it seemed to be a little incongruent with her personality. Olivia wasn't a very likable character, and I don't think someone who was unsure about her belief in God would have been so vigorous about her study and meditation of Him. Having said that, I also found Olivia to be an equally relatable, yet flawed character. 

Recommendation: This book is laugh-out-loud funny with touching moments interspersed. I would recommend this to anyone who would like to read a fast, funny book set in the heart of north Texas. So, if you're looking for some good fiction to curl up with this fall, check out Ms. Waldo's excellent book ... or enter the 
giveaway below to win a copy! 

I received a complimentary signed paperback copy of Old Buildings in North Texas from Lone Star Book Blog Tours in exchange for my honest review. 
Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful. 

Until next time ... Read on!

“A lot of Jen Waldo’s debut novel takes place out on the porch of Olivia’s mother’s house. […] With its casual, confidential tone, Old Buildings in North Texas puts the reader in one of those porch chairs, reclining on a warm evening with a cool drink.” ~The Skinny

“Old Buildings in North Texas is an amusingly written and well worked book” ~Trip Fiction

“This novel is an absolute blast. There are serious moments of course, but Jen Waldo looks for the comedy in everything to create a memorable scenario that reminded me very much of the style of Six Feet Under.” ~Shiny New Books

Jen Waldo lived in seven countries over a thirty-year period and has now settled, along with her husband, in Marble Falls, Texas. She first started writing over twenty years ago when, while living in Cairo, she had difficulty locating reading material and realized she’d have to make her own fun. She has since earned an MFA and written a number of novels. Her work has been published in The European and was shortlisted in a competition by Traveler magazine. Old Buildings in North Texas and Why Stuff Matters have been published in the UK by Arcadia Books. Jen’s fiction is set in Northwest Texas and she’s grateful to her hometown of Amarillo for providing colorful characters and a background of relentless whistling wind.

Connect with Jen
: WebsiteTwitterGoodreads Author Page | Amazon Author Page

Three Fabulous Prizes!!
First Prize: Signed Copy of OBiNT + $10 Amazon Gift Card
Second Prize: Signed Copy of OBiNT + $5 Amazon Gift Card
Third Prize: eBook Copy of OBiNT 
Oct. 2-11, 2018

02-Oct Excerpt Texas Book Lover   
02-Oct Guest Post That's What She's Reading
03-Oct Review Tangled in Text
04-Oct Author Interview Chapter Break Book Blog  
05-Oct Review A Page Before Bedtime (You are here)  
05-Oct Excerpt Max Knight
06-Oct Guest Post Story Schmoozing Book Reviews  
07-Oct Review Momma on the Rocks   
07-Oct Notable Quotable Books and Broomsticks   
08-Oct Notable Quotable StoreyBook Reviews 
09-Oct Review Reading by Moonlight
09-Oct Guest Post The Page Unbound
10-Oct Sequel Spotlight All the Ups and Downs 
11-Oct Review The Clueless Gent
11-Oct Review Forgotten Winds

Sunday, September 30, 2018

A Kind of Freedom by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton

Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Length: 256 pages
Published: 2017

I learned about A Kind of Freedom by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton from my online book club - Literary Fiction by People of Color. I was able to secure a copy from my local Fort Worth Library via digital loan. I jumped right into the story and finished it about 36 hours later. 

A Kind of Freedom is a saga told through three generations. Each section vacillates between pre-Civil Rights Movement, the late 1980s, and right after Hurricane Katrina. Evelyn is born of a doctor and homemaker. She and her sister Ruby appear to have all of the amenities that not many Black people enjoyed during the 1940s. But as it often happens, some life choices drastically changed the direction of Evelyn's life, resulting in societal tragedies for her daughter, Jackie, and also Evelyn's grandson T.C.

Overall I found this story very intriguing. I literally couldn't put the book down. But I also found it extremely depressing. There are a lot of conflicts in this novel. Some of them include mass incarceration, drug abuse, poverty, and inequality. My hope was there would be some ray of sunshine for this family. I wanted each character to pull him- or herself out of their situation. However, like real life, that can be a lot easier said than done. The way Sexton presents this family is very real, very raw. Her writing is poignant. I think she is an author to keep my eye on. 

I finished the book still thinking about the characters. I do wish the author could have closed up a few loose ends for me, specifically - What happened to Terry? 

Recommendation: This is a good read for someone who would like to take a peek into the life of an African American family. But remember, this is simply one person's perspective, and it cannot be generalized to a whole race of people. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Heart Berries by Terest Marie Mailhot

Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Length: 143 pages
Published: February 2018

Heart Berries is a brief but powerful memoir written by Terese Marie Mailhot. In this book, she shares her most raw and vulnerable experiences that have made a lasting impact on her life, including her romantic relationships, her relationships with each of her parents, as well as her relationships with her sons. The book's perspective vacillates between the author's thoughts (whether they be in epistolary, essay, or stream of consciousness form) and character dialogue. I found this to be a little complex, at times, making it difficult to focus on each page. Having said that, I found Mailhot to be relatable in the experiences she shared. 

One theme that permeates the book is that of sexual abuse and the negligence her mother demonstrated in dealing with it. I found the portions of the book that focused on this the most difficult to read because it was just so infuriating that Mailhot was not protected as a child should be. Earlier this year, the author was interviewed by Trevor Noah on The Daily Show where she stressed the importance of her searching for and displaying her authentic indigenous voice in her writing. While I found most of her struggles with abuse and her love life to be universal and irrespective of race or ethnicity, I do think she was able to beautifully tell her story in the most poetic way. For example: 
I don't think I am lonely. I think I am starved and maybe ravenous for the very thing you withhold from me. (p. 39)
While I understand we, as the audience, are getting only Mailhot's perspective, I found her boyfriend (and, I believe, now husband) Casey to be a complete jerk. He was not a very likable presence in the book, and I was actually shocked to learn they are still together. I was also a bit disappointed that she misspelled Salvador Agron's name in her historic detail. 

Overall, this was an interesting book. I can understand why it's a bestseller. I am thankful for the opportunity to have read and review it, and many thanks to my local Fort Worth Library for the digital loan! 

Recommendation: I think this is a great read for most adults, but I think it would resonate with women more than any other demographic. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Mind's Eye by Perry Prete

Genre: Adult Fiction
Publisher: Sands Press
Date of Publication: March 7, 2018
Pages: 243

Nicole Baker is a quiet girl - the type of person who is seldom noticed by anyone. That is until one day she discovers she has the unique ability to see images move on photographs. At first, she uses her ability to entertain friends at parties and work. Then senior detective Paul Hammond learns of her ability and enlists her help in a case of unsolved murders that he has not been able to make any headway on.

Carl Kadner, a rookie reporter with the local paper is investigating the murders as well. And he learns what it takes to be the kind of reporter he wants to be when he puts himself in danger for the sake of the story. It is only when Carl, Nicole and Detective Hammond pool their resources that things start making sense.

Rating: 4 of 5 stars 
The Mind's Eye by Perry Prete is a psychological thriller that will grasp you from the start and keep your attention the whole way through. Detective Paul Hammond is on a search for a serial killer who is attacking women and mutilating their bodies. Nicole Baker is a woman with a special gift of prescience. Carl Kadner is a new journalist hungry for his first big story. Chance (or fate, depending on how you look a it) brings all three characters together in a suspenseful situation as they race against the clock to locate and stop the killer. 

This book reminded me of a twisted episode of the now defunct show, Medium, and Criminal Minds combined. The book starts off with the three main characters in disparate storylines. By the midpoint of the book, the reader is able to see how they will all come together to work the case. I was completely vested in learning about these characters and finding out who was responsible for these horrific crimes. Because of the content I consider this book very graphic. Prete does a great job offering descriptive scenes that the reader can truly picture. I think this is an indicator of a strong writer who can paint such vivid pictures with words. The story is complete and leaves the reader satisfied. I do have to admit, for a while, I was worried there might be a cliffhanger. However, the author kept me guessing till the very end but also provided a fulfilling conclusion. 

While the story was tight, there were some typos that probably could have been resolved with more vigorous editing. My main issue with this book was the language. The author uses a lot of expletives and vulgar language that I did not care for, and I don't know that it really added to the story. I think it would have been just as strong without it. Also, I suspect because Prete has worked in the healthcare industry, he offered some technical jargon that slowed me down a bit. These issues were relatively minor and did not stop me from appreciating the novel.  

Recommendation: If you're in search for a thriller that might have you looking over your shoulder as you walk to the car at night, I think you will enjoy this book. Be sure to pick up your copy today or enter the giveaway below! 

Until next time ... Read on!

I received a free print copy of The Mind's Eye from iRead Book Tours. Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful. 

Perry Prete is a Canadian crime writer and paramedic. His first novel, All Good Things, introduced us to Ethan Tennant, a City of Ottawa paramedic who looks at crimes from the medical perspective.

Perry continues to work full-time as a paramedic and uses his thirty plus years of life changing and sometimes dramatic experiences to bring realism to his gripping medical novels. His other works include, The Things That Matter Most and All Good Things.

He is also a business owner, specializing in the pre-hospital care field. His company sells medical equipment across North America, primarily to EMS agencies.

A native of Sudbury, Ontario, Perry, graduated from Fanshawe College in London but now lives and works in Brockville, Ontario.

Connect with Perry.: Website | TwitterFacebook 

Prizes: Win a paperback of The Mind's Eye by Perry Prete (10 winners total) Four winners will also get a $10 Amazon GC (open to USA & Canada)
(ends Sept 29, 2018)

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Thursday, September 13, 2018

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Length: 07:25:00

Narrator: Richard Armitage
Published: September 2018

Do we really need another book about the Holocaust? Yes, yes, yes, a thousand times yes. We must continue to revisit society tragedies lest we forget. The unique aspect of The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris is that she took a very dark time in history and shared a story of joy, hope, and love through this tale of two courageous individuals. The book is based on the true story of Lale and Gita who fall in love at first site as Lale is given the horrible task of tattooing numeric identifiers on captured Jews. A multilingual Slovakian Jew, Lale was one of the "lucky" ones who was able to secure a "privileged" position of t├Ątowierer. Once he meets Gita for those few moments, there is an instant connection and he knows he must find her again. He is successful and a challenging love affair ensues. So, while the backdrop of this book is the Holocaust and World World II, the prevailing plot is a love story. 

I listened to this book via Audible. It was narrated by English actor, Richard Armitage, who was simply perfect in his narration. His voice is captivating. Granted Heather Morris has told a beautiful tale, and Armitage's voice just added icing to the cake. I found myself almost tired at times pulling for Lale and Gita. I won't say I was pulling for a happy ending because what is happy about the Holocaust, but rather, I was yearning for a hopeful ending. I felt strongly that hope would be revealed in the end, but it was a struggle listening to the atrocities before both main characters arrived there. Both the story and the narration pulled me in and didn't let me go until I'd finished listening to the author's notes and son's afterword at the very end. 

Some criticisms I've read about this book is that there was not enough focus on the evils of the concentration camp. I disagree. If you want to read a book that goes into more in-depth detail on the horrors of Auschwitz and other concentration camps, there are hundreds of fiction and non-fiction books that will meet that need. This book is a love story, so much so, that the concentration camp setting of the book seemed to be relatively short to me even though it covered three long, tortuous years. My only criticism of this book is that some of the loose ends were not resolved. For example, what happened to Silka and Donna? 

Recommendation: The Holocaust was real. It is a reality that the few living survivors continue to be haunted by. I really appreciated this hopeful perspective on this harrowing time period. If you're a WWII historical fiction (although this book included non-fiction elements) junkie, I think you will appreciate this book. Do yourself a favor and read along with the sultry Richard Armitage! 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.