Book Review: Savages

IMG_2582Title: Savages
Author: Don Winslow
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: January 1, 2010

From Simon & Schuster: Ben, Chon, and O are twentysomething best friends living the dream in Southern California. Together they have made a small fortune producing premium grade marijuana, a product so potent that the Mexican Baja Cartel demands a cut. When Ben and Chon refuse to back down, the cartel kidnaps O, igniting a dizzying array of high-octane negotiations and stunning plot twists as they risk everything to free her. The result is a provocative, sexy, and darkly engrossing thrill ride, an ultracontemporary love story that will leave you breathless.

My Review: Having read Winslow’s recent book, The Force and previously The Power of the Dog, and The Cartel, I wanted to keep the momentum alive so I picked up one of his earlier books. SAVAGES is a hybrid of Winslow’s astute analysis of the Mexican Cartel and ultra-modern love story of a super hot trio residing in the surfing community of Laguna Beach.

Ben, Chon, and O are thick as thieves and an unbreakable bond. Ben is smooth and laid back. He studied botany and marketing at UC Berkeley. He is an intelligent philanthropist with a penchant for Third World countries. Chon is ex-Navy SEALs and served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He’s a badass with ‘baditude’. O, short for Ophelia is a beauty with mesmerizing blue eyes. She takes each day as it comes fending off boredom with shopping trips and frequenting beauty salons. Ben and Chon are her boys and her lovers. She’s the thread that draws the three together.

Chon brings home potent marijuana seeds from Afghanistan and Ben develops a new breed aptly named Ultra White Widow. One toke of the high-class UWW is all that’s needed to get a serious high. The stuff has yielded millions of dollars and the boys want to close up shop and cash out.  But the Baja Cartel wants in and they aren’t taking no for an answer.  Up to this point the vibe has been Orange County-esque but when the BC abducts O the story shifts into a highly charged, plot driven drama between savages and the less savage. I’m adding The Kings of Cool, the prequel to Savages to my reading list.

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Book Review: What Happened

What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton
Title:
What Happened
Author: Hillary Rodham Clinton
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: September 12, 2017

From Simon & Schuster: For the first time, Hillary Rodham Clinton reveals what she was thinking and feeling during one of the most controversial and unpredictable presidential elections in history. Now free from the constraints of running, Hillary takes you inside the intense personal experience of becoming the first woman nominated for president by a major party in an election marked by rage, sexism, exhilarating highs and infuriating lows, stranger-than-fiction twists, Russian interference, and an opponent who broke all the rules. This is her most personal memoir yet.

In these pages, she describes what it was like to run against Donald Trump, the mistakes she made, how she has coped with a shocking and devastating loss, and how she found the strength to pick herself back up afterward. With humor and candor, she tells readers what it took to get back on her feet—the rituals, relationships, and reading that got her through, and what the experience has taught her about life. She speaks about the challenges of being a strong woman in the public eye, the criticism over her voice, age, and appearance, and the double standard confronting women in politics.

She lays out how the 2016 election was marked by an unprecedented assault on our democracy by a foreign adversary. By analyzing the evidence and connecting the dots, Hillary shows just how dangerous the forces are that shaped the outcome, and why Americans need to understand them to protect our values and our democracy in the future.

The election of 2016 was unprecedented and historic. What Happened is the story of that campaign and its aftermath—both a deeply intimate account and a cautionary tale for the nation.

My Review: Hillary Clinton continues to blow me away! Listening to WHAT HAPPENED, which she narrates (I love when authors narrate their own books!) is exactly the book I needed in my life right now with the deplorable political climate in the U.S., and no improvement in immediate sight.

I have been a strong supporter of the Clinton’s since 1992, my final year of high school, the year I could legally vote and I voted for Bill Clinton, both terms. I admired Hillary as an incredibly strong First Lady and later U.S. Senator. My admiration for her blossomed when she announced her run for presidency in 2007. The last time the country had any shred of hope of a woman candidate dates back to Geraldine Ferraro’s run for Vice President in 1984. 1984 people!!

What Happened is authentic, insightful, sharp, and a painful reminder women are still trying to penetrate the glass ceiling. It’s also a hard core look at the radical political climate. This book is excellent and important. Read (or listen) to this book!

Book Review: From The Mixed Up Files Of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

273CA794-CE9C-43E1-8C5D-E9554330853CTitle: From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
Author: E.L. Konigsburg
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: September 2007 (originally published in 1967)
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

From Simon & Schuster: When suburban Claudia Kincaid decides to run away, she knows she doesn’t just want to run from somewhere she wants to run to somewhere—to a place that is comfortable, beautiful, and preferably elegant. She chooses the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Knowing that her younger brother, Jamie, has money and thus can help her with the serious cash flow problem she invites him along.

Once settled into the museum, Claudia and Jamie, find themselves caught up in the mystery of an angel statue that the museum purchased at an auction for a bargain price of $250. The statue is possibly an early work of the Renaissance master Michelangelo, and therefore worth millions. Is it? Or isn’t it? Claudia is determined to find out. This quest leads Claudia to Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, the remarkable old woman who sold the statue and to some equally remarkable discoveries about herself.

My Review: FROM THE MIXED UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER is a testament of timeless literature and it’s no surprise sealed itself a Newbery Award and still a favourite among both children and adults fifty years later.

I immediately fell in love with Claudia and Jamie. Their plan to run away and take up residence in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and learn alongside the visiting school groups exudes creativity and yearning for knowledge alongside their financial savviness and street smarts sucked me into this unique story.

The brief afterward is every bit as good as the story itself. The comparisons between then and now are thought provoking and nostalgic.

This story is good old fashioned literature at its finest and a book that should be on every child’s bookshelf.

Book Review: George’s Secret Key to the Universe

IMG_0919Title: George’s Secret Key to the Universe
Author: Lucy & Stephen Hawking
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Young Readers
Publication Date: January 2011
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

From Simon & Schuster: Stephen Hawking and his daughter, Lucy, provide a grand and funny adventure that explains fascinating information about our universe, including Dr. Hawking’s latest ideas about black holes. It’s the story of George, who’s taken through the vastness of space by a scientist, his daughter, and their super-computer named Cosmos.

My Review: If your young reader enjoys science and technology and action and adventure then s/he will love GEORGE’S SECRET KEY TO THE UNIVERSE. If you follow me over on Instagram (@readingcolumn) you know I’ve been reading this super fun book at bedtime to my three daughters and they loved it! And this book is the gateway to getting my reluctant reader (who loves science and math) to start reading on her own without me hounding her to read. Win-win!

George is a curious boy whose parents don’t believe in technology and want him to stay away from their science-y neighbours, Eric and his daughter Annie. When George’s pet pig Freddy wanders into Annie’s backyard his curiosity gets the best of him and he quickly finds himself in what appears at first glance an abandoned house but turns out is occupied by Annie, Eric and their super-computer Cosmos. Cosmos sends George, Annie and Eric into outer space to find a habitable planet but George’s evil teacher Dr. Reaper wants to steal Cosmos and use the super computer for his own sordid agenda.

This book is fast-paced, fact-filled and includes lots of outer space graphics and fun facts. I highly recommend this book to any youngster who is curious about space exploration.

Book Review: Midnight At The Bright Ideas Bookstore

MIDNIGHT AT THE BRIGHT IDEAS BOOKSTORE BY MATTHEW SULLIVAN BOOK REVIEWTitle: Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore
Author: Matthew Sullivan
Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: June 13, 2017
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5

From Simon & Schuster: When a bookshop patron commits suicide, his favorite store clerk must unravel the puzzle he left behind in this fiendishly clever debut novel from an award-winning short story writer.

Lydia Smith lives her life hiding in plain sight. A clerk at the Bright Ideas bookstore, she keeps a meticulously crafted existence among her beloved books, eccentric colleagues, and the BookFrogs—the lost and lonely regulars who spend every day marauding the store’s overwhelmed shelves.

But when Joey Molina, a young, beguiling BookFrog, kills himself in the bookstore’s upper room, Lydia’s life comes unglued. Always Joey’s favorite bookseller, Lydia has been bequeathed his meager worldly possessions. Trinkets and books; the detritus of a lonely, uncared for man. But when Lydia flips through his books she finds them defaced in ways both disturbing and inexplicable. They reveal the psyche of a young man on the verge of an emotional reckoning. And they seem to contain a hidden message. What did Joey know? And what does it have to do with Lydia?

As Lydia untangles the mystery of Joey’s suicide, she unearths a long buried memory from her own violent childhood. Details from that one bloody night begin to circle back. Her distant father returns to the fold, along with an obsessive local cop, and the Hammerman, a murderer who came into Lydia’s life long ago and, as she soon discovers, never completely left.

My Review: When I saw the cover of MIDNIGHT AT THE BRIGHT IDEAS BOOKSTORE I knew I had to read this book.  I seldom select a book solely on the merits of its cover but this one suggests a certain quality of writing and Sullivan delivers a bright idea! A bookstore mystery flanked by eccentric characters and a twisty plot – readers rejoice!

I adore books that are a genre mish-mash because they elicit a wide range of feelings and emotions and BRIGHT IDEAS is the perfect blend of fiction sub genres – literary, psychological and suspense.  Sullivan’s characters are descriptive, moving and engaging.  Lydia is a bibliophile at heart and works at the Bright Ideas bookstore in Denver.  She forges relationships with the BookFrogs (lonely & disadvantaged) and is a special kind of person whose compassion and humanity shine thru. Her world is turned upside down when her beloved BookFrog, Joey commits suicide after hours at Bright Ideas.  He bequeaths his meager possessions to Lydia amongst which include several books containing cryptic messages.  These messages give Lydia insight not only to Joey’s suicide but take her back to her best childhood friends, Carol and Raj and the horrific Hammerman crime she narrowly escaped when she was ten years old.  Sullivan brilliantly crafts a multilayered plot weaving together a present day suicide with a gruesome murder from the past that ties an entire cast of characters together.

As a former Denver resident Sullivan’s homage to Denver is spot on!  I was taken on a journey down memory lane visiting The Tattered Cover Bookstore in LoDo, driving on Speer Blvd., and riding the 15 on Colfax to name a few.  These details made me love BRIGHT IDEAS that much more!

Book Review: P.S. I Still Love You

P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han Book ReviewTitle: P.S. I Still Love You
Author: Jenny Han
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: May 26, 2015
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5

From Simon & Schuster: Lara Jean didn’t expect to really fall for Peter.

She and Peter were just pretending. Except suddenly they weren’t. Now Lara Jean is more confused than ever.

When another boy from her past returns to her life, Lara Jean’s feelings for him return too. Can a girl be in love with two boys at once?

My Review: P.S. I STILL LOVE YOU is the follow up to TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE and every bit as charming and heartfelt. I listened to the audiobook version for this installment too because Laura Knight Keating’s narration is amazing.

It’s tricky writing a young adult novel that captures the readership of both young and old and Han brilliantly masters it. Some YA books leave me rolling my eyes because they are too silly but Han’s writing engages me and transports me back to my teenaged years. Her characters are lovable, sharp and witty, and when I want to dislike them I can’t because each one has a strong moral compass.

The all too familiar plot has Lara Jean stuck choosing between Peter Kavinsky and John Ambrose McClaren. Like most teenaged boys Peter does not wear his heart on his sleeve and his facade is somewhat coarse which makes me want to scream but on the inside he’s loving and compassionate.  No spoilers here – read the book to find out who Lara Jean chooses!

Han’s narrative is adorable and upbeat making this an engaging and enjoyable story.  This is a young adult novel with mature content so it may not be suitable for all young audiences.

Book Review: Mrs. Fletcher

Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta Book ReviewTitle: Mrs. Fletcher
Author: Tom Perrotta
Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: August 1, 2017
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5

From Scribner: Eve Fletcher is trying to figure out what comes next. A forty-six-year-old divorcee whose beloved only child has just left for college, Eve is struggling to adjust to her empty nest when one night her phone lights up with a text message. Sent from an anonymous number, the mysterious sender tells Eve, “U R my MILF!” Over the months that follow, that message comes to obsess Eve. While leading her all-too-placid life—serving as Executive Director of the local senior center by day and taking a community college course on Gender and Society at night—Eve can’t curtail her own interest in a porn website called MILFateria.com, which features the erotic exploits of ordinary, middle-aged women like herself. Before long, Eve’s online fixations begin to spill over into real life, revealing new romantic possibilities that threaten to upend her quiet suburban existence.

Meanwhile, miles away at the state college, Eve’s son Brendan—a jock and aspiring frat boy—discovers that his new campus isn’t nearly as welcoming to his hard-partying lifestyle as he had imagined. Only a few weeks into his freshman year, Brendan is floundering in a college environment that challenges his white-dude privilege and shames him for his outmoded, chauvinistic ideas of sex. As the New England autumn turns cold, both mother and son find themselves enmeshed in morally fraught situations that come to a head on one fateful November night.

My Review: Thank you to Scribner and Netgalley for providing me this free ARC in exchange for my honest review.

I adored Mrs. Fletcher. It’s a literary, coming-of-age story journeying thru personal growth, respect and acceptance. The topics explored cut to the emotional quick as most readers will be familiar in some way. But they are presented in a light manner which keeps the story upbeat. Tom Perrotta’s well-defined characters, engaging narrative and thought provoking subject matter really took this story to another level. Written from both Eve and Brendan’s perspectives, I felt like Perrotta nailed it perfectly coming from both angles.

Eve Fletcher is a single mom and brand new empty nester. After getting her son Brendan off to college she channels her loneliness in a gender studies course at the local community college. One night she receives a wildly anonymous text, U R my Milf! This text sets the wheels in motion for Eve’s indulgence in MILFateria.com, an erotic website that gets mileage out of middle aged women.

Eve is enjoying her new found freedom, a student pondering feminist theory, she’s drinking and dancing, exploring her sexuality and making stupid mistakes. One evening things really heat up after a small gathering of friends and this event is the defining moment where Eve realizes she’s just plain lonely. And it doesn’t help that her married friends plaster their Facebook walls with sappy Valentine’s Day messages.

Meanwhile, Brendan’s jerk-like behavior isn’t winning anyone over at college. After finally getting a date with pretty Amber he screws up any possibility of a relationship due to his chauvinistic sexual behaviour. His roommate Zack has pretty much ditched him because he doesn’t like the person he becomes when he’s around Brendan. He quickly realizes he is a big disappointment on campus and drops out of school and moves back home.

Eve’s freedom is stifled with Brendan at home again. She gives up taking another class at the community college to spare Brendan the embarrassment of running into his mom at school. Her freedom and carefree lifestyle is quickly swapped out for domesticity as she falls back into daily life as ‘mom’.

That hot and heavy night plays over in Eve’s head as she comes dangerously close to making a regrettable mistake. Fighting back her inner desires not a moment too soon, she offers up one lasting memory that is sure to never fade away.

I think the biggest takeaway from this book is our views and acceptance of others. This really came thru in Brendan’s transition as the story progressed. I think anyone who enjoys an entertaining story will appreciate this one. It’s light, funny and interesting from start to finish.