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!

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Book Review: Need to Know

A5B73AE4-B856-422A-91DC-D34D777BD440Title: Need to Know
Author: Karen Cleveland
Publisher: Doubleday
Publication Date: January 23, 2018

From Doubleday: Vivian and Matt are a seemingly normal suburban couple, experiencing the same struggles as many North American families: juggling work and children, budgeting for a house in a decent school district. They’re in love and life is good. Though Vivian can’t share much about her CIA assignment with him, Matt has always been supportive, and his job as a software engineer allows him the flexibility needed to raise their four kids. But when she makes a startling discovery researching the CIA’s Russian account, everything about her life and her marriage is cast in a new light–forcing her to make impossible and dangerous choices before she loses her job, her family and her life.

I received a free advanced copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my own review. #partner #penguincanada

My Review: NEED TO KNOW has high ratings and top author accolades so I’m in the minority with my review. This is a super-charged CIA / espionage read with an intense premise. When Vivian uncovers a Russian spy ring on U.S. soil she’s on the precipice of danger and losing her career and family.

The good: I love a good CIA spy novel. This one is plot driven with a female lead who I can relate to as a wife and mom. Cleveland cleverly delivers a major wallop in Chapter 2 and I absolutely needed to know more!

The bad: The characters were thinly developed. Vivian has a kick-ass career. It’s not every day I meet a CIA analyst, especially one uncovering Russian sleeper cells so I think Cleveland missed the mark on the main character and narrator of the story. Also, Vivian is ridiculously naive in her personal life yet incredibly savvy professionally which didn’t add up for me.

It was an entertaining enough read and paced quickly enough with short chapters to keep me engaged. The ending was a cliffhanger and left me wondering if there will be a sequel.

 

 

Book Review: A Fatal Grace

EFA28756-F551-4215-A7CC-7E08CED6222ETitle: A Fatal Grace
Author: Louise Penny
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: February 15, 2011

From Minotaur: Welcome to winter in Three Pines, a picturesque village in Quebec, where the villagers are preparing for a traditional country Christmas, and someone is preparing for murder.
No one liked CC de Poitiers. Not her quiet husband, not her spineless lover, not her pathetic daughter—and certainly none of the residents of Three Pines. CC de Poitiers managed to alienate everyone, right up until the moment of her death.
When Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, of the Sûreté du Quebec, is called to investigate, he quickly realizes he’s dealing with someone quite extraordinary. CC de Poitiers was electrocuted in the middle of a frozen lake, in front of the entire village, as she watched the annual curling tournament. And yet no one saw anything. Who could have been insane enough to try such a macabre method of murder—or brilliant enough to succeed?
With his trademark compassion and courage, Gamache digs beneath the idyllic surface of village life to find the dangerous secrets long buried there. For a Quebec winter is not only staggeringly beautiful but deadly, and the people of Three Pines know better than to reveal too much of themselves. But other dangers are becoming clear to Gamache. As a bitter wind blows into the village, something even more chilling is coming for Gamache himself.

My Review: I fell in love with the remote village of Three Pines during Still Life, Louise Penny’s first novel in the Inspector Gamache Series and I’m so glad to be back in this second instalment, A Fatal Grace. Three pines is a charming community full of the most eccentric characters you will meet. For all their quirks they are a warm and loyal bunch. And what’s not to love about Inspector Gamache? His stoicism, compassion, and courage command your respect and his endearing wife, Reine-Marie are the perfect pair – a lovely couple you wish you knew in real life.

Inspector Gamache and his team return to Three Pines investigating the peculiar murder of unlikable CC de Poitiers. An impossibly unpleasant woman who intimidated her husband and belittled her obese daughter, CC was electrocuted on a frozen pond in front of the townspeople but no one noticed because they were too busy watching the Christmas curling tournament.

Penny has a penchant for keeping me guessing to the end and coming back for more.  Another superbly written gentle mystery, this series grows by leaps and bounds with every new instalment.

Book Review: The Power of the Dog

9781400096930Title: The Power of the Dog
Author: Don Winslow
Publisher: Knopf
Publication Date: May 1, 2005

From Knopf: The prequel to The Cartel, and set about 10 years earlier, The Power of the Dog introduces a brilliant cast of characters. Art Keller is an obsessive DEA agent. The Barrera brothers are heirs to a drug empire. Nora Hayden is a jaded teenager who becomes a high-class hooker. Father Parada is a powerful and incorruptible Catholic priest. Callan is an Irish kid from Hell’s kitchen who grows up to be a merciless hit man. And they are all trapped in the world of the Mexican drug Federación. From the streets of New York City to Mexico City and Tijuana to the jungles of Central America, this is the war on drugs like you’ve never seen it.

My Review: The Power of the Dog spans three decades, a handful of government agencies and several borders to give you powerful insight into the Mexican drug Federación and War on Drugs. Although the book is fiction the narrative is fact-based, therefore gripping and all-consuming. Any American who has followed politics and the news the past 30 years will find this book evocative.

The Power of the Dog’s plot is complex and the characters equally elaborate, a testament to Winslow’s years of research enabling him to compose this narcos-charged masterpiece.  This story is not for the faint of heart. It’s appalling, graphic, violent and spares no detail. But that’s how the Federación operates. Pay close attention because the cast is extensive and their betrayal unrestrained.

I listened to the audiobook version narrated by Ray Porter.  His narration is brilliant – the pronunciation, intonation, inflection, and delivery were on the money. I highly recommend giving this one a listen if you can stomach the details and keep the characters straight. Winslow is releasing the third book, currently untitled, in 2018 and I will be reading it!

Book Review: The Force

y648Title: The Force
Author: Don Winslow
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: June 20, 2017

From William Morrow: All Denny Malone wants is to be a good cop.
He is “the King of Manhattan North,” a highly decorated NYPD detective sergeant and the real leader of “Da Force.” Malone and his crew are the smartest, the toughest, the quickest, the bravest, and the baddest, an elite special unit given unrestricted authority to wage war on gangs, drugs and guns. Every day and every night for the eighteen years he’s spent on the Job, Malone has served on the front lines, witnessing the hurt, the dead, the victims, the perps. He’s done whatever it takes to serve and protect in a city built by ambition and corruption, where no one is clean—including Malone himself.

What only a few know is that Denny Malone is dirty: he and his partners have stolen millions of dollars in drugs and cash in the wake of the biggest heroin bust in the city’s history. Now Malone is caught in a trap and being squeezed by the Feds, and he must walk the thin line between betraying his brothers and partners, the Job, his family, and the woman he loves, trying to survive, body and soul, while the city teeters on the brink of a racial conflagration that could destroy them all.

My Review: The New York Police Department – Corruption. Drugs. Gangs. Riots. Tension. If this sounds like a cliche, it’s not. This book is about the elite Manhattan North Special Task Force also known as ‘Da Force’ and ‘The Kings’ that run it – Malone, Russo, Montague, Levin, and O’Neill. These guys go after the drugs and guns, they keep some of the drugs for themselves and pad their nest eggs with the money. So long as the right people get their kickbacks nobody says anything because corruption breeds corruption.

Sergeant Denny Malone is your stereotypical NYPD detective; descended from an Irish hero cop on the verge of divorcing his Irish wife, he wears tattoo sleeves and drinks Jameson whisky. His girlfriend is a mess, often high and can’t get clean. Denny’s the king of kings – revered by the department and feared on the streets. At his core he’s true to himself, his family, his brother cops, The Job, and his city but years working the drug task force have beat him down and blurred the lines between right and wrong, loyalty and betrayal, morality and immorality.

The story opens with Denny locked up in a federal correctional facility followed by a singular event that will torment him to the last page and serve as his fall from grace. Everything else is about how Denny got to this place. At 400+ pages the first half is a slow burn rich in the essentials and nuances of the force – the drug deals, snitches, mandatory bowling nights, the comped dinners and visits to high end brothels. There’s a certain cache that comes with being on the task force but it comes at a high price.  The guys are on the front line which is risky business and take the emotional brunt often leading to drug use to get thru the days. The second half is mind-blowing as Denny spirals out of control taking the whole system down with him.

Winslow masters two things: he illustrates evocative images, characters, and lingo right down to the New York accent and creates an edgy connection where you normally would never go.  Yes, I sidled up to Malone and had a love / hate relationship with a dirty cop! I plunged into uncharted territory and I liked it. Maybe that’s why The Force reads like a true story even though it’s fiction.

Put this one at the top of your reading list. You won’t be disappointed.

Book Review: Into the Black Nowhere

80D6C469-4943-4E6D-BB40-36DD48309C58Title: Into the Black Nowhere
Author: Meg Gardiner
Publisher: Dutton
Publication Date: January 30, 2018

From Dutton: In southern Texas, on Saturday nights, women are disappearing. One vanishes from a movie theater. Another is ripped from her car at a stoplight. Another vanishes from her home while checking on her baby. Rookie FBI agent Caitlin Hendrix, newly assigned to the FBI’s elite Behavioral Analysis Unit, fears that a serial killer is roaming the dark roads outside Austin.

Caitlin and the FBI’s serial crime unit discover the first victim’s body in the woods. She’s laid out in a bloodstained, white baby-doll nightgown. A second victim in a white nightie lies deeper in the forest’s darkness. Both bodies are surrounded by Polaroid photos, stuck in the earth like headstones. Each photo pictures a woman in a white negligee, wrists slashed, suicide-style–posed like Snow White awaiting her prince’s kiss.

To track the UNSUB, Caitlin must get inside his mind. How is he selecting these women? Working with a legendary FBI profiler, Caitlin searches for a homology–that elusive point where character and action come together. She profiles a confident, meticulous killer who convinces his victims to lower their guard until he can overpower and take them in plain sight. He then reduces them to objects in a twisted fantasy–dolls for him to possess, control, and ultimately destroy. Caitlin’s profile leads the FBI to focus on one man: a charismatic, successful professional who easily gains people’s trust. But with only circumstantial evidence linking him to the murders, the police allow him to escape. As Saturday night approaches, Caitlin and the FBI enter a desperate game of cat and mouse, racing to capture the cunning predator before he claims more victims.

Netgalley and the publisher provided me an advanced readers copy in exchange for my honest review.

My Review: I am a true crime buff. My high school psychology teacher was an eccentric woman with a lending library and some books were about high profile serial killers. I was terrified and consumed at the same time and I could not stop reading about high profile cases. And now more than twenty years later I’ve been reconnected with the likes of high profile deviant masterminds, The Zodiac Killer and Ted Bundy thanks to Meg Gardiner’s Unsub Series.

INTO THE BLACK NOWHERE is a fictional tie-in to serial killer, Ted Bundy, who went on a murderous rampage killing upwards of 30 women during the 1970’s. He was educated, intelligent, good looking, and charming making it easy for women to fall prey. Set in modern day Texas and spanning across the desert Southwest up to the Pacific Northwest, Kyle Detrick is calm, cool, confident and leaves a trail of bodies in his wake. His weakness is blondes with a cheerleaders physique – he can’t help himself so he stalks them and they disappear into the black nowhere.

This book has incredible plot twists that left me spooked to the core! Gardiner injects you into the mind of a serial killer so you know his thought process, how he preys on his victims and how he plans his next kill. She knows her stuff when writing about the criminal investigative side of things and expertly ties up the critical details into a nice, neat package that packs a powerful punch.

Few things scare me but the Unsub Series are so well crafted you will need to keep the lights on and maybe even someone in the room with you while reading these books – they are thrilling and all consuming.

Book Review: The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street

05EE8F67-9BDE-4A73-A404-A9A6E4DA9DCBTitle: The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street
Author: Karina Yan Glaser
Publisher: HMH
Publication Date: October 3, 2017

From HMH: A modern classic in the making reminiscent of the Penderwicks series, The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street is about the connections we make and the unexpected turns life can take.
The Vanderbeekers have always lived in the brownstone on 141st Street. It’s practically another member of the family. So when their reclusive, curmudgeonly landlord decides not to renew their lease, the five siblings have eleven days to do whatever it takes to stay in their beloved home and convince the dreaded Beiderman just how wonderful they are. And all is fair in love and war when it comes to keeping their home.

Netgalley and HMH provided me an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

My Review: The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street is THE middle grade book of the year! I received an advanced copy from Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for my honest review and am so glad I requested this book. My husband and I took turns reading to our daughters for bedtime reading making it a lovely family affair. My only regret is reading it in October when it’s so perfect for the holiday season.
The Vanderbeekers are a charming and quintessential family – a diverse family of seven with the most adorable pets, a dog named Franz, a cat named George Washington and a bunny named Paganini. They live in a brownstone in Harlem amongst a close community. The Vanderbeekers have always lived in their beloved brownstone but when their lease is threatened by their awful landlord, The Biederman, the children come together to roll out their most creative and resourceful selves to appease The Biederman. A heart-wrenching event tests their empathy and compassion which made me love the Vanderbeekers so much.
My kids are gifting this book for friends’ birthdays because it belongs in the hands of every middle grade child (and adults too!). I cannot wait for the sequel in 2018!