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This Pandemic Sucks

I figured working at home would give me more time to read/review/blog, etc. Right? No. Not right. I’ve been putting in some modest overtime, thankful I have both jobs, but adjusting to working them both online. The teaching job turned out to be the hardest to adapt, which I chalk up to the class and not teaching online in general. The point is that I have not reviewed books I have finished, have not tried to pick up my internet presence, and have generally been in an all-around funk. That plus, a double-ear infection, allergic reaction of unknown origin, and a couple of heart procedures have left me digitally unmotivated.

That said, I’m going to try to be back. I do have an announcement to make to the two or three people who may read when I do post. More on that later this week. But it’s big and I’m excited. And it has to do with books.

Since I don’t have the energy for a full-fledged review right now, here’s a small re-cap of the last few books I’ve finished and what I thought. Enjoy.

OMG. I’ve read 17 books since my last review. Aye. That’s what I get for putting it off.

Golden Gates: Fighting for Housing in AmericaGolden Gates: Fighting For Housing In America was the book I was reading last time I posted. For those who don’t know, I’m a paralegal and I work for a nonprofit law firm that helps low- and very- low income people with civil issues. I work on the housing team and deal with evictions. So this book was professional as much as person.

This book is a must read. Period. Affordable housing and class division will tear this nation apart and this book proves it.

I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for WhitenessAustin Channing Brown (whose name was given so she would appear to be a white man, writes about what it’s like to be an African-American woman in a world built for anything but. She works in the church community and has challenges that even normal women and women of color don’t face in the workforce. I won this book a while ago and delayed reading it. It’s short (my husband asked if I would be done in five minutes), but it’s full of insight and information about what it’s like to not meet initial expectation, institutional racism, and fighting for what’s right. I really learned a lot from this book.

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption

This is my second time reading Just Mercy. I did the audiobook this time. Bryan Stevenson narrated. I loved it. This book holds so much meaning for me. Especially now that I work in an area of the law where there isn’t really justice and the poor don’t have the same access as the rich.

I think that in a world where it’s easy to love athletes and movie starts, Bryan Stevenson is my hero. Tireless work for people who often have no one else. He is grace and humility and humanity.

I Was Told It Would Get EasierHave I mentioned I love Abbi Waxman? Yes, I have. Every time I review one of her books. I Was Told This Would Get Easier is no exception. She know how to write complicated relationship and the misunderstandings that often impede intimacy.

I love her and I loved this book about a mother and daughter who are so different, yet very much alike. Having a 17 year old daughter, I identified with so much of this book. Even if you don’t have a teenager, this is a fantastic story and a good book.

So. There’s a tine mini-review wrap-up of my reading. I’m working on All That You Leave Behind by Erin Lee Carr for book club, which I will definitely be posting a second review about. Having lost my dad since the first time I read this and that being the subject of the book, I have many new and different thoughts about this book. Hang in there, peeps. It will get better. I promise to post more and will be back with a big announcement. Thanks for sticking with me.


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Radio Silence

My apologies to anyone who reads my blog. I have been MIA. I realize that isn’t fair to those who read my posts, but I have been dealing with all this “new normal” crap. And I had a double ear infection that left me crabby and feeling awful. I look at blog posting like I look at grading papers – you should not do it when you are cranky. So, let’s talk about why I can’t seem to read much of anything.

When the quarantine (or whatever you want to call it) was announced, I thought, “Oh good. I can work at home. I will have more time to read because I won’t be able to go anywhere.” That’s not exactly how things worked out. Working from home is fine. But it’s not all I thought it would be. Turns out I miss my office. I like that little space with my white board and my weird chair and the pictures on the wall. More than that, I miss my coworkers. Really miss them. I miss the collaboration, venting, working. I am generally an introvert, but when I like you, I am definitely more extroverted. I miss my work peeps.

I have (finally) discovered Netflix. What. A. Revelation. I know, I’m waaaayyy behind on this. But seriously. I love it. I have been trying to watch Longmire, because after it left A&E, I missed it. I have been able to pay attention to it and have read three Longmire books. To be fair, two were on audio. But those count. I have spent long hours watching Longmire, The Closer, and the new shoes I follow. What I haven’t done a lot of is read.

I am currently working my way through Golden Gates: The Fight for Housing in America by Conor Dougherty. This book is fantastic. I am truly loving it. It’s informative but not boring. I just can’t read more than like 10 pages at a time. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. It’s not the book. I picked up Savage Son by Jack Carr. If you read this blog, you know how much I fawn over Jack Carr and his hero James Reece. I. Cannot. Read. It. I just can’t do it. There is something wrong.

I guess it’s just the Stephen King-like new realm we have entered. I am medically vulnerable. I worry about catching this, because unlike everyone who has drunk the kool aid, this isn’t the flu. It will kill me. I worry about my son and mom, who are riding this out together. I am sad that my son lost his first college baseball season. I am sad my niece is losing her prom and her graduation. My anxiety is off the charts, so that makes me do weird OCD things like clean my work space and reorganize my books.

I owe you some reviews. For the time being, please know that I am trying to get some more books read and I will try to post more regularly, but I make no promises, because every time I say I’m going to write more, I don’t. Hang in there. You are not alone.

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A Bad Day For Sunshine Is A Good Day For Readers

A Bad Day for Sunshine by Darynda JonesSunshine Vicram has been elected Sheriff of Del Sol, New Mexico. She didn’t run. Her parents entered her so she and her daughter Ari (nee Aurora) would move back to the small town. Her first day on the job, Ari’s friend goes missing. Sunshine and her sheriff crew set out to find the girl and get her home safely.

I loved this book. The characters are well-developed and the plot twists are organic and not forced. I loved the relationship between Ari and Sunshine. They are very connected and love each other very much. Sunshine is a single mother and has worked hard to raise Ari. Their love and affection is on every page.

I also loved that Sunshine’s parents, her best friend, and even her crush-nemesis have a role in raising Ari. There are quirky small-town characters, but they are not stereotypes or overdone. They mystery is well-plotted and believable.

I can’t wait for the next book in the series. I hope it takes off and lasts a long time. It’s clear Darynda Jones is a talented writer. If you like mysteries with a bit of humor and a touch of romance, you will like this book.

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If You Only Knew

If You Only Knew by Prerna PickettCorey, recently out of jail, goes with his gang member buddies to vandalize the house of the prosecutor who sent him to jail. Tessa, the prosecutor’s daughter, comes home to interrupt the vandals. She sees Corey, but is unable to catch him. Corey, it turns out, never wanted to vandalize the house; he did it at the behest of the mysterious gang leader’s nephew. Corey comes back to the house to apologize and the prosecutor and Tessa decide not to turn him into the police, but to have him clean up the damage he caused.

So stars, If You Only Knew. While I did enjoy the book, I had some plot point issues that caused me to give it three stars. There are some plot points that are predictable and some that are just flat out unbelievable. I would have preferred the author do a bit more research into gangs and how that dynamic. But for a love story, it’s not bad.

I won this book from Goodreads and received no compensation in exchange for this review. The opinions contained herein are mine and mine alone.

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One Minute Out

One Minute Out by Mark GreaneyThe Gray Man is back! Court Gentry has taken a private job to kill an old Serbian General responsible for war crimes. He doesn’t assassinate the man from a distance. Instead, he decides that he wanted to kill up close. That decision throws Court into a huge human trafficking ring, conflict with the CIA, and a South African hired gun who is tying to take a shot at killing the legendary Gray Man. As usual, Mark Greaney delivers with a roller coaster ride thriller. One critical difference – this time we get to hear Court’s voice. His parts are written in the first person – and I LOVED it.

Court is much funnier than I thought he would be. He is also extremely smart and perceptive. I enjoyed getting the peek inside his brain and thoughts. For this mission, he teams with a woman working for Europol who is looking for her sister. Her sister was taken by the head of the “Consortium,” the mysterious group responsible for the human trafficking ring. The search for the leader of the ring and to rescue the woman Court saw in Serbia take the to Italy, and eventually, to Los Angeles.

Meanwhile when Court contacts the CIA for help, he is told no. And a group of men are sent to Italy to bring Court home. In a really humorous section, Court thinks about high-jacking an air plane when he runs into an old friend.

I have said this with each review, and I will continue to say it – I love the Gray Man. He is currently my favorite thriller character (Evan Smoak runs a very close second). Court is the best and Mark Greaney continues to be on top of his game. He writes so well, I do not want the books to end because I know I will have to wait a year to read the next one. But the time it takes me to read the new Gray Man are my favorite parts of my year.

If you haven’t read the Gray Man, (1) Why not, but (2) you could start with this book. It works as a standalone. However, I would suggest the whole series. There is not one bad or even mediocre book in the lot. They are all great. I highly recommend these books. It is one of the few series I spend money on when the book drops. Check Court Gentry out. You’ll like him.

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You Are Not Alone

You Are Not Alone by Greer HendricksShay witnesses a woman jump in front of an on-coming subway train. Shay is so traumatized by witnessing the suicide that she cannot get near the subway. Shay finds out who the woman was and attends a memorial for her. At the memorial, Shay meets Cassandra and Jane Moore, who run a successful PR company. They are everything Shay is not – confident, successful, loved. Shay wants to become a part of their clique.

The Moore sisters want Shay to be part of their click because they have a secret and they need a fall-guy. They start manipulating Shay. Pretty soon, she looks like Amanda. Is Shay a crazy stalker or is she being set up?

You Are Not Alone is the third thriller by Greer Hendricks and Sara Pekkanan. I really enjoyed the first two. This one, I enjoyed. Just not as much. I thought the plot took a really long time to build. However, the plot twists and ending were satisfying. I enjoyed the book enough to finish it even when I thought it was moving too slowly.

Other than the slow building plot, the book was pretty good. I liked Shay. I felt kind of sorry for her in that she has little in the way of family or friends to lean on. But I did like her toughness. I liked her naivete. Though she did not want to believe what was going on, she was tougher than I thought she’d be. If you like thrillers with a slow-burn and a good pay-off, you’ll like this book.

I received an advanced copy of this book from St. Martin’s Press and received no compensation in exchange for this review. The opinions expressed herein are mine and mine alone.

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The Catalyst

The Catalyst by Jonah BergerHave you ever talked to someone and thought, “wow, that person is really set in their ways.”? Or thought, “geez, I can’t have a constructive conversation with this person because they are unwilling to change.”? If you have a job where you need agreement. If you are tired of arguing with relatives over the same things. If you just want to know how to sway people without pushing. Read The Catalyst by Jonah Berger. It has completely changed the way I’m going to deal with people.

Jonah Berger gives you tools to use to get people to say yes. He also explains why people tend to say no to new things. It provides solid tools and techniques to bridge gaps without making people angry. He gives you a road map to overcome even the most solid objections. Even if I never use any of the tools consciously, I now understand why people feel the way they do. That is immensely helpful, especially when I teach.

This book doesn’t have to be used for politics, sales, or marketing. It can be used in every day life. To get your teenager to clean his room or a toddler to eat her vegetables. I will be recommending this book to everyone. There is something useful in it for everyone. Mr. Berger’s writing style is conversational and he makes the data he uses to back his points easy to understand with anecdotes about each topic.

I won this book from Goodreads and received no compensation in exchange for this review. The opinions expressed herein are mine and mine alone.

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Too Close To Home

Too Close to Home by Andrew  GrantPaul McGrath’s father died. He is trying to go after the man who tried to swindle his father out of a fortune. So Paul, a former officer in the Army, is working as a courthouse janitor. He meets a man who burned down another man’s after being swindled out of his own home. Oh and throw in some Cold War intrigue and that’s the basic plot of Too Close to Home.

This is the first book I have read by Andrew Grant and it won’t be the last. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It’s a thriller, but it’s different from a lot of thrillers I have read. It’s not all action, but the action is written well and when there isn’t action, the plot is driven by Paul’s drive to find out what was behind his father’s financial life, what secrets are there to be uncovered, and how he can help another man from going to prison for arson. I loved the plot. It had twists and turns that sometimes weren’t even obvious at first, but that served the plot well. I liked the characters. They were, for the most part, three-dimensional and well-written. The plot twist near the end was worth the entire book.

If you like crime novels and thrillers, you will like this book. Andrew Grant is a fantastic writer who writes his book like old-school writers used to. I enjoyed that very much. Do yourself a favor and pick up Too Close To Home.

I won this book from Goodreads and received no compensation in exchange for this review. The opinions contained herein are mine and mine alone.

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House on Fire

House on Fire by Joseph FinderI love the Nick Heller books. And in House on Fire, Joseph Finder has written a gem. Nick is drawn into corporate and family drama that reveals a clever villain – one who I did not suspect. He ratchets up the suspense at the right moments and keeps you guessing throughout the book. It’s the best of an Agatha Christie locked room combined with the action of Lee Child. I loved it.

Nick is hired by Susan Campbell, a documentary film maker who goes by Suki and is a member of the Campbell Pharma founder’s family. They are rich from making Oxydone, an opioid that is causing deaths from overdoses and is highly addictive. Nick meets Suki at the funeral of his friend and whom he served with and who saved Nick’s life. Suki tells Nick that the company knew the drug was highly addictive, but hid the data. Nick is drawn into the family drama. After someone else dies, Nick makes it his personal mission to bring Campbell Pharma down.

That is all the plot i will discuss. Everything else would be a spoiler and I want you to read them on your own. Joseph Finder is one of my favorite thriller writers. His writing style is … I’m not sure what the right word is. I want to say relaxed. Like he’s personally telling you a story. I love that. The plotting and pacing of the this book is excellent. There are some lulls, but the definitely serve a purpose. The plot twists are so good because you don’t see them coming and they aren’t contrived. The action scenes are great and tinged with humor, which I love.

One of the reasons I like Nick as a character is because he’s just a good dude, who is much better at his job than he lets on. I also like the cast of supporting characters. They round out the story and give Finder an opportunity to show that Nick isn’t MacGuyver. He relies on his staff, who are better at some things than he is.

If you haven’t read any of the Nick Heller books, you can pick this book and up not be lost. Unlike many series I read, Finder does a fantastic job of making his books part of a series, but not so much that you can’t read them out of order. I prefer to read series in order, but with the Nick Heller series, you don’t have to.

I love Joseph Finder and I only wish he would write more Nick Heller books. However, that being said, House on Fire was totally worth the wait. It was exactly what I want in a thriiler – mystery, surprises, and excellent plotting and pacing. If you are looking for a good read, House of Fire is it.

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Separation Anxiety

Separation Anxiety by Laura ZigmanThere is a reason this is one of the most anticipated books of the year. Separation Anxiety is funny. And sad. And real. Judy Vogel wrote a hugely successful children’s book that was turned into a PBS series. Her next two books were flops. She and her husband, Gary, are separated, but they live in the same house because they cannot afford to have separate houses and because they don’t want to disrupt their son, Teddy’s, life.

Separation anxiety touches on all those things that middle aged women go through – feeling ineffectual, disconnected, disappointed, and alone in the world. It does so with humor and grace. Despite some bad things happening to Judy and the people she loves, the overriding message is that everything may not work out the way you want, but it will be okay.

My favorite part of this book is when she and Gary end up at this creativity retreat hosted by an Instagram-famous guru. It’s such a pitch-perfect jab at lifestyle gurus, social media “influencers” and those who fall for social media perfection. I adored it.

I adored Judy. She is like me and most of my friends – wanting to do more, wanting to be more, wanting to accomplish more. I really liked this book. It was funny and warm and touching. Judy is flawed and imperfect in a perfect way. I especially liked Judy’s relationship with her best friend, Glenn, who is dying of cancer. It sounds depressing, but I left this book feeling a little bit better about things and about my life.

I won this book from Goodreads and received no compensation in exchange for this review. The opinions contained are mine and mine alone.

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