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Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Review: The Heart of War: Misadventures in the Pentagon by Kathleen J. McInnis

Title: The Heart of War: Misadventures in the Pentagon
Author: Kathleen J. McInnis
Format: ARC
Publisher: Post Hill Press
Publish Date: September 25, 2018 (Today!)
Source: PR

What's the Story?:

From "Dr. Heather Reilly has been an anti-war activist since her brother died fighting the Taliban. But her crushing student loans drive her to take a job working on a peace plan for Afghanistan, in the last place on Earth she ever thought she'd be employed: the Pentagon. On her first day, however, her position is eliminated and she’s shuffled to a war-fighting office focused on combating Russian aggression. Unfortunately, she knows little about Russia and has deep moral reservations about war. Making matters worse, she’s also working for Ariane Fletcher—a woman so terrifying, she eats generals for breakfast. As Heather learns to navigate the Pentagon’s insane bureaucracy and petty power struggles, she finds that her successes come at the expense of her personal life... and that small mistakes can have major consequences in the Department of Defense.

From Washington D.C.'s corridors of power to the dusty streets of Kabul, Kathleen McInnis spins a smart, hilarious, and heartwarming tale that shines a light on the often frustrating but sometimes rewarding experience of a career in the Pentagon.  Packed with insider knowledge about one of the least-known—yet most-powerful—organizations in U.S. national security, McInnis' debut novel establishes her as a major new literary voice with a point of view we've never seen before."

My Two Cents:

In "The Heart of War," Heather gets a plum job at the Pentagon. It isn't exactly what she wants and she worries a little bit about compromising her values but it will pay the bills and so she tries to make the best of it. She quickly finds herself swept up in many directions that she could have never anticipated and she will learn a lot about herself through her adventures and many misadventures. This book started out a bit slow but hits a really nice pace and captures the trials and triumph of a life in public service.

This book is near and dear to me as it echoes some of my own experiences (I don't work at the Pentagon but am familiar with the bureaucratic rigmarole. I thought that the author did a really good job of capturing the day to day. I do wonder how interesting that might be for people outside the bureaucratic hamster wheel and how well it will be understood but the author definitely captures it true to life.

The book really picks up as Heather's life begins to take all sorts of directions she never expected and when she begins to do work that she finds both meaningful and maybe uncomfortable. I thought that the author did a really good job of capturing that inner struggle and shedding a lot of light on what makes Heather tick. Not only do we get to see Heather at work but the book also has a heavy dose of her personal life and the way that it is changed by her work at the Pentagon.

This book would be perfect for anyone looking for some political drama with a likeable character in difficult circumstances! I enjoyed it!


Tuesday, September 18, 2018

#BookReview : The Washington Decree by Jussi Adler-Olsen

Title: The Washington Decree
Author: Jussi Adler-Olsen
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Dutton
Publish Date: August 7, 2018 (originally 2006)
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Sixteen years before Democratic Senator Bruce Jansen was elected president of the United States, a PR stunt brought together five very different people: fourteen-year-old Dorothy "Doggie" Rogers, small-town sheriff T. Perkins, single mother Rosalie Lee, well-known journalist John Bugatti, and the teenage son of one of Jansen's employees, Wesley Barefoot. In spite of their differences, the five remain bonded by their shared experience and devotion to their candidate.

For Doggie, who worked the campaign trail with Wesley, Jansen's election is a personal victory: a job in the White House, proof to her Republican father that she was right to support Jansen, and the rise of an intelligent, clear-headed leader with her same ideals. But the triumph is short-lived: Jansen's pregnant wife is assassinated on election night, and the alleged mastermind behind the shooting is none other than Doggie's own father.

When Jansen ascends to the White House, he is a changed man, determined to end gun violence by any means necessary. Rights are taken away as quickly as weapons. International travel becomes impossible. Checkpoints and roadblocks destroy infrastructure. The media is censored. Militias declare civil war on the government. The country is in chaos, and Jansen's former friends each find themselves fighting a very different battle, for themselves, their rights, their country . . . and, in Doggie's case, the life of her father, who just may be innocent."

My Two Cents:

"The Washington Decree" is the story of an American President who starts out with a noble cause: to end all gun violence after his pregnant wife is shot in cold blood. But he goes about it in such a way that the American government begins to resemble a dictatorship. The country is at chaos and many of the people that once cheered President Jansen on will have to question their past and their futures and how they will fix the country and stop the chaos.

In today's political climate, this book is striking. It is hard to believe that the book was written almost 10 years ago. The book still feels very fresh as it tackles questions of Presidential power and how far is to far. Is peace by any means necessary really peace? I liked that this book made me consider some of the things that are currently happening in this country. I love when a book can make me ponder.

The book is well written and thought out. I appreciated that Adler-Olsen looked at Executive Orders that are already on the books to create some of the events that happen throughout this book. It lent an air of reality to the book. At over 500 pages, the book is huge and I did feel like there could have been a lot that could have been streamlined. There are a lot of places in the book that are concerned with some of the secondary characters ponder what is going on and have a lot of hand wringing over what they should do about it and what role they have played in where the country is going. The events in the book are so stunning that you really don't need the hand wringing in order to understand the full gravitas of these events.

Overall, this was a solid read. It could have been streamlined but left me with a lot of unsettling thoughts to ponder.


Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Review and Giveaway: Vox by Christina Dalcher

Title: Vox
Author: Christina Dalcher
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: August 21, 2018
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Set in an America where half the population has been silenced, VOX is the harrowing, unforgettable story of what one woman will do to protect herself and her daughter.

On the day the government decrees that women are no longer allowed more than 100 words daily, Dr. Jean McClellan is in denial--this can't happen here. Not in America. Not to her.

This is just the beginning.

Soon women can no longer hold jobs. Girls are no longer taught to read or write. Females no longer have a voice. Before, the average person spoke sixteen thousand words a day, but now women only have one hundred to make themselves heard.

But this is not the end.

For herself, her daughter, and every woman silenced, Jean will reclaim her voice."

My Two Cents:

"Vox" is the story of Dr. Jean McClellan, a linguist who has always loved her profession. When a new government comes to power in the United States, it seeks to regulate the unruly women. Women are now expected to be subservient to men and to right the evils of being too independent, too outspoken, too everything. All females, even young girls, will have to wear monitors to count how many words they speak in a day. They are only allotted 100 words a day and if they go past that, they will get a very painful electric shock. Women are no longer allowed to travel or to work or to vote. They must be devoted only to home, family, and their husbands.

Oh, the idea of this book was so frightening and I am so glad that it seems unrealistic at this point (thank goodness!!!). But the thing about speculative fiction is that it does make you think "what if" even if the action of the book thankfully seems far away. Being a fiercely independent woman, this book made me think a lot about how lucky we are that we have the rights we have but as this book shows, complacency should never, ever be an option.

Jean is a wife to Patrick, who works at the White House and seems content to follow orders even if it hurts his wife and his young daughter. Jean is also the mother to a teenaged son, tween twin sons, and a younger daughter. In this book, we get to see a full transformation of Jean. She starts out as someone who doesn't think voting is that important. She doesn't speak up when her rights first start getting rolled back. She only wants to speak up when it's too late and the power women has is restricted to a non-existent later. An opportunity presents itself that may allow Jean to reclaim some of her independence. I loved seeing this transformation throughout the book!

Jean hates the changes that she sees in her family and she has very little control over the turn her family has taken. Her eldest son, Steven, was one of the worst and most frustrating characters in this book. His character definitely seems to explore the idea of toxic masculinity when allowed government-permitted free reign.

I really enjoyed this book and know it is going to stick with me for a very long time after I close the book.


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Thursday, August 23, 2018

TLC Book Tours: The Daisy Children by Sofia Grant

Title: The Daisy Children
Author: Sofia Grant
Format: Paperback
Publisher: William Morrow
Publish Date: August 7, 2018
Source: TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins

What's the Story?:

From "Sometimes the untold stories of the past are the ones we need to hear...

When Katie Garrett gets the unexpected news that she’s received an inheritance from the grandmother she hardly knew, it couldn’t have come at a better time. She flees Boston—and her increasingly estranged husband—and travels to rural Texas.

There, she’s greeted by her distant cousin Scarlett. Friendly, flamboyant, eternally optimistic, Scarlett couldn’t be more different from sensible Katie. And as they begin the task of sorting through their grandmother’s possessions, they discover letters and photographs that uncover the hidden truths about their shared history, and the long-forgotten tragedy of the New London school explosion of 1937 that binds them."

My Two Cents:

"The Daisy Children" is the story of Katie, a young woman whose perfect life is spinning out of control. When her grandmother's (who she barely knew) death presents her with an escape route to go to Texas to sort through family secrets. When she gets there, she reconnects with her distant cousin and she and Katie could not be more different. They are left to sort the remainders of their grandmother's life and will learn much about their family along the way. This was a good read full of twists and turns!

This book had so many things going for it! I love books about family secrets! It's always so interesting to me that some of the most surprising things can be found in your own families. I thought the author did a really good job of slowly unfolding what Katie's family was hiding to keep you wanting to find out more. The pacing was great!

I also was very interested in learning about the school explosion in New London, Texas. I had heard of the event before but didn't know many details of this terrible tragedy. Much of the book focuses on the aftermath of this tragedy and on the "replacement" children that the families who lost children in the tragedy. These "replacement" children are well aware that they exist in order to fill a void of the children that were lost. It's such an interesting position to be in and I really liked how the author explored this.

The writing of the book was good! The author does a good job of capturing the personalities of the different characters and really bringing them to life. While some of the events in the book were quite sad, this book also had a great sense of hope about it, which made for good reading!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

TLC Book Tours: Another Woman's Husband by Gill Paul

Title: Another Woman's Husband
Author: Gill Paul 
Format: ARC
Publisher: William Morrow
Publish Date: August 21, 2018 (Yesterday!)
Source: TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins

What's the Story?:

From "Divided by time. Bound by a secret...

1911: When fifteen-year-old Mary Kirk meets Wallis Warfield at summer camp, she’s immediately captivated by her fearless, brazen, and self-assured personality. And Wallis has a way with the boys who are drawn to her like moths to a flame. Though Mary’s family isn’t crazy about her new best friend, she steadfastly stands by her side—even years later when they’re adults and rumors swirl about Wallis and her reckless behavior with none other than the Prince of Wales. But when Mary’s loyalty to Wallis comes into question, their friendship will be put to the ultimate test.

1997: After a romantic proposal in Paris, Rachel and her fiancé Alex are in a cab when suddenly the car ahead crashes. They’re stunned to learn Princess Diana is in the car. By the wreckage, Alex finds a heart pendant with an engraved letter “J” and Roman numerals XVII and gives it to Rachel to hold. Haunted by the crash and Diana’s subsequent death, Rachel is intrigued when she discovers that Di had visited the last home of Wallis, the Duchess of Windsor, only hours before the accident. Eventually, the revelation of a long-forgotten link to Wallis Simpson leads Rachel to the truth behind a scandal that shook the world..."

My Two Cents:

I have to admit that I was a little torn on reading this book. I am fascinated by Wallis Simpson. Here's a woman who shook up the entire British monarchy and changed the course of its history. She is fascinating and I love reading about her, both in fiction and non-fiction. I also am fascinated by Princess Diana. I was just barely a teenager when she passed away but that day still stands out very much in my mind. It was the part of the book about Princess Diana that tore me on reading this book. Luckily, I gave it a go and found a very interesting story with lots of great detail that kept me reading. 

This book is split into two parts. There is the story of Wallis as seen through her childhood friend Mary, a woman who lives a relatively quiet life in comparison to all of Wallis's glitz, glamour, and jet-setting. In 1997, Rachel is a newly engaged woman who happens to be just behind Princess Diana's car when it crashes in that Parisian tunnel. Both parts of the book are so different but so exciting. I loved the historical detail of the parts with Wallis. I also loved all of the mysteries that surrounds the part of the book that takes place in 1997. As someone who followed Diana's life and her untimely death closely, the questions of what could've happened were especially intriguing to me. 

This is the first book that I have read by Gill Paul but the great execution of this book makes me want to read more by her. I really enjoyed both parts of the book and thought that the author did a good job of keeping both story lines moving and exciting. This was a good read!

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Review: Not Her Daughter by Rea Frey

Title: Not Her Daughter
Author: Rea Frey
Format: Paperback
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publish Date: August 21, 2018
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Sarah Walker. Successful entrepreneur. Broken-hearted. Abandoned by her mother. Kidnapper.
Sarah has never seen a girl so precious as the gray-eyed child in a crowded airport terminal--and when a second-chance encounter with Emma presents itself, Sarah takes her, far away from home. But if it's to rescue a little girl from her damaging mother, is kidnapping wrong?

Amy Townsend. Unhappy wife. Unfit mother. Unsure she wants her daughter back.
Amy's life is a string of disappointments, but her biggest issue is her inability to connect with her daughter. And now she's gone without a trace.

As Sarah and Emma avoid the nationwide hunt, they form an unshakeable bond. But her real mother is at home, waiting for her to return--and the longer the search for Emma continues, Amy is forced to question if she really wants her back."

My Two Cents:

In "Not Her Daughter," when Sarah first sees Emma, she is enchanted by the sweet little girl and frightened by how her mother seems to treat her. When Sarah has a second chance meeting with Emma, she knows she has to do something. She could go to the authorities and try to fight an uphill battle that Sarah thinks will end with Emma having to remain in an abusive home or she could take matters into her own hands. It's crazy but Sarah doesn't seem to have much foresight when it comes to Emma - she just wants to save her.

I love books that can turn your feelings and everything you think you know on your head. Kidnappers are bad, right? This book will make you think a little bit harder. What if the parents are bad and the kidnapper is kind and gentle? Does it make it right? What if the mother is not redeemable? What if the kidnapper could give a child a much better home? How do your reconcile this? I went back and forth through all of these questions throughout the book and I loved the mental gymnastics. As this book shows, there is nothing that is black and white.

This was an interesting book to read as a mother. I would do anything for my kids and I had such a hard time understanding Amy, Emma's mother, in this book. How could she favor one kid so much over the other? Why did she become a parent in the first place? Was she ever happy with Emma? What was her relationship like with Richard, her husband, before kids? I like when you get so into a book that you wonder so much about the characters.

The book had nice pacing. There were a couple parts of the narrative that I wish would have been explored a little more like the relationship between Sarah and Ethan and Sarah and Ryan. I also found myself wanting more from the ending. While I like the ending, it felt a little rushed and perhaps not realistic. It felt abrupt compared to the rest of the book. That being said, this book was a good read that really pushed me to think about some difficult topics.


Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Review: Before She Sleeps by Bina Shah

Title: Before She Sleeps
Author: Bina Shah
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Delphinium
Publish Date: August 7, 2018
Source: PR

What's the Story?:

From "In modern, beautiful Green City, the capital of South West Asia, gender selection, war and disease have brought the ratio of men to women to alarmingly low levels. The government uses terror and technology to control its people, and women must take multiple husbands to have children as quickly as possible.

Yet there are women who resist, women who live in an underground collective and refuse to be part of the system. Secretly protected by the highest echelons of power, they emerge only at night, to provide to the rich and elite of Green City a type of commodity that nobody can buy: intimacy without sex. As it turns out, not even the most influential men can shield them from discovery and the dangers of ruthless punishment.

This dystopian novel from one of Pakistan’s most talented writers is a modern-day parable, The Handmaid’s Tale about women’s lives in repressive Muslim countries everywhere. It takes the patriarchal practices of female seclusion and veiling, gender selection, and control over women’s bodies, amplifies and distorts them in a truly terrifying way to imagine a world of post-religious authoritarianism."

My Two Cents:

In Green City, it is the job of every woman to take as many husbands as the government allows and to have as many babies (hopefully many female babies) as they can in order to overcome the gender crisis that has left Green City with many more men than women. It is very mechanical and there is not much room for love and affection. The women of the underground fulfill the need for touch and affection of the non-intimate kind but when one of the powerful men that employ their services goes too far, everything will be upended.

I love dystopian and was looking forward to reading this one, which takes place outside of the Western world in South West Asia. This part of the world has a very interesting history that led to a great background for how this story transpires. I loved that the setting of this book was off the beaten path.

The story follows three women who all have very different reasons for ending up where they are. They all handle their lives in the underground of society in some way. Some are happy with their existence out of the eye of the government, others would give anything for things to be different and to find some sort of genuine love. Others just want to watch the world burn. I loved seeing how these very different woman deal with this difficult situation that they find themselves in. I did wish that we got to know a little bit more about these characters and what makes them tick.

The book has nice pacing but I wish that the end would have not come so abruptly. It's a great ending but I found myself wondering what happened after the end of the book. More of a conclusion would have been nice. Overall, this was a good read!

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