Thursday, September 27, 2018

Review: Button Man by Andrew Gross

Title: Button Man
Author: Andrew Gross 
Format: ARC
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Publish Date: September 18, 2018
Source: PR

What's the Story?:

From "Morris, Sol, and Harry Rabinowitz grew up poor but happy in a tiny flat on the Lower East Side, until the death of their father thrust them into having to fend for themselves and support their large family. Morris apprenticed himself at twelve years old to a garment cutter in a clothing factory; Sol headed to college and became an accountant; and Harry, the youngest, fell in with a gang as a teenager and can’t escape. Morris steadily climbs through the ranks at the factory until he’s running the place and buys out the owner, and Sol comes to work with him. But Harry can’t be lured away from the glamour, the power, and the money that comes from working for mobster Louis Buchalter, an old bully from the neighborhood. And when Louis sets his sights on the unions that staff the garment makers’ factories, a fatal showdown is inevitable, and puts brother against brother."

My Two Cents:

"Button Man" is the story of three brothers growing up in New York City. They will go in three different directions: Morris seeks a career in the garment industry, Sol will eventually join him, and Harry will be thrown into a direction that will put his life in danger. It's the early 20th century in NYC and the mob is king. Morris and Sol will fight to get Harry out from the mob's clutches. 

I love family sagas and this one is a great one. The three brothers are very different from each other but the importance of family has been instilled in them since they were very young. After losing their father, all three brothers deal with the fallout in very different ways. I liked seeing their personalities shine through as they grapple with trying to carve out a life for themselves and their family when things are terribly difficult. 

The writing of the book was good. There were a few places that I felt the book could have been streamlined but overall, the book is nicely paced. 

The setting is fantastic and the historical detail that the author uses really worked for me. New York City is one of my favorite cities and I loved seeing this side of it. I had no idea about the origins of the unions that still to this very day wield a lot of power over this city. I loved how the author was able to weave in so much detail without bashing the reader over the head with it (always tricky for authors). There's a fine line there and Gross is on the right side of it!

I really enjoyed this book for the family story and the detail! This was a good historical fiction that almost feels like a thriller in some places (it's no wonder - Gross's other books have mostly been thrillers). This was a good read!

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.

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