Monday, July 22, 2019

Book Review: The Lost Man by Jane Harper, narrated by Stephen Shanahan (audio)

I really can't recommend Jane Harper's books in audio strongly enough. As discussed in the interview with the author at the end, each of her books so far takes place in a very different part of Australia, in which the setting acts like another, perhaps the most important, character in the book. And Stephen Shanahan brings that character to life. His Australian accent is both thick and completely understandable (not always a given, trust me.)

Nathan, the oldest of the three Bright brothers, has been out fixing fences with his son Xander just before Christmas, when he hears on the radio that his middle brother Cam, who has been running the family ranch, has been found dead in the middle of the Outback, in the shade of the tombstone of the Stockman's Grave. Their youngest brother, Bub, is standing watch, waiting for both Nathan and the authorities to make their way there. Nathan has died from dehydration and heat, but why on earth was he out here in the middle of nowhere, when he was supposed to be meeting Bub to fix an antenna, and his SUV--well stocked with water and other supplies--was just a few miles away? Why did he leave the car? With no supplies? Why did he walk out to this forsaken place? No one who grew up on a cattle station in the Outback like them, would ever have done this by mistake. Was it suicide? Or murder?

Nathan, an outcast from the town, can't just accept the police's assumption that it was suicide when there don't seem to be any signs of that, and it doesn't fit with his brother's personality. Even though he's turning up long-past secrets many would prefer to remain in the past, he can't help but keep looking into it, to know what truly happened to his brother.

A twisty turny mystery without a traditional detective, this novel fully immerses you in the life of the Outback, where generators are turned off at night and there's no electricity, where groceries are bought months in advance by the truckload, and where being alone can be a death sentence. Will this family pull together in the face of this adversity, or rip each other apart?

This book is published by Flatiron Books, a division of Macmillan, my employer. 

I downloaded the eaudiobook from Libby/Overdrive via my public library.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Book Review: Amazing Decisions: The Illustrated Guide to Improving Business Deals and Family Meals by Dan Ariely, illustrated by Matt R. Trower

So, I am the daughter of an economist, so I'm not your typical lay reader of books like this. Plus I have read three of his previous books (and own a fourth) so I am well-versed in his theories and ways of thinking. In fact, I was a little worried about possibly finding this book redundant or too basic. But not at all!

In a nutshell, the book covers the two basic types of motivation: financial and social. I make some decisions for financial considerations, but a lot of others, including some you might think of as financial like how hard I work at my job, turns out to have more of a social motivation. I am friends with most of my accounts, and most of my colleagues. One colleague, Ben, and I work jointly every season on a huge project we have to do before we can go on the road. No one told us or even suggested that we join up and do it as a team--it happened organically, and I really like how we help each other on it. All this is fairly self-evident when you pay attention, but the book gave me a huge insight. My SO had a previous job that was baffling to me. It was not great with a not great boss, but somehow the job was so much worse than that. I've had plenty of those myself in the past, but none of them seemed as soul-sucking as this one. And he kept reporting things that I found really confusing, like how he couldn't get anyone, no matter how much he begged and pleaded, to cover shifts for him when we would go on vacation, despite having covered shifts for all of them in the past. I just found that so weird. Weirder still: this was a job in the helping community at a non-profit, where people supposedly do the job for the love of it, not for the really low pay. So why were all of his colleagues so difficult and uncooperative?

Well it turns out, the way his boss had injected finances into their everyday workplace was the problem! She was daily nickel and diming them on everything. Every minute of every day it seems she was pressuring them to keep costs unreasonably low. And she was miserly with giving them any time to do mandated reporting, for example, as that was a minute they weren't seeing a billable client. By bringing the finances of the company into the day to day workplace, no one was motivated by social factors any longer. As Dan Ariely explained about one study done: when workers were paid more to make more widgets on Monday and Tuesday, while their productivity went up those two days, it went down so hard on Wednesday through Friday, that overall the employees made fewer widgets than previously. When the only reward you ever get is money, and never a "well done" or "great job" or "I so appreciate that," you learn that your employer only thinks of you as a revenue generator, not a human, and eventually you learn to turn that attitude back around on them as well. It's particularly toxic, and was especially bizarre in that environment. But it was nice to suddenly have it all make sense, even if it's bad sense.

This book is a good primer of some real basics of decision-making and the underpinnings of a lot of behavioral economics. It tries hard to not be dry (well, it's economics so you've got to be prepared for a bit of that going in) and I found it overall fun and like an extended, older version of a Schoolhouse Rocks.

This book is published by Hill & Wang, an imprint of FSG, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Book Review: Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman (audio)

I took a fair amount of Art History in high school and college, and my mother and two sisters all majored or have graduate degrees in it, so I thought I knew about Vincent Van Gogh. He's not an obscure or unusual artist, and he has a memorable life story. So I wasn't sure what I'd get from this book--maybe just fleshing out what I knew.

Turns out, a lot of what I thought I knew was inaccurate. Van Gogh did not just sell one painting in his life, to his brother. He sold at least a half dozen paintings. And none of them to Theo exactly--Theo was an art dealer. Theo sold most of the paintings for Vincent. So that's wrong.

And their back story is even more interesting than I'd known. Their father was a minister and while he set them up in their careers (Vincent was also supposed to work as an art dealer), he didn't anticipate that the moral high ground he'd raised them with would result in both brothers, in their twenties, having long-standing relationships with prostitutes. I don't mean they were frequenters of multiple prostitutes. I mean they each met a young woman, fell in love, and thought they could "save her." They lived with these women, and Vincent even helped raise his girlfriend's child. Neither relationship worked out in the long run though.

Theo moved to Paris first and what I found utterly fascinating was how he was writing to Vincent, in words, what the Impressionists' paintings looked like, trying to convince him to use a lighter palette with more color, and so Vincent's very different post-Impressionistic style was largely a result of him trying to be more like the Impressionists, who he'd never seen. (He did later but his style was pretty well set by that point.) Then Vincent started having mental health issues. He seems pretty bipolar but it's hard to diagnose these things after the fact from afar. In Paris he became roommates with Paul Gauguin, and apparently there's an interesting alternate theory about him cutting off his ear, which sounded pretty plausible to me (Gauguin had a bad temper and was a master fencer and brought his swords to their apartment, hmm....) Theo finally married a woman he'd loved for many years who had initially spurned him but unfortunately, his past caught up with him, and he soon fell ill and died. I had hoped, knowing that Vincent died young, that Theo would live a long life promoting his brother's art, alas.

This book really brought this artist and his brother to life. I think the only reasons it's classified as young adult is the length, and the prostitutes. But heck, I think not only can more mature younger kids read it, but adults can most certainly get a lot out of it. I sure did!

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

I listened to this eaudiobook via Overdrive/Libby through my local library. The print book is published by Henry Holt, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Book Review: The Incomplete Book of Running by Peter Sagal (audio)

Peter Sagal loves to run. He didn't always. It came on more slowly for him. But as an adult, he has run and run and run. It has been an obsession at times. At other times, it's been therapy. As he went through a very rough, multi-year divorce (and no, you don't get any details, mind your own business), it particularly was helpful. He's not a great runner or a graceful one, and yet--he thinks you should try it too. Everyone can run. As Jim Fix famously said, all you need are two things--shoes and shorts (socks and shirts being optional in his mind.) He's run marathons, half-marathons, 5Ks and my favorite--a one mile run in his underwear.

As per the title, he doesn't claim to be an expert or to be giving out the be all end all of running advice. He is telling his story of running, giving a few tips along the way in case they're useful, and hoping you'll enjoy the story. He recommends not listening to anything at all while you run (which is crazy! Almost every episode of his NPR show, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, I've listened to as a podcast while walking. I don't run, I walk, including a full marathon.) Twice he's lead blind runners on marathons--famously the first time he did it, they crossed the finish line less than a minute before the bombs went off at the Boston marathon, which then turned into his one appearance on NPR's news.

It's a great book for runners, but more so for any aspiring runners or wannabe runners. Peter won't show you up or criticize your gait or tell you to buy hella expensive shoes. He'll just encourage you to get up and move. And if you want to be listening to him telling you all about it while you run (or walk), I highly recommend that as you probably already know his voice very well. It's both soothing and his enthusiasm really comes through.

I borrowed this eaudiobook from the library via Libby/Overdrive.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Book Review: The Wasp That Brainwashed the Caterpillar: Evolution's Most Unbelievable Solutions to Life's Biggest Problems by Matt Simon, narrated by Jonathan Todd Ross (audio)

What a fascinating book! I really want a pet waterbear. They're microbial creatures that you can boil, that can get down to one half degree above absolute zero, blast out into space without a spacesuit, or dry out for 20 years, and they will survive all of these things! How amazing! And the elasticity of the skin of the naked mole rat, means it doesn't get cancer. There's a fish called the pearlyfish that, in order to hide from predators, swims up the butt of sea cucumbers and well... lives there.

This book very much reminded me of the completely delightful Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation by Olivia Judson which I read a couple of decades ago. While the story of pretty much all creatures great and small does revolve around sex, since any creature's #1 goal is reproduction, Mr. Simon does branch out into unusual habitats, cool ways creatures kill each other, and other bizarre evolutionary traits. Tiger beetles run so fast they temporarily blind themselves and have to occasionally stop and readjust (they don't, as I assumed, have wind blasting into their eyes so fast they dry out, instead light can't enter their eyes fast enough to process sight.) There's a species of fish that, in order to get away from sharks, shoots globs of goop into sharks' gills to suffocate them. There's a shrimp that can snap its claws so fast the friction causes heat as hot as the surface of the sun.

Do you like fun facts? Any interest in science? Better if your interest is superficial as he doesn't dive into deep details about anything, and there is some fairly juvenile humor occasionally. But the narrator sounds a tiny bit like Casey Kasem which I like. (I wish he wouldn't have such long pauses but that's easily overlooked.) I know I missed out on some illustrations with the audio version, and at first I was confused by what appeared to be some repetition, but which I eventually figured out were captions for those illustrations. This is a satanic leaf tailed gecko. That "leaf" is part of the gecko:

Much fun for a very-armchair biologist! And I got a D in high school biology so you really need no interest or aptitude at all. Just tuck in and find out about the zombie ants and the spiders that look like bird poop and how many creatures can regenerate body parts.

I downloaded this eaudiobook from Libro.fm, which supports independent bookstores.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Book review: Past Perfect Life by Elizabeth Eulberg

Ally Smith lives in an adorable small town in Wisconsin, where she is in with the "in crowd," which is a family that comprises half the town (literally). The boy she likes might actually be into her. And she's pretty sure about her college plans. Until, while filling out applications, her social security number is bounced back as invalid. She goes to her high school counselor to sort it out, and... The FBI shows up. Turns out, she's been kidnapped. By her beloved father, from a mom she never knew, and in fact believed to be dead.

At first, she hopes she can finish out her senior year staying with her friends at her high school, but her mother, who is understandably elated to have found her and baffled by Ally's lack of similar excitement, wants to take Ally home to Florida and her new family. As Ally is under 18 (which she did not know--her dad had changed her birthday too), she has no choice in the matter. She gets to see her father one time after he's locked up, and then she's shipped off.

She is furious at her father but also bereft at his loss. She is annoyed by her new overprotective and overbearing mother. She hates her new school (where, to avoid press, she also has to go by a pseudonym and make up a backstory which is harder than you'd think.) Her new younger half-sister seems to be a total bitch. She can't even have her beloved dog. In a very nice touch, her new step-father is the most understanding and empathetic--but not too much--person in the story, by far. Ally is confused, abandoned, lonely while being overloved, hiding from reporters, trying to meet a huge new family she never knew existed, trying to reconcile her past and her feelings for her father, and in general, just dealing with a new life that seems like a hot mess.

This is a very plot-driven book which plays out a fascinating what-if scenario (and not one as far-fetched as you might think as the vast majority of kidnapping cases, the kidnapper is a family member and they're due to custody battles.) As I am of a certain age, this REALLY reminded me (in plot device, not in storytelling or anything else) of The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline B. Cooney, which I don't remember as being this angsty. But while the character in that book may have had an easier transition, Ally's very difficult situation actually felt more realistic.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

This book is being published by Bloomsbury, which is distributed by Macmillan, my employer.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Book Review: The Last Book Party by Karen Dukess

One could argue that the 1980s was the last heyday of book publishing. But Eve would not have agreed with you. As an assistant at a prestigious literary house, she shuffles papers and keeps her boss's correspondence in line. Her family has a beach house on Cape Cod, near one of the authors her boss publishes, a past-his-prime nonfiction New Yorker writer. Eve goes to a party at his house, meets his hunky son, and has a fling with him. The writer, Henry, offers her a job as his researcher, and when she is passed over for a promotion at work, she takes him up on it. She is hoping to run into the son again and that their dalliance will lead to something more, but she finds out about his girlfriend, alas. And then she starts to sleep with Henry. Hiding their affair from his wife, a famous poet.

At the end of the summer, the writer and the poet host a famous "book party" where everyone comes dressed as a literary character, and you can "win" the party by being the first to correctly identify everyone. So while your character shouldn't be so obscure that no one can guess them, there is a striving for going off the beaten path and picking a costume that isn't too obvious.

Needless to say, at the party, everything comes to a head. Secrets will out and out some more, and there's a fracas and it's all a voyeuristic delight for the literary set. The perfect smart beach read.

This book is published by Henry Holt, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Monday, July 1, 2019

My Month in Review: June

The Month in Review meme is hosted by Nicole at Feed Your Fiction Addiction.

I note the non-Macmillan books in this post with a star.

Books completed this month:
For the Love of Men: A New Vision for Mindful Masculinity by Liz Plank
Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep (audio)*
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
Why My Cat Is More Impressive Than Your Baby by Matthew Inman, The Oatmeal*
Every Patient Tells a Story: Medical Mysteries and the Art of Diagnosis by Lisa Sanders (audio)*
Beheld: A Novel by TaraShea Nesbit
Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir by Ruth Reichl (audio) *
The Queen Bee and Me by Gillian McDunn

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan (audio) *
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
When Did the Statue of Liberty Turn Green? And 101 Other Questions about New York City by Jean Ashton*

What I acquired this month (non-work books): 
Why My Cat Is More Impressive Than Your Baby by Matthew Inman, The Oatmeal--this was just too hilarious. I first saw it at Loyalty Bookshop in Washington DC but didn't get it and regretted it, so I later bought it at Kramerbooks.
All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin--a friend told me this was set in Nashville (my hometown) and is pretty good so I picked it up at Doylestown Bookshop.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Book Review: The Unabomber: Agent Kathy Puckett and the Hunt for a Serial Bomber by Bryan Denson

There's been a recent movement with mass killings and similar horrible, violent incidents in the news, to shift the story from the perpetrator, to the victims. This book totally gets behind that shift.

While of course it does also talk about Ted Kaczynski, it shows us all of the victims, and really focuses on Kathy Puckett. Kathy was an FBI profiler, and when she was brought into the case, many years into it, she had some different theories, and pursued different angles on the case. Early on investigators thought the first victim was the perpetrator, and all the information thereafter, including all profiles, fit him oddly well and ignored evidence. She threw out that idea and made a new profile that turned out to fit a man she'd never heard of and never met--Ted Kaczynski--to a T. She was also pivotal in the decision to ask the Washington Post to publish the Unabomber's manifesto, which proved the key in solving the case. She also knew that after the publication they couldn't let their guard down. The bomber may have claimed he'd stop bombing if it was published, but she didn't believe him. And once again, she was right.

Dr. Puckett was the agent most responsible for bringing him down, even if she didn't make the arrest. This book shows the inner workings of the FBI for interested kids (and shows it's not all busting down doors and gunfights), it gives a respectful and age-appropriate story of a true crime (a crazy-popular genre in media with adults right now), and it tells a fascinating story about a terrifying moment in our recent history that kids might hear about but won't learn about in their history classes.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-
related posts over the weekend.

This book is published by Roaring Brook, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Book Review: Hawking by Jim Ottaviani with illustrations by Leland Myrick

As an English major, I have gaps in my knowledge of the world. I did take physics in high school but a lot of it went over my head. I still feel I have a stronger grasp on science than a lot of my fellow English majors, but certainly much less than my younger sister who was a physics major. I went into this book thinking it would either be a light overview of Hawking's life for the English-major set, or a graphic novelization of the movie from a few years ago. Neither is at all the case. It is a deep dive into his life, fully covering all of the physics, astrophysics, and cosmology.

Most of you probably know the back story. He was a super-smart but slightly bratty teen at college when he started having some issues with walking and balance and was eventually diagnosed with ALS. He was given just a year or two to live, and then lived another 50+, changing the face of these scientific arenas along the way. He was a brilliant scientist but perhaps trying to live with, eventually marrying a couple of times. He didn't take himself super-seriously, sometimes tweaking fellow scientists, and even appearing in pop culture TV shows late in life.

The science is well done and accessible for lay people, but it does make the book very dense (haha--I don't mean in a physical way although I bet given the length and the type of paper used that it also is heavy. I read a digital version.) I very much enjoyed it, but it wasn't a book I could plot through in just a couple of hours. It took several days as I'd read for a while and then have to take a mental break to absorb. That said, I do think I understood 70% of the science which is way better than I did in my actual physics class, and the visualizations of a lot of his theories really helped immensely. You might not think that a man who was more or less all mind and useless body for most of his life, would present itself well for a very graphic format, but the illustrations of his theories went a long way towards my understanding. I'm sure I'll lose this pretty soon, but immediately after reading it, I feel smarter!

This book is published by First Second, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Book Review: The Pennypackers Go on Vacation by Lisa Doan

Charlie Pennypacker has always wanted to go on a real vacation but like with everything else in his life, his super-cheap dad has always managed to ruin it. He's made them camp in the back yard and pretend they were somewhere else, and called that a vacation. Argh. So when his dad announces they're going on a Disney cruise, Charlie can't believe it!

And he shouldn't have. Because they're not going on a Disney cruise. They're on a Wisney cruise. With his super-obnoxious little sister (of course) and his ex-best-friend-turned nemesis Gunter. Charlie goes along with "Cinderalla" and "Mickey Mouser" but why are those two men in suits chasing the boat from port to port and what is the captain hiding? Maybe if Charlie can get Gunter to agree to a truce, they can figure out what's really going on. And have some fun in the process.

This is a fun middle grade book that could be good for kids whose families are facing tighter budgets (although Charlie's mom is not a tightwad like his dad and in fact is a lawyer and they have a decent income.) Or who find their families awful and embarrassing. It's also just plain funny. And it's nice that unlike in Ms. Doan's last book, there's not a true enemy. As an ex-best-friend, you figure pretty early on that Charlie and Gunter might work through their issues. A light, fun early middle grade book for anyone with a really irritating little sister who never got to go on the summer vacation of their dreams.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

This book is published by Roaring Press, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Book Review: Whisper Network by Chandler Baker

One thing I love most about flying is that it's a long uninterrupted stretch of time that is internet-free, when I can really get some great reading done. Therefore I am always a little anxious about what books I choose to bring on the plane? Nowadays, thanks to my job, I always have a couple dozen options on my iPad, so I'm not stuck if my selection turns out to be poor. Still, it's such a great reading opportunity, I hate to waste it on a mediocre book.

To my delight, as my plane pushed back on Newark, en route to O'Hare, this book already proved fantastic! Three women work as lawyers at the largest sports brand in the world (I was thinking of Nike), and they're also friends: Sloane, Ardie, and Grace. A new young woman starts in the department, and their boss, Ames, takes a disturbing interest in her. All the more disturbing as he's next in line to take over after the CEO dropped dead in the shower. And these women aren't basing this on rumors--at least one of them knows first-hand about Ames's behavior. They try the usual tactics--warning the new hire, inviting themselves along when Ames invites her out for drinks after work, lightly warning him to back off (after all, he's their boss too so it's risky to be too direct.)

Meanwhile, the action is interspersed with depositions of these women, letting us in pretty quickly on the fact that soon enough, something Very Bad will happen. Not sure what at first, and then we're not sure who, but that really keeps the tension high. Not that it needed much more tension! Just knowing that this young woman is likely to be sexually assaulted by her own boss at any moment was tension enough for me! But it really works.

I've simplified things here and getting towards the end, the storyline makes a couple of turns I wasn't expecting. It doesn't proceed along the usual route for this kind of story, and is much more interesting than any novel on this topic I've ever seen before. It was compelling and I was glad my brother was running late to pick me up at the airport. In fact, I was even a little annoyed when he arrived! I loved this very good, very important, and very timely novel.

This book is published by Flatiron, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Book Review: This Was Our Pact by Ryan Andrews

Every year, Ben's town has a celebration for Autumn during which they release hundreds of lanterns to float down the river. This year, Ben and his friends are determined to find out where the lanterns end up. Nathaniel, who is only friends with Ben, not the rest of the group, tags along. Which is annoying at first, but when the other friends drop out despite their pact, it turns out to be a good thing. Then the book starts to take on a fantastical tone. As the two boys encounter a fisherbear, a little witch, and the history behind the lantern tradition, the world gets more and more amazing. But when they get lost and can't find their way back to the river on their own, they have to rely on each other (which Ben sometimes resents) and more importantly, trust.

This is a beautiful graphic novel that didn't at all go where I thought it was going to go. It starts off feeling like Stand By Me, but ends up in a bizarrely awesome fantasy land. I especially liked the fisherbear.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

This book is published by First Second, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Book Review: All of Me by Chris Baron

There are so few books out there about overweight boys. I gravitated towards this one right away due to the meed for the topic. Realized immediately that the book is "in verse" which I'm putting in quotation marks for a reason, but I overlooked that style that I don't normally like. And I"m so glad I did as this book was really powerful. (To me the "in verse" didn't feel like verse at all. No meter, no rhythm, it just felt like each sentence was on it's own line. That's a style choice as well, but it doesn't make it a novel in verse, in my opinion, like some others I've read, which certainly hew more in the direction of poetry than this one.)

Ari moved to the San Francisco area with his parents, away from all their family and friends in New York. He's overweight and pretty bullied at school. After his first year he starts to make a few friends. His mother really encourages those friendships, and he's able to take two of his friends out to the beach for the summer, where his mother, an artist, is working for the summer. His mother eventually figures out how troubled he is about his weight and gives him a diet book (seems like Dr. Atkins.) Although she doesn't know how badly he has been bullied. His dad is basically not around at this point which is never addressed with Ari. And he doesn't ask.

But over the summer, with his friends, with art, with hiking and swimming and biking and the diet, he starts to feel better about himself. Not because he's losing weight--although he is--but because he starts to be more independent and come into himself more. He family may be falling apart, but he is coming together.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

This book is published by Feiwel & Friends, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Book Review: Kingdom of Lies: Unnerving Adventures in the World of Cybercrime by Kate Fazzini

Cybercrime is something that sounds foreign, and yet it affects us every day. When you have to go get your credit card to type in the security code from the back, when you have to enter your zip code at the gas pump, or when you have to remember any of your seventy-thousand increasingly-bizarre passwords, you are attempting to thwart cybercrime. Every time you chuckle over a spam email, roll your eyes over a phishing email, or scream in frustration when your third attempt to log in to your Target account results in being locked out, do you ever wonder how we got here? And who is behind it?

Kate Fazzini used to work in the world of anti-cybercrime for a major bank. Now she is a reporter in the field, and so she is perfectly poised to take you through the terrifying new world of cybercrime. We're introduced to a few individual players as examples of the larger crime scene, including a young Romanian woman who starts off in customer service of a crime ring (yes, they have customer service reps!) and soon rises to the number two position thanks to her deft hand in expanding their randsomware reach. Along with a Russian man in New Jersey, a Chinese man, and a couple of others, Ms. Fazzini shows us how this world functions, through these examples, and it's pretty terrifying, while at the same time being reassuringly boring, in how like the real above-board world most of these organizations are.

A fast read for fans of Michael Lewis, that will make you want to lock down all your accounts and finally sign up for that password manager you've been meaning to get around to.

This book is published by St. Martin's Press, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Book Review: Honestly, We Meant Well by Grant Ginder

Sue Ellen is a classics professor, traveling to Greece to give lectures for a tour group, remembering her first love on the island of Aegina, thinking if this is what her life is meant to be.

Dean is her husband, a bestselling author and a lecturer in creative writing, juggling an affair with a student and his own writers block.

Will is their son, just graduated from college, flailing in life, uncertain what to do next besides trolling Grindr for a hookup.

In Greece each of the three of them will reevaluate their decisions and how they have gotten where they are and if this is where they want to be. Like the ruins surrounding them, their lives seem to be in pieces, but maybe there's a tragic beauty in that.

This book is published by Flatiron Books, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

My Month in Review: May

The Month in Review meme is hosted by Nicole at Feed Your Fiction Addiction.

I note the non-Macmillan books in this post with a star.

Books completed this month:
The Story of the Great British Bake Off by Anita Singh*
Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman (audio)
The Long Call by Ann Cleeves
Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule (audio) *
Stargazing by Jen Wang
The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner
Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro (audio) *
Mighty Moe: The True Story of a Thirteen-Year-Old Running Revolutionary by Rachel Swaby and Kit Fox
Cross Stitch The Golden Girls: 12 Patterns Inspired by Your Favorite Sassy Seniors by Haley Pierson-Cox (well, "read" is a strong word here. I skimmed through the entire thing and I've made two of the cross-stitches so that's what I'm calling "read.")
Do You Mind If I Cancel?: (Things That Still Annoy Me) by Gary Janetti

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
When Did the Statue of Liberty Turn Green? And 101 Other Questions about New York City by Jean Ashton*
For the Love of Men: A New Vision for Mindful Masculinity by Liz Plank
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

What I acquired this month (non-work books): 
Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis by Jared Diamond and Not Fade Away: A Memoir of Senses Lost and Found by Rebecca A. Alexander, I bought for my husband from our local independent bookstore.
Cross Stitch The Golden Girls: 12 Patterns Inspired by Your Favorite Sassy Seniors by Haley Pierson-Cox I snatched out of the hands of a receiver (before she even had a chance to receive it) at one of my accounts while there for an appointment. This book never made it onto the floor of the store.

Book Review: I Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina Forest

Chloe is going to DC against her mother's wishes (while her mother is out of town on vacation) to audition for a Dance Conservatory--her lifelong dream. Her neighbor and nemesis Eli finagles her into taking him (and his dog) along for the ride. Chloe's mom has been overprotective ever since her dad died when she was little, and Chloe's been okay with that until now. But her mother's new boyfriend is taking her on a cruise, and even though Chloe missed the tryouts in Philadelphia, there is a tryout in DC while her mom is out of town. Sure, driving on the turnpike and any interstate is terrifying (and Chloe drives dangerously slow there!) but when Eli invites himself along, he also takes over the driving which is for the best for both of them.

Along the way they'll visit an old friend, resolve their own issues, and come to a greater understanding both of their relationship and of themselves as individuals and what they want from life. This is a fun roadtrip YA novel with a fair amount of ballet (which I took up through college and rang super-true. The author is a former ballet dancer herself.) One thing I really loved is that unlike the usual feisty heroine full of gumption, Chloe is pretty reserved and even fairly afraid in life, but she bites the bullet and does it anyway.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

This book is being published by Roaring Brook, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Book Review: The Right Sort of Man by Allison Montclair

It's after WWII, but London is still full of rubble, the occasional unexploded bomb, and a lot of single women. A couple of them are Miss Iris Sparks and Mrs. Gwendolyn Bainbridge (widowed), who decide they have complementary skills that would meld together nicely in the area of a matchmaking company. They open The Right Sort Marriage Bureau, to the dismay of Gwendolyn's in-laws, and start trying to make matches. Until one night when one of their young women is murdered, and the police pin it on the man they'd set her up with.

It's a scandal to be sure, and might be the death knell for their young and unusual business, which is why they set out to clean the man's--and by default their own--name. This is how Iris and Gwen end up investigating a murder.

The period details were marvelous, the research the author put into it is evidently extensive, and the mystery kept me guessing. I really liked both Iris and Gwen, although they are very different, and I like how they're both stretching and putting themselves in uncomfortable situations in order to improve their lots in life (Gwen a bit more than Iris, who had a tough childhood.) It was a delightful romp with some real danger for our heroines, and I am very much looking forward to future installments! It's as if the young women (minus the nuns) from Call the Midwife were solving crimes.

This book is published Minotaur, an imprint of St. Martin's Press, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Book Review: War in the Ring: Joe Louis, Max Schmeling, and the Fight between America and Hitler by John Florio and Ouisie Shapiro

I've heard of this famous boxing match all my life, but I knew little about it. Admittedly, my knowledge of boxing in general can fit on the head of a pin. But I knew this one was famous--an African-American boxer beating a Nazi sympathizer at the outset of WWII is pretty easy metaphoric material.

This book does a great job of giving background info on both Joe Louis and also Max Schmeling. Neither was a saint or a devil--both pretty human. As with most boxers, they both were not privileged at all growing up and diligence, hard work, and persistence paid off for both. And yet neither's life turned out wonderfully well. Both struggled in their later years. It's interesting to get such a full look at these lives, of which most people, if they know of them, only know of a few hours. It truly makes them come to life. And it's nice to have a book give an ancillary WWII story, fleshing out that conflict in a more complicated way than how it's often presented to audiences this age.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

This book is published by Roaring Brook, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Book Review: Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey

I really don't read fantasy. Aside from some children's books, it's been years since I've read one. But a bookseller wrote such an amazing review that I just had to! Picture the feel of a 1930s noir PI novel. Now picture a Hogwarts-type school, but instead of in a castle, it takes place at your old high school (also no one wears robes although they do have school blazers.) Now mash those together, and put twin sisters (one with magic powers, one not) at the center of it, and a murder. How can you not read this?

Normally I'd write a heck of a lot more about this book but I don't want to spoil anything. It was much fun. What are you waiting for? Go read it!

This book is published by Tor Books, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Book Review: Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered: The Definitive How-To Guide by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark

Have you ever heard the phrase: "If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to be a horrible warning"? Well this book is the embodiment of that aphorism. Karen and Georgia have gotten quite famous from their podcast, My Favorite Murder. But this book isn't about murders (mostly.) It's a memoir and advice book. Which also means if you're not familiar with the podcast, that's fine.

A joint memoir is unusual, and so they've structured it differently. They've picked some of their favorite pieces of advice and each told a story related to why that's a life suggestion they push. And the two of them, Georgia in particular, have some less-than-good stories in their pasts. Between drugs, eating disorders, and just plain old bad decisions, they've made a lot of mistakes so you don't have to. Along the way, they're really funny, but also really open and honest about their lives. At the end of several of the chapters, Georgia asks Karen some questions about the topic, and there are occasional sidebars. Even while talking about harrowing events, they keep the humor dialed in. Which is what they're famous for. On their podcast they talk about death and murder and rape, but they do it in a way that is simultaneously respectful and filled with fun (mostly that's the part of the podcast before they specifically start talking about murders but not exclusively.)

If you're a fan, you must read this. But if you want to hear about growing up in the '70s and '80s in California, about the entertainment industry (sadly, no name dropping), and about two women who went through some shit and came out the other side, this is a great and fun book for that. Heck, it would even make a good graduation gift! For your gothier young women.

This book is published by Forge, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Book Review: Bitcoin Billionaires: A True Story of Genius, Betrayal, and Redemption by Ben Mezrich

You know who the Winklevoss twins are. From the Facebook movie, they were played by Armie Hammer. They came up with the idea for Facebook, brought it to a fellow Harvard undergrad for help with programming, he stole it, and the rest is history.

That movie and the way they've been covered in the media made them look like privileged pricks. But not only is that only one side of the story, it maybe shouldn't be a side at all because it's so inaccurate. They really did come up with the idea for Facebook. (What? You think a friendless nerdy introvert came up with a social network, not a couple of popular guys? Really?) They didn't come from much privilege--their grandfather was a car mechanic. While their father did make it big (in tech start-ups, back in the '80s! They came by it honestly!), he taught them the value of hard work, as evidenced by their stint on the US Olympic rowing team. And they've also been through some tough times, like the death of their older sister.

So this book gives you their backstory, the backstory to the whole Facebook debacle, and enticingly, is about what came next. Bitcoin. After being shut out of Silicon Valley as venture capitalists, no matter how much money they had, they found a strange subculture tech opportunity on the East Coast--a small company that facilitated Bitcoin transactions called BitInstant. This was many years before anyone in the mainstream had heard of Bitcoin. If you haven't don't worry--the book explains it well. They invest in both BitInstant and Bitcoin itself, and you see them being the only grownups in the room as BitInstant's young, volatile, hyper CEO Charlie, digs himself a large hole. If you're paying attention, the red flags are all there. You pretty much know how things are going to end for young Charlie and his hubris. Yet it's a fun ride getting to that point. I just ate up the second half of the book in only two sittings, as it raced along to what was inevitably a bumping ending. It very much reminded me of the other Mezrich book I've read: Bringing Down the House. It has the same audacity, smarts, and high stakes. If you like true financial insider accounts that read like a thriller, this book is for you!

This book is published by Flatiron Books, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Book Review: Pie in the Sky by Remy Lai

Jingwen was once excited to move to Australia, but that was before. Before his father died in a car accident. A year later, his mom moves him and his little brother, Yanghao, anyway. But now his parents can't open their bakery, Pie in the Sky, as they dreamed. Jingwen's having a lot of trouble adapting especially with the language. It sounds like everyone around him is an alien. And then, just to make matters worse, it seems like Yanghao is starting to learn English and make friends!

Jingwen decides to bake all of the cakes he had baked with his father, that were going to be the cakes in Pie in the Sky. Of course when their mom is at work (at a bakery, of course), they are forbidden from using the oven. But Jingwen knows what he's doing and if Yanghao will just follow the increasingly-length list of rules and stop annoying him, everything will be fine. 

The book isn't a graphic novel, but it half is. It's a hybrid of sorts. Parts of it are very funny, but parts of it made me tear up. The little brother is perfectly irritating as all get out. The technical aspects of the baking are all spot-on--from how they bake so much without their mom noticing the disappearing ingredients, to occasional baking fails. And the relationships in the family are just pitch perfect. It's a lovely, funny, hunger-inspiring novel about loss and love. And cake.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

This book is published by Henry Holt, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Book Review: Naturally Tan by Tan France

I had seen the first season of the new Queer Eye when I read this (and yes, second two is high on my to watch list now!) And I think that helps but it's not necessary. But in case you don't know, Tan is the fashion guru on the new reboot of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (now just Queer Eye) on Netflix. This is the first truly global show, appearing in 190 countries. And he's the first openly gay Muslim South Asian on TV.

But this isn't about the show. Don't get me wrong--it's not one of those memoirs that annoying ends way before the fame you bought the book because happens. But it's more about the rest of his life. After all, Queer Eye has only been around for the last year. And there's a lot more to his life than that. It's about growing up different, about fearing rejection from your culture because of who you are, it's about finding love where you least expect, and about coming to success from less-traditional angles. I did love the bit about the 30 jobs he had before he was 25.

He's funny and snarky and sweary (he's British--they swear a lot). He will give a few fashion tips but it's not a fashion book. Yes, of course he will talk about the French Tuck. But he'll also talk about his family and growing up in England and about his first long-term relationship, which is when he learned that to be a good partner, you have to take care of yourself (and for the record, he was the one being a slob.)

It's a quick read, fun, but also eye-opening, and please don't wear those boot-cut jeans out of the house. I understand they're comfy--I have a pair for at-home-wear-only. But they're not flattering. And Tan wants you to always look and feel amazing.

This book is published by St. Martin's Press, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Book Review: Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

What might happen if the (adult) First Son of the President, fell in love with a Prince of England? Hijinks! Lots of swearing and sex! Sneaking around! Scandal! And so much fun!

If you read this book, in 2016, the first woman, a Democrat, was elected President. Her two half-Mexican-American adult children who are in college and graduate school, move into the White House with her, along with the adult granddaughter of the Vice-President. These three smart, savvy, wonky best friends have been impressing the media and having a blast living at the heart of power. But when they attend the wedding of the Prince of Wales, Alex, who has been really annoyed at the younger prince, Prince Henry, since the Rio Olympics when he overheard Henry make a rude remark about him, gets drunk and gets into an argument with Henry which results in the two of them falling on the wedding cake.

Damage control dictates that Alex and Prince Henry have to now pretend to be best friends, even though they hate each other. Or do they...? Methinks they both protest too much. But when they make up in spades, their newfound "friendship" will be the stuff of scandals and will put the reelection of Alex's mother on the line, not to mention putting them both in the crosshairs of the Queen.

This book was a blast! It was such a balm in these ridiculous political days. I actually read it in the middle of the government shutdown, a week before traveling to DC (which was soooo depressing). The author really gets the White House to feel real, the dialogue is super snappy, and there are some rather sexy scenes, if that's what you're looking for. I enjoyed the heck out of it and you should read it right away. I promise, it will make you smile.

This book is published by St. Martin's Griffin, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

My Month in Review: April

The Month in Review meme is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date.

I note the non-Macmillan books in this post with a star. I unexpectedly went on a cross-country trip earlier this month. Not only did that seriously reduce my reading time (I get car sick easily while reading these days) but we didn't even do any audiobooks. That's not my SO's thing. Lots of podcasts, though.

Books completed this month:
Pippa by Design: A Story of Ballet and Costumes by Claudia Logan
The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols: Adapted from the Journals of John H. Watson, M.D. by Nicholas Meyer
Revolution of the Soul: Awaken to Love Through Raw Truth, Radical Healing, and Conscious Action by Seane Corn
Here We Are: American Dreams, American Nightmares by Aarti Shahani
The Lost Man by Jane Harper (audio)
The Man That Got Away: A Constable Twitten Mystery 2 by Lynne Truss
Are You Listening? by Tillie Walden
The Incomplete Book of Running by Peter Sagal (audio)*
Give and Take by Elly Swartz
The Wasp That Brainwashed the Caterpillar: Evolution's Most Unbelievable Solutions to Life's Biggest Problems by Matt Simon (audio)*
The Grammarians: A Novel by Cathleen Schine
In My Father's House: A New View of How Crime Runs in the Family by Fox Butterfield (audio)*
Trapeze by Leigh Ansell
King of the Mole People by Paul Gilligan

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner

Book I gave up on:
Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood, and the World by Tom Wright and Bradley Hope (audio)* Just not in the mood for this kind of ridiculous excess. Plus the narrator sounds like an old boss who I didn't much like.
Christmas in Vermont by Anita Hughes. Ugh. Like a Hallmark movie that overdosed on cupcakes and threw up on itself. I was looking for light and fluffy, not insulting.

What I acquired this month (non-work books): 
A Life in Parts by Bryan Cranston I bought for my husband after we saw him in Network.
On Independent Bookstore Day I bought:
The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames
The Story of the Great British Bake Off by Anita Singh
Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany by Jane Mount

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Book Review: Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Rosemary Valero O’Connell

Freddie's girlfriend, Laura Dean, keeps breaking up with her. Freddie's friends are sympathetic, consoling her and listening to her angst, especially Freddie's best friend, Doodle. They're obviously getting tired of the repetition, but they're also supportive. One day, in a seeming effort to try something different to convince Freddie this isn't good for her, Doodle brings her to her favorite comic book shop, where in the back room is a mysterious woman, who asks Freddie some questions, throws some runes, and finally tells her, you're caught in a circle. To break out of the circle, you have to break out. Instead of letting Laura Dean break up with you (repeatedly), you need to break up with Laura Dean.

Freddie listens to the advice but doesn't take to it right away. Laura Dean breaks up with her again. And asks Freddie to take her back again. We finally see them in a relationship, and it's... not great. Laura Dean invites Freddie to a party, ignores her, but is hurt when Freddie wants to leave, and completely blows off that Freddie promised Doodle she'd help her with something. As things between Freddie and Laura Dean spiral, Doodle disappears. She's no longer with the lunch crowd and doesn't seem to be at school. When Freddie finally notices and asks a mutual friend what's up with Doodle, the friend (rightly!) says basically, I can't believe you just now noticed, and I'm not going to explain anything to you. If you're really a friend, you'll try harder to find out what's wrong with Doodle.

This is a little spoilery here, but I don't think it'll be shocking to most that in the end, Freddie does see the situation in clear light, and makes things right. Personally, the part of the message at the end of the book that I liked most, was that Freddie realized when she was with Laura Dean, she, Freddie, was a bad friend. I think that's a really important message for teens to learn early. Girlfriends come and go (and come and go and come and go) but if you want your friends to stick around and support you when things are tough, you need to also be there for them, even sometimes when it's inconvenient.

Also loved the artwork. Beautiful storytelling. Felt like a real relationship and real friendships. Was nice at the end to see that cool chick Laura Dean also had some insecurities behind her behavior. A great read.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

This book is being published by First Second, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Book Review: All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation by Rebecca Traister, narrated by Candace Thaxton

For single women everywhere!

This inspiring audiobook wasn't exactly what I expected. Based on the subtitle, I thought the book was going to be entirely historical, about single women among the "Founding Mothers" and Suffragettes and so on. And it is about one-third that. But then it is sociological, getting into the role of single women today, how single women have been treated over the centuries and decades, how life for them has been difficult, how it's improved, and how there's still plenty of room for improvement left. How the experience of life as a single woman is different for different races. Why some women choose to remain single when it might seem, superficially, better to marry. How choosing to stay single has changed, and improved, all women's choices.

It was an addictive book I just couldn't stop listening to. I wished a single friend was with me who I could tell lots of fascinating tidbits to. Instead, I will simply tell of them to read it! You will love it! It will make you rethink some things, reevaluate others, and appreciate singleness in a way you haven't before.

I downloaded this eaudiobook from Libby/Overdrive via my library.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Book Review: Strangers Assume My Girlfriend Is My Nurse by Shane Burcaw

Shane Burcaw is a young man who does not see himself as remarkable, or any of the other adjectives one could use to describe him as special. He is disabled--he has spinal muscular atrophy, a condition similar to muscular dystrophy--but he has dedicated his life to showing how ordinary and normal his life is, and the lives of similarly differently-abled people.

He started with a blog, which grew into books and speaking engagements, which now is his full-time job. He runs a Foundation and those are the major income sources for it. In this book, aimed at older kids than his previous ones, in a series of personal essays, he tackles everything from going to the bathroom (a big topic in all of his books) to how he and his girlfriend have sex, to becoming more independent--first in his parents' house when he's able to put in an elevator and live in the basement, and later when he and his girlfriend move to Minnesota. He's profane and funny and laughs at himself first most of the time. He certainly does admit to times when he didn't find his disability so funny--as in an early chapter about his refusal to go tot he bathroom at school as that would require him to ask the nurse to assist him. But in the end, he's chosen to see all the difficulties as just life, and lemonade ingredients. He is optimistic and has a real winning attitude.

I think a lot of us who read the book will wish we had the same mental and humorous fortitude to take personal problems in stride. Shane is an inspiration, but I don't mean that in a sappy, sweet way. I mean he's a great fucking inspiration. If this shit isn't getting him down, I should be able to laugh at myself more too. I wish I could. I'm trying to. Teens in particular could really use that lesson.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

This book is published by Roaring Brook Press, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Book Review: Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive by Stephanie Land (audio)

If you've read Nickel and Dimed and/or Educated a lot of this book will feel familiar. That's not to say don't read it, it's repetitive. There aren't enough voices out there speaking for the underprivileged, the overworked, the abused. Even better if those voices can be as eloquent as Stephanie Land's.

Stephanie never made it to college. She meant to go. In fact, in her late twenties, she was enrolled to start at the University of Montana at Missoula in the creative writing program, when she became pregnant. Her boyfriend reacted with anger and violence, and I kept begging her to just walk out and never look out, right there. But alas. (People, two parents are NOT good for the kids when it leads to major problems. One parent is just fine if it's a sane, relatively stable parent.) After an especially violent outburst involving the police, Stephanie takes her baby daughter, Mia, and leaves. Her angry ex fights her for custody (seemingly more to hurt Stephanie than because he gave two figs about his daughter), her own parents are either struggling themselves (her father) or clueless nincompoops (her mother) who can't/won't help, and they end up homeless. Thankfully it seems that all along the way, Stephanie had great case workers, counselors, and others in the system to advise her. After the abused women's shelter, she ends up in a little cabin available to the homeless, and then transitions into low income housing. I was hopeful at that point that things would slowly but surely keep progressing upward. But then she gets involved with another man and quickly moves in with him. He's not violent, but he's not good. This is where she starts to get into house cleaning.

She works for two different companies and also for herself. She has a process, and she seems to really like learning about her clients, even the ones she never sees who don't seem to know she exists. The voyeurism was very tempting (and also made me aware of what our own house cleaner might be learning about us!) There is "the sad house" and "the porn house" and even (shudder) "the clown house." She knows who is ill, who is down on their luck, whose marriages are in trouble, without ever laying eyes on the people. It's intriguing, to be sure.

But it's also backbreaking, exhausting work, that pays very little and can be highly demoralizing. Luckily, Stephanie has Mia to inspire her. She comes up with a plan, to attend community college and get a degree. She takes online classes at night and studies while Mia is with her dad. She doesn't sleep much and she eats even less. I did worry several times about just how she was going to break out of the cycle of poverty in which she was trapped. And to that end, she does have advantages other abused homeless single moms do not: her parents went to college. She's white. She owns a computer. In that regard, even though she didn't have even half the safety net that Barbara Ehrenreich had (admittedly, she had the entire safety net, as her experiences of poverty were entirely self-inflicted for the sake of journalism, and could be and in fact were ended on the spot when she decided her experiment was over.) For Stephanie this was no journalistic foray to check out the life of The Other. But it still is a half a step removed from the truly impoverished who cannot break the cycle.

That said, it is Stephanie's story and no one else's. And I'm not making light of her experiences which were pretty awful. It's simply that when this book, and Stephanie herself, are held up as examples of why-can't-all-poor-people-pull-themselves-up-by-their-bootstraps, I'm just saying hers is not the same situation. But she's told it well and I have hope for her and Mia's future. I even have hope that she might develop better taste in men.

Meanwhile, I will continue to use a maid service myself, as I know it's valuable job for the unskilled and for non-English speakers, and I will continue to tip very, very well. I hope that's the number one thing my house cleaners remember about me.

I listened to this eaudiobook via Libby/Overdrive from my local library.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Book Review: The Normal One: Life with a Difficult or Damaged Sibling by Jeanne Safer

My father's only sibling, his younger sister, had both schizophrenia, and also mental capacity limitations. When she was a young adult, their parents and she moved to Florida where the mental health system was better. For decades she cycled in and out of homes, had a wide variety of harmless to severe health issues, and was a constant drain on his emotions. Years ago I read a fascinating book, Mad House: Growing Up in the Shadow of Mentally Ill Siblings by Clea Simon, who had two older siblings with schizophrenia. And after the recent success of the book, The Collected Schizophrenias, which my company distributes, I've been thinking about their relationship again, and a friend loaned me this book.

It is mostly about having a severely damaged sibling. The various case studies range from the expected (schizophrenia, bipolar) to addiction, narcissism, brain damage, and just plain horrid siblings with no diagnosis. A few were not as extreme on the scale, which was nice for variety, and also to make the book more accessible to some of us who might have difficult, but not clinical siblings. It's interesting that Dr. Safer came up with the term "Caliban Syndrome" because I've certainly heard it, even though I'm not in the mental health field. I do wish the chapters analyzing The Tempest were a bit shorter (maybe readers less familiar with the play do appreciate the lengthy descriptions however.) And I wish there was more directive of approaches to those relationships, but the book is more of a series of case studies than a how-to. The stores were fascinating and riveting, and I kind of wish the book had even more of them--if it was chock-full like a Dr. Sacks book. But I understand she needed to explain the underpinnings of the patterns she was seeing, particularly as at the time this was published, there was little to no psychological research about siblings at all. Which is bizarre as, as she points out several times in the book, your sibling relationships will be the longest relationships you have in your life.

It would be truly fascinating to see a new edition--or perhaps simply a follow-up book--twenty years later as the mental health field has changed so much in the intervening time. With new diagnoses and more diagnoses and changing attitudes towards mainstreaming and mental health concerns, I think Dr. Safer would find significant differences, in just two decades. A really interesting read.

I borrowed this book from a friend.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Book Review: Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

The Yoo family has emigrated from Korea. First the mother and daughter together, and many years later the dad. The mother and daughter live with a white family in Baltimore. The mother, Young, is essentially treated like a slave, working in a convenience store their host family owns, seven days a week, 12+ hours a day, with a very long commute. The daughter is not treated like their own, but she goes to private school and has a pretty privileged life. So she's become very Americanized, very fast, and when her father, Pak, comes to America and they move to Northern Virginia for him to start a business as owner of a bariatric chamber, there is even more first-generation/second-generation tension than usual.

And one day the bariatric chamber explodes. A child dies, a couple of people are badly injured. Naturally, there's a big trial. Was it the daughter, resentful of her parents and having an affair with an older customer? What about the Yoos, who are finding life in America harder than they'd expected, looking for an insurance payout? Or maybe the mother of the dead child, whose life had been so difficult with a troubled, ill, difficult to manage child who had taken over her life? Then there were the protesters who had gotten dangerously close to the equipment.

Now I have read a fair number of legal thrillers, and this is definitely the most literary one I've ever read. It has much more character development and less action than one gets in a typical legal thriller. But that doesn't mean the tension doesn't ratchet up as you go along. Obviously, there's no lack of suspects, and as each person testifies and we hear the different parties' stories--although not always in court--a multi-layered and complicated story is made clear, and the truth about that horrible day will finally be revealed.

This book is published by Farrar Straus & Giroux, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Book Review: Girls on the Verge by Sharon Biggs Waller

Camille is pregnant. It's not a rape or a long-term serious boyfriend. It's a mistake. And she's only 16 and this would really destroy her life in a lot of ways. And she wants to get an abortion.

Her best friend, Bea, who is religious, is the opposite of supportive. She cuts Camille off without even hearing her out, leaving her alone. She has no boyfriend to go through this with her, she can't tell her parents (they don't have a bad relationship but a tempestuous one, and this wouldn't improve things), and now her best friend has abandoned her. Luckily, she runs into Annabelle while buying a pregnancy test. Annabelle is older but Camille knows her through Drama. And Annabelle lets Camille know that she will do whatever it takes to help her. Annabelle has her own reason of course, but they embark on an unforgettable roadtrip. Oh, and with Bea along, as she begs Annabelle to let her come, says that while she doesn't agree with Camille, she does want to be supportive. Camille isn't inclined to trust Bea again, but she lets her come. The three set off across Texas on a series of quests, running into every possible legal speed bump along the way.

This book was very much written as a way to demonstrate the consequences of the draconian abortion-restriction laws that have been passed across the country in the last decade or so, and often books with such an agenda really sideline novel basics such as plot and character. And while the plot is straightforwardly in service of this goal, it's well done, and the characters are really well drawn. I loved this book. Lots of teenagers (and older women) have to go through this gauntlet of restrictions, and poor Camille gets thwarted at every turn. She even hires a lawyer at one point to try to get permission for a legal abortion in Texas without parental notification. She does everything right. And yet, as a privileged white girl heading to college in a couple of years, the obstacles are nearly insurmountable. One quickly realizes how daunting these same obstacles would be someone with fewer resources.

This is a very important book. I love that the character of Bea helps round out the story and address her concerns and be a questioner of Camille's decisions. As much as I would have done the same thing as Camille in her shoes, my high school girl friends were all very religious, and I would have met with much the same resistance. This book can help any teen going through this decision, who might be in the future, or who might have a friend in trouble. And it's also a great road trip, girl-power story. I loved it.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

This book is published by Henry Holt, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Book Review: Death of a New American: A Mystery by Mariah Fredericks

Jane, the ladies' maid we met in A Death of No Importance, gets embroiled in another mystery in this second book in the series.

The mousy sister from the last book, Louise, is actually engaged to a wealthy and accomplished young man from a prestigious family. His uncle, whose house on Long Island is to be the setting for the wedding, is the current New York City police investigator who has been recently much lauded for his great success in starting up an Italian Squad to root out crime, especially related to The Black Hand. He's so passionate about this work that he even employs several Italians at his house, which is both noble, and also a little icky in the paternalistic racism. But he's trying.

Pretty much as soon as they arrive, Jane meets the nanny, Sofia, and then Sofia is dead. The official story that there was an attempted kidnapping of the baby who Sofia was murdered while protecting, doesn't ring true with Jane. She thinks there's more to it. And with the help of journalist Michael Behan, she investigates.

Once again, we get a view of this 1910s America that isn't featured much in literature, when everyday life was just so much more dangerous, especially among the lower classes, and that was just considered a given and no one gives it much thought. Jane is relatively independent but not anachronistically so, which is refreshing. The mystery is well set up and kept me guessing. I really like this series and am looking forward to seeing where it goes next!

This book is published by Minotaur, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Monday, April 1, 2019

My Month in Review: March

The Month in Review meme is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date.

I note the non-Macmillan books in this post with a star. I got bogged down at the end of the month with Sales Conference. I hope I can catch up in April.

Books completed this month:
Molly: The Amazing True Story of the Pet Detective Who Rescues Cats by Colin Butcher, with JoAnne Lake
Campusland by Scott Johnston
Ellie, Engineer: In the Spotlight by Jackson Pearce
Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive by Stephanie Land (audio)*
Broke: Detroit and the Cost of Urban Austerity in America by Jodie Kirshner
Some Places More Than Others by Renée Watson
Unfollow by Megan Phelps-Roper

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777 by Rick Atkinson
The Lost Man by Jane Harper (audio)
Revolution of the Soul: Awaken to Love Through Raw Truth, Radical Healing, and Conscious Action by Seane Corn
Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood, and the World by Tom Wright and Bradley Hope (audio)*

What I acquired this month (non-work books): 
Startalk: Everything You Ever Need to Know about Space Travel, Sci-Fi, the Human Race, the Universe, and Beyond by Neil deGrasse Tyson [a gift for my husband]