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