Book Review: Once Upon a Bad Boy

41150456Title: Once Upon a Bad Boy
Author: Melonie Johnson
Genre: Romance
Publisher: St. Martin’s
Publication Date: June 25, 2019
Pages: 384
Format Read: ebook
Standalone or series: Book 3 of Sometimes in Love series
Where I got the book: NetGalley ARC
Date finished reading: June 24, 2019

Goodreads Description: NEVER SAY NEVER
Sadie Gold is ready to take her career to the next level with the role of a lifetime. Finally, she can shake her reputation as a pretty face with more wealth and connections than talent. But Sadie is not prepared for the wild turn her own life is about to take. The man in charge of training Sadie for her most demanding role yet is none other than her first real boyfriend—the one who took her heart and ran away.

WHEN IT COMES TO LOVE
Bo Ibarra is as good-looking and irresistible as ever. Maybe even more so, now that everything once worked against them—Sadie’s pampered and privileged upbringing and Bo’s childhood in a family struggling to make ends meet—is in the past. But the future is still unwritten…and getting there, together, means coming clean about painful secrets and slashing through nasty tabloid rumors while trying to control the attraction that crackles between them. Maybe it’s finally time for them to walk off into the sunset and into a true and lasting love?

My Review: The Sometimes in Love series follows five close friends – Cassie, Bonnie, Sadie, Ana and Delaney – and their romantic escapades. I recently read Bonnie’s story, which was Book 2 and enjoyed it. Once Upon a Bad Boy is Book 3 in the series, and I enjoyed it even more than the one before. This story focuses on Sadie and what happens when her childhood boyfriend reenters her life. Can they move beyond the past and the secrets to have a second chance at love?

This story was entertaining, humorous, touching and quite steamy at times. I enjoyed the relationship Sadie has with her grandmother, as that is something I can relate to in my own life. I also laughed pretty hard when Sadie’s co-star, Ryan, talks about being afraid of bananas. The supporting characters, such as Sadie’s girlfriends, Bo’s family, and the cast/crew of the movie Sadie is starring in, may not have added much to the romantic story of Sadie and Bo, but those characters added some more excitement to the story and helped you get to know Sadie and Bo a bit better.

It was a very enjoyable read! I will definitely read the next book in the series when it comes out!

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ½

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Book Review: Reclaiming Conversation

reclaiming-conversation-1Title: Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age
Author: Sherry Turkle
Genre: Psychology
Publisher: Penguin Press
Publication Date: October 6, 2015
Pages: 448
Format Read: audiobook
Standalone or series: standalone
Where I got the book: Library Libby app
Date finished reading: June 19, 2019

Goodreads Description: Renowned media scholar Sherry Turkle investigates how a flight from conversation undermines our relationships, creativity, and productivity—and why reclaiming face-to-face conversation can help us regain lost ground.

We live in a technological universe in which we are always communicating. And yet we have sacrificed conversation for mere connection.

Preeminent author and researcher Sherry Turkle has been studying digital culture for over thirty years. Long an enthusiast for its possibilities, here she investigates a troubling consequence: at work, at home, in politics, and in love, we find ways around conversation, tempted by the possibilities of a text or an email in which we don’t have to look, listen, or reveal ourselves.

We develop a taste for what mere connection offers. The dinner table falls silent as children compete with phones for their parents’ attention. Friends learn strategies to keep conversations going when only a few people are looking up from their phones. At work, we retreat to our screens although it is conversation at the water cooler that increases not only productivity but commitment to work. Online, we only want to share opinions that our followers will agree with – a politics that shies away from the real conflicts and solutions of the public square.

The case for conversation begins with the necessary conversations of solitude and self-reflection. They are endangered: these days, always connected, we see loneliness as a problem that technology should solve. Afraid of being alone, we rely on other people to give us a sense of ourselves, and our capacity for empathy and relationship suffers. We see the costs of the flight from conversation everywhere: conversation is the cornerstone for democracy and in business it is good for the bottom line. In the private sphere, it builds empathy, friendship, love, learning, and productivity.

But there is good news: we are resilient. Conversation cures.

Based on five years of research and interviews in homes, schools, and the workplace, Turkle argues that we have come to a better understanding of where our technology can and cannot take us and that the time is right to reclaim conversation. The most human—and humanizing—thing that we do.

The virtues of person-to-person conversation are timeless, and our most basic technology, talk, responds to our modern challenges. We have everything we need to start, we have each other.

My Review: Sherry Turkle dives into the debate that we have been having more and more, especially in the last decade. The advancement of technology has changed our lives and the way that we communicate with others. However, this book was a bit disappointing, because I personally have a love/hate relationship with technology, and I wish there had more discussion throughout the book related to the positives of technology. Technology allows us to have information readily available. I know what is going on in the world and can stay connected to family and friends no matter where I am. As someone who lives far away from my parents and many of my lifelong friends, the ability to stay connected to them through calls with my cell phone or the WhatsApp messaging and video service has been such an amazing thing for me and has helped me not feel so lonely.

I do believe there needs to be a balance. Devices should not get in the way of face-to-face communication. I never touch my cell phone during meals with friends and family nor do I use it much when I am hanging out with people. However, as mentioned by the author, that is not quite the norm anymore. I have on occasion had to tell people I am with to put down their phone and listen to me, and this can be a bit frustrating. The author mentions that younger people are attending device-free camps, and I really like that concept. My niece, who is 11 years old, has been attending a device-free summer camp for a couple of years now and absolutely loves it. I’ve also been lucky enough to not have had a breakup text message (mentioned in the book), and seriously I can not even imagine that, though I know it happens all the time.

One thing I have trouble with is keeping myself from going on social media while I am at work. I know that by checking Facebook, Twitter, etc. my level of actual work productivity declines. I believe for most of the book, the author was stressing how technology is addictive, and we have just adjusted our lives around that by how we spend our time and how we communicate with others.

While many great points were brought up, the following are things that I had issues with throughout this book that caused me not to get much benefit out of it:

  • Take in account introverts. Even before cell phone and other devices – yes I am old enough to remember those days – I still did not talk to random strangers in the doctor’s office waiting room and many times car rides would just be silent with no conversation. I am that person that often prefers not talking. I probably converse much more now through technology then I ever would have without it.
  • What is the up with the author’s obsession with Thoreau? I enjoy some good ol’ Thoreau as well, but the author seemed to mention him or quote him in every section of this book. It led to me getting overly excited when she would quote or mention other authors or influential people. She should expand her influences a bit.
  • Robots? Was it really important to spend so much of the book on the danger of  robots? Maybe that is where the world is headed, as more and more machines are doing jobs that people formally did. Maybe I will have robots doing my housework in the future – to be honest I would welcome that. However, I felt that this section at the end of the book was just another way of saying that technology is bad and scary.
  • Technology is bad. As mentioned above, there are some benefits to the age of technology. Those benefits should be mentioned more. I felt that the author was really hating on technology for most of the book instead of really discussing how we can continue having one-on-one communication and attention while still existing in this technological age. While the author might not be fond of the fact that society now exists in a world of technology, it is what it is, and as humans we adapt to the world we live in, so why not talk a little about the good aspects of technology. For example:
    • Through my cell phone applications, I am able to listen to podcasts and books (including this one), while I am out for a walk or driving (though for the record I do not play or text on my phone while I am driving, even while I am at a stop light – please stop doing that people as it is so dangerous – this is the end of my PSA).
    • Research for educational papers and books are much easier and efficient now with information at our finger tips.
    • While communication has changed from face-to-face conversations to online conversations, I will say, as mentioned above, that I now communicate with more people on a regular basis than I would have without the online conversations, especially since I have family and friends all over the world.

Yes, we live in a world now where people play on their phones more than talk to each other; teachers are having to attract students attention away from phones; drivers are getting into accidents because they are texting and driving; and privacy is a thing of the past. It is a different world than the one that existed 40 years ago, but I do believe that people are adapting. I think while social media is still very addictive to a majority of the population, there are many people I know who have purposely ended their social media accounts or deleted those apps from their phones. I just wish this book would have focused a bit more on what people are doing to not allow technology to be their only method of conversation.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ 

What are your thoughts of this age of technology that we live in? What are some things that you do to reclaim conversation? Can you exist without technology?

Book Review: The Seduction Expert

34020885Title: The Seduction Expert
Author: Saya Lopez Ortega
Genre: Romance
Publisher: VSP Publishing
Publication Date: June 26, 2019
Pages: 174
Format Read: Ebook
Standalone or series: Series (Book One of The Seduction Expert)
Where I got the book: NetGalley ARC
Date finished reading: June 2, 2019

Goodreads Description: She’s the seduction expert.

Women contact her to take over their love lives. She steps in when they’re lost, she’s supposed to succeed where they failed. She handles their single status, their relationship, their breakup, and very often their partner’s affairs. Her job is a life priority, she spends most of her time at the office or between two flights in business class and the fact of having a sports car that can reach one hundred kilometers in less than six seconds often make her feel like a super-heroine in service to women.

Anyway, take her card.

You’ll see, it’s much better than spending holidays in St Barts.

My Review: I was really excited to get this book from NetGalley. It looked like it could be a fun, short read to enjoy as we head into the summer months. Short it was. Fun? Not for me.

One of the things that intrigued me about this book was the fact that the main character was a powerful, successful and ambitious woman, called the Baroness. By the description, I thought she was really helping a lot of women have successful relationships. However, I was immediately turned off by her cold demeanor. The Baroness was harsh to her clients (who often are going through difficult marital problems and possibly divorces), her employees (who work very hard) and her fiancé (whom she appears to only be marrying for money and status). She seemed incapable of sympathy and/or love. I disliked her future mother-in-law a lot, and yet I almost cheered her on for trying to destroy the Baroness’ business and relationship with her son. I almost always have to like at least one of the main characters to really like the book, and I just didn’t with this one. I don’t understand why a female character has to be cruel and manipulative enable to have her success and power.

Also, how is this classified as a romance? Is it a romance just because the main character got engaged? I felt no love or passion in this book unless the love and passion was for obtaining money and power.

This book should be out at the end of the month. While some of the early readers gave it some love on Goodreads, this one fell flat for me. The author did have an intriguing transition to the next book in the series, but I just don’t think I want to continue with these characters

My Rating: ♦ ♦ 

Book Review: Smitten by the Brit

41150496
Title: 
Smitten by the Brit
Author: Melonie Johnson
Genre: Romance
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: May 28, 2019
Pages: 384
Format Read: ebook
Standalone or series: standalone
Where I got the book: NetGalley
Date finished reading: May 26, 2019

Goodreads Description: English professor Bonnie Blythe expects her life to play out like her favorite novels, especially now that her long-term boyfriend has finally proposed. So when a shocking discovery leads Bonnie to end her engagement, she decides to close the book on love. But the plot thickens when a brand-new character enters the scene—and quickens Bonnie’s heart.

With his brilliant blue eyes, sexy accent, and irresistible charm, Theo Wharton is like a romantic hero straight out of a Jane Austen novel. When fate places Bonnie in England for a summer—conveniently close to Theo—she realizes a hot friends-with-benefits fling is exactly what she needs to start a fresh chapter. Just as Bonnie begins to believe she’s falling in love, an eye-opening revelation into Theo’s life makes Bonnie feel like she’s wandered into one of her favorite books. Will Bonnie have the courage to risk her heart and turn the page with the dashing Brit to find her true happy ending after all?

My Review: Sometimes I’m just in the mood for a feel good romance and this definitely fit the bill. You are rooting for the main character, Bonnie, right from the start. You want her to have her happy ending after her she catches her fiancé cheating on her. I love the cast of girlfriends. Their interactions are so amusing. The perfect thing for a romantic comedy. The reader feels the ongoing steamy attraction between Bonnie and Theo with an added bonus of an English countryside setting and quotes from Shakespeare, Austen and other English authors. Unfortunately, even when I just want a good romance story, I can’t just turn off my realistic sensibility. Is it really a good idea to have a main character go immediately from one long term relationship to jumping so quickly into spending the rest of her life with someone else? Seems too soon, even though Bonnie appears to be very mature and confident in herself. Maybe I could have overlooked that if the end was a bit stronger. Theo had his own family obligations and responsibilities that prevented a long term commitment to Bonnie, and yet in couple pages those obligations and responsibilities just disappeared and all was good. I would have liked further development in Theo’s family dynamics, especially since his family was full of interesting characters. Overall this was a quick and enjoyable read.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ½

Book Review: The Man from the Train

the-man-from-the-train-9781476796277_hrTitle: The Man from the Train
Author: Bill James & Rachel McCarthy James
Genre: True Crime
Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: September 19, 2017
Pages: 464
Format Read: audiobook
Standalone or series: standalone
Where I got the book: Library Libby app
Date finished reading: May 20, 2019

Goodreads Description: Using unprecedented, dramatically compelling sleuthing techniques, legendary statistician and baseball writer Bill James applies his analytical acumen to crack an unsolved century-old mystery surrounding one of the deadliest serial killers in American history.

Between 1898 and 1912, families across the country were bludgeoned in their sleep with the blunt side of an axe. Jewelry and valuables were left in plain sight, bodies were piled together, faces covered with cloth. Some of these cases, like the infamous Villasca, Iowa, murders, received national attention. But few people believed the crimes were related. And fewer still would realize that all of these families lived within walking distance to a train station.

When celebrated baseball statistician and true crime expert Bill James first learned about these horrors, he began to investigate others that might fit the same pattern. Applying the same know-how he brings to his legendary baseball analysis, he empirically determined which crimes were committed by the same person. Then after sifting through thousands of local newspapers, court transcripts, and public records, he and his daughter Rachel made an astonishing discovery: they learned the true identity of this monstrous criminal. In turn, they uncovered one of the deadliest serial killers in America.

Riveting and immersive, with writing as sharp as the cold side of an axe, The Man from the Train paints a vivid, psychologically perceptive portrait of America at the dawn of the twentieth century, when crime was regarded as a local problem, and opportunistic private detectives exploited a dysfunctional judicial system. James shows how these cultural factors enabled such an unspeakable series of crimes to occur, and his groundbreaking approach to true crime will convince skeptics, amaze aficionados, and change the way we view criminal history.

My Review: As an avid true crime reader, I was intrigued to hear about this book on an episode of the My Favorite Murder podcast. However, this book did not at all come close to meeting my expectations. The details about why it is believed that all these murders were connected is fascinating. The authors did a good job of mentioning all the similarities in the crime scenes, but that is really the only credit I can give this book. It was poorly written and disorganized.

One paragraph in the book that represented why I disliked this book so much is when the author stated that he was going to hold off on telling a story until later and for now was going to give that story the back of his hand. What???!!! First of all, if a book is well organized, an author or authors should never have to put stories on the back burner. I care about that story at that moment not 15 chapters later. Second, who says that they are going to give a story “the back of my hand.” I am not even sure what the authors were implying by using this phrase, but I found this phrase offensive, and it had no place being in this true crime story. When I read nonfiction, I want facts put intellectually. I don’t want silly comments or phrases. Those just take away from point of the story and the seriousness of the murders. It almost felt disrespectful.

Along the same lines as the disorganization of this story, it dragged on and on. It felt like I was reading about the Wilkerson character for a decade. There should not have been more than 10 pages dedicated to that horrible character. So much of this book was a struggle to get through. After so much pain and effort, you finally read about the man from the train, but you can’t help but feel like it wasn’t worth the reading time invested.

So many people were brutally murdered by the man on the train. So many innocent people were put to death for these murders. The authors did not do all those people justice.

I just want all true crime to be as intelligently told as in the writings of Ann Rule and Michelle McNamara. Is that too much to ask? So just in case it wasn’t clear, I do NOT recommend this book.

My Rating: ♦ ½

Book Review: Made to Stick

cf374f39a65cb9789c1c86fc9e7836f1
Title: 
Made to Stick
Author: Chip Heath & Dan Heath
Genre: Nonfiction Business
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: December 18, 2006
Pages: 291
Format Read: audiobook
Standalone or series: standalone
Where I got the book: Library Libby app
Date finished reading: May 5, 2019

Goodreads Description: NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER – The instant classic about why some ideas thrive, why others die, and how to improve your idea’s chances–essential reading in the “fake news” era.

Mark Twain once observed, “A lie can get halfway around the world before the truth can even get its boots on.” His observation rings true: Urban legends, conspiracy theories, and bogus news stories circulate effortlessly. Meanwhile, people with important ideas–entrepreneurs, teachers, politicians, and journalists–struggle to make them “stick.”

In Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath reveal the anatomy of ideas that stick and explain ways to make ideas stickier, such as applying the human scale principle, using the Velcro Theory of Memory, and creating curiosity gaps. Along the way, we discover that sticky messages of all kinds–from the infamous “kidney theft ring” hoax to a coach’s lessons on sportsmanship to a vision for a new product at Sony–draw their power from the same six traits.

Made to Stick will transform the way you communicate. It’s a fast-paced tour of success stories (and failures): the Nobel Prize-winning scientist who drank a glass of bacteria to prove a point about stomach ulcers; the charities who make use of the Mother Teresa Effect; the elementary-school teacher whose simulation actually prevented racial prejudice.

Provocative, eye-opening, and often surprisingly funny, Made to Stick shows us the vital principles of winning ideas–and tells us how we can apply these rules to making our own messages stick.

My Review: I work in the medical field and one of the researchers recommended this book to me after we had taken some required work trainings on communication and excellence. I unfortunately did not get a lot out of those work trainings, but I did get much more out of Made to Stick and immediately recommended it to my husband who is a university professor.

The authors focused on expanding on their six principles to making ideas “stick”:

  1. Simplicity
  2. Unexpectedness
  3. Concreteness
  4. Credibility
  5. Emotions
  6. Stories

One of the most helpful tips when you are trying to share information or convince someone of an idea is to not stray too far from the core point. I especially enjoyed when the authors stated that just because you have a “sea of information”, you do not have to share it. I have definitely experienced sitting in classes or book clubs, where conversations start moving further and further from the original point that you forget where the conversation began and why.

I like how the authors used real work examples of companies and ideas to confirm their basic principles. It really helps you grasp the importance of these principles and why they will work.

This was an interesting and insightful read. As mentioned, I have already recommended it and think that it is most helpful for entrepreneurs, professors, and anyone who needs to share and communicate ideas on a regular basis.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Book Review: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

book woman of troublesome creek by kim michele richardsonTitle: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
Author: Kim Michele Richardson
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publication Date: May 7, 2019
Pages: 320
Format Read: ebook
Standalone or series: standalone
Where I got the book: NetGalley ARC
Date finished reading: May 8, 2019

Goodreads Description: “Richardson’s latest work is a hauntingly atmospheric love letter to the first mobile library in Kentucky and the fierce, brave packhorse librarians who wove their way from shack to shack dispensing literacy, hope, and – just as importantly – a compassionate human connection. Richardson’s rendering of stark poverty against the ferocity of the human spirit is irresistible. Add to this the history of the unique and oppressed blue-skinned people of Kentucky, and you’ve got an un-put-downable work that holds real cultural significance.” – Sara Gruen, #1 NYT bestselling author 

In 1936, tucked deep into the woods of Troublesome Creek, KY, lives blue-skinned 19-year-old Cussy Carter, the last living female of the rare Blue People ancestry. The lonely young Appalachian woman joins the historical Pack Horse Library Project of Kentucky and becomes a librarian, riding across slippery creek beds and up treacherous mountains on her faithful mule to deliver books and other reading material to the impoverished hill people of Eastern Kentucky.

Along her dangerous route, Cussy, known to the mountain folk as Bluet, confronts those suspicious of her damselfly-blue skin and the government’s new book program. She befriends hardscrabble and complex fellow Kentuckians, and is fiercely determined to bring comfort and joy, instill literacy, and give to those who have nothing, a bookly respite, a fleeting retreat to faraway lands.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is a powerful message about how the written word affects people–a story of hope and heartbreak, raw courage and strength splintered with poverty and oppression, and one woman’s chances beyond the darkly hollows. Inspired by the true and historical blue-skinned people of Kentucky and the brave and dedicated Kentucky Pack Horse library service, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek showcases a bold and unique tale of the Pack horse Librarians in literary novels — a story of fierce strength and one woman’s belief that books can carry us anywhere — even back home. 

My Review: I received an ARC copy of this book via NetGalley. I found this story both fascinating and heartwrenching. I had never heard of the blue people of Kentucky or methemoglobinemia, which I found interesting. However, these people with such a unique medical condition just fueled an already prejudicial and racist society in Kentucky. This story focuses on one such person, named Cussy Mary or Bluet, who won the hearts of many of the hill folk in Troublesome Creek by delivering reading materials as her job as a Pack Horse Librarian. She shared her love of literature, but also tried to teach the people how different reading material could be useful in their homes, that these reading materials could be methods of educating people how to hunt, garden, cook, sew, etc. Cussy Mary put her heart and soul into trying to enrich these people’s lives and also save them from starvation and other ailments that were common in those parts.

Impoverishment and starvation were not the only hardships. If the men had jobs, it was most likely in the mines. Cussy Mary would worry about her father’s safety in the mines, a job that contained long, grueling work hours and life-risking tasks.

(Trigger Warnings for violence and sexual assault.) Cussy Mary’s every day life was a terrifying one. She was mistreated both physically and verbally by many townsfolk because of the color of her skin. I feared for her safety through the whole book as she traveled the path delivering the library materials all alone. I absolutely adored her mule (the one blessing she got out of her miserable marriage), who did try to protect her on multiple occasions.

Without giving too much away, after an incident happened at the home of Cussy Mary and her father, her father made a deal with the town’s doctor that the doctor could run medical tests on Cussy Mary to try to understand why she was blue. This led to him diagnosing her condition. After experiencing so much pain and hurt, the doctor didn’t have to spend too much time convinced Cussy Mary to take some medication that would turn her skin white even though this medication would make her sick. She thought she could have a normal life if she was white, that the townspeople would accept her as one of their own, but they didn’t.

The books displays so many harsh realities of poverty, starvation, vanity, racism and hate, but it also shares a story of the power of literature, which brings hope to the suffering, and the loving bond that connects the librarian to her patrons and friends, who don’t see the color of her skin but see her simply as the Book Woman.  I loved this story so much. It was sweet and powerful. I would give it a full 5 stars, but it made me cry so much and had hoped for a happier ending. Despite this, I highly recommend this book.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ½