The Circle – Dave Eggers

18302455Title: The Circle
Author: Dave Eggers

Publisher: Knopf
Published Date: 10/08/13

Blurb: When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime. The Circle, run out of a sprawling California campus, links users’ personal emails, social media, banking, and purchasing with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of civility and transparency.

As Mae tours the open-plan office spaces, the towering glass dining facilities, the cozy dorms for those who spend nights at work, she is thrilled with the company’s modernity and activity. There are parties that last through the night, there are famous musicians playing on the lawn, there are athletic activities and clubs and brunches, and even an aquarium of rare fish retrieved from the Marianas Trench by the CEO.

Mae can’t believe her luck, her great fortune to work for the most influential company in America – even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public. What begins as the captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge.

My Review:
I never heard of this book before I saw the preview at the movies.  Immediately I knew that it was a book first though, the entire premise really had that ‘book’ feel, and I thought it was one that I would really, really like.  So as soon as I got home from the movies that night, I went and added myself to the wait list with the library.

What I Loved:  This book was just real enough to believe.  I continued to go back and forth between thinking, ‘no way…there is no way that so many people would be okay with this,’ and thinking ‘how far away from this are we now, really…not much.’  There were many aspects of the corporation that were very familiar, as there are things (on a much smaller scale) that my own corporation does (ie. onsite health clinic, badges that track where you are in the building, etc.).

Not So Much:  First of all, Mae was kind of a pushover.  She bought in to everything so easily.  I felt like she really had a hard time having her own thoughts.  In the moments when it seemed like she was falling into a more….reasonable thought process, something would happen or she would mentally talk herself out of it.

Second, as mentioned, I had a hard time thinking so many people would be okay with the kind of integration that The Circle was attempting.  Many times I had to remind myself that the perspective that we are getting in this book was dominantly an ‘inside The Circle’ view, and aside from a few minor characters – you don’t get any other perspective.

Third, I felt like the ending was a huge let down.

The Verdict:  If you like the series “Black Mirror” this book is for you.  Like 110%, you’re going to love it.  I didn’t care for the series, and I was very luke-warm about this book.  This book is an adult book, and it has adult scenes.

Ever the Hunted – Erin Summerill

28114396Title: Ever the Hunted
Author: Erin Summerill

Series: Clash of Kingdoms #1

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Published Date: 12/27/2016

Blurb: Seventeen year-old Britta Flannery is at ease only in the woods with her dagger and bow. She spends her days tracking criminals alongside her father, the legendary bounty hunter for the King of Malam—that is, until her father is murdered. Now outcast and alone and having no rights to her father’s land or inheritance, she seeks refuge where she feels most safe: the Ever Woods. When Britta is caught poaching by the royal guard, instead of facing the noose she is offered a deal: her freedom in exchange for her father’s killer.

However, it’s not so simple.

The alleged killer is none other than Cohen McKay, her father’s former apprentice. The only friend she’s ever known. The boy she once loved who broke her heart. She must go on a dangerous quest in a world of warring kingdoms, mad kings, and dark magic to find the real killer. But Britta wields more power than she knows. And soon she will learn what has always made her different will make her a daunting and dangerous force.

My Review:
I’m not even sure what the allure of a book set in a place with no technology, bows and knives are hunting tools and trade is the best source of commodity is, but I am always drawn to them.  Throw in a strong female lead, and I’m usually game! Plus I really love that cover.

What I Loved:  This story unraveled at a very nice pace, and had the flavor of a fairy-tale, which falls right into my current Beauty and the Beast mode as it is.  I enjoyed that there were bits of magic interwoven throughout this story; you know that Britta is special, but it really isn’t fully unveiled until much later just how much, and then it maintains a bit of a ‘witch hunt’ atmosphere. I felt like the pace of this book moved along smoothly, yet didn’t skimp on the background either.  I honestly thought that I was reading a stand alone because of all the detail and the way the whole thing was unraveling.

I loved the relationship between Britta and Cohen’s friendship/relationship.  Of course there is the attraction between them which is kept at a sizzle most of the time, but they also bicker and get on each other’s nerves, just the way you would expect old friends to do.  They protect each other, even in moments when they don’t seem to be on the same side of the fence.

Britta’s captors were an interesting mix of people.  I did like that not all of them were mean/evil-natured, but that despite her circumstance, she had a friend as well.

Not So Much:  So the first, and probably most common mistake of any book relationship – the relationship between Britta and Cohen could have been set to rights by conversing. Even when there was this big secret being held, there was so much talking that could have been done, instead there were long pauses and assumptions the entire time…it got old very quickly.

Second, I thought I was reading a stand alone, even though I sort of knew I wasn’t at the same time.  This kind of book ALWAYS is part of a series.  But I’m very unpleased with the way this one ended, and I’m not even sure I want to continue.  It will take some good reviews and research on my part, because I’m not sure I can handle another book of no talking and secrets that are the biggest source of drama throughout the book.

The Verdict: I’m iffy on this.  I liked it a lot, but there were issues that make me hesitant to continue.  The book was clean and appropriate for YA.

How to Win Friends & Influence People – Dale Carnegie

4865Title: How to Win Friends & Influence People
Author: Dale Carnegie

Publisher: Gallery Books
Published Date: 1939
Buy Link: http://a.co/gTK4H18

Blurb: You can go after the job you want…and get it! You can take the job you have…and improve it! You can take any situation you’re in…and make it work for you!

Since its release in 1936, How to Win Friends and Influence People has sold more than 15 million copies. Dale Carnegie’s first book is a timeless bestseller, packed with rock-solid advice that has carried thousands of now famous people up the ladder of success in their business and personal lives.

As relevant as ever before, Dale Carnegie’s principles endure, and will help you achieve your maximum potential in the complex and competitive modern age.

Learn the six ways to make people like you, the twelve ways to win people to your way of thinking, and the nine ways to change people without arousing resentment.

My Review: I read this book as part of a class I took for work.  I had actually purchased the ebook ages ago based on a recommendation, and when this class popped up I decided to give it a go.

What I Loved:  While pretty basic, all of the principles of this book are very clear and applicable to anyone at any point of our life, they are not just principles for people who work at a corporation.  In fact, I would say that most of the principles presented are just good people skills put into practice.

I enjoyed the healthy reminders of how as a decent human being, I should be listening, and keeping other peoples perspective in mind rather than only thinking of my own wants and desires.  There are a lot of nuggets to take from this book, but one of the best is the realization that every single person really has one deep set desire (whether they realize it or not) and that is to feel important.  We can help them achieve those desires by doing very simple things; addressing them by name, really listening, smile, being authentic in our desire to know about them and their life.  Simple life concepts.  And though this isn’t a Christian book at all, they are simple Christian attributes as well.

Not So Much: For each principle laid out in this book, there were several real-life examples given.  At first I was really enjoying the stories and little bits of history (as this book is quite old, and many of the examples are well-known individuals from U.S. history) – but after several chapters of these points/story/story/story setting – I kind of started to feel like I was just getting the points presented over and over and over again.  However, without all of these examples, the book would have been nothing more than a pamphlet.

The Verdict:  This is a great book.  It should be read of for nothing more than to be ‘told’ what we as humans probably already know to be true.  Sometimes, though, knowing something and hearing it presented makes a big difference.  If more people would apply the principles in this book, this world would look quite a bit different.

Vanishing Act – Erica Kiefer

24822717Title: Vanishing Act
Author: Erica Kiefer
Series: Lingering Echos

Publisher: Clean Teen Publishing
Published Date: May 26, 2015

Blurb: A fresh start at college is exactly what Kate needs to ease the burden of her family secrets. When she meets the confident and charming Aaron Jackson, she weaves a new history for herself to fit into his seemingly perfect life. But the past refuses to stay where it belongs, causing a rift between their contrasting worlds.

When Ben reappears in Kate’s life, she is only pulled deeper into the childhood that she’s tried to forget. Driven by the abuse and pain that still lingers within him, Ben seeks Kate’s help in making a change. But in this journey for retribution, lines blur between courage, justice, and revenge.

Bound by their shared and damaged youth, Kate is forced to choose sides, and fast. The final act is almost here, and time is running out.

Vanishing Act is a Lingering Echoes novel that can be read as part of the series or as a stand alone story. Fueled by the scars from an experience in foster care that no child should have to endure, Vanishing Act touches on serious issues that can continue to impact abuse victims well into their adult lives. Vanishing Act is an emotional drama with a sweet romance mixed in.

My Review:  I dabbled in what I was wanting to be a weekly post called Judging a Book by It’s Cover, but as those things go, I find myself forgetting to grab covers – thus missing the post.  Once a couple weeks went by, I didn’t keep trying.  Though I still like the idea.  Anyhow.  I did this cover back then, and later purchased the book.  I just got around to reading it, and let me tell you…I was wayyyy off!  🙂

What I Loved:  I so loved the message behind this story, and the good and bad sides of Foster Care, and the kids who are often in and out of it.  More and more focus needs to be placed on the innocent, and the system, because I know that there are just as many good Foster Parents as there are bad ones.  And I’m guessing that is the heart from which this story was birthed. This entire story arc was stellar and what kept me reading.

This book was filled with angst and reality of life.  I did like how the truth wasn’t really avoided – but told in a real, heartfelt way.

Ben is the character I actually latched on to the most, because you could just tell he was completely lost and alone, and I so badly didn’t want that for him at all, even though I spend almost the entire book wavering between how unhinged he was and understanding and even commiserating his misguided thoughts on how to fix things.

As an offshot of the major issues of this story, I loved the dynamic between Aaron, Nick and Josh.  Their friendship is what I always imagine guys in college should be – and what I long for for my kids when they reach that age.  Maybe not the hardships some of them faced, but the family away from family kind of feel.

Not So Much:  I wasn’t really into Kate and Aaron’s relationship in this book. I loved him as a friend and a support, and the first chapters even I loved the chemistry of them, but I felt their story was kind of was there because it could be rather than it was a part of the overall.  I enjoyed the learning between the two characters, but I guess I just wasn’t feeling the relationship as much.

The Verdict:  A great read for sure!  I do recommend picking it up.  The book is clean and very age appropriate at NA, even YA would be fine.

Dangerous Lies – Becca Fitzpatrick

20909906Dangerous Lies
Author: Becca Fitzpatrick
Published: November 10, 2015
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Buy Link:  http://a.co/4zbtAHA

Blurb: A teen is forced to make a fresh start after witnessing a violent crime—but love and danger find her anyway in this novel from Becca Fitzpatrick, the New York Times bestselling author of the Hush, Hush saga.

Stella Gordon is not her real name. Thunder Basin, Nebraska, is not her real home. This is not her real life.

After witnessing a lethal crime, Stella Gordon is sent to the middle of nowhere for her own safety before she testifies against the man she saw kill her mother’s drug dealer.

But Stella was about to start her senior year with the boyfriend she loves. How can she be pulled away from the only life she knows and expected to start a new one in Nebraska? Stella chafes at her protection and is rude to everyone she meets. She’s not planning on staying long, so why be friendly? Then she meets Chet Falconer and it becomes harder to keep her guard up, even as her guilt about having to lie to him grows.

As Stella starts to feel safer, the real threat to her life increases—because her enemies are actually closer than she thinks…

My Review:
I had two audible book credits when I picked up Dangerous Lies.  I’m not sure how I found it, but I have previously really liked Becca Fitzgerald’s books, her Hush,Hush series, but more so Black Ice.  The YA Thrillerish Romance is something I like a lot, actually, and hopefully I can find more of.

What I Loved:  I loved the action scenes, and the moments when you know that the suspense is building.  The knowledge that something is coming, but not exactly sure what it is just yet.

This is going to seem strange, but I was drawn to Stella a bit because I could relate to her on a small level.  Her life is, by far, more dysfunctional than mine was, but I understood her struggle with authority and trust due to her mom being an addict.  When you have a life full of empty promises, it is difficult to believe when people are being sincere.    So even though I would get frustrated at her indignant attitude at times, I also could understand where she was coming from.

The twists of the stories, and especially the scene where Stella and Chet are revealing their secrets.  I feel like this was the most exposed and sincere scene in the entire book.  Though I did feel like Chet was sincere to the degree of being overly intense all the time – this scene sort of finally won me over.

Not So Much:  First and foremost, and I think this is why I may have had a hard time getting into this book…because I did.  I actually started it in October and put it down for a long time before deciding to finish it off this week; I really didn’t feel the chemistry like I wanted between Stella and Chet.  All the right scenes were there and everything seemed like it should have been just right, but something was missing.  I don’t know if it was Stella’s hold on Reed, or what it was – but the relationship kind of fell flat for me all the way up until the end when it finally came together. (And no, it wasn’t because of the fade to black scene – that wasn’t even that great to me, either.)

While I enjoyed all the side stories happening in this book, I also kind of felt it added a lot of unnecessary length.  I really wanted more action and danger I think, when really only a small portion of the book was really thriller.

The Verdict:  I did enjoy Dangerous Lies, but I was really hoping for another Black Ice, I think.  That book was awesome in the ‘edge of your seat’ kind of way, and the blooming romance was a slow heat, while Dangerous Lies was kind of out there and open because of Chet’s nature.  In real life, I would probably fall in love with Chet, hands down.  This book was mostly clean, it had some intense kissing, and as I mentioned, a fade to black scene that was squeaky clean.  I think there was mention of the top of the bathing suit, and that was as graphic as it got.  YA-ok.

Book Review: Until Friday Night – Abbi Glines

22522202Until Friday Night by Abbi Glines

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Published Date: August 25, 2015

Buy Link: https://amzn.com/1481438840

Blurb: To everyone who knows him, West Ashby has always been that guy: the cocky, popular, way-too-handsome-for-his-own-good football god who led Lawton High to the state championships. But while West may be Big Man on Campus on the outside, on the inside he’s battling the grief that comes with watching his father slowly die of cancer.

Two years ago, Maggie Carleton’s life fell apart when her father murdered her mother. And after she told the police what happened, she stopped speaking and hasn’t spoken since. Even the move to Lawton, Alabama, couldn’t draw Maggie back out. So she stayed quiet, keeping her sorrow and her fractured heart hidden away.

As West’s pain becomes too much to handle, he knows he needs to talk to someone about his father—so in the dark shadows of a post-game party, he opens up to the one girl who he knows won’t tell anyone else.

West expected that talking about his dad would bring some relief, or at least a flood of emotions he couldn’t control. But he never expected the quiet new girl to reply, to reveal a pain even deeper than his own—or for them to form a connection so strong that he couldn’t ever let her go…

My Review:
Two teenagers dealing with more baggage than any typical teenager would carry, both dealing with their hardships in their own way – finding each other in the process. Add football, mean girls and good friends, and you’ve got a pretty decent YA.

What I Loved: The chemistry between West and Maggie was off the charts hot. And I knew it would be from the moment I hit play. West is an intense character, a bit more so than I am used to finding in a YA book. He’s a bit broody, and in some way a bit stereo-typical too (but he makes up for that eventually). I do love how much he loves and respects his family though, that sort of helped me through the first few chapters at least.

Maggie isn’t complicated at all, she is very much a typical teenage girl, she just doesn’t really talk. She is very caring and understanding of people around her, even toward her cousin and Aunt and Uncle. Mostly, I love how she is there for West and helps him deal.

I kind of fell in love with West, and Brady (Maggie’s cousin) and the rest of their circle of friends. Sometimes it’s the friend dynamic that really makes a book a little extra special to me.

Not So Much: This book started to feel long toward the end. Typically when you read a book there is a pretty clear arc in the story line, you reach a climax and things start to come back down. This book seemed to be more of a linear progression. There was progress made, for sure. The characters had issues they all worked through and there was a resolution, however there never seemed to be this grand moment/turning point in the book. I don’t think this is “wrong” but I do think that it might be why it felt a bit long after a while. More than once I thought things were getting ready to wrap up in the story (I was listening via Audio, and I don’t exactly watch the progress on where I am in the book) but then something more would start happening, and I would be like, ‘oh, we’re going to do this now…’

I already mentioned Maggie was caring and understanding and just had a good personality in general, however sometimes she came off as a pushover, while other times she stood her ground, then the next minute she was cowering. I get she’s a complicated person with a very, very complicated recent past, however I kind of felt like her character was a little inconsistent.

So the biggest issue in this book for me is a spoiler. I’m going to go ahead and …spoil…if you will, but you must scroll past the rest of the review to read it.

The Verdict: I don’t even remember what made me pick up this book. I think I saw a promotion for the next book in the series – and decided to check the books out. I really did enjoy most of the story, I enjoyed the characters a lot. This book, however, is not clean. There is sex, and while it’s not overly descriptive, it is descriptive enough. There is a lot of foul language as well. So, not my typical read – but I did enjoy it otherwise.

WARNING, SPOILER AHEAD…

(view spoiler)

View all my reviews

Book Review: Vengeance Road – Erin Bowman

Title: Vengeance Road
Author: Erin Bowman
Genre: YA – Historical, Western, Romance
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Published Date: September 1, 2015
Audiobook Narrator: Amy Rubinate

Buy Link: https://amzn.com/B00QPIM66M

Blurb (from Goodreads:
Revenge is worth its weight in gold.

When her father is murdered for a journal revealing the location of a hidden gold mine, eighteen-year-old Kate Thompson disguises herself as a boy and takes to the gritty plains looking for answers—and justice. What she finds are untrustworthy strangers, endless dust and heat, and a surprising band of allies, among them a young Apache girl and a pair of stubborn brothers who refuse to quit riding in her shadow. But as Kate gets closer to the secrets about her family, a startling truth becomes clear: some men will stop at nothing to get their hands on gold, and Kate’s quest for revenge may prove fatal.

My Review:
This book was sort of a break from my norm. It’s not a fairy tale retell, it’s not straight up fiction, or even dystopian/fantasy. This can best be described as a YA-Western, complete with guns, small down salons, horses and Stetsons. Although I’m wondering…were the hats actually called Stetsons back then? Because I’m pretty sure that’s a name brand, right? I could be wrong.

What I Loved: It was just ever so different, yet the same. The setting is one that I’m not used to, and the southerny/western accent too. This was more a book about redemption than anything, but first comes vengeance. I think the thing that I liked most was Kate’s character, she was complicated. She was after the men who killed her father, but at the same time was able to be compassionate and understanding toward the Apache Indians, the race that everyone hated/feared/mistreated. However, even in that area, she was tainted by society norms and while she was trying to maintain a friendship and understanding, she continued to have disregard for their ways and was borderline offensive for a good portion of the book. There were events that helped her to gain more understanding and respect for the Indians as the story went on, and this growth was the most significant throughout the book, in my opinion.

I also enjoyed the relationship between Kate and Jessie. I felt like it was this low simmer sort of thing between them, rather than drama that extended throughout the book. This wasn’t just Kate’s story either, Jessie had his own redemption to find as well.

Not So Much: Despite any kind of redemption she found while on the hunt for her father’s killers, Kate really never did leave the thought of vengeance behind. For a small portion of the book I thought that she was going to find healing elsewhere, and I do feel like she kind of did – however she was still pretty set on her path. I would have liked to have had more of an emotional resolution for both Kate and Jessie. While there was character growth throughout the book, I feel like we stopped just shy of anything remarkable.

The Verdict:  

    

I enjoyed listening to this book. Again, it is nice to break free from the mold just a bit and read something a little different. I can’t say it was my favorite book of the summer, but I certainly do not regret reading it. This is a YA driven novel, though there is some stronger cussing in it..just so you all know.

ADDED:  So I went and did a little google…Stetsons were created in 1865, and this book took place in 1877…so I guess it works! 😉