DNF: Relentless

I really don’t do a lot of DNFing (that’s Did Not Finish). I suppose that is, in part, because I’m generally quite deliberate with the books I choose to start. And it’s also because sometimes I’m willing to let reading experiences drag on to great lengths – case in point, this book, that took me half of 2015 to finish, and this article, that sat in my inbox for 3 years. (For the record, both were totally worth the time).

Anyway, a team of my co-workers and I had recently decided to do a little work-book-club, where we’d read a business-related book to discuss. After soliciting nominations, and voting on the top choices, we came up with a book called Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable. By title, of course, this sounds like a great choice, right? Let’s push ourselves to be the best we can be, and all that jazz.

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But no.

It was so, so bad. So bad, that I officially/inadvertently killed the book club (or, more accurately, killed that book, so we moved on to choice 2, but it sounds so much more dramatic to say “I killed the book club!”)

To save you from this reading experience, I’d like to share some of the quotes from this book. To give you the proper context, the author Tim Grover, is a trainer for elite athletes. Primarily, he references his work with Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Dwayne Wade. Anyway, Grover’s “leadership” model is based on 3 types of people, “coolers, closers, and cleaners.” You don’t really have to understand anymore than that to get the most out of these quotes.

Here’s the first place I almost stopped reading, on principle:

A Cleaner controls his urges, not the other way around. The dark side isn’t about taking stupid risks and getting in trouble; that would show weakness. You can feel your desires and act on them, or not act on them; your self-control is what distinguishes you from everyone else. You can walk away or hold back whenever you choose. You reach for the bottle because you want a drink, not because you need one. You can have the hottest women, enjoy them all, but never get too involved.

Wait, did he seriously just say that? Objectifying women as something you “have,” as part of what you should aspire to be if you want to be relentless? *Vomit*

Yet I continued:

Cleaners go home to detach from the dark side; it’s the built-in safety valve. That’s why so many men fight to stay in their marriages even after they’ve been caught doing something they shouldn’t have been doing: home is the only safe place they know. Home surrounds you with comfort and security; the force of the dark side comes from somewhere else. You go home to feel safe and loved, you go out to feel excitement… you may not want to admit it, but you can’t deny it. The fire in your gut comes from the dark side, and the dark side has no place at the family dinner table…

I don’t know if there’s a better example than Tiger Woods, who’s now-famous dark side led him to become involved with a dozen or so women who were not his wife. Of course, that number of women would be a slow week for some pro athletes…

WTAF? So, “relentless” individuals must cultivate a safe space at home, but then also find outlets for their “dark side.” Is that what he is saying?

Why, yes, actually it is:

When a cleaner wants a break from the pressure he puts on himself, he escapes to the dark side. Something else for him to control, a temporary fix that maintains the pressure but allows him to shift his focus from one addiction to another for a while. Instead of working, he reaches for sex.

This book is shit.

I killed* the book club, and I’m not sorry about it.

*Not entirely true. We’ve moved on to the second choice: Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by the CEO of Zappos. Hello, shoes. Goodbye, sleazeball misogynist athletic trainer.

Review: The Passenger

The Passenger, Lisa Lutz

Hardcover, 320 pages

Expected publication: March 1st 2016 by Simon & Schuster

26154406In case you were wondering, I didn’t do it. I didn’t have anything to do with Frank’s death. I don’t have an alibi, so you’ll have to take my word for it…

Forty-eight hours after leaving her husband’s body at the base of the stairs, Tanya Dubois cashes in her credit cards, dyes her hair brown, demands a new name from a shadowy voice over the phone, and flees town. It’s not the first time.

She meets Blue, a female bartender who recognizes the hunted look in a fugitive’s eyes and offers her a place to stay. With dwindling choices, Tanya-now-Amelia accepts. An uneasy―and dangerous―alliance is born.

It’s almost impossible to live off the grid today, but Amelia-now-Debra and Blue have the courage, the ingenuity, and the desperation, to try. Hopscotching from city to city, Debra especially is chased by a very dark secret…can she outrun her past?

I’ll start with a confession, I bought my first Lisa Lutz book years ago –The Spellman Files– and still it sits on my kindle unread.  I will be remedying that shortly.  

Tanya finds her husband’s body at the foot of the stairs in their home after his natural – but unexpected – death.  Rather than deal with any questions from the police Tanya packs a bag and leaves town. Who does that?  Tanya calls in a favor and becomes Amelia, which is the first of many names that we’ll get to know her as.  Tanya/Amelia crosses paths with many people who both help her and hinder her passage.  Most importantly she meets Blue; and in Blue Amelia seems to have found a true friend with a plan that will free them both from their pasts.  But is it really a safe road?

There were a few scenes where things were rushed, but since the book was so fast paced it didn’t take away too much from the overall enjoyment of the read.  The emails interspersing chapters between a mysterious Jo and Ryan only made me more curious about who Tanya really was and what she was hiding from.  I won’t spoil the ending, but I will just say those were twists I never saw coming!  I loved how Lutz wrapped everything up.  Pick this up when you have time to race through it because you won’t want to put The Passenger down. 

4 stars

Thank you Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review!

Review: The Girl from Everywhere

The Girl From Everywhere, Heidi Heilig

Hardcover, 464 pages

Expected publication: February 16th 2016 by Greenwillow Books

Source: e-ARC from Edelweiss

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It was the kind of August day that hinted at monsoons, and the year was 1774, though not for very much longer.

Sixteen-year-old Nix Song is a time-traveller. She, her father and their crew of time refugees travel the world aboard The Temptation, a glorious pirate ship stuffed with treasures both typical and mythical. Old maps allow Nix and her father to navigate not just to distant lands, but distant times – although a map will only take you somewhere once. And Nix’s father is only interested in one time, and one place: Honolulu 1868. A time before Nix was born, and her mother was alive. Something that puts Nix’s existence rather dangerously in question…

Nix has grown used to her father’s obsession, but only because she’s convinced it can’t work. But then a map falls into her father’s lap that changes everything. And when Nix refuses to help, her father threatens to maroon Kashmir, her only friend (and perhaps, only love) in a time where Nix will never be able to find him. And if Nix has learned one thing, it’s that losing the person you love is a torment that no one can withstand. Nix must work out what she wants, who she is, and where she really belongs before time runs out on her forever.

Time travelling pirates?!  Could a book sound any cooler than this?  Nix sails on her father’s ship, The Temptation, and as long as he has a map the captain can sail to any place – and any time.  The past?  Then to the future? Mythical ports?  All doable!  Oh and partly set in Hawaii?  Give me more!  

Nix helps her father find the maps required for their time traveling sails, but the one map he desperately wants might wipe Nix off page entirely.  Nix and Captain Slate don’t sail the Temptation alone – they have a unique and hilarious crew to help – including ghosts and tiny dragons.  So poor Nix loves her father, but to help him find happiness she risks her own life.  And as much as the story is about Nix and her father, there’s so much more; love, addiction, treason and adventure on the high seas!  

I loved Nix, I loved Kashmir and I loved the mythology that Heilig wove into their journeys.  I knew I was head over heels for this book when the Chinese Terracotta warriors came up…

…‹http://www.chinatour.com/xian/xian-attractions/terracotta-warriors.htm

…‹http://www.chinatour.com/xian/xian-attractions/terracotta-warriors.htm

If you’re looking for an adventure I highly recommend this fast and fun read.  I am dying to get my hands on a finished copy of The Girl from Everywhere so I can see the maps!  This was such an awesome concept and I cannot wait to see where the series goes.  

5 stars!

Thank you Greenwillow Books and Edelweiss for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Tender

Tender, Belinda McKeon

Published February 16th 2016 by Lee Boudreaux Books

Hardcover, 416 pages

Source: Galley from publisher

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When they meet in Dublin in the late nineties, Catherine and James become close as two friends can be. She is a sheltered college student, he an adventurous, charismatic young artist. In a city brimming with possibilities, he spurs her to take life on with gusto. But as Catherine opens herself to new experiences, James’s life becomes a prison; as changed as the new Ireland may be, it is still not a place in which he feels able to truly be himself. Catherine, grateful to James and worried for him, desperately wants to help — but as time moves on, and as life begins to take the friends in different directions, she discovers that there is a perilously fine line between helping someone and hurting them further. When crisis hits, Catherine finds herself at the mercy of feelings she cannot control, leading her to jeopardize all she holds dear.

In Tender, Catherine leaves her sheltered life in small town Ireland for her first year of college.  She studies, she drinks, she experiments but still is waiting for more.  Then she meets James.  

Extraordinary.  That was what they were.  That was a James word; that was one of the words she had got, over the summer, from James.

Catherine feels her friendship with James is the extraordinary thing she’s been waiting for her whole life.  James is funny and witty; he’s loud and attention drawing.  Catherine realizes this is what a relationship could feel like – and then James comes out to her.  Mind you, our setting is Ireland, just years after homosexuality has been decriminalized, but definitely not accepted.  Catherine claims to be accepting of James but her feelings are more complicated than she is willing to admit.  It’s not easy being in Catherine’s head all the time, her ups and downs are painful at points.  I found myself cringing in a few places as I was reading waiting to see what she’d do next.  

Tender just put my mind back to that place in college where everything is HUGE.  You can’t see beyond your own personal crises and mistakes are made – that wasn’t just me right?  As things build to a personal crescendo with Catherine and James, so too does McKeon’s writing.  I loved the fragmented quality of the text matching Catherine’s thoughts.  It was amazing how the story flowed from the beginning beautiful prose to to the stilted lines and then on again.  

I expected Tender to go out in an explosive crisis, but rather, McKeon’s quiet ending was even more powerful. There were explosions enough within the plot.  I’ve been walking around for days reflecting back on Tender and that time in my own life and will definitely read this one again.  

5 stars

Thank you Lee Boudreau Books for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion!  

We’re Reading: The Bollywood Bride

Have we mentioned our love for Sonali Dev’s The Bollywood Affair? No? Read our sister read-along posts here and here.

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Anyway, given how fun that book was, we were excited to start Dev’s next novel: The Bollywood Bride.

This book opens with a flashback, of  Ria and Vikram meeting as children, before we fast forward 20 years. Ria Parkar is a Bollywood film star with a reputation as “the Ice Princess” – cold and beautiful. She gets a phone call from her cousin Nikhil, letting her know that he’s getting married in two weeks in Chicago. She’s terrified at the idea of going “home,” somewhere she hasn’t been for ten years.

We get a hint, of course, that she can’t go home because of something that happened between her and Vikram ten years ago. And she can’t not go home, because her cousin Nikhil is like a brother to her.

Ria’s between a rock and a hard place. Let’s do this.

Amanda: Ria is kind of a sad clown. I’m ready for her to run into Vikram. I’m at 12%.

Holly: Sad but beautiful. #tragic

Amanda: Totes

***

Holly: I am at 17%. Ria is no Mili from The Bollywood Affair. And Vik is very very angry!

Amanda: They are both way angry! I like Mili better thus far.

Holly: Obv.

***

Amanda: It makes me laugh that this book is taking place in Naperville. [Not terribly far from where we grew up]

Holly: I know! And they are growing on me.

Amanda: Totally. I am almost at 60%. I love the cousin and the fiance. It’s getting good! I can’t wait for the wedding!

Okay, we’ll finish up and be back with more. I’m pretty sure we’re going to end up loving this book and vowing to attend more Indian weddings. #truth

Anyone want to invite us to an Indian wedding?  This is a perfect weekend read thus far – cheesy and delightful.

My YA DNF Round-Up

I’ve been harsh on my young adult reading so far this year!

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Born Wicked, Jessica Spotswood

Published February 7th 2012 by Putnam Juvenile

Source: Library

Everybody knows Cate Cahill and her sisters are eccentric. Too pretty, too reclusive, and far too educated for their own good. But the truth is even worse: they’re witches. And if their secret is discovered by the priests of the Brotherhood, it would mean an asylum, a prison ship—or an early grave.

Before her mother died, Cate promised to protect her sisters. But with only six months left to choose between marriage and the Sisterhood, she might not be able to keep her word… especially after she finds her mother’s diary, uncovering a secret that could spell her family’s destruction. Desperate to find alternatives to their fate, Cate starts scouring banned books and questioning rebellious new friends, all while juggling tea parties, shocking marriage proposals, and a forbidden romance with the completely unsuitable Finn Belastra.

If what her mother wrote is true, the Cahill girls aren’t safe. Not from the Brotherhood, the Sisterhood—not even from each other.

Well this was the first bust for my 2016 TBR Challenge.  I am not 100% sure how I ended up with Born Wicked on my list to read – I must have been in a witchy phase and I had heard good things about this series.  I read about 100 pages about Cate and her worries about hiding the magic she shares with her sister and I realized – I just wasn’t going to care what happened.  Cate learns she and her sisters might be the witches in an ominous prophecy – that had potential.  But then another trio of sisters begins to be arrested.  Why did it take 16 years for that to happen?  When I start nitpicking at plot details I know its time to just stop.  I’m replacing this book on my TBR Challenge List with The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez (not at all alike but oh well!).

The Orphan Queen, Jodi Meadows

Published March 10th 2015 by Katherine Tegen Books

Source: ARC from ALA Midwinter Meeting 2015

Wilhelmina has a hundred identities.

She is a princess. When the Indigo Kingdom conquered her homeland, Wilhelmina and other orphaned children of nobility were taken to Skyvale, the Indigo Kingdom’s capital. Ten years later, they are the Ospreys, experts at stealth and theft. With them, Wilhelmina means to take back her throne.

She is a spy. Wil and her best friend, Melanie, infiltrate Skyvale Palace to study their foes. They assume the identities of nobles from a wraith-fallen kingdom, but enemies fill the palace, and Melanie’s behavior grows suspicious. With Osprey missions becoming increasingly dangerous and their leader more unstable, Wil can’t trust anyone.

She is a threat. Wraith is the toxic by-product of magic, and for a century using magic has been forbidden. Still the wraith pours across the continent, reshaping the land and animals into fresh horrors. Soon it will reach the Indigo Kingdom. Wilhelmina’s magic might be the key to stopping the wraith, but if the vigilante Black Knife discovers Wil’s magic, she will vanish like all the others.

I had so much hope for Wilhemina!  An orphaned teenage queen trying claim her land and save her people from treacherous conquerors?  Sign me up.  But when Wil and her faithful friend sneak into the palace and she maneuvers herself into a meeting with the evil king – where he so conveniently gives her all kinds of important details?  No thank you.  Things were starting to feel a bit too predictable of where a knife might end up right in Wil’s back. Another series off the list!  

Becoming Jinn, Lori Goldstein

Published April 21st 2015 by Feiwel & Friends

Source: ALA MW Meeting 2015

Harry Potter meets Twilight in debut novelist Lori Goldstein’s magical tale of sixteen-year-old Azra, a teenage girl whose Jinn ancestry transforms her into a modern-day genie. With the power to grant anyone’s wish but her own, Azra pretends to be human, spending her days at the beach, enjoying a budding romance, and evading her Jinn destiny. But when she discovers she may not be like the rest of her circle of Jinn, will her powers save or endanger them all?

Azra wakes up on her 16th birthday in an entirely new beautiful body – give me my first eyeroll.  Why can’t Azra save the world in her shorter body without perfect curves?  Azra doesn’t want to be a jinn, but knows she can’t change anything. That doesn’t stop her from doing a lot of whining to her mother and to herself about the path ahead of her.  As her mother has been Azra is part of a circle of Jinn all coming of age together.  So we have a group of mean girls basically with Azra as the odd one out who doesn’t want her powers.  It felt like all Azra was doing was taking her new powers for granted, not learning what she could be doing and then whining some more.  I’m out.

Champion, Marie Lu – (Legend #3)

Published November 5th 2013 by Putnam Juvenile

Source: Giveaway from Cuddlebuggery

June and Day have sacrificed so much for the people of the Republic—and each other—and now their country is on the brink of a new existence. June is back in the good graces of the Republic, working within the government’s elite circles as Princeps-Elect, while Day has been assigned a high-level military position.

But neither could have predicted the circumstances that will reunite them: just when a peace treaty is imminent, a plague outbreak causes panic in the Colonies, and war threatens the Republic’s border cities. This new strain of plague is deadlier than ever, and June is the only one who knows the key to her country’s defense. But saving the lives of thousands will mean asking the one she loves to give up everything.

I hated to give up at the end of a trilogy!  I enjoyed the first two books in this series enough, but I think in part I’m just at the end of my dystopian rope.   I wanted to know what happened to Day and June but I also found the language to be a bit ridiculous.  I couldn’t picture Day talking the way he was written and I couldn’t keep reading.  I am still eager to pick up Lu’s new series and start The Young Elites!

Thankfully I’ve read two recent YA books that I LOVED and have to review soon so be on the lookout for those!

Review: Blackhearts

Blackhearts, Nicole Castroman

Published: February 9th 2016 by Simon Pulse

Hardcover, 384 pages

Source: e-ARC from Edelweiss

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Blackbeard the pirate was known for striking fear in the hearts of the bravest of sailors. But once he was just a young man who dreamed of leaving his rigid life behind to chase adventure in faraway lands. Nothing could stop him—until he met the one girl who would change everything.

Edward “Teach” Drummond, son of one of Bristol’s richest merchants, has just returned from a year-long journey on the high seas to find his life in shambles. Betrothed to a girl he doesn’t love and sick of the high society he was born into, Teach dreams only of returning to the vast ocean he’d begun to call home. There’s just one problem: convincing his father to let him leave and never come back.

Following her parents’ deaths, Anne Barrett is left penniless and soon to be homeless. Though she’s barely worked a day in her life, Anne is forced to take a job as a maid in the home of Master Drummond. Lonely days stretch into weeks, and Anne longs for escape. How will she ever realize her dream of sailing to Curaçao—where her mother was born—when she’s stuck in England?

From the moment Teach and Anne meet, they set the world ablaze. Drawn to each other, they’re trapped by society and their own circumstances. Faced with an impossible choice, they must decide to chase their dreams and go, or follow their hearts and stay.

How awesome is that cover?   I knew going in that this was a pre-piracy Blackbeard story. Castroman is very clear when talking about the book that she’s laying the foundation for his story – not venturing to sea with him.  So while the cover seems to promise drama on a pirate galleon, what we really get is drama in the drawing room that leads our future Blackbeard to his ship.  Was there ever drama.  

We have Anne, who is the illegitimate daughter of a British merchant and his Curacao born slave.  When her parents both die Anne is sent to work in the home of another wealthy merchant.  Anne crosses path with Edward “Teach” Drummond – the young and handsome son of the master of the house.  Let’s get out of the way that “Teach” was the lamest nickname possibly ever. It felt to me like a complete anachronism and just grated at my nerves every time I read it.  

While I like how Anne and Edward sparked at each other, I could not get past the inherent imbalance of power that was present in their relationship.  Anne was fantastic and I loved that Castroman’s main character was the daughter of a slave trying to set her own path.  But this was set in the late 1600’s and we’re talking about 1) a relationship between a servant and her boss’s son and 2) a multiracial relationship which was made way less than the big deal I would think it had to have been.  I just couldn’t get past those two issues to want these two to be together.  Then there was the rest of the background dramatics like unfaithful housemaids and Edward’s petty fiance.  It seemed like it was too obvious where each plot point was going.  

I was ready to stop this book, but I kept reading comments about the ending being completely brutal.  So for some perverse reason I kept reading – and I loved the ending!  I won’t spoil it – but really how can two people settle down in love and have the story lead to one of the most infamous pirates in history?  The ending was brave and honestly bumped this up a star for me.

2.5 stars

Thank you Simon Pulse and Edelweiss for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review!