Monday, February 27, 2012

(14) Driven to Success

Title:Driven to Success: A 10-Point Checkup for Achieving High Performance in Business by Jane. S. Goldner
Publisher: Morgan James Publishing
120 Pages
Genre: Business

Synopsis: In Driven to Success, leadership & business crisis expert Jane Goldner, PhD, explains that the creation & maintenance of a healthy, cohesive & successful company depends on the leadership's willingness to regularly look under the hood & assess what's working, what needs improvement & what innovations can be made to take the company to the next level of success. Why search under the hood? Because being proactive produces far better results than being reactive.

Driven to Success is a step-by-step guide designed to help business leaders propel their organizations to the next level of high performance. The book's 10-Point Checkup allows readers to evaluate their actions at a glance & hold colleagues & employees accountable for doing the same. Dr Goldner's Business Operating System Solution for Enterprise Results (BOSS) helps build internal alignment across the company & through all systems which is required to attract, develop and retain talent on the road to becoming highly successful.

Review: Business books are not my normal read but I had to read this for graduate school. Race teams are some of the most high performance teams there are.  If they don't work well they often don't finish the race, so taking tips based on race car teams seems silly but it actually works.  This book is a quick read with practical tips that you can start implementing right away.  If you aren't ready to implement change in your organization it give you a road map of how to achieve it.  One of the most valuable pieces of information is on hiring the best people for your company and how to keep them. Making sure that your future leaders are trained and know what they are getting into and what is expected of them and how to move your company forward so that it stays relevant.  I was glad I was given this book to read because it gave me some valuable information that I can use to move my company forward.  I might not have picked it up if I hadn't been assigned it.

Friday, February 24, 2012

(13) The Calling

Title: The Calling by Inger Ash Wolfe
Publisher: Mariner Books
384 pages
Genre: Mystery

Synopsis: Detective Inspector Hazel Micallef has lived all her days in the small town of Port Dundas, Ontario and is now making her way toward retirement with something less than grace. Hobbled by a bad back and a dependence on painkillers, and feeling blindsided by divorce after nearly four decades of marriage, sixty-one-year-old Hazel has only the constructive criticism of her mother (the former mayor) and her own sharp tongue to buoy her. But when a terminally ill woman is gruesomely murdered in her own home, Hazel and her understaffed department must spring to life. And as one terminally ill victim after another is found, Hazel finds herself tracking a truly terrifying serial killer while everything around her spins out of control.

Through the cacophony of her bickering staff, her unsupportive superiors, a clamoring press, the town's rumor mill, and her own nagging doubts, Hazel can sense the dead trying to call out. Will she hear them before it's too late?

Review: I loved that the main character of this book isn't some svelte young beauty who is new to the job and solves the mystery all by herself with hardly a clue.  Instead the main character Hazel is a 61 year old woman, recently divorced, and close to retirement who abhors technology. Hazel is also hobbled by a bad back for which she relies on pain killers and whiskey to help, and has an 80 year old mother who is constantly torturing her to lose weight so she can find a new husband. Her department is in a small town in Canada and is constantly being slated for closure.  Her superiors don't think much of Hazel and are constantly denying her requests so when she stumbles on the idea there may be a serial killer on the loose its no wonder that she tries to solve it herself with no help from the higher ups.

The death of a local woman is what sparks the investigation and when they find that he is targeting terminally ill people the question becomes is he doing this out of compassion or is he acting on some sick compulsion.  Leaving behind bodies that are killed mercifully but then brutally and calculatingly butchered to cover up the crime leads them on a chase from the West Coast of Canada to the East Coast of Canada.

I found this a fun fast read.  I couldn't put it down.  Some people are down on the police procedures not being accurate, but honestly I don't know Canadian procedure and I was just looking to be entertained I wasn't trying to learn about the Canadian judicial system. Inger Ash Wolfe has a new book out called Taken that is the second in this series, can't wait to read it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

(12) Snow Angels

Title: Snow Angels (An Inspector Vaara Novel) by James Thompson
Publisher: Berkley Trade
304 Pages
Genre: Nordic Mystery

Synopsis: Shortly before Christmas, Kari Vaara, the police chief of the Lapland town of Kittilä, gets a phone call informing him that the body of Sufia Elmi, a Somali refugee and minor film star, has been found in a snowfield on a reindeer farm. The victim has also been mutilated, perhaps raped, and a racial slur carved into her flesh. When Kari's ex-wife's lover becomes the prime suspect, Kari spurns the chance to recuse himself and presses on. The winter hazards of alcoholism, suicide and murder all play a part as Kari uncovers more suspects. Sufia's imperious father, Abdi Barre, who was a doctor in his native country and now runs a cleaning service, puts added pressure on Kari.

Review: Thompson paints a bleak picture of Finland during Kaamos, the countries two weeks of complete darkness. Residents tend to stay drunk, fall into deep depressions and suicide rates climb.  But through this all police chief Kari Vaara tries to maintain order.  After the vicious, brutal homicide of a refugee, Kari finds himself mixed up in a press nightmare.  His ex-wife's lover is the prime suspect, the son of a high profile business man the next suspect on the list. As Kari digs deeper the clues lead him to a deepening black hole that will either boost his career or tank it.

The best part of the book is the characters and the setting.  You could feel the biting 40 degrees below zero as you turned the pages, the bleak endless night that drives people mad, and the feeling of hopelessness that it can hold. Intertwined in this was a mediocre mystery that was boosted by its setting and characters. Given that this is the first in a series I am hoping the others are a little better in the plot department but the characters and setting are flawless. If you read it for nothing else but the atmosphere you will have won.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along!

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My teaser Tuesday is from: The Calling by Inger Ash Wolfe 

    This confirmed one supposition: that this killer was staying out of cities, even the small ones. He was taking advantage of the state of police affairs in the smaller communities: A single murder in a minor municipality - even if it were referred to a larger jurisdiction - was unlikely to appear as a pattern to anyone. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along!

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My teaser Tuesday is from: Snow Angels (an Inspector Vaara Novel) by James Thompson 

    The snow is about three feet deep and she's sunk about half that distance into it. She managed to thrash enough to make a snow angel. Her black body is ensconced in white snow stained with red blood. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

(11) Agent X

Title: Agent X by Noah Boyd
Publisher: Harper
466 pages
Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Synopsis: An officer at the Russian embassy—a man known as Calculus—has approached the FBI offering to sell a list of Americans who are giving confidential information to the Russian SVR. But before a deal can be made, Calculus is recalled to Moscow, and the Bureau fears the Russians will be hunting down and killing the traitors unless the FBI can find them first.

FBI agent-turned-bricklayer Steve Vail thought he was done with the agency, but the Bureau has another unsolvable problem, and it has Vail's name written all over it. Finding the hidden turncoats, however, won't be easy—in fact, it could be downright deadly. And even with the help of FBI Assistant Director Kate Bannon, the Bricklayer's going to have to come up with a few new tricks of his own if he hopes to survive.

Review: Steve Vail can see things others can't.  That doesn't mean he's psychic it just means that he can look at documents and information and process them differently...he sees the bigger picture. For an FBI agent this is a great gift but Steve Vail isn't FBI, at least anymore.  He can't play by the rules, doesn't like to answer to people and has trust issues.  So why does he keep getting sucked into FBI investigations? His achilles heel, Kate Bannon.

I like the character of Steve, and I like the interplay between him and Kate. Their on again off again relationship is entertaining. The mysteries are always interesting and a good puzzle, however there were so many layers in this book it was hard to sometimes follow the flow. There were also parts of this book that felt like deja vu.  I'm not sure if similar scenes were in his last book or in a book by a different author but there were some things that just felt like I had read them before.*

Sadly the author of this and his last book The Bricklayer died in September 2011, it would have been nice to see where he took his characters.

*This usually doesn't happen to me but it seems it did in this case...I apparently read this book back in August 2011 - which is why some of it seemed so familiar! Oh well - apparently I liked it 

(10) Flash and Bones

Title: Flash and Bones: A Novel (Temperance Brennan)by Kathy Reichs
Publisher:Pocket Books
304 pages
Genre: Mystery

Synopsis: Just as 200,000 fans are pouring into town for Race Week, a body is found in a barrel of asphalt next to the Charlotte Motor Speedway. The next day, a NASCAR crew member comes to Temperance Brennan’s office at the Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner to share a devastating story. Twelve years earlier, Wayne Gamble’s sister, Cindi, then a high school senior and aspiring racer, disappeared along with her boyfriend, Cale Lovette. Lovette kept company with a group of right-wing extremists known as the Patriot Posse. Could the body be Cindi’s? Or Cale’s?

At the time of their disappearance, the FBI joined the investigation, only to terminate it weeks later. Was there a cover-up? As Tempe juggles multiple theories, the discovery of a strange, deadly substance in the barrel alongside the body throws everything into question. Then an employee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention goes missing during Race Week. Tempe can’t overlook the coincidence. Was this man using his lab chemicals for murder? Or is the explanation even more sinister? What other secrets lurk behind the festive veneer of Race Week?

Review: I'm not much of a NASCAR fan so there were parts of this book that left me scratching my head although just like Tempe I did find some of the history of NASCAR fascinating. This book moved at a fair clip and the the forensics were on target and fascinating.  I think the last Temperance Brennan book I read I thought was too forensic and medical this had just the right mix. While I figured out the who before the end of the book the why was escaping me until the very end. All in all a fun read.

Monday, February 6, 2012

(9) Of Bees and Mist

Title: Of Bees and Mist: A Novel by Erick Setiawan
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
404 Page
Genre: Fiction

Synopsis: Raised in a sepulchral house where ghosts dwell in mirrors, Meridia grows up lonely and miserable. But at age sixteen, she has a chance at happiness when she falls in love with Daniel-a caring and naive young man. Soon they marry, and Meridia can finally escape to live with her husband's family, unaware that they harbor dark secrets of their own. There is a grave hidden in the garden, there are two sisters groomed from birth to despise each other, and there is Eva-the formidable matriarch and the wickedest mother-in-law imaginable-whose grievances swarm the air in an army of bees. As Meridia struggles to keep her life and marriage together, she discovers long-buried secrets about her own past as well as shocking truths about her new family that inexorably push her love, courage, and sanity to the brink.

Of Bees and Mist chronicles three generations of women under one family tree over a period of thirty years-their galvanic love and passion, their shifting alliances, their superstitions and complex domestic politics-and places them in a mythical town where spirits and spells, witchcraft and demons, and prophets and clairvoyance are an everyday reality.

Review: I had a hard time with this book in the beginning.  I wasn't sure if I liked it or if I just didn't get it.  I kept at it and I'm not even sure when it happened but I started loving it.  Maybe I just finally got into the groove of the story, understood the symbolism, I'm not sure, but this is an outstanding book for a first time author.

I'm not sure I can fully identify what it was about this book that sucked me in but the characters were well developed and the secrets and manipulation that go on between these two families is amazing. Meridia's mother-in-law is by far the most wretched woman I have encountered in a book in a long time. I wanted to throttle her on more than one occasion.  Meridia's family drama shows how bitterness can ruin so many lives.

This is just a beautifully crafted book and once you fall into the groove of it, it sweeps you off your feet.  Several other reviewers have compared this book to Roald Dahls work and I can pinpoint what it is but there is that feeling of other-worldness to it that mimics a lot of Dahls work.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

World Book Night

I got this in an email today!
    Dear World Book Night book giver,  
    Yes, you read that right: World Book Night book giver! Has a nice ring to it, yes? And you're one of them, or will be on April 23! Thank you!!!!!!!
I'm so excited. They haven't told me which book I am going to be giving out but I'm excited. If you would like to join in the fun of World Book Night there is still time to sign up! The deadline has been extended until February 6 at midnight.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

(8) Mad: How to Deal With Your Anger & Get Respect

Title: Mad: How to Deal with Your Anger and Get Respect by James J. Crist
Publisher: Free Spirit Publishing
137 Pages
Genre: Self Help - Teens

Synopsis: Everyone gets angry sometimes. Feeling mad is a normal human emotion. But some teens go too far and get into trouble with their parents, their school, or the law. Their anger controls them and affects their lives in negative, sometimes long-lasting ways. This practical, supportive book helps teens understand and handle their anger. They learn whether they have an anger problem, why we get angry, and how anger affects our bodies and relationships. Practical tools and strategies help them control their anger and avoid poor decisions and actions; insights from real teens let them know they’re not alone. The final chapters explore mental health problems that can complicate anger management and the role of counseling and psychotherapy. Includes resources.

Review: This was a great book filled with simple tips for dealing with anger. It also gives explanations on why teens might feel so out of control. The book is filled with quotes from teenagers on how they used to deal with anger and what they do now. The key point in this book is not to tell you that you shouldn't get angry because everyone does. Instead it deals with how to handle it, and how to do it in a respectful manner. Yelling, cursing and throwing things isn't going to get you very far in life so learning how to control your temper while a teen is so important. It also talks about how not everything in life is going to seem fair but that's life and you have to learn to deal with it. Getting your way all the time isn't how life really works so what do you do and how do you handle yourself when life doesn't go the way you want it? Easy to read good for both parents and kids!
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