Friday, August 10, 2012

Miss Peregrine's...

Okay, this book was a little interesting.  Definitely not as scary as the cover makes it seem...The author uses a bunch of real-life, weird pictures of kids, and writes a story around them.  The story is that the kids all have different kinds of "magical powers" (i.e., Peculiar Children).  As another reader wrote, it's like X-men for 10 year olds.  Not as much scary action.  There's some good background on the "Home" and how it came to be, and you get to know a few of the kids pretty well.  The beginning and end of the book were both good - the middle seemed to drag a little bit. 

It appears as though this is going to be the first in a series - the story doesn't actually end with the finale in the book, so you know there's going to be more.  As much as I like the Rick Riordan series, I imagine this one turning into something like that, only with a lot more fantasy, and less Greek/Egyptian gods.  And, written more for a pre-teen audience than a teen audience.  However, if you're looking for a quick read, with an interesting premise, this one is great.  Not to mention the pictures - some of which are enough to give you the heebie-jeebie's themselves...


Howard Shultz was the Founder of Starbucks and Chairman/CEO until the early 2000's, when he stepped down as CEO (but stayed as Chairman).  After about 5 years (in 2007), he saw that Starbucks culture was changing and it was no longer profitable or really a fun place to work.  He stepped back in as President/CEO, and effected a large turnaround of the company.  This book is his chronicle of that process.  It's sort of an insider's tale of what makes Starbucks tick, and they were able to turn around the company in 2008 and 2009.

As far as business books go, it's very readable.  Lots of good stories, as well as good leadership principles for business leaders.  I found myself wanting to go into a Starbucks, just to see if the things he was saying they changed really were true at my local store.  Lots of the book focused on the guiding principle of Starbucks - to have the best-tasting, boldest coffee on the market.  Again, if I was a coffee drinker, I'd want to experiment and try it out.  Alas, I'll just have to take his word for it...

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Yes, yes it has been quite awhile since my last post.  I went a few weeks without posting anything (but not without reading).  Then, it got to where I had too many books to post about, and it was daunting.  Then, the books just keep piling up, and the daunti-ness just worse and worse, to where I didn't even want to think about having to review all of the various books (plus, there's a few that I don't even remember reading!).  Finally, I've decided just to do a quick update on a few of the books I've read in the past few months, with just a sentence or two about each one.  So, here goes...:

This was the second book from the author of "Sisters" (which I wrote about below).  This one wasn't quite as good, but I did finish it.

This one is written by an English guy, who decides to investigate what makes up a "psychopath."  It's fairly easy to read, and interesting information about the sort of people who could be classified as such.

I've been working on this one for awhile, and finally finished it.  It's historical, looking at the rise of the FBI through the chase of bank robbers - John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, the Barker Gang and Pretty-Boy Floyd (as well as host of other character's who associated with them).  It was very interesting - now I'm going to watch the movie (recorded off TV, of course) and see how close it is to the book.

I've loved all of Rick Riordan's "heroes" books.  This one is the third in the Egyptian Gods series (known as the Kane Chronicles).  I re-read the first two in the series along with this one.

Stephen King's later books have proven very interesting.  (Some of his earlier ones were very weird.)  In this one, he uses time travel to imagine if JFK's assassination could have been prevented.  The characters are very well-written, and you end up really caring for the main character by the end, and wondering how his life is going to change, or whether he'll be able to keep the new things he's found.

Michael Koryta is one of the best authors I've come across recently.  He has a series of detective novels set in Cleveland (which I think I've blogged about in the past).  In addition, he has a series of free-standing novels, with some very interesting plots.  (I blogged about one of his previous books, So Cold the River, earlier.)  This one is basically a ghost/murder story based in a rural town.  Very interesting, though!

Erik Larson is another one that I've written about before.  He writes a wonderful series of books, where he takes two historically-contemporary events, and weaves the stories together.  This one is about a murder in England and the invention of the wireless telegraph by Marconi.  Another great read by Larson. 

Jeffery Deaver is one of (if not THE) best detective writers out there.  He writes two series of books, one centered around a guy named Lincoln Rhyme in New York City, who's an expert CSI (who's also a quadripalegic, who works out of his house).  The other series is about Kathryn Dance, who's a kinesics expert (i.e., the art of people's body and verbal language).  This is one of the Kathryn Dance novels.  Deaver is great at letting you see how the detectives work, and giving you lots of cool information about the fields, while weaving it through a good whodunit novel. 

Jeffrey Archer's latest series is called the "Clifton Chronicles."  These are the first two books in the series.  (I believe I posted about the first one before - I re-read it when the second one was published.)  Archer is a master at telling family dramas over extended periods of time.  (His book, Kane and Abel, is one of the best I've ever read!).  This one continues that same drama.  The ending is a complete cliffhanger - leaving you wanting to read the next one in the series (but, not entirely surprising - by the end of the book, you knew he was going to leave it the way he did...)

So, that's a short list of what I've been reading.  I'll try and keep up a little better.  I have two interesting ones I'm working on now (in addition to the biography of Washington, that I'm still plugging along with). 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sister - by Rosamund Lupton

"Sister" is one of those books that you've never heard about, may never have picked up to read, but are extremely glad you did.  Beatrice is the "older sister" who lives in New York (having moved there from England), and who constantly "takes care of" her younger, artist sister who still lives in London.  Beatrice receives a phone call that her sister is missing - and returns to London to find her.  She eventually finds her - dead in a restroom at a park.  While her sister's death is ruled a suicide, Beatrice doesn't believe it, and sets out to figure out why her sister was killed, and who did it.

Thus, while at bottom the story is a murder investigation - the premise is interesting.  The story is told as if Beatrice is writing a letter to her dead sister.  Much of the story is Beatrice recounting a conversation she's having with the prosecutor in the case, after she's solved the mystery and has become their star witness.  As it's a letter to her sister, there are many parts that detail the relationship between the two sisters, as Beatrice realizes how much she didn't know about her sister - and how much she did know. 

Not many books have parts that make me actually cry.  While no tears ever escaped my eyes (I'm too manly for that - I'll admit), there was one moment, while reading on the recumbent bike at the YMCA, where I was glad my face was sweaty so if a tear did escape it wouldn't make me look less manly to the other folks lifting weights around me.  It was that good.  I heartily recommend this one to anyone.  You don't have to like detective/mystery novels to like this one.  It was good enough that I've already got her second book on hold at the library.

Before I Go to Sleep - by S.J. Watson

Another from the 2011 Amazon list.  If you've ever seen the movie "50 First Dates" with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore (and several hysterical supporting characters!), you know the back-story to this book.  Basically, the main character Christine wakes up every day thinking she's an early-twenties college student.  In real life, she's in her '50's (or so), having had severe amnesia for most of her life.  The book describes her discovery, with the help of a friendly psychiatrist (who wants to use her as the basis for an article or book about her condition), of how she became who she is, and the background of her life.

With the help of the psychiatrist, Christine starts keeping a journal of her "discoveries" every day.  As she reads the journal each morning (after the doctor calls her to remind her of it), she starts remembering more and more.  As she remembers more, she eventually discovers how she got the amnesia.  While there are a lot of good "discoveries" that she makes throughout the book, I'd suspected the ending after getting about half-way through.  In interesting book, though, full of insightful information about the relationships we may have, and what we'd do if we suddently lost them.

The Time in Between - by Maria Duenas

This is another one from the Amazon 2011 list.  Sira is a simple seamstress from Madrid, Spain, who falls in love with a man.  The book follows her life from Madrid to Morocco, where she is betrayed by the man, finds herself in a heap of trouble, starts a new life as a dress-maker, makes a ton of friends and gets her mother to Morocco as well.  This all occurs while Spain is going through a civil war (just prior to WWII - when Franco first came to power).  Some of the characters that Sira meets and befriends are real historical figures.

At this point, Sira is persuaded to return to Madrid as a spy for the British intelligence - in an effort to "keep an eye" on the spanish leadership and Nazi's who were working on gaining Spain as an ally.  Some of the later parts of the book seemed a little far-fetched.  However, overall I really liked it.  It took a little bit of time to get into the book.  However, the author does an excellent job describing her characters, and making you really care about what happens to them.  She also does a good job of interweaving the historical events and characters with what happens to Sira.  I didn't know if I was going to like the book going into it (a historical novel about a seamstress?!) - but I was pleasantly surprised.  If anything, you learn a good bit of culture about Morocco and Spain during the pre-WWII era.

Devil in the White City - Erik Larson

This was the second book I've read by Erik Larson.  The first was "In the Garden of Beasts" (which I wrote about earlier).  This one was actually written previously by Larson, and is immensely better than the Beasts.  Larson's M.O. is to take a historical event/invention and merge the that story with a historical crime that intersected with the event/invention.  Here, the event is the 1893 Chicago World's Fair.  The crime is a series of murders that occurred in conjunction with the Fair.

The "White City" was the series of buildings built specifically for the fair.  Having not heard much at the Chicago fair, but always enjoying any time I spend in Chicago, it was an interesting read just for the historical aspect.  Larson really brings to life the various architects/builders that put the fair together, showing the struggles they went through, as well as the innovative things they did for the fair.  (They were trying to "out-fair" Paris, who had previously done a World's Fair, where they introduced the Eiffel Tower.)  That part of the story was engrossing.

At the same time, the "Devil" was a shyster who had moved to Chicago to take advantage of the single ladies who were moving there in droves to get away from the country named Holmes.  Holmes purchases some land near the fairgrounds, and constructs a hotel on the property.  He installs a kiln in the basement, as well as a sound-proof torture/gassing room.  Without going into graphic detail of the killings (which there wasn't a ton of evidence of, anyway), Larson lets you come to your own conclusions of what Holmes used the property for.  Some estimates say he may have lured and killed nearly 200 people with the hotel.

Well-written, well-paced and informative; this was a very good book.