gimmethatbook

Reviews of what you should be reading next.

Month: March 2017

The Crimson Shamrock by Michael Hughes

crimson shamrock

A scotch-swilling DUI attorney, a cynical congressional staffer, and a retired bomb- sniffing German Shepherd are just some of the characters Chuck Wesson meets after he takes a travel assignment from his new boss, mysterious Silicon Valley entrepreneur Axel DeWilde. Chuck has been sent on a flight from San Francisco to Boston in order to demonstrate the Crimson Shamrock, a breakthrough portable communication device code-named the RedClove.
However, Chuck begins to suspect that all is not as it seems after a robber tries to steal the device at the airport, and his flight later has to be diverted to the Twin Cities after a threat is made. After his meeting is relocated to the D.C. suburbs and does not go according to plan, Chuck flies back to California to discover who and what are behind his travails.

Many thanks to the author for this review copy!

THE CRIMSON SHAMROCK is a fast paced novella that contains a lot of action. Chuck Wesson gets a job offer that seems too good to be true – all he has to do is carry a protoype to a meeting. Once he decides to complete this simple task, the fun starts. There are plane trips, motels, attempted robbery and mixed messages aplenty. Chuck seems to be ok with most of the confusion, even managing to score a one night stand along the way.

As the amount left to read in the book got less and less, I started wondering how the author was going to wrap things up. I’m not sure if that is a good or a bad thing – when your mind leaves the story and is allowed to wander to the amount of pages left. I’d prefer to be enveloped in the plot and not concern myself with how much is left.

The pace of the story ramped up even more towards the end, when Chuck finally has enough deception and takes control of his destiny. At this point I was super curious to see what the heck was going on!

The novella is an easy enough read, with some freewheeling characters that represent the excess of the wealthy entrepreneur. Chuck seems like a mellow guy who lets thing happen to him, rather than be in control of his life. There were a few scenes of him hanging out with his buddies that perfectly captured the bro-speak and hijinks that take place during a weekend out. Hughes’ gift for creating dialogue is  wonderful, and is often the funniest part of his stories.

I would have liked more background on Chuck; it was hard to become invested in the things happening to him. The action kept me reading, but he was a bit too passive and one dimensional for me. It was also hard for me to picture the mysterious device at the center of the plot; but perhaps that was done on purpose, given how it all turned out. The ending was satisfying, with a resolution I didn’t see coming. All in all, not a bad way to spend a few hours reading.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

The Happiness Effect by Donna Freitas

happiness effect

Sexting. Cyberbullying. Narcissism. Social media has become the dominant force in young people’s lives, and each day seems to bring another shocking tale of private pictures getting into the wrong hands, or a lament that young people feel compelled to share their each and every thought with the entire world. Have smartphones and social media created a generation of self-obsessed egomaniacs?
Absolutely not, Donna Freitas argues in this provocative book. And, she says, these alarmist fears are drawing attention away from the real issues that young adults are facing.
Drawing on a large-scale survey and interviews with students on thirteen college campuses, Freitas finds that what young people are overwhelmingly concerned with–what they really want to talk about–is happiness. They face enormous pressure to look perfect online–not just happy, but blissful, ecstatic, and fabulously successful. Unable to achieve this impossible standard, they are anxious about letting the less-than-perfect parts of themselves become public. Far from wanting to share everything, they are brutally selective when it comes to curating their personal profiles, and worry obsessively that they might unwittingly post something that could come back to haunt them later in life. Through candid conversations with young people from diverse backgrounds, Freitas reveals how even the most well-adjusted individuals can be stricken by self-doubt when they compare their experiences with the vast collective utopia that they see online. And sometimes, as on anonymous platforms like Yik Yak, what they see instead is a depressing cesspool of racism and misogyny. Yet young people are also extremely attached to their smartphones and apps, which sometimes bring them great pleasure. It is very much a love-hate relationship.
While much of the public’s attention has been focused on headline-grabbing stories, the everyday struggles and joys of young people have remained under the radar. Freitas brings their feelings to the fore, in the words of young people themselves. The Happiness Effect is an eye-opening window into their first-hand experiences of social media and its impact on them.

Thanks to NetGalley for this review copy!

Social media is all around us, whether we like it or not. No matter where you go, you will see people constantly checking their phones, taking selfies, or updating their Facebook status. I am one of those people who have spent a few minutes looking at my feed and thinking, “Everyone looks so happy – what am I doing wrong?”

I’m doing nothing wrong. I’m of a generation where I don’t feel pressure to put on a happy face to my peers. I don’t worry about what a potential employer might think of me, based on my social media output. For a change, I feel happy to not be a college student or a Millennial. The pressure (both internal and external) that this generation is under is immense. There is nowhere to hide, nowhere to truly “be yourself” – because the whole world is watching.

The author interviewed a wide sampling of college students around the United States and put together their thoughts in this thought provoking book. Most of the interviewees spoke of selecting the best moments to share on FB, while saving the gossip and melancholy thoughts for sites that encourage anonymous postings. I learned about a site called Yik Yak, where there are no identities, and no boundaries. I also learned that when some students took a self-imposed “holiday” from their cellphones, it was like a vacation. They spoke of truly being in the moment, rather than recording it for their wall.

There was a chapter on relationships, and how students felt about hookup sites like Tinder. In an interesting juxtaposition to this theory by Simon Sinek (click here for video), Freitas notes that college students are very capable of socializing and meeting people, having complete and meaningful conversations with each other, and being empathetic. When they are around their friends, they don’t become awkward and seek to lose themselves in technology; they interact and communicate like any other generation. Sinek, on the other hand, claims that Millennials and future generations will be unable to communicate face to face, due to their smartphone addiction.

For me, the best part of the book was the last 2 chapters, where the author fleshes out her theories and explains her thought process. I support her suggestions of wi-fi free zones, and professors requiring a basket for cellphone “parking” during classes. I also applauded the inclusion of different races and religions, providing needed diversity and showing the reader how circumstances were different from one person to another.

The interviews were informative, and sometimes shocking,  but at times they became repetitive and clogged the flow of information. Perhaps if she organized the book differently, it would have been a bit shorter. She did summarize each chapter at the end, while allowing the thoughts and quotes from each interviewee to illustrate her theories.

One thought that kept occurring to me was how happy I was to be older in today’s world, as I mentioned before. It’s a shame that technology has become such a big part in our lives; I can only hope the human race does not become lost.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women by Valerie Young

sucess

It’s only because they like me. I was in the right place at the right time. I just work harder than the others. I don’t deserve this. It’s just a matter of time before I am found out. Someone must have made a terrible mistake.

If you are a working woman, chances are this inter­nal monologue sounds all too familiar. And you’re not alone. From the high-achieving Ph.D. candidate convinced she’s only been admitted to the program because of a clerical error to the senior executive who worries others will find out she’s in way over her head, a shocking number of accomplished women in all ca­reer paths and at every level feel as though they are faking it—impostors in their own lives and careers.
While the impostor syndrome is not unique to women, women are more apt to agonize over tiny mistakes, see even constructive criticism as evi­dence of their shortcomings, and chalk up their accomplishments to luck rather than skill. They often unconsciously overcompensate with crippling perfec­tionism, overpreparation, maintaining a lower pro­file, withholding their talents and opinions, or never finishing important projects. When they do succeed, they think, Phew, I fooled ’em again.
An internationally known speaker, Valerie Young has devoted her career to understanding women’s most deeply held beliefs about themselves and their success. In her decades of in-the-trenches research, she has uncovered the often surprising reasons why so many accomplished women experience this crushing self-doubt.
In The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women, Young gives these women the solution they have been seek­ing. Combining insightful analysis with effective ad­vice and anecdotes, she explains what the impostor syndrome is, why fraud fears are more common in women, and how you can recognize the way it mani­fests in your life. With her empowering, step-by-step plan, you will learn to take ownership of your success, overcome self-doubt, and banish the thought patterns that undermine your ability to feel—and act—as bright and capable as others already know you are.

Have you ever felt that you didn’t deserve that job you have? Or the grades in school, or praise from peers? Do you feel as if there was a mistake somehow, and you are not as good as others say you are? You are not alone; you may be suffering from Impostor Syndrome.

Many high-achieving women feel as if they got something they didn’t deserve, and are waiting to be “found out”. I picked up this book because I was recently promoted, and still couldn’t believe that I was the “one in charge” – and was sure once I was in the job for a little while, I would be “found out” to be incompetent. At times I felt like a child playing at being grown up.

The author was plagued by similar thoughts – instead of faking it til she made it, she decided to do research into this emerging phenomenon. She came to realize that many things come together to cause this self doubt in women: being “feminine” means not being “bossy”, interacting with men on an uneven playing field causes women to shrink from conflict and quietly overcompensate, plus the emotional makeup of the female means constructive criticism sounds like denigration.

It almost sounds like a given that being successful and a woman means you are in for a lot of self doubt. The author is aware of this, and offers many uplifting thoughts along the way. She takes every excuse that you have, every reason that cements your failure, and cancels them out with infallible stories and truths that help banish the deadly Impostor. Her tone is never judgemental, but encouraging.

Some of her anecdotes are eye opening. There was one comparing two managers who were given a project; one they knew nothing about. One shrunk back and said they couldn’t do it, the other got through it by convincing everyone that they had the background to handle the project. The difference? The first one was a woman, the second, a man. How many times have we heard a man bluster his way through things, and if he fails, he just laughs it off and tries again? Why can’t a woman do this?

The author encourages you to change your mindset by replacing crippling thoughts with positive ones, and offers activities at the end of every chapter to show you that no, you are not a fake. Her style is easy to read while getting her point across in a powerful way. I felt as if I had an older sister who put her arm around me and gave me a push in the right direction!

This is not a book you can skim through; I think it would work best by digesting the chapters slowly while doing a good deal of self reflection. Years of a certain thought pattern doesn’t go away easily, and the author acknowledges this. Everything takes practice. Thanks to this book, banishing the Impostor Syndrome is something I do every day!

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

 

Scared To Death by Rachel Amphlett

Scared

A serial killer murdering for kicks. A detective seeking revenge.
When the body of a snatched schoolgirl is found in an abandoned biosciences building, the case is first treated as a kidnapping gone wrong. But Detective Kay Hunter isn’t convinced, especially when a man is found dead with the ransom money still in his possession. When a second schoolgirl is taken, Kay’s worst fears are realised.
With her career in jeopardy and desperate to conceal a disturbing secret, Kay’s hunt for the killer becomes a race against time before he claims another life. For the killer, the game has only just begun…
Scared to Death is a gripping fast paced crime thriller from author Rachel Amphlett, in a new series introducing Kay Hunter – a detective with a hidden past and an uncertain future…

 

Thanks to the author for gifting me this book in exchange for an honest review!

I loved this book! Chapter one was crazy intense, with plenty of action to set the tone of the story. Kay Hunter is a determined, capable woman with some job conflict in her past. The kidnapper is a sociopath on a mission, full of devious ways to murder his victims.

Amphlett knows how to grab the reader’s attention by using strong character development and by keeping the plot moving. There are never too many people clogging up the pages; I really struggle with books that require a scorecard to keep track of characters. I also love that she believes in a strong female lead. Hunter knows what she wants and she trusts her intuition, no matter how much others may think it incorrect.

Setting the crimes in an abandoned building warmed my heart.  What creepier place could you find to make a victim consider her own death? I’m an urban explorer and could visualize the locations easily. What an excellent idea to use these places as a focus point for drama!

SCARED TO DEATH is a win on so many levels; I truly have nothing bad to say about this book. This is the type of story that you sit down to read and suddenly regret not having cleared your calendar prior to starting. The plots twists keep you guessing; even when the real kidnapper is identified, it’s never a guarantee that he will be captured.

Equal parts of suspense, humor, drama and action make this book one of the best ones I’ve read this year so far. The ending leaves the door wide open for the next book in the series to be awaited eagerly – I, for one, can’t wait to see what happens. I also have a theory about who caused the gun to go missing in her previous case – but I’ll keep that to myself and see what happens.

You definitely need to get your own copy – you can pick it up here.

 

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