Good Reads // August, September, October 2014

ReadingBench

Hello friends and fellow bookworms!  These past few months I have had some really great reads – across different genres too!  I also recently discovered “Blogging for Books” – where you can sign up and get free books (limited selection…but still an awesome concept!), with the condition that you write a review.  Done and done!  My first review is below – The Underground Girls of Kabul.
My August read was the fifth installment of the Charley Davidson series – Fifth Grave Past the Light by Darynda Jones.  Lorelei King narrated this audio book, as she did all the others.  The first lines: “‘Ask me about life after death.’  T-shirt often seen on Charlie Davidson, a Grim Reaper of questionable morals.  The dead guy at the end of the bar kept trying to buy me a drink.  Which figured.  No one else was even taking a second look and I’d dressed to the nines.  Or, at the very least, the eight-and-a-halves.  But the truly disturbing part of my evening was the fact that my mark, one Mr. Marvin Tidwell, blond real estate broker and suspected adulterer, actually turned down the drink I’d tried to buy him.  Turned it down!  I felt violated.  Summary from Goodreads: “Never underestimate the power of a woman on a double espresso with a mocha latte chaser high.  – T-shirt.  Charley Davidson isn’t your everyday, run-of-the-mill grim reaper.  She’s more of a paranormal private eye/grim reaper extraordinaire.  However, she gets sidetracked when the sexy, sultry son of Satan, Reyes Farrow, moves in next door.  To further complicate matters, Reyes is her main suspect in an arson case.  Charley has vowed to stay away from him until she can find out the truth…but then dead women start appearing in her apartment, one after another, each lost, confused, and terrified beyond reason.  When it becomes apparent that her own sister, Gemma is the serial killer’s next target, Charley has no choice but to ask for Reyes’s help.  Arsonist or not, he’s the one man alive who could protect Gemma no matter who or what came at her.  But he wants something in return.  Charley.  All of her, body and soul.  And to keep her sister safe, it is a price she is willing to pay.”  My thoughtsAH – I have missed this series!!! This was probably my favorite one to date.  Charley Davidson is at it again in the sexy, suspenseful, and laugh-out-loud funny fifth installment of the series.  I’ve already reserved #6 at the library!  (4/5 Stars)
First Published: July 09, 2013 by Saint Martin’s Press
Audiobook: McMillon Audio; Read By: Lorelei King
Category: Paranormal, Mystery, Romance
Next up was Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg.  The first lines: “I got pregnant with my first child in the summer of 2004.  At the time, I was running the online sales and operations groups at Google.  I had joined the company three and a half years earlier when it was an obscure start-up with a few hundred employees in a run-down office building.  By my first trimester, Google had grown into a company of thousands and moved into a multibuilding campus.”  Summary from Goodreads: “Thirty years after women became 50 percent of the college graduates in the United States, men still hold the vast majority of leadership positions in government and industry.  This means that women’s voices are still not heard equally in the decisions that most affect our lives.  In Lean In,Sheryl Sandberg examines why women’s progress in achieving leadership roles has stalled, explains the root causes, and offers compelling, commonsense solutions that can empower women to achieve their full potential.  Sandberg is the chief operating officer of Facebook and is ranked on Fortune’s list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business and as one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World.  In 2010, she gave an electrifying TEDTalk in which she described how women unintentionally hold themselves back in their careers.  Her talk, which became a phenomenon and has been viewed more than two million times, encouraged women to “sit at the table,” seek challenges, take risks, and pursue their goals with gusto.  In Lean In, Sandberg digs deeper into these issues, combining personal anecdotes, hard data, and compelling research to cut through the layers of ambiguity and bias surrounding the lives and choices of working women.  She recounts her own decisions, mistakes, and daily struggles to make the right choices for herself, her career, and her family.  She provides practical advice on negotiation techniques, mentorship, and building a satisfying career, urging women to set boundaries and to abandon the myth of “having it all.”  My thoughts:  This book was one of ten on my Summer Reading List – so I was pretty excited when the women’s book club at work chose this book.  I heard a lot of mixed reviews surrounding this book, so I was excited to dive in and see what all the fuss was about!  I  connected mostly with the following chapters: 4: It’s a Jungle Gym, Not a Ladder; 6: Seek and Speak Your Truth; 10: Let’s Start Talking About It, and pieces of Chapter 9: The Myth of Doing It All.  The parts I did not really connect with was all about balancing parenthood and work – obviously because I do not have any children.  Sandberg spends 3 of the 11 chapters on the challenges facing working women with young children. Nonetheless, there are still some very valuable pieces of advice that resonated with me that I would like to pass along to you:  1) Visualize your career as a jungle gym, not a ladder.  This is my favorite piece of advice…as it’s exactly what I’ve done in my career…and worried about along the way.  But not only am I not alone…but it’s actually a very opportunistic approach to work.  And to me, it’s a great image of the modern-day career path.  “Ladders are limiting.  Jungle gyms offer more creative exploration. There are many ways to get to the top of a jungle gym.  The ability to forge a unique path with occasional dips, detours and even dead ends presents a better chance for fulfillment.” 2) Be more open to taking career risks.  Women tend to avoid stretch assignments and new challenges on the job.  They worry too much about whether they have the skills needed to take on a new, loftier role.  When offered an opportunity, they fall back on the excuse that they’re unfamiliar with that kind of work or it isn’t what they went to school for.  Instead, Sandberg gives the following advice.  “Women need to shift from thinking ‘I’m not ready to do that’ to thinking ‘I want to do that — and I’ll learn by doing it.’”  3) Owning one’s success is key to achieving more success. Internal obstacles hold women back.  This is the nut, and the most controversial part, of Sandberg’s book and the point that has stirred criticism among feminists. She says that women keep themselves from advancing because they don’t have the self-confidence and drive that men do.  Most of us want to be liked.  But if our success means that others don’t like us, how motivated are we to do well? Sandberg admits that she has undermined her own accomplishments for fear that others would be turned off.  “People expect men to advocate on their own behalf, point out their own contributions, and be recognized and rewarded for them. For men, there is truly no harm in asking.”  (3/5 Stars)

First Published: March 11, 2013 by Knopf
Category: Non-Fiction, Business, Leadership, Feminism
I loved my first Rainbow Rowell novel – Attachments, so I was pretty excited for my next audio book Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell.  The first lines: “He’d stopped trying to bring her back.  She only came back when she felt like it, in dreams and lies and broken-down deja-vu.  Like, he’d be driving to work, and he’d see a girl with red hair standing on the corner – and he’d swear, for half a choking moment, that it was her.  Then he’d see that the girl’s hair was more blond than red.  And that was holding a cigarette…And wearing a Sex Pistols T-shirt.  Eleanor hated the Sex Pistols.  Eleanor…”  Summary from Goodreads: “Two misfits.  One extraordinary love.  Eleanor… Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough…Eleanor.  Park… He knows she’ll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There’s a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises…Park.  Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.”  My thoughts: I absolutely adored this book – it was funny and sad and sarcastic and sincere!  It was ridiculously engaging – phenomenal writing with a story line that is cute and geeky, but not cheesy.  It so accurately captured all the excitement and awkwardness of young love – first thoughts, feelings, touches, and kisses.  And even more charming is the way it perfectly weaves these two imperfect lives.  It’s adorable and funny, and even a little heart-breaking.  It is told in small chunks from the point of view of both characters…but in such a way that is rich and smooth, like honey, so that you never lose the flow of the story.  (5/5 Stars)

First Published: April 12, 2012 by Saint Martin’s Press
Audiobook: Listening Library; Read By: Rebecca Lowman and Sunil Malhotra
Category: Fiction, Young Adult, Romance
My final read of the month was the highly recommended read The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg.  I received this book as a digital review copy by Random House via Edelweiss.  The first lines: “The transition begins here.  I remove the black head scarf and tuck it into my backpack.  My hair stays in a knotted bun on the back of my head.  We will be in the air soon enough.  I straighten my back and sit up a little taller, allowing my body to fill a larger space.  I do not think of war.  I think of ice cream in Dubai.”  Summary from Goodreads: “An investigative journalist uncovers a hidden Afghan custom that will change your understanding of what it means to grow up as a girl.  Expanding on her widely read New York Times article “Afghan Boys Are Prized, So Girls Live the Part,” in which she uncovered the phenomenon of bacha posh (literally “dressed up like a boy” in Dari), the practice of disguising and raising young girls as boys, Jenny Nordberg constructs a powerful and moving account of the long-standing tradition that has enabled many girls to counter the challenges they face in a deeply segregated society where they have almost no rights.  Through extensive in-depth reporting and first-person interviews, Nordberg offers a fascinating, almost fairy-tale-like look at how girls can be willed into looking, behaving, and acting as boys, why mothers would ask that of their daughters, and what ultimately happens when some girls do not want to rescind the prerogatives that go along with living as boys, and later as men.  Divided into four parts, following strong characters through childhood, puberty, married life, and childbirth, The Underground Girls of Kabul charts the entire life cycle of Afghan women and gets to the heart of how bacha posh has profoundly affected generations, not only in the greater historical and political context of Afghanistan but also what it means to women everywhere now.”  My thoughts: In a culture where the birth of a son is cause for celebration and the birth of a daughter results in despair, some families have found a creative way to circumvent the system; they chose to raise a daughter as a boy. Nordberg shares her collected stories of some of these girls and women, known as bacha posh. It’s more common than one may expect, rarely discussed in polite company, and has been going on for generations. This story begins as a trend discovered completely by accident, but unfolds into a journey of looking into the lives of families, and women, of the featured bacha posh. This book is not an easy read, because some of the stories are disturbing. Perhaps I found them disturbing because the fundamental and religious beliefs are so far removed from anything I know personally. And I admit that I found it disturbing that some of these families, some of these women, knew no different. This was, simply to them, a way of life. I am very open to other cultures and religions, and it was certainly an intriguing look into a life so different my own.  When Nordberg sticks to the stories of the featured bacha posh, the book is compelling, and I found that I couldn’t put it down until I reached the end of that chapter. However, I found that her discussions of research on gender and sexuality, Zoroastrian history, etc. distracted from the narratives and resulted in some stories (particularly Nader’s and Shahed’s) being glossed over. I am very grateful how she ended the book with an update on the lives of the featured bacha posh…it just felt “appropriate” to know where they stand today.  (3/5 Stars)
Copy: Edelweiss Digital Review Copy (DRC)
Published: May 13, 2014
Category: Non-Fiction, Women
What are you currently reading?? Any recommendations for me??
Jen
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