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BEST LAID PLANS AND OTHER DISASTERS: A Novel ~Amy Rivers

Friday, March 3rd, 2017

BEST LAID PLANS AND OTHER DISASTERS is a companion story to WALLFLOWER BLOOMING, although both can be standalone stories also.  These are witty, warm and very fun reads about cousins who reside in Cambria, Colorado.  Wallflower is about Val a PR company owner and Best Laid Plans is about Gwen the new mayor of Cambria who also does public service work.

The young woman each find an opportunity to connect with their futures and for Gwen she is plagued with trying to figure out every angle by herself, before she will ask for assistance with her personal problems.   As mayor she is capable and enthusiastic and working full speed ahead with the council and the Governor.  At city hall one major problem reveals itself.   The female city manager has decided she does not care for Gwen and works to make her work difficult and not on course.  It is not surprising to see how woman can change their colors and become enemies very quickly.  One of the easiest strategies against resolution is getting two women competing with each other and manipulating their own truth.  Gwen does figure out how to overcome this particular problem while remaining true to herself and her values.

Jason, Gwen’s fellow, works in accounting for the city and this has become a problem to several people at city hall.  He takes a new job, which requires a great deal of travelling and a co-worker decides “to hitch onto his wagon”, another problem to resolve.   At the same time Gwen discovers she is pregnant and worries about rumors and how to tell Jason.

The story takes some nice dips into explaining emotions and the surrounding events and so we get some good backstory into family history and how to set oneself free from a family heritage that was not very supportive.  The childish emotions were being brought into contemporary living and finding new coping skills – maturing more into the authentic self.

Neither Gwen nor Val are simple characters, they have definition and smarts knowing how to use these tools.   They are intelligent and do not compromise what they know to be true.  These young women are sorting out complex issues and challenges and it is good to be privy to their thinking and resolving these solutions.  These are very enjoyable characters tucked into a good reading adventure.

There are even more unexpected problems, some are just plain fun and others are problems we all face in our lives.  Once again I will say this is a very good read, I think you will enjoy BEST LAID PLANS & OTHER DISASTERS.

“Amy Rivers was born and raised in southern New Mexico and currently resides in Colorado with her husband and kids.  She has a Master’s degree with concentrations in Psychology and Politics, two topics she loves to incorporate into her personal essays and novels.  Amy has been published in CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL, INSPIRATION FOR NURSES, NOVELTY BRIDE MAGAZINE, ESME.com, and SPLICE TODAY.  Her first novel WALLFLOWER BLOOMING was published in August 2016.”(Cover)

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TLC Book Tours  sent me a copy for review of BEST LAID PLANS &OTHER DISASTERS

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THE QUESTION?: A Thriller for the Curious ~R. Breuer Stearns

Monday, December 28th, 2015

“If You Could have the Answer to Only One Question, What Would You Ask?”

“And Who Might Try to Stop You From Asking It?”

THE QUESTION is ideal reading for anyone who is curious . . . for those who gaze into the cosmos at night and wonder . . . for those who look into the mirror and imagine . . . for those whose hearts beat faster when confronting the unknown . . . for readers who enjoy a fast paced, contemporary thriller that inspires them to think.” (From Media Kit)

I was hooked right away into this fast-paced book and reading this book did cause me to think and offer up some of my own ideas.  I realized how so few folks in my life these days are able to hold a discussion about any subject or they rather offer up canned thoughts and ideas and are unable to defend or even understand what they are saying.  I was caught up with the two characters, which were constantly thinking and problem-solving and searching for new solutions within their field of work.

Nate is a grown up football star, who now works for the Navy helping Submarine Crews problem-solve disasters which he designs to test them within a research facility.  He is there to help the top brass figure out how to save lives in an emergency or disaster.  He sees a pattern of success when the Commanders are able to work as a team, take a deep breath and figure out “what” will remedy the situation.  It is a new form of communication system – a mind meld.  The minds in conjunction with each other are finding solutions very quickly and having remarkable success.

I can understand why this book is recommended for high school students as they might be able to still be taught to thinking and reason about this story and rediscover their innate curiosity.  One of my book groups would truly enjoy this story for the good thinking and discussion starters, but they do not read thrillers and several events in the story would turn them off to the read.   My other book group would be unable to discuss this story except on the surface and they do not understand enough history to dive deeply into the possibilities.  The attacks would not be distracting to the story because they know those from recent history.   Because the book is written in a style similar to the various scenes of a movie or TV series, I might be able to pull them into some new thinking or possibilities.  This makes me consider choosing THE QUESTION for them to try on and explore.

How does one save lives when a submarine is attacked or damaged? – How does one prevent the problem? – How does a person prevent a terrorist attack or keep it from happening?   Who will work with you and seek answers?

I give this book very high marks and know it will make a great recommendations for my regular readers who love thrillers.   I did have one problem with this story, one of the attacks and all the thinking I was doing left me awake all night it was so vivid and I wished I could have talked to someone about how to stop such a horrible experience from happening; I was also thinking about the Sandy Hook School Shooting. (I am writing this review on the 3 year anniversary of that act of terrorism).  This scene and this news story stays with me and I keep working on how to stop it from happening ever again.

About the Author

“R. Breuer Stearns is an investor and author.

Mr. Stearns graduated from Phillips Academy, Andover (1970), Harvard University (AB, 1974), University of Chicago (MBA, 1977), and DePaul University College of Law (JD, 1979). He rapidly ascended on Wall Street in the 1980’s, serving as Managing Director, Mergers & Acquisitions at Lehman Brothers and Head of Investment Banking (North America) at UBS Securities.  While living in New York, he founded “Terrific Teachers, Inc.,” a foundation dedicated to identifying and rewarding the best of the best of the city’s public high school teachers.

Shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Mr. Stearns launched a private investment bank in the former Soviet Union.  He spent the early 1990’s seeking to marry emerging science, primarily emanating from Russia’s Defense sector, with Western capital.  During this period, Mr. Stearns made a small fortune, albeit from a larger one.  The venture provided a remarkable lesson in hubris, a tremendous reservoir of internal strength, and first-hand source material for Mr. Stearns’ first book, Winning Smart After Losing Big (Encounter Books, Beijing University Press).

Subsequently, Mr. Stearns served as Chief Financial Officer of The Dial Corporation, Chief Financial Officer of Columbia/HCA Corporation, Chief Financial Officer of PacifiCare, Inc., President and Chief Operating Officer of Vascular Genetics, Inc., and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Quepasa Corporation (QPSA: Amex).

Mr. Stearns is a Founder of VestaPoint Capital LLC, a family of investment funds focused on real estate development.  He lives in Arizona with his wife, two dogs, two cats, and a horse.  He travels extensively and is intensely curious.” (From Media Kit)

R. Breuer Stearns Website

Laura Fabiani of iReadBookTours sent me a copy of this book for review.    It was well worth the read.  Thank you.

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THE UNFORTUNATE IMPORTANCE OF BEAUTY: A Novel ~Amanda Filipacchi

Monday, September 21st, 2015

THE UNFORTUNATE IMPORTANCE OF BEAUTY is a story picked by my book group for our discussion in September.  I ran into one of our members at the grocery store who was reading ahead as she is headed back to school in a few days and she said, “our next two books are weird!” I was hoping that meant weird and wonderful and not just strange.   I have to say it was a very interesting premise and the humor made me smile as I turned pages and settled in for the cover-to-cover experience.

About the author from Amazon:

“Amanda Filipacchi is the author of four novels: Nude Men, Vapor, Love Creeps, and, just out, The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty (W. W. Norton, Feb. 2015). Her fiction has appeared in Best American Humor and elsewhere. Her nonfiction has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, and The Atlantic. She earned an MFA in fiction writing from Columbia University. She lives in New York.”

The story is a rather amazing testament to friendship.  There are four friends, who gather for the Nights of Creativity.  Georgia has written several novels, Jack is a person who can resolve conflict, Lily is a brilliant composer of music, Penelope works at being a potter and selling pottery, but her craft is putting pieces back together, and Barb who is an award winning costume designer.   Gabriel was a member of the group, but he committed suicide and changed the group’s lives.  His suicide note said that he was in love with Barb but not worthy of someone who was so beautiful.

Barb reacts to this sadness by making and wearing a fat suit of clothing inclusive of messy teeth and a wild and frizzy grey wig.  She has worn this cover-up/costume for the last several years.  Barb also believes that her father had affairs when her mother’s great beauty began to fad and they divorced.   She hopes someone will overlook her “ugly” veneer and love her for herself.

Georgia leaves her laptop in a cab and she can no longer write until it is returned a number of days later.  Her novels are quite popular. Georgia is clever with words and ideas.

Lily who is not very attractive at all and can write beautiful music which drives folks to purchase office supplies or purchase books at Barnes and Noble falls in love with Strad who can not see her as beautiful at all and the group begins to help Lily with her obsession of him.  The group encourages each other and cares for each other and develops some absurd solutions to help problem-solve and find happiness.

The humor is not knee-slapping or belly laughing material, rather makes this group more loveable and likeable and charming.  There is a constant undercurrent about beauty and a condemnation of Strad but not a true or real solution to the society’s influence. There is a strong message about how persuasive our culture is and the role of marketing and how that changes minds and uniforms us into roles.  The characters need to come to their own conclusions and ideas and then proceed into society with the strength of friendship holding them together.

It was an interesting and fun read and I was happy to be introduced to this book and this author.   I will ask at our next gathering who discovered the book and why they chose it for us to discuss.  Certainly THE UNFORTUNATE IMPORTANCE OF BEAUTY will produce an interesting discussion evening.

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OLIVAY: A Novel ~Deborah Reed

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015

I was totally captured by OLIVAY.  I was driven to turn every page of OLIVAY.  It was very suspenseful and demanding the reader to find resolution and yet it was not a comfortable read at all.   I am so pleased that TLC Book Tours sent me a copy for review; OLIVAY was a most interesting read.

Deborah Reed teaches writing in Los Angeles and Germany and is an extraordinary writer and storyteller.   I did not wish to miss a word or paragraph for fear of missing some phrase or line of description.   OLIVAY is the main character’s name and it is used often in the story and as she interacts with Henry sometimes you have to guess at who said that line or phrase because it is not crystal clear; either one is possible.

A year earlier OLIVAY’s husband has been killed in an accident while on his way to work.  The driver of the vehicle has not been found or arrested.  OLIVAY has been made a media star as the video of her caring for her dead husband has been circulated millions of times.  She is still hard pressed to leave her loft apartment for all the notoriety and she is a very private person.  She has quit her job as an architect and is now just venturing out to a local coffee shop to try and leave her home with out gaping attacks.

At the coffee shop, a handsome young man, Henry, approaches OLIVAY and their conversation lasts all afternoon. She invites him to her loft and he spends the night.   In the morning, there is a terrorist attack upon the neighborhood and the windows are blown out of the loft and OLIVAY has her knee severely injured.  People on the street are dying as the water main ruptures and the electricity shuts down.

Most of the story takes place in the loft as Henry cares for the injury and takes care of OLIVAY, who is trying to figure out the real Henry.   OLIVAY appears to be one of the meanest characters I have ever read, and yet as one reads on there is something very wise about her and her thoughts.  Who is Henry really?

The second section of the story included Henry’s story and more of his thinking in alternate chapters that goes by very quickly.  There is a tension in the telling of the story as revealing as it proves to be.

I do not think I would have picked this book for myself, and once again I thank TLC Book Tours  for sending this gem along and putting it on the schedule.  The writing is amazing and the premise interesting and yet it is something I would not like to experience myself – in any aspect.   I believe it is a book more folks need to read.  The writing is inspiring.

From the book cover:

“Deborah Reed’s novel, Things We Set on Fire, sold over one hundred thousand copies in the first six months, while Carry Yourself Back to Me was a Best Book of 2011 Amazon Editors Pick.  She wrote the bestselling thriller, A Small Fortune, and its sequel, Fortunes Deadly Descent, under her pen name Audrey Braun.  She holds a master’s degree in fine arts in creative writing, and teaches at the UCLA Extension Writing Program.  She is also co-director of the Black Forest Writing Seminar at the University of Freiburg in Germany.  She resides in Los Angeles.”

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