Book Corner

Book Review: Hidden in Plain Sight

By day, Roberta Lake is a computer software and hardware specialist with an uncanny knack for understanding the inner workings of the technology she works on. By night, she is a CIA Brain Trust operative, putting her abilities in mind communication, infiltration, and control to use on people instead of gadgets.

In other words, Roberta Lake is a psychic assassin.

Under the watchful eye of the Brain Trust, as well as her handlers, the Three Wise Men, Roberta takes out her assigned targets from afar with the help of her alter ego, Bobbi Waters—the true killer of the two—and only after she determines whether the target truly deserves to die.

This arrangement spins out of control when the Brain Trust suspects Bobbi is fracturing from Roberta, becoming a separate persona. Roberta is deemed a threat to the organization, and this time, it’s her life that’s being targeted. What’s worse—they want to know her secrets first, and she’d rather die by her own hand than be the blueprint for an unstoppable force of psychic killers let loose on the world.

I downloaded this book from NetGalley so in essence, it was gifted to me for my review. (More about NetGalley soon).

First off, the book cover and the blurb are what sucked me in – the eye really captured my attention. And I like the title, though after reading the book, I think “Hidden in Sight” would have been a more appropriate title because for me, this story was anything BUT plain.

It’s an intriguing premise and though I personally don’t believe in psychics and the paranormal, I do believe it’s possible on some level, if not probable. So I’m coming at this read from that opinion.

I was confused right off the bat. The author does a really good job of pushing me right into the middle of Roberta’s story but it took me several chapters before I started to get a feel for what was happening. For example, I thought Roberta and Bobbi were two separate people for several chapters. And I couldn’t figure out the relationship between Roberta and her boss Magi and why were they jumping right into sex? Though an interesting read, I felt cheated in some respects because I wanted to see more character build up before the action.

Though I certainly understand why the author chose to open the story this way, and it was interesting, if not terribly confusing, I feel like if an author is going to open up her story this way, then allow me a moment to catch my breath and catch up to the premise. I needed to know more about Roberta, how she discovered her abilities, who these characters were and why they were important to the story. Though I’m not a fan of back story, a little back story goes a long way.

This story felt more like part four of a series. And I can definitely tell that the author is working that angle with this premise, and I think it’s a good idea, but to me, this was like walking into a movie theater late and jumping right into a story that A. I have no idea what it’s about, B. where it’s going, and C. why I should care enough to stick around and figure it out.

I wanted to know more about how Roberta discovered her talents. I wanted to see her struggles and her emotional journey that led to her decision to terminate bad people. I wanted to know more about her family history and why this ability is prevalent in her family. I wanted to know how she was recruited and by whom. I wanted to experience her first kill and the creation of Bobbi because after the author reveals who Bobbi is, I totally bought the REASON Roberta created her. I wanted to experience Roberta’s moral dilemmas and struggles. I really wanted to see more relationship building between her and Magi – I’m suddenly thrown into the middle of a sex scene and a few chapters later Magi is professing love. Whoa guys, slow down! And I wanted to know why Roberta felt so uneasy about Jenny. Other than that character being annoying, why did her gut tell her there was something off about her co-worker? What actions caused Roberta to be suspicious about Jenny? Simply being annoying doesn’t quite justify why Roberta felt the way she did about Jenny.

I felt like a runaway train trying to make out details from a blurred landscape – it was exhausting and frustrating.

And perhaps that’s the author’s intent, to spoon feed backstory to the reader as the series progresses, I can appreciate that approach, but I needed a bit more backstory IN THIS STORY because it took me a while to play catch up.

This premise also reminds me a lot of the TV show, “Alias” with Jennifer Garner. The character is recruited from college for her raw talent and then cultivated and groomed to be an effective tool for an agency’s agenda.  Then, her and her handler develop feelings for one another which complicates their working relationship. That premise has always fascinated me and being a fan of “Alias” I really liked the strong female character and her ability to kick ass virtually all the time.

Which brings me to another point of contention: Roberta is seemingly invincible.

I’m all about strong, powerful women. But Roberta doesn’t seem to have any weaknesses. Her ability to compartmentalize and turn her mind off/on is certainly impressive, but short of killing her physical body, what weaknesses does she really have? We’re lucky that Roberta has a strong moral compass and she’s capable of compassion and love as evidenced by her interactions with her family, but surely there is a physical limitation to her supernatural powers? If so, this story didn’t reveal it. And though her ability to control a target’s mind, and other entities, (no spoilers), it’s almost too much power, too easy, in some ways. I want to see a weakness that is not readily apparent and not many people know about but when someone stumbles across it, it absolutely cripples Roberta and she has to come up with creative ways to handle it.

At this point, Roberta is more machine than human. Which may be what the author is going for, but in order for me to care about her, the possibility of losing her will only enrich the story, in my opinion.

Overall, the story is well written, fast-paced and interesting. I think the author has the potential of taking Roberta on some incredible journeys, I would propose slowing down and allowing the reader to enjoy the experience.

*All views expressed on this site are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity whatsoever with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated.

Book Corner

Book Review: Talking to Strangers

How did Fidel Castro fool the CIA for a generation? Why did Neville Chamberlain think he could trust Adolf Hitler? Why are campus sexual assaults on the rise? Do television sitcoms teach us something about the way we relate to each other that isn’t true?

While tackling these questions, Malcolm Gladwell was not solely writing a book for the page. He was also producing for the ear. In the audiobook version of Talking to Strangers, you’ll hear the voices of people he interviewed–scientists, criminologists, military psychologists. Court transcripts are brought to life with re-enactments. You actually hear the contentious arrest of Sandra Bland by the side of the road in Texas. As Gladwell revisits the deceptions of Bernie Madoff, the trial of Amanda Knox, and the suicide of Sylvia Plath, you hear directly from many of the players in these real-life tragedies. There’s even a theme song – Janelle Monae’s “Hell You Talmbout.”

Something is very wrong, Gladwell argues, with the tools and strategies we use to make sense of people we don’t know. And because we don’t know how to talk to strangers, we are inviting conflict and misunderstanding in ways that have a profound effect on our lives and our world.

Yes, it’s true, I rated this book three stars.

It wasn’t due to lack of interesting content, all of the examples that Mr. Gladwell presents are interesting, his points are well taken, they are also well articulated, when he gets around to making them. And the thought that the “supposedly” brightest minds in the world are incapable of detecting bullshit is more than a little alarming. (As evidenced by his examples).

I gave this book three stars because of the way this book is laid out. Mr. Gladwell gives us example, after examples, to prove points that he doesn’t quite allow the reader to digest before moving on to give us yet another example or another aspect of communicating so that by the time I reached the halfway mark, I was ready to just scream, “JUST GET TO THE POINT ALREADY!”

I suppose, after reading the above blurb, I was expecting a mind-blowing, profound solution to talking to strangers – a how-to guide to communicating and understanding a stranger’s non-verbal language. I was expecting some tips and tricks on HOW to talk to strangers, but Mr. Gladwell instead shows us, through historical events, that it’s nearly impossible to truly know a stranger’s motives.

With all due respect, Mr. Gladwell, duh.

In essence, this book is about reminding us not to jump to conclusions when speaking to total strangers. We don’t really know the motivation behind someone we just met. We may think they are honest, they may appear sincere in their body language and facial expressions, but Mr. Gladwell’s point is: it’s virtually impossible to truly know people.

This quote perfectly sums up this book: The right way to talk to strangers is with caution and humility.

Not exactly earth shattering advice.

However, let’s be fair, there are a lot of television shows, movies and online sites that tout the ability to teach someone to tell if someone is lying or not. And if the person’s motivations match their non-verbal language, then we will likely correctly interpret whether someone is telling the truth, but if someone truly wanted to fool us, it wouldn’t be hard to do.

As Mr. Gladwell states, we all default to believing people are inherently good. We want to believe that people are honest and truthful because no one wants to believe that people are capable of lying or generally being assholes. And now, with the aid of the media, we are constantly reminded to be careful, don’t trust anyone, people have ulterior motives and no one really cares about anyone but themselves, (it’s all about ME), that now I think the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction and most people default to thinking the WORST of people right off the bat. Which Mr. Gladwell shows us is also a very dangerous road to travel.

So, what now? How do we successfully communicate with strangers? I don’t have the answer to that question and I don’t feel like Mr. Gladwell answered that question either, he simply reminds us that in order to effectively communicate with people, one must be patient, kind and understanding because people are the byproduct of their life choices and personal history and if we understand that crucial factor, then we are more likely to understand a person’s motivations and temperament.

If you’re looking for a how-to book on how to talk to strangers, this is not it. But if you want a glimpse into the human psyche and a thought-provoking read, then enjoy.

Can We Talk?

Appreciate Now

This video really resonated with me….

I think I can appreciate this message now because I’m older.

A new year, a new beginning, a new chapter … and a time to reflect on the past. Which I don’t do, ever.

I’m a future sort of gal. I tend to only look to the future, plan for upcoming events, always thinking of what is to come. And because I tend to do that, I tend to forget to appreciate the now.

Though I feel like I’m better than I used to be.

I think Kevin is focused on the NOW. He’s always working on projects and doing things that need attention NOW. But he’s so busy living in the now that I don’t think he takes the time to appreciate the now. I’m working on coaching him to slow down, take it easy, appreciate the moments. His tasks? Will still be there whether he takes ten minutes or an entire afternoon to just STOP and appreciate the fact that he stopped and paid attention to the now.

I could be busier, sure. But I don’t want to be busier. I like having my quiet, solitude moments. I like parking my butt on my couch and reading books, or putting in earbuds and watching YouTube videos. I appreciate the moments perhaps TOO much.

But time doesn’t seem to be moving as quickly since I’ve been less busy, less productive.

I just wish I could slow time down a bit more so I can appreciate the moments even more.

Time is precious. It’s important to make the most of this precious time. But it’s also important to appreciate the previous moments as well.

It’s all about balance. And finding that balance is perhaps the most challenging part of living life.

Daily Prompts

Thoughts: 1:2:20

Have you ever made a New Year’s Resolution that you kept?

No and here’s why.

I think my resolutions have always been someone else’s resolutions. Not to say I haven’t wanted those things I’ve resolved to do but rather, they were goals that weren’t that important or realistic for my lifestyle.

Not to mention, I just get bored with trying after a while.

I’m lazy. I really am. And I’m terribly selfish with my time. I think that selfishness stems from the fact that I spend the majority of my time helping/serving others. I work in the medical field so my day comprises of being available to our patients and at my doctor’s beck and call.

I don’t feel like I truly have time for ME. Because given the choice, I WOULDN’T do this job – it goes against every grain of my body – but somehow, I’m good at it. And I’ve gotten to the point where I feel comfortable doing the job and I like my co-workers so I don’t see myself starting over any time soon.

Plus, I’m just too old to start over. I could, but I don’t think it would be a good thing, overall, to do that.

I think if alternate day fasting has taught me anything, (and yes, I’m still doing that), it’s that I need to do what works for ME. Granted, I don’t know what that is until I try different things but I need to stop and recognize when something is not working and try something else. And NOT beat myself up over failing.

Ultimately, I’m scared of failing. I’m scared of wasting precious time because again, I don’t have a lot of time TO waste. I think that’s my biggest hang up with writing – I’m scared to fail. But how can I succeed if I don’t fail?

So, though it’s good to have goals, I think it’s more important to have REALISTIC goals for YOU and YOUR life.

Daily Prompts

Thoughts: 1:1:20

I’m asking the obligatory first of the year question:

What goals do you have for this year?

I want to write more and finish a novel. Notice I didn’t say it has to be a GOOD novel, but something tangible, something workable.

I want to do a better job of balancing my work/personal life and take more days off. Life is too short.

I want to blog more.

I want to successfully complete a bullet journal. (More on that later).

I want to take more pictures.

I want to improve my mental/physical self.

I want to make money from my writing … somehow.

I want to cash in our frequent flyer miles and take a long weekend trip with Kevin (in addition to our yearly cruise).

Your turn: What goals do you have for this year?

 

Book Corner

Book Review: Verity

Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer on the brink of financial ruin when she accepts the job offer of a lifetime. Jeremy Crawford, husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen to complete the remaining books in a successful series his injured wife is unable to finish.

Lowen arrives at the Crawford home, ready to sort through years of Verity’s notes and outlines, hoping to find enough material to get her started. What Lowen doesn’t expect to uncover in the chaotic office is an unfinished autobiography Verity never intended for anyone to read. Page after page of bone-chilling admissions, including Verity’s recollection of what really happened the day her daughter died.

Lowen decides to keep the manuscript hidden from Jeremy, knowing its contents would devastate the already grieving father. But as Lowen’s feelings for Jeremy begin to intensify, she recognizes all the ways she could benefit if he were to read his wife’s words. After all, no matter how devoted Jeremy is to his injured wife, a truth this horrifying would make it impossible for him to continue to love her.

Oh my words, dear readers, the  premise of this book … THE PREMISE! This was a really interesting, disturbing and thought provoking read. At first, your sympathies lie with Verity – poor Verity. She was involved in an accident that left her basically a shell of a woman. She’s present, but she’s not. And though I understand Lowen’s situation and the temptation of taking the job of becoming one of her favorite author’s ghostwriter, I find myself disgusted with her for taking the job and for developing feelings for Jeremy, Verity’s husband.

So, I’m not a fan of Lowen’s at first.

But then Lowen finds Verity’s autobiography and now Verity is not who we all think she is.

Bit by bit, the reader learns more about Verity and the evil that resides inside this shallow, selfish, apathetic woman. Now, I’m cheering Lowen and Jeremy along because it’s clear that Verity is crazy and doesn’t deserve Jeremy.

I love how Hoover alternates between what is happening and Lowen’s gradual read through Verity’s autobiography. Though I wanted Lowen to read faster, I’m really glad Hoover resisted the temptation because the drawn out suspense was what really pulled me in.

I love that this was a suspenseful book without the usual suspense elements. Perhaps suspense is the wrong word, tension is a better word and the growing tension between all of the characters kept me immersed in the story. In the meantime, Lowen and Jeremy are trying to fight their attraction for each other but the reader is cheering them on.

There is a lot of creepy factor in this story, too. Is Verity faking it? Or is Lowen’s over-active imagination playing tricks on her?

The climax of the story is pretty great but what shoves it into five stars for me is the very ending where Lowen finds a letter and it throws her, and the reader, into utter disbelief and confusion; did it really happen that way, or didn’t it? Was it a writing exercise or did it really happen the way Verity portrays in her autobiography?

My theory is, it really happened and Verity wrote that letter as a way of further manipulating her gullible husband and as a last-ditch effort of trying to disguise the evil that seeped from every pore of Verity’s body.

The only thing I wasn’t a fan of was how the book opened and how Lowen and Jeremy met. I think beginning the book at the office would have been sufficient and I felt like Hoover’s opening felt out of place to the rest of the story and not necessary though it didn’t really put me off – just felt like a strange decision on Hoover’s part. Then again, maybe that opening had a deeper meaning and went completely over my head – the whole story was so full of unexpected surprises.

One last thing – I couldn’t figure out why my spellchecker didn’t put a red line under Verity’s name.  I’ve never heard that word before and to my knowledge, it wasn’t a word. Oh, contraire readers. I looked it up – Verity means truth. Holy shit, I love this book even more because there wasn’t a truthful bone in Verity’s body – or was there?!

Highly recommend you read it. It’s a great spin on a twisted premise. It’s a story that stays with you long after you read it and makes you go HMMMMM….

___________________________________________

I finished my GoodReads challenge for 2019! I read 100 books! That is a personal best for me and I probably could have made it to 105 but I decided to give myself a break from reading for a few weeks before diving into next year’s challenge. I will try my best to write reviews on all the books I read next year. I’d still like to start a reading group, in fact, I started one way back when on GoodReads but never did anything with it, but it just seems like so much organizing … I’ve had a few peeps at work express interest so maybe I’ll do something with it at some point. Would this be something you would be interested in? Leave me a comment below!

Abundant Life

Spiritual Fads Are a Waste of Time

Breathwork, really? I guess this is the newest “fad” to try and find inner peace.

I have a theory – people are constantly searching for peace, meaning of life, purpose. I feel like “restless souls”, or people who feel the need to constantly move, whether that’s in their daily lives or physically move locations, are simply searching for … something.

I think that “something” is different for everyone and maybe most people can’t define it, but it makes me sad. So when I see videos like this one, I can’t help but roll my eyes because to me, it’s simply another “fad” where people are trying to once again, SEARCH for the elusive SOMETHING.

I believe that “something” is spiritual, in essence. People who don’t believe in a higher being, or have faith in something outside of themselves, are generally unhappy with themselves, with their lives and dissatisfied by life in general.

This is simply my opinion coming from a Christian who likes to observe people and analyze motivations. For example, why are some people into tarot cards? Or Scientology? Or witchcraft? Or any other beliefs outside Christianity? To me, the essence of those beliefs are not any more strange to believe in than the “fate” or messages from cards that a person randomly flips over, or from aliens or from a super natural power than it is to believe in a kind, loving God who started all of this by creating humans to inhabit a world He specifically made for humans. I just don’t understand – if people are willing to put so much FAITH in these alternate beliefs, then why NOT believe in God?

To me, people who participate in alternative rituals or beliefs are almost making a conscious effort NOT to believe in Christianity. As if they are saying, “Nope, I’m not believing in Christianity because it’s an old and antiquated way to believe and the majority of people are Christians and I’m enlightened and different and there MUST be something else out there that I will work hard to try and find just so I can prove EVERYONE else wrong.’

I’m not saying this to insult anyone who is not a Christian, believe what you want, it’s called free will, but as an observer of life and looking at these various “fads” and “religions” from the outside, it truly baffles me that people put so much time and effort into something other than Christianity.

What’s the end goal here? If you’re looking for peace or the meaning of life, or the purpose of YOUR life, the Bible has those answers. Are the answers not good enough? Do they not satisfy a deeply embedded need? Is it not enough? Is it too simple? Do people think it can’t surely be this simplistic and reject it to pursue new and different?

I truly want to know.

Matt talks about “hallucinogenic’ effects of breathwork whenever he would participate. Could it be simply that you’re depriving your brain of oxygen and that’s why you’re feeling this way and it has nothing to do with any spiritual experience? And the fact that he admits to feeling emotional at the retreat, where his wife was present, and not having that feeling when he tried it at home by himself. Could you have had that emotional experience because you heard your wife cry out and empathized with her struggles because you love her and that’s what we do when we love someone? Perhaps it had nothing to do with a spiritual experience and more to do with the fact that you were forced to still your mind and body and be more aware of your surroundings, your thoughts and feelings.

I think breathwork is bogus, but I do appreciate, yet again, an attempt to MAKE people stop and disconnect with technology and appreciate stillness. I think anything that makes us do that is important, especially nowadays where it’s trendy to be “busy” and “connected” through all of these crazy social media outlets.

Don’t you find it ironic that we’re more “connected” than we’ve ever been in the history of man and yet so many people are lonely, sad and unhappy?

We are more connected to “each other through electronics” but more and more people are being persuaded to get away from God because it’s not “cool” to be a Christian and you must be crazy to believe in an invisible, all-knowing, and all-powerful creator.

You don’t think there is some correlation there? Because I do.

All I’m saying is, why not forego these crazy new spiritual “fads” and desperate attempts to create something that brings people peace and fulfillment and just go back to what has been available this entire time: God?

Just a thought.