Book Club: The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

First Published in 1989
Rating: 3 ¼ Stars

“I should cease looking back so much, that I should adopt a more positive outlook and try to make the best of what remains of my day. After all what can we ever gain in forever looking back and blaming ourselves if our lives have not turned out quite as we might have wished.” (p. 244)

As of late I have been diligent in digging from each book the true meaning behind the books’ title. Often, such is the case with this book, the name of the book is mentioned within an important passage. This method of “name dropping” quickly points the reader to the theme the author most-likely attempts to impress on you; such is the case in this, The Remains of the Day.
Mr. Stevens is a butler at the once esteemed ‘Darlington Hall.’ His current employer, the American, Mr. Farraday is going abroad for an extended time and all but demands Mr. Stevens take his Ford for a retreat amongst the countryside. This adventure quickly takes a backseat to the story that unfolds in Mr. Stevens’ memories. Tangled among his “retreat” is his wish to visit the Hall’s former Head Housekeeper, Miss Kenton whom has recently sent him a troubling letter.
The stories that unfold over the course of the solo motoring trip across the countryside lend to a story that is both formal in its presentation and depressing in its tales. It is not hard to grasp the reason this book was chosen as the 1989 Man Booker Prize as Kazuo Ishiguro’s writing is beautifully captivating and eloquently charming. A post-war novel that strays from the “status quo,” The Remains of the Day drifts beyond any novel we’ve become accustomed to in recent day WWII historical fictions.


Coming in June: Before I Saw You by Amy K. Sorrells & Just Let Go (Harbor Pointe #2) by Courtney Walsh

Before I Saw You by Amy K. Sorrells

Publication Date: June 5th, 2018

Rating: 4 Stars

Jaycee Givens has had a tough life. A mother addicted to heroin, the loss of her baby brother and her pregnancy to an abusive boyfriend. But, author Amy Sorrells reminds us that with faith, the cycle can end. Jaycee refuses to let her poorness define her, but rather her relationships with others propel her to overcome and provide her future child a “chance.”

Before I Saw You takes a hard look at the opioid crisis in Indiana. Forcing the reader to see the impacts of addiction on otherwise “normal” families. As Jaycee strives to overcome her family’s past she is portrayed as embracing her faith so deeply the reader begins to embody it and roots for her to find happiness and a sense of family in the relationships that remain. This story is full of sadness, hope and resilience that clings to your heart and reminds you with faith you can get through anything.

*Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by Tyndale Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Just Let Go (Harbor Pointe #2) by Courtney Walsh

Publication Date: June 5th, 2018

Rating: 4 ½ Stars

Grady Benson is a bad boy Olympic Skier, seemingly approaching his final days of ski success. Quinn Collins is the 28-year-old owner of her recently purchased Forget-Me-Not flower shop, once owned by her mother. Both hold onto the pain of their past in this tale that will have you laughing, crying and begging for it to never end.

Just Let Go is the perfect chick flick for a cozy night in, sure to warm your heart despite the cold Michigan setting surrounding this story. Author, Courtney Walsh, delivers this romance to near perfection as the characters fight their way out of their comfort zones into each other’s hearts.

Book two of the Harbor Pointe series reads as easily as a standalone novel, with the promise of more romantic adventures as the series continues.

*Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by Tyndale Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Gen Z @ Work: How the Next Generation is Transforming the Workplace by David & Jonah Stillman

Publication Date: March 21st, 2017

Rating: 2.5 Stars

The constant stream of books claiming to provide insight to specific generations leaves me feeling like I’m in the midst of an identity crisis. As this book defines generational markers, my family is often clashing with the “typical.” Raised by parents just on the cusp of being defined as baby boomers, I squeak into the Millennial generation while my brother slips neatly into the Gen Z population. As you can then imagine I found some aspects of this book intriguing while I other aspects have certainly been excessively played out.

Father and son team, David and Jonah Stillman, set out by defining the key traits of the “Gen Z” generation. On pages 10 to 12, the Stillmans define these key traits:

  1. Phigital – “born into a world where every physical aspect (people and places) has a digital equivalent.”
  2. Hyper-Custom – “ability to customize everything” creates “an expectation that there is intimate understanding of their behaviors and desires.”
  3. Realistic – Given the world events of their childhood, this generation has developed a “pragmatic mindset when it comes to planning and preparing for the future.”
  4. FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) – this generation stays “on top of all trends and competition.”
  5. Weconomists – “push to breakdown internal and external silos to leverage the collective in a new convenient and cost-effective way.”
  6. DIY (Do-It-Yourself) – Encouraged to be independent by parents, this generation “believes that they can do just about anything by themselves.”
  7. Driven – “participation is not a real award there are winners and losers.”

Each chapter spends a significant amount of time comparing each of these traits against other generations and ultimately offers no substantial solutions for bridging the gap of ALL generations represented in the workplace. In fact, it became clear the authors lacked solutions when the book continually referenced the Millennials’ need for participation trophies because their parents (the Boomers) raised them to feel they needed these, therefore shifting the very trait Boomers hate about Millennials right back on the Boomers. Blame shifting isn’t going to solve issues, but the point the authors attempted to make is the deep reflection on the roles, values and experiences at play by each generation of parent and the effects these parenting styles had on the generation as they combine in creating a work culture heavily influenced by each’s upbringing.

As a Millennial myself, that grew up with a Gen Z brother, I deeply related to the Driven trait. As stated on page 277 Gen Z has a desire to win, needs help balancing their competitive drive with being team players, need to be encouraged to admit mistakes and talk about them while also needing help keeping one foot on the brake petal to avoid going too fast and making mistakes. Managers should be coaching Gen Zers on when to take a step back, and how to slow down and allow ideas and information to percolate; Gen Zers want to keep moving forward quickly. Workplaces also need to offer this upcoming generation opportunities to learn and grow rapidly if they hope to avoid losing them, while being sure to offer a combination of private space and shared workspaces.

To break that down:

  • Workspaces – the recent trend has been to create an “open workspace” that “offers collaboration and free flow of ideas.” As a person that prefers quiet when working, these open concept spaces terrify me and truthfully would turn me off to a workplace. As identified by research within Gen Z @ Work, it would appear I am not alone in this feeling.
  • Slowing Down & Admitting Mistakes – The Gen Z generation grew up with a constant stream of knowledge and rapid technological advances. It should then come as no surprise that they may “get their bodies moving a bit faster than their feet” and need to be told to slow down, let information process before diving in. I think this goes for any generation in the workplace as we are constantly bombarded with the feeling of feeling behind, we need to remember to slow down to avoid mistakes and achieve accuracy and the success we so yearn.
  • Opportunities to Grow & Learn – I can’t imagine any generation wants to sit in one position for 50 years with no opportunities for advancement, further knowledge or growth. The difference is that Millennials and Gen Zers aren’t afraid to leave when workplaces aren’t offering them what they need. Gen Z @ Work touched on the need to overcome the costly mistakes employers are making that causes them to lose employees to competitors with more avenues for career growth. Employers are being challenged to rethink job paths, titles and responsibilities to better retain generations that demand more engagement of their employer.

Regardless of the generation, the message is clear – employers cannot get complacent if they hope to facilitate the successful blending of multiple generations within their workplace. Whether you turn to Jonah & David Stillman in your journey to understand the generations or turn to another book, it would be clever to prepare yourself for the challenges that are certain to arise.

Coming Soon: Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris

Publication Date: June 19th, 2018

Rating: 4 ½ Stars

A jacked-up blend of The Wife Between Us and The Girl Before. This incredible, edge of your seat thriller is sure to be one of the summer’s hottest books!

Admittedly, I have not read Paris’ first novel Behind Closed Doors and while I liked The Breakdown, this newest novel blows it out of the water! Written in three parts: 1) Then and Now, 2) Finn and Another and 3) Just Finn. This novel had my heart pounding as I tried to keep up with the web Finn was spinning for himself.

Twelve years ago, Finn’s girlfriend vanishes from a rest stop. Finn cooperates with the police to be cleared of any foul play and while he may have told the truth all those years ago, it wasn’t entirely the full truth.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Three Reviews: I Know My Name by C.J. Cooke, The Baghdad Clock by Shahad Al Rawi & Layover by Amy Andelson & Emily Meyer

I Know My Name by C.J. Cooke

Publication Date: June 15th, 2017

Rating: 2 ¼ Stars

This book is not at ALL what I expected. This psychological drama is sure to keep you guessing as the author transports the reader between past and present, and among different narrators as the reader works to unwind Eloise’s twisted secrets.

I LOVE psychological dramas. Typically, books with changing timelines or flipping narrators spark my interest, but I Know My Name had a bit too much of everything. The grandmother’s narrations, although brief, did not seem to fit the outward views other narrations gave her and Lochlan’s behavior and lack of parenting/husbandly duties rubbed me the wrong way early on. But, despite this, my “meh” feelings toward this book arise from the lack of an “ah ha” moment. The climax is so slowly untangled by the time you’ve reached the peak you’ve forgotten why it was thrilling to begin with.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided via a Goodreads Giveaway in exchange for an honest review.

The Baghdad Clock by Shahad Al Rawi

Publication Date: May 3rd, 2018

Rating: 2 Stars

The Baghdad Clock begins with a childhood fantasy, quickly transitioning to life in a war zone as the young narrator works to keep the neighborhood’s memories alive. Spanning the Gulf War to Desert Storm and “Bush’s Attack” this story is the unfortunate history many children likely share as neighbors are forced to emigrate from their homes.

I originally was drawn to this book as it was compared to The Kite Runner. This comparison led me to disappointment as this novel did not live up to the timeless and moving story housed within The Kite Runner. Translated to English by Luke Leafgren, the underlying themes shone through still seemed to be missing the emotional story encased in The Kite Runner. This book felt like there was interlocking details lost in translation, especially as it surrounded the dreams and fantasies of the book’s narrator. This “lost in translation” element caused the book to lose its cohesiveness and ultimately the transitions from chapter to chapter were lacking in seamlessness.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided via LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review.

Layover by Amy Andelson & Emily Meyer

Publication Date: February 6th, 2018

Rating: 3 ¼ Stars

Three step siblings, on a layover in LAX, decide to skip their impending family vacation and awaiting bombshell to become “runaways” enjoying all that LA has to offer. The experiences that follow this decision build a deeper sibling bond than any “typical” vacation as we are reminded that family comes in all different shapes and sizes.

This young adult fiction will breeze by, not unlike that of 806 by Cynthia Weil, as unlikely siblings each with their own complex issues run into all sorts of drama as runaways (pun intended). A fresh take on siblings of a broken family, Layover will leave you satisfied.

*Disclaimer: A review copy was provided via a Goodreads Giveaway, in exchange for an honest review.

Series Spotlight: Charlotte Holmes Series by Brittany Cavallaro

I recently finished the third installment Charlotte Holmes Series by Brittany Cavallaro, The Case for Jamie.

Publication Date: March 6th, 2018

Rating: 4.99 Stars

It cannot be put into words how sad I am that the Charlotte Holmes series is ending. By no means do I pretend to know all there is to know about Sherlock Holmes, but when I stumbled upon a female re-telling of modern day Sherlock I couldn’t pick up a copy fast enough.

This series begins with A Study in Charlotte.  It is within this book that we grasp Charlotte Holmes’ quirks, and Jamie Watson’s teenage boyish charm. Both Charlotte and Jamie are decedents of the famous Sherlock Holmes and James Watson, whom end up at the same boarding school after a series of unfortunate (read: fortunate) events.

In book two, The Last of August, we are whisked to Europe as we discover Charlotte’s family life and become introduced to the infamous Moriarty family. This book strays from the boarding school setting and provides an action-packed Holmes family drama, allowing a deeper look at how Charlotte became the teenage prodigy that she is. So, unsurprisingly The Case for Jamie allows Jamie Watson’s family to take center stage as the Moriarty family drama continues amidst a “missing” Charlotte Holmes.

I closely follow the Sherlock series, starring Benedict Cumberbatch on PBS (seriously go watch this on Netflix NOW if you haven’t seen it yet) and have watched several big screen Sherlock Holmes renditions (meh) and thus feel I possess enough “knowledge” to pronounce author Brittany Cavallaro nails it! From the coming together of two separately strong characters, Watson & Holmes, to the Moriarty escapades and ultimate disappearance of a Holmes, the Charlotte Holmes series captures it all with a modern young adult twist. Beyond that, Cavallaro has melded the classic, drug-addicted Sherlock Holmes into a brilliantly tortured female Charlotte Holmes lead. If you haven’t picked up book one of this series, RUN to your nearest bookstore and get started!

The Theory of Happily Ever After by Kristin Billerbeck

Publication Date: May 1st, 2018

Rating: 2 ¼ Stars

Maggie is supposed to be a happiness expert, she’s written a bestselling scientific novel based on her research on that very topic, but she can’t seem to find happiness or put her life back together after being dumped by her fiancé. So, when Maggie is forced by her best friends and publicist to speak on a singles cruise about her upcoming book on resilience, the last thing she expects is to begin feeling for another passenger. The falling, fire and fight that follow are on par for the Hallmark Romance movies Maggie so desperately craved post-breakup.

This book appealed to me after having recently experienced my first cruise (albeit not a singles cruise). I connected to the dining experiences, on board bars and constant shows/activities portrayed within. However, the seemingly forced placed Christian references detracted from the reading experience and lead characters as they are portrayed were disappointing at best. The females were jealous and “boy obsessed,” while the men were focused on their desire to help. The supporting characters too, felt forced with wildly random interjections of Maggie’s ex-fiancé, the surrounding family drama and the work stressors all of which combined to weakly fit into the book’s underlying story. What I hoped would be a beachy read was met with poorly timed phone calls, fires and familial background.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Two Reviews: Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier & Dawn Girl (Special Agent Tess Winnett #1) by Leslie Wolfe

Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

Publication Date: June 12th, 2018

Rating: 4 ½ Stars

From the inside of a women’s prison, to the head of a lost 16-year-old, and finally to a recovering ex-con living in fear, Jar of Hearts grips you in EVERY exciting way. Although, be forewarned there are some graphic scenes and serial killers, nonetheless this held all the pieces of a great thriller.

I loved the switching between Kai, the police officer on the case and Geo, the girlfriend of the serial killer, as the depth of the story from childhood to the release from prison made this book so intense. In every flashback more suspense is unraveled, pushing you further and further into sleepless nights to finish. Geo’s otherwise perfect life is hiding secrets that hold the key to solving the story. If flashbacks and perspective flipping are your type of reading pleasures you won’t want to miss this one!

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Dawn Girl (Special Agent Tess Winnett #1) by Leslie Wolfe

Publication Date: August 22nd, 2016

Rating: 4 ¾ Stars

I first learned of Leslie Wolfe when I came across a book entitled The Watson Girl, this book looked completely enthralling so I decided to pick up the first book in the series, and thus Dawn Girl was cracked open.

We quickly meet Tess Winnett, a brilliant FBI agent who wastes no time with pleasantries. Tess boasts an equally impressive skill to solve cases and accumulate complaints against her. And while Dawn Girl may be book one, there are some serious undertones to Tess’ past unknown trauma at play within.

The research author, Leslie Wolfe put into Dawn Girl is incredible, from the procedure and uncovering of clues to the psychological profiling and twisted serial killer I am blown away. Wolfe’s talent and eye for detail are on full display here. Now that Rizzoli and Isle has been cancelled on TV you will most definitely find me curled up on the couch with more Leslie Wolfe novels!

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.