It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 17.0

Happy Monday everyone! This week I am participating in the “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?” meme.

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

Bookish posts from last week:

1) 2013: A Year in Reading

2) My 2014 Reading Challenges

My thoughts on books I recently finished:

jk-rowling-the-cuckoos-calling

Synopsis adapted from Goodreads:

After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office.

Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, the legendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man.

You may think you know detectives, but you’ve never met one quite like Strike. You may think you know about the wealthy and famous, but you’ve never seen them under an investigation like this.

Confession: I didn’t find out about this book until after the news had already leaked that it was J.K. Rowling who had written it, and I also have not yet read The Casual Vacancy (although it is sitting on my shelf). I think the thought of reading another J.K. Rowling after Harry Potter was too intimidating–what if I didn’t like it (especially after the mixed reviews I’ve read of CV)? None of these thoughts were in my head though when I heard about The Cuckoo’s Calling since it sounded exactly like something I would love. However, now that I’ve read it, I can safety say that I liked this book but didn’t love it.

I think my biggest complaint about the book (and a quick perusal of Goodreads tells me I’m not alone here) is that the first half moves way, way too slow. Some books have a slow build-up to the action, but usually there is a good hook to keep you reading. Since this book is billed as a mystery/thriller I would have expected it to hook me more in the beginning then it did. Basically, the only thing that kept me reading for about the first hundred pages was that I knew J.K. Rowling had written this book and that if I waited long enough she probably wouldn’t let me down (luckily I was right).

Eventually I did get invested in the story, and the pace did pick up for about the second half of the book. I figured out the mystery pretty quickly, but still enjoyed reading through the end. The best part of the book in my opinion are the characters Cormoran Strike and his assistant, Robin, and I look forward to learning more about them in the sequel (set to be published this year???). In the end, I’m glad I had faith and stuck it out. 3/5 stars.

the smartest guys in the room

Synopsis adapted from Goodreads:

Remarkably, it was just a few years ago that Enron was thought to epitomize a great New Economy company, with its skyrocketing profits and share price. But that was before Fortune published an article by McLean that asked a seemingly innocent question: How exactly does Enron make money? From that point on, Enron’s house of cards began to crumble. Now, McLean and Elkind have investigated much deeper, to offer the definitive book about the Enron scandal and the fascinating people behind it.

Meticulously researched and character driven, Smartest Guys in the Room takes the reader deep into Enron’s past—and behind the closed doors of private meetings. Drawing on a wide range of unique sources, the book follows Enron’s rise from obscurity to the top of the business world to its disastrous demise. It reveals as never before major characters such as Ken Lay, Jeff Skilling, and Andy Fastow, as well as lesser known players like Cliff Baxter and Rebecca Mark. Smartest Guys in the Room is a story of greed, arrogance, and deceit—a microcosm of all that is wrong with American business today. Above all, it’s a fascinating human drama that will prove to be the authoritative account of the Enron scandal.

When the Enron scandal broke I was a freshman in high school, so although I remember hearing about it I didn’t really know much about it. Several years later, when I was a senior in college working in Houston for an internship, the Enron saga was brought to my attention again when a friend said “those are the old Enron towers” as we were driving through downtown Houston. I made a mental note to learn the details of what happened, and then promptly forgot until this book was called to my attention last year. And boy am I glad it was.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that this book is a bit long. It comes in at a whopping 480 pages and is pretty technical at parts (especially for us non-finance majors).  However, it is exhaustively researched, incredibly interesting, and very readable. McLean and Elkind do a great job of turning this very complex story into an understandable and frankly page turning narrative. In addition to the telling the technical side of the story, I think the authors also do a nice job of looking at the human aspect of it–the hubris, the ignorance, the greed. The corporate executives at the center of the scandal weren’t necessarily inherently bad people, and I think this book does a nice job of separating the facts from the gossip.

Overall, I thought this was a really great book and a must read for anybody with an interest in business (apparently it’s one of Warren Buffet’s favorite books). It was informative without being too dry, and is written at a level that even non-finance people (such as myself) can easily comprehend. If I could wish for anything different, it would be an updated edition. This book was published in 2004 (almost 10 years ago now) and I’d be curious to see the authors’ thoughts and comments ten years after the fact. 4.5/5 stars.

Books I recently read:

MissPeregrineCover

Synopsis adapted from Goodreads:

A horrific family tragedy sends Jacob 16 to a remote island off Wales, to the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, where he finds unusual old photographs. The children, one his grandfather, were more than peculiar, perhaps dangerous, quarantined for good reason – and maybe still alive.

robinson crusoe

Synopsis adapted from Goodreads:

Who has not dreamed of life on an exotic isle, far away from civilization? Here is the novel which has inspired countless imitations by lesser writers, none of which equal the power and originality of Defoe’s famous book. Robinson Crusoe, set ashore on an island after a terrible storm at sea, is forced to make do with only a knife, some tobacco, and a pipe. He learns how to build a canoe, make bread, and endure endless solitude. That is, until, twenty-four years later, when he confronts another human being.

Enemies

Synopsis adapted from Goodreads:

Enemies is the first definitive history of the FBI’s secret intelligence operations, from an author whose work on the Pentagon and the CIA won him the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award.

We think of the FBI as America’s police force. But secret intelligence is the Bureau’s first and foremost mission. Enemies is the story of how presidents have used the FBI as the most formidable intelligence force in American history.

Here is the hidden history of America’s hundred-year war on terror. The FBI has fought against terrorists, spies, anyone it deemed subversive—and sometimes American presidents. The FBI’s secret intelligence and surveillance techniques have created a tug-of-war between protecting national security and infringing upon civil liberties. It is a tension that strains the very fabric of a free republic.

This Week I am reading:

call of the wild

Synopsis adapted from Goodreads:

First published in 1903, The Call of the Wild is regarded as Jack London’s masterpiece. Based on London’s experiences as a gold prospector in the Canadian wilderness and his ideas about nature and the struggle for existence, The Call of the Wild is a tale about unbreakable spirit and the fight for survival in the frozen Alaskan Klondike.

This Week I am listening to:

sisterland

Synopsis adapted from Goodreads:

From an early age, Kate and her identical twin sister, Violet, knew that they were unlike everyone else. Kate and Vi were born with peculiar “senses”—innate psychic abilities concerning future events and other people’s secrets. Though Vi embraced her visions, Kate did her best to hide them.

Now, years later, their different paths have led them both back to their hometown of St. Louis. Vi has pursued an eccentric career as a psychic medium, while Kate, a devoted wife and mother, has settled down in the suburbs to raise her two young children. But when a minor earthquake hits in the middle of the night, the normal life Kate has always wished for begins to shift. After Vi goes on television to share a premonition that another, more devastating earthquake will soon hit the St. Louis area, Kate is mortified. Equally troubling, however, is her fear that Vi may be right. As the date of the predicted earthquake quickly approaches, Kate is forced to reconcile her fraught relationship with her sister and to face truths about herself she’s long tried to deny.

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What are you reading this week?

It's Monday

Linking up with Book Journey!

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8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Annie
    Jan 06, 2014 @ 18:19:16

    My dad gets this puckered look on his face when anyone mentions ENRON… I think anyone of a certain age does. 😦 RE Rowling I have this and Casual Vacancy but I haven’t read either yet; I’ll probably start with CV first because I fancy it a bit more. I’d like to read Call of the Wild sometime too. Great reviews honey, thanks!

    Reply

    • exlibrisheather
      Jan 07, 2014 @ 11:16:35

      Haha I bet I would too if I had been more aware of what was happening as it was happening. It was super interesting to read about it after the fact though. You’ll have to blog about Casual Vacancy when you get around to reading it! I know I’ll get to it someday but kind of doubt it will happen this year!

      Reply

  2. mactwisp
    Jan 06, 2014 @ 18:38:43

    Reply

  3. Lindsey
    Jan 06, 2014 @ 22:58:36

    You seem to have a knack for finding interesting non-fiction! The Enron book and the FBI one look great.
    Happy reading!

    Reply

  4. biblioglobal
    Jan 07, 2014 @ 10:01:54

    Wow, reading Call of the Wild in this week’s weather in the Midwest! That’s appropriate, but intense.

    Reply

    • exlibrisheather
      Jan 07, 2014 @ 11:13:58

      Haha–I didn’t necessarily plan it that way but I can totally relate to Buck’s disorientation upon arriving in the Yukon. Hope you are staying warm…I haven’t left my apartment in a few days!!!

      Reply

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