Archive for October 2010

Uncubicled by Josh McMains

I’m not quite sure what drew me to this book (the low price helped), but the thought of a “corporate” thriller intrigued me.  Apparently that is the type of book you get when an electrical engineer and Dr. Pepper addict decides to take a stab at a novel.

Joe Tompkins was a normal guy, a software engineer working in the corporate world.  Everyone has annoying coworkers, and one day, Joe couldn’t take it anymore and smacked his coworker, Gilmore, in the face with a computer keyboard (that part actually made me laugh… am I a sick person?) and started a domino effect.  Joe hid in the bathroom, then fled the office building, thinking he was a fugitive.  When no one tried stopping him, he decided to flee town and then maybe kind of robbed a bank (can you rob a bank if it’s your own money?).

At the same time, Ned Dyer, also a software engineer, leads a pretty normal life but is always looking over his shoulder.  Three years prior, he received a threat that told him to leave his job in Georgia and not tell anyone why he was leaving (and Ned didn’t even know why).  Ned moved back to Illinois and started his life over and even gained a fiancée, Sue.   One night at dinner, Ned got the feeling that something was wrong and he was right – Sue ended up getting kidnapped in the parking lot and Ned also got captured by members of the “Agency” for questioning.

Along the way, you learn about Joe and Ned’s past and how their former coworkers, Meg, Dan, Schultz, and Fischer, get involved in this fiasco and run both from the law and from the people from this “Agency” who are trying to kill them.  Not everyone is who they seem…

While my summary may not make this book sound like the most interesting book out there, I was hooked.  If I tell you too much about the plot, it’ll give it all away.  What I loved about this book was that it was told slightly out of order and each section was noted by date/time and focused mainly on the experience of one or a few characters.  It made me pay attention more in order to try to piece together what was going on and how everything tied together.  The book seemed really long compared to some of the other Kindle books I read (Amazon says it’s 372 pages) but a LOT went on.  I wasn’t even halfway through the book and I couldn’t believe how much had taken place already.  It kept me reading.

Another thing I loved about this book is that I could relate to the characters in a certain sense.  The characters were normal people who got caught up in a crazy situation.  The one catch is that the book does get into some software programming descriptions and such, so that may be a turn-off to some people.  I thought it was interesting.  I did feel like the end was a little harder to read… maybe too much explanation and not enough action anymore.

Overall, I think this was a great effort by first time writer, Josh McMains.  I’ve heard that he may try to make a sequel, which would be awesome, since the end was left open for more to happen.  Just a heads up, if you’re looking to find this book, either buy it for the Kindle ($2.99) or you can also get a PDF version to download for only a few bucks on the website, www.uncubicled.com.  Go out and buy the book so it’ll convince Josh McMains to write a follow up!

Frenemies by Megan Crane

Last week, I was in the mood for a chick lit book.  I didn’t have any waiting for me to read on my Kindle, so I thought I’d use the handy dandy Random Number Generator to help me pick a book from the Chick Lit 100 for me to read.   The number that came up was #30, so that’s what I read.

Frenemies” is about a Boston girl named Gus (short for Augustus) who is nearing the big 3-0.  Her life is going great until she realizes her boyfriend, Nate, was cheating on her with her old college roommate, Helen.  Gus actually catches them in the act – Nate’s housemate, Henry, lets Gus into the house one night when he knew that Nate and Helen were together kissing in the kitchen.  Because of this, Gus has developed a deep hatred toward both Helen and Henry, but not Nate.

Since Gus and Nate were friends before they started dating, Gus has to deal with running into Nate and Helen in public quite a bit because they still share the same social circle.  Gus’s two best friends, Georgia and Amy Lee, are sick of Gus whining about Nate and Helen and tell her to grow up and get over it.  That makes Gus even more angry, and to make matters worse, Helen is “stalking” Gus.  Helen doesn’t understand why she and Gus aren’t friends anymore (um, she stole Gus’s boyfriend!).  You see, Helen is one of “those girls”… one of the girls who everyone loves and is perfect in every way, but who can’t be friends with girls.

When Amy Lee tells off Gus and Georgia after a situation at a party, Gus is faced with the fact that maybe she does need to grow up and let things with Nate go, and it helps that her eyes are finally opened up to what her and Nate’s relationship really meant to him.  Gus also struggles with the fact that the person who she acts like she hates the most is the one who was trying to help her in the first place and may not have the worse intentions…

This book was a pretty quick and easy read.  Turns out, Megan Crane actually wrote it after watching the movie “Mean Girls“.  She thought that the movie didn’t show the worst of what can happen between girl friends and that’s what she set out to do in this book.  At some points, I found Gus slightly annoying and agreed that she was acting like a teenager and not a 29-year old, but maybe that was the point.  I wish that the characters would have been developed a bit more to add to the storyline a little.  Overall, it was okay, but not my favorite chick lit book ever.

Megan Crane has three other books published but nothing in the past few years.  The reviews for the other books seem pretty decent on Amazon so maybe I’ll check one of them out next time I’m itching to read a chick lit book.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Remember in my last post how I mentioned that I’ll look over the book summary once when I first purchase the book and then never look at it again?  Well, that came back to bite me this time because I started reading this book and got really freakin’ confused.

Never Let Me Go” is told in the first person perspective of Kathy.  The book actually starts with Kathy as an adult, reflecting back on her childhood and teen years and her relationships.  She is raised in a boarding school in the English countryside and from a young age, she bonds with two other students – Ruth and Tommy.  Kathy is usually the one who stands back and observes, while Ruth is a little more on the outgoing side.  Tommy is known to have a horrible temper and is teased by many of his classmates.  Kathy befriends him because she realizes there is more to Tommy underneath the bursts of anger and frustration.

At their school, Hailsham, the students are taught normal school subjects but are also pushed to be creative and athletic.  The students know that they are special from others outside of Hailsham, but they aren’t exactly sure how since they are totally isolated.  As teens, more pieces start to fall into place about what makes Hailsham students different and how they can cope in the outside world once they leave the school.  At this time, Ruth and Tommy start to date, leaving Kathy as the third wheel, but she still acts as a confidant to both.  Together, they go through the journey to adulthood while piecing together parts of their past that, at the time, were things that happened in passing that only now start to make sense and will determine the rest of their lives.

Okay, like I said above, this book TOTALLY confused the heck out of me.  I actually had to look up some spoilers because I thought I was just an idiot and didn’t understand what was going on.  If you want to know the real story, you need to go out and read this book yourself.  It would give way too much away if I told you, and what’s the fun in that?

Although the book was confusing and maybe a little bit “too deep” for me (I don’t like to think too much), I did like it, but didn’t love it.  It was something different for me.  I liked that it was told from Kathy’s perspective, but I found it really confusing when Kathy would mention something, then say that she has to tell another story first, then will go off track again before she finally gets back to the story she originally wanted to tell.  By the time that whole song and dance was done, I usually forgot what the original story was.

This weekend when I was in the middle of this book, I was watching E! News and something was mentioned about Keira Knightley’s new movie being shot called “Never Let Me Go“, so I thought to myself, “Hmm, wonder if it’s the same as this book…” and turns out, it is.  The movie starring Keira Knightley as Ruth and Carey Mulligan as Kathy and some dude I don’t know as Tommy is apparently out in theaters in limited release.  (Pssst: Pittsburghers – it’s showing at the Cinemagic Manor Theater in Squirrel Hill and the Waterfront.)  I have a feeling that this story in movie format will be even more confusing as the book, but maybe it will be told in a different order.  Don’t know.  I’ll have to check it out when it gets to Netflix.

Has anyone else read this or seen the movie yet?  Thoughts?

Beautiful Lies by Lisa Unger

I can’t remember why I chose to buy this book.  Maybe it was on sale for the Kindle.  Maybe the summary looked interesting.  Either way, it had been sitting in my queue of unread books on my Kindle for awhile so I decided that it was just the type of book I wanted to read.  I like to mix up my genres and go from chick lit to suspense novels to memoirs and I try not to read two books of the same genre in a row.  Unless two really good chick lit books come out at the same time.

In “Beautiful Lies“, Ridley Jones is a normal 30-something woman in New York City when she gets thrust into the spotlight after saving a little boy from being hit by a car.  Out of the blue, she receives an old photo of a family and a simple note asking “Are you my daughter?”  Ridley is confused but asks her parents about it, who tell her she’s crazy and are offended that she’d even think that she was anything but their daughter.  Right at this same time, Ridley meets her hot new neighbor, Jake, who she is instantly attracted to, although he seems a bit dangerous and Ridley really doesn’t know anything about him.

Ridley confides in Jake about the photo and he immediately offers to help her do some research.  The deeper that Ridley and Jake get into both their research and their relationship, the more troubling things come to the surface about both Ridley’s family and Jake that make her regret not throwing away that picture and never saying a thing.  She starts to realize that the people who she loved and trusted may not be who she thought they were.  But she’s too far in and it’s too late to turn back…

I’m deliberately leaving a lot of details out, so I apologize for the short, vague summary.  I tend to only read the book jacket summary when I first download a book and then leave it sit for awhile before I read it, so I had no clue what this book was awhile when I first started reading it.  I think it helped add to the page-turningness (did I just make up a new word?) of the book.  Some of the reviews online aren’t very positive, but I actually liked this book.  The premise and the whole story is pretty unbelievable in reality, but really, what book isn’t like that?  I was surprised by a few turns that the story took that I didn’t guess beforehand (which I’m usually pretty good at doing).

This was Lisa Unger‘s first novel that came out a few years ago and since then, she’s released a few other books in the same suspense/thriller/mystery/whatever you want to call it genre.  I will be putting her on my list of “must read more of his/her books” authors!

One Hit Wonder by Charlie Carillo

I wrote about Charlie Carillo’s other book, “Raising Jake” a few months back.  He had actually found my blog post and commented on it and mentioned that he had another book coming out in the fall.  I looked for it on Amazon recently and was disappointed to see it was only out in paperback.  A week or so later, I checked again and it was available for the Kindle.  Yay!

In “One Hit Wonder“, Mickey DeFalco is a washed up former pop star.  He had a hit song out in 1988 called “Sweet Days” that he wrote about Lynn, his sweetheart that he met when they were in high school.  He was head over heels in love with Lynn, the daughter of the local fire chief and hero who once rescued a boy from a burning building.  Mickey and Lynn spent most of that summer together until one night, Lynn was acting strange and the next day, Mickey woke up to found that Lynn ran away from home.  And never came back.

The song was written, Mickey was discovered by a classmate’s father who was a manager for a record company, and he became a huge star almost overnight.  After the 15 minutes of fame wore off, Mickey was broke (his quickie marriage and divorce to the co-star of the very short-lived TV show based on his song cost him half of his fortune) and homeless.  After living in LA for 18 or so years, Mickey had nowhere else to go but back home to Queens.

When Mickey returns home, he takes the same job he had back in high school – mowing lawns.  Mickey starts to redevelop the awkward relationship with his parents and starts to bond with his father in a way that he never had before.  He recounts some situations that put him into the mess that his life currently is, while always wondering what happened to Lynn; he’s still in love with her.

I thought that this was a fantastic read.  Like Carillo’s other book, it is a great book for either men or women to read.  Mickey seems like such a realistic character and you know that there are other one hit wonders (or 15-minutes-of-famers) out there that are back living with their parents and working a minimum wage job.  The book took some unexpected turns that kept me turning the page (or clicking the “next page” button on the Kindle, whatever).  I can only hope that Charlie Carillo plans to release another book next year!

Oh, and also, there was a very very very minor character mentioned in the book that has the same Polish last name as me.  I got really excited when I saw that.

2012 Reading Challenge

2012 Reading Challenge
Jaci has read 1 book toward her goal of 35 books.
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