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I read because I must. It's like breathing to me. And I love talking about books. But I'm also an Arsenal fan, a wine drinker, a music lover and weirdly obsessed with pop culture. I mostly blog about books, but sometimes about things I'm thinking or doing. When I'm not on the blog, I'm managing software implementations.

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Recent Posts

  • Young Money
  • Orange Is The New Black
  • Saving Saffron Sweeting
  • “Defending Jacob” and “The Dinner”
  • Sometime You Gotta Laugh

Young Money

Posted on 22 Mar 2014 In: Reading

screenshot166Kevin Roose’s The Unlikely Disciple was the very first book I reviewed when I started TheBookFetishBlog.  I liked his style and so was glad to pick up Young Money when it was released just a few weeks ago.

From the book description:

Becoming a young Wall Street banker is like pledging the world’s most lucrative and soul-crushing fraternity. Every year, thousands of eager college graduates are hired by the world’s financial giants, where they’re taught the secrets of making obscene amounts of money– as well as how to dress, talk, date, drink, and schmooze like real financiers.

YOUNG MONEY
Inside the Hidden World of Wall Street’s Post-Crash Recruits

YOUNG MONEY is the inside story of this well-guarded world. Kevin Roose, New York magazine business writer and author of the critically acclaimed The Unlikely Disciple, spent more than three years shadowing eight entry-level workers at Goldman Sachs, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, and other leading investment firms. Roose chronicled their triumphs and disappointments, their million-dollar trades and runaway Excel spreadsheets, and got an unprecedented (and unauthorized) glimpse of the financial world’s initiation process.

Roose’s young bankers are exposed to the exhausting workloads, huge bonuses, and recreational drugs that have always characterized Wall Street life. But they experience something new, too: an industry forever changed by the massive financial collapse of 2008. And as they get their Wall Street educations, they face hard questions about morality, prestige, and the value of their work.

YOUNG MONEY is more than an exposé of excess; it’s the story of how the financial crisis changed a generation-and remade Wall Street from the bottom up.

When I started reading Young Money, I got the same feeling as I did the first (and only) time I watched the movie “Up In The Air”: my chest tightened, my shoulders hunched, and my breathing shallowed. In other words, it stressed me out.  The first years of a Wall Street Analyst sound eerily familiar to my days as a road warrior for a Big Five (at the time) consulting company.

Fortunately, I was able to take a few deep breaths and get some perspective. That world is long behind me now, thankfully.  But Roose provides some real food for thought as he delves into the work and personal lives of these analysts.  Young Money starts just after the bailouts of 2008, when Wall Street was reeling, and people were spewing vitriol about the Street and all it stands far. Some of these kids took  jobs in finance to set the foundation for a potentially lucrative career. Others took it solely as a stepping stone, a temporary detour from what they really want to do. Two years on the Street at the right investment bank and they can write their ticket. None realized how soul-sucking the work could be. And while they may have thrived temporarily on the adrenaline, most of them paid big tolls in their personal lives, and  with potentially devastating impacts to their mental and physical health.

At the same time, some of them struggled with the ethics of the high finance world- is making money truly the most important thing, or do these companies bear some ethical responsibility to actually help people? Or, at a minimum, understand how their actions impact others? Some were able to see the benefits of working on Wall Street. Others decided that with the deflated payoffs of working on Wall Street that sacrifices- excruciatingly long workdays; the lack of weekends, holidays, and vacations; the broken relationships- just weren’t worth it.

While it may problem most prevalent on Wall Street, I think many people just starting out in their careers question what they are doing. And it was this self analysis and instinct for self- preservation in the analysts that made the biggest impact in the book.  Roose shows not only the dark side of this world,  but also the introspection of the people who allowed him into their lives. And he does it in a compassionate way, clearly concerned about whether or not they will all survive the two year hell period no worse for the wear.

Aside from the looks into the lives of the analysts, Roose also details his night crashing a dinner of the Wall Street elite.  Reading it is cringe-inducing. Not because of the writing, but because of the mentality, actions, and words of the dinner attendees.  It exposes a truly seedy underbelly of the Wall Street World and should cause every attendee to think twice.

While Roose’s writing is seen more frequently in New York magazine and on Daily Intelligencer, it’s good to see a second book from him.  I’m looking forward to number three.

Orange Is The New Black

Posted on 17 Mar 2014 In: Reading

screenshot160 I enjoy the Netflix series “Orange Is The New Black” but the best thing I can say about Piper Kerman’s memoir Orange Is The New Black is that it bears little semblance to the series.

One of my favorite things about the TV series is that we get the backstories of the other prisoners. We get very little of that in the memoir. But what we do get in the memoir is to me, in many ways, much more telling and engaging.

A co-worker read Orange Is The New Black at the same time I did, and it was my book club’s February selection. Overwhelmingly, we all said the humanness presented in the memoir was the thing we liked most about it. The memoir makes clear some of the challenges of the US Justice System- the seemingly arbitrary and sometimes excessively long lock-up times for non-violent crimes. The absolute loss of power for a prisoner with sometimes-unscrupulous corrections officers. The woefully inadequate re-entry preparation the justice system provides for inmates about to be released.  Imagine entering prison before the Internet was in seemingly every household and leaving in the age of the iPhone. Without a strong support structure in place, it is a recipe for failure- and repeat offenses.

The most poignant part of Kerman’s memoir is her realization of the impact of her actions.  Not only on her friends and family and what her incarceration did to them, but also what the drug trade is doing to communities and families throughout the country.

Kerman owes a debt of gratitude to the support system she had in place while she served her sentence. She had the unwavering support of her family and her now-husband and numerous friends. That support was critical to her mental health while inside and so much stronger than what many other prisoners face.

Although it is rather slow paced, I enjoyed the memoir in many ways much more than the series. And for those who may be put off by the salaciousness of the series, there is none of that in the book.  Instead, it’s a personal story of a person dealing with the consequences of her actions, and what she learned about life, others, and herself in the process.

Saving Saffron Sweeting

Posted on 10 Mar 2014 In: Reading

screenshot159 Pauline Wiles’ Saving Saffron Sweeting, a 2013 Quarterfinalist for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, is a charming tale of a woman who steps out of her own grief to find herself and make an impact bigger than she ever expected on her adopted community.

From the book summary: Grace Palmer’s British friends all think she’s living the American Dream. But
her design business is floundering and when she discovers her husband is cheating with her best client, she panics and flees home to England.

The tranquil village of Saffron Sweeting appears to be a good place for Grace to lick her wounds, but the community is battling its own changes. Reluctantly, Grace finds herself helping her new neighbours as they struggle to adjust and save their businesses. However, not everyone has the same opinion on what’s good for the village. The charismatic new man in her life may have one speculative eye on Grace, but the other is firmly on profit. How will she navigate the tricky path between her home and her happiness?

With gentle humour and generous helpings of British tea and cake, Saving Saffron Sweeting explores one woman’s need to define
herself through her career and community, before she can figure out who should be by her side.

I listened to the audiobook of Saving Saffron Sweeting, and while I found some of the narrator’s accents to be a little off, it didn’t take away from me enjoying the story.

I have a romantic view of the English countryside, and this story fed that well. Grace is a likable heroine who, although she makes decisions differently than I would, I found myself championing.  She accidentally finds a niche for herself within the Saffron Sweeting community, one with much bigger ramifications than she could imagine.  There were moments I laughed out loud, times I wanted to shake few characters, but mostly, I wanted to sit in the pub with them all and join their story.

Saving Saffron Sweeting  will appeal to fans of the ChickLit genre.  Listening to this in the same timeframe as I was reading books about murder and a memoir of a prison term was a perfect balm to all the darkness in the other books. That’s not to say Saving Saffron Sweeting doesn’t hold the same weight as the other stories.  It does. It just isn’t dealing with as dark of subject matter.  I still found myself wondering what I would do if I were in Grace’s shoes.  She’s lucky, in a way, with her ability to get so far away from what causes her grief. Physical distance can be a great aid to perspective.

Grace is plucky, the Saffron Sweeting residents engaging, and the village’s problems very real for a number of small towns.  I enjoyed this one and look forward to more from Pauline Wiles.

“Defending Jacob” and “The Dinner”

Posted on 3 Mar 2014 In: Reading

For the first time, I am reviewing two books in one post.  Unknowingly, I chose to read two books dealing with a similar premise in close succession.  I found myself comparing the actions and reactions of the characters in the two books when placed untenable situations.  I’m afraid this post may be a little spoiler-y so continue at your own risk.

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In Defending Jacob,  a child is murdered, and District Attorney Andy Barber is working the case. As the schoolmates of the victim are interviewed, a suspect is revealed, and to Andy’s horror, it is his own son, Jacob.

But Jacob’s a normal fourteen year old, right? Sure, a little quirky and shy and awkward, but of course, completely incapable of murder, right?

So begins the premise of William Landay’s Defending Jacob.  Andy Barber finds himself on the other side of the courtroom, supporting his son, the defendant.  Ostracized by their neighbors and former friends, Andy and his wife, Laurie, stand by their son.

In The Dinner, two couples meet for a dinner none is excited about. After all the polite conversation and reminiscing, the talk turns to the children, of course. But in this instance, the privileged fifteen year old sons of the couples share accountability for a terrible incident.  And like Defending Jacob, The Dinner explores how far parents are willing to go to protect their children.

Both books are an examination of the parent-child relationship and an exploration towards the instinct of self-preservation.  Both also touch on whether a tendency towards violence can be inherited. And both books do this in very different ways.

In Defending Jacob, I found myself sympathetic towards Andy and Laurie Barber. Andy, because he truly believes, and wants to believe, that his son is absolutely innocent. Laurie, because she sees the situation and fears in her bones that her son may be guilty.

On the other hand, Claire and Paul, and Serge and Babette, the parents at the center of The Dinner, seem to have a much more laissez-faire approach to the acts of their children.  Perhaps, they say, some people deserve to be victims, deserve whatever happens to them.  The empathy I felt for the parents in Defending Jacob was nowhere to be found in The Dinner.  In fact, I was appalled by the reactions of the parents, and didn’t really like any of them.  But what author Herman Koch did with that is still make me wonder what I would do, really, if I were in this situation.  Perhaps what I didn’t like about Claire and Paul wasn’t so much that they didn’t do what most of us characterize as “right”, but that if I looked at the deepest parts of myself, I’m not entirely certain that I would not make the same choices they do.

In both stories, there are signs that the kids are not all right.  The reactions in both books are similar to a small degree- a desire to explain away the signs, ignore them, children will be children, it will be all right, blah, blah, blah.  But as more is revealed, each parent makes choices in the extreme for how to deal with the situations, and they are at opposite ends of the spectrum.  One I found tragic and sympathetic; the other, appalling and dangerous.

The Dinner is written with more tension- I wanted to know what happened, and this seemed to be a very long dinner to finally get to that part of the story, but the build up was worth the wait. Koch sprinkles contextual clues that will explain the characters’ choices as more of the plot is revealed. Defending Jacob takes the tension in a different way- we really don’t know definitively of guilt or innocence, which makes the parents’ choices that much more interesting. But the tension I felt reading The Dinner is not in Defending Jacob.

Both were good, entertaining, and fast paced reads that I am telling friends to put on their must-read list. I’m also suggesting they read them close together and do some comparison of their own.

Sometime You Gotta Laugh

Posted on 24 Feb 2014 In: Reading

sometimes-ya-gotta-laughJoin me today for a review if Timothe Davis’ Sometimes Ya Gotta Laugh and keep reading for a Q and A with our author.

The risky thing about agreeing to a blog tour, especially a review, is that you’re agreeing before you actually read the book. So you’re taking a leap of faith on the synopsis of a story that you’re going to enjoy the book. There’s always that little trickle of doubt when I start a book for a blog tour, “What if I don’t like it?” 

When I read the synopsis for Sometimes Ya Gotta Laugh, I loved the premise:

When friendships are threatened, how far will you go to protect it?

Jordan Spencer is thirty-six and hasn’t had a relationship that’s lasted more than six months. He’s cool with that, though. He’s got space issues. And what difference does it make anyway? He has his two best friends Gabby and Chris for happy hours, clubs, and weekend hangouts. But Gabby is falling for a guy that Jordan doesn’t like and Chris-the-sex-machine is having a phallic crisis.

Jordan thought that their friendship would last forever. But with each day, they drift further apart. Without Gabby and Chris at his side, Jordan finds himself facing his own emotional loneliness. Should he fight for the friends who have become his family? Or has the season of their friendship passed?

Jordan Spencer will learn that in a world full of swingers, lies, and drag queens, even the best of friends occasionally lie to each other. Sometimes they cry for each other. But in the end, sometimes you just gotta laugh …

***

I’m calling myself out here.  Due to my own preconceptions of  what I thought the tone of the book would be before I had turned the first page, I had that anxious feeling of wondering if this would be the blog tour where I was less than pleased with the storyline.  But, I kept reading, and I’m so glad I did. Once I got over what I  thought Timothe Davis should be saying and read the book to understand the message he wanted to share, I really enjoyed it.

So, what did I like about Sometimes Ya Gotta Laugh? First, these characters are out of their twenties, well into their thirties.  This is a time when certain friends become more like family to you than actual family, and that is the situation for  Jordan, Chris, and Gabby.  And like any family- formed or born into- this family has its troubles. I think what will resonate with readers is that feeling when you  have very good friends- best friends- and you sense something off with them.  You can’t put your finger on what it is, and for whatever reason, any attempts to get to the heart of the matter are awkward and inept and make things worse before they get better.  Sometimes, it takes us a while to realize that we can’t go at it all alone, and our friends actually do want to help us- we just have to let them.

One of the other things I  liked about the book was that I had a visceral reaction to one of the characters- thankfully, a character we as readers are supposed to despise.  But it’s a credit to an author who can invoke that kind of reaction.

But what I liked most about Sometimes Ya Gotta Laugh is how much I could relate to it.  It was almost like Davis was writing about aspects of some of my friends. The characters are diverse, reflecting the mosaic of characters many of us have in our own lives.  And Jordan’s exploration of his own emotional distance and deciding that connection is good is something I can well identify with.

timothe davisAnd now, read on for my Q and A with Timothe Davis:

TBF:  Timothe, what have you learned about yourself through the writing process?

TD: I didn’t think I had the chutzpah to complete a book. A short story? Yes. But a full length novel? Never. I realized that I was more focused and goal-driven than I had ever thought.

Secondly, for me, the writing process called for quite a bit of humility. I’d write, share with a friend, and get some feedback. The feedback wasn’t always positive and that always stings. I’d have to sift through the feedback, decide what applied, and then share again. It’s not easy for an artist to say “this is my work; this is me” and then be told it’s subpar. But it’s part of the process of getting better. And I wanted and want to get better. So I asked for feedback.

Finally, Jordan – the main character – is the one that is most like me. In many ways, he is me. In putting my reactions and thoughts into the character, I was forced to ask myself questions about how I interact with my friends. Am I selfish? Where does my happiness come from? How do I treat them? Some of the writing was equal parts how does Jordan become a better person as well as how does Timothe become a better person.

TBF: What’s it like to participate in a blog tour?

TD: Tough question. The tour hasn’t started, and this will be my first. So I’m hard pressed to say what it feels like to participate. What I can say is that the preparatory steps have been more thought-provoking than I expected. Bloggers and reviewers send their questions, and I expected them all to be about the book. But any of them are about me. And some of the questions are quite complex, they peel-layers, and ask me to reflect on my personal journey. In that sense, it hasn’t been what I expected. On the other hand, “Sometimes” is about people on their personal journey. Hence, in a way, it makes sense that I’d be asked such questions. At this point I’d say, “Not what I expected. But I’m enjoying the process.” 

TBF: What are your thoughts about social media and emerging authors?

TD: I’m going to answer out of both sides of my mouth now. LOL.

Personally, I’m horrible when it comes to social media. My friends tease me because my iPhone will show that I have 100 notifications at any given time on FB.

And I just started actively using my Twitter account about 3 months. Plus, most of my “tweeting” is about other people’s works (books and music), not my own.

Nevertheless, while I could (and should) get much better, I do believe that social media can be a great tool for an author to share his work, connect with other authors, and find more fans.

It’s important to remember that social media itself doesn’t guarantee more sales. But it could lead to more exposure, and we’d like to believe that more exposure will eventually lead to more sales. Unfortunately, it’s hard to draw a correlation between the two.

Thanks to Timothe for taking the time to answer these questions.  And if you’re ready to read Sometimes Ya Gotta Laugh - and I recommend that you do- here’s what you need to know:

Sometimes Ya Gotta Laugh Tour Page

 

Author Bio:

Timothe Davis is a music-loving, martini-drinking, night owl. He spends his days confined within the walls of corporate America but (not so) secretly harbors dreams of writing best-sellers and getting books adapted to movies. Thank God he’s wise enough to have a 401K plan.

You can find him wandering around his loft most times of the night. His friends say his sarcasm belies a warm heart and he’s tried MATCH.com not once but twice.

“Sometimes Ya Gotta Laugh” is his first novel. It’s a fictional story of love, friendship, acceptance, and the journey we take to make ourselves better each day. He hopes that those who purchase it will enjoy reading it as much as he enjoyed writing it.

 

Connect with Timothe:

 

Twitter: @timothedavis

(Follow for updates not just of my books but books I’ve read and music I’m playing on my iTunes.)

 

Website: TimotheDavis.com

(Interviews of independent authors, musicians, and other artists.)

 

FB: Facebook.com/SometimesYaGottaLaugh

(Occasionally updated with thoughts and insights.)

 

 

The book can be purchased via most online vendors including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books A Million or through: http://timothedavis.com/my-books/sometimes-you-gotta-laugh

 

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