Monthly Archives: April 2023

The Soulmate

Could not put this book down!! 5++ stars!

Riveting, seat-gripping drama that keeps getting cranked up with each page.

A couple (Gabe and Pippa) in an idyllic-appearing marriage purchase a home near a steep cliff that overlooks the ocean. People who are considering suicide go to The Drop. Gabe has been able to save seven people by going out and talking with them.

Then one person jumps—or is she pushed by Gabe?

Highly, highly recommend!


A Man of Two Faces: A Memoir, A History, A Memorial

A Man of Two Faces: A Memoir, A History, A Memorial, a memoir by Viet Thanh Nguyen, is one of the top books I have read in 2023. It will remain with me for many years.

It is profound, powerful, thought provoking and it holds up a mirror to how America treats immigrants and refugees.

Nguyen won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2016 for The Sympathizer even though fourteen publishers passed on the opportunity to publish his book. In A Man of Two Faces: A Memoir, A History, A Memorial, Nguyen shares how writers of color must read and be very familiar with White authors’ works. White ignorance of the works of writers of color is a privilege—and there is often a lack of interest in expanding knowledge and reading books by people of color.

Nguyen’s memoir is formatted like poetry and the storytelling is masterful. The topics include colonization, nationalism, genocide, war, refugees, immigrants, racism, and voicelessness and how that impacts the American Dream.

There are many visceral, memorable passages including:

* Refugees are seen as zombies of the world

* Fear and terror shape refugees

* B+ average is an Asian F

* As a model minority, sometimes you rock the boat but most of the time you row, diligently

* Stories are there to shake you, unnerve you, and make you see a new version of yourself

* Under colonization, none of us can breathe. When we recognize that, we can all struggle for breath together.

* Thanksgiving is both a reunion and a story of genocide

* Refugees often feel betrayed because they are taken to the country that was the aggressor in their home country and then they are expected to be grateful

* White nationalism is the US identity

* White nationalism requires demonizing racial others and subordinating women

* Anti-Asian violence increased once Trump called the pandemic the Chinese virus and Kung Flu

* What does it mean to be illegal when the law is unjust?

* MLK: Riots are the language of the unheard

* Being racist is easier than blaming capitalism

* Countries gush refugees because the country is broken or they are breaking their people

* An aerosol of racism permeates America

* There is no such thing as voicelessness. Voices are deliberately silenced or preferably unheard.

* Writing can be an act of justice

* Writer’s ultimate task: find what shouldn’t be written and write it

Thanks, NetGalley, for a free ARC of this book in exchange for my fair and unbiased opinion. Expected publication date is October 3, 2023.

Highly, highly recommend!


A Most Tolerant Little Town: A Forgotten Story of Desegregation in America

Rachel Martin does a phenomenal job researching and sharing the story about Clinton, TN, a small rural Appalachian town that had the first school in the former Confederacy to undergo court-mandated desegregation. Martin began exploring the oral history of Clinton High School’s desegregation efforts when she was a graduate student in 2005. She continued to be immersed in Clinton, TN’s history for the next eighteen years. She spoke extensively with over sixty residents as well as the twelve courageous African-American high school students who entered Clinton High School on August 27, 1956.

A Most Tolerant Little Town: A Forgotten Story of Desegregation in America is a gripping, page-turning, non-fiction thriller based on the the events that occurred in Clinton, TN between 1956 – 1958. Some of the horrendous, racist actions included bombs, death threats, beatings, picket lines, KKK parades and burning crosses, gunshots, and rocks thrown through windows. The National Guard was called out. Evangelist Billy Graham spoke to thousands from the school gymnasium encouraging residents to love and take care of each other.

Yet Clinton, TN is an unknown story. Many people are familiar with the significant desegregation challenges at Central High School in Little Rock, AR in 1957 as well as other cities’ desegregation efforts (Birmingham, Nashville, Los Angeles, etc.). Martin shares that memories are not time machines. We choose what we want to remember and what we want to forget. Edward Murrow, a pioneering documentarian, created two award winning films about Clinton, TN, but the town is not mentioned in any official civil rights history.

Martin places the reader right in the center of riveting, action-packed drama. You feel as if you are walking the hallways of the high school.

Martin’s biggest lesson is that history is the story of human beings responding to events that are seldom under their control. She indicates that part of the story involves hamartia. I wasn’t familiar with that word and had to look up the definition: a fatal flaw which leads to the downfall of a tragic hero or heroine.

Highly, highly recommend!

Thanks, NetGalley, for a free ARC of this book in exchange for my fair and unbiased opinion.


Remarkably Bright Creatures

Incredible!! 5+ stars and highly recommend!

I listened to Shelby Van Pelt’s book, Remarkably Bright Creatures, on audiobook and I highly recommend listening to the book. Michael Urie does a phenomenal job as Marcellus, a giant Pacific octopus who is smarter than humans and is an escape artist at night from his tank (captivity) at Sowell Bay Aquarium. Marin Ireland narrates other characters and has an amazing Scottish brogue for the character of Ethan.

Like other book reviewers, I was skeptical about a book regarding an octopus but I was immediately captivated. Similar to other reviewers, I researched octopus information and they are considered the most intelligent of all invertebrates and they can radically alter their body shape to squeeze through small gaps.

The character development, dialogue, and drama of Tova, Cameron, Ethan, and Avery are terrific. Van Pelt does an amazing job on dealing with tough topics like death, loss, and grief as well as more positive issues of relationships, friendship, and interconnectedness.

Highly recommend!


When McKinsey Comes to Town

OMG!! Fascinating and terrifying at the same time. Highly recommend! Most intriguing business book I have read in 2023.

Walt Bogdanich does an amazing job peering under the hood at the inner workings of McKinsey in his book, When McKinsey Comes to Town: The Hidden Influence of the World’s Most Powerful Consulting Firm which is a huge nod to his phenomenal investigative journalism skills since McKinsey and their employees and ex-employees typically keep company and client information confidential.

Bogdanich shares many stories of McKinsey’s work and influence on various companies, countries, industries, and government agencies. Many McKinsey alums are/were in senior leadership positions in government (Senator Tom Cotton, Senator Trent Lott, Lael Brainard: Vice Chair of Federal Reserve, Pete Buttigieg: US Secretary of Transportation), banking (Tidjane Thiam: CEO of Credit Suisse, Ian Narev: CEO Commonwealth Bank Group, Philip Purcell: CEO Morgan Stanley, Peter Wuffli: CEO UBS Asset, Peter Orszag: CEO Lazard), and business (Sundar Pichai: CEO Google, James McNerney: CEO Boeing, Sheryl Sandberg: COO Facebook, Jonathan Schwartz: CEO Sun Microsystems, Jeff Skilling: CEO Enron, Tad Smith: CEO Sotheby’s, Helmut Panke: CEO BMW, Fred Malek: President Marriott Hotels, Hubert Joly: CEO Best Buy).

Bogdanich shares stories where McKinsey advised Disney to reduce costs related to ride maintenance and safety and suggested that all ride maintenance employees be moved to a night shift. Founder Walt Disney focused on ride safety and maintenance. Once Michael Eisner was the CEO, McKinsey was brought in to evaluate how to reduce costs and increase profits. Unfortunately, a roller coaster that was making unusual noises killed and injured park guests when wheel axles broke.

In the 1950’s, McKinsey was asked to conduct an executive compensation study. Their study indicated that hourly worker’s wages were increasing faster than executive wages. At the time, executives earned approximately 20x what front-line employees earned. Now that ratio is 350x. Many firms hire McKinsey to research executive compensation packages to ensure they are competitive. According to the book, it has been a race to the top to ensure executives continue to receive large compensation packages.

McKinsey created “matrix management” where employees reported to a myriad of bosses and accountability and responsibility levels were pushed lower in the organization. Banks, in particular, began allowing junior employees to issue and approve large loans. McKinsey also introduced the securitization of loans which allowed loans to be kept off balance sheets. This enabled banks to issue more loans and to use special purpose vehicles. We all know what happened to shaky mortgage loans.

Business author, Tom Peters, describes McKinsey’s matrix management model as similar to playing tennis, soccer, and basketball on the same court at the same time with the same players. Bogdanich indicated that savvier companies stayed away from McKinsey fads.

Allstate hired McKinsey to help them reduce costs and increase profits. A college student was rear-ended in a car accident and McKinsey refused to pay his claim. The student ended up hiring a lawyer and the case dragged on for over seven years. The court ordered Allstate to provide the McKinsey powerpoint and Allstate refused. The fine was $25,000 per day. Allstate’s fine rose to over $7 million dollars because they refused to provide the McKinsey powerpoint slides. Eventually a state prosecutor threatened to pull Allstate’s Florida license so that they couldn’t do any business in Florida. Allstate eventually provided the slides which showed the details on how claim agents were to slow-walk, deny, or lowball claims. In the meantime, State Farm and many other insurance companies had already hired McKinsey to help their companies reduce costs with the same model Allstate had implemented.

Bogdanich describes this as reverse Robinhood. The cost savings and increased profits put money in the executives’ coffers as well as McKinsey’s coffers…..all at the expense of policyholders. It was like declaring war on insurance policyholders. Bogdanich suggested to readers the book, From Good Hands to Boxing Gloves: The Dark Side of Insurance, for additional information about Allstate.

Additional stories are told about McKinsey’s involvement with country governments, like Russia, China, Malaysia, and Saudi Arabia. Other business stories include US Steel, Enron, and other well known companies. After the movie, Moneyball, McKinsey got involved in sports analytics and was advising the Houston Astros during the season they were cheating.

McKinsey develops systemized processes and then sells those processes to many companies within the same industry, regardless of conflict of interest. These systemized processes then metastasize within an industry. The end result is often a larger chasm between the haves and the have-nots. McKinsey is typically not held liable because they provide advice, they don’t implement the processes.

Insightful and scary look at the level of influence McKinsey has played in the US, other countries, and many companies.


Before reading Spare, I watched the six episode Harry & Meghan on Netflix. I give both the book and the Netflix documentary five stars! I also read and highly recommend Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family.

Memoir is my favorite genre and I naturally gravitate to books where the obstacles seem unsurmountable, yet the author is able to create their own path forward despite fighting against real or perceived barriers, prison-like bars that trap them, familial expectations, cultural norms, or other challenges such as war, poverty, violence, disasters, disabilities, etc.

I have no idea what living in a gilded cage would feel like with country, press, and family restraints. Add into that bubble-like existence not being or feeling valued or respected because the monarchy hierarchy doesn’t view you as important. If I had to live that way, I would be one rebelliou

s hell-raiser trying desperately to find my way out of that life and into the life I dreamed and imagined for myself.

I also have no idea what life would be like if my mother, an incredible beacon of light, passed away early and I was left to fend for myself within a family that doesn’t show emotion or compassion.

From watching the Netflix documentary, I firmly believe that Harry and Meghan love each other very deeply. How the press and bloggers treat Meghan, particularly from a race perspective, is horrendous. If I was Harry, I would continually worry that relentless paparazzi could potentially cause harm or death to Meghan, which would be an unfortunate repeat of history.

I admire Harry’s authenticity, self-awareness (yes, he has made mistakes and he has learned from them—he has a terrific continual learner mindset), grit, determination, and fierce devotion to ensuring the health and safety of Meghan and their children.

Against all odds, he is defining his identity and his future. He is the captain of his soul and his life. In his book, he states that freedom comes after struggle. He has struggled through many things and I am rooting for Harry and Meghan and their family to have many, many years of happiness and freedom.