Thursday, November 10, 2011

CBR3 #48: The Darlings - Cristina Alger

I picked up an ARC of this book from the giveaway shelf at work.

Now that he's married to Merrill Darling, daughter of billionaire financier Carter Darling, attorney Paul Ross has grown accustomed to New York society and all of its luxuries: a Park Avenue apartment, weekends in the Hamptons, bespoke suits. When Paul loses his job, Carter offers him the chance to head the legal team at his hedge fund. Thrilled with his good fortune in the midst of the worst financial downturn since the Great Depression, Paul accepts the position.
But Paul's luck is about to shift: a tragic event catapults the Darling family into the media spotlight, a regulatory investigation, and a red-hot scandal with enormous implications for everyone involved. Suddenly, Paul must decide where his loyalties lie-will he save himself while betraying his wife and in-laws or protect the family business at all costs?

Cristina Alger's glittering debut novel interweaves the narratives of the Darling family, two eager SEC attorneys, and a team of journalists all racing to uncover-or cover up-the truth. With echoes of a fictional Too Big to Fail and the novels of Dominick Dunne, The Darlings offers an irresistible glimpse into the highest echelons of New York society-a world seldom seen by outsiders-and a fast-paced thriller of epic proportions.- Amazon
I picked up this book from the giveaway shelf because the description on the back of the book called it a fictional account of Too Big To Fail, which I read in August. Alger captures events surrounding the supposed suicide of a hedge fund manager and the fallout of a possible SEC investigation all over the course of one week.  That week just happens to be around Thanksgiving, which gives an interesting family & holiday twist.

Alger explores the desire of being loyal to family versus looking our for yourself as the main characters realize that their whole family might be taken down with an investigation and scandal.  While I did feel like I've read/seen parts of the plot before (i.e. an Law & Order episode), I was curious to see what the final outcome would be.

Paul and Merrill were likeable and accessible characters even though they were part of NYC elites society.  Nice debut novel and it captures the essence of the financial world in turmoil and an unsteady economy very well.

CBR3 #47: It's Classified - Nicolle Wallace

Charlotte Kramer, America’s first female president, is beginning her second term and is determined to make her mark on history though events do seem to be conspiring against her. Melanie Kingston, her best friend, just signed on as secretary of defense. Will their relationship survive? Dale Smith is the senior communications advisor to the vice president and knows a secret that could not only ruin her own career, but put the credibility of the White House on the line. Tara Meyers is the most popular vice president in recent history, but does her public image match her private life?

When a classified terror threat is made public, all the weaknesses of this presidency are laid bare—and with the country’s safety at stake, someone in the White House isn’t taking any chances.
From the bestselling author of Eighteen Acres comes a novel with a true insider’s look at the lives of Washington’s political elite. It’s Classified reveals the intrigue and drama that go on behind the closed doors of the White House and opens up a world few have access to. - Amazon
I was so excited a couple of weeks ago to see Rachel Maddow interview Nicolle Wallace about the latest election season and her new book. I really enjoyed Eighteen Acres and was curious to see how Wallace continued the story with these four characters.

Wallace makes an interesting decision to start the book at the climax of the plot and then flashback to the a few weeks before everything fell apart.  I found the new character, Tara, hard to relate to and her husband was a complete jerk.  I felt bad for Dale as her relationship with Peter fell apart.  I did feel that Craig befriending her just when she was vulnerable was a little suspicious.

I definitely missed the interaction between Melanie and Charlotte.  I also felt Charlotte and Peter getting back together was predictable, but I guess it is hard to date when you are the President. This book definitely is an interesting look at what activities a Vice President might have on a daily basis and how their staff helps spin their message.

CBR3 #46: The Informationist - Taylor Stevens

Stevens's blazingly brilliant debut introduces a great new action heroine, Vanessa Michael Munroe, who doesn't have to kick over a hornet's nest to get attention, though her feral, take-no-prisoners attitude reflects the fire of Stieg Larsson's Lisbeth Salander. Nine years have passed since Munroe, the daughter of American missionaries, escaped Cameroon at age 15 after a violent incident. She's forged a new life in Texas as an "informationist," a person who specializes in gathering information about developing countries for corporations. Munroe's best friend, marketing consultant Kate Breeden, refers her to Miles Bradford, a high-stakes security pro, who believes she's the perfect choice to help Houston oilman Richard Burbank find his adopted daughter, Emily, who vanished four years earlier at age 18 while vacationing in west central Africa. Munroe returns to Africa, where she reconnects with her ex-boyfriend, Francisco Beyard, a sexy drug- and gun-running businessman, who assists in the dangerous search for Emily. Thriller fans will eagerly await the sequel to this high-octane page-turner. - Publishers Weekly

When I heard this book pitched at a library conference earlier this year, I couldn't wait to read it.  Thanks to a free shipping & nice discount from Random House I was able to enjoy it!  Very good thriller and very engaging.  It reads like an action movie and I could see it easily transferring to the big screen.

Most of the book is set in Africa.  I don't know much about the countries in which the story took place, so I wonder if I missed some of the nuisances. The main character does have a lot of demons, but she has learned to leverage her strengths and make a way for herself.  I'm interested to read more by the author and especially more books with this main character.

Recap of Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) Plenary Meeting

On October 21st, I attended a Plenary Meeting for the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) project at the National Archives. Below is a short recap of the sessions

The goal of this Plenary Meeting was to kick off the start of implementation of the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA).

Representatives from the funders, key government agencies and teams who participated in the Beta Sprints presented to a crowd of over 300 librarians, IT folks, and members of the public at the National Archives.
Highlights from the meeting can be found here.

They had two graphic artists capturing the discussion from each session visually which I thought was a creative idea.

Quotes from the speakers that I captured:
"We need an infrastructure of ideas just like we need roads & infrastructure" - James Leach, National Endowment for the Humanities Chairman

"We need to move from a boutique model to a Wal-Mart model" (on the digitization efforts around the country so far) - Peter Baldwin, Arcadia Fund

"Collaboration is key to long-term success with digitization" - Susan Hildreth, Institute for Museum and Library Services Director

"I want to digitize the whole (NARA) collection" - David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States

"Our goal is to have the public consider using DPLA when they are trying to find an answer to a question - similar to "Let's google it...." - "I'm going to DPLA it" - Peggy Rudd, Texas State Library and Archives Commission

MUST READ: Amanda French's remarks (Center for History and New Media) Aubade: The Soul and Body of a Library

"We are the generation that can give access to the analogue past" - Jill Cousins, Europeana

Beta Sprint Projects
10 of the 40 projects submitted were given a chance to show what they accomplished over the summer.
Check out this page to see live demos of all the projects.

There are 6 topical areas (Audience & Participation, Content & Scope, Financial/Business Models, Governance, Legal Issues, and Technical Aspects)  that this implementation is being split into.  The public is able to provide input to the 10-15 "leaders" for each topic area.  You can linger on the individual listservs and/or review the wiki pages where discussions for each area will be captured.  For more information here

CBR3 #37 - 45 Mini Reviews

The reviews below represent the books I read in September & October.

CBR3 #37 - The Omnivore's Dilemma - Michael Pollen - October Book Club selection
Interesting look at how omnivore's decide what to eat.  The first part of the book explores the life of corn and how it has become such a big part of our life. The second part of the book explores the life of cattle and other farm animals as well as the organic farming movement.  The last part of the book details a meal that the author grew, hunted or gathered himself.  While this book was very influential when it first came out, I found it hard to get excited about the statistics that were included since they are almost 5 years old.  Interesting related reading: Conversations between Michael Pollen and Whole Foods after the book was released.

CBR3 #38 - The Elegance of the Hedgehog - Muriel Barberry - September Book Club Selection
Follows a building concierge and a 12 year old girl as they struggle to relate to other people.  This book was translated from French and I found myself having to look up a vocabulary word almost every other page.  After reading the description of the book you are prepared for a character to not make it to the end of the book, but the ending was not what I expected. I found it hard to relate to any of the characters.

CBR3 #39 - Season to Taste - Molly Birnbaum
Non fiction memoir about the author's lost sense of taste after being in a car accident.  The author explores various research on the lost of this sense and details how she eventually learns to cook again and gain back her sense of taste.  Heart warming story, but some chapters detailed more than I wanted to know.  There were times when I thought her research outshone the main narrative. 

CBR3 #40 - The Lantern - Deborah Lawrenson
Gothic novel/romance set in France.  At first I had a hard time realizing when the narrator changed between chapters.  I also had a hard time believing that the main characters would stay together in a relationship in the real world.  Good read, but some of the plot twists were predictable.  This book fulfilled my need for a good mystery.

CBR3 #41 - The Other Life - Ellen Meister
"What if you could return to the road not taken" - this premise is what Meister explores within the book.  Good read and captures your attention right away.  The main character is realistic and the story flowed very naturally. This was the first book in a while that I've read which had a single narrator, which was refreshing!

CBR3 #42 - The Language of Flowers -  Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Heartwarming tale of a foster child who learns to connect to the world through arranging flowers. After aging out of the foster care system, Victoria finds a job at a florist and end up reconnecting with someone from her past. Impressive first novel that captures a tender love story and shows us all that adapting to life is not always easy.

CBR3 #43 - The Lock Artist - Steve Hamilton
This book is a love story intertwined with a great mystery! The narrator goes back and forth between two stories - how he became a boxman and his last job.  The ending was a little disappointing but bittersweet as well. Very creativity written and probably the best mystery I've read all year!

CBR3 #44 - Need You Now - James Grippando

Good financial thriller ripped from the headlines!  This book is full of plot twists and odd characters.  Patrick Lloyd is a Wall Street adviser sent to Asia to spy on his new girlfriend Lily who helped the #2 guy in a ponzi scheme move around money. But Patrick has his own secrets including a father who ratted out the mob and is in witness protection now.  Good book to pick up after Too Big To Fail. Very engaging book and easy to read.

CBR3 #45 - The Paris Wife - Paula McLain

This book tells the love story between Ernest Hemingway and his first wife Hadley.   This book was an interestingly written historical fiction novel.  The author captured the life around a "true artist" trying to break out in their own way.  It was hard to relate to the characters because life in the '20s was so different than now.  It was interesting to see how American society overseas traveled around Europe frequently and without much bureaucracy. The politics of the time really wasn't pulled into this book much.