Search This Blog

Tuesday, December 29, 2015


5 stars out of 5

So-called Millennials (a.k.a. Gen Yers) - those born between 1980 and 2000  - generally have been characterized as demanding as employees; if what they're doing isn't interesting, they aren't interested in doing it. A work-life balance isn't a right that's earned through years of employment - it should be theirs from the get-go. And since much work can be done anywhere, anytime, who cares about nine to five? 

But there's much more to their behavior than that; and this book lays it out in detail, based on research on Millennials from 22 countries including the United States. Knowing the subtleties of their behavior gives organization leaders an in-depth understanding of what's really going on - and thus become better at improving their places of work by knowing how to more effectively engage Millennials with their work, as players on company teams and as individuals more committed to the organization overall. 

Basically, what Millennials want isn't all that different from the older folks in the working world: An interesting, well-paying job among workers they like and trust, the opportunity to advance and have their work acknowledged. But consider these points:

63% of Millennials agree the demands of work interfere with their home and personal lives, in part because today's technology means they're reachable pretty much 24/7. And, only one in 20 believes that the number of hours employees spend at work is an indication of how productive they are.

Millennials believe in commitment to work, but that doesn't mean they won't leave if they believe the grass is greener elsewhere - meaning a better chance for promotions, advancement and appreciation, among other things. 

Of course, factoids like these don't tell the whole story - not by a long shot (hence the need for this book to be read by any employer who wants to get the best from this generation of workers). Each explanation of what Millennials want is followed by "The Point," a brief discussion of what organizations can do to get more bang for the buck. An example: Millennials want to know how they're doing. Managers should take heed, then, and provide Millennials with some sort of frequent feedback - even if it's just an acknowledgement that they've done the work. Chapters also include "Points to Remember" such as, "Millennials want to control their lives and work as much as possible," "Millennials don't want to be told precisely how to do everything" and "Millennials' technology knowledge can help keep the organization current."

Chapter 6, titled "How to Give Millennials What They Want...Without Going Bankrupt or Angering Older Workers," gets right down to the nitty gritty; it is, IMHO, worth the price of the book in and of itself. Laid out here are the specifics of how to attract, retain and engage Millennials through the three dimensions of people, work and opportunities (the latter includes feedback and communication, development and pay) complete with action plans for each. Follow this with numerous pages of references and suggested reading, and the result is gestalt (the whole is greater than the sum of its parts). I thank the publisher, via NetGalley), for providing me with an advance copy for review. Good stuff!

What Millennials Want from Work by Jennifer J. Deal and Alec Levenson (McGraw-Hill Education, January 2016); 272 pp.

Sunday, December 27, 2015


5 stars out of 5

A mind is a terrible thing to waste, or so it's been said. And for sure, prolific writer Bibi Blair - grown daughter of perpetual Hippie parents Nancy and Mitch - is making the most of hers. Bibi's amazing story begins when she's diagnosed with a rare, incurable cancer - told by her doctors that she has no more than a year to live.

Not gonna happen, Bibi insists - and proceeds to make a remarkable full recovery unheard of in the medical community. But then, her life takes a different turn: From a soothsayer recommended by her surfer-dude father, Bibi learns that escaping death comes with a catch; she was spared only so she can save the life of someone named Ashley Bell.

From that point on, the story gets crazy - with chapters weaving in and out from the present to events of Bibi's somewhat offbeat childhood. Each chapter peels back clues as to what's going on, most of which fall into the realm of fantasy (well, maybe, but then again, maybe not). A big reveal somewhere around the 60% mark hits like a ton of bricks, and from then on, the story takes a turn toward the even more bizarre. The ending, which in many ways is unsatisfying, brings up a whole new dimension in and of itself that kept me wondering for several days after I finished the book.

The drawbacks? Maybe too many words; no matter how well crafted they are, some of the chapters seemed to drag on a bit. And if you don't like fantasy mixed in with reality - and perhaps not being able to discern which is which - this probably isn't the book for you. 

Ashley Bell by Dean Koontz (Random House LLC, December 2015); 578 pp.

Thursday, December 17, 2015


4 stars out of 5

This is the third in the author's Rosato & DiNunzio novels, I believe, but it's a first for me. And I must say that overall, it just didn't quite grab me. In fact, I waffled between 3 and 4 stars for my rating - but I rounded up just because I didn't not enjoy it. 

As I said, I'm not familiar with either Bennie Rosato or her law firm partner, Mary DiNunzio; and after reading this, I still don't know much about the latter, who is pretty much a DiNoShow in this one. Bennie takes front, center and side stage as she takes on as a client Jason, who's been charged with the murder of a guy he's hated since middle school. Back then, Bennie defended him when, at age 12, he was sent to a juvenile detention center after getting into a fight with the kid he's now believed to have murdered. Professionally bruised and convinced that she wronged him back then by failing to get him out, she's hell-bent on making sure she doesn't drop the ball this time around.

Complicating things is the murdered guy's uncle, Declan, with whom Bennie had a brief fling (think just one weekend) during that first case that left her madly in love. Claiming family responsibilities, though, he bailed, breaking her heart. Now that her client is charged with the murder of his nephew 13 years later, he makes it clear he's in no mood to get cozy again (unless, of course, she drops the client she believes is innocent). Somehow, she musters up the courage to tell him no (personally, I'd have told him to put his ultimatums where the sun don't shine, but maybe that's just me).

Actually, both court cases - the second one involving a murder trial - make for very interesting reading; it's the sappy romance part that pretty much turned me off. Hunky appearance notwithstanding, I just couldn't warm up to Declan - and most of me fervently hoped she wouldn't take him back in the end (of course, my lips are sealed as to whether or not that happened). All in all, this is a pretty good book, but it's nowhere near the top of my favorites list.

Corrupted by Lisa Scottoline (St. Martin's Press, October 2015); 433 pp.

Sunday, December 13, 2015


5 stars out of 5

This is nothing short of a wicked good book. That said, though, I'm having a tough time calling it a "psychological thriller" as advertised. Yes, there's plenty of psychological stuff going on - and yes, the story is so gripping that it was an almost impossible book for me to put down - but it certainly didn't keep me on the edge of my recliner biting my nails.

It is, ultimately, an inside/outside look at the evolution of a codependent, dysfunctional married couple as seen through the eyes of Jean Taylor, the widow, plus police investigator Bob Sparkes, Kate Waters, a reporter, and single mother Dawn Elliot. As the story builds, the chapters shift to and from the various perspectives (a technique that's exceptionally well done here, IMHO). 

At the start, it's 2010 in London and Jean has just watched her husband, Glen, die after being hit by a bus. Four years earlier, Glen was accused of kidnapping and murdering Bella, Dawn's young daughter. Although he wasn't found guilty, he - and his wife Jean - since have become the targets of vicious media attacks. Enter Kate, who's out to land the real story by hook, crook or whatever else it takes. Almost behind the scenes, the detective - who led the original investigation - is trying his best to prove his fervent belief that Glen is guilty as charged.

From the get-go, it's pretty clear that Glen is at best no innocent bystander; nonetheless, his wife is vehement in her belief that he did nothing wrong (Tammy Wynette would be proud). As the story moves along, it is almost remarkable to watch the changes in all the characters as new details are revealed from past and present investigations and recollections from the characters themselves. That progression, in fact, is the real story here - and the writing of it is superbly crafted.

Oh yes - a couple of extraneous tidbits: If it's London, apparently every situation calls for tea. But beans on toast? Seriously? Kidding aside, I highly recommend this book and thank the publisher, via NetGalley, for providing me with an advance copy for review. It's a winner!

The Widow by Fiona Barton (Penguin Grouop USA LLC, February 2015); 336 pp.

Thursday, December 10, 2015


4 stars out of 5

Right off the bat, I'll admit fighting the urge to give this one 3.5 stars. But the plot seemed believable to me, the pace was fast enough to hold my attention throughout and better still, for the most part kept me guessing all the way to the end. At issue is the fact that I had a tough time relating to the main character; but in all fairness, my objection touches on a personal bias that really doesn't have much bearing on the quality of writing, so I upped my score to 4.

The story begins as Sarah Quinlan returns with her husband Jack to his hometown of Penny Gate, Iowa, after he learns that his Aunt Julia, who raised him and his rather wigged-out sister Amy, fell down the stairs and is in a coma. Jack, who's always been closed-mouthed about his parents (revealing only that were killed when he was a teenager), hasn't returned to the area since before he and Sarah were married 20 years earlier.

Soon thereafter, Julia dies, and details about Jack's childhood experiences begin to emerge. Sarah - a former reporter turned advice columnist - starts to dig deeper into the events of her husband's past. In the process, she unearths "secrets" surrounding the death of his parents that could put other family members - and perhaps Sarah herself - in danger. From that point on, it's a race to get to the truth before someone else bites the dust (as for how all that turns out, of course, my lips are sealed).

What turned me off, though, is that I have no sympathy for hand-wringing females like Sarah, whose angst jumped to 9.5 on the Richter Scale the second she concluded that her husband of two decades is a lying, cheating scumbag  - or worse - simply because he failed to tell her every tiny aspect of his past. He didn't share names of all the girls he dated in high school? Oh, the horror! Granted, there are a few relatively important things he probably should have mentioned somewhere along the way; but it's 20 years and two kids later, woman - get over it. Somewhere around the 50% mark, I decided the best ending for me would be learning that he'd kicked her sorry butt to the curb (no, I won't reveal that outcome, either).

That off my chest, this is a good, solid mystery that gave me plenty of motivation to keep reading (I finished it easily in a couple of days). I had suspicions about how it would all come together, but I had to wait till the final pages to find out for sure. For those who don't mind a goodly dose of melodrama with their suspense, I give it a big thumbs up, and I thank the publisher (via NetGalley) for providing me with an advance copy for review.

Missing Pieces by Heathrer Gudenkauf (Harlequin Digital Sales Corp., February 2016); 288 pp.

Sunday, December 6, 2015


5 stars out of 5

Utterly, positively, fascinating! As a student of human behavior with a big interest in marketing (and the interaction between the two), I devoured this book from Page 1 right through to the end. And boy, did I ever learn a lot.

The author, who has written several other books on this and similar topics, calls himself a "forensic investigator of emotional DNA." His professional consulting assignments, should he decide to accept them, involve figuring out what humans really want (or "desire") and coming up with ways the companies can provide it. The revelation that humans tend to see the world in different ways even though they're almost unimaginably similar, he says, is what the book is about.

Rather than focusing on so-called Big Data (is there anyone out there who hasn't learned what Baby Boomers, or "Tweens" are like as a group, for instance?), he zeroes in on the little things: Rituals, habits, gestures and preferences of individuals. Those things identified, the resulting "small data" can be compiled, projected to larger populations and - sometimes in combination with Big Data - used to generate a plan of action.

Using examples from consulting jobs at a number of well-known and diverse companies all over the world - names like Lego, Euro Disney, Pepsi and Jenny Craig - he provides explicit details of the investigative process, what he found, what he concluded and how the resulting plan worked out. The chapter dealing with we Americans' "political correctness" was, BTW, especially intriguing (not to mention spot-on). 

If you have anything to do with marketing, advertising, revving up flagging sales (or getting them going as a new business) or, like me, you just want to learn more about people, I highly recommend this book. Special thanks to the publisher (via NetGalley) for providing me with an advance copy for review. 

Small Data: The Tiny Clues That Uncover Huge Trends by Martin Lindstrom (St. Martin's Press, February 2016); 256 pp.

Thursday, December 3, 2015


5 stars out of 5

Of all the book series written (or co-written) by James Patterson, those featuring police psychologist Dr. Alex Cross have remained at the top of my favorites list ever since the very first one (for the record, this is the 23rd). I'm happy to say this one doesn't disappoint. Also for the record, I was happy to see that it doesn't follow what seems to be a trend these days - books that are closer to a novella in length than a full-length book.

As is expected with any Patterson book, the chapters are short - another selling point for me simply because for someone like me with a touch of OCD, it's much easier to get to a stopping place when life intervenes. Put another way, having to close my Kindle in the middle of a chapter is almost as unthinkable as turning off the radio in the middle of my favorite Neil Diamond song (and no, it is not "Sweet Caroline" or "Forever in Blue Jeans").

As for the story, this one takes the good doctor, his lovely policewoman wife Bree, two of their kids and his 90-something Nana Mama to Alex's home town of Starksville, North Carolina (for Alex, it's the first visit in 35 years). His cousin, it seems, is on trial for the rape and murder of a young boy who was one of his students at the local school. Another female relative is defending the young man, who insists he's innocent, but she's having a tough time disproving the prosecution's well-documented evidence. 

Tracking down clues takes Alex to Florida, where he gets tangled up in a case involving murders of socialite women - the local police need his help, albeit a bit grudgingly; several chapters flip back and forth from these murders to the goings-on in the Tar Heel State. If all this weren't enough, Alex's daughter Jannie gets off to a running start toward a possible future, all to the delight of her proud father and stepmother. But then Alex and Bree's trains of investigative thought begin to hit pay dirt, threatening the future of the entire family.

The chase also challenges Alex and Nana Mama to confront their pasts, unearthing secrets that, for the most part, went dead many years earlier. The truths include the good, the bad and yes, the pretty hokey, but it all works out in the end and gives readers new and interesting insights into both characters. 

Cross Justice by James Patterson (Little, Brown and Co., November 2015); 450 pp.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015


5 stars out of 5

Every now and then, I just want to sit back and be entertained. Mind you, I still want a good whodunit - I'm just not in the mood for blood and guts, big guns blasting in the desert or super-heroes (or heroines) who can take down a dozen martial arts professionals with one hand tied behind their back and the other in a cast.

Enter Mary Higgins Clark, who's pretty much guaranteed to come through on that score, and this one - the second in the Under Suspicion series co-written with Alafair Burke - fills the bill nicely. It's well written in what I'd call "civilized" language, has a well-thought-out plot and believable characters and held my attention throughout. 

Like its predecessor, The Cinderella Murder (which earned 4 stars from me, BTW), this one features New York reality TV show producer Laurie Moran, who's trying to settle on the cold case to showcase in her next investigative series titled Under Suspicion. Just as she's about to make her pick, she's visited by the still-distraught mother of an almost-bride named Amanda who disappeared on the eve of her wedding in Palm Beach five years ago. The mother pleads with Laurie to do a show about her daughter, and after some checking around, Laurie agrees it's a great idea. So, she and her team head to Florida to recreate the pre-wedding activities at a posh hotel, reeling in members of the wedding party to be interviewed by show host (and Laurie's love interest) attorney Alex Buckley.

The actions and emotions of all the wedding participants are put under the microscope as Laurie, helped by her retired-cop father, start digging deeper into what really happened. As might be expected, just about every character comes under suspicion at one point or another right up to the end, when the murderer is revealed. I didn't guess the identity of the culprit beforehand, but neither was I surprised since they all had reason to at the very least dislike Amanda and most also had means, motive and opportunity.

If you like murder on the lighter side - even once in a while, like me - give this one a try. I don't think you'll be disappointed. 

All Dressed in White by Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke (Simon & Schuster, November 2015); 271 pp.