David and Goliath (and a linkup)

David and GoliathDavid and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling GiantsDavid and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell by Malcolm Gladwell

While I expected to really enjoy Gladwell’s book, I found it to be a bit of a let-down. Outliers, Blink, and The Tipping Point were more compelling books, and all felt fresher. It may simply be that I’ve gotten so used to Gladwell’s style that this book was doomed to disappoint, but I felt like he was reaching more with some of his examples.

That said, I did really enjoy some of the sections. The chapter on choosing college was very interesting, and I’ve already had a side chat with someone about it. The dyslexia chapter was fascinating, and I found myself completely amazed at some of the individuals highlighted.

Fortunately, Gladwell’s books are easy to read, so I don’t feel like I ended up spending a lot of reading time on something I ultimately didn’t like enough to justify it. I’d recommend that if it sounds interesting, you give it a try but don’t hesitate to skip chapters that don’t appeal to you.


Looking ahead at next month, we’ll start our discussion of The Hobbit on December 5th.


If you’ve written a post about David and Goliath, you’re welcome to add it to the linkup below.

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Death on the Sapphire by R. J. Koreto

Death on the SapphireDeath on the Sapphire: A Lady Frances Ffolkes Mystery by R.J. Koreto

Enjoyable enough mystery & there’s sufficient promise shown by the author, and with the characters, that I’ll look for the next in the series. (But it’s not so good that I feel the need to go out of my way to tell everyone I know they need to read it immediately.)

Lady Frances is not a fully believable character, both for the time period, and as a pseudo-detective. However, her maid was a more interesting character and was also more believable (still not perfect, but better). I hope there’s more with her in future books!

The mystery is fairly weak, both the premise of it and how it’s resolved. The ending includes an absolutely ridiculous event too (can’t give details as it’s too spoilery) that helps it all wrap up neatly.

All those criticisms and it seems odd that I’m giving it 3 stars, but I did like it well enough for a mostly-fluff fun read. When you’re in the mood for a cozy historical mystery, it might fit the bill for you too. It helps that it’s currently only $1.99 for Kindle or Nook – if you like these sorts of books you may want to grab it before the price increases. Unless you’re a major fan of the genre though, I’d skip this one even at the sale price.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
An extraordinary woman living in extraordinary times, Lady Frances Ffolkes is an Edwardian-era suffragette who has an uncanny ability to attract danger and romance.

When Major Colcombe, a family friend and war veteran, dies under mysterious circumstances, Lady Frances discovers that he was working on a manuscript about South Africa’s bloody Boer War, which reportedly revealed a scandalous mistake that cost the lives of many brave soldiers. Now, it’s up to Frances and her loyal lady’s maid, June Mallow, to track down the missing manuscript and bring the killer to justice. Despite clashes with Scotland Yard and the British Secret Service, Frances never backs down and finds herself in several very unfortunate positions–and one very fortunate love triangle.

Death on the Sapphire is R. J. Koreto’s witty and winsome debut of a series that is sure to be fan favorite for years to come.


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Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart

Girl Waits with Gun Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart

I discovered this one thanks to the second in the series popping up on all sorts of lists about “top fall releases.” Sure, the second was getting the buzz, but I can’t dive into the series there – I need to start with the first book.

Stewart is a familiar name, writing bestselling nonfiction like The Drunken Botanist and Wicked Plants.

It’s marketed as a mystery, but it isn’t really. The “family secret” hinted at in the publisher’s description is revealed early, and the other mystery subplot is minimal. If you go into it wanting a mystery you may feel disappointed, but if you expect it to be historical fiction then you won’t feel mislead. As historical fiction it was enjoyable, but my favorite part of it was learning about a previously unknown to me historical event and individual. I’m hoping the second book continues the pattern of fleshing out actual events. I loved how she took the known facts and turned them into an entire story.

If you’re a fan of historical fiction, enjoy reading about ground-breaking women from history, or especially enjoy this time period, I’d recommend it. If you don’t enjoy historical fiction, I don’t think this book would convert you.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
A novel based on the forgotten true story of one of the nation’s first female deputy sheriffs.

Constance Kopp doesn’t quite fit the mold. She towers over most men, has no interest in marriage or domestic affairs, and has been isolated from the world since a family secret sent her and her sisters into hiding fifteen years ago. One day a belligerent and powerful silk factory owner runs down their buggy, and a dispute over damages turns into a war of bricks, bullets, and threats as he unleashes his gang on their family farm. When the sheriff enlists her help in convicting the men, Constance is forced to confront her past and defend her family — and she does it in a way that few women of 1914 would have dared.


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Book Review: A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny

A Fatal GraceA Fatal Grace by Louise Penny

Book number two in the Chief Inspector Gamache series, and I do love the setting for these books. Penny is amazing at bringing the location to life – not only the village which is so appealing, but in this book the time of year almost becomes a character in the story as well. She’s so convincing that I’d look up from reading and feel surprised that there wasn’t snow outside.

If anything, the flaws are that the setting is too perfect – Three Pines seems unbelievably quaint and charming. Even the village curmudgeon is beloved. The murder victim is also an extreme – so hateful, so mean-spirited, so vicious, it’s hard not to root for her killer to get away with it as a kind of public service.

I should probably pace myself with the series, as some of the aspects of the books will likely begin to annoy me if I binge read them. However, I am so curious as to what’s going to happen with a few of them I’m not sure how successful I’ll be at that plan. As I write this post I’m already about a quarter of the way through book #3.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
Welcome to winter in Three Pines, a picturesque village in Quebec, where the villagers are preparing for a traditional country Christmas, and someone is preparing for murder.

No one liked CC de Poitiers. Not her quiet husband, not her spineless lover, not her pathetic daughter—and certainly none of the residents of Three Pines. CC de Poitiers managed to alienate everyone, right up until the moment of her death.

When Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, of the Sûreté du Québec, is called to investigate, he quickly realizes he’s dealing with someone quite extraordinary. CC de Poitiers was electrocuted in the middle of a frozen lake, in front of the entire village, as she watched the annual curling tournament. And yet no one saw anything. Who could have been insane enough to try such a macabre method of murder—or brilliant enough to succeed?


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Responses to the Reader Survey, part 1
Four years ago: Review: Enough by Will Davis Jr.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Death Wears a Mask by Ashley Weaver

Death Wears a MaskDeath Wears a Mask by Ashley Weaver

I was reminded of this series thanks to my own “on this date” posts (as found at the bottom of blog posts). Late in July, Weaver’s first book, Murder at the Brightwell, popped up which prompted me to go looking for the next book.

Once again I enjoyed the main character, and was entertained by the book. Although I am not super fond of the whole marriage-situation plot device, it’s not (currently) a deal-breaker as far as continuing to read the series. I have some concerns that it’s going to get really tedious if she doesn’t resolve it in some way, but I’ll read the next one and then decide if I’ll keep going (assuming the series keeps going).

The books are light and although this one isn’t as good as the debut, I’ll try the third, A Most Novel Revenge, after it releases in October. The description leads me to believe the marriage issues that so bugged me in book #2 might not be an issue in book #3 so here’s hoping. 🙂

(A heads-up if you’re interested in trying this series, book #1 is currently only $2.99 for Kindle.)

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
Amory Ames is looking forward to a tranquil period of reconnecting with reformed playboy husband Milo after an unexpected reconciliation following the murderous events at the Brightwell Hotel. Amory hopes a quiet stay at their London flat will help mend their dysfunctional relationship. However, she soon finds herself drawn into another investigation when Serena Barrington asks her to look into the disappearance of valuable jewelry snatched at a dinner party.

Unable to say no to an old family friend, Amory agrees to help lay a trap to catch the culprit at a lavish masked ball hosted by the notorious Viscount Dunmore. But when one of the illustrious party guests is murdered, Amory is pulled back into the world of detection, enlisted by old ally Detective Inspector Jones. As she works through the suspect list, she struggles to fend off the advances of the very persistent viscount even as rumors swirl about Milo and a French film star. Once again, Amory and Milo must work together to solve a mystery where nothing is as it seems, set in the heart of 1930s society London.

Death Wears a Mask is the second novel in Ashley Weaver’s witty and stylish Amory and Milo Ames mystery series.


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Anniversary Week: A Look Back, a Look Around, and a Look Ahead

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On Rereading Books: Still Life

Still LifeYears ago I read Louise Penny’s novel, Still Life. It introduced a new mystery series set in Canada.

And I was thoroughly unimpressed with it, and proceeded to ignore future books in the series as they were released.

Except. Friends whose reading tastes I trust kept saying good things about her books (especially on audio). They said that the first wasn’t her best, but that the series improves.

There’s so many things to read, it’s hard to justify rereading a book I didn’t like, in the hopes of it turning into a series I like, but I do trust my reading friends.

Last week I reread Still Life, with the plan being just to get it read to reintroduce myself to the characters, with the expectation of continuing on with the series.

And I don’t know if it was the (very) low expectations I had, or if it was a different stage of reading life, but I really enjoyed it. Now I’m left wondering why I thought so poorly of the book the first time through. This is when it would be helpful if I’d been blogging about my reads all along; all I have is that star rating, with no comments. Was it a mistake – had I meant to type 3 stars and my finger slipped? Was I in a particularly cranky mood when I read it and nothing would have pleased me? It’s a mystery, one that no detective will solve for me.

On the bright side of things, it means I have the entire Penny series to look forward to reading, thank you very much Jessica and Sarah and Janet and Anne.

On the not-so-bright side, what other books or series have I potentially been ruling out because of a bad first experience, when if I tried them again I might think quite differently about them?

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surêté du Québec and his team of investigators are called in to the scene of a suspicious death in a rural village south of Montreal. Jane Neal, a local fixture in the tiny hamlet of Three Pines, just north of the U.S. border, has been found dead in the woods. The locals are certain it’s a tragic hunting accident and nothing more, but Gamache smells something foul in these remote woods, and is soon certain that Jane Neal died at the hands of someone much more sinister than a careless bowhunter. Still Life introduces not only an engaging series hero in Inspector Gamache, who commands his forces – and this series – with integrity and quiet courage, but also a winning and talented new writer of traditional mysteries in the person of Louise Penny.

Book Details

Title: Still Life
Author: Louise Penny
Category: Fiction / Mystery
My Rating: 3 Stars

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Previously on The Deliberate Reader

Three years ago: Book Review: Poison

Walking the Amazon by Ed Stafford

Walking the AmazonWalking the Amazon: 860 Days. One Step at a Time. by Ed Stafford

Memoirs are one of my favorite genres because I find people fascinating, and sometimes the things people do with themselves astonishes me. Such as with Stafford’s book about his 860 days spent walking the Amazon. Eight hundred and sixty days. My youngest child hasn’t even been alive for that long. It boggles the mind.

So yes, I find it fascinating in an “I cannot even imagine doing something like this because there is NO WAY I ever would, barring having no other choice for survival or something like that.” Or to shorten that: UM, NO.

The writing is serviceable – he probably would have been well-served to bring in a ghost writer to help make it more engaging, and he doesn’t bring in the background information or humor Bill Bryson does in his memoir A Walk in the Woods. My husband would still argue Stafford’s book is better because: 860 days, walking the entire way. I would say that makes Stafford’s feat much more impressive, but doesn’t impact my thoughts on the book.

In 2014 I read Stafford’s subsequent book Naked and Marooned, and I wish I hadn’t read them out of order. Naked and Marooned ends up discussing some of the after effects of his walk, and I think I’d appreciate those elements more now after understanding what he did a lot more.

Recommended for fans of the genre, but I don’t think it would convert anyone who didn’t already like adventure/travel/amazing exploit type accounts.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Nook | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
As seen on Discovery Channel and for readers of Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, Bill Bryson, Jon Krakauer, and David Grann, a riveting, adventurous account of one man’s history-making journey along the entire length of the Amazon—and through the most bio-diverse habitat on Earth. Fans of Turn Right at Machu Piccu will revel in Ed Stafford’s extraordinary prose and lush descriptions.

In April 2008, Ed Stafford set off to become the first man ever to walk the entire length of the Amazon. He started on the Pacific coast of Peru, crossed the Andes Mountain range to find the official source of the river. His journey lead on through parts of Colombia and right across Brazil; all while outwitting dangerous animals, machete wielding indigenous people as well as negotiating injuries, weather and his own fears and doubts. Yet, Stafford was undeterred. On his grueling 860-day, 4,000-plus mile journey, Stafford witnessed the devastation of deforestation firsthand, the pressure on tribes due to loss of habitats as well as nature in its true-raw form. Jaw-dropping from start to finish, Walking the Amazon is the unforgettable and gripping story of an unprecedented adventure.

Book Details

Title: Walking the Amazon: 860 Days. One Step at a Time.
Author: Ed Stafford
Category: Nonfiction / Memoir
My Rating: 3 Stars

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Man Enough by Nate Pyle

Man EnoughMan Enough: How Jesus Redefines Manhood by Nate Pyle

If it seems strange that I read this book, well, I had a couple of reasons for wanting to. Thanks to Twitter I discovered the author, Nate Pyle, who is a pastor at a church in the Indianapolis area – since that’s where I live I began following him and wanted to read what he had to say. And as my son grows up, I find myself thinking about how he is maturing; what kind of man am I raising?

I appreciated with his premise (that manhood shouldn’t be defined by cultural ideals and expectations) and enjoyed parts of the book quite a bit. One of the strongest sections is when he writes that as Christians (whether male or female) our focus should be on becoming more Christ-like. He notes that “when characteristics are godly, they transcend masculinity and femininity and become traits that all people should seek to embody.” The final chapter was also excellent as it talked about risk aversion and vulnerability.

It’s very personal, with much of Pyle’s story informing the structure and examples given throughout the text. Unfortunately, it ends up being fairly repetitive, and feels like he’s continually circling around the same concept, without ever developing it further.

There was a small section that talked about parenting boys, and I would have loved to see more there – how do we as parents avoid raising our sons into aiming for the cultural male-ideal.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
Man Enough challenges the idea that there is one way to be a man. The masculinity that pervades our church and culture often demands that men conform to a macho ideal, leaving many men feeling ashamed that they’re not living up to God’s plan for them. Nate uses his own story of not feeling “man enough” as well as sociological and historical reflections to help men see that manhood isn’t about what you do but who you are. It’s not about the size of your paycheck, your athletic ability, or your competitive spirit. You don’t have to fit any masculine stereotype to be a real man.

In our culture and churches more thoughtful, quieter, or compassionate personalities, as well as stay-at-home dads, are often looked down upon; and sermons, conferences, and publications center on helping men become “real men”. This pressure to have one’s manhood validated is antithetical to Gospel living and negatively affects how men relate to each other, to women and children, and to God.

Man Enough roots men in the Gospel, examines biblical examples of masculinity that challenge the idea of a singular type of man, and ultimately encourages men to conform to the image of Jesus – freeing men up to be who they were created to be: sons of God who uniquely bear his image.

Book Details

Title: Man Enough: How Jesus Redefines Manhood
Author: Nate Pyle
Category: Nonfiction / Christian
My Rating: 3 Stars

Disclosure: I received this book for free from NetGalley for review. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

Three years ago: New on My Bookcase (vol. 6), the nonfiction

Out of Darkness

Out of DarknessOut of Darkness: My Story of Finding True Light and Liberation by Stormie Omartian

Hard to read at times, because the subject matter is so heart-rending. Omartian had a horrific childhood and it’s amazing to read her story and realize what she overcame.

The writing is fine, but more serviceable than spellbinding. If you’re familiar with her books such as The Power of a Praying Wife (and all the other related titles) it’s inspiring to learn how she developed into the woman of prayer she became.

If you’re not a believer, I don’t think the book would be as interesting to you. It also helps if you’re familiar with her writing or musical career. I had no idea of her musical abilities and hadn’t heard of her husband Michael Omartian (that probably says more about my obliviousness than anything else).

She’s got a previous memoir, Stormie, but I never read that and can’t say how this one differs from it.

Recommended for those who have liked her other books, or those who looking for a story of transformation and redemption.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
Stormie Omartian tells her compelling story of a childhood marred by physical and emotional abuse that eventually led her into the occult, drugs, and tragic relationships.

Finding herself overwhelmed by fear and on the verge of suicide, she shares the turning point that changed her life and reveals the healing process that brought freedom and wholeness beyond what she ever imagined.

In this poignant drama, there is help and hope for anyone who has been scarred by the past or feels imprisoned by deep emotional needs. It is a glorious story of how God can bring life out of death, life out of darkness.

Book Details

Title: Out of Darkness: My Story of Finding True Light and Liberation
Author: Stormie Omartian
Category: Nonfiction / Memoir
My Rating: 3 Stars

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal

Mr. Churchill's SecretaryMr. Churchill’s Secretary: A Maggie Hope MysteryMr. Churchill's Secretary: A Maggie Hope Mystery by Susan Elia MacNeal by Susan Elia MacNeal

A great cover, appealing setting, and promising start gave me high hopes for this mystery series debut. Unfortunately the book felt super contrived and never managed to make me feel like it really was taking place during World War II – it was so obviously written recently, and placed into that setting. The characterizations are poor and the plotting is weak.

That said, it was a really quick read and I enjoyed the pacing. I also really *wanted* to like it, and the main character, so much so that I’m hoping the issues I had with the book were all related to it being the author’s first, and that she’ll improve with more practice. I love the covers and the premise behind the series so much I’m giving her another shot with book two, Princess Elizabeth’s Spy.

So, should you read it? Until I have a chance to see how book # 2 is, I’d say if you haven’t already read the Maisie Dobbs series, I’d highly recommend them instead. The time period isn’t exactly the same, but it’s a stronger series. If you want the same sort of light-and-breezy feel this one offers, look at the Daisy Dalrymple series by Carola Dunn, beginning with Death at Wentwater Court.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
For fans of Jacqueline Winspear, Laurie R. King, and Anne Perry, Mr. Churchill’s Secretary captures the drama of an era of unprecedented challenge—and the greatness that rose to meet it.

London, 1940. Winston Churchill has just been sworn in, war rages across the Channel, and the threat of a Blitz looms larger by the day. But none of this deters Maggie Hope. She graduated at the top of her college class and possesses all the skills of the finest minds in British intelligence, but her gender qualifies her only to be the newest typist at No. 10 Downing Street. Her indefatigable spirit and remarkable gifts for codebreaking, though, rival those of even the highest men in government, and Maggie finds that working for the prime minister affords her a level of clearance she could never have imagined—and opportunities she will not let pass. In troubled, deadly times, with air-raid sirens sending multitudes underground, access to the War Rooms also exposes Maggie to the machinations of a menacing faction determined to do whatever it takes to change the course of history.

Ensnared in a web of spies, murder, and intrigue, Maggie must work quickly to balance her duty to King and Country with her chances for survival. And when she unravels a mystery that points toward her own family’s hidden secrets, she’ll discover that her quick wits are all that stand between an assassin’s murderous plan and Churchill himself.

In this daring debut, Susan Elia MacNeal blends meticulous research on the era, psychological insight into Winston Churchill, and the creation of a riveting main character, Maggie Hope, into a spectacularly crafted novel.

Book Details

Title: Mr. Churchill’s Secretary: A Maggie Hope MysteryMr. Churchill's Secretary: A Maggie Hope Mystery by Susan Elia MacNeal
Author: Susan Elia MacNeal
Category: Fiction / Historical Mystery
My Rating: 3 Stars

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Book Review: Real Learning by Elizabeth Foss
Two years ago: Update on Books I Was Looking Forward to Reading in 2013