Friday, April 22, 2016

First Comes Love (Emily Giffin)

Emily Giffin's First Comes Love starts out sweetly enough, with an ordinary family home for the holidays.  Giffin lulls her readers into this Normal Rockwell type painting for only a little while before suddenly pulling the rug out from under them in a heart-wrenching way.  And so begins the story of a broken family who are still trying to heal from a tragedy even years down the road.

Sisters Josie and Meredith could not be more opposite, in careers, in temperaments, in beliefs.  First-grade teacher Josie is widely seen as the irresponsible one, but even though Meredith seems to have it all (a husband, a daughter, a high-powered career), she is restless and unhappy.  The siblings never seem to see eye-to-eye, and things are made even worse when they finally deal with what really happened on that tragic night fifteen years before.

What works so well in First Comes Love is its emotional honesty.  Josie and Meredith may think they don't need each other, but when they finally confront all that's happened and analyze their own life choices, they come to find that sisters really have one of the greatest bonds.


Monday, April 18, 2016

Shared Prosperity in America's Communities (Edited by Susan M. Wachter and Lei Ding)

Shared Prosperity in America's Communities is not a light, breezy read by any means.  This series of case studies and essays discusses the impact of increasing income inequality in America over the last thirty years, highlighting the impacts of poverty, its geographic reach, and the successes of a few metropolitan areas in addressing the issue.

Susan Wachter of the University of Pennsylvania and Lei Ding of the Federal Reserve have assembled essays from various contributors that go into depth on one of the bigger economic issues that Americans are facing.  These essays offer some suggestions about how to level the playing field by going beyond the usual talking point rhetoric you hear on cable news, bringing some concrete suggestions and less hot air to an issue that impacts millions of Americans.

Simply because Shared Prosperity in America's Communities is a collection of essays, it's more difficult to review than other books would be.  The essays require time and thought to work through given the subject matter and content, so I would recommend reading no more than one at a time due to the depth of the content involved.  However, the content is well-organized and sequential, the essay layout makes sense, and the research and data behind the surveys is logical and fits the narrative that Wachter and Ding are promoting.  Those who are in the economic, community development, financial, or government realms especially should read it, as the target of this collection is geared toward those fields.


Sunday, April 3, 2016

Where We Fall (Rochelle B. Weinstein)

Rochelle B. Weinstein’s Where We Fall is the story of a love triangle gone wrong.  Unfortunately, the book was very flat for me with characters I just couldn’t come to like.

Lauren and Ryan fell instantly in love when they were in college, and together with Lauren’s best friend, Abby, they did everything together.  When Lauren took off on the adventure of a lifetime, she promised Ryan that she’d be back, but when his father passed away, Lauren was nowhere to be found.  Abby took fast advantage of that situation, and she and Ryan ended up married and parents to Juliana.  Fast forward to present day, and Ryan still can’t understand why he didn’t hear from Lauren after his father’s death.  With each chapter narrated in the first person by a different character, the complete story is told, with a teenage love story between Juliana and her football star boyfriend, E.J., also thrown in.

If all this sounds complicated, that’s because it is.  But the plot itself isn’t what makes the book uninteresting (although the Abby/Ryan/Lauren story is much better than the Juliana/E.J. story).  The wording is far too superfluous, and I just kept wishing for Weinstein to get to the point of the chapter already.  Goodreads says that it took me over two months to read Where We Fall; it was just too wordy for me, and two months is far too long for me to spend with characters I couldn’t come to care about.