Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Book Reviews - Secrets and Stuff

Welcome to the Groundhog Day that is my book blogging in which I read four books that again have no cohesive theme, and I'll again post some sort of banter here to explain that.

And scene.

Okay, here's what I read.

The Unexpected Spy: From the CIA to the FBI, My Secret Life Taking Down Some of the World's Most Notorious Terrorists by Tracy Walder drew me in when the description explained this was a memoir of a woman who had gone from being in a sorority at the University of Southern California to doing counterterrorism work on behalf of the country. While at USC, Tracy is drawn to international affairs, and she interviews and is obviously then hired by the CIA. She joins just before 9/11, so what this career path looks like very quickly changes. Much of the story focuses on the work that she did for the CIA. Given the secretive nature of her work, there are parts that are heavily redacted (as the agency had to review what she wrote), and she has changed some details to not give up secrets from the work. I'll be honest I really didn't know all the ins and outs of what CIA worked entailed, so it was fascinating to read about this. What I also really liked is what she shared about her background. Growing up, she struggled with self-confidence. Part of her joining her sorority was wanting to find a place where she fit. She also was drawn to the CIA because of her interest and passion for international affairs. I loved how this messaging was woven in. To me, that was the heart of her work, and I appreciated that authenticity. The story ends with her detailing her shift to the FBI. WIth this, she names systemic issues with that experience. I appreciated her honesty here. I loved that this ended with the work she now does as an educator to help girls see their potential to enter into careers in intelligence, politics, public policy and/or whatever they want. This was an interesting and empowering memoir where I unexpectedly learned a lot and had such respect for the woman who experienced it all. Thanks to NetGalley for the look at this new release!

The Banker's Wife by Cristina Alger was the selection for my book club this month. The story begins with two people boarding a plane that is ultimately lost. Anabel is the young widow of the man on the plane. Upon finding out he is dead, she also finds out that his employer was not quite what she thought, and her husband was wrapped up in all kinds of things. She is exposed to a world of secrets via the Swiss bank her husband once worked for, and she begins digging deeper into what he was hiding from her. Simultaneously, a journalist is doing work to uncover the dealings of this bank. The stories run on parallel tracks, but also have some intersections along the way. This was a quick read, and honestly, I think it would translate particularly well on screen (and conveniently, that's going to happen) because there were so many twists and turns of this one. This one had some good suspense that really picked up as it went. This isn't my normal kind of thriller, but it kept me reading as I wanted to know how all the different threads were all going to tie together.

The Second Home by Christina Clancy is a story about family secrets and lies. After a family tragedy, Ann returns to her family's summer home 15 years after the summer where everything changed. The story then flashes back to that summer. Told through the eyes of Ann, her younger sister Poppy, and their adopted brother, Michael the events of that summer are revisited. Each sibling has a different story to tell leading up to how this all culminates. The story then returns to the present where the siblings' relationships are different, but they are brought back together and must come to an agreement as the fate of that summer home is decided. This story is a tragic one, and it's a hard read given what happens. This is also a story that involves lies (and manipulation) that have a huge impact over all the years. This is a well-written story of family, but again be advised what goes down is heavy. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this June 2020 release.

I Think You're Wrong (But I'm Listening): A Guide to Grace-Filled Political Conversations by Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers is a book by the hosts of a podcast (Pantsuit Politics) that I've recently found my way to via the recommendation of a co-worker. What I like about the authors and the podcast is their approach to discussing politics. They analyze issues, candidates, and policies in a way that asks important questions and invites debate. It makes me think differently, and I definitely learn as I listen. The book is written in this same style. It made me consider the questions I need to ask as I decide on candidates, and I appreciated that there were reflection questions throughout, so I could think on this content even more. While politics are the foundation of what they talk about, what they're really focusing on is how to show empathy, how to acknowledge where the "grey" exists, and what a healthy debate can look like. I appreciate Beth and Sarah take on politics in a way that make them far more accessible and inviting.

Onto the next ones!