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review 2017-05-30 09:35
Trophy Son
Trophy Son - Douglas Brunt

By:  Douglas Brunt

ISBN:9781250114808

Publisher: St. Martin's Press

Publication Date: 5/30/2017

Format:  Hardcover

My Rating: 4 Stars

 

From the author of The Means and Ghosts of Manhattan Douglas Brunt turns to the world of sports with this latest: TROPHY SON – a compelling yet haunting glimpse into the lives of professional athletes; the burdens and sacrifices they bear.

 

Written with an insider knowledge of the tennis circuit, TROPHY SON explores a young man striving to find balance in his life, navigating moral compromises, performance-enhancing drugs, and the elusive lure of wealth and celebrity.

From Wimbledon and the U.S. Open to the off-court life of elite players, Anton finds exhilarating highs and desolate lows as he searches for an identity apart from his achievements.

Anton Stratis, a tennis prodigy whose childhood is stripped away by an ambitious obsessive father who nurtures talent and resentment in his son.

“A tennis racket lurks in my earliest memories like a sick relative who had come to live with us . . . I had no sensation of milestones and the power to value a moment was never granted to me. My parents had the plan for my life from the moment my mother tested positive with me. . . “

The hard turn: When Anton was pushed to leave school after the eighth grade to play tennis full time and study some with a traveling tutor.

“I know I was born and I know that I’ll die. The in between is mine. “ – Eddie Vedder

Tennis prodigy Anton Stratis is the son of Pennslyvania parents- two former Olympic athletes. His dad obsessed beyond control is determined to make his son a star.

Anton’s parents met in the early eighties. She was an Olympic downhill skier. He an Olympic swimmer. His mom, a natural athlete. Not as intense as his dad.

In the average day he would spend seven hours on the court with this dad blasting tennis balls from a machine, then strategy, watch game film and train with weights. Then in the winter, they would rent a place in Florida with tennis courts to do the same year-round.

His dad, was a retired hedge fund manager and now his number one focus was his son’s game. By the time Anton was fourteen he was good enough to beat the crap out of decent college player— and his dad scouted out the places.

His dad taught him how to approach the court, taunt the players, bait them and then bait them into putting money on the line.

“A friendly game will ruin you. Play with adversity, with animosity. No friendly games.”

With all the drilling, this meant no friends. No normal childhood.

Tennis was about only hate and suffering.

 

 

 



Anton grew to despise the game.

His dad saw in him what he did not see in his (three years older) brother Panos. He thought Anton could handle the hate. He took the punishment and by twelve he had used it to become an elite junior player. By the age of fourteen, he was on the Penn campus to humiliate a Divison I college player.

Panos drove a Porsche 911 that cost their dad less than his tennis travel each year, so that was supposed to the balance. He liked his brother. They watched out for one another the best they could.

His dad never let anyone come to like him. He was trapped. His dad was ruthless. Obsessive. He even withheld water during the heat of the summer. Torture. There were no water breaks.

There was the beat me, love me. Over and over.

His dad would not tolerate slacking off, complaints, and no talking back. No kid stuff. He would not allow the expression of rage from Anton. His dad was his trainer and coach.

Through the torment, and grueling practice he developed a toughness, a knowledge that no opponent across the net could fathom his training, but it was all built on hate.

The only light he had was reading. If he could not go anywhere physically, he could take the journey with a book. From Hemingway, Faulkner, John Irving, Nelson DeMille, Dickens. Anton loved Dickens. Unfairness, unhappiness, suffering, heroes and villains—glimmers of hope at love and a way out. David Copperfield – the idea of being the hero of your own life.

The mandate was to succeed, win tournaments, be the best. But being the number one tennis player did not make Anton the hero of his own life. It made him the hero of someone else’s life.

“Being the hero of my own life is about something else, something internal. It’s about who has their hands on the steering wheel that’s inside me. It needed to be me and it never was then, and I didn’t understand that until much later.”

His game was not like Agassi, Rafter, McEnroe, Federer; however, he liked them. His game was more like Marat Safin. His dad said he was unique.

There would be no distractions from girls, friends, or outside influences. He did what he was supposed to do.

His whole world was small. The only thing of value was winning at tennis and losing was Armageddon. Losing was trauma. His dad was more invested in tennis that Anton. A loss to an inferior player would not be tolerated.

“Some parents feel their position of unconditional love permits unfettered abuse. They can rationalize self-forgiveness for harsh treatment because parenting is an obligation and only the parent can do certain things. . . “

From triumphs, failures, to the highs and lows. The dramatic rise through the intensely competitive world of professional tennis. From abuse and performance-enhancing drugs pushed by a domineering obsessive father pushing a son to exceed at the expense of his own happiness.

The author pulls the reader into a world filled with conflicts and struggles of a young boy, through his teenage years to adulthood, the pro-circuit and Wimbledon. A strife for happiness, self-fulfillment, and pressure to succeed.

Some may find some similarities with Stratis’s father resembling Andre Agassi’s, an overbearing former Olympic athlete and immigrant.

As in Open (highly recommend) his autobiography— Agassi reveals off the court he was often unhappy and confused, unfulfilled by his great achievements in a sport he had come to resent.

From the author:

“Trophy Son” was inspired by how childhood sports have changed since his youth to become highly specialized and competitive, as the pressures on athletes trickle down from colleges to high school to youth sports, adding incentives for them to try performance-enhancing drugs.



An engrossing tale for anyone who loves the game of tennis, and a cautionary tale for parents who utilize pressures and tactics to push a child in our overly social and achievement-obsessed society of perfectionism. Well done!

A special thank you to St. Martin's Press, and NetGalley for an early reading copy. Cover Love.

JDCMustReadBooks

 

 

 

About the Author 

 

 

Douglas Brunt is the author of the New York Times bestseller Ghosts of Manhattan and The Means. A Philadelphia native, he lives in New York with his wife and their three children.


Until 2011, Douglas Brunt was CEO of Authentium, Inc., an Internet security company. He now writes full time and is currently working on his fourth novel. 


Doug’s new novel will be released on May 30th, and is available for pre-order now.  Read More 



A NOTE FROM DOUG BRUNT

The first thing I do after I’ve finished reading a novel is to flip back to the beginning and read the author’s first sentence again.

 

All novelists try to set the trajectory for the book with the first paragraphs of the first chapter. As a novelist myself, I love the opportunity to write that first sentence.

Once readers of my books have completed the journey with me, if they come back around to re-read the first sentence, they should have a greater understanding of it.

 

Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2016/11/06/Trophy-Son
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review 2017-05-29 21:15
Upside Down
Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling - John Hornor Jacobs,Maurice Broaddus,Rati Mehrotra,Nisi Shawl,Valya Dudycz Lupescu,Elsa Sjunneson-Henry,Michelle Muenzler,Michael R. Underwood,Jaym Gates,Monica Valentinelli

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley.]

3.5/4 stars; I liked quite a few of these short stories, none of them made me roll my eyes, and to be fair, the essays at the end of the book were also quite interesting.

My favourites:

* “Single, Singularity”: While it doesn’t really invert the trope it’s based on, I’m a sucker for AI stories, and this one was both thrilling, and chilling in its ending.

* “Seeking Truth”: The ‘blind psychic’ trope, subverted in that here, the blind person is extremely skilled at reading other people, no need for special powers for that.

* “Can You Tell Me How to Get to Paprika Place?”: A mix of Sesame Stree-like TV shows and jaded ex-super soldiers trying to go home. Very nostalgic, perhaps a wee bit long, but a good read nonetheless.

* “Chosen”: A comic twist on ‘the Chosen’, with jabs at tropes like the gun-toting weapons maniac, the Buffy-like teenager fighting demons, and pedantic occultist scholar. This one was really fun.

* “The White Dragon”: A different take on the ‘yellow peril’, in a 1920s San Francisco (also, I liked revisiting that city in such a light, now that I’ve finally been able to actually travel there).

* “Her Curse, How Gently It Comes Undone”: The Witch and the Damsel In Distress, poised against each other, each with their wiles and strengths, and with the story playing on the trope of men rescuing the Damsel... only they’re not the right people to do the job.

* “Burning Bright”: I really liked the main character here, just the right mix of slightly hinged and yet fairly grounded at the same time.

* “Santa CIS (Episode 1: No Saint)”: This story plays well on both the Santa Claus/Christmas and ‘old soldier goes back to war’ tropes.

* “The First Blood of Poppy Dupree”: At first I thought this would be about werewolves, and it turned out it was something else, which I liked.

* “Until There is Only Hunger”: A strong story, with a definite end-of-the-world feeling, dwindling hope mixed with growing despair, and characters trying to find whatever comfort they can, although this rings more and more hollow. Bonus point for characters not being typical cis/hetero/white.

* “Drafty as a Chain Mail Bikini”: I suspected where this one was going, but I liked it, and it made me laugh.

* “The Tangled Web”: Love at first sight and romance woes... but not among humans, which lent a different dimension to this story.

The essays: definitely read those. They deal with the Hero’s Journey, its limitations, the Heroine’s Journey, its limitations as well, and push further, when it comes to trans and gay/lesbian heroes, which is really needed. Because let’s be honest: it’s already difficult to find a good story where a woman is not reduced to accomplishment = family/motherhood/taking care of others, but it’s even worse when you’re non-binary.

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review 2017-05-28 04:43
I Am Death
I Am Death (A Robert Hunter Thriller) - Chris Carter

Robert Hunter #7

By: Chris Carter

ISBN: 9781476765716

Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler 

Publication Date: 5/30/2017 

Format: Hardcover

My Rating: 4 Stars

 

Mastermind Chris Carter returns following An Evil Mind with I AM DEATH –a terrifying, dark, intense, and twisted psychological crime thriller, featuring Robert Hunter front and center in a suspense cat-and-mouse "mind-blowing" chase.

For those who enjoy twisty, smart, edgy, intelligent, gruesome, and very dark psycho-thrillers!

Detective Robert Hunter of the LAPD Robbery Homicide Division grew up as an only child to working class parents in an underprivileged neighborhood of South Los Angeles. His mother lost her battle with cancer when he was only seven and his father never remarried and had to take on two jobs to cope with the demands of raising a child.

He was different. He got bored easily and made his way quickly through school- At the age of twelve Hunter was given a scholarship to the Mirman School for Highly Gifted Children. Only the beginning, making his way to Stanford University. At nineteen he had graduated with a degree in psychology and at twenty-three received his Ph.D. in criminal behavior analysis and biopsychology.

For years the FBI had made attempts to recruit Hunter. Hunter would rather be a detective with the LAPD’s Robbery-Homicide Division than join the most advanced serial killer—tracking force in the US, and even, the world. however, Hunter would rather be a detective with the local police force than join the most advanced serial-killer tracking task force in the USA. He had continued to decline every offer by Kennedy.

In other words, he is brilliant!

Hunter did not have a family and was not married. No kids. An insomniac. His partner of six years, Detective Carlos Garcia was also his best friend. They headed up a specialized group where all the homicides were overwhelming brutality and or sadism had been used by the perpetrator and tagged by the department as UV crimes.

A young woman about to start her second year of law school at Cal State was found by the LA airport and left in a position of a five-point human star. (A protection against evil)? A symbol that has been associated with evil and devil worshipping.

Nichole Wilson from Indiana and was abducted while babysitting for a wealthy couple. Grisly details. A tube of paper. Lacerations; no two the exact same size. Tortured. Violated. Whipped. Two different instruments. Like cutting brushstrokes onto a canvas. Blood inside the brain. A sadistic killer. A note from the killer in blood, I AM DEATH.

The killer had tortured her for almost six days. They had never come across a killer with this level of confidence.

Hunter knew this meant one thing. He did it for one reason. To let everyone know that this wouldn’t end here. A huge ego. Confident. Intelligent. Knowledgeable. Meticulous. He wanted the body found and the note.

Perpetrators who place their victims’ bodies in specific positions or shapes, with the intention of them being found that way are very particular about every detail.

The abduction, the torturing, the killing, the positioning and disposal of the body and the note. Tremendous detail. He wants them to know how good he is. Did the killer make the call?

Nichole Wilson was only the beginning.

From a flight attendant’s corpse to a kidnapped eleven-year-old boy renamed Squirm. A system that failed him. A serial killer. From taunting notes, photographs, to messages from a monster, a fast-paced action-fueled—terrifying sadistic game. A clue to a double meaning.

Gross, dark, gruesome, bloody, chilling, and brilliantly crafted. As always Chris Carter draws on his personal experience and a pro at creating the most heinous and intelligent of evil psychological crime thrillers. He knows monsters.

An unpredictable twist at the end wraps up another winner by Carter!

A special thank you to Atria and NetGalley for an early reading copy.

JDCMustReadBooks

 


Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2016/11/03/I-Am-Death
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review 2017-05-27 18:53
A wholly different kind of read for me…which was both a positive and a negative
The Clockwork Dynasty: A Novel - Daniel H. Wilson

Book Title:  The Clockwork Dynasty

Author:  Daniel H Wilson

Series:  Stand-Alone

Genre:  Steampunk

Publisher:  Doubleday

Setting:  Past and present; including Oregon, London, Russia, and China

SourceI received an ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

 

 

 

Add to Goodreads

 

 

 

 

 

Book Theme Song

(link will take you to my tumblr post with video)

Fake it by Seether  --It's so perfect for Peter & the other avtomats…it's also one of my all time favs.

Who's to know if your soul will fade at all

The one you sold to fool the world

You lost your self-esteem along the way

Yeah

And just fake it if your out of direction

Fake it if you don't belong

Fake it if you feel like a infection

Woah your such a f*ckin' hypocrite

 

 

 

OVERALL RATING:  3.7/5 STARS GRADE=B

 

My Thoughts

 

 

The idea behind The Clockwork Dynasty is an ingenious one, but the execution fell a little short for me.  I just couldn't stay focused when reading this, I had to reread some passages again and again.  I feel like this could have been because it was not my usual type of read.  But…Idk???

 

 

I also never felt like I was invested in the characters, especially June…why does June seem so inconsequential.  I wanted more depth from them.  So, maybe I might have wanted to cheer them on.  So…overall this is a imaginative story, it just didn't have enough heart for me.  The cover, though, is absolutely spectacular. 

 

Ratings Breakdown

 

Plot:  4.2/5

Main Characters:  3.5/5

Secondary Characters:  3.5/5

The Feels:  3.5/5

Addictiveness:  3.5/5

Theme or Tone:  4/5

Flow (Writing Style):  3/5

Backdrop (World Building):  4.3/5

Originality:  5/5

Book Cover:  5/5

Ending:  4/5  Cliffhanger:  Kind of does, actually.

 

 

Will I continue this series?  Maybe…if it continues, and it seems like it should.

 

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review 2017-05-27 10:02
In This Moment
In This Moment: A Novel - Karma Brown

By: Karma Brown 

ISBN: 978-0778329916

Publisher: Park Row Books 

Publication Date: 5/30/2017 

Format: Other

My Rating: 4 Stars 

 

Bestselling author Karma Brown returns following The Choices We Make (2016) with an with an equally moving, emotional and riveting follow-up.

IN THIS MOMENT a woman struggles with complexities of tragedy, guilt, and secrets as her life unravel along with those around her.

Meg Pepper is a wife and mom with a real estate career. Married to Ryan, a physician. Daughter Aubrey age fifteen (boyfriend Sam Beckett).

Meg and Aubrey are running late for a dentist appointment and Meg is picking up her daughter at school. She is struggling to balance family and career and has not been completely honest about an event in her past.

They notice Jack (Sam’s twin brother) on the side of the road attempting to get across. His mom is a financial whiz and works at one of Boston’s private equity firms. The boy’s dad Andrew is a stay at home dad, having left a journalism career when the twin boys were born.

Jack has his skateboard on the curb’s edge in one hand waiting for the car coming toward their car to pass so he can cross. His friends are on the other side waiting. Aubrey tells her mom they should let him cross. She waves him across. A life-changing split-second choice.

However, just as she does so, the unthinkable happens. Jack’s body smashes into the windshield of the other car which came out of nowhere, too fast. Aubrey and Meg are mortified. How did this happen?

Sarah Dunn, Audrey and Jack’s history teacher was texting and had to stop too quickly.

However, it is Meg’s guilt, which haunts her.

She was the one who deemed it a safe crossing for this innocent and clearly vulnerable teenager now lying in the road with an injury that will forever change his life. How could she have let the boy cross the street?

The accident turns into a nightmare for all concerned.

Meg is suddenly slammed with a memory from when she was sixteen; from a terrible night where another teen lay bleeding and broken on a road in front of her. She has worked hard not to think about that night because she cannot breathe around her guilt when she does so. But just like that, it was back and she was left sucking in air around the heaviness of the memory—

And like the part she played on that night so long ago, she was the reason Jack Beckett cross the road when he did. It is her fault. With a simple careless wave of her hand, she did this.

Soon they are at the hospital and she faces the family. With her daughter dating the brother, and even though the family may not be close friends they know one another through their children.

Meg becomes overwhelmed with guilt. Her family and Jack and Sam’s family torn apart. Meg becomes close to Andrew as her terrifying dreams continue. The past and present collide. She is thinking about Paige. Her friend from the past. Her face haunts her.

It has been twenty-eight years since that horrible night. Now the dreams surface again. Two days after Ryan slid the engagement ring on her finger. Only a week after her twenty-fifth birthday, when she learned her mom had cancer. Ryan in pre-med. A woman who had to grow up too fast. A sister who had to take care of her little brother and her dad.

Meg throws herself into helping the family and drawing closer to Andrew. Shutting out her own family in the process, especially her own husband. He knows the truth about the accident long ago, but he has never understood why she holds herself responsible. She carries it inside. She is spiraling out of control.

Andrew turns to Meg for support, and the two bond over the tragedy, putting at risk her marriage, family and her own moral compass.

Will these two families ever be the same?

As the past secrets and guilt collide with the present, Meg is at her breaking point. Emotional and heartbreaking, a picture-perfect life comes shattering apart in the blink of an eye. A wife and mother striving for perfection and balance with personal, career, and family.

She is searching for answers yet she cannot trust herself, to be honest through her grief with the weight from the accident of long ago and the one in the present.

Once again, Brown delves deep, exploring the intense emotions and pressure of guilt, grief, parenting, marriage, accountability, and responsibility. However, in the end, family comes first and that has to take top priority. If we let that slide, all will begin to unravel.

Brown has proven herself a strong voice representing the trials of the modern-day contemporary woman. I enjoyed reading about the inspiration behind the novel. Publishers Weekly interview. Spotlight on Karma Brown.

A cautionary tale. This scenario could happen to anyone. My heart went out to Meg and the author does an exceptional job with the character development.

If you have read Karma’s previous books, she has a way with domestic suspense, tragedy, emotion, grief and aftermath – which hits on every cylinder. She holds nothing back and you get inside her character’s heads. You feel the emotions. Their desperation. Their vulnerabilities. The character’s emotions are real, heartbreaking, raw, and painful.

The past tragedy and present storyline enhanced the overall tension and suspense, keeping you glued to the pages while demonstrating how guilt can hold you down and shape your life years later.

For today’s contemporary woman who sometimes strives too hard to be perfect. Thought-provoking in our fast and furious world today. Learning to forgive yourself in order to move on with your life.

For fans of Amy Hatvany, Jodi Picoult, Diane Chamberlain, Liane Moriarty, Karen White, Heather Gudenkauf, Sarah Pekkanen, and T. Greenwood.

Highly recommend!

A special thank you to Park Row Books and NetGalley for an early reading copy.

JDCMustReadBooks

 



On a side note: This road crossing fiasco is a real problem here. I walk everywhere in the downtown urban area of West Palm Beach and there are two major crossings which are quite busy from my apartment. A crossing with four busy lanes to the market and shops and no way around it. The only route. Many times a car in one lane will stop to allow you to pass, at the crossing (no light here).

However, you cannot trust this, just as the book outlines— because the person in the other lane may not stop and the speed here is very fast. This is quite dangerous since a large number of elderly seniors live downtown, and walk to the store along this route. They are already quite unsteady in their walkers, wheelchairs, and scooters. I cringe each time I see this happen, holding my breath.

These elderly folks are like in their late 70s-90s and still trying to live independently in this crazy screwed up health care system of ours, which offer little or no support for long-term skilled nursing. (many of them living in my building).

When this happens to me, I motion for the car to pass along. Nice for them to make the gesture; however, a risk as the author outlines. Too much room for error when you cannot judge if the car in the other lanes will stop. In addition, we soon will have a train going 80mph at this same intersection with the station located here, with 40 stops a day coming mid-summer, so let’s hope they build an overpass or some alternative for all the S. Florida seniors. (myself included since I fall into this newfound category).

Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2017/02/02/In-This-Moment
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