Private Empire cover

Private Empire Illustrates a Whole New Side of Oil

I have had a very interesting journey with my book review of Private Empire by Steve Coll. I’ve actually had to have 2 different review dates assigned because the reading took so much longer than my normal. You know I don’t review a lot of non-fiction works, and those that I do review are usually cooking or parenting related, so this was a huge step out of my comfort zone. And I loved the challenge – it made me remember that before I had kids I was actually pretty good with the brain-power bit. Private Empire is a well-researched, thoroughly documented look at ExxonMobil from the Exxon Valdez crisis through 2011.

My father reads non-fiction works more than fiction. Actually, I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen him holding a fiction book, but I’m sure there must have been one a time or two. I’ve learned from him that not every factual work is correct – especially with history, different historians can interpret events in different ways, have more information available or just use certain references and not others. I’ve always been wary of non-fiction, mostly because I’m afraid I’ll find a book I really can understand only to find out later that it was more fiction than fact. I don’t worry about that with Private Empire – it’s clear from the writing and the bibliography that it was, in fact, well-researched.

Private Empire coverAs I’ve told you before, having a book that references where the information included is found always is a pleasure for me. But I found in Private Empire that there’s one step farther – this book has notes, by chapter, that includes exactly what the author was referring to, where the information was obtained, dates, sources, even which articles and websites were read for a specific section. That’s more in-depth that a bibliography, which follows the Notes section in the book. Having this information, this completeness in the research and documentation, makes me feel confident that the work I’ve read is correct and complete.

One of the most amazing parts of this work is that it is inclusive of the Exxon Valdez crisis which I vaguely remember, through the BP incident of 2010 and an ExxonMobil pipeline leak in 2011. I wasn’t aware of this entire history, though I had heard parts of it. For me, this book connected dots that I didn’t know, humanized and made the oil industry seem more real. This made the crises, spills, and issues seem both more possible and more horrendous at the same time. On one hand, having an insider’s look at the corporate reaction to the historic problems that this company faced made it understandable that human nature and the human condition could have caused an atmosphere where such issues were possible. On the other hand, it made the reactions to the problems seem heartless, calculated, and inadequate in comparison to the extent of the damages done.

Through Private Empire, I’ve learned more than I ever thought I would about ExxonMobil and the oil industry. I’ve read the good and bad parts, I read the numbers and figures, and I’ve yet to fully process it. I think this is one book that I will need to re-read twice, maybe even thrice, before I’ve fully digested the amazing mass of information that’s included between the covers. There is a wealth of knowledge, research and resources that has been compiled in this work, and it’s definitely not one to take lightly. It’s a serious book on a serious subject, and I think it’s definitely a book that is worth the read. We, as consumers and as Americans, should take more interest in knowing the background of what our consumerism does, and I think this book is a great way to start on that path.

Private Empire on TLC Tours

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Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher to facilitate my review. My opinions are honest and my own.

Being Lara by Lola Jaye Cover

Being Lara by Lola Jaye

I think I may have a new favorite author. Even though the book, Being Lara, doesn’t follow in the standard chronological timeline, Lola Jaye does an excellent job of making the story interesting and pulls you in through the book. There’s a bit of a mystery involved, although she gives you just the right tidbits to keep you guessing throughout the story. I really enjoyed BEING LARA by Lola Jaye because of the adoption story, the cultural information and the thought process of Lara.

Being Lara by Lola Jaye Cover

Stories about adoption always strike a chord with me – I have two brothers who are adopted from Mexico. I often wonder what their birth family is like and if the boys will ever attempt to contact or find their birth parents. I don’t even know if it’s possible at this point. But I really enjoyed the adoption story played out in Being Lara. Although I don’t know how it would feel from a first-hand perspective, I do think that the emotions she wrote were authentic. In some ways, reading about adoption stories helps me to feel closer to my brothers.

Lola Jaye PhotoI’ve never been one to be super interested in other countries. Some of my friends from high school traveled or lived abroad, but I’ve never had that urge. The British elements of this book were really interesting to me. I’ve never thought before about how American colloquialisms must sound to other readers, so it was really neat! I’m also not familiar with Nigerian culture or foods, but I feel like I did learn a bit, as Lara did, about her culture.

My favorite aspect of Being Lara was definitely the thought process that we heard through the voice of Lara. I can totally relate to the way she interacts with her world, and I like to think that I’ve made as much improvement to myself as she has made of herself through the book. Reading Lola’s description of Lara’s thoughts was like taking a stumble through my own mind, and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

TLC Tour Host ButtonBeing Lara is a fantastic work of fiction that transported me to a new world that I’ve heard of, seen from the outside, and even wondered about but never experienced on my own. Through the clear, authentic writing and humor, I was really able to look at another way of life. I would definitely recommend Being Lara by Lola Jaye as a great read – perfect for a poolside or beach read this summer!

You can find out more about Lola Jaye through her website, Twitter, Facebook, and blog. I received the book for this review as part of the TLC Book Tour. For more info on the tour, check here.

The Flight of Gemma Hardy cover photo

Book Review: The Flight of Gemma Hardy

The Flight of Gemma Hardy cover photoI have loved reading ever since I was a pipsqueak. I’m not really sure when I started to read, but I remember learning to read in cursive script around the first grade, and I was reading Stephen King around fourth grade. I’m not entirely certain when I first picked up Jane Eyre, but I loved the novel. In February 2012, there is a new book hitting the shelves that any fan of Jane Eyre (and even if you’ve never read Bronte’s work) would enjoy. The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey is an entertaining portrayal of an orphan in Scotland in the early 1960s, similar to Jane Eyre, and a fantastic read even if you’ve never read Bronte’s novel.

Gemma Hardy became an orphan at a young age, and when that happened she moved from Iceland to Scotland to stay with relatives. She is a quiet girl with an uneasy home life until she sent off to a boarding school where she must work to pay for tuition. She spends several years there, coping with difficult chores, long working hours, and difficult classmates. When the school closes, she finds work and – eventually – love. Although she struggles with her future, she eventually finds good friends and begins to make her way on her own. She becomes acquainted with her past and does love again.

Photo of author Margot LiveseyIn many ways, the story is like that of Jane Eyre. But don’t go looking for Bertha to come down from the attic! Instead there is another closeted secret of the past that drives Gemma away from Mr. Sinclair (her Rochester). The struggles of the girls are similar, as is their stay in the boarding school. I was secretly delighted when I read that Mr. Sinclair isn’t blind when they are reunited. There are many similarities, but it isn’t simply Jane in the modern-day. It is as the author has said, she was “recasting Jane’s journey.”

And it works – both as a work that fans of Jane Eyre will appreciate and as a novel that those who’ve never read Bronte will enjoy. There is no knowledge of the earlier work required to understand and relate to what Gemma experiences. Rather, a reader who is familiar with Jane Eyre will notice a similar flow and some similar obstacles – for instance, the secret in the attic, the love of her best friend, and the job she finds when the school closes. The Flight of Gemma Hardy stands on its own as a beautiful and captivating work and its similarities to Jane Eyre prove that the story can stand in the modern-day.

This is one for the diaper bags and purses everywhere – it’s a long book, so you’ll need to pick it up at various times to get through it. It’s a great read for the pickup line at school or waiting before (or during) appointments. The writing is beautiful, which will keep your mind on the story even when you’re not reading it. You may even feel like you’d enjoy picking up Jane Eyre again –  I know I did!

TLC Book Tours LogoI’ve written this book review as part of a TLC Book Tour. For the full list of reviews, please visit the tour schedule. You can learn more or interact with the author on her website, Facebook page and Twitter.