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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

(64)Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown

Jonathan Flanagan and his teenage daughter, Olive, are still reeling from the disappearance of Billie a year ago.  Billie, your typical suburban mom,  went for a hike one day and never returned.  In the year since she disappeared they had a funeral, Jonathan quit his job to write a book, and Olive misses her mom something fierce.  The anniversary has stirred up a lot of emotions and Olive is convinced that she is seeing her mother in visions.  She is convinced that it is proof that Billie is not dead.   Much to her father's dismay, Olive starts on this quest to find her mother that takes her down all sorts of paths.   Jonathan doesn't want to give into his daughter's whims, but there is that one password protected file on Billie's computer that leaves him thinking "what if " and he starts his own investigation into Billie's past.  He discovers that there was a side of Billie that he never knew existed.  In their quest, both Jonathan and Olive discover that Billie was keeping secrets from them, but is it enough to prove that she really alive?

Watch Me is a slow moving novel that builds these layers of suspicion about Billie. There is never any heart-pounding situations, but the secrets that are revealed are uncovered in a very methodical way.  It isn't until you get to the very last pages that you end up thinking "wow, what a good book."   The reader only gets to know Billie after she is gone and mostly through the eyes of Jonathan and Olive - both who worshiped her.  Billie's best friend Harmony starts to shed some light on the real Billie, but as a reader, I wasn't sure if it was the truth or because Harmony was a little envious of the life that Billie had.   I felt so bad for Olive - she seemed so lost without her mother.  The author did a great job of communicating the depths of her grief and it was heartbreaking.  There are some surprises along the way, but I thought that we had heard them all until the last few pages. - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS

Bottom line -- Watch Me Disappear is an intricate look at those left shattered by the death of a loved one.   There are so many layers to this story that you have to leave time to digest it all.  Definitely, one to add to your "TBR" list.


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Monday, July 24, 2017

(63)Hello. Sunshine by Laura Dave

Sunshine Mackenzie is a very popular online culinary star who just signed a deal with the Food Network and has a cookbook in the works when her world implodes on her birthday.  Her social media is hacked and the hacker first calls her a fraud and then discloses that Sunshine had an affair with her producer.  What can Sunshine say because it is all true?   In just a few short hours she loses everything.  Her career, her future, and her husband.  The only thing she has left to do is go home.  Not the fabricated farm she told everybody she was from, but Montauk where she grew up with a very eccentric father and an older sister that catered to his every whim.  Now her father is gone and Sunshine does not expect her sister to welcome her with open arms, but that is okay.  Because she has a plan for how to get her life back and her plan starts with the hottest restaurant in the Hamptons.   Will Sunshine find success with her plan or will she forever be relegated to trash duty for other famous chefs?

Sunshine Mackenzie has a problem.  Her own ego. She is a very difficult character to like.  The backstory is that Sunshine was working as a bartender when a producer from the Food Network "discovered" her.  They fabricated this "farmer's daughter" story together and the rest is history. When things went down Sunshine didn't really apologize to anybody for her lies - she had more of a victim mentality and that is one of the reasons why I struggled to like her. Sunshine and her sister had an interesting relationship, too. Dysfunctional at best, there was so much history between them, but when Sunshine needed her the most she was there for her.  Sunshine really had a fondness for her niece, which was sweet.   Sunshine was utterly destroyed when she found out who was the hacker, but that is when she started to turn - that is when she finally started to become someone that I could like. The author did an amazing job of transforming Sunshine from beast to beauty.  - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS -   In the end, Sunshine got her fresh start, but not in a way that I had expected.

Bottom line - If you are a reader that really loves to see a character go through a reformation of sorts, then Hello Sunshine is definitely for you and Sunshine Mackenzie is a character that you can get behind.  Also, a fun read for the foodies out there!


Saturday, July 22, 2017

(62)I Need a Lifeguard Everywhere but the Pool by Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella

It is that time of year!  Time for the mother-daughter writing duo of Lisa Scottoline and her daughter, Francesca Serritella, to release their new collection of essays.     They take turns with their stories, one essay is Lisa's and the next will be Francesca's.   In this year's offering, they cover topics like the election, dating, livestock, and more.

The humor is sometimes subtle and sometimes laugh-out-loud:
"You haven't lived until you've duct-taped a diaper on a dog."  
I found myself laughing out loud.  The visual that sentence created was so entertaining.   Lisa also talks about her somewhat solitary life as an author, her animals, her discovery of Netflix, and more.   Francesca talks about her fondness for Gilbert and Sullivan, bikini shopping, shopping under the influence, and more.  

As someone who has been reading Lisa Scottoline's mysteries and thrillers for years it is nice to see this "human" side of her.  The self-deprecating humor is appreciated, especially from a master like her.  Her insights a fun and humorous and always spot-on.  Since I follow her on social media I was aware when she threw out the first pitch at the Phillies game, but I really enjoyed hearing more about that night in the book.    It doesn't matter which generation you belong to, you will find something to relate to in the book

Bottom line - I Need a Lifeguard Everywhere but the Pool is another collection of entertaining essays from the fantastic mother-daughter duo. Now I have to wait a whole year for their next collection, I guess I will soothe myself with a mystery or legal thriller while I wait.


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Monday, July 17, 2017

(61)Final Girls by Riley Sager

It has been ten years since the night that Quinn Carpenter survived the massacre at Pine Cottage and became a "Final Girl." The press dubbed her a "Final Girl", along with Lisa, who survived a sorority house massacre and Sam, who survived a massacre at a motel.   It has been hard to move on, especially since the details of that night have escaped her memory,  but Quinn is a survivor.  She lives with her boyfriend in an NYC apartment that she bought with survivor money, she runs a successful food blog, and is doing well.  Until the day that her friend and savior, Coop, calls to tell her that Lisa has committed suicide.   Coop was the officer on duty that night she ran out of the woods covered in the blood of her friends.  It has been Coop to be by her side as she reintegrated into the world and tried to move past the events of that night.  It is Coop who makes her feel safe.   It is Coop who cautions her when Samantha Boyd, another Final Girl, shows up on Quinn's doorstep.  Quinn is hesitant to welcome her, but she is really the only person who can even understand a fraction of what she has been through.  When it is determined that Lisa was murdered Quinn's world quickly starts to spin out of control.  Will she be able to finally recover the memories of that night?  Or will someone do everything in their power to keep Quinn from remembering?

HOLY COW!  Final Girls is by far the best thriller that I have read this year.  There was more than one night that I had to close the book rather than read it alone in my dark bedroom.  It truly terrified me.   Quinn is the kind of character that appears to be strong but is really just a hot mess.  She is addicted to Xanax, has a horrible relationship with her mom, and keeps secrets from her boyfriend.  And all of that is before Sam Boyd even shows up.  The book has an "80's horror flick - where are they now?" vibe - but that is not a bad thing.  It is very fast paced - but not so fast that you can't keep up. And the author knows how to build the story so that you just cannot stop reading.   You are hanging on to every word because you, like the media in the book, are morbidly fascinated by the Final Girls.  It all builds to an explosive conclusion that will leave you absolutely shellshocked.  I had NO IDEA how this book was going to turn out, but wowzers did it have a great conclusion. --CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS

Bottom line - While Final Girls doesn't really get explicit with the gore, the graphic nature of the plot cannot be denied.  These characters survived bloody massacres.  Get past that though and you have a well written, incredibly intense thriller about a survivor just trying to live her life.   You will not be disappointed with this one if you are looking to scare yourself and get your heart rate up.


Sunday, July 16, 2017

(60)Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

Jules Abbott is stunned when she receives news that her sister drowned in the local river, known as the Drowning Pool.  Jules and her sister, Nel, haven't been close since they were teenagers, but she doesn't believe that her sister would ever commit suicide.  In fact, she was writing a book about the women who have lost their lives to the Drowning Pool over the years, and the number is high for their little English community.  Lena, Nel's teenage daughter, believes that it was suicide, but she is still raw from her best friend dying in the Drowning Pool just days ago.  Jules doesn't know what to think, but for such a small little town, there are a lot of secrets.  The lead detective has a family history with the Drowning Pool and a connection to the Abbott family that is also a secret.  His new partner has her own secrets.  There is also a grieving mother who is determined to get to the truth no matter the cost.  But the question remains, did Nel Abbott throw herself off of the cliff into the water, or did somebody throw her to her death?

Beckford is a little English village with a lot of sorrowful history and a lot of secrets.  A lot of secrets and a lot of characters to keep up with.  Each character that is introduced has secrets and history and could be behind the deaths at the Drowning Pool.  I couldn't believe that this little community had so much going on.  As an audiobook listener, it was a lot to keep up with.  Each character had a different narrator so that helped.  Jules was a character that I could relate to more than any of the other characters.  She was always in her sister's shadow and had a trauma in her childhood that made her seem more real.  Lena was a bit of a brat, but given what she had been through, I can't blame her. Other characters that got a lot of time in the book was Louise, the mother of Lena's friend.   In the end, she and Jules realized that all they had was each other.  I was not all that surprised by the big reveal in the final pages.  I had not figured it out - but I was not that surprised. - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS

Bottom line - Into the Water is this summer's most buzzed about books.  I thought it was just - okay.  There was so much for the reader to keep track of that it was hard to really focus on the mystery.  It is definitely worthy of a read, but just be prepared to take notes to keep it all straight.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Sunday, July 9, 2017

(59)Love the Wine You'e With by Kim Gruenenfelder

Holly, Nat, and Jessie are three girlfriends who are fed up with the way their lives are going.  Nat has an amazing career but is having an affair with her married boss.  Holly is starting to feel like a washed-up actress who can't catch a break. And Jessie's boyfriend just backed out of buying a house with her and then left for an extended business trip. They have met for drinks at a wine bar that they love but is closing because the owners got a deal that was just too good to refuse.  Maybe it is the wine talking, maybe it is the fact that they are all ready for a change, but they talk about opening their own wine bar.  It doesn't take long for the talk to become a reality. Along with their new bar, there are new men that come into their lives.  An incredibly hot wine vendor, an old college friend, and a producer that once saw Holly at her worst.  The three friends have decisions to make about their romantic futures.  Will they take a chance on someone new or will they "Love the Wine You're With?"

Love the Wine You're With was a fun book to read. All three women are incredibly likable even when they make really dumb mistakes (like dating their married boss). I loved that they just went for it and opened the wine bar, even though none of them really had any experience. It was something they wanted to do - so they did it.   I also like all three of the "new" men in their lives.  They were willing to take on the friends flaws and all.  I think Joe, the producer, was my favorite, though.  He was so good to Holly that it was easy to cheer for him.  Things worked out the way they were supposed to and they all got their "happy ever after" in one way or another.

Bottom line - Love the Wine You're With is a fun, entertaining book that demands to be read with a glass of your favorite wine.  So pour your glass, kick back, and relax!


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Sunday, July 2, 2017

(58)Kingdom of Happiness by Aimee Groth

My boss has been a huge advocate of Tony Hsieh and Zappos ever since he read the book Delivering Happiness.  As a team we try to read a book every quarter and discuss what we read, this quarter my boss decided that he wanted us all to The Kingdom of Happiness, thinking it would be about Tony and the inner workings of his team and their  "tribe."  -- Well it was, but not in the way that any of us expected. And to be fair, it was me that brought the book to his attention.

Aimee Groth's first encounter with Tony Hsieh, founder, and leader of Zappos is at the desert rave, Burning Man.  The author is completely enamored with Tony when she first meets him and his - pick your favorite word here - tribe, posse, pack, gang, disciples.  Any of those words would be appropriate.  Like many others, she is quickly charmed and inspired by the leader and his quest to change the world and create almost a Utopia-like society in downtown Las Vegas.   She gives up her life on the East Coast and moves to Las Vegas in her quest for happiness. She starts out couch-surfing then finds her way to the former hotel turned commune-like complex.

What she finds is definitely a work hard, play (or drink) harder culture. She becomes part of Tony's pack and even travels with him.  She gets insight from all sorts of people in his inner-circle and comes to realize that his enigmatic personality instills a loyalty that not many people can command.  The insight the author gains from interviews and first-hand observations leave the reader wondering how Zappos could still be so successful - and then you realize that sales have dropped and his innovative attempt at a Holocracy structure is hemorrhaging both employees and sales.  Not to mention the frightening number of suicides in Tony's world.  One thing is clear - happiness is not as easy to achieve as Tony Hsieh wants everybody to believe.

Bottom-line - The Kingdom of Happiness is an absolutely riveting look at the inner workings of Tony Hsieh's world.  I always love a good "behind the scenes" kind of book and Aimee Groth is shockingly honest in what she found when she became a part of The Kingdom of Happiness.

  • The Kingdom of Happiness by Aimee Groth
  • On Quartz
  • Page: 336
  • Publisher: Touchstone
  • Publication Date:2/21/2017
  • Buy it Here!

Friday, June 30, 2017

(57)Same Beach, Next Year by Dorothea Benton Frank

Eliza and Adam Stanley have enjoyed their summer vacation on the Isles of Palms for years.  Their twin sons love to play in the pool and just getting away from the hustle and bustle of their everyday life is enough for Eliza.  One summer Adam discovers that his high school sweetheart is vacationing at the same resort.  So many years have passed that Adam fails to mention their romantic history, but Eve and Carl Landers soon become fast friends.  The couples and their children meet up every summer and over the years their friendship becomes more like family. Over the years the families share many laughs, tears, and fears.  But still, Eve and Adam don't share their romantic past.  It all comes to a head one morning when Adam and Eve are found in a compromising situation at the Landers' condo.   Even though they both swear that nothing happened Eliza and Carl are both forced to evaluate their marriages.  Eliza goes even go so far as to pack up and go visit family in Greece.  She has been putting it off forever, but the kids are grown and in college, so why not?  Eliza figures that putting distance between her and Adam will be beneficial for their marriage.  Or will it just push Adam farther away and be the final blow to their marriage?

I don't remember having read a Dorothea Benton Frank novel before, but I love a good beach read, so I gave it a shot.  I think it is meant more for the "grandma" crowd or maybe a more conservative crowd, but once I started to read it, I didn't want to stop.  The story is told primarily in the past - all the way back to when Eve is first introduced to the story all the way up to the present time - so over decades.  Both Eliza and Adam take turns narrating and while it is clear that Adam loves his wife - he is kind of an arrogant ass. And Eliza is a doting housewife with very gender-specific duties. It was so very annoying how she waited on Adam hand and foot and let him treat her like the domestic help.  I HATED how when he was the narrator he kept commenting on Eve's beauty - it was all physical.  Ugh.  I loved how she finally did what she always was wanting to do (but putting off because of Adam) and went to Greece to reconnect with her family.   In the end, things worked out the way that they were supposed to work out and there is even a nice little surprise to wrap things up nicely. 

Bottom line - Even though there were some horrible eye-roll-worthy situations in Same Beach, Next Year - I finished it and I wouldn't ever finish a bad book.  If you are in the "under 50" crowd it might not be the best beach read for you, but you can always give it to your mom as a gift.  She would likely love to read it!


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

(56)Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica

Clara Solberg is in that postmortem haze when there is a knock at the door.  She hasn't slept in the few days since her son, Felix is born and she is confused by the officer standing at her door.  An accident?  Nick dead?  What they are saying does not make sense.  Her beloved father leaves her ailing mother and rushes to her side to help her navigate the next few excruciating days.  The decisions that must be made, the things to be done and still there is the care of Maisie and Felix.  The police are saying that Nick was driving too fast, was blinded by the sun, and hit a tree.  When Clara starts to hear Maisie have nightmares about the black car and the scary man she questions if it was really an accident.  She even goes so far as to knock on the doors of the houses near the accident.  All it takes is for one woman to say that she thinks she saw a black Chevy to send Clara down a dangerous path.   Will she be able to figure out who killed her husband and why?

Mary Kubica has outdone herself with Every Last Lie.  She tells the story in alternating voices.  Nick before the accident and Clara after the accident.   What you realize with this format is that their marriage was not as sound as Clara thought.  Nick was keeping a ridiculous amount of information from his wife under the guise of "protecting" her while she was pregnant.  Like his dental practice was sinking, he had a patient suing him for malpractice, and his ex-girlfriend was back saying he was the father of her son. Nick is feeling the financial pressure and the fact that he hasn't told Clara is putting their relationship at serious risk. On the one hand I understand Nick's reasons for keeping secrets, but on the other hand, I thought it was a jerky way to behave.  The more time that passes the more unglued Clara seems to be getting. I liked her and felt for the intense grief that was taking over her life.  The end was shockingly creative. I thought that I had it figured out several times, but I kept changing my mind and in the end, I was wrong.  Way wrong.  -- CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS -

Bottom line - Every Last Lie is going to be one of those books that will leave you speechless. There is a lot of details that the reader needs to pay attention to, but even then you may not figure it out.  Good luck, readers, let me know if you figured it out before the end!


Saturday, June 24, 2017

(55)Beach House for Rent by Mary Alice Monroe

Cara Rutledge has just finished getting her beach house ready for the summer rental season.  The income is crucial to keep the bills paid.  Her husband, Brett, runs an EcoTours business and it has been a money-sink recently.  Cara and Brett were arguing about money when Brett goes out for a run and never comes back.  His fatal heart attack leaves Cara reeling.  Even more so when she discovers that he canceled his life insurance policy.  She decides to sell their home and move into the beach house, for many reasons, but the beach house has always had healing qualities for her.   There is one problem - the beach house is rented.

Heather Wyatt's father rented the beach house for her so he can spend some quality time with his new bride.  Heather is a shy and quiet young woman with extreme anxiety relating to her mother's death.  Even she realizes that the beach house has healing qualities.  She is starting to come out of her shell and even has a boyfriend.  Her lease agreement is through the end of the summer and Heather is not about to leave early for Cara.  The two women decide to share the beach house with each other for the rest of the summer.  What will happen to the two women once the summer is over?

Beach House for Rent is another wonderful Lowcountry read from Mary Alice Monroe.  Even though nearly twenty-five years separate them in age, both Cara and Heather are trying to recover and heal.  For Cara, it is a fresh pain and for Heather, it is several years old.  The book alternates between Heather and Cara in narration, sometimes for several chapters.  It isn't until the book is more than half over that they become roommates, so you really get to know bother characters before that point.  They both have grown in the book, but I really think that Heather had the most growth given the way she really came out of her shell. I liked how she blossomed with her boyfriend, Bo.    I wasn't sure how the author was going to end things, but it was a good conclusion.

Bottom line - I haven't read a lot of books set in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, but Mary Alice Monroe certainly knows how to make a reader fall in love with the area.  From the ecosystem to the cuisine, she makes it feel like you are there with the characters.  What reader doesn't love a book that can transport you to another place?