Tuesday, June 12, 2018

(45)Marriage Vacation by Pauline Turner Brooks

If you haven't been watching Younger on TVLand then you are missing out. Set in New York City, the half-hour comedy features Sutton Foster as a fortysomething trying to get back to the career she had in publishing before getting married and raising a family. In order to even get a job as an assistant, she has to pass herself off as twenty-six.  And she does so.  Now it is in Season 5 and the estranged wife of her boss, Charles Brooks, is back from her "Marriage Vacation" and she has written a book that Empirical Press is going to publish.  The problem is that Pauline Turner Brooks' fictional book dangerously mirrors the "real life" of Charles and Pauline.

In the book Marriage Vacation, Kate Carmichael is married to the successful publisher, Carl Carmichael.  She has two beautiful young daughters.  A fabulous townhouse on Manhattan's Upper Eastside and has all of the money she could possibly want to do whatever she wants.  Yet she feels so empty, so unfulfilled.  Kate has the chance to travel solo to California for a wedding she doesn't really find herself eager to return home.  When her old college friend offers her a chance to go to Thailand she decides to go.  Soon one week goes by without returning home, then two weeks, and then six months.  She has made friends, has spent time finding herself and the independent woman she left behind when she married her husband. And then she receives a letter in the mail.  It has been almost a year and her husband wants a divorce.  The shock of it jolts Kate and starts her on her return trip home.  But is she prepared for what might be the fate of her marriage?

I can see where a book like Marriage Vacation might resonate with a lot of readers, both on Younger and in real life, but I really struggled with liking Kate.  I can understand the needing a break from the stressors of being a  wife and mother in the pressure cooker that is the Upper Eastside, but to leave her family and obligations for a full year?  And then be shocked when her husband wants a divorce?  Bitch, please.  Now, knowing that the book is a thinly veiled look at the fictional life of Pauline Turner Brooks makes it very hard to even like the character that is Charles' wife.  Ultimately, I did like Marriage Vacation, even if I struggled to like the character. It is a fairly fluffy read that is quick and easy to read.

Bottom Line - Pauline Turner Brooks is not a real person.  She is a character on a popular television show (watch it!!) who wrote a book.  Marriage Vacation is *that* book.   If you watch Younger (watch it!!) then you know what I am talking about and if you don't watch it, you really should.


Saturday, June 9, 2018

(44)Something In The Water by Catherine Steadman

Mark and Erin appear to be the perfect couple, embarking on their new life together as a married couple. Mark is an investment banker who lost his job just prior to their wedding.  Erin is a documentary filmmaker on the verge of making it big with her project focusing on three newly released prisoners. Their honeymoon to Bora Bora is a once in a lifetime trip for both of them.  At first, it is everything that they had hoped for, but one afternoon they are out diving when they come across a duffel bag. They tried to turn it over to resort personnel, but the bag found it's way back to them.  The bag containing a million dollars, a bag of flawless two-carat diamonds, a phone,  a thumb drive, and a gun.  The newlyweds are excited but cautious.  Where did this bag come from and what kind of people could be looking for it?  They return to the spot they found the bag in an effort to find more information and they find the wreckage of a plane. To them, this is justification for keeping the bag. They cover their tracks, head home, and plot ways that will allow them to keep the money in ways that won't raise flags with the authorities.  As the days pass they come to realize that this money puts them in a very dangerous position. Mark does everything he can to discourage Erin from selling the diamonds, but she just won't let it go.  She soon realizes just how far she, and Mark, are willing to go for millions of dollars. And it is farther than either of them thought possible.

I had no idea until I started to write this post that Catherine Steadman is an actress best known for her role on Downton Abbey.   Something in the Water is part thriller part heist novel.  I get it that Mark and Erin were hoping to get away with the perfect crime, but they put their lives in grave danger to do so.  I thought they were rather stupid for everything they did, but there wouldn't have been a story if they had turned the bag into the authorities.  The stress of being found out pushed Erin and Mark apart, rather than bringing them closer together.  Erin (and the readers) assumed that Mark's strong opposition was because he feared for safety, but they would be wrong.  I think that that revelation was the most shocking to me.  For a thriller, I didn't think the book was very fast-paced, but rather the story started slow and took some time building the suspense. The end was a bit shocking to me, but in the end, I was pleased with the way the author wrapped everything up.  - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS

Bottom Line - In Something In The Water, Catherine Steadman takes two very ordinary people and shows what happens to them when they try to get away with the perfect crime.  She proves that a crazy amount of money can and will destroy even the strongest of people.  It makes for some interesting food for thought.  What would you do if you could potentially get away with taking millions of dollars that do not belong to you?


(43)The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy

The May-Mothers are a group of Brooklyn moms who all recently had their first child.  They meet in Prospect Park under the shade of the willow tree and swap stories, share tips and commiserate the stresses of being a new mother. There is Nell, the career woman with her thick British accent, Collette is the author who is ghost-writing her second book while her partner is the new darling of the literary world.   Francie is the transplant from the deep south and struggles to fit into the New York City social scene. And finally, there is Winnie, the single mom who keeps to herself.  There are other members of the group that come and go, but those are the core member. On the 4th of July, the eve of her returning to work, Nell, convinces them all that they deserve a night out. They all agree, but Winnie does so reluctantly. She has never left little Midas alone, but even she looks forward to some time away from the baby.   But when she returns home to find Midas missing Winnie is devastated.  Her whole world is turned upside down and all of her secrets are revealed.  Her three friends are willing to do anything, risk anything, to help Winnie find Midas. But what will happen when their own secrets are revealed?

The Perfect Mother, set in the sizzling heat of summer, takes a group of exhausted new mothers and sets them in the middle of every mother's worst nightmare.  The core group of women are about as different as women could be - it is not likely that they would have ever connected if not for the birth month their children shared.  I didn't really have a "favorite" of the group.  They all were struggling with motherhood in their own way.  They wanted, desperately, to be "The Perfect Mother" and were trying to live up to these impossible standards.  I would say that they were even ashamed that they were not perfect at all.  Those that had partners were lucky that they had committed and dedicated partners and they all felt sorry for Winnie for not having the baby's father in her life.  The tempo of the book seems to pick up as the days since Midas went missing pass.  The sense of urgency is palpable and as the reader, you can't help but feel the same dread all of these new mothers feel.   I was a little surprised by the ending but realized that I shouldn't have been surprised at all.  CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS. 

Bottom Line - Being a new mother is terrifying. Being "The Perfect Mother" is impossible, yet it is a trap that all mother get caught in.  Aimeee Molloy has written a real nail-biter about every mother's worst nightmare.  One to read if you are looking for a great thriller.


Monday, June 4, 2018

(42)When Life Gives You LuLulemons by Lauren Weisberger

Some time has passed since we first met Emily Charlton, Miranda Priestly's former assistant.  Now Emily is thirty-six and losing all of her best clients to the newest, hottest, image consultant.  The latest blow is when the hottest teen heartthrob chooses her competitor over her.  She heads off to her best friend's house in Greenwich, Connecticut to lick her wounds.  Emily's oldest friend, Miriam welcomes Emily with open arms.  Miriam hasn't been in the suburbs long, she and her husband left the city to give their three kids a chance at life with a backyard.  Having Emily around gives her a chance to relive days gone.  Karolina Hartwell is also a friend of Miriam's.  When word breaks that the Senator's wife was arrested for a DUI with a carful of kids Miriam doesn't believe it for a  minute. She knows that there is more to the story and she rushes to the aide of her friend.  The three friends may be losing the battle against aging, but they at least will be losing it together.   Will the three of them be able to come to terms with their current realities?   But most importantly, will they be able to get Karolina her son back?

It has been a million years since I read The Devil Wears Prada, but it isn't necessary to remember anything about that book in order to enjoy  When Life Gives You Lululemons.  If there is anything that I understand, it is no longer being the youngest, freshest woman in the room.  Lauren Weisberger tackles the topic of aging (and aging gracefully) in a fun and entertaining way.   Karolina is losing her husband to a younger woman, Emily is losing her clients to a younger woman, and Miriam is feeling out of her element in a community where youth and beauty rules all.  I felt a serious "Tawanda" moment (look up Fannie Flagg if you do not get that reference) when they took on the Senator.  (He was a complete douchebag, by the way).  In the process, the three women solidify their bond. 

Bottom Line - When Life Gives You Lululemons isn't going to win any literary awards or even make it to some of the favored book clubs, but it is entertaining as all get out.  Especially if you are a woman of a certain age, throw it in your beach bag and you are guaranteed to have a fun afternoon.


Sunday, June 3, 2018

(41)The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

Harriet, Hal, Westaway has been barely hanging on since her mother passed away. She took over her mother's fortune-telling business, but it seems like there is never enough money to pay the bills. One day she receives a letter from a solicitor in Cornwall saying that she is the recipient of a rather large inheritance.  Hal knows that the letter was sent to her in error, but the thought of an inheritance is too good to pass up.  She sets off to Trepassen and finds a vast, yet decrepit estate that would remind one of Manderley.  Hal knows that she will need to be on her game to pass herself off as the granddaughter of the deceased woman, but she can't help but also be drawn into the fact that these people are welcoming her as a part of their family.  She hasn't had a family since her mother died.  Then weird things start to happen to Hal - like the door to her attic bedroom gets stuck, and she takes a tumble down the stairs that didn't feel like an accident.  And then there are the bars on her bedroom window and the "Help Me" that has been carved into the window sill.  While the money would save her from her troubles, Hal does not feel that it is worth her life.  When Hal discovers a dark, long kept secret, she realizes that maybe, just maybe she does belong at Trepassen. 

I don't think that I have read such a gothic feeling novel since I read Rebecca last year.  Hal is a woman who knows struggle.  From the very beginning, she just seems so sad and broken, only perking up when she thinks that this letter might be the answer to all of her troubles.  When she gets to Trepassen she meets a mixed group of people, and most of them are relieved that Mrs. Westaway is gone, as she was not a pleasant woman.   The housekeeper was most definitely creepy and also reminiscent of the housekeeper in Rebecca. I had the big twist figured out pretty early on, but I wasn't even mad about it.   Such an atmospheric novel is so rare these days that it was easy to get lost in the pages, even if I did have it figured out. -- CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS -- I was okay with all of the "truths" revealed and thought that the ending was satisfactory.

Bottom Line - The Death of Mrs. Westaway is probably my favorite book by Ruth Ware yet.  The gothic atmosphere of the novel created such an appealing story that it was impossible to put down. This one is going to appear on all of the "Must Read" lists of the summer, that I am sure of. 


Tuesday, May 29, 2018

(40)The Road to Jonestown by Jeff Guinn

Ever heard the phrase "Don't drink the kool-aid"?  It is a common phrase that is often said in reference to people who blindly follow someone else.  As the years' pass, the younger generations don't know where the phrase comes from, as I recently found out.   I knew that it was in reference to Jim Jones and his cult of followers that died after drinking cyanide-laced Flavor-Aid (a knock-off of Kool-Aid because the cult could not afford the real stuff).   The Road to Jonestown is exactly as it sounds, author Jeff Guinn goes back to the beginning and examines the life of Jim Jones and how he was able to lead a group of nearly a thousand people to kill themselves in the jungle of South America.

Jim Jones got his start in Indiana and from the sounds of it was always an odd little dude obsessed with religion. No, I think he was obsessed with the adoration that people thrust upon their religious leaders.   For being such an odd duck, he had very progressive views in regards to civil rights and equality. Whether it was because he truly believed in equal rights or he thought that minorities were "easy targets" I don't know.  The author alludes to several instances of inequality within his own church. The author follows Jim Jones to California, where they were seeking a sanctuary away from the promised nuclear annihilation.  It is in California where things get really weird.   Jones stopped referring to God and the bible and even praying unless there were people in attendance not from his church.  Jones turned into a sexual deviant not to mention a drug addict.  Using corporal punishment on the members of his church, rather than bring in the authorities for serious infractions.  He made his followers turn over everything from 25% of their income to their children and property.  All in the name of living a socialist lifestyle.  When Jones felt things closing in on them he led his followers to the jungles of Guyana, in the hopes of escaping scrutiny from the US authorities.   Guinn gives such a detailed account of those final days, weeks, and months in Jonestown that I was captivated.  I just couldn't stop.  In fact, I went right to my friend, Google, and was led to the actual recording of that final day. You see,  Jones always recorded his sermons and even that last day, you can listen as he encouraged his followers to their death, you can listen to it all. Warning: Explicit Content

Bottom Line - You know me, I love to read a good psychological thriller. Even though I knew with 100% certainty how The Road to Jonestown was going to end, I just couldn't stop. Jeff Guinn has written a book that can only be defined as a page-turner.   You don't want to miss it, really.

  • The Road to Jonestown by Jeff Guinn
  • On Facebook
  • Pages:544
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication Date:4/11/17
  • Buy it Here!

Monday, May 28, 2018

(39)The High Season by Judy Blundell

Every summer Ruthie Beamish and her family have to move. Ruthie's husband Mike inherited a beach house that they have painstakingly restored, but the only way they can afford to live there is by renting out the house during The High Season.  They have been doing this for years and it is never easy to leave the home they love so much and this year is no different. Except it is.  Ruthie and Mike are separated and delaying a divorce, just because of financial reasons.  Their fifteen-year-old daughter, Jem, is at that age that she is realizing just how different her artsy family is from the rest of the teens on the Northfork.  And this year, instead of weeks of different anonymous families, their home is being rented by somebody they know.  Adeline Clay is the widow of a wealthy, famous artist that Ruthie used to work for a million years ago.  But this year is also different because Mike has allegedly fallen in love with Adeline Clay and Ruthie loses her job as director for the local art gallery.  As the summer unwinds, Ruthie feels like her life is spinning out of control and lets her anger drive her actions in uncharacteristic ways. 

The High Season is the summer beach reads from the other side.  It is told from the perspective of a local woman and her family trying to make it through another summer of being forced from the home they all love. Every year a new crop of "Beach Reads" hits the market, often set in oceanside communities in beachside homes that we can only dream of visiting.  We never think about the people that actually live in those homes, in those communities.  You can sense the resentment in Ruthie for having to give up her home for the best months of the year, but she does it so she can remain living the illusion that her family has money and belongs in the community. I liked Ruthie.  Even when she lets her emotions over her job loss and Mike's new relationship get the better of her.  Everything about her seems so authentic, even her bad decisions seemed authentic.  Her relationship with Mike seemed "too good to be true" and her reaction to him dating Adeline was just about right.  There was a considerable amount of drama before the end of summer, but in the end, I think things worked out the right way. - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS -

Bottom Line -  Today is the official start of the summer season and The High Season is most definitely one that you should add to your list.   The characters are so well written and the emotions so defined that it will feel like you are right in Orient with the Beamish family.


Sunday, May 20, 2018

(38)The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll

Goal Diggers is a wildly successful reality show featuring five uber-successful women.  This year's season features veterans, Stephanie, an author of erotic novels and the first black cast member.  And Brett, the youngest at twenty-seven, and the only lesbian cast member.  Brett's older sister, Kelly, is in her first year on the show. She has been helping Brett run her empire for many years, so it only makes sense that she, and her young daughter, are included in the filming.  Kelly can't help but hope that being on the show will help her get out of Brett's shadow.  The season is set up to be full of drama.  Brett and Stephanie, once best friends are now bitter enemies.  Kelly and Brett have a tumultuous relationship going back to their childhood with a mother that played favorites.  And Brett is engaged to a woman who is successful in her own right.   The explosive dynamics between the five women are sure to be a ratings goldmine.  But what will happen to the future of the show when the season spirals out of control and into murder?

Millions of people tune in every week to the reality show of their choice.  The Favorite Sister takes you behind the scenes of a successful reality show featuring successful women.  One of the things that I like about the premise of this book is that the stars of the show made peanuts.  The produces wanted them to use the show to drive the sales of the business, therefore keeping them "hungry" rather than resting on their reality show laurels. I have to be honest that I did not really *like* any of the characters, except perhaps Layla, Kelly's daughter.  They were all so desperate to keep their adoring fans that they were all ready to do whatever it took to keep their secrets secret.   But it is when one of them stops caring is when things start to get dangerous.    The book really jumps around in the timeline and in narrators, so my advice is to not stop reading in the middle of a chapter.   I had guessed that it was one of the stars that was the murderer. In fact, there were several reasons why it could be her, but I was wrong.  - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS -  And I love being wrong when reading a thriller!

Bottom Line - The Favorite Sister has everything you could hope to find in a reality show.  Competition, revenge, love, jealousy, and even murderous rage.  This is going to be one of those books that everybody will be buzzing about this summer.  Be sure to read it so that you can be in on the conversation!


Monday, May 14, 2018

(37)How to Walk Away by Katherine Center

Margaret Jacobsen just knew that her boyfriend, Chip, was about to propose.  They had been together for three years and they were both heading down the successful career path, marriage was just the natural progression of their relationship.   She was expecting Chip to take her to a romantic location that Valentine's Day, instead, he took her up in a small plane, even though she was completely terrified.  Yes, he did propose, but before the day was over Margaret would find herself in the hospital and her life changed forever.  Instead of planning her wedding Margaret is trying to relearn the most basic tasks in order to put her life back together.  Her parents are there to help support her, no matter what. Even if her mother is a bit overbearing, Margaret knows that she just has her best interests at heart.  Plus, Margaret's estranged sister, Kitty, returns to Texas to help her sister. Their relationship strengthens because of the accident. And there is Ian, her Scottish Physical Therapist.  Ian is tough but has a way of pushing Margaret past the limits she sets for herself. He looks past her current circumstances to make Margaret see what could be.   But Chip - Chip is nowhere to be found.  His guilt over the accident has sent him spiraling out of control and he barely wants to be around Margaret.  Will Margaret ever be back to normal and will she and Chip ever be able to repair their relationship?

How to Walk Away is already getting a lot of buzz as the book to read of the summer.  And I don't disagree.   Margaret Jacobsen, Maggie to Ian, is the kind of character that a reader can really get behind.  She didn't do anything to cause her circumstances except for falling in love with a real tool.  And make no mistake, Chip is a real tool.  While Margaret was going through rehab it was obvious that her relationships were also going through a rehab of sorts.  Her relationship with her sister had the biggest improvement.  Her relationship with Chip was also going through a rehab of sorts and I was ultimately relieved the way that relationship turned out.   How to Walk Away had the most perfect ending and I could have hugged the author for giving us an epilogue - ten years in the future.  - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS

- Bottom Line - Margaret Jacobsen is a character that you are not likely to forget anytime soon.  Her strength and resiliency is a story that from which we can all learn.  How to Walk Away will be on sale tomorrow, May 15th.


Saturday, May 12, 2018

(36)My Ex-Life by Stephen McCauley

It has been over twenty years since David Hedges and Julie Fiske were married.  They ended up divorcing when David realized that he was gay and now Julie is divorcing her second husband.  Her daughter, Mandy, is getting ready for her senior year and college applications are high on the to-do lists.  She tracks down her mom's ex-husband, not just for his assistance, but because she is a little curious.  David has just split from his long-term partner and has been floundering, getting out of San Francisco is just what he needs. When he gets to Julie's fabulous seaside house he finds a floundering woman who may or may not have a pot problem and is renting out her extra rooms via Airbnb.  The two of them easily fall into an easy relationship, much like that of an old married couple.  Together they help each other heal their broken hearts and start to put their lives back together.  David helps Julie with Mandy and projects around the house and Julie helps David get in shape and helps him to feel like he is part of something - a family.   The summer has been magical and comfortable and exactly what they both needed, but what happens when summer is over?  Will David go back to the West Coast and say goodbye to Julie yet once again?

My Ex-Life is a book about two damaged people with a history.   Julie sought out David in an effort to keep her second ex-husband from trying to seek custody of Mandy.   She knows that they will never be compatible romantically, but the comfort level she feels with him is that of a true soulmate.   I really loved the way their relationship was so easy, it was like they picked up right where they left off.   Both David and Julie were kind of a mess at the start of the book. I hated the way Mandy's father treated Julie and it was obvious that she didn't really care for it either. Both David and Julie had completely changed from the first part of the book.    There was a storyline for Mandy that was absolutely terrifying for me, as a stepmother to a teen girl, but thankfully David was able to step in and help her see the error of her ways before it was too late.     The end was a little predictable, but it made me happy.  The story ended just the way I wanted.

Bottom Line - My Ex-Life is one of those books that is perfect for those of you getting ready for the second act in life or recovering from a broken heart.   It is a book that I can see giving hope for life after... With diverse characters and excellent writing, you are guaranteed to enjoy it as much as I did!

  • My Ex-Life by Stephen McCauley
  • On Facebook
  • Pages: 336
  • Publisher: Flatiron Books
  • Publication Date: 5/8/2018
  • Buy it Here!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

(35)Beachbound by Junie Coffey

It has only been a few weeks since Sunbaked and Nina Spark is ready to resume a quiet life in the tropical paradise of Pineapple Cay. Until she gets a call from an old colleague. Nina isn't exactly fond of Philip Putzel, but she is willing to help him plan a conference on Pineapple  Cay.  The whole island is in an uproar when Philip is nearly murdered by an unknown person, but it is the message left on his body that raises eyebrows.  But what is really shocking is when the local police pull Nina in for questioning.  Why would they think that she had anything to do with this?  When Philip's ex, also in for the conference, is also attacked the police realize that it is personal.  Nina and her crime-fighting friends, Danish and Pansy start investigating the attacks. They start to find clues that point them in the right direction. Will they be able to find out who is attacking the conference attendees before the attacks turn deadly?

I absolutely adore Nina Spark. I think I want to be her when I grow up.  Well, mostly I want to live on a tropical island, only work sporadically, and solve easy mysteries.   Only I want my husband to go with me.    The tropical location was very much my favorite thing about this book.  I have already expressed my fondness for Nina, but once again all of the characters were fun and unique. Including Nina's new neighbor who has a fondness for classic rock and walking in the nude.  Of course, the end is not all that surprising but was still an exciting conclusion.  - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS

Bottom Line - Beachbound was exactly the kind of beach read that I was hoping it would be.  Fun and light and transporting me to another dream location.   Give it a read and let me know what you think.


Why I Read...

I remember the carefree summer days when I used to ride my bike to the public library to pick out new books. I would go almost daily to find books to read. I read to learn. I read to explore the world. I read to escape. I read because not reading is not an option.

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