Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Happy Tuesday!!

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Monday, June 27, 2016

(56)By the Numbers by Jen Lancaster

Penny Sinclair has always had a way with numbers and she turned that fascination into a pretty successful career as an actuary.  Penny was the breadwinner of the family and let her husband, Chris, take on the majority of the raising of their two daughters.  Well, except when mommy-guilt got the best of her and she spoiled their two daughters.   As a woman who knows statistics, it should be no surprise to Penny when she discovered that Chris had cheated on her.  Penny is now on the verge of making her life her own again. Their daughter is planning her wedding and after it is held at her home, Penny plans on putting the old Victorian on the market, getting herself a little condo in the city, and maybe even finding a date on one of those dating websites.  That is her plan anyway, until her retired parents need a place to crash, one of her daughters moves home from NYC under a cloud of suspicion, and her other daughter leaves her husband just days after the wedding.  Oh and her daughters invited her ex-husband to stay there after he breaks his leg.  Will Penny ever be able to claim her life for her own?

I think By the Numbers is one of my favorites of Jen Lancaster's fiction books.  Penny is one of those characters that is easy to like, expect for the fact that she created monsters. Penny is funny, hard-working, and loyal.  Her daughters, on the other hand, are self-centered, demanding, spoiled little brats and Penny has nobody to blame but herself.  I couldn't believe the way she let her daughters treat her, from demanding she not list the house, to the whole situation when their beloved pet passed away.  It was jaw-dropping.  The more the book goes on the more outrageous the behavior, but thankfully, there is a turning point that changes everything.  In the end, things turn out just the way you want them to turn out.

Bottom line - By the Numbers is everything you have come to expect from the entertaining Jen Lancaster.  Funny characters, inevitable growth, and lots of pop culture references.   A quick read that is guaranteed to entertain you.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Happy Tuesday!

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Sunday, June 19, 2016

(55)Here's to Us by Elin Hilderbrand

The only thing that Laurel, Belinda, and Scarlet have in common is Deacon Thorpe.  They were all married to the famous television chef and now they are called to gather at Deacon's Nantucket home to scatter his ashes.  Laurel was his first wife and the mother of his son.  Their love goes all the way back to their teen years and Laurel was absolutely devastated when she found out that Deacon was having an affair.   Deacon married his mistress, award winning actress, Belinda, and they lived a pretty charmed life.  Except for the fact that Belinda couldn't get pregnant, so they adopted a baby, Angie.  Between Deacon't restaurants and Belinda's filming schedule, it was clear they needed a nanny.  So they hired Scarlet. And well, you can see where this is going.  Deacon lived a life of excess.  Food, women, booze, and drugs.  Yet they were all shocked when they got the news that Deacon was gone.  They have gathered to say their final good-byes, but what they don't know is that there are still a few things about Deacon that they didn't know and those truths may be the most painful of all.

Nantucket, oh beautiful Nantucket.  The non-traditional family of Deacon Thorpe have gathered at his beach house to say their final good-byes.  Nantucket was the one place where Deacon had fond memories of his father and unfortunately the same could be said for Deacon's three children.  Through all the wives and all of the years, the Nantucket home was the only place that really felt like home for his children.  It is where Deacon could relax and play Monopoly or go biking and just be a dad, not a personality. I think my favorite character in the book was the house.  The charming home seemed stuck in a time warp, but that is why it is so comfortable.  Old furniture, old games, old ghosts.  I think of all the wives, Laurel was my favorite.   And I think of all the children, Angie was my favorite.  Unfortunately,  Deacon's two older kids inherited some of his less desirable traits.  Like addiction and infidelity, but they were still very likable characters.   In the end, this unconventional family faces the demons of the past and the present and decide that family means everything.

Bottom line - I love Elin Hilderbrand and her love affair with the magical island of Nantucket.  Once again, she makes summertime feel special by transporting us to the wonderful island.  For those of us in "flyover" states,  we look forward to her books every summer for that very reason.  Here's to Us was well worth the wait.


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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

(54)The Girls by Emma Cline

Evie Boyd is a bored, restless fourteen year old during the summer of 1969.  She is on the "outs" with her only friend, Connie, when she first sees the group of girls in the park.  She is intrigued by their sisterhood and one girl in particular has Evie completely entranced.   It takes a few more chance encounters throughout their Northern California community before a busted bike chain allows Evie to officially meet Suzanne and the rest of the girls.   The offer to give her a ride in their big converted school bus and Evie finds herself joining them at the "ranch" where she meets the leader of their unique family, Russell.  The Ranch is so different from anything Evie has ever known that she finds herself slipping easily into the commune life.  Her mother is destracted with trying to find her next ex-husband that she doesn't realize that young Evie has taken up with a dangerous man and his cult followers.  As the summer heats up, Evie falls deeper under their spell of both Russell and the enigmatic Suzanne.  Will Evie be able to escape the clutches of the cult before it is too late?

The Girls has been getting a lot of media buzz as a "must read" book of the summer, and with very good reason.   With her extreme innocence Evie Boyd is a bit of an enigmatic to Suzanne and the girls. As Evie is captivated by their free living lifestyle, they are captivated by her doe-eyed curiosity and innocent adoration.  It is easy to understand how and why Evie got caught up in the events at  The Ranch.  Her parents were newly divorced, her mother was distracted and her father was pretty much gone.  Her best friend just ditched her and Evie was heading off to boarding school in the fall.  Evie Boyd was essentially a lost girl.   Now,   The Girls is told from Evie's viewpoint as she reflects back on that summer.  Many, many years have passed,  so you know that she survived the gruesome, violent "event", but you don't find out what that brutal event actually is until nearly the end of the book.  All of the information released by the publisher compares Russell to Charles Manson, so you kind of know what could be coming, but you have no idea to what degree.   The story of The Girls is pretty enthralling, but Emma Cline made such astute observations in her descriptions that you think to yourself, yes THAT.   Here are a few things that caught my attention and made me think "wow":

That was part of being a girl - you were resigned to whatever feedback you'd get. 
The world fattens them on the promise of love.  How badly they need it, and how little most oft hem will ever get. 

I knew just being a girl in the world handicapped your ability to believe yourself.  

Bottom line - The Girls is an explosive story that will draw you in the way Evie was drawn to Russell and his girls.  You won't be able to put it down, that I can promise.

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Happy Tuesday!!

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Sunday, June 12, 2016

(53)The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell

Clare Wild and her two daughters are still recovering from a traumatic event caused by their father when they move into a flat that is part of a charming little community.  The flat opens up into a communal park that is a bit of an oasis for the middle of London.  Green and lush, the park is a perfect place for families, and a perfect place for Pip and Grace, Clare's daughters, to seek some normalcy.   The community has an annual summer party that is perfect against the backdrop of the park.   There is food, drink, live music, and other activities that just make the whole even seem magical.   Until Pip is fetched to bring her thirteen year old sister home and discovers her unconsious.  Their little community is not as shocked as they should be, though, for years ago another teenage girl was attacked in the park. And even worse, she was killed.  Who rocked this quiet community by attacking Grace Wild and will they do it again?

I don't think there isn't a parent out there who doesn't dream of the kind of community where their kids essentially have their own private park.  The kind of community where the kids consider homes interchangeable and children do nothing but make memories.  Grace and Pip are welcomed into the fold with such ease, it was as if they had been there all along.  Clare is still dazed  by what happened with her husband that she is relieved the girls have settled in so well at their new home.  Their neighbors, Leo and Adele, instantly treated them all like family.  But like most communities, there are some dark secrets lurking in the corners.   I loved Clare, even though she wasn't as attentive as she should have been, it is easy to understand why.  Pip is is Grace's younger sister and often you see the stories through her eyes.  As a twelve year old she is hurt the most by what happened to her father and seems younger than her age, twelve, would imply. The way Lisa Jewell crafts this tale you are on the edge of  your seat trying to figure out who hurt Grace.  My mind went down several different paths before the truth was revealed, but you have to wait for practically the last page to find out the truth.  -- CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS

Bottom line - Lisa Jewell is becoming one of those "Must Read" authors for me.  She is so deliberate in the way she lays out a story that you are hanging on to her every word.  The Girls in the Garden is one of those summer stories transports you into another world.  Well worth the read.


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Saturday, June 11, 2016

(52)One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Twenty-something Emma Blair was nearly destroyed when her husband's helicopter went down in the Pacific ocean the day before their first wedding anniversary.  Jesse was her high school sweetheart and she planned on being with him forever, but now she has to deal with her new reality of being a widow.  Emma leaves the home they made together and moves back to her hometown of Acton.  The life she puts back together in Acton is different than she ever dreamed possible.  She is now in her thirties, working for her parents running the bookstore that has been in their family for decades, she plays the piano, and she has just gotten engaged to Sam.   Emma's life is perfect as far as she is concerned.

And then she gets word that Jesse was found alive.  He survived all these years on a little deserted island.  He is alive, coming home and he more than anything he wants to see his wife. Emma is suddenly put in the position of having to choose which man she is going to live with for the rest of her life.

One True Loves is one of those novels that is going to stick with you for a while.  Emma Blair is one of those women that I could see myself hanging out with talking about books over coffee.  I loved the way her relationship with Sam was just so easy.  At first I felt really bad for Jesse, after all he was the one who nearly died out on the ocean. He had to do extreme things to stay alive.  Then I thought he was being extremely selfish in his treatment of Emma and his demands were unrealistic, but when she gave into those demands I was flabbergasted. She had changed so much while he was gone, I think the author put it this way (or close to it) that she is the person she is today because her husband died. What would she have been like had he not "died", What would their marriage have been like if they made it more than a year?   I guess I can understand Emma's torn feelings, too.  Her first love has returned from the grave, what else was she to do?   In the end, she went with her what her heart told her to do.  CLICK HERE FOR SPOILER

Bottom line - One True Loves is one of those books that is making all of the "Must Read" lists of the summer and I completely understand why.  This is one you are going to want to read and then discuss Emma's decision with your girlfriends.

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Friday, June 10, 2016

(51)The Twelve by Justin Cronin

It has been one hundred years since world as we know it has ended.  The Virals are still a huge threat to the human race, but there are a group of people who are actively seeking a way to permanently destroy them and try to restore peace and preserve humanity.  It has been discovered that all Virals can be traced back to one of the original twelve and plans are formulating for a way to destroy all twelve and therefor all of the Virals.

In the first half of The Twelve, the author jumps around in the timeline.  As the reader you spend a lot time in Denver during the early days.  You meet a former military man whose chosen career is at an outdoor retailer, he is not going to give into the Virals without a fight.  You meet April and her young brother, two kids left behind, and are just trying to survive.  You meet Lila, a pregnant doctor who is struggling with reality.   With the human race slowly dying out they are all struggling to stay alive.

The way the author jumps around in the timeline sets the scene for the coming revolution.  You get more of an understanding for those who fought to stay alive in those early days and those who are trying to save humanity after a hundred years.

I was a huge fan of The Passage for a lot of reasons, but mainly it fed my love of apocalyptic stories. The Twelve picks up with some familiar characters, like Amy, and introduces other new characters, like Kittridge, that connect you to their crazy world.  The book is a bit graphic at times, but that is too be expected with a novel about vampire-like creatures, but it just adds to the intensity.  I think my favorite part of the story was Sarah. Her story was layered and complex, but the way the author wove it into the rest of the book was borderline genius.   There are many times when the story is very fast paced and you are on the edge of your seat.  Then there are other times where it feels like the story just plods along.  Some of that may be because I read the book in audio form and only in hour long chunks on the treadmill, which tended to prolong the book longer than normal.

Bottom line - The Twelve is the second book in trilogy. The way he wrapped up The Twelve leads me to believe he has something unique up his sleeve for book three, City of Mirrors.   I am looking forward to see how Justin Cronin finishes out this epic story.

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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Happy Tuesday!!

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Monday, June 6, 2016

(50)Ink and Bone by Lisa Unger

Twenty year old Finley Montgomery has moved to the small town of The Hollows, New York to live with her grandmother.  Finley has always been a bit misunderstood.  Her tattoos and piercings are a bit of an armor for Finley.  A way to keep people at a distance so they don't find out the truth about her.  Finley has a unique talent of that some would associate with being a psychic.  The only person to really understand her talent is her grandmother, Eloise.  Eloise has worked with a local private detective for a while to help find the missing and ease the fear of loved ones.  But now it is Finley's turn to step in and help the detective.  For someone in The Hollows has been "requesting" Finley's help and it just might be the young girl from the city that went missing a year ago.

Abbi Gleason was on vacation with her family when her brother and father were shot and Abbi was taken. Her mother, Merri Gleason, just knows that Abbi is still out there and has hired a private investigator from The Hollows to help find her.  To say that the last year has been rough on Merri Gleason would be a gross understatement, but hiring a private investigator makes her feel as if she is actually doing something to help find her daughter.  Will the investigator she hired and the psychic he works with be able to find Abbi? Or at the very least give her the closure she desperately needs?

Ink and Bone is a psychological thriller of the most superior kind.  Finley is one of those characters that is considered "weird" by normal societal standards.  The fact that she is covered in tattoos is just a small piece of that weirdness.  What people don't realize is that every tattoo on Fin's body represents someone from "the other-side" who had reached out to her.  Her body is a living memorial to those souls.  What makes Ink and Bone so good is that you are always guessing about who is flesh and bone and who is just ink.  It was always at the back of my mind that maybe certain characters weren't part of this realm.  It is quite apparent from early in the book that The Hollows is not just any normal upstate New York community.   The town is quiet and resistant to outsiders.  It is almost like the town is a living and breathing entity that only chooses to speak to a few choice people, like Finley and her grandmother, Eloise. The book moves at a slower pace than other Lisa Unger novels, really giving you a chance to get to know the characters and the town.  It starts to pick up pace towards the end and gives you a revelation that will leave you breathless.   It is definitely an explosive conclusion.

Bottom line - Ink and Bone is the kind of blockbuster that you have been waiting for this summer.  Complex characters, quirky towns, missing girls, and a family of psychics. All of the ingredients for your next beach read.


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Saturday, June 4, 2016

(49)Mystic Summer by Hannah McKinnon

Maggie Griffin is looking forward to a fun summer.  Her best friend Ericka is getting married and things are really starting to heat up with her boyfriend, Evan.  Things go south, though, when Maggie finds out that she lost her job as a teacher at a private school in Boston.  Then her best friend, Ericka, loses the Boston venue for her wedding and they have to scramble to find a new place.  The best friends find themselves back in their hometown of Mystic, Connecticut as they are putting the finishing touches on Ericka's wedding.  The last thing that Maggie expects is to see her old boyfriend, Cam, on the streets of Mystic. And he has an infant daughter with no mother in sight.  Seeing Cam stirs up all of her old feelings and seeing Cam's daughter stirs up maternal feelings she didn't know even existed.  As Cam and his daughter become more of a daily presence in Maggie's life, she starts to realize that maybe everything she thought she wanted in life was wrong.  Including her boyfriend, Evan.  Will spending the summer in Mystic help put things into perspective for Maggie or will it only confuse her further?

Maggie Griffin is the kind of heroine that is easy to like, she seems genuine.  But, almost from the beginning you get the feeling that she is unsettled with her life. She didn't really like where she worked, but she loved teaching.  She was happy that her best friend was getting married, but she was sad that she  was going to have to change living situations.   The thought of spending the summer in Mystic filled Maggie with mixed emotions, even more so when she stumbled across Cam and his baby girl.  There were a few times that I didn't think that Maggie was being fair to Evan, but I am going to chalk it up to being young, opposed to a character flaw.  I wasn't a huge fan of Ericka, though, who turned out to be a horrible bridezilla, but I did respect the way that Maggie went above and beyond to fulfill her Maid-of-Honor role. She was determined to make the day special for her best friend.   And then there is their friend Peyton, she  was an annoying little twit.  The story ended up being a bit predictable, but that isn't always a bad thing with fluffy Summer Beach Reads

Bottom line - Mystic Summer is a beach read about a young woman at a crossroads in her life who has to make some tough decisions about the path she wants to take,  While I liked the book, I think it might be geared towards readers a generation younger than me.

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Friday, June 3, 2016

(48)The Island House by Nancy Thayer

Courtney Hendricks has been spending summers on Nantucket with the Vickerey family for years.  Ever since Courtney and Robin first met as college roommates.  Courtney wasn't the only visitor to The Island House.  In fact there were often so many other children floating around the Nantucket house that Susanna Vickerey called them her summer children". Years have passed since Courtney & Robin graduated college and everybody is gathering again for Susanna's birthday.  Courtney has mixed feelings about the reunion.  Last summer Robin's handsome brother, James, professed to have feelings for Courtney. And just last night on her way to the airport an old childhood friend from her hometown in Kansas, Monty, also professed to have feelings for Courtney.  She has always had a crush on James, but they have differing opinions on having children.  It frustrates Courtney to no end, but is it enough to push her into the arms of another man?   Courtney's feelings are put to the test when a horrible accident jeopardizes the man she loves.  Which man will she choose and will her choice be too late?

I love me some Nantucket stories, but The Island House seemed awully reminiscent of old Harlequin novels that I used to waste my summer reading back in high school. Courtney seems to be a bit of a petulant brat about a couple of different topics.  Her behavior with James was enough to make me want to slap her silly.  James had very valid reasons for not wanting biological children, yet Courtney was so opposed to the idea of IVF or adoption that her reaction was almost comical. No, not comical, soap opera-ish.   Her storming out yelling "I hate you" was worthy of an eye-roll.   Then there is the brooding, handsome rancher from Kansas who dropped everything to fly to Nantucket and force Courtney to come to her senses. Another eye-roll there. I enjoyed that Courtney was from KC.  There were a lot of references to familiar places to me and I did enjoy that.  In fact, everything about this novel felt very familiar, like I had read it before.  Past Nancy Thayer novels seem a lot more light-hearted than The Island House, even with the kitschy nostalgic feeling there wasn't really anything "fluffy" about The Island House.  

Bottom line - as much as I love Nancy Thayer, I was torn about The Island House.  While I enjoyed the nostalgic feeling that nagged me while reading this book, I was disappointed with the fact that I felt as if I were reading a trashy romance novel from the 90's.


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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Happy Tuesday! -- (The beach bag edition)

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Monday, May 30, 2016

(47)I Do It With the Lights On by Whitney Way Thore

In the last year or so, a  movement has started to sweep the nation.  A movement where people embrace their bodies whether they be fat, skinny, or disabled.  The apparent queen of body positive behavior appears to be Whitney Way Thore.  You may know her from her Fat Girl Dancing videos or you may know her from her TLC show, My Big Fat Fabulous Life.   I know her from her No B.S. Movement, where she is fighting against body shaming.

In her new book, I Do It with the Lights On (IDIWTLO) Whitney tells us her story.  From early childhood through high school and college Whitney has always had issues with her weight.  From weighing just two pounds more than a classmate and feeling like a failure to comments from a doctor to stop giving her chocolate milk to her own parents making "helpful" comments about her eating habits and weight are what she remembers from her childhood.  She developed an eating disorder at a young age as a way to cope with her "cheat days".   Whitney talks about the hateful comments that have been thrown her way, both in this country and in other lands.  She talks about dating as a woman of over 300 lbs and the cruel comments that she encountered, both to her face and on the internet. She talks about the double standard between men and women. She also talks about the crushing diagnosis of having PCOS and what it meant for her health.   It wasn't until Whitney had sex with the lights on for the first time ever that she began to accept her body for what it is -beautiful.  She has taken that acceptance and started a movement that is sweeping the nation.

I have to say that I admire Whitney Way Thore and the path she has taken to learn to accept her body.  Do I agree with every step on her path to acceptance, no, but it is her journey.  She gets brutally honest with her experiences along the way.   My journey is different and still ongoing, but it is my journey.  I have recently joined an online community that has given me a little more confidence in my body, but it is still a journey.    Her family seemed misguided at times, but they were always supportive as she worked hard, several times, to lose the weight that always seemed to creep back on her 5"2' frame.  One thing I really enjoyed about IDIWTLO is that Whitney just seems like such a fun person to be around.  I also have to say that I loved the way she called out a certain media mogul and recent Weight Watchers spokesperson for her way of saying that you can only be beautiful and worthy if you are skinny. It takes a lot of balls to call someone like her out in such a public arena.

Bottom line -  If there is one thing that I am learning from people like Whitney Way Thore it is this - your self worth is NOT tied to your weight.  Your contributions to , your family, your friends, and the world is not directly tied to how much you weight.  If anybody makes you feel differently then you need to surround yourself with different people.  You ARE beautiful and YOU make the world a better place to be in.

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Saturday, May 28, 2016

(46) Wilde Lake by Laura Lippman

Luisa "Lu" Brant is following in her father's legal footsteps.  She is the first female State's Attorney for Howard County in Maryland, a role her father held for many years.  Also like her father, Lou is raising two children by herself after her spouse died.  Lu has a lot on her plate as a widowed mother of twins, but she is excited to take on the role and has moved back in with her father in her Wilde Lake childhood home.  She believes it will help with her workload, but she is expecting her new job will be hard.  Her first case involves a woman brutally murdered on New Year's Eve.  As the events surrounding the murder start to unfold, Lu realizes that there might be a connection to an event involving her older brother and his friends that happened decades ago. But Lu's memory of that event and of her entire childhood are challenged with each detail that is revealed. Even though her career is dependent on the truth, Lu realizes that in this case the truth might destroy everything she thought she knew about her family.

Wilde Lake was one of those novels that just draws the reader in with each new page.  There is a real To Kill A Mockingbird vibe to the story, almost like the author was paying homage to one of the best novels ever written. The story is told in alternate timelines, the past, during Lu's childhood and the present.  While Lu had a good childhood, it was far from perfect with the death of her mother just days after she was born. She was a gifted student and was focused on her goal to be a lawyer like her father.  There were many times that I thought that Lu came across as quite arrogant, but I kind of think that she has worked hard to get where she is at, so maybe being arrogant is okay.  It just didn't leave me feeling "connected" to her.   One thing is evident, though.  Lu is damn good at her job.  The more she digs into the events surrounding this woman's death, the more the author draws you into the story. The story is slow to unfold, but the author is quite deliberate in her way of revealing the details of why and who committed this murder.  I wasn't all that surprised by the "big reveal",  but I hadn't really figured it out, either.  I had that "oh, that makes sense" kind of feeling.

Bottom line -  While Wild Lake is one of those mysteries that had my attention, but did not have me on the edge of my seat.  More of an intellectual mystery that you have to see through to the end.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Happy Tuesday!!

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Saturday, May 21, 2016

(45)The Weekenders by Mary Kay Andrews

Riley Griggs has spent summers on the island of Belle Isle, North Carolina her whole life. Her family has held a prominent place on the island for generations and her husband took over her family's business.  It is not uncommon for families that stay on the island for the summer to send somebody of the island during the work week.  They are known as "weekenders". Riley is expecting her husband, Wendell, to join her and their daughter, Maggy, for the first weekend of the season.  Unfortunately, they will be breaking the news to their twelve year old daughter that they will be divorcing. Except Wendell never shows up as expected and the locks on their summer home have been changed and there is a  "foreclosure" sign on the door. But it gets worse, the next morning the Sheriff is at the front door of the home of Riley's mother to tell her that Wendell was murdered. Riley's world has been completely destroyed.  Not only was her husband murdered, but apparently he has lost all of their money, her mother's money, and her brother's money, and the FBI are investigating his business deals.  Riley must spend the summer trying to put her life back together and keep her daughter from spinning out of control. Will she be able to hold it all together? What role will the billionaire from her past have in her summer? But  most of all,who killed Wendell?

Mary Kay Andrews is a beloved summer author.  To me her books signify the beginning of summer and fluffy beach reads.    The Weekenders is a bit of a deviation than other books because I felt it was a little "heavier" than what is normal for her books.  The fact that the main character's husband is murdered in the first chapter should have been the first clue that this isn't her typical book.  Now, don't get me wrong, all of your favorite themes are present.  Like a best friend,  a new love interest, and a puppy dog.  Riley's relationship with her daughter was a major source of contention, too.  Not only is there the normal tween-angst, but there is the fact that Maggy has Juvenile Diabetes.  Her disease adds another level of stress for Riley and rightfully so. There was some scary things that went down because of Maggy's illness that caused me way more anxiety than normal for a fluffy, summer beach read.  The family dynamics between Riley and her mother and brother were unique, too.  Maggy and her mother did not get along at all.  And then there is her brother, Billy, a functioning alcoholic who has a pretty dark secret that he is keeping.  In the end the murder is revealed and things work out just the way they are supposed to work out.

Bottom line - even though Mary Kay Andrews covered some hard hitting topics in her new book, The Weekenders, it is still a wonderful book to throw into your beach bag this summer.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Happy Tuesday!!

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Monday, May 16, 2016

(44)Don't You Cry by Mary Kubica

Quinn Collins wakes up one morning after a night out to find her roommate, Esther Vaughn, has gone missing.  Her window was left wide open in chilly Chicago and there is nothing to be found except a cryptic letter addressed to "My Dearest".   Quinn isn't worried at first, but as the hours pass the weirdness gets exponentially worse.  Like Esther was in the process of changing her name to Jane.  Or she had lined up interviews for a new roommate.  And then there is the former roommate who died under mysterious circumstances.  As the evidence mounts Quinn is convinced that somebody is out to kill her.   Could it be Esther? Or something much more sinister?

In Michigan, eighteen year old Alex goes to his job at the local diner.  Just as he has everyday for years. Part of his job includes taking meals to the recluse who lives across the street. It was while doing that Alex spies a woman who catches his eye, Pearl.  There is something about her that is enigmatic and alluring.  When he discovers that she is squatting in the abandoned house across the street he decides to seek her out.  As their relationship develops Alex starts to get the feeling that there is more to her than meets the eye.  Will he be able to piece everything together before it is too late?

Don't You Cry is a fast paced novel that is told from the two very different perspectives of Quinn and Alex.  Quinn is a young professional in the city and Alex is a poor boy living in rural Michigan. Their connection doesn't reveal itself until the very last pages of the book, and honestly it is a little bit of a let down.  Given the build-up,  I think I was expecting something a little more explosive.  I was more engaged in Quinn's part of the story, my favorite thing about the Quinn part of the story was her relationship with her colleague, Ben.  They had the kind of chemistry that was worthy of it's own story.  On the other hand, Alex's part of the story had a haunted house and classic ghost story. On their own, the stories are unique and mysterious, but the way the stories intersects is a little lacking.  In the end the secrets are revealed and they are nothing like what you expected.

Bottom line - Mary Kubica made a huge splash with her first novel, The Good Girl, but has been struggling to meet the high expectations set by her first novel.  Don't You Cry was a valiant effort that was *almost* there, but fell just a little short with the conclusion.  Don't give up on Mary Kubica, though, as a talented author Don't You Cry is still worth the read.


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Sunday, May 15, 2016

(43)A Lowcountry Wedding by Mary Alice Monroe

It is that time of year again when the beach books start to hit the shelves. You know, those books that take place in locations that make you wish you didn't live in a land-locked flyover state and put you in a "summer" state of mind.

I haven't read a lot of books by Mary Alice Monroe, but A Lowcountry Wedding had one of those covers that just spoke to me.  The Muir sisters have been through a lot over the last few years, but now they are ready to celebrate in the joy of marriage as Harper and Carson are planning their weddings.   Carson and Blake are struggling to find a compromise on Carson's career, you throw in her recovery as an alcoholic, and you can question whether they are ready to get married.  Harper and Taylor seem to have things figured out a littler more, until the suggestion is made that Taylor signs a prenup.  After all, Harper is the owner of not one, but two, family estates.  With them making their home at Sea Breeze, it is understandable that Taylor may feel a little threatened. Then Mamaw introduces the sisters to an "old family friend", Atticus.   The sisters take to Atticus right away, something about him is comforting and familiar.   But when a long hidden secret is revealed it threatens to disrupt the peaceful balance that the Muir family has established.  Will things get resolved in time for Harper and Carson's weddings?

It was pretty obvious from the beginning that A Lowcountry Wedding was part of a series that I had not read yet. The author does a good job of giving you just enough backstory so that you aren't completely lost, but it is also enough to make you want to know more.   Like Carson being an alcoholic.  I bet that story was a doozy.  The story primarily centers on the sisters and their various "issues" leading up to their weddings.    Their relationships with their love interests aren't really explored a lot, but I am going to assume they are sufficiently covered in earlier books. The family dynamic shifted a bit when Atticus came into the picture as an "old family friend", but I really enjoyed his presence.  As a minister you could tell that he was torn between doing the right thing and old insecurities.    In true "beach book" fashion everything turned out the way it was supposed to, giving it that "happy ever after" feeling.

Bottom line - A Lowcountry Wedding was a great book to kick off "Beach Book" season. Set among the beautiful Lowcountry backdrop you get everything you need to put you in a "summer" state of mind - including a dolphin as a supporting character.


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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Happy Tuesday!!

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Sunday, May 8, 2016

(42)Redemption Road by John Hart

After thirteen years former police officer, Adrian Wall, is getting out of prison.  He was in prison for a crime he didn't commit, but he is shocked to discover the teenage son of the woman he is accused of killing is waiting for him with a gun.

Detective Elizabeth Black is currently suspended pending investigation for shooting two kidnappers eighteen times. The young woman she rescued has seemed to have bonded with her in a way that can only happen after surviving a traumatic experience. Liz's partner, Beckett,  is sure there is more to the story than Liz is telling and the haunted look in both of their eyes indicates that he is right.

A young woman is found brutally murdered on the alter of an old, abandoned church.  The same church Liz attended regularly as the daughter of the preacher.  The small North Carolina city is an edge with certainty that Adrian Wall had something to do with her death.  Much like thirteen years ago, Liz is sure that he is innocent.  But somebody in their community is a murderer.  Will they be able to find out who before it is too late?

In pure brilliant fashion, John Hart, has created a masterpiece with Redemption Road. There is so much going on in this little town that it is almost hard to keep up.  There is a serial killer on the loose, maniac rapists, rampant drug abuse, and more.  Elizabeth Black is a wonderful heroine.  She reluctantly collects lost souls like others collect trinkets.  They cling to the strength that she projects.  Gideon, the son of the woman that Adrian was accused of killing.  And now Channing, the young woman she rescued from the basement.  John Hart uses his words to paint a descriptive picture of this small, southern town brimming with a brutality usually reserved for urban areas.  Her residents all vying for redemption as if it were a contest only won by few.   Lines like, "The soft, warm day ate her alive."  make it very clear that the author has a very unique gift.    I thought I had things figured out, but Hart would then leave me questioning my suspicions with his crazy twists.  In the end, I was right, but it takes some emotionally draining chapters for all to be revealed.

Bottom line, I have been waiting for a new John Hart novel for a long time.  The wait for Redemption Road was well worth it.

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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Happy Tuesday! (It's a big one!!)

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I am an avid reader who loves to read and will read anything put in front of me. I started this blog long before Goodreads

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I have been tangled in a web of books for many, many years. I created this blog before Goodreads was around to keep track of the books I have read. Since it's inception I have reviewed almost 1,000 books.

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