Saturday, April 22, 2017

(34)The Widow of Wall Street by Randy Susan Meyers

Phoebe and Jake have been together for decades.  They dated as kids and grew into adulthood together.  The early days of their marriage were tough, but Jake worked hard to build his investment firm into one of the most prosperous firms in New York City.  Phoebe raises their two children and runs her pet project, a cupcake shop where she donates all of the profits to charity.    Their life is a privileged one and Phoebe knows it.  Her world is shattered when she learns that Jake's successful firm is built on decades of lies.  Jake's Ponzi scheme has had an impact on the lives of everyone they know. In fact, it was their kids that turned him into the feds.  They beg Phoebe to leave Jake and denounce his actions, but life with Jake is all she knows.  She stays by his side through everything; including all of the legal aspects, all of the media scrutiny, everything.  Even though she paid the high cost of a relationship with her children and grandchildren she stayed with the man who stole millions of dollars from their friends and family.   Will Phoebe even stay with him after he goes to prison?  Will she stay with him even when Jake's mistress writes a tell-all book?

The Widow of Wall Street was told in the alternating viewpoints of Jake and Phoebe.   I usually like to see both sides of a story like this but there were many times in this book where Jake's staggering arrogance nearly did me in.  We see their relationship evolve over the decades and it was not always the healthiest of relationships - especially when Jake was having his affairs.  The way he covered it up with Phoebe was a little bit of genius but still made me think he was an arrogant jerk.  While I was engaged with the book and the characters it wasn't until after Jake's secret is revealed that I became invested in the characters - specifically Phoebe.  The change in her was so pronounced and so profound that the very end brought tears to my eyes.  She finally stands up for herself and forces him to realize that she is more than just his wife.

Bottom line - The Widow of Wall Street is a book about a tale that has become familiar to us all. The wife of a powerful, wealthy man discovers that he husband is not the man she thought he was.  What makes The Widow of Wall Street different from all of the other tales out there is the way the author developed Phoebe as a wife, mother, and independent woman.  Such a great read.


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Saturday, April 15, 2017

(33)One Perfect Lie by Lisa Scottoline

Central Valley High School has a new baseball coach.  Chris Brennan was hired to teach Government and be an assistant coach on the baseball team. The kids take to him right away, but he seems to be paying special attention to just a few of the kids.  Jordan is the only child of a single mom, Evan is the spoiled son of a wealthy family, and Raz just lost his father to cancer.  All three boys have good reason to seek out a father figure like Chris.  But Chris is hiding some pretty big secrets that could put tall of them in jeopardy.  He is not who he says he is.  He is hiding a secret that will turn the small school upside down if it is revealed. What is Chris's secret and what will happen to the small community when Chris's real identity is revealed.

One Perfect Lie was a fast-paced mystery novel.  The author did a great job of keeping the reader in the dark regarding Chris's secret.  I really didn't know where the story was going, but then when the secret was revealed it made complete sense.  The other characters in the book were interesting, but not like Chris.  I think Evan's mom was the most interesting to me.  She was not about to sit by when she thought her spoiled son had done wrong and I liked her fesitiness.   Once Chris's secret is revealed the book seemed to race to a conclusion that wrapped things up nicely.  -- CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS

Bottom line - Lisa Scottoline is a master at her craft.  Whether it is a legal thriller, a book of essays written with her daughter, or a stand-alone mystery, she knows how to craft a story that will keep the reader engaged right up to the very last page.


Friday, April 14, 2017

(32)Big Law by Lindsay Cameron

Mackenzie Corbett is not afraid of hard work.  She was never an athletic kid like her sister, so she focused all of her energy on academics.  She became class valedictorian, she went to a prestigious law school, and she was courted and hired by one of the biggest law firms in New York City.  Mack is now a second year associate with eyes on the prize. She works 18-20 hours a day, rarely sees her boyfriend, Jason, and sees her best friend even less.  Her colleagues at the office are quirky at best and downright terrifying at worst.  As one of the few female associates working in "Big Law" Mackenzie needs to work harder than her colleagues.  She is starting to think that her mentor doesn't want her to succeed either.  Mack is exhausted and overworked when she is alerted to the fact that the feds are looking into possible insider trading on some of the firm's deals.  The only person in common with all those deals is Mackenzie. Everything she has worked so hard for is now in jeopardy, along with her freedom.  Who would set Mack up like this?  And why?

Big Law has been compared to The Devil Wears Prada and I understand why that comparison has been made.  Mack is a hardworking character who makes astute observations about her colleagues and the high-pressured world where they exist.  The quirky characters she works with were entertaining and the weird lifestyle of those in "Big Law" was interesting.  Like the way the expensed everything from dry cleaning to the drive home.  By the end of the book Mack had been working on two major deals and as her friend pointed out, it had been days since she had been outside when the sun was up.  I am a hard worker and I pulled some crazy hours in retail, but the way Mack worked night and day was crazy and I know that it is normal for "Big Law.  The way her career negatively impacted all of her relationships, including with her family, it made it hard for me to understand why anybody would want to work in "Big Law".  I guess somebody has to do it.

Bottom line - Big Law was a fun book to read.  I always love to read books like Big Law that give you the down and dirty about the world that I will never know.  If you are curious about the world of Big Law and looking for an entertaining read be sure to grab this one!


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Sunday, April 9, 2017

(31)The Sisters of Blue Mountain by Karen Katchur

Linnet and Myrna don't have the best relationship. Myrna hasn't been home in years, leaving Linnet to run the family Bed & Breakfast and care for their aging father.  Their father is a retired ornithology professor who has studied the snow geese that make their home on their dam his entire life.  Their Bed & Breakfast is the destination of journalists and specialists when hundreds of snow geese turn up dead on the dam.  The craziness of Linnet's world grows exponentially when one of the university guys ends up dead on their property. Then Myrna shows up after a skype session with Linnet's son gives her reason to worry.  The sisters work together to try and keep their father from being the prime suspect, but a certain reporter has a history with the sisters that only they know the truth about.   Will their world be shattered when truths are revealed?

 I had a hard time connecting with the story.  I liked the characters, okay enough, probably Myrna more than Linnett, but neither one really seemed "warm" to me. The sisters had one thing in common - their love and concern for their father.  It was obvious to the reader that their father was battling dementia at the very least - he was forgetful and confused for most of the novel.   Myrna and the reporter were getting cozy and I was okay with that, even though Linnet was not.  But as the reader,  I didn't have the whole story until nearly the end.   In the end, I was glad the book was over. There was a lot of promise, but it just seemed to fall flat.  I wanted to stick it out to see who killed the scientist, but I wasn't invested enough to care about the sisters or the secret they were hiding - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS

Bottom line - I think the scenery was my favorite things about The Sisters of Blue Mountain.  The author does an amazing job of placing the reader along the banks of the dam. While I though the story had weak points, the author tied it all together nicely in the end.


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Sunday, April 2, 2017

(30)The Immortal Irishman by Timothy Egan

In honor of St. Patrick's Day I decided to tackle the latest history book by Timothy Egan, The Immortal Irishman.  The book tells the life story of Thomas Francis Meagher (pronounced ma-r).   One could say that Meagher lived three lives.  The life of young Irish radical during the Great Hunger, the life of a prisoner in the penal colony of Australia, and that of the leader of the Irish Brigade during the Civil War.  Egan takes us deep into each of Meagher's identities providing detailed background knowledge on the people, the places, and the experiences that Meagher was part of through out his life.

I have always had an affinity for all things Irish due to my own family's heritage, but even I was shocked by how little I knew about the Great Hunger and the misery caused because the Irish would not succumb to the English's rule and most importantly their religion.  The monarchy treated the Irish as if they were the devil.  The Irish were forbidden to marry across religions, they were forbidden to play their music, speak in their language, marry across religions, or even speak of their folklore.  Musicians - specifically harpists - had bounties on their heads. The Irish were either dying from famine or fleeing to the new world, America.  Meagher was part of those leading the rebellion and it got him sentenced to Austrailia, but not before he helped to create the Irish flag we know today.

I did not find his time in Australia as interesting as the history I learned about Ireland, but it was integral to his story.  What I did find interesting is that the number of actual dangerous criminals sent to Australia was much lower than I had ever thought. Most of the 40,000 Irish sent to the penal colony were sent for minor crimes like stealing food for their starving families.

He was only in the colony for two years of his life sentence before finding his way to America.  Meagher was practically a celebrity in America.  It wasn't long before he rallied his fellow Irishman and joined the Union forces as the Irish Brigade.  Under Meagher's leadership, they fought in some of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. After losing thousands of men to war Meagher eventually resigned his position and headed west, where he was appointed the acting governor of Montana.  He was only forty-three years old when he fell overboard and drowned in the Missouri river.  It is assumed that he was murdered.

Bottom line - reading a history book such as The Immortal Irishman can be a bit daunting.  I had to take a break in the middle and that is why it took me until nearly April to finish reading it.   I am glad that I stuck it out, though.  I feel so much more educated about what my ancestors went through before making it to America.  And it makes me all that more proud to call myself an Irishman.

  • The Immortal Irishman by Timothy Egan
  • Pages:384
  • Publication Date: 3/1/2016
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Buy it Here!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

(29)It Happens All the Time by Amy Hatvany

Amber and Tyler have been best friends since they were kids and their families have been entertwined for years.  They have been through thick and thin - including Amber's life-threatening battle with anorexia.  Now they are both adults and Amber has graduated from college and is back home before she moves to Seattle to be with her fiance.  The summer is fun and carefree for Amber, she and Tyler are spending more time together than they have since they were kids. He takes her to a Fourth of July party where they both had too much to drink and Tyler crosses a line that will destroy their friendship. Amber's life is turned upside down and she falls into the bad habits that nearly killed her all those years ago.  Meanwhile, Tyler denies that the events of that night were as Amber remembers them.  Will either one of them be able to get past that night?

It Happens All the Time is a book with a mission.  The author has a story to tell and she tells it from the alternating perspectives of Amber and Tyler.  Frankly,  I didn't find myself connected with either character, but less so with Tyler.  Her spent a lot of time trying to justify his behavior that night and it on the cusp of being ridiculous. His character just didn't seem authentic - at all.   I didn't really connect with Amber either, even though her history with an eating disorder was well document I took issue with her outlook on food, weight, and those who needed to lose weight.  Including her own parents. I found it incredibly judgemental and disrespectful.  My heart ached for what she went through that night with Tyler - her anguish was real. She kind of turned into a trainwreck after that night and it was hard to watch her spiral out of control.  There is no "right" way to handle what happened, but man - Amber was out of control.    I think the author gave both Amber and Tyler the endings they deserved and I was good with the conclusion.

Bottom line - It Happens All the Time was a difficult book to read. The characters were far from perfect and the subject matter could cause all sorts of triggers.  But, it is the kind of story that "happens all the time" and rarely gets told.  Be warned - the subject matter is tough, but the story is good.


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Monday, March 27, 2017

(28)Our Short History by Lauren Grodstein

Karen Neulander is a mother, a sister, and a successful campaign manager.  And Karen Neulander is dying.  She has been struggling with cancer for years and after being in remission for a long while, she is sick again. She has plans for her six-year-old son's future. Jake is going to go live with her sister in Seattle and when he is eighteen he will get to read the manuscript she is writing for him. Her plans are put into jeopardy when Jake, starts asking questions about his father, the father who told Karen to get rid of the baby.  Against her better judgment,  Karen reaches out to her ex, Dave.  She was surprised by his eagerness to see Jake. When they hit it off, she is torn.  Her death is imminent, how can she trust this man who was so quick to toss her and their unborn child aside?

Our Short History is Karen's story for her son.  It is the manuscript that she writes with the intention of Jake reading it when he turns eighteen.  Knowing her audience I struggled with liking her. She overshares her feelings and puts a lot on her son. Like her overreaction at her sister saying she might let Jake see his father.  Or her sharing details about her relationship with Dave that no kid would ever want to read about their parents.  I really wanted to shake her and tell her to grow up.  I wanted her sister to tell her that - but she walked on eggshells around Karen. I found it annoying and tiresome.  One thing was undeniable through it all - Karen's love for her son.  I know that I found fault with how Karen handled things with Jake, but I have to be careful because I don't know how I would behave in that situation.  I think the author did a good job of giving Karen some redemption at the end and it had the best ending possible when the main character had terminal cancer.

Bottom line - Our Short History was a book that I liked enough to finish, but I really wish that Karen was a more likable character.   I would love to hear what others think, to see if maybe I got thoughts on Karen wrong.


Saturday, March 25, 2017

(27)Life and Other Near-Death Experiences by Camille Pagain

Libby Miller goes home after her doctor told her that she has cancer expecting to fall into the comforting arms of her husband.  Only for her husband to think she is upset because she found out his shattering news.  Before Libby can share her news Tom announces that he thinks he is gay.  More than being shattered, she is angry.  She feels as if she has wasted her life with a man who never loved her the way she needed to be loved.  Libby proceeds to stab her husband in the hand, quit her job, sell their condo, and go on an extended vacation in Puerto Rico.  While on vacation Libby has an opportunity to evaluate her life - and her death.  She comes to grip with her mortality and decides whether or not she will pursue treatment.  She also falls in love with a pilot by the name of Shiloh. As a cancer survivor himself he tries to persuade Libby to fight. But will he be able to convince her before it is too late?

Libby is one of those characters that has to grow on you.  I didn't like her at first. I didn't like the fact that she was keeping her cancer secret from the people who love her most - including her husband.  I don't know what it is like to have cancer - so I don't know what I would do.  But I don't think that I would keep it a secret.   I did start to like her about the time that she started to hook up with Shiloh.  He seemed to see through her exterior and was glad of that.  I will say that the scenery of Puerto Rico made me long for the blue skies and sandy beaches.  By the end of the book,  I thought that Libby had evolved into a more rational state of mind about her health and her relationships. There was a nice little surprise at the end and I was pleased with the way things ended.

Bottom line - Life and Other Near-Death Experiences wasn't really one of those sappy stories that you think of when you hear that the main character has cancer.  Libby Miller is kind of an anti-heroine in that aspect and anytime you have an anti-heroine you know you are in for a great read.


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Monday, March 20, 2017

(26)The Arrangement by Sarah Dunn

Owen and Lucy gave up their life in New York City to raise their son in the upscale community of Beekman.  Their once hip and exciting life has been reduced to dividing household chores and wrangling their Autistic son.   One night some friends of theirs were out for a dinner party and were chatting about some friends of theirs.  They have a blissfully happy marriage, but they also have an "arrangement".  They have an open marriage.   Lucy and Owen are both intrigued by the idea and after much discussion, they agree to try an "arrangement" for six months.   Like an Amish Rumspringa.  They get six months to do what (or who) they want and at the end of the six months they go back to monogamy as if it had never happened.  There are some ground rules, of course - like it can't be with anybody they both know, and they never involve their son.  It seems ideal to both of them. but before the six months are up they both end up breaking the rules.  Will Owen and Lucy's marriage be able to survive The Arrangement?

I really liked both Owen and Lucy - I thought they were playing with fire for even entertaining the thought of an open marriage, but what they did in their marriage was their business.  I think they were overwhelmed with parenting a special needs child and were excited at a reprieve - even if it came in the form of other people. Owen ended up hooking up with a crazy woman and Lucy ended up breaking a big rule with Ben.  The Arrangement doesn't only investigate Lucy and Owen's marriage, but several marriages in their little community.  Like the billionaire and his much younger wife.  Or the transgender kindergarten teacher and her wife. The common theme with all of these couples is that not every marriage is perfect and every couple handles stressors in their marriage differently.  I was almost finished with the book before I came to that realization, but the more I think about it, the more I understand the author's message.  And it is pretty fantastic when you think about it.  I wasn't exactly thrilled with the way author got Owen out of his "crazy lady" situation - it was very abrupt - but other than that I loved everything about The Arrangement.

Bottom line - While I would never consent to an open marriage it was quite interesting to read about a seemingly normal couple and their experiment with open marriage.   The somewhat taboo topic alone makes it a fun read and would be one to discuss with your girlfriends over a glass (or three) of wine.

  • The Arrangement  by Sarah Dunn
  • Pages: 368
  • Publisher: Little, Brown, and Company
  • Publication Date: 3/21/2017
  • Buy it Here!