April 23, 2014

(35)The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane by Kelly Harms

The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane

Pages: 304
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: July 9, 2013

After a rough day at the bridal shop in Cedar Falls, Iowa where Janine "Janey" Brown works as a seamstress, Janey is enjoying a quiet dinner with her Great-Aunt Midge.  She knows something is up when her eighty-nine year old Aunt is adamant they watch a specific show. But Janey is completely unprepared when she hears her name being announced on television.  Her feisty Aunt entered her name into the drawing for the Home Sweet Home Network's Dream House giveaway.  And she won.  Before she knows it there is a camera crew in her face and she is being told that they have to be in Maine to sign the final paperwork by June 9th. 

Across town  another Janine "Nean" Brown just got off work as a fry cook at the local Hardees and is beyond excited to watch the Dream House giveaway.  She didn't expect to run into the obstacle of her drunk boyfriend.  She has just cold-cocked her drunk, abusive boyfriend with her coffee mug after he got abusive with her. It was all worth it when she hears her name being announced - "Janine Brown of Cedar Falls, Iowa!"  Nean is thrilled, but not surprised, because  Nean just KNEW that she was going to win this house and it would give her the escape and life that she has always dreamed of having. 

The two Janine Browns are completely oblivious to each other, but cross paths when they both show up at the house on Shipwreck Lane thinking they each won the dream house.   Janey has social anxiety so bad that she breaks out in hives and vomits at the thought of talking to new people.  Nean has had the roughest life imaginable - from a drug addicted mother to one bad boyfriend after another, Nean has had no stability in her life at all. When the lawyers prove that Janey is the rightful owner of the house, Aunt Midge convinces Janey to let  Nean stay until she gets things sorted out.  Soon the three women settle into their routines, Nean bakes the bread, Janey makes the meals, and Aunt Midge takes it all into the homeless shelter in town.  Throw the hot young gardener, JJ, and the handsome vegetable farmer, Noah, into the mix and you have a fun story perfect for the beach. 

The Good Girls of Shipwreck Lane was a fun (!!) read (listen?) for the return trip home from Iowa.  Both Janine's were fun characters and Aunt Midge was a hoot. I get Janey's extreme social anxiety, but I loved how she blossomed in the book, especially with Noah.  And Nean kind of blossomed, too.  She never really had the kind of family who looked out for her and with Aunt Midge she really felt the unconditional love that one feels when loved by family. Even though her and Janey spent so much time bickering, it almost felt as if they were sisters.  Of course there are fights and there were trying circumstances, but The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane is a sweet, funny story that is perfect for a summer read. 

Bottom line, The Good Luck Girls of  Shipwreck Lane is a fun read about love, friendship, and family.  The characters are sweet, funny, and their own kind of  family. If you are looking for your first beach read of the season, put this one at the top of the list! You will love it, I promise!

April 22, 2014

(34)Wool by Hugh Howey


Pages: 508
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: March 12, 2013

Have you heard of Hugh Howey? He is an outspoken advocate for self-publishing.  Not to mention that he has made a crap load of money off of his own self published books.  The first being the Wool series, a post-apocalyptic novel that is set sometime in the future. 

Like I said, Wool is set sometime in the future.  We meet Sheriff  Holston as he is getting ready to be set into the outside wasteland for a Cleaning.  Cleaning is a form of punishment reserved for the worst of the worst in the Silo.  And those who speak about a desire to see the outside.   So the powers that be dress them in special suits and send them out to clean the off the camera lenses, allowing the people of the silo a clear look at the wasteland outside of the Silo.  There is no hope for Sheriff Holston or anyone else to survive a cleaning.  The air is just toxic.  Now the search is on for a new Sheriff and to find that Sheriff, the Mayor travels deep down into the Silo all the way down to the 100's and the Mechanical Department.  There they Mayor finds Juliet, a thirty-five year old woman who has been devoted to keeping the Silo's grid running efficiently. She reluctantly agrees to become Sheriff, but soon she realizes that life inside the Silo is much more darker than she thought and there are pockets of people within the Silo who are determined to keep things exactly as they are. When Juliet is forcefully sent to cleaning, she realizes that her friends down in Mechanical has figured out a way to give her extra time.  Will it be enough to keep her safe or will the wasteland outside the Silo claim another victim?

Wool was an excellent choice of an audio-book to listen to on a super long road trip. SUPER long road trip. It was easy to lose myself in the story of Juliet, the Mayor, the weasel Bernard, and the rest of the people of the Silo.  It was an interesting to see how this group of people who had created their own society and was thriving hundreds of years after the world collapsed.  Even though none of them have walked in grass or felt the sun on their face, yet they still got up everyday and went to work.  And had enjoyed going to bazaars, and saved up vacation to take trips to other parts of the Silo.  It was totally fascinating. Juliet is one of those strong female characters that are wonderful to read. Smart, strong, and never going to give up. 

Bottom line, I know that post-apocalyptic novels aren't for everyone, but I enjoy them.  Wool is one of those well written ones with a story that is so intricate with the details of a life I hope that we never have to live.  If you are looking for a good one to read , Wool is definitely towards the top of that list.

April 16, 2014

(33)Love Life by Rob Lowe

Love Life

Pages: 272

Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: April 8, 2014

If there is an actor in Hollywood that is a more interesting  guy than Rob Lowe, please point me to his biography. 

I listened to Stories I Only Tell My Friends on audiobook, which was a hell of a reader experience, but I could not wait for the extra hours to "listen".    In his new book Rob (I call him Rob because it feels like we are on a first named basis) continues telling us stories from his fascinating life.  Some are about his early days in Hollywood - like his first invitation to the Playboy Mansion.  Some stories are about his family - like when he dressed as a "Big Foot" to spice up a family camping trip.  I think that is the story that made me laugh the most.  He also talks about his sobriety.  From his time in rehab to the first time he took a drink in over twenty years.  He bares it all.  But I think the part that touched my heart the most was when he told the story of taking his oldest son to college.  It doesn't matter how big of a star you are, you have a hard time saying goodbye to your baby when he goes off to college. 

Other fun things mentioned, Rob Lowe was on set for the filming of "the" scene in Glengary Glen Ross. You know which scene- the Alec Baldwin "Always Be Closing" scene, which happens to be one of my favorite movie scenes of all times.   He speaks to the fact that even then he knew he was witnessing acting history.   Another really fun fact.   When Rob was in London acting in the A Few Good Men in London he made a few comments in the press that gained him an in person thank you from Prime Minister Tony Blair.   How cool is that?

Bottom line, as far as celebrity memoirs go, I will be surprised if there is a better one out there than Rob Lowe.  He has the most fascinating stories to tell and his intelligence is evident with every word that appears on the page. If you are looking for a fun way to pass an afternoon Love Life is for you. 

April 15, 2014

April 12, 2014

(32)The Opposite of Maybe by Maddie Dawson

  The Opposite of Maybe

Pages:  400

Publisher: Crown Publishing
Publication Date: April 8, 2014

Rosie and Jonathan have been together forever.  They are that quirky couple that everyone has - you know the bohemian couple who have been together for so long they are a fixture, but have  never got married and have quirky habits like collecting rare teacups. Their life changes when Jonathan and his rare teacup collection are asked to move across the country to open a museum.  In a whirlwind decision they decide to get married and off they go.  Rosie is completely on board until the last minute Jonathan decides to go off to chase a teacup collection rather than get married and after the moving truck is loaded Rosie decides not to move across the country. 

As Rosie is settling in to her new normal at her Grandmother's house Rosie realizes that the first night in fifteen years that her and Jonathan were careless was the night that she got pregnant.  Now she is a pregnant forty-four year old woman living with her elderly grandmother and her caretaker, Tony.  How can she possibly become a mother at the age of forty-four?  Between trying to help care for her grandmother and deciding what will become of her future Rosie starts to see Tony as more than just a caretaker.   But what will happen when Jonathan finds out that Rosie is pregnant?

The cast of characters for The Opposite of Maybe are the very definition of quirky.  Soapie is such an interesting version of a Grandmother.  Independent, feisty, and in love with a married man.  She raised Rosie and is the only family that Rosie has in the world, but as time goes on Rosie realizes that she is far from alone. I loved her entire relationship with Tony.  Their chemistry was so great and really jumped off the pages.  Jonathan on the other hand, was a piece of shit in my book. He was so irritating with his little quirks and the way he treated Rosie, even when they were on good terms.  The end of the book was tough to read because I just wanted to slap Rosie silly, but I will say that I was completely satisfied with the ending.

Bottom line, The Opposite of Maybe is a fun and quirky story. There is a lot of discussion potential there and Rosie is one of those characters who you will quickly come to adore.  If you are looking for a great read, add this one to your list!         

April 8, 2014

April 7, 2014

(31)Driving Lessons by Zoe Fishman

Driving Lessons

Pages: 336
Publication Date: April 8, 2014

Thirty-something Sarah has had it with New York City life.  The crowds, the noise, the fourth floor walk-up is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to things she dislikes about the city.  Just when Sarah and her husband agree to move from the city he is offered a job at a small college in Virginia and that is that.

Life in small town is not exactly what Sarah was expecting, especially when she realizes that the only way to get around is to drive and that is not something that this city girl is looking forward to. She is reluctantly adjusting to the need to drive and the overall culture shock that comes with moving to the South when she discovers that her best friend, Mona was diagnosed with cervical cancer.   Sarah drops everything and rushes back to the city that she was so eager to leave. When faced with so many life changing events will Sarah be able to work through them all and find happiness in the country?  Or will she go back to the city with or without her husband?

Driving Lessons is one of those books where you get to watch the main character, in this case, Sarah, grow exponentially from the person she was on page one.  It was funny to watch her because she was the one so desperate to get out of the city, yet she was the one who turned her nose up to so many "country" things. Such as the local eateries and shopkeepers, like Mytzi.  The local townsfolk were fun if not a bit stereotypical, they certainly did add to the atmosphere of the book.  Not only did I love watching the tender relationship between Sarah and her best friend, but the relationship between Sarah and her Sister-In-Law Kate was interesting to watch develop, especially after the birth of Sarah's nephew.  So funny!

Bottom line, Driving Lessons is a sweet and tender novel about the growth of one woman.  This is one of those books that will make you smile, make you think, and make you feel.   If you are looking for one of those "feel good" novels then you must pick up Driving Lessons. Enjoy!

April 5, 2014

(30)Hidden by Catherine McKenzie


Pages: 304

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: April 1, 2014

Claire Manning's world is shattered the day that two police officers showed up on her doorstep to tell her that her husband, Jeff was tragically killed in an accident.  She shuts completely down and goes into survival mode.  In the days leading up to the funeral, Claire is living in a grief induced haze that sometimes includes their son, Seth.  With the help of her family, especially her sister, she gets through those days.  It is after the funeral when Claire gets the first hint that her life was not as perfect as she once thought.  At her house after the funeral she comes across a visibly distraught woman. Who is this woman and why is she so upset at her husband's death?   As the grief induced haze starts to clear, Claire starts to put the pieces together and the picture is not pretty.

Hidden is one of those books that challenges your perspective on tough social issues, specifically infidelity. Because the book is told from the perspective of Claire, Tish, and Jeff you really get inside their heads.  It would be easy to hate Tish because she and Jeff had a relationship outside of their marriages, but her grief is just as real as Claire's and that makes it hard.  The author did a really good job at making all of the characters seem empathetic, no matter what they did. Also, the ending was satisfying.  While it is not exactly what I would have chosen, it was a good way for the story to end.  Well, except for the epilogue. But you gotta read it to know what I mean by that.

Bottom line,  Catherine McKenzie is quickly becoming one of those authors that I just can't wait to read.  She has a way of challenging her reader's way of thinking on certain social issues.  With Hidden you get to see the intimacies of a relationship between a man, his wife, and his potential mistress. Because of the subject matter,  Hidden would make a great book club selection and even comes with a reader's guide.  Let me know what you think!

April 1, 2014

March 30, 2014

(29)Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler

Shotgun Lovesongs

Pages: 320

Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: March 11, 2014

Little Wing Wisconsin is a small farming community outside of Eu Claire.  Not unlike thousands of other small communities in the Midwest, nestled among the rolling hills and dairy farms, Little Wing has a gas station, a VFW, and an abandoned mill with grain silos.  Little Wing has it's own unique characters including the bartender who used to serve the school lunches and the twins who look like they belong on the Packers defensive line.  Among those characters are four guys who have been friends forever.  Hank is the one who never left and is still trying to make the family farm a success.  He married his high school sweetheart and they have two kids.  Kip has recently moved back to Little Wing from Chicago and has bought the mill with plans of turning it into the social and commercial hub of Little Wing.  His big visions might be too big for Little Wing.   Ronny is the ex-rodeo star and an alcoholic.  It was during a drunken episode that Ronny had an accident that left him a little "slow".  He may never leave Little Wing again, but his friends will always look out for him and that means keeping him from drinking.  And then there is Lee.  Lee is the one who left to follow his dream of music.  He returns to Little Wing for Kip's wedding a world famous rock star.   Since they were little boys their friendship has been the most important thing for all of them.  Now they are adults with adult problems and adult issues.  Will their friendship stay strong through it all?

I have to say that Shotgun Lovesongs is one of those books that I had to digest after I finished reading it and my conclusion is that Shotgun Lovesongs is a wonderful book. The author is so descriptive with the Midwest small-town feel that it took me back to my own hometown in Iowa.  I don't think there has been an author quite so successful with his descriptions of the Midwest lifestyle. I loved the way he described the way they all listened to the farm reports on the local radio station,  the farmers gathering around trucks in town after having their morning coffee, and the abandoned mill in the center of town.  In recent years, my own hometown has tried to turn the abandoned mill in the center of town into something more than just an eyesore. I could really relate to everything about Little Wing and I think that is why I enjoyed it so much.  The friendship between the guys was fascinating in it's own right.  Most books I read are about the friendships between women, so it was unique to read about these four friends.  Especially when one of them is so famous and almost schizophrenic in his lifestyles. In Little Wing Lee lives in an old country school house that he converted and he drinks beer at the VFW.  Away from Little Wing his life is documented by the paparazzi and his world includes the wealthiest, most famous people. Because the author uses all four boys as narrators, you really get a chance to get in his head. And here is an important thing to note, the author grew up with the lead singer of Bon Iver, Justin Vernon.

Bottom line, whether Shotgun Lovesongs is a bit auto-biographical or not is up for debate.  What is not debatable is that Shotgun Lovesongs is a wonderful book about four friends in the heart of America. It is one of those books to read slowly so to let it digest and fill you with warm feelings for four guys from Wisconsin.

March 29, 2014

(28)Waiting on You by Kristan Higgins

Waiting on You
by Kristan Higgins

Pages: 384
Publisher: Harlequin
Publication Date: March 25, 2014

Colleen O'Rourke has lived in Manningsport, New York all of her life.  She and her twin, Connor, run the local bar and not only does she  know everyone who walks through the doors, she is well known for her successful matchmaking skills.  Even though she has three babies named after her, Colleen is still single herself.  She has dated a lot (!!) of men in her day, but none of them have struck her fancy as much as her ex Lucas Campbell did.  They met in high school and dated for four years before their lack of communication forced the end of their relationship.  Colleen hasn't seen Lucas in ten years when he shows up outta the blue.  He is back to help care for his ailing uncle and will be there as long as it takes.   Will Lucas and Colleen rekindle their romance or is their past too big of a barrier to get around?

Waiting on You was a fun book to read.  Colleen O'Rourke has to be one of my more favorite characters from Kristan Higgins. Mostly because she is so flawed, quite hysterically flawed. I found myself laughing out loud several times, like when Colleen is trying to cook scallops for Lucas, then they was the scene at the ball game.  Even though there were several funny scenes there were a few times where my heart hurt for both Lucas and Colleen.  Waiting on You IS an Harlequin novel so go into it expecting a few "mushy" moments, but nothing too graphic or out of hand.

Bottom line, every now and then you just need to read a fun book that makes you feel good.  Kristan Higgins does that for me.  I always know I am going to have a good time reading her books and get a good story at the same time.   Laughing is good for the soul, right?

March 25, 2014

(27)Tempting Fate by Jane Green

Tempting Fate

Pages: 352
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: March 25, 2014

Gabby and Elliot have been married for twenty years and their relationship is everything you would expect from a couple who have been together for so long.  They are busy with two teenagers, they are comfortable in their roles and who does what.  They are at that stage where not only do they look past the "dress down" days,  but they also look past the "dress up" days.   Elliott has taken the girls camping so Gabby can have girls night out.   After a few glasses of wine Gabby is feeling good and feels even better when the very handsome younger man starts flirting with her.  Gabby hasn't felt that kind of excitement in years and while nothing happens that night she allows a relationship to develop that soon turns into something and Gabby is faced with some really tough choices and some really harsh realities.   Will she throw away her marriage for the younger man or will she come to her senses before it is too late?

Ohhhhhh, Tempting Fate is a gooooooood one!  I finished this book in one day and last night I sat on the couch crying like a baby because of this book.  My poor husband still doesn't really know what to do with me when books make me cry.   I have only been married a fraction of the time that Gabby and Elliott have been married, but I can understand where being too comfortable can be almost detrimental to the marriage.  It certainly was for Gabby and Elliott. Marriage is hard and it is something that you have to continually work at and feed in order for it to grow.  As much as I wanted to dislike Gabby, I found that I couldn't.  She was just one of those characters that you wanted for your own friend and when her heart breaks, your heart breaks.   I have to be careful to not give away too much, but just know that the end of this book was probably the most satisfying ending that I have read in a very long time.  It ended just the way I had hoped it would. 

Bottom line, I have read every book that Jane Green has ever written and sometimes more than once, but I can easily say that Tempting Fate ranks right up there as one of my favorites. The characters are multi-dimensional and so easy to like, despite their flaws. Tempting Fate is one of those books that loyal fans will love and will make new readers lifelong fans. 

March 24, 2014

(26)Fat Girl: A True Story by Judith Moore

Fat Girl: A True Story
by Judith Moore

Pages: 208
Publisher: Penguin Group
Publication Date: 2/28/2006

Judith has been fat all of her life. In the second grade she weighed 112 pounds. She has been laughed at, made fun of, and in one particularly embarrassing situation she was told she was "too fat to f%ck" buy a drunk guy at a bar. It all started as an overweight child and a mother who was ashamed and embarrassed of her daughter's weight.  In the most abusive ways possible, Judith's mother did everything possible to get her daughter to lose weight.  From extreme diets to practically starving her, Judith's mother was the stuff of nightmares.   In her memoir Judith Moore gives the world a glimpse at what it is like to grow up overweight and remain that way most of your life.   It is harsh, it is sad, but above all it is true. 

I have shared with you all that I have an ongoing battle with the "bulge"  and in the early pages of the book I found myself commiserating with the author.  From the way she tried to be cognizant of her downstairs neighbor to becoming "friends" with the people on her workout video.   I found myself understanding where she was coming from.  Then she started to talk about her childhood and that is where my commiseration ended.  I was blessed to have a mother who loved me and never abused me.  Not verbally and certainly not physically.  I know the author grew up in an different era, but abuse is abuse.  The part of the book that left my jaw dropped was when Judith would break into the ministers house after school (this was in Oklahoma) and basically steal their food.  Her mom was preoccupied with her sick grandmother, so she wasn't being forced to do some crazy diet, she just felt as life were better when she was in their house and the food was just a bonus. Sadly, when I was researching for this post, I found that the author passed away in 2006 after a battle with cancer. 

Bottom line, Fat Girl: A True Story is not one of those books that will call you to action and lose all the weight you need to lose.  It is not one of those books where there is an amazing transformation and the author is at goal weight by the end of the book.  But this book is a book that will help you understand some of the feelings "fat people" experience if you have never been overweight and if you have been (or are) overweight, you will find that you are not alone.   Either way, it is a good book and one I would recommend to anybody.

March 23, 2014

March 22, 2014

(25)You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz

You Should Have Known

Page: 448
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: March 18, 2014

Grace Sachs and her husband Jonathan seem to have the perfect life.  Jonathan is a successful pediatric oncologist and Grace is a successful therapist who just wrote a rather successful book based on the stories her patients have told her and their young son attends one of the most prestigious private schools in New York City. As far as she is concerned her life could not be better.  It all changes on the day word gets out that the mother of scholarship student at their school has been murdered. Grace is even more confused when the police show up at their apartment and starts asking questions about her husband. He is off at a medical conference somewhere in the Midwest, WHY are they asking about Jonathan?  As the days move past the murder the story unfolds and Grace realized that she may have never really known her husband, but did he really murder that woman?

You Should Have Known got off to a slow start.  I wasn't really all that fond of Grace at first, that made it really hard to get into the book.  Grace had this air of superiority that was just plan annoying. And Jonathan?  He is just an ass. But when the shit starts going down you can see the change in Grace's attitude and you can't help but feel for her. The first visit from the detectives in when I felt myself becoming hooked with the story.   She was so completely unaware of what was going on in her marriage her pain was almost palpable. The term "blindsided" has never been more appropriate.   I think what I enjoyed most about this book was Grace's transformation.  She went from this woman who was pretty absorbed in herself to this woman who was the first to identify her flaws and became only focused on how to help her son get through this mess. 

Bottom line, even though You Should Have Known was a little slow going, the second half of the book makes up for it.  This book will suck you in with the mystery and challenge you to think about your own relationships and how well you really know someone. Definitely worth the read.

March 21, 2014

March 18, 2014

(24)The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger

The Divorce Papers

Pages: 480
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: March 18, 2018

The year is 1999 and twenty-nine Sophie Diehl is well on her way to becoming a successful criminal law attorney.  She is derailed when her boss asks her to step in while the firm's divorce attorney is indisposed and no one else is available to do the intake interview of a new client.    Sophie agrees to do the interview and is shocked when the new client, a VIP's daughter, Mia Mieklejohn Durkheim requests that Sophie stay on the case.  Even though Sophie prefers it when her clients are behind bars for the duration of their working relationship she is willing to give it her all.  Over the next several months Sophie pushes the boundaries of her comfort zone while working with Mia to get her through this divorce in one piece.  Not only professionally, but personally as well.  Will Sophie get Mia a fair deal from her world famous oncologist of a husband or will her inexperience in divorce court ruin Mia's life?

The Divorce Papers is a really, really good book! Set in 1999 when email was still an emerging form of corporate communication the epistolary format of this book adds to the charm of the story.  The trepidation that some of the partners exhibit at communicating through email is really quite humorous.  Through emails, memos, letters and court documents we get to see Sophie's foray into the world of divorce.  It is interesting to watch how her career interferes with her personal life and we see how working the divorce case brings up memories of her parent's divorce.  Even though we only are reading correspondence, the author does a fabulous job of showing all of the emotions that happen during a divorce.  From ALL of those involved with the divorce. I really loved Sophie and the way she connected with Mia.  It was almost like Mia gave Sophie strength to proceed with the divorce and not  the other way around.  Mia is definitely a strong character and no matter how hard her husband tries to put her in her place, she is not willing to give up.   And trust me when I say you will laugh.  Oh,  how you will laugh.

Bottom line, The Divorce Papers,  with so many themes layered in this novel, it is going to be one of those books that is going to be the buzz of all book clubs.  Love, marriage, all kinds of relationships, corporate sabotage - you name it and this book covers it and it is sure to generate hours of conversation.

March 17, 2014

(23)Missing You by Harlan Coben

Missing You

Pages: 400
Publisher: Penguin Group
Publication Date: March 18, 2014

Kat Donovan is like her late father in many ways.  Both cops, both like their alcohol, both emotionally aloof. Kat thinks about her father every day, especially when the man who is in prison for killing him is just days away from his own death.  Even though Kat is so aloof she has people who love her, like her best friend Stacy.  Stacy means well when she buys her friend a years subscription to an online dating site, after all it has been eighteen years since Kat and her fiance broke up.  She should be ready to move on, right?  With a glass of wine Kat peruses the website to see a flash from the past.  Her ex is on the same dating website and his profile says "widower".  All the emotions are stirred up and after all those years he is just one email away.   It isn't long before Kat thinks that something is off and when a nineteen year old boy contacts her about his missing mother she knows that something is off.  Will she be able to find the missing woman and what does her ex have to do with her disappearance?

Harlan Coben has hit a home-run with Missing You. From the first page I was hooked and finished it in one day. (Yay for Saturdays!)  Online dating is so common these days, I know I dated men I met online prior to getting married and I think that is why I found myself so invested in this book. What happens in this novel could have very easily could have happened to me or any other person just looking for a human connection online. And that scares the snot out of me.  Even though all of the characters are flawed (some more than others) they also had their endearing qualities, too. Including Kat and her band of misfit friends.   The novel is extremely fast paced and once things start falling into place it moves very quickly.

Bottom line, I have been a Harlan Coben fan for many, many years, but I cannot remember a more relevant novel from the author.  From the online dating to LGBT issues, I really found myself engrossed and connected in ways that I don't remember in his recent works.   If you are looking for a good and solid mystery, you will find one no better than Missing You.

March 15, 2014

(22)Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella

Wedding Night

Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: April 23, 2013

Pages: 480

Lottie is meeting her longtime boyfriend, Richard for a special lunch where he has to ask  Lottie an important question.  Naturally Lottie does what any woman would do and jumps to the conclusion that he is going to propose.  He does not.  Lottie is so crushed that they break up and she is just sure that she will never find true love again.  But it is only two weeks before a blast from her past, Ben, comes back into her life and says that she was "the one who got away" and they should get married immediately because it is fate.  Or something. 

Fliss is Lottie's older sister.  She has been through many of Lottie's break-ups and is very familiar with the pattern of manic behavior that follows a Lottie break-up.  But even she is unprepared for the phone call from Lottie saying that she is getting married to some fellow named Ben.  Since Fliss is the middle of a horrible divorce herself she is willing to do anything and everything to prevent Lottie from going through the same pain. By anything I mean she thinks if she can prevent the Wedding Night then Lottie can get an annulment and forget this marriage ever happened.  Will Fliss be able to accomplish her mission or will she end up alienating the only family she has left?

Okay, I know Wedding Night was supposed to be light and funny, but I truly found it annoying.  The lack of boundaries in this family is completely mind-boggling.  I understand Fliss's frustration with Lottie's break-up behavior, but to be the cause of some of the horrific things is just mean.  For example, she knows Lottie is allergic to peanut oil, so she orchestrated a massage with peanut oil. And Lottie?  Really?  Marrying a man she hasn't seen in fifteen years? It was all just so annoying and not really good material for working out. 

Bottom line, I know millions of women just loved this book, but I did not. I don't know if I have grown out of the Chick Lit kind of books or if the premise of this book was just bad, but I really did not enjoy it.  Have you read Wedding Night? What did you think?

March 14, 2014

March 13, 2014

(21) A Circle of Wives by Alice LaPlante

A Circle of Wives

Publisher: Grove/Atlantic
Pages: 325
Publication Date: March 4, 2014

When Dr. John Taylor is found dead in a  prestigious hotel the police aren't entirely sure that it was murder.  They became a little more suspicious when they went to notify his wife and discovered that the good doctor had two other wives.  When they finally found the needle mark they called it for what it was, murder.

New detective Sam Adams has a tough job ahead of her.  John Taylor's wives are very different, yet Sam is convinced that one of them killed their husband.  His first wife, Deborah is organized, controlling, and the boss.  She told John that she would never agree to a divorce, but she would allow him to marry other women.  And she even micromanaged the details of those relationships, too.   MJ is the second wife, more of the free spirit, a real "earth mother" kind of woman.  So, pretty much the opposite of Deborah.   She and John share a passion for gardening and in the six years that they have been married they have created an oasis for them to escape the real world.  Finally, there is Helen.  The young, attractive doctor is more of an intellectual equal to John and with the busy life of a doctor she does not question that she can only see her husband more than two weekends a month.  By the way, both Helen and MJ believe they are John's only wife.   So when a fourth woman appears to say that John was going to divorce them all for her, Sam knows that she just has to figure out which wife was not going to let him go for anything.

A Circle of Wives was one of those mysteries that just get in your head.  We only get to see John through the eyes of his wives, but I couldn't help but compare him to the smarmy polygamous husband that is on reality television. His wives are all so different, but they seem to be completely blinded by his charm.  Deborah seems like a world class bitch, so there is that.  There is an event that happens late in the book that solidifies that opinion. Bitch, I tell you.  I will say, though, that as much as I looked forward to this book I don't think it lived up to my expectations.  I never felt "on the edge of my seat"  - I never felt - what is the right word - invested (I guess) in the characters to really care who killed the doctor. Even though the book was told in alternating viewpoints, the character I seemed to "worry" about most was the detective.  They just didn't engage me the way I thought they should.

Bottom line, A Circle of Wives IS a good mystery.   I know it seems like a weird review, but this one is a hard one to put into words.  The author has this unique way of creating a fascinating murder story without making you actually like any of the major players.  You can't stop reading because you have to find out the truth, but not because you want someone to pay for his murder, but because you just HAVE to know who finally killed the bastard. I would love to hear your thoughts, so give it a read!

March 11, 2014

March 10, 2014

(20)The All You Can Dream Buffet by Barbara O'Neal

The All You Can Dream Buffet

Pages: 400
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: March 4, 2014

The "Foodie Four" are popular food bloggers who met through their craft, but have never met before  They have decided to gather on the Oregon farm of Lavender Wills to celebrate her 85th birthday. Getting there is not so easy for all of them, first there is Ruby, she is the youngest of the four, a vegan, and newly pregnant with a broken heart.  Next there is Valerie, her whole world was shattered a few years ago when her husband and two of her three daughters were killed in a plane crash.  The healing has been a long time coming for her and her remaining daughter, Hannah. Will their time at Lavender's farm finally give them peace?  Finally there is Ginny, the trip to Oregon will be only the second time in her life that she will leave Kansas.   No one in her home town can understand Ginny's desire to go to Oregon.  Not her friends, not her family, and especially not her husband.  But after decades of playing the obedient daughter, wife, mother and friend, Ginny is ready to live for herself.   The three "Foodies" descend upon Lavender's farm and their friendship moves from the internet to real life in a seamless transition.  Together the women help each other in ways that only family can.  They laugh, they cry and they celebrate Lavender's birthday.  But what will happen to the Foodie Four when real life comes knocking?

I absolutely adored The All You Can Dram Buffet.  So many things resonated with me.  The blogging aspect of the story, the internet friendships that are very real, the desire to do something MORE with your life.  The whole book just really spoke to my heart.  And then there is Lavender's farm, the beauty described by the author left me longing for the Midwest farms of my heart. I also liked how the author highlighted the fact that Lavender was sixty when she took over the farm.  An age when most people are looking to retire and there she is making a great success out of her organic farm, it was inspiring.   Of course the scrumptious recipes you have come to expect from Barbara O'Neal find their way into the pages of this book. 

Bottom line, The All You Can Dream Buffet is a beautiful novel about love, friendship, and reinventing oneself. The characters and their stories are all unique and as interesting as the beautiful Oregon countryside depicted in the story.  Every now and then you come across a book that really feeds your soul, The All You Can Dream Buffet really did that for me. 

March 9, 2014

March 7, 2014

March 4, 2014

(19)Uganda Be Kidding Me by Chelsea Handler

Uganda Be Kidding Me

Pages: 272
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: March 4, 2014

Chelsea Handler is one of those women that I would give anything to hang out with for just one day. ( I don't think my liver could handle any more time than that, to be honest.) In her latest book Chelsea regales us with tales of her travel experiences.  And of course wherever she goes she is surrounded by her inner circle made up of close friends, family and even a few employees.

Uganda Be Kidding Me starts with Chelsea and co heading off to Africa for safari.  In the totally hysterical way that only Chelsea Handler can deliver she tells us all about the trip to Africa.  From their hot guide, Rex to the baboons raping each other outside their villas Chelsea leaves nothing out, including her insane need to drop trou and pee whenever and wherever the need strikes.    Oh and then the trip to the Bahamas directly following the safari, well when you get to the kayak part you will know why I was laughing so hard I nearly woke the whole house.  Chelsea also tells some pretty hysterical stories involving skiing and trips to Switzerland and even Yellowstone (and Montana).    We get to live vicariously through Chelsea Handler as she travels the world with her friends and family.

I want to start by saying that I don't watch Chelsea Lately, mostly because I try to be in bed by ten and my television time is devoted to shows that have a plot. And the weather on the nine o'clock news.  But I have read a few of Chelsea Handler's books and I can always count on laughing out loud.  A few things that struck me with Uganda Be Kidding Me is that Chelsea is very generous with her family and friends.  To letting a friend stay with her to buying her aunt a house she seems very generous. Also, it is very obvious that Chelsea surrounds herself with fun and interesting people guaranteed to make her (and us) laugh. No matter how exhausting she may be, Chelsea surrounds herself with those who would do anything for her.  And it sounds like no matter what they do or where they go they find fun, laughter, and ALL of the booze.   I loved how "discreet" Chelsea was with some of her friends' names.  I mean I am not totally sure who Smandy Smullock is, but I think I can guess.  Or her friend, Schmitney, who had a comedy on NBC for two years.  And Chelsea is wrong, it was freaking hysterical and we miss watching it at our house.

Bottom line, Uganda Be Kidding Me is full of raunchy humor that would likely make your mother blush, but that is the exact reason why you should be reading it. There were several times where I found myself laughing so hard that my sides hurt.  That kind of laughter can't be bad, right?