Sunday, February 17, 2019

(15)Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes

Joe Goldberg is back and he has been double-crossed by the woman he thought was the love of his life, Amy.  His fury that this woman got the best of him knows no bounds.   He leaves New York and follows her to Los Angeles with one intention - to kill her.   It doesn't take long for Joe to realize just how different in California is compared to New York City.  He gets close to finding Amy, but not before his body count climb even higher. However, when Joe meets Love Quinn he starts to forget all about Amy.   Love is older than Joe and from a wealthy family and he finds it quite easy to get accustomed to living a privileged life. The only thing overshadowing his newfound happiness is Love's twin brother, Forty.  An addicted, lost soul, who uses people every chance he gets.  And the "mug of piss" left behind at the Salinger house.  When Joe gets an alert that the local police are opening an investigation into Peach's death he knows that he has to go back, face his past, and get rid of that mug.  Will Joe be able to take care of his past before it destroys his future with Love?

Hidden Bodies is a continuation of the hit book/television show You. You really do need to read the first book to get everything in the second book. Joe Goldberg is an interesting character for the reader to figure out.  On the one hand, he is a psychopath.  But on the other hand, it is easier than I thought possible to kind of root for him.  I have to admit that I took a little pleasure in seeing Joe get screwed over by Amy at the beginning of the book. When Joe moves to California he was very clearly out of his element.  I didn't really like him in California, he seemed more comfortable in New York City. BUT I did like Joe with Love.  He seemed to want to be a better person when he was with her.  He tried to keep her happy and fit in with her family, even her crazy twin brother.  I was really surprised at just how far Joe took his relationship with Love.  -- CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS -  They way the story ended made it very clear that Joe's story is not over.  And I can't wait to see what the author has in store for him.

Bottom Line -  Joe Goldberg is getting a place in pop culture as one of America's favorite serial killers.    He has this captivating way about him that makes it impossible to stop reading.  Another great book from Caroline Kepnes.

  • Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes
  • On Instagram
  • Pages: 448
  • Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler
  • Publication Date: 2/23/2016
  • Buy it Here!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Sunday, February 10, 2019

(14)The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib

Anna was just eighty-eight pounds when her husband, Mathias, dropped her off at 17 Swann Street.  After leaving her family behind in Paris to follow her husband to St. Louis, Anna dealt with the loneliness by slowly restricting her diet.  Soon she was only eating popcorn and fruit. And her dancer's body was starting to waste away.  Finally, Mathias takes a look at Anna and realizes that if he doesn't take immediate action, he will lose Anna forever.   Anna is terrified and exhausted and the thought of putting on weight is more than she can handle.  Her days at 17 Swann Street starts in the wee hours of the morning with the staff taking her vitals and her weight.  She has to eat three meals a day, as well as three snacks.  And if she refuses three times in a row, they give her a feeding tube.  A feeding tube.  The girls at 17 Swann Street are just like Anna.  They all struggle with their own food-based demons, but they support each other.  With both spoken and written words.  They don't leave the table until they are all ready to leave the table.   When one hurts,  they all hurt. When one celebrates, they all celebrate.   Will Anna ever get to celebrate getting her life back?  Or will anorexia take everything from her?

The Girls at 17 Swann Street is an achingly beautiful debut novel about a young woman battling anorexia. And make no mistake about it, it is a battle.  With every piece of food put in front of her, Anna has to make a conscious decision to eat.  Anna has something that most of the other girls in the house do not have, a loving husband that is by her side every step of the way.  Even when Anna makes it difficult for him. I loved their relationship.  I loved his devotion.  I loved how he sought out a special somebody to attend "Family Day."  Anorexia is such a lonely disease.  It doesn't get much attention in the media. Not since the 80's "After School Special" that I can remember, yet it is very much a battle that gets waged daily by thousands and thousands of women. And men. The author was almost lyrical in her descriptions of Anna's battle.  There was one particular moment that stands out when Anna and Mathias went out for dinner.  Anna has to wage an internal battle to not restrict her food when ordering.  She told her nutritionist what she was going to order and she had to fight to keep that promise.  The way the author described that battle was probably some of the best-written literature that I have ever read.   Unfortunately, not every girl at 17 Swann Street had a happy ending, but that only made the story seem that much more real.

Bottom Line - The Girls at 17 Swann Street is a beautiful novel about an ugly subject. There are many uncomfortable moments in the book, but Anna and Mathias are characters that you can support and cheer for enthusiastically.   Add this one to the Book Club list, you are going to want to discuss it with your girls.


Tuesday, February 5, 2019

(13)Forget You Know Me by Jessica Strawser

Molly and Liza have been best friends since childhood.  They have been through so much together, but life has been getting in the way recently.  Especially since Molly got married and had kids and Liza moved to Chicago.   They only have time to connect one evening over Skype when Molly's husband is out of town.  Molly runs off to see to a child when Liza sees a masked man enter the house hours away.  Liza is so terrified for her friend. There isn't any response when she calls and the police think that she is a kook.  She gets in the car with her friend, Max, and drive through the night to get there.  And she is shocked to have Molly slam the door in her face.    She was still stunned when she returned to Chicago to find that her apartment had burned down. She has no choice but to return to Cincinnati and try to move forward.  Meanwhile, Molly is trying to hold it all together. Not only has her marriage stagnated, but she has put her family in jeopardy by trying to take the easy way out.  And she still doesn't know who the man was in her house, but she suspects she knows why they were there.  Will Liza and Molly be able to solve their problems and repair their lifelong friendship?

Forget You Know Me was more drama and less mystery than I was expecting.   I like both Molly and Liza, despite the fact that they were such different characters.   Neither was perfect, that is obvious.  Liza is a little messed up from the fire that destroyed her home and killed her neighbors.  And Molly has made a mess of her family's finances.  And she hasn't told her husband.  Not to mention she and the widowed father in the neighborhood have gotten too chummy.  I could even understand why Molly was shutting Liza out, but it also annoyed me.  And  I could see why it annoyed Liza, too.  Poor Liza was so terrified from the fire and I can understand why.  It was pure luck that she was not in the building when it went up in flames.  In a way, Molly saved her life, yet Molly was hardly speaking to her.  Overall, the ending was just okay.  We got our answers, but I also think there were a lot of unresolved issues between all of the characters.  -- CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS

Bottom Line - Forget You Know Me is a book that explores the lives of two less than perfect women and how they deal with fairly normal stressors in their lives.  Life, love, friendship, and marriage are all messy and complicated.  It is how you handle it that matters.


Monday, February 4, 2019

(12)Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

Like the rest of the world, I was saddened to learn of Anthony Bourdain's death last year.  Mostly because anytime I learn of a suicide, I am saddened.  I knew that he was a famous chef and had written some popular books, but that was all I knew of him.  Then as reactions started to flood social media, I thought "This guy seemed to have been special" and I bought Kitchen Confidential.

I have never worked in a restaurant (except for six months during college when I did a stint at McDonald's) and have never experienced a kitchen in the kind of restaurant you go to for special occasions.  However, one of my brothers has been in kitchens most of his career. So I was absolutely riveted by what Anthony Bourdain had to say.  His descriptions and observations gave me such insight into my brother  and why he continues to work in kitchens.

"The job requires character - and endurance.  A good line cook never shows up late, never calls in sick, and works through pain and injury."

My brother is one of the most good-natured, fun-loving people you will ever meet.  And he is one of the hardest workers you will ever meet.  This description is completely accurate. 

Anthony Bourdain also gives advice.  Like the important tools to have in a kitchen.  And to never use metal on a non-stick pan (my husband has been saying this for years).  And to always avoid the hollandaise sauce. (No worries there).  And never order the fish on a Monday.  There are other pieces of advice, but mostly the book gives you a look into what happens in the kitchen of a nice restaurant.  From his observations, it is a loud, crass, and at times dangerous, place to work.  But if you have a love for the lifestyle, then you can't help it and will never work anywhere else.

Bottom Line - I get it now.  I get the magnetism of Anthony Bourdain.  I get the desire to want to be in his orbit.  I get the need to read or watch anything with this man.  If his cooking was a fraction as good as his writing, then he deserved every accolade ever received.   I now understand why so many mourned his passing.   He was a genius and his loss must still be profoundly felt by those who knew and loved him.

  • Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
  • On Instagram
  • Pages: 352
  • Publisher: HarperCollins
  • Publication Date: 1/9/2007
  • Buy it Here!

Sunday, February 3, 2019

(11)Cruise Condidential by Brian David Bruns

Last week my husband and I were fortunate enough to get to go on a Caribbean cruise.   It made us curious about the inner workings of a cruise ship.   A quick search and we found Cruise Confidential.   We bought the audiobook with the thought that we would listen to it on the drive home from the airport.

In Cruise Confidential, the author, Brian, takes us on an adventure that starts with a girl.  He met a girl, Bianca, who was on vacation from working the ships when he fell in love.  He wanted to be with her at all costs, so he headed to Carnival so he could be with her.  His interviewers with Carnival were a little shocked that an American wanted to work in dining.  The only Americans on most ships were the entertainers. In fact, an American had never made it all the way through a contract in the dining room.   Brian quickly learned that working on a cruise ship was back-breaking hard work.   He ate little, slept even less, and drank a lot.  When he finally made it on the same ship as Bianca, he realized that sustaining a relationship on a cruise ship is nearly impossible. 

One thing we had to remember when listening to this book is that it is set in 2002.  17 years ago.  Have things changed on cruise ships?  Maybe.  Maybe not.   The work is hard, but as Brian's training officer said, "We are all here for the money."  It was interesting to us that many of Brian's co-workers were shocked to find out that he had a vehicle and apartment before taking the job.  That is what many of them were working towards while on the ship.  The kind of money to be earned on the ship were not available to most of the crew in their home countries.   His life and Iowa upbringing were so different from those of his co-workers that it was a bit of a culture shock.   It also forced me to realize that most of those we interacted with on our recent cruise were not American.  However, the entertainers were American.   For Brian, being an American was both an advantage and a disadvantage on the ship.    His English was a definite advantage, but also a disadvantage.  Because when he was in the crew bar, everybody was more comfortable speaking their native language.  It made him lonely.   Thankfully, he had an amazing work ethic and a good-natured sense of humor.  Two qualities that can help anybody get through anything.   On our ship, I wondered what some employees did when like the shops were closed at a port. Well, we learned that all the crew has multiple roles.   It is why the days are long and the work is hard.

Bottom Line -  We were on a cruise for rest and relaxation.  Crew members on the ship don't get that luxury, but maybe a few hours a week.  I have always thought, and still do, that working on a cruise ship would be a good way to see the world.  But only if you are willing to work your tail off.


Saturday, February 2, 2019

(10)48 Hours by William R. Forstchen

Three weeks after a solar flare Darren and Darla have a new normal that involves a battery operated alarm clock and their drip coffee pot from their camping supplies.  But he continues to go to work as a security guard at the caves underneath Springfield, Missouri.  But Darren starts to realize that there is something else going on when a bigwig from DC shows up to take an inventory of the caves.   In 48 hours Earth will be hit by another solar flare  The radiation from the CME is expected to be an, but this one is an ELE."Extinction Level Event.  It is possible that anybody in the caves could survive the radiation. As government officials around the globe make plans for government continuity  Darren and Darla decide that they need to take action.  If there is ever going to be hope for humanity's survival, they need to save the children.    They take control of the caves and they start to their "Ark" project.  Their goal is to round up as many children and experts as they can.  Doctors, teachers, etc..  those who can pass on their knowledge to the generation that is going to save humanity.  Will they be able to get it all done in just 48 hours?  And keep the government officials at bay who wanted to only save themselves in the caves?

I guess you could say that end-of-the-world books are my guilty pleasure.   The non-existent "prequel" to 48 Hours would be a book that I would be interested in reading.  And maybe it is coming soon from the author.     I have known for years about the "caves" in Kansas City and I am not surprised that they exist in other places in Missouri.  The one thing that irritated me was the way the author kept having the residents of Missouri call the state capitol "Jefferson City."  Yes, it is the proper name of the city, but I have NEVER heard a resident of Missouri call it anything other than "Jeff City."   There was also a lot of scientific talk about CME's and stuff.  It tended to make my eyes glaze over, but I guess it was necessary to explain what was happening and why.  Overall I really liked the story and can't wait to see how it continues.  There is obviously so much more to explore with this story - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS.

Bottom Line - 48  Hours is just more evidence that William R. Forstchen is the king of all things end-of-the-world.  His plots are somewhat plausible, his characters are interesting, and his stories are captivating.  Worth the read if you like that kind of thing.


Thursday, January 31, 2019

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

(8)You by Caroline Kepnes

In the East Village there is a bookstore.  A bookstore ran by Joe Goldberg.  It was an average kind of day when she walked in. She was perfect. Beautiful.  And witty.  And her life was going to be forever changed on the day she walks into that bookstore.  Joe is smitten and he does what anybody would do in this day and age.  Her googles the name that was on her credit card and forever changes the course of both of their lives.   He finds all of her social media posts and knows just where to find her.  He soon finds his way to Beck's house and into her life.  He takes over her life in ways she doesn't even realize it is happening.  With a psychopathic precision, he removes everybody from her life.  Everybody but him.  Will Beck be able to see Joe for what he really is before it is too late?

You was an absolutely perfect psychological thriller.   I know that there has been a lot of buzz about You due to the television show, but I wanted to read the book first.  And I am so glad that I did.  Joe is an absolutely terrifying character that I could not get enough of.   What I really loved was his astute observations on life and everything book related.  It is obvious that the author has had first-hand experience as a bookseller.   More than once I found myself saying "wow" at some of his thoughts.  Not because they were crazy, but because they were accurate.  Beck was another well-written character.  I didn't really like her, but her character was perfect for this book.  From the very first page, the book sucked you in.  The writing, the characters, were all captivating in their own broken ways.  Nothing really surprised me with the way it went down, it was almost inevitable.  - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS   I haven't watched the television show yet, but I am eager to do so, now.  I have to see how they spin this story!


Tuesday, January 29, 2019

(7) Planet Funny by Ken Jennings

There is nothing my husband and I like to do more than laugh.  We do a lot of it.  When we had a road trip ahead of us I thought it might be fun to "read" about the history of comedy.

In Planet Funny, Ken Jennings, gets into the history of comedy.  From the ancient times to the Pope's need to make laughing okay, he covers a lot of history.  Also speaking about how humor got involved with politics.  Or how politics got involved with humor.   He even speaks to how maybe humor got us into the political mess we now find ourselves in.   He also discusses how humor has evolved and what was deemed inappropriate then and now.  He talks about Lenny Bruces (raise your hand if you know who he is from his friendship with Midge Maisel) and he also talks about Daniel Tosh.  And the run-in he had with Lindy West when he was testing some material at a night club.  For the record, I cannot stand Daniel Tosh.  His humor crosses the line for me.

Ken Jennings (yes the Jeopardy guy) even talks about his own history with comedy.  From watching Mystery Science 3000 to how social media (Twitter) has changed the way people "get" their comedy.   Planet Funny was much more cerebral than I thought it would be.  And as interesting as it was, it was a little dry in some places.  But that didn't stop us from listening to the whole thing. Ken Jennings and I are close enough in age, that we share a lot of the same nostalgia.   And that made it really fun.

Bottom Line - Planet Funny is more history book than joke book, but it is still definitely worth the read.  Especially if you enjoy comedy as much as we do.


Monday, January 28, 2019

(5)No Exit by Taylor Adams

Darby Thorne is desperate to get home to Utah from college in Colorado.  Her mother was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer and Darby knows that time is not on her side, but neither is Mother Nature.  She gets stranded at a rest area along with four other travelers during a brutal snowstorm.   In an effort to track down a cell signal, Darby sees a little girl being held captive in the back of a work van.  She doesn't know which one of her fellow stranded travelers own the van, but she knows that she needs to figure it out in order to save this little girl.  Is it Ashley, the magician from Salt Lake City?  Or is it Lars, the creepy dude?  Or is it Sandy or Eddie, the cousins on their way to Aurora?  Will Darby be able to save the little girl and get them to safety?  And will she be able to make it to Utah in time to make her peace with her mother?

No Exit is a fast-paced thriller that takes the reader on a roller coaster ride.   I was a little irritated with Darby at first.  I have two college-age kids who travel frequently between Utah and Wyoming.  They would never think of being so,  ill-prepared for winter weather.   I then quickly shifted my opinion.  She obviously was a caring young woman who was eager to do the right thing.   Her fellow stranded travelers were giving me creepy vibes from the very beginning. I thought I had things figured out, as did Darcy, but we were both wrong. - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS.    The book raced to a conclusion that was heroic, but not really surprising. 

Botton Line - No Exit is one of those books that has everything you would want in a psychological thriller.  A kidnapping, a scrappy young woman, creepy travelers and dangerous weather that could kill quicker than any psychopath.  Everything that you want in a good thriller!


Why I Read...

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

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