Thursday, July 31, 2008

(74) This Charming Man by Marian Keyes

I like Marian Keyes. She is an Irish Chick Lit author that knows how to put some meat into her work.
This Charming Man is no different than her earlier work. In fact, I may even say it is one of her better works.
This Charming Man tells the story of four women and the one man who destroyed their lives. There is Lola, the most recent, some would say girlfriend, others might say victim, of Paddy de Courcy's. Lola discovered Paddy's engagement through the media. While she still thought she was his girlfriend. Lola is beyond devastated. And retreats to the country to nurse her wounds.
Grace & Marnie are twin sisters that have a past with Paddy. And Grace was sure the past was the past until Paddy approaches her to write his biography. And then history repeats itself, and Grace realizes it was a mistake to let him in her life again.
There is a fourth woman, but I don't want to give it away. Each of these woman deal with their pain in their own way. Alcoholism, running away, or seeking revenge. But when they join forces, Paddy won't know what hits him.
I really enjoy Marian Keyes books, they are well written, meaty, and relevant to single women in the world today. And of course, there is the Irish factor. And you know I love all things United Kingdom related.

Monday, July 28, 2008

(73) The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffers and Anne Barrows (On Sale July 29th, 2008)

What an absolutely fabulous book!
I was hesitant to read this book, as I am not much into period pieces. Meaning, the mood has to strike me just right to pick up any book not set in the 21st Century. Let me just say this one thing, I am so very glad that I read this book.
The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society is a story set in 1946 after the end of WWII. It is the story of Juliet. A single woman trying to get on with life at the end of the war. But it is not just Juliet's story, it is also the story of the people of Guernsey.
Let me explain. The book is told in the form of letters. And Juliet has received a letter from a gentleman in Guernsey. After the occupation of Guernsey ended, Dawsey found an old book of Juliet's. A book that had her name & address in it. Dawsey was hoping that Juliet could help him find a certain book. And with that letter, Juliet's life began changing.
Juliet is an author seeking her next book & as the letters from Guernsey start pouring in, Juliet has found her next project. She is going to tell the story of the people of Guernsey and the things they had to endure during the five year long German occupation.
I almost called this book delightful, but delightful is not completely accurate. Juliet is delightful, her intelligence & wit radiates with each letter she writes. You can't help but laugh at her observations, because often times they are spot on. She wrote this in a letter to her publisher and friend, Sidney:

I love seeing the bookshops and meeting the booksellers -- booksellers are really a special breed. No one in their right mind would take
up clerking in a bookstore for the salary, and no proprietor in his right mind would want to own one -- the margin of profit is too small. So, it has
to be a love of readers and reading that makes
them do it -- along with first dibs on new
How completely accurate is that?? Like I said, I was going to call this book delightful, but then you come across letter from someone who was at the same Prison Camp as Guernsey's beloved, Elizabeth. And your heart feels as if it is being ripped out. Mixed in with Juliet's light hearted letters is the truth of the matter. WWII was an ugly,horrible, tragic period in our world's history.
The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society has very easily jumped to the top of my Best of 2008 list. This book will make you laugh, it will make you cry, it will make you hope! Absolutely outstanding, must read book!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

(72) Big Boned by Meg Cabot

I think my "girl crush" on Meg Cabot has been adequately established.
And here is another one of her books to add to my collection. A completely adorable book with her likable heroine, Heather Wells, and a very drool-worthy hero in Cooper Cartwright.
Heather has yet again found herself deep in the heart of a murder at "Death Dorm". This time it is her boss & this time, she is the one who found the body. And despite Coopers very insistent protests, Heather takes it upon herself to solve the murder.
Big Boned includes all of your favorite characters from previous Heather Well's mysteries. Magda, the lunch lady. Pete, the security guard, & Gavin, the junior with a crush on Heather. The book is fun, sassy, and unpredictable.
But the question remains, is THIS the book where Heather & Cooper FINALLY get together? Not if Tad, her new boyfriend has anything to say about it! I guess you will just have to read it to find out!

Friday, July 25, 2008

(71) Just Do It by Douglas Brown

I was just mildly surprised to find this book on one of my recent jaunts to Goodwill. I mean the book has only been in stores for a few weeks. In my mind I conjured up the story that someone was so embarrassed to have the book in their home that they had to get rid of it IMMEDIATELY after reading.

Having said that, this book was excellent. It was a well written, well documented, true life love story. Doug & Annie have been married almost fourteen (I think) years. They have two young daughters, they have moved away from all of their family on the east coast to the Mile High City.

So between their busy life of raising children, work, and other family obligations, they feel their relationship shifting. Not drifting, but shifting. They decide to take on the challenge of having sex for 100 consecutive days. They let a few of their family & friends in on the task at hand. They consult their doctors & before you know it, they are kicking off the big sexpedition on New Years Day.

Douglas Brown then takes you through the next 100 days. From a sex industry conference in Las Vegas, to field trips to hotels. Doug & Annie make it happen. And Doug lets us take a peek at their lives. A peek at their love. For really this is a love story. They fall more deeper in love, they become more connected to each other, they create more of a relationship centric marriage, as opposed to a kid centric marriage.

The book is well written, light hearted, & FUN to read. It is not gratuitous or "X-Rated". Heck, the book is barely "R-Rated". In fact I found myself very envious of the strength of their bond & their relationship. I wonder if I will every find myself in a relationship that can attempt this kind of challenge. And given that the current guy in my life just moved to St Louis, I doubt I will anytime soon. (But for the record, I think he would LOVE to try a challenge like this!).


Just Do It is about much more than sex. It is about love, relationship, commitment, and marriage. An excellent book that I would highly recommend to any & all.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

(70) Fractured by Karin Slaughter - On Sale July 29th, 2008

I love, love, LOVE a good mystery. I am an avid watcher of all things CSI & Law & Order. I watch & tivo them religiously.
I was thrilled to start reading this book & envisioning it as an episode on Thursday night's CBS line-up.
Abigail is arguing on the phone with her wayward husband when she opens the front door & sees a young man holding a knife standing over the body of her teenage daughter. Abigail instantly goes into "mama bear" mode & the young man ends up dead. At her hands. And the body is not her daughter, but her daughter's best friend.
It is up to Georgia Bureau of Investigations detective, Will Trent, to find Abigail's daughter & the man who kidnapped her daughter & killed her best friend.
In a series of twists & turns, Karin Slaughter knows how to write a great mystery. And if you are familiar with her work, then you are familiar with Will Trent. And once again, the ending will leave you surprised.

Monday, July 21, 2008

(69) Queen of Babble Gets Hitched by Meg Cabot

Well! Lizzie did it! She finally got the man of her dreams!! But the question is, which man is the man of her dreams? Is it Luke? Her long term boyfriend who is everything a girl could want?
He is even a bonafide Prince? Or did she end up with Chaz? Luke's best friend? And the only person that Lizzie can really be herself for?

Meg Cabot has done it again. She has written a brilliantly funny, book. I just love her stuff!!

And my apologies for the layout of this post. I apparently have no idea what I am doing.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

(68) The Last Kiss by Luanne Rice

Yech. Vacation is over & it takes a week for me to read one book. And it wasn't even really a good one.
Eighteen year old Nell is desperate to find the person who killed her boyfriend. The love of her life. He was murdered shortly after moving to NYC to attend college. So Nell does what she thinks is best & hires Gavin to find out who murdered Charlie.
There is history between Charlie's Mom, Sheridan & Gavin. And Gavin will do whatever necessary to bring her peace.
At the heart of this book is three love stories. The love story between Charlie & Nell. The love story between Gavin & Sheridan. And the love story between Stevie & Jack, (Nell's father).
Each individual love story, if fully developed would have made a great story. But, you throw three stories into a book & they all lose a bit of the "specialness" that would have made for great stories had they stood alone.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

(67)The Continuity Girl by Leah McLaren

My tenth book of vacation. Yes, I read ten books on vacation. Can you believe that? I think it was a successful vacation! *grin*
It is a little ironic (maybe) that on my 33rd birthday (today) I read a book about a woman having her 35th birthday. Meredith goes in for her yearly exam on her 35th birthday & gets the rude awakening from her substitute gyno, the very handsome Dr. Joe. Have a baby this year or else.....
Meredith is a "Continuity girl". Meaning her job is to check for continuity on movie sets. She sits there with a script & a notebook & watches each & every single take to make sure that the actors are using the same hand to eat with, to make sure the lighting is consistent, things like that.
And while the job sounds fascinating, the book is not. I kept waiting for it to get funny. I kept waiting to laugh out loud. After Meredith's horrifying gyno visit, she heads to a shoot in England with the mission of finding the perfect "sperm donor" and getting pregnant. All the while dealing with her Mother & the quirky production people. And let's not forget the handsome Dr Joe who keeps popping up at the strangest times.
Soon Mere realizes that she just isn't looking to get pregnant, but she is looking for love, too.
The book is touted as being funny & witty. And frankly I didn't so much as crack a smile. You want funny & witty? Stick with Meg Cabot.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

(66) Size 14 Is Not Fat Either by Meg Cabot

Meg Cabot is my guilty pleasure. She is the one author that (almost) never has a "stinker" and can always make me laugh out loud. Always.

Picture it. It is a rainy, cool Saturday afternoon & I am sitting on my front porch. Laughing. Out loud. I am sure the neighbors heard me, but frankly, I don't care.

Meg Cabot knows how to write. And Heather Wells is one of her best characters. If you remember, from Size 12 Is Not Fat, Heather is the former teen pop star who lives with her ex-fiance's brother & works at the Residence Hall (not dorm) for New York College. AKA Death Dorm.

And no matter how hard Heather tries, she can not stay out of trouble. Well trouble in the sense that her residents keep getting murdered & the police aren't competent enough to ask the right questions or solve the crime. So much to the dismay of Cooper, her roommate & the detective on the case, Heather is neck deep in trouble (pun intended).

So my recommendation? If you find yourself stranded at home on a rainy Saturday afternoon, be sure to have a Meg Cabot book nearby. She is guaranteed to brighten your day.

Friday, July 11, 2008

(65) Cage of Stars by Jacquelyn Mitchard

I am taking a break from my pile of ARC's and digging into the pile of Bargain books that have
slowly taken over my end table.

Cage of Stars was the first book on that pile. It is an unbelievable tale of a family in Utah. Most specifically, Ronnie. Ronnie is just twelve & the "hider" in a game of hide & seek with her little sisters. She emerges from her hiding spot to see Kevin Early standing over the lifeless bodies of the two girls, covered in blood.

Cage of Stars then goes on to tell the story of how the family deals with their grief. Ronnie tries to hold on to her anger, while her parents in turn decide to forgive the man who murdered their little girls.

As Ronnie gets older, her life takes her on a path that shocks even the most hardened reader. She is still struggling to comes to terms with what happened that November day. She struggles to be the person her parents what her to be.

Cage of Stars will touch your heart the way that will remind you of Jodi Picoult or Alice Sebold. It is a heartbreaking tale of forgiveness & growth. A nice break from the "fluff" of summer reading.

(64) House & Home by Kathleen Mccleary

This book was a fast read. But was it a "good" read?
Well, I alternated between feeling empathy & contempt for Ellen Flanagan.
Ellen Flanagan is 44 years old & she has had enough. Her husband, Sam, has lived their entire marriage going from one dream to another. None of his inventions bringing in the money, or security that Sam has promised. Ellen did get him to settle down & they have lived these last twelve years in Portland raising their children.
But when the money runs out & they are forced to sell the house, Ellen demands a divorce. How can she stay married to a man who has forced her to sell her home? Her beloved home with the growth marks in the door jams?
On the one hand, I can empathize with Ellen, having gone through my own "home" issues in the last year. But on the other hand I have nothing but contempt for a woman who is willing to throw away her marriage because her husband was not as successful as she had hoped. The only redeeming quality is that I think Ellen feels a little contempt for herself.
House & Home is a well written story. It is not a horrible book, there is a plot & it is well developed. I want to say it is a good book, but my dislike for Ellen just makes me want to reach through the pages & slap her silly. Maybe I have read too many "girl" books this week. Too many books where the women want it all & can't understand why they can't have it all.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

(63) Schooled by Anisha Lahkani --On Sale August 5th, 2008

What a fabulously, fun book!
Anisha Lahkani has written the Devil Wears Prada of the Manhattan Private School scene! And she has done a wonderful job of giving us all of the juicy gossip!
Despite her parents protests, Columbia grad, Anna Taggert has accepted a position teaching 7th Grade English at the prestigious Manhattan private school, Langdon. Anna is just sure that she will be the coolest, hippest teacher ever. But she doesn't realize that she has stepped into another world. Into a world of the extremely over-privileged middle schoolers.
After struggling to pay her bills a fellow teacher introduces her to the hidden world of "tutoring". A world where her time is worth $250 an hour and reading a book assigned to the student can garnish a $2000 tip.
Soon Anna is gauging her time in "tutoring sessions" and sending her classes to the library, rather than teaching them. She is caught up in trips to Starbucks & Barneys.
Schooled won't win any literary awards, but much like The Devil Wears Prada, it will ensnare you in a world that most of us will never know. It is a funny, engrossing, SCARY book that will have you turning pages furiously!
Schooled is on sale August 5th, but you can pre-order it here.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

(62) Say Goodbye by Lisa Gardner -- On Sale July 15th, 2008

I love a good mystery. I love to try to figure out who is the bad guy (or girl) . Say Goodbye is
no different.

A "working girl" has approached pregnant FBI agent, Kimberly. She tells the Agent that there is a guy out there killing prostitutes. He is a freak who is into spiders. But there are no bodies, there is no evidence, there is nothing to validate Delilah Rose's story.

Lisa Gardner then starts to weave a web of suspense & intrigue. The story is so intricate that not even the most clever of minds can piece it all together. The book is a fast paced, suspenseful read.

Perfect for those who are longing for a good read.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

(61) Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry - On Sale July 29th, 2008

WOW! What a great book!!
I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked up this book, but I was so pleasantly surprised to find such an excellent story. A wonderfully written , gothic novel.
The Lace Reader is set in Salem, Massachusettes and the author uses all of the lore that surrounds Salem to weave a tale that is both mysterious, as well as captivating.
Towner returns to Salem after receiving word from her brother that her Great Aunt, Eva has gone missing. So for the first time in fifteen years, Towner returns to Salem. Towner returns to the scrutiny of the townspeople. Her family is known for being a bit , um colorful. For they are Lace Readers. They can see the future through the lace that people wear. To some that makes them eccentric. To others that makes them witches.
Upon her return to Salem, Towner has a lot to deal with. There is Detective Rafferty, who just has that demeanor about him. There is Cal, the abusive man who has brought nothing but destruction to her family. There is Jack, her childhood sweetheart. And May, her mother. All of these people are characters in this story, but also have their own story to tell.
There is no words to accurately describe how well written, how captivating this book is. Once you start reading, you do not want to stop. And the ending? Well the ending is beyond shocking. Your jaw will drop at the unexpected twist.
The Lace Reader was originally a self published title that got picked up by Harper Collins & I suspect word of mouth will turn it into a bestseller!

Monday, July 7, 2008

(60)Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham

Yay me!! I read a "work" book on vacation!!! Do I get a gold star? And I even got it for $3.99 off of the Bargain Remainders table!!

Now, Discover Your Strengths was a fascinating book because you got to take a test online to determine what your strengths actually are. The test gave you 180 pairings. You could choose between the two with which one was closer to you. You either strongly agreed with one or the other or were neutral. And honestly, there were very few that I was neutral on. They also advised that you were not to dwell on the questions. You had a 20 second time limit. Because usually your initial reaction is your honest reaction. And for this to work, you needed to be honest.

From the questions there are thirty-four themes. After taking the quiz, they give you your top five "themes" or strengths. You then went back to the book & it gives you examples of managers with each of the themes, then in another chapter, it gives you ways to manage people with those themes.

And I have to say, that I think my strengths are pretty dead on. In fact so are the ways to "manage" me. And I would be pretty dern happy to be managed the way the book suggests.

So what are my strengths, you ask? Here are the abbreviated descriptions.

1. Consistency - Balance is important to me. I am keenly aware of the need to treat people the same, no matter what their station in life, so I do not want to see the scales tipped too far in any one person's favor. (I think this is because I am the middle child of a large family!)
2. Includer - "Stretch the circle wider" This is the philosophy around which I orient my life. I want to include people & make them feel part of the group.
3. Learner - I love to learn. The subject matter that interests me the most will be determined by my other themes & experiences. (I think this is because I never finished college)
4. Intellection - I like to think. I like mental activity. I like exercising the "muscles" of my brain, stretching them in multiple directions. (Yup, this is certainly me)
5. Responsibility - "Your responsibility theme forces you to take psychological ownership for anything you commit to, and whether large or small, you feel emotionally bound to follow it through to completion." (Also describes me, to a tee).

Interesting book. Interesting test. There is another book out by the same authors, StrengthFinders 2.0 that I may pick up as well to find out what else they have to say. I am also curious to see what my boss does with this knowledge. I guess time will tell.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

(59) Swapping Lives by Jane Green

I have now, officially read every book by Jane Green. And the best thing is that I found this one in the Bargain Section at work.

Swapping Lives is about two very different women. One is a features editor for a very popular magazine in the UK. The other is a SAHM to two children in the US suburbs. She lives in the proverbial McMansion, has perfect children & chairs the Ladies League.

Both women are about fed up with their lives. So Vicky, the editor, has this brilliant idea to open up an application process for women who are willing to Swap Lives with a thirty-five year old single woman.

The book does become a bit predictable. As you would suspect, the two women swap lives & discover that the grass is not always greener on the other side. A month long experiment ends after two weeks & things end happily ever after.

It is Jane Green's style of writing. Her obvious understanding of both positions. Of both women that makes the book fun to read. Swapping Lives is not quite as "Chick Lit-ish" as her earlier books, but not quite as literary as her more recent ones.

Overall, a great book & fun read.

(58) No One You Know by Michelle Richmond

This was my first book on vacation! Yes, I am on vacation!! And once I get back home, I plan on doing NOTHING but reading!! Well, and catching up on DVR. I am not currently on my computer, so no pictures.

No One You Know is a book by author, Michelle Richmond. I first discovered Ms Richmond when I read the ARC of her last book, The Year Of Fog. I enjoyed that book so much & recommended it to everyone at work & even had it as a staff rec. But I felt completely validated when Jolynn at work read it & agreed with me. LOL. Jolynn is far more literary than I am, so when she agrees that a book is good, I feel a little puff in my chest. (We also agreed on Here If You Need Me by Kate Braestrup in case you wondered.)

No One You Know is about two sisters, Lila & Ellie. Ellie is just eighteen when she tells her older sister that she has to find her own ride, because it is Ellie's night for the car & she is too busy to give her a ride. Lila doesn't come home that night & Ellie's life is forever turned upside down.

Flash forward twenty years. And everything she thought she knew about Lila's death is being challenged. The man who betrayed her has come back in her life and the man she thought did it has convinced her otherwise.

So Ellie starts working backwards. Interviewing the people in her sister's life at the time of her murder. Classmates, teachers, etc... And she soon discovers that things aren't always what they seem.

No One You Know isn't a mystery per se. It is about a woman trying to discover the truth so she can continue her life in peace. But there is some investigative work that goes along with that. Michelle Richmond has written such an open, painfully honest book. It tugs at your heart and you desperately want Ellie to be at peace. You want her to settle things so she can live "happily ever after".

I have compared Michelle Richmond to Jodi Picoult before, but now I think it is only in the subject matters written about. Michelle Richmond is much less wordy (not a bad thing, just different) and the emotions seem a little more raw and the characters a little less martyr like.

No One You Know is a great, engrossing, dramatic read. You can buy it here. And you can read my review of The Year Of Fog at my MySpace blog.

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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