Saturday, December 26, 2009

(98) The Nanny Returns by Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Krause

First of all, let me state that I am typing this from the snowbanks of my parents house in Iowa. The drifts are almost as tall as my car and their computer is as slow as the drivers trying to navigate the snow covered streets.

The beauty of the Christmas Blizzard of 09 is that I was smart enough to pack five books. With my wedding & cross country move less than a week away, I am currently unemployed. So I can snuggle in with my hot tea & stack of books. And forget about the marathon packing that awaits me in Kansas City.

I actually finished The Nanny Returns on Christmas Eve, but didn't want to wait for the line of siblings waiting to use the computer. The have all shoveled out and have started off for their respective homes, I, being the chicken shit I am, have decided to give it another day.

The Nanny Returns was an interesting read, just from the stand point of that Chick-Lit sequels don't happen very often. Many times, as a Chick Lit connoisseur, I have wondered what happens in the "happily ever after". Here it is twelve years later and we get to find out what has happened to Grayer X after his beloved nanny was ripped from his side. And frankly, it isn't pretty.

Nan & her Harvard Hottie have returned to NYC after living abroad for Ryan's job. They are in the process of rehabbing a Harlem townhome and Nan has been just been offered an HR job for a prestigious private school. One night she is shocked to find Grayer X drunk on her doorstep. He has found the infamous Nanny-Cam tape and has come to her for answers. He is sixteen years old, he has an eight year old brother, Stilton and his parents have started divorce proceedings. His world is falling apart & his only concern is protecting his brother.

Nan, again, finds herself caught up in the world that she disdains. The extreme wealth and entitlement that runs rampant amongst the world of the X's is disheartening at best. Will Nan be able to show them the error of their ways before it destroys the lives of two boys she has come to care for?

Nanny Returns is a bit predictable nothing has really changed in Grayer's world and frankly that is a bit disappointing. Nan has grown up, she doesn't allow the X's or anyone else to run right over her, like she did twelve years ago. It was neat to be able to see a "where are they now" of characters we "met" many years ago, but as far as Chick Lit goes, Nanny Returns is not the best there is, but still worth the read on a cold snowy night.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Thursday, December 17, 2009

(97) A Field Guide to Burying Your Parents by Liza Palmer

The title gives it away.

It really isn't shocking news, though. Most of us know that we will eventually have to bury our parents. Liza Palmer's new book, A Field Guide to Burying Your Parents is about Grace Hawkes & her family.

Twenty-two years ago Grace's father left her & her three siblings with their mother. Their mom became their entire world. When she is killed by a drunk driver Grace takes a page out of her Dad's playbook and just walks away. Leaves her family, her boyfriend, & just walks away.

Now a few years have passed and her sister calls. Their estranged father has had a stroke and things are not looking good. Grace needs to come home. And after 22 years, Grace is going to see her father. Is she ready to face her siblings, her ex-boyfriend, her wicked Step-Mother, and most of all, is she ready to face her father?

A Field Guide To Burying Your Parents was actually pretty good. Even though the book is obviously centers around aging parents, it has some pretty heartwarming parts. Reading about the reunion between Grace and her siblings and watching their bond strengthen as they battled the Witch was pretty cool.

The book was a fast read. Well written with engaging characters. There are a few hanky-needed moments, but for the most part the story of family unity will warm your heart. Not a bad Chick Lit book for those of you who enjoy the genre.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Help coming to the Big Screen!

Chris Columbus' 1492 Prods. has fast-tracked a screen adaptation of "The Help," the bestselling Kathryn Stockett novel about African-American domestic servants and their wealthy white employers in Mississippi before the civil rights era.

Tate Taylor has written the script and will direct; 1492 partners Columbus, Michael Barnathan and Michael Radcliffe will produce with Brunson Green of Harbinger Pictures.

The novel has been on the New York Times bestseller list for 35 weeks since its publication in February by Putnam imprint Amy Einhorn Books.

Taylor got involved well before it became a literary sensation for Stockett, a first-time author who was reportedly rejected by 50 agents. Taylor grew up with Stockett in Mississippi — his mother inspired one of the Mississippi matriarchs in the novel — and was so helpful to the author that she gave him an early peek; an option was made well before the book came out.

Taylor, an actor-turned-director who previously directed the 2008 feature "Pretty Ugly People," showed the book to Columbus, whom he met in San Francisco because Taylor's niece and nephew attended the same school as Columbus' kids.

Shingle 1492 is already meeting on financing; plan is to put the pic into production next spring in the South. The producer has the benefit of first-look relationships with India-based Reliance Big Entertainment and Korea-based CJ Entertainment, and Reliance has shown the strongest interest.

Variety Article

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Christmas Can-Can

I *LOVE* Christmas Music. Every year I end up purchasing two or three new Christmas CD's. At the bookstore, we have "in-store" plays every month. The company sends us CD's to play. This year one of the CD's is the Straight No Chaser Christmas CD. Straight No Chaser is an a capella group consisting of ten men who met while in college at the University of Indiana.

I have enjoyed the CD at work, but really didn't pay much attention until I DVR'd the PBS special from the other night. And you know what, I thoroughly enjoyed their performance. The Christmas Can Can was their best performance in my opinion. It cracked me up & their talent amazes me.

Sit back & enjoy.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

(96) Fallen by Lauren Kate

Apparently, Angels ARE the new Vampires. The latest teen book to hit the shelves is Fallen by Lauren Kate.

Seventeen year old Luce (short for Lucinda) is sent to a reform school after a judge is convinced that she had something to do with the death of her date, who had burst into flames.

Sword & Cross is an interesting reform school, to put it mildly. The school is located in an old historic mansion that dates back to the Civil War era. And the kids are required to dress all in black.

Luce struggles to fit in and finds herself being drawn into the little cliques and dramas that happen in every school across the nation, but what she does not realize is that at Sword & Cross, the stakes are much higher. Time and time again she finds herself turning to Daniel. She knows there is something different about Daniel, but she can not figure out exactly what.

Will she be able to piece it all together before it is too late?

Fallen is the second book this year that I have read about Angels. I had a hard time staying focused on Fallen. I suspect that it has more to do with everything going on in my life, rather than the plot of the book. But, if you had to choose between Hush, Hush and Fallen I would go with Hush, Hush. I just enjoyed it more. It held my interest a little better. Both were okay reads, but neither are going to make the "Best of 2009" list.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Monday, December 7, 2009

(95) The Love of Her Life by Harriet Evans

There is nothing like a good book to distract you from the "To-D0 Lists" in your life. With a little less than four weeks until our wedding, my To-Do List is about a mile and a half long. But that did not stop me from getting some serious reading done yesterday.

Okay, more like last night. I woke up to go to the bathroom at 2:00am and ended up staying awake until almost 4:00am to finish The Love of Her Life. Yes, that was a colossal mistake that will likely comeback to bite me in the butt when I work the late shift tonight, but it was well worth it.

Kate Miller is going through the motions in New York City, her home for the last three years. She has received word that her father is ill and she must return to her home in London. The thought of returning to the city that nearly destroyed her is scary at best. Is she strong enough to face her past?

The story is a tragic one and I will let Kate Miller tell you her story. It involves a series of events that spiraled out of control, starting with a cheating fiance and concluded with tragic consequences. Is Kate strong enough to face all of that with her return to London? It was 3:00am in the morning and I was crying in bed. Kate Miller is a very likable character. I so badly wanted her to sort things out and live happily ever after with The Love of Her Life. Does she? That you must discover for yourself.

The Love of Her Life is Chick Lit at it's best. Well written with engaging characters and a plot that captivates you. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to the next time I can get my hands on a Harriet Evans novel.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Elf On The Shelf

The Elf On The Shelf works like this. Since Santa is so busy, he can't realistically keep his eye on ALL of the children of the world, so he sends his Elves to see which list you belong on. There is a book to read with the Children. They wake up every morning to find the elf in a different location. Sometimes, if the child has been good, there may be treats, goodies, stories, etc... to encourage the behavior keeping them on the "Nice" list.

Either it is pure genius or it is going to create a fear in children that rivals what Stephen King's It did for clowns. Eh, either way. The tune is pretty catchy!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Charlotte's Holiday Gift Guide

Well that time is upon us. Everyone is making their list and checking it twice. Believe it or not, even as a Retail Manager, the Holiday's are my favorite time of the year. I love Christmas music, LOVE it! I love the ABC Family channel & their 25 days of Christmas (but in my opinion Harry Potter is NOT a Christmas movie *grump*) I am one of those obnoxious people that will wear my Santa hat for the entirety of my eight hour shift. I love the holiday season that much! I love the sound of carolers in the entryway at work. I love helping customers find the perfect gift. Just LOVE it!

This year is bittersweet, I must say. This is my last holiday season at the bookstore, as I am getting married on New Years Eve and moving to the land of No Barnes & Noble. December is going to be a crazy, hectic month for me, like always. But I wouldn't change it for the world.

My job at the bookstore gives me the opportunity to really lay my eyes on gifts galore. There are so many great gift ideas that I thought I would take this time to share some of them with you.

Unless you have head buried in a book for the last six weeks or so, you have probably heard about nook. I have yet to lay my eyes on one, but I know it is going to be pretty freaking awesome. It will be early next year before I get one. In fact if you haven't already ordered yours, it will be next year before you get it, too. If you have someone in your life that would love a nook, don't despair. You can still give it as a Christmas gift & just be creative in your delivery. You could purchase a cover & give that as the "teaser". You can also opt to have a holiday "certificate" sent to your recipient, stating that a nook has been purchased for them & it IS on the way.

For the gamer in your life, may I suggest the Halo Encyclopedia? It hasn't been out very long, but it has been one of the more popular books off of that display table.

For the History buffs in your family, may I suggest two new books by two of the more popular History writers of our time. Timothy Egan wrote The Worst Hard Time which has become a teacher favorite for required reading. James Bradley, the author of Flyboys also has a new one. Both of the new books are about Roosevelt Presidents, one about Teddy & one about FDR. Both books have gotten fabulous reviews and are sure to become steady sellers.

For the chefs in your life? May I introduce you to the Pioneer Woman? I don't pretend to be a cook. Hell, just today, I figured out how to make quesedillas. So when I heard about the Pioneer Woman blog, that it would not be anything that I would be interested in. Like millions of other women have discovered, there is so much more on The Pioneer Woman blog than just recipes.

The sports fan in your life might enjoy The Official Treasure of the NFL.

The classic movie fan in your life might enjoy the 70th Anniversary edition of Gone With The Wind

And for the music lovers in your life.
The Beatles Stereo Box Set

A little bit of something for everyone. Stay tuned tomorrow for a gift idea for the little ones in your life!

Happy Shopping!!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

(94) One Week In December by Holly Chamberlain

Well. At the bookstore, Holly Chamberlain may be located on the same shelf as Diane Chamberlain, but her writing leaves a lot to be desired.

I love Christmas stories. Shocking news, I know. But, I was sadly disappointed in One Week In December. The main character, Becca, is selfish and one dimensional. I know the author wrote her that way so that the cliche transformation at the end would be more defined, but instead it was a lackluster attempt at best.

Let me back up. Becca Rowen is on the corporate fast track. Her world revolves around work. She has very little in the way of a social life or friends. She works. And that is it. Over the last year, she has come to the conclusion that she will confront her family about the role they played in the event that shaped her life. Is it a good idea? Probably not, but Becca is bound and determined to make sure that her family rights the perceived wrongs. Merry Christmas to all, right?

I really wanted to like this book. I mean it IS a Christmas story after all. But Becca is not a likable, or even a sympathetic character. The rest of the family, while not selfish, they really aren't likable. I fully admit to skimming the last thirty pages, just because I wanted to see if she goes through the threats or not.

With some proper tweaking, One Week In December might make a decent Lifetime movie, but skip the book. It just isn't worth the time.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

There is so much to be thankful for on this Thanksgiving Day.

The last year of my life has been like something out of a Chick Lit novel. A year ago, I would have never imagined that this man would be back in my life, let alone engaged to him. I thank God everyday that He is giving me the "Happy Ever After" that I have always dreamed of.

I am also so very thankful for my family & friends. This past year has been the Year of Decisions for so many of my friends, family, and of course myself. Not every decision has been an easy one, but I am so very thankful for the support my family & friends have given me. They might not always be the best decisions, but I know with the support of the ones I love, every decision can turn i nto the right one.

I am especially grateful that my lil brother has moved back to the area and for the first time in years we have gotten to spend some time together. The ability he has to make me laugh has grown over time. Between Andy & David, I have never laughed so hard!

There is a lot of things happening in my life in the next few months that will likely create many memories and many times to reflect upon. But right now. In this moment, I am thankul to be alive. Thankful to be healthy. And thankful to be loved.

Life doesn't get any better than this.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

(93) Why My Third Husband Will Be A Dog by Lisa Scottoline

Why My Third Husband Will Be A Dog is a bit of a deviation from the Lisa Scottoline that I am familiar with. I am used to reading her gritty & sexy mystery novels, but apparently there is more to Ms. Scottoline than meets the eye.

Unbeknownst to this Midwest girl, Lisa Scottoline is a regular columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Obviously her regular columns are not the dark & twisty tales she writes in her books. They are mostly her observations and comments on daily life. Ranging from pet issues to parent issues to kid issues, Lisa Scottoline proves that Best Selling Authors are just like you and me.

Why My Third Husband Will Be A Dog is a compilation of all of those columns. The book is a fast read, each column is no more than a couple pages long. Not very challenging reading material, but entertaining nonetheless. Being the author groupie that I am, I enjoy the "behind the scenes" look at her life. No matter how boring it may be.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sunday, November 22, 2009

(92) This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

Are you in need of a good laugh? Not just a chuckle, but a laugh so big and so hard that your sides ache when you are done? Then waste no time getting your hands on This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper.

This Is Where I Leave You is a book about Judd Foxman & his family. Not only has Judd recently discovered that his wife has been screwing a radio shock jock, the guy happens to be his boss. His father just passed away from a long battle with cancer. He has requested that his family sit Shiva. Judd is just a little shocked by the request and with this line, I knew I was going to love this book.

Dad didn't believe in God, but he was a lifelong member of the church of Shit Or Get Off The Can.

Judd does honor his father's wishes and he finds himself in his childhood home with his sister, two brothers and their various significant others. In the seven days following their father's burial, the Foxman children find themselves trapped in the house dealing with the current issues in their lives as well as reminiscing about their childhood and the father they just lost.

From Wendy's recounting of the day she first got her period to the boys setting off the sprinklers while smoking a joint in the Temple bathroom I laughed & laughed. But it was the part with the poorly placed baby monitor & Uncle Stan's flatulence problem that had me laughing so hard the pets were looking at me funny. Holy Crap (pun intended) it was hysterical.

I have read Jonathan Tropper before, but this is his best book by far. In fact, this may be the best Fiction book of the year. Judd Foxman and his siblings are like any other family out there. They have their inside jokes, they have their go-to insults. They have their major dysfunctions. But most of all, right now, they share the pain of missing their father. For every brilliantly written Foxman mishap, there is the kick in the gut they feel when they remember their Father has died. Hysterical. Poignant. Engaging. Wonderful. Absolutely wonderful.

The perfect book to take with you in the car as you are traveling to wherever your family may be this Thanksgiving holiday. Either you will relate with the Foxmans or you will Thank God there is a family out there worse than yours. Bottom line is you will enjoy it and thank me for it later.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

(91) The Gift by Cecelia Ahern

My first holiday book of the year!!

I am a huge fan of Cecelia Ahern. I have been ever since I listened to PS, I Love You on audio. Long before the movie, if I might add. The Gift is a wonderful Christmas tale.

Lou Suffern is on the fast track to the big time. He works hard and despite that he has a wife and children at home, he plays hard. And not with his wife. Lou Suffern is a real asshole.

One day out of the blue, he decides to give the bum on the street a cup of coffee. And before he knows it, Gabe (the bum) is working his way into Lou's life. In unbelievable ways, Gabe inserts himself in Lou's out of control life.

Is Gabe the wake up call that Lou needs to get his priorities in order? To get his life in order? Or is it too late?

The Gift wasn't my favorite Cecelia Ahern book, but it is not a bad book. A bit predictable, but nice Holiday book, nonetheless.

Monday, November 16, 2009

(90) The Girl Next Door by Elizabeth Noble - On Sale December 22, 2009

Finally! A thoroughly enjoyable book!

The Girl Next Door is the third book I have read this year set in a NYC community. First there was, Mercury In Retrograde which was okay, but not great. Then, more recently, there was Prospect Park West, which frankly I didn't like at all. Thankfully, Elizabeth Noble does not disappoint.

Elizabeth Noble tells the story of a co-op in New York City. In a brief bit of autobiography, one of the main characters, Eve, is an English woman who follows her husband and his career to New York City. Eve found the perfect apartment on her first time out with the agent. The Girl Next Door tells the tale of Eve and her neighbors. Told in alternating voices in month by month chapters you become friendly with several of the building's inhabitants.

There is Trip, the trust-fund playboy. Charlotte, the dowdy librarian & Emily, her overachieving friend. You also meet Kim and her husband Jason. Rachel & her husband, David. And of course, you get to meet Violet Wallace. The woman who becomes instrumental to Eve surviving life in New York City.

The Girl Next Door is an absolutely delightful read. The characters, even with warts and all, are very likeable and easy to relate to. Elizabeth Noble uses her incredible talents to paint the story of this co-op and it's people. Their triumphs and their tribulations. It is very easy to imagine this delightful book as a movie. It would make the perfect chick flick and one I would love to pay money to see.
The book does not hit the shelves until late December, but it would be the perfect book to curl up with after the dishes are done and all of the presents have been unwrapped. Very enjoyable.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Cheerful Money by Tad Friend

I am in such a book slump. It seems to have been a while since I read a book that really just trapped me in it's pages.

Cheerful Money is touted as being "hysterical", but frankly I made it to page 138 without laughing once. Maybe it is a cultural divide. I am not a WASP, I am an Iowa farm girl. So maybe I just don't get it.

Anyway. I have moved on.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

(89) Push by Sapphire

Sometimes, there are movies out there that are better than the book. I have a feeling that Push is going to be one of those movies. Excuse me, Precious is the name of the movie. I suspect, given the names of people involved with the production of the movie, it will be worthy of every award it wins.

The book, not so much. The book, written as if it were written by an illiterate sixteen year old, is tough to read. Grammar Nazis will go insane trying to read the book. But the writing is not consistent. One paragraph may be so hard to decipher what is being said, the next paragraph is completely comprehensible. Like I said, it is inconsistent.

Forget the writing. The story will captivate you. Precious Jones has lived the life that nightmares are made of on the streets of Harlem. She was twelve years old when she got pregnant with her first child, by her father. She is currently pregnant with her second child, by her father. Her mother is physically, emotionally & sexually abusive. She has now been kicked out of school, junior high school, and has started at the alternative school.

It is here that her teacher, Ms Blue Rain, shows Precious the first display of compassion she has ever experienced in her life. Precious starts to learn how to read & write and learn that is more to life than the ghetto.

The story is heart wrenching. The writing will drive you nuts, but whether you read the book or watch the movie, this is one story you shouldn't miss. Just in case you have missed it, here is the trailer:

Monday, November 9, 2009

(88) The Courage Tree by Diane Chamberlain

What would you do to save your daughter? To what lengths would you go? Would you break your daughter out of prison? Would you agree to a radical treatment that might cause her to live with her terminal kidney disease?

Those are the questions at the heart of this book, The Courage Tree. The Courage Tree is a book about two mothers and two daughters. Janine took a risk with Sophie's life and let her go to Girl Scout camp. When she doesn't return to the designated pick up spot with the rest of the girls, Janine & her ex-husband, Joe fear that their daughter will not be found in time for her next treatment & dialysis.

On the other end of this story is Zoe & Marti. They were living a charmed, privileged life when Marti was convicted of murder. Zoe is so convinced that she was wrongly convicted and sets a plan into motion that will free them both from the prisons of their lives.

It is here where the worlds of the two mothers collide. But is it in time to save the daughters that mean so much to them?

I really like Diane Chamberlain's books. I have read several of them now, they are very reminiscent of Jodi Picoult books, but the difference being you don't want to smack the author when you are finished reading. They are well written, thought provoking stories that will leave you feeling happy & satisfied with the end. Whether it be a "happy ending" or not. Her books also usually have Readers Guide questions for book clubs.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Monday, November 2, 2009

(87) Prospect Park West by Amy Sohn

I officially am in a slump. I was somewhat was excited to read a trashy fluff book. I mean in the first pages the woman is masturbating. So I thought, this will be a great, trashy, Sex & The City kind of novel.


I will just say that I like my trashy novels without the author pushing their political agenda and we will leave it at that.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Friday, October 23, 2009

(86) Once In A Blue Moon by Eileen Goudge


I want more time to read. How about we just pass a law adding about two extra hours to the day to devote entirely to reading. It would happen if I were Queen.

Once In A Blue Moon is one of those "what if" type of books. What if there were two sisters were placed into foster care? What if one of those sisters were adopted by a loving family and the other one wasn't? What if almost thirty years later one sister needs a family more than ever?

Lindsay is a somewhat successful business owner who lives in Half Moon Bay, California. She is a treasured member of local society who has a corporate fight of massive proportion on her hands. She has always known of her younger sister, Kerri Ann, but has never been able to find her. Kerri Ann has not had an easy life. Her battle with drugs have caused her to lose her young daughter to the very system that "raised" her. While struggling to put her life back together and get her daughter back, she discovers that she has a sister. Hoping the judge would be more forgiving know that she has family support, Kerri Ann seeks out her sister.

The two sisters are night and day. But over the next several months, they learn a lot about each other, and themselves. They help each other fight their respective battles and learn that family is more than just cozy holidays and happy endings. Being a part of a family is tough, but love will pull you through the bad times as well as the good times.

Once In A Blue Moon was a good book, but it was a bit slow going. Dragging in parts and a bit cliche in others. It is worth the read, though. A heart warming story about overcoming tough obstacles.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Jim Brickman - It's A Beautiful World

One of the perks of my job is that every now and then REALLY cool things happen. After I got back from Casper last week, I was met by my Community Relations Manager with "Guess What!! Guess What!! Jim Brickman (warning - music will play if you click link) is coming!!" I literally started jumping up and down and squealed like a little schoolgirl. Ask her. She will tell you! Star 102.1 was bringing Jim Brickman to Kansas City for a Breast Cancer Awareness fundraiser and they wanted to have it at our store. In one week. OKAY! If anyone can pull it off in a week, it is Sherry Polito.

If you are not familiar with Mr. Brickman, let me introduce you to him. He is this amazingly talented musician that I have loved ever since I was introduced to him at work through an "In Store Play". In our store you

will find his CD's in the New Age section, but I would consider it more "easy listening". During his Q&A session with the customers, he mentioned that you will never hear him sing about break ups. His music is meant to be more upbeat & uplifting. Like the title song of his new album.

Prior to Jim Brickman singing, the man who did the vocals on A Beautiful World, Adam Crossley also sang a few songs. He has a new album due out next month, and I think he is one to watch. He sung Fields of Gold, and let me tell you, he sung it better than Sting did. And I am a HUGE Sting fan. Not only does he have a voice of silk, but he is absolutely stinking adorable. My first impression of him was him putting hot pink shoelaces in his shoes in order to complete his Breast Cancer Awareness ensemble.

Both men were absolutely fabulous. Kind, funny, & generous. I would be thrilled to see them in concert again, whether it be in our solarium or the Sprint center. Count me in.

Here are more photos from the day.

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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