Friday, January 30, 2009

(11) What I Did For Love by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

I have lost sleep the last two nights because of this book. So, I start by apologizing to the coworkers who put up with my cranky butt, because I chose to stay up until the wee hours of the morning not once, but twice to finish this book.

But, let me say, it was well worth the lost sleep! What I Did for Love was everything I expected from Susan Elizabeth Phillips & more.

Georgie York is America's sweetheart. She is a beloved child actor all grown up. But life hasn't turned out exactly like she had anticipated. Her beloved husband just divorced her to marry the Hollywood version of Mother Theresa. Her last three movies have been complete flops. The paparazzi hounds her mercilessly. And her former costar, Sexy Bramwell Shepherd keeps turning up at the worst time possible. Like Vegas.

Throw in some spiked drinks & a wedding certificate & you have Georgie's worst nightmare. Or is it? She has been trying to find a way to let the world know that her ex-husband may have broken her heart, but he didn't break her spirit. Is her "marriage" to Bram the way to normalcy for her? And Bram has his own reasons for wanting the "marriage" to last, at least for six months. He needs America's Sweetheart's respectability to rub off on him in order to do the project he was meant to do.

What I Did For Love is a story that could have been ripped right from the Tabloid Headlines. Throw in a power struggle with her domineering father, a studio exec, a housekeeper from hell & the Personal Assistant every power couple dreams of & you have a wonderful love story that will melt your heart & leave you hoping for your own bad boy to marry.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

(10) Bloodprint by Ktty Sewell -- On Sale February 3rd, 2009

There is nothing like a good psychological thriller to keep you warm on a cold winter day.
Bloodprint tells the story of Madeline. She had led an interesting life that spans the world. At age of 15, while living in Key West, she meets & falls in love with an older man, Forrest. After one night of passion, Forrest leaves her after learning her true age, but before learning that she is pregnant.
I am struggling with how much information to share with you without giving away too much of the story. Many years have passed & Bloodprint takes Madeline from Key West to Bath, England. Where Madeline is trying to put her life back together after much heartbreak.
Her new career as a Psychotherapist has introduced her to some unsavory people, but when a new client walks in, her life is turned upside down. And the secrets of the past are threatened to be revealed. Can Madeline help her new client & solve the secrets of the past at the same time? Or is she better off going back to Key West?
Bloodprint is a well written page turner. And with each page you turn, a bit more of the mystery is revealed. I was pleased with the way the story came together & was very pleased with the way the book ended. Like I said, the perfect thriller for a cold winter day!

Monday, January 26, 2009

(9) The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst

Have you read The Dogs of Babel? You need to. It has been a while since I have read a book that really put my emotions through the wringer. From sadness, to anger, to relief. But at the end, I was glad to that I had read the book.

Linguistics professor, Paul Iverson, has met & fallen in love with his complete opposite, artist, Lexy. They marry & he moves in with Lexy & her dog, Lorelei. Their life is moving right along until the night he comes home to find the police. They tell him that, apparently, Lexy fell out of their apple tree in the backyard. The only witness was Lorelei.

Paul's grief is so palpable that you can feel it through the pages. He can not understand how or why Lexy came to be in the apple tree. The coroner said that the injuries were not congruent with a jump. So what happened? Through some research Paul has discovered a small society that believes they can teach dogs to talk.

Paul takes a sabbatical from his teaching and sets out to solve the mystery of what happened to his beloved wife. This is where I get angry. When Paul connects with the horrible group of people that believe with mutilation, dogs can talk, well I was so angry, I threw the book at the wall. Ever since my dog, Mr Bailey, came into my life, I have found that I am so much more sensitive to dog related stories. Mr Bailey is the love of my life & I would NEVER endanger him as Paul endangered Lorelei. But the remorse he felt for involving her with that group, well I forgave him.

The Dogs of Babel is a book about grief. And the grief fueled things that drive us to survive after losing a loved one. But just to be clear, I am not just talking of Paul's grief, I am also talking of Lorelei's grief. Through out the book, Paul tells us the story of his marriage. And with each "flashback" chapter we get to learn a little more about Lexy. And slowly the mystery comes together & Paul finally gets the answers he was so desperate for.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

(8) Conversations with the Fat Girl by Liza Palmer

It wasn't until I was about 200 pages into Conversations With the Fat Girl that I stopped despising the main character, Maggie. And I think that may have been when Maggie stopped despising herself.
Maggie Thomas lives in Pasadena. The land of the skinny people. Which makes life interesting because she is a "Fat Girl". But no worries, she has her trusty sidekick, Olivia to keep her company. And then Maggie has Gastric Bypass Surgery. But honestly, I think she also had a personality transplant.
The girls are now in their 20's. And they are about as different as two women can be. Olivia is a size 2. Enganged to a successful, handsome doctor. Maggie is working at a local coffee shop & has just been evicted from her house. Not to mention she is still fat.
Conversations with the Fat Girl is one of those books where the character's transformation is so blatant that it almost hits you over the head. Maggie goes from the fat girl who doesn't think she is worthy of having anything good in her life to the woman whose life is slowing coming together. Over the course of events (a hot guy interested in her & Olivia turning into a raving bitch to name a few) she realizes that SHE is the one in control of her life. It really is quite stunning to watch it unfold.
Liza Palmer did a great job with Maggie. I look forward to meeting other people in her world & reading about their experiences.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

(7) The Might Queens of Freeville by Amy Dickinson -- On Sale February 3rd, 2009

I will preface this post by saying that until this book landed on my doorstep, I had no idea of who Amy Dickinson was. Having said that, The Mighty Queens of Freeville is an absolutely delightful memoir. And after checking out her website, she is as adorable as I made her out to be in my mind.

For those of you who did not click on the URL, Amy Dickinson is the advice columnist who took over Ann Lander's column when she passed away. And I got that information from the back of the book. *grin*

But with chapters like "The Apex of Dorkitude" I knew that I would love this book! And I did. Amy Dickinson lets us into her life. She tells us what it was like to grow up in a large family of women in a town with only 458 people.

"My relatives littered Freeville like downed tree limbs after a storm."
I come from a rather large family & I totally understand that sentiment. Amy then goes on to tell us how growing up in that town, with her family shaped her life. From her early marriage & early divorce, to the birth of her daughter, and how no matter what happened, Freeville & The Mighty Queens of Freeville were always & forever there for her.
I enjoyed this book for many reasons. It was an easy, engaging read. And Amy Dickinson is a very likeable character. She is the "dependable" friend that we all wish we had in our corner. With sound advice & loads of life experience, Amy will never steer you wrong.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

(6) Your Roots Are Showing by Elise Chidley

Lizzie Buckley has had enough.
Her three year old twins keep her beyond busy. She needs to maintain the "perfect" ancestral home that has been in her husband's family for generations & well, she has just had enough. Exhaustion dogs her every step, she never lost the baby weight, & a husband that does very little to help out has pushed her over the edge.
She is so exhausted that she doesn't realize that the venting email that was intended for her sister, Janie, was sent to her husband, James.
And just like that, it is over. James comes home, packs his bags & tells her to hire a divorce attorney. In the months following that dreaded email Lizzie learns a little bit about love & a lot about herself. But is it too late to save her marriage?
Your Roots Are Showing is a story about a woman trying to survive post-pregnancy life. It is about the importance of communication & compromise in a marriage. It may be hard to read, because Lizzie is such an identifiable character, but it is not pretty. But then again, neither is Motherhood.

Monday, January 12, 2009

(5) The Lost Recipe of Happiness by Barbara O'Neal

The Lost Recipe for Happiness is the newest Bantam Discovery book. I have yet to be disappointed by one of their recommendations and I was very glad to see that this book lives up to their standards.
Elena Alvarez has had a very rough life. A life destroying accident changed her life in ways that still resonate twenty years later. She started the healing process nearly twenty years ago by learning to cook. And here she is, all these years later, still trying to heal her heart, body & mind from the tragedy that has defined her.
She has roamed the world trying to escape the ghosts of her past & just exist in the male dominated kitchens of the country's top restaurants.
After being fired from her Sous Chef job by her ex-lover, Elena is a bit unsettled about what will come next. Until the owner of the restaurant offers her the job she has been working for all of her career. He is offering the Executive Chef position in his new restaurant in Aspen.
Elena packs up her beloved dog, Alvin, and they head to Aspen. Elena has many challenges to overcome to make the restaurant a success. An alcoholic chef, a wayward Pastry Chef, immigration issues, her growing attraction for the movie star owner, and of course the protests of her own mangled body. Can Elena find the happiness that has escaped her for most of her life?
Barbara O'Neal has written such a great book. The story itself is wonderful. While heart wrenching at some points & uplifting in others, the fabulous recipes distributed before each chapter will leave your mouth watering & hungry for more.

Friday, January 9, 2009

(4) The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl by Shauna Reid

Calling all dieters!!!! I have the book that you MUST read! The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl by Shauna Reid is the book that many of us could have written!
This is not the story of the perfect girl who had 40lbs to lose. And did it in a matter of weeks. This is the story of a woman who needed to lose 186 lbs. ONE HUNDRED & EIGHTY SIX POUNDS! That is more than some of you weigh right now & you were just bitching to your girlfriend about needed to lose weight, right?? Uh-huh -- I thought so.
There were so many times as I read this book when I thought, I very well could have written this book. Her observations & experiences mirror my weight loss journey in so many ways.
This is what she has to say in regards to her first attempt at walking down the block.
"I didn't even get to the end of the block before I had to stop. As I clutched
my knees & wheezed, I caught my reflection in a car window. My face was a
violent shade of Call the Ambulance Red."
Oh yes. I remember the day when I first got on my new to me treadmill. I thought I was going to die. And while I weighed 278lbs vs her 351lbs. It was still a horrible, horrible experience. Feeling like you were going to die, but knowing if you didn't keep going, you WERE likely to die. And while I am nowhere near 278 at this time, I know I am nowhere near a "healthy" weight for me.
Shauna has her epiphany when she is standing looking at her knickers on the line. Her decision to change her life was made when she was 23. She was bound & determined to be down to Size 12 by the time she turned 25. With the love & support of her trusty sidekick, her younger sister, Rhiannon, Dietgirl attended Weight Watchers every week & started becoming a regular at the gym. And you follow Dietgirl on her "Lard-Busting" mission across two continents, many jobs, and a couple of diet plans.
She lands in Scotland & what do you know, she has met a man. And I found myself nodding in agreement with this line when her boyfriend offers her a tshirt to wear in bed.
"Yes, I'm s0 ridiculous, that I would rather go topless and freeze then risk the
humiliation of not fitting into his t-shirt."
OH, yes! Been there, done that. But, God Bless Him for thinking his size L t-shirt would fit over the hips that my mother gave me.
Unlike Superman or Batman, Dietgirl is real. She has real feelings, real cravings, real successes and real failures. She has worked harder than many of us can imagine to achieve her weight loss goals.
I have been on this weight loss journey for eight years now. I am an expert on calories & fat & protein & water intake & all of the other stuff that makes you a healthy person. But, like Shauna, I have the inner war. Good Charlotte vs Bad Charlotte. Which one will win today? And what I took away from Shauna's story is that it is OKAY to screw up & fall off of the wagon, so to speak. There were several times in her story where she did just that. But you know what, she started over when she needed to & that is the important thing. You just start where you are.
The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl is a book that came from her blog. if you scroll through the archives, you can get a glimpse of what she went through. (But! But! But! THANK YOU to the publisher who translated the metric system into pounds for the sake of Americans who have no concept of Kilograms!) Where she started at & where she is now. And you most certainly need to read the book. It is so very inspiring. So very REAL. If you are struggling with your New Years Resolution right now, you need to read this book. You will see. If Dietgirl can do it, so can you!!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

(3) Kiss by Ted Dekker & Erin Healy

Kiss was the first book by Ted Dekker that I have read. A former co-worker was always asking me to read his books & asking me if I have read anything yet, so he would be glad that I finally have.
That being said, the book was okay. Since it is "co-written" I don't know if it was truly a collaboration or if Ted Dekker is turning into the James Patterson of Religious Fiction. I hope not, because that whole concept drives me nuts.
Anyway, about the book. Kiss is a somewhat a romantic suspense novel, with a little theology thrown in for good measure. The prologue has the main character, Shauna, having an animated discussion with her therapist. And her younger brother is in the room. They are talking about confronting her father. A Senator from Texas who is running for President.
The first chapter picks up with Shauna in the hospital waking up after a six week coma. She & her brother had been in a serious car accident & her brother will never be the same again. Shauna has no memory of the accident itself or just about anything that leads up to the accident. After a few interesting run ins, Shauna starts to believe that it was not an accident at all & she can not trust the people that she should be able to trust.
There is a lot of action & suspense in the story. With a little bit of romance. But, honestly about halfway through the book, I couldn't wait for it to end. I felt that I had invested too much time to give up, but it was a fairly fast read, so I didn't feel guilty for sticking with it.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

(2) Glitter Baby by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

I have a confession. I like trashy romance novels. I have stacks & stacks of trashy romance novels that I am saving for my retirement. Or so I say.

Almost everyone I "know" in the book lover world has a "comfort" author. Much like comfort food, a comfort Author is someone that you read to feel good or feel better. An author that you read whatever they write, no matter what they write. Their books may not be on your "Favorite Books Ever" list, but you will read every book they ever write. For some it is Danielle Steele, for others it is James Patterson. For me it is Susan Elizabeth Phillips. I have read every book she has ever written. I have kept every book she has ever written. And she is one of the few authors that I have re-read over & over & over.
Why do I love her books so much? Well, I think it is because of the emotions she evokes with her written word. Her heroines are always strong women. Women who encounter a crisis & survive. They always have to work through their crisis & find a solution to the problem. And usually the process involves a man. But regardless what the crisis is or who the man is, they are stronger, better women at the end of the story.
Glitter Baby is no difference. The heroine is a young woman named Fleur. Fleur's problem is her parents. In one way or another her mother & her father make her life a living hell. Once her father discovered he wasn't Fleur's father, he banished her to a convent to grow up. And when she grew into a stunningly beautiful woman, both of her parents wanted her around. Her manipulative mother was trying to live vicariously through her beauty & talent. And her "father" had a much more sinister reason for wanting her around.
Cue the handsome man.
Fleur falls in love with Jake Koranda while working together on a movie. But can Fleur survive her parents deceptions & live happily ever after?
Glitter Baby is a reprint of SEP's very first novel. It has been out of print for quite sometime & was the only book of hers that I had not read. It was re released in anticipation for her new book What I Did For Love due out at the end of the month. Because Glitter Baby was written in the early 80's there may be references to people or places that will be lost on anyone much younger than me. But it really doesn't matter because the love story is timeless.
Great, great trashy romance novel. But on a "trashy" scale of 1-10, I give it a 3. There are only a few sex scenes, but the ones there are smoking hot. So just enough to be shelved in the romance section, but nowhere close to being considered "erotica". Check it out for a great "fluff" read. -- But first, tell me who is YOUR "comfort author"?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

(1.) A Three Dog Life by Abigal Thomas

I can only hope that every book I read in 2009 is as good as the first book of the year.
The blurb on the front of the book, from Stephen King, says "The Best Memoir I have ever read. This book is a punch to the heart. Read it."
And the man was not kidding. A Three Dog Life is the memoir of a woman who is coping with tragedy. Coping with the physical damage caused to her husband when he is hit by a car while walking their dog, Harry. Abby is also coping with the personality transformation caused by the accident. The man she married has disappeared. Left in his place is a cruel, paranoid, psychotic man who is safe only in a hospital setting with professionals who know how to handle him.
The book tells Abigal's story. Starting with the accident & the few horrible weeks after. And then it tells the story of her new reality. Where the only warm body she has to go home to is Harry, their dog. Eventually Abby adds another dog to her family. Here she is talking about Rosie, who was orphaned on 9/11.
"Whoever the man was, he must have loved her as I do, he trained her, and when I
tell her to sit and she sits, I swear I can feel his ghost hovering
nearby. I want to tell the people who loved him that is dog is part of a
family now, that she is doing fine."
Abby then leaves the city where she has spent the majority of her life to be closer to her husband. And it is there that she finds the third dog to add to her family. But life in the country is a challenge for her. She is used to the hustle & bustle of the city. She is used to being surrounded by people. The noises of the country are frightening to a single woman. And, oh boy can I relate to this. This is why I have slept with music playing ever since I moved out of my parents house. I laughed out loud when I read this, because I can SOOOO relate.
"The noises are real and no doubt have a logical explanation, but
at midnight logic is not my companion, so the solution is to keep my imagination
in check."
I can not state enough how much I enjoyed this book. I cried when Abby cried, I rejoiced when Abby rejoiced & I felt comfort when Abby felt comfort. I have never so easily empathized with an author. I could feel her grow & adapt with what life has thrown her way. I could feel through the pages as she went from profound grief to comfortable acceptance.
A Three Dog Life is the most fabulous little memoir & I think it will go to one of my top ten favorites. And most certainly one of the best of the year.

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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