Tuesday, March 31, 2009

(29) Secrets to Happiness by Sarah Dunn

I am in the middle of packing & moving, so my reading time was pushed to the few minutes I could keep my eyes open after crawling into bed. Any other time, I would have whipped through this book in a couple of days. I enjoyed it that much.

When I read the synopsis for this book, I was thinking, I could have written the book myself. A woman gets her heart broken by the man she loves & she gets a dog to deal with the loss. Yup. Been there, done that. And just for the record, getting a dog is the only way to deal with a traumatic break up.

It took only one chapter to realize that Sarah Dunn is far more talented than I could ever hope to be. Secrets to Happiness is a smart & funny look at life after a break-up.

Holly Frick is one year post divorce. She is still having a hard time with things & still believes that her ex is the love of her life. Her best friend, Amanda, has just told her that she is cheating on her husband. So what is a girl to do? She takes a younger lover & adopts a dog that has cancer. But is she over the ex?

Sarah Dunn has written an insightful book. Holly is so busy feeling sorry for herself and playing the victim, it takes her ex-ex boyfriend, Spencer, to hold the mirror up to Holly & help her realize that she is not as much the victim as she wants to believe she is.

While reading this book, I saw a few reviews in magazines and it got great reviews. But both reviews stated that Secrets to Happiness was not as good as Dunn's first book, Big Love. Given how much I enjoyed this book, I better dig Big Love out of my "To Be Read" pile to find out for myself.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

(28) Mommy By Mistake by Rowan Coleman

What single woman wouldn't love to be whisked away by a handsome man for a romantic weekend in Italy?

That is what happened to Natalie. She finds herself being whisked away by Jack Newhouse. A charismatic, handsome man. But nine months later, Natalie only has one man in her life. Her son, Freddie. Jack Newhouse dropped off of the face of the earth, leaving Natalie to question if the weekend was as amazing as she remembered.

Natalie is finding it tough being a single mother. All of her single friends avoid her. She has no one to talk to. No one to hang out with. And then she finds out her house needs to be rewired. And oddly enough she makes friends in the most unexpected places. The group of mommies (and daddy) find themselves to be great friends. They are there for each other through thick & thin. Alcoholic mothers, disapproving parents, cheating husbands. They get through it all.

And then Jack Newhouse returns to London. Can Natalie tell him the truth about Freddie? Did their romantic weekend mean as much to Jack as it did to Natalie? And where has Jack been for the last year?

There but for the grace of God goes I, is what I thought when I read Mommy By Mistake. You don't get to be a nearly thirty-four year old single woman without having a romantic weekend or two. Or a scare or two. The thought of being a single mother scares the bejeesus out of me. But Rowan Coleman shows us, that with the right support system, it is not as scary as it could be.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

(27) Lost & Found by Carolyn Parkhurst

I got this book as a Valentine's Day gift from bookseller extraordinaire, Miss Jane. Miss Jane is the type of old school bookseller that you read about in books. She can sell any book to any customer, especially one she just loves. But, Miss Jane, will never see this post as she doesn't have a computer, let alone knows what a blog is.

So. Let's talk about Lost & Found. I was pleasantly surprised reading this book. It is well written and I was sucked in by the reality show adventure and the daytime soap opera drama.

The book starts with Cassie & Laura's story, but there really isn't a main character of this story. Cassie is the teen daughter & Laura is the mother. They have come through a pretty stressful & traumatic time in their lives and Laura thought it would be a good idea for them to go on a game show. A treasure hunt that sends them all over the world. Somewhat similar to The Amazing Race. Laura was sure that some mother/daughter bonding time would cure what ails them.

Joining them on the great treasure hunt is a hodge podge group of contestants. There are the former child stars, the brothers, the childhood sweethearts, the genius millionaires, and the husband/wife team that are "recovering" from being homosexual.

Following the teams all over the world, you see the stress of the game & their own demons start to get to all of them. Will they make it through the game with their integrity intact? Who will be victorious & who will be destroyed by the truths that are revealed?

Great book! Fans of reality shows, especially The Amazing Race, will love the, behind the scenes glimpse at what goes into making a reality show.

Thanks Miss Jane, you did not disappoint with your selection!

Monday, March 16, 2009

(26)The Stepmother by Carrie Adams

I first read The Godmother over a year ago. And thoroughly enjoyed it. But it wasn't until I was on page 286 of The Stepmother that I realized it was a sequel to the 2007 book.

Tessa King is now thirty-eight and has finally met the man of her dreams, James Kent. The only drawback is that James has an ex-wife and three daughters. Can Tessa find room in her heart for three step-daughters? Can James be the husband she needs him to be, while at the same time, being the father his daughter's need him to be? And what about Bea? The Ex-Wife. Will she win James back? Can Tessa get past her own insecurities with James & Bea's history to live Happily Ever After?

The book alternates viewpoints. Between Bea & Tessa. The first few chapters are told from Bea's viewpoint. And after four years of separation, Bea is starting to believe that her & Jimmy will be getting back together. When Jimmy says that he needs to talk to her, Bea is all ready to hear that he wants to move back in. Instead, he tells her that he met someone. Bea does not take the news very well & starts a downward spiral of alcoholism & bulimia to deal with her pain and perceived failure. Can Bea & Tessa share Jimmy & the girls or will the bitterness & jealousy destroy them all?

I have never been a Stepmother, but I was in a serious relationship with a newly divorced man with two kids. And it was hard. A lot of the same issues & feelings that Tessa dealt with. The jealousy, the fear, the need to be first on the list of priorities. And finding yourself number 4 or number 5 on that list. The guilt for having those feelings. Been there, done that & it was ugly. The worst of all was the fact that he didn't even realize or acknowledge what I was feeling. My relationship didn't survive, but will Tessa's?

I really liked how Carrie Adams alternated viewpoints. And it was critical for her to show Bea's side first. It would have been easy, being that Tessa was the developed character (from The Godmother) it would have been easy to paint Bea as the "bad guy" right from the start. Instead, we see the Super Mom fall apart as she feels her life spinning out of control. Then we see Tessa handle "Stepmother" situations with less than grace. Neither character is perfect, but they both want the same thing. A Happy Ending.

You may think that The Stepmother is a Chick Lit book by the cover, by the synopsis. It is not. It is an emotional, in depth look at both sides of the "Second Marriage Story". There is no "villain" in the story. Just two women with real feelings trying to survive. A great read! Highly recommended!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

(25) The Only True Genius In the Family by Jenni Nash

First of all, I want to thank Jennie Nash for the complimentary copy of her new book, The Only True Genius in the Family. It was a pleasant read & I thank her for allowing me to meet Claire & her family.

There seems to be a recurring theme in some of the books I have read this year. It is the concept I first realized in Kelly Corrigan's The Middle Place. Italic Which refers to that place that some of us find ourselves trapped in. That place where you are caught between being a child & being a parent.

Claire finds herself trapped in that purgatory when her extremely famous, world renown photographer father passes away & leaves his work & the rights to his work to her daughter, a budding artist on the brink of success.

Claire finds herself struggling with being the grieving daughter & the proud parent all at the same time. But in the days & weeks following her father's death, Claire discovers that her father was not exactly the artist that world perceived him to be. And in the process she learns something about her own talents as a photographer.

The Only True Genius in the Family is a book about a woman trying to come to terms with her father's death & her daughter's life. Neither one is easy for a woman trying to find a comfortable place in her own life. It was great to watch the character grow & find out that she is stronger & more talented than she ever gave herself credit for.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

(24) Fight For Your Money by David Bach

Fight For Your Money is the perfect book for these "tough economic times."
Is anyone else as sick of that phrase or a variation of that phrase as I am?
Being a faithful Dave Ramsey listener, a lot of the information shared in this book is stuff that I have heard Dave talk about time & time again. But even then, a lot of the information shared is common sense punctuated with useful information.
The chapters are broken down into financial subjects. And the book is formatted like a dictionary. So the first chapter is Automobiles & everything financially pertaining to cars. From car loans to leasing to repairs. Each chapter in the book gives you a checklist of information or "to-do's" associated with each topic. As well as helpful websites & contact information for Government agencies.
I think the book would make a great graduation present. There is so much helpful information crammed into this book that a lot of us have already figured out due to life experience. A young person starting out on their own would benefit greatly from the wisdom that David Bach shares.

Monday, March 9, 2009

(23) Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult

Warning: I do not intend to post specific spoilers, but you may be able to figure out the ending if you read the last two paragraphs of my review. Read at your own risk!

Wrongful Life. The concept is not a foreign one to me. In fact, it is something I am deeply passionate about, given the fact that I was born with a disability. There are some who think that if given the opportunity they would abort a child who was less than perfect. And Jodi Picoult gets to the heart of the subject in her new book, Handle With Care.

Charlotte & Sean O'Keefe are shocked to learn that their unborn child will be born with a debilitating, permanent disability. She will born with osteogenesis imperfecta (OI). Also known as Brittle Bone Disease. Willow O'Keefe had broken bones even before she was born. Her tiny little body breaks with the least provocation. And just like that, the O'Keefe family stop living for ice skating lessons and pastry shops and start living for doctor's appointments & bone settings.

After a disastrous vacation to Orlando, Sean & Charlotte consult a lawyer to see if a lawsuit is feasible. Disney World, the Orlando Police Department, anyone. They want someone to pay for the humiliation the family experienced on their vacation.

The Attorney tells them to forget about the vacation. Instead she suggests filing a malpractice lawsuit against the doctor who did not catch the disease with the first Ultrasound. The obstetrician, Piper, is Charlotte's best friend.

Charlotte's decision to go forward with the lawsuit is the toughest decision she has ever had to make. And it rips her family and her life apart. Sean files for divorce, Amelia, their older daughter, essentially feels shunned by her friends & ignored by her family & seeks solace in the worst kind of self destructive behavior. The lawsuit is long and it is ugly. Can Charlotte win the lawsuit & keep her family together? Can she win the Wrongful Birth lawsuit & convince five year old Willow that she loves her unconditionally?

For the most part the story was a good one. Picoult, again, picked a hot button social issues & tells the story from all sides. Charlotte, Sean, Piper, Amelia & Marin, the lawyer.


First of all, a few of the location inaccuracies drove me nuts. For one thing, I was a Shriner's Child. I grew up in a small town 45 minutes from Omaha. I assure you, there is NO Shriner's Hospital in Omaha. God, I wish there was, but no, my family & I drove 8 hours to Minneapolis anywhere from one to three times a year to be seen by the doctor's there. So, inaccuracy number one.

Inaccuracy number two also deals with Omaha. When Charlotte & the girls are at the OI convention, they go to the Henry Doorly Zoo. By far one of the best zoos in the country, if not the world. A scene in the book takes place in the Aquarium. And the content of the scene happens because the Aquarium is empty, & according to the author , the Aquarium is empty because of it's location. Wrong. The Aquarium at the Henry Doorly Zoo (which happens to be my favorite part of the zoo) is located right inside of the entrance. And is NEVER empty because it is one of the few air conditioned building on the zoo's property. While the scene is great. That one little line about the location could have been left out & still stayed true to the story.

And finally, the other thing that drove me BONKERS about this book was Jodi Picoult's need to follow the latest trends with authors & include random recipes throughout the book. Frankly, I prefer my fiction to not be peppered with recipes. Grrr.... that is one trend that I hope does not last long.

Now let me tell you about one thing that I did like. Something, or someone, I was elated to see mentioned in the book. There is a chapter when the Defense Attorney is tearing into Charlotte. She is asked if all deaf & blind babies should be aborted. And then the lawyer asks about babies with missing limbs. Should they be allowed to be born? The lawyer then gives the examples of Helen Keller & Jim Abbott.
Jim Abbott happens to be a personal hero of mine. He was born with a hand just like mine. He went on win a Gold Medal in the Olympics & pitch a No Hitter for the Yankees. A NO HITTER! Most "able bodied" pitchers DREAM of pitching a No Hitter. I had Jim Abbott's poster hanging in my bedroom for years. I had all of his baseball cards & I even got an autographed picture of him, which I still have. For someone who grows up "different" it is hard to find somebody JUST LIKE YOU to look up to & aspire to be like, I found that in Jim Abbott. No, I didn't want to pitch in the Big Leagues, but it was nice to know that I could if I wanted.
The point the Defense Attorney was trying to make was that less than perfect babies grow up to be productive, contributing adults. Some grow up to be Major League Pitchers & others grow up to work in bookstores. But if every mother aborted their "less than perfect" baby, where would this world be? What would Charlotte have been depriving the world of if she had been given the opportunity to abort Willow?
I hate being disappointed by my favorite authors. John Grisham did it to me with The Appeal. Because of it, I sincerely doubt I will ever read another one of his books & Jodi Picoult may have done it to me with her book Handle With Care.
. I am disappointed because Jodi Picoult did not do Willow justice. She created this child, this beautiful, smart, wonderful child who was born with a disability. And instead of being an advocate for those like Willow & showing the world that people with OI can go on to lead semi-normal, productive lives, she had to go for the "easy out". She was wrote the last chapter for the Kleenex. Just like every other book Picoult has written. And for that, I am so very disappointed in her. Her editor, her publisher, anyone should have had the guts to stand up to this bestselling author & tell her that it is okay to have a happy ending. Sometimes we, the reader, NEED a happy ending.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

(22) Heart & Soul by Maeve Binchy

Believe it or not Heart & Soul was my very first Maeve Binchy novel. But, I don't think it will be my last

What I really liked about this book was the way the story branches out into a million different directions, but are all connected back to the Heart Clinic. Which is really the heart & soul of the story.

Let me explain. Heart & Soul is the story of Clara Casey. And the heart clinic that she is responsible for getting off the ground. Essentially it was her idea. She is the primary doctor. She did all of the hiring of the staff, the designing of the clinic layout, she is the Heart & Soul of the heart clinic. Each of the chapters take you in a different direction with each of the employees at the clinic. From the young intern, Declan, to the Polish immigrant who has become one of the most valuable staff members. Even some of the patient's stories are told in the chapters, because they all circle together. And each story is different, but each story brings you back to the clinic.

Heart & Soul is a character study of what happens when lives connect at a place people go to everyday. Work. In this case "work" is a heart clinic. It could be your story that Maeve Binchy is telling. Take a look at the people you work with. Do you know their "story"? And if not, why not? Work can be so much more than a paycheck if you let it happen. What, or who, is the Heart & Soul of the place where you spend 40 (give or take) hours a week?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

(21) I Love You, Beth Cooper by Larry Doyle

I gave my blog readers the opportunity to vote for the next book for me to read. I only had one voter (LOL) , so thank you for whomever it was that voted for I Love You, Beth Cooper.

Larry Doyle has written the *perfect* book for all of your movie lovers out there. Especially those of you who love the "Teen Angst" type of movie. Every one of us hItalicas a teen movie that we watched repeatedly, because we could identify with it. For our parents it may have been American Graffitti or Fast Times at Ridgemont High. For my generation, it could be any one of half a dozen John Hughes films. Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles. Or even Ferris Buellers Day Off. Each chapter of I Love You, Beth Cooper is prefaced with a quote from all of those Teen Angst movies that we all love. My favorite quote being from the dark comedy, Heathers.
Well fuck me gently with a chainsaw. --- Heather Chandler

I predict that the teen angst movie of 2009 will be I Love You, Beth Cooper. http://www.iloveyoubethcoopermovie.com/ But, before you see the movie, you need to read the book! The book was awesome!

Denis Cooverman is the class geek. He is also the class valedictorian. And in his farewell speech to his classmates, he decides to tell a few truths. Like telling his best friend, it is okay to come out of the closet. And he tells Beth Cooper how he really feels. In front of all of their classmates, families, & teachers.

His declaration of love is the start of what only can be called a comedy of errors. Even if Denis calls it the best night of his life. As the night progresses, Denis learns that Beth Cooper is not the icon he has always perceived her to be, and he learns a little bit about himself as well. Chapter after chapter is full of hormones & humiliation.

I Love You, Beth Cooper is not only laugh out loud funny, it is well written & should translate well to the big screen.

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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