Tuesday, June 29, 2010

(98)Promises to Keep by Jane Green

It is official. Jane Green is my favorite author. I have loved her books for a while now. I even read her blog.
There is just something about her that just makes her seem so down to earth. So human. Her realness translates into every character she writes. You can't help but like her.

Her new book, Promises to Keep could almost be called a labor of love. I remember reading her blog when her beloved friend passed away from cancer. You can see the love in every word of Promises to Keep. It may not be the story of her friend's life, but it is a tribute to he life. And her death. Written in away, that I assure you, her friend would be very proud of.

Promises to Keep tells the story of a family. Callie and Steffi are the daughters of Honor and Walter. Reece is Callie's devoted husband and Lila is Callie's best friend. They are a family. When close to the five year anniversary of Callie's breast cancer rolls around, they are already breathing a sigh of relief. Until one day Callie blacks out while driving her mother and her sister. Their worst nightmare is realized. But as a family they circle the wagons and do everything they can to be there for Callie, Reece, and their kids.

Promises to Keep is a well written, easy read. Yet I cried myself through the last half of the book. The whole "cancer" theme is still too fresh to me. Almost two months now since the death of Aunt Mary and her death still haunts me. Cancer is a dreadful disease that leaves a wake of devastation. I don't need my favorite author to remind me of that fact. But I am glad to have read this book. You can't help but adore Callie & Steffi. You can't help but fall a little in love with Reece. You can't help but cry at Callie's story. Such a very good book. Great for the beach, but you better throw a box of tissues in that Beach Bag as well!

Monday, June 28, 2010

(97)Seven Year Switch by Claire Cook

Seven Year Switch is one of those novels that you pick up just for the cover. It just looks refreshing, doesn't it?

What it looks like is freedom. Which is totally appropriate for Claire Cook's newest novel. For the last seven years, Jill has been surviving. Existing only for her daughter. Her husband left her seven years ago and has now decided to walk back into their lives. Jill is torn, between the father of her child and this new man that has come into her life. When the opportunity to go to Costa Rica comes up Jill is hesitant to commit. She decides to go and the trip changes the way she is looking at life.

Claire Cook has a tradition of writing novels about women reinventing themselves. Which I imagine is pretty empowering if you are a woman in need of reinventing. I didn't read her last book because it was the concept was getting old for me, but the cover of Seven Year Switch was so inviting. I struggle with liking her books because they seem repetitive. The plot may vary, but the concept is the same. At this point in my life, as a newlywed who moved 1,000 miles away to start my new life, the "I am woman hear me roar" concept is just one that seems foreign to me. I am sure many of you out there can relate to what Claire Cook writes, so I say go for it, this book will be a perfect beach read for you. I hope you get out of it more than I did.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

(99) Still Missing by Chevy Stevens - On Sale July 6th

Still Missing is the electrifying debut novel of Chevy Stevens. If her debut novel is any indication, Chevy Stevens will have a long, productive career.

Annie O'Sullivan is a 32 year old real estate agent. She is just wrapping up a slow open house when a gentleman walks in and changes her life forever. She is kidnapped and held hostage for over a year by a man she has named "The Freak".

We know Annie gets away because the book is written from Annie's viewpoint during her therapy sessions. It is what comes to light after Annie returns home that is going to make this book a bestseller. The twist at the end was not only shocking, but heartbreaking. Your heart aches for Annie and what she has to endure, both in captivity and out of captivity.

Still Missing was a wonderful read. Well written and very engrossing. It was a page turner that only took a few hours to read. The subject matter is a little intense, but it is not too graphic. Chevy Stevens has a long career ahead of her and I look forward to reading whatever she publishes.

(96) Stuff by Randy Frost & Gail Steketee

With recent media attention of hoarding through television shows, such as Hoarders on A&E, American's have become obsessed with compulsive disorders. Specifically hoarding.

Stuff takes a fascinating look at specific cases of hoarding and the different situations and experiences that led them to hoarding. From young children to elderly men each case is different, unique and heartbreaking.

As I was reading this book, I kept thinking, "there but for the Grace of God, go I". Just last week I spent nearly seven hours cleaning house and getting rid of clutter. And we have only lived here for six months. Our case was more of laziness in sorting mail, receipts, and such. But given my obsession with buying books and my husband's obsession with all things disc related, it could very easy get out of hand.

I found this book fascination. The author's were very scientific, yet empathetic in sharing the stories of the hoarders. They made it very clear that hoarding is a disease that can only be cured with treatment and time. That little nugget alone makes it worth reading this book. Anytime we can be enlightened on a disease, it is a good thing, in my opinion.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

(95)Broken by Karin Slaughter

Every Summer for the last several summers, while most female readers are eagerly awaiting the newest from Janet Evanovich, I am eagerly awaiting the newest from Karin Slaughter.

Broken is this year's installment in the Will Trent and Faith Mitchell series that I have come to love. Karin Slaughter stays true to their story and Broken picks up with Faith Mitchell stuck in Atlanta about to give birth on Thanksgiving week. Will is called away from his holiday plans to investigate the death of an inmate while in custody.

Even though Faith Mitchell doesn't play a big part in this novel there are some characters that devoted fans will recognize. Including Sara Lindon and Lena Adams. Once again they are entangled in a case and Will Trent is left to play referee. Will he be able to piece it all together before Sara or Lena fall victim to the killer?

Karin Slaughter knows how to write a good, gritty crime novel. Broken wasn't nearly as gritty as some of her other works, but it is gritty enough for me to say not everyone would enjoy this book. If you are looking for a good mystery to pass away the summer days with, look up Karin Slaughter. While her books feature the same characters, there really isn't a need to read them in any order. Karin does an excellent job of giving the necessary history of Will & Faith to keep you in the loop, whether this be your first book or fifth book. Sit back and enjoy. There is nothing better than a good, gritty, crime novel.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Thursday, June 24, 2010

(94) Arm Candy by Jill Kargman

Arm Candy is not really a book that I can recommend to the people who have come to trust my reviews. I had a hard time staying focused on the story and the main character wasn't really that engaging or dynamic. I found myself skimming pages once I hit about page 130. I did read the last few chapters just to see how it was going to end. I must say the ending was quite predictable.

Brief synopsis. Eden leaves Backwoods, USA (totally paraphrasing there) for the big city once someone offers her a modeling job. After a hew hit & miss boyfriends, she finds herself the muse of a wealthy, famous, older artist.

Twenty years later, Eden is facing 40 & moving on from her "wealthy, older, artist" and finds herself in the middle of the "Cougar" movement. She is looking for love, happiness, and herself. Can she find with a younger man what she could not find with an older man?

Like I said, predictable. I am sure there are some of you out there that might enjoy this book, but it is one that I would leave out of the beach bag.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

(93) Rumor Has It by Jill Mansell

There is something about summer that has me wanting to read fluff. Mindless novels that you can read sitting by the beach, or in your car at lunch (like me) they are fun books that don't challenge your vocabulary or have you sleeping with the lights on, but good stories with fun characters.

Rumor Has It is just one of those books. In fact, Jill Mansell is one of those authors. She could be compared to Sophie Kinsella, but I don't really like Sophie Kinsella's writing, so better. Rumor Has It is about a girl, Tilly who just got done visiting her friend out in the country. On her way back to London she decides that she likes small town life and calls an advertisement for "Girl Friday" in the paper.

It doesn't take Tilly long to realize that rumors run rampant in small communities. "Rumor Has It" that Jack Lucas is a playboy scoundrel that goes through women like water. Can Tilly look beyond the rumors to find the truth?

There are some subplots to the story that really add to the whole picture of this quiet little village. A very enjoyable read, exactly what I needed to read on a hot summer day.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

(92) The Passage by Justin Cronin

I don't think there is any other book that is getting the buzz that The Passage has been getting this summer. At 836 pages it may seem a bit daunting, but don't let the size of the book scare you. When you come to the end you will say, "It's over already?"

The book starts out in the not too distant future, there is no definite date given, but I think it is around 2016. The world is different than it is now, but not unrecognizably so. The story ends in 1003 AV. After Viral. (but my mind read it as After Vampire)

The Passage starts with two FBI agents sent to prisons around the country to pluck twelve inmates off of death row for a government run medical experiment called Project NOAH. Doyle & Wolgast have convinced the final subject to join the project when they were commanded to gather one more subject. A civilian. A six year old civilian by the name of Amy. Amy had just been abandoned at a convent and would be perfect for the experiment. Only, on the journey back to Colorado, Wolgast is becoming attatched to Amy and fears what exactly the government wants her for. Well this medical experiment is to inject these subjects with a virus that causes them to live eternally and feed off of blood, creating the ultimate military weapon.

When it all blows up and The Twelve escape, leaving death and destruction in their wake. Wolgast escapes with Amy to an old abandoned summer camp. City by city, millions of Americans are either killed or turned by the Virus.

Fast forward 100 years to a colony in California. The colony has survived by the fortress they have built and the lights that shine to keep them safe at night. Life inside the walls are all they know. They have glimpses of history, of the Time Before, but their lives exist to ward off the Virals. Until Amy finds her way to them. A handful of the colonists set off on a pilgrimage with Amy in hopes of finding the answers to questions that have been plaguing their Colony for nearly a hundred years.

I do not think that I did Justin Cronin justice in my synopsis. The Passage is so much more than "just another vampire" story. To compare it to the Vampire Lit that is saturating the market would be grossly inaccurate. I have seen The Passage compared to Stephen King's The Stand. Or even Michael Crichton's medical thrillers. It is an epic novel, make no mistake about that. Even though Justin Cronin's imagination permeates throughout the story, there is enough element of reality intertwined that the story will scare the crap out of you. I slept with the hall light on last night, just because my heart was racing as I forced myself to put the book down.

At the heart of this novel is the plight of human survival. The characters are real and their struggle to survive is real. Your heart races, your blood pounds, and you feel as if you are there with them as they fight the Virals. The size of The Passage is massive. 836 pages is a lot of book, but the story carries you along at a rapid pace. If you decide to take on the challenge of The Passage, you will not be disappointed.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Friday, June 18, 2010

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

(91) Stay by Allie Larkin


The last couple of books I read were not really books that tickled my fancy. But Stay was an absolutely adorable book. I laughed out loud and my eyes leaked a little, too. I could relate to Van and the way she got a puppy dog to help her deal with a breaking heart. Although, I didn't buy my black puppy dog in a Vodka induced haze while watching a Rin Tin Tin marathon, I got my puppy dog to help ease the pain of a devastating break up.

Savannah "Van" Leone has always lived her life in the shadow of Jane and her family. Literally. Van lived in the carriage house and her mother was their maid. The situation didn't stop Van and Jane from becoming best friends, sisters really. No matter how much Van loves Jane it doesn't stop her heart from breaking when Jane marries the man Van has been in love with since college.

How is a girl to cope with such heartbreak? By getting a puppy dog of course! In the blink of an eye, Van's whole world has changed. Joe, the Slovakian German Shepherd changes Van's life. And forces an introduction to his vet, the handsome Alex. Between Alex & Joe they keep Van's mind off of the love of her life on his honeymoon. It is not long before the title of "love of her life" is awarded to the new man in her life. But does it go to Joe or Alex?

I loved the premise of this book from the first synopsis I read, because that is exactly how my puppy dog came to be a part of my life. I think there is a little bit of Van in every woman out there. Insecure about her place in the world, but longing to be accepted and loved for who she is. The author captures the unconditional love and acceptance of a dog with such precision, I found myself nodding in agreement (or approval) several times throughout the novel.

Allie Larkin has written an achingly sweet novel that shows us that unconditional love can be found in the most unexpected places. Savannah Leone is a character that worms her way into your heart, much like a puppy dog does, and you just want her to be happy. You cry when she cries, you laugh when she laughs, and you cheer when she takes the initiative to go after what she wants, no matter how much it scares her.

Stay is another "Lend Me" book for the Barnes & Noble nook. I will be happy to lend it to the first person who posts their email in the comments. I won't be able to respond until after work, but I promise you could be reading this adorable novel by bedtime.

Monday, June 14, 2010

(90)The Summer We Fell Apart by Robin Antalek

Another mediocre book under my belt. I was not impressed with The Summer We Fell Apart, yet it was not the worst book that I have ever read. The book has gotten several favorable reviews, but I just was not feeling it.

The Haas siblings had an interesting childhood. With two eccentric, "artsy' parents, the kids were pretty much left to their own devices until the summer that things changed. The summer that their parents divorced.

The story is broken down into four sections with each Haas sibling telling their story. Some siblings were a bit more interesting & engaging than the others, with George, being my favorite. I was a bit confused in the time line of the story, each sibling at a different time, not necessarily concurrent, but eventually the author threw me a bone as to when it was in relation to things.

The Summer We Fell Apart was an interesting study in sibling relationships. Like I said, not the best book I have read, yet not the worst. Hopefully the next book I read will be a little more inspiring.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

(89) Miss You Most of All by Elizabeth Bass

I did not finish this book. I read everything but the last 15 pages. I stopped reading because I knew how it was going to end and having recently gone through it with my family, I did not want to have to read about the ugly details.

Having said that, Miss You Most Of All was a pretty predictable book, yet it was worth the read. Two sisters, Rue and Laura run the Sassy Spinster Farm in the heart of Texas. The invite women into their home to experience the ranch life that is just life to Laura and Rue. Things are moving right along when an uninvited woman shows up. Their ex-stepsister, Heidi. And she brings a whole slew of problems with her. Can they get through the summer with minimal problems or will this be it for the Sassy Spinster Farm.

Laura was not a favorable character. I wanted to rip through the pages and slap her silly. My dislike for her almost ruined the book for me. But, reading about their step-sister relationship was also interesting for me, as I have a picture perfect relationship with my step-sister. In fact, neither one of us have used the "step" part of that title in 25 years.

I wouldn't say Miss You Most of All was a horrible book, yet I would encourage you to run out and buy it for the beach bag. It is a "Lend Me" book for the nook. So if there is a nook owner interested in reading it, leave a comment with your email address,(sorry, first come, first to read) & let me know what you think.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Friday, June 11, 2010

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

(88) Season of Second Chances by Diane Meier

It was hard for me to switch gears from The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest to The Season of Second Chances. They are about as different as two books can get, but let me tell you. Once I really let myself get submerged into Joy's world, emotions bubbled to the surface that I never expected.

When Joy Harkness accepts a position at Amherst College she didn't realize that she was also giving up the shield of anonymity that New York City so graciously offered. Life in Amherst is so different than what she is accustomed to that the change of pace is almost more than Joy can handle. The nice little boundaries she has set for herself over the years come crashing down when her co-workers drag her into friendship and her General Contractor becomes her lover.

As time passes and Joy's role in her makeshift family becomes more defined she starts to realize what happiness is and that letting down those boundaries is okay.

Joy was a character that I was able to identify with in a way that I have not done in quite some time. She is a strong woman successful in her career. It isn't until she moves to Amherst & she becomes part of a community that she realizes what she has been missing all this time. And for her it is a scary realization. I started thinking back to the friends in my adult life and I realize that they are all people I met through my career. And I see that if it weren't for those people who pulled me into their lives outside of work, that I easily could have been just like Joy. Alone. It was eye opening for me.

I am giving The Season of Second Chances a "Best of " tag because I was moved to tears. I don't remember the last time a book has evoked such emotion in me. I think that makes it worthy of the "Best of" list, don't you?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Sunday, June 6, 2010

(87)The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest by Steig Larsson

I spent most of yesterday in Sweden. Following up with Lisbeth Salander & Mikael Blomvkist in the final book in Stieg Larsson's bestselling trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest. The trilogy holds three of the top five spots on B&N's Bestseller List.

I have been advocating this series ever since I read the first book. I have heard a lot of feedback from readers that it has been difficult to get past the hard to pronounce Swedish names and it is a deterrent to finishing the books. Well, I encourage you to make up your own names for the characters if that is what it takes to get you through. I would hate to see you miss Literature history in the making. Make no mistake, Steig Larsson will be popular for generations to come.

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest is a satisfying conclusion to the story that has captured the attention of millions. The book picks up right where The Girl Who Played With Fire left off. Now I am going to be careful in what I say as to not give away much if you have not finished the second book yet, just know that The Girl Who Kicks The Hornet's Nest is mostly about preparing the defense for one of two main characters. Great detail is given to the history of Zalenchenko and how he came to Sweden, that gets to be a bit dull, but it is just Larsson's way of character development. By the third novel, we should all be used to his style of writing. It all comes to a head with Blomkvist's sister leading the defense team. One scene during the trial had me yelling for support in a way that Grisham has never inspired.

I admit I am a bit sad to come to the end of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. The writing is some of the best writing I have ever come across. The story one of the most captivating stories I have ever read. Stieg Larsson could be called a genius and I admit that I am a bit sad that we will not have a new book to anticipate. Will there ever be someone who can fill his shoes? I don't know, but I am not going to stop looking!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

(86) Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin

I have been a fan of Emily Giffin's for several years now. Her books always seem to force me to look at the other side of the story. Where I once was very black and white, now I can see shades of gray.

In her new book, Heart of the Matter tells us the story of Tessa & Nick. For those of you who are long time Emily Giffin fans, Tessa is the younger sister of Dex, who we met in Something Borrowed. Tessa & Nick are chugging along on cruise control. Nick is a brilliant pediatric plastic surgeon and Tessa has recently left the workforce to stay at home with their kids full time. Things are cruising right along when a tragedy happens that brings Valerie Anderson into their lives and changes everything.

Heart of the Matter was an emotional read for me, I am not sure why. I don't want to give too much away, but once again, Ms. Giffin introduced a little gray into my world. She has written a beautiful, fluid story about love, forgiveness, and what happens when life gets in the middle of a marriage.

Long time fans of Giffin's will enjoy yet another outstanding story, but don't worry, if you haven't read anything by Ms. Giffin, you will not be lost if you pick up her new book, but you will be captivated by Nick & Tessa's story. Yet another book to add to your beach bag, you can thank me later.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

(85) The One That I Want by Allison Winn Scotch

I have been a huge fan of Allison Winn Scotch ever since I read The Time of My Life and more recently, The Department of Lost and Found. She has a way of getting inside the heads of women like you and me.Her new book, The One That I Want is no different, it has been getting rave reviews from some of your favorite magazines.

Tilly Farmer is the guidance counselor at the high school that she attended sixteen years ago. She is happily married to her high school sweetheart, Tyler and other than a few bumps, of the familial kind, in the road, her life is perfect.
During a school festival Tilly wanders into booth to find an old friend, Ashley, is doing fortune telling. After Ashley tells Tilly that she is going to give her the gift of clarity, Tilly starts seeing future events and it isn't pretty. Her perfect world starts to shatter and she doesn't know how she will survive, or even if she wants to survive.

I really struggled with liking Tilly at first. She just seemed so, oblivious to the realities of her life, specifically her marriage. She has been the "strong one" in her family for so long that when she is the one needing the help and support, she has a hard time accepting it. That is the point in the book where I started to like Tilly, she seemed a little more real to me. Tilly learns some hard truths about herself and her family, but it obviously makes her a stronger woman and the gift of clarity is exactly what she needed.

I had the opportunity to recently ask the author of The One That I Want, Allison Winn Scotch, some questions.

1. In The One That I Want, Tilly is given the “gift of clarity.” What helps you seek clarity about events going on in your life?
For me, it’s about stepping back and really gaining perspective about whatever it is that’s bothering me. One specific way that I do this is via running: there is something about carving out an hour for myself, with music blaring in my ears, and with adrenaline pumping through my body, that really helps me iron out whatever kinks I’m working through. I also try to come up with steps to right the wrong. I’m not a big believer in complaining or moping…I’d much rather say, “Ok, xyz is upsetting me, what has to be done so that it no longer is?” Usually, just by asserting control over the situation, I feel better and find a way to resolve it.

2. The One That I Want takes a look at the relationship that Tilly shares with her sisters. Do you have sisters? How does your relationship with your sister(s) compare to the relationship Tilly has with Luanne & Darcy?

I actually only have a brother! But I am flattered to all get-out that a few reviewers have mentioned that I captured the sister-relationship realistically. As far as my brother, we’re quite close, though I’d say that he’s much better rounded than I am, and generally more patient and kind. Though he’s busier than I am, so I earn points for checking in with our parents more often! J

3. The One That I Want brought back a lot of high school memories for me. Do you remember the theme of your high school prom? Do you still keep in touch with your date from prom?

Ha! Yes, my high school boyfriend remains, to this day, a dear friend, and I feel pretty fortunate for that. We dated for a few years, and though the break-up was pretty emotional (at the time, of course), we somehow realized that we had something worth preserving. So now we’re in touch and are happy for each other’s successes and families and all of that. It’s a nice thing. As far as prom theme, I went to a private school which was a little snootier, and I sincerely don’t think we had a theme! We all got decked out in black tie (and incidentally, my boyfriend had a terrible flu and basically went to sleep the entire time!), and there was no Under The Sea in sight. That would have been fun though. I always think of Never Been Kissed and think something like that would have been awesome!

4. As the title alludes, the popular musical, Grease , has a role in your new book. Why did you choose Grease to be the musical that the school puts on? Every woman of our generation has a Grease memory to tell, what is yours?
I actually started out with a different musical – Hair, which I quickly realized was wildly inappropriate for the high school set, but I’d chosen it for a reason. That said, I abandoned it and mulled over what some of the more stereotypical high school plays were. Grease was on my short list, and it was the one that seemed to emit the greatest joy, the biggest smiles. As you said, everyone has their Grease memory, and given that there was enough bleakness in Tilly’s world, I wanted to create something lighter, something that could make both the characters AND the readers smile. My Grease moment is singing Summer Nights with my friends on our bunk porch at sleepaway camp as a teen. To this day, I love that song!

5. Let’s say that we have been given the “gift of clarity”, were we to look into the future, where would we see Tilly in five years?

Oh, great question! I think, without giving away too much, that she’d probably have a much better relationship with her sisters, a functional relationship that was working toward healing with her father, and a much more independent existence in general. The specifics aside (I don’t want to spoil the ending for people), I think she’d have learned to trust herself and pursue her passions with the understanding that you can’t fix everyone, and even if you could, that’s not always the right answer anyway. And I’d hope for her that she’d have a child because I think she’s learned the right lessons to make a wonderful mom.

The One That I Want is a perfect book to stick in the beach bag. The characters are well written and many women can relate to the story, not to mention the memories that will spring to the surface as you are reading Tilly's story. Is there a more perfect way to pass a lazy Summer afternoon?

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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