Thursday, June 30, 2011

(97)Thor Ramsey's Total Money Meltdown by Thor Ramsey

Dave Ramsey has helped millions of people get their finances in order and get out of debt. Comedian Thor Ramsey is one of those millions. He documented his process in his new book, Thor Ramsey's Total Money Meltdown.

Thor Ramsey and his wife got into debt without even realizing how far gone they were. It wasn't until Thor is out for his daily Starbucks run and his card was declined that he realized they might have a problem. He and his wife sit down to discover that they have an absurd amount of debt and very little income coming in with his gigs few and far between. Using Dave Ramsey's proven method, which is based on Biblical principles, they get out of their mess and by the publication date of this book are debt free.

I had never heard of Thor Ramsey before this book, but I admit he made me chuckle several times. I am a devoted Dave Ramsey listener and while I don't follow his plan to the strictest letter of the law, I do believe his way can and will work. But be forewarned, Thor Ramsey is a Christian and he uses scriptures liberally in this book. If you are not "into" the Bible it might be a bit more than you can take, but the humor Thor sees in their situation makes it worth the read.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

(96)Summer Rental by Mary Kay Andrews (audiobook)

Nothing says "Summer" like a good beach story. I am usually partial to the Nantucket or Cape Cod beach stories, but a good Outer Banks story will suffice. Summer Rental by Mary Kay Andrews is one of the latter stories.

Ellis, Julia, and Dorie have been the best of friends since grade school. They have been through boyfriends, husbands, Parochial school, the deaths of parents, and divorces. They decide that they don't spend enough time together and have rented a summer house in North Carolina's Outer Banks for the entire month of August. Underneath their infectious laughter and endless games of Rummy are three women who are at turning points in their lives. Julia is insecure about her modeling career, Ellis has just been laid off from her job in banking and doesn't know which way to turn, and Dorie's husband just left her... for another man. Throw in a handsome landlord and a woman running from something and you have the perfect mix for a perfect summer vacation.

Listening to the book provided a different perspective. If I had read this book it would have taken me a day or two tops. But listening to the book took two weeks. And it felt like I really spent those two weeks with Ellis, Julia & Dorie. I laughed with them, I cried with them, and Julia really got on my nerves at times, but mostly I felt like the were my friends, too. Overall Summer Rental is a great summer read to take to the beach, or on vacation, with you.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

(95)The Day Before by Lisa Schroeder

It seems like the "in" things for authors these days are to write their books in poetry form. Ellen Hopkins was the first author that I remember writing in prose, then recently Sonya Sones with The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus. And now Lisa Schroeder with The Day Before.

Amber's life is about to change in epic proportions. Tomorrow is the day she is to go live with her biological parents. Amber is one of those kids that you only read about in the news. She was switched at birth. And just like that her Mom is no longer her Mom and her Sister is no longer her Sister. Her Mom's "real" daughter died after an ugly battle with leukemia and now the Allen's want Amber. They fought it for as long as they could, but the Judge has decided. Amber will live six months with each family.

It is the day before she leaves. Amber has planned this day down to the last minute. What she did not plan was meeting Cade. A young man with his own story. Together the two of them spend their "last day" together and in the process they fall in love. Will this day truly be their "last day" or will it just be the beginning?

The best thing about these prose-style books is that you can just fly through them! But ultimately The Day Before is cheese at it's best. The story line itself screams drama and it continues through the whole book. BUT, I will say that I think it is the kind of drama that girls under the age of 16 will just EAT.UP. Grown women who have lived a day or two, not so much.

Monday, June 27, 2011

(94)Map of Time by Felix J Palma

There is a whole subculture out there known as Steampunk. The only way I know how to describe it is through pictures. I found this website that may give you a good idea. The Steampunk movement mixes history with technology. Think of Will Smith movie, Wild, Wild West.

The Map of Time by Felix J Palma is going to be wildly successful with fans of Steampunk. Or even those who have a passing interest in literary history. Or history at all.

The Map of Time is set in the late 1800's in London. It is the end of the Jack the Ripper era and the last woman killed by Jack the Ripper is the forbidden love of Aristocrat, Andrew Harrington. Eight lonely years go by and Andrew is about to end his life when he is stopped by the promise of time travel. The extraordinary author HG Wells has just published his masterpiece, The Time Machine. Andrew is hoping the author will be able to send him back in time in order to stop his beloved's death.

The Map of Time is a book of epic proportions. At 624 pages Felix J Palma takes his readers on a fun, yet sometimes gruesome, journey through London at the turn of the century. He weaves his facts with fiction, his history with his science fiction, creating a world of mystery and wonder. The story is written so vividly I could almost imagine what the "posters" of this book would like like. I really did enjoy The Map of Time. The book was very vivid and descriptive and I felt like it transported me back in time to London in the 1880s. The Map of Time is this summer's epic read. I encourage you to give it a go if you are looking for something you can really sink your teeth into.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

(93)Skyward by Mary Alice Monroe

Right from the get go I will say that I did not enjoy Skyward as much as I had hoped I would. I think it boils down to the birds. I am not a huge fan of birds.

Skyward is about a lost nurse finding a lost father with a very sick little girl. Harris and his young daughter have been alone for a very long time. But Harris is not the kind of guy who knows what to do with a little girl. He would rather be at his clinic that takes care of injured and sick birds of prey. Well then Marion becomes very sick and is diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes. He hires Ella, an embattled ER nurse who is tired of losing children. She is ready to take care of just one child, but she did not expect to fall in love with both Father & Child. Their new little family faces destruction though when Marion's mother shows up. Will Ella lose yet another child or will she finally find the happiness she craves?

So that premise should make for a nice, neat 300 page Chick Lit novel. Well, we also get an extra 150 pages or so about the Birds of Prey. Honestly, I thought it was too long and I found my eyes glazing over and skipping pages just because I really didn't connect with the whole bird story line. I know lots of you out there have a fascination with Hawks, Raptors, and the like, so this book is for you. Everyone else may want to skip this one.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

(92)Long Gone by Alafair Burke

Honestly, I have never read James Lee Burke, let alone know that he has a daughter that also writes mystery novels. I had the chance to review Alafair Burke's new book, Long Gone, and after reading the synopsis, I jumped at the chance. I was pleasantly surprised by an intelligent, unique mystery novel.

Long Gone is a story of two women that seemingly have nothing in common. Teenager, Becca Johnson, has gone missing from her New England home and in New York City, Alice Humphrey finds herself at the center of a murder investigation involving her new boss, Drew Campbell. Alice regretfully has to go to her famous father to help get her out of this trouble and in the process she discovers a deep dark secret that may be the root of all of her problems? But how does Becca Johnson factor in...?

Long Gone was a fast paced mystery novel. I really enjoyed the characters and the "twist" was unexpected.
I think that Long Gone will be a must read for beach readers. It has all the key components, mystery, intrigue, and a twist that will shock you! I enjoyed it so much, I will certainly keep my eyes open for other books by Ms. Burke.

Monday, June 20, 2011

(91)Groundswell by Katie Lee

Groundswell is a totally unremarkable book.

I am a devoted Chick Lit reader. I am more than willing to give any Chick Lit novel a chance. I am even willing to overlook bad writing for a fun plot or good characters. I love the ones that are unique and have unique, spunky characters. I am sorry to say that Groundswell was very mundane and cliche as far as Chick Lit novels go.

Kentucky native, Emma Guthrie is struggling to make it in New York when she gets a last minute offer to work as a Production Assistant on the set of superstar Garrett Walker's new movie. Guess what. He falls in love with her and sweeps her off her feet in a whirlwind romance. The book opens up with her discovering that Garrett is having a friend with one of her oldest friends, then flashes back to their romance and early days of their marriage. Will Emma be able to forgive him and go on with their marriage or will she chuck the cad to the curb?

The only thing I could think of as I read this book was how much of her real life experiences as Billy Joel's ex-wife found it's way into the book. Overall the book is a fast read and really, really, REALLY predictable. If you are desperate for a beach read, go for it. But be prepared to want your $25 and two hours of life back.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

(90)Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe (Audiobook)

I am not shy to admit that I am a child of the 80's. I had posters of every single one of the "Brat Pack" hanging on my bedroom wall. Along with Kirk Cameron, Michael J Fox and Michael Jackson. I had heard about Rob Lowe's new book, Stories I Only Tell My Friends and was sold on the audiobook when I saw that he was the narrator.

I was not disappointed. In that trademark voice we all know, Rob Lowe tells us the story of his life thus far. From his childhood in Ohio to his move to California and growing up two houses down from Emilio Estevez and Charlie Sheen, Rob tells us everything. He goes into great length at describing his first movie, The Outsiders. From his audition to life on the set it was exactly the kind of "scoop" I was looking for about the movie of my youth.

He does gloss over the whole sex tape scandal, but it is there. He doesn't get very detailed about the making of St. Elmo's Fire, but he gets into the details of his audition. He talks about the night he decided he needed to get help for his drinking, his marriage, and his run on the West Wing. One thing he shares gave me chills. He was on the plane the 9/11 terrorists used for a dry run. If that doesn't make you sit up and take notice, nothing well.

Stories I Only Tell My Friends was a wonderful biography. Rob Lowe proves that he is not just another pretty boy. He is an intelligent, well spoken man who has led an incredibly lucky and blessed life. I listened to the bulk of Stories I Only Tell My Friends while moving last weekend. I can think of no better companion for the 13 hours of driving we did. And if he decides to read the phonebook in an audiobook format, I will be the first in line to buy the recording.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

(89)Go to the Fu@k to Sleep by Adam Mansbach

Okay - be honest. Anyone who has had toddlers. Heck, anyone who has BABYSAT toddlers has likely had that moment where you are at your wits end. Your young charge has the whole procrastination thing perfected better than Congress. Well heck, lets include the tweens and teens who think they are "too old" for a bedtime. You want NOTHING more than for them to just GO the Fuck to Sleep.

I was at a party the other night and a Mom had this book. So we had an impromptu story time with only adults who had plenty of adult beverages in them. And I have never laughed so hard. Adam Mansbach has written the manifesto for parents and babysitters everywhere. His clever wit and absolute truisms makes Go the Fu@k to Sleep the book of the year. No, make that the book of the decade. If you have toddlers and are in desperate need of some comic relief, RUN, don't walk to pick up this book. You (and your toddler) will thank me.

ETA: In the hours since I first wrote & scheduled this post, Samuel L. Jackson has narrated the audio book version. For a short period of time you can get it from Audible for free.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Home Sweet Home.

Over two months ago my Husband and I decided that even though Casper was closer to Salt Lake City, (and his kids) than Kansas City, it still was not close enough. We both talked to our respective bosses and presented the "work from home" option. They, much to our surprise, agreed. So we plotted and made a couple of grueling day trips to Utah and found this wonderful home in Layton. Just a few minutes from the kids.

We kept the move a secret. We didn't want the kids to be disappointed if something fell through. I will spare you the details of our ugly tales of a too small moving truck and just say that the kids were not as excited as we expected. LOL. In typical teenage fashion they just said "Cool".

We are slowly getting settled in our new home and am thrilled to be in this neighborhood. Within an hour of pulling in, two of our neighbors came over and asked if we needed help unloading. That is a good sign, right? We *LOVE* Wyoming. It is the home of our heart and I know we will end up back there someday, but for now, our place is with the kids.

I will leave you with this. The view from our back deck. Amazing, huh?

(88)The Twisted Thread by Charlotte Bacon

When I was a young teen I read a lot of books set in Prep Schools. I blame the Facts of Life. I always wondered what it would be like to go to boarding school and have a Mrs. Garrett in my life. Not to mention roommates like Blaire and Jo.

When I agreed to review The Twisted Thread by Charlotte Bacon, I knew very little about the story. Well it turns out that The Twisted Thread is about a New England prep school mired in history and tradition. Madeline is an intern at the prestigious Armitage Academy. It is a warm spring morning when she returns from a run to find out that one of her students, the beautiful and popular Claire Harkness has been murdered. The whole campus is shocked and terrified that such a crime has been committed on their territory. As Madeline works with the Detective, a former Armitage student himself, she realizes that the school has a lot of dark secrets buried in it's past.

The Twisted Thread was a fast and engaging read. Madeline will never be compared to Lisbeth Salander, but The Twisted Thread is an entertaining read nonetheless. I think those of us who grew up with the Facts of Life will enjoy what Madeline and the Armitage Academy will have to offer.

Monday, June 13, 2011

(87)Before I Sleep by S.J. Watson

We all just take it for granted that when we wake up tomorrow we will remember the details of our life. We assume we will recognize our husband and remember the details of how we met. That is not the case for Christine.

Before I Sleep is a thriller of an extreme magnitude. Christine lives in London with her husband, Ben. But she has a rare form of amnesia and can not create new memories. She does not remember yesterday, she does not remember last year or even ten years ago.

Every morning when she wakes up she thinks she is in her early twenties. Only she is not, she is in her forties and she doesn't remember the last twenty years. Unbeknownst to Ben, Christine starts seeing a psycharitrist on the side who suggests that she start to keep a daily journal. Before she goes to sleep, she is to write her daily activities down and read them the next day. In doing so she starts to piece together the memories of her past and she starts to notice some glaring inconsistencies.

Before I Go To Sleep is a book that fans of thrillers are going to LOVE. Think of it as a cross between 50 First Dates and Memento. It is dark, sinister, and will keep you on the edge of your seats. Rumor has it that Ridley Scott has bought the rights and I suspect it will be a hit at the box office, too. Before I Go To Sleep goes on sale tomorrow.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

(86) Ordinary Beauty by Laura Wiess

Last weekend there was a big Twitter blowup of a Wall Street Journal article about Young Adult novels and how "dark" they have become lately. YA author, Maureen Johnson, blew up Twitter with her #YAsaves hashtag. I watched from afar, mostly keeping my thoughts to myself and then I read Ordinary Beauty and cried my eyes out.

In Ordinary Beauty we meet seventeen year old Sayre. She has just been told that her ill mother doesn't have much time left , and even though she is skeptical, she starts walking the thirteen miles to the local hospital. It is a bitterly cold late December night and Sayre didn't mean to get in that trucks way, she tried to get out of his way, and when the truck takes to the ditch to avoid hitting her, Sayre tries to get him out and find help. In the process she makes a friend.

As they are there waiting for help to come Sayre reflects back on the rocky relationship that she has had with her mother. From the drug abuse that Sayre witnessed on a daily basis, to the physical and emotional abuse that comes from not knowing where your next meal is going to come from, Sayre tells us everything. She led the kind of life that no child should ever be exposed to, but unfortunately there are kids in our country who are whipped repeatedly, who are forced to steal and do much worse to support their parent's drug habit.

Finally Sayre & Evan are rescued and Sayre gets to the hospital in time to see her mother. As she sits there in the dark she begs her mother to say "it" as she reflects on the brief moments of happiness she had with Beale and her baby sister, Ellie, before tragedy threw them back into the dark world of drugs and abuse. Will Sayre get the closure she is so desperate for and what will happen to her now?

Ordinary Beauty is the most heart-wrenching book I have read in a very long time. I read it in bed last night and cried pretty much through the entire book. The rebuttal of #YAsaves is based on the premise that many teens live DARK lives, that reading books like Ordinary Beauty and 13 Reasons Why give teens an outlet for their own situations and feelings . At lunch today I was discussing the book with my coworkers and what had happened to Ellie - which I felt was one of the more farfetched portions of the book - when my co-worker piped up and said that a similar scenario had happened in Casper about ten years ago. Her testimony reiterates the fact that Young Adults today don't generally lead happy cheery lives. And even if they do on the outside, there are inner demons being fought on the inside.

Ordinary Beauty may be a dark novel, but it is a novel about a young woman who is a fighter. A young woman who is determined to not only survive, but succeed despite what her mother puts her through. I think that is a positive role model for any teen no matter what their situation. I enjoyed this novel so much and it moved me so much, it gets a "Best of" tag and I think it is a well deserved tag. Ordinary Beauty is on sale Tuesday, June 14th.

Friday, June 10, 2011

(85)Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

If you did not now, I am originally from a small town in Southwest Iowa, about an hour outside of Omaha. When I was a kid, if you can call my late teen years a kid, we would go to Omaha for our shopping and entertainment.
So I had heard some buzz about Attachments, but didn't know much about the book. I picked it up at the library and was beyond delighted to find out, not only is it set in Omaha, but it is written by an Omaha World Herald columnist that I have enjoyed reading for years!

The author doesn't actually come out and SAY that the book is set in Omaha, but I caught on to her vague references. I mean, the main character's name is Lincoln (Go Big Red!), the characters hang out at The Ranch Bowl (RIP), aaaaand the comment one of the characters made about all of the schools being named after directions. (for my cousins I say GO WESTSIDE!) I *loved* reading about my old stomping grounds, especially since the book is set in 1999 which happens to be my last year in the Omaha area.

Anyway, let me tell you about the book. Beth & Jennifer are coworkers at the local newspaper and one of the last papers in America to get the internet. Their paper has even gone so far as to hire an IT guy who does nothing but sits and reads all of the emails sent by staffers to ensure that no one is giving away their scoop. In the process of reading the emails between Beth and Jennifer, Lincoln has fallen in love with Beth. Will this shy, IT guy be able to overcome his shyness to let this great girl know his true feelings?

Attachments was a fun book. The book is not told entirely in epistolary format, you read all of the emails between Beth & Jennifer, but the chapters in between is Lincoln's life as he starts to come out of his shell. The characters are fun and the story is enjoyable. If you are looking for a good, unique, Chick Lit, check it out, you will totally enjoy this one!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

(84)The Two Death's of Daniel Hayes by Marcus Sakey

There is something about a good suspense thriller that makes it feel as if the "Summer Reading" season has truly arrived.

The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes is the first book I have ever read by Marcus Sakey, but I admit I was a bit impressed. The book starts with a man in a silver BMW with California plates in Maine. He doesn't know who he is or how he got there, but after a local cop tries to apprehend him, he knows he is in some sort of trouble. He makes his way back to California in hopes of finding out who he really is and why the police is after him. Once he gets to California he discovers that he is a famous screenwriter and he is wanted for questioning in the death of his movie star wife, Laney. Daniel Hayes may not have his memory, but he is positive he did not murder his wife. But who did?

The Two Death's of Daniel Hayes is a fast paced, suspense thriller. The writing is intelligent and Marcus Sakey stays one step of his readers as he takes on a roller coaster ride. This book will be perfect for you to read as you are sitting at the beach.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

(83)Best Kept Secret by Amy Hatvany

I have read several memoirs recently, some bad, some good, but none compare to Amy Hatvany's Best Kept Secret. But wait it is not a memoir it is a novel. Seriously, it wasn't until I just noticed the author's name was Amy Hatvany did I realize that this book was a novel. It reads as a memoir. A raw, powerful memoir, but - silly me - it is "only" a novel.

Cadence did not adjust well to the stresses of motherhood. She had a workaholic husband and was struggling with giving up her writing career to be a stay at home Mother. She starts taking the edge off of her day with a glass or two of wine to help her unwind. Over the course of two years her marriage ends and her drinking spirals out of control. Culminating in a binge episode with her ex showing up at her door to take their son and her sister taking her to the hospital after she vocalized her suicidal thoughts.

Cadence's road to recovery is a brutal one, but she is willing to do whatever is necessary in order to get her son back. But will it be enough? Or is it too little too late?

Best Kept Secret is a phenomenal book about the pressures of Motherhood and the road one woman went down in an effort to cope with the pressures of Motherhood and a failing career. From the first page I was sucked into Cadence's raw and powerful story. Even after everything Cadence did I found myself very sympathetic to her. This is not one of those stories that has the perfect happy ending, but it has a real ending. A real ending to a fictional story. Overall - a very well written story. I think this is one of those stories that will stick with me long after I turned the last page - and I love those kind of books, don't you?

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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