Friday, September 30, 2011

(155) Next to Love by Ellen Feldman

Next to Love 

Publication Date: July 2, 2011
Pages: 304

What an absolutely WONDERFUL book!  I just had to get that out of the way.

Next to Love is a book about three childhood friends.  They have been friends for as long as any of them can remember.  They are new to womanhood and marriage when World War II takes their men off to war.  The strength of their friendship carries them through the war and after when only Babe's husband returns home.  The author follows these three women through the decades as their children grow up, as Millie and Grace remarry, as their lives, careers, and families develop, they remain integral in each others lives.

I can not put into words how much I enjoyed this novel.  The author did an amazing job of taking the reader back to the time where women only worked with their husband's permission and black men could be beaten for riding in a car with a white woman. It was a much different time.  Some would say simpler, but the pressures these women dealt with were anything but simple.  I found it utterly fascinating and really felt as if I were taken back to that era.  I would say this novel is for anyone who enjoys novels about friendship, love, or history.  The author wraps all three up into this amazing little novel.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

(154)Saint's Gate by Carla Neggers

Saint's Gate

Publication Date: August 23, 2011
Pages: 400

The one thing I like about Carla Neggers is her love for Ireland.  It just seems to creep into all of her books in one way or another.  Saint's Gate is no different.

FBI Agent Emma Sharpe has returned to her roots.  At the request of Sister Joanne, Emma has returned to the Convent where she was a Novice nearly four years ago.  Emma is just about to discover why the Sister summoned her when Sister Joanne is attacked at murdered.  The investigation takes Emma from the Maine coast back to her family roots in Dublin.  But along for the ride is another agent, handsome Colin Donovan.  Will they be able to get to the bottom of Sister Joanne's murder before another life is taken?

I would say the Ireland portion of this book was my favorite thing about Saint's Gate. It was a decent novel, a mindless read, really.  If you are looking for an exciting page turner, to be honest, this is not what you are looking for, but if you are just looking for a mindless read with a hint of romance.  Go for it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

(153)The Kingdom of Childhood by Rebecca Coleman

The Kingdom of Childhood

Publication Date: September 27, 2011
352 Pages

Well. Where do I begin.  The Kingdom of Childhood is one of those books that I need to process before I could talk about. Almost like taking a shower after sex.  The main character, Judy McFarland, is a seemingly normal woman.  A Kindergarten teacher at a very New Agey type of Prep school.  She has been watching her family unravel for quite sometime and is just holding on until her son, Scott, graduates high school before she can be free from it all.

Something unexpected happens though that breaths fresh life into the weary teacher.  While supervising a friend of her son's, Sixteen year old  Zach, with a service project for school they kiss.  That kiss leads to an affair that absolutely consumes Judy & Zach. Their whole world becomes each other. When they can see each other again, when they can kiss again, when they can make love again. Judy knows the danger that such an affair brings her.  To be caught would certainly mean the loss of her job, the loss of her family, and quite likely the loss of her freedom.   But she can not stop.  Their love is like a drug and they can not get enough of each other. As the months go on, one of them want to end things. Will their illicit affair end before it is discovered by others or will their secret be discovered and their lives change in the most horrid of ways?

To use an overused phrase, The Kingdom of Childhood is a train-wreck and you just can't look away.  What starts as a mutual attraction quickly spirals into something dangerous where one person, tragically, has all of the control.  The relationship between Zach and Judy is far from a healthy one.  The story is told from both of their perspectives.  One chapter is Judy and the next chapter is Zach.  As the unhealthy obsession unfolds it is very hard to put the book down.  The reader is almost like a confidant to Judy and Zach, a witness to their bad behavior.  And as the story goes on you want to step in and help.  You want to stand up for the weaker of the two and put a stop to the madness.  But you can't, you can only watch helplessly as lives are destroyed.

Was that cryptic enough for you?  To be any less vague is to give away key elements of the story, which I do not want to do.  I enjoyed The Kingdom of Childhood, but felt guilty in doing so, if that makes sense.   The subject matter is so taboo and something that you only read about in the papers or see on a Lifetime movie. I can't even say that the characters are very likable because they aren't. But the story is one that you will not be able to put down, that I promise you.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

(152)A Beautiful Dark by Jocelyn Davies

A Beautiful Dark

Publication Date: September 27, 2011
400 Pages

Skye is your typical seventeen year old. She is a star athlete, she is a good student, and she has close friends who will do anything to make her seventeenth birthday special. What they didn't expect was for the boiler to explode and everyone to have to leave early. That is when Skye first meets Asher & Devin.

Asher and Devin, "cousins" from Denver are new to Skye's school and they seem to be everywhere that she goes. What she eventually learns is that they are her "guardians" so to speak. They are each representatives for "The Order" and "The Rebels". Because her parents belonged to the respective groups, both groups are interested in what powers their offspring, Skye, may have. The battle between good and evil heat up and Sky is caught in the middle. She is looking for answers, but most of all she is looking for happiness and peace of mind. Will she find what she is looking for with Asher or with Devin?

A Beautiful Dark will be LOVED by teen girls. Skye is a great character and both Asher and Devin have "swoon worthy" qualities. The "Good vs Evil" tale is one as old as time, but with the right characters the story never gets old. Jocelyn Davies has done a good job with her debut novel. Teen girls everywhere will devour it and come back for more!

Monday, September 26, 2011

(151)It's Classified by Nicolle Wallace

It's Classified

Publication Date: September 27, 2011
336 Pages

It has been almost a year now since I first read, Eighteen Acres.  The novel about President Charlotte Kramer and her first term as President of the United States.

Here we are a year later and the President is divorced from her husband, Peter, and  has been reelected to a second term as President.  Except this time she reached across the aisle to find her Vice President, Tara.  Together, Charlotte hopes that they can unify the great political divide that has torn the country apart. The Vice President has hired Dale Smith, the woman who broke up the President's marriage, to be on her Communications team. And everything is going well, until Dale starts to notice erratic and inconsistent behavior in the Vice President.  She is torn between talking to the President about the behavior and taking the risk of letting the country be run by someone who may or may not have mental issues.  Will she do the right thing?

I really liked Eighteen Acres and was thrilled to find out that there was going to be a sequel, but I am still trying to process how I feel about the Vice President's character.  Here we are on the brink of a Presidential race where there will be more female candidates than ever and the author, a female herself, writes a book where the VP is not only an unmedicated depressed and possibly bipolar woman, but married to a controlling and overbearing man.  I know the book is fictional, but I just think that a lot of old-school male voters out there still feel that the majority of woman are hormonal, emotional messes and this book just perpetuates that myth.

I don't know. I would be really interested in hearing what others think of this book.  Like I said, I really enjoyed Eighteen Acres.  And if Nicolle Wallace continues this series, I will probably read that book, too.  But It's Classified just kind of left a bad taste in my mouth.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

(150)The Sixes by Kate White

The Sixes

Publication Date: August 2, 2011
Pages: 384

Nothing says Fall like novels set at Universities or Colleges.  As I type this I hear college football on the television in the other room, there is a cool breeze coming in the window, my husband is outside fertilizing the lawn, and the aroma of my new Yankee Candle, Natures Paintbrush fills the air.  Fall is the most beautiful time of the year and I love to read about the season in books as well.

The Sixes is set on a college campus in a small Pennsylvania town.  World renowned biographer, Phoebe Hall, has gone to Lyle College under the guise of teaching, but in reality, she is licking the wounds caused by the accusations of plagiarism on her last book.  She takes comfort in her best friend, Glenda, who is also the college's President.  When a young coed goes missing, Glenda asks Phoebe to use her investigative skills to see if she can get to the bottom of things before the police can.  But when strange things start happening at Phoebe's house, she starts to believe the rumors of a secret society on campus called The Sixes.  Are these young women behind the missing young woman?  Are they behind the mysterious break-ins at Phoebe's house?  Will she be able to find the missing woman and bring her home safely?  Or have The Sixes taken "Mean Girls" to a whole new level?

The Sixes is one of those novels that you can easily see translated to the Big Screen.  Phoebe is a flawed, yet interesting character who has her own past dealings with a group of "Mean Girls".  Those memories keep creeping back as deals with The Sixes.  Phoebe also has interesting relationships with some of the other characters and the author has a way of putting doubt in the mind of the reader, and Phoebe about the sincerity of their friendships.  Mix that all with the fast paced setting of a college campus and you have the makings of a really, really good suspense thriller.  And nothing says Fall more than a great suspense novel on a brisk Saturday afternoon.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

(149)Upper Cut by Carrie White

Upper Cut 

Publication Date: September 20, 2011
400 Pages

Until I read Carrie White's new book, Upper Cut,  I had no idea that being a Hairdresser could be so stinking fascinating.

I had never heard of Carrie White until I read this book.  She grew up in California with an alcoholic mother.  Be forewarned, the book starts off by launching into Carrie's sexual abuse by her stepfather.  It is a bit hard to take, but it is necessary to understand Carrie's childhood. It is only about the first fifteen pages or so, so don't let it keep you from reading this book. Carrie moved around a bit as a teen, but enjoyed her high school years because of sororities, parties, and boys.  After high school she realized that she should have focused a little more on school and a little less on parties.  She did what a lot of women did during those times did, she went to Cosmetology School.

Carrie soon became the darling hairdresser to the stars. Every name you could possibly think of is in this book from Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate to (every book lover's star) Michael Crichton.  With Hollywood success comes great risk.  The champagne and cocaine flow freely.  And even though Carrie has five kids by the age of twenty-eight, she is in danger of losing all of them because of her habits.  She falls in love with a Princess, only referred to as D, and soon the only thing Carrie cares about is how they are going to get to their dealer and pay for their next score.  In graphic detail Carrie is brutally honest with herself and the reader as she talks about this dark time in her life.  She knows what she is doing is wrong.  She knows how the drugs impact her children's lives, but she can not live without the drugs and she can not live without D.

Upper Cut is one of those memoirs that you just can NOT put down.  Once Carrie is out of high school and the A-List celebrities start showing up on the pages, you just can not stop reading. We know what Carrie is doing is wrong, but she is such an empathetic character that you just HAVE to finish reading because you just HAVE to see how it turns out.  I mean anyone who goes knocking on *THE* Ann-Margaret's door asking to borrow money for drugs most certainly has a tale to tell.  Upper Cut is a well written memoir that could easily rival the most decadent of rock-star's memoirs. If you love the type of juicy memoir that drops names of the rich and famous, I strongly urge you to run right out and pick up Upper Cut.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

This is what I did today...

Do you remember last year when we moved to Wyoming?  I blogged about The A Team. When we moved I created three piles.  The A team, the books that made the move from Kansas City to Casper in the car.  The B team, the books that I had to leave in storage in KC, and the C team.  The group of books that I gave away.

Well since then we have moved again, this time to Utah.  My In-Law's came out last weekend to visit and brought the rest of our stuff from KC.  Including about twelve boxes of books.  The B Team.

So the Husband and I bought a couple more bookcases and he put them together for me last night.  I started this morning about 8:30am and finished shortly after five.  Only stopping to eat lunch.  I rearranged and divided out my books. I had books fall on me.  I had a bookshelf (the YA shelf) completely disintegrate and I ended up salvaging some of it, but only after turning it upside down.  But it is DONE!

 I have a Hardcover bookshelf, completely alphabetized.  I have a trade paperback shelf, completely alphabetized.  I have a YA shelf for the kids, not alphabetized, but sorted by author and age.   And I have my Mass Market Paperback shelves.  Loosely alphabetized, but organized so that all books by an author are grouped together and not just piled on the shelf.   Here are the pictures, taken with my cell phone, so I apologize for the quality.

Before the project today. 

In Progress. 

Trade Paperbacks, Hardcovers & the YA Shelves.

The Mass Market Paperbacks

The Comfy Couch in the library. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

(148) Fallen by Karin Slaughter


Publication Date: June 21, 2011
400 Pages

Karin Slaughter has become my faithful Summer friend.  Much like "Beach Read" authors, such as Elin Hildebrand or Nancy Thayer. We have come to expect new books from these authors every Summer. Karin Slaughter is one of those Mystery authors that I look forward to every summer, too.

Thanks to Karin, we have come to know Faith Mitchell and Will Trent quite well.  We know that Will had an extremely difficult childhood and we also know that Faith was a teen mom.  Now, nearly 20 years later Faith has a new baby, Emma.  She runs over to her mother's house, retired Police Sergeant, Evelyn Mitchell, to pick up Emma and walks into a nightmare.  They got her mother, but not after a bloody battle.  Faith is shook to her core.  She will do whatever necessary to protect her family, but what if she can't protect her mother from the sins of her past?

Once again Karin Slaughter has written an engrossing novel featuring my two old friends.  We got to see both Faith and Will move along on an emotional level.  Faith, with her mother and Will with the beautiful, Dr. Sarah Linton.  I have been reading the series for years, and even though I should remember all of the backstory, I don't (it sucks getting old).  Karin Slaughter does a great job of catching the reader up in a way that you don't realize that is what she is doing.  So have no fear, if you have never read a book by Karin Slaughter, now is the time to start.  You won't be lost.  I promise.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

(147)What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

What Alice Forgot

Publication Date: June 28, 2011
432 Pages

What would you do if you woke up and the last ten years of your life had been erased from your memory?  What events would you have missed?  For me it would be the birth of my nieces and nephews, my wedding, my move out West and soooo much more.  For Alice Love she forgot everything.  Even the woman she had become.

Alice Love was at Spin Class one day with her girlfriends when she passed out from a combination of exhaustion, hunger, and her drill sergeant spin leader.  When she comes to, she thinks it is still 1998 and she is pregnant with her firstborn.  In 2008 Alice is in the midst of a bitter divorce, she has three adorable, if not a bit unruly, children and apparently she has turned into the type of woman who not only attends spin class, but is the type of woman that she swore she would never be.  As she starts to piece together the last ten years she starts to realize all sorts of the mistakes she made on her way to the woman she is today.  Will it be too little too late or will she be able to save her marriage?

What Alice Forgot is a very unique Chick Lit novel.  Alice of 1998 is an Alice that is warm, loving, and easygoing.  The Alice of 2008 is cold, hard, and just a bit uptight.  When Alice of 1998 lands in 2008 it becomes an interesting tale of redemption and forgiveness.   I really, really liked the Alice of 1998.  The Alice of 2008 is one of those women that we all love to mock.  I liked the emotions the author brought forth when 1998 Alice realized that she wasn't in 1998 and 2008 was not turning out to be such a good year for her.   I think What Alice Forgot is one of those books that could generate a lot of discussion at a book club or with a friend over a cup of coffee or glass of wine.  What would YOU have lost if you forgot ten years of your life?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

(146)Ghost on Black Mountain by Ann Hite

Ghost on Black Mountain

Publication Date: September 13, 2011
352 Pages

Nothing says Fall like a haunting, Gothic ghost story!  A well written tale that can hypnotize and haunt you, even after you put the book down!  Ghost on Black Mountain is one such book.

It is the late 1930's and North Carolina is still submerged in the Great Depression.  A young Nellie Clay has just married a man she believes to be a good man, Hobbs Pritchard.  She leaves her Mother and everything she knows in Asheville to go home with Hobbs to Black Mountain.  It is there that Nellie starts to learn the truth about the man she married.  Hobbs Pritchard is a mean, mean man.  A man who is feared by most and hated by all.  Nellie is isolated on Ghost Mountain with just Hobbs and a few of his relatives for company.  It is not long before the Ghosts arrive.  Full of warnings and tales of the man Nellie married.   Nellie discovers the truth for herself the hard way, but she will not sit quietly while she lets a man kill her.  She will fight back.  At any cost.

Ghost on Black Mountain is a tale told by five women over many years.  Five women bound by one common thread.  Hobbs Pritchard and a dark murder that took place on Black Mountain.  Ghost on Black Mountain is a Gothic tale if ever there was one.  It is a suspenseful, dark glimpse of what life was like in the mountains of North Carolina not all that long ago.  I am really surprised at how much I enjoyed Ghost on Black Mountain, but Nellie's story, and her strength, captivated me in ways I did not expect.  If you are a fan of Gothic Ghost stories, you will not be disappointed by Ann Hite's debut novel, her haunting tale of Black Mountain will stick with you for quite a while!

Monday, September 12, 2011

(145)The Winters In Bloom by Lisa Tucker

The Winters In Bloom

Publication Date: September 12
288 Pages

Kyra & David Winter never thought that they would have children. They both had children in their past that made them afraid to open their lives to a child.  But they did have a child.  Young Michael is the center of their universe.  They take every precaution and make every effort to protect him.  From homeschooling him to making sure their house is childproofed in ways that we would never think of, Michael is safe.

Or it may be more accurate to say that  Michael WAS safe. He is abducted from their very own backyard.  Sending both David and Kyra into a downward spiral of guilt.  David is sure it was his mentally unstable ex-wife, Courtney that took Michael.  And Kyra is sure that it is her demon battling, addicted sister, Amy, that took Michael.  In an "eye for an eye" sort of way.  But they are both wrong.   Will Kyra & David be able to look past their own guilt and find Michael? Or is their despair so great they just give up all hope?

The Winters in Bloom is an introspective novel about forgiveness.  Not just forgiving people for their transgressions against us, but forgiving ourselves for mistakes made long ago. The Winters in Bloom is somewhat of a dark novel.  The subject matter is heartbreaking, there is no way around that. I did like that portions of the book is set in Kansas City, on a day (Home opener of the Chief's) that I want to be in Kansas City more than any other day, it was nice to read about a piece of "home".   The book itself would be a good one for a book club. Lots of possible discussion material within the sheets of this novel.  Overall, The Winters in Bloom is a great piece of Women's Literature, but don't pick it up expecting a heartwarming, "feel good" type of tale.  You will be disappointed if you do.

Be sure to sign up for the Shelf Awareness for Readers Newsletter and enter yourself in a drawing to win an autographed copy of The Winters in Bloom.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

(144)Little Black Dress by Susan McBride

 Little Black Dress

Publication Date: August 23, 2011
320 Pages

Don't all women believe in the power of a "Little Black Dress"?

Antonia Ashton is ready for her life to truly begin.  She has a very successful business planning weddings and other events and now she is ready to plan her own wedding.   She has been dating Greg for almost two years, so when he invites her to dinner under the guise of "having to ask her a question" she believes that it is finally her time.  Sadly, he just asks her to move in with him and HIS celebration is interrupted when Toni receives a phone call saying that her mother has had a stroke.

Toni rushes to the tiny Missouri town where she grew up to be by her mother's side.  She is in a medically induced coma and there is nothing for Toni to do but wait.  While she waits she starts to go through her Mother's house and finds things of the past that indicate a special "Little Black Dress" had something to do with the fate of her family.  Will she be able to solve the mysteries of the past  and will what she finds help her Mother heal?

I really wanted to like Little Black Dress.  I loved the fact that it is set in Missouri and I fell in love with the Victorian house that plays a prominent role in the story, but overall I can't really say that I liked this book.  It just didn't have that flow that kept me dying to know what happens next, it was almost disjointed and the end seemed to be forced.  One minute Toni is with Greg and then she is moving in full time and getting married to someone else.  It left me scratching my head.  I hate books that do that to the reader!

If you have read Little Black Dress, please weigh in, I would love to know what you thought.

Monday, September 5, 2011

(143)Damage Control by Denise Hamilton

Damage Control

Publication Date : August 30, 2011
384 Pages

I had never heard of Denise Hamilton when I got the chance to read Damage Control. Until I Googled her name, I assumed that Damage Control was her debut novel, boy was I wrong! Denise Hamilton is a best selling author of crime novels and LA Noir. Damage Control is her newest novel to be set in the Hollywood Hills.

Thirty-Three year old Maggie Silver is just coasting through life. She is recently divorced, struggling to pay her upside-down mortgage and has her mother living with her. She has recently taken a job with the most high profile PR firm in Los Angles. Up until now she has been handling stars and and their nanny issues. But now, now she has been put on a high profile case involving a Senator. What Maggie doesn't realize until she is in the Senator's living room is that the Senator is Henry Paxton. The father of her high school best friend, Annabelle. The Senator's young, beautiful aide, was found strangled to death in a hotel room registered to the Senator. Maggie and her colleagues are called in to minimize the damage to the Senator's reputation. But being in the Paxton family home brings back so many memories for Maggie. Once again she finds herself in the middle of situations she doesn't understand with people far more rich and powerful than herself.

Will Maggie be able to help her old friend and her family? Or will the "unknown" in the situation spin everything out of control and put Maggie in fear for her life?

I really, really enjoyed Damage Control. Maggie is a great character. One that I could relate to on many levels. She just wanted to do a good job for her boss, but she didn't realize that might mean putting her life in danger. Denise Hamilton did an excellent job with the twists and turns in Damage Control. Just when I thought I had the "whodunit" figured out she threw another kink into my logic. I just LOVE it when an author keeps me on my toes! A great novel, perfect for those rainy fall nights!

Friday, September 2, 2011

(142)Heat Wave by Nancy Thayer

Heat Wave

Publication Date: June 21, 2011
304 Pages

One last Nantucket book before the Summer comes to an official close. Next up is another Nantucket author, Nancy Thayer.

In her new book, Heat Wave, Nancy Thayer introduces us to Carly. Carly has recently had her world rocked when her husband passes away leaving her a widow with two young daughters. Heat Wave is Carly's story as she struggles with her new normal. Her in-laws are mourning just like she is, but don't make it easy for her and the decisions she makes. As life continues without her husband Carly's life changes and evolves in ways she never thought possible. Will Carly be able to find happiness again or is she destined for a lifetime of mourning?

Heat Wave is not your typical Nantucket beach read. Carly and her family (like many of Nancy Thayer's characters) are year round residents. They see the the ebb and flow of island life. But the story is a good one to read. About how a young woman perseveres through hardship. She needs to take care of her girls and she is resourceful in how she goes about taking care of them. The book is a fast read and well worth an afternoon to read it, I promise.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

(141)The Stranger You Seek by Amanda Kyle Williams

The Stranger You Seek 

Publication Date: August 30, 2011
304 Pages

HOLY SMOKES!  I just finished The Stranger You Seek and my heart is still racing!  All you lovers of the well done suspense thriller must run right out and pick up The Stranger You Seek.

Keye Street is somewhat a broken person.  Her life and career were destroyed by her addiction to alcohol.  Now in recovery she makes her living chasing down bond jumpers and investigates cheating spouses.  The work pays the bills, but she craves more.  She craves the hunt. Her job as a profiler with the BAU was her dream job.  When a serial killer shows up in Atlanta, Keye won't admit it, but she is thrilled to be asked by her best friend, Rauser,  to use her rusty profiling skills to help track the killer.  The killer ramps things up and after an unfortunate incident with someone she thought was her friend, Keye and Rauser are sure they have the killer.  But do they really?  Or was Charlie set up at the hands of someone much more sinister?

Okay - I will be honest, I was about half way through this book and I thought I had the twist all figured out.  I was confident in my superiority and was plotting my disappointing review because I had figured it out so soon in the book.  I was only half right.  And it was in the last ten pages that I realized my fatal error and I was SHOCKED.  SHOCKED, like gasped out loud, shocked.  Well played Ms. Williams, well played.

For a debut author, Amanda Kyle Williams has hit a homerun.  Keye is a wonderfully flawed heroine who has surrounded herself with the most unique characters.  It is a recipe for success and I look forward to many, many stories to come.

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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