Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Monday, December 24, 2012

(155)All She Ever Wanted by Rosalind Noonan

All She Ever Wanted

Publication Date: December 24, 2012

Chelsea Maynard has always had "it" together.  She was a DIY guru for a well known magazine in NYC, she had an amazing marriage and a beautiful house in the suburbs when she finally got what she wanted most in life - to get pregnant.  Now baby Annabelle is six months old and Chelsea is barely a shadow of her former self.  It is all she can do to get up in the morning, the dark thoughts invade almost every waking moment.  Postpartum Depression has ravaged this young woman from the inside out.  

It is Chelsea's husband, Leo, and her sister that are holding Chelsea together and making sure the baby gets what she needs.   But then Leo has to go out of town for work and Chelsea's sister is facing her own health crisis. And one morning during that horrible week Chelsea wakes up to find Annabelle gone.  GONE.  She doesn't remember much from the night before and as dark as things have gotten, Chelsea doesn't THINK she did anything to the baby, but how can she know for sure when she doesn't remember anything at all?  Did Chelsea do something to harm her baby or is there some other dark force at play here? And will baby Annabelle ever come home?

I have never been pregnant so I have never had an opportunity to have Postpartum Depression, but the picture that Rosalind Noonan paints with her words is so very frightening.  While Chelsea has the support of her family you can FEEL her desperation leaking off the pages because she realizes that her family doesn't realize just how desperate the situation has become. Then when Annabelle goes missing, we - the reader - don't know what happened.  We don't know who did the unthinkable, making All She Ever Wanted the ultimate page turner.

Bottom line, All She Ever Wanted was a "can't put down" book for me.  I stayed up long past my bedtime to read this one in one sitting and as an old woman it takes a special book to get me to stay up late reading.  I think there are millions of women out there who can relate to Chelsea and her Postpartum Depression - and the rest of us will get just a glimpse at what it must feel like.  If you are looking for something to spend those gift cards on, then really, look no further.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Monday, December 17, 2012

(154)Becoming Sister Wives by Kody, Meri, Janelle, Christine, & Robyn Brown

Becoming Sister Wives
The Story of an Unconventional Marriage

Publication Date: May 1, 2012
Pages: 288

So my husband & I have a guilty pleasure.  We love to watch Sister Wives, shockingly, my husband more than me.  There is something fascinating about watching this unconventional family navigate through "normal" everyday life.

Becoming Sister Wives tells the stories of how Kody met his wives and how their family grew into what it is today.  From how Kody met each of his wives, to the birth of their children, and finally how the came to have their own show on TLC and of course their move to Las Vegas. There were a lot of growing pains that took place and are never really addressed on the show, but it was certainly interesting to read. . The wives all take turns telling their story and Kody only chimes in at the beginning and end of the book.

I admit that I was a bit surprised by how honest the Wives were when telling their stories and the "growing pains" that came with the addition of each wife. I am sure writing what they did took great thought and opened old wounds. Especially Meri and Janelle, they have had a really rough time with their relationship as Sister Wives.

I know there are a lot of people out there who are against Polygamy and I agree -IF THERE ARE CHILD BRIDES INVOLVED.  As far as I am concerned, grown and consenting adults can do whatever the heck they want to do in the privacy of their own homes. Whether they are polygamists or gay or "living in sin" - whatever the heck they want to do is none of my business.  Having said that, Kody Brown does not appeal to me in any way shape or form,  but then again - neither does millions of other men.

Bottom line, as far as memoirs go, Becoming Sister Wives is not the most literary one that you will find on the market, but it is written from the heart and that goes a long way in my book.  If you are a fan of the show or have a curiosity in the Polygamous lifestyle then you should pick up this book, it is a quick, but engrossing read.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

(153)Invisible by Carla Buckley


Publication Date: December 11, 2012

Dana left her small Midwestern hometown of Black Bear, Minnesota nearly eighteen years ago and has never looked back.  But when she receives a phone call from her niece, Peyton, saying that her mom, Dana's sister, Julie is gravely ill.  After something goes terribly wrong on a construction site that Dana was in charge of, she decides maybe a trip to Black Bear would be a good thing.  Only she is too late and Dana arrives in time to bury her sister.  In the days after Julie's funeral Dana learns that the disease that afflicted her sister has struck several people in Black Bear. Dana does not believe that it is just a coincidence and starts digging around into the town's manufacturing companies.  Could they be slowly poisoning the residents of Black Bear?

I read Carla Buckley's first novel, The Things That Keep Us Here almost three years ago, and I enjoyed it so much I actually read it again this past summer.  So, I was all ready for another book from this author.  I jumped at the chance to read Invisible. While it didn't suck me in as quickly as I had expected, I really did enjoy the story.  I enjoyed watching Dana get to know Peyton.  And you know what - there is a twist there that I haven't even mentioned, the reason why Dana left Black Bear all those years ago and never returned.  It adds even more of a dramatic flair to the story.  While it hasn't been eighteen years since I was "home", I only get back once or twice a year, having just been there I could totally relate to Dana's feelings driving down the streets after all these years.  The more things change the more they stay the same...

Bottom line, Invisible is a great dramatic read with a great environmental message. There are layers to this story that get peeled away with every page you turn.  If you are looking for a good read to take you away from the hustle and bustle of the Holidays, then look no further!

Monday, December 10, 2012

(152)Christmas Magic by Cathy Kelly

Christmas Magic 

Pages: 416
Publication Date:  November 6, 2012

Can you believe that Christmas is just two weeks away?  Really TWO WEEKS away.  Never in all of my life has a year gone by so fast.  Christmas is typically my favorite time of year and it feels like I got a late start to the festivities, with being in Iowa for so long at Thanksgiving.  But here we are... 

I have been a fan of Cathy Kelly for many years.  Her Irish Fiction has transports me to the "home" that I have never seen.  Her latest work, Christmas Magic, is a compilation of short stories that will seem warm, familiar and likely to touch your heart.  From office Christmas parties to neighborhood mailmen (postmen) to familial issues that always pop up around the holidays this collection holds something for everyone. 

Bottom line, if you are looking to supplement all of the Christmas movies that pop up this time of year, then you must pick up Christmas Magic. The writing is so engaging and the characters so well written you find yourself thinking about them even after you have moved onto the next story. With character such as Millie, Stevie, and Frankie you are sure to find yourself flying through the pages!  And best of all, the e-book is only $5.99!

Monday, December 3, 2012

(151)The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg

The Middlesteins

Pages: 288
Publication Date: October 23, 2012

For many years obesity has very much been a taboo topic.  One that everyone has tiptoed around for years, but it seems recently that a lot of authors have dared to tackle the tough topic.  Jami Attenburg is the latest author to do so with her new book, The Middlesteins.

The Middlesteins is a story centered around Edie Middlestein.  She has always been a little overweight, but now that she mas moved into her sixties her morbidly obesity is affecting the whole family.  Her husband, Richard, has left her to pursue single women he meets on the internet.  Her daughter, Robin, is furious at her father and refuses to have anything to do with him.  Edie's son, Benny and his wife, Rachelle, are concerned with her weight, but are more concerned at how the family issues will affect their twins and their upcoming religious ceremony.  Is a "happily ever after" ending really possible for the Middlesteins?  You will have to read to find out.

The Middlesteins is told from all different angles in all different periods of Edie's life and at the start of each chapter from Edie's perspective is her weight at that moment in time. (nice, huh?) But the underlying theme in each chapter is Edie's weight.  And while her family would LIKE you to believe that they are concerned about Edie's weight because of her health, the feeling I got was that they were concerned for more selfish reasons.  Like being embarrassed by her size. It was especially interesting to me to see all of the reactions when she brought a date to the big party.  In fact it even made me mad on her behalf that they were so shocked that she actually had a date.

Bottom line, The Middlesteins is not just another ordinary book about family dynamics.  Well it is, but when you factor in Edie's weight and all of the family's perceptions (and realities) that go with it, you have a pretty exceptional book.  Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

(150)After edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling

After (Nineteen Stories of Apocalypse and Dystopia)
Edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling

Publication Date: October 9, 2012
Pages: 384

First, I must apologize to you guys.  The last couple weeks of my life have been utter chaos.  My Grandmother took a turn for the worse and we made a hasty trip back to Iowa to be with her at the end.  She ended up passing in the wee hours of Thanksgiving Day. So even though we logged a lot of miles in the car and I logged of quiet hours at her bedside, I have not done much reading.  While life happened, my TBR pile grew exponentially.

I did manage to finish an anthology of Young Adult dystopian short stories. After consists of nineteen stories by some of your favorite YA authors like Garth Nix, Susan Beth Pfeffer, and Gregory Maguire to name a few. The stories range in varying degrees of terrifying.  Like teens who live in a world where everyone carries a gun to school.  Teens who are on a spaceship, and another story features a crucial game of baseball played with the Creepies are just a few examples of what imaginative stories you will find in this book.

You all know that I have really gotten hooked on apocalyptic novels.  So I jumped at the chance to read this anthology.  While most of the stories were great, there were a few that I felt needed more than just a few pages to develop the characters and the story. It is hard to really get the whole story out of a short story, if you know what I mean.

Bottom line, if you are a fan of dystopian novels, then obviously you are going to want to give this one a read!

Monday, November 19, 2012

(149)Heads In Beads by Jacob Tomsky

Heads in Beds

Publication Date: November 20, 2012
Pages: 256

With a Sister who went to school for Hotel/Motel Management and went on to work for the some of the biggest names in the Hospitality Industry, I have heard a story or two about guests.  When I heard about Jacob Tomsky's book, Heads in Beds, I was excited to read it and see if the author's stories were similar to stories that my sister and brother-in-law have regaled us with over the years.

Jacob Tomsky starts his book with how he came to work in the Hospitality Industry, he started as a valet at a new five star luxury hotel in New Orleans and while there he worked his way up to Housekeeping Manager.  After a brief sabbatical in Europe he found himself in New York City.  Where he found himself working the Front Desk at the Bellevue and found out that even though New York City and New Orleans were light years apart in many ways, but the guests were all the same.  From aging rock stars (Brian Wilson & Roger Daltry) to eccentric regulars, we get to hear all sorts of juicy and salacious stories.    A huge portion of this book, though is dedicating to the culture of tipping at hotels.  Who gets a tip, who doesn't and how everyone hustles the guests for as much cash as possible. (Who knew you were to tip your Check-In Agent? Um, I didn't)

Heads in Beds is one of those "behind the scenes" books written by a guy who ultimately just wants to do his job and make money.  There is a lot of poking fun at guests and a lot of swearing.  And like in any service industry there is a lot of drinking and even a few references at drug use.  His stories were similar to stories I have heard from my sister and brother-in-law.  The similarities also continue with the "family like" atmosphere among the staff.  Working in the Hotel/Motel industry can be very, very grueling and not for the faint of heart.  That is definitely translated well in this book.  And maybe it will cause you to be just a little more understanding and friendly the next time you check into a hotel.

Bottom line, if you like to read "behind the scenes" industry books, then you will enjoy Heads in Beds.  But I will give the disclaimer that if you are offended easily or are a frequent traveler you may find yourself offended at the language and may even be offended to  "see" yourself in some of the descriptions.  I think that if you have anyone in your family who has worked in the Hotel/Motel industry, then Heads in Beds will make the perfect Christmas gift!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

(148)A Walk in the Park by Jill Mansell

A Walk in the Park

Pages: 448
Publication Date: November 6, 2012

It has been eighteen years since Lara Carson fled Bath in a hurry.  She has lived her life these years and raised her daughter the best she could all on her own.  Here it is eighteen years later and not only does Lara return home for the wedding of her best friend, but she has inherited a house that will give her the security she longs for and allows her to return to the only home she knows. Her only concern is her ex and Gigi's father, Flynn.  You see, he never knew that Lara was pregnant.  Lara's worst nightmares come true when she runs into Flynn at Evie's wedding.  What will he say when he finds out about Gigi?   And what will she do when she realizes that she still has feelings for GiGi's father?

As always, I thoroughly enjoyed Jill Mansell's work of art.  Lara is the kind of character that I would love to have as a BFF.  I enjoyed watching her navigate the waters of "Ex-Land" - she behaved much better than I would have, that is for sure. The relationship between Gigi and Lara was always fun to watch.  The mutual respect they had for each other was certainly admirable.  I also enjoyed the secondary story of Evie and her mishaps in love. It really said a lot about the bond of friendship she had with Lara that they were able to pick their friendship up after all those years as if no time had passed.

Bottom line, I have been a huge fan of Jill Mansell for years.  I am always so excited to see that a new book is coming out and I rush to read it as fast as possible.  Her characters are always cleverly written and are so multi-dimensional that it is easy to relate to them.  If you have never read a Jill Mansell novel, then I must ask - why not?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Friday, November 9, 2012

(147) The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap by Wendy Welch

The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap 

Pages: 304
Publication Date: October 2, 2012

Forgive me if you have "heard" this story before, but for as long as I could remember I wanted to own my own bookstore.  I even had (have?) a location picked out in my hometown that I thought would be perfect for a bookstore.  So when I was hired by Barnes & Noble it was truly like a dream come true. So I get the passion and desire to be surrounded by books everyday.

Wendy Welch and her husband, Jack, have recently returned to the States after being in Scotland for years and have decided to move to a sleepy little coal town and open a bookstore.  They weren't exactly sure how to go about opening a bookstore, so they decided to start by purchasing an historic old home and turning the main floor into a used bookstore.  As it would be with any small town across America it took a while for the "outsiders" to be accepted and welcomed, but once they were,  their little bookstore is full of quirky customers, social activities, and of course book lovers galore.

Something I have observed over the years is that there is a special camaraderie among booksellers around the world. That is unless you are bookseller for Barnes & Noble - then you are employed by the devil. Everything I have read by  "Independent" bookstores, whether it be a book, article, blog, or even tweet always has to get a "dig" in at Barnes & Noble.  The "big box" bookstore giant has been labeled "cold" and "heartless" with employees who don't know anything about books.  And you know what, I take GREAT offense at those assumptions, because you know what?  I know many B&N employees who have put in five, ten, fifteen, and twenty plus years of service into the company, and ya know what, they are NOT doing it to get rich!!  They are doing because of the passion they have for books and nothing more!!!  And what is even worse are the people who write books and make comments KNOCKING Barnes & Noble - why knock the people who have the power to make you, the author, a LOT of money?  [/end rant]

Having said that, it was just a very small portion of this book that rubbed me the wrong way, just a small blip that the average non-B&N employee would slide right over, but it was enough to get under my skin.  I found myself enjoying Wendy, Jack, and their little bookstore.  I chuckled when they were getting started and found myself even groaning at a few unwise decision, having BTDT at *gasp* Barnes & Noble.  I also really enjoyed the chapter where Wendy gives some recommendations from her personal favorite books.  I don't remember the last time I read a book where the author gave recommendations, it really warmed my heart to see her do so. I also found myself revising my old dream of owning my own bookstore, I mean, if Wendy and Jack can do it without a high overhead, well, why couldn't I? - OH - and I also enjoyed reading Wendy's viewpoint on E-Books and E-Readers, and her opinion might surprise you!

Bottom line, if you are reading this blog, then you probably have (or have had) a favorite bookstore.  A place where you walk in and are recognized by somebody.  A place where you can go and escape in the stacks, among the sounds and smells that are associated with any bookstore, no matter what the size or the name on the door. The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap will take you back to that place, to those feelings you have when you walk through the door.  Trust me, it is a fun journey you won't regret taking!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

(146)The Shortest Way Home by Juliette Fay

The Shortest Way Home

Publication Date: October 30, 2012
Pages: 416

Sean Doran has been to hell and back. He left home  nearly twenty years ago, leaving his younger sister and brother in the somewhat capable hands of their Aunt Vivian.  He went into active war zones with the hopes of forgetting his childhood and the hereditary disease that ravaged his mother and held the rest of them hostage.  After twenty years as a nurse in the war zones, Sean returns home finding his family is just as fractured and damaged as they were when he left.  His brother has passed away leaving his young son, Kevin,  in the hands of the aging Aunt Vivian and his sister, Deidre and Deidre is ready to get make her escape.  Will Sean be able to settle down and be there for Kevin and Aunt Vivian, or will he suffocate under the responsibility?

The Shortest Way Home was a really sweet, tender family novel. It is rare for a Women's Fiction book to be told from a male viewpoint, but Juliette Fay has done just that.  Sean is a good guy who was, first, glad to be home around the familiarity of his past, but then realized just how badly Kevin needed a father figure and how badly Aunt Vivian needed a caretaker. The realization of how badly they needed him was a bit suffocating at first and that is where you can really see the transformation in Sean.  Going from this guy who thought he was on vacation visiting family, to this guy who realizes the weight of the responsibility waiting for him.  I especially enjoyed the relationship between Sean and Kevin. Kevin is such a unique little boy and I love the way Sean starts to realize just how unique Kevin is and that to leave him alone with Aunt Vivian would do irreparable  damage.

Bottom line, The Shortest Way Home, is a sweet and tender novel about the ties that bind, family. The story itself is well written and obviously written from the heart. If you are looking for a good novel about the importance of family, no matter what the age, then you simply must read The Shortest Way Home.

Monday, October 29, 2012

(145)The Book of Mormon Girl by Joanna Brooks

The Book of Mormon Girl 

, Publication Date: August 7, 2012
Pages: 240

Here is a funny story for you.  I recently started a new job, here in Utah, where I work with mostly men.  After I was hired the "Big Boss" had a meeting with the guys and threatened them to "behave" around me because they thought I was a "Super Mo" (their words, not mine).  So why did they believe I was a devout Mormon, I don't know.  Maybe because of the way I dressed (professionally) or the way I carried myself (with confidence) or maybe because the way I spoke (obviously well read).  But when one of the guys was brave enough to ask if I was offended by profanity, I laughed my ass off and said "HELL NO!" .  Needless to say, things lightened up around the office and I often still chuckle at the thought that they thought I was easily offended.   I understand the caution of the bosses, being here in the Mormon Corridor, his odds were pretty good that I was a devout Mormon, but I am not.

Even though I am not Mormon, I find that the religion permeates every aspect of living in Utah and my Step-Daughter is a practicing member, so it is on the fringe of my life. Because of that I am cautiously curious as to why the Church's members are so very loyal and unquestioning of "Authority".  I say cautiously curious because even though I believe wholeheartedly in God, I find myself increasingly adverse to any kind of organized religion and I am afraid of "Beetlejuicing" people (of any religion)who want to share why their ways are the only ways to Believe.

So on a beautiful Sunday morning I sat on the deck enjoying a hot mug of coffee,  this view,  and read
The Book of Mormon Girl.  From what I could tell, (theology aside) Joanna's childhood growing up as in a devout Mormon household was not all that different than mine growing up in a devout Catholic household.  Our entire childhoods revolved around church and church activities, from Youth rallies to Church camps, we had a lot in common.  She grew up longing to go to BYU where she would be surrounded by her "kind" (for me is it was Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa).  She even idolized famous people, like Marie Osmond,  because she was a good Mormon role model. (For YEARS I thought JFK was the greatest President ever just because he was Catholic).  So I found myself relating to a lot of what she was writing.  Most of the book was happy childhood memories and experiences that many of us have had ourselves.  The last third of the book, though, was about her time at BYU and discovering her feminist side and the turmoil that exploration caused, but really it was not as in-depth as I had hoped it would be.   The last couple of chapters were about Prop8 and her involvement in campaigning heavily against the Church's stance and the emotional war it caused within her.  (Sidenote: SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO glad I did not live in Utah at that time!!) 

Bottom line, if you like reading memoirs in general, you would probably enjoy The Book of Mormon Girl. It is a quick, yet fairly uneventful read.   I know that to the author and probably other Mormons, her crisis of faith was earth shattering. I am sure many people find it admirable that she still takes her children to a Mormon church, but I am not one of those people.  I do not find it admirable or courageous to continue to financially support any organization that directly opposes what you believe to be right. But this I believe, Joanna Brooks has the right to believe what she wants, practice what she wants, teach her children what she wants and participate when she wants.  That is her right, to believe otherwise - well it just would not be right.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

(144)This is How It Ends by Kathleen MacMahon

This is How it Ends

Publication Date: August 7, 2012
Pages: 352

In case you haven't noticed I have a real strong "Why can't we all just get along" personality.  I blame that on the fact that I am a middle child and often, middle children are forced to be the "peacekeeper".   So while I understand a persons passion about politics, I do not understand (or tolerate) the need to be nasty and mean to people who have different political beliefs.  So there, now that that disclaimer is out of the way, let me move on to my review.

I knew going into it that This Is How It Ends was about a man who travels to Ireland, his ancestors country, and falls in love with a local woman, who also happens to be his distant cousin.  What I did NOT realize was that the year is 2008 and this man, Bruno, is escaping the United States until the election is over because he literally can not stand to be in a Bush-run country for one second longer.  He refuses to return to the States until the election is over and Obama has won.  And he is even a bit concerned at what his future looks like if Obama doesn't win.  Of course, as we all know, Obama won. But by then, Bruno has fallen a little bit in love with Addie.  So he says that he will not return to America until after the Inauguration, because, of course the country is still in Bush's hands.  At the same time Bruno is dwelling on the possible ruin of his country, Addie is not only worried about her ailing Father, but also that Obama WILL win and the man she has fallen in love with will leave her.  It is only when Addie receives devastating news that things are put a bit into perspective and Bruno realizes that "home" is anywhere that Addie is and he is in danger of losing his "home".

I admit, when I realized one of Bruno's primary reasons for visiting Ireland I got that rock in your stomach feeling that it was going to purely be a Republican bashing novel.  (For the record I am a registered Libertarian) And while there was a great deal of "Bush bashing" , my irritation waned with the development of the love story of Addie and Bruno as it started to overshadow the hate. I still have pretty strong feelings about Authors pushing political agendas in novels, but I was able to look past that to the heart of the story.  Love.

Bottom line, we have just a little over a week until the 2012 Presidential election, the election season this time seemed especially long and incredibly toxic. I was a bit disheartened to see that an author would tie my beloved Ireland to the ugly political angst that has divided our country over the last decade, but in the end, true love won out over politics and that I found to be uplifting.  What do you think, should authors be aggressive about their political views in novels?  Am I the only one who finds it distasteful? Let me know what you think, but be kind about your opinions, please!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

(143)The Making of Us by Lisa Jewell

The Making of Us

Publication Date: August 14, 2012
Pages: 403

Lydia, Dean, and Robyn are just going about their own business in the greater London area.  They don't know the others exist and they really have much in common except for the fact that they were born because of a sperm donor.  That sperm donor, Daniel, is dying and his dying wish is to know what became of his children.  While his days slip away, his friend, Maggie tracks down Lydia, Dean, and Robyn.

Lydia is a wealthy business woman, but has a life that is really devoid of family and friends.  Dean is a an old twenty-one year old who just became a single father after his girlfriend died during childbirth, and Robyn just turned eighteen and is at a crossroads in her life.  The three of them awkwardly come together to honor the wishes of their dying father.  Will the strangers be able to develop a sibling relationship or will they do this and never speak again?

The Making of Us  was an engrossing novel.  The author did a wonderful job of giving the reader an in depth look at these three siblings and their father. You really got to know Lydia, Dean, and Robyn, and as the reader truly gets to know them, you realize how much they would benefit from having a sibling.  All three are a bit lonely and adrift in their lives.  Anyone who has a sibling (I have six of them) knows that it can be a love/hate relationship at times, but no matter what happens they are there for you and "got your back".

Bottom line, I really did enjoy The Making Of Us.  The book really grabs you from the first page.  As you start to read about these three very unique individuals you realize that their lives are all lacking in someway.  If you are looking for a well written novel about relationships, you must not miss this one, it will leave you wanting to call your siblings just to say hi...

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

(142)The Bridge by Karen Kingsbury

The Bridge

Publication Date: October 23, 2012
Pages: 272

While I love my nook I will always have a soft spot in my heart for bookstores.  Even before I worked at one I could lose myself for hours in the stacks and after I started working at "Fox Books" (props if you get that movie reference) I really felt like I had found my "home"- a community of people who shared a love for books.

The Bridge is a book where the main characters is a bookstore called The Bridge.  Set in Tennessee, The Bridge has been a  meeting place for many a young couple over the last thirty years.  Molly Allen and Ryan Kelly nurtured their budding relationship by meeting at The Bridge during college and it was very easily the best two years of Molly's life, but they were just from two different worlds.  Flash forward several years and the owners of The Bridge, Charlie and Donna Barton,  have fallen on hard times and are about to lose everything that they have worked so hard for, including the bookstore.  Both Molly and Ryhan feel compelled to return to Franklin to help the Barton's, but doing so comes at great emotional risk for Molly.  What if she runs into Ryan? Will they be able to put the past aside in order to help the Barton's?

Just in time for the Holiday book season, The Bridge is a sweet and heartwarming novel about the impact a place like a bookstore can make on your life.  We all should be so lucky to have a place like The Bridge in our lives.  I enjoyed all of the characters in the story, but I was a bit irritated by Molly's timid nature, just because I don't like the way she handled her father's meddling.  At the beginning of her new book, The Bridge, prolific Christian Fiction author, Karen Kingsbury, gives props to not only bookstores, but booksellers. And that means a lot to folks like me.  It is nice to feel appreciated by the authors whose work we sell.

Overall, the Winter weather we have been having, really  put me in the mood for my first "Christmas" book of the season.  The Bridge was a quick, feel-good read that has me nostalgic for family holidays and the BN crew at Zona Rosa.  If you have ever had a bookstore in your life that felt like home, then you must run out and read The Bridge.

Monday, October 22, 2012

(141)That's Amore by Wendy Markham

That's Amore 

Publication Date: June 30, 2004
Pages: 354

Daria Marshall has always had a bit of a wanderlust.  She has never really settled down in any one platce long enough to call it home.  She was last in Arizona crashing with a friend when her sister, Tammy, invited Daria to stay with her for a while in New York City.  Tammy and Daria are close like most sisters are, but they share something that most sisters don't, a psychic ability.  It is on New Years Eve when Daria meets Ralphie, a nice man who is very recently out of an engagement. Not only is Ralphie nursing what should be a broken heart, he is mourning the recent loss of his father. Daria and Ralphie strike up a friendship after Daria mistakenly leaves her iPod behind, plus she has a developed a great fondness for Ralphie's late father.  Will they be able to put their issues behind them and find happiness?  Or will Daria's wanderlust carry her away from New York City and the man she has come to love?

So first things first, did you know that Wendy Markham is a pen name for Wendy Corsi Staub?  I did not!  I have several books by Wendy Corsi Staub, but admittedly have not read one yet.  I do know that they are a completely different genre than what Wendy Markham is known for writing.   That's Amore  was a sweet novel about two people trying to find love.  I enjoyed Daria, even though there were a few times that her hesitation frustrated me.  I also enjoyed Ralphie, his down to earth qualities with his family loyalty makes him a great guy for any woman, especially Daria.

Bottom line, That's Amore  is a sweet  paranormal romance. Even though it was a bit predictable at times the characters are unique enough to make it worth the read.  Let me know what you think!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

(140) The Walking Dead Volume:2 Miles Behind Us by Robert Kirkman

The Walking Dead Volume 2:
Miles Behind Us

Publication Date: December 20, 2006
Pages: 136

I don't think that I was as excited for a show to start this Fall as I was for The Walking Dead. The season premiere lived up to my every expectation and it seemed like the fastest hour of my life.  To extend the excitement I decided it was high time for me to read the next installment of the graphic novels. 

Miles Behind Us picks up at the tale end of winter. Rick and the group are all traveling in Dale's RV when they stumble across a gated community.  They think that they have hit the jackpot with this community, believing that it will be free of Walkers and they will be able to settle down and make new homes. Of course nothing could be that easy and soon they are back on the road and are in even more trouble when Carl gets shot.  Will the old man on the farm let them stay or will they be forced to go back on the road?

The beauty about reading the Graphic Novels and watching the show are that they are similar, yet so different.  Since we are on season three of the show I thought that I would know what to expect in the graphic novel, but I was wrong.  There are a lot of similarities, like Carl getting shot.  But there are a lot of differences, too.  Enough to keep me guessing and enjoying the novels, which is what I love. 

Bottom line, I don't know why I (and ten million other people) am so fascinated by The Walking Dead, but I am, and not just the television show.  There is a certain amount of emotion conveyed in the artwork of the graphic novel that you just don't get from a regular novel.  If you are a fan of the show, but have not read the books, then WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?? You must run out and start reading the graphic novels immediately! 

Friday, October 19, 2012

(139)Finding Casey by Jo-Ann Mapson

Finding Casey 

Publication Date: October 2, 2012
Pages: 336

There are two stories being told in Finding Casey.  First there is forty-one year old Glory is loving life in  ways that she never imagined that she could. She has so much to be thankful for, she is married to the amazing Joe and not only do they have an amazing daughter, Junniper, but Glory is pregnant .  Junniper is blossoming into a beautiful young woman under the guidance of Joe and Glory.  Just a few short years ago, she was unsure of what her future would be when they assigned Glory to be her Foster Mother after her own family fell apart and her sister, Casey, went missing.

At the same time we are reading about Glory and her family we are reading about Laurel Smith who is worried about her critically ill daughter, Aspen. She leaves the "compound" where they live with a religious sect, against the wishes of the creepy leader, Seth.  She is awkward and unsure of herself in the outside world, but she knows she must do whatever she can to get help for Aspen.  The two stories are separate, until you realize that they are not.

Set against the beautiful Fall backdrop of Santa Fe we get to know these families in an intimate way.  I really enjoyed Joe, Glory, and Junniper.  The whole family dynamic at Thanksgiving was interesting with Glory's sister and mom there.  OH!!  I forgot a very important character, Dolores, the ghost who shares their home!  She certainly adds character to the story, but at times it felt really forced.  My heart really went out to Laurel.  Her anxiety about being away from Seth probably came across more strongly than any other emotion in the book and it really endeared her to me.

Bottom line, Finding Casey was a good story.  I felt the plot drag at times, but I stuck with it because I wanted to see what was going to happen and find out how the stories would merge.  I think it is worth the read, but be prepared for the fact that it isn't exactly a fast paced novel.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

(138)Ashen Winter by Mike Mullin

Ashen Winter 

Publication Date: October 16, 2012
Pages: 594

So my confession, I agreed to read an ARC of Ashen Winter (yes, I DID read the synopsis this time) and when I sat down to read it this past Saturday, I realized that it was a sequel.  The beauty of e-books is that without having to leave the couch I downloaded the first book and by the end of the night I had read them both.  Lately it is rare for me to get so much reading time, but I had no choice.  I could not stop reading!!

Ashen Winter picks up where Ashfall left off. Alex and Darla have made it to Illinois to discover that Alex's parents had left to find him. After waiting things out for a few months Alex can wait no longer.  He must set off to find his parents and bring them back to the farm.  Of course Darla will not let him leave without her and they set off on another dangerous journey.  If it is not the danger of crossing the Mississippi again or dealing with the neverending winter weather, they are dealing with the brutal bandits that are still terrorizing the countryside. Alex loses Darla to those bandits and gains Alyssa and her brother, Ben.  But, NOTHING will keep Alex from finding and rescuing Darla, no matter who he encounters along the way... 

Once again Mike Mullin had me on the edge of my seat.  I could not believe how quickly 594 pages seemed to go by again.  I found myself caught up in the world that is both familiar, yet unrecognizable. I loved how Alex, again, proved that he is no longer just a teenager.  He has become a man since the volcano erupted and he will let nothing stop him from tending to what he sees as his responsibilities.  The growth of Alex from the early pages of book one to the end of book two is certainly night and day, it is wonderful to watch that growth. 

Bottom line, Mike Mullin seamlessly continues the story of Alex and his family in Ashen Winter. Some months have passed and it is interesting to me to see how society has adapted to the aftermath of the volcano.  Again there are some really adult themes mentioned in this book, human slavery is just one and the cannibalism is much more prevalent, so let your younger kids read with caution.  Overall though, the themes of survival and perseverance in the face of adversity are ones that most of us can learn something from.  Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

(137)Ashfall by Mike Mullin


,Publication Date: September 27, 2011
Pages: 476

And the obsession continues....

We have all heard about the Super Volcano that is dormant in Yellowstone National Park.  We have all heard the "what if" stories about what would happen to the world as we know it if the Super Volcano actually blew.  Well, author Mike Mullin puts his imagination to work and shares with the world what would happen.

Fifteen year old Alex is just like any other fifteen year old boy.  He would much rather stay home and play video games than travel with his family to Illinois to visit his uncle's farm, but after a huge argument with his mom he is allowed to stay home.  He is sitting at his computer in his Cedar Falls, Iowa when it happens.  Something has crashed into his house causing a fire to erupt, after escaping the wreckage he realizes that it was a rock thrown from the volcano eruption in Yellowstone, 900 miles away.  It is not long before the ash starts pouring down and Alex wants nothing more than to be with his family.  He decides to set off on foot to find his family in Illinois. Along the way he encounters all sorts of trouble and he would be dead if not for eighteen year old Darla.  They join forces and continue the journey to Illinois, but it is not easy. They have to fight not only the mounds of ash, but the brutal winter weather, as well as bandits out to plunder and pillage.  Will they be able to make to Illinois and what will they find if they make it to the farm?

Wow!  What a novel, I don't even know where to begin.  First of all, Alex reminds me so much of my fifteen year old step-son!  All through this book I couldn't help but compare him to Alex and imagine what he would be like in that scenario.  Alex (like my Riley) is a smart and resourceful kid and I have no doubt Riley would use his wits to survive.  I also found myself longing (again) for Iowa.  If I had to live in a Post-Apocalyptic world, I sure would want to do it in Iowa.  The small town, neighbor helping neighbor feeling really came through when Alex and Darla went to Worthington. But, also, living only 300 miles from Yellowstone leads me to believe that it is doubtful we would survive a super volcano.

Bottom line, while Ashfall is a Young Adult novel, I would caution that the younger kids of that classification may find parts of the book disturbing.  There is a fair amount of violence and the references to cannibalism may be disturbing.  Having said that, don't let the Young Adult classification keep YOU from reading this book.  It is so well written and so fast paced, it is easy to forget that Alex is just a young teenager.  In an admirable way he steps up to the plate in order keep himself and Darla safe.  If you are a fan of Post Apocalyptic fiction, then you must read Ashfall!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

(136)Forgotten by Catherine McKenzie


Publication Date: October 16, 2012
Pages: 448

Emma Tupper is shell-shocked when her mother passes away after an illness, like anyone would be, obviously.  But she is even more shocked when her mother's last wish is for Emma to take a trip to Africa in her honor.  After finally getting law firm to approve the month off, she goes to Africa. Only to fall sick and become "trapped" by an earthquake.

Six months later, Emma is finally returning to civilization only to discover that everyone thought she was dead.  Her bank accounts have been closed, her apartment has been rented by a very handsome man named Dominic, and her mortal enemy, Sophie has not only taken her job, but her boyfriend.  Slowly as she tries to piece her life back together Emma starts to realize that maybe starting over is the best thing that could have happened to her!

Catherine McKenzie is such a talented writer!  I thoroughly enjoyed her first book, Spin, I bought (but have not read) her second book, and JUMPED at the chance to read her third book, Forgotten. I am so glad that I did.  Emma Tupper is a sweet character at a crossroads in her life, by no fault of her own and she is not sure which way to go.  Right back to the life that she was living or improve her life by switching jobs, boyfriends, and apartments.  I enjoyed everything about Emma. Her feelings about her situation really translated well to the reader, my heart ached for her.  I also really enjoyed the relationship between her and her best friend, especially the way her entire family enveloped Emma at Christmas, it was really heartwarming.

Bottom line, Forgotten is an enjoyable book on so many levels.  The characters, the scenery, the level of conflict that Emma faced.  It all joined together to make Forgotten an unforgettable novel.  (HaHa! See what I did there....) Be sure to pick it up today and let me know what you think.

Monday, October 15, 2012

(135)Hanging By A Thread by Sophie Littlefield

Hanging By A Thread

Publication Date: September 11, 2012
Pages: 288

In most situations I am the Queen Chicken of our family. I hide my eyes during scary movies and until this year I refused to step foot in a haunted house.  Having said that, I really enjoy spooky books with a hint of paranormal activity.  With Halloween fast approaching, Hanging By A Thread is the perfect kind of book to read.

Clare is finally moving back to her hometown after being away for years.  And she is "home" just in time for the big Fourth of July celebration the town has every year.  But this year is different and the town is on edge, because for the last two years a young person was murdered during the big celebration.   Well, what nobody knows is that Clare has a special skill, when she wears other peoples clothes not only can she can see what they saw when wearing the piece of clothing, but also feel what they were feeling.  Clare realizes that she stumbled across something when she finds a denim jacket at a rummage sale.  Will the jacket help her figure out who is killing young people before it is too late?

Hanging By A Thread has everything a good suspense novel should have.  A strong female character, not one but two handsome boys, a mystery, and some supernatural powers.  The story moves along nicely and keeps you guessing as to who is the killer.  I also really enjoyed the relationship between Clare and her mother and grandmother.  It didn't seem like the way most Young Adult novelists portray the mother/child relationship.

Bottom line, if you are looking for a mild mannered "spooky" book to read during the Halloween season, I urge you to give Sophie Littlefield a shot.  This was the first book of hers that I have read, but I am looking forward to looking up more of her works, I am especially to see what she does with novels for adults.

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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