Monday, April 30, 2012

(59)The Garden of Happy Endings by Barbara O'Neal

The Garden of Happy Endings

Publication Date: April 24, 2012
Pages: 416

There is a common theme that runs through the books by Barbara O'Neal.  And that is the healing power of food.  Her new book, The Garden of Happy Endings, continues that theme.

In this book we meet a Seattle Reverend Elsa Montgomery.  Elsa is on a sabbatical after a fourteen year old member of her Parrish was brutally murdered. And Elsa found the body.  Her faith is on rocky ground and she hopes that a trip home to Pueblo helps restore her faith.  At the insistence of her childhood best friend, and former fiance, Father Jack, she gets involved in a project of a community garden in the roughest part of town.  Even when Elsa discovers that her Brother-In-Law has bilked people out of millions and her sister, Tamsin's, world falls apart, Elsa still stays focused on the community garden and what it is becoming to many people in the community.  Together Elsa and Tamsin discover the healing power of food as they work through their hurts and put their lives back together.

I always enjoy Barbara O'Neal's books.  There is something about them that just seems - peaceful,  for the lack of a better word.  Even though her characters are always struggling with a major issue, they always find peace in food.  Whether it be baking bread or working as a chef, or as it was with Elsa, gardening.  There is something about the act of giving that shines through in her novels and the giving comes in the form of food.

I really enjoyed The Garden of Happy Endings, just like I knew I would.  The scenery, the food, the connections, and most of all the characters.  Barbara O'Neal has written another wonderful book that will tug at your heart strings while making your mouth water.  You have to read it just to get to the end and the recipes!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

(58)Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen

Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake

Publication Date: April 24, 2012
Pages: 208

I want to be Anna Quindlen when I grow up.

Seriously.  Have you ever sat and listened to her speak?  After reading her new memoir I made it a point to listen to her on NPR's Fresh Air yesterday and by the end of the segment I wanted to move East and live in her shadow.  Seriously.  This woman is everything I could hope to be.

Her new book, Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake (love that title!) is a memoir about growing old gracefully.  She covers all sorts of topics that could relate women of all ages.  From "late in life" motherhood, to caring for ill and/or aging parents to her relationships with her girlfriends she shares with us her thoughts on life and what it means to be a woman on the brink of 60 in today's society.  She even hits some harder hitting topics, like her decision to stop drinking and when her and her husband recently left the Catholic church.   But every chapter, every topic is written with such honesty that it feels as if you are just two women sitting on a couch enjoying a cup of tea.

What I took away from this memoir is that now I know what wisdom looks like.   Ms. Quindlen has certainly experienced  a lot in her life and has learned a lot along the way.  She was a pioneer in women's journalism and a best selling author while raising a family.  While reading Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, I thought of my own mother who is close in age to Ms. Quindlen and of a similar background.  And both women seem to have the same effect on me, being in their presence (if only on paper) makes me want to strive for more.  How can that be a bad thing?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

(57)Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton


Publication Date: April 24, 2012
Pages: 400

Have you ever read a book that seemed so familiar to you you could have sworn you have read it before.  Like literary dejavu?  That is the feeling I got when I read Afterwards, by Rosamund Lupton.  Even though it is a newly published book (in the States) I was so sure I had read it or something similar before.

Afterwards is about a Mother, Grace, who has her worst nightmare come true. She is standing outside the school that her son, Adam, attends and her daughter, Jenny, is volunteering at this summer when she sees that the building is on fire.  Grace does the one thing that any other Mother would do in that situation, knowing that Adam is safe, she runs into the burning building to save her daughter, Jenny.  We next find Jenny and Grace experiencing "out of body experiences" - together they wander the halls of the hospital and listen in as the doctors try to save their lives and the police, including her prickly Sister-In-Law Sarah,  try to find out who started the fire and why.  As the days pass and the situation becomes dire for Jenny, Grace tries everything possible to let someone, anyone know that it is okay to let her go in order to save Jenny. Will she be able to get through to her husband before it's too late? Or will both Jenny and Grace be lost to their loved ones forever?

Ms. Lupton made a huge splash on the literary scene last year with her blockbuster bestseller, Sister. While Afterwards also explores the inexplicable connections that we have with our loved ones it is also a heart racing mystery.  And the "whodunit" in the end will just leave you speechless.  But it is the "connection" side of the story that had me in tears towards the end.  I don't want to give anything away, but just know that it is a bit gut wrenching and you should have a box of tissues nearby.

So the whole "out of body experience" plot ring a bell with anyone else?  I went back through my blog entries from last year and it occurred to me what it was, If This is Paradise, I Want My Money Back by Claudia Carroll.  But with a much darker theme.  Bottom line is that Afterwards is an emotionally charged mystery novel that will stay with you for quite awhile after you read the last page.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

(56)The Good Father by Diane Chamberlain

The Good Father 
by Diane Chamberlain 

Publication Date: April 24, 2012
Pages: 384

Diane Chamberlain is one of those authors that is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.  Her novels are so thought out, so well written, that I always find myself emotionally invested in the characters.

The Good Father is her newest novel and will suck you in so fast, you won't know what hit you.

Travis became a father at the age of eighteen.  He did not plan on becoming a father at such a young age and he certainly did not plan on being a single father, ever.  But he would rather be a single father raising his daughter than seeing her be adopted by a family that may or not love her.  Being a single father is tough, but he has his mother helping him out with childcare and they live with her, giving young Bella a happy childhood even though her mother is not in her life.  Tragedy strikes and on the same day Travis loses his job, his mother dies while saving Bella from a fire that also leaves them homeless.  The promise of a job leads Travis and Bella to Raleigh, where they meet Erin.  A woman recovering from her own tragedy. When the job falls through Travis becomes desperate, he is willing to do whatever it takes to feed and clothe his daughter, but is it enough to put a roof over their head.  Will the risk he takes tear apart the tenuous hold that he has normality?  Will it land him in jail or worse?

It is rare that we read about single Father's in Women's Fiction.  Maybe it is because the authors obviously gear their stories towards women. But I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed Travis.  He was a young man who was trying so hard to do the right thing while fighting the incredible odds against him.  Yes, he made a few stupid choices, but once he realized how stupid they were he desperately tried to rectify them.  The end of The Good Father was somewhat predictable, but no more so than you will find at the end of any Picoult novel.

I am not sure exactly what it is that causes me to love Diane Chamberlain's books more than Jodi Picoult.  They essentially use the same formula, chapters told from alternating prospective.  There is usually a moral dilemma of some kind in each of their stories, yet for some reason I find Chamberlain's books to be so much more enjoyable.  Bottom line, if you are looking for a good book that will tug on your heartstrings without being excessively syrupy, well then I recommend any novel by Diane Chamberlain, but especially The Good Father.

Monday, April 23, 2012

(55)Somebody to Love by Kristan Higgins

Somebody to Love 
by Kristan Higgins

Publication Date: April 24, 2012
Pages: 432

Even though Parker Harrington Welles is a successful children's author, she is glad that the series is finally over.  Yes, the series has made a lot of money for charity, after-all, she has a trust fund to live off of and didn't need the money.  But even with all of the money raised for charity, she is so over having the Holy Rollers (the characters in her books) creeping into her every thought and every corner of her life.

She is in the process of  trying to figure out what to do next when she receives word that her trust fund is gone. Her father has lost all of her money and all of  her son's money to an insider trading scandal.  While he knows where he is going to live for the next six years, (prison), Parker has no idea what she and her young son will do without money, without a home, and without a job.   Her father's lawyer, (fondly referred to as Thing One) reminds her that a deceased Aunt has left her a summer property in Maine.  While her son is on vacation with his dad, she can just zip up to Maine & prepare the house to sell.  That should solve all of her problems, right?

Kristan Higgin's does not write hard hitting literary fiction.  She writes novels about women who are real.  They are unique in their own ways, but I can promise you this, whenever you pick up one of her novels you will laugh out loud.  This time it was Parker's little run in with the police that had me laughing so hard I got funny looks from my family.  But I also chuckled several times at the "Thing One" and appearances by the  Holy Rollers.  Over the course of the novel, "Thing One" goes from being her father's flunky sent to help her to the "hot" man doing construction work on her house.   I really enjoyed seeing the way Parker views of James slowly shift.  And I enjoyed the way Parker went from stressed by her situation to content and accepting of the situation.

Bottom line, Somebody to Love, is a "girl power" book at it's finest. The characters are fun, the story is interesting, and the romance is steamy, but not excessively so. If you are looking for a fun escape pick up this book, or any Kristan Higgins book, and enjoy a few hours of escapism.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

(54)This World We Live In by Susan Beth Pfeffer

This World We Live In
by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Publication Date: April 18, 2011
Pages: 252

The third (but not final) installment of the Life As We Knew It series.   In the third book we find our way back to Miranda and her journals.  The food situation is getting desperate so Matt & Jon set off to the river to catch some fish (FINALLY they live off the wilderness).   But not only do they come back with fish, but Matt brings back a new wife, Syl.

The family is just getting used to having Syl around when the kids' Dad returns from out west where they were trying to find Lisa's family.  Only they aren't alone.  They have picked up three "strays" along the way, including Alex and Julie Morales.  While Miranda's mother is freaking out about the extra mouths to feed, Miranda finds herself increasingly attracted to the "last boy on Earth" to whom she is not related.    Everyone is just getting used to the new living arrangements when Mother Nature rears her ugly head yet again.  Will they be able to survive this latest disaster or is She finally going to finish them all off?

I really liked how in this book we got to see both parts of Book 1 and Book 2 come together.  Alex is still a stubborn (at times) jerk.  He is so set on doing what he thinks his parents would want that he doesn't really look at what would be the BEST choice. I really liked how Miranda could balance him out some, though.  But he was also good for her.   This book seems like the balance of both the first books.  Book one was "anti-religion" , book two was all about how religion played into their survival, and book three was a combination of them both.

I thought that This World We Live In was the last book in the series, but I read on the author's website that she has decided that the story is not over. Without giving too much away, I will just say that I am really interested in where the story goes from here.  There were some events that took place that certainly were shocking and not where I thought then story would go, but certainly left it open for another installment.

Bottom line, I really enjoyed the way the author merged the two stories and the two main characters into the third story. Just like the second book, there is a body count with this book and I encourage you to read it before allowing your "Under 13" to read this book.  The ending did leave it open for another book, even though we thought it wasn't going to happen.  Now we just have to hurry up and wait. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

(53)The Innocent by David Baldacci

The Innocent

Publication Date: April 17, 2012
Pages: 432

I first heard of David Baldacci back in the day when I was working a desk job that allowed you to listen to audio books during the work day.  I "read" several of his earlier books this way, then took a hiatus for a while.  When the opportunity presented itself to read an Advanced copy of The Innocent, I jumped at the chance and honestly, I hoped that I would be disappointed as I have been with "old" favorites of late.

Well, I was NOT disappointed.  The Innocent is about a Government hitman, Will Robie.  He works for the United States Government and his targets are usually international evil people, but that night his target was close to home.  But he was shocked to discover that his target was a single mother with two young kids sleeping by her side.  Will couldn't pull the trigger, his gut told him that something here was off.  Even though he couldn't pull the trigger, his "handler" could and Will suddenly finds himself in the middle of something bad.  As he is making his "escape" he encounters fourteen year old Julie, who just saw her parents shot dead and is on the run, herself from whoever pulled the trigger.   Her path crosses Wills in their attempt to escape their respective situations and Will finds himself with a "partner in crime" for the first time in a long time.  Will he be able to get them to safety before they become casualties of "war"?

I forgot how much I enjoy the fast pace, heart pounding tales that David Baldacci is such an expert at crafting.  The Innocent was a great companion on my journey home from vacation the other day.   I read all 432 pages while sitting in the car and I found myself just whipping through those pages like they were candy.    BUT, I will say that I suspected that one person (who shall remain nameless to avoid spoilers) had a part in the mess in SOME way, I just wasn't sure how, but I was not all that shocked by what happened at the end.  It was the fast paced action sequences, plus the interaction between Julie & Robie that really held my interest.

Bottom line, David Baldacci still has got "it" when it comes to keeping the attention of his readers.  His characters are complex, yet entirely likable. Even if they are cold blooded killers.  There are some tender moments between Robie and Julie, but in general it is not a "warm fuzzy" kind of book. It is a heart pounding page turner and it is perfect.

Monday, April 16, 2012

(52)The Dead & The Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer

The Dead & The Gone 

Publication Date: January 18, 2012
Pages: 321

So here we have the second installment in the "Life as We Knew It" series.  Instead of picking up with Miranda, we meet Alex Morales and his family in New York City.  We meet Alex right as the moon and the asteroid collide and we follow them after the "crash".

Alex is a high school junior on scholarship at a prestigious Catholic High School.  His Puerto Rican family are very devout and very traditional in every sense of the word.  His mother is on the Subway on her way to work when the tidal waves flood the subway and his father is back in Puerto Rico for his Grandmother's funeral.  With his older brother, Carlos, in the Marines, Alex is left to be the "man of the house" and care for his younger sisters, Julie and Bri.  A lot of responsibility for a teenage boy.

We follow Alex, Bri, & Julie for the next year as they struggle to survive and the things that they have to do in order to survive.  From sending Bri off to live with the Nuns to "body shopping" the deceased for trade-able items, Alex will do whatever it takes to keep his family alive.  We watch Alex struggle to keep them fed and struggle with his faith in the God that would cause such death and destruction.  What will become of the three siblings as their world further disintegrates into chaos?

The Dead & The Gone is a lot different from Life As We Knew It.  Alex's situation seemed more dire to me than Miranda's for many reasons.  The lack of adult supervision and planning being the main reason.  In the first book I got a strong anti-religion vibe from the characters, specifically Miranda.  Yet the strong faith of the Morales family is a major part of this book.  It is their faith that carries them through, specifically Bri.  Alex and Julie both struggle with their faith as the book go on, but ultimately they let their faith carry them through the hard times in an admirable way.

The Dead & The Gone is also a bit more - um - graphic.  The body-shopping is a bit tough to read, as are other things that take place later in the book.  I would say that this is NOT one that I would let my 12 year old read, without some serious prepping.  I would let her know about some of the subject matter and maybe let her choose, but I could see where it would be tough for some kids to read.

Bottom line, for the second book in a series, it was pretty good. Almost a stand alone novel because the only thing in common with the first book is the asteroid colliding with the moon. I enjoyed the NYC aspect of the story, because I always wondered about the "What ifs..." for apartment dwellers.   Needless to say I enjoyed it enough to read the third book in the installment.   Check back tomorrow for my thoughts on that one.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

(51)Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Life As We Knew It

Publication Date: May 1, 2008
Pages: 347

I have a confession to make.  I am increasingly becoming addicted to anything and everything Post Apocalyptic.  From The Walking Dead to Doomsday Preppers to reading “Prepper” blogs on the internet and of course reading Post Apocalyptic themed books .  First up on my long list of “the world is coming to an end” reading material is Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer.   And here is a kicker for you, Life As We Knew It is a Young Adult novel.

It is May when we first meet Miranda on May 7th.  She is a High School student living in Pennsylvania with her Mom and younger brother, while her older brother is off to college.  The media has been talking about an Asteroid about to hit the moon for a while now and the whole block gathers outside to watch events unfold; kind of like people do for Haley’s Comet or other big events that can be seen by the naked eye.  What they (they being the Scientists) did not expect was for the asteroid to be much denser than they thought.  So big it actually knocked the moon out of alignment and is closer to Earth than ever before, causing earthquakes, tsunamis, volcano eruptions and tidal waves from hell.   Electricity becomes sporadic, gas becomes a luxury item and food becomes scarce.  Miranda and her family are surviving for now, but what will happen when Winter comes?  Will they be able to survive? And do they want to?

I really enjoyed Life As We Knew It.  The book is written as if it were ripped right from the pages of Miranda’s diary, so we only see her side of the story, but I enjoy novels written in that format. There were a few political jabs at President Bush that let me know exactly what side of the fence the author resides politically, but they are brief and if you can get past that, you will find an engrossing novel that will cause you to pause and think “What if…”  The author did a really good job, in my opinion, of having the characters be realistic in their actions and reactions to the state of the world.  They tried to carry on as normal as possible for as long as possible, by going to the library and post office, and even school and I really enjoyed seeing that.   The one thing I questioned more than once, was as food was running low, why weren’t Miranda and her Brothers HUNTING in the woods that surround their home?  Squirrels, rabbits, and even deer could have made their lives a bit less stressful.

Bottom line is that I really enjoyed Life As We Knew It.  It was a fast read about a situation that we pray we will never find ourselves in at all. But it really challenged me to think about how I would behave in the event of a catastrophic event that caused me to not know where my next meal was coming from.  Because it is a YA novel, there was nothing too scary in this novel.  I would say that even my 12 year old could handle the content.  I would even go so far as to say that I think it would make a great movie, too. 

P.S. I also want to add that I liked it so much, I ran right to and bought the next two books in the series and am already almost finished with the second book!!  Review is forthcoming!!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

(50)Giant George

Giant George 
with Lynn Barrett - Lee 

Publication Date: April 10, 2012
Pages: 272

Once you become a  “dog person” you are always a “dog person”.   Some peopl e are born into “dog families” and learn to love dogs from a very young age.  Some people grow into “dog people” because of a certain dog that comes into their lives.  Other people marry a dog person and by default they become “dog people”.   That was the case for Dave.   He didn't think that he would ever be a “dog person”, yet when it became one of his fiance’s stipulations for moving to Tuscon, he agreed.

So Dave & his wife got married and after lots of research and thorough vetting, they decided on adopting a Great Dane.  They knew that Great Danes were big dogs, but they had no idea that when they adopted Giant George as a fourteen pound puppy that he would turn out to be the tallest dog ever.  They started to get an idea that they had a special dog on their hands when they took George to the vet  at age three for his yearly visit and he topped the  scales at 245 pounds and standing 43 inches tall. (just for the record, that is really, really big) .  Dave and his friends start on a quest to get The Guiness Book of World Records to recognize that George is the tallest dog.  There quest garners attention from media outlets all over the country, even the Queen of Media herself, Oprah Winfrey.

Dog people are going to love the story of Giant George.  He is a sweet and loving dog owned by sweet and loving people.  I read this book in the car while on vacation and found myself sharing George’s statistics with my Husband.  I even recall saying “And you think that *I* spoil our dogs” when I heard the whole mess with a bed for George in the hotel room.  I love my 100 pound dogs, but they are just fine sleeping on the floor.  Lol. 
I once worked with a woman, a dog person herself, who once said that dog books never end well.   Thankfully Giant George ends with George as a perfectly happy dog recovering from his travels as “World’s Tallest Dog.  Dog people are going to love Giant George, others probably not so much.

Monday, April 9, 2012

(49)Hit Lit by James W. Hall

Hit List: 
Cracking the Code of the Twentieth Century's Biggest Bestseller 

Publication Date: April 10, 2012
Pages: 336

Feel free to skip over this post if you do not want to see me get my geek on. If you are a Word Nerd like me, then continue on...

In his new book, Hit List, Author James W. Hall takes a look at twelve novels published in the 20th century and shares his thoughts on why they were wildly successful.  The books he chose are listed as follows:
  • Gone With the Wind
  • Peyton Place
  • Bridges of Madison County
  • The Firm
  • The Davinci Code
  • The Exorcist
  • Jaws
  • Dead Zone
  • Valley of the Dolls
  • To Kill A Mockingbird
  • The Godfather
  • The Hunt for Red October.
I admit to having read five of these novels and have seen several other of the movies.  (lol - does that count?) But all of these novels have been bestsellers, some are still bestsellers even after all of these years. Some were "one hit wonders" and others were the beginning of successful careers for the author. But none of that matters because anyone who considers themselves avid readers have heard of these novels.

 Hall takes all twelve of these novels and looks at the common themes in them and why he thinks they became bestsellers.  One common theme that sticks in my mind is that the main characters in each of these novels did not have a traditional nuclear family, or if they did it was incredibly dysfunctional, laden with infidelity and/or abuse. Even Scout had lost her mother at a tender age.  

I admit that I knew very little about Peyton Place and purchased it to read, but I have yet to have read it at the time I am writing this post.  I also bought Jaws and Gone With the Wind (I can't find my copy) based on this book. I think that Hit Lit is one of those books that will only find an audience with real Word Nerds and those interested in replicating the success in their own books. 

What do you think? Have you ready any of the twelve books listed and do you think you will read this book? 

(48)The Red Book by Deborah Copaken Kogan

The Red Book 

Publication Date: April 3, 2012
Pages 368

Is there anything more stressful than attending a class reunion? Whether it be High School or College, there are people out there (like me) who have great fears about returning for class reunions.

The Red Book is a book about four college roommates returning to Harvard for their twentieth class reunion. Clover, Addison, Mia and Jane graduated twenty years ago with the world in their hands.  They were so sure that they had their lives planned out and were sure nothing would stop them.  Here it is twenty years later and their lives are all spinning out of control in ways that they never dreamed. Addison's marriage is falling apart,  Clover just lost her Wall Street job with the recent crash, Mia is a Hollywood Wife when all she wanted was to be a Hollywood Star and Jane's job for a newspaper has been eliminated.  But according to The Red Book,kind of like a "Who's Who" of Harvard alumni, put out by Harvard Alumni their lives are all rainbows and kittens.  Will they be able to come clean with the women they once knew best or will they try to keep up appearances for the sake of the reunion?

The reviews for The Red Book have all been fabulous, but I have to be honest, I had a hard time getting into this one.  The characters were really hard for me to like. The way the book opens with Addison going to jail, and her reaction to that little trip, would have been humorous if it weren't so over the top.  As the weekend goes on, each of the four friends confront parts of their past. And are forced to deal with issues in their current lives while finally being honest with themselves and their classmates.

I don't know if my mind was preoccupied with my upcoming vacation or if the book was really not one to hold my interest, but I really had a hard time getting into this one.  Give it a read and let me know if I should give it another try.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

(47)Paris in Love by Eloisa James

Paris in Love

Publication Date: April 3, 2012
Pages: 272

I have  never been outside of the United States, heck, I have hardly ever left the "Flyover States" - but in my own little twisted way, I consider myself "well traveled" because of my love for reading books set outside of the United States.  Most specifically Europe.

When I heard that Bestselling  Romance Author, Eloisa James, was writing a memoir about her year of living abroad in Paris, I was excited at the prospect of seeing Paris through her eyes.  I was even more intrigued after reading the introduction and discovering that the book is a compilation of all of her Tweets and Facebook posts from her time in Paris.  Some have been expanded into short essays, but for the most part, the book is little snippets of her life as seen on Facebook and Twitter.  And I have to tell you that I thoroughly enjoyed that style.   From the cuisine, to the struggles with her children and their schooling, to the beautiful sites.  Eloisa James holds nothing back about what life in Paris is like for an Ex-Pat.

For those of you who don't know (I know I didn't) Eloisa James is a Harvard graduate and has a PHD from Yale. How impressive is THAT?  She also teaches creative writing at Fordham University in NYC and  writes a monthly column for the BN Review. She is also "Mom" to two kids & a dog. This woman is the very definition of  "Busy", is it any wonder that she wanted to take a year long sabbatical in Paris?

Because of the style in which it is written, Paris in Love, is a fast read, but it is so worth the read.  Even with quick  snippets, I think we get a fairly accurate depiction of what life is like living in Paris.  And let me tell you, it totally made me rethink the quality of my Facebook/Twitter posts.  But then again, I am not a Harvard grad, so maybe you can forgive me?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Monday, April 2, 2012

(46)Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James

Fifty Shades of Grey

Publication (Paperback) Date: April 3, 2012
Pages: 558

It is rare that a book comes along that can get an entire country talking.  It comes along maybe once a year.  One year it was Twilight, another year it was The Hunger Games and way back when it was titles such as The DaVinci Code and Lonesome Dove.  There are several things that are unusual about this years "hot" title, Fifty Shades of Grey. First of all, it got it's start as Twilight Fan Fiction, secondly, it is one of those e-books that sold a Gazillion copies before being picked up by one of the "Big Six" publishing houses (it can be found in paperback tomorrow) , and most importantly,  is that it is BDSM erotica.    

Fifty Shades of Grey is the first installment in a trilogy about a young,  naive woman (Ana) just days away from graduating college in the Pacific Northwest.  Her roommate has been sick and asks Ana to fill in for her at an interview for the College Magazine.  If Ana does not go, Kate risks the chance of losing the interview due to scheduling conflicts.  So Ana agrees to go.  And is shocked to discover that Tycoon Christian Grey is the most good looking man she has ever encountered in her life.  The sparks fly from almost the instant they meet.  And Christian, being the successful business man that he is, never lets anything stop him from getting what he wants.  And he wants Ana.  That first meeting sets off about 85 pages of cat & mouse play before Ana finally gives in and agrees to play by Christian's rules.  That is after signing a Non Disclosure Agreement and a negotiating a lengthy contract detailing what her role as a Submissive entails.  What follows is scene after incredibly steamy scene of some hardcore (Ok, what *I* consider hardcore)  and some "Vanilla" sex.   As the book goes on, Ana comes to the realization that the man she has fallen in love with is seriously "Fuc&ed Up" - her words.  And the author leaves the first installment with Ana making the painful decision that she can not be with Christian Grey.

In all of my years of reading I have never seen such widespread acceptance of Erotica. The book has been featured on Good Morning America, and it made the cover of Entertainment Weekly this week.  It is rare for ANY book to make the cover of  EW - (usually reserved for books that have been turned into blockbuster movies) let alone an Erotica book.  The media is calling it "Mommy porn" - but personally I think that the Trulia App I downloaded the other day is *MY* kind of porn.   As someone who spent YEARS reading trashy Harlequin Romance novels that my GRANDMA passed on to me when she was finished with them, I did not find anything in Fifty Shades of Grey that I have not read before. Well okay, the extremely liberal use of the "F" word was usually not found in Harlequins.  But a wealthy, older (OLDER at 27?? - Gasp), domineering tycoon sweeping a young, usually poor or in need, naive girl off of her feet. Well I have read that book probably a 100 times over. One that quickly comes to mind is Sarah's Child by Linda Howard.  Heck, any of Linda Howard's earlier books would fit the bill.  Are the sex scenes as graphic as they are in 50SoG, honestly I don't remember, but I do remember them getting (*ahem* *blush*)my motor running just as much as 50SoG did.  Don't get me wrong, I am *thrilled* that Fifty Shades of Grey is sparking so much discussion in our  country.  It shows just how far we have come in terms of defining what is "literary" and what is worthy of literary discussions in our country.

Bottom line, we all could use a little spice in our life every now and then.  If it comes from books by E.L. James or Linda Howard or looking at houses for sale on a handy dandy little app as you drive to Blockbuster with your Husband, then so be it.  Fifty Shades of Grey has done the trick for millions of women (and millions of husbands are grateful) across the world.  Let me be clear in saying that this book is NOT for the easily offended.  The language alone could make a sailor blush and the sex scenes are very graphic, but oh so sexy, in nature.  The tale is one as old as time, but E.L. James has put a new spin on the old tale, creating a world in which it is easy to get lost.  Looking for an afternoon of (*blush*) pleasure? Pick up Fifty Shades of Grey.

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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