Saturday, March 30, 2013

(23)Evidence of Life by Barbara Taylor Sissel

Evidence of Life

Publication Date: March 26, 2013
Pages: 320

As far as Abby Bennett is concerned her life is near perfect. She is married to a very successful attorney, Nick.  They have two wonderful kids, teenager, Lindsey and Jake, their son, is pre-law.  It is a warm Spring day and Nick and Lindsey are heading off to the Hill Country for a camping trip, just like many other Spring days before.

What Abby and Nick did not count on was the freak Spring storm that caused the worst flooding in decades.  When Nick and Lindsey never make it to their campsite everyone assumes the worst, that they were swept away in the floods.  But what about that call from a crying Lindsey that disconnected before Abby could get any information out of her.  And what about the matchbook with another woman's name and number written on the cover that she found in Nick's things? And what about the strange things happening at their house in the months after the flood?  Even when all of Abby's family and friends start to get concerned with her belief that they are still alive, she still believes.  Will she ever find out the truth about what happened to her husband and daughter, and more importantly, are they still alive?

Evidence of Life was a unique kind of mystery. You heart aches for Abby because she just can't seem to come to terms with the loss of her husband and daughter, yet as the story goes on, you also start to question what really happened to Nick and Lindsey.  I liked how her friends rallied around her, but it annoyed me a bit, too, when they were really questioning her sanity.

Bottom line, Evidence of Life is a bit of a page turner. Easy to read and well written it goes by pretty fast.  If you are looking for a good mystery, pick up Evidence of Life and let me know what you think!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

(22)Stranger Here by Jen Larsen

Stranger Here 

Publication Date: February 19, 2013
Pages: 256

Weight loss surgery is a huge (no pun intended) decision and an even bigger commitment.  I am not going to lie, during my moments of extreme frustration I have even thought of doing it myself. Millions of people have done it with great success, but there are some people who have not had long term success. 

Like all fat people (myself included) Author Jen Larsen thought that her life would be perfect if she were skinny. She went through with the weight loss surgery and had the duodenal switch and basically got a portion of her digestive system removed.  Her "starting weight" was 318 lbs, which is certainly big, that is no lie, but I question what did she do prior to her decision to try and lose weight.  Her research prior to the initial consultation was to read message boards.  All of the pre-surgery consultations, including psychologist, were set up in her favor by the very people who were supposed to be objective.  Despite her fears, despite her concerns, despite losing the twenty pounds the doctor recommended, despite her lack of thorough investigation Jen goes through with the surgery.  

In Stranger Here, Jen tells us her  story before and after the surgery.  She thought if she were skinny her dysfunctional relationship with her boyfriend, Andy, would magically get better. She thought she would find the perfect job if she were skinny.  She didn't think that she would shit herself on her way to an interview because of her weight loss surgery and she didn't really give much thought to the fact that after the surgery her dietary habits will need to change beyond the first month of protein shakes.  She was very honest in what happened to her body after she gives into the cravings for fried chicken and it isn't pretty.  If anyone thinks that Jen Larsen is the kind of woman to glamorize weight loss surgery, you are sadly mistaken.  BUT I will say that I was a bit appalled at how easy it was for her to get approved.  By that, I mean (from what was said in the book) it appears that she did not put forth a lot of effort to lose weight on her own.  To me that is scary, there should be some sort of documentation proving effort to lose weight before allowing someone to go under the knife to permanently alter their body, but that is just my opinion. 

Bottom line, being fat is not easy.  I know this firsthand, but then again, losing weight is even harder, again, something I know firsthand.  I finished this book on the day I took 12,280 steps and did a total of one hour 34 minutes of exercise in an effort to lose weight.  Do I want to be skinny like Jen, more than anything, but I KNOW I can do it the "old fashioned way" and I am going to do it one pound at a time no matter how long it takes me.  BUT I can appreciate why Jen had the weight loss surgery and I think her story is an important one to share, as Jen proved, the surgery can be easy to get, but it is not the "easy way out" that a lot of people believe it to be.   Anyone who struggles with their weight or has contemplated WLS needs to read Stranger Here and tell me what you think!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

(21)When She Was Gone by Gwendolen Gross

When She Was Gone 

Publication Date:  March 19, 2013
Pages: 277

Teenager Linsey Hart is just a day away from going off to Cornell for college when it is discovered that she is missing.  Her mother is devastated and will do anything to find her daughter safe and bring her home. She even goes door to door in their typical suburban neighborhood trying to illicit information from the neighbors who have their own deep dark secrets.  Will they risk their own secrets to help Abigail find her daughter?

Each chapter is told from the perspectives of the different families in the neighborhood.  Among the neighbors is Reeva, the desperate housewife who is having a torrid affair with the Barrista and Starbucks and Mr. Leonard the retired music teacher are just a couple of the neighbors. Will they provide the information Abigail needs in order to find Linsey?

When She Was Gone was an interesting read. We get to hear all about Linsey from all of her neighbors perspectives, but not once do we get to "hear" from Linsey.  Her neighbors are such an interesting group of characters, part Wisteria Lane and part Peyton Place.  I really felt bad for Linsey's mom, she obviously has had tragedy in her life and when Linsey comes up missing her grief and fear is palpable. You have to keep reading just to find out what happened to Linsey.  The ending was a bit disappointing because I expected more of the "why", but maybe that is part of the mystery - never fully getting the "why".

Bottom line,   When She Was Gone was a decent read.  The unique way the author set up the chapters certainly had me hooked, not to mention the other drama going on in the rest of the neighborhood.  And who doesn't like a little drama every now & then.

Monday, March 18, 2013

(20)Heart Like Mine by Amy Hatvany

Heart Like Mine
by Amy Hatvany

Pages: 384
Publication Date: March 19, 2013

Buy it Here!

Grace McAllister has been waiting for a man like Victor Hansen her whole life.  She had dated a lot of duds in her life and the last date with a dud ended with Victor sweeping in to save the night, so to speak.  He is a handsome restaurant owner who is kind and loving and everything Grace has ever wanted in a man.  He is also divorced with two kids.  They are perfect for each other, Victor doesn't want more kids and Grace is okay with never having kids of her "own".  Grace gets along really well with Max and Ava and she is excited to tell them that Grace and Victor will be getting married.  But before they can make the big announcement the kids Mother passes away, sending all of them into a tailspin. 

Needless to say, with the passing of Victor's ex, things change dramatically.  Grace goes from a sometime step-mom to becoming the full time only parent they have since Victor has an emergency at the restaurant and is forced to work long and insane hours.  The adjustment is not an easy one and Grace discovers some things about Victor, the kids, their mother and most importantly about herself.  Is her love for Victor enough to keep her from walking out on all of them?

I have found myself gravitating towards novels about Step-Moms recently, especially since becoming one myself .  Grace's situation is almost identical to mine.  She took on the huge responsibility of caring for her younger brother a lot when she was still a kid herself, causing her to really not want kids when she became an adult. (For me it was two younger brothers)  She met and fell in love with a man who had two kids a boy and a girl, and felt like he did not want more kids.  (So did I!) .  I know that if something ever happened to our kids mother, I would become a full-time Step-Mother and I am perfectly okay with that.  If I were Grace, though, I would have been pretty pissed and VERY vocal about the fact that Victor pretty much just LEFT her alone with the kids.  I understand there were special circumstances at the restaurant, but when your family needs you so desperately, you just figure it out.

Bottom line, Heart Like Mine was a very sweet, tender novel about the growing pains of a family.  In a world where Step-Moms and "born" everyday, I think there are a lot of women out there who will find a lot in common with Grace, like I did.  Amy Hatvany is making quite a name for herself in Women's Fiction.  She writes well written, hard hitting novels that will make you think and are likely to make you cry. Have you read any of her books?  Do you think you will read this one?

Saturday, March 16, 2013

(19)Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Beautiful Creatures

Publication Date: December 1, 2009
Pages: 563

I just spent seventeen hours of my life with Lena Duchannes and Ethan Carter Wate in Gatlin County.  By seventeen hours, I mean that I listened to the audiobook version of this novel while I was on the treadmill.  It was certainly a good way to pass the time! 

Ethan has lived in Gatlin all of his life.  He has gone to school with the same group of kids all of his life.  When new girl, Lena Duchannes shows up at school one day, the entire town is buzzing, just not the school.  Not only does Lena dress differently than the rest of the town, she is Macon Ravenwood's niece. Ravenwood has been the town recluse for as long as anyone can remember and while being his niece scares off a lot of people, it does not scare off Ethan.  For some reason he is inexplicably drawn to Lena and he soon starts to learn that she is a special young woman.  She has powers and abilities that are very different and opens Ethan up to a whole world right there in Gatlin that he knew nothing about.  Will their true love be able to overcome the powers trying to rip them apart?

I always enjoy listening to audiobooks because I feel like I can really get into the heads of the main characters and I know that I won't miss any little detail by glossing over or reading too fast like I sometimes do with print. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this YA novel was told from Ethan's perspective.  It seems like most YA novels I read are told in a female voice.  We do get to hear from Lena, but it is only briefly and only at the end of the novel. I enjoyed the quirky cast of characters that populated not only Gatlin, but Lena's family.  It really gave the whole novel a real dark, Gothic feel.   I am looking forward to seeing the movie, just because I am curious as to how true to the novel it stayed.  Has anyone out there seen the movie yet?

Bottom line, while I enjoyed Beautiful Creatures it did not "hook" me the way other YA novels have.  I suspect it is only because I listened to the book at 30-45 minute intervals.  I did purchase the rest of the books in e-book form a couple weeks ago (Amazon had them for dirt cheap) so I will likely stay with Lena and Ethan.  Even if it takes me years to read them all. :)

Friday, March 15, 2013

(18)Revenge of the Girl With the Great Personality by Elizabeth Eulberg

Revenge of the Girl With the Great Personality

Publication Date: March 1, 2013
Pages: 272

Where would you think you would find a sixteen year old girl on a Saturday afternoon.  Well, you can find sixteen year old Lexi managing the wardrobe for her seven year old sister, the beauty queen, Mackenzie. Ever since Mac was born Lexi has been stuck hearing how beautiful Mac is and how plain Lexi is compared to her sister.  When their parents divorced it seems like Lexi's mom went off the edge and spends every dime she makes chasing Mac's win, in the process creating a little monster and a BIG rift with her older daughter. 

Thank God Lexi has Cam and Benny, her two best friends. They give her the love and acceptance she doesn't get at home, not to mention encouragement to let her own beauty shine through.  It is on a bet from Benny that forces Lexi to seek help from one of the pros one Saturday afternoon and with a few wardrobe changes, Lexi is no longer the ugly duckling everyone is used to seeing.  Her  mini-makeover brings attention from Logan, the class heartthrob, even though he has a girlfriend, and his best friend Taylor.  Will Lexi go with her heart and choose the right guy?  And what will happen on the home-front when Mac (and her mother) realizes that Lexi is more than just the girl with the great personality?

I really, really enjoyed Revenge of the Girl With the Great Personality. Lexi is a great character and I really enjoyed her friendship with Benny and Cam.  I wanted to literally beat her mother to a pulb. And when the "big event" happened towards the end of the book I cried at the injustice Lexi's mom was heaping upon her.  It is just heartbreaking to think that there are mothers out there who play favorites and destroy every ounce of self esteem in their children.  There were times that I thought the author went over the top with Mac's character.  I know seven year olds can be precocious, but some of her dialogue was just far too advanced for a seven year old, I found myself rolling my eyes a couple of times. 

Bottom line, Revenge of the Girl With the Great Personality was a great book.  I think it will catch the interest of people who enjoy watching Toddlers and Tiaras and I can even see it translating to the big screen as a "teen angst" movie rather easily.  Any girl who has been told or FELT like they were not as pretty as someone else will enjoy this book, that I can promise.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Monday, March 11, 2013

(17)The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

The Storyteller 

Publication Date: February 26, 2013
Pages: 460

It is that time of year, fellow book lovers!  The new Jodi Picoult novel has hit the shelves.  In this years novel the beloved author tackles one of the more heavy hitting topics, the Holocaust.

Baker Sage Singer has just been a shadow of herself since her Mother passed away nearly three years ago.  Not only did she do the unthinkable, by having an affair with the married funeral home director, Adam.  But she also joined a grief support group, something that she never thought that she would ever do.  It was at that support group that she met the elderly Josef Weber.  As the small towns former German teacher, Josef is well known and well liked in the community.  He befriends Sage and soon their friendship is one of Sage's favorite things about her mixed up life.  Until the day that Josef confesses to Sage that he was once an SS officer at Auschwitz and he would like for her to kill him.

While Sage is an atheist, her family is Jewish and her Nana, Minka,  escaped the hells of Auschwitz herself.  At first Sage does not know what to do with the information.  How can this sweet elderly man be guilty of the horrific crimes that took place during the Holocaust.  Sage does the only think she can think of - she calls the police and eventually her "case" lands on the desk of Department of Justice investigator, Leo Stein.  After much convincing he finally believes Sage and he starts coaching her on how to get enough information to determine if Josef is telling the truth.  As the days and weeks pass Josef starts telling Sage enough of the horror to determine that he is who he says he is - but the ultimate question remains, will Sage let him be brought to justice or will she honor his request and kill him.

The Holocaust is one of those events in time that will never, ever be forgotten. I live my happy, safe, suburban life and find it easy to forget about the horror of 9/11 (which I was ALIVE for) let alone the atrocities of the Holocaust.  The Storyteller nearly brought me to my knees with the story of Sage's Nana.  As always, this Jodi Picoult novel is told from the different perspectives of the main characters, and Sage's Nana, Minka, tells her story in graphic detail, how she gets to and survives Auschwitz.  It will definitely make you weep and may even bring you to your knees.

Bottom line, critics (including myself) have said for years that Jodi Picoult's novels are very formulaic.   The Storyteller is just a bit different this time in the fact that there is no typical trial in which the main character has to participate in one way or another.  There IS a trial, so to speak, but there is only one judge, jury, and executioner, Sage.  It was a bit refreshing to see the author shake things up a bit, even if ever so slight.  I think The Storyteller is an important book to read for many reasons, but mostly because I am not the only one who has let the horrors of the Holocaust fall to the back of my mind - that itself should be a crime.  We truly must never forget.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Monday, March 4, 2013

(16)The Best Man by Kristan Higgins

The Best Man

Pages: 432
Publication Date: February 26, 2013

Faith Holland left her hometown after she discovered - at the church - that her soon to be husband is gay.  To say she was destroyed is an understatement.  Their hometown was not big enough for the both of them, so she ran.  Clear to the other side of the country.  A few years has passed and she is ready to return to her hometown and her family's winery, The Blue Herron. What she does not expect to find is that the new Chief of Police is the very handsome best friend of her former fiance.

It doesn't take long for Faith to work her way back into the family fold. Her siblings are trying to find a suitable mate for their widowed father, an act that Faith throws herself into wholeheartedly, especially since she feels it is her fault that her mother died in that horrific car accident all those years ago. Faith's father is not the only one sensing that love is in the air, the sparks between Levi, the handsome Chief, and Faith are undeniable.  But will Faith be able to forgive him for his part in her thwarted wedding?

The Best Man was a fun book to read.  Faith is a feisty character with a feisty family that  reminded me a bit of my own family. I can understand her hesitation of going home after being publicly humiliated, small towns have long memories, don't ya know? The chemistry between Faith and Levi was sizzling and really added to the story. And of course, there was an adorable puppy dog at the heart of everything.

Bottom line, Kristan Higgins is quickly moving to the top of my "must read authors" list. She always infuses her characters with the kind of characteristics I seek in my friends, especially the humor. I always find myself laughing out loud while reading her books and that is a must have quality in my favorite authors.

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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