Tuesday, April 30, 2013

(35)Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham

Someday, Someday, Maybe

Publication Date: April 29, 2013
Pages: 352

The year is 1995 and Franny Banks is running out of time.  She made herself a promise that if she didn't "make it" in acting in three years she would move on and find something else to do with her life. Well, time is running out and all she has to show for her time in New York is a job waiting tables at a comedy club and a few commercials.  Her days are spent running from audition to audition with a few attempts at finding an agent and the occasional acting class. But as her "date" closes in on her the pressure of success is almost overwhelming, but she finds comfort hanging out with her nerdy roommate, Dan.  Will Franny find success as an actress or will she have to admit her failures and move on?

First of all, yes, the author is THAT Lauren Graham, also known as Lorelei Gilmore and Sarah Braverman. So, pretty much someone who has experience as a struggling actress. The whole flashback to the year of 1995 was awesome.  The tv show Friends and a drawer full of scrunchies, yes please! I also enjoyed how each chapter ended with a pages out of Franny's date book. It was fun to see the scribbles and notes she made about her life. The banter between Franny and her father is really quite funny and I found myself chuckling more than once at their interactions. The story itself lagged a bit in spots, but the chuckles that popped up every now and then made it worth the read and you just have to stick with the story to see if Franny ends up with the nerd or the actor.

Bottom line, it doesn't matter how many shows or movie she stars in, Lauren Graham will always and forever be the fast talking, quick witted single mother, Lorelei Gilmore to me.  For that reason alone I was excited to read Someday, Someday, Maybe and I wasn't disappointed.  If you are looking for a solid read and a flashback to the 90's, then you will most likely enjoy this book.  Be sure to let me know what you thought!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

(34)The Time of My Life by Cecelia Ahern

The Time of My Life

Pages: 486
Publication Date: April 23, 2013

< /p> Have you ever told your friends or family a little white lie just because the truth is too complicated or too hard to share?  Well, Lucy Silchester has found herself in a rut of perpetual lies. She has been receiving notices from her Life, requesting a meeting to set things right and she just ignores it and ignores it until she can not put it off any more. 

Her meeting with Life does not go as she expected. He calls her on all of her crap, starting with leading her family and friends to believe that SHE cheated on and dumped the love of her life, when in reality he dumped her.  She lost her fabulous job and lied to get the job she has now, which she hates.  She lies to her landlord and hides her cat, Mr.Pan and most importantly she lies to herself that all is well with her Life. After her meeting, her Life (also known as Cosmo) shows up at the most inopportune times trying to get her to face the reality of what has become of her Life.  Will she use this opportunity to re-examine her life and put things back on track, or will her fear of Life prevent her from moving forward?

Y'all know how much I love my Irish literature, so I say this as lovingly as possible.  The Time of My Life was a bit weird, but weird in the best possible way. It really took me a while - most of the book really -  to figure out that the reason why Lucy is so hateful towards Cosmo is because she really, really hates the way her life has turned out. Even when the handsome Don Lockwood wanders into her life, she finds ways to sabotage the relationship. But, having your Life manifest before your eyes in the form of a grumpy, disheveled gentleman is a bit of an eye-opener, and it made me think, once I finished the book, if my life were to manifest into a person, who would it be?

Bottom line, even though it took me most of the book to "get it" - I really think that The Time of My Life has an important message. If you love Irish literature, then you are very familiar with Cecelia Ahern and you are not likely to miss this book, but don't give up on it too early, even though it seems "weird" you must stay with it to the end. It is well worth the read, I promise!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

(33)Nowhere But Home by Liza Palmer

Nowhere but Home

Publication Date: April 2, 2013
Pages: 384

Queen Elizabeth Wake (Queenie to those who know her) got out of North Star, Texas as soon as she possibly could, leaving behind the scandal her mother created with her death.  After college she drifted from city to city and finally landed in New York City where she is a chef at an upscale hotel.  Well, she was, until she got fired for refusing to allow a guest to add ketchup to one of her dishes. With no money, no job, and no home, there is only one place she can go - home to North Star, Texas.

Even though North Star is just the same as it was when she left, the people have all gotten older, including Queenie's sister, Merry Carole and her nephew, Cal. And the gossip-mongers have gotten worse. And then there is Everett, the reason why Queenie high-tailed it out of North Star.  The love of her life who was far too good for the town whore's daughter. Queenie is confused as to what to do when she is offered a unique position preparing the last meals for inmates on death row. Will Queenie stick around North Star and finally put down roots or will the daily life of small town living be too much for her?

Nowhere but Home started off being your normal Chick Lit kind of book. I could relate to the big city girl going home plot line, but the moment she thinks about taking a job cooking the last meals for death row inmates it gets kind of heavy.  Queenie has all sorts of mixed emotions about being back in Texas to begin with, and then to be offered a job preparing the last meal that these people will ever eat?  Throw into the mix her very single ex-boyfriend? Woah.  I was surprised at how much I was sucked into Queenie's story, especially after she went to work at the prison. Her reaction to those meals really touched my heart, she goes home and crawls into bed with her big sister, because she can't bear the thought of being alone. 

Bottom line, Nowhere but Home, is a great little novel with a unique main character.  While Queenie is a little rough around the edges, she has a heart of gold and just wants to be happy. I truly believe that Nowhere but Home would be an excellent selection for your next book club meeting.  There is so much discussion to be had from one little novel, for example, what would YOU choose for your last meal?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

(32)Table for Seven by Whitney Gaskell

Table for Seven 

Publication Date: April 23, 2013
Pages: 416

It is New Years Eve when a group of friends gather for a unique dinner party.  Fran and Will are the hosts, they have been married for many years and have settled into the routine that many married couples fall into, especially when there are careers, teens, and life involved.  They invite their friends Jaime and Mark, a newly married couple with two young children, as well as Mark's daughter from a previous marriage.  They get very little adult time and look forward to the evenings with their friends.  Leland, a widowed retired neighbor is invited as well as Coop, an old friend of Wills, and Audrey, a young widowed friend of Fran's.  They are an eclectic group of people and are all surprised at how much they enjoyed their dinner party.  The group decide to make it a monthly date rotating hosts and the "Table for Seven" club has started.

As the year continues the seven members go through their ups and downs. Each of the seven of them have their good times and bad. They are struggling with career choices, marriage issues such as infidelity and struggles that come up after years of marital routines. They each try to forget their problems to attend their monthly dinners, but eventually all of their secrets are revealed.  Will marriages remain intact?  Will friendships stay strong?  And will the dinner party club continue after it is all said and done?

Table For Seven was a nice leisurely read.  The characters seem a bit more three dimensional than some "fluffy" books, but don't seem to take themselves to seriously. I enjoyed watching the relationship between Coop and Audrey develop and I was rooting for them the whole way.  And I really enjoyed Leland, the retired neighbor.  He was a unique character added to the mix and I am glad the author introduced him to us.  The ending was good, without being too predictable, which sometimes happens.

Bottom line, if you are looking for a good book for a leisurely afternoon read, then you would likely enjoy Table for Seven.  It will hold your interest and connect you to the characters without being too strenuous or emotional, so pretty much perfect for a lazy afternoon.

Friday, April 19, 2013

(31)With or Without You by Domenica Ruta

With or Without You

Publication Date:  February 26, 2013
Pages: 224

Domenica (Nikki) Ruta did not have a conventional childhood by any stretch of the imagination.  She grew up in a small community outside Boston where she lived with her mother in a house owned by her Grandmother, that sounds normal, right?  Well her mother, Kathi,  was somewhat of a notorious figure in Danvers, known for her ability to have a good time with lots and lots of drugs. From pot to oxy to heroin, Nikki knew from a tender age what drugs were and what people ON drugs were capable of doing to young girls.

Despite her tumultuous upbringing Nikki tried to maintain a normalcy - even when her mom paid for her parochial school with money she got selling drugs, Nikki didn't think she was much different then the other kids at school.  Then one night she had a friend over to stay the night and saw her home from new eyes.  The squalor that she was living in and the drugs and drug addicts that littered her home WAS different from the other kids in her class.  So they try to get her into a boarding school and after lots of applications, she is accepted to one of the most prestigious boarding schools on the East coast.  But was it in time to prevent Nikki from repeating the horrible cycle that began generations before she came along?  Will she be able to put her Mother behind her and go on to lead a happy, productive life?

I am not sure if you could tell from my brief synopsis, but With or Without You is a memoir. A horrifying real life tale of a young girl trapped in the drug addled world created by her drug addicted mother.  My jaw literally dropped at some of the stories Nilkki had to share about her mother, it almost seemed like she HAD to be fictional because no mother would be so bad as to give her young daughter OXYCONTIN for a headache, right?  I will say that the Nikki skipped around in the time line pretty frequently causing some confusion and frustrations to me, the reader.  I was pretty irritated by the sequence until the end of the book when she made some comment (not a direct quote) about how [when finally sober, memories return slowly and never in the right order]. It was a like a light bulb came on and I immediately forgave Nikki for her writing ADD.

Bottom line, With or Without You is a raw, gritty novel about a young girl struggling to survive a childhood that would have chewed up and spat out just about any other soul.  Nikki is obviously a strong woman who has a great gift for telling a story and I am glad that she did survive to tell us her cautionary tale. If you are in the need of feeling better about your own childhood, then you must read With or Without You. I promise you that you will feel better about your life.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

(30)The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Fault in Our Stars

Publication Date: January 10, 2012
Pages: 336

Hazel Grace Lancaster has not been healthy for as long as she can remember. The cancer that has ravaged her body has also stolen a normal childhood from her.  All of her missed school resulted in Hazel getting her GED and now is a sixteen year old college student. An experimental drug has made life somewhat liveable, she has to carry oxygen wherever she goes , but it is really a small price to pay for staying alive. Even though she is glad to be alive, she is a bit self conscious to be seen in public, so she sticks pretty close to home. Much to her dismay, Hazel's parents require her to attend a support group made up of other kids who have cancer, it is there that she meets Augustus Waters.

From the first time they meet Hazel is drawn to Gus's quick wit and lazy smile. His rapid fire way of talking keeps Hazel on her toes and has her falling madly in love despite the fact that she is terminal and she knows that she is a grenade.  Gus is not only at group supporting his friend, Isaac, but he himself lost a leg to cancer, but has been NEC (No Evidence of Cancer) for quite a while.  Soon, Hazel and Gus are spending a lot of time together, discussing their favorite books, their favorite poets, and even something so normal as playing video games as teens are known to do. Will Gus and Hazel be able to escape the Grim Reaper to live their happily ever after?

Any "real" reader has been familiar with at least the title of The Fault in Our Stars as it was at the top of all the "Best of 2012" lists - including Time Magazine.  Now I understand why.  I listened to the book while on the treadmill, I knew I was taking a risk on the treadmill listening to a book about kids with cancer, but I found myself chuckling more than I found myself crying.  Hazel and Gus are such SMART, fun characters. Their banter and their wit and their utter devotion to each other just made me fall in love with both of them.  And then there is their cancer -the courage at which they deal with the cancer is just astounding and their trip to Denmark was just about as romantic as you would find in any romance novel, especially the visit to the Anne Frank house (which ironically enough has been in the news this week because of another famous teen who will remain unnamed in this blog).  But the end... the end of any book about cancer.... well, I am not gonna lie, it is going to rip your heart out.

Bottom line, The Fault in Our Stars, is a pretty damn good book.  John Green is one of the best YA novelist out there right now and he proves why with this book.  I know most of my readers are adults, but if you only read one Young Adult novel this year, let it be this one. You will be glad that I introduced you to Hazel and Gus, I promise.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Monday, April 15, 2013

(29)Family Pictures by Jane Green

Family Pictures

Pages:  352
Publication Date: March 19, 2013

Sylvie has always joked that she has the perfect marriage. Her husband, Mark, travels extensively for work and is only home usually about two weeks out of the month.  Which gives her the alone time with her daughter that she craves and just enough spousal time to keep her from feeling smothered or abandoned.  Their daughter, Eve, is getting ready to head off to college causing an "empty nest" fear in Sylvie that she never expected.  She starts to pressure Mark to give up the excessive traveling and stay home more, the pressure causes some friction between them, but he swears it will be better soon. 

Maggie is exactly the kind of wife you would expect to find in a Connecticut suburb.  She has three popular, nearly perfect kids.  Their beautiful McMansion is the envy of the whole neighborhood. She is highly involved in the social scene in their community and everything that means, including charity work and events at the club.   She drives a Land Rover and her husband, Mark, drives a Porsche.  He travels extensively for work, but because he provides generously for their family she does not give him any grief over his absence.   Unknown to her, one night their daughter, Grace, brings home an online friend who is visiting from the West Coast, Eve.  Eve awakens and is beyond shocked to see the family portrait. Her father, Mark, is in the picture with Grace and her family. 

Family Pictures is a story of two women, two families, and one man. I don't think I am giving anything away by divulging that information.  The book's synopsis gives a pretty good indication as to what happens, but I will say it took nearly half the book to get to that revelation.  The two women are about as different as you can get, yet with the one major thing in common they quickly become acquainted.  I liked how the author illustrated the difference between the two women, and even their children, yet at the same time their are strong similarities between them and especially their daughters, who are battling their own demons.  The story follows their adjustments to their "new normal" and I was very satisfied with the way the story ended, in fact it made me happy. 

Bottom line, I think it is easy and honest for me to say that Jane Green is one of my top favorite authors, if not my absolute favorite.  I have read her books and followed her career ever since Jemima J, which I read so long ago, I barely remember the plot. (and I just purchased the e-book so I can re-read!). That being said, Family Pictures was not my favorite of hers. It is absolutely worth the read, don't get me wrong, but waiting half the book to get to the big "reveal" was a bit frustrating to this impatient reader.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

(28)If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch

If You Find Me

Publication Date: March 26, 2013
Pages: 256

For as long as she can remember Carey and Janessa have lived deep in the Tennessee woods  as their drug addicted mother comes and goes as she wants.  Fourteen year old Carey has vague memories of life before the woods, but six year old Janessa knows nothing else.  Their "normal" includes reading old schoolbooks picked up at garage sales and hunting their food.

Their mama has been gone for months this time when "The Man" and a strange woman shows up in the clearing.  It has been many years, but Carey recognizes "The Man" as being her father.  They say that her Mama sent in a letter saying where they could find Carey & Janessa and that she won't be back.  In just a matter of minutes all hope was sucked from Carey's world.  She reluctantly agrees to go with them because in the long run she knows it will be the best for Janessa.  Her father has remarried a woman named Melissa who has a daughter, Delaney, who is roughly the same age as Carey.  They both try to forget what happened during their years in the woods as they prepare to go to school for the first time, experience Christmas for the first time, sleep in a real bed for the first time and adjust to life with a real family.  Will Carey and Janessa ever become "normal" and will what happened in the woods really stay in the woods?

I found it rather easy to get caught up in the world of Carey and Janessa. Carey is a very likable character and the author wrote Nessa to be one of the sweetest little girls to be found in a book.  My heart ached at the tender way Carey "mothered" Nessa,  the love she has for that little girl is so evident. My heart also ached for Carey as she adjusted to going to high school, especially with her Step-Sister not exactly being welcoming.  Then there is Melisa, Carey's Step-Mother.  I was really worried that it would be a  "Step-Monster" scenario, but the author wrote Melisa to be a warm, caring, and accepting kind of Step-Mother, the kind of Mother that Carey wished her real mother was like.  And don't get me started on Shorty the dog....needed tissues for Shorty the dog.

Bottom line, If You Find Me was a really good book to read.  I found myself getting caught up in Carey and Janessa's world. The love they have for each other is quite evident.  There were many parts of the book where I felt so sad for their situation and what happened in the woods, but their perseverance is very admirable.  If you are a fan of Young Adult literature, I really think you should check out If You Find Me!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

(27)The Best of Us by Sarah Pekkanen

The Best of Us 

Pages: 352
Publication Date: April 9, 2013

Can you imagine?  An all expense paid trip to Jamaica with your college friends? Allie, Tina, and Savannah have been friends since college, nearly twenty years ago. They were also friends with the resident nerd, Dwight. While Dwight made millions in the early dot-com boom,  Tina is a busy stay-at-home-mom who is in desperate need of a vacation.  Allie is a nurse who just received news that she has a 50% chance of getting ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease. And Savannah is keeping the truth from her friends, her husband, Gary, has left her for his nurse.

Fast forward and the gang is celebrating their thirty-fifth birthdays one by one.  Now it is Dwight's turn.  His wife, Pauline, plans the most elaborate birthday ever.  They fly the girls and their husbands to Jamaica on their private jet where they have a private house on the beach. It is truly a dream vacation, but each of the girls has a hard time letting go and fully enjoying the vacation.  Their troubles from home and own past relationships put a slight cloud over their gathering, but it is nothing a small hurricane and a lot of tequila won't fix.  Will the girls still be friends when the vacation is over?

Sarah Pekkanen is quickly making a name for herself among women's fiction readers. It is easy to lose yourself in one of her books and pretend like her characters are your friends, too. The Best of Us is no different.  The ease at which the three old friends get together is something many of us experience with our own old friends.  While the three women seem to be at ease with each other, for the most part, their relationship with Dwight does not come across as easy and their relationship with his wife even less so. Especially when some truths start to come to light.  It is even a bit uncomfortable at times.  But the story,  the dynamics and worries withstanding,  is pretty fun to read.  How can it not be with a beach, plenty of alcohol and an all expenses paid vacation.

Bottom line, The Best of Us may be a bit early to be considered a "beach read" - but it really is a great book to take to the beach.  The story is fun without being too fluffy. The characters are interesting without being too cliche. If you are looking for a "take me away" kind of book, The Best of Us might be right up your alley.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

(26)Last to Die by Tess Gerritsen

Last to Die 

Publication Date: August 28, 2012
Pages:  352

Having worked at the bookstore, I am very familiar with the works of Tess Gerritsen, but it wasn't until TNT turned her series of books into the television series, Rizzoli and  Isles that I started paying attention.

Having not read any of the previous books, but being familiar with the characters in general, Last to Die finds Rizzoli and Isles a bit at odds because Maura testified (I am assuming in the last book) against a Boston police officer.  They are called to a  homicide in a very upscale Boston neighborhood to discover an entire family slaughtered.  The only survivor is Teddy Clock, their foster child who already lost his entire family to a murderer.  While the rest of the BPD think it is an open & shut case (the housekeeper's boyfriend), Rizzoli's gut is telling her something different. She is there when an intruder breaks into the house of Teddy's foster family, she knows something deeper is going on.  She whisks Teddy off to Evensong, the exclusive boarding school in the wilds of Maine where Teddy will be safe.  Until Rizzoli and Isles discovers that there are two other children at the school with the exact same history as Teddy.  While Dr. Isles stays at the school, Rizolli & Frost are off to track down the truth about Teddy's family and the other students at the school.  Will they find the truth in time or are the kids next to be exterminated?

I really enjoyed Last to Die.  Jane and Maura in the book are very similar to how they are portrayed on TNT and I was glad to see the resemblance. Even Jane's crazy Italian family make an appearance in Last to Die.  There were somethings I missed from the previous books, obviously, but I knew enough to piece it all together.   The mystery itself, of what happened to the families of Teddy, Will, and Claire was unique enough to keep me guessing.  And that is always appreciated in a novel.

Bottom line, even though I was familiar with Rizzoli and Isles because of the television show, I had never read one of the books before and I have no idea why I waited so long. The characters are well written and the mystery is engrossing. If you haven't read the Rizzoli and Isles books before then you must, and if you have, what is your favorite book of the series?  I want to know which one I should read next!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

(25)Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald

Pages: 384
Publication Date: March 26,2013

Ever read a book and find yourself completely surprised by how much you are enjoying the story?  That was Z for me. I was completely swept away by the story of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald.

You may not realize that Zelda Fitzgerald was a talented woman in her own right, yet she sacrificed her talent for that of her husband's. In fact, she allowed Scott to pass off some of her work as his own, which in the long run caused great friction between the two of them.  She followed Scott all over the globe, starting in New York City and then returning to his home town of St. Paul for the birth of their daughter, Scottie, then back to New York City where Zelda aborted her second and last child, and of course all over Europe. She supported, coached and critiqued Scott through all of his novels and short stories.   Their story is peppered with literary giants of the "Roaring Twenties" such as Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, and many, many more.

The title says it all, Z is a fictional autobiography of Zelda Fitzgerald, the greatest literary spouse of all times.  Keep in mind, the book is a  work of fiction, but the author did extensive research on the Fitzgeralds and wrote what she thought was said between the two of them.  From when they first met in Montgomery to their time in New York City and even in Paris.  Their story is one of passion, jealousy, resentment and even loneliness.  And their story is so captivating, you just can't stop reading.   I found out so much about the Fitzgeralds.  I know I should take some of it with a grain of salt, just because it is a fictional novel, but it sure did pique my curiosity.  Did Zelda really have an affair early in their marriage?  Did she really have an abortion?  Was there more than just friendship between Hemingway and Scott, like she alludes to many times?  Needless to say, I found myself heading to "Google" more than once to fact check the author.

Bottom line, I know that not everyone enjoys period pieces, but Z is really worth the read. It was a bit hard to get into at first, but by the time you get to New York City with Scott and Zelda you are swept away by the glitz and glamour of the roaring twenties and it is impossible to put the book down.  It really is a book that should not be missed by fans of American Literature.

Monday, April 1, 2013

(24)Walking Disaster by Jamie McGuire

Walking Disaster 

Publication Date: April 2, 2013
Pages: 448

Last Summer I devoured a book called Beautiful Disaster.
I got sucked into the world of Abby Abernathy and Travis Maddox and I admittedly was surprised at how much I enjoyed Beautiful Disaster and how much it stuck with me.  How often do you read a book like that and wish you could get the other side of the story?  Jamie McGuire answers that wish and wrote Travis's side of the story in her new book, Walking Disaster. 

Walking Disaster starts off exactly where Beautiful Disaster starts - with the exception of a brief prologue. This time Travis takes us through the tumultuous relationship between him and Abby.  From the night they met at a fight through their "bet" that landed Abby in his apartment for a month, we get to see Travis's thoughts and feelings as their relationship develops and nearly implodes.  One thing I learned while getting Travis's side of the story is that he is NOT as big of an asshole as I first thought. Yes, he has tendencies, but a majority of his behavior was because of having feelings for a woman for the first time and not knowing how to deal with them.  Which almost seems a bit endearing....

Bottom line, if you have read Beautiful Disaster, then you already know the story.  Good girl falls in love with bad boy, but good girl is not as good as everyone thinks.  If you are not familiar with Travis and Abby, then go ahead and pick up one.  You will not be able to resist the other.

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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