Monday, May 27, 2013

(45)Fly Away by Kristin Hannah

Fly Away 

Pages: 384
Publication Date: April 23, 2013

It has been over four years since Kristin Hannah introduced the world to Kate and Tully in her bestseller, Firefly Lane.  The two best friends met when Tully moved onto Firefly Lane when they were fourteen and they were inseparable all the way up until cancer invaded their lives.  

In the four years since Kate lost her battle those she loved most have barely been able to function.  Johnny has been making horrible decisions for his family trying to outrun the pain.  Marah has started cutting and ran away from home. And Tully.  Tully's career is over, Johnny has shut her out of his family's life, and the addiction genetics she fought off for so many years have reared their ugly head. While in self-destruction mode, Tully inadvertently brings them all back together.   Even though Katie is gone, will their shared love of her be the glue that holds them all together?

I am one of the biggest Kristin Hannah fans out there.  I loved Firefly Lane just like many of you did.  But, having said that, Fly Away, just wasn't one of my favorite books.  After the death of a loved one it is not unusual for a family to struggle, to fight depression and struggle to find normalcy.  Fly Away is a novel about those struggles.  It is heartbreaking and dark and scary and Kristin Hannah did a great job at addressing all of those themes, but it was still really hard to read all of that darkness.  As a reader, I have such fond memories of Kate and Tully, and their friendship.  For Tully to just spiral out of control, well, it is heartbreaking. The other thing that seemed a bit off, was that the author goes at great length to discuss Tully, and Marah, and Johnny, and even a little bit of Kate's parents are mentioned, but there is very little mention of how the twins are coping.  I would have liked to read more about the twins. 

Bottom line, of all of Kristin Hannah's books, Firefly Lane is probably the one that had the most readers screaming for a sequel.  We got what we wanted and shouldn't be too disappointed with how things turn out.  Have you read it yet? I would love to hear what you thought. 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

(44)He's Gone by Deb Caletti

He's Gone 

Publication Date: May 14,2013
Pages: 352

Dani Keller woke up that Sunday morning thinking it was like any other Sunday morning.  She was a bit groggy, even a bit hungover from the party she attended with her husband, Ian, the night before.  She gets up and starts her day with Pollux, their dog, and Ian is nowhere to be found.  At first she thought he might be out on the deck of their houseboat trying to strengthen the knots, then Dani just assumes he went out for coffee or maybe to the office, it isn't until later in the day that she starts to get concerned.  Where could he possibly be?

Over the course of the next several days Dani desperately tries to piece together the events of that Saturday night and their life together leading up to that night.   They way they met, the affair they had before finally leaving their respective spouses, all of the heartache they caused their respective children, and the fact that Ian's daughters still haven't forgiven them or accepted Dani.   What really did happen to Ian?  And what will happen to their marriage when they are found?

Deb Caletti is known for being a prolific Young Adult novelist.  And once again, I just assumed, without reading the synopsis, that He's Gone was another YA novel.  That myth was quickly dispelled on the first page.  He's Gone is a very well written book about the consequences of our actions. In the days that Ian is missing, Dani reflects on their relationship.  How it began, where it began, how it developed into the marriage they have today and she is a bit disappointed in the truths she forces herself to face.  Disappointed in herself and the pain she has caused others.  But she is also desperate to remember what happened when they got home from that party Saturday night.  As a reader you can sense the frenzy of panic building in Dani with each day that Ian is missing.  It just keeps building and building until the truth comes out.  Sometimes in books like this the conclusion is a bit of a disappointment, but I was really satisfied with the conclusion of He's Gone

Bottom line, you may or not be familiar with Deb Caletti as a YA author, but I think with He's Gone, Caletti has given us a solid debut into Womens Fiction.  If you are looking for a book to immerse yourself into this weekend, then He's Gone is definitely worth your attention.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

(43)All the Summer Girls by Meg Donohue

All the Summer Girls 

Pages: 288
Publication Date: May 21, 2013

Kate, Dani, and Vanessa have been best friends ever since they attended grade school at the local Quaker private school in Philadelphia.  Their friendship has stood the test of time, through high school, summers on the beach,  college, and beyond.  From boys, to the loss of Kate's twin brother, and so much more, their friendship has been the one constant in all of their lives.  

Now all three women are on the verge of turning thirty. Vanessa's marriage is on the rocks, Dani is a failed author who just got fired, and on the day Kate's fiance dumps her, she discovers that she is pregnant.  What do old friends do when their lives are falling apart?  They lean on each other.  They decide to meet up once again at Dani's Father's beach house on the Jersey Shore.  The same beach house where they spent the summer that Kate's brother died.  Will their time together heal both their past and their present?  Or will the truths that come out at the beach house destroy their friendship forever?

Can you believe that the first wave of "beach reads" are hitting the shelves? It seems like just yesterday it was snowing.  Oh wait.  It was.  :)  (Quite heavily in the Utah mountains) I just find it so hard to believe that 2013 is almost half over already.   ANYWAY.... beach reads are always fun to read, I have my favorite "regulars" that write an annual beach read novel, but now I can add Meg Donohue to the list.  All The Summer Girls was a really quick read and it certainly transported me from cold, rainy Utah to the beaches of the Jersey shore.   All three characters had their strengths and their weaknesses, very obviously flawed.  Kate is a control freak, Vanessa is contemplating adultery, and Dani has a problem with over indulging on pills and booze. But, despite their flaws, they are good women who will be there for each other no matter what.  It is something that all women can relate to in one way or another. 

Bottom line, if you are looking for a good beach read to kick off the Summer season, then you must start with All the Summer Girls.  A well written novel set on the beach, but with a little more substance to it than similar books in the genre.  Give it a shot and let me know what you think!

Monday, May 20, 2013

(42)Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight

Reconstructing Amelia 

Publication Date: April 2, 2013
Pages: 382

Kate Baron has it all.  She is a very successful Manhattan attorney and has a beautiful daughter, teenager, Amelia.  Her world is rocked when she gets a call from her daughter's exclusive prep-school, Grace Hall, Amelia was accused of plagiarizing a paper, she is being suspended, they demand Kate's appearance immediately. Unfortunately immediately doesn't fit with Kate's busy schedule and when she finally arrives at Grace Hall she finds an horrific scene, Amelia allegedly jumped from the roof of the building.

Kate is barely existing in the days after Amelia's death.  She decides to go back to work sooner than expected, much to the surprise of everyone, but she is desperate to take her mind of the fact that she is now truly alone in this world.  Kate thinks that she is doing "fine" until she receives a text from a blocked number. "Amelia didn't jump".  That one text sends Kate on a journey into the dark, terrifying world that her daughter lived in at Grace Hall.  Through Amelia's text records, emails, and computer Kate reconstructs Amelia's life and finds a world of secret clubs, hazing, bullying, and more.  Did she ever really know her daughter at all? And did Amelia  jump? Or was she pushed?

Reconstructing Amelia is one of those page turners that have a new twist at every turn.  It is so good , but you are torn on which way to feel.   On the one hand your heart aches for Kate at losing her daughter, her heartache and regret resonates with every page.  But on the other hand, you can't help but feel some anger towards Kate for not being more involved in her daughter's life.  Especially when you know that Amelia would have given anything to tell her mother what is going on in her world.  It is heartbreaking,utterly heartbreaking. No matter what their relationship, by the end of the book you are side by side with Kate - desperate to know what happened to Amelia.

Bottom line, Reconstructing Amelia, is going to be this Summer's "must read" novel that everyone is talking about.  It is rare to find such an engrossing novel that will leaving you guessing until the very end, but Reconstructing Amelia will do that for you.  Give it a read & let me know what you think!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

(41)The Mystery of Mercy Close by Marian Keyes

The Mystery of Mercy Close

Publication Date: April 9, 2013
Pages: 400

Marian Keyes is one of those Irish authors that turned me on to the beauty of Irish literature.  I have read all about the Walsh family and the ups and downs of their lives in books such as Watermelon and Rachel's Holiday. Sometimes funny, sometimes tragic, for better or worse Marian Keyes has brought the Walsh family into our lives.

The Mystery of Mercy Close is Helen's story. Helen Walsh has had a rough go of things lately.   With the economy crashing her private investigation business has taken a nosedive.  Her flat is about to be foreclosed on and she is forced to move back in with her parents, at the age of thirty-three it is rather quite humiliating.  The only bright thing in Helen's wife is her rather handsome boyfriend, Artie.  But even things with him have been a little tense lately, his ex-wife has been hanging around far more than Helen likes.  All of it has her spiraling out of control and barely hanging on by a thread when she gets a phone call from her ex-boyfriend, Jay Parker.   He needs her help with a top secret case.

One of the most famous boy bands from the nineties is getting back together for a reunion concert, Jay Parker has put it all together and there is a lot at stake.  Except for now, one of the major stars has gone missing and Jay is desperate to find him so that the show will go off without a hitch.  As Helen searches for the missing star, she starts spiraling deeper and deeper into the abyss.  The only thing that is keeping her from  ending it all is her professionalism. She must find Wayne Diffney - and then she can end it all.   Will Helen find the missing boy band star and what will she do when the case is over?

Marian Keyes has always been known to write Chick Lit novels with a somewhat dark overtone, but The Mystery of Mercy Close is the only one that somewhat parallels her own life. In 2009 Marian Keyes experienced a crippling bout of depression, much like Helen Walsh, it nearly destroyed her.  Her experience with depression is the reason why this book was so good. The darkness that envelopes Helen is almost as terrifying for the reader as it is for Helen.  When she even went so far as to buy a knife and start planning her suicide I was so tense and found myself so concerned for her well being.

Bottom line, The Mystery of Mercy Close, has everything you would want in a novel.  Mystery, romance, rock-stars,divas, crazy families and more.  At the heart of everything is the severity of mental-illness. It is an important message to get out there and one that I think needs to be discussed more often, like maybe at this month's book club meeting?

Monday, May 13, 2013

(40)The Glass Wives by Amy Sue Nathan

The Glass Wives

Pages: 304
Publication Date: May 14,2013

Evie Glass has reluctantly adjusted to life as a divorced woman. Her ex, Richard, married the woman he had an affair with, Nicole, and they share custody of their twins, Sam and Sophie.  It is not the most ideal way to raise children, but they have figured out how to make it work.  Until Richard is killed in a tragic accident.

The Glass Wives starts with Evie and her family sitting Shiva at the home Richard shared with Nicole and their son, Luca.  As much as Evie wants to shut Nicole out of their lives, the twins have gotten rather attached to their little brother and are not about to let her write him out of their lives. The coming weeks are rough on all of them, Evie's concern about their financial stability forces her to do the unconventional and she invites Nicole and Luca to move into their home.  They have settled into an uncomfortable "normal", but when Evie discovers that Nicole has her own plans to secure her future, well, it causes Evie to rethink their "new normal".  Will Nicole's act shatter their fledgling little family or will Evie be able to forgive yet again?

When you think about it, the concept behind The Glass Wives is so unique, really, could YOU imagine inviting the woman who broke up your marriage to live with you after the death of her husband, your ex-husband? Evie's two closest friends Beth and Laney think that she has lost her ever-lovin mind and don't waste any opportunity to let her know it, too.  And maybe she has, but I can totally understand that she felt it was really her only option. I can also understand her desire to give her twins whatever they need in order to help heal, but to invite "the other woman" into her home, I just don't know if I could be so generous. There is also a "betrayal" that comes to light with Evie's friend that causes Evie to question the black & white of her life,  it is a nice subplot in a story that touches the heart.

Bottom line, The Glass Wives is a very well written novel about two women and one man. Forgiveness, healing, and sacrifice are all themes you will find in this novel. I found myself feeling empathy and compassion for both women and I found myself wanting a "happy ever after" for both women. That is never a bad thing, right?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

(39) Where You Can Find Me by Sheri Joseph

Where You Can Find Me 

Pages: 336
Publication Date:  April 16, 2013

We, the American people, have short memories.  We often are captivated by the "Story of the week" - a girl loses an arm in a shark attack,an innocent woman is set free from a foreign prison and a boy recovered years after mysteriously disappearing.  We are enamored with their stories for a week or so and unless they write a book or are interviewed by People magazine we here very little about them and their "Life After" .   Author Sheri Joseph attempts to give us a glimpse at the "after" in her new novel, Where You Can Find Me.

Caleb Vincent was eleven years old when he was kidnapped and fourteen years old when he was returned to his family that fractured with his disappearance.  His parents separated while he was gone, but have gotten back together for his sake. But his mother's fear and even grief has everyone on edge.  Her idea to deal with it is to take Caleb, his sister, Lark and move to Costa Rica where their grandmother lives.  Even though his father disagrees with that course of action, he lets them go.   In Costa Rica, Marlene struggles to create a new "normal" for her kids.  Lark adjusts pretty quickly, but Caleb struggles with readjusting to life.  The life he lived those three years he was away was truly a nightmare, but it was his nightmare, and that nightmare WAS his normal. Caleb is torn between longing for Jolly, the man who "rescued" him and trying to readjust to his family.  Will Caleb ever settle in with his family or is he forever damaged by what happened those three years he was gone?

It took me a few chapters to feel connected to Caleb and his story, but when I did, I was swept away to Costa Rica with Caleb and his family.  The chapters are told from different viewpoints, so you get all sides of the story, but there is no indication as to whose telling the chapter until you just start reading.  It does make things a bit disjointed, but not so much that you can't keep up. I found myself most interested in Caleb's chapters.  Trying to get into his head and understand why he did the things he did really kept me engrossed in the story. I even felt the concern for Caleb growing in ME as I was reading the story, it was a unique feeling. And oh, the breathtaking scenery the author describes through out the whole book is stunning, not to mention the wildlife that is found through out the story, well the scenery made it very easy to get swept away to Costa Rica with Caleb and his family.

Bottom line, Where You Can Find Me is not one of those happy, feel-good kind of stories.  Caleb, and his family, went through hell.  You can't recover from hell in just a few short months, no matter how long the book.  Please, don't let that scare you though, Where You Can Find Me is a well written novel with characters that will draw you into their world and force you to care about those actions.  Definitely worth the read!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

(38)Man Up! Tales of my Delusional Self-Confidence by Ross Mathews

Man Up! 

Pages: 216
Publication Date: May 7, 2013

You are probably familiar with Ross Mathews even if you don't realize it, you know one of those faces (or voices) that you recognize, but don't realize why.  He may be that guy from Leno (like he is for me) or for some of the younger crowd you may know him as that guy from Chelsea's show.  Either way, he is that unforgettable down to earth guy that is guaranteed to make you giggle like a school girl.

Well Ross has written a book about how he stumbled into his career as a free lance "television personality".  From growing in in a rural Washington community with his normal family to becoming the worlds second most famous intern (behind Monica Lewinsky of course) we get to here all the details in true Ross fashion.  He tells us tales of dating when he was still a kid and was dating girls.  We get to hear about how he and Gwyneth Paltrow become BFFs and believe it or not, we get to hear about his love of football, no really, he loves football.  In hilarious fashion, Ross shares bits and pieces of his life and his road to becoming somewhat a celebrity himself.

I love a good celebrity memoir where we get to read about some famous celebrities and hear some behind the scenes type of stuff.  Ross Mathews does not disappoint with Man Up! His down to earth style is very evident in his words and his writing style is bit unique. By that I mean, just looking at Ross you would never expect him to have the mouth of a trucker, but he does and it is adorable on him.  Oh!  And pay attention because there is a Cosmo-style quiz at the end!

Bottom line, Man Up! has everything that you would want in a celebrity memoir.  A fun, honest celebrity, a super star BFF, and lots of giggling.  If you are looking for a quick and fun read, then you must get grab Man Up! , you can find it in book stores today.

Monday, May 6, 2013

(37) The Lost Husband by Katherine Center

The Lost Husband 

Pages: 304
Publication Date: May 7, 2013

I have shared before that I grew up in rural Iowa.  When I was a kid I wanted nothing more than to get out of the rural setting and find my way into a city where nobody knows your name.  Now here it is twenty years later and I would give anything to live in a rural setting - isolated in nature with no traffic and no HOA's (grrr!!).   Libby Moran gets that chance and is it wrong that I am so envious of her?

Libby Moran's life has been hell for the last three years.  There is no other way to describe it than hell.  Her husband was killed in a tragic car accident that severely injured their daughter. With that moment her perfect suburban life fell apart. The man who hit them did not have insurance, her husband had cashed in his life insurance to invest in a bad deal, she lost their house, and was forced to move into a small condo with her narcissistic mother. Libby is hanging on by a thread when she gets a letter from her long lost Aunt Jean, inviting her to move to her goat farm and help run the farm since she has health issues preventing her from doing as much as she used to around the farm.  Libby grasps the invitation as if it were her last hope and within days Libby and her two kids are headed to the Hill Country of Texas to live on Aunt Jean's farm.

Libby had no idea what to expect when she drives onto the farm and finds a quaint little cottage with a license plate roof.  She finds herself instantly attracted to the warmth of Aunt Jean and the sense of "home" that she has been missing since her husband passed away.  With the help of Aunt Jean's farmhand, the "Grizzly Adams-esque" O'Conner Libby catches on to the ways of farm life quite quickly.  The next few months are spent learning a lot about her family history, her marriage, and herself.  Is the farm where she is meant to be or is there something else out there?

Have you ever read a book where you just feel GOOD about life when you are finished?  I really think that The Lost Husband is a "feel-good" kind of book. Libby is such a great character, I enjoyed everything about her and I really enjoyed how the author avoided the "fish out of water" hi-jinx that can usually be found in "city girl moves to the country" books.  Oh, she let it be known that Libby was out of her element in subtle ways, like having to teach the kids what "go outside & play" really means and getting used to no television or internet.  There were just no silly mishaps involving the goats or muddy yards.  But anyway, I found myself envying Libby and her quiet farm evenings with a porch swing and all of the windows open.  And O'Conner?  More city girls would be moving to farms if every farm came with a man like O'Conner!

Bottom line, The Lost Husband was a sweet, tender, feel-good kind of read. I found myself enjoying the farm and Libby and Aunt Jean so much that I did not want the story to end. The Lost Husband is an enjoyable read that I think will have you longing for the farm, too.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

(36)Thinking of You by Jill Mansell

Thinking of You

Pages: 384
Publication Date: May 7, 2013

oops. I could have sworn the release date for Thinking of You was last week, which is why I had it on last Tuesday's post.  But apparently I was wrong, shocking, I know. :)

Ginny Holland is thirty-eight years old and is experiencing a severe case of the empty nest syndrome.  Her only child, Jem, has just gone off to University leaving Ginny alone in their big rambling house.  Her friends and ex-husband mean well by trying to help by suggesting things such as taking a boarder (her friend's idea) for her house and attending a singles club (her ex-husband's idea) .  Of course things don't go as smoothly as Ginny would hope.  Her boarder is in the throws of horrible depression after a bad break up and her foray into dating has yielded nothing but heartache when she discovers her new boyfriend is also dating her best friend. Will she be able to get her life straight and will her cute new boss, Finn, ever see her as more than an employee?

Okay, first of all.  This is the first Jill Mansell novel where I was close to the heroines age (I will be 38 in two months) yet we are at such different  spots in our life. But not really.   Ginny is battling empty nest syndrome, but by no stretch of the imagination is she a dried up old maid type of mom. She is just seeking the direction she next wants to take with her life.  She no longer has a child at home to focus all of her energy on, so now what?  Ginny was really a character that I could enjoy.  Her love for her friends and her daughter and even her ex-husband made her a character with character, if that makes sense.  I also enjoyed the sub-plot of Jem off on her own for the first time and desperately trying to be an adult in an adult world when she very much still has a young woman's heart.  And then there is Finn, the cute boss... sigh... Even with his extra baggage and the funny misunderstanding when he first met Ginny, well I was rooting for him from the very beginning.

Bottom line, while I am a very loyal Jill Mansell reader I didn't realize how much her last two books was lacking until I read Thinking of You. I loved Thinking of You and flew through it in just a couple of days.  It  is one of those books that will touch your heart, make you laugh, and even make you cry with everything that Ginny goes through. As a woman in her late 30's I found a lot of myself in Ginny and that always makes for a good read. Check it out and let me know what you think!

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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