Tuesday, June 25, 2013

(53)Always Watching by Chevy Stevens

Always Watching 

Publication Date: June 18, 2013
Pages: 352

Remember when I shared with you that scary psychological thriller, Never Knowing?  It wasn't all that long ago, like last week?  Well guess what, the good doctor, Nadine, is back in her own book, Always Watching.

Nadine has given up her private practice to go back to the city and is working at the local hospital.  She is glad to be part of a working team again when a suicidal young woman is brought into the hospital.  She just lost her baby and the commune where she was staying with her husband was just too intense for her to handle.  When Nadine starts asking more questions she realizes that the "commune" is the same place with the same leader as the cult that Nadine, her mother and her older brother lived with when she was a young child.  All those memories that she has suppressed for years come flooding back and instills terror when she realizes that her own at-risk child is at the commune.  Will Nadine be able to prove that Aaron Quinn is the monster that she knows him to be?  And will she be able to stop him before he does irreparable damage to her daughter?

Nadine was such an important character in Never Knowing, but we never really got to know her.  It was great to see her become a main character.  Nadine's back-story is pretty fascinating, but she had blocked out so many of the memories from her time at the commune, her new client forces her to think about that time and some of those dark memories start coming back.  The memories that start coming back are dark and ugly and explains so much about the person Nadine has become.   Nadine is such a complex character and her relationship with her daughter is a bit puzzling, because it doesn't seem like Nadine would be the kind of control freak that her daughter makes her out to be.  The relationship Nadine has with her brother is just a distant, it makes me feel sad for her, because essentially, Nadine is alone.   It makes it easy to feel sorry for Nadine because she does seem so alone, even if her own behaviors have something to do with that.   And then there is the whole cult aspect, that alone is enough make you sit up and pay attention.

Bottom line, while Always Watching wasn't nearly as terrifying for me as Never Knowing, there was still the underlying element of fear. If you are ready for a read to make your hair stand on end without requiring a night light, Always Watching will be for you. Give it a read and let me know what you think.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

(52)Never Knowing by Chevy Stevens

Never Knowing
by Chevy Stevens

Publication Date: May 7, 2012
Pages: 480

Buy it Here!

Sara Gallagher has always known that she was adopted.  No matter how much her Mother and Sisters loved her, her Father never let her forget that she was not one of them.  Sara has always wondered about her birth parents, but never pulled the trigger to find out the details.   Sara is engaged to a wonderful man, Evan, and they have a beautiful young daughter and she is finally ready to know.  Sara requests her birth certificate, then hires a Private Investigator.   Sara is not prepared to discover that her mother was the lone survivor of the Campsite Killer.  Her father is a serial killer that has terrorized Canada for over twenty years.  When a tabloid website gets wind of that news, Sara receives a call from the man called John, her father.  This contact puts Sara at the center of one of the largest manhunts ever. Will Sara go against Evan's wishes and help the police track down a man who has eluded them for decades?  What will her family do when they find out that Sara's biological father is a serial killer?  And what will happen if the police DON'T catch him?

Man, there is nothing like listening to a thriller like Never Knowing while walking in a deserted park.  Seriously a great motivator to move faster.   Sara tells her story through a series of sessions with her psychiatrist.   She has been seeing her psychiatrist for years to help her deal with her anger issues, which now she knows she comes by honestly.  While Nadine is Sara's closest confidant we never hear her "voice" while listening to this book, it is all Sara.  Sara Gallagher is a great character, I felt so frustrated for her with her relationships with her family, especially her dad, not her serial killer father, but her dad.  She tried so hard to please him and he was such a tough character, but he WAS there for her when she needed him most.   At the same time, I found myself getting frustrated at times with Sara, much like Evan did. She was so "wishy-washy" in her decisions I just wanted to scream at her myself.  And she is a fictional character!  Never Knowing is a very fast paced story with all sorts of conflict happening  that really pulled me in and made it hard for me to shut it off.

Bottom line, Chevy Stevens is a rare talent.  She writes such scary books.  I think scary is a good word.  Her psychological thrillers are written in a way that leaves you looking over your shoulder and Never Knowing is a perfect example of that.  If you are looking for a great thriller to keep you up at night, stock up on the caffeine and pick up Never Knowing.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

(51)Island Girls by Nancy Thayer

Island Girls 

Publication Date: June 18, 2013
Pages: 320

There is a new Nancy Thayer novel on the market, you know what that means, right?  Summer is officially here! :)

As usual we find ourselves back on Nantucket.  This year we meet three sisters with a unique history.  Arden is the oldest of the three and her mother was Rory Randall's first wife.  Arden wasn't very old when her father left her mother for his second wife,  and shortly after Meg came along.  And of course, Rory Randall was never known for being faithful, and soon he left Meg's mom for Justine.  Justine had a daughter from a previous relationship, Jenny, and Rory adopted Jenny, making her like his own in every way.  The three sisters only saw each other when they joined Rory on the island every summer. Well until the summer when Justine's  jewelry came up missing and Meg and Arden are "exiled" from the island.

Flash forward nearly twenty years and we find Meg a successful college professor, Arden is a local television personality, and Jenny is the island's resident computer repairman.  And Rory Randall has just passed away from a heart attack.  His will stipulates that the three sisters will inherit the island house and split the proceeds of the sale, but only if they spend one final summer together.  With so much animosity between the three sisters will they be able to last the whole summer?  Or will they finally be able to put the past behind them and repair their relationships?

As always I thoroughly enjoyed Nancy Thayer's new novel.   I love the Nantucket setting and I really enjoyed all three sisters, but for different reasons.  I think that Meg was my favorite and I really enjoyed her relationship with Liam. It was a "new" kind of relationship to be found in a beach read, well, new to me. Arden was hit & miss for me, but in the end I liked the way things turned out for her.   I also thought the author was very clever to bring all of Rory Randall's women together at the end of the book, all of his daughters, wives, and even a surprise guest.  Sometimes the ending of Beach Reads can be a bit predictable, but I thought the author did a really nice job wrapping things up, but keeping the element of surprise.

Bottom line, no "Beach Reads" list is complete without a Nancy Thayer novel somewhere on the list.  Her stories are fresh and her characters are unique, but most importantly, the Nantucket setting is just perfect.  Island Girls is a definite must read this Summer, be sure to add it to your summer list!

Monday, June 17, 2013

(50)The Widow Waltz by Sally Koslow

The Widow Waltz

Publication Date: June 13, 2013
Pages: 352

Georgia Waltz has lived a rich and privileged life. She is acutely aware of just how lucky she was when she fell in love with Ben Silver.  Not just in love, but total and complete love.  As a very successful lawyer, Ben provided very well for his wife and their two daughters, Nicola and Luey.  A spacious apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, a summer home on the shore, fancy vacations, cars, schools, you name it they had it.  Ben was out for his morning jog one day when he had a fatal heart attack, leaving The Widow Waltz utterly devastated.  In the days, weeks, and months after his death, Georgia discovers some shocking things about her late husband.  Like there is no money left.  At all.  The more she starts to dig into her husbands paperwork she starts to piece together the truth about Ben Silver and their marriage, and what she finds changes her whole life.

One thing that really surprised me about this book was how well Georgia's love for her late husband translated to the readers.  My heart ached for her several times while reading this book because she obviously was so shocked and hurt by her late husband's actions. The interesting cast of characters that surround the Widow Waltz kept the story fresh and interesting.  There is her elderly mother battling dementia, and her brother and his partner, jewelers to the rich and famous, and her own daughters are unique and add a lot to the story.  Especially when one of them becomes pregnant. The story moves along nicely, but I will say that the end seemed to come out of nowhere.  It was the kind of ending that leaves you saying "WTF?"  It almost felt like the author was being disingenuous to the strength of  Georgia by writing the ending the way she did.  It was disappointing.

Bottom line, The Widow Waltz WAS a good book.  I have read many a great book where the ending disappointed me (remember that little book, Me Before You), but that didn't stop me from liking the book.  I would love to hear what others thought of The Widow Waltz, and the ending. For that reason alone you must give it a read!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

(49)The Tao of Martha by Jen Lancaster

The Tao of Martha

Publication Date: June 4, 2013
Pages: 352

Man, I needed a good ole fashioned Jen Lancaster memoir on this day where I am spending more time in the bathroom than anywhere else.  Jen Lancaster can inspire from the gut belly laughs in me like no other author can.  Her newest memoir, The Tao of Martha is exactly what you would expect with that kind of title.

Jen (she is my pretend bestie, so I can call her Jen) decides to spend the year trying to emulate the master of all household things, Martha Stewart.  Jen starts with the little things, like organizing her bathroom and then her desk.  She works her way up to organizing the kitchen and goes full on organizing when her and Fletch get sucked in by the National Geographic show, Doomsday Preppers.  She also spends time working on the garden, getting crafty, and preparing world class meals, none of which ever go off without a hitch.  Ever.   Sadly enough, though, in the middle of "the year of Martha", Jen's beloved dog, Maisy, crossed the Rainbow Bridge.  Having been a long time reader of Jen's books, I was very familiar with Maisy and I found myself in tears at her loss and I also contemplated what my life would be like without my Bailey Dog.  Those silly four legged creatures sure do know how to worm their way into our hearts, don't they?  Some people not familiar with Jen Lancaster might question why she would devote so much time in her book to the illness of her dog, but as a devoted fan, I am glad she did.  I am not only a fan of hers, but of the menagerie of pets she calls family.

Even though Jen has started to dip her toes into the fiction waters, it is obvious that her talent lies within the memoir category.  I love to hear how my favorite authors (almost like celebrities to me) are just as normal (okay maybe normal isn't the best word) as me.  I mean when Jen starts talking about specific episodes of Doomsday Preppers, I was like "OMG!  I saw that episode!"  Seriously, I know I should be ashamed to admit I watch that show, but really, shouldn't everyone be a little bit prepared for the zombie apocalypse?

Bottom line, Jen Lancaster is one of those authors that it doesn't matter what she writes I will be first in line to make a purchase.  Fiction, memoirs, or even directions for the toaster, I will buy it, I will read it, and I will laugh out loud, guaranteed.

Monday, June 10, 2013

(48)The Moon and More by Sara Dessen

The Moon and More

Publication Date: June 4, 2013
Pages: 384

Emaline is looking forward to the summer after she graduates high school.  Like every summer she is working for her Grandma's realty business greeting rental customers to the ocean side community of Colby.  She is looking to spending the summer with her boyfriend, Luke and just chilling before they head off to college at East U, but life gets in the way.  Luke has been messing around with another girl, her absent father comes to town for an extended visit, and there is a cute guy in town making a documentary on a local artist. Soon, her summer turns out to be nothing like she expected. Will her last summer at home be full of fun and romance or will her her summer be full of stress, anxiety and no fun at all?

Almost from the first page, The Moon and More gives off a vibe that just screams "Summer".  Emaline is your typical teenage girl on the bring of adulthood.  She is feeling strangled by her family dynamics and can not wait to escape the confines, but at the same time she is nervous about leaving the safety of her small town and  her family.  Then you throw boys into the mix, and I could really feel for Emaline.  First there is Luke, her first love, her high school sweetheart. His easy going, caring nature is one of the things she loved most about him, but to hear that he was hanging out with other girls, well, it is not something Emaline is willing to forgive.   The breakup with Luke almost felt like she was losing her second family.  Then there is Theo, a big city kid who came to Colby with his boss to make a documentary about a local artist. He is the opposite of Luke in just about every way possible, but Emaline is attracted to his enthusiasm and ambition.

Bottom line, when it is all said and done, The Moon and More is just about a normal teenage girl with a normal family and normal problems.   There is a certain kind of beauty that can be found in "normal".  The Moon and More was the first novel I have ready by Sarah Dessen and I rather enjoyed it.  Any recommendations for what the next book of hers I should read?

Friday, June 7, 2013

(47)Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman

Looking For Me

Publication Date: May 28, 2013
Pages: 368

Ever since Teddi Overman was little she has had a passion.  A passion for antiques.  It started with a chair abandoned along the side of the road and it escalated to larger and more decrepit pieces. She would find them, restore them, then leave them for sale on the road that ran by her family's farm, saving every penny for the time when she could leave the farm.  The older she got, she knew that restoring antiques was the only thing she wanted to do with her life, despite what her Mama said.

Shortly after her high school graduation Teddi sets off for Charleston in the hopes of finding the gentleman who encouraged her when she needed it the most.  He gave her a job at his popular antique shop and helped her get settled in the city.  And while Teddi is getting settled into her new routine, life back at the farm continues.  Her Daddy is farming, her younger brother, Josh, is rescuing and tending to the local wildlife, and Mama is busy keeping everyone in line.  But one day, Josh takes off into the wild and leaves a note behind that says "Don't look for me."   Even though she is all the way in Charleston, Teddi feels his absence all the way to her core, but she continues on with her passion and opens her own shop.   Years pass and life continues without Josh.  Their parents pass away, Teddi sells their land, and makes a life changing donation, but with each life event that passes, she thinks of Josh and wonders what he is doing and what he would have done in her place.  Her business thrives, she is surrounded by friends and co-workers who love her, and yet she still feels the absence of her brother in her very core.  Will Teddi ever find out what happened to Josh and will she be at peace with his choices?

Beautiful.   The only word that could accurately describe Beth Hoffman's new book, Looking For Me. I was almost finished with the book when I realized that I really didn't want it to end. Teddi is such a great character that I found myself just wanting to be in her presence.   Despite the pressure from her Mama, she asserted her independence in a time where good Southern girls just did what was expected of them and nothing more. She took the risk and followed her dream.  The people that Teddi surround herself with in Charleston are unique, quirky, and absolutely add such warmth to the story that you just can't help but fall a little bit in love with all of them. And the customers that frequent Teddi's shop are just as quirky and fascinating and heart-achingly sweet.

Bottom line, Looking for Me, is one of those books that just brings pure enjoyment with every page turned.  The characters, the scenery, the antiques themselves breath life into the pages of this book. As a reader, prepare yourself to be swept away to another time and another place.  A definite must read book this Summer.

Monday, June 3, 2013

(46)The Doll by Taylor Stevens

The Doll 

Publication Date: June 4, 2013
Pages: 352

Sometimes you need to read a really fast paced thriller to "cleanse" you pallet.  A real escape from your everyday life and standard novels that you read.  Taylor Stevens is a pro at the fast paced thriller.  Her newest novel, The Doll, finds Vanessa "Michael" Munroe in a very precarious situation.

Michael was kidnapped right off of her motorcycle in the middle of Houston.  She wakes up a few days later to find herself in Croatia at the mercy of a man who is demanding something of her.  He  has very precious cargo, a kidnapped socialite, Neeva,  that he needs Michael to deliver to the man who paid for his "doll".  And to insure that Michael will comply he has taken Logan hostage and has killed Noah.  When Bradford and their team in Houston rescues  Logan, they instead take her niece, Alexis.  Michael is ready to put this game to an end.  She is not about to turn Neeva over to the "Doll Maker" and she is not about to see another loved one of hers die.  In a fast paced trail through Europe, Michael and Neeva race against time and the "Doll Maker" .  Will they be able to escape the bad guys without losing another loved one?  Or will the "Doll Maker" get the doll he paid for?

Flashing between Europe and Texas, The Doll shows  us the battle on both sides of the ocean. Bradford's desperate attempts to rescue Michael's loved ones, hoping that their efforts will help Michael escape in Europe.  Taylor Stevens also did a great job at exposing the horrible injustice that is human trafficking.  Human trafficking is a very real thing that happens all over the world, even the United States, yet it is not really something you see on the nightly news.   With each book that Taylor Stevens writes, she unveils a little bit more about the person that is Vanessa "Michael" Munroe.  She is such a complex, layered character, that I like a little bit more with each passing chapter.  Her interaction with Neeva in this novel revealed even more of her character and I really, really liked those interactions.

Bottom line, Taylor Stevens is an amazing author.  Many people, including myself, have compared her to Steig Larsson, and it is true.  Her characters are dark, their histories define who they are, and their situations are scary.  If you are looking for a fast paced thriller to pass the Summer days, then you must read The Doll. It is not one to miss!

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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