Wednesday, July 31, 2013

(64)If You Could See What I See by Cathy Lamb

If You Could See What I See

Pages: 448
Publication Date: July 30, 2013

Meggy O'Rourke has finally returned to Portland after years away to take her place in the family business, Lace, Satin, & Baubles, a lingerie company. While she is excited to be among family again, the nightmares of her marriage still haunt her.  The abuse she endured at the hands of her husband was traumatic to say the least.  She wasn't back to work very long when she discovers that the company is failing at an epic rate.  The economic downturn that hit the nation has hit Lace, Satin, and Baubles extra hard.  With her Grandmother ready to turn the reigns over to her, Meggie and her sisters, Lacey and Torey must find out a way to keep the the company from going under.

Cathy Lamb has become a very successful author because of her ability to create such unique and quirky characters.  If you Could See What I See is no different.  Meggie, herself, is not that quirky, but she is the most damaged of all the O'Rourke girls.  Her marriage cost her a lot, and through out the book the author flashes back to the darkest times of Meggie's marriage.  The handsome Chief of Police, Ben, that lives across the street has expressed his interest in Meggie, but she is afraid to pollute him with her damage.  Meggie's spitfire of a Grandma is a fun character to watch in action, not to mention Meggie's own mother, Brianna, a world renowned sex therapist that is known for her creative methods. She loves her daughters tremendously, but is glad that they are taking over the family company and not her. Throw into the mix a nephew who believes he should have been a girl, another nephew who is single handily trying to save the pet population in Oregon, and a niece who has had more sex in the last month than Meggie has had in years.  They all add a special something to the story, but I think my favorite thing about this book was the way Meggie and her sisters put together the "Fashion Story".  Instead of doing a regular Fashion Show, they enlisted the help of all their staff and put together a "Fashion Story" that was unique, clever, and tugged at my heartstrings.

Bottom line, Cathy Lamb, is a talented author who has a way of creating characters that find a way into your heart. If You Could See What I See is a heartwarming story of the healing power of love and family.  If you are looking for something good to read that will tug on those heartstrings, Cathy Lamb's newest novel will not disappoint.

Monday, July 29, 2013

(63)The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty

The Husband's Secret 

Pages: 416

The Husband's Secret is the story of three women, barely acquaintances, but all connected in a way that none  of them can imagine.  There is Rachel, a widow, who is still mourning the murder of her teenage daughter over twenty years ago. She is convinced that she knows who murdered her, but she can't seem to convince the police of the same thing, she will do just about anything to find justice for her daughter.  

Tess left her hometown many years ago with her husband, Will, and her cousin/best friend, Felicity.  The three of them run an advertising firm in Melbourne and Tess feels blessed to leading such a charmed life.  Until her husband, Will, tells her that he and Felicity have fallen in love and wanht to be together. Tess does the only thing she can think of, she takes their son, Liam, and goes home to Sydney where she rekindles an old romance.

Cecilia Fitzpatrick leads a pretty charmed live in Sydney suburbs, where she has lived all of her life. Her husband, John-Paul, is an engineer, and even though he travels frequently he is an amazing father and husband.  Her own successful Tupperware business is thriving and she loves being a Mother to their three amazing daughters.  Her marriage is strong as a rock, even though it has been months since they had sex, she is confident that their marriage is unshakable.   Until the day she finds an envelope in her husband's handwriting that says "Open upon my death".  Cecilia is curious, but even more so by her husband's reaction, he suddenly returns from his trip three days early and is desperate to find that envelope. The secrets held in that envelope will change her life and the lives of everyone she loves in an unimaginable way.

I want to be very careful about not revealing key plot details, but I will say that with The Husband's Secret, you need to expect the unexpected. I went into this novel with pre-conceived notions about what exactly the "secret" actually is, but I was so wrong.  I found myself completely engrossed in the story of these three women and how they end up connected to each other. I was so engrossed I read the entire book in just one sitting, it was that good!  I think the epilogue was one of my favorite things about the book, the author did a "what if" scenario for all of her key characters, an alternate ending, so to speak for each of them.  It was fascinating to read.

Bottom line, The Husband's Secret, has been getting a lot of buzz and rightfully so. In her masterful way, Liane Moriarty, created a story that was utterly engrossing with characters who were so multi-dimensional I was sure they were real.  If you are looking for a new book club selection, then you must add this to the list, the conversations generated from this novel will go on for hours!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Monday, July 22, 2013

(62)The Silent Wife by A.S.A Harrison

The Silent Wife

Publication Date: June 25, 2013
Pages: 336

Jodi and Todd have been together for as long as either can really remember, over twenty years.  Their relationship has settled into a comfortable companionship where Todd provides very well for Jodi and Jodi ignores his extramarital affairs.  Their existence relies heavily upon Jodi's denial and so far it is working well for them. She has certain expectations for Todd and as long as he meets them, she will continue to turn her head to his activities.   Until the day when one of Todd's extracurricular activities have lasting consequences and forces both of them to reevaluate their marriage. Will they make it through this time of trouble or will the life they have built together come to an explosive end?

The Silent Wife has to be one oft he most engrossing books I have read in a while.  The author alternates perspectives with each chapter, one chapter is "Him" and the next "Her" so we get both sides of the story.   We get to become familiar with Jodi's calming, measured ways. Her predictability is one of the things about her that Todd loves most. We also get to know Todd and the cocky, confident way he has about him that comes from working hard and becoming a very successful developer.  There were many times that I found myself getting frustrated with Jodi for putting up with his philandering ways, even though she had her subtle ways of "getting even" I would be the kind of person to be screaming the house down. Todd on the other-hand, should be a guy to despise, yet it was hard.  He has this irresistible charm about him that makes it nearly impossible to despise him.  When things start coming to a head, The Silent Wife is not so silent in the most shocking ways possible. The Silent Wife moves along at a very rapid pace and with each chapter a little more is revealed until there comes a point where there is no turning back and you simply cannot put the book down until you finish.

Bottom line, I was deeply saddened when doing research for this post to discover that A.S.A Harrison passed away in April after a battle with cancer. Her first novel, The Silent Wife, is exactly what a psychological thriller should be; intense, sexy, fast paced, and so much more.  Simply not one to be missed.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

(61)Time Flies by Claire Cook

Time Flies

Publication Date:  June 11, 2013
Pages: 320

Melanie left her hometown and family and friends a million years ago when she followed her high school sweetheart turned husband, Kurt, to Atlanta for his career.   Atlanta is where they raised their family and made their life. Flash forward many, many years.  Kurt has left Melanie for a much younger woman named Crissy and Melanie has discovered a talent for making metal sculptures.  Now it is time for their class reunion and Melanie is debating whether or not she wants to go home and face the classmates who have always known her as the Melanie portion of "Kurt and Melanie."   She lets her bestie, BJ, talk her into attending, but she is scared to face her classmates(including Kurt), her friends, and her estranged sister who still lives in their hometown.  Will the trip down memory lane help her let go of the past or confuse things even more?

Being this is the year of my 20th high school reunion I really enjoyed Melanie's trip down memory lane. While I suspect that Melanie is a bit older than me, I enjoyed all of her references to the 80's.  Not to mention the fun she had with BJ.  From driving the Mustang, to sitting on the small balcony of their hotel room, to calling each other Romy & Michelle or Thelma & Louise, I loved their relationship and I know a lot of women can relate to that kind of relationship. The whole Kurt/Finn/Ted thing didn't really hold my interest, but I was willing to get through it to read more "girl time" with BJ & Melanie.  And Melanie's sister??  What a witch!  That is all I will say about that...

Bottom line, Time Flies is a quick read that I could easily relate to as my own class reunion looms on the near horizon.  If you are looking for a fun book to take you down memory lane, then you must ad Time Flies to your Summer reading list.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

(60)Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld


Publication Date: June 25, 2013
Pages: 416

Daisy and Violet Shramm were pretty young when they realized that they were special.  Not just because they were twins, but because they had special senses. They could sense other people's secrets and have premonitions about the future.  From the affair their friend's father was having to the early death of another friend and finally sensing who had kidnapped a young boy for their entire lives they both have "sensed" things.

Flash forward to the year 2009 and the twins are grown up.  Daisy now goes by her middle name, Kate, and she is the stay at home mother to two young children. Her husband, Jeremy is a very successful professor at Washington University and his colleague, Courtney and her husband, Hank are their closest friends.  Kate knows she lives a blessed life and has successfully forced the "senses" out of her life.  Meanwhile, her sister Vi has made a profession out of their "senses".  She has regular clients and a new girlfriend, Stephanie.  Everything is going smoothly until one day Vi "senses" that an earthquake will hit the St. Louis area and she is interviewed by a local television station, and the professional also interviewed to rebut Vi's claims is Courtney.  The claim turns into a media circus and causes tensions between Kate and her husband, not to mention their friends. Kate is torn between supporting her husband and supporting her sister all of it leading up to October 16th, the day that the earthquake is supposed to hit.  Who will be right on October 16th?  The psychic or the professional?

Curtis Sittenfeld is so masterful in the way she writes her characters and her stories it is nearly impossible to put her books down. Only she could write a literary masterpiece about characters with ESP. From the very first page I got swept up into the lives of Vi and Daisy. She flashes us back to their childhood working her way back to the year 2009. And since the twins were born a month after me, I loved seeing all of the references from my childhood. Not to mention all of the Missouri references. I think one of the things I liked so much about this book were really how normal Vi and Kate really are despite their "senses". They aren't glamorous characters, they lead normal lives and have normal flaws. I also really enjoyed the interaction between Kate & Jeremy and their friends, the Wheelings, even when things get "sticky" their friendship is so well written.

Bottom line, Sisterland is a really, really good book. From start to finish I was pulled into their story and did not want to put the book down.  I know a lot of you wouldn't bother with a book about ESP, but Sisterland is really one that you should not miss.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

(59)Unseen by Karin Slaughter


Publication Date: July 2, 2013
Pages: 400

Will Trent is back and you won't believe who has crossed his path.  Lena Adams.  Long time Karin Slaughter fans will remember Lena was partners with Jeffrey Tolliver when he was killed in the line of duty and you all know who Jeffrey Tolliver was married to, Dr. Sara Linton and Will Trent's new love.

Will has been working undercover trying to catch a pill thief at the local hospital when he is asked to be a "lookout" for a couple thugs when he hears gunfire inside the house they were robbing.  Will runs in to find Lena Adams covered in blood, the two thugs on the ground and Lena's husband, Sara's  step-son shot on the ground.  Will wonders exactly what Lena has got herself into this time and what will happen with the truth comes out.

Karin Slaughter's books are like candy to me.  Old familiar candy that I turn to when I am craving something good.  I like the consistency of the same characters throughout her novels, yet each book is fresh with it's own mystery.  While it is nice to have read a series start to finish, it isn't necessary to have read all of the books.  The author does a great job of giving a new reader just enough backstory to not be lost by what is going on with the characters.  But I will warn you that Unseen is a murder mystery that does not hold punches.  It is gritty and grisly and someone with a weak stomach may want to avoid the scene where Faith and Sara and Nell go in to clean the crime scene, it is not for the faint at heart.

Bottom line, Karin Slaughter knows how to write a good, gritty mystery. After many years as a faithful reader I am excited to pick up her new books just to see how my old friends are doing.  If you are looking for a good mystery, then you must not miss Karin Slaughter's Unseen.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

(58)Chose the Wrong Guy, Gave Him the Wrong Finger by Beth Harbison

Chose the Wrong Guy, Gave Him the Wrong Finger

Pages: 384
Publication Date: July 9th, 2013

It has been ten years since Quinn Barton left her fiance, Burke Morrison, at the altar and ran off with his brother, Frank.  In her defense, she did it only after discovering he had been cheating on her.  Needless to say her fling with Frank did not last and even though she earns her living by working with brides, she swears she  will never get married.  Then one day a special bride walks in her store.  Frank and Burke's Grandmother, Dottie, is getting married and the boys are coming home to help get the ranch ready to sell. And before she knows it,  Quinn is back in the middle of the Morrison boys with all sorts of unresolved feelings.  Enter Quinn's best friend, Glenn.  Even though she won't admit it, he sees how miserable Quinn has been and has concocted some tasks for Quinn to complete to help her brighten and broaden her world, with or without the Morrison brothers.   So while Quinn is trying to deal with the Morrison boys back in town she is busy doing things as having a "Commando day"  and "Speed Dating" and then there is the day Glenn wanted her to drink champagne all day. Will Quinn finally be able put the past behind her and find happiness in the future?  Or is she doomed to repeat history with the Morrison boys and stay miserable forever?

I have always been a big fan of Beth Harbison.  Her characters are always so dynamic and Quinn is no different.  The story is told with a lot of flashbacks to both ten years ago and even further back when Quinn first meets the Morrison boys, the back-story is necessary and it keeps things moving.   But my favorite parts of the book have to be the ones with Glenn.  Especially his red envelopes that just randomly appear.   I can honestly say that I "LOL'd" during the champagne scene.    There were a few times when I felt that the whole Burke/Quinn thing was dragging out a little bit too long, but the ending of the book was pretty satisfactory.  I will say that there was a "Happy Ever After", but I won't elaborate other than to say that I think Quinn got it right.

Bottom line, Chose the Wrong Guy, Gave Him the Wrong Finger is a fun Southern book with a lot of colorful characters. While I thought some parts were a bit too long, the colorful characters kept the story fresh and moving along.  Fans of Beth Harbison won't be disappointed in her newest novel and newcomers to her work will want to rush out and pick up her back-list.  Either way, you are in for a treat!

Monday, July 8, 2013

(57)Big Girl Panties by Janet Evanovich

Big Girl Panties

Publication Date: July 9, 2013
Pages: 336

I know that many out you are very familiar with the prolific Janet Evanovich, but I would like to introduce you to her niece, Stephanie Evanovich.   Stephanie has hit the literary scene with her debut novel, Big Girl Panties.

When thirty-two year old Holly Brennan books the last seat on the flight from Toronto she is dismayed to find out it is in coach.  She knows that the seats in coach are not comfortable for someone of her size, or the people sitting next to her, so she does what she always does, she cracks jokes about her weight to the extremely hot man sitting next to her.  On the flight they strike up a conversation and Holly discovers that the very handsome Logan is a Personal Trainer.  Logan hears about the tragic death of Holly's husband after nearly two years of illness and it strikes a chord with him.  Even though his clientele is made up of  mostly successful professional athletes, he offers to train Holly at a reduced price.  What starts out as a friendly, professional relationship transforms into more as Holly's body is transforming into less.   Their professional relationship has grown into a close friendship and it pains Holly to realize that she has fallen in love with a man who, as a rule, only dates blond hair, blue eyed, models.  Will he ever be able to see past her "big girl panties" and see her for the beautiful woman she really is, no matter what her size.

I LOVED this book! I read Big Girl Panties from the viewpoint of a fat woman who has been trying to get in shape and lose weight for the last six months and is married to a man who loves me no matter what size I am, but also willing to support me in my efforts.  But I also read this book as a once previously single woman with a disability who dated men who hesitated being seen in public with me because of my disability.  I know firsthand what those insecurities are like and how they influence your actions and reactions.  So I could really, really empathize with Holly. I could empathize with her feelings of inadequacy, especially after she saw Logan's ex girlfriends. I could empathize with her trying to laugh off what happened between them, even though it killed her inside.   I loved everything about Holly, her spunk, her determination, her easy going ways.  And Logan, Logan scored big points with me when he got the call from Holly in the middle of the night, but I wanted to smack him senseless later in the book and at times his ego was almost too big for the pages.  And I loved the way I found myself wiping my eyes when things go south, I cared so much for Holly that her story made me cry.

Bottom line, any book that makes me care so much for it's characters that I cry like a baby gets a "Best of" from me.  I was able to relate to Holly more than any character I have read  in a long time and that really struck a chord with me.  I am anxious to see more from this debut author, she has set the bar high with Big Girl Panties and I hope it only goes up from here.


Friday, July 5, 2013

(56) The 9th Girl by Tami Hoag

The 9th Girl 

Publication Date: June 18, 2013
Pages: 416

Sam Kovac and Nikki Liska are back in Tami Hoag's new novel, The 9th Girl.  It is New Years Eve when they are called out to a homicide where the victim was found in the middle of a busy interstate.  They are calling her "Zombie Doe".   As Kovac and Tinks start the investigation, they are afraid that this young girl was the 9th victim of the "Doc Holiday" a serial killer who only seems to dump his victims on holidays.   They aren't very far into the investigation when they realize that the victim has a connection to Liska's oldest son, and the exclusive school for the arts that he attends. The further they get, they realize that Zombie Doe is not the victim of Doc Holiday, but possibly of a bullying situation gone horribly wrong.  But what will happen when a madman sets out to "clear" his name?  Will the body count continue to rise or will they catch Zombie Doe's killer and Doc Holiday at the same time?

Bullying has been at the forefront of America's mind for a little while now, but it still continues to be a major problem, even at exclusive private schools for the talented and gifted.   The author did a great job of shining a light on that behavior.  Some of the students were so entitled and wretched towards kids for the very reasons why they went to this school, it made me sick.  I wanted to reach through & slap them all silly.  I also enjoyed the author's way of illustrating Nikki's relationship with her son, it is not the best relationship, how could it be with Nikki working all of the time, but it is certainly better than the average mother/son relationship.

Bottom line, you all know how I love a good mystery. I needed a little gristle and grit after all these fluffy  books, I was ready for a good homicide.   The 9th Girl was relevant, a little bit terrifying, and kept me guessing to the end.  Exactly how I love my mysteries.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

(55)The Book of Secrets by Elizabeth Joy Arnold

The Book of Secrets 

Publication Date: July 2, 2013
Pages: 464

Chloe and Nate Sinclair have a history going back all the way to Chloe's eighth birthday when she stumbled upon the Sinclair children playing in their front yard. Her own mother was busy working trying to provide for the both of them and her father was gone in the wind.  The Sinclair children seemed almost mythical to Chloe with their homeschooling ways and attentive mother who would read to them from the great classics.  It was everything that Chloe had dreamed of from her own mother.   But for as close as Chloe becomes to Nate and his sisters, they are forced to keep their friendship a secret from their father, a strict preacher who forces the children to live by his rules or else.

Flash forward twenty years.  Nate and Chloe run an antiquarian bookstore and the pain of losing their young son still haunts them.  Everything that happened all those years ago caused a rift so deep in the Sinclair family that it may never be repaired.   Nate and Chloe's own marriage is starting to show the strain of loss, too.   When one day Nate just takes off, leaving a cryptic message and a million questions for Chloe.  She stumbles across a cryptic message in one of their books and once she starts the decryption she realizes that there is so much more to her husband than she ever thought.  Will she be able to find her husband and start putting the pieces of their lives back together again?

The Book of Secrets is a love letter to some of the greatest literature of our time. Not only are books such as The Chronicles of Narnia, Robinson Crusoe and Romeo & Juliet mentioned, but the Gothic tone of the book is very similar to what you might find in Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights, with a secret message like what you might find in a Dan Brown novel.  Chloe and Nate are very flawed characters, but they have so much shared history and a deep love that they are counting on to see them through to the end.  And the mystery of what happened all those years ago will keep you guessing all the way to the end.

Bottom line, from the very first page I got swept up into the story.  I loved the way the author takes us into Chloe and Nate's world.  I was transported to another time and place and it felt good.  The way the author pays homage to some of the greatest literature made my heart smile.  If you are looking for a good book to cleanse the palate after some fluffy beach reads, then you must pick up The Book of Secrets.  You will thank me, I promise.

Monday, July 1, 2013

(54) Beautiful Day by Elin Hilderbrand

Beautiful Day
by Elin Hilderbrand

Pages: 404
Publication Date:  June 25, 2013

Like Nancy Thayer, Nantucket in Summertime Elin Hilderbrand's specialty.   This year she introduces us to the Carmichaels and the Grahams.   Two families that are coming together to celebrate the wedding of Jenna and Stuart.   The Carmichael's have had a Summer house on Nantucket for as long as anyone can remember.   When the matriarch of the Carmichael clan, Beth, took ill and passed away she left a notebook, "The Notebook" full of suggestions and instructions for Jenna's wedding day.

Several years have passed since Beth's passing, her husband has remarried a, um, difficult woman.  Her kids, her daughters especially, seem to have a hole in their lives and The Notebook has turned into a holy document, something Jenna and her older sister in high regards.  But as the wedding day draws near, Margot, the Maid of Honor finds herself juggling the Bride, her children, and her older "secret" lover all the while struggling to find some balance in her life.  But Bride's  family is not the only one with some drama, the Groom's parents have a unique history as well.  For a brief time nearly twenty years ago Stuart's father was married to and had a child with another woman.  The Graham's repaired their marriage, but the reminder of his transgression is always present with Chance, Stuart's brother.   With Chance's mother attending the wedding old wounds resurface and cause major problems.  Will Jenna & Stuart's wedding day be the "Beautiful Day"  that Beth had planned all those years ago?

No wedding happens without it's own kind of drama, it's just a fact of life.  But with wealth and privilege comes it's own kind of drama.  Elin Hilderbrand has a way of just making the drama flow in a way that leaves you feeling as if you are part of what is going on with her characters.  I felt like I was a part of the wedding weekend and it made me feel as if I were on Nantucket with Margot struggling to hold it all together for her baby sister's wedding.  From the bridesmaids & groomsmen pairing off, to worrying about the beloved tree and Her branches, to trying to keep the Bride from giving it all up, Margot is a very unique character.  Very tightly wound and as the weekend continues you can see her unraveling in a way that is obviously not normal for her.  It really made the whole thing seem so real. 

Bottom line, it is not summertime without Elin Hilderbrand.  Her Nantucket novels leave me longing for yacht clubs, clam bakes, and beach front homes.  If you are looking for a good "Beach read" you must had Beautiful Day to the list.  You won't be disappointed, I promise.

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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