Saturday, August 31, 2013

(72)The First Affair by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

The First Affair

Pages: 256
Publication Date: August 27, 2013

Jamie McAllister is just like thousands of other recent college graduates, in debt up to her eyeballs and desperate for a job.  She does what many other college grads do and accepts an internship to pad her resume while she continues looking for a paying gig. Only the internship she accepted is at the White House.  Working at our nations's capitol is an exhilarating, yet overwhelming experience for Jamie, especially when the very handsome Commander in Chief shows interest in Jamie, and even more so when they kiss in a clandestine meeting.  What happens after that is a whirlwind romance that turns Jamie upside down. The emotions of a new relationship can be tough for any normal twenty-one year old, but when the new boyfriend is married and the President of the United States, well it brings with it a whole new level of issues.  Jamie does the only thing she thinks she can do and tells her closest friends about her new beau.  Only what she said in confidence does not stay confident and soon Jamie is involved with the FBI and a special committee  is threatening to bring down the President and ruin their lives.

The concept behind The First Affair is not a new one.  The authors "borrowed" a lot of material from our country's history.  A charismatic President, an "irresistible" intern, a piece of clothing with an irrefutable DNA stain. (Ahem.) Some of the issues the President is dealing with in his Presidency will also seem familiar, like Government furloughs and budget issues.  I will be honest, I found myself rolling my eyes at several of these similarities, yet I still couldn't stop reading.   Jamie's naivete is both refreshing and annoying.  She has a never-ending belief in the man who told her "I love you."  no matter how much evidence stacks up against him.   There is also an interesting family dynamic between Jamie, her sister Erica, and their parents.  It is a subplot that is a bit of a train wreck in nature. I will say that my favorite part of the whole book was the Epilogue, it wrapped everything up fairly neatly, but not in a way that I expected.

Bottom line, if you are looking for a literary masterpiece, then you need to put this book down and pick up Night Film.  If you are looking for fluff and keep your expectations low (or non-existant ) then The First Affair might be the right book for you.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

(71)Ladies Night by Mary Kay Andrews

Ladies' Night 

Publication Date: 6/4/2013
Pages: 400

Grace Stanton is enjoying life right now.  She is a very popular lifestyle blogger which allows her to share her beautiful home and yummy recipes with thousands of readers.  Her amazing husband supports her in every way and the two of them are going to start trying to start their family very soon.  Until the night that Grace can't sleep, goes in search of her husband and finds him in a very compromising position with her assistant, Jamie.  Things spiral out of control and it is not one of Grace's most graceful moments when she drives his prized Audi into their swimming pool.  The judge sides with her ex and denies her access to her blog, denies her access to her home, and orders her to attend a weekly "divorce recovery group".

It is at the weekly "divorce recovery" group meetings that Grace meets a great group of ladies.  Their weekly "after group" sessions at Grace's mom's bar help them start the healing process and even Wyatt, the lone man in the group, starts to find some usefulness to Ladies' Night. It is at Ladies' Night that they start to piece it all together and realize that they have more in common than just getting divorced.  They hall had the same judge in their divorce cases.  Why did the Judge sentence them all to divorce recovery and why did he demand that they use the same group leader?  While Grace is helping one of the other ladies in the group get to the bottom of the shady judge, she also finds herself spending more time with the handsome Wyatt.  He seems like the perfect guy for her, but will the baggage they both carry prevent them from moving forward?

Mary Kay Andrews is another one of those great "Summertime" authors.  Her slow, Southern novels always have that "vacation" feel.  Even when they are about a group of women with shitty husbands. I really liked Grace and I really like Wyatt and the rest of the group, but I found myself getting very frustrated for Grace when her ex and the floozy were trying to sabotage her new blog. As a blogger myself, I know there are ways to prevent that kind of sabotage and it frustrated me to see how long it took Grace to catch on to those tricks.  Even with those minor frustrations, I found Ladies' Nights to be a fun way to pass the time while on the treadmill. Grace is a great character and I found it sweet the way she took on Sweetie ( an abandoned dog) and the house on Mandavilla Lane, not to mention Wyatt and his son.

Bottom line, Ladies' Night is exactly what I have come to expect from Mary Kay Andrews. A novel of strong women, even stronger friendships, and budding relationships. If you are looking for a good lighthearted read, then look no further.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Monday, August 26, 2013

(70)The Girl You Left Behind by JoJo Moyes

The Girl You Left Behind

Pages: 384
Publication Date: August 20, 2013

The Girl You Left Behind is a story of two women, a painting, and nearly an entire century separates the two women.

First there is Sophie LeFevre it is the year 1917 and her husband, Edouard, has left their small French village to go off and fight the war.  Sophie is left behind with her sister and young brother to run the family tavern. Things get even worse when the Germans move into to occupy their small village.  Especially when the Kommandant forces Sophie and Helene to prepare meals for him and his men.  From the very first night he enters their establishment the Kommandant is taken with a painting that Edouard did of Sophie years ago.  The painting is titled The Girl You Left Behind.  It is their mutual love of art that forms a tentative friendship between the two enemies.  A tenuous friendship that eventually causes Sophie great trouble and eventually gets her sent off to the prison camps in Germany.

Flash forward to the year 2006 and we meet Liv Halston.  Her husband passed away four years ago and Liv is still a mess. While on the outside it looks like Liv has her act together she really is just hanging on by a thread.  She is having a really rough day when she decides that she would have a better shot being left to drink in peace at a gay bar.  It is there that her day gets even worse when her purse is stolen.  One of the guys at the bar offers to walk her home and Liv is pleasantly surprised to learn that the handsome Paul is not gay.  She lets her guard down and eventually invites him home. The next morning Paul rushes out of her home with no explanation and it is not long before she learns why.  Paul is an investigator that works with families who had artwork stolen by the Germans during both World Wars.  His eye was caught by the artwork that Liv's late husband bought her on their honeymoon, artwork that he has recently been commissioned to find and return to the LeFevre family.  Liv has The Girl You Left Behind hanging on her bedroom wall.

What happens next is an epic legal battle that may cost Liv everything she has left,  but she is determined not to let Sophie go without a fight.  For it is the haunting Sophie in  The Girl You Left Behind that got Liv through the darkest days after her husband's death and she cannot fathom what her life will be like without that painting hanging on her wall.  But what about, Paul.  What happens to her relationship with the only man since David that has made her feel alive?  Will their tenuous relationship survive this battle or will Liv lose him on top of everything else.

The Girl You Left Behind is a hauntingly beautiful novel that will break your heart.  After the initial introduction to both women, the novel flashes back and forth between the past and the present.  The details of Sophie's detainment was utterly heartbreaking. Even knowing what was likely going to be the outcome, I kept hoping that there would be a "happy ever after" for Sophie and Edouard.  And so was the heartbreak that belonged to Liv.  It was so clear that her life was destroyed by the loss of her husband and just when she thought she was making progress in her grief by being with Paul things blow up regarding the painting.  My heart just ached for Liv, I felt so horrible for her and her loss was almost contagious to me as the reader.

Bottom line, JoJo Moyes has a way of writing such beautiful works of literature.  Her characters and their feelings are so vivid that it is easy to be swept away to another place and in this novel, another time.  If you are looking for a novel to touch your heart,(and really who isn't?)  then you must read The Girl You Left Behind.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Friday, August 23, 2013

Monday, August 19, 2013

(69)Night Film by Marisha Pessl

Night Film 

Publication Date: August 20, 2013
Pages: 624

Oh my gosh!  Oh my gosh!  Oh my gosh!  Marisha Pessl has just changed the whole "reading a book" experience with her new novel, Night Film.

In Night Film we meet Scott McGrath, a disgraced investigative journalist who chased after the wrong story and ended up on the losing end of a libel suit.  He lost his career and his wife over his relentless pursuit of the reclusive horror film director, Stanislas Cordova. Now here it is five years later and Scott is out for a midnight run when he notices a lone figure watching his run, it is Ashley Cordova.  The daughter of  Cordova,  she was once a child prodigy and is a mysterious figure in her own right.   And just a few days later she is dead, plunging Scott back into the depths of the madness that is Cordova's world.  Scott starts with tracing Ashley's last days and comes across two young people who end up helping him sort out the underground world that consists of Cordova's fans. With the help of Hopper and Nora, Scott starts uncovering a world that he never knew existed, from secret societies to black magic and on to the frightening compound where Cordova lives, Night Film is an incredibly fast paced novel that will suck you into a dark and frightening world.  But the question remains, will McGrath and his companions find out the truth about what happened to Ashley or will their investigation end with something much sinister than a lawsuit?

From almost the very first page of Night Film I knew I was reading something great.  The dark, gritty world that Scott McGrath plunges into as he investigates Cordova is frightening, yet captivating.  I could not stop reading, no matter how much the hair on the back of my neck was standing up.  It was amazing.  I loved how McGrath took on Hopper and Nora, obviously very reluctantly at first, and then as the book continued it was obvious that he had grown quite fond of the two young people. I almost thought it was sad the way that they parted ways, because I knew that Scott felt a little lost without them.  I LOVED the mystery that surrounded Cordova, especially his home, The Peak,  with every chapter, the author was teasing the reader with bits and pieces that were revealed. I was desperate to get to the end to find out the truth about Cordova, his daughter, and the mysterious world that they live in.

So the part where Marisha Pessl changes the way we read a book?  Well, Night Film, is just not words on a page, it is a completely interactive book!  From news clippings to magazine article to a decoder app that you can download and open up even more of Cordova's world.  An app!  (Click here to download the app & read more)  The app works with both e-book version and print version and will enhance your reading experience tenfold.

Bottom line, Night Film is not for the faint of heart.  It is gritty,mysterious, and at times, utterly terrifying.  But it is an absolute must read novel.  This novel has been getting a lot of positive press for months leading up to the release date and now I know why.  If you want to be part of publishing history and read the book that everyone will be talking about, you must read Night Film, it is on sale tomorrow at all of the usual places.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

(68)Forever, Interrupted by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Forever, Interrupted

Publication Date: July 9, 2013
Pages: 352

Elsie Porter is a twenty-something young woman living in Los Angeles.  She has her dream job as a librarian and the apartment of her dreams.  She orders a pizza one night, New Years night to be exact, and rather than waiting for the nearly two hour delivery time she decides to run down and pick it up.  That night changed her life forever, for it is at that pizza place that Elsie meets Ben Ross, who is also waiting for a pizza.

The sparks between Elsie and Ben fly in a way that Elsie has never expected.  It is not long before they are each other's "everything".  Every waking moment is either spent together or spent thinking about each other.  It is not long before they both declare the other one "the one" and Ben is moving in with Elsie.  And before summer hits they have eloped and Elsie is beyond thrilled to be "Mrs.Ben Ross".  Nine days after their wedding Elsie sends Ben out to get her Fruity Pebbles and he never comes home.  He is struck and killed in a tragic traffic accident that interrupts "Forever After".   In the aftermath of the tragedy is the fact that there is a second "Mrs. Ross" that Elsie must deal with. Ben's mother who, not only did not know that Ben was married, but did not even know that Elsie existed. The coming days and months are spent in utter grief and devastation, but also at battle with Ben's mother.  Will the two women come to terms and share their grief and their memories of Ben, or will their collective grief destroy them both?

Forever, Interrupted is one of those novels that packs quite a punch and leaves an unexpected emotional impact on the reader.  The story flashes back and forth from the "before" months when Ben and Elsie were together and the "after" months following his death.  I loved how the author weaved books and the library into the plot, it really connected me to Ben and Elsie.  I also found myself connecting to Elsie and her disbelief that she was married and that he was really gone.  I remember in the days and weeks after I got married it just didn't seem real, so I could really relate to Elsie in that aspect.  As the months after Ben's death go by, the relationship between Elsie and Susan was an unique one. It really added to the emotional punch the book had on me.

Bottom line, I will be really surprised if Forever, Interrupted doesn't get optioned by someone in Hollywood.  The story is unique and touching. In my head I was already casting the roles, Meryl Streep would make a perfect "Susan".  If you are looking for something to touch your heart, find a copy of Forever, Interrupted.  Like right now.  Go.

Monday, August 12, 2013

(67)The Shade of the Moon by Susan Beth Pfeffer

The Shade of the Moon 

Publication Date: August 13, 2013
Pages: 304

Finally, the long awaited fourth book in the Life As We Knew It series.   At the end of the last book Miranda and her family were headed to Sexton, supposedly this town full of promise and "normalcy".  Remember, the moon got too close to the Earth and screwed everything up. The Shade of the Moon picks up two years after they left for Sexton with a page from Jon's journal and the whole book is told from Jon's point of view.

Life in Sexton is not the Utopia they thought it would be.  Because he had a ticket Jon is living in Sexton with his Step-Mother, Lisa and his little brother, Gabe.  Miranda, along with her husband, Alex and their mother, Laura are living in the next town over called White Birch.  While Sexton is Utopia, White Birch is it's own kind of hell.  White Birch is for the "grubs" or basically the servants and grunt workers that serve those in Sexton.  The people in Sexton have the best homes, the best food, the best schools, the best jobs, and the best air.  To say that there is an economic divide between the two communities is a great understatement.  Jon was young enough when they moved to Sexton that he has fallen into the trap that he believes Sexton and it's people ARE better than White Birch, not only that, but he knows what happened between Miranda and Julie and he just can't seemed to get past it. The tensions are high between the two communities and it comes to a head during a soccer game, where Jon is a star player.  The events of that day change everything for Jon, his family, and his community.  Will Jon come out of the event unscathed or will it change everything forever?

Last spring I went on a Life As We Knew It binge and read the first three books in just a few days, ever since I have been anxiously awaiting the fourth book.  It was unique to see that the book was from Jon's perspective, but I was completely disheartened to see that he had been sucked into the snobbery that is prevalent in Sexton.  There were many, many times that I was almost disgusted with not only Sexton, but Jon as well. There was an event (don't want to give away too much) that finally shook Jon out of his comfort zone and he started to realize that the way things were wasn't right.  I will say that it was nice to "see" familiar characters and see how they were doing in their "new normal".  It also challenged me to think about what I would do in that kind of scenario. Oh, and the author definitely left it open for another book and I sure hope that she follows through, I love these books!

Bottom line, loyal fans of the Life As We Knew It will not be disappointed with the fourth book in the series.  You may get a bit discouraged at first with what is happening in Sexton & White Birch, but you must stick with it until the end.  I promise, you will not be disappointed!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

(66)A Tap on the Window by Linwood Barclay

A Tap on the Window

Pages: 512
Publication Date: August 5, 2013

Cal Weaver is still in a fog of grief on a rainy night when he is driving home from a stake-out he was doing as a private investigator. It has been two months since his son's death and he is still desperate to find out who sold Scott the drugs that caused him to jump off the roof of a building.  He is stopped at a stop sign when there is a tap at his window. He considers ignoring the tap at his window and the young blonde standing outside of his car window, but she mentions Scott's name and Cal cannot resist the urge to see what she knows.   They don't get very far before the young girl, Claire, asks Cal to pull over at a burger joint because she feels sick.  It is there that Cal starts to get suspicious when another young woman wearing a blonde wig gets in his car pretending to be Claire. The fake Claire starts to get nervous at all of his questions and jumps out of his car in the middle of nowhere, no one sees her alive again and the real Claire is missing.  What is going on here and what does it have to do with Scott's death?

Ultimately, A Tap on the Window is about a father and his grief. But there is also a very heavy dose of small town corruption. The original blonde in Cal's car just happens to be the mayor's daughter and everyone knows that the mayor and the police department are at war.  The small town police department has most of the town in fear of with their heavy handed, even brutal, ways and the more entangled Cal gets in the mess the more he is convinced the police had something to do with Scott's death.   Having grown up in a very small town I can certainly understand Cal's frustration, no small town is without a bit of "corruption" but usually you could chalk it up to "who you know"  or "who your parents know".    I really think that Linwood Barclay nailed that small town "corruption" feel pretty darn good.  He also got the grieving father down pretty good, too.  Cal Weaver was so desperate to find out who sold Scott those drugs that it ethically pushed him to the edge. He did some pretty douche-baggy things in his effort to get the truth, but it was easy to forgive him because you could feel his pain.

Bottom line, Linwood Barclay has mastered the craft of writing a suspense novel.  His characters are your average "Joes" who are put in pretty extraordinary circumstances and that is why his books are just so dern good.   If you are looking for a great suspense novel that will get your heart racing then you must add A Tap on the Window to your reading list.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Thursday, August 1, 2013

(65)The Essentials of Business Etiquette by Barbara Pachter

The Essentials of Business Etiquette

Publication Date: August 2, 2013
Pages: 256

Do you know the proper etiquette for business dinners?  Or proper attire for a business dinner?  How about a job interview? Barbara Pachter educates us on the proper "Dos" and "Don'ts" of Business Etiquette in her new book, The Essentials of Business Etiquette.  She goes on to talk about hygiene, email etiquette, and even social media etiquette.  With 101 tips for her readers, even the most savvy business person is guaranteed to come away with some little nugget that you did not before.

Having been in the workforce and business world for almost twenty years I thought I was pretty up to date on all of the proper business etiquette, but it was nice to brush up on my skills and learn some of the new etiquette surrounding social media and technology in the workforce.  The author did a great job of including pop culture references and real life scenarios to demonstrate what is and is not appropriate in the work place.  It really added life to what could be considered to be a dull topic. Those scenarios really helped the book flow along nicely and enjoyable to read.

Bottom line, I know that  many of us view etiquette, even business etiquette, as "common sense" to many others it is not inherently known and a book like this is definitely needed.  The Essentials of Business Etiquette is a must read for every college graduate about to enter the workforce or even someone who is switching professions mid-career.  Implementing the rules of proper etiquette in the business world is sure to make one stand out to a potential employer.  Definitely worth the read.

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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