Wednesday, December 31, 2014

(106)The Life Intended by Kristin Harmel

It has been twelve years since Kate Waithman's husband, Patrick was killed in a tragic car accident.  It took her nearly ten years to start dating again and now Dan has proposed to her.  She loves Dan and enjoys being with him, but he is not Patrick. And a small part of her can't help but wishing that he was Patrick.   Then Kate gets devastating news that she is not able to have children and it wasn't until that moment that how much she wants children and how much she regrets not having children with Patrick.  That night she dreams of Patrick and the life she would have had if Patrick had not died. It was the first dream in a series of extremely vivid dreams that leaves Kate longing for Patrick and the life she intended to have.  A life that includes a deaf daughter, Hannah. A life that includes a lifetime of memories.  A life that is not marred by tragedy.    It is the dreams that prompt Kate to take an American Sign Language class so that she can communicate with her the daughter of her dreams.  The ASL class is the first step down a path that  Kate  never thought she would ever take.  Will that path lead her away from her late husband and towards Dan?  Or the complete opposite?

The Life Intended is a tender novel about one woman and her seemingly insurmountable grief.  At first she never thought that she would never be able to date again, let alone fall in love, but then she meets Dan.   They seem to fit well with each other and are both at an age that marriage only makes sense, but it is quite obvious to everyone, including the reader, that Dan isn't really the perfect guy for Kate. It is easy to fall under the spell of Kate and her dreams and it is hard to see her hurting every-time she wakes up from a dream. With every dream she has, it is quite obvious that she still has not come to grips with Patrick's death. Until she starts taking the ALS classes.  When Kate meets Andrew and becomes involved with the children in the foster system you start to piece together exactly what life has in store for Kate.  Her relationship with the kids makes it clear that Kate was meant to be a mother and Kate's circle of family and friends know it as well.

Bottom line, The Life Intended  starts out like dozens of other novels, but with every passing page it becomes more and more unique.   Kate is a great character and her story is one that could rip your heart out, but with the twists and turns Kate's story ends up just the way life intended.


Pages: 368
  • Publisher: Gallery Books
  • Publication Date: December 30, 2014
  • Buy it Here!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

(105)Saving Grace by Jane Green

Grace Chapman and her husband, Ted Chapman are well known in the literary world.   Grace was a cookbook editor before marrying bestselling author Ted.  They have led a charmed life as Ted churns out one bestseller after another.  They live on a charming little farm outside a charming little village outside of the city.  Over the years of their marriage Grace has perfected the art of managing Ted.  His ego, his career, his happiness.  But it is exhausting and deciding to hire an assistant saved their marriage once and Grace is hoping it will save their marriage again.  Enter Beth McCarthy.   She appears to be the answer to their prayers, diving right into their household and managing things that have been in desperate need of being managed.  But with every passing that Beth is present, Grace seems to slowly be falling apart.  Moody, emotional, volatile and then she is diagnosed as bipolar.  Her whole world spirals out of control and Beth seems to step into her life in a way that becomes more frightening with each passing day.   Will Grace be able to save her marriage and the life she has built for herself or will this interloper destroy everything?

I adore Jane Green in a way that I reserve for beloved Aunties.  I have been reading her books so long that it feels as if I know her.  I don't know if Saving Grace is a mirror of her own life as a successful, best selling author, but if so - yee gads. It was rather clear that Grace is the epitome of her name.  She exudes class and respect in so many ways that many women aspire to be just like her.  She is elegant and poised and utterly devoted to her husband's career.  As the book goes on and Grace starts spiraling out of control in ways that is almost frightening.  Early on it was so clear that Beth was behind it all and I found it a bit frustrating that it took Grace so long to put it all together.   I was a bit disappointed in how predictable it turned out to be.    What kept me turning the page was I wanted to see if Ted would eventually come to the same conclusion and would it be in time to save their marriage.   I was pleased with the way that Saving Grace ended.

Bottom line, even though Saving Grace is a bit predictable, Grace is a character that will quickly enamor you with her graceful elegance.  It is Grace herself that keeps you turning the pages even though you can predict what will likely happen.   Predictable, but definitely worth the read.

  • Saving Grace by Jane Green
  • Pages: 352
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication Date: December 30, 2014
  • Buy it Here!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

(104)Santa Claus Is for Real: True Christmas Fable about the Magic of Believing by Charles Edward Hall

As a young boy in Kentucky, Charles Edward Hall firmly believed in Santa, no matter what people tried to tell him, he believed.  He remembers clearly one Christmas during a family Christmas party he glanced out the window and saw the Big Guy himself standing there, how could he not believe?   But life happened and Charles got out of Kentucky and went to New York City determined to become a famous actor.    But life happened and audition after audition passed him buy with no role offered.  Until one day he was offered the role of Ebeneezer Scrooge, which happened to be pretty appropriate after a few rough years.  But it was a dual role, he also had to be Santa Claus in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.    Santa Claus is for Real is the story of his first year as Santa Claus.  He had some magical help, but that role transformed his life.  And nearly thirty years later Charles Edward Hall is still the Radio City Spectacular Santa.

Santa Claus Is for Real is a real quick read at 208 pages, but it packs quite a message.   The magic of Santa lives in all of us.  We all have that opportunity to make Christmas magical for someone else.  Whether it be helping an elderly lady across the street or become a "Layaway Angel" - there is something you can do to make Christmas magical. That is the message that I took away from this book anyway.

Bottom line, even though today is Christmas Eve it is still not too late to make Christmas a little magical for someone.  We all have a little Santa Claus in us just begging to be released.  What do you think you could do today to make Christmas magical for someone?

  • Santa Claus Is for Real by Charles Edward Hall 
  • Pages: 208
  • Publisher: Galley Books
  • Publication Date: October 14, 2014
Buy it Here!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Saturday, December 20, 2014

(103)Blame It on the Mistletoe by Nicole Michaels

Brooke Abbott is glad that she moved back to her small Missouri hometown.  She is slowly putting her life together after getting out of a bad relationship.  Brooke has even opened up a boutique shop on Main Street in her quaint little hometown of Preston. Sales are a little slow right now, but Brooke is just sure that the Christmas holiday will give her store the boost it so desperately needs. It is Thanksgiving night when Brooke comes home from the family dinner to find Alex Coleman in the apartment over the shop, the same apartment she has been sort of - kind of- illegally staying.  Alex has always been best friends with Brooke's brother, Ryan, but he has changed from the dorky friend she remembered.  He is extremely handsome and has just inherited the building they are standing in, but Brooke doesn't know that.   It doesn't take long for Brooke and Alex to shift their relationship from friendship to more, but will it all fall apart when Brooke learns that Alex plans on selling the building?

Blame It on the Mistletoe is set in a small town outside of Kansas City, which was fun for this former KC girl.  Based on some clues and descriptions given I think the town is based on Weston, Missouri.  (Preston - Weston - see the similarity?) Brooke was a character that felt familiar to me for some reason.  She was hardworking and wanted to be successful at something.  Especially since she failed so spectacularly at her last relationship.  She was glad to be out of her bad relationship, but still felt like she needed to prove or justify her decision to move back home.   Alex was a fun character because he just seemed like a "bad boy" even though he had done some really honorable things since leaving Preston.   Alex and Brooke were good together and had a real chemistry that just set this story on fire. Definitely made it worth the read.

Bottom line, Blame It on the Mistletoe was a fun Christmas read.  A bit predictable, but still sweet, romantic, and definitely worth the read.


Monday, December 15, 2014

(102)Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty

Caitlin Doughty is a twenty-something with a degree in Midievil History who has always had a morbid curiosity for death. She decides to channel that curiosity into a career and went to work at the Westwind Mortuary and Crematory. From her first day on the job Caitlin knows that she will be encounter the strange and odd.  She also suspects that she will be challenged to do things completely out of her comfort zone.   On her first day she is handed a razor and shaving cream and asked to shave a deceased man before the family viewing.   She is asked to do "pick-ups"and sees families at the very worst moments in their lives.   She is asked to facilitate "witnesses" - when the family actually wants to see their loved one through the entire process of cremation.  Caitlin gives us the day to day routines of those in her business in a way that captures the readers attention. In careful detail the author describes processes, events, and even smells in a way that almost takes your breath away.

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes is not the first book I have ever read about the death industry, but it was just as good as any other I have read.  Caitlin Doughty is careful to be respectful in her storytelling, but there were several times where I thought "OMG" - and she handled each weird situation with much more aplomb than I ever thought possible. I also liked how the author gave a lot of historical detail about death and the death industry.  For example, back in the day only indigent people died at a hospital. As late as the early twentieth century, more than 85% of Americans died at home.   Think about it - if you live in an older home, the odds of someone having died there are pretty high.  It was during the 1930's that the mentality shifted and more people went to the hospital to die.  I have often thought about my final wishes and going the cremation route and now I feel it is a little easier to make that decision.

Bottom line, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes was a morbidly fascinating book.  I will say that my recommendation comes with a warning label.  It is not for those with weak stomachs or those sensitive to death, particularly childhood death.  While that is not a huge part of the book, it is there and may be particularly rough to read.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

(101)What Nora Knew by Linda Yellin

While thirty-nine year old Molly Halberg is still hoping for all of her dreams to come true, she is willing to settle for "close-enough" in some cases.  As a divorced woman  she thinks that the relationship she has with her boyfriend, Russell, is adequate. They have settled into a comfortable relationship that involves dinner in front of the television and sleep masks at each others places.  He doesn't cheat on her like her ex-husband, so there is that.  Molly loves being a writer for an online magazine, but she would love to have her own column.  She keeps hoping that with every story about dildos and speed-dating she gets closer to getting that column.  When her boss assigns her to do a "Nora Ephron" type of story on romance in New York City, Molly is sure that she is about to get her break. If Molly knows anything it is Nora Ephron movies.  As she works on her piece she is forced to examine her relationship with Russell, especially when she comes across an ornery mystery author.   Is "adequate" better than nothing when it comes to career and romance?  Or is Molly going to give up everything to go after what she really wants - happiness?

Any woman over the age of thirty is intimately aware with Nora Ephron and her movies.  We all know that Sleepless in Seattle is an homage to An Affair to Remember and You've Got Mail is an homage to The Shop Around the Corner.  Well, What Nora Knew is a beautiful homage to Nora Ephron. Her movies shaped the way an entire generation of women look at love and relationships and Molly Halberg is the perfect heroine to illustrate that "adequate" is not good enough.  Many times Molly referred to the characters played by Bill Pullman and Greg Kinnear to Russell.  And once she started making those comparisons it snowballed into a realization that their relationship had lost it's spark long ago. While What Nora Knew was a bit predictable, I was more than willing to put up with it for all of the  familiar scenes revisited and the warm memories that came from remembering three of my favorite movies.

Bottom line, What Nora Knew is a feel-good kind of book.  I couldn't stop smiling the whole time I was reading this book. Not because it was hysterical, but because it made my heart happy.   If you know Kathleen Kelly's online handle or know where Annie hid to listen to the radio show, then you have got to read this book.   Consider this recommendation my gift to you.

  • What Nora Knew by Linda Yellin
  • On Facebook
  • Pages: 320
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication Date: January 21, 2014
  • Buy it Here!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Monday, December 8, 2014

(100)Mr.Miracle by Debbie Macomber

Addie Folsom isn't exactly thrilled to be moving back home after things fell apart in Montana, but here she is.  She wants to get her life back on track and follow her late father's footsteps and become a chiropractor, but she discovers that she needs one more credit to get her high school diploma.  Even with her class to keep her busy, Addie finds herself left to care for her neighbor and childhood crush, Erich, after he is injured in a car accident. Even though Addie is reluctant to do so, she helps Erich and is soon feeling those same old feelings.  Will she be able to help this "Scrooge" without getting her heartbroken again?

If you are familiar with Debbie Macomber and her other "Miracle" Christmas novels, you know that there are a couple of Angels working behind the scenes to help Addie. In Mr. Miracle it is Harry, a new angel, and Celeste that are working to make things work out for Addie and others at the school. Mr.Miracle  was a quick, cute Christmas read.  I am sure that many of you know that Mr. Miracle was made into a Hallmark Channel movie that aired over the weekend. I have the movie DVR'd  but I will be excited to watch it and see how it translates to the screen. Addie was one of those reluctant characters that isn't thrilled with the way her life is going, but gets better as the book progresses.  Same goes for Erich.  He is the quintessential "Scrooge" - and the reasons are revealed as the story progresses.  Predictable, but cute.

Bottom line, I love a good Christmas love story.  The cheesier the better. Mr. Miracle is about as cheesy as they come - and I am okay with that.


Saturday, December 6, 2014

(99)All You Could Ask For by Mike Greenberg

Brooke, Katherine, and Samantha are three women who have absolutely nothing in common.  Brooke is a married mother that has life in the suburbs under complete control.  Samantha is young and on her honeymoon in Hawaii with an older man when she discovers that he has been cheating on her the whole time.  Katherine is a Wall Street barracuda who is still trying to get over a broken heart that happened years ago.  The three women have all recently made decisions that were both  out of character and going to change their lives.  What they didn't realize that there was another change that was going to happen to the three of them that would send them to an online forum.  Katherine, Brooke, and Samantha meet on an online support forum for women with breast cancer and quickly become fast friends.  They learn that friendship can be found in the most unexpected places and that beauty can be gained from the most ugly of experiences.  But will they win over the cancer that has taken over their bodies?

All You Could Ask For was a fabulous read about three strong women. The first half of the book there was absolutely no connection between the three women and I was trying to figure out how or when they were going to connect and then they join the support group. All three women and strong, influential women in their own worlds, but it was interesting to me that they all felt like they needed to turn to strangers (the forum) instead of the own people in their lives.  I get why, I have been very active in online forums for over ten years and have met some of my best friends that way, so I do get it.  It was just interesting.  I was also pleased with the way the book ended, without giving away too much, just know that you won't need a full box of kleenex to make it through the end.

Bottom line, friendships between women can be rewarding and complicated at the same time.  Mike Greenberg did an amazing job of capturing all of those dynamics in his book, All You Could Ask For.  If you are looking for a good book to read with your girlfriends, All You Could Ask For would be a great read to share and discuss over a bottle of wine.  Enjoy!

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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Saturday, November 29, 2014

(98)Reunion by Hannah Pittard

When Kate Pulaski receives the news that her father had killed himself, her first thought was that husband, Peter, wouldn't leave her after such a tragedy.  She is numb to the news that her father is dead, but she is broken by what she did to her husband and with twisted logic hopes that his death might save her marriage.    Kate has made a complete mess of her life in more than one way.  Excessively in debt, distant from her family, and she had an affair that is likely going to cause the end of her marriage.  Peter meets her plane in Chicago and puts her right on another plane to go to Atlanta, where she will meet her brother Elliott and her sister, Nell.   Kate, Elliot, and Nell's relationship with their father has deteriorated into almost nothing after the death of their mother and their father's next five marriages.  None of them had a relationship with him, believing that he had an "out of sight out of mind" mentality about his children. Frankly, Kate would rather use her "baby sister" status  and coast through this weekend, but she is faced with hard truths about their father and herself.  Kate is left facing the hard consequences of her actions and is forced to face the uncertainty of her future. Will Kate be able to salvage her marriage to Peter or is she doomed to the same fate as her father?

Even though Reunion has some really dark themes it was refreshing in it's completely honest look at life.  Real life.  So many authors don't discuss the dark secrets that are under the surface of most marriages, like being on the same page about children, money troubles, excessive drinking, and then there is the affair.  Of course not every marriage has all of these troubles, but the odds are that at least one can be found in most marriages across the country.  Kate is so deeply flawed in so many ways that I wanted to not like her, but she was so broken it was hard to not like her.  As they get deeper into weekend in Atlanta you can see the dynamics between the siblings and you get just a glimpse at what Kate has dealt with since her mother died as a child.  Her older siblings set the bar high and she had a hard time living up to their standards.  And then there was the revolving door their father had for wives.  Throughout the whole book Kate was trying to justify her actions that has gotten her into this mess and by the end of the weekend she was a little more honest with herself and her family. I was glad to see her taking a little more responsibility for what she had done.

Bottom line, Reunion is an honest look at the mess one woman  has made of her life.   As damaged as Kate is, many of us will see glimpses of ourselves in her and that is enough to make it worth the read.


Friday, November 28, 2014

(97)The Look of Love by Sarah Jio

Flower shop owner, Jane Williams leads a pretty uneventful life.  She goes to work and goes home, occasionally meeting up with her brother, Flynn.  On her twenty-ninth birthday she gets a mysterious birthday card from someone she has never met.  At a quick meeting it is revealed that Jane has a special gift.  She can see true love. Jane is told that she has to complete a required task.  She must identify the six types of love and write about the people before her thirtieth birthday, Christmas Day.  If Jane doesn't complete this task she will never know true love herself.   In the weeks and months after her gift was revealed, Jane sees love in the most unexpected places and with the most unexpected people.  And then she meets a Science Writer is not sure he can ever love again.   Will Jane complete her mission before her thirtieth birthday or will she be doomed to a lifetime of loneliness?

The Look of Love is a whimsical story about a woman seeking love, not only those around her, but for herself.    Even though she is surrounded by friends, Jane is a little bit of loner. Especially after she starts seeing "love" in all of the wrong places.  She just wants her friends to be happy, but would be much happier if it weren't with already married people.  I was happy for Jane when she met Cam, but I admittedly was a bit skeptical at whether he was the guy for her.  There is a "big reveal" that proves I may have been right, but I still held out hope that Jane would find her love.

Bottom line, The Look of Love is one of those holiday tales where the heroine is seeking love, but this time it is not necessarily for herself.   The magical element of The Look of Love is perfect for a Christmas story, but the love story at the heart of the book is great for all seasons.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

(96)Winter Street by Elin Hilderbrand

Winter Street on Nantucket Island is the home of the Winter Street Inn. Kelley Quinn purchased the Inn years ago after leaving his very famous wife and the rat race of Wall Street.  With his new wife they raised his four children along with their new son, Bart.   Flash forward nearly twenty years , it is nearly Christmas and Kelley discovers that his wife has been having an affair with Santa Claus for nearly a dozen years.  His youngest son, Bart, is in Afghanistan.  Ava, his only daughter is a teacher struggling to find true love.  Kevin is a bartender who may have found true love with the French maid, and Patrick may have destroyed his marriage and career by doing some insider trading.    Kelley's world is crumbling and would like nothing more than to hole up in his bedroom and drink his troubles away.

Told in alternating voices we get to see the Quinn family prepare for Christmas and deal with what life has currently dished out.  I think most of us have experienced a holiday season or two that was hard to get get into the spirit of things and that is what it was like for the Quinn family.  Even though Kelley wants to cancel their big Christmas Eve party, the rest of the family know that they need to plow through to live up to the community's expectations.  And once they do, they realize that being with family makes all things easier.  Winter Street was a quick read, but I enjoyed reading through the eyes of all the characters.  The Quinn children are all so different, but the one thing they have in common is their commitment to their family.   The book ended with most everything tied up nicely, but there was one thing that had no resolution and kind of left me going - "what??"  I think the conclusion the reader is supposed to arrive at is the "happy ever after" ending, at least that is what I am going to go with.

Bottom line - Elin Hilderbrand is one of my favorite authors and I am thrilled that she wrote a Christmas novel.   Winter Street is a holiday tale about a family that is struggling to maintain their holiday cheer while being faced with some challenging situations.   Full of diverse characters you will find yourself loving a Christmas season Nantucket through the eyes of Elin Hilderbrand and the Quinn family.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Saturday, November 22, 2014

(95) Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Amy Poehler is one of those women that I would love to hang out with on a Friday night while drinking adult beverages and talking about the world we live in today.  And I know that if I were ever to be so lucky, I would laugh so hard my sides would hurt.    Like most of America I fell in love with her on Saturday nights and cheered for her when she got her own sitcom, Parks and Recreation.   In her new autobiography, Yes Please, Amy shares her life with us.  Starting with her childhood all the way up to the last season of Parks & Rec.

With the help of some famous friends Amy talks about her time on SNL, from her very first episode on the sketch show, which so happened to be the first episode of SNL following 9/11 to her first episode of Parks and Recreation.  Seth Meyers even takes over for a chapter telling about the night Amy's oldest son was born.  She talks about the funny bits she did for several years at award shows.  Remember when her and fellow nominees acted like they were beauty pageant contestants? Funny stuff there.  She talks about her colleagues, her friends, her marriage and divorce.  She doesn't a hold a whole lot back, but it was a funny, quick book to listen to and make the commute go by a bit faster.

Bottom line, in true Amy Poehler fashion listening to her read her autobiography is fun, entertaining, informative.  I have mentioned before how much I love to listen to celebrities read their own biographies and Amy Poehler is right up there with the best of them.  Definitely worth the "listen."

  • Yes Please by Amy Poehler
  • Pages: 352
  • Publisher: HarperCollins
  • Publication Date: October 28, 2014
  • Buy it Here!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Monday, November 17, 2014

(94)An Island Christmas by Nancy Thayer

It is Christmastime once again on the beautiful island of Nantucket and Jilly is feeling a mix of emotions.  Her youngest daughter is coming home to get married on Christmas Day, but after her wedding she will settle down in Utah with her new husband.  The thought of her daughter being so far away just tears her up, so Jilly is on a mission to rekindle Felicia's high school  romance with the handsome, Steven Hardy.   But when Felicia and her future husband, Archie, arrive on Nantucket even Jilly has a hard time resisting his charms.  Will Archie win over Jilly?  And will Jilly forgive Archie for keeping her daughter in Utah?
As we all know, Nantucket is a bit of a magical place and that magic continues year round.  From the author's descriptions, the island seems to be just as enchanting at Christmas as it is in the summer. I will admit that at first I found Jilly's scheming ways to be rather annoying, but she seemed to lighten up a bit when Rex came into her life.  Rex is the little rescue cat that Jilly and her husband adopt.  It was totally adorable watching how that little critter wrapped Jilly around it's little paw. And eventually the whole family fell in love with him.   Having Rex to focus on allowed Jilly to lighten up a bit on the matchmaking and breaking up Archie and Felicia.   Like all good Christmas stories, An Island Christmas ends just the way you would expect a good Christmas story would end.  With warm fuzzies and a very Merry Christmas.

Bottom line, it is that time of year when our bookstores, radio stations, and cable television stations are overrun with holiday books and movies.  Basically my favorite time of the year!  An Island Christmas was a great choice for first holiday read of the year.  Can you believe it, just under six weeks until Christmas!

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Saturday, November 15, 2014

(93)Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

Thirteen year old Jenna Metcalf is on a mission to find her mother.  She went missing ten years ago after being trampled by one of the elephants at their elephant sanctuary in New Hampshire.  At least Alice Metcalf made it to the hospital, their employee was killed. Alice disappeared from the hospital and was never seen again.  Jenna is now old enough to really understand how much she has missed by not having her mother around, especially since her father has been locked in a psychiatric hospital and her grandmother is not real pleased to be stuck with Jenna.   Jenna enlists the help of a psychic, Serenity Jones, and the detective who handled her mother's case, Virgil Stanhope.  The two adults would like to ignore Jenna and her pleas for help, but they can't resist the teen.  Over the course of a few days they learn more about Alice and her past as well as the others employed at the elephant sanctuary.  But will it be enough to find the missing piece to Jenna's heart, her mother?

Ever since reading Water for Elephants I have had a bit of a fondness for elephants.  I don't think anyone familiar with Rosie the elephant isn't a bit in love with the pachyderm.  In Leaving Time Alice Metcalf is studying a heard of elephants in Africa, the focus of their studies is the way they grieve after losing a loved one from the herd. It is in Africa that Alice meets her future husband, Thomas and she finds her way to New Hampshire and Thomas's elephant sanctuary.  He has a few employees and a few more elephants that have come to the sanctuary for their retirement as performers. But running a sanctuary is stressful.  The public is up in arms over the potential hazards and there is never enough money.  In typical Picolut fashion the story is told in alternating voices.  Jenna, Serenity, Alice, and Virgil all telling their stories in a way that immerse you in the story and among the elephants.  The conclusion of the story will leave you speechless.  Unlike any other Picoult novel, this one really shocked me. There are hints all throughout the book, but I wasn't paying attention.  If not for the twist at the end, Leaving Time was a pretty unimpressive novel.  The elephants were my favorite thing about the whole book, I felt like I learned a lot about their habits and environment.

Bottom line, Jodi Picoult is one of the most prolific writers of our time and has built up a following in the millions by crafting tales that touch the heart and leave us speechless.   We know her stories are formulaic and sometimes predictable, but we still find ourselves eagerly anticipating her every word. Leaving Time follows the same formula, but the end will leave you speechless.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Sunday, November 2, 2014

(92)Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf

As a mother of three Ellen Moore and her husband are committed to raising their children in a safe and secure home. As a  seasoned social worker in Cedar City, Iowa Ellen is sworn to make sure the children of Cedar City get the same kind of upbringing.  She has seen the worst of humanity and she fights to keep the children under her watch safe.   It is a hot, steamy summer morning  when Ellen gets a call from one of her young charges who has locked herself in a bathroom to avoid their mother's abusive boyfriend. Ellen races to the rescue and forgets one very important fact.  Her baby daughter, Avery was in her car seat in the back.  In a matter of minutes Ellen's world is turned upside down and she is turned into the very thing she has dedicated her career to destroy.  A child abuser.

Even though Jenny Briard is just ten years old, she has lived a thousand lives with her mother and abusive step-father.  When she was four, her father swooped in and rescued her from the abusive home.  Now at ten years old Jenny and her father are getting ready to leave their home in Nebraska for a new, better life in Dubuque, Iowa.  Jenny is on the bus waiting for her father when something horrible happens and the bus ends up leaving without her dad on board.    She  decides to get off the bus in Cedar City because her grandmother once lived there and she stumbles into a diner where she meets Maudene, a kind waitress who finds it in her heart to help Jenny. At first it appears that Ellen and Jenny would have nothing in common, but there is a history between the two of them that when revealed, will shock you to your core.  Little Mercies is told in the alternating voices of Jenny and Ellen and while each story told alone would capture your heart, when they weave together it creates an unforgettable story that will stick with you for a long, long time.

It seems like we can't make it through a summer without hearing about a baby tragically being left in a hot car.  We know that 99% of these tragedies are just horrific accidents, but some of the people of Cedar City believe that Ellen should be punished to the full extent of the law.  For Ellen it was a great eye opener, being moved through the very "system" that she has sent hundreds of parents.  She experienced first hand the very emotions that her clients experience and it was gut-wrenching.   Then there is poor Jenny.  Ugh.  That poor child, more than once I wished I could just wrap my arms around her and let her know that she will be okay.    Heather Gudenkauf was quite masterful at tugging at the heartstrings in Little Mercies.  You could "hear" the anguish in Ellen's voice and the fear in Jenny's.  Both of them are struggling to just make it through each day and that comes across so clearly, I promise you will cry.  While Heather Gudenkauf wrapped things up nicely for her characters, I couldn't help but think of those thousands of kiddos that don't get such a happy ending.  It is truly heartbreaking.

Bottom line,  Little Mercies is a thought provoking novel about survival, priorities, and the sacrifices we make in life.     The characters are written so well it feels like you could reach out and hug them.   There is a readers guide included in the book, so be sure to put Little Mercies on the list for your next book club selection.   You won't go wrong. I promise.

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Saturday, November 1, 2014

(91)Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty

We meet Lyn, Cat, and Gemma Kettle are on the verge of  their thirty-fourth birthday.  The last year has been brutal for all of them.  Lyn's boutique catering business has taken off, making her one of the most successful businesswomen in Australia, Cat's husband admitted to cheating on his wife, and Gemma has found herself pregnant by the brother of the woman who wrecked Cat's marriage.  And to top it all off their divorced parents are getting back together!  Even though the three women's lives are spinning out of control, they have each other. The bond the triplet's have with each other has always gotten them through the tough times like their parent's divorce and the death of Cat's fiance, but as they approach 34 is their special bond enough to get them through what they are about to encounter?

Three Wishes was really quite humorous in many places, but in others my heart was breaking for these lovely ladies.   The story unfolds in a bit of disjointed way, but it adds to the crescendo of anticipation.   I found myself most connected to Gemma and Cat.  Lyn was the control freak of the trio and seemed to be most in control of her life, it was almost as if she didn't need me (the reader) to worry about her.  I did find myself worrying about both Cat and Gemma.  Especially Gemma as her story unfolded and you realized that she had such a deep, dark secret and of the three of them, she seemed the most lost, just drifting through life. I thought the author was spot on in depicting the relationships between the three sisters and how they sometimes run hot and cold.   That really made the story seem authentic to me.

Bottom line, with the success of recent novels, Liane Moriarty has created quite the loyal following, myself included.  I was looking for an audiobook to listen to on a long drive and was not disappointed with Three Wishes.  While not as good as her more recent novels, Three Wishes is still an interesting look at sisters, triplets, unconditional love and so much more!

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

(90)Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Television writer Georgie McCool knows that her family will be disappointed that she can't miss work to go back to Nebraska for Christmas. Georgie knows that her husband Neal is at his breaking point and fed up with her long hours, work-husband, and awkward networking industry events. But this is her dream come true.  The show she has been working on with her writing partner has the potential of getting picked up, but it means they have to work through Christmas. After sending her family off Georgie knows that she may have made a marriage-ending mistake.  She seeks sanctuary at her mother's house and in her childhood room she has to resort to using the old landline when her cell phone conks out on her.   But it isn't 2013 Neal that she finds on the other end of the line, but 1998 Neal just days before he proposes to her.   Through those conversations Georgie starts to realize just how much her world would change without Neal in it.  Then she realizes that she may have altered things already by even continuing to make those calls on the Landline.   Did she just change the course of the future?  And if not, will Georgie be able to save the marriage she does treasure above all else?

My October has been nothing but a blur of baseball and a sick dog.  Last week we said good-bye to our dog and tonight my Royals are playing in Game 7 of the World Series (and currently losing by one).   I made a FAST trip to Kansas City last weekend to watch baseball with my family. So what do you do when you have a 32-hour round trip car drive?  Listen to audio-books of course.   Georgie McCool is a great character who is waging a battle millions of women battle everyday.  Work vs. Family.  Georgie is lucky that she has a husband willing to stay home and raise their girls, allowing her to pursue her dreams.  But it is obvious to Georgie, Neal, and the readers that she is taking advantage of him.   Rainbow Rowell tackles this issue with such heartfelt honesty that it is easy to fall in love with this story.  Anyone who has been married knows that marriage is tough.  There is a give and take that has to happen to keep things in balance. When there is an excessive amount of give without a lot of take things start breaking down.  As it gets closer and closer to Christmas, Georgie realizes that she has been taking far more than she has been giving and it may destroy her marriage.  As a wife who is COMPLETELY spoiled by a "giving" husband, it was a bit humbling to read and forced me to think about the balance in my own marriage.   I loved the way the book ended and it left me with that "warm-fuzzy" feeling.

Bottom line, Landline got a lot of much deserved hype this summer.   Rainbow Rowell has written a wonderful little novel examining the intricate ins and outs of marriage.  A definite must read for anyone who is a wife, will be a wife, or wants to be a wife.


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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Sunday, October 19, 2014

(89)As You Wish by Cary Elwes

I recently learned that my husband has never seen The Princess Bride. I remember guffawing with shock and informed him that we would be rectifying the situation rather quickly.  The Princess Bride is one of those movies that has a defining place in the memory bank of anyone who has seen it. For me it was in my high school Spanish class. We had watched the movie, dubbed in Spanish, probably half a dozen times.  In order to pass the class we had to say the "Hello my name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die" in Spanish.  It is about the only Spanish I can speak to this day.

Given my long love of both the book and the movie, I was ecstatic to receive an ARC of As You Wish, a book about the making of the movie by Cary Elwes.   Not only do we get "Westley's" take on the making of the movie, but there are very special guest appearance from Mandy Pantakin, Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn, Rob Reiner, Bill Goldman, and more.  The book is primarily Cary Elwes's experience, but it was thrilling to get input from everyone else involved in the movie.  There are so many funny stories that were shared that I found myself laughing out loud more than once.  The funniest story shared had to be when the late Andre the Giant let out a fart so loud and so long it rattled the walls of the castle.  I had serious belly laughs at the descriptive nature of the writing.   I was a bit surprised at how much of the book was devoted to the late Andre the Giant, but in reading the book, I understand why.  He played such an important role both on and off screen.  It was sweet to read and makes me a little sad to think of how much the world missed out on his talent.   During the Billy Crystal/Carol Kane scenes, the director, Rob Reiner had to leave the set because he couldn't stop laughing at Crystal's improv.  Little stories like that lets you know that the magic of the movie wasn't imagined, the magic was there both on-screen and off-screen.

Bottom line, I can't remember the last time I enjoyed a book so much.  It was a quick read, but one I didn't want to end.  Even after twenty-five years, The Princess Bride , for great reason, is one of the most beloved movies of all time and Cary Elwes's book is just another reminder why.  If you have a fan in your life, As You Wish would make a great Christmas gift.

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

(88)In Your Dreams by Kristan Higgins

It has been a busy October in the Naylor house.  Between the Kansas City Royals being in the postseason for the first time in twenty-nine years (Let's Go Royals!!)  and having a really sick puppy, I haven't been able to get much reading done.  But, we have a few days before the World Series starts and I was able to take a few hours this morning and get a book under my belt.

Kristan Higgins takes us back to the quaint little town of Manningsport, New York in her new book, In Your Dreams.  Jack Holland  is the town hero for recently rescuing a group of boys that took a drive into the local lake.  Jack has kind of made it a hobby of his to be the rescuer all all things sad and desperate.  Including his ex-wife, Hadley.   Emmaline Neal is an officer on the Manningsport's minuscule police department. She was there the night Jack dived into the water and now she needs help.  She was invited to her ex-fiance's wedding and she needs a date.  Jack agrees to go with Em, but he he didn't expect how much fun he would have with her.  They hit it off and Jack now wants to be more than just Em's fake fiance.   Jack and Em are both strong personalities who have struck out in the love department.  Will they be able to put their past relationship failures behind them and look to the future?

In Your Dreams was a fun read with characters I have come to know and love.   Emmaline Neal has to be one of my favorite Kristan Higgins characters.  She has overcome a lot of feelings of inadequacies to find her place in Manningsport. The quaint little town and it's people have adopted Em as one of their own and I love that.  Jack Holland is obviously one of the "town's sons" and can do no wrong in their eyes. They are perfect for each other.  I think their story really is one of my favorites so far. I laughed & I cried as they went through their ups and downs on the road to true love.

Bottom line, Kristan Higgins is one of the most beloved romance writers for a reason.  Her characters are funny, engaging, romantic, and real.  That "realness" translates extremely well to readers and makes it difficult to put down any of her books.  If you haven't tried any of her books, you simply must do so immediately.

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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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