Friday, February 28, 2014

Monday, February 24, 2014

(16)And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard

And We Stay

Pages: 240
Publication Date: January 28, 2014

The year is 1995 and seventeen-year-old Emily Beam is just a shell of herself when she is sent to the Amherst School for Girls.  Her parents believe that the school that once taught Emily Dickinson will be the proper place for her to heal from the tragedy that rocked her world and her community.  Even though Emily knows the boarding school is the kind of place that will help her reach her goal of getting into Harvard, she is not sure she deserves such a place after what just happened.   The atmosphere at the Amherst School for Girls is haunting, yet restorative.  With the help of a few misfit girls and the spirit of Emily Dickinson, Emily Beam uses poetry to help herself heal, but is it enough to help her get passed what happened?

And We Stay is a beautiful story told in the voice of a terrified and damaged young lady.  The story is told with every other chapter being a poem that Emily writes after being inspired by the prolific Emily Dickinson.  And the poetry DOES help Emily get out the grief, guilt, and other emotions that she has bubbling up inside of her.  I loved the setting of the New England boarding school and it was fascinating how much Emily Dickinson was an important part of the story.  If you read the publisher's synopsis of the book you already know what was the tragedy that happened, (no spoilers from me) but you don't know why.  And as the story (and poetry) starts to unfold Emily shares the reason why and you can really start to understand her guilt. And her pain.  It is gut wrenching. I was torn between blame and compassion.  Part of me blamed her for what happened and the other part of me just wanted to scoop her up and protect her from the pain.

Bottom line, And We Stay is one of those thought provoking stories that is likely to send you straight to Google the real life poet, Emily Dickinson.   The two Emily's are wonderfully written about in this novel and their stories will captivate you.   There are some sensitive themes in And We Stay, so I would caution you to preview the book before allowing anyone under the age of sixteen to read the book, but know that it is definitely worth the read!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Saturday, February 22, 2014

(15)Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan

Glitter and Glue

Pages: 240
Publication Date: February 4, 2014

I first "met" Kelly Corrigan in 2008 when I read her first book The Middle Place and it turned out to be one of my favorite books ever.   Because of that, I was beyond excited to get a chance to review Glitter and Glue.

If you are familiar with The Middle Place you know that Kelly's relationship with her mother is unique, maybe even complicated, as is the case with many "Daddy's Girls"  and their mothers.  In Glitter and Glue, Kelly takes us back to the early 90's where she nanny's for a family in Australia after spending months backpacking abroad.  The Tanner family is unique in that they recently lost their beloved mother, Ellen.  It is then and there with Milly and Martin that Kelly really starts to understand  her own mother.  As she deals with the grief that these young children face, but don't fully understand she often thinks about her mother and hears her voice when she finds herself saying things her mother would say and do things her mother would do.  It was with those two children that Kelly first starts to understand that her mother wasn't a strict Catholic mother because she wanted to ruins Kelly's life, but because she loves Kelly and cares about the woman she grows up to be.  Will Kelly's new-found understanding translate into a better relationship with her mother?

There is no doubt that Kelly Corrigan is a gifted writer.  She was almost lyrical in her descriptions and observations of her mother.  As someone close in age to the author and having grown up with a very devout mother, I could find myself relating to her memories. Her observations were very thought-provoking as I think about my own mother and our relationship.   But, especially, I enjoyed how Kelly's mind went directly to Martin, Milly and their mother when presented with her own mortality.  She saw first hand what the death of a mother did to young children and she was worried about her own young children.

Bottom line, Glitter and Glue is one of those heart-warming books that would be the perfect book to share with your own mother or daughter.  Mother's Day will be upon us soon and this book would be the perfect book for your own two person book club. It will be sure to generate discussion about your relationship with each other and that is never a bad thing, right?

Friday, February 21, 2014

Thursday, February 20, 2014

(14)Not Without You by Harriet Evans

Not Without You

Pages: 448
Publication Date: February 11, 2014

UK transplant, Sophie Leigh is a famous movie star by anyone's standards.  She has several hit Rom-Com's under her belt and even has a world famous catch-phrase.  To the casual tabloid reader it appears as if Sophie Lee has everything a girl could want, but Sophie Lee knows what she is missing.  She doesn't have many friends, she is "dating" her much older producer,  and frankly she is tired of making fluff "Rom-Coms" that have no substance.   Sophie wishes she could be more like her idol, the elusive Eve Noel.  Eve was a star in the 1950's and Sophie is so impressed by her she even bought her old house in Hollywood. Sophie is determined to get Eve to agree to a role in her next movie, but things go from bad to worse when someone starts breaking into Sophie's home and leaves threatening messages.  Will they be able to find out who is threatening Sophie before something tragic happens and will Sophie find the happiness that she so desperately seeks?

I have always been a big fan of Harriet Evans and her books set in the UK, but I admit I was a little excited to read one set in America. I really enjoyed how the author told both Sophie's story and Eve's story in alternating voices.  I also really enjoyed how much the two women's lives paralleled each other.  Even though they were decades apart they really had so much in common from their UK upbringing to the same type of relationship with their parents.  There were so many background characters that I enjoyed, too.  They really added color to the story.   I will say that I had figured out (almost immediately) who was leaving Sophie the threatening messages and white roses.  That disappointed me a little, but not enough to keep me from liking the book.

Bottom line, if you like Hollywood style stories you will enjoy Not Without You. The characters are interesting and multi-dimensional.  Even at 400+ pages, Not Without You is a quick read! Be sure to let me know what you think!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Friday, February 14, 2014

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

(13)Twisted Sisters by Jen Lancaster

Twisted Sisters

Publication Date: February 4, 2014
Pages: 320

I think I have said it before, but Jen Lancaster is one of those authors that I will blindly purchase anything she prints.  Right up there with Jane Green, Emily Giffin, and Elin Hildebrand.  I will not think twice about hitting the "buy" button.  I have not been wrong , yet, about buying one of her books without reading the synopsis and that includes Twisted Sisters. 

<./p>Twisted Sisters is about Reagan Bishop, a licensed psychologist on the hit reality show, Push.   She helps those who needs a "push" to get their lives in order.  Reagan knows that she can help people and she knows that her own sisters would benefit greatly from her expertise, but noooo instead the mother of six and the hairdresser choose to mock her and her career.  Needless to say it has caused great tension between the Bishop sisters and they do nothing but fight and bicker. Before Reagan can fix her sister's lives she needs to get hers in order.  The breakup with her boyfriend has been rough and the new producer on the show is expecting miracles.  Reagan is at her wits end  when New-Age healer, Deva (remember her from Here I Go Again!?) proposes a unique solution that will help her patients on the show.  Deva does not anticipate that  Reagan will take advantage of that solution and try to giver her sisters the unwanted help she thinks they need.  Has Reagan gone too far and has she finally ruined the sisterly bond that was hanging on by a thread?

First of all, I seriously laughed out loud when the great and fabulous Jen Lancaster mocks herself in her own books, by having Reagan pick up a "memoir penned by hacks"--- "The author claims to be "bitter", but anyone with credentials would assess her as "borderline".  Buwahahaha!!  Jen's first book was a memoir entitled Bitter is the New Black. (For the record that book is on my "pry from my cold dead hands shelf".  At first I found Reagan to be a little overbearing, but as she literally put herself into other people shoes, you could see her starting to relax a little.  I was pleased with the ending and was glad to see Reagan mend things with those she needed to most.   

Bottom line, while I will always buy anything written by Jen Lancaster, I think I prefer her memoirs over her fiction. Yes they are fun and entertaining and should definitely be read, but I find her memoirs to be just a bit more realistic. (That was intended to be a funny because of the sci-fi-ish themes to her novels) Anyway, I read Twisted Sisters in one sitting and when I was done, I found myself trying to find the release date of the next Jen Lancaster memoir (nothing revealed yet).  

Monday, February 10, 2014

(12)The Deepest Secret by Carla Buckley

The Deepest Secret

Pages: 448
Publication Date: February 4, 2014

From the outside it appears as if Eve Lattimore is your typical suburban mother. She and her husband live in a quiet cul-de-sac with their two children, Melissa and Tyler.  While the Lattimore's appear to be the perfect little family, the reality is that the family's life, their actions, their movements, their everything revolves around Tyler and his rare disease,  xeroderma pigmentosum.  Which means that Tyler is fatally allergic to UV rays.   Their house has become a fortress against the deadly sun and their every action is to ensure Tyler's safety.   Eve always knew that she would do anything for her kids to ensure their safety, but even she did not realize how far she would go to ensure that Tyler has her there to look after him.  When a tragic accident happens Eve becomes a woman she does not recognize and puts her friendships, her marriage, her freedom, everything at risk in order to ensure that she will be there to look after Tyler. 

The Deepest Secret was one of those books that sucked me in almost immediately.  Almost from the first page you realize that Eve Lattimore is a total control freak.  Of course, I can understand why, I mean when the sun can kill your child you have to be. There was more than once that her level of control annoyed me, especially when she was talking to her husband. Not to mention the way she basically overlooked everything about her daughter.  I wanted to sit her down with a glass of wine and say "chill". When the big "thing" happened I was really appalled about the way she handled it.  I know Tyler is at great risk, but at the age of 14 he is old enough to take some responsibility for his safety, and he exhibits some degree of that, even when he is sneaking out of the house in the middle of the night. The end of the  book is still with me, I am not entirely sure I like the way it ended, but if it is still on my mind, then the author certainly did something right. 

Bottom line, Carla Buckley is an author who knows how to tell a good story. In The Deepest Secret she challenges her readers to blur the lines between right and wrong and as a reader it can be uncomfortable.  But I could stop reading.  The Deepest Secret is one of those books sure to make you think and will definitely generate discussion at your next book club.  Give it a chance.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Friday, February 7, 2014

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

(11)Lydia's Party by Margaret Hawkins

Lydia's Party

Publication Date: January 23, 2014
Pages: 304

For several years now, Lydia has gathered her friends for a "Bleak Midwinter" party. It is one night Lydia looks forward to every year, having all of her friends and their different backgrounds and different perspectives at one place really makes for an interesting evening.  This year is even more special than the others and she takes great effort to make sure that everything will be special, - from the food, the seating, the ambiance, all of it needs to be perfect because Lydia has an important matter to discuss with those who are closest to her. Will she be able to give them the news that is guaranteed to shatter them all or will she keep silent and avoid their reactions?

Lydia's Party follows Lydia and her friends as they prepare for the party.  We are privy to all of their inner thoughts as they anticipate, and in some cases dread, the party to come.  From these different perspectives the reader gets to really see their various relationships with Lydia and each other. They are all from different places in their lives, but they all have one thing in common, Lydia.  It is was wonderful to get in the head of each character to a certain degree and by the time Lydia is ready to make her big announcement, I kind of know what to expect from each of them with their reactions.   I want to be careful with how I word things so not to giveaway the big "reveal".  I had pretty much figured out what was going to be said, but I wasn't entirely sure until Lydia tells us, the reader, what she is going to tell her friends.   The rest of the book went rather quickly and required a few tissues as it really touched my heart.

Bottom line, for many of us our friends are as close or closer than family.  As friends we bicker, we support, we love, and we are there for each other no matter what.  Lydia has that kind of support and her story is a beautiful one to read with your friends.   If you are in need of a good book to cleanse your soul, grab a few copies of Lydia's Party and read it with your friends.

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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