Tuesday, April 29, 2014

(38)The House on Blackberry Hill by Donna Alward

The House on Blackberry Hill

Pages: 320

Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: April 29, 2014

Abby Foster arrives in Jewell Cove with a mission. She wants to get in, deal with her Great-Aunt's estate and get back to Canada and the rest of her life. She didn't even know that she had a Great-Aunt let alone that she owned a decrepit mansion in a town along the Maine coast.  Abby is admittedly surprised by what she finds at the house on Blackberry Hill.  Although in desperate need of repair, Abby can see the beauty and splendor through the dust and splintered wood.  While exploring her new house, Abby starts to become familiar with her family history. and  discovers that her "new" house, may have a lot of skeletons in the closet. Even with the skeletons, Abby plans on getting the house ready to sell and with the help of the very handsome contractor, Tom they uncover the grandeur that the house once possessed.   What Abby doesn't expect is that not only does she fall for her contractor, but she is starting to fall for the quaint little town and the House on Blackberry Hill  Will Abby go through with the sale or has she found her forever home?

I think what I enjoyed most about The House on Blackberry Hill was the house.  The author did such a great job at describing the grand old house. I have always had a bit of "house lust" and I really enjoyed her descriptions, especially the description of the library in the house.  Living in and restoring an old mansion like that is really one of my dreams.  The residents of Jewell Cove also really added a bit of flavor to the story.  But, I will be honest and say that as much as I liked Abby and Tom and didn't "feel" the chemistry. I was pleased with the way the story ended, but I just wish that *I* would have had a little more chemistry with Tom and Abby.

Bottom line, The House on Blackberry Hill is a romance novel about a man, a  woman, and a beautiful old mansion. While I thought the romantic scenes could have used a little more steam, I did enjoy the story and the architectural beauty described by the author.  If you enjoy big old houses, then you will enjoy The House on Blackberry Hill. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

(37)Everybody's Got Something by Robin Roberts

Everybody's Got Something 

Pages: 272

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: April 22, 2014

In her new book, Everybody's Got Something, America's favorite morning anchor tells her story of the last few years.  From her diagnosis with a rare form of leukemia to the death of her beloved mother.  Robin speaks about her famous friends, colleagues, and those not so famous who have been by her side through it all.  Including her long term girlfriend, Amber.  We all know that Robin's sister donated her bone marrow, but until now very few knew that Amber was Robin's caretaker through it all.  There are even a few times when Amber gets to "speak" in the book and you can tell how much they love each other.  It was heartwarming to read.  In her own words Robin lays it all on the line in that authentic and real way that we all have come to expect from Robin Roberts. 

I am one of the millions of Americans that (try to) start their mornings with Robin Roberts and her colleagues on Good Morning America. I started to watch the show when I was working from home and I considered Robin, George, Josh, Sam, and Lara my "office mates."  I remember watching the day she announced that she was sick again.  I cried with her and the rest of America. I followed her story and just like many others found myself praying for her and her well being.  Everybody's Got Something can be a pretty emotional read at times just because it is obvious that Robin Roberts is pouring out her heart. I also really liked how she heaped the praise on caregivers, not just her caregivers, but her sister Dorothy who cared for their mother and just caregivers in general who help care for the millions of people who are elderly and have life threatening diseases just like Robin's.  Having just been through that with my Grandmother and my Father-in-Law and witnessing first hand how selfless caregivers are, I have even more respect for Robin Roberts for acknowledging it in such a public way.

Bottom line, even if you aren't a GMA watcher you will find that Robin's story of family, faith, courage, and survival is one that will touch anyone's heart.  If you are looking for a book that will feed your soul, this is the one. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

(36)Four Seconds to Lose by K.A. Tucker

Four Seconds to Lose

Pages: 256

Publisher: Atria Books
Publication Date: November 4, 2013

We first met Cain in Ten Tiny Breaths - in case you don't remember he is the owner of the strip club where Kacey was a bartender. For those of you not familiar with Cain, don't confuse him with the typical sleazeball that is associated with running strip clubs. Cain is a good guy.  He looks out for his girls and works hard to keep them safe, clean, and rolling in the money.   He feels that he has a responsibility to keep his girls safe and one of the ways he keeps them safe is he refuses their advances and keeps his hands to himself.  Until he hires Charlie Rourke.

Charlie Rourke is hiding in Miami at the bequest of her Stepfather, if she lays low then the "bad guys" won't find her and maybe next year she can go to the drama school that she worked hard to get into.  As long as she is in Miami Sam thinks that Charlie should help him with his business ventures, like trafficking heroin. As she starts to make friends with the girls at the club and starts to get a little too close to Cain, Charlie realizes that she is putting them all at risk by staying there.  But will Cain be willing to let her go without a fight?

Cain is one of those characters that I was curious about when I first met him in other books so I was thrilled to read his story, he truly seems like a good guy, and reading about his past just reinforced that belief.   And while I liked Charlie, despite what she was doing for her Stepfather,  this book was not as good as I had hoped.  I didn't feel as connected to Charlie as I did to Livie or Kacey.  I even felt more connected to Cain than I did to her. There were a few references to Livie, Kacey, Storm and their respective boyfriends. Especially Storm's newly appointed DEA Agent boyfriend.

Bottom line, while Four Seconds to Lose is part of a series, it really is not necessary to have read the others before reading this one.  And even though I did not like it as much as earlier books by K.A Tucker, the sex scenes are steamy and it was fun to catch up with old friends. So if you have read the first two books in the series be sure to check out Four Seconds to Lose.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

(35)The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane by Kelly Harms

The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane

Pages: 304
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: July 9, 2013

After a rough day at the bridal shop in Cedar Falls, Iowa where Janine "Janey" Brown works as a seamstress, Janey is enjoying a quiet dinner with her Great-Aunt Midge.  She knows something is up when her eighty-nine year old Aunt is adamant they watch a specific show. But Janey is completely unprepared when she hears her name being announced on television.  Her feisty Aunt entered her name into the drawing for the Home Sweet Home Network's Dream House giveaway.  And she won.  Before she knows it there is a camera crew in her face and she is being told that they have to be in Maine to sign the final paperwork by June 9th. 

Across town  another Janine "Nean" Brown just got off work as a fry cook at the local Hardees and is beyond excited to watch the Dream House giveaway.  She didn't expect to run into the obstacle of her drunk boyfriend.  She has just cold-cocked her drunk, abusive boyfriend with her coffee mug after he got abusive with her. It was all worth it when she hears her name being announced - "Janine Brown of Cedar Falls, Iowa!"  Nean is thrilled, but not surprised, because  Nean just KNEW that she was going to win this house and it would give her the escape and life that she has always dreamed of having. 

The two Janine Browns are completely oblivious to each other, but cross paths when they both show up at the house on Shipwreck Lane thinking they each won the dream house.   Janey has social anxiety so bad that she breaks out in hives and vomits at the thought of talking to new people.  Nean has had the roughest life imaginable - from a drug addicted mother to one bad boyfriend after another, Nean has had no stability in her life at all. When the lawyers prove that Janey is the rightful owner of the house, Aunt Midge convinces Janey to let  Nean stay until she gets things sorted out.  Soon the three women settle into their routines, Nean bakes the bread, Janey makes the meals, and Aunt Midge takes it all into the homeless shelter in town.  Throw the hot young gardener, JJ, and the handsome vegetable farmer, Noah, into the mix and you have a fun story perfect for the beach. 

The Good Girls of Shipwreck Lane was a fun (!!) read (listen?) for the return trip home from Iowa.  Both Janine's were fun characters and Aunt Midge was a hoot. I get Janey's extreme social anxiety, but I loved how she blossomed in the book, especially with Noah.  And Nean kind of blossomed, too.  She never really had the kind of family who looked out for her and with Aunt Midge she really felt the unconditional love that one feels when loved by family. Even though her and Janey spent so much time bickering, it almost felt as if they were sisters.  Of course there are fights and there were trying circumstances, but The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane is a sweet, funny story that is perfect for a summer read. 

Bottom line, The Good Luck Girls of  Shipwreck Lane is a fun read about love, friendship, and family.  The characters are sweet, funny, and their own kind of  family. If you are looking for your first beach read of the season, put this one at the top of the list! You will love it, I promise!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

(34)Wool by Hugh Howey


Pages: 508
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: March 12, 2013

Have you heard of Hugh Howey? He is an outspoken advocate for self-publishing.  Not to mention that he has made a crap load of money off of his own self published books.  The first being the Wool series, a post-apocalyptic novel that is set sometime in the future. 

Like I said, Wool is set sometime in the future.  We meet Sheriff  Holston as he is getting ready to be set into the outside wasteland for a Cleaning.  Cleaning is a form of punishment reserved for the worst of the worst in the Silo.  And those who speak about a desire to see the outside.   So the powers that be dress them in special suits and send them out to clean the off the camera lenses, allowing the people of the silo a clear look at the wasteland outside of the Silo.  There is no hope for Sheriff Holston or anyone else to survive a cleaning.  The air is just toxic.  Now the search is on for a new Sheriff and to find that Sheriff, the Mayor travels deep down into the Silo all the way down to the 100's and the Mechanical Department.  There they Mayor finds Juliet, a thirty-five year old woman who has been devoted to keeping the Silo's grid running efficiently. She reluctantly agrees to become Sheriff, but soon she realizes that life inside the Silo is much more darker than she thought and there are pockets of people within the Silo who are determined to keep things exactly as they are. When Juliet is forcefully sent to cleaning, she realizes that her friends down in Mechanical has figured out a way to give her extra time.  Will it be enough to keep her safe or will the wasteland outside the Silo claim another victim?

Wool was an excellent choice of an audio-book to listen to on a super long road trip. SUPER long road trip. It was easy to lose myself in the story of Juliet, the Mayor, the weasel Bernard, and the rest of the people of the Silo.  It was an interesting to see how this group of people who had created their own society and was thriving hundreds of years after the world collapsed.  Even though none of them have walked in grass or felt the sun on their face, yet they still got up everyday and went to work.  And had enjoyed going to bazaars, and saved up vacation to take trips to other parts of the Silo.  It was totally fascinating. Juliet is one of those strong female characters that are wonderful to read. Smart, strong, and never going to give up. 

Bottom line, I know that post-apocalyptic novels aren't for everyone, but I enjoy them.  Wool is one of those well written ones with a story that is so intricate with the details of a life I hope that we never have to live.  If you are looking for a good one to read , Wool is definitely towards the top of that list.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

(33)Love Life by Rob Lowe

Love Life

Pages: 272

Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: April 8, 2014

If there is an actor in Hollywood that is a more interesting  guy than Rob Lowe, please point me to his biography. 

I listened to Stories I Only Tell My Friends on audiobook, which was a hell of a reader experience, but I could not wait for the extra hours to "listen".    In his new book Rob (I call him Rob because it feels like we are on a first named basis) continues telling us stories from his fascinating life.  Some are about his early days in Hollywood - like his first invitation to the Playboy Mansion.  Some stories are about his family - like when he dressed as a "Big Foot" to spice up a family camping trip.  I think that is the story that made me laugh the most.  He also talks about his sobriety.  From his time in rehab to the first time he took a drink in over twenty years.  He bares it all.  But I think the part that touched my heart the most was when he told the story of taking his oldest son to college.  It doesn't matter how big of a star you are, you have a hard time saying goodbye to your baby when he goes off to college. 

Other fun things mentioned, Rob Lowe was on set for the filming of "the" scene in Glengary Glen Ross. You know which scene- the Alec Baldwin "Always Be Closing" scene, which happens to be one of my favorite movie scenes of all times.   He speaks to the fact that even then he knew he was witnessing acting history.   Another really fun fact.   When Rob was in London acting in the A Few Good Men in London he made a few comments in the press that gained him an in person thank you from Prime Minister Tony Blair.   How cool is that?

Bottom line, as far as celebrity memoirs go, I will be surprised if there is a better one out there than Rob Lowe.  He has the most fascinating stories to tell and his intelligence is evident with every word that appears on the page. If you are looking for a fun way to pass an afternoon Love Life is for you. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

(32)The Opposite of Maybe by Maddie Dawson

  The Opposite of Maybe

Pages:  400

Publisher: Crown Publishing
Publication Date: April 8, 2014

Rosie and Jonathan have been together forever.  They are that quirky couple that everyone has - you know the bohemian couple who have been together for so long they are a fixture, but have  never got married and have quirky habits like collecting rare teacups. Their life changes when Jonathan and his rare teacup collection are asked to move across the country to open a museum.  In a whirlwind decision they decide to get married and off they go.  Rosie is completely on board until the last minute Jonathan decides to go off to chase a teacup collection rather than get married and after the moving truck is loaded Rosie decides not to move across the country. 

As Rosie is settling in to her new normal at her Grandmother's house Rosie realizes that the first night in fifteen years that her and Jonathan were careless was the night that she got pregnant.  Now she is a pregnant forty-four year old woman living with her elderly grandmother and her caretaker, Tony.  How can she possibly become a mother at the age of forty-four?  Between trying to help care for her grandmother and deciding what will become of her future Rosie starts to see Tony as more than just a caretaker.   But what will happen when Jonathan finds out that Rosie is pregnant?

The cast of characters for The Opposite of Maybe are the very definition of quirky.  Soapie is such an interesting version of a Grandmother.  Independent, feisty, and in love with a married man.  She raised Rosie and is the only family that Rosie has in the world, but as time goes on Rosie realizes that she is far from alone. I loved her entire relationship with Tony.  Their chemistry was so great and really jumped off the pages.  Jonathan on the other hand, was a piece of shit in my book. He was so irritating with his little quirks and the way he treated Rosie, even when they were on good terms.  The end of the book was tough to read because I just wanted to slap Rosie silly, but I will say that I was completely satisfied with the ending.

Bottom line, The Opposite of Maybe is a fun and quirky story. There is a lot of discussion potential there and Rosie is one of those characters who you will quickly come to adore.  If you are looking for a great read, add this one to your list!         

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Monday, April 7, 2014

(31)Driving Lessons by Zoe Fishman

Driving Lessons

Pages: 336
Publication Date: April 8, 2014

Thirty-something Sarah has had it with New York City life.  The crowds, the noise, the fourth floor walk-up is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to things she dislikes about the city.  Just when Sarah and her husband agree to move from the city he is offered a job at a small college in Virginia and that is that.

Life in small town is not exactly what Sarah was expecting, especially when she realizes that the only way to get around is to drive and that is not something that this city girl is looking forward to. She is reluctantly adjusting to the need to drive and the overall culture shock that comes with moving to the South when she discovers that her best friend, Mona was diagnosed with cervical cancer.   Sarah drops everything and rushes back to the city that she was so eager to leave. When faced with so many life changing events will Sarah be able to work through them all and find happiness in the country?  Or will she go back to the city with or without her husband?

Driving Lessons is one of those books where you get to watch the main character, in this case, Sarah, grow exponentially from the person she was on page one.  It was funny to watch her because she was the one so desperate to get out of the city, yet she was the one who turned her nose up to so many "country" things. Such as the local eateries and shopkeepers, like Mytzi.  The local townsfolk were fun if not a bit stereotypical, they certainly did add to the atmosphere of the book.  Not only did I love watching the tender relationship between Sarah and her best friend, but the relationship between Sarah and her Sister-In-Law Kate was interesting to watch develop, especially after the birth of Sarah's nephew.  So funny!

Bottom line, Driving Lessons is a sweet and tender novel about the growth of one woman.  This is one of those books that will make you smile, make you think, and make you feel.   If you are looking for one of those "feel good" novels then you must pick up Driving Lessons. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

(30)Hidden by Catherine McKenzie


Pages: 304

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: April 1, 2014

Claire Manning's world is shattered the day that two police officers showed up on her doorstep to tell her that her husband, Jeff was tragically killed in an accident.  She shuts completely down and goes into survival mode.  In the days leading up to the funeral, Claire is living in a grief induced haze that sometimes includes their son, Seth.  With the help of her family, especially her sister, she gets through those days.  It is after the funeral when Claire gets the first hint that her life was not as perfect as she once thought.  At her house after the funeral she comes across a visibly distraught woman. Who is this woman and why is she so upset at her husband's death?   As the grief induced haze starts to clear, Claire starts to put the pieces together and the picture is not pretty.

Hidden is one of those books that challenges your perspective on tough social issues, specifically infidelity. Because the book is told from the perspective of Claire, Tish, and Jeff you really get inside their heads.  It would be easy to hate Tish because she and Jeff had a relationship outside of their marriages, but her grief is just as real as Claire's and that makes it hard.  The author did a really good job at making all of the characters seem empathetic, no matter what they did. Also, the ending was satisfying.  While it is not exactly what I would have chosen, it was a good way for the story to end.  Well, except for the epilogue. But you gotta read it to know what I mean by that.

Bottom line,  Catherine McKenzie is quickly becoming one of those authors that I just can't wait to read.  She has a way of challenging her reader's way of thinking on certain social issues.  With Hidden you get to see the intimacies of a relationship between a man, his wife, and his potential mistress. Because of the subject matter,  Hidden would make a great book club selection and even comes with a reader's guide.  Let me know what you think!

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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