Saturday, May 31, 2014

(47)Sunrise by Mike Mullin


Pages: 466

Publisher: Tanglewood Press
Publication Date: April 15, 2014

In the long awaited conclusion to the Ashfall Trilogy we meet up with Alex, Darla, and the rest of their band of survivors from the great super-volcano that wiped out most of the United States over a year ago. They are cold and starving and exhausted after continuously trying to fight off the madman and his crew from Stockton.  Alex tries to join forces with Warren, but their mayor is in denial and unwilling to do anything to prepare for an imminent attack from Stockton or worse.  So without the joining of forces Alex, Darla and the rest are forced to create their own community and deal with all the struggles that come with that.  From trying to find materials to build the greenhouses needed to survive to finding other materials to get the wind turbines up and running they small community struggles to survive.  When Alex and Darla are caught by Red and his band of thugs in Stockton, they are sure their time is up.  Will they be able to escape? And what will happen to their burgeoning community if they can't?

Wowzers.  Talk about an intense read!  I enjoyed the first books in the trilogy so much (Ashfall and Ashen Winter) that I was beyond excited to get my hands on Sunrise and I was not disappointed.   The ongoing battle between Alex and the people of Stockton reaches new heights and had me absolutely stunned by what happened.  I don't want to give too much away, but I should say that it might be tough to read for some people. It is graphic and horrific, but it still felt real.  I have read a lot of Post-Apocalyptic novels and I don't remember seeing society actually being rebuilt like we see in Sunrise and I really enjoyed and appreciated the extent of detail that the author takes to get it right. From the development of a government to elections to the rebuilding of basic infrastructure like telephones and electricity, we really get to see how this small community not only survive, but grow and thrive. Well as much as people can in the middle of a volcanic winter.

Bottom line, Mike Mullin has done such an incredible job of taking the unimaginable and not only making it real, but putting the reader right in the middle of it all. His Ashfall trilogy has to rank right up there as one of the best apocalyptic series in print.  Anyone, adult or young adult, who enjoys post-apocalyptic kind of novels will enjoy this series.  I guarantee it.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

(46)The One & Only by Emily Giffin

The One & Only

Pages: 432

Publisher: Random House Publishing
Publication Date: May 20, 2014

Shea Rigsby has devoted most of her thirty-three years to her love of football.  Finding a woman in Texas who loves football isn't all that unusual, but Shea is not just like any other woman.  She grew up on the knee of a beloved college coach, Coach Clive Carr, because his daughter, Lucy, is her best friend.  She learned everything she knows about football from Coach Carr.  She went to college at Walker, where he coaches, and now she works in the PR department at Walker where she works closely with Coach on a daily basis.  There is a shift in their dynamics, though, when the Coach's wife and Shea's second mother passes away after a battle with cancer.    As the days, weeks, and months pass with Shea looking after Coach, her school-girl crush starts to turn into something more.  But is Shea willing to risk everything to pursue a relationship with a man twenty years her senior? And her best friend's dad to boot?  What will happen to her relationship with Lucy if she finds out Shea has a crush on her dad?  And what about Shea's star quarterback of a boyfriend, where does he fit into all of this? But most importantly, will Walker finally win the biggest game of all?

One thing you may not know about me is that I am a die hard football fan. I grew up with five brothers in the shadow of Lincoln, Nebraska so it was only natural for me to grow up loving football.  I was excited to hear that one of my favorite authors was going to be writing about football, but I wasn't sure what to expect from a Chick Lit author.  Well guess what, The One & Only was AWESOME!!  Obviously the football aspect of the story was pretty awesome, but it is really not necessary to be a football fan to enjoy this book.  The relationship between Shea and Coach is one that slowly shifts over the course of the book and it is interesting that the reader's opinion of their relationship also shifts over the course of the book.  I wasn't sure that I liked the idea of Shea pursuing her crush (and her hesitation over the matter is quite evident) , but the flow of the story works rather nicely.  Her hero-worship of Coach is even put to the test a few times and that just makes it all seem so real.  I will say that by the end I was crying like a baby and just wanted Shea to be happy whether that be with or without Coach.

Bottom line, in the world of Chick Lit Emily Giffin is a star quarterback in her own-right.  We have been waiting two long years for her new novel and she does not disappoint with The One & Only. If you are looking for a good beach read you must add The One & Only to the list.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

(45)The Lincoln Myth by Steve Berry

The Lincoln Myth

Pages: 448

Publisher: Random House Publishing
Publication Date: May 20, 2014

Cotton Malone is a retired agent for the Justice Department living peacefully in Denmark when his former boss calls on him to help out when an agent is taken captive.  Cotton doesn't expect to be pulled back into the dangerous life he left behind, but his is and it starts with his girlfriend, Cassiopeia and her old boyfriend, Josepe Salazar.  Cotton isn't exactly sure what is going on, but he knows it has something to do with the map he found at Salazar's with Utah and surrounding states highlighted.

Meanwhile, back in the States, Cotton's former boss, Stephanie, is meeting with the President of the United States and learning about a deal made centuries ago between President Lincoln and Brigham Young, the then leader of the Mormon church.  A discovery made deep in the canyons of Zion National Park means that the United States of America as we know it may change forever and two men high up in the Mormon church are behind it all.  Will Cotton make it to Utah in time to save not only Stephanie's life, but Cassiopeia's life, too?

I have never read a Steve Berry novel before now, but the Utah connection really interested me. And I was not disappoinnted.   Because The Lincoln Myth is based on a deal between Lincoln and Brigham Young, there is a lot in this book about Mormon history and culture.   I can see where some people who practice Mormonism might get "prickly" about the subject matter and the way a few members are portrayed, but just know that the author does right by the church in the end. In fact, the author does an excellent job of differentiating between Mormon fact and fiction in the Afterwards.  I was a bit surprised at how much I enjoyed this book, the fast pace nature of the book made it easy to forget that it was nearly 450 pages.  Even though I am not Mormon, I enjoyed reading about the history of my adopted state and the first people to settle here. Oh and the tiny part that Iowa played was awesome!  Especially since I took an FHA field trip to the Salisbury House when I was in high school

Bottom line, The Lincoln Myth is an incredibly fast paced novel that will take you from Denmark to DC to Iowa and finally ending up in Utah.  More than once I found myself comparing the novel to the National Treasure series, it just had that kind of vibe.  If you enjoy thrillers, you will enjoy The Lincoln Myth, but I promise you that the male reader in your life will love it.

Monday, May 19, 2014

(44)The Other Half by Sarah Rayner

The Other Half 

Pages: 304

Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: March 25, 2014

Chloe has worked very hard to get where she is at in publishing.  She is launching her own magazine and is kind of the "darling" of her publishing company.  Everything is going so good she does not expect to fall for her incredibly handsome (and incredibly married) boss, James.

Maggie lives the dream life in the London suburbs.  She is married to an incredibly handsome, incredibly successful man.  Their seven year old son is absolutely darling, but more than anything she would love to give Nathan a little brother or sister. She is pushing 40 and knows that time is running out.  If only she could get Jamie on board with another child, but he seems to be so distracted lately.

Two women, one man, and an incredible love triangle.   Chloe never meant to fall in love with a married man, but James is everything she wanted in a boyfriend and it just happened.  A small piece of her believes that if she sticks it out long enough then he will leave his wife for her.    Maggie doesn't want to believe that Jamie would ever cheat on her and jeopardize their family, but all signs are pointing towards infidelity. And when she finds the proof on his Blackberry she forces Jamie to make a decision that may make neither woman happy.

The Other Half is an interesting look at infidelity from the perspective of both women.  The chapters alternate from the perspective of both women, starting with Chloe, making it nearly impossible to hate her for being "the other woman."   But then there is Maggie, she is also very nice and the anguish she feels at her disintegrating marriage is so heartbreaking you just want to string James up by his... (ahem) nails.  The relationship between Chloe and James gets pretty heated pretty fast and you can almost understand the way she gets swept away in the passion.  But it was after her conversation with her brother that she finally lets those doubts, the truths of being "the other woman" into her head and she starts to rethink her intoxicating relationship.     In the end, I was pleased with the way things turned out for both women.   It was a real and natural conclusion.

Bottom line, infidelity is an ugly topic and one not to be taken lightly.  In The Other Half, Sarah Rayner  does a great job of looking at both sides of an extremely messy situation.  In no way can you say that she glamorizes infidelity, but she sure makes the reader realize that there are two sides to every story.  There is definitely room for discussion and you can find a Reader's Guide on the author's website.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

(43)New Life, No Instructions by Gail Caldwell

New Life, No Instructions

Pages: 176

Publisher: Random House Publisher
Publication Date: April 1, 2014

Gail Caldwell has always identified herself as the person who someone who survived polio.  She was diagnosed with polio at six months old towards the end of the polio era. But Gail knows how lucky she was to survive polio with nothing more than a slight limp.  Now it is more than a half-century later and that slight limp has turned into a painful limp with multiple falls. The right doctor discovers that her hip has disintegrated and she is now in need of a new hip.  In a brief, yet touching memoir, Gail Caldwell takes us with her on the journey to her new hip. From her days as a toddler to getting her beloved dog, Tula and Tula's exuberance that kind of prompted the trip to the doctor.  In an honest memoir the author shares with us what it is like to shift the way you identify yourself and redefine your life when it is half over. 

New Life, No Instructions is one of those books that you read and you just know the author has a talent that is so rare. Her memoir is short at under 200 pages, but with her way of writing, she doesn't need more than that to make an impact on her readers.  It is obvious that this is a woman who, despite everything, is comfortable with who she has become in life.  Even when her identity is challenged with the surgery and adjustments, both physical and mental, you know that this is a woman who is going to come out on top.  It was inspiring to read.  I also loved to read her tales of Tula's puppy-hood.  I have never had a Samoyed kind of dog, but I certainly remember the puppy-hood of my mutt, Bailey, so I found myself chuckling in understanding a couple of times. Puppy-hood is not for the weak, that is for sure.

Bottom line, I know we are a few days past Mother's Day, but New Life, No Instruction would be a great read for anyone entering the second half of their life. There is something of value reading a book about a woman who is re-identifying herself in the second half of her life.  Really, truly, a great read.

Monday, May 12, 2014

(42)Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore



Publisher: Crown Publishing
Publication Date: May 13, 2014

Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Mabel Dagmar is not used to the wealthy families that feed her prestigious East Coast family.   Her roommate, Ev Winslow, comes from one of those families where the children donate a piece of art (think Van Gough) to the museum of their choice, so they are about as opposite as they can get.  The Winslow's  are old school wealthy and everything Mabel wishes her family could be.  Mabel jumps at the chance to avoid her own family and join Ev and her family at their summer "camp" in Vermont.   Which is really an estate with a mansion surrounded by dozens of small cabins that house the extended family.   Of which one is given to each child on their eighteenth birthday.  Bittersweet is the name of Ev's cabin.

Mabel is looking forward to the long summer days of reading, exploring the woods and lounging by the water.  She does not expect to fall for Ev's brother, Galaway, or  befriend Ev's eccentric Aunt.  And she certainly doesn't expect Ev's Aunt to send her on a treasure hunt of sorts that would bring to light decades worth of Winslow dirty secrets.  But what happens when those secrets start surfacing will shock her even further. What will happen when those secrets are exposed to the world? Will the great and powerful Winslow's forever banish Mabel from their kingdom?

Bittersweet is one of those books that you are going to be hearing about all summer.  The poor mousy girl being included in the wealthy family's vacation has all the makings of a great novel.  Mabel is a great character because the author does such a fabulous job of  exploring her feelings of inadequacies.  Ev is one of those carefree characters that is pretty insensitive to Mabel and her friendship more than once, but still Mabel keeps hoping that their friendship will get blossom into a lifelong friendship that will always make her part of the Winslow family.  The rest of the Winslow clan is so animated that they almost seem cartoonish.  From Lu, the youngest sister to Tilde the reigning matriarch, they all have their secrets to keep.  Also, the setting of the novel is one that will just captivate you.  The summer beauty of Vermont is evident in every page.

Bottom line, there is a real Gothic feel to  Bittersweet with the crazy Aunt and spectacular scandals that will have you furiously turning pages. . And boy oh boy, those scandals would light up a book club discussion like the Fourth of July!  If you are looking for a good read to pass away the time on your summer vacation, you will not go wrong with Bittersweet.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

(41)One Hundred Names by Cecelia Ahern

One Hundred Names

Pages: 496
Publisher:  Harper Collins
Publication Date: May 6, 2014

Kitty Logan's career has fall completely off the rails.  She was disgraced as a reporter when she falsely reported accusations that a beloved teacher had inappropriate relations with one of his students.  The teacher was exonerated, but not before his life was ruined and Kitty was fired.  Her boyfriend left her and someone keeps vandalizing her apartment. Now to top it off her boss, mentor and friend from the magazine has lost her battle with breast cancer and Kitty is completely shattered.  Constance Dubois was working on a final piece that the magazine wishes to finish for the memorial piece they want to run and her widower has decided that it is only right that Kitty be the one to do it. All she has to go on is a list of 100 names.  That is it.  Kitty knows that this article is truly the only way to redeem herself in the eyes of her bosses, the public, and herself.   As Kitty reaches out to the people on the list she meets an eclectic group of the most ordinary people with the most extraordinary stories.   The great-grandmother in a nursing home, the man whose daughter was murdered, the shy museum curator, and so much more.  Will the story be enough to redeem her career, but most importantly will Kitty discover the real reason why Constance was working on this story?

Cecelia Ahern is such a gifted storyteller and I think she has her best character with Kitty Logan.  Kitty is probably the most flawed character I have read in a long time, but despite her flaws you can't help but like her.  She obviously feels such remorse at what happened and the things that keep happening to her are both tragic and a bit funny.  Like her run in with an old college friend.  Or  the fact that her bike was stolen, but even funnier was when she found her bike.  Then there Steve.  Both funny and sweet, their relationship is complicated, yet pure.   Steve is really one of the only people in the world who stood by her through everything.  Even though they were just friends, I found myself hoping their friendship would become more. Each character adds something special to the story, creating something pretty magical.

Bottom line,  One Hundred Names is a really, really good book.  We all have done something stupid in our lives and have looked for redemption in one way or another.   Kitty's journey may be a bit unique, but in a way I believe we can all relate to in one way or another.  We all have our own stories, right?

Monday, May 5, 2014

(40)Catching Air by Sarah Pekkanen

Catching Air

Pages: 352

Publisher: Washington Square Press
Publication Date: May 6, 2014

Catching Air is the story of three women, two men, and a bed and breakfast in Vermont. Kira and her husband, Peter are struggling in Florida. Kira feels like she has sold her soul to her law firm and Peter is struggling to get his computer business off the ground.  When Peter's brother, Rand and his wife, Alyssa call out of the blue and offer them one-third share of a bed and breakfast in Vermont they throw caution to the wind and go.   Despite the rocky relationship between Peter and Rand the four of them are starting to get in the groove of running a bed and breakfast.  When they take a break to actually go skiing and enjoy the nature Vermont has to offer they come across Dawn, a scared young woman obviously on the run from something. Together the five of them work hard to get the B&B up and running and try to make their lives, marriages, and careers successful.

I have to admit that there was a time way back in the day when opening a bed & breakfast with my sister was a dream of mine.  My sister has a background in hotel/motel management so she was going to run the place and I was going to do the behind the scenes stuff while writing my "great American novel".  I was about half way through the book before that memory even surfaced.   Catching Air was a really fast read because I found myself completely swept up in the story.  The story is told from the perspective of all three women so we get pretty intimate with their hopes and their fears.  Kira is afraid of failure, especially when it comes to her marriage.  Alyssa is afraid that she will never get to have kids and that her her husband will never grow up.  And Dawn is utterly terrified that her new friends will find out the truth about her past, but even more terrified that her ex-boyfriend will catch up with her. There is a lot of turmoil throughout the book, but I was pleased with the way things ended.

Bottom line,  Catching Air is a great read about friends, family, and the desire to completely change your life.  Lots of food for thought with the characters and situations.  Catching Air would make a great read for your next book club, so let me know how it goes!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

(39)The Big Tiny by Dee Williams

The Big Tiny

Pages: 304

Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Publication Date: April 22, 2014

There is an increasingly popular movement where people are giving up their apartments, their 2000 square foot homes for a home that leaves a smaller carbon footprint and fits on a flat bed trailer.

Dee William is one such person.  She owned her own home in Seattle and spent a good deal of her spare time on the upkeep and maintenance of her home.  It was when Dee had a pretty serious health scare that she started to think about downsizing to a smaller home and a simpler life.  It all starts with a trip to Iowa where she meets people already living the "Tiny Life" movement.  When she returns home she receives house plans in the mail from a man she met.  She starts by picking out her trailer and with the help of friends, neighbors, and random strangers she builds her new home. In a truly fascinating memoir Dee Williams shares her fears, her excitement, and the blood, sweat and tears that goes into building her new home.

The "Tiny House" movement has become increasingly appealing to me over the years. It would awesome to own my own house and be debt free, a house that can easily be moved or anchored down depending on my whims.   Realistically I know right now it is is not possible with two kids, two dogs, a cat, and more books than would ever fit in a tiny house.  But I have had my eye on a few different blogs and Facebook pages, keeping my eyes open for a floor plan or style that would best suit my husband and I in the future. Maybe retirement?  

Bottom line, the "Tiny" lifestyle is definitely not for everyone, but if you are interested in knowing more you can check out the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, the Tiny House Blog, and The Big Tiny to get you started.

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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