Saturday, August 30, 2014

(77)Be Safe, I Love You by Cara Hoffman

Lauren Clay has always been the one to do whatever needs to be done.  When her parent's marriage disintegrated and their father retreated into his own world it was Lauren who stepped up to the plate to care for her younger brother, Danny.  It was she who made sure he got fed and clothed and off to school.  And it was Lauren who found a way to get the bills paid when her father couldn't even get out of bed.  Rather than go to the prestigious  music school to study opera, she enlisted and was sent off to battle.  Her combat pay and steady paychecks went a long way to helping Danny and giving him a more normal life.

Time has passed and it is now Christmas and Lauren is coming home from her tour of duty.  Her time in the desert has changed her in ways that are still revealing themselves and her homecoming is not made easier when she realizes just how much things have changed at home.   She struggles to find her place in a world that is mostly ignorant to what really happens in war.  Will she ever be able to fit back into that world, but more importantly, does she really want to?

It is ingrained in our collective brains to imagine a war veteran being a man, but in Cara Hoffman's novel, Be Save, I Love You she introduces us to a vet by the name of Lauren Clay. Lauren is a young woman who was forced to grow up rather quickly.  Her devotion to her younger brother comes from a pure place in her heart and her devotion is my favorite thing about her.  Even when her intentions start to get a little murky you know that she believes she is acting with pure intentions. Through her memories and I guess you could say flashbacks, the reader starts to piece together what happened and it is no wonder the nightmares haunt her. Is it PTSD?  I don't know, the author doesn't go so far as to diagnosis, but it is obvious to the reader that Lauren's time in the war had a profound impact on her and how she interacts with other people.   PTSD is very scary and very real and I think the author did a remarkable job at addressing it with Lauren.  Even when the book was at it's darkest and I feared for both Lauren and Danny, but I just knew that Lauren would not bring harm to Danny.  Some might thing that the end was a bit too "happy", given the nature of the story, but I thought it was "real" and appropriate.

Bottom line, Be Safe, I Love You is one of those hauntingly beautiful novels where the beauty could easily get lost in the darkness of the subject matter. There are thousands and thousands of service men and women who have returned home from war over the last decade and Be Safe, I Love You gives you just a glimpse of what life is like for those heroes.  Definitely a must read.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Monday, August 25, 2014

(76)Heroes Are My Weakness by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

The last place in the world  Ventriloquist Annie Hewitt wants to be is Peregrine Island in the middle of a blizzard, yet here she is stuck in her little Kia. Annie has less than fond memories of the island, but she is broke, unemployed, and out of options.  According to the terms of an agreement her recently deceased mother made long ago, Annie must spend sixty days on the island with never leaving. Leaving means they forfeit and the cottage reverts back to the Harp estate and that bully, Theo Harp. As much as Annie despises the island, she thinks it will take the full sixty days to find the thing her dying  mother said would bring her great riches.  Even though that insufferable Theo Harp won't leave her alone and someone keeps breaking into the cottage,  Annie desperately needs the money and isn't going anywhere until she finds it.

Heroes Are My Weakness was a fun read.  Take an isolated island off the coast of Maine, mix in a feisty heroine, and add one handsome, brooding hero and you have a recipe for a steamy romance!  I loved the setting of Peregrine Island for this book, especially since it is set in the Winter.  Most "island" books are set in the Summer, so this was a definite change.   Annie is definitely a feisty character.  The one summer she spent on the island as a teen she was basically ruthlessly tortured by Theo, so it is no wonder that she is dreading the thought of being on the island again with him so close by.  Even though the puppets are of her own creation and their words are her own, they really seem to be the parts of herself that Annie is afraid to let be heard. I loved their different personality traits and I loved how Scamp was an integral part in dealing with her friend's daughter, Livie.  Theo was such an interesting character, too.  Dark and brooding, yet with a softer side, too.  Who would have thought the horror novelist would enjoy making fairy castles?   He was a good match for Annie and even though I understand it was a defense mechanism, I found myself annoyed at the way Annie talked to Theo early on in the book.    Romance novels, by pure definition, tend to be a bit predictable and Heroes Are My Weakness is no different, but the path to the end was fun and romantic.

Bottom line, I have been reading Susan Elisabeth Phillips novels for nearly three decades now.  Her characters are always fun, feisty, entertaining, and always find themselves in an interesting pickle.  Heroes Are My Weakness is a fun read in an interesting setting and has love story that will make your heart melt.  If you are looking for a pleasurable way to spend an afternoon,  add Heroes Are My Weakness to your list!

The Details: 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

(75)We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Cadence Sinclair Eastman has grown up privileged.  For generations the Sinclair family has been spending their summers at the family's private island off of Cape Cod.   Cady has grown up spending her summers with her cousins and and aunts on the island and it was about idyllic as a childhood could be.  One summer her aunt brings her boyfriend's nephew to spend the summer with them and everything changed.    She was drawn to Gat like no other human being and they both looked forward to their summers.  The summer of their fifteenth year was the year that everything changed.  Most of that summer is gone from Cady's memory due to a traumatic brain injury.  She doesn't remember what happened to her and she knows that her family is keeping something from her about that summer, but what?

Now it is two years later and Cady is back on the island. So much has changed in two years and Cady is not sure why.   The rustic house of her childhood has been replaced with something sleek and modern. The "Liars" are also acting funny and refuse to tell Cady what happened that summer.   Cady is slowly starting to remember the events of that summer and she knows the she is on the verge of the truth.  But what will she do when she pieces everything together?  They say the truth will set you free, but what if it only destroys you?

Oh my gosh. I have been seeing We Were Liars at the top of a lot of "Must Read" lists this summer and now I know why.  Despite their wealthy background, Cady and her cousins are your typical teenagers.  Magazines, books, and iPods entertain them throughout the summer.  And they have a growing disdain for their parents.  Listening to their mothers bicker over their late mother's estate is completely ruining their summer and they all want to do something about it.  There were a few times when I found myself annoyed by Cady and her spoiled cousins, but it was more like an annoying fly.   Her summer romance with Gat was sweet and tender and almost like a fairy tale.  As the book went on, the pain that Cady experiences is so profound that I can almost feel the headaches myself.  And that ending, oh boy.  When Cady finally remembers everything from their 15th summer it will leave you stunned. I don't remember an ending leaving me so shocked.    You would think that having the truth will help Cady start to heal, but I really wonder if Cady will ever be healed again.

Bottom line, We Were Liars is one of those books that as I was reading I was imaging it on the big screen. It starts out as your run of the mill Young Adult novel, but by the end it left me breathless. If you are looking for a wonderful read, you must add We Were Liars to your "TBR" list.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Monday, August 18, 2014

(74)One Kick by Chelsea Cain

It has been ten years since Kit "Kick" Lannigan was rescued from the kind of hell that only exists in our nightmares.  It has been a long ten years, but Kick has come along way from the eleven year old that was rescued that night ten years ago.  Kick has been dedicated to never becoming a victim again by training in  every arena of self-defense known to man. And she works diligently to help find those who have fallen victim to the pedophiles that still have Kick's "movies" and think of her as a star.  With her tenth anniversary of freedom closing in, Kick is on edge as it is when John Bishop enters her life.  Bishop is a man who works for a man who knows how to get stuff done.  He knows people, he can access information that normal people only imagine exists, he is the definition of powerful.  Even though he has all of that power, Bishop needs Kick's help.  Another young girl has gone missing and there are similarities to Kick's past and only Kick can help find her.  Will Kick let down her guard long enough to trust Bishop and help find this girl?  Is Kick willing to face old demons and do what it takes to help Bishop?

One Kick is one kick ass novel.  It is hardcore gritty and it will take a strong person to handle the gritty subject matter of child porn and pedophilia, but it is so worth the read.  Kick is one of the best female characters I have "met" in a long time.   She has this tough exterior that is proud of her Glock and picks the lock on handcuffs to relax.  But she is vulnerable and has a heart , but only allows her friend, James and her dog, Monster inside that heart.  Then there is Bishop, he is such an enigma, a guy who only reveals snip-its of information about himself  and only when he thinks it will get him further with Kick. As the book progressed, the tempo increased and I felt my heart racing , as if I were there.  When things went down with James and Monster, I felt myself getting angry and protective on behalf of Kick.   It was easily the most intense book I have read yet this year.

Bottom line, I have been a fan of Chelsea Cain since her very first Archie/Gretchen novel.  One Kick is better.  The word "fresh" doesn't seem right for a story so dark, but Kick is a character that we have never seen before. I don't know where Cain will take us in Kick's world, but I know that it is going to be a hell of a ride and I can't wait.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

(73)The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell

Whether we care to admit it or not the house you grew up in plays a large part in the person we become as an adult.  Not just your family, but the actual home that housed your family.  On the outside the Bird family looked normal.  Meg is the oldest and the most "together" of the siblings, next is Beth.  She is the free-spirit, a dreamer.   The twins round out the family.  Rhys and Rory. Their parents, Lorelei and Colin have an unremarkable marriage. They live a normal, if not cluttered existence.  Until one Easter Sunday when one  tragic act will change their world and their house forever.  Everyone deals with the tragedy in their own way, and Lorelei deals with it by collecting stuff.  Like egg carton shells and tea towels, she collects so much stuff that the family is drowning in it.   Lorelei shocks her family with her excessive collecting, but she shocks them even more when she declares that she is in love with her next door neighbor and is now a lesbian. The splintered Bird family is now shattered. The remaining Bird children scatter across the globe leaving Lorelei to collect with her new partner.   Will Lorelei ever be able to get out from under the weight of her memories or her stuff?  Will her children ever forgive her for her collections and come home to see her? Will the Bird children ever be able to forgive themselves when they don't come back to see her?

The House We Grew Up In  starts in present day and through a series of flashbacks the reader starts to put together the pieces of the Bird family puzzle. Through births and deaths and all kinds of relationships this book watches how the Bird family handles everything.  The amount of loss that takes place in this book will take your breath away.  With every piece of junk that Lorelei brings into the house they all lose something.  Space, trust, dignity.  Each of the Bird children have their strengths and their weaknesses, all that stem back to what happened that Easter day so long ago.   Meg went to the extreme opposite of her mother, controlled and organized to a fault.  Beth buries her feelings about everything the way Lorelei is burying the house and Rory is letting the guilt eat him from the inside out. Watching the siblings interact (or not depending on the case) is a  fascinating study in sibling relationships and just how they ebb and flow through the decades . But no matter where the kids are, who they became is all because of the house they grew up in.  

Bottom line, The House We Grew Up In takes a popular reality television show topic, hoarding, and humanize it in a way that will break your heart. Hoarding is not a solitary disease, it infects entire families.  The House We Grew Up In is one of those books that will stay with you long after you finish the last page.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

(72)Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

The parents of students at the Pirriwee School are almost like something out of a soap opera your grandmother might watch on daytime television.  Maddie is one of the more experienced parents, her older son, Fred, has already been through the Kinder class and Chloe is getting ready to start.   Celeste is married to the wealthy hedge fund manager, Perry, and their twin boys will be starting the Kinder class, as well.  And they meet Jane, the young single mother who's son Ziggy is starting the same Kinder class.  The three women meet on the day or orientation and have become fast friends, but when they get to the orientation an "incident" casts a shadow on the day and sets the tone for the year to come.  A year of secrets, lies, violence, and whispers culminate in a school Trivia Night that will leave the school reeling, a parent dead, and the police trying to determine what really happened that night on the balcony.  Will the Pirriwee parents protect their own or will they continue to throw each other to the wolves?

I was quickly sucked into Big Little Lies.  Immediately I found myself liking Maddie.  She is intelligent, funny, and fiercely protective of her friends.  She was the kind of character that I would love to hang out with for "erotic book club" or a fun glass of champagne.  Watching her quickly take Jane under her wing was great.  So many of the mom's at school were just looking for an excuse to shun the young and pretty single mom, but Maddie wouldn't back down for nothing and that makes her my new literary BFF.  Then there is the whole Celeste/Perry relationship. I just don't even know where to begin with those two.  On the outside it appeared as if Celeste had everything any woman could possibly want, but it just goes to show you that you never know what happens behind closed doors. She was an expert at lying to herself and her friends.  There are so many other sub-plots that feed into the "big event" that happened at Trivia Night. Like Maddie's ex and his new wife, Bonnie.   Then there is the whole bullying thing that gets wickedly out of hand.  And the true paternity of Jane's son, Ziggy.   So many little things that also feed into the events of that night.   I feel that the story ended in the best possible way and it left me feeling satisfied.  It is always great when an author leaves you feeling as if everything ended the way it was supposed to.

Bottom line, Big Little Lies is a book that will keep you on the edge of the seat for as long as it takes you to fly through the pages.  Lies, deceit, abuse, and murder is just a sampling of what you will encounter in this wonderful little book.  Gather your girlfriends and pour a glass of wine , Little Big Lies is an excellent choice for your next book club selection.

The Details:

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

(71)The Girls of August by Anne Rivers Siddons

Maddie and her friends have vacationed together every August for nearly the last twenty-five years.  Maddie, Barb, Rachel, and Melinda all met when their husbands were finishing med school at Vanderbilt. They have not had their August vacation for the past few years, after Melinda died.  But now Melinda's husband has remarried and The Girls of August are gathering for one more vacation on a remote island of the coast of South Carolina. Teddy's new wife, Baby, is finding it hard to fit in with the other women who have been friends for so long. As their vacation days lazily pass, it becomes clear that each of the women are hiding something big.  Will their friendship survive this year's vacation?  And will the three "original" Girls of August ever forgive Baby for her transgression of being half of their age?

The Girls of August was my first book by the prolific Anne Rivers Siddons and I must say that I was a bit disappointed. At just 240 pages the book was really a quick read and I almost felt as if I were reading an abridged version of the book.  The characters were almost cliched Southern women and I felt like we missed out on the depth that was really there.  Especially with Baby, she speaks Arabic for Pete's sake, there should have been more.   The story was only told from Maddie's view point and I think that is where the story fell short.  If the book had been one of those alternate voices books we might have gotten to know the other characters better.  But, having said all of that, I didn't hate the book, I was just expecting something more.  The scenery of Tiger Island was depicted well and left me longing for a beach-side home where I could sleep to the sound of the ocean and sleep with the ocean breeze coming through the window.

Bottom line, while I was disappointed with The Girls of August, it was still a beach read.  With summer winding down (can you even believe that we are already into August??) we need to get as many beach reads in as we can  before school starts and the leaves start to turn.  Keep your expectations low and you won't be disappointed.
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Monday, August 4, 2014

(70)The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

Mia Dennett has always been a disappointment to her father, Judge Dennett.  He always had plans for his two daughters to follow in his legal footsteps, yet Mia never wanted to do exactly what her father wanted.  Instead she found an interest in art and went to school to be an art teacher.  So rather than being the high powered attorney like her sister, Mia is an art teacher in the inner city, making just a fraction of what the rest of her wealthy family makes.   One day Mia doesn't show up at work and with the help of Detective Gabe Hoffman, the Dennetts discover that Mia left the bar the night before with a strange man and she hasn't been seen since.  Slowly Detective Hoffman starts to piece things together and realizes that she was kidnapped by a man, Colin Thatcher.   He doesn't know why, there has been no ransom demand, he doesn't know where they have taken her.  And then Mia is found and they are still no closer to having answers.  She has blocked everything out from her time away and demands to be called Chloe.  Who was behind her kidnapping and why did they kidnap her?  And what happened to cause her to block everything out from those month?

The Good Girl is one of those books that will keep you guessing.   It is told in alternate voices from all sides of the kidnapping.  Mia's, Mrs. Dennett's, Detective Hoffman's and the kidnapper.  Colin Thatcher.   The further you get into the story the more you start to put together why Colin did what he did.  He didn't plan for things to turn out the way they did, but it happened and he just goes with it, regardless of his regrets.  Over her months of captivity, Mia starts to understand Colin more than she ever thought possible.  Some would call it Stockholm Syndrome, others would call it more. But it is easy to become sympathetic to Colin, to Mia, and Mrs. Dennett.  It is clear early on that the Judge is just a cold-hearted jackass and it is easy to see where the friction between him and Mia started. Meanwhile, the Detective is a compassionate man just trying to do his job and help a heartbroken mother. I will say that about three-quarters of the way through the book I started to suspect the big "twist" but that didn't stop me from racing to the last page to find out if I was right.

Bottom line, The Good Girl, is a very suspenseful novel.  The alternating voices makes it really hard for the reader to see things as "black or white" and I loved that.  I think by the time you get to the end of the book your head will be spinning from the wild conclusion, but aren't those books the best?

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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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