Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Monday, September 29, 2014

(86)Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

The Georgian Flu has swept North America and the world as we know it is gone.  Station Eleven starts with the great American actor Arthur Leander collapsing on a Toronto stage during a production of King Lear.  Two people there that night are forever bound by his death, his young co-star, Kirsten and the man from the audience, Jeevan, who tried to save him.  Within a matter of days the world starts slowly shutting down.  People are dying by the thousands and those not dying are busy trying to flee the city for places deemed safer in their minds.  All over the country people who aren't dying are trying to find ways to survive. All over the country small communities are popping up in the strangest places.  They hole up in airports, hotels, anyplace they can sustain life and keep the pandemic out.  Over the next twenty years Kirsten, Jeevan, and thousands of other survivors create new a new world where flights are a thing of the past and young children only hear stories of electricity.  With things like traveling symphonies, printed newspapers, and makeshift schools, some of the survivors try to recreate the society they lost because of the pandemic.  With every known society comes a criminal element.  Will the good triumph over evil or will society be brought to it's knees once again?

I love a good post-apocalyptic novel and Emily St. John Mandel has done great things with Station Eleven. The novel moves around to different people, places and time in the aftermath of the pandemic.  The one thing all of the characters have in common is Arthur Leander.  Kirsten was  his young co-star and she treasure the comic books he gave her before he died, Station Eleven.  Jeevan first connected with Arthur as a member of the paparazzi and was the nameless man from the audience who tried to save his life that night. Clark was Arthur's best friend and was stranded in the airport on his way to Arthur's funeral.  All of their different stories would have been interesting on their own, but knowing that they were all connected because of Arthur just reinforced the belief that even at the end of the world, it is a small world. Station Eleven is so well written that I found myself taking my time to prolong the story.  I haven't done that in a very long time. I think that with Ebola being a recent headline added to the intensity of Station Eleven and that very real fear of "what if."

Bottom line, Emily St. John Mandel weaves a masterful tale of a world nearly destroyed by disease.  Station Eleven is a tale that will sweep you away into a world that has been gutted and is slowly being put back together again. Such a good read, I would love to hear what you think!

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

(85)Trust Your Eyes by Linwood Barclay

Ray Kilbride has never really had the patience to deal with his quirky brother, Thomas.  Their father has just passed away in a freak lawn mowing accident and Ray is forced to return home to deal with his brother and their father's estate.  Thomas is so consumed with Whirl360, the online map, that he doesn't even go to their father's funeral.  You see, Thomas believes that he is working for the CIA and must memorize the maps for all the cities and towns in the world.  So that when "it" happens and technology fails, he will be able to help CIA agents all across the world with his knowledge of the maps.  Seems harmless enough, right?  It is until during his online travels, Thomas sees something in a window in New York City.  It looks as if someone is being smothered with a plastic bag.  To appease his increasingly agitated brother, Ray agrees to go to New York City to see if he can find the third floor apartment and prove to Thomas that nobody was murdered in that apartment.  What Ray doesn't realize is that his inquiry sets forth a series of events that will leave several people dead and put his and Thomas's lives in grave danger.

Linwood Barclay is a true master at creating a suspenseful story.  Trust Your Eyes is the story of two brothers and their rocky relationship.  Ray is torn between his sense of responsibility for Thomas and the intense desire to shake him silly. It is an internal battle you see him wage several times throughout the book and frankly I can understand why. That trip to NYC starts off is when things start getting good and with the help of an old reporter friend, Ray starts putting the pieces of the puzzle together.  And it isn't pretty.  Also, as the story goes on, there is a subplot involving  Thomas and an event in his childhood. That subplot eventually brings out the protective brother in Ray and that is when I like him best.  Trust Your Eyes is a fast moving book and is full of action and suspense.

Bottom line, Linwood Barclay is one of those "no-risk" authors.  You know you are going to get your money's worth with every word he writes and  Trust Your Eyes is no different.  Definitely worth the read if you are looking for a page turner that keeps you on the edge of your seat!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Monday, September 22, 2014

(84)The Mill River Redemption by Darcie Chan

Estranged sisters Rose and Emily are called back to their small Vermont hometown of Mill River for their Mother's wake.  They first moved to Mill River in 1983 when their father was tragically killed in a house fire.   For Rose, growing up in Mill River was nearly torture and she felt suffocated by the small town atmosphere.  Their mother was always working so she was given freedom to sneak around and be a little hellion.  Emily didn't hate Mill River as much as Rose, but she hated always covering for her older sister and never seeing their mother.  The older they got the more they drifted apart and it was a tragedy of epic proportions that drove a permanent wedge between the sisters.   Now the terms of their mother's will state that the sister's must live in Mill River for two months and complete a bit of a treasure hunt in order to collect their inheritance.  Emily is willing to comply because it was her mother's wishes.  Rose must comply because her husband lost his job and they desperately need the inheritance to maintain their lavish lifestyle.  As the two sisters settle back in to Mill River it is clear that the rift between them is deep, but will they be able to put the pain behind them to honor their mother's final wish?

While The Mill River Redemption was a really engrossing read, I am still not sure I really liked  it.  From the very beginning it was clear that Rose was, frankly, a bitch. She almost seemed like a caricature of a bad soap opera character.  As much as I disliked her, I liked Emily.  Much more even keeled and likable.  Then there is little Alex, Rose's young son.  He is the complete opposite of his mother and I was thrilled to see the relationship building between him and his Aunt Emily.  I also loved their Aunt Ivy and the little bookshop across the street, really, the whole setting of Mill River is quaint and charming and really my favorite thing about the book.   The story is told in both the past and present, so you can see the personalities of the sisters developing into who they are today, all leading up to the tragic event that changed them both forever.  After the "tragic event" is revealed another terrifying event happens that kind of forces everything to wrap up nicely and I think that is where my biggest issue lies. It was just so bizarre the way things wrapped up.  Among other reveals,  Rose seems to receive a personality transplant and it just didn't seem to sit right with me.  

Bottom line, my favorite thing about The Mill River Redemption was Mill River.  The story itself left me with mixed emotions. If you have read this book I would love to hear your thoughts.
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Sunday, September 21, 2014

(83)Lose Your Inches Without Losing Your Mind! by Justine SanFilippo

Weight loss is tough. It kind of makes me sad that I still need to be reading books like Lose Your Inches Without Losing Your Mind after two years of effort.  But here I am - looking for some sort of motivation to kick me into gear.  Most of the advice the author gives is not anything new.  She hasn't found the miracle cure, but she did present it in a ten week plan that focuses more on inches than weight.  Her thought is that you lose weight without losing inches you are smaller, but you don't really change your shape.  Which kind of makes sense.  In all of my weight loss efforts I haven't really measured inches only weight and I can see where I have been doing myself a disservice by not measuring.

Another important thing I took away from this book was the importance of eating every three hours.  The author tells the story of a nurse in her 50's that lost over 40 pounds in two months and the only thing she did different was eat something every three hours.  Obviously she isn't eating heavy meals every three hours, but the author points out that by skipping breakfast, having a light lunch and an even lighter supper you are likely preventing your body from getting the nourishment it needs to burn fat.  Should be common sense, right?  But I am definitely guilty of being a breakfast-skipper. Now I know I am not moving as much as a busy nurse, but I can certainly adjust my  diet enough to eat every three hours.  And to help me do that I set an alarm on my phone to alert me when it is time to eat.

Bottom line, Lose Your Inches Without Losing Your Mind is a ten week guide to help kick-start your weight loss journey. Written in an easy to read, easy to understand format Justine SanFilippo provides some helpful insights to help you change your life.

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Saturday, September 20, 2014

(82)In Doubt by Drusilla Campbell

Danny Crider has done the unthinkable.  The teenager took a gun to an event and shot the most popular Governor the state of California has ever had.   Defense Attorney Sophie Giraudo made a name for herself in her hometown of San Sebastian by defending three brothers who were known for their poor behavior and now she has been retained to defend Danny Crider.  A decision that is not popular with Sophie's ex-husband, the prosecuting attorney, her family and the people of San Sebastian.  At every turn she is defending her choice to represent the troubled young man.   With the help of her PI friend, Ham, they dig into Danny's background to try to find out why he did what he did and in the process Sophie reveals some things in her past that have made her who she is today.  But  Danny's controlling mother, an absentee father, and an icky boys group director all contribute to his decision to shoot the Governor.   Is it enough to get Danny off or will he lose his life for his crime?

In Doubt is one of those books that could have been "ripped from the headlines" or even a Law & Order episode.  The story even moves as quickly as an episode of Law & Order.  Sophie is a great main character and as the story goes on you can even see the similarities between Sophie and Danny.  Specifically they each have a rocky relationship with a controlling, demanding mother.  They both made some sketchy decisions that led to dire consequences.  It was easy to understand why Sophie was so desperate to help Danny. I understand being from a big family, like Sophie, but it irritated me the way her family treated her.  And her ex-husband was an arrogant ass.    You can't really call In Doubt a mystery because the reader knows Danny shot the Governor, but you don't know why and that is somewhat of a mystery.   As Sophie & Ham are digging for the truth, I will warn you, that they reveal some very uncomfortable and graphic situations regarding pedophilia and rape.  It isn't gratuitous, but it could be tough for some of you to read.

Bottom line, Drusilla Campbell weaves a dark and disturbing tale about the secrets families and small towns are willing to keep in order to protect their good name.  In Doubt is a gripping novel that will both disturb you and captivate you at the same time, making it difficult to stop reading until you reach the very end.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

(81)The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith

Lucy and Owen come from two different worlds.  Lucy comes from a wealthy family and live on the 24th floor of this upscale Manhattan apartment building.   Owen's world shattered when his mom was killed in a car accident and forced his dad to take a job as the apartment building manager.   Owen and Lucy meet in the elevator during a blackout.  They spend the evening chatting the night away on the rooftop, but the electricity comes back on and the real world interrupts their fairy tale.   Lucy moves with her family to Europe and Owen and his dad take off across the country in search of work,  The only way they keep in touch is through postcards.  From Edinburgh to Lake Tahoe to San Francisco and Paris.  Lucy and Owen may meet other people, they may see other places, but in the end, there is only each other.  Can their budding relationship survive the miles and geography that separates them?

The Geography of You and Me is a sweet and tender novel about the obstacles one young couple must overcome to keep their relationship going. I truly enjoyed the sweetness of Lucy and Owen.  Their relationship was tentative, but pure.  It was a quick read, just a couple of hours, but I really enjoyed the way the author laid out the story of Owen and Lucy.  They were from two completely different backgrounds, but they didn't let it have any impact in their relationship. Well other than the distance thing.  I was pleased with the way the story ended, not too gooey or unrealistic, but just enough to give you hope for the future.

Botton line, The Geography of You and Me is a sweet teen romance novel.  Lucy and Owen are great characters and perfect for each other.  It is a sweet and quick read and most definitely you can trust with your teen daughter.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Monday, September 15, 2014

(80) Driving with the Top Down by Beth Harbison

Colleen Bradley is excited for her upcoming road-trip. She desperately needs a break from her teenage son and work-a-holic husband. So while they are off bonding on a trip to the baseball hall of fame, she loads up her little car, hitches up the trailer and is ready to set off on a trip down the coast to find new merchandise for her antique store Junk and Disorderly.  Colleen is less than thrilled when she finds out her grumpy niece, Tamara, will have to join her.  Tamara is a sullen teenager who has repeatedly gotten into trouble ever since her mother died and she was forced to live with her father, Colleen's brother-in-law. The two are just hours into their road-trip wh:en the stumble across Colleen's best friend from college, Bitty.  It is obvious that Bitty is down on her luck and joins the road-trippers on their journey.  Across the miles the three women learn things about each other and themselves, but will their renewed relationships survive when they return home and back in the real world?

Driving with the Top Down is a fun and quick read about three women of varying ages fundamentally dissatisfied with the life they are leading.  The book is told from the viewpoint of all three characters, so you get inside their head to see what is not being said and frankly it is just downright sad.  Bitty is completely lost ever since her separation from her husband. Tamara is a teenager completely lost ever since her mother passed away and she has made some incredibly poor choices. And Colleen has spent her entire marriage believing that she was second choice and the years have taken their toll.  I enjoyed this book when the women were opening up with each other, especially when they were playing the "Never have I ever" game. It was then that they seemed to be most "real" and at ease with each other.  I love the way things were wrapped up, especially with Tam.  She needed Colleen in her life most and I really enjoyed reading the Epilogue. 

Bottom line, Driving with the Top Down was a feel good novel that I could see becoming a feel good Lifetime movie.  The characters all have unique perspectives, but at the end of the day they all want the same thing. To be loved, wanted, and appreciated.   A quick and fun read. 

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Sunday, September 7, 2014

(79)The Secret Place by Tana French

Almost a year has passed since a teenage boy has been murdered on the grounds of a Dublin boarding school.  The trail had pretty much gone cold when one of the students of St. Kilda's walked into The Murder Squad with a picture of the victim and on the picture was the message "I know who killed him.".  Holly Mackay pulled the card off of a bulletin board at the school called "The Secret Place", a safe place where students can post anonymous secrets.Holly has dealt with Detective Stephen Moran before and she knows she can trust him to be fair, yet judicious.  Moran doesn't know what to expect when he and his partner, Conway, walks into the all girls school, but he does not expect that finding the killer will be easy.   The young women at St. Kilda's are crafty, sneaky,cliquey,  secretive, and have something to hide.  Will Moran and Conway be able to wade through the stories and get to the truth?

The Secret Place is an exceptionally well written murder mystery set among a backdrop of St. Kilda's all girls boarding school,  a scene that screams exclusive and secretive.  The nuns, the hallways, the classrooms all  added to the Gothic feel of the place. There are two groups of a girls at the heart of this book.  Joanne and her crew are the "popular" girls. They present the air of snobbery that you come to expect from boarding school students.  They have all the cool clothes and all the hot guys from the neighboring boys school, the school where the deceased Chris Harper was a student.   Holly Mackay and her friends are the second group at the center of this story, they are a group of misfits and are thought to be "weird" by other girls in the school.  Moran tries to wade through the lies and gossip to get to the truth and if you know teen girls, you know just how difficult that can be.  Watching how some of the young women tried to manipulate Moran was almost frightening, but watching how he handled them was almost a work of beauty.   The more he talks to the girls the more it is clear that Chris Harper was a master at manipulation and it is that behavior that got him killed.

Bottom line, The Secret Place is one of those books that sucks you in with it's scenery, it's twists and turns and dark secrets.  The author weaves a tale that will have you guessing and second guessing. A perfect tale to get you in the mood for Halloween!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

(78)Accidents of Marriage by Randy Susan Meyers

To someone not in the know, Maddy and Ben's marriage looks picture perfect.  They both have high-pressured, successful careers.  Maddy is a social worker and Ben is a public defender.  They have three wonderful children, Emma is a teenager and sometimes a handful but  Gracie and Caleb, the babies, are at that fun age where they are exploring the world and discovering their personalities.  Only Ben and Maddy know that their marriage has hit a rocky patch where there is a lot of yelling and eye-rolling going on.  The pressures of their careers leave them both drained when they get home, but there is still dinner to cook, homework to get done and other household chores that millions of people all across the country do.   Maddy wishes that Ben would help out more and be more "present" in their lives, not to mention that he loses his temper far too often.  Ben wishes that Maddy would stop nagging and just do it herself.  The turmoil in their marriages comes to a boiling point when a accident lands Maddy in the hospital with a traumatic brain injury.  The weeks long coma and subsequent rehab leaves Ben in charge of their little family in a way that he has never had to be before.  Will he be able to rise to the challenge and hold everything together or will the guilt of the accident destroy everything?

In Accidents if Marriage author Randy Susan Meyers reveals something that only married people seem to know, marriage is hard.  We see the struggles of their marriage from both Ben and Maddy's viewpoints.  And then after the accident, we also get to hear Emma's voice as she also becomes a casualty when a lot of responsibilities are thrust upon her.  Because we get to see all perspectives it is hard to take side prior to the accident, neither Ben nor Maddy behave their best and frankly been behave like an ass more than once.  The author did such a great job taking us inside of Maddy's brain after the surgery. The confusion, the frustrations, the myriad of emotions that plague Maddy as she tries to navigate her new reality.   I felt for Maddy, but I felt more for Emma because she was struggling and nobody noticed.  Not her father, not her aunts, and not her grandparents.  My heart ached for her as she struggled to hold everything together and still get to be a teenager.   It even made me a bit angry that nobody noticed that she was drowning!   In the end, they all survived, but their world was very, very different from where it was at the beginning of the book and it needed to be.

Bottom line, Accidents of  Marriage was a powerful novel about the intricacies of marriage.  It is hard, it can be brutal, it can hurt, but if you just hold on it can be the greatest thing ever. Such a good story with so many different points that cause you to reflect on your own situation.   Definitely worth the read.

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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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