Saturday, November 29, 2014

(98)Reunion by Hannah Pittard

When Kate Pulaski receives the news that her father had killed himself, her first thought was that husband, Peter, wouldn't leave her after such a tragedy.  She is numb to the news that her father is dead, but she is broken by what she did to her husband and with twisted logic hopes that his death might save her marriage.    Kate has made a complete mess of her life in more than one way.  Excessively in debt, distant from her family, and she had an affair that is likely going to cause the end of her marriage.  Peter meets her plane in Chicago and puts her right on another plane to go to Atlanta, where she will meet her brother Elliott and her sister, Nell.   Kate, Elliot, and Nell's relationship with their father has deteriorated into almost nothing after the death of their mother and their father's next five marriages.  None of them had a relationship with him, believing that he had an "out of sight out of mind" mentality about his children. Frankly, Kate would rather use her "baby sister" status  and coast through this weekend, but she is faced with hard truths about their father and herself.  Kate is left facing the hard consequences of her actions and is forced to face the uncertainty of her future. Will Kate be able to salvage her marriage to Peter or is she doomed to the same fate as her father?

Even though Reunion has some really dark themes it was refreshing in it's completely honest look at life.  Real life.  So many authors don't discuss the dark secrets that are under the surface of most marriages, like being on the same page about children, money troubles, excessive drinking, and then there is the affair.  Of course not every marriage has all of these troubles, but the odds are that at least one can be found in most marriages across the country.  Kate is so deeply flawed in so many ways that I wanted to not like her, but she was so broken it was hard to not like her.  As they get deeper into weekend in Atlanta you can see the dynamics between the siblings and you get just a glimpse at what Kate has dealt with since her mother died as a child.  Her older siblings set the bar high and she had a hard time living up to their standards.  And then there was the revolving door their father had for wives.  Throughout the whole book Kate was trying to justify her actions that has gotten her into this mess and by the end of the weekend she was a little more honest with herself and her family. I was glad to see her taking a little more responsibility for what she had done.

Bottom line, Reunion is an honest look at the mess one woman  has made of her life.   As damaged as Kate is, many of us will see glimpses of ourselves in her and that is enough to make it worth the read.


Friday, November 28, 2014

(97)The Look of Love by Sarah Jio

Flower shop owner, Jane Williams leads a pretty uneventful life.  She goes to work and goes home, occasionally meeting up with her brother, Flynn.  On her twenty-ninth birthday she gets a mysterious birthday card from someone she has never met.  At a quick meeting it is revealed that Jane has a special gift.  She can see true love. Jane is told that she has to complete a required task.  She must identify the six types of love and write about the people before her thirtieth birthday, Christmas Day.  If Jane doesn't complete this task she will never know true love herself.   In the weeks and months after her gift was revealed, Jane sees love in the most unexpected places and with the most unexpected people.  And then she meets a Science Writer is not sure he can ever love again.   Will Jane complete her mission before her thirtieth birthday or will she be doomed to a lifetime of loneliness?

The Look of Love is a whimsical story about a woman seeking love, not only those around her, but for herself.    Even though she is surrounded by friends, Jane is a little bit of loner. Especially after she starts seeing "love" in all of the wrong places.  She just wants her friends to be happy, but would be much happier if it weren't with already married people.  I was happy for Jane when she met Cam, but I admittedly was a bit skeptical at whether he was the guy for her.  There is a "big reveal" that proves I may have been right, but I still held out hope that Jane would find her love.

Bottom line, The Look of Love is one of those holiday tales where the heroine is seeking love, but this time it is not necessarily for herself.   The magical element of The Look of Love is perfect for a Christmas story, but the love story at the heart of the book is great for all seasons.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

(96)Winter Street by Elin Hilderbrand

Winter Street on Nantucket Island is the home of the Winter Street Inn. Kelley Quinn purchased the Inn years ago after leaving his very famous wife and the rat race of Wall Street.  With his new wife they raised his four children along with their new son, Bart.   Flash forward nearly twenty years , it is nearly Christmas and Kelley discovers that his wife has been having an affair with Santa Claus for nearly a dozen years.  His youngest son, Bart, is in Afghanistan.  Ava, his only daughter is a teacher struggling to find true love.  Kevin is a bartender who may have found true love with the French maid, and Patrick may have destroyed his marriage and career by doing some insider trading.    Kelley's world is crumbling and would like nothing more than to hole up in his bedroom and drink his troubles away.

Told in alternating voices we get to see the Quinn family prepare for Christmas and deal with what life has currently dished out.  I think most of us have experienced a holiday season or two that was hard to get get into the spirit of things and that is what it was like for the Quinn family.  Even though Kelley wants to cancel their big Christmas Eve party, the rest of the family know that they need to plow through to live up to the community's expectations.  And once they do, they realize that being with family makes all things easier.  Winter Street was a quick read, but I enjoyed reading through the eyes of all the characters.  The Quinn children are all so different, but the one thing they have in common is their commitment to their family.   The book ended with most everything tied up nicely, but there was one thing that had no resolution and kind of left me going - "what??"  I think the conclusion the reader is supposed to arrive at is the "happy ever after" ending, at least that is what I am going to go with.

Bottom line - Elin Hilderbrand is one of my favorite authors and I am thrilled that she wrote a Christmas novel.   Winter Street is a holiday tale about a family that is struggling to maintain their holiday cheer while being faced with some challenging situations.   Full of diverse characters you will find yourself loving a Christmas season Nantucket through the eyes of Elin Hilderbrand and the Quinn family.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Saturday, November 22, 2014

(95) Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Amy Poehler is one of those women that I would love to hang out with on a Friday night while drinking adult beverages and talking about the world we live in today.  And I know that if I were ever to be so lucky, I would laugh so hard my sides would hurt.    Like most of America I fell in love with her on Saturday nights and cheered for her when she got her own sitcom, Parks and Recreation.   In her new autobiography, Yes Please, Amy shares her life with us.  Starting with her childhood all the way up to the last season of Parks & Rec.

With the help of some famous friends Amy talks about her time on SNL, from her very first episode on the sketch show, which so happened to be the first episode of SNL following 9/11 to her first episode of Parks and Recreation.  Seth Meyers even takes over for a chapter telling about the night Amy's oldest son was born.  She talks about the funny bits she did for several years at award shows.  Remember when her and fellow nominees acted like they were beauty pageant contestants? Funny stuff there.  She talks about her colleagues, her friends, her marriage and divorce.  She doesn't a hold a whole lot back, but it was a funny, quick book to listen to and make the commute go by a bit faster.

Bottom line, in true Amy Poehler fashion listening to her read her autobiography is fun, entertaining, informative.  I have mentioned before how much I love to listen to celebrities read their own biographies and Amy Poehler is right up there with the best of them.  Definitely worth the "listen."

  • Yes Please by Amy Poehler
  • Pages: 352
  • Publisher: HarperCollins
  • Publication Date: October 28, 2014
  • Buy it Here!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Monday, November 17, 2014

(94)An Island Christmas by Nancy Thayer

It is Christmastime once again on the beautiful island of Nantucket and Jilly is feeling a mix of emotions.  Her youngest daughter is coming home to get married on Christmas Day, but after her wedding she will settle down in Utah with her new husband.  The thought of her daughter being so far away just tears her up, so Jilly is on a mission to rekindle Felicia's high school  romance with the handsome, Steven Hardy.   But when Felicia and her future husband, Archie, arrive on Nantucket even Jilly has a hard time resisting his charms.  Will Archie win over Jilly?  And will Jilly forgive Archie for keeping her daughter in Utah?
As we all know, Nantucket is a bit of a magical place and that magic continues year round.  From the author's descriptions, the island seems to be just as enchanting at Christmas as it is in the summer. I will admit that at first I found Jilly's scheming ways to be rather annoying, but she seemed to lighten up a bit when Rex came into her life.  Rex is the little rescue cat that Jilly and her husband adopt.  It was totally adorable watching how that little critter wrapped Jilly around it's little paw. And eventually the whole family fell in love with him.   Having Rex to focus on allowed Jilly to lighten up a bit on the matchmaking and breaking up Archie and Felicia.   Like all good Christmas stories, An Island Christmas ends just the way you would expect a good Christmas story would end.  With warm fuzzies and a very Merry Christmas.

Bottom line, it is that time of year when our bookstores, radio stations, and cable television stations are overrun with holiday books and movies.  Basically my favorite time of the year!  An Island Christmas was a great choice for first holiday read of the year.  Can you believe it, just under six weeks until Christmas!

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Saturday, November 15, 2014

(93)Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

Thirteen year old Jenna Metcalf is on a mission to find her mother.  She went missing ten years ago after being trampled by one of the elephants at their elephant sanctuary in New Hampshire.  At least Alice Metcalf made it to the hospital, their employee was killed. Alice disappeared from the hospital and was never seen again.  Jenna is now old enough to really understand how much she has missed by not having her mother around, especially since her father has been locked in a psychiatric hospital and her grandmother is not real pleased to be stuck with Jenna.   Jenna enlists the help of a psychic, Serenity Jones, and the detective who handled her mother's case, Virgil Stanhope.  The two adults would like to ignore Jenna and her pleas for help, but they can't resist the teen.  Over the course of a few days they learn more about Alice and her past as well as the others employed at the elephant sanctuary.  But will it be enough to find the missing piece to Jenna's heart, her mother?

Ever since reading Water for Elephants I have had a bit of a fondness for elephants.  I don't think anyone familiar with Rosie the elephant isn't a bit in love with the pachyderm.  In Leaving Time Alice Metcalf is studying a heard of elephants in Africa, the focus of their studies is the way they grieve after losing a loved one from the herd. It is in Africa that Alice meets her future husband, Thomas and she finds her way to New Hampshire and Thomas's elephant sanctuary.  He has a few employees and a few more elephants that have come to the sanctuary for their retirement as performers. But running a sanctuary is stressful.  The public is up in arms over the potential hazards and there is never enough money.  In typical Picolut fashion the story is told in alternating voices.  Jenna, Serenity, Alice, and Virgil all telling their stories in a way that immerse you in the story and among the elephants.  The conclusion of the story will leave you speechless.  Unlike any other Picoult novel, this one really shocked me. There are hints all throughout the book, but I wasn't paying attention.  If not for the twist at the end, Leaving Time was a pretty unimpressive novel.  The elephants were my favorite thing about the whole book, I felt like I learned a lot about their habits and environment.

Bottom line, Jodi Picoult is one of the most prolific writers of our time and has built up a following in the millions by crafting tales that touch the heart and leave us speechless.   We know her stories are formulaic and sometimes predictable, but we still find ourselves eagerly anticipating her every word. Leaving Time follows the same formula, but the end will leave you speechless.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Sunday, November 2, 2014

(92)Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf

As a mother of three Ellen Moore and her husband are committed to raising their children in a safe and secure home. As a  seasoned social worker in Cedar City, Iowa Ellen is sworn to make sure the children of Cedar City get the same kind of upbringing.  She has seen the worst of humanity and she fights to keep the children under her watch safe.   It is a hot, steamy summer morning  when Ellen gets a call from one of her young charges who has locked herself in a bathroom to avoid their mother's abusive boyfriend. Ellen races to the rescue and forgets one very important fact.  Her baby daughter, Avery was in her car seat in the back.  In a matter of minutes Ellen's world is turned upside down and she is turned into the very thing she has dedicated her career to destroy.  A child abuser.

Even though Jenny Briard is just ten years old, she has lived a thousand lives with her mother and abusive step-father.  When she was four, her father swooped in and rescued her from the abusive home.  Now at ten years old Jenny and her father are getting ready to leave their home in Nebraska for a new, better life in Dubuque, Iowa.  Jenny is on the bus waiting for her father when something horrible happens and the bus ends up leaving without her dad on board.    She  decides to get off the bus in Cedar City because her grandmother once lived there and she stumbles into a diner where she meets Maudene, a kind waitress who finds it in her heart to help Jenny. At first it appears that Ellen and Jenny would have nothing in common, but there is a history between the two of them that when revealed, will shock you to your core.  Little Mercies is told in the alternating voices of Jenny and Ellen and while each story told alone would capture your heart, when they weave together it creates an unforgettable story that will stick with you for a long, long time.

It seems like we can't make it through a summer without hearing about a baby tragically being left in a hot car.  We know that 99% of these tragedies are just horrific accidents, but some of the people of Cedar City believe that Ellen should be punished to the full extent of the law.  For Ellen it was a great eye opener, being moved through the very "system" that she has sent hundreds of parents.  She experienced first hand the very emotions that her clients experience and it was gut-wrenching.   Then there is poor Jenny.  Ugh.  That poor child, more than once I wished I could just wrap my arms around her and let her know that she will be okay.    Heather Gudenkauf was quite masterful at tugging at the heartstrings in Little Mercies.  You could "hear" the anguish in Ellen's voice and the fear in Jenny's.  Both of them are struggling to just make it through each day and that comes across so clearly, I promise you will cry.  While Heather Gudenkauf wrapped things up nicely for her characters, I couldn't help but think of those thousands of kiddos that don't get such a happy ending.  It is truly heartbreaking.

Bottom line,  Little Mercies is a thought provoking novel about survival, priorities, and the sacrifices we make in life.     The characters are written so well it feels like you could reach out and hug them.   There is a readers guide included in the book, so be sure to put Little Mercies on the list for your next book club selection.   You won't go wrong. I promise.

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Saturday, November 1, 2014

(91)Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty

We meet Lyn, Cat, and Gemma Kettle are on the verge of  their thirty-fourth birthday.  The last year has been brutal for all of them.  Lyn's boutique catering business has taken off, making her one of the most successful businesswomen in Australia, Cat's husband admitted to cheating on his wife, and Gemma has found herself pregnant by the brother of the woman who wrecked Cat's marriage.  And to top it all off their divorced parents are getting back together!  Even though the three women's lives are spinning out of control, they have each other. The bond the triplet's have with each other has always gotten them through the tough times like their parent's divorce and the death of Cat's fiance, but as they approach 34 is their special bond enough to get them through what they are about to encounter?

Three Wishes was really quite humorous in many places, but in others my heart was breaking for these lovely ladies.   The story unfolds in a bit of disjointed way, but it adds to the crescendo of anticipation.   I found myself most connected to Gemma and Cat.  Lyn was the control freak of the trio and seemed to be most in control of her life, it was almost as if she didn't need me (the reader) to worry about her.  I did find myself worrying about both Cat and Gemma.  Especially Gemma as her story unfolded and you realized that she had such a deep, dark secret and of the three of them, she seemed the most lost, just drifting through life. I thought the author was spot on in depicting the relationships between the three sisters and how they sometimes run hot and cold.   That really made the story seem authentic to me.

Bottom line, with the success of recent novels, Liane Moriarty has created quite the loyal following, myself included.  I was looking for an audiobook to listen to on a long drive and was not disappointed with Three Wishes.  While not as good as her more recent novels, Three Wishes is still an interesting look at sisters, triplets, unconditional love and so much more!

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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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