Wednesday, December 31, 2014

(106)The Life Intended by Kristin Harmel

It has been twelve years since Kate Waithman's husband, Patrick was killed in a tragic car accident.  It took her nearly ten years to start dating again and now Dan has proposed to her.  She loves Dan and enjoys being with him, but he is not Patrick. And a small part of her can't help but wishing that he was Patrick.   Then Kate gets devastating news that she is not able to have children and it wasn't until that moment that how much she wants children and how much she regrets not having children with Patrick.  That night she dreams of Patrick and the life she would have had if Patrick had not died. It was the first dream in a series of extremely vivid dreams that leaves Kate longing for Patrick and the life she intended to have.  A life that includes a deaf daughter, Hannah. A life that includes a lifetime of memories.  A life that is not marred by tragedy.    It is the dreams that prompt Kate to take an American Sign Language class so that she can communicate with her the daughter of her dreams.  The ASL class is the first step down a path that  Kate  never thought she would ever take.  Will that path lead her away from her late husband and towards Dan?  Or the complete opposite?

The Life Intended is a tender novel about one woman and her seemingly insurmountable grief.  At first she never thought that she would never be able to date again, let alone fall in love, but then she meets Dan.   They seem to fit well with each other and are both at an age that marriage only makes sense, but it is quite obvious to everyone, including the reader, that Dan isn't really the perfect guy for Kate. It is easy to fall under the spell of Kate and her dreams and it is hard to see her hurting every-time she wakes up from a dream. With every dream she has, it is quite obvious that she still has not come to grips with Patrick's death. Until she starts taking the ALS classes.  When Kate meets Andrew and becomes involved with the children in the foster system you start to piece together exactly what life has in store for Kate.  Her relationship with the kids makes it clear that Kate was meant to be a mother and Kate's circle of family and friends know it as well.

Bottom line, The Life Intended  starts out like dozens of other novels, but with every passing page it becomes more and more unique.   Kate is a great character and her story is one that could rip your heart out, but with the twists and turns Kate's story ends up just the way life intended.


Pages: 368
  • Publisher: Gallery Books
  • Publication Date: December 30, 2014
  • Buy it Here!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

(105)Saving Grace by Jane Green

Grace Chapman and her husband, Ted Chapman are well known in the literary world.   Grace was a cookbook editor before marrying bestselling author Ted.  They have led a charmed life as Ted churns out one bestseller after another.  They live on a charming little farm outside a charming little village outside of the city.  Over the years of their marriage Grace has perfected the art of managing Ted.  His ego, his career, his happiness.  But it is exhausting and deciding to hire an assistant saved their marriage once and Grace is hoping it will save their marriage again.  Enter Beth McCarthy.   She appears to be the answer to their prayers, diving right into their household and managing things that have been in desperate need of being managed.  But with every passing that Beth is present, Grace seems to slowly be falling apart.  Moody, emotional, volatile and then she is diagnosed as bipolar.  Her whole world spirals out of control and Beth seems to step into her life in a way that becomes more frightening with each passing day.   Will Grace be able to save her marriage and the life she has built for herself or will this interloper destroy everything?

I adore Jane Green in a way that I reserve for beloved Aunties.  I have been reading her books so long that it feels as if I know her.  I don't know if Saving Grace is a mirror of her own life as a successful, best selling author, but if so - yee gads. It was rather clear that Grace is the epitome of her name.  She exudes class and respect in so many ways that many women aspire to be just like her.  She is elegant and poised and utterly devoted to her husband's career.  As the book goes on and Grace starts spiraling out of control in ways that is almost frightening.  Early on it was so clear that Beth was behind it all and I found it a bit frustrating that it took Grace so long to put it all together.   I was a bit disappointed in how predictable it turned out to be.    What kept me turning the page was I wanted to see if Ted would eventually come to the same conclusion and would it be in time to save their marriage.   I was pleased with the way that Saving Grace ended.

Bottom line, even though Saving Grace is a bit predictable, Grace is a character that will quickly enamor you with her graceful elegance.  It is Grace herself that keeps you turning the pages even though you can predict what will likely happen.   Predictable, but definitely worth the read.

  • Saving Grace by Jane Green
  • Pages: 352
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication Date: December 30, 2014
  • Buy it Here!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

(104)Santa Claus Is for Real: True Christmas Fable about the Magic of Believing by Charles Edward Hall

As a young boy in Kentucky, Charles Edward Hall firmly believed in Santa, no matter what people tried to tell him, he believed.  He remembers clearly one Christmas during a family Christmas party he glanced out the window and saw the Big Guy himself standing there, how could he not believe?   But life happened and Charles got out of Kentucky and went to New York City determined to become a famous actor.    But life happened and audition after audition passed him buy with no role offered.  Until one day he was offered the role of Ebeneezer Scrooge, which happened to be pretty appropriate after a few rough years.  But it was a dual role, he also had to be Santa Claus in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.    Santa Claus is for Real is the story of his first year as Santa Claus.  He had some magical help, but that role transformed his life.  And nearly thirty years later Charles Edward Hall is still the Radio City Spectacular Santa.

Santa Claus Is for Real is a real quick read at 208 pages, but it packs quite a message.   The magic of Santa lives in all of us.  We all have that opportunity to make Christmas magical for someone else.  Whether it be helping an elderly lady across the street or become a "Layaway Angel" - there is something you can do to make Christmas magical. That is the message that I took away from this book anyway.

Bottom line, even though today is Christmas Eve it is still not too late to make Christmas a little magical for someone.  We all have a little Santa Claus in us just begging to be released.  What do you think you could do today to make Christmas magical for someone?

  • Santa Claus Is for Real by Charles Edward Hall 
  • Pages: 208
  • Publisher: Galley Books
  • Publication Date: October 14, 2014
Buy it Here!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Saturday, December 20, 2014

(103)Blame It on the Mistletoe by Nicole Michaels

Brooke Abbott is glad that she moved back to her small Missouri hometown.  She is slowly putting her life together after getting out of a bad relationship.  Brooke has even opened up a boutique shop on Main Street in her quaint little hometown of Preston. Sales are a little slow right now, but Brooke is just sure that the Christmas holiday will give her store the boost it so desperately needs. It is Thanksgiving night when Brooke comes home from the family dinner to find Alex Coleman in the apartment over the shop, the same apartment she has been sort of - kind of- illegally staying.  Alex has always been best friends with Brooke's brother, Ryan, but he has changed from the dorky friend she remembered.  He is extremely handsome and has just inherited the building they are standing in, but Brooke doesn't know that.   It doesn't take long for Brooke and Alex to shift their relationship from friendship to more, but will it all fall apart when Brooke learns that Alex plans on selling the building?

Blame It on the Mistletoe is set in a small town outside of Kansas City, which was fun for this former KC girl.  Based on some clues and descriptions given I think the town is based on Weston, Missouri.  (Preston - Weston - see the similarity?) Brooke was a character that felt familiar to me for some reason.  She was hardworking and wanted to be successful at something.  Especially since she failed so spectacularly at her last relationship.  She was glad to be out of her bad relationship, but still felt like she needed to prove or justify her decision to move back home.   Alex was a fun character because he just seemed like a "bad boy" even though he had done some really honorable things since leaving Preston.   Alex and Brooke were good together and had a real chemistry that just set this story on fire. Definitely made it worth the read.

Bottom line, Blame It on the Mistletoe was a fun Christmas read.  A bit predictable, but still sweet, romantic, and definitely worth the read.


Monday, December 15, 2014

(102)Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty

Caitlin Doughty is a twenty-something with a degree in Midievil History who has always had a morbid curiosity for death. She decides to channel that curiosity into a career and went to work at the Westwind Mortuary and Crematory. From her first day on the job Caitlin knows that she will be encounter the strange and odd.  She also suspects that she will be challenged to do things completely out of her comfort zone.   On her first day she is handed a razor and shaving cream and asked to shave a deceased man before the family viewing.   She is asked to do "pick-ups"and sees families at the very worst moments in their lives.   She is asked to facilitate "witnesses" - when the family actually wants to see their loved one through the entire process of cremation.  Caitlin gives us the day to day routines of those in her business in a way that captures the readers attention. In careful detail the author describes processes, events, and even smells in a way that almost takes your breath away.

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes is not the first book I have ever read about the death industry, but it was just as good as any other I have read.  Caitlin Doughty is careful to be respectful in her storytelling, but there were several times where I thought "OMG" - and she handled each weird situation with much more aplomb than I ever thought possible. I also liked how the author gave a lot of historical detail about death and the death industry.  For example, back in the day only indigent people died at a hospital. As late as the early twentieth century, more than 85% of Americans died at home.   Think about it - if you live in an older home, the odds of someone having died there are pretty high.  It was during the 1930's that the mentality shifted and more people went to the hospital to die.  I have often thought about my final wishes and going the cremation route and now I feel it is a little easier to make that decision.

Bottom line, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes was a morbidly fascinating book.  I will say that my recommendation comes with a warning label.  It is not for those with weak stomachs or those sensitive to death, particularly childhood death.  While that is not a huge part of the book, it is there and may be particularly rough to read.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

(101)What Nora Knew by Linda Yellin

While thirty-nine year old Molly Halberg is still hoping for all of her dreams to come true, she is willing to settle for "close-enough" in some cases.  As a divorced woman  she thinks that the relationship she has with her boyfriend, Russell, is adequate. They have settled into a comfortable relationship that involves dinner in front of the television and sleep masks at each others places.  He doesn't cheat on her like her ex-husband, so there is that.  Molly loves being a writer for an online magazine, but she would love to have her own column.  She keeps hoping that with every story about dildos and speed-dating she gets closer to getting that column.  When her boss assigns her to do a "Nora Ephron" type of story on romance in New York City, Molly is sure that she is about to get her break. If Molly knows anything it is Nora Ephron movies.  As she works on her piece she is forced to examine her relationship with Russell, especially when she comes across an ornery mystery author.   Is "adequate" better than nothing when it comes to career and romance?  Or is Molly going to give up everything to go after what she really wants - happiness?

Any woman over the age of thirty is intimately aware with Nora Ephron and her movies.  We all know that Sleepless in Seattle is an homage to An Affair to Remember and You've Got Mail is an homage to The Shop Around the Corner.  Well, What Nora Knew is a beautiful homage to Nora Ephron. Her movies shaped the way an entire generation of women look at love and relationships and Molly Halberg is the perfect heroine to illustrate that "adequate" is not good enough.  Many times Molly referred to the characters played by Bill Pullman and Greg Kinnear to Russell.  And once she started making those comparisons it snowballed into a realization that their relationship had lost it's spark long ago. While What Nora Knew was a bit predictable, I was more than willing to put up with it for all of the  familiar scenes revisited and the warm memories that came from remembering three of my favorite movies.

Bottom line, What Nora Knew is a feel-good kind of book.  I couldn't stop smiling the whole time I was reading this book. Not because it was hysterical, but because it made my heart happy.   If you know Kathleen Kelly's online handle or know where Annie hid to listen to the radio show, then you have got to read this book.   Consider this recommendation my gift to you.

  • What Nora Knew by Linda Yellin
  • On Facebook
  • Pages: 320
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication Date: January 21, 2014
  • Buy it Here!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Monday, December 8, 2014

(100)Mr.Miracle by Debbie Macomber

Addie Folsom isn't exactly thrilled to be moving back home after things fell apart in Montana, but here she is.  She wants to get her life back on track and follow her late father's footsteps and become a chiropractor, but she discovers that she needs one more credit to get her high school diploma.  Even with her class to keep her busy, Addie finds herself left to care for her neighbor and childhood crush, Erich, after he is injured in a car accident. Even though Addie is reluctant to do so, she helps Erich and is soon feeling those same old feelings.  Will she be able to help this "Scrooge" without getting her heartbroken again?

If you are familiar with Debbie Macomber and her other "Miracle" Christmas novels, you know that there are a couple of Angels working behind the scenes to help Addie. In Mr. Miracle it is Harry, a new angel, and Celeste that are working to make things work out for Addie and others at the school. Mr.Miracle  was a quick, cute Christmas read.  I am sure that many of you know that Mr. Miracle was made into a Hallmark Channel movie that aired over the weekend. I have the movie DVR'd  but I will be excited to watch it and see how it translates to the screen. Addie was one of those reluctant characters that isn't thrilled with the way her life is going, but gets better as the book progresses.  Same goes for Erich.  He is the quintessential "Scrooge" - and the reasons are revealed as the story progresses.  Predictable, but cute.

Bottom line, I love a good Christmas love story.  The cheesier the better. Mr. Miracle is about as cheesy as they come - and I am okay with that.


Saturday, December 6, 2014

(99)All You Could Ask For by Mike Greenberg

Brooke, Katherine, and Samantha are three women who have absolutely nothing in common.  Brooke is a married mother that has life in the suburbs under complete control.  Samantha is young and on her honeymoon in Hawaii with an older man when she discovers that he has been cheating on her the whole time.  Katherine is a Wall Street barracuda who is still trying to get over a broken heart that happened years ago.  The three women have all recently made decisions that were both  out of character and going to change their lives.  What they didn't realize that there was another change that was going to happen to the three of them that would send them to an online forum.  Katherine, Brooke, and Samantha meet on an online support forum for women with breast cancer and quickly become fast friends.  They learn that friendship can be found in the most unexpected places and that beauty can be gained from the most ugly of experiences.  But will they win over the cancer that has taken over their bodies?

All You Could Ask For was a fabulous read about three strong women. The first half of the book there was absolutely no connection between the three women and I was trying to figure out how or when they were going to connect and then they join the support group. All three women and strong, influential women in their own worlds, but it was interesting to me that they all felt like they needed to turn to strangers (the forum) instead of the own people in their lives.  I get why, I have been very active in online forums for over ten years and have met some of my best friends that way, so I do get it.  It was just interesting.  I was also pleased with the way the book ended, without giving away too much, just know that you won't need a full box of kleenex to make it through the end.

Bottom line, friendships between women can be rewarding and complicated at the same time.  Mike Greenberg did an amazing job of capturing all of those dynamics in his book, All You Could Ask For.  If you are looking for a good book to read with your girlfriends, All You Could Ask For would be a great read to share and discuss over a bottle of wine.  Enjoy!

The Details:

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

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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