Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Monday, March 30, 2015

(25)At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen

Philidelphia socialite Maddie Hyde knows that her husband's plan to go to Scotland in search of the Loch Ness monster is a bad one, but she also knows that unless they can get back into the good graces of her Father-in-Law they will be destitute and financially ruined.  Unfortunately,  the fact that their trip to Scotland falls in the middle World War II does not dissuade her husband, Ellis and his best friend, Hank.   Ellis is convinced that finding the monster is his only hope.   After a rough passage to Scotland the trio is completely shocked at what they find in the village in the Scottish Highlands.  They find blackout curtains and food rations and air raid sirens and people so broken down by the war that they are just moving through the motions of life.  It was quite a shock to the three that are used to servants and gourmet meals and the security of living in the United States. As the days turn into weeks and months Maddie realizes that her husband is not the man she thought.  He is selfish and cruel and threatens not only her, but the good people of the village that has taken them in. Will Maddie give in to the demands of her husband or will she follow her heart?

At the Water's Edge gives a unique perspective of World War II.  I have read a few novels recently that take place during the World War II era, but none quite like this one.  The author shines a light on how insulated many in the United States was to what was happening across the ocean.  They were aware of the war, obviously, and some did  their part, but it people like Maddie still got to enjoy their society parties and other extravagant items.  There was gossip  that Ellis and Hank faked medical issues to keep themselves out of the war and  Maddie kind of believed that if she ignored the whole thing it would go away.  Obviously burying her head in the sand is not the best way to handle anything. Maddie was the character that evolved the most in this novel. She was left behind while the men went off in search of the Loch Ness monster Maddie  and she got to know the people who ran the inn.  Anna and Meg both have their own war stories to share.  Anna was a bit more prickly than Meg, but I enjoyed watching the way they opened up to Maddie.  And then there was Angus, he was the kind of guy that would definitely catch the eye of any woman.

Bottom line - At the Water's Edge was an absolutely fabulous read.  A most unique love story that will capture your heart and cheering for the good guy to win.  A definite must read!


Saturday, March 28, 2015

(24)Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center

Thirty-two year old Helen Carpenter feels like she needs to reboot her life.  She has been divorced for one year and just feels like her life is a complete mess.  Her bratty younger brother, Duncan, had told her about this wilderness survival course in the mountains of Wyoming.  And even though Helen is not really the outdoorsy-type of girl she is committed to spend three weeks trying to get some clarity on her future by hiking through the wilds of Wyoming.  The night before she leaves she runs by her brother's to drop of her dog. She runs into Duncan's childhood best-friend, Jake who happens to be headed to Wyoming,too.   Jake is no longer the goofy, awkward looking guy that she remembers and she is thrown a little off balance when he asks for a ride to Wyoming.  Their trip is mostly uneventful, but there was that one kiss that changes everything Helen thought she knew about Jake and what she wants.   The next three weeks are the most grueling of Helen's life and she pushes herself to extremes she never thought she could do.  And it feels exhilarating.  What will happen when they come down out of the mountains?  Will Helen's new outlook on life continue once she is back home?  And what part will Jake have in her life?

Happiness for Beginners was an absolutely delightful read.  Helen is an interesting character to get to know.  At the beginning of the book she just seems so ... lost.    On the trip out to Wyoming I was thrilled with the developments.  But once they got to Wyoming it was a different game all together.  Helen was the only member of their hiking party in her thirties, in fact their leader looked like he was about fifteen, but she didn't let the frat-boy humor get in her way enjoying the trip. She felt like a complete fish out of water, but still she kept going on.   I really liked how the author showed growth, not only for Helen, but everyone on the trip obviously matured by the time they got back to the lodge.  And then there was Jake.  Helen had demanded that they act like they did not know each other, which was a decision she later regretted.  There were several times that I found myself laughing out loud at Helen's wilderness ineptitude, because frankly, I could see myself doing the exact same things.  It really made the book a fun read.

Bottom line - Happiness for Beginners was a delightful read about a woman who is out to change her life.  It was touching,funny, and even a little bit heartbreaking.  Everything I love in a good book!


Friday, March 27, 2015

(23)Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Seventeen year old Lena Haloway is living in a dystopian Portland, Maine sometime in the future.  She is just days away from being cured.  You see, these days the government administers a cure for the Delirium, that horrible disease that causes people to go weak in the knees, a disease that causes their pulse to race when they are in close proximity to someone of the opposite sex.  In fact, the Delirium only occurs when two people fall in love.  Lena is excited to become cured because  she knows life will be easier after being cured.  She knows that her emotions will settle down and her life will become exactly like that of everyone she knows.   And then she meets Alex, a boy from the Wilds who has managed to hide the fact that he was never cured.  It does not take Lena long to realize that she has feelings for this bad boy and she will do anything to prevent the procedure that will cure her of all love.

Delirium was another "treadmill" book that occupied my time as I racked up more chalories.  There was a lot of back-story and a lot of character development.  When it comes to dystopian novels, that kind of history is really necessary to understand the world in the which the book is set.  Lena is an easy girl to like with somewhat of a sketchy past.  Her mother is a legend throughout Portland because she was never able to be cured, no matter how many times they try.  Her name is very recognizable throughout Portland and that is one of the reasons why Lena is so eager for the procedure.  It is as if her procedure will absolve her mother and her mother's suicide.   Obviously meeting Alex changes all of that.  Lena never dreamed that she would ever become infected with the Delirium, yet here she is.  The concept that love is a disease we must be vaccinated against is an interesting one and I was intrigued by how the author was going to make it happen.  And it did play out in an interesting fashion, I will say that.   I always am up for a good dystopian novel and while Delirium didn't really disappoint me, it didn't really leave me with that "I must rush out and get the next book" feeling.  That could have been though because I only "read" it on the treadmill and it took a month or so to get through it, so it could have lost some if it's excitement.

Bottom line - I love a good dystopian novel and I know that many people absolutely loved Delirium and the subsequent books, but I think maybe I was "cured" from that diseas.  Maybe I will read the rest of the trilogy  - if I have nothing else to read - or maybe I won't. Eh.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Monday, March 23, 2015

(22)The Precious One by Marisa de los Santos

Taisy Cleary has been estranged from her father for seventeen years after he called her a whore and proceeded to dispose of her entire family.  Wilson Cleary goes to marry his mistress and their child Willow because the center of his universe.  Over the nearly twenty years Taisy and her twin brother, Marcus, have done their best to forget the fact that they even have a father, let alone a little sister.  Until one day out of the blue Wilson calls Taisy and invites her for a visit.  He recently had some major health issues and is feeling his mortality.  He wants Taisy to help ghostwrite his memoir while she gets to know her sister.   For some reason unbeknownst to Taisy she complies and finds herself living in her father's pool-house trying to make sense of her past and her father's role in the bad choices she made.  Meanwhile, her sister Willow is entering a new world herself.   Her world is turned upside down with her father almost dying and then her long lost sister shows up out of nowhere.   But what is worse is that after being home-schooled her whole life she is forced to go to school at the local private school.   The world of "normal" teens is overwhelming for the girl who has never watched television and doesn't even have a cell phone.  Will Taisy be able to mend her relationship with her father and make peace with her past?  And will Willow be able to allow Taisy to be a big sister to her?

The Precious One is hyptonizing novel about a divided family full of secrets, a novel about friendship and forgiveness.  A novel about lost love and love about to bloom.  The book is told in alternating voices between Taisy and Willow.  The stark differences between Taisy and Willow are brutally noticeable in those first few chapters.  Taisy is laid back and easy going.  Willow is uptight and looks down on her sister for her past mistakes.  Of course what she knows has been poisoned by their opinionated and overbearing father.  Willow's chapters get a bit easier to read as the novel goes on because it is obvious that Taisy has a positive influence on her.  There are a few subplots that add to the drama of the story.  Like Willow and her English teacher, Mr. Insley - which is utterly terrifying.   And the subplot of Taisy and her high school sweetheart, Ben - which is incredibly romantic.  The longer Taisy stays in the pool-house and works on Wilson's memories, the more she knows very little about her father's past.  She digs up some secrets that while they are surprising, they are also a bit enlightening and give great insight into why Wilson is the way he is today.  It is not an excuse, but an understanding.  You put it all together and The Precious One is a novel that will hypnotize you into submission.

Bottom line - Marisa de los Santos is a master of character development and never has that been more evident than in The Precious One.  Taisy and Willow are two of the most thought out, well developed characters I have read in a very long time.  If you are looking for a good read you need to move The Precious One to the top of your list.

  • The Precious One by Marisa de los Santos
  • On Facebook
  • Pages: 368
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publisher
  • Publication Date: 3/24/2015
  • Buy it Here!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

(21)The Stranger by Harlan Coben

In just a few minutes Adam Price's normal suburban life is rocked to it's core.  He is at the draft for his son's Lacrosse league when a stranger approaches him to tell him that his wife faked her pregnancy two years ago.  The "Stranger" knew enough details to make Adam question if he was telling the truth.  Adam takes the time to think through how to approach Corinne.  The implication that she lied to him two years ago could have major ramifications on their marriage and their perfect suburban life.   And then Corinne just disappears leaving Adam and their two sons reeling.  Adam starts digging around and discovers that "The Stranger" hasn't just destroyed his life, but others as well.  When the police come knocking on his door because someone else tied to "The Stranger" was murdered Adam begins to realize what fear can be.  Will they be able to find the stranger before it is too late for Corinne?  And what will happen to Adam and Corinne's marriage when she does return?  Will they be able to get past this?

Harlan Coben has been writing books for decades now and I love that he never seems to run out of fresh material.  I wasn't sure which direction he was going to take Adam Price and "The Stranger", but it was a thrilling ride.  I could tell that Adam was a good guy, but even good guys can be pushed to a breaking point.  There are some other dynamics at play in this book, the pressures of suburban life can be greater than people can imagine and it is almost shocking at everything that gets revealed about some suburban inhabitants. Greed being number one on the list.  While the ending was not what I had hoped for Adam and his family, but it wasn't completely unexpected.

Bottom line, even after all these years, Harlan Coben knows how to hook his readers and keep them hooked through the very last page.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

(20) Reluctantly Charmed by

Kate McDaid is your typical single twentysomething.  She works for a Dublin ad agency and is trying to wade through the Dublin dating pool.  Then around her 26th birthday she gets summoned to attend the reading of a will.  The will of a distant relative that died 130 years ago, a Great-Aunt (many times removed) also named Kate McDaid.   The will stipulates that in order to receive her inheritance Kate must publicly post The Seven Steps, a series of poems that drudge up old Celtic folklore about Witches and Fairies.  You see the late Kate McDaid was known to be a not so nice witch and her poems might be stirring up more trouble than the young Kate McDaid had expected.  Over the seven weeks that Kate posted the Steps she has sky-rocketed to fame.  Because of the Steps, people believe her to be a witch who can communicate with the fairies, but some believe that if Kate posts all of the Seven Steps it will unleash troubles that could bring the world to their knees.    Does Kate want her inheritance bad enough to take the risk or is it all just a fairy tale?

Reluctantly Charmed is definitely charming novel.  With today being St. Patrick's Day, everybody has a touch of Irish in them, right?  The Dublin setting of this book only added to the charm.  The descriptions of the lilting brogues, the food mentioned, alcohol consumed, all of transplanted me to the "home" of my heart.  I admittedly know very little about  ancient Celtic folklore, so I found that interesting and charming.  The thought of a parallel world full of Fairies and their mischievous ways is kind of fun.   Kate is a fun character to "meet", too.  She is your average single lady who loves going out with her friends, wants to get promoted at work, and find the man of her dreams.  She is reluctant to give in to the hoopla surrounding the Seven Steps and is only doing it with the hope of getting a huge inheritance.  Kate starts to think that there may be some truth to the thing that thousands of her "followers" know to be true -   that she could be a witch.  How else could she possibly know an herbal remedy for a sleepless baby?  Throw in a bad-boy rocker and a handsome farmer from Knocknamee and you have all the fixings for a great story.

Bottom line,  Reluctantly Charmed is a fun and charming novel that will put you in the mood to go find some Leprechauns and a pot of gold.  Definitely a fun read for all of you Irish gals out there!


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

(19)Dog Crazy by Meg Donohue

Maggie Brennan hasn't been living in San Francisco for very long.  She moved out west with her beloved dog, Toby.   Ninety-Eight days ago Toby died, leaving Maggie alone in a new city to deal with her crippling grief.  It has been ninety-eight days since Maggie has left her house.  Which causes a bit of a problem because Maggie is a pet bereavement counselor and her job is to help people get over the loss of their pets.   She has been keeping her "situation" a secret from her patients.  Until she meets Anya.   Anya lost her dog, Billy, several weeks ago and her brother, Henry, set up the appointment with Maggie hoping that Maggie would help Anya realize that Billy wasn't coming back.   The two grieving pet owners become friends as Maggie starts taking her agoraphobia more seriously.   Part of it is because Maggie wants to get better, but part of it is because of the handsome Henry.   Will the two women be able to find the missing Billy and will Maggie ever get over the loss of her beloved Toby?

I am definitely a dog person.  Even since our family got a cat, I still consider myself a dog person.  Losing a pet, any pet, can be a very traumatic experience and I can fully understand the need to seek out therapy to help deal with the loss.   I can even  understand where the death of a pet could be a "trigger" as it was with Maggie.  Maggie is obviously a caring person who wants to help others, but she was struggling to help herself.  She even was intimately aware of agoraphobia because her own mother hasn't left the house in over twenty years.   But, having said all of that, Dog Crazy didn't really have me "crazy".  I found it to be a bit predictable and one-dimensional.   We didn't get to really get into Maggie's head.  I felt like we just scraped the surface with her.  Not to mention Anya, she comes across as a peculiar little rich girl who was patronized by her older brothers and that kind of annoyed me.  I did enjoy all of the cute little critters depicted in the story and the focus the author put on animal rescues.  It is obviously a cause near and dear to her heart.

Bottom line - Dog Crazy is a bit of a fluffy kind of book that could appeal to dog lovers, but know that it is definitely fluff.


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Monday, March 9, 2015

(18) What Stands in A Storm by Kim Cross

April 27, 2011 is a day that will never be erased from the minds of Alabama residents.  On that day over 350 tornadoes ripped through several Southern states leaving 348 people dead, injuring thousands others and causing billions of dollars in damage.  Journalist Kim Cross examines what happened on April 27, 2011 in her new book What Stands in A Storm.  From the local meteorologists who had predicted the outbreak days before to the storm chasers out in the thick of things to University of Alabama college students trying to ride it out in a safe place to the first responders tasked with finding the lost and helping the injured.  Kim Cross transports you to that day, that place, where all eyes were on Mother Nature and the havoc she can wreak.

 What Stands in A Storm  starts with the events leading up to the day of April 27th. The predictions that were made by scientists with decades of school and experience between them.   As most people are waking up the morning of the 27th Meteorologist Jason Simpson and James Spann,  on air personalities,  were well into their workday already issuing the first of many tornado warnings to come that day.   We also meet Danielle Downs, a University of Alabama college student who was finishing up her senior year and getting ready for her sister's upcoming wedding.   She and her two roommates lived off campus on a tree-lined street.  We meet dozens of other ordinary people who started their day not knowing what was going to happen, but aware that the weather was going to play a large part in how it played out.   In heart-pounding, spine-chilling fashion Kim Cross builds the tension as the EF5 & EF4 tornadoes build and bare down on Tuscaloosa and the surround communities.

What Stands in A Storm finishes with the aftermath.  With the destruction.  With the families racing to the Tuscaloosa area to find their missing loved ones.  Kim Cross tells heartbreaking story after heartbreaking story that leaves you feeling as if your heart has been ripped out.   But the resilience of the families that lost everything will give you hope and lift your soul.  The way the people of the South, of the country,  banded together to get things done will make your heart smile.  And the very last pages of the book is a dedication and list of all 252 Alabamians who perished that day.

It has been a very long time since I read a book that sent chills down my arms.  A long time since I read a book that made me cry so hard I could not see the words on the pages.   Having grown up in Southwest Iowa the weather in springtime is always at the forefront of everyone's minds.  I grew up in a house that always had a radio on so we could listen for weather reports.  I now live in an area of the country not conducive to tornadic weather and I find myself almost nostalgic for those springtime thunderstorms.  I almost have almost forgotten the anxiety that riddled me whenever I heard that "conditions were ripe for tornadoes." The careful planning I took to prepare for bad weather.   Kim Cross reminded me that tornadoes are not something to be "nostalgic" about.  They are real and they are deadly.

Bottom line - in What Stands in A Storm author Kim Cross puts you in the heart of the storm in such a way that I am not sure has ever been done before.   She has put faces and names and stories to the people who were killed or injured that day and has done so in such a way that you will never forget.    Hands down the best book I have read this year, if not ever.


Saturday, March 7, 2015

(17)The Daughter by Jane Shemilt

Jenny's life is busy, but fulfilling.  She is the mother of three teenagers, wife to a surgeon, and a family doctor herself. Her ordinarily average life is disrupted when fifteen year old Naomi doesn't come home from an evening performance of the school play.  Naomi's disappearance rocks the family and brings to light all sorts of family drama that was festering below the surface.  Drug abuse, infidelity, and more.   But that doesn't answer the question - where is Naomi?

The Daughter is told in an interesting timeline.  The days leading up to and the days after Naomi's disappearance and then ten months after the disappearance when the family has shattered into a million little pieces.   Jenny has moved to their summer house, leaving her husband at home.   The twins, Theo and Ed, have scattered.    But Jenny is still feels empty without knowing what happened to Naomi and is willing to got to any lengths to find out what happened to her daughter.

The Daughter was a captivating read.  Watching this family implode was heartbreaking, yet captivating.  As each secret was revealed it seemed like this family hardly knew each other at all.    I think Jenny was shattered the most by Naomi's disappearance.  She was so confident that she knew everything there was to know about her daughter and obviously that wasn't true. I also found her relationship with the detective, Micheal, interesting.  I was satisfied with the ending, but it did leave a few unanswered questions for me.  Or else I missed something along the way.

Bottom line, The Daughter was a good read. I was sucked in by this dysfunctional family and I didn't want to stop reading until the truth had been revealed.  Isn't that always a good hallmark of a good book?


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

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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