Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Monday, June 29, 2015

(52)The Idea of Love by Patti Callahan Henry

When Ella found out that her husband was having an affair she was completely shattered.  Even though some time has passed she still feels the loss to her core.   When she meets the handsome Blake in a local restaurant she feels the need to pretend the pain she feels isn't because her husband left her, but because he died.  What Blake hasn't told her is that his name is really Hunter, a famous screenwriter from Hollywood whose entire career rests on the success of his next movie.  He hears the story of Ella's "dearly departed husband" and thinks he has found the key to his next blockbuster.  They both have lied to each other, but one thing remains true, their undeniable attraction to each other.  What will happen when they both discover the lies?  Will they be able to get past the deception?

Anybody who has had their heart broken is going to be able to understand why Ella lied to the handsome stranger.  She never thought she would see Blake again and telling someone your husband left you for your best friend's sister would be a bit humbling for anybody.  Normally I have a zero tolerance for that kind of deception in my real life or in my fiction, but the pain Ella displays makes it understandable.  Blake/Hunter on the other hand seemed like a stereotypical Hollywood sleazeball from the word go. I get the ex-wife and daughter thing, but sleeping with your assistant is so stinking cliche it just made him seem like a fake character. He never came across as genuine whereas Ella did.  I never really did warm up to him and I am not entirely sure why Ella fell so hard for him.  In the end The Idea of Love ended in a predictable way, not good or bad, just predictable.

Bottom line - I am not going to lie, I was a little disappointed.  I was hoping to be swept away and find myself rooting for the "happy ever after" - but I really wasn't sure which way was the "happy ever after" I wanted.


Saturday, June 27, 2015

(51)So That Happened by Jon Cryer

Jon Cryer is the next in a long line of celebrities to share their life's story with the world.   He starts with his childhood in New York with parents who are also in the business.  He tells us what it was like going to summer camp at the famed Stagedoor Manor.  Of course he shares with us his early days in show business, including his perpetual problem of being mistaken for Matthew Broderick.  He covers his brief relationship with Demi Moore.  And then he finally gets to the part I was waiting for, the making of Pretty in Pink.  Sadly, his time making Pretty in Pink was not as eventful as I had hoped.   In fact I was a little disappointed about the off screen chemistry between Jon Cryer and his co-stars, or lack thereof.   More of you may be more interested in his time at Two and a Half Men and he doesn't disappoint.  He is honest and open about the time spent on the show and his co-stars.  It was really refreshing to see him being honest about his relationship with Charlie Sheen without being mean or resentful.  If anybody had a reason to be vicious while discussing Charlie Sheen's time on the show, it would be him.  But instead he stated the facts and expressed concern for his friend who was obviously spiraling out of control.

Jon Cryer is obviously one of those guys who has that "what you see is what you get" kind of presence.  He readily admits that he is a little bit nerdy, little bit dorky and not at all a "ladies man."  He shows up to work committed to his craft and focused on what he is being paid to do.   I admittedly laughed out loud a few times in the book and found his self-deprecating humor to be entertaining.  I think my favorite story was him talking about his inability to hi-five.

Bottom line - I love celeb memoirs, I think that has become obvious.  Listening to them in audiobook form has become one of my favorite things about them.  To hear them telling their stories is like sitting across from them at a table and chatting with them over beers.  While So That Happened isn't the juiciest celeb memoir ever it was an entertaining way to pass the miles on the treadmill.

  • So That Happened by Jon Cryer
  • Pages: 352
  • Publication Date: 4/7/2015
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Buy it Here!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Monday, June 22, 2015

(50)Summer Secrets by Jane Green

Twenty-something Cat is fearless and fancy-free.  Living in London she lives the kind of life that many twenty-somethings would envy.  Working in magazines she gets access to all of the posh parties and of course that means all of the free food and drink she can stand.  So of course she drinks frequently, who doesn't when they are at a party?  One night after such a party Cat wakes up in a strange bedroom in a strange house.   She does not remember how she got there or who the man on the couch is, but there he is.  Jason was kind enough to take her to his home when Cat was too drunk to remember where she lived the night before.  Jason remembers everything, though because he is a recovering alcoholic.   It is the start of their roller-coaster ride of a relationship that spans decades.  Through horrible drunken mistakes involving a trip to Nantucket and a long lost family, through multiple attempts at sobriety, through the birth of their daughter and more Jason sticks by Cat's side urging her to fight for her sobriety and their family.  Until he stops.  Cat is devastated by their divorce and once again she fights for her sobriety. And that means a trip back to Nantucket to make amends.  Will Cat finally be able to face her demons and make peace?  And is it too late to make peace with Jason?

Oh Jane Green - why must you be so awesome?  I told myself that I was only going to read a few pages on the deck this morning before going off for a walk,  Next thing I know hours have passed and the hot sun told me it was too late for a walk.  It was easy to get swept away in Cat's story because it very well could have been my story had I not changed my course.  I could totally relate to the desire Cat had to be at all the cool parties where everybody was drinking and having fun.  I could even relate to nerves that drove her to drinking as she did in Nantucket when she went to meet her long-lost family. I get it.  The blackout drinking is scary and Cat was going to that extreme far more than was healthy and even she recognized that , but not enough to want to change.   I loved how Jason was the steady force in her life from the very first night they met.  He made her want to be a better person and I can relate to that, too.   The book kind of moves around in terms of timeline with huge chunks in one era or another, but it was necessary to get all of Cat's story and to understand what drives her.  Cat is more than just a party girl and it is important for us to know that about her.

Bottom line - Summer Secrets tackles a pretty heavy-hitting topic with Cat's story.  Alcoholism is  one of those secrets that destroys lives and often time it is happening to the person you would least expect.   Definitely a must read this summer and sure to generate lots of chatter at your next book club meeting.


Saturday, June 20, 2015

(49)The President's Shadow by Brad Meltzer

Our favorite Archivist, Beecher White, is back in Brad Meltzer's new book, The President's Shadow.  The First Lady finds a severed arm while gardening on the White House lawn and sends the President's security into a scurry.  How did the arm get there?  Who does the arm belong to? And what does that scrap of paper clutched in his hand mean?  Beecher White and the Culpepper Ring are called in to help find answers.  As Beecher starts searching for answers he realizes that it is all tied to the past and soon he realizes that this past is intertwined with his own past.   Will he be able to find  out the truth before more body parts start turning up?

My very first Brad Meltzer novel was The Inner Circle several years ago and I enjoyed it, so when I noticed The President's Shadow available on Netgalley I jumped at the chance to read it.  We get to meet up with some of the same characters, like Marshall, and Nicco, and Clementine.  Crazy or not, they certainly add a certain "something" to the story.  One of the things I loved about both books was the fast paced nature of the story.  The mystery and espionage is really what I needed to "cleanse my pallet" after all of those beach reads. I also really enjoy the "secret" history of America that is revealed in these books.  How much of it is factual, I cannot say.  But the National Treasure-esque style of the book really made it fun.

Bottom line - The President's Shadow is a bit of a deviation from my normal reads, but it is worth the read if you are looking for something different.  Suspenseful, fast-paced, and guaranteed to suck you in.


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Monday, June 15, 2015

(48)Whisper Beach by Shelley Noble

Vanessa "Van" Moran left Whisper Beach twelve years ago and hasn't once looked back.  Now she feels compelled to go home for the funeral of her cousin's husband.  Van thinks she can just go and make an appearance then head off to her much needed vacation at a ritzy resort.   She should have known though, that her friends would spot her and suck her back into the life of small Jersey shore town.   Her friends talk her into staying for a few days and she finds herself back at Dorie's, the restaurant owner, turned boss, turned friend and mother figure to Van and her friends.  Van runs into her old flame, Joe. Joe was the love of her life and the man she left when she ran away all those years ago.  Will he be able to forgive her and will she be able to forgive herself?

Whisper Beach is a book about friendships, love, and redemption.  Set along the Jersey Shore in the aftermath of Sandy we get to see what Hurricane Sandy left behind.    While Van left the Jersey Shore for bigger and better, her friends stayed behind.  I will be honest.  I didn't really find myself connecting with any of the characters. I don't know if I am in a book slump and it is just my mood or what, but I just found myself going through the motions with this one.   Van was a likable enough character, but I just didn't find myself wanting to know - or even caring about - what happened that sent her running.  I was expecting something salacious, but the truth was a bit boring. I didn't ever really feel the connections between Van and her friends.  Usually the friendship bond can strike a chord with me, but not this time.  It just felt flat to me.

Bottom line - it is entirely possible that my thoughts on this book could just be me being in a slump, but this was not a book that I connected with at all.  I would love to hear feedback from others that have read Whisper Beach.  Was it just me?


Friday, June 12, 2015

(47)Primates of Park Avenue by Wednesday Martin

Have you ever been to the Upper East Side of Manhattan?  I haven't - well, at least I don't think I have - that family trip to New York City was fifteen years ago.  According to author Wednesday Martin, traveling to the Upper East Side is akin to traveling to another planet.  When she and her husband, an Investment Manager, made the move to the Upper East Side she decided it was worth writing a book about the world that is the Upper East Side.   In her book, Primates of Park Avenue, Wednesday Martin takes an anthropological approach to her observations often comparing the behaviors of UES mothers to behaviors you would find in the animal kingdom.  She writes about the ultra-competitiveness you would expect from the spouses and offspring of ultra-alpha-males.   She writes about the expectations of wives, mothers and children of these men.   She writes about the excessive wealth of these residents. And she writes about her efforts, as a humble woman from the Midwest, to assimilate to these strange and fascinating ways of the Upper East Side.

Let it be known that since publication of Primates of Park Avenue it has come to light that Wednesday Martin was not as accurate as one would should be when writing a memoir. There were a few exaggerations and discrepancies noted in this New York Times Article.  From almost the first page of the book I found myself entertained by the excessive living that happens on the Upper East Side, I mean don't these women ever have a day where they just binge-watch Netflix and eat pizza and ice cream? (Answer: NO!)  Early on the narrative in my head sounded a lot like Lindsay Lohan's observations and narratives in the movie Mean Girls. And that was essentially what it was. Mean Girls come to life in the Upper East Side.    I understand the author's need to acclimate and fit in, but she pretty much lost my respect when she spent an inordinate amount of time in the book covering her obsession (and subsequent purchase) of a Birkin bag.  The author spent a huge chunk of the book playing up to her Midwestern roots and identifying as someone not like "those mothers" in her neighborhood, but that Birkin bag had me calling bullshit on the humble Midwest upbringing having any impact on her current outlook on life.   I lost some interest in the book after that, but I made it through and was left feeling as if the Upper East Side really is another world.

Bottom line - one of the reasons I love to read is because I want to learn about things and places and people outside of my own little world.   Maybe it is because I have a thirst for knowledge or maybe it is because I am a little voyeuristic or maybe I just love to be a Judgy McJudgerson on how other people live their lives. My desire to read  Primates of Park Avenue  might just fit into all of those categories.   I think  Primates of Park Avenue is definitely worth the read, but go into knowing that it is a bit over the top.


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Monday, June 8, 2015

(46)Those Secrets We Keep by Emily Liebert

Wife and mother, Sloane, jumps at the chance to spend three weeks at her Aunt's summer home at Lake George.  She has just sent her daughter off to camp and Sloane knows that the time away will be good for her and good for her marriage - a time for her to grieve the loss of her beloved sister and evaluate her future.   Sloane invites her friend Hillary to join her and her oldest friend Georgina invites herself to come along.  Sloane doesn't really want Georgina there for Sloane is furious with her for ignoring the fact that Sloane's sister passed away.   If anyone should have been there for Sloane during her sister's illness and death it should have been Georgina, but instead Georgina didn't call, send a card, or even acknowledge that Amy had died.   Throw in the fact that Sloane's first love, Luke, will be at the lake is enough to keep this vacation from being the relaxing vacation Sloane had hoped for.   As the weeks pass by Sloane realizes that all three of them are keeping secrets that could destroy their lives.   By the time their vacation is over will they be able to be honest with themselves and those they love?

Sloane was  a tough character to like.  I can understand her grief and even understand the depths of her grief.  I could *not* understand why she allowed Georgina to join them at Lake George.  No is a complete sentence!  I also found myself rather irritated at the fact that she was so passive aggressive towards Georgina the whole time.  Why not just come out and tell Georgina how hurt she was by her lack of acknowledgement at Amy's death? Why play those games and come across as a complete bitch to the woman who was supposed to be her oldest and dearest friend?   Then there was the whole Luke thing.  Ugh.  Really hard character to like.   Hillary had her own secrets that made it tough to like her. Of the three she seemed the most to acknowledge her own shortcomings, so a little more tolerable.   And then Georgina, good grief.  What is it with these women and deception??  Not just keeping secrets, but horribly deceptive and frankly not really nice to each other.  Georgina and Sloane that is, most of the time Hillary almost seemed like an outsider.   There was some resolution in the end, but the only resolution I was satisfied with was Hillary's.  Both Georgina and Sloane's resolutions almost felt like cop-outs.

Bottom line, I really really wanted to like Those Secrets We Keep.  The premise is a great one, but my lack of connection with the characters made it a tough book to get through.   I do believe that those who are at different places in their lives might enjoy Those Secrets We Keep. Let me know what you think.


Saturday, June 6, 2015

(45)It's You by Jane Porter

Dr. Alison McAdams has been in a haze of grief for months.  Her fiance, Andrew, killed himself just weeks before they were to be married and Ali doesn't know why. She gets word that her elderly father has injured himself and Ali rushes to Napa to take care of him and to try to convince him that he needs to move to Arizona so she can look after him.  Her father flatly refuses.  He has made a life at the retirement community.  He has friends who make his day brighter and his days are full of activity and laughter.  The trip to Napa proves to be cathartic for Ali, too.  She made a friend on the flight and has been spending time helping out at her flower shop.  She has gotten to know the people of her father's community and their family members.  Including the cranky Edie and her very handsome nephew, Craig.  It takes a while but soon Edie and Ali break down the other's barriers.  Ali learns of Edie's ties to Nazi Germany and after reading Edie's diaries she discovers there is more to her story than she believed.  Edie's story sends Ali on a trip across the world that will hopefully bring closure to both her and Edie.

I just adore Jane Porter's stories.  They just touch your heart in ways you don't expect.   In It's You she tells the story of heartbreak and loss.  Not just Ali's heartbreak, but Edie's, and even Ali's father have holes in their heart from the loss of a loved one.    The Napa area is familiar to Jane Porter fans and you even see a  few characters from the Brennan Sister's Trilogy. It makes it seem that you are catching up with old friends.   You can sense the tension and grief start to ebb away from Ali as you get further into the book.  Being in Napa really is good for her and I think it is the distance that plays a big part of that.    It makes me a bit sad when she decides to go back to her life in Arizona because Arizona is where most of the painful memories reside.  Ultimately the book ends the way it should, but you might be a little sad at what happens right before the end.

Bottom line - It's You was a great read.  Love, loss, heartbreak, and resilience all resonate throughout the pages of Jane Porter's new book.   Just as the last book I read, I am going to say, grab a glass of wine and enjoy!


Monday, June 1, 2015

(44)Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave

When the going gets tough attorney Georgia Ford goes to the one place she was so desperate to escape - home.  Just days before their wedding Georgia discovers that her fiance, Ben, has a four year old daughter he never told her about.  Without even stopping to think about her actions she gets in the car and drives the nine hours north to Sonoma.   Her unexpected arrival reveals some shocking things about her own family.  Like her mother is having an affair and her father is in the process of selling the family's vineyard.  And one of her brothers wants to move to the other side of the country.  Georgia goes into "problem solving" mode and tries to solve everybody's problems but her own.  In the process she meets Jacob, the man who is buying the vineyard and that muddy's the waters even more for Georgia.   Will she go through with the wedding and save her family's vineyard?

Through the first part of Eight Hundred Grapes I found myself a little irritated.  Here is this highly intelligent, highly educated woman who finds out her fiance has been dishonest and her gut reaction is to run - still wearing the wedding dress she was wearing for a fitting - nine hours to her family home.  Later in the book Georgia's friend points out the reason she did that and I thought "Oh, that makes sense." - So I got over it!  There is definitely one thing that cannot be mistaken and that is the fact that Georgia loves her family.   Even though her own relationship is crumbling she is so concerned about making the relationships in her family.  She has always looked up to her brothers and to see their relationship in tatters hurts her almost more than her relationship with Ben.  I was pleased with the end even if it was a bit predictable.  Everything wrapped up nicely and with a "happy ever after" conclusion.

Bottom line - Eight Hundred Grapes was a good read. I loved the Sonoma Valley setting and most of the characters were interesting and engaging.  Grab a glass of wine and give it a read.


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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