Tuesday, July 28, 2015

(61)If I Could Turn Back Time by Beth Harbison

It is the eve of Ramie's thirty-eighth birthday and  Ramie is reflective on her life thus far. While she is wildly more successful than she ever thought possible, her personal life is not where she thought it would be at this age.  With one break-up after another Ramie isn't entirely sure that she has been in love since her high school boyfriend, Brendan. When Ramie wakes up on her thirty-eighth birthday she is shocked to discover that it is twenty years ago on her eighteenth birthday.   She rejoices at seeing her long deceased father and beloved childhood dog, but she also is eager to see Brendan again and a bit apprehensive about actually having to go back to high school.  A few days back in high school is all it takes before Ramie  wakes up on the eve of her twenty-eighth birthday.  She is a teacher and married to Brendan.  And expecting their first child.   Everything she thought she wanted out of life, but still she finds herself longing for something more.   Finally Ramie gets back to her thirties , but will she realize how important it is to live the life she has instead of longing for the life she doesn't have?

If I Could Turn Back Time was a fluffy "what if" kind of book.  I enjoyed Ramie and thought she was a great character.  She does exactly what I would do If I Could Go Back In Time - she tells her boyfriend's parents to go all in on Microsoft.  I also loved how much "love" Ramie gives to her father - she really showed appreciation for being able to see her deceased father again. And even tries to convince him to see a doctor early in an effort to prevent his heart attack.   Ramie also decides to be a little more inhibited than she was her first time as a teenager.  Like not waiting to lose her virginity, but she is also  more reserved about things like her best friend binge drinking.   I was a bit surprised at how the story ended.  Beth Harbison could have gone for the easy conclusion, but she didn't, and I respect that in an author.

Bottom line - If I Could Turn Back Time was a fun, fluffy read.  Ladies of a certain generation (ahem; me) will get a kick out of the 90's references and will give you a little bit of an opportunity to go back in time.


Saturday, July 25, 2015

(60)As Night Falls by Jenny Milchman

Sandy and Ben Tremont have built their dream home in the mountains of the Adirondacks.  It glows with warmth on a cold winter night as Sandy waits for her husband and their teenage daughter, Ivy, to come home.  The family dynamics have been a bit tense lately as Ivy has hit those "difficult" teen years, but she is determined to make their evening a pleasant, relaxing one.  What Sandy doesn't know is that two convicts have escaped the nearby prison and have found their way to her neighborhood and will soon be on their doorstep.

Nick and Harlan have been cellmates for years and have concocted a scheme to escape prison.  Nick is the more evil of the two and uses Harlan to execute his deadly plans.  But, the pair did not come upon the Tremont home by mistake.  There is deep, ugly connection between Sandy and Nick and when it comes to light it threatens to destroy everything Sandy has built with her family.  But the immediate concern is for her family.  Will the Tremont family survive a night with two escaped convicts?

From almost the first page of As Night Falls the author creates this vivid world that plays like a movie in your head.  Almost from the beginning I was trying to cast the movie in my head.  Who will play Sandy?  Who will play Ben? Jenny Milchman's agent better be shopping this book around Hollywood, because it is a movie I would definitely watch.  The author's descriptions so vivid that it was borderline terrifying.  I loved Sandy and her way of trying to keep things from escalating, yet still trying to find ways to get them to safety.  Throughout the book there are a few chapters that explains where Sandy came from and how she got to where she is today.   In some ways I  think that her family history was more jaw-dropping than what was happening in present day.  As the story is catapulting to it's conclusion you find your pulse racing and your heart pounding and you are desperate for Sandy and her family to be safe.   It is the ultimate thrill-ride!

Bottom line - As Night Falls breathes life back into the old "page-turner" moniker.  I truly found myself so engrossed and on the edge of my seat and I could not wait to see what happened next.  Now I can't wait to see it on the big screen.


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

(59)Fat Girl Walking by Brittany Gibbons

Brittany Gibbons is a wife, a mother, a blogger, and a fat girl.  She has become an internet sensation with her level of  uninhibited comfort in her own skin.  In her new book, Fat Girl Walking: Sex, Food, Love and Being Comfortable in Your Skin...Every Inch of It Brittany shares what it was like growing up as a fat girl.  She talks about her early childhood and teen years being overweight through all of those years.  She did have a boyfriend (who she went on to marry) and a very active social life, but she always felt a little on the outside because of her weight.  Brittany also talks about her relationship with her family, friends, the opposite sex,  and the crippling anxiety that nearly turned her into an agoraphobic while in college.   Then Brittany got married and had babies, started a blog, stripped on stage at TedX, and wrote a book.

I had never heard of Brittany Gibbons before buying this book.  The title of the book appealed to me as a fellow fat girl and I wanted to see what she had to say.  I wanted to see if her experiences have been anything like mine.  In broad generalities, maybe, but Brittany's experiences are definitely her own.   Brittany definitely has a level of self-confidence that is often lacking in overweight women, at times myself included.  Though, that kind empowerment is often needed to help overweight women become a little more comfortable in their own skin.  I admire Brittany's fearlessness when it comes to displaying her body on the internet.  I am not sure I would have that confidence even if I were a size 10. I admire anybody that has the balls to give a Ted Talk and to strip on stage takes it to a whole different level. I will say that there were several times Brittany comes across as really crass. Using language that some of you might find offensive and discussing stuff that would make even the most open-minded person cringe.   After checking out Brittany's website I realize that is just her personality and likely what attracts many of her thousands of followers.  And I say more power to her - just be aware.

Bottom line -  While Brittany Gibbons may come across a bit brash she has an important message that millions of women need to hear.  Her ability to be comfortable in her own skin is something that all women, fat or skinny, could learn from.


Monday, July 20, 2015

(58)The Status of All Things by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke

It is the night before her wedding and Kate is starting out her night with a carefully crafted social media post.  Kate is thirty-five and has waited a long time to find her future husband, Max, and is excited for her Facebook friends to know about the perfect night about to happen.  She sees all of the posts from her friends that promote their "perfect" lives with the perfect husbands and perfect children and now Kate gets to join their ranks.   Except her perfect night turns into a perfect nightmare when Max tells her he wants to call off the wedding and might be in love with Kate's co-worker, Courtney.  Kate is devastated, but doesn't take to Facebook yet.  But when she does she realizes that anything she posts to Facebook because reality.  Kate uses her special power to her advantage in the form of a "do-over" with Max in the month leading up to their wedding. But it doesn't matter what she posts it seems to push Max and Courtney closer together.  Will Kate be able to post enough Facebook posts to save her wedding and perfect life?  Or will she realize that sometimes there is no fighting fate?

Facebook has become such an integral part in how we connect with our family, friends, and people from our past.  I found myself practically twitching this weekend when I was in the land of no WiFi and no cell service (aka rural South Dakota).  It was good for me to unplug and really enjoy the time with my family, but I did feel a bit disconnected from the world.  And then I started reading The Status of All Things on the way home and I realized that maybe I have something in common with Kate.   Kate looks to Facebook to validate her choices in life and that is evident in the first few pages in the book when she wants to change her wedding hair-style at the last minute because of something her Facebook friend said or did.  The power Kate discovers that she has goes directly to her head and starts posting random stuff to hurt Courtney rather than help herself.  It soon becomes evident that no matter what Kate posts there are some things she just can't change.   But, what she does realize is that she can change herself. Her behaviors, her attitude, and her life.  Even though Kate seemed like a major diva at times, I really enjoyed The Status of All Things.  I think there is an important message there that needs to be read and it is wrapped up in fun characters and a unique premise.

Bottom line - social media is one of those things that is here to stay, but as shown in The Status of All Things it can be used for good or evil.  A fun read, especially for those of us who might have a bit of a social media problem. *cough cough*


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

(57)After the Storm by Linda Castillo

It is springtime in Ohio and a tornado has just ripped through the small community of Painters Mill. Chief of Police, Kate Burkholder works through the night to help her community and her boyfriend, Tomasetti, is by her side through it all.   A group of Boy Scouts are doing volunteer cleanup work on an Amish farm when they stumble across a grisly discovery.    They found remains that have obviously been buried for decades and now it is up to Kate and her team to find out who was buried under that barn and why they were there.  But things get tricky, though when someone repeatedly shoots at Kate.  Is someone trying to keep her from finding out the truth about what happened in 1985 or is the shootings connected to her own rescue efforts After the Storm?

Linda Castillo has done it again!  From page one I was immersed in the world of Painters Mill, Ohio.  I felt that After the Storm starts out with a very fast pace and then settles down into that slow, simmering  "whodunit" that we are accustomed to. I know the fast-paced feeling comes from the tornado that sets the scene for After the Storm and that is okay, even to be expected.   All of the familiar characters are here and they are exactly as you remember them.   The relationship between Burkholder and Tomasetti is progressing nicely, but they are thrown a curve-ball (I am watching baseball as I type this out, can you tell?) with a shocking revelation.  Fans of Linda Castillo know that the two characters have a rocky past and the new "curve-ball" had me worried that it would have a dangerous impact on their seemingly settled relationship.   To prevent giving spoilers I will just leave it at that.   As always Kate's own past is useful when dealing with the Amish families during her investigation.  In the end,  Burkholder works hard to solve the mystery of the remains, but not before putting her life in grave danger.

Bottom line - Linda Castillo has written another great Kate Burkholder mystery.  I look forward to them every year, but I will say that if you aren't familiar with Kate Burkholder you might be a little lost with the backstory, but I think you will still find it enjoyable.

Monday, July 13, 2015

(56)The Woman Who Stole My Life by Marian Keyes

Stella Sweeney is forty-one (and a quarter) and is struggling to come up with something profound for the memoir her publisher is anxious to receive.   You see, Stella became a global sensation when the story of her time in the hospital with a rare disease landed in the hands of a celebrity.   Stella was in the hospital for months with the rare disease Guilliain Barre Syndrome.  Stella was paralyzed and couldn't speak - she was literally a prisoner of her own body.  Her husband and two teenagers were frustrated with her lack of progress in healing and she was frustrated without anyway to communicate with them.   Until Dr. Mannix Taylor, her neurologist, came along.  They devised a form of communication involving blinking and soon the two of them are on the same wave length, in more ways that one.   It was Mannix's patience and determination that got Stella through the worst of her illness and set her on the road to regaining her life.    It was also Mannix, who had compiled their conversations for the book that now has the world eagerly waiting for a follow up.  The relationship of doctor and patient starts to get complicated and as Stella starts rejoining her life she begins to question what she wants out of life and who she wants to spend the rest of her life with.  Now that she is fully healed and desperate to appease her publisher, but she still doesn't know what she wants out of her life and her relationships.

Marian Keyes is another one of those authors who has me counting down the days until her next book.  And let me just say that The Woman Who Stole My Life was a fabulous read.  We first meet Stella after she is better and struggling to find the right words to put on paper.  We know that she has an ex-husband who is a bit of an oddball and a teenage son who is - well a teenage boy.   Through a series of excerpts from One Blink At A Time we get to piece together what happened to Stella during her months long stay in the hospital.  The more that is revealed the more I am convinced that Stella's husband is a gigantic ass.  But isn't there always at least one gigantic ass in books like this one? I loved her relationship with Mannix almost from the beginning - it was almost like something out of a fairy tale.    He wasn't about to just let Stella waste away, kind of like her husband and kids were doing.   Stella's story was an interesting one, I found myself most eager in getting back to the excerpts from the book because that is when we really learn about Stella.  In the end things worked out the way they were supposed to and it was satisfying conclusion.

Bottom line -The Woman Who Stole My Life was a great read about a woman who comes over the most challenging of circumstances.  In all seriousness, Marian Keyes shines the spotlight on a little known disease and does so in a manner that is respectful, yet honest. Definitely well worth the read.


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Monday, July 6, 2015

(55)Those Girls by Chevy Stevens

For the Campbell sisters life has always been tough.  When their father is gone for work life is just a little bit easier.  All they have to worry about is scrounging up money for food when he is gone.  When their father is home Jess, Courtney, and Dani  have to tiptoe around their father's temper.  One night things get out of control and the girls are fighting for their lives.  They do the only thing their teenage minds think they can do and they run to escape what they did.  But they are jumping from the frying pan into the fire when their truck breaks down in a small backwoods town.  They find themselves in the middle of a nightmare that is do or die.  They managed to get out of that nightmare, but with new identities in a new city.  Now it is eighteen years later and the girls have survived- sticking close to each other in the same neighborhood that has been home for eighteen years. Each of them is haunted by the events all those years ago, but Courtney more than the others and one day Courtney goes missing.  Courtney's niece, Skylar, goes chasing after Courtney and walks into a situation she knows nothing about and doesn't understand.  Is Skylar doomed to repeat the history she knows nothing about?

Chevy Stevens has to be one of my favorite things about summer.  In the midst of all of the fluffy beach reads (that I love, don't get me wrong) we have a story that will just gut you.  Chevy Stevens has always come close to crossing that "line" and I think she was closer than ever with Those Girls.  Courtney, Dani, and Jess are as poor as poor gets.  Their father is about as evil as evil gets.  When he returned home I felt my stomach clench with fear for the girls. I knew something bad was going to happen and it did, but that was nothing compared to what happened to the girls when their truck broke down.  It was absolutely horrifying.  Courtney, Jess, and Dani are the very definition of survivors and I found it very admirable the way they continued on through the years.   Through it all though, I don't think I felt their fear as much as I did when Jess realized that Skylar was gone.  

Bottom line - Those Girls is a thrilling, suspenseful novel that will have you on the edge of your seat, but it be prepared, it has some really sensitive, disturbing subject matter and many might find it too disturbing.


Sunday, July 5, 2015

(54)Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Hannah Martin is twenty-nine year old woman with a dead-end job and a married boyfriend. She knows that her life needs a new direction so she moves home to Los Angeles and to her best friend, Gabby.  Gabby has always been the one constant in her life and Hannah needs her stability now more than ever.  Her first night back in town she goes out with Gabby and runs into her ex-boyfriend, Ethan. Her first true love.  When the night ends Hannah has a choice to make - does she go home with Ethan or does she go home with Gabby.  The rest of the book continues in parallel universes told in alternating chapters.  The different scenarios produce different experiences and different consequences, but one thing is the same.  In both "universes" Hannah believes she has found the man who is her one true love, but they are different men.  Which life is Hannah meant to live?

Maybe in Another Life was a unique book to read. It took me a few chapters to realize that it was a parallel universe for Hannah.  Once I got into the pace of the stories the book moved rather quickly.  There were a few things that were consistent in both versions of Hannah's life.  One was Hannah's strained relationship with her parents and the other was Gabby's relationship with her husband.   The thing I really liked was Hannah's relationship with Gabby and her parents.  They were the one stable, constant thing in Hannah's life and because Hannah realized that she had a great respect for the Hudson family.  I was about two-thirds of the way through the book when I decided which version of Hannah's life I liked better.   The ending was just as unique as the rest of the book and I was okay with that.  The author has a lot of faith in her readers and I love that kind of confidence.

Bottom line - with each new book Taylor Jenkins Reid writes I become more of a fan.  Maybe in Another Life is a unique tale about a unique woman.  I think it will generate a lot of chatter among your friends and your next book club meeting.  You can find it on bookstore shelves near you this Tuesday, July 7th.


Friday, July 3, 2015

(53)The Rumor by Elin Hilderbrand

Summer is fast approaching on the island of Nantucket.  It is what the residents of Nantucket wait for all year.  The onslaught of vacationers and the rhythm of summer means that all is right with the world.  Madeline King and Grace  Panick are two natives who have been best friends forever.  They grew up on the island together and now lead "charmed" lives with their families.  Grace's husband is a successful real estate mogul on the island and Maddie has made a name for herself has as a quite successful author.  With summer approaching, so does Maddie's deadline for her next book, and she has nothing that anybody would want to read.  For Grace, summer means the return of her extremely handsome landscape architect, Bennett Coe. Grace spent the winter preparing for his return by losing weight and getting in shape.  Both women forgot one important detail, Nantucket is a very small island and soon rumors are flying about the both of them.  Will their marriages - and their friendships sustain The Rumor?

Summer isn't summer until Elin Hilderbrand's newest novel has hit the shelves.  The Rumor does not disappoint, set in the familiar Nantucket setting we get to "spot" a few characters from past summer novels.  But, we also get to meet these two women who appear to lead charmed lives. Churning underneath the surface are issues that even they don't know about. I think that Grace is the most clueless when it comes to  her husband, "Fast Eddie".  Not that he is cheating on her, (because he is not)  but in the fact that she is clueless to the family's finances and the juggling act that Eddie has been doing for quite sometime.  His desperate behaviors would be sleazy if he wasn't just so desperate to not disappoint his wife - the very same wife who is lusting after the gardener.  And then there is Maddie,  who is so desperate to turn in a book for fear that she would have to give back her advance (the advance she invested with "Fast Eddie")  that she writes her most salacious novel yet. I can't really say that I blame her, but she was silly to not disguise her muse a bit more than she did.   In the end, everything falls apart for both of them and I find myself feeling sorry for both of them. It can be utterly traumatic to realize that your whole life is a sham.  But they are two strong women at their core and I was very satisfied with the way their story ended.

Bottom line - Elin Hilderbrand is a masterful artist at depicting life on Nantucket.  A lot of authors use Nantucket as the backdrop for the perfect summer vacation, but Hilderbrand goes deeper and explores the lives of the locals in a way that just hooks you.  It is why I keep coming back summer after summer.  As always, a great read from a great author!

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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