Wednesday, September 30, 2015

(70)A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan

Alice Pearse is apprehensive when her husband tells her that he is leaving his job as a successful lawyer to start his own practice.  She knows that their family of five cannot survive on her income as a part-time book editor for a women's magazine, so Alice starts her job search.  She lands at a start-up company called Scroll.  Scroll is the pet project of a large conglomeration that has grandiose ideas of yet again reinventing the way people buy books and read those books.  Alice is beyond thrilled to be part of such an endeavor and when she receives a first edition of her favorite book on her first day she is sure that she has found the perfect job.  Scroll is demanding of both Alice's time and energy.  She has to sacrifice the majority of her duties at home to her husband and their nanny, Jessie.  She works long and exhausting hours, but she does it because she believes in the mission of the company. And then her father's cancer returns, life at home is falling completely apart, and the company she was so proud to work for has changed their vision.  Alice is heartbroken about her father and torn between providing for her family and honoring her true self.  And will her marriage survive everything that is being thrown at them?

I really, really, really enjoyed A Window Opens. I didn't realize it until I had finished the book and was able to digest everything that I realized it was one of the best books of the year.  Unfortunately I completely understand what it is like to become disillusioned with a company that you thought was a perfect fit for you. There is a huge sense of disappointment and coming to that realization could bring even the strongest of women to their knees.  Alice tried to hang on for as  long as she could and that was admirable.  She kept hoping that Scroll would turn around and be the company she believed they could be.   Bibliophiles are going to love this book.  There are so many references to popular books both past and present.  It feels like Alice is truly one of us.   And it was so telling when her husband pointed out that she hadn't really read for pleasure since taking the job at Scroll.  Any bibliophile will tell you that not reading is the sign of true distress.   There were some heartbreaking points in the book, but I was content with the way things were wrapped up.  A bit inspiring even.

Bottom line - A Window Opens is an introspective look about one woman's struggle with fulfillment and the struggle of maintaining a work/life balance.  Book club patrons are going to find  lots to discuss with this one.  A definite must read!


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Monday, September 28, 2015

(69)Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

Claire is devastated when her wealthy husband, Paul, is brutally murdered in a random street crime. When Claire arrives home from the cemetery on the day of his funeral she discovers that someone has broken into her house.  During the investigation Claire discovers something troubling on her husband's computer.  That something challenges everything Claire thought she knew about her husband. As she digs deeper she begins to wonder if her husband may know something about her sister, Julia, that went missing over two decades ago.  Once Claire starts to unravel the the truth she reaches out to her estranged sister Lydia, and together they will not stop until they know everything, no matter what the cost.

WARNING:  Pretty Girls has some pretty disturbing subject matter, I won't give it away, but I think it is safe to say that the average reader may find it too much to take.   But, having said that,  oooooooooh, Pretty Girls is so good!  From the very beginning we learn that Claire is just coming off house arrest and is on parole, but you are well into the second half of the book before we learn why.  That kind of suspense is sheer genius. The reason wasn't even crucial to the main story, but I was dying to know why she was on parole!  Claire and Lydia have been estranged for a very long time, but their relationship has so many layers and complexities.  When we learn the cause of their estrangement it is enough to make one sad and maybe even a bit angry, but they are together now and you hope their relationship will survive beyond this moment in time.  In the end there are some shocking revelations, some scary situations, and some downright horrifying experiences.  But the author remained true to the story and it ended the only way it could.

Bottom line - Karin Slaughter is one of the most beloved crime novelists in the country.  With Pretty Girls she deviates from  her familiar characters and goes darker than she ever has before and with great success.  Like I said earlier, though, Pretty Girls is pretty dark and twisted, but if you have the stomach for dark and twisted , you will love this book.


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Monday, September 14, 2015

(68)If You Only Knew by Kristan Higgins

Jenny Tate has been divorced for more than a year and is finally ready to let go of the life she lived in New York City.  She is looking forward to being back in her quaint little hometown where she can drop in on her sister, Rachael, her devoted husband, Adam, and her three nieces anytime she wants.  Moving her wedding dress business was easy, as was settling back into small town life.  Her handsome neighbor, Leo, makes it even easier as they dance around their growing attraction.  His way with his piano students and quick wit have Jenny feeling things she doesn't want to be feeling.   Soon some really hard truths come to light about Rachael's "idyllic" marriage and the sisters are forced to examine their differing views on exactly what constitutes an "idyllic" or even functionable relationship.

I have grown to become a fan of Kristan Higgins over the last few years  and find myself thoroughly enjoying her romance novels.   If You Only Knew is Higgins' first attempt at more fiction and less romance, but she made the transition with ease and I think she did a great job.   If You Only Knew is told in the alternating voices of Jenny and Rachael.    Two sisters with two different perspectives on love and marriage.   But the realization I came to while reading this book is that those perspectives are fluid and always evolving based on your current situation in life.  Just married -well of course you are in love with love.  Just divorced - well, of course, the complete opposite.   For Jenny Tate, even though her own marriage didn't work out, she still had to believe in marriage - her career depended on it.   Jenny & Leo's burgeoning relationship had all of that wit and humor I have come to expect from the author and I found myself laughing out loud several times. It is revealed late in the book that there is a bit more depth to Leo than I expected, but it made me love him even more.  And of course there is a dog (and I am not referring to Adam).  There is always a dog to fall in love with in her books.

Bottom line - If You Only Knew is a quick and wonderful read with characters you are eager to get to know.  Definitely worth the read if you are looking for a fun escape.


Monday, September 7, 2015

(67)We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Even though Letty Espinosa has two children, fifteen year old Alex and six year old Luna, she has never really had to be a mother to them.  Her own mother stepped in and was the one to make sure the kids had food and clothes and made it to school on time.  But now Letty's parents have returned to Mexico and Letty is forced to be a mother for the first time in her life.   It is a rough transition for both Letty and the kids.  Alex is hesitant to trust his mother to be able to care for them and Luna- well, Luna misses her grandparents so much she can hardly stand it.  It doesn't take Letty long to catch on to this "mother" thing and she realizes that she wants better for her kids.  She concocts a plan to get them into a better neighborhood and better schools, but struggles and worries with each step.  Things get even more muddied when Alex's father comes back into their lives.  Will Letty finally be able to feel like she deserves the life she has, including her children or will the balancing act give way and force them all back into the life Letty worked so hard to get them away from?

We Never Asked For Wings is one of those books where the title really fits the story.  Alex is a fifteen year old boy who has an awful lot on his shoulders for such a young man. He is wicked smart and so kind, but he was born on the wrong side of the tracks. And the thing is that Letty doesn't know her son at all.  I had a really hard time liking Letty, in fact I despised her at first. But the harder she worked at making things right the more I started coming around.  Letty's story is just one of millions out there, a single mother working hard to provide her kids with a little something more than she had and it is scary.  Letty was scared that she wouldn't be able to do it and I think once her fear became evident it was easier for me to like her. Fear is an understandable emotion.   We are introduced to Alex's girlfriend, Yesenia, and the fact that she is not in the States legally.  It open ups a whole new level of fear for Letty.  She is afraid that Alex will make the same mistakes she made and follow in her footsteps, instead of his fathers.  In the end, things worked out the way they were meant to, but it wasn't an easy path.

Bottom line - I found We Never Asked for Wings to be a beautiful and honest look at the human side of the immigration debate.  The Espinosa family is just one story, but their story - all stories - are worth knowing.


Sunday, September 6, 2015

(66)Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

I have to apologize for going silent the last few weeks.  We moved and the chaos involved with moving has ruled my world for the last month or so.  Things are settling down and we are getting back to normal, so I expect to get back to my regular reading.

In a few short weeks Terrell Darcy Goodwin will be executed because of Tessa Cartwright's testimony in a trial that happened twenty years ago.  Tessa was one of the victims known as the "Black-Eyed Susans."  She was the only survivor dumped with the dead bodies of other women murdered and left in a ditch.  The murderer believed that Tessa was dead, too.   Now there is a race by some activist to prove that Terrell Darcy Goodwin is innocent and they have enlisted the help of Tessa.  And after all these years even Tessa believes that she made a mistake by testifying against Terrell Darcy Goodwin.  Who else but the murderer could be leaving Tessa Black-Eyed Susans over the years?  Will Tessa and this small group of people be able to prove Goodwin's innocence before it is too late?

Black-Eyed Susans was a fast paced suspense novel.  The chapters alternate between the Tessa of today and the sixteen year old Tessie in the days after she was found in a pile of dead women. Obviously there is a difference between the two, but the events of those days has definitely shaped the woman that Tessa is today.  She is a cautious woman who has taught her own teen-aged daughter to be alert and aware, fueled by her past, she is determined to not repeat it.  I found myself drawn to Tessa's determination to never be a victim again.  She took the steps necessary to become her own protector.  From her ability to handle a weapon to thought out plans of what to do if there is every an intruder. It just proved to me that Tessa was never going to be a victim again.   In the end  the truth is revealed in the most shocking of ways.

Bottom line - Black-Eyed Susans is one of those books that will suck you in and keep you hooked until the very last page.  Such a good read!


Tuesday, September 1, 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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