Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Monday, October 26, 2015

(74)Smoke by Catherine McKenzie

Elizabeth and Ben Martin's marriage has hit a rough patch.  They have to put their divorce discussion on hold when a fast moving forest fire forced them to evacuate from their home.  Beth's career in fighting forest fires has always been a source of contention for the couple and she even gave it up when they started to try for a family.  But this time, the fire is too close to home.  She uses her new career as an Private Investigator to try and get to the bottom of who started the fire that is putting them all at risk.  In the course of the investigation Beth finds out that the son of her ex-friend, Mindy, is at the center of it all.   Beth feels her loyalties being pulled in several different directions.  Between her husband's disapproval of her being involved with the fire investigation and her fondness for the teen son of her ex-friend, Beth only wants one thing.  The truth, but at what cost.

Beth Martin is a flawed woman who just wants to make the right decision.  Catherine McKenzie uses Beth and her situation to illustrate that there is never any easy answers when it comes to love, friendship, and doing the right thing.  Beth gave up her career for her husband and has missed it everyday since.  But more than her career, she wanted a baby.  And that intense desire is what caused the rift between her and Mindy.  It took a while for the reason of their rift to be revealed, but really it was kind of lame when revealed.   With all of the build up I expected it to be more substantial, but I was disappointed.   The book is told from alternating views  - mainly Mindy and Beth, but eventually the culprit of the crime, too.  Smoke was a good, if not uncomfortable, book to read.  Seeing someone exposed the way Beth was with her pain, her insecurities, her broken marriage, well it was tough to read.  In the end things wrapped up in a way that I guess was okay, but I just felt it was a bit unresolved.  Their story is not finished.

Bottom line - I really like Catherine McKenzie's work.  While Smoke wasn't my favorite one of her books I did like the story and can see where many people would be able to understand Beth's story.


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Sunday, October 18, 2015

(73)The Good Neighbor by Amy Sue Nathan

Izzy Lane is like thousands of other women across the country.  She is just trying to figure out her life as a newly divorced mother of a five year old son.   Her ex-husband loses his job and decides to go clear across the country for "business" with his new girlfriend, leaving Izzy to be both mother and father to Noah.  She has to find a supplemental form of income and lets one of her best friends, Jade, talk her into taking her blog to the public.  What Jade - and the rest of the world - doesn't know is that Izzy's blog about her boyfriend, Mac, and dating after divorce is completely made up.  There is no boyfriend and there hasn't been much dating since the divorce.  The writing once a cathartic release for Izzy as she was dealing with the emotions of seeing her ex-husband date.  The more popular the blog becomes the deeper Izzy gets into the lie she told.  The only person who knows the truth is Izzy's elderly neighbor, Mrs. Feldman.  She encourages Izzy to come clean, but she has her own secrets to keep.  Will Izzy ever be able to come clean to her friends? And what will happen to those friendships if she does?

I think that Izzy Lane is one of those characters that many women and going to be able to understand.  She was torn apart by her  divorce and watching her ex-husband start to date other women is painful.  Incredibly painful.  She wants Bruce to feel what she feels and so she creates "Mac".  It was by pure accident that her blog became famous and her friends are reading all about her pretend boyfriend.  But it is her fault that she did not set her friends straight with the truth.  But I can even understand her hesitation.  Telling her friends the truth right off the bat would have generated pity.  And being pitied is never fun, no matter what the circumstance.  Mrs. Feldman fulfilled the role of  "moral compass" for Izzy, but in a gentle, non-judgmental way. Evgen when Izzy could have taken the easy way out, Mrs. Feldman encouraged her to come clean.   The guilt of it all obviously was weighing heavy on her mind and coming clean was the only way to relieve herself of that guilt.  In the end, lessons were learned and the book had a great, if not slightly predictable,  conclusion.

Bottom line- The Good Neighbor is a novel written about a woman caught in a web of lies and the steps she takes to get herself out of the web.   Definitely a well written novel and worth the read.


Thursday, October 15, 2015

(72)Pretending to Dance by Diana Chamberlain

Molly Arnette was devastated when she had a miscarriage and found out that she couldn't have children. She and her husband have started the adoption process, but Molly is on edge that the truth of her past will be revealed as they continue the process .  She has kept this truth from her husband and she fears what will happen when he finds out the truth.   Molly left her family in North Carolina years ago and has never looked back, but questions about her family's medical history brings up all the painful memories.  She thinks back to the year her father died and everything that she went through with her mother and the rest of the family.   What will happen if her husband found out the truth of her father's death?  Will the truth prevent them from having the family they so desperately want?

I have always been a huge fan of Diane Chamberlain.   In her new book, Pretending to Dance,  she introduces us to Molly and her unique southern family.  Her father has been battling MS for as long as she can remember, her mother is really her adopted mother, but her real mother lives on the family land, along with her various aunts, uncles, and cousins.   It is a unique situation, but for fourteen year old Molly, it is just home.  Pretending to Dance is told in alternating chapters. Present day Molly is fearful that the truth will get out and fourteen year old Molly is living a life where it is normal for her father to need help going to the bathroom and feeding himself.   And then Molly's dad dies & she realizes that her idyllic childhood has been anything but idyllic.  She runs away and never looks back from the people she felt betrayed her and her beloved father.   Now, having said that, Pretending to Dance was more predictable than what I have come to expect from Diane Chamberlain.   I figured out pretty early on what the twist was going to be and honestly the reason Molly kept the truth from her husband was pretty weak. I do think that the author accurately depicted the struggles of a teen girl trying to find her place in the world.  Which sometimes means choosing the wrong friends and making bad decisions about boys.

Bottom line, while Pretending to Dance wasn't my favorite Diane Chamberlain novel, it is worth the read.  The subject matter is one that is relevant and has been in the news a lot in the last year or so.  It will certainly generate some conversation for book clubs all over the country.


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Monday, October 5, 2015

(71)After You by JoJo Moyes

If you have not read Me Before You (Why not??  I told you to go read it over two years ago!) then you probably should skip over this review.   After You is the long awaited sequel to my favorite book of 2013. It has been nearly two years since Lou said her final good-bye to Will.  She has only been going through the motions, not really living the life Will wanted her to live.  She goes to work at her job as a waitress at an airport bar and then she comes home.  And that is it.  One night there is a freak accident and Lou ends up falling off her roof.   She goes home to her parent's house to recover, but after weeks of their smothering she is ready to go home.  And they are willing to let her go back to her apartment with one condition - she needs to attend grief counseling, for Lou's family isn't entirely convinced that Lou had an "accident".   Lou isn't home long when there is a knock at her door and the young woman on the other side says that she is Will Traynor's daughter.  Lou finds herself immersed in the feelings she has been trying so hard to bury.   Will she be able to help the troubled teenager and find the true direction her life is supposed to take?

I often have thought about Louisa Clark and what her life was like after Will died. I am not surprised that her life has kind of stalled-out, anybody who went through what she did would need some time to get back to normal.  About the same time that Lily enters her life so does Sam the ambulance driver.  He was on duty the night that Lou fell off the roof and he was instrumental in saving her life and keeps popping up at the strangest times.  While Lou is afraid to fall in love again she does enjoy his company and he makes her feel something she hasn't felt in a very long time - hope.    As much as I wanted to love After You it did not recreate the feelings that I felt while reading Me Before You. The author really challenged my own beliefs about sensitive topics and that emotional roller coaster is why I loved the first book so much.  That ride is just not there for After You. I loved catching up with Lou, I loved checking in on her and her family, I even loved the way she handled the whole Lily situation, but I was a little disappointed that the emotional ride was just not there.

Bottom line - if you read Me Before You then you have to read After You, you just have to.  But you must temper your expectations and go into it knowing that Me Before You was a one of a kind novel than cannot be replicated.  Definitely catch up with Lou, but just know that the hard part of her story has already passed.


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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