Monday, November 30, 2015

(83)What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan

Rachel Jenner and her eight year old son, Ben, are going for a walk in the woods.  This is not unusual for the pair and their dog.  It was a normal Sunday afternoon until Ben vanishes without a trace. Rachel becomes wild with fear when they find the dog injured and Ben's clothes in a bag.  The police get involved, but time is ticking away and with each day that passes Rachel feels her sanity slipping away.  After her divorce, Ben became her entire world and she knows that her life is not worth living without him in her life.  When the police start digging around in Rachel's life and history Rachel herself is shocked by the truths that come out, but is it enough to prove guilt and is it enough to bring Ben home?

What She Knew is a thrilling suspense novel about a favored subject when it comes to suspense novels, a missing child.   Told in alternating chapters we get a look at the story through both the eyes of Rachel and of Jim, the lead detective on the case. The tone of the story gets more and more urgent with each day that passes.  The burden of finding Ben falls on Jim and he is determined to find him.  But the job is not easy, especially after his girlfriend makes an epic mistake in judgement.  The stress of it all is also weighing heavy on Rachel, she feels her grasp on reality slipping away.  And that is where the author hooks you.  You become attached both to Rachel, but also Jim.  They are both good people focused on one thing - finding Ben.  The author was clever in the way she unraveled the story and I found myself caught off guard.  My imagination got away from me and I thought I had figured out what had happened to Ben more than once only to have the author take me down another path towards the truth.  It truly kept me on my toes and I was shocked at the revelation at the end.

Bottom line - What She Knew  is an enthralling suspense novel about every parent's worst nightmare.  A missing child.  A guaranteed way to get your heart racing!


Sunday, November 29, 2015

Saturday, November 28, 2015

(82)All of Us and Everything by Bridge Asher

The Rockwell sisters have not lived a conventional life. They grew up with their eccentric mother who told them their father was an international spy.  Their unconventional life impacted the three sisters in different ways.   Liv is an addict whose is addicted to both drugs and men. Always seeking the next bigger and better thrill.   Esme, the only sister who has been living a relatively stable life, is now navigating her own divorce with her fifteen year old daughter.  And Ru has been running from her family and her past ever since she was old enough to run. She is also the only sister who knows the truth.  The three sisters are not close at all, but Hurricane Sandy revealed a lost box of letters that brings them all home.  The three realize that their mother's claims about their father were true and even though they didn't know it, he has been a part of their lives all along.   Will the Rockwell sisters be willing to let their father back into their lives in a more permanent way?  And will the Rockwell sisters be able to heal their own relationships with each other?

All of Us and Everything was an intriguing read about an intriguing family.  Augusta is a unique matriarch, always seeking the next great cause, but she was not the find of matriarch that fostered the relationships of her daughters.  I think that is the part I found most interesting, that the three sisters were so distant. There wasn't any one reason for that, just their cumulative experiences as a Rockwell took them in different directions. I think Ru was my favorite sister.  She was the one who wasn't willing to take everything their mother said as truth. She is the one who set out on her own to find the truth about their father. And then kept it a secret from her sisters, not because she was secretive, but because they didn't really ask. The story came to it's natural conclusion and I was pleased with the end.

Bottom line - All of Us and Everything is the story of one unique family and their journey to truth and acceptance.  A fun and compelling read.


Friday, November 27, 2015

(81)Real Murders by Charlaine Harris

Librarian Aurora "Roe" Teagarden and her friends are gathering for a meeting of their "Real Murders" club.  The group gets together to discuss real murders to examine the evidence and determine if there were other possible conclusions.  Except tonight the group becomes part of their own story.  Roe discovers the body of their friend and her body is staged to look like that of the murder victim they were going to discuss that night.  Their quiet little burg soon is under the thumb of a murderer as more  victims turn up and they all are connected to the recent cases the group have recently discussed. Will Roe and the handsome mystery writer who just moved to town be able to solve the crime before more people die?

Real Murders was a cozy little mystery that is set in a cozy little Southern town. It was obviously written several years ago and references to watching a movie on the VCR was the dead give away.  But that aside, the book was quaint.  No gore.  No grit.  No edge.  It was just cozy. I think I was expecting a little more "edge" from Charlaine Harris, but it didn't keep me from liking the book.    After I finished the book I found the Hallmark movie based on the book that was buried on my DVR,  It was a little more current, but I was disappointed by some of the changes.

Bottom line - Real Murders is a "cozy" way to pass the afternoon.


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Monday, November 23, 2015

(80)Things No One will tell Fat Girls by Jes Baker

For many being fat is a shameful fact worthy of embarrassment. For Jes Baker her weight is just a fact that does not define her.  She is proud of who she is, rolls and all.   And Jes should be proud, her blog The Militant Baker is a destination site for women of a certain size.   Jes doesn't have a "woe is me" attitude about her weight like some with a similar platform.  No, Jes is an empowered, intelligent woman on a mission to help millions of women feel positive about their body.  In her book Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls sets out to empower women of all sizes with her sage advice.   With chapters about  taking ownership of your health (including ways to find a doctor who is "fat friendly"),  finding people to follow in your social media feeds that will empower you (diversify your social media), and of course fat-fashion Jes Baker shows no fear.   Her call to action for women include sitting in a booth the next time they go to a restaurant, fly without fear, and go to the nearest park to swing make Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls is a manifesto for women all over the world.

The thing that surprised me about Jes Baker and Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls is just how damned smart she is and how well she shared that intelligence with her readers.  Now, maybe that sounds like I stereotyped Jes Baker, and that is not true.  I had no doubt she was intelligent, but I was expecting more of a memoir-type of book.  Not a book that was thoroughly researched and is full of facts and stats, like only five percent of women naturally possess the body type often portrayed by Americans in the media.  Her advice is thoughtful, researched, and sound.  She doesn't tip-toe around the fact that some fat women need seat belt extenders while flying or even the word "fat" itself.  It is a fact.  Like her shoes are black, there is no reason to use terms like "fluffy" or "curvy" because the word is fat.  You do need to know that Jes is not one to hide her personality and that means f-bombs galore.  It just adds to her authenticity, but some might find it offensive.   I think my favorite part was when she took on Abercrombie & Fitch for the double-standard of having XL & XXL clothing for men, but only going up to L for women. I wanted to wave my book in the air and say "You Go Girl!"

Bottom line - Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls is truly one of the most empowering books I have ever read.  The advice in the book is certainly advice all fat women should read. The message of body-positive acceptance is a message that all women need to hear, no matter what their size.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Monday, November 16, 2015

(79)One Year After by William R. Forstchen

It has been two years since "The Day" of the EMP that changed the world.  John Matherson and the good people of Black Mountain have been living life in their new normal; archaic dentistry, trading books, and standing guard against bands of roving thieves.  John has taken on a leadership role in the community and his military history has served the community well when it comes to keeping their community safe.   There is a disturbance in their unique tranquility when the little community receives word that the makeshift government ruling the Eastern seaboard has implemented a draft. Along with over a hundred other young community members, John's own daughter, has received a draft notice.  Now John and his community must decide what to do about the draft and determine if  the new government in power is coming down on the right side of the law or are they creating their own twisted version of the law?

One Second After was one of my favorite books of 2012 and I was excited to find out that the author had finally written a sequel. Some time has passed and the people of Black Mountain have settled into a cautious routine of sorts.  I found it interesting how they tried to return some normalcy to their community.   Like the trading library and the archaic form of dentistry.  They had even gotten telephones working again and it was all disrupted by the draft.  One Year After seemed to be much more military driven than One Second After and I admittedly found myself getting a little bored with all of the lingo. John Matherson is still the  honorable character that I loved from the first book and that honor is featured many times in the second book.  It was clear to the reader and eventually to the ANR that John took his responsibility as a community leader very seriously.  That sense of responsibility got him in serious trouble a couple of times, but he always found a way out of trouble.   The book finished in a manner that leave you anticipating a third book.

Bottom line - One Year After is an action packed sequel to a novel that was a hit with many people, myself included.  While it is fun to see how things have evolved since the EMP I did not enjoy One Year After as much as I had hoped, but it is still worth the read.


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

(78)Playing with Fire by Tess Gerritsen

Julia Ansdell is in Rome for a gig as a violinist when she wanders into a picturesque antique shop.  She finds a piece of music that just speaks to her and she cannot leave the Incendio waltz behind.   The weird things start to happen once she returns home to her husband and young daughter, Lily.   Her precious three year old reacts violently when Julia plays the Incendio Waltz and kills the family cat.  When Lily gets progressively more dangerous Julia knows that her behavior is somehow tied to the dark piece of music, but she cannot seem to convince her husband.  Julia decides to seek out the history of the musical masterpiece and against her husband's wishes she is off across the pond.  The composition's origins take her back to Europe where she discovers the piece's roots are tied to horrific events that took place during World War II.   But does that prove the  Incedio waltz is haunted?  Can a piece of music even be haunted?  Julia isn't sure, but she is sure of one thing.  She needs to find out the truth before her daughter's life is ruined forever.

In Playing with Fire author Tess Gerritsen takes a break from her faithful duo, Rizzoli and Isles.  There are two stories being told in Playing with Fire; Julia's story in present day and Lorenzo Todesco's story during World War II.  Todesco is the Italian Jew who wrote the Incedio Waltz.  The back and forth in the decades gave us the complete story, but I found myself losing interest.  Of the two, I found Julia to be an interesting character , the kind that enjoys walking through dusty old shops in Rome.  But, I  knew something wasn't right when her daughter starts behaving all crazy-like, but I wasn't sure how far it would go.   Her frustrations with her husband and aunt were palpable and completely understandable.   I started to suspect something was off when she took off for Europe against her husband's wishes.   There is a "plot twist" at the end that may leave you speechless.  I am still not sure if was pure genius or pure cop-out.  Either way it still has me thinking about the end.

Bottom line - Tess Gerritsen has built such a loyal following with Rizzoli & Isles that her fans are willing to read anything she writes. Playing with Fire may be a deviation from her beloved characters, but it is a high quality mystery novel that is guaranteed to hook you.


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Sunday, November 8, 2015

(77)Corrupted by Lisa Scottoline

Bennie Rosato has taken on a new client who has been accused of murder, Jason Lefkavik.  Jason really isn't a new client, though.  Thirteen years ago Jason's father hired Bennie to help his son when he was thrown into Juvenile Detention for getting into a lunchroom fight in middle school.  Jason had been sentenced to ninety days and his aggressor, Richie,  was sentenced to just sixty days.  As Bennie starts digging into Jason's story she realizes the story runs much deeper and the corruption is so deep it may never be fully exposed.  Bennie finds herself teaming up with Richie's handsome uncle, Declan to help free the boys.  Her relationship with Declan crosses lines and soon the tough talking lawyer finds herself in love.  But when Jason's father finds out that Bennie is working with the "enemy" he fires her, leaving Bennie feeling unfulfilled both personally and professionally.   Now it is thirteen years later and Richie has been murdered and Jason is charged with his murder.   Will Bennie be able to help Jason in ways she was unable to help all those years ago?   And what will happen when Bennie will inevitably cross paths with Declan?

Corrupted was a great legal thriller.   The story starts present day and then flashes back to thirteen years ago and you get the backstory of Jason and Richie and Bennie and Declan. I didn't really feel the chemistry between Bennie & Declan, mostly I think because I felt that Declan was kind of an ass thirteen years ago and even a bit of an ass in the present when he tries to convince Bennie to dump Jason.  But Bennie was carrying a lot of guilt over the way things went down thirteen years ago which was completely understandable, getting fired caused a lot of problems for Jason.    For me things started to get really good when the trial started.  That is when the real Bennie gets to shine.   From her jury observations to her cross-examinations it was just completely intriguing.   There is a plot twist that I did not see coming, but it worked and things worked out the way they were supposed to work out.

Bottom line - Lisa Scottoline is a genius when it comes to legal thrillers and that has been no more evident than with Corrupted.


Saturday, November 7, 2015

(76)Why Not Me by Mindy Kaling

Everybody's favorite fake OB/GYN has released her second book, Why Not Me?  In her new book, Mindy Kaling entertains us with tales of her time in a Sorority, to her early days in Hollywood.  She even shares stories of her love life, like the time she dated a White House staffer to her soulmate, BJ Novak. Mindy, I feel that I can call her Mindy, is refreshing in her honesty and her sense of humor is guaranteed to leave you giggling.   I even really liked the way she ended the book - with a tale of what her alternate life would have been like if she hadn't become successful in Hollywood.  She would have been a Latin teacher at a private school in Manhattan, in case you were wondering.

At the risk of shocking all of you, I didn't really get to know Mindy Kaling until she created her own show, The Mindy Project.  I instantly fell in love with her and her show because it felt like a Chick Lit novel had come to life.  I was thrilled to listen to Why Not Me on Audio-book because I felt like she was taking a road trip with me.   We were dishing about fashion tips and I then I listened to her talk about her weight issues right after telling me how much she loves McDonalds.  Ya know, just like real besties.  :)

Bottom line - Mindy Kaling is a successful writer, producer, and actress who seems to be as down to earth as they come.  In her new book she is honest and forthright about life in Hollywood.  A fun read!


Thursday, November 5, 2015

(75)The Martian by Andy Weir

Astronaut Mark Watney is the first person to inhabit Mars.  His crew left him on the desolate planet after a dust storm caused major damage and put them all at risk.  They were sure there was no way that Watney could have survived the accident that was a result of the dust storm and evacuated the Red Planet leaving him behind.  Only Watney didn't die, despite the fact that his survival was a complete fluke, Watney is determined to survive the harsh existence that is Mars.  In a manner that puts McGuyver to shame, Watney puts his skills to the test in order to survive.   He has to figure out a way to eat, so he figures out how to grow potatoes on Mars.  He has to figure out a way to communicate with NASA so he takes a bit of a road trip.  The Martian is a story of one man's ingenuity in the face of extreme hardship, but is it enough?  Will The Martian survive long enough to catch a ride home?

I always plan on reading the book before watching the movie.  I don't always succeed, but I am glad I did read The Martian.  Because it was awesome!!   Mark Watney is one of the more intriguing characters I have read this year.  He was the kind of character that you want to invite over for a BBQ, but also hope that he is your neighbor during in a post-apocalyptic world.  Because Mark Watney is the kinda guy who could generate electricity from an empty soda can, chicken wire, and duct tape.  While there is a lot of science and engineering in The Martian, it is written in a way that is engaging and interesting and even a little bit exciting.  Listening to The Martian in audio-book went even one step further at solidifying my admiration for Mark Watney. I found myself cracking up pretty consistently at his one-liners and dry sense of humor.  As time passes on Mars the urgency builds and you can picture the crowd in the movie theater on the edge of their seats.   Having read the book, I totally understand why they made a movie and why it is getting all of the accolades.

Bottom line - The Martian is one of those rare books that could appeal to all readers.    It is thrilling, it is exciting, it will make you laugh and cry.  It will make you want to rush out and see the movie.   Have you read The Martian?  What did you think?


Tuesday, November 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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