Wednesday, April 29, 2015

(33)The Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy


It is the future and St. Louis is just a shell of a city that it once was.  The United States was decimated by a pandemic that killed millions and  countries that were once our allies used nuclear weapons to prevent the disease from spreading.  The Sanctuary, as St. Louis is now called, built a wall around the city to keep it's inhabitants safe.  While life is less than ideal in the Sanctuary, it is safer than being out in The Dead Lands. The people of the Sanctuary are told (and believe) that the Dead Lands is  dangerous, deadly, and nobody can survive beyond the city's walls.  The citizens of the Sanctuary believe everything they are told until a young woman shows up at the gates, she tells a tale of another part of the country that has not only survived, but thrived.  A group of citizens believe her and have decided that they will stop at nothing to find the truth.  Lewis Meriwether, Mina Clark and a few others set out on a journey across the wasteland that America has become and in the process they encounter all sorts of deadly weather conditions,  mutated creatures, and enough dangerous situations that terrify them to their core.  But will it stop them from reaching their destination?  And what will happen if they do reach their destination?

The Dead Lands was an utterly terrifying apocalyptic novel. No surprise to you that I enjoy a good post-apocalyptic novel and The Dead Lands was fantastic. Even though it was decades past any time period you or I might recognize there was enough from current day life to make you take notice.  Like mention of Midwest establishments like Hy-Vee and Quick Trip.  There was also mention of things like tablets and an old can of Coke that were considered artifacts.  I enjoyed looking for things like that in the story.   Once Lewis and Clark (get it??) start out on their journey it was fun to look for landmarks in the story that I might be familiar with - beings that I am from that area.   But frankly there were parts that were terrifying, like man-sized bats??  Um, no thank you.  It was also fun to identify other similarities between the journey of the past Lewis and Clark and this one.

Bottom line- The Dead Lands is not going to be a book for everybody, but overall it was a fun book to read with lots of intricate details that sucked you into a world that I pray we never have to live in ourselves.

Details:
  • The Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy
  • On Facebook
  • Pages 311
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication Date: April 14, 2015
  • Buy it Here!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Monday, April 20, 2015

(32)The Real Thing by Ellen McCarthy


We are coming up on the season that is known as "Wedding Season".  Right now women of all ages are planning and preparing for the "most important" day of their lives.  Ellen McCarthy is a weddings reporter for the Washington Post and has probably had more wedding cake than you or I could ever dream of having.   She has gathered up all of the stories she has heard over the years and have compiled them in a fun little book called The Real Thing: Lessons on Love and Life From A Wedding Reporter's Notebook.   She covers everything from online dating to opposites attracting to marriage advice from couples who have been together for decades.  She talks to couples from different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds and couples that have come from all over the world.  She even talks about a same-sex couple that first met during World War II and  were finally able to get married recently.    She also has a chapter about my favorite piece of marriage advice - my "secret" to marriage - always use your manners.   I know I have only been married five years, but I have observed a lot of couples over my thirty-nine years of life and the marriages that seem to have the most strife are those where both parties forget to say "please" and "thank-you".

Bottom line - The Real Thing is a quick, fun read and a book full of sage advice  that would make a great shower gift for the bride or groom in your life.   Or a great reminder for yourself on what it takes to have a successful marriage.

Details: 
  • The Real Thing by Ellen McCarthy
  • On Twitter
  • Pages: 288
  • Publisher: Random House
  • Publication Date: 4/21/2015
  • Buy it Here!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

(31)The Wednesday Group by Sylvia True


Gail, Hannah, Bridget, Lizzie, and Flavia all have something in common.  Their husbands have an addiction - to sex. Gail's husband has a thing for coeds, Hannah caught her husband having sex with another man in a public restroom, Bridget's husband has an addiction to online dating sites, Lizzie's husband has an addiction to online porn, and Flavia's husband was arrested after groping women on the subway.  The five women meet when they attend a support group for women who are married to addicts.  The women all come from different backgrounds and different walks of life, but this one similarity has bonded them in a way that they never thought possible.  The women all handle their situations in different ways and they all handle their relationship with their spouses in different ways.  As their sessions continue the women come to different conclusions about the future of their marriages. Will they be able to live a "happy ever after" life.

The Wednesday Group is a book about a group of women at a low point in their lives.  They all married their husbands expecting to have a "happy ever after" kind of life, but those dreams are shattered when they discovered their spouses were addicts.  I can't say that I particularly liked all of the women, but I can understand their feelings of fear, mistrust, and heartbreak.  Each woman just let their feelings manifest in different ways that I can't even necessarily agree with.  I will say that the ending felt a little incomplete.  I know being married to an addict isn't something that has complete resolution - ever, let alone in 288 pages, but it just felt like there could have been a little more to wrap things up.


Bottom line - The Wednesday Group can be a bit difficult to read because of the subject matter, so it's not for everyone.  Let me know what you think!

Details:
  • The Wednesday Group by Sylvia True
  • On Twitter
  • Pages: 288
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication Date: 3/24/2015
  • Buy it Here!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

(30)Life Drawing by Robin Black


Gus and her husband, Owen,  have fled their urban lifestyle for the country.  The quiet of the country is very conducive for their careers.  Gus is an artist and Owen is a  small-press author.    The fact that they are leaving behind the city where Gus cheated on Owen is a hidden benefit.  They have fought for their relationship and it has been on the mend ever since Gus's infidelity and the solitude of the country has strengthened their relationship. Until the day someone moves into the vacant house across the way.  At first they welcome Allison into their quiet life.   Her friendship is welcome and she is a bit of a kindred spirit having just left her teaching career to follow her passion as an artist.  Then one day Allison's college-aged daughter appears on the scene and the dynamics shift.  The young girl's hero-worship is detrimental to their fragile marriage, but how far is Gus willing to let it go to atone for her own mistakes?

In the book Life Drawing author Robin Black examines one couple's marriage and all of the cracks that can be found in their  foundation.  Gus and Owen have spent years tiptoeing around each other as they try to repair their relationship, they seem to have forgotten what it was like to relax around each other.   It was as if Allison's appearance in the neighborhood and her friendship in their marriage gave them permission to relax and be "normal" again.  I was surprised that it was Allison's daughter that causes the problem in their marriage, even though it seems so cliche, I was expecting it to be Allison.  The book has a slow, meandering type of pace, lazy and relaxed like you would find in the country.  But when things start happening the pace starts quickening and you feel like you are racing towards an explosive conclusion.  The end was  explosive.  It was so unexpected to me the way it went down that it left me stunned and confused about what just happened.  Just as Gus felt.  

Bottom line - Life Drawing is a heart-achingly beautiful novel about love, betrayal, forgiveness, and grief.   A novel that will spark some interesting conversations during your next book club.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

(29)The Liar by Nora Roberts


Shelby Foxworth is heartbroken to learn that the man she married was a liar.  He disappeared into the ocean while on vacation leaving Shelby to clean up a mess of epic proportions.  Nothing that she thought they owned is really theirs.  The house, the cars, the artwork, everything was bought on credit and Shelby owes millions of dollars leaving her and their three year old daughter homeless.  Shelby finds a safety deposit box full of cash and ID's bearing her husband's face, but not his name.  The cash puts a dent in Shelby's dent, but she still packs up her daughter and moves home to the hills of Tennessee. There her family and their handsome contractor, Griff, helps Shelby pick up the pieces of her destroyed life, but when strangers start showing up and asking about her husband's finances, Shelby knows that her husband, The Liar, is going to come back and haunt her.

The Liar felt like a familiar read to me. Shelby Foxworth felt like a character I had met before.  She was one of those "clueless" women who are shocked by the actions of her husband, apparently a man she didn't really even know.   Shelby gets plucky, as heroines are known to do, and digs herself out of the hole to make a new life for her and her daughter?  Does it sound familiar?  It does to me, too. I liked the spunk that Shelby exhibited, both at the beginning of the book and later when she encounters some "mean girls" back at home.  It is obvious that she isn't the type of character to roll over for anybody.  I also liked the support she had from her family - in a lot of these types of books the heroine has no family.   I liked the way the relationship between Shelby and Griff developed, too.  Slow, stead, and incredibly steamy.

Bottom line - while The Liar was a bit (okay a lot) predictable Nora Roberts was able to add several layers of sleazeball to Shelby's husband, which kept things interesting.   This book is never going to win awards or even be a selection for your book club, but it is one that you can curl up and enjoy with a glass of wine.

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Thursday, April 9, 2015

(28)The One that Got Away by Bethany Chase


Sarina Mahler is nervously excited when she hears that her one and only one-night-stand is back in Austin and will be making an appearance at the party.   Even though Sarina is *this* close to getting engaged to her boyfriend of four years, Noah, the thought of seeing Eamon Roy again stirs something deep inside of her.  She never expected the night they spent together to be a one night stand, but the hotshot swimmer had other plans.  And now that he is back he wants Sarina's help finding and renovating a home in Austin so he can put down roots.  Against her better judgement Sarina agrees to take the job, but soon realizes that spending that much time with Eamon only stirs up the feelings she once had and makes her examine her relationship with Noah.  Is he really the one for her or is The One That Got Away her future?

The One That Got Away is one of those books that is like chocolate for the soul.   A mindless book that is a page turner with a "happy-ever-after" ending.  I loved the character of Sarina and her relationship with her roommate Danny, their banter and witty comments made me feel like they were people that I could easily hang out with.  The comparison between Noah and Eamon is pretty stark, even the way that Sarina interacts with each man is wildly different. Her demeanor changes, I think, and it is a clear indication of which way her heart is going to go.  In the end she goes with her heart and I was very pleased with her choice.

Bottom line - The One That Got Away is definitely a fluffy kind of read.  Sarina is funny, intelligent, and witty.  And so are the people she surrounds herself with.  Definitely a fun read.

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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

(27)The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins


To say that Rachael's world has crumbled around her would be a bit of an understatement.  Because of her alcoholism she is recently divorced and recently unemployed.  Even though she is unemployed, Rachael keeps her routine of taking the train into the city every morning and has developed a bit of obsession centered around a couple that live along her route.  Their home backs up to the tracks and have a morning routine that makes them visible to anybody riding the train, including Rachael.  Rachael has even nicknamed them "Jessica and Jason" and has developed this fantasy of what their life is like together.  One morning that fantasy is shattered when Rachael sees "Jess" kissing another man.  And then the next Monday "Jess" is in the papers as missing.   Rachael knows she was in the neighborhood Saturday night because that is where her ex-husband lives with his new wife and daughter, but Rachael can't remember anything about that night.  Including why she woke up covered in blood.  Rachael is desperate to piece together what happened that night and what happened to "Jess", but what will she do when she finds out the truth?


I am not sure if there is a woman alive that hasn't gone a little bit crazy after a bad breakup, but Rachael takes it to a whole different level.  She is obsessed with her ex-husband and the life he is living with his new wife, the life that Rachael believes she was meant to live.  The pain is even magnified because her ex cheated on her with his new wife before they were even divorced. Before Rachael even knew there were problems in their marriage.  Some of the things that Rachael does are definitely cringe-worthy (like breaking into their house and walking out with the baby) and make it really hard to feel empathy for her, let alone like her.  The way she inserts herself in the middle of the investigation and even with "Jason" - well, it makes you really question her motives. It makes you wonder if she really did have something to do with "Jessica's" disappearance.   But, as the book goes on Rachael does redeem herself by seeking help.  She doesn't intend to really seek help, it just works out that way and in my eyes it is redeeming. She begins to really fight the disease of alcoholism.  The end was a bit of a surprise, but it seemed to take a long time to get there and I was almost relieved to have the book end.

Bottom line - while The Girl on the Train has been the hit of the year so far, I didn't love it.  I thought that while the ending was not what I expected, it was anti-climatic and fell short.    It is a good read for a rainy afternoon, but it isn't going to make my "Best of" list and I had high expectations that it would.

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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Monday, April 6, 2015

(26)Inside the O'Briens by Lisa Genova


Joe O'Brien is an Irish-Catholic husband, father, and police officer.  He has spent his entire life in the Charlestown neighborhood of Boston.  He and his wife live in the house where he grew up and his four adult kids either live with him and Rosie or live in the apartments above their home. Family is important and they all make a point to be there for Sunday dinners.    As a police officer, Joe is well respected throughout his community and he although he is proud to wear the uniform he is counting down until he can retire from the force.  His life is derailed when Rosie suggest he see a doctor. His lack of focus, his volatile temper, and his jerky movements are getting to be too much to ignore.  The diagnosis of Huntington's Disease is crushing.  Joe has is forced to examine his life what he thought he knew to be true about his mother.  But even worse for Joe is the knowledge that each of his four children have a 50% chance of inheriting the fatal disease from him.  As the disease progresses Joe's four children are forced to decide if they want to do the DNA testing available to determine if they will get the disease that will kill their father.

Inside the O'Briens is one of those slow moving books that you don't realize is almost over until you look at the page number.  The author does an amazing job at setting the scene and giving you the history of Joe, Rosie, and their family.  You really feel like you know the O'Briens.  Not just their individual personalities, but the dynamics of the family.  Rosie is devout and hopes that her kids all marry good Irish folk from the neighborhood. JJ is the oldest and is married to a good girl from the neighborhood.  Meghan and Katie are both looking for the "right one",  but Katie is afraid to introduce her boyfriend, Felix to her family.  They might forget that he is black and a Protestant.  But they will never forgive that he is a Yankees fan. Meghan is a talented ballet dancer that has big plans for getting out of Boston, but doesn't know how to tell her parents that have never left the neighborhood they grew up in.  And Patrick is the baby of the family, bar-tending down at the local pub, and going home with a different girl every night. The O'Briens are a close-knit family and Joe's diagnosis has a major impact on all of them,  especially Joe.  There was a scene when Katie sits down with Joe and lays it on the line with him and you knew that the impact it had on him was life changing.   I was captivated by their story and how they all deal with the news that Huntington's Disease is going to rip through their family.

Bottom line -there is never any one thing that is the "main event" of the book, but much like Huntington's Disease itself,  Inside the O'Briens is slow and steady and packs quite a punch.

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