Saturday, December 31, 2016

(104)Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham

I remember the first episode I ever saw of The Gilmore Girls. I caught an episode in syndication on the channel now known as Freeform. It was summer and there wasn't really anything else on tv to watch. I don't remember the exact episode, but I remember being enamored with the whole Luke and Lorelai dynamic.  I watched all the seasons that summer and was eagerly waiting for season seven to start in the fall.  This past summer I got the joy of introducing my step-daughter to Lorelai and Rory.  After just two episodes she said, "I'm not going to lie, it is pretty awesome."

Just like millions of other women I squealed with delight when hearing about the Netflix deal. And I was the first in line to purchase Lauren Graham's book.  I had to wait for a time that my husband and I would be traveling together to listen to it, though.  And the wait was well worth it.  In Talking As Fast As I Can Lauren Graham takes us behind the scenes of her career.  From her early days in Summerstock to getting the job on Gilmore Girls, Parenthood, and the reboot.  The book was everything I had hoped for and more.  She doesn't spend a lot of time on her early days, but enough to let the reader know exactly how much fun she was then.  She talks about when she first meets Alexis Bledel and the first days on the show.  She then goes through each season and talks about her favorite episodes, the fashion and hair of the season, and certain things that really show the age of the show.  Pop culture references or technology-related items.  Like vhs tapes or now antiquated answering machines.  Frankly, it was awesome.  It was all so fresh, just because we had watched it all with my step-daughter and husband.

Lauren then talks about her time on Parenthood and her relationship with her on-screen brother, Peter Krause. And her relationship with her on-screen children. It sounds like she has been blessed with a great work family for both shows.  And finally, she talks about the Gilmore Girls A Year in the Life.  From the early talks to the final four words.  Even she is convinced those final four words were quite the cliffhanger.  Lauren was quite open about how emotional she was through the filming of those four episodes, she was a bundle of tears.  From missing Edward Hermann (Richard) to Carol King providing an impromptu concert.  It was wonderful. Absolutely perfect. -- OH and she is working on an adaptation of one of my favorite books this year, The Royal We!

Bottom line - There was not one second of this audiobook that I did not enjoy.  Lauren Graham was funny, insightful, and honest with every story she had to tell.  The behind the scenes stories she shares were everything a reader and devoted fan hopes for in a celebrity memoir.  You will not be disappointed.


Thursday, December 29, 2016

(103)A Life in Parts by Bryan Cranston

Like everybody else in the world I was obsessed with Breaking Bad. I resisted for several seasons, but resistance was futile. Because Walter White was such a riveting character, I was excited to read Bryan Cranston's memoir.

Bryan Cranston was a California boy with a father who was in the business.  His childhood was unusual because his father wasn’t consistently successful, so after his parents split up Bryan and his brother had to scavenge for things his mom could sell at a flea market. But the most interesting thing about his youth was the fact that he and his brother travelled across country on their motorcycles in the late 70s.  It made for some interesting stories and set the foundation for an interesting life.

Bryan goes on to tell about his early acting days. From his days on the soap opera Loving, to audition after audition. He talks fondly about his Malcom in the Middle family and then he gets to Breaking Bad.  He speaks briefly about his bond with Aaron Paul and the Breaking Bad family, but he talks a lot about the craft of acting.  Specifically what it was like fighting for what he felt would be true to the character. It was interesting and really showed that Bryang Cranston is a true  actor.

Bottom line- A lot of celebrity memoirs are full of Hollywood gossip and anecdotes of colleagues that make it a fun read.  A Life in Parts  is more about an actor's craft with a few tidbits thrown in for fun.  However,  celebrity aside, Bryan Cranston has led an interesting life and his memoir is a fascinating read.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

(102)Small Admissions by Amy Poeppel

Kate Pearson was not handling her breakup very well.   She left a very successful career path in anthropology to move to France to be with her boyfriend, so it is no wonder that the break-up did not go well.  Kate has been living a solitary life ever since.  Her family is worried about her, her friends are worried about her, and all she wants is to be left alone.   One of her friends got her a job interview at a prestigious New York City private school. The interview was a disaster, but Kate still got the job.  She now has a job in the admissions department at the Hudson Day School.  Kate's job means interviewing prospective students and their parents.  A job that opens Kate's eyes to the sense of entitlement that runs rampant in the world of private schools.  The pressure that comes with "Admissions Season" is high - will Kate be able to stand up to the pressure or will she go back to the hermit lifestyle that she was leading?

Small Admissions was a quick, light-hearted read.  Kate was the kind of character that was obviously well loved by anybody who knew her.  All of her family and friends were so concerned with her well-being after the break-up. And rightfully so, she was kind of a mess.  But after she got the job at Hudson she was putting her life back together quite nicely, but none of her friends or family seemed to recognize that.  They all kept planning for next break-down - like it was inevitable, yet none of them were willing to acknowledge that she was getting her shit together.  Well, until that one conversation between Kate's sister and father.  One of her friends was obviously a "mean girl" in disguise and I was ready to slap her silly very early in the book. It was the prospective parents and kids that really made the book fun to read.  Talk about serious wack-a-doos.  Small Admissions was a bit predictable, but I liked Kate and was really rooting for her to win.

Bottom line - Small Admissions is one of those books in the same vein as The Devil Wears Prada or The Nanny Diaries.  A light-hearted look at how the other half lives, this time the wealthy who send their kids to private school.  A fun read if you are looking for an escape!


Monday, December 26, 2016

(101)All She Ever Wished For by Claudia Carroll

Tess Taylor and Kate King live in two very different worlds.  Tess is a personal trainer that was just promoted to Assistant Manager at her gym.  She is engaged to be married to a very safe, but very boring college professor.  The last thing she needs is jury duty.  Tess did everything she could to get out of it, but here she is, on a jury mostly comprised of the elderly.  But there is a guy, Will, who seems to be cool.  His companionship while on jury duty proves to be invaluable, but will it turn into more?

Kate King is a wealthy socialite/model.  She has been married to one of Ireland's most wealthy men for fifteen years.  It was one of those celebrity marriages that was always mentioned in the tabloids.  But now Kate and her husband are divorcing and things are getting messy.  Kate's pre-nup states that she is to keep all gifts bestowed upon her during their marriage.  For her last birthday as a married couple, her husband gave her a priceless piece of art.  Now he wants it back and their spat has been played out in the papers for weeks.  Now it is going to court and it is up to Tess Taylor and her fellow jurors to determine if the painting really is Kate's or if she deserves to go to jail.

All She Ever Wanted was a fun, relaxing read.  The story was an easy read and it was easy to like both Tess and Kate even though they were so different.   The author tells the story in a "back and forth" format.  Tess's story is always told in the present, while Kate's story starts at the beginning of her relationship with Damien fifteen years ago.  Tess and Kate are really quite opposite.  Tess is more light-hearted and easy going, but is engaged to a guy who is her complete opposite in every way.  It was easy to predict which way that plot was going.    Years of being married to a philandering husband and always in the press has hardened Kate to a point that some have accused her of being cold, but as Kate's story progresses, you realize that she is a product of her marriage. I really liked how the story turned out for both Kate and Tess.  There was some emotional growth for both of them.

Bottom line - All She Ever Wished For is everything I love about Chick Lit novels.  Great characters, an engaging story, a little bit of romance, and a happy ending.  A fun read for sure!


  • All She Ever Wished For by Claudia Carroll
  • On Twitter
  • Pages: 496
  • Publisher:  HarperCollins UK
  • US Publication Date: 12/28/2016
  • Buy it Here!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Sunday, December 11, 2016

(100)What Light by Jay Asher

Every year Sierra and her family leaves their Oregon home to set up their Christmas Tree lot in sunny California.  The older Sierra gets the harder it is for her to leaver her friends in Oregon, Even though she has a good friend in California, it is tough.  In California Sierra and her folks live in an Air-stream on their Christmas Tree lot.  They work from sun up to sun down and Sierra goes to virtual school to stay caught up with her peers.  This year is different.  Sierra's parents are trying to decide if they want to continue running the lot in California.

Sierra isn't in California long when she meets Caleb.  A young man who has bought more than one Christmas tree from the lot.   Sierra is intrigued about this young man.  Even more so when one of the guys working at the lot warns her off of him.  Caleb is a wild card and has a violent past. Will Sierra heed the warning or will following her heart get her in trouble?

What Light was a quick and easy read. Sierra was a smart and likable character.  She was torn between two worlds - her life in Oregon and her life in California.  I liked all of her friends, even Caleb.   For the most part they were good kids.  Having been a huge fan of Jay Asher's novel, Thirteen Reasons Why, I was expecting a little something deeper or more gripping than what we find in What Light. Something with a little more substance.  He scratches the surface with Caleb's story-line, but I don't feel it lived up to it's potential. Not that having a lighter story is a bad thing, I was just hoping for more.  I was also hoping for an Epilogue, to see what the next year brings for Sierra, but no luck.  In the end, the story was your typical cheesy Christmas novel and I did enjoy every word.

Bottom line - What Light was your typical holiday novel.  Full of Christmas traditions, no matter how non-traditional they were.  A quick and easy read and likely coming to a Hallmark Channel in the next few years.


Saturday, December 10, 2016

(99)Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris

How is it possible that I have lived this long without reading the holiday classic, Holidays On Ice?  First published in 1997 the small collection of essays is a mixture of autobiographical stories and satire so well written you will question if it is true or not.

I think my favorite was the Christmas Letter read by his sister,, Amy Sedaris.  It was the letter from a woman was obviously quite put-out by the fact that her husband's long-lost daughter from Vietnam made an appearance in their lives, and Christmas card.  Add insult to injury her own daughter got pregnant by a druggie who ran off and left them, and they were forced to take care of the baby while their daughter was off in rehab. When tragedy strikes the martyr mother is disgusted to realize that the police think that she is at fault.  I found myself laughing several times.

Another favorite was the tale of the neighbors and their insane game of one-upmanship.  It was a cautionary tale of what can happen if you get caught up in the race to "Keep up with the Jones'".

Bottom line - Holidays on Ice is a quick read for those more cynical Christmas lovers out there.  The kind of story that is more likely to make you laugh, rather than have warm fuzzies, but oh definitely worth the read.


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Monday, December 5, 2016

(98)The Last One by Alexandra Oliva

Twelve contestants have signed on for a reality show.  The winner takes home the million dollar prize. The contestants have been labeled by the producers and cameramen.  There are contestants like "Waitress" and "Tracker", "Engineer", and "Zoo".  The contestants are in the wilderness and compete in a series of challenges, sometimes in a team and sometimes on their own.  The contestants are set loose on a solo challenge, just them and their cameraman.  The contestants are completely isolated and unaware that at a pandemic is sweeping the country.  "Zoo" is alone for several days, she was sick, but got through it and is now determined to win the million dollars.  She is completely unaware that the bodies she encounters are not "props", the desolate towns are not staged by production.  When she encounters a young man, Brennan, she assumes that he is her new cameraman.  Will "Zoo" ever realize that this world is not just a set, but truly an apocalyptic wasteland?   Will "Zoo" be able to survive this new apocalyptic world?

I really, really liked The Last One. As a fan of Survivor the similarities were unmistakable. The author alternates the timeline with every chapter.  There is the present that Zoo and then Brennan are dealing with and the other chapters are the story leading up to the present.  Zoo getting involved in the show and her relationship with her husband.  And then the early days of the game.  It was fun and fascinating.  And a little bit terrifying.  Zoo experienced my worst fear by breaking her glasses.  I am completely blind without my glasses and when she broke hers I freaked out just a bit. She adapted the best way she could, in fact, that is what Zoo does throughout the whole story.  She adapts because she knows if she doesn't she will lose.  The author does a great job at illustrating how much Zoo was in denial. Almost to the point of frustration for the reader, but one event forces Zoo to acknowledge their reality and her realization was heartbreaking.  I was pleased with the ending. It ended the best way that it could. - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS -

Bottom line - It has been a while since I have read a good post-apocalyptic novel and The Last One did not disappoint.   It ties current pop-culture (reality shows) with "the world is ending" events and the results is one book that you won't want to put down.


Sunday, December 4, 2016

(97)The Trespasser by Tana French

Detective Antoinette Conway worked hard to join Dublin's Murder Squad.  Being the only female detective on the force is more difficult than Conway ever imagined.  She is constantly on the defensive mode against some of her fellow D's.  Conway and her partner, Stephan Moran, are coming off of a long night shift when they catch a case.  A young, beautiful woman was found dead in her flat. It appears to be an open and shut case as the young lady had a date scheduled the night before, but Conway can't shake the feeling that she has met the victim before.   A visit to the deceased's best friend reveals that she had a secret boyfriend.  That revelation sends Conway and Moran down a path that could jeopardize their lives and threaten their careers.   Will they be able to solve the murder before their reputations and lives are completely destroyed?

Tana French has to be one of the most talented writers to ever grace our planet.  Each one of her mysteries is more - everything - than the last.  The Trespasser is one of those double-meaning titles.  Does it refer to the person who killed Aislinn Murray or does it refer to Antoinette Conway, the only woman in a boys club?  Conway is tough as nails, but there were many times when I felt that she was borderline paranoid.  Her partner, Moran, was a good guy who was trying to please Conway in every way he could, sometimes going down paths that were a waste of time.   When they finally got to the truth of the matter they had two choices.   Ignore it and save their careers or reveal the truth and end their careers on the Murder Squad. -- CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS - .

Bottom line - The Trespasser is Tana French at her finest.  You have murder, intrigue, and a female detective with a chip on her shoulder in a man's world.  If you love a good mystery you won't be disappointed.


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

(96)Today Will be Different by Maria Semple

Eleanor Flood wakes up in the morning and vows that today will be different.  She vows to do things like initiate sex with her husband, Joe. She will go to yoga, she will have her poetry lesson.  Today will be different.  Until third-grade son, Timby (so named because of a Siri mishap)  is "sick" and the plans for her day are left by the wayside.  Eleanor decides that Joe can handle Timby and his fake illnesses for once, but when she goes by his office she is told that he is on vacation.  Eleanor goes into panic mode.  Joe is her rock.  He puts up with all of her quirks and issues and she knows she doesn't show her appreciation as much as she should.  But why would Joe take a vacation day and not tell her?  With Timby tagging along, Eleanor sets off to find her husband and why he didn't tell her that he was taking some time off.   What will happen when Eleanor finds out the truth?

When I think of Eleanor Flood I alternate between thinking that she is the funniest thing around or she is one hot mess.   Often times she is both.  Eleanor was an older mother who left a very successful career as an animator and is currently working on a book.  But she struggles with holding it all together. She loves her son and husband, but most days she struggles to even function.  It is like she has been in a haze ever since Timby was born.  I couldn't help but to love her.  Her observations were honest and at times quite hysterical.  And I am sure that many would find fault with these sentiments. 

"She's like Parkinson's, you can't cure her, you can just manage the symptoms."

"As everybody knows, being raised Catholic with half a brain means becoming an atheist." 
But this one was so astute that it almost took my breath away.  In a world where social media only fuels that fire to keep up with the Jones' I thought that this quote was so on target.

"This was happiness.  Not the framed greatest hits, but the moments between."

Bottom line - I really liked Today Will Be Different.  I know a lot of people thought that it was too similar to Semple's first book, Where Did You Go Bernadette? but I really love the quirky characters that live in Maria Semple's head.


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Monday, November 28, 2016

(95)Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

Thanksgiving weekend means traveling for my family.  For the first time in four years, we were able to go back to the Midwest for the holiday.  We ended up logging nearly 3,000 miles on Clifford the Big Red Van and we pass the time listening to audiobooks.

Anna Kendrick is quickly being added to our list of favorite actresses.   Really, anybody who has seen the Pitch Perfect movies would understand why we say that.  Her new book, Scrappy Little Nobody isn't so much a memoir as a collection of essays.   In that quick-witted way.  those of us who follow her on social media are familiar with Anna Kendrick tells us tales of her life.  Her childhood on Broadway. her first movie the indy hit, Camp.  And then of course she talks about her role in the Twilight franchise.

Anna talks about everything from her early days in Hollywood to performing on the Oscars with NPH. It was all fun and engaging and Anna Kendrick is every bit as charming as you would imagine.  Even when dealing with the paparazzi and her first run in with one at Ikea.   She made some comment about them underestimating her ability to not leave the house for weeks and binge watch Netflix.   That is somebody that I could definitely be friends with.

Bottom line - Scrappy Little Nobody is a quick and fun read. proving that Anna Kendrick is exactly as you would imagine her to be.  Funny, charming, loyal, and hard-working.


Sunday, November 27, 2016

(94)Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

It is a typical summer evening when a group of people gather at a small airport, waiting to leave Martha's Vineyard on a private plane, eager to get back to the city.  The passengers are wealthy and privileged.  Except for Scott - Scott is a painter just trying to get by and was lucky enough to be offered a ride back to the city.  The thought of avoiding weekend traffic was very appealing to Scott, so he accepts the offer.  They aren't in the air long when something goes horribly wrong and the plane falls from the sky.   Scott and a four-year-old little boy are the only survivors.  All of a sudden Scott is thrown into the spotlight in a way he never thought possible.  People are questioning his survival, they are questioning his presence on the plane, they are questioning his heroic efforts to save the young son, and only living heir, of some very wealthy people.   In the days after the crash things start to intensify, but will they ever find out what happened to cause the plane to just fall out of the sky?

Before the Fall is one of those books that I have been hearing about for months.  Now I see why.  Noah Hawley takes his readers on a doozy of a ride.  As a reader, you know the plane crashed, you know that Scott and JJ survived.  But in a series of flashbacks you get to know the other passengers on the plane. Like one of the men is on the verge of being indicted by the SEC.   And JJ's older sister was once kidnapped and held for three days until a very large ransom was paid.   And one of the pilots once had a fling with one of the Flight Attentendents.   Scott seems like a decent guy who got caught in the drama that comes with a little adorable orphaned boy and his billions.  With each passing day, it is easy for the reader to also get caught up in the drama, but you are desperate to find who was behind the plane crash.   I was a little disappointed with the big reveal, I was expecting something...more.

Bottom line - While the end fell a little flat for me, the build-up leading to the reveal was the stuff that legends are made of.  All in all, Before the Fall was a great book.


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Sunday, November 13, 2016

(93)The Choices We Make by Karma Brown

Kate and Hannah have been best friends since the fifth grade. They have been together through thick and thin, through family issues and boyfriend troubles.  Now they are in their mid-thirties and are married to great guys.  Kate is married to David and they have two beautiful little girls. Hannah and Ben are desperate to start their own family.  They have tried everything and are getting ready to explore the adoption option when Kate steps up and offers to be their surrogate.  It is an offer that changes the dynamic of their relationship in ways they never thought possible.  When tragedy strikes it forces Hannah to evaluate what is most important to her and the choices she makes will have long lasting repercussions.

I had a hard time getting into The Choices We Make, but once I did get into it, the book started to go by rather quickly.  The story is told from alternate perspectives so you really get a feel for both Hannah and Kate.  They are both good people.  Infertility is such a personal struggle that I had to keep reminding myself of that when I thought Hannah was getting to be a bit over the top.  There is an "event" that happens that is pivotal to the story and even then I struggled to like Hannah as she was dealing with it.  I think her own husband had a hard time understanding where she was coming from and I was afraid that it was going permanently damage their marriage.   I want to say that there was a happy ending - but it was really the best possible outcome for the story.  But you still might be in danger of needing a hanky or three.  - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS

Bottom line - The Choices We Make is a heart-wrenching novel about two women, a decades-long friendship, and sacrifices they make in the name of love.   This book would be a good one to share with your best friend over a bottle of wine.


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Sunday, November 6, 2016

(92)The Perfect Girl by Gilly MacMillan

Zoe Maisey is a teenager with a past.  A musical genius who is a convicted killer.  She made one tragic mistake a few years ago and it nearly destroyed her life.  Three of her friends died because of her mistake.   Her parents divorced because of her mistake.   She did time in the "Unit" because of her mistake.   A few years have passed and Zoe is out of the "Unit" and living with her mother and their "Second-Chance Family" in their new home far away from where the accident took place.   Zoe has a new Step-Dad, a new Step-Brother, and a new baby sister. performing a recital in her new community with her new step-brother when the father of one of her deceased friends interrupts the concert.  The secret that  Zoe and Maria have kept from their "Second Chance" are coming to light and jeopardizing all that they have built.   And then Zoe wakes up to find that her mother is dead.  She is terrified to live a life without the one person who has always been by her side. But worse, what is going to happen to her when the police realize that she is a convicted killer.  They wouldn't think that she killed her mother, would they?

The Perfect Girl was one of those books that quickly sucked me in.  The author tells the story from various viewpoints. Zoe, both in the past and the present.  We get an insight into the accident that destroyed her life. We also get to hear her from Zoe's lawyer, and her aunt Tessa.  It makes for an interesting timeline, but one that easily puts you in Zoe's corner.  Almost from the beginning, I got bad vibes about the new Step-Dad and Step-Brother.  It is revealed that they were keeping their own shocking secrets.   Zoe was the most sympathetic character, even with her past, you couldn't help but want to protect her.   When the truth is revealed about the night her mom died I was surprised at how Zoe constructed the plan she did.  It was a little bit devious but completely brilliant.  - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS  -

Bottom line - The Perfect Girl is one of those books that you will read in one sitting.  The characters are compelling, the story is gripping, and you can't wait to see what happens in the end.


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Sunday, October 30, 2016

(91)The Vanishing Year by Kate Moretti

Zoe Whittaker never thought that she would be married to a Wall Street tycoon, but here she is.  Married to Henry Whittaker, a man that she never thought she would be lucky enough to find.  Zoe hasn't had an easy life - she was adopted and when her mother was dying she turned to drugs and a life of crime.  When that fell apart Zoe testified against some scary men, changed her name and moved across the country, where she met Henry.   Now that she has gotten settled into a life of luxury Zoe wants to find her real mother, but the closer she gets to finding the truth the weirder things get with Henry.  He is becoming more and more controlling.  Throwing accusations around like confetti and won't let Zoe into locked rooms at their cabin.    When their home is broken into, Zoe is convinced that the men she testified against have come to get their revenge or does it have something to do with the secrets that Henry has been keeping.

I almost gave up on The Vanishing Year a couple of times.  It wasn't gripping me in the way that I had hoped.  I think I am just a bit weary of the controlling, abusive, jerky husband character that has been so popular with this year's crop of books.  Henry was a jerk.  A big jerk and Zoe let him get away with being a jerk.  But at the same time, she would go behind his back to meet up with the handsome reporter who was helping her find her mother. None of that makes for a healthy marriage. Then there is Zoe's past behavior that has her constantly looking over her shoulder.  Not exactly the pillar of society that she is projecting.  Zoe gets herself into a pretty precarious situation but is saved by the least likely person.  CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS.

Bottom line - I was hoping for a great psychological thriller and I had a hard time connecting with the story, the characters.  I have been hearing a lot of good things about this book, so maybe it is just me.


Saturday, October 29, 2016

(90)In Twenty Years by Allison Winn Scotch

It has been twenty years since six friends graduated from Penn and moved out of the row house they had shared.  Now it is twenty years later and their dead friend, Bea, has summoned them home to celebrate what would have been her 40th birthday.  Arriving the hot July weekend are Catherine and Owen.  They are college sweethearts who have two kids.  Owen is a Stay-At-Home-Dad while Catherine is building her "Domestic Goddess" empire.   Their once devoted relationship has turned into a marriage full of resentments and regrets.   Also joining them will be the social media addict, Annie.   She uses social media to project the perfect life that she wants everybody to believe she is living.  Instead, her insecurities have pushed her husband into the arms of another woman.  Lindy Armstrong, the famous musician, will also be there.  She is dodging her "team", her girlfriend, and her fans to be there.  Colin rounds out the once six-point star.  He is a plastic surgeon with one major secret that he has been keeping from the rest of them.   Bea's summons the row house was unexpected, but none of them would ever deny Bea a request, even it was from the grave.   Will the friends be able to finally put the past to rest and put their futures on a path of peace and success?

It was very easy to immerse myself in the lives of these six friends.  Every single one of them is living a life that they did not expect to be living.  And as a forty-one year old woman it forced me to confront my own hopes from twenty years ago.  It is easy for me to say that every single one of them is a little messed up in the head.  I think Catherine was my least favorite of all of the friends.  She was just so mean - to her husband, to her friends, to her employees.   Lindy was probably the most messed up of all of them.  She used her fame to lie and cheat and nobody ever stopped her.  By the end of the book she owned up to those behaviors and admitted that she was not a stellar human being.  I think that I felt the most sorry for Annie, she was the most - broken - I think.   She suspected that her husband had cheated on her, was cheating on her.  And she was the one most hung up on the past and presenting the "perfect" image.   Their weekend at Penn brought up so much old stuff for all of them, that it was only matter of time before it blew up.  And boy did it.   I didn't think there was as much resolution at the end as I had hoped there would be.  A good solid "Afterword" would have been appreciated.  But I guess that is where the reader's imagination comes into play.

Bottom line - In Twenty Years was a great read about dreams and regrets.  Life seldom works out in the ways we plan, but as these friends find out, you can't spend your life mired in regrets.  You have to pull yourself up and make the most of what you have.    There is some serious food for thought with this one.


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Sunday, October 23, 2016

(89)Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

For Ruth Jefferson, that shift was like any other shift.  She loved her job as a Labor and Delivery nurse and was checking on a newborn like she has every day for the last twenty years.   But then the baby's parents demand to see a supervisor.  Brit and Turk Bauer are White Supremacists and do not want a black woman, no matter what her qualifications, touching their baby. Ruth is furious but does as told by her superior.  Until the baby is in distress and Ruth is the only person there, but her efforts are fruitless and the baby dies.  Ruth is devastated to lose any baby and Davis Brauer is no different.   Before she knows what is happening her world is turned upside down.   Ruth is arrested and charged with murder.  She is at risk of losing everything - the career  she worked so hard to attain, the peaceful existence she shares with her son, and her arrest threatens to jeopardize everything her teenage son has worked for as well.   Will her public defender, a young white woman who is on her first murder case, be able to prove that Ruth did not murder that baby?  Will Ruth ever go back to the life she knew before the Brauers were in her hospital?

It took a lot of balls for Jodi Picoult to write this book.  Not only did she have to write a book from the perspective of a black woman, but also from the perspective of a white supremacist.  As a white woman, that must have been a very difficult thing for her to do. It would be very easy for her critics to tear her apart for trying to do either thing.   As always, Jodi Picoult, tells the story from multiple perspectives.  From Ruth, Turk, and Kennedy.  You get to see all sides and it was a little bit scary at times.  Getting into Turk's head was frightening - bone chilling.  Some of the rhetoric he was spouting is not that different from some rhetoric I see on social media from people that I know.   The racial inequality that happens across our country was front and center in this book. I think the author presented that best when she had Kennedy go shopping with Ruth to buy a birthday gift.  The way the store employees were all over Ruth in fear of her shoplifting and then they demanded to see her ID when she paid with a credit card, and finally when they were leaving the security guard demanded to see Ruth's receipt, but not Kennedy's.  It was a brilliant way to depict just how different their experiences really are in our world.  It was heartbreaking to see this woman work so hard to rise so far above what people expected - no stereotyped- her and her son to be, only to be reduced to nothing.  It was tough to read.   There was a big "revelation" that seemed a bit forced to me, but it tied everything up nicely.  - If only life were really that tidy.  -Click Here For Spoilers -

Bottom line - I am not always impressed with Jodi Picoult's novels, sometimes they even anger me.  However, I think Small Great Things is a book that tackles a relevant hard-hitting topic. I also think that she is the perfect person to generate tough conversations in suburban book clubs all across the country.   Conversations that would never have happened if it were anybody else who had tackled this topic.  I would love to hear your thoughts on the book, be sure to leave a comment.


Friday, October 21, 2016

(88)The Life She Wants by Robyn Carr

Emma Shay is returning to her hometown, Sonoma, California.  She never thought she would ever move back since both of her parents died, her best friend cheated with Emma's boyfriend, and Emma's stepmother treated her worse  than Cinderella.  Emma left Sonoma when she went off to college and found her way to New York City, where she marries a much older, wealthier man. Turns out her husband was stealing millions from his clients and killed himself when he realized that he was not going to get away with it.   Emma returns to Sonoma broke and alone, but Sonoma is the only place she has ever called home, so Sonoma is where she goes.

Emma finds life in Sonoma is not as easy as she hoped.  With the help of an old friend, she finds a charming little cottage, but the only job she can find is at a fast food joint.  Nobody wants to hire a woman whose husband was accused of stealing millions of dollars.  A series of unfortunate events lead Emma back to her former friend, Riley, and begging for a job cleaning houses.  She meets up with Riley's older brother, Adam, and discovers that her former friend's older brother has turned into an intelligent, handsome man, who wants to be her friend and more.  Will Emma be able to put the past - both recent and distant - behind her in order to lead a happy life?

The Life She Wants was the first book I have ever ready by Robyn Carr and I have to say that I was disappointed.   Emma was a tolerable character, but she was not easy to like.  While the whole feud with Riley was understandable, I think she took it too far and played the victim far more about that than she did about the way her late husband treated her.  Then when she finally gets the chance to discuss it with Riley, she said that she was over it a long time ago.  Really?    Riley was just a bitch.  To everybody who wasn't her immediate family - yet she was the one who slept with her best friend's boyfriend.  She played the "I am a single mother" victim role pretty convincingly - until her daughter's father called her on the bullshit.  She didn't do it alone, she had much more of a support network that a lot of single mothers do.  The whole book was completely predictable, yet I felt that I had invested too much time to just stop listening.   It was really disappointing because I really wanted to like it as much as I like Kristan Higgins books, but it just didn't have that same "spark."

Bottom line - I know that Robyn Carr has quite the devoted following, but I wasn't feeling it.  I mean it - I wasn't feeling connected to the characters, I wasn't laughing, I wasn't crying, I wasn't hoping for a "happy ever after".  I knew what the ending would be from very early on and how they would get there.   The Life She Wants did not evoke any kind of feelings in me at all and that is not I want from the books I read.  I want to feel something.  Anything.


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

(87)The Boy is Back by Meg Cabot

Becky Flowers has lived in the quirky little town of Bloomville, Indiana for her whole life.  She grew up there, dated there,  and has made a name for herself as a "Relocation Specialist" for the newly retired.    She put the embarrassment of a bad break-up ten years ago behind her and is dating a handsome Bloomville restauranteur, but she is still unnerved when she gets a call from her ex-boyfriend's family.  Reed's parents have gotten themselves in a bit of a pickle.  They were arrested at a local restaurant for leaving a "rare" stamp instead of paying the bill.  Turns out the Stewart's are completely broke. They have blown through their retirement fund and their children have decided to hire Becky Flowers and force their parents to downsize.

Reed Stewart and Becky had a bad break-up ten years ago and instead of making things right, Reed went off to join the PGA tour, is now a famous golfer, and has never returned to Bloomville.   But he is back now to help sort out his parents' mess.  Will he be able to make amends with Becky or will they come to blows before it is all over?

The Boy is Back is a fun read told through modern technology.  Each chapter is either in email form, or texting, or chatting. There are even a few chapters that are newspaper articles - including color pictures.  That kind of formatting has always made for a fast read, and The Boy is Back is no different.   Becky is a fun character, with  what I would think would be a fun job. Her relationship with the Stewarts is tenuous at best.  I get the distinct impression that if anybody else in Bloomville did the same thing Becky did, they would have gone with them instead.   I thought Reed was a jerk at first, but he seemed to get his act together.  And put his siblings in their place.  It was a bit heroic.  Things turned out exactly as you would expect them to in a Meg Cabot book, but getting to the end is all part of the experience.

Bottom line - while The Boy is Back is a very predictable novel, it is told in such a unique way that you can't help but have fun reading it.


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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