Friday, April 29, 2016

(40)Most Wanted by Lisa Scottoline

Christine and Marcus Nilsson are desperate to have a baby.  They have done everything and now, after using a donor, they are pregnant. Christine is taking an early maternity leave from her teaching job to prepare for their bundle of joy.  News breaks that a serial killer targeting nurses has been captured.  Everything about the accused matches up with their selected donor.  Donor 3319.  Marcus and Christine are rocked when they realize the implications. Christine could be carrying a child fathered by a serial killer.  They both deal with that information in different ways.  Marcus wants to sue the sperm bank and Christine heads off to the prison to meet donor 3319.  The whole thing has put a strain on their marriage, but Christine isn't so sure that "he" killed all of those nurses and sets out to prove the innocence of Donor  3319 and will the Nilsson's be able to come to grips that their "Most Wanted" baby may have the genetics of a serial killer?

Normally I love Lisa Scottoline and her novels, however, I did not think that Most Wanted was her best work.   Christine and Marcus are both likable people on their own, but they did not work as a couple.  Marcus was a bit of a jerk and Christine was keeping secrets that no wife should keep. How could a marriage like that be successful?  Christine goes from being a teacher, to being on an early maternity leave, to becoming a paralegal with no legal training at all, it was just weird.  It seemed a bit far-fetched, which is unusual for this author.  I don't think I hate it more when a story just doesn't seem to flow very well or aspects of the story doesn't seem realistic.  I didn't ever find myself engrossed in the story or on the edge of my seat with anticipation and again, that is unusual for this author.  I did stick it out and read the whole story because sometimes you just have to know if he did it or not.   The end didn't really surprise me, but it wasn't want I was expecting either.

Bottom line - even though I wasn't all that excited with Most Wanted, Lisa Scottoline is an author that I respect and will always read.


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

(39)The Year We Turned Forty by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke

Claire, Jessie, and Gabriela have been friends for years and years.   Claire is a real estate agent trying to salvage her relationship with her daughter.  Jessie is devastated to find out that her ex-husband is getting married to his girlfriend, and Gabriela is a successful author who feels empty because she doesn't have the family she always wanted.  The three women have been celebrating their birthdays for years and this year they are going to Las Vegas.  This year each of them have regrets on the cusp of their fiftieth birthday.  It is when they stumble across a magician who can send them all back to the year they turned forty.  Jessie is desperate to prevent a mistake she made with her husband that led to their divorce.  Gabriela wants to have a child at all costs.  And Claire is just going along for the ride, but maybe she can get her mother to have her cough checked out earlier than last time.  The three women discover that going back in time is not as easy as they had hoped.  I mean that smart phones hadn't even been invented yet.  As the three women try to change their course of history they start to realize that everything happens for a reason.  But will they stay in the year they turned forty or will they return to the future and the year they turn fifty?

The Year We Turned Forty was a fun "what if" kind of book.   I am in the year that I turned forty, so it was easy to relate to what the women were going through in "the past."  As far as I am concerned they all made pretty significant mistakes the year they turned forty.  For Jessie and Claire it was the first time around and I think Gabriela made some pretty significant mistakes the second time they turned forty.  I think of the three women Claire changed the most the second time around, especially concerning her daughter.  She grew a spine and didn't let her daughter continue to walk all over her.  It was fun to see how the women had to adjust when going ten years into the past.  All of the things that hadn't been invented yet and all of the events that hadn't happened yet.  In the end the three women learned a lot about themselves and their relationships.  Everything wrapped up nice and neat with the "happy ever after" vibe.

Bottom line - We all have those "what if" dreams about a time in our past.  The Year We Turned Forty turned those dreams into a fun reality for three dynamic characters.   The whole concept of going back to a year in our past is an interesting one and could generate a lot of fun with a group of girlfriends and a few bottles of wine.


Sunday, April 24, 2016

(38)Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

I have a literary confession.  Promise that you won't hate me?  I have never read Jane Austen.  (I will wait while you pick your jaw up)  She has always been on my "Must Read" list and I have multiple copies of her work, but I never have gotten around to reading them.   I know that remakes of Austen's works have always been poorly received, but I was thrilled to get a chance to read Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld.

Liz and her older sister, Jane Bennett`return to the family home in Cincinnati when their father has a health scare.  The sprawling family home, Pemberly,  looks more rundown than ever, their mother has her head in the sand, and their younger sisters are high maintenance divas who thinks that somebody else will solve all their problems.  While attending a Fourth of July bash Jane meets the handsome Chip Bingley, a reality television star fresh off of the hottest dating show, Eligible and they hit it off immediately.   His childhood best friend, Fiztwilliam Darcy, is with him at the barbecue and the sparks between him and Liz really fly, but she is too enamored with her married flame to pay attention to Darcy.   As Jane and Chip's relationship takes off,  Liz is left to be the responsible sister. She discovers that her family is in serious financial trouble and tries to convince her parents to sell the house and her younger sisters to grow up.  Will Liz be able to save the Bennett family from their own destructive ways?

Having not read Pride and Prejudice, I can only judge Eligible on it's own merits.  I have to be honest that I really, really enjoyed reading this book.   I loved Liz and her intelligent wit, I loved Jane and her optimistic outlook,  and  I absolutely loved Mr. Bennett.  I found myself laughing at his dry wit and devotion to his family.   Darcy is the kind of character you would expect him to be, serious, focused, and perfect for Liz.  This delicious and, often times, hysterical retelling of a beloved classic covers a lot of ground that some might deem political,  the state of health care, anorexia, IVF for single women, transgender rights, and more. But the topics are touched on in a way that flows with humor and grace.  In the end there is definitely a "happy ever after", but not until there is much strife.

Bottom line - I know I am long overdue to read the works of Jane Austen, but based on the enjoyment I got from reading Eligible that I am in for a real treat.


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Saturday, April 16, 2016

(37)The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

For years the Plum siblings have been waiting for the day they would receive the inheritance they have designated "The Nest".  Their father set it up so that they would receive their money on the fortieth birthday of the youngest sibling, Melody.  They all have made some sketchy financial decisions with the belief that "The Nest" will be there to bail them out of trouble.  Melody has mixed feelings about turning forty. With twin daughters heading off to college and a crazy-high mortgage she desperately needs that inheritance to keep her family afloat.  Jack needs that inheritance to pay back a HELOC that he took out to keep his business afloat, and did so without his husband knowing. He needs that money to pay back the loan before it destroys his marriage.   Bea needs the inheritance to fund her dwindling writing career.  And then there is Leo, unknown to the siblings, they all gave up "The Nest" to pay off a young girl who was severely injured in an accident that was caused by Leo's excessive drug and alcohol use.  The Plum siblings have never really been close, but the shocking revelation that their nest has dwindled is enough to bring them together against a common foe, Leo.  Will the siblings be able to get the restitution from Leo that they desperately need?  And if Leo can't pay them back,  will they be able to get their lives together without "The Nest" they have been waiting for all these years?

As a woman with a lot of siblings, I thoroughly enjoyed The Nest.  The dynamics in this family are based on decades of dysfunction and years of animosity.  One would argue that Leo is the most messed up of the group.  He has arrogantly lived a life of excess and was on the verge of divorce when he took that poor waitress on a fateful drive in his Ferrari.  All of the Plum siblings are relieved that Leo wasn't injured, but none of them are shocked that it happened. But they ARE shocked when they realize that he has cost them their nest egg.  I think of all the Plum siblings, it was Stephanie, Leo's sometime love interest that was my favorite.  She had been connected to the Plum family for many years, but she was a little more "together" than the others.  My next favorite was probably Melody.  I could easily relate to her and her sense of inferiority with the other moms at school.  She tried to pretend to be a part of them and knowing the nest was coming gave her courage to try to fit in with them.  Besides the Plum siblings we get to hear the story of Nora and Louisa, Melody's daughters.  We also get to know Matilda, the young lady injured in the accident, and others.  It really gives the story a kind of depth that leaves the reader completely invested in these people.  In the end, "The Nest"  (or lack of) brought the siblings together in a way that nothing ever had before and that is enough to warm even the coldest of hearts.

Bottom line - The Nest is a delightfully funny and entertaining read.  The Plum siblings are endearing in a pretentious, yet genuine way that you are night likely to forget anytime soon.


Thursday, April 14, 2016

(36)The Obsession by Nora Roberts

Naomi Bowes is just eleven years old when she follows her father into the woods late one night. She thought she was going to find where her father had hid her birthday gift, instead she finds a young, battered woman locked in a cage.  That night Naomi's world is shattered when she discovers that her father is one of the most prolific serial killers in recent memory.  Her mother changes their last name and moves Naomi and her brother Mason to New York to live with their uncles in an effort to provide some normalcy.  But her mother is so destroyed by what her father does that it proves to be too much and once again Naomi is in the middle of tragic circumstances.

It is now nearly twenty years later and after years of wandering Naomi has fallen in love with a house on the opposite side of the country of her memories.  The community of Sunrise Cove has welcomed her with open arms.  Especially the local mechanic, Xander Keaton.  Naomi tries to resit Xander, but his fully stocked library, love of dogs, and excellent taste in music make him hard to resist. Life would be perfect except for the fact that somebody has started to terrorize the little community in the same way that Naomi's father did all those years ago.  As members of the community start turning up dead the coincidences are now considered the work of a copy-cat.  Will Naomi be able to catch a serial killer for the second time in her life before he comes after her?

I admit it.  I was a little surprised at how much I enjoyed The Obsession. The last few books I have read by Nora Roberts were disappointing to me.  I was hooked from the very beginning with The Obsession.  Naomi and Xander are great characters and they work well together.  Naomi is such a strong character who has been through so much, but I loved how her experiences only made her stronger.  I loved her relationship with her brother, Mason, who also happens to be an FBI agent and her relationship with her uncles was also fun to watch.  The kind of stability they provided was crucial in Naomi growing up "normal".   It took me a while to figure out the copycat, but once Mason revealed a few details, I figured it out, but it was late in the story. And of course, it always makes me happy when an author can stump me.

Bottom line - The Obsession is a prime example of why Nora Roberts is one of he most successful romance writers of all time.  Well developed characters, an engaging mystery, and a steamy love story will captivate the most picky of readers.


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

(35)Miller's Valley by Anna Quindlen

The Miller family has lived in Miller's Valley for many generations.  Mimi Miller is the youngest child, and only daughter, of the current generation of Miller's living on the family farm that has been passed down from generation to generation.    As Mimi grows up she shares her observations of a family clinging to tradition in the way that only the young can do.  Her mother was a nurse and her father was a farmer that did odd jobs to help keep the family afloat.  Mimi's two brothers were considerably older and therefor not really her peers, but she knew they were her brothers no matter what happened.  Ed was grown and gone before Mimi was even old enough to realize big brothers should be role models and Tom shocked the family when he enlisted in the Marines.  The time he spent in Vietnam changed him and damaged him in ways that none of them can understand.  Also living on the family farm is Mimi's Aunt Ruth, a quirky woman who won't leave the safety of her little house for nothing, not even when Mimi's father had a stroke practically in front of her.    For all of the strange dynamics of the Miller family there is one thing that remains true - family is everything.   Despite disappointments, painful truths, and evolving political climates, family is everything.  That is proven time and time again and even more as the family struggles to hold on to the land that has sustained decades of Millers.

Miller's Valley is told in that slow and steady way that makes you feel as if you are sitting on the sidelines of Mimi's life.  The book is set in a bygone era that leaves the reader a bit nostalgic as they long for their Miller's Valley in their life.    Mimi is a reliable character if there ever was one and she is quite easy to like.  She is hard-working and loyal to a fault.  Even when she struggles to understand the people she is supposed to love no matter what. Even though Mimi's brothers have gone off in the world, Mimi knows that they will always find their way home.  Her family have been around the area for so long that the town is actually named after them.  That kind of legacy is hard to ignore and also hard live down in a small town.  The whole small agricultural town reminded me a lot of my own hometown and this line struck such a chord with me - "But no one ever leaves the town where they grew up, not really, not even if they go."  It is very safe for me to say that "home" is very much a part of me and I left "home" twenty years ago.   We do get to watch Mimi grow up and we get to watch her deal with grown-up subjects like abortion, PTSD, and taking care of her family when they can't care for themselves.  Because that is what family does.

Bottom line - Miller's Valley is a beautiful book that draws much power from the simplicity of the story.  There is much here to be discussed, especially if you grew up in a small, rural community.  You will easily draw parallels and it will leave you longing for the home that will always hold your heart.


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Sunday, April 10, 2016

(34) Far From True by Linwood Barclay

We go back to Promise Falls just a few days after the truth was revealed about the mysterious baby in Broken Promise.  The residents of Promise Falls are feeling nostalgic as they settle in to watch the final movie at the local drive-in movie theater that is to close it's gates.   Just as the patrons are settling in their world is shattered by an explosion and the screen topples onto two cars parked in front.  Four people are dead.  The one car held a couple of kids who had borrowed a convertible.  The other victims, Adam Chalmers and his young wife Merriam, were parked in the classic Jag.  Private Detective, Cal Weaver, gets involved when Adam Chalmer's daughter calls him for help.  Somebody had broken into her father's house after his death was announced and she wants to find out what they took.  In the course of his investigation Cal discovers a dark secret that starts in the secret bedroom found at the Chalmers' house, but continues with some of Promise Falls most prestigious residents.   But what is the connection between that secret bedroom and the continued events that involve the number twenty-three?

Linwood Barclay is such a skilled novelist.  He immerses his readers in the quaint little town with dark and scandalous secrets, Promise Falls.  By now I feel like I am familiar with the residents and dynamics of this community.  From the disgraced former mayor trying to launch a comeback to Detective Duckworth, these are people that I feel I have gotten to know fairly well.  But they all are residents of this weird little town! I had kind of figured out the "whodunit" aspect of this installment and I have started to piece together the connections between the women being attacked at the college and the events at the Chalmers' home.  But the book ends on a serious cliffhanger, leaving me wondering if I am way off in my guesses.

Bottom line - while it is not necessary to have read Broken Promise first, it sure would be helpful to fully understand the dynamics of Promise Falls.  Either way, Linwood Barclay does an amazing job of leading his readers down an intriguing path of scandal and mystery.  A fun read if you love a good mystery.


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

(33)Some Women by Emily Liebert

Annabel Ford, Piper Whitley, and Mackenzie Mead are three women at different places in their lives who have forged a friendship over a weekly exercise and the requisite trip to the next door cafe after their sessions.  The three women are at different places in their lives.   Piper's boyfriend, Todd, just moved in with her and her young daughter,  Fern.  But when her Fern's dad reappears it threatens their new-found domestic bliss.   Mackenzie and her husband, Trevor, have been married a while and are desperate to start their family.  Will their relationship crumble under the stress of infertility?  Annabel has her world rocked when her husband tells her that she wants a divorce.  Will she be left to raise their twin sons alone? Some Women tackles some heavy topics, but the heart of the story is the relationship between these three unlikely friends.

Some Women is one of those feel-good  novels that will leave you wanting what they have.  Not their romantic relationships, but their friendship.  One thing I noticed, though, was that in terms of time, their friendships were relatively new, yet there was a bond between the three of them that couldn't be broken. Not everyone is as quick to make friends as Anabel, Mackenzie, and Piper, so I think it gives a little bit of hope that your "people" are out there waiting to be found.   I was surprised by which romantic relationships were able to withstand the kind of stress we all face in our own relationships.  Over the course of the book all three women changed for the better, too.  I think Annabel probably changed the most and definitely for the better. I had a hard time even liking her at the beginning of the book. \  Some Women was a quick read, but definitely a fun read.

Bottom line - Some Women is a great friendship novel to read with your friends and discuss over a bottle of wine.


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Saturday, April 2, 2016

(32)Two If By Sea by Jacquelyn Mitchard

Frank Mercy is an ex-pat in Australia when a tsunami hits Brisbane and kills his wife, their unborn son, and nearly her entire family.  Even though he is stunned by grief, Frank, an ex-cop, sets of to help.  He ends up rescuing a young boy, Ian.  Frank knows that Ian is special and adopts him as his own and quickly moves back to the states, hoping to put everything about Brisbane behind them. Back in the states Frank and Ian settle back into life with his family.  Frank is working and training horses and even tries to fall in love again with an equestrian named Claudia comes into their lives.  At times Ian's telepathic gift makes it difficult to fly under the radar, but at times it is most welcomed.  Frank realizes that Ian's brother was left behind in Brisbane and soon their family is complete.  Ian's gift isn't always a good thing, though,and they Mercy family undertakes a battle with evil men in order to keep Ian safe and their family together. Will they be successful or will the truth about Ian and Collin be revealed?

Two If By Sea is an epic novel that takes the reader all over the world.  From Australia to the Midwest to the English countryside.  Frank is a good guy. That is evident by his desire to go help people after the Tsunami when he just lost his whole world. He makes keeping Ian safe his whole world.  He is reluctant to let Claudia in, but it is clear that she is a good woman who wants to be part of their little family.  I also really loved little Ian and his innocent ways.   Having said all of that, I didn't really love the book.  It started off in a way that captivated the reader, but it lost something once Frank and Ian went back to the states.  I didn't find myself invested in any of the characters, well maybe Ian a little. I think the author was going for that ethereal or mystical feel, but it didn't translate very well for me. I don't really know what it was that prevented me from really liking the book, but the lack of emotional investment had something to do with it, I think.  The end of the book ended in a manner that was predictable and expected, but I did finish it out.

Bottom line -While  Two If By Sea didn't exactly resonate for me like I had hoped, I am still very much a Jacquelyn Mitchard fan and would encourage you to check it out.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, even when it comes to books, right?


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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