Wednesday, June 29, 2016

(58)David Spade is Almost Interesting by David Spade

My husband and I  took a road trip this past weekend to South Dakota for a family reunion.  I knew we were going to be in the car for close to 30 hours round trip, so I was looking for an audiobook we would both enjoy.   I stumbled across Almost Interesting.

I think everybody out there is familiar with David Spade in some capacity or another, whether it be Saturday Night Live, Tommy Boy, or Rules of Engagement.   As expected, David Spade gives us his story from childhood to present.  His childhood was mostly spent in Arizona as the youngest son of a single mom.  He and his brothers were often left to their own devices, but it was a different time then.  He shares his first experiences with comedy in high school and his first stand up gigs while in college at Arizona State University.   He takes us through the brutal early years of his career on the road and it really feels like a payoff  (for both him and the reader) when he gets to Saturday Night Live.  The insight he gives to the behind the scenes stuff on SNL is really worth the price of admission.

Of course he also talks in great detail about his close friend, the late Chris Farley.  He and Chris had a connection that is rare in Hollywood and you can hear in his voice how much he loved his friend and misses him daily.

One of the reason why I love celebrity memoirs on audiobook is because the celebrity is usually the narrator.  In pure comedic fashion David Spade gives us insight into what life is like as a celebrity.  Like when his assistant goes crazy and when his maid rips him off.  Oh, and KATE SPADE IS HIS SISTER-IN-LAW!!  Yes I felt the need to use the cap-lock, because I was SHOCKED by that piece of information.   If you don't know who Kate Spade is, well then you are dead to me. :)

Bottom line - all of it is fascinating, as well as funny.  Listening to the familiar voice of David Spade was quite the entertaining way to pass a chunk of our drive.  Definitely keep it in consideration if you have your own road trip coming up soon.   Fair warning, though, the language is raunchy.


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

(57)Sunshine Beach by Wendy Wax

The women from Ten Beach Road  are back and looking for their next renovation for their hit show, Do Over. Kyra is out for a walk when she stumbles across an old abandoned beach-front motel.  To say the building is decrepit is an understatement, but Kyra sees the potential for their next renovation and brings the others on board rather quickly.  They soon discover that the motel has a sinister history that the owners, two sisters, would like to keep in the past.  Meanwhile all of the women are distracted with issues bigger than their reality show.  Like Nikki and the fact that her brother has been making threatening phone calls to her from his jail cell.  Maddie is so wrapped up in her new boyfriend that she barely realizes when Kyra moves her ex-husband into the pool-house and Avery is still reeling from her mother's death.  Producer's are breathing down their neck for a quality renovation idea and it is clear that their show's future is on the line. The women are desperate for a "win", but at what cost?  Will they be able to convince the owners to let them proceed?  Or will their careers as reality television stars come to a screeching halt.

I obviously have missed a few books in the Ten Beach Road series, but Wendy Wax does a great job of bringing me up to speed.   It was great to catch up with these old friends.  I don't think that I had a favorite character with this book.   I loved the way Kyra stumbled across this old motel practically hidden on the beach.  I also loved the way Maddie behaved when her ex came knocking on their door.  He was expecting her to fall into her old habits of taking care of him, but she didn't.  It also was a bit of an eye opener to Kyra and helped her understand her mother just a little bit more.  The motel is it's own characters with a history that will shock you a bit when fully revealed, but the mystery and intrigue surrounding the hotel adds a little something "more" to the story.  

Bottom line - I have read a lot of Wendy Wax over the last year and I have really come to enjoy her quiet style of "girl power" fiction.  Her characters are strong and engaging, despite whatever challenges they may face.   If you haven't read her books you simply must.


Monday, June 27, 2016

(56)By the Numbers by Jen Lancaster

Penny Sinclair has always had a way with numbers and she turned that fascination into a pretty successful career as an actuary.  Penny was the breadwinner of the family and let her husband, Chris, take on the majority of the raising of their two daughters.  Well, except when mommy-guilt got the best of her and she spoiled their two daughters.   As a woman who knows statistics, it should be no surprise to Penny when she discovered that Chris had cheated on her.  Penny is now on the verge of making her life her own again. Their daughter is planning her wedding and after it is held at her home, Penny plans on putting the old Victorian on the market, getting herself a little condo in the city, and maybe even finding a date on one of those dating websites.  That is her plan anyway, until her retired parents need a place to crash, one of her daughters moves home from NYC under a cloud of suspicion, and her other daughter leaves her husband just days after the wedding.  Oh and her daughters invited her ex-husband to stay there after he breaks his leg.  Will Penny ever be able to claim her life for her own?

I think By the Numbers is one of my favorites of Jen Lancaster's fiction books.  Penny is one of those characters that is easy to like, expect for the fact that she created monsters. Penny is funny, hard-working, and loyal.  Her daughters, on the other hand, are self-centered, demanding, spoiled little brats and Penny has nobody to blame but herself.  I couldn't believe the way she let her daughters treat her, from demanding she not list the house, to the whole situation when their beloved pet passed away.  It was jaw-dropping.  The more the book goes on the more outrageous the behavior, but thankfully, there is a turning point that changes everything.  In the end, things turn out just the way you want them to turn out.

Bottom line - By the Numbers is everything you have come to expect from the entertaining Jen Lancaster.  Funny characters, inevitable growth, and lots of pop culture references.   A quick read that is guaranteed to entertain you.


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Sunday, June 19, 2016

(55)Here's to Us by Elin Hilderbrand

The only thing that Laurel, Belinda, and Scarlet have in common is Deacon Thorpe.  They were all married to the famous television chef and now they are called to gather at Deacon's Nantucket home to scatter his ashes.  Laurel was his first wife and the mother of his son.  Their love goes all the way back to their teen years and Laurel was absolutely devastated when she found out that Deacon was having an affair.   Deacon married his mistress, award winning actress, Belinda, and they lived a pretty charmed life.  Except for the fact that Belinda couldn't get pregnant, so they adopted a baby, Angie.  Between Deacon't restaurants and Belinda's filming schedule, it was clear they needed a nanny.  So they hired Scarlet. And well, you can see where this is going.  Deacon lived a life of excess.  Food, women, booze, and drugs.  Yet they were all shocked when they got the news that Deacon was gone.  They have gathered to say their final good-byes, but what they don't know is that there are still a few things about Deacon that they didn't know and those truths may be the most painful of all.

Nantucket, oh beautiful Nantucket.  The non-traditional family of Deacon Thorpe have gathered at his beach house to say their final good-byes.  Nantucket was the one place where Deacon had fond memories of his father and unfortunately the same could be said for Deacon's three children.  Through all the wives and all of the years, the Nantucket home was the only place that really felt like home for his children.  It is where Deacon could relax and play Monopoly or go biking and just be a dad, not a personality. I think my favorite character in the book was the house.  The charming home seemed stuck in a time warp, but that is why it is so comfortable.  Old furniture, old games, old ghosts.  I think of all the wives, Laurel was my favorite.   And I think of all the children, Angie was my favorite.  Unfortunately,  Deacon's two older kids inherited some of his less desirable traits.  Like addiction and infidelity, but they were still very likable characters.   In the end, this unconventional family faces the demons of the past and the present and decide that family means everything.

Bottom line - I love Elin Hilderbrand and her love affair with the magical island of Nantucket.  Once again, she makes summertime feel special by transporting us to the wonderful island.  For those of us in "flyover" states,  we look forward to her books every summer for that very reason.  Here's to Us was well worth the wait.


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

(54)The Girls by Emma Cline

Evie Boyd is a bored, restless fourteen year old during the summer of 1969.  She is on the "outs" with her only friend, Connie, when she first sees the group of girls in the park.  She is intrigued by their sisterhood and one girl in particular has Evie completely entranced.   It takes a few more chance encounters throughout their Northern California community before a busted bike chain allows Evie to officially meet Suzanne and the rest of the girls.   The offer to give her a ride in their big converted school bus and Evie finds herself joining them at the "ranch" where she meets the leader of their unique family, Russell.  The Ranch is so different from anything Evie has ever known that she finds herself slipping easily into the commune life.  Her mother is destracted with trying to find her next ex-husband that she doesn't realize that young Evie has taken up with a dangerous man and his cult followers.  As the summer heats up, Evie falls deeper under their spell of both Russell and the enigmatic Suzanne.  Will Evie be able to escape the clutches of the cult before it is too late?

The Girls has been getting a lot of media buzz as a "must read" book of the summer, and with very good reason.   With her extreme innocence Evie Boyd is a bit of an enigmatic to Suzanne and the girls. As Evie is captivated by their free living lifestyle, they are captivated by her doe-eyed curiosity and innocent adoration.  It is easy to understand how and why Evie got caught up in the events at  The Ranch.  Her parents were newly divorced, her mother was distracted and her father was pretty much gone.  Her best friend just ditched her and Evie was heading off to boarding school in the fall.  Evie Boyd was essentially a lost girl.   Now,   The Girls is told from Evie's viewpoint as she reflects back on that summer.  Many, many years have passed,  so you know that she survived the gruesome, violent "event", but you don't find out what that brutal event actually is until nearly the end of the book.  All of the information released by the publisher compares Russell to Charles Manson, so you kind of know what could be coming, but you have no idea to what degree.   The story of The Girls is pretty enthralling, but Emma Cline made such astute observations in her descriptions that you think to yourself, yes THAT.   Here are a few things that caught my attention and made me think "wow":

That was part of being a girl - you were resigned to whatever feedback you'd get. 
The world fattens them on the promise of love.  How badly they need it, and how little most oft hem will ever get. 

I knew just being a girl in the world handicapped your ability to believe yourself.  

Bottom line - The Girls is an explosive story that will draw you in the way Evie was drawn to Russell and his girls.  You won't be able to put it down, that I can promise.


Sunday, June 12, 2016

(53)The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell

Clare Wild and her two daughters are still recovering from a traumatic event caused by their father when they move into a flat that is part of a charming little community.  The flat opens up into a communal park that is a bit of an oasis for the middle of London.  Green and lush, the park is a perfect place for families, and a perfect place for Pip and Grace, Clare's daughters, to seek some normalcy.   The community has an annual summer party that is perfect against the backdrop of the park.   There is food, drink, live music, and other activities that just make the whole even seem magical.   Until Pip is fetched to bring her thirteen year old sister home and discovers her unconsious.  Their little community is not as shocked as they should be, though, for years ago another teenage girl was attacked in the park. And even worse, she was killed.  Who rocked this quiet community by attacking Grace Wild and will they do it again?

I don't think there isn't a parent out there who doesn't dream of the kind of community where their kids essentially have their own private park.  The kind of community where the kids consider homes interchangeable and children do nothing but make memories.  Grace and Pip are welcomed into the fold with such ease, it was as if they had been there all along.  Clare is still dazed  by what happened with her husband that she is relieved the girls have settled in so well at their new home.  Their neighbors, Leo and Adele, instantly treated them all like family.  But like most communities, there are some dark secrets lurking in the corners.   I loved Clare, even though she wasn't as attentive as she should have been, it is easy to understand why.  Pip is is Grace's younger sister and often you see the stories through her eyes.  As a twelve year old she is hurt the most by what happened to her father and seems younger than her age, twelve, would imply. The way Lisa Jewell crafts this tale you are on the edge of  your seat trying to figure out who hurt Grace.  My mind went down several different paths before the truth was revealed, but you have to wait for practically the last page to find out the truth.  -- CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS

Bottom line - Lisa Jewell is becoming one of those "Must Read" authors for me.  She is so deliberate in the way she lays out a story that you are hanging on to her every word.  The Girls in the Garden is one of those summer stories transports you into another world.  Well worth the read.


Saturday, June 11, 2016

(52)One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Twenty-something Emma Blair was nearly destroyed when her husband's helicopter went down in the Pacific ocean the day before their first wedding anniversary.  Jesse was her high school sweetheart and she planned on being with him forever, but now she has to deal with her new reality of being a widow.  Emma leaves the home they made together and moves back to her hometown of Acton.  The life she puts back together in Acton is different than she ever dreamed possible.  She is now in her thirties, working for her parents running the bookstore that has been in their family for decades, she plays the piano, and she has just gotten engaged to Sam.   Emma's life is perfect as far as she is concerned.

And then she gets word that Jesse was found alive.  He survived all these years on a little deserted island.  He is alive, coming home and he more than anything he wants to see his wife. Emma is suddenly put in the position of having to choose which man she is going to live with for the rest of her life.

One True Loves is one of those novels that is going to stick with you for a while.  Emma Blair is one of those women that I could see myself hanging out with talking about books over coffee.  I loved the way her relationship with Sam was just so easy.  At first I felt really bad for Jesse, after all he was the one who nearly died out on the ocean. He had to do extreme things to stay alive.  Then I thought he was being extremely selfish in his treatment of Emma and his demands were unrealistic, but when she gave into those demands I was flabbergasted. She had changed so much while he was gone, I think the author put it this way (or close to it) that she is the person she is today because her husband died. What would she have been like had he not "died", What would their marriage have been like if they made it more than a year?   I guess I can understand Emma's torn feelings, too.  Her first love has returned from the grave, what else was she to do?   In the end, she went with her what her heart told her to do.  CLICK HERE FOR SPOILER

Bottom line - One True Loves is one of those books that is making all of the "Must Read" lists of the summer and I completely understand why.  This is one you are going to want to read and then discuss Emma's decision with your girlfriends.


Friday, June 10, 2016

(51)The Twelve by Justin Cronin

It has been one hundred years since world as we know it has ended.  The Virals are still a huge threat to the human race, but there are a group of people who are actively seeking a way to permanently destroy them and try to restore peace and preserve humanity.  It has been discovered that all Virals can be traced back to one of the original twelve and plans are formulating for a way to destroy all twelve and therefor all of the Virals.

In the first half of The Twelve, the author jumps around in the timeline.  As the reader you spend a lot time in Denver during the early days.  You meet a former military man whose chosen career is at an outdoor retailer, he is not going to give into the Virals without a fight.  You meet April and her young brother, two kids left behind, and are just trying to survive.  You meet Lila, a pregnant doctor who is struggling with reality.   With the human race slowly dying out they are all struggling to stay alive.

The way the author jumps around in the timeline sets the scene for the coming revolution.  You get more of an understanding for those who fought to stay alive in those early days and those who are trying to save humanity after a hundred years.

I was a huge fan of The Passage for a lot of reasons, but mainly it fed my love of apocalyptic stories. The Twelve picks up with some familiar characters, like Amy, and introduces other new characters, like Kittridge, that connect you to their crazy world.  The book is a bit graphic at times, but that is too be expected with a novel about vampire-like creatures, but it just adds to the intensity.  I think my favorite part of the story was Sarah. Her story was layered and complex, but the way the author wove it into the rest of the book was borderline genius.   There are many times when the story is very fast paced and you are on the edge of your seat.  Then there are other times where it feels like the story just plods along.  Some of that may be because I read the book in audio form and only in hour long chunks on the treadmill, which tended to prolong the book longer than normal.

Bottom line - The Twelve is the second book in trilogy. The way he wrapped up The Twelve leads me to believe he has something unique up his sleeve for book three, City of Mirrors.   I am looking forward to see how Justin Cronin finishes out this epic story.


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Monday, June 6, 2016

(50)Ink and Bone by Lisa Unger

Twenty year old Finley Montgomery has moved to the small town of The Hollows, New York to live with her grandmother.  Finley has always been a bit misunderstood.  Her tattoos and piercings are a bit of an armor for Finley.  A way to keep people at a distance so they don't find out the truth about her.  Finley has a unique talent of that some would associate with being a psychic.  The only person to really understand her talent is her grandmother, Eloise.  Eloise has worked with a local private detective for a while to help find the missing and ease the fear of loved ones.  But now it is Finley's turn to step in and help the detective.  For someone in The Hollows has been "requesting" Finley's help and it just might be the young girl from the city that went missing a year ago.

Abbi Gleason was on vacation with her family when her brother and father were shot and Abbi was taken. Her mother, Merri Gleason, just knows that Abbi is still out there and has hired a private investigator from The Hollows to help find her.  To say that the last year has been rough on Merri Gleason would be a gross understatement, but hiring a private investigator makes her feel as if she is actually doing something to help find her daughter.  Will the investigator she hired and the psychic he works with be able to find Abbi? Or at the very least give her the closure she desperately needs?

Ink and Bone is a psychological thriller of the most superior kind.  Finley is one of those characters that is considered "weird" by normal societal standards.  The fact that she is covered in tattoos is just a small piece of that weirdness.  What people don't realize is that every tattoo on Fin's body represents someone from "the other-side" who had reached out to her.  Her body is a living memorial to those souls.  What makes Ink and Bone so good is that you are always guessing about who is flesh and bone and who is just ink.  It was always at the back of my mind that maybe certain characters weren't part of this realm.  It is quite apparent from early in the book that The Hollows is not just any normal upstate New York community.   The town is quiet and resistant to outsiders.  It is almost like the town is a living and breathing entity that only chooses to speak to a few choice people, like Finley and her grandmother, Eloise. The book moves at a slower pace than other Lisa Unger novels, really giving you a chance to get to know the characters and the town.  It starts to pick up pace towards the end and gives you a revelation that will leave you breathless.   It is definitely an explosive conclusion.

Bottom line - Ink and Bone is the kind of blockbuster that you have been waiting for this summer.  Complex characters, quirky towns, missing girls, and a family of psychics. All of the ingredients for your next beach read.


Saturday, June 4, 2016

(49)Mystic Summer by Hannah McKinnon

Maggie Griffin is looking forward to a fun summer.  Her best friend Ericka is getting married and things are really starting to heat up with her boyfriend, Evan.  Things go south, though, when Maggie finds out that she lost her job as a teacher at a private school in Boston.  Then her best friend, Ericka, loses the Boston venue for her wedding and they have to scramble to find a new place.  The best friends find themselves back in their hometown of Mystic, Connecticut as they are putting the finishing touches on Ericka's wedding.  The last thing that Maggie expects is to see her old boyfriend, Cam, on the streets of Mystic. And he has an infant daughter with no mother in sight.  Seeing Cam stirs up all of her old feelings and seeing Cam's daughter stirs up maternal feelings she didn't know even existed.  As Cam and his daughter become more of a daily presence in Maggie's life, she starts to realize that maybe everything she thought she wanted in life was wrong.  Including her boyfriend, Evan.  Will spending the summer in Mystic help put things into perspective for Maggie or will it only confuse her further?

Maggie Griffin is the kind of heroine that is easy to like, she seems genuine.  But, almost from the beginning you get the feeling that she is unsettled with her life. She didn't really like where she worked, but she loved teaching.  She was happy that her best friend was getting married, but she was sad that she  was going to have to change living situations.   The thought of spending the summer in Mystic filled Maggie with mixed emotions, even more so when she stumbled across Cam and his baby girl.  There were a few times that I didn't think that Maggie was being fair to Evan, but I am going to chalk it up to being young, opposed to a character flaw.  I wasn't a huge fan of Ericka, though, who turned out to be a horrible bridezilla, but I did respect the way that Maggie went above and beyond to fulfill her Maid-of-Honor role. She was determined to make the day special for her best friend.   And then there is their friend Peyton, she  was an annoying little twit.  The story ended up being a bit predictable, but that isn't always a bad thing with fluffy Summer Beach Reads

Bottom line - Mystic Summer is a beach read about a young woman at a crossroads in her life who has to make some tough decisions about the path she wants to take,  While I liked the book, I think it might be geared towards readers a generation younger than me.


Friday, June 3, 2016

(48)The Island House by Nancy Thayer

Courtney Hendricks has been spending summers on Nantucket with the Vickerey family for years.  Ever since Courtney and Robin first met as college roommates.  Courtney wasn't the only visitor to The Island House.  In fact there were often so many other children floating around the Nantucket house that Susanna Vickerey called them her summer children". Years have passed since Courtney & Robin graduated college and everybody is gathering again for Susanna's birthday.  Courtney has mixed feelings about the reunion.  Last summer Robin's handsome brother, James, professed to have feelings for Courtney. And just last night on her way to the airport an old childhood friend from her hometown in Kansas, Monty, also professed to have feelings for Courtney.  She has always had a crush on James, but they have differing opinions on having children.  It frustrates Courtney to no end, but is it enough to push her into the arms of another man?   Courtney's feelings are put to the test when a horrible accident jeopardizes the man she loves.  Which man will she choose and will her choice be too late?

I love me some Nantucket stories, but The Island House seemed awully reminiscent of old Harlequin novels that I used to waste my summer reading back in high school. Courtney seems to be a bit of a petulant brat about a couple of different topics.  Her behavior with James was enough to make me want to slap her silly.  James had very valid reasons for not wanting biological children, yet Courtney was so opposed to the idea of IVF or adoption that her reaction was almost comical. No, not comical, soap opera-ish.   Her storming out yelling "I hate you" was worthy of an eye-roll.   Then there is the brooding, handsome rancher from Kansas who dropped everything to fly to Nantucket and force Courtney to come to her senses. Another eye-roll there. I enjoyed that Courtney was from KC.  There were a lot of references to familiar places to me and I did enjoy that.  In fact, everything about this novel felt very familiar, like I had read it before.  Past Nancy Thayer novels seem a lot more light-hearted than The Island House, even with the kitschy nostalgic feeling there wasn't really anything "fluffy" about The Island House.  

Bottom line - as much as I love Nancy Thayer, I was torn about The Island House.  While I enjoyed the nostalgic feeling that nagged me while reading this book, I was disappointed with the fact that I felt as if I were reading a trashy romance novel from the 90's.


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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