Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Monday, July 25, 2016

(69)Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

Ever since Erika was a young child she has envied her best friend, Clementine.  Clementine had two normal parents who did things like go on vacation and bake cookies.  Erika was deeply embarrassed by her mother and lived in fear that people would discover that her mother was a hoarder.  It was tough to handle as a child and it is tough to handle as an adult.   After all these years, Clementine and Erika are still friends.  Clementine and her husband, Sam, have two beautiful young girls.  Erika and her husband, Oliver, have tried everything possible to get pregnant.  They decide to invite them to a barbecue at their neighbor's, but first, they want to ask Sam and Clementine for a huge favor.  They want to ask Clementine if she will donate her eggs for them to have a baby.    The two couples head over to the barbecue with that between them.  They eat,they drink, they say things not meant to be overheard.  And tragedy strikes and nobody at the barbecue will ever be the same again.    Will the three couples be able to put their lives back together and remain friends in the process?  Or will one night separate them all?

Truly Madly Guilty is one of those books with so many layers that it feels as if you may not uncover them all.   Not only is this book about friendships, but marriages, and even community relationships and all that they can withstand. And it is a lot.  Erika and Oliver live in a quiet cul-de-sac where the neighbors are all friendly, even with the grumpy old man, Harry.   It is pretty idyllic, and Oliver hopes that someday they will get to raise a family there, even though Erika isn't fully committed to the idea of a family. She is concerned about passing along her mother's illness and I can't blame her.  The events of the night of the barbecue shake things up pretty drastically in more ways than one. And you see those consequences long before you find out exactly what happened. It drives you a little mad with suspense, but it only adds to the feelings about the book.  The book mostly takes place in the present, but the author flashes back to "The Day of the Barbecue" pretty frequently to build the suspense of what happens.  As the reader, you don't know for sure what happens until quite a ways into the book, but you know whatever it is was pretty bad.   When all of the secrets of the neighborhood are revealed it just makes me sad.  Like seriously sad.  CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS

Bottom line - Liane Moriarty knows how to expertly tell a tale piece by piece.  The final product is such a good book that it will stick with you long after you finish the last page.


Saturday, July 23, 2016

(68)The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close

For most people moving to Washington DC so your spouse can work in Obama's White House would be a good thing.  Beth Kelly is thrilled that her husband, Matt, was offered a job after working on Obama's campaign, but Beth is not thrilled with the prospect of leaving New York City.  Even though she is originally from Wisconsin, NYC is the place she calls home.   To Beth, DC is a foreign land.  One where everybody speaks in acronyms and talks for hours about what the POTUS had for lunch.  Beth is discouraged with her own lack of job prospects and finds life in DC utterly maddening.   Until they meet Jimmy and Ashleigh Dillon.  Their down-home Texas demeanor is a breath of fresh air to Beth and the two couples become fast friends.  Nearly inseparable and they make life in DC bearable for Beth.  But as the years go by Matt is becoming less and less pleased with his position at the White House.  He had always had bigger aspirations, but it seems as if Jimmy is living out Matt's dreams.  Soon the pressures and disappointments of political life start to weigh on Beth and Matt's marriage.  Will they be able to work through their issues before they become just another statistic?

I don't think that I have ever related to a character as much as I related to Beth in the first half of The Hopefuls.  She left the Midwest for college and never looked back, making her home in New York City. (For me it was Kansas City). It is there that she meets her husband and they start their life together. They have a ton of friends, favorite restaurants, favorite shops, and it is all within walking distance. The move to DC (Utah) was tough because Beth had to start over.  Watching her husband's dreams come true was exciting, but feeling like an outsider is tough.  For Beth it was politics and for me it was the local religion.   My husband and I ended up finding our own version of the Dillons, but that is where the similarities end.  I really enjoyed the easy way the author told Beth's story.  Beth was not a perfect person, but she tried to be as supportive as possible, even when Matt didn't make it very easy.  Yeah, Matt was a tough character to like, I do believe the words "What a dick." came out of my mouth more than once.  Most of the time he seemed like a good guy, but he was selfish as all get out.  Like I said, Beth wasn't perfect, but I enjoyed her and could totally relate to her story.  Even though the book is set mostly in a democratic environment, there isn't a lot of political agenda. Well, a lil bit about fracking, but mostly the author remains neutral.  In the end things worked out the way they were supposed to, but I didn't necessarily agree with how things ended.  But it isn't my story to tell.

Bottom line - The Hopefuls was a really enjoyable read.  Interesting, dynamic characters take on the challenges of everyday life, disappointments and all.  Who couldn't relate to a book like that? Add this one to the Book Club list, because I think you and your friends are going to have a lot to talk about.


Thursday, July 21, 2016

(67)The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

Lo Blacklock has had a really bad week.  Somebody broke into her flat while she was there. She wasn't hurt but it scared her to death and she has been on edge ever since it happened.  Lo, a travel writer,  is thrilled to have the opportunity to get out of town for preview trip aboard a new cruise ship, the Aurora.  The ship is hardly bigger than a yacht, but it is quite luxurious and Lo is looking forward to the time to get her head straight.   Until her second night on the ship when she sees a body being thrown overboard from the cabin next to hers.  When she calls for help - they told her that there was nobody in cabin 10 and all passengers are accounted for.  Lo, and some of the others, start to question her sanity.  Maybe the stress of the last week has caused Lo to crack.  When Lo finds a message for her that says "Stop Digging" does she realize that she did see something that night.  But what?  And who?  Will Lo be able to figure out what happened before "they" come after her too?

It is very rare for me to get scared by a book.  I have the ability to compartmentalize what I read or watch to keep from letting it interfere with my real life.  I don't know exactly why (it could be the Supernatural binge watching is partly to blame), but the first few chapters of The Woman in Cabin 10 kind of terrified me.  Being home alone and having somebody break into the house is one of my worst fears.  Ruth Ware transferred my fears to paper in such a brilliant way that it kept me awake the night I read that part.  I was relieved, like Lo, when it was time to get on the boat, thinking that no matter what happened on the boat it would be better than what had happened.  Honestly, I found parts of the time on the ship to be a little boring. A bit of a let down after the heart-pounding first pages. The passengers on the ship are all a little - weird.  Well, maybe eccentric.   I wasn't all that connected to Lo as a character, her instability, was a turn-off for me.   She did have good reason to be a little unstable, but her behavior on the ship was borderline embarrassing. I will say that things picked up the last third of the book, after Lo figured things out. Her life was still in grave danger at that point, but the story came to a satisfying conclusion.

Bottom line - Ruth Ware made a name for herself with the hit In A Dark, Dark Wood (which I have not read yet, but I will) while The Woman in Cabin 10 has some elements of terror, it was not quite as enthralling as I had hoped.  I would love to hear what others think, so be sure to let me know what you think after reading it.


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Monday, July 18, 2016

(66)Falling by Jane Green

From a young age Emma Montague has been fascinated with America.  Growing up in her cavernous childhood home in the Engish countryside she devoured books such as Little Women and Little House on the Prairie.  So when she is offered a banking job in New York City, Emma jumps at it with glee.   Now she is thirty-seven and burned out by her high-powered job.  She leaves the city for a charming community in Connecticut.  Emma doesn't know what she wants to do with the rest of her life, but she knows she wants to slow down.  She rents this charming little cottage that is in desperate need of love.  Her landlord, Dominic, is a handsome single father, who happens to live right next door.  Before Emma knows what hits her she finds herself falling for Dominic and his six-year-old son, Jesse.  Even though Dominic and Emma are complete opposites and come from completely different backgrounds, their relationship is solidifying into the best thing that has happened to either of them.  But then there is a simple mishap that threatens everything they have and plan to have.  Will true love trump all?

I am sure it is no surprise to any of you that I absolutely adore Jane Green.   I read an article recently that Jane (I call her Jane as if we were friends) used her own life's tale as the basis for Falling.  In Emma, she has created a character who is smart, charming, hard-working, independent, and strong. I liked her from the very first page.  I loved the fact that she wasn't picky about a cottage that was less than perfect - she was willing to work to make it perfect.  Dominic is what you imagine a blue-collar worker to be.  Hard-working, easy-going, and enjoys burgers and beer over fancy meals.   Their relationship is a bit predictable with some instability in the form of an ex and parents not pleased with the pairing, but they work through it all.   I was absolutely blown away by what happened in the last 50 pages or so.  CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS.  Up until that point, I suspected that Falling would follow the formula of most Chick Lit novels.   It did not and that is why I am putting it in my "Best of"  category.  When an author shocks you so much your jaw drops, it is a wonderful and rare experience.

Bottom line - I have read every book that Jane Green has written over the last sixteen years.  I enjoy her books just as much today as I did with her very first novel.  With engaging characters and flawless storyline,  Falling is one of her best yet.


Saturday, July 16, 2016

(65)I've Got Sand in All the Wrong Places by Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella

You may know Lisa Scottoline from her incredibly popular mystery novels, but she also has a funny bone.  For the last several years Lisa and her daughter Francesca have been publishing their essays in humorous collections with amusing titles.   This summer's installment is the quite entertaining, I've Got Sand in All the Wrong Places.  Lisa and Francesca take turns writing essays on all sorts of topics, such as: dating, reality television, golfing, and more.   It is their humerous outlook on such mundane topics that really make the book so entertaining.  For example, Francesca has an essay where she is talking about planning for her future:

"Think living until a hundred is optimistic?  You seriously underestimate how much kale I eat."
I laughed out loud at that line, because, if I actually ate kale, it would be something that I would say.

Or Lisa's comments in an essay titled Spaghetti and Salad:
"They say you should never talk about politics or religion.  But these days, politics is relition."
In this election year, I find that line to be a fairly astute observation.  Lines like that make me want to be either Lisa Scottoline's adopted daughter or part of her inner circle so I can listen to those words of wisdom on a regular basis.   Her observations at a wedding in an essay titled The Unofficial Wedding Party were so spot on that I laughed through the entire essay.

"The Child Star. This kid displays the attention-seeking behavior that can make for a terror in the grocery store but a superstar at a wedding reception."
Haven't we all attended a wedding reception where there was a kid cutting up the dance floor?

There is also some less than funny essays, like when Francesca was mugged on the streets of New York City.  But, even with such a serious topic, there is a hint of humor.

Bottom line - I have always said that authors are like my rockstars.  I love to hear that their lives are so normal that they do things like watch The Bachelor or live in fleece pants.  I've Got Sand in All the Wrong Places is so smartly written with a level of wit that is guaranteed to make you laugh.  Pick it up for the beach bag, you won't be disappointed.


Friday, July 15, 2016

(64)The Singles Game by Lauren Weisberger

Charlotte "Charlie" Silver is a rising star in the tennis world when she gets injured at her biggest match to-date.  Charlie doesn't want to make a comeback only to maintain her mediocre rankings.  She wants to be the best - so she hires the best.   Todd Feltner has trained champions, but only men, but he agrees to help Charlie reach the top.   He is arrogant, demanding, and pushy.  Todd Feltner is turning the sweet and innocent Charlie into a cutthroat champion who is far from innocent.   Charlie's dad and brother will support her no matter what, but they are not liking the new Charlie.  She works hard, but she plays hard, too.   Charlie travels the world seeking glory and fame, but she also is having fun attending glamorous parties in fancy locations all over the world, mega-stars know her name, and the tabloids love her.  By her side is the handsome tennis playboy, Marco.   The fast-pace lifestyle is quite excruciating and starting to weigh on Charlie.  Will she crack under the pressure before winning it all?

Lauren Weisberger has made quite the living by providing the world with behind the scenes looks into some glamorous industries.  This time she takes us inside the world of the glamorous tennis world.  I know almost nothing about tennis, but I still enjoyed The Singles Game.  Charlie is a great character that is easy to like and you really root for her success.  Todd is a bit of a wanker, but since he will help Charlie get to her end goal you put up with him, as does she and her family.  Even though you find yourself hoping she will just tell him to get lost.  Same goes for Marco.  Even Charlie admits that he is a bit of a douche, but she loves the attention she gets for being with him, as frustrating as it is, you can't fault her.  You follow Charlie on tour across the world and it is all racing towards the biggest event in the tennis world, Wimbledon.  The Singles Game is a pretty fast-paced novel, but with not a lot of "meat" and that's okay, the "dishy" nature of the book makes it a fun read.

Bottom line - The Singles Game is one of the best "brain candy" books that I have read in a long time.  Full of hot men. glamorous women, fabulous clothes, and amazing food. Absolutely a book worth grabbing for your next trip to the beach.


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Monday, July 11, 2016

(63)All is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker

Fifteen year old Jenny Kramer's world is shattered when she is brutally raped one night after a party.  The little community of Fairview, Connecticut is in shock that something so brutal could happen in their charming little community and are in fear because the attacker is still on the loose.   In an effort to help her heal Jenny's affluent parents agree to give her an experimental new drug that is supposed to help her forget the events of the night and help with any future PTSD.  The side effects from the drug are almost worse and after a suicide attempt the Kramer's seek out the help of a renowned psychiatrist, Dr. Alan Forrester.  He seeks to help the Kramer's get past this horrific event by helping Jenny remember exactly what happened.  But as the events of the night are slowly coming back to Jenny, the doctor realizes that what may be revealed about that night is his worst nightmare.  Everything culminates in a shocking revelation that very well may destroy all those involved.

Fair warning, All is Not Forgotten is quite graphic in the details of Jenny's rape.  It is gritty and sadly it happens all too often.  The story is told from the perspective of the psychiatrist, but you don't realize that until several chapters into the book, when he introduces himself.  Because the narrator is a highly educated man, it adds an air of importance to the story. That third party detachment hooks you, well until he becomes a part of the story.  Jenny's parents. her mother anyway, is a piece of work.  A bit of a fraud herself as she spills details about her past to the good doctor, not to mention her ongoing affair with her husband's boss.   I did not like her at all.  Jenny's father was a little easier to like, but he was so bulldozed by his wife that I wanted to tell him to grow a pair.  Really.   As the Kramer's sessions with the doctor continue the feeling of the story gains urgency.  As more and more is revealed it is very clear that the good doctor is not as good as first appeared and things are about to come to an explosive conclusion.  CLICK HERE FOR SPOILER

Bottom line - All is Not Forgotten is a hard-core psychological thriller.  The characters are all so flawed and desperate for one thing - find out what happen to Jenny.  If you love a good thriller, this one is for you, but be aware that it has it's graphic moments.


Sunday, July 10, 2016

(62)The Second Sister by Marie Bostwick

Lucy Toomey is in a race to the finish line.  This time, though, the finish line is the presidential elections and she hopes that the man she works for will be the winner on Election Day.  She has worked with Thomas Ryland for years and she hopes that her reward for her loyalty will be a position in his White House. Early the  morning of election day Lucy receives a phone call from her cousin back in rural Wisconsin.  Her older sister, Alice, was found unresponsive and things are not looking good.

It takes Lucy a moment to make the decision, but she drops everything and starts the arduous journey back to the sleepy little town that Lucy left without looking back nearly twenty years ago.  She does not have happy memories of the community or her time spent there. Alice did not have the same option for leaving Nilson's Bay, for when they were teenagers there had been an accident on a hot summer day and Alice never developed mentally beyond the age she was the day of that accident - eighteen.  Unfortunately Lucy does not make it there in time and thanks to a creative will, Alice makes sure that Lucy must spend eight weeks in the town she hated so much.   At first Lucy is furious, but then accepts her fate.  She takes the eight weeks to reacquaint herself with the community and it's people. But many of them are less than thrilled that she is there.  She wasn't there for Alice in the years before her death, why should they welcome her now?  Will they soften their stance against Lucy or will they run her out of town before she has a right to earn her inheritance?

The Second Sister is one of those feel good novels that possibly has a future as a Hallmark movie.  Lucy is one of those characters who had a long habit of punishing herself.   Alice was the reason for her penance.  I have to admit that there were many times where I felt that Lucy deserved to be punished.  I did not like the way she never came home to check on Alice after their folks died.  Yeah, they talked on the phone daily.  Yeah, they met up for Christmas at some tropical destination of her choosing, but that isn't the same as being there. I really understand why Alice's friends were furious with her.   When Lucy finally went back to Nilson's Bay she discovered just how beloved her sister was and I think the ire of the town was well deserved.  Of course there is a handsome man involved, somebody from Lucy's past.  And some big bad wolf in the form of conglomerate wanting to tear down a city landmark. Oh and don't forget the quilting.  Lots of quilting to be found in The Second Sister.

Bottom line - The Second Sister was a nice, soothing read about redemption and hope set against the backdrop of a picturesque town in rural Wisconsin.  A fun read if you are looking for a little something to help heal the soul.


Saturday, July 9, 2016

(61)The Perfect Neighbors by Sarah Pekkanen

Newport Cove seemed perfect to Tessa and Harry Campbell so they moved to their two children to the idyllic little town.  Everything seems so perfect. Tessa is welcomed into a group of women who have a tight little circle, but things are not as idyllic as they seem.  GiGi is a little stressed by her husband's congressional campaign.  His weaselly little campaign manager keeps digging into her past and she doesn't like the way he looks at their teenage daughter.

After years of being a stay-at-home mother and wife, Kelli has gone back to work in a busy real estate office.  She didn't expect to find temptation in her handsome coworker, Miller.  Will she jeopardize her marriage and her family for this man?

Susan's husband recently divorced her after having an affair with her best friend.  Now her ex-friend is pregnant and she is living the life that Susan was meant to live.  Will she ever find happiness again?

What the people of Newport Cove don't know is that Tessa and Harry Campbell are keeping the biggest secret of all.  Their charming life will be shattered if the truth is revealed.

The Perfect Neighbors is as juicy of a read as there is this summer.  We all know that while life may appear perfect on the outside, it very rarely is perfect at all.  And that is what Sarah Pekkanen tackles in her new book.  Newport Cove is really one of those charming little communities with where neighbors look out for each other.  I loved the way the author included transcripts from the local list-serve.  It really added to the authenticity of the community.  However much the friends appear to have everything together, they are really all hanging on by a thread.  I think of all of the women, Susan was my favorite.  None of the women are perfect, far from it, but she was the one who seemed to be the only one on a path of growth, albeit slowly. And I think Kelli was my least favorite.  I didn't like the way she was chasing after Miller.   The author hints that there is something darker going on with Tessa and her husband, but it is the end of the book before the truth is revealed and it is pretty shocking.  CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS

Bottom line - The Perfect Neighbors is one of those juicy novels that will leave you wondering what dark secrets your own neighbors may be keeping.


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

(60)All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

Nicolette Farrell has to head back to her hometown of Cooley Ridge, North Carolina for the summer.   Her father has been in a nursing home for the last year and Nic and her brother, Daniel, need to sell their  childhood home in order to keep him in the nursing home.  Nic has been apprehensive about going home for the last ten years, ever since her best friend went missing, but she has to go because it is her father.  And he needs her.  Nic isn't in town long when another girl goes missing, the same girl who was her alibi when Corinne went missing all those years ago.  She is terrified when the police start to question her father, who has dangerous moments of lucidity.  Nic knows that she is putting her future in jeopardy by introducing her fiance, Everett, to her past, but she needs his skills as a lawyer to keep her father safe.    Will they be able to find out what happened to both Corinne and Annaleise, before Nicolette's entire  world falls apart?

All the Missing Girls is one of those books that is going to rock your world.   The author dares to do something unique and tells the story backward.  The first chapter you get to meet Nic as she is closing up her apartment and heading out to Cooley Ridge. She seems fairly normal, is a counselor in Philly with a great apartment and a handsome, successful fiance.   The story then moves ahead to "Day 15" when she is exhausted and weary and then the story works backwards.  Her interactions with her brother, Daniel.  Her suspicions that somebody has been in the house,  Everett arriving, all of it is told backwards.  It took a few "days" to adjust to the timeline, but then you realize that the excitement happened in the first day and that is why Nic has been so stressed out pretty much the whole book.  Nic and her brother don't really have a close relationship, but given the events in their past, they both lead pretty normal lives.  Of course there is an ex-boyfriend in Cooley Ridge and he adds some strife to the story, but the unique telling of the story keeps you guessing exactly what their relationship is like now.  Everything is leading up to one hell of a revelation.   It is truly one of those "mind blown" moments.   CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS

Bottom line - it takes guts for an author to be so creative with the timeline of a book. I give Megan Miranda props for taking such a unique path to telling her story.  All the Missing Girls is a fast paced thriller that will shock you no matter if the story is told backwards or not. Definitely not to be missed if you love a good mystery.


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Monday, July 4, 2016

Sunday, July 3, 2016

(59)First Comes Love by Emily Giffin

Josie and Meredith are not the kind of sisters who share clothes, finish each other's sentences, or even like each other.  Over time their relationship has only gotten worse.  Their teen years were marred by the tragic car accident that killed their older brother and here it is fifteen years later are no closer than they were then.

Meredith is a high-powered lawyer in Atlanta.  She married her brother's best friend and has an adorable little girl.  Even though her life looks perfect on paper, Meredith is struggling to be happy. She is questioning her marriage, her career, and everything she has done in her life. Did she take this path because it was easy and what her parents expected? Or is she really happy?

Josie is the youngest and has always been the wild child of the Garland family.  She never really dealt with her brother's death and what role she played in the tragic accident that took her brother from them.  She is a grad-school teacher wandering through life going from one date to the next.  The only constant in her life is her best friend, Gabe.  But now that Josie has her ex-boyfriend's daughter in class, Josie starts thinking about everything she has missed out on and thinks that she might be ready for more.  She wants a family and doesn't want to wait for "Mr. Right" to come along and, and despite her family's disapproval, she starts to investigate alternative methods.   But first, Josie has to come to grips with the past.  Will the truths she uncovers shatter her family beyond repair?

In First Comes Love Emily Giffin explores the sister relationship way that I think many can relate with quite easily.  Josie and Meredith are polar opposites and to say their relationship is contentious is a great understatement.   I struggled with liking both of them, but I felt the author did a great job of presenting both sides of the story. The chapters alternate from each side,   Meredith is incredibly judgmental and frankly quite bitchy to her sister, which is infuriating considering how her own life is falling apart.  Josie is no angel herself, I am not denying that, but hey - she has a respectable job and pays her bills, so as far as I am concerned she isn't that bad.  However, I did feel for her when the truth was revealed about the car accident.   CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS

Bottom line - First Comes Love is an intimate look at the relationship of two sisters and one tragic even that defined their lives.   There is a lot of food for thought with this one and could make for great book club discussions.


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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