Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Sunday, August 28, 2016

(76)First Star I See Tonight by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Investigator Piper Dove has taken on a job that has her following one of the most famous athletes of all time.   She has tried her best to keep from being spotted, but Cooper Graham does spot the poorly disguised Piper and demands to know who hired her.  Then he ends up hiring her himself.  Coop has opened a nightclub but doesn't fully trust all of his employees. He thinks Piper can bring a new perspective to his security team.   It doesn't take long for Piper to earn her salary, but that isn't why Coop wants to keep her around.  There is something about Piper that gets under Coop's skin and in the good kind of way.  Her firecracker personality and determination to do well at her job make her extremely attractive to Coop.   But the former Chicago Stars quarterback has to convince Piper that their differences are not great enough to keep them apart.  

Susan Elizabeth Phillips is one of my all-time favorite authors, not just for her exceptionally wonderful novels, but watching her social media makes her one of the coolest people to be around.  First Star I See Tonight takes us back to a familiar territory, Chicago and the world of the Chicago Stars. Piper is a strong and feisty character who is a great match for Cooper.  She grew up trying to please her dad, the hardnosed detective, and even now after her father's passed away, she still tries to live in a manner that would please him.   Cooper is a great hero - strong, compassionate, and determined to succeed.  He is always looking to keep those in his inner circle happy and safe.   They really were a good match.  There were lots of quirky side characters, like Piper's elderly neighbor, lots of laughs, and even a tear or two.  Everything I have come to expect from Susan Elizabeth Phillips.

Bottom Line - First Star I See Tonight reminded me why I adore Susan Elizabeth Phillips and all of her quirky, wonderful characters.   One of my favorite authors did not disappoint!


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Monday, August 22, 2016

(75)You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott

Katie and Eric Knox have devoted their entire lives to helping their daughter, Devon, chase her dream of becoming an Olympic gymnast.  Devon was just three years old when she started to exhibit prodigy-like talent.  Since then, the Knoxes have sacrificed money and time to help Devon achieve her dreams.  Their only friends are other parents at the gym, their only vacations are going to "away" meets.  Their gym family is devastated when a member of their circle is tragically killed in a horrible accident just six weeks before qualifiers.  Katie is empathetic and wants to console the victim's girlfriend.  Eric wants to stay focused on the goal and will do anything to minimize distractions and help Devon achieve her dreams and for the first time, the Knoxes question their own relationship. Can their marriage survive if they don't have Devon's talents to keep them together.?  How far will the Knoxes go to keep Devon on the path to greatness?

You Will Know Me is one of those well-timed novels that will suck you into its pages rather quickly.  With the Olympics on it prompted me to think of all the sacrifices made by the athletes and their family.  Eric and Katie seem like such a normal couple with an extraordinary daughter.   It bugged me a little how much they focused on their daughter and Drew, their young son, was kind left to tag-along.  With the 2016 Summer Olympics on every news site and at the forefront of everybody's mind it was interesting to see kind of "behind the scenes stuff"  for such committed athletes.  Not only the brutal physical torture they put themselves through for their sport, but the stigma that goes along with such conditioning.  Like Devon was made fun of at school because of her little girl body, among other things.  It made me sad to think that athletes go through such ridicule. I did have  "things" figured out pretty early, but I wasn't exactly sure of the timeline and who knew what.    CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS. 

Bottom line - with the Summer Olympics wrapping up, You Will Know Me will give you one last look at what Olympic quality athletes have to do on the road to the games.  One not to miss!


Sunday, August 21, 2016

(74)The Matchmakers of Minnow Bay by Kelly Harms

Lily Stewart's life is kind of a mess.  Her career as an artist hasn't paid off like she had hoped, her boyfriend of two years doesn't really seem as committed to their relationship as she had hoped, her best friend has been acting funny, and she was just evicted from her apartment.   While cleaning out her Chicago apartment Lily discovers that she never signed the annulment papers from her misguided Vegas marriage ten years ago.  She is still a married woman.    After some key google searches, Lily discovers that Ben Hutchinson is living in Minnow Bay, Wisconsin.  So Lily sets off in the dead of winter to become unmarried.  What she finds in Minnow Bay is a picturesque community full of kind people with good intentions, but they have their own agenda.  In Minnow Bay Lily gets a chance to reevaluate her life, her hopes, and her dreams.   Will all of Lily's dreams come true in Minnow Bay?

I had so much fun reading Kelly Harms' first book, The Good Luck Girls if Shipwreck Lane, that I was so excited for her new book to be released.   The Matchmakers of Minnow Bay did not disappoint!  Lily Stewart is a fun, but flaky, character.  She forgets to pay bills, she trusts all of the wrong people and she is loyal to a fault. Even if they are not deserving of her loyalty.   In Minnow Bay Lily stays at a B&B where she befriends the proprietress and finally gets some of her artistic mojo back.  It was fun to watch city-girl, Lily, adjust to life in rural America.  As a reader,  you want to shake Lily for being so trusting, but at the same time,  it is one of her better qualities.   At first, Ben is a jerk, but I like the town of Minnow Bay enough for Lily to stick around.   And of course, things work out just as you would expect them to work out.  The predictability of the story is comforting, welcoming, and quite enjoyable.

Bottom line - The Matchmakers of Minnow Bay is a delightful and enjoyable read with fun and quirky characters.  A perfect read for a Sunday afternoon.


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Saturday, August 13, 2016

(73)Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

Grace considers herself lucky to have found a husband who would accept her and her teenaged sister, Millie, as a package deal.  You see, Millie has Down Syndrome and has been living at a special home. Grace has always been honest with the men she dates and careful about bringing anybody into Millie's life that won't accept her as she is.   Meeting Jack seemed like a true miracle.  He was so good with Millie and was perfect in so many ways.    Jack and Grace Angel seem like they have a perfect life, but little does anybody know what goes on Behind Closed Doors.  Since meeting Jack and getting married Grace has quit her job, moved out of the city, and always cancels on her friends.  She claims that her life is perfect, but really who knows what goes on Behind Closed Doors.

I have never read a book that infuriated me more than Behind Closed Doors.  More than once I wanted to stop reading and put it in the "DNF" pile.  But I couldn't stop.  I would put it down for a few days and then pick it back up.  I just had to know what happened to Grace, Millie, and Jack.  Grace is the narrator of the story and moves from the present to the past.  In the past,  we get to see Grace before she met Jack and the early days of their marriage.   In the present, we get to see the marriage as it is now.   I want to be careful and not give away too much at, but know this, while there is never any graphic descriptions of violence, make no mistake, this book needs one giant "Trigger Warning".  CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS.   The end was brilliantly simple and by the time I made it to the final page I was surprised how quickly it had ended.

Bottom line - I usually reserve my "Best of" designations for books that make me cry or laugh. Books that evoke strong emotions from me.  While Behind Closed Doors did not make me laugh or cry, it did create such intense anger and hatred for one character that I had to add it to the list.   An author that can evoke that kind of emotion from their readers is one talented author.

  • Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris
  • On Twitter
  • Pages: 304
  • Publisher:  St. Martin's Press
  • Publication Date: 8/9/2016
  • Buy it Here!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Sunday, August 7, 2016

(72)One Less Problem Without You by Beth Harbison

One Less Problem Without You is a story of three women and one man.  Diana is having marital problems. Her husband is receiving dirty texts from other women.  She knows that she needs to make some sort of change in her life, but is not sure if her husband, Leif, will let her go.  He is used to women falling all over him, not leaving him.

Prinny grew up knowing that she was different.   She could sense things about people, including her half-brother, Leif.  She tried to use those skills to build a relationship with her big brother, but he would have nothing to do with her.  In fact he despised her then and he despises her now.  She keeps her distance from her family and used her inheritance to open a shop devoted to crystals, potions, and more.

Chelsea works at Cosmos with Prinny part-time while she tries to get her acting career to take off.   She is hoping that working with Prinny and her "skills" will be what it takes to get her life going down the right track.  And she thinks it has turned her life around when she meets the very handsome Lee at a local bar.  Is he the man she has been dreaming about all of her life?

These three women are living very different lives, but they have one thing in common -a man.  Diana seeks out help from Prinny in her effort to get away from the egomaniacal Leif, for she thinks he will never look for her there.   At Cosmos, Diana discovers something that has been lacking from her life  - friendship and support.  She is able to focus on her passion, teas and drinks.  Will the three women be able to shed this man from their lives once and for all?

I usually love Beth Harbison's books, but I had a really hard time getting into this one. It felt like the author was going for a Practical Magic feel, but fell short.  Leif was a gigantic asshole to anybody who came in contact with him. especially the women in his life.  I liked Diana and thought her decision to reach out to Prinny was a unique one - in fact that was my favorite part of the book. The way they bonded and stuck together. The development of their friendship was the highlight of the book.   There are a lot of books out recently with husbands are controlling and abusive, One Less Problem Without You fell a little short compared to them.  It is such a serious topic that I think an author has to be careful in how they handle it.

Bottom line - I know it is not fair to the author to compare One Less Problem Without You to other books on the market right now. The memories of those books and the emotions they evoked from me still linger.   It is not the author's fault the publisher chose to release the book when they did, but maybe her publisher should have done a little more research before selecting the release date.


Friday, August 5, 2016

(71)The One That Got Away by Leigh Himes

Abbey Lahey is exhausted.  She has two small children, a full-time career, and a husband whose business is tanking.  Abbey is tired of worrying about money, worrying about her career, and worrying about her family.  One day she decides to do something for herself - but a very expensive handbag.  Of course, that decision causes strife with her husband so she decides to take it back. At Nordstroms, there is an accident and when Abbey wakes up it is with a different life.  Abbey is no longer Abbey Lahey, but Abbey Van Holt, the wife of a congressional candidate.  Long before Abbey got married she had the chance to date the blue-blood, Alex Van Holt, but turned him down.  It is as if she never married Jimmy Lahey.  Abbey Van Holt lives in a posh penthouse with Alex and their two kids.  She has a nanny, stylists and every designer handbag a woman could ever want.  But she also has no friends, an overbearing mother-in-law, and crushing responsibilities as a Van Holt. Is this life really better than the one she had before the accident?

The One That Got Away is not an unfamiliar concept. Many stories have been written about a woman who wakes up in another life.  I think every overwhelmed woman has spent some time daydreaming about this very scenario.  Abbey seems like a very down-to-earth woman, someone that I could be friends with quite easily.  Her life as a Van Holt is very much a shock to her.  As Abbey tries to navigate that world she realizes that Abbey Lahey doesn't really like Abbey Van Holt.  I can't really blame her.  I didn't really like any of the Van Holts, including Alex.  There was a part in the book where he was such a jerk that I wasn't sure I could listen to the book anymore.  Thankfully Abbey realized a very important lesson - money can't buy you happiness.  I was pleased with the way the book ended - Abbey got what she wanted.

Bottom line - The One That Got Away was a fun read.  A chance for us common folk, like Abbey and I, to live among the ridiculously wealthy for a time.  Definitely a fun and light read if you are looking for one.


Tuesday, August 2, 2016

(70)It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

Lily Bloom has worked hard to put her ugly childhood behind her. She moved to Boston,  she got her degree and has started her own business, a flower shop. She is thrilled when she meets her new best friend, Alyssa.   She doesn't expect life to get any better, but it does when she meets Ryle Kincaid on the night of her father's funeral.   Ryle is everything that Lily had hoped to find in a partner.  Kind, honest, funny, dedicated, drop dead gorgeous, and a neurosurgeon to boot.  Lily falls head over heals in love with the man who appears to be everything her father wasn't.   Until one night when a moment of passion changes everything.  Lily's dream becomes a nightmare.  She is faced with the prospect of living the same life her mother did and she is torn between a future with Ryle or a future with her past, her first love, Atlas.  What will her choice be and what kind of impact will it have on her future?

From start to finish It Ends With Us is a deeply emotional book.   At first, I wasn't sure what to think of Lily or her relationship with Ryle. It was so perfect that I wasn't sure that I was going to like the book.  I did love Alyssa and her husband, Marshall.  They were funny and so good together. Plus Alyssa immediately became Lily's best friend and that is something that I think Lily was lacking.  There comes a certain point in the book when I was struck speechless.  Did that really happen?  I even had to read those pages a second time to make sure that I read them correctly.  I don't know that an author has ever tackled this topic with such emotional honesty.   By the end of the book,  I was a blubbering mess.  Seriously, not what I was expecting.  CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS In a story like It Ends With Us it is hard to have an ending that leaves you feeling hopeful for all characters, but that was the case. I felt hopeful.

Bottom line - It Ends With Us takes on a pretty heavy topic that is guaranteed to get your emotions running high.  Be sure to read with a fresh box of tissues.


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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