Sunday, October 30, 2016

(91)The Vanishing Year by Kate Moretti

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

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

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


Saturday, October 29, 2016

(90)In Twenty Years by Allison Winn Scotch

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

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

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


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Sunday, October 23, 2016

(89)Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

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

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

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


Friday, October 21, 2016

(88)The Life She Wants by Robyn Carr

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

(87)The Boy is Back by Meg Cabot

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

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

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

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


Sunday, October 16, 2016

(86)Hungry at Heart by Jennifer Weiner

Jennifer Weiner has been a staple in my library ever since I read her first book, Good in Bed.  As an aspiring author, I was excited to read the memoirs of a best-selling author to see what words of wisdom she had to share about writing and publishing many successful novels. She did not disappoint.

Hungry Heart is a compilation of essays covering topics from her childhood, her time at college, her siblings, her relationship with her estranged father and so much more.  I was a little shocked at her openness about some pretty sensitive topics, like her mother becoming a lesbian after many years of marriage to Jennifer's father. She also gets intimate and graphic about her recent miscarriage.  The author gets real honest about being overweight for most of her life, being teased by kids on a trip to Isreal, and pulling the trigger on weight-loss surgery.  She also discusses her role on social media - it isn't all fluffy posts about The Bachelor.

Jennifer Weiner has appointed herself a sort of  tenacious "watchdog" for gender equality in the publishing industry.   And it all started with social media.  She has been very outspoken about the fact that women authors don't get the same kind of "respect" that male authors, like Dan Brown, John Grisham, and others do.  There are many sides to this argument, one being that a "Chick Lit" author is not deserving as more literary authors.  And that is part of the reason for her ire, but her tenacity is starting to be viewed as "complaining" and some of her female colleagues and fans wish that she would just stand down.   I am in the camp that while it was admirable at first, now it just seems like a giant temper tantrum and is borderline embarrassing.   And this is coming from one of the biggest Chick Lit fans ever to read a book.

Bottom line - even though she feels that she is being "slighted" in the publishing industry, Jennifer Weiner is a successful author who has millions of devoted fans. She may never get the literary "kudos" that she feels that she deserves, but there are thousands of authors out there who aspire to have just a fraction of her success.  Even though I disagree with her tenacious ways, I will always read - and likely enjoy - her books.   Her social media on the other hand....


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Saturday, October 8, 2016

(85)Fractured by Catherine McKenzie

Julie Prentice has a stalker.  It started when she wrote a hit novel loosely based on a tragedy that happened to Julie in college.  Julie and her husband moved their twins to the suburbs of Cincinnati.  The Mount Adams neighborhood is somewhat idyllic with neighborhood block parties and monthly newsletters.  Julie and their new neighbor, John, have hit it off and meet every morning to go jogging together.  Their relationship is soon a source of contention for John and his wife, Hannah.  Several awkward misunderstandings make Julie feel uncomfortable in her new neighborhood.  And then, strange things start happening to Julie and the fear is that her stalker has found them in Ohio.  The phone calls, the notes, the "gifts" left for her are all adding to the tension of the neighborhood. Then John and his wife decide to sue Julie for one of those "awkward misunderstandings." Julie discovers that her neighbors are not as welcoming as she thought.  When tragedy strikes the neighborhood is completely fractured.  Will they ever be the neighborhood they once were?

Fractured is a riveting novel about a perfect neighborhood that is far from perfect.  The novel is told from both Julie's perspective and John's perspective, but it alternates time periods.  Starting a year ago moving forward, and then current time. When they are preparing for and testifying in front of a Grand Jury.  You don't know why they are meeting or why it involves the court, but the hints are there that it involves a tragedy.  And somebody is at fault.  That alone makes Fractured a gripping novel that keeps you eagerly turning pages.   There is also some suspicion that there never really was a stalker and that Julie is mentally unbalanced.  Even the reader starts to doubt Julie and her truths.  The author holds tightly to the truth until the last few pages of the book.   I wasn't completely shocked by the truth, but I did not figure it out before the revelation.  -- CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS

Bottom Line - Catherine McKenzie has written an absolutely gripping novel about a neighborhood that wants to be perfect but is far from it.  The dynamics of this neighborhood will suck you in and not let go until the very last page.

  • Fractured by Catherine McKenzie
  • On Facebook
  • Pages: 349
  • Publisher: Amazon Publishing
  • Publication Date: 10/4/2016
  • Buy it Here!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Sunday, October 2, 2016

(84)The Killer Next Door by Alex Marwood

Collette chose the rental house in South London because it looked like the kind of place that would have a landlord who wouldn't ask questions - and she was right.  Collette has been on the run for a few years after things went south at the night-club where she was working.  She inadvertently stole a lot of money from a very bad man and only one thing would bring her back to London.  Her mother is dying.  

The rundown apartment in South London is full of tenants who are on the run from something.  Hussein is a refugee, running from the horrors of his home country.  Sher is running from a horrible childhood, Gerald is running from a horrible mistake that ruined his career and his life.  And Thomas is trying to hide the biggest secret of all.  Vesta lives in the basement flat and has lived there her whole life.   For the most part,  they all have ignored each other, but one night there is a tragic accident that bonds them together.  All of them want to keep the accident a secret, but one of them uses the experience as a learning experience.  What lengths will he go to to keep his girls a secret?

This is my second book by Alex Marwood and I am convinced that she is one twisted lady.  The Killer Next Door is an absolutely twisted novel.  Collette is the main character and she is running for her life.  She has learned how to adapt as a woman on the run, constantly looking over her shoulder, and keeping to herself.  She lets her guard down by liking her new neighbors.  Vesta is a sweet old lady who is like a Gran to all of them and Collette can't help by like the feisty young Sher.  The author doesn't hold any punches when she writes about the gruesome parts of the book, and there are several.  From a rape to murder, it is all there.  Fair warning - it might not be your kind of book if you have a weak stomach.   CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS   I was really pleased with the way the story ended.  I was most worried about what would happen to Sher, but the author did right by her.

Bottom line - The Killer Next Door is one of those novels that you have to stop reading and really contemplate if you want to go on - not because it is a bad novel, but because it is just that good.  The book is gritty and suspenseful and maybe even a little bit terrifying.  The perfect read if you are in that kind of mood.


Saturday, October 1, 2016

(83)Sprinkle Glitter on My Grave by Jill Kargman

In our house we are huge fans of Jill Kargman and her Bravo comedy Odd Mom Out.  The show is set in New York City and Jill (who essentially plays herself) is the only "normal" person on the Upper East Side.   Sprinkle Glitter on My Grave is a collection of essays and observations by the sardonic New Yorker.

Jill Kargman covers a lot of different topics in Sprinkle Glitter on My Grave.  Like summer camp and Disney World in "Orlandon't".    I found myself laughing out loud at her descriptions of everything from the overpriced hotel to the crap that is peddled in souvenir shops all over the park.  $12 for a pin only to trade it away to someone else?  No thank you.  Her observations made me think that I was right to believe that Jill Kargman is my "Spirit Animal",

Jill goes on to talk about her famous sister-in-law, Drew Barrymore.  You can tell that it was written prior to her brother's divorce, but she addresses it with a surely inserted line, that basically says they will "always be sisters."    She also talks about her parents trying to get them into a cemetery on Nantucket, and it took a recommendation from the  Secretary of State, John Kerry to get them in.   That "story" is covered in the television show, but the show made it sound like it was her in-laws that were crazy in their quest for the perfect resting place, not her own parents.     Other observations made are about plastic surgery, family holidays, and getting kids into kindergarten.  It was funny and interesting and a world that I will never be a part of - and I am perfectly okay with that.

Bottom line - Jill Kargman is funny, witty, and biting in her stories and observations of  life in the mystical Upper East Side.  Most of us will never experience what it is like having Thanksgiving with Drew Barrymore, but it sure is fun to read about them in her book.


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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