Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Sunday, September 17, 2017

(78)How to Change A Life by Stacey Ballis

Eloise's life as a Personal Chef is as close to perfect as it can be.  She has two clients, the wealthy family that welcomes her as a member of their family.  And there is the single retiree who loves to throw the kind of parties that people talk about for years. At the funeral of a beloved teacher from high school Eloise reconnects with her two best friends. As they are closing in on forty the three of them set goals for each other, things they want to accomplish before they hit forty.  For Teresa, it is things like expanding her family's culinary horizons and become more involved in the family's finances.  For Lynne, it is to see a matchmaker and get a dog.  For Eloise, it is to start dating again. Eloise goes on a few dates before she meets Shawn at a Halloween party.  Shawn is a doctor who makes her laugh and treats her like a queen. He is everything that Eloise could ever hope to find in a mate.  Then one night Shawn and Eloise are out for dinner when they run into someone that could shake their relationship to their core.  Will the fledgling relationship survive this trial or will Eloise find herself single again?

What I loved about How to Change A Life was that Stacey Ballis took a bit of a risk - and it paid off.  You see, Shawn is African American and Eloise is a white Jewish girl.  I have read a lot of Chick Lit in my days (a lot!!) and I don't remember ever having the main characters be interracial.  Ever.  The author navigates some of the situations (like meeting each other's families) with such casual grace that I wanted to applaud.  I was so happy for Eloise because her happiness was palpable.  Not that she was unhappy when the book started, but you could see the shift in her behaviors.  Her friendship with Lynne and Teresa was complicated.  And that made How to Change A Life even more authentic.  Friendships, especially friendships that span decades are not perfect.  There are ups and downs just like any other relationships.  Except you don't ever read about those struggles in most Chick Lit novels.  In the end, How to Change A Life got your typical Chick Lit kind of ending, but I was okay with the way it ended.  In fact, the end made me happy.

Bottom line - We live in a world where interracial relationships are more common than ever, but it rarely crosses over into the books that I tend to read.  I was pleasantly surprised to see a familiar author write about Shawn and Eloise with such ease and comfort. Other than the diversity, How to Change A Life is just like books we have all read before - and that is okay because sometimes we need that familiarity.


Friday, September 15, 2017

(77)Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena

Karen Krupp's life is a good one.  She lives in a wonderful neighborhood with a husband who is completely devoted to her.  One night Tom comes home from work and to find Karen missing.  Dinner is half prepared in the kitchen, her purse and cell phone have been left behind, but she is gone.  Tom calls the police, but when they arrive they tell him that Karen has been in a car accident in the bad part of town.  The accident caused her to lose her memory.  She doesn't know why she was there or what caused the accident.  When a body is discovered close to the accident site and evidence puts Karen at the scene Tom starts to realize that there might be more to his wife that he could ever imagine.   Their neighbor, Brigid, then tells Tom that she saw a strange man sneaking around their house and was asking about Karen.  Is it possible that Karen has been keeping secrets from him?  Is it possible that Karen killed that man?  When Karen is arrested, Tom starts to think that their lives will forever be ruined.

Karen was such a complicated character.  She seemed like a doting housewife who was completely devoted to her husband and their life.  She was pretty secretive about her past, but in some ways so was Tom and Brigid.  It was clear to me from almost the beginning that their idyllic little world - the one that Tom, Karen, and Brigid all live in was false.   I was so, so sure that I had A Stranger in the House all figured out and I was going to be angry that so many people called this book fabulous.  But it was the detectives that cast the shadow of a doubt. As the detectives were coming up with theories and working angles I started to second-guess myself.   I stuck with the book to the very end and realized that the author is very skilled in her craft of deception.  -CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS -  The end was one that I could live with, but it didn't really leave me wowed.  The biggest surprise for me was the way the author got me to shift my suspicions.

Bottom line - A Stranger in the House turned out to be a much better book than I was prepared for it to be.  The author skillfully takes the reader on an emotional roller coaster that will leave the reader wondering what just happened when they get to the last page.


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Sunday, September 10, 2017

(76)Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies by Michael Ausiello

Here is a secret for you.  I am a bit of a pop-culture addict.  It started when I was a young girl and my family would watch Entertainment Tonight after dinner, but before the prime time shows started.   My siblings and I would fight to read the TV Guide every week when my Step-Dad would pick it up at the grocery store. Because of my secret obsession,  I have been following Michael Ausiello for a very long time.   Michael Ausiello has had a long career in television journalism.  I first remember him from TV Guide.  Then I followed his career to Entertainment Weekly.  And then again I followed him to his new venture - TV Line.   I was excited to find out that a book was in the works and wanted to be first in line to read it.

The title of the book says it all - Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies.  Michael starts by telling us about his first date with Kit Cowan. The year was 2001.  Their relationship had a lot of ups and downs and thirteen years.  From Kit's pot habit to Michael's Smurf obsession, we get to hear about it all.  When Kit is diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer their world is shattered, but Michael steps into the role of caregiver with such a level of devotion and intensity that the reader can't help but fall a little bit in love with him, too.    With unabashed honesty, Michael Ausiello gives us a little peek into the details of their relationship.  From their weekly sessions with a therapist to their pet nicknames for each other and more.

Michael chronicles the last year of Kit's life with the love and devotion that kept them together for so long.  And prepare yourself - it is an emotional read.  I found myself crying like a baby on the day they got married, which was the same day the doctor broke the news that it was terminal. I had to take breaks while reading it and desperately hoped that the title was misleading, even though I knew it wasn't.  I cried like a baby during Kit's final days that reminded me so much of my grandmother's final days.  Cancer is a devastating, brutal, horrific disease, and Michael Ausiello details it all.

Bottom line - Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies is a beautiful tribute to one couple's love in the face of a tragic diagnosis.  You will ugly cry, but you will also laugh, and you will not be able to put the book down until you finish the last page.  Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies is on sale Tuesday, September 12th.


Thursday, September 7, 2017

(75)Perennials by Mandy Berman

Fiona and Rachel became best friends at their sleep-away camp, Camp Marigold.  Fiona came from an upper-class suburban family and Rachel was a city kid with a single mom and a father who had another family.  For some reason, their differences strengthened their friendship over the years. Rachel is the risk-taker and Fiona the rule-follower, they always balanced each other out.   Now it has been a few years since they were campers and they are returning as counselors after their first year at college. The years and independence of college have only magnified their differences. Camp this year is different, not only is Fiona's little sister, Helen, now at Camp Marigold but they have positions of responsibility.  Fiona and Rachel have both changed, but are fighting to maintain their oldest friendship.  Will their summer at Camp Marigold be the thing that tears their friendship apart or will the events of the summer only strengthen their relationship?

Perennials is one of those novels that will leave you with an overwhelming sense of nostalgia.  I only attended summer camp for one week as a teen and this novel invoked a rush of memories.  Camp Marigold is everything you envision a summer camp to be.  From the tent cabins to the counselor's lodge - it all was so vividly described I felt like I was there.   The author's descriptions almost made me think of the summer camp in The Parent Trap.   There are two stories going on in this book, though.  That of Rachel and Fiona and then Fiona's sister, Helen and her bunkmate. Sheera.  All four young women are struggling to figure things out - and that was also nostalgic to me.  Being a teen was hard for me so I could relate.   Rachel seemed the most "lost" and the "cliche" daddy-issue was a little frustrating, but ultimately I enjoyed the book. There was an ending that I was not expecting - a shocking event happens that takes your breath away. - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS

Bottom line - Perennials is a coming-of-age story that will take you back to your own youthful adventures at summer camp.  You will spot a little bit of yourself in the characters and in the stories of their time at Camp Marigold.   A great read if you are already missing the days of summer.


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

(74)The End of the World Running Club by Adrian J. Walker

Edgar Hill was an unhappy man the Sunday morning that the world nearly ended.  His wife was still recovering from giving birth to their youngest, Arthur, and their entire marriage focused on keeping their two children alive.  Gone was the love that had brought them together and instead there were two adults that barely tolerated each other.  Edgar was a bit of a dick to his wife with his "he who works gets to sleep" decree.  He had put on a ton of weight since their marriage and was an all around dick to be around.  He did agree to look after the children on weekend mornings so that Beth could sleep.  That is why Edgar was awake (and a bit hungover) when he remembered the news from the night before those asteroids were about to hit the planet.  His teenage fantasy with all things apocalyptic kicked in and he knew he needed to get his family to the cellar.  There they survived for three weeks before being rescued and sent to a refugee center of sorts.  Three months later Edgar is out on a scavenging mission when Beth and the kids were swept up in a rescue that would put them on ships to the other side of the planet, where damage was minimal.  With the country's infrastructure destroyed by the asteroids, Edgar and a band of misfits set off on foot for the 450-mile trek to his family.  Will Edgar and his companions make it to the ships before they set sail? Or will the treachery they encounter along the way do what the asteroids could not - destroy them all?

I find myself a little surprised at how much I enjoyed The End of the World Running Club. Edgar was a bit of a dick and I really struggled to like him at first.  One of those characters that are so distasteful if you had encountered him in real life you would hate him and try to convince his wife that she could do better.  The author did an astounding job of painting just what a dick Edgar was before the asteroids hit.  He was the kind of guy that would frequently get drunk with his work buddies leaving his wife to be the sole care provider for the kids.  He was very hands-off in their upbringing.  He started to redeem himself when he kicked it into gear knowing what was about to happen.  Even then he was a bit dickish when he kicked in the door for his local store.  It isn't until his family is evacuated to safety that Edgar starts to realize how much of a dick he had been. It wasn't until he had to start out on foot that he was -- humbled -- enough to realize how lucky he was to have such a wonderful family.  His journey forces him to encounter some pretty perilous situations and even more perilous survivors - the desperate kind.  The kind of situations you would only expect to encounter in a post-apocalyptic world.  I felt a rush of relief as the book ended, but the story still felt unfinished.  I can see another book coming down the way - I hope so at least.

Bottom line - I haven't read a good post-apocalyptic story in a while and I am glad that I picked up The End of the World Running Club. With flawed, complex characters, the author created a world that seemed far more plausible than most novels in this genre.  If you are looking for a way to escape the world's headlines (or potentially needing to take notes in the event of a global meltdown) than this is the book to pick up!


Sunday, September 3, 2017

(73)No Place I'd Rather Be by Cathy Lamb

Olivia Martindale is returning to her home state of Montana.  She left two years ago a broken woman.  She is returning in the middle of a blizzard and with two little girls who are counting on Olivia to keep them safe.  She is currently the guardian for the two little girls who recently lost their grandmother and have both parents in jail.  After losing her job as a chef, Olivia decided that home would be the best place to raise the girls. Montana is where her mother, her grandmother, and her sister lives.  Montana is also where her husband Jace, lives. She moves her little family into the log cabin that her grandparents had lived in before Olivia's grandfather passed away and her grandmother moved in with her mother.  The cabin holds many fond memories for her and she hopes that it will help her new daughters start to heal from their traumatic childhood.  When Olivia discovers an old cookbook in the attic she discovers things about her grandmother's history that have been long buried. As Olivia gets reacquainted with life among her family she is facing a really tough decision - does he try to start over with Jace or is it too late for their love to succeed?

Cathy Lamb is an author that knows how to write strong female characters. They face adversity in a memorable fashion and come through it stronger than ever.  I think my favorite part of this book was Olivia's Grandmother's story.  Gisela's cookbook held so many important memories and the book flashes back to the times when it was written and entries were added.  It helped Olivia understand her grandmother so much better.  I also loved Olivia's tough-talking doctor of a mother.  She was a true cowgirl in every sense of the word.  The author keeps the troubles between Jace and Olivia secret for a good chunk of the book, but when revealed it isn't anything that would cause you to not root for their happy-ever-after.  In the end, I was pleased with the way the book ended and was a little sad to say goodbye to my new friends.

Bottom line - Cathy Lamb has created another magical story around another family of strong women.  No Place I'd Rather Be is a charming novel about the mighty bond between these strong women and the people that they love.


Friday, September 1, 2017

(72)The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

When Isa Wilde received the text from her old friend, Kate, saying "I need you." she knows that she has to go.  Their friendship is an old one and the many secrets they share is the reason why Isa is on the first possible train to Salten.  Their friendship goes way back to when they were young teenagers attending an exclusive boarding school, Salten House when they first met.  Their friends, Fatima and Thea, also got the same text from Kate.  All those years ago the four girls were the "mean girls" at school.  They had a bond over "The Lying Game" - there were rules involved in their childish game, but ultimately they caused a lot of trouble and hurt a lot of people.  One weekend all those years ago they got a similar text from Kate and they found Kate with the body of her beloved father. They believed he had committed suicide.  Kate was so afraid that if it was found out her father had died before she turned sixteen her life would be destroyed, so the friends helped Kate to hide the body in the reach.  Kate is calling her friends back to Salten because the body has been found.    All of them have something to lose if it is found out that they hid a body.  Will they be able to get away with The Lying Game one more time?

I enjoyed everything about The Lying Game. From the characters to their boarding school, to the old mill.   The narrator is Isa Wilde, a new mother, who works for the civil service.  She is putting her job and her relationship at risk to go when Kate sent the text. There were a few times that she just grated on my nerves, specifically with her communication (or lack of) with her partner, Owen. But ultimately her regrets over her time at Salten run deep.  Kate never left Salten and the old mill that she grew up in with her father, the school's art teacher.  She isolated herself in the mill trying to keep the secrets from that night from being exposed.  Fatima and Thea also were dealing with that night in their own way.  It was clear that they both were still fighting those demons, as well.  Then there is Luc, Kate's french step-brother that was sent back to France after Kate's father went missing. His world was rocked the most because his life in France was the stuff of horror stories.   He was a volatile character and made my spidey senses tingle from the very beginning.  There were a lot of secrets revealed as the book went on and I found myself a little shocked by some of it.  --CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS -- the book ended in really the only way it could - and I was okay with that.

Bottom line - The Lying Game was one of those novels that are full of atmosphere and intrigue.  Everything about the setting just added to the intrigue and kept the reader on the edge of their seat.  Definitely, one not to miss this year!


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Sunday, August 20, 2017

(71)Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

"Last night I dreamed I went to Manderley again." is one of the most famous first lines in the history of literature. The book starts with the second Mrs. de Winter speaking of her dream, of her longing for the place she once, briefly, called home.  Mrs. de Winter then continues on to explain how she met her future husband and how she came to be the mistress of one of the most coveted manors on the Cornish coasts.  But the second Mrs. de Winter was a woman of simple means before marrying Maxim, she is overwhelmed by the grandeur of Manderley.  All of the servants speak of Rebecca with such reverence that it makes it hard for the second Mrs. de Winter to adjust.  It is Rebecca's favorite meals that they prepare, Rebecca's favorite flowers that they cut.  The head of the house, Mrs. Danvers, has made it very clear that they do not want her there.  When the second Mrs. de Winter makes a serious mistake she fears that her marriage is in jeopardy and her time at Manderley is over.  But before she is sent from Manderley something happens that changes everything.  Will the secrets of Manderley ever be revealed?

I think that I officially have a new favorite book.  I was captivated by Daphne Du Maurier's words from the very first line.  I absolutely adored the second Mrs. de Winter from the first we meet her.  She was kind and quiet and quite naive when she married Maxim.  At first, I thought that Max de Winter was a giant jackass.  But he seemed to be a completely different man once the secrets started spilling.  And then there was Manderley.  I immediately fell in love with Manderley.  The library, the morning room, the rose garden, all of it. Mrs. Danvers and Frank Crawley were as much a part of Manderley as the furniture.   It was so descriptive and so  - perfect.  That I immediately wanted to visit Manderley.   It made the end of the book that much more tragic - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERSUltimately Rebecca was one of the most well written romantic thrillers I have ever read.  The characters are rich, the story is intricate, and the many twists are jaw-dropping and well ahead of their time.

Bottom Line - As much as I love a good thriller I cannot believe that it took me this long to read one of the best thrillers ever written.   I can see myself rereading this one many times and I  have already ordered the Alfred Hitchcock classic and can't wait to see the book translated to screen.  If you have not read it - I encourage you to move it to the top of your pile. You will not regret it.


Friday, August 18, 2017

(70)Fitness Junkie by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza

It was a day like any other day when Janey Sweet meets her best friend and business partner, Beau, for breakfast at one of New York's trendiest restaurants.  She is shocked when Beau tells Janey that she needs to lose weight if she wants to continue working for their wedding dress business.  He is giving her six months to lose thirty pounds.   The betrayal hurts Janey more than her divorce did.  Beau has been her best friend since they were eight years old.  Janey calls on her best girlfriend from college, CJ, to be her guide in this crazy world that surrounds weight loss.  From topless yoga to crazy drink concoctions and a trip to a crazy-expensive wellness retreat in St. Lucia, Janey explores every option available to her to get the weight off and get back to work.  Along her way, Janey meets some great people, like Stella the Shaman who introduces her to an exclusive workout club.  And the incredibly hot, incredibly young, owner of a juice shop.  While Janey was forced to take the time off to lose the weight she ends up focusing on other areas of her life that have long been neglected.  What Janey realizes is that her relationship with Beau has been broken for a very long time.  Will they be able to get past this and does Janey even really want to?

While Fitness Junkie is meant to be satirical there is a lot of hard-hitting (and hysterical) truths found within the book's pages. I really liked Janey.  She seemed more down to earth than your average high-powered CEO.  She was genuinely blindsided by Beau at that breakfast.  I totally get it - negative comments about a person's weight is never a good feeling no matter how much you weigh.   There were so many things that I laughed at because I could relate - Beau gives Janey a "FitWand" as a gift the day after their breakfast and I just had to laugh.  I admittedly am devoted to my FitBit -but  I think that I would have to ditch my FitBit if it ever started talking out loud.   Everything that Janey did was a bit exaggerated, but I know that there are some people out there who take fitness to extremes. Like the fad diet of eating CLAY?  Or the special ingredient in a super-secret herbal tea? (Click here for spoilers).  I was really pleased with the way the book ended.  Janey got the ending that she deserved and I am glad that the authors did right by her.

Bottom Line - Fitness Junkie was a fun and entertaining read.  Even though I have been working hard to lose weight this year I haven't gone to the extremes that are mentioned throughout the book. There is no secret to losing weight, all you have to do is eat less and move more.  Really.


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Monday, August 14, 2017

(69)How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry

Emilia Nightengale is shattered when her beloved father passes away after a brief illness.   She is left with an established bookshop, employees that are like family, and a small village that loves to read.  There is Jackson, the young father who comes into the shop under the guise of picking out a book to read to his son.  There is Sarah, the local Lady of the Manor, who had much more than a fondness for books that kept her regularly visiting the shop.  There is Bea, the new mother who is desperate to return to her pre-baby life.  There is Marlowe, a member of her father's quartet. Although he has a girlfriend, Emilia can't help but feel a connection to him.  All of these people make Emilia feel loved and provide comfort in the days after her father's death.  Especially when she discovered that the shop was in grave danger of failing.  Even though she has no inclination to sell the bookshop to the real estate developer who hounded her father before his death, Emilia doesn't know how she is going to get the shop out of debt and turning a profit.

How to Find Love in a Bookshop was an absolutely enchanting novel.  The characters are rich and diverse and easy to absolutely adore.  Emilia quickly became one one of those characters that a reader wants to see with a happy ending.  She loved to read just as much as her father but was more realistic about the business side of things.  However, the bookstore manager in me kept saying "YOU ARE OVERSTAFFED!!!" In my mind, I was coming up with all of these ideas for Emilia to drive business, but in the end, an overflowed bathtub really forced her hand.   All of the village folks had their own stories and all of them had some sort of connection to the bookshop.  In the end, they all found the happiness they sought, but not the happiness they were first seeking.  It really made for an engrossing read from start to finish.

Bottom line - How to Find Love in a Bookshop was an absolutely delightful ode to booksellers and book lovers everywhere.  With familiar book titles littering the pages, any book lover is sure to fall in love with this novel just like I did!


Friday, August 11, 2017

(68)The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter

It has been nearly thirty years since the night the world fell apart for sisters Charlotte and Samantha Quinn. Their father had made a lot of enemies as a defense attorney in Pikeville Georgia.  Little did any of them know that retaliation was going to come in such a swift and brutal manner.   Rusty Quinn wasn't even home when the two masked intruders entered the house and destroyed their lives.

Now it is nearly thirty years later and Charlotte's world is crumbling all over again.  She and her husband have separated after nearly twenty years of marriage, she has a one night stand and accidentally swaps phones with the guy.  When she stops by the middle school where he teaches to get her phone back Charlie gets caught up in a school shooting. Instead of running to safety, Charlie runs towards the gunfire.  A teen girl has fired shots, killing the principal and a student. Of course - her father decides that he wants to defend the accused, he even believes that he has found a unicorn - an innocent defendant.   The whole shooting forces Charlie to face some things that she would have been perfectly happy to leave buried in the past.  Like her estranged husband and the events of that dark day nearly thirty years ago.  But the question still remains - did Kelly Wilson really pull the trigger in that school?

The Good Daughter quickly sucked me in.  The story starts out in the past with Charlie, her sister Sam, and their mother as that dreadful night gets started.  The details are tough and gritty and definitely not something that everyone can read.   When the story jumps to the present I immediately liked Charlie.  She was tough and seemed like the kind of woman who did not put up with bullshit - from anybody.  But really she was a broken and battered woman - even after decades.  I really liked her husband, Ben.  And that surprised me - usually in this kind of story - the husband is a douche and easy to hate.  Not Ben, even though they were separated, he loved his wife and was there to take care of her when she needed him the most.  There is a lot going on in this book - it seemed like the end came upon me quite suddenly. In fact, I wondered how the author was going to wrap it up with just a few pages left.  I know that I should never question the great Karin Slaughter, but the end did seem rushed.  -- Click Here For Spoilers

Bottom line - While I have been a Karin Slaughter devotee for years, I know that her graphic descriptions and gritty storylines are not for everyone.   The Good Daughter has to be one of the more graphic novels she has written, but the character development and complex relationships really made me glad that I read the book.  If you take the risk to read it, you won't regret it, but don't say that I didn't warn you!


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Sunday, August 6, 2017

(67)The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Monique Grant's life is practically in shambles when Hollywood Starlet, Evelyn Hugo, requests that Monique be the one that interviews her for an article.  Monique and her husband have recently separated and her career has stalled.   She is thrilled for the opportunity to interview an icon, but she doesn't understand why Evelyn Hugo would choose her.   She soon realizes that Evelyn Hugo doesn't just want Monique to do an interview - she wants Monique to write a tell-all book.  Evelyn Hugo is giving her story to Monique.  As the days unfold Evelyn reveals her deepest secrets.  From her early days married to an abusive Oscar winner, to her secret love affair with a costar that spanned decades.  And her best friend, Harry Cameron, has been there for Evelyn through it all.  Monique hangs on to her every word.  Not because it is just Evelyn Hugo, but because her story is a fascinating one.  But she still doesn't know why Evelyn chose her to tell her story.   Evelyn has one more secret to reveal - the reason why she chose Monique to tell her story.  That one secret will change Monique's life forever.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was an absolutely stunning novel.  Taylor Jenkins Reid captures the glamour of old Hollywood in a manner that truly transports the reader to a different time and place.  Evelyn Hugo was the kind of character that commanded the full attention of anyone she encountered - and that included the reader.  Her character had elements of Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor, she was that kind of stratospheric star.    I was so captivated by Evelyn's story that it was hard for me to put the book down. I couldn't wait to see what she would do next -  I thought that she was such an interesting character who had conflicting motivations.  I found my heart breaking for her more than once as her world crumbled around her on multiple occasions.   Monique was more of a down-to-earth character - one who was struggling to find success in her career and her own relationships.  Once the "big secret" was revealed she had her own conflicting emotions to deal with - especially in regards to her relationship with Evelyn.  In the end Evelyn controlled the story, right up to the very end.  -CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS -

Bottom line - The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo has been getting a lot of buzz this summer and now I understand why all the buzz.  The characters will capture your attention on page one and not let go until long after you finish the last page.


Saturday, August 5, 2017

(66)The Secrets She Keeps by Michael Robotham

Agatha and Meghan are two pregnant women who are due about the same time and that is where their commonalities end.  Meghan and her husband lead a very privileged life with their two children.  Jack is a sportscaster and Meghan runs a successful "Mommy Blog."  Agatha has not led an easy life and is working at a grocery store when she meets Meghan.  She is enamored with Meghan and her seemingly perfect life.  She covets Meghan's marriage and her handsome husband and perfect kids. She reads Meghan's blog  with a devotion that borders on obsessive.   What Agatha doesn't know is that Meghan's life is far from perfect, in fact Meghan's life is dangerously close to falling apart.  Meghan is friendly with Agatha and supportive when she discovers that they are due around the same time.   She thinks nothing of it when Agatha shows up at her prenatal yoga classes.  Little does she know that her brief interactions with Agatha is going to have a lasting impact on her life.

The Secrets She Keeps was an incredibly tense thriller.  There is very little that I can say about the story that won't give away the secrets of the book.  But I can say this - neither Meghan nor Agatha are perfect women.  But they are both after the same thing - love and happiness.   The story is narrated from the viewpoint of both women.  One chapter is Agatha and the next chapter is Meghan.  They both are very compelling women with very compelling stories - which makes it very hard for the reader as the book progresses.  You are unsure of who to label the "bad guy" because the label fits so many of the characters.  There is not any gore or violence in The Secrets She Keeps, so don't let that deter you.  It is purely a psychological thriller that gets inside of your head.   I don't want to give anything away, but -CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS! 

Bottom line - Michael Robotham is a master when it comes to crafting a thriller.  In The Secrets She Keeps he has created a world where the lines between right and wrong are very blurred.  A definite must read for those who love a good thriller.


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Sunday, July 30, 2017

(65)Stories I'd Tell In Bars by Jen Lancaster

I squealed with delight when my favorite author,  Jen Lancaster announced on social media that she was going to self-publish another memoir. I am not entirely sure why she went the self-publish route, but I am sure it gave her more options and more control over the content.   Not having a major publisher looking over her shoulder allowed Jen to get back to the basics.  In a raw, unfiltered manner Jen hilariously shares snippets of her daily life.    We finally get to hear from Fletch, too.  In the chapters where he is featured, he gets to have the "Final Word" and he comments or in some cases, defends himself.

My favorite story in the collection has to be when Jen and Fletch befriended another childless couple in their neighborhood.   From their fear of having this chic couple see their house that had the mark of three dogs and numerous cats to their night at the restaurant where their waiter had to drive them home in his mom's minivan.   I laughed and I laughed.  (I read that part to my husband and couldn't make it through without laughing so hard)   Then there was the "ride-along" that was the result of Jen and Fletch's involvement with the Citizen's Patrol.   It was classic Jen Lancaster and it was hysterical.

After reading Stories I'd Tell In Bars I am 100% convinced that Jen Lancaster is my spirit animal. Since the book did not have to go through the publisher's filters, there is a whole lot of f-bombs dropped.  But that is okay because it isn't really cursing if you are wearing pearls when you swear.  No?   Jen even documents her weight loss and more than ever before discusses behaviors and triggers that caused her to gain the weight in the first place.  I am doing the weight loss thing now and I could really relate to her thoughts on the matter.   She has really kicked ass to lose a lot of weight and she looks amazing if you haven't seen a recent picture.  And like Jen, I am discovering that I need new undies thanks to the weight loss.

Bottom line - Jen Lancaster is hands down one of my favorite authors.   I have read every book that she has ever written, but Stories I'd Tell In Bars feels like the first book in a long time that we get to connect with the real Jen.  She isn't on a mission to be Martha Stewart or force her life experiences to fit a certain theme de jour.  Instead, she is real and unfiltered.  And absolutely at her best.


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

(64)Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown

Jonathan Flanagan and his teenage daughter, Olive, are still reeling from the disappearance of Billie a year ago.  Billie, your typical suburban mom,  went for a hike one day and never returned.  In the year since she disappeared they had a funeral, Jonathan quit his job to write a book, and Olive misses her mom something fierce.  The anniversary has stirred up a lot of emotions and Olive is convinced that she is seeing her mother in visions.  She is convinced that it is proof that Billie is not dead.   Much to her father's dismay, Olive starts on this quest to find her mother that takes her down all sorts of paths.   Jonathan doesn't want to give into his daughter's whims, but there is that one password protected file on Billie's computer that leaves him thinking "what if " and he starts his own investigation into Billie's past.  He discovers that there was a side of Billie that he never knew existed.  In their quest, both Jonathan and Olive discover that Billie was keeping secrets from them, but is it enough to prove that she really alive?

Watch Me is a slow moving novel that builds these layers of suspicion about Billie. There is never any heart-pounding situations, but the secrets that are revealed are uncovered in a very methodical way.  It isn't until you get to the very last pages that you end up thinking "wow, what a good book."   The reader only gets to know Billie after she is gone and mostly through the eyes of Jonathan and Olive - both who worshiped her.  Billie's best friend Harmony starts to shed some light on the real Billie, but as a reader, I wasn't sure if it was the truth or because Harmony was a little envious of the life that Billie had.   I felt so bad for Olive - she seemed so lost without her mother.  The author did a great job of communicating the depths of her grief and it was heartbreaking.  There are some surprises along the way, but I thought that we had heard them all until the last few pages. - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS

Bottom line -- Watch Me Disappear is an intricate look at those left shattered by the death of a loved one.   There are so many layers to this story that you have to leave time to digest it all.  Definitely, one to add to your "TBR" list.


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

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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