Sunday, December 31, 2017

(108)The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine


Amber Patterson and Daphne Parrish have bonded over the fact that they both lost loved ones to Cystic Fibrosis.  Amber is the mousy little thing from Nebraska and Daphne is the glamorous wife of the uber-wealthy Jackson Parrish.  Soon the two women are inseprable and Amber becomes like a family member to Daphne, invited to holiday dinners, on vacations, and more.   Amber is envious of Daphne and her perfect life.  The money that she spends like it is water, the gorgeous husband who is so obviously devoted, and the stunning mansion are all things that Amber covets for herself.   She sets a plan into motion that will give her everything that she wants, but is she prepared for having all of her dreams come true?

Holy moly - the thing to remember as you read this heartpounding thriller is that there are two sides to every story.  The first half of the book is told from Amber's viewpoint and you watch as she inserts herself into the lives of the Parrish family.  You get to see her plot and plan to get the life that she feels that she deserves.  The second half of the book is told from Daphne's viewpoint and you realize that her life is not nearly as perfect as Amber thinks it is.  For obvious reasons Amber was a less than likable character.  But it isn't until you get to Daphne's story that you realize just how good The Last Mrs. Parrish is.  -- CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS  I was absolutely thrilled with the way the book ended, but I was sad to see it end.

Bottom line - The Last Mrs. Parrish was an absolutely brilliant way to end the 2017 year in reading.  The book was full of intrigue and suspense and had a very gothic feel to it.  What better way to spend your New Year's Eve.  Go read it now!

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Thursday, December 28, 2017

(107)Now That You Mention It by Kristan Higgins


Dr. Nora Stuart has not had a good year.  She was hit by, of all things,  a bug truck and woke up to find her boyfriend flirting with a colleague over her hospital bed.  But none of that touches the Big Scary Even that happened last year when Nora was attacked in her home. She decides to leave Boston and heal both her body and her heart on the Maine island where she grew up.  She arrives home to find her teenage niece living with her mother since her sister was in jail out west.  Moving back in with her frosty New England mother is exactly what she expected, horrible.  Being back home has stirred up all sorts of memories from her childhood.  Her father, who went MIA, her less-than-affectionate mother, the scholarship that she fought for and won, but left her a pariah at school. The thing about small towns is that nobody forgets anything.  Especially the Fletcher brothers, whose lives were changed when Nora won the scholarship.  Will Nora be able to heal and find peace in the community she once called home?

I absolutely adore Kristan Higgins.  Her novels are smart and funny and wildly entertaining.  I love the character of Nora Stuart from almost the very first word, but even I could tell that she was a fish out of water in her hometown.    She did have one friend from high school that welcomed her back and I loved to watch their friendship blossom.  Her with Poe was also fun to watch, Nora really is a great aunt.   Then there is her relationship with Sullivan Fletcher.  There is one scene, involving her mom's parakeet that had me laughing out loud. Mostly because of Sullivan's reaction to the whole thing.   AND, there is Nora's obsession with Harry Potter I absolutely loved that as I am listening to the Harry Potter series via Audible right now.  It seemed appropriate. In the end, things worked out exactly like I expected (even with a few revelations) and I was okay with that.

Bottom Line -  Kristan Higgins is a familiar author and her books make for comfortable reading.  Even though the formula is the same, the characters are developed and interesting and it is easy to fall in love with all of them.   Now That You Mention It is exactly the kind of book that you want to read during Christmas vacation.

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Monday, December 25, 2017

(106)Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb


The year is 1914 and England has just entered The Great War.  Evelyn (Evie) Elliott has remained behind while her brother, Will, and his best friend, Tom enter the service as officers.  Last Christmas in Paris tells the story of Evie, her brother, and Tom through letters sent during World War I.  The letters start as light and practically frivolous as they all thought that the war would be over quickly and the three of them would be able to celebrate Christmas in Paris.  The days drag on into months and years as the war continues to ravage Europe.  Evie struggles to find ways to do her part to support war efforts.  First, she serves as a postmistress and helps to deliver correspondence to families all over London.  Then she starts to anonymously write articles about the war from a woman's perspective.   As the war rages on the impact it has on Evie, Will, and Tom is enormous and permanent.  When Evie decides to join the front lines in an auxiliary position she jeopardizes not only her life but her relationships.  War is never easy, but will Evie escape unscathed?

I really, really enjoyed Last Christmas in Paris. I loved the epistolary nature of this book, however, the book starts out in 1968 with Tom heading to Paris for Christmas and you get to hear from 1968 Tom in between the letters from each year from 1914 to 1918.   Letters are such an intimate form of communication and you watch the friendship between Tom and Evie blossom into something more.   You also get to see the horrors of a war from the perspective of the two officers leading men into battle and sometimes to death.   Also, this book was the first time I had ever seen the topic of PTSD be addressed in a historical fiction novel.  They don't come out and give it that name, but  Tom was definitely suffering from PTSD and rightfully so.   As the book, and the war draws to a conclusion you can't help but be terrified that something tragic was going to happen to Evie.  -CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS

Bottom Line- Last Christmas in Paris is one of those stories that is going to tug at your heartstrings no matter what time of year you read it, although it is definitely a Christmas story and one that will get you in the holiday spirit.

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Sunday, December 24, 2017

(105)The Breakdown by B.A. Paris


Cass was really shaken up to find out that there was a woman murdered on the same dark, deserted road that she chose to take home after drinks with her friends. She wasn't supposed to be on that road as she promised her husband to avoid it because it was so unsafe.  She is even more shaken to discover that the woman murdered was an acquaintance of hers and she actually saw her car on the road where she was murdered.   Cass goes from shaken to unstable in a pretty quick fashion.  She is starting to forget even the most minor details. Like where she parked the car, why she ordered a stroller when she doesn't even have a baby and plans she made with her best friend.    Cass is afraid that the Early Onset Dementia that killed her mother has shown up in her and that almost terrifies her more than the phone calls where there is nobody on the other end and the feeling that things are out of place in her home.  Cass is struggling to hold on to what sanity she has left, but then she discovers something that changes everything.  Will Cass be able to figure out who killed her friend before she slips into the abyss of dementia?

The Breakdown is another psychological thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat.  Cass and Matthew are a nice enough couple.  Matthew seems to genuinely care for and worry about his wife. He seemed a little controlling, but they were newlyweds, so I shrugged it off to silly newlywed behaviors.   I hated how demure Cass was at times, how she let Matthew control her almost every thought and action.  The more things started to go south with Cass, mentally,  the more I just knew that there was more to this story. Something just started to feel hinky.  I was right and had figured out *most* of the plot, but I had one little detail wrong. - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS  I was thrilled with the way the book ended, it made it all worth it.

Bottom Line - B. A. Paris hit the psychological thriller scene last year with quite a bang.  Behind Closed Doors was one of my favorite books of the year and I was eager to read the follow-up. While I didn't like The Breakdown as much as her first book, it was still the kind of book that a fan of thrillers should not miss!

Details:
  • The Breakdown by B.A. Paris
  • On Twitter
  • Pages: 336
  • Publisher:  St. Martin's Press
  • Publication Date: 7/18/2017
  • Buy it Here! 


Friday, December 22, 2017

(104)Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban


Harry Potter is back for his third year at Hogwarts.  After spending a couple of weeks at a lodge on Diagon Alley he joins Hermione and Ron back at Hogwarts.  But this year everybody is on edge, the dangerous killer, Sirius Black, has escaped from Azkaban, the wizard prison, and all are afraid that he will be coming after Harry.  All of the Hogwarts teachers are determined to keep Harry safe and much to his dismay they are going to such extremes to keep him. Thankfully Fred and George Weasley slipped Harry a map that will help him sneak out of the castle and into Hogsmeade with his friends.  But sneaking back in may cause some problems, especially when Sirius is spotted on the grounds.   Will Sirius ever be caught and will Harry ever be safe again?

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was the first book that felt like we learned more about Harry's parents.   Harry didn't even know that he had a Godfather and then he discovered that his father's best friend was the escapee from the wizardry prison. I loved everything about the Marauder's Map - including the authors.  I can't wait to see what that looks like in the movies.  I also want to see how Harry's stay in Diagon Alley is portrayed in the movie.  I really liked the end and how once again Harry, Hermione, and Ron save the day.  And once again I loved how Dumbledore takes Harry's side in the neverending battle with Snape. And of course, there is this year's teacher of the Defense Against the Dark Arts class.  Professor Lupine was a fun character and gave more insight into Harry's parents.   I loved the way the book ended, but I don't think that we have seen the last of Sirius Black.

Botton Line - So far I think that Prisoner of Azkaban is my favorite book of the series.  I loved everything about it from start to finish.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2017

(103)Winter Solstice by Elin Hilderbrand


The Quinn family is back in the fourth and final installment of the Winter Street series.   Bart Quinn is home from his harrowing experience in Afghanistan and is trying to adjust to life back on Nantucket.  Ava is settling into life in the city with her boyfriend, Potter.  And Patrick is settling back into life with his family after his time served.  Everything seems to be back on track for the Quinn children, except all of them are struggling with the news that their father is dying of cancer.  The upcoming holidays should be joyous with Bart being safe at home, except the thought of future holidays without Kelly overshadows everything.   Will the Quinn family be able to truly celebrate Christmas ever again?

I think that I forgot to blog last year's Winter Street book, but I know that I read it!  As a devoted fan of the Quinn family, this year's installment was bittersweet. I was thrilled that Bart was home safely.  Jennifer was getting her life together and Ava had moved on.  However, Kelly's cancer was heartbreaking.  There were also several familiar faces from Hilderbrand's 2015 Summer novel, The Rumor.   Grace Panick, her husband Eddie, and their daughter Allegra all have big roles in Winter Solstice.  Especially since Allegra and Bart start dating.   The author did a great job of wrapping up all of the lingering storylines and even though I struggled with being happy with all of them.  - Click here for spoilers.

Bottom line - I have spent four holiday seasons with the Quinn family.  It has been a great four years and I have enjoyed visiting Elin Hilderbrand's Nantucket during the winter.   The Quinn family have been a nice addition to my holiday traditions and I will miss them!

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Monday, December 11, 2017

(102)Roomies by Christina Lauren


Holland Bakker doesn't really have much to look forward to in her life.  However, she has a bit of a crush on the cute busker in the subway.  She goes out of her way to find him on the subway just to see him and listen to his music.  His music and his good looks have charmed Holland without even speaking a word to her.  Her job working for the hottest Broadway show, which her Uncle happens to be the musical director for, is in need of some fresh blood.  When Holland recommends to her uncle that the young musician fills a vacancy they discover that he has long overstayed his student visa.  Holland goes to the next level and suggests that Calvin McLoughlin marries her.  Their marriage starts out as one of convenience, but soon Holland realizes that Calvin is more than just a "roomie" to her.  Does he feel the same? Will his new found fame change the way their "marriage" works?


There was a time in my life where I would have devoured Roomies in one sitting.  However, it took a while for me to get into this book, but once I did, I couldn't put it down.  Calvin is a young, hot Irish man.  If you have been visiting this blog a while, you know my fondness for Irish Chick Lit. Holland is an Iowa girl (woot) who followed her uncle and his husband to New York City.  I found Holland to be a bit annoying at times, mostly because of her fear of confrontation.  Instead of having those tough conversations, she avoided them for far too long.  Conversations with Calvin and her "friend" (I use that term loosely) Lulu.  In the end, she had those conversations and things worked out just right for Holland and I was happy for her.   She was a character that I *wanted* to see happy.

Bottom Line - Even though I didn't devour Roomies in one sitting like 28-year-old me would have done, 42-year-old me did enjoy the book and found both Holland and Calvin to be charming characters with a fun story.

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Sunday, December 10, 2017

(101)Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K Rowling


In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, we find Harry counting down the days to when he can leave the Dursleys and return for his second year at Hogwarts.  The only thing keeping the Dursleys in check is their fear of Harry's magic, but when Dobby the house elf shows up things go south quickly.  He warns Harry that returning to Hogwarts could prove to be deadly, but Harry is not going to let anything hold him back from going back to school.  When Harry returns to school strange things start to happen and students are attacked.  Could it be the ghost that haunts the girl's bathroom?  Or the Whatever it is, Harry, Hermoine, and Ron are desperate to find the culprit and keep the students in Hogwarts safe. 

I am really starting to enjoy the books that readers have been raving about for more than a decade.  The creative descriptions have been painting these images in my mind that make me eager to watch the movies.  The flying cars.  The photographs that move. Harry and Ron transform into the lackeys of Draco Malfoy.  The book was so descriptive that I hope the movie lives up to that standard.   I was surprised at how quickly it seemed the book seemed to go.  I was at the end before I realized it and immediately started on the next book.

Bottom line - I know that I am really late to join the wizardry world of Harry Potter, but I am really glad that I finally got on board with what my friends have been telling me for years!

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Sunday, December 3, 2017

(100)Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman



Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine.  She is thirty years old, has worked in the same office for years, and has weekly conversations with her Mummy.  She is also socially awkward, vodka is her only friend, and very rarely leaves her flat except for work.  She says what is on her mind and does not know how to be anything but honest, no matter the consequence.  One day Eleanor needs help with her work computer and Raymond from IT comes to fix it for her.   Raymond is a bumbling, unkempt kind of fellow who is amused by Eleanor and not offended by her quirky nature.   When the two misfits save the life of an elderly man they are bonded in a way that neither of them expects.  Soon they are meeting for lunch and attending events together.  Their uncomplicated relationship helps Eleanor to realize that the life she has been living is no life at all.

Eleanor Oliphant is going to remind you of Sheldon Cooper.  They both have that quirky manner that keeps them from being able to have any kind of subterfuge.  Eleanor Oliphant is abrubt, quirky, fastidious, and absolutely wonderful.  But one thing Eleanor is not is fine.  Not at first anyway, but she is getting there.  The difference between Eleanor and Sheldon is that Eleanor had a pretty horrific childhood and has been scarred, but literally and figuratively.    It isn't until she starts to come out of her shell with Raymond that she realizes the way she has been living is not normal.  Her life has been pretty solitary with just her books and her vodka to keep her company and when she starts to interact with Raymond you desperately want their relationship to develop to more.  Eleanor is an incredibly sympathetic character, even with her sometimes cringe-worthy commentary, you can't help but root for her happiness.   Everything comes to a head and forces Eleanor to confront her demons.  The big "question" doesn't ever really get resolved, but you get the sense it is heading in the right direction.  And I was okay with that.

Bottom Line - Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine is one of those books that everybody has been talking about and with good reason.  Eleanor's growth and transformation is one that will stick with you long after you turn the last page.

Details:
  • Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
  • On Twitter
  • Pages: 336
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication Date: 5/9/2017
  • Buy it Here!



Monday, November 27, 2017

(99)Christmas - A Biography by Judith Flanders


There are some who might say that I have a bit too much Christmas Cheer.  With the holiday season officially upon us, I wanted to read up on the history of the holiday.  How did the celebration of Christ's birth get to be what it is today?

Author Judith Flanders takes us on a journey back in time.  From the first biblical references to the commercialized holiday we know today.  We learn the history of gift giving, it was "originally designed to reinforce social hierarchy."  And it wasn't until recent history that Christmas became a child-centered holiday.  And even more shocking, it wasn't until the 1800's that Christmas fell to the women in the household to plan and execute Christmas.  For centuries it was the men.  We also learn the origins of Santa Claus, Christmas Trees, Christmas Carols, and more.   And this might come as a shock, but very few of these customs have little to no relation to the birthday boy. 

With the Christmas shopping season now upon us, I found it shocking that I did not know that Thanksgiving being declared the fourth Thursday of November was to ensure that there would be at least four weeks of shopping before Christmas.  How did I not know this?  Also, we all have that family member or friend that bemoans the Christmas comes too early each year and we should wait before Thanksgiving is over before starting Christmas.  Well, it was common for Christmas Ads to be in newspapers as early as October.  When I shared that information with my husband he was quick to point out that they had to advertise earlier than as it took weeks for those ads to travel across the country.

At the heart of the matter the author points out that there are customs all over the world pertaining to Christmas, but the traditions established in your family are the ones that matter the most to you.   It is the history of you and your family.  And people who long for Christmas pasts it is more about the people and the memories rather than the tradition.

Bottom line - Judith Flanders details the history of Christmas from the birth of Christ to Charles Dickens to the Grinch himself.  While the book was a bit dry at times, ultimately it was a fascinating look at Christmas and how it became the billion dollar industry that it is today.

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Sunday, November 26, 2017

(98)Left to Chance by Amy Sue Nathan

Teddi Lerner left her hometown six years ago and has never been back. Now her best friend's daughter, Shayna, has asked Teddi to come back to Chance, Ohio to photograph her father's wedding. Teddi can't say no to Shay, but photographing her best friend's husband is right up there with the worst possible idea ever. But she is going to do it. Because Shay asked. Six years ago when Teddi left Chance, she did so on the day of her best friend's funeral. In fact, she left during the funeral, causing all sorts of problems with the family and friends that her best friend left behind. Chance is not the same community she left all those years ago, but she is not the same Teddi who left all those years ago, either. Now Teddi is a successful wedding photographer and returning to Chance terrifies her, not just because of the past she will be forced to face, but also because she has to deal with her past before she can deal with her future.

Left to Chance is a "coming home" story that meets all of the requirements. Hasty exit, newfound success, hot boss, hotter ex-flame, and even hotter neighbor boy turned into man. Don't forget the deceased best friend and her angsty tween daughter. I liked Teddi, but sometimes I struggled with her issues. I wanted to tell her to just get over it. Especially her aversion to the cemetery. I was furious at the way she dismissed Miles and his requests about her relationship with Shay, but I also hated the way he kept her in the dark for too long over Shay's issues. I guess it all just added to the drama of the story, but it was frustrating at times. I did like both Beck (the hot ex-flame) and Cameron (the hot neighbor boy). I stuck with the book because I wanted to see who she ended up with and if she ended up moving back to Chance. - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS

- Bottom line - Left to Chance is one of those "coming home" stories for anybody that has left "home." You will be able to find yourself relating to the changes you always find when you "go home." And you will also be able to relate to the people who stayed in your hometown all these years. While not a holiday book, it is easy for Left to Chance to stir those kinds of memories, as that is when most of us actually return home.

Details:

- Left to Chance by Amy Sue Nathan

On Facebook

Pages: 288

Publisher: St. Martin's Press

Publication Date: 11/21/2017

Buy it Here!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

(97)Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling

Every year I say that I am going to read the whole Harry Potter series - for the first time. I have read The Sorcerer's Stone more than once and haven't moved past book one. Then I discovered the whole series is on Audible.

Jim Dale is the narrator of the Harry Potter audiobooks and if you are not familiar with his work - well it is a little bit of awesome. He is a wildly successful narrator who has won a ton of awards for his work. You might also recognize his voice as the narrator for the short-lived television show, Pushing Up Daisies

The audio version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was a good companion for the treadmill. I once again found myself swept away into the magical world of Hogwarts. And I thoroughly found myself enchanted. I have already started the audio version of The Chamber of Secrets and am looking forward to completing the whole series.

Details: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

Read by Jim Dale

8 Hours 34 Minutes

Release Date: 11/20/2015

Buy it Here!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

(96)Poison by Galt Niederhoffer


Cass Connor never thought that her life would be this good again.  Her first husband passed away after an ugly battle with cancer, leaving her with two young children.  She then met Ryan Connor. Their passion and chemistry were undeniable, plus her two young children absolutely adored Ryan.  Now they have been married for three years, have added a young son to their family, and have moved across the country.  Things are a lot less passionate as Cass and Ryan are dealing with the everyday stressors of three children, two careers, and living thousands of miles away from family.  Cass starts to notice that things are not right with Ryan, she catches him in some white lies and suspects that he is having an affair.  And then she starts to get sick.  Physical symptoms that leave her weak, ill, and out of her mind with worry.  She just knows that she is being poisoned by her husband. Or is she? How can she prove it?  How can she keep herself and her children safe from the monster she married? Is Ryan the monster or is she?

Poison is a psychological thriller of the highest caliber.  At first, Cass and Ryan seemed so normal.  They seem like every other married couple out there and I really like Cass. When Cass starts to exhibit signs of poisoning I was not sure that I believed her.  Ryan does a really good job of convincing the reader that it is all in her head. A really good job.  I even thought that maybe she was pregnant and was having "pregnancy brain" in the form of paranoia.   Cass has one friend and that is Nora who had questioned Ryan's behavior from almost the beginning.  Because Nora was dissing Ryan from the beginning I almost wondered if she was the one having the affair with Ryan.  Cass soon starts to trust their quirky neighbor. He helps her install security cameras and seems so solid that I glad she had him.  But, I think what this book proves, more than anything,  is that you can't trust anybody but yourself. -- CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS

Bottom Line - Galt Niderhoffer has written one of those novels that keep the reader on the edge of their seats from the very first pages. There are so many twists and turns that it is hard to keep up at times, but stick with it, the end makes it all worth it.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Monday, November 13, 2017

(95)Artemis by Andy Weir


Artemis is more than just a colony on the moon.  It is a small tourist town, a community. Rudy is the only law enforcement on Artemis. A former Royals Mountie, he takes his job very seriously.  There are others in Artemis that are wealthy and prestigious.  And then there is Jazz, she is a local who has lived in Artemis most of her life.  She works as a Porter, which allows for her side job to be so lucrative.  Jazz is a smuggler. One day one of Artemis's client makes an interesting proposal. It will be a risky venture, but the slugs (currency used in Artemis) will allow Jazz to move out of her coffin-sized home and into a place where she can really be comfortable. She finishes her "mission" and returns to collect her money, only to find the client and his bodyguard have been murdered. On Artemis. Murder doesn't happen on the moon and Jazz is terrified that she will be next. She calls on the skills she has honed over a lifetime of smuggling, as well as the misfit group of people that she considers friends. Will Jazz be able to solve the murder and get things under control before the murderers find her?

Andy Weir is a legend among aspiring authors. The story of how his first novel came to print is the stuff of legends. While Artemis is being published the traditional route, it is going to be as big of a blockbuster as The Martian. Jazz is a unique character - she is a Saudi Arabian by birth, but has lived on Artemis since she was six years old. She doesn't have much of a relationship with her traditional father, but she knows he will have her back when the chips are down. And the chips are very much down when somebody is trying to kill her. I loved Jazz - her character is resourceful and quick and very much a part of her community. Even when she takes things too far and puts the entire city is at risk, she has people who are willing to stand by her side and fight with her. Her "friends" are definitely a misfit group, but that is part of what makes the story so addicting. Artemis is an incredibly fast-paced novel that was definitely written with the big screen in mind. The author paints such a vivid picture of the moon's colony that it is easy to imagine it as a movie.

Bottom Line - Artemis is a well written, highly entertaining novel that just happens to be set on the moon. If you love a good, fast-paced read, then you must give Artemis a shot, you won't regret it, I promise!

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Sunday, November 12, 2017

(94)Best Day Ever by Kaira Rouda



Paul Strom is planning the "Best Day Ever" for his wife, Mia.  They are leaving their young sons with a trusted babysitter and heading to their lake house on Lake Erie.  Paul Strom appears to have it all.  An incredibly successful career, a stunning wife who is devoted to both him and their children, a home that is the envy of all their friends.  Mia has been sick lately for reasons unknown to the doctors and Paul thinks that a "Best Day Ever" with Mia will be just what the doctors order.  Or will it be the day that destroys everything?

Best Day Ever is a book to devour in one sitting.  The book is told entirely from Paul's perspective.  He is very much the kind of guy that wants everybody to see the grandness of his life.  The gorgeous wife, perfect job, the perfect life.  As a narrator, his tone of voice is very much "look at my life."  I have been alive long enough to know that things are not always what they seem.  He makes comments that cause my radar to go off, but I am not convinced of anything yet. -CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS -  

There isn't a lot that I can say that won't give away some key parts of the book, but I can say that the ending was pretty kick-ass.  Hearing exclusively from Paul's point of view really causes the reader to evaluate the information he gives you.  You need to decide if he is telling you the whole story and if he is, what are the parts you should be paying special attention to?

Bottom Line - Best Day Ever was a roller coaster of a read.  It was very fast paced and the end was upon you before you knew it.  But, wow, what an ending!

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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

(93)Unqualified by Anna Faris


Anna Faris is one of those actresses that makes me belly laugh. I watched some of her movies, but it wasn't until her television show, Mom, that I became a devoted fan.   She is a talented actress and her offscreen her little family is adorable.  Like everybody else, I was a little sad to hear that Anna and her husband, Chris Pratt, split up.

In her book, Unqualified, Anna Faris gives the reader the behind the scenes look into her life.  From her childhood in Wahington to her college days and early days in Hollywood.  She talks about her relationships with the men in her life with a frankness that only Ana Faris can exhibit.  Her college boyfriend, her first husband, and Chris Pratt.  She also talks about life in Hollywood in a manner that makes me glad that I will never live in Hollywood.

Finally, Anna Faris talks extensively about her podcast.  From topics covered to running bits to guests.  I am not really a podcast kind of girl (I would rather spend that time listening to audiobooks such as Unqualified), but I could definitely find myself listening to Anna Faris's podcast.  I imagine there will be a lot of laughing!

Bottom Line - If you have been around a minute you know that I am a sucker for a good celebrity memoir.  Anna Faris is just the next in a long line of celebrities to pick up the pen.  As Anna and I are close in age, I found myself connecting with her on a level that I had not expected.  If you are looking for a fun way to pass the afternoon, than Unqualified by Anna Faris is the way to go!

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Sunday, November 5, 2017

(92)Hunger by Roxane Gay

"People see bodies like mine and make their assumptions.  They think they know the way of my body.  They do not."

Hunger is the memoir of one woman's body.  Author Roxane Gay is brutally honest in the memoir about her body.  At age 12 she was viciously gang-raped by a boy she thought of as her boyfriend and his friends.  It would be decades before her family found out, but it was almost immediately that she started to hide her body from others in an effort to protect herself.  She went off to boarding school for high school and without a vigilant mother to help her with dietary needs Roxane started to put on weight.

"The freedom of being able to eat, so extravagantly and without limit, offered me the only true pleasure I knew in high school."


The author takes us through her life and her relationship with her body.  From something as banal as smoking to her fluid relationships and her venture into bulimia, holds nothing back.  With a careful eye, Roxane Gay examines what it means to be fat in America.  From weight-loss surgery to shopping, traveling, and even a simple visit to the doctor.  She speaks about the impossible standards that are put on women to conform to societal beauty standards.  She specifically mentions celebrities like Oprah, Jennifer Hudson, and Valerie Bertinelli, all extremely accomplished women who made it seem like their life was still lacking in fulfillment until they lost weight. One of the richest women on the planet and an Oscar winner still did not feel successful until they lost weight.  How messed up is that?  There are judgments and criticism  at every turn for someone, especially celebrities,  who do not meet the criteria what others deem to be "normal."

"I (want to) believe my worth as a human being does not reside in my size or appearance."


The above quote probably spoke to me more than any line that I have read in a very long time.  Not only have I had weight issues, but I was born with a physical disability and there have been many times in my life where I was made to feel "less than" because of my appearance.  My heart and my mind know that it is them, not me that is deficient, but it still stings.    I have lost a lot of weight this year and I have done it for me. Not for anybody else.  My husband has been supportive through it all and has never once made me feel less than for being morbidly obese.  However, many people have commented on it my weight loss, does that mean that I was "less than" before in their eyes?  This is always in the back of my mind,  no matter how much weight I lose I cannot change the fact that I have a physical disability.  If someone believes my worth is tied to my appearance I will never be worthy of them.  And sadly, I know there are people out there who make assumptions based on my disability and there is nothing that I can do to change that.

Bottom Line - Hunger is not one of those motivational books where the author loses all of the weight and is skinny at the end.   Nor is Hunger a cautionary tale of what will happen if you are overweight.  Hunger is a raw and honest memoir of one woman and her body.   And it is one of the best books that I have ever read.

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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Monday, October 30, 2017

(91)The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman


Since 1620 the descendants of Maria Owens have known that falling in love is a family curse that must be avoided at all costs. And since 1620 all of Maria Owen's descendants have been women, until now.  Franny and Jet Owens have a little brother, Vincent.  Even though the Susanna Owens decided to raise their little family in New York City, they couldn't escape the Owens family traits.  So she laid out some rules for her children and was very strict about  The Rules of Magic - no books about magicno wearing black, no wearing red shoes, no black cats for pets, and no falling in love - ever.  Even though the Owens children have abided by their mother's rules it is very clear that the Owens children are different.  Things jump off of shelves when Vincent is in the room. Jet can read the thoughts of others and Franny is so unnaturally beautiful.  The Owens children typically keep to themselves and have avoided love.  Until now.  As young adults, all three Owens children have found themselves in love and unsure of how to handle the situation.  The family curse affects them all in different ways, but make no mistake, they do not escape the curse.  Will the Owens siblings ever be able to find happiness and true love?

With Halloween being right around the corner I was in the mood for a magical kind of novel.  The Rules of Magic is a prequel to the beloved novel (and movie) Practical Magic. Franny and Jet are the eccentric, beloved aunts in Practical Magic.   In The Rules of Magic, we get to hear their story. We get to hear about the sacrifices that they made because of their family heritage. We get to hear about their loves and their losses.   I found myself swept away by their story. I didn't really have a favorite character, but I found Vincent the most interesting. He was the one who ignored the rules more than his sisters.  He dared to do whatever he wanted - the rules be damned.  I think I felt the most empathy for Franny who gave up everything to care for her siblings after their parent's death. She sacrificed the most, I think.  The Rules of Magic spanned decades, but it never felt like the Owens siblings had aged.  In the end, I felt things ended the best way that they could, but it left me wanting to read Practical Magic. --CLICK HERE TO READ SPOILERS

Bottom Line - The Rules of Magic was the perfect read for  Halloween.  The magical nature of the Owens family coupled with the author's ability to write a lyrical novel makes it the perfect read to put you in the mood for All Hallow's Eve.

Details:
  • The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
  • On Facebook
  • Pages: 384
  • Publisher: Simon  & Schuster
  • Publication Date: 10/10/2017
  • Buy it Here!






Saturday, October 28, 2017

(90)Story Genius by Lisa Cron



Like many avid readers there is a part of me that wants to be a writer.  I have probably a dozen half started novels lingering in the bowels of my Google Drive.  I have decided that this year is the year that I participate in NaNoWriMo.  And this is the year that I finish it!  To prepare I have been reading magazines, blog posts, books, and anything else that I can read that will help me reach my goal.

Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel is one of those books that put me in the mindest for NaNoWriMo.  The author provides some really good strategies for plotting out a novel.   The one piece of advice that really struck a chord with me was the main character.   Lisa Cron really lays out a plan to really develop your main character before even writing one page of your story.  I always had a character sketch, but I had never gone one step further with the character's history.    The other thing that really is going to be useful when I write is a thing called "Scene Cards.".  Each scene needs a Scene Card with these four things - 1. What happens?. 2. What is the effect or consequence? 3.Why does it matter? 4.What is the realization? And what happens next?   I think having the concept of scene cards is going to help me stay organized and keep the book from getting away from me.   The final thing I want to share that I think will be useful was the advice to have the ending planned out before you even write a word.  You don't start a road trip without having a destination in mind, right?  You know where you are going to end up, right?  That is the way it should be when writing a novel.

Bottom line - Story Genius was a really helpful book to read as I get ready to start another NaNoWriMo.  I could have probably have started without reading this book, but I suspect that Story Genius will help me finish NaNoWriMo this year.

Details:
  • Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel by Lisa Cron
  • On Facebook
  • Pages: 288
  • Publisher: Potter/TenSpeed/Harmony
  • Publication Date: 8/9/2016
  • Buy it Here! 





Friday, October 27, 2017

(89)Turtles All the Way Down by John Green


Aza and Daisy have been best friends since grade school.  Aza isn't your typical teenager, she struggles with severe anxiety that nearly paralyzes her at times. But Daisy has been by her side for years and Daisy deals with Aza's quirkiness because of their friendship. One day Daisy heard on the news about a local billionaire who has gone missing.  There is a $100,000 reward and Daisy thinks that they can find him, especially since the billionaire's son, Davis, is an old friend of Aza's from "sad camp".  The summer camp that they went to after Aza's dad and Davis's mom died way too young.  Sixteen-year-old Aza's best friend has come up with a crazy way for them to make money. It was easier to reconnect to David that Aza expected, but now she has to choose - his friendship or pursuing the $100,000 reward.   The pressure is sending Aza's anxiety through the roof and it all comes to a climactic explosion that could ruin Aza's friendships, and her life, forever.

I don't think that there is an author out there that can depict the tribulations of teens like John Green.   Being a teen in today's world is tough.  Being a teenager with severe anxiety is even more difficult.  Aza's struggles with anxiety are so well documented by Green that I think people of all ages will be able to relate to her.  Her relationship with Daisy was an interesting one. To me, it was Daisy who was "exhausting" with her constant chattering.  And I was FURIOUS on Aza's behalf when she made the discovery that led to the critical moment of the book.  With friends like that who needs enemies? --  CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS  Ultimately, I really liked the book and I really loved Aza.   The end was satisfactory, but I wish that more was done to illustrate Aza's inner-strength regarding her friendship with Daisy.  I know that Green probably was authentic in the way that it went down but as a forty-two-year-old woman, that would not have been okay.

Bottom-Line - Even though I struggled with parts of this book, Turtles All the Way Down is a great book and is going to be under the tree for the teen girl in my life.

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Tuesday, October 24, 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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