Sunday, April 30, 2017

(38)The F Word by Liza Palmer

Olivia Morten has a perfect life.  She has an extremely successful career in PR,  is smoking hot, and is married to a handsome doctor.  She never thought that she would have any of those three things so she does not take them for granted.  In high school she was overweight - she was the one that all the other kids teased.   Until one day a cruel act sent her down a different path and she lost all of the weight and turned her life around.  She met her husband, Adam, and the rest is history.   Or at least it was - until she runs into her high school crush, and her biggest tormentor from high school, at a local coffee shop.  Ben Dunn is now a divorced dad of three kids and the principal of a local elementary school.  Seeing him brought up all sorts of emotions for Olivia as he forced her to realize that even though she lost the weight, she lived her life as though she were still that overweight woman seeking approval from one and all.   Olivia has to make some tough decisions about her life.  Will she be able to make the right decisions no matter how hard they may be?

Year after year I have read books (both fiction and non-fiction) about women who have lost weight or are trying to lose weight as a source of inspiration for my own weight loss.   This time I am one of those women who is losing weight (almost 40lbs so far).  I really, really liked Olivia and The F Word. Olivia is a people pleaser - she works hard for her celebrities, she works to make sure that her husband has everything he needs and even takes him dinner at the hospital when he has to work late.  She works hard to be a good daughter.  And she works hard so that nobody ever sees that there is still an insecure "fat girl" buried deep inside of her.  Seeing Ben again brought up all of those feelings of inadequacies.  Neither Olivia nor Ben was particularly proud of who they were in high school and are kind of looking for redemption.  I really loved Olivia's character - I could even relate to her people-pleasing tendencies.  I thought her mom was a hoot and gave Olivia the exact right advice at the exact right time.  When it is time for the rubber to meet the road I wasn't sure if Olivia was going to make the right decision.  But the whole thing was about more than just making the right decision - it was about Olivia finally believing that she doesn't deserve to be treated like crap.  It made for a pretty powerful conclusion.

Bottom line - The F Word was a quick and engaging read about a woman who worked so hard to change her exterior that she forgot that she needed to take care of her insides as well.  The F Word may not be a heavy-hitting kind of book, but it sure does have an important message.  I encourage you to pick it up next time at the bookstore.  You won't regret it!


Saturday, April 29, 2017

(37)The Outliers by Kimberly McCreight

Wylie and her best friend Cassie have been on the outs for months, but when Wylie gets a text from Cassie saying she needs help, Wylie is willing to do anything to help her.  Even though she hasn't left her house in three weeks due to severe anxiety.  Even though she has to pair up with Cassie's boyfriend, Jasper, Cassie is willing to help her best friend.   Wylie and Cassie head off to Maine without telling anybody where they are going, receiving texts from Cassie along the way.  Their adventure turns dangerous when Jasper's jeep breaks down and one bad thing after another happens.  Soon they find themselves at the abandoned camp where Cassie said she was and Wylie realizes that they are in just as much danger as Cassie.  Wylie is shocked to find out that all of this is tied to her father's scientific research with Emotional Intelligence and a group of test subjects labeled "The Outliers." Her growing sense of danger is making things really uncomfortable for her.  Will Wiley be able to get herself and friends to safety before it is too late?

The Outliers is a real fast paced thriller centered around a young woman with severe anxiety.  When I say severe, I mean it causes her to vomit and pass out.  Which is one of the reasons why she was slowly becoming agoraphobic.  For a young woman with such a debilitating disorder to drop everything and go to the aid of a best friend she hasn't really talked to in a while? Well, I thought it said a lot about her character.  The Outliers is the first of a trilogy and the author did a great job of laying the foundation for that trilogy.  She spent time developing Wylie and Jasper.  Especially how Wylie's relationship with her parents have kind of led her to this point.  Her mother died a few months ago in a tragic car accident and things hadn't been the same since.  But there were a lot of flashbacks, so the reader really got to see the whole family dynamic and that is an important piece to the whole story.  And then the author left the end with such a cliffhanger that I am ready to go out and buy the next book in the series. (It releases on Tuesday, May 2, 2017 ).

Bottom line - The Outliers was a fast-paced, heart-racing kind of thriller.  With great characters, great plot, and two more books to go, this is definitely a series you want to start reading now!


Friday, April 28, 2017

(36)Startup by Doree Shafrir

TakeOff is the hottest app that everyone is talking about.  The app's founder is Mack McAllister who has visions of greatness for his app and himself.   His startup has nerf-gun wars, an open office environment, and is the place that everyone wants to work.  He has worked hard to land some Venture Capitalists who are going to give him lots and lots of money to take the app to the next level, that is if he doesn't get in his own way.

Katya Pasternack works for a tech magazine in the same building as the TakeOff crew and is looking for a story that will really launch her career to the next level.  She is at a party when she happens to see the incoming texts of Mack's assistant, Isabel.  They were not the kind of texts that a boss should be sending to an employee if you catch my drift.   Katya knows that there is a story there, but is unsure if she should pursue it.   In an industry that is still very much dominated by males, she knows that this story could either make or break her career.  What will she do?

Startup is probably one of the most relevant books on the shelves right now.  It seems like whenever there is a topic that is in the news a lot there are a lot of books that hit the market about that topic - like Ponzi schemes.  Startup is the first book that I have read about the tech world.  What makes this book so relevant to my life is not only the female characters in a male dominated world, but one of the narrators is a married mother of two who is in her late 30's in an industry dominated by youth.   It was so easy to relate to Sabrina for several reasons, but mostly that "elder of the group" situation.  Personally, I thought Mack was an egotistical ass and deserved everything that could be headed his way if Katya writes the story.   There were a few times I found myself losing interest - just because Mack was such an ass - but I stuck with it to the end and I am glad that I did.

Bottom line - Startup is a fun read about an industry that doesn't get written about a lot.  The author, a Buzzfeed writer, does an excellent job of exposing life in a mostly male dominated industry.  It really makes for an interesting read.


Monday, April 24, 2017

(35)The Red Hunter by Lisa Unger

Claudia Bishop gives up her life and successful career in publishing to move her teen daughter to the country to renovate an old house that has been in the family forever. She blogs about her experiences and feels as if her life is finally starting to come together.  The country is good for her soul, as she is still dealing with the scars of a brutal rape that changed her life forever.  Her daughter, Raven, is less than thrilled about the move and even less thrilled about knowing that there is a 50% chance that her father is the man who raped her mother.

Zoey Drake's life was changed forever the night her parents died in a violent home invasion where the intruders were looking for money they thought her father had.  Until that night she had been your typical teenager living a life untouched by bad stuff.  Now she is a professional housesitter who uses the martial arts to help police the streets of New York City and cares for her ailing uncle in her spare time.    Her soul is a dark one and she feels no remorse at killing one of the men who killed her parents. Now she seeks to find the others who were a part of changing her life.

Zoey and Claudia know nothing of each other, but they have one thing in common,  The crumbling farmhouse that Claudia is renovating.  As Claudia peels away the decades of grime and dirt she discovers the dark secrets the home hides.  Will she be able to get to the truth before her life is touched by violence once again?

The Red Hunter is a well-crafted mystery that centers around money. After all, money is the root of all evil, right?   A million dollars was stolen from a drug dealer and has not been found since it's theft.  In fact, the missing money is what led to the murder of  Zoey's parents.  This missing money has an impact on both Zoey and Claudia.  The story is told from multiple narrators and you have to pay attention because the chapter titles don't reveal who is currently narrating the story.  Claudia and Zoey were both likable characters.  They were both deeply damaged by the events of their past, but I think that Claudia was a little bit further in the healing process.  One of the reasons why I like Lisa Unger is because she always keeps me guessing at the "whodunit" part of the mystery.   Lisa Unger is known for building tension with craftily written chapters that unpeel a layer by layer - like an onion.  Each chapter causes your heart rate to pick up a little more, building to a volatile conclusion that will leave you saying "I didn't see that coming." -- CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS

Bottom line -  Unless you are new here you know that I love a good mystery.  Lisa Unger can craft a good mystery with the best of them.  Diverse and damaged characters are what make her novels so compelling and so hard to put down.


Saturday, April 22, 2017

(34)The Widow of Wall Street by Randy Susan Meyers

Phoebe and Jake have been together for decades.  They dated as kids and grew into adulthood together.  The early days of their marriage were tough, but Jake worked hard to build his investment firm into one of the most prosperous firms in New York City.  Phoebe raises their two children and runs her pet project, a cupcake shop where she donates all of the profits to charity.    Their life is a privileged one and Phoebe knows it.  Her world is shattered when she learns that Jake's successful firm is built on decades of lies.  Jake's Ponzi scheme has had an impact on the lives of everyone they know. In fact, it was their kids that turned him into the feds.  They beg Phoebe to leave Jake and denounce his actions, but life with Jake is all she knows.  She stays by his side through everything; including all of the legal aspects, all of the media scrutiny, everything.  Even though she paid the high cost of a relationship with her children and grandchildren she stayed with the man who stole millions of dollars from their friends and family.   Will Phoebe even stay with him after he goes to prison?  Will she stay with him even when Jake's mistress writes a tell-all book?

The Widow of Wall Street was told in the alternating viewpoints of Jake and Phoebe.   I usually like to see both sides of a story like this but there were many times in this book where Jake's staggering arrogance nearly did me in.  We see their relationship evolve over the decades and it was not always the healthiest of relationships - especially when Jake was having his affairs.  The way he covered it up with Phoebe was a little bit of genius but still made me think he was an arrogant jerk.  While I was engaged with the book and the characters it wasn't until after Jake's secret is revealed that I became invested in the characters - specifically Phoebe.  The change in her was so pronounced and so profound that the very end brought tears to my eyes.  She finally stands up for herself and forces him to realize that she is more than just his wife.

Bottom line - The Widow of Wall Street is a book about a tale that has become familiar to us all. The wife of a powerful, wealthy man discovers that he husband is not the man she thought he was.  What makes The Widow of Wall Street different from all of the other tales out there is the way the author developed Phoebe as a wife, mother, and independent woman.  Such a great read.


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Saturday, April 15, 2017

(33)One Perfect Lie by Lisa Scottoline

Central Valley High School has a new baseball coach.  Chris Brennan was hired to teach Government and be an assistant coach on the baseball team. The kids take to him right away, but he seems to be paying special attention to just a few of the kids.  Jordan is the only child of a single mom, Evan is the spoiled son of a wealthy family, and Raz just lost his father to cancer.  All three boys have good reason to seek out a father figure like Chris.  But Chris is hiding some pretty big secrets that could put tall of them in jeopardy.  He is not who he says he is.  He is hiding a secret that will turn the small school upside down if it is revealed. What is Chris's secret and what will happen to the small community when Chris's real identity is revealed.

One Perfect Lie was a fast-paced mystery novel.  The author did a great job of keeping the reader in the dark regarding Chris's secret.  I really didn't know where the story was going, but then when the secret was revealed it made complete sense.  The other characters in the book were interesting, but not like Chris.  I think Evan's mom was the most interesting to me.  She was not about to sit by when she thought her spoiled son had done wrong and I liked her fesitiness.   Once Chris's secret is revealed the book seemed to race to a conclusion that wrapped things up nicely.  -- CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS

Bottom line - Lisa Scottoline is a master at her craft.  Whether it is a legal thriller, a book of essays written with her daughter, or a stand-alone mystery, she knows how to craft a story that will keep the reader engaged right up to the very last page.


Friday, April 14, 2017

(32)Big Law by Lindsay Cameron

Mackenzie Corbett is not afraid of hard work.  She was never an athletic kid like her sister, so she focused all of her energy on academics.  She became class valedictorian, she went to a prestigious law school, and she was courted and hired by one of the biggest law firms in New York City.  Mack is now a second year associate with eyes on the prize. She works 18-20 hours a day, rarely sees her boyfriend, Jason, and sees her best friend even less.  Her colleagues at the office are quirky at best and downright terrifying at worst.  As one of the few female associates working in "Big Law" Mackenzie needs to work harder than her colleagues.  She is starting to think that her mentor doesn't want her to succeed either.  Mack is exhausted and overworked when she is alerted to the fact that the feds are looking into possible insider trading on some of the firm's deals.  The only person in common with all those deals is Mackenzie. Everything she has worked so hard for is now in jeopardy, along with her freedom.  Who would set Mack up like this?  And why?

Big Law has been compared to The Devil Wears Prada and I understand why that comparison has been made.  Mack is a hardworking character who makes astute observations about her colleagues and the high-pressured world where they exist.  The quirky characters she works with were entertaining and the weird lifestyle of those in "Big Law" was interesting.  Like the way the expensed everything from dry cleaning to the drive home.  By the end of the book Mack had been working on two major deals and as her friend pointed out, it had been days since she had been outside when the sun was up.  I am a hard worker and I pulled some crazy hours in retail, but the way Mack worked night and day was crazy and I know that it is normal for "Big Law.  The way her career negatively impacted all of her relationships, including with her family, it made it hard for me to understand why anybody would want to work in "Big Law".  I guess somebody has to do it.

Bottom line - Big Law was a fun book to read.  I always love to read books like Big Law that give you the down and dirty about the world that I will never know.  If you are curious about the world of Big Law and looking for an entertaining read be sure to grab this one!


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Sunday, April 9, 2017

(31)The Sisters of Blue Mountain by Karen Katchur

Linnet and Myrna don't have the best relationship. Myrna hasn't been home in years, leaving Linnet to run the family Bed & Breakfast and care for their aging father.  Their father is a retired ornithology professor who has studied the snow geese that make their home on their dam his entire life.  Their Bed & Breakfast is the destination of journalists and specialists when hundreds of snow geese turn up dead on the dam.  The craziness of Linnet's world grows exponentially when one of the university guys ends up dead on their property. Then Myrna shows up after a skype session with Linnet's son gives her reason to worry.  The sisters work together to try and keep their father from being the prime suspect, but a certain reporter has a history with the sisters that only they know the truth about.   Will their world be shattered when truths are revealed?

 I had a hard time connecting with the story.  I liked the characters, okay enough, probably Myrna more than Linnett, but neither one really seemed "warm" to me. The sisters had one thing in common - their love and concern for their father.  It was obvious to the reader that their father was battling dementia at the very least - he was forgetful and confused for most of the novel.   Myrna and the reporter were getting cozy and I was okay with that, even though Linnet was not.  But as the reader,  I didn't have the whole story until nearly the end.   In the end, I was glad the book was over. There was a lot of promise, but it just seemed to fall flat.  I wanted to stick it out to see who killed the scientist, but I wasn't invested enough to care about the sisters or the secret they were hiding - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS

Bottom line - I think the scenery was my favorite things about The Sisters of Blue Mountain.  The author does an amazing job of placing the reader along the banks of the dam. While I though the story had weak points, the author tied it all together nicely in the end.


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Sunday, April 2, 2017

(30)The Immortal Irishman by Timothy Egan

In honor of St. Patrick's Day I decided to tackle the latest history book by Timothy Egan, The Immortal Irishman.  The book tells the life story of Thomas Francis Meagher (pronounced ma-r).   One could say that Meagher lived three lives.  The life of young Irish radical during the Great Hunger, the life of a prisoner in the penal colony of Australia, and that of the leader of the Irish Brigade during the Civil War.  Egan takes us deep into each of Meagher's identities providing detailed background knowledge on the people, the places, and the experiences that Meagher was part of through out his life.

I have always had an affinity for all things Irish due to my own family's heritage, but even I was shocked by how little I knew about the Great Hunger and the misery caused because the Irish would not succumb to the English's rule and most importantly their religion.  The monarchy treated the Irish as if they were the devil.  The Irish were forbidden to marry across religions, they were forbidden to play their music, speak in their language, marry across religions, or even speak of their folklore.  Musicians - specifically harpists - had bounties on their heads. The Irish were either dying from famine or fleeing to the new world, America.  Meagher was part of those leading the rebellion and it got him sentenced to Austrailia, but not before he helped to create the Irish flag we know today.

I did not find his time in Australia as interesting as the history I learned about Ireland, but it was integral to his story.  What I did find interesting is that the number of actual dangerous criminals sent to Australia was much lower than I had ever thought. Most of the 40,000 Irish sent to the penal colony were sent for minor crimes like stealing food for their starving families.

He was only in the colony for two years of his life sentence before finding his way to America.  Meagher was practically a celebrity in America.  It wasn't long before he rallied his fellow Irishman and joined the Union forces as the Irish Brigade.  Under Meagher's leadership, they fought in some of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. After losing thousands of men to war Meagher eventually resigned his position and headed west, where he was appointed the acting governor of Montana.  He was only forty-three years old when he fell overboard and drowned in the Missouri river.  It is assumed that he was murdered.

Bottom line - reading a history book such as The Immortal Irishman can be a bit daunting.  I had to take a break in the middle and that is why it took me until nearly April to finish reading it.   I am glad that I stuck it out, though.  I feel so much more educated about what my ancestors went through before making it to America.  And it makes me all that more proud to call myself an Irishman.

  • The Immortal Irishman by Timothy Egan
  • Pages:384
  • Publication Date: 3/1/2016
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Buy it Here!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

(29)It Happens All the Time by Amy Hatvany

Amber and Tyler have been best friends since they were kids and their families have been entertwined for years.  They have been through thick and thin - including Amber's life-threatening battle with anorexia.  Now they are both adults and Amber has graduated from college and is back home before she moves to Seattle to be with her fiance.  The summer is fun and carefree for Amber, she and Tyler are spending more time together than they have since they were kids. He takes her to a Fourth of July party where they both had too much to drink and Tyler crosses a line that will destroy their friendship. Amber's life is turned upside down and she falls into the bad habits that nearly killed her all those years ago.  Meanwhile, Tyler denies that the events of that night were as Amber remembers them.  Will either one of them be able to get past that night?

It Happens All the Time is a book with a mission.  The author has a story to tell and she tells it from the alternating perspectives of Amber and Tyler.  Frankly,  I didn't find myself connected with either character, but less so with Tyler.  Her spent a lot of time trying to justify his behavior that night and it on the cusp of being ridiculous. His character just didn't seem authentic - at all.   I didn't really connect with Amber either, even though her history with an eating disorder was well document I took issue with her outlook on food, weight, and those who needed to lose weight.  Including her own parents. I found it incredibly judgemental and disrespectful.  My heart ached for what she went through that night with Tyler - her anguish was real. She kind of turned into a trainwreck after that night and it was hard to watch her spiral out of control.  There is no "right" way to handle what happened, but man - Amber was out of control.    I think the author gave both Amber and Tyler the endings they deserved and I was good with the conclusion.

Bottom line - It Happens All the Time was a difficult book to read. The characters were far from perfect and the subject matter could cause all sorts of triggers.  But, it is the kind of story that "happens all the time" and rarely gets told.  Be warned - the subject matter is tough, but the story is good.


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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