Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Monday, May 29, 2017

(47)Not A Sound by Heather Gudenkauf



It has been two years since RN Amelia Winn lost her hearing in a tragic accident that killed one of her patients.  She went on a destructive downward spiral after the accident causing her to lose her family and her job. With the help of an old family friend, she is now sober, has learned sign language, has a service dog and is ready to rejoin the workforce.  And get her husband, David, back.  David did help her get a job interview in an office of an oncologist and Amelia takes it as a good sign for their relationship.  The morning of her interview Amelia is out on her paddleboard when she finds the body of an old friend - they used to work together.  Amelia is shaken to her core and misses her interview.  The murder of her friend sends Amelia down a path that could jeopardize her newfound stability, if not her life.   What will happen to Amelia when she won't stop asking questions?

Not A Sound was a fast and engaging read. Amelia is the kind of character that a reader can get behind. Obviously, she is flawed, but she is on the road to recovery and is doing everything in her power to make "it"  right.  Logically, I understand why David didn't want a drunk Amelia around his daughter, but I just got the
"this guy is a dick" vibe from him. It was obvious that Amelia loved the little girl that she had raised, but I was a little angry with her for putting that relationship in jeopardy with her alcoholism.   I really liked her relationship with Jake, the old family friend.  He stepped up to help Amelia when she needed him the most.  I did think that Amelia was a bit intrusive in her desires to find out who killed her friend.  In the end, things wrapped up quite nicely.  I was surprised by the culprit.  - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS


Bottom line - A good mystery is always a necessity when it comes to summer reading.  Heather Gudenkauf is still fairly new on the scene, but her books are always well written and full of intrigue.

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Friday, May 26, 2017

(46)Slightly South of Simple by Kristy Woodson Harvey


Ansley has lived in Peachtree Bluff ever since her husband was killed on 9/11.  When she realized that her husband  had borrowed against the life insurance policy,  she knew that she had no choice. Of her three daughters it was her oldest daughter,  Caroline was furious with her for moving her in the middle of her senior year. And as soon as she could she moved back to the city, leaving her mother and two younger sister.  Fast forward to today...Caroline  is pregnant  with her second child when she finds out that her husband has been having snickerdoodles affair with a reality television  star. What does she do? She goes home to Peachtree Bluff.  Caroline is cautiously excited when she hearsenal that her sisters are going to be spending the summer at their mother's,  too.  Emerson is filming a movie nearby and Sloane is restless while her husband is deployed, so why not?  Three sisters back under the same roof, what could go wrong?

Slightly South of Simple was unique because it was told from the alternate views of Caroline and her mother, Ansley.  The author did a great job of really laying the foundation for a trilogy, starting with Ansley and her history with the girl's father and her handsome client, Jack. It is a bit of an unconventional history, but it is important  to the story. Caroline seemed a bit high maintenance, but when push comes to shove she steps up.  The author set it up so I really want to know more about Sloane and Emerson and their stories.   It is the first in a trilogy , so the author does leave you hanging on an important matter.

Bottom line - Slightly  South of Simple is a great way to start off a trilogy.  Interesting  characters with interesting stories and set in a cute little beach town.  A great book to throw in your beach bag.

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Thursday, May 25, 2017

(45)How to Start a Fire by Lisa Lutz


It has been twenty years since Anna and Kate found Georgianna passed out on the lawn of their Southern California college.  They became lifelong friends that night, for better or worse.  Anna is the strong personality of the group, some would say that she is the leader of their group, others would say that she is just bossy.  Anna comes from an upper-class Bostonian family and finds California a refreshing change from the East-coast.  Kate is the quirky one, she was raised by her grandfather after her parents were killed in a car accident.  Some would say that she is a free-spirit, but others might say that she is flighty.  George is the tomboy of the group, she is most comfortable in the wilderness camping or hiking. She is most likely to shed her likes and interests for that of the man most interested in her.  Some would say that she is a maneater, but others might say that she is just seeking true love.  A lot can happen to friendships over twenty years, but the three of them are connected by one incident that defined them and set each of them on a life trajectory that may not be healthy.   Through addictions, multiple marriages, countless jobs, and one dead man, the friendship is put to the test.  Will their friendship stand up to the test?

You know what - I really enjoyed How to Start A Fire.  It was one of those books that have a timeline that jumps around, so you need to be paying attention.  Especially if you are listening to an audiobook.  We start out that night twenty years ago in college and jump all over in time.  I think of all the characters, Kate was my favorite.  She was quirky but utterly devoted to her friends. And I loooved who she ended up married to in the end.  I also loved that she was a total bookworm.  Anna was the most difficult to like.  Her addictions caused her to do things that would have destroyed any normal friendship, yet Anna and George stuck by her.  George was really the only one that didn't get any resolution in my opinion.  Her "man-picker" was perpetually broken and I don't think it was resolved in the end.  Things concluded in an interesting way, but it certainly worked.

Bottom line - How to Start a Fire was a nice departure from the mysteries that Lisa Lutz is known for, but the whip-smart, witty dialogue is very much present in this story of three friends.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Monday, May 22, 2017

(44)The Heirs by Susan Rieger


Eleanor and Rupert had a long and happy marriage on New York City's upper east side before he passed away after battling cancer. They were married for decades and raised five happy and healthy sons   Rupert, being the Englishman he was, did not show much affection to his children, but was utterly devoted to his wife and family. Despite his proper behavior, the boys loved him and adored their mother.  Eleanor grieves for her husband like any woman would and six months after his death she is contacted by a woman claiming to have had two sons by Rupert. She is suing his estate for what she feels is fair for her children.   Eleanor takes the news a lot better than her sons as all of them deal with the news that the man they thought was full of honor and integrity had cheated on his wife and family.  Each of the five sons handles the news in different ways, but ultimately it is Eleanor's decision on how to handle this news.  What will the news of his philandering ways do to the legacy of Rupert Falkes?

The Heirs was an easy book in which to get lost. I know it doesn't really seem like a page-turner, but I really couldn't put it down.   In a matter-of-fact way, the author gives us the history of Eleanor and Rupert's marriage. Starting with Rupert's final days in the hospital and working backward,  but not sticking with any chronological timeline.  I very much loved Eleanor and her subtle wit that must have made raising five sons so much easier.  We learn that Eleanor was very much in love with another man, but her parents disapproved of him because he was Jewish.  She met Rupert while at school and even though he was an orphan, his English heritage made him much more acceptable to her family.   The further you get into the book you realize that Eleanor was not Rupert's first love either.   I liked all of the sons and the author seemed to really focus on two of them, Harry and Sam.  I would have liked to get to know the others as well as we got to know them.  But Sam was my favorite, for sure, and each of them let the news of their father's philandering impact them in different ways.  The end of the book kind of snuck up on me, but the conclusion was one that made sense.

Bottom line - Even though The Heirs is one of those books that has a flashy premise and some salacious details, I don't think it is going to be a book for all to enjoy.   The Heirs is a painstaking look at one family's history and what happens when they discover their father led a secret life. While I thoroughly got swept up in the story, I don't think everybody will enjoy it like I did.  Let me know what you think!

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Sunday, May 21, 2017

(43)It's Always the Husband by Michelle Campbell


Kate, Aubrey, and Jenny met their freshman year at Carlisle.  They are familiar characters - Kate is the spoiled rich girl whose family name is on many of the buildings at Carlisle.  Aubrey is the poor little-lost-girl. She grew up poor in Las Vegas and had to claw her way to college.  Jenny is the "townie"  who grew up knowing she was going to Carlisle.  The three young women are as different as different can be, but they quickly bonded as roommates. Their world is shattered one night when Kate's boyfriend jumped to his death from a local bridge.  Except Jenny and Aubrey aren't so sure he jumped.


Fast forward to present day. Jenny is the town's mayor, Aubrey is a yoga instructor, and Kate is the lost soul wandering aimlessly through life.  All three are married and Jenny and Aubrey both have children.  One morning Kate's body is found near the same bridge that changed their lives all those years ago.  Even though their relationship with Kate was tumultuous at best, Jenny and Aubrey were devastated to learn of their friend's death.  The police immediately zero in on Kate's husband, after all, It's Always the Husband, right?

It's Always the Husband is the book that is getting all of the buzz right now.  I thought it got a slow start and the characters were a bit tired from the very beginning.  The audiobook that I am currently listening to has three best friends who met in college and one of them is named Kate, so I kept getting confused.  But isn't that proof that this storyline has been played out all too often?  All three women were deeply flawed and I struggled to like any of them, but Jenny was the least distasteful to me.  She had a good head on her shoulders in college and as an adult, even if she did use people to get what she wanted.  Half of the story is told in the past and the second half is told in the present.  I didn't really find myself "hooked" until the second half.  And that was because it wasn't until "present" part of the story is being told that I really cared about what happened.  By then I was busy figuring out the "whodunit".  The author did a fantastic job of leading the reader down different paths while speculating who killed Kate only to keep the truth a secret until the very last page.  I am not going to lie - I was a little bit shocked by the simplicity of it.  -- CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS

Bottom line - I cannot deny that It's Always the Husband is full of cliche characters because it is full of them.   But it also full of deception and intrigue and those are always two main ingredients for a good mystery.  If you can make it through the first half of the book you won't be disappointed by the big reveal.

Details:
  • It's Always the Husband by Michele Campbell
  • On Facebook
  • Pages: 336
  • Publisher:  St. Martin's Press
  • Publication Date: 5/16/2017
  • Buy it Here!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Monday, May 15, 2017

(42)Secrets in Summer by Nancy Thayer


Darcy Cotterill has been a year-round resident of Nantucket for three years - ever since she and her husband divorced and her grandmother passed away leaving her the Nantucket home. She loves her life on the island.  She loves her home, she loves her job as a children's librarian, she loves her group of friends and she is very happy dating a local carpenter, Nash.  It is still early in the summer season when Darcy is reading a book in her backyard when she hears a voice that takes her back in time.  Her ex-husband, his new wife, and their teenage daughter have rented the house behind hers for the summer.  While there are no lingering feelings for Boyz, Darcy is hoping to make it through this summer without running into him.   She has other neighbors that are staying for the summer that may keep things interesting -there is also the elderly lady and her divorced son who is writing a book, and the family full of rambunctious boys.  They all have their secrets and Darcy hears them all from the safety of her backyard.   Will Darcy be able to make it through the summer with her dignity and her heart intact?

Nancy Thayer books are like comfort food to me.  Her books are some of those books that just define summer for me.  Darcy Cotterill is not the perfect character, but to me, she lived the perfect life and had the perfect job.   I am not going to lie - I was a little envious of all of her outdoor time with her book and glass of wine.  That is how she got to hear all of the secrets - by eavesdropping on her neighbors.  I got a little annoyed with her intense desire to meddle after she eavesdropped.  Sometimes it was definitely warranted, but other times it was completely unwarranted.  Also, she seemed a little needy with her boyfriend, Nash, at times.  Thankfully, Darcy had some friends to reign her in when the crazy got out of control.   The summer and the book ended much too quickly but in very much a 'happy ever after" kind of way.

Bottom line - It is not likely that I will find myself at a beach this summer, but Secrets in Summer is the perfect summer read that will make you feel like you are on the beach even if you are in your own backyard.

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Friday, May 12, 2017

(41)Saints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan


It was the 1950's when Nora and Theresa Flynn left their small village in Ireland to sail to America where they are greeted by the man that Nora is meant to marry.  For Nora and Theresa adjusting to life in America isn't easy, the culture, the pace, the people are all different.  Theresa - unaccustomed to the more advanced lifestyle finds herself pregnant at eighteen. Even in the fast-pace American lifestyle, this is a major problem and mortal sin.  Theresa agrees to turn baby Patrick over to Nora and Charlie to raise as their own, but the arrangement proves to be far more difficult for both Theresa and Nora than they ever dreamed.  Their relationship is the biggest casualty of Theresa's pregnancy and it completely splinters when Theresa joins the convent.   Fifty years go by and Patrick is tragically killed in a car accident.  Will this tragedy be what it takes to bring Nora and Theresa back together?

Saints for All Occasions is such a good book that spans fifty years of strained family dynamics.   I come from a long line of Irish-Americans there was so much that I could relate to in this book.   Nora is a tough woman, not real affectionate to her children, but she does what she has to do - even if it is raising her sister's baby as her own.  Theresa is also a strong woman, being able to give up her son and then commit her life to living as a cloistered nun. I have a second cousin who recently joined the convent (see, told you I could relate) and it was interesting to me hearing about life in the convent.  I could see where that life and devotion could be appealing.   The author moves the book around from the past and the present (2009) and the grief that Nora and family feels at the loss of Patrick is palpable and heartbreaking.   I wasn't sure how the story was going to end, but I was very pleased with the way it ended.  It was satisfying and it felt right.

Bottom line - Saints for All Occasions was one of those books that people are going to be talking about all summer.  The characters are rich and the story is intricate - so good!

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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Saturday, May 6, 2017

(40)The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines


My husband had to go out of town for work last week and I spent the time binge-watching HGTV.  As much as I missed my husband, I loved being able to watch my HGTV shows guilt-free. A huge chunk of my binge was spent watching Fixer Upper (also, I know what to move to a lake) with Chip and Joanna Gaines. They seem like genuinely good people so I was curious to know more about them.

 The Magnolia Story is primarily told from Joanna's perspective with some narration from Chip thrown in for good measure. We learn how Chip and Joanna met and all about their first date and their early days of dating.  It seems like even then Chip was fun-loving, even if a little bit scatter-brained.  Joanna was brave enough to share that not once, but twice Chip left their oldest alone in the house while she was out. He just didn't think about the baby when he needed/wanted to go do something. I am sure their critics jumped all over that nugget of truth.  Another interesting nugget - they don't even own a television.

Joanna and Chip go into detail of how they got started.  Their early house flips - the ones they lived in while flipping.  They also go into detail over some of Chips crazier ideas.  I am not sure I could handle having a husband who just buys a house (or a houseboat) on a whim because he had an idea that could make them money.   Both Chip and Joanna admitted that they had help along the way and that often times help came from unexpected places.  One thing cannot be denied, though.  Chip and Joanna have worked very hard to get where they are today.  And they work very hard to maintain their success.  It is admirable and inspiring.

Bottom line - Reality television stars tend to go down in a blaze of glory.  In fact, another HGTV couple just went through a divorce. Chip and Joanna Gaines appear to be more grounded and more secure in their marriage than the other couple. They seem like genuinely wonderful people and I wish them nothing but continued success and happiness.

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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Monday, May 1, 2017

(39)The Forever Summer by Jamie Brenner



Marin Bishop is a successful lawyer with an incredibly attractive boyfriend.  Life in New York City is nearly perfect when she submits her DNA for to the genealogy website that she is representing.   She is not expecting any kind of surprises, she more or less just does it to understand her client better.   She does not expect to receive an email from a young woman who claims to be her sister.  It has to be a mistake because Marin doesn't have a sister.

Rachel Moskowitz has always known that her free-spirited mother used a sperm donor to have Rachel, but she can't help but be curious about her genetic history.   She is thrilled to discover that she has a half-sister in New York City and is going to stop to introduce herself to her new sister on her way to Provincetown, where their new grandmother lives.  When Marin's world implodes due to getting fired she decides to join Rachel on her journey. Soon two of them, along with Marin's mom for good measure, embark on a summer vacation full of family secrets,  shocking revelations, and a whole lot of relationship building.   A summer that may never end.

It has been a very long time since I have stayed up late into the night to finish a good book.  I did that last night with The Forever Summer.  Rachel and Marin are about as opposite as two sisters could be, but I liked them both.  They were both at crossroads in their life and seeking something.  I also like the way they were both ultimately kind and caring towards their new grandmother.  And Amelia was a sweet lady who had suffered a lot of pain in her life, yet that didn't discourage her from embracing everything life had to offer. Including two young women who claim to be her granddaughters.   I loved everything about Amelia, her wife, and their life in Provincetown.  The setting of Provincetown was quite unique, too.  When you hear "beach reads" you think of Cape Cod or Nantucket, but not Provincetown.  It made for a really fun read.

Bottom line - The Forever Summer was my first official "beach read" of the season and it was the perfect book to kick off the season.  Well written, with great characters who are easy to connect with on many levels and do a great job of redefining family.  The perfect beach read.

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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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