Friday, June 30, 2017

(57)Same Beach, Next Year by Dorothea Benton Frank

Eliza and Adam Stanley have enjoyed their summer vacation on the Isles of Palms for years.  Their twin sons love to play in the pool and just getting away from the hustle and bustle of their everyday life is enough for Eliza.  One summer Adam discovers that his high school sweetheart is vacationing at the same resort.  So many years have passed that Adam fails to mention their romantic history, but Eve and Carl Landers soon become fast friends.  The couples and their children meet up every summer and over the years their friendship becomes more like family. Over the years the families share many laughs, tears, and fears.  But still, Eve and Adam don't share their romantic past.  It all comes to a head one morning when Adam and Eve are found in a compromising situation at the Landers' condo.   Even though they both swear that nothing happened Eliza and Carl are both forced to evaluate their marriages.  Eliza goes even go so far as to pack up and go visit family in Greece.  She has been putting it off forever, but the kids are grown and in college, so why not?  Eliza figures that putting distance between her and Adam will be beneficial for their marriage.  Or will it just push Adam farther away and be the final blow to their marriage?

I don't remember having read a Dorothea Benton Frank novel before, but I love a good beach read, so I gave it a shot.  I think it is meant more for the "grandma" crowd or maybe a more conservative crowd, but once I started to read it, I didn't want to stop.  The story is told primarily in the past - all the way back to when Eve is first introduced to the story all the way up to the present time - so over decades.  Both Eliza and Adam take turns narrating and while it is clear that Adam loves his wife - he is kind of an arrogant ass. And Eliza is a doting housewife with very gender-specific duties. It was so very annoying how she waited on Adam hand and foot and let him treat her like the domestic help.  I HATED how when he was the narrator he kept commenting on Eve's beauty - it was all physical.  Ugh.  I loved how she finally did what she always was wanting to do (but putting off because of Adam) and went to Greece to reconnect with her family.   In the end, things worked out the way that they were supposed to work out and there is even a nice little surprise to wrap things up nicely. 

Bottom line - Even though there were some horrible eye-roll-worthy situations in Same Beach, Next Year - I finished it and I wouldn't ever finish a bad book.  If you are in the "under 50" crowd it might not be the best beach read for you, but you can always give it to your mom as a gift.  She would likely love to read it!


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

(56)Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica

Clara Solberg is in that postmortem haze when there is a knock at the door.  She hasn't slept in the few days since her son, Felix is born and she is confused by the officer standing at her door.  An accident?  Nick dead?  What they are saying does not make sense.  Her beloved father leaves her ailing mother and rushes to her side to help her navigate the next few excruciating days.  The decisions that must be made, the things to be done and still there is the care of Maisie and Felix.  The police are saying that Nick was driving too fast, was blinded by the sun, and hit a tree.  When Clara starts to hear Maisie have nightmares about the black car and the scary man she questions if it was really an accident.  She even goes so far as to knock on the doors of the houses near the accident.  All it takes is for one woman to say that she thinks she saw a black Chevy to send Clara down a dangerous path.   Will she be able to figure out who killed her husband and why?

Mary Kubica has outdone herself with Every Last Lie.  She tells the story in alternating voices.  Nick before the accident and Clara after the accident.   What you realize with this format is that their marriage was not as sound as Clara thought.  Nick was keeping a ridiculous amount of information from his wife under the guise of "protecting" her while she was pregnant.  Like his dental practice was sinking, he had a patient suing him for malpractice, and his ex-girlfriend was back saying he was the father of her son. Nick is feeling the financial pressure and the fact that he hasn't told Clara is putting their relationship at serious risk. On the one hand I understand Nick's reasons for keeping secrets, but on the other hand, I thought it was a jerky way to behave.  The more time that passes the more unglued Clara seems to be getting. I liked her and felt for the intense grief that was taking over her life.  The end was shockingly creative. I thought that I had it figured out several times, but I kept changing my mind and in the end, I was wrong.  Way wrong.  -- CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS -

Bottom line - Every Last Lie is going to be one of those books that will leave you speechless. There is a lot of details that the reader needs to pay attention to, but even then you may not figure it out.  Good luck, readers, let me know if you figured it out before the end!


Saturday, June 24, 2017

(55)Beach House for Rent by Mary Alice Monroe

Cara Rutledge has just finished getting her beach house ready for the summer rental season.  The income is crucial to keep the bills paid.  Her husband, Brett, runs an EcoTours business and it has been a money-sink recently.  Cara and Brett were arguing about money when Brett goes out for a run and never comes back.  His fatal heart attack leaves Cara reeling.  Even more so when she discovers that he canceled his life insurance policy.  She decides to sell their home and move into the beach house, for many reasons, but the beach house has always had healing qualities for her.   There is one problem - the beach house is rented.

Heather Wyatt's father rented the beach house for her so he can spend some quality time with his new bride.  Heather is a shy and quiet young woman with extreme anxiety relating to her mother's death.  Even she realizes that the beach house has healing qualities.  She is starting to come out of her shell and even has a boyfriend.  Her lease agreement is through the end of the summer and Heather is not about to leave early for Cara.  The two women decide to share the beach house with each other for the rest of the summer.  What will happen to the two women once the summer is over?

Beach House for Rent is another wonderful Lowcountry read from Mary Alice Monroe.  Even though nearly twenty-five years separate them in age, both Cara and Heather are trying to recover and heal.  For Cara, it is a fresh pain and for Heather, it is several years old.  The book alternates between Heather and Cara in narration, sometimes for several chapters.  It isn't until the book is more than half over that they become roommates, so you really get to know bother characters before that point.  They both have grown in the book, but I really think that Heather had the most growth given the way she really came out of her shell. I liked how she blossomed with her boyfriend, Bo.    I wasn't sure how the author was going to end things, but it was a good conclusion.

Bottom line - I haven't read a lot of books set in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, but Mary Alice Monroe certainly knows how to make a reader fall in love with the area.  From the ecosystem to the cuisine, she makes it feel like you are there with the characters.  What reader doesn't love a book that can transport you to another place?


Friday, June 23, 2017

(54)The Hyptonist's Love Story by Liane Moriarty

Hypnotherapist Ellen O'Farrell is excited for her date with Patrick.  They have been out a few times and Ellen is expecting things to progress on this date, but in the middle of their date Patrick got up and left the table, leaving Ellen sitting there alone and confused.  He comes back after a while with a confession - he has a stalker.  An ex-girlfriend has followed his every move ever since they broke up years ago. Ellen is intrigued by Patrick's stalker but is not willing to end the relationship because of a silly thing like a stalker.  Soon Ellen is settled into relationship bliss with Patrick and his young son, Jack.  But at every turn, Saskia is there and when Ellen discovers that she is pregnant her curiosity over the stalker intensifies.  Why would a seemingly reasonable woman be unable to move past a breakup?  Her curiosity over Saskia intensifies when Ellen discovers that she is pregnant - what Ellen doesn't realize is that she already knows Saskia.  Will Saskia be able to put the past behind her before she does something they will all regret?

The Hypnotist's Love Story was the perfect book to listen to on my daily walks.   For one thing, the book is set in Austrailia and the accents make it fun.  The book is also narrated by both Ellen and Saskia.  Being able to hear the thoughts of both women made this book incredibly compelling - mostly because Saskia really didn't believe that what she was doing was wrong.  It was clear to the reader that Saskia was completely batshit crazy, even though she seemed so normal.   As the book progressed and Ellen's pregnancy became more of a "thing" you could get a sense that Saskia was getting close to the edge of sanity. You could hear the crazy in the narrator's voice - which really set the tone.  I couldn't tell where the author was going to take the story, but you knew it was going to be explosive.  And it was,  I would even say that it was terrifying.  I thought the end was perfect.  The author gave good endings for both Ellen and Saskia, which made me happy.  Because even though Saskia was batshit crazy, there was something likable and relatable about her. I mean what girl hasn't been dumped unexpectedly?

Bottom-line - The Hyptnotist's Love Story is just another example of the brilliance that is Liane Moriarty.  A great story about two women and the man they have both loved.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Monday, June 19, 2017

(53)The Good Widow by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke

Jacqueline "Jacks" Morales was FaceTiming her sister when a knock at the door changed her life forever.  Her husband, James, was killed in a car accident in  Hawaii.  Jacks is confused because James told her he was going to Kansas for work.  And she is devastated because James was not alone in the car, his girlfriend was with him.   Jacks is dealing with her new normal when there was another knock at the door.  This time it is Nick, the fiance of the young woman with James.  He is just as devastated as Jacks and is really the only person who can fully understand what she is going through.   They start up a friendship and soon find their way to Hawaii to retrace the final steps of their loved ones hoping to gain some understanding of what happened.   And in the process, they start to have feelings for each other. The closer they get, though, Jacks starts to get a feeling that she is missing something important about what happened to James, will she be able to figure it out before it is too late?

I have been following Liz and Lisa since their early Chick Lit is Not Dead (now just a blog on their website) days.  I was thrilled when they wrote their first novel and have followed their career with interest and excitement.  You could say that I have been in inspired by their career.  Having said all of that - The Good Widow was not their best effort.  It started out strong, their first chapter had me intrigued, but almost immediately I had it figured out.  I stuck it out and finished the book hoping that there would be some kind of twist at the end to prove me wrong, but no, I was right.  The book starts out strong with Jacks finding out about the accident but from there it becomes very predictable.   The book is told in alternating voices - Jacks "after" the accident and Dylan (the other woman) "before" the accident.  You get to see both sides of the story and frankly, neither woman was perfect and James was a sleaze.  I wish that we could have seen things from Beth's viewpoint.  Beth is Jack's sister, but most often she was Jack's tether to reality.   I did not find the book all that suspenseful, nor was I all that shocked by the ending.  Overall, I was disappointed.  - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS

Bottom line - I have always been a fan of Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke, but this year I think I would encourage you to read their previous works rather than their new release.  I wanted it to be so much better, I wanted it to have me on the edge of my seat, but sadly The Good Widow was predictable in every way.   Have you read The Good Widow?  What did you think?


Saturday, June 17, 2017

(52)The Identicals by Elin Hilderbrand

Tabitha and Harper Frost may look alike, but that is where their similarities end.   Tabitha is chic and stylish - helping their famous designer mother run her empire. When they were teenagers their parents divorced and a game of rock, paper, scissors determined which girl was going to go with their father, Billy.  Harper "won" and left Nantucket for Martha's Vineyard with their father.  The girls remained close until fourteen years ago when a tragedy permanently destroyed their relationship.

Fast forward to present day - the Twins are closing in on forty, their dad just died,  and their lives are a mess.  Harper is working a dead-end job and having an affair with her father's married doctor. Tabitha recently broke up with her boyfriend of four years, her mother's store is hemorrhaging money, and her sixteen daughter is a pot-smoking delinquent.   In an interesting twist to The Parent Trap, the sister's switch lives.  Harper goes to Nantucket to run the store and look out for Ainsley while Tabitha goes to the Vineyard to get Billy's house ready to sell.  Will this life-swap be what it takes to repair the sister's damaged relationship?

It took me a minute to get into The Identicals because at first both Tabitha and Harper were pretty dreadful characters.  Tabitha was a horrible parent and Harper was sleeping with a married man.  They did the "life-swap" and it took that change for me to start to see some redeeming qualities.  More so in Harper than in Tabitha  - Tabitha was still hard for me to like. There wasn't ever one moment where Tabitha owned up to her mistakes, it was like she just decided to let it all go.  Ainsley, Tabitha's teen daughter, also went through some redemption with the help of her Aunt Harper.  She was also pretty dreadful at first.  Once the redemption started I could barely put the book down.  Things wrapped up pretty tidily and I loved how the final words were spoken from the viewpoint of Harper's dog, Fish. It added a degree of charm that wasn't there before.

Bottom line - Nantucket is a favorite summer location for not only tourists but authors, as well. Every author brings their own flavor of Nantucket.  Elin Hilderbrand definitely brings more "meat" to her stories than other authors, but that is one of the reasons why I love her books.  Life is dirty and messy - even on Nantucket.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

(51)The People We Hate at the Wedding by Grant Ginder

Alice and Paul 's mother, Donna, was married to a wealthy Frenchman before she met their father.  Alice and Paul grew up with their middle-class mother speaking French, fixing strange French cuisine, and driving a used Ford station wagon. Their older half-sister, Eloise, grew up going to elite boarding schools and had chefs to fix her authentic French cuisine. Eloise tried to fit in when she was with her American family, but Paul and Alice could not help but resent her and her luxurious lifestyle.  Now Eloise is getting married in London and wants her siblings and mother there for the festivities.  Paul and Alice have to both face the harsh reality that their lives are a mess compared to their older sister.  Alice is having an affair with her married colleague and is still mourning her miscarriage years ago.  Paul just lost his job and his boyfriend is making comments that lead him to believe their relationship is in jeopardy.  Not to mention that his relationship with his mother has been non-existent since his father died.  Neither Paul nor Alice are looking forward to this wedding.  Will the wedding be the opportunity they need to heal their family or will it be the event that tears them apart for good?

The People We Hate at the Wedding puts the fun back in dysfunctional.  Of the three siblings, Paul seems to be the most dysfunctional, but Alice and Eloise and not that far behind. There were times that the dysfunction seemed extreme and was grating on my nerves.  I mean - pull it together people.    Paul was seriously a hot mess and I thought his boyfriend was a giant douche.  He redeemed himself just a little at the very end.  Alice didn't really have a good boyfriend picker either, as hers was married. It really made it hard to like her - given her homewrecker status.  Eloise was the only one who seemed to be trying to have a relationship with her siblings, but the disparity in the way that they grew up made it tough.  The book is told from the alternate viewpoints of the siblings and Donna, their mother.  I think Donna was my favorite character of the book - the way that she stood up for Paul was admirable.  I was very satisfied with the end of the book - it was realistic and reassuring that the author didn't feel the need to be fake in order to give the reader warm fuzzies.

Bottom line - The People We Hate at the Wedding is a book about a less than perfect family just trying to figure out a way to love each other.  It is a good read if you don't let all of the dysfunction get to you.


Monday, June 12, 2017

(50)An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

Best friends Colin and Hassan are on a road trip trying to figure out where their lives are going.  Hassan is trying to figure out of college is the place for him and Colin is recovering from breaking up with his 19th girlfriend named Katherine. They find their way to Gutshot, Tennessee, where they stopped to see the grave of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand.  Instead they meet Lindsey Lee Wells and her mother, Hollis.  The boys have stumbled their way into a job interviewing the residents of Gutshot and learning about the history of the little town. Gutshot is a good way for the friends to pass the summer and reflect on their own history.  Especially Colin's history with the Katherines.  As a way to pass the time - and prevent future heartache - Colin devises an algorithim that will determine how long a relationship will last.  Will Colin be able to get past his broken heart to see that he has options that don't include a Katherine? And will Hassan ever decide if college is in his future?

We just took a major roadtrip and a John Green novel makes for a perfect companion.   An Abundance of Katherines is about two best friends on their own roadtrip.  We never encountered a place like Gutshot, but we sure did have fun.   I absolutely loved the narrator and the way he did the voices for the book.  Especially the elderly people the boys were interviewing - it seriously cracked me up.  Colin was a former child prodigy and ful of completely useless facts that kept popping up throughout the story.  Even though the book was written ten years ago, Hassan is the kind of character needed in today's volatile political climate.  Hassan was a completely normal teenage boy, who happened to be Muslim.  The author did an excellent job at highlighting his normalcy, even normalizing his prayer routine.  The story was a fun look at what friendship and love means - with a backdrop of rural Tennessee.

Bottom line - An Abundance of Katherines was a fugging funny book.  A lighthearted book about love and friendship.  And of course it is by John Green, which automatically makes it a must-read novel.


Thursday, June 8, 2017

(49)The Sunshine Sisters by Jane Green

Meredith, Nell. and Lizzy Sunshine grew up in the shadow of their mother, Ronni, a glamorous star of the silver screen.   Ronni was always a narcissistic and critical type of mother which did not exactly foster a close relationship with her daughters.  The sisters have scattered all over the world and rarely interact with each other. Meredith is living in London and engaged to a man who is really not well suited for her.  Lizzy is a successful celebrity chef, but she is still chasing happiness in unhealthy ways.  Nell runs a successful farm and cafe in the Connecticut countryside, not too far from where they grew up.  Ronni calls the sisters home and the sisters oblige, not sure if the demand was another one of her narcissistic tendencies or if something is really wrong.  When their mother announces that she has a terminal illness the three sisters are forced to face the cracks in their relationships.  Their relationships with their mother, others in their lives, and each other.  Will their mother finally be able to heal old wounds before it is too late?

The Sunshine Sisters is another summertime masterpiece by Jane Green.  Meredith, Nell, and Lizzy and three unique sisters that really only have one thing in common - they survived childhood with an aging actress.  It took me a few chapters to get all of the sisters straight but eventually got it.  Lizzy is the bratty one, Meredith is the meek one, and Nell is the one who isolated herself.   I struggled to like Lizzy - her selfishness was tough to swallow, but by the end of the book, I found her much more likable.  Meredith was tough to like, too.  Her meekness was overwhelming and from the very first time her fiance was introduced I wanted her to stand up and kick him in the shins.  Each of the sisters and their mother had their moment of redemption. There was a moment of shock towards the end of the book, but ultimately I was very satisfied with the way things ended.  I would even be interested in seeing a follow-up book someday.

Bottom-line - Jane Green is one of my favorite authors and just about every pen she touches spins literary gold, as far as I am concerned.  I enjoyed everything about  The Sunshine Sisters, but I particularly loved the character development.  A great story and now I have to wait another year for Jane Green's next work of art.


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Monday, June 5, 2017

(48)Come Sundown by Nora Roberts

The Bodine Ranch and Resort in western Montana has been a family endeavor for many over the years and business has been booming ever since Bodine Longbow has taken the helm.  Bodine commands the respect of her employees, but she works hard and they take their cues from her. Their quiet peace is shattered when one of their bartenders is found dead in the snow.  Even though one of the cops have zeroed in on the newly returned Callen Skinner, Bodine knows that he is innocent.   Tensions in the area heat up with Bodine's long lost aunt is found wandering along a dark road.   Alice Bodine was gone for decades and many thought that she had just abandoned the family and the ranch. When in reality she was on her way home more than twenty years ago when a man kidnapped her and has kept her hostage all of these years.  The one quiet and idyllic ranch is now on edge as they try to figure out who took Alice and who is targeting the women of the ranch.  Will they be able to catch the madman before he takes what he wants again?

Come Sundown was not my favorite read of the year, but it was okay.  I thought that certain aspects of the story were fairly predictable, even for Nora Roberts.  I  thought the most engrossing part of the story was Alice - her capture, her life with Sir, and her escape.  Her reintegration into the Bodine family was handled well from a few different angles, and it was what kept me reading.  As you would expect, Bodine and Callen ended up in a steamy relationship.  Totally predictable, but that was okay.  In the end, they got the bad guy, but not before an attempt on yet another Bodine woman.   All the loose ends were tied up neatly and I appreciated it.

Bottom line - Even though I did not enjoy Come Sundown as much as I have her other recent novels, I did stick it out and read the whole book. There was mystery, intrigue, and of course those steamy scenes that have made Nora Roberts a bestselling author.  


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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