Sunday, July 30, 2017

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


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

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

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

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

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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

(64)Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown


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

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

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

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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Monday, July 24, 2017

(63)Hello. Sunshine by Laura Dave


Sunshine Mackenzie is a very popular online culinary star who just signed a deal with the Food Network and has a cookbook in the works when her world implodes on her birthday.  Her social media is hacked and the hacker first calls her a fraud and then discloses that Sunshine had an affair with her producer.  What can Sunshine say because it is all true?   In just a few short hours she loses everything.  Her career, her future, and her husband.  The only thing she has left to do is go home.  Not the fabricated farm she told everybody she was from, but Montauk where she grew up with a very eccentric father and an older sister that catered to his every whim.  Now her father is gone and Sunshine does not expect her sister to welcome her with open arms, but that is okay.  Because she has a plan for how to get her life back and her plan starts with the hottest restaurant in the Hamptons.   Will Sunshine find success with her plan or will she forever be relegated to trash duty for other famous chefs?

Sunshine Mackenzie has a problem.  Her own ego. She is a very difficult character to like.  The backstory is that Sunshine was working as a bartender when a producer from the Food Network "discovered" her.  They fabricated this "farmer's daughter" story together and the rest is history. When things went down Sunshine didn't really apologize to anybody for her lies - she had more of a victim mentality and that is one of the reasons why I struggled to like her. Sunshine and her sister had an interesting relationship, too. Dysfunctional at best, there was so much history between them, but when Sunshine needed her the most she was there for her.  Sunshine really had a fondness for her niece, which was sweet.   Sunshine was utterly destroyed when she found out who was the hacker, but that is when she started to turn - that is when she finally started to become someone that I could like. The author did an amazing job of transforming Sunshine from beast to beauty.  - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS -   In the end, Sunshine got her fresh start, but not in a way that I had expected.


Bottom line - If you are a reader that really loves to see a character go through a reformation of sorts, then Hello Sunshine is definitely for you and Sunshine Mackenzie is a character that you can get behind.  Also, a fun read for the foodies out there!

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Saturday, July 22, 2017

(62)I Need a Lifeguard Everywhere but the Pool by Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella



It is that time of year!  Time for the mother-daughter writing duo of Lisa Scottoline and her daughter, Francesca Serritella, to release their new collection of essays.     They take turns with their stories, one essay is Lisa's and the next will be Francesca's.   In this year's offering, they cover topics like the election, dating, livestock, and more.

The humor is sometimes subtle and sometimes laugh-out-loud:
"You haven't lived until you've duct-taped a diaper on a dog."  
I found myself laughing out loud.  The visual that sentence created was so entertaining.   Lisa also talks about her somewhat solitary life as an author, her animals, her discovery of Netflix, and more.   Francesca talks about her fondness for Gilbert and Sullivan, bikini shopping, shopping under the influence, and more.  


As someone who has been reading Lisa Scottoline's mysteries and thrillers for years it is nice to see this "human" side of her.  The self-deprecating humor is appreciated, especially from a master like her.  Her insights a fun and humorous and always spot-on.  Since I follow her on social media I was aware when she threw out the first pitch at the Phillies game, but I really enjoyed hearing more about that night in the book.    It doesn't matter which generation you belong to, you will find something to relate to in the book

Bottom line - I Need a Lifeguard Everywhere but the Pool is another collection of entertaining essays from the fantastic mother-daughter duo. Now I have to wait a whole year for their next collection, I guess I will soothe myself with a mystery or legal thriller while I wait.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Monday, July 17, 2017

(61)Final Girls by Riley Sager


It has been ten years since the night that Quinn Carpenter survived the massacre at Pine Cottage and became a "Final Girl." The press dubbed her a "Final Girl", along with Lisa, who survived a sorority house massacre and Sam, who survived a massacre at a motel.   It has been hard to move on, especially since the details of that night have escaped her memory,  but Quinn is a survivor.  She lives with her boyfriend in an NYC apartment that she bought with survivor money, she runs a successful food blog, and is doing well.  Until the day that her friend and savior, Coop, calls to tell her that Lisa has committed suicide.   Coop was the officer on duty that night she ran out of the woods covered in the blood of her friends.  It has been Coop to be by her side as she reintegrated into the world and tried to move past the events of that night.  It is Coop who makes her feel safe.   It is Coop who cautions her when Samantha Boyd, another Final Girl, shows up on Quinn's doorstep.  Quinn is hesitant to welcome her, but she is really the only person who can even understand a fraction of what she has been through.  When it is determined that Lisa was murdered Quinn's world quickly starts to spin out of control.  Will she be able to finally recover the memories of that night?  Or will someone do everything in their power to keep Quinn from remembering?

HOLY COW!  Final Girls is by far the best thriller that I have read this year.  There was more than one night that I had to close the book rather than read it alone in my dark bedroom.  It truly terrified me.   Quinn is the kind of character that appears to be strong but is really just a hot mess.  She is addicted to Xanax, has a horrible relationship with her mom, and keeps secrets from her boyfriend.  And all of that is before Sam Boyd even shows up.  The book has an "80's horror flick - where are they now?" vibe - but that is not a bad thing.  It is very fast paced - but not so fast that you can't keep up. And the author knows how to build the story so that you just cannot stop reading.   You are hanging on to every word because you, like the media in the book, are morbidly fascinated by the Final Girls.  It all builds to an explosive conclusion that will leave you absolutely shellshocked.  I had NO IDEA how this book was going to turn out, but wowzers did it have a great conclusion. --CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS

Bottom line - While Final Girls doesn't really get explicit with the gore, the graphic nature of the plot cannot be denied.  These characters survived bloody massacres.  Get past that though and you have a well written, incredibly intense thriller about a survivor just trying to live her life.   You will not be disappointed with this one if you are looking to scare yourself and get your heart rate up.

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Sunday, July 16, 2017

(60)Into the Water by Paula Hawkins


Jules Abbott is stunned when she receives news that her sister drowned in the local river, known as the Drowning Pool.  Jules and her sister, Nel, haven't been close since they were teenagers, but she doesn't believe that her sister would ever commit suicide.  In fact, she was writing a book about the women who have lost their lives to the Drowning Pool over the years, and the number is high for their little English community.  Lena, Nel's teenage daughter, believes that it was suicide, but she is still raw from her best friend dying in the Drowning Pool just days ago.  Jules doesn't know what to think, but for such a small little town, there are a lot of secrets.  The lead detective has a family history with the Drowning Pool and a connection to the Abbott family that is also a secret.  His new partner has her own secrets.  There is also a grieving mother who is determined to get to the truth no matter the cost.  But the question remains, did Nel Abbott throw herself off of the cliff into the water, or did somebody throw her to her death?


Beckford is a little English village with a lot of sorrowful history and a lot of secrets.  A lot of secrets and a lot of characters to keep up with.  Each character that is introduced has secrets and history and could be behind the deaths at the Drowning Pool.  I couldn't believe that this little community had so much going on.  As an audiobook listener, it was a lot to keep up with.  Each character had a different narrator so that helped.  Jules was a character that I could relate to more than any of the other characters.  She was always in her sister's shadow and had a trauma in her childhood that made her seem more real.  Lena was a bit of a brat, but given what she had been through, I can't blame her. Other characters that got a lot of time in the book was Louise, the mother of Lena's friend.   In the end, she and Jules realized that all they had was each other.  I was not all that surprised by the big reveal in the final pages.  I had not figured it out - but I was not that surprised. - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS

Bottom line - Into the Water is this summer's most buzzed about books.  I thought it was just - okay.  There was so much for the reader to keep track of that it was hard to really focus on the mystery.  It is definitely worthy of a read, but just be prepared to take notes to keep it all straight.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Sunday, July 9, 2017

(59)Love the Wine You'e With by Kim Gruenenfelder


Holly, Nat, and Jessie are three girlfriends who are fed up with the way their lives are going.  Nat has an amazing career but is having an affair with her married boss.  Holly is starting to feel like a washed-up actress who can't catch a break. And Jessie's boyfriend just backed out of buying a house with her and then left for an extended business trip. They have met for drinks at a wine bar that they love but is closing because the owners got a deal that was just too good to refuse.  Maybe it is the wine talking, maybe it is the fact that they are all ready for a change, but they talk about opening their own wine bar.  It doesn't take long for the talk to become a reality. Along with their new bar, there are new men that come into their lives.  An incredibly hot wine vendor, an old college friend, and a producer that once saw Holly at her worst.  The three friends have decisions to make about their romantic futures.  Will they take a chance on someone new or will they "Love the Wine You're With?"

Love the Wine You're With was a fun book to read. All three women are incredibly likable even when they make really dumb mistakes (like dating their married boss). I loved that they just went for it and opened the wine bar, even though none of them really had any experience. It was something they wanted to do - so they did it.   I also like all three of the "new" men in their lives.  They were willing to take on the friends flaws and all.  I think Joe, the producer, was my favorite, though.  He was so good to Holly that it was easy to cheer for him.  Things worked out the way they were supposed to and they all got their "happy ever after" in one way or another.

Bottom line - Love the Wine You're With is a fun, entertaining book that demands to be read with a glass of your favorite wine.  So pour your glass, kick back, and relax!

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Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Sunday, July 2, 2017

(58)Kingdom of Happiness by Aimee Groth


My boss has been a huge advocate of Tony Hsieh and Zappos ever since he read the book Delivering Happiness.  As a team we try to read a book every quarter and discuss what we read, this quarter my boss decided that he wanted us all to The Kingdom of Happiness, thinking it would be about Tony and the inner workings of his team and their  "tribe."  -- Well it was, but not in the way that any of us expected. And to be fair, it was me that brought the book to his attention.

Aimee Groth's first encounter with Tony Hsieh, founder, and leader of Zappos is at the desert rave, Burning Man.  The author is completely enamored with Tony when she first meets him and his - pick your favorite word here - tribe, posse, pack, gang, disciples.  Any of those words would be appropriate.  Like many others, she is quickly charmed and inspired by the leader and his quest to change the world and create almost a Utopia-like society in downtown Las Vegas.   She gives up her life on the East Coast and moves to Las Vegas in her quest for happiness. She starts out couch-surfing then finds her way to the former hotel turned commune-like complex.

What she finds is definitely a work hard, play (or drink) harder culture. She becomes part of Tony's pack and even travels with him.  She gets insight from all sorts of people in his inner-circle and comes to realize that his enigmatic personality instills a loyalty that not many people can command.  The insight the author gains from interviews and first-hand observations leave the reader wondering how Zappos could still be so successful - and then you realize that sales have dropped and his innovative attempt at a Holocracy structure is hemorrhaging both employees and sales.  Not to mention the frightening number of suicides in Tony's world.  One thing is clear - happiness is not as easy to achieve as Tony Hsieh wants everybody to believe.

Bottom-line - The Kingdom of Happiness is an absolutely riveting look at the inner workings of Tony Hsieh's world.  I always love a good "behind the scenes" kind of book and Aimee Groth is shockingly honest in what she found when she became a part of The Kingdom of Happiness.

Details:
  • The Kingdom of Happiness by Aimee Groth
  • On Quartz
  • Page: 336
  • Publisher: Touchstone
  • Publication Date:2/21/2017
  • Buy it Here!


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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