Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Sunday, August 20, 2017

(71)Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier



"Last night I dreamed I went to Manderley again." is one of the most famous first lines in the history of literature. The book starts with the second Mrs. de Winter speaking of her dream, of her longing for the place she once, briefly, called home.  Mrs. de Winter then continues on to explain how she met her future husband and how she came to be the mistress of one of the most coveted manors on the Cornish coasts.  But the second Mrs. de Winter was a woman of simple means before marrying Maxim, she is overwhelmed by the grandeur of Manderley.  All of the servants speak of Rebecca with such reverence that it makes it hard for the second Mrs. de Winter to adjust.  It is Rebecca's favorite meals that they prepare, Rebecca's favorite flowers that they cut.  The head of the house, Mrs. Danvers, has made it very clear that they do not want her there.  When the second Mrs. de Winter makes a serious mistake she fears that her marriage is in jeopardy and her time at Manderley is over.  But before she is sent from Manderley something happens that changes everything.  Will the secrets of Manderley ever be revealed?

I think that I officially have a new favorite book.  I was captivated by Daphne Du Maurier's words from the very first line.  I absolutely adored the second Mrs. de Winter from the first we meet her.  She was kind and quiet and quite naive when she married Maxim.  At first, I thought that Max de Winter was a giant jackass.  But he seemed to be a completely different man once the secrets started spilling.  And then there was Manderley.  I immediately fell in love with Manderley.  The library, the morning room, the rose garden, all of it. Mrs. Danvers and Frank Crawley were as much a part of Manderley as the furniture.   It was so descriptive and so  - perfect.  That I immediately wanted to visit Manderley.   It made the end of the book that much more tragic - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERSUltimately Rebecca was one of the most well written romantic thrillers I have ever read.  The characters are rich, the story is intricate, and the many twists are jaw-dropping and well ahead of their time.


Bottom Line - As much as I love a good thriller I cannot believe that it took me this long to read one of the best thrillers ever written.   I can see myself rereading this one many times and I  have already ordered the Alfred Hitchcock classic and can't wait to see the book translated to screen.  If you have not read it - I encourage you to move it to the top of your pile. You will not regret it.

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Friday, August 18, 2017

(70)Fitness Junkie by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza


It was a day like any other day when Janey Sweet meets her best friend and business partner, Beau, for breakfast at one of New York's trendiest restaurants.  She is shocked when Beau tells Janey that she needs to lose weight if she wants to continue working for their wedding dress business.  He is giving her six months to lose thirty pounds.   The betrayal hurts Janey more than her divorce did.  Beau has been her best friend since they were eight years old.  Janey calls on her best girlfriend from college, CJ, to be her guide in this crazy world that surrounds weight loss.  From topless yoga to crazy drink concoctions and a trip to a crazy-expensive wellness retreat in St. Lucia, Janey explores every option available to her to get the weight off and get back to work.  Along her way, Janey meets some great people, like Stella the Shaman who introduces her to an exclusive workout club.  And the incredibly hot, incredibly young, owner of a juice shop.  While Janey was forced to take the time off to lose the weight she ends up focusing on other areas of her life that have long been neglected.  What Janey realizes is that her relationship with Beau has been broken for a very long time.  Will they be able to get past this and does Janey even really want to?

While Fitness Junkie is meant to be satirical there is a lot of hard-hitting (and hysterical) truths found within the book's pages. I really liked Janey.  She seemed more down to earth than your average high-powered CEO.  She was genuinely blindsided by Beau at that breakfast.  I totally get it - negative comments about a person's weight is never a good feeling no matter how much you weigh.   There were so many things that I laughed at because I could relate - Beau gives Janey a "FitWand" as a gift the day after their breakfast and I just had to laugh.  I admittedly am devoted to my FitBit -but  I think that I would have to ditch my FitBit if it ever started talking out loud.   Everything that Janey did was a bit exaggerated, but I know that there are some people out there who take fitness to extremes. Like the fad diet of eating CLAY?  Or the special ingredient in a super-secret herbal tea? (Click here for spoilers).  I was really pleased with the way the book ended.  Janey got the ending that she deserved and I am glad that the authors did right by her.

Bottom Line - Fitness Junkie was a fun and entertaining read.  Even though I have been working hard to lose weight this year I haven't gone to the extremes that are mentioned throughout the book. There is no secret to losing weight, all you have to do is eat less and move more.  Really.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Monday, August 14, 2017

(69)How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry



Emilia Nightengale is shattered when her beloved father passes away after a brief illness.   She is left with an established bookshop, employees that are like family, and a small village that loves to read.  There is Jackson, the young father who comes into the shop under the guise of picking out a book to read to his son.  There is Sarah, the local Lady of the Manor, who had much more than a fondness for books that kept her regularly visiting the shop.  There is Bea, the new mother who is desperate to return to her pre-baby life.  There is Marlowe, a member of her father's quartet. Although he has a girlfriend, Emilia can't help but feel a connection to him.  All of these people make Emilia feel loved and provide comfort in the days after her father's death.  Especially when she discovered that the shop was in grave danger of failing.  Even though she has no inclination to sell the bookshop to the real estate developer who hounded her father before his death, Emilia doesn't know how she is going to get the shop out of debt and turning a profit.

How to Find Love in a Bookshop was an absolutely enchanting novel.  The characters are rich and diverse and easy to absolutely adore.  Emilia quickly became one one of those characters that a reader wants to see with a happy ending.  She loved to read just as much as her father but was more realistic about the business side of things.  However, the bookstore manager in me kept saying "YOU ARE OVERSTAFFED!!!" In my mind, I was coming up with all of these ideas for Emilia to drive business, but in the end, an overflowed bathtub really forced her hand.   All of the village folks had their own stories and all of them had some sort of connection to the bookshop.  In the end, they all found the happiness they sought, but not the happiness they were first seeking.  It really made for an engrossing read from start to finish.

Bottom line - How to Find Love in a Bookshop was an absolutely delightful ode to booksellers and book lovers everywhere.  With familiar book titles littering the pages, any book lover is sure to fall in love with this novel just like I did!

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Friday, August 11, 2017

(68)The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter


It has been nearly thirty years since the night the world fell apart for sisters Charlotte and Samantha Quinn. Their father had made a lot of enemies as a defense attorney in Pikeville Georgia.  Little did any of them know that retaliation was going to come in such a swift and brutal manner.   Rusty Quinn wasn't even home when the two masked intruders entered the house and destroyed their lives.

Now it is nearly thirty years later and Charlotte's world is crumbling all over again.  She and her husband have separated after nearly twenty years of marriage, she has a one night stand and accidentally swaps phones with the guy.  When she stops by the middle school where he teaches to get her phone back Charlie gets caught up in a school shooting. Instead of running to safety, Charlie runs towards the gunfire.  A teen girl has fired shots, killing the principal and a student. Of course - her father decides that he wants to defend the accused, he even believes that he has found a unicorn - an innocent defendant.   The whole shooting forces Charlie to face some things that she would have been perfectly happy to leave buried in the past.  Like her estranged husband and the events of that dark day nearly thirty years ago.  But the question still remains - did Kelly Wilson really pull the trigger in that school?

The Good Daughter quickly sucked me in.  The story starts out in the past with Charlie, her sister Sam, and their mother as that dreadful night gets started.  The details are tough and gritty and definitely not something that everyone can read.   When the story jumps to the present I immediately liked Charlie.  She was tough and seemed like the kind of woman who did not put up with bullshit - from anybody.  But really she was a broken and battered woman - even after decades.  I really liked her husband, Ben.  And that surprised me - usually in this kind of story - the husband is a douche and easy to hate.  Not Ben, even though they were separated, he loved his wife and was there to take care of her when she needed him the most.  There is a lot going on in this book - it seemed like the end came upon me quite suddenly. In fact, I wondered how the author was going to wrap it up with just a few pages left.  I know that I should never question the great Karin Slaughter, but the end did seem rushed.  -- Click Here For Spoilers

Bottom line - While I have been a Karin Slaughter devotee for years, I know that her graphic descriptions and gritty storylines are not for everyone.   The Good Daughter has to be one of the more graphic novels she has written, but the character development and complex relationships really made me glad that I read the book.  If you take the risk to read it, you won't regret it, but don't say that I didn't warn you!

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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Sunday, August 6, 2017

(67)The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid


Monique Grant's life is practically in shambles when Hollywood Starlet, Evelyn Hugo, requests that Monique be the one that interviews her for an article.  Monique and her husband have recently separated and her career has stalled.   She is thrilled for the opportunity to interview an icon, but she doesn't understand why Evelyn Hugo would choose her.   She soon realizes that Evelyn Hugo doesn't just want Monique to do an interview - she wants Monique to write a tell-all book.  Evelyn Hugo is giving her story to Monique.  As the days unfold Evelyn reveals her deepest secrets.  From her early days married to an abusive Oscar winner, to her secret love affair with a costar that spanned decades.  And her best friend, Harry Cameron, has been there for Evelyn through it all.  Monique hangs on to her every word.  Not because it is just Evelyn Hugo, but because her story is a fascinating one.  But she still doesn't know why Evelyn chose her to tell her story.   Evelyn has one more secret to reveal - the reason why she chose Monique to tell her story.  That one secret will change Monique's life forever.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was an absolutely stunning novel.  Taylor Jenkins Reid captures the glamour of old Hollywood in a manner that truly transports the reader to a different time and place.  Evelyn Hugo was the kind of character that commanded the full attention of anyone she encountered - and that included the reader.  Her character had elements of Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor, she was that kind of stratospheric star.    I was so captivated by Evelyn's story that it was hard for me to put the book down. I couldn't wait to see what she would do next -  I thought that she was such an interesting character who had conflicting motivations.  I found my heart breaking for her more than once as her world crumbled around her on multiple occasions.   Monique was more of a down-to-earth character - one who was struggling to find success in her career and her own relationships.  Once the "big secret" was revealed she had her own conflicting emotions to deal with - especially in regards to her relationship with Evelyn.  In the end Evelyn controlled the story, right up to the very end.  -CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS -

Bottom line - The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo has been getting a lot of buzz this summer and now I understand why all the buzz.  The characters will capture your attention on page one and not let go until long after you finish the last page.

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Saturday, August 5, 2017

(66)The Secrets She Keeps by Michael Robotham


Agatha and Meghan are two pregnant women who are due about the same time and that is where their commonalities end.  Meghan and her husband lead a very privileged life with their two children.  Jack is a sportscaster and Meghan runs a successful "Mommy Blog."  Agatha has not led an easy life and is working at a grocery store when she meets Meghan.  She is enamored with Meghan and her seemingly perfect life.  She covets Meghan's marriage and her handsome husband and perfect kids. She reads Meghan's blog  with a devotion that borders on obsessive.   What Agatha doesn't know is that Meghan's life is far from perfect, in fact Meghan's life is dangerously close to falling apart.  Meghan is friendly with Agatha and supportive when she discovers that they are due around the same time.   She thinks nothing of it when Agatha shows up at her prenatal yoga classes.  Little does she know that her brief interactions with Agatha is going to have a lasting impact on her life.

The Secrets She Keeps was an incredibly tense thriller.  There is very little that I can say about the story that won't give away the secrets of the book.  But I can say this - neither Meghan nor Agatha are perfect women.  But they are both after the same thing - love and happiness.   The story is narrated from the viewpoint of both women.  One chapter is Agatha and the next chapter is Meghan.  They both are very compelling women with very compelling stories - which makes it very hard for the reader as the book progresses.  You are unsure of who to label the "bad guy" because the label fits so many of the characters.  There is not any gore or violence in The Secrets She Keeps, so don't let that deter you.  It is purely a psychological thriller that gets inside of your head.   I don't want to give anything away, but -CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS! 

Bottom line - Michael Robotham is a master when it comes to crafting a thriller.  In The Secrets She Keeps he has created a world where the lines between right and wrong are very blurred.  A definite must read for those who love a good thriller.

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Tuesday, August 1, 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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