Sunday, December 31, 2017

(108)The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine

Amber Patterson and Daphne Parrish have bonded over the fact that they both lost loved ones to Cystic Fibrosis.  Amber is the mousy little thing from Nebraska and Daphne is the glamorous wife of the uber-wealthy Jackson Parrish.  Soon the two women are inseprable and Amber becomes like a family member to Daphne, invited to holiday dinners, on vacations, and more.   Amber is envious of Daphne and her perfect life.  The money that she spends like it is water, the gorgeous husband who is so obviously devoted, and the stunning mansion are all things that Amber covets for herself.   She sets a plan into motion that will give her everything that she wants, but is she prepared for having all of her dreams come true?

Holy moly - the thing to remember as you read this heartpounding thriller is that there are two sides to every story.  The first half of the book is told from Amber's viewpoint and you watch as she inserts herself into the lives of the Parrish family.  You get to see her plot and plan to get the life that she feels that she deserves.  The second half of the book is told from Daphne's viewpoint and you realize that her life is not nearly as perfect as Amber thinks it is.  For obvious reasons Amber was a less than likable character.  But it isn't until you get to Daphne's story that you realize just how good The Last Mrs. Parrish is.  -- CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS  I was absolutely thrilled with the way the book ended, but I was sad to see it end.

Bottom line - The Last Mrs. Parrish was an absolutely brilliant way to end the 2017 year in reading.  The book was full of intrigue and suspense and had a very gothic feel to it.  What better way to spend your New Year's Eve.  Go read it now!


Thursday, December 28, 2017

(107)Now That You Mention It by Kristan Higgins

Dr. Nora Stuart has not had a good year.  She was hit by, of all things,  a bug truck and woke up to find her boyfriend flirting with a colleague over her hospital bed.  But none of that touches the Big Scary Even that happened last year when Nora was attacked in her home. She decides to leave Boston and heal both her body and her heart on the Maine island where she grew up.  She arrives home to find her teenage niece living with her mother since her sister was in jail out west.  Moving back in with her frosty New England mother is exactly what she expected, horrible.  Being back home has stirred up all sorts of memories from her childhood.  Her father, who went MIA, her less-than-affectionate mother, the scholarship that she fought for and won, but left her a pariah at school. The thing about small towns is that nobody forgets anything.  Especially the Fletcher brothers, whose lives were changed when Nora won the scholarship.  Will Nora be able to heal and find peace in the community she once called home?

I absolutely adore Kristan Higgins.  Her novels are smart and funny and wildly entertaining.  I love the character of Nora Stuart from almost the very first word, but even I could tell that she was a fish out of water in her hometown.    She did have one friend from high school that welcomed her back and I loved to watch their friendship blossom.  Her with Poe was also fun to watch, Nora really is a great aunt.   Then there is her relationship with Sullivan Fletcher.  There is one scene, involving her mom's parakeet that had me laughing out loud. Mostly because of Sullivan's reaction to the whole thing.   AND, there is Nora's obsession with Harry Potter I absolutely loved that as I am listening to the Harry Potter series via Audible right now.  It seemed appropriate. In the end, things worked out exactly like I expected (even with a few revelations) and I was okay with that.

Bottom Line -  Kristan Higgins is a familiar author and her books make for comfortable reading.  Even though the formula is the same, the characters are developed and interesting and it is easy to fall in love with all of them.   Now That You Mention It is exactly the kind of book that you want to read during Christmas vacation.


Monday, December 25, 2017

(106)Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

The year is 1914 and England has just entered The Great War.  Evelyn (Evie) Elliott has remained behind while her brother, Will, and his best friend, Tom enter the service as officers.  Last Christmas in Paris tells the story of Evie, her brother, and Tom through letters sent during World War I.  The letters start as light and practically frivolous as they all thought that the war would be over quickly and the three of them would be able to celebrate Christmas in Paris.  The days drag on into months and years as the war continues to ravage Europe.  Evie struggles to find ways to do her part to support war efforts.  First, she serves as a postmistress and helps to deliver correspondence to families all over London.  Then she starts to anonymously write articles about the war from a woman's perspective.   As the war rages on the impact it has on Evie, Will, and Tom is enormous and permanent.  When Evie decides to join the front lines in an auxiliary position she jeopardizes not only her life but her relationships.  War is never easy, but will Evie escape unscathed?

I really, really enjoyed Last Christmas in Paris. I loved the epistolary nature of this book, however, the book starts out in 1968 with Tom heading to Paris for Christmas and you get to hear from 1968 Tom in between the letters from each year from 1914 to 1918.   Letters are such an intimate form of communication and you watch the friendship between Tom and Evie blossom into something more.   You also get to see the horrors of a war from the perspective of the two officers leading men into battle and sometimes to death.   Also, this book was the first time I had ever seen the topic of PTSD be addressed in a historical fiction novel.  They don't come out and give it that name, but  Tom was definitely suffering from PTSD and rightfully so.   As the book, and the war draws to a conclusion you can't help but be terrified that something tragic was going to happen to Evie.  -CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS

Bottom Line- Last Christmas in Paris is one of those stories that is going to tug at your heartstrings no matter what time of year you read it, although it is definitely a Christmas story and one that will get you in the holiday spirit.


Sunday, December 24, 2017

(105)The Breakdown by B.A. Paris

Cass was really shaken up to find out that there was a woman murdered on the same dark, deserted road that she chose to take home after drinks with her friends. She wasn't supposed to be on that road as she promised her husband to avoid it because it was so unsafe.  She is even more shaken to discover that the woman murdered was an acquaintance of hers and she actually saw her car on the road where she was murdered.   Cass goes from shaken to unstable in a pretty quick fashion.  She is starting to forget even the most minor details. Like where she parked the car, why she ordered a stroller when she doesn't even have a baby and plans she made with her best friend.    Cass is afraid that the Early Onset Dementia that killed her mother has shown up in her and that almost terrifies her more than the phone calls where there is nobody on the other end and the feeling that things are out of place in her home.  Cass is struggling to hold on to what sanity she has left, but then she discovers something that changes everything.  Will Cass be able to figure out who killed her friend before she slips into the abyss of dementia?

The Breakdown is another psychological thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat.  Cass and Matthew are a nice enough couple.  Matthew seems to genuinely care for and worry about his wife. He seemed a little controlling, but they were newlyweds, so I shrugged it off to silly newlywed behaviors.   I hated how demure Cass was at times, how she let Matthew control her almost every thought and action.  The more things started to go south with Cass, mentally,  the more I just knew that there was more to this story. Something just started to feel hinky.  I was right and had figured out *most* of the plot, but I had one little detail wrong. - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS  I was thrilled with the way the book ended, it made it all worth it.

Bottom Line - B. A. Paris hit the psychological thriller scene last year with quite a bang.  Behind Closed Doors was one of my favorite books of the year and I was eager to read the follow-up. While I didn't like The Breakdown as much as her first book, it was still the kind of book that a fan of thrillers should not miss!

  • The Breakdown by B.A. Paris
  • On Twitter
  • Pages: 336
  • Publisher:  St. Martin's Press
  • Publication Date: 7/18/2017
  • Buy it Here! 

Friday, December 22, 2017

(104)Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter is back for his third year at Hogwarts.  After spending a couple of weeks at a lodge on Diagon Alley he joins Hermione and Ron back at Hogwarts.  But this year everybody is on edge, the dangerous killer, Sirius Black, has escaped from Azkaban, the wizard prison, and all are afraid that he will be coming after Harry.  All of the Hogwarts teachers are determined to keep Harry safe and much to his dismay they are going to such extremes to keep him. Thankfully Fred and George Weasley slipped Harry a map that will help him sneak out of the castle and into Hogsmeade with his friends.  But sneaking back in may cause some problems, especially when Sirius is spotted on the grounds.   Will Sirius ever be caught and will Harry ever be safe again?

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was the first book that felt like we learned more about Harry's parents.   Harry didn't even know that he had a Godfather and then he discovered that his father's best friend was the escapee from the wizardry prison. I loved everything about the Marauder's Map - including the authors.  I can't wait to see what that looks like in the movies.  I also want to see how Harry's stay in Diagon Alley is portrayed in the movie.  I really liked the end and how once again Harry, Hermione, and Ron save the day.  And once again I loved how Dumbledore takes Harry's side in the neverending battle with Snape. And of course, there is this year's teacher of the Defense Against the Dark Arts class.  Professor Lupine was a fun character and gave more insight into Harry's parents.   I loved the way the book ended, but I don't think that we have seen the last of Sirius Black.

Botton Line - So far I think that Prisoner of Azkaban is my favorite book of the series.  I loved everything about it from start to finish.


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

(103)Winter Solstice by Elin Hilderbrand

The Quinn family is back in the fourth and final installment of the Winter Street series.   Bart Quinn is home from his harrowing experience in Afghanistan and is trying to adjust to life back on Nantucket.  Ava is settling into life in the city with her boyfriend, Potter.  And Patrick is settling back into life with his family after his time served.  Everything seems to be back on track for the Quinn children, except all of them are struggling with the news that their father is dying of cancer.  The upcoming holidays should be joyous with Bart being safe at home, except the thought of future holidays without Kelly overshadows everything.   Will the Quinn family be able to truly celebrate Christmas ever again?

I think that I forgot to blog last year's Winter Street book, but I know that I read it!  As a devoted fan of the Quinn family, this year's installment was bittersweet. I was thrilled that Bart was home safely.  Jennifer was getting her life together and Ava had moved on.  However, Kelly's cancer was heartbreaking.  There were also several familiar faces from Hilderbrand's 2015 Summer novel, The Rumor.   Grace Panick, her husband Eddie, and their daughter Allegra all have big roles in Winter Solstice.  Especially since Allegra and Bart start dating.   The author did a great job of wrapping up all of the lingering storylines and even though I struggled with being happy with all of them.  - Click here for spoilers.

Bottom line - I have spent four holiday seasons with the Quinn family.  It has been a great four years and I have enjoyed visiting Elin Hilderbrand's Nantucket during the winter.   The Quinn family have been a nice addition to my holiday traditions and I will miss them!


Monday, December 11, 2017

(102)Roomies by Christina Lauren

Holland Bakker doesn't really have much to look forward to in her life.  However, she has a bit of a crush on the cute busker in the subway.  She goes out of her way to find him on the subway just to see him and listen to his music.  His music and his good looks have charmed Holland without even speaking a word to her.  Her job working for the hottest Broadway show, which her Uncle happens to be the musical director for, is in need of some fresh blood.  When Holland recommends to her uncle that the young musician fills a vacancy they discover that he has long overstayed his student visa.  Holland goes to the next level and suggests that Calvin McLoughlin marries her.  Their marriage starts out as one of convenience, but soon Holland realizes that Calvin is more than just a "roomie" to her.  Does he feel the same? Will his new found fame change the way their "marriage" works?

There was a time in my life where I would have devoured Roomies in one sitting.  However, it took a while for me to get into this book, but once I did, I couldn't put it down.  Calvin is a young, hot Irish man.  If you have been visiting this blog a while, you know my fondness for Irish Chick Lit. Holland is an Iowa girl (woot) who followed her uncle and his husband to New York City.  I found Holland to be a bit annoying at times, mostly because of her fear of confrontation.  Instead of having those tough conversations, she avoided them for far too long.  Conversations with Calvin and her "friend" (I use that term loosely) Lulu.  In the end, she had those conversations and things worked out just right for Holland and I was happy for her.   She was a character that I *wanted* to see happy.

Bottom Line - Even though I didn't devour Roomies in one sitting like 28-year-old me would have done, 42-year-old me did enjoy the book and found both Holland and Calvin to be charming characters with a fun story.


Sunday, December 10, 2017

(101)Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K Rowling

In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, we find Harry counting down the days to when he can leave the Dursleys and return for his second year at Hogwarts.  The only thing keeping the Dursleys in check is their fear of Harry's magic, but when Dobby the house elf shows up things go south quickly.  He warns Harry that returning to Hogwarts could prove to be deadly, but Harry is not going to let anything hold him back from going back to school.  When Harry returns to school strange things start to happen and students are attacked.  Could it be the ghost that haunts the girl's bathroom?  Or the Whatever it is, Harry, Hermoine, and Ron are desperate to find the culprit and keep the students in Hogwarts safe. 

I am really starting to enjoy the books that readers have been raving about for more than a decade.  The creative descriptions have been painting these images in my mind that make me eager to watch the movies.  The flying cars.  The photographs that move. Harry and Ron transform into the lackeys of Draco Malfoy.  The book was so descriptive that I hope the movie lives up to that standard.   I was surprised at how quickly it seemed the book seemed to go.  I was at the end before I realized it and immediately started on the next book.

Bottom line - I know that I am really late to join the wizardry world of Harry Potter, but I am really glad that I finally got on board with what my friends have been telling me for years!


Sunday, December 3, 2017

(100)Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine.  She is thirty years old, has worked in the same office for years, and has weekly conversations with her Mummy.  She is also socially awkward, vodka is her only friend, and very rarely leaves her flat except for work.  She says what is on her mind and does not know how to be anything but honest, no matter the consequence.  One day Eleanor needs help with her work computer and Raymond from IT comes to fix it for her.   Raymond is a bumbling, unkempt kind of fellow who is amused by Eleanor and not offended by her quirky nature.   When the two misfits save the life of an elderly man they are bonded in a way that neither of them expects.  Soon they are meeting for lunch and attending events together.  Their uncomplicated relationship helps Eleanor to realize that the life she has been living is no life at all.

Eleanor Oliphant is going to remind you of Sheldon Cooper.  They both have that quirky manner that keeps them from being able to have any kind of subterfuge.  Eleanor Oliphant is abrubt, quirky, fastidious, and absolutely wonderful.  But one thing Eleanor is not is fine.  Not at first anyway, but she is getting there.  The difference between Eleanor and Sheldon is that Eleanor had a pretty horrific childhood and has been scarred, but literally and figuratively.    It isn't until she starts to come out of her shell with Raymond that she realizes the way she has been living is not normal.  Her life has been pretty solitary with just her books and her vodka to keep her company and when she starts to interact with Raymond you desperately want their relationship to develop to more.  Eleanor is an incredibly sympathetic character, even with her sometimes cringe-worthy commentary, you can't help but root for her happiness.   Everything comes to a head and forces Eleanor to confront her demons.  The big "question" doesn't ever really get resolved, but you get the sense it is heading in the right direction.  And I was okay with that.

Bottom Line - Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine is one of those books that everybody has been talking about and with good reason.  Eleanor's growth and transformation is one that will stick with you long after you turn the last page.

  • Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
  • On Twitter
  • Pages: 336
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication Date: 5/9/2017
  • 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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