Monday, December 10, 2018

(84)Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris


It has been more than ten years since the day that Layla disappeared from Finn's car at a service station while they were on vacation. Finn's life hasn't been the same.  Not a day goes by that he doesn't think about her.  And his role in Layla's disappearance.  He didn't tell the police everything and he knows that he screwed up. Big time. But he has moved on, he is now engaged to Ellen, Layla's sister.   They bonded over their grief and were lucky to find happiness with each other.  But now they are on the verge of getting married and things are happening to make them think that Layla is back.  An elderly neighbor saw her in their old neighborhood.  And then the Russian nesting dolls show up.  An "inside" story that only they would know about.  Next Finn gets an email. Layla is back, but she has conditions.   She wants Finn to get rid of her sister.  Why comes next is a psychological mind game for which Finn is unprepared.  Will he be able to welcome Layla back without blowing up the life he has built with Ellen?

Bring Me Back is a fast-paced psychological thriller. About one man and two sisters.  From the beginning, Finn seems like a good guy. He was genuinely upset by Layla's disappearance and he kept their home untouched after Layla's disappearance. By his own admission, he lied to the police the day that Layla disappeared and he reveals why he lied bit by bit. Which made me trust him less.   He also was desperate to keep Ellen from knowing about Layla's emails. I wasn't sure if it was because he wanted to protect Ellen, Layla, or himself.  All three of them seemed a little unhinged to me and I don't think that I was very wrong.  - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS -- I had figured out the "twist" pretty early on - well mostly.  I just wasn't sure of the details.  The ending was a bit explosive as a lot of truths were revealed and dots were connected.  I was satisfied with the author's conclusion, even if it seemed a bit farfetched.

Bottom Line - Even though I had guessed the big twist, I was still captivated by Bring Me Back. The story of Finn, Layla, and Ellen starts off slow and builds to a crescendo that will leave you on the edge of your seat.

Details: 
  • Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris
  • On Twitter
  • Pages: 304
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication Date: 6/19/2018
  • Buy it Here!



Tuesday, December 4, 2018

(83)The Adults by Caroline Hulse


Two couples and one little girl head to the Happy Forest Holiday Park with one goal in mind, give Scarlet a picture-perfect Christmas.   Matt and Claire have been split up for a few years now and they both have new partners.  Even though Matt has Alex and Claire has Patrick, there is still a lot of resentment and bitterness between the two couples.  A lot of history.  A lot of things left unsaid. And a seven-year-old little girl with a sassy imaginary friend and an intense desire to see her parents get back together.  But "The Adults" make an effort to let it all go. They make an effort to bury the hatchet and get through the weekend.  But when you have adults forced to be together in close quarters, throw in some competitive activities, add in alcohol, and you have the makings of an explosive situation.  And that is where the book starts.  With one of them shot and the rest of them telling their stories to the authorities.

The Adults is the anti-Hallmark Christmas story. And I loved every page of it.   The book is about four flawed characters and a little girl being raised by imperfect parents.  Patrick and Matt were the most difficult to like.  Patrick was a narcissistic ass and Matt was an irresponsible free-spirit.  Even though they can't stand each other, it is indisputable that Matt and Claire have a history. Their shared history sometimes left Claire and Patrick feeling left out and on the outside looking in, which also made me feel a little bad for them.  More for Claire than Patrick.  His intense assholiness made it tough to feel bad for him.   The book is kind of a mystery because you are unsure of who did the shooting on the archery range.  But I think the ending was just a little bit of a cop-out. - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS  As much as I enjoyed this book, I must warn you, there is a lot of rough languages.  Which is just another reason why I loved it.  You wouldn't see that kind of language in a Hallmark movie.

Bottom Line - I don't think there has been a more perfect cover of a book this year.  Under the best of circumstances, the holidays can be like a powderkeg with a short fuse.  The Adults is an entertaining look at the way one modern family handles the pressure.

 Details: 



  • The Adults by Caroline Hulse
  • On Twitter
  • Pages: 368
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing
  • Publication Date: 11/27/2018
  • Buy it Here!

Saturday, December 1, 2018

(82)The Noel Stranger by Richard Paul Evans


Maggie Walter was not expecting her world to fall apart right before the holidays.  But the morning she received a phone call from a reporter asking about her husband's arrest Maggie's world fell apart.  Her husband, Clive, was a successful politician in Salt Lake City when he was arrested for bigamy.  He has a whole other family in Colorado.  Maggie is devastated and goes into hiding.  After coffee with her best friend, Maggie decides to get a Christmas tree, where she meets Andrew.  There is something about Andrew that immediately puts Maggie at ease.  She feels safe and protected with him. He makes her forget all about her deceitful husband. So much so, that when Andrew asks her to go away with him to Cabo, she goes without a second thought.   The trip is romantically perfect and everything she could ever imagine.  But then she finds something that leads her to believe that Andrew has not been honest with her about some very important things.  What else has he been lying to her about?

Richard Paul Evans is an author who has become synonymous with Christmas literature.  I have really enjoyed his books in the past, but this time I found myself rolling my eyes.  A lot.  Two major things, Maggie went away to Cabo with Andrew after only knowing him a week or so.  Seriously.   AND when they went, Andrew asked Maggie if she wanted him to hold onto her passport for "safekeeping,"  AND SHE LET HIM.  Girl, don't be stupid.  And frankly, that kind of fiction is reckless.  No woman should EVER travel to a foreign country with a man she just met and then let him KEEP her passport. UGH.   Everything turned out okay, of course, because it is FICTION.  #girlsdontbestupid.  Like I said, I generally enjoy his Christmas novels, but this one didn't give me the warm fuzzies, instead, it made my finely tuned creeper-radar to go off.

Bottom line- I would avoid The Noel Stranger and maybe seek out another novel from Richard Paul Evans' backlist.  One that doesn't come with a future #MeToo story.

Details:


Friday, November 30, 2018

(81)Becoming by Michelle Obama


I am not a very political person.  I generally only discuss politics with my husband, because I know that we share the same views.  Which oddly enough, in nine years of marriage we both changed our political leanings from one side to the other.



Politics aside, I love reading about the inner workings of the White House.  It is a topic that I just can't pass up.  I have been looking forward to Becoming for quite some time, because of all of our recent First Ladies, Michelle Obama seems the most relatable.  Her fondness for Chipotle and Target makes her someone that I think would be fun to have in your inner circle.



Michelle Obama tells us her story.  From her normal childhood on the south side of Chicago to her years at Princeton and her days as a young lawyer. Then she meets a young lawyer with big dreams.   Soon they are on the path to changing history.  Michelle goes into detail what it was like on the campaign trail while trying to manage a career and a home with two young daughters.



And then they get to the White House.  From the early days of working out the logistics of moving a family across the country to raising two girls in the most recognizable home in the world. I didn't realize that the family paid for everything except staffing in the White House.  Groceries and clothes were paid for out of their own pocket.  What I also loved was her admission to watching HGTV in comfy clothes while trying to escape the madness of her world.  She would sneak out to Target and the staff would get her the latest issues of her favorite magazines.



Bottom Line -  I don't use the word "intimate" very often when describing memoirs, but Becoming did feel intimate.  Michelle Obama opens up about her life, her career, her marriage, and her time in the White House.   No matter what side of the political fence you stand, Becoming is an interesting and engaging read.



Details:
Becoming by Michelle Obama
On Twitter
Pages: 448
Publisher: Crown Publishing
Publication Date: 11/13/18
Buy it Here!

Sunday, November 25, 2018

(80)Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty


Nine Perfect Strangers gather at an exclusive health resort for ten days of restoration, rejuvenation, and in some cases, redemption.  Tranquillum House is the very picture of perfect, set in a remote, yet tranquil area outside of the city.    Frances Welty arrives hoping to gain some clarity to what steps she should take next. Her career is in shambles and her love life is worse.   Carmel is there to lose weight. Plain and simple.  Lars is there for a bit of rest and relaxation.  Tony is there to change his life. Ben and Jessica Chandler are there to try to save their marriage if they are honest about it.  And then there is the Marconi family.  Heather, Napoleon, and Zoe are there for an anniversary they all wish would go away.  They are all intrigued by the less than conventional methods used by the director, Masha.  The long periods of silence, the fasting, the daily smoothies that are infused with more than just fruits and vegetables.  But they all realize that there is more to Tranquillum House than meets the eye and there is a very strong possibility that they will not survive the full ten days.

Nine Perfect Strangers was one of the most anticipated books of the year.  And sadly it did not live up to the hype.  The characters are all stereotypes.  Even Masha, the director of Tranquillum House,  fit a stereotype of a strong Russian woman. Of all the characters, I think that Tony was my favorite.  He was the one trying to go against his stereotype in a few different ways. The worst was Jessica Chandler, she was painted almost like a cartoon in my mind.  Everything about that woman was fake, including her voice.  Things got interesting after the great silence when Masha revealed the ingredients of their smoothies and went downhill from there.  - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS -  I heard that Nicole Kidman bought the rights to the book and was going to develop Nine Perfect Strangers into a television series. And I am really excited to see what she does with the characters and the story.  With enough time to flesh out the characters, I think my opinion could change.


Bottom Line - The premise of  Nine Perfect Strangers was a good one, but the characters needed a lot more work than they were going to get at a ten-day health retreat.  I didn't give up on it because I wanted to see what happened in the end, but it was definitely not her best work.

Details:



Wednesday, November 21, 2018

(79)Under My Skin by Lisa Unger


It has been a year since Poppy's husband, Jack, was brutally murdered and she is still barely holding it together.  In the days after his murder Poppy spiraled down a hole of grief and basically into a psychotic break She disappeared for a week and to this day she still doesn't remember anything from those days.   And Jack's murder is still unsolved.  A year later Poppy's grief is not quite as debilitating now as it was then, but it still haunts her both awake and asleep. Her sleep is haunted by vivid dreams from before and after Jack's death.  Her family and best friend feel helpless watching Poppy slip away into prescribed medication and the dreams plaguing her sleep. They are trying to protect her from those memories, whatever they may be.  With the help of a guy, she met on the internet Poppy starts to piece those missing days together and as she weens herself off of the drugs she starts to remember.  And realizes that she is closer to the truth than she realizes.

Under My Skin was an intense psychological thriller centered around a grieving woman.  Grief can be such an intensely private emotion that many just do not understand.  Poppy's grief, even a year later, was palpable.  I loved how Poppy's friend, Layla, looked after her. I loved how they were more family than friends.  Poppy fit in with Layla's family like a cherished auntie.  I was just as skeptical of Noah as Layla was, there was just something about him that triggered my spidey senses.  The whole book was fast-paced, but it seemed like the ending was upon us before I knew it. - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS

Bottom Line - Lisa Unger is such a great author.  She knows how to weave a tale that takes the reader on a wild, mind-bending ride.   Set aside sometime when you start Under My Skin, you will want to devour it in one sitting.

Details: 



Monday, November 12, 2018

(78)I'll Be There For You by Kelsey Miller



I graduated high school in 1993.  In 1994 I was introduced to Ross, Rachel, Monica, Joey, Chandler, and Phoebe. After that, I was glued to my television for "Must See TV" on Thursday nights. Every Thursday night for the next ten years I would find myself hanging out at the Central Perk with my new "Friends" and millions of other people.

I'll Be There For You is a look at the hit show that still resonates with viewers nearly twenty-five years after it first aired.  From the selection of actors to shooting the pilot and shooting the iconic open credits, the inside tidbits make it all worth the read.   From the real and lasting friendships that developed on set to the "Friends" finding out about their success while taping an episode of Oprah, it was a quick and fascinating read.

I also like how the author devoted an entire chapter to the aftermath of 9/11.  For a beloved television show set in New York City, the tragic event that shaped our nation needed to be handled very carefully.  They kept things light but acknowledged the event in subtle ways.  Like having the "Friends" wear FDNY t-shirts and the images on the magnadoodle.

Bottom Line - Friends is one of those shows that I find myself constantly referencing at the strangest times.  Like the other night, I flipped my brother off ala Ross and Monica.  My favorite is to reference my favorite episode when Joey put the scary book in the freezer.  Bonus points to anybody who knows what two books Joey and Rachel were reading. (Little Women and The Shining) It is the kind of show that when I am flipping channels, I will always stop.   If you love Friends as much as I did (do), then you will definitely enjoy I'll Be There For You!

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Sunday, November 11, 2018

(77)The Other Woman by Sandie Jones


Emily has met the man of her dreams. Adam is everything that she has ever wanted in a man. He is perfect for her in so many ways.  And then she meets his mother, Pammie.  Pammie is overbearing and protective of her son.  She is critical of everything Emily does, says, and wears.  Of course, Adam doesn't see it, she is his mother, after all. Despite Pammie's best efforts, Adam and Emily's relationship is flourishing and Adam proposes on his birthday, but the night does not get a pass from Pammie's hysterics.  Then the night before their wedding, Pammie declares that she has cancer, forcing Adam to postpone the wedding.   Emily is devastated and not sure they can ever get past the disappointment, no matter how much Adam professes his love.  Then Emily discovers she is pregnant.  Will Emily and Adam get the "happy ever after" that they both claim to want?

I must say that I think that Emily is a freaking saint for putting up with everything she did from both Adam and his mother.  Almost immediately flags were waving for me and they were bright red.  It is hard for the reader to keep turning pages because you just want to shake Emily and tell her to run, but you also want to see what is going to happen.  You cannot put the book down because you just have to see if Adam finally tells his mother off.  Or if Emily will finally get fed up and walk away.   The end was so shocking to me, it was the kind of twist that you just don't see coming.  -CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS

Bottom Line -- I absolutely love the kind of thriller that can surprise me in the end.  The Other Woman was one of the rare books that left me speechless.  I can easily see why Reese Witherspoon chose it for her online book club.

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Sunday, November 4, 2018

(76)In Her Bones by Kate Moretti


For the last fifteen years Edie Beckett has been living in the shadow of her mother, the notorious Lilith Wade. You see, Lilith Wade is a serial killer and is on death row for her crimes.  Edie is finally starting to put her life back together, she has a good job and a friend who could be a boyfriend. But she has a secret.  She is obsessed with the "remainders", those her victims left behind.  The husbands, the children, the friends of those she killed.  A recent tell-all book has brought it all to the surface again. There is one guy, in particular, Peter Lipski.  His wife's murder never really fit Lilith's MO, but she was convicted of her death.  One night Edie hooks up with Peter Lipski. He was found dead the next morning and the police believe Edie killed him.  Edie was drunk, but she doesn't believe that she has it in her to kill anybody, no matter who her mother is.  The thing is that the police won't believe her and Edie knows that she has to find the real killer before the police find her. Will she be able to prove her innocence and find out who killed Peter?

In Her Bones is a very fast paced thriller that covers a topic rarely covered in fiction - women serial killers.  But Kate Moretti takes it even one step further and introduces the family of a female serial killer.  How did Edie and her brother Dylan and her father not know that Lilith was a killer?  I really liked Edie.  She was obviously permanently damaged by her mother, but she was still trying to survive.  The author throws a lot of "red herrings" at the reader, but really the reader needs to go with their initial guess on who actually killed Peter.   It was my gut reaction, even though the author tried to throw me off, but I was right.  - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS -   I really loved the end, though.  The much later epilogue where Edie runs into Brandt at the coffee shop.  It felt - right.

Bottom Line - I read so many thrillers and mysteries that it is rare for an author to give me a new "spin" on things.  In Her Bones is definitely a fresh look at what happens after a serial killer is caught.  Even though I had figured out the "whodunit" fairly early, I kept second-guessing myself and was eager to get to the end. Which are the best stories to read!

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Saturday, November 3, 2018

(75)Class Mom by Laurie Gelman


Being "Class Mom" is not for the faint at heart. Jen Dixon isn't entirely sure how she got the role of "Class Mom" for her youngest, Max, but here she is.  She also has two kids in college and is older than all of the other parents, yet here she is in a role that she never wanted.  In her role she has to support a Kindergarten teacher who is less conventional, she has to deal with a helicopter mother who coddles her child and believes that they can do no wrong, she has to beg and plead parents to help with all of the class field trips, parties, and then there is picture day. Oh, and there is also the single dad who Jen has had a crush on since high school.   Flirting with him is just as fun now as it was then, even though Jen is happily married.  Will Jen (and her marriage) survive being the "Class Mom?"

Class Mom was a fun and easy read.   And what I really loved was the Kansas City setting.  I was shocked to read that the author lives in NYC and has no apparent ties to Kansas City, yet she got so many things right.  Like Minsky's, a popular pizza chain in KC.  A few local names had subtle changes but were still recognizable.   I really liked Jen Dixon.  She is the kind of woman that I could see having as a friend. She has led an interesting, if not wild life, and settling down in the suburbs of Kansas City probably was never one of her dreams, but here she is.    She is obviously older and "wiser" than the parents of her son's classmates, but she still wants to make sure that her son's Kindergarten experience is a good one.  I loved the witty emails that she would send out to the other parents, even though they often times got her in trouble.   I didn't really like the direction her friendship with the single dad took, but it didn't stop me from liking her.    In the end, Max made it out of kindergarten and things worked out for Jen.

Bottom Line - Class Mom is one of those fun books that is never going to win awards, but it is going to be wildly  successful because so many people can relate to being the "Class Mom." With a uniquely witty style,   Laurie Gelman has nailed what life is like in the suburbs for the "Class Mom." This is a must read if you are looking for something to make you laugh.

Details: 



  • Class Mom by Laurie Gelman
  • On Instagram
  • Pages: 304
  • Publisher: Henry, Holt, and Company
  • Publication Date: 8/1/2017
  • Buy it Here!

Sunday, October 28, 2018

(74)The Witch Elm by Tana French


Toby is a good guy who has everything going for him.  He has a good job in PR, has an amazing girlfriend, and is just enjoying life.  That all changes the night he wakes up to find to burglars in his flat.  Not only do they rob him, but they beat him nearly to death.  They don't know who did it and the doctors say that he may never fully recover.  Some of his memories could be gone forever.  Toby and his girlfriend, Melissa, escape the city to Toby's family home, where they care for Toby's dying uncle and host weekly family dinners.   It was at one of those dinners when a child playing in the garden discovered a skull at the base of the tree.  The police believe that the body is that of a classmate of Toby's.  He doesn't believe that he was the one who killed Dominic.  But he doesn't remember and as the evidence is stacking up against him, how can he prove his innocence?

Tana French is just a genius when it comes to writing a mystery.  First of all, she is Irish, that alone is a reason for me to love her.  But in The Witch Elm she has written a mystery that will leave you guessing.   Toby was such an interesting character, especially after his beating, his personality definitely changed.  I loved his ancient family home that has been in his family for generations.  The family was also unique and eccentric. Susanna and Leon, Toby's cousins, had a shared history with him, the difference was they could remember their history, and Toby's memory was spotty at best. Their shared history is critical to this story.  But so is harassment and how far one will be pushed before breaking.  As the police investigate the body found in the tree,  the reader starts to believe it could only be one way, but the truth, when revealed, is a little bit shocking.  But not nearly as shocking as what happens in the end.  -- CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS

Bottom Line - A lot of people were disappointed that The Witch Elm was not part of the Dublin Murder Squad series, but not me. I loved this stand-alone novel.  I loved that we were immersed with Toby and his family, not the police.   As far as I am concerned it should not be missed if you love a good mystery like I do.

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Sunday, October 21, 2018

(73)This is How it Always Is by Laurie Frankel


Claude is the youngest of Penn and Rosie's five children. With five older brothers, Claude could be many things, but he is kind, loving, funny, and intelligent.  And Claude prefers to wear dresses.  At five years old, Claude doesn't understand why can't wear a dress to school. but his parents say that he can't.  He just knows that he would rather wear dresses than pants, he would rather do crafts than play video games, he would rather be a princess than a prince.   He would rather be called Poppy than Claude. When a tragedy strikes the community Rosie realizes that Poppy will not be safe in Wisconsin.  She packs up the whole family to move to Seattle, a region known for their tolerance.  From their first day in Seattle, they were known as the family with four boys and a daughter. Poppy was Poppy.  She had sleepovers with her best friends, she took dance lessons and wore dresses. While Poppy lived a happy and joyous childhood Penn and Rosie lived in fear of their secret being revealed. What would happen to their fragile little girl *if* her secret was revealed? What will happen to their daughter *when* the secret is revealed.

This Is How It Always Is is an excellent book about many things.  Love, tolerance, secrets, acceptance, sacrifice and more.   I really, really, liked this book.  Rosie and Penn are great parents, they love their kids and all of their quirks.   And with five kids, there are bound to be a lot of quirks.  They aren't perfect parents, but when their instincts tell them to move their family across the country, that is what they do.  The thing is they made it too easy for Poppy to be Poppy, so when the secret is revealed, she didn't know how to handle it.  It is only natural that a parent would want to protect her from the pain and emotional trauma that so many trans people experience, and for the most part, they are successful at shielding her, until they aren't. I know that there are a lot of people out there who will believe that Penn and Rosie did it TO Poppy, but hopefully, they will read this book and realize that they didn't do anything to Poppy other than love her and allow her to be herself.   I really loved how the author explored this topic from a loving and accepting place.  And I *love* how Reese Witherspoon selected it for her book club, because that exposed this book, this topic, to an audience that may not have picked up this book. And may have never read a book about this topic.

Bottom Line - I truly believe that lack of tolerance for those different stems from a lack of understanding more than anything else.   In her book, This Is How It Is, Laurie Frankel explores a topic that is often a polarizing one.  I hope that it can generate a lot of conversation in book clubs all over the county and maybe, just maybe, change some views on the topic.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

(72) This Will Only Hurt A Little by Busy Philipps


I was one of the few people on the planet who first learned about Busy Philipps while watching Cougar Town. (Penny Can!!!)   I loved her character, Laurie Keller, and have been following her on social media ever since. 

  I was delighted to see that she had a book coming out and was thrilled to get my hands on an advanced copy.  This Will Only Hurt A Little was exactly what I had hoped for from Busy Phillips.   She starts out by telling us about her childhood and difficult teen years.  She gets brutally honest here and it only makes me like her that much more. 

She then goes on to talk about her years at college and her college boyfriend, the son of Hollywood royalty, Colin Hanks.   Even though she was from a normal suburban family in Arizona, she drops names like she was born of Hollywood royalty herself.  Of course, she discusses her famous BFF, Michelle Williams. Their friendship has been so public that women all over the world compare their friendships to that of Busy and Michelle.  She also shares with the readers the grind that is show business. From her early gigs to the shows we all love, she tells us about it all with an honesty that is fresh and entertaining.   She also gets honest about her relationships.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.  Even with her husband of more than ten years.    Her refreshing honesty and ability to connect with everybody has gained her 1.3 million followers on Instagram.

Bottom Line - I love celebrity memoirs.  I just do.  I like to find out that they are just like me.  They have laundry that piles up, they love to watch old Friends episodes, and they love to hang out with their friends.    This Will Only Hurt A Little is a fun one that I promise you will enjoy, too.

Details: 

  • This Will Only Hurt A Little by Busy Philipps
  • On Instagram
  • Pages: 320
  • Publisher: Touchstone
  • Publication Date: 10/16/2018
  • 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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