Saturday, March 31, 2018

(23)Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling


Wow.  It is over.  I finished the last book in the Harry Potter series today as I was cleaning the house.  For me, this one started out a little slow.  I kept expecting something "big" to happen and when it did I was not disappointed. However, I think the part that I loved the most was the epilogue.  The "nineteen years later" part of the book.  Where we go into the future to see Harry and his family preparing for a year at Hogwarts. It was exactly what I needed after the long battle against the "Dark Lord" and his followers.

I was reluctant to read the Harry Potter books, I am not going to lie.  I think part of that reason was that I didn't want to read what everybody else was reading.  And part of that was because I didn't want to be disappointed.   Having listened to all seven books through the captivating voice of Jim Dale it was an experience that I will never forget.   The voices he used, the inflections at just the right time.  It really made all seven books a special experience.    But also, after all of these years, I finally can partake in the conversations. I get all of the references and jokes.  After all of these years, I finally feel like I am part of an exclusive (okay, maybe not so exclusive) club.  Over the last seven books, I have found myself going to Pottermore, the Harry Potter Wiki, and even checked out The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.   Harry Potter isn't just a character in a book.  It is a way of life.
Bottom Line - It may have taken me years to get around to reading the Harry Potter series, but it was such a rewarding experience that I would encourage any other reluctant reader to give it a shot.  And if the hard-copy of the books seems too intimidating, give the audiobooks a shot.  You won't regret it.


Friday, March 30, 2018

(22)Alternate Side by Anna Quindlen

For Nora Nolan her home is her sanctuary.   She and her husband Charlie have raised their twins there since they were young and now with the twins about to graduate from college Charlie is ready to move on from their neighborhood. Their home is located on one of the fabled dead end streets in Manhattan.  In the city that never sleeps the Nolan's live in a neighborhood that has block parties and Christmas parties.  Where they all share the same handyman and gather to discuss things like parking and they meet to walk their dogs.  You know, normal neighborly things in the middle of one of the busiest cities in the world.  One day an act of violence shocks the neighborhood and divides them into two factions.  Those who think what happened was horrific and those who think it was a minor disagreement.  The event shook Nora to her core, but her husband had a different opinion.  Will this be the thing that finally tears apart their marriage?

Alternate Side is a book about husbands and wives.  Right and wrong. The haves and the have-nots. Nora Nolan is a quite normal woman, she loves her job and will stop to chat with the homeless man outside her museum. She is full of poise and self-awareness.  I quite liked her.  Charlie comes across a bit insufferable.  He is concerned with what others think more than he is concerned about his wife's feelings. I got the impression that he was disappointed with his life, specifically his career.  When "things" went down it was obvious that Nora was absolutely appalled (as she should have been) but Charlie took the side of his friend.  It was just one more thing to prove that the two of them had grown apart and had very little in common.   I was quite pleased with the ending.  When I think back, it was really the only way their story could have ended. CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS

Bottom Line - Anna Quindlen has written such a nuanced and introspective novel about everyday life.  There is so much in this book that could be book-club fodder for hours if not days, how can you not make it your next selection?


Monday, March 19, 2018

(21) The Wife by Alafair Burke

It appears as if Angela and Jason Powell have a perfect life.  They live in one of the poshest neighborhoods in Manhattan, their son goes to the poshest of private schools and Jason's career is skyrocketing to levels they never dreamt possible.  Until one day his intern walks into the police station with claims that Jason behaved inappropriately with her. Angela doesn't believe it for a second and will stand by Jason no matter what anybody says.  And then another woman comes forward to say that Jason raped her.  Even then, Angela believes what Jason tells her.  He has been so good to her, even when she let her traumatic past get in the way of their marriage. She will not leave him when he needs her the most.    As the tension-filled days go by Angela starts to wonder if there might be some truth to the accusations. And then his accuser goes missing.  Angela doesn't know what happened, but she knows that Jason was not with her, because she kicked him out of their home.   Will Angela finally be able to put her past to rest and will her marriage be able to survive these accusations?

Oooooh I love a good thriller!  Angela was such an interesting character!  The author hints at her past early on, but it takes a while for all of the details to reveal themselves.  She appears to be a good wife and mother, if not a little on edge.  But that is not surprising for a Manhattan mother.  I didn't like Jason from the very beginning, he said and did all of the right things, but there was just something about him that seemed off.   I loved their thirteen-year-old, Spencer.  He was wise behind his years and seemed to see his father for what he was.    You also get into the head of Detective Duncan who was investigating the allegations against Jason.  She seemed like a sharp cookie.   Overall I really enjoyed the different layers to this story, there was so much more than just accusations of misconduct.  CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS

Bottom Line - Alafair Burke certainly knows how to craft a story with so many twists and turns.  The Wife is a book that is meant to be read in one sitting.  You will be unable to put it down!  I promise!


(20)Every Note Played by Lisa Genova

In the three years since their divorce Karina and Richard have had very little to do with each other.  Karina remained in their suburban Boston home with their daughter, Grace and Richard moved into a high-end brownstone in the city.  Richard continued touring the country as a world-class concert pianist and Karina made ends meet by giving piano lessons out of her living room.  Karina is at a neighborhood function when she hears that Richard has canceled the remainder of his tour due to an illness, ALS.   She goes to visit Richard to see for herself and finds the same insulting, demeaning man that she divorced. Another year has gone by before she sees him again. The disease has ravaged his body, rendering his arms completely useless.  Before she even knows what she is doing she offers Richard the opportunity to come home and let her care for him for whatever time remains.  Will this time be what it takes for the two of them to heal the wounds of the past? 

ALS is a horrific disease that has been in the news a lot this last week with the passing of the great Stephen Hawking.  Lisa Genova has made a career from writing the fictional tales of people battling the most horrific diseases.  Every Note Played is another story of another horrific disease.  Neither Karina nor Richard were perfect people, but Richard was very hard to like.  Even with his illness, he was not a very nice man.  Karina, you could at least understand why she found it so easy to blame Richard for every bad thing in her life.  The author takes turns telling the story from Richard's view and then Karina's view.   However, the more the disease progressed the less we saw of Karina's side of things. And that is what made Every Note Played so difficult to read.  Every muscle that stopped working, every bodily function that started to fail him, every labored breath made it tough to read.  The realities of what a person goes through when they battle ALS is tough to read, but it is also to turn away.  There is no happy ending in a story about ALS.   But, it did end with both Richard and Karina getting the freedom they both desperately wanted.

Bottom Line - When a disease ravages a person it wreaks havoc on the whole family. Every Note Played is a novel that examines what such a disease does to an already fractured family.  Trust me when I say that this book is going to require a full box of tissues. 


Sunday, March 18, 2018

(19)The Fight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian

Cassie Bowden loves the lifestyle that comes along with being a flight attendant.  She gets to visit the most exciting locations in the world, she gets to stay in some of the nicest hotels, and she gets to party with some of the hottest men alive.  As an alcoholic, the lifestyle is perfect for her.  She lands, gets a few hours of sleep and then finds the local bars and the local men to entertain her for the evening.  When she wakes up next to a dead man in Dubai, Cassie's world suddenly becomes something out of a spy novel.  She doesn't believe that she killed Alex Solokov, but she was blackout drunk the night before, as she is many nights.  Cassie does the only thing she can think of doing, she gets out of there and on her flight home before the body is ever discovered.  That is when the lying starts.  She lies to her friends, she lies to her family, she lies to her union representative, she lies to the FBI, and she lies to her lawyer.  Only Cassie knows the truth, she was not the only other person in that hotel room that night, but how can she convince the police that she is innocent when she is not entirely convinced herself?

I don't know that a flawed character has ever been written as well as Cassie Bowden.  She is a hot mess, there is no other way to say it.   With her addictions to men (she sleeps with at least four different men in the book) and alcohol, there is only one way that this is going to end - badly.  Even in her hungover state, she had the presence to clear all evidence of herself from Alex's hotel room.  Well, at least she thought she did.   The book is told from different viewpoints, though.  That of Cassie and the viewpoint of the Russian assassin who was with Alex and Cassie that night.  It makes for an interesting look at the different perspectives.  You can sense the paranoia and fear building in both of them, but for very different reasons.   I was a little surprised at the way things ended, especially the big revelation about Cassie's flight attendant friend.  -- CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS   Oh and I loooove that this East Coast author paid homage to my favorite baseball team.  Cassie's brother-in-law wore a faded Royals t-shirt to the zoo! :)

Bottom Line - From an author like Chris Bohjalian you may expect The Flight Attendant to read a like a subdued spy novel, but the reality is that The Flight Attendant is as fast-paced as the most popular spy novels and with much better character development making it a truly unforgettable read.


Sunday, March 11, 2018

(18)The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth

Pleasant Court is just like any other suburb. The family's all have practice to get to, car pool to drive, dinners to cook, and husbands to appease.   Essie and her husband, Ben are getting used to having a second child.  Polly is still just an infant, but Polly is determined to not make the same mistakes she did with their first child, Mia.  Thankfully, her mother, Barbara, is close by to help.

Ang and her husband, Lucas, appear to have the perfect marriage and the perfect life with their two boys.  But everything is not always as it appears.

Fran and Nigel also just had a baby, but Fran has been keeping a secret that could destroy her marriage.

Then there is Isabelle, she just moved to the Pleasant Court.  She doesn't have a husband or children, but she assimilates quite nicely because of her love of children.  But even Isabelle has a secret that will rock the neighborhood and especially, The Family Next Door.

The Family Next Door is the kind of story that could have been written about your own neighborhood.  The characters are so familiar, they help each other out when needed and they even gossip about the same kinds of things that you gossip about with your friends.  Even their secrets are familiar.  Well, some of them.  All of the characters had elements that were easy to relate to and other parts of them were so foreign it was a bit shocking. I think Essie was my favorite and I loved the way that Ben was completely devoted to her.  No matter what.  I also think that her frustrations with the baby's lack of sleep schedule was a very real emotion and that mothers all across the world can relate.  CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS  I really did like The Family Next Door.  It was an easy read and I was finished with it before I even realized it.

Bottom Line - The Family Next Door is the kind of read that deserves to be shared with your friends.  Get a few copies, a baby-sitter, and bottle of wine.  You deserve a good book, good wine, and good discussion with your friends.


Friday, March 9, 2018

(17)Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

:(  Dumbledore

While I have never read the Harry Potter series before now I certainly had heard spoilers over the years.  This is not the kind of spoiler that can be avoided  and I get that.   However, when it happened I felt nothing short of disbelief.  And heartbreak.


Monday, March 5, 2018

(16)I'll Be Your Blue Sky by Marisa De Los Santos

Clare Hobbes goes into her wedding weekend with serious doubts and jitters about her pending nuptials to Zach. But it wasn't until the morning of her wedding that she comes across an elderly woman, Edith, in the garden of their hotel.  Their brief conversation gave Clare the insight and courage she needed to do what she should have done a long time ago.  She called off the wedding.  After calling off the wedding Clare is left feeling a bit unsettled, even though she has moved back with her family.  She is trying to figure out what her next steps will be when she receives notice that the kind Edith has passed away and has left Clare an incredible gift, Blue Sky House, a beach house on the coast of Delaware.   The gift turns out to be so much more than a house.  Blue Sky House is a unique testament to Edith's love story with her late husband, Joseph. And it just reinforces Clare's decision to call off the wedding. In her early days at Blue Sky House Clare discovers that there is more to Edith's story than she thought and Edith has left her just enough information to send Clare and her oldest friend, Dev, on a hunt to find out the real history of Blue Sky House.   And in the process, she may just learn a little bit about herself and what happiness looks like in her life.

I really, really enjoyed I'll Be Your Blue Sky. Clare seems like the kind of person that I would welcome into my life.  She is kind, part of a big and loud family, and she is a reader.  She even talks about having to hide her current read from Zach because he always wanted to read what she was reading and she hated that because sometimes the books you read are personal and just not something you want to share.  With anybody.  I loooved that!  It was proof that Clare (and her author) get what some books mean to readers.  Zach was a big giant douche trying to hide the fact that he is a douche, but all it took was a few slips in his carefully crafted facade to cause Clare to question whether Zach was really going to be the right one for her.  The author alternates the story between Clare's story and Edith's story and there is a surprising way that they are connected.   CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS At the end Clare (and the reader) realize that while her life may not have turned out as she had expected, but she was going to be just fine.

Bottom Line - I'll Be Your Blue Sky is an incredible story about the resiliency of two special women and the special house that connected them more than fifty years apart.


  • I'll Be Your Blue Sky by Marisa de Los Santos
  • On Facebook
  • Pages:320
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publisher
  • Publication Date: 3/6/18
  • Buy it Here!

Sunday, March 4, 2018

(15)The Hush by John Hart

It has been ten years since we first met Johnny Merrimon and his best friend, Jack Cross, in The Last Child.   A lot has changed in the years since Johnny wouldn't let his sister's disappearance go unsolved.  Jack has become a lawyer, his mother has married Detective Clyde Hunt and Johnny is living on the 6,000 acres left for him in Hush Arbor.  Over the last ten years, Johnny has gained a reputation for being a loner who doesn't take too kindly to strangers being on his land.  Including the local billionaire, William Boyd.  Boyd is desperate to get his hands on The Hush at any costs.  Including funding a lawsuit that may cost Johnny his land, the basis of which goes back more than a hundred years.  But when Boyd is killed during an illegal hunting expedition on his land, Johnny is the prime suspect.  As the truth starts to come to light it is obvious that there is something much more sinister and Johnny's nightmares may be the key to solving not only Boyd's murder but all of the unusual events that have been happening in The Hush for more than a century.

I have been a huge fan of John Hart's for years and was eager to read his latest.  I was a little surprised at the supernatural elements in The Hush.  It goes all the way back to when Johnny's ancestors were slave owners.  And one particular slave, Aina, who had unexplained powers.  Johnny's great-great-grandfather was desperate to save his wife's life and was willing to make a deal to do just that.  A key part of the story is that a descendant of Aina's, eighteen-year-old Cree, was having the same kind of nightmares as Johnny.  Their connection was definitely supernatural and their hatred and distrust of each other went back more than a hundred years, but it was hard for both of them to understand why.   One of the things that I did like about The Hush was continued and strengthened friendship of Johnny and Jack.   It was the only pure thing about this book.  Don't get me wrong, I liked The Hush, I really did.  But it was hard to follow and I still don't feel like Boyd's death and the death of others in The Hush was ever fully explained. - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS   Both Johnny and Cree tell of the of their dreams, causing the book to jump around in the timeline.

Bottom Line - John Hart has done a great job of creating a mystical world that requires his readers to suspend disbelief and just open your imagination to the possibilities of a force greater than you.  Once you get a few chapters into it, The Hush is one of those books that you won't be able to stop reading!


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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