Monday, April 30, 2018

(32)The Husband Hour by Jamie Brenner

Nobody was that surprised when Lauren Adelman married her high school sweetheart, Rory Kincaid.  They were the "It" couple.  And nobody was surprised when Rory went on to play professional hockey.    People were surprised when Rory left his lucrative hockey career and enlisted in the army, including Lauren.  People, including Lauren, were absolutely shocked when Rory is killed in the Middle East, leaving Lauren a widow.  After the initial shock wears off, Lauren retreats to her family's beach house where she spends the next four years running from the memories of her husband, both literally and figuratively.  It is summer again and Lauren's parents, sister, and nephew show up to spend their summer at the beach, with the hopes of running from their own problems.  It has been four years since Rory's death and a documentary filmmaker shows up in town looking to make a documentary about Rory Kincaid and Matt Brio needs Lauren's help to make the film.  He needs Lauren to bare her soul to the camera and the world in order to make the documentary and Lauren is far from ready to do so.  And when she learns that her sister has been keeping a secret, it forces Lauren to realize the truth about her husband and her marriage.   Will she ever be able to put the past to rest?

While The Husband  Hour is set at a beach, it is far from a fluffy kind of beach read.  The Husband Hour covers hard-hitting (and relevant) topics like CTE and spousal abuse.  Lauren is obviously a woman still grieving, or that is how it appears.  She has isolated herself at the beach and works as a waitress at a little diner.   The thought of somebody digging into her relationship with Rory terrifies her like nothing else could. She loves the solitude that the beach house provides and she has learned to tolerate her parents and sister on summer weekends, but this year they will be there for the entire summer.  It becomes obvious that both Lauren's sister and her parents are working out their own "stuff".  Lauren I liked, her sister was hard to stomach, for several reasons.  I get that sisters need to get over whatever issues they may have, but wow. I think Lauren is a better woman than me. - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS

Bottom Line - While The Husband Hour may not be a fluffy beach read, it is a book that you should throw in your beach bag when you hit the water this summer.   You will quickly become engrossed in the lives of Lauren and her family.


Sunday, April 29, 2018

(31)Sunbaked by Junie Coffey

When thirty-six-year-old Nina Spark found out that her husband was cheating on her she did something a bit extreme.  After a night of too much wine, she buys a beach house sight unseen.  Before she knows it, she has quit her job working for a university, she leaves a wintery New York City and heads for the small Caribbean Island of Pineapple Cay. The idyllic little village of Coconut Cove is perfect with white beaches, warm sky blue ocean, and quirky characters.    Nina quickly finds herself at home in her little yellow cottage by the ocean and finds herself welcomed with opened arms.  Pansy is her real estate agent-turned best friend.  She is a Canadian transplant who is thrilled to be raising her children in the sand, rather than the snow.  Danish is the local jack-of-all-trades.  Originally from Colorado, Danish is the mailman, bartender, and yoga instructor.  Ted, the handsome fishing guide, who also happens to be Nina's neighbor.  And then there is Barry Bassett.  A wealthy developer who was furious that Nina got to the little yellow cottage before he could. He has big plans for Pineapple Cay and they involve the prime beachfront property that is home to Nina's little yellow cottage.   When Barry's wife goes missing along with an important artifact from the local museum Nina and her friends turn into amateur sleuths.  Will they be able to get to the bottom of Barry's missing wife and the missing necklace?

I am definitely in beach mode.  It is very unlikely that I will lay eyes on a beach this summer, but I firmly believe that "beach" is more of a state of mind than a location.   Sunbaked was a cheap read that showed up in Bookbub, I think it was, I really don't remember how I heard about it.  But I totally and completely enjoyed it!  I would say that Sunbaked is a cross between a beach read and a cozy mystery.  And it is totally a book that I could see coming to a Hallmark Channel near you. Nina Spark is just trying to find herself after watching her marriage fall apart and instead she finds a wonderful little community who quickly become friends and family.  Yeah, some of the plot may seem a little cliche, but the witty writing and truly fun characters make it totally forgivable.  The end is absolutely non-surprising, but the way Nina, Danish, and Pansy handle it is absolutely hysterical. - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS. 

Bottom Line - I was a little surprised by how much I liked Sunbaked.   Take the stunning descriptions of the Caribbean scenery, throw in fun and interesting characters, and then mix in a little bit of mystery and you have an absolutely delightful beach read that will take you to the beach mentally, if not physically.


Sunday, April 22, 2018

(30)After Anna by Lisa Scottoline

Noah and Maggie have only been married for a few years when Maggie's estranged teenage daughter calls out of the blue  and wants to see her.  Not having a relationship with her daughter has caused Maggie a lot of heartache over the years since she has been better, but now her ex is dead and Anna has been left alone.   Her husband Noah has graciously shared his son with Maggie, but even cute little Caleb does not fill the hole in Maggie's heart.  After that out-of-the-blue call, Maggie makes a trip to her daughter's boarding school and ended up bringing her home.  But, that is the trouble really starts.    Anna starts to accuse Noah of inappropriate behavior and Maggie doesn't know who to believe.  Her husband or her daughter.  When Anna turns up dead her whole world is shattered.  Could her husband really be capable of murder? 

After Anna is a hard-hitting mystery that is told from the viewpoints of both Maggie and Noah.  The timeline jumps around which comes in the form of "Before" and "After".  (Hint: that is where the title originates)  Maggie and Noah seem to have a really solid relationship before Anna enters the picture.  It is understandable that Maggie would jump at any chance to have Anna back in her life, but inviting her to live with them without talking to Noah is kind of a big deal in my opinion.  That is when things really start to go bad.   Because we get Noah's view on things before they happen (while on trial) it is very easy to get a clouded opinion of Anna, too.  He thinks so little of Anna that my own opinion of her is quite poor and then I question my motives for disliking her.  What *if* the twist was that Noah really did misbehave with Anna?  What *if* Noah really did kill Anna.  --CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS

Bottom  Line - Lisa Scottoline has not written a single word that I have not liked.  Her writing is smart and the topics are relevant and even somewhat hard hitting.  After Anna covers both of her genres, legal and mystery in a fast-paced novel that you won't be able to put down.


Monday, April 16, 2018

(29)Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

It has been ten years since Laurel Mack's fifteen-year-old daughter, Ellie, went missing.  It has been seven years since she and her husband divorced.  The years since have been empty, lonely, and uneventful for Laurel. With no leads on where her daughter might be.   Her job is uneventful and she cleans her other daughter's apartment, not just for the extra money, but for a way to stay connected.  One day meets a guy in a cafe.  He is smart and funny and interesting.  And much to her surprise, he is interested in Laurel.  His attention gives Laurel a new lease on life and his nine-year-old daughter, Poppy,  gives her a renewed sense of purpose.  The fact that Poppy is the spitting image of her missing daughter at that age is a fact that Laurel tries to forget.  But Poppy has the same intelligence that Ellie displayed almost since birth. That can't just be a coincidence, right?  A mother will never forget her child and the closer she gets to Floyd and Poppy the more she recognizes Ellie in the little girl.  Did Ellie really run away from home?  Why does this little girl look just like her missing daughter?

Then She Was Gone was such a creepy book! There was just something about Floyd that gave me the creeps from the very first time that Laurel met him.  I just couldn't figure out how it all fell together. Until Laurel met Floyd she just seemed so lost - so lonely. She had been grieving Ellie all these years and it was like the rest of the world stopped for her grief. Meeting Floyd and Poppy bright light to her dark world.   Poppy's mother seemed like a complete nutter according to Floyd and when Laurel realized that she knew Poppy's mother I was just waiting for the lightbulb to come on.   I admit that I was shocked by the brutality of the way things ended.  For everybody, but it wrapped things up rather nicely.  -- CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS

Bottom Line - Then She Was Gone was such an intense read!   From the very first page, I was hooked and did not want to stop reading.  I was so invested in Laurel's story and what was going to happen to her and her family.  I promise that you will be just as invested as I was in this book!


Sunday, April 15, 2018

(28)This is Me by Chrissy Metz

I was late to the This is Us party, but when I binged season one last summer I went through a box of tissue and I was hooked. Chrissy Metz plays the flawed, but loveable Kate Pearson. A woman who has had weight issues her entire life.  It was easy to relate to Kate and her issues. It was also easy to fall in love with the actress who plays Kate Pearson.

In her new book, This is Me; Loving the Person You Are Today Chrissy Metz shares bits of wisdom that have helped her get through life so far.  From the wisdom she learned while working at a pre-school to advice on how to deal with "trolls" who constantly trash your appearance. Chrissy walks us through her early days with an emotional and verbally abusive stepfather, her cross-country trip from Florida to California.  Her marriage and divorce from a man that she still considers a friend. Oh and then there was the time she went to Oprah's for lunch.  Oprah.   And then she gets to the good stuff, her audition for the hottest show on television and her co-stars on the show.  She doesn't give any juicy details, but what she does share reinforces the world's belief that the cast of This is Us are perfect. Like Milo carries a handkerchief to give to whoever onset may be crying - and there are often tears.  She mentions the text chain that the whole "family" is a part of and the conversation with Sterling K. Brown leading up to Emmy nominations.

Bottom Line - In This is Me Chrissy Metz proves that she is beautiful both inside and out.  She is funny and smart and has an incredible outlook on life.   This is Me is not just a book to read yourself, but it is a book that is meant to be shared with the young women in your life.

  • This is Me by Chrissy Metz
  • On Twitter
  • Pages: 320
  • Publisher: HarperCollins
  • Publication Date: 3/27/2018
  • Buy it Here!

Friday, April 13, 2018

(27)The Good Liar by Catherine McKenzie

October 10th was the day that forever changed the life of Cecily Grayson.  October 10th at 10:00 AM in the morning was the day that the building blew up in Chicago.  October 10th was the day that her husband and her best friend, Kate, died in the explosion. October 10th was the day that her life was spared because she was running late.  October 10th was the day that Cecily became famous when a photographer made Cecily the face of a national tragedy.   A year has gone by since October 10th hand Cecily is slowly putting her life back together.  She is participating in a documentary about that day and those who perished that day.  Included in the documentary is a woman who says that she is the daughter that Kate gave up for adoption so long ago.    One thing Cecily knows for certain is that there are a lot of secrets surrounding that day that could destroy everything if they go out.  Secrets that leave her feeling guilty and could leave her children permanently scarred.     Will the truth about what really happened that day ever be revealed? 

The Good Liar was so good! It is so common for society to get caught up in the personal stories of a tragedy.  Whether it be a mass shooting or some other tragedy we get caught up in the stories of the survivors.  We become personally invested in their stories and their lives.  The Good Liar explores that premise with such great insight.   Cecily was a sympathetic character from the very first page.  She played the part of grieving widow so well that it was easy to see why the photographer (and the nation) latched on to her grief.   She carried a lot of guilt and I liked how the author had her in therapy.   It was real.  As was her relationship with her kids in the aftermath.   Her efforts to keep the kids from finding out the truth were certainly noticed.  I was a little icked out by Franny's relationship with Joshua, it was just a weird little twist. There are so many different layers to this story, so many different threads to this elaborate web of deceit.   As each thread is unraveled the reader becomes more and more invested in the story.  Leading me to finish the last half of the book in one gulp - I just could not put it down.  - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS

Bottom Line - The Good Liar is not just a book about secrets.  It is a book that looks at survival after a tragedy and what some women will do to keep their secrets intact.


Thursday, April 5, 2018

(26)Switch by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

Change is hard.   In the book Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath explore a theory that compares looks at change as if it were an elephant and it's rider.   The rider is the rational side of a decision.  The rider is planning the path.  The elephant is the emotional side of a decision and often time emotion outweighs logic when it comes to certain decisions.  The elephant in this metaphor clearly represents the side often in control.  The authors then use several different anecdotes to illustrate their point of what happens when the elephant and the rider work together to make change happen,  If you have read many of these kinds of business books, many of the stories will be familiar.  A new story that really caught my attention was that of an elementary school in Tennessee that hired a new principal without giving her all of the details, specifically test scores.  Which turned out to be among the worst in the state.  After observing some processes, or lack of, the principal implemented several processes that brought the focus of not only the students but the faculty back to education.

There several different scenarios like that, as well as examples of the way to "Clear the Path" for change.  They discussed the psychology involved with tackling big things, like mountains of debt and a dirty house.  The examples given were the Dave Ramsey debt snowball and the Fly-Lady's quick cleaning challenges. Both great examples.   It was easy to translate some of these things into my daily activities at work and the tracking system we use to get the "small wins."  The author refers to several other books that I have read, making it seem like Switch was more of an anthology, then a stand-alone book.  The elephant/rider metaphor was used to tie everything together.

Bottom Line - Often times when reading business books you get the feeling that it is a book you have read before.  In the case of Switch, you may have read some of the anecdotes before, but the metaphor that ties it all together is unique and does an excellent job of illustrating just how hard change can be at times.   A fun book to read as part of a group as there is a lot of ways to apply it to your industry and can generate some great conversation among your colleagues.


Monday, April 2, 2018

(25)A Nantucket Wedding by Nancy Thayer

Felicity and Jane are meeting their mother on Nantucket to help plan her wedding.  After losing her second husband, Allison never thought that she would find love again, but then she met David.  David, a wealthy businessman never thought that we would find love again after his wife died and then he met Allison. The two of them are excited for their children to meet and start to merge into one family.  Felicity and Jane are both at crossroads in their marriages and are looking forward to the family time on the island.  David's son, Ethan is a bit of a playboy and has his eye on Jane.  And David's daughter, Polly, is in line to take over her father's business.  She is tough and brash and a little bit afraid that her father's new marriage will jeopardize everything she has worked for her entire career.   The two families don't have much in common, but they all are excited to be spending part of their summer on the island known for the best summers on the East Coast.  Will the wedding be the thing that unites the two families or tear them apart?

It is hard for me to believe that it is already time for "Beach Reads,"  yet here it is.  And of course, nothing signals the start of beach season like a Nancy Thayer novel.   Even though the book was about Allison's wedding, the book primarily focused on Felicity and Jane.  Their relationship with each other and their marriages.   I thought both of the sisters were married to jerks, but for different reasons.  For one of the sisters, their marriage will end by the conclusion of the book. It just wasn't the sister I thought it would be.  I wasn't all that fond of David's children, either.  Ethan gave that "playboy" vibe and Polly was not exactly welcoming.  But despite my dislike of them, I could completely relate to Allison's efforts to unite them all.  Blended families are tough, but Nancy Thayer does a great job of tackling such a sensitive topic.  I really liked the way that the book ended, it was just so normal.

Bottom Line - Even though a huge chunk of the country is still dealing with winter-like weather, it *is* April and beach season is right around the corner.  Nothing kicks off beach season like a "trip" to Nantucket with one of my favorite authors.


Sunday, April 1, 2018

(24)Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser

Yellow Springs is a quiet Midwestern suburb.  The kind of place where you know your neighbors and they know you.  It was a Saturday night when the ladies of one neighborhood gathered around a fire pit.  The baby monitors were on,  the wine was free flowing, and so was the conversation.  And the next morning one of them, and their twin four-year-olds were gone.  None of them know what happened between the time they all went home and the next morning when Kristin and her kids are just - gone.   Clara was the hostess that night, as the police reveal unknown details of Kristin's life she is taken back to another fateful night.  Izzy was there, too.  The only single woman in the group and newest neighbor.  She is still reeling from the fact that her best friend(and unrequited love) married her sister.  She finds herself welcoming the advances of Kristin's left-behind husbands probably more than she should.  Natalie was also there, she welcomed the escape from the single parent life as her husband is deployed to Syria yet again.  Finally, new parents Rhoda and Randi were there, eager for a break from their infant daughter.  As the police investigate Kristin's disappearance they start to piece together a life, a marriage, that was kept from her friends.  Was Kristin a victim of domestic abuse or did she leave of her own free will?

Not That I Could Tell was such a great read!   The author mostly tells the story from the viewpoint of Izzy and Clara.  They were really two different characters in two different places in their life.  Clara is married and settled with her family. Izzy is, well she is lost after her sister got married.  She is lonely and seeking her "tribe", she is seeking her "people" and maybe doing so in all of the wrong places.  Her intense neediness was a bit annoying, yet she was a sympathetic character.   I could understand her loneliness. I could understand her desperate desire to find her "people."  I hope that our future neighborhood is one where I can sit around drinking wine with the ladies in my neighborhood.   Clara was a bit more of a likable character, she was like Moms in suburbs all over the country.  It was the part where her kids were sick and she was dealing with all that goes with three sick kids, that I knew that moms all over the country would love her.   I will say that there was a part of the ending that was so shocking to me, I thought "well done."  The other part wasn't that much of a surprise, but the combination of the two made for a great ending.  CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS

Bottom Line - I really liked the normal, everyday characters that could be found in Not That I Could Tell.  It may not be the "edge of your seat"  kind of thriller that I typically love, but the suspense was there just the same.  And that is what I love more than anything.


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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