Tuesday, May 29, 2018

(40)The Road to Jonestown by Jeff Guinn

Ever heard the phrase "Don't drink the kool-aid"?  It is a common phrase that is often said in reference to people who blindly follow someone else.  As the years' pass, the younger generations don't know where the phrase comes from, as I recently found out.   I knew that it was in reference to Jim Jones and his cult of followers that died after drinking cyanide-laced Flavor-Aid (a knock-off of Kool-Aid because the cult could not afford the real stuff).   The Road to Jonestown is exactly as it sounds, author Jeff Guinn goes back to the beginning and examines the life of Jim Jones and how he was able to lead a group of nearly a thousand people to kill themselves in the jungle of South America.

Jim Jones got his start in Indiana and from the sounds of it was always an odd little dude obsessed with religion. No, I think he was obsessed with the adoration that people thrust upon their religious leaders.   For being such an odd duck, he had very progressive views in regards to civil rights and equality. Whether it was because he truly believed in equal rights or he thought that minorities were "easy targets" I don't know.  The author alludes to several instances of inequality within his own church. The author follows Jim Jones to California, where they were seeking a sanctuary away from the promised nuclear annihilation.  It is in California where things get really weird.   Jones stopped referring to God and the bible and even praying unless there were people in attendance not from his church.  Jones turned into a sexual deviant not to mention a drug addict.  Using corporal punishment on the members of his church, rather than bring in the authorities for serious infractions.  He made his followers turn over everything from 25% of their income to their children and property.  All in the name of living a socialist lifestyle.  When Jones felt things closing in on them he led his followers to the jungles of Guyana, in the hopes of escaping scrutiny from the US authorities.   Guinn gives such a detailed account of those final days, weeks, and months in Jonestown that I was captivated.  I just couldn't stop.  In fact, I went right to my friend, Google, and was led to the actual recording of that final day. You see,  Jones always recorded his sermons and even that last day, you can listen as he encouraged his followers to their death, you can listen to it all. Warning: Explicit Content

Bottom Line - You know me, I love to read a good psychological thriller. Even though I knew with 100% certainty how The Road to Jonestown was going to end, I just couldn't stop. Jeff Guinn has written a book that can only be defined as a page-turner.   You don't want to miss it, really.

  • The Road to Jonestown by Jeff Guinn
  • On Facebook
  • Pages:544
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication Date:4/11/17
  • Buy it Here!

Monday, May 28, 2018

(39)The High Season by Judy Blundell

Every summer Ruthie Beamish and her family have to move. Ruthie's husband Mike inherited a beach house that they have painstakingly restored, but the only way they can afford to live there is by renting out the house during The High Season.  They have been doing this for years and it is never easy to leave the home they love so much and this year is no different. Except it is.  Ruthie and Mike are separated and delaying a divorce, just because of financial reasons.  Their fifteen-year-old daughter, Jem, is at that age that she is realizing just how different her artsy family is from the rest of the teens on the Northfork.  And this year, instead of weeks of different anonymous families, their home is being rented by somebody they know.  Adeline Clay is the widow of a wealthy, famous artist that Ruthie used to work for a million years ago.  But this year is also different because Mike has allegedly fallen in love with Adeline Clay and Ruthie loses her job as director for the local art gallery.  As the summer unwinds, Ruthie feels like her life is spinning out of control and lets her anger drive her actions in uncharacteristic ways. 

The High Season is the summer beach reads from the other side.  It is told from the perspective of a local woman and her family trying to make it through another summer of being forced from the home they all love. Every year a new crop of "Beach Reads" hits the market, often set in oceanside communities in beachside homes that we can only dream of visiting.  We never think about the people that actually live in those homes, in those communities.  You can sense the resentment in Ruthie for having to give up her home for the best months of the year, but she does it so she can remain living the illusion that her family has money and belongs in the community. I liked Ruthie.  Even when she lets her emotions over her job loss and Mike's new relationship get the better of her.  Everything about her seems so authentic, even her bad decisions seemed authentic.  Her relationship with Mike seemed "too good to be true" and her reaction to him dating Adeline was just about right.  There was a considerable amount of drama before the end of summer, but in the end, I think things worked out the right way. - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS -

Bottom Line -  Today is the official start of the summer season and The High Season is most definitely one that you should add to your list.   The characters are so well written and the emotions so defined that it will feel like you are right in Orient with the Beamish family.


Sunday, May 20, 2018

(38)The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll

Goal Diggers is a wildly successful reality show featuring five uber-successful women.  This year's season features veterans, Stephanie, an author of erotic novels and the first black cast member.  And Brett, the youngest at twenty-seven, and the only lesbian cast member.  Brett's older sister, Kelly, is in her first year on the show. She has been helping Brett run her empire for many years, so it only makes sense that she, and her young daughter, are included in the filming.  Kelly can't help but hope that being on the show will help her get out of Brett's shadow.  The season is set up to be full of drama.  Brett and Stephanie, once best friends are now bitter enemies.  Kelly and Brett have a tumultuous relationship going back to their childhood with a mother that played favorites.  And Brett is engaged to a woman who is successful in her own right.   The explosive dynamics between the five women are sure to be a ratings goldmine.  But what will happen to the future of the show when the season spirals out of control and into murder?

Millions of people tune in every week to the reality show of their choice.  The Favorite Sister takes you behind the scenes of a successful reality show featuring successful women.  One of the things that I like about the premise of this book is that the stars of the show made peanuts.  The produces wanted them to use the show to drive the sales of the business, therefore keeping them "hungry" rather than resting on their reality show laurels. I have to be honest that I did not really *like* any of the characters, except perhaps Layla, Kelly's daughter.  They were all so desperate to keep their adoring fans that they were all ready to do whatever it took to keep their secrets secret.   But it is when one of them stops caring is when things start to get dangerous.    The book really jumps around in the timeline and in narrators, so my advice is to not stop reading in the middle of a chapter.   I had guessed that it was one of the stars that was the murderer. In fact, there were several reasons why it could be her, but I was wrong.  - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS -  And I love being wrong when reading a thriller!

Bottom Line - The Favorite Sister has everything you could hope to find in a reality show.  Competition, revenge, love, jealousy, and even murderous rage.  This is going to be one of those books that everybody will be buzzing about this summer.  Be sure to read it so that you can be in on the conversation!


Monday, May 14, 2018

(37)How to Walk Away by Katherine Center

Margaret Jacobsen just knew that her boyfriend, Chip, was about to propose.  They had been together for three years and they were both heading down the successful career path, marriage was just the natural progression of their relationship.   She was expecting Chip to take her to a romantic location that Valentine's Day, instead, he took her up in a small plane, even though she was completely terrified.  Yes, he did propose, but before the day was over Margaret would find herself in the hospital and her life changed forever.  Instead of planning her wedding Margaret is trying to relearn the most basic tasks in order to put her life back together.  Her parents are there to help support her, no matter what. Even if her mother is a bit overbearing, Margaret knows that she just has her best interests at heart.  Plus, Margaret's estranged sister, Kitty, returns to Texas to help her sister. Their relationship strengthens because of the accident. And there is Ian, her Scottish Physical Therapist.  Ian is tough but has a way of pushing Margaret past the limits she sets for herself. He looks past her current circumstances to make Margaret see what could be.   But Chip - Chip is nowhere to be found.  His guilt over the accident has sent him spiraling out of control and he barely wants to be around Margaret.  Will Margaret ever be back to normal and will she and Chip ever be able to repair their relationship?

How to Walk Away is already getting a lot of buzz as the book to read of the summer.  And I don't disagree.   Margaret Jacobsen, Maggie to Ian, is the kind of character that a reader can really get behind.  She didn't do anything to cause her circumstances except for falling in love with a real tool.  And make no mistake, Chip is a real tool.  While Margaret was going through rehab it was obvious that her relationships were also going through a rehab of sorts.  Her relationship with her sister had the biggest improvement.  Her relationship with Chip was also going through a rehab of sorts and I was ultimately relieved the way that relationship turned out.   How to Walk Away had the most perfect ending and I could have hugged the author for giving us an epilogue - ten years in the future.  - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS

- Bottom Line - Margaret Jacobsen is a character that you are not likely to forget anytime soon.  Her strength and resiliency is a story that from which we can all learn.  How to Walk Away will be on sale tomorrow, May 15th.


Saturday, May 12, 2018

(36)My Ex-Life by Stephen McCauley

It has been over twenty years since David Hedges and Julie Fiske were married.  They ended up divorcing when David realized that he was gay and now Julie is divorcing her second husband.  Her daughter, Mandy, is getting ready for her senior year and college applications are high on the to-do lists.  She tracks down her mom's ex-husband, not just for his assistance, but because she is a little curious.  David has just split from his long-term partner and has been floundering, getting out of San Francisco is just what he needs. When he gets to Julie's fabulous seaside house he finds a floundering woman who may or may not have a pot problem and is renting out her extra rooms via Airbnb.  The two of them easily fall into an easy relationship, much like that of an old married couple.  Together they help each other heal their broken hearts and start to put their lives back together.  David helps Julie with Mandy and projects around the house and Julie helps David get in shape and helps him to feel like he is part of something - a family.   The summer has been magical and comfortable and exactly what they both needed, but what happens when summer is over?  Will David go back to the West Coast and say goodbye to Julie yet once again?

My Ex-Life is a book about two damaged people with a history.   Julie sought out David in an effort to keep her second ex-husband from trying to seek custody of Mandy.   She knows that they will never be compatible romantically, but the comfort level she feels with him is that of a true soulmate.   I really loved the way their relationship was so easy, it was like they picked up right where they left off.   Both David and Julie were kind of a mess at the start of the book. I hated the way Mandy's father treated Julie and it was obvious that she didn't really care for it either. Both David and Julie had completely changed from the first part of the book.    There was a storyline for Mandy that was absolutely terrifying for me, as a stepmother to a teen girl, but thankfully David was able to step in and help her see the error of her ways before it was too late.     The end was a little predictable, but it made me happy.  The story ended just the way I wanted.

Bottom Line - My Ex-Life is one of those books that is perfect for those of you getting ready for the second act in life or recovering from a broken heart.   It is a book that I can see giving hope for life after... With diverse characters and excellent writing, you are guaranteed to enjoy it as much as I did!

  • My Ex-Life by Stephen McCauley
  • On Facebook
  • Pages: 336
  • Publisher: Flatiron Books
  • Publication Date: 5/8/2018
  • Buy it Here!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

(35)Beachbound by Junie Coffey

It has only been a few weeks since Sunbaked and Nina Spark is ready to resume a quiet life in the tropical paradise of Pineapple Cay. Until she gets a call from an old colleague. Nina isn't exactly fond of Philip Putzel, but she is willing to help him plan a conference on Pineapple  Cay.  The whole island is in an uproar when Philip is nearly murdered by an unknown person, but it is the message left on his body that raises eyebrows.  But what is really shocking is when the local police pull Nina in for questioning.  Why would they think that she had anything to do with this?  When Philip's ex, also in for the conference, is also attacked the police realize that it is personal.  Nina and her crime-fighting friends, Danish and Pansy start investigating the attacks. They start to find clues that point them in the right direction. Will they be able to find out who is attacking the conference attendees before the attacks turn deadly?

I absolutely adore Nina Spark. I think I want to be her when I grow up.  Well, mostly I want to live on a tropical island, only work sporadically, and solve easy mysteries.   Only I want my husband to go with me.    The tropical location was very much my favorite thing about this book.  I have already expressed my fondness for Nina, but once again all of the characters were fun and unique. Including Nina's new neighbor who has a fondness for classic rock and walking in the nude.  Of course, the end is not all that surprising but was still an exciting conclusion.  - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS

Bottom Line - Beachbound was exactly the kind of beach read that I was hoping it would be.  Fun and light and transporting me to another dream location.   Give it a read and let me know what you think.


Monday, May 7, 2018

(34) The High Tide Club by Mary Kay Andrews

Brooke Trappnell is a single mother struggling to make ends meet in southern Georgia.   As the newest lawyer in the small town, Brooke is forced to take all of the odds and ends cases in order to make ends meet.  And even then, getting her clients to pay her requires a toughness that she just doesn't have.   She is surprised to receive a call from a wealthy, eccentric ninety-nine-year-old Josephine Bettendorf Warrick.  Josephine's days are coming to an end and she wants to make amends with her childhood friends.  Friends that were part of the "High Tide Club."  Except most of them have already passed, leaving behind heirs that Josephine would like to see instead. Josephine wants Brooke to track them down and she is shocked to discover that her grandmother, Millie, was a member of the High Tide Club. To avoid a conflict of interest, Brooke calls on an old friend for help.  But there are other secrets that Josephine was keeping. And when she suddenly dies, those secrets go to the grave with her.  Brooke and her new friends are left to seek out those secrets and discover some truths about themselves along the way.

It just isn't "Beach Read" season without Mary Kay Andrews.  This year's installment takes us to an island off of the Georgia coast.  The element of mystery was somewhat new for Mary Kay's summer books, but it really made things fun.  You know how I love a good mystery. Brooke Trappnell is a character that is to be admired.  She has made a lot of tough choices in her life, like leaving her fiance at the altar, leaving Savannah, and raising a child by herself.   The thought of having a wealthy client was too good for Brook to pass up, but she is willing to make tough choices to avoid the conflict of interest.  Brooke's old friend, Gabe, seemed like a good guy, but I kept getting a sleazeball vibe from him.  After Josephine's death, there were a lot of twists and turns, but I really enjoyed watching how Brooke became friends with Lizzie and Felicia.  Brooke needed some girlfriends in her life and Josephine delivered.  In the end, the twists and turns are revealed and none of it was really a surprise, but the end was perfect. - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS

Bottom Line - While The High Tide Club was not my favorite MKA book, it was certainly one that is not to be missed.


Sunday, May 6, 2018

(33)Limelight by Amy Poeppel

Allison Brinkley and her husband thought that moving their kids from Dallas to Manhattan was going to be a fun adventure.  Allison didn't expect to be living in an apartment a fraction of the size of home they were used to living in.  She wasn't expecting that finding the right schools would be so difficult.  She didn't expect her oldest daughter to become so combative and hateful with the move.  And she didn't expect to have such a hard time finding and keeping a job as a teacher.   Allison was really starting to question their decision when she gets into a minor fender bender with a black BMW.  Her efforts to do the right thing leads her to the penthouse of a Central Park West building.  It is there that she finds a beaten and battered teen superstar.  Carter Reid is known for his musical ability and his hard-partying ways.  But Allison doesn't see a music star with a penchant for partying. She sees a child who is alone and in need of help.   Allison comes back to check on him daily and soon finds herself with a job as his Personal Assistant.  In charge of preparing him for a role on Broadway, Allison has her work cut out for her.  But she is not one to give up on a job or on a person.  Soon her whole family is involved with getting Carter ready for the stage and a village it does take.   Will Carter be able to show his critics that he is worthy of the role?

Typically I reserve the "Best of Designation" for those books that evoke such strong emotion from me, whether it be laughing or crying.  Limelight is getting a "Best of" label because I don't think that I have ever cheered for a fictional character as much as I cheered for Carter Reid.  Allison Brinkley is a mom first and foremost and that is true with every word in this book.  She is utterly devoted to her children and when she comes across Carter Reid all she can think about is how alone he is.      She was a little unsure of herself in the beginning, the star power can be intimidating,  but her confidence grew as Carter's confidence grew.  In my head, I compared Carter to a younger version of Justin Beiber.  And it was easy to see him as a "little-lost boy", he drew out my own maternal instincts.  I loved how Allison didn't let him get away with anything.  She held him accountable and made him honor his commitments. It was refreshing. It was also refreshing to see how the Brinkley family was so "normal".  No marital issues between Allison and Michael.  Normal kid stuff with their three children.  The normalcy is why I think Carter turned out to be so good to them.    I did get a little teary in the end, but the author set it up for more books featuring Allison and the rest of the Brinkley family.  And I think that even includes Carter Reid.

Bottom line - I admit it, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Limelight.   Limelight was fun and fresh with a surprising amount of depth to the characters.  Besides, who doesn't love a good "behind the scenes" kind of story and Limelight takes you behind the scenes of a Broadway play.


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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