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!




Saturday, October 13, 2018

(71)The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain


The year is 1970 and Carly Sears is mourning the loss of her husband, Joe.  He died just weeks after arriving in Vietnam.  Carly was devastated, but the news of her pregnancy is the only thing keeping her going.   She is going to cherish and protect this baby with everything she's got. It is all that she has left of Joe.  When she finds out that the baby has a heart condition her whole world crumbles.  Her baby will not live long once born. She is going to lose the only piece of Joe that she has left.  Until her brother-in-law, Hunter approaches Carly with an option that is so unbelievable that Carly fears for Hunter's sanity.   What he asks of Carly will force her to suspend belief and put her trust in a man with unbelievable tales to tell.   But it is the only option she has to save her baby's life.  Will it be enough?  Will she be able to save her baby?  And at what cost?

Diane Chamberlain has certainly outdone herself with The Dream Daughter.   I want to be very careful with what I say here because I want you to be just as surprised as I was with the true premise of this novel.   What The Dream Daughter boils down to is a grieving wife desperate to hold on to a part of her husband. I really liked Carly.  She was smart and strong and level-headed even in the face of extreme adversity.   Whenever I read a book like this I try to put myself in that situation.  What would I have done if I was Carly?  I probably would have made the same choices that she did, but I would have gone a step further when she was. ahem, in New York City. I also really liked Hunter and everything that he did to help Carly, but her sister was a bit of a difficult person. The end was a bit unexpected for me, but I can understand why the author ended the story the way she did.  And the was perfect, exactly the kind of closure that a reader needs. - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS.
Bottom Line - The Dream Daughter was a wonderful tale about love, faith, and trust.  As always, Diane Chamberlain creates an inviting world for her readers to discover and challenges them to think outside of the box that they live in.  Great book.

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Tuesday, October 9, 2018

(70)Winter in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand


Irene Steele's life in Iowa City is pretty idyllic.  Her two sons, Cash and Baker,  are grown and gone.  Her husband's career is so successful that she was able to buy and rehab her dream Victorian, but his career means that he is gone a lot.  Even on New Years Day.   Then she receives a phone call that changes everything.  Her husband has died in an accident.  On St. John in the US Virgin Islands.  Irene is stunned.  What was he doing in the US Virgin Islands?  Is he really dead?  Rather than break under the shock, Irene calls on her sturdy midwestern roots,  calls her sons, and books a flight.   They arrive on St. John to find out that the man they called father and husband was leading another life.  Will they be able to find out the truth about the man they loved?

Even though Winter in Paradise was not set on Nantucket, I devoured it like I do every other Elin Hilderbrand novels.  I really liked Irene.  Her midwest sensibilities were very near and dear to my heart. She was obviously shocked by her husband's death but was determined to do what needed to be done.  Her sons, on the other hand, were spoiled, selfish brats, who were only concerned about outdoing the other.   I couldn't believe how bad they were towards each other.  At least they were kind to their mother. Like the Winter Street series, Winter Paradise is definitely set up to be a trilogy.  But Winter Paradise is not really a Christmas book, like the Winter Street series.  That was really the only thing that disappointed me. 

Bottom Line - Winter in Paradise is everything we love about Elin Hilderbrand novels.  A strong woman, a great story, and a fabulous island.   One to not miss!

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Monday, October 8, 2018

(69) A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult


The morning started like every other day at the Center.  The Center's employees show up like they do every other day, as do the protesters outside.  The patients show up, too.   Olive shows up to have her test results explained to her.  Lorraine shows up in an undercover role, hoping to catch the clinic in a mistake.  Joy shows up to have an abortion.  And fifteen-year-old Wren is there with her aunt looking to get birth control for the first time.   Everything is normal until a man walks into the clinic and starts shooting. He is desperate to get revenge for his aborted grandbaby.  What unfolds is a day-long stand-off with the local hostage negotiator, who also happens to be Wren's father. He is desperate to keep the situation from escalating once he realizes his daughter and his sister are in there with the gunman.  He doesn't know why they were in there, he just wants to keep his baby safe.   Before the end of the day, people will die, but who will die and who will survive the gunman's wrath?

A Spark of Light is going to be the talk of every book club.  At the center of the book is fifteen-year-old Wren, her father Hugh, and Wren's aunt Bex.   Unlike most books by the author, this one does not have the same formula where each chapter is clearly from the viewpoint of a specific character. Instead, the only clear timeline is the hours and minutes that pass in one horrific day.   Make no mistake about it,  A Spark of Light is about abortion and takes place in an abortion clinic.   As she is known today, the author very carefully examines all aspects of a controversial topic.  In the afterwords, she even states that she watched three abortions.  The book very explicitly describes an abortion.  It is a very tough thing to read no matter what side of this issue you come down on.    The book ended in a way that reminds you that not every book has a happy ending, but sometimes they have an okay ending.

Bottom Line - A Spark of Light is a book about a topic that has been at the center of heated conversations for decades.  Jodi Picoult has a reputation for her writing thought-provoking novels about the topics that everybody is talking about, her new book is no different.

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Sunday, October 7, 2018

(68)The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle



When Sabrina shows up for her thirtieth birthday she is unexpectedly greeted by five people.  The five living or dead people that she had on her "list."  You know, the list of five people, living or dead, with whom you would most like to have dinner.  Greeting Sabrina is her deceased father, who was out of her life long before he died.  Her best friend, who has replaced her time with Sabrina with a husband and son.  An old, professor, who made quite the impact on Sabrina. An old boyfriend, who departed in the most shocking of ways.  And Audrey Hepburn, who wouldn't want to have dinner with Audrey Hepburn?  Over the course of the evening, it is revealed why each one of them was chosen to be on Sabrina's list. And as each course of the dinner is completed, Sabrina is worried that when the dinner ends, those she misses the most will be gone forever.  Will Sabrina get the closure that she so desperately needs or will the birthday dinner only prolong the pain that she has been feeling for too long?

The premise of The Dinner List is one that is intriguing. We all have a list either in our heads or written down of people we would most like to have at a special dinner.   It has been a dinner party icebreaker for generations. The Dinner List is told in alternate timelines.  The hours and minutes the night of the dinner and her past relationship with Tobias, the ex-boyfriend who is at the dinner.  But really, Tobias is more than just a boyfriend and the author uses the alternate timeline to tell their story.  The premise of The Dinner List is genius, but neither Sabrina nor Tobias are likable characters.  They just aren't.  Tobias is selfish and Sabrina plays the martyr. It makes it tough to really like either one of them.  The end of the book was the end of the dinner and it didn't really end the way that I thought it would.  The ending kind of came out of left-field.   -- CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS

Bottom Line - The Dinner List is one of those books with a unique premise that falls short when it comes to character development.  I  stuck with it for the unique premise and hopes that there was going to be some sort of shocking twist at the end.  There wasn't.   But it did make me revisit the five people that I would want at my dinner.  Living or dead, who would make your dinner list?

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Wednesday, October 3, 2018

(67)I Know You Know by Gilly MacMillan


It has been twenty years since two eleven-year-old boys were found murdered.  Their friend, Cody Swift, has been haunted ever since that day.  A man was tried and convicted of their murder, but Cody isn't so sure that the police got the right man.  He has returned to his old neighborhood determined to find out what really happened.  And he is going to record it all for his new podcast, Time to Tell.

The last thing Jessy Paige wants is for someone to dig up the past.  She was just a baby herself when she had her son, Charlie. His death nearly destroyed her, but it was also the catalyst for her to turn things around. She hit rock bottom and then met her husband, Nick.  And they had a daughter.  Jessy is afraid that Cody Swift's investigation and podcast will stir up more than just bad memories.  She is afraid that her past will destroy her future.   Will she be able to hold her family together or will the past destroy them all?

  I Know You Know is a chilling mystery that mixes the horrors of the past with the popular technology of today.  The chapters alternate between the past, the present, and the transcript of Cody's podcast.  The chapters of the podcast are written and read just like the popular true crime podcasts that are so popular. I could hear the podcast in my head. I really like Jess and I could empathize with her both now and then. She was so young when she had Charlie and was trapped by motherhood.  She was terrified that her husband would find out the truth about what happened.  The book moved a little slower than I had hoped, or had come to expect from Gilly MacMillan, but I desperately wanted to know the truth.  - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS

Bottom Line - I Know You Know is a real thriller about one woman trying to forget the past and a young man who is trying to expose the secrets of the past.  While it wasn't the most gripping mystery that I have read lately, the ending was not what I expected, and that is always what I want in a mystery.

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Tuesday, October 2, 2018

(66)Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris


What is a road trip with my husband without listening to David Sedaris. This trip we got to listen to the "fan favorite" Me Talk Pretty One Day.

As is customary with David Sedaris, we were lucky to encounter a collection of witty and entertaining essays about his life, his family, and his quirky interests.  The first essay starts out with him talking about the "agent" who came for him one day.  It turns out he was in grade school and the "agent" was a speech therapist trying to help him with his lisp.  Right off the bat, we were belly-laughing.

Of course, Sedaris goes on to regale us with tales of his romance with Hugh, their trip to Europe and their renovations on their French home.  There was also David's efforts at learning French, but nothing had us laughing so hard as he described his father's food hoarding tendencies. When he went to visit David and Hugh in Paris he eats his hat.  He literally took a bite of his hat.   My David and I just laughed and laughed.

Bottom Line - There isn't much that I can say about Me Talk Pretty One Day that hasn't already been said.  It - he - David Sedaris is simply brilliant and should be treated as a national treasure. End of story.

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Monday, October 1, 2018

(65)The Road by Cormac McCarthy


The world is a burned out wasteland when a man and his son are making their way south.  The man knows that they will not survive another harsh winter in the north.  He has a feeling that if they can make it to the coast, things will be better.  The boy is young, but he knows the dangers of The Road.  Not only do the boy and his papa have to deal with the bad people that are roaming the countryside, but they have to deal with the cold and constant hunger, they have to deal with the constant fear.  All of their belongings fit into one shopping cart, but one thing remains true, as long as they have each other, they will never be alone on The Road.

I know that I am about ten years behind the rest of the world with reading The Road.  I own the book in every form, paperback, e-book, and audiobook, but it was this weekend on a six-hour road trip that my husband and I finally "read" the book.   I was riveted. My husband less so.  He was frustrated by the lack of details - what caused this apocalyptic world?  What is the age of the boy? What happened to the boy in the end?   Me?  I loved how the author left that to my imagination.  I loved how much the book has stuck with me. How much I have been thinking about it today.   The thing that I loved about listening to the book from Audible is that the narrator does an amazing job at conveying papa's patience and;  at times, annoyance with his son.  The narrator's tone just added to the whole experience.  The endless questions and the genuine fear of the unknown led me to believe that the boy was 8-10 years old.  In the end, sad things happen.  You can't expect a happy ending in a post-apocalyptic novel, but that didn't stop me from hoping.

Bottom Line - You know that I am a fan of post-apocalyptic novels.  I love to see how different people would react to the situations they encounter at the end of the world.  The Road was perfect. The author set the scene and provided the characters, but he trusted the readers to come up with their own reasons why the world fell apart.  I know that almost everybody else in the world has already read this winner of the Pulitzer Prize, but if you have not, do so. You won't regret it.

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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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