Monday, December 31, 2018

(90)Beneath A Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan


Pino Lella is a young man who loves to watch movies and dreams of leaving Milan behind for America.  For Pino, the war is mostly an afterthought.  His family owns a successful leather shop in the heart of Milan and they seem to be immune to the war raging in other parts of Europe.  Until one night Pino and his brother are at a movie when the theater is destroyed by mortar shells.  It becomes clear that there is no escaping this war.   His parents send them off to Casa Alpine,  a retreat in the mountains, to help Father Re.  What Pino doesn't realize is that he will be assisting Father Re with helping Jewish refugees escape through the Alps to Switzerland.  Time after time, Pino braves the harrowing, brutal elements to help the innocent escape to freedom.  As his eighteenth birthday approaches, his parents summon him home.  Rather than wait to be drafted, they want Pino to enlist, but with the German army.  They feel that Pino will be safer in the German army rather than fighting with the resistance. A series of events leads Pino to become the personal driver for General Leyers, the second highest ranking German official in Italy. This allows Pino to help the resistance from the inside.  He sees and hears all and communicates that to those who are fighting to keep the evil from completely taking over Italy.  In the process, he falls in love with Anna. The maid for General Leyers mistress. Together they try to foster their beautiful love in a world full of evil.   Will their love be able to survive?  Will Pino be able to continue aiding the resistance without getting caught?

Beneath a Scarlet Sky has to be one of the most engrossing books that I have read in 2018.  The book is based on a true story.   Pino Lella was a real man.  However, he was in his late 70's when he first tells the author his story. Many of the people who could corroborate or fill in holes have passed on, leaving the author to use his imagination to fill in some of the details.  Which is why the book is categorized as fiction.  The stories from Pino's time at Casa Alpine alone are enough to fill an entire book. Those stories alone make him a hero.   But once he became the drive for General Leyers, his heroic efforts are taken to the next level.  I couldn't help but be mesmerized by his story.   It was incredibly beautiful and heartbreaking.  Just as is every story from World War II.  Pino's WWII  story doesn't end well, no WWII  story ever ends well, but his story was particularly heartbreaking. And there was a secret revealed that was even shocking - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS.


Bottom Line - Beneath a Scarlet Sky has over 21,000 reviews with a 4.8 rating.  Nearly 22,000 people are not wrong.   This book has everything, danger, espionage, valor, and most of all love.  I have read 90 books in 2018 and I am so glad that I finished the year with such a magnificent book.

(89)Watching You by Lisa Jewell


Melville Heights is one of the poshest neighborhoods in Bristol, England.  Even though the houses are grand and opulent, the residents are a mess.  That is never more evident than the night that the wife of the local headmaster is found stabbed to death in their kitchen.  Tom Fitzwilliam is a bit of a dreamboat and the women (and girls) have a hard time keeping their eyes (and hands) off of him.  It was his wife that was murdered and their son, teenage son, Freddie, doesn't believe that his father is completely innocent.   Down the street is Jenna and her mother, who has been a bit off ever since her husband left her and took their son.  Also on the block is Joey and her new husband, Alfie. They got married on the spur of the moment and are living with Joey's brother, Jack and his wife Rebecca.  Jack is a successful doctor and Rebecca works from home.  The police find a piece of evidence that leads them to believe that Nicola's murderer lives in Melville Heights.  Was it Joey who had a crush on Tom Fitzwilliam?  Or Jenna's mom who is a little unhinged.  Or someone else on the block?


Watching You was exactly what I needed for a holiday break read.  Her characters are always complex with more to them than meets the eye.  None of them were completely likable, well maybe Jenna.  She was struggling to hold things together for her mother and had to deal with stuff a child should never have to deal with.  Same goes for Freddie.  He was a bit odd, always taking pictures of friends, neighbors, and complete strangers.  The author explains why a little later, but it was not soon enough to keep my spidey senses from being triggered.  And let me just say that Tom Fitzwilliam gave me the creeps.  From the very first page all the way to the very end.   I did figure out the "whodunit" but not until nearly the very end. - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS.

Bottom Line - I love reading good mystery novels set in England.  It serves as a reminder that England isn't all Royal Weddings and  American Princesses.  Watching You is a great mystery that will keep you on your toes and guessing to the very end.

Details: 
  • Watching You by Lisa Jewell
  • On Facebook
  • Pages: 336
  • Publisher: Atria Books
  • Publication Date: 12/25/18
  • Buy it Here!


Sunday, December 30, 2018

(88)How Google Works by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg


My husband and I found ourselves on an unexpected road trip recently, so of course, we had to find an audiobook to help pass the time.  Usually, I am the audiobook DJ for our road trips, but this time my husband chose the book.  I admit that I had little faith that it would be a book to hold my interest.  I was wrong.

In How Google Works Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg take us behind the scenes one of the greatest tech giants on the planet.   From fostering a creative culture to hiring practices they cover it all.  Some things I found interesting was the fact that they hire by committee and very rarely is the actual manager of the interviewee involved in the process. Culture is so important to them that everything they do goes back to culture.  The founders of the company set up a TGIF event where employees can ask them anything.  Attendance is not required, but nothing is off limits.  Now that the company is in the tens of thousands, the employees put forth the questions and those with the most "likes" get answered. That kind of transparency is rare.

One other thing that I found interesting is that Google gives their employees the opportunity to spend 20% of their time to work on passion projects.  Like a group of astronomy buffs used their 20% time to create Google Sky.  Not every project makes it to full development, but many do.

Surprisingly enough, they even discuss at length, the compensation given to employees.  To attract the best you have to pay the best.  Pay people what they are worth and they will exceed your expectations.   And you want something done - give it to your best person to do. No matter how much work is already on their plate.  Trust them to tell you when it is too much.

Bottom line - How Google Works was a really fascinating book that not only gives you a peek into such a successful company, but it gives you practical advice that can be applied to any industry.

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Saturday, December 29, 2018

(87)Rush by Lisa Patton


It is Fall at Ole Miss and the students and staff at the Alpha Delta Beta sorority house have one thing on their mind - Rush.   Miss Pearl is the housekeeper and surrogate mother to these young ladies. She has worked at the house for years and has seen hundreds of young ladies come and go.  She was there when Miss Lilith and Miss Wilda were pledging.  Now Lilith and Wilda are grown with daughters getting ready to Rush.  They are from two different worlds, but their daughters are roommates, preparing for Rush, and as former Alpha Delta Beta pledges, they are on the advisory board for Rush.  As the girls meet the other girls on their floor and start to form lifelong friendships they start to realize the inequities that exist in their very own little world.  Those inequities become glaring during the Rush process and once they get settled in the sorority and one of the house's staff faces a life-threatening illness. They realize all that they take for granted and decide to do something about it.  Something that could possibly change the way the Greek system works all over the country.

I nearly gave up on Rush more than once. Having never been a member of the Greek system, I found myself getting frustrated at some of the behaviors and the people who found them acceptable.   I am glad that I stuck it out though because the author used this book to highlight social inequities that still exist, and especially with the privileged lives of those in a sorority house.  Lisa Patton uses this platform to show what can happen when young women recognize those inequalities and are determined to make a change.  To make things better.   The book is told from three viewpoints, that of Miss Pearl, Wilda, and Callie, a poor girl from the wrong side of the tracks.  One thing that I noticed was that Miss Pearl was forty-four years old, it is mentioned several times, but she acted so much older than that.  I am forty-three. While I have my moments, I don't act like Miss Pearl did, like she was just plum worn out.  I really liked the way the book ended, I like how these girls did make a change.  Never did the author indicate that everything was going to be perfect, but better.  And the generational racism that still exists throughout our country has come up against a generation who will no longer stand for it.

Bottom Line - Rush is one of those books that takes a serious concept like generational racism and puts it into a context that can be understood by all generations, from all walks of life.   It takes a while for that intent to be clear to the reader, so trust me when I say don't give up on it.  You won't be disappointed.

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Sunday, December 23, 2018

(86) Of Blood and Bone by Nora Roberts


It has been thirteen years since the Doom swept through the world eliminating more than half of the world's population.  Fallon Swift is nearing her thirteenth birthday and has been living a mostly idyllic childhood on a remote farm with her parents and younger brothers.  Her mother, Lana, has told her about her sire, Max Fallon. She has told Fallon about the world before the Doom, but she has been protected from the violence on the farm. Fallon knows that she is different.  She knows that she is "The One." From a young age, she understands that peaceful future is on her shoulders.  On her thirteenth birthday, she is sent to the woods to train with a wise old man who has centuries worth of knowledge to pass on to her.  For two years she trains, she studies, she learns the secrets of the world.  When she is done, she picks up the sword and starts to plan what is necessary to heal the world fractured by the Doom. Will a fifteen-year-old girl be able to do all that is necessary to fix chasm tearing apart the world?

I enjoyed Year One so much that I was very eager to get my hands on Of Blood and Bone.   The audiobook was just as good as the first one. The author gives sufficient backstory to jog your memory about the details of the first book, but it is still necessary to read it before starting Of Blood and Bone.  The book doesn't immediately start with Fallon being thirteen but moves there pretty quickly.  Fallon seems like a good, smart kid.  She had a great relationship with the man who she called father and he prepared her well for what would happen on her thirteen birthday.   For as much responsibility as she carried she still acted like a typical teenager at times, like when she discovered there was no bathroom at Malick's, but it wasn't so bratty that you didn't like her.   I enjoyed watching her grow and mature during those two years.   All the while we got to catch up with the good people of New Hope. It was good to see what was going on with all of the characters we learned to love in the first book.   Of course, there were some was some epic battles that kept you on the edge of your seat.  And a hint of a romance to come in the third book in the series.  And I look forward to seeing how that relationship blossoms.  And of course what happens to the good citizens of New Hope.

Bottome Line -  Of Blood and Bone was a solid follow-up to the wildly popular, Year One.   The familiar characters all make an appearance and you can't help but be one the edge of your seat for the classic battle of good vs. evil.  But be sure to savor each word, the conclusion is not due to hit the shelves for another year.

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Friday, December 21, 2018

(85)One Day in December by Josie Silver


One Day in December Laurie is taking the bus home from work.  She is exhausted and sick and just wants to hole up in her flat with her best friend.  But she looks up from her seat on the crowded bus to see a guy sitting at the bus stop.  He is immersed in his book, but when he glances up and makes eye contact with Laurie she is convinced that he is the love of her life.  Laurie spends the next year searching every bus stop, every restaurant, every crowd, looking for the man who captured her heart with just a glance.  Until one night he walks into her flat - as her best friend's boyfriend.  Laurie is devastated but is not willing to cross a line.  Jack O'Mara will never be hers. As the days go by Laurie gets to know Jack, as Sarah's boyfriend, and longs for what might have been.  She decides leaving will be the best thing and takes off to Thailand.  Where she meets Oscar and while he is not Jack, he is close to perfect for her.  On the day that Laurie finally accepts Oscar's proposal, Sarah and Jack break up.  Will Laurie stay with Oscar or take a chance on Jack?  And what will it do to her friendship with Sarah when she finds out that Jack was "the" guy?

One Day in December was absolutely delightful. I could envision this hitting the big screen in the very near future. I loved Sarah and Laurie's friendship.  It was true and everlasting.  The author puts them in several different situations that are familiar to all best friends. My favorite though was on Laurie's birthday, when Sarah arranged for them to go to an event that was Grease themed.  It was perfect in every way, including the Ferris wheel scene.  I longed for Laurie to find happiness.  Her longing for Jack was so heartbreaking because she was never going to tell Jack or really act on it.  Predictably so Jack and Sarah's relationship imploded. And it was a long time coming, which was a little bit frustrating.  Their relationship was very obviously no longer good, but they continued making each other miserable.  I wanted to shake them both and say "Just end it!!".   One Day In December is a Christmas book, there is only one way Christmas books end, but it is the way they get there that keeps a reader hooked.

Bottom Line - One Day in December was a funny, charming, delightful Christmas story.  I only hope that it gets a full feature film instead of just a Hallmark movie. It would be worth the price of admission.

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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.

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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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