Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Georgian Flu has swept North America and the world as we know it is gone.  Station Eleven starts with the great American actor Arthur Leander collapsing on a Toronto stage during a production of King Lear.  Two people there that night are forever bound by his death, his young co-star, Kirsten and the man from the audience, Jeevan, who tried to save him.  Within a matter of days the world starts slowly shutting down.  People are dying by the thousands and those not dying are busy trying to flee the city for places deemed safer in their minds.  All over the country people who aren't dying are trying to find ways to survive. All over the country small communities are popping up in the strangest places.  They hole up in airports, hotels, anyplace they can sustain life and keep the pandemic out.  Over the next twenty years Kirsten, Jeevan, and thousands of other survivors create new a new world where flights are a thing of the past and young children only hear stories of electricity.  With things like traveling symphonies, printed newspapers, and makeshift schools, some of the survivors try to recreate the society they lost because of the pandemic.  With every known society comes a criminal element.  Will the good triumph over evil or will society be brought to it's knees once again?

I love a good post-apocalyptic novel and Emily St. John Mandel has done great things with Station Eleven. The novel moves around to different people, places and time in the aftermath of the pandemic.  The one thing all of the characters have in common is Arthur Leander.  Kirsten was  his young co-star and she treasure the comic books he gave her before he died, Station Eleven.  Jeevan first connected with Arthur as a member of the paparazzi and was the nameless man from the audience who tried to save his life that night. Clark was Arthur's best friend and was stranded in the airport on his way to Arthur's funeral.  All of their different stories would have been interesting on their own, but knowing that they were all connected because of Arthur just reinforced the belief that even at the end of the world, it is a small world. Station Eleven is so well written that I found myself taking my time to prolong the story.  I haven't done that in a very long time. I think that with Ebola being a recent headline added to the intensity of Station Eleven and that very real fear of "what if."

Bottom line, Emily St. John Mandel weaves a masterful tale of a world nearly destroyed by disease.  Station Eleven is a tale that will sweep you away into a world that has been gutted and is slowly being put back together again. Such a good read, I would love to hear what you think!

The Details

(86)Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Ray Kilbride has never really had the patience to deal with his quirky brother, Thomas.  Their father has just passed away in a freak lawn mowing accident and Ray is forced to return home to deal with his brother and their father's estate.  Thomas is so consumed with Whirl360, the online map, that he doesn't even go to their father's funeral.  You see, Thomas believes that he is working for the CIA and must memorize the maps for all the cities and towns in the world.  So that when "it" happens and technology fails, he will be able to help CIA agents all across the world with his knowledge of the maps.  Seems harmless enough, right?  It is until during his online travels, Thomas sees something in a window in New York City.  It looks as if someone is being smothered with a plastic bag.  To appease his increasingly agitated brother, Ray agrees to go to New York City to see if he can find the third floor apartment and prove to Thomas that nobody was murdered in that apartment.  What Ray doesn't realize is that his inquiry sets forth a series of events that will leave several people dead and put his and Thomas's lives in grave danger.

Linwood Barclay is a true master at creating a suspenseful story.  Trust Your Eyes is the story of two brothers and their rocky relationship.  Ray is torn between his sense of responsibility for Thomas and the intense desire to shake him silly. It is an internal battle you see him wage several times throughout the book and frankly I can understand why. That trip to NYC starts off is when things start getting good and with the help of an old reporter friend, Ray starts putting the pieces of the puzzle together.  And it isn't pretty.  Also, as the story goes on, there is a subplot involving  Thomas and an event in his childhood. That subplot eventually brings out the protective brother in Ray and that is when I like him best.  Trust Your Eyes is a fast moving book and is full of action and suspense.

Bottom line, Linwood Barclay is one of those "no-risk" authors.  You know you are going to get your money's worth with every word he writes and  Trust Your Eyes is no different.  Definitely worth the read if you are looking for a page turner that keeps you on the edge of your seat!

(85)Trust Your Eyes by Linwood Barclay

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Estranged sisters Rose and Emily are called back to their small Vermont hometown of Mill River for their Mother's wake.  They first moved to Mill River in 1983 when their father was tragically killed in a house fire.   For Rose, growing up in Mill River was nearly torture and she felt suffocated by the small town atmosphere.  Their mother was always working so she was given freedom to sneak around and be a little hellion.  Emily didn't hate Mill River as much as Rose, but she hated always covering for her older sister and never seeing their mother.  The older they got the more they drifted apart and it was a tragedy of epic proportions that drove a permanent wedge between the sisters.   Now the terms of their mother's will state that the sister's must live in Mill River for two months and complete a bit of a treasure hunt in order to collect their inheritance.  Emily is willing to comply because it was her mother's wishes.  Rose must comply because her husband lost his job and they desperately need the inheritance to maintain their lavish lifestyle.  As the two sisters settle back in to Mill River it is clear that the rift between them is deep, but will they be able to put the pain behind them to honor their mother's final wish?

While The Mill River Redemption was a really engrossing read, I am still not sure I really liked  it.  From the very beginning it was clear that Rose was, frankly, a bitch. She almost seemed like a caricature of a bad soap opera character.  As much as I disliked her, I liked Emily.  Much more even keeled and likable.  Then there is little Alex, Rose's young son.  He is the complete opposite of his mother and I was thrilled to see the relationship building between him and his Aunt Emily.  I also loved their Aunt Ivy and the little bookshop across the street, really, the whole setting of Mill River is quaint and charming and really my favorite thing about the book.   The story is told in both the past and present, so you can see the personalities of the sisters developing into who they are today, all leading up to the tragic event that changed them both forever.  After the "tragic event" is revealed another terrifying event happens that kind of forces everything to wrap up nicely and I think that is where my biggest issue lies. It was just so bizarre the way things wrapped up.  Among other reveals,  Rose seems to receive a personality transplant and it just didn't seem to sit right with me.  

Bottom line, my favorite thing about The Mill River Redemption was Mill River.  The story itself left me with mixed emotions. If you have read this book I would love to hear your thoughts.
The Details:

(84)The Mill River Redemption by Darcie Chan

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Weight loss is tough. It kind of makes me sad that I still need to be reading books like Lose Your Inches Without Losing Your Mind after two years of effort.  But here I am - looking for some sort of motivation to kick me into gear.  Most of the advice the author gives is not anything new.  She hasn't found the miracle cure, but she did present it in a ten week plan that focuses more on inches than weight.  Her thought is that you lose weight without losing inches you are smaller, but you don't really change your shape.  Which kind of makes sense.  In all of my weight loss efforts I haven't really measured inches only weight and I can see where I have been doing myself a disservice by not measuring.

Another important thing I took away from this book was the importance of eating every three hours.  The author tells the story of a nurse in her 50's that lost over 40 pounds in two months and the only thing she did different was eat something every three hours.  Obviously she isn't eating heavy meals every three hours, but the author points out that by skipping breakfast, having a light lunch and an even lighter supper you are likely preventing your body from getting the nourishment it needs to burn fat.  Should be common sense, right?  But I am definitely guilty of being a breakfast-skipper. Now I know I am not moving as much as a busy nurse, but I can certainly adjust my  diet enough to eat every three hours.  And to help me do that I set an alarm on my phone to alert me when it is time to eat.

Bottom line, Lose Your Inches Without Losing Your Mind is a ten week guide to help kick-start your weight loss journey. Written in an easy to read, easy to understand format Justine SanFilippo provides some helpful insights to help you change your life.

The Details:

(83)Lose Your Inches Without Losing Your Mind! by Justine SanFilippo

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Danny Crider has done the unthinkable.  The teenager took a gun to an event and shot the most popular Governor the state of California has ever had.   Defense Attorney Sophie Giraudo made a name for herself in her hometown of San Sebastian by defending three brothers who were known for their poor behavior and now she has been retained to defend Danny Crider.  A decision that is not popular with Sophie's ex-husband, the prosecuting attorney, her family and the people of San Sebastian.  At every turn she is defending her choice to represent the troubled young man.   With the help of her PI friend, Ham, they dig into Danny's background to try to find out why he did what he did and in the process Sophie reveals some things in her past that have made her who she is today.  But  Danny's controlling mother, an absentee father, and an icky boys group director all contribute to his decision to shoot the Governor.   Is it enough to get Danny off or will he lose his life for his crime?

In Doubt is one of those books that could have been "ripped from the headlines" or even a Law & Order episode.  The story even moves as quickly as an episode of Law & Order.  Sophie is a great main character and as the story goes on you can even see the similarities between Sophie and Danny.  Specifically they each have a rocky relationship with a controlling, demanding mother.  They both made some sketchy decisions that led to dire consequences.  It was easy to understand why Sophie was so desperate to help Danny. I understand being from a big family, like Sophie, but it irritated me the way her family treated her.  And her ex-husband was an arrogant ass.    You can't really call In Doubt a mystery because the reader knows Danny shot the Governor, but you don't know why and that is somewhat of a mystery.   As Sophie & Ham are digging for the truth, I will warn you, that they reveal some very uncomfortable and graphic situations regarding pedophilia and rape.  It isn't gratuitous, but it could be tough for some of you to read.

Bottom line, Drusilla Campbell weaves a dark and disturbing tale about the secrets families and small towns are willing to keep in order to protect their good name.  In Doubt is a gripping novel that will both disturb you and captivate you at the same time, making it difficult to stop reading until you reach the very end.

The Details: 

(82)In Doubt by Drusilla Campbell

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Lucy and Owen come from two different worlds.  Lucy comes from a wealthy family and live on the 24th floor of this upscale Manhattan apartment building.   Owen's world shattered when his mom was killed in a car accident and forced his dad to take a job as the apartment building manager.   Owen and Lucy meet in the elevator during a blackout.  They spend the evening chatting the night away on the rooftop, but the electricity comes back on and the real world interrupts their fairy tale.   Lucy moves with her family to Europe and Owen and his dad take off across the country in search of work,  The only way they keep in touch is through postcards.  From Edinburgh to Lake Tahoe to San Francisco and Paris.  Lucy and Owen may meet other people, they may see other places, but in the end, there is only each other.  Can their budding relationship survive the miles and geography that separates them?

The Geography of You and Me is a sweet and tender novel about the obstacles one young couple must overcome to keep their relationship going. I truly enjoyed the sweetness of Lucy and Owen.  Their relationship was tentative, but pure.  It was a quick read, just a couple of hours, but I really enjoyed the way the author laid out the story of Owen and Lucy.  They were from two completely different backgrounds, but they didn't let it have any impact in their relationship. Well other than the distance thing.  I was pleased with the way the story ended, not too gooey or unrealistic, but just enough to give you hope for the future.

Botton line, The Geography of You and Me is a sweet teen romance novel.  Lucy and Owen are great characters and perfect for each other.  It is a sweet and quick read and most definitely you can trust with your teen daughter.

The Details:

(81)The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Colleen Bradley is excited for her upcoming road-trip. She desperately needs a break from her teenage son and work-a-holic husband. So while they are off bonding on a trip to the baseball hall of fame, she loads up her little car, hitches up the trailer and is ready to set off on a trip down the coast to find new merchandise for her antique store Junk and Disorderly.  Colleen is less than thrilled when she finds out her grumpy niece, Tamara, will have to join her.  Tamara is a sullen teenager who has repeatedly gotten into trouble ever since her mother died and she was forced to live with her father, Colleen's brother-in-law. The two are just hours into their road-trip wh:en the stumble across Colleen's best friend from college, Bitty.  It is obvious that Bitty is down on her luck and joins the road-trippers on their journey.  Across the miles the three women learn things about each other and themselves, but will their renewed relationships survive when they return home and back in the real world?

Driving with the Top Down is a fun and quick read about three women of varying ages fundamentally dissatisfied with the life they are leading.  The book is told from the viewpoint of all three characters, so you get inside their head to see what is not being said and frankly it is just downright sad.  Bitty is completely lost ever since her separation from her husband. Tamara is a teenager completely lost ever since her mother passed away and she has made some incredibly poor choices. And Colleen has spent her entire marriage believing that she was second choice and the years have taken their toll.  I enjoyed this book when the women were opening up with each other, especially when they were playing the "Never have I ever" game. It was then that they seemed to be most "real" and at ease with each other.  I love the way things were wrapped up, especially with Tam.  She needed Colleen in her life most and I really enjoyed reading the Epilogue. 

Bottom line, Driving with the Top Down was a feel good novel that I could see becoming a feel good Lifetime movie.  The characters all have unique perspectives, but at the end of the day they all want the same thing. To be loved, wanted, and appreciated.   A quick and fun read. 

The Details:

(80) Driving with the Top Down by Beth Harbison

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Happy Tuesday!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Almost a year has passed since a teenage boy has been murdered on the grounds of a Dublin boarding school.  The trail had pretty much gone cold when one of the students of St. Kilda's walked into The Murder Squad with a picture of the victim and on the picture was the message "I know who killed him.".  Holly Mackay pulled the card off of a bulletin board at the school called "The Secret Place", a safe place where students can post anonymous secrets.Holly has dealt with Detective Stephen Moran before and she knows she can trust him to be fair, yet judicious.  Moran doesn't know what to expect when he and his partner, Conway, walks into the all girls school, but he does not expect that finding the killer will be easy.   The young women at St. Kilda's are crafty, sneaky,cliquey,  secretive, and have something to hide.  Will Moran and Conway be able to wade through the stories and get to the truth?

The Secret Place is an exceptionally well written murder mystery set among a backdrop of St. Kilda's all girls boarding school,  a scene that screams exclusive and secretive.  The nuns, the hallways, the classrooms all  added to the Gothic feel of the place. There are two groups of a girls at the heart of this book.  Joanne and her crew are the "popular" girls. They present the air of snobbery that you come to expect from boarding school students.  They have all the cool clothes and all the hot guys from the neighboring boys school, the school where the deceased Chris Harper was a student.   Holly Mackay and her friends are the second group at the center of this story, they are a group of misfits and are thought to be "weird" by other girls in the school.  Moran tries to wade through the lies and gossip to get to the truth and if you know teen girls, you know just how difficult that can be.  Watching how some of the young women tried to manipulate Moran was almost frightening, but watching how he handled them was almost a work of beauty.   The more he talks to the girls the more it is clear that Chris Harper was a master at manipulation and it is that behavior that got him killed.

Bottom line, The Secret Place is one of those books that sucks you in with it's scenery, it's twists and turns and dark secrets.  The author weaves a tale that will have you guessing and second guessing. A perfect tale to get you in the mood for Halloween!

(79)The Secret Place by Tana French

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

To someone not in the know, Maddy and Ben's marriage looks picture perfect.  They both have high-pressured, successful careers.  Maddy is a social worker and Ben is a public defender.  They have three wonderful children, Emma is a teenager and sometimes a handful but  Gracie and Caleb, the babies, are at that fun age where they are exploring the world and discovering their personalities.  Only Ben and Maddy know that their marriage has hit a rocky patch where there is a lot of yelling and eye-rolling going on.  The pressures of their careers leave them both drained when they get home, but there is still dinner to cook, homework to get done and other household chores that millions of people all across the country do.   Maddy wishes that Ben would help out more and be more "present" in their lives, not to mention that he loses his temper far too often.  Ben wishes that Maddy would stop nagging and just do it herself.  The turmoil in their marriages comes to a boiling point when a accident lands Maddy in the hospital with a traumatic brain injury.  The weeks long coma and subsequent rehab leaves Ben in charge of their little family in a way that he has never had to be before.  Will he be able to rise to the challenge and hold everything together or will the guilt of the accident destroy everything?

In Accidents if Marriage author Randy Susan Meyers reveals something that only married people seem to know, marriage is hard.  We see the struggles of their marriage from both Ben and Maddy's viewpoints.  And then after the accident, we also get to hear Emma's voice as she also becomes a casualty when a lot of responsibilities are thrust upon her.  Because we get to see all perspectives it is hard to take side prior to the accident, neither Ben nor Maddy behave their best and frankly been behave like an ass more than once.  The author did such a great job taking us inside of Maddy's brain after the surgery. The confusion, the frustrations, the myriad of emotions that plague Maddy as she tries to navigate her new reality.   I felt for Maddy, but I felt more for Emma because she was struggling and nobody noticed.  Not her father, not her aunts, and not her grandparents.  My heart ached for her as she struggled to hold everything together and still get to be a teenager.   It even made me a bit angry that nobody noticed that she was drowning!   In the end, they all survived, but their world was very, very different from where it was at the beginning of the book and it needed to be.

Bottom line, Accidents of  Marriage was a powerful novel about the intricacies of marriage.  It is hard, it can be brutal, it can hurt, but if you just hold on it can be the greatest thing ever. Such a good story with so many different points that cause you to reflect on your own situation.   Definitely worth the read.

The Details:

(78)Accidents of Marriage by Randy Susan Meyers

Happy Tuesday!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Lauren Clay has always been the one to do whatever needs to be done.  When her parent's marriage disintegrated and their father retreated into his own world it was Lauren who stepped up to the plate to care for her younger brother, Danny.  It was she who made sure he got fed and clothed and off to school.  And it was Lauren who found a way to get the bills paid when her father couldn't even get out of bed.  Rather than go to the prestigious  music school to study opera, she enlisted and was sent off to battle.  Her combat pay and steady paychecks went a long way to helping Danny and giving him a more normal life.

Time has passed and it is now Christmas and Lauren is coming home from her tour of duty.  Her time in the desert has changed her in ways that are still revealing themselves and her homecoming is not made easier when she realizes just how much things have changed at home.   She struggles to find her place in a world that is mostly ignorant to what really happens in war.  Will she ever be able to fit back into that world, but more importantly, does she really want to?

It is ingrained in our collective brains to imagine a war veteran being a man, but in Cara Hoffman's novel, Be Save, I Love You she introduces us to a vet by the name of Lauren Clay. Lauren is a young woman who was forced to grow up rather quickly.  Her devotion to her younger brother comes from a pure place in her heart and her devotion is my favorite thing about her.  Even when her intentions start to get a little murky you know that she believes she is acting with pure intentions. Through her memories and I guess you could say flashbacks, the reader starts to piece together what happened and it is no wonder the nightmares haunt her. Is it PTSD?  I don't know, the author doesn't go so far as to diagnosis, but it is obvious to the reader that Lauren's time in the war had a profound impact on her and how she interacts with other people.   PTSD is very scary and very real and I think the author did a remarkable job at addressing it with Lauren.  Even when the book was at it's darkest and I feared for both Lauren and Danny, but I just knew that Lauren would not bring harm to Danny.  Some might thing that the end was a bit too "happy", given the nature of the story, but I thought it was "real" and appropriate.

Bottom line, Be Safe, I Love You is one of those hauntingly beautiful novels where the beauty could easily get lost in the darkness of the subject matter. There are thousands and thousands of service men and women who have returned home from war over the last decade and Be Safe, I Love You gives you just a glimpse of what life is like for those heroes.  Definitely a must read.

(77)Be Safe, I Love You by Cara Hoffman

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Happy Tuesday!!

Monday, August 25, 2014

The last place in the world  Ventriloquist Annie Hewitt wants to be is Peregrine Island in the middle of a blizzard, yet here she is stuck in her little Kia. Annie has less than fond memories of the island, but she is broke, unemployed, and out of options.  According to the terms of an agreement her recently deceased mother made long ago, Annie must spend sixty days on the island with never leaving. Leaving means they forfeit and the cottage reverts back to the Harp estate and that bully, Theo Harp. As much as Annie despises the island, she thinks it will take the full sixty days to find the thing her dying  mother said would bring her great riches.  Even though that insufferable Theo Harp won't leave her alone and someone keeps breaking into the cottage,  Annie desperately needs the money and isn't going anywhere until she finds it.  

Heroes Are My Weakness was a fun read.  Take an isolated island off the coast of Maine, mix in a feisty heroine, and add one handsome, brooding hero and you have a recipe for a steamy romance!  I loved the setting of Peregrine Island for this book, especially since it is set in the Winter.  Most "island" books are set in the Summer, so this was a definite change.   Annie is definitely a feisty character.  The one summer she spent on the island as a teen she was basically ruthlessly tortured by Theo, so it is no wonder that she is dreading the thought of being on the island again with him so close by.  Even though the puppets are of her own creation and their words are her own, they really seem to be the parts of herself that Annie is afraid to let be heard. I loved their different personality traits and I loved how Scamp was an integral part in dealing with her friend's daughter, Livie.  Theo was such an interesting character, too.  Dark and brooding, yet with a softer side, too.  Who would have thought the horror novelist would enjoy making fairy castles?   He was a good match for Annie and even though I understand it was a defense mechanism, I found myself annoyed at the way Annie talked to Theo early on in the book.    Romance novels, by pure definition, tend to be a bit predictable and Heroes Are My Weakness is no different, but the path to the end was fun and romantic.  

Bottom line, I have been reading Susan Elisabeth Phillips novels for nearly three decades now.  Her characters are always fun, feisty, entertaining, and always find themselves in an interesting pickle.  Heroes Are My Weakness is a fun read in an interesting setting and has love story that will make your heart melt.  If you are looking for a pleasurable way to spend an afternoon,  add Heroes Are My Weakness to your list!

The Details: 

(76)Heroes Are My Weakness by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Cadence Sinclair Eastman has grown up privileged.  For generations the Sinclair family has been spending their summers at the family's private island off of Cape Cod.   Cady has grown up spending her summers with her cousins and and aunts on the island and it was about idyllic as a childhood could be.  One summer her aunt brings her boyfriend's nephew to spend the summer with them and everything changed.    She was drawn to Gat like no other human being and they both looked forward to their summers.  The summer of their fifteenth year was the year that everything changed.  Most of that summer is gone from Cady's memory due to a traumatic brain injury.  She doesn't remember what happened to her and she knows that her family is keeping something from her about that summer, but what?

Now it is two years later and Cady is back on the island. So much has changed in two years and Cady is not sure why.   The rustic house of her childhood has been replaced with something sleek and modern. The "Liars" are also acting funny and refuse to tell Cady what happened that summer.   Cady is slowly starting to remember the events of that summer and she knows the she is on the verge of the truth.  But what will she do when she pieces everything together?  They say the truth will set you free, but what if it only destroys you?

Oh my gosh. I have been seeing We Were Liars at the top of a lot of "Must Read" lists this summer and now I know why.  Despite their wealthy background, Cady and her cousins are your typical teenagers.  Magazines, books, and iPods entertain them throughout the summer.  And they have a growing disdain for their parents.  Listening to their mothers bicker over their late mother's estate is completely ruining their summer and they all want to do something about it.  There were a few times when I found myself annoyed by Cady and her spoiled cousins, but it was more like an annoying fly.   Her summer romance with Gat was sweet and tender and almost like a fairy tale.  As the book went on, the pain that Cady experiences is so profound that I can almost feel the headaches myself.  And that ending, oh boy.  When Cady finally remembers everything from their 15th summer it will leave you stunned. I don't remember an ending leaving me so shocked.    You would think that having the truth will help Cady start to heal, but I really wonder if Cady will ever be healed again.

Bottom line, We Were Liars is one of those books that as I was reading I was imaging it on the big screen. It starts out as your run of the mill Young Adult novel, but by the end it left me breathless. If you are looking for a wonderful read, you must add We Were Liars to your "TBR" list.

The Details: 

(75)We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Happy Tuesday!!

Monday, August 18, 2014

It has been ten years since Kit "Kick" Lannigan was rescued from the kind of hell that only exists in our nightmares.  It has been a long ten years, but Kick has come along way from the eleven year old that was rescued that night ten years ago.  Kick has been dedicated to never becoming a victim again by training in  every arena of self-defense known to man. And she works diligently to help find those who have fallen victim to the pedophiles that still have Kick's "movies" and think of her as a star.  With her tenth anniversary of freedom closing in, Kick is on edge as it is when John Bishop enters her life.  Bishop is a man who works for a man who knows how to get stuff done.  He knows people, he can access information that normal people only imagine exists, he is the definition of powerful.  Even though he has all of that power, Bishop needs Kick's help.  Another young girl has gone missing and there are similarities to Kick's past and only Kick can help find her.  Will Kick let down her guard long enough to trust Bishop and help find this girl?  Is Kick willing to face old demons and do what it takes to help Bishop?

One Kick is one kick ass novel.  It is hardcore gritty and it will take a strong person to handle the gritty subject matter of child porn and pedophilia, but it is so worth the read.  Kick is one of the best female characters I have "met" in a long time.   She has this tough exterior that is proud of her Glock and picks the lock on handcuffs to relax.  But she is vulnerable and has a heart , but only allows her friend, James and her dog, Monster inside that heart.  Then there is Bishop, he is such an enigma, a guy who only reveals snip-its of information about himself  and only when he thinks it will get him further with Kick. As the book progressed, the tempo increased and I felt my heart racing , as if I were there.  When things went down with James and Monster, I felt myself getting angry and protective on behalf of Kick.   It was easily the most intense book I have read yet this year.

Bottom line, I have been a fan of Chelsea Cain since her very first Archie/Gretchen novel.  One Kick is better.  The word "fresh" doesn't seem right for a story so dark, but Kick is a character that we have never seen before. I don't know where Cain will take us in Kick's world, but I know that it is going to be a hell of a ride and I can't wait.

The Details:

(74)One Kick by Chelsea Cain

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Whether we care to admit it or not the house you grew up in plays a large part in the person we become as an adult.  Not just your family, but the actual home that housed your family.  On the outside the Bird family looked normal.  Meg is the oldest and the most "together" of the siblings, next is Beth.  She is the free-spirit, a dreamer.   The twins round out the family.  Rhys and Rory. Their parents, Lorelei and Colin have an unremarkable marriage. They live a normal, if not cluttered existence.  Until one Easter Sunday when one  tragic act will change their world and their house forever.  Everyone deals with the tragedy in their own way, and Lorelei deals with it by collecting stuff.  Like egg carton shells and tea towels, she collects so much stuff that the family is drowning in it.   Lorelei shocks her family with her excessive collecting, but she shocks them even more when she declares that she is in love with her next door neighbor and is now a lesbian. The splintered Bird family is now shattered. The remaining Bird children scatter across the globe leaving Lorelei to collect with her new partner.   Will Lorelei ever be able to get out from under the weight of her memories or her stuff?  Will her children ever forgive her for her collections and come home to see her? Will the Bird children ever be able to forgive themselves when they don't come back to see her?

The House We Grew Up In  starts in present day and through a series of flashbacks the reader starts to put together the pieces of the Bird family puzzle. Through births and deaths and all kinds of relationships this book watches how the Bird family handles everything.  The amount of loss that takes place in this book will take your breath away.  With every piece of junk that Lorelei brings into the house they all lose something.  Space, trust, dignity.  Each of the Bird children have their strengths and their weaknesses, all that stem back to what happened that Easter day so long ago.   Meg went to the extreme opposite of her mother, controlled and organized to a fault.  Beth buries her feelings about everything the way Lorelei is burying the house and Rory is letting the guilt eat him from the inside out. Watching the siblings interact (or not depending on the case) is a  fascinating study in sibling relationships and just how they ebb and flow through the decades . But no matter where the kids are, who they became is all because of the house they grew up in.  

Bottom line, The House We Grew Up In takes a popular reality television show topic, hoarding, and humanize it in a way that will break your heart. Hoarding is not a solitary disease, it infects entire families.  The House We Grew Up In is one of those books that will stay with you long after you finish the last page.

(73)The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell

Happy Tuesday!!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The parents of students at the Pirriwee School are almost like something out of a soap opera your grandmother might watch on daytime television.  Maddie is one of the more experienced parents, her older son, Fred, has already been through the Kinder class and Chloe is getting ready to start.   Celeste is married to the wealthy hedge fund manager, Perry, and their twin boys will be starting the Kinder class, as well.  And they meet Jane, the young single mother who's son Ziggy is starting the same Kinder class.  The three women meet on the day or orientation and have become fast friends, but when they get to the orientation an "incident" casts a shadow on the day and sets the tone for the year to come.  A year of secrets, lies, violence, and whispers culminate in a school Trivia Night that will leave the school reeling, a parent dead, and the police trying to determine what really happened that night on the balcony.  Will the Pirriwee parents protect their own or will they continue to throw each other to the wolves?

I was quickly sucked into Big Little Lies.  Immediately I found myself liking Maddie.  She is intelligent, funny, and fiercely protective of her friends.  She was the kind of character that I would love to hang out with for "erotic book club" or a fun glass of champagne.  Watching her quickly take Jane under her wing was great.  So many of the mom's at school were just looking for an excuse to shun the young and pretty single mom, but Maddie wouldn't back down for nothing and that makes her my new literary BFF.  Then there is the whole Celeste/Perry relationship. I just don't even know where to begin with those two.  On the outside it appeared as if Celeste had everything any woman could possibly want, but it just goes to show you that you never know what happens behind closed doors. She was an expert at lying to herself and her friends.  There are so many other sub-plots that feed into the "big event" that happened at Trivia Night. Like Maddie's ex and his new wife, Bonnie.   Then there is the whole bullying thing that gets wickedly out of hand.  And the true paternity of Jane's son, Ziggy.   So many little things that also feed into the events of that night.   I feel that the story ended in the best possible way and it left me feeling satisfied.  It is always great when an author leaves you feeling as if everything ended the way it was supposed to.

Bottom line, Big Little Lies is a book that will keep you on the edge of the seat for as long as it takes you to fly through the pages.  Lies, deceit, abuse, and murder is just a sampling of what you will encounter in this wonderful little book.  Gather your girlfriends and pour a glass of wine , Little Big Lies is an excellent choice for your next book club selection.

The Details:

(72)Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Maddie and her friends have vacationed together every August for nearly the last twenty-five years.  Maddie, Barb, Rachel, and Melinda all met when their husbands were finishing med school at Vanderbilt. They have not had their August vacation for the past few years, after Melinda died.  But now Melinda's husband has remarried and The Girls of August are gathering for one more vacation on a remote island of the coast of South Carolina. Teddy's new wife, Baby, is finding it hard to fit in with the other women who have been friends for so long. As their vacation days lazily pass, it becomes clear that each of the women are hiding something big.  Will their friendship survive this year's vacation?  And will the three "original" Girls of August ever forgive Baby for her transgression of being half of their age?

The Girls of August was my first book by the prolific Anne Rivers Siddons and I must say that I was a bit disappointed. At just 240 pages the book was really a quick read and I almost felt as if I were reading an abridged version of the book.  The characters were almost cliched Southern women and I felt like we missed out on the depth that was really there.  Especially with Baby, she speaks Arabic for Pete's sake, there should have been more.   The story was only told from Maddie's view point and I think that is where the story fell short.  If the book had been one of those alternate voices books we might have gotten to know the other characters better.  But, having said all of that, I didn't hate the book, I was just expecting something more.  The scenery of Tiger Island was depicted well and left me longing for a beach-side home where I could sleep to the sound of the ocean and sleep with the ocean breeze coming through the window.

Bottom line, while I was disappointed with The Girls of August, it was still a beach read.  With summer winding down (can you even believe that we are already into August??) we need to get as many beach reads in as we can  before school starts and the leaves start to turn.  Keep your expectations low and you won't be disappointed.
The Details:

(71)The Girls of August by Anne Rivers Siddons


Happy Tuesday!!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Mia Dennett has always been a disappointment to her father, Judge Dennett.  He always had plans for his two daughters to follow in his legal footsteps, yet Mia never wanted to do exactly what her father wanted.  Instead she found an interest in art and went to school to be an art teacher.  So rather than being the high powered attorney like her sister, Mia is an art teacher in the inner city, making just a fraction of what the rest of her wealthy family makes.   One day Mia doesn't show up at work and with the help of Detective Gabe Hoffman, the Dennetts discover that Mia left the bar the night before with a strange man and she hasn't been seen since.  Slowly Detective Hoffman starts to piece things together and realizes that she was kidnapped by a man, Colin Thatcher.   He doesn't know why, there has been no ransom demand, he doesn't know where they have taken her.  And then Mia is found and they are still no closer to having answers.  She has blocked everything out from her time away and demands to be called Chloe.  Who was behind her kidnapping and why did they kidnap her?  And what happened to cause her to block everything out from those month?

The Good Girl is one of those books that will keep you guessing.   It is told in alternate voices from all sides of the kidnapping.  Mia's, Mrs. Dennett's, Detective Hoffman's and the kidnapper.  Colin Thatcher.   The further you get into the story the more you start to put together why Colin did what he did.  He didn't plan for things to turn out the way they did, but it happened and he just goes with it, regardless of his regrets.  Over her months of captivity, Mia starts to understand Colin more than she ever thought possible.  Some would call it Stockholm Syndrome, others would call it more. But it is easy to become sympathetic to Colin, to Mia, and Mrs. Dennett.  It is clear early on that the Judge is just a cold-hearted jackass and it is easy to see where the friction between him and Mia started. Meanwhile, the Detective is a compassionate man just trying to do his job and help a heartbroken mother. I will say that about three-quarters of the way through the book I started to suspect the big "twist" but that didn't stop me from racing to the last page to find out if I was right.

Bottom line, The Good Girl, is a very suspenseful novel.  The alternating voices makes it really hard for the reader to see things as "black or white" and I loved that.  I think by the time you get to the end of the book your head will be spinning from the wild conclusion, but aren't those books the best?

The Details:

(70)The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

Thursday, July 31, 2014

It is sometime in the distant future and Beatrice Prior is preparing for the Choosing in a dystopian Chicago. First there is the assessment that well tell her which Faction she is best suited for, but of course there is free will, and she gets to choose which of the four Factions she wants to be a part of Abnegation (the selfless), Euridite (the smart), Amity (the peaceful) and Dauntless (the warriors).  Beatrice's assessment was inconclusive though and  that makes her Divergent. She is not sure where she belongs, but she knows that she can tell no one that she is Divergent.  She makes the decision the very minute she climbs on the stage.  Beatrice is Dauntless. 

Beatrice says good-bye to her family, changes her name to Tris and starts the rigorous training that is required of all Dauntless members.  From learning how to fight to learning how to overcome their fears, the Tris and the rest of the initiates are working hard to prove that they are worthy of being Dauntless. Their two trainers, Erik and Four have high expectations for them and work them hard, but what will happen if they find out that Tris is Divergent?

I kind of broke the unwritten rules of book nerds everywhere and saw the movie before reading the book.  In a way it was nice because I could picture Chicago and the train and the Pit in a way that might have been more difficult without having seen the movie.  Believe it or not, I don't think the book highlighted the chemistry between Four and Tris the way it was shown in the movie.  On screen they sizzled and I didn't get that "sizzle".  The movie stayed pretty true to the book, but a few things in the movie were out of order from the book.  It didn't really impact the way things turned out, so I think I can forgive the producers for that.  One thing I found myself wanting was to know more about what was beyond the wall and what happened to create the world they live in. I really hope that the next two books explore those at a greater length.

Bottom line, whether it be the book or the movie it was really easy to get swept away in the world that Veronica Roth created. The world is fascinating, the characters are exciting, and you feel like you become part of their world.   Young Adult novels have done really well at translating to the big screen and Divergent is no different.  If you are looking for a good book that takes you to a different world, you have to give this one a try and let me know what you think.  

The Details:

(69)Divergent by Veronica Roth

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

     Big Little Lies                            Lucky us                        Fortune Hunter

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Lauren and Ryan have been together for eleven years and married for six.  They know each other so well that they can finish each others sentences and they *think* that they can anticipate each others wants and needs.  But after six years of marriage they are just plain sick of each other.  Their bickering builds until there is a meltdown at a Dodgers game that Lauren didn't even want to go to in the first place.  They come to blows and decide that they are going to take a year long break.  They aren't going to legally separate and they aren't going to divorce - yet.  Instead they are going to live apart for a year and see how things are a year later.  They agree to no communication at all.  At first Lauren is completely ravaged by the decision, but then she started to adjust to her new reality and realized that she lost a big piece of herself while she was married.  So what will she do when their "break" is up?  Will her and Ryan resume their marriage or will her new life be too hard to give up?

I think anyone who has been married can agree that sometimes marriage is really hard work.  In my opinion a successful marriage is one where the couple decides to "stick it out" despite everything they go through.   After I Do delves into one couple's marriage and the drastic measures they take with the hope of saving their marriage.  The book is told from Lauren's perspective and while she felt like she was the wronged party, it becomes pretty evident that she had an equal part in the implosion of their marriage.  Through a series of emails, though, we get to see some of Ryan's thoughts on the matter and it is easy to see that he has been just as destroyed by the turn their marriage has taken, too.  It made my heart ache to see the pain that both of them were in throughout this book.  I loved how Lauren's family was there for her and supported her even when they clearly did not understand why they took this break.  It just goes to show what unconditional love can do for a person. I wasn't sure how the book would end, but I was very satisfied with the conclusion.  Things wrapped up nicely and I truly believe that both Ryan and Lauren were going to get their "happy ever after."

Bottom line, I think anyone who has been married can agree that sometimes marriage is really hard work.  After I Do is a quick and emotional read about a couple on the brink of divorce and the steps they take to try and save their marriage.  The question, though, is will it be enough?

After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Pages: 352
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: July 1, 2014

Buy it here!

(68)After I Do by Talyor Jenkins Reid