Saturday, March 28, 2015

Thirty-two year old Helen Carpenter feels like she needs to reboot her life.  She has been divorced for one year and just feels like her life is a complete mess.  Her bratty younger brother, Duncan, had told her about this wilderness survival course in the mountains of Wyoming.  And even though Helen is not really the outdoorsy-type of girl she is committed to spend three weeks trying to get some clarity on her future by hiking through the wilds of Wyoming.  The night before she leaves she runs by her brother's to drop of her dog. She runs into Duncan's childhood best-friend, Jake who happens to be headed to Wyoming,too.   Jake is no longer the goofy, awkward looking guy that she remembers and she is thrown a little off balance when he asks for a ride to Wyoming.  Their trip is mostly uneventful, but there was that one kiss that changes everything Helen thought she knew about Jake and what she wants.   The next three weeks are the most grueling of Helen's life and she pushes herself to extremes she never thought she could do.  And it feels exhilarating.  What will happen when they come down out of the mountains?  Will Helen's new outlook on life continue once she is back home?  And what part will Jake have in her life?

Happiness for Beginners was an absolutely delightful read.  Helen is an interesting character to get to know.  At the beginning of the book she just seems so ... lost.    On the trip out to Wyoming I was thrilled with the developments.  But once they got to Wyoming it was a different game all together.  Helen was the only member of their hiking party in her thirties, in fact their leader looked like he was about fifteen, but she didn't let the frat-boy humor get in her way enjoying the trip. She felt like a complete fish out of water, but still she kept going on.   I really liked how the author showed growth, not only for Helen, but everyone on the trip obviously matured by the time they got back to the lodge.  And then there was Jake.  Helen had demanded that they act like they did not know each other, which was a decision she later regretted.  There were several times that I found myself laughing out loud at Helen's wilderness ineptitude, because frankly, I could see myself doing the exact same things.  It really made the book a fun read.

Bottom line - Happiness for Beginners was a delightful read about a woman who is out to change her life.  It was touching,funny, and even a little bit heartbreaking.  Everything I love in a good book!


(24)Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center

Friday, March 27, 2015

Seventeen year old Lena Haloway is living in a dystopian Portland, Maine sometime in the future.  She is just days away from being cured.  You see, these days the government administers a cure for the Delirium, that horrible disease that causes people to go weak in the knees, a disease that causes their pulse to race when they are in close proximity to someone of the opposite sex.  In fact, the Delirium only occurs when two people fall in love.  Lena is excited to become cured because  she knows life will be easier after being cured.  She knows that her emotions will settle down and her life will become exactly like that of everyone she knows.   And then she meets Alex, a boy from the Wilds who has managed to hide the fact that he was never cured.  It does not take Lena long to realize that she has feelings for this bad boy and she will do anything to prevent the procedure that will cure her of all love.

Delirium was another "treadmill" book that occupied my time as I racked up more chalories.  There was a lot of back-story and a lot of character development.  When it comes to dystopian novels, that kind of history is really necessary to understand the world in the which the book is set.  Lena is an easy girl to like with somewhat of a sketchy past.  Her mother is a legend throughout Portland because she was never able to be cured, no matter how many times they try.  Her name is very recognizable throughout Portland and that is one of the reasons why Lena is so eager for the procedure.  It is as if her procedure will absolve her mother and her mother's suicide.   Obviously meeting Alex changes all of that.  Lena never dreamed that she would ever become infected with the Delirium, yet here she is.  The concept that love is a disease we must be vaccinated against is an interesting one and I was intrigued by how the author was going to make it happen.  And it did play out in an interesting fashion, I will say that.   I always am up for a good dystopian novel and while Delirium didn't really disappoint me, it didn't really leave me with that "I must rush out and get the next book" feeling.  That could have been though because I only "read" it on the treadmill and it took a month or so to get through it, so it could have lost some if it's excitement.

Bottom line - I love a good dystopian novel and I know that many people absolutely loved Delirium and the subsequent books, but I think maybe I was "cured" from that diseas.  Maybe I will read the rest of the trilogy  - if I have nothing else to read - or maybe I won't. Eh.


(23)Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Happy Tuesday!!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Taisy Cleary has been estranged from her father for seventeen years after he called her a whore and proceeded to dispose of her entire family.  Wilson Cleary goes to marry his mistress and their child Willow because the center of his universe.  Over the nearly twenty years Taisy and her twin brother, Marcus, have done their best to forget the fact that they even have a father, let alone a little sister.  Until one day out of the blue Wilson calls Taisy and invites her for a visit.  He recently had some major health issues and is feeling his mortality.  He wants Taisy to help ghostwrite his memoir while she gets to know her sister.   For some reason unbeknownst to Taisy she complies and finds herself living in her father's pool-house trying to make sense of her past and her father's role in the bad choices she made.  Meanwhile, her sister Willow is entering a new world herself.   Her world is turned upside down with her father almost dying and then her long lost sister shows up out of nowhere.   But what is worse is that after being home-schooled her whole life she is forced to go to school at the local private school.   The world of "normal" teens is overwhelming for the girl who has never watched television and doesn't even have a cell phone.  Will Taisy be able to mend her relationship with her father and make peace with her past?  And will Willow be able to allow Taisy to be a big sister to her?

The Precious One is hyptonizing novel about a divided family full of secrets, a novel about friendship and forgiveness.  A novel about lost love and love about to bloom.  The book is told in alternating voices between Taisy and Willow.  The stark differences between Taisy and Willow are brutally noticeable in those first few chapters.  Taisy is laid back and easy going.  Willow is uptight and looks down on her sister for her past mistakes.  Of course what she knows has been poisoned by their opinionated and overbearing father.  Willow's chapters get a bit easier to read as the novel goes on because it is obvious that Taisy has a positive influence on her.  There are a few subplots that add to the drama of the story.  Like Willow and her English teacher, Mr. Insley - which is utterly terrifying.   And the subplot of Taisy and her high school sweetheart, Ben - which is incredibly romantic.  The longer Taisy stays in the pool-house and works on Wilson's memories, the more she knows very little about her father's past.  She digs up some secrets that while they are surprising, they are also a bit enlightening and give great insight into why Wilson is the way he is today.  It is not an excuse, but an understanding.  You put it all together and The Precious One is a novel that will hypnotize you into submission.

Bottom line - Marisa de los Santos is a master of character development and never has that been more evident than in The Precious One.  Taisy and Willow are two of the most thought out, well developed characters I have read in a very long time.  If you are looking for a good read you need to move The Precious One to the top of your list.

  • The Precious One by Marisa de los Santos
  • On Facebook
  • Pages: 368
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publisher
  • Publication Date: 3/24/2015
  • Buy it Here!

(22)The Precious One by Marisa de los Santos

Sunday, March 22, 2015

In just a few minutes Adam Price's normal suburban life is rocked to it's core.  He is at the draft for his son's Lacrosse league when a stranger approaches him to tell him that his wife faked her pregnancy two years ago.  The "Stranger" knew enough details to make Adam question if he was telling the truth.  Adam takes the time to think through how to approach Corinne.  The implication that she lied to him two years ago could have major ramifications on their marriage and their perfect suburban life.   And then Corinne just disappears leaving Adam and their two sons reeling.  Adam starts digging around and discovers that "The Stranger" hasn't just destroyed his life, but others as well.  When the police come knocking on his door because someone else tied to "The Stranger" was murdered Adam begins to realize what fear can be.  Will they be able to find the stranger before it is too late for Corinne?  And what will happen to Adam and Corinne's marriage when she does return?  Will they be able to get past this?

Harlan Coben has been writing books for decades now and I love that he never seems to run out of fresh material.  I wasn't sure which direction he was going to take Adam Price and "The Stranger", but it was a thrilling ride.  I could tell that Adam was a good guy, but even good guys can be pushed to a breaking point.  There are some other dynamics at play in this book, the pressures of suburban life can be greater than people can imagine and it is almost shocking at everything that gets revealed about some suburban inhabitants. Greed being number one on the list.  While the ending was not what I had hoped for Adam and his family, but it wasn't completely unexpected.

Bottom line, even after all these years, Harlan Coben knows how to hook his readers and keep them hooked through the very last page.


(21)The Stranger by Harlan Coben

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Kate McDaid is your typical single twentysomething.  She works for a Dublin ad agency and is trying to wade through the Dublin dating pool.  Then around her 26th birthday she gets summoned to attend the reading of a will.  The will of a distant relative that died 130 years ago, a Great-Aunt (many times removed) also named Kate McDaid.   The will stipulates that in order to receive her inheritance Kate must publicly post The Seven Steps, a series of poems that drudge up old Celtic folklore about Witches and Fairies.  You see the late Kate McDaid was known to be a not so nice witch and her poems might be stirring up more trouble than the young Kate McDaid had expected.  Over the seven weeks that Kate posted the Steps she has sky-rocketed to fame.  Because of the Steps, people believe her to be a witch who can communicate with the fairies, but some believe that if Kate posts all of the Seven Steps it will unleash troubles that could bring the world to their knees.    Does Kate want her inheritance bad enough to take the risk or is it all just a fairy tale?

Reluctantly Charmed is definitely charming novel.  With today being St. Patrick's Day, everybody has a touch of Irish in them, right?  The Dublin setting of this book only added to the charm.  The descriptions of the lilting brogues, the food mentioned, alcohol consumed, all of transplanted me to the "home" of my heart.  I admittedly know very little about  ancient Celtic folklore, so I found that interesting and charming.  The thought of a parallel world full of Fairies and their mischievous ways is kind of fun.   Kate is a fun character to "meet", too.  She is your average single lady who loves going out with her friends, wants to get promoted at work, and find the man of her dreams.  She is reluctant to give in to the hoopla surrounding the Seven Steps and is only doing it with the hope of getting a huge inheritance.  Kate starts to think that there may be some truth to the thing that thousands of her "followers" know to be true -   that she could be a witch.  How else could she possibly know an herbal remedy for a sleepless baby?  Throw in a bad-boy rocker and a handsome farmer from Knocknamee and you have all the fixings for a great story.

Bottom line,  Reluctantly Charmed is a fun and charming novel that will put you in the mood to go find some Leprechauns and a pot of gold.  Definitely a fun read for all of you Irish gals out there!


(20) Reluctantly Charmed by

Happy Tuesday!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Maggie Brennan hasn't been living in San Francisco for very long.  She moved out west with her beloved dog, Toby.   Ninety-Eight days ago Toby died, leaving Maggie alone in a new city to deal with her crippling grief.  It has been ninety-eight days since Maggie has left her house.  Which causes a bit of a problem because Maggie is a pet bereavement counselor and her job is to help people get over the loss of their pets.   She has been keeping her "situation" a secret from her patients.  Until she meets Anya.   Anya lost her dog, Billy, several weeks ago and her brother, Henry, set up the appointment with Maggie hoping that Maggie would help Anya realize that Billy wasn't coming back.   The two grieving pet owners become friends as Maggie starts taking her agoraphobia more seriously.   Part of it is because Maggie wants to get better, but part of it is because of the handsome Henry.   Will the two women be able to find the missing Billy and will Maggie ever get over the loss of her beloved Toby?

I am definitely a dog person.  Even since our family got a cat, I still consider myself a dog person.  Losing a pet, any pet, can be a very traumatic experience and I can fully understand the need to seek out therapy to help deal with the loss.   I can even  understand where the death of a pet could be a "trigger" as it was with Maggie.  Maggie is obviously a caring person who wants to help others, but she was struggling to help herself.  She even was intimately aware of agoraphobia because her own mother hasn't left the house in over twenty years.   But, having said all of that, Dog Crazy didn't really have me "crazy".  I found it to be a bit predictable and one-dimensional.   We didn't get to really get into Maggie's head.  I felt like we just scraped the surface with her.  Not to mention Anya, she comes across as a peculiar little rich girl who was patronized by her older brothers and that kind of annoyed me.  I did enjoy all of the cute little critters depicted in the story and the focus the author put on animal rescues.  It is obviously a cause near and dear to her heart.

Bottom line - Dog Crazy is a bit of a fluffy kind of book that could appeal to dog lovers, but know that it is definitely fluff.


(19)Dog Crazy by Meg Donohue

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, March 9, 2015

April 27, 2011 is a day that will never be erased from the minds of Alabama residents.  On that day over 350 tornadoes ripped through several Southern states leaving 348 people dead, injuring thousands others and causing billions of dollars in damage.  Journalist Kim Cross examines what happened on April 27, 2011 in her new book What Stands in A Storm.  From the local meteorologists who had predicted the outbreak days before to the storm chasers out in the thick of things to University of Alabama college students trying to ride it out in a safe place to the first responders tasked with finding the lost and helping the injured.  Kim Cross transports you to that day, that place, where all eyes were on Mother Nature and the havoc she can wreak.

 What Stands in A Storm  starts with the events leading up to the day of April 27th. The predictions that were made by scientists with decades of school and experience between them.   As most people are waking up the morning of the 27th Meteorologist Jason Simpson and James Spann,  on air personalities,  were well into their workday already issuing the first of many tornado warnings to come that day.   We also meet Danielle Downs, a University of Alabama college student who was finishing up her senior year and getting ready for her sister's upcoming wedding.   She and her two roommates lived off campus on a tree-lined street.  We meet dozens of other ordinary people who started their day not knowing what was going to happen, but aware that the weather was going to play a large part in how it played out.   In heart-pounding, spine-chilling fashion Kim Cross builds the tension as the EF5 & EF4 tornadoes build and bare down on Tuscaloosa and the surround communities.

What Stands in A Storm finishes with the aftermath.  With the destruction.  With the families racing to the Tuscaloosa area to find their missing loved ones.  Kim Cross tells heartbreaking story after heartbreaking story that leaves you feeling as if your heart has been ripped out.   But the resilience of the families that lost everything will give you hope and lift your soul.  The way the people of the South, of the country,  banded together to get things done will make your heart smile.  And the very last pages of the book is a dedication and list of all 252 Alabamians who perished that day.

It has been a very long time since I read a book that sent chills down my arms.  A long time since I read a book that made me cry so hard I could not see the words on the pages.   Having grown up in Southwest Iowa the weather in springtime is always at the forefront of everyone's minds.  I grew up in a house that always had a radio on so we could listen for weather reports.  I now live in an area of the country not conducive to tornadic weather and I find myself almost nostalgic for those springtime thunderstorms.  I almost have almost forgotten the anxiety that riddled me whenever I heard that "conditions were ripe for tornadoes." The careful planning I took to prepare for bad weather.   Kim Cross reminded me that tornadoes are not something to be "nostalgic" about.  They are real and they are deadly.

Bottom line - in What Stands in A Storm author Kim Cross puts you in the heart of the storm in such a way that I am not sure has ever been done before.   She has put faces and names and stories to the people who were killed or injured that day and has done so in such a way that you will never forget.    Hands down the best book I have read this year, if not ever.


(18) What Stands in A Storm by Kim Cross

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Jenny's life is busy, but fulfilling.  She is the mother of three teenagers, wife to a surgeon, and a family doctor herself. Her ordinarily average life is disrupted when fifteen year old Naomi doesn't come home from an evening performance of the school play.  Naomi's disappearance rocks the family and brings to light all sorts of family drama that was festering below the surface.  Drug abuse, infidelity, and more.   But that doesn't answer the question - where is Naomi?

The Daughter is told in an interesting timeline.  The days leading up to and the days after Naomi's disappearance and then ten months after the disappearance when the family has shattered into a million little pieces.   Jenny has moved to their summer house, leaving her husband at home.   The twins, Theo and Ed, have scattered.    But Jenny is still feels empty without knowing what happened to Naomi and is willing to got to any lengths to find out what happened to her daughter.

The Daughter was a captivating read.  Watching this family implode was heartbreaking, yet captivating.  As each secret was revealed it seemed like this family hardly knew each other at all.    I think Jenny was shattered the most by Naomi's disappearance.  She was so confident that she knew everything there was to know about her daughter and obviously that wasn't true. I also found her relationship with the detective, Micheal, interesting.  I was satisfied with the ending, but it did leave a few unanswered questions for me.  Or else I missed something along the way.

Bottom line, The Daughter was a good read. I was sucked in by this dysfunctional family and I didn't want to stop reading until the truth had been revealed.  Isn't that always a good hallmark of a good book?


(17)The Daughter by Jane Shemilt

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Happy Tuesday!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The year is 2005 and Ellen and Lacey are two women who are as different as two women can be.  Ellen is a widow with two kids in their late teens and a very fulfilling career as an English Professor at the local university.   Lacy is a young mother with a twelve year old son living with her husband in New York City.  The only thing these two women have in common is that their loved ones were just injured in the Iraq war.   For Ellen it is Michael, her "ward".   He joined the Marines when he felt he had no other option.  He had a rough life growing up and feels like he owes so much to Ellen who took him in at seventeen.  Rather than go back to the streets he came from, he joins the Marines.  Lacey's husband, Eddie, is a member of the Army Reserves and this is not his first trip to the desert.  Both men and critically injured and are sent to Walter Reed Hospital for their care and recovery.  It is there that the two women meet and become unlikely friends.  Together they sit in the halls of Walter Reed praying, talking, and advocating for their loved ones.   Both men have life changing injuries, but the way they adapt to their injuries is entirely different.

Blue Stars is an incredible look at the side of war almost never mentioned in novels.  What  happens after the injuries.  Loved ones are summoned to join their injured loved ones at Walter Reed where sometimes they get the necessary information and sometimes they don't.   For months on end their injured loved ones are cared for by a conveyor belt of doctors, nurses and other staff.   When the crisis passes and the wives and mothers feel safe in leaving for a shower, a meal, and a good night of sleep they are often put up by the Government in hovels that are overcrowded, dirty, and bug-infested.   To say it was eye-opening is a complete understatement.   Ellen and Lacey are so completely opposite of each other and those differences are highlighted time after time.  Ellen is a reserved, educator who listens to NPR and is an Edith Wharton scholar.   Lacey is a brash, loud, New Yorker with the mouth of a sailor and a bit of a drinking problem.  But the way they lean on each other all those months at Walter Reed is the stuff that lifelong friendships are made of.  Both women have their faults, but the way they overlooked their differences and backgrounds was just truly heartwarming.  Both Michael and Eddie were forever changed by what happened in Iraq and I was pleased with the way the author ended the book.  Not ideal, but fair.  What else can you hope for from war?

Bottom line,  Blue Stars is an enthralling look at the ugly business of war.  Emily Gray Tedrow introduces us to two women who knows what it means to be strong, compassionate, and survivors. Would be a great book for a book club.  So much to talk about!


(16)Blue Stars by Emily GrayTedrowe

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Private Detective Tess Monaghan is back in Laura Lippman's new novel, Hush Hush and is hired to assess a security threat to one of the most notorious women in Baltimore.  Melisandre Harris Dawes is the former socialite who killed her baby daughter on a hot summer day.   She was found "Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity" and disappeared from the public eye for nearly a decade.  Now she is back and working with a documentary filmmaker to tell her story, but she fears that people might be out to get her.  When her personal trainer is poisoned Tess starts to realize that Melisandre's fear is based in reality.  Tess and her new partner start digging into the past to find who might want Melisandre dead.   Is it her ex-husband or his new wife?  What about the two teen daughters she left behind when they needed her the most?  Will Tess find the threat before somebody else dies?

Hush Hush was one of those mystery novels that seem almost comforting to me.  Laura Lippman doesn't really fall in the category of "Cozy Mystery" but Tess Monaghan is a familiar character that I have gotten to "know".  Tess and Crow are *this* close to being married and Carla Scarlet is a precocious three year old that keeps both of them on their toes.   Melisandre is a less than likable character.  Almost from her first introduction she rubbed me the wrong way, but I wasn't convinced that she deserved to be in danger.  As always, Tess is on top of things as she tries to get to the bottom of things.  But when she starts receiving stalker-type notes I thought I had figured out who was behind them, but I was way wrong.

Bottom line - Hush Hush was a great mystery with a lot of different little intricacies that leave you continually guessing.   Definitely wort the read if you are in the mood for a good mystery.


(15)Hush Hush by Laura Lippman

Happy Tuesday!!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Quentin Jacobsen is counting down the days until graduation. He and his two best friends, Ben and Radar, have survived high school together and are making plans for prom and the summer.  May 6th was a perfectly ordinary day for Q until that night when his neighbor, old friend, and longtime crust comes knocking on his window.   Margot  Roth Spiegelman, the most popular girl in school is on a mission and she needs Q's help and he is not about to say no.  Margot has thoroughly planned out a night of revenge on her boyfriend and her best friend and anyone else who may have known that they were cheating on Margot.    The night is easily the best night of Q's life and he is excited to go to school the next day to see how things have changed between him and Margot.   But she doesn't show up for school that day.  Or the next day.  And soon it is evident that Margot is gone, but Q is convinced that she needs to be found and he sets off on a mission of his own to find Margot Roth Spiegelman, dead or alive.

One week ago today my Father-In-Law passed away.  The long week ended with me driving my teen step-kids the eighteen hours back to Utah.  One way we passed the time was to listen to an audio book.  I knew that Lexi would listen with me, but I was surprised to look in the review mirror and find the boy-teen laughing with us,  And we did a lot of laughing during Paper Towns.  Q and his friends are hysterical together.  Ben is the friend who thinks he is "hot stuff" but we know that he is far from it.  And Radar (nicknamed from the character on MASH)  is their "token" black friend who is a nerd in every sense of the word.  The fact that his parents own the world's largest collection of black Santa's is just one of those little details that makes this book perfect.   Of course Radar & Ben are with Q as he looks for Margo Roth Spiegelman, because that is what friends do.   Their "treasure hunt" takes them all over Florida and then the entire eastern part of the country.  The group's road trip is one of the funniest things I have "read" in a long time.  We were all laughing at the parallels between Q and his trip and our trip. The main ones being the mini-van and looooong ass drive. We decided if we ever get a van we will call it "The Dreidel"   I tried to get the kids to do a six minute pit stop with me, but they just laughed at me.   I don't want to give spoilers about what they find at the end of their road trip, but I was pleased with the way the book ended.

Bottom line, John Green is easily the undisputed King of Young Adult novels and Paper Towns is another perfect example why.  His stories are engaging and entertaining and guaranteed to make you laugh and cry.  And guess what, - you don't HAVE to be a young adult to enjoy them!

(14)Paper Towns by John Green

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Neva Bradley is a third generation midwife.  She has been attending childbirths ever since she was a young girl and "caught" her first baby when she was fourteen.  It was no surprise to her mother, Grace or her grandmother, Floss that she was going to go into the family business.  Neva works at the local hospital's Birthing Center helping the next generation of women give birth. But it is her own pregnancy that is the topic of conversation among the hospital staff and her own family.  Neva made it 30 weeks into her pregnancy before her family found out that she was pregnant and now she refuses to tell anyone who is the father of her baby.  Grace cannot honor Neva's wishes for privacy and is determined to find out the truth, meanwhile her own career is in jeopardy after a bitter doctor reported her to the Board of Nursing.    As Floss sits back and watches from a distance she is afraid that it might be time to tell Grace and Neva her own secret, one that she vowed never to tell.  Will the three midwives keep their secrets or reveal them to each other?  And what will happen of their secrets are revealed?

The Secrets of Midwives was a fast read.  The chapters are told in alternating voices of the three women, mostly from Neva's view point, in that way that reminded me of Diane Chamberlain.  I loved how Neva was trying to be independent by not telling her family about her pregnancy, yet she was tied to them in such a way that it was obvious secrets are always revealed.  I loved Neva's relationship with the handsome pediatrician, Patrick.  I had hoped that the two of them would end up together, but when Neva finally does reveal the father of her baby, it was a blow to their relationship. I think it was Floss's secret that was most shocking and caused the biggest blow to the family, but it was also eating her alive.  I was pleased with the way things ended, nicely wrapped up with that "happy ever after" feeling.

Bottom line, The Secrets of Midwives is a heartwarming generational tale about a family that sticks together.  Readers are going to relate to either Neva, Grace, or Floss.  Or maybe all three - and that definitely makes this a book worth reading.


(13)The Secrets of Midwives by Sally Hepworth

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Ian Paine's life has not exactly been picture perfect.  He grew up in a small mining town in upstate New York, The Hollows  where he was bullied for being overweight and a bit of an outcast.   His only friend was a beautiful young woman named, Priss.   Priss was there for him when his mother went crazy and drowned his sister, Priss was there for him when he was picked on during gym class, and she has been there for him most of his life.  Most people don't believe that Priss exists except for in his imagination and in the pages of his hit Graphic Novel Series, Fatboy & Priss.  Those few people who believe that she does exist warns him to stay far away from her.   As an adult, Ian is ready to move on from Priss.  In both his real life and in the graphic novels. Ian has met a wonderful woman, Megan, and is madly in love.  As their relationship progresses and Ian is ready to propose he begins to fear for his life.  Priss is less than pleased that Ian's attention has shifted from her to Megan and when Megan starts experiencing "accidents" Ian realizes that Megan's life might be in danger.    Will Ian be able to get rid of Priss before she does serious harm to the love of his life?

Holy smokes, Crazy Love You is one heck of a thriller.  There are so many twists and turns that you don't know what is real and what isn't.   Ian is a seriously damaged young man.  The events of his past has led him down the path of drugs and alcohol. Anything to make him forget his past and help his creative juices to keep flowing. The way he met Megan was even a bit creepy, but she normalized his life in a way that Ian desperately needed and frankly had wanted his whole life.  Ian was clinging to that normalcy in every way he possibly could - he was as attracted to Megan's "normal" parents as he was to Megan herself.  The whole thing was a bit romantic, a bit gothic.   Then there is Priss - there is such a mysterious element to her that you find yourself questioning Ian's sanity just like the people of The Hollow's did.  Man, it really keeps you on the edge of your seat.   Everything culminates in a heart-pounding, page-turning finale that will wrap everything up nicely without seeming forced or fake.  It really was a work of beauty.

Bottom line, Lisa Unger is one of the best when it comes to weaving a story that causes your heart to race.  Crazy Love You is a story that will suck you in and leave wanting more.   So, so good.


(12)Crazy Love You by Lisa Unger

Happy Tuesday!!

Monday, February 9, 2015

It was a wet and dreary night the night that Nicky Frank drove her Audi Q5 off the New Hampshire road into the ravine.  When the police get to her she reeks of whisky and is screaming about Vero, who the police believe to be he daughter.  She is severely injured, nearly coherent, and has suffered her third Traumatic Brain Injury in just six months. Her memory is sketchy, but Nicky knows that she must try to save Vero.   Sergeant Wyatt Foster is determined to find the missing girl, but as the hours pass Wyatt isn't so sure that there was even a girl and is determined to get to the bottom of things.   But things get even stranger when it turns out that Nicky is a child that went missing thirty years ago, Veronica Sellers and Nicky's husband has mysteriously disappeared after torching their home.   As the past slowly comes to light, Wyatt is determined to get to the bottom of Nicky's story, but at what cost to Nicky's fragile state of mind?

Crash & Burn was one of those novels that kept you in the edge of your seat.  It was incredibly fast paced and Nicky was a sympathetic character, until you started to wonder if there was something more sinister to her story. You wanted to believe she was this innocent victim, but once the seed of doubt was placed, it was hard to know.  It was also easy to see why Wyatt and his colleagues questioned the role of Nicky's husband in her "mishaps".  Thomas appeared to be attentive to his wife's needs, but he wouldn't be the first abusive husband to put on such a front.  I loved how Lisa Gardner created that doubt in the mind of the reader, it kept me guessing until the very end.   Long time readers of Gardner will also be pleased to know there is an appearance of favorite detective, D.D. Warren.

Bottom line, Lisa Gardner is a master at creating suspense.  Crash & Burn is another successful attempt on her part.  Nicky's story is one that will have you on the edge of your seats.


(11) Crash & Burn by Lisa Gardner

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Drew Silver has screwed up his life in truly epic ways.  He is a washed up musician who makes ends meet by living off of the royalties of his one hit song and  playing wedding gigs and Bar Mitzvahs.  He lives in an efficiency hotel with the other guys who recently have gone through divorce and their days are spent poolside lamenting their wayward lives.  Silver misses the life he once had, the rockstar hero-worship.  He misses his ex-wife, who is about to marry a good guy who has looked after Denise and their teen daughter Casey.  Then one day Casey visits her dad to drop a bombshell.  She is pregnant. Her future at Princeton is questionable. Silver is convinced this happened because of his failure as a parent.  To top off the wonderful week Silver discovers that his own health is at risk and if he doesn't have a life-saving surgery he will die from his torn aorta.  Those around Silver don't understand why he refuses to have the surgery.  But why would he want to extend a life where the highlight of his week is going to donate at the sperm bank.  While Silver is trying to enjoy his final days, his family is trying to convince him that his life is worth living.  What will he decide- to live or to die?

Silver is kind of a pathetic main character.  I just get that "sleazy" vibe from him and his efficiency hotel room, but no matter how pathetic he may be, his family loves him.  His father is a Rabbi, who will be the one officiating Denise's upcoming nuptials.  Which may seem weird, but it is obvious that Silver's family still adores Denise and completely blame Silver for their divorce.   There were a few times when I questioned whether Denise would go through with the marriage.  Then there is Casey, does she have the baby or does she have an abortion? I was almost hoping for a "happy every after" for all of them - instead we were left with an ending that causes the reader to go "WTF?"   The author writes the ending in a way that leaves it up to the reader to interpret what happened and I wasn't all that pleased with that kind of ending.  I want to know what happens, because sometimes my imagination doesn't take me to pretty places.

Bottom line, I have been a big fan of Jonathan Tropper and his incredible sense of wit for years.  Having said that, I was a bit disappointed by One Last Thing Before I Go.  I did not laugh as much as I had hoped and that ending was not nice at all.   But, it is Jonathan Tropper, so definitely worth the read.  Just go into it know it is not one of his best works.


(10)One Last Thing Before I Go by Jonathan Tropper

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Happy Tuesday!!

Lauren Cunningham has always been enchanted by London. Even as a young woman she had posters of the London skyline on her wall.  She is in her late twenties before she decides to ditch life in Maine and head to London.  It doesn't take her long to realize that dating in London is not that much different than dating in the States and it is brutal.  So Lauren hits the books.  She decides to dedicate a year of her life to following the dating advice of self-help books such as The Rules and The Game. She will do daring things completely out of character for her all with the hopes of finding true love.  Things like participating in a threesome, attending a BDSM club,  online dating, and creating calling cards right out of the Victorian era, but will all of her efforts yield the results that she hopes for - true love?

Love by the Book was definitely a fun and light-hearted read,  Lauren's willingness to be daring reminded me a lot of Carrie Bradshaw (if you don't know Carrie Bradshaw you are dead to me).  I was almost envious of her carefree, try-anything mentality.  I was much more reserved as a single woman, that is for sure. Although I admit to reading more than one of the same books Lauren did, I certainly did not implement with the same success.  If I could relate to anything in Love by the Book  it is definitely that feeling like a country is calling you home.  I feel that way about Ireland. We are lucky enough to have Melissa Pimentel join us for a Q & A today.
Q& WITH MELISSA PIMENTEL, AUTHOR OF LOVE BY THE BOOK Q: Although LOVE BY THE BOOK is a novel, the premise comes from an experiment that you conducted in your own life, that you turned into a blog called “Love by the Book.” What made you want to try this and how did you come up with the idea? 
A:The idea came after a year of semi-successful dating in London. I’d come out of a serious relationship the year before (a marriage, in fact) so I wasn’t looking for anything remotely serious… and yet every time I tried to convey that to a guy, they seemed to think I was trying to trick them. It was getting annoying, so when the idea came to me to try these different dating guides – and effectively turn my love life into a science experiment – it instantly appealed. I’ve always thought that dating should be fun – when I was in college, I used to play a game called “wrong or funny” with my roommate in which we’d get ourselves in slightly awkward/controversial situations with guys and then ask each other if the situation was wrong or funny (the best ones were both) – so this felt like killing two birds with one stone: making a game out of dating and also (maybe, hopefully) learning something about male behavior along the way. 
Q: Why did you decide to write this as a novel and not as a memoir? 
A: In truth, I ran out of material! The real-life experiment was going really well for a few months. It was fun (if exhausting) and the blog was starting to get some traction… but then lo and behold, I went on a first date with one of the test subjects and fell in love. It was sort of a double-edged sword: on the one hand, I was happy to have met the love of my life (we’re now engaged) but on the other, I was kind of annoyed that I had to give up the project. I actually tried to keep it going for the first month we were together, but it was getting too weird. An editor at Penguin who had been following the blog suggested a try to fictionalize it, and here we are! I’m actually really glad that it ended up being a novel rather than a memoir, as fiction allowed me to be more creative about what happens to Lauren. I was able to incorporate dating horror stories that my friends had told me and also invent situations, which was really satisfying. Though I have to say, real life is often more ridiculous than fiction! 
Q: How do you think the dating world has changed in the last two decades? What rules are the same and what rules are different? 
A:I think that there’s more choice out there for everyone, which can be both a good and a bad thing. Women are more comfortable with saying that they’re looking for no-strings sex and I think there’s less pressure on women to settle down and couple off before they’re ready – which is obviously a good thing. I get the feeling that women in their twenties are less concerned about finding Mr. Right (GOD I hate that phrase) than the generation before them, and their focus now is more on their career/friends/self/life in general than getting some dude to buy them a ring. I do think it’s taking guys longer to catch on to that mentality, though, and a lot of guys still think that if a woman has sex with them, that means wants to marry them. And it doesn’t. There’s also all the choice that online dating has brought about. Think back to Jane Austen times, when there were basically three eligible bachelors in any given neighborhood, so chances were good that you’d end up with one of them. These days, basically every single person within a five mile radius is just a message or a swipe away. This amount of choice is amazing in some ways – what if all three of those bachelors in Austen’s neighborhood were dicks? – but also sort of overwhelming. If everyone’s available, what’s the incentive of giving the person you’re going on a first date with a fair shot? Or the guy who’s photo doesn’t ring your bell, but who might be super charming and funny in person? And Christ only knows that men feel the same way, if not more. I read an interview recently with the two most popular people on a big online dating site – a straight guy and a straight girl. Both received hundreds of messages from prospective suitors. The girl was clearly a little freaked out by it, and the attention had made her more selective, while the guy was like, THIS IS AMAZING. There are a couple of things that have remained the same, though. The first, more superficial, thing is that everyone loves a chase. For whatever reason, the human race appears to be hardwired to desire the things/people/situations we can’t have, and that is certainly true of dating. As sad and anachronistic as it sounds, if you want a guy to pay more attention to you, pay less attention to him. Don’t text him for a while. Date other guys. Men have some sort of radar about this: if they feel your attention is elsewhere, they’ll want to get it back. The second, arguably more important, thing is that when it happens, it happens. Dating should be fun! Turning it into a serious issue won’t get you any closer to finding your soulmate, but putting yourself in awkward/unexpected situations just might. Be open to anything but expect nothing. Love is a weird animal and it will sneak up on you when you least expect it. Just make sure you have a lot of fun before it gets you.
Q: What was the most ridiculous thing that’s happened to you on a date? 
A: Oh, god. So many. There was the guy who ordered two drinks for my every one, and then ended up so shitfaced I had to put him in a cab. The guy who ate seemingly an entire head of garlic at dinner and then planted a kiss on me so bad that it made me cancel our second date. The professor who lured me to his apartment with the promise of giving me a book he’d mentioned, only to try to (literally) trap me in his kitchen as he offered to be my sugar daddy… honestly, it got to the point where I was surprised when I went on a non-ridiculous date. And a little disappointed. 
Q: What’s the lamest excuse a guy has given you when they come down with “The Fear?” 
A: Well, as in the book, a man did literally choose watching Football Focus (which is a show in the UK dedicated to a bunch of talking heads discussing the Premiere League) over having sex with me, which was a low. And there was another who told me that I was looking for too much commitment when I suggested we try seeing each other more than once every six weeks. Actually, that was the same guy… Hmm. 
Q: You’ve worked in the publishing industry for you entire career, currently at Curtis Brown in London. Did you find that your experience has helped you during the writing and acquisition process? How does it feel to be the writer instead of the agent? 
A: I honestly don’t think I would have written this book if I didn’t work in the industry. I would never have had the courage (or the will) to go off on my own volition, write an entire novel, submit it to agents… no way. I would have been way too nervous and self-conscious. I feel incredibly lucky that the editor at Penguin UK, Hana, approached me about the idea and that my great friend and colleague, Felicity, agreed to be my agent. I also feel incredibly guilty, as I know there are so many people out there writing away and hoping to get published one day, and I sort of fell into it. (Though the writing of the actual book was actually pretty tricky while holding down a full-time job, so I will allow myself a little bit of credit). As for being on the other side of things, it’s actually been really fascinating! I definitely have a bigger respect for the publishing process as a whole. There are so many people involved in the process, and so much work goes into making the finished product – it’s sort of breathtaking to witness. As a writer, you’re sat at your desk pecking away at a keyboard for months on end and then suddenly you’re swept up in this huge publishing machine. It’s really impressive to see it in action.      

Q: Did any of the dating guides give you a tip that actually worked? 
A: Two things really worked: playing hard to get, as per The Rules (which I was pretty bad at, because I’m impatient and also because PATRIARCHY!) and flirting with everyone you come across, as per the 1920s guide, The Technique of the Love Affair. This was so much fun and such a big confidence booster – it really proved to me that if you have your light on and you’re open and receptive, basically anyone and everyone will flirt back. And that’s really fun. 
Q: Which guide ended up helping the most? Which was the biggest disaster? 
A: I think The Technique of the Love Affair was the most successful in that it was the most fun and definitely made me change the way I went about my everyday business. Even the morning commute started to be fun, as I’d try to get as many cute guys to make eye contact with me as possible (though this is slightly risky on the Tube, where there might be a psychopath waiting quietly behind that cute veneer). The most disastrous was probably Why Men Love Bitches, because I was trying to shoehorn it into my life after I’d met my partner. Also, while I appreciated the sentiment – I completely agree that no woman should feel like they need to accommodate a guy’s every whim and fancy – but I thought the wording was a little off. You can be a strong, independent woman who tells men what you want and what you think (men should and do love that) without being a bitch. No one likes an asshole. 
Q: What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to someone who considers themselves cursed in the dating world? 
A: Broaden your horizons. Go out with the guy who doesn’t seem like your type, or whose picture is a little weird, or who’s two inches shorter than your ideal height. You never know what you’re going to find. And try to enjoy yourself – obviously dating can be excruciating at times, but there are so many other elements of life that cause stress and unhappiness. Dating really should be one of the enjoyable parts. And if at all possible, play Wrong or Funny. It’s seriously so much fun.
Thank you to Melissa Pimentel for such a fun Q and A session.  Bottom line, Love by the Book is a fresh twist on dating in the twenty-first century.  Definitely a fun read.

  • Love by the Book by Melissa Pimentel 
  • Pages: 336
  • Publisher: Penguin Group
  • Publication date: February 3 ,2015
  • Buy It Here!

(9)Love by the Book by Melissa Pimentel

Monday, February 2, 2015

Isabelle and Vianne are two French sisters who have not had an easy life.  Their mother died when they were young and their father  sent the sisters away to live with distant family so he could drown his grief in whiskey.  Even though Vianne was the much older sister she wanted very little to do with young Isabelle, instead finding solace in a local boy.  Over the years the sisters grew further apart and tried very hard to forget the other existed.  Until World War II and the French surrendered to the Germans.  Then the sisters had one thing in common - survival.  But, they go about it in different ways.  Isabelle runs off to work with the Resistance in shepherding fallen airmen across the Pyrenees Mountains to freedom.   Isabelle knows that what she is doing is dangerous and could get her killed or worse - sent to a Camp, but she does it because it is all she can do.   Vianne stays behind in their little village and tries to survive the best she can with a German officer staying in her home.   But when the SS comes for Vianne's best friend, Rachel, her place in the war has been solidified.  Vianne knows that she must help the young Jewish children of her village, she must keep them safe when their parents are sent off to the camps.  Will the two sisters survive the war despite the great risks they are taking and at what cost to their relationship - to their family?

The Nightingale is quite the powerful novel about love and honor in the face of the most horrific situations.  The story starts out in Oregon in 1995 with an elderly woman who is preparing to sell her home and move into a nursing home to please her son, Julien.  She is remembering the woman she once was and the life she once led in France.  The story then flashes back to 1939 France and we meet Isabelle and Vianne.  As with any Kristin Hannah novel, it is so easy to get lost in the story full of love and war, but more so in The Nightingale.  The story takes us to another time and place that often gets forgotten in our daily lives.   The two sisters are so different.  Isabelle is young and impetuous.  A rebel.  And Vianne is a complacent wife and mother who just wants to keep her head down and do as told.    You can see right away where the different temperaments would cause friction between the two sisters and the friction is there for most of the novel, sometimes to the point of frustration for the reader, but in the end it only adds to the story.It takes Vianne a while to fully understand the atrocities of the war, but once she does, there is no stopping her.   Vianne and Isabelle may be fictional characters, but men and women all over Europe were performing similar acts of heroism during the war and The Nightingale draws attention to those forgotten heroes and it is important that we remember those acts of heroism.

Bottom line, it is easy for my generation to let the atrocities of World War II fall to the far recesses of our mind.  We didn't live through it, odds are our parents didn't live through it either, or if they did they were too young to remember.  We likely don't have that personal connection to keep us from forgetting.    It is why books like The Nightingale are so important, they keep us from forgetting and help us to remember that our world is safe because so many lost their lives to ensure it.


(8)The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Anna Wyatt has just turned 40 and is taking an inventory of her life.  She is recently divorced from a man she was married to for eleven years and never really loved.  She is the oldest child of a couple that really shouldn't have had children.  Her younger brother is a train-wreck that can't do wrong in Anna's eyes.  The one highlight in her life is her career, she works for a successful ad agency in the Washington DC area and has a great idea to land a subsidiary of a large pharmaceutical company which could lead to landing the big fish.  Her plan takes her and her colleague, Sasha, to Phoenix where they are attending RomanceCon.  A convention for the readers and writers of romance novels.  The girls are hoping to sign the winner of the Romance Novel Cover Model of the Year to be the spokesman for their new ad campaign.  But it is handsome businessman, Lincoln Mallory who catches Anna's eye.  Is their romance one that will last or will it end when their respective conventions end?  And will Anna and Sasha land their big account or will they lose out to the "boys club" that dominates the advertising industry?

Girl Before a Mirror was just the kind of read that I needed. It was fun, empowering, and even a bit emotional.  Anna Wyatt is a character that was easy to like.  The relationship she has with her brother is sweet, if not a bit dysfunctional.  Her relationship with Lincoln was much the same, sweet, if not a bit dysfunctional.  And it was obvious that Anna was at the top of her game when it came to her career.  There was a real "Girl Power" moment that just left me practically cheering out loud.   It was almost inspiring to think, if Anna can go after what she wants, why can't I?  Girl Before a Mirror was such a good read, I can't recommend it highly enough.

Bottom line, Girl Before a Mirror is a true "girl power" novel that will give a boost to anyone needing to know that they can be the heroine of their own story!


(7)Girl Before a Mirror by Liza Palmer

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Happy Tuesday!