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?
JUST THE FACTS: 

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

Friday, July 25, 2014

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands

Pages: 288

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday
Publication Date: July 8, 2014


That day started just like any other day for Emily Shepherd. She went off to school and her parents went off to their jobs at the nuclear power plant near their Vermont home. It was during lunch that everything changed.  The sirens sounded and the teachers rounded everyone up on school buses, not even allowing them to get their stuff from their lockers.  The evacuation was quick and the rumors were even quicker, but the reality was soon revealed.  There was a meltdown at the plant.  And the rumor running rampant is that Emily's father was the reason why nineteen people died and the Northern Kingdom is now a nuclear wasteland.  Once Emily realized what happened she took off from the evacuation camp and it started her life on the streets and it was not an easy life. Often times her only company was the works of Emily Dickinson. She survived by becoming a prostitute and hanging out with serious drug users and doing things she never thought she would do.   But that stopped when she met up with nine year old, Cameron.  Now Emily has a purpose, she has a reason to get to tomorrow.  But can a teenage girl and a young boy survive a Vermont winter on the street?  Will the rest of her life be spent on the streets?  Will the world ever forget the role her parents played in the meltdown and let her move on with her life?

I finished Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands several days ago, yet it frequently  lingers at the back of my mind.  I have enjoyed many apocalyptic novels in my time, but none seemed so real as this book. Have never seemed so possible. The book is written in journal format and kind of jumps around, but that is typical teenage fashion, so it just adds to the authenticity.  Reading Emily's words just made  my heart ache, she was so alone and that led her to do some pretty drastic things just to get by. Things that she never would have done prior to the meltdown.  Then when she met up with Cameron there was a little sense of hope as you watched her try to prevent him from experiencing life on the street the way she experienced it up to that point. They spent a lot of time in the park and the library doing things a parent, or big sister would do with a young one.  Once Emily came to grips with the fact that her parents were gone she was so concerned about her beloved dog.  I could so relate to that, because my dogs are my babies and the thought of them alone would worry me to know end.  I am not sure I would have done what she did, going back into the thick of things, but I can understand why she did.  She had nothing else to lose.  The title alone has meaning that will likely make your eyes leak, it comes from real events that took place in New England, but I won't spoil it.

Bottom line, Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands is one of those books that will touch your heart.  You will find yourself reading furiously hoping that not only will survive, but thrive, despite everything that has happened.  There are a lot of discussion points with this book, so it might be a great book club selection, but just be sure to read it.  Trust me on this one. 


(67)Close Your Eyes. Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Nantucket Sisters

Pages: 352

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication Date: June 17, 2017


Even though Emily and Maggie come from two different worlds they have been best friends ever since they were kids when they met on Nantucket.  Maggie is an "islander" and Emily comes from a wealthy family that summers on the island.  Despite their differences, they spend nearly every waking hour together for nearly every summer of their childhood. Even though their financial differences become more apparent the older they get, Emily can't help but fall for Maggie's older brother, Ben.  The next phase of their life include college, traveling, and long distance relationships, but through it all Maggie and Emily remain best friends.  Until  Emily and Ben break up over money and both friends end up pregnant.  The friends drifts apart and their lives go different ways with Emily married to a high powered finance guy and Maggie staying on the island to raise her daughter alone.  Until a tragedy strikes and they are forced to face some cold hard truths about their friendship and their daughters.  Will the two women become as close as sisters again or are their differences too great to overcome. 

 Set on the beautiful island of Nantucket the differences between the locals and the summer people are illustrated quite nicely in Nancy Thayer's new novel, Nantucket Sisters. As young children the differences in their social classes mean nothing to Maggie and Emily, but those differences become more pronounced with each year that passes.  And to Ben those differences are almost more than he can handle. It irritated me a bit that Ben kind of behaved like an ass about the fact that Emily's family has money.  And at the same time, it really seemed like Emily really seemed like a diva about wanting her family to pay for things.  There was no compromise from either of them. It made me want to shake them and say "WTF".  Then there is that ass Cameron Chadwick.  Really couldn't stand that dude.   While a bit predictable, the end was satisfying and wrapped things up nicely. 

Bottom line, while Nantucket Sisters wasn't my favorite Nancy Thayer novel, it is still definitely worth the read.  Her look at love, friendship, and social status makes for a good read.

(66)Nantucket Sisters by Nancy Thayer

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Summer House with Swimming Pool

Pages: 400
Publisher: Crown Publishing
Publication Date: June 3, 2014


Dr. Marc Schlosser is not your typical family practitioner.  Even though he hates the human body he takes his job seriously and makes an effort to spend at least twenty minutes with each patient. He works hard, but he is looking forward to taking his wife, their two daughters and getting away for a summer vacation. A little by chance and a little by his design they end up at the summer house of famous actor, Ralph Meier.  Meier and his wife have two boys close in age to his girls so the good doctor is sure that it will be a successful vacation.  The fact that Meier's wife, Judith, has been coming on to him is only a bonus in his eyes. As the summer days go on, Schlosser's "daddy senses" kick into overdrive.  Observing the actor in action leaves him feeling as if Ralph Meier is a predator that is preying on his daughters.  When something horrible happens to his oldest daughter and Ralph Meier is MIA the doctor comes to one conclusion, Meier is guilty.  And he has only one choice, find a way to get even.  And that opportunity presents itself when Meier goes to see the doctor about a lump.   Will Schlosser get the revenge he craves or will his profession keep him from exacting his revenge.  And then there is the little fact that he doesn't know for sure if Ralph Meier is the man who hurt his baby girl. 

When I started Summer House with Swimming Pool I didn't realize that it was written by a Dutch author and not set in America, so I was a little confused at first about some of the references. I struggled on how to categorize the novel, Fiction or Mystery.  The majority of the book would be considered Fiction, but you know it is building towards something.  Then you spend the rest of the book trying to figure out what happened, just like the good doctor.    Also, the book is written as if Marc Schlosser was telling you the story over a couple of beers, so it really feels as if you are getting in his head.  Frankly it was a bit scary at times, reading the thoughts that run through his head as he deals with patients, his family, and his friend's beautiful wife.  As the story progresses you can feel the intensity increase and there is almost a sense of desperation for him to find out who is responsible for hurting his daughter.   I won't lie, the end is a bit of a shocker and it left me a bit speechless. 

Bottom line, Summer House with Swimming Pool is a suspenseful thriller that may start out a little slow, but builds with each page you turn.  If you are looking for a suspenseful read to break up all of the beach reads, then this book is definitely for you!

(65)Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Matchmaker

Pages: 368

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: June 10, 2014


To forty-eight year old Dabney Nantucket is home. She grew up on the island and has only left a handful of times over the years, one of them being college.  She came home from Harvard pregnant with the child of a man who wanted to do nothing but wander the world.  Dabney ends up having her daughter, Agnes, and marries a Harvard professor that only lives on the island part of the time.  As the director of the local Chamber of Commerce Dabney gets to share her love of the island every single day.  Her whole world changes though the day that Dabney receives an email from her ex saying he is coming home to the island.  Dabney agrees to see him, but when their relationship starts heating up she struggles to decide who is going to make her happier.  Her husband or the father of her child.  But when Dabney receives devastating news she realizes that her definition of happiness has changed.  

Someday I am going to go to Nantucket.  Elin Hilderbrand just makes it seem so idyllic with her descriptions of blue skies and ocean as far as the eye can see, who wouldn't want to go to paradise?  Every small community has a "Dabney" - someone so full of community pride that it just pours out of them no matter what they are doing or saying. Dabney is a great character because her love of the island comes from a pure place in the heart of the author. Anyone who has read her books knows that she is an "islander" herself.  In a case of life imitating art Elin Hilderbrand underwent a double mastectomy just days after the publication of this book.  Obviously she didn't know that she had cancer as she was writing the book, but I knew it as I was reading the book and it was all I could think about.  When my heart ached for Dabney, it ached for Elin.  I wanted nothing more than to turn the page and read that the diagnosis was a mistake and Dabney was going to live her "forever after" with the man of her life.  I do not want to give away the ending of the book so I will just stop here and say #mamastrong. 

Bottom line, for many readers,  Elin Hilderbrand is synonymous with summer and her books sweep you away to a place that is synonymous with summer.   The Matchmaker is another great summer read!  Everything you have come to expect from Elin Hildebrand and more!  Be sure to pick it up for your beach read and be sure to share your support for the author on her Facebook page

(64)The Matchmaker by Elin Hildebrand

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Book of Life

Pages: 561

Publisher: Penguin Group
Publication Date: July 15, 2014


DISCLAIMER:  IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THE FIRST TWO BOOKS, THERE MAY BE SPOILERS!

Matthew and Diana have made it back from 1591 and are eagerly awaiting the birth of their twins.  They are still on the hunt for the missing pages of  The Book of Life with the hope that once completed they will find, within it's pages, the answers for all of their questions. And they are working feverishly to try to find a cure for the Blood Rage that is carried in the blood of Matthew and has infected his offspring, specifically Benjamin.  A whole team of creatures (humans, daemons, witches and vampires) are coming together to find a cure before the twins are born, but it is too late for Benjamin.  He has made it his mission to destroy Matthew and take Diana to be the mother of his own children. For he knows that there is something about Diana that allows her to get (and stay) pregnant with the offspring of a vampire.  Will the Clairmont family be able to ward off the evil long enough for Diana to give birth?  Will they ever be able to find Benjamin and end his reign of terror over the family?

What an excellent conclusion to the All Souls Trilogy!  Once again I found myself swept away in Matthew and Diana's story.  They are back in modern day and among their friends and family eagerly awaiting the birth of the twins.  I loved how everyone came together to support them during the birth and in the weeks after when dealing with the monster.   OOOH!  There is also a "blast from the past" that shows up in this book.   Someone we all, including Matthew & Diana, became a little bit attached to in the second book.   There was a lot of science being thrown around this book as they were working with Matthew's DNA to find a cure, but it was fascinating.  As always, there is a lot of globetrotting that goes on in the book, but they go back to the places they visited in 1591 and that was neat to "see" them 400+ years later.

So now that I have shared some thoughts with you, I want to share some thoughts from Deborah Harkness, the author of the All Souls Trilogy.  Please welcome her!


Q: In your day job, you are a professor of history and science at the University of Southern California and have focused on alchemy in your research. What aspects of this intersection between science and magic do you hope readers will pick up on while reading THE BOOK OF LIFE? There’s quite a bit more lab work in this book!

A. There is. Welcome back to the present! What I hope readers come to appreciate is that science—past or present—is nothing more than a method for asking and answering questions about the world and our place in it. Once, some of those questions were answered alchemically. Today, they might be answered biochemically and genetically. In the future? Who knows. But Matthew is right in suggesting that there are really remarkably few scientific questions and we have been posing them for a very long time. Two of them are: who am I? why am I here?

Q: Much of the conflict in the book seems to mirror issues of race and sexuality in our society, and there seems to be a definite moral conclusion to THE BOOK OF LIFE. Could you discuss this? Do you find that a strength of fantasy novels is their ability to not only to allow readers to escape, but to also challenge them to fact important moral issues?

A. Human beings like to sort and categorize. We have done this since the beginnings of recorded history, and probably well back beyond that point. One of the most common ways to do that is to group things that are “alike” and things that are “different.” Often, we fear what is not like us. Many of the world’s ills have stemmed from someone (or a group of someones) deciding what is different is also dangerous. Witches, women, people of color, people of different faiths, people of different sexual orientations—all have been targets of this process of singling others out and labeling them different and therefore undesirable. Like my interest in exploring what a family is, the issue of difference and respect for difference (rather than fear) informed every page of the All Souls Trilogy. And yes, I do think that dealing with fantastic creatures like daemons, vampires, and witches rather than confronting issues of race or sexuality directly can enable readers to think through these issues in a useful way and perhaps come to different conclusions about members of their own families and communities. As I often say when people ask me why supernatural creatures are so popular these days: witches and vampires are monsters to think with.

Q: From the moment Matthew and a pregnant Diana arrive back at Sept-Tours and reinstate themselves back into a sprawling family of witches and vampires, it becomes clear that the meaning of family will be an important idea for THE BOOK OF LIFE. How does this unify the whole series? Did you draw on your own life?

A. Since time immemorial the family has been an important way for people to organize themselves in the world. In the past, the “traditional” family was a sprawling and blended unit that embraced immediate relatives, in-laws and their immediate families, servants, orphaned children, the children your partner might bring into a family from a previous relationship, and other dependents. Marriage was an equally flexible and elastic concept in many places and times. Given how old my vampires are, and the fact that witches are the keepers of tradition, I wanted to explore from the very first page of the series the truly traditional basis of family: unqualified love and mutual responsibility. That is certainly the meaning of family that my parents taught me.

Q: While there are entire genres devoted to stories of witches, vampires, and ghosts, the idea of a weaver – a witch who weaves original spells – feels very unique to THE BOOK OF LIFE. What resources helped you gain inspiration for Diana’s uniqueness?

A. Believe it or not, my inspiration for weaving came from a branch of mathematics called topology. I became intrigued by mathematical theories of mutability to go along with my alchemical theories of mutability and change. Topology is a mathematical study of shapes and spaces that theorizes how far something can be stretched or twisted without breaking. You could say it’s a mathematical theory of connectivity and continuity (two familiar themes to any reader of the All Souls Trilogy). I wondered if I could come up with a theory of magic that could be comfortably contained within mathematics, one in which magic could be seen to shape and twist reality without breaking it. I used fabric as a metaphor for this worldview with threads and colors shaping human perceptions. Weavers became the witches who were talented at seeing and manipulating the underlying fabric. In topology, mathematicians study knots—unbreakable knots with their ends fused together that can be twisted and shaped. Soon the mathematics and mechanics of Diana’s magic came into focus.

Q: A Discovery of Witches debuted at # 2 on the New York Times bestseller list and Shadow of Night debuted at #1. What has been your reaction to the outpouring of love for the All Souls Trilogy? Was it surprising how taken fans were with Diana and Matthew’s story?

A. It has been amazing—and a bit overwhelming. I was surprised by how quickly readers embraced two central characters who have a considerable number of quirks and challenge our typical notion of what a heroine or hero should be. And I continue to be amazed whenever a new reader pops up, whether one in the US or somewhere like Finland or Japan—to tell me how much they enjoyed being caught up in the world of the Bishops and de Clemonts. Sometimes when I meet readers they ask me how their friends are doing—meaning Diana, or Matthew, or Miriam. That’s an extraordinary experience for a writer.

Q: Diana and Matthew, once again, move around to quite a number of locations in THE BOOK OF LIFE, including New Haven, New Orleans, and a few of our favorite old haunts like Oxford, Madison, and Sept-Tours. What inspired you to place your characters in these locations? Have you visited them yourself?

A. As a writer, I really need to experience the places I write about in my books. I want to know what it smells like, how the air feels when it changes direction, the way the sunlight strikes the windowsill in the morning, the sound of birds and insects. Not every writer may require this, but I do. So I spent time not only in New Haven but undertaking research at the Beinecke Library so that I could understand the rhythms of Diana’s day there. I visited New Orleans several times to imagine my vampires into them. All of the locations I pick are steeped in history and stories about past inhabitants—perfect fuel for any writer’s creative fire.

Q: Did you know back when you wrote A Discovery of Witches how the story would conclude in THE BOOK OF LIFE? Did the direction change once you began the writing process?

A. I knew how the trilogy would end, but I didn’t know exactly how we would get there. The story was well thought out through the beginning of what became The Book of Life, but the chunk between that beginning and the ending (which is as I envisioned it) did change. In part that was because what I had sketched out was too ambitious and complicated—the perils of being not only a first-time trilogy writer but also a first time author. It was very important to me that I resolve and tie up all the threads already in the story so readers had a satisfying conclusion. Early in the writing of The Book of Life it became clear that this wasn’t going to give me much time to introduce new characters or plot twists. I now understand why so many trilogies have four, five, six—or more—books in them. Finishing the trilogy as a trilogy required a lot of determination and a very thick pair of blinders as I left behind characters and story lines that would take me too far from the central story of Diana, Matthew, and the Book of Life.

Q: A Discovery of Witches begins with Diana Bishop stumbling across a lost, enchanted manuscript called Ashmole 782 in Oxford’s Bodleian Library, and the secrets contained in the manuscript are at long last revealed in THE BOOK OF LIFE. You had a similar experience while you were completing your dissertation. What was the story behind your discovery? And how did it inspire the creation of these novels?

A. I did discover a manuscript—not an enchanted one, alas—in the Bodleian Library. It was a manuscript owned by Queen Elizabeth’s astrologer, the mathematician and alchemist John Dee. In the 1570s and 1580s he became interested in using a crystal ball to talk to angels. The angels gave him all kinds of instructions on how to manage his life at home, his work—they even told him to pack up his family and belongings and go to far-away Poland and Prague. In the conversations, Dee asked the angels about a mysterious book in his library called “the Book of Soyga” or “Aldaraia.” No one had ever been able to find it, even though many of Dee’s other books survive in libraries throughout the world. In the summer of 1994 I was spending time in Oxford between finishing my doctorate and starting my first job. It was a wonderfully creative time, since I had no deadlines to worry about and my dissertation on Dee’s angel conversations was complete. As with most discoveries, this discovery of a “lost” manuscript was entirely accidental. I was looking for something else in the Bodleian’s catalogue and in the upper corner of the page was a reference to a book called “Aldaraia.” I knew it couldn’t be Dee’s book, but I called it up anyway. And it turned out it WAS the book (or at least a copy of it). With the help of the Bodleian’s Keeper of Rare Books, I located another copy in the British Library.

Q: Are there other lost books like this in the world?

A. Absolutely! Entire books have been written about famous lost volumes—including works by Plato, Aristotle, and Shakespeare to name just a few. Libraries are full of such treasures, some of them unrecognized and others simply misfiled or mislabeled. And we find lost books outside of libraries, too. In January 2006, a completely unknown manuscript belonging to one of the 17th century’s most prominent scientists, Robert Hooke, was discovered when someone was having the contents of their house valued for auction. The manuscript included minutes of early Royal Society meetings that we presumed were lost forever.

Q: Shadow of Night and A Discovery of Witches have often been compared to young adult fantasy like Twilight, with the caveat that this series is for adults interested in history, science, and academics. Unlike Bella and Edward, Matthew and Diana are card-carrying members of academia who meet in the library of one of the most prestigious universities in the world. Are these characters based on something you found missing in the fantasy genre?

A. There are a lot of adults reading young adult books, and for good reason. Authors who specialize in the young adult market are writing original, compelling stories that can make even the most cynical grownups believe in magic. In writing A Discovery of Witches, I wanted to give adult readers a world no less magical, no less surprising and delightful, but one that included grown-up concerns and activities. These are not your children’s vampires and witches.
Bottom Line, the All Souls trilogy is a fun, engaging series that sweeps you across places and times with two of the greatest characters to ever grace literature. The Book of Life is an excellent and satisfying conclusion to the series, but you will get lost if you haven't read the entire series. But if you haven't, I have but one question. Why not?

(63)The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Shadow of Night

Pages: 592

Publisher: Penguin Group
Publication Date: July 10, 2012


Shadow of Night picks up exactly where The Discovery of Witches left off, with Matthew and Diana time walking to 1591.  As a historian, Diana is thrilled to be living and breathing in the Elizabethan era, but traveling there with Matthew is a bit overwhelming.  In December of 1591 Diana gets to meet Matthew's family again for the first time and his father for the first time.  Philip finds himself quite taken with Diana and in a quick period of time not only gives his consent for them to marry, but gives her a blood vow that will make it known to all creatures that Diana is a de Clairmont.   Over the next few months Diana and Matthew travel all over Europe encountering the historical figures that Diana has studied for so long and never thought she would ever get to meet.  She even encountered her own father, a dream come true for Diana who lost him so long ago.   But there is one tiny important detail that must be addressed.  Even though Diana got them to 1591 she has no idea how to get them home.  And will the fact that she just found out she is pregnant keep them in 1591 forever?

Shadow of Night was just as fast paced and exciting as Discovery of Witches.  The author did such an amazing job with the historical details that it was easy to find myself transported to 1591 Europe.  From the intricate details of the wardrobe to the architecture it was just so easy to read.  Even some historical figures were depicted, like Shakespeare and Sir Walter Raleigh. It was definitely fun to read.   I also liked how the bond between Matthew and Diana strengthened in this book.  They fell in love in the first book, but in the second book they became husband and wife and their love deepened in a way that was tender and sweet.  I also liked the relationship between Diana and Matthew's father, here he is a man that is feared and respected my centuries of men and Diana was quick to win him over.  It didn't take long for her strength and determination to win him over and once she did it was for all of eternity.  So sweet.

Bottom line, I admittedly was in a hurry to get Shadow of Night read before The Book of Life came out and I am glad I did.  I forgot how much I enjoyed Matthew, Diana, and the cast of characters in the first book.  At 592 pages, Shadow of Night is a big book to tackle, but it is so worth the read!

(62)Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Amanda's day started bad and it went down hill from there.  First a bird pooped on her when she was driving to work with the top down and then when she gets to work she is told that a VIP will be making an appearance at her restaurant and she had better have her best table available. That night Amanda meets Chase Walker, the legendary (and incredibly hot) baseball player.  Chase is so smitten with Amanda that he becomes a regular fixture at the restaurant until she agrees to go on a date with him.  Amanda finally gives in thinking he will just go away once they have their date, but Amanda fully underestimated the intense emotion that Chase feels for her.  Will Amanda give into Chase's desires no matter what they are?

We first met Chase Walker and his beautiful wife, Amanda in Big Girl Panties.  The Sweet Spot is Chase and Amanda's story.  It is definitely a fast and steamy read.  If you remember, in Big Girl Panties, there were hints that Chase and Amanda had a unique life in the bedroom and this book expands on those unique proclivities.  It isn't in the same manor of say, Fifty Shades of Grey, but it isn't that far off.  And with much better writing.  As much as I enjoyed Big Girl Panties, I was just "meh" about The Sweet Spot. I liked the characters and I liked finding more about them after first meeting them last summer, but I found Chase to be a bit of an egotistical ass.  I guess it is somewhat expected of a world famous athlete, but I wanted Amanda to be a bit stronger of a female character.  By stronger I mean, not put up with his spoiled athlete bullshit. But in the end, they obviously were a good fit. 

Bottom line, The Sweet Spot was a fun, steamy novel that explores the wild side of two characters we have met before.  While I found myself irritated by some of the character flaws of Amanda and Chase I was captivated by their love story.   Definitely worth the read if you are in the mood for a hot and steamy read. 

THE DETAILS: The Sweet Spot by Stephanie Evanovich - 272 Pages - 
Publisher: Harper Collins - Publication Date: July 8, 2014

(61)The Sweet Spot by Stephanie Evanovich

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Don't Talk to Strangers

Pages: 352

Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: July 1, 2014


Even though they went missing years apart, the bodies of two women have been discovered deep in the woods of Georgia.  Sheriff Ken Meltzer is smart enough to realize that his team cannot solve this crime and he knows that until this monster is caught the young women of his county are in danger.  So he calls Keye Street, as her reputations is known far and wide, but their reception is less than welcoming.  Keye doesn't care, though, she just wants to find this monster before he turns into a full-fledged serial killer. Then another girl doesn't make it home from school and Keye knows that time is running out. Will they be able to find Skylar before it is too late?

Don't Talk to Strangers was everything I love about a good mystery. The author does a great job of setting the scene, especially small town life.  Being that Keye is from Atlanta, the small town life was new for her and being the outsider in a small town is not all that fun of an experience. It was obvious that the only person who wanted Keye there was the Sheriff.  And oooh, their relationship was a bit inappropriate.  Those of you familiar with Keye Street knows that she has a significant other, so her attraction to the the good Sheriff is a bit illicit, but I won't give away whether she is naughty or not.  The author did a great job at keeping me guessing and even threw in a little twist at the end. 

Bottom line, a good mystery is the best way to break up a long weekend.  If you enjoy a good mystery, then Don't Talk to Strangers is one that you will surely enjoy.

(60)Don't Talk to Strangers by Amanda Kyle Williams

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, June 30, 2014

One Plus One

Pages: 384

Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Publication Date: July 1, 2014


Ever since her husband left two years ago for a "break" Jess Thomas has had her hands full.  She is working two jobs and is still struggling to make ends meet.  Her teenage step-son, Nicky, is catching a lot of grief from some local boys for being "different" and her young daughter's unique intelligence is causing more financial strain for Jess.  But she deals with it all on her own because she does not want to add more stress to her husband.  She just wants him to get better so he can come home to his family. 

On one of her cleaning gigs Tess encounters wealthy businessman, Ed, who is dealing with his own kind of financial crisis.  Through a series of unfortunate events Ed ends up taking the Thomas family on a long road-trip to Scotland so that Tanzie can attend a Math Olympiad and because Tanzie gets carsick they can't go over 40 MPH.  It is on this road-trip that Tess actually starts to relax and the kids start acting like kids instead of the mini-adults they have been acting like for the last two years.  But when they make a detour to see the kids' dad Tess realizes that she has been played for a fool all this time. And if that news doesn't shatter her world enough, what will she do when Ed realizes that she has kept something pretty important from him?  Will Tess ever catch a break and get caught up on her bills?  But more important, will she ever find the happiness she clearly deserves?

One Plus One is one of those novels that you will just devour in one sitting.  I sure did!  Jess is a great character because she is so darn easy to like.  It is obvious how much she loves her kids and will do just about anything for them. Anybody who has struggled to make ends meet (and really, who hasn't)  will be able to relate to Jess and her struggles.  Ed is an interesting character to throw into the mix.  I enjoyed the way his walls dropped the further they got into the road trip. Even though I could see both sides of the story,  I felt so horrible for Jess when things went bad and was hoping for her to get her happy ending. I found myself laughing out loud more than once and then there is Norman the dog.  Holy cow, have your tissues ready for that scene.  You will know it when you get to it and NO it is not what you are thinking. 

Bottom line,  JoJo Moyes knows how to tell a story with the best of them. She crafts her characters in such a way that it feels as if they are your new friends and Jess is no exception. I fully expect you to find yourself sucked into the story and unable to put the book down until you are done.  Let me know if I am wrong.  One Plus One is on sale tomorrow, be sure to pick up a copy for your beach bag.

(59)One Plus One by JoJo Moyes

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Orange is the New Black

Pages: 352

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication Date: April 6, 2010


Piper Kerman is going to prison for a crime she committed more than ten years ago.  For the last six years she knew this day was coming, the day she surrenders herself to the federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut.  And now the day is finally here.  With great reluctance she tells her fiance, Larry, good-bye and she enters a world that many of us (thankfully) have never entered.  Over the next thirteen months Piper meets some truly unique women and experiences a sort of sisterhood she never thought she would experience in prison.   Then she does the wonderful thing and shares her experience with the rest of the world.  From her surrender day, to being assigned a "bunkie" to being assigned a job, smuggled contraband and so much more, we really get a look at what life is like in the prison system and it isn't pretty. 

Orange is the New Black was one of the first books I purchased when I bought my first nook back in 2010.  I thought about pulling it up from the bottom of my list when the show first aired on Netflix, but it wasn't until we started watching it last week that I finally got around to reading it.  Like so many of you, I was absolutely captivated by the dynamic relationships in the show.  Piper and Larry.  Piper and Alex.  Piper and "Crazy Eyes".  What I found when reading the book is that while so many of the things depicted in the show are true there is a lot of creative licene taken with other things.  And that is okay.  Both the show and the book are fascinating enough to stand exclusively with just a hint of overlapping.  "Red" in the show is "Pop" in the book and are about the same.  Russian mother figure to many inmates who rules the kitchen with an iron fist.  "Alex" in the show is "Nora" in the book and doesn't even enter the picture until towards the end of the book and Piper's term. You have to read the book to find out if their relationship behind bars is accurately depicted in the show. ;)  There was a scene in the show where Larry gives the radio interview and it cuts to the scene of "Crazy Eyes" crying in her bunk moved me so much that it haunted me for days.  I didn't get that "haunted" feel from the book at all, but that doesn't mean that it isn't a fantastic read.

Bottom line, even though the show is based on the memoir Orange is the New Black, there are enough differences to make each fantastic in their own right. The book is one person's account of what prison is like and Piper is smart enough to know and point out that her experience was much, much better than the average experience.   Have you read the book?  Watched the show?  I would love for you to weigh in with your thoughts.

(58)Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Keep Quiet

Pages: 352

Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: April 8, 2014


Jake Buckman and his teenage son, Ryan, have a pretty rocky relationship. It all stems from when Jake's career was collapsing around him and he was basically an absentee father, leaving his wife Pam to parent Jake, run the household, and bring home the bacon.  Jake has straightened out his career and the family has  been through counseling, but Jake is still trying to get his relationship with Ryan back on track. One night  decides he wants to be the "cool dad" and allow Ryan to drive his new Audi home from the movie.  There are tragic consequences from that decision and now Jake is willing to do anything and everything to keep Ryan safe and his family intact. Things that could them to jail and destroy Pam's career. Will Jake be able to hold their family together, keep them safe and out of jail?

First of all the audiobook version of Keep Quiet was narrated by Ron Livingston. I admit, it was a bit weird to listen to Jack Berger (if you get that reference you TRULY are my people!) reading me a story.  Once I got past that I got swept away in the fast paced mystery.  There were a few times where I felt like Jake was a big old asshole, but I realized that his behavior was coming from a place of fear.  In a twisted sort of way what happen was good for the Buckman family because it gave Ryan to really see how much his father loved him and that he would do absolutely anything for his family. The end wrapped things up quite nicely and with a few twists that even took this mystery novel veteran by surprise. 

Bottom line, Keep Quiet is another blockbuster hit for Lisa Scottoline.  She has created a story that illustrates the love that most parents feel for their children. You know that feeling - the one that gives you super powers to do anything to protect your baby. Keep Quiet is a great read and having Ron Livingston read it to you is an absolute bonus.  Give it a shot and let me know what you think!

(57)Keep Quiet by Lisa Scottoline

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Glass Kitchen

Pages: 384

Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: June 17, 2014


Portia Cuthcart never thought she would ever leave her beloved Texas. She certainly never thought she would leave Texas for New York City and that she would be leaving a divorced woman  after she discovered her politician husband had gotten her best friend pregnant.  She leaves Texas with nothing except the cookbooks her beloved grandmother used in her restaurant, The Glass Kitchen. Thankfully her sisters are in New York City and even though Portia's sisters sold their part of the townhouse they inherited, Portia still has the garden apartment to hide out in while she decides what her next steps should be.  Portia doesn't expect to become smitten with the girls who live in the upper floors or with their extremely handsome father, Gabriel.  She also doesn't expect the overwhelming urge to bring The Glass Kitchen to life in her new city.  Will all of her dreams come true or will the tenuous bonds she has made in New York City fall apart?

The Glass Kitchen is a fun read for the summer. There was even a magical element that reminded me of Sarah Addison Allen.  I loved Portia as a strong female character and the way she was determined to put her life back together.  But it was the chemistry between the Portia and Gabriel that really steamed up the pages. The way their relationship developed, though, reminded a lot of my Grandmother's old Harlequins.  Strong businessman with struggling divorcee in a secret relationship.  It was almost nostalgic. I also loved the quirkiness of Gabriel's youngest daughter, Ariel. She really made the story that much more enjoyable. I will say there were times in the middle of the book where it seemed to drag a bit, but for the most part it kept moving right along. 

Bottom line, The Glass Kitchen is a fun novel about a woman trying to put her life back together.  It was a fun, easy read.  Another great book for the beach bag this summer!

(56)The Glass Kitchen by Linda Francis Lee

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