February 27, 2011

(29) Secrets to the Grave by Tami Hoag

Secrets to the Grave is Tami Hoag's follow up to last years novel, Deeper Than Dead. If you read the first book, then you have already been introduced to all of the key players. Is it necessary to read the first book, no. I am old and had pretty much forgotten everything about Deeper than Dead when I picked up the second book.

Anne Leone is a newlywed. She married the tough guy cop, Vince. She got her masters in Child Psychology and is working closely with 12 year old sociopath, Dennis, when there is another brutal murder in Oak Knoll forcing Dennis to take a back burner with Anne's attention. Four year old Haley is the only witness to her mothers brutal murder and Anne is the only person she feels safe with. As Vince tries to solve the murder, Anne gently tries to coerce an identity from Haley. Can they identify the murder for it happens again?

Secrets to the Grave is a great, mindless read to pass away a Sunday afternoon. Like Deeper Than Dead, Secrets to the Grave is set in the 80's. It is fun to see the pop culture references that I remember fondly as a child wrapped up into a suspenseful murder mystery.

February 26, 2011

(28)Swept Off Her Feet by Hester Browne

There is nothing more refreshing than finding a Chick Lit novel that just sweeps you away with the engaging characters, breathtaking scenery, and a castle! What more could a girl want, right? Swept Off Her Feet is one of those rare Chick Lit novels that you just don't want to see end.

Evie Nicholson has always been a dreamer. She works for an Antique's dealer in London. She has messed up once again and purchased more than her boss, Max, deems reasonable. Evie's older, more responsible sister, Alice, sweeps in and saves the days again. But she asks a favor of Evie. Travel with Fraser, Alice's boyfriend and Evie's secret crush, to Kettlesheer, a magnificent Scottish castle to search for treasures. The McAndrew family is struggling to keep the ancient castle afloat and they hope that Evie's expert eye will find something that can be sold to preserve the majestic castle and keep it in the McAndrew family. Does she find more than just antiques in the old castle? Does she find the kind of love that fairy tales are made of?

Hester Browne has masterfully crafted a fairy tale story worthy of a Disney movie. I have always been a fan of the Chick Lit genre, but it has been a while since I have found one that I have enjoyed as much as Swept Off Her Feet. It was funny and enchanting all at the same time. If you love fairy tales, and what girl doesn't, don't let this one pass you by.

February 23, 2011

February 22, 2011

(27)Skipping A Beat by Sarah Pekkanen

To some degree all women want security and seek it out in various forms. Whether it be finding a husband to take care of them or becoming career women in their own rights, or maybe both. Security is important to most women. We want to know there will be a roof over our head and money to pay the bills.

From the day her Daddy borrowed money from her as a young teenager, Julie Dunhill has sought financial security. She eloped with her high school sweetheart and ran away to the city. When her husband's flavored water becomes a national hit she has all of the financial security any woman could need. But that security comes at a cost. The husband who was once her world has a new mistress. His career. Julia is so unhappy, but she is gaining the courage to give up that financial security by asking Michael for a divorce when he dies. For four minutes.

The man who wakes up in the hospital is not the husband that Julia has come to know. Michael wants to quit his job, sell his company and donate his fortune to charities. But most of all, he wants his marriage back. The next three weeks are spent trying to rebuild their marriage on the cusp of losing everything. Julia is torn between being angry about losing that financial security and being excited about the rejuvenation of her marriage. Can she balance the two emotions and just be happy?

Skipping A Beat is a unique type of Chick Lit. At the heart of the book is a love story. Julia, the main character, is a very complex character. I had a hard time genuinely liking her because her desire for financial security made her a bit, unsavory at times. I had a hard time relating to her, maybe because I was single and financially independent for the last 15 years. My financial security was solely my responsibility. But her insecurities were very real. Even though she had her own career, the thought of not having her husband's wealth terrified her. As the novel went on though, she became more receptive to financial alternatives and that made her seem a little less intense. As the story went on, I found myself cheering on Michael in his efforts to win her back, he has truly seen the error of his ways and hopes to rectify the situation before it is too late. And then tragedy strikes again...

I did enjoy Sarah Pekkanen's second novel, but admittedly not as much as her first book. I think the inability to really connect with Julia made it hard for me to just fall in love with the book. I did enjoy the book because I enjoyed seeing the character development of both Julia and Michael. With Skipping A Beat, I think Sarah Pekkanen has solidified her place in the world of Woman's Literature.

February 21, 2011

(26)Chocolate and Vicodin by Jennette Fulda

I am truly blessed. I was born with a disability, yes, but I do not have a chronic illness, and for that I feel as if I am truly blessed.

I read Jennette Fulda's new book, Chocolate & Vicodin, on a cold and snowy day. A day, coincidentally enough, that I had a headache. As I am reading through her chronicles of dealing with chronic pain, a headache at that, I came to the realization that I am truly blessed, for I know that my headache will go away.

If you know Jennette from her first book, Half-Assed or her blog, PastaQueen you know that she lost over 200 pounds through diet and exercise. Her new book picks up as she is getting ready to hit the book tour for her first book. One day she wakes up with a headache. Not the little nagging ones you get if you stare at a computer screen for too long, but a debilitating, crawling-is-better-than-walking, type of headache. And it NEVER.WENT.AWAY.

I really enjoyed Chocolate and Vicodin. The author takes us on her quest of finding relief. Through every doctors visit and every alternative medicine suggestion, she details the constant pain, trying to remain upbeat and that is admirable. I really enjoyed the author, even in her pain, she writes a great book. Before I was even a few chapters into the book, I went and downloaded Half-Assed. I can't wait to read about her weight loss journey!

February 20, 2011

(25)365 Thank Yous by John Kralik

I think that there are no more powerful words in the English language than "Thank You". John Kralick has written a fun little book called 365 Thank Yous illustrating the impact a "Thank You" note can have, not only on the recipient, but on the author, as well.

The year 2007 was not kind to John Kralick, his law firm was struggling, he was overweight, and he was going through an ugly divorce. Right after Christmas he was inspired by a thank you note he had received from an ex-girlfriend. With his life in shambles, he knew that "thank you" notes would be a constant reminder of all the things he had to be thankful for. So he sets a goal. 365 Thank You notes in one year. He gives them to everyone from his Starbucks barista to his doctor.

365 Thank You's is quite the little inspirational book. I received a "thank you" note last week from a friend. The feeling I got when I read her kind words left a warm fuzzy in my heart. I am going to challenge myself, and you, to write at least five, non-expected, "thank you" notes this year. I want to give someone warm fuzzies, too.

February 19, 2011

(24)The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua

When I write a book review, I really try to remain objective and not say anything that could potentially be construed as insulting or that could hurt the author's feelings. Just because I do not like a book they have written does not mean they are bad people. So I try not to get "personal" with the author, if that makes sense?

The rules change though when the book is an autobiography. Or in this case a "How (NOT) To" manual. The author put her and her life out there to be judged, because of that I am not going to hold back. Based on what Amy Chua wrote about her life and her parenting skills in her book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, I am going to just put it out there. She is a raging bitch. I do not like Amy Chua. I do not like the way she makes sweeping generalizations about the Chinese and "Westerners". I do not like her superiority complex. Most of all, I do not like the way she talks to her children. No, to use "talk" is generous. She screamed, yelled, belittled, insulted, and mocked her children. And then she wrote a book about it.

This book has had a lot of press. From what I saw in those interviews and what I read in this book, Amy Chua won't care what I write. If she reads this post, I am sure she will just mock me, call me some degrading name, and I even imagine a little snort, as she moves on. I don't care. I know that *I* will never call my young child "Garbage", I know that *I* would never reject a homemade birthday card from my child, I know that *my* children will always feel loved, cherished, supported, and accepted in their family. Ms. Chua may be the over-educated law professor, but that knowledge of her parenting skills leave *me* with the superiority complex.

This book infuriated me on so many levels. That moment, in Russia, when Lulu put HER foot down was one of the most gratifying moments I have ever had reading a book. I was proud of her and just wanted to reach through the pages and give her a hug. Read at your own risk, I promise you will find your blood pressure rising.

February 17, 2011

(23)Now You See Her by Joy Fielding

I have told you all I love all things Irish, right? (HaHa - SHOCKING, I know!) Well, imagine my immense pleasure to discover that Joy Fielding's new novel, Now You See Her, is set in Ireland!!

Grief is a pretty powerful emotion. Not only is Marcy Taggert mourning the loss of her daughter, but she is mourning the loss of her husband -- to their younger, prettier golf pro. She decides to go ahead and take the second honeymoon she and her husband had planned long before he left her. She is hoping the trip to Ireland will be just what she needs to pull her out of the grief that has nearly consumed her. She is enjoying the sights when out of the corner of her eye she catches a glimpse of her daughter, Devon. Which sets off a cat and mouse chase that criss-crosses the Irish countryside.

I was pretty vocal in my disappointment in Joy Fielding's last book, The Wild Zone, and I must say that Now You See Her was infinitely better. By no stretch of the imagination can it be compared to someone like Steig Larrsson or Tana French, but it was enjoyable. It kept me guessing right up to the end. I knew one of two guys was "the bad guy" but I kept going back and forth on who it was. The end was not exactly what I was hoping for, but it was satisfying and came together nicely.

As much as I disliked The Wild Zone, I was almost fearful to read Now You See Her, but Ms. Fielding has completely redeemed herself in my eyes and I eagerly await what she has in store for her readers.

February 16, 2011

(22)Other Life by Ellen Meister

We have always wondered "What if" -- the tag line of this book is a perfect description --"What if you could return to the road not taken?" --- What if you could just step through a portal and step into your life if you had stayed with your ex-boyfriend?

Ellen Meister explores The Other Life of Quinn Braverman. She is happily married with one child, Isaac, and another child on the way, so you would think that she would be happy with her life, right? No, she still thinks of Eugene, her ex-boyfriend, the man she left for her husband. Every now and then she gets to climb through the portal to that life. And she is thrilled to do so, not only for Eugene, but in "The Other Life" her mother is still alive and she would give anything to see her mother one more time, but the portal is starting to close, which life will she be in when it finally does?

The concept of there being an "Other Life" is really quite fascinating. For Quinn the turning point was when she left Eugene for Lewis. I think my turning point was not finishing college. So what if in my "Other Life" I had finished college and moved to New York to work in publishing? I happen to love my life as it is, but even I can't help but wonder "What if..." If you had a parallel life, what do you think was your turning point? What do you think your "Other Life" is like?

I really enjoyed Ellen Meister's unique look at the "road not taken" it was uniquely thought provoking . I can see it being a book club favorite, the question this book is based on is one that will generate a lot of conversation. The Other Life is on sale tomorrow and can be purchased wherever books are sold.

February 15, 2011

February 13, 2011

(21) Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Oh my goodness!! So much to say!

It is very rare that such an epic novel comes along that (pardon the puns - and there are going to be a lot of them) I just want to devour. I could NOT put down A Discovery of Witches. It is part The Historian, part Harry Potter, part Twilight, part Dan Brown novel, and completely enchanting.

Diana is just minding her own business at Oxford. Working hard to prepare her keynote speech when she calls up a book from the archives at the library. Little did this scholar know that the manuscript in question was going to change her life and force her to accept her past. For, Diana is a Witch. She has denied her heritage for nearly her whole life, pretending to live as a human and pretending that Vampires and Daemons are really just part of folk lore. The manuscript in question attracts the attention of not only other witches and daemons, but the very handsome vampire, Professor Matthew Clermont. With Matthew's help Diana sets off on a journey to discover the truth about her family and her past. Will they be able to keep their relationship professional or will they risk the wrath of creatures everywhere by falling in love?

I absolutely LOVED this book. At 592 pages, do not be intimidated by the size of this story, it is a very fast paced read that incorporates mystery, intrigue, romance, thrilling suspense, and the key element of enchanting magic. The characters are well written and the author did an amazing job of getting us into the heads(and hearts) of Matthew and Diana. I can not tell you how utterly enchanting this book was, I am saddened that we have to wait so long for a sequel. Move over Edward, there is a new vampire in town and he does NOT sparkle!

February 9, 2011

(20) Pictures of You by Caroline Leavitt

Two women, complete strangers, are both running away from home on that fateful day. They did not know each other, but only lived six blocks away from each other. Due to a tragic accident one of those women do not survive. She is killed when the car driven by Isabelle hits and kills her, leaving the survivors forever connected, in ways none of them ever thought possible.

Pictures of You was a splendid novel about connections. In a split second Isabelle killed a woman and is forever connected to that woman's survivors. She is still connected to her husband, the man who has been cheating on her for five years. In an attempt to get back to who she was, she becomes connected to her pet tortoise, Nelson. Some of those connections get stronger and others start to fade, but she will always have those connections.

I really enjoyed Caroline Leavitt's novel, Pictures of You. It was an emotionally engaging read. I grew to be very fond of Isabelle and little Sam. I wanted nothing more than a "happy ever after". They all got their "happy ever after", but not the one I would have chosen. Even though the end was not what I expected, it worked. I was satisfied with the conclusion, even a bit sad to see it end. Well done, Ms. Leavitt. You should be proud of your finely written novel.

February 8, 2011

February 7, 2011

(19)Separate Beds by Elizabeth Buchan

Times are tough everywhere. Elizabeth Buchan has made that abundantly clear in her new book, Separate Beds.

Annie & Tom are a couple that is holding their family together by a bare thread. Their oldest daughter, Mia walked out of their lives five years ago and they have been in Separate Beds ever since. Then Tom loses his job, their son Jake moves back into the house, and because of finances they have to pull Tom's mother out of her nursing home. Forcing Tom & Annie to share a bed, once again. Can Annie and Tom put their marriage back together while their family is on the verge of splintering apart?

Separate Beds is an intricately layered book full of family history that is unveiled to us chapter by chapter. Tom and Annie have basically been coasting through their marriage in the last five years. They have said things they can't take back and even their children wonder why they are still together. As they face a financial crisis that many of us can relate to, they try to piece their relationship back together.

Separate Beds was well written, even if the characters are a bit dense at times. It was a tale of woe that I think is the tale of many these days. Me, being the "happy ever after" kind of girl I am wanted to shake both Annie and Tom at times, but the history of their animosity goes back so much further than the pages of this book, that is obvious. The depth of that past makes this book seem so much more real. I enjoyed this book, but it was not the fluff I was looking for after my last book. I am definitely ready for some fluff now!

February 6, 2011

(18) Amaryllis in Blueberry by Christina Meldrum

There has been a lot of buzz surrounding Christina Meldrum's new book, Amaryllis in Blueberry. I was skeptical if I would like this book. It has been compared to The Secret Lives of Bees and The Poisonwood Bible. Neither are books that I have read because they just didn't seem like the type of the book I would like.

Amaryllis in Blueberry is set in the 1970's. The book is about a devout doctor, his beautiful, wistful wife, and their four daughters. They are at their cabin in Michigan when Dick had the realization that their youngest daughter, Amaryllis, is not his daughter. That very day he decided to pack up his family and move to Africa to do mission work, only to have his family implode in ways that he never dreamt possible.

I did finish Amaryllis in Blueberry, but I will be honest, it was all I could do to force myself to finish the book. Told from varying viewpoints, the Slepy family tells us about their journey. Their fears, their excitements, and everything in between. I will be honest, I only read it because I saw one of my favorite authors, Jen Lancaster, raved about the book. Me, not so much. I can see where many WOULD like it, though. It has more "meat" to the story than I am used to reading and I could even see it being very popular with book clubs. For me, though, I think that I will stick to the "fluffier" kind of books.

February 5, 2011

(17)Cryers Cross by Lisa McMann

Cryers Cross is the highly anticipated new Young Adult novel by Lisa McMann.

Set in the small Montana town of Cryers Cross, the town is still reeling from the unexplained disappearance of seventeen year old, Tiffany. The small community went through the whole summer on edge, and continuously on the lookout. Now it is fall and school is starting without Tiffany. Kendall Fletcher is living with her OCD and loving life with her best friend, Nico. They are planning out the rest of their lives,when Nico suddenly goes missing, just like Tiffany. Once again the whole town gathers to search for Nico and Kendall feels as if her whole world is crumbling. Who would do this? What does transfer student, Jacian, have to do with the disappearances and why is Kendall hearing voices when she gets near Nico's desk at school?

Cryers Cross is a horror/thriller Young Adult novel with supernatural undertones. I thought it was good, not great. I didn't feel as if the characters were as developed as they could have been. BUT, that could be because I am an adult and this novel is written for the much younger crowd. In the interest of full disclosure, I am a bit jaded when it comes to the "horror" genre and it takes a LOT to scare me. I can very easily see where a sixteen year old would need to sleep with the lights on after reading Cryers Cross. There is nothing graphic or gory, it is all psychological. Not scary enough for adults, but plenty scary for teens and pre-teens. Cryers Cross will be in all of your favorite bookstores on Tuesday.

February 3, 2011

(16)There's Cake in my Future by Kim Gruenenfelder

What a delightful Chick Lit novel! I had never read Kim Gruenenfelder before and was pleasantly surprised at her clever new book, There's Cake in my Future.

Nic is getting married and her two best friends, Seema and Melissa are her attendants. She wants her two friends to be as happy as she is, so at her bridal shower she does a "cake pull". Everyone in attendance pulls a piece of ribbon out of the cake with a good luck charm on the end. Nic has it rigged though, she wants Mel to pull the diamond ring charm so her boyfriend of six years will propose, and she wants Seema to pull the chili pepper, hoping that her love life will spice up and her male best friend, Scott, will fall in love with her. Except things don't go as planned and everyone got the wrong charm. Or did they....?

Nic, Mel, & Seema have a strong friendship and that is evident from page one. They have each others backs and are there to help each other no matter what the situation. I think that is what had me liking the book so much. The friendship was genuine and balanced. They didn't give bad behavior a pass in the name of "being supportive", they called each other on their bad behavior without being judgmental or hateful. And throughout the whole book I found myself snorting out loud at things that was being said or done, because it was so real.

There's Cake in my Future is a great girlfriend novel. Nic, Mel, & Seema are three friends who just want to be happy and in love. But if they can't all have that, at least they have each other to get through. This is the perfect book to read and pass on to your BFF, she will thank you for it, I promise!

February 2, 2011

(15)Fatal Error by J A Jance

There are some series that are written in a way that you can pick up any book of the series and not be lost. Apparently the Ali Reynolds series is not one of them.

What I gather from reading Fatal Error is that Ali Reynolds is incredibly wealthy. Has been married twice before, one of those spouses died a day before their divorce was to be completed. Used to be a news anchor. Has a son with a pregnant wife. And she is a cougar, dating a man fifteen years younger than her.

Fatal Error picks up with Ali trying to get through the policy academy when one of her former news anchor acquaintances contacts her for help in tracking down an internet Lothario. And soon her friend is missing as well. Ali uses her vast resources and connections to try and find her friend before it is too late.

I think readers who have followed Ali Reynolds from the beginning will really enjoy Fatal Error. If you have never read a book from this series, I suggest you start with book one. There are just too many references to the past in order to really feel as if you know this character. It can be frustrating, like walking in on a movie that is half over. You have missed a lot of the back story and are completely lost.

February 1, 2011

(14)Dirty Secret by Jessie Sholl

There is something about hoarding that has Americans fascinated. So much so that there are currently three hit shows on cable about the disease. I confess that I have my DVR set to record A&E's Hoarders, but I will say that there are many episodes that I just can't get through, it is just too much for me to watch. I just can't fathom living in a home like that.

Dirty Secret author, Jessie Sholl, knows firsthand what it is like. Her mother is a hoarder. Even though her true hoarding tendencies did not explode until long after Jessie was out of the house, it was Jessie who was left to clean up the mess. Repeatedly. The majority of this book was set around the time her mother was diagnosed with colon cancer and Jessie went home to try and prepare the house for her return after surgery. The filth that she finds is almost incomprehensible and when Jessie returns home to New York City, she does so bearing gifts. Scabies. That she contracted while trying to clean her mothers home.

The author did a great job of painting the whole story. She tells us the history of her parents and how her mother got to where she is today. From watching A&E, I understand that hoarding is a mental illness, but it is still so hard for me to grasp someones willingness to live in that level of filth. I struggle with being compassionate towards hoarders, especially the ones I see on television that are raising children in that type of environment. Dirty Secret was a fascinating read, but I will be honest, reading about the scabies STILL has me itching my scalp and skin.