April 29, 2011

(58) The Violets of March by Sarah Jio

The pre-publication buzz over Sarah Jio's The Violets of March was so great that I did everything humanly possible to get my hands on an ARC. When that failed, I put a hold on it at the library. When I went to the library on Tuesday at lunch at it was not there for me, I purchased it on my nook before the lunch hour was over. I get home from work to find a notification from the library that it was there. UGGGGH! I have no regrets, though. It was $9.99 well spent.

Emily Wilson is still somewhat shell-shocked. Her life has not turned out as she expected. She thought she would be a prolific author. Instead she has one hit book and a serious case of writers block. She thought she would be married forever. Instead she just signed her divorce papers and got an invitation to her ex-husband's wedding. Her life is undoubtedly a mess.

What does every girl do when they feel life is out of control. They go home. Or at least the place that feels most like home. Emily goes to Bainbridge Island and to her Aunt Bee. At her Aunt's she finds a diary from years gone by. Emily becomes immersed in the diary and the past. Will the diary answer as many questions as it raises? Will Emily be able to get past her writer's block and finally be happy? Or will the diary stir up more trouble for Emily?

I really enjoyed The Violets of March. The relationship that Emily has with her Aunt Bee reminds me a bit of the relationship I had with my late Aunt Mary. It really touched a tender spot in my heart. As the the story in the diary starts to unfold you can slowly see Emily "come back to life" it was wonderful to follow. I think it is a great read to add to the beach bag and I hope that you will enjoy it as much as I did!

April 28, 2011

(57) Save Me by Lisa Scottoline

Lisa Scottoline's new novel, Save Me, has taken the WWYD game to a whole new nightmarish level.

Rose McKenna is a lunch room volunteer at her daughter's new elementary school. It is early fall when their world literally explodes. After watching a young girl bully her daughter, the lunch room literally explodes. Rose has to decide, does she help the little girl who bullies her daughter or does she go find her daughter and save her from the flames. Her decision, right or wrong, goes on to haunt her. As she starts her own investigation, Rose starts to realize that the fire was the accident that everyone thought it was. Will she be able to prove her case before she is thrown to the wolves?

While I LIKED Save Me, I did not love Save Me. The author had such a huge opportunity to really generate discussions amongst readers everywhere. The last third of the book took a strange little turn that just seemed forced - it was like about 2/3 through the book she remembered it was supposed to be a mystery novel. It just felt forced. Should you skip the book? No - I think the "what would you do" scenario is enough to challenge your way of thinking and generate conversation in your book clubs, but lower your expectations for the ending.

April 27, 2011

(56)We All Fall Down by Nic Sheff

I was first introduced, figuratively, in 2008 when I read Tweak. A book about a young man, Nic Sheff, who has battled addiction for most of his life. Tweak took us into the down and dirty of addiction. The book ended with Nic in an Arizona rehab.

We All Fall Down picks up in that Arizona rehab. He struggles in rehab, as all addicts do, and ends up falling in love while there. After they both leave the facility they travel back East to Sue Ellen's hometown where Nic struggles to finish his book, Tweak, and struggles to stay clean. He doesn't. Stay clean that is. I am a bit disappointed to find out that while on his book tour he was not clean. He finds his way back to California where once again he struggles to stay clean and work on his second book, this one.

I really liked Tweak, and his fathers book A Beautiful Boy. I was a huge advocate for both books at the bookstore and would handsell it to just about anyone I could. We All Fall Down was a good book, but not nearly as good as Tweak. Told in Nic's voice it should be rated "R" just for language alone. One of the things about Tweak that held my interest was just the sheer grittiness of his addiction. The dark and dangerous places it took him. The fact that he was brutally honest about it earned him my respect. We All Fall Down was different. It lacked that "grittiness" -- which for him is good -- but it honestly did not keep me interested in the book. Overall, it was a good follow up, just not as gripping as his first novel. -- I will say, given the dark & twisty places he has been, I would love to see what kind of fiction that could come out of his mind.

April 26, 2011

(55)The Midwife's Confession by Diane Chamberlain

I think that Diane Chamberlain is one of the most underrated authors in her genre. Her books are always well written, well plotted, and so engrossing that I am thrilled to read each and every one. The Midwife's Confession is absolutely no different.

After the suicide of their friend, Noelle, Emerson and Tara discover a partially written apology letter. An apology for taking her newborn daughter to replace the newborn daughter she dropped as a direct result from her use of painkillers. As Noelle and Emerson start digging into the life of the friend they thought they knew, they discover shocking secret after shocking secret. Can they put all of the pieces together without tearing apart their own lives?

Over and over again Diane Chamberlain provides us with books that provoke conversation on subjects that are somewhat taboo in polite conversations. She has once again written a book that I think would be a wonderful book club suggestion, it even includes a Readers Guide. If you have yet to read anything by Diane Chamberlain, I encourage you to do so now. Start with The Midwife's Confession! You won't be disappointed!

April 25, 2011

(54)We'll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han

There is something about young love that is enchanting and magical. But, as we find out with We'll Always Have Summer, the sentiment changes when you love the wrong person.


Isabelle "Belly" Conklin has only loved two men in her short life. Both of them have the last name, Fisher. First there was Conrad who broke up with her on their prom night. Then there was Jeremiah, Conrad's younger brother. Jeremiah and Belly started dating after high school and now as Belly's freshman year at college draws to a close, Jeremiah proposes. Is he truly the right Fisher brother for her? Will she make a mistake of epic porportion or will she truly find "happy ever after"?

We'll Always Have Summer is a tender young romance novel that will capture the hearts of romantics of all ages. The characters are young and wistful, yet steadfast in their love and loyalty. The novel is a fast read, it will take just one afternoon at the beach to breeze through this novel, but you will enjoy it, I promise you that!

April 20, 2011

(53)Three Cups of Deceit by Jon Krakauer

The literary world is somewhat of a small world and relatively scandal free. The last scandal of recent memory was that of James Frey and his "memoir that really wasn't a memoir." Of course that scandal was magnified because of Frey's connection to the Queen of Everything, Oprah.

Well as of Sunday night at 6:00pm, when 60 Minutes aired across the nation, James Frey owes Jon Krakauer a BIG OLE "thank you". For it was Jon Krakauer who has shed some light on an author that could be considered far more deceitful than James Frey. Greg Mortenson.

Millions of people around the world have not only read Three Cups of Tea, but they have donated money, with the assumption that their money was going towards building schools, and educating the women and children of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Well guess what. *Maybe* your money went towards the school or maybe they went to the millions of dollars that Mortenson withdrew from the CAI foundation, the foundation he treated as if it were his own personal ATM.

The allegations of mismanagement are not to be taken lightly. Jon Krakauer is a highly respected author. He is a man I hold in the highest esteem and he took great lengths to research and document his suspicions. You can read his 75 page report on www.byliner.com. Once you read his findings you will see he is not writing this out of some spiteful jealousy, Krakauer himself donated over $75,000 to the CAI before stopping his donations when some deceitful practices started coming to light.

I did NOT read Three Cups of Tea - fiction or not, it is not really my type of book. But I love a good scandal, so I jumped on the Byliner story. I know the report was a free download through April 20, 2011. As an avid reader and an avid supporter of good books, I have nothing but the utmost respect for Jon Krakauer. If you do not get a chance to read Three Cups of Deceit, check out the 60 Minutes story.

April 19, 2011

(52)Miles to Go by Richard Paul Evans

As y'all know I went on a HUGE Richard Paul Evans binge this past Christmas. I think I read every word he had ever written. And I enjoyed every single word! I read The Walk a little more than a year ago and enjoyed it immensely.

Miles to Go is the sequel picks up where The Walk ended off. Alan is in a Spokane hospital recovering from his run in with some thugs. His guardian angel, Angel, has been by his side ever since the attack. Alan is in no shape to continue his journey to Key West, so he decides to bunk with Angel for the winter. In that time he learns a lot about Angel, his father, and himself. Will he be able to continue his walk once the weather clears? Or will he give up on his dream and return home?

Miles to Go is a really fast read! It took me less than two house to catch up with Alan on his journey to Key West. I enjoyed the story as he interacts with the people on his journey. Some a little more integral to the story than others, but all important in their own right. While the story is short and quick to read, I almost wished he would have written one long book to tell all of Alan's tale. The waiting is going to drive me nuts!

April 18, 2011

(51)Sweet Jiminy by Kristin Gore

Jiminy Davis quit law school and ran away to her grandmother's home in rural Mississippi. She is hoping to sort out her life and figure out what kind of path to take with her future. Instead of sorting things out for herself she finds herself distracted by the handsome med student, Bo and a young woman also named Jiminy that lived many years ago. Jiminy's relationship with Bo pushes the ever present racial boundaries still alive and thriving in the deep South. There are many people in the town of Fayeville very uncomfortable with Jiminy and Bo's relationship and their investigation into what happened to the original Jiminy all those years ago.

Kristin Gore made a name for herself writing more of a fluffier type of novel with Sammy's House and Sammy's Hill. She has departed from the "fluff" and takes on hard hitting social issues in Sweet Jiminy. Not only we have a sweet, albeit naive, young woman who has fallen in love with a boy of a different race. That Sweet Jiminy is also outraged over the injustice of the unsolved murder of the husband and daughter of her Grandmother's friend, Lynne.

I really did enjoy Sweet Jiminy. Jiminy's idealistic sweetness did really radiate through the pages and made her a very likable character. I thought her reactions to the attitudes she encountered was very genuine. And aided her in growing up just a little. She was forced to face harsh realities when she realized that people in Fayeville really HATED her for who she was spending her time with. At the same time though, with her working so hard to solve the mystery of what happened to Edward and Jiminy all those years ago, she DOES change the attitude of some people who had spent their entire lives looking the other way. It was a very enlightening situation for people on both sides of the issue.

Kristin Gore has written a great novel about social injustice wrapped up in the mystery genre. She has done a fabulous job at illustrating the different mindsets of the different generations and how environment DOES contribute to a persons outlook on things such as biracial relationships. I think in the right circles, Sweet Jiminy will spark a lot of necessary dialogue about old social wounds and how to heal them. Sweet Jiminy is on sale tomorrow.

April 13, 2011

(50) Deep Down True by Juliette Fay

This book has been sitting on my nightstand for several months. The other night I finished one book in bed & was not yet ready to sleep, so I grabbed Deep Down True and started reading. I was pleasantly surprised.

Dana Stellgarten is slowly recovering from her divorce. She is trying to keep life as normal as possible for her two kids. Then she discovers her daughter is purging, her son is being picked on at school and then her wayward teenage niece shows up and her son's football coach hits on her. She realizes that they aren't handling the divorce as well as she thought. Will she be able to hold her struggling family together?

While a bit predictable in some areas, I liked Dana Stellgarten. She was forced into a rough situation, but handled it with a graciousness that was admirable. Overall it was a decent book, if you can handle the predictability, then you should be fine reading Deep Down True.

April 12, 2011

April 11, 2011

(49)Bossypants by Tina Fey

Unless you have been living under a rock for the last ten years, you know of Tina Fey. She is easily one of the funniest women - one of the funniest humans on the planet.

Her new book, Bossypants, is just what you would expect from Tina Fey. Intelligent, witty, self-deprecating, and hysterical. Almost immediately, Tina launches into the story of her first period and I laughed out loud. She continues on telling us about her school days and summers before launching into what we really want to know about. Her SNL days and of course 30 Rock. While she does not dish as much as I had hoped, what she did share was just what I had expected.

Bossypants was a very fast, very funny read. I enjoyed what Ms. Fey had to say. Even though we would likely argue about politics, Tina Fey is one of those women that I would love to have as a friend. She is as down to earth as they come and her sense of humor is out of this world.

April 10, 2011

(48)Malled by Caitlin Kelly

Working retail is one of those experiences that you just don't "get" unless you have experienced it for yourself. The hours are long, the pay is low, the work is demanding, the customers can be atrocious. Writing books about working in retail is nothing new. Caitlin Kelly's Malled is just the next in a long line of former retail employees who want to share their experiences.

Caitlin Kelly is a journalist by trade. In 2007 she found herself desperate for a steady income of some sort and she found herself applying for, and getting hired by The North Face company. As most people do when starting a new job, Caitlin entered the retail workforce with a positive attitude and an open mind. After two years on the job, the stress of the job obviously has worn Caitlin down and by her own admission she has become bitter and bitchy when dealing with customers, and has decided that her time at The North Face has come to an end.

I really enjoyed Malled. Unlike other tales of retail woe, Caitlin Kelly did not whine about working retail for 240 pages. She did extensive research on the industry, and worker relations within retail and interspersed those facts throughout her book. She wrote a fair and accurate book about work retail. She even admitted her own screw-ups, as opposed to blaming all of her woes on the evil "corporate office" and I found that really refreshing and somewhat endearing.

Overall, I really enjoyed Malled. I think a lot of my former coworkers will enjoy the book and find themselves nodding in agreement with many of Caitlin Kelly's observations. The writing is intelligent and the obvious work of a professional writer, again very refreshing. But, I will say, having been a retail manager for over fifteen years, I found myself again, reading about "management" and while I may understand what they did & why, I wish that this woman's manager had taken the time to explain the "whys" & "what fors" to his staff. It would have eliminated a lot of the animosity that develops between the staff and management. It was something I tried to do with every missive that came from the top. Just once, I would like to read a retail memoir written by a retail manager. Maybe that is my calling...

April 9, 2011

(47)The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry

Twenty-Six-year-old, Ginny Selvaggio has her world rocked when both of her parents are killed in a freak accident while they are on vacation. Ginny knows that her "personality" is a bit quirky and different than that of other people her age and because of that her family has sheltered her for far too long.

Ginny finds solace in cooking the recipes she finds amongst her parents things. It gives her something to focus on and it gives her a strong sense of accomplishment once she is finished. And then it gets weird. For as Ginny is cooking, the people who wrote the individual recipes start appearing to Ginny. She receives visits from her Grandmother, her Mother, and a menacing woman named Evangeline. Ginny knows that if she mentions these visits to her overbearing sister, she can kiss the last of her freedom good-bye. But, with the help of these ghosts and her new friend, David, will Ginny finally come to the realization that she no longer needs to be sheltered?

The Kitchen Daughter is a unique coming of age story. Jael McHenry has written this beautiful, lyrical story about a young woman brutally forced to grow up after the death of her parents. The transformation of Ginny was masterfully written. She went from the grief-stricken child hiding in the closet to this strong young woman willing to face her fears for a dear family friend. It was absolutely beautiful to witness. Jael McHenry has written a phenomenal story that is guaranteed to become a book club favorite. I can't wait to hear what others think, because I absolutely adored this book!

April 6, 2011

April 5, 2011

(46)Hunchback of Neiman Marcus by Sonya Sones

There is one thing that all Ladies have in common. We are inevitably going to get older. It is a fact of life. We will all have to deal with Menopause, we will all have to deal with wrinkles, sagging boobs, and empty nest syndrome. It is HOW we deal with those harsh realities that separates us from the beasts. Ladies - you are going to LOVE this book!

Our Heroine, Holly, is really struggling with turning 50. Her only child is about to graduate from high school and go off thousands of miles away to college. She suspects that her husband is having an affair, and her elderly mother is having major medical issues clear across the country. Not to mention her hot flashes and thinning hair do NOT make up for the fact that she no longer needs a diaphragm. And worst of all her boobs are sagging to an all new low. Holly is really having a hard time coming to grip with life after 50. Will she really have to start her life completely over at 50 or can she pull herself and her life together to enjoy everything that she has to be thankful for?

Ladies - seriously - you are going to LOVE this book. The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus is written in a unique poetry style. I had an e-book copy of the ARC so the style might be skewed a little, but it appears as if each page is it's own unique poem. Read individually they have an interesting message, but read collectively they tell a hilarious, yet poignant story of a woman who is not aging as gracefully as she had hoped. Think Shopaholic meets Nora Ephron. Absolutely perfect. You and your friends will laugh with Holly, you will cry with Holly, and you will be glad to know you are not the only one fighting gravity with everything you've got. The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus is on sale today - I can not wait to hear what you think!

April 3, 2011

(45)If Wishes Were Horses by Robert Barclay

If Wishes Were Horses is a story about love, redemption, forgiveness, family, and peace.

It has been five years since Jason Powers drove drunk and forever changed the lives of two families. Not only did he kill himself, but he killed the wife and daughter of business man, Wyatt Blaine.

It has been five years and Wyatt is ready to re-open the equine therapy program for troubled teens that was his late wife's pride and joy. When his Minister asks him a favor, let the teen son of Jason Power's into the program, well it is a favor that is really hard for Wyatt to say yes to, but he does. Will letting Trevor Powers and his beautiful mom, Gabby, into his life be a huge mistake? Or will it save him from the grief that has been eating him alive for the last five years?

If Wishes Were Horses was a bit predictable, in the way that most Nicholas Sparks or Jodi Picoult novels are predictable. The writing was decent, but the predictability was just too much for me. That is just my opinion. I could be wrong.

April 2, 2011

(44)The Baby Planner by Josie Brown

What is the most powerful clock on the planet? Well, it is is the biological clock of course. For millions of women that is the only clock that they live by. It is that way for Katie Johnson, too. She is 37 and her clock is ticking so loud she can't hear anything else. But her husband is adamant that there will be no children for them.

After her job is eliminated, an opportunity falls in her lap and she becomes The Baby Planner. She works closely with the wealthy mothers of her California community. Planning their nurseries, hosting showers, screening nannies, doing everything to make their pending deliveries easier. But in the process, her clock is ticking louder than ever. Will her desire for a baby destroy her marriage? Or will her husband give in and give her the one thing she so desperately wants.

Overall, I really liked this book, but for a good chunk in the middle I had a really hard time liking Katie. Her desperate need for a baby prompts her to do some less than desirable things. I am 35 and my clock is not ticking so loud right now, but I am safe in saying that I would NEVER do what Katie did.

The Baby Planner is a Chick Lit with a unique concept. Like I said, overall I enjoyed the book, and it's characters. I think anyone who has heard the tick of the biological clock will be able to relate to Katie and what she goes through, and will probably even understand why she did what she did.

April 1, 2011

(43)Stay by Deb Caletti

You think that I am a dork now? You should have seen me in high school. Bangs so high they had their own zip code, horribly huge glasses, and a prosthetic hand that was so BIG I wasn't fooling anybody. I didn't date in high school, so books like Stay seem unfathomable to my little naive self. But I am not THAT naive, I know that bad boyfriends happen long before 25 - the age of my first bad boyfriend.

Clara & Christian are an item. They met at a game their senior year. The connection was immediate and unmistakable. Clara is swept up into Christian's charming demeanor. He is very much smitten with Clara and it is obvious to one and all. It doesn't take long though for Christian to become controlling, jealous, and absolutely obsessive about Clara. She is fearful, yet forgiving. Until one day she has had enough. And in the middle of Fred Meyer, she dumps him. But that is not the last of Christian. At what lengths will Clara and her father go to keep her safe?

While Stay is a well written novel, it has a really dark theme. But I think it is critical for teen girls to read this book. You never know who that one girl will be that recognizes herself in Clara & her boyfriend in Christian and ends the terror before it is too late. I will say that the book is a bit confusing at first. It is written in the "Then & Now" style, but there is no clear delineation between the two. It wasn't until 2/3 of the way through the book before I figured out which was which. Overall, though, I really liked Deb Caletti's message and I liked her style of writing. It goes on sale Tuesday, 4/5 so be sure to pick one up for the teen girls in your life.