February 29, 2012

February 28, 2012

February 25, 2012

(26)Friends Like Us by Lauren Fox


Friends Like Us 

Publication Date: February 14, 2012
Pages: 288



Willa and Ben are friends from way back.  Way way back.  They went through high school together, ditching school together and the whole works.  They parted ways for a while and Willa meets Jane.  Jane is like the sister she never had.   They speak their own language which includes a lot of laughter. 

Flash forward to Willa's High School Reunion.  There she runs into Ben and he steps easily back into her life as though time had never gone by.  Even after all these years they are still in sync with their thoughts and actions.  As closely connected as they are, is it a surprise that Ben falls in love with Jane?  Now Willa has to watch as her two closest friends start creating their own inside jokes, their own languages, and their own life together.  Will there still be a place for Willa or is she being pushed outside their circle and left in the cold?

Friends Like Us is getting a lot of positive buzz right now  and I can certainly see why.  Lauren Fox has created a world of friendship that we all long for.  One where Willa has not one, but two friends who "complete" her.  I just don't think she can see how lucky she is to have the bond that  she has with both Jane and Ben.  It is truly a gift from God.  And when she makes an incredibly stupid move those bonds are changed forever.   I really want to be careful in what I say, but the cover does a pretty good job of explaining what happens,  you just need to figure out whose legs belong to whom.

I really enjoyed this book.  I laughed at Willa's silly little puns and my heart ached for her when things took a turn.  There is nothing worse than feeling like an outsider, but what happened was a pretty crappy thing to do, no matter how much you are hurting. So many of us want to see the world in black and white, yet Willa is proof that it is far more grey.

There is a Readers Guide at the end of the book with some pretty thought provoking questions that would be great if you were to consider this book for a Book Club. Give it a read and let me know what you think!

February 23, 2012

And the Winner is....

Congrats Michelle from Cedar Falls!!

Your copy of The Underside of Joy will be arriving shortly.
Thank you all so much for playing along, hopefully we will get to do it again in the near future!

February 22, 2012

February 21, 2012

(25)Flatscreen by Adam Wilson

Flatscreen
by Adam Wilson

Publication Date: February 21, 2012
Pages: 336


In Flatscreen, Eli Schwartz takes being a slacker to a whole new level.  He barely graduated high school and has been living in his mother's basement passing his day smoking pot and watching as much television as he can possibly stand.  His life is going nowhere fast.

And then he finds out that his mom is selling the house to former television star, Seymour Kahn and his days become just a little less boring.  Between the two of them , the depravity and debauchery is taken to a whole new level.  It takes a particularly raucous night involving a gunshot wound to shake the haze from Eli's drug addled brain. Maybe it is time he starts becoming more like his brother, Benjy.   Is it too little too late?

<./P>I have read other reviews of Flatscreen labeling it "hysterically funny", but I have to be honest and say that I did not laugh once.  I found Eli and his lack of motivation to be incredibly annoying.  I will say, slightly less so after the who getting shot thing, but still annoying.  I would say that both he and his mother are in a bit of a stupor after Eli's father left, but the extreme to which it goes, to which his parents let it go, is crazy.  If he were my kid I would have booted his ass out a long time ago. 

I really wanted to like Flatscreen. *sigh* Maybe I am just too old to really get the humor.  I was expecting it to be similar to Matthew Norman or Johnathon Tropper, but it was more along the lines of a mixture of  Jay and Silent Bob (major props to you if you know who they are) but not nearly as funny. There were a lot of movie references in the book and several times throughout the book I thought my younger brother (roughly Eli's age) would enjoy this book, but it was not my kind of book.  If anyone out there found it funny, please chime in and tell me why.  I really want to know what I missed.

February 20, 2012

(24)Shatter by Michael Robotham


Shatter

Publication Date: January 26, 2012
Pages: 496



Retired Psychologist Joe O'Laughlin has recently found something to do other than dwell on his Parkinson's Disease.  He has started teaching at the local University and it is there where he gets asked to help talk a potential suicide down off the bridge.


Joe did not plan on getting involved, but he did.  And when he could not save the woman he took it to heart.  What would cause a normally sane woman to throw herself off of a bridge to sure death.   When the woman's business partner is found naked and handcuffed to a tree a day or so later, Joe (and the police) realize that there is something more sinister at play.  Will they be able to find out who or what is behind these "suicides" before another woman loses her life?


Shatter is a most interesting thriller that takes a look at how far a mother will go to protect her child. In the first two cases there isn't even verifiable proof that their children are in danger.  Just the treat of harm to their children was enough for them to go to extremes.  It is certainly worthy of discussion.  Would you be willing to jump off a bridge if a man on the phone told you that he had kidnapped your child?


It wasn't until I was more than halfway through this book and went in search of the synopsis that I realized it was part of a series. It was not obvious in any sort of way, and that is always a good thing.  Shatter was also the first non-Agatha Christie mystery set in England that I remember reading in recent days.  It was well written and the kind of page turner that is full of shocking turn of events.  I also found it interesting the way that  Joe O'Laughlin deals with his disease.  And in some cases he doesn't deal with it at all.


Bottom line, I think that fans of Linwood Barclay or even Tana French will enjoy Shatter.  It is a well written mystery/suspense thriller that takes on every mother's worst nightmare.  How far would you go to save your child?


February 18, 2012

(23)The Dispatcher by Ryan David Jahn


The Dispatcher

Publication Date: December 27, 2011
Pages: 368


Sometimes after reading several books like I've Got Your Number, you need a good gritty novel to "cleanse you pallet".
The Dispatcher is as gritty as they come!

Ian Hunt traded in the big city police force for a job as a dispatcher in a backwoods Texas town.  He got divorced from his third wife shortly after their young daughter disappeared.  They recently had her declared legally dead and had a funeral for her and everything.  So imagine his surprise when one day he answers a call to find his daughter on the other end of the line. Once Ian discovers his daughter is alive he will stop at nothing to bring her home.  Nothing.

Ian Hunt is a deeply flawed character just going through the motions of life.  He has failed at marriage, not once, not twice, but three times.  He has been a lousy father to all of his children, especially to Maggie. And he feels like an utter failure at life.  But when he hears Maggie's voice at the other end of the line, he sees his chance at redemption.

When I say a book is "gritty" I mean there is a lot of cussing and a lot of violence.  Lots and lots of violence.  The whole time I was reading this book I was envisioning it on the big screen.  Maybe Daniel Craig or Liam Neeson as Ian. Or even Ben Affleck. Someone who has the body of a Greek God, yet looks as if they have lived a hard life.   And I keep thinking that Randy Quaid would make a good Henry.

Bottom line.  I know that  The Dispatcher is not the kind of book that usually appeals to my normal blog reader, but if you love a good gritty crime novel, be sure to check out The Dispatcher.





February 17, 2012

(22)Stay Awake by Dan Chaon


Stay Awake

Publication Date: February 7, 2012
Pages: 272


My lovely Husband is a big fan of scaring the shit out of me and it is really not all that hard to do so. He is the kind of guy who loves to hide in closets and and around corners.  Anything to get a reaction out of me.  Most recently it was forcing me to watch Paranormal Activity3 & then trying to get me to play "Bloody Mary" with him... *sigh*  I am married to a twelve year old girl.

Anyway.  It isn't the gory stuff that gets to me, it is the suspenseful building of a story, that gets  my pulse racing.  Dan Chaon has done just that with the short stories in his new collection, Stay Awake.  Dan Chaon has got a heck of imagination and he sure knows how to use it for good instead of evil. Wait.  Should that be the other way around?

He starts his collection out with a doozy of a story. When a Father's young son is having problems sleeping, it causes dear old Dad to think about the wife and child he left behind all those years ago. Are their Ghosts haunting him and his new family or is the weight of his guilt playing games with his mind?  Either way, the end will set your heart racing.

I think the most chilling story (for me) though, was the story of the baby born with two heads.  I read that one while  I was eating lunch and I literally had chills run down my spine.

Dan Chaon has gathered a collection of terrifying, chilling, and haunting stories.  All with the underlying theme of sleep or lack thereof.  But I urge you to read this book during daylight hours, for his stories are bound to make you want to Stay Awake.

February 16, 2012

(21)Tuesday Night Miracles by Kris Radish


Tuesday Night Miracles

Publication Date: January 3, 2012
Pages: 496


Okay.  I did it again.  I agreed to read a book without really knowing the synopsis.  I agreed to read this book, solely on the author alone.   I know that Kris Radish writes Fiction for Women and that her shelf in the bookstore has several titles.  I am not all that surprised when I got lucky and Tuesday Night Miracles turning out to be a fabulous book, but I was a bit surprised about the subject matter.

Tuesday Night Miracles is the story of four women, no let me correct that, five women.  Tuesday Night Miracles is about four women from different worlds who have been ordered by the court to attend Anger Management classes.   There is Kit, who just days after the death of her mother and several bottles of wine, attacks her brother with a broken wine bottle.  Jane is there because after a real estate deal fell through she attacked a man with her stiletto shoe.  Grace is there because after a long day of working at the hospital she did not feel  like dealing with the shitty attitude of her teenage daughter and her shitty boyfriend , she rammed her car into his.  Repeatedly.  Leah is there because, while living at a shelter for abused women, she found herself striking her children when they misbehaved.  And finally, Oliva is there as their leader.  She is the psychologist appointed by the courts to help these women heal and get through their anger issues.  As the weeks progress so does their friendship and their realizations that their lives have gotten completely out of control.  Will Olivia truly be able to put them back on the right track or is it too late?

I think what I enjoyed most about this novel is that I could see pieces of myself in each of the women.  For example, Kit.  I could actually see my Mother in Kit. Right down to being the only daughter and sleeping  by her Mother's bedside while taking care of her.  But it is *ME* that would go after my uncles with a wine bottle, not my mother.  LOL. None of these women, with the exception of maybe Leah, have lives not that different from yours or mine. Each of these women have daily issues in their lives that frustrate them beyond belief.  Their frustrations have reached a point where the only way they know how to  express themselves is through violence.  Whether it be verbal or physical.  Their classes, which meet every Tuesday night, help them each reflect on their lives and grow as women.

I think that as Wives and Mothers we place so much pressure on ourselves that we sometimes don't know how to release the pressure and let the frustrations go in a constructive way.    I think that because of those pressures, Tuesday Night Miracles is a perfect book to generate discussion at your local book club. Please let me know what you think!


February 15, 2012

The Underside of Joy Giveaway!!







Every now and then you find a book with characters that stick with you far longer than the time it took you to even read the book.  It does not matter how many books you read or how many movies you watch in the mean time, your mind always wanders back to that one character. 




For me that character is Ella Been in The Underside of Joy.  The Underside of Joy is about a woman, Ella, who loses her husband to a tragic accident, and then risks losing her Stepkids when their "Mama" comes back into the picture.  The anguish Ella felt at the loss of Joe and the threat of losing her kids was just so palpable that it still resonates with me. 




I recently had the opportunity to ask the author, Sere Prince Halverson a few questions and I am thrilled to be able to share her answers with you.




  First of all, Welcome to my Web!  Thank you so much for taking a few minutes to answer some questions for my readers.



Thank you for having me, Charlotte! And thanks for taking the time to read the novel and ask such thoughtful questions. I really appreciate it.



  The Underside of Joy was such an emotional read for me as a “new” Stepmother.  Was there any one reason that prompted you to tell the story of Ella Beene?


There were quite a few things floating around my head at the time. One of them was the image of a woman curled up in a bed under a blanket, feeling that she had once had everything she’d ever wanted and now she’d lost it. I didn’t know her story but I wanted to know more. Like you, I had recently become a stepmom, I had a stepmom, my kids had a stepmom. And none of us are evil. When I realized Ella was a stepmother, I thought I might have an opportunity to turn the traditional fairytale of the evil stepmother on its head. Ella and Paige’s stories are very different from mine, but I did pour in some of my own emotional truth about loving children and trying to navigate the complex feelings that come with sharing your kids and stepkids.

  After the death of her husband, Joe, Ella is forced into a custody battle with the kids “Mama”, Paige, what kind of research did you have to do for the legal aspect of this story?

First, I did research on the Internet, looking up cases to see what kind of rights stepparents had when the spouse and natural parent had died. I also spent some time in the family law courtrooms. Finally, one of my first readers is an attorney, and she didn’t let anything slip by! I’m very grateful to her for that.

  It is fairly common knowledge that there were Internment Camps for Japanese-Americans during World War II, but very little is known about the internment of Italian- Americans and German-Americans,  what prompted you to tell the story of Joe’s Grandfather? 

A friend of mine, Kelly, who happens to be a very smart history teacher in Sonoma County, casually mentioned to me that Italians in the area were interned during WWII. I’d been working on the book for several years before this conversation, and I knew something was up with the Capozzis, but I wasn’t sure what, exactly. So when she told me that, my mouth dropped open. I found the book Una Storia Segreta by Lawrence Distasi. “The Secret Story.” Italian-Americans don’t talk about the internment much; the government doesn’t talk about it. There’s a lot of judgment and shame and turned backs involved, which, of course, all fits in with the themes of my novel.
 The Sonoma Valley area plays a big part in the Ella’s story, why did you choose that area of the country for the backdrop of Ella’s story? 
It chose me. I spent my teenage years in Northern California and then left to go to college. I ended up living in San Diego for 17 years. San Diego is lovely, but when I moved back north, I finally felt like I was home. I’m a sucker for trees, especially the redwoods. I never fail to feel enormously fortunate whenever I walk outside or take a drive. It’s a gorgeous part of the country and, in a way, I think of this book as my love song to this area. 
  Do you see a sequel in the future for Ella, Paige, and the girls?  Maybe as teenagers?
I don’t’ have a sequel in mind at the moment, but the door is always open if these characters decide to come back someday and fill me in on what’s been happening. I think of them often, and have to admit, sometimes I miss them.
  As a Stepmother yourself, do you have any advice for a “new” Stepmother like myself?
I am so not the expert! Every situation is different. Lots of hugs help. I really think we have to find our own way, our own relationship with each child. It’s important not to ever try to replace their mom.  (Ella’s situation was different from mine because Paige was gone.) There are so many ways to love a child, to be in a child’s life. Love them deeply and do your best and allow that it won’t be perfect. That’s all I can give you!
I have yet to meet an Author who was not an avid reader themselves, what are some books that have had the most influence on your life?

There are so many, it’s always hard to narrow them down. When I was nine, I discovered Anne of Green Gables and Diary of Anne Frank—two very different books, both about Annes who loved to write. That’s when I began keeping a diary. A few of the non-fiction books I’ve always loved: The Boys of My Youth by Jo Ann Beard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard, and Mortal Lessons: Notes on the Art of Surgery by Richard Selzer. Finally, some of the many contemporary novels that have stayed with me: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, and Come and Go Molly Snow by Mary Ann Taylor-Hall.




Thank you so much for taking the time to answer some questions for me and my readers.  Can you give us a sneak peek at what you are working on now?
Thank you! I’ve been working on a book set in Saudi Arabia, about a young American artist visiting her father, a doctor temporarily working in Riyadh. From the redwood forest to the Arabian desert…I like to change things up.





Thank you so much to Sere for stopping by my little Web!  She has even been so generous to give away one copy of her book to one of my readers.  We will take entries from now until February 22, 2012. US readers only, unfortunately.   Please be sure to visit Sere at Facebook or her website, where you can read her bio and blog.


And if you feel like sharing, please let us know what character has stayed with you days, weeks, or even months after reading their story.








(Disclaimer: Your information is safe with me! I will not sell or reveal your information to anyone and once the winner has been chosen I will delete all entries.)
 

February 14, 2012

(20) The Darlings by Cristina Alger


The Darlings

Publication Date: February 16, 2012
Pages 352



Over the last couple of years there have been several authors who have taken the financial crisis and the Bernie Madoff scandal and reworked the story to suit their characters.  Cristina Alger is the newest author to give the story a new spin.

The Darlings is about an elite New York socialite family led by patriarch, Carter Darling.  The story starts the day their close family friend, and Carter's partner commits suicide by jumping off a bridge. It is the day before Thanksgiving.  That single event starts the demise of the Darling family.  Caught in the cross-hairs of the right and wrong is Carter's daughter, Merrill and her lawyer husband, Paul.  At first Paul is grateful that Carter gave him a job in the family business, but when a friend from college, now a lawyer for the SEC gives him the first warning, well Paul is torn.  He is torn between the right and wrong.  Between family and friends. Between hurting and getting hurt.  Told in alternating voices from all sides of the issue we get to see what really happens when a financial powerhouse of a family falls apart.


I really enjoyed The Darlings.  The concept is very similar to Elin Hilderbrand's Silver Girl, but told with much more literary precision.  In Silver Girl we only get one side of the story, but The Darlings is so much more encompassing.  It is hard not to feel a little compassion for the Darling family (except for Carter. He is an ass, in my opinion) .  They are completely blindsided when the truth is revealed.  I am really surprised this book hasn't gotten more buzz, but I really think it is one to read.  The characters, no matter how despicable are fascinating and so very well written.  And the end provides a bit of a shock, too.

February 13, 2012

(19) I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella


I've Got Your Number

Publication Date: February 14, 2012
Pages: 448


To me, Sophie Kinsella is one of those "Hit or Miss" authors.  I absolutely LOVED Can You Keep A Secret?, but could not get into the Shopaholic series to save my life.  I have read other books by her, but found some to be quite unlikable, while others mildly amusing.  But I was ready and willing to give  I've Got Your Number a go and I am SO glad I did!  It was wonderful!!

Poppy Wyatt is engaged to scholar, Magnus Tavish.  She is with her girls at a little pre-wedding gathering when her engagement ring, a family heirloom, turns up missing.  And in an unrelated event, so does her lifeline, her cell phone.   She is separated from her friends and in such a panic to find that ring that when she spots a cell phone discarded in the trash she picks it up (Who DOES that?)  and gives the number to the hotel in case they find her missing ring.

It turns out that the phone belongs to the former Personal Assistant of a very busy, very important executive, Sam Roxton.  Poppy pleads with Sam to let her keep the phone until  her missing ring has been found, as that is the number she gave the hotel, and he agrees.  But in the meantime Poppy must forward all of his emails and texts.  While doing so, Poppy becomes a little too invested in Sam's world, while struggling to survive in her world while preparing for the wedding.  Will she be able to keep her sanity and walk down the aisle?  Or will she discover some truths about herself (and Magnus) that will awaken a whole new world?

There are very few of us who could get by without our cell phones. I know that I couldn't.  If I am not using it to stay connected to the world via Twitter, Facebook, and Taptu, I am using it to stay connected to my family and friends via Words With Friends.   And occasionally I even use it for phone calls.  I thought Sophie Kinsella was very clever in the way she took our dependence on these little gadgets and turned it into  the type of Chick Lit novel that she is best known for.   Once I got past the whole cheekiness (love that British phrase!) of Poppy to just swipe a cell phone that did not belong to her, I found myself enjoying the story.  Her determination to fit in with the Tavish's, her clever way at winning Scrabble, and her general need to butt into Sam's business was all really quite entertaining.

Sophie Kinsella is a very well known author in the Chick Lit genre.  Some even credit her with launching the genre into the successful genre it is today.  Her newest book, I've Got Your Number, just goes to prove that the praise is well earned.  Check it out and let me know what you think!

February 12, 2012

A Weekend of Great Sadness.

The world has lost two phenomenal talents this weekend.  Two you ask?  Yes, two.  Lost in the shadows of the death of Whitney Houston, a star whose music defined my teen years,  is the fact that Author Jeffrey Zaslow, known best for his work with Randy Pausch on The Last Lecture and his books on those Girls From Ames was killed in a car accident Friday night on the snowy Michigan roads.


It is with a heavy heart that I must admit to being more shocked by the death of Mr. Zaslow than I was of Whitney Houston, whose body has been ravaged by years of drug abuse.  Was she a superstar of the highest magnitude, yes.  Like I said, her music defined my tween and teen years.  Much like Michael Jackson did with his music.  But Whitney Houston's success was in the past.  Is it possible that she could have staged a comeback, of course, but statistically unlikely.  With the news of Mr. Zaslow's passing I immediately thought of all of the great works that we will miss out on reading.  He was in the prime of his career.  In fact, I have an ARC of his latest work, The Magic Room, just waiting for me to read.


So today, on the day the world  is mourning the loss of Whitney Houston, take a minute to also mourn the loss of Jeffrey Zaslow.  Both of them made an impact on the Arts in our world in their own special way and will never be forgotten.




February 11, 2012

(18) MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche

MWF Seeking BFF
My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend

Publication Date: December 20, 2011
Pages : 384


Making new friends is hard.  Especially when you have lived in three states in three years.  And are somewhat introverted.  And are considered an outsider in your neighborhood because you own a freaking coffee pot. And work from home.  And when the only other human you see most days is your Husband, (good thing he is cute).

In her debut book, MWF seeking BFF , author Rachel Bertsche explores friendships and the fine art of  making friends and what it takes to find a new BFF.  After moving to Chicago to be with her then-Fiance, Rachel realizes that she has a lot of acquaintances, but no one she can call to dish over the latest episode of Friday Night Lights or go shopping with on a lazy Saturday.  So she starts this quest of finding a new BFF.  She sets up "Friend-Dates" with women she meets everywhere from her Improv class to online "Friending" websites.   Rachel goes everywhere on her "Friend-Dates" - from brunches to museums to dance classes.  She is ready to try it all in the quest for a new BFF.

MWF seeking BFF  was not nearly as "fluffy" as I expected.  The author did an amazing amount of research in her quest to finding a BFF.  There is a lot of statistics and facts and quoting of other books about  friendships between women.  At times it even seems bogs the story down.  Overall I have to commend Rachel and her dedication to finding a new BFF.  There were times when reading all of the "dates" she packed into a day that I thought she was crazy.  It seemed exhausting to me.  While I would like to have a local friend to "hang" with, I am not about to devote the majority of my free time to finding one.  I enjoy my home, I enjoy my family, and there are times I even enjoy my solitude.

Bottom line is that MWF Seeking BFF is an interesting read that I think a  lot of women would find interesting.  It is human nature to want friends and a BFF to hang out with on those days that you just need to get away from your family.  If you are one of those millions of women out there who find it hard to meet new friends, Rachel's book offers a lot of suggestion on how to meet a new BFF.

February 9, 2012

February 8, 2012

(17)Home Front by Kristin Hannah

Home Front

Publication Date: January 31, 2012
Pages: 400


Kristin Hannah is one of those authors that I will buy whatever she writes. It could be a novel written on a roll of toilet paper and I would run right out and be the first in line to buy the first roll.

Her newest novel, Home Front, is one that will strike a chord with millions of women all over the country.  The year is 2005. Jolene and Tami are best friends who are closer than sisters.  They met when they both joined the military and started flying Black Hawks. Over the years they have joined the National Guard together, become neighbors, and have raised their families together.  They help each other celebrate the happy times and are there for each other during the rough times.   Right now it is Jolene going through a rough patch.  Her husband has said the words that all married women fear, Michael has told her that he no longer loves her.  And the next day Jolene and Tami are told that they will be deploying to Iraq.  As they prepare to leave, Jolene is numb and scared. Michael has been "absent" for quite a while and she is afraid of how he and the girls will handle her deployment. She is afraid of what her deployment will mean for their marriage.  But at least she will have Tami in Iraq.  She knows that together, they can make it through anything.  But, when things don't go as planned in Iraq, Jolene comes home a broken woman. Both physically and emotionally.  Will she ever feel whole again? And will she and Michael be able to repair what is broken in their marriage?

I am not from a Military family, but I am a wife.  And it is on that level that I could really connect with Jolene.  Her and Michael come from such different backgrounds, but they have been able to build a life together. When he tells Jolene that he no longer loves her,  I could feel her heart shatter through the pages.  I cried right along with her. Then to receive the word that she is deploying right as her world is crumbling, well, it is just another nail in her emotional coffin.  Especially since Michael has never supported her Military career.  After she returns from Iraq, it is very clear that Jolene is not the same person. Physically or emotionally.  I can never pretend to know what it is like to be an injured, returning Vet, but there were times that I found it very difficult to like Jolene.  She is raw and bitter and closed off to the possibility that life ever may be normal for her again.

Kristin Hannah has written another blockbuster.  Her characters are never perfect and often flawed, but that is what makes them so real.  As an author she creates situations and stories that come to life for us, the reader.  That is why, I feel, that we connect with her books so much.  That is why her books evoke such strong emotions in her readers.  I don't really consider myself an emotional person, but when it comes to Patriotism, I become very emotional.  I choke up EVERY.SINGLE.TIME I hear the National Anthem. So to read about an injured warrior, even a fictional one, I cried like a baby.  Consider that a warning.  Keep a box of kleenex nearby as you read Home Front.  You will need them.

February 7, 2012

(16)Outside The Lines by Amy Hatvany

Outside the Lines 

Publication Date: February 7, 2012
Pages: 384


Amy Hatvany made a splash on the literary scene last year with her debut novel, Best Kept Secret, which made a lot of "Best of 2011" lists.  Including my own.  In her second novel, Outside the Lines, Amy Hatvany takes on another form of illness, mental illness.

Eden has known for most of her life that her Daddy was "sick" and needed to take meds. She witnessed fights between her parents over the meds, but she never really understood why. And when Eden was a very young ten years old when she discovered her beloved Father laying on the bathroom floor bleeding after a suicide attempt.  It was the last time that she saw him.  Flash forward nearly twenty years and Eden is a very successful Chef who has discovered that her Mother kept her Father from contacting her after the suicide attempt.  Eden sees this as a great betrayal and sets off to find her Father.


Her search takes her to the Hope House.  A homeless shelter in the heart of Seattle.  If her Father was living on the streets, odds are someone at the Hope House has heard of him.  Eden decides to volunteer her skills and cook for the shelter on Tuesday nights.  While volunteering Eden discovers this whole other world in which she feels very comfortable and at the center of that world is Jack Baker, the Hope House's director. With Jack's help Eden continues her search and discovers that no matter how much she wants to, she can not make her Father magically appear and have a perfect relationship with him.  Will Eden be able to accept her Father for who he really is or is she doomed to being perpetually disappointed in his behavior.

Just like in Best Kept Secrets, there were times where I had a really hard time liking the main character.  While I understand Eden's anger at her mother, at times her behavior towards her mother and step-father was truly deplorable.  And when she took it out on Jack? I was ready to be done with her.  But just when I couldn't stand it any further, Eden realized the error of her ways.  I know it sounds bad, but even with her character flaws, Outside the Lines is a very well written novel. Written in the alternating voices of Eden and her Father you truly get to see both sides of this story. Mental illness is one of the last disabilities to gain understanding and acceptance with the public and the author did a really good job of bringing light to that injustice.

Outside the Lines is another home run for Amy Hatvany.  Her talent for creating thought provoking story lines with somewhat flawed characters is evident with every word written in Outside the Lines.  If you are looking for your next Book Club read, consider Outside the Lines, it is sure to generate great discussions.

February 6, 2012

(15)Spin by Catherine McKenzie


Spin

Publication Date: February 7, 2012
Pages: 448

Buy it Here!

Kate Sandford has pretty much been floundering ever since college. Here she is on the verge of her 30th birthday, yet her roommate and some of her friends think that she is still a struggling college student.  It is Kate's only way to justify the way she lives.  In reality she is a struggling writer who wants nothing more than to write for the premier music magazine, The Line.  She catches a huge break when she lands an interview on her 30th birthday.  She is determined to land this job, but when her friends invite her out to celebrate her birthday the night before the interview she goes and is still drunk for her interview.

But wait.  Just when Kate thinks that the time has come to shuck her dreams and take an administrative position she gets a call back from The Line.  They have a gig for her, a 30 day gig.  They want her to go to rehab, the same rehab as "The Girl Next Door", Amber and write an expose on the hard partying movie star.  If it goes well, The Line will hire Kate permanently. Sounds perfect, right? What Kate doesn't expect is that she grows to like Amber and learns a lot about her own faults while in rehab.  Will she be able to turn in the expose to get everything she ever wanted or will Kate discover that some things in life are more important?

I really enjoyed Spin.  It was such a unique "Spin" to the Chick Lit genre.  I enjoyed reading about Kate's own self discoveries while in rehab.  Her own personal growth was probably the most I have ever seen in a Chick Lit novel and while the subject matter was tough, the realization was refreshing.  If you looking for something unique to read, give Spin a chance.  I think you will enjoy this one!

February 4, 2012

(14) Catch Me by Lisa Gardner

Catch Me

Publication Date: February 7, 2012
Pages: 400

Buy it Here or Here!

So a quick search of my blog told me that I have read one Lisa Gardner book, Say Goodbye, in 2008.  You can read the embarrassing post here. (I have come a long way since then. LOL)  While I enjoyed the book, I have no idea why I haven't read more books by Lisa Gardner, I really enjoyed the world she creates.

For those of you who are more of a loyal reader, you know all about Detective D.D Warren.   In Catch Me she is just coming back from maternity leave and has started to work a case where not one, but two pedophiles have been murdered.   While working the case, D.D sees a young woman lurking around.  After a quick chase the woman comes clean,  Her name is Charlene Rosalind Carter Grant and she is likely going to be murdered in four days and she wants D. D. to find her killer.  Why does she think she will be murdered on January 21st?  Because her two best friends were each murdered on January 21st.  One last year and the other the year before.  Charlene has taken special measures to protect herself, but she still does not feel that it is enough.  She needs D.D's help.  But as January 21st gets closer and closer D.D. starts to question whether or not the two cases overlap.  Is Charlene using the 21st of January as a way to rid the world of some scum? Or is there something going on that neither one of them understand?

Even though this was my first D.D. Warren novel, I really didn't feel as if I needed that back-story to enjoy this one.  All I know, as a first time reader, is that D.D. is a well respected Detective whose life has changed after giving birth.  A few past cases are referred to, but not in a major way, and just enough for me to want to go read the backlist. Charlene's story, though, is a chilling one.  She had a childhood that make horror movies look tame and relaxing and still came out as a reasonably sane adult.  I really enjoyed the proactive way she tried to save her life.  I loved her interaction with her Landlady and of course, Tulip. The homeless dog that really isn't Charlie's, but it kind of is.  There were so many twists and turns to this story, that just when I thought I had figured it all out, Lisa Gardner takes the story in another direction and I realized I was wrong.  That is the sign of a true master.

Bottom line is that Catch Me is suspense at it's best.  The story is a fast paced murder mystery that takes place before the murder actually happens.  The characters are well written and the story flows very nicely.  If you are looking for a good one to read, you can't go wrong with Lisa Gardner's Catch Me.

February 2, 2012

February 1, 2012