March 30, 2012

(45)Four of A Kind by Valerie Frankel

Four of A Kind

Publication Date: February 7, 2012
Pages: 352


With a title like Four of A Kind, you would expect to find a book about four women who are similar in thoughts, looks, careers, or any other way you can think of.   But in reality, the four women in Four of A Kind have only one thing in common. They all have children that attend the elite Brooklyn private school, Brownstone.

Bess is your typical suburban housewife.  She is married to a drop dead gorgeous man who treats her like a queen.  She has an active involvement in her children's school, but still feels a little unfulfilled.  She she creates a Diversification Committee with the hopes of meeting new people and hoping that something, anything happens.

She invites Robin, the single mother, Carla, the African American doctor, and Alicia, the copywriter.  On the night of their first meeting, Bess suggests they play a game of poker as a sort of ice breaker.  Instead of playing for chips or money, they play for  secrets.   All four of them have secrets that they have been keeping close to the  vest.  Whether it be the identity of the father of Robin's daughter or the fact that Alicia and her husband have  not had sex in two years , well they all have something to share.   As the weeks go on, the pretense of the "Diversification Committee" falls away and they just meet for weekly poker games.  Their friendships growing at the same rate as their secrets.  Will they be able to help each other come to terms with the secrets in their lives?  Or will the secrets build enough to destroy their marriages and their friendships?

I really enjoyed Four of A Kind. The author could not have created a group of more different women. They say opposites attract and that could not be more obvious with these women.  I really enjoyed how much the women gained from each other.  Whether it be the strength for Carla to stand up to her husband, or Bess to stand up to her mother, each of the women grow as women because of the strength of their friends. As their relationships with each other grew, so did their desire to correct the wrongs in their life, one way or another.  When the chips are down, the strength of their friendships pull them together in a way that none of them expected.

Bottom line, I think women of all walks of life can learn something from Bess and her friends.  They each have their strengths and weaknesses, but when together, they all become stronger.  I think Robin & Bess were my two favorite characters.  Robin for her sense of humor and Bess for her ability to bring people together.   If you are looking for a good book to read with your girlfriends, give this one a shot.  It may even prompt you to start your own weekly poker game. *wink,wink*

March 29, 2012

March 28, 2012

(44)The Unseen by Heather Graham

The Unseen 
by Heather Graham 

Publication Date: March 27, 2012
Pages: 352


Is it possible for a haunted hotel room to kill it's guests?

That is the question in Heather Graham's new novel, The Unseen. The hotel is the historic Longhorn and the room is 207. It has been 150 years since the last woman was murdered in room 207,  when another woman is killed US Marshall Kelsey O'Brien and Texas Ranger Logan Raintree are called in to help with their special skills.  In the process they stir up some romance they were not expecting.  Will they be able to determine who is behind the murder before another woman falls victim?

I really liked the historical aspect of this novel.  I have never been to Texas, let alone the Alamo, but I enjoyed the scenery painted by the author.  Maybe someday I will get there.  I also really enjoyed the dynamics between Kelsey and Logan.  The sparks literally flew off of the pages.

I have read a few books by Heather Graham and they all seem to have that paranormal romance theme. I will say that the "whodunit" in this one did surprise me. So you have a great mystery coupled with a few steamy sex scenes and throw in the paranormal activity and you have a great way to pass the afternoon.

March 27, 2012

(43)Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage by Hugh Brewster


Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage

Publication Date: March 27, 2012
Pages: 352


I have already shared with you my geeky love for anything and everything Titanic.  With the 100th Anniversary of that night upon us, the new books about the Titanic are really stacking up for History lovers to read.

One of those books is Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage by Hugh Brewster.  Brewster looks at the lives and death of the Titanic's first class passengers.  Those who survived and those who didn't.  He gives a little bit of background on each of the first class passengers and how they came to be on the Titanic.  Passengers such as Margaret "The Unsinkable Molly" Brown, John Jacob Astor and his wife, Madeleine. Lady Duff Gordon, and so many more.  We learn how they come to be on Titanic's maiden voyage and how they survived or perished that fateful day.  What I found most fascinating about this book was the exquisite pictures the author included in the book.  The crisp black and white photos are so full of detail and tell the story of their extravagant lives as much as the words he writes does.

I have read a lot of books about the Titanic, watched a lot of documentaries, and have seen the movies.  The one piece of information that I gathered from Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage, that was new to me, was about the dogs of the Titanic. Several dogs were on the Titanic when she set sail and even three survived that night, much to the anger of some other survivors.  Women, men, and children perished that night, yet three dogs survived.  The other thing that I found fascinating was at the end of the book, Brewster goes on to talk about an extraordinary number of survivors who lived to be over 100 years old and several into their 90's.   But there were also an extraordinarily high number of suicides among her survivors.

I really enjoyed Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage.  But I am a bit of a geek like that.  I could certainly see where the first half of the book would be considered a bit dry to those not as fascinated as I am by such things, but things pick up dramatically as the ship hits the iceberg and the tragedy is set into motion.   The author did such an excellent job at researching this book.  The passengers own words are often used to describe the Titanic and the events leading up to her demise.  It just brought it all to life for me, but that is what a book like this is meant to do.  Bring the events of April 14, 1912 to life.

March 26, 2012

(42)Stay Close by Harlan Coben

Stay Close

Publication Date: March 20, 2012
Pages: 400


In his new book, Stay Close, Superstar Author, Harlan Coben, steps away from his go-to guy, Myron Bolitar to bring us this fabulous stand alone novel.

Megan Pierce has what many would consider the perfect life.  She has two wonderful kids and is married to a successful attorney.  Their life is a good one.  Megan has worked hard to create this life for her family and forget her shady past.   Unfortunately on the anniversary of a night she would like to forget, the night her boyfriend was murdered and the night she stopped being Cassie and started being Megan, another man is missing.  Megan feels like she needs to come forward, but only if her identity will remain secure.  But before she knows it things spiral out of control.  Threatening her family and the life she has created.  Will she be able to trust old friends long enough to find the real killer?

Harlan Coben is one of the most talented authors of our times.  He knows how to draw the readers into his world and his characters are so three dimensional it feels as if you *know* them.  I really enjoyed reading about Megan, she is  your typical suburban housewife, but has a past so secret that if the truth were revealed it would shatter her life.  I loved seeing her revisit her past and her old friends.  The story is fast paced and just when you think you have it figured out, Coben throws in a twist that will shock you.

Bottom line, Stay Close, is going to be another blockbuster that his loyal fans will love. The characters are wonderful and the story will draw you in just like always.  Fans of Harlan Coben will be pleased and if you have never read his books, you will be in for a treat.

March 24, 2012

(41)Another Piece of my Heart by Jane Green

Another Piece of my Heart 

Publication Date: March 13, 2012
Pages: 400


Jane Green is one of those author's that I will read whatever she writes. It could be instructions to changing a light bulb and I will be the first in line to read buy her book.  I was excited to hear that Another Piece of My Heart  was about a new "Step-Mom" and her new family, well I was excited to pick it up, because I am in that role myself.

Andie was excited to find the man of her dreams.  She has been eager to get married and "settle down" for sometime now.  She was even more excited to find out that Ethan has two daughters from his first marriage, because she got to find out first hand that he was an amazing father.  And even more than getting married, she wanted to have a  baby of her own.

But as Andie and Ethan started to blend their lives together Andie was a bit saddened to be told by Ethan that he didn't want anymore children.  Coupled with the rebellious and disrespectful attitude of  Emily, Andie is about ready to call it quits and walk away from all of them. The division caused by Emily is not what she signed on for when she married Ethan, no matter how much she loves him, the constant turmoil is too much.   But when an unexpected change of events gives Andie the child she always dreamed of, she lives in constant fear of Emily ruining everything.  And when Emily actually tries to ruin everything the battle between a Step-Mother and her Step-Daughter explodes into epic proportions.  Which side will Ethan come down on?  Will he side with his wife or his daughter? And will they ever be able to become a united family?


While I identified with Andie on a lot of her feelings as a new Step-Mom, I mostly identified with Emily (even though she was a Monster at times) in this story. As a Step-Mom, I got pretty lucky with my Step-Kids.  While it isn't perfect all of the time, they are fun, good kids who are respectful of me and ultimately fun to be around. Before I was a Step-Mom though, I was a Step-Daughter. When I was a kid, being part of a "blended family" was still a relatively "new" thing.  Most of my friends had Moms & Dads that were still married to each other and the only "Steps" in the house led upstairs or downstairs.   My parents divorced when I was four and my mom remarried when I was eight.  My Step-Dad and his two kids moved into the house creating a situation that, while explosive at times, turned out to be one of the best experiences in my life.   Lord knows I had my moments of "Emily type  horrific behavior", - times that by a lot of children, one could see on how the marriage would be doomed,  but thank God my parents stuck it out and they have been married for 28 years this year.

Bottom line,in my opinion,  Another Piece of my Heart is Jane Green at her finest. She has taken the Step-Mother/Step-Daughter relationship and given it a story of it's own. There are many women out there who can either identify with Andie or  Emily, or even both, like myself..  Whether it be Andie or Emily that you identify with, you see both the good and the bad in their characters.  The first half of the book is told from Andie's viewpoint, but it isn't until Emily starts telling her story that you realize there are three sides to every story.  Andie's viewpoint, Emily's viewpoint, and the truth that lies in the middle.

I really enjoyed Another Piece of my Heart.  Since I have lived both sides of the story, I could really relate to the characters and not only their hopes, but their fears.  Even if you haven't experienced a blended family experience, I bet you know someone who has, and Another Piece of my Heart will help you understand a bit of what it is like to be a "Step".   Let me know what you think!

March 23, 2012

(40)The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games

Publication Date: October 1, 2008
Pages: 384


I have had a copy of The Hunger Games for almost four years. It has sat on my bookshelf in six different homes (YIKES!).  It has moved with me five different times over three different states.  Yet it was just yesterday that I decided to start reading it on my lunch break.  And while the rest of you were at the midnight showing of the movie, I stayed up until after midnight to finish reading the book.   I have not read an entire book on a "school night" in years.  But, The Hunger Games was THAT good.  By good, I mean exceptionally good.

For those of you who are unaware, The Hunger Games is a dystopian novel set in the far future.  North America as we know it has been destroyed. What is left is The Capitol and twelve districts.  Each district has a specific purpose in life and for District 12, the poorest district, they are Coal Miners.  As a punishment for an uprising by District 13, each year the Districts are required to hold a lottery where one boy and one girl are between the ages of 12 and 18 are chosen to represent their district in The Hunger Games.  A reality television show type of game designed by the Capitol to remind the District's exactly whose world they live in.  24 children go into the Hunger Games, but only one comes out alive. Katniss Everdeen volunteers for District 12 in place of her younger sister, Prim. That moves sets into motion a chain of events that pits Katniss against 23 other children, including Peeta, a young man who has already saved her life once.  Will they be able to defy the odds and both survive The Hunger Games or will Katniss be forced to kill the one friend she has at the Capitol in order to survive?

First of all, I was unprepared for how compelling Katniss's story was going to be.  Almost from the very first page I was pulled into the world of District 12 and the abject poverty that plagues most of the District.  I was also unprepared for exactly how much of a game show atmosphere that surrounded the games. From the preparations they went through with their handlers, like Cinna & Portia, to their grand entrance & interview portion of the show, I really got the game show vibe, especially with a host like Flickerman.  Yes, the Games are violent.  That is the nature of the game, but I did not find it to be any worse than the video games that many teens play or even the battle scenes in Twilight.

So my favorite parts of the book?  I really loved the relationship between Rue and Katniss.  I understand it doesn't play a major role in the movie, but I loved it during the book.  Logically, I knew what was going to have to happen, but I cried like a baby at "that" part.   I also really enjoyed watching Katniss come to the realization that Peeta was really trying to look out for her best interests. I admit it, I doubted his sincerity throughout most of the book.  But there was one scene when I realized what he had done for her. I even went "aaawwwwwww".  Which made my husband say "it is a book about kids killing each other and you are going awwww! Should I be worried"  LOL

The Hunger Games is about so much more than children being forced to kill each other.  It is about love, devotion, sacrifice, and survival in the face of horrible conditions.  And I don't just mean the Games, I mean life in the Districts, specifically District 12.  I absolutely loved this book (as if you couldn't tell by lengthy review) but I am eager to dive into the other two books in the series.   Happy reading and "May the odds be ever in your favor!"

March 22, 2012

(39)Heft by Liz Moore

Heft

Publication Date: January 23, 2012
Pages: 352 


In my weight loss journey,  I have become fascinated with reading books and watching television shows about people who have either lost obscene amounts of weight or need to lose obscene amounts of weight.  I think it is partly for motivation and partly for my ability to say "Thank God I don't have that much to lose.".  When I saw Heft by Liz Moore I snatched it right up, because I  figured it would be another one of those books to motivate me away from the left over birthday party pizza.

I was only partly right.  Heft is the story of Arthur Opp and Kel Keller.  Two characters who couldn't be more different.  Arthur is a former college professor who has not really left his Brooklyn house in ten years because of his embarrassment for weighing over 500 pounds.  Kel is a popular high school student from Yonkers attending a high school , that is for many reasons, out of his league.   He juggles his academic and athletic life while taking care of his physically and mentally ill mother, Charlene.  There is the connection between Kel and Arthur.  Charlene. Many years ago, Charlene was Arthur's student and they have maintained somewhat of a relationship all of these years through letters. There were many times over the years, that these letters were Arthur's only connection to someone on the "outside,". He cherished them like nothing else.  And it is Charlene's letter asking for help with Kel that  spurs Arthur to start thinking about life outside his home for the first time in years.  It is that plea for help that prompts Arthur to hire a maid and start planning for guests.  What Arthur doesn't expect is the friendship he will form with Yolanda, the maid,  and how their friendship will change both of their lives.  While Arthur is regaining his life, caused by his Mother's final act of desperation, Kel's life is spinning out of control.  The events of Kel's life start leading him to Arthur.  Will they be able to help each other through their struggles or is it too late for Kel and Arthur?

While Heft was not exactly what I thought it would be, it was a wonderfully written novel about two men struggling to move on with their lives.  The title, Heft, refers to so much more than just Arthur's massive weight.  I think it also refers to the massive weight that lays heavily on Kel's shoulders.  He cares for  his mother, much like a parent would care for their child.  He tends to the bills and all of the household chores, coupled with his schooling and his effort to plan for his future outside of high school, well, Kel has the weight of the world on his shoulders.  I was surprised to find myself so engrossed by Kel's story, and I found myself flying through the pages, hopeful for a positive outcome for both Kel and Arthur.

Bottom line, Heft, is an absolutely lovely little novel. It is a thought provoking, achingly bittersweet, tender little novel with very large subject matters.  As the reader, you so desperately, want a "happy ever after"  kind of ending.  And that is what you can have if you just use your imagination.  By ending the novel the way she did, the author, gives us, the reader the chance to "write" the ending we want for Arthur and Kel. In a lot of books that leaves me infuriated, but with Heft, it works. And works well.  Give it a read and let me know how you think the ending goes for Kel and Arthur.

March 21, 2012

(38) Sexperiment: 7Days to Lasting Intimacy with Your Spouse by Ed & Lisa Young


Sexperiment: 7 Days to Lasting Intimacy with Your Spouse

Publication Date: January 10, 2012
Pages: 212


Back in 2008 I read a book by Douglas Brown called, Just Do It.  About a married couple who decided to have "relations" for 100 straight days.  It was a really fascinating book, and it is interesting for me to read the review that I wrote four years ago.

So much in my life has changed in the last four years.  Like I got married, moved 1000 miles away, and am very active in the lives of my two step-kids.   So, as a newly married woman, (two years is still "new" isn't it?) I was interested in reading Sexperiment.  To sum it up in one sentence, Sexperiment is the Biblical version of Just Do It.  Minus 93 days.

Sexperiment is written by Ed Young with some thoughts thrown in by his wife, Lisa.  He takes Bible passages, specifically the Songs of Solomon and tells you that having sex with your spouse is biblically required.  Okay, not exactly in those words.  But he basically says that the marital relationship(not just Sex) should be the center of the household and in many, many cases it is not.  He uses the term "Sexcuses" a lot.  Excuses we come up with when our spouse is feeling frisky, but we are not.  He makes comparisons that put things into perspective and even offers insights at the end of each chapter called "The Yolk is Not A Joke" for single people who are engaged or dating.

What I got the most out of this book was the needed reminder that marriage is about service and giving.  I needed that reminder. It is easy to fall into comfortable patterns with your spouse.  That doesn't mean that "comfortable" is necessarily bad, it just means that sometimes we need the reminder to not take our Spouses for granted. I don't necessarily agree with Mr. Young on everything he says, like about half of the Ten Commandments of Marriage, but I can see where they would be useful in a marriage that shares the same religious beliefs as Mr. & Mrs. Young.

If I have learned anything in my two years of marriages it is this, marriage is hard.  It is not all breakfast in bed and pretty flowers.  Work is required to make your marriage successful.  Work on yourself and work on your marriage.  Sexperiment offers you the chance to work on both.

March 20, 2012

(37)The Good Father by Noah Hawley



The Good Father

Publication Date: March 20,2012
Pages : 320

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There are very few events in our world that makes everyone sit up and take notice.  Unfortunately tragedy is one of them, especially tragedies involving shocking shootings.  For example, the shooting in Arizona last year where Gabby Giffords was shot and so many others lost their lives.  Or the school shootings seem to happen far too frequently.  Do you ever wonder what life is like for the family of the accused shooter?  Author Noah Hawley explores that thought with his new book, The Good Father.


Dr. Paul Allen is living the good life with his second wife and two small children.  Daniel, his son from his first marriage comes and goes from their lives, but is never far from Paul's mind.  It is a day like any other when he gets the call that his son, Daniel, has shot and killed the Presidential hopeful that is beloved by the entire nation.  Paul doesn't believe it is possible and  even though his son has confessed, he sets off to find out the truth about what really happened the day.  Will he be able to save his son from the death penalty or will what Paul finds change his life forever?


The Good Father is a book that ranks right up there with We Need to Talk About Kevin and Nineteen Minutes. It is a riveting look at a Father who learns who his son really is, the hard way. The author did a fabulous job of inserting the stories of some of the most notorious killers and their families. It was fascinating to watch the "Good Father" go from shock to denial to acceptance of the fact that his son is a killer.  Honestly, Paul was a very hard character to like because of some of his thinking related to the what happened and what happens to HIS life because of the shooting. 


Bottom line, The Good Father is a wonderfully written novel that I think will become the next big Book Club book.  The subject matter is a bit tough to read, but no more than picking up the average newspaper on any given day.  Let me know what you think!

March 19, 2012

(36)Making Piece by Beth M. Howard


Making Piece

Publication Date: March 20, 2012
Pages: 320


I have told you guys that I am originally from Iowa, right?  I grew up in a small farming community about an hour Southeast of Omaha.  I lived there until I was 25 and moved to Kansas City.  There is something about Iowa that is simple and good.  I know many people consider Iowa a "flyover state" but they are truly missing out on something special by not making a stop.

I think author Beth M. Howard has captured that special something just perfectly in her new book, Making Piece.   When Beth's husband, Marcus, dies unexpectedly at the age 43, she does not know what she is going to do with her life.  She is broken, alone, and guilt-laden.  So she does the only think she knows how to do to make herself feel better.  She makes pie.  You see, Beth is an Iowa girl at heart, and making pie has always had a special way of healing her hurts.  A producer friend gets involved and says "Let's make a documentary about the healing power of pie".  And they take off on a road trip along the West Coast capturing the healing powers of pie.

It is her involvement with the show and her blog that lands Beth a gig as a judge at the legendary Iowa State Fair a year after Marcus's death.  While in Iowa for that trip Beth finds her self traveling home, to Ottumwa, to where she was first introduced to pie.  And it is that road trip that leads Beth to Eldon, Iowa and the American Gothic house.  And it also leads her to the path of healing.

Some people will pick up this book and gain strength from Beth's survival after the loss of her husband. Other's will pick up this book and identify with the healing power of food.  I picked up this book, that I didn't even know was set partially in Iowa, and got a piece of "home" when I needed it the most.  I haven't been "home" since Thanksgiving and my homesickness has reached an all new level.  To paraphrase, the author talks about crossing the Missouri river into Council Bluffs and seeing the sign that says "Iowa A Place to Grow" and how it just felt right.  I know that feeling so very well.  I have had that same feeling every trip "home"  for the last two plus years.

I really enjoyed Making Piece.  I am sure that I enjoyed it more because of the Iowa connection than I did anything else,(not really a pie girl, unless it is made of chocoolate) but I enjoyed watching Beth make it through that critical year.  She went from being the "big city girl" back to that "small town Iowa girl" with such ease that it almost makes me long to do the same.   I think that Making Piece has a little something for everyone, including recipes at the back of the book.

March 18, 2012

(35)Ten Beach Road by Wendy Wax

Ten Beach Road

Publication Date: May 3, 2011
Pages: 432


It is getting to be that time of year where  Summer thoughts and Beach reads are starting to clutter my thoughts. I have been fighting a major case of Spring Fever for a few weeks now and I thought that Ten Beach Road would be a good way to assuage my longings for warm weather and sandy beaches.

Ten Beach Road is another book to take it's plot from the Wall Street headlines of Ponzi schemes. This time the villain's name is Malcolm Dyer.  He has bilked a lot of people out of millions of dollars.  This story focus's on three women. Maddie, whose husband lost his job, and their money, for recommending Dyer to his company & customers.  Avery is a recently divorced HGTV star who lost all of her inheritance money to the sleazebag, and there is Nikki.  A matchmaker to the wealthy who lost all of her money to Malcolm.  Only Malcolm is also her brother.   The three women find out that the only thing left for them is Malcolm's battered mansion along the Florida Coastline.  As is, the mansion will only bring in a couple of million dollars, but fully restored, it might bring in closer to a much needed five or six million dollars.   The three strangers agree to stay in the mansion for a summer and restore her to her regal state with the help of handsome contractor,  Chase.  Will these three women from different backgrounds be able to make it through the summer without killing each other?  And what will happen when the other women find out that Malcolm Dyer is Nikki's brother?

Overall, Ten Beach Road, was the perfect book to go with my "Spring Fever" mentality.  Once I got past the whole, "Could that really happen" aspect of these three women getting possession of Ten Beach Road when there were hundreds of others still waiting for their money.  The descriptions of the historical mansion was enough to satisfy my daily cravings for house porn and the relationship between the three different women was interesting and unique.  I especially loved Maddie and how the Stay-At-Home-Mom had to step up to the plate when her husband's world fell apart.  But each of the three women came out of this experience learning something about themselves.  And I always enjoy those kind of books.

Bottom line, the unseasonably warm weather throughout the country has us all pulling out our flip-flops and margarita glasses.  Ten Beach Road is the perfect book to help you get in that warm weather mentality.




March 17, 2012

March 15, 2012

(34)Arcadia by Lauren Groff


Arcadia

Publication Date: March 13, 2012
Pages: 304


I am a little too young to really "remember" the Hippy days gone by.  I was a child of the 80's and even though my Mom was was child of the 60's, she really wasn't a "Hippy" kind of girl.  So I have always found that lifestyle a bit fascinating.  The commune lifestyle is so completely different than anything I have ever known and I think that is what makes it so fascinating.

In her new novel, Arcadia, Lauren Groff takes us into that magical world that seems almost make believe.  She takes us to a commune in New York  called Arcadia.  Her main character is Ridley, but known to everyone as Bit.  We get to follow Bit from birth through his childhood on the commune.  From his early days through his adolescence  we get to pick up on the ways of commune life.  From Bit's education, to the baking, to their unique housing situation while the "mansion" is being built and of course the eclectic group of people you would expect to find on a  commune, led by charismatic rock star, Handy. Groff holds nothing back    But as most of us have learned, all good things must come to an end and communal living is no exception.  As a teenager Bit and his mother, Hannah are forced to leave their peaceful life and  commune family  to the city.   How will Bit adjust to life on the "outside" and will he forget everything his mother and family from the commune taught him?

Arcadia is very much a book for adults, but it is written from the perspective of a child for most of the book.  And frankly that style makes it a bit hard to follow at times. Even with that unique style of storytelling it is easy to see that Bit is a sweet, good-natured, innocent soul.  The older Bit gets the easier it is to follow his story, but his innocence never wanes.  When he moves to the "outside" it seemed like we missed a bit of the story, but I liked how he still stayed connected to the people from the Arcadia.  It is, after all, how he met his wife.  Handy's daughter, Helle.

Overall, Arcadia is a great read that I think Hippies, young and old, will enjoy. I must say that I enjoyed the last one third of the book better than the first two-thirds.  I liked how the story came full circle with Hannah and Bit taking care of her.  But, as a side note,  the whole "pandemic" subplot  seemed a bit unnecessary in the story, but maybe that was just me.   Bottom line, I think Arcadia is the kind of book that will transport you to another time and another place.  It may evoke memories in some readers and feed fascinations in other readers, like myself.  No matter what your age, though, it is a good read and deserves your attention.

March 14, 2012

March 13, 2012

(33)The Night She Disappeared by April Henry


The Night  She Disappeared

Publication Date: March 13, 2012
Pages: 240


Having a job as a teenager is not all that unusual.  Working at a pizza joint for your part time job is not all that unusual.  Becoming friends with your coworkers is not all that unusual.  Having your coworker disappear while delivering a pizza IS  unusual.  Especially when it was supposed to be your night to run deliveries.

High school senior, Gabie, is working part time at the local pizza joint. With both of her parents being surgeons she doesn't NEED the job like her coworkers do, but she still works for the independence.  Her coworker, Kayla asked her to switch nights because she had a date or something on Friday.  Gabie had nothing planned so she went ahead & made the switch.  It was a bit suspicious to Drew when a call comes in and the customer asks about the girl who drives the black Mini-Cooper, but still Kayla goes out to deliver the pizza.  Only she never returns.

Needless to say, Gabie is freaked out.  The kidnapper asked about HER.  The police try to reassure her in saying that Kayla was abducted by someone she knows, but Gabie isn't buying it at all. Kayla's disappearance brings Drew and Gabie closer as they do everything they can think of to find Kayla.  Even after the police have given up.  Will they be able to find Kayla before the kidnapper takes Gabie, too?

There were some things I liked about this book, the almost interactive feel to the story with the inclusion of police documents, transcripts, newspaper articles, etc..  And there were things I felt were a bit far-fetched, the whole psychic angle, for example.  Bottom line is that The Night She Disappeared is a good mystery/suspense story if you just let yourself get swept away in the story.  If you start over thinking certain aspects you will come away thinking only of it's simplicity and be somewhat irritated.  If you are looking for a fast read to escape your world, grab this one right up and enjoy!

March 12, 2012

(32)How to Eat a Cupcake by Meg

How to Eat A Cupcake 

Publication Date: March 13, 2012
Pages: 320


Annie and Julia grew up as close as sister's.  They lived in the same house, went to the same school and spent much of their childhood together.  The only difference between them and "real" sisters is that Julia was the daughter of the house and Annie was just the housekeeper's daughter.

Their friendship ended with the kind of betrayal that has been known to break even the strongest of bonds.  Julia headed out East to become a successful business woman and Annie stayed behind to work as a pastry chef in a local restaurant.  It is not until one night ten years later that they reconnect at a party where Annie is serving her cupcakes.  Julia sees the brilliance of Annie's talent and offers to help her make all of her dreams come true.  While they try to bury the hatchet and become successful business partners, the past is still lurking and threatens to ruin everything they have worked so hard to achieve.  Can both women make it out of this partnership unscathed or will their lives and friendship become even more scarred?

For obvious reasons, I really, really enjoyed How to Eat A Cupcake. I mean it is a book about cupcakes! How can you NOT love it, right? I also enjoyed it because the characters were interesting and their relationship's were so very complex.  Annie and Julia, Julia and her fiance, Annie and the St. Claire's, Julia and her parents. How to Eat A Cupcake is meant to be a Chick Lit, but it is so much more. It is not fluffy by any stretch of the imagination and it has characters as real as they can be with the same kind of problems that you and I face everyday.

Overall I recommend How to Eat A Cupcake to anyone who loves to read.  There is something in this book for everyone. Friendships, romances, intrigue, and of course cupcakes. Also, I can see it being a good Book Club pick.  Lots of discussion to be generated from within this book.  Give it a read and let me know what you think!

March 10, 2012

(31)Legacy of Eden by Nelle Davy


The Legacy of Eden
by Nelle Davy

Publication Date: February 1, 2012
Pages: 400


I recently read a book (review is forthcoming) that is partially set in my "home" state of Iowa and it left me longing for "home".  And admittedly, I grabbed The Legacy of Eden because it was set on a farm in Iowa, which is exactly where my roots lie.  The difference between the two books could not be more vast.

The Legacy of Eden is a dark, dark book about the Hathaway family.   In the present day Meredith receives notice that the last remaining Hathaway family member has passed away and she must return to Iowa to settle the estate and sell the farm.   Returning to Iowa risks opening up so many old wounds and memories, yet Meredith knows she must go.   It is through the flashbacks of her memories that we learn the story of Meredith's Grandfather, Cal and how he came to return to Aurelia and be married to Meredith's Grandma, Lavinia.   As the story goes on we learn to realize that life at Aurelia is anything but ideal. The family secrets involve alcoholism, physical abuse, mental illness and a secret so dark that it sent Meredith away with no desire to ever return to Aurelia.

But now she must return and settle the family estate.  Will she be able to work through the memories and heal the relationships with what family she has left or is she only going to stir up more hurt?

Like I said, The Legacy of Eden is a very dark, Gothic kind of book. Of all the characters, the only one that I even remotely liked was Meredith.  She was such a sweet, kind girl, living in what she thought was the idyllic childhood on the family farm, but the older she got the more she became disillusioned with the generations of dysfunction that surrounds her.  With each passing page you could see it in her thoughts and the words on the pages.  It is almost heartbreaking to read.

It is a very rare family that has no secrets or some level of dysfunction.  But poor Meredith and her family take it to a whole new level.  The author has done a great job of spinning a generational tale that captivates you.  There is a readers guide along with the story with some very discussion provoking questions.      All that dysfunction would make for a great book club discussion, no?

March 8, 2012

(30) Believe it or Not by Tawn Fenske


Believe it or Not

Publication Date: March 6, 2012
Pages: 384



Believe it or Not is a book about a woman who is about as opposite of her mother as any  woman could possibly be.  In fact, she became an accountant and moved as far away from her "Psychic" mother as she could possibly get.  In fact, Violet moved from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine in order to escape the chaos that surrounds her mother.  Life is going well for her until her mother is seriously injured and Violet rushes home to be by her side.

She arrives at the hospital to find that while her mother has physically been hurt, her mind is just as annoying as ever.  And Violet is distressed to learn that her mother, Moonbeam,  expects her to run her psychic shop in her absence.  For the sake of peace and quiet she agrees.  But what she did not expect was the owner of the bar next door would be the sexy Drew Watson.  Will she be able to keep her wits about her or will she fall for his good looks and charm?

Believe it or Not was just okay.   I actually purchased Fenske's first book, Making Waves,  based solely on her participation on one of my favorite blogs, The Debutante Ball. But,I will say that I have not read it yet.  So when I had the opportunity to read an ARC of her second book, I jumped at the chance.  Believe it or Not is a fast read, but the characters did not really strike a chord with me. At all.   The "F" word is used liberally, which doesn't bother me much, but I know that it bothers some of you.  To me, it just seemed like the word was completely out of character for Violet. I will say that I did chuckle at the song references and how they played into Violet's "psychic" abilities.

Bottom line, I wouldn't say that Believe it or Not was a bad book, I was just had really high expectations.  Violet was a likable enough character, but not enough to push me over into the "loved it" category.

March 7, 2012

(29)Pieces of Us by Margie Gelbwasser

Pieces of Us

Publication Date: March 8, 2012
Pages: 336


One of the reasons why I blog is because when I find books I like I want to help the Author get His/Her name out there.  Word of mouth is a sure fire way to get sales for books and I have been told that I have a REALLY big mouth.  As you know (or maybe not) a lot of what I read and blog about I get complimentary from publishers and sometimes Author's themselves.  So I start every book with the intention of liking it and using my blog to help the Author with recognition.  One thing you can count on is that I am always honest and I know that while a certain book may not be my cup of tea, it may be JUST the kind of book you are looking for.

That seems to be the case with Pieces of Us.  I have seen other reviews on Goodreads and it seems as if this book is one of those polarizing books that people either loved or hated.  Honestly, I hated it.  It haunts me - but not in a good way. It makes me want to lock my Step-Daughter in her room until she is 25 to protect her from the pervy boys like Alex, Chris, and Ethan.

That piqued your interest didn't it?  Well Pieces of Us is the story of four kids from two different families. There is Katie and her sister Julie who live in New Jersey and Alex and his younger brother Kyle, who live in Philly.  Their family history is connected through their Grandparent's friendship that goes all the way back to THEIR childhood in Russia.  Every Summer the kids go to the Catskills to spend the Summer with the grandparents.   The Summers are a form of escape for all four of the kids.  Katie gets to forget that she was essentially raped and that her reputation has been trashed and her life has been ruined by those who raped her.  Alex gets to forget about his Father's suicide and all of the "skanks" he has slept with passing the time until he can get back to Katie.  Julie and Kyle just get to enjoy the last days of their childhood before going into High School.    As the Summer goes on parts of "home" start creeping in and things at the lake will never be the same again.

I don't think I have ever read a more deplorable character than Alex.  That kind of depravity just should not exist in a teenage boy.  And I am not so sure that kind of depravity should be available for teens to read.  I am no prude, yet I feel the overwhelming urge to take a shower after reading this book.   As I was reading further and further into this book I tried to find a reason that it would be good for teens to read - a lesson that would make all of the "yuck" worth the read - and the only thing I could come up with was it would be a lesson for keeping your pants zipped and your legs crossed.

If you have teens asking to read this book, I would strongly urge you to read it yourself  first to decide if your child can handle what happens in this story. If your pre-teen asks you to buy them this book, I strongly urge you to say no.  It is just not worth it.  Like I said earlier many loved this book, I was just not one of them.

March 6, 2012

March 5, 2012

(28)Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult


Lone Wolf 

Publication Date: February 28, 2012
Pages: 432


Okay. We know the drill.  A family with a horrible tragedy where somebody ends up either dying or in jail. Sometimes both.  By this point we know that is the standard formula for Jodi Picoult novels.   The question is, will THIS story be able to touch our hearts and keep us turning the pages or will THIS story put her in the group of Nicholas Sparks and Danielle Steele?  Been there, done that and don't want to go back.

Lone Wolf is about Cara and her fractured family.  Her brother, Edward, left the family six years ago after he came out to his family.  His leaving caused her family to split apart.  Her mother,Georgie, is  about fed up with her Father's utter devotion to his career as a Wolf biologist and blames Luke for Edward's leaving.  Cara is furious at her mother when she remarries and has two more children, so she moves back in with her Father.   It is late one night when Luke picks Cara up from a party. On their way home a deer causes a serious accident from which neither one of them will ever be the same.  The accident forces Edward to come home and face the family he left behind.  His father is left in a vegetative state from which he will never recover.  Because Cara is still a minor, it is Edward who must decide his Father's future.  Will he abide by Cara's wishes who believes her father will recover or will he abide by his Father's wishes as they were nine years ago and just let him go.  Will the family be able to heal past wounds in order to deal with Luke's condition or will their relationship fracture even further causing irreparable damage?

While I think that Lone Wolf is not Jodi Picoult's worst book (Change of Heart, anyone??) I do not think it is her best work at all.  She is usually good about evoking some emotion from her readers, by that I mean, everyone cries at some point while reading her books.  This time I felt nothing but irritation for Cara and minimal compassion for Edward.  Cara comes across as such a brat I just wanted to slap her.  She appears to be seventeen going on twelve, yet she wants to be treated as an adult. There is nothing adult like about her behavior.  Before or after the accident.   Her parents are no better.  As the story flashes back in time I just wanted to slap them both.  The whole story is nothing but selfish people doing what they want, to hell with the consequences for their actions.

Go ahead and read Lone Wolf, you know you will.  Just get it out of the way so we can hurry up and wait for next years book with the hopes of a better story with better characters.  Ones that don't make me want to inflict physical harm on them.

I welcome thoughts from people who have already Lone Wolf. Agree or disagree? Or a combination of the both?


March 1, 2012

(27)A Rural Affair by Catherin Alliott


A Rural Affair

Publication Date: March 1, 2012
Pages: 448


Apparently there are some women out there that fantasize about the death of their husbands.  Not that they REALLY wish them dead, they just think about how much easier their lives would be without their husbands.

Poppy Schilling has been guilty of having that fantasy more than once, but when the day actually arrives that she receives the news that her husband was killed (by a falling block of frozen piss from a passing aircraft) her world is shattered.  She is a young widow left with two small children.  But when she receives  news that her husband has been carrying on an affair for the last four years, well it seems like it is the last straw.  Will Poppy be able to pull herself out of the funk that has become her life?

Even though A Rural Affair is one of those British Chick Lit novels that I adore so much, I had a hard time adoring this one as much as I wanted.  I think the only thing that bothered me was the way there were flashbacks and there was no indication or marking of the flashback.  Like an icon or even a chapter title.  It may have just been the format of my E-ARC, but it made it very confusing for me to read.   I will say that there were several times I found myself laughing out loud one minute and then going "Huh??" the next.

A Rural Affair is getting a lot of positive reviews, so I will just assume that it is my issue.  Once you get past that, Poppy is a fun character getting through the most difficult situation of her life.  With her friend, Jennie, the two of them tackle the world after loss and do so in a lighthearted, entertaining manner.  Just like it should be in a Chick Lit novel!