Tuesday, June 28, 2016

First Comes Love by Emily Giffin

What They Say....In this dazzling new novel, Emily Giffin, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Something Borrowed, Where We Belong, and The One & Only introduces a pair of sisters who find themselves at a crossroads.
Growing up, Josie and Meredith Garland shared a loving, if sometimes contentious relationship. Josie was impulsive, spirited, and outgoing; Meredith hardworking, thoughtful, and reserved. When tragedy strikes their family, their different responses to the event splinter their delicate bond.
Fifteen years later, Josie and Meredith are in their late thirties, following very different paths. Josie, a first grade teacher, is single—and this close to swearing off dating for good. What she wants more than the right guy, however, is to become a mother—a feeling that is heightened when her ex-boyfriend’s daughter ends up in her class. Determined to have the future she’s always wanted, Josie decides to take matters into her own hands.
On the outside, Meredith is the model daughter with the perfect life. A successful attorney, she’s married to a wonderful man, and together they’re raising a beautiful four-year-old daughter. Yet lately, Meredith feels dissatisfied and restless, secretly wondering if she chose the life that was expected of her rather than the one she truly desired. 
As the anniversary of their tragedy looms and painful secrets from the past begin to surface, Josie and Meredith must not only confront the issues that divide them, but also come to terms with their own choices. In their journey toward understanding and forgiveness, both sisters discover they need each other more than they knew . . . and that in the recipe for true happiness, love always comes first.
Emotionally honest and utterly enthralling, First Comes Love is a story about family, friendship, and the courage to follow your own heart—wherever that may lead.

What I Say....I've been anxiously awaiting the end of June so I could finally read Emily Giffin's new book.  I put it off until right before the publishing date because I knew I would blow through it since I'm such a huge fan.

One of the things I like about Giffin's books are the complicated characters.  No one is a perfect heroine or a perfect villain.  Everyone is a little of both, just like in real life.

Meredith is a control freak who doesn't know how to relax,  Josie is irresponsible and self-centered.  But you also see the thoughts and feelings that are behind those shields that they have built around themselves after the tragic death of their brother, Daniel.

When the perfect guy seems to land on Josie's doorstep, she decides that this is the right time to pursue single motherhood with sperm donor.  Her best friend/roommate is skeptically supportive, but the new guy is all on board, willing to donate sperm, and only be as involved as Josie wants him to be.

Meredith has the perfect husband and child and doesn't seem to appreciate either one, and spends her days toiling as a lawyer, a job she hates.

Soon everything begins to bubble up as the anniversary of Daniel's death approaches.  Meredith leaves her family to try out New York again, Josie breaks off with her new boyfriend and starts discussing using her roommates sperm right as he finds a perfect new girlfriend.

Talk about being your own worst enemy!  This is a great book about the relationships that fester between siblings.  It would be great if we all had the picture perfect sibling relationships but that's not always the way real life is, and Giffin excels in writing damaged relationships.

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Monday, June 27, 2016

The Sweetheart Deal by Polly Dugan

What They Say.....Leo has long joked that, in the event of his death, he wants his best friend Garrett, a lifelong bachelor, to marry his wife, Audrey. One drunken night, he goes so far as to make Garrett promise to do so. Then, twelve years later, Leo, a veteran firefighter, dies in a skiing accident. 

As Audrey navigates her new role as widow and single parent, Garrett quits his job in Boston and buys a one-way ticket out west. Before long, Audrey's feelings for Garrett become more than platonic, and Garrett finds himself falling for Audrey, her boys, and their life together in Portland. When Audrey finds out about the drunken pact from years ago, though, the harmless promise that brought Garrett into her world becomes the obstacle to his remaining in it.

What I Say....So this was my last book from my June box from Booksparks and it was a nice way to wrap up the first month of summer.

It definitely starts out on a somber note, Audrey loses her husband and the father of her three boys in a skiing accident during a routine family day. 

Leo's best friend Garrett comes out to help, and stays to finish the addition that Leo had begun adding to the house.   He's feeling a whole lot of responsibility for Audrey due to an agreement that Leo made him sign years ago, agreeing to marry Audrey if anything ever happened to him.

As they all begin sleepwalking their daily life again, Garrett is there to support them all, including the boys.

One night after a couple of bottles of wine, Audrey climbs into Garrett's bed, and suddenly the relationship is at a weird new level, somewhere between shared grief and new love.

But now Garrett  has to deal with Audrey's son finding out about their physical relationship and how to share the news of the contract that he signed.

This was a moving but ultimately melancholy book.  Not the lightweight read that I expected.

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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Weekly Book Haul......June 26, 2016

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly book meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews, The Sunday Post is another great site hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer.  The Sunday Salon is a Facebook page where great readers share what they've read this week and Mailbox Monday is a weekly roundup of the new books people have received.

This has been a slow reading week because my youngest was here on her summer break.  She spent a few days with me and now she and her sister are in Seattle exploring the 75 degree weather.  She has always thought she wanted to move there and this trip seems to have made up her mind.  I'm sure it seems like a great change from our Arizona summer, where it's currently averaging about 110 degrees each day.

What a view!

I kept my promise to myself, and made myself finish the last book in my June box, The Sweetheart Deal (review coming soon).  So today, I got to open my July box from Booksparks!  So exciting!

First look.......

LOVE this month!
So here's what I got.......

You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott....Katie and Eric Knox have dedicated their lives to their fifteen-
year-old daughter Devon, a gymnastics prodigy and Olympic hopeful. But when a violent death rocks their close-knit gymnastics community just weeks before an all-important competition, everything the Knoxes have worked so hard for feels suddenly at risk. As rumors swirl among the other parents, revealing hidden plots and allegiances, Katie tries frantically to hold her family together while also finding herself drawn, irresistibly, to the crime itself, and the dark corners it threatens to illuminate. From a writer with "exceptional gifts for making nerves jangle and skin crawl," (Janet Maslin) You Will Know Me is a breathless rollercoaster of a novel about the desperate limits of desire, jealousy, and ambition.

Untethered by Julie Lawson Timmer....When Char Hawthorn's husband dies unexpectedly, she
is left questioning everything she once knew to be true: from the cozy small town life they built together to her relationship with her stepdaughter, who is suddenly not bound to Char in any real way. Untethered explores what bonds truly form a family and how, sometimes, love knows no bounds. 

Char Hawthorn, college professor, wife and stepmother to a spirited fifteen-year-old daughter, loves her family and the joyful rhythms of work and parenting. But when her husband dies in a car accident, the “step” in Char’s title suddenly matters a great deal. In the eyes of the law, all rights to daughter Allie belong to Lindy, Allie’s self-absorbed biological mother, who wants the girl to move to her home in California.

While Allie begins to struggle in school and tensions mount between her and Char, Allie’s connection to young Morgan, a ten-year-old-girl she tutors, seems to keep her grounded. But then Morgan, who was adopted out of foster care, suddenly disappears, and Char is left to wonder about a possible future without Allie and what to do about Morgan, a child caught up in a terrible crack in the system.

So Close by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus....Amanda Beth Luker has
always wanted more than life in her trailer park town.

She has no degree, and no plan, but when she meets Tom Davis, a powerful lawyer with aspirations of making a difference, she knows her only chance for success is to do whatever it takes, whatever he asks of her—even as it threatens the one person she has ever let herself love, the smoldering and troubled Pax Westerbrook. 

She suspects one man will make her and one will destroy her—but can she figure out which in time?

The Choices We Make by Karma Brown....Following her bestselling debut novel Come Away with Me, Karma Brown returns with an unforgettable story that explores the intricate dynamics between friends and mothers

Hannah and Kate became friends in the fifth grade, when Hannah hit a boy for looking up Kate's skirt with a mirror. While they've been close as sisters ever since, Hannah can't help but feel envious of the little family Kate and her husband, David, have created—complete with two perfect little girls.

She and Ben have been trying for years to have a baby, so when they receive the news that she will likely never get pregnant, Hannah's heartbreak is overwhelming. But just as they begin to tentatively explore the other options, it's Kate's turn to do the rescuing. Not only does she offer to be Hannah's surrogate, but Kate is willing to use her own eggs to do so.

Full of renewed hope, excitement and gratitude, these two families embark on an incredible journey toward parenthood…until a devastating tragedy puts everything these women have worked toward at risk of falling apart. Poignant and refreshingly honest, The Choices We Make is a powerful tale of two mothers, one incredible friendship and the risks we take to make our dreams come true.

All is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker....In the small, affluent town of Fairview, Connecticut everything
seems picture perfect.

Until one night when young Jenny Kramer is attacked at a local party. In the hours immediately after, she is given a controversial drug to medically erase her memory of the violent assault. But, in the weeks and months that follow, as she heals from her physical wounds, and with no factual recall of the attack, Jenny struggles with her raging emotional memory. Her father, Tom, becomes obsessed with his inability to find her attacker and seek justice while her mother, Charlotte, prefers to pretend this horrific event did not touch her perfect country club world.

As they seek help for their daughter, the fault lines within their marriage and their close-knit community emerge from the shadows where they have been hidden for years, and the relentless quest to find the monster who invaded their town - or perhaps lives among them - drive this psychological thriller to a shocking and unexpected conclusion.

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Sunday, June 19, 2016

Weekly Book Haul......June 19, 2016

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer, Showcase Sunday is hosted by Books, Biscuits and Tea, Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga's ReviewsThe Sunday Salon is a new facebook group I've joined and Monday Mailbox is hosted by Marcia to be Continued.

I'm almost done with my June box of books from Booksparks, but luckily my July box arrived yesterday.  I'm forcing myself to wait until I'm done with the last book of June, The Sweetheart Deal by Polly Dugan.  

This is my second year doing the Summer Reading Challenge and I have to say that so far, 2016 is blowing away 2015 in terms of books I'm really enjoying!

So here it sits on my table, tempting me.......

I started out my Sunday with ugly crying face watching "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl".  It was a great movie, makes me want to read the book.

Here's what I got this week.  It's June so it's time to start requesting the Christmas chick lit books.  They are one my favorite parts of the season.

Christmas in Paris by Anita Hughes....Isabel Lawson is standing on the
balcony of her suite at the Hotel Crillon as she gazes at the twinkling lights of the Champs Elysee and wonders if she's made a terrible mistake. She was supposed to be visiting the Christmas tree in the Place de la Concorde, and eating escargots and macaroons with her new husband on their honeymoon. But a week before the wedding, she called it off. Isabel is an ambitious Philadelphia finance woman, and Neil suddenly decided to take over his grandparents' farm. Isabel wasn't ready to trade her briefcase for a pair of rubber boots and a saddle. When Neil suggested she use their honeymoon tickets for herself, she thought it would give her a chance to clear her head. That is until she locks herself out on the balcony in the middle of winter. Thankfully her neighbor Alec, a French children's illustrator, comes to her rescue. He too is nursing a broken heart at the Crillon for the holidays. With a new friend by her side, Isabel is determined to use her time in the city of lights wisely. After a chance encounter with a fortune teller, and a close call with a taxi, she starts to question everything she thought was important. Christmas in Paris is a moving and heartwarming story about love, trust, and self-discovery. Set during the most magical week of the year, the glorious foods and fashions of the most romantic city in the world are sure to take your breath away.

Small Admissions by Amy Poeppel....For fans of The Nanny Diaries and
Sophie Kinsella comes a whip-smart and deliciously funny debut novel about Kate, a young woman unexpectedly thrust into the cutthroat world of New York City private school admissions as she attempts to understand city life, human nature, and falling in love.

Despite her innate ambition and Summa Cum Laude smarts, Kate Pearson has turned into a major slacker. After being unceremoniously dumped by her handsome, French “almost fiancĂ©,” she abandons her grad school plans and instead spends her days lolling on the couch, watching reruns of Sex and the City, and leaving her apartment only when a dog-walking gig demands it. Her friends don’t know what to do other than pass tissues and hope for a comeback, while her practical sister, Angela, pushes every remedy she can think of, from trapeze class to therapy to job interviews.

Miraculously, and for reasons no one (least of all Kate) understands, she manages to land a job in the admissions department at the prestigious Hudson Day School. In her new position, Kate learns there’s no time for self-pity or nonsense during the height of the admissions season, or what her colleagues refer to as “the dark time.” As the process revs up, Kate meets smart kids who are unlikable, likeable kids who aren’t very smart, and Park Avenue parents who refuse to take no for an answer.

Meanwhile, Kate’s sister and her closest friends find themselves keeping secrets, hiding boyfriends, dropping bombshells, and fighting each other on how to keep Kate on her feet. On top of it all, her cranky, oddly charming, and irritatingly handsome downstairs neighbor is more than he seems. Through every dishy, page-turning twist, it seems that one person’s happiness leads to another’s misfortune, and suddenly everyone, including Kate, is looking for a way to turn rejection on its head, using any means necessary—including the truly unexpected.

I also got a copy of Ashley Prentice Norton's new book If You Left, from the publisher and I'm pretty excited about that.  I liked her first book, The Chocolate Money, a creepily weird book about what it's like to be raised by a mentally ill, but extremely wealthy mother.

If You Left by Ashley Prentice Norton.....For most of their marriage, Althea
has fluctuated between extreme depressive and manic states — what she calls “the Tombs” and “the Visions” — and Oliver has been the steady hand that guided her to safety. This summer, Althea decides that she will be different from here on. She will be the loving, sexy wife Oliver wants, and the reliable, affectionate mother their nine year-old daughter Clem deserves. Her plan: to bring Clem to their Easthampton home once school is out — with no “summer girl” to care for her this time — and become “normal.” 
But Oliver is distant and controlling, and his relationship with their interior decorator seems a bit too close; Clem has learned to be self-sufficient, and getting to know her now feels like very hard work for Althea. Into this scene enters the much younger, David Foster Wallace–reading house painter, who reaches something in Althea that has been long buried. 
Fearless, darkly funny, and compulsively readable, If You Left explores the complex dance that is the bipolar marriage, and the possibility that to move forward, we might have to destroy the very things we've worked hardest to build. 

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Saturday, June 18, 2016

Everybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford

What They Say.....It's 2006 in the Manhattan of the young and glamorous. Money and class are colliding in a city that is about to go over a financial precipice and take much of the country with it. At 26, bright, funny and socially anxious Evelyn Beegan is determined to carve her own path in life and free herself from the influence of her social-climbing mother, who propelled her through prep school and onto the Upper East Side. Evelyn has long felt like an outsider to her privileged peers, but when she gets a job at a social network aimed at the elite, she's forced to embrace them.

Recruiting new members for the site, Evelyn steps into a promised land of Adirondack camps, Newport cottages and Southampton clubs thick with socialites and Wall Streeters. Despite herself, Evelyn finds the lure of belonging intoxicating, and starts trying to pass as old money herself. When her father, a crusading class-action lawyer, is indicted for bribery, Evelyn must contend with her own family's downfall as she keeps up appearances in her new life, grasping with increasing desperation as the ground underneath her begins to give way.

Bracing, hilarious and often poignant, Stephanie Clifford's debut offers a thoroughly modern take on classic American themes - money, ambition, family, friendship - and on the universal longing to fit in.

What I Say....This book was a total enigma to me.  It started out very slow.  Like so slow, that I finally looked it up on Goodreads to see what the reviews looked like.  A few people said it started off slow but picked up in the middle.  So I dug back in to see if it was true.

I think part of the setup was a little confusing.  Evelyn has a malpractice type lawyer for a father, which causes some class shame for her social climbing mother.  It's never made very clear how much money Evelyn comes from.  She graduated from a private prep school and her close friends appear to be old money wealthy, but Evelyn doesn't seem to care or be interested in being part of that scene.

Evelyn ends up taking a job at a start up company that is trying to create an exclusive Facebook type site for the extremely wealthy.  She has a few friends from her prep school days and they don't seem very interested in being part of the "elite" that she is recruiting, but they play along to support her.

I think one of the things that was confusing is that Evelyn didn't appear very interested in the career she was pursuing  until she becomes friends with Camilla, a very wealthy socialite who Evelyn is intent on signing up for her website.  As Evelyn is drawn into Camilla's world, she begins to believe she is on Camilla's level, telling lies about her family's background, making up a debutante ball that never happened.  

In the middle of this, Evelyn's father is indicted for witness bribery and her mother is becoming increasingly angry with the state of her life and Evelyn is now finding herself unable to keep up with her bills - who would give this girl an American Express with a $65k limit?  Her whole life is imploding and she goes into an almost clinical state of denial.

I don't want to spoil the story for anyone on what Evelyn does to fall from grace, but it's all self-inflicted as her panic to escape her situation grows.  It's pretty horrific and I actually didn't feel bad for her because what she did was really, really awful.  

This books description called it hilarious, but there was never a time when I laughed or felt amusement.  I think perhaps it was marketed incorrectly, because it actually was a really sad book.  But I do agree that you should stick with it because it was definitely worth reading - not to be envious of the class distinctions, or to be amused, but to see how having such a complete lack of self-worth can completely derail a life.

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