Wednesday, June 13, 2018

How Hard Can It Be by Allison Pearson

What They Say.....Look, I was doing OK. I got through the oil spill on the road that is turning forty. Lost a little control, but I drove into the skid just like the driving instructors tell you to and afterwards things were fine again, no, really, they were better than fine.
Kate Reddy had it all: a nice home, two adorable kids, a good husband. Then her kids became teenagers (read: monsters). Richard, her husband, quit his job, taking up bicycling and therapeutic counseling: drinking green potions, dressing head to toe in Lycra, and spending his time—and their money—on his own therapy. Since Richard no longer sees a regular income as part of the path to enlightenment, it’s left to Kate to go back to work. 
Companies aren’t necessarily keen on hiring 49-year-old mothers, so Kate does what she must: knocks a few years off her age, hires a trainer, joins a Women Returners group, and prepares a new resume that has a shot at a literary prize for experimental fiction.
When Kate manages to secure a job at the very hedge fund she founded, she finds herself in an impossible juggling act: proving herself (again) at work, dealing with teen drama, and trying to look after increasingly frail parents as the clock keeps ticking toward her 50th birthday. Then, of course, an old flame shows up out of the blue, and Kate finds herself facing off with everyone from Russian mobsters to a literal stallion.
Surely it will all work out in the end. After all, how hard can it be?

What I Say.....I loved the first Kate Reddy book, I Don't Know How She Does It, so I was excited to get an advance copy of How Hard Can It Be?  To be honest, it can be very hard. Raising kids, navigating a failing marriage, finishing this book.

It was a hard book to read because Kate's life was like your worst day over and over again, but she owned so much of it.  Her teenaged daughter sends a picture of her ass across the school internet and her biggest concern is how many likes it didn't get.  Her son is busy killing people via video games while swearing with his friends.  Honestly, these kids both needed a swift kick.  But Kate fawns over them, keeping the butt pic a secret from her husband, doing her daughter's homework and groveling for any crumbs of kindness she can get from her teens.

Her husband is so obviously checked out and having an affair, but Kate doesn't seem to notice his lack of interest in her or their family and his daily disappearances, although he has quit his job to pursue his dream of being a therapist, forcing Kate back to work.

Kate goes back to work at her old fund, and is immediately successful, showing up younger men easily.  And suddenly an old flame shows back up into her life, stirring up feelings that she never got over.

So, the book that showed how hard it is to be a working mother ends up making a rich ex-flame the solution to all of Kate's problems.  He fixes things behind the scenes just to help her.  Blah, blah, blah.  How about Kate can solve her own problems?

The other part of the book the I didn't love was the constant description of how old and awful Kate felt like she looked, how her body, her uterus, and her skin were failing her, along with her memory.  The constant references to "Roy" as the keeper of her memories was super annoying.  I'm the same age as Kate and I don't feel that bad about myself - reading this was depressing.

That may have been why I didn't enjoy this book - it made me feel like my life was over at 47, and the only way to make it better was to find a rich man.  No thanks.  But i may be alone in my opinion, because it's got a really great Goodreads rating.

Current Goodreads Rating 4.09

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Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The Recipe Box by Viola Shipman

What They Say......In The Recipe Box, bestselling beloved author Viola Shipman spins a tale about a lost young woman and the family recipe box that changes her life.
Growing up in northern Michigan, Samantha “Sam” Mullins felt trapped on her family’s orchard and pie shop, so she left with dreams of making her own mark in the world. But life as an overworked, undervalued sous chef at a reality star’s New York bakery is not what Sam dreamed. 
When the chef embarrasses Sam, she quits and returns home. Unemployed, single, and defeated, she spends a summer working on her family’s orchard cooking and baking alongside the women in her life—including her mother, Deana, and grandmother, Willo. One beloved, flour-flecked, ink-smeared recipe at a time, Sam begins to learn about and understand the women in her life, her family’s history, and her passion for food through their treasured recipe box. 
As Sam discovers what matters most she opens her heart to a man she left behind, but who now might be the key to her happiness.

What I Say.....Sam fled her small town to live and thrive in the big city of New York.  But she isn't exactly thriving.  She's working for a jerk, but he's a jerk who has the power to fire her, and he does.

Sam slinks home with her tail between her legs to celebrate the family orchard's anniversary.  As she begins working and baking with her mother and grandmother, she finds her spirits lifting.

I'm still trying to wrap my head around why Sam would have ever felt the need to flee this perfect family in this perfect town. The best part of the book was the recipes - I want to try them all!

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Monday, June 4, 2018

Dreams of Falling by Karen White

What They Say.....New York Times bestselling author Karen White crafts evocative relationships in this contemporary women's fiction novel, set in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, about lifelong friends who share a devastating secret.

On the banks of the North Santee River stands a moss-draped oak that was once entrusted with the dreams of three young girls. Into the tree's trunk, they placed their greatest hopes, written on ribbons, for safekeeping--including the most important one: Friends forever, come what may.

But life can waylay the best of intentions....

Nine years ago, a humiliated Larkin Lanier fled Georgetown, South Carolina, knowing she could never go back. But when she finds out that her mother has disappeared, she realizes she has no choice but to return to the place she both loves and dreads--and to the family and friends who never stopped wishing for her to come home.

Ivy, Larkin's mother, is discovered badly injured and unconscious in the burned-out wreckage of her ancestral plantation home. No one knows why Ivy was there, but as Larkin digs for answers, she uncovers secrets kept for nearly fifty years--whispers of love, sacrifice, and betrayal--that lead back to three girls on the brink of womanhood who found their friendship tested in the most heartbreaking ways.

What I Say....I am such a Karen White fan.  I look forward to her books, and her collaboration books with Lauren Willig and Beatriz Williams - The Forgotten Room was ah=mazing. 

So getting an advanced copy of Dreams of Falling was a big deal for me.  I held onto it and savored it and waited until the perfect time to read it - when I was on a beach in Florida.  It did not disappoint.

Larkin heads home to help look for her mother, and stays when her mother is found injured in her old family house.  While she waits for her mom to heal, she starts digging into why her mother was in the burned down use in the first place.

Her best sources of information are her mother's caretakers since childhood, Bitty and Ceecee.  They were her grandmother's best friends, and helped raise Ivy when her mother died.

But Bitty and Ceecee aren't too forthcoming with information, and they seem worried as she keeps digging, especially around the ribbon tree.  And as Larkin tries to unravel the mystery, her mother Ivy lingers in a coma, not sure if she wants to stick around or not.

Larkin has spent years running away from all things Georgetown, from her old friends to her true love Bennett and she is terrified to be back facing all of her childhood demons.

A great summer read, in the pool, on the beach, on your couch in the air conditioning, on the Kindle app on your phone while you hide in the bathroom at work.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Providence by Caroline Kepnes

What They Say......Best friends in small-town New Hampshire, Jon and Chloe share a bond so intense that it borders on the mystical. But before Jon can declare his love for his soul mate, he is kidnapped, his plans for a normal life permanently dashed.

Four years later, Chloe has finally given up hope of ever seeing Jon again. Then, a few months before graduation, Jon reappears. But he is different now: bigger, stronger, and with no memory of the time he was gone. Jon wants to pick up where he and Chloe left off . . . until the horrifying instant he realizes that he possesses strange powers that pose a grave threat to everyone he cares for. Afraid of hurting Chloe, Jon runs away, embarking on a journey for answers.

Meanwhile, in Providence, Rhode Island, healthy college students and townies with no connection to one another are suddenly, inexplicably dropping dead. A troubled detective prone to unexplainable hunches, Charles “Eggs” DeBenedictus suspects there’s a serial killer at work. But when he starts asking questions, Eggs is plunged into a whodunit worthy of his most outlandish obsessions.

In this dazzling new novel—and with an intense, mesmerizing voice—Caroline Kepnes makes keen and powerful observations about human connection and how love and identity can dangerously blur together.

What I Say.....Who didn't love You or Hidden Bodies?  So, so good.  An original voice and two fresh reads.  So I was beyond excited to get an advance copy of Providence by Caroline Kepnes from Netgalley.  I finished it in a weekend.

Jon is a small, nerd like kid, but he is tightly bonded with cute, popular Chloe, who floats between sitting in a shed with Jon and hanging out with the cool kids, straddling the gap easily.  

One morning, Jon is kidnapped by a substitute teacher with an obsession with H.P. Lovecraft.  Jon reappears from the basement of a mall years later - I do have to admit the nurse in me wondered how a substitute teacher could put a child into a medical coma for years -hint, can't happen.  Sometimes being a nurse is a pain when you are supposed to suspend disbelief.

When Jon comes back, he has a power that causes him to leave home and avoid any close human interaction.  I don't want to provide any spoilers, but in this area, the book felt very Stephen King, who I love.

Meanwhile, Chloe grows up, reconnects with an old school friend, all while still pining for Jon.  And an emotionally detached detective is working to track Jon down to find out why so many people around him die.

I really liked the book, but I found the detective to be a bit of a drag on the story.  I didn't have any desire for him to find Jon, and I didn't really understand his obsession or how he made the connections.  I also didn't understand how a certain character showed up at the end, but I liked the Pushing Daisies feel of the climax.

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Thursday, May 24, 2018

Woman Last Seen in Her 30's by Camille Pagan

What They Say.....At fifty-three, Maggie Harris has a good marriage and two mostly happy children. Perpetually anxious, she’s also accumulated a list of semi-reasonable fears: falling air conditioners, the IRS, identity theft, skydiving, and airbag recalls. But never once did Maggie worry that her husband of nearly thirty years would leave her.
On the day Adam walks out the door, everything that makes Maggie secure goes with him. Only then does she realize that while she’s been busy caring for everyone else, she’s become invisible to the world—and to herself.
Maggie cautiously begins to rebuild her life with a trip to Rome, a new career, and even a rebound romance. But when a fresh crisis strikes and an uncertain future looms, she must decide: How much will she risk to remain the woman she’s just become?

What I Say.....I thought I had read a Camille Pagan book before, but I've searched my Goodreads shelves and my Kindle and my real bookshelves and I can't find anything.  Is it a sign of age when you can't remember the name of every book you've ever read??? This is more upsetting than my increased reliance on glasses.

Anyway, I guess this was my first, and I did enjoy it.  Maggie is experiencing the phase of life that includes grown children.  It's a weird thing when you've focused over 18 years raising a child, keeping them safe, helping to guide their life and hopefully, choices to some extent and you suddenly find yourself expendable and they grow their wings and fly.  It really feels like your whole identity is suddenly at risk.  If you aren't a full time mother anymore, who are you?

Maggie is experiencing that plus a disinterested husband, a husband who has suddenly found someone else that "makes him feel alive".  This puts their plans for a long awaited trip to Rome at risk, but Maggie decides to go by herself, which changes her path dramatically.  

From Rome to Ann Arbor, Maggie's life continues to move along a new path.  She's growing her independence, she makes new friends who never knew her as a mom and a wife, but she still feels at odds with herself.  

Who is she?  Does she want her new life or to be the woman last seen in her 30's?

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