Monday, October 24, 2016

The Survivor's Guide to Family Happiness by Maddie Dawson

What They Say.....Three women, three lives, and one chance to become a family…whether they want to or not.

Newly orphaned, recently divorced, and semiadrift, Nina Popkin is on a search for her birth mother. She’s spent her life looking into strangers’ faces, fantasizing they’re related to her, and now, at thirty-five, she’s ready for answers.

Meanwhile, the last thing Lindy McIntyre wants is someone like Nina bursting into her life, announcing that they’re sisters and campaigning to track down their mother. She’s too busy with her successful salon, three children, beautiful home, and…oh yes, some pesky little anxiety attacks.

But Nina is determined to reassemble her birth family. Her search turns up Phoebe Mullen, a guarded, hard-talking woman convinced she has nothing to offer. Gradually sharing stories and secrets, the three women make for a messy, unpredictable family that looks nothing like Nina pictured…but may be exactly what she needs. Nina’s moving, ridiculous, tragic, and transcendent journey becomes a love story proving that real family has nothing to do with DNA.

What I Say.....Maddie Dawson's The Opposite of Maybe was one of the very first ARC's I ever received as a book blogger.  I had never heard of her before, and probably never would have read her if I hadn't gotten a copy of her book to review.

I loved The Opposite of Maybe, so when I saw that she had a new book out, I requested it, but in kind of a reluctant way.  I wasn't sure that it would match up to her first.  But I'm super happy to say the this book was even better than her last.  

Nina is a middle aged flounderer - not sure if that's a real word, but she is definitely floundering.   After her adoptive mother dies, she decides to pursue finding her biological mother.  This decision impacts other people's lives in ways that they didn't ask for.

Nina meets her biological sister, Lindy, who is living an upwardly mobile, OCD, insecure life.  She didn't ask for, and doesn't really want a new sister, who comes complete with her own insecurities and a determination to hunt down a mother that Lindy doesn't care to know.

As they track down Phoebe, who didn't want to be found, they begin to build their own bonds as sisters and friends.  

The thing I love about her books is that the people in them are so real, they aren't cardboard cutouts, and there aren't easy endings.  The human factor is so present, which makes the story seem so real.  

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Sunday, October 23, 2016

Weekly Book Update.....October 23, 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.

It's been quite a week. I got lightheaded driving to work this week, so naturally, I assumed it's a brain tumor.  But it wasn't, it was just an ordinary sinus infection.  So I've been taking it easy and reading a lot.

I started Jodi Picoult's new book, Small Great Things, but I put it down about a quarter of the way through.  I just can't take any more of these political conversations.  And once I got to the part where the hospital Risk Manager supposedly told the Neo Nazi dad that he shouldn't sue the hospital because the black nurse was the one who was responsible for his baby's death - I was done. Nowhere, in no universe would that happen.  I may try to pick it back up after the election is over, but right now, I just can't take it.

I haven't added much because I'm determined to get my TBR pile under control, but I was excited to get Elin Hilderbrand's new book!  I've loved this series for the last two years and I can't wait to read the last part of the trilogy.

Winter Storms by Elin Hilderbrand.....Gather under the mistletoe for one last round of caroling with the Quinn family in this heartwarming conclusion to Elin Hilderbrand's bestselling Winter Street Trilogy. 

Some of the stormy weather of the past few seasons seems to have finally lifted for the Quinns. After a year apart, and an ill-fated affair with the Winter Street Inn's old Santa Claus, Mitzi has returned to rule the roost; Patrick is about to be released from prison; Kevin has a successful new business and is finally ready to tie the knot with Isabelle; and best of all, there's hopeful news about Bart, who has been captured by enemy forces in Afghanistan. 

That doesn't mean there aren't a few dark clouds on the horizon. Kelley has recently survived a health scare; Jennifer can't quite shake her addiction to the drugs she used as a crutch while Patrick was in jail; and Ava still can't decide between the two lovers that she's been juggling with limited success. However, if there's one holiday that brings the Quinn family together to give thanks for the good times, it's Christmas. And this year promises to be a celebration unlike any other as the Quinns prepare to host Kevin and Isabelle's wedding at the inn. But as the special day approaches, a historic once-in-a-century blizzard bears down on Nantucket, threatening to keep the Quinns away from the place--and the people--they love most. Before the snow clears, the Quinns will have to survive enough upheavals to send anyone running for the spiked eggnog, in this touching novel that proves that when the holidays roll around, you can always go home again. 

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Saturday, October 22, 2016

Next by Stephanie Gangi

What They Say....T​he Next is a novel of love, revenge, and a ghost who can’t let go by a hot new voice in literature.

Is there a right way to die? Follow Joanna DeAngelis as ​she ​travels from life into death, through memory and beyond desire, across the streets of New York City, searching for the answer and seeking ​vengeance against the man who wronged her. As her spirit rises up to set right past wrongs in a sexy, spiritual odyssey of vengeance and atonement, Joanna is transformed into a fierce female force of life, determined to learn how to die, happily ever after.​​

What I Say....This may not have been the right time of year for me to read this book.  This election has been unending hatefulness, it feels like we are voting people out of the Big Brother house, rather than electing the leader of our nation.

The vitriol on my Facebook feed from both sides has led me to delete the app and commit to staying off of social media as much as humanly possible, at least until after the election is done.  I've been watching grown adults call each other "stupid", "idiots" and "murderers".  I really hope that these same adults don't encourage or allow their children to talk to other kids like this - but I'm quite sure that their kids are absorbing the ugliness of this election too.

So I'm quite certain that I was not in the right frame of mind to start this book.  I was expecting a fun ghost story by the book blurb, but I'm afraid there was nothing fun about this book.  Just more negative emotions, when I already feel like I'm being beaten to death with those all day every day due to politics.

Joanna is dying of cancer.  She is spending her last days in her bed obsessing over her phone.  Not so she can communicate with anyone, but to search social media for her ex-boyfriend's new girlfriend.  Yes, she is in her 50's, dying in her bed, ignoring her daughters so that she can stare at her phone.  Jesus, this was frightening.  In the first place, it made me want to jump on eharmony immediately so I could make sure that i don't die alone.  Then it made me want to quit all social media immediately so I never ended up ignoring my family on my deathbed.  Lastly, it made me start hating Joanna.

Once Joanna dies, she quickly finds herself in ghost mode.  And her focus continues to be on her ex and how much she hates him.  No matter that he is a small man, not really happy himself even with a wealthy, beautiful pregnant fiancee.  And no matter that her daughters are barely keeping their lives functional, Joanna spends all of her after life energy haunting her ex.

The story focuses almost completely on Joanna's revenge, which ultimately takes shape in making her using her power to  make her ex dance provocatively with a co-ed, which is then posted on social media.  Not sure how a dance can be that impactful, but once Joanna has ensured that his new relationship and career are over, she can begin to move on in her afterlife.

The whole storyline made me extremely anxious.  I really hope that at the end of our lives we aren't reduced to worrying about ex-boyfriends.  I really hope if I became a ghost, I wouldn't waste my time seeking revenge on someone who didn't really care about me, and try to ruin the life of a woman who didn't even know I had ever existed.  Jealousy - what a waste of time, and so scary to think you might feel that even after death.

Lots of people loved this book according to the Goodreads rating, so like I said, it may have just been the wrong time of year for me to read it.

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Friday, October 21, 2016

The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell

What They Say....Imagine that you live on a picturesque communal garden square, an oasis in urban London where your children run free, in and out of other people’s houses. You’ve known your neighbors for years and you trust them. Implicitly. You think your children are safe. But are they really?
On a midsummer night, as a festive neighborhood party is taking place, preteen Pip discovers her thirteen-year-old sister Grace lying unconscious and bloody in a hidden corner of a lush rose garden. What really happened to her? And who is responsible?

Dark secrets, a devastating mystery, and the games both children and adults play all swirl together in this gripping novel, packed with utterly believable characters and page-turning suspense.

What I Say....I've read a few of Lisa Jewell's books, and I always love the complicated family dynamics that are her hallmark.  The Girls in the Garden definitely shows her mark.

The story starts out with Pip finding her sister unresponsive, with her clothing pulled off of her in the middle of the park after dark, but then quickly backtracks into the months prior to the attack.

Pip and Grace's father has had a schizophrenic break, burning their house down before he was committed to a mental health facility.  This leads to them moving into a small home backed up to the communal park shared by many families.  

The girls quickly befriend the hippie family with three strange, homeschooled daughters who roam the park freely - kind of like free range parenting.   Add in another little girl, who is jealous of the attention the new arrivals are receiving and a cute boy, and you are set up for pre-teen hormones and drama.

Adding to the weirdness is the fact that most of the kids parents also grew up in these houses, and one of their friends was killed when they were all teens.  The mystery was never solved, and they all still seem to suspect each other's involvement in some latent way.

Adele and Leo have his father staying with them while he has a foot amputated due to diabetes, and he is a perv, and just a generally awful human.  Leo is a bit of a question mark, you wonder how far the apple falls from that tree, and he has a history of liking pretty young girls.  And Adele seems to live in lala land, so you can't be sure she has a solid grasp on anything happening right under her nose.

I enjoyed the book and it was very complicated, as all relationships tend to be, but I do feel that at the end, it was all wrapped up too quickly and too neatly.  

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Sunday, October 16, 2016

Weekly Book Haul......October 16, 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.

I've been a terrible blogger lately.  I haven't posted my weekly round up for two weeks, with fall upon us, I feel like I've been so busy that I haven't had time.  Not that I'm doing anything remarkable, just errands, hiking, chores, etc.  I've just had one of those time periods where opening the laptop seems overwhelming.

The holidays are coming up quickly, which can be both joyous and stressful.  Although it seems like everyone elses family loves getting together, in my family, it seems like it magnifies any discord or broken bonds, bringing added stress to the time where it seems like everyone else has the picture perfect holiday.

But I've been reading a lot, which is a lot more enjoyable than writing.  I just finished The Next by Stephanie Gangi which was maddening and Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Levitt which was amazing.  Reviews to come....

I haven't added much, but a few looked too good to resist.

Pretty Little World by Elizabeth LaBan and Melissa DePino.....On a cozy street in Philadelphia,
three neighboring families have become the best of friends. They can’t imagine life without one another—until one family outgrows their tiny row house. 

In a bid to stay together, a crazy idea is born: What if they tear down the walls between their homes and live together under one roof? And so an experiment begins.

Celia and Mark now have the space they need. But is this really what Celia’s increasingly distant husband wants? Stephanie embraces the idea of one big, happy family, but has she considered how it may exacerbate the stark differences between her and her husband, Chris? While Hope always wanted a larger family with Leo, will caring for all the children really satisfy that need?
Behind closed doors, they strive to preserve the closeness they treasure. But when boundaries are blurred, they are forced to question their choices…and reimagine the true meaning of family.

Solo by Jill Mansell.....It all starts at a party, as these things often do...

A one-night stand with far-reaching consequences 
Momentarily enamored guests going home with all the wrong people
An unfaithful wife struck by jealousy and getting a dose of her own medicine
A shocking family secret revealed at the worst possible moment 
One fling follows another, and now the whole community is embroiled in a great big web of deceit, the untangling of which will charm you, amuse you, make you laugh and make you cry. 
Whatever's going on in your life, Solo by Jill Mansell is the perfect distraction right about now...

The Other Sister by Dianne Dixon....Morgan’s twin sister has everything, and she hates her for it. A
terrifying crime reveals that those who know us best can either destroy us…or save us.
Ali and Morgan are sisters, fraternal twins who from the moment of their birth share a strangely intertwined existence. But then their connection is abruptly fractured by a series of startling changes that begin when Ali suddenly moves from Rhode Island to Los Angeles. Almost immediately she is raped, by a man wearing a very peculiar set of clothes. Then, years later, in ways that are both harrowing and transcendent, Ali’s life (and Morgan’s) is sent spinning into chaos by a bizarre discovery: the rapist’s clothing, neatly packed away in a small, brown suitcase. The suitcase is hidden in the attic of a house that Ali has only recently moved into.

How could this be? How, and when, did that suitcase get into that attic?

The startling answer to this question has its roots in a place of guilt, and of love—in the need to belong and the need to be free—in small accidents and dark crimes—and in an elusive search for atonement. 

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