Sunday, August 28, 2016

Weekly Book Haul......August 28, 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 had a pretty busy week.  It was my birthday on Friday, so I feel like I've done nothing but go out to eat and get gifts - a nice way to spend a weekend!!

I ended up at Olive Garden Friday night, it used to be my favorite place to go eat way too much.  But I haven't been there in a long time, and I don't know if it's either my tastebuds or if their recipes have changed, but the marinara sauce was WAY different.  It tasted like tomato sauce.  So I switched to the Pasta Fagoli and it was weirdly different too.  Maybe it's just because I've been eating whole foods and a macro plan for six months, but I was wildly disappointed.  I still think they changed their sauce.  Then the manager came over and told us that the marinara sauce "used to come in pouches but now it comes in cans, so maybe that's the difference.".  Umm, yuck.  I didn't need to hear that.

Onward and upward.  My oldest daughter and I drove to Sedona yesterday and had our tarot cards read.  One of the cards drawn on me was Nothing-ness.  Which scared the crap out of me, because i thought that meant I was dying.  But apparently, it's a very powerful card which means the space before a new beginning.  Which is exactly how I feel right now.  I'm ready for the next chapter in my life.

I've got to get caught up on my reviews because I've read a bunch of great books lately, but I'm so wiped out by the time I get home from work that opening my laptop seems like an olympian task.

Has anyone read Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris?  I keep seeing a lot of buzz around it, and they had a pretty big mailing campaign around it, where I got spooky letters from a hotel.  I've got it sitting on my end table pile of books and I'll probably start it next.  I'm wondering if it lives up to the hype?


The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis...."The Dollhouse. . . . That's what we boys like  
to call it. . . . The Barbizon Hotel for Women, packed to the rafters with pretty little dolls. Just like you."
Fiona Davis's stunning debut novel pulls readers into the lush world of New York City's glamorous Barbizon Hotel for Women, where a generation of aspiring models, secretaries, and editors lived side-by-side while attempting to claw their way to fairy-tale success in the 1950s, and where a present-day journalist becomes consumed with uncovering a dark secret buried deep within the Barbizon's glitzy past.
When she arrives at the famed Barbizon Hotel in 1952, secretarial school enrollment in hand, Darby McLaughlin is everything her modeling agency hall mates aren't: plain, self-conscious, homesick, and utterly convinced she doesn't belong—a notion the models do nothing to disabuse. Yet when Darby befriends Esme, a Barbizon maid, she's introduced to an entirely new side of New York City: seedy downtown jazz clubs where the music is as addictive as the heroin that's used there, the startling sounds of bebop, and even the possibility of romance.
Over half a century later, the Barbizon's gone condo and most of its long-ago guests are forgotten. But rumors of Darby's involvement in a deadly skirmish with a hotel maid back in 1952 haunt the halls of the building as surely as the melancholy music that floats from the elderly woman's rent-controlled apartment. It's a combination too intoxicating for journalist Rose Lewin, Darby's upstairs neighbor, to resist—not to mention the perfect distraction from her own imploding personal life. Yet as Rose's obsession deepens, the ethics of her investigation become increasingly murky, and neither woman will remain unchanged when the shocking truth is finally revealed.

Hey Harry, Hey Matilda by Rachel Hulin....Hey Harry, Hey Matilda is the
story—told entirely in hilarious emails—of fraternal twins Harry and Matilda Goodman as they fumble into adulthood, telling lies and keeping secrets, and finally confronting their complicated twinship. 

Matilda Goodman is an underemployed wedding photographer grappling with her failure to live as an artist and the very bad lie she has told her boyfriend (that she has a dead twin). Harry, her (totally alive) brother, is an untenured professor of literature, anxiously contemplating his publishing status (unpublished) and sleeping with a student. 

When Matilda invites her boyfriend home for Thanksgiving to meet the family, and when Harry makes a desperate—and unethical—move to save his career, they set off an avalanche of shame, scandal, and drunken hot tub revelations that force them to examine the truth about who they really are. A wonderfully subversive, sensitive novel of romantic entanglement and misguided ambition, Hey Harry, Hey Matilda is a joyful look at love and family in all its forms.

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Thursday, August 25, 2016

If You Left by Ashley Prentice Norton

What They Say.....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.

What I Say....The story starts off with a bang.  Althea is attempting to commit suicide after her husband and daughter leave for the day.  We discover that this is a semi-regular occurrence at their house, and the nanny calls her husband who comes home and begins the well practiced routine of preparing her for admission to a psychiatric facility.

But when Althea comes home, she senses that her husband might be running out of patience with her illness.  While she vacillates between crushing depression and manic episodes, one thing that never changes is her complete disinterest in her adopted daughter, Clem.  Having a child was her husband's idea, and he is devoted to Clem.  But Althea has never really bonded with Clem, and now finds herself unable to relate to the young woman living in her house.  And Clem doesn't seem to need Althea either.

Althea decides to take Clem to their summer house without a nanny so that she can build a relationship with her, the idea is that if she has to care for her, she will.  None of this is driven by any maternal desire, but more out of a rising anxiety driven by her husband's vague threats of "things needing to change".

In the beginning, Oliver seems to be a beacon of strength and patience.  But then we find that he flaunts his affairs right under her nose at parties, and she just smiles and ignores it.  

And now, Oliver has sent a colleague from work with Althea and Clem to the summer house so that she can help them redecorate.  Never mind that Althea doesn't want her to come, Oliver insists.  It's obvious right away that this woman has other intentions towards Oliver, but Althea doesn't think it's okay to resist since she just got out of the mental ward.

As the summer progresses, Althea becomes enamored with a young painter who is working on her house.  She imagines that he is a deep and complex thinker, and begins obsessing about him.  She spends an inordinate amount of time thinking about him, forcing him to talk to her - even when he doesn't seem that interested.

To me, this wasn't a love story.  It was the story of mental illness.  Althea breaks free of Oliver, gives up on trying to mother Clem, and decides to stay in the summer house.  

She's lucky that she has family money to back this, but this didn't feel like a happy ending to me.  Because when "the Tombs" (what Althea calls her suicide inducing depression) comes back, no one will be there to save her, bathe her and get her help.  

So what's the best thing - to stay with a husband who blatantly cheats, but who is there when you need it the most?  To make yourself mother a child that you don't feel attached to, or to just let it go so that you aren't forcing it anymore?

I couldn't put this book down, I read it in one day, but it was a disturbing read that left me a bit melancholy for the next few days.  It's a pretty realistic read for anyone who loves someone who has struggled with mental illness - which is almost all of us.

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Monday, August 22, 2016

The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry

Hardcover448 pages
Expected publication: January 24th 2017 by Crown

What They Say......Salem’s chief of police, John Rafferty, now married to gifted lace reader Towner Whitney, investigates a 25-year-old triple homicide dubbed “The Goddess Murders,” in which three young women, all descended from accused Salem witches, were slashed one Halloween night. 

Aided by Callie Cahill, the daughter of one of the victims who has returned to town, Rafferty begins to uncover a dark chapter in Salem’s past. Callie, who has always been gifted with premonitions, begins to struggle with visions she doesn’t quite understand and an attraction to a man who has unknown connections to her mother’s murder. 

Neither believes that the main suspect, Rose Whelan, respected local historian and sometime-aunt to Callie, is guilty of murder or witchcraft. But exonerating Rose might mean crossing paths with a dangerous force. 

Were the women victims of an all-too-human vengeance, or was the devil raised in Salem that night? And if they cannot discover what truly happened, will evil rise again?

Why I Say.....I had read The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry but it was years ago, so when I started reading this book, I saw some characters that I vaguely remembered.  And there were a few, but really this was a brand new story set in Salem.

Callie was a small child when she was found hidden in some bushes, clutching a wooden five petal rose in her hand on the night her mother and her friends were found murdered, dropped into a crevice associated with the ancient Salem witch trials.

When she returns to Salem to help the woman who saved her that night so long ago, Callie discovers a side of her mother's story that she didn't know about.  Her mother and her friends were known as the Goddesses, but not just for their witchy ancestors, but because of their seduction of the local townsmen.  Not for love, or for money, but just because they could.  Which adds a possible motive for their murders.

In the meantime, Callie starts to develop a relationship with the local rich boy, who may or may not be ready for an adult relationship, as his mother is dying and his relationship with his father is strained.  Callie begins to treat his mother with her singing bowls, as she is a sound healer with a gift.

Meanwhile, local police chief, Rafferty, is investigating the Goddess's death, as the main suspect has now been involved with a new murder.  She was once a respected Salem scholar, but now is the crazy, homeless lady who predicts strangers deaths and claims that the banshee that killed the Goddesses is now responsible for this latest death.

I really enjoyed this book, but there was a LOT going on.  If I recall, I thought the same thing about The Lace Reader.  I think the book could have been about 50-100 pages less, and been about 20% better.  For example, the trip to Italy really didn't seem to add anything to the storyline.  I kept waiting for it's significance to appear, but if it was there - I didn't see it.

I really like these books, but I think I would love them if they were a little more succinct.  They tend to meander a bit.

Current Goodreads Rating 3.88

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Sunday, August 21, 2016

Weekly Book Haul......August 21, 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.

The previews for The Light Between Oceans made me interested enough to buy the book, but now I'm seeing reviews that say the book is pretty slow.  So it dropped down on my TBR list by a few.  I almost always prefer the book, so I wanted to read it first.  Very few movies ever really pull the feel of the book through for me.  I would say one notable exception was The Shawshank Redemption.  That was an amazing movie.

I bought a new car this week and I'm suffering some pretty severe buyer's remorse.  Three years ago, I bought my midlife crisis car, a little VW Eos convertible.  I loved it, I really did.  But it was pretty small inside, which didn't matter because it's usually only me.  But the trunk was tiny because it was a hard top convertible.  So even if I wanted to go to Home Depot and buy flowers, I couldn't fit the in without spilling soil all over the trunk or squashing them. And I drive on the freeway a lot.  I had a few moments were I felt close to being squashed by the bigger cars next to me.

So all the reasons were there, and I did it.  I bought a Jeep Cherokee Overland, and it's definitely the most loaded car that I've ever bought.  It can pretty much drive itself and has every safety feature you could add, including blind spot monitoring, cross body cameras that alert you if anyone is getting too close, forward collision warning and back up camera, plus many, many more.  

I know most people are super happy whenever they buy a new car, but I'm always sick for days after making a major purchase.  This felt like a major decision, because they don't make the Eos anymore.  So once it was gone, it was gone forever.  

And the VW emissions scandal dropped the trade in value of my car significantly, which was a major kick in the gut.  My car wasn't even diesel, but apparently the trust in VW was so significantly affected, that all VW's are down in resale.  I never understand why people try to get away with things like this, but I'll never buy a VW again.

So just by my little soliloquy here, you can tell this was a major decision in my life.  Still not sure I made the right one, but since it's done, I need to figure out how to make my peace with it.

But back to books.  Here's what I go this week.......


Return to the Little French Guesthouse by Helen Pollard....Blue skies, new
love, and a glass of Bordeaux . . . what could possibly go wrong?

When Emmy Jamieson leaves her life behind and moves to La Cour des Roses, a gorgeous guesthouse amidst vineyards in France, everything is resting on her success as the new guesthouse manager. 

Looming in the calendar is the biggest booking ever, when the entire eccentric, demanding Thomson family will descend for a golden wedding anniversary. With airbeds on the floor and caravans in the garden, La Cour des Roses will be bursting at the seams.

Emmy knows she’s up to the challenge, especially with the support of the gorgeous Alain, the half-French, half-English, caramel-eyed accountant. But she hadn’t counted on a naked, sleepwalking travel blogger, or the return of owner Rupert’s venomous ex-wife Gloria.

Gloria has a few things to say about Emmy’s new role, Rupert’s finances, and the unsuspecting Alain, which send everybody reeling. Just when Emmy can see a future for herself of endless sunshine, true love and laughter, are her dreams about to be ripped at the seams?

Lizzie's Christmas Escape by Christie Barlow.....A gorgeous country house
hotel, a liberal dusting of snow, a cosy weekend away…what more could Lizzie ask for at Christmas? 

Every Christmas Lizzie promises herself that things will change and she will leap into the new year a new woman. And yet here she is again, at the beginning of December and nothing is different. Her girls have grown up and left home, her husband Henry is slumped in front of the TV and she is alone in the kitchen, seeking refuge in the cooking sherry and talking to her Gary Barlow calendar. She’s also been very diverted by handsome new neighbour Marcus and she knows she shouldn’t be … 

So when best friend Ann suggests a weekend away in the country, Lizzie jumps at the chance. Will this Christmas escape give Lizzie some much needed perspective and allow her to mend her marriage? Or will Marcus prove to be too much of a distraction? 

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Sunday, August 14, 2016

Weekly Book Haul.....August 14, 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 that time of year where summer is winding down back in the midwest and everyone is getting excited for fall.   In Arizona, this is the time of year where everyone starts to get very short tempered and just generally sick of the heat.  It's similar to the end of winter in Illinois.  You get little glimpses of spring, and then the late March snowstorm hits and brings with it overwhelming despair.

In Arizona, it's just the reverse.  You go from your house to work and back again, spending as little time as possible outside in God's oven.  So by the end of August, you are sick of being trapped inside, even your pool water is too hot, and you're ready for winter.

Since I'm from the midwest originally, I'm all about fall and football weather.  It feels unnatural here when I start watching the Bears in 109 degree weather.  I want blankets, crisp air and chili.  None of which are part of an Arizona fall.

I'm still slogging through my TBR pile - I need to power through some reviews today because I've read a lot, but I'm behind on my reviews.

Only one add this week - and it's a Christmas book!  Sadly, I still never received the August Booksparks box.  They've gone through some personnel changes, so I'm not sure what's going on, but it's better for me to start working through my NetGalley pile.


A Cornish Christmas by Lily Graham.....Nestled in the Cornish village of
Cloudsea, sits Sea Cottage – the perfect place for some Christmas magic … 

At last Ivy is looking forward to Christmas. She and her husband Stuart have moved to their perfect little cottage by the sea - a haven alongside the rugged cliffs that look out to the Atlantic Ocean. She’s pregnant with their much-longed for first baby and for the first time, since the death of her beloved mother, Ivy feels like things are going to be alright. 

But there is trouble ahead. It soon emerges that Stuart has been keeping secrets from Ivy, and suddenly she misses her mum more than ever. 

When Ivy stumbles across a letter from her mother hidden in an old writing desk, secrets from the past come hurtling into the present. But could her mother’s words help Ivy in her time of need? Ivy is about to discover that the future is full of unexpected surprises and Christmas at Sea Cottage promises to be one to remember. 

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