Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Top Ten Books That Were Hard For Me To Read

Top Ten Tuesday is a book blog roundup hosted by one of my favorites, The Broke and the Bookish.
This weeks subject was Top Ten Books that were hard for me to read.  This will be a hard list to make.  Some were hard to read because of the subject matter, some were hard to read because of the emotional reaction they instilled in me and some were hard to finish because the story sucked dog.

If they were hard to read, why would I want to relive them?  I'll share the pain with you.....

1.  Gone, Baby, Gone by Dennis Lehane...hands down one of the best books I've ever read.  But hard to read and hard to digest because there were lots of crimes against children in it, and Christ, but Lehane write believable characters.  You close that book and know that those people really exist and draw breath in our world and there's nothing you can do about it.

2.  The Story Sisters by Alice Hoffman....if you come from a family that has struggled with addiction in any form, especially in a sister, this book will tear you up from the inside out.  As a mother, do you sacrifice the healthy kids to save the sick one?  Or do you give up on the addict in order to save the others?  The unanswerable question.

3.  This One is Mine by Maria Semple...eff me running, this was my mid-life crisis book.  Crazy, crazy and the ending with the tattoo (no spoilers here) ripped my heart out.  Sometimes you want to take the slightly crazy, little bit dirty, road that you turned off of in order to be safe.

4.   Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro...I don't like science fiction as a rule.  But this book of the future was intense.  And unfortunately, I can see it being real in our not so distant future.  As we continue to dehumanize ourselves through cell phones and computers, when will the human connection and morality finally lose to our selfishness?

 5.  Mother, Mother by Koren Zailckas...this book struck a chord with me as a mother, daughter and a nurse.  How many times do we see mentally ill people, where we are just taking other people's words for the mental health of their family member?  All families have secrets, and they only let you see what they want you to see.  This book was a great reminder of that!

6.  Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver...a girl gets a chance to keep reliving the last day of her life over and over, knowing that she's going to die.  I hate books where kids die.  And to have it keep repeating like Groundhog Day was emotional torture.

7.  Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld...I usually like her books, but I am including this one because it was one that everyone raved about and I could hardly get through it.  Seriously....I could barely read it and I could have cared less about anyone in it.

8.  The Angel Stone by Juliet Dark...I discovered that I may be a masochist.  I read all three of the books in this series and could hardly stand any of them.  But I felt weirdly compelled to finish all of them..  Every last stupid word.  I love witch books, but an incubus?  I just can't with this series.

9.  That Night by Chevy Stevens...I had a hard time finishing this because I found the main character so dislikable that I didn't care if she was ever cleared of her crime, or if her life got back on track.  The whole book made me feel dirty.

10.  The Dinner by Herman Koch...Another book that everyone raved about, the next big thing.  I had to force myself to finish it.  The adults were repulsive, even more disgusting in their normal lives than the crime that their children committed.  Silkwood shower anyone?

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Stacking the Shelves.....September 28, 2014

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts…this is a weekly blog roundup hosted by Tynga's Reviews.

This week was about quality over quantity.  I tend to get overwhelmed when my to be read bookshelf gets too full.  I've got a lot of good books waiting for me right now!

For Review......

 What You Left Behind by Samantha Hayes...
Two years after a terrifying spate of teenage suicides, the remote village of Radcote has just begun to heal. Then a young man is killed in a freak motorcycle accident and a suicide note is found among his belongings. When a second boy is found dead shortly thereafter, the nightmare of repeat suicides once again threatens the community.

      Desperate for a vacation, Detective Inspector Lorraine Fisher has just come to Radcote for a stay with her sister, Jo, but the atmosphere of the country house is unusually tense. Freddie, Jo's son, seems troubled and uncommunicative, and Jo is struggling to reach out to him. Meanwhile, Lorraine becomes determined to discover the truth behind these deaths. Are they suicides, or is there something more sinister at work? Finding answers might help Freddie, but they'll also lead to a shocking truth: whatever it is--or whoever it is--that's killing these young people is far more disturbing than she ever could have imagined, and unraveling the secret is just as dangerous as the secret itself.

Wicked, intense, and utterly compulsive, What You Left Behind confirms Samantha Hayes as a top thriller writer. 

The Killer Next Door by Alex Marwood.... With no lease, no credit check, and rent paid in cash, 23 Beulah Grove is a last resort for its six residents. There is Cher, a runaway from social services, and Gerard, a recently divorced father who keeps to himself. Vesta, the oldest and longest-standing tenant, lives in the basement apartment, while quiet Thomas inhabits the top floor. Striking Hussein, a political refugee from Iran, tries to forget the horrors of his former life; and Collette, the newest resident, runs from a past that seems to inch increasingly closer. Presiding over them all is the obese, lecherous landlord who has no qualms about taking advantage of their vulnerability with frequent rent hikes and unsafe living conditions.

Secrets and regrets abound at 23 Beulah Grove and its residents are content enough to keep to themselves. But when a shocking and deadly accident occurs one hot summer night, the residents are forced into an uneasy alliance. They all desperately want to protect their anonymity, but little do they know that there is a killer disguised among them who has chosen his next victim and will go further than any of them to protect his own secret.

Unnerving and unexpected, THE KILLER NEXT DOOR will keep you turning the pages late into the night until its very end. Beware: you’ll find more than one skeleton in the closets of this apartment building. 

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion.....this was my Waiting on Wednesday pick.  I've already started it and I'm already laughing.

Behind Closed Doors by Susan Lewis.... When fourteen-year-old Sophie Monroe suddenly vanishes one night it looks at first as though she’s run away from home.

Her computer and mobile phone have gone, and she’s taken a bag full of clothes.

As the police investigation unfolds a wealth of secrets from the surrounding community start coming to light. And it seems everyone has something to hide.

For Detective Sergeant Andrea Lawrence, the case is a painful reminder of the tragedy that tore her family apart over twenty years ago. She is convinced there is more to Sophie’s disappearance than teenage rebellion.

But is the past clouding her judgment, preventing her from seeing a truth that neither she, nor Sophie’s family, would ever want to face?

Lots of thrillers on the list this week - I'm excited for some fall reading!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Pear Shaped...by Stella Newman

What They Say.....Girl meets boy.  Girl loses boy.  Girl loses mind.

Sophie Klein walks into a bar one Friday night and her life changes. She meets James Stephens: charismatic, elusive, and with a hosiery model ex who casts a long, thin shadow over their burgeoning relationship. He’s clever, funny and shares her greatest pleasure in life – to eat and drink slightly too much and then have a little lie down. Sophie’s instinct tells her James is too good to be true – and he is.

An exploration of love, heartbreak, self-image, self-deception and lots of food. Pear Shaped is in turns smart, laugh-out-loud funny and above all, recognizable to women everywhere.

What I Say....Freaking guys.  They can be so stupid.

This started off as a lighthearted little romance, I was happy to see Sophie hitting it off with James and he seemed like he was really going to get it.  And by it, I mean, looks aren't everything.  One weirdness about this book was that Sophie wasn't even fat!!! Ever!!  And then she got too skinny.
But James being a middle aged, financially well-off man, realizes that maybe he could do better than Sophie in the looks department.

So begins the half-in, half-out relationship with a man who doesn't really want her, but doesn't want to not have her either.  Having been through this, and having watched the majority of the women I know go through it too, it's absolutely maddening.

Even watching a fictional character see all the red flags and the signs and still keep going back for more punishment is infuriating.

I won't spoil the ending for anyone, but it was a little more true to life than I would have preferred.  It's always a catch-22, do I want the chick-lit happy ending or what happens to those of us not bound to 352 pages of a life?

Mostly, I prefer a happy ending, I've got enough reality, thankyouverymuch.

I liked the writing, I liked the characters, I liked the story.  I would have preferred just a touch less of the food description - it got too long sometimes. 

All in all, a book worth reading.  Thank you, NetGalley and Bookouture for the Advanced copy.

What is Old is New Again..Seventh Heaven by Alice Hoffman

So as most people know, I am huge Alice Hoffman fan.  One of the few authors I will pre-order for and encourage everyone to read.

Recently, NetGalley had two of her books on the shelf, "Property Of" and "Seventh Heaven".  I hadn't read "Property Of" before, so I did, and I liked it.  My review is here.

I vaguely remembered reading Seventh Heaven, and once I started it, I realized that yes, I had read it before.  But that didn't prevent me from enjoying it again.

This was a great story set in the time of housewives, husbands who took care of things, and twin beds.

What They Say....Nora Silk doesn’t really fit in on Hemlock Street, where every house looks the same. She's divorced. She wears a charm bracelet and high heels and red toreador pants. And the way she raises her kids is a scandal. 

But as time passes, the neighbors start having second thoughts about Nora. The women’s apprehension evolves into admiration. The men’s lust evolves into awe. The children are drawn to her in ways they can't explain. And everyone on this little street in 1959 Long Island seems to sense the possibilities and perils of a different kind of future when they look at Nora Silk.

This extraordinary novel by the author of The River King and Local Girls takes us back to a time when the exotic both terrified and intrigued us, and despite our most desperate attempts, our passions and secrets remained as stubbornly alive as the weeds in our well-trimmed lawns.

What They Say....It seems like every time you re-read a book, you can take away a different message. 

What stuck out for me this time was that Nora, whose greatest wish was to fit in her neighborhood, was the greatest catalyst for the other women to decide it was okay to stand out.

One of the things I love about Hoffman's books is the magical realism, and I think this was one of the first novels she wrote where it made such a large appearance.  Billy hearing other people's thoughts was just accepted by his mom, there was no great reveal there, Nora sitting down to make a voodoo doll of the neighborhood bully is written as easily as if she was painting her fingernails.  These are the things that make an Alice Hoffman book for me.

I think the theme of this book is still true today, women helping other women stand up instead of shooting them down, and the pursuit of a happy life.  Hopefully, with a bit of magic to help you on the way.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday.....The Rosie Effect

Yes, yes, yes!  I am so excited for The Rosie Effect!  This is one of those great surprises, a sequel that I didn't even know was coming.
The Rosie Project was one of my favorite books last year and I told everyone to read it.  It was a smart, funny love story, that was equally humorous and touching.
I'm so excited to see Don approach fatherhood and life with Rosie!  Thank you NetGalley!

The Rosie Effect...due on December 30, 2014

"The highly anticipated sequel to the New York Times bestselling novel The Rosie Project, starring the same extraordinary couple now living in New York and unexpectedly expecting their first child. Get ready to fall in love all over again.

Don Tillman and Rosie Jarman are back. The Wife Project is complete, and Don and Rosie are happily married and living in New York. But they’re about to face a new challenge because— surprise!—Rosie is pregnant.

Don sets about learning the protocols of becoming a father, but his unusual research style gets him into trouble with the law. Fortunately his best friend Gene is on hand to offer advice: he’s left Claudia and moved in with Don and Rosie.

As Don tries to schedule time for pregnancy research, getting Gene and Claudia to reconcile, servicing the industrial refrigeration unit that occupies half his apartment, helping Dave the Baseball Fan save his business, and staying on the right side of Lydia the social worker, he almost misses the biggest problem of all: he might lose Rosie when she needs him the most."

Swoon.  Can't wait!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Top Ten Books On My Fall To-Be-Read list

Top Ten Tuesday is a blog link up hosted by the Broke and the Bookish, one of my favorite blogs.

One of the hard things about living in Arizona is wanting to curl up under a blanket with a cup of tea on the weekends with a fall/winter book, and realizing that you can't because your September days are still 100 degrees.

The flip side to that coin is that I'm still floating in the pool reading in the sunshine.  It's all in your mindset.  So it's hard to think about my Fall To Be Read list, because in my mind it's still summer.

But here's the list - and I guess I can always close the curtains, crank the air and hide under a blanket with a book and pretend it's fall.

1.   First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen.  This will continue to be #1 on the list until it's released.

2.   Shopaholic to the Stars by Sophie Kinsella.  I know it's out, I just haven't had time to read it yet!

3.   The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness.  I've had it for two months - haven't started it yet!

4.   Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas.  I keep seeing this on other book blogs. Got to read it.

5.   Nightbird by Alice Hoffman.  You know, it's Alice Hoffman.

6.   Big Little Lies by Lianne Moriarty.  It's on my end table, patiently waiting for me.

7.   I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson.  Loved her first book, been waiting for this one.

8.   The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma.  Just got it, been wanting it.

9.   Winter Street by Elin Hilderbrand.  I feel like I can't read this until it's not 100 degrees out.

10.  Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf.  I love her books, want this one.

What's on your Fall list???

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Stacking the Shelves....September 21, 2014

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts…

Slow week, my career was distracting me from my real passion - reading!!

For Review:

Hello From the Gillespies by Monica McInerney.....For the past thirty-three years, Angela Gillespie has sent to friends and family around the world an end-of-the-year letter titled “Hello from the Gillespies.” It’s always been cheery and full of good news. This year, Angela surprises herself—she tells the truth....

The Gillespies are far from the perfect family that Angela has made them out to be. Her husband is coping badly with retirement. Her thirty-two-year-old twins are having career meltdowns. Her third daughter, badly in debt, can’t stop crying. And her ten-year-old son spends more time talking to his imaginary friend than to real ones.

Without Angela, the family would fall apart. But when Angela is taken away from them in a most unexpected manner, the Gillespies pull together—and pull themselves together—in wonderfully surprising ways….

Pear Shaped by Stella Newman.... The Number One UK bestseller which has captured the hearts of over 100,000 readers, now published in the US and Canada for the first time.

Girl meets boy.

Girl loses boy.

Girl loses mind.

Sophie Klein walks into a bar one Friday night and her life changes. She meets James Stephens: charismatic, elusive, and with a hosiery model ex who casts a long, thin shadow over their burgeoning relationship. He’s clever, funny and shares her greatest pleasure in life – to eat and drink slightly too much and then have a little lie down. Sophie’s instinct tells her James is too good to be true – and he is.

An exploration of love, heartbreak, self-image, self-deception and lots of food. Pear Shaped is in turns smart, laugh-out-loud funny and above all, recognizable to women everywhere.
Every Ugly Word by Aimee L. Salter.... When seventeen-year-old Ashley Watson walks through the halls of her high school, bullies taunt and shove her. She can't go a day without fighting with her mother. And no matter how hard she tries, she can't make her best friend, Matt, fall in love with her. But Ashley also has something no one else does: a literal glimpse into the future. When Ashley looks into the mirror, she can see her twenty-three-year-old self.

Her older self has been through it all already--she endured the bullying, survived the heartbreak, and heard every ugly word her classmates threw at her. But her older self is also keeping a dark secret: Something terrible is about to happen to Ashley. Something that will change her life forever. Something even her older self is powerless to stop.

Perfect for fans of Thirteen Reasons Why and The List, Every Ugly Word is a gripping and emotional story about the devastating consequences of bullying.

The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Sum....The Walls Around Us is a ghostly story of suspense told in two voices—one still living, and one long dead. 

On the outside, there’s Vee, an eighteen-year-old dancer days away from the life of her dreams when something threatens to expose the shocking truth of her achievement. On the inside, within the walls of a girls’ juvenile detention center, there’s Amber, locked up for so long she can’t imagine freedom. 

Tying these two worlds together is Orianna, who holds the key to unlocking all the girls’ darkest mysteries: What really happened when Orianna stepped between Violet and her tormentors? What really happened on two strange nights at Aurora Hills? Will Amber and Violet and Orianna ever get the justice they deserve – in this life or in another one? 

We hear Amber’s story and Violet’s, and through them Orianna’s, first from one angle, then from another, until gradually we begin to get the whole picture – which is not necessarily the one that either Amber or Violet wants us to see.
In prose that sings from line to line, Nova Ren Suma tells a supernatural tale of guilt and of innocence, and of what happens when one is mistaken for the other. 

Splendour Falls by Susanna Kearsley....Emily Braden has stopped believing in fairy tales and happy endings. When her fascinating but unreliable cousin Harry invites her on a holiday to explore the legendary own of Chinon, and promptly disappears—well, that's Harry for you.
As Emily makes the acquaintance of Chinon and its people, she begins to uncover dark secrets beneath the charm. Legend has it that during a thirteenth-century siege of the castle that looms over the city, Queen Isabelle, child bride of King John, hid a "treasure of great price." And in the last days of the German occupation during World War II, another Isabelle living in Chinon, a girl whose love for an enemy soldier went tragically awry.

As the dangers of the past become disastrously real, Emily is drawn ever more deeply into a labyrinth of mystery as twisted as the streets and tunnels of the ancient town itself.

Dead Over Heels....or a waste of my dadgum time......by Allison Kemper

What They Say.....Glenview, North Carolina. Also known―at least to sixteen-year-old Ava Pegg―as the Land of Incredibly Boring Vacations. 

What exactly were her parents thinking when they bought a summer home here? Then the cute-but-really-annoying boy next door shows up at her place in a panic…hollering something about flesh-eating zombies attacking the town.

At first, Ava’s certain that Cole spent a little too much time with his head in the moonshine barrel. But when someone―or something―rotted and terrifying emerges from behind the woodpile, Ava realizes this is no hooch hallucination. The undead are walking in Glenview, and they are hungry. Panicked, Ava and Cole flee into the national forest. No supplies, no weapons. Just two teenagers who don’t even like each other fighting for their lives. 

But that’s the funny thing about the Zombpocalypse. You never know when you’ll meet your undead end. Or when you’ll fall dead over heels for a boy… 

What I Say....This was a cute premise, and an easy read.  This is only the second zombie book I have read, and I have to say this can't be compared to Fiend by Peter Stenson .

The story moved quickly and was somewhat compelling, but parts of it didn't ring true.  Mostly, the dialogue.  I was raised in a rural area of the Midwest and in all of my teen years, I never heard a guy use the term "dadgum"  We get it, Cole is a redneck, but he's not an 80 year old redneck.

The ex-girlfriend, Bethany, was another character that I couldn't buy into.  She's bitten, but strangely immune, so she can lead the hordes of zombies in an effort to kill Cole and Ava, since she saw Cole and the "Yankee Girl" sitting close together in a tree.  Come on, Yankee Girl?  I just can't with this dialogue.

I know that teens are full of hormones, but I think it's stretching to believe that when two kids who barely know each other are being chased by the undead, that the primary thoughts in their mind are how sexy they find each other.  Especially within two days of being chased by their neighbors who are now zombies, being exposed to the elements, and having life threatening allergic reactions.  I'm just not buying it.

I read online that this author released two books within 7 months of each other, and it was an a-ha moment for me.  I think that was the feel of this book, it felt pushed and rushed.  This book had a lot of potential, I wish the author had given it a little more time in order to write believable characters.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Bright Coin Moon by Kirsten Lopresti

What They Say.....Seventeen-year-old Lindsey Allen is an A-student who has her heart set on becoming an astronomer. But first she must break away from her mother, an eccentric failed beauty queen who has set up a phony psychic reading shop in their Oregon garage.
Lindsey is biding time until she graduates high school, reading tarot cards for the neighbors in her mother’s shop and recording the phases of the moon in her Moon Sign notebook. Her life changes
when her mother, Debbie, decides they should move to California to become Hollywood psychics to the stars. As they pull out of the driveway, Lindsey looks up at the silver morning moon. It’s a bright coin moon, which means only one thing: what you leave behind today will rise up tomorrow.
When mother and daughter arrive in Los Angeles with new identities, they move into a leaky, run-down building and spend their nights stalking restaurants and movie premieres to catch that one celebrity they hope will be their ticket. When it seems they will never make it in LA, Lindsey is assigned a new mentor through her school. Joan is a lonely, wealthy widow who can’t get past the death of her husband, Saul. Debbie is convinced they’ve hit the jackpot, and plans for a future séance commence.
As Lindsey grows closer to Joan, guilt over the scam consumes her, and she must make the ultimate decision. But can she really betray her mother?

What I Say..... This book had it's moments where I really thought it would take off.  Lindsey is stuck in a dead end life in Oregon with her mother, Debbie, whose first appearance in the book is when she is fired from Sizzler Steakhouse for stealing from the cash register.

Debbie and Lindsey also make ends meet by running a psychic business in their garage, and have an elderly client who they run a money tree scam on.  

This scam gives Debbie the money (after she burns her house down when Lindsey protests moving in her senior year) and the backstory to convince Lindsey that the police are after them and that they must run away to L.A. with only a few belongings.

And so they end up in a run down apartment (still in L.A., how much money did that old man bury under the tree?), where Lindsey is lucky enough to get a scholarship to a private school, thanks to a rich mentor, Joan.

The setup was good, and I loved Lindsey and Paco, and the story of their school and friends.  This felt the most compelling and believable part of the book.

But I never really believed in the story of Debbie and Joan becoming friends, certainly not to the point where Joan would invite them to stay at the Beverly Hills Hotel and let them continue to order everything under the sun on her tab.

The setup for the physical seance - flying trombones? just got more and more unbelievable.  

I was happy with the ending, Lindsey needed to get away from her mom, but as the story showed while it's easy to physically move away, it's hard to make the emotional break from a toxic parent.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Waiting on Wednesdays....First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

This week's Waiting on Wednesday (an event hosted by Breaking the Spine) is a book I really, really want to read.  Unfortunately, it's not coming out until January 2015, so I've got some waiting to do.
Garden Spells was the first Sarah Addison Allen book that I read, and after that I quickly read everything else she had out.  First Frost is going to revisit the Waverly sisters in North Carolina, and I can't wait to catch up with them!
She is only second to Alice Hoffman on my list of authors who write magical realism.  Definitely a must read.

What They Say...Sarah Addison Allen, beloved author of Garden Spells, returns with a luminous story of the trouble with hanging on too long, and the magic that happens when you finally let go.

Autumn has finally arrived in the small town of Bascom, North Carolina, heralded by a strange old man appearing with a beat-up suitcase. He has stories to tell, stories that could change the lives of the Waverley women forever.  But the Waverleys have enough trouble on their hands. Quiet Claire Waverley has started a successful new venture, Waverley’s Candies, but it’s nothing like she thought it would be, and it’s slowly taking over her life. Claire’s wild sister Sydney, still trying to leave her past behind, is about to combust with her desire for another new beginning. And Sydney’s fifteen-year-old daughter Bay has given her heart away to the wrong boy and can’t get it back.

From the author of the New York Times bestselling sensation Garden Spells, First Frost is magical and atmospheric, taking readers back into the lives of the gifted Waverley women—back to their strange garden and temperamental apple tree, back to their house with a personality of its own, back to the men who love them fiercely—proving that a happily-ever-after is never the real ending to a story. It’s where the real story begins.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Top Authors I've Only Read One Book From But NEED to Read More

Top Ten Authors I've Only Read One Book from but NEED to Read More

The Broke and the Bookish host a Top Ten Tuesday list with a new subject every week.  This is a hard one, it feels very similar to last week's list about the Top Ten Underrated Authors.  And honestly, I could only come up with nine, because when I read a new author I love, I immediately seek out everything else they have every written.  2009 was the year of Charlaine Harris - I read one book, and then discovered that she had written enough to keep me busy for quite a while.
So here are my Top Nine Authors....

1.  Carol Rifka Brunt.  I have only read one book by her, "Tell the Wolves I'm Home", but this book
stayed with me long after I read it.  A young girl loses her beloved uncle and begins mourning with the only person who misses him as much as she does.  It's a look at the hard world through the eyes of an innocent, and it's almost painful to watch her learn the ways of the world.

2.  Katie Cotungo.  "How To Love" was a great example of how YA has crossed over into being compelling reading even for adults.
Heartbreaking to see a girl derail her promising future for love with a broken boy, and then to watch her try to recover what can never truly be.

3.  Maddie Dawson.  I just read "The Opposite of Maybe", and I could not put it down.
It was just great chick lit.  It wasn't just the usual 20-30 something story- I love a story of a 44 year old woman with an unexpected pregnancy.

4.  Huntley Fitzpatrick.  "My Life Next Door" was another great YA book.
Rich girl next door falls for the not so rich boy next door - how can a not so perfect life look better than the perfect life you've been living?

5.  Natalie Haynes.  I read "The Furies" over two days.  It was a really unique read, and I loved the way the story unfolded.  Just reviewed it earlier this week, but will definitely be looking for her again.

6.  Jamie Kain.  I know, I know, I keep talking about her.  But "The Good Sister" was a great book and I'm looking forward to seeing what else she writes.

7.  Gil McNeil.  I love, love, love English chick lit.  "A Good Year for the Roses", was a great example of escapist chick lit.  It made me want to move to England and find a old English house to live in and garden - even though I know no one in England and I hate gardening.

8.  Jandy Nelson.  "The Sky is Everywhere" was a totally moving story of loss and grief and the weirdness of dealing with it, while realizing that life goes on and your feelings keep coming, even when you think the world has ended.

9.  Beatriz Williams.  "A Hundred Summers".  Why, oh, why do I love WWII stories so much?  I just can't resist them.  The glamour, the music, the fashion, the summer houses, sigh.  I love it all.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Property Of by Alice Hoffman - yes, that Alice Hoffman

What They Say....On the Night of the Wolf, the Orphans drive south on the Avenue, hunting their rival gang, the Pack. In the lead is McKay, their brooding, courageous President. Left waiting at the clubhouse is the Property of the Orphans, tough girls in mascara and leather who have declared their allegiance to the crew. Tonight, a new girl has joined their ranks. She waits only for McKay.

Drag races, dope, knife fights in the street. To the seventeen-year-old heroine of Alice Hoffman’s stunning first novel, the gritty world of the Avenue is beautiful and enthralling. But her love for McKay is an addiction—one that is never satisfied and is impossible to kick. Deeper and deeper she falls, until the winter’s day when she decides to break the spell once and for all.

A strikingly original story about the razor-thin line between love and loss, Property Of showcases the vivid imagery, lyricism, and emotional complexity that are the hallmarks of Alice Hoffman’s extraordinary career.

 What I Say.... This is one of the few Alice Hoffman books that I had not read.  She is hands down one of my favorite authors.  I don't think anyone can write magical realism, addiction or life derailing love/obsession like Hoffman does.  So when I saw an Alice Hoffman book on NetGalley as an ARC for review - I jumped!

This book was first published in 1977, and the book is definitely dated, but the story is timeless.  A young girl hungering for a bad boy, a bad boy who looks to drugs to escape his life, all while chasing his belief of what honor means, way past a time where he has any honor left.

Hoffman's books are often uncomfortable to read, they cause a visceral tightening in your stomach as you watch people make the wrong choices, take the wrong path, fall into ruin.  But the hallmark of 
her writing is making you passionately care, even when it causes you discomfort.

This book only had a bit of magic written into it, in the form of a locket, but it was still there.  Her focus on magical realism became more apparent in her later work, but this book was no less powerful without it.

You could hand me a book with no cover and within a few pages, I would know it was an Alice Hoffman book.  Her voice is that strong, and her style is that sure.  Love her.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Stacking the Shelves....September 13, 2014

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts…

Busy week!  I got lots of great new books and I'm having trouble deciding what to read first.  NetGalley made two Alice Hoffman books available.  I'm not sure why - they are are both some of her first books from the 1970's, but when free Alice Hoffman comes your way - you don't say no.  Plus, they are both hard to find now, so I hadn't read either of them.  Best score of the week.

For Review.........

Dead Over Heels by Alison Kemper....The undead are walking in Glenview, and they are hungry. Panicked, Ava and Cole flee into the national forest. No supplies, no weapons. Just two teenagers who don’t even like each other fighting for their lives. But that’s the funny thing about the Zombpocalypse. You never know when you’ll meet your undead end. Or when you’ll fall dead over heels for a boy… 

The French for Christmas by Fiona Valpy.....When her best friends offer the use of their cottage in the beautiful French countryside, Evie jumps at the chance. With her soon-to-be-ex-husband, celebrity chef Will Brooke, plastered over the news with his latest ‘love interest’, leaving the country seems like the perfect plan.
Armed with her French grandmother’s tattered notebook of recipes, Evie is determined to ignore Christmas altogether and bake herself back to happiness.

Property Of by Alice Hoffman....Drag races, dope, knife fights in the street. To the seventeen-year-old heroine of Alice Hoffman’s stunning first novel, the gritty world of the Avenue is beautiful and enthralling. But her love for McKay is an addiction—one that is never satisfied and is impossible to kick. Deeper and deeper she falls, until the winter’s day when she decides to break the spell once and for all.
A strikingly original story about the razor-thin line between love and loss, Property Of showcases the vivid imagery, lyricism, and emotional complexity that are the hallmarks of Alice Hoffman’s extraordinary career.

Seventh Heaven by Alice Hoffman....Behind every neatly trimmed hedge and freshly painted shutter is a family struggling to solve its own unique mysteries. Inspired by Nora, the residents of Hemlock Street finally unlock the secrets that will transform their lives forever.
A tale of extraordinary discoveries, Seventh Heaven is an ode to a single mother’s heroic journey and a celebration of the courage it takes to change.

In the Mail....

Summer House With Swimming Pool by Herman Koch....When a medical mistake goes horribly wrong and Ralph Meier, a famous actor, winds up dead, Dr. Marc Schlosser is forced to conceal the error from his patients and family. After all, reputation is everything in this business. But the weight of carrying such a secret lies heavily on his mind, and he can't keep hiding from the truth…or the Board of Medical Examiners.

I Bought....

A Well-Tempered Heart by Jan Phillip Sendker....Almost ten years have passed since Julia Win
came back from Burma, her father’s native country. Though she is a successful Manhattan lawyer, her private life is at a crossroads; her boyfriend recently left her, she has suffered a miscarriage, and she is, despite her wealth, unhappy with her professional life. Julia is lost and exhausted.
  One day, in the middle of an important business meeting, she hears a stranger’s voice in her head that causes her to leave the office without explanation. In the following days, her crisis only deepens. Not only does the female voice refuse to disappear, but it starts to ask questions Julia has been trying to avoid. Why do you live alone? To whom do you feel close? What do you want in life?

Ugh - Sarah Pekannen's "The Best of Us" was a Kindle daily deal and I forgot to buy it - even with one of my BFF's emailing me a reminder.  FAIL!

Free From Kindle....

Playing With Poison by Cindy Blackburn....Pool shark Jessie Hewitt usually knows where the balls
will fall and how the game will end. But when a body lands on her couch, and the cute cop in her kitchen accuses her of murder, even Jessie isn't sure what will happen next.
Not something that I would usually look for  - but it was listed on one of my favorite book blogger's twitter account, Best Chick Lit, follow her!  She is always listing free or really cheap books.  Love her.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Furies by Natalie Haynes

What They Say....After losing her fiancé in a shocking tragedy, Alex Morris moves from London to Edinburgh to make a break with the past. Formerly an actress, Alex accepts a job teaching drama therapy at a school commonly referred to as "The Unit," a last-chance learning community for teens expelled from other schools in the city. Her students have troubled pasts and difficult personalities, and Alex is an inexperienced teacher, terrified of what she’s taken on and drowning in grief.

Her most challenging class is an intimidating group of teenagers who have been given up on by everyone before her. But Alex soon discovers that discussing the Greek tragedies opens them up in unexpected ways, and she gradually develops a rapport with them. But are these tales of cruel fate and bloody revenge teaching more than Alex ever intended? And who becomes responsible when these students take the tragedies to heart, and begin interweaving their darker lessons into real life with terrible and irrevocable fury?

Natalie Haynes' The Furies is a psychologically complex, dark and twisting novel about loss, obsession and the deep tragedies that can connect us to each other even as they blind us to our fate.

What I Say....Just the title of this book caught my eye, because I love mythology and Greek
tragedies.  So title and cover did a great job of making this reader stop to take a closer look. 

Alex is a grief stricken woman who is trying to find a fresh start, or at least a new place to exist, when she comes to Edingburgh to teach dramatherapy to some troubled kids at a school known as the Unit. 

One of her classes is made up of five teenagers that everyone else has either given up on or are afraid of.  It turns out they might be a little more on the ball than Alex is.

I kind of liked how the author let the story unfold, you didn't know for a long time what tragedy had struck Alex and her fiancee, where she was going on her mysterious Friday train rides, and through journal entries, the deepening obsession one of her students has with uncovering her secrets.

Alex decides to use the Greek tragedies to engage her students in discussion.  They become interested and actually begin participating in discussion of patricide, matricide, incest, and revenge.  You know, the usual things you should be discussing with troubled teens.

Alex is so buried in grief that she is just going through the motions of interacting with these kids, and doesn't realize that one of them will end up acting out in way that makes Alex part of her own tragedy.

Food for thought....if Alex felt that her student was so deserving of a second chance and shouldn't pay for her crime, did it ever occur to her that her fiancee's attacker had people thinking the same way of him?

I really enjoyed this book, it felt completely unusual in the storytelling.  Definitely would recommend.

I received an ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Waiting on Wednesdays....Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

What They Say.......For more than a decade, Jenna Metcalf has never stopped thinking about her mother, Alice, who mysteriously disappeared in the wake of a tragic accident. Refusing to believe she was abandoned, Jenna searches for her mother regularly online and pores over the pages of Alice’s old journals. A scientist who studied grief among elephants, Alice wrote mostly of her research among the animals she loved, yet Jenna hopes the entries will provide a clue to her mother’s whereabouts.

Desperate to find the truth, Jenna enlists two unlikely allies in her quest: Serenity Jones, a psychic

who rose to fame finding missing persons, only to later doubt her gifts, and Virgil Stanhope, the jaded private detective who’d originally investigated Alice’s case along with the strange, possibly linked death of one of her colleagues. As the three work together to uncover what happened to Alice, they realize that in asking hard questions, they’ll have to face even harder answers.

As Jenna’s memories dovetail with the events in her mother’s journals, the story races to a mesmerizing finish. A deeply moving, gripping, and intelligent page-turner, Leaving Time is Jodi Picoult at the height of her powers.

I'm excited for this book to come out.  Jodi Picoult can be hit or miss for me.  19 minutes - HIT!  House Rule - MISS!
But this looks really intriguing, I love a missing persons story, and a psychic is always a great twist.
I just hope the sad elephants didn't do it.

Release Date October 14, 2014

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Top Ten Underrated Authors

Top Ten Underrated Authors in the any Genre

Well, this is a hard one to start my top ten list with.  I think I'll have to do multiple genres - because I'm not sure I know ten underrated authors in one genre.  I probably actually do, but that sounds like way too much thought to put into a Tuesday night.

1.  Rosamunde Pilcher, Genre: Chick Lit
Not sure she is really underrated, just maybe not appreciated by people in this century.  I love her books, The Shell Seekers is one of my all time favorites.  She was really English chick lit before there was such a thing.

2.  Lolly Winston, Genre: Chick Lit 
I have really enjoyed all of her books and I'm surprised that she hasn't become bigger.  Good Grief was an excellent book, and really made me feel for the characters.  That's a true gift in an author.

3.  Katherine Center, Genre: Chick Lit
The Bright Side of Disaster was a great book, excellent chick lit with the unexpected pregnancy - I'm always a sucker for the unexpected pregnancy.

4.  Peter Stenson, Genre: Horror

Well if you aren't Stephen King (or related to Stephen King), you are automatically in the running to be underrated, but Fiend was a powerhouse novel.  How do you mix zombies and junkies and find yourself rooting for a addict to find crack?  Peter Stenson will show you how.

5.  Elizabeth Flock.  Genre: Literature, Mystery
Me & Emma was a great book.  She used one of the oldest tricks in the book as a plot twist, and I still didn't see it coming.

6.  Heather Gudenkauf.  Genre: Literature, Mystery
I love her books, but she's never really seemed to hit it big.  The Weight of Silence was an excellent book about a missing girl and the secrets a family keeps.

7.  Jamie Kain.  Genre: YA 
I hope she won't be underrated for too long.  Her book The Good Sister was one of the best I've read this year.

8.  Lisa Jewell.  Genre: Literature 
The House We Grew Up In was such a great read.  English countryside, hoarders, suicide, what else could be missing?

9. Jennifer McMahon.  General: Literature 
I love everything she has written.  Gritty, stomach clenching reads, usually involving at risk kids that grow up to be screwed up adults.  Promise Not to Tell, Don't Breathe a Word, The One I Left Behind, Island of Lost Girls.  Take your pic, they are all good, and I don't know why she hasn't become more well known.

I honestly can't think of number 10.  I've given you more than enough new authors to get started reading!

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Girl in the Empty Dress by Lise McClendon

What They Say.....The five Bennett Sisters are tramping along the backroads of France, enjoying the sunshine and wine, when they discover an injured dog and their idyllic summer vacation takes a dark turn. Truffles, romance, secrets, and intrigue in the heart of France.

 What I Say..... Well, well, well.  I really wanted to like this book.  
But I have a problem with books that have too many characters.  Five sisters?  Is that really necessary? 
I felt the same way reading this that I do when I watch 19 Kids and Counting.  There are so many Duggars that I can only be bothered to be interested in 2 or 3 of them.  Same thing here, there were so many characters in this book that I just couldn't get invested in any of them.
The author seemed to have the same problem, because most of the sisters weren't really fleshed out as people.  They seemed to appear and then just take off back to various places without much ado even though their weird walking trip wasn't over.  Who just walks through the countryside for days?  Forrest Gump?
Anyway, the story was just kind of there.  It had a bit of a mystery -  I did wonder what Gillian's big secret was, but it seemed unbelievable that any person would have invited a girl like her on a walking trip through the French countryside, where people skills would be an important asset.  Especially on a trip with your sisters.  Since sisters aren't usually too shy about sharing their opinions on EVERYTHING.  But I wasn't really that interested in what the secret was.  Hell, I'm a total animal lover and I didn't even get too invested in the dog. 
I'm also a big fan of my sisters and if I thought one of them was kidnapped and being held hostage, I'd like to think I wouldn't get a stupid smile on my face thinking about my middle aged boyfriend's ass.  Lines like that definitely didn't draw me into the suspense of the kidnapping, just disengaged me.
However, I see that this author gets good scores on Goodreads so these books must appeal to people.  I guess I just wasn't the right target audience, even though I love female mysteries.
I hate to do it, but I can only give this book 2 stars.  I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review - the only kind I give.


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Stacking the Shelves....September 7, 2014

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts…

For Review.........

Thank you, NetGalley, for the three books I received this week.

What Burns Away by Melissa Falcon Field.....Good wife, good mother. That's all Claire Spruce is trying to be, but the never-ending snow in this new town and her workaholic husband are making her crazy. Even the sweet face of her toddler son can't pull her out of the dark places in her head.
Feeling overwhelmed and alone, she reconnects with her long-lost high school boyfriend, Dean, who offers an intoxicating, reckless escape. But Dean's reappearance is not a coincidence. He wants something from Claire-and she soon finds that the cost of repaying an old favor may lead to the destruction of her entire life.
What Burns Away is a story of loyalty, family, and the consequences of the past's inevitable collision with our future.
Looking forward to this one, it looks like it will be a really emotional read - I'll save the new Shopaholic as my cleansing book afterwards.

The Girl in the Empty Dress by Lise McClendon....The five Bennett Sisters are tramping along the backroads of France, enjoying the sunshine and wine, when they discover an injured dog and their idyllic summer vacation takes a dark turn. Truffles, romance, secrets, and intrigue in the heart of France.
Working on this now.  Yes, I said working, because I feel like I'm slugging through it.  The author has good reviews on Goodreads, so I'm hoping she pulls a rabbit out of her hat, otherwise, I've wasted precious time on a book that I still don't care about 48% through it.  Blah.

People I Want to Punch in the Throat by Jenn Mann....I've read it, loved it and reviewed it.  Go buy this book on Tuesday.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

People I Want to Punch in the Throat by Jen Mann

What They Say....Jen Mann doesn’t have a filter, which sometimes gets her in trouble with her neighbors, her fellow PTA moms, and that one woman who tried to sell her sex toys at a home shopping party. Known for her hilariously acerbic observations on her blog, People I Want to Punch in the Throat, Mann now brings her sharp wit to bear on suburban life, marriage, and motherhood in this laugh-out-loud collection of essays. From the politics of joining a play group, to the thrill of mothers’ night out at the gun range, to the rewards of your most meaningful relationship (the one you have with your cleaning lady), nothing is sacred or off-limits. So the next time you find yourself wearing fuzzy bunny pajamas in the school carpool line or accidentally stuck at a co-worker’s swingers party, just think, What would Jen Mann do? Or better yet, buy her book.

 What I Say....This book was freaking hilarious.  

I laughed out loud all through the book, but that could be because Jen Mann is me.  I love people who say what everyone else is thinking, and it's refreshing to hear a suburban mom actually acknowledge the insanity of the Mommy Wars.

Her husband cracked me up (although I LOATHE it when people call their husband, "Hubs") with his cheapness, but also with his brutal honesty.  The four year old WAS a liar, and if someone said that to my kid, I would crack up.

I would say to my friends and family, if you like me, you will love this book!  A must read.

I received an ARC of this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review...the only kind I give.

Friday, September 5, 2014

What Might Have Been......a movie? by Matt Dunn

What They Say.......A year ago, Evan and Sarah shared one incredible night. Then Evan’s music—the thing that brought them together—suddenly tore them apart.
Since then, Evan’s not been able to forget about her. And try as she might, Sarah can’t seem to get
over him either.
With time running out, Evan’s got one last chance to convince her that the two of them were meant to be. But is one night enough for Sarah to make a decision about the rest of her life—even if it was the best night of her life? And if she doesn’t believe in love at first sight, how can Evan persuade her that what they had will last?
From the bestselling author of A Day at the Office, What Might Have Been is Matt Dunn’s new romantic comedy about two people in love. Though one of them needs a little convincing…

What I Say.....Okay, okay, okay.  This book was very reminiscent of the David Nicholls book, "One Day" (that book was better than the movie, as usual), and I found myself thinking several times as I read, "What Might Have Been", that this was a book written with the intent of being a movie.

As a woman, I'm always irritated by the one night stand that becomes someone's true love.  In my whole life, I've only heard one woman say she met her husband as a one night stand, while her sister puked into a garbage can as he left (you know who you are).  Mostly, it's regret city the next morning, with either the beer goggles lifted or the anguish of what did I do wrong and do I suck in bed and not know it?

But this story is about Evan and Sarah, who spent one drunken night together, followed by a picnic in the park the next day and realize that this is the real thing pretty quick.  But life has a way of screwing things up, in Evan's case, as a tour opportunity with the Police.  Even though he plans to ask the woman of his dreams for the last 12 hours to go with him, she finds out before he can tell her and becomes gratingly angry about the opportunity that faces him.  Because who wouldn't expect a struggling musician that you've just met to give up an opportunity to tour with Sting?

I think that was one thing that I didn't love about the book.  Sarah was just always angry.  She made no sense in how quickly she got her back up.  And once Evan came home, he found her engaged to her pompous boss, David.  Her narrative indicated that she really did have loving feelings towards David, but I can't imagine why, because he seemed like a real jerk. 
Once Evan returned from the tour, he pulls out all of the stops to try to win Sarah back.  One thing that felt a little strange was the fact that after a few short hours together and then a year apart, they seemed to know an awful lot about each other. He could figure out what Sarah was thinking, feeling, wanting in a way that would indicate a lot more conversation that they seemed to have.

No spoiler here, but Sarah had a few secrets of her own, and they were big ones.  So even though David was a grade-A douchebag, she wasn't completely innocent.  It made me wonder why Evan wanted her so badly.  I ended up feeling like he could've done better.
The writing was great, the story was good.  I'll look for this author again, but I think this was more of a screenplay than a book.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Waiting on Wednesdays.....Winter Street by Elin Hilderbrand

Fall is here.  Even though in Arizona, I don't get much winter, I love a good Christmas book.  Elin Hilderbrand's first holiday novel looks like it will have everything I love - Christmas, dysfunctional families trying to survive the holidays, and Nantucket.  I'm a sucker for chick lit set in the Northeast, and if it's in a beach town, so much the better.  This book comes out on October 14, 2014, but I won an early copy from Goodreads.  I'm just waiting for it not to be 100 degrees out.  It's hard to read about Christmas when you're sitting by the pool.

Kelley Quinn is the owner of Nantucket's Winter Street Inn and the proud father of four, all of them grown and living in varying states of disarray. Patrick, the eldest, is a hedge fund manager with a guilty conscience. Kevin, a bartender, is secretly sleeping with a French housekeeper named Isabelle. Ava, a school teacher, is finally dating the perfect guy but can't get him to commit. And Bart, the youngest and only child of Kelley's second marriage to Mitzi, has recently shocked everyone by joining the Marines.

As Christmas approaches, Kelley is looking forward to getting the family together for some quality time at the inn. But when he walks in on Mitzi kissing Santa Claus (or the guy who's playing Santa at the inn's annual party), utter chaos descends. With the three older children each reeling in their own dramas and Bart unreachable in Afghanistan, it might be up to Kelley's ex-wife, nightly news anchor Margaret Quinn, to save Christmas at the Winter Street Inn.

Before the mulled cider is gone, the delightfully dysfunctional Quinn family will survive a love triangle, an unplanned pregnancy, a federal crime, a small house fire, many shots of whiskey, and endless rounds of Christmas caroling, in this heart-warming novel about coming home for the holidays.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna Van Praag

What They Say.......Since her parents’ mysterious deaths many years ago, scientist Cora Sparks has spent her days in the safety of her university lab or at her grandmother Etta’s dress shop. Tucked away on a winding Cambridge street, Etta’s charming tiny store appears quite ordinary to passersby, but the colorfully vibrant racks of beaded silks, delicate laces, and jewel-toned velvets hold bewitching secrets: With just a few stitches from Etta’s needle, these gorgeous gowns have the power to free a woman’s deepest desires.

Etta’s dearest wish is to work her magic on her granddaughter. Cora’s studious, unromantic eye has overlooked Walt, the shy bookseller who has been in love with her forever. Determined not to allow Cora to miss her chance at happiness, Etta sews a tiny stitch into Walt’s collar, hoping to give him the courage to confess his feelings to Cora. But magic spells—like true love—can go awry. After Walt is spurred into action, Etta realizes she’s set in motion a series of astonishing events that will transform Cora’s life in extraordinary and unexpected ways.

What I Say.......So many parts of this book I really enjoyed.  I loved the magical realism, and I loved the interwoven stories.  I loved Etta and Walt and the Saint, heck, I even liked Milly.

But I never got invested in Cora.  I get that she was a scientist so feelings weren't her strong suit.  But she was so completely closed off that it actually made me not care too much about her, or care too much about her story.  I ended up feeling like Walt deserved better.

But I was enjoying Etta's story, and even following the mix up that was Walt and Milly, but the mystery storyline seemed really awkward, like it was plopped in the middle of the wrong bookAll the science jargon seemed really jarring and the detective's storyline with his estranged wife just seemed weird.

Having said all that, I'd read the author again.  There was enough good to offset the weird.

3 Stars

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