Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The Life She Was Given


In 1931 Lilly Blackwood is marched by her mother over to the circus grounds late one night. She is sold to Merrick who runs the freak sideshows. She is ten years old and this is the first time she has ever left the attic where she is locked because she is different. In her bitter mother’s eye’s her existence is a punishment from God. She performs in many sideshows but her real talent lies in her unique communication and way with animals, especially the elephants. Twenty years later, 19 year old Julia is found waiting tables in a small greasy diner. After running away from home a few years prior, she has been tracked down by a detective. Her mother has passed away and Blackwood Farms now belongs to her. Even though her fears and memories of her family home is anything but pleasant, Julia returns to the manor where she discovers her deep love of the horses raised there and the hidden attic secrets that will change her life forever. I read this novel for book club and look forward to the upcoming discussion. Although the storyline is unique, I found the writing repetitive and dragging. Not much interest in the extensive circus description.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Things You Save in a Fire


Cassie is the only female firefighter in her Austin firehouse. And she is a super star. Cassie is fearless, smart and a natural born leader. As she is climbing the ranks for promotion, her very distant mother calls with a dire emergency. She is having health issues and needs Cassie to abandon everything she has worked for and come help her in Massachusetts. It is the last thing in the world Cassie wants to do and the only thing she can do. She finds a job with a small, old fashioned fire station. They never had a “lady” fire fighter. Cassie does everything in her power to show them all how hard she can work. But the one thing she would never ever allow may be her downfall. The rookie she is training, the same one who may steal her position away is melting her heart. No matter how hard she tries to avoid him; where there’s a spark, there’s a flame. Loved this absolutely adorable, delicious, unputdownable story about family, friendship, love and most interestingly - firefighting. Author Katherine Center is a wonderful writer. As I near the ending of her books I find myself slowing down, not wanting to turn that last page because then it will sadly be over. Thanks for the early read Netgalley! This one is a winner.

Nine Perfect Strangers


Nine people gather at an exclusive health resort for a ten day retreat of wellness. This diverse little group includes an ex-rugby star, a once popular author on the verge of obscurity, an insecure divorcee, mom dad and teenager threesome hiding a terrible tragedy and a young wealthy couple too young and beautiful to possibly have any problems. This quirky group converge in paradise for extreme measures of clean eating, exercise, meditation and therapy. The catch is the bizarre founder of the resort who leads her guests through some very unconventional methods that morph into real danger. A little bit funny but lacking any real direction, this latest novel by one of my favorite authors was not what I expected. Too many annoying characters and a weak storyline covered up with insane behavior to try and catch the reader’s attention. Unfortunately, it just all seemed silly and messy. Maybe we expect too much from author’s coming off of a huge hit. Maybe they are rushed to get the next one out. I don’t know but this one just didn’t work for me. 

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Valley of the Moon


After Lux fled her childhood home and strict parents on the east coast she unexpectedly became pregnant. Now as a young single mom in the 1970’s, she lives in San Francisco with her son and best friend. Lux spends long days waiting tables and dreaming of a better future. When her 5 year old goes to visit grandma for the first time, Lux goes on a small camping trip in Sonoma Valley. She stumbles through the fog and finds a small farming community. She feels an immediate and meaningful connection to Joseph, the community leader, his wife, sister and many others as she shares a meal and tours their beautiful farm. A peaceful feeling lingers in the fragrant air and beauty is found at every turn. The catch is this community is from the past. Time has all but stopped for them since the huge earthquake that occurred in 1906. Lux spends decades traveling back and forth between two worlds. One where her son is everything and the other where she feels truly at home. I could not put down this incredible novel by Melanie Gideon. Filled with history, family, romance and friendship, and of course time travel, which I love! You will be thinking of these characters long after the last page.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

My Favorite Half-Night Stand


Nearly 30 years old, Millie has best friends for the first time in her life. Growing up, Millie kept mostly to herself, she lost her mother at a young age and never really dug in deep when it came to emotional issues. Alex, Ed, Reid and Chris work with Millie at UCSB. They are all young, intelligent, up and coming professors - and just a little bit nerdy. They don’t date much and tend to spend their off time playing Monopoly and drinking beer together. Millie is one of the guys and although they all joke, protect and love her like a sister, Reid is the one she is closest with. For two years he has been her confidant and her companion on a daily basis. One day, a little drunk, what started out joking around turned into a night of passion that neither Reid nor Millie ever expected. This laugh out loud, clever rom-com, brings you into the heart of true friendship and complications of the online world filled with apps for modern dating. Fabulous characters, easy, delicious romance. Another hit by Christina Lauren, don’t miss this enjoyable read.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Saving Beck


Beck is in high school. He is smart, handsome and a football superstar about to graduate and most likely go to Notre Dame. Beck’s home life has been difficult the last year when his father was killed in a tragic accident. His mom has fallen apart, she neglected her job and has all but forgotten his younger siblings. Beck has pitched in to help out and take care of them whenever he can, but anxiety is mounting as he realizes his college plans may be put on hold. Beck smokes pot occasionally. As an athlete he has never been a fan but lately it is the only thing that calms his nerves. A friend offers him H - which is a pill form of low dose heroin. This is the beginning of the end for Beck, as he finds a place where the guilt, pain and burden that consumes him are lifted in a cloud of drug induced peace. When his drug use spirals horrifyingly quickly out of control he disappears into a world he never knew existed. His mom, siblings and beautiful girlfriend are devastated by this indescribable destruction. This book of fiction was beautifully and well written by author Courtney Cole who shares some of her own experiences at the end of the story. In a manner much like Beautiful Boy by David Sheff, this novel shredded my heart. The reality of addiction and strength of these harsh elements are hard to read about but necessary to understand. This should be mandatory reading. 

Watching You


Tom Fitzwilliam is the headmaster of the local school. Handsome, charming, intelligent. Maybe a bit too sweet with the teenaged girls he mentors. He lives with his wife, a passionate runner, younger, always seems a little bit off and their son who methodically observes the neighborhood with binoculars from his perch at the top of their home. Joey, a late twenties misfit has a crush on Tom. She lives across the way with her perfect heart surgeon brother, his mysterious wife and her unsuspicious husband Alfie. Jenna is a student who lives nearby with a psychotic mother who believes she is being gang stalked and Tom is the notorious leader. These characters converge on a mission to figure out Tom’s mysterious past and his wife’s deceptions. With many twists and turns author Lisa Jewel takes us on a suspenseful journey with shocking surprises and quite a cast. Highly recommend this new one if you are in the mood for a mild psycho thriller that is enjoyable and easy to read.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

The Only Woman in the Room


Hedwig Kiesler was an Austrian born beauty that most people remember as Hedy Lamarr, the glamorous Hollywood movie star from the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s. Talented, beautiful, exotic and married six times - her intelligence was not the first thing one might  have noticed. But Hedy was brilliant, observant and possessed a confidence that quickly catapulted her to stardom. She was a powerful woman at a time when women were often put in their place on the arm of an important man. The Only Woman in the Room shares the story of Hedy’s life from her early days as a young stage actress in Vienna, to dinners she shared with Nazi’s and her first husband Fritz who manufactured weapons and played both sides of a very dangerous game. Later, Hedy made her escape to Hollywood and fulfilled her self imposed penance with inventions that could change the war and the world. Another fabulous work of historical fiction by author Marie Benedict, who brings these female figures to life. Highly recommend this incredible new page turner!

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

One Day In December


Most of us don’t know if we believe in love at first sight but when Laurie glances at Jack through a bus window their eyes meet. Being young and adventurous she is tempted to race off and introduce herself to this handsome young man. But as the bus pulls away she too quickly loses her chance. Finding this man becomes a joke between Laurie and her best friend Sarah, looking down alleyways and around crowded pubs. Until one day Sarah beings home her new beau for Laurie to meet. And in walks Jack. For the ten years that follow secrets of the heart painfully twist and turn while time marches on. That snowy day in December changes their lives forever. This enjoyable rom com was absolutely adorable. It’s a tad long on the ending and becomes a little repetitive but definitely fun chick lit for the holidays. 

Next Year in Havana


The year is 1958 and Elisa Perez, one of the many beautiful Perez sisters, has fallen deeply in love. This beautiful man she innocently met at a party is older, he is not part of the wealthy society set of the Perez family and he is a revolutionary, working secretly to oust Batista and give the Cuban people the freedom and equality they deserve. Fifty nine years later her granddaughter Marisol visits Cuba for the very first time. She has come from Miami as a journalist but also to grant her precious grandmother’s last wish and spread her ashes in the country she was born. As Marisol discovers both the secrets  and dreams Elisa kept hidden for decades, she also meets a man who will open her heart to discover more about her family, her heritage and herself than she could have ever imagined. This wonderfully written family saga describes unimaginable love and loss for an island where millions of people struggle for the past and their unknown future. Highly recommend and looking forward to reading author Chanel Cleeton’s upcoming novel (2019) When We left Cuba.

Friday, November 30, 2018

From the Corner of the Oval


Beck Dorey-Stein attended Wesleyan University and like so many shiny new graduates the after life became a little daunting. After bouncing from one job to the next, mostly teaching, she found an opportunity on Craigslist, (of all of places!) and with a sort of Jack of all trades, master of none attitude, accepted the position and spent 5 years as a White House stenographer. At the time Dorey didn’t quite understand what the job entailed but when she stepped onto Air Force One to travel with the elite team, the actual inner circle of President Obama, she left all her questions on the tarmac and got to work. Through new friendships, sleepless nights, trips around the entire world with the people who ran it and even an unlikely romance, Dorey’s memoir is absolutely unputdownable. Dreaming for a moment, (I wish this was me!), thinking of the young people I know searching for a meaningful job, and all the while kvelling over the love and admiration this entire team had for Barack Obama. This memoir is funny, interesting and written with so much heart. Highly recommend this fabulous read and so grateful Dorey found her voice and shared her incredible experience with us.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Another Woman's Husband


Rachel’s boyfriend takes her on a whirlwind romantic getaway to Paris. It is everything she has dreamed of as they plan their future and imagine what their lives will be like. As they are heading to the airport they witness a horrible accident in the tunnel. It is none other than Princess Diana. Rachel’s boyfriend becomes obsessed producing a documentary of Diana’s life, Rachel happens to have a client who grew up with Diana. As words are twisted and secrets revealed, the tragedy that rocked 1997 becomes unexpectedly entwined in their simple lives and almost tears them apart. Flashing back to the early 1900’s is portrayed the friendship of Mary Kirk and Wallis Simpson, later known as the Duchess of Windsor, an American socialite whose marriage to the British King Edward VIII caused a crisis that led to Edward's abdication. This work of historical fiction is both real and imagined: the lives of these strong, brave women that fought for independence, friendship and love, the connection to Princess Diana and Rachel, an average girl with a vintage clothing shop in London. Absolutely loved this fabulous page turner and I am equally excited to have found author Gill Paul, another British author to add to my list of favorites. Highly recommend this terrific read.

Monday, October 15, 2018

A Spark of Light


A group of people are taken hostage at an abortion clinic in rural Mississippi. Detective Hugh McElroy is the lead negotiator when he surprised to discover that his sister Bex and daughter Wren are inside. Each hostage has a different background, a different story. A nurse who is pregnant and hasn’t told her boyfriend, a lonely waitress from an airport bar, and Bex who is accompanying her niece Wren to get birth control for the very first time - to name a few. The story is told counting the hours backward to uncover how each person found themselves in this terrifying position facing an unbalanced man carrying a fierce vengeance. Jodi Picoult’s novels normally flow easily and often touch on significant events of our time. Unfortunately, this one failed to grab my heart. From the beginning the characters felt all over the place, I did not connect with a single one (and there are just so many!) Instead of the story building, this going backward method was slowly losing me until I was glad it was finally over. Can’t say you would not like it, hey, this is Jodi Picoult. If you are a fan, you may love it, just was not for me.