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.

Friday, October 5, 2018

The Truth About Us


It’s always just been Rowan and her dad. Living in a small town and working at his automotive center while she goes to college, Rowan has never known anything bigger than this. Until she falls in love for the first time. Normally Rowan would never trouble herself with the difficulty of dating someone who works for her dad but when she meets Tyler there is nothing that can tear them apart. Three years later she mysteriously breaks up with Tyler. They are both devastated and the twist is to figure out why. This very simple love story has a sweet romance but very little substance. Cute, easy, light but not really enough to recommend.

Katerina


Jay is a talented, intelligent, free spirited addict in the early 90’s. He is addicted to drugs, alcohol and a desperate desire to find love - which he confuses with intimacy and sex. He goes to Paris just shy of finishing college so he can write, drink, do drugs, have sex and define his choices as freedom and art. Author James Frey is the same mind streaming, insightful, detailed writer that he was with his bestseller A Million Little Pieces. Nothing has changed except he is now reflecting on his life; he is older, possibly wiser, and definitely more honest with himself. This book is nothing like I gathered from reviews, both the good and the many bad. His character is that of a selfish addict that is insecure, confused and yet has a sweet and loving heart. The story to me is neither romantic or insightful. The prose is exhausting to follow and very little actually happens. I remember loving his other book (whether it was true or not, I never cared) but this one did not grab me. I don’t know why some people have such struggle finding happiness but reading about it felt pointless and sad. Can’t really find a reason to recommend.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

The Betrayals


One summer vacation changes the lives of two families forever. Rosie and Lisa are best friends. They marry friends and each have a boy and a girl. They vacation together every summer at a beach house that has been in Rosie’s family for generations. A mysterious note, a drunken husband, a spiteful teenage girl and an affair. Too many secrets repressed and unexpected consoling by the wrong husband to the best friend and you have a mash up of lies, cover ups and destruction. Excellent writing, interesting characters, kind of predictable behavior. The best part of this novel was the format. Narrated from different character perspectives reveals how different people handle the perception of a situation and how seriously the warped memories we cling to affect all of our life decisions going forward. Interesting novel, dragged a little at the end.

The Dream Daughter


Carly Sears lives in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. She married her childhood sweetheart and is 6 months pregnant with their baby girl when she receives the terrifying news that her unborn child may have a fatal heart defect. It is 1970 and the medicine of today does not exist. But Carly’s brother-in-law, Hunter, a physicist and one of the smartest people she has ever met, reveals his truth and everything she ever believed is turned upside down. Putting all her fears aside, Carly will do absolutely anything to save her daughter’s life. This novel by Diane Chamberlain is unputdownable. Filled with an incredible cast of characters, this touching story takes us on a unforgettable journey through time travel, testing the strength of sisters, motherhood and marriage. Tough decisions and difficult choices will have you dreaming of all the many possible outcomes for a rather surprising ending. Highly recommend The Dream Daughter and looking forward to more from this incredible author. Five Star Read!!!

Thursday, September 20, 2018

In This Moment


Meg has just picked up her precocious teenage daughter Audrey from school. Distracted by life, she barely glances as she comes to a stop and waves a boy to cross the street. Out of nowhere another car appears, going too fast and definitely not looking. After unimaginable screeching and slamming there is pure quiet. The victim is Audrey’s boyfriends twin brother. Unrecognizable but thankfully alive, he is rushed to the hospital. Meg can’t help but blame herself for the role she played and horrors she witnessed. Her own teenage guilt of losing her best friend come flooding back causing her intense sadness and insomnia. She finds herself lashing out at her husband Ryan, fighting with Audrey incessantly over nothing and everything - and completely running out of patience with her boss at the real estate firm. The only person Meg thinks of is Andrew, the boy’s father. She does everything in her power to help Andrew who is sad and lonely and in need of comfort. Meg needs absolution and Andrew needs a shoulder to cry on. The height of such emotions are a dangerous combination when lines are drawn and slowly crossed. Stories about the frazzled working mother can become literally exhausting but I really liked these characters and voyeuristic peek inside the family dynamics many of us face. Doing it all, doing it well and hoping the world sees an unrealistic image of perfection. Highly recommend this well written novel.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Girl From Berlin


Gabi is being forcefully removed from her farm, her vineyards, her life. At 77 yrs old she has led a quiet peaceful existence producing some of the best award-winning wines in Tuscany. Since she was a small child she has known no other home. A huge corporation has filed suit against her. Vital documents are missing, no-one will listen to her story. Liam and Catherine begin their Italian adventure when a local Chicago restauranteur/friend begs them to fly to Italy and rescue his Aunt’s property. Liam begins to uncover each layer of carefully buried deception while Catherine maneuvers around Italian lawyers and judges. A fast paced mystery woven through present day and WWII, when Gabi was just a child and Italy fell to the Nazi regime. Through a memoir written by her mother Ada, an aspiring violinist and her family in Berlin, we learn how these brave and kind people kept their faith and hope in each other while facing the horrendous perils of wartime Europe. Absolutely loved and highly recommend this touching, fast paced novel, #5 in the Liam and Catherine series, by fabulous author Ronald Balson. Note: they are only connected through the appearance of characters Liam and Catharine, not their individual story lines. Each novel is an excellent stand alone!

Monday, September 10, 2018

Not Our Kind


After a minor taxi accident in NYC, Patricia and Eleanor’s lives become unexpectedly intertwined. Patricia is a wealthy Park Avenue sort, with her fancy apartment and even fancier friends. Eleanor, having been born and bred only a few blocks away on 2nd Avenue, could not have had a more opposite upbringing. Her father passed away and her milliner mother struggles to make ends meet. Understanding the value of education, Eleanor was encouraged from a young age to excel and rise from her station in life. She attended Vassar with a full scholarship, almost unheard of for women in the early 1940’s, and especially for one who is Jewish. Although they don’t have much in common, Patricia is out of options with her difficult daughter Margaux, who at 13 is a polio survivor who has missed a lot of school and has had a hard time accepting the physical limitations in her life. Eleanor just happens to be a teacher looking for a new position and they instantly hit to off. Maybe too good to be true, Patricia’s husband, Wynn, does not approve of this arrangement, immediately insisting Eleanor changes her last name to something less Jewish for the sake of the neighbors. Her brother Tom falls head over heels for the new tutor and Eleanor is forced to dig deep and learn life’s greatest lesson. Filled with love, friendship and family, this beautifully written novel instantly took me away to another time, another world with hats and gloves rules to be followed. Absolutely loved and highly recommend this fabulous fall read.

Friday, September 7, 2018

The Rain Watcher


The Malegarde family reunites for a weekend in Paris to celebrate the father’s 70th birthday and parents anniversary. Family only, their American born mother Lauren insists. Grown now, Linden and his sister gather for this special occasion. In turn, Paris is experiencing an historic flood as rain pelts the city and the Seine rises to devastating heights. The family becomes trapped as the weather and declining health of both parents hold them hostage for a number of days. Linden, a likable character and famous photographer flashes back through his life and struggles. This novel is beautifully descriptive but the contrived series of events followed by one tragic remembrance after another is over the top, entirely constructed for a family the reader never has a chance to sincerely care about from the start. Having loved many novels by this author, I was sorely disappointed by this early read that failed to capture my heart.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Lilli de Jong


Lilli de Jong is a young woman, a teacher, a daughter and sister in the Quaker community of Germantown Pennsylvania in the late 1800’s. She is well educated, pious and falling in love with her father’s apprentice Johan. With the promise of marriage and a life in Pittsburgh, Lilli and Johan have a romantic evening that changes her life forever. Pregnant and alone, Lilli has lost her teaching position and is forced from her father’s home. She finds solace in a charitable home for women throughout the pregnancy but after her daughter Charlotte is born Lilli is faced with a future she never imagined. To keep her baby she risks both their lives and while the world at large shuns an unmarried woman with child, Lilli chooses hope as her salvation. As Lilli tells her story in the format of journaling, this unbelievable story describes one woman’s strength as she learns what it is to be a woman and a mother. Highly recommend this well done, heartfelt, incredibly detailed work of historical fiction by author Janet Benton. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Life Lucy Knew


After an unexpected accident Lucy wakes up in a hospital bed grateful to be alive. Surrounded by her family, all seems like it is going to be okay until she sees Matt by her side and thinks, what is he doing here? Matt is her devoted, handsome, intelligent  boyfriend whom she thinks and BELIEVES is only an acquaintance from work. Mystified by this confusing rollercoaster of emotions, it is discovered that Lucy is suffering from a syndrome you might call “honest lying.” Her brain has filled in blanks while she was in a coma and to Lucy they seem perfectly real. So while devoted Matt is ready to resume their routine and relationship, Lucy honestly, truly, heartbreakingly believes she his married to her ex-boyfriend. She can visualize their beautiful wedding, her dress, every detail. She misses him terribly and even as she gets help from her doctors, her family and friends to fill in gaping holes that make no sense, she is painfully in love with a man she hasn’t seen in four years, who is married - to someone else. Will she get her memory back? Will her feelings for Matt return? Lucy doesn’t know if things will ever make sense again. I adored this incredibly unique love story filled with the complicated angst of family dynamics, trust and friendship. Fabulous characters and an absolute page turner. Highly recommend this intriguing, romantic, well written novel by author Karma Brown.

The Girl He Used to Know

Annika and Jonathan were college sweethearts at the University of Illinois. They competed in the chess club together and he was pretty much her first everything. A little off on social situations with quite a few challenges that are never named, Annika is beautiful, smart and painfully shy. Jonathan gently brings her out of her shell one step at a time. When their after college plans don’t turn out as they hoped it is not until ten years that they are reunited. Getting to know each other once again, their romance still runs deep as they navigate this relationship from different places in their lives. I really enjoyed this heartfelt tender novel from fabulous author Tracey Garvis-Graves. She captured the essence of a very different type of character than in her previous books. Thank you NetGalley for the early read. Pub date April 2019!

Sunday, August 26, 2018

The Kiss Quotient


Stella is brilliant and beautiful, successful and wealthy. But Stella has trouble looking you in the eye. She has trouble with certain fabrics, foods, smells, noises and being touched. Her Asperberger’s has made her a bit out of the box her entire life and at thirty years old she is finally ready to make the social leap she has been dreaming of. Stella wants a boyfriend. Her analytic mind has reasoned that if she took lessons in love all her problems would be solved. Stella hires Michael, an escort, to accomplish the practice and  training she desires. Turns out Michael is gorgeous, they get along perfectly and even though she is paying him she swears the connection is mutual. Now she only has to win his heart. This fabulously funny, well written, beautiful. VERY sexy love story will have you smiling from first page to the last. The characters are completely lovable as is this author and I cannot wait for her next novel! I guess reviews really do work because for some bizarre reason this was not on my radar until I saw review after review raving about this book! I am so glad I listened. Absolutely one of the best I’ve read this year!

Good Riddance


When Daphne’s mother, June unexpectedly passes away she inherits her prized possession. Her 1969 yearbook. It is filled with notes, comments and secret codes following the class through years of reunions, triumphs and tragedies. Daphne moves from her small hometown in New Hampshire to NYC to reboot her career and life. While trying to fit into her stamp sized apartment Daphne tosses the yearbook. It is found by a neighbor and aspiring filmmaker who takes an obsessive interest in June’s life and is convinced the yearbook cover’s up something much more scandalous. Sending Daphne, sort-of-boyfriend Jeremy and even her father into a tailspin adventure. Good Riddance is a quick witted humorous romantic comedy, filled with wonderful characters and thoroughly entertaining. Pub date not until February 2019 but I could not resist taking an early early read thanks to Edelweiss.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Open Me


Roxana’s parents are in the midst of a horrible divorce. After highschool graduation she escapes to Copenhagen to attend a study abroad summer program before college begins in the fall. Her program guide meets her at the airport. Soren is a 28 year old guy, good looking with a reserved, serious demeanor that immediately intimidates and intrigues her. Roxana has little experience with men and literally zero self confidence. When their unexpected relationship begins she quickly is enamored by his every attention. Unfortunately, I found her both extreme naivete and her unhygienic habits unrealistic and unappealing. The writing and storyline were good but my hopes that it was going to pull me in at some point were dashed as it spiraled deeper off track of this supposed coming of age story. 

Playing with Matches


Sasha Goldberg is your typical college grad, struggling with NYC life, searching for a job, career, future. Obsessed with his work in finance, her longtime boyfriend Jonathan has  always been way out of her league - even though he repeatedly pledges his allegiance, Sasha begins to seriously wonder if he is even listening when they speak. Sasha finds a job as a matchmaker at an exclusive dating service called Bliss. She uses her writing skills and common sense to help her clients find true love. Sasha learns all the new dating apps and hand picks their perfect match to arrange a date. She meets a slew of men that are SO good on paper (or rather on-screen) but very quickly realizes this is a lot harder than it looks. One hysterical bump in the road after another, this laugh out loud, very adorable story is a (most likely) realistic look at the dating app world and how it has forced people to make a ridiculous life check list when really, as mysterious as it can be, love just doesn’t work like that. Highly recommend this entertaining end of summer read!

Thursday, August 9, 2018

The Subway Girls


It is 1949 and Charlotte is almost finished with Hunter College in NY. Her dreams of success in the world of advertising are dashed when her father’s failing paint store in Brooklyn desperately needs her assistance and her romance with Sam has all but fallen apart. It is 2018, and Olivia has lost the biggest account her agency was depending on to keep the doors open. Suddenly, she and her boss Matt, struggling with their on again off again relationship, have an opportunity to pitch the MTA subway and save all they have worked for these past few years. When the world’s of these two very likable women collide, the history of Manhattan comes alive and it’s hardly a surprise that 70 years later some things absolutely never ever change. Based on an actual ad campaign from 1941-1976, this fabulous New York story is easy and enjoyable, although slightly predictable. If you like historical fiction - a must read for summer.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Trust Again


Dawn has tried really hard to restart her life. After a nasty ending with her longtime sweetheart she goes off to college to regain confidence and become a real and true writer. Dawn secretly writes erotic novels and publishes them online. She has quite a following. Fearing judgement from her family and friends, her writing has become an outlet for dreams and desires in a fantasy world where no guy can break her heart ever again. With a feisty roommate named Sawyer and her best friend Allie at her side, Dawn is finally coming out of her shell. Another in their small group is named Spencer. Although he is handsome and smart, Dawn cannot allow herself to be become more than friends with him after her recent heartache with Nate. They share a fantastic friendship and can both feel the romance building. This is a coming of age struggle between trust and love, one’s learning of how to protect and take care of yourself - but leave the window open enough to let others be a part of it. This is book two in a series by author Mona Kasten. I appreciate her writing and simple but meaningful relationships. Translated from German, it can be a standalone but I have really enjoyed reading them in order. Third one is yet to hit the bookshops here but I look forward to it. Thanks NetGalley!

Ghosted


Sarah Mackey goes back to England every June in remembrance of the day that changed her life forever. For the past nineteen years she has been living in California, trying to move forward, guilt weighing her down, suffocated by the past. Her and her husband Rueben run a charitable organization called ClownDoctors and helping children helps Sarah, a little. But things with Reuben were coming to an undramatic ending and Sarah’s visit this year is heavier than most. Walking down a country road she unexpectedly meets Eddie. At almost forty years old, Sarah stopped believing in true love - soul mate kind of take your breath away love - a long time ago. But then there is Eddie. And Sarah’s life will never be the same. Their time together is a gift that feels like it will last forever until Eddie disappears. He stops returning calls, texts, messages. Their conversations replay in her mind over and over again. She can’t have been ghosted. There has to be an explanation and painful or not, she is going to find it. I thoroughly enjoyed this love story page turner. Excellent writing by debut author, Rosie Walsh. Her descriptions of love are breathtaking while the reader slowly travels through their winding hearts to the truth buried deep inside. I highly recommend this fabulous summer read. 

Monday, July 30, 2018

Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating


Hazey Crazy. Every guy she has dated has so much fun with this vivacious, funny, endearing character until a few weeks in - when they are utterly exhausted by her antics and suddenly feel embarrassed by any unwarranted attention. Hazel is beautiful, sexy with a heart as big as Portland but she definitely beats to her own drum. And she is okay with that. Hazel happily teaches third grade and the kids are her salve to a world where many people just don’t get her. Her mom does. Her new friend Emily does. Emily and her husband Dave have a BBQ and Hazel bumps into Josh Im, the blueprint for Perfect. The guy was her TA in college but had never taken her seriously and seen her in some compromising situations. Seven years later, they are reunited. He is Emily’s brother and down in the dumps after a recent breakup. Hazel cannot resist the challenge to cheer Josh up and become his new best friend. They are complete opposites but somehow really get each other. Her playful personality is exactly what this serious guy needs to turn his life upside down. This adorable love story of friendship reminds us all that the key to real happiness is to always be true to yourself. Highly recommend this easy and enjoyable read, surely another bestseller from the wonderful writing duo Christina Lauren.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Girls Night Out


Three old friends get together for a few days in Mexico. A paradise vacation to reconnect and hopefully mend some past and present disagreements. Ashley and Natalie run a successful company together but are at odds regarding its future sale. Lauren, recently widowed has been distant for a year. The three women have wonderful memories of their college days but more recently shaky marriages and hidden betrayals have slowly dissolved the trust they once shared. Ashley, always the flirtatious leader of the trio quickly meets a handsome stranger who immerses himself in all of their plans and activities. One morning the girls awaken in a hazy fog most likely from drunken escapades the night before, to find Ashley is missing. Trying to remain calm they admit she may have spent the night with the handsome stranger but as they slowly investigate her whereabouts it becomes quite clear, foul play of some kind has transpired. The authorizes are contacted and everyone is a suspect until the truth and every secret they had each buried comes to light. This was a 3 star read for me. I like these authors but it was predictable and a bit repetitive. Easy read if you like these thriller type stories.

Marriage Vacation


Kate runs away. From her marriage, her girls, her life. She didn’t go to the wedding in California intending to do anything so extreme but as she watched her friends take vows and glanced at Karl’s empty seat, it suddenly didn’t seem like the craziest idea. Kate is invited to a retreat in Thailand, a few weeks will not be the end of the world, she thought. Karl will understand, the girls will be fine. When two weeks turns into a year Kate’s life is turned upside down and her NY world will never be the same again-  if it exists at all. Kate begins to write, a huge part of herself she had regrettably left behind, she spends her time living in the moment, remembering who she is and what kind of life she wants to live. Mid life crisis? Maybe. Another version of Eat Pray Love? Sort of. But here’s the catch; this book is a take off from the hit tv show Younger and Pauline Turner Brooks, the author, is a character on the show. If you watch Younger, it brings this story to life and if you don’t, it’s still a great take on something most of us would never ever imagine doing. I bet many women have fantasized about taking a break, reevaluating, making sure we are living the life we want before its too late. The guilt leaving the children and expectations of our society would never condone such behavior. But guess what? You can reevaluate and change your life right from your own backyard. You don’t have to wait for mid life or a plane ticket to Thailand. You can make changes big or small any day of the week. I thoroughly enjoyed this quick glimpse at pseudo reality, tv show or not. Thanks ghost writer Jo Piazza for bringing it to life.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

What Kitty Did Next


Because I never ever tire of Jane Austen, it is always a pleasure to read novels starring the infamous Bennet sisters. It is 1813 and in the beautiful countryside we find Kitty left at home feeling sorry for herself and her uneventful foreseeable future, 19 years old, with three of her four sisters recently married. The Bennet family has quite the history and beautiful home but no fortunes to be had. It is imperative that Kitty marry a gentleman with means, and although she is quite aware of her place in the world, Kitty is convinced she will find love as well. When she has the opportunity to spend the season in London at her sister Jane’s home and later at Pemberley with the Darcy clan, Kitty’s world expands beyond her wildest dreams. After finally returning home to Longbourne nearly a year later, Kitty realizes she has suddenly grown up and can be the fearless woman who follows her dreams. Highly recommend this wonderfully written, enjoyable continuation of the sisters we hold dear to our hearts. Thank you author Carrie Kablean for taking me back on this classic journey.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Masterpiece


There is no place like Grand Central Station. Its majestic beauty shines through the crowds to reveal decades past. Millions of people quickly coming and going in the heartbeat of the greatest city on earth. Clara Darden is a young artist, struggling to make her way in 1928 as a teacher at the Grand Central School of Art. She is a beautiful, confident illustrator fighting for her place in a man’s world. Finally attaining success, Clara has made a name for herself juggling her wealthy, handsome boyfriend and fellow artists despite the looming Depression. After tragedy strikes, Clara disappears as if she never existed at all. Almost Fifty Years later, in 1974, Virginia is taunted by her chauvinistic lawyer husband who left her with little money and lots of sadness. Having been a homemaker for most of her adult life, Virginia scrambles to find work through a temp agency. She accepts a job in the information booth at Grand Central. Even though the terminal is now covered with dirt and not so shiny, Virginia is immediately enamored by its history. As she begins to explore her future as a single woman once again, she discovers a painting hidden on the upper levels of the terminal that had been abandoned decades ago. The mysterious unsigned painting greatly resembles one that is currently up for auction. With Virginia’s flourishing confidence and new station friends, she is determined to solve this mystery. Author Fiona Davis has done it again. A thoroughly enjoyable work of historical fiction based in NYC capturing the imagination through time and art. Highly recommend The Masterpiece for a fabulous summer read!

Friday, July 13, 2018

You Me Everything


Jess and her son William head off to spend the summer in the charming French countryside of the Dordogne. Her best friends Becky and Natasha are going to join them in the later weeks and William is beside himself with excitement. Jess, on the other hand, is a quiet mess as this quaint chateau is run by none other than the love of her life, Williams father, Adam. It has been 10 years since Jess was forced to accept that she was in this on her own. At 22 and pregnant, she was single, terrified and alone. But the minute William’s beautiful face turned to look at hers, she was in love and with the gracious help of her adoring parents nearby they have managed just fine. Now, her mother, whose illness has turned tragically serious pleads with Jess to try and propel a relationship between William and his biological father. Love, laughter and heart wrenching truths are uncovered as Jess discovers her purpose in life and just how precious every single day can be. Highly recommend this beautifully written story about family, friends and gratitude. Absolutely the most perfect summer read, FIVE STARS!

Monday, June 25, 2018

That Kind of Mother


To say that Rebecca Stone is a frazzled new mother, is to put it mildly. When she hires Priscilla, a warm, experienced nanny to help her at home her life is turned around. Priscilla teaches Rebecca how to be a mother. She makes everything look so easy. And half the time confidence is the key. Priscilla watches and loves the baby while Rebecca sits in her office daydreaming about the poetry she used to write. When Priscilla dies during her own childbirth, Rebecca offers to raise (and later adopts)w her son. Raising two boys, one white and one black seems to “want” be the focus of this story. In my opinion children easily accept differences and change, its Rebecca’s bad parenting, not lack of love, that causes their tumultuous home to fall apart. I loved the writing, I loved the themes but really disliked all the weak characters. It was just a depressing mess. 

The Wedding Date


As Alexa is on her way up to her sister’s hotel room, the elevator comes to a jolting halt. And that is how Alexa Monroe meets Drew Nichols, gorgeous pediatric surgeon. Sharing snacks and life stories, the elevator finally begins to climb again and so does Alexa’s heart rate as Drew invites her to attend his ex-girlfriend’s wedding at that very hotel the next evening. To his surprise, she accepts. After having an incredible weekend together, (fake date or not!) this surprise becomes the beginning of a roller coaster love affair. He lives in LA, she lives in SF. They both have demanding jobs and Alexa is terrified Drew will break her heart, but neither can deny their intense chemistry. With light humor and lots of romance, The Wedding Date will be sure to grab your heart. A flirty, delicious story that forces you to smile. Perfect, easy, enjoyable summer read. Looking forward to reading more work from debut author Jasmine Guillory.

Lawn Boy


Mike Munoz is a young man who cuts lawns for a living. Well, thats what his job description says but he considers himself a topiary artist, carving shrubs into works of art. He lives in a run down house with his mom and disabled brother who eats un unbelievable amount of junk food. Just a couple of years out if highschool, Mike is not a bad guy. Mike is an average guy. He dreams of just paying the rent, getting a new car and helping out his hard working mom. When Mike loses his job he accepts one bad situation after another because he has no other choice. Guys not so reputable take advantage of his hard work and kind heart. It seems that every time Mike takes a few positive steps forward he gets sent back to start. I kind of like him, he definitely means well and there are a bunch of life lessons as we all search for some hidden meaning, some rating card that says what it means to be successful. Twisty end, somewhat entertaining but I’m on the fence with my recommendation. Author Jonathon Evison has an awesome way with words but for me the story dragged and I lost interest. It was more like a short story stretched into a book. 

The Ever After


Josie Moore, a typical stay at home mom, living in the Chicago suburbs thinks her life is idyllic. She knows marriage to Frank is not always perfect but its hers and they are blessed with two gorgeous little girls. One Saturday when she is frazzled and Frank runs into Starbucks to get them coffee, Josie notices a message on his phone and her life is turned upside down. Clueless and naive, Josie’s world is shattered as she realizes there is a part of Frank’s life that she knows nothing about. All the plans she ever had for her marriage and their family are destroyed and Josie cannot see the future clearly anymore. Any insecure self doubt she had harbored as a young girl and every argument they have ever had takes center stage. Author Sarah Pekkanen has once again written a thoughtful, easy to read novel about the unpredictable twists and turns life may throw our way. This one felt only too real and maybe I have the - it’s not you, it’s me syndrome - and perhaps a book club would have field day tearing this one apart, but I found it sadly depressing. I know this happens, probably every day, I just don’t feel like being entertained by it. Absolutely a well written book with excellent characters, it just has to be something you are in the mood for. #notmysummerread

Sweet Filthy Boy


When Mia and her best friends Harlow and Lola go to Vegas after their college graduation their lives are turned upside down. What happens in Vegas doesn’t exactly stay in Vegas as Mia wakes up with a wedding ring on her finger. Her sexy, gorgeous, sweet, husband is lying next to her and inviting her to spend the summer in France. Normally Mia is the girl that never does anything out of the ordinary and follows her demanding father’s path to success, but finding Ansel irresistible she decides just this once to give destiny a chance. Mia scrambles off to have the summer of her dreams and finds more than she ever imagined possible. After recently enjoying Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren, I decided to reach back to one of their popular series I had never tried. Well, here is the 50 Shades-ish book I had been looking for. What a treat for a hot summer day, and lucky for me - its a trilogy. This just keeps getting better, ha! If you’d like to spend the day in Paris, this adorable, delicious, easy to read fantasy will be happy to take you there for free, maybe just hide the cover from the kids :-)

The Book of Essie


Essie Hicks is part of a religious reality tv sensation that literally is her life. Her father is the famous evangelist whose sermons are watched by millions. Her controlling mother secretly runs the show while Essie and her five siblings have been viewed daily their entire lives. Every word they say and move they make is scripted, edited and cut to form the image that is Six for Hicks. When Essie, barely 17 years old finds out she is pregnant, Celia, her mother falls into full action mode. It is decided that Essie will be married to a local boy who is an outstanding student hiding secrets of his own. What started out as a disaster may be Essie’s escape to independence and revenge and Roarke Richards is the perfect husband to help her. Pulling the puppet strings gets easier as Essie has TV journalist Liberty Bell in her pocket. Liberty, who has her own demons on her trail desperately wants to help Essie find the freedom her family has destroyed. This twisted absolutely original story had me on the edge of my seat. It is an unputdownable page turner about family, trust and the insane obsession of reality television, that is anything but real. Highly recommend this well written, perfect summer read. It is a FIVE STAR MUST!

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Lost Family


Peter Rashkin escaped the horrors of WWII but not the devastating memories of losing his beautiful young wife and twin baby girls. After moving to NYC and being taken in by cousins Sol and Ruth, Peter became a successful chef and works night and day avoiding any meaningful relationships. One day Peter unexpectedly meets June Bouquet. She is twenty years his junior, a cover model and devastatingly beautiful. Their future is a rollercoaster of emotions and they eventually marry and have a daughter Elspeth. Always polite, handsome Peter is continually withdrawn and June becomes lonely and restless, looking for life outside their marriage and their home. This latest novel by author Jenna Blum is well written and an interesting peek into a marriage that is being destroyed by the past, a ghost of a family and a tragedy that cannot compete with everyday life. I like this storyline and the characters were well defined but midway it started to drag and by the time it took a most bizarre twist (near the end) my interest had already begun to wane. Solid good but didn’t love.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Happiness for Beginners


Helen Carpenter is about to embark on a journey that she is hoping will change her life. She is 32, divorced and all around pretty miserable. Helen is not just single, she is alone. After an unexpected debacle with her younger brother Duncan, Helen learns that his best friend Jake is also signed up for the survival course she is attending. Her adventure of a lifetime now tainted with Jake needing a ride to Wyoming, not off to a great start. On the long car ride Helen meets a different Jake. While her dreams of a happy marriage were shattering, Jake grew up - a lot. When they meet up with the group, Helen realizes this frat party atmosphere with college students 10 years younger is definitely not what she expected. Despite her reservations, she submits all her strength, mind and body - to the extreme 3 week challenge and tries to leave her petty anger on the bus. In order to make real change, Helen knows no-one can do this for her. For the first time, she becomes her own leader. Through the painful ups and downs of this arduous journey she finds her strength and the truth. After being mesmerized by How to Walk Away by Katherine Center, I immediately began to search out her other novels. After starting, I recognized how hauntingly familiar this trip sounded. My son accomplished a NOLS challenge a few years ago and I was mesmerized by his stories. Add in the delicious romance thrown in by this author, it turns out she did one years ago as well! Maybe I should start living my life instead of just reading about it? Highly recommend this absolutely perfect summer read. #onesitting  #unputdownable

Thursday, June 7, 2018

The Garden of Small Beginnings


Four years after her husbands death Lili is still putting the pieces of her life back together. After recovering from her breakdown, she manages to keep a steady rhythm while caring for her two beautiful young daughters, venting to her best friend kind of nutty sister Rachel and enjoying her comfortable job as an illustrator. When Lili is asked to design a gardening manual she signs them all up for a course at the botanical gardens to learn the very basics. The class is a group of misfits all there for different reasons. As they bond and get their hands rather dirty Lili’s world is turned upside down by a budding romance  she no longer thought was possible. Wracked with guilt Lili must choose whether she will grow towards the light like the garden or wither in the past. A story with a rather sad premise actually plants some very lovely seeds of life that remind you to always stop what you are doing and smell the roses. Life is meant to be lived and loved every single day. Highly recommend this enjoyable read perfect for summer with some gardening tips thrown in for good measure!

The She Was Gone


Ellie disappeared 10 years ago. Her mother Laurel has not given up hope as she never had any real closure. One day Ellie was a beautiful 15 year old girl who left the house for the library and was never seen again. Laurel’s other two children could not wait to escape the pain in their home and her marriage quickly crumbled with the nightmare of losing a child. Years later she unexpectedly begins a relationship with Floyd and he seems just too good to be true. Floyd is charming and smart and their instant chemistry blossoms in and out of the bedroom. His daughter Poppy is a precocious 9 year old who bares a striking resemblance to Ellie. Laurel is both mesmerized and haunted by their similarities and as the story unfolds the truth of Ellie and buried secrets of the past come full circle. This easy to read twisted psycho thriller is a perfect creepy story for a rainy day. Always a fan of Lisa Jewel, I highly recommend her latest book to add to your summer list!

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Love and Other Words


Macy bumps into Elliot after more than a decade of silence - she is stunned by a rush of emotions and love she thought was abandoned long ago. After losing her mom at a young age, Macy and her dad clung to each other salvaging the small family they cherished. A weekend home in the wine country was their humble retreat; reading books, hiking, sitting by the fire. For Macy, the added delight was the Petropoulos family next door. A big bustling group complete with four gorgeous boys and a terrific mom and dad. Elliot, the youngest, quickly becoming Macy’s very best friend. For years the pair were inseparable but as nature took its course the friendship blossomed to first love and first everything’s. 12 years later Macy is a pediatric resident in the city, her father is gone and her lonely existence is filled with work and tepid relationships. When Elliot unexpectedly appears in a coffee shop Macy’s life is turned upside down. Their connection is immediate and irresistible, her heart racing to take control. Told in alternating chapters of their childhood and the present day, Elliot learns the truth and Macy must decide if love can truly conquer all. Absolutely devoured this sweet, fast paced delightful novel. The beauty and power of young love and choices we make every day after. Fabulous read to get lost in on a summer day at the beach!

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Love and Ruin


As a determined, smart, and independent young woman, Martha Gellhorn ventured out on her own to follow her dreams and become a writer. Starting with the Spanish Civil War in 1937, she is drawn to the stories of average people and devastatingly young soldiers. She is starstruck upon meeting and befriending none other than Ernest Hemingway and knows at that moment her life will never be the same. After years of travel, writing and the rollercoaster of emotions that goes along with being the third wife of Hemingway Martha feels she is slowly melting away into the background that is his life. When she can no longer define her work or their marriage she turns to her love of journalism and goes to Europe at the worst possible moment to become the only woman at Normandy on D-Day and one of the first to report from Dachau after the camp was liberated. The unprecedented work of Martha Gellhorn, combined with her great passion for the great writer is told beautifully by author Paula McLain. Just as I felt with her telling of Hemingway’s first wife (The Paris Wife) this controversial genius had met his match with Martha and I devoured every single page of their stormy romance. Highly recommend this fantastic work of historical fiction - a must read this summer!

Friday, May 25, 2018

Limelight


The Brinkley family has moved from Dallas to the Big Apple! Michael quickly begins at the law firm while Allison dodges boxes in their small apartment and gets three kids ready for school. She doesn’t know who is more nervous, her or them. After years of imagining the lights of Broadway, New York and its overwhelming chaos of noise and people has Allison running on an adrenaline frenzy trying to fit in. When she unexpectedly starts working as a personal assistant for a talented but spoiled pop star (think Justin Bieber) as he prepares for his first musical, her life zooms out of control in directions she had never dreamed. Filled with great humor, this story portrays a frenetic world starring this hilarious and lovable family. Allison’s grit and determination to succeed and actually like their life in New York (even if it kills her) is a wonderful story with a trove of buried treasures. Just as I felt reading her first novel Small Admissions (which I LOVED) I am betting the bizarre escapades are more realistic than most people can even believe! I laughed and loved this latest novel by author Amy Poeppel. From start to finish, each catastrophe just barely averted only to quickly lead to another. Definitely recommend this enjoyable, fast paced summer read about life in the big city. Grab your beach chair and enjoy!