Monday, July 6, 2020

The Rural Diaries

Hilarie Burton Morgan recounts her life on Mischief Farm as a mother, wife and newcomer to a small quaint town in upstate New York. Realizing her acting dreams as a young woman, the “biz” wasn’t exactly what Hilarie hoped it would be. Not sure if it was just a case of the grass is always greener, Hilarie reached back to her feelings of childhood; a rural community and true friendships which were increasingly hard to find as her career shuttled her between LA and NYC. After a love at first sight intro to her actor (husband) Jeffrey, they quickly had a beautiful baby boy and purchased a farm filled with green hills and wide pastures. Their everyday struggles are written plainly and honestly. While Jeffrey chops wood between jobs, Hilarie holds the farm together, growing vegetables, caring for the animals and even saving the iconic town candy shop from ruin. Hilarie perfectly describes this charming search to find the place her family can truly call home. I picked this memoir up rather randomly and it was an absolute delight - well written, funny and heartwarming. The perfect summer read during these uneasy times. Thanks for sharing your story Hilarie! 

Friday, June 19, 2020

The Golden Cage

Faye had a shaky past growing up in a remote part of Sweden. Alone in the world, she changes her name and heads off to the big city to attend college, determined to make a better life for herself. Faye meets golden boy Jack. He is a handsome superstar who seems to know anybody and everybody. Jack takes her under his wing and Faye leaves school in her last year to support his endeavors. Unfortunately, as Jack’s success soars Faye is left at home with their daughter. Her opinions no longer valued, it seems the more money and status Jack acquires, the less he needs Faye at his side. When an affair is discovered Faye is set for revenge. Jack has no idea of her violent past or just how far she will go to seek revenge. This fast paced psychological thriller is unputdownable. Translated from Swedish is carries a different tone that I loved. Once you find your rhythm The Golden Cage is completely unputdownable. Highly recommend for your suspenseful summer pick!

What You Wish For

Sam Casey is the librarian at a quaint, eclectic elementary school on the island of Galveston. She has pink bangs, wears colorful clothing and delights in the children and everything that is books. When the head principal passes away the whole community is deeply saddened and Sam is shocked to discover that her old crush Duncan Carpenter has been hired to fill his shoes. Unfortunately Duncan has completely changed, and the fun loving kid hero aims to turn their school upside down.This cute, completely light hearted story had the Katherine Center flair of humor but for me lacked any substance. Unlike her other novels, which I adored, the characters and plot in this one did not grab me at all :(

Thursday, June 11, 2020

The Lies that Bind

Cecily is a beautiful young woman trying to make it in the big city. Originally from the mid-west, she finds herself stuck in a ho-hum job at a second rate newspaper. When her handsome boyfriend of three years refuses to talk about the future, she ends their relationship and finds herself in a seedy bar, alone at 2 in the morning. Just as she is about to cave and dial his number, a man approaches and tells her not to do it. Throwing all common sense to the wind and following her heart - Cecily begins an intense friendship with Grant that is filled with a passion she never before experienced. Grant has his own issues to deal with but their connection is unmistakable, he is her soulmate. And then 9/11. As quickly as this mysterious man entered her life, he vanishes. Desperately struggling to figure out what happened Cecily learns the meaning of love and just how important the truth really is. Another perfect summer read by author Emily Giffin (albeit with a twist!)  It’s a must for the beach!

Saturday, June 6, 2020

The Henna Artist

Lakshmi is alone in the city of Jaipur. It is the 1950’s and this simple young woman who escaped her arranged marriage at 15 years old will do anything she has to do for a better life and a brighter future. Fighting against traditional roles, she finds herself alone in the world with a very unique talent. She is both an artist and a healer. If only one good thing came out of her violent marriage, it was her mother in law, who taught her the many secrets of natural medicine. This captivating story will take you away to the noisy crowded streets of India. The caste system tries to keep Lakshmi in her place but her gifts have even the palace requesting her services. With careful planning she is building her own home and becoming quite a commodity. Appreciating every moment of her hard won independence, Lakshmi is thrown for a loop when her former husband reappears and some of the jealous ladies are more concerned with their reputations than the truth. Beautifully written, I highly recommend this colorful novel filled with the tastes, sounds and traditions of another place in another time.

Head Over Heels

Like most little girls Avery Abrams had one dream. To be an Olympic gymnast. Unlike most young girls, she was beyond good. Avery was the best and her promising career was real. She trained her entire childhood; no junk food, few friends, no sleepovers and eventually homeschooled. Avery and her loving parents sacrificed what most people take for granted. When she tragically injured herself at the Olympic trials, her one chance to lead the girls team was gone forever. Age wise, she was done. Avery dabbled in college gymnastics but her heart just wasn’t in it. Her disappointment so great that her life spiraled out of control for 7 years. Back home in the small town she grew up in, this former superstar has to learn to face her past and figure out some sort of future. When Coach Ryan (a former gymnast she crushed on throughout her teenage years) hires her to assist a promising young gymnast for the upcoming Olympics, Avery is finally ready to begin the healing process. Funny, well written and timely. This adorable romcom is filled with gymnastic dreams and the crushing reality of the sport. You will definitely be rooting for this all around winner.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Rodham

Hillary Rodham grew up in a small suburb in Illinois. Close with her lovely mother, tolerating her overbearing father and cheered on by her two brothers, she was a straight A student, a leader and an overachiever - always. After a successful college career and delivering her famous commencement speech at Wellesley Hillary went on to attend law school at Yale. It is at Yale that Hillary has her first true romance, with none other than Bill Clinton. From the start Bill is a smart, fast talking southern charmer and she cannot grasp how this handsome, popular boy is so smitten with her. Through hard work, determination and drive the world is her oyster and those close to her are shocked when she follows Bill and his proposal to Arkansas to teach at the university while he runs for office. This is where the sliding doors open - Hillary says no. She says no to his philandering, no to his undeniable allure and yes to a future where she can follow her own heart while it is still in one piece. The rest is - well, you’d have to read the book to find out! This work of fiction is beyond a doubt extremely creative and interesting but the truth is, I did not enjoy it. When Hillary Rodham Clinton lost the election in 2016 many of us were devastated for a multitude of reasons. I loved the idea of an alternative story to the one we all (think) we know. Unfortunately the daily mundane campaigning details, of which this book is filled, are kind of boring. This alternative scenario made the truth of politics all the more sad.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982

In the center of Seoul, South Korea, lives a small family. Kim Jiyoung is a recent stay at home mom, having left her office job to care for their young infant. At first the couple blames her swinging moods on postpartum baby blues. But when Kim Jiyoung begins acting strangely, mimicking voices of other women and sleeping for extensive lengths of time, her husband arranges for her to see a psychiatrist. After carefully detailing their present life this author takes us back through Jiyoung’s rather ordinary upbringing. From early childhood relationships at school, her desperate search for a career and the eventual meeting of her husband. This book was quite different than described in the summary. It was a  great success in Korea a few years ago and has recently been translated and rereleased. The obvious inequality of men and women in the South Korean workplace is displayed in detail, as is the basic struggle in this culture for the older generation to behave in one way and the more westernized, young adults to rebel. This novel had some very interesting views but failed to bring the story to life in the way I am accustomed. Because it was well written, interesting and very short - I was able to get through it but there was definitely something missing for me.

A Good Marriage

Lizzie Kitsakis works long, hard hours at a prestigious law firm in NYC. Her marriage to Sam is on on the rocks and although she loves him with all her heart, she doesn’t know how to fix this mess. Her new job at Young & Crane will at least help reduce their debt and fill a spot on her resume. Late one evening she gets an urgent collect call from Rikers Island Jail and shockingly finds herself speaking to one time friend and fellow Penn law student Zach Grayson. His wife has been murdered and he is being railroaded as a prime suspect. Pleading innocence, Zach swiftly guilts her into taking his case. Lizzie, both bright and tenacious, is quickly pulled into the underworld of Park Slope - investigating Zach’s marriage to the beautiful Amanda, his life of luxury and a group of private school moms that appear to have many secrets lurking beneath their fashionable surface. While battling her own marriage demons and hidden past, Lizzie learns that facing the absolute truth is the only path to freedom. Another fabulous thriller from author Kimberly McCreight. The many twists and turns make this read completely unputdownable. Exactly what I needed! 

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

That's Not A Thing

Meredith and Aaron are a young, successful couple making their mark in New York City. Recently engaged, Meredith is working for a prestigious law firm while Aaron finishes up a coveted residency saving the lives of babies. One night they are invited to an engagement celebration dinner at one of the hottest new culinary spots in the city. By random chance, the chef comes out to greet them and he is none other than Wesley, Meredith’s ex. The forbidden Wesley, love of her life whom she never got over and refuses to speak of. Throwing all good things for a crazy loop, Meredith is completely distraught that Wes is back in the states. When she learns that his shaky hands are signs of his recent ALS diagnosis, she can barely breathe. The what if’s of her past hauntingly return and although Aaron is a spectacular guy - how much understanding can one man possibly have? Meredith must decide exactly who she is going to be when she grows up. This fast paced heartbreaking love story has wonderful characters and a lot to think about. Highly recommend and don’t forget to have the tissues handy.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Kind of Famous

Layla Beckett’s lifelong dream has come true! After the last ten years as a number one fan and incognito fansite administrator, Layla has landed her dream job at a prestigious NYC magazine called The Rock Paper. A small town girl, she is both nervous and excited for her new life in the Big Apple. On Layla’s very first day she serendipitously meets and befriends a famed photographer/girlfriend of a rockstar, leading Layla to a life she never dared to imagine. Introduced to guitarist handsome Shane Morgan at a backyard bbq, she learns quickly the ins and outs, along with the many ups and downs of the music industry which is filled with these beautiful talented young artists. If you love music and fun romcoms, this is the latest sexy story from author Mary Ann Marlowe. Perfect snack for a much needed day at the beach.

Sea Wife

Juliet is depressed and boy does she hate that word. A lover of poetry, Juliet is a mother of two, deserter of her PhD and wife of Michael. She became progressively blue after the births of both of her children, now 7 and 2. Experiencing his own mid-life crisis, Michael’s long buried dreams of freedom on a sailboat are coming to fruition. All he has to do is convince Juliet, who has never sailed a day in her life. With their marriage on the rocks, both husband and wife admit a fork in the road is imminent. Cajoling her with visions of blue skies and sunsets, the novice sailors set off on their adventure in Panama aboard the newly christened “Juliet.” Each chapter filled with divorce docking, sleeplessness, bickering and the well known saying that voyaging is merely fixing your boat in exotic locations, suddenly those sunsets feel few and far between. Told in fascinating detail, Juliet explores what led her to this point with humor and honesty while Michael’s version is expressed through his daily log book turned diary. Mildly seasick from the swells of their marriage, relationship to their mothers and messy past - I devoured each and every page of Sea Wife, not wanting to miss a beat. Cannot believe with such detail that author Amity Gaige is not a sailor herself! I also am positive my husbands sailing dreams are now permanently crushed because I am quite sure that I would never, ever be brave/crazy enough to undertake this challenge!

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Your Blue Is Not My Blue

Aspen meets Justin while on her famous trek from Mexico to Canada, detailed in her first memoir Girl in the Woods. Falling in love at 19, she is excited to share her life with this handsome, mysterious man 10 years her senior, who literally saved her life in the woods. Quickly accepted by his family, the newlyweds explore the hills he grew up in and beatnik scene of Northern California. A bit naive, Aspen doesn’t think to ask questions regarding their finances or future plans. She is enjoying her newfound adult freedom, letting the days easily arrange themselves with Justin leading the way. The couple soon finds themselves in NYC so Aspen can return to college and focus on her writing career. Slowly their wandering thru-hiker existence is filled with school and writing responsibilities along with exorbitant rent to pay. As Aspen’s world expands, Justin’s free spirit begins to fade. A few years later, on a dark November morning Justin leaves to attend a friends funeral - and disappears. Aspen is left alone to pick up the shattered pieces of her young life. This honest, expressive memoir is heartbreaking and beautiful. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Aspen’s descriptive scenery and adventurous spirit as she deciphers the true definition of love.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Beach Read

January Andrews is a romance writer with a dreadful case of writer’s block. Penniless, mourning the loss of her father and her Mr. Perfect boyfriend, January is struggling to piece the puzzle of her life back together. With pressure from her agent to finish (ha! How about start!) the book she has committed to, she decides to spend the summer months at her father’s lake house before it sells. Much to her dismay it is filled with someone else’s memories and an annoying neighbor who turns the music up much too loud her very first night. The neighbor turns out to be Gus, her handsome secret college crush and fellow writer who has a tad more success in the ratings and evil sexy eyes that melt way more than her heart. The two writers in residence decide a small competition is in order. He will write the romance she is stuck on and she, the Great American Novel. And so begins this HILARIOUS and ADORABLE and DELICIOUS romcom by Emily Henry which I completely devoured on one perfect beach day. This fun, witty, well written story will grab your heart and make you believe in happy endings all over again.

Darling Rose Gold

Patty Watts is getting out of prison. After five long years this master manipulator is exhausted and cannot wait to reunite with her daughter Rose Gold and move on with her life. But Rose Gold is a grown woman now, 23. She has a job, lives on her own and recently, a newborn baby. Rose Gold is no longer the helpless child, wheelchair bound and surviving her mother’s carefully orchestrated emergencies. After years of endless fundraising and supporting the struggling duo this entire town paved the way to send Patty to jail and free her daughter from her dangerous clutches. Since Patty is an expert liar and sincerely believes her own fabricated stories, her love for Rose Gold runs deep and she will accept nothing less than winning her back. This outrageous take on a very real syndrome of Munchausen by proxy is a severe mental illness and form of child abuse. Author Stephanie Wrobel weasels her way into the very heart and mind of both mother and daughter with ease. Reminding me of The Act on Hulu, which I only watched a few episodes because it is so completely unpalatable, this fast paced, suspenseful book is full of unexpected twists and truly unputdownable.