Sunday, February 25, 2018

My take on: Twist of Faith

Ava Saunders has always had a difficult relationship with her adoptive mother, Claire. Growing up, Ava never understood the nomadic lifestyle Claire subjected her to. Moving from town to town, never setting down roots or making lasting friendships was the norm for Ava and Claire. Questioning Claire about her past, has never resulted in answers for Ava. All Ava knows about her past, is that she was left on the steps of a convent as an infant. How or why she came to be there remains a mystery. Now that Claire has died suddenly, Ava is determined to solve that mystery. A photo of an abandoned house, found in Claire's belongings, could be the first piece of the puzzle in Twist of Faith by Ellen J. Green.

Ava's life was a mess before and after Claire's death. She's managed to hold down a job at the local courthouse, but the end of each day is lost in a sea of alcohol. Her moments of clarity are spent delving into her past. She's convinced that photo is the key to everything, and Ava's not the only one. Someone is following her. That someone might have even broken into Ava's home. Things have been moved and the picture is missing. Is Ava getting too close to the truth? Perhaps, and that means she can't continue this quest on her own. Ava's friends and co-workers, Joanne and Russell get pulled into the fray. Russell is a cop and uses his connections to get information. The deeper they investigate, the more danger they encounter.

The chapters are short and to the point, making it a bit of a compulsive read. With each chapter I kept reading. I wanted to know what was the big mystery. The book is told from multiple perspectives, which sometimes made the story difficult to follow. But I thought the author did a good job of planting seeds in each chapter. As a character, Ava was annoying because I kept wanting her to grow up. What Ava was lacking, Joanne made up for with her sassiness and strength. Russell was often the voice of reason but occasionally he let his attraction to Ava cloud his judgment. I think where the book came up short was the ending, specifically the last page. You have to read the book to know what I'm talking about. I didn't expect the cliffhanger, for me it came out of left field. Overall, it was a worthy read.

Rating: Give it a try

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (Thomas & Mercer) in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, February 5, 2018

My take on: The Woman in the Window

For every book I read, I have different reasons for picking it up. Sometimes it's a great cover. An intriguing synopsis. Or it's written by an author I've read before. For The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn, the blurbs were the kicker for me. Gillian Flynn, Stephen King, Ruth Ware, and others are quoted on the book jacket--singing its praises. Yes, the word of other authors sways my opinion.

So were they right to gush over this book? In my opinion: YES!

Our main character, Dr. Anna Fox is an agoraphobic recluse, living her life vicariously through her neighbors. She knows when they leave in the morning and when they return at night. What they eat for dinner. Even what their book club picks are. And who is committing adultery. When Anna's not spying on her neighbors with her trusty camera, she's drowning herself in bottle after bottle of wine. Personal hygiene is an extra curricular activity for Anna. Once a proud therapist, Anna's only deep connection is with her fellow agoraphobics on the internet. She dishes out advice to others, but lacks the emotional fortitude to deal with her own issues. It's too heartbreaking to face the problems in her own life. She's separated from her husband, Ed, and daughter, Olivia. Are Ed and Olivia the reason Anna has not left her house in nearly a year? It's hard to know. Anna is such an unreliable narrator, it's hard to separate fact from fiction.  The only thing readers know for sure is Anna's deep-seated love for old Hollywood noir films. Watching movies are the rare moments of joy for Anna, but now they could be distorting her perceptions of reality.

The Russells are Anna's new neighbors. Shy, teenage Ethan is the first to make contact with Anna. Visiting Anna in her home and learning about her love for old films. Eventually, Ethan's mom, Jane, also forges a friendship with Anna. All of this out of the watchful eye of her husband, Alistair. Jane is fearful of something, perhaps it's Alistair? Before Anna can discover the source of her new friend's fear, Jane disappears. And that's because Anna is certain she witnessed Jane's murder. But did Anna really see what she thinks she saw? Or was it the alcohol playing tricks on her?

Anna is the only one certain a crime has been committed. What about Alistair and Ethan? Both of them swear Anna has never met Jane. When the police get involved, Alistair is forced to produce his wife and she looks nothing like the woman Anna met. What's going on? Who is the real Jane? Is any of it real? It's so hard to know what's going on, but I loved the ride from start to finish. Each chapter is short and to the point. I liken them to potato chips, it was hard to stop at just one chapter. I was thoroughly entertained. When the movie version of this eventually comes out, I hope the producers stay true to the book!

Rating: Superb

Notes: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (HarperCollins) as part of a blog tour with TLC Book Tours.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

My take on: Family Tree

It's been awhile since I read a chick-lit/romance novel, so I welcomed the opportunity to review Family Tree by Susan Wiggs.

This book was a pleasant surprise. I was expecting it to go the predictable route: a sad woman returns to her hometown after life in the big city and falls in love again with her high school boyfriend. Yes, some of those elements are in this book but the path to get there (for me) was different and unexpected.

Annie Rush and Martin Harlow are a powerhouse couple. He's the star of the hottest cooking show, The Key Ingredient, and Annie is the producer. They have it all. Their lives are about to change, and not just because Annie is pregnant. Betrayal at the hands of her husband and a freak accident leave Annie at rock bottom. The only way back up is to return to the family maple farm and her hometown of Switchback, Vermont.

Annie's accident is somewhat of a blessing and a curse. For the past year, Annie has been in a coma. When she finally awakens, life as she knew it is gone. She has to start all over again. She has to learn how to walk and talk all over again. She can remember some things, but there are large gaps in Annie's memory. Gaps that might be hard to fill, her family and friends, including her old boyfriend Fletcher, are doing all they can to help Annie remember the past.

The book alternates between the past and present. The present-day narrative is all about Annie's struggles rebuilding her life and her trust in men. Her father left the family decades ago and her husband betrayed her. In the past, we get to see how Annie and Fletcher's love story blossomed and eventually fizzled. In high school, Annie and Fletcher were crazy in love with each other -- until Annie had to make a choice. Fulfilling her dreams of attending college in New York or staying in Switchback with Fletcher? She chooses college but vows to have a future with Fletcher. That future goes up in flames quickly when Fletcher has to stay in Switchback, nursing his father back to health after a devastating accident. Despite how much it hurts, Annie had to face the fact that there was no room for her in Fletcher's life. But in the present-day, fate might give Annie and Fletcher another chance. End to end, I really enjoyed this story. This book is just like your favorite comfort food, you want to curl up in a ball and devour it!

Rating: Superb

Notes: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (HarperCollins) as part of a blog tour with TLC Book Tours.

Monday, January 15, 2018

My take on: This Could Hurt

I never thought a book about corporate America could be funny or entertaining, but Jillian Medoff found a way with her latest book This Could Hurt.

It's 2009 at the start, and Ellery Consumer Research is feeling the impact of the market crash. Rosa Guerrero is the longtime head of human resources. She's the leader of an eclectic staff. She can be a demanding boss, but Rosa also knows how to lead with grace and humanity. But the lines between supervisor and friend are often blurred.

The No. 2 man in HR embezzled thousands from the company and Rosa had no idea. The theft is not Rosa's fault, but she can't help feeling guilty. Associate director, Rob Hirsch, and his protege Lucy Bender have far too much emotional intimacy for people who aren't married to each other. Rob loves his wife and kids, but he finds himself drawn to Lucy. They often take walks, arm-in-arm, to a local grocery store -- just to walk the aisles. Don't know many co-workers who do that with someone who is just a friend. Lucy is unmarried but feels the same connection to Rob, even though she doesn't quite have the words to describe her feelings. Kenny Verville, a senior manager, sees Ellery, and every job he's had before, as just a stepping stone. Kenny is the arrogant, alpha male type of co-worker that everyone hates. He thinks he's better than everyone. Even in his personal life, he thinks everything is perfect until the ish hits the fan!

Rosa has her own issues as well. After the death of her husband, Ellery is basically her whole life -- inside and outside the office. Lucy and Leo are frequent guests at Rosa's home, drinking and eating the night away. Sounds innocent, but Lucy and Leo get more insight into Rosa's personal life than they should. Rosa has some serious medical problems, which could put her career in jeopardy. But Rosa is the type of woman who is too full of pride to admit she has a problem. She needs help but just doesn't want to admit it. Can she be the same effective manager without help? It doesn't matter because Lucy, Leo, and even Kenny work together as team to save Rosa from herself.

Sounds just like your average office politics? I don't know. But there were many moments that rang true. Ever need a little quiet in the morning? So much quiet that you need to be away from everything and everyone? Leo sets up a little alcove on an empty floor, just so he can enjoy his breakfast in the morning. I can relate. I like the people I work with, but I started coming in earlier just so I could enjoy my breakfast and read the newspaper in quiet. Getting too involved in another co-worker's life? It's not in my nature, but I can see how it can happen. Overall, the book started out a little slow but it picked up halfway through. There were some unexpected, and sad turns, including one character who was revealed to be wayyyy more manipulative than I thought. Read the book to know what I'm talking about!!

Rating: Give it a try

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (HarperCollins) in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

My take on: Modern Lovers

The cover of Modern Lovers by Emma Straub is pretty, and I let myself be swayed by a pretty cover -- with a little help from the Black Friday sale on Book Outlet.

Modern Lovers is about a group of close friends, navigating college, adulthood, friendship, marriage, family, and children. Sounds like a recipe for a good book. wasn't. In my opinion this was a book about a bunch of self-absorbed, shallow, annoying, hipsters.

Zoe and her wife, Jane, are going through a mid-life crisis. Their teenage daughter, Ruby, doesn't want to go to college and has no idea what she wants to do with her life. While Zoe and Jane contemplating divorce, their next door neighbors and best friends, Elizabeth and Andrew "think" they have a happy marriage but of course they don't. Their son, Harry, is bursting with hormones and has a crush on Ruby. There are several subplots, but the central focus is on the two families. Their problems were just plain BORING! I wanted to stop reading this, but I persuaded my co-workers to read this for our book club. So I felt an obligation to finish reading this book.

The characters are not likeable or relatable. Zoe doesn't always know what she wants, despite having everything she needs right in front of her. Jane is a workaholic. Ruby is a know-it-all brat. Harry is a lovesick puppy. Andrew is a gullible slacker, nearly losing thousands of dollars to a scam artist. Elizabeth spends too much time inserting herself into Zoe's life and marriage to realize her own problems. All of this could have been interesting, but nothing really happens. Any conflict gets wrapped up into a neat little bow at the end, but real life just isn't like that. This book was just so blah! If that makes sense!

Rating: Meh

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The year that was, 2017 is over!!

Politics and the world at large are a mess. No one can ever convince me it's not because of the orange menace in the Oval Office. I have to hope 2018 will be better. Until that day, I'm going to focus on the positive. As in the many good books I read in 2017.

My goal for 2017 was to read 50 books. As of December 23, I read 38 books. I think I can make it to 40 books before the final minutes of 2017 come to a close. Either way, that's still more than 2016. Perhaps I would have read more if I hadn't started and stopped 13 additional books. Yes, life is too short to read books I'm not really interested in. Sooooo....lets get to it. The best books of the year!

Best Books of 2017
(Please note, not all of these books were published in 2017. I just happened to read them in 2017)

1. The Hike by Drew Magary: If not for my office book club, I don't think I ever would have picked this one up. This was one of the weirdest and funniest books I've ever read.

2. The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee: Youtube videos turned me on to this gem! A funny historical romp through Europe.

3. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty: Loved the book and the loved the HBO adaptation. But....HBO why are you doing a season 2? I think one season was enough.

4. Shine by Lauren Myracle: I should have read this sooner. This was a page-turner. A horrific crime rocks a small town to its core.

5. Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter: This one surprised me. I was expecting a formulaic crime thriller, and got so much more.

6. Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen: This was my first foray into a Sarah Dessen book and I loved it. This reminded me of a Jodi Picoult book.

7. On Writing by Stephen King: I didn't review this on my blog. I read it for inspiration. Like a lot of people I have aspirations about writing professionally. I'm a looooonnnnnnggg way from doing that, but I got a lot more confidence just by reading this book.

8. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: Given the current political climate, Angie Thomas' book came at the right time. This book shines a light on a hot-button issue, police brutality.

9. The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins: This was one of the strangest books I've ever read. It took me two tries before I could make it all the way through. The second time was the charm.

10. The Bookshop at Water's End by Patti Callahan Henry: A book about people who love books!

The not so good books of 2017
(Please note, not all of these books were published in 2017. I just happened to read them in 2017)

1. Exit West by Mohsin Hamid: I didn't review this on my blog, but I did read it for my office book club. I know this book is on a lot of "best o 2017" lists but it's not on mine! This is a book you either love or you hate. I hate it. I found it incredibly BORING!!

2. Night Film by Marisha Pessl: I invested 600-plus pages into a book that was a big load of nothing. It was a book without an identity. It was trying to be literary, magical realism, thrilling and it didn't work for me.

3. The Mothers by Britt Bennett: Another office book club pick that just wasn't for me. It had potential but I didn't like the narrative style. It was supposed to be told by a group of mothers, but the voice was too inconsistent for my taste.

4. Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett: Yes, yet another office book club pick that I didn't review on my blog. Sensing a theme? Perhaps I need to stick to reading books that I pick?

How did I do with my reading resolutions in 2017?
I think I did okay. My goal was to read 50 books. I've currently read 38 books, but I think I can get to 40. What were my other resolutions for the year? Keep a reading journal: Done, I plan to continue doing that. Finish the Lunar Chronicles: Yeah that didn't happen and I don't know if it will happen in 2018 but I will try. Read a book I assume I will hate: Not yet!

Reading resolutions for 2018
So what am I going to do for 2018? No. 1 goal? Have fun reading!! I want to try for 50 books again, but I want to have fun doing it and not get caught up in the number. What else? Read more of my own books. Read more non-fiction. Read out of my comfort zone; I rarely read fantasy, horror, or sci-fi and it's time for a change! Finally finish It by Stephen King!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Where have I been?

The million dollar question...where have I been? I'm always reading, but I confess I don't always have the drive to do blog posts. I also started reading, and then stopped reading several books that I just found a little boring. And I made the genius decision to start tackling several books that are 400-plus pages at the same time. Add all that up...and I haven't posted in more than a month.

But I digress, lets catch up with what I have finished reading lately.

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

I bought Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen when it first came out -- two years ago. I remember braving a loooonnnnggggg self-checkout line at Walmart to buy this book. Then, like a lot of my books it started to collect dust on shelf. But this year I was determined to read more of my own books. On a whim, I finally decided to read this. It's also my first foray into reading a Sarah Dessen book.

The short: Teenage Sydney has long lived in her older brother, Peyton's, shadow. He gets all of the attention, no matter how badly he screws up. And now, after a drunk driving accident leaves a young boy in a wheelchair Peyton is headed to prison. Even with Peyton gone, Sydney is still questioning her place and self-worth within her own family. That is until she switches schools, makes new friends, and is welcomed into the arms of the Chatham family. Has Sydney finally found her place in life?

Thoughts: I LOVED this! It kind of reminded me of Jodi Picoult's writing. The strong friendships and family dynamics are what make this story work. Sydney's mom is someone who always has to have it together. She always has a plan, even when it comes to Peyton being in prison. Sydney's mom can find any reason to excuse Peyton's behavior. She can find any reason to rally behind him. But it takes so much more to see the pain that Sydney is in. Sydney's new friends, Layla and Mac can see that pain and help her through it. Sydney just needs to find the strength to tell her parents her true feelings...before it's too late.

Rating: O.M.G.!!

When We Were Worthy by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen
The short: A car crash changes the lives of just about everyone in the small town of Worthy, Georgia. In one car, three teenage girls are killed instantly, leaving their families and friends to pick up the pieces. In the other car, a teenage boy named Graham is left with severe injuries and the lasting memory that he took three people. But everyone, not just Graham, will be forced to take a hard look at their own lives in When We Were Worthy by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen.

Thoughts: A short but impactful book. Every character has some issue, some flaw that they were able to ignore until the accident. Finding the strength within and truly knowing your worth is the only way to move on.

Rating: Superb

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (Lake Union) in exchange for an honest review.

Wilde Lake by Laura Lippman

The short: Luisa "Lu" Brant is the new state's attorney. A grisly murder committed by a homeless man, offers Lu the chance to make a name for herself and step out of the shadow of her father -- a man who once occupied the very office she now holds. But what seems like a routine case will spark memories of the past. A past that could have dire consequences for her family in Wilde Lake by Laura Lippman.

Thoughts: I had high hopes for this one. The cover seemed to imply that something sinister took place. I was expecting a payoff that never came. It takes until the last 75-80 pages before the real plot is revealed. I felt like this book was a big buildup to nothing. The larger plot also seemed to come out of left field. I do like Laura Lippman's writing style, but I was a bit indifferent to this book as a whole.

Rating: Give it a try

Note: received a copy of the book from the publisher (William Morrow) in exchange for an honest review.
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