Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Review: I Suck At Girls By: Justin Halpern

I Suck at GirlsI Suck at Girls by Justin Halpern
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I continued my journey with Justin Halpern in his second book, a follow up to The Sh*t My Dad Says. Here Justin goes through the journey of missteps and mishaps that lead him to the girl he is proposing to. Filled with his father's advice and unconventional sometimes unwanted wisdom on women, I found myself on the phone calling others just to read sections out loud - knowing we have gone through something similar and laughing to the point of crying.
There is a quick wit and view of life that Halpern can put on paper that one MUST experience. He writes honestly the thoughts in your head that you would never put on paper for fear of being put away or blackmailed and does it lovingly (even the recounting of the first time he caught his parents in the act - priceless - and, look, we have all been there and sought treatment for it and done it to our children to complete the circle of damage).
Buy this, read it, love it, talk about it, have others read it, laugh, and do it all over again.

I for one can not wait for more from Justin Halpern!!

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Monday, April 28, 2014

Review: Sh*t My Dad Says By: Justin Halpern

Sh*t My Dad SaysSh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I wish I could give this more stars.

I am glad I wasn't alone in the strangeness of parenting skills. The strange talks, sayings, the moments that had you staring hard, shrinking away wanting the words scrubbed from your brain - well, here they are. Mr. J Halpern has let us in on his father and his father's "special" set of phrases that set him up for the wisdom of life.
This is a riot. You will laugh out loud and want to share this book with everyone of your dysfunctional siblings and keep it rolling on through the cousin well, heck, throw a copy to your therapist to help grasp and understand the reality of the real world of how you grew up. And if you had it the "Leave It to Beaver" way, you still will want this, I promise you will laugh.
The perfect moments of wisdom, laughter, and actual endearment rolled into one - This book is a keeper!

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Review: Fallen Beauty By: Erika Robuck

Fallen BeautyFallen Beauty by Erika Robuck
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Set in 1928 in the village of Chatham, New York - two lives collide, that of Edna St. Vincent Millay and Laura Kelley. As Edna (Vincent, as she goes in the book and chapter by chapter) holds bohemian parties, sexual escapades, devours with cruelty all those around her as she hides away reigning at Steepletop, below in town is Laura Kelley, a fallen girl, whose parents are dead, whose lover has left her, who has an illegitimate child, and whose sewing talent and ice demeanor as intrigued the poet.
This is not truly a kind story, a love story, but more of multiple stories mashed together into one not allowing one to truly fruit without resolution and understanding with the reader gaining a fuller experience, which is a shame.
Why was it not explored the unrequited, unexpressed desire from Father Ash, he was just a fleeting character? George Dillon was also so fleeting yet referred to over and over that without any understanding of St Vincent Millay, no one would grasp this depth and would find it irritating and even if they knew, it was still irritating. These are just some examples.
****SPOILER OVER ******
Each chapter brings both Laura's and Vincent's views of the times and their experiences. Both experiencing an different kind of ostracization, each to some extent self inflicted and socially inflicted - For Laura it is because of her sin, the birth of her child; For Vincent it is her spirit, the creative birth of her poetry.
This book is okay, nothing more and nothing less. I was hoping for more and the potential is there which left me disappointed.

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Friday, April 25, 2014

Review: The Way Life Should Be By: Christina Baker Kline

The Way Life Should BeThe Way Life Should Be by Christina Baker Kline
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

***** This is a First Reads, Thank You Goodreads *****

Angela Russo, a New York girl (well technically from New Jersey), Italian, event planner just got fired. Apparently some fire eaters have beefs with jugglers and are willing to burn down part of a museum to make a point. Good thing she met someone online, that he just happens to live in Maine, and has offered for her to come up on vacation and stay.
That's how Angela finds herself on Mount Desert Island - away from her family, working in a coffee shop, teaching cooking classes ... oh, and that guy, well, he didn't work out, but there are plenty of fish in the sea - especially when you are on an island.
I adored this story. A woman coming into her own. A connection with a grandmother, who understands her and loves her (they have this amazing connection, a language of their own, built on love, based in honesty, respect, cooking, and teaching - especially the ability to teach own to trust in one's own instinct). It is a story of growing and friendship, of family - for good and bad - and how we are defined by them. The true love story in here, is the love of one's self and that when that blossoms, everything will. What is nicer than that! Oh, bonus, there are some recipes you will need to try in here!!!

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Review: Wild By; Cheryl Strayed

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest TrailWild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the memoir of a woman who found her life hiking the Pacific Coast Trail. Cheryl Strayed (a last name she chose) at twenty two, is lost, empty. Her mother having died five years earlier, a biological father that was abusive, a lack of connection between her siblings, a drug habit, and a recent divorce - she is spent, emotionally, physically, mentally and yet she is detached from it all. A piece of her has died along the way, it was left in the hospital room with her mother, and has not resurfaced or healed.
This is her journey. Honest. Painful. Filled with amazing vivid imagery and great insight as each step brings her closer to enlightment, healing and the rawness that comes through isolation and nature to gather you to your core being.
I devoured this book in one sitting, often fooling myself in the back of mind of the possibility of doing it myself. Ms. Strayed's pain is real and easily accessible to the reader as is her journey through to the other side.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Review: Happily Ever After By: Elizabeth Maxwell

Happily Ever AfterHappily Ever After by Elizabeth Maxwell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sadie Fuller has a rich life in the evening when she changes from a divorced forty six year old mom to the writer of erotic novels. The only things exciting is the carbs from her German maid's mac and cheese and a standing appointment for sex with a man she met on with an ad she placed. It all changes when characters jump off the page and into her life, requiring her to take a look not just at them but at herself and the necessity of opening up to the possible in the realm of reality.

I think that I could give this closer to 3 1/2 stars but not quite 4, reasons being that some development within the characters and their relationships were lacking and seemed truly reaching, but the story was original - three stories in one, fun, quick, easy, uplifting read that is perfect for a Saturday or Beach.

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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Review: Shake Down The Stars By: Renee Swindle

Shake Down the StarsShake Down the Stars by Renee Swindle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

***** This is a First Reads, Thank You Goodreads *****

Piper Nelson has found herself on this side of bad - experience a tragedy, get a divorce, become the black sheep. Just when she thought things couldn't get worse, her half sister gets engaged to a football star and goes onto a reality show, her ex husband dumps her (yes, unhealthy, but, that's Piper) for a younger woman and gets her pregnant, and just maybe she might lose her job because of her alcohol problem.
Sometimes you think you are at your worst and you can sink deeper, you think you are the only one with the pain that you hold yet there is pain everywhere, and sometimes the stars align just right and the universe unfolds and reveals herself at the right moment - when you are ready to see, when you are ready to shake down the stars.
I really loved the depth of Piper and all the relationships in her life. The author has a way of delivering the complexities from the boss to the mother, from the possibilities of the future to the reflections of the past - how all are interwoven, weaved and that sometimes the greatest gift to ourselves is the freedom to forgive and to love.
This is a book that will make you laugh, cry, and long after you put down think about. Read this one with your girlfriend (or book club) because you will want to talk about a few things in here!

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Review: The Other Half By: Sarah Rayner

The Other HalfThe Other Half by Sarah Rayner
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A beach read, nothing more, that tells the story of infidelity through the eyes of the wife and the other woman. Intentions aren't the issue when Chloe finds herself sleeping with her boss, she didn't intend to - she didn't intend to after she knew he was married and had a child, but this isn't just a story about intentions. Maggie couldn't understand why Jamie didn't want to try for another child, spent more time away, and she felt more emotionally distanced and stressed than ever before - all they do is argue, nothing she does seems to please him, and she doesn't want to fit the puzzle together that could ruin them forever.

I found it interesting to have both sides telling their story about the same things. The growth of each woman was even rather similar in fashion (I guess if you have the same taste in men) but that was the thing...I guess, I just couldn't find the attraction in Jamie and his behavior. What would keep a woman to stay or keep trying to be his wife through ugly behavior - afterall his mistress knows he is cheating, his wife is experiencing backlash -- and he seems like a dick with little to no personality, someone who peaked in high school or college frat and that was that for emotional growth.

A quick, easy, fluff to read with one dimensional characters trying to tackle and deep subject.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Review: A Feast For Crows By: George RR Martin

A Feast for Crows (A Song of Ice and Fire, #4)A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I will rave about George RR Martin over and over again. I will say things like how brilliant he is, amazing, how Tolkien-esque - Of course if you have not discovered him yet, GO NOW, Run, lose yourself within Game Of Thrones, Westeros, and The A Song Of Fire And Ice Series. You will not be the same. Fantasy novels will no longer look the same, they have a new bar.
This is book four in the series and it does not slow down. The manipulations and games that all will play to survive to sit upon the throne. Some see only today, see their territory, while others have a grander vision that will take marriage and unveiling. Mr. Martin will continue with surprises and heartbreaks (which I think makes him also a marvelous storyteller, not afraid). The action is only half of the vision that is occurring, the rest is in the next novel, A Dance With Dragons.
I don't like to give spoilers, but the title of the book is referenced multiple places within, one place is "The crows will feast upon us all if you go on this way, sweet sister." Now that should get your attention have you rushing to read this book.

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Review: Elizabeth Is Missing By: Emma Healey

Elizabeth Is MissingElizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Time seems to tick and go forward and in reverse in this original, amazing, beautiful novel about a woman who is suffering from alzheimers/dementia and the possibility of two crimes locked inside of her mind, one fairly recent the other from the past. Told in Maud's point of view, the reader gets lost inside the mind, within the panic, the memory, the confusion, the ongoing need to never forget and find the truth.
Slips of paper help Maud remember, each slip reminds her that Elizabeth is missing, that she hasn't called, that she hasn't been by. Maud knows that Elizabeth's son is no good and rations her, practically starves her, never visits. There is something about Elizabeth that brings about all the memories of long ago, when her sister Suskey went missing, about the mad woman that cursed her and birds flying about her head. How is it that she can remember so long ago, when her daughter's face no longer is recognizable, streets no longer are the same, when in a blink she has become the mad woman in the street.

I LOVED this book!!!!! It is hard to believe that this the author's first novel - for it is truly a talented piece. Original, brilliant, emotionally gripping, for lack of a better word - beautiful. Many twists, turns, surprises - this is one that you will enjoy, that you will want to share, and you will want to re read.

Now, I will divulge, that I have family members that have suffered and that currently suffer with ALZ and dementia -- this book was truly heartfelt from someone that had that experience, written I think with honor, love, and respect. It would be a great tool maybe to help open dialogue with some that are beginning their journey into your world of experience, to talk about the disease.

****** This is a First Reads, Thank You Goodreads *******

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Friday, April 11, 2014

Review: Great By: Sara Benincasa

GreatGreat by Sara Benincasa
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Naomi Rye plays "Carraway" character in an updated retelling of the tale of The Great Gatsby. Sent for the summer to her mother's in the Hamptons, she rekindles her acquaintances with the likes of the whose who of the trust fund generation. The mysterious newcomer that has rented the property next door, is the famous fashion blogger Jacinta Trimalchio, who has a past, dark and secret and links to the people that she covers.

I love F Scott Fitzgerald and I love The Great Gatsby, I thought I would give this book a try and found - something, well, okay. It might appeal to to an eighth grader, but I would think it was glorified fanfiction that one could find on Wattpad. The plot virtually stolen from Fitzgerald brick by brick, updated by blogs, technology, girl crushes. Why mess with a good thing, be inspired, make your own road - unfortunately, you won't find it here. The redeeming quality is that it might get a generation to pick pick up the real thing and enjoy the true work of a great writer, Fitzgerald.

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Review: Ruin Falls By: Jenny Milchman

Ruin FallsRuin Falls by Jenny Milchman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

***** This is a First Reads, Thank You Goodreads *****

Elizabeth Daniels has woken up to a nightmare. The vacation that her husband and kids set for yesterday seemingly hours behind her, as she awakes in the hotel to missing children and later to the realization that Paul, her husband, has taken them and disappeared. The man she once thought she knew had secrets long hidden away and she will stop at nothing to uncover who he is and what those secrets are to get to her children. There are also people that want their own secrets protected and Liz is getting too close to messing with the grand vision.

I was on pins and needles. The complexities of relationships of featured strongly, especially throughout the mother - Liz's relationship with her children, her friend Jill with her son Andy, Paul's mother Mary and her relationship regarding Paul and even with Liz, some of the secondary characters are defined by the relationships that they held with their mothers. What is the scariest case for a mother, than to lose their child - to have them ripped away, kidnapped, overnight, with no indication, by their own father (thereby, the law can only do so much) - the betrayal, the pain.

The next steps come to Liz as strange people and incidents occur - she investigates, she searches, and she digs. This is where the primal need comes, where a mother will not stop, nothing will come in her way, when there seems to be no hope she will find it, and when someone says back off she will fight further.

This is a great book for a book club, wonderful for discussion! Once you pick this one up, you will not put it down, Enjoy!

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Friday, April 4, 2014

Review: Above By: Isla Morley

AboveAbove by Isla Morley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

At the age of sixteen Blythe Hallowell is taken. She is put into what once was a missile silo, forced to live underground by a man she knew, a survivalist, the librarian, Dobbs Hordin. Forced to endure the rantings of coming of the end, the belief that she was "chosen" because she was special, as she spends years beneath the surface, years fighting off the madness, with the ember of hope trying never to go out that one day she will be free. Over the years, she has a son, and when the opportunity presents itself (after approximately eighteen years being below) - they can escape to above, but what is there, may not be what she remembered the world being and the true nightmare may have just begun.

I went back and forth with this book on loving it so much to feeling aggravation. Some details may not be for the faint of heart, and the ending doesn't answer the book, rushed a bit, feels like it belonged somewhere else, like it was chopped up - most of the second half was that way. Original, interesting, strong depth of character keeps the theme of hope and the strength of the human spirit throughout. Part thriller part dystopian this one might keep you up to finish, but you will want those hours of rest back.

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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Review: Safe Keeping By: Barbara Taylor Sissel

Safe KeepingSafe Keeping by Barbara Taylor Sissel
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

****** This is a First Reads, Thank You Goodreads *****

I think 2 1/2 stars would be more accurate in my rating to be fair.

The story surrounds a family in Texas; Emily, the matriarch, who has her own pains and regrets in life as she blindly carries and sweeps her family's clean or bakes her way in a false stepford smile; Roy, the patriarch, wounded in war, came back with ptsd, did damage to his family in more ways than one, the night terrors sometimes keep in the day, questions was it all worth the pain; Emily, the daughter, the oldest, the one who has kept things running, married right, keeps the company going along with her husband, blindly loyal; Evan, Emily's husband, the son that never was, the silent strength; Tucker, the son, the lost child, the one who in one of his father's moments became an enemy and never grew out of it, and the one who is now the suspect in a murder - again.

Can lightning strike twice and it still be a mistake? Tucker is the suspect again in a murder of woman, another one he knew, another one found where the last one was, in the same fashion of death. Why does this keep happening? Can't people see what the rest of the family can? That he is good, that he is kind, that he has emotional problems that make him wonder off for days, but he is also the type of person the would spend his paycheck on saving a dog that was run over on the side of the road that he found. This is where the nightmare only begins for the Lebay Family, with their family history with each other and with the small town secrets that slowly creep up there are a bit of twists and turns.

Why only 2 1/2 stars - I didn't connect with any of the characters. I struggled to keep reading and finish the book, which thankfully I did, because finally 250 pages in is when the action began and it got exciting - sadly that left only 50 pages to wrap it up, which was plenty. There was a disconnect that not only I felt with the characters, but they had with each other, everything seemed very surface - a facade of love, of care, of a marriage, of a relationship with each other, I don't know if that was the author's intent.

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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Review: Lakeside Cottage By: Susan Wiggs

Lakeside CottageLakeside Cottage by Susan Wiggs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kate Livingston doesn't expect much this summer - it already has started on such a high note, being fired, her son Aaron getting testy, the rest of the family not coming to the lake home, a handsome stranger bailing her out at the grocery store when she was short of cash. Although, a big surprise of a homeless girl living in the empty home greeted Kate the moment she began unloading groceries, maybe this is where Kate should have realized the summer was going to be much different than any other.
Kate has been burned by people, has kept men away. Her son, Aaron never has had a father in his life and not much in the male role models. Aaron also has a quick temper, emotional outbursts. Kate has a big heart and her son is flawed but forgivably so. The young homeless girl, Callie, also comes with a broken past. Callie is damaged, broken, her heart, her pain, her rawness is there (I think that she is the most believable and real character in the book), yet she is a survivor, one who understands the glimmer of hope and is wise beyond her years.
JD Harris, AKA American Hero Sergeant Jordan Donovan Harris, is looking to hide away. He wants to escape the media, the backstabbers, the people that were in his life that were willing to sell a private moment to the public, the feeding frenzy that fed off of him. In one moment he became a hero and lost all rights to his life and privacy, as soon as he could, he escaped to a secluded lakeside home of his best friend where no one could find him. He was looking forward to the alone time, the anonymous life, what he didn't plan on was a beautiful redhead, her buoyant son, and an insightful girl making a summer filled with possibility if he could allow himself to dream and open up.
A great read. I found the characters had dimension, I really enjoyed the depth of some of the secondary characters and the deep honesty within them. A beach read definitely or jump start your celebration into Spring - the imagery flows off the page!

******* This is a First Reads, Thank You Goodreads *******

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