May Reads

This has been a busy month of reading for me.  I’ve been enjoying my book shelf and have found some really good reads.  If you are getting ready to stock up your kindle for summer reading, here are a few recommendations.

I didn’t love this one, but it was quite a disturbing concept.  I didn’t realize until I started talking to people about it that it was actually written in the 1980s.  I’m not usually a fan of dystopian novels, but I’d heard so much buzz about the book I decided to give it a read.  I’d guess it’s popularity can be found in those who seek to make connections to today’s world.  The book kept me turning the pages, but I didn’t love it as much as my daughter did.  I think this is one you either love or hate, but definitely one you will be talking about.  It’s also heavily advertised as a new series.

This one kept me up late at night turning the pages.  An old house is knocked down in London and the remains of a baby unearthed.  Kate Waters is an investigative reporter who feels inexplicably drawn to report on the case.  As she investigates, we meet a couple whose daughter was stolen from the hospital long ago.  The couple never found closure and with each new find they relive the loss over again.  Then there is a young lady who is also obsessed with this case.  How these three lives are connected is the big reveal.  I will admit I figured it out prior to the conclusion, but I read a lot of these types of books and watch way too much Criminal Minds.  A definite must read book.

This author’s books make me feel like I’m going home. I’ve read her Lowcountry and Beach House series and the characters feel like my friends now.  This book doesn’t disappoint and would make a wonderful beach read.  Cara Rutledge rents out her beach house to Heather for the summer.  Soon tragedy strikes and the two women’s lives are changed forever.   If you read Beach House Memories you will be familiar with the characters and the Isle of Palms.  An easy read and one destined to be on this summer’s best seller list.

Ronni Sunshine a Hollywood star, invites her three daughters home to tell them she’s dying.  She has ALS and wants her estranged daughters to make peace with her and each other before she takes her own life.  Told in alternating chapters from each daughter’s perspective, we learn the back story and reason for the estrangements.  Ronni wasn’t a great mother and is running out of time.  Can she make things right with the girls?  This book was full of family drama, but at it’s core it’s about family, the bonds that tie us to each other and the love that is often found buried under all that baggage.  An endearing read by the best selling author of Falling.

Oh how I loved this one.  I must warn you, you will need tissues and it is an emotional read.  I came upon this title and was drawn to the – for fans of Me Before You.  I mean I seriously loved that book.  I purchased this and it went right to the top of my pile.  This was a gut wrenching tale of Lucy and Gabe.  They had the special kind of love that most people spend their whole lives looking for.  It’s a book about the choices we make and the forks in the road we travel.  How one decision often leads to many later consequences.  I couldn’t put this one down until it was finished.  Then I was sad it was over and today I’m missing Lucy’s voice.  The story is narrated entirely by Lucy.  It is her tale to tell and her love story to share.  I think you should read this one immediately, but warn you it is a gut wrenching tale.

The Light we Lost will be the blockbuster of the summer and likely a movie in the making.  If you can only pick just one from this list, this is the one to pick!  I hope you find something to your liking.  Happy Reading and welcome summer!  Can’t wait to be able to read on a beach chair.

If you’ve read any of these books, please leave me a comment below. I’d love to hear you take on them.

50 Book Reviews

April Reads

April has been a month of many rainy days and some great reads. Here’s my top reads this month:

The Perfect Stranger: A Novel

If you haven’t read Megan Miranda’s book All the Missing Girls: A Novel then you absolutely must do that right now!  It was one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.  I loved the unique style of the book.  You can read my review on that book here – All the Missing Girls .

This one is a good read too, though not as good as her first.  The characters are well developed and you truly feel a sense of madness throughout the book that leaves you guessing and wondering.  I was slightly disappointed with the ending, as what I imagined was coming would have been far more intense than what she wrote.  If you are a fan of suspense, then I think the book is well worth your time and you will be turning the pages long into the night.  I gave this a 3.5 star review on Goodreads.

And Then There Was Me: A Novel of Friendship, Secrets and Lies

This was a great read about a woman named Bea.  The character is one that you will love on many levels.  I truly enjoyed the book and read it in one sitting.  There were many things that spoke to me as Bea was wrestling through the issues of her life and there were many.   I enjoyed the friendship she shared with Awilda, one that spanned their life from childhood to present day.  The raw honesty portrayed by Bea as she struggled felt real.  I didn’t enjoy the betrayal that Bea endured.  As I read those parts, I became disappointed along with her.  At its core, this book is a story of friendship, personal struggle and the ultimate betrayal.  But for me, it was a story of perseverance and strength.  This book reminded me somewhat of those written by Terry Macmillan, so if you’re a fan of her work, give it a shot.

Always: A Novel

This is a love story that speaks to the power of true love.  Told in alternating chapters between past and present, we read Kailey and Cade’s love story.  This is a story about the one who got away, the one you never forgot.

Ten years earlier, Kailey and Cade were deeply in love.  One day, Cade disappears from Kailey’s life leaving her heartbroken and confused.  She goes on to put her life back together and is now engaged and deeply in love with Ryan.  As the story unfolds, we see just how deeply Kailey felt about Cade.  Can she be honest with Ryan about Cade?  Will their love endure Cade’s return?  Why did Cade leave in the first place?   This book was really good read.   It reminded me of Colleen Hoover’s style.  If you are fan of Hoover, then check out this book.  I think you’ll see some similarities and enjoy a real good read.  But, be sure to start it on a day when you have nowhere to be.

The Memory of Things: A Novel

I saved the best for last!  I bought this Young Adult, coming of age book, several months back.  It sat on my kindle for a long while before I was brave enough to start it.  The thing is September 11 is seared in my memory.  I don’t often read books on this topic as it was a traumatic event for me and many that I know.  I am so happy I finally opened it and read it.  What a unique and truly interesting read this was and I literally didn’t move until I finished it.  The book captures the emotions of that day quite well.  Written in a unique style of narrative with poetic text included that I felt truly captured the uncertainty and feeling of the day.

This book is special and Gae Polisher captured that day with honesty and sensitivity.  Told in alternating chapters by two teenagers personally affected by the tragedy that unfolded that day we are reminded of the heroic efforts of everyday people.  Kyle is a student who has to walk home from school after watching the events unfold from his school.  Along the way he sees something on the bridge, a girl who intends to jump.  He manages to get her to come home with him.  Kyle is left alone at home with a father who is a first responder, whereabouts unknown, and a mom who was flying home from California, whereabouts unknown.  You really feel inside these characters as you go through three days with them.  Beautifully written and deeply engaging, this is one you don’t wan to miss.

The author includes text at the end with her personal reflection on the day.   I knew just form the way she captured the story that she was a New Yorker.  This was my first book by this author and I plan to check out her others.

Lately, two series are getting a lot of buzz.   Recently, Thirteen Reasons has been trending on Facebook and the news.  Surprisingly, many don’t realize this series is based on the best selling book, Thirteen Reasons Why a truly great read.   If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend you do.  Also, the series Big Little Lies has been trending.  This too, is based on a best selling book.  If you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend it – Big Little Lies .  Both series were good and I binge watched them over a weekend, but neither one holds a candle to the books they were based on.

What books did you read this month?  Please share some titles below as I’m always looking for my next great read!  If you check out any of these titles, please post to let me know what you thought.

March Reads

This was a slow reading month for me as I only read five books.  Two of them were professional reads for work, so I’m not including the review for those in my post.

The Princess Diarist

I grew up during the Star Wars generation.  Carrie Fisher may have been every guys dream princess, but for us young girls she was our hero.  She proved to the world that women could play strong characters in a man’s movie world.  With her sad passing, I was interested to read her books.  This is the second one I have read and it wasn’t my favorite.  I enjoyed reading the behind the scenes narration about life on the set of Star Wars.  I didn’t know til her passing that she had an affair with Harrison Ford so that felt like juicy gossip.  The warm relationship between the characters of this movie was evident when reading this book.  Their friendships lasted decades and it was truly touching to hear of the bonds.  This book felt like my last connection to the movie and the characters so I did savor reading it.  When reading Carrie’s books, you are treated to her sarcasm and wit.  Unfortunately, you also get a window, I feel, into her mental illness.  Must read for all Star Wars fans, but for others it may not be of interest.  I loved the narrative more than the actual diary entries.

Good as Gone: A Novel of Suspense

If you are a suspense junkie, then this book is for you.  Julie is kidnapped from her home and the only witness to the crime is her sister.  Years go by without a trace of Julie and the effects of this on her family are played out in the book.  The relationships are damaged, with her sister bearing the brunt, as her relationship with her mother have been forever altered.

Then suddenly, one day Julie rings the bell and returns home.  Her family is thrilled to have her back, but doubts begin to surface as to who she really is.  Did they just accept her wanting their daughter back?  Is it really Julie?  Would you be willing to lose your child all over again, or just accept what could be?  This novel is fast paced and suspenseful as you are pondering the fate of Julie throughout.  The past is told in snippets until the thrilling conclusion. Quick, one night read for me.

The Two-Family House: A Novel

I love multigenerational novels with strong characters.  The emotional sagas pull you in and tug at your heart as you follow the life of the novel’s families.  This one will not disappoint those who love this genre.  The strong narrative grabs you from the first page and pulls you right in.

The foreshadowing of the main event to come made it pretty obvious to me where we were heading, but that didn’t bother me as this is not a novel of suspense.  Rather, it’s a novel of emotional drama, a saga that will tug at your heart.  I highly recommend this one as well.  It was not a one night read though as I wanted to savor the book and not let it end.  My first read by this author and one that made the Popsugar’s 6 Books You Must Read list.

If you love family drama that spans generations, this book is for you.  If you are opposed to predictable plots then maybe not.  Considering the favorable reviews are strong and it’s made the 14 Most Buzzed About Books list, I think I’m in the majority on this one when I say – read it!

Hoping to have a better reading month in April.  I have a week off this month so I’m stocking up my Kindle now.  What have you been reading?  Please share some great titles with me as I’m always looking for new reads.

 

February Reads

February was such a short month for reading.  This month, I was craving some suspenseful reads.  I’m not a fan of television and needed some beautiful distraction from the craziness of the world.   I found some gripping thrillers that kept my mind busy and kept me up late many nights.  All of these books were 5 star rated on Goodreads and appeared on many of the must read book lists.  If thrillers are your thing, I believe you’ll find something here that you’ll like.  I enjoyed each of them and highly recommend you check them out.


The Marriage Lie: A Bestselling Novel of Domestic Suspense

Imagine if your husband of seven years, who you are still madly in love with, flies off for a business trip to Florida.  Next thing you know you receive a call from the airlines that he was a passenger on a plane headed for Seattle that has crashed into a field, killing everyone on board.  This is the premise of this fast paced book.

Iris and Will are happily married when her world is shaken to its core.  Iris refuses to believe Will is dead, or for that fact that he was even on that plane.  The book follows her on her quest to find out the truth about what happened.  She learns more than she bargained for about her seemingly perfect husband.  All in all a quick, enjoyable read.


Little Girl Lost: A gripping thriller that will have you hooked (Di Robin Carter)

Abigail seemingly has the perfect life.  Handsome, devoted husband and beautiful baby Izzy.  Suddenly, she starts feeling like something is off in her world.  She starts suspecting she’s losing her mind and someone is trying to kidnap her daughter.  She receives threatening texts and begins to doubt her life is as perfect as she once thought.  Unfortunately, she is hiding a dark past from her husband so she has nowhere to turn for help.

The plot of this book is told in alternating chapters centered around an investigator, DI Robyn Carter, trying to solve the murder of an actor and find a missing teacher.  The narrator of the other chapters is setting the back story for us of a little girl abused.  You wonder if she is Abigail as you try to connect these story lines.

DI Robyn Carter starts to delve deeper and her investigations into both cases lead her back to Abigail.  Robyn’s instincts tell her there’s a connection between these deaths.   This was a fast paced read.  Every time I thought I had it solved it took another twist.  Very enjoyable read.


This Is Not Over: A Novel

When 30-year old Dawn returns from her Getaway.com booked vacation, she fails to receive her deposit back.  She contacts the homeowner to inquire when it will arrive and receives word it should be coming shortly.  Then she gets another email that tells her she will get her deposit back, minus $200 to replace the stained sheets.  Dawn is insulted and angry at what she perceives as dishonest practices.  She contacts Miranda, the homeowner, about this deduction and soon the two are locked in a battle of wills.

The emails between the two women set the stage for the alternating chapters.  I loved this book.   The backstory of each women really carried me through quickly.  Each of these women had secrets they were keeping and real deep rooted reasons for their actions.  They continue to battle right up until the end.  Be prepared to read this in one setting and be totally surprised that it’s about more than just the back and forth between these two stubborn women.


Blink: A psychological thriller with a killer twist you’ll never forget

Three years ago, Toni’s five year old daughter went missing.  She has never been found and  seems to have vanished without a trace.  The book opens with a stroke victim lying in the hospital trapped inside her body.  Everyone thinks she is brain dead and plans are being made to pull the plug.  But this woman is very much alive.  As she struggles to let them know she is alive, we are taken back in time to the days before Evie’s abduction.

We soon learn that Toni was struggling with drug addiction following the death of her husband in Afghanistan.  As we begin to piece together the story of the past, we realize that Toni’s mind is trapped in a world of silence and her only chance to save herself is to find a way to make herself heard.  She must find Evie.

This one has a nice twist toward the end that I didn’t see coming.  I was pretty shocked by it and realized after that the clues were there.  A thriller that kept me turning the pages until I was finished.  A one day read that is perfect for fans of thrillers.

I wonder what genre I’ll be binge reading in March.  I love my psychological thrillers, but maybe it’s time for some historical fiction.  So many books, so little time!  Enjoy and if you read any of these titles I’d love to hear what you thought.

 

January Reads

I loved this book so much.  I’m always hesitant to read dog books because in the end they usually die.  It is for this dog lover the worst part.  Loving a dog brings such joy and happiness. Losing a dog brings such sadness and heartache.   I wish they’d stay longer.

I heard about this book recently and that a movie was being made.  Figured I’d read it before then and boy am I glad I did.  The narration of this book was brilliant.  I was totally connected to the story from the start.  I even managed to get through the sad parts and there were many.

I found some hope here in these pages about dogs.  I know all of mine have had wonderful experiences and love.  It is my hope they feel my gratitude for all they have given me.

Recently, there was disturbing footage about the filming of this movie.  I’m outraged that it happened and will NEVER see the movie. I hope Mr Cameron speaks out about the mistreatment of dogs, as I know he is a dog lover.  You’d have to be to create this book. To allow this to happen and remain silent tarnishes your book.

It is also my hope that people do not boycott the book.  It is a gem that is meant to be read.  Avoid the movie, but please do read the book. It’s with every minute of your time.

I love anything Colleen Hoover writes. She is the master of creating couples, relationships, sexual tension and angst.  This one is no exception.  Lily and Ryle’s story creates the backdrop to a personal journey for Hoover.  Why do people stay in toxic relationships? And how easy is it to judge them.  Hoover perfectly captures this struggle in an unexpected, but powerful story.  Loved it!

A great read for all who are stuck in a never ending diet loop.  Always searching for the next plan and fix? This book will tell you in simple language why you are stuck in this never ending quest.  Endlessly plunking down money on the next fad but never quite conquering the issue.  Easy to read and truly common sense when you think about it.

We lost a great talent this past December.  During the coverage of her passing, I was reminded that Carrie was an author.  I knew this, but had never read her books.  I went on Amazon to check them out and picked up a few.

I was so pleasantly surprised when I read this book.  Carrie’s wit and honesty carried the book.  It also, I feel revealed her struggle.  Mingled in those words was hints of her mental struggles.  This book will touch your heart and also make you laugh out loud.

I forgot about this series that I had started.  I hate series because I hate waiting for the sequels to come out.  The conclusion, though I’d venture to say there will be a book 3, was as riveting as the first book Into the Light (The Light Series).   The series is a bit disturbing as you realize this cult brainwashing can and does happen.  Overall though, it’s a work of fiction that will keep you up late turning pages.  Aren’t those the best types!

My goal for 2017 on Goodreads is 85 books.   With titles like these, I’ll have NO trouble at all.   Happy reading!

 

 

A Homemade Life

Reclaiming My Health

A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table

I’m an avid reader who also loves to cook.   It started when I had my first apartment right out of high school.   There I was at age 18 living in my own and eating cake for dinner.  I remember calling my mother from work and asking her to tell me some recipes for the food I had grown up on.   I typed them on index cards as she recited them  and began experimenting with cooking.

Fast forward to my life as a newly married young mother.  I still relied on those trusted index cards, but I began experimenting a bit.   Unfortunately, my kids like me, didn’t like too much variety and even less vegetables than I did.   It became easier to fry up some cutlets and make some macaroni and cheese.

Sunday dinners were different…

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Dinner a Love Story

Dinner: A Love Story: It all begins at the family table

I’ve been reading a lot for work lately. This weekend I set aside time for some personal reading, but it wasn’t a psychological thriller that called to me.   Rather, it was a beautiful cookbook.

A cookbook you might say.  Who really reads a cookbook?   After all aren’t they really meant to be used to cook?  And, you don’t normally sit down to read a cookbook like a novel.  Usually, you get in, skim through and pick out what you want to cook.

Enter, Dinner a Love Story, by Jenny Rosenstrach.  I have sat here the better part of the day totally engrossed in this book.  I have read every page and feel as if I’ve experienced a story.  This book is not your average cookbook.   There are no lectures on healthy eating and no lists of foods to avoid.  There are no claims to have dinner on your table in less than 30 minutes, or that your kids will love it.  In place of that we have a beautiful story, a journey through life with food as the backdrop.  Heck, I even think you have something here that can and should be made into a movie.

We travel through this book by traveling through Jenny’s life stages from newly married to motherhood.  She centers her stories around her dinner table and the meals she and her husband Andy prepared.  There’s narrative and recipes intertwined throughout the book.

The recipes are not complicated and don’t require exotic ingredients.  Rather, like Grandma Turano’s meatballs, there are meals most will have success with.  And they are delicious.

If you are looking for an enjoyable read with the bonus of delicious recipes, this is your book.  The book is beautiful and will have a favorite spot in my cookbook collection.  I have a feeling it will soon be a fan favorite around here.

What a great gift for any cook in your life.  And, what a gift to put the family dinner back at the forefront of your day.

Run Fast Eat Slow

Run Fast. Eat Slow.: Nourishing Recipes for Athletes

I heard about this book through my running group before the Olympics started.  I’d never heard of Shalane Flanagan, but the premise of this book spoke to me.  Who doesn’t want to run fast and lord knows I need to learn how to eat slow.

Eating slow in this book doesn’t meant put your fork down between bites. Gosh that’s so boring and unrealistic, at least for me.  Eating slow, rather means sitting down at a table, preferably with those you love and eating a home cooked vs fast food meal.  Well amen to that.  I am a huge fan of home cooking and thankfully love to cook.  The biggest obstacle for me is time.  Thankfully the recipes in this book are simple, quick, delicious and healthy.  Sounds like a winning combination and it truly is.

Elyse and Shalane are both runners with Shalane running on the Olympic stage.  It was so exciting for me to watch her in Rio.  They were college friends who both went on to work for Nike.  This book is their first collaboration.  It’s really not just for runners, but if you are one it may boost your energy and fueling habits.

The book has sections for breakfast, snacks, salads, dinner and various other recipes.   It’s definitely clean eating at its best.  It is so important for me to have total control over what goes in my mouth.  Today I made a batch of granola to store for use in my morning Greek yogurt.  Absolutely no sugar or additives needed.  For dinner last night I had chicken breast stuffed with spinach and feta.  After today’s workout a beet and blueberry smoothie.  All delicious and simple.

If you’re at all interested Amazon is currently running a Kindle special of 3.99. A total steal.

Sum it Up

LAURA'S BOOK BLOG

Sum It Up: A Thousand and Ninety-Eight Victories, a Couple of Irrelevant Losses, and a Life in Perspective

I remember when Pat Summitt was diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimers disease and had to step down from coaching at Tennessee.  I remember being saddened that such a young, vibrant woman had to face this cruel disease.  Then, life went on and I didn’t think much about her anymore.  Recently, I was saddened to read that Pat had passed away.  Her battle with Alzheimer’s was brief.  She was diagnosed in 2011 and passed in 2016.  I truly had hoped she’d fight this disease as she fought so many worthy opponents on the basketball court.  But, as anyone who is familiar with this disease, it doesn’t discriminate and it doesn’t lose.  With Pat’s recent passing, I decided to read her book, Sum it Up.

This book is incredible.  It is a memoir that…

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Sum it Up

Sum It Up: A Thousand and Ninety-Eight Victories, a Couple of Irrelevant Losses, and a Life in Perspective

I remember when Pat Summitt was diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimers disease and had to step down from coaching at Tennessee.  I remember being saddened that such a young, vibrant woman had to face this cruel disease.  Then, life went on and I didn’t think much about her anymore.  Recently, I was saddened to read that Pat had passed away.  Her battle with Alzheimer’s was brief.  She was diagnosed in 2011 and passed in 2016.  I truly had hoped she’d fight this disease as she fought so many worthy opponents on the basketball court.  But, as anyone who is familiar with this disease knows, it doesn’t discriminate and it doesn’t lose.  With Pat’s recent passing, I decided to read her book, Sum it Up.

This book is incredible.  It is a memoir that Pat worked on shortly after retirement perhaps to capture her memories.  We all knew what an incredible woman she was, but I had no idea what her life was all about.  Pat tells of her demanding, poor, farm upbringing with a demanding and often distant father.  It wasn’t until Pat was 43 that she got a hug and an I love you from her father.  Something she worked for her whole life, but something which also shaped the coach she became.

This book was well worth reading.  What an amazing life this women had.  What humble beginnings she came from and what a triumph her journey was.  There are so many lessons to be learned from Pat, the ultimate teacher.  She really at heart was a gifted teacher.  There are so many passages I’ve underlined and will use in my life.  She truly captured what I believe about education in this quote:

“My demandingness was based in a fundamental sense that every kid had potential greatness in her–and they understood that, because I made it clear to them.  I’d learned the single most important principle of teaching:they don’t care how much you know, unless they know how much you care.” Pat Summitt

In the beginning of the book, Pat describes Alzheimer’s and eloquently captures its devastation:

“Have you ever walked along a shoreline, only to have your footprints washed away by the surf?  That’s what Alzheimer’s is like.  The waves steadily erase the marks we leave in the sand, all the sand castles.  Some days are better that others – the waves come in and they recede, bringing a fog with them that sometimes clears.” Pat Summitt

I highly recommend everyone, even non basketball lovers like me, read her memoir.  If that’s not something you want to do, then instead make a donation to fight this incurable disease.  I made my donation in Pat’s honor through her foundation at:

http://www.patsummitt.org