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.

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Second Chances

Life’s Golden Ticket: A Story About Second Chances

 

BRENDON BURCHARD is one of the most watched, quoted, and followed personal development trainers in the world.   Brendon received his second chance at life after surviving a car accident.  This book has 780 reviews on Amazon and 87% of them are 5 star ratings.  It’s also a New York Times best seller, so it’s obviously worth checking out.

This book is an inspirational parable, a tale that will inspire anyone who has felt that perhaps they’d like a second chance to do things differently.  I’m sure we’ve all at some point in our life thought about how things could have been different, if only…..  Well, what if you were handed a golden ticket that could magically start your life anew?

That question is at the heart of Life’s Golden Ticket. The story opens with a woman who has been missing 40 days and just found critically injured.  In her hospital bed she begs her husband to go to the park she has been to.  She gives him an envelope to bring with him.  The husband goes to this park, an abandoned amusement park in which her younger brother had died many years ago.

The man takes the envelope and embarks on a journey of self discovery.  In order to release himself from the issues in his life, he must face his troubling past.  The past has kept him from fulfilling his dreams and living the life he always wanted.  With each character he meets he must answer difficult questions and face up to his shortcomings.  He learns a lesson from each and begins to take a hard look at himself.

The lessons learned here are universal and can be applied to anyone’s life.  The journey had a magical quality to it.  A very enjoyable read with so many great connections to every day life.  Life is so short it would be wonderful for everyone to live the life they truly want.  This tale of love and redemption is a great frame around the wonderful lessons found in the book.  Definitely worth checking out and a very quick read, yet one you will return to to ponder over once you finish.  Best of all there is a present for all in the back of the book in an envelope.  But do not open it until you read the book!

 

 

Dear Mother by Angela Marsons

Dear Mother: A gripping and emotional story that will make you sob your heart out

 

I just knew the moment I started this one it was going to be great.   While I didn’t sob my heart out, as the title indicated I would, I was drawn into the story.  It was an emotional read for sure and thinking about the childhood of these three girls was tough.

Three sisters, Catherine, Alex and Beth.  Very different, yet all equally damaged in their own way from the abuse suffered at the hands of their mother.  Each deals with the effects of that abuse in quite different ways.  Upon the death of their mother, Beth summons the girls back for the funeral.  They have not seen or spoken to each other in many years.  This book is about the emotional toll of physical abuse on the girls that truly shaped who they became as adults.

Each sister has their own story line, but we truly only get to hear from Catherine and Alex. Parts are difficult to read for sure, but it’s a great story of self discovery.  I found it fascinating to read and felt the author did a wonderful job depicting the emotions these characters felt.  Of the two, I was drawn more to Catherine’s story and narration.  The relationship with her twin daughters really shaped my understanding of the long term repercussions of Catherine’s childhood.

My only regret is that we didn’t get to know more about Beth’s backstory.  She was the driving force in the book, yet there was much left unsaid about her.  Highly recommend this one and it’s currently on sale at Amazon for only $3.99.  What a steal.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me a copy of this book to read and review.

New and Noteable

Claiming Noah

An enjoyable debut novel in the psychological thriller genre.  This book tells the story of two families struggling with fertility issues.  Catriona and James decide to donate their frozen embryo after they become pregnant with what will be their last attempt.  They have struggled with fertility and have decided this pregnancy will be their last try no matter what the outcome.  They finally are able to carry this baby to term and after he is born, Catriona struggles terribly with her emotions.

Diana and Liam also have struggled with fertility.  They are thrilled to be able to adopt a frozen embryo and even more excited with the birth of their son.  Diana is thrilled with motherhood and all her prayers seem to have been answered.  Or have they been?

What follows is at times a predictable twist, but ultimately a great read.  The author provides a glimpse into both marriages and her creation of Catriona was flawless.  Her detachment and emotional turmoil were captured perfectly.   A quick read for a day at the beach.  Available now.

Fractured

I really loved this one and am thrilled to see the author has several other books for me to check out.  Interestingly laid out and at times I felt the fracture as you never are really sure what happened.  The author masterfully plots this book to it’s shocking conclusion.

The book is told in alternating chapters with varying narrators.  We alternate between past and present with Julie and John’s narration.  Never really sure what has transpired, we know that someone has died but not who.

The book opens with author Julie Prentice and her family moving into a development in Cincinnati.  Julie has had an issue with a stalker, Heather, who’s terrorized her.  She hopes to start again in this new town as she writes her second book.  Julie is a runner and she meets her neighbor John who also runs.  A friendship ensues between the two but things quickly begin to get interesting.

After a series of misunderstandings, Julie and her family are made to feel unwelcome. Julie can’t do anything right and you really do feel sorry for her as you read the events.  Each time I found myself wondering what else could possibly happen.  McKenzie masterfully crafts the story and really weaves it along in a fractured way.  Just enough to keep you wondering and guessing.  Loved it!  Available for preorder now.

Damaged: A Novel (A Rosato & DiNunzio Novel)

After a slow start that felt like the author was teaching us about the educational system and dyslexia, the story and Patrick pulled at my heart.  The book opens with Edward O’Brien hiring Mary DiNunzio to represent him in a lawsuit a school-aide filed against his grandson Patrick.  He is accused of stabbing the aide with a scissor.

Ten year old Patrick soon wins over Mary as she realizes he’s dyslexic, suffering from anxeity and been shuffled through a school system that is failing him.  Patrick gets to Mary’s heart and mine as well.  As we learn more about him we find ourselves wondering if there’s more to his story than meets the eye.  Is he really a sweet, sad, 10 year old boy, or is he a sociopath?  Very emotional read that kept me turning the pages past my bedtime.  I highly recommend this one.  Available August 16th.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers of these books for providing me copies to read and review.

 

New Summer Reads

The Sister: A psychological thriller with a brilliant twist you won’t see coming

This debut novel by Louis Jensen was an enjoyable read to kick off my beach vacation.  Told in alternating chapters of past and present, Grace narrates the tale of her life after losing her best friend Charlie.  The book opens with Grace going back to retrieve a time capsule the two young girls buried together long ago.  In it was a collection of items, including a letter Charlie made Grace promise not to read until they were grown up.  She also made her promise they’d read it together.  The book is about the impact of Charlie’s death on Grace and her quest to find answers about what happened to Charlie prior to her death.

I thought the character Grace was really well developed.  There was a lot of depth to her emotional struggles and I felt connected with her story throughout the book.  I think Grace’s story is what kept me turning the pages of this book.  The husband Dan was not as well developed and you could see immediately where the book was going with his story line.

I enjoyed the book, though there were some parts that were perhaps a bit much, no need for so many shocking events in one book.  I was able to figure out the twist a bit ahead of the end due to strong foreshadowing throughout the book, but not all of it.  There were still a few surprises.  All in all it’s a quick, enjoyable read and this author has great potential to become a best seller in this genre.  I look forward to reading her next novel.

 

To Have and to Hold (Wedding Belles)

My second read this vacation was the first book in a new series by Lauren Layne.  I loved this book and it’s not usually a genre I read.  This would appeal to those who like books by Lisa Renee Jones and even the Fifty Shades folks, though this is a much more vanilla read.  The book does have some steamy sex scenes for fans of those genre, just not as many and definitely not as descriptive.

The book opens with Seth finding out his younger sister Maya is engaged to her new, very short term boyfriend.  He is immediately suspicious of the relationship and worries it’s about gaining access to the family’s money.  Maya hires a wedding planner, Brooke Baldwin to help plan the wedding.  Brooke was a wedding planner in California and has just moved to NYC after her own wedding fell apart at the altar, literally.

Upon their first meeting, sexual sparks are flying between Seth and Brooke.  The book really captures their sexual tension well and you feel the angst of both characters.  All of the characters are likable and ones you’ll want to spend more time with in the anticipated future books of the series.  Personally, I liked Brooke the best and felt her character made the story come alive.  I liked her spunk and ability to get back up after being knocked down big time.  I liked the miscommunication and tension between her and Seth throughout the book.

The second book had a preview available and I was a bit disappointed that it appears to be focusing on a different character.  I had hoped for more of Seth and Brook, but that could come in the future.

A perfect beach read, a quick, steamy summer read.

Thank you to Netgalley and both publishers for providing me copies of these books to read and review.

 

 

Into the Light

Into the Light (The Light Series Book 1)

A friend of mine recommended I check out this book.  She raved about it so I was sold.  I figured it would be a great kick off to my beach reading this week.

I’m the type of reader who hates being left hanging.  I like to wrap things up and read furiously until all is revealed to me.  For this reason I tend to avoid series, unless all the books in it have been completed.  I’m truly not a patient person.

Enter this book, Into The Light.  As I’m sitting on the beach reading, I’m patiently waiting to know exactly who Sarah is.  I have my suspicions but am anxious for the big reveal.  Suddenly, I notice I’m at 95% and nowhere close to it happening.  I start to get suspicious about this whole read.  I immediately go on Amazon to look and sure enough it’s the first book in a series. No fair!!

I didn’t want to like it now.  I didn’t want to have to do the whole waiting for the sequel.  But, alas as all good series books do, Ms. Romig left me hanging big time.  The mother of all cliff hangers was exposed.  Yes, I found out who Sarah really was.  But oh my was my mind blown up.  What just happened here.

I am purposefully not summarizing this one at the risk of revealing too much.  You’ll just have to trust me and get it.  I will, though, warn you upfront it’s a SERIES and the other books are not yet released.

Quick read with awesome mind twists.  Thanks Caroline.

The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett

The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett

What a delightful, quirky book this was.  The narration by Hawthorne was hilarious at times and really deep at others.

This book is about the high school experience, as told by nerdy Hawthorne.   She’s not enjoying her time there and truly let’s you know why.   The quirkiness of the characters in this book reminded me of those in The Fault in Our Stars .  When the book opens we soon find out that Lizzie Lovett is missing.  Hawthorne becomes obsessed with this fact as Lizzie is somewhat of an obsession to her already.  She embarks on a mission to find Lizzie through no plan of her own.  It just kind of happens.  All of the characters in this book have a slight oddness about them.  Putting them together in one book is sheer genius.  I laughed out loud often in this book, yet was deeply touched by it as well.  As the editor’s note in the beginning said, I didn’t really want it to end and I highlighted many passages to reread and savor.

Two passages I highlighted speak to the deep emotions that can be found lurking in the pages of this book.  First, early in the book we get a sense of Hawthorne’s feelings about Lizzie,

“The thing is, Emily is right.  I was jealous of Lizzie, but not of how pretty and popular and perfect she was.  I envied Lizzie’s happiness.  It seemed unfair that she should have so much of it when other people had so little.”  

This passage really keyed us in to the depth of Hawthorne’s personal unhappiness.  It also gives us another way to think about what is happening in the minds of many high school geeks.  How many suffer in silence, sitting on the sidelines.

Second, toward the end of the book,

“”It’s weird.  After all this time searching for her and trying to understand her life, I still don’t feel like I know her.  Everyone I talked to saw her as a totally different person.  And I thought it was intentional.  Like Lizzie changed personalities depending on who she was with.  But now, I don’t know.”  Emily thought about it for a moment.  “Maybe people saw her the way they wanted to see her.  Maybe that’s how it always is.” If that was the case, I wondered how people saw me.  How many different versions of Hawthorn Creely were out there in the world, living in people’s heads?  How close were any of them to the actual me?”  

I mean I could go on and on and just share so many highlighted pieces.  Yes, it feels like a coined messages about life on some pages, but others like these two show just how much truly can be learned from these pages.

The book is a young adult read, but does have a sensitive topic, so more for middle school and up.  I highly recommend reading the book when it is released.  It’s not due out until January and I’ll surely remind you when that happens.  I even love the cover of this book, don’t you?

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me an early copy of the book to read and review.