Books #33

After reading a few duds and quitting on a few books that were just plain terrible, I finally got a groove and read some really, really excellent books. Here are some new ones to add to your list:

1 ) The Wedding Sisters by Jamie Brenner

This might be one of my favorite chick-lit books ever! It had it’s definite moments of ridiculousness, but it was well-written and I was totally engrossed and loved the characters.

Meryl and Hugh have three daughters–Meg, Amy and Jo. Meg is engaged to marry Stowe, who’s father is an up and coming politician. Meg is a political journalist that loves her job. In the middle of planning their wedding, Amy gets engaged to her boyfriend, Andy. Andy is the son of a fashion designer. Then there’s Jo. The youngest daughter, lesbian, who is dumped by the love of her life only to decide to impulsively marry her best friend Toby as an “arrangement” for them both.

How will Meryl and Hugh even afford three weddings? The solution: one wedding for all three daughters. And of course, the press get wind of this and an exclusive with People Magazine just might help pay for the wedding. Except…everyone involved has their own secrets that will eventually come out, as secrets do.

I enjoyed this book so much. I really liked each sister’s story–which is hard to do with several “main” characters. There’s always one character I don’t care much about but this book wasn’t like that.  I felt invested in each sister’s story, I was surprised by the ending (and loved it) and there were definitely some legitimate emotional things in the book.


2 )  The Girl Before by JP Delaney

This is an odd book but it was so good! I couldn’t put it down.

The story is told between past and present, Emma’s story and Jane’s story.

Emma and Simon are looking for a new apartment after a horrible break-in. Emma was traumatized and needs to feel safe. They can’t find anything that makes her comfortable in their budget and then their agent tells them about a unique house. It is a one-in-a-kind house built by a famous (or infamous) architect.

The only drawback? There is a list of rules for the house that you cannot deviate from and you have to sign up to participate in survey questions periodically. Emma and Simon each wear an electronic brace that “talks” to the house. It turns on the shower–and the shower remembers what temperature you like in your shower. There are also special settings for the lights according to moods and times of the year (think SAD lights in the winter).

The advanced technology of the house seems intriguing but after moving in, Emma and Simon’s relationship deteriorates and Simon moves out. Edward, the architect, has taken an interest in Emma and they begin an affair similar to 50 Shades of Gray.

Fast forward to present day. Jane is recovering from a horrible tragedy (that might be very triggering for a lot of people) and needs to reset her life. She, too, needs a new place to live and can’t afford anything else…her agent suggests this house. She moves in and discovers that the previous tenant, Emma, died in the house. She becomes obsessed with finding out who killed her and why. At the same time, Jane starts an affair with Edward, too.

Emma and Jane’s lives parallel in a very creepy way. The book is fascinating, frightening and intriguing. I loved the book.

3 ) I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi

Maddy seems like your typical SAHM of a teenage daughter, married to a man who is married to his career. She’s the keeper of the house, the cornerstone of the family. She has friends, a well-off lifestyle. She’s smart and funny and volunteers are the college library and she has pearls of wisdom for every situation.

“Whenever we were around parents who had black-and-white goals for their children, your mother felt sorry for the whole family–the parents because they’d be perpetually disappointed, and the kids because they’d always feel nothing was good enough. She believed there was nothing worse a parent could pass on to a child than guilt. [pg 75]”

So when she commits suicide, the people left behind are confused, heartbroken and struggling to grasp what they missed. It turned out, they missed a lot.

Eve and Brady read parts of Maddy’s journal and realize that they both took her for granted and didn’t cherish her the way they should have–the way they do now that she’s gone.

“Reading the day from her point of view I see she was a punching bag and my dad and I gave her a daily workout. I’m starting to wonder why she didn’t jump sooner. I’m never getting married or having kids. We suck. [pg 103]”

“Well…Mostly I’m mad at her. I think, She did this to me. She left us. She had no right to do something that radical without informing me something was wrong in the first place. [pg 109]”

Even though Maddy is dead, her spirit can’t quite move on. She watches over her husband and daughter and decides that they need someone to help them with their grief and help them move on. She starts “haunting” them (planting thoughts in their minds)–and the woman Maddy thinks is her perfect replacement–she wants Brady and Eve to heal, to rely on each other and not break completely. Except Brady and Eve have no idea how to even have a relationship–or a conversation with each other–without Maddy there as the buffer and leader.

It sounds silly that Maddy is a ghost character in this book, but it doesn’t come across as cheesy. So give it a chance! The story is told from each character’s point of view and you really feel their grief and anger and sadness. It’s well done and real.

” ‘If an hour passes where you don’t think of Her, that’s ok.’ Eve steps back, physically distancing herself from the thought. ‘Really, honey. It can’t be all mourning, all day, every day day. Living doesn’t mean you’re over it or selfish or cold; it just means you’re still here, and she’s not.’ [pg 216]”

The book is emotionally compelling and makes you reevaluate how you treat the people in your own life. What have you missed because you were too busy/preoccupied/selfish to notice? Have you taken for granted what your spouse or parent does for you? Have you thanked them?

Brady remembers an argument with his late wife on her last birthday:

” ‘When I blew out the candles tonight, I wished for my next birthday to not feel like such a goddamn chore to my immediate family. I would’ve rather been alone. Again.’ [pg 184]”

“…you don’t realize it until it’s too late. Maddy, Eve, my mother–the carousel of women I’ve disappointed. It’s as if I’m running because they’re chasing me. [pg 155]”

If I could give this book a million stars, I would. I absolutely loved the characters and the way the story unfolded. I was glad the ending happened the way it did.


4 ) This Was Not the Plan by Cristina Alger

I really liked this book. It was emotional and gut-wrenching at times, but also funny and heart-warming. Charlie’s life has not gone quite as planned. His wife, the love of his life, died and now he is trying to balance raising their 5 years old son alone (with the help of his sister) and working insane hours as a lawyer. It’s a tough spot to be in. He is trying to make partner, but at the same time, he’s missing everything about his son’s life.

Then at an office party when Charlie has a bit too much to drink after staying up for 72 hours working on a big case, he makes a speech that goes viral and he loses his job. Except, that might turn out to be the best thing for him. Maybe he can reconnect with his child, learn how to be a father, reconnect with his own estranged father and figure out how to balance his life and work.

I liked the characters and the story. The one flaw of the book was probably that Charlie wasn’t very likable. He was a burned out, stressed out, grieving man who was incredibly selfish (at all times) and apparently had a temper issue and took it out on the people around him. But….that being said, it was still a good story.

5 ) A Gathering of Secrets (Kate Burkholder #10) by Linda Castillo

This is the latest book in the series. It starts with a barn that burns down. Chief Kate Burkholder goes to investigate and they discover that an Amish teenager was burned alive inside the barn. But the more she digs into the homicide, she realizes that the teen was not who he seemed.

What I like about these books is that the author describes the Amish culture and how they interact with the “English” culture. The dynamics are a very interesting addition to a typical mystery book. This story was a page-turner but there was some description of sexual assault, so it might not be for everyone.


6 ) This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

I REALLY enjoyed this book. I thought the writing was funny and witty and dark. I laughed many times, even though the subject matter was pretty heavy. Here is an example of some of the humor:

“…but Wendy doesn’t seem at all inclined to go upstairs and quiet the baby. ‘We’re Letting Her Cry,’ she announces, like it’s a movement they’ve joined. If they’re letting her cry anyway, I don’t really see the point of the baby monitor, but that’s one of those questions I’ve learned not to ask, because I’ll just get that condescending look all parents reserve for non-parents, to remind you that you’re not yet a complete person. [pg 46]”

The book is full of little quips like that. This is a story about family dramas, family dynamics, death and love.

“At some point you lose sight of your actual parents; you just see a basketful of history and unresolved issues. [pg 42]”

Judd Foxman’s father, Mort, has died after a long illness.

“Childhood feels so permanent, like it’s the entire world, and then one day it’s over and you’re shoveling wet dirt onto your father’s coffin, stunned at the impermanence of everything. [pg 42]”

Judd returns home to sit Shiva with the whole family: the oldest sister Wendy (and her two toddlers and baby and worthless husband), his older brother Paul and her wife (who are struggling to get pregnant), and his flaky younger brother Phillip (with his fiancee who is a good 20 years older than him) all arrive to sit shiva with their mother for a week.

Except, at the same time as the family tragedy, Judd has his own tragedy: he walks in on his wife sleeping with HIS boss! So in one fell-swoop, he loses his wife and his job. His life is in disarray and now he’s spending a week with his family.

“Sometimes, contentment is a matter of will. You have to look at what you have right in front of you, at what it could be, and stop measuring it against what you’ve lost. I know this to be wise and true, just as I know that pretty much no one can do it. [pg 293]”

But despite the sadness and drama, this is also a story about grief, appreciating family, and finding a way to heal.

” ‘Why didn’t I miss him more when he was alive? He was dying for two years, and I only visited him a handful of times. What could have been more important than spending time with your father?’ [pg 304]”

It’s an often emotional book, but it’s written really well and I think most people could find something they relate to in it.

7 ) Lost Girls (D.I. Kim Stone #3) by Angela Marsons

Excellent excellent detective novel! This was such a good book, I could not stop reading it. This is the third book in the British series and Detective Inspector Kim Stone is still rough around the edges, and this particular case is close to sending her over the edge.

Two 10 year old girls, best friends, have been kidnapped and ransomed. Except that the kidnappers have texted the parents and said only one girl will return–the other will die. So who is the highest bidder for their daughter to be the one to live?

Kim’s team immediately takes action to find the girls. Especially considering 13 months ago, this happened before and only one girl was returned. They cannot let that happen again. There are twists and turns and lies and betrayals…and the team pursues the kidnappers with a vengeance.

The book just does not stop. There is never a good point to put it down, you want to finish this one in one sitting!

8 ) The Chalk Man by CJ Tudor

Very well done, creepy mystery book!

This book takes place in 1986 and 2016 in a small English town. It has a very cool vibe to it, kind of made me think of Stand By Me. There is definitely a nostalgic feel to the book and you really feel like you are back in time.

It’s the summertime and five friends: Eddie, Mickey, “Fat Gav”, Nicky and “Hoppo” are 12 years old and best friends just riding their bikes and dealing with bullies. They create a secret code to talk to each other, each kid designated a chalk color, and they write each other messages and clues as to where to meet up. Then one afternoon the chalk messages lead them into the woods where they find a dismembered body.

The story alternates to 2016, where Eddie is now an adult and a teacher in the same town and he’s trying to figure out if something was missed back in 1986. Then a letter arrives with a chalk drawing and Mickey is back in town and desperately needs to meet up with Eddie to talk about what happened. What does it all mean?

There are so many layers to this story, it’s fascinating how it all unravels. I did not see any of it coming. What I thought I had figured out was wrong. The ending was quite a surprise. Excellent book!


Happy Reading!

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Author: Lisa Eirene

About Lisa Eirene Lisa lost 110 pounds through calorie counting and exercise. She swims, bikes, runs, hikes and is enjoying life in Portland, Oregon. Her weight loss story has been featured in First Magazine, Yahoo Health, Woman's Day and

3 thoughts on “Books #33”

  1. Those sound good! Have you tried the Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling)? They are super good – modern-day London, former British Army guy setting up his own struggling detective agency, hires a young woman to be an office assistant and she really gets into doing detective work too. The fourth book just came out last week, and not only did I go buy it on release day in hardcover, but I finished it in 3 nights. Highly recommend! The first one is called The Cuckoo’s Calling.

  2. I can second Beth’s suggestion of the Galbraith books – they are excellent and I’m looking forward to #4 very much. There’s also a BBC series from them titled C.B. Strike that I’m hoping to watch – don’t know if it’s on Netflix or not.

    Thanks for the great batch of books, Lisa – I’ll be adding a bunch to my list! I am currently reading The Invention of Ana by Mikkel Rosengaard, about a young Danish guy who meets an older Romanian woman while living in Brooklyn. She’s telling him stories about her childhood that are quite compelling. I’m about half way through it and it just sucks you in. I have no idea where it’s going, though, which can be fun!

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