reading list

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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Books #32

Get your reading list out! I have some good ones for you to add to your “to read” list. 😀

1 ) The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir

This book was SO GOOD. Run out now and get it! It was a YA book but didn’t read like a YA book, it just read fast. I could not put it down.

The story is about a super religious family who are also reality stars. Think the Kardashians but religious. The father is a famous preacher and they have a crap-ton of kids. Essie is the youngest at 17. Her entire existence has been on the TV. It’s a very odd life.

Then Essie discovers she’s pregnant. Her mother, Celia, has a secret meeting with the show producers and they decide the best move is for Essie to get married. It will boost their ratings and hide the illicit pregnancy. Except Celia doesn’t realize that Essie is manipulating her mother as a way out of that life.

It is such a fascinating read and I loved it!


2 ) A Grown Up Kind of Pretty by Joshilyn Jackson

I was a bit on the fence at the start of this book but then it took off and was so good!

Ginny (“Big”)  is the matriarch of the family. She got pregnant at 15 and left her family and town with her baby, Liza, went back to school and got a job and tried her best to be a good mom. Liza then, at 15, gets pregnant, and has Mosey. She leaves town with the baby but returns two years later asking Big for help. She needs rehab and help with her baby. Big takes her in and they all live together. Liza gets sober, Mosey grows up.

Now Mosey is 15. Liza has had a stroke and Big is taking care of both of them. She decides to have a pool put in to help Liza rehab from her stroke. Except when they take down a tree and start to dig up the yard, bones of a baby are discovered. Who is it? Who buried it?

This book was so incredibly good. I absolutely LOVED the characters. Big and Liza were so real and you just LOVE them. It’s heartwarming how they take care of each other.


3 ) No One Tells You This by Glynnis MacNicol

“If the story doesn’t end with marriage or a child, what then?”

That’s the question in this memoir. Glynnis is a Canadian writer living in New York City. She’s had a somewhat successful career with some ups and down, but as she gets closer and closer to her 40th birthday, she starts to question the script that women are given. Meet a man, get married, have a baby.

At the same time as this, her mother is deteriorating from Parkinson’s and Dementia. She flies back to Toronto frequently to help her parents and her younger sister who has two kids and a baby on the way.

“…this definitely feels like an excellent time to make an exit. But now that the person exiting belonged to me, it didn’t feel that way at all. As it turned out, standing by death’s door, no matter how long you spend there with a person, no matter how comfortable you think you are with its presence, is a great deal different than having that person walk through it. [Loc 71]”

The stress and grief she feels about her mother failing and eventually dying might be hard for some to read, but it’s not the entire focus of the book. The book is about her experiences in her fortieth year trying to figure out what she wants, what she wants her life to look like and to come to peace with the expectations of society.

“I was thirty-nine, the age at which women made do with what they have, take the parts and construct them into something usable. [Loc 586]”

“I was certain that come the stroke of twelve my life would be cleaved in two, a before and an after: all that was good and interesting about me, that made me a person worthy of attention, considered by the world to be full of potential, would be stripped away, and whatever remained would be thrust, unrecognizable, into the void that awaited. [Loc 121]”

I could definitely relate to this book in a lot of ways. I’m almost 39 and I feel 40 looming. Even though I am married and have a toddler, part of me wonders if we will have another baby and then I start doing “the math” and realize we are “running out of time.”

“As thirty-seven became thirty-eight became thirty-nine the calculations became even more pressing and less feasible. Married next week, and pregnant the next morning? Time ticked on. Eventually there was no way to make the numbers add up. I couldn’t outrun my own clock. [Loc 199]”

The book is also about feminism and independence.

“Not every encounter needed to be the first step in a permanent decision. Men, it occured to me, perhaps for the first time in my life, did not need to be a goal. [Loc 1254]”

The book is beautiful to read. The experiences she has are fascinating and the fact that she takes control of her life is very empowering.

“Every woman I knew seemed to think she was failing in some way, had been raised to believe she was lacking, and was certain someone else was doing it better. Had been told never to trust her instincts. [Loc 2957]”

I enjoyed this book a lot and I think a lot of women would relate to her stories.

4 ) The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

Excellent story! Riveting and creepy. There was a gothic theme, supernatural creepiness, with a murder mystery and really good character development.

Fiona is a journalist in a small town in Vermont. Twenty years ago her older sister was brutally murdered by her boyfriend, who is now in prison. But Fiona just can’t let it go and she’s kind of obsessed with where her sister’s body was found — the grounds of Idlewild Hall.

In the 1950’s, Idlewild Hall was a girls boarding school where the “troublemakers” were sent. The girls who were illegitimate offspring, the ones that had no family, or mental illness. Shipped away to the creepy school that definitely has ghosts.

The two stories are intertwined and it was so unexpected and interesting and I really didn’t want the story to end!

5 ) The Banker’s Wife by Cristina Alger

This was a well-written, fast-paced book that could have been “ripped from the headlines.”

Annabel Lerner’s husband is a banker for a Swiss Bank when his plane mysteriously crashes and she’s informed he’s dead. But there’s no body. And now she’s left behind in Geneva, looking for answers and realizing she’s not sure who she can trust.

Marina is a journalist engaged to Grant, son of one of the most powerful men in America who is going to run for president. She uncovers a story so big she can’t sit on it. A story that will have the answers Annabel is looking for.

Very solid thriller. Good story and I could not put it down!


6 ) The Good Liar by Catherine McKenzie

Holy smokes! This book was so good! I could not stop reading it!

There is a horrific explosion in a building in downtown Chicago. Over 500 people were killed. One of them was Cecily’s husband. She is now a widow with two teenage kids and her best friend was also killed in the explosion.

A year later, Cecily is trying to put her life back together, at the same time participating in a documentary film about the explosion and aftermath. She now regrets participating because she can’t escape the tragedy. At the same time, there are two other women who were touched by the explosion and the struggling with the aftermath. The secrets the three of these women are keeping are pretty mind-blowing.

The story was addicting, horrifying and had so many twists and turns. So good!


7 ) The Intermission by Elyssa Friedland

Cass and Jonathan have been married for 5 years. Cass has had a rough year–a miscarriage and her mentor and boss died. Suddenly she is jobless (by choice) and noticing things about her husband that are grating. Feeling unsatisfied with her life, she decides that they will take an “intermission” from their marriage for 6 months and decide if, in fact, they still belong together.

“It felt to her like the absence of intimacy was a third person in the room with them, hovering just out of reach. [pg 53]”

“Until that point, she’d viewed their marriage like a car moving along a highway–some patches were rough, others were smooth sailing, but still they forged onward with a definitive destination in mind. Driving forward as if getting off at any random exit and ditching the car was out of the question. Until, suddenly, it wasn’t. And she was all the way in California, a detour if there ever was one. [pg 112]”

Cass moves from New York City to Hollywood and gets a cushy job that is inspiring and exciting. They share “custody” of their dog in monthly increments where one of them flies back and forth to pass off the dog to the other.

This is a time of reflection for both of them. They both have secrets from each other, some bigger than others. What will happen after 6 months? Will they find their way back to each other? Realize the grass isn’t greener? Or discover things about themselves and each other that reveal they aren’t a good match?

The chapters alternate between Cass and Jonathan’s different perspectives. And with each chapter, you see the story from the other point of view and you start to side with one of the couple over the other…then it flips. I found myself disliking Cass quite a bit, but on one hand I kind of understood where she was coming from. Both characters were flawed and someone unlikable but at the same time, I liked their story. It’s complicated! Like marriage.

“She knew what it felt like when a relationship had substance. It was like a weight you could in your hand, and this wasn’t it. [pg 332]”

This is a book about marriage and self-discovery. It was a character study, so not quite a “page turner” until you get towards the end, then I couldn’t put it down. I had to find out the ending!

Happy Reading!

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