Category Archives: Books

Afterwards: A Novel

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Afterwards: A Novel by Rosamund Lupton StarStarStarStar

Amazon Book Description: The school is on fire. Her children are inside.  Grace runs toward the burning building, desperate to reach them.  In the aftermath of the devastating fire which tears her family apart, Grace embarks on a mission to find the person responsible and protect her children from further harm.  This fire was not an accident, and her daughter Jenny may still be in grave danger. Grace is the only one who can discover the culprit, and she will do whatever it takes to save her family and find out who committed the crime that rocked their lives.  While unearthing truths about her life that may help her find answers, Grace learns more about everyone around her — and finds she has courage she never knew she possessed.  Powerful and beautiful, with a riveting story and Lupton’s trademark elegant style that made Sister such a sweeping success, Afterwards explores the depths of a mother’s unswerving love.

My Review: I first discovered this author about a year ago when I read her first novel Sister (my review here).  At the time, her next novel wasn’t coming out until April of 2012 and then I was waiting for it to appear in the library as an ebook (because I’m cheap), so when I searched for what to read on our Babymoon and this popped up as available, I jumped all over it.  Rosamund has done it again.  A captivating story, which struck me to the core… maybe because I’m pregnant… about the lengths a mother will go to for her child(ren).  Also, a special look into how a father deals with the same tragedy in a different, but just as emotional way – and how a marriage twists and turns as information is uncovered.  I loved the mother’s voice throughout and the unique approach Rosamund took in telling this story, just as she did with Sister.  A refreshing book that is seemingly straightforward, but not predictable in the least, I enjoyed reading every moment and getting to know each character only to find I (and the mother) were all wrong about them.  A great story about manipulation, innocence, and unbending love that turns a mother into a protective bear when the time calls.  A great read, even if simple and sometimes far-fetched, highly recommend.

Next up… The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer or the our next bookies selection, which I can’t remember right now (ha!).

**I was not asked to, or compensated for, writing this book review.

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2012 Books in Review

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Books read in 2012!

  1. Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah
    — Considering I have never given 5 stars before, you can imagine how much I loved this book.  I don’t think I’ve ever actually laughed out loud and then cried during one book before.  This is definitely chick lit, but that doesn’t make me love it any less.  My mom has been on me for months to read it and I should have stopped all other reading and focused on this.  Don’t be fooled about this being just another WWII book, as it’s most certainly nothing like that.  It’s about a mother’s unwavering love (there’s nothing quite the same) and her two daughters, as they try to explore their stoic Russian mother’s past.  The depth of the fairy tale is so distant and tortuous that you keep wishing it wasn’t real.  In disbelief that someone could endure that kind of pain and then continue forward.  But it is.  I finished the story wondering if I would be able to display the same amount of courage and selflessness that I read about.  And honestly, I hope I never have to find out.  Pick this up and prepare for a gripping read; you won’t regret it.
  2. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
    — BOOOOOOORING.  That’s right.  A global best seller and I thought it was awfully boring.  Is it a children’s book?  Because that’s surely how it is written.  Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE a good YA novel.. um, hello?  HARRY POTTER?! HUNGER GAMES?! TWILIGHT?! (yes, that  may be the first time I’ve pronounced my love for Twilight in print), but this was terrible terrible terrible.  So, I clearly don’t get the hype.  And at only 176 pages, this business should have held my attention.  The boy, if really as young as he’s described, is far too mature and serious for a child.  His thoughts are filled with life-altering introspection and not enough impulse.  Even in his misfortunes, I was annoyed at the description of the scenarios and his responses.  I suppose “everyone should read this”, but if you want my opinion, your time would be better spent doing anything else.  ANYTHING.  ELSE.  Of course, I did finish it, because my type-A tendencies still get the best of me and I wanted to be able to intelligently describe my disinterest in the story at book club tonight, but I won’t recommend you to the same torture.  I’m sad to say I’m now one of the 23 million people who purchased this book… and I can’t imagine I’m the only one that wishes I could take that back.  SKIP IT.
  3. Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
    — Although all three novels were filled with terrible writing and comical narrative, they still provided just the right amount of entertainment needed for easy and relaxing vacation reading.  That said, I don’t feel the need to write a full review on each, but will tell you that they were just what all chic lit is meant to be: romantic, saucy, shocking, and unrealistic – but that’s perfect for the beach.
  4. Fifty Shades Darker by E.L. James
  5. Fifty Shades Freed by E.L. James
  6. Wife by Wednesday by Catherine Bybee
    — It was cute, romantic, and predictable.  Jackpot for chic lit on vacation.
  7. Night Road by Kristin Hannah
    — First impression, this book kept my interest.  It took me almost a month to read between being so busy and tired and just not making time, that I wondered if I would ever finish.  But when I did have time, I picked it up instead of the newest catalog or magazine and kept on reading out of sheer need to “know what happened” (also, I can’t NOT finish a book…).  The thoughts of a high school girl brought me tumbling back into being 16 and feeling and wondering everything Lexi and Mia did at one time or another.  And as a Type-A personality, I can only imagine I’ll want to control the worlds of my children just as much as Jude did.  Making stupid decisions that seemed smart at the time and having to live with their consequences, is what I think every teen and parents goes through.  It was especially fun to read about it now, when I feel I have a much better view of the world and its bigger priorities.  As The Huffington Post states above, I can already see how I may think back to this story in ten years and feel hints of similarity and maybe chose a different path because I’ve seen it from different views now.  Kristin Hannah does it again, as she did with Winter Garden (read more about that one here), making me feel so attached to the characters that I fall into their lives and end up feeling what they feel.  Kristin Hannah, you’ve got to STOP making me cry when I’m reading!!  So if you like novels that make you feel the way only a Nicholas Sparks and now Kristin Hannah can do, pick this one up!
  8. Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected–A Memoir by Kelle Hampton
    — I’ve spoken about the inspiring blog, Enjoying The Small Things, before, so when Kelle Hampton announced on her blog that she was writing a book, I didn’t hesitate and pre-ordered it that day.  From reading her blog daily, I was already prepared for his grippingly honest and real accounts on life.  Kelle refuses to hold emotions back, even if they may stir up a negative or condescending reaction.  And that’s what I love about her.  She doesn’t pretend to be the world’s unruly definition of “perfect” and have only thoughts of rainbows and unicorns.  No, some days are a struggle, but in her new-found perspective she amazingly transform them into beauty.  To say I was enthralled by her memoir would be an understatement.  I read it in 2 days.  And it would have been 2 hours had I not had to do this thing called work.  Even though I knew the story of Nella’s entrance into the world and have seen her gorgeous face every week on Kelle’s blog, I drank in every word and photo as if it could be my own story someday.  And that translates to the fact that for the majority of my reading, I was also crying.  I could feel her pain that was so accurately described and I think that anyone in any situation has felt that terrifying gut-wrenching pain before.  This book isn’t just about Kelle’s journey of acceptance and new world view, but really about taking anything in life that isn’t as you imagined and learning to see the other side.  The beautiful and rich side.  The side that makes you feel grateful.  Because as one of her many manta, and maybe mine now too, what will we do with “our one wild and precious life” (original quote by Mary Oliver)?  Will we hide behind it with worry and fear living in our minds, or will we embrace it and love it instead.  I choose to love it.
  9. Gone Girl: A Novel by Gillian Flynn
    — All the hype and excitement; ruined.  I had heard great things!  NY Times Best Seller, blah blah blah… the last 50 pages ruined all of the work that the author had done in the first 380.  I will say that her ability to take on the voice of both Nick and Amy, separately, was pretty astonishing, but I’m still riling about the wrap-up and overall ending of the book.  It took me only a weekend to get through, as you want to keep going, but only because you have to get to the next chapter to see what would happen to the OTHER character.  It’s a nasty writer-trick to get you reading “just one more chapter” every time.  I didn’t think the story was very creative and honestly, aside from me not predicting that the ending would be terrible, the rest was pretty predictable and boring.  I, of course, won’t spoil it for you, but know you’ll be disappointed.  Worst part, I think this book ruined this author for me, for good.  Gillian Flynn, you could have done so much better.
  10. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern 
    — With no intricate detail left to wonder, this book takes you away to your furthest imagination where magic can capture your every emotion.  And even with some predictable plot twists, the story keeps your interest throughout.  I also wish that this was a real circus, because I would go every night to discover a new tent or avenue that is not able to be explained and pushes what you think the rules and boundaries are of life.  I especially loved each character in the story in their own way for adding an eccentric poke, but with real emotion behind it.  I could even read this book again to relive such a unique story and smell the atmosphere of the circus once again.  Truly a one-of-a-kind story to whisk you away from the couch and into a life you aren’t sure you ever want to leave.  I will absolutely read more by this author, who takes detailed writing to an entirely new level.  It’s a perfect escape into the magic you enjoyed as a child, but without the guilt because you’re now an adult.
  11. through 20.  Girlfriends Guide to Pregnancy, What to Expect When You’re Expecting, Parenting magazine, Baby Bargains, various mom blogs, Oh Baby the Places You’ll Go, The Baby Name Wizard, Mayo Clinic – Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy, Pregnancy Childbirth and the Newborn, and multitudes of emails from family and friends with wise advice.

2013 may prove the need to discontinue this blog post as I imagine my reading time will significantly decrease come March, but we’ll see.  For past posts, click here for 2011 and 2010.

The Night Circus

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The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern StarStarStarStar

Amazon Book Description: The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.  But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.

My Review: With no intricate detail left to wonder, this book takes you away to your furthest imagination where magic can capture your every emotion.  And even with some predictable plot twists, the story keeps your interest throughout.  I also wish that this was a real circus, because I would go every night to discover a new tent or avenue that is unexplainable and pushes what you think the rules and boundaries are of life.  I especially loved each character in the story in their own way for adding an eccentric poke, but with real emotion behind it.  I could even read this book again to relive such a unique story and smell the atmosphere of the circus once again.  Truly a one-of-a-kind story to whisk you away from the couch and into a life you aren’t sure you ever want to leave.  I will absolutely read more by this author, who takes detailed writing to an entirely new level.  It’s a perfect escape into the magic you enjoyed as a child, but without the guilt because you’re now an adult.

Next up… I’m reading about a book per century at this point, so who knows.

**I was not asked to, or compensated for, writing this book review.

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Gone Girl

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Gone Girl: A Novel by Gillian Flynn Star

Amazon Book Description: Marriage can be a real killer.  One of the most critically acclaimed suspense writers of our time, New York Times bestseller Gillian Flynn takes that statement to its darkest place in this unputdownable masterpiece about a marriage gone terribly, terribly wrong. The Chicago Tribune proclaimed that her work “draws you in and keeps you reading with the force of a pure but nasty addiction.” Gone Girl’s toxic mix of sharp-edged wit and deliciously chilling prose creates a nerve-fraying thriller that confounds you at every turn.  On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?  As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet? With her razor-sharp writing and trademark psychological insight, Gillian Flynn delivers a fast-paced, devilishly dark, and ingeniously plotted thriller that confirms her status as one of the hottest writers around.

My Review: All the hype and excitement; ruined.  I had heard great things!  NY Times Best Seller, blah blah blah… the last 50 pages ruined all of the work that the author had done in the first 380.  I will say that her ability to take on the voice of both Nick and Amy, separately, was pretty astonishing, but I’m still riling about the wrap-up and overall ending of the book.  It took me only a weekend to get through, as you want to keep going, but only because you have to get to the next chapter to see what would happen to the OTHER character.  It’s a nasty writer-trick to get you reading “just one more chapter” every time.  I didn’t think the story was very creative and honestly, aside from me not predicting that the ending would be terrible, the rest was pretty predictable and boring.  I, of course, won’t spoil it for you, but know you’ll be disappointed.  Worst part, I think this book ruined this author for me, for good.  Gillian Flynn, you could have done so much better.

Next up… Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford OR The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer

**I was not asked to, or compensated for, writing this book review.

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Bloom

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Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected–A Memoir by Kelle Hampton StarStarStarStarStar

Amazon Book Description:

Love me. Love me. I’m not what you expected, but oh, please love me.

That was the most defining moment of my life. That was the beginning of my story.

From the outside looking in, Kelle Hampton had the perfect life: a beautiful two-year-old daughter, a loving husband, a thriving photography career, and great friends. When she learned she was pregnant with her second child, she and her husband, Brett, were ecstatic. Her pregnancy went smoothly and the ultrasounds showed a beautiful, healthy, high-kicking baby girl.

But when her new daughter was placed in her arms in the delivery room, Kelle knew instantly that something was wrong. Nella looked different than her two-year-old sister, Lainey, had at birth. As she watched friends and family celebrate with champagne toasts and endless photographs, a terrified Kelle was certain that Nella had Down syndrome—a fear her pediatrician soon confirmed. Yet gradually Kelle’s fear and pain were vanquished by joy, as she embraced the realization that she had been chosen to experience an extraordinary and special gift.

With lyrical prose and gorgeous full-color photography, Bloom takes readers on a wondrous journey through Nella’s first year of life—a gripping, hilarious, and intensely poignant trip of transformation in which a mother learns that perfection comes in all different shapes. It is a story about embracing life and really living it, of being fearless and accepting difference, of going beyond constricting definitions of beauty, and of the awesome power of perspective. As Kelle writes, “There is us. Our Family. We will embrace this beauty and make something of it. We will hold our precious gift and know that we are lucky.”

My Review: I’ve spoken about the inspiring blog, Enjoying The Small Things, before, so when Kelle Hampton announced on her blog that she was writing a book, I didn’t hesitate and pre-ordered it that day.  Oh and then I counted the days until it arrived.  From reading her blog daily, I was already prepared for her grippingly honest and real account on life.  Kelle refuses to hold emotions back, even if they may stir up a negative or condescending reaction.  And that’s what I love about her.  She doesn’t pretend to be the world’s unruly definition of “perfect” and have only thoughts of rainbows and unicorns.  No, some days are a challenge, but in her new found perspective she amazingly transform them into beauty.  To say I was enthralled by her memoir would be an understatement.  I read it in 2 days.  And it would have been 2 hours had I not had to do this silly thing called work.  Even though I knew the story of Nella’s entrance into the world and have seen her gorgeous face every week on Kelle’s blog, I drank in every word and photo as if it could be my own story someday.  And that translates to the fact that for the majority of my reading, I was also crying.  I could feel her pain that was so accurately described and I think that anyone in any situation has felt that terrifying gut-wrenching pain before.  This book isn’t just about Kelle’s journey of acceptance and new world view, but really about taking anything in life that isn’t as you imagined and learning to see the other side.  The beautiful and rich side.  The side that makes you feel grateful.  Because as one of her many mantras, and maybe mine now too, what will we do with “our one wild and precious life” (original quote by Mary Oliver)?  Will we hide behind it with worry and fear living in our minds, or will we embrace it and love it instead.  I choose to love it.

Next up… Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford OR The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer

**I was not asked to, or compensated for, writing this book review.

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Night Road

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Night Road by Kristin Hannah

Amazon Book Description: For eighteen years, Jude Farraday has put her children’s needs above her own, and it shows — her twins, Mia and Zach, are bright and happy teenagers. When Lexi Baill moves into their small, close-knit community, no one is more welcoming than Jude. Lexi, a former foster child with a dark past, quickly becomes Mia’s best friend. Then Zach falls in love with Lexi and the three become inseparable. Jude does everything to keep her kids on track for a good life and out of harm’s way. But senior year of high school tests them all, and on a hot summer’s night, one bad decision will change the course of all their lives. In the blink of an eye, the Farraday family will be torn apart and Lexi will lose everything. In the years that follow, each must face the consequences of that single night and find a way to forget…or the courage to forgive. Vivid, universal, and emotionally complex, Night Road raises profound questions about motherhood, identity, love, and forgiveness. It is a luminous, heartbreaking novel that captures both the exquisite pain of loss and the stunning power of hope. This is Kristin Hannah at her very best, telling an unforgettable story about the longing for family, the resilience of the human heart, and the courage it takes to forgive the people we love. “You cannot read Night Road and not be affected by the story and the characters. The total impact of the book will stay with you for days to come after it is finished.” — The Huffington Post

My Review: First impression, this book kept my interest.  It took me almost a month to read between being so busy and tired and just not making time, that I wondered if I would ever finish.  But when I did have time, I picked it up instead of the newest catalog or magazine and kept on reading out of sheer need to “know what happened” (also, I can’t NOT finish a book…).  The thoughts of a high school girl brought me tumbling back into being 16 and feeling and wondering everything Lexi and Mia did at one time or another.  And as as Type-A personality, I can only imagine I’ll want to control the worlds of my children just as much as Jude did.  Making stupid decisions that seemed smart at the time and having to live with their consequences, is what I think every teen and parents goes through.  It was especially fun to read about it now, when I feel I have a much better view of the world and its bigger priorities.  As The Huffington Post states above, I can already see how I may think back to this story in ten years and feel hints of similarity and maybe chose a different path because I’ve seen it from different views now.  Kristin Hannah does it again, as she did with Winter Garden (read more about that one here), making me feel so attached to the characters that I fall into their lives and end up feeling what they feel.  Kristin Hannah, you’ve got to STOP making me cry when I’m reading!!  So if you like novels that make you feel the way only a Nicholas Sparks and now Kirstin Hannah can do, pick this one up!

Next up… Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected by Kelle Hampton, also author of one of my most favorite and inspiring blogs, Enjoying The Small Things

**I was not asked to, or compensated for, writing this book review.

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Chic Lit for Vacation

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My vacation photos are still not editing themselves (and Coogee refuses to help), but here’s a little ditty about the books I read while we were gone.

  

Although all four novels were filled with terrible writing and comical narrative, they still provided just the right amount of entertainment needed for easy and relaxing vacation reading.  That said, I don’t feel the need to write a full review on each, but will tell you that they were just what all chic lit is meant to be: romantic, saucy, shocking, and unrealistic – but that’s perfect for the beach.

Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, and Fifty Shades Freed (a trilogy) by E.L. James has been all over the gossip columns for being raunchy and tip-toeing on the line of inappropriate and since I have no self-control when a new talked-about book is available (read: Twilight, Hunger Games, Harry Potter, etc. etc.), I had no choice but to read it.  Do yourself a favor… and do the same.

Amazon description:

  • Book 1: When literature student Anastasia Steele goes to interview young entrepreneur Christian Grey, she encounters a man who is beautiful, brilliant, and intimidating. The unworldly, innocent Ana is startled to realize she wants this man and, despite his enigmatic reserve, finds she is desperate to get close to him. Unable to resist Ana’s quiet beauty, wit, and independent spirit, Grey admits he wants her, too—but on his own terms.  Shocked yet thrilled by Grey’s singular erotic tastes, Ana hesitates. For all the trappings of success—his multinational businesses, his vast wealth, his loving family—Grey is a man tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control. When the couple embarks on a daring, passionately physical affair, Ana discovers Christian Grey’s secrets and explores her own dark desires.  Erotic, amusing, and deeply moving, the Fifty Shades Trilogy is a tale that will obsess you, possess you, and stay with you forever.
  • Book 2: Daunted by the singular tastes and dark secrets of the beautiful, tormented young entrepreneur Christian Grey, Anastasia Steele has broken off their relationship to start a new career with a Seattle publishing house.  But desire for Christian still dominates her every waking thought, and when he proposes a new arrangement, Anastasia cannot resist. They rekindle their searing sensual affair, and Anastasia learns more about the harrowing past of her damaged, driven and demanding Fifty Shades.  While Christian wrestles with his inner demons, Anastasia must confront the anger and envy of the women who came before her, and make the most important decision of her life.
  • Book 3: When unworldly student Anastasia Steele first encountered the driven and dazzling young entrepreneur Christian Grey it sparked a sensual affair that changed both of their lives irrevocably. Shocked, intrigued, and, ultimately, repelled by Christian’s singular erotic tastes, Ana demands a deeper commitment. Determined to keep her, Christian agrees.  Now, Ana and Christian have it all—love, passion, intimacy, wealth, and a world of possibilities for their future. But Ana knows that loving her Fifty Shades will not be easy, and that being together will pose challenges that neither of them would anticipate. Ana must somehow learn to share Christian’s opulent lifestyle without sacrificing her own identity. And Christian must overcome his compulsion to control as he wrestles with the demons of a tormented past.  Just when it seems that their strength together will eclipse any obstacle, misfortune, malice, and fate conspire to make Ana’s deepest fears turn to reality.

Wife by Wednesday by Catherine Bybee was $0.99 on Amazon for my kindle, so I figured I had nothing to lose.  It was cute, romantic, and predictable.  Like I said before: jackpot.

Amazon description: Blake Harrison: Rich, titled, and charming… And in need of a wife by Wednesday so he turns to Sam Elliot who isn’t the business man he expected. Instead, Blake is faced with Samantha Elliot, engaging and spunky with a voice men call 900 numbers to hear. Samantha Elliot: Owner of Alliance, her matchmaking firm, and not on the marital menu… That is until Blake offers her ten million dollars for a one-year contract. All she needs to do is keep her attraction to her husband to herself and avoid his bed. But Blake’s toe-curling kisses and charm prove too difficult to combat. Now she needs to protect her heart so she can walk away when their mercenary life together is over.

Happy reading!!

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