October 6, 2015

Elle and Coach

Elle and Coach
author Stefany Shaheen with Mark Dagostino
published August 2015
source:  purchased

Reflections:    A friend of a former co-worker on Facebook has a preschooler with Type 1 diabetes.  They got a medical alert dog Jubilee who alerts highs or lows.    She shares photos on Facebook.  When I heard about this book, I had to buy it.

Summary:  Elle (pronounced Ellie) was diagnosed barely in time with Type 1 diabetes.   The disease impacts the whole family, adding extra worries.  When Elle's mother learns about  medic-alert dogs, she brushes this information off.  Poo-pooh, dogs are too much trouble.   But.....  eventually Elle and her dad fly to Kansas to meet a possible dog.

My perspective:   A super read.  So amazing how science is able to lasso the highly-skilled scent abilities of dogs to work better for humankind!   I contacted this friend of a friend,  and am mailing the book to her.  

August 23, 2015

All the Difference


All the Difference
author Leah Ferguson
publisher  Berkley
to be published September 2015
source publisher

reflections:   Many times in our lives we struggle with decisions.  I've spent hours on-line trying to decide which motel to stay in on vacation.  That should have been a quick and easy decision.   On harder decisions,  we often wonder "What if I'd decided something else..."

On New Year's Eve, Molly says "you've got to be kidding me" when her pregnancy test shows positive.   By the end of the evening, her on-again-off-again boyfriend proposes.  Now what?

The cover of the book says it all:  accept the marriage proposal or not?   The reading is a delight, because it tells us "what if."   The chapters alternate with "If She'd Said No" and "If She'd Said Yes"

My perspective: A fun read;  Molly ponders on how she'll break the baby news to her  parents and to her BFF who is struggling with infertility.   Her boyfriend's mother is all gaga about the pregnancy.  There were some obnoxious characters too.  Some good quotes:
...that's the thing about being a grown-up:
I just feel like no matter which way I turn, I'm going to feel guilty about something.

August 20, 2015

Did You Ever Have a Family

Did You Ever Have a Family
author Bill Clegg
publisher   Gallery/Scout Press
to be published  early September 2015
source:  NetGalley and publisher

reflections:    Almost all of us have made mistakes in connection with our families.   I sometimes look back and wish "if only I hadn't ...."    I have feelings of guilt.   Fortunately, my mistakes aren't as deep-reaching and tragic as those made by the characters in Did You Ever Have a Family.

    The book opens with a house explosion killing four people.   One person, June who happened to be outside,  survives.   Soon after the funerals,  June gets in her car and drives as far away as she can.
     Each chapter tells about a different person and how the explosion affected that person.   Secrets abound.  Mistakes were made in the past, such as not recognizing a child's artistic interests or sending a child to boarding school.   There is one regret after another.   Some poignant sentences.
That is a moment I would do differently if I had the chance.  There are many. 
Everyone in his life stood by him, but I failed him.  I did worse than fail him. 
my perspectives:   I wish I had been told at the beginning to keep notes on who is who and how each person is connected.   So many characters!   I wonder  why the author included some in the book.  When I started some chapters, I'd have to stop and think, "now exactly who is this person?"    I especially liked the descriptions at the beginning of  how the residents of the tourist town felt about the summer weekend people invading their lives.    I am challenging myself to go back to re-read this book next year, with pencil and paper in hand to draw connections.

 I highlighted so many sentences in my kindle because they spoke to my heart. I need to close with another haunting sentence:
... the town where she has lived her whole life, where there are no friends, no family, but where her feet are famous to the sidewalks.

August 5, 2015

Awake

Awake
author Natasha Preston
published August 4, 2015
publisher Sourcebooks Fire
source NetGalley

reflections:   There's a saying "With friends like that, who needs enemies?"   Scarlett's jealous BFF doesn't act like a friend.   Is Scarlett's newest crush Noah truly a friend?

Awake begins with two teens quibbling over who will get the new guy in school.   From there, it moves into a typical high school crush, movie dates, meeting parents.    Scarlett tells Noah she has amnesia from the years before she was four years old.  After an automobile accident, Scarlett has a series of dreams.  Apparently Noah and his family are part of a vegan cult on a quest.   What is the quest?

my perspective:   Am I too old for YA books?  Or is it simply the problem with this book?    I don't buy the amnesia premise at the age of four,  not many of us remember details from those formative years.   After all the movie dates, I felt like telling the book "get on with the story."

August 3, 2015

The Murderer's Daughter

The Murderer's Daughter
by Jonathan Kellerman
to be published: August 18
publisher:  Ballantine Books
source: NetGalley  

reflections:   Back in the mid-and-late 1980's I read every Alex Delaware novel by Jonathan Kellerman.   I got distracted from reading when I went back to teaching full-time.

What a super read!    Grace is a successful psychologist who treats people who have suffered trauma or loss.    An old article  Living with Evil:  Emotional Aspects of Kinship with a Murderer published  in an out-of-circulation criminology journal brings a new client to Grace.  He stays only fifteen minutes.   What happens afterwards influences Grace's vacation plans.

I thoroughly enjoyed the chapters that told about Grace's birth and growing-up years.   She was self-sufficient child who wanted nothing more than to be alone and read, read, read.  A frequent refrain throughout those years:   In the end, no one cared about you.

This is a stand-alone novel, although Alex Delaware is mentioned briefly in passing.

my perspective:   One of the very best I've read in 2015, even though I had some questions about some of the events.    I'm going to have to hunt up the Kellerman novels I've missed.  

July 14, 2015

Love Lies Beneath


Love Lies Beneath
by Ellen Hopkins
publisher:  Atria Books
to be published July 21, 2015
source:  publisher and NetGalley

reflections:  Have you ever been so peeved or insulted or hurt that  you start plotting revenge?  If so, meet Tara.

summary:  Tara, our narrator in Love Lies Beneath, has been widowed once and divorced twice.    On a ski trip in Tahoe, she injures her knee and meets a doctor.  They begin a love affair.  She receives threatening texts from "Private."  Should she trust the doctor?  Should he trust her?

perspective:   A wonderful read!   There are several ominous thoughts on revenge that Tara has.  Here's a few:
  • Her sister asks  "Do you ever think about revenge?"   "Only when it's useful.  And then I do more than just think about it."
  • I do have triggers, and once in awhile revenge just feels good.
  • As soon as I know for sure who "Private" is, I'll take care of the problem myself.
  • Revenge.  The word slices, bayonet-edged.
  • I don't trust easily and, relative or not, once you chew a hole in that thin veneer, I will write you off completely.  Punch one, I'm liable to retaliate.

If this were a movie, spooky music would play throughout.   You know something bad is going to happen.  To whom and how?   Oh the suspense!

FYI:  lots of erotic sex in the book.



July 12, 2015

Trust No One

Trust No One
author:  Paul Cleave
publisher: Atria Books
publishing date:  August 4, 2015
source:  Publisher and NetGalley

Reflections:  Have you ever been confused and asked yourself, did that really happen? 

Jerry Gray is an author of crime novels.  At age 49, he is diagnosed with Alzheimer's, or as he calls it "Captain A".    When he confesses to murder,  he is told these murders were in his novels, that he didn't do them in real life.   Because his dementia is causing him to decline rapidly,  his daughter moves up her wedding.   In the meantime, Jerry keeps a Madness Journal for Future Jerry to read.  In his journal, he uses a lot of Good News, Bad News statements.

Trust No One alternates between the Madness Journal of the past and events of the present. All three narratives, first, second, and third person cases, are used.

Some humor:  the police tell Jerry they are taking him down for questioning, he asks twice if he can play with the sirens.  In the interrogation room, the police ask Jerry if he wants a drink.  His answer:  "Yes, gin and tonic."    A quote:
Write what you know and fake the rest.
My perspective:   The novel started out great, five stars.   However, in the middle of the novel, events became too confusing for me just as they were for Jerry.   The middle dragged because of my confusion.  There was one character I despised.  Towards the end, though, things picked up and it became much more interesting. Despite my initial confusion, I wasn't too surprised by the ending.    

July 10, 2015

Dollbaby


Dollbaby
by Laura Lane McNeal
published June 2015
publisher:  Penguin Books
source:  publisher

Reflections:  Every family has secrets.  One day when I was a young teenager, my parents, uncle and aunt talked about a doctor and his wife.  When my older cousin asked for more information, they clammed up right away and wouldn't tell us anything.  A few years later, I remembered my great-grandfather was a doctor.  Were they talking about my great-grandparents?    Not for me to know.

In Dollbaby,   Ibby  was dumped at her eccentric grandmother's home by her mother after her father died.  Ibby didn't even know she had a grandmother, so she naturally feels abandoned.

Before I read the book,  I thought Dollbaby would be a very young girl.  I was put out to discover  Dollbaby is 28 years old and one of the servants.  What kind of name is that??  Also she is not one of the main characters, so why this title?   Eventually you find out, along with other secrets.

My perspective:  The book focuses more on characters than the events of the time period.   It is a typical leisurely Southern-setting read.   The book ended sweetly.  Here's a quote:
Whenever there's a loss, there's bound to be a gain somewhere else.  you just have to know where to look for it.
    

July 4, 2015

Remember Mia

Remember Mia     
by Alexandra Burt
publisher: Penguin
to be published July 7, 2015
source:  publisher

Reflections:   I lose things all the time.  Sometimes they show up such as an old iPhone years after I replaced it.   Sometimes they don't.  Fortunately, one thing I've never misplaced is a baby;  I wouldn't be able to live.

Estelle Paradise or "Amnesia Mom" as a newscaster calls her, is found in a ravine, with her memory gone.   Gradually, she remembers the horror she felt when she woke up one morning with her colicky baby gone.   Everything connected with baby Mia is gone, no diapers, no bottles, no clothes.   Suspicions arise, Estelle even wonders if she's guilty.

my perspective:  The first half was slow moving wading through Estelle's flashback memories while she regained them. Confession: I had to jump to the last third of the book to calm my nerves. Then the book zoomed by. When I finished the book,  I went back to the part where I skipped and read the middle part.   Try this method if you find it difficult to read;  get the suspense over with, then enjoy seeing how Estelle remembers events with the help of Dr. Ari.

June 30, 2015

Pretty Baby

Pretty Baby

by Mary Kubica

publisher: Harlequin/Mira
publishing date:  July 28, 2015
source:  NetGalley

Reflections:   There's an old saying:  opposites attract.    Heidi works for a non-profit agency in Chicago helping poverty-stricken illiterate immigrants.  When her husband Chris met her 14 years ago, he found her bleeding heart adorable.   However after years of marriage, this hits a nerve.   He works on financial spreadsheets, money money money is his thing.   They're opposites for sure!

One rainy morning in the train station, Heidi notices a teenager  holding a baby wrapped in pink fleece.   During the next few days, Heidi looks for the girl with the pretty baby.   Finally, one day they have a conversation; Heidi persuades her to come to a diner for a meal.  

From the diner, Heidi brings the girl and the baby home!   Chris and their spoiled pre-teen daughter are aghast.   Who is this homeless creature?  Why is she in their home?   Is it safe to have her around?    What's her background?  How long will she stay?

The author Mary Kubica has done a fabulous job writing in three POVs:   Heidi,  Chris, and Willow, the young girl.   There are other minor characters that bring so much to the story: Graham the neighbor, Cassidy the sexy girl in Chris' office,  and more.  

My perspective:  This is one of the best books of 2015.     I became suspicious of some lines,  there are twists,  ah-ha moments await.

June 23, 2015

The Truth and Other Lies


The Truth and Other Lies

by Sascha Arango
publisher Atria, Simon and Schuster
published today, June 23, 2015
source:  publisher and NetGalley

Reflections:   Often I make a point not to read movie and book reviews.  I like sitting in the theater knowing nothing except the barest fact about the movie.  I also like to open a book, knowing only the minimum of the plot.  Then I'm pleasantly surprised at what unfolds.

The Truth and Other Lies gave me many puzzling surprises, mainly because I hadn't read the other reviews.  I hesitate to write too much in this review,  you should have the same pleasant aggravating puzzles while reading.

In sum,  the world knows Henry Hayden as a famous author, but his wife is the actual author.  She doesn't want the recognition so Henry gets all the credit.  The best-selling novels bring in a fortune;  fans flock in to meet Henry on book tours.   One day, Henry's mistress tells him she is pregnant.  This is not a spoiler, you find out in the first page, when Henry looks in horror at an ultrasound picture.   Here is an excerpt of the beginning  which describes Hayden's reaction when he looks at the ultrasound picture.    This hooked me in.

What's the truth?  What are the lies?
The liars among us will know that every lie must contain a certain amount of truth if it's to be convincing.  A dash of truth is often enough, but it's indispensable, like the olive in the martini.
What in the world is going on?   You'll find yourself asking this question often.   A frequent sentence throughout the book "The dog knows everything."   That's how I felt at the end.   This is the author's debut novel,  he credits his readers with intelligence and doesn't point things out obviously such as the point-of-view.  We aren't spoon-fed.

June 22, 2015

Those Girls

Those Girls

by Chevy Stevens
publisher:  St. Martin's Press
to be published July 7, 2015
source: publisher

Those Girls are three teenage sisters on the run. The sisters are different from each other personality-wise. They left an abusive home after burying their father only to find themselves in a  more abusive  situation.   They manage to go on the run again to a safer place.  They change their names, hoping no one will figure out they are those girls.
Flash forward eighteen years, there still is a bond between the sisters, despite their differences.  
This book was almost too violent for me. I had a difficult time staying with it, especially in the second half.  
Kudos to Chevy Stevens for her imagination and creativity.   Thanks to St. Martin's Press for the preview copy.

May 26, 2015

Eeny Meeny

Eeny Meeny

author M.J. Arlidge
publisher Penguin
to be published:  June 2, 2015
source: publisher through NetGalley

Reflections:    Often we, as children,  need to make a choice such as who goes first or who is it in tag.  The rhyme "Eeny Meeny Miney Mo" is used.  

This rhyme becomes ominous in M.J. Arlidge's thriller Eeny Meeny.    Two people are kidnapped,  left with no food, no water, no escape.  There is a weapon,  perhaps a gun.    There's a choice, kill the other person or be killed yourself.

Soon, Detective Inspector Helen Grace realizes there is a serial killer.   She gathers people in her department to hunt the monster. As time goes by and more people are kidnapped, Helen realizes in horror there may be a connection among all these couples.

My perspective:  a thoroughly chilling read!  It is not until towards the end of the book that we are given clues to the villain.    I was delighted to find out that more Helen Grace books are coming along. The next one is Pop Goes the Weasel.  I cannot wait for it to come to the United States so I ordered a copy from the United Kingdom.   That shows how much I want to keep reading about Helen Grace.




March 23, 2015

Golden State


Golden State
author:  Stephanie Kegan
published:   February 2015
publisher:  Simon & Schuster
source:  publisher

Summary:
     Natalie is a third-grade teacher in California, married to a lawyer.  They have two daughters: one a genius teenager, the other a typical second grader.    While Natalie was growing up, she adored her older brother Bobby, also a genius.   Bobby changed, left home and became a hermit.
    A Cal bomber is bombing universities because of technology's influence on the environment.  One day, Natalie reads a letter from Bobby to her mother and realizes the letter is very similar to the published manifesto of the Cal Bomber.   Natalie and her husband go to the FBI with this information; they receive a promise that they will remain anonymous.  
      The FBI arrests Bobby;   the informer's identity is told. The press congregates on Natalie's front lawn.  

In Conversation with author Stephanie Kegan about GOLDEN STATE
Your novel tells a story centered on family love and loyalty.  What made you want to write Golden State?
I think every good story has a family drama somewhere inside it. The Oklahoma City bomber, the Unabomber, the American Taliban—and so on—all left families stunned by their arrests. I kept thinking about their siblings, their parents, how their normal, private lives ended in a flash, what it might feel like to have your family dreams shattered so publicly. 

Quote from the book:
Sippenhaft,  a German word I'd come across.  It means punishment for the crimes of your blood relatives.  I was wearing mine on my face.  
My reaction:
        This was an enjoyable read,  seeing how Natalie, her husband, daughters, mother and sister respond to the news.   They want to avoid the death penalty for Bobby;  however, he refuses to use the mental illness plea.    The ending covering Bobby's trial was bittersweet.   I recommended this book to my Book Club.