All posts by Kelly

Summer Secrets

Finished Summer Secrets by Jane Green.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Jane Green delivers her second blockbuster novel of 2015, a story of one woman struggling to right the wrongs of her past, with even more complications in the present.

June, 1998: At twenty seven, Catherine Coombs, also known as Cat, is struggling. She lives in London, works as a journalist, and parties hard. Her lunchtimes consist of several glasses of wine at the bar downstairs in the office, her evenings much the same, swigging the free booze and eating the free food at a different launch or party every night. When she discovers the identity of the father she never knew she had, it sends her into a spiral. She makes mistakes that cost her the budding friendship of the only women who have ever welcomed her. And nothing is ever the same after that.

June, 2014: Cat has finally come to the end of herself. She no longer drinks. She wants to make amends to those she has hurt. Her quest takes her to Nantucket, to the gorgeous summer community where the women she once called family still live. Despite her sins, will they welcome her again? What Cat doesn’t realize is that these women, her real father’s daughters, have secrets of their own. As the past collides with the present, Cat must confront the darkest things in her own life and uncover the depths of someone’s need for revenge.”

I started this novel expecting a pretty light, fun experience.  (Yes, it looks pretty clear from the synopsis that there are some weighty topics, but it’s a Jane Green book!)  Instead, I got the fun I was expecting, but something that was a lot better.

I don’t have a problem with alcohol, but I have friends who did and have been in a few AA meetings.  I feel like the potential to get a little snarky about it was there (as Cat points out at her first meeting, the rooms can get a little cult-like) but instead, Jane Green dealt with everything with respect.

The story is straightforward but incredibly well-told.  The fact that many of the events can easily be guessed didn’t take away from my enjoyment (and there were still a few surprises on top of that).

Jane Green’s come a long way.  I can’t wait to read her next book and meanwhile, I am excited to catch up on the couple of books from her backlist I’ve missed.

Recommended.

The Lives Between Us

Finished The Lives Between Us by Theresa Rizzo.  I received a copy of the book for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

How far would you go to save the one you love?

Reporter Skylar Kendall has run from commitment all her life, pushing people away before they leave her, until her niece worms her way into Skye’s heart and settles in tight. Skye relaxes into a career she enjoys and relishes being a doting aunt.

Then her niece becomes gravely ill. Unable to bear yet another loss, Skye is determined to find a cure, but the girl’s only hope lies in the embryonic stem cell therapy Michigan Senator Edward Hastings repeatedly opposes. When Skye fails to find alternative treatment in time, she vows to end the senator’s political career.

Curious about the woman behind the scathing articles on his best friend, Mark Dutton pursues Skye. Dating Mark gives her access to Hastings’s life and secrets that would launch Skye’s career and satisfy her need for retribution… Only she hadn’t counted on falling in love.

Can she avenge the lives lost to politics at the expense of her new love and friends?”

I love books like this.  I am definitely Team Skye when it comes to stem cell research so I found her to be an incredibly sympathetic character.  (One thing I do appreciate, though, is the fact that no one here is evil.  The senator is someone I disagree with politically, but he is acting in accordance with his own beliefs, but he is actually a good guy.)

I’m not sure that this book could change anyone’s minds, but if nothing else, it will show that people on the other side just have different opinions (as opposed to being bad people).

I loved Skye immediately but also came to care for every character in the book.  This is the kind of book you fall in love with. :)

Recommended.

Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters

Finished Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Kelsey Finkelstein is fourteen and FRUSTRATED. Every time she tries to live up to her awesome potential, her plans are foiled – by her impossible parents, her annoying little sister, and life in general. But with her first day of high school coming up, Kelsey is positive that things are going to change. Enlisting the help of her three best friends — sweet and quiet Em, theatrical Cass, and wild JoJo — Kelsey gets ready to rebrand herself and make the kind of mark she knows is her destiny.

Things start out great – her arch-nemesis has moved across the country, giving Kelsey the perfect opportunity to stand out on the soccer team and finally catch the eye of her long-time crush. But soon enough, an evil junior’s thirst for revenge, a mysterious photographer, and a series of other catastrophes make it clear that just because KELSEY has a plan for greatness… it doesn’t mean the rest of the world is in on it.

Kelsey’s hilarious commentary throughout her disastrous freshman year will have you laughing out loud—while being thankful that you’re not in her shoes, of course…”

This book was adorable.  :)  I immediately loved Kelsey and her determination to make her freshman year the best year yet, and even though things keep refusing to go her way, she won’t give up.  EVER.

As many people have noted in their reviews, this book is almost guaranteed to make you laugh out loud if you have anything even remotely approaching a sense of humor.

I think I preferred Sophomore Year is Greek to Me (a companion novel, not a sequel) but both are excellent.

I hope Meredith Zeitlin has a new book out soon.  I love her books. :)

Recommended.

Disclaimer

Finished Disclaimer by Renee Knight.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Finding a mysterious novel at her bedside plunges documentary filmmaker Catherine Ravenscroft into a living nightmare. Though ostensibly fiction, The Perfect Stranger recreates in vivid, unmistakable detail the terrible day Catherine became hostage to a dark secret, a secret that only one other person knew–and that person is dead.

Now that the past is catching up with her, Catherine’s world is falling apart. Her only hope is to confront what really happened on that awful day even if the shocking truth might destroy her.”

The second I heard about this book, I knew it was something I would want to read.  I mean, how awesome is this concept?  And how terrifying would that be, starting to read this book that randomly shows up in your house and realizing that it is about YOU, and that the story it tells is something that literally no one else knows?

Not surprisingly, Catherine starts to go off the rails a little bit (and even more, once copies of the book start showing up other places, too—to her office, for example, and to her adult son) and also not surprisingly, people start to think that she’s lost her mind.

(And how do you manage to convince people that you aren’t crazy when you’ve been acting that way for days and weeks?)

This book is a little bit of a slow burn but the tension keeps ramping up an inch at a time until finally it’s completely impossible to put it down.  (For what it’s worth, though, I read this in one evening and didn’t do anything else.  It’s a fun, creepy book.)

Recommended.

Lost in the Sun

Finished Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Everyone says that middle school is awful, but Trent knows nothing could be worse than the year he had in fifth grade, when a freak accident on Cedar Lake left one kid dead, and Trent with a brain full of terrible thoughts he can’t get rid of. Trent’s pretty positive the entire disaster was his fault, so for him middle school feels like a fresh start, a chance to prove to everyone that he’s not the horrible screw-up they seem to think he is.

If only Trent could make that fresh start happen.

It isn’t until Trent gets caught up in the whirlwind that is Fallon Little—the girl with the mysterious scar across her face—that things begin to change. Because fresh starts aren’t always easy. Even in baseball, when a fly ball gets lost in the sun, you have to remember to shift your position to find it.”

I had the best run of great books lately.  I am a huge fan of Lisa Graff and she released two new books in May; this is the second and it’s probably my new favorite of hers.

After Trent accidentally killed a friend of his, he has become a completely different person.  He blames himself—of course, right?—and his guilt and sadness have turned to anger.  As a result, his relationships with his friends are nonexistent and his relationship with his dad has become incredibly strained.  He still gets along with his mom and brothers, but the least thing can set him off.

Once he starts middle school, he accidentally makes a new friend—he didn’t mean for Fallon to become his friend, but it somehow happened anyway.  And so now he has to find a way to both forgive himself and work through his anger before he completely wrecks that newfound friendship.

I love Lisa Graff’s books because they treat kids like people.  It’s not like, “A horrible thing happened and Trent was sad for a while but then everything was magically okay.”  Bad things happen sometimes and when they do, we don’t always react in the best way.

Highly recommended.

Eight Hundred Grapes

Finished Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

A breakout novel from an author who “positively shines with wisdom and intelligence” (Jonathan Tropper, This Is Where I leave You). “Laura Dave writes with humor and insight about relationships in all their complexity, whether she’s describing siblings or fiancés or a couple long-married. Eight Hundred Grapes is a captivating story about the power of family, the limitations of love, and what becomes of a life’s work” (J. Courtney Sullivan, Maine).

There are secrets you share, and secrets you hide…

Growing up on her family’s Sonoma vineyard, Georgia Ford learned some important secrets. The secret number of grapes it takes to make a bottle of wine: eight hundred. The secret ingredient in her mother’s lasagna: chocolate. The secret behind ending a fight: hold hands.

But just a week before her wedding, thirty-year-old Georgia discovers her beloved fiancé has been keeping a secret so explosive, it will change their lives forever.

Georgia does what she’s always done: she returns to the family vineyard, expecting the comfort of her long-married parents, and her brothers, and everything familiar. But it turns out her fiancé is not the only one who’s been keeping secrets…

Bestselling author Laura Dave has been dubbed “a wry observer of modern love” (USA TODAY), a “decadent storyteller” (Marie Claire), and “compulsively readable” (Woman’s Day). Set in the lush backdrop of Sonoma’s wine country, Eight Hundred Grapes is a heartbreaking, funny, and deeply evocative novel about love, marriage, family, wine, and the treacherous terrain in which they all intersect.”

I absolutely loved this!  I love books about family and this is one of the best examples of that I’ve read in years.

This is just an incredibly sweet, perfect novel.  I thought I knew where it was going multiple times; I couldn’t have been more wrong at any of those times.

While the relationship between Georgia and her fiance is the center of the novel, I was much more interested in her relationship with her parents and brothers.  (I don’t have brothers, but this novel makes me wish I did.)

I can’t say enough good things about this book; I can guarantee you’ll enjoy it.

Recommended.

#LoveWins

It’s been an interesting few days for me.

First, obviously, there’s been so much joy at the fact that gay marriage is legal nationwide now.  There’s a lot of feelings that goes along with that—especially the fact that so many of my friends (who tend to be straight) were celebrating with me.

And then there was the realization that some people—who I actually would have considered real friends and not just “Facebook friends” or acquaintances—really didn’t.  And it’s funny how hurt by that I was.  (Because I actually really was hurt; it’s painful to realize “I think this person is a friend; this person thinks that I am someone who doesn’t deserve equal rights.”)

So there was a lot of crying Friday (the good kind, because yay! marriage for everyone!) and then a lot of crying yesterday (the good kind, because SO MANY RAINBOWS on Facebook and then the bad kind, because hey, that friend I thought I had? NOT SO MUCH) and so far I haven’t cried today, but we’ll see. :)

I don’t know how to explain any of it so people can understand.  I mean, picture people saying that they thought Christians shouldn’t get married or that divorced people shouldn’t ever be able to remarry or, I don’t know, any one of a dozen other prejudiced, stupid things.

So I don’t know.  But I do think that, while I pride myself on being able to get along with anyone, pretty much, I think my baseline for friendship is “Considers me to be an equal citizen, as opposed to a weird, less-than person.”  That’s not asking too much, right?

But anyway, most of the tears yesterday came because I saw so many of my friends’ profile pictures were rainbow versions of themselves.  And so many more of them did it after I said that it would mean a lot to me, personally, if they would do it. (I don’t know if you notice but most of the Christian voices heard over the weekend were, shall we say, less than inclusive?  And that gives Christians a horrible name, in my opinion.  Jesus loved everyone and died for everyone, which is something a lot of those Christians seem to forget.)  And I feel so humbled by that, I can’t even tell you.  So while I may have lost some people I thought were friends, I learned that (a) most of my friends are exactly who I thought they were and (b) I have a lot more friends that I didn’t even realize I had.

So yeah, big weekend.  And while some people are angry and some people are scared, most everyone I know is really, really happy.  Which illustrates perfectly the fact that love will defeat anger and hate and fear every time.

Finding Audrey

Finished Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Shopaholic series comes a terrific blend of comedy, romance, and psychological recovery in a contemporary YA novel sure to inspire and entertain.

An anxiety disorder disrupts fourteen-year-old Audrey’s daily life. She has been making slow but steady progress with Dr. Sarah, but when Audrey meets Linus, her brother’s gaming teammate, she is energized. She connects with him. Audrey can talk through her fears with Linus in a way she’s never been able to do with anyone before. As their friendship deepens and her recovery gains momentum, a sweet romantic connection develops, one that helps not just Audrey but also her entire family.”

I’m a huge fan of Sophie Kinsella’s, although I am a little behind on her backlist.  I was really excited when this showed up in my mail because it seemed like a perfect summer read.

Spoiler: it is.

It’s sweet and fun, but there’s a lot of depth here.  We don’t know exactly what happened to Audrey (although we can guess), but she went from a normal teen girl with normal teen girl issues to all of a sudden having a major anxiety disorder that has left her essentially housebound and unable to make eye contact with anyone, even family members.  (Well, almost anyone; she can look at her younger brother but that’s about it.)  So now Audrey wears sunglasses all the time.

We join the action as Audrey is starting to make progress but there’s obviously such a long way to go.  And then she meets Linus.  They immediately connect, and they are so freaking adorable.

But I really love Audrey’s family.  Her mom is completely obsessed with the Daily Mail, to the point that you can actually completely avoid an argument by distracting her with the paper.  Her dad tries to keep up but his guesses are generally wrong which is a running joke.  And her older brother is an avid gamer.  This is generally something I don’t really understand, but it is his entire life.

Take this to the beach this year; you’ll thank me.

Guns

Finished Guns by Stephen King.

Summary (from Goodreads):

In a pulls-no-punches essay intended to provoke rational discussion, Stephen King sets down his thoughts about gun violence in America. Anger and grief in the wake of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School are palpable in this urgent piece of writing, but no less remarkable are King’s keen thoughtfulness and composure as he explores the contours of the gun-control issue and constructs his argument for what can and should be done.”

You probably already know whether you want to read this, based on your political affiliation and Stephen King’s.  If you’re a conservative, you probably should read it, but you won’t want to.  If you’re a liberal (as I am), it’s probably not necessary to read it because you already agree with it…but it’s still worth the read.

One thing you should know is that Stephen King owns guns.  (Which makes sense, given that he’s incredibly famous and that there are a lot of crazy people in the world.)  He’s not advocating for the government to take everyone’s guns; he’s proposing sensible changes (better background checks and delays; fewer rounds, things like that).

I don’t understand how people can say that guns aren’t at least partially to blame for these tragedies that keep occurring.  Even making people wait a couple days to be able to buy a gun could theoretically be able to put a stop to things.  (It’s easier to do horrible things in the heat of the moment and sometimes even a little time to stop and think is enough.  Obviously that wouldn’t stop all of them, but it certainly would stop a few.)

Recommended.

 

In the Unlikely Event

Finished In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume.

Summary (from Goodreads):

In her highly anticipated new novel, Judy Blume, the New York Times # 1 best-selling author of Summer Sisters and of young adult classics such as Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, creates a richly textured and moving story of three generations of families, friends and strangers, whose lives are profoundly changed by unexpected events.

In 1987, Miri Ammerman returns to her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey, to attend a commemoration of the worst year of her life. Thirty-five years earlier, when Miri was fifteen, and in love for the first time, a succession of airplanes fell from the sky, leaving a community reeling. Against this backdrop of actual events that Blume experienced in the early 1950s, when airline travel was new and exciting and everyone dreamed of going somewhere, she paints a vivid portrait of a particular time and place—Nat King Cole singing “Unforgettable,” Elizabeth Taylor haircuts, young (and not-so-young) love, explosive friendships, A-bomb hysteria, rumors of Communist threat. And a young journalist who makes his name reporting tragedy. Through it all, one generation reminds another that life goes on.

In the Unlikely Event is vintage Judy Blume, with all the hallmarks of Judy Blume’s unparalleled storytelling, and full of memorable characters who cope with loss, remember the good times and, finally, wonder at the joy that keeps them going.”

Like every woman of my age, I am a huge Judy Blume fan.  The news that there would be a new novel by her (the first, I think, since Summer Sisters back in the 90s) was a huge delight and I have been eagerly anticipating this for a year.

This is Judy Blume at her best.  While it’s a novel for adults, the main character is a teenager, and I think this is appropriate for YA audiences.

This is based on a true story (over the course of a couple of months, three planes crashed in Elizabeth, New Jersey) and that is completely shocking to me.  How is that not something that everyone knows? Three fatal plane crashes in something like two months?

Anyway.  So a lot of the different characters react to that but, because they are people, there are also a lot of smaller, more personal dramas going on.  (To say more would be to spoil things.)

Highly recommended.