Tuesday, August 31, 2010

78. The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf

While browsing at a bookstore, this book caught my eye. Since I am really watching my book budget and only shopping when I have a gift card, I decided against spending the $15 and looking to see if my library had it. I was in luck and immediately placed a hold. What a great discovery! I give The Weight of Silence an A-.

From Amazon:
It happens quietly one August morning. As dawn's shimmering light drenches the humid Iowa air, two families awaken to find their little girls have gone missing in the night.
Seven-year-old Calli Clark is sweet, gentle, a dreamer who suffers from selective mutism brought on by tragedy that pulled her deep into silence as a toddler.
Calli's mother, Antonia, tried to be the best mother she could within the confines of marriage to a mostly absent, often angry husband. Now, though she denies that her husband could be involved in the possible abductions, she fears her decision to stay in her marriage has cost her more than her daughter's voice.
Petra Gregory is Calli's best friend, her soul mate and her voice. But neither Petra nor Calli has been heard from since their disappearance was discovered. Desperate to find his child, Martin Gregory is forced to confront a side of himself he did not know existed beneath his intellectual, professorial demeanor.
Now these families are tied by the question of what happened to their children. And the answer is trapped in the silence of unspoken family secrets.

I loved this book and the way that is was told. We are brought into the lives and heads of four of the characters. That is one of my favorite types and tools that writers use because I love to get inside the heads of people and characters. Sometimes I think I should have gone into psychology or counseling rather than teaching. I loved the characters though, and just wanted to gather Calli, Petra, and Ben and keep them safe. There is a mystery in the story, though I had that figured out pretty quickly, but it didn't remove anything from the story. I hope Ms. Gudenkauf is quickly working on her next book!

77. Thank You for All Things by Sandra Kring

Thank You For All Things was a recommendation to me on Amazon, and I really enjoyed it. It was a touching book, and made me sad and reflective. I give it an A-.

From Amazon:
At twelve, Lucy Marie McGowan already knows she’ll be a psychologist when she grows up. And her quirky and conflicted family provides plenty of opportunity for her to practice her calling. Now Lucy, her “profoundly gifted” twin brother, Milo, her commitment-phobic mother, and her New Age grandmother are leaving Chicago for Timber Falls, Wisconsin, to care for her dying grandfather—a complex and difficult man whose failure as a husband and father still painfully echoes down through the years.Lucy believes her time in the rural town where the McGowan story began will provide a key piece to the puzzle of her family’s broken past, and perhaps even reveal the truth about her own missing father. But what she discovers is so much more—a lesson about the paradoxes of love and the grace of forgiveness that the adults around her will need help in remembering if their family is ever to find peace and embrace the future. By turns heart-wrenching and heart-mending, Thank You for All Things is a powerful and poignant novel by a brilliant storyteller who illustrates that when it comes to matters of family and love, often it is the innocent who force others to confront their darkest secrets.

I loved Lucy and her brother Milo. Oma was another great character, and while I didn't fall in love with Lucy and Milo's mom, she was very realistic. I cried at times while reading this and was reminded of my own grandmother and the way she behaved as she was passing away. It is clear that Ms. Kring did her research on hospice and what happens along the way. While there were difficult topics in the book, including child abuse, it was very touching and a great read. It really got me thinking about my own relationships, but in a good way. I will be checking out more by Ms. Kring!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

76. Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

I just discovered Ms. Hannah this summer and have come to love her books and consider her one of my favorite new authors. Firefly Lane was no exception. I give it an A-.

From Amazon:
In the turbulent summer of 1974, Kate Mularkey has accepted her place at the bottom of the eighth-grade social food chain. Then, to her amazement, the “coolest girl in the world” moves in across the street and wants to be her friend. Tully Hart seems to have it all---beauty, brains, ambition. On the surface they are as opposite as two people can be: Kate, doomed to be forever uncool, with a loving family who mortifies her at every turn. Tully, steeped in glamour and mystery, but with a secret that is destroying her. They make a pact to be best friends forever; by summer’s end they’ve become TullyandKate. Inseparable.
So begins Kristin Hannah’s magnificent new novel. Spanning more than three decades and playing out across the ever-changing face of the Pacific Northwest, Firefly Lane is the poignant, powerful story of two women and the friendship that becomes the bulkhead of their lives.
From the beginning, Tully is desperate to prove her worth to the world. Abandoned by her mother at an early age, she longs to be loved unconditionally. In the glittering, big-hair era of the eighties, she looks to men to fill the void in her soul. But in the buttoned-down nineties, it is television news that captivates her. She will follow her own blind ambition to New York and around the globe, finding fame and success . . . and loneliness.
Kate knows early on that her life will be nothing special. Throughout college, she pretends to be driven by a need for success, but all she really wants is to fall in love and have children and live an ordinary life. In her own quiet way, Kate is as driven as Tully. What she doesn’t know is how being a wife and mother will change her . . . how she’ll lose sight of who she once was, and what she once wanted. And how much she’ll envy her famous best friend. . . .
For thirty years, Tully and Kate buoy each other through life, weathering the storms of friendship---jealousy, anger, hurt, resentment. They think they’ve survived it all until a single act of betrayal tears them apart . . . and puts their courage and friendship to the ultimate test

I loved how we got to witness Kate and Tully's lives changing and their friendship growing over the decades. The references to the fashions and music were great as well, though I wasn't able to remember most of them or weren't alive for one decade. I also loved how we get to see the two girls take their own paths but crave and want to be more like the other. This was a long book, over 500 pages, but I read it in one day. If you haven't read anything by Ms. Hannah and enjoy womens fiction, especially books about friendship, I would highly recommend her.

75. Fragile by Lisa Unger

I've enjoyed Ms. Unger's books in the past and saw a lot of reviews for this one. I finally got it from the library and I enjoyed it. I give it a B.

From Amazon:

Everybody knows everybody in The Hollows, a quaint, charming town outside of New York City. It’s a place where neighbors keep an eye on one another’s kids, where people say hello in the grocery store, and where high school cliques and antics are never quite forgotten. As a child, Maggie found living under the microscope of small-town life stifling. But as a wife and mother, she has happily returned to The Hollows’s insular embrace. As a psychologist, her knowledge of family histories provides powerful insights into her patients’ lives. So when the girlfriend of her teenage son, Rick, disappears, Maggie’s intuitive gift proves useful to the case—and also dangerous. Eerie parallels soon emerge between Charlene’s disappearance and the abduction of another local girl that shook the community years ago when Maggie was a teenager. The investigation has her husband, Jones, the lead detective on the case, acting strangely. Rick, already a brooding teenager, becomes even more withdrawn. In a town where the past is always present, nobody is above suspicion, not even a son in the eyes of his father. “I know how a moment can spiral out of control,” Jones says to a shocked Maggie as he searches Rick’s room for incriminating evidence. “How the consequences of one careless action can cost you everything.”As she tries to reassure him that Rick embodies his father in all of the important ways, Maggie realizes this might be exactly what Jones fears most. Determined to uncover the truth, Maggie pursues her own leads into Charlene’s disappearance and exposes a long-buried town secret—one that could destroy everything she holds dear. This thrilling novel about one community’s intricate yet fragile bonds will leave readers asking, How well do I know the people I love? and How far would I go to protect them?

This book took me awhile to read, but it was more me than the book. I seemed to be going through somewhat of a mini reading slump, but once I made the time to read, I finished it somewhat quickly. There was a lot of connections and characters to remember, but it tied the story together from what happened in the past and what was occurring right now. The characters were very believeable and I will make a point of reading the other books by Ms. Unger that I have missed so far.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

74. Tainted by Brooke Morgan

I believe I first read about Tainted in People Magazine. It sounded like something right up my alley, so I placed a hold at my library and patiently waited my turn. I finished it one day and absolutely loved it. I give Tainted an A-.

From Amazon:
Holly Barrett first saw Jack Dane early one morning—tall, tan, and so heartbreakingly handsome he took her breath away. He also seemed like the last person to disrupt her quiet, uneventful days with her sensitive daughter, Katy. But the charming, enigmatic Englishman has blown into her small Cape Cod town like a brisk summer wind off the bay.
He sweeps Holly off her feet, and is soon touching the lives of everyone she deeply cares about. But is Jack the considerate, concerned gentleman he appears to be—or is there a very different creature lurking below the surface? Has a monster entered her life . . . and how far will Holly have to go to save the person she loves more than anyone else in the world?

While I thought Holly was somewhat irresponsible for bringing a man she hardly knows into her home with her five year old daughter, I didn't find it impossible to believe. Sadly that happens far to often in my humble opinion. Ms. Morgan had me scratching my head trying to find out what Jack was hiding, and it blew me away. The ending was superb and literally had me gasping. I wish the author would have let us know more, but I guess the suspense is left hanging for us. A great read and I hope Ms. Morgan has more great books up her sleeve!

73. Back Seat Saints by Joshlyn Jackson

I've heard a lot about Ms. Jackson's books, and especially Back Seat Saints. I decided to give it a try and picked it up from my local library. It was a good read, one I give a B.

From Amazon:
Rose Mae Lolley is a fierce and dirty girl, long-suppressed under flowery skirts and bow-trimmed ballet flats. As "Mrs. Ro Grandee" she's trapped in a marriage that's thick with love and sick with abuse. Her true self has been bound in the chains of marital bliss in rural Texas, letting "Ro" make eggs, iron shirts, and take her punches. She seems doomed to spend the rest of her life battered outside by her husband and inside by her former self, until fate throws her in the path of an airport gypsy---one who shares her past and knows her future. The tarot cards foretell that Rose's beautiful, abusive husband is going to kill her. Unless she kills him first. Hot-blooded Rose Mae escapes from under Ro's perky compliance and emerges with a gun and a plan to beat the hand she's been dealt. Following messages that her long-missing mother has left hidden for her in graffiti and behind paintings, Rose and her dog Gretel set out from Amarillo, TX back to her hometown of Fruiton, AL, and then on to California, unearthing a host of family secrets as she goes. Running for her life, she realizes that she must face her past in order to overcome her fate---death by marriage---and become a girl who is strong enough to save herself from the one who loves her best.

This book started out very slowly for me. I had a hard time keeping track of when the story was taking place at times because the author seemed to be jumping around from present day to the past. The main character also referred to herself as two different people to show how she reacts and hides from others and that gave me a bit of trouble, but once I got into it, I had a much easier time. I will admit that there were times my heart was punding for the fear of what was going to happen and I felt the author did an excellent job in showing the way that abuse happens in families and can often be a cycle. I will probably check out more Ms. Jackson's books in the future.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

72. Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern

I first heard about Justin Halpern while watching Chelsea Lately a few weeks ago. I learned that there is going to be a new television sitcom to be released this fall based on this book as well. I had to check it out and finally picked it up from my library. It was a funny, cute read and I give it a B+.

From Amazon:
After being dumped by his longtime girlfriend, twenty-eight-year-old Justin Halpern found himself living at home with his seventy-three-year-old dad. Sam Halpern, who is "like Socrates, but angrier, and with worse hair," has never minced words, and when Justin moved back home, he began to record all the ridiculous things his dad said to him:
"That woman was sexy. . . . Out of your league? Son, let women figure out why they won't screw you. Don't do it for them."
"Do people your age know how to comb their hair? It looks like two squirrels crawled on their heads and started fucking."
"The worst thing you can be is a liar. . . . Okay, fine, yes, the worst thing you can be is a Nazi, but then number two is liar. Nazi one, liar two."
More than a million people now follow Mr. Halpern's philosophical musings on Twitter, and in this book, his son weaves a brilliantly funny, touching coming-of-age memoir around the best of his quotes. An all-American story that unfolds on the Little League field, in Denny's, during excruciating family road trips, and, most frequently, in the Halperns' kitchen over bowls of Grape-Nuts, Sh*t My Dad Says is a chaotic, hilarious, true portrait of a father-son relationship from a major new comic voice.

While often quite funny, this book was touching as well. I found myself laughing out loud and sharing quotes or stories from the book with my hubby as I was reading. I finished this book in one sitting and it was an enjoyable way to spend the evening. It wasn't crude humor, either, which I enjoyed. If you are looking for a quick and fun read, I would recommend this book.

71. Pray for Silence by Linda Castillo

I read and enjoyed Ms. Castillo's previous book last year that introduced former Amish police officer Kate Burkholder and was looking forward to reading the newest book in the series. It was an ok read, nothing to rememberable, and I give it a B.

From Amazon:
The Plank family moved from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to join the small Amish community of Painters Mill less than a year ago and seemed the model of the Plain Life—until on a cold October night, the entire family of seven was found slaughtered on their farm. Police Chief Kate Burkholder and her small force have few clues, no motive, and no suspect. Formerly Amish herself, Kate is no stranger to the secrets the Amish keep from the English—and each other—but this crime is horribly out of the ordinary.
State agent John Tomasetti arrives on the scene to assist. He and Kate worked together on a previous case during which they began a volatile relationship. They soon realize the disturbing details of this case will test their emotional limits and force them to face demons from their own troubled pasts—and for Kate, a personal connection that is particularly hard to bear.
When she discovers a diary that belonged to one of the teenaged daughters, Kate is shocked to learn the girl kept some very dark secrets and may have been living a lurid double life. Who is the charismatic stranger who stole the young Amish girl’s heart? Could the brother—a man with a violent past, rejected and shunned by his family and the Amish community, have come to seek out revenge? As Kate’s outrage grows so does her resolve to find the killer and bring him to justice—even if it means putting herself in the line of fire.

Like I mentioned above, I liked this book, but didn't think it was an utterly suspensful book. It's much more of a police procedural book. I do really enjoy the setting, though, and think that the mixture of the Amish and English living together. I definitely learned a lot about Amish people though, and enjoyed that aspect of the story. Kate and Joe are interesting match, but I have a feeling that the relationship will drag on for awhile. I will probably read the next book in the series, though, when it is released next year.

70. Barefoot by Elin Hildebrand

I fell in love with Ms. Hildebrand when I read her book, Summer People, and was excited to pick up another one by her from my library. Barefoot was a great read, and I give it an A-.

From Amazon:

Three women arrive at the local airport, observed by Josh, a Nantucket native home from college for the summer. Burdened with small children, unwieldy straw hats, and some obvious emotional issues, the women- two sisters, and one friend- make their way to the sisters' tiny cottage, inhertied from their aunt. They're all trying to escape from something: Melanie. after seven failed in-vitro attempts, learned her husband was cheating and learned she was pregnant; Brenda embarked on a passionate affair with an older student that got her fired from her prestigious job as a professor in New York; and her sister Vicki, mother to two small boys, has been diagnosed with lung cancer. Soon Josh is part of the chaotic household acting as babysitter, confidant, and eventually lover.

I thought that Elin Hildebrand is a great author and writes characters that are realistic and makes you feel something. Ms. Hildebrand brought me to the tiny cottage in Nantucket and I began to understand and like each of the characters. This was a perfect summer read, and one authop I hope to check out more of her books soon.

Monday, August 2, 2010

69. Land of a Hundred Wonders by Leslie Kagen

I've loved the two previous books by Ms. Kagen and was excited to read Land of a Hundred Wonders. While not as great as the other two books I've read, it was still a good read. I give it a B.

From Amazon:
The summer Gibby McGraw catches her big break, the cicadas are humming, and it’s so warm even the frogs are sweating. Brain damaged after a tragic car accident that took both her parents, Gibby is now NQR (Not Quite Right), a real challenge for a fledgling newspaper reporter. Especially when she stumbles upon the dead body of the next governor of Kentucky, Buster Malloy.Armed with her trusty blue spiral note-book, Gibby figures that solving the murder might be her best chance to prove to everyone that she can become Quite Right again. But she gets more than she bargained for when she uncovers a world of corruption, racism, and family secrets in small town Cray Ridge. Lucky for her, she’s also about to discover that some things are far more important than all the brains in the world, and that miracles occur in the most unexpected moments.

I love the way the story was told through Gibby's mind, since she's NQR. It took me awhile to get used to the definitions of some "bigger" words thrown into the dialogue because that's how Gibby's mind works. It was quite clever of Ms. Kagen though, and made the book stand out. I thought some of the things were a bit far-fetched, however, so my scoring was lowered a bit. I've always been afraid to read books set in the 1950s and 1960s and Ms. Kagen has shown me they can be a ton of fun! I hope she is busy writing right now, because I am now out of books to read by her. I highly recommend you pick up one of her books if you haven't already.

68. Summer People by Elin Hildebrand

I've been seeing Ms. Hildebrand's names and books on several blogs and while shopping with a gift card awhile ago, I decided to try out one of her books. I flew right through Summer People and it was great. I give it an A-.

From Amazon:
It was the summer that would change their lives forever…
Every summer the Newton family retreats to their beloved home on Nantucket for three months of sunshine, cookouts, and bonfires on the beach. But this summer will not be like any other. When Arch Newton, a prominent New York attorney, dies in a plane crash on his way home from a business trip, his beautiful widow, Beth, can barely keep things together. Above all, though, she decides that she must continue the family tradition of going to Nantucket, and at the same time fulfill a promise that Arch made before he died.
Beth invites Marcus, the son of Arch’s final and most challenging client, to spend the summer with her and her teenage twins, Winnie and Garrett, who have mixed reactions to sharing their special summer place with this stranger. Always a place of peace before, Nantucket becomes the scene of roiling emotions and turbulent passions as Marcus, Winnie, and Garrett learn about loss, first love, and betrayal. And when they stumble upon a shocking secret from Beth’s past, they must keep it from destroying the family they’ve been trying so hard to heal.

I liked all of the characters and felt a connection to each and every one of them. The story was something a bit different from others that I've read before. It was very touching to see how racial borders are overcome and see how first love blooms and can truly change people's lives. I have since picked up one other of Ms. Hildebrand's books from the library, so I look forward to reading more by her!