Love of a Lifetime by Carol Voss
(Love Inspired, 2012, 224 pages)
Tony ran away from his home townten years ago and is only returning after his Nonna, who raised him, had a bad fall down the stairs. Maggie moved in with Tony’s Nonna after her parents died in a car accident when she was young and she instantly panics when Tony shows up on her doorstep and with good reason. Maggie and Tony had been in love before he ran away and spent one of his last night’s together. So Maggie didn’t find out she was pregnant until Tony was unreachable. Maggie must now find a way to tell Tony that they have a daughter she gave up for adoption ten years ago before Tony leaves town again.
This was a really fast read but also really enjoyable. The writing was light and didn’t deal with subjects that were too heavy. This is an Inspirational Romance novel – the religious theme wasn’t overwhelming but it still had a solid presence. Voss didn’t introduce too many characters into the story and mainly stuck with Maggie and Tony’s relationship. This read definitely surprised me with how much I liked it and the characters.
Coming Home by Dee Holmes
(Berkley, 2003, 304 pages)
Olivia Halsey has a hard time committing to the idea of marriage. So when her boyfriend, Daniel, proposes she runs away to her childhood home that has been vandalized with her best friends Claire and Lexie. As they help restore the old, broken home, they each confront what they are hiding from. Claire wants to be seen as having the perfect marriage but with her runaway son and lifeless marriage, she is feeling neglected and alone. Lexie has lost her job and boyfriend and is returning to her partying ways to avoid the consequences. Now they must help each other and learn from their mistakes before it’s too late.
I always try to read “girl-trip” novels but I haven’t read one yet that seems genuine. The situations come off as a little unbelievable to me and the dialogue between the girls just seem forced. Of course I won’t give up on those “girl-trip” novels, they just seem too fun and light to pass up. Hopefully I can find one I really enjoy soon.
Tangled Vines by Janet Dailey
(Little Brown and Company, 1993, 448 pages)
Kelly Douglas has worked extremely hard not only to forget her traumatic past in Napa Valley but also to make a name for herself as a TV newscaster. When she is given an assignment to do a story in her hometown, she prays no one will recognize her and that she can be on the first flight back to NYC. But before she can help it, there is a spark growing between her and Sam, the grandson of Katherine Rutledge who owns one of the best wineries around. She tries to ignore her attraction to Sam but when her trip is extended due to a murder on the Rutledge property, there is no denying the relationship that’s starting. Now she must not only face her past but reveal the truth to Sam and hope not to lose him.
I really enjoyed how there were so many elements to this story. There were a lot of different characters and enough conflicts to keep the story moving but not be overwhelming. Dailey worked in enough flashbacks to give the reader a sense of why each character is the way they are. I especially liked Katherine Rutledge’s story of how she built the winery she and her husband dreamed of owning even after he died. Overall I thought it was a good read but when I read about Janet Dailey’s legal problems she has had with plagiarism, it kind of ruined the book for me.
Bared to You by Sylvia Day
(Berkley Trade, 2012, 338 pages)
Well, first of all, I don’t know that I can recommend audiobooks when dealing with this particular genre… This was marketed as the “better-written” alternative to Fifty Shades of Grey. Eva has recently moved to New York with her best friend Cary (a bisexual male model). She’s about to start a new job working for a large advertising firm and as she does a quick run-through of her route to see how long it will take to get there from her place she runs into Gideon Cross. He’s so handsome she almost loses the ability to think. She doesn’t see him again until she starts work, and it’s then that she learns he is young, rich, and the owner of the building where she works (the Crossfire). There is definitely a connection between them and Gideon sees to it that they get together. Originally wanting it to be a physical relationship and nothing more, Eva convinces him that his setup won’t be enough. What follows are a series of miscommunications, overreactions, fights, and “make-ups.”
Gideon and Eva both have dark pasts – though we don’t get much of Gideon’s back story in this novel (it will likely be revealed in book 2 of this series), we learn that Eva had a history of sexual abuse which definitely affects her relationships. It seemed to me that Day was trying a little hard to mimic the Fifty Shades of Grey series, which I actually liked more. Not that most of the books in this genre are meant to be closer to the literary end of the spectrum (though some are and I’d recommend you head in that direction – Megan Hart is a good author), but the character development and plot were severely lacking to me – the relationship scenario in particular.
If you want a steamy read, you’ll find it here.
The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos
(Perennial Classics, 2000, 452 pages)
The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love had been on my “to read” list forever. Sometimes it just takes a quick lap at the library to remind yourself of all the books you still want to read. This book won the Pulitzer Prize in 1990 and I couldn’t put it down. The story revolves around Cesar Castillo who came to New York from Cuba in the 1940s. He came with his younger brother Nestor, a man who was more of an introvert after a tragic break up with a woman he considered the love of his life. Set in the 80s, the book is primarily Cesar reflecting back on his life as he contemplates the fact that death is quite near – he looks back to what things were like in his heyday as a musical performer with his band, The Mambo Kings; how his personal life was (he was quite the ladies’ man); and how he was forced to change with the times…
Essentially Hijuelos takes us through the life of Cesar Castillo – the character development is pretty impressive. Not to mention the fact that it makes you want to explore the history of the music/culture of New York in the 40s and 50s. My summary doesn’t really do the book justice; I really enjoyed it. I’ll be picking up Beautiful María of My Soul soon – the follow-up to this novel. Great read.
Low Pressure by Sandra Brown
(Grand Central Publishing, 2012, 467 pages)
This was a typical Sandra Brown novel; an easy to read page-turner with a little sex thrown in. The plot was interesting and while I felt the ending was a little predictable it was still fairly suspenseful getting there with a few surprises along the way. I would recommend it if you’re a Sandra Brown fan.
Amazon Book Description:
“Bellamy Lyston was only 12 years old when her older sister Susan was killed on a stormy Memorial Day. Bellamy’s fear of storms is a legacy of the tornado that destroyed the crime scene along with her memory of what really happened during the day’s most devastating moments. Now, 18 years later, Bellamy has written a sensational, bestselling novel based on Susan’s murder. Because the book was inspired by the tragic event that still pains her family, she published it under a pseudonym to protect them from unwanted publicity. But when an opportunistic reporter for a tabloid newspaper discovers that the book is based on fact, Bellamy’s identity is exposed along with the family scandal.”
Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan
(Jonathan Cape, 2012, 320 pages)
I can say I enjoyed this book from beginning to end. Even though it is touted as a spy novel, you would be disappointed if you were expecting an espionage thriller. Serena falls into the espionage business sort of by accident and spends much of the book as a glorified clerk/secretary. Still it is a well-written novel about a girl growing up and her transition from school to work in a time of great social change.
Amazon Book Description:
“Cambridge student Serena Frome’s beauty and intelligence make her the ideal recruit for MI5. The year is 1972. The Cold War is far from over. England’s legendary intelligence agency is determined to manipulate the cultural conversation by funding writers whose politics align with those of the government. The operation is code named ‘Sweet Tooth.’ Serena, a compulsive reader of novels, is the perfect candidate to infiltrate the literary circle of a promising young writer named Tom Haley. At first, she loves his stories. Then she begins to love the man. How long can she conceal her undercover life? To answer that question, Serena must abandon the first rule of espionage: trust no one.”
The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous & Broke by Suze Orman
(Riverhead Books, 2005, 395 pages)
I’d actually bought this book when it first came out and loaned it to a friend before I read it. Sadly, after that I never saw it again. In the spirit of educating myself a little more about my financial life I pulled this book from our shelves and started reading. The book is laid out in a very straight-forward manner. Each section tackles a specific financial issue: credit scores, student loans, investing, big-ticket purchases… Orman provides an overview of the issue to start with, highlighting the key things you need to know and do, then has the rest of the chapter broken up into frequently asked questions that she answers. So you don’t need to read through the whole thing if you don’t want to, you can pick and choose those questions which are most suited to your own concerns. Essentially this book is meant to guide you toward getting control of your financial life so you can feel comfortable and confident going forward and not feel financially stressed.
I was happy to learn that I was already doing a lot of the things Suze recommended, but I still took away a lot more from the book than I anticipated. Aimed at those in their 20s and 30s The Money Book is accessible and puts things in a way that’s easy to understand. I’m actually reading another Orman book now, Women & Money, and it’s digging a little deeper into things and I already feel better informed about my financial status and future. This is a beneficial read if you’re interested in becoming more knowledgeable about your finances and would benefit from an introductory overview of things.
The Racketeer by John Grisham
(Doubleday, 2012, 343 pages)
I picked this up from my public library’s Most Wanted book shelf. John Grisham is one of the few fiction authors I regularly read before we started with the Missouri Book Challenge two years ago. This was a page-turner and a great legal thriller. You can read Jean’s review on this book here. Maxwell Bannister is a former lawyer caught in a big indictment thanks to not practicing due diligence when accepting a case. Bannister is sentenced to 10 years in a federal prison. He lost his wife, child, career and dignity. He spends the first couple of years in prison formulating a complex plot to be free and get revenge against the justice system that wronged him. The story takes many unexpected turns. Plot twists are surprising but not far-fetched. The Racketeer grabbed my attention from the beginning all the way until the end.
The Drop by Michael Connelly
(Little, Brown, and Co., 2011, 388 pages)
I’m always fascinated to hear stories where advanced DNA processes helped solve old crimes. That’s the reason I checked out this book. This is my first Michael Connelly book. Harry Bosch is a detective working at an LAPD cold case unit. Bosch receives new DNA evidence on a 20-year-old unsolved case. The DNA results are a match to a criminal by the name of Clayton Pell. The problem is that Pell was 8 years old when the murder case happened. Bosch and his partner Chu study the old case file and wonder about the likelihood of an 8 year old committing the crime. Did the lab make an error or did the cold case unit contaminate the material? Bosch is quickly pulled out of this case when the body of the city councilman’s son is found on the ground outside a hotel. Bosch is assigned to this apparent suicide case at the request of the councilman. The councilman’s long standing hostile history with Bosch and the LAPD makes this an unusual request. The plot is straight forward and predictable. It’s a good read, not great.