Jun 29, 2015

A Week at the Lake by Wendy Wax

Wendy Wax's latest novel centers around three women who became best friends in their early twenties while living in New York City. Now, Emma, an actress from a well known successful acting family, is a single mother to sixteen year old Zoe. Serena, originally from Charleston, South Carolina, is the star of an popular animated show in which she plays the vivacious and sexy Georgia Goodbody. Mackenzie and her husband, Adam run a theater in a small, family-oriented city in Indiana. For one week every summer the three women would retreat to Emma's family lake house in upstate New York, however the invitations stopped abruptly five years ago without explanation. And now, after five years of no contact, Emma has once again invited them.

The day before they are all to meet in city and make their way together to the lake, Emma is caught in a terrible accident which puts all their plans in a tailspin.  Pushing hurt feelings and all sorts of emotions aside, Mackenzie and Serena, along iwth Emma's daughter Zoe, keep vigil at her bedside. They all have so much to tell each other and it seems that Emma had a reason for bringing them all together. This is a story of old friends, secrets and loyalty with deep emotions and life-long implications.

My Thoughts:

Believe it or not, this was my first Wendy Wax book. I'm familiar with her other novels since so many of my fellow bloggers have read and praised them. This story appealed to me mainlyt because of the long running friendships the three women share. I can relate to that because most of my own close friendships are decades old as well. That is a special bond so naturally it piqued my interest.

Emma, Serena and Mackenzie were each good characters and likable, though I did feel a little distant from Mackenzie who I thought came actross a bit judgmental.  Serena, on the other hand, was the character I liked the most. I enjoyed her free spirit and playfulness, even though some of her choices were not always what was best for her.

A lot of times when I'm reading women's fiction, I get frustrated by the predictability of the story. so it was a pleasant surprise when the beginning didn't start off the way I imagined it would. The accident caught me off guard and took the story in a direction I wasn't expecting. 

Though there was a lot of history between these women that needed to be explained, I felt Ms. Wax kept the story moving without getting bogged down in the details but still painted a clear picture of where each woman had come from and also her present self.  The secondary characters, especially Nadia, the nurse, was a bright spot and I enjoyed her immensely. That was another unexpected element for me. 

So, for me, A WEEK AT THE LAKE was win. I can say now that I was prepared for another predictable story of friendship gone awry, but it turned out to be more than I was expecting.  I'm glad I can now say I've read a Wendy Wax novel and  I did enjoy it.  I will definitely read more from her in the future. This is the perfect book to add to your summer reading list.

Author: Wendy Wax
Publisher: Berkley
Published: June 23, 2015
Length: 432 pp
Source: Joan Schulhafer Publishing & Media Consulting via NetGalley

Jun 25, 2015

Throwback Thursday: June 2008

Welcome to another of my Throwback Thursday posts where I'm revisiting my first year of blogging! Looking back, I see that June was a month of firsts.  I hosted my first giveaway and I also started participating in a weekly meme, which I previously had no idea what that was!

I read and reviewed three books in June of 2008, two of which were fiction and one non-fiction. The one that stands out the most to me was A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS by Khaled Hosseini. (Click on the title to read my review from 2008). I remember losing myself in that book because I'd loved THE KITE RUNNER so much and I was anxious to get that feeling again. Believe it or not, I've had his latest book, AND THE MOUNTAINS ECHOED for some time now but I haven't yet read it! I honestly don't know what I'm waiting for but I do intend to read it before the end of this year.



BOOKING THROUGH THURSDAY was the weekly meme I began participating in that month. Each week the host would pose a book related question for the participants to answer and discuss on our blogs, then posting a link on the original post.  It was interesting to visit the other blogs and get their perspectives. That meme introduced me to so many new bloggers and I realized how quickly the book blogoshpere was growing.  BTT, as it is also known, became a regular feature on my blog and one that I really looked forward to each week. Happily, BTT is still going strong today. In fact, today's meme titled The Other Side, asks: What do your non-reader friends think about your reading habits? I think it's a great question that is bound to spark up a lot of conversation.

What I remember most about my blogging in June of '08 was how busy I was becoming with it and since I was still working a full-time job as an office manager and bookkeeper for a commercial/residential contractor, sometimes I'd find myself staying up really late to get my posts written or books read. Fortunately though, I was loving it so I didn't mind at all. I was meeting some really great people and my small world was opening up to many new things.

Thanks for taking a minute to step back in time with me to reminisce about my first year of blogging. I'll see you in July!

Jun 23, 2015

Temple Secrets by Susan Gabriel (Unabridged Audio Version)

Every family has secrets, but the elite Temple family of Savannah has more than most. To maintain their influence, they've also been documenting the indiscretions of other prestigious southern families, dating as far back as the Civil War. When someone begins leaking these tantalizing tidbits to the newspaper, the entire city of Savannah, Georgia is rocking with secrets. 

The current keeper of the secrets and matriarch of the Temple clan is Iris, a woman of unpredictable gastrointestinal illnesses and an extra streak of meanness that even the ghosts in the Temple mansion avoid. When Iris unexpectedly dies, the consequences are far flung and significant, not only to her family--who get in line to inherit the historic family mansion--but to Savannah itself. 

At the heart of the story is Old Sally, an expert in Gullah folk magic, who some suspect cast a voodoo curse on Iris. At 100 years of age, Old Sally keeps a wise eye over the whole boisterous business of secrets and the settling of Iris's estate. 

 MY THOUGHTS:


This was not my first Susan Gabriel novel.  A few years ago I read and really enjoyed THE SECRET SENSE OF WILDFLOWER, a truly original southern story.  Though I did enjoy TEMPLE SECRETS and getting to know the Temple family members, I wasn't swept away like I'd hoped I would be. I loved the setting of Savannah, the implication of spirits hanging around the old historic Temple home and the deep family history. Gabriel did a great job of making you feel as if you were stepping into the past when entering the home. I did find the characters genuine and most of them likable.  Iris Temple was undoubtedly someone you wouldn't want to cross, therefore most of the other characters tip-toed around her out of fear.  

Though there was a lot of talk about the Book of Secrets, I found myself wondering if any of those secrets would be revealed and how they would affect the story. I was expecting big, earth-shattering secrets but very few ever materialized like I imagined they would. Unfortunately for me, the story never developed into the ghostly secret keeper that I wanted it to. 

The narration was also performed by Susan Gabriel and though she did a great job reading the story, I would have liked to have heard more of a variety of inflections with the characters. 

The bottom line for me is that I liked the charcters and setting but wish the story would have developed further. It's not a long book and I felt that just when it was getting started, it had ended and left me wanting more. 

TEMPLE SECRETS (Unabridged Audio Version)
Author: Susan Gabriel
Publisher: Wild Lily Arts
Published: April 7, 2015
Length: 9 hrs 18 mins
Source: Susan Gabriel, Author

Jun 7, 2015

The Sunday Salon: Sidelined

I had such high hopes and had my whole week planned out for this past week. What I would read, listen to and post here on the blog. Well, you know what they say about best laid plans. Instead, I was sidelined with recurring shoulder pain that reached an all-time high early on in the week. I've been to my regular doctor, been referred to an orthopedic doctor and made multiple trips to my chiropractor. I've been taking steroids to help manage the pain, which is debatable whether they are working or not. The pain I've been feeling is originating from my the base of my neck over to the left top part of my shoulder then radiating down my left arm, elbow and to my wrist. This makes using my left arm almost impossible. My chiropractor informed me I had more than one piched nerve. It has been a nightmare I wouldn't wish on anyone. I haven't slept in my bed in five days because I can't lie down properly. I've been averaging about 3-4 hours of sleep on and off each night.

My reading and blogging plans have come to a screeching halt! The steroids I'm taking are giving me blurred vision so I wasn't able to start Wendy Wax's new book A WEEK AT THE LAKE as I planned. Though I have started listening to Stephen King's MR. MERCEDES, I can only handle it in small doses because even the noise of the awesome Will Patton is annoying me. I also have two reviews to write but sitting at the computer has just been too painful. I'm shocked I've been able to sit here this long to write this post. I'm typing so fast, I may not catch all my errors, so please bear with me. I just want to get it done before the pain becomes intolerable.

The fact that I am sitting here typing tells me that maybe I am improving. That's encouraging to me. I will be visiting some blogs today but on my tablet while sitting propped up on the couch. I just may not be able to leave many comments as its harder for me to see on it. I'm hopeful I'll maybe get some reading done today or tomorrow.

What I'm excited about to day is that I picked up a great book deal on Kindle Daily Deals today! It's an author I've never read but this book has great reviews. It's Rachel Abbot's SLEEP TIGHT. I remember when it came out early last year and was happy to be reminded of it this morning. The reviews state that it's a edge of your seat mystery that with an totally unpredictable plot. So I'm really excited to get into that one soon.

Well, this is about all I can handle so I will end this by saying thanks for stopping by and I apologize for being absent on the blog this week. I hope you all enjoy your Sunday! Take care!

May 31, 2015

The Sunday Salon: Looking Ahead to June

It's hard to believe we're about to reach the mid-way point of 2015. June has come around so fast that it's scary how quickly the remainder of the year will fly by. With June's arrival, the humidity levels in Florida have also decided to stick around. Fortunately, I have a well-treed lot and a concrete block home that tends to stay cool a little longer than most. It enables me to enjoy open windows through May, but I can tell those days are behind me now until later in the year when it finally starts cooling off again.

So far this year I've been happy with my reading choices and June is looking pretty promising too. I've got a few books I'm finishing up this week. One is LADIES' NIGHT by Mary Kay Andrews. This book came out two years ago and slipped past me somehow. I really enjoy her fun and light stories of women in Florida and Georgia. I'm also halfway through an audio book I received from author Susan Gabriel. It's called TEMPLE SECRETS and takes place in Savannah, one of my favorite cities. It's kind of Southern Gothis with a lot of family secrets and ghostly characters. I've got a review of THE GIRL WHO CHASED THE MOON by Sarah Addison Allen to post this week. I've had a hard copy of this book for a few years but I have such difficulty reading print books so I have been unable to read it. Recently, it was offered as a Kindle deal so I jumped at it and read it immediately.

I hate to admit it, but I guess I have to face the fact that my eyes are beginning to fail me much faster than they used to so I'm going to be reading some of the books I already have on my Kindle while I still can. I've noticed a startling decline and I'm really having a hard time seeing just about anything anymore. The white cloud-like film that covers my vision is getting more prevalent. Anyway, I will be finishing THE GOLDFINCH that I started last year and I also want will be reading BLISS HOUSE by Laura Benedict. It's suppose to be a creepy summer beach read and that seems to be the mood I'm going to! I also want to read AND THE MOUNTAINS ECHOED. There are many others on my Kindle but for now that's what I'm getting started with.

I am expecting a review copy of A WEEK AT THE LAKE by Wendy Wax early this week. They sent me a paperback advance copy but the print is just way to small, so I've requested a digital copy from the publisher instead and I should have it maybe tomorrow. I'm really looking forward to that one. It will be my first Wendy Wax book even though I recently added TEN BEACH ROAD to my Kindle.

The thing I'm really excited about is the audio book I'm starting this week. I'm not a big Stephen King fan even though I have read a few of his books. But with his new book coming out soon, I wanted to give him another try. MR. MERCEDES came out last year as you know and it's the first in a trilogy. I chose it in audio format mainly because Will Patton is the narrator. He is a wonderful actor with a fantastically sinister voice. You may remember him from the movie No Way Out with Kevin Costner and Gene Hackman. He played the creepy aide to the senator, played by Hackman, who was fixated on him. I believe he will add a whole other dimension to this book. After I listen to MR. MERCEDES, I'll be ready for FINDERS KEEPERS, the second book. I've read that this trilogy is a departure for King and the perfect segue into his work if you're new to him. I felt it would be perfect for me.

So that's a sampling of what I'll be reading this June. I plan to get a lot of reading done now that my favorite tv shows are on hiatus for the summer. I do have a few shows I enjoy during the summer like Suits, Major Crimes and my favorite Hell on Wheels which is starting in July this year. But I'm glad to take a break from so much tv. That said, I will be watching Orange is the New Black later this month on Netflix!

As for today, I'm taking it easy. Nothing going on but finishing LADIES' NIGHT and listening to the NASCAR race on tv. I want to apologize for not including more links and book cover photos in this post, but the double vision is at an all-time high today, making it really difficult to see the screen. Adding the links would probably just lead to a headache that I don't need today. So, I'm sorry guys, just hang in there with me. Sorry also for any mis-spellings I may miss. I hope everyone has a great Sunday! Thanks for stopping by today!

May 27, 2015

BEACH TOWN by Mary Kay Andrews

(There are no Spoilers in this review)
Greer Hennessey is a location scout/location manager for a movie studio in Los Angeles so she's used to living out of a suitcase and being on the go. It actually works for her life right now since she recently lost her mother to cancer, and her only other family is her grandmother who lives in a nursing home.  She hasn't been in a relationship since she caught her studio lawyer boyfriend, Sawyer, cheating on her almost two years ago. 

Right now she's in the process of finding the perfect 'old Florida' coastal town to film a new blockbuster featuring a super-star rapper turned actor as its lead character. The possibility of this film being a major hit depends a lot on Greer finding the perfect location. Greer thinks she's found it in Cypress Key, Florida. It rests lazily on the West coast south of the Panhandle with the waters of the Gulf of Mexico lapping at its shoreline.  As Greer prepares for the cast and crew to arrive she starts the ground work with the small community renting the necessary buildings for filming, finding housing for the stars and producer and obtaining the permits needed to get the project started. Eb Thibadeaux is the mayor of Cypress Key and to say the he and Greer get off on the wrong foot is an understatement but she can't afford to alienate the one person who has the power to make her job go smoothly or block her at every turn. He's not only the mayor, he's the city engineer and part owner of the motel she's just leased for the next several weeks where the crew will be staying, including herself. 

As if she doesn't have enough going on, her long, lost father, whom she hasn't seen in thirty years is trying to connect with her. Apparently her mother and father had mended some fences before Lise died and in her last days had been pushing Greer to give him a chance and at least get to know him a little. Lise had obviously given Clint her contact information because now he was calling and texting almost daily. As luck would have it, Clint was living in Florida, only an hour or so from Cypress Key.  Though Greer feels an obligation to her mother to go see him, she isn't counting on anything else. She doesn't need or want him in her life after all these years. Besides, she's too busy with work to have time for this. Her number one priority is to get this movie made. 

MY THOUGHTS:

Oh my! I don't know where to start!  I guess I should start by saying I am a long-time fan of Mary Kay Andrews' books. Granted, there have been some that I love more than others but BEACH TOWN is proof that MKA is at the top of her game! There are so many things I loved about this book

The first and most obvious is the location. Previously Savannah has been the backdrop for most of her novels, but this is her second book, the first being LADIES NIGHT, that takes place in Florida. The thing that makes this book special to me is that it basically takes place in my back yard. These are my stomping grounds and it warmed my heart being able to relate and form actual pictures in my mind of these places that I know. It gave the story an authenticity that can't be fabricated. I could be wrong, but I believe Andrews' fictional Cypress Key is actually patterned after Cedar Key, a quaint little town I've been to many times and is less than an hour from my house in Ocala. With all the familiarity of the surroundings it created a feeling of endearment for this reader. 

I'll be honest, I'm not a big movie buff anymore and I didn't know if I would really get into a storyline about movie-making but I quickly put those worries aside.  The wonderful characters are what drove this story and getting to know Greer and how she handled her job responsibilities made for an interesting read and it helped that I really liked her. The secondary characters were all so genuine and real that nothing seemed forced. MKA is known for her original and quirky characters and she came up with some good ones for BEACH TOWN. 

Though there are a few different stories being told here, they all fit together and compliment the main story line, which is Greer and her personal and professional life. Even though this is a stand-alone novel, I could definitely see a sequel considering all the great characters and avenues that could be explored. I would love to see Greer and the gang again sometime down the road. 

One thing that did surprise me a bit though, was how long the book was. At 445 pages, it seems her books are getting bigger and bigger. That said, I didn't experience any lulls in the story that you might expect from a book that big. 

So, now you know I really loved this book, but I want to be clear.  This is not a spine-tingling page turner with surprises at every turn.  What it is, though, is a completely engrossing, well developed story that was genuine and totally satisfying. I'd call it contemporary, Southern womens fiction. It was everything I've come to expect and love from Mary Kay Andrews.  BEACH TOWN is a fun, quick read that is sure to be on the list of top summer reads this season. Her Southern charm, along with great stories and believable characters win out every time.  

Disclaimer: I received an advance digital galley copy from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. 

Author: Mary Kay Andrews
Publisher: St. Martins Press
Published: May 19, 2015
Length: 445 pp
Source: St. Martins Press via NetGalley

May 21, 2015

Throwback Thursday: May 2008

In May of 2008 I was beginning to feel more comfortable in becoming a book blogger/reviewer and I was feeling more at ease expressing my opinions. Writing my thoughts and points of view down for the world to see was a huge step in coming out of my shell and not being so reserved with my thoughts. Previously, I tended to not speak out as much and let others do it for me. I never realized until I started thinking about this post but this blog has had a big impact on me in that regard.

The books that I reviewed in May of my first blogging year were all very different from each other. There was a mix of non-fiction, historical Southern fiction and contemporary fiction.  When I was writing my review for Joan Didion's THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING I remember being uneasy about it because I really didn't like the book. I know many people loved that book, but I just didn't. It was the first time that I felt such a strong negative opinion.  Nervously, I posted my thoughts and . . . the world didn't end. Everyone has an opinion and that is the beauty of these book blogs so many of us dedicate so much of ourselves to. We don't all have to have the same opinion or like the same books. There is no right answer.

I also read and reviewed Sue Monk Kidd's THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES. I immediately fell in love with that book and wondered why it took me so long to read it. But the book that really stood out was THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN by Garth Stein. There was a lot of hype about this book and when I read it I totally got why. This book touched my heart, made me smile and made me cry. A friend recently mentioned to me that she was thinking about reading this book over her summer break and I instantly got a warm feeling all over. That's what this book does. What made it extra special was that after posting my review I received a very sweet email from Garth Stein thanking me for sharing my thoughts. That was the first time I'd been contacted by an author directly and it was a great feeling.



This is only my second Throwback Thursday post here on the blog and I gotta tell you, I'm liking it a lot. Taking the time each month to reminisce about my first year of blogging and where it all started has been eye-opening and insightful. I hope you enjoy it as well. Thanks for stopping by. I'll be back with another Throwback Thursday post next month.