Thursday, October 18, 2018

LIFE




Well as some of you have probably noticed the content here on Girls Just Reading has been a bit light and on/off since the summer. A few things happened to make this an occurrence:

1) Work
2) Kids
3) Work
4) Back to School

We've had a huge enterprise-wide project going on for 18 months and this summer was one of the biggest portions of it. So it meant no lunch time reading and limited reading at night. Plus juggling the kids' schedules with the crazy work priorities was tough.

I also decided to go back and finish my last class for my MBA in September so again that crept into my reading time. Plus our project is at the end (HALLELUJAH!!), so that means more time for reading.

I have a huge stack of great books to get to so I hope you'll stick around to see the blog come back to life.



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Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Julie's Review: Sold on a Monday

Sold on a Monday
by Kristina McMorris
Powells.com
Author: Kristina McMorris
Series: None
Publication Date: August 28, 2018
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Pages: 352
Obtained: Great Thoughts,Great Readers Book Salon
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Bottom Line: Heartbreaking story but with hope
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Summary: 2 CHILDREN FOR SALE The sign is a last resort. It sits on a farmhouse porch in 1931, but could be found anywhere in an era of breadlines, bank runs and broken dreams. It could have been written by any mother facing impossible choices. For struggling reporter Ellis Reed, the gut-wrenching scene evokes memories of his family’s dark past. He snaps a photograph of the children, not meant for publication. But when it leads to his big break, the consequences are more devastating than he ever imagined. At the paper, Lillian Palmer is haunted by her role in all that happened. She is far too familiar with the heartbreak of children deemed unwanted. As the bonds of motherhood are tested, she and Ellis must decide how much they are willing to risk to mend a fractured family.Inspired by an actual newspaper photograph that stunned the nation, Sold on a Monday is a powerful novel of love, redemption, and the unexpected paths that bring us home. ~amazon.com  

Review: This story begins with a cub reporter, Ellis, taking a picture of 2 children in front of a sign that says CHILDREN FOR SALE. This picture will catapult his career but it also changes the trajectory of 3 lives: a mother, a son and a daughter. Lily is the Editor's secretary but she also has career aspirations of her own but she's also hiding a secret that no one at the newspaper knows about. She's afraid it would change how people view her. She's also the person who put Ellis' photo in front of the editor; so in some ways she's responsible for the change in paths of people's lives as well.

The picture being published and the story that Ellis wrote around it gets him a job in NY but not before he starts to wonder what happened to the kids in the picture. So being the investigative reporter he starts to ask a few questions. Lily also inserts herself into helping Ellis. Ellis and Lily make a formidable team with their inquisitive minds and the fact they won’t give up until they have their answers and feel that a wrong is righted. I loved how the mystery unfolded and how even the subplots were connected where they didn’t seem like they would be.

The story takes a few turns that I didn't expect with some of the players who were involved and how they ended up being a part of the story. Ellis and Lily were both interesting characters who's past shaped who they were and how they viewed the world. Lily helped guide Ellis to use his integrity to help resolve returning the children to their mother.

Ms. McMorris’s writing continues to be insightful, emotional and at times gritty. Sold on a Sunday is a story you won’t want to miss!

 
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Monday, July 30, 2018

Julie's Review: Those Other Women

Author: Nicola Moriarty
Series: None
Publication Date: June 26, 2018
Publisher: William Morrow
Pages: 400
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Women's Fiction
Rating: 3.75/5
Bottom Line: An interesting look at how women hurt each other by competing instead of supporting 
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Summary: The author of The Fifth Letter takes a laser look at the uneasy relationships between women and the real-world ramifications of online conflicts and social media hostilities in this stunning domestic drama. A story of privilege, unspoken rivalries, and small acts of vengeance with huge repercussions sure to please fans of Sarah Jio and Ruth Ware. Overwhelmed at the office and reeling from betrayals involving the people she loves, Poppy feels as if her world has tipped sideways. Maybe her colleague, Annalise, is right—Poppy needs to let loose and blow off some steam. What better way to vent than social media? With Annalise, she creates an invitation-only Facebook group that quickly takes off. Suddenly, Poppy feels like she’s back in control—until someone begins leaking the group’s private posts and stirring up a nasty backlash, shattering her confidence. Feeling judged by disapproving female colleagues and her own disappointed children, Frankie, too, is careening towards the breaking point. She also knows something shocking about her boss—sensitive knowledge that is tearing her apart. As things begin to slide disastrously, dangerously out of control, carefully concealed secrets and lies are exposed with devastating consequences—forcing these women to face painful truths about their lives and the things they do to survive. ~amazon.com  

Review: How would you react when finding out that your husband was sleeping with your best friend and was leaving you for her? Would you be more upset for losing him or losing her? What if the reasoning was because he decided he wanted children and knew you weren't open to it? Yet, he never gave you a chance to discuss it. This is the scenario that Poppy finds herself in and she reels from it.

She takes to social media to develop a Facebook page for women who are childless by choice. She meets a lot of women who have the same view as her but little does she know there are a couple lurkers there looking to start trouble. It is Poppy's go to when she's feeling low and needs to vent. Annalise is encouraging her all the way.

Both Annalise and Poppy grow and change through the book which is nice to see. As they change their friendship changes but for the better. Annalise had been closed off and only let Poppy see what she wanted. I was happy that Poppy didn't abandon Annalise with her reveal.

I really enjoyed this one but felt that at times it dragged on when it could have been resolved a bit quicker. I wanted a bit more on Annalise’s life and that seemed rushed with the explanation. I liked both Poppy and Annalise a lot. I wondered about their friendship at first but did grow into a genuine one by the end of the book. There were a lot of other interesting subplots as well. I liked the ending of the novel and the real “women should support women” theme.

This is a great book for a fans of Jennifer Weiner, Emily Giffin and Sarah Jio.


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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Julie's Review: Subway Girls

Author: Susan Orman Schnall
Series: None
Publication Date: July 10, 2018
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 320
Obtained: Great Thoughts,Great Readers Book Salon
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Historical Fiction
Bottom Line: Dual timelines make this story shine
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Summary: In 1949, dutiful and ambitious Charlotte's dream of a career in advertising is shattered when her father demands she help out with the family business. Meanwhile, Charlotte is swept into the glamorous world of the Miss Subways beauty contest, which promises irresistible opportunities with its Park Avenue luster and local fame status. But when her new friend―the intriguing and gorgeous fellow-participant Rose―does something unforgivable, Charlotte must make a heart-wrenching decision that will change the lives of those around her forever. Nearly 70 years later, outspoken advertising executive Olivia is pitching the NYC subways account in a last ditch effort to save her job at an advertising agency. When the charismatic boss she’s secretly in love with pits her against her misogynistic nemesis, Olivia’s urgent search for the winning strategy leads her to the historic Miss Subways campaign. As the pitch date closes in on her, Olivia finds herself dealing with a broken heart, an unlikely new love interest, and an unexpected personal connection to Miss Subways that could save her job―and her future. The Subway Girls is the charming story of two strong women, a generation apart, who find themselves up against the same eternal struggle to find an impossible balance between love, happiness, and ambition

Review: Reader beware once you start to read The Subway Girls you will want to google the history of this story because that's exactly what happened to me...rabbit hole city! I loved the dual time line with Olivia and Charlotte and it's really what makes the story pop. You see Charlotte struggling with trying to gain her independence from her father and their family story and then you see Olivia fighting for her place in the advertising world. Charlotte certainly was a force that couldn't be contained and she knew what she wanted; a job at a big advertising firm, even if she did need to start in the typing pool.

Olivia is working at a boutique advertising firm that might now survive if they don't land a big account. So when the opportunity to pitch a campaign to the MTA falls in her lap she's excited. She's less excited when her boss decides to let her and her misogynistic co-worker go against each other for the business. So Olivia throws herself into research and stumbles upon the Miss Subway Girls and inspiration takes hold. Little does she know how this research will effect her life long term.

I loved the way the stories intersected and were brought full circle. I am always a fan of the dual storyline but I don't know if this story would have worked with just one point of view. It's obvious that Ms. Schnall did her research for this book. 

Both of them were formidable in their own way and for their time. Women have always paved the way for each other and will continue to do so. I highly recommend this wonderful novel.  




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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Julie's Review: Girls' Night Out


Author: Liz Fenton, Lisa Steinke
Series: None
Publication Date: July 24, 2018
Publisher: Lake Union
Pages: 338
Obtained: Authors
Genre:  Mystery, Suspense
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: Friendship ain't easy
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Summary: For estranged friends Ashley, Natalie, and Lauren, it’s time to heal the old wounds between them. Where better to repair those severed ties than on a girls’ getaway to the beautiful paradise of Tulum, Mexico? But even after they’re reunited, no one is being completely honest about the past or the secrets they’re hiding. When Ashley disappears on their girls’ night out, Natalie and Lauren have to try to piece together their hazy memories to figure out what could have happened to her, while also reconciling their feelings of guilt over their last moments together. Was Ashley with the man she’d met only days before? Did she pack up and leave? Was she kidnapped? Or worse—could Natalie or Lauren have snapped under the weight of her own lies? As the clock ticks, hour by hour, Natalie and Lauren’s search rushes headlong into growing suspicion and dread. Maybe their secrets run deeper and more dangerous than one of them is willing—or too afraid—to admit. ~amazon.com  

Review: We all have those friendships where one person seems to be the glue that holds all of you together right? Well it is the same with Ashley, Natalie and Lauren. Ash is the one that both brings them richer and in some ways separates them. After Ashley and Lauren have a fallout a year ago, Natalie lost contact with Lauren as well. In order to mend their friendships, Ashley invites both on a trip to Tulum saying it’ll help them heal. This is where is all goes haywire though.

Each woman has her share of secrets that they’ve been keeping from each other and in some ways themselves. When you admit something to another person it makes it real for you too; which none of them are truly ready to admit. Add in a handsome stranger who takes all of one of their attentions away and you have storm a brewing. What I loved about this book is that each friend was in the wrong in some way. None of them were better than the other. I also enjoyed how what occurred a year ago was revealed piece by piece by each of the friends. Female friendships are tricky and sometimes you have to evaluate whether or not you need to cut ties with a toxic one.

Ashley is completely self-absorbed and while I felt that at first she really did want to reconnect with Lauren and Natalie; as the time wore on I felt that she didn't. To defend her though, I don't think she knew how to approach the history. No one wants to dredge up the past when it doesn't put you in the best light.  She seems to want to move on to be a better mom but she's not willing to change her ways either.

Natalie perhaps had the biggest secret from her friends' but I didn't feel that she should have had to reveal it to Ashley to make her understand why she wanted out of their joint business. If Ashley wanted to keep it so badly, perhaps she needed to find away to buy Natalie out.  Natalie was trying to do what she could to save her family and her marriage and that included walking away from the business that she built from the ground up with Ashley. Also, doing business together was truly wreaking havoc on their friendship, which for Natalie was more important.

Lauren was the wild card for me. Yes she had issues with Ashley and perhaps Natalie to a degree but her life since letting them go a year ago has been a bit messy. Making up with Ashley was the least of her issues that she had to work out. I didn't feel that repairing her friendship with Ashley was her top priority, nor should it have been.

Sometimes in life you have to decide to let go of friendships. People come in and out of your life for reason and purpose. Some have expiration dates and some don't but we learn something from each of them about ourselves. 

Liz and Lisa have a knack for writing stories you want to read and women you want see yourself or people close to you in. Not only that but they aren't afraid of shying away from some subject matters that can't be easy to write. I have read each of their books and loved each of them for different reasons but Girls' Night Out is their best to date.


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Friday, July 6, 2018

Julie's Review: Dreams of Falling

Author: Karen White
Series: None
Publication Date: June 5, 2018
Publisher: Berkley
Pages: 435
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Women's Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Bottom Line: Family secrets always have a way of coming out
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Summary: On the banks of the North Santee River stands a moss-draped oak that was once entrusted with the dreams of three young girls. Into the tree's trunk, they placed their greatest hopes, written on ribbons, for safekeeping--including the most important one: Friends forever, come what may. But life can waylay the best of intentions.... Nine years ago, a humiliated Larkin Lanier fled Georgetown, South Carolina, knowing she could never go back. But when she finds out that her mother has disappeared, she realizes she has no choice but to return to the place she both loves and dreads--and to the family and friends who never stopped wishing for her to come home. Ivy, Larkin's mother, is discovered badly injured and unconscious in the burned-out wreckage of her ancestral plantation home. No one knows why Ivy was there, but as Larkin digs for answers, she uncovers secrets kept for nearly fifty years--whispers of love, sacrifice, and betrayal--that lead back to three girls on the brink of womanhood who found their friendship tested in the most heartbreaking ways. ~amazon.com

Review: Dreams of Falling is a multi-generational novel about how secrets tend to come out even if they’ve been hidden for decades. Each of these women has their own skeletons and issues to deal with but everything is done out of love. We have CeCe, Ivy, Bitty who are all holding something back from Larkin and have been for years. Not only are they holding back from her but they have been keeping things from each other for decades. Now with Ivy's accident, Larkin finds herself back in the place she didn't ever want to return to for a long period of time, home. Larkin was doused with love as a kid but because she wasn’t allowed to fail or to see herself as other did; reality comes crashing down on her and she isn't equipt to handle it.

Larkin also carries around tremendous guilt about an incident that happened which caused her to flee. She's not quite sure when her BFF from childhood, Mabry reenters her life. She sees how easy it would be to fall back into step with her. Not to mention Mabry's twin brother Bennett, who she really is not looking forward to seeing.

What Ms. White does well is tell the story in flashbacks and present day. You start to understand the choices each of them made and why they made the decision she made. You start to see Larkin come out of her shell and fully appreciate the person she is and reconcile herself with the kid who fled home 9 years ago. Of course she realizes that sometimes you can go home again. There were of course a few things I saw coming but it didn't lessen my enjoyment of it at all.

If you enjoy books about family with a southern setting, then you won't want to miss Ms. White's latest novel.


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Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Julie's Review: The Lost Family

Author: Jenna Blum
Series: None
Publication Date: June 5, 2018
Publisher: Harper
Pages: 432
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: Heartbreaking, poignant and hopeful
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Summary: The New York Times bestselling author of Those Who Save Us creates a vivid portrait of marriage, family, and the haunting grief of World War II in this emotionally charged, beautifully rendered story that spans a generation, from the 1960s to the 1980s. In 1965 Manhattan, patrons flock to Masha’s to savor its brisket bourguignon and impeccable service and to admire its dashing owner and head chef Peter Rashkin. With his movie-star good looks and tragic past, Peter, a survivor of Auschwitz, is the most eligible bachelor in town. But Peter does not care for the parade of eligible women who come to the restaurant hoping to catch his eye. He has resigned himself to a solitary life. Running Masha’s consumes him, as does his terrible guilt over surviving the horrors of the Nazi death camp while his wife, Masha—the restaurant’s namesake—and two young daughters perished. Then exquisitely beautiful June Bouquet, an up-and-coming young model, appears at the restaurant, piercing Peter’s guard. Though she is twenty years his junior, the two begin a passionate, whirlwind courtship. When June unexpectedly becomes pregnant, Peter proposes, believing that beginning a new family with the woman he loves will allow him to let go of the horror of the past. But over the next twenty years, the indelible sadness of those memories will overshadow Peter, June, and their daughter Elsbeth, transforming them in shocking, heartbreaking, and unexpected ways. ~amazon.com  
Review: The Lost Family is a fabulous story that is told from 3 different view points: Peter, the husband and father; June, the wife and mother; and Elsbeth, the daughter. What adds to the story though is that Ms. Blum tells it in chronological order.

I thoroughly enjoyed all points of view but the one that will stick with me is Peter’s. His is a story of survival and hope. I’m not sure if it’s because it was first but it was certainly had the most impact. It is his history and his experiences that shape his present and his future. He never fully opens up to June and keep his past to himself. It is his extended family that tells June and then Elsbeth about his previous family and

I understood how June felt the way she did about her life (haven’t we all felt stuck at one point) but she didn’t know how to handle it.

Then there was Elsbeth that felt she wasn’t good enough for either parent for various reasons but they were all internalized. I felt sorry for Elsbeth because she was stuck in the middle between her parents and their issues. Her mother always wanted her to lose weight but her father was always plying her with food.

Ultimately this novel is about family and how the past influences the present and the future. It’s about letting go and moving on but not forgetting. For fans of WWII novels, this is one that you will want to read.


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Thursday, June 21, 2018

Julie's Review: The Banker's Wife

Author: Cristina Alger
Series: None
Publication Date: July 3, 2018
Publisher: G.P. Putnam
Pages: 352
Obtained: Great Thoughts,Great Readers Book Salon
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Women's Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: 3 strong heroines in one book
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Summary: On an early morning in November, a couple boards a private plane bound for Geneva, flying into a storm. Soon after, it simply drops off the radar, and its wreckage is later uncovered in the Alps. Among the disappeared is Matthew Werner, a banking insider at Swiss United, a powerful offshore bank. His young widow, Annabel, is left grappling with the secrets he left behind, including an encrypted laptop and a shady client list. As she begins a desperate search for answers, she determines that Matthew's death was no accident, and that she is now in the crosshairs of his powerful enemies. Meanwhile, ambitious society journalist Marina Tourneau has finally landed at the top. Now that she's engaged to Grant Ellis, she will stop writing about powerful families and finally be a part of one. Her entry into the upper echelons of New York's social scene is more appealing than any article could ever be, but, after the death of her mentor, she agrees to dig into one more story. While looking into Swiss United, Marina uncovers information that implicates some of the most powerful men in the financial world, including a few who are too close to home. The story could also be the answer to Annabel's heartbreaking search--if Marina chooses to publish it. ~amazon.com  

Review: Wow! Ms. Alger wrote a fantastic novel about what it takes to survive when you are being hunted for something your husband might have done. We all know that off-shore accounts are a bit suspect but she really brings the seedy underside to life in her novel. We meet Annabel and Marina both who will be sucked into this web of deceit but in very different ways. As the book kept picking up speed, I was hoping our multiple heroines would be able to come out on the other side of this with their lives intact. Each of them had so much tragedy and sorrow in such a short period of time that I wanted them to be o.k.

There are definitely some twists and turn throughout the book but none that seemed unrealistic or non-plausible. Especially given the fact that you are dealing with a business that exists on dirty or not completely legal money.

What I loved is we had three strong but different heroines in Annabel, Marina and Zoe. I loved that this story weaved their lives together probably in ways they would have preferred not to have happen in some ways. Each of them brought a different aspect to the story and definitely added unique perspectives. I wasn't expecting Zoe's to be so interesting and intricate to everything.

The Banker's Wife  truly sucked me in from the first line and didn't let go. It is definitely a book to take to the beach or pool with you this summer but I read it anywhere I could just to see what was going to happen next.


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