Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Julie's Review: A New Neighbor


Author: Leah Stewart
Series: None
Publication Date: July 7, 2015
Publisher: Touchstone Books
Pages: 304
Obtained: published
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Mystery
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: Intriguing look at the secrets we keep and who we tell our secrets to
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: In the tradition of Zoe Heller’s What Was She Thinking? Notes on a Scandal, The New Neighbor is a darkly sophisticated novel about an old woman’s curiosity turned into a dangerous obsession as she becomes involved in her new neighbor’s complicated and cloaked life. Ninety-year-old Margaret Riley is content hiding from the world. Stoic and independent, she rarely leaves the Tennessee mountaintop where she lives, finding comfort in the mystery novels that keep her company, that is, until she spots a woman who’s moved into the long-empty house across the pond. Jennifer Young is also looking to hide. On the run from her old life, she and her four-year-old son Milo have moved to a quiet town where no one from her past can find her. In Jennifer, Margaret sees both a potential companion in her loneliness and a mystery to be solved. But Jennifer refuses to talk about herself, her son, his missing father, or her past. Frustrated, Margaret crosses more and more boundaries in pursuit of the truth, threatening to unravel the new life Jennifer has so painstakingly created—and reveal some secrets of her own. ~amazon.com  

Review: The New Neighbor is a riveting novel that will have you turning the pages to find out what it is that Jennifer and Margaret did because you know they both did something. Margaret is a 90 year old woman who lives by herself in a small mountain town. When a younger woman moves into the house across the pond, Margaret finds her curiosity peaked.

Jennifer is escaping her past. We don't know what she's escaping but we know it's something that she desperately wants to move away from. In order to support herself and her young son, Milo she puts up fliers to get work as a massage therapist. This is how her and Margaret get acquainted. What Jennifer can't possibly know is that this business relationship will change her quiet existence. 

Margaret is an interesting person. She's very callous and yet she wants to be liked. She also has a secret she wants to unburden but refuses to acknowledge this fact. Instead she enlists Jennifer to record her personal history. This is also her way of trying to get Jennifer to open up about her past. The thing is that Jennifer has built a pretty big wall and she's not too quick to fall for Margaret tricks.

Neither of these women is particularly likable but that didn't stop me from wanting to know what happens to their stories. Ms. Stewart does a great job of leaving a trail of breadcrumbs along the way with both of their stories. I really liked how the story was told from both Margaret's and Jennifer's POVs. I don't think you would get a full picture if only one of them were telling their side of the story. I also liked how she included another point of view at the very end that adds another dimension to the storyline.

If you are looking for a great summer mystery, then look no further than The New Neighbor , it will hold your attention no matter where you are reading it.



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Monday, June 29, 2015

Brittney's Review: Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands


Author: Chris Bohjalian
Series: None
Publication Date: May 26, 2015
Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition
Pages: 288
Obtained: Purchased
Genre:Literature-Coming of Age
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: Heartbreaking, raw – a must read.
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!

Summary:
Emily Shepard is on the run; the nuclear plant where her father worked has suffered a cataclysmic meltdown, and all fingers point to him. Now, orphaned, homeless, and certain that she’s a pariah, Emily’s taken to hiding out on the frigid streets of Burlington, Vermont, creating a new identity inspired by her favorite poet, Emily Dickinson.

Then she meets Cameron. Nine years old and with a string of foster families behind him, he sparks something in Emily, and she protects him with a fierceness she didn’t know she possessed. But when an emergency threatens the fledgling home she’s created, Emily realizes that she can’t hide forever. – amazon.com

Review:

I have a soft spot for books that get me emotionally wrapped up into a character. Such was the case for Emily Shepard, our main protagonist.

Chris writes a no holds barred look into the life of a not-your-average teen who lives through the unthinkable, and just when you think things couldn't get worse, Emily endurs even more. It's rare to see a level of writing that is so factual when portraying a teen, which is probably why I find the YA genre difficult to read. Not the case here: Chris delivers writing that is beautiful, raw and realistic. This is far from a YA read and in the end, is a beautiful coming of age story.

This book is a stark reminder that we never know the battle someone else is fighting until we've walked a mile in their shoes.

I snagged Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands from the new trade paperback releases shelf at the airport about a week ago, and only later realized that Julie had reviewed the hardcover edition. I echo her sentiments in that this would make a fantastic book club read. It'll provide some difficult questions for the group to debate, as so much controversy and pain surrounds Emily's life.


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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Jenn's Review: Mr. Kiss and Tell


Author: Rob Thomas & Jennifer Graham
Series: Veronica Mars #2
Publication Date: January 20, 2015
Publisher: Vintage Books
Pages: 336
Obtained: purchased
Genre:  Crime, Mystery
Rating: 4.0
Bottom Line: A must for Veronica Mars fans!
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Blurb:  The Neptune Grand has always been the seaside town’s ritziest hotel, despite the shady dealings and high-profile scandals that seem to follow its elite guests. When a woman claims that she was brutally assaulted in one of its rooms and left for dead by a staff member, the owners know that they have a potential powder keg on their hands. They turn to Veronica to disprove—or prove—the woman's story.

The case is a complicated mix of hard facts, mysterious occurrences, and uncooperative witnesses. The hotel refuses to turn over its reservation list and the victim won’t divulge who she was meeting that night. Add in the facts that the attack happened months ago, the victim’s memory is fuzzy, and there are holes in the hotel’s surveillance system, and Veronica has a convoluted mess on her hands. As she works to fill in the missing pieces, it becomes clear that someone is lying—but who? And why?


Review:  I adore Veronica Mars from the series right through to the fan funded movie.  There is just something about that snarky girl that I can never get enough of...  so it was an obvious choice to pick up the novels to continue where the movie left off. While I enjoyed the first book, The Thousand Dollar Man, it was a lot like reading a script in that we seemed to get only the surface details.  Mr. Kiss and Tell was more fleshed out and far more satisfying in the story telling department.

The case was one of Veronica's heavier ones but Rob Thomas has never shied away from tough topics.  Neptune is full of familiar characters and it's not surprising that this case centers around someone we've met before.  It's one of the many things I love about this franchise.  The characters go on existing in Rob Thomas's world and every  once and a while we get a glimpse of them.  Although sometimes, this time, it can be a little heartbreaking.

Logan and Veronica fans said there wasn't enough Logan last novel.  While this is remedied in Mr. Kiss and Tell, Rob Thomas can't seem to stop poking at their relationship.  It's like he keeps throwing cherry bombs at it hoping to trigger a bigger explosion.  Now it is Logan who is stable and Veronica who is floundering.  I LoVe Logan and Veronica together but I'm not sure that Rob Thomas knows how to write them happy.

This is a series I can't stay away from ...and if this is the only way to get my Veronica Mars fix from now on, besides re-watching the DVDs, I'm okay with that.  Would you like this if you aren't a VM fan?  Yes.  I don't think the first book worked outside the VM realm, but the second one is solidly written.  You will miss all the references though and if you aren't a Veronica Mars fan, why the heck not?!?



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Friday, June 19, 2015

Julie's Review: Under the Same Blue Sky


Author: Pamela Shoenewaldt
Series: None
Publication Date: May 5, 2015
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Pages: 352
Obtained: Caitlin Hamilton Publicity & Marketing
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: A wonderful novel about finding out where you belong
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: 1914. In the coal-dusted shadows of Pittsburgh's steel mills, shopkeeper's daughter Hazel Renner dreams of adventure under blue skies and escape from her German-American parents' ambitions for a respectable career. But war in Europe shatters her plans and community, pitting neighbors and friends against each other and shaking free a family secret. Seeking peace in the countryside, Hazel is visited by a mysterious healing power—a gift that swiftly leads to tragedy. Resolved to discover who she is and where she belongs, Hazel follows her past to an exiled German baron fighting private demons in an American castle. There she meets Tom, a gardener who shares the freedom of flight, but their powerful bonds will be tested by the chaos and voids of war. Betrayed by her healing powers, struggling to protect those close to her while keeping her own heart safe, Hazel must reconcile youthful dreams with the devastating realities around her. She discovers that escape is closer than we think, and true healing can take unimaginable forms in a world after war. ~amazon.com

Review: Under the Same Blue Sky is a beautiful, quite story about finding where you belong when you life gets turned upside down. It's about finding some calm when the world is crazy. Hazel is a dutiful daughter of German immigrants who have made their American home in Pittsburgh. She loves her parents but dreams of being an artist. Her mother wants her to do something that will make a difference like being a teacher or a doctor. When war breaks out in Europe, Hazel puts her dreams on hold to become a teacher. She ends up getting a teaching post Galway, PA and works to win over the farming community. She befriends the "crazy" guy and unfortunately this has disastrous outcomes for both of them. It is here that Hazel discovers her healing powers and while she thinks she's helping people, it eventually becomes the thing that makes her leave Galway.

Hazel really comes into her own when she leaves Pittsburgh for the 2nd time to the castle where her mother worked. It is here where she finds her place. She works for the Baron in his art dealing business and makes herself at home in Dogwood. Hazel's life isn't ideal though. She slowly watches the war in Europe consume her father and take his soul. She is torn between two worlds: the America she loves and her parents homeland of Germany. She watches as the war makes the immigrants of Germany the enemy.

 Ms. Schoenewaldt does an excellent job of setting the stage for what is going to come in the novel. The tension is easy to feel through the plot and the characters. It is their experiences that you feel as a reader and it's what connects you to them. 

The story moves methodically but it is never slow or plodding. The pace of the book takes you back to a time where things didn't move so fast and news wasn't instantaneous. Where you had to wait weeks, months or perhaps years to find out what happened to family/friends during the war. I really enjoyed following Hazel on her journey. She's a lovely young woman who is seeking to breakaway from her parents dreams for her to create her own. She does this while also respecting their wishes and being a dutiful daughter. She never doubts herself or strays from her beliefs. She does come into her own at the end of the novel.

I will definitely be checking out her previous novels and keeping an eye out for her future books. For those that enjoy a story that reveals itself slowly and that enjoy coming of age stories, you won't want to miss Under the Same Blue Sky. 




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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Julie's Review: Summer Secrets


Author: Jane Green
Series: None
Publication Date: June 23, 2015
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 320
Obtained: Amazon Vine
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Women's Fiction
Rating: 3.75/5.0
Bottom Line: Perfect vacation/pool/beach book
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Library
Summary: When a shocking family secret is revealed, twenty-something journalist Cat Coombs finds herself falling into a dark spiral. Wild, glamorous nights out in London and raging hangovers the next day become her norm, leading to a terrible mistake one night while visiting family in America, on the island of Nantucket. It's a mistake for which she can't forgive herself. When she returns home, she confronts the unavoidable reality of her life and knows it's time to grow up. But she doesn't know if she'll ever be able to earn the forgiveness of the people she hurt. As the years pass, Cat grows into her forties, a struggling single mother, coping with a new-found sobriety and determined to finally make amends. Traveling back to her past, to the family she left behind on Nantucket all those years ago, she may be able to earn their forgiveness, but in doing so she may risk losing the very people she loves the most. Told with Jane Green's keen eye for detailing the emotional landscape of the heart, Summer Secrets is at once a compelling drama and a beautifully rendered portrait of relationships, betrayals, and forgiveness; about accepting the things we cannot change, finding the courage to change the things we can, and being strong enough to weather the storms. ~amazon.com  

Review: Summer Secrets is the story of starts, stops and re-starts. It is the story of a woman trying to learn to forgive herself while seeking the forgiveness of others. Cat is a woman who has been an alcoholic most of her adult life and is trying to stay sober for the last 18 months. She's lost her daughter and husband because of her drinking plus the relationship with other family members.

Summer Secrets is told in flashbacks and then the present. While I found that this works for most novels, it left me somewhat confused in the beginning. Not only do we get Cat's flashback to her summer in Nantucket but then we get her mom's flashback to even a further time back to when she met Cat's father. I think that's what I found confusing was that her mom's story didn't add to the flow of the book.

 While I liked Cat I wouldn't say that I could relate to her. That's not necessarily a bad thing. I felt badly for what she had been through and I wanted her to get better, live her life and enjoy her daughter. I wanted her to be able to make amends to those that she has wronged in her past so that she could move on.

I loved how Ms. Green described Nantucket. She almost makes me want to go there if nothing else just for watching the rich and famous. I loved Cat's best friend, Sam. He was a breath of fresh air in otherwise a pretty heavy subject matter.

I wouldn't say this was my favorite Jane Green novel but as always I'm happy to have read it. It really is a great summer book for the beach, pool or car ride.



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Monday, June 15, 2015

Julie's Review: The Status of All Things


Author: Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke
Series: None
Publication Date: June 2, 2015
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Pages: 304
Obtained: purchased
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Magical Realism
Rating: 4.25/5
Bottom Line: Are we as happy as we post on Facebook? Probably not.
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: What would you do if you could literally rewrite your fate—on Facebook? This heartwarming and hilarious new novel from the authors of Your Perfect Life follows a woman who discovers she can change her life through online status updates. Kate is a thirty-five-year-old woman who is obsessed with social media. So when her fiancé, Max, breaks things off at their rehearsal dinner—to be with Kate’s close friend and coworker, no less—she goes straight to Facebook to share it with the world. But something’s changed. Suddenly, Kate’s real life starts to mirror whatever she writes in her Facebook status. With all the power at her fingertips, and heartbroken and confused over why Max left her, Kate goes back in time to rewrite their history. Kate's two best friends, Jules and Liam, are the only ones who know the truth. In order to convince them she’s really time traveled, Kate offers to use her Facebook status to help improve their lives. But her attempts to help them don’t go exactly as planned, and every effort to get Max back seems to only backfire, causing Kate to wonder if it’s really possible to change her fate. In The Status of All Things, Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke combine the humor and heart of Sarah Pekkanen and Jennifer Weiner while exploring the pitfalls of posting your entire life on the Internet. They raise the questions: What if you could create your picture-perfect life? Would you be happy? Would you still be you? For anyone who’s ever attempted—or failed—to be their perfect self online, this is a story of wisdom and wit that will leave you with new appreciation for the true status of your life. ~amazon.com  

Review: The Status of All Things is something that many of us can relate to in some way. You might not be solely focused on making sure that selfie you just took is perfect enough to post to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc but we do make our lives all shiny on social media. If we don't, we always mask in in cryptic messages. What if we were all honest? What would it look like then? Would you lose friends? Probably. This is the quandary for Kate who just got dumped by her fiance at their rehearsal dinner. What do you think her first question or thought should be? Probably, why right? Nope for Kate it's how am I going to update my status. It literally comes out of her mouth to her now ex-fiance, Max.

This gives us a glimmer into Kate and what she's focused on. What Kate gets is the ability to re-write her statuses for the last 30 days before the rehearsal dinner dump by Max. As we all know if you change one thing about the past, it sets into motion changes that you can't even think of, with consequences. Where Kate things she's going to save her relationship with Max and is so focused on that, she doesn't for one second think that maybe they aren't supposed to be together. Kate is a bit self-centered and going back 30 days shows her that maybe things aren't so perfect in Jules' marriage and maybe Liam being in a relationship isn't good for their friendship.

As Kate starts to realize that things aren't always great when you go back to fix them, she figures out that maybe the place she needs to be is right where she was in the beginning. It's a long road for Kate and her friends but I do think that she learned something from her journey. Sometimes what we need most is staring us right in the face and learning to let go is the hardest thing we need to do. Liz and Lisa have a great social commentary on the use of social media and what it does to our relationships, our egos and our self-worth.

We all have that one friend or maybe friends whose lives look so perfect but are they really or are they self-editing? No one's life is perfect, we all have our own struggles and I think this book is a reflection of that. There are very humorous moments and very poignant ones. You identify with Kate and want to shake her sometimes with in sentences of the novel. She's got a great heart but she's slightly misguided.

If you ever find yourself getting caught up in the perfect lives of your friends on Facebook, et. all, then I highly recommend The Status of All Things . Even if you aren't caught up in social media, you will still take something away from this novel.



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Friday, June 12, 2015

What Makes a Book Good?

I worked in the digital marketing department of one of the big five publishers for over six years, so like the rest of these ladies, I’ve read a lot of books. Like, a LOT a lot.
I’m a tough critic, but I’m far from being an editor! I’ve only read a handful of books that I really could not finish. And most of those involved a plot where girl is engaged, girl meets another boy, girl has overly sexualized affair with said boy, finance finds out…you get the idea. 
I rate my books on a scale of 1-5, with a score of five being one of the best books I’ve enjoyed, and a score of one meaning that I couldn’t finish the book. A score of five will be reserved for the best-of-the-best. Most good books will receive a score of four.

By genre:

 Women’s Fiction, Mystery/Thriller -

I want to read a book that has me thumbing the corners so much that by the last page, the width of the book has doubled in size from bent pages. A book that is so well planned and executed that tears pour from my eyes, or have me shouting “WHERE DID THAT COME FROM??!” – in a good way! A book that might have some purple prose, but written with a purpose.
Favorites: Shantaram (Roberts), The Dogs of Babel (Parkhurst), Winter Garden (Hannah), The Lock Artist (Hamilton), Andorra (Cameron).

Business - 

I do, actually, enjoy reading business books, and I have a shelf devoted to them at home. It boils down to two things: 
         Does this book work for me, right now, with where I am in my career? Or do I need to be a C-level executive to put what I’ve learned to good use?
         Does this book use too many business terms that nearly put me to sleep? I recently tried to read a book that came highly recommended by a senior executive, and couldn’t make it past the first ten pages. Business ≠ robot. I want to be invested in the knowledge the book provides, not feel like I’m sitting in a college lecture.

Favorites: Managing Oneself (Drucker), What to Ask the Person in the Mirror (Steven), Reaching Your Potential (Kaplan). Almost anything by Drucker, Lencioni, Goleman.

Cooking, Health & Fitness - 

I love food. I love running. I have to run because I love food so darn much. I try (and regularly fail) to be health-conscious, so I am always up for a good cookbook or running book that I can put to good use.
Favorites: The Juice Generation, Eat and Run (Jurek), Born to Run (McDougall), The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook: The Original Classics (use the turkey recipe amended for your needs - it works flawlessly every single time).

Memoirs/Travel Memoirs - 

I love a good memoir. There isn’t much to say here aside from whether I deem the person worthy of writing a memoir (sorry, Lena Dunham!), but I love little nuggets and insight into the lives of people I admire.
Favorites include: After All (Moore), Eat, Pray, Love (Gilbert) 

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Thursday, June 11, 2015

Brittney's Review: Bossypants


Author: Tina Fey
Series: None
Publication Date: April 31, 2011
Publisher: Reagan Arthur Books
Pages: 352
Obtained: Purchased
Genre:Biography-Entertainment and Performing Arts
Rating: 3/5
Bottom Line: Not for casual fans
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Library
Summary: Before Liz Lemon, before "Weekend Update," before "Sarah Palin," Tina Fey was just a young girl with a dream: a recurring stress dream that she was being chased through a local airport by her middle-school gym teacher. She also had a dream that one day she would be a comedian on TV. 

She has seen both these dreams come true.

At last, Tina Fey's story can be told. From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon -- from the beginning of this paragraph to this final sentence.

Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we've all suspected: you're no one until someone calls you bossy.

(Includes Special, Never-Before-Solicited Opinions on Breastfeeding, Princesses, Photoshop, the Electoral Process, and Italian Rum Cake!) - amazon.com

Review:

Let's start out my very first review with an obvious statement: I am very behind on my TBR pile. But better late than never, am I right? I'm so thrilled to be joining GJR so I have a good excuse to finally crank through my list, while also soaking in books in a way that I wasn't always able to do when I worked in publishing.

Look, I'm not a Tina Fey Super Fan. As in, I don't go out of my way to watch her work. I wouldn't even go as far as saying I'm a casual fan. But I have enjoyed the few things I've seen (Sarah Palin), admired her work and attention to the smallest detail (Sarah Palin), and knew that as far as books by comedians go that this would be my best shot at enjoying a book in this realm.

This review is for the reader that has considered picking up a copy of Bossypants – maybe because of all of the rave reviews you've seen – and you're not sure if it's right for you. My answer boils down to one question: are you a SNL-lovin', 30-Rock watchin', Tina Fey fanatic? Yes? Then absolutely buy and read this book.

If you're only moderate in your feelings for any of the above mentioned items, then sure -- you'll learn something about the comedy/show business industry, and you'll get a few laughs in, too. But there are a slew of pages devoted to some of Tina's work which is most ideal for her fan base, and I especially found myself struggling to get through the 30-Rock chapter.

If you're like me, your best bet is to snag a copy from a friend, or loan one out from the library. Keep it as that little nugget you read in between a sweeping, emotional novel and use it as a refreshing mental break. Or read it this summer while you're sprawled out on the beach, or in between errands. There are some great points in here about women in the workplace, which in and of itself makes the book a worthwhile read.


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Julie's Review: Movie Star By Lizzie Pepper


Author: Hilary Liftin
Series: None
Publication Date: July 1, 2015
Publisher: Viking Books
Pages: 352
Obtained: Amazon Vine
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: Ripped from tabloids and enjoyable for those who have an interest in the secret lives of celebrities
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: Actress Lizzie Pepper was America’s Girl Next Door and her marriage to Hollywood mega-star Rob Mars was tabloid gold—a whirlwind romance and an elaborate celebrity-studded wedding landed them on the cover of every celebrity weekly. But fame, beauty, and wealth weren’t enough to keep their marriage together. Hollywood’s “It” couple are over—and now Lizzie is going to tell her side of the story. Celebrity ghostwriter Hilary Liftin chronicles the tabloids’ favorite marriage as Lizzie Pepper realizes that, when the curtain falls, her romance isn’t what she and everyone else thought. From her lonely holidays in sumptuous villas to her husband’s deep commitment to a disconcertingly repressive mind-body group, Lizzie reveals a side of fame that her fans never get to see in a story that will have every reader guessing the real-life inspirations for its players. Full of twists and turns, Movie Star by Lizzie Pepper is a breathless journey to the heights of Hollywood power and royalty and a life in the spotlight that is nearly impossible to escape. ~amazon.com

Review: Movie Star by Lizzie Pepper is fiction on top of fiction. What I mean by that is that you know off that bat that the idea came from all the tabloid stories about Scientology, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. Now, that doesn't mean it's not enthralling because it pretty much sucked me down the celebrity rabbit hole.

Lizzie Pepper is famous because of a show she did when she was 17, when she was America's Sweetheart. She's been in a variety of independent films but isn't what I could call a superstar.  Of course that's all about to change when she meets and subsequently dates and then marries Rob Mars, the most eligible bachelor on the plant. She's head over heels in love with him and he is in love with her. As she wants to immerse herself into his life, she begins to go to One Cell, the group/belief system that Rob credits with helping him be the man and actor he is today.

Lizzie figures if it helped Rob, it can help her. She decides to sign up for classes and learn how to practice their beliefs. Essentially they want you to void yourself of all emotion. Call my crazy but don't actors have to be in touch with their feelings in order to show that on film?

We are with Lizzie on this journey as she reflects on it through her memoir. It's not hard to like Lizzie and root for her. You also wonder why it took her so long to open her eyes. We don't really get to know Rob because this is her story. You get the feeling though that Rob doesn't even know who he is behind the facade that he has created.

If you are at all interested in celebrity life, then Movie Star by Lizzie Pepper is for you. You can't help but get hooked into the peek into Hollywood life. Although I walked away thinking how lonely it must really be for these "A-Listers". It definitely makes a good pool or beach read. Heck, I read it anywhere I could.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Welcome!

It's hard to believe that half of 2015 is over! So to celebrate, we are bringing you a new GJR contributor! Please welcome to our blog...Brittney!!!
 
 photo Brittney av copy_zpstxwdr9u0.jpgThe three of us have known her for some years and she has been a blog lurker. She's an avid reader as well and will bring a new and different perspective.

You can contact her via Email ...

or Twitter: @Bkratchtech

 Be on the look out for her first few posts in the next few days.  

We are thrilled to have you on board, Brittney!!



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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Julie's Review: To Ride a White Horse


Author: Pamela Ford
Series: None
Publication Date: December 14, 2014
Publisher: Aine Press
Pages: 374
Obtained: TLC Book Tours
Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Romance

Rating: 4.5/5
Bottom Line: An easy romance to get swept away in
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: Your feet will bring you to where your heart is. Set against the backdrop of 1840s Ireland and America, To Ride a White Horse is an epic historical saga of hope, loyalty, the strength of the human spirit, and the power of love. With Ireland ravaged by famine, and England unsympathetic to its plight, Kathleen Deacey, a spirited and strong-willed young Irish woman faces a devastating choice--leave her country to find work or risk dying there. Despising the English for refusing to help Ireland, she sets sail for Canada, determined to save her family and find her missing fiancé. But her voyage doesn't go as planned and she ends up in America, forced to accept the help of an English whaling captain, Jack Montgomery, to survive. As Jack helps her search for her fiancé and fight to save her family and country, she must make an impossible choice--remain loyal to Ireland or follow her heart. With insight and compassion, award-winning author Pamela Ford captures the anguish of a devastating period in Irish history, illuminates the resilience of the human spirit and celebrates the strength of love. To Ride a White Horse is a deeply-moving novel that wraps itself around the heart and doesn't let go. ~amazon.com  

Review: Sometimes you have to thank someone for knowing what you like to read and then suggesting a book to you. So Trish (TLC Book Tours), Thank You! I would have missed this lovely novel if it wasn't for her and the tour.

To Ride a White Horse is the story of one women's journey across the Atlantic to save her family and to search for her fiance that didn't return home with her brother. She was chosen as the one member of the Deacey family to make the trek to America in hopes of finding work to send money home for her family to survive.

Unfortunately, Katleen's voyage across the Atlantic isn't easy. In fact, it's because of her issues at sea that she happens upon Captain Jack Montgomery. Let's just say if I had an issue at sea, I would want Captain Jack to be my savior as well. It isn't too hard to figure out that these two will end up together. It's the journey of them getting there that is charming.

They have obstacles of their own to overcome: she's already betrothed, he's got a stubborn streak and his grandfather pretty much hates the Irish. So, when they figure out that they love each other, it's still not going to be easy. You root for Kathleen and Jack the entire novel. You hope that both aren't stubborn and regret decisions that they are likely to make. Let's face it Jack's dreamy. Sure, he has a little bit of a temper and yes he's a man about town but he really does want to change for Kathleen.

Ms. Ford definitely did her research for this novel. Between the potato famine, the ship journey across the Atlantic and to the bigotry in Boston towards the Irish it's hard to imagine how so many survived and then prospered. What always amazes me is how this country has always been chaffed towards one religions, ethnicity or race at certain times in history. It's amazing that we have come as far as we have, but we still have a ways to go.



If you are in the mood for a sweeping romance, with detailed history, then look no further than To Ride a White Horse you will not regret it.


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Monday, June 8, 2015

Julie's Review: The Bookseller


Author: Cynthia Swanson
Series: None
Publication Date: March 3, 2015
Publisher: Harper
Pages: 352
Obtained: purchased
Genre:  Historical Fiction, Mystery
Rating: 3.5/5
Bottom Line: Loved the dual lives but wanted a slightly better ending
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Library
Summary: A provocative and hauntingly powerful debut novel reminiscent of Sliding Doors, The Bookseller follows a woman in the 1960s who must reconcile her reality with the tantalizing alternate world of her dreams. Nothing is as permanent as it appears . . . Denver, 1962: Kitty Miller has come to terms with her unconventional single life. She loves the bookshop she runs with her best friend, Frieda, and enjoys complete control over her day-to-day existence. She can come and go as she pleases, answering to no one. There was a man once, a doctor named Kevin, but it didnt quite work out the way Kitty had hoped. Then the dreams begin. Denver, 1963: Katharyn Andersson is married to Lars, the love of her life. They have beautiful children, an elegant home, and good friends. Its everything Kitty Miller once believed she wanted;but it only exists when she sleeps. Convinced that these dreams are simply due to her overactive imagination, Kitty enjoys her nighttime forays into this alternate world. But with each visit, the more irresistibly real Katharyn's life becomes. Can she choose which life she wants? If so, what is the cost of staying Kitty, or becoming Katharyn? As the lines between her worlds begin to blur, Kitty must figure out what is real and what is imagined. And how do we know where that boundary lies in our own lives? ~powells.com  

Review: The Bookseller will most definitely have you up late reading and will have you wondering which life is real and which is the dream. Kitty is a great character. She owns a bookstore with her best friend in a party of the city that is headed downhill. Frieda has wanted to leave the area but Kitty loves their location. As Kitty sleeps, Katharyn emerges and her life couldn't be more different than Kitty's. She's married with children and it's 1963 not 1962.

Ms. Swanson does an excellent job of keeping you on your toes. You can't wait for Kitty to wake up and try to piece together the pieces of the life she has and the one she dreams about. Or is it Katharyn who needs to wake up? These are the things that made me keep turning the pages. I couldn't decide which life was real and which one wasn't. Also, I wanted to know what was going on? Why was either woman having these dreams or alternate realities?

While I felt for Katharyn, it was Kitty that I really liked. She was so smart, independent and likeable. I felt that Katharyn was a step-ford wife. She was a little too perfect for my taste and so was Lars. I really did keep waiting for the other shoe to drop with him.

Ms. Swanson slowly unravels the story until the end when all is known. I have to say that I wanted a different ending. That's not to say that I didn't appreciate the way it ended but I just wanted something else. I think I almost wanted both to exist, even though I know they couldn't.

I enjoyed every page of this book that I read and definitely will look to see what Ms. Swanson writes next.

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Thursday, June 4, 2015

Julie's Review: It's You


Author: Jane Porter
Series: None
Publication Date: June 2, 2015
Publisher: Berkley
Pages: 336
Obtained: publisher via Suzy Missirlian
Genre:  Historical Fiction, Women's Fiction
Rating: 4.25/5
Bottom Line: Great characters and learned something new about WWII in the process
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: In the wake of a tragedy that tore her life down to the foundations, Dr. Alison McAdams has lost her way. So when she’s summoned to Napa to care for her ailing father, she’s not sure she has anything to offer him—or anyone else.What Ali finds in Northern California wine country is a gift—an opportunity to rest, and distance from her painful memories. Most unexpectedly, she finds people who aren’t afraid of her grief or desperate for her to hurry up and move on. As Ali becomes part of her father’s community, makes new friends of her own, and hears the stories of a generation who survived the Second World War, she begins to find hope again. In a quest to discover the truth about another woman’s lost love, she sets off on a journey across oceans and deep into history. And in making sense of that long-ago tragedy, Ali is able to put together the broken pieces of her heart and make new choices that are right for her. ~amazon.com

Review: It's You surprised me in a great way. I went in thinking I'd get a good chick-lit book with some serious undertones but wow was it so much more! Ali is easy to like. It is easy to feel her pain and to want her to move on. It is also easy to understand why she can't quite let go.

Ali decides to take a break from her life in Scottsdale to visit her dad in Napa Valley. Both of them are feeling the loss of the person that held them together, Ali's mom. Ali doesn't quite know where to start with her dad. She's never felt that important to him, her mom was the buffer. Ali finds that her dad is adjusting to living his life in a retirement community and that he's made friends there. He still holds on to the house that he and Ali's mom bought to retire in with her car in the garage.

While Ali spends time with her dad she meets Edie. Edie is a hard nut to crack. She's prickly and rude. Ali doesn't quite know what to make of her plus they bump heads quickly and often. Something makes Edie confide in Ali and something continues to pull Ali towards Edie. When Edie tell Ali of her life in Berlin during the Second World War; Ali wants to go to Berlin to try to find out about what happened to Franz.

While It's You is mainly about Ali's story of healing and learning to love again, it is through Edie's story that she is able to do that. It is only on her trip to Berlin that she begins to forgive herself and to live again.

While there is a prospect of love for Ali in the future, Ms. Porter never made it about that in the book. It was about these 2 women who had two lifetimes of hurt between each other and yet were looking to believe in love and life again.

I found myself engrossed in both of these women's stories and wanted to see how both their journeys would end up. I definitely recommend It's You for anyone who likes novels that have a bend towards WWII.

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