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The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty

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Sophie Honeywell was once the girlfriend of Thomas Gordon, yet on that very day that Thomas had planned an elaborate proposal – Sophie broke up with him, feeling that he was not the one for her.

Years later as Sophie is approaching 40 years old, she is still annoyingly single, and Thomas she heard, has been happily married for years as well as a father.  When Thomas calls Sophie out of the blue one day and asks to meet up. Sophie is shocked but curious as to what he will have to say.  Nothing could have prepared for this conversation.

When Thomas meets up with Sophie he explains that his aunt Connie who was one of the few people who lived on Scribbly Gum Island had passed away.  Sophie recalls having met Connie a couple of times during her and Tom’s courtship.  When Tom tells Sophie that Connie has left her beautiful home to her, Sophie is shocked; but a letter accompanying this revelation confirms Connie’s wishes all to clearly.

Entering back into Tom’s family as the “ex who dumped him” is not easy.  And Scribbly Gum Island came with much baggage…. including the famous Munro Baby mystery, that happened right inside the home that Sophie had just inherited.  With a cast of interesting and quirky characters, Sophie’s life is about to change completely.

 

 

 

I chose this audio because I can not get enough of the incredibly engaging writing of Liane Moriarty.  This is one of her older titles, written in 2010.

At first listen, I almost gave up on the audio narrated by Heather Wilds (good narration, she had many vices to keep up on!).  The Last Anniversary did not jump-start right into the action as her newer titles do.  About 30 minutes in, I was glad I hung in there as I could start to sense the emerging Moriarty that this author will come to be.

The Last Anniversary has some interesting characters that I enjoyed.  As we enter the story, Connie has passed away however you do get a chance to know what type of person she was.  Her sister Rose (now in her 90’s!) is still quite active, Veronica is a hot mess – at once angry that Sophie was given the house of her aunt and apparently struggling with identity as well, Enigma – the baby of the mystery who is now a grandma…. and more.

There is enough here of Moriarty that fans of writing will enjoy this.  I did enjoy this one and as always, look forward to more from her.

 

 

 

  • Audible Audio Edition
  • Listening Length: 12 hours and 47 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio
  • Audible.com Release Date: July 22, 2014

 

 

 

The Girls Of August by Anne Rivers Siddons

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Maddy, Barbara, and Rachel are three of the four girls of August who used to gather one week a summer at a glorious beach house.  The week would consist of much wine drinking, much giggling, and lots of catching up with one another and what was happening in each of their lives.  This tradition had been going on since the girls were in their twenties, almost twenty years!  Melinda was the fourth girls of August, and upon her tragic and untimely death, the other three had not felt up to carrying on the tradition.

That is…

until now.

Baby, the new (and third) wife to Teddy who had been married to Melinda, invites the girls to once again come together and bring back the girls of August.  Baby desperately wants to fit in with the three friends, and after some thinking, Maddy, Barbara, and Rachel decide that maybe after the four years that have passed, it is time to gather once more for a time of coming together.

Yet things between the friends have changed as well.  Each carries a secret they do not easily let go, and with this new addition to the group, the young twenty something blond perfect bodied Baby… opening up and sharing the way they once did is going to take time… when their week-long gathering turns into two weeks… that may just be enough time to deal with what is true in each of their lives.

 

 

There is soooooo much to love about this book.  First and obvious for me… I love the concept of a yearly gathering at a beautiful beach house with your closest girl friends.  Laying on the beach, napping in the sun, cocktails, laughing until you cry,  and dancing to a camp fire all appeal to me.  And as far as that goes, the book holds up to what I had hoped to find within it.

Unfortunately there are some odd scenarios that felt like a skip in a record.  A few things in the book did not seem to flow with the story and while I listened to this one on audio I literally said out loud “huh?” more than once.

Basically – So much potential and then not quite reaching it.  I really did enjoy most of this story that I listened to on audio.  It still contains elements I enjoy including women’s friendships, and anything to do with the beach and sun. :)  Kate Reading’s narration was perfection and really added to my enjoyment of a book that unfortunately falls short.

People who enjoy light summer reads and stories of women’s friendships should find this one a good way to spend a day in the sun.

 

Purchase this book from:  Retailers websites

 

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; Unabridged edition (July 8, 2014)
  • Language: English

 

Cherry Cola Book Club by Ashton Lee

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Cherico, Mississippi library director Maura Beth Mayhew faces the challenges of libraries just like everyone else.  As she is in such a small town, the ever-present dangers of having the library closed so budgeted money can go elsewhere is all too real.  With Councilman Durden Sparks breathing down her neck with an agenda for the upcoming budget to re purpose the funds the library normally receives, Maura knows she has to up her game.

With a few friends she starts a group that reviews classics and calls it the Cherry Cola Book Club ( cute story behind the name).  The group ties in food with the discussion and looks to go deeper than your average book club.  Surprisingly, Durden Sparks accepts Maura’s invitation to join the group, even though Maura is quite aware that Durden is their to undermine her and keep a close eye on what the library is up too.

Will Maura’s efforts to let her community know the value of a library be enough?  Or is it too little too late?

 

 

 

You had me at book club.  ~  Sheila

I discovered this little gem while browsing audible.com for an audio to go on my phone while I was working outside.  Initially as the story started, I had a strong feeling my review was going to include the words “predictable” but sweet.

I have to admit though, I was surprised at the depth behind this story.  Maybe it was because of my involvement in our local library and City Library Board, but Maura’s fears of budget cuts and the community not being aware of the value of the library were all to real fears for our own town and perhaps that made me appreciate this one even more.  I actually found some of her ideas to present the value of the library to the community to be good ideas and my own mind started turning these ideas to how they could fit in our own community.

All in all, I really appreciated this audio.  I enjoyed the fun diverse characters and I have to say the discussion on To Kill A Mockingbird made me want to insist that my own book club review this classic so we can have such a discussion.

Those who appreciate Libraries I feel will like this book.  I also feel book clubs could have a lot of fun with this one as there is a lot of food mentioned with recipes in the back of the book (they were read out loud on the audio).  I really want to make that Cherry Cola drink with lime they mention… and the tomatoes and okra sound interesting too….

Fun note…

as I was looking up the audio book picture for this post, I seen the cover for the book version.  It is funny but as I would probably not consider listening to a “cozy read”, I would not have given this book a second glance due to the cover.  I LOVE the audio book cover.

Book Cover

Book Cover

 

I am going to link this post to Weekend Cooking as the back of the book (and in the audio!) listed all of the recipes for the southern YUMMY foods they mentioned throughout.  I will listen to the last chapter again to pick up on some of these recipes.  I LOVE when books talk about food and then give us the recipes to make what they discussed!

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Shadows In The Vineyard by Maximillian Potter

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In January 2010, Aubert de Villaine, the famed proprietor of the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, the tiny, storied vineyard that produces the most expensive, exquisite wines in the world, received an anonymous note threatening the destruction of his priceless vines by poison-a crime that in the world of high-end wine is akin to murder-unless he paid a one million euro ransom. Villaine believed it to be a sick joke, but that proved a fatal miscalculation and the crime shocked this fabled region of France. The sinister story that Vanity Fair journalist Maximillian Potter uncovered would lead to a sting operation by some of France’s top detectives, the primary suspect’s suicide, and a dramatic investigation. This botanical crime threatened to destroy the fiercely traditional culture surrounding the world’s greatest wine.

 

 

Why did I want to read (listen) to this book?  Wine fascinates me.  It has been talked about since biblical times and has taken on the prestige drink of celebrations, congratulations, acceptable item to bring to a dinner party, an accompaniment to dinner, with friends, or yes… while reading a book.  While I myself am not a big wine drinker (I like sweeter wines, I refer to them as “baby wines”), I am still fascinated by the process and the beauty of wine in a glass.

Shadows in the vineyard is an engaging true story.  It was interesting to learn about this event in our not too distant history and the impact it had on this community.  The story line is well paced and kept me fascinated in what was happening.  If you have interest in true events this book may be just the one for you.

Will Grayson Will Grayson by John Green – (Second time around just as AWESOME!)

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Prelude:  When I drive to our cabin that is 3 1/2 hours away I love to listen to audio.  This past weekend with my now graduated from College son, we listened to Will Grayson Will Grayson.  When I tell my son we will listen to audio he eye rolls but appeases me.  I… do not want to be appeased.  I… want him to love audio too.  And this is how it happened…  ~Sheila

 

Will Grayson is 16 years old and has a best friend named Tiny Cooper.  Tiny… is anything but. Tiny is humongous and his heart is just as big as he is.  Tiny is gay – Will is not.  Will takes a lot of crap for having a larger than life best friend who is gay but Will just puts his head down and plods on as each class brings him closer to the end of the school day where he can go home and get away from the drama that is high school.

When Will meets Jane, a girl he may or may not like… things become interesting.  Jane is part of the Gay/Straight Alliance in their school and Will is not sure which one of those heading she falls under  but she seems to like him.  Perhaps… life just became a little more interesting.

Will Grayson is 16 and has fallen for a guy he met on-line named Isaac.  Isaac.  What a great name…  but this is not the Will Grayson who is best friends with Tiny Cooper.  No… this is another Will Grayson, or soon to become known as OWG (other Will Grayson)…

and things are about to get interesting.

 

 

Alright alright – it is honestly really hard to describe this book and why I love it so much.  It has the untethered bound of John Green’s wit.  It has the incredible narration of David Levithan that makes me laugh out loud as the guy is simply brilliant as he makes his way through this book with fantastic voices and occasionally breaking out into song.  Yes song.  Tiny is writing a musical… but that – is another part of the story.

I adored this audio when I listened to it in 2012 immediately following listening to Fault In Our Stars for the first time.  Same author – John Green, in case you did not catch that.  I was basking in Green.  Literally and I wanted to share his incredible writing and audio with the world.  Listening to it again two years later I fell in love with this story again.

So the verdict with my son?  I gave him full veto rights to tell me to stop the audio and I would with no arguing or sideways glares as we drove.  Instead – he enjoyed it too and so much in fact when we arrived back home on Monday he downloaded Audible to his phone so he could finish listening to it on his way home to the cities.

I promised him I would not gloat… but…

mission achieved :)

If you have not treated yourself to the amazing narration of David Levithan I highly encourage you to give him a try.  If you have not listened to a John Green audiobook woo!  You are missing a great level to his writing.  I highly recommend Will Grayson Will Grayson on book or audio.  Some day I want to read this one…  I bet it is FABULOUS!

The Matchmaker by Elin Hilderbrand

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48-year-old Dabney Beech is Nantucket.

Ask anyone.

Everyone knows her friendly smile and her involvement in anything Nantucket.  Dabney also has had a lifelong gift for matchmaking.  She can see when people are right for each other and with 42 happy couples all saying Dabney knows a good match when she sees it… its hard to argue the facts.

The only relationship that Dabney can not seem to get right is her own.  Meeting Clendenin “Clen” Hughes back when she was in school was the highlight of her life and when she let him so… she thought she was doing what was right for both of them. Yet 27 years later when Clen walks back into her life, Dabney feels all those feelings come surging back as though they had never left.  Trouble is Dabney is married to a wonderful man, who while he does not make her heart beat fast like Clen does, would do just about anything to save his marriage to the woman he truly loves.

Torn between what is right.. and what is true… Dabney struggles to make the right decisions, all the while her world is falling apart around her.  When her health seems to be battling against her, and she is missing an alarming amount of time from work for a variety of reasons – Dabney has to decide is making this one last match is worth all the trouble it will cause… even if it is her most desired wish.

 

 

There is just something summery sweet about an Elin Hilderbrand book.  Almost like biting into a perfectly ripe peach.  ~Sheila

 

The Matchmaker is a book I have been excited about.  Gorgeous cover, and the promise of a good Hildebrand storyline made me anxious to get started on this one.  While there was a lot to like about The Matchmaker (sunny days, Nantucket, romance, I want to be Dabney’s friend…) I actually found a bit in this one that I did not enjoy.

Dabney is OVERLY described in the beginning of the book as being adored by everyone…. in several ways in long drawn out descriptions it is very clearly made that Dabney is beloved. There is also a long drawn out decision to open an email or not… reading the title over and over again. It felt a bit forced and I started to think of the beginning of the book as “word fill”… just putting in as many words as you can to stretch it out.    Between that and the description of Clen’s eyes as being “weak tea colored” – that exact description being mentioned three times that I counted… it honestly was almost a deal breaker for me.  The whole perfect matchmaking story was a bit over the top and the only character that was described well and felt real was Dabney herself.

I am not sure what happened here with this book as normally Elin Hilderbrand has delightful engaging stories.  It took quite a while for me to get into this read and for a while I even considered calling it a DNF and moving on.

If, like me, you do hang in there and finish the book the story does redeem itself a bit but I am not sure enough to have me recommend it.

I would be interested in hearing other thoughts from those of you who finished this book as I am surprised by how disjointed I found it to be.

 

 

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (June 10, 2014)

 

 

Blossom Street Brides by Debbie Macomber

1caaLauren Elliott dreams of being a bride but Todd, her boyfriend of many years avoids the subject like it is the plague.  When Lauren’s younger sister who is already married announces she is pregnant Lauren feels even more strongly that it is time to make moves towards what makes her happy, and that may very well mean moving on without Todd.

BethAnne Scranton is the happiest she has ever been in her life with her second husband Max.  He is everything a husband is supposed to be (caring, loving, passionate, a friend and companion) and everything her first husband was not.  The only thing not perfect is the fact that Max’s business is so far away he maintains a separate household and that seems to make BethAnne’s ex think there is room to wiggle back into her life.

Lydia Goetz owns the local yarn store called ‘A Good Yarn’.  She worries about her store and how to think of unique ways to bring in business… it seems however someone is secretly helping her with that.  Baskets of yarn and needles are showing up around the town with a message to knit a scarf and bring it into A Good Yarn where it will be donated to someone in need.  The yarn is all coming from Lydia’s shop… but who?  And why?  Although Lydia is not complaining as her business door is opening more and more to new customers.

How will these women’s lives intertwine?  Who’s relationships will survive the bumps? 

 

 

A long time ago I had dabbled in the Debbie Macomber series, Cedar Cove.  I loved how each book was a street address and you learned about the people who lived at that address and their association with the others in the town.  Then the next book would be a different address and from that person’s perspective in the same town.  Really, it is a brilliant series.  As my reading expanded, Debbie Macomber and Cedar Cove were put aside for other books, and I never did find my way back to Cedar Cove, or for that matter, to Debbie Macomber.

Until now.

On a whim…. this book, Blossom Street Brides sounded kind of light and fun, and just the right audio length to hold my attention during the beautiful summer drives.  And… I was right.

Blossom Street Brides is a sweet read centered around three women and their relationships with spouses, boyfriends, and children.  While romance reading has never been a “go to” genre for me, Macomber never lays it on thiick so I am able to enjoy her smooth style of an engaging storyline.  There are a couple of happenings in the book that made the independent woman in me think “oh come on!”, but over all putting reality aside, I found enjoyment in the read.

Going into this book, I did not realize it was part of a series until I finished it, but I never felt I was missing any previous information.  I listened to this one on audio with Cassandra Campbell as the narrator and I enjoyed it.

Fans of Macomber will enjoy this fun look into the three women’s lives.

 

  • Listening Length: 10 hours and 59 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Random House Audio
  • Audible.com Release Date: March 25, 2014

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

Orphan Train, Christina Baker Kline, Sheila DeChantal, Book JOurney

Molly Ayer knows the Foster Care System all too well.  She has been a part of it for most of her life bouncing from one home to another.  Now at seventeen years old she is required to do community service for a petty theft crime.  She is required to go through an elderly woman’s attic and clean up, toss out, and organize the cluttered dusty boxes.  An undertaking that on sight appears impossible, especially since the widowed old woman Vivian, does not seem to keen on parting with her things.

As Molly explores the attic and what is inside the boxes, she discovers that Vivian too was part of a much earlier foster system called the Orphan Train. The Train would take children from stop to stop where families could come to the train and choose children to go home with them… that system unfortunately, worked about as well as some of it does still today. As Molly and Vivian spend their days together in the attic they learn of each others experiences with the foster care system, some good..and some bad.  Some times it was your wits and your desire to survive that pulled you through.

Both women find out that they have a lot more in common than one would ever guess by looking at them.

 

 

Orphan Train was our book club selection for August.  We chose this book because we won the books for our group from Harper Collins – woo hoo!!!!!!!!  AND the author Christina Baker Kline will be speaking in our town on August 12th, as it happens, our regular Tuesday that we hold our book club on.

Orphan Train turned out to be a delight.  As I had loaned my copy of the book out to a friend, I did not have one in my possession so I decided to try it on audio.  I had heard it was an excellent listen and that turned out to be true.  Narrator Suzanne Toren was perfect for this book.

I went into this book with little knowledge of what it was about other than the Orphan Train (*spoiler alert… it’s the title! ;)  )  I had not read any reviews of the book so even the format of going from Molly’s story to Vivian’s was a surprise and a pleasant one at that.

I enjoyed the storyline and the knowledge I picked up along the way regarding the Orphan Train.  It is a subject I hope to learn more about and I am hopeful that next week Christina Baker Kline will talk more about her research.

Historical Fiction fans will enjoy this read.

I will talk more about the Bookies Book Club thoughts on the book as well as the Author Event next week.

 

 

 

  • Audible Audio Edition
  • Listening Length: 8 hours and 21 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Audible Studios
  • Audible.com Release Date: April 2, 2013

 

 

 

 

 

California by Edan Lepucki (hmmmm….)

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It’s been two long hard years since the world as it was broke into this food scarce fend for yourself type shell of what it once was.  The land of abundance is no more.

For Cal and Frida, life is quiet in the wilderness they have created a home within.  They have a garden, and a house, and a water source near by.  Admittedly it is a lonely world but it is what they have and for the most part they feel secure.

When Frida discovers she is pregnant she feels strongly that they must look for others.  While Cal is uncertain of this move, he understands his wife’s fears and together they go off to search for other people.  When they come across a community that is heavily guarded they are allowed inside, at least for a while to see if they will be accepted.  The community is full of surprises – some personal, and some frightening such as the fact that there are no children there.  As Cal and Frida cautiously look for answers they do not know who they can trust.  Is this the best the world now has to offer?  Were they better off alone where they were, or was that too only a temporary feeling of safety?

 

 

When I first heard about CALIFORNIA it sounded like a book for me.  I love a good dystopian novel and I was excited to dig into this one.

CALIFORNIA had a very slow start for me.  It honestly could have been partially due to the changes going on in my life at the time of starting to read this one, but I found it slow-moving and not gripping enough to hold me to it.  I picked it up, read a few pages and put it down off and on for weeks.  When it finally started moving (about 100 pages in) then I became engaged in what was happening.

The book was good… very good in some ways, but as I progressed to the ending I knew that all the different plot lines that had been opened up could not possibly be closed within this one book.  My biggest disappointment is I felt at the end it just…

ended.

Not a cliffhanger… but more like it ended like a chapter ends.  There should be more but there was not.

I had a lot of questions left and felt there was a lot more that needed to happen to bring this story line to full and satisfying conclusion.  No where that I have looked do I see that there are plans to make this into a trilogy or that there will be a sequel even.  For now.. I am under the impression that was it and if that is the case… I am left unfulfilled.

And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard

Jenny Hubbard, And We Stay, Sheila DeChantal, Book Jouurney

Emily Beam is in a Boarding School for girls in Massachusetts.  It is probably due to the fact that her once boyfriend Paul came into the school with a stolen gun and threatened Emily and then took his own life.  It is probably due to the pregnancy.

Now Emily, left with the guilt of ending the relationship and the anger for feeling guilty.  She is not quick to make friends with her dark personality but soon finds that a couple of the girls just won’t shake off so easy.  While Emily is not sharing her tragic story with anyone, it slowly comes out in her writing and her poetry.  As Emily seeks for solace in the  once home of Emily Dickinson that is open for tours just down the street from the boarding school… together it seems the two Emily’s – one in flesh and one in spirit heal together in this strange and uncertain world.

 

 

I chose this book initially for two reasons.  One, I love that Emily Dickinson is part of the story and that they put the home that she wrote in close to where Emily Beam stays.  Two, I adore this cover… a cover like this – could go many directions but I see a closed off, angry and uncertain girl who at the same time is trying hard to look like she is holding it all together.

I can not say I loved this book.  The topics are heavy from teen pregnancy, to suicide, to abortion.  I listened to this book on audio and at a little under 6 hours, it just felt too heavy for my liking.  Emily was not a character I felt for, most of the characters fell flat, to the point that other than the main character and the boyfriend Paul, I could not name another character int he book right now if I needed to.

This book may be a better fit for young adults, but I question if even they too would find it heavy and not of the quality and engagement of much on today’s YA reads. The book had potential but never quite found it.

Narration by Erin Spenser was very good.

 

 

  • Listening Length: 5 hours and 53 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Listening Library
  • Audible.com Release Date: July 8, 2014

 

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