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Four Friends by Robin Carr

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Great neighborhoods are hard to find, but Gerri, Andi, and Sonja have one.  These three ladies meet up every morning at 6 am to take their morning walk, catching up and starting their mornings right!  It is good to have friends, and the morning that Andi kicks her cheating no good husband to the curb, Gerri and Sonja are there for support.  Gerri with her steadfast ways, and Sonja with her perfect remedies like fen-shui and oil scents that can take away the negative feelings a bad marriage can leave behind.

But no one in this group of friends is safe from hard times.

Gerri has a wonderful marriage and partnership with her husband and father of their three children Phil.  So when she learns of cracks in what she thought was an uncrackable union, she battles anger as she tries to repair the damage – unsure if she can.

Sonja’s constant pursuit of the balanced life between health, eating right, and keeping to a non bending schedule, is enough to drive her husband right out the door.  This leaves Sonja feeling like she just blew a fuse because in her world, she should have known this was coming.

And Andi, now looking at the remains of failed marriage #2, wonders what about her attracts cheating losers.  With an adult son who is battling his own issues, Andi is just not sure is she can let anyone in again.

And then there is BJ.  The neighborhood runner.  She keeps to herself; but when tragedy strikes in the neighborhood, she steps in to help – and the girls find that having a new voice in the group is refreshing, even though they can tell that BJ comes with her own mix of troubles as well.

 

 

 

First up, the title caught me right away (if I was British I would say straight away, but I am not and I don’t know why I mentioned that here…).  I love books with strong female character friendships.  I think it is because I value those strong friendships in my own life and I know how much they have helped me through hard times.

Four Friends is a great read for people like me who like friendship stories.  This is not a wishy-washy lite chick lit book – the women in this book deal with very hard and very real issues.  I thoroughly enjoyed the diversity of Gerri’s strong independent nature, Andi’s worries about trying to find real love, Sonja trying to overcome her perfectionism, and BJ’s dark past.

Robyn Carr writes a great friendship book.  One I was engaged in right from the beginning.  I would not mind at all if these women popped up in another of her books.  If there was a home available on their street I would love to move in and hang out with them!

 

 

 

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Harlequin MIRA (March 25, 2014)

 

 

 

Delancey by Molly Wizenberg

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I just LOVE foodie stories! I don’t know what it is about them but I love to read about the food, the people, the recipes, the tastes, and how it all combines into something wonderful!  ~Sheila

 

Molly Wizenberg loved that her husband Brandon Pettit was passionate about so much.  A composer, Brandon also was fascinated by espresso machines, boats, building violins and learning to make ice cream.  Molly loved how Brandon wold go after a project and soon, as the pattern seemed to be, Brandon would move on to something else.

When Brandon purchased a large mixer for mixing dough for a potential pizza restaurant Molly was not too worried thinking this too would pass.  But pass…

it did not.

Brandon went on to search out buildings and signed a lease.  Like it or not, Molly was about to have her world enter the pizza business.  And their lives as they knew it were about to change.

Before Molly knew it they were renting cleaners, building an oven, cleaning floors, painting, watching thrift stores for tables and chairs, planning menus, and passing inspections.

Like it or not, Delancey was going to happen.

 

 

 

I absolutely loved this book!  Author Molly Wizenberg shares with us the story of how the now popular Delanceys Restaurant in California rose out of the dust of an old building to the place it is today.  From their early marriage days as Molly wrote her first book and Brandon spent night and day working on the restaurant that was to be.  When they first opened, money was so tight they bought the ingredients they would need daily and hoped to make enough money that day to buy the next days!

Delancey’s if filled with delicious recipes of the food that Molly and Brandon ate during the lean years of little time and little money.  The recipes look delicious and fairly quick and easy which is always a plus for me.

Molly is the creator of the blog Orangette, but fair warning.. its easy to spend a lot of time there!  Also check out the website for Delancey.  Molly is also the author of A homemade Life:  Stories and Recipes from my Kitchen Table.  Another book I need to read!

 

 

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (May 6, 2014)

 

 

 

Cheese Deluxe by Greg Palmer

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In the mid 60’s in a small town in Washington a group of teenagers have too much time on their hands. Between the friendships and the cars, and the hang out at the Samoa Drive In; home of one of the worlds best burgers; this memoir covers short tales of a group of friends from their high school years to just beyond graduation.

With stories from a mission to teach an uncoordinated friend how to drive, parents stalking their teenager while he is on a date, flipping burgers with the fish guy, meeting famous people, saying good-bye to a beloved pet, a group hunting trip with Janelle trying to be one of the guys, broken down cars and more… you are bound to get a thrill of cruising back to the 60’s!

 

 

I was not really sure what I had signed up for when I decided I would listen to this book.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that while this was not my era, it was my father’s.  The stories of a simpler time when people hung out with each other instead of their phones, and took time to frequent a favorite restaurant and take a lot of pride in their cars.  I certainly could imagine the cool burger hang out and even almost smell the food cooking… amazing burgers and delicious fries.

I imagine this book would be enjoyed by those who grew up in the era of cars and burger joint hang outs, but also to those of us who connect through our relatives.  The book almost made me wish I had been a teenager in these simpler times.

Jeff Steitzer made an excellent narrator of this book as he retells author Greg Palmer’s recollections of being a teenager flipping burgers and dealing with the trials of the 60’s.

 

 

  • Audible Audio Edition
  • Listening Length: 8 hours and 39 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Bennett and Hastings Publishing
  • Audible.com Release Date: May 19, 2014

 

Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris

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Remember those books growing up when you got to the end of a chapter you had a choice to make and then you turned to the page it told you to depending on your choice?  Basically you chose the characters destination… and come what may, you decided for them.  Well, Neil Patrick Harris’ biography is just like that.  Neil narrates (oh yes… it is that awesome!) his own story, yet as he takes us through the life and times of second person Neil Patrick Harris, he gives you choices to choose what Neil decided next, or what kind of family he had growing up… it is funny, and interesting!

 

I have been a Neil Patrick Harris fan since his days as Doogie Howser (which you hear all about how Neil was chosen for that role and what it was like working on a set with adult actors and because of the child acting laws; his parents always within eye shot.

It also discusses ( or he discusses… about himself… in second person…lol) his coming out as being gay, hanging out with Elton John, hosting the Emmys, Tonys, and writing the opening – or in one case middle (there is a reason for that one) – numbers for the award shows.

While the book is good, there are a few areas that are not appropriate for all ages (shoot, I am not even sure if it is appropriate for me).  Neil does get a little crude in a couple of parts of the book.  That said, I have to admit I love his quick wit, his descriptions of changing up award songs to reflect what actually happened during the awards (winners and bloopers…), and his talk about being a part of a great tv series, How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM).  Hearing about his tv career and his award hosting was a favorite part of the book for me.

As I mentioned, I listened to this on audio so I have to say the choose your own adventure theme works a bit differently on audio.  Instead of choosing to go to a certain page, Neil simply gives you the choices and says something like, “to hear more about award ceremonies, stay tuned; to hear more about being the youngest doctor to ever help deliver a baby, that is next!”

All in all, by listening to this audio book I found our more about Neil Patrick Harris. I enjoyed listening to him.  I find him to be a confident, funny, witty, guy.  He knows how to work an audience and he has a brilliant mind.  Fans of HIMYM and/or fans of his hosting award shows will enjoy this listen, or this book.
and….

 

 

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Random House Audio; Com/Cdr Un edition (October 14, 2014)Listening Length: 7 hours and 15 minutes
  • Hardcover: 304 pages

 

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer – BEST of 2014

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HIgh school student Jam Gallahue is still recovering from the tragic loss of her boyfriend, Reeve Maxfield, the adorable exchange student from Britain. It has been over a year since Reeve died and Jam is still stuck in her thoughts of kissing him in the library, or watching a funny movie together.  Her depression and inability to move on is so deep, her parents feel they have no choice when they send her to The Wooden Barn, a therapeutic boarding school in Vermont for youth of similar struggles.

Jam is selected along with four other students to be in a class called Special Topics.  An English class that turns out to be all about the works of Sylvia Plath.  When the teacher hands each of the students a beautiful leather bond journal and encourages them to try to write something in them once or twice a week, Jam is certain that she will NOT be writing in a journal.

Yet one evening, Jam does decide to try to write a few lines in the book and when she does she finds herself whisked away, back to a time when she is with Reeve once again.  While she fears she may be dreaming, his arms around her are all to real and when she comes back to the present, she finds she has written 5 pages in the journal.  What is even more odd, Jam discovers that the other students in the Special Topics class had similar experiences, each going back to a time when things were right before their personal tragedy happened; and each coming back to find that 5 pages in their journal have been filled.

As the group begins to meet outside of class time to discuss their secret; they all wonder what will happen when they get to the end of the journal… and will that close the door to the past even if they are not ready to let go?

 

 

I LOVED this book.  I loved the idea of a group of teens centered around a class talking about the literary works of Sylvia Plath.  I thought the idea of the journals that give you a chance to go back to before things went wrong was brilliant; and the way this brought the group to open up to one another… seriously I want to just write…

GUSH!  GUSH!  GUSH!

I enjoyed this book on audio and Jorjeana Marie narrated well.  I simply did not want to turn this book off!  Incredibly well done and thought provoking!  Love the title, love the characters…LOVE the book!  While I thought the ending would be a bit more powerful (I had my own ideas of what might have been), it was still an amazing book that I would HIGHLY recommend is one of the best this reader has spent time with in 2014.

*I feel this book would make for a wonderful book club discussion… there are lots of what if’s in this one!

 

Because I want to be able to talk about this book in more detail I am dusting off the Spoiler Button and putting it in play.  Please read (or listen to!) the book and then push the button and let’s talk Belzhar!

 

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  • Listening Length: 8 hours and 6 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Listening Library
  • Audible.com Release Date: September 30, 2014

 

Not My Father’s Son by Alan Cummings

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It is easy to look at those we see on the tv screen or on the movie screen and think there life must be amazing!  Yet often there is more to the story than what we see in the flash of lights, a funny comment, and a great memorable movie line.  Alan Cummings has just such a story.  ~Sheila

 

Alan Cummings plays a wide variety of roles.  You may know him from the popular series The good Wife, Any Day Now, Spy Kids, Burlesque, X2, Emma, Ghost Writer, and much more as well as Broadway plays.

Yet while Alan appears cool and calm when we see him on the screen; what we did not know was the deep dark pain that he hid deep inside of a painful childhood, a father with a quick temper and who was abusive.  Leaving Alan feeling like he could never live up to the man’s expectations.  Along with this was his mother, a loving gentle soul who never knew what had happened to her own father who she had last seen when she was eight years old.

Alan made the decision to go on the show Who Do You Think You Are?, a show that digs into your family history and then announces their findings on air.  Alan’s curiosity about his heritage and his grandfather led him to make the decision to go on the show – having no idea the Pandora’s box he was about to open…

 

 

While I have this book in paperback, I chose to listen to it on audio.  Not only for the convenience of being about to multi task while listening, but also for the fact that Alan Cummings narrates the book.  Alan’s emotion though the book that opens his life wide open is at times heart wrenching, and at times he is hilarious…. and well worth the listen.

I admittedly knew little of Alan Cummings going into this read.  I knew him from The good Wife, and I recognized him from a few movies, but honestly knew hardly anything about the man behind the acting.  Not My Father’s Son was an honest look into Alan’s life as a child into his teens, and into his life now.  Told in alternating “Then” and “Now” chapters, I found the book well written, thought-provoking, and I am so glad I counted this one in my 2014 reading.

Not only will fans of Alan Cumming find this book worth their time, I feel that those who like me, know little of the man, will also find this memoir of a boy looking for closure on a painful past so he can be the man he knows he is, is a powerful and positive reading choice.

 

 

  • Audible Audio Edition
  • Listening Length: 6 hours and 28 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: HarperAudio
  • Audible.com Release Date: October 7, 2014

 

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Dey Street Books (October 7, 2014)

 

 

 

 

Burn by James Patter son and Michael Ledwidge

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Detective Michael Bennett and the whole Bennett clan (all ten of the children, Grandpa Seamus, and the nanny Mary Catherine) are finally safe to come back home to New York.  The Crime Lord who had threatened the Bennett’s into the witness protection program was now in a  word… DONE.

When Mike goes back to work he is put in charge of shaping up an Outreach Squad in Harlem.  While there, he works with a team following up on some unusual activity or well dressed people going into condemned buildings at odd hours.  While Mike thinks, “that’s New York,” he does follow-up and finds a charred body at the scene….

something… doesn’t smell right.

 

 

Ok, ok.. sorry about the “doesn’t smell right” synopsis… it came to me… I used it. 

I have followed all seven installments of this series on audio and have enjoyed every one of them.  This is huge for someone who does not like to get involved in long running series.  Now, before you think that this series is too far in for you to be interested, please think again.

While yes, I do feel that you will get the most appreciation of this story line if you start from the beginning to understand who Mike Bennett is and why he has ten children and no wife; I can give you the basics of the series to get you moving:

1.  Mike Bennett and his wife adopted all ten of the children during their life together.

2.  Mike’s wife died of cancer.

3.  Grandpa Seamus is a retired Priest and lives with the family and helps out.

4.  Mary Catherine is a wonderful Irish woman who loves the kids as though they are her own and lives with the family full time.

 

I think I love this series because it is not a graphic as some of Patterson’s books, the children and a Grandpa Priest I think really help to tame the story line, although do not feel you are not getting a great storyline, because you are.  It is just that it is more of a good PG13 rating than an “R”.

BURN is crazy with activity.  While Mike is working on the mystery of the charred body, there are also cops dying, a woman afraid of her ex-boyfriend, personal trauma in the Bennett household, as well as the possibility of losing one of the children.  No kidding.  There is a lot happening but it is all crazy interesting and keeps you on the edge of your seat.

Danny Mastrogiorgio (Narrator) does an amazing job.  I love the deep tough guy voice used for Michael Bennett, and I am impressed that this same voice can also handle the kids, Seamus, and of course… Mary Catherine.

My advice:  Read it or listen to it, but start earlier on in the series.. this is a great listen, but you may want to back up and get a real feel for this unique family to feel the full impact of what is happening in this book.

 

Here is a link to my review of the first book in the series:  Step On A Crack.

 

 

  • Listening Length: 7 hours and 53 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Hachette Audio
  • Audible.com Release Date: September 29, 2014

 

 

Ocean Beach by Wendy Wax

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Madeline, Avery, and Nicole have not had the easiest road for the direction of their lives.  When an offer comes up for the three women to restore a house off the Miami Beach that may turn into a new tv show called “Do-Over”, they can hardly believe their luck.  This could be the chance that Madeleine needed to keep her family together, a kick in the career for Avery, and financial success for Nikki.  The only thing that is odd is that their requests to see blueprints of the property or see pictures have been declined.

Upon arrival at the beach property they suddenly see what had been left out of the agreement.  The show “Do-Over” will be a live cast reality show and the camera’s are rolling before they even have the shocked look off their faces.  While uninterested in having their every move televised, the women do all need this job and are all looking forward to their own personal do-over.

 

 

What a fun read!  I loved the storyline centered around a reality show.  The female lead characters were interesting, although I did not have a strong sense of knowing any of them.  They were likable enough, but more like the girls you see at an event from afar and you think, “they look fun,” but you never really know them.  I think, as I later discovered, this may be because our protagonists are actually introduced in a previous book by Wendy Wax, Ten Beach Road, which I have not read.  I am not sure how I missed that this was a follow-up book, but I did.  Perhaps having read the other book first would have made up for the disconnected feeling I was having towards our leading ladies.

Ocean Beach is just the kind of fun lighter read I needed for this beautiful warm fall week.  It made it feel like summer was hanging on just a while longer and I am always all for anything that can keep that feeling going.

I listened to this book on audio, narrator Amy Rubinate handled all the different voices very well, I believe this being my first time I have had her as a narrator.

 

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Fun note:  My first ever read by this author was for our book club and it was her book entitled Leave It To Cleavage.  I had ordered the book through our local book store and was embarrassed when I went in to pick it up and say the title out loud and then the author’s name.  At the time… it felt as though I was really requesting something dirty; which turned out to be just a fun crazy read by an author whose name would someday become recognizable.  ~Sheila

 

 

  • Audible Audio Edition
  • Listening Length: 11 hours and 50 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio
  • Audible.com Release Date: October 22, 2012

 

Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty

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I have an author crush on Liane Moriarty.  Her protagonists are strong three-dimensional women who are funny, witty, and I usually want to be their friend.  ~Sheila

 

Lyn, Cat, and Gemma are thirty-three year old triplets.  Alone, each is stunning, together, they turn heads constantly.  While they are a force to be reckoned with, each carries her own burden…

 

Lyn views life as a check list as she marks things off her to do list day by day

Cat is dealing with painful facts about her marriage

Gemma is finally considering staying in a relationship longer than 6 months.

 

When all else seems to be falling apart…they can always count on each other.

 

 

Of course I chose this read because it is Moriarty.  Yes, Moriarty of The Husband’s Secret, Big, Little Lies, and What Alice ForgotThat Moriarty.

Three Wishes is an older title for Moriarty and I felt the difference in her character development.  While the three sisters were witty and funny and all that I enjoy about her books, the story line left me drifting a bit and honestly I can not even tell you what the big plot moment was.

While the book is fine, I think I am so used to the power packed punch reads that Moriarty has been cranking out the past couple of years that I set the bar too high on this one and to me…

it was left wanting.

 

 

  • Audible Audio Edition
  • Listening Length: 11 hours and 31 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio
  • Audible.com Release Date: August 18, 2014
  • Book Release Date: May 24, 2005

 

Cemetary John by Robert Zorn

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On March 1st, 1932, the infant son of Charles Lindbergh, was kidnapped from his home in New Jersey.  Left behind on the window sill was an envelope which contained a ransom note for $50,000 for  Charles Augustus Lindbergh Jr.’s safe return.  Charles and his wife Anne were devastated.

Two months later, the remains of the infant would be found and confirmed to be the young Lindbergh.  He was not quite two years old.

While a man Bruno Richard Hauptmann was tried and found guilty for the crime and in April of 1936 he was electrocuted for the crime, all the while stating he was innocent, right to the very end.  The crime still remains to this day unsolved as evidence shows there is no way that Hauptmann could have acted alone… in fact some say he was not involved at all…

 

 

In Little Falls Minnesota there is a Charles Lindbergh Museum and State Park, about 30 miles from my home.  With his Minnesota connections you think I would be on top of this subject and the controversial story around the kidnapping of his son, but sadly until now, I was pretty much unenlightened.

Cemetery John gives great insight to Charles Lindbergh life.  You learn all about his famous flight, his meeting and eventual marriage to his wife Anne, and of course all about the Lindbergh household, the family friends, and baby Charles.

The story is well written and interesting.  I always knew there was controversy around the kidnapping, but until the reading of this book, I was not sure of the details surrounding this controversy.  This is the type of book that makes me want to know more.

Recommended for fans of historical reads.

 

 

 

  • Audible Audio Edition
  • Listening Length: 10 hours and 20 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio
  • Audible.com Release Date: July 30, 2012
  • Audie Award Nominee, Nonfiction, 2013

 

 

 

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