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Early Decision by Lacy Crawford

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Anne is an admissions coach for students preparing to start the process of getting into the college of their choice.  Or, in some cases I should say their parents choice… This book is a fictional telling on the authors non fictional 15 years of being a college admissions coach, helping students (and parents) come to terms with that next step.

In Early Decision, Anne is starting another season of coaching as her students she has accepted line up from all walks, parents for the most part, eager to make sure their child has the best possible chance to get in the ever narrowing gates of admission to the big name colleges.

Hunter, a kind boy trying hard to reach his parents level of expectations for him, but really has his own dream of his future.  Sadie, the daughter of wealthy well-known parents who feels her future is all cut out for her no matter what she does.  William, a brilliant young man who is constantly dodging his father’s anger.  Alexis the overachiever from Minnesota (Minnesota!), and Christina who has everything it takes to succeed.. just not the means to do it.

As Anne works with each of these students as they write their first drafts of their college essays, she helps them realize who they really are and what they really want to say – not always to the parents approval.  Anne meets with the students and talks them through the possibilities as they continue to work on the application essay that will hopefully set them apart and provide that acceptance letter into the college of their choice; but not always.

As Anne works with this latest group of students she finds herself contemplating her own life.  Is this where she thought she would wind up?  Was this her big plan for after college… thirty is just around the corner for her and some how she feels like she has never taken the steps she is coaching the students to take, herself.

 

 

 

 

 

Early Decision is a look into the world of college acceptance and the students applying as well as the parents prodding anxiously behind them, in many cases as though the decision of acceptance defines them as parents as well.  Anne’s job comes with high expectations on her from all of the above.

I found Early Decision to be very interesting.  I, myself did not take the college route, and sometimes really wish I would have.  At the time of my own graduation, my mom had been raising me alone for years after my father’s early death due to an accidental fire, and my goal was to make my transition from High School to the real world, as easy on her as possible.  Now reading about how intense parents can be about the process was fascinating and a little scary all rolled into one.  In this book, you get a real taste of where the parents are with their dreams for their children – but you also get a real look at what the children want for themselves.

What is interesting is that author Lacy Crawford wrote this book based on her real life experience as a college admissions councilor.  While this book does not point out actual people – the results of this book is a combination of her years in this position and the tiger moms and the helicopter parents are all too real.

I enjoyed looking into this world of intense college application prep; a world I knew little about.  I felt for the students being pushed and prodded.  In some cases I felt for the parents as they wanted what was best for their child…. but mostly I felt for Anne, who had her work cut out for her between working with the students and battling the parents who were either too pushy, or too needy…

A wild look into the college side that I feel would be a great read for parents and students alike as they approach that time of college decision.  In fact, I think both the parents and the students should read this book before they start the process – hopefully giving each an insight into the other side and therefore taking on this step with a little more empathy for each other – and a little more understanding.

A fun and thought-provoking read.

 

 

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (August 26, 2014)
Thank you to TLC Book Tours for allowing me to tag along this road to College applications and acceptance.  It was truly an interesting adventure in reading! 

 

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Invisible by James Patterson and David Ellis

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Emmy Dockery knows there is something more to the rash of fires across the states what all have a similar feel to them:

1. They are always in the bedroom

2.  They always result in a death

The problem is, no one else believes that they are anything more than unfortunate accidents and carelessness on the home owners part.  As more and more fires happen Emmy picks up on a pattern but she is more or less on her own.  Even her ex-fiance field agent Harrison “Books” Bookman who would love to be on her side on this, just does not see it.

Emmy is starting to wonder if maybe she is pushing something to far… perhaps they are just off coincidences and maybe because one of these fires hit too close to her personally she just wants it to be something other than an accident…

but

what if there really is a crazy killer out there?

 

 

I absolutely adore Patterson’s books on audio.  Honestly, I believe his books were my first real dabble into audio and I was wowed on what audio could be.  They are of superb quality.  If you are an audio listener, or would like to try – I highly recommend picking up one of his books on audio.
When I seen a chance to review Patterson and Ellis’ new book, Invisible on audio I did not hesitate to say yes.  It has been a while since I have listened to any of his work and I was curious if he had maintained what I loved about his books on audio.

He had.

Invisible was set at a perfectly creepy level without ever becoming gory.  Told in alternating viewpoints from Emmy, and then from our killer as he records himself in what he calls “Graham  sessions”, a recording for the police or FBI to get a sample of who he is and what he does.

I personally found this book on audio to be superb listening.  I have said it before, Patterson audio is high quality, this one added a lot of background tot he audio that took it to the next level.  This book has not been receiving the best ratings (I just seen this today), and I am wondering if it would have come across as well in book format as the audio.

I recommend the audio version of Invisible for a great chilling read that kept my guessing and even as I finished this one and it all started to rapidly come together I was chilled to discover what was fully going on.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Book Store by Robin Sloan

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Clay Jannon, a San-Francisco web designer, finds work during a rocky economy as the 10 pm – 6 am clerk at a 24-hour book store.  While there is not a lot of action during these strange nighttime open hours; the few people who do come in are not purchasing books, but checking out large strange volumes from the far corners of the store as allowed by the store’s owner, Mr. Penumbra.

Clay suspects that store must be somehow doing something illegal through these so-called “customers” and lending of books…but in his searching, Clay discovers something much bigger than the volumes that occupy the store….

 

 

 

What is it about books about books?  I mean really… how dorky can I get?  Yet, when a title mentions a book store, or a book club… I want to know more.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Book Store by Robin Sloan is a fun read, or in my case listen.  The narration of Ari Flaikos (new narrator to me) was fun and perfect for this read.  Ari gave me flashbacks of the amazing narration of Will Wheaton, and those are words of praise coming from me.

In this book, push sensible realities aside and just dream for a bit of a secret group that is centered around a book store… and not giving too much away…. perhaps…. many book stores.  But how does one get to be part of the elite group?  And what happens when things are not going as they should be?  You are going to have to find yourself a copy of this book or grab it on audio to find out!

I enjoyed this listen and think others who like to read about book stores and bookish themes will as well.

 

 

  • Audible Audio Edition
  • Listening Length: 7 hours and 41 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Macmillan Audio
  • Audible.com Release Date: October 2, 2012

 

This Is Where I Leave You by Johnathon Trapper

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I was recently asked, “How do you read all the books you receive for review?”   And, if I am honest, I admit I can not read them all.  When I accept the book for review I have the best intentions to read and review the book… but life does happen – jobs, family, friends, commitments, homes, and so unfortunately – some books are missed and unfortunately – as in the case of this one, that is a sad mistake that I am so glad I had an opportunity to correct.  ~Sheila

 

Synopsis – Judd has just walked in on his wife having sex with someone.  Someone who is not him.  Someone – who is in fact, Judd’s boss.  And Judd’s life just fell apart.

Soon after, Judd receives a phone call from his sister that his father who has been ill for some time, has died and the family; Judd, his sister Wendy, and brothers Paul and Phillip are to gather at the family home with their mother for this final good-bye.

Judd’s mother says that in his fathers final wish he wanted the family to sit Shiva; a Jewish tradition where the family remains together int he home for seven days mourning the loss of their loved ones while friends and family come and pay their respects.  Judd’s family is not the type that can spend more than a few hours together without wanting to kill each other so this should be interesting.

Wendy, the only daughter, comes in tow with her three children and her business husband who can not stay off his phone long enough to mourn anything… except maybe the possible loss of a few dollars.

Paul, the oldest son comes with his wife Alice who is desperate to be pregnant but so far no matter what doctors she see’s and what pills she takes, nothing has happened for the couple.

Phillip, the youngest of the brothers and by far the most free-spirited comes with a much older woman who he is hoping will help him settle his wild ways and lack of interest in any kind of responsibility.

And then there is Judd, broken marriage, no job, living in a smelly basement apartment wishing hateful things on his boss and mourning the loss of the woman he loved….

Really…

what could possibly go wrong?

The internet is a buzz with the upcoming movie for this book, This Is Where I Leave You.  The casting looks wonderful and with it opening next week I had a vague recollection that I may have this book on my shelves.  I did… and I started reading it right away.

This Is Where I Leave You is that book that you will not want to put down.  It opens with a funny conversation between Judd and his sister Wendy… and it keep rolling from there.  The family is dysfunctional, and funny, and keeps you on your toes… if it could happen… it will happen.  I flew through these pages finding a real enjoyment in Johnathan Tropper’s words and the whole time wondering, “what else have I missed from this witty author?”

Do not hesitate on picking up this book that is a quick enjoyable read of a family that really… could be anyone’s family.  And then… do not miss out on the giveaway I posted earlier this week for a chance to win a movie package.

Seriously…

why are you still here?

Go!  Get this book!

 

 

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Plume; Reprint edition (July 6, 2010)
  • Language: English

 

Diary Of A Mad Diva by Joan Rivers

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In diary format, Joan Rivers shares a year of her life…  the moments at home, the running to her shows, her conversations with fellow stars, Melissa….

but this is not a recap of Joan’s life and how she made her rise to where she was at the time of the recording – no, this is an account of her current life at the time of the writing… what she deals with as an aging star, and of course much harsh words for those who cross her path, both living and dead.

She complains about charitable cases, people with too many kids, those who starve themselves, those who are too heavy, the blind, the rich, the poor… you name it – if you know Joan, she will attack it.

 

 

I chose to listen to this audio because honestly, I know little of Joan Rivers.  With her recent passing, and seeing her books on audible, I thought I should give her a try.  Let me just say that Joan’s book is not for the faint at heart, easily offended, sensitivity to offensive language and lewd acts….

I will just say that while at moments she was funny, for the most part she was crude, and cruel and while I wanted to give this one a try, I will not become a fan of her work.  The audio reminded me a lot of Betty White and how she has become this crude older woman who people love because the “F” word coming out of her mouth is as hilarious as it is when a two-year old pops out an inappropriate word.  IMO, Betty sold herself out for this kind of publicity, I do not know when Joan became so crude or if she always has been that way, but this would explain why I never followed her career.

 

Personal note – when she said that Libraries were over and that we do not need them anymore… saying no one was breaking ground on new libraries… well….  now she just got personal.   ~Sheila

 

Note:  I have come to understand (really knowing little about this woman) that she was a ground breaker for women entering into comedy and being given a voice.  Joan Rivers served us well in our history of women stepping into new roles and for that I am grateful.

Rest in peace Joan.

 

Bookies Thoughts: That Night by Chevy Stevens

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For September, our group the Bookies read and discussed That Night by Chevy Stevens.  I had read this one and reviewed it in June.  For myself, I was already a fan of Chevy Stevens books, but I was excited to see the bookies try her.

Brief synopsis:  Toni, a senior at her school becomes a victim to bullying even at the hands of her younger sister.  Her parents, especially her mother believe that Toni is the trouble maker while her sister Nicki gets away with everything.  When Nicki is found dead, Toni is blamed in having killed her and is tried as an adult and sent to prison.  Years later, on probation she is out and back in her home town where nobody wants her there, but she has to figure out what really happened that night.

 

That Night, actually surprised me of how well it lent itself to great discussion.  While at first glance I would not have called this a great book club discussion book, after last night I believe I need to change my response to that.

That Night covers such topics as the criminal justice service, wrongful convictions, dirty cops, bullying, murder, family dynamics, and relationships.  Our group actually had a deep conversation around these topics.  Including today’s school system, how the rights have gone from the teachers tot he students and how their is no control unless the parents give permission – and usually they do not.

Why would book clubs enjoy this read:  Chevy Stevens is well worth putting on your book club or reading groups radar.  Her book Still Missing blew me away years ago and I still refer to it.  I can easily see her books becoming movies.  Book Clubs can find much to discuss within these pages as I mentioned above.

We did do a little food with our review… nothing themed – I could not get my head wrapped around this one for a good idea…. and there is not much food in the book itself:

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Provence, 1970 by Luke Barr

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In the winter or 1970, the South Of France found itself with six culinary figures who more or less coincidentally all found themselves at the same place at the same time.  Julie Child, James Beard, and MFK Fisher were among this group.  Together this group talked, and cooked, and drank and ate – discussing taste, and recipes, and the future of food.

Cook books were being written… history was being made, and this book made from photographs and journal entries of MFK Fisher compile what happened… one season…. in 1970.

 

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I have been looking forward to this book ever since I learned it was about food and chefs and a gathering that by all rights made history!  What an exciting time!  This gathering was one that changed food as we think about it.

Author Luke Barr, nephew to MFK Fisher, puts together a setting from the journals and notes MFK had written of this time and recreates a time that foodies of today would have bought tickets to see, me among them.

John Rubinstein narrates this audio very well.

While I did enjoy listening to this historical event, I did not love it as much as I thought it would.  I found some points to drag longer than necessary.  I have this in paperback as well, I may try it again someday in that format and perhaps I can sink more into the storyline then.

Adding this to Weekend Cooking:

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  • Audible Audio Edition
  • Listening Length: 9 hours and 7 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Random House Audio
  • Audible.com Release Date: October 22, 2013

 

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

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When teacher Mia Dennett goes to a bar to meet her boyfriend and he doesn’t show, she winds up meeting an engaging stranger who she goes home with.  Having had a few drinks, leaving the bar with the easy on the eyes Colin Thatcher seems like just the thing.

Now…48 hours later Mia Dennett is officially a missing person.

Colin was initially hired to take Mia and deliver her to his employers, receive his pay off and be out of the picture…but Colin instead decided to take Mia with him and hide her in a cabin way up in Northern Minnesota around the Grand Marais area.

Detective Gabe Hoffman is on the case working with Mia’s very distraught mother Eve; but even they could not foresee the toll this would take on their lives.

 

 

 

I was interested when I heard this debut novel was being compared to the likes of Gone Girl, a book that blew me away.  I usually proceed with caution when I hear such high praises on a book as I have burned too many times by the tag line “The next Harry Potter!”  For the record… nothing has ever come close to Harry Potter. 

And so I ventured into The Good Girl.  The Good Girl was interesting enough.  It held my attention but did not have the shock value and adrenaline rush of Gone Girl.  I think that is the opportunity when comparing books – it sets you up for something that may or may not be there.

The Good Girl does have a lot to offer but in the end fell a little flat for me.  About half way through I had an idea of things to come and I was pretty much right.  Perhaps a bit predictable, but still a worthy read as long as you are not looking for anything power packed that will leave you going WOW!

I listened to this one on audio and the variety of narrators ( Lindy Nettleton (Narrator), Johnny Heller (Narrator), Tom Taylorson (Narrator), Andi Arndt (Narrator) ) did a really good job, seamless in fact – I could not tell when they switched to another.

I would be interested in hearing others thoughts on this one :)

 

 

  • Audible Audio Edition
  • Listening Length: 10 hours and 38 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
  • Audible.com Release Date: July 29, 2014

 

 

 

Top Secret Twenty-One by Janet Evanovich

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When Jimmy Poletti was caught selling a little more than the used cars from his dealership, Stephanie Plum is called to haul him in for missing his court date.  *sigh*  Will Trenton, New Jersey crimes ever be under control?

As Stephanie finds herself protecting the once hospital security guard Randy Brigg’s by placing him in her own home, along with ten yippy Chihuahuas (DO NOT ASK), while she tries to figure out who is dropping bodies all over town.

Of course, hot looking cop Joe Morelli is happy to share his apartment and his bed with Stephanie during this time that her own place is occupied.  With Joe busy trying to get a handle on this crime wave Stephanie once again finds herself partnering with Ranger, super hot undercover security for Rangeman, and now also targeted by this mysterious group of thugs that are promising to take out those close to Stephanie – if not Stephanie herself.  Never fear – Ranger is never far from Stephanie’s side.

As if that wasn’t enough, Stephanie’s grandma Mazur is on her continuing quest to attend every wake she can (who can resist a gathering of good food and friends?) while trying to check off items on her bucket list including getting a peek at Ranger and getting even with Morelli’s grandma for past transgressions.

 

 

Many many years ago I read this series as they came available year after year.  I think I read the first twelve before I became a little tired of the continuous crazy antics of Stephanie and her side kick Lulu, as well as the constant “who is going to win Stephanie’s heart, Ranger or Morelli” (*cough cough… Ranger*).

I picked up Top Secret Twenty-One because the offer was made to review this one on audio, and (1) I had not listened to any of these books on audio and (2) I was curious as to where this long running series that still attracts several in my book club, has gone.

The verdict:  The Stephanie Plum books are much like a soap opera.  You can step away for years, and then, turn back to them one day and start with what is currently being offered and pick up right away on the story line as though you hardly missed a day.  Stephanie is still pursued by two very attractive men and those of us that know the series can argue until the cows come home as to who we want to win her heart for good.  But honestly.. will that day ever come?  Grandma Mazur still enjoys a good wake and insists of going to each and every one looking forward to seeing her friends made up in the caskets so she can comment on how they look as well as comment or complain about the spread after the funeral.  Stephanie still has cars blowing up all around her, Lulu is still a plus sized gal who dresses inappropriately and is looking for any excuse to stop to stop and pick up a doughnut.

All in all, it was a fun visit back to Trenton New Jersey and seeing that everyone is just as they were.  While I did enjoy the listen (great on audio!  I am just saying!) I think a visit is enough for me and I will not be staying in Trenton.  While the books are fun… I can not commit to the continuing saga of nothing ever coming to a close.  Kudos to those who can. :)

 

 

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

 

 

 

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