Thursday, August 23, 2012

Heartbroken by Lisa Unger

Cover imageIt is difficult to categorize Heartbroken. In some ways, it is a thriller. But in many more ways, it is a family drama. What I mean is that you care more about the characters themselves than what is happening to the characters. The novel centers around Birdie Burke, family matriarch and owner of the family estate on Heart Island. Birdie is fiercely proud of her island, even though most of the family could care less. There's Kate, the daughter who basically just disappoints her. Kate's brother will not even visit. And her husband, well, he uses any excuse he can to go back to the city. But Birdie has her water and her walks, and the beauty of it all. But Birdie has something else...secrets. And maybe ghosts? Now bring Emily into the story, the poor victim of a bad boyfriend, and this novel quickly escalates into quite the page turner. As you can imagine, these two story lines intersect and secrets are revealed. All in all, a very satisfying read.


Read-alike author: Erica Spindler

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Mindful Writer by Dinty W. Moore

Dinty W. Moore’s The Mindful Writer: Noble Truths of the Writing Life pairs quotes on writing from a wide variety of authors and artists with writer Dinty W. Moore’s interpretation of each quote. This might not sound like the most thrilling book of all time, but for writers or anyone interested in writing there is a wealth of valuable information here.  I read the book straight through, but it could prove just as useful to keep on one’s writing desk for those days when the words do not come easily and you need some inspiration. The quotes range from Gustave Flaubert’s odd “Language is a cracked kettle on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to . . .” to Paul Auster’s blunt “That’s about as exciting a life as it is for a writer. You write sentences, and you cross out sentences.”  Moore seems to have selected a quote for nearly every conundrum a writer might face. The Mindful Writer will prove useful for new and experienced writers alike.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The End of Normal by Stephanie Madoff Mack

This book in one word: heartbreaking. That being said, I really liked this book. In The End of Normal: A Wife's Anguish, A Widow's New Life, Stephanie Madoff Mack pulls no punches when telling her family’s story. Her father-in-law was Bernie Madoff, the man who cheated billions of dollars out of people in the biggest Ponzi scheme in history. Stephanie was married to Bernie’s son, Mark, who turned him in. In spite of this, Mark and Stephanie’s family was not exempt from the hatred and accusation of everyone around them. Many people believed that just because Mark was Bernie’s son, he was somehow involved in the scandal.

Hearing Stephanie’s side of the story was fascinating. She talks about how she and Mark tried to move past the tragedy and the steps they were taking to do so. They had discussed changing their last name to distance themselves from the Madoff name. (Stephanie did this and Mark planned to before he died.) Sadly, the scandal was all-consuming, and Mark couldn’t see a way out.

I listened to the audio version of this book, which is read by Stephanie Madoff Mack. She was a good reader, and it really helped bring the story to life. I’d highly recommend this book if you like to hear an insider’s story of how people can transform their lives after a tragedy. 

For another point of view into the Madoff scandal, try Truth and Consquences: Life Inside the Madoff Family by Laurie Sandell. 


Friday, August 10, 2012

When in Doubt, Add Butter by Beth Harbison

Cover imageAnother decent chick-lit from Beth Harbison, this time centering around a personal chef with the same issue that many young women face: career or love life. Can you really have it all? Gemma Craig has tried very hard to grow her culinary business, and even though her life isn't exactly the way she envisioned, well, that's OK. She does have quite the cast of characters that she caters to: the owner of a huge department store chain, the neurotic wife of a television producer, a Russian psychic, and a social-climbing reality TV wannabee. Her most interesting client is a man she calls Mr. Tuesday since she cooks for him on Tuesdays but has never, ever seen him. They communicate by witty little notes, which is one bright spot in what can be some very tedious work. Gemma's friends are a little concerned that she is working too hard, and convince her to take a night out. And what a night out it becomes! When in Doubt, Add Butter turns at this point from a working-girl day-to-day challenges novel into a romantic, when will I see him again story. You will be rooting for Gemma all he way!


Read-alike author: Lauren Weisberger

Thursday, August 9, 2012

This is How by Augusten Burroughs

Cover imagePerhaps because I thought Augusten Burroughs’ new book This is How: Help for the Self—Proven Aid in Overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease,Lushery, Decrepitude, and More. For Young and Old Alike would be a parody of a self help book rather than an actual self help book, I found myself becoming very critical of it from the start. Once I realized and accepted a few chapters in that this was Burroughs’ sincere attempt to write a legitimate self help book, I still had major problems with it. First of all, he is smug throughout the book and this grows tiresome very quickly. At the beginning of the book Burroughs relays an incident where a stranger in an elevator asked him why he wasn’t smiling. A lot of people find this sort of smile-through-your-problems-no-matter-what advice grating, but Burroughs delivers a book full of equally annoying self help clichĂ©s or just plain stupid advice, such as suggesting that the terminally ill gorge on sweets. You get the sense that he feels he’s making some profound points when all he’s doing is rattling off one tired observation after another.

Second, I wonder how he is qualified to write about certain subjects.  In one chapter he states that treatment for anorexia is not very advanced, that doctors and psychologists don’t know how to treat it with consistent success, and that half of those with anorexia do not recover. He then goes on to explain how he would treat someone with anorexia, as if he knows better than experts in the field or people who have suffered from it.

This Is How might have been more effective if Burroughs had focused on areas of self help where he has some experience or at least some sort of connection. When he does focus on areas that have troubled him, such as suicidal thoughts or alcoholism, the book is much better. But a few chapters can’t save a whole book. Whether you are looking for a good self help book or are a fan of Burroughs, this book is likely to disappoint.


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Expats by Chris Pavone

In the style of John LeCarre and Robert Ludlum comes this first spy novel by Chris Pavone.  The Expats refers to Dexter and Julie Moore, Americans who have moved to Luxembourg on business.  However, these are no ordinary Americans (Kate being an ex-CIA agent and Dexter a cyber thief) and they are not there on ordinary business.  Kate lives the life of an expat wife and mother and spends her time sipping coffee with other expats, one of whom is an FBI agent investigating her husband.  Of course the Moores haven't revealed their secret lives to each other, and the reader embarks on a convoluted journey of discovery throughout the locales of Europe.  The narrative begins and ends on the "day of discovery", and events of that day are interspersed throughout the rest of the story that starts two years prior.  Eventually the reader gives up thinking that anything revealed is the whole truth, until the final confrontation in yet another European cafe.  I enjoyed the premise of a wife and mother being a CIA operative, but I also felt manipulated by the text.  Ultimately the book is a good read, and the ending is understandable, but I'm not sure if it would be considered a "great spy novel."


Monday, August 6, 2012

The Playdate: a Novel by Louise Millar

Cover imageEvery mother's worst nightmare! This perfectly describes this debut novel by author Louise Millar. Single mother Callie lives in London with her daughter Rae, who suffers from a heart condition. Callie has very little money, is distraught over her breakup with Tom, and is constantly worried about Rae. The one good thing in her life is her best friend and neighbor, Suzy. Suzy just seems to have it all together; a great marriage, beautiful, healthy children. Callie feels lucky to have Suzy in her life, as she has never quite bonded with the other mothers at Rae's school. Even Rae seems a bit of an outcast, rarely being invited to the other children's homes for play dates. Callie decides she needs to get on with her life and takes a job that will require her daughter to attend the after-school program, but perhaps this is not a bad thing. After all, this may help Rae make friends. And one of the teachers is Callie & Suzy's new neighbor, Debs. OK, Debs seems a little odd and secretive, but still...what could be more perfect?

The Playdate asks the age-old questions, how well do you really know your friends and neighbors? Who can you really trust your children with?

After reading this novel, I guarantee you will be a lot more careful!


Read-alike: Every Secret Thing by Laura Lippman

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Hypnotist's Love Story by Liane Moriarty

Cover imageThis novel is about a stalker. That's the simple premise. But The Hypnotist's Love Story is so much more! Ellen O'Farrell, a successful hypnotherapist, thinks she has finally found the man of her dreams. There is just one problem (well, maybe two). Patrick is a widower and the father of a young boy. He still seems to be suffering from the loss of his wife, but that is something Ellen can handle. The bigger problem is that his ex-girlfriend is stalking him. All the time. Every day. Now Patrick's problem is about to become Ellen's the most unusual ways.

This novel is an excellent look into the mind of a stalker and how stalking can affect not only the lives of the victim but everyone around them. But who really is the victim here?


Read-alike author - Chelsea Cain