Friday, December 27, 2013

My Favorite Books of 2013

I have had a difficult time choosing my very favorite books of 2013. There were so many to pick from and so many that I really enjoyed that narrowing it down to a reasonable list was tricky.

In no particular order (click on title to read my review of each book):

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (I finished reading it this morning and haven't had time to write a full review yet. I'm still processing my feelings about this fabulous novel. All I know is that it has earned its spot at the top of my list.)

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Seven for a Secret by Lyndsay Faye

Margot by Jillian Cantor

The End of the Point by Elizabeth Graver

Someone Else's Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson

The Tilted World by Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo

Transatlantic by Colum McCann

Benediction by Kent Haruf

The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan

The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin

Some of my very favorite books that I read this year weren't actually published in 2013. I have to mention how much I loved them.

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

The Night Circus by Erin Mrogenstern

The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

and finally, my very favorite book that I read all year is...

**Since there are still four days left in the year, I reserve the right to add to this list.**

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Rosie Project - Book Review

While hanging out on Twitter I've made several friends who enjoy reading and talking about books as much as I do. Calling ourselves "Book Lovers Unite", we've formed a sort of "book lovers anonymous", encouraging each other to read more books from our ever-growing to-read-shelves. This month we had a Christmas Book Exchange. As part of the exchange, Tamara from Traveling with T (a fabulous blog for book lovers) sent me The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. I was thrilled.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion has been on my book radar since I read some early positive reviews. I really wanted to squeeze it into the year.

Professor Don Tillman is a genius geneticists who has the gift to memorize the instructions for mixing cocktails and dance steps. In spite of these talents, Tillman is socially awkward. Extremely rigid in his schedule, Tillman eats the same menu every week.

Nearing forty years old, Tillman realizes that happily married men live longer. Determined to find the perfect wife and to avoid the uncomfortable scenes from his previous dating experience, Tillman creates a questionnaire. Surely, with such direct questions, Tillman will find the woman who doesn't smoke, drink or have weird issues with food.

Tillman doesn't factor in Rosie. She's all wrong for his Wife Project. But Rosie has her own project that is perfect for Tillman. She needs his help to find her real father. Tracking down the DNA of all the men who might have fathered Rosie, Tillman's life is thrown off balance by the beautiful and surprising Rosie.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion is delightful fun. Professor Tillman is so likable. There's something to be said about his tight schedule. If he says he'll be there at five o'clock, he's not going to keep you waiting. You might not want to ask him if the jeans you're wearing make your butt look fat, but otherwise, his various talents add up to a rather nice catch.

While predictable, The Rosie Project is worth the fun and subtle humor. Professor Tillman is an unusual but engaging leading man. The plotting and pace are perfect for a quick, enjoyable read. It was completely refreshing and entertaining.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Gods of Gotham & Seven for a Secret - Two Book Reviews

I had a chance to review Seven for a Secret by Lyndsay Faye. I'd heard good things and wanted to get my hands on it but I had one problem. I hadn't yet read The Gods of Gotham, the first novel featuring the brass star from New York City, Timothy Wilde. While some reviews of the second book assured me that it could stand on it's own (and really it can), I didn't want to miss out on The Gods of Gotham. I am so glad that I chose to read the first novel because it was thrilling, dark and absolutely wonderful.

After losing his home, savings, his job as a bartender and being scarred by the tremendous fire that burned wildly in New York City in 1845, Timothy Wilde is given another opportunity by his drug addicted, politically involved brother Valentine. The New York Police Department has just been formed and Timothy pins the brass star to his lapel, determined to help and protect.

In the early nineteenth century, a polluted pond in Manhattan was filled in and middle class homes were built on top. Unfortunately, the methane gas produced from the fill and the unstable ground, sent the middle class people scrambling for a more suitable neighborhood. The area, known as Five Points, would become a slum with a diverse population and a tendency toward violence. Timothy Wilde is assigned to patrol Five Points and is only on the job for a few weeks when he runs into a small girl covered in blood. Timothy is compelled to investigate.

In a city teeming with political corruption, poverty and racial tension with an increasing population as the potato famine sends a constant stream of immigrating Irish into the streets, Timothy Wilde struggles valiantly to maintain order and fight for the forsaken child victims.

A perfect blending of mystery and historical fiction, Lyndsay Faye follows up her first masterpiece with another equally thrilling novel. Seven for a Secret, is a wholly satisfying and enjoyable novel for fans of Timothy Wilde.

Six months after solving the mystery surrounding the bloody child, Timothy is settling into his new position with the police force. With a small office, he spends his days solving mysteries and returning stolen goods. His world will become dangerous and sensational once again, when a beautiful woman rushes into his office begging for help. Her sister and son have been kidnapped.

Timothy, with the help of a few friends including members of the New York Committee of Vigilance, will be embroiled in the mystery surrounding those who kidnap free blacks to sale them as slave in the South. Once again, Faye uses the horrifying history of the free blacks who inhabit the city and live in constant fear of being kidnapped in an enlightening and thrilling tale of horror and menace.

Often, when I finish a book I thoroughly enjoy it is difficult to begin another book. I was fully grateful that upon completing The Gods of Gotham, I could pick up Seven for a Secret and remain immersed in Timothy Wilde's dark and terrible New York City. Personally, I pray that Lyndsay Faye continues writing about her hero, for I am most definitely a fan.

Seven for a Secret by Lyndsay Faye was published by Amy Einhorn/Putnam in September 2013.

**I received a complimentary copy of Seven for a Secret in exchange for my honest review. I purchased a copy of The Gods of Gotham for myself. All opinions are my own and no additional compensation was received.**

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Winner of the Master Muffler Give-away

Just this week the brakes on my minivan started squealing. So, it looks like I get to try out Master Muffler this coming week. I'll let you know how it goes. I'm expecting great things.

The winner of the $50 Gift Certificate to 
Master Muffler is . . .

Jennifer Davis

Congratulations! Please contact me right away so that you can receive your prize.

Monday, December 9, 2013

$50 Gift Certificate to Master Muffler Give-away

Now that it's snowing and extra cold outside, it seems the season when cars start needing extra work. Specializing in brakes and mufflers, with 13 locations around Utah, Master Muffler Shop can perform nearly any repair on your car.

Master Muffler Shop is giving away a 
$50 Gift Certificate to Master Muffler

To enter to win, leave a comment on this post. You can earn an extra entry by sharing this giveaway on Facebook or Twitter or other Social Media. Leave an additional comment on this post telling wear you shared the give-away.

This contest is open to entries until Friday, December 13th at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be chosen randomly from the entries and announced on Saturday, December 14th.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Margot - Book Review

Amberly and I have been reading Anne Frank : The Diary of a Young Girl each evening for the last few weeks. We are about half way through it and emotionally involved already in Anne's family and their situation hiding in the annex. So, when I first started reading Margot by Jillian Cantor, I wasn't sure what to think. The recently published novel Margot, supposes that Anne's older sister Margot survived the Holocaust and the war and is living a life in hiding in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Was it irreverent? Taboo? Was it even OK to write about the Franks--a real family that suffered such horrific tragedy and is beloved by so many who have read Anne's thoughts, feelings, hopes and fears? I was emotionally torn as I began to read Margot. However, as I got involved with the story and came to care for Margot, thoughtfully portrayed as plagued by grief and survivor's guilt, I appreciated Cantor's gracious and respectful style. Cantor tells a beautiful, hopeful story.

Rereading Anne's diary as an adult and from the perspective of a mother, has caused me to think about Anne's point of view and experiences in contrast with how the adults may have been dealing with their time hiding in the annex. Cantor offers a similar contrast by showing how Margot may have experienced the annex. Also offering the chance for discussion on individual perception--people living through the same events and coming away with different feelings, memories and reactions.

Overall, Margot by Jillian Cantor is a very readable and enjoyable novel. The story of Margot's emotional turmoil and journey towards love captures the reader's imagination but ultimately left me with the feeling of deep sorrow for the suffering of the Frank family and so many others.

Margot by Jillian Cantor was published by Riverhead Trade in September 2013.

**I received a complimentary copy of Margot in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.**

The Winner of Rollick!

The winner of the Rollick! give-away is. . .


Congratulations! I hope you love Rollick! Please send me your information as soon as possible so that you can receive your game in time for all the Christmas parties.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The End of the Point - Book Review

The Porter family has escaped to their summer home on Ashaunt Point for generations. More than just a vacation home and some beach-front property, it becomes a sanctuary, a beacon, a comforting mainstay in the midst of changing times and family tragedy and drama.

Following the generations of Porters through World War II, the civil unrest of the seventies and into the turn of the century, The End of the Point by Elizabeth Graver is a beautiful celebration of the resilience of family and the meaning of place.

Graver writes with an elegance and grace that forms her characters into living, breathing beings. Their relationships with each other are the complex relationships between family members. I was especially touched by the relationship and tension between mother and son. The characters make choices that will shape their lives. They live with regret or peace or possibly even just the wonder of what might have been.

While I struggle with words beautiful enough to convey the subtle and lovely message in The End of the Point by Elizabeth Graver, I must say that it is one of my favorite books of the year.

The End of the Point by Elizabeth Graver was published by Harper in March 2013.

**I received a complimentary copy of The End of the Point in exchange for my honest review. I received no additional compensation and all opinions are my own.**

Monday, November 25, 2013

Rollick - Game Review and Give-away

We had some family friends over for dinner a few weeks ago. Utah Dad needed to use his grill at least one more time before the snow falls. After a delicious dinner, we pulled out Rollick!. Rollick! is described as a "hysterical game of clues and collaboration".

Dividing into teams, players work together to act out the words on the cards while another team member tries to guess as many different words before the timer runs out. It's a little like Charades on steroids. The players act quickly and can act out together. There are two sets of cards in varying levels of difficulty. While it's not a totally new idea, it is a fresh spin on a classic game. It's also convenient to have a variety of words.

The first evening we played Rollick! was with adults and teenagers and ten year old Amberly. Let's just say some of us are better actors than others. We all had a great time and spent a lot of time laughing.

Amberly especially loved playing Rollick! and she insisted that we play it again for Family Home Evening the following Monday night. While the younger kids had trouble participating as actors they weren't really that bad at guessing. The game suggests over ten as an appropriate age but eight year old Thomas was especially good at guessing the clues and not bad at acting them out either.

Rollick!, a game from The Game Chef, is a family friendly, fun game for parties. I'm sure to throw it in the bag for all our holiday gatherings this season.

One reader can win Rollick!

To enter, leave a comment on this post. The contest will be open to entries until Friday, November 29th at 11:59 pm MST. The winner will be chosen randomly from the comments and announced on Saturday, November 30th. Open to US residents only.

** I received a complimentary copy of Rollick in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own. **

$50 Microsoft Store Gift Card Winner

The Winner of the $50 Microsoft Store Gift Card is . . .

Danielle Porter

Congratulations! Please contact me as soon as possible with your information so that you can redeem your prize.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

FancySlips Give-away Winner

The winner of the FancySlips Skirt Extender is . . .

Miranda Gonzalez

Congratulations! Please contact me as soon as possible to claim your prize.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Xbox One Sports Star Challenge - $50 Microsoft Gift Card Give-away

Xbox One Sports Star Challenge
City Creek Center
Saturday, November 23, from 1 – 4 p.m.

Microsoft’s City Creek Center retail store is proud to host the Xbox One Sports Star Challenge. We want to see if anyone in Salt Lake City has what it takes to beat former Utah Jazz player and NBA All-star Mark Eaton at his own game— on the new X-Box One. Guests can also meet Eaton for photos and autographs. Prizes will be awarded during this family-friendly event.

One reader can enter to win a 
$50 Microsoft Gift Card. 

Each person can receive up to 3 entries :

1. Leave a comment on this post.
2. Share this give-away on Facebook. Leave a second comment on this post.
3. Share this give-away on Twitter or other social media. Leave an additional comment on this post.

This contest will be open to entries until Saturday, November 23rd. at 4:00 pm MST. The winner will be chosen randomly from the comments and announced on Saturday evening.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Cool-Things Gift Guide for Kids

I've been really struggling with what to give to my boys for Christmas this year. Thomas has made no requests. Neal has asked for more video games or ridiculous things like an iPod that I just don't want to get him. So, while I've been looking for something to get surprise them with and hope for a pleasant reaction, I recalled some of the other most fabulous and enjoyed gifts they've received over the years.

The following toys have been a hit in my house:

The Marble Race

When Neal was three years old, he begged for the Marble Race. Santa delivered and Neal was thrilled. Over the years, the kids have loved to pull it out and design various pathways for the marbles to travel. Improving spatial skills and encouraging creativity, the Marble Race has consistently been a lot of fun.

The Electronic Gadget Lab

One year I surprised Neal with an Electronic Gadget Lab. The one pictured is slightly different from the one we got a few years ago but it is essentially the same idea. Neal loved arranging the circuits and and tools to make many different projects. He spent hours playing and learning with the lab. Thomas just pulled it out of the closet on Monday to play with it again. It's educational and fun. Kids love being able to make something "work". It was definitely my most successful "surprise" gift. I reviewed this a few years ago *here*.

Perplexus Mazes

All of my kids enjoy trying to figure out the Perplexus Mazes. They are actually all really good at successfully navigating the twists and turns. Personally, Utah Dad and I find them frustrating. Twist them and turn them and attempt to keep the marble on the tracks in this fun 3D puzzle. So far, we have two of these in our home.

US Talking Puzzle

The US Talking Puzzle has been part of our family since Neal was two years old. With it, he quickly learned all 50 states and their capitals. All of my children have enjoyed putting the various states in their places and learning the interesting facts when they push the buttons. I reviewed it a few years ago *here*.

K'NEX 50 Model Building Set

A few years ago, Thomas fell in love with the K'NEX Double Roller Coaster Set. He requested it from Santa and he got it. Apparently, Santa didn't notice that the suggested age was WAY older than a six-year-old Thomas. Fortunately, Neal was willing to spend his Christmas vacation putting it together while Thomas watched.

The Roller Coaster turned out to be a frustrating toy for small children. However, the K'NEX 50 Model Building Set has been so much fun. The kids have fun using the pieces to build all the various things in the included guide. They've also looked online for additional things to build. There are a lot of very little pieces, so this isn't recommended for very small children.


The Microscope is included in the unusual requests from Neal that includes a World Globe and a Telescope. While the telescope has been incredibly frustrating for us, the Microscope has been a hit with the entire family. While adult supervision is definitely recommended, even my very small children have enjoyed looking at random tiny things through the microscope. My kids have loved looking at the grossest things they can think of--boogers and ear wax. The one pictured here is not the exact model we have but is similar. I would recommend spending a little extra and buying a "student" model regularly used in schools. The "toy" microscopes are usually not as impressive and will generally be disappointing. Definitely buy an extra package of clear slides so you can make your own.

If anyone has any great ideas for my gift-buying this year, I would LOVE to hear them. I'm getting desperate. I'm actually considering buying them their favorite foods. This is how low I've descended. Thank you in advance for your help.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

After Her - Book Review

Rachel is thirteen years old the summer a serial killer begins killing young women on the mountain behind Rachel's home. Rachel's father is the lead detective in charge of solving the case and Rachel's social life improves as her classmates clamor for details from the case.

As more and more women are murdered and Rachel's father gets frustrated with his inability to find the murderer, Rachel decides to help. Combining her overactive imagination and her psychic gift, Rachel becomes obsessed with finding the Sunset Strangler.

While it is a murder mystery, After Her by Joyce Maynard is a coming-of-age story at its heart. Rachel is struggling with all the confusion of being a thirteen year old girl. The details of the murders so close to home and her own connection to the case, combine with her natural curiosity regarding sex, growing up and relationships. Because of all that is going on in her head, Rachel is very compelling narrator.

After Her is not your typical fast-paced, heart-pounding murder mystery. It's more subtle. The characters and their relationships take center stage with just an undercurrent of intrigue and danger. There are times when the teenage angst is too much and the story lags a little. The ending feels a bit off kilter. However, overall I really enjoyed After Her by Joyce Maynard.

After Her by Joyce Maynard was published by William Morrow in August 2013.

**I received a complimentary copy of After Her in exchange for my honest review. No additional compensation was give and all opinions are my own.**

Monday, November 18, 2013

FancySlips - Review and Give-away

A few weeks ago I was dressing up to prepare for a trip to the temple with my fellow Relief Society sisters. I pulled on a skirt that I haven't worn in years. I asked Utah Dad if the skirt was long enough. He said it was perfectly fine. Trusting him, I wore the skirt and went out with my friends.

Fortunately, I brought a coat with me that evening because as soon as I sat down, the skirt ceased to be long enough. I tugged and pulled to try to get the unforgiving fabric to reach my knees. I came home and threw the skirt in pile to take to D.I.

It's a good thing I hadn't delivered that D.I. pile yet because last week I received a complimentary slip from FancySlips. Intended as skirt extenders, the lacy and frilly slips turn a too-short skirt into a wardrobe possibility. There are fancy and plain extenders--ones that work with prom dresses and with more simple skirts.

I wore the FancySlip with my too-short skirt yesterday to church. I felt modest but I couldn't stop wondering if they worked together. Was I trying too hard to make the skirt work? Amberly thought it looked fabulous. The skirt extenders are beautiful but pairing them with the right skirts might be tricky, especially for a fashionably challenged person like myself. However, with the right pairing, I think the FancySlips could be really nice with the too-short skirt.

The slip was very pretty and well made. FancySlips have many different styles so there is probably a slip to work with nearly every short skirt or dress you have.

FancySlips has offered to give one slip to one reader. 

To enter, check out FancySlips catalog at Leave a comment on this post telling me your favorite choice. For an extra entry "like" FancySlips on Facebook : Leave an additional comment on this post once you have "liked" their page.

The contest will be open to entries until Friday, November 22nd at 11:59 pm MST. The winner will be chosen randomly from the comments and announced on Saturday, November 23rd.

Discovery Gateway's Holiday Food Drive

Discovery Gateway’s Holiday Food Drive


Celebrate Discovery Gateway: The Children’s Museum of Utah’s 35th anniversary and give to the Utah Food Bank.

On Wednesday, November 27th bring in a donation for the Utah Food Bank and receive 1 FREE admission for every 2 non-perishable food items donated at Discovery Gateway.

All annual family memberships will be $10 off during this one-day-only event!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Old Yeller - Book Review

Thomas and I love reading together before he goes to bed each night. He's a willing participant, so I rather enjoy introducing him to some of my favorite childhood books. We recently finished reading The Sign of the Beaver and we were looking at the book shelf to make our next choice. He pulled Old Yeller by Fred Gipson from the shelf. It was an old copy that my mom gave us years ago.

I've seen the movie but I had never read book before. My mom reads it to her third grade class every year and has told me lots of stories about how her students get caught up and emotionally invested in the story. Thomas and I decided to make it our next read.

I was immediately impressed by how well Gipson gets the readers completely immersed in the story and invested in the characters. The story includes all things that we love about stories : adventure, drama, emotion, tragedy and love. Thomas was enamored and usually begged for a second chapter each night. It is also a great book to read aloud--the language flows smoothly and sounds authentic to a young narrator.

Thomas and I discussed the characters and the story. He made some really interesting comments and I was fascinated by the way his mind works and his ability to connect with the story and his experiences. We decided that the five year old Arliss reminded us of my nephew Remington. Remington is always catching critters. Every time I see him, he has a little snake in his hands. I don't know how he manages to find one everywhere he goes. I was excited to see that my nephew Remington just got his own puppy to love.

Last night we read the last few chapters of Old Yeller cuddled on my bed. Before long all the kids had gathered and were immediately intrigued by the story. The ending is emotional and heartbreaking (who doesn't cry at the end of Old Yeller?!) but there is also a healthy period of mourning and then the hope for a brighter and happier future. I really loved the advice offered my the father to the devastated boy who had lost his beloved companion. 

Old Yeller by Fred Gipson proved to be a great reading experience for Thomas and me. I would definitely recommend it. We will watch the movie tonight and see if it lives up to the book and then we will check out our book shelves and choose our next adventure together.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The First Phone Call From Heaven - Book Review

Some of the residents of Coldwater, a small town near Lake Michigan, are receiving phone calls from their deceased relatives. Speaking of heaven and offering comfort, the phone calls from loved ones spark a world-wide debate about heaven. As the media descends on the small town, one resident--Sully Harding, still grieving the death of his wife, is determined to find out whether the heavenly phone calls are legitimate or a hoax.

The First Phone Call From Heaven by Mitch Albom is a quick read and enjoyable. The prose is concise and his story telling is well plotted. There are so many characters, that initially I had trouble keeping them straight. Because of the brevity and the numbers of characters, I felt like they were not as developed and individual as they could be.

More a discussion on faith than a discussion of whether or not heaven exists, Albom shows the various character's reactions to hearing from their loved ones who have passed on. It was interesting for me to compare and contrast the ideas and reactions in this novel to the characters in Jason Mott's The Returned. Some of their reactions are similar, though Albom's version is much tamer and less violent.

The mystery behind the calls and Sully's investigation was the most engaging part for me. The ending was a bit odd but ultimately satisfying. Fans of Mitch Albom and readers looking for a feel-good story will enjoy The First Phone Call From Heaven.

**I received a complimentary copy of The First Phone Call From Heaven in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own.**

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Trains and Lovers - Book Review

After years of cinematic indoctrination, the train remains the most romantic form of travel. In Trains and Lovers by Alexander McCall Smith (well known for the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series) , four strangers begin talking with each other on the train. During their travels, they share their stories of love. In each story, a train plays a roll in the romance.

People are often more willing to open up to strangers about their deepest emotions. I've had deep and meaningful conversations with strangers on airplanes about religion and family--often sharing much more than I would with my neighbor. Millions of people share the details of their lives on Twitter and other social media. So, it is not surprising that on this trip across England, four people would divulge the stories of their love lives and deepest emotions.

I rather enjoyed the seemingly disconnected stories and the ingenious way Smith manages to tie the various tales together with the train association. The connection does not feel forced but flows naturally as a conversation would. The focus moves to the various forms and types of love.

Trains and Lovers is spare and free from literary fluff. It's a little, afternoon treat. I was thoroughly delighted by the brief tales. Smith, a very talented writer, creates fully developed characters, engaging stories and a thoughtful discussion is such a brief book. Will Strunk and E.B. White would surely be ecstatic by this fabulous example of brevity.

Trains and Lovers by Alexander McCall Smith from Pantheon was published in June 2013.

**I received a complimentary copy of of Trains and Lovers in exchange for my honest review. No additional compensation was received and all opinions are my own.**

Monday, November 11, 2013

Someone Else's Love Story - Book Review

The She Reads book club selection for November is : Someone Else's Love Story by  Joshilyn Jackson.

I was a fan of Someone Else's Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson as soon as I read the first line : "I fell in love with William Ashe at gunpoint, in a Circle K."

It was intriguing. It was new. I absolutely had to find out the entire story.

Shandi is the young mother of a three year old genius. He is her miracle. Shandi and her son are taken hostage during a hold-up of the convenience store. During the drama, Shandi falls for the handsome and larger-than-life hero William Ashe who is also a hostage but manages to save the day. Really. How could she not fall in love with the introspective, kind man that placed himself in danger to protect her son? But before she can have her "happy ever after" she must get William to fall in love with her.

I adored the main characters of this novel. Shandi is so sweet and naive and her heart is so genuine. William is carrying heavy burdens but acts with such quiet dignity it's difficult not to fall in love with him. Shandi's voice as narrator is fresh and at times funny. Her perspective of horrible events such as the hold-up are at times amusing. She chooses to see life through rose-colored glasses. Even when she decides to face the tragic and horrible truth about how she got her little son, she is grounded by her love for him; her love for life and her love for those around her.

Part Two of the novel seemed to get bogged down in the fairly stunted sexual history of the main characters. (At times I was so picturing Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally trying to convince Sally that men and women could not be "just friends". And at other moments hearing the dialogue between Jerry and Elaine as they discuss the possibilities of "sex to save the friendship" in my head.) Most of this spewing of sexual details (fairly realistic and uncomfortably honest) is necessary for the later plot twists, but at times, given the friendly narrative, it felt like TMI.

Through various plot twists and revelations in Part Three, I fell in love with the novel again. I was genuinely shocked. I really did not anticipate the surprise but I was pleased. I was even a little giddy about how it all turned out.

In fact, I adored all the characters so much that I quickly read and thoroughly enjoyed Joshilyn Jackson's short story prequel My Own Miraculous. It is sweet and made me love Shandi and her little boy Natty even more.

Story is so important in Someone Else's Love Story but the characters are essential. I felt cozy and comfortable with Jackson's style and appreciated the wit and humor even in times of tragedy. Someone Else's Love Story is a beautiful tale of hope and love. Even more, it includes themes of belief and faith, forgiveness and facing one's demons.

Be sure to enter to win a copy of Someone Else's Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson at She Reads and check out other reviews by the members of She Reads. Someone Else's Love Story is published by William Morrow and will be available on November 19th. I received a complimentary copy through She Reads in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Lies You Wanted to Hear - Book Review

Synopsis from the cover:
"Alone in an empty house, Lucy tries to imagine the lives of her two young children. They have been gone for seven years, and she is tormented by the role she played in that heartbreaking loss. You can hardly see a glimpse of the sexy, edgy woman she used to be. Back then, she was a magnet for men like Matt, who loved her beyond reason, and Griffin, who wouldn't let go but always left her wanting more. Now the lies they told and the choices they made have come to haunt all three of them.
With shattering turns, Lies You Wanted to Hear explores the way good people talk themselves into doing terrible, unthinkable things. What happens when we come to believe our own lies? And what price must we pay for our mistakes?
A searing story that will leave you wondering what choices you would make, Lies You Wanted to Hear is a stunning debut."
My thoughts:

While well written, I initially had trouble getting into Lies You Wanted to Hear by James Whitfield Thomson. I especially had trouble connecting with Lucy. She seemed so determined for self-destruction. Her choices were so often foolish. Griffin held a weird power over her that I don't possibly fathom. I also couldn't understand why Matt was so blind and willing to marry her when he clearly didn't trust her.

I did, however, find myself curious about how their relationship would crumble and why Lucy was eventually alone. It became interesting to see what prompted the characters to make choices, decisions and actions. Both Matt and Lucy were so self-serving and while Matt could justify his actions to himself for years, he was vindictive, criminal and cruel.

Ultimately Thomson has written a novel that will make the reader think and ponder on an individuals choices and actions and how they effect others. Lacking a true hero, Lies You Wanted to Hear is a thrilling, nail-biting ride that I quickly devoured in two days.

Content warning : There is excessive bad language and some sex scenes.

Lies You Wanted to Hear by James Whitfield Thomson is published by Sourcebooks Landmark on November 5, 2013.

**I received a complimentary copy of Lies You Wanted to Hear in exchange for my honest opinion. No additional compensation was received.**