Baby, Not Tonight

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Feeling awful after a nasty breakup of a five year relationship while living in Paris, France, Milla returns to the US to start over. She is a chef and finds work in a kitchen that offers stable hours and salary, if not the glamour of a five-star restaurant. While she figures out how to begin again, both personally and professionally, she is also stuck in the past, harping on why her relationship failed. To help her move forward, her best friend and co-worker Jake, encourages her to meet someone new, to get on the horse, so to speak. And so enters Hunter, a handsome single man with his own pile of baggage. The two begin a relationship based on mutual attraction and half-truths, and when reality hits, it hits Milla hard. With her lack of coping skills, she does not know how to handle her growing feelings toward Hunter or his evasion about significant members of his past.

Tied into the relationship story, are some noteworthy side characters, including the afore mentioned Jake, as well as Hunter’s brother, mother and best friend, Ivy. There are also some characters who are briefly mentioned but not developed, such as Milla’s family, which does create a little hole in the plot. Jake also has his own side story and though interesting, I found it a little distracting. Overall, the main romantic story and how Milla and Hunter figure out their feelings for one another is a solid read. There are good hints for communicating with someone you care about too. If you are looking for a romantic comedy, b/c there are a few laugh out loud moments in the story, with some depth too, then Baby, Not Tonight is worth checking out.

(A copy of the book was provided in exchange for an unbiased review.)

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The Secret Sister

secret sister book cover

This is the first book I read by Brenda Novak, but it will not be the last. Novak presents a complex story of familial relationships gone sour. Maisey is the youngest daughter of a very cold, domineering mother and a more easygoing father. Unfortunately, he passed away when Maisey was just a girl, and her mother did not seem to make any effort to show extra affection towards her or her older brother. As a result, when Maisey is an adult she leaves home, intent on never returning. However, life had other plans and Maisey finds herself returning to the family homestead, beaten down by upsetting circumstances, primarily the death of an infant daughter, a divorce from an unfaithful husband, the inability to do her work, and the unsuccessful suicide attempt by her brother, Keith.

Upon her return, Maisey faces her past and her future with a clarity previously unseen. She begins to mend the relationship with her mother, helps her brother figure out his demons, while rediscovering her motivations and purpose. Along the way, she gets reinvolved with a man, Rafe, she knew more than ten years earlier.

I liked many aspects of this story. There is the mystery of whether or not Maisey and Keith had an older sister, the dynamics of her immediate family’s influence and interaction, and the budding romance with Rafe. The pace is quick, though the plot is slower. The first portion of the book is largely devoted to setting up the different events of the relationships of the main character. As a result, the plot takes a while to move to the title point. However, once Novak introduces this point, it goes very fast, and ends with a great conclusion. I really felt for all the main characters, as each had to overcome different trauma in order to move forward. I have already recommended the book to friends, as I think they will enjoy the story. Another reviewer stated this book is the first in a new series, and I hope that is true. I would enjoy revisiting Maisey, while learning more about other characters on the island where she lives.

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Love, Loss, and Forgiveness

Jackie Bouchhard

Jackie Bouchhard

After suffering two losses (husband and beloved pet), within a week of one another, Jane Bailey realizes she needs to make some life altering decisions. Though experts and family caution against making major decisions within the first year of grief, Jane determines she must do just that, as her current life is stifling, making her miserable. Added to the feelings of loss and confusion, is guilt, as Jane wrestles with mixed emotions about her late husband. Their marriage was failing, yet she had not come to terms with her feelings before her husband become terminally ill.

As Jane reconciles what she needs to do, she slowly begins to heal. Along the way, she reconnects to family and friends, makes a few new friends, and adopts a new dog. She had no intention of acquiring another pet, and certainly not so soon, but this dog finds her way into Jane’s life and heart without much fanfare. Jane quickly learns that she can open her heart again too, that pain and guilt are not emotions one has to carry for a lifetime. One funny element throughout the book is Jane’s stance on people…she really does not Ike meeting new people or even socializing with some she knows. Her interactions with others when she is frustrated are quite humorous.

Aptly titled, Rescue Me, Maybe is a story of redemption and rediscovery. Jane puts her life back together, learns more about herself, and begins to carve out a new future. The ending does not wrap up everything in a tight bow, leaving the possibility of a sequel, though it is not a cliffhanger.

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Movies That Were Books First, part one

Have you ever read a book and thought, wow, this would make a great movie? Or have you been at the movies, only to later discover that a book was its basis? I have found that I must read the book first, so I don’t have someone else’s visual in my head when I read. Others have shared with me that they can see the movie first, without any problem. Even others tell me they have never read the book and don’t plan on it, as the movie sufficed. Below are some books that were made into film; if you have only seen the movie, consider going to the origin and discovering the inspiration. Though the movie may be good, you may discover the book was better! Part two: Books made into films/miniseries without compromising the origin..

Cheaper by the Dozen, Frank B. Gilbreth. I first read the book in sixth grade, but it is not really a children’s book per se. Lillian and Frank Gilbreth were efficiency experts in the 1920s, and were also parents of 12 children. Many of their ideas were developed or implemented in their household.  The book chronicles their lives in this era and gives the reader amazing insight into the decade. Lillian was a working mother (highly unusual in that time period) and is quite an inspiration. The modern movie version involves a descendant who has 12 children, stars Bonnie Hunt and Steve Martin, and has no resemblance to the book. (There is an older movie version that is more faithful to the original story and quite fun to watch.) I loved the book as a child and reread it as an adult – still has its magic.

Blind side, Michael Lewis. When I saw the advertisements for the movie, I knew I wanted to see it. When I discovered the movie was based on a book, I decided to read it first, per my above stated reasoning. What I did not know until I started reading it, is that The Blind Side book, unlike the movie, is more about football and less about the relationship between the Sandra Bullock character and Michael Oher, the football player.  I learned about the offense and defense, why the blind side is so critical a position, and why a particular play is selected.  If you are a football fan or want to learn more, I suggest this book. I was not bored and found I understood the movie better, as well as real football games, after reading it.

Girl with a Pearl Earring, Tracy Chevalier, another historical fiction story, is based on the premise of a painting by Johannes Vermeer. This story is full of depth and drama, yet moves at a fairly slow pace. As a movie, I don’t think it succeeded as well, because the subtle elements did not translate well to the big screen. Girl with a Pearl Earring is for the reader who likes to explore hidden meanings, innuendoes and a slow build-up to a satisfying conclusion.

Must Love Dogs, Claire Cook, a fun romantic comedy. The movie version takes some elements of the story yet also adds its own Hollywood elements. The book is the first in a series. Lighter beach read and always intriguing when the characters carry over for some sequels.

Stand By Me (The Body) and Shawshank Redemption, both by Stephen King. Each of these novellas are fairly short, yet they were able to be converted into great movies. There are definite differences between the stories and the movies, but the adaptations are well done. These stories are not the typical Stephen King either; they don’t have the horror he is mostly know for and are worth your time, even if you have seen the movies.  

Skipping Christmas, John Grisham. Made into the movie, The Kranks. The book is really funny, getting into the extreme side of the holidays. It is completely unlike most of Grisham’s other books which tend to focus on legal conundrums and ethical dilemmas. Tim Allen starred in the movie, though I think it was a bit over the top, and the book delivers a better story.

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Debut Authors and Titles You May Have Missed

Reading books by favorite authors is usually a safe bet. I have found that for the most part, if I like a few books by an author, that I will like the majority of them. So when I am an introduced to a new author, I tread very carefully. Time is precious, and I don’t want to potentially waste what time I have for reading, on a book or author that turns out to be a bad choice. That stated, here are some debut authors that impressed me, especially for a first book. Some of these authors have written just the one book, while others have introduced more. Perhaps one of them will catch your eye, and you will be adding them to your list of favorites.

Five Days Left, Julie Lawson Timmer, Two people are facing life altering events in five days time. One has Huntington’s Disease and the other is scheduled to return his foster son to his biological mom. This book really made me think about family, decisions, and illness.

The Rosie Project, Graeme Simsion. A refreshing look at relationships, both platonic and romantic, The Rosie Project invites the reader to view the word from Don Tillman’s eyes. A geneticist who is brilliant in his work but very low functioning in his ability to relate to people. He has his routines and schedules, as well as exacting standards, which makes him someone others find difficult to relate to or connect with. Then he meets Rosie, under false assumptions, which establishes the base for the entire book. His approaches to any new task is very calculated, which makes him a great scientist but not such a great date or boyfriend.

Invisible City (Rebekah Roberts Novels), Julia Dahl. Rebekah was abandoned by her mother, when she was an infant. Now a college graduate, Rebekah decided to move to NYC to pursue a career as a reporter and also research her mother’s background in the Orthodox Jewish community. While learning more, she also winds up investigating a murder, and risks her own life in the process.

The Bookseller, Cynthia Swanson. (also posted in alternate realities blog). The book starts out in one life and introduces a dream world, only to have them intersect, cross over and ultimately collide. The reader does not know which world is real and which is not, until the very end. Takes place in the 1960’s, which adds another dimension to the story.

The Violets of March, Sarah Jio. From Amazon: In her twenties, Emily Wilson was on top of the world: she had a bestselling novel, a husband plucked from the pages of GQ, and a one-way ticket to happily ever after. Ten years later, the tide has turned on Emily’s good fortune. So when her great-aunt Bee invites her to spend the month of March on Bainbridge Island in Washington State, Emily accepts, longing to be healed by the sea. Researching her next book, Emily discovers a red velvet diary, dated 1943, whose contents reveal startling connections to her own life

Shotgun Lovesongs, Nickolas Butler. About four male friends and their relationship to one another, as well as with the women in their lives. A glimpse into the male psyche. Decisions are questioned, actions are challenged, and consequences can be dire at times. Takes place in the Midwest and offers perspectives not typically considered.

Elizabeth Street, Laurie Fabiano. A historical novel. The story is based on facts, yet the author has changed some names and has had to imagine conversations that took places decades earlier. I found the story really captivating, especially in the second half of the book. Learning about Italy, certain customs, as well as the Black Hand, was extremely interesting. Takes place in NYC in the early 1900’s.

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Books with a food theme

Though not a gourmet, I have always liked reading about books that have food as a primary element, where the descriptions of a dish or meal are so enticing, I am encouraged to cook or bake. (In fact, writing tonight’s blog inspired me to make banana bread, which smells divine). Sometimes there is a magical element too, associated with the food, that makes the story whimsical or fanciful. The food becomes its own character, driving the plot to an aspect otherwise not possible. After reading some of these books, perhaps you will want to go out and create some culinary magic of your own. I did not write summaries for these, but if you click on the link, you will be taken to its Amazon page for a description.

These first ones are more traditional in their styles, with recipes and fairly stable plots.

These books have that unknown element intertwined with a good story, and you have to be willing to suspend a little reality to embrace the tale as it unfolds.

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Books with alternate realities

Have you ever wondered about parallel lives? Is it true that we could be living different versions of the same life, at the same time? These books explore what happens when there is a trauma, and as a result, the main character steps out of her daily life and into an alternative one. Ultimately, each time, she has to decide which life is true and which one is where she belongs. See if you can identify with the title character in any of these.

The Bookseller (2015) by Cynthia Swanson introduces us to a woman living two lives, and she does not know which is real and which is her dream life. The book starts out in one life and introduces a dream world, only to have them intersect, cross over and ultimately collide. The reader does not know which world is real and which is not, until the very end. Takes place in the 1960’s, which adds another dimension to the story.

Then and Always  (2014) by Dani Atkins documents the life of a young woman who faces tragedy and lives to tell the tale after a bad accident. Her life is stuck though and after another incident sends her to the hospital, she finds herself living a life she does not recall. Yet she does not have amnesia. She does not know which life is true and neither do we. The ending is bittersweet, yet also fitting for the story.

The Lost  (2014) by Sarah Beth Durst finds main character Lauren discovering a world that does not make sense, while she comes to terms with having a terminally ill mother. She faces adversity while living in a town only known as Lost and has to learn how to take care of herself, for the first time in her life. Only then, will she be able to return home. First in a trilogy, The Lost ends in a cliffhanger; the Missing follows in Fall 2015, and I am looking forward to reading it.

Cecilia Ahern’s There’s No Place Like Here  (2009) explores what happened to someone who disappears without a trace. Where could the person have gone? Sandy spends her life finding missing people, objects, etc. until one day, she too, goes missing and winds up in a land filled with everything and everyone we have lost at one point in our lives (socks, baby blankets, baseballs, as well as people and pets). At first, I thought The Lost and this book had very similar plots, but they do have enough different aspects to make them both good reads.

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