Friday, May 20, 2016

Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia



Overview

"For its darkness and its glee, I loved this novel."  —Robin Sloan, author of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
A high school music festival goes awry when a young prodigy disappears from the most infamous room in the Bellweather Hotel, in a whip-smart novel sparkling with dark and giddy humor
Fifteen years ago, a murder-suicide in room 712 rocked the grand old Bellweather Hotel and the young bridesmaid who witnessed it, Minnie Graves. Now hundreds of high school musicians, including quiet bassoonist Rabbit Hatmaker and his brassy diva twin, Alice, have gathered in its cavernous, crumbling halls for the annual Statewide festival; Minnie has returned to face her demons; and a colossal snowstorm is threatening to trap them all in the hotel. Then Alice's roommate goes missingfrom room 712. The search for her entwines an eccentric cast of characters: conductors and caretakers, failures and stars, teenagers on the verge and adults trapped in memories. For everyone has come to the Bellweather with a secret, and everyone is haunted.
Bellweather Rhapsody is a genre-bending page-turner, full of knowing nods to pop culture classics from The Shining to Agatha Christie to Glee. But its pleasures are beautifully deepened by Kate Racculia's skill with her characters, her melancholy, affecting writing about music, and her fearlessness about the loss and darkness that underline the truest humor. This is a wholly winning new novel from a writer to watch.

My thoughts:
I read this book for a book club and, since the author lives in the area, we were lucky enough to have the author come to the club when we met to discuss it.  The meeting was unusual since we were able to ask Kate about the book and why she wrote things certain ways, where she got the ideas from and anything else we might have been wondering about the book.  I used to read mysteries all the time in high school, but not so much in recent years.  I enjoyed going back to my mystery roots and seeing what I was able to figure out as I read.  There were twists and turns, especially towards the end, some of which I saw coming and some that I did not!

Rabbit has a secret that he hopes to reveal to his twin sister at the festival, but when her roommate disappears and Minnie and her dog appear, he decides to bide his time.  I loved how everyone has their own private demons that peak their heads out and decide how much out in the open they want to be.  How civilized someone can seem when inside they are anything but and how not everyone is working with the same moral compass. Many of the adults were working from a position of how to work though what happened in their past and how to move towards a future they can look forward to.  Whereas the students are all sure that they are the best at what they do and have bright futures ahead of them, but do they?  How many of these musicians  will still be at their craft in ten years?  How many of them really have a chance to make a life at it and should the adults encourage them to reach for the stars or suggest they think about ways music can be a part of their lives, but maybe not their career.

Along with all these personal concerns there is the issue of the missing first flute.  How can she have disappeared in a hotel in the middle of nowhere in a blizzard?  Where can she be and who took her?  I loved how there were so many stories going on at the same time, sometimes together and sometimes in opposite directions, but moving along.  I loved the high incidence of twins, which was on purpose, starting with Alice and Rabbit and going from there.  I really can't say more without revealing answers to mysteries and I hate when people do that!  I am so glad this was a book club pick because I'm not sure I would have found it on my own.  I'm loving being involved in a book club because it is getting me to read books that I might have missed.


I'm Back!

I have been reading like crazy, but never seemed to get around to blogging about it.  Then about a month ago I decided I wanted to and I couldn't get into my account.  It was so frustrating!  Tonight I decided to give it another try and I got in!  Not sure what I was doing wrong then, but I am happy to be back and hope to make the time to start posting about all the great books I've been reading.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Over The Moon (Mageverse series) by Angela Knight, MaryJanice Davidson, Virginia Kantra and Sunny


Overview:  Three bestselling superstars and one exciting new voice in paranormal romance in a hot new anthology. 

When it comes to sexy werewolves, fairies, and magic, there's only one place for readers to go this winter: Over the Moon. 

Angela Knight ventures to the borders of Mageverse, a land ruled by vampire knights. 

MaryJanice Davidson returns to the wicked lair of the Wyndham werewolves. 

Virginia Kantra finds magic and wonder in a strange fairy kingdom. 

And Sunny discovers a Mixed Blood Queen in command of a new realm.

My thoughts:
I picked this book up for the beach because I love the sarcasm used by MaryJanice Davidson.  I haven't read her in a while and I was intrigued to see what I had missed.  I almost just read her story, but decided to give the others a try.  Out of the four three I liked and one I did not care for at all, but none of them impressed me overly much.  It seemed like you needed to have the world these authors have created already known to you to get into them.  Short anthologies are not always my favorite because they don't have enough time to really get to know the characters, especially in ones like these that are adding in paranormal beings that have all sorts of powers and changes.  Getting their power from the moon, keeping royalty lines going in were populations, hunting down vampires that ruined your life and such.  It was fine for the beach, but not all that memorable.  It has been a couple weeks and I had to really think to recall one of the four stories.  

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Untied: A Memoir of Family, Fame, and Floundering by Meredith Baxter

Untied: A Memoir of Family, Fame, and Floundering

Overview

“I remember Sarah asking me, when I’d just begun therapy with her, what I looked for in a man.  After a few moments of silent, tense deliberation I had it.  ‘Hair,’ I blurted. ‘He has to have hair.’”
 
Meredith Baxter is a beloved and iconic television actress, most well-known for her enormously popular role as hippie mom, Elyse Keaton, on Family Ties. Her warmth, humor, and brilliant smile made her one of the most popular women on television, with millions of viewers following her on the small screen each week. Yet her success masked a tumultuous personal story and a harrowing private life. For the first time, Baxter is ready to share her incredible highs, (working with Robert Redford, Doris Day, Lana Turner, and the cast of Family Ties), and lows (a thorny relationship with her mother, a difficult marriage to David Birney, a bout with breast cancer), finally revealing the woman behind the image.
From her childhood in Hollywood, growing up the daughter of actress and co-creator of One Day at a Time Whitney Blake, Baxter became familiar with the ups and downs of show business from an early age. After wholeheartedly embracing the 60s counterculture lifestyle, she was forced to rely on her acting skills after her first divorce left her a 22-year-old single mother of two. Baxter began her professional career with supporting roles in the critically panned horror film Ben, and in the political thriller All the President's Men.

More lucrative work soon followed on the small screen. Baxter starred with actor David Birney as the title characters in controversial sitcom Bridget Loves Bernie. While the series only lasted a year, her high-profile romance with Birney lasted 15 volatile and unhappy years. Hiding the worst of her situation from even those closest to her, Baxter’s career flourished as her self-esteem and family crumbled. Her successful run as Nancy on Family was followed by her enormously popular role on Family Ties, and dozens of well-received television movies.

After a bitter divorce and custody battle with Birney, Baxter increasingly relied on alcohol as a refuge, and here speaks candidly of her decision to take her last drink in 1990.

And while another ruinous divorce to screenwriter Michael Blodgett taxed Baxter’s strength and confidence, she has emerged from her experiences with the renewed self-assurance, poise, and understanding that have enabled her to find a loving, respectful relationship with Nancy Locke, and to speak about it openly.

Told with insight, wit, and disarming frankness, Untied is the eye-opening and inspiring life of an actress, a woman, and a mother who has come into her own.
From the Hardcover edition.

My thoughts:
This was another one of my beach reads last month.  I remember starting it when I got it and then putting it down for some reason, so this time I started over at the beginning again.  While I am not familiar with Baxter's early television work, I recall seeing her every week on Family Ties.  I may or may not have seen some of her TV movies too.  I love reading about and peaking into other peoples lives.  From the outside they can seem perfect or to have it all together, but that is rarely the case and it is nice to know that everyone runs into bumps in the road and detours.

Baxter's mother was a very focused on having a career as an actress and divorced early, often leaving her children alone or with their step father and having her children call her Whitney instead of mom so she could appear younger.  This early rejection seems to have had some long lasting repercussions in her life.  From getting together with men because they thought it was a good idea, to living in some sketchy and unsafe homes and apartments, to taking to alcohol to escape the unhappiness at home to finding that she prefers to be in a relationship with women Meredith discusses it all.  

I've found that in books by celebrities, and maybe people in general, there tends to be a certain amount of repetition.  Chapters later they are going back to something that they already discussed and making it a focal point again.  That happened here, but it could be that it is hard to show things without their backdrop from the past.

Who would have thought that Elise Keaton, who seemed like a mom who had it all together, was driving home drunk from rehearsals and shows because of issues at home?  I think it is telling that she was so nervous about coming out to the public, but at the same time wanted to do it to help other people who are in the same position.  Will this affect her ability to find employment or embarrass family members?  

Nothing is ever perfect and it is important to realize that much of what happens in life is governed by how we react to it and what we do with it.  I am glad that Baxter has found the life she is happy with and no longer feels the need to hide it.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Such a Pretty Fat: One Narcissist's Quest to Discover If Her Life Makes Her Ass Look Big, or Why Pie Is Not the Answer by Jen Lancaster





Overview

A NOTE FROM JEN LANCASTER:
"To whom the fat rolls…I'm tired of books where a self-loathing heroine is teased to the point where she starves herself skinny in hopes of a fabulous new life. And I hate the message that women can't possibly be happy until we all fit into our skinny jeans. I don't find these stories uplifting; they make me want to hug these women and take them out for fizzy champagne drinks and cheesecake and explain to them that until they figure out their insides, their outsides don't matter. Unfortunately, being overweight isn't simply a societal issue that can be fixed with a dose healthy of positive self-esteem. It’s a health matter, and here on the eve of my fortieth year, I've learned I have to make changes so I don't, you know, die. Because what good is finally being able to afford a pedicure if I lose a foot to adult onset diabetes?"

My thoughts:
I am reading my shelf this summer.  There are so many books that I have picked up and ordered and then simply not gotten around to reading in my house.  Sometimes I think I am in need of serious book intervention, but I am always distracted by another book so the issue remains.

I took this one along on a recent trip to the beach and I found myself laughing out loud like a crazy person at times.  I was self conscious at first and then I decided that I really didn't care.  I was enjoying the book and I didn't know anyone around me.  If I had I would have shared all the funny little tidbits of the book.  Weight struggles are familiar to many of us and seeing how Lancaster deals with it in a humorous way while coming to accept herself was enjoyable and real.  Being called a "fat bitch" on the bus or at the pool, finding out that she weighs fifty pounds more than she thought and deciding that she is ready to focus on her health are all along the ride of personal growth that she manages to make funny.  Searching for the outfit and undergarments to make her feel confident on a book promotion segment on TV and also finding out that she has become fit enough to work out hard, run and swim make her real.

I loved how she shows that she is happy with herself even if she hasn't met her goal weight, she found the strength to commit to getting healthy for herself which is the most important reason to make these changes.




Tuesday, March 10, 2015

One Plus One: A Novel by Jojo Moyes

One Plus One: A Novel

Overview from Barnes and Noble:

One single mom. One chaotic family. One quirky stranger. One irresistible love story from the New York Times bestselling author of Me Before You

American audiences have fallen in love with Jojo Moyes. Ever since she debuted Stateside she has captivated readers and reviewers alike, and hit the New York Times bestseller list with the word-of-mouth sensation Me Before You. Now, with One Plus One, she’s written another contemporary opposites-attract love story.

Suppose your life sucks. A lot. Your husband has done a vanishing act, your teenage stepson is being bullied, and your math whiz daughter has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you can’t afford to pay for. That’s Jess’s life in a nutshell—until an unexpected knight in shining armor offers to rescue them. Only Jess’s knight turns out to be Geeky Ed, the obnoxious tech millionaire whose vacation home she happens to clean. But Ed has big problems of his own, and driving the dysfunctional family to the Math Olympiad feels like his first unselfish act in ages . . . maybe ever.

One Plus One is Jojo Moyes at her astounding best. You’ll laugh, you’ll weep, and when you flip the last page, you’ll want to start all over again.
My thoughts:
I requested this book at the library ages ago and last week my turn came up.  I started reading it with no memory of why I requested it in the first place.  I read a lot, I love to read book reviews and I come across a lot of books I think I can't wait read, but then I forget why.  I think this must happen to book lovers a lot, but I could be wrong.  This week I caught the stomach bug and spent a whole day in bed,  First time since before kids that I have spent a day that way.  It would have been better had I not been sick and dizzy, but it gave me a day to read and this is the book  I read.
Ed has made some questionable choices in his desire to get away from a clingy girlfriend and Jess has been afraid to put pressure on her husband who left the family while suffering from depression two years ago to live with his mother.  Even though she can barely make ends meets and often has to skip paying one bill to pay another, Jess is afraid that to ask him for money to support their two children will set him off again so she does it all alone.  But her daughter Tanzie is a math genius and a private school will give her a 90% scholarship if she can come up with the other fees and her math teacher has found an Olympiad that she could win to pay, but it is in Scotland.  With no money to pay for the trip and only an unlicensed and unregistered car in which to do it Jess is stuck, until Ed steps up and offers to help.  But would he have helped had he known that going over 40 mph would make Tanzie vomit?  Or that their dog farts like crazy or that Jess has no money for hotels or restaurants and wants to make sandwiches at every stop?
Spending hours in the car creates a closeness that these four are unable to get away from.  Each of their stories starts to spill out from the bullies in their poor neighborhood, to the math Tanzie loves, to the dad who left and hasn't looked back and the many jobs Jess takes on to make things work for her family.  Often times people wonder how someone ended up where they are in life, was it one choice or many choices that led to this spot, and you get to see how each of these people got to where they are through memories and stories and how they act now.  Do pat acts define you?  Can you be forgiven for one mistake?  Can you be a good person at heart but still make mistakes?

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143127505
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/31/2015
  • Pages: 416
Jojo Moyes

Jojo Moyes is the internationally bestselling author of Me Before YouThe Girl You Left BehindThe Last Letter from Your LoverSilver Bay, and The Ship of Brides. She is married to Charles Arthur, technology editor of The Guardian, and lives with their three children on a farm in Essex, England.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Stories from Candyland: Confections from One of Hollywood's Most Famous Wives and Mothers by Candy Spelling

Stories from Candyland: Confections from One of Hollywood's Most Famous Wives and Mothers

Overview from Barnes and Noble:


Carole Gene Marer spent her girlhood dreaming of meeting Rock Hudson, but when she finally had the chance—on her second date with her future husband, television mogul Aaron Spelling—she was so shy she hid all night in the powder room.  How Candy morphed from that quiet girl into a seemingly-confident, stylish trophy wife, mistress of the largest house in Los Angeles (70,000 square feet when you count the attic) is at the heart of Stories from Candyland
The life Candy created for her family—her husband and children Tori and Randy—was fabulous, over-the-top, and often magical.  So what if California Christmases don’t come with snow? Let’s make some on the tennis court!  How do we take a cross-country family vacation with a dad who doesn’t fly? By private train car, of course (with an extra for the fifty-two pieces of luggage).  The kids want to dress up for Halloween? No problem, why not call in Nolan Miller to design their costumes?
My thoughts:
This book has been on my shelf for a few years.  As part of spring cleaning I am working through my shelves, reading and removing books.  This book was a quick read and had some interesting parts, but I have to say it could have used some organization and a bit more editing.  Candy  had funny stories to share, but it felt like she circled back to the same ones and repeated herself quite a bit.  I also think she has a different sense of reality than most of us.  Her 17,000 square foot attic with everything neatly ordered and boxed and a hair salon is larger than most people's homes.  Does she know many people live in a home that is ten percent of that size?  Do you really need to save every Halloween costume your children ever wore?  
I can't tell you why I decided I wanted this book to begin with.  I have really enjoyed Tori Spelling's books and maybe I was curious about how her mother would recall events, but I requested it on Paperbackswap years ago and then just put it on the shelf.  In the book she talks about how she is selling or planning to sell the family home, the Manor, but I didn't recall it ever being sold.  I looked it up though and it was.  I wonder what she did get rid of in her move.
I think it must be really hard to write about your own like and keep it in order and organized, because everything that has happened to you has made you who you are today.  I hope that if she writes any more she has someone else go through and edit it for her more to keep it flowing.

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781429921183
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 3/31/2009
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272


CANDY SPELLING, whose husband Aaron produced America’s favorite entertainment (“Dynasty”, “Charlie’s Angels”, “The Love Boat”, “Beverly Hills 90210”), is one of Hollywood’s most famous wives and mothers.  Her marriage was one of Tinseltown’s happiest and most enduring, ending only with Aaron’s death in 2006.  Since then, Candy has begun writing, for TMZ.com and The Huffington Post, as well as becoming a contributing editor for Los Angeles Confidential Magazine.  She is involved with a number of charitable and public service organizations, and is in the process of “downsizing” from Spelling Manor to a 17,000 square foot condominium in Century City.