Books are food for my soul! Pull up a beach chair and stick your toes in the sand as the Jersey surf rolls in and out, now open your book and let your imagination take you away.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Help by Kathryn Stockett Book Description:

Three ordinary women are about to take on extraordinary step...

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen's best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody's business, but she can't mind her tongue, so she's lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women-mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends-view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don't.

My Book Review:

Kathryn Stockett's debut novel, The Help is a profoundly moving and beautifully written story about three women who come together in the early civil rights movement time period of 1962 Mississippi to write a book about the relationships between the colored maids and the southern white families they work for. I love how the author tells the story from the individual perspective of each of the main characters: Skeeter, the young white woman who questions the treatment of the colored help by their white bosses and segregation in general; Aibileen, the older colored maid who has seen a lot of things during her many years of service to various white families, but who has now changed internally with the death of her son; and Minny, the younger colored maid who speaks her mind no matter what and has paid for it by being terminated from one white household to another. Each of these three women are so different from each other, yet they come together with a passionate strong determination to compile a book of stories from the colored maid's perspective on how they are / were treated during their service by the white families of Jackson, Mississippi. In a time when the civil rights movement is just getting started, racial tensions are high, and segregation is the norm, these courageous women band together to create a book that will rock the southern way of life to its core. I loved how the author portrays each of these three women in a believable and touching way; their dignity, faith, courage and conviction shine throughout the whole book. The author's depiction of that turbulent time period in the USA's history is spot on, the storyline is both believable and educational, as she weaves a history lesson for each of us to ponder. The lesson for the reader is that only through tolerance, acceptance and recognition that all people are the same inside despite the color of skin, ethnicity, gender or faith, is how our world can be a happier one to live in.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Southern Discomfort Series (Leaving Carolina, Nowhere Carolina & Restless in Carolina) by Tamara Leigh

Southern Discomfort is a series of 3 books by Tamara Leigh, featuring the Pickwick family of Pickwick, NC. These books are from the Christian Inspirational Fiction genre. The series is a lighthearted funny look at the crazy Pickwick family dynamics, with each book featuring the story of one of the Pickwick clan: Piper Pickwick, Maggie Pickwick and Bridget Pickwick.

Leaving Carolina (Book 1) Book Description:

Piper Wick left her hometown of Pickwick, North Carolina, twelve years ago, shook the dust off her feet, ditched her drawl and her family name, and made a new life for herself as a high-powered public relations consultant in LA. She’s even “engaged to be engaged” to the picture-perfect U.S. Congressman Grant Spangler.

Now all of Piper’s hard-won happiness is threatened by a reclusive uncle’s bout of conscience. In the wake of a health scare, Uncle Obadiah Pickwick has decided to change his will, leaving money to make amends for four generations’ worth of family misdeeds. But that will reveal all the Pickwicks’ secrets, including Piper’s. 

Though Piper arrives in Pickwick primed for battle, she is unprepared for Uncle Obe’s rugged, blue-eyed gardener. So just who is Axel Smith? Why does he think making amends is more than just making restitution? And why, oh why, can’t she stay on task? With the Lord’s help, Piper is about to discover that although good PR might smooth things over, only the truth will set her free.

My Book Review:

This is a lighthearted inspirational romance novel that will remind the reader of the movie Sweet Home Alabama, it will have you laughing as you read it. It's a story about a small town girl (who happens to live in a town named after her family), who leaves the small town and it's family secrets behind to start over in the big city. Piper Wick (nee Pickwick) has it all: a powerful career, a good lifestyle, and an almost fiancee ... that is until the past comes knocking and she has to return to her small town roots and face the secrets and ghosts of her family's past. Little does Piper know how much her trip home will change her life - and her heart. Tamara Leigh brings her characters to life with a potpourri of wit, sarcasm, and true-to-life struggles. This is a good book filled with some romance, heartache, forgiveness and acceptance. 


Nowhere Carolina (Book 2) Book Description:

Maggie Pickwick is a lifetime away from her days as head cheerleader and the mistakes she made in high school. Twelve years later, this single mom has traded pompoms for an auctioneer’s gavel, popularity for peace and quiet, and strives to be a good example for her daughter Devyn. She’s keeping it together just fine, too—until an old flame moves back to her little North Carolina town.

Renowned artist Reece Thorpe wants nothing to do with Maggie—not after what she did to him in high school—but he might also be Devyn’s father. Fed by her own pride and fear for her daughter’s happiness, Maggie finds herself on a slippery slope of white lies as she attempts to convince Reece that she’s changed. But the truth has a way of making itself known, and now Maggie’s past and present mistakes could ruin her chance at love.

My Book Review: 

In the second book of the Southern Discomfort series, the story features Piper Pickwick's cousin Maggie Pickwick and her struggle to deal with the the mistakes that she made in her teenage years, and her determination to correct them by finding her daughter's father. Maggie's journey of self discovery, self forgiveness and moving forward is an inspirational story that will touch your heart. This is a story of romance, forgiveness, redemption and freedom born of truth ... and definitely was my favorite book in the series. 


Restless In Carolina (Book 3) Book Description:

She’s all about going green. Could he be her white knight—or will he make her see red?

Tree-huggin’, animal-lovin’ Bridget Pickwick-Buchanan is on a mission. Well, two. First she has to come to terms with being a widow at thirty-three. After all, it’s been four years and even her five-year-old niece and nephew think it’s time she shed her widow’s weeds. Second, she needs to find a buyer for her family’s estate—a Biltmore-inspired mansion surrounded by hundreds of acres of unspoiled forestland. With family obligations forcing the sale, Bridget is determined to find an eco-friendly developer to buy the land, someone who won’t turn it into single-family homes or a cheesy theme park.

Enter J. C. Dirk, a high-energy developer from Atlanta whose green property developments have earned him national acclaim. When he doesn’t return her calls, Bridget decides a personal visit is in order. Unfortunately, J. C. Dirk is neither amused nor interested when she interrupts his meeting—until she mentions her family name. In short order, he finds himself in North Carolina, and Bridget has her white knight—in more ways than one. But there are things Bridget doesn’t know about J. C., and it could mean the end of everything she’s worked for…and break her heart.

My Book Review:

In the third and final book of the Southern Discomfort series, the reader gets to meet another Pickwick cousin, Bridget. This book is the story of Bridget, a young widow, who has to come to terms with her grief over her husband's death four years ago, how to rectify her anger in God and her loss of faith, and finally how to find the courage to move forward with her life and open her heart to another man. For Bridget, there is no "happily ever after," or so she thinks until she meets JC Dirks, a real estate developer who is interested in purchasing the Pickwick estate. With the funny twist and turns that occur in this final book of the series, many Pickwick secrets are answered and you will be left smiling and satisfied! 


Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Friend Request by Alex Ford Book Description:

Have you accepted a 'friend request' when you should have clicked ignore? Do you really know all the people listed as 'friends' on your Facebook page? What if somebody from your past assumed the identity of someone from your present, so they could get close to you? What if they wanted to get close to you, just to hurt you - again. The Friend Request: Alex Ford’s dark satirical Facebook comedy. David Andrews’ life is going well. With an imminent promotion at work he’s content in his job. His girlfriend is gorgeous and looking at the amount of friends on his Facebook page he’s very popular too. So, when he sees a friend request from a Barry Taylor, he doesn’t understand why it makes him so nervous, he’s not sure he even recognises the name. Eventually he forgets all about it, until the day he is forced to remember a past that was erased from his memory by a terrible accident. Little does he realise that all the information on his Facebook page might make him a little too vulnerable, especially to a sociopath like Barry Taylor, who is intent on destroying David’s life – for a second time. With a little help from his friendly shopkeeper David embarks on a journey of revenge and self-discovery.

My Book Review:

I downloaded this free book onto my Kindle because I was curious about the Facebook stalker storyline. This book started out a little bit slow, but as I got further into the story it picked up and the suspense peaked my interest and pulled me in. What I liked most about this book is that the author really knew everything about Facebook, social networking in general and the ramifications that could arise from belonging to these groups. The only thing that I did not like about the book was the far fetched ideas of handling the stalker by David, it was a bit too unbelievable for me and I rolled my eyes a lot while reading that portion of the story. The author does a great job at getting people to really think about the very real threat of putting all of their personal info onto their social network pages (Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, etc). No one really knows every person that sends them a friend request, and this book is very thought provoking and will make you think twice before telling the whole world your business and clicking the accept button on that friend request!


Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games (Book 1) Book Description:

IN THE RUINS of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win. she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

Catching Fire (Book 2) Book Description:


Against all odds, Katniss has won the Hunger Games. She and fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark are miraculously still alive. Katniss should be relieved, happy even. After all, she has returned to her family and her longtime friend, Gale. Yet nothing is the way Katniss wishes it to be. Gale holds her at an icy distance. Peeta has turned his back on her completely. And there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol -- a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create.

Much to her shock, Katniss has fueled an unrest she’s afraid she cannot stop. And what scares her even more is that she’s not entirely convinced she should try. As time draws near for Katniss and Peeta to visit the districts on the Capitol’s cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. If they can’t prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying.

In Catching Fire, the second novel of the Hunger Games trilogy, Suzanne Collins continues the story of Katniss Everdeen, testing her more than ever before…and surprising readers at every turn.

Mockingjay (Book 3)

Amazon Book Description:


Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss's family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.

It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans -- except Katniss.

The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss's willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels' Mockingjay -- no matter what the personal cost.

My Book Review:

I have not been a big fan of reading sci-fi or fantasy books, but because there has been so much hype over this  trilogy I had to see what it was that made people rave about it, and I am glad I did! From the moment I met the main character young Katniss Everdeen, I was completely hooked and became so engrossed in reading the trilogy that I couldn't put the book down, I had to know what happened next. I love how the author weaves a powerful storyline that has so many parts: destruction. devastation, power, adventure, determination, love, friendship, etc ... and how she continues the storyline from book to book.   
This trilogy will captivate and entertain you throughout each book, it will put you on a rollercoaster ride full of emotions from awe to fear to suspense to sorrow to cheering on Katniss, Peeta, Gale and the other memorable characters ... these books have it all and you won't be able to catch your breath until the finale! Thank you Ms. Collins, you have opened my eyes to the sci-fi and fantasy genre ... I am on my way to becoming a fan! 

RATING: 5 STARS ***** (All 3 Books Get A 5 Star Rating)

Friday, July 15, 2011

One Summer by David Baldacci Book Description:

It's almost Christmas, but there is no joy in the house of terminally ill Jack and his family. With only a short time left to live, he spends his last days preparing to say goodbye to his devoted wife, Lizzie, and their three children. Then, unthinkably, tragedy strikes again: Lizzie is killed in a car accident. With no one able to care for them, the children are separated from each other and sent to live with family members around the country. Just when all seems lost, Jack begins to recover in a miraculous turn of events. He rises from what should have been his deathbed, determined to bring his fractured family back together. Struggling to rebuild their lives after Lizzie's death, he reunites everyone at Lizzie's childhood home on the oceanfront in South Carolina. And there, over one unforgettable summer, Jack will begin to learn to love again, and he and his children will learn how to become a family once more.

My Book Review:

As a fan of David Baldacci, this book was a divergence from his usual storylines that deal with political intrigue thrillers. One Summer is a beautifully written story about a family that deals with a heartbreaking tragedy and the many curveballs that life threw their way, and how they learned to overcome it to rebuild their family structure. This story is a testament to how the power of love can provide the strength, courage, determination, friendship and even a few miracles to mend a broken family. This story will have you laughing, crying and cheering for the Armstrong family, most of all it will touch your heart. 


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Life's a Beach by Claire Cook Book Description:
A romantic comedy about Ginger Walsh, 41, a relationship-challenged single woman, who has ditched her job in sales and moved above her parent's garage aka FROG (Finished Room Over Garage) with a cat she calls Boyfriend— despite (or because of) her casual on-again-off-again relationship with alluring glassblower Noah. 

Along with her quirky-to-put-it-mildly extended family, a dumpster-picking father, a Kama Sutra T-shirt wearing mother, and a sarcastic sparing partner for a sister, life's a bit of a beach these days for Ginger, who's hoping for a more fulfilling life as a sea glass artist, but instead is babysitting her sister's kids.
As big sister Geri gets anxious about her impending 50th, their parents decide to sell the house, and Geri's second-grader Riley lands a small role in a horror movie being filmed in their quaint New England town. Ginger babysits Riley on the set and meets a gaffer who may be charming enough to make her forget all about Noah.

My Book Review:

I have really come to love Claire Cook's witty style of writing, and with Life's a Beach, she doesn't disappoint her readers. From the opening chapter, the sarcastic wit leaps off the pages and had me laughing as I read about Ginger and her family. The storyline with it's set of characters will have you laughing, but I have to admit that the middle of the book (the shark movie portion) was a little bit drawn out for my taste, and Ginger's ongoing "I'm single and I don't know what I want to be when I grow up" lifestyle predictament was starting to bore me. I did love the sarcastic sisterly sparing matches that Ginger and Geri had throughout the book, they kept me in stitches, as well as the quirky antics of her mom and dad. I thought Ginger's and Noah's relationship was rather boring and the author could have spiced up the advances of the gaffer to make it more exciting, but I do have to admit that I did like the ending of the story. Overall, while I did like the story, it just wasn't my favorite Claire Cook book.


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Now You See Her by James Patterson Book Description:

The perfect life

A successful lawyer and loving mother, Nina Bloom would do anything to protect the life she's built in New York--including lying to everyone, even her daughter, about her past. But when an innocent man is framed for murder, she knows that she can't let him pay for the real killer's crimes. 

The perfect lie

Nina's secret life began 18 years ago. She had looks to die for, a handsome police-officer husband, and a carefree life in Key West. When she learned she was pregnant with their first child, her happiness was almost overwhelming. But Nina's world is shattered when she unearths a terrible secret that causes her to run for her life and change her identity.

The perfect way to die

Now, years later, Nina risks everything she's earned to return to Florida and confront the murderous evil she fled. In a story of wrenching suspense, James Patterson gives us his most head-spinning, action-filled story yet--a Hitchcock-like blend of unquenchable drama and pleasure.

My Book Review:

Oh My Goodness! James Patterson has done it again with his book Now You See Her. If you are a murder mystery thriller buff, this book is a must read! This book is action packed with so many plots, schemes, twists and turns, that it will hold you captive from beginning to end. I haven't read a really good mystery book in a long time, and this book didn't take long to grab me and have me engrossed in it. As I sat on the couch reading each chapter, I found my heart pounding and giving myself a good scare, yet I just couldn't put the book down until I had finished it. I do not want to provide any spoiler information, but as the book description above can attest to, the storyline with the great characters and changing events will keep you riveted and not leave you disappointed. Now You See Her is definitely one of my favorite books that I have read so far this year, and I highly recommend it to all mystery thriller fans! 


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Butterfly Key by Andrew Neudecker Book Description:

Sometimes the greatest gifts in life are little miracles you’d never expect to receive.

Nicole is a strong-willed, thirty-five year old wife and mother who is still trying to cope with her devastating loss. A year earlier she had suffered a miscarriage shortly before Christmas, and now, her once indelible faith in God has all but vanished. Concerned about his wife’s distress, Nicole’s husband decides he must gather his family around the Christmas tree and weave a story—a tragic tale of two families who are also struggling with God’s baffling providence—in the hopes that Nicole can find forgiveness and understand that God has a plan in all He does, even the heartrending events in life. After finishing his allegory, Nicole’s husband is still unsure if she can forgive God. That is until a mysterious gift containing something extraordinary is discovered under the Christmas tree that helps Nicole rediscover what she thought she had lost—her faith.

The inspiration behind The Butterfly Key and why it was written:

Shortly before Christmas of 2008 my wife suffered a miscarriage of what would have been our 4th child. Devastated, she experienced not only a loss of faith in God, but also a vast range of emotions toward Him. The hardest part for me was to watch all this transpire and feel completely helpless to allay her pain. I wanted to somehow show her that God has a plan in all He does, even the heartrending events in life. I wanted my wife to find her faith in God once again. And that’s when I decided to sit down and write her a story, a heartfelt novel that I gave to her as a gift the following Christmas which she would then entitle “The Butterfly Key” (Yes, I let her pick the title).

About the author: Andrew Neudecker is a husband and father to three daughters and one son (newborn). He lives just north of the Twin Cities in Hugo, Minnesota. Andrew is an avid reader who loves many genres of books. When He’s not too busy reading or chasing after his wife and kids, one might find him writing anything from poetry to his next heartfelt novel.

My Book Review:

This book is the July selection for a monthly book discussion group that I belong to, and when I read the book description, I knew this was going to be a special book to read. Mr. Neudecker wrote an amazingly inspirational story to help his wife cope with the struggle with her faith following a miscarriage. I can relate to his wife's struggle as I had a miscarriage many years ago and also recently lost the most important person in my life, my mom , and it does cause one to question their faith when dealing with a devastating loss. I was completely drawn into the story of the Bryson and Havily families. The story was beautifully written, it makes you laugh, cry, and cheer on both families as their intertwined lives goes through the highs and lows that life brings them. This story is one that will make you reflect upon your own beliefs in your faith, and the miracles of life and the sacrifices that come with it. The message that I take away from reading this book is that if a person has faith and belief in their life, there will always be hope to hold onto and strength to guide you through any difficulties that may come your way. Kudos to Mr. Neudecker for giving this beautiful gift to his wife, and for sharing it with the rest of us as well. 


Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy 4th of July!

Happy 4th of July everyone! As we all enjoy the BBQs and fireworks with our family and friends, take the time to remember to be grateful to our forefathers who gave us this freedom and to our troops who serve our country to ensure that our freedom and liberties stay safe! Happy Birthday America! God Bless The USA!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Best Staged Plans by Claire Cook Book Description:

As a professional home stager, Sandy Sullivan is an expert at transforming cluttered rooms into attractive houses ready for sale. If only reinventing her life were as easy as choosing the perfect paint color. She's eager to put her family's suburban Boston home on the market, to downsize, and to simplify her own life. But she must first deal with her foot-dragging husband and her grown son, who has moved back home after college to inhabit the basement "bat cave."
After reading them the riot act, Sandy takes a job staging a boutique hotel in Atlanta recently acquired by her best friend's boyfriend. The good news is that she can spend time with her recently married daughter, Shannon, in Atlanta. The bad news is that Shannon finds herself heading to Boston for job training, leaving Sandy and her southern son-in-law, Chance, as reluctant roommates. If that's not complicated enough, Sandy begins to suspect that her best friend's boyfriend may be seeing another woman on the side.
Filled with characters who are fresh and original, yet recognizable enough to live in your neighborhood--plus plenty of great tips and tricks for fixing up houses, and lives--this is a wise and witty story of letting go and moving on.

My Book Review:

As soon as I started reading The Best Staged Plans,  I knew that I was going to love this book! This is the first book that I have read from author Claire Cook, and she didn't leave me disappointed. The way she setup the storyline with characters such as Sandy and Denise makes it so easy to relate to them, it's as if Ms. Cook had been looking into my life! I found myself laughing so hard throughout the book, it made it really hard to put the book down, I just had to finish reading it! Sandy's interaction with the ponytail postal clerk dude was hysterical, I could actually see myself reacting to the dude in the same way. Sandy and Denise's escapade in Atlanta with Denise's wayward boyfriend made me think of some of the crazy stunts that I have done with my BFFs. One lesson to learn from their escapades, never ever mess with scorned women, you never know what they're capable of doing! The most heartwarming part of the story for me was when Sandy helped the homeless Naomi get back onto her feet. This part of the story made me stop and think, it made me appreciate and count my blessings, and it brought my compassionate side out. It reminded me that there are less fortunate people out there who need our help, so we should all strive to pay it forward and lend a helping hand to those in need. I would love to see Ms. Cook write a sequel to this book highlighting Naomi's story with a cameo appearance from Sandy and Denise. I loved how Ms. Cook provided some very neat educational details for her readers such as: how to declutter, redecorate and stage your house; in addition to providing us with some delicious recipe ideas that I know I'll have to try! I was intrigued by how Sandy staged the boutique hotel Hot Chocolate in Atlanta. I would love to visit that hotel with it's decadent decor and chocolate frills! Finally, Ms. Cook provided a very real view into family dynamics, especially the varying generations ... the memories of mood rings and Friday night family games took me back down the path of my childhood. This book was so much fun to read, so add this book to your summer beach list, you won't be disappointed!