Eleanor Oliphant is a must read

32503381.jpgI enjoy quirky characters and the main character in Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman is kind of an odd duck.  She isn’t good at socializing, she doesn’t understand why people do certain things, she doesn’t have a filter and says what she is thinking and she enjoys a very strict schedule.  It kind of discombobulates her when her schedule is disrupted.  Eleanor eats the same thing every day, she wears the same closes and always drinks a bottle of Vodka over the weekend.  Her co-workers think she is strange, people tend to look at her and dismiss her.

Raymond (the IT guy at work) enters her life when he works on her computer.  As they are both leaving work at the same time, an older man, Sam, collapses on the sidewalk near them.  Eleanor doesn’t want to get involved as it will mess up her schedule, but Raymond drags her into helping Sam.  This encounter soon pulls Eleanor and Raymond into an unlikely friendship that slowly disrupts her regular schedule.

At first I thought Eleanor, who is almost 30, might be on the autism spectrum then I thought maybe she was raised without much social interaction.  But then you slowly learn what happened to Eleanor to make her the way she is.  I really felt for Eleanor and loved her simplicity and growth along the way.  The characters were very interesting and likable.  I cared for all of them.  I think it will also help some people understand what others go through when a tragedy changes their lives at a young age.

There were sad parts that pulled at my heart and other times the story made me smile and laugh.  This is probably one of my favorite books in 2017.  I hope that everyone takes the time to get to know Eleanor.

Book Description:
Meet Eleanor Oliphant. She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully time-tabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.

Then everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living–and it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

Advertisements

The Sunshine Sisters isn’t all sunshine

32867521The Sunshine Sisters by Jane Green is about the relationships within one family.  Ronni Sunshine is the perfect selfish Hollywood diva who cares more about her image than her three daughters who can’t wait to get away from her, and a husband who can’t make her happy no matter what he does.  To the general public, Ronni is a wonderful person who has the perfect family.  But behind closed doors it’s another story.  Ronni is narcissistic and often a cruel mother.

When the veil comes off and her mood comes out, Ronni treats her daughters differently and the daughters react in different ways to Ronni’s cruelness.  Nell, who is the oldest, withdraws within herself and when she turns 18, flees to a farm a few miles away where she befriends the owner, who becomes a stable mother figure.  Nell seemed like a genuine, down-to-earth person who worked tirelessly to fill the voids she didn’t get from her childhood.

Meredith takes a lot of abuse from Ronni.  She is told she needs to lose weight, that she isn’t pretty enough.  This breaks Meredith and she flees to England to stay with relatives.  Meredith is a people pleaser and wants everyone to be happy.  Because of her mother’s comments over the years, Meredith doesn’t feel she deserve to be treated with respect, which leads her to be engaged to a who acts like she isn’t good enough as herself.

Then there is Lizzy who doesn’t take any crap from Ronnie.  While growing up, she laughed at the things Ronni said and did, never taking it seriously.  Lizzy really came across just as selfish and self-centered as Ronni.  Now a famous TV chef, Lizzy doesn’t care who she hurts with her actions, including her husband and child.

The main focus of the book is bringing the three girls together again to be with Ronnie, who has become ill and wants them by her side as she passes.  Once again making everything about her and bringing the attention to her, the center of attention.  This story is also about the relationship between the sisters, who are not close and are so very different.

The Sunshine Sisters shows that families can look all rainbows and sunshine on the outside, the inside, behind closed doors, might not be what it seems.  It’s probably why on the news, the neighbors say “they were such a nice and loving family” when something goes wrong with a family member or an entire family.

I have four older sisters so it was interesting for me to see how the sisters were very different yet could support each other after being reacquainted. There were relationships where I wanted to smack people on the back of the head and relationships where I wanted to stand up and cheer.

I have pretty much read all of Jane Green’s books and have enjoyed every one of them.  Like her other books, I had a hard time putting The Sunshine Sisters down.  When I wasn’t reading the book, I found myself thinking about the sisters.  The Sunshine Sisters looks like a fun cheerful book, but instead it dives into family dynamics that aren’t so filled with sunshine.

Book Description:
The New York Times bestselling author of Falling presents a warm, wise, and wonderfully vivid novel about a mother who asks her three estranged daughters to come home to help her end her life.

Ronni Sunshine left London for Hollywood to become a beautiful, charismatic star of the silver screen. But at home, she was a narcissistic, disinterested mother who alienated her three daughters.

As soon as possible, tomboy Nell fled her mother’s overbearing presence to work on a farm and find her own way in the world as a single mother. The target of her mother s criticism, Meredith never felt good enough, thin enough, pretty enough. Her life took her to London and into the arms of a man whom she may not even love. And Lizzy, the youngest, more like Ronni than any of them, seemed to have it easy, using her drive and ambition to build a culinary career to rival her mother’s fame, while her marriage crumbled around her.

But now the Sunshine Girls are together again, called home by Ronni, who has learned that she has a serious disease and needs her daughters to fulfill her final wishes. And though Nell, Meredith, and Lizzy are all going through crises of their own, their mother s illness draws them together to confront old jealousies and secret fears and they discover that blood might be thicker than water after all.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

I Found You has many different meanings

35184176I Found You by Lisa Jewell is a suspenseful thriller featuring three separate stories that slowly merge together.  First we meet Alice Lake, a single mom of three children – Kai, Jasmine and Romaine and their three dogs (Hero, Sadie, and Grif) living in a small house by the shore in Ridinghouse Bay.  Alice sees a man sitting on the beach in the pouring rain not moving for hours.  He has lost his memory, not knowing who he was and why he was sitting there.  Against her best friend Derry’s advice, Alice gives the man a warm coat and brings him inside her house and her daughter Romaine names him Frank.

Then we meet Lily Monrose from Ukraine who has only been back from her honeymoon for 10 days and now lives in London with her husband Carl.  One night Carl doesn’t come home from work, which is out of character for him.  She realizes that she doesn’t completely know her husband.  When she brings in the police, they quickly discover no person with his name exists.

We then head back twenty years to 1993 when the Ross Family (Tony, Pam, Gray and Kirsty) decide to vacation for two weeks in Ridinghouse Bay.  When Gray (17) and Kirsty (15) are out for a walk, Gray notices a guy staring intently at Kirsty.  It makes Gray uncomfortable.  The next day the family is on the beach and the same guy is sitting next to them.  He soon befriends the family and invites them over for tea at the large estate across the way.  Mark Tate (19) is visiting his aunt Kitty who recently lost her husband.  Mark quickly becomes obsessed with Kirsty and he starts to come across as a crazy, evil person.

The narrative switches back and forth between the three storylines slowly weaving back and forth bringing them together at the end.  Throughout the book, you don’t know exactly who the strange man on the beach could be.  Is it Gray or is it Mark.  And who is Lily’s husband?  Is it Gray or is it Mark?  Is the stranger on the beach and Lily’s husband the same person or are they two different people?  Lisa Jewell kept me guessing and kept me second guessing my selections.  I found I could not put this book down.  I wanted to know what was happening and I wanted answers.  This is a great thriller just in time for summertime.

Now that I’ve been done with the book for a few days, I understand the title pertains to several characters of the book.  It also means something different for each of the characters.

Book Description:
A young bride, a lonely single mother, and an amnesiac man of dubious origin lie at the heart of New York Times bestselling author Lisa Jewell’s next suspenseful drama that will appeal to fans of Liane Moriarty and Paula Hawkins.

In a windswept British seaside town, single mom Alice Lake finds a man sitting on the beach outside her house. He has no name, no jacket, and no idea how he got there. Against her better judgment, she invites him inside.

Meanwhile, in a suburb of London, twenty-one-year-old Lily Monrose has only been married for three weeks. When her new husband fails to come home from work one night she is left stranded in a new country where she knows no one. Then the police tell her that her husband never existed.

Twenty-three years earlier, Gray and Kirsty are teenagers on a summer holiday with their parents. Their annual trip to the quaint seaside town is passing by uneventfully, until an enigmatic young man starts paying extra attention to Kirsty. Something about him makes Gray uncomfortable—and it’s not just that he’s playing the role of protective older brother.

Two decades of secrets, a missing husband, and a man with no memory are at the heart of this brilliant new novel, filled with the “beautiful writing, believable characters, pacey narrative, and dark secrets” (London Daily Mail) that make Lisa Jewell so beloved by audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

The Light We Lost asks the question: is a first love your one true love

33637339When I first started reading The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it. I didn’t understand why Lucy Carter was telling Gabe Samson about their relationship from when they first met. It felt weird to me. I thought maybe it was a look back at what their life was like.  But I soon got used to the narration and was pulled into Lucy’s life.

Lucy first met Gabe on September 11, 2001 while they are in college.  On a rooftop under a grey cloud of ash, she kissed him for the first time and lost her heart forever. They move in together and start planning their life.  But Gabe is unfulfilled living in New York and being in a relationship. As he pursues his photography, he realizes he needs to go abroad and capture the struggles and political turmoil.  He wants to head to the Middle East and asks Lucy to go with him. But Lucy loves her job and knows following Gabe around the world will only make her resent his pursuit of his passions while she suppresses hers. So Gabe leaves and they move on living separate lives.

Lucy eventually meets Darren and even though she keeps comparing him to Gabe, she loves him differently but just as much as Gabe. They marry and soon have their daughter Violet. Even though Lucy has a wonderfully supportive husband and a good marriage, she seems to be connected to Gabe. She looks for his photos, she emails with him and she takes his phone calls. When he is in town, she drops everything to see him.

There were times I wanted to smack Lucy for what she was doing to her marriage. There were times I wanted to smack Darren for his jealousy even though Lucy was with him and I wanted to smack Gabe for always pulling Lucy back into his life making it hard for her to leave him in the past where he belonged.  The character I loved the most was Violet.  What an adorable little girl.

This book made me smile but it also made me cry and it broke my heart in so many different ways. As the book progressed and things were revealed, I never would have expected the revelation at the end. It really made me change my view of Lucy’s narrative. This book snuck up on me. I almost abandoned after about 50 pages and I’m so glad I stuck it out. This was such a good book. If you pick this book up, give it a chance because it won’t disappoint.

Book Description:
Lucy is faced with a life-altering choice. But before she can make her decision, she must start her story—their story—at the very beginning.

Lucy and Gabe meet as seniors at Columbia University on a day that changes both of their lives forever. Together, they decide they want their lives to mean something, to matter. When they meet again a year later, it seems fated—perhaps they’ll find life’s meaning in each other. But then Gabe becomes a photojournalist assigned to the Middle East and Lucy pursues a career in New York. What follows is a thirteen-year journey of dreams, desires, jealousies, betrayals, and, ultimately, of love. Was it fate that brought them together? Is it choice that has kept them away? Their journey takes Lucy and Gabe continents apart, but never out of each other’s hearts.

This devastatingly romantic debut novel about the enduring power of first love, with a shocking, unforgettable ending, is Love Story for a new generation.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

With Love from the Inside is a heartbreaking story

27833799With Love from the Inside by Angela Pisel is a story about a mother, Grace, accused of killing her infant son, William, and what the accusation did to her husband and daughter.  Grace insisted she is innocent but is convicted of Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome.  After serving 17 years, she is now awaiting execution.  She hasn’t seen her daughter Sophie for 11 years and wants to see her one last time before she is executed.

While Grace has been sitting on death row, her husband always believed she was innocent and worked hard trying to get her conviction overturned.  After her father died, Sophie started to doubt her mom and thinks she really is guilty.  Sophie decides she needs to move on and doesn’t want anything to do with Grace so she stops visiting.  She wants to just live a normal life.  But she can’t quite do that knowing Grace is about to be executed.

The story is told from two perspectives – Grace and Sophie.  Grace is a very strong woman who has accepted her fate and has made her life behind bars the best that it can be.  This book is sad in so many different ways.  I was really surprised the emotion the story brought out of me.

When I was first married, there was a woman in my apartment complex who was charged with Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome so this story really interested me.  I’m so glad I had the chance to read this story.  It was well worth my time.  I want to thank Penguin Random House for the advanced copy I received through their First to Read program.

Book Description:

Grace Bradshaw knows the exact minute she will die.  On death row for murdering her infant son, her last breath will be taken on February 15 at 12:01 a.m.  Eleven years, five months, and twenty-seven days separate her from the last time she heard her precious daughter’s voice and the final moment she’d heard anyone call her Mom.  Out of appeals, she can focus on only one thing—reconnecting with her daughter and making sure she knows the truth.

Secrets lurk behind Sophie Logan’s big house and even bigger bank account.  Every day when she kisses her husband good-bye, she worries her fabricated life is about to come crumbling down.  No one knows the unforgivable things her mother did to tear her family apart—not her husband, who is a prominent plastic surgeon, or her “synthetic” friends who live in her upscale neighborhood.

Grace’s looming execution date forces Sophie to revisit the traumatic events that haunted her childhood.  When she returns to her hometown, she discovers new evidence about her baby brother William’s death seventeen years ago—proof that might set her mother free but shatter her marriage forever.

Sophie must quickly decide if her mother is the monster the prosecutor made her out to be or the loving mother she remembers—the one who painted her toenails glittery pink and plastered Post-it notes with inspiring quotes (“100 percent failure rate if you don’t try”) all over Sophie’s bathroom mirror—before their time runs out.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

Calling Me Home brings out many emotions in the reader

15793184Books can affect you in different ways.  Some put you to sleep, some make you laugh out loud, some make you have an ah ha moment, some make you fall in love with the characters, some scare the crap out of you (thank you Stephen King) and some grab onto you and don’t let go.  Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler is one of those books that makes you laugh, cry, care so much for the characters that you don’t want to see them leave, and then it grabs onto your heart, chews it up and spits it out so that you have nothing left.  When I finished Calling Me Home, it took me several days to put my heart back together again.  There is a revelation that totally caught me off guard and broke my heart leaving me emotionally drained.

I listened to the audio version of Calling Me Home and it was beautifully read by Bahni Turpin and Lorna Raver who bring Dorrie and Isabelle to life.  I fell in love with both women.  They are very interesting, independent women who both have heart ache in their lives.

Calling Me Home is about Isabelle who has asked her hairdresser to drive her from Texas to Ohio for a funeral.  Isabelle is white and almost 90 while Dorrie is black and in her late 30’s to early 40’s.  As they are driving to Ohio, Isabelle tells Dorrie about her past.  She starts when she is 16 and first falls in love with Robert Prewitt, the black son of her family’s housekeeper.  Isabelle is the daughter of the town’s white doctor and lives where blacks are not allowed alone outside at night.

The story seamlessly flows between present day through Dorrie’s eyes and the 1930’s to present day through Isabelle’s eyes.  In her storytelling to Dorrie, Isabelle reveals what a strong woman she has had to be all her life.  She was determined to live the life she wants with Robert despite what her family wants for her.  Dorrie has her own troubles as a single Mom with a son close to graduating high school and who has a situation with his girlfriend.  Dorrie is also trying to figure out her relationship with her boyfriend and whether she should take the relationship further.

Isabelle and Dorrie have a special relationship that I just loved.  They are very supportive of each other and at one point Isabelle said she thinks of Dorrie as a daughter.  After this statement, they become even closer.

I totally fell in love with Isabelle and Robert.  The love they have for each other made me want them to succeed when society and their families are against them.  It’s so hard to wrap the mind around how hard it was in the 1930’s with interracial relationships now that it’s 2015.  There will people who will love this story like I did, and there will people who will have issues with the relationship between Isabelle and Robert.  All I know is that I will be recommending this book to anyone who wants a recommendation because Calling Me Home now resides on my top 10 favorite books of all time.

Book description:

Eighty-nine-year-old Isabelle McAllister has a big favor to ask her hairdresser, Dorrie.  She wants the black single mother to drop everything and drive her from Texas to a funeral in Ohio tomorrow.  Dorrie, fleeing problems of her own and curious about Isabelle’s past, agrees, not knowing it will be a journey that changes both their lives.  Isabelle confesses that, as a teen in 1930’s Kentucky, she fell in love with Robert Prewitt, a would-be doctor and the black son of her family’s housekeeper in a town where blacks weren’t allowed after dark.  The tale of their forbidden relationship and its tragic consequences just might help Dorrie find her own way.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

Would you go back in time and change something?

About a year ago, my sister told me I needed to check out this columnist for the Omaha 18081809World Herald who has written her first book.  That started my love affair with Rainbow Rowell.  I love the way she writes.  Her characters are interesting and her storylines pull the readers into the story.  I think I also like Rainbow because she worked at a newspaper, like I did in college.  Sometimes I feel like we have gone on the same type of path, except I haven’t written any wonderful books.

I really enjoyed reading Landline and pretty much read it in one day.  Georgie and Seth have been writing partners for almost 20 years, since college.  Georgie and her husband, Neal, met in college and have been married for 14 years.  Seth and Georgie get the opportunity to write their own TV pilot but they have to write four episodes over the Christmas holiday, which means Georgie can’t go to Omaha with Neal and their girls to spend the holidays with his Mom.  So Neal leaves with the girls and goes home without really saying good-bye.

According to Georgie, they have always had issues in their marriage.  They stayed in California so Georgie could write for TV shows.  Neal took a job that he hated.  Once they had their first child, Neal quit his job and became a stay-at-home Dad.  Neal doesn’t seem happy with the situation. Neal is a fantastic cartoonist but doesn’t use his talents as a job, he considers it a hobby.  He draws all over the walls of their home, beautiful illustrations.

The TV studio is near Georgie’s Mom’s house so she starts crashing there instead of going home to an empty house.  Every time she calls Neal on his cell phone he never answers, either it goes to voicemail or someone else answers.  So Georgie calling landline to landline and gets a hold of Neal.  Neal on the other end of the landline is the Neal from college.  This is the Neal the Christmas she thought he broke up with her but instead showed up on Christmas Eve and proposed.

The big question is, did this really happen in real life?  Did she actually have long conversations on the phone or was it a week of silence?  Talking to the old Neal, is she going to blow it and convince Neal he should break up with her for good causing their marriage to never happen.  If she does convince him, what happens to their little girls Alice and Noomi.  This book asks the big question, if you could go back and fix something in your past would you do it?  Georgie has to decide can she fix her marriage talking to the old Neal or will she ruin it.

I really enjoyed Georgie’s family life with her Mom, way too young Father-in-law and her sister Heather who is 18.  There is humor in this book that will make you smile and a little bit of crazy.  But I never got mad while reading it.  I will say, her college days reminded me of when I was working on the college newspaper in a really old building. That’s where I met my husband who was also on the newspaper staff.

Give this a read and if you haven’t read any other books by Rainbow, read them all, she is a wonderful and entertaining writer.

Book description:
Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems beside the point now.  Maybe that was always beside the point.

Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn’t expect to him to pack up the kids and go home without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.  That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts . . .Is that what she’s supposed to do?  Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat