So Much Pretty by Cara Hoffman

Title: So Much Pretty, Author: Cara HoffmanSo Much Pretty. Finished 9-21-16, rating 3.5/5, thriller, pub. 2011

Unabridged audio read by Aimee Bruneau. 9 hours, 55 minutes.

Set in a rural community steeped in silence and denial, So Much Pretty explores all parents’ greatest fear, that their child will be hurt. But it also examines a second, equally troubling question: What if my child hurts someone else? The disappearance and murder of nineteen-year-old Wendy White is detailed through the eyes of journalist Stacy Flynn and a host of other richly drawn characters, each with their own secrets and convictions. After Wendy’s body is found, Flynn’s intense crusade to expose a killer draws the attention of a precocious local girl, Alice Piper, whose story intertwines with Wendy’s in a spellbinding and unexpected climax.    from S&S website

I listened to this in September and I’m going to post what I wrote on my 30 Days blog because I do remember bits and pieces and certain feelings, dark feelings, but the details I remember would reveal way too much about the book. There were three points of view on one of them is Stacy from Cleveland 🙂

I finished the audio at 11 pm.  It is totally messed up  (or is that me since that isn’t my first glass of wine?).  I would recommend reading instead of listening because there is a lot of jumping from viewpoints and different years.  Yesterday I read about the making of a terrorist and today I read about…well, I don’t want to spoil anything but it’s not too far off.

What’s it about – a reporter, a kidnapped young woman, and a girl live in Hayden, New York with a sad bunch of citizens.

What did I learn – although I know rape is something that happens often, this book really put it in context.

Who would love it – mystery lovers who enjoy the darker side.


Home by Harlan Coben

Title: Home (Myron Bolitar Series #11), Author: Harlan CobenHome. Finished 9-26-16, rating 4.75/5, mystery, 387 pages, pub. 2016

Myron Bolitar books  (1- Deal Breaker, 2- Drop Shop, 3- Fade Away, 4- Back Spin, 5- One False Move, 6- The Final Detail, 7- Darkest Fear, 8- Promise Me, 9-Long Lost, 10-Live Wire)

A decade ago, kidnappers grabbed two boys from wealthy families and demanded ransom, then went silent. No trace of the boys ever surfaced. For ten years their families have been left with nothing but painful memories and a quiet desperation for the day that has finally, miraculously arrived: Myron Bolitar and his friend Win believe they have located one of the boys, now a teenager. Where has he been for ten years, and what does he know about the day, more than half a life ago, when he was taken? And most critically: What can he tell Myron and Win about the fate of his missing friend? Drawing on his singular talent, Harlan Coben delivers an explosive and deeply moving thriller about friendship, family, and the meaning of home.     from Goodreads

I was so happy to pick up Harlan Coben’s new Myron Bolitar book.  I love many of his standalones, but it’s Myron and company who have my loyalty and since the last book of the series came out in 2011 I was craving me some Myron and Win.  This book does not disappoint.

Win, Myron’s best friend since college, asks for help in finding his cousin’s son who has been missing for ten years.  They start on the London sex trade streets and end up in an uber wealthy New Jersey neighborhood where the families have au pairs, not nannies. Or maybe they start in New Jersey and end in London, either way it’s a wild ride.

Coben always nails popular culture. Young kids know way too much about technology. They need to get outside and spend some time in the sun!  Of course, I say this as I sit here at my desk with my iPad and iPhone tempting me from my computer.  Moms are guilty too.

I think most everyone would like the series, but you’d have to start somewhere earlier. It wouldn’t have to be the first book, this one is #11, but maybe by 4 or 5 you should be on board.

Sundays with Gage – Learning to read

Do you remember learning to read?  I sure don’t, although this isn’t really a huge surprise since I don’t have a lot of memories from my kindergarten years.  I don’t think it’s until I was in the third grade that I have a lot of real memories.

As a mom who loves to read I’ve been stressing out. Gage has known his letters since he was about 18 months and had a lot of sight words before Pre-K.  But reading? Not so much.  Even sounding out words is frustrating for him.  Memorizing words not a big problem but when you can’t sound them out and he has so many he can get easily confused.

Since kindergarten started he has made great strides.  Still a struggle, but not nearly as frustrating.  We were doing a workbook today and I realize just how many more words he knows and how he is finally understanding the process of sounding out a word.

When I went to the parent teacher conference they said he was at 1.5 level math (1st grade, 5th month) but in reading the test is a little different and he’s in the probable reader classification.  Kids on the spectrum can be just as smart as the next kid, but sometimes learning needs to be done in a different way and usually one on one.  I gave up Gage’s one on one tutoring over the summer and even that was only 2 hours a week for the previous year.  So, for now, I wait patiently.  And hope that there is such a thing as a reading gene and that it kicks in soon.  Yes, I realize that sounded less than patient.  I’m trying!

Reading to me tonight 🙂


31 Hours by Masha Hamilton

Title: 31 Hours, Author: Masha Hamilton31 Hours. Finished 9-20-16, rating 2.5/5. fiction. 229 pages, pub. 2009

A woman in New York awakens knowing, as deeply as a mother’s blood can know, that her grown son is in danger. She has not heard from him in weeks. His name is Jonas. His girlfriend, Vic, doesn’t know what she has done wrong, but Jonas won’t answer his cell phone. We soon learn that Jonas is isolated in a safe-house apartment in New York City, pondering his conversion to Islam and his experiences training in Pakistan, preparing for the violent action he has been instructed to take in 31 hours. Jonas’s absence from the lives of those who love him causes a cascade of events, and as the novel moves through the streets and subways of New York we come to know intimately the lives of its characters. We also learn to feel deeply the connections and disconnections that occur between young people and their parents not only in this country but in the Middle East as well.      from Goodreads

The realities of home grown terrorism is just as relevant today as it was when this eas published in 2009.  It’s such a tricky subject because so many things go into the making of a terrorist that if you focus on one part, say the Islamic aspect, then you might lose sight of the many other pieces to the whole.  Anyway, this thriller was well reviewed by friends of mine, but I just couldn’t get into it. I started it few months ago and had the same problem but this time I powered through finishing at 11pm last night 🙂

It’s the story of a young American, Jonas, who has decided to strap on a bomb and blow up himself and others in the name of Allah.  It’s told from the alternating viewpoints of Jonas, his mother, girlfriend, his girlfriend’s sister and a homeless man.  Jonas’s decision and how he reached it was important but the focus wasn’t on Jonas, it was on everyone he was going to leave behind.

I empathized with the homeless man who considered asking for money in the subway his job.  I empathized with the mother who knew something was wrong and blamed herself.  I learned that, as with any horrific act, there are people who need our support and understanding.

If you have any interest in martyrs or just like a good thriller this might be for you.


I Am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells

Title: I Am Not a Serial Killer (John Cleaver Series #1), Author: Dan WellsI Am Not A Serial Killer. Finished 9-17-16, rating 3/5, YA, 271 pages, pub. 2010

John Wayne Cleaver is dangerous, and he knows it.

He’s spent his life doing his best not to live up to his potential.

He’s obsessed with serial killers, but really doesn’t want to become one. So for his own sake, and the safety of those around him, he lives by rigid rules he’s written for himself, practicing normal life as if it were a private religion that could save him from damnation.

Dead bodies are normal to John. He likes them, actually. They don’t demand or expect the empathy he’s unable to offer. Perhaps that’s what gives him the objectivity to recognize that there’s something different about the body the police have just found behind the Wash-n-Dry Laundromat—and to appreciate what that difference means.    from Goodreads

This is the first in the John Wayne Cleaver trilogy.

I like books and movies about serial killers, but even I was creeped out by 15 year old John.  The story took a major turn about 100 pages in, not one I liked and it sort of tainted the rest of the book for me, BUT John was compelling and I kept reading.  This one was recommended by a few book blogger buddies and is the first of a trilogy.  I’m pretty sure I won’t read them, there’s no cliff-hanger that’s making me, but who knows.  John may stay stuck in my head like a bad dream and convince me.

John is a teen who is obsessed with serial killers.  He feels that at his core, he is one.  He keeps himself in check by lots of rules so that he is never put in the position of killing someone because he wants to. This plan worked fine until his small town is home to its first serial killer.

I learned way, way more than I wanted to about what happens at the mortuary.  Let’s just say that you should not read this while you’re eating.  Or thinking about eating.  Or getting ready to go to a funeral.  Go ahead, read the first chapter.  If you are okay with that then this book may be for you.

Since John is 15 this is considered a YA, but John was way older than his years, so only mature teens should read this.  And if you like books like Silence of the Lambs or shows like Dexter this one is for you, but only if you are prepared to be thrown for a loop.

Best Staged Plans by Claire Cook

Title: Best Staged Plans, Author: Claire CookBest Staged Plans. Finished 9-16-16, 2.5/5 stars, fiction, pub. 2011

Sandy Sullivan is a professional home stager who lives and works in the Boston suburbs. So getting rid of her own house and downsizing should be a breeze, right?

Well, best staged plans and all, Sandy’s husband, Greg, is dragging his feet and their son, Luke, has returned home and moved into the “bat cave” in the basement.

Sandy reads them both the riot act and takes a job staging a boutique hotel recently acquired by her best friend’s boyfriend. The good news is that she can spend time in Atlanta with her recently married daughter, Shannon. The bad news is that Shannon soon receives a promotion and heads back up to Boston for training, leaving Sandy and her Southern son-in-law, Chance, as reluctant roommates. And Sandy finds herself in another delicate situation when she suspects her best friend’s boyfriend may be seeing another woman on the side. Fixing up houses may turn out to be easier than fixing up lives.    from Goodreads

Sandy has a husband and two grown children and is living in an old house in the Boston suburbs that she wants to sell.  Her daughter lives in Atlanta and miraculously her best friend’s boyfriend just bought a hotel there that could use a home stager?  Yeah.  She heads off in a huff, telling her husband not to call until their house was ready to sell, and maintains the attitude for much of  the book.

Sandy did talk a lot about staging, not anything you didn’t know if you’ve watched any HGTV, but it’s always good to be reminded. She even listed her top tips at the end: de-clutter, scrub, move things from the wall, rotate accessories, lights, mirrors, warm and neutral paint, decorate in groups of three, drop the frames.  All good reminders if you want to freshen up your house.

Well, maybe it lost something in the narration because I did listen to the first half in the car, because I have Goodreads friends who really liked it.  The intended audience would be midlife women who like to see their stories told with humor, so I fit the right age group, I just could not get myself to like Sandy and her perceived troubles.


Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne

Title: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Parts I & II, Author: J. K. RowlingHarry Potter and the Cursed Child. Finished 9-19-16, rating 5/5, play, 327 pages, pub. 2016

Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.     from Goodreads

Oh, how I’d missed my wand wielding friends.  I read the Harry Potter series, along with a large percentage of literate world and loved it.  Muggles and wizards, yes, but at its heart it is about friendship and loyalty, right and wrong.  I was sad to see the series end, but felt it was complete (well, except for the pairings at the end).  I hadn’t heard great things about this screenplay, based on the story by JK Rowling, that takes place decades later, but I wanted to know what happened just like everyone else.  It was so great to be back in the company of Harry Potter and his pals, even the beloved ones that were gone by the end of the series.

Harry, Hermione, Ron, Ginny and Draco are all back, but this time it’s their children that are off to Hogwarts.  Albus and Scorpius are outcasts and best friends who decide to make their daddies proud.  Silly kids.  This was the bromance that made this play sing.

Amazingly, there’s still plenty of juice in the Harry Potter world and anyone who has read the first 7 books needs to get their hands on this one. I did miss the novel form and the great writing, but accept it as it is and enjoy.

Avon’s KissCon came to Cleveland

Last night I attended Avon’s KissCon with this excellent lineup of romance authors – Katharine Ashe, Toni BlakeShelley Shepard GrayLinda Howard, Linda Jones, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Jennifer Ryan and Jill Shalvis.

Once I saw that Susan Elizabeth Phillips was going to be there I bought my VIP ticket so I could hang and drink wine with my new BFF.

avon1Susan is just as sparkly and quick as you might expect if you read her books.  I talked to two other authors -neither of which I’ve read, but I brought home books to change that- and both of them flew all the way from California.  Jill Shalvis and Jennifer Ryan were both so nice and willing to chat even though I didn’t know anything about them or their books 😉

avon4Jill Shalvisavon5Jennifer Ryan

There was a panel so we could hear from them all and that was lots of fun too.


It was a fun night, but I confess that I felt terrible.  I think you can see in those last two pics that I could barely open my eyes because it felt like there was a vise squeezing my head.  I’m a little better today but I’m going back to bed for a few hours while Gage is at school.



Watermark by Travis Thrasher

Title: The Watermark, Author: Travis ThrasherThe Watermark. Finished 9-15-16, rating 4/5, inspirational, 256 pages, pub. 2001

“I wanted to tell her the truth. I wanted to finally tell her everything. But the door slammed shut as it rightfully should have before I could be brave enough to do a thing.”

Sheridan Blake believes he has made one mistake that is beyond the reach of God’s forgiveness. Even after seven years of hopelessness, Sheridan still struggles to make something out of his life. When Genevie Dayton interrupts his self-imposed isolation, Sheridan dates to hope for a second chance.         from Goodreads

I picked this up at a library sale a few years ago because I thought it was pretty and that I recognized the author’s name (I didn’t).  Somehow I missed the big pink sticker on the spine proclaiming this book to be Inspirational, but wasn’t hard to miss once I started reading.  I tend to avoid the inspirational fiction. Most of them feel very vanilla to me when I like a little chocolate, but this one was sweet just the way it was and I liked it quite a bit.  The Watermark:A Tender Story of Forgiveness and Hope by Travis Thrasher.  Yeah, the subtitle should have tipped me off too.

Sheridan returns to college after a seven year hiatus. He still feels shame and guilt about the incident that got him kicked out of college the first time but he is trying to put his life back together. He brings in a roommate and meets a girl and things are looking good.  If only he can find forgiveness.

It’s always easier to tell others they need to forgive themselves than it is to forgive yourself.  Or to accept that forgiveness from God.  Sheridan has a lot of forgiving to do.

I think anyone who likes inspirational stories might like this one. I also think this would make a nice gift for anyone going to or in college.  It doesn’t turn a blind eye from the reality of college life and the trouble that kids get in to when on their own for the first time.

Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi

Title: Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books, Author: Azar NafisiReading Lolita in Tehran. Finished 9-14-16, rating 3.5/5, memoir, 343 pages. pub. 2003

Every Thursday morning for two years in the Islamic Republic of Iran, a bold and inspired teacher named Azar Nafisi secretly gathered seven of her most committed female students to read forbidden Western classics. As Islamic morality squads staged arbitrary raids in Tehran, fundamentalists seized hold of the universities, and a blind censor stifled artistic expression, the girls in Azar Nafisi’s living room risked removing their veils and immersed themselves in the worlds of Jane Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry James, and Vladimir Nabokov. In this extraordinary memoir, their stories become intertwined with the ones they are reading. Reading Lolita in Tehran is a remarkable exploration of resilience in the face of tyranny and a celebration of the liberating power of literature.     from Goodreads

We read this for book club in September. It’s hard to know exactly what the problem was.  Some didn’t like the author, some thought she was talking down to them about the books, others were bothered by the jumping around from the past to the present.  I think all of us agreed that we wanted to feel more of a connection with the girls in the book club.  I liked the book overall, but only because  I found the good parts worth the not-so-great ones.  And I did a lot of skimming 🙂

Azar, a college literature professor in Tehran, Iran at the time of the revolution, chronicles her years living in Iran and how the Islamic takeover of the government changed the lives of the women living there.  Eventually she started a secret book group in her home where the women talked about banned Western classics and it’s through these books that she framed the story.

Learning about what was happening in Iran in the 1980’s, told from the perspective of an educated woman, was eye opening for me.  I learned more about the history of Iran than I thought I would and that was my favorite aspect.