Last Couple Standing by Matthew Norman

4.5 stars Fiction

This was not the story that I had expected to read when I picked up this book.  I was expecting the story to be more humorous and reckless but it wasn’t.  The story didn’t make light of the situations that these individuals were in, these characters were realistic and natural. I found myself enjoying this book more than I thought I would.

They call themselves the Core Four. From college graduation, to attending each other weddings, to moving out to the suburbs together, these four individuals have been together through it all. It’s like one big extended family, as all the spouses and kids all get along.  It seems like a perfect world for these individuals until one of the couples decides that their marriage is over.  The “d” word has shattered this image. 

This news shakes the group and I immediately start thinking, “the grass always looks greener on the other side.”  I know that others in their group will start to follow them soon but many questions run through my head.  Will they all divorce?  Will they turn on one another? They’ve been together a long time as a group, will they stay together?  What if “the grass is not greener?”  What is dating like now? They won’t start dating each other, will they?

It wasn’t long before, three out of the four couples divorced or had started the process of divorcing and only one couple remained with their wedding rings still on. Whew! One couple made it!! But wait, it’s not over yet.  The couple has started contemplating their position now.  Do they really want to be married?  Do they really love each other?  Divorce is such an extreme option but what other choice do they have?  

This book was a reality check. I liked how the group stayed together and how they tried to help each other when events in their life changed.  Being unmarried and single seemed like a great idea, yet they didn’t really see the whole picture. As they projected their positive image to others, what was really going on inside? The options available to them as an uncommitted adult looked wonderful and exciting, until they lived it. The married couple and the choice that they made; I kept wondering how long it was going to last.  I could feel this couple’s emotions as they tried to carry through with their plans but there were other things they were contending with. 

I really enjoyed how realistic this book felt. Nothing was over-the-top and the characters each had their own identity.  I laughed and smiled as the characters moved through their life, trying to make the best of their choices and their situations. A great story with interesting characters.  

A Good Neighborhood by Therese Fowler

3 stars Fiction

This was one of those books where it was over before I knew it.  I listened to this audio in the car and then, time flew!  The drama built slowly, the romance had snuck itself in, and then I found myself disappointed that the whole book was over.  I could have sworn, I just put the second CD in.

Valerie and her son Xavier live in Oak Knoll, a peaceful, quiet neighborhood.  Xavier is a talented musician and Valerie loves nature and her surroundings.  When a local celebrity buys a nearby plot of land, new construction disturbs the quiet community as they begin building an upscale mansion and the family moves in.

Valerie had watched, as they destroyed the area to accommodate this new family, the destruction of natural resources was devastating to her.  Now, as the new family moves in, Xavier gets mistaken for hired help.  It’s an awkward beginning for these two families. 

As I listened to Brad, he started to get under my skin.  His superior thinking made me cringe but I liked the way this book was setting things up.  Valerie was up for the challenge but in the background, I was watching out for Xavier and Juniper. 

This is an entertaining book and one that I enjoyed.  

The Forgotten Room by Karen White, Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig

Mystery 3.5 stars

There are three actual stories in this book but they all have one common thread. That common subject lies in a building, which has had many purposes over the years, if only the walls of that building could talk. 

I liked the idea of how this huge building served many purposes over the years.  The history that this building contained and how it served others was fascinating.  To think, how many people walked and in-and-out of its doors intrigued me.  Then, to read how the three women in this novel were also connected to this building, just added more significance to the structure.  I had to wonder if there were any standing building today that have these same traits.  Hum?

Anyways, back to the book. Following a trio of women, we crisscross over three different time periods (1892, 1920, and 1944) which I found confusing at times as I couldn’t keep everyone straight.  These women are all from the same family, just years apart, which made it more confusing to me.  I finally wrote everyone’s name down on a piece of paper and drew arrows to keep individuals separated as the romance in this novel adds even more complications.

Somehow over the years, these three women find their way back to New York, to this same building yet they’re there for different reasons.  As the novel comes together, you’ll find out what ties them all together. 

It’s a mystery that covers many generations.  With strong-minded women and a terrific setting this book provided for me an interesting read. 3.5 stars

Gold Digger: The Remarkable Baby Doe Tabor by Rebecca Rosenberg

4 stars Historical Fiction

I read this book for book club otherwise I don’t think I would have picked it up.  From reading the title, I expected a more somber novel about the gold-rush era, not the adventurous, dashy story that I read.  Baby Doe gave this era, something to talk about. 

I knew nothing about Baby Doe before picking up this novel.  Now, after reading this novel, I want to read more about her to hear the whole story.

The novel begins with Baby Doe traveling with her new husband Harvey to Colorado, in the late 1800’s, as Harvey is going to manage a mine that his father owns.  Baby Doe has plans of her own, to send money back to her parents to help them get by.  Her husband ends up not being as business smart as they thought and Baby Doe ends up helping him out with the business which I feel is an important part to who she ends up becoming.

The mine becomes the central part of the story with the individuals who work in it and their families also.  Baby Doe becomes a working woman, yet some men are drawn to her beauty and don’t take her seriously.  She’s a smart, determined individual who knows more than you think.    

This was a fast-paced story what once I started, I couldn’t quit.  There were numerous times while reading this story, I found myself talking out loud, reacting to the other characters as they conversed with Baby Doe.  I laughed a few times and there were even some harsh words spoken, for I thought they were being very deceitful, given the circumstances.  Baby Doe’s story is definitely a story that you need to read.   

Say You’re Sorry by Karen Rose

4 stars Mystery

Well, I made it!  I didn’t realize upon opening this novel how long it really was, over 600 pages! Did it feel like 600 pages? Unfortunately for me, it did. The novel started out strong and ended very strong but the middle dragged for me.  That being said, I will read another Karen Rose novel, I will just stick with a shorter one.

What I really liked about this novel was that Karen wasn’t afraid to let her audience in on some disturbing scenes.  Being a thriller, Karen’s killer is cruel and hard, and Karen doesn’t gloss these scenes over, she puts the reader right in on the action.  I also enjoyed the storyline.  I was captivated from the beginning and then the story just rolled along. 

Besides the novel dragging some in the middle, there were a few other issues I had with the novel.  The genre of romantic-suspense is new to me but I had to actually wonder if what went down between Daisy and Special Agent Gideon could actually happen?  Daisy’s a victim and Gideon is an FBI agent and watching their relationship unfold during the investigation felt questionable, to me. Do they not realize they are in the middle of an investigation? Do they not realize what type of investigation it is? I felt that their link also changed her status and how she was seen by others. Also, what about Daisy’s “service dog?” I felt sorry for the dog and I think it was actually an emotional support dog for her.

This is a good, long story with a few slow parts.  For me, the second half of the novel, whizzed by as I began to understand the killer and the motivation behind his madness.  I would like to read more in this series to see what comes next for these characters. 

I want to thank NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group for providing me a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. 

Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott

5 stars YA

I enjoyed listening to this novel. I thought the narration was excellent and I highly recommend the audio version of this novel.  As I listened to the CD’s in my car and outside in my backyard, I found myself crying, laughing and talking back to the characters as the story came to life. 

I had heard that some individuals aren’t fond of this novel and how it portrays the characters illness.  In reality, how anyone manages their illness is their own personal issue. I had a headache w/migraine for 17 years, every-day, which by my appearance, you never would have known it. However, I know people who have a headache for a few days and I definitely know they are in pain. It’s all about how you manage yourself.  I also heard about individuals complaining about the instant love in the novel. I have two things to say, (1) you need to put yourself in the characters shoes and (2) just stop reading the book if you’re not feeling it. I do think that if you put yourself in the characters position in this novel, you will understand why things happened the way they did.

I shed quite a few tears while listening to this novel. I’m usually one who gets emotional over a character’s behavior or an incident that occurs but I found myself moved by what the characters were actually saying.  Their words hit deep and I felt what they were saying, came from within and that got to me.

I liked how the author chose to have the two main characters have the same illness yet they handled their lives totally different.  Their attitudes were almost extreme opposites from one another. I liked how they each shared a bit of themselves with each other and they accepted it.  They both know that getting too close to one another could be fatal but they soon realize that staying apart from one another didn’t feel like the right answer either.  It’s a complicated situation that was filled with humor, compassion, friendship, and strength.