Tuesday, June 26, 2012

First Chapter -- First Paragraph -- Tuesday Intros

Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter, First Paragraph, Tuesday Intros.  This week's intro is from I book I read last week, but really enjoyed The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. by Nichole Bernier.

The George Washington Bridge had never been anything but strong and beautiful, its arches monumental, cables thin and high.  Kate watched them spindling like ribs past the car window as her husband drove eastbound across the span.  It was a testimony to optimism, a suspension bridge, each far-fetched plate, truss, and girder an act of faith against gravity and good sense.

The sun was strong, glinting off the bridge and hitting the river like shattered glass.  Drivers traveling in both directions were shielding their eyes, staring as she was down the length of Manhattan.  She didn't know what any of them expected to see.  Mushroom clouds?  Skywriting in Arabic?  She wished for some visible sign of the drama where the towers had once stood.  Then she looked toward Queens, even though it was impossible to see the site from this distance.  Few people were even looking anymore, though she always would.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Mailbox Monday -- June 25th!

Welcome to Mailbox Monday which is hosted this month by the Burton Book Review.  Below are the books I received this past week:

1) One Good Friend Deserves Another by Lisa Verge Higgins.  Publisher's Summary: Dhara, Kelly, Marta & Wendy have been the closest of friends since college, so close, in fact, that after a series of communal romantic disasters, they bond together to create rules of relationships meant to keep their hearts safe. Now, at the far side of thirty-five, those rules seem to have worked for them—country-club Wendy, a curator of a small local museum, is due to marry a longtime boyfriend in an over-the-top wedding; Marta, a high-powered Latina partner in a white-shoe law firm, is living in sensual luxury with a sexy Cuban entrepreneur; Kelly, the tech-geek computer programmer, seems happy in her introverted singlehood.

Only Dhara, an Indian-American cardiologist, is struggling after the abrupt end of a long-term relationship. When she suddenly decides to agree to a traditional arranged marriage, her girlfriends gather in the hopes of stopping her from making a terrible mistake. As old relationships crumble and dangerous new ones emerge, the girls begin to realize that the rules that they made to keep their hearts safe may have also shielded them from the risky possibilities of true love.

2) You Came Back by Christopher Coake.  Publisher's Summary: Thirty-something midwesterner Mark Fife believes he has successfully moved past the accidental death of his young son Brendan, as well as his subsequent divorce from his college sweetheart Chloe. He's successful, he's in love again, and he believes he's mastered his own memories.

But then he is contacted by a strange woman who tells him not only that she owns his old house, but that she believes it to be haunted by Brendan's ghost. Will Mark--who does not believe in ghosts--come to accept the mounting evidence that Brendan's is real? Will his engagement to his new love Allison be threatened by the reappearance in Mark's life of Chloe--who does believe? If the ghost is real, what can these two wounded parents do to help their son?

Both thanks to Hachette Book Group!

3)  Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen.  Publisher's Summary. Bestselling author and winner of the Pulitzer Prize Anna Quindlen writes about looking back and ahead—and celebrating it all—as she considers marriage, girlfriends, our mothers, faith, loss, all the stuff in our closets, and more.As she did in her beloved A Short Guide to a Happy Life,Quindlen says for us here what we may wish we could have said ourselves. Using her past, present, and future to explore what matters most to women at different ages, Quindlen talks about.

Kimdle book purchase.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Saturday Snapshot

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce At Home with Books.  Photos can be old or new, and be on any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see.  How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you.  Please don't post random photos that you find online.


Please excuse the dark phone camera shot, but it is the only photo I have before I devoured these amazing confections from Georgetown Cupcake.  I have a sort-of good excuse for the indulgence.  This past Mother's Day I decided to buy a dozen for my mom and since the local delivery fee is a flat rate I treated myself too.  They are the best cupcakes I have ever had (and I've sampled quite a few upscale cupcakes)!

P.S. They ship nationwide!  

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D.

How well does one really know others? And if the person in question kept a journal would the self portrait shock those closest to her or him?  These are the thoughts that ricocheted in my head while reading The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. by Nichole Bernier.    

The novel, set in the recent past (2002), opens with the heroine, Kate Spenser, inheriting the journals of her recently deceased best friend Elizabeth Martin.  Elizabeth died in a plane crash a month before September 11, 2001, leaving behind a grieving husband and three young children.  In an unusual choice Elizabeth willed her journals not to her husband, but to Kate to handle as she deemed fit.  Elizabeth was a lifelong writer who left behind a trunk full of notebooks containing her innermost thoughts.  As the story progresses the Elizabeth revealed in the journals was not the one that Kate knew.  Kate is haunted by what she missed and how to handle the journals.  By the novel’s conclusion, however, Kate not only has a better grasp on who Elizabeth was, but also into her own life.

The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. is a beautifully written and absorbing novel that explores the choices and sacrifices that women make between being true to themselves and raising a family.  As Bernier writes:  “You could not take a single day or night for granted.  Within every hour, every plane ride, or routine doctor’s appointment was the spark of possibility, the thing that would become your undoing.  And how you left things just before the final moment – that was how they would remain.”  Part of the story details the crucial life moments of Elizabeth and how she became the woman she was before her death.  The other half explores Kate’s need to make an important life choice.  The novel does not end in a tidy conclusion, but rather is opened ended just like real life.

The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. is a remarkable debut by first time novelist Nichole Bernier!

Review based on courtesy copy sent by the publisher. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

First Chapter -- First Paragraph -- Tuesday Intros

Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros.  This week's intro is from Dirty Secret by Jessie Sholl:

 I take an early flight and arrive in Minneapolis in the late morning.  That afternoon my stepmom Sandy and I are meeting my mother at the lawyer's office so I can sign the papers about the house.  My dad and Sandy normally have limited contact with my mother, but before I left New York Sandy called me and offered to help in anyway she could; she even agreed to let my mother sign power of attorney over to her, since I live so far away.  I wish I could call my brother so he could help, but that's not an option.

When my mother arrives, Sandy and I are waiting for her in the parking lot in front of the lawyer's office.  My mom gets out of her giant rusty car and I try to ignore the fact that the backseat is piled to the ceiling with garbage bags, clothes and God only knows what else.  It's April and warm for a Minneapolis spring.  My mother's in one of her signature knee-length sweater coats, the baggy black leggings she's taken to wearing in the last few years, and a roomy pale blue T-shirt, or as she say sin her lingering Boston accent, "a jersey."  Her keys hang on an orange plastic coil around her neck.  Her curly hair is completely gray now -- sometimes she dyes it brown or auburn -- and cut in chin-length bob, with bangs.  It looks pretty decent for cutting it herself.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Mailbox Monday -- June 18th!

Welcome to Mailbox Monday which is hosted this month by the Burton Book Review. This week was a light one with only one book that I purchased for my Kindle:

1) Dirty Secret by Jessie Sholl. Publisher's Summary: When her divorced mother was diagnosed with cancer, New York City writer Jessie Sholl returned to her hometown of Minneapolis to help prepare for the upcoming surgery and get her mother's affairs in order. While a daunting task for any adult dealing with an aging parent, it's compounded for Sholl by one lifelong, complex, and confounding truth: Her mother is a compulsive hoarder. Dirty Secret is a daughter's memoir of confronting her mother's disorder, of searching for the normalcy that was never hers as a child, and, finally, cleaning out the clutter of her mother's home in the hopes of salvaging the true heart of their relationship -- before it's too late.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Saturday Snapshot: Junie B.

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce At Home with Books. Photos can be old or new, and be on any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don't post random photos that you find online.

Here are two photos of our newest dog Jaune who we call June and Junie B. or Junie B. Anthony, because she is a very independent woman. June is a rescue who was found wandering on a farm in Georgia and eventually found her way through a shelter and a rescue to our home in Maryland.  Although we've only had little Junie B. for just under six months we couldn't imagine life without her!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Blue Nights

Twenty months, that is all it took for Joan Didion’s world to be turned upside down. In the span of twenty months Didion lost her husband, author John Dunne, and her only child, Quintana Roo Dunne. From these tragic twin losses Didion has authored two powerful memoirs: The Year of Magical Thinking, which covers Didion’s first year of widowhood, and Blue Nights which reflects on her daughter’s life and the passage of time.

As Didion shares:
[A]ll seemed well when we were shaking off the leis onto the grass outside St. John the Divine on July 26, 2003. Could you have seen, had you been walking on Amsterdam Avenue and caught sight of the bridal party that day, how utterly unprepared the mother of the bride was to accept what would happen before the year of 2003 had even ended? The father of the bride dead at his own dinner table? The bride herself in an induced coma, breathing only on a respirator, not expected by the doctors in the intensive care unit to live the night? The first in a cascade of medical crises that would end twenty months later with her death? 

After experiencing these bookend losses in quick succession, it is amazing that Didion is still standing, let alone crafting beautiful, insightful, memoirs! Be warned, however, Didion’s writing style is not traditional i.e. “he said this and then she did that.” Rather reading Didion is akin to reading poetry: lines and themes are frequently repeated, but each time a new nuance is revealed.

 In Blue Nights, Didion skips between the past (raising her daughter and the insights gained in hindsight) and the present/future (what it means to grow old alone). On the parenting topic, Didion is a harsh judge of what she missed as a parent. For instance, Didion now realizes that Quintana displayed a high level of anxiety at a young age. On the subject of aging, Didion somberly confesses: “Could it be that I did not figure in either the general nature or the permanence of the slowing, the irreversible changes in mind and body, the way you wake one summer morning less resilient than you were and by Christmas find your ability to mobilize gone, atrophied, no longer extant?"  Notwithstanding the back and forth nature of the memoir, the mix between young motherhood and modern day frailty works well.

 I found Blue Nights to be profoundly sad, but a worthwhile read!

Reviewed based on personal copy.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy

In honor of the fiftieth anniversary of John F. Kennedy's administration, his daughter Caroline Kennedy released the unedited interview tapes her mother Jacqueline Kennedy gave regarding the thirty fifth president of the United States. In the conversations, held just a few short months after Kennedy's assassination, Mrs. Kennedy shares her personal knowledge of JFK, from his 's early years through his presidency, as well as those who surrounded him.

Listening to the historic conversations was a treat on so many levels. First, because Mrs. Kennedy did not give interviews, I enjoyed simply listening to her voice which previously I had heard only snippets of. The intimacy of the tapes also drew me in -- the ice cubes sloshing around in glasses and on one occasion JFK, Jr. wandering around in the background..

Second, I enjoyed listening to the interviews as they were a American time capsule of a historic time. I also appreciated that some of Mrs. Kennedy's views in 1964 were most likely not her views in 1994 when she died, but were rather likely a reflection of cultural views in the 1960s. For instance:

I'd get terribly emotional about anyone, whether it was a politician or a newspaper person who would be unfair, but he [JFK] always treated it so objectively . . . which is right. . . . . So its the only way to be effective -- which is one reason why I think women should never be in politics. We're just not suited for it. 

The audio cds also included an edited written transcript that provided biographical details on people discussed in the interviews along with other relevant background information. This was very helpful as there were many, many persons mentioned that I was unfamiliar with. Occasionally, the written transcript would note personal matters behind Mrs. Kennedy's comments such as she was feuding with person X over Y at the time of the interviews, but later made up with them.

The Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy is like a vintage wine to be savored and enjoyed!

Review based on personal copy.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

There are Things I want You to Know about Stiegg Larsson and Me

Write a will now! This is the takeaway message I got from reading Eva Gabrielsson's memoir of her thirty year relationship with Stiegg Larsson. Larsson, the author of the hugely successful Millennium series, died before his books were published and, hence, never lived to enjoy the literary and financial success his books have garnered. Sadly, he also died intestate (the legal term for without a will) which resulted in Larsson's father and brother being named as heirs to his estate and leaving his life partner Gabrielsson with nothing.
What I Want You to Know about Stiegg Larsson and Me, is not just a cautionary tale of greedy relatives, but also sheds light on Larsson's personal life and insight into the Millennium novels. In real life, Larsson was a voracious reader and autodidact. He believed passionately in social justice and was an ardent feminist. His political views led to him becoming a leading expert on extreme rightwing Nazi groups in Sweden and founding a progressive magazine. Larsson's career choice, however, subjected him to numerous death threats and is the reason why he and Gabrielsson never married (Swedish law required that married couples publically register their address).

As for inspiration behind the Millennium novels, Gabrielsson claims that the character Lisabeth Salander was conceived as modern day Pippi Longstocking. She also states that the main shared trait between Larsson and Mikael Blomkvist was their copious coffee consumption. Gabrielsson further notes that the stories that Larrsson penned were all derived from real life events (based either on his personal experience or newspaper stories) and that he liked to use names from people he knew in real life (although this is not true with respect to the main characters) and real addresses.

The memoir takes a dark turn, however, when Gabrielsson dishes on the legal matters that happened after Larsson's death. She is clearly very bitter which is understandable. Still I did not enjoy reading about the curse that she put on her enemies (presumably Larsson'a father and brother). Gabrielsson does have one ace in the hole: Larsson's unfinished fourth novel and outline for the rest of the series (he planned 10 novels in total). Hopefully, someday, Gabrielsson and Larsson's legal heirs can come to an agreement that will treat Gabrielsson more equitably and lead to the novel's eventual publication.

What I Want You to Know about Stiegg Larsson and Me is an informative book that Stiegg Larsson fans will (mostly) enjoy!

  Review based on a library copy.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Seven Days with Seven Dogs

What do you do for a dog who has only weeks to live? As an owner of a much loved dog who has cancer this is a question that I have thought a lot about lately. Fortunately, thanks to surgery and chemotherapy, my dog Maggie is doing great at the moment. Still making the most of Maggie's remaining days is important to me (for example, a few days ago she celebrated her ninth birthday in style with a nice steak dinner). When filmmakers Billie Dean and Andrew Einspruch were told that their beloved dog Suki had only a few weeks remaining they decided to take her on a final doggie vacation. Only for the Dean-Einspruch's going away is a little complicated because they have six other elderly dogs with a multitude of health problems besides Suki ( in addition to having a young and healthy human daughter). Seven Days with Seven Dogs is the product of that magical week.

 As a dog owner three times over, I admit this film had me at the title, but even setting aside my obvious bias, this is a beautifully shot and uplifting documentary. The family lives in Australia (Billie, the wife, is Australian) so the road trip encompasses various dog friendly places in the gorgeous land down under. We see the dogs transported in a horse and buggy to go camping; participate in an agility course; snuggle up at various dog friendly lodges (where they are sometimes greeted like doggy royalty) and frolic on a scenic private beach. I also enjoyed watching the Dean-Einspruch family interact together as it is clear that the family is a close and happy one. I do admit, however, that I found Billie a little out there (she is a dog psychic who claims to understand the dogs' thoughts), but overall she is a highly likeable person. Also while the subject matter (a dog's imminent death) is very sad, this film did not show that or dwell on that aspect. Rather the film focuses on living life to the fullest and appreciating what matters most: spending time with loved ones (both human and furry).

 Seven Days with Seven Dogs is a genuinely feel good film for the whole family.

First Chapter -- First Paragraph -- Tuesday Intros

Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter, First Paragraph, Tuesday Intros.  This week's intro is from The Cupcake Diaries by Katherine Kallinis and Sophie Kallinis LaMontagne:

We had been waiting for years for this day to come, and to say we had butterflies in our stomachs is putting it mildly.  Technically, we'd been dreaming of this day since we were young girls baking cupcakes in our grandma Babee's kitchen in Hamilton, Ontario.  Everything we learned about baking we learned from her.  We would stand beside her at the kitchen counter as she worked her magic.  We remember her in her royal blue dress with large white polka dots and one of her many Greek aprons with beautiful flower embroidery lining its edges, her hair tied back in a white kerchief.  She taught us how to cream butter and sugar together to make cakes and how to properly knead dough to make bread.  We watched her, mesmerized.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Mailbox Monday -- June 11th!

Welcome to Mailbox Monday, hosted this month by the Burton Book Review. Below are the books I received this past week:

1) Cleaning Nabokov's House by Leslie Daniels.  Publisher's Summary. “I knew I could stay in this town when I found the blue enamel pot floating in the lake. The pot led me to the house, the house led me to the book, the book to the lawyer, the lawyer to the whorehouse, the whorehouse to science, and from science I joined the world.”

So begins Leslie Daniels’s funny and moving novel about a woman’s desperate attempt to rebuild her life. When Barb Barrett walks out on her loveless marriage she doesn’t realize she will lose everything: her home, her financial security, even her beloved children. Approaching forty with her life in shambles and no family or friends to turn to, Barb must now discover what it means to rely on herself in a stark new emotional landscape.

Guided only by her intense inner voice and a unique entrepreneurial vision, Barb begins to collect the scattered pieces of her life. She moves into a house once occupied by Vladimir Nabokov, author of the controversial masterpiece Lolita, and discovers a manuscript that may be his lost work. As her journey gathers momentum, Barb deepens a connection with her new world, discovering resources in her community and in herself that no one had anticipated. Written in elegant prose with touches of sharp humor and wit, Cleaning Nabokov’s House offers a new vision of modern love and a fervent reminder that it is never too late to find faith in our truest selves.

2) Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner. Publisher's Summary. Jules Strauss is a Princeton senior with a full scholarship, acquaintances instead of friends, and a family she’s ashamed to invite to Parents’ Weekend. With the income she’ll receive from donating her “pedigree” eggs, she believes she can save her father from addiction.

Annie Barrow married her high school sweetheart and became the mother to two boys. After years of staying at home and struggling to support four people on her husband’s salary, she thinks she’s found a way to recover a sense of purpose and bring in some extra cash.

India Bishop, thirty-eight (really forty-three), has changed everything about herself: her name, her face, her past. In New York City, she falls for a wealthy older man, Marcus Croft, and decides a baby will ensure a happy ending. When her attempts at pregnancy fail, she turns to technology, and Annie and Jules, to help make her dreams come true.

But each of their plans is thrown into disarray when Marcus’ daughter Bettina, intent on protecting her father, becomes convinced that his new wife is not what she seems…

With startling tenderness and laugh-out-loud humor, Jennifer Weiner once again takes readers into the heart of women’s lives in an unforgettable, timely tale that interweaves themes of class and entitlement, surrogacy and donorship, the rights of a parent and the measure of motherhood.

3) Abdication by Juliet Nicholson. Publisher's Summary. England, 1936. The year began with the death of a beloved king and the ascension of a charismatic young monarch, sympathetic to the needs of the working class, glamorous and single. By year’s end, the world would be stunned as it witnessed that new leader give up his throne in the name of love, just as the unrest and violence that would result in a Second World War were becoming impossible to ignore.

During the tumultuous intervening months, amidst the whirl of social and political upheaval, wise-beyond-her-nineteen-years May Thomas will take the first, faltering steps toward creating a new life for herself. Just disembarked at Liverpool after a long journey from her home on a struggling sugar plantation in Barbados, she secures a position as secretary and driver to Sir Philip Blunt, a job that will open her eyes to the activities of the uppermost echelons of British society, and her heart to a man seemingly beyond her reach. Outwardly affable spinster Evangeline Nettlefold is a girlhood friend to the American socialite Wallis Simpson, a goddaughter to Lady Joan Blunt and a new arrival to London from Baltimore. She will be generously welcomed into society’s most glittering circles, where one’s daily worth is determined by one’s proximity to a certain H.R.H. and his married mistress. But as the resentment she feels toward Wallis grows in magnitude, so too does the likelihood of disastrous consequences.

Young, idealistic Julian Richardson’s Oxford degree and his close friendship with Rupert Blunt have catapulted him from excruciating hours in his mother’s middle-class parlor to long holidays spent at stately homes and luxurious dinners in the company of a king. But even as he enjoys his time in this privileged world, his head cannot forget the struggles of those who live outside its gilded gates, and his uneasy heart cannot put aside his undeclared affection for May.

May, Evangeline and Julian will all become embroiled in the hidden truths, undeclared loves, unspoken sympathies and covert complicities that define the year chronicled in Abdication. In pitch-perfect prose, Juliet Nicolson has captured an era in which duty and pleasure, tradition and novelty, and order and chaos all battled for supremacy in the hearts and minds of king and commoner alike. As addictive as Downton Abbey, as poignant as The Remains of the Day, Abdication is a breathtaking story inspired by a love affair that shook the world at a time when the world was on the brink of war.

4) Temptation by Douglas Kennedy. Publisher's Summary. I always wanted to be rich. I know that probably sounds crass, but it’s the truth. A true confession. Like all would-be Hollywood screenwriters, David Armitage wants to be rich and famous. But for the past eleven years, he’s tasted nothing but failure. Then, out of nowhere, big-time luck comes his way when one of his scripts is bought for television. Before you can say “overnight success,” he’s the new toast of Hollywood as the creator of a hit series. Suddenly a major player, he finds that he’s reinventing himself at a great speed, especially when it comes to walking out on his wife and daughter for a young producer who worships only at the altar of ambition.

But David’s upward mobility takes a decidedly strange turn when a billionaire film buff named Philip Fleck barges into his life, proposing a very curious collaboration. David takes the bait and suddenly finds himself inadvertently entering into a Faustian pact and an express ride to the lower depths of the Hollywood jungle.

5) Objects of My Affection by Jill Smolinski. Publisher's Summary. Lucy Bloom is broke, freshly dumped by her boyfriend, and forced to sell her house to send her nineteen-year-old son to drug rehab. Although she’s lost it all, she’s determined to start over. So when she’s offered a high-paying gig helping clear the clutter from the home of reclusive and eccentric painter Marva Meier Rios, Lucy grabs it. Armed with the organizing expertise she gained while writing her book,Things Are Not People, and fueled by a burning desire to get her life back on track, Lucy rolls up her sleeves to take on the mess that fills every room of Marva’s huge home. Lucy soon learns that the real challenge may be taking on Marva, who seems to love the objects in her home too much to let go of any of them.

While trying to stay on course toward a strict deadline—and with an ex-boyfriend back in the picture, a new romance on the scene, and her son’s rehab not going as planned—Lucy discovers that Marva isn’t just hoarding, she is also hiding a big secret. The two form an unlikely bond, as each learns from the other that there are those things in life we keep, those we need to let go—but it’s not always easy to know the difference.

All thanks to Simon & Schuster!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

First Chapter -- First Paragraph -- Tuesday Intros

Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter, First Paragraph, Tuesday Intros.  This week's intro is from Dogtown a Sanctuary for Rescued Dogs by Best Friends Animal Society:

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, at the heart of southern Utah's national parks, is home on any given day to some 2,000 abused and abandoned dogs, cats, and other animals.  As the word sanctuary implies, Best Friends is a haven for these animals -- the largest no-kill sanctuary in the country.  In addition to taking animals from other shelters and rescue groups, Best Friends employs its own Rapid Response teams to conduct rescues after natural disasters and other major events that put animals in jeopardy.  Dogs with special needs, such as those from closed-down puppy mills or dog fighting rings, benefit from Best Friends' expert medical evaluation, and training programs at Dogtown, the canine section of the sanctuary.  In 2007 Best Friends was entrusted with the care and rehabilitation of 22 of the dogs rescued from Michael Vick.  Many of the rescued animals need just a few weeks before they are ready to go to new home; others who are sicker or older or have suffered extreme trauma find a home at the sanctuary for the rest of their lives. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Mailbox Monday -- June 4th!

Welcome to Mailbox Monday which is hosted this month by by Alternative-Read. Below are the books I received this week:

1) Fearless by Eric Blehm.  Publisher's Summary When Navy SEAL Adam Brown woke up on March 17, 2010, he didn’t know he would die that night in the Hindu Kush Mountains of Afghanistan—but he was ready: In a letter to his children, not meant to be seen unless the worst happened, he wrote, “I’m not afraid of anything that might happen to me on this earth, because I know no matter what, nothing can take my spirit from me.”

Long before Adam Brown became a member of the elite SEAL Team SIX—the counterterrorism unit that took down Osama bin Laden—he was a fun-loving country boy from Hot Springs, Arkansas, whose greatest goal had been to wear his high school’s football jersey. An undersized daredevil, prone to jumping off roofs into trees and off bridges into lakes, Adam was a kid who broke his own bones but would never break a promise to his parents. But after high school, Adam fell in with the wrong crowd and his family watched as his appetite for risk dragged him into a downward spiral that eventually landed him in jail. Battling his inner demons on a last-chance road to redemption, Adam had one goal: to become the best of the best—a US Navy SEAL.

An absorbing chronicle of heroism and humanity, Fearless presents an indelible portrait of a highly trained warrior who would enter a village with weapons in hand to hunt terrorists, only to come back the next day with an armload of shoes and meals for local children. It is a deeply personal, revealing glimpse inside the SEAL Team SIX brotherhood that also shows how these elite operators live out the rest of their lives, away from danger, as husbands, fathers and friends.

Fearless is the story of a man of extremes, whose courage and determination was fueled by faith, family, and the love of a woman. It’s about a man who waged a war against his own worst impulses and persevered to reach the top tier of the US military. Always the first to volunteer for the most dangerous assignments, Adam’s final act of bravery led to the ultimate sacrifice.

Adam Brown was a devoted man who was an unlikely hero but a true warrior, described by all who knew him as fearless.

 2) The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. by Nichole Bernier.  Publisher's Summary. Summer vacation on Great Rock Island was supposed to be a restorative time for Kate, who’d lost her close friend Elizabeth in a sudden accident. But when she inherits a trunk of Elizabeth's journals, they reveal a woman far different than the cheerful wife and mother Kate thought she knew.

 The complicated portrait of Elizabeth—her troubled upbringing, and her route to marriage and motherhood—makes Kate question not just their friendship, but her own deepest beliefs about loyalty and honesty at a period of uncertainty in her own marriage.

The more Kate reads, the more she learns the complicated truth of who Elizabeth really was, and rethinks her own choices as a wife, mother, and professional, and the legacy she herself would want to leave behind. When an unfamiliar man’s name appears in the pages, Kate realizes the extent of what she didn’t know about her friend, including where she was really going on the day she died.

Set in the anxious summer after the September 11th attacks, this story of two women—their friendship, their marriages, private ambitions and fears—considers the aspects of ourselves we show and those we conceal, and the repercussions of our choices.

Both thanks to Random House!

3) Serpent's Kiss by Melissa de la Cruz. Publisher's Summary. Joanna and her daughters, bookish Ingrid and wild-child Freya, are just settling into the newfound peace that has been cast over their small, off-the map town of North Hampton. With the centuries-old restriction against practicing magic lifted, casting spells, mixing potions, and curing troubled souls has never felt so good for the three witches. That is, until everything gets turned upside down—from Joanna’s organized kitchen to Ingrid’s previously non existent love life to Freya’s once unshakeable faith in her sexy soul mate, Killian Gardiner.

When Freya’s twin brother, Freddie, suddenly returns, escaped from Limbo and professing innocence on a long-ago crime, Freya should be ecstatic. The golden boy can do no wrong. Or can he? Freddie blames no other than her fiancĂ© Killian for his downfall, and enlists Freya’s help to prove it. Now Freya doesn’t know who to believe or trust.And for the first time in—well,forever really—Ingrid is also busy in love. Matt Noble, the handsome and charming police detective, has won her heart. But can romance work between a virgin witch and a mortal who doesn’t believe in magic? Things get even more complicated when it appears Ingrid is harboring the prime suspects in Matt’s police investigation.

To add to the chaos, a dead spirit is attempting to make contact with Joanna—but does it mean to bring harm or help? Joanna asks her sort-of ex-husband Norman to help figure it out, only to accidentally invite him to a Thanksgiving dinner with a dapper gentleman she’s recently begun dating.

As the witches pull together to discover the serpent within their midst and the culprit behind Freddie’s imprisonment, everything is thrown into peril. Will the discovery come too late to save those they love most?

Thanks to Hyperion!