The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

Sometimes I am overcome with the urge to walk the shelves and immerse myself in books. It centers me, lets me interact more with patrons, and also check the condition of books. With the recent closure of the Library to patrons, I found myself searching for books that I remembered patrons telling me to read. Up popped The Hating Game by Sally Thorne. Thorne was mentioned to me by a regular who thought I would enjoy a contemporary romance. She was right!

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne tells the story of two publishing companies, Gamin Publishing and Bexley Books, that are forced to merge in order to survive, as well as the people affected by this merger. Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeton find themselves squaring off a daily basis as a direct result of this. Lucy and Joshua are executive assistants to the co-CEOs of the newly merged publishing company. The two are not friends, to put it nicely. They may have similar jobs, but that doesn’t mean they have to like each other. In fact, Lucy and Joshua hate each other and they aren’t shy about saying so. They show their feelings through passive aggressive games they play throughout the day, constantly working to frustrate and intimidate each other.

This status quo of hate and frustration continues on until their bosses announce a new job opening in the company. Lucy and Joshua are both put up for the promotion that will result in one being the other’s boss. Things couldn’t get worse. Even more consumed with beating the other, tensions rise until their dynamic abruptly shifts with an unexpected kiss. Both up for promotion, this high-stakes game of professional sabotage ratchets up as the two struggle with whether or not the feelings they have for each other are real or if this is instead another game.

I found The Hating Game to be serious, sharp, funny, full of happiness, and chock full of delicious chemistry and tender moments. This office romance about two sworn enemies had me hooked from the beginning and hoping that the two would end up together. Give this book a read (or a listen) and let me know what you thought about it in the comments below.

According to author Sally Thorne’s websiteThe Hating Game is being made into a movie starring Lucy Hale, Robbie Amell, and Gina Torres as revealed in 2019. Hopefully that comes to fruition!


This book is also available in the following formats:

Long Range by C. J. Box

Have you ever found a book series that was so immersive that when you finished one book, you immediately picked up the next in the series? Sometimes there’s a cliffhanger that needs resolution or you’ve become so invested in the characters you don’t want to let go. The Lord of the Ring series by J.R.R. Tolkien or the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon are good examples. For me it’s always been the Master and Commander series by Patrick O’Brian (and omg, don’t get me started on these books – I’ll talk your ear off!) Now I’ve added another to my favorites – the Joe Pickett series by C. J. Box.

Joe Picket is a game warden in the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming. He keeps an eye on the wildlife and makes sure hunting and fishing are done legally. He often teams up with his friend Nate Romanaski, a falconer who sometimes tiptoes the legal line. In Long Range, Joe is drawn into the investigation of a case where a local woman has been shot from a very long distance, a shot that would require specialized equipment and a particular set of skills. The woman is active in the community and liked by everyone, but her husband is a controversial local judge and has made more than one enemy. Was this a case of the wrong person being shot? If so, was the shooter going to try again? And who would have the skill and knowledge to make that kind of shot?

Because of Joe’s knowledge of the area and the locals, he is put on the sheriff’s task force. When Nate is falsely accused and arrested, Joe’s task becomes two-fold – finding the murderer and clearing his friend.

Long Range is number 20 in this series (I read the first 19 in the series last fall – I warned you, they’re addictive!) and the quality shows no signs of declining. The mystery is tight and suspenseful, the writing is sharp, crisp and evocative and the characters are multi-layered and interesting. Box touches on a wide range of topics from falconry, to marksmanship to environmental protection and responsibility. The rugged scenery of Wyoming serves as a stunning backdrop and Joe’s unwavering love of his family, loyalty to his friends and his unbending moral code act as the center of this series. Highly recommended.

 

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

A beautiful Victorian house situated in an upscale Philadelphia neighborhood becomes the focal point for a family broken by secrets and jealousy in Ann Patchett’s newest book The Dutch House.

Danny Conroy is just six when his mother leaves and never returns. His father is withdrawn and taciturn – not a model of warmth and caring. However, his sister Maeve, who is 12 when their mother leaves, steps in and becomes his greatest ally. The bond between the siblings is very strong and loving and only strengthens when, out of the blue, their father remarries.

The new stepmother, Andrea arrives with her two little girls. The kids all get along fairly well, but Andrea has no interest in Danny and Maeve and works diligently to exclude them from the family.  Maeve is moved from her favored large bedroom to an smaller room so that one of the little girls can have it and the housekeepers, who helped raise Danny and Maeve, are shunted aside. Their father becomes more and more distant, finding as many excuses as possible to be absent.

The Dutch house (as it is known in the neighborhood) stands central to all of these trials. Built by old money, their father purchased it with all of the furniture and family portraits of the former owners included. It was a symbol to Danny and Maeve’s father of his success, but it was also, with it’s overwhelming opulence and expensive furnishings, what drove their mother away. Andrea married their father because she wanted the house and the status that it gave her.  When Danny and Maeve are forced to leave the house it haunts them for years.

Now, this all sounds pretty glum and it’s true that the book is sometimes sad, but it is also about forgiveness, redemption and letting go of the past. I loved the relationship between Danny and Maeve, a brother-sister duo that rang true – great loyalty and love but they also aren’t afraid to poke at each other. Patchett’s writing style is lovely – smooth and graceful but never fussy. Her characters are like us – smart and funny and flawed, but never beyond saving. Read this for the intriguing story, the gorgeous writing and an ending that brings hope and recovery.

 

I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella

Sophie Kinsella was one of my favorite authors in high school. I stopped reading her when I went away to college, but recently started reading her books again when I discovered her newest book, I Owe You One.

I Owe You One tells the story of Fixie Farr. For as long as she can remember, Fixie has felt the urgent need to put things right. If a friend needs help, if a shelf is stained, if a picture is crooked, Fixie has to fix it. She starts to fidget, bouncing and moving around until things are back to normal.

This trait is something that her friends and family members often take advantage of, but Fixie has trouble acknowledging this. Ever since her father died, Fixie started to take his motto: ‘Family First’ even more to heart. If any family member asks for help, she is always willing to help for anything.

Stopping at a coffee shop on her way home, a handsome stranger asks her to watch his laptop so he can step out to take a call. Fixie agrees and actually ends up saving the laptop from destruction. As a result, the grateful owner Sebastian writes an IOU on a coffee sleeve, attaches his business card to it, and tells Fixie that he owes her and to let him know how he can help her. Fixie does not believe that this was genuine and laughs off his offer. She would never accept an IOU from a complete stranger.

When she arrives back home, her childhood crush Ryan shows up unexpectedly. Ryan is having a hard time getting a job, believing that he deserves much more than a mediocre job since he used to work in Hollywood. Learning that Seb owes Fixie a favor, they decide to ask Seb to give Ryan a job.

Seb and Fixie begin to have a relationship as IOUs flow back and forth between the two. These range from small insignificant and life-changing ones. Throughout all of these interactions, Fixie finds herself wanting to leave her current ‘family first’ focused life to find a life that makes herself happier. As tensions come to a head and her mother’s return home from a long vacation looms closer, Fixie realizes that she must make a change if she wants her family to start taking her seriously.

I enjoyed listening to this book. Watching Fixie grow throughout this book and seeing her character develop had me rooting that she would get the life that she wanted. Give this a read and let me know what you think.


This book is also available in the following formats:

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

Ruth Ware is a suspenseful mystery author who has consistently put out a new bestseller every year since 2015. Her newest book, The Turn of the Key,  takes the idea of a ‘smart’ home and juxtaposes that high modernity against the ruggedly beautiful Scottish Highlands.

Rowan Caine wasn’t looking for a new job when she stumbled upon the advertisement online looking for a new live-in nanny. The description made the job sound too good to be true. Being a nanny to a wealthy family living in the Scottish Highlands sounded like a dream, plus the pay didn’t hurt. Heading out to the interview, Rowan becomes increasingly nervous when she arrives at Heatherbrae to see all the technology that essentially runs the home for you. After getting the job, Rowan moves in to Heatherbrae and everything starts to change.

The family is made up of three young girls, an older girl away at boarding school, a father seldom home, and a mother with never-ending boundless energy. Throw in two rambunctious big dogs and a handsome handyman and Rowan can’t comprehend why the family has such a hard time keeping a nanny. As soon as she moves in, Rowan begins to struggle with learning the technology that runs the home. Even the simplest tasks are controlled through hidden panels in each room. Consoling herself with the fact that the mom will be around for a few weeks to help her establish a routine with the girls, Rowan is shocked when both mom and dad take off the day after she arrives, leaving her alone with the children, the dogs, and the increasingly creepy house.

Desperate to show she is capable, Rowan tries to do her best. It doesn’t take long before she begins to question her decision to take this job. Strange noises in the night and notes left around for her to find combined with the house’s technology seeming to revolt against her at every inopportune moment leave Rowan shaky and shattered. The housekeeper doesn’t like Rowan, plus one of the children, Maddie, is becoming increasingly difficult and is acting like it is her life’s mission to make Rowan miserable. The noises from the attic above keep her awake throughout the night, affecting her sleep and her ability to care for the three youngest children. When the oldest girl, Rhiannon, arrives home from boarding school, Rowan’s life slips from bad to worse when Rhiannon starts acting out and disappearing for hours and sometimes all night. Once Rhiannon begins digging into Rowan’s past and finds her secrets, Rowan begins to wonder how and if she will survive her time at Heatherbrae.


This book is available in the following formats:

I Know You Know by Gilly MacMillan

Gilly MacMillan released her first book, What She Knew, in 2015. I have been a fan of her books as she writes thrilling psychological suspense. I read a lot of books in this genre, so I know that although many people write thrillers, it takes a lot for them to succeed in crafting a story where readers do not guess the ending. MacMillan’s 2018 release I Know You Know ended with a twist that I didn’t see coming.

I Know You Know is the story of the murders of Charlie Paige and Scott Ashby that happened twenty years ago. The city of Bristol was rocked by the murders of those two young boys whose bodies were dumped and subsequently discovered near a dog racing track in town. Police believed that they found the man responsible and successfully convicted him, but years later, residents around town still have questions that have never been answered.

Cody Swift was best friends with young Charlie and Scott all those years ago. He isn’t satisfied with the conclusion that the police came to and decided to head back to his hometown of Bristol to seek out the truth himself. Cody is planning to record his findings and release them on his new podcast, Time to Tell.

At present at a construction site near where the boys were discovered twenty years ago, human remains have been found. DI John Fletcher, one of the police who found the boys, is left to wonder if the remains found have any connection to what happened to the boys.

Charlie’s mother Jessica Page is not thrilled that Cody is back in town poking through old wounds. The remains just found are also bringing the police back to her door. Jessie has secrets that she would like to stay hidden, but Cody seems determined to shed light all over her past. Jessie isn’t the broken woman that she was all those years ago. She is now married with a 16-year-old daughter and has no desire to relive that trauma from so long ago.

This novel transitions back and forth between both investigations: the original about the boys and the new one focusing on the recently discovered remains along with the possible connection to the boys. While I enjoyed the back and forth between the two as well as the addition of the podcast format, I did have trouble differentiating between the past and the present while listening to the audiobook. The print version highlights the parts about the old case, but that did not translate to the audio, and as a result it was sometimes difficult to tell when something happened. I adjusted to this issue and was able to finish the book, but be aware if you decide to give this a listen!


This book is also available in the following formats:

Online Reading Challenge – January Finish

Hello Fellow Readers!

We’ve reached the end of January and the finish of our first month of the 2020 Online Reading Challenge. How was your reading month? Were you able to find a good book or watch a movie somehow related to our theme of Casablanca?

I had an very good January, reading the excellent The Last Train to London by Meg Clayton, a remarkable story of courage and determination during the dark times just before and during the early years of World War II.

The book opens in the late 1930s when Hitler’s rise to power is throwing a dark cloud over Europe. The world watches in disbelief as threats against Jews grow but Truss Wijsmuller, a Dutch woman, is not standing by; she begins escorting Jewish children out of Austria to safety at great danger to herself. Most of the children are orphans, but as conditions worsen, parents begin making the heartrending decision to send their children away, desperate to protect them.

At first the Jews of Vienna believe they are safe – after all they have been loyal Austrians for generations and many no longer practice the Jewish faith. Vienna has long been a center of art and sophistication, Mozart and opera – surely nothing bad will happen here. However, within days of Anschluss (the annexation of Austria by Germany), the rights of Jewish citizens have been stripped, their property and businesses seized and families forced from their homes.

The Last Train to London depicts real events, part of the Kindertransport rescue that saved nearly 10,000 children’t from Nazi-occupied Europe. Truus Wijsmuller was a real person, known to the children as Tante Truus, kind and warm-hearted but with the courage and determination to confront Adolf Eichmann (who was the creator of the “Jewish solution” that sent millions to their death) and insist that he allow 600 children to leave and immigrate to England. Clayton personalizes the novel by telling a story of two young adults caught up in the chaos and despair – Stephan, son of a wealthy Jewish businessman and Zofie, the daughter of an anit-Nazi journalist. Their fate becomes entwined with Tante Truus and a nearly impossible dream to escape. This is a white-knuckle, can’t-put-down novel of both the horrors humans are capable of, and of the great kindness and compassion of ordinary people. Highly recommended.

OK, now it’s your turn – what did you read this month? Let us know in the comments!

 

The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo

   The Most Fun We Ever Had  by Claire Lombardo tells the story of multiple generations of one family. The two people at the head of the family have been deeply in love for over forty years and aren’t afraid to show affection. Their four daughters may grow weary of their constant love, but this novel highlights each person’s connections to the other and how old rivalries may have the power to shatter the carefully built lives they have all built over the years.

Marilyn Connolly and David Sorenson met and fell in love in the 1970s. Growing their marriage and their family, the two don’t have any idea the paths that their lives will travel down.  In present day 2016, Marilyn and David have four daughters who couldn’t be more different than each other: Wendy, Violet, Liza, and Grace.

Told through a series of flashbacks that eventually line up with the present, readers are privy to the ever-expanding lives of each member of the Sorenson family. I listened to the audiobook version of this book and enjoyed the many characters as they allowed me to form a more three-dimensional, multi-faceted portrait of the family as a whole.

Wendy, the oldest daughter, spent years dealing with body issues, was widowed young, and has found the only way to gain comfort in life is through increasing amounts of alcohol and lithe younger men.

Violet is Wendy’s Irish twin. Born less than a year after Wendy, Violet had big dreams of being a lawyer and was able to become one. Soon after though, Violet switched gears to being a stay-at-home mom and circumstances converge to bring her self-doubt, family issues, and anxiety to all time highs as her biggest secret comes back to haunt her.

Liza, the third daughter, has finally become a tenured professor. If only her boyfriend would get help for his depression and leave the apartment, Liza’s life would be infinitely better. When Liza discovers that she’s pregnant, she is forced to confront whether or not she and her boyfriend actually work together anymore.

Grace is forever the baby. Born nine years after Liza, Grace is struggling to find her place. After an innocent lie gets bigger and bigger, she finds herself having to settle down and live in the lie even though it’s eating her up inside.

The arrival of teenage Jonah Bendt into the Sorensons’ lives upsets the delicate balance the family has been living for years. This novel follows the first year after Jonah shows up, as well as flashing back to many other years and life-changing events that helped form them into the people they are today. Marked by the highest highs and the lowest lows, the Sorensons’ pasts are forever tied together even if they want to be separate.


This book is also available in the following formats:

Mobituaries by Mo Rocca

It might seem a bit morbid to be reading a whole book of obituaries, but in the hands of Mo Rocca it becomes a chance to celebrate the contributions of these people, many of whom are nearly forgotten footnotes to history. Mo teases out interesting little-known facts, explores backgrounds and upbringing, delves into personality quirks to paint a dynamic, multi-faceted portrait of each subject.

Some of Mobituaries more famous subjects include Thomas Paine, whose pamphlet “Common Sense” helped fuel the American Revolution but died in obscurity (apparently he wasn’t a very pleasant person and had no friends by the time he died); Audrey Hepburn who grew up in Holland and nearly died of starvation during the German occupation in World War II (although Hepburn was not Jewish, she felt a close kinship with Anne Frank who was the same age as Hepburn); and Billy Carter who, briefly, became almost as famous as his brother Jimmy and cultivated a country bumpkin manner that hid a sharp and thoughtful mind (there is an interesting quote from President Carter regarding his brother that kind of sums up their relationship). There’s Lawrence Welk who, despite what you think when you hear his accent, was not German at all, but born and raised in North Dakota; and Chang and Eng Bunker, the original Siamese twins, who overcame great hardship and exploitation to become astute businessmen and raise large families.

Mobituaries also looks at the less famous that should be remembered for their contributions such as Elizabeth Jennings who has sometimes been called the Rosa Parks of New York City for breaking the color barrier on streetcars (among other accomplishments) or the first African American men elected to Congress (if you think that must of happened in the 1950s or 60s, you’re wrong; it happened in 1870).

And it’s not just people! Mo pays tribute to the station wagon and it’s demise, the disappearance of the country of Prussia and medical practices that have been debunked among other subjects. He includes the sad deaths of the Live Oaks of Toomer’s Corner, two famous trees that stood at the entrance of the University of Auburn’s campus. A center for celebrations when the Auburn Tigers won a game (especially against bitter rival Alabama), they were poisoned by a jealous Alabama fan and despite great effort, the trees perished.

Throughout the book, Mo is calm and non-judgmental, a good interviewer and listener, always with a dash of humor. He seems to be delighted in finding quirks and celebrates the courage and determination of many of his subjects. You’ll find lots of history and trivia in this book as well as an exploration of that strange creature, the human, with all their flaws and strengths, in good times and bad.

I also highly recommend Mo Rocca’s podcast, also called Mobituaries, where he reports on these stories and many others.

Outfox by Sandra Brown

Sandra Brown is a well-known and prolific author of romantic suspense. She is also one of my go-to authors when I’m not sure what I want to read, but I need something that will keep my attention. Her latest kept me engaged from start to finish and had an ending that I didn’t see coming.

Outfox  by Sandra Brown tells the story of one man’s quest to capture a serial killer and another man’s desperate need to never be caught. Drex Easton has been hunting a serial killer for most of his adult life. For 30 plus years, he has been struggling to find a man that he last knew as Weston Graham. Weston is a sociopathic conman who has assumed many names and even more disguises over the past thirty years. So far, he has lured and tricked eight wealthy women out of their vast fortunes. These women then disappeared without a trace, along with Weston. Looking into the disappearances, the only commonality Drex sees is that a new man comes into each woman’s life before their disappearance. The man, who Drex believes to be Weston, then vanishes and leaves behind no trace that he even existed.

Drex is convinced that each of these women have been murdered and that Weston is the mysterious man responsible. Every time he gets close to capturing Weston though, he slips away, leaving Drex frustrated and with another dead woman left behind. Using countless tools at his disposal, Drex is now convinced that he has finally found Weston and is working hard to gain his trust.

Jasper Ford is attractive and charming. Having just married a successful businesswoman significantly younger than him named Talia Shafer, Ford ticks off many of the things that makes Drex believe that he is in fact Weston Graham. Desperate to save Talia from death, Drex moves to the town where the couple lives and begins insinuating himself into their lives. He starts surveillance on their house, posing as a neighbor researching a new book that he is writing. The closer Drex gets to the couple, the more he becomes convinces that Jasper is in fact that sociopath that he has been hunting for years.

Drex has only one chance to catch Jasper Ford and prove that he is in fact Weston Graham, but the attraction that he feels towards Talia threatens to destroy all the hard work that he has put in. Relying on help from his friends and hiding from the ire of others, Drex works diligently to prove Jasper’s guilt and Talia’s innocence.


This book is available in the following formats: