Thursday, April 19, 2018

Review: You Think It, I'll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld

Blurb from Goodreads:
A dazzling collection of short stories from the New York Times bestselling author of Prep, American Wife, and Eligible

Curtis Sittenfeld has established a reputation as a sharp chronicler of the modern age who humanizes her subjects even as she skewers them. Now, with this first collection of short fiction, her “astonishing gift for creating characters that take up residence in readers’ heads” (The Washington Post) is showcased like never before.

Throughout the ten stories in You Think It, I’ll Say It, Sittenfeld upends assumptions about class, relationships, and gender roles in a nation that feels both adrift and viscerally divided. In “The World Has Many Butterflies,” married acquaintances play a strangely intimate game with devastating consequences. In “Vox Clamantis in Deserto,” a shy Ivy League student learns the truth about a classmate’s seemingly enviable life. In “A Regular Couple,” a high-powered lawyer honeymooning with her husband is caught off guard by the appearance of the girl who tormented her in high school. And in “The Prairie Wife,” a suburban mother of two fantasizes about the downfall of an old friend whose wholesome lifestyle-brand empire may or may not be built on a lie.

With moving insight and uncanny precision, Curtis Sittenfeld pinpoints the questionable decisions, missed connections, and sometimes extraordinary coincidences that make up a life. Indeed, she writes what we’re all thinking—if only we could express it with the wit of a master satirist, the storytelling gifts of an old-fashioned raconteur, and the vision of an American original.
My Review:
I am always skeptical about short stories but this is one collection about which I can say, READ THIS! So good, so true.  Not only did I laugh out loud but it all felt so real.  Each story is pretty short and the entire collection is an easy read in an afternoon.  But I am still thinking about these stories and I know I'll re-read this collection, often.  Curtis Sittenfeld has this crazy talent and ability to express your inner most-cringeworthy thoughts and feelings in a way that feels like you wrote it yourself and it's nothing to be ashamed of.  I love these stories.

You Think It, I'll Say It comes out next week on April 24, 2018, you can purchase HERE!  Definitely give this is a try even if you don't love short stories!!
Their deliberately childless life, their cat, Converse (named not for the shoe but for the political scientist), their free-range beef and night sand weekends of reading and grading and high-quality television seriesit was fine and a little horrible. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Review: My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan

Blurb from Goodreads:
Major Motion Picture Already in Development with Temple Hill Entertainment

Set amidst the breathtaking beauty of Oxford, this sparkling debut novel tells the unforgettable story about a determined young woman eager to make her mark in the world and the handsome man who introduces her to an incredible love that will irrevocably alter her future—perfect for fans of JoJo Moyes and Nicholas Sparks.

American Ella Durran has had the same plan for her life since she was thirteen: Study at Oxford. At 24, she’s finally made it to England on a Rhodes Scholarship when she’s offered an unbelievable position in a rising political star’s presidential campaign. With the promise that she’ll work remotely and return to DC at the end of her Oxford year, she’s free to enjoy her Once in a Lifetime Experience. That is, until a smart-mouthed local who is too quick with his tongue and his car ruins her shirt and her first day.

When Ella discovers that her English literature course will be taught by none other than that same local, Jamie Davenport, she thinks for the first time that Oxford might not be all she’s envisioned. But a late-night drink reveals a connection she wasn’t anticipating finding and what begins as a casual fling soon develops into something much more when Ella learns Jamie has a life-changing secret.

Immediately, Ella is faced with a seemingly impossible decision: turn her back on the man she’s falling in love with to follow her political dreams or be there for him during a trial neither are truly prepared for. As the end of her year in Oxford rapidly approaches, Ella must decide if the dreams she’s always wanted are the same ones she’s now yearning for.
My Review:
UGH. In one sentence, wait for the movie.  And it pains me to say that because movies NEVER compare to books but this one almost felt like it was written just to become a movie rather than to be a book for its own sake.  Maybe I didn't fall in love with this because it was too much like real life to me.  I went to England and lived there for two years for graduate school, and in English literature (although our time periods varied). Without giving too much else of the plot away, I also know was Ella had to go through.  I don't know - this just took too long in some parts and then sped up in other parts, glossing over important plot points.  I think it will be better done as a movie.  The question is whether I will even bother to see it?  Right now, the jury is still out.

My Oxford Year comes out soon on April 24, 2018, and you can purchase HERE.  
I wish I could say that Oxford smells like parchment and cinnamon or something poetic, but right now it just smells like city: bus diesel, damp pavement, and the aroma of French roast wafting form the coffee shop across the street. 

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Review: One Way or Another by Colleen Coleman

Blurb from Goodreads:
Twenty-nine-year-old Katie Kelly is at an all-time low. The love of her life, gorgeous Ben Cole, took a job abroad and broke her heart, the restaurant she’d put her all into went bust, and now she works in a retirement home, cooking beige mush for the residents. 

Not exactly the life Katie had dreamed of… 

So when the opportunity comes up to work for one of the best chefs in the country – Katie’s idol – she is determined to get the job, no matter what. But then she discovers who she’s competing against: Ben, who Katie still isn’t over. 

As the competition heats up, Katie and Ben spend more and more time together, and it’s clear the old spark is still there… But only one person can win their perfect job. Can Katie have it all, or will she have to choose between the man and the career she loves? 

A hilarious, heart-warming story about romance, good food, and following your dreams, for fans of Lindsey Kelk, Marian Keyes and Cate Woods. 

My Review:
I liked this one a lot!  It was sort of Hell's Kitchen meets Top Chef meets Hallmark movie.  What I really appreciated, however, was the second chance romance.  It was not only technical re: cooking and didn't skimp on those sorts of details but it was really well written to give a full background of the characters.  I really liked Katie.  She was such a strong and multi-dimensional character.  I think the ending was a bit abrupt in some ways but, overall, this was a great read.  It was funny, romantic and had a depth you don't often find in romances.

One Way or Another comes out later this month on April 26, 2018 and you can purchase HERE. I definitely recommend this for fans of Marian Keyes, Sophie Kinsella or Jill Mansell.  This one reminded me a bit of Recipe for Love by Katie Fforde so definitely check that one out, too, if you haven't previously read it.
There was such relief in coming clean, in being open with her, in not pretending that everything is perfect when it's not. I never realised how exhausting being defensive can be, being constantly on guard and fighting unfounded, imagined judgements that only ever existed in my own head. Constantly pre-empting criticism and formulating answers to protect myself when the trust was that those who cared about me just wanted me to be happy. Not perfect, not ultra-successful, not the best: just happy.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Review: The Husband Hour by Jamie Brenner

Blurb from Goodreads:
When a young widow's reclusive life in a charming beach town is interrupted by a surprise visitor, she is forced to reckon with dark secrets about her family, her late husband, and the past she tried to leave behind.

Lauren Adelman and her high school sweetheart, Rory Kincaid, are a golden couple. They marry just out of college as Rory, a star hockey player, earns a spot in the NHL. Their future could not look brighter when Rory shocks everyone-Lauren most of all-by enlisting in the U.S. Army. When Rory dies in combat, Lauren is left devastated, alone, and under unbearable public scrutiny. 

Seeking peace and solitude, Lauren retreats to her family's old beach house on the Jersey Shore. But this summer she's forced to share the house with her overbearing mother and competitive sister. Worse, a stranger making a documentary about Rory tracks her down and persuades her to give him just an hour of her time.

One hour with filmmaker Matt Brio turns into a summer of revelations, surprises, and upheaval. As the days grow shorter and her grief changes shape, Lauren begins to understand the past-and to welcome the future.
My Review:
I liked this a lot.  Be forewarned: there is some dram and some that I was not expecting but it wasn't tawdry or trite.  This author has a way of capturing a scene that is so spot on - between the setting and the motion.  Lauren is one of my favorite characters that I've read in a while. I just instantly got her POV and perspective.  This was well written and so well formulated.  I definitely recommend this for a summer read - it's not exactly light but it is thoroughly enjoyable!   

The Husband Hour comes out soon on April 24, 2018, and you can purchase HERE. You can read my review of this author's book from last summer, The Forever Summer, HERE -- She is definitely becoming a must-read for me!
The first challenge of her journalism education would be getting up the nerve to talk to him. And then she remembered the Katharine Graham memoir and some advice Graham's mother had given her: "Be a newspaperwoman, Kay, if only for the excuse it gives you to seek out at once the object of any sudden passion."

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Review: Sophia of Silicon Valley by Anna Yen

Blurb from Goodreads:
A brilliant young Asian woman navigates the thrilling world of Silicon Valley in the boom years of the tech industry, working for some of the greatest minds of our time, including Steve Jobs and Elon Musk, in this a fast-paced satirical, and revealing novel—drawn from the author’s own experiences—in the spirit of The Devil Wears Prada, Primates of Park Avenue, and Bond Girl

The daughter of successful Taiwanese immigrants, Sophia Young has always spoken her mind, and in Silicon Valley, that turns out to be her greatest asset—especially when she’s often the only woman in a room. As companies like Apple, Google, Tesla, and Oracle are beginning to revolutionize the world, Sophia lucks into a job that puts her directly in the path of Scott Kraft, the eccentric founder of a groundbreaking software company and CEO of an animated film studio that is transforming the art.

As Scott’s right hand woman, the incorrigibly outspoken Sophia is in the eye of the storm—a thrilling and terrifying position that challenges her, threatens her relationships and even her health, yet ultimately teaches her how to take charge of her own future. But when engineer and inventor Andre Stark hires her to run investor relations, Sophia starts to question whether the big paycheck and high-status career are worth living in a boys-club gone bad.

Sharp, dramatic, and full of insider dish, Sophia of Silicon Valley is an engrossing story of a professional woman storming the corridors of geek power and—and the price of living in the shadows of its eccentric maestros.

My Review:
I really liked this - I was definitely pleasantly surprised!  It's rare that I am envious of the experiences of a character in a book but I have to say that Sophia is such a bad-ass!  I really loved this behind the scenes exploration into tech, Silicon Valley and investor relations.  I learned so much!  I really liked the writing, the POV, the pace of this - it made a quick read but not one that felt incomplete or unsatisfying.  I definitely will be on the look-out for more from this author!

Sophia of Silicon Valley comes out next week on April 10, 2018 and you can purchase HERE.
But, no matter how happy you are in your marriage--and, believe me, I was--marriage is real life and it's real work. There are bills to pay, taxes to figure, laundry to be done, decisions to make.  The love is real, but the stress is real, too. While I was deeply happy in my life with Carter, there was no doubt that my mind wandered every now and then to that simpler time 
I understand with every ounce of my being that this is why people have affairs; this is how they convince themselves that they are in love with someone else. It's easy to resurrect that forgotten feeling when you have no responsibilities.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Review: The Secret to Southern Charm (Peachtree Bluff #2) by Kristy Woodson Harvey

The Secret to Southern Charm (Peachtree Bluff #2) by Kristy Woodson Harvey

Blurb from Goodreads:
Leaving fans “practically [begging] for a sequel” (Bookpage), critically acclaimed author Kristy Woodson Harvey returns with the second novel in her beloved Peachtree Bluff series, featuring a trio of sisters and their mother who discover a truth that will change not only the way they see themselves, but also how they fit together as a family.

After finding out her military husband is missing in action, middle sister Sloane’s world crumbles as her worst nightmare comes true. She can barely climb out of bed, much less summon the strength to be the parent her children deserve.

Her mother, Ansley, provides a much-needed respite as she puts her personal life on hold to help Sloane and her grandchildren wade through their new grief-stricken lives. But between caring for her own aging mother, her daughters, and her grandchildren, Ansley’s private worry is that secrets from her past will come to light.

But when Sloane’s sisters, Caroline and Emerson, remind Sloane that no matter what, she promised her husband she would carry on for their young sons, Sloane finds the support and courage she needs to chase her biggest dreams—and face her deepest fears. Taking a cue from her middle daughter, Ansley takes her own leap of faith and realizes that, after all this time, she might finally be able to have it all.

My Review:
Although I was a bit tentative to start this one given how book 1 in this series ended, I am pleased to say that I loved this book even more than the first.  First, the characters are all so well developed.  Next, I love the alternating POV just as much as I did in the first book - so well written and seamless.  Finally, I love the setting.  Such a perfect beach read!  These books are not trite at all but they are so enjoyable even in the midst of hard times and a realistic portrayal of family.  I can't wait for book 3!

The Secret to Southern Charm comes out next week on April 3, 2018 and you can purchase HERE. You can read my review of the first book in this series HERE.
But, no matter how happy you are in your marriage--and, believe me, I was--marriage is real life and it's real work. There are bills to pay, taxes to figure, laundry to be done, decisions to make.  The love is real, but the stress is real, too. While I was deeply happy in my life with Carter, there was no doubt that my mind wandered every now and then to that simpler time 
I understand with every ounce of my being that this is why people have affairs; this is how they convince themselves that they are in love with someone else. It's easy to resurrect that forgotten feeling when you have no responsibilities.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Review: A Nantucket Wedding by Nancy Thayer

Blurb from Goodreads:
A few years after losing her beloved husband, Alison is doing something she never thought she would do again: getting married. While placing the finishing touches on her summer nuptials, Alison is anxious to introduce her fiancĂ©, David, to her grown daughters: Felicity, a worried married mother of two, and Jane, also married but focused on her career. The sisters have a somewhat distant relationship and Alison hopes that the wedding and the weeks leading up to the ceremony will give the siblings a chance to reconnect, as well as meet and get to know David’s grown children.

As the summer progresses, it is anything but smooth sailing. Felicity stumbles upon a terrible secret that could shatter her carefully cultivated world. Jane finds herself under the spell of her soon-to-be stepbrother, Ethan, who is as charming as he is mysterious. And even Alison is surprised (and slightly alarmed) by her new blended family. Revelations, intrigue, resentments—as the Big Day approaches, will the promise of bliss be a bust?
Against the gorgeous backdrop of the sunswept island of Nantucket, Nancy Thayer sets the stage for a walk down the aisle no one will ever forget.
My Review:
Ugh, this book was definitely lacking the charm and joy of previous works by this author. The characters were all misshapen in a way that made me dislike them - either because they were flippant about serious matters or changed convictions and personalities halfway through the book.  I didn't enjoy this like I normally enjoy summer books set on Nantucket. It made me sad - perhaps it was too real?  I'm not sure but I definitely wouldn't recommend starting with this one if you've never read a Nancy Thayer book before.  You can read my review of this author's 2017 summer book, here, and 2015's summer book, here.

A Nantucket Wedding comes out next week on April 3, 2018, and you can purchase HERE.
She was deeply disturbed by what her daughters had shared with her. She'd sat in the kitchen, listening as Felicity talked about Noah's relationship with his person assistant and Jane spoke of her desire for children and Scott's adamant refusal to consider it. The old instinctive need to protect her daughters rose within her, a tide as natural and unavoidable as the surf swelling up the ocean. These men! These ridiculous, blockheaded men, who had vowed to love her daughters and were now making them miserable. But what could Alison do? They were grown men; they couldn't be scolded or cajoled or even bribed into changing. Oh, why in the world did people get married?
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