Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Monday, August 30, 2010
Summary: When Hollywood entertainment lawyer Alex Hirsh starts hitting the gym and sporting Armani, his wife, Alice, chalks it up to a midlife crisis. But soon Alex—now the execrable Xander—is all over the tabloids, caught canoodling with his newest client, man-eating actress Rose Maris. Cue Alice's tears, rage, breakdown, followed by a bumpy and comic road to happiness, right? Yes and no: the novel walks a familiar path, but there are plenty of details to keep the story feeling fresh. Alice is entertainingly judgmental, and the new friends she makes as a divorcée are winning: there's Nancy, who wears horrible Hallmarky sweatshirts but curses a blue streak, and Ruth, a former porn star desperate to protect her son from her past. Naturally, there's a love interest for Alice, but the real love story is the one between Alice and her precocious six-year-old daughter. And it's their sweet, complicated relationship that lifts this tale above the slew of competing family dramas. ~amazon.com
Review: As soon as I picked up Pieces of Happily Ever After and read 10 pages, I knew I was going to really enjoy this book. After all it had me reeled in very quickly. Alice, aka Ally, is your typical mom...frazzled. She's got a smart 5 year old daughter who tests her at every turn and believes that fairy tales aren't stories but reality. Not only is she dealing with that but her beloved mother has Alzheimer's and is in a care facility. Her husband of 6 years, Alex, has been working late, working out and working with a a new client, superstar Rose Maris. Well you already know what happens, so that's not a shock but what surprised me was the direction that Ms. Zutell took in the novel.
For me this wasn't a typical "chick-lit" book about divorce or getting back at your husband, it was about making your own life. Ally soon found out that she didn't want to go back to work at an office, that she wanted to be home for and with Gabby. Ally begins to rely on friends that she wouldn't have otherwise met and they become her support group. She learns to not be so judgmental and open herself up to others.
The concept that I loved the most was that she quickly introduced the romantic interest but didn't revisit the storyline until the last part of the book. Ms. Zutell spends the majority of the book with Ally and Gabby and defining their relationship.
At times I felt that Gabby had her head in the clouds and neither of her parents did anything to rectify the situation. That being said, I have a 5 year old daughter, so I know it's not easy but having Gabby become a "pebble star" is probably my one thing that bothered me. I just think that not all kids who can sing, dance and dream are set to be stars. I get that they had the connections, it still just rung untrue for me.
If you are looking for a fun, thoughtful read for Labor Day weekend, then run out and get yourself Pieces of Happily Ever After. You'll finish it while at the beach.
Final Take: 4/5
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Review: This the second book of Josi S. Kilpack's the Sadie Hoffmiller Culinary Mystery series. I enjoyed this one even more than Lemon Tart, the first book in the series, because the story seemed to flow more freely.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Congratulations to Melissa for winning the $30 Amazon.com gift card and Sunflower bookmarks.
Please email me (Julie) your mailing address so we can send the bookmarks off to you as soon as possible. Thanks to all of you for participating.
Girls Just Reading uses Random.org to produce the winner.
Summary: Action-oriented readers will embrace this new thriller for its lively and fast-moving story, even as they may find the many familiar elements a little tiresome. The premise is simple: a crack team of National Transportation Safety Board experts investigate airplane crashes. Normally they take months to sift through wreckage and evidence, but this time they have mere days: if they can’t figure out what and who brought down CascadeAir Flight 818, more planes will fall from the sky. The lead characters, the Crashers, are cut from familiar molds: the hotshot engineer, the voice-recorder specialist, the veteran pathologist, and so on. They seem clearly designed as anchors for a series, but they need more fleshing out to make the transition from types to fully developed characters. The plot itself relies on familiar assembly-cast TV crime dramas, but it is well paced and generates plenty of tension. A solid debut that, with some fine-tuning, could become an engaging series.~amazon.com
Review: Are you flying soon? Are you afraid to fly? Then Crashers probably isn't for you because it'll just cause you to over-think about that plane you are on. Crashers was a very well written book, but it definitely gets into the weeds of an NTSB investigation. Frankly, I found that interesting and comforting. Comforting to know that plane crashes are thoroughly investigated. I have a feeling that if this becomes a series, the author will forgo a lot of the details since they were established here.
We are quickly introduced to the "Go-Team" of Kiki, Tommy, Susan, Walter, Peter and Jon, who are designated to drop everything when a plane crashes and get to the site. Each of these people have their own specialties which are intricate to an investigation. Tommy, is haunted by a crash that remains unsolved and had quit the NTSB but was quickly dragged in again.
As readers, we know what caused the crash but it's interesting to feel frustrated when it takes the team a bit to figure it out. Sometimes I find that it's better to reveal things as the characters find out so you don't think the characters are a bit slow on the uptake.
As interesting characters go, I would love a book on Daria. She's got a fantastic background and Mr. Haynes could definitely just write a book series on her.
There are a few twists and turns to the book and one that I wasn't expecting and actually a bit disappointed to find out but hey that's the nature of a thriller.
The ending of the book is a bit unrealistic but I suspend belief when reading fiction anyways.
Mr. Haynes novel is solid and a great read. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing if this will turn into a series.
I received the book through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers club.
Final Take: 3.75/5
Monday, August 23, 2010
As you guys have read here on GJR, I loved the book The Tale of Halcyon Crane. In fact, it's one of my three 5/5's for 2010 so far. You can check out my review here.
I was excited when the author, Wendy Webb, told me she was going to do a reading in Chicago. Sure, I don't live in the city, I am a burbs girl but I decided it was worth my drive to go down there. I'm so happy I did. Not only did I get to meet Wendy, who is just as awesome as I imagined but there were two other Great Lakes Authors: Susanna Daniel (Stiltsville)and Kelly O'Connor McNees (The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott).
All three author's read from their books and at the end they all took questions from the audience. Afterward, they all stuck around for more questions, book signings and pictures. I was lucky enough to get to talk to 2 of the three authors and Wendy signed my book! YAY!!
I'm sure other book bloggers will agree meeting authors is a bit like meeting rock stars. I know that I am in awe of them.
I also met the owner of The Book Cellar, Suzy and she was fantastic. She's extremely hospitable and even let me take pictures of the store to showcase here.
I encourage you, as readers, to check out local bookstores not only to support them but to meet authors and hear them read their craft.
Here are the pictures that I took that night. Enjoy!
Saturday, August 21, 2010
Summary: Gilbert (The Last American Man) grafts the structure of romantic fiction upon the inquiries of reporting in this sprawling yet methodical travelogue of soul-searching and self-discovery. Plagued with despair after a nasty divorce, the author, in her early 30s, divides a year equally among three dissimilar countries, exploring her competing urges for earthly delights and divine transcendence. First, pleasure: savoring Italy's buffet of delights--the world's best pizza, free-flowing wine and dashing conversation partners--Gilbert consumes la dolce vita as spiritual succor. "I came to Italy pinched and thin," she writes, but soon fills out in waist and soul. Then, prayer and ascetic rigor: seeking communion with the divine at a sacred ashram in India, Gilbert emulates the ways of yogis in grueling hours of meditation, struggling to still her churning mind. Finally, a balancing act in Bali, where Gilbert tries for equipoise "betwixt and between" realms, studies with a merry medicine man and plunges into a charged love affair. Sustaining a chatty, conspiratorial tone, Gilbert fully engages readers in the year's cultural and emotional tapestry--conveying rapture with infectious brio, recalling anguish with touching candor--as she details her exotic tableau with history, anecdote and impression.~amazon.com (refers to the novel)
Book to Movie Review: As you know I'm not a huge memoir fan, unless they make me laugh; so I've never read Eat, Pray, Love but when I saw that Julia Roberts and Javier Bardem were going to be in the movie, I knew I would see it. So, my sister took me to see it for a belated birthday movie. Who knew someone's personal journey to find themselves would be so moving? I certainly didn't expect it. I cried, I laughed, I cried some more. I love how Liz had the guts to take a year off and work on herself. Sure most of us don't have the luxury and it's a day in day out process, but if I did lose everything, I might pack up and go to Italy and Bali. I would skip India and go to Jerusalem for my "pray" part. See the India part is the the only part of the soul searching that didn't ring true for me. I thought she was still trying to find peace through her relationship with David and David was Hindu. Maybe, it's better flushed out in the book, but I wasn't sure if she was there for herself or for him. She did end up getting something out of it in the end.
It's hard for me to pick a favorite part because I enjoyed all of it. I will say that eventually, one way or another, I will get to Italy and I will enjoy every single morsel of food that I eat there. It is my life mission.
I did remark to my sister that Julia seems to have come into her own. I've always thought she was pretty but these days she's just positively radiant. Javier Bardem is so easy on the eyes but also a talented actor and the two of them had genuine chemistry.
Now, just because I really liked the movie, does it mean I'll go buy the memoir and read it? Nope. Again, I don't do memoirs and well my TBR list is just so huge I can't add anything more to it.
If you are looking for a movie to see with your friends, definitely check out Eat, Pray, Love; I don't think you'll be disappointed.
Book to Movie Final Take: 4/5
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Summary: A romance that stretches across centuries and past lives constitutes the core of Brashares's varied second adult novel, the first in a planned trilogy. The story is primarily that of Daniel, as, in the present, he pursues Lucy (whom he knows as Sophia in a previous life) and attempts to persuade her of their history and destiny, but his passion initially and understandably scares her off. He disappears, presumed dead, but Lucy, unable to forget him, investigates his claims of their history until she discovers the truth. Meanwhile, Daniel takes readers on a tour of romantic near-misses, from sixth-century Africa through eighth-century Turkey to WWI. The story moves slowly and predictably, though when a plot finally materializes, Brashares (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) manages some satisfying momentum, even if the story begins to feel like it's borrowed from a James Patterson novel. Brashares's insights into human nature, meanwhile, should appeal to readers who enjoyed The Time-Traveler's Wife, but can appreciate a Nicholas Sparks-esque sensibility. ~ Publishers Weekly
Review: I am a big fan of Ann Brashares’s Sisterhood series and I was really looking forward to her leap into women’s literature. I have to admit that her first attempt left me wanting however, from the first summary of My Name Is Memory I couldn’t wait to read this book.
In this story, our hero is Daniel who with each reincarnation remembers his past lives. In his first life, he meets a girl whom he shares an instant connection however, she is lost to him. He runs into her again in the 500s, this time as his brother’s wife Sophia. And this is where the love story begins. Well, that’s where it begins for Daniel but for Lucy it begins in 2004 where she meets fellow high school student Daniel whom she can’t stop thinking about.
It was so easy to fall in love with this book. Ms. Brashares magically weaves Daniel and Sophia’s love story through time. I’m a bit of a cynic and I completely believed her. I kept thinking about whom in my life I have known before and I don’t even believe in past lives.
I loved the character of Lucy. I loved getting to know her and watching her gain her identity through her discoveries. She was all things at once: confident and insecure, guarded and giving. This is my favorite thing about Lucy, “She went around with a broken heart, and she wasn’t sure who’d broken it. She thought it was herself, mostly.” As a fellow broken heart girl, I know exactly where she’s coming from.
I enjoyed reading Daniel’s point of view of his pursuit of love for Sophia, but there were times when I wanted him to get over it and stop living in the past. He was so focused on what happened that he couldn’t see what was right in front of him. He was all about Sophia saying, “She is my doing and my undoing.” Yeah, he’s fictional. Guys in real life aren’t as deep as, “I’ve always feared she would find completion without me, and I’d be around, stupid and unperfected, forever.” Well, at least not the ones I know.
I loved this book. It is well written, magical yet with a strand of reality weaved through it. I wished there was a man like Daniel following me through time, hoping to see me at every corner. This book was easily a 4, maybe even a 5. That is until I got to the ending, it not what I expected. There was so many ways Ms. Brashares could have gone only she didn’t. When I read that last sentence, I was so angry that I invested hours on this story. I was so mad, I couldn’t remember one redeeming factor. I finished this novel about a week ago and I am only now doing the review. You wouldn’t have wanted to read my initial one, it wouldn’t have been fair to Ms. Brashares or this story.
Now that I’ve had time to think of it as a whole, I believe that above all things, this is one of the greatest love stories ever told. It has so many great lines, I got so much from this. I loved that she wrote, “Hope was the thing you picked to happen, and fear was the thing you picked not to happen, and often with him they were blurred.” And even this one which describes how I felt reading it, or actually how we all feel about something we love, “As I’ve said, it’s desire more than anything else that keeps us coming back for more.”
This is a great story. A must read for all. I can’t imagine one person out there who won’t enjoy it. My one complaint is that the ending isn’t at all what I thought it would be. It’s not that it didn’t go in the direction I wanted it just…oh well, read and see for yourself. I am interested to hear what you think of it.
Final Take: 3/5
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Three years ago today, Girls Just Reading came into existence. To celebrate this momentous occasion, we are hosting a giveaway for our beloved readers! What's at stake? A $30 Amazon Gift Card and two of these beautifully designed hand-made bookmarks from our friend Kristin at Greeting Cards by Kristin Lee.
How do you enter? Just leave us a comment on the blog with the following information:
- One thing you like about our blog.
- An item you like on Kristin's site
- Your e-mail address. Be sure to type it out in a manner such that you don't receive spam i.e. jenn (at) girlsjustreadng (dot) com
- How you follow us (Twitter, Facebook, Google Reader, etc)
Monday, August 16, 2010
Finally, a decision has been made on who will play Lisbeth Salander. It is.....Rooney Mara. Did you say "who?" Yeah so did I. Apparently she's in Fincher's The Social Network and he was so impressed on her performance, he hired her for this film. Good thing it looks like she can pull it off.
Click here for the article and to see a picture of her.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
Summary: At fourteen, Nick Gautier thinks he knows everything about the world around him. Streetwise, tough and savvy, his quick sarcasm is the stuff of legends. . .until the night when his best friends try to kill him. Saved by a mysterious warrior who has more fighting skills than Chuck Norris, Nick is sucked into the realm of the Dark-Hunters: immortal vampire slayers who risk everything to save humanity.
Nick quickly learns that the human world is only a veil for a much larger and more dangerous one: a world where the captain of the football team is a werewolf and the girl he has a crush on goes out at night to stake the undead.
But before he can even learn the rules of this new world, his fellow students are turning into flesh eating zombies. And he’s next on the menu.
As if starting high school isn't hard enough. . .now Nick has to hide his new friends from his mom, his chainsaw from the principal, and keep the zombies and the demon Simi from eating his brains, all without getting grounded or suspended. How in the world is he supposed to do that?
Review: Infinity: Chronicles of Nick is the beginning of a YA series that serves as a prequel to Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunter adult series. This is a great "guy" YA book, even for boys that aren't big Readers ~ not that girls won't like it too, but there's a lot of YA out there that boys won't like. I haven't read the Dark Hunter series, but this book this certainly piqued my interest.
Final Take: 3.5/5
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Summary: Death lurks everywhere in Holloway's childhood. A neighbor boy accidentally shoots and kills a train conductor; a little girl is mowed down by a motorist. Her father's main hobby is filming grisly car wrecks and natural disasters, and her best friend's family runs the town mortuary. Observing the dead in their coffins, Monica wonders: would she be better off in a casket than alive in her parents' home? In this memoir, Holloway (an actress turned writer) tackles the horrifyingly familiar story of father/daughter incest: the secrecy that surrounds it and the ways it corrodes families from the inside out. Even though her memories of the abuse were repressed, evidence cropped up everywhere, from her chronic bed-wetting and compulsive lying as a girl to her adult attraction to abusive men; when her older sister, JoAnn, comes forward with her recollections, Holloway begins to remember her own trauma. As a writer, Holloway might not be in Mary Karr's league, but her blunt sentences deliver the unvarnished truth. In coming to terms with her tragedy, Holloway writes, "Knowing there is no cavalry is much better than hoping for a cavalry that never comes." Her memoir sings with the power of a disenfranchised woman finally finding her own voice, and her brutal memoir is hard to forget. (Publisher’s Weekly)
Monday, August 9, 2010
Summary: What if you woke up one day to all your dreams coming true...but those dreams were more like nightmares? Tilly Farmer is thirty-two years old and has the perfect life she always dreamed of: married to her high school sweetheart, working as a school guidance counselor, trying for a baby. Perfect. But one sweltering afternoon at the local fair, everything changes. Tilly wanders into a fortune teller's tent and meets an old childhood friend, who offers her more than just a reading. "I'm giving you the gift of clarity," her friend says. "It's what I always thought you needed." And soon enough, Tilly starts seeing things: her alcoholic father relapsing, staggering out of a bar with his car keys in hand; her husband uprooting their happy, stable life, a packed U-Haul in their driveway. And even more disturbing, these visions start coming true. Suddenly Tilly's perfect life, so meticulously mapped out, seems to be crumbling around her. And as she furiously races to keep up with - and hopefully change - her destiny, she faces the question: Which life does she want? The one she's carefully nursed for decades, or the one she never considered possible? What if you could see into the future? Would you want to know what fate has in store?~allisonwinnscotch.com
Review: It is rare for me not to like the main character but yet truly enjoy the book. Tilly Farmer is whiny, stuck, and lying to herself but yet she comes off as holier than thou in the beginning of the book. The One That I Want is an intriguing story of one women's flash forwards of her life but not as she wants it to happen but as it's going to happen. As Tilly continues to have these visions, she feels her life spiraling out of control. Essentially, Tilly has lived in the same town her whole life and with a carefully crafted life. She married her high school sweetheart and they are trying for a baby. Life for Tilly is perfect, exactly like she wants it. That is all about to change.
What the book shows us is maybe the life we are so comfortable in, isn't really comfortable with us. Maybe it's time to shake things up again. All of Tilly's flash forwards seemed to have a negative impact and some of them did...initially, but in the end things turned out OK if not better for her.
I always say that when people say their life is perfect, that either it is for them or they aren't really seeing what is going on around them. I think Tilly saying she was so happy was her wall for truly letting people see how vulnerable she was, even those closest to her.
The story might not have been my favorite but I did appreciate the way Ms. Winn Scotch writes her novels. I loved that in order to give her character clarity to her life she chose to do it in an unconventional way. Well at least I've never read a book with flash forwards. There were a couple of quotes that I really liked:
...that life is limitless, that fear is conquerable, that if you stay concealed in the shadows, you'll never be seen. That spending the better part of your days trying to fix people might be admirable; no, in fact, it is admirable, but only when you're not doing so to avoid fixing yourself. page 252
There is before. And then there is after. Happiness is what you chose, what you follow, not what follows you. page 270
I did like the other characters in the book including Darcy, Susie and Ashley. Tilly has dealt with a lot in her life but she also took on a lot at a young age. Maybe her life would have been slightly different if she learned to lean on others.
Plus the title is a tie-in to one of my all time favorite movies/musicals.
I will be buying Ms. Winn-Scotch's Time of My Life: A Novel
and reading it soon.
I received The One That I Want from Read it Forward.
Final Take: 3.75/5
Saturday, August 7, 2010
Congratulations to ham1299 (aka @proudbooknerd) for winning a copy of Emily Giffin's newest novel, Heart of the Matter!
Please email me (Julie) your mailing address so we can send the book off to you as soon as possible. Thanks to all of you for participating.
Girls Just Reading uses Random.org to produce the winner.