Friday, October 28, 2016

Julie's Review: This Was Not the Plan

Author: Cristina Alger
Series: None
Publication Date: October 18, 2016 (paperback)
Publisher: Touchstone
Pages: 368
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: A story about priorities and discovering you can do something else in life
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Summary: Charlie Goldwyn’s life hasn’t exactly gone according to plan. Widowerhood at thirty-three and twelve-hour workdays have left a gap in his relationship with his quirky five-year-old son, Caleb, whose obsession with natural disasters and penchant for girls’ clothing have made him something of a loner at his preschool. The only thing Charlie has going for him is his job at a prestigious law firm, where he is finally close to becoming a partner. But when a slight lapse in judgment at an office party leaves him humiliatingly unemployed, stuck at home with Caleb for the summer, and forced to face his own estranged father, Charlie starts to realize that there’s more to fatherhood than financially providing for his son, and more to being a son than overtaking his father’s successes.

Review: This Was Not the Plan is a story about how your plans can go awry in the blink of an eye and how life sometimes has other plans for you. Charlie had a job he loved, a wife he loved and a life he enjoyed living. Until the bottom fell out when is wife died but that was 2 years ago and Charlie still hasn't learned to cope. He was already working 80 hours and now with his wife gone and his sister raising his son, Caleb; he just works all the time, literally.

Well things are about to change for Charlie and Caleb and those around him when Charlie suddenly finds him with a lot of free time. He's not quite sure what to do with himself for the hours that Caleb is in school. He doesn't know how to relax. He needs his job to breathe.

Caleb is adorable in the way that a 5 years old can be but I almost felt that he was a little too cute. It's not that I didn't enjoy him or think that it was fantastic that he embraced who he was but 5 can be a very aggravating age and I didn't think that it was captured. I also thought it was a little too seamless for Charlie becoming a full time dad. His sister Zadie has been Caleb's caretaker since he works long hours and I just didn't think it was realistic that he moved from workaholic to easing into dad mode. I kind of figured there would be a few more flubs.

I enjoyed Charlie joining the SAD group because it was something completely out of his comfort zone but it also allowed Caleb to hang out and make some friends. I did like the addition of Elise to the mix of friend but I appreciated that Ms. Alger didn't make into something too quickly.

I think we all need to step back at times and assess where we are at in life. Maybe it's not life changing or career changing like Charlie but little changes can make a huge difference, even if it's just your outlook on life.

Overall, I enjoyed reading about Charlie and Caleb and I look forward to reading what else Ms. Alger writes.


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Julie's Review: Today Will Be Different

Author: Maria Semple
Series: None
Publication Date: October 4, 2016
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Pages: 272
Obtained: publisher via Edleweiss
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 3/5
Bottom Line: Disappointing
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Library
Summary: Eleanor knows she's a mess. But today, she will tackle the little things. She will shower and get dressed. She will have her poetry and yoga lessons after dropping off her son, Timby. She won't swear. She will initiate sex with her husband, Joe. But before she can put her modest plan into action-life happens. Today, it turns out, is the day Timby has decided to fake sick to weasel his way into his mother's company. It's also the day Joe has chosen to tell his office-but not Eleanor-that he's on vacation. Just when it seems like things can't go more awry, an encounter with a former colleague produces a graphic memoir whose dramatic tale threatens to reveal a buried family secret. TODAY WILL BE DIFFERENT is a hilarious, heart-filled story about reinvention, sisterhood, and how sometimes it takes facing up to our former selves to truly begin living.  

Review: Today Will Be Different was disappointing in a nut shell. I rushed to finish it just to finish it, if that tells you something. I felt that a book that was 272 pages was something I could quickly get done. I tell you most of these 272 pages were painful. I didn't connect with anyone in the story. I kind of felt that they were all caricatures of someone Ms. Semple knows.

I totally go where Eleanor was coming from. Trying to change how you look at life can be challenging and sometimes the little mantras help out. Let's face it though, Eleanor was a bit too far gone to have a mantra change her life. I found her to be scattered and completely self-centered. Heck she didn't even know what was going on with her husband. Also not for one minute do I believe she accepts her husbands change of heart regarding something they were both aligned on.

The mystery of the secret Eleanor was keeping was a bit disappointing after all the build up. I thought it was going to be a bit more dark.

If you are hoping for another Bernadette, look elsewhere because Eleanor isn't the heroine I was looking for.


Thursday, October 13, 2016

Julie's Review: Hungry Heart

Author: Jennifer Weiner
Series: None
Publication Date: October 11, 2016
Publisher: Atria Books
Pages: 416
Obtained: Publisher
Genre:  Memoir
Rating: 4.50/5
Bottom Line: A great read for her fans and there will be something to speaks to anyone who reads it
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Summary: Jennifer Weiner is many things: a bestselling author, a Twitter phenomenon, and an “unlikely feminist enforcer” (The New Yorker). She’s also a mom, a daughter and a sister, a former rower and current clumsy yogini, a wife, a friend, and a reality-TV devotee. In her first essay collection, she takes the raw stuff of her life and spins it into a collection of tales of modern-day womanhood as uproariously funny and moving as the best of Nora Ephron and Tina Fey. Born in Louisiana, raised in Connecticut, educated at Princeton, Jennifer spent years feeling like an outsider (“a Lane Bryant outtake in an Abercrombie & Fitch world”) before finding her people in newsrooms, and her voice as a novelist, activist, and New York Times columnist. No subject is off-limits in these intimate and honest stories: sex, weight, envy, money, her mother’s coming out of the closet, her estranged father’s death. From lonely adolescence to modern childbirth to hearing her six-year-old daughter say the f-word—fat—for the first time, Jen dives deep into the heart of female experience, with the wit and candor that have endeared her to readers all over the world. Hilarious and moving, Hungry Heart is about yearning and fulfillment, loss and love, and a woman who searched for her place in the world, and found it as a storyteller.

Review: Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love, and Writing is a love letter to herself, her family, and her fans. She is everything you love about her. She's a honest, a bit brash at times and funny. That doesn't meant that I didn't shed some tears because I did but she finds humor in even the worse situation. It's what I truly adore about her. I've met her several times and she's the real deal; she's as genuine as they come.

Jennifer tells of her struggles with her identity as a young girl who was perhaps bigger in size than what she wanted to be and how no matter what she did, it wouldn't change. Plus she liked food. Not only was it her safety zone but she really didn't understand people who could just stop eating. It wasn't that she wasn't healthy and strong, she was on crew, it was just that she was bigger. That's hard when you are a teen and a young adult. In some ways it held her back, until she said F-it and just started being herself.  For those of us that struggle with our weight, these chapters will hit home. This is where I felt that she was speaking to me. Her written word resonated with me, profoundly.

She speaks of her diabolic relationship with her father, whom was in and out of her life. When he was in, it was to ask for money. He wasn't always the monster he turned into. In fact, she can remember times when she was younger and he was a great father. He read to them, tucked them in and encouraged them. His decent into mental illness had a huge effect on her and her siblings as one might imagine.

Anyone who is a fan, has heard her talk about her mom, Fran. Usually colorful antidotes about her being a lesbian and how they were all shocked but it made sense as they reflected back. She talks about her daughters and how motherhood was a difficult adjustment for her. How her first daughter Lucy, wasn't easy and how Phoebe was the complete opposite.

She talks about her marriage to Adam and then her subsequent re-kindling of her relationship with Bill. How she's happy and in a good place. She's an outspoken feminist and will go down on the sword for what she believes in.

I don't think any of these stories and messages will surprise her fans but I loved reading about them all at once and with her humor and take on things. If you are a fan, then you won't want to miss Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love, and Writing. I'm now ready for her next novel!


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Julie's Review: Letters from Paris

Author: Juliet Blackwell
Series: None
Publication Date: September 6, 2016
Publisher: Berkley
Pages: 384
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Historical Fiction
Rating: 3.75/5
Bottom Line: A bit predicatable but enjoyable journey
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Library
Summary: After surviving the accident that took her mother’s life, Claire Broussard has worked hard to escape her small Louisiana hometown. But these days she feels something is lacking. Abruptly leaving her lucrative job in Chicago, Claire returns home to care for her ailing grandmother. There, she unearths a beautiful piece of artwork that her great-grandfather sent home from Paris after World War II. At her grandmother’s urging, Claire travels to Paris to track down the century-old mask-making atelier where the object, known only as “L’Inconnue”—or The Unknown Woman—was created. Under the watchful eye of a surly mask-maker, Claire discovers a cache of letters that offers insight into the life of the Belle Epoque woman immortalized in the work of art. As Claire explores the unknown woman’s tragic fate, she begins to unravel deeply buried secrets in her own life.  

Review: Letters from Paris is the story about what happens when you decide to ditch your life and go to research something that you found in your grandmother's attic. It's what happens when the most important person in your life holds something major from you.

Claire is brought back home to Louisiana to help tend to her grandmother as she is not long for the world. Her Grandmother tells Claire that once she passes she must go to Paris and research the mask that has been up in the attic for decades. She pretty much demands that Claire goes. So shortly after her grandmother passes, Claire leaves for a vacation in Paris but with no job and no where to go is it really just a vacation for her?

Claire spends most of her time as a tourist but when she can help in the altier where the mask was made and sold, she jumps at the chance to help them out of a bind by working in the shop. This allows her access to some the newspaper clippings about the history of "L'Inconnue". She desperately wants to figure out who this woman was instead of the mystery surrounding her.

I will say that most of the story didn't come as a surprise for me. I expected the romance and I figured out the connections to L'Inconnue fairly quickly. There is one plot line that I wasn't expecting and really came out of nowhere but made complete sense in the grand scheme of the novel.

I did like how Claire finally really took control of her life and figured out what she wanted. I'm sure it's what she had thought her life would be but that's not always a bad thing.

If you love Paris and it's history then you will definitely want to check out Letters from Paris.


Monday, October 3, 2016

Julie's Review: The Life She Wants

Author: Robyn Carr
Series: None
Publication Date: September 27, 2016
Publisher: MIRA
Pages: 352
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: A great read about how sometimes falling from a pedestal helps you find who you are
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Summary: In the aftermath of her financier husband’s suicide, Emma Shay Compton’s dream life is shattered. Richard Compton stole his clients’ life savings to fund a lavish life in New York City and, although she was never involved in the business, Emma bears the burden of her husband’s crimes. She is left with nothing. Only one friend stands by her, a friend she’s known since high school, who encourages her to come home to Sonoma County. But starting over isn’t easy, and Sonoma is full of unhappy memories, too. And people she’d rather not face, especially Riley Kerrigan. Riley and Emma were like sisters—until Riley betrayed Emma, ending their friendship. Emma left town, planning to never look back. Now, trying to stand on her own two feet, Emma can’t escape her husband’s reputation and is forced to turn to the last person she thought she’d ever ask for help—her former best friend. It’s an uneasy reunion as both women face the mistakes they’ve made over the years. Only if they find a way to forgive each other—and themselves—can each of them find the life she wants.  

Review: The Life She Wants is a great story about how to rebuild your life when you've hit your low point, maybe even rock bottom.

Emma Shay Compton moves home to outside Napa Valley from her high life in New York City. She comes back west with not much in her pocket and no job within reach. She has little contact with her family and has lost touch with most of her friends. She hasn't had it easy at all but people don't necessarily see that. They see a rich girl who know about her husband's transgressions. It isn't until Emma bumps into old friend Adam Kerrigan that her life starts to turn around but first she has to approach her old best friend for a job. In order to do that, she needs to learn to let go of the past and put her pride behind her. Can she move forward from two of the worst events in her life? She needs to in order to be able to be happy.

Riley Kerrigan hasn't had it easy since she turned 18 and became a single mom but she's put her life into raising her daughter and building up her business. She owns a successful cleaning business but she's lonely. Having Emma back in town throws her into an emotional spiral. It's making her wonder why everyone is so happy to have Emma back and what makes her so special? Riley's been here the past 18 years and she's feeling a little out of sorts and jealous as well.

What I liked about Ms. Carr's writing is that it felt like real life and friendships. Friendships are complicated even after years to let go of the history. The ending might have been a little too neat but I was happy to see how it unfolded.