Friday, July 29, 2011

Book Review: 29

'29'
Author: Adena Halpern


Format: Paperback
Published: Touchstone; June 2010
Pages: 288
Genre: Fiction
Grade: A
Source: Personal copy


Synopsis: The proverbial search for youth's fountain manifests itself in Ellie Jerome, a 75-year-old woman who has employed every available artifice to remain young. Identifying more with her stylish young granddaughter, Lucy, than with her abrasive middle-aged daughter, Barbara, Ellie's 75th birthday wish is to be 29 again, for just one day. When her wish comes true, hilarious problems arise, as the young Ellie must create a new persona in order to enter and leave her apartment in a neighborhood where everyone knows the old Ellie. Choosing to let Lucy in on her secret, Ellie persuades her to be her guide on a youthful adventure in pursuit of stylish looks and a trendy life. While the dynamic duo romp through Ellie's magical day, Ellie's daughter and her dearest friend, Frida, a 75-year-old worry wart, having decided that Ellie was kidnapped, embark upon their own misguided adventure before the old (now wiser) Ellie returns at the end of her big day. 


My Take: When I saw the title of this book I knew that I had to read it this year because alas, I too am 29. If this book wasn't speaking to me I figured then who was it for? So I picked up a copy a few months back and knew I needed to schedule it in before I (gasp, I don't even know if I want to say it out loud) turn 30 in a couple of months. I am so happy I did. This book was just the kind of light-hearted, fast read I was looking for this summer.


Our narrator and leading lady, Ellie starts out by telling us what life is like as a 75-year-old woman and also what her life was like through the years. I found the first couple of chapters mesmerizing and I instantly knew that I wanted to be friends with Ellie. She is telling the story like I've always wished my own grandmothers would reflect upon their youth and early married years, sprinkling in lessons learned with hard learned facts about 'the way it was'. As a historical fiction fanatic this part appealed to me like crazy. Ellie wants nothing more than to know what might have been because her life, as perhaps many young women's also were, was prescribed for her without a lot of free choice. She wishes on her birthday that she could know, for just one day, what it would be like to relive her life as a 29-year-old in the present day, not in the past, because she feels women these days have much more choice.


Well, guess what? I guess wishes really do come true, or at least Ellie's does. She wakes up after her birthday as a fresh faced 29-year-old and can't believe her luck! At first she thinks she might have died but once reality hits she decides she better grab this day by the horns and fit in as much as she can while the getting is good. With her beloved granddaughter in tow she hits the town. It's wonderful to see the younger world through Ellie's mature eyes.

Meanwhile, Ellie's daughter Barbara and best friend Frida freak out! While they go in pursuit of their missing friend and mother having minor panic attacks that I could have done without, the rest of the story moves along nicely providing lots of teachable moments to remind us that we really do only have this one life to live so we better not take it for granted. A thoroughly enjoyable read!

Cover Lust: A perfect cover!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Chick Lit: A Personal Love Story

Before we get too off track here, this is not where I tell you all about me and my boyfriend's romance. Nope. This is actually the post where I tell you all about why I love chick lit, what I think chick lit is, and how I believe it is often misunderstood. This post came about because a couple of weeks ago I categorized a book as chick lit that some people didn't agree with me was chick lit. That's totally fine. I do know that when I put things out here, people may disagree, and that's half the fun. I love a good discussion. So here's an opportunity for another! 

I first came to find chick-lit in high school and as I was entering college. It could not have been a more perfect match! As I remember it, my mom sent me Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones's Diary. The cover with those eyes staring out at me. This was before the days of all of the pink and purple covers people. Yep this cover was white and black and orange and it had eyes. I remember thinking is this a scary murder book? Because I do not want a scary murder book. Also, my mom doesn't read those so what the heck is she doing sending me a scary murder book? But then I opened it and inside was a funny, insecure, neurotic, totally relateable woman who made me laugh and I was reading about something I'd never read before really. A women obsessing about men and weight and cigarettes and alcohol consumption with friends just like real women do? This is rocking my world. I have to find more! But where? This wasn't a 'type' of book I had heard of before.

Apparently in England it was. Then I was turned onto Watermelon by Marion Keyes. I remember reading this the summer before entering college. A novel about a woman left by her husband who is now pregnant. In a joking tone. This is awesome. Not because it's a laughing matter but because it's how you would deal with a real life matter. You would make lemonade out of lemons or you would go crazy. Or at least that's how I am.

From there, I found Melissa Banks, Lisa Jewell, Anna Maxted and those all kept me busy through college. Oh sure, I was also reading the classics for school as well as fascinating modern books as well but you see, chick lit is what I read when I need to smile. When things aren't going my way, or when I just need a laugh. When I don't get the guy I want to read about someone who does and in college this was perfect.

Then real life had to start and I got a job and reading books about women who were plucky and stumbled through jobs was perfect and as I grew up and got a serious boyfriend and perhaps became perceived as an 'adult', sure my reading choices matured too but I still read chick lit. All the time. I think I always will. I think chick lit can grow up too. Like any genre, any good genre, and we've got our haters, but chick lit, I think is good, you can read chick lit about mature womenwomen in their 30s trying to get a guy, divorced women dealing with a new lifeempty nesters, etc. all with pizazz and humor.

So clearly to me, chick lit is books about women, usually by women, for women. Often cushioned with humor, the idea is that they deal with the topics many of us face throughout our lives in a more easily digestible manor than some of the heavier books that are out there. I think the reason it is often misunderstood is because it is deemed as lighter fare. Therefore books that are considered lighter, often don't get as much credit. Well, I think they deserve plenty of credit because a book that can make you smile or laugh when you are having a crap day is an awesome book. That book that is like an old friend because you turn to it over an over again, that to me is what chick lit is. 

It's totally cool to me if you don't like chick lit because I don't like every single genre out there either. That's what's great about this world. There are lots of different opinions and lots of different types of books. For me, if I could just change one thing about this genre, it would be a little less pink on the covers ;)

So dish, if you are a chick-lit lover, name a book or author I need to try!

Here are some top chick-lit reads of my own from the past year (all titles link to my reviews):
2. The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern
3. She's Gone Country by Jane Porter
4. Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler
5. Take a Chance on Me by Jill Mansell
6. Save as Draft by Cavanaugh Lee
7. Helen of Pasadena by Lian Dolan
8. The Life You've Imagined by Kristina Riggle
9. There's Cake in my Future by Kim Gruenenfelder

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: San Francisco's Ferry Building

An octopus visits the ferry building
Yummy heirloom tomatoes
Don't forget to check out all of the Wordless Wednesday action!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Book Review: One Day

'One Day'
Author: David Nicholls


Format: Paperback
Published: Vintage Books; 2009
Pages: 437
Genre: Literary fiction
Grade: B
Source: Personal copy


Synopsis: The episodic story takes place during a single day each year for two decades in the lives of Dex and Em. Dexter, the louche public school boy, and Emma, the brainy Yorkshire lass, meet the day they graduate from university in 1988 and run circles around one another for the next 20 years. Dex becomes a TV presenter whose life of sex, booze, and drugs spins out of control, while Em dully slogs her way through awful jobs before becoming the author of young adult books. They each take other lovers and spouses, but they cannot really live without each other. 


My Take: I have been seeing this book everywhere and I am sure you have been too! If you haven't already read it than you probably know that there is a movie coming out about it very soon! We are talking mid-August. The reviews I'd been reading made it sound like my kind of book before I even knew there was a movie for it and once there was a movie, I pushed it up my reading schedule and was glad I did. It was quite the emotional read and I think it will play very well as a movie too. 


If you enjoy British fiction and melodramatic books you will enjoy this novel. If you don't this may not be the book for you. The story, while I found it a page turner, and a great summer read, hangs with a kind of sad drama throughout the entirety of it. But I am getting ahead of myself! Let's start at the beginning and set the story up so you know why you'd want to stick with it.


First we have Emma and Dexter, or more affectionately Em and Dex. Two university students who hook up one drunken night. It could have all just ended there as it so often does but instead of the next morning being awkward and weird they decide to go for a walk and get to know each other a little better and a friendship starts instead. Not a love affair, but a friendship. So lives continue and time marches on.


This book, while maybe a little formulaic, is also slightly unusual in that we only see our two main characters once a year for twenty years on the exact same day: July 15th. We see how their lives progress, how they grow and age, both with and without each other. It's fascinating, beautiful, and heart-breaking. You want Dex to get over himself and stop being such a druggie, self indulging classist and you want Em to root for herself a little more, to have some more self-respect and just try a little harder. But eventually they do grow up and their lives ultimately change completely. To say more, would always ruin a book for you.


For me, the one problem with this novel was the fact that I, someone who almost never figures out the ending in a book, knew the ending within the first fifty pages. I hoped it wouldn't be the case but when it was I wasn't surprised. I felt that's exactly what this was building towards the whole time and it was a bit of a letdown. However, I still really enjoyed the book and would certainly recommend it to anyone who asked. I also think it would make a great book for book clubs because it brings up so many interesting points about relationships, and unlike most 'chick-lit' books, this one is based a little more in reality.

Cover Lust: I love this cover! It looks like pop art to me!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Mailbox Monday: July 25th, 2011

It's Mailbox Monday time! Mailbox Monday is going on tour and July is being hosted by A Sea of Books! Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week (checked out library books don’t count, eBooks and audio books do). Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!


I hope you all had fabulous weekends! We had a lovely summer weekend here in San Francisco. We got to go to a friend's house for a little cocktail party on Saturday and on Sunday I took a photography class which I had been looking forward to doing for an upcoming trip. I think it paid off!


Now onto our mailboxes. I need to keep on reading so I can catch up! Here's what I received this week:


From Planned Television Arts:
1. Sunset Bridge by Emilie Richards




















From St. Martin's Griffin:
2. Rival to the Queen by Carolly Erickson




















From Pump Up Your Book Tours:
3. Wedlocked by Bonnie Trachtenberg




















Purchased for my next book club:
4. Sister by Rosamund Lupton




















What did you get?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Audio Book Review: The American Heiress

'The American Heiress'
Author: Daisy Goodwin


Format: Audio book
Published: Macmillan Audio; June 2011
Narrated By: Katherine Kellgren
Genre: Historical fiction
Rating: A
Source: Publisher



Synopsis: Be careful what you wish for. Traveling abroad with her mother at the turn of the twentieth century to seek a titled husband, beautiful, vivacious Cora Cash, whose family mansion in Newport dwarfs the Vanderbilts', suddenly finds herself Duchess of Wareham, married to Ivo, the most eligible bachelor in England. Nothing is quite as it seems, however: Ivo is withdrawn and secretive, and the English social scene is full of traps and betrayals. Money, Cora soon learns, cannot buy everything, as she must decide what is truly worth the price in her life and her marriage. 

My Take: When the publisher contacted me about having my bookclub listen to The American Heiress for our most recent bookclub I was excited. Not only would this give us a chance to discuss a book I’d been hearing a lot of buzz about, it would give us a chance to discuss a format we hadn’t read together as a group before either: audio. And guess what? As a group, it was a great experience. For the summer, people had roadtrips in which they could listen to this on, they could relax by the beach and pop in their ear buds and dream about days gone by. We came to our meeting excited to discuss a genre that we don’t normally read in a format that we have never read. If you can, it’s a great way to mix things up!

Ok so the actual book! I think we can all agree that I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump this summer. Looking for a book to spice up my reading has been hard for me. Well I found a book that met it with this! It has lots of historically lush scenes described, the drama between American new money and English old money, and a young marriage trying to find it’s way, all with a fabulous narrator who knew her way around a myriad of voices like nothing I’ve listened to before.

Cora Cash is our leading lady. She is spunky but bred to be a high society lady. Based on Conseulo Vanderbilt and her marriage to the 10th Duke of Marlborough, her overbearing mother was hell bent on being the mother of a Duchess so off they went to England (they were rich Americans). Once in England, Cora was pranced all over until she came in contact with Ivo, the Duke of Wareham. Cora had no desire to marry for her mother’s needs, all she wanted was to marry for love. It just so happened that she fell in love with a Duke. Everything should have been happy and easy, right? Wrong!

So begins the drama of Cora feeling out of place, myriad scandals both sexual and non! If you are missing Downton Abbey and are just looking for some pure fun, than I don’t think you need to look any further for a great beach read!

Cover Lust: I love this cover! You can't see her face, yet she looks innocent. Perhaps she doesn't know what awaits her!


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Experiencing Some Technical Difficulties


As in life, sometimes in blogging we just have those days (or weeks!) as the case may be! As you may have noticed if you are a regular follower around here, I am a pretty scheduled blogger. I like it that way. My posts go up every morning of the work week. Well it didn't go up today and believe me I tried! This is the second time this week where things kind of fell apart on me. Both times were Bloggers (the application, not me!) fault.

So my question to physical bloggers is this: do you pre-schedule all of your posts or not? I write all of my posts in advance but like to read over them one last time before I post them. This week that seems to have gotten me into trouble. It hasn't for the past almost two years but whose counting!

Any tips, please send them my way. Blogger in Draft has rolled out a beautiful new interface behind the scenes and while its pretty to look at, I think the kinks are still being worked out!

We should be back to regularly scheduled programming tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Proof I've Always Been A Reader!

No those were not my glasses.
And yes, you can ask me anything!

Check out all the Wordless Wednesday action.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Book Review: The Silver Boat

'The Silver Boat'
Author: Luanne Rice


Format: ARC
Published: Pamela Dorman Books; Apr. 2011
Pages: 304
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Grade: C
Source: Publisher


Synopsis: Dar McCarthy is expecting her sisters, Delia and Rory, to join her in Martha's Vineyard for a final visit to the family home before it has to be sold for taxes. Each of the sisters has taken a different path, and Dar is the only one remaining on the island. The house has been in the family for generations, and as the sisters reunite to pack up mementos, they broach the one subject that has haunted them, the disappearance of their father when they were young. Michael was an Irish immigrant shipbuilder, while their mother came from a prestigious New England family. Michael always maintained that his family had a land grant from the king of England on Martha's Vineyard. Driven by the need to prove his worth, he sailed to Ireland to look for the original deed. After unearthing love letters between her parents, Dar and her sisters go to Ireland on their own quest. 


My Take: This was one of the books that I set out to read this summer. Seriously, looking at that cover how could I not? I even actually spent some time reading that at an actual beach which was the perfect setting for reading this book. Rice is a seasoned writer, having written close to 30 books, so I am glad I finally took the time to read one of her books.


With her latest novel, we have the story of three sisters struggling with the twin losses of their mother and the home which has been in their family for hundreds of years on Martha's Vineyard. It's a time of change on the island with new money moving in, but being a part of the old guard they are having a hard time accepting the change.


The sister we mainly follow is also the oldest, Dar. She has lived her entire life on the island and is having a hard time giving up the home she has always loved. The two other sisters return to help, bringing problems of their own. 


It soon comes to light the family has some mysteries and all is not as simple as it may seem. Their father left to return to Ireland when the girls were young believing that he, too, had a title to the land. Yet, he never returned. They always suffered from not knowing. 


While the story was interesting enough the pacing was off. There was a mystery here but it didn't get going for 100 pages in and then it was solved pretty quickly. Two of the sisters went to Ireland, and one wanted to leave within two days. You just got there! In the end, I think the book struggled from not knowing what it was. Was it a family saga, a mystery, a romance? For those of you that have read other Rice novels, which one should I add to my must read list?

Cover Lust: Well there really isn't a cover that says summer like this one!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Mailbox Monday: July 18, 2011

It's Mailbox Monday time! Mailbox Monday is going on tour and July is being hosted by A Sea of Books! Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week (checked out library books don’t count, eBooks and audio books do). Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!


The weather here in San Francisco wasn't very nice this weekend but I didn't let that get me down! I kept busy with lots of fun activities. Saturday I met up with girlfriends for lunch and manicures. I am typing this with some of the prettiest nails ever! Sunday a girlfriend and I went and painted some pottery while my boyfriend made homemade beer - yum! Hope you all had fun weekends too!


Another week, more great finds in my mailbox. Here's what came in:


From Crown Publishers for a TLC Book Tour:
1. Before Ever After by Samantha Sotto




















From Atticus Books:
2. The Great Lenore by J. M. Tohline




















From Skyhorse Publishing:
3. Simpler Living by Jeff Davidson
















Purchased by me at Books Inc:
4. A Visit from the Good Squad by Jennifer Egan




















5. Deadwood by Pete Dexter




















From PBS:
6. The Embers by Hyatt Bass




















7. How to Bake a Perfect Life by Barbara O'Neal




















What did you get?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Book Review: The Tapestry of Love

'The Tapestry of Love'
Author: Rosy Thornton


Format: Paperback
Published: Headline Book Publishing; Oct. 2010
Pages: 352
Genre: Chick-lit
Grade: C
Source: Author


Synopsis: A rural idyll: that's what Catherine is seeking when she sells her house in England and moves to a tiny hamlet in the CĂ©vennes mountains. With her divorce in the past and her children grown, she is free to make a new start, and her dream is to set up in business as a seamstress. But this is a harsh and lonely place when you're no longer just here on holiday. There is French bureaucracy to contend with, not to mention the mountain weather, and the reserve of her neighbors, including the intriguing Patrick Castagnol. And that's before the arrival of Catherine's sister, Bryony.


My Take: I was really looking forward to reading this book this summer. I mean look at that cover! Don't you just want to go there and relax your cares away? I love reading books with this concept. Women moves to foreign country, restores old house, meets charming neighbors, becomes one with new town, falls in love, all is well with the world. While it may be formulaic now, it is a book I generally enjoy. So yes, I dug into this book with some serious fervor.


Our heroine is Catherine who moves to the wilds of France, not really to escape her old life, but to find a more relaxed, laid-back new one. She is a divorcee with two grown children so she doesn't have anything holding her back in England. It's time for her to do what she wants. And what she wants to do is move to France and focus on her tapestry business. She makes homemade tapestries. Kinda cool, right?


Once there, her neighbors took to her immediately. I expected at least someone to give her some grief, but nope, she immediately became one of the old rustic town and her business took off. However the French government wasn't so easy. One of these new neighbors is Patrick and he is handsome and charming and maybe even a little brooding. 


Here's my problem, maybe because I do love these types of books and I have read so many, I knew almost instantly what was going to happen in this one. I didn't really need to keep turning the pages because, while sweet and charming, I knew how it would all play out. I needed some funny characters or some more drama than French government to liven up the pages, otherwise, I mean really all chick-lit books end the same so there has got to be something to spice up the middle bits. However, this is not to say I wouldn't give Thornton another try because I love this genre and I think there's always room for more great women writers within it.


Cover Lust: As I said earlier, I want to go to there!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Booking Through Thursday: Biographies

It's been awhile since I've checked in on the BTT meme so I thought I'd see what topic they were discussing today:

There are so many crappy biographies … would you rather read a poorly-written biography of a fascinating life, OR an exquisitely well-written, wonderful read of one of a not-so-interesting life?

This is an interesting one for me, because while I read a lot of memoirs, I don't read a lot of classic biographies. The only one I can think of reading in recent times was Dawn French's Dear Fatty which was hysterical.

However, it appears as though since I focus more on memoirs and memoirs are not about famous people at all, but your average person who makes their story really interesting with an angle, be it cooking, traveling the world, fixing up a house, getting over a loss, bottom line is, I would love to read a memoir about an unknown than a boring blockbuster biography.


Some great memoirs I've read recently are (all titles link to my reviews):
51/50: The Magical Adventures of a Single Life by Kristen McGuiness
I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti by Giulia Melucci
I Was Told There'd Be Cake by Sloane Crosley
Pretty in Plaid: A Life, a Witch, and a Wardrobe, or, the Wonder Years Before the Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-Centered, Smart-Ass Phase by Jen Lancaster
The Ramen King and I: How the Inventor of Instant Noodles Fixed My Love Life by Andy Raskin


What do you think?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Best of the Year So Far: 2011

While it's fair to say I've been in a reading slump this summer, overall my 2011 has been fantastic! I am currently at 55 books read for the year which totally blows me away since my reading total for the entirety of 2010 was 75. So yeah, you better believe there have been some amazing reads so far this year! I thought what better time to reflect on the positive than on this halfway point in the year (how did that happen?) and see what books have stuck with me so far and if those will make it through to be some of my ultimate favorites for the year.

Rather than give a top five, I decided to pick my favorites from the genres I love to read. All titles link to my original reviews:

Favorites so far in the Historical Fiction Category:
Small Wars by Sadie Jones




















The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark




















Favorites so far in the Literary Fiction Category:
The Bird House by Kelly Simmons




















Wrecker by Summer Wood




















Faith by Jennifer Haigh






















Favorites so far in the Chick Lit Category:
She's Gone Country by Jane Porter




















There's Cake in My Future by Kim Gruenenfelder






















Favorite so far in the Classics Category:
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte






















Favorite so far in the Audio Book Category:
The Heights by Peter Hedges




















These are the books I would, without hesitation, recommend to anyone from my reading this year. What are yours?
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