Monday, August 27, 2012

Book Review: Single in the City

'Single in the City'

Format: Paperback
Published: Penguin Books; 2010
Pages: 352
Genre: Brit Chick-lit
Grade: C
Source: Author

Synopsis: It's official. Hannah has left her friends and family in the US behind and is following her dream. To live in London.
Hannah's looking for: 1. Her dream guy. A prince or Hugh Grant would be nice. Or does she have to settle for her half-naked Australian house-mate or an 'English gentleman' with terrible hygiene habits?
2. Her dream job. Something fantastic in fashion. So how has she up being the mini-me for an evil party planner who doesn't even trust her to arrange the paper clips?
3. Hr dream friends. But everyone in London seems to have known each other for years and Hannah doesn't know the rules of engagement. Who's she going to have fun with?
Dream life? Should Hannah just dream on? She wanted a big change but maybe it would have been simpler and cheaper just to get a new haircut. Was she mad to move 3,000 miles away from everyone she knows? Will she ever find love and her perfect life in England?

My Take: I am always intrigued by the idea of packing everything up and moving to London. I think I have mentioned it here before but I fell in love with the city when I studied abroad there for a semester in college and had an amazing time! The city couldn't have been more welcoming and after college I wanted to just move back. Damn you international visa laws! So whenever there are books that allow me to live vicariously through someone else, I enjoy doing so.

Hannah is an American who, when Michele Gorman's Single in the City opens, is frustrated with her life in Connecticut. On a drunken dare she decides to pack it all up and move to London, work visa be damned. With some money in her pocket and a dream in her heart she lands at Heathrow not really knowing what to do next. 

I enjoyed seeing Hannah pluckily make her way through the trials and tribulations of living the expat life. While Americans and Brits do speak the same language, our cultures are often very different. Hannah had many things going for her but the ability to quickly pick up on things was not one of them and after awhile it got a little grating. However, I was rooting for Hannah the entire time and hoping that she would get the life she wanted. It's a big leap to move from one country to another so I did root for her, as 'goofy' as she was. 

I've read a lot of chick lit in my day. It's my stand by when I need something easy and comfortable. Kind of like that pair of pajamas and tub of ice cream you reach for when looking for some comfort. Bottom line, while this book had a lot going for it, it didn't bring me the full dimension these books can often have but I do look forward to seeing what this author may bring next.

Cover Lust: This cover makes me smile. I think the caricature is a perfect representation of Hannah!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Book Giveaway: The Shoemaker's Wife

'The Shoemaker's Wife'
Author: Adriana Trigiani

The kind folks over at Harper Paperbacks are just as excited as I am to celebrate the release of the paperback of one of my favorite novels of 2012! Adriana Trigiani's masterful and epic historical fiction The Shoemaker's Wife (click title for my review) is a can't miss story for all of you looking for your next great read. To help celebrate the release of the paperback, they have kindly allowed me to giveaway one new paperback to my fabulous readers! How cool is that?

I read this book back in April when it had just been released in hardback and I remember it so vividly because I enjoyed it so much. Of the novel I said "The love story was modern and old-fashioned at the same time, the period details were fascinating and it made the immigrant experience really come to life. I can wholeheartedly recommend this novel to fans of historical fiction and Adriana Trigiani alike!"

So if you don't have a copy yet, and have been wanting to read it, be sure to enter the giveaway or go out and buy yourself a copy today!

Giveaway Details
Thanks to the publisher, I have one to give away! The deadline for this giveaway is Sept. 5th; entries open to those in the US and Canada (no PO boxes please).

To Enter (Mandatory)!
Comment below with a way for me to contact you.

For Extra entries (Optional), indicate that you are:
+1 Follow this blog on Google Connect (see right sidebar)
+1 Follow me on twitter and tweet about this giveaway (include @amusedbybooks in your tweet)
+1 Blog/Post about this giveaway on your sidebar

3 extra entries available. Giveaway open until 11:59pm PST Sept 5th. I will draw the winners using and announce them here on my blog. Good luck!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Book Review: The Reluctant Matchmaker

'The Reluctant Matchmaker'
Author: Shobhan Bantwal

Format: ARC
Published: Kensington; June 2012
Pages: 352
Genre: Indian chick-lit?
Grade: D
Source: Virtual Author Book Tours

Synopsis: In her thought-provoking, uplifting new novel, Shobhan Bantwal vividly blends the nuances of contemporary Indian-American culture with an unconventional romance. . .
At thirty-one, Meena Shenoy has a fulfilling career at a New Jersey high-tech firm. Not that it impresses her mother and aunts, who make dire predictions about her ticking biological clock. Men are drawn to Meena's dainty looks and she dates regularly, but hasn't met someone who really intrigues her. Someone professional, ambitious, confident, caring. Someone like her new boss, Prajay Nayak.
Just as Meena's thoughts turn to romance, Prajay makes an astonishing request. He wants her to craft a personal ad that will help him find a suitable wife: a statuesque, sophisticated Indian-American woman who will complement his striking height.
Despite her attraction to Prajay and the complications of balancing work and her "marriage consultant" role, Meena can't refuse the generous fee. And as her family is thrown into turmoil by her brother's relationship with a Muslim woman, Meena comes to surprising realizations about love, tradition, and the sacrifices she will--and won't--make for the sake of both.

My Take: I am going to keep this review short because this book clearly didn't work for me. Normally, I love books set in India, or with an Indian narrator. I. I just love the more exotic flair! So when introduced to Shobhan Bantwal's latest novel, The Reluctant Matchmaker, I eagerly jumped at the chance to read another book with an Indian narrator. Yet for some reason the narrator and I just didn't click.

Meena is our leading lady and she has a lot going for her. She has a great new job in a cool industry. Yet, even though she makes a lot of money and is 31 she lives at home because that is what she is supposed to do or she doesn't want to push herself (I could never quite figure it out). Then at work she is all nervous to meet her new boss and she runs right into him and sprains her foot. Seriously? She naturally 'falls' for him instantly but he doesn't. Instead, as the title suggests, he wants her to become his matchmaker because they have a lot of common interests. So, you have a boss who only sees you as a menial worker who will pay you extra to work all night and find him a soul mate? And, you take it? I don't know, this book just constantly rubbed me the wrong way. It made me think that perhaps I was missing something because I thought everything was a sexist affront so I had to stop reading it about two-thirds in which isn't what you want. 

Don't just take my word for it! For more opinions on this book, visit the Virtual Author Book Tours Page for more people participating in this book tour. 

Cover Lust: I do love this cover! Looking at the woman through all the doors is very mysterious. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Book Review: Beautiful Ruins

'Beautiful Ruins'
Author: Jess Walter

Format: ARC
Published: Harper; June 2012
Pages: 352
Genre: Fiction
Grade: A
Source: Publisher

Synopsis: The story begins in 1962. On a rocky patch of the sun-drenched Italian coastline, a young innkeeper, chest-deep in daydreams, looks out over the incandescent waters of the Ligurian Sea and spies an apparition: a tall, thin woman, a vision in white, approaching him on a boat. She is an actress, he soon learns, an American starlet, and she is dying.
And the story begins again today, half a world away, when an elderly Italian man shows up on a movie studio's back lot—searching for the mysterious woman he last saw at his hotel decades earlier.
What unfolds is a dazzling, yet deeply human, roller coaster of a novel, spanning fifty years and nearly as many lives. From the lavish set of Cleopatra to the shabby revelry of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Walter introduces us to the tangled lives of a dozen unforgettable characters: the starstruck Italian innkeeper and his long-lost love; the heroically preserved producer who once brought them together and his idealistic young assistant; the army veteran turned fledgling novelist and the rakish Richard Burton himself, whose appetites set the whole story in motion—along with the husbands and wives, lovers and dreamers, superstars and losers, who populate their world in the decades that follow. Gloriously inventive, constantly surprising, Beautiful Ruins is a story of flawed yet fascinating people, navigating the rocky shores of their lives while clinging to their improbable dreams.

My Take: I have heard people raving about Jess Walter in the past but I haven't read one of his novels before. Then Beautiful Ruins came out, and my God, that cover! Seriously, it makes me want to go to Italy right now! So I put it on my (albeit paltry) must read list for this summer and got down to it. It's hard to even put in to words the awesomeness that unfolds.

Walter's latest novel is, I would say, at its heart, about many people and the way that their lives affect each other. How the choices we make, however snap they may seem, can have ripple affects for years to come. Beautiful Ruins begins in Italy in 1962 in a small nothing of a town just outside of Cinque Terra. Pasquale is a young innkeeper looking to bring the prosperity of the ages to his dying seaside town. Somehow, as if by magic, a movie star shows up to be squirreled away in his hotel, aptly named, Hotel Adequate View. This young actress, Dee Moray, has some health problems so it was thought that the relaxation might do her some good. She had been working in Rome on the disaster movie production that was Cleopatra (btw, this book totally made me want to watch this movie!).

Now, we then fast forward to the present where an aging Michael Deane, famous movie producer from the 1960s, 70s, and 80s is now trying to find his next big hit and his assistant Claire are working hard together to find some semblance of meaning in their lives. Or perhaps that's just Claire. Michael is just worried about his next big hit. When a blast from the past greets them at their door and a mystery begins to unfold in front of them.

At first, Beautiful Ruins was a little slow for me and I didn't know if I would be able to stick with it. This story needs a lot of set up though and once you get through the first 50 pages or so a magical and intense ride awaits you through the last 60 years of life. See, Walter takes you back and forth from Italy, the LA, to Seattle, London, Edinburgh, and finally even small town Idaho, as we learn the twist and turns of these people's lives and how they have all intersected through the years. We only get snippets in each chapter, yet each chapter leaves you wanting more and  you know that by the end you will have learned it all and it is well worth waiting for the end. Seriously, it was unlike anything I had read before. 

Simply put, I loved it.

Cover Lust: Like I said at the beginning, probably one of my favorite covers in a long time!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Winner of As Always, Jack!

Thank you to everyone who entered to win As Always, Jack by Emma Sweeney! Using, the winner is:

  • Elisabeth!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Mega August Review Book Giveaway!

It's giveaway time again and as I have some more fab books to pass on to you, I thought I'd give away a bunch at once! As before, the titles link to my reviews.

How to Love an American Man by Kristine Gasbarre

The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani

Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon

All titles are ARCs, have been read once by me, and are in very good condition.

Giveaway Details!

The deadline for this giveaway is August 31st; entries open to those in the US.

To Enter (Mandatory)!
Comment below, indicating which book(s) interest you and a way for me to contact you. You can enter for both but you will only win one.

For Extra entries (Optional), indicate in the comments below that you are:
+1 Follow this blog on Google Connect (see right sidebar)
+1 Follow me on twitter and tweet about this giveaway (include @amusedbybooks in your tweet)
+1 Blog/Post about this giveaway on your sidebar

Three extra entries available. Giveaway open until 11:59pm PST August 31st. I will draw the winners using and announce them here on my blog. Good luck!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Book Review: The Chaperone

'The Chaperone'
Author: Laura Moriarty

Format: ARC
Published: Riverhead Hardcover; June 2012
Pages: 384
Genre: Historical fiction
Grade: B
Source: Publisher

Synopsis: Only a few years before becoming a famous silent-film star and an icon of her generation, a fifteen-year-old Louise Brooks leaves Wichita, Kansas, to study with the prestigious Denishawn School of Dancing in New York. Much to her annoyance, she is accompanied by a thirty-six-year-old chaperone, who is neither mother nor friend. Cora Carlisle, a complicated but traditional woman with her own reasons for making the trip, has no idea what she’s in for. Young Louise, already stunningly beautiful and sporting her famous black bob with blunt bangs, is known for her arrogance and her lack of respect for convention. Ultimately, the five weeks they spend together will transform their lives forever.
For Cora, the city holds the promise of discovery that might answer the question at the core of her being, and even as she does her best to watch over Louise in this strange and bustling place she embarks on a mission of her own. And while what she finds isn’t what she anticipated, she is liberated in a way she could not have imagined. Over the course of Cora’s relationship with Louise, her eyes are opened to the promise of the twentieth century and a new understanding of the possibilities for being fully alive.
Drawing on the rich history of the 1920s,’30s, and beyond--from the orphan trains to Prohibition, flappers, and the onset of the Great Depression to the burgeoning movement for equal rights and new opportunities for women--Laura Moriarty’s The Chaperone illustrates how rapidly everything, from fashion and hemlines to values and attitudes, was changing at this time and what a vast difference it all made for Louise Brooks, Cora Carlisle, and others like them.

My Take: In my pre-blogging days I had read The Center of Everything by Laura Moriarty and LOVED it. I totally connected with the characters and wanted to keep reading and cheering for them long after the story was finished. I believe I even have some more of Moriarty's novels on my shelves for me to read when I find the time. So when I started hearing lots of buzz about her latest, I just had to read it. 

The Chaperone is a huge departure from her previous novels in that it is historical fiction, where as far as I can tell, most of her previous popular novels, were strictly fiction, and what's more, The Chaperone is based on a widely known person, Louise Brooks, the famous film star of the 1920s and 1930s. What is similar to the previous novel that I had read of Moriarty's is that they both take place in Kansas and since I had spent a brief stint living in Kansas in middle school I enjoy reading about it again from time to time. Am I the only one who had no idea Louise Brooks was from there? To me the only famous person that ever lived there was Laura Ingalls Wilder, but I digress!

If you are looking for a smart woman's summer read that will keep you turning the pages, ladies this is it! The Chaperone centers around Cora who is the titular character and I loved her. Louise Brooks on the other hand, I could have slapped her sideways. Cora is a well to do lady about Wichita in the 1920s, married to a lawyer with two grown sons. When the town hears that a young lady needs an escort to NYC for the summer Cora jumps at the chance because she has some unfinished business there from her youth. At the time that she escorts this young woman, Louise is an unknown just learning her trade but holey crap does this girl have some sass.

What I enjoyed is the way Moriarty lets the story unfold. It is clear that there is some mystery to both Cora and Louise's past and she doesn't just hand it to us. We have to read for awhile to really peel back all of the layers. What I also enjoyed is that, luckily for me, the story mainly focused on Cora, who I liked far more, if you couldn't tell already. Although, don't get me wrong, I could sympathize with Louise as we learned more about her. What I would have appreciated was a slighter tighter narrative towards the end. It did start to drag for me a bit.

However, this is a book that I would recommend to all those looking for a their next summer read and to anyone who is a big historical fiction fan as I know many of you out there are. Read this if you haven't already!

Cover Lust: Love this photo of Louise Brooks. She looks a little more innocent in this one and it is based on a real photo
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