Saturday, May 25, 2013

Audiobook Review: The Perfect Hope by Nora Roberts

The Perfect Hope
Author: Nora Roberts
Narrator: MacLeod Andrews
Published: November 6, 2012
Genre: chick lit
Audiobook: 9 discs (approx. 11 hours)
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 3 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): Ryder is the hardest Montgomery brother to figure out—with a tough-as-nails outside and possibly nothing too soft underneath. He’s surly and unsociable, but when he straps on a tool belt, no woman can resist his sexy swagger. Except apparently Hope Beaumont, the innkeeper of his own Inn BoonsBoro…

As the former manager of a D.C. hotel, Hope is used to excitement and glamour, but that doesn’t mean she can’t appreciate the joys of small-town living. She’s where she wants to be—except for in her love life. Her only interaction with the opposite sex has been sparring with the infuriating Ryder, who always seems to get under her skin. Still, no one can deny the electricity that crackles between them…a spark that ignited with a New Year’s Eve kiss.

While the Inn is running smoothly, thanks to Hope’s experience and unerring instincts, her big-city past is about to make an unwelcome—and embarrassing—appearance. Seeing Hope vulnerable stirs up Ryder’s emotions and makes him realize that while Hope may not be perfect, she just might be perfect for him…

My Thoughts: This is the last book in the BoonsBoro trilogy and I was sad for it to have ended so quickly. I really enjoyed the small town setting for this book and some of the characters are enjoyable to read about, so having it come to an end after three books seems like a bit of a let down. Like the previous two books, this book focuses on one of the Montgomery brothers (this time it's Ryder), and a female that he obviously will fall in love with and want to marry (which is Hope). This is a Nora Roberts book, so it's pretty formulaic in what you are getting. That's why I don't think it's a spoiler to tell you that Ryder and Hope fall in love ... you know it will happen when you read the description, and if you've read the other two books in this series, then you know that it's definitely going to happen! That's one of the blessings and curses about a Roberts novel ... you know exactly what you are getting.

The characters in this novel are the same ones that we've seen throughout the series, so not much changes there. No one really changes or grows, they all just keep on living their small-town lives in bliss. For me, the thing that prevented me from really enjoying this book is the ghost factor. I like the fact that there is a ghost that inhabits the inn, but the fact that they can see her and they talk back and forth like she is an actual person at times ... it was just a little too weird. And the weirdest part of all? Not on character freaked out at the fact that they were seeing a ghost! Call me crazy, but I feel like in a room full of people, at least one person should have had a reaction to seeing a ghost.

Am I sad to have this familiar group of characters wrap up their stories and end the series? A bit ... but it just means that I'm off to explore some non-Roberts audiobooks in hte future. She is a go-to for me in audiobooks, but I feel like it's time that I listen to some other books, something that isn't as predictable and easy-going.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Ending a Chapter (or some other cheesy title)

Well, it's taken me awhile to come to this decision, and even longer to sit down and write it out, but I have decided to stop blogging for the time being.

Since the beginning of the year, blogging has been feeling like this awful chore that I have to do instead of something that I want to do. I no longer look forward to writing reviews or participating in weekly memes. I would finish a book and think, "Oh God, now I have to write a review about it." That's a feeling that I don't ever want to feel in terms of books and reading, and this is the main reason why I feel like I need to step away from blogging right now.

I don't know if this is a forever break or just a temporary one, but I know that this what I need to do right now. I still enjoy reading and getting lost in a good book, but the blogging end of things has really just gotten me down lately, so I feel it is best to step away and focus on what does make me happy.

I continue to read book blogs and read other's reviews, so it's not like I'm disengaging from the blogging community entirely. I have learned so much from bloggers and I've been introduced to so many wonderful books because of bloggers. I'm grateful to have been a part of this wonderful community and to have interacted with so many of you. 

For anyone who has taken the time to visit my blog, to read one of my reviews, or to leave a comment on one of my posts, I just want to thank you for taking the time to stop into my small corner of the Internet and read my thoughts. I look forward to reading more great book reviews and reading great books, even if I will no longer post about them.

So, for now, this is good-bye!


PS - I still have a few reviews that I've already written that are schedule to go up, so if you see one of those pop up, just know that it was written some time ago.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Reivew: Mrs. Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn

Mrs. Queen Takes the Train
Author: William Kuhn
Published: October 16, 2012
Genre: contemporary fiction
Hardcover: 374 pages
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 3.5 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): After decades of service and years of watching her family's troubles splashed across the tabloids, Britain's Queen is beginning to feel her age. She needs some proper cheering up. An unexpected opportunity offers her relief: an impromptu visit to a place that holds happy memories--the former royal yacht, Britannia, now moored near Edinburgh. Hidden beneath a skull-emblazoned hoodie, the limber Elizabeth (thank goodness for yoga) walks out of Buckingham Palace into the freedom of a rainy London day and heads for King's Cross to catch a train to Scotland. But a characterful cast of royal attendants has discovered her missing. In uneasy alliance a lady-in-waiting, a butler, an equerry, a girl from the stables, a dresser, and a clerk from the shop that supplies Her Majesty's cheese set out to find her and bring her back before her absence becomes a national scandal.

Mrs Queen Takes the Train is a clever novel, offering a fresh look at a woman who wonders if she, like Britannia herself, has, too, become a relic of the past. William Kuhn paints a charming yet biting portrait of British social, political, and generational rivalries--between upstairs and downstairs, the monarchy and the government, the old and the young. Comic and poignant, fast paced and clever, this delightful debut tweaks the pomp of the monarchy, going beneath its rigid formality to reveal the human heart of the woman at its center.

My Thoughts: I am a royal watcher. There, I said it and I have no shame in admitting it. There is something about the British royal family that is so intriguing and interesting, especially since as an American, we don't have a family like that which we can look up to (the first family changes every four to eight years). And at the head of that family is the Queen, a private woman who does her duty wonderfully. William Kuhn explores what would happen if the Queen just decided to leave one day. I'm sure it's something that everyone has wondered about ("Do royals wish they were us?" and questions like that), so he went ahead and wrote a novel focused on the Queen leaving Buckingham Palace one day and journeying to Scotland. Now, the only royal who makes an appearance in this novel is the Queen, so if you were expecting some interaction among the royal family, then you are out of luck. But there is quite the cast of characters, mostly comprised of the household staff. So, if you are a fan of Downton Abbey, then this is a book that you would probably love because it reminded me so much of that show.

Kuhn is a nonfiction writer and this is his first foray into the world of fiction. I think that his topic for his first novel was a great one and something that he was able to write knowledgably about. He knows quite a bit about the royal family, and that comes across in his writing. It's also great how he structures the Queen's staff. There is a cast of people working for the Queen and in the palace, but he selects just a few to join the story, ensuring that you are never overwhelmed with the amount of people moving around or their relationship to the Queen. I do think that his writing was a bit stiff, which is a reflection of his background. I hope that if he continues with fiction in the future that the stiffness will lessen, but who knows?!

If you enjoy Downton Abbey, then you will definitely like this book. If you were a fan of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, then you will probably like this book. It's a cute and simple read and one that really engaged my imagination. It's not too rushed, never overwhelming, and a very cute story to get wrapped up in.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Audiobook Review: The Last Boyfriend by Nora Roberts

The Last Boyfriend (Inn BoonsBoro #2)
Author: Nora Roberts
Narrator: MacLeod Andrews
Published: January 1, 2012
Genre: chick lit
Audiobook: 9 discs (approx. 10.5 hours)
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 3 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): Owen is the organizer of the Montgomery clan, running the family's construction business with an iron fist - and an even less flexible spreadsheet. And though his brothers bust on his compulsive list-making, the Inn BoonsBoro is about to open right on schedule. The only thing Owen didn't plan for was Avery McTavish

Avery's popular pizza place is right across the street from the inn, giving her a first-hand look at its amazing renovation - and a newfound appreciation for Owen. Since he was her first boyfriend when they were kids, Owen has never been far from Avery's thoughts. But the attraction she's feeling for him now is far from innocent.

As Avery and Owen cautiously take their relationship to another level, the opening of the inn gives the whole town of Boonsboro a reason to celebrate. But Owen's hard work has only begun. Getting Avery to let down her guard is going to take longer than he expected - and so will getting her to realize that her first boyfriend is going to be her last...

My Thoughts: After reading the first book in this trilogy last summer, I figure that it was time I come back around to it and finish it off. However, I decided to listen to it rather than read it, and I hoped that it would be as good in audiobook form as it is printed. This is narrated by a man, so it was a little weird having him narrate for some of the female voices (call me biased, but I don't think men can mimic women's voices as well as women do men's.) But since the majority of the story is told from Owen's point of view, it works well (for the most part ... some of the female voices were a bit too shrill). This is a typical Nora Roberts novel, with two people falling in love with one another in this romantic setting. I choose to listen to her books because I know what I am getting, so it can be easier to listen to them than to another book, where I really have to keep track of what is going on in the story.

Owen might be the most likeable brother of the Montgomery clan because he's the one who is most down to earth. Not to say that the other boys are way out there, but Ryder is a playboy (or I guess he is supposed to be, which must be difficult to do in a small town), and Beckett was lusting after the same girl for years, which leaves Owen, over there running the business and taking care of his family. He is methodical, which Roberts repeatedly drives home throughout the story. There is his love interest, Avery, who is a little zany and out there, so of course, she falls in love with the man who is super organized. For me, Roberts was pushing a little too hard when it came to creating Avery's personality. She really wanted you to get that she's out there, but she just tried to hard to make that come across. Also, I work in the restaurant industry as a manager, and I love reading books that are set in a restaurant because it's so unrealisitic! Sorry, but if this woman owns her own restaurant, she's not getting days off and the time to run around and help them set up in the inn. Also, something that really irks me is when authors comment on the cute shoes that people wear in a kitchen, which Roberts does by constantly mentioning the Converse that Avery wears to work. Once again, sorry! Those aren't slip proof and wouldn't hold up all day. Next time you are in a restaurant, look at the server/bartender/manager's shoes .... do they look cute? No, but they are highly functional and they never fall or slip once during their shift (there is water/oil/food everywhere in a restaurant ... believe, the chance to slipping everyday is really high!) Sorry, that was my random rant that I just had to take out on this poor book.

Overall, it was an easy, predictable read and something that I was able to enjoy on my commutes to and from work. If you are interested in starting to listen to audiobooks, I would recommend that you start with someone like Nora Roberts. They are easy to follow along and usually a good way to get lost for a little while.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (5-15-13)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. Each week, you highlight an upcoming release that you are eagerly anticipating. This week, I'm looking forward to Memories of a Marriage by Louis Begley (release date: July 9, 2013).

Synopsis (from Amazon): In the unforgiving class system of the 1950s, Lucy de Bourgh, daughter of one of Rhode Island's first families and beneficiary of an ample trust fund, was married to Thomas Snow, son of a Newport garage owner and his bookkeeper wife. It hardly mattered that Thomas was a graduate of Harvard Business School, or that he went to work for a great Wall Street firm and succeeded beyond expectations. In Lucy's eyes, he remained irremediably a "townie." Decades later, a chance meeting brings Lucy together with Philip, our narrator. They'd known each other earlier, and he remembers her as a ravishing, funny, ready-for-anything hellion with a well-earned reputation for generosity with sexual favors. He also remembers Thomas, killed in a freak accident years after his and Lucy's divorce, and is shocked to hear Lucy refer to Thomas insistently as "that monster." How is he to reconcile that unexpected and overflowing reservoir of bitterness and resentments with his own memories? Almost against his will, Philip sets out on a quest that soon becomes an obsession to discover who exactly these friends were whom he had understood so incompletely, and what happened in their marriage. Through Philip's patient probing, a brilliant portrait emerges of Begley's heroine: infinitely complex, irresistible as well as insufferable, capable of extremes of arrogance and submission, and driven by sexual appetites she cannot control. Lucy de Bourgh is without doubt one of Begley's strongest and most outrageous creations.

So, what are you waiting on this Wednesday?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday (5-14-13)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Each week, 
they post a different topic, and you get to create your own top ten list. So, this week's 
topic is:

Books Dealing With Tough Subjects

1) Alice Bliss by Laura Harrington - a coming-of-age novel where a teenage girl must deal with the deployment of her father to Iraq. I tend to shy away from coming-of-age novels, but this one was fantasticly written.

2) Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah - this was such a well-written novel and it touches on a variety of tough subjects. The one that really hit home for me was the death of Tully's grandmother.

3) The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg - this novel touches on how personal choices not only affect us as individuals, but also those closest to us. Focusing on how Edie's obesity affects the whole family is a harrowing tale not only of personal choices, but the obesity epidemic here in America.

4) The Help by Kathryn Stockett - I loved this novel for so many reasons, but the chapters told from Aibileen's perspective are so moving. Definitely a fresh take on the civil rights movement.

5) Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi - her personal memoir detailing her struggle with anorexia and bulemia, de Rossi takes you inside her illness to see what it's like for someone struggling with these issues. This was a tough book to read, and while I'm glad that I did, it's something that really stuck with me.

6) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee - a fantastic piece of literature that tackles prejudice and how it affects people. I could talk for hours on this book, but I'll leave it alone and just say that if you haven't read it, you must.

7) Night by Elie Wiesel - I read this book in high school and it has stuck with me since then (I read it over 10 years ago!) Wiesel recounts his experience in a Nazi concentration camp. While difficult to read, I think it's necessary for everyone to do so and gain some understanding of thise awful event.

8) The Pact by Jodi Picoult - dealing with teenage suicide (in a Romeo and Juliet way), Picoult details how the death can affect everyone differntly, from the boyfriend to the neighbors to the parents.

9) Faith by Jennifer Haigh - this novel tackles the tough subject of child molestation, using the Catholic church sex scandals that were occurring in the 2000s. This was a great study in how far people will go when they are pushed.

I can only think of nine, but I know that there are so many books that handle tough subjects. These are the ones that popped in my mind first. So, which books made your list? Let me know!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Review: Invisible by Carla Buckley

Author: Carla Buckley
Published: September 25, 2012
Genre: contemporary fiction
eBook: approx. 400 pages
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 3 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): Growing up, Dana Carlson and her older sister, Julie, are inseparable—Dana the impulsive one, Julie calmer and more nurturing. But then a devastating secret compels Dana to flee from home, not to see or speak to her sister for sixteen years.

When she receives the news that Julie is seriously ill, Dana knows that she must return to their hometown of Black Bear, Minnesota, to try and save her sister. Yet she arrives too late, only to discover that Black Bear has changed, and so have the people in it. Julie has left behind a shattered teenage daughter, Peyton, and a mystery—what killed Julie may be killing others, too. Why is no one talking about it? Dana struggles to uncover the truth, but no one wants to hear it, including Peyton, who can’t forgive her aunt’s years-long absence. Dana had left to protect her own secrets, but Black Bear has a secret of its own—one that could tear apart Dana’s life, her family, and the whole town.

My Thoughts: The description of this novel is what really pulled me in (the cover does nothing for me) and I thought that it would be a really good thriller to read. Afterall, doesn't it intrigue you as to why Dana left and what is this secret that could tear apart the whole town? Carla Buckley explores what happens to a woman who returns home after being away for years and years, only to discover that not only have people changed, but something is changing people. There is a higher occurence of kidney failure in this area that is thought to be normal. Julie has just passed because of renal failure, and while she started to investigate, it's now up to her sister Dana to figure out what is hurting the town. The chapters alternate between Dana, who returns home to find that her sister has died and left behind a husband and teenage daughter; and Peyton, Julie's daughter and someone who is now motherless and dealing with an aunt who she just met a few days ago.

I really liked the character of Dana and thought that the chapters told from her persepctive were the best. As an outsider in the town, she does see things differently than the people that never left, and she does find it odd that there is such a high occurence of kidney-related diseases in the area, even when the doctors don't seem to be concerned. Peyton's chapters were sometimes boring and I think it was because she wasn't contributing to solving the mystery of what is affecting this town. I loved her little ocean-facts at the beginning of each chapter, because they definitely played out with humans and it was interesting to see the connections between the way of life in the ocean and that on land.

My biggest problem with this book was that it sounded like it would be more of a thriller than it actually was. Except for about five pages, it wasn't all that gripping. Sure, there was a mystery going on, but it played second fiddle to the return of Dana to Black Bear and all the stress that she must deal with. I just wish that there had been more of a thriller aspect to it, because then I think that this book could have been phenomenal. On that note, I would like to read more of Carla Buckey's work in the future because this was an interesting read, especially with her research into environmental issues. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Review: The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout

The Burgess Boys
Author: Elizabeth Strout
Published: March 26, 2013
Genre: fiction
Hardcover: 336 pages
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 3 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): Haunted by the freak accident that killed their father when they were children, Jim and Bob Burgess escaped from their Maine hometown of Shirley Falls for New York City as soon as they possibly could. Jim, a sleek, successful corporate lawyer, has belittled his bighearted brother their whole lives, and Bob, a Legal Aid attorney who idolizes Jim, has always taken it in stride. But their long-standing dynamic is upended when their sister, Susan—the Burgess sibling who stayed behind—urgently calls them home. Her lonely teenage son, Zach, has gotten himself into a world of trouble, and Susan desperately needs their help. And so the Burgess brothers return to the landscape of their childhood, where the long-buried tensions that have shaped and shadowed their relationship begin to surface in unexpected ways that will change them forever.

My Thoughts: I have hears so many people rave about Elizabeth Strout's work that when I heard that this book was being released, I decided that I would have to give her a try. The description of the book intrigued me and had me pulled in before I even read the first chapter. The book is a study in the relationship of siblings and how events that occur during childhood shapes each sibling differently. There is Jim, the oldest and most outspoken of the bunch, definitely the leader of the group. Then there are the twins, Bob and Susan. Bob has followed his older brother in the field of law, although working far below his potential (at least as Jim sees it) by working at Legal Aid. Then there is Susan, who has remained in their hometown of Shirley Falls raising her son, Zach, after her husband divorced her and moved to Sweden. There are a host of issues that the siblings deal with (I won't get into here), but when Zach commits a hate crime, all of the siblings are brought together in Shirley Falls to help and reconnect for the first time in years.

Each character in this book is a unique individual and Strout really takes the time to craft each one. Each has a distinct personality and you feel like you understand each one over the course of the book, which is hard for any author to do. Jim is definitely the bossiest and the leader, but I think that he is the one who is explored the least. There is a shocking revelation from him about two-thirds of the way through the book, but you still don't entirely understand him or his motivations. He is mean and rude to his brother Bob, who has loved him since childhood and always looked up to him. You can understand why Susan turned into the person that she did when you learn about her interactions with her mother, and Bob is pretty easy to get from the get-go of the story. But each grows as the novel continues and Strout always keeps it interesting.

For me, this was a bit of a letdown, but it wasn't a bad novel. Strout is a great writer and an excellent crafter of characters, but this novel was just a bit of a drag for me. I felt like there was more that could be done, but Strout held back just a little too much. I will look into her other works in the future, but if you haven't read her work before, then this might not be the novel to start with.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (5-8-13)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. Each week, you highlight an upcoming release that you are eagerly anticipating. This week, I'm looking forward to The Violet Hour by Katherine Hill (release date: July 16, 2013).

Synopsis (from Amazon): 
Life hasn't always been perfect, but for Abe and Cassandra Green, an afternoon on the San Francisco Bay might be as good as it gets. He's a rheumatologist, piloting his coveted new sailboat. She's a sculptor, finally gaining modest attention for her art. Their beautiful daughter Elizabeth is heading to Harvard in the fall. Somehow, they've made life work. But then, out of nowhere, they plunge into a terrible fight. Cassandra has been unfaithful. In a fit of fury, Abe throws himself off the boat.
A love story that begins with the end of a marriage, The Violet Hour follows a modern family through past and present, from the San Francisco public health clinic where Abe first sees Cassandra to the funeral home in the Washington suburbs where Cassandra and her siblings grew up. As Cassandra, Abe, and Elizabeth navigate the passage of time—the expectations of youth, the concessions of middle age, the headiness of desire, the bitterness of loss—they must come to terms with the fragility of their intimacy, the strange legacies they inherit from their parents, and the kind of people they themselves want to be. Exquisitely written, The Violet Hour is the deeply moving story of a family suddenly ripped apart, but then possibly—just possibly—reborn.

This sounds like an intriguing read and something that I might enjoy later in the summer. So, what are you waiting on this Wednesday?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday (5-7-13)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Each week, 
they post a different topic, and you get to create your own top ten list. So, this week's 
topic is:

Books When You Need Something Light and Fun

1) The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella - this is one of the funniest books that I've ever read (well, listened to). I was laughing throughout the novel and it was the perfect light and airy book to listen to while driving in my car.

2) Call Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips - Phillips is a romance writer, but this is a great novel because it's so easy to pick up and put down, but just as easy to get lost in. Very light, fun, and perfect for summer!

3) Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling - a humorous memoir of Kaling's childhood and getting into show business. I was cracking up laughing during this one! Not too heavy, definitely worth the read!

4) Always Something There to Remind Me by Beth Harbison - I read this one after reading a rave review from another blogger, and I am so glad that I did! All about a woman contemplating her first love, and what woman hasn't been there?!?

5) Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris - I love Sedaris because his writing is so silly and irreverent that you can't help but be in a good mood when you read it! Also, how can you make a light and fun list without including him?!?

6) If You Were Here by Jen Lancaster - this was Lancaster's first foray into fiction and it was a hilarious gamble that paid off for her! I was laughing out loud at so many points during this book that I just had to read it in the privacy of my own home, when no one else was around (it's just weird if you keep on cracking up while reading).

7) The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger - this was a great novel, one that was pure chick lit, which makes it the perfect light and fun book to read! And who doesn't love reading about someone who is worse than their own boss? Makes you realize how easy you have it!

8) The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen - I don't know if I would classify this as fun, but this was a sweet, moving little story about a small town in the south. Nice and light, an easy read.

9) Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella - another Kinsella novel! She is the queen of light and fun and this was one of the best audiobooks that I've ever listened to! Seriously, if you are looking for something light and fun, then this is the perfect book for you!

I could only think of nine this week! So, what books made your top ten? Let me know!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Audiobook Review: Hope In a Jar by Beth Harbison

Hope In a Jar
Author: Beth Harbison
Narrator: Orlagh Cassidy
Published: July 7, 2009
Genre: chick lit
Audiobook: 8 discs (approx. 9 hours)
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 3 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): Twenty years ago, Allie Denty was the pretty one and her best friend Olivia Pelham was the smart one. Throughout high school, they were inseparable…until a vicious rumor about Olivia— a rumor too close to the truth—ended their friendship. Now, on the eve of their twentieth high school reunion, Allie, a temp worker, finds herself suddenly single, a little chubby, and feeling old. Olivia, a cool and successful magazine beauty editor in New York, realizes she’s lonely, and is finally ready to face her demons.
Sometimes hope lives in the future; sometimes it comes from the past; and sometimes, when every stupid thing goes wrong, it comes from a prettily packaged jar filled with scented cream and promises.

My Thoughts: I was wary to try another Beth Harbison novel after her last one was so disastrous for me, but I decided to give her another shot, and I am glad that I did. Following two women who were best friends in high school but had a falling out, Harbison shows you where the women are twenty years later at their high school reunion. The novel starts by showing you the women in the present, which is nice because you can't judge their adolescent selves for anything stupid that they might say or do (which I always do in flashbacks). The chapters alternate between the past and the present, showing you how close the two were before the "incident" occurred and how they are becoming close again, twenty years after the fact.

For me, there was just something slightly off about this novel. The big incident that destroyed Ally and Olivia's friendship back in high school is made to be a bit trivial, but you are wondering what would destroy the bond between two girls who are so close. And when it's finally revealed what happened, Harbison makes it a bit of a throw-away moment, giving no importance to what was just revealed. I was shocked by what had happened (don't worry, I'm not giving anything away!), but Harbison treats it as if there was a minor storm that just rolled through quickly. It was frustrating for me because I wanted to know what had driven these two best friends apart, but she treated it with little fanfare or importance.

The good news is that the novel is engaging and funny. I looked forward to getting in my car and listening to it, and, since it's a shorter novel, it went by pretty quickly (I prefer short audiobooks to really long ones). This is your basic chick lit novel, so there's nothing really groundbreaking that occurs when you listen, but it's nice to just get swept up in the story for a little while. The friendship that Ally and Olivia share is great, and it's wonderful to see it rekindled after so much time has passed. I would have enjoyed it more if the story was a bit more complete (as mentioned above), but it was an overall easy listening experience. I will continue to listen to Harbison in audiobook form because they are the perfect book to just get lost in and enjoy the long commute to and from work.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Review: The Stuff That Never Happened by Maddie Dawson

The Stuff That Never Happened
Author: Maddie Dawson
Published: July 28, 2010
Genre: chick lit
eBook: approx. 368 pages
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 3 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): Annabelle McKay knows she shouldn’t have any complaints. She’s been in a stable marriage that’s lasted almost three decades and has provided her with two wonderful children, thousands of family dinners around a sturdy oak table, and a husband so devoted that he schedules lovemaking into his calendar every Wednesday morning. Other wives envy the fact that Grant is not the type of man who would ever cheat on her or leave her for a younger woman. The trouble is Annabelle isn’t sure she wants to be married to Grant anymore. The trouble is she’s still in love with someone else.
In the early tumultuous years of her marriage, Annabelle carried on a clandestine affair with the one person whose betrayal would hurt her husband the most. When it ended, she and Grant found their way back together and made a pact that they would never speak of that time again. But now years later, with her children grown and gone, and an ominous distance opening between them, she can’t help but remember those glorious, passionate days and wonder if she chose the right man. Then, when called to New York City to help care for her pregnant daughter, Annabelle bumps into her old lover. Offered a second chance at an unforgettable love, she must decide between the man who possesses her heart and the husband who has stood squarely by her side.

My Thoughts: For quite sometime, I've been walking through my library and seen this book on display and the cover, for some inexplicable reason, just drew me towards it. Unfortunately, I usually had quite a few books already selected so I would put it back down and decide to check it out another day. Then, when it popped up on my library's OverDrive console as available, I jumped on it. Following a woman who cheated on her husband many decades ago but stuck with him after the affair ended, Maddie Dawson tells a story that spans decades and generations, and leaves you wondering when it is okay to cheat on someone and how many people you are capable of loving at once.

Annabelle is the narrator for this story and she has a very strong, clear voice. While I didn't always agree with her actions, I understood her reasoning behind them and why she was making the decision that she was making at the time. There were times when she appealled directly to the reader, but it wasn't frequently enough to make you comfortable with it. All of a sudden, two-thirds of the way through the book, she would ask you, the reader, a question directly, and it was a little off-putting because it was a bit out of place with what was going on in the novel. The other characters in the novel are secondary to Annabelle, and although they contribute to her story, it's her thoughts and actions that move the story along.

Overall, this was a nice little read. The cover doesn't necessarily describe the book, but it does fit with what happens with Annabelle (at least in the beginning of the novel). It does start out a bit slowly and you have to give it about 50 pages before it really pulls you in. Dawson alternates the chapters between the past and the present, so that you are able to fully understand Annabelle's affair and her actions and thoughts at the time. I would be interested in reading more of Dawson's work in the future and hope that she is able to continue writing with that clear voice that she gave Annabelle.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Book Blog Hop and Follow Friday (5-3-13)

Happy Friday everyone! Can you believe that May is here already?!? I'm still thinking that it should be March ... this year is just flying by too quickly! I have a big weekend ahead of me and I couldn't be more excited for it ... I'm running my first 5K tomorrow! I know, it's not very long or an incredible test of endurance, but I'm excited to go and run my first real event. Well, let's get onto the Friday fun ...

What was the last book you read that was recommended by someone else?

Great question! The last book recommended by someone is actually the one that I am reading right now, Chocolate Chip Murder by Joanne Fluke. Someone mentioned how easy they were to read and yet really enjoyable, so I decided to give it a try. I'll let you know what I think of it after I finish!

Parajunkee asks:

Give us a sneak! What are you reading? Tell us about a fun or fail scene in your current read.

Well, continuing with my answer from above (haha!), I'm reading Chocolate Chip Murder right now. I'm only about 30 pages into it, so I guess the fun scene that I've encountered is what Hannah goes digging in the trash for a coffee cup that might be a piece of evidence in a murder investigation. She's a baker, not a detective, so it's a little odd, but still cool!

So, what's the last book recommendation you've received that you went ahead and read? What are you reading right now? Let me know and have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Monthly Wrap-Up: April 2013

Well, another month has flown by! Seriously, where did April go?!? I feel like the month just started but then it was time to flip the calenders for May. I don't feel like April was my best reading month, and this whole year feels like I am constantly behind in my reading. I don't feel like I'm in a slump, but I'm definitely reading slower than I normally do. Hopefully, with summer right around the corner, I can pick up the pace and enjoy sitting outside and reading some more. Well, let's look at my month:

Number of Books Read This Month: 8

Books Read This Month:
Sister by Rosamund Lupton
The Villa by Nora Roberts (audiobook)
The Stuff That Never Happened by Maddie Dawson
Hope In a Jar by Beth Harbison (audiobook)
The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout
Invisible by Carla Buckley
The Last Boyfriend by Nora Roberts (audiobook)
Mrs. Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn

Favorite Book Read This Month: Sister by Rosamund Lupton
Least Favorite Book Read This Month: The Villa by Nora Roberts

It was a varied reading month for me, but no nonfiction. I need to change that ASAP. Anyone have any good biographies or memoirs that they have read lately?

Well, I hope that everyone had a great April, and here's looking forward to an even better May!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (5-1-13)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. Each week, you highlight an upcoming release that you are eagerly anticipating. This week, I'm looking forward to Revenge Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger (release date: June 4, 2013).

Synopsis (from Amazon): Eight years have passed since Andrea “Andy” Sachs quit the job “a million girls would die for” working for Miranda Priestly at Runway Magazine—a dream that turned out to be a nightmare. Now Andy’s on the top of the world: she’s writing and reporting to her heart’s content; running The Plunge, her wildly successful high fashion bridal magazine with Miranda’s other ex-assistant, Emily; and most importantly, getting married to the scion of a storied media family and the love of her life.

But the night before her wedding, Andy can’t sleep. As happy as she is—as happy as she should be—she’s still haunted by the specter of her former boss. Maybe it’s survivor syndrome? Or maybe it’s justifiable, self-inflicted, paranoia. From the start, Andy and Emily have felt entitled to use their rolodex of contacts—Miranda’s contacts—from Runway as they make their way in the magazine world. As The Plunge succeeds, Andy and Emily realize they’ll soon come face to face with their former tormenter at industry functions, award ceremonies, and even weddings. Still, Andy can hardly anticipate the horrifying reality that’s approaching—a reversal so profound that she will be squarely in Miranda’s crosshairs once more.

Karma’s a bitch. And Andy’s efforts to build a bright new life have led her directly to the one she fled—and into the path of the Devil herself.

I cannot wait for this book to come out! I loved the first one so much and I hope that this one is just as good. And hopefully, they will also make this one into a movie with Meryl Streep reprising her role as Miranda Priestly (I think this is one of the book-to-movie adapations that was good). So, what are you waiting on this Wednesday?

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday (4-30-13)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Each week, 
they post a different topic, and you get to create your own top ten list. So, this week's 
topic is:

Words/Topics That Instantly Make Me Pick Up a Book

1) World War II - I love novels set during this time period! If it has anything to do with WWII, you can bet that I will pick it up!

2) New York City - I love this town and how diverse it is. You never know what can happen here!

3) Shoes - I am obsessed with shoes! If the word shoes is in the title, then you can bet that I will read it!

4) Art - I don't know why I am pulled towards books dealing with art/the art world, but I am. I might pick the book up, but the odds that I will actually read it are small.

5) Weight - I am on a journey to living a healthier lifestyle, so reading books that deal with characters who are also facing similar issues really resonates with me.

6) Any form of technology - I love with authors embrace technology and make it a part of their books. I feel like it adds another dimension to the story when they use something like blogging or Twitter to enhance the story (and it also makes it more realistic).

7) Travel - I love traveling so if a book has anything to do with getting away from it all, then I need to read it!

8) Paris - I am obsessed with Paris! I have never been but if I see anything related to Paris on that cover, then I have to pick it up and read it!

9) London - I don't love London as much as a do Paris (at least in terms of book settings), but books set here are just something that I gravitate towards.

I could only think of nine things this week! It was hard to pinpoint what exactly draws me towards a book! So, what pulls you in? Let me know!