Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday

This meme is hosted by Breaking the Spine and is meant to highlight some great pre-publication books we all can't wait to get our grubby little mitts on.

My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella. The book is being released by The Dial Press on February 7, 2017.

Amazon says this about the book: Part love story, part workplace drama, this sharply observed novel is a witty critique of the false judgments we make in a social-media-obsessed world. New York Times bestselling author Sophie Kinsella has written her most timely novel yet.

Everywhere Katie Brenner looks, someone else is living the life she longs for, particularly her boss, Demeter Farlowe. Demeter is brilliant and creative, lives with her perfect family in a posh townhouse, and wears the coolest clothes. Katie’s life, meanwhile, is a daily struggle—from her dismal rental to her oddball flatmates to the tense office politics she’s trying to negotiate. No wonder Katie takes refuge in not-quite-true Instagram posts, especially as she's desperate to make her dad proud.

Then, just as she’s finding her feet—not to mention a possible new romance—the worst happens. Demeter fires Katie. Shattered but determined to stay positive, Katie retreats to her family’s farm in Somerset to help them set up a vacation business. London has never seemed so far away—until Demeter unexpectedly turns up as a guest. Secrets are spilled and relationships rejiggered, and as the stakes for Katie’s future get higher, she must question her own assumptions about what makes for a truly meaningful life.

Sophie Kinsella is celebrated for her vibrant, relatable characters and her great storytelling gifts. Now she returns with all of the wit, warmth, and wisdom that are the hallmarks of her bestsellers to spin this fresh, modern story about presenting the perfect life when the reality is far from the truth.

Monday, January 16, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Kathryn at Reading Date.

Books I completed this past week are:

Emma: A Modern Retelling by Alexander McCall Smith
Wreck and Order by Hannah Tennant-Moore

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

You Have Never Been Here by Mary Rickert
A Well-Made Bed by Abby Frucht and Laurie Alberts
The Other Woman by Therese Bohman
The Children's Crusade by Ann Packer
The Lake House by Kate Morton
Exposure by Helen Dunmore
Eliza Waite by Ashley E. Sweeney
Shelter by Jung Yun
The Center of the World by Jacqueline Sheehan
A Manual For Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin
The Last Time She Saw Him by Jane Haseldine
The Beauty of the End by Debbie Howells
I Hid My Voice by Parinoush Saniee
Country of Red Azaleas by Domnica Radulescu
A Hard and Heavy Thing by Matthew J. Hefti
Roughneck Grace by Michael Perry
Paint Your Wife by Lloyd Jones

Reviews posted this week:

I'm Coming by Selma Lonning Aaro
Must Love Weiners by Casey Griffin
Losing It by Emma Rathbone

Books still needing to have reviews written (as opposed to the ones that are simply awaiting posting):

The Veins of the Ocean by Patricia Engel
Emma: A Modern Retelling by Alexander McCall Smith
Wreck and Order by Hannah Tennant-Moore

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Review: Losing It by Emma Rathbone

Yes, yes, you're probably starting to wonder about my reading for 2017 if you've followed the rest of the reviews so far. A book about a woman trying to have an orgasm, then one with a suggestively punny title, and now one about a young woman obsessed with losing her virginity. At least some of you (probably my mom) are wondering what gives. The premise for this novel, a 26 year old woman who is still a virgin and wondering why moves in with her maiden aunt for the summer, discovers that said aunt is truly a maiden (ie also a virgin), and wants to figure out why even as she actively tries to shed herself of her own long standing virginity, sounded weird and interesting to me. Unfortunately, it wasn't as intriguing as I'd hoped.

Julia, the aforementioned 26 year old virgin, is completely adrift and lonely in her life. She hasn't had a purpose since she quit swimming in college, having been almost Olympic caliber. Finally tiring of the soul sucking life she's merely enduring, she quits her job and decides to move home again to regroup. But her parents have rented out her childhood home and are going on their own adventure for the summer so her only option is to go to North Carolina and move in with her father's sister, her Aunt Viv, who she barely knows at all. Her only decent relationship thus far seems to be with her parents as she has no good friends in whom she confides and certainly (obviously?) no significant other.

Taking a part time receptionist job in Durham, she decides it is finally time to lose her virginity and she spends much time wondering just how it is that she has gotten to her age without having sex. What she's really asking is why she has never found the intimacy and commitment that everyone else she knows started finding long ago. In order to help her on her quest, she tries everything: online dating, taking a painting class, flirting with a coworker, even trying to seduce a grieving son at a funeral. She is obsessed with not only figuring out what is wrong with her but also with rectifying it. However, as she goes about trying to connect with a man, she is quite condescending about those around her and she doesn't seem to see that she doesn't have a leg to stand on in her criticisms. She is quietly dismissive of her aunt's decorative plate painting and her general style. She describes the men she meets in less than flattering terms, criticizing their clothing or homes or offices. She is rather self-centered and bratty and it is hard throughout the novel to remember that she is in fact 26, not 16, because her immaturity shines in many of her (ill-advised) decisions.

The first three quarters of the book are very slow moving and the frustration of the reader mirrors Julia's frustrations. The novel is first person narration so the reader spends all of their time in Julia's head, seeing her wonder why she is still untouched. She looks at her past romantic history and tries to tease out where she's gone wrong, why she is so lonely and unconnected to others. She wonders about her aunt, snooping in the house and looking for parallels between them, especially once she discovers that her aunt is also a virgin. But even with all of her internal mental examinations, Julia doesn't see herself as she truly is, nor does she grow and learn from her experiences as the novel goes on. The final quarter of the novel has much more action in it than the previous three quarters, giving it an oddly uneven narrative tension. A disaffected main character, lack of action (no pun intended), and not as much insight into connection and intimacy as promised, in the end, this was not the reading experience I'd hoped.

Waiting on Wednesday

This meme is hosted by Breaking the Spine and is meant to highlight some great pre-publication books we all can't wait to get our grubby little mitts on.

Perfect Little World by Kevin Wilson. The book is being released by Ecco on January 24, 2017.

Amazon says this about the book: When Isabelle Poole meets Dr. Preston Grind, she’s fresh out of high school, pregnant with her art teacher's baby, and totally on her own. Izzy knows she can be a good mother but without any money or relatives to help, she’s left searching.

Dr. Grind, an awkwardly charming child psychologist, has spent his life studying family, even after tragedy struck his own. Now, with the help of an eccentric billionaire, he has the chance to create a “perfect little world”—to study what would happen when ten children are raised collectively, without knowing who their biological parents are. He calls it The Infinite Family Project and he wants Izzy and her son to join.

This attempt at a utopian ideal starts off promising, but soon the gentle equilibrium among the families disintegrates: unspoken resentments between the couples begin to fester; the project's funding becomes tenuous; and Izzy’s growing feelings for Dr. Grind make her question her participation in this strange experiment in the first place.

Written with the same compassion and charm that won over legions of readers with The Family Fang, Kevin Wilson shows us with grace and humor that the best families are the ones we make for ourselves.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Review: Must Love Weiners by Casey Griffin

I have to admit that I chose this book for my inner twelve year old boy. I was rather on a roll with quirky and unusual so how could I pass up such a hilariously punny title, especially with a cute dachshund on the cover?

When this contemporary romance opens, Piper is juggling all three of her part time jobs, driving a taxi to deliver a singing telegram after which she intends to deliver a pizza. Predictably given the odd job combo, nothing goes right for her. She lands in the lap of the gorgeous recipient of the singing telegram (he's also the CEO of the company), her dog Colin eats the bread sticks for the delivery (the pizza's cold anyway), and her taxi is stolen. Losing two of her three jobs just weeks before she finally finishes her practicum for vet school and graduates is about the worst thing that can possibly happen. But at least she still has her volunteer work at the doxie rescue, a job she truly loves.

When the gorgeous CEO, Aiden, shows up at the doxie rescue to pick up Sophie, the little female that Piper's doxie Colin loves, things get very complicated. Offering Piper the job of walking Sophie, Piper and Aiden start a dance that brings them together and moves them apart several times. Piper doesn't entirely trust Aiden because he is rich and he doesn't understand her insecurity and stubborn pride, resulting in him not keeping her in the loop of something very important. Aiden is very concerned with keeping business and pleasure separate, which leads to conflicting signals for Piper.  The two of them are clearly worlds apart.

Piper's character comes off as a complete and total flake, scattered and disorganized, making the reader wonder how on earth she's managed to get through vet school. Aiden, by contrast, is portrayed as socially awkward but still an effortlessly high powered executive, an unusual combination to say the least. More than their respective oddball character traits, the novel is packed chock full of various plot threads. In many ways, this comes off as more of a slapdash caper than a romance as Piper and Aiden's relationship often takes a back seat to everything else that is going on from a stalker to family issues, from arson to attempted murder. The issue that is going to provide the dramatic tension is telegraphed almost from the start and it's hard not to feel frustration with both Piper and Aiden given this predictability. In the end, despite these flaws, this was an easy, quick read that was a pleasant enough way to spend a couple of hours.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Review: I'm Coming by Selma Lonning Aaro

I was browsing the shelves at my local independent bookstore when I came across this novel. As a mom, I hear the phrase "I'm coming" all the time. At a guess, that's why I pulled it off the shelf (well, that and the deep pink color of the words). The cover of the book made me giggle almost immediately; from the pink rabbit ears to the rumpled sheet background and the short blurb "a hilarious novel about why women fake it," this was clearly a novel of a different sort. After all, there aren't too many mainstream novels about a woman trying and failing to have an orgasm. As risque as that might sound, this is not a risque novel. In fact, it is far more an examination of the ways that women are held to an unrealistic ideal by society, by men, by other women, and even by themselves and how that might manifest itself in their sexual lives.

Julie is a married mother of three. She's a writer who is at a loss over her next project. Her husband, A, is no more or less attentive than most husbands and she's free from some of the demands of motherhood by the presence of her au pair. But Julie has never had an orgasm, a fact that distresses her a lot and a situation she intends to rectify. She buys herself a vibrator that comes with a 30 day money back guarantee. Life is busy and so it isn't until she is seven days away from the end of the warranty that she gets serious about learning to pleasure herself. Deciding to lock herself away for those seven days, Julie is alone with herself, her vibrator, and whatever spools through her head during the time she is trying to reach orgasm.  And a lot spools through her head indeed.

The narration is first person although it ranges far and wide from the room Julie is in. She revisits her childhood, her sexual awakening, and much of her sexual history with various partners. In between her reminiscences, she is distracted by every day occurrences and consumed with feelings of failure, inadequacy, and of missing out. She fantasizes about men she's met recently, imagines her au pair's very probably healthy and fulfilling sex life, and ponders what about her life might be keeping her from fulfillment.

In the beginning, there are bits and pieces of Julie's thoughts that are very relatable to many women. The way her mind wanders from topic to topic feels very familiar and so the reader feels sympathy that she seems unable to turn this constant train of thought off, live in the moment, and just let go. But as she starts to examine her past, Julie becomes much less likable, recounting things that cause the reader to wonder if she's perhaps not as normal as expected, and in fact a bit unhinged or psychotic. These things make her an unlikable character, one that the reader doesn't want to spend time with, instead of someone the reader can relate to or respect. Her interactions with a construction worker are disturbing and her behavior with the dog she so desperately wanted but eventually tires of is unforgivable.  It is hard to get past these and other incidents to stay with the main story.

The novel's social commentary is astute and interesting and the way that sexuality and all that surrounds it is very often secret and shameful or at the very least undiscussable is handled very sensitively. The ending of the novel is unsatisfying (ha!) although it is very likely the only suitable ending given what came before it. The novel is not hilarious as the cover suggests although there is definitely some humor in it. Perhaps being a Norwegian translation makes its humor less accessible to an American audience. Also, it is surprisingly not sexy so those picking this up looking for titillation will not find it. Although Julie spends much of the book in bed, the masturbation scenes are not graphic or frequent at all, making this more of a feminist look at sexuality and the expectations and ideals we hold women to in all parts of their lives, including that most personal realm, the bedroom. Ultimately I was so turned off by Julie as a character that the novel didn't fully succeed for me but I did appreciate the nuggets of truth I uncovered.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I didn't exactly start this year as I mean to go on. I'm already behind in the reviews. ::sigh:: This meme is hosted by Kathryn at Reading Date.

Books I completed this past week are:

I'm Coming by Selma Lonning Aaro
Must Love Weiners by Casey Griffin
Losing It by Emma Rathbone
The Veins of the Ocean by Patricia Engel

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

You Have Never Been Here by Mary Rickert
A Well-Made Bed by Abby Frucht and Laurie Alberts
The Other Woman by Therese Bohman
The Children's Crusade by Ann Packer
The Lake House by Kate Morton
Exposure by Helen Dunmore
Eliza Waite by Ashley E. Sweeney
Shelter by Jung Yun
The Center of the World by Jacqueline Sheehan
A Manual For Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin
The Last Time She Saw Him by Jane Haseldine
The Beauty of the End by Debbie Howells
I Hid My Voice by Parinoush Saniee
Country of Red Azaleas by Domnica Radulescu
A Hard and Heavy Thing by Matthew J. Hefti
Roughneck Grace by Michael Perry
Paint Your Wife by Lloyd Jones
Emma: A Modern Retelling by Alexander McCall Smith

Reviews posted this week:

nothing, because I stink

Books still needing to have reviews written (as opposed to the ones that are simply awaiting posting):

I'm Coming by Selma Lonning Aaro
Must Love Weiners by Casey Griffin
Losing It by Emma Rathbone
The Veins of the Ocean by Patricia Engel

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