Saturday, May 23, 2020

Rodham

Hillary Rodham grew up in a small suburb in Illinois. Close with her lovely mother, tolerating her overbearing father and cheered on by her two brothers, she was a straight A student, a leader and an overachiever - always. After a successful college career and delivering her famous commencement speech at Wellesley Hillary went on to attend law school at Yale. It is at Yale that Hillary has her first true romance, with none other than Bill Clinton. From the start Bill is a smart, fast talking southern charmer and she cannot grasp how this handsome, popular boy is so smitten with her. Through hard work, determination and drive the world is her oyster and those close to her are shocked when she follows Bill and his proposal to Arkansas to teach at the university while he runs for office. This is where the sliding doors open - Hillary says no. She says no to his philandering, no to his undeniable allure and yes to a future where she can follow her own heart while it is still in one piece. The rest is - well, you’d have to read the book to find out! This work of fiction is beyond a doubt extremely creative and interesting but the truth is, I did not enjoy it. When Hillary Rodham Clinton lost the election in 2016 many of us were devastated for a multitude of reasons. I loved the idea of an alternative story to the one we all (think) we know. Unfortunately the daily mundane campaigning details, of which this book is filled, are kind of boring. This alternative scenario made the truth of politics all the more sad.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982

In the center of Seoul, South Korea, lives a small family. Kim Jiyoung is a recent stay at home mom, having left her office job to care for their young infant. At first the couple blames her swinging moods on postpartum baby blues. But when Kim Jiyoung begins acting strangely, mimicking voices of other women and sleeping for extensive lengths of time, her husband arranges for her to see a psychiatrist. After carefully detailing their present life this author takes us back through Jiyoung’s rather ordinary upbringing. From early childhood relationships at school, her desperate search for a career and the eventual meeting of her husband. This book was quite different than described in the summary. It was a  great success in Korea a few years ago and has recently been translated and rereleased. The obvious inequality of men and women in the South Korean workplace is displayed in detail, as is the basic struggle in this culture for the older generation to behave in one way and the more westernized, young adults to rebel. This novel had some very interesting views but failed to bring the story to life in the way I am accustomed. Because it was well written, interesting and very short - I was able to get through it but there was definitely something missing for me.

A Good Marriage

Lizzie Kitsakis works long, hard hours at a prestigious law firm in NYC. Her marriage to Sam is on on the rocks and although she loves him with all her heart, she doesn’t know how to fix this mess. Her new job at Young & Crane will at least help reduce their debt and fill a spot on her resume. Late one evening she gets an urgent collect call from Rikers Island Jail and shockingly finds herself speaking to one time friend and fellow Penn law student Zach Grayson. His wife has been murdered and he is being railroaded as a prime suspect. Pleading innocence, Zach swiftly guilts her into taking his case. Lizzie, both bright and tenacious, is quickly pulled into the underworld of Park Slope - investigating Zach’s marriage to the beautiful Amanda, his life of luxury and a group of private school moms that appear to have many secrets lurking beneath their fashionable surface. While battling her own marriage demons and hidden past, Lizzie learns that facing the absolute truth is the only path to freedom. Another fabulous thriller from author Kimberly McCreight. The many twists and turns make this read completely unputdownable. Exactly what I needed! 

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

That's Not A Thing

Meredith and Aaron are a young, successful couple making their mark in New York City. Recently engaged, Meredith is working for a prestigious law firm while Aaron finishes up a coveted residency saving the lives of babies. One night they are invited to an engagement celebration dinner at one of the hottest new culinary spots in the city. By random chance, the chef comes out to greet them and he is none other than Wesley, Meredith’s ex. The forbidden Wesley, love of her life whom she never got over and refuses to speak of. Throwing all good things for a crazy loop, Meredith is completely distraught that Wes is back in the states. When she learns that his shaky hands are signs of his recent ALS diagnosis, she can barely breathe. The what if’s of her past hauntingly return and although Aaron is a spectacular guy - how much understanding can one man possibly have? Meredith must decide exactly who she is going to be when she grows up. This fast paced heartbreaking love story has wonderful characters and a lot to think about. Highly recommend and don’t forget to have the tissues handy.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Kind of Famous

Layla Beckett’s lifelong dream has come true! After the last ten years as a number one fan and incognito fansite administrator, Layla has landed her dream job at a prestigious NYC magazine called The Rock Paper. A small town girl, she is both nervous and excited for her new life in the Big Apple. On Layla’s very first day she serendipitously meets and befriends a famed photographer/girlfriend of a rockstar, leading Layla to a life she never dared to imagine. Introduced to guitarist handsome Shane Morgan at a backyard bbq, she learns quickly the ins and outs, along with the many ups and downs of the music industry which is filled with these beautiful talented young artists. If you love music and fun romcoms, this is the latest sexy story from author Mary Ann Marlowe. Perfect snack for a much needed day at the beach.

Sea Wife

Juliet is depressed and boy does she hate that word. A lover of poetry, Juliet is a mother of two, deserter of her PhD and wife of Michael. She became progressively blue after the births of both of her children, now 7 and 2. Experiencing his own mid-life crisis, Michael’s long buried dreams of freedom on a sailboat are coming to fruition. All he has to do is convince Juliet, who has never sailed a day in her life. With their marriage on the rocks, both husband and wife admit a fork in the road is imminent. Cajoling her with visions of blue skies and sunsets, the novice sailors set off on their adventure in Panama aboard the newly christened “Juliet.” Each chapter filled with divorce docking, sleeplessness, bickering and the well known saying that voyaging is merely fixing your boat in exotic locations, suddenly those sunsets feel few and far between. Told in fascinating detail, Juliet explores what led her to this point with humor and honesty while Michael’s version is expressed through his daily log book turned diary. Mildly seasick from the swells of their marriage, relationship to their mothers and messy past - I devoured each and every page of Sea Wife, not wanting to miss a beat. Cannot believe with such detail that author Amity Gaige is not a sailor herself! I also am positive my husbands sailing dreams are now permanently crushed because I am quite sure that I would never, ever be brave/crazy enough to undertake this challenge!

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Your Blue Is Not My Blue

Aspen meets Justin while on her famous trek from Mexico to Canada, detailed in her first memoir Girl in the Woods. Falling in love at 19, she is excited to share her life with this handsome, mysterious man 10 years her senior, who literally saved her life in the woods. Quickly accepted by his family, the newlyweds explore the hills he grew up in and beatnik scene of Northern California. A bit naive, Aspen doesn’t think to ask questions regarding their finances or future plans. She is enjoying her newfound adult freedom, letting the days easily arrange themselves with Justin leading the way. The couple soon finds themselves in NYC so Aspen can return to college and focus on her writing career. Slowly their wandering thru-hiker existence is filled with school and writing responsibilities along with exorbitant rent to pay. As Aspen’s world expands, Justin’s free spirit begins to fade. A few years later, on a dark November morning Justin leaves to attend a friends funeral - and disappears. Aspen is left alone to pick up the shattered pieces of her young life. This honest, expressive memoir is heartbreaking and beautiful. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Aspen’s descriptive scenery and adventurous spirit as she deciphers the true definition of love.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Beach Read

January Andrews is a romance writer with a dreadful case of writer’s block. Penniless, mourning the loss of her father and her Mr. Perfect boyfriend, January is struggling to piece the puzzle of her life back together. With pressure from her agent to finish (ha! How about start!) the book she has committed to, she decides to spend the summer months at her father’s lake house before it sells. Much to her dismay it is filled with someone else’s memories and an annoying neighbor who turns the music up much too loud her very first night. The neighbor turns out to be Gus, her handsome secret college crush and fellow writer who has a tad more success in the ratings and evil sexy eyes that melt way more than her heart. The two writers in residence decide a small competition is in order. He will write the romance she is stuck on and she, the Great American Novel. And so begins this HILARIOUS and ADORABLE and DELICIOUS romcom by Emily Henry which I completely devoured on one perfect beach day. This fun, witty, well written story will grab your heart and make you believe in happy endings all over again.

Darling Rose Gold

Patty Watts is getting out of prison. After five long years this master manipulator is exhausted and cannot wait to reunite with her daughter Rose Gold and move on with her life. But Rose Gold is a grown woman now, 23. She has a job, lives on her own and recently, a newborn baby. Rose Gold is no longer the helpless child, wheelchair bound and surviving her mother’s carefully orchestrated emergencies. After years of endless fundraising and supporting the struggling duo this entire town paved the way to send Patty to jail and free her daughter from her dangerous clutches. Since Patty is an expert liar and sincerely believes her own fabricated stories, her love for Rose Gold runs deep and she will accept nothing less than winning her back. This outrageous take on a very real syndrome of Munchausen by proxy is a severe mental illness and form of child abuse. Author Stephanie Wrobel weasels her way into the very heart and mind of both mother and daughter with ease. Reminding me of The Act on Hulu, which I only watched a few episodes because it is so completely unpalatable, this fast paced, suspenseful book is full of unexpected twists and truly unputdownable.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Last Couple Standing

Four Baltimore couples who have been best friends since college find their lives turned upside down as they hit their forties. Now in the burbs, with kids, mortgages and typical mid life sagging, one by one they divorce. The last couple intact are Jessica and Mitch. Jessica is an attractive, insightful therapist and Mitch teaches high school English. With two adorable kids and a comedic rapport they decide to ward off the contagious D word and spice up their marriage with a twist. They decide a relaxed marriage would do the trick and are each allowed a sexual encounter outside the marriage, think free pass. Quickly their little experiment turns to disaster when simple things like jealousy, truth and family get in the way. Love the title and the cover but this romcom could have been so much more than a silly wrap that began about 1/2 way through. Any lessons, even funny ones were lost in the random shuffle. Not my best as far as romcoms go.

Big Summer

Daphne Berg is a young woman trying to make it in NYC. She juggles a nanny gig while building her Instagram name and plus-size community. Snapping glam pics of her fashionable outfits while having real life experiences, Daphne is quickly impressing sponsors while displaying their products. Unexpectedly Daphne’s onetime high school best friend and current nemesis Drue Cavanaugh reappears. It’s been six years since that awful night in a popular Manhattan bar destroyed what was already a decidedly unbalanced relationship. The wealthy, beautiful, perfect Drue is getting married and would like Daphne, her oldest and truest friend, to be a bridesmaid. As unlikely as this all sounds Daphne decides the possibility of rekindling their friendship and meeting a cute guy at the wedding is too good to pass. The extravaganza is to take place on Cape Cod and what is meant to be the wedding of the year becomes the disaster of the century. Always a fan of Jennifer Weiner, her romcoms never fail to entertain. Cute to the point of silly, the amusing characters and mocking of our collective online vanity kept me laughing out loud. Great for the beach this summer, that is of course if they decide to let us in.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Summer Darlings

It is the summer of 1962 and Heddy Winsome, a Wellesley girl is working as a nanny on the exclusive island of Martha’s Vineyard. Raised in Brooklyn by an Irish immigrant single mother, Heddy has worked night and day to attain a scholarship and get herself to college. Desperate for stability and a brighter future, Heddy leaps at the chance to spend the summer amongst socialites while searching for the final piece to the puzzle, a husband. Sweet and pretty with a shy demeanor, Heddy has no trouble turning heads and winning the favor of her employers. As her heart is torn between two very different men, Heddy witnesses the extraordinarily flawed world of the rich and privileged. Excellent character description in an idyllic setting, it is unfortunate that the build up for 75% of this novel leads to a rushed and implausible finale.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

The Heir Affair

Bex Porter and Prince Nicholas, heir to the throne, finally make it to the altar. As the adorable couple ultimately survived their rocky road to matrimony, they are devastated after the ceremony when a friend turned paparazzi publicizes a scandal they can not escape. After they spend their first newlywed months hiding out in the countryside, the happy couple returns to face the music and try to regain the Queen’s favor. The ups and downs of their rollercoaster life gently mimics royals we see on the news and the emotions many young couples experience. I waited five years for this sequel after devouring The Royal We, unfortunately it dragged for me and the characters felt completely contrived. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

My Dark Vanessa

17 years ago Vanessa Wye, a shy young girl received a scholarship to attend a fancy boarding school in New England. Extremely self conscious, as most young girls can be, Vanessa has trouble making friends and rarely speaks up in class. When her English teacher Jacob Strane praises her poetry and physical beauty Vanessa quietly revels in his attention. Twenty seven years her senior, Professor Strane should know better than to cross lines that are clearly marked but Vanessa believes this is true love. At 32 Vanessa still struggles with love, relationships, intimacy and the memories of Jacob. As she begins therapy to face her father’s death, the past collides with her present and Vanessa must first find the truth in order to face it. This book is dark, at times hard to read. My Dark Vanessa is a very well written, thought provoking novel of a troubled girl learning about friendship, first love, rejection and the life long affects that each decision can bring. Highly recommend this intimate, psychological novel that is literally unputdownable.