March 31st already! Here’s hoping spring is truly on the way this time! I’m really looking forward to reading a book outside instead of curled up under 2 blankets at home or in a hefty jacket on the subway. For now, let’s focus on today’s BKT. I am so excited about it!
Here’s the story: Last week, I went to the B&N near work to pick up a copy of Lauren Graham’s Someday, Someday, Maybe for a friend (a book I bought for myself last year) and I got one of those receipts with a short list of books I might be interested in. I’ve gotten so many of these in the past and I barely glance at them before throwing the receipt away.
Since SSM is definitely my taste, I thought I would go through the recommendations and find out if I would consider reading any of them. Hopefully you’ll get excited about a few too!
Let’s check it out! (Excuse my doodle.)
Pick #1: Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella
Lottie just knows that her boyfriend is going to propose during lunch at one of London’s fanciest restaurants. But when his big question involves a trip abroad, not a trip down the aisle, she’s completely crushed. So when Ben, an old flame, calls her out of the blue and reminds Lottie of their pact to get married if they were both still single at thirty, she jumps at the chance. No formal dates—just a quick march to the altar and a honeymoon on Ikonos, the sun-drenched Greek island where they first met years ago.
Their family and friends are horrified. Fliss, Lottie’s older sister, knows that Lottie can be impulsive—but surely this is her worst decision yet. And Ben’s colleague Lorcan fears that this hasty marriage will ruin his friend’s career. To keep Lottie and Ben from making a terrible mistake, Fliss concocts an elaborate scheme to sabotage their wedding night. As she and Lorcan jet off to Ikonos in pursuit, Lottie and Ben are in for a honeymoon to remember, for better . . . or worse.
Thoughts: This sounds a lot like My Best Friend’s Wedding… kind of. (Love that movie.) I have loved a lot of Sophie’s books in the past. I was a big fan of the Shopaholic series until it just turned into a drama fest and I really love her book, The Domestic Goddess. It’s hilarious. This synopsis sounds so familiar but it also sounds like it could be good…
Final answer: I wouldn’t buy it. Possibly borrow.
Pick #2: The Star Attraction by Allison Sweeney
Sophie is a Hollywood publicist who has a fabulous job, a fabulous boyfriend, and a fabulous life. She even scores her PR firm’s most important actor client and every woman’s dream—Billy Fox.
But will a steamy make-out session in a restaurant alley with her big-name client cost Sophie her job? And does she really want an escape from her life and her loving, if imperfect, relationship with her investment banker boyfriend? The Star Attraction takes us on a wild ride through one woman’s daytime soap come to life.
Thoughts: Well, B&N knows me because I already bought this book when it came out. I haven’t read it yet but seeing it on this list made me dig it out of my bookshelf. I’m a big fan of Allison and I do love Hollywood stories…
Final answer: Getting to this super soon!
Pick #3: The Lost Husband by Katherine Center
After the sudden loss of her husband in a car crash, Libby Moran falls on hard times-so hard, in fact, that she’s forced to move in with her hyper-critical mother. There, sleeping on the pull-out sofa so her two children can share the guest room, she can’t stop longing for the life she had. So when a letter arrives from Libby’s estranged aunt offering her a job and a place to live on her goat farm, Libby jumps at the opportunity. But starting over is never easy. With an aunt who is nothing like she imagined, a shaggy farm manager with a tragic past, a psychic at the feed store who claims to be able to contact the dead, and a bully at her daughter’s school, country life isn’t at all what Libby expected. But it also offers her what no other place can: A chance to define the good life for herself. A chance to piece together the mysteries of her own past. A chance, even, at love. And, finally, a chance to bring herself, and her family, back to life.
Thoughts: First thing that caught my eye with this one was that Goodreads is telling me readers also enjoyed Nowhere But Home, one of my favorites from last year. I love a country setting and second chances.
Final answer: Ding ding ding. I’m adding this one to my TBR immediately.
Pick #4: The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin
Traveling abroad with her mother at the turn of the twentieth century to seek a titled husband, beautiful, vivacious Cora Cash, whose family mansion in Newport dwarfs the Vanderbilts’, suddenly finds herself Duchess of Wareham, married to Ivo, the most eligible bachelor in England. Nothing is quite as it seems, however: Ivo is withdrawn and secretive, and the English social scene is full of traps and betrayals. Money, Cora soon learns, cannot buy everything, as she must decide what is truly worth the price in her life and her marriage.
Thoughts: I’m not sure why this book from the historical fiction genre would be recommended for those who buy Lauren Graham’s. I’m really not. The description is a little dry, and it doesn’t seem like my thing.
Final thought: I’ll pass on this one.
Pick #5: Revenge Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger
Almost a decade has passed since 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. Andy and Emily, her former nemesis and co-assistant, have since joined forces to start a highend bridal magazine. The Plunge has quickly become required reading for the young and stylish. Now they get to call all the shots: Andy writes and travels to her heart’s content; Emily plans parties and secures advertising like a seasoned pro. Even better, Andy has met the love of her life. Max Harrison, scion of a storied media family, is confident, successful, and drop-dead gorgeous. Their wedding will be splashed across all the society pages as their friends and family gather to toast the glowing couple. Andy Sachs is on top of the world. But karma’s a bitch. The morning of her wedding, Andy can’t shake the past. And when she discovers a secret letter with crushing implications, her wedding-day jitters turn to cold dread. Andy realizes that nothing—not her husband, nor her beloved career—is as it seems. She never suspected that her efforts to build a bright new life would lead her back to the darkness she barely escaped ten years ago—and directly into the path of the devil herself…
Thoughts: Hmm. I feel a lot about Weisberger like I do about Kinsella. I loved a few of their books but they started to feel like the same thing over and over again. Devil Wears Prada was my favorite book of hers so I would be curious how main character Andi is doing… but then again the reviews are pretty poor.
Final thought: I’m curious. A “borrow” at some point but I’m not rushing to the library for it.
Results: All in all, B&N didn’t do too bad with this one. I already one own, would buy another, borrow 2 and skip only one. I’d say those odds are pretty good.
What do you think? Any of these titles strike you? Or have you read any great grown up books lately?
Let me know below!
Come a Little Bit Closer by Bella Andre ( web | tweet )
Part of The Sullivans romance series.
Release Date: February 25, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Target audience: adult
Keywords: movie business, sisters, family, San Francisco
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley (thanks!)
Last reviewed: Let Me Be the One with BUY IT rating
Summary: Smith’s career in Hollywood is just about as successful as he could have hoped so when he embarks on a new project — starring in a movie that he has written himself — he’s shocked to find himself in a position where he is working just as hard to win a lady’s heart. Valentina can’t stand actors and wants nothing to do with Smith but his love for his family and his kindness is so hard to resist.
A movie set, an unexpected leading lady, a charming celebrity = Bella Andre has done it again.
His story: After years of a successful career, Smith is challenging himself in a new way. He wrote a screenplay for what he calls “the simplest of love stories” and is currently starring in it. It’s not like his normal work, he’s really putting himself out there. While his mind should ONLY be on this, his thoughts are constantly swayed by his co-star’s sister, Valentina. She’s so with it, so in charge, but totally has her heart on guard.
Her story: Valentina is a total workaholic, managing her sister’s career. When Tatiana lands a role opposite massive star, Smith Sullivan, Valentina has to be even more on her toes. Her sister’s career is about to go crazy. But Val is distracted by Smith’s looks, his talent, the sweet words of his screenplay, and even though she would like to, she can’t exactly resist just how NICE he is to her.
Who knew: A night at Alcatraz (with cupcakes) could be so utterly sexy.
The big question: Can Valentina get over qualms about dating actors? (After her mom has dated so many of them in the past.) Does Smith really have what it takes to win Valentina over?
The sizzle: Oh my god. Andre has seriously upped the sexy meter in Come a Little Bit Closer. I was totally at the edge of my seat wondering when Valentina would finally give Smith a chance, and whoa whoa whoa. So absolutely worth it, and so much more to look forward to after their initial collision.
Family matters: Something that sets Andre’s books from other romance series is the emphasis on family. Smith is really involved in the lives of all of his siblings — he’s completely supportive, and at the same time, welcoming to others he wants to bring into the fold. They are always popping up in the story, and it’s so comforting and sweet to see. At the same time, Valentina and Tatiana have such a tight bond and I liked watching how their dependence on each other changed over the course of the book. (The role reversal was a great touch too.)
Movie drama: How would you like your sister to act in a sex scene with the guy of your dreams? Mhm. Talk about a tough day at work.
Final thoughts: Another addicting read from Andre! So much fun to watch Smith wear down Valentina, and nice to see them both doing the emotional/head work to ensure they were ready to move forward with this relationship. My only qualm were some of the screenplay inserts. I loved the parallel of Gravity‘s story but there was so much prose included and movie watchers wouldn’t be seeing prose vs. hearing dialogue on a screen so I think there may have been a better way to present that. Nitpicky, a bit, I know. But seriously — Come a Little Bit Closer was sweet, tension-filled, and a lot of fun. Can’t wait for more of the Sullivans!
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Great by Sara Benincasa ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: April 8, 2014
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: classic retelling, Hamptons, high society, being the outsider, friendship
Format read: ARC from Publisher via Edelweiss. (Thanks!)
Summary: Naomi is off to spend the summer with her mother in the Hamptons. As always, she’s completely dreading it because she just doesn’t fit in there. Not with her mom’s rich “friends” or any of the other kids who hang out there. But this summer feels different because of her next door neighbor, Jacinta. She’s throwing elaborate parties, befriending Naomi (to get close to Delilah but still), and suddenly, Naomi is feeling like she is a part of things. But what is real and what is not?
There’s nothing like clicking with a narrator like I did with Naomi.
Her voice was so vividly judgy — I was immediately wrapped up in her story and the indignation she felt about her annual summer plans: the Hamptons to visit her mom where quality time meant hearing her mom complain about her clothes and push her to socialize with the well-connected kids her age. (Delilah and Teddy tolerate her, mostly. But she does not fit into their posh lifestyle at all.) It’s no shock that all Naomi wants to do is study and survive until she can get back to her best friend and dad in Chicago.
So it’s as much of a surprise to her, when Naomi is suddenly giving her mother a little bit of what she wants — getting invited to parties, wearing expensive dresses, going on dates with Nick (whose dad owns a record label), and girlishly texting with Delilah. This switch in behavior is all thanks to Jacinta, the girl next door who has the means to throw the most excessive parties and maintains a highly-visited fashion blog that everyone wants to get featured on. Naomi is curious about her at first, but almost immediately takes a liking to her — even introducing her to Delilah (Jacinta’s #1 goal for the summer).
This is where things start to intensify because Jacinta and Delilah’s bond is — BOOM — super close, super quick and they are totally inseparable. Delilah is hardly seeing Teddy, Jacinta and Delilah aren’t including Naomi, and when Naomi does manage to see Jacinta, her every thought is wrapped up in Delilah.
Their behavior is bordering on obsessive, and it’s changing the dynamics of the group in a huge, dramatic way.
Most of all, it’s baffling what so many people in this story are willing to sacrifice because they don’t think the rules (of the world!) apply to them. It’s disappointing, it’s frustrating, and it’s tremendously effed up. Naomi is caught in the storm of all of this, and as she skirts the line between these “two” realities, her character is forced to make super tough decisions. Great is so well-paced, the tension is built so tightly, I literally could not put the book down — debating right and wrong, and who the true villain of this story was.
I definitely empathized with Jacinta and rooted for her in a way that I don’t remember doing with Gatsby. It’s tremendous how far she is willing to go for acceptance and for love. I didn’t blame Naomi for being so torn over her friendship with her and I loved the author’s choice of creating an internet maven out of Jacinta — oh, the great dangers and advantages of the world wide web. Without it, this story wouldn’t have existed.
Truth be told, it’s been a really long time since I read The Great Gatsby (I haven’t seen the latest Leo movie either) but Benincasa got my memory rolling and I was so excited (this is geeky) to pick out the parallels between the classic and Great. (Favorite detail, hands down, was how she named each character by using the first initial of the character’s name from the original.) Best of all, my familiarity with the original text in no way affected how hooked I was to this story.
Committing to a modern Gatsby retelling for young adults couldn’t have been an easy task and with the exception of a few too-modern references that I didn’t think would stand the test of time, I couldn’t have asked for a better crafted book to save me from a reading slump and get me excited about a new author.
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The Other Way Around by Sashi Kaufman ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: March 1, 2014
Publisher: Lerner/Carolrhoda Lab
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: running away, road trip, new friends, parents
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley. (Thanks!)
Summary: Andrew is friendless and uninspired at another new school, where his mom is the headmistress. After a horrible Thanksgiving celebration with the family, he decides to escape his home and visit his grandmother. A surprise admission from his mother is extra push he needs to tag along with a group of kids, road tripping through the country, surviving on money from strangers, food from dumpsters, and a freedom that Andrew has never experienced.
One of the main things that stuck with me after I finished The Other Way Around was Andrew’s unconventional character growth.
How many people run away from their home and their school and get involved in a road trip with a couple of hippies who are surviving by performing on the streets, stalking the best dumpsters, and, once in awhile, encountering the kindness of strangers? After dealing with so much pressure from his mother and the flakiness of his dad, Andrew has no one patrolling his every move or pushing him into situations that make him feel uncomfortable.
Ah, the sweet smell of freedom.
Well, it’s not actually that sweet since no one is showering regularly and dumpsters don’t exactly smell like flowers. But for the first time, Andrew is hanging out with kids around his age and the world is open to him in a whole different way. He has the space to think about his relationship with his parents and their divorce, and finally make some choices of his own.
This dynamic in young adult is so interesting to me as a reader, because as a teenager, how much control do you have over how your parents treat you? Do you ever get that opportunity to stand up for yourself or will you constantly be dismissed because of your age and lack of life experience?
Andrew’s growing friendship with G, his attraction to Emily, and experiences on the road (this might be strange but I really loved how vivid and descriptive the chicken scene was on their farm stop) all contribute to him opening up, connecting with other people, and learning how to talk to his mom. I liked that Kaufman made Andrew work for his relationships in the van, and didn’t have him totally turn away from his home either.
While it took a little time to get into the swing of The Other Way Around, I really enjoyed this — a fresh male POV, great stops along a road trip, and bravery found in strange places.
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Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: April 1, 2014
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Format read: Young adult
Keywords: siblings, death, depression, celebrity deaths, friendship, romance
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley. (Thanks!)
Summary: Six months after the death of her beloved older sister, May, Laurel is starting a new school and alternating between living with her father and her aunt. An English assignment to write a letter to a dead person has Laurel penning a note to Kurt Cobain, a favorite of her sister’s, and the letters morph into greater meaning. As she comes to terms with life without May, she shares new experiences, her innermost secrets, and thoughts with this group of deceased famous figures (as well as dissecting their own lives and demises).
Love Letters to the Dead reminded me of why I loved last year’s Wild Awake and classic Perks of Being a Wallflower so much: the ultimate highs and lows a character experiences while working through the tough stuff and the effort it takes to grow, and move forward. That’s all in Love Letters but despite some similarities, I assure you that this debut stands on its own with unique story structure, fluid writing, and a main character I wanted to shield from her demons and deliver to safety.
This is a difficult book to read, friends. And not for any reasons except it was dark and it was sad and some of it felt very lonely. I pictured Laurel sitting in her room or at school writing letters to Judy Garland, Amelia Earhart, or Heath Ledger and it just tore me up inside. Even as she maneuvered new friendships, a possible love connection (the absolutely amazing and mature Sky), and attempts to reconnect with her once jokester father and her runaway mother, everything in Laurel’s life felt so out of control. I wanted to be positive for her but gosh, it was so hard and I wondered when (and if) things would take a turn for the better.
The love Laurel and May had for each other was encompassed by this innocence I loved so much. Even when May started to detach herself from her family, she always came back to Laurel. It was a shame that May’s own distractions kept her from seeing what was going on with her little sister, and heartbreaking (but not unheard of) that Laurel couldn’t be open with her. There were a lot of “coulda shoulda wouldas” and at some point, playing rewind and reliving all of these moments could make someone totally unhinged. Especially if you are keeping it all to yourself. I was curious to see if Laurel would take these missed opportunities and make necessary changes for her future.
I have to take a minute to talk about the supporting characters. Hannah and Natalie, two girls who Laurel makes friends with at school, both have their own separate stories and I liked watching the ebbs of flows of their relationships with one another. Can you truly be friends if you are unable to be honest and open up? What if you can’t accept who you really are? For awhile I wasn’t even sure if Hannah and Natalie would remain friends throughout the book, and I felt a lot of Laurel’s own anxieties about fitting in and finding people who know you. (Especially when people you love have the tendency to leave.)
I also have to give it up for Sky; he’s older and a bit mysterious but I really thought he did good by Laurel even when she might not have seen it that way. He wanted to be her shoulder, he wanted to help her, but how do you help someone who doesn’t want to help herself? Sky felt like an anchor from the moment he and Laurel connected but she had to be her own life preserver for them to work as friends or as more than that. Everything about Sky felt true to Love Letters‘ story.
When I’m reading (and I’m not sure I’m alone), I tend to think about the longevity of a book’s time in my life. Will I read it again? Do I want to own a copy? Is it the kind of book I want to pass on to others? I had my doubts with this one because it was just so very sad. Why would I want to relive it, right? Well, I was so impressed with the beauty of Dellaira’s writing and I found myself berating myself for not taking extensive notes from the very beginning. From the conclusions Laurel would draw about the celebrities she confided in, the music and movies she mentioned, and even what she chose to share with each of these people… there is so much to breakdown and discover. Love Letters is a book that not only deserves your uninterrupted attention, but a spot of honor on your bookshelf.
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