Charlie Glass’s Slippers by Holly McQueen ( web )
Publication Date: August 5, 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Atria
Target audience: Adult
Keywords: London, parents, half sisters, body image, career changes
Format read: ARC sent to me by a friend. (Thank you!)
Summary: After sacrificing her career to take care of her ailing father, Charlie is shocked to find out upon his death that she has been granted control over his designer shoe company. Determined to be taken seriously by her father’s ex and two half sisters, she takes a trip to California and returns to London refreshed, 30 pounds lighter, and armed with a killer idea to get her dad’s pride and joy back to where it was years and years ago. But with a sly Diana, unhelpful sisters, and everyone treating her differently because of her new look, can she be successful?
Any book that falls right under 500 pages is going to be intimidating but I can assure you that once you get hooked on Charlie, you are not going to want to put this novel down. I loved the appeal of a modern day Cinderella set in London. With a writing style similar to Jane Green and Lucy Robinson, I was fully invested in the new life Charlie was trying to make for herself: mind, body, and soul.
Immediately, Charlie was someone I wanted to be friends with. I could understand why she felt so insecure about her business sense when it came to taking on a substantial role in her father’s company. She’s never been the most fashionable and she doesn’t have a lot of experience in PR, sales, or marketing. What she does have is nostalgia: memories of her father working in the shop when she was little, her deceased mom’s collection of some of his best shoes, and hands on knowledge of how much her father’s job meant to him.
Healthier and prepared to wow Diana, her dad’s ex, with the reemergence of the classic Elroy Glass shoe line (affordable to boot), Charlie has a lot if work to do to make this dream a reality. Now there’s the added complication of Jay, a sought after bachelor, who can’t seem to get enough of her, a best friend living with a miserable man, and the unfinished business between her and Ferdy, an old family friend (a.k.a crush) who owns an ice cream shop and is currently dating a sweet psychopath.
You couldn’t help but root for an underdog like Charlie. She was still coming to terms with her dad’s behavior when her mother died, trying to triumph over Diana (who has never liked her), and dealing with the emotional baggage stemming from her weight loss. I was really glad that McQueen included that last detail because so many times a character will still have body image insecurities post-loss and it was important that Charlie dealt with these.
With so much going on, McQueen still dedicated a lot of the book to the friendship between Charlie and her longtime best friend, Lucy. When other things (men, waxing, running) start to take up Charlie’s time, it was interesting to see how their relationship changed and had to be reconfigured. I loved how they cared about each other and tried to be honest even when it was hard. Plus the both had moments where they took each other for granted. Something I think happens in a ton of friendships. Here, it was explained well and you could certainly see both sides.
There is so much to enjoy about Charlie Glass’s Slippers. A few other details: cute English slang, an adorable ice cream shop with creative flavor names, and so many laugh out loud moments. Best of all, happily ever after meant more than finding romance. It focused on all the areas of life we are trying to figure out in our 20s: family, friendship, career, and feeling good in our own skin.
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“I might be a little scared.”
“No, it’s not,” I said.
“Yes, it is, because you can only be brave if you’re scared.”
- from The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson
Last week, I flew through The Impossible Knife of Memory (why did it take me so long to read it??) and after I finished, I couldn’t stop thinking about the above passage. So today of all days, when tons of kids will be starting a new year of classes, teachers will be learning a whole new set of kids, and when I will be starting a new job, it helps to hear that because scared is a good thing.
In fact, it’s a bit of advice I’ve heard over and over in the past few weeks. You’re nervous because you care. Or because you want to do a great job. These are all acceptable reasons for being a little shaky the first day? Okay, well. That’s good. Because I am. All of the above. Looking back at the first days of school, I was always the kind of person who stayed up all night, unable to sleep because all the anticipation. Some years, this carried onto Sunday nights too. I’m a natural born worrier; that’s definitely a part of it. On the other hand, I’m a major perfectionist so I’m sure that had a hand in it too.
As self-admitted bookworms, I don’t think I’m alone when I say I rely on books a lot during these times of change. Practically all the characters we meet are working through some version of newness, dealing with a bit of insecurity, wondering if they have what it takes, and if they will fit in. Silly as it might sound I find myself thinking “if they can do it, I can do it!”. Fully aware, my confidence boost is coming from fictional characters in fictional scenarios.
So I thought I would share a few of those titles today. Just in case you need a little cheerleading too.
Me Before You by Jo Jo Moyes | Things I Can’t Forget by Miranda Kenneally | Only Everything by Kieran Scott
Disneylanders by Kate Abbott | Nantucket Red by Leila Howland | There Will Come a Time by Carrie Arcos
Like No Other by Una LaMarche
Truth be told, it was difficult to narrow down this list because there are so many books that have given me support at one time or another. But I think these are a fantastic start. (Plus I read all of them in 2014 so there’s that.) Here’s hoping you have a wonderful start to your September, knowing support comes from all places in your life. Even your bookshelf.
Brunette Ambition by Lea Michele ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: May 20, 2014
Publisher: Harmony Books
Target audience: teens/adults
Keywords: part memoir/part how-to, style, exercise, Glee
Format read: Finished copy from publisher* (Thanks!)
Summary: Broadway star / actress / singer Lea Michele tells the story of her life up until now, peppering in favorite recipes, looks, fashion advice, Glee factoids, and more.
If you are looking for a tell-all about Lea Michele’s life, Brunette Ambition isn’t really going to fulfill that need. Instead we get the bare bones of her fitness regiment, makeup and shopping tips, and even some of her favorite recipes in addition to how her career got started, the phenomenon of Glee, and her friendship with Jonathan Groff (my favorite!).
While I was interested in the release of the book, it wasn’t until I saw it in person that I knew I had to have it. The photography is stunning. The professional shots of Lea before and after makeup, even the ones accompanies the various exercise instructions, are so gorgeous. (She has perfect hair. I swear. I can’t even.) Not to mention she shares a bunch of instagram and iPhone pictures throughout as she tells her story.
Despite the length, she covers a lot of topics and even though it’s never completely in depth, you feel like you’re having a nice long magazine interview with her instead of just a few pages. A few of my favorite parts:
- Her philosophy on shopping is one I really need to take to heart. Shop for basics. What should you splurge on and what should you buy at a bargain? (I love that she makes fun of some of her past fashion choices too. Been there.)
- Have you ever thought of using a toothbrush for hair flyaways or your bangs? Me neither. But I get these all the time, and now I have a solution.
- In a world of Lindsay Lohans and Britney Spears, I admire how Lea works so hard to stay close with her family and create a circle of trustworthy friends. I’ve read so many interviews where she talks about how she would rather stay in than go out like most girls her age, and she reiterates that often in the book. It’s nice to picture her as the kind of person who wants to curl up on her couch with wine and her cat watching crappy reality shows.
- Since I started really following her in the last few months — her album is my summer soundtrack — I’ve been impressed by her work ethic. The amount of hours that Glee requires in addition to this book, an entire album, and appearances? She still manages to stay in shape, cook food, and be social. She’s a rock star. Seeing it all written down in one places makes it even more admirable.
And, of course, there are some quoteworthy moments too:
- “While I get that there’s a fine line between owning your accomplishments and reciting every line of your resume, there is absolutely no shame in being proud of what you’ve managed to achieve. Own it.”
- “I always think it’s better to scramble to learn a new skill than to sell yourself short.”
- “Work on your friendships in the same way you’d tackle anything of importance in your life. And be judicious about the special people you let into your circle.”
- “No matter what — the show must go on.”
I definitely see this as a book I would pick up time and time again, opening to a chapter and just reading for awhile, especially with the healthy recipes, the hair & facial concoctions, and the fitness sections. If you are a Glee or Lea fan in general, I can see where you would be interested in the whole package but as a reader who is looking for an uplifting and honest how-to, it’s worth adding to your collection. Lea’s already started on book 2, and I’m very curious how the “movement” will move forward.
I love her. I can’t help it!
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*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.
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We’re back with another BEFRIENDED chit-chat with one of my favorite Australian authors, Pip Harry. She’s responsible for writing two books I’ve loved/devoured/wanted to kiss and hug, Head of the River and I’ll Tell You Mine.
When I finished HotR this summer, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The scenes were so incredibly vivid and it was so apparent that Pip was writing from first-hand rowing experience. (Note: I think Pip is pretty bad ass for having gone through such rigorous training and lived to talk about it!) One thing I also loved seeing was Leni, a very introverted, focused girl, open up to new friendships and realizing the competition was about more than winning. I really wanted to talk to Pip about her experiences and how those transformed Head of the River.
Thank you so much to Pip for being so candid and open, and for writing such an impeccable story I can’t wait to share with my friends.
Head of the River by Pip Harry
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Summary (from Goodreads): It’s the most elite school sporting event in the country. Nine rowers, 2000 gruelling metres and one chance for glory in the ultimate team sport. Sit forward … ROW.
Tall, gifted and the offspring of Olympians, superstar siblings Leni and Cristian Popescu are set to row Harley Grammar to victory in the Head of the River.
With six months until the big race, the twins can’t lose. Or can they?
When Cristian is seduced by the easy route of performance-enhancing drugs, and Leni is suffocated with self-doubt, their bright futures start to fade. Juggling family, high expectations, study, break-ups, new relationships and wild parties, the pressure starts to build.
As the final moments tick down to the big race, who’ll make it to the start line? And who’ll plummet from grace?
Before you began training for the Head of the River competition, how would you describe your personality?
Before I started rowing and training for the Head of the River I was a heavily chlorinated swimmer. My attitude to training and competing was entirely selfish – how fast could I go? How much could I take off my time? I had friends in my squads, but nothing like the buddies I would make in the boat.
How were you changed by the women you rowed with and what Big Life Lessons did you take away from your experience?
The girls and women I rowed with and coached were all so different (shapes, sizes, personalities!) but we all had to learn how to blend those differences into one cohesive, powerful machine. I learnt that a bad day on the water for them was a bad day for me. It sounds corny as hell, but rowing made me appreciate working as a team and the true bonding nature of team sports. I was inspired by the coaches who believed in me and led by example and were so wise and generous with their time. I was changed by my crewmates who showed strength, desire and determination. I was changed by the competition, which was cruel and unforgiving, but also joyous and exhilarating.
I learnt so many life lessons in the boat – how to work as a smaller cog in a bigger wheel, which has helped me enormously in life and work. I learnt to quietly endure pain and suffering in the boat (think rain, cold, blister, endless drills) which has given me more grit and determination (particularly in my writing career) I learnt that even the best team can lose on the day. You need good preparation but also a sprinkle of luck and fair winds. If you want to be a contender, you’ve got to roll with the losses, get up and have another crack.
Were you more like Leni, who had a lot to learn relationally, or were you more like Cris, who lacked passion for the sport and did it to please his parents?
As a rower I was equal parts Leni and Cris. Which is why the book was so fun to write! Like Leni I was a high achiever. I rowed in a state crew at nationals, getting there on hard work, obsession and all the A type personality traits that Leni has. At times this made me incredible hard to be around. I used to get frustrated at anyone who couldn’t keep up, I preferred to row like a bull at a gate all the time (no easy strokes) and I was very strict and tough on myself. I struggled to hold down romantic relationships in my late teens and early 20s because I put myself and my training first and I was completely inflexible. On the other hand, I also had a Cris streak (who doesn’t right?) I struggled to keep my weight down because I love, love sweets and junk foods. I’m also sometimes very seduced by sleep ins and can easily be talked into skipping training. I’m quite lazy at times and at high school, my teachers despaired at the lack of effort I made with subjects that didn’t interest me or I found difficult.
How long has it been since you were a Head of the River competitor, and what are your relationships like today with the women you rowed with?
The last crew I coached through to the Head of the River was in 1998. They were a quad scull of funny and talented 14-15 year old schoolgirls who rowed the A final and came second by a fingernail. Heartbreaking! They dissolved after that race, and I did too. We had to pick ourselves up and realise we were 2nd fasted in the entire state, and that was pretty bloody fantastic! Also, who really cared in the end? We had just had four months of laughs, fun and learning. And they had gone from virtual strangers to close friends. That’s what it’s all about. The last time I was in the boat myself was around 2005 in a veteran’s crew (aged over 27 years) I had my biggest success and won five gold medals at the Australian Masters Games. I loved rowing with those older women, because they were more settled in themselves, understood it wasn’t life or death (it was just a race) and they had better wine, food and accommodation during away regattas!
I’m still in contact with some of the women I rowed with when I was a teenager and they are in the acknowledgments page of the book. Yesterday I got an email from Lucy, who I rowed with when I was 16-18 years old. She invited me to her 40th birthday celebrations and said her husband would pay for my interstate flight as part of his present to her – that might tell you how much we value each other’s friendship all these years later! Another rowing friend, Ingrid, sat with me in a café here in Sydney and gave me ideas for certain racing scenes in Head of the River. Another friend, Kate, was my running and training buddy and even though we are now busy mums, we still meet up every few years to talk about those crazy days on the river. Others I’ve lost touch with, but they hold a marker in my heart. I will never forget anyone I rowed with.
Thank you so very much to Pip for sharing her experiences with us and the awesome teenage photographs of herself!
Friends, please, please pick up a copy of Head of the River.
Need more convincing? Read my review of Head of the River!
What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick
Publication Date: April 15th 2014
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers
Pages: 240 Target Audience: (Maturer) Young Adult
Keywords: summer job, divorced parents, opposites attract, sexually driven female
Format Read: Purchased e-book for my kindle.
Summary: Gwen wants to get away from Seashell after she graduates high school, but she’s got this overwhelming feeling she’ll be stuck there forever. She lusts after the fancy lives of the weekenders while falling for the summer lawn boy, Cass, whose life is completely opposite hers in nearly every way.
Tension galore. Some mysterious backstory. Two people who “shouldn’t” be together. That sums up What I Thought Was True in the tiniest nutshell. Gwen lives on a tiny island where her family definitely isn’t the wealthiest. In fact, she lives in a quaint home with her mom, grandfather, cousin, and younger brother (who has something like autism, but it’s never named specifically in the story). Her father owns a restaurant that Gwen chooses not to work at when another opportunity arises; she’s to care for an elderly, wealthy islander who is recovering from an accident. Aside from the pay being better, she’s trying desperately to separate herself from her parent’s destiny. She doesn’t want to be stuck in Seashell forever.
Unbeknownst to Gwen, Cass, the boy she’s severely attracted to but wants to stay far from, gets a job as the island lawn boy for the summer. With her new job, this means she’ll be seeing a lot of Cassidy Summers. Cass and Gwen begin bumping into one another in random locations. She is confused by the boy she begins to get to know because the friends he chooses to hang around seem to contradict the sweet, gentlemanly guy he appears to be. The one thing she can’t quite get past is her reputation and the decisions she’s made. This was the area I really felt could have used a bit more character development; Gwen comes across as a promiscuous girl, but I wanted Fitzpatrick to really make a point and not allude to it. Was Gwen the type of girl who was sexually explorative or had she made decisions because she thought that’s what she was supposed to do?
My thoughts are that Gwen was very sexually driven, but that also caused me to not relate to her as much because it seemed she was hypocritical. It would be okay for her to want to jump Cassidy’s bones, but if he tried to make a move on her, she was ready to bail a split second later. There was always an internal struggle for Cass and Gwen because they were terrible communicators, but for the sake of wanting to relate to Gwen on a deeper level, I needed to understand why she was so finicky. (Cass was more relatable and down-to-earth; I quite possibly would have enjoyed the story more if it had been from his perspective.)
Much, much, much of the story is focused on Cass and Gwen’s tango of a relationship. So much so that the interesting side-stories get watered down and when the big climax happens, things don’t quite click because not enough details were there for things to fall into place. Gwen’s cousin, Nico, and his girlfriend/Gwen’s best friend, Vivian, have pretty significant roles in the story, but like in My Life Next Door when the giant SURPRISE OH MY GOSH moment happens, I felt a little derailed again because I just didn’t see it coming. (In hindsight, I’m wondering if this is a technique Fitzpatrick employs or if it’s from a lack of developing those secondary stories. I’d like to read a story of hers that doesn’t make me feel like I missed all the big clues along the way.)
Don’t get me wrong — there are some wonderful (Cass teaching Gwen’s brother how to swim) and juicy (ahem, that tension builds, y’all) moments, but they felt overshadowed by what seemed to be lacking from the story. I didn’t walk away with a light and happy feeling, nor really feel like Gwen had gone through the major transformation I was expecting. When it comes right down to it, maybe I just really missed all of the rambunctious Garrett family members from My Life Next Door. They’re pretty darn hard to beat.
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