The Big Kids’ Table: 5 Adult Contemporary Picks (February)

Estelle here! Wishing you a happy Thursday! It’s a new month and time for another round of The Big Kids’ Table, a feature I started in hopes of focusing on some new adult contemporary reads! As if we all need another book to add to our to-read list… because if you are anything like Magan and I — we are drowning in books. Although, we really wouldn’t have it any other way. Truly. So that being said here are a few (new) books that caught my eye.

Friends Like Us by Lauren Fox
Release Date: February 14, 2012
Why I want to read it: Best friends, old boy friends… recipe for a good book, I’d say.
Summary (from Amazon): For Willa Jacobs, seeing her best friend, Jane Weston, is like looking in a mirror on a really good day. Strangers assume they are sisters, a comparison Willa secretly enjoys. They share an apartment, clothing, and groceries, eking out rent with part-time jobs. Willa writes advertising copy, dreaming up inspirational messages for tea bags (“The path to enlightenment is steep” and “Oolong! Farewell!”), while Jane cleans houses and writes poetry about it, rhyming “dust” with “lust,” and “clog of hair” with “fog of despair.” Together Willa and Jane are a fortress of private jokes and shared opinions, with a friendship so close there’s hardly room for anyone else. But when Ben, Willa’s oldest friend, reappears and falls in love with Jane, Willa wonders: Can she let her two best friends find happiness with each other if it means leaving her behind?  ( Goodreads | Amazon)


The Fallback Plan by Leigh Stein
Release Date: January 3, 2012
Why I want to read it: Who can’t relate to the time after college when they just had no idea what they were going to do with themselves?
Summary (from Amazon):

What to do when you’ve just graduated from college and your plans conflict with those of your parents? That is, when your plans to hang out on the couch, re-read your favorite children’s books, and take old prescription tranquilizers, conflict with your parents plans that you, well, get a job?Without a fallback plan, Eshter Kohler decides she has no choice but to take the job her mother has lined up for her: babysitting for their neighbors, the Browns. 

It’s a tricky job, though. Six months earlier, the Browns’ youngest child died. Still, as Esther finds herself falling in love with their surviving daughter May, and distracted by a confusing romance with one of her friends, she doesn’t notice quite how tricky the job is … until she finds herself assuming the role of confidante to May’s mother Amy, and partner in crime to Amy’s husband Nate. Trapped in conflicting roles doomed to collide, Esther is forced to come up with a better idea of who she really is. (Goodreads | Amazon)

Broadway Baby by Alan Shapiro
Release Date: January 24, 2012
Why I want to read it: Um, did anyone say Broadway? And who doesn’t like an intriguing mother-children dynamic?
Summary (from Amazon): As a little girl growing up in Boston, Miriam Bluestein fantasized about a life lived on stage, specifically in a musical. Get married, have a family—sure, maybe she’d do those things, too, but first and foremost there was her career. As a woman, she is both tormented and consoled by those dreams in her day-to-day existence with her family, including a short-tempered husband, a cranky mother, and three demanding children, one of whom, Ethan, shows real talent for the stage.

It is through Ethan that Miriam strives to realize her dreams. As she pushes him to make the most of his talent, the rest of her life gradually comes undone, with her husband becoming increasingly frustrated and her other two children—Sam, a mass of quirks and idiosyncrasies, and Julie, hostile and bitter—withdrawing into their own worlds. Still Miriam dreams, praying for that big finale, which, when it comes, is nothing that she ever could have imagined. (Goodreads | Amazon)

A Summer in Europe by Marilyn Brant
Release Date: November 29, 2011
Why I want to read it: A grand tour of Europe sounds pretty good to me any day.
Summary (from Amazon):  On her thirtieth birthday, Gwendolyn Reese receives an unexpected present from her widowed Aunt Bea: a grand tour of Europe in the company of Bea’s Sudoku and Mah-jongg Club. The prospect isn’t entirely appealing. But when the gift she is expecting — an engagement ring from her boyfriend — doesn’t materialize, Gwen decides to go. At first, Gwen approaches the trip as if it’s the math homework she assigns her students, diligently checking monuments off her must-see list. But amid the bougainvillea and stunning vistas of southern Italy, something changes. Gwen begins to live in the moment: skipping down stone staircases in Capri, running her fingers over a glacier in view of the Matterhorn, racing through the Louvre, and taste-testing pastries at a Marseilles cafe. Revelling in every new experience — especially her attraction to a charismatic British physics professor — Gwen discovers that the ancient wonders around her are nothing compared to the renaissance unfolding within…
(Goodreads | Amazon)

Spring: a Novel by David Szalay
Release Date: January 17, 2012
Why I want to read it: Well this sounds like an interesting love story.
Summary (from Amazon): James is a man with a checkered past—sporadic entrepreneur, one-time film producer, almost a dot-com millionaire—now alone in a flat in Bloomsbury, running a shady horse-racing-tips operation. Katherine is a manager at a luxury hotel, a job she’d intended to leave years ago, and is separated from her husband. The novel unfolds in 2006, at the end of the money-for-nothing years, as a chance meeting leads to an awkward tryst and James tries to make sense of a relationship where “no” means “maybe” and a “yes” can never be taken for granted.  (Goodreads | Amazon)

Estelle: Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
Pages: 272
Release Date: October 11, 2011
Publisher: Ember
Target Audience: Young Adult
Why I picked it up: I’ve been wanting to read about this book for a long time but when I read on Jana’s blog that the book was set in New York and during Christmastime… it moved to the top of my must-read list!

Summary: Dash finds a red moleskin notebook on a shelf at The Strand and embarks on a scavenger hunt pinpointed by a series of challenges with its owner, Lily.

There’s nothing I love more than New York City and Christmas time. (Except maybe Walt Disney World.) Add in a bookstore and moleskin notebooks and I am pretty much in my element. Dash & Lily reminds me of a younger, less intense version of one of my favorite movies, Serendipity. Kate Beckinsale and John Cusack meet days before Christmas in a New York department store. Unfortunately they are both in other relationships and decide to leave their next meeting to chance.

While Dash & Lily’s premise is entirely different it is the back and forth, the sense of adventure, and mystery that is so familiar to me. The book is not overly romantic, but more about discovery. It is more goofy and over-the-top than some epic love story. But its innocence is part of its charm.

Sometimes it’s hard to pick up a book that has garnered such high praise from other readers; you don’t want to be disappointed. But I’m happy to say I grew pretty addicted to Dash and Lily’s story. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised that each of the characters were more developed than I had expected. I loved the details of their family backstories and all the supporting characters who contributed to the story.

Still, the end just snuck up on me and many elements that contributed to the character development were forgotten. I don’t want to reveal any spoilers but part of me wondered if the book would have felt more complete if the beginning was shorter.

As the second book I’ve read where two authors alternate chapters (first was Will Grayson, Will Grayson), Rachel Cohn and David Levithan did a great job. I actually had trouble believing it was actually written by two different authors. I also suspect one of them is a huge Muppet fan and that’s pretty awesome in my book.

This also may have been the first book I’ve read in awhile where I felt more connected to the male lead character. Dash is independent and more grounded while Lily’s enthusiasm and the fact she is so sheltered makes her feel very young to me. Yet I am totally on the same page with her love of baking, Christmas lights, and carols (although I guarantee she is a better singer than I). Not to be a negative Nelly, but I did wonder (quite a bit) about how compatible these two would be.

See? This is why I need to start a campaign for a sequel because I really want to know what happens next!

 If you want a book that is just plain fun, gives you an incredible tour of New York, and teaches you a slew of vocabulary words, what are you waiting for? It’s just about perfect for this time of year.

Buy on Amazon | Goodreads