book cover Perfect Girl by Michele Gorman

Perfect Girl by Michele Gorman • Magan Reviews

book cover Perfect Girl by Michele Gorman

Perfect Girl by Michele Gorman [twitter • website]
Publication Date: October 14, 2014
Publisher: Notting Hill Press
Pages: 326
Target Audience: Adult Fiction
Keywords: people pleasing, crappy boyfriends, controlling parents, shady jobs
Format Read: ARC from Publisher (Thank you!)

Summary: Carol is barely able to tread water or find time for herself because she’s constantly attending to everyone else’s needs before her own. Her mom passive aggressively manipulates her into doing what she wants, her best friend and sister don’t see how they’re abusing her, and her boyfriend is selfishly out to have his needs met before hers. What will it take for Carol to learn to say no and stand up for herself?

• • •

The Story: Carol is everyone’s go-to girl: She helps her sister plan her wedding, goes on blind dates for her best friend as a pre-screener (because her BFF has the absolute worst radar ever), books her parents vacations, finds her “adopted” sister a job, works countless hours at a job she loves with men who overlook her talents and demean her with constant sexual innuendos and inappropriate jokes, and has a boyfriend who is throwing all his efforts into his new job with little quality time to spare.

Phew. That’s a lot, right?

The Build-up: Can Carol possibly say NO to anything? How does she ever sleep? What happens when she breaks? When does she EVER have time for herself?

The Breaking Point: Things get so big and bad and messy and uncontrollable for Carol. She is the epitome of a people pleaser. (Anyone who thinks they are a people pleaser will relate and sympathize with this poor girl.) My heart raced and I legit thought I was going to have a panic attack as things all came to a head at once. (Of course. And really — any idea I had about how things could get worse…I was wrong. They got WAY worse.) There were a lot of moments where I found myself nodding my head as I related to this young woman. I highlighted a TON of passages.

Perfect Girl is my second novel by Gorman to read (The Curvy Girls Club was the first, but I’m reviewing them out of order). TCGC was a lot more sensual and sexy, but I found Perfect Girl to have a much more serious undertone that focused primarily on Carol’s journey to stop allowing other people to manipulate her. It was really nice to see that sex wasn’t a device used to hook Gorman’s readers; this really showed me she has a lot of diversity as an author because these two books were in no way formulaic or similar.

If you’re looking for something that feels genuine and authentic with a mid-twenties character who is trying to find her footing in the world, I definitely recommend Perfect Girl. It was really nice to relate to a character and think, “Huh. So not everyone has this growing up thing figured out.”

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The Big Kids’ Table: So Obsessed With Adult Books

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Hi friends! How are you doing on this lovely August Friday? Truth be told, I’ve been struggling with how to make Big Kids’ Table exciting and refreshing for you. I have been really conquering the adult reads this year (much like I wanted to last year) and I’m still not sure what makes you tick, what will make you take a break from a young adult and explore the library for something new. So for the rest of the year, Big Kids’ Table is going to continue to experiment with content. As always, I would love your feedback and your thoughts. Feel free to email me too! I’d love to chat. Anytime, anywhere.

Now to the good stuff. I was really inspired by a random tweet from Hannah at So Obsessed With a few weeks ago when she said she went into a bookstore and bought two adult books on a whim so I sent her an email and I’m like: how do you decide what adult books to buy? So in response the awesome Hannah wrote this:

Before blogging, I almost exclusively read adult fiction and non-fiction. I had no idea that adult books were more expensive until I started blogging. Suddenly, I was picking up YA books right and left… and marveling at the lower price tag. Despite the price, I still can’t stop buying adult books. Here’s how I decide what books to buy and how I discovered a few of my recent purchases:

1. Find What I Want.

Most of the blogs I read primarily review YA books, but I’ve discovered a number of bloggers who highlight awesome adult books that often get added to my TBR. I also keep an eye out for features like this one to help me find adult books that bloggers I already trust recommend!

To find new releases, I stalk Literary Inklings’ Notable New Releases posts every Tuesday. I also make sure to check out the “Movers & Shakers” list on Goodreads each month to see if anything catches my eye.

Finally, I keep an eye out for book recommendations in magazines (like Entertainment Weekly), on the Goodreads Recommendations tab, at the book section in Target and by getting sucked into the “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” black hole on Amazon.

And, you know, there’s always old-fashioned bookstore browsing!

2. Read A Sample.

Because adult books are more expensive, I’m less likely to just buy one on impulse. I usually try to read a sample – whether on my e-reader, at the bookstore or by trying to get it from the library.

I almost always check the Goodreads rating, too. If a book has a rating lower than 3.5, I typically try to get it from the library. The only exception is if it’s an author I’ve previously read and loved. I don’t always agree with the Goodreads masses, but I do find that it gives me a pretty good indication of whether or not I ought to buy the book. I’ll also check to see if any of my friends or fellow bloggers have already read and reviewed it! 

3. Take The Plunge!

From there, it’s time to take those books to the counter and checkout! The main reason I don’t have a hard time paying for an adult book is that they typically take me longer to read. I can read most YA books in a day, including longer ones if I have the whole afternoon free. Since adult books often have more pages and a smaller font, it’s not hard for me to justify paying more for it. I’ll likely spend more time in its pages, so I’m prepared to spend a little more money on it.

Here are three adult books I bought recently – how I discovered them and why I wanted to bring them home:

The Ashford Affair by Lauren Willig: I haven’t read anything by Willig before, but this cover caught my eye on Amazon one day. I put it on my wishlist so I wouldn’t forget it, and I’ve been keeping an eye out for it in stores ever since. From a pretty cover to being my favorite genre, this one definitely seemed like a “me” book. I finally found it, sat down to read a few pages and didn’t want to stop!

The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway: I was approved to read this one on NetGalley, but I wasn’t able to get to it in time. A blogger I trust gave it a high rating and hearty recommendation, so I checked it out from the library last month and read 50 pages before returning it so I could buy a copy instead. Yes, sometimes I’ll buy a book I could read for free.

 One Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams: I spotted this book for the first time in Estelle’s Big Kids’ Table post for June. Once it was on my watch list, I couldn’t stop spotting it everywhere! On display at the bookstore, highlighted as a great summer read in a few magazines… I felt like it was everywhere I looked! So, I finally caved and purchased this while on vacation.

↔

Big hugs to Hannah for taking the time to pen this awesome post! I’m so excited about her suggestions. Be sure to check out her blog + her amazing new Consider the Classics feature! So now you tell me, how do you decide to buy adult books and what have you been reading from the “big kid” realm lately? We are all anxious for your suggestions!

Thanks again for stopping in!

Book Review of The Next Best Thing by Kristan Higgins

Magan: The Next Best Thing by Kristan Higgins

Book Review of The Next Best Thing by Kristan Higgins

The Next Best Thing by Kristan Higgins ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: August 27, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Pages: 400
Target Audience: Adult Fiction
Keywords: loss of a spouse, dating and remarrying, family curses
Format Read: ARC from Pub
Other Books Reviewed by KH: Somebody to Love

Summary: Five years after the death of her husband, Lucy decides she’s ready to begin dating again. She’s looking for someone safe, someone she won’t become too attached to should the Black Widow curse take her next husband too.

Five and a half years ago, Lucy’s husband, Jimmy, died in a car accident. Present day her sister is having a baby. This makes Lucy realize that the clock is ticking and if she wants to have a family, she needs to open up again and begin dating. But she doesn’t really want to date someone that she could love as much as Jimmy. She wants someone safe and predictable that she’ll have a good life with. She’s scared the Black Widow curse will strike again and take her second husband should she remarry. What is the Black Widow curse, you ask? Her mother and her aunts all lost their husbands at entirely too young an age. Lucy’s following in their footsteps with the loss of Jimmy.

There’s one catch to Lucy moving on with her life: she needs to cut ties with her “friend with benefits.” Oh, and surprise, surprise — guess who this person is? Jimmy’s younger brother, Ethan, who is completely and overwhelmingly in love with Lucy. She refuses to let herself fall for him though because he’s a daredevil and he could die easily from all of his shenanigans. Full disclosure: this was so difficult for me to wrap my head around, especially in the beginning. I wasn’t quite sure how Lucy and Ethan would have decided sleeping together was a good idea. I mean, I just couldn’t do that with Dustyn’s brothers because they’re like my brothers. Eww eww eww.

I was really excited to read about Lucy’s mishaps as she ventured back into the dating world, but I was a little underwhelmed by the sheer amount of backstory that was included in the first 40% of the book. There was little progression and the story felt much more sluggish than I would have liked because Lucy was so hung up on actually acting on her decision to begin dating. How could anyone replace Jimmy? It does make very logical sense why this would be so tough, but the actions and decisions that followed felt jerky and abrupt because the story, later, needed to propel forward. There could have also been some thinning out of details as some were overly repetitious — I knew a lot, lot, lot about Ethan’s beard, the psychic, and other descriptions that felt unnecessary.

I am a woman who is madly in love with my husband. I can’t imagine life without him, and in that regard, I completely connected with Lucy’s hesitancy to move forward with her life. However, she seemed so closed off and distant to me. That’s possibly because I could see the flaws in her plans and wanted her to so badly see what (or who) was right in front of her. Though Lucy wasn’t the most relatable I did love the secondary characters, particularly Nicky, her sweet, hug-worthy nephew, best friend, Parker, who always always said what I needed Lucy to hear, and Corrine, her sister who would have wrapped her husband in bubble wrap to protect him from the Black Widow curse should it be guaranteed to save his life.

The Next Best Thing was a really nice break from all of the heavy books I’ve found myself reading lately. Take it along to the beach and pair it with a nice umbrella-clad drink!

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Book Review of Holier Than Thou by Laura Buzo

Magan: Holier Than Thou by Laura Buzo

Book Review of Holier Than Thou by Laura BuzoHolier Than Thou by Laura Buzo
Publication Date: May 1, 2012
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Pages: 291
Target audience: New Adult Fiction / Adult Fiction
Keywords: miserable job, death of a parent, grief, friendly coworkers
Format read: Received from Mandee at VeganYANerds (Thank you!)

Summary: Holly doesn’t deal well with change, but everything around her is evolving. She doesn’t love her job, but she pours herself into it so she doesn’t have to focus on the friendships that aren’t the same anymore or her mother who is much closer to her brother.

As a social worker, Holly’s main focus is mental health patients. To get through her long, long days where she often feels overworked and under-appreciated, she has her best work buddy, Nick. He’s clever and understands her, and often they are paired up together to visit patients. At home, Holly lives with her supportive, kind, geeky boyfriend Tim. She’s excited for all the things they get to experience together and enjoys spying on her next door neighbors.

Holly balances present day (as a young 20-something) with flashbacks from the past. It’s a bit difficult at first to figure out what’s happening in her life, but I settled into the rhythm of Buzo’s intelligent writing quickly. Holly’s battling a lot of things. She’s still reeling from the death of her father who died when she was 15 years old. Her mother is difficult and their relationship isn’t the best. She feels more connected to her high school best friends than she does to her own family, especially since her mother tends to favor her younger brother, Patty.

To avoid dealing with the past (in which there’s a vague story about a boy named Liam that Holly was in love with for a long time), she throws herself into her work. All of her attention and effort are focused on her job. She’s a perfectionist and feels like she can “fix” everyone else.

But what she doesn’t realize is that she needs to heal.

She’s never allowed herself time to properly grieve any of the big circumstances that have happened in her life. She’s always pushed forward. She pretends that life will just carry on. She struggles with accepting change, especially when she begins to realize that her friendships are a blurry version of what they used to be. But what she wants is for her friendships and the people in her life to stay the same, for no one to ever change. It throws her off kilter when everything begins to shift.

Holly’s story, while a simplistic one, is very realistic. As a 27 year old lady, I could very much relate to what Holly was going through. In my personal life, I’ve absolutely struggled with severed friendships and moving on. I’ve cried on countless occasions over people that I no longer see or talk to because we’ve just grown apart. Change is evil. I also fear a lot of things for the future; I have personally never lost a parent or grandparent, so anytime someone is sick or hospitalized, I freak out and go crazy. My family is very close and I just shut down. Essentially, Holly was so focused on fixing everyone else that she didn’t even realize she had all these barriers built up around her to protect her from anything bad that could happen.

This was my second read by Laura Buzo and while the writing was sometimes a bit abrupt when I was sorting through changes in scenery or flashbacks, I still felt incredibly connected to Holly. I really, really enjoyed reading about someone I could relate to so well. Holly is just an ordinary girl going through ordinary life things. I felt very involved in her well-being, and had such a good grasp on her friends, family, coworkers, and even clients. Buzo did what she does best in Holier Than Thou — she explored the life of someone who’s extremely relatable and told her story in a way that causes you to step back and examine your own.

Thank you to the lovely Mandee at VeganYANerds for sharing Holier Than Thou with me. Check out Mandee’s review here. I sent my copy on a little mini tour, so I’ll link up those reviews below when they’re published.

  • Ginger at GReads! said, “…[the] story reached out to me and delivered a message I hadn’t known I’d been searching for.”

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Estelle: Shelve It (5/13/2012)

weekly feature focusing on the books we bought, borrowed, and received from publishers

Ah! I’m so late! Hope you all had a great weekend! I have a special guest star in this video!

Netgalley

Friendship Bread by Darien Gee (5/1/2012) — Goodreads | Amazon
What I Didn’t Say by Keary Taylor (5/11/2012) — Goodreads | Amazon
Summer Nights by Susan Mallery (6/19/2012) — Goodreads | Amazon
Starring Me by Krista McGee (7/10/2012) — Goodreads | Amazon
Kissing Shakespeare by Pamela Mingle (8/14/2012) — Goodreads | Amazon
Intentions by Deborah Heiligmann (8/14/2012) — Goodreads | Amazon

Bought

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson — Goodreads | Amazon

Recents reads

Lovestruck Summer by Melissa C. Walker — Goodreads | Amazon
Dream Factory by Brad Barkley & Heather Hepler — Goodreads | Amazon

On the blog this week:

Was I enchanted by Enchanted by Alethea Kontis?
Some adult fiction books that caught my eye!
I don’t think you can tell just how much Magan loved Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson. 😉
A great meme by Broke & Bookish on favorite book quotes.
Ice cream, family, and some serious heartbreak were found in See You at Harry’s by Jo Knowles.

Estelle: The Professor and the Housekeeper by Yoko Ogawa

The Professor and the Housekeeper by Yoko Ogawa
Pages: 192
Published: February 3, 2009
Target Audience: Adult
Format: Paperback
Why I read it: A gift from my friend, Rachel.

Summary: A housekeeper and her son form an unexpected bond with one of her employers — a mathematical genius whose memory starts to shut down after 80 minutes.

There was an episode of Private Practice on not too long ago about a couple having a baby — except the wife had been in a horrible car accident and had just about no short-term memory. The doctors (and her husband) had to keep reminding her she was pregnant. It was heartbreaking and even more so, because the husband wanted to take their child once it was born and leave his wife — it was too much for him.

So why am I talking about this? As soon as I reread the back of this book, I was reminded of the above storyline. Except this book, translated from Japanese, revolves around strangers formulating an unlikely unit.

A housekeeper is the 10th on a long list of caregivers the professor has had. Every morning their relationship begins again. When is your birthday? What is your shoe size? He asks her. To “remember” he pins little notes to his suits — they form a whole new layer to his ensemble. Soon the professor is welcoming the housekeeper into his world of math — seemingly the only thing he has a handle on. Surprising herself, she gets sucked in — thinking intently about numbers and their own stories. When the professor finds out she has a son, he insists she brings him over everyday and here begins one of the best parts of the story: the professor’s love for her son, who he nicknames Root due to the flatness of his head, similar to a square root symbol.

The housekeeper and her son are hyper-aware of his condition and work diligently not to confuse him further — even pretending his favorite baseball player is still pitching for the Tigers. Root brings out this sensitive, affectionate, and protective side of the professor, and we find they all sort of fill a gap in each other’s lives.

As a non-math fan (you should have seen my calculus grades), the Professor sells me on the universal language of the subject, even though I felt some of the problems slowed the flow of the story. Baseball, a game of numbers, is also mentioned a lot — which I liked. It was another tool that brought 3 very different people together.

While there are many sad moments within his novel, how this bond changes each of these characters makes it an uplifting read. Just because a man forgets after 80 minutes, it does not stop the housekeeper (and her son) from being a friend. They certainly learned more than math.

Thanks again to my friend, Rachel, for sharing one of her favorite books with me.

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