book cover for The Curvy Girls Club by Michele Gorman

The Curvy Girls Club by Michele Gorman • Magan Reviews

book cover for The Curvy Girls Club by Michele Gorman

The Curvy Girls Club by Michele Gorman [twitter • website]
Publication Date: April 24, 2014
Publisher: Createspace
Pages: 386
Target Audience: Contemporary Adult Fiction
Keywords: weight and obesity, stigmas, friendship
Format Read: Digital copy received from Publisher (Thank you!)

Summary: Katie, Pixie, Ellie, and Jane are fed up with not seeing results at their weekly slimming meeting. They gossip and ignore the leader anyway, so they decide to ditch the meetings for something more adventurous. Each week they set out to do something fun and new, but things change when Jane doesn’t fit in a standard sized theater seat. They form a club with the intent to find things that won’t make them feel uncomfortable or like an outcast.

• • •

Katie. Pixie. Ellie. Jane.

The one thing they all have in common: they’re overweight (for some of them, obese). They met at and attend a weekly slimming meeting (a la Weight Watchers), but decide something’s just gotta give. They’re no longer helpful and the only reason they’re attending anymore is so they can hang out together. The time they spent in meetings becomes time they dedicate to doing something fun together. The plan seems golden until they visit a local theater and Jane doesn’t fit in a seat.

The idea arises that they should share the information with other people and ultimately launch a website, form a club, and attend events they’re guaranteed to enjoy. Thus, the birth of The Curvy Girls Club. Katie spends tons of her free time calling and arranging all of the get-togethers. Rob, another friend from their meetings, joins the club (yep, even guys are welcome!) and becomes their IT specialist by helping set up the website and keeping track of hits. He’s into the club for a bigger reason than being the internet guru; he and Katie have been friends for a long time, but his feelings have developed into something more.

One amazing thing about Rob is that he’s not shy about finally fessing up to his feelings. Who doesn’t like a guy that can take charge and own his emotions? Except things get a little complicated. Katie’s had a six-year crush on her boss, Alex. He’s flirty. He’s sexy. But is he into Katie for the right reasons?

As the girls turn this casual club into a booming empire, Katie begins to drop weight. She’s not changed anything about her diet, exercise, or otherwise, so she visits a doctor and receives some news that she should take more seriously than she does. She spends some time “thinking” about her options and enjoys the weight loss. Rob gets weirded out by her sudden change in attitude and appearance, and Alex is suddenly front and center. See where things are headed? Yikes.

The whole concept of The Curvy Girls Club is overall lighthearted, but feels extremely authentic, too. What girl wouldn’t understand why Katie would be excited about dropping the weight, finally, when nothing else has worked? And who wouldn’t be infuriated that her work never sends her out on face-to-face client meetings (ironically, she works for a nutritional supplement company) but docks her pay for not meeting their requirements? Katie’s desire is to see TCGC grow so that she can replace her desk job with something she’s actually passionate about.

Underlying Katie’s issues are Jane and Pixie who have suffering marriages and the inability to lose weight. Ellie is in a healthy relationship, but still packs on extra weight. Each woman’s journey had a touch of seriousness — verbal abuse, being weeded out of your job because of size, trust issues, not being able to lose pregnancy weight, and dietary supplements. I’d bet money on the possibility that the vast majority of us can relate to something in that list. And it’s for that sole reason that I loved The Curvy Girls Club. Fun concept, great characters you’d want to hang out with, and tons of depth.

(P.S. I love how eye-catching this cover is.)

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• • •

Dive into Diversity Reading Challenge

Book Report: Nowhere but Home by Liza Palmer

As promised, friends, we’re trying to continue reading books together so we can chat about them for more Book Reports! As you’ll read below, we were highly, highly encouraged to read Nowhere But Home by some of our very favorite people. See if we agree with them about this adult fiction book!

book cover of Nowhere But Home by Liza Palmer

Nowhere but Home by Liza Palmer (website | twitter)
Publication Date: April 2, 2013
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Pages: 384
Target Audience: Adult Fiction
Keywords: small town Texas, head chef, long lost love, parental legacies
Format Read: We both purchased paperback copies.

Summary: After leaving behind her small-town roots in pursuit of bigger and better things, Queenie is forced to return home to Texas after being let go of her latest head chef job in New York City. She’s forced to face the legacy her mother left behind as well as her long-lost love, Everett.

Just in case you need a reminder of who we are, here ya go:

 Magan

 Estelle

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It’s impossible to start this joint chat about Nowhere But Home without mentioning the biggest book pusher I know. Cassie from Books with Cass successfully threatened… err… convinced us to buy Liza’s book and I am so so very glad that she did.

Yes! Same here. After seeing her enthusiasm (as well as Hannah from So Obsessed With and Asheley’s from Into the Hall of Books), how could we NOT read it?

We certainly didn’t want her (or any of those fabulous girls) to disown us.

 

Hahaha!

 

Okay, let’s start from the top. Queenie just lost her job in New York City, and after being everywhere and never finding her place, she sort of decides to make a trip home. She hasn’t seen her sister or her nephew forever, so she makes herself believe she is going on a temporary trip to visit.

Yes. Queenie, in the beginning, is a little bit abrasive and rough around the edges. I think all of her traveling must have been so isolating. She’s never really connected with anyone or made any friends. Do you feel the same?

So true. I think she was so focused on getting out of her small town with her two suitcases… she didn’t have time to make any roots.

Yes, for sure. I could relate to her need to flee her small town so, so much. In fact, Dustyn and I were back in the town I grew up in on Monday and I felt so overwhelmed by the people who approached me saying “it had been so long.” I mean, for one person, I hadn’t seen her since my high school graduation 10 years ago! I CANNOT imagine moving back there and I applaud Queenie for sucking it up and returning even though it was the last thing she wanted to do.

How much did you love her sister, Merry, though? Going back to her town in Texas was like turning on Steel Magnolias for me, and hanging out with the gossip queens at the hair salon. I could see why some of it could be draining (small town, so much gossip) but others were so so welcoming.

Merry was so fantastic. I really just wanted to sit down with her for a cup of coffee and listen to her talk about how she fell in love with the football coach.

My gosh, yes. Merry’s relationship with her son Cal (Queenie’s nephew) was seriously precious too. Cal was such a winner in my book. I love the high school football star but he was so polite and just such a family team player. I think he was a great bridge between Merry and Queenie.

And has such a great understanding of all that was going on, despite the entire town’s refusal to be honest and admit a lot of truths. I loved how everyone really knew what was happening with everyone, but how naive Queenie was about most situations.

Speaking of naive…let’s talk a little bit about Everett?

 

Oh, yes. Hopping right into the good stuff! You know for as much as Queenie’s internal struggle was with him, I was quite surprised by how little he really appeared in the book overall.

That’s an amazing point. I think Palmer did a great job of like establishing this romantic conflict (even so far as rich vs. wrong side of the tracks relationship) but didn’t allow it to take over the book. This was so much more about Queenie coming to terms with her past, being able to live with nosey people thinking they knew her family’s business, and just finding a way to be happy. (Even if it wasn’t the way she thought she would find it.) Still the chemistry between Everett and Queenie (who were like secret childhood sweethearts) was very very real.

Definitely. I loved that Queenie explored her options and sort of found herself through (very) uncommon activities, such as working as the chef who made last meals for prisoners on death row. I love that she gave herself time to be separated from Everett despite them being in the same town again. I admired that she didn’t immediately gravitate toward what she knew.

Yes, she gave herself some room to breathe. What did you think about the prison work? It was so so so intense for me.

Yeah, I really have to admit that this was one of the least expected surprises for me. I just never really would have guessed that element would have been added to the story. I think it provided a really huge dose of reality, but also was really hard for me to read through at times. Especially when the Starburst were involved and Queenie was trying really hard not to figure out who she was cooking for.

It was a great way for us to really see her too.
Her tough facade started to crack… and how could it not?

Oh, definitely. And I loved how she was really realistic about how ironic it was that she was finding herself (or her groove) in a kitchen that was making meals for people who were about to die.

Unexpected things happen in unexpected places? haha. Especially in the hometown you never think you are going to return to?

Oh, for sure. Do you think if you had to return to your home town, you would have to face as many hurdles as Queenie did? Would it feel like such an obstacle for you?

I think even without this family “legacy” that has sort of ostracized them from the town … it would be difficult to go back. I think my hurdles would be more internal? Not so much caused by the people in the town? Does that make sense? It would be my own head. I can appreciate people finding their own happiness in the place they grew up but I do fear that sometimes those people don’t always take some chances.

Yes, that makes sense. I don’t intend for this to seem like I’m badmouthing my small town, but I would almost feel like I’d taken a step backward. Like I wasn’t following my dreams and “proving” myself like I said I would.

I think leaving is also about leaving for the right reasons? I’m not sure Queenie was in the right frame of mind when she left the first time.

In a sense, a lot of what Queenie felt was internalized. She did have drama with the cliquey group of women in her town, but I think what we began to see is that almost everyone had baggage. She was just so wrapped up in trying to distance herself from her mom’s “legacy” that she was blind to everyone else’s misgivings. And yes, for the wrong reasons skipped town.

Yes. So so true. I know you just finished How to Love and you loved it as much as I did… but after reading Nowhere But Home… I really felt like the books had similar themes.

Oh, yes. I can definitely see that. And what an interesting comparison. Queenie flees her small town because she needs to separate herself and Reena is stalemate and cannot move because of decisions she made — two women in very different circumstances, but yes, very similar themes.

And also just the opportunity to embrace second chances?

 

Yes! With both books, I really appreciated the opportunities both girls had to really get some answers and dig into their pasts.

Yay! I’m glad you felt the same way. Kind of related to that, how did you feel reading a grown up book? Do you think Nowhere But Home is a book YA readers could love?

I found Nowhere But Home to be really refreshing. I am such a YA reader 99% of the time, but it felt like a nice break from everything I’d been reading. And yes, I definitely think there could (and should be) some major cross-over between fans of both books.

I’m so glad you felt that way! I think the book had a great balance of some heavy moments but also really vibrant ones? The supporting characters are some of the best I’ve read in a really long time. You got a sense of everyone… it was like your own neighbor or something.

I definitely felt like there was such a complete story here. I suppose sometimes I get frustrated with YA because the focus can be so narrow and a lot seems to be missing, but that can be true of any book. It all depends on how far the author wants to develop the backstory and secondary characters. And setting.

So so true. Did anything not work for you in the book?

 

Gosh. Nothing really stands out as being out of place for me. What about for you?

 

Same. I really have no complaints. I was happy with all of it. I think that’s a ringing endorsement. Do you feel inspired to pick up more adult lit books? Or maybe something with a Southern setting? Or is that just us Northeast people? haha

Hahaha — well, maybe more adult books for sure. I think that while the small town setting was pretty accurate, it doesn’t entirely encompass where I live now. So maybe something in the future that sort of straddles the extremely southern without pushing the boundaries and making it seem like we ride horses to work. (Not that Nowhere But Home did.)

Oh gosh. I’m imagining me riding a horse to work + I am sensing danger. Much danger for a lot of innocent people.

Oh! I do want to mention that I read in the author’s notes that she did research on Smithville, TX for Nowhere But Home. That’s where my dad grew up!

That’s so awesome! Speaking of setting, I loved the author’s NYC beginning. She did such an accurate job with that subway description. I could picture the Dunkin Donuts she was talking about. I have to say so many times I read about NYC in books and it is just… obvious no research was done. Not even a little but so that made me really happy. A silly subway. haha

Yes! It really did seem like she put a lot of hard work into making the settings as authentic as possible. I applaud that. And also really think that adds so much to the story.

It shows that she really cares about her work, down the smallest details. Really nice to read a book like that. Are we ready for some final thoughts? Who would you recommend this book to?

I can see myself lending this book to my mom who is an avid reader (usually of books with sexy cowboys on the cover). Or just my really good girlfriends who randomly need a good read. Anyone really! What about you?

I actually just lent it to my mom this past weekend. I was like… stop everything you are reading and READ THIS ONE.

Hahah! YAY! You’ll have to tell me what she thinks when she reads it!

 

Let’s see if she actually listens to me… Big thanks to our fellow bloggers who put this book on our radar!

 

Yes. Big huge thanks! And yay to us for listening to our book pushers!

 

It’s a lesson to all of us: listen to the book pushers in your lives. (Or else?)

 

Words of wisdom and the perfect ending!

 

«« »»

So, friends — what are you waiting for? Pick up a copy of Nowhere But Home ASAP!

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Estelle: All Summer Long by Susan Mallery

All Summer Long by Susan Mallery -- RatherBeReadingBlog.comAll Summer Long by Susan Mallery ( website | tweet )
Part of the Fool’s Gold series.
Publication Date: 7/31/2012
Publisher: Harlequin
Pages: 384
Target audience: Adult
Keywords: mother/daughter relationships, second chances,  stereotypes
Format read: ARC from NetGalley. (Thanks!)

Summary: Charlie is used to people misjudging her, but who would believe she would have this in common with Clay, an ex-butt model who has been living it up in the big city? Convinced she can help others see him for more than his good looks, she propositions him with hopes of getting over her own painful past.

I had heard the rumor that All Summer Long sizzled even more than the previous book in the Fool’s Gold series, Summer Nights.

And golly, that rumor was true.

From the start, Charlie and Clay have this easy chemistry, and despite the lack of trust she has had in men all of these years (and rightfully so) she has a hunch about Clay. Can he possibly get her to the place where she can date men again and not shrink away from their touch?

I’ll give you one guess.

For all the touchy feely goodness and the slow, sensual scenes (that are so ridiculously hot) Mallery manages to weave in a sub-storyline about stereotypes and the roles and expectations of sexes in society. Charlie is a firefighter and Clay is an ex-model. Charlie gets treated like she’s one of the boys and Clay’s career seems to make it okay for every single woman to hit on him and think he’s all about having a good time and doesn’t have a brain in his head.

It was nice to see that from both sides.

In addition, Charlie’s mom, a famous dancer, makes an unexpected (and unwanted) appearance in Fool’s Gold and Clay is trying to get a business off the ground. Despite these interlaced storylines, the book remains light and fast-paced but still suffers from Mallery’s tendency to overcompensate and repeat certain key phrases and emotions.

All of that is forgotten, though, when Clay and Charlie’s relationship overwhelms their agreement and the two start to open up to one another. While their steamy scenes are more than comparable to Shane and Annabelle’s in Summer Nights, there’s this urgent intimacy that resonates with them and makes their relationship even sexier and more meaningful. (Although at one point Annabelle confides in Charlie about her relationship with Shane: “We each want to be the person who gives more.” I just loved that.)

While Mallery’s work is a bit formulaic it’s all in good fun and, like the best romance novels, so incredibly addicting. Fool’s Gold feels like a little piece of paradise, and it’s lovely that you can just jump in and out of the series as you please, as well as reunite with old characters and try to decipher who will take center stage in the next volume.

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Estelle: Daughters for a Time by Jennifer Handford

Daughters for a Time by Jennifer Handford
Publication Date: April 24, 2012
Publisher: Amazon
Pages: 302
Target audience: Adult fiction
Keywords: infertility, adoption, cancer, loss of parent, estranged parent, marriage
Format read: ARC from Little Bird Publicity (Thanks!)

Summary: This book details the emotional journey of Helen, a woman who after years of trying to have a child with her husband, decides to adopt a baby from China. Just as she feels her life has taken a happier and more fulfilling turn, she finds out her sister, the person who brought her up, has cancer.

“Maybe heartache was more normal than the absence of it.”

We are all too familiar with the feeling of experiencing the highest of highs when, out of nowhere, the lowest of lows comes sweeping in and knocks you completely off-balance.

In Daughters for a Time, Jennifer Handford handles that crushing heartbreak with sensitivity and raw emotion. Though I know the book is a work of fiction, Handford’s own experience with adoption elevated the book to a whole new level of realism. There were moments I was so lost in the story I forgot I wasn’t reading a memoir.

Helen had a tumultuous childhood. Her mother dies of ovarian cancer when she is a freshman in high school, and around the same time, her father picks up and leaves. Her sister, Claire, is her support system, her mother, her everything for many years. But Helen remains curious about her father (who, as an adult, she “stalks”) and wants to be able to bring up stories about her mother without Claire brushing them off. At 35, as a successful baker and restaurant owner, even after experiencing her own love story with her husband (Tim), Helen still carries this baggage. Or the complete opposite of baggage, as she puts it. A hole in her heart. Throw in her and her husband’s repeated attempts conceive a child and it’s understandable why Helen is feeling withdrawn and lost.

The true rays of light in her life are Tim (he’s a ROCK), Claire, her niece, and when she can find quiet time in the kitchen. And after much soul-searching, the decision to go forth with an adoption of a baby girl from China. Helen is just counting the many days until their new daughter will be curling up in bed between her and her husband.

You see, this novel ranges from the happy sad to the sad sad. Helen is forced to come to terms with her past, even making moves to fix things with her dad, as well as accept her sister’s cancer diagnosis. Helen questions many times why things in life can’t go right all at the time same. Why can’t she have both her child and her sister? Why does it always have to be something? Handford writes with such honesty and has crafted an engrossing tale from every angle — the adoption, the insecurities she faces as both a mother and a mother of a child who was abandoned, the sisterly bond, even Helen reliving her angsty 14-year old self when her mother was very sick. While the book covers a good span of time, I wondered if there could have been more moments of showing and less telling. In 300 pages, I was connected enough to these characters  that I probably could have read a hundred pages more if it meant some of the key moments were given more meat.

Though Daughters for a Time focuses on the bond between women as sisters, as mothers and daughters, and as friends, it lacked a bit of male perspective in some areas. For a long time, I wondered if Claire was even married. And Helen’s husband was such a great character too but he felt absent from scenes when I knew he was standing there, sharing the moment… except he was silenced. A little more testosterone would have balanced out many emotions in the story and made it even more relatable. I wanted Handford to dig deeper.

Despite minor qualms, this novel genuinely tugged at my heart strings. There’s never a perfect time to pick up a book that screams “disease” and “infertility” but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t experience them. Handford takes every day, powerful issues and skillfully, weaves in bits and pieces of hope even at the darkest moments. It’s surprisingly fast paced for such heavy content too; I found myself thinking about it a lot during my reading breaks. At the core,Daughters of a Timeis about the families we have and the families we create, the ebb and flow of the healing process, and the challenges life throws us and how we react to them.

Goodreads | Amazon

Estelle: Don’t Let Me Go by J.H. Trumble

Don’t Let Me Go by J.H. Trumble [ twitter | website ]
Release Date: December 27, 2011
Publisher: Kensington Books
Pages: 288
Target: Young adult for mature audiences / Adult fiction
Format read: Paperback borrowed from library
How I heard about it: The fabulous BookChic!

Summary: A lot has happened during Nate and Adam’s short relationship — there’s the bullying at school that escalates into raw humiliation, the acceptance of their parents (or lack there of), and the upcoming challenges of maintaining their closeness when Adam gets a theater job in New York. Even though Nate convinces him to take it while he remains in Texas, jealousy and backlash from Nate’s honest blog and new attitude in school soon come between the two and manage to make them feel even farther apart.

The same day I finished reading this novel, I found myself sitting in the diner with two of my best friend and my husband. I was having a great time but I couldn’t stop thinking about Nate and Adam, the main characters from Don’t Let Me Go. This is all thanks to the remarkable debut novel by J.H. Trumble. She has created characters and a plotline that was so honest and real, it was like I knew these characters personally. Like they were two people I knew in high school.

From page 1, I was completely invested in this story. I know that’s true because I didn’t always like what Nate had to say or the actions he took. I loved him, he annoyed me, and he frustrated me just like any other human in my life. And I don’t blame him. Ever since he decided to come out to his high school, his dad has basically abandoned him, he was brutalized by his peers, and later forced to share the most intimate details of that assault and the relationship with his boyfriend, Adam, during a very public trial. All of this, indeed, would affect a person in a huge way.

This leads us to an epic and imperfect love story. In my mind, that is the best kind. Because it’s authentic. Love is never easy. Love is not without challenge. And we see the inner workings of a deep relationship from the get-go. The most intimate of details and moments are shared, and I felt like I was experiencing their relationship right alongside them. (And reliving the doubts and jealousy I once faced when I was in my own long-distance relationship.)

Don’t Let Me Go isn’t just a romantic love story. Its strength also lies in the friendships. Nate’s friendship with Danial (they have this unreal chemistry) and also Nate’s unhealthy need to help out Luke, a boy who is in the closet but looks to Nate like he is a god. This novel never feels like one character or plotline is getting ignored. Nothing feels under developed and that is a true feat because much goes on, as the time shifts (seamlessly) from past to present.

 This book is every reader’s dream. I felt I was given the ability to create my own relationship with these characters, as well as take something from their challenges, their failures, and their triumphs. I was outwardly yelling at the book near the end like I could make a significant difference in the last couple of pages. The ending could have gone several ways but I think Trumble did a stellar job of wrapping up this heavy, multi-layered story.

 Is it time for me to stop gushing yet? Don’t Let Me Go is an experience. It is hands down the best book I have read so far in 2012, and probably in my top 5 since I started reading like a maniac last year. I guarantee it is going to take a long time before I feel this strongly about another novel. Stop what you are doing and go read it now.

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