Estelle: Charlie Glass’s Slippers by Holly McQueen

Charlie Glass's Slippers by Holly McQueenCharlie Glass’s Slippers by Holly McQueen ( web )
Publication Date: August 5, 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Atria
Pages: 464
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.

Whew!

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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Estelle: After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid

After I Do by Taylor Jenkins ReidAfter I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: July 1, 2014
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Pages: 352
Target audience: Adult
Keywords: marriage, family, independence
Format read: Finished copy from publisher. (Thank you!)
Also reviewed: Forever Interrupted by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Summary: After six years of marriage, Ryan and Lauren decide to take a major break when neither are happy anymore. For an entire year, they will live their lives independent of one another — with absolutely not contact. Told from Lauren’s POV, she struggles with this joint decision. How will time apart ensure a happy marriage in the future? She has no idea.

When we first meet Lauren and Ryan, they are fighting over something silly: where they parked their car at a baseball game. For some, this is an annoyance that is easy to shake off but for these two, it was only part of something bigger. I think it’s impossible to be married to someone so long, friends with someone so long, RELATED to someone so long that the little things don’t get to you and you find yourself arguing over the mundane or taking something a little too personally. It’s too easy to take the people we know will always be there for granted. Sure, we can treat them like a mini-punching bag sometimes because they are never going to leave us. But what happens when that behavior is circling all the time and you are only happy when you are sleeping or find a moment to yourself?

I thought it was brave when Lauren and Ryan decided to take a sabbatical from one another. An unconventional way to “fix” things for sure but a decision they were able to come to together. Live apart for a year, cut off contact completely and see where they are after it’s all finished. For some reason I thought Lauren would do something drastic like go on a wild trip and take time off from her job but she surprised me because she stayed put. She went to work at the alumni department of a college, had lunch with her best friend (Mila),  hung out with her sister (Rachel), and enjoyed time alone with her dog. After going through the motions of a life void of Ryan for awhile, she did start living… but in a very normal kind of way.

This is what I’ve come to expect from Reid and I love it. The actions of her characters (even when they are shitty) are as realistic as they come. Lauren seesaws with her feelings about Ryan, about marriage, and what love really means. For this one year, she goes back to her roots and finds the Lauren she might have lost along the way. She spends time with her amazingly hilarious and diverse family — dramatic but well-meaning grandma, a single mom, her sister who doesn’t feel the need to get married, and a younger brother who is always surprising her. It also goes to show how much one person’s marriage affects a group of people. Everyone in Lauren’s family was mourning the loss of Ryan in their own way, but it never affected their support of her. Reid was so great at sharing the funny, quirky side of this family (+ her friends); their involvement added the perfect balance to what could have been a super depressing book.

As much as I love TV spoilers, I never feel that urge to skip to the end of a book. It’s all about the journey, right? But Reid tempted me. I needed to know that Lauren and Ryan’s year apart would bring them closer together in the end. I needed that happily ever after (or whatever)! But I didn’t succumb to the temptation. (I’m actually pretty proud of myself.) Again, Reid has a way of writing about regular folk that makes me never want to let her characters go. I laughed, I cried, and, since I’ve finished, felt the need to recommend it to just about everyone I know. Reid creates characters who are relatable, complicated, and oh-so memorable.

Happiness doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone, and I think Reid conquers the messy, thoughtful path that gets us to that realization so genuinely.

I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

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Estelle: Your Perfect Life by L. Fenton & L. Steinke

Your Perfect LifeYour Perfect Life by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: June 10, 2014
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Pages: 304
Target audience: Adult
Keywords: magic, regret, friendship, Hollywood, Freaky Friday, motherhood, marriage
Format: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley. (Thanks!)

Summary: Casey and Rachel have been best friends since they were kids, and they remain so even if their lives have taken different directions and they don’t see each other as much as they would like. On the evening of their 20th high school reunion, their lives are utterly shaken up when they wake up in each other’s lives — not sure how to get the hell out. Casey must learn to take care of Rachel’s kids and take part in a detached marriage, and Rachel is suddenly hosting an entertainment TV show and on her own for the first time in forever. How will they get their lives back? Do they even want to?

Two best friends writing a book about best friends?

Your Perfect Life could not be anymore fitting for Rather Be Reading.

Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke give best friends Rachel and Casey the Freaky Friday treatment. During a tense moment at their 20-year high school reunion,  their generous bartender treats them to a special shot to calm their nerves. The next thing they know they are waking up in each other’s homes, and in each other’s bodies.

It’s kind of creepy when you think about it. Rachel and Casey know each other as well as two people can know each other but now they know EVEN MORE. Suddenly, Casey is juggling three kids, a husband, and a household. Rachel, on the other hand, is co-hosting a popular entertainment TV show, has her own personal assistant, and QUIET in her gorgeous apartment. Things go from weird to crazy to okay, I’m kind of getting this, as the book goes on. The ladies check in and help each other out (while trying to figure out how to change back) but when it comes down to the other discoveries, neither of them want to confront their own truths.

I’ll be honest. It made me a little sad. I know it’s impossible to share everything with your best friend. But it had to be painful for Rachel to discover a love connection that Casey never told her about, and for Casey to see that Rachel’s marriage is not as picture perfect as it had always looked. Not to mention, the crazy pressures of Casey’s job, and how Rachel is treated by her children. The two are forced to face some major reality for each other and for themselves, as they assimilate to these new lives. When I thought they were grasping what the swap was supposed to accomplish, it would be two steps forward, two steps back.

Anxiety! Craziness! But also lots of laughs and heartfelt moments, too.

Despite the compact size of the book, Your Perfect Life touches upon how quickly the life plan you had for yourself can change, and also reminds you to take a full step back every once in awhile to examine the full scope of the life you do have. Are you happy? What can you do to make things better? Sometimes it takes a little introspection and a push from a good friend to point you in the right direction. Even when you don’t want to be told anything at all. Marriage and motherhood over career, and a career that monopolizes every part of your life are very sensitive topics because they are so real. Casey and Rachel’s journeys highlight the importance of life balance, loyal friends, and staying true to yourself.

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Big Kids’ Table: Books Equal the Best Accessories

 

big kids' table - adult fiction feature on rather be reading

It’s Monday so I’m feeling rebellious. That’s right. I chose books by their covers. NO ONE THROW THINGS AT ME. Basically, I was in the bookstore last week, checking out the New Fiction table, and stumbled upon some beautiful looking books. Not just beautiful but bright and eye-catching. When it comes to summer, I am about bright sundresses, nail colors, lips, sunglasses… everything! I love love color. So today I want you think of these books as some gorgeous piece of clothing in a shop window or even the best looking umbrella on the beach…

Because regardless of what we are taught, a good cover is a HUGE reason why we pick up a book in the first place, right?

Let’s see what we have today…

For Once in my Life by Marianne Kavanagh

This image doesn’t do the book cover justice. It’s so so so bright!

Description from Goodreads: Meet Tess.  A vintage clothes–obsessive, she’s trapped in a frighteningly grown-up customer relations job she loathes. Still, she’s been dating the gorgeous accountant Dominic since university, and has a perfectly lovely flat, which she shares with her best friend, Kirsty. But if her life is so perfect, why does she tear up whenever anyone mentions her future?

Meet George. He’s a brilliant jazz musician who spends almost as much time breaking up fights between his bickering band mates as he does worrying about his ailing father and living up to his stockbroker girlfriend’s very high expectations. For a guy who has always believed in romance, the grim practicalities of twenty-something life have come as something of a shock. Seemingly always on the verge of a big break, he’s looking for something more…something special.

They just might be two halves of one perfect whole. Now, if only they could manage to cross paths…

(I actually chatted about this book in my Shelve It from this weekend.)

Em and the Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto

Great font and colors, right?

Description from Goodreads: In a one-bedroom-hall-kitchen in Mahim, Bombay, through the last decades of the twentieth century, lived four love-battered Mendeses: mother, father, son and daughter. Between Em, the mother, driven frequently to hospital after her failed suicide attempts, and The Big Hoom, the father, trying to hold things together as best he could, they tried to be a family.

Bonus: I’m seeing a ton of 5-star ratings on Goodreads.

Mood Indigo by Boris Vian

Oh gosh. I realized I was so blinded by these colors that I fell for a movie tie-in cover. Can you blame me? As soon as I saw that sky, I imagined doing a NAILED IT based on it. Anyway…

Description from B&N: First published in 1947, Mood Indigo perfectly captures the feverishly creative, melancholy romance of mid-century Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Recently voted number ten on Le Monde’s list of the 100 Books of the Century (the top ten also included works by Camus, Proust, Kafka, Hemingway, and Steinbeck), Boris Vian’s novel has been an icon of French literature for fifty years—the avant-garde, populist masterpiece by one of twentieth-century Paris’s most intriguing cultural figures, a touchstone for generations of revolutionary young people, a jazz-fueled, science-fiction-infused, sexy, fantastical, nouveau-decadent tear-jerker that has charmed and beguiled hundreds of thousands of readers around the world. With the help of Michel Gondry and Audrey Tautou, it is set to seduce many, many more.

A Girl Walks Into a Wedding by Helena S. Paige

Not only is this cover fun but this book is one of those “choose your own adventure” books…

Abbreviated description from B&N: Your best friend is getting married and she’s asked you to be a bridesmaid. You have so many decisions to make. . . .  You also have to navigate through the bachelorette party, the bride’s wedding jitters, the dress from hell, and more. Perhaps the most tempting option is to flee the entire affair with a tall, dark stranger . . . or maybe an old friend who could surprise you with a sizzling encounter. You make the decisions—a wild ride is guaranteed.

Ten Things I've Learnt About Love

It’s interesting how many of these book started out with a toned-down cover and released a second, more vibrant one!

Description from Goodreads: About to turn thirty, Alice is the youngest of three daughters, and the black sheep of her family.  Drawn to traveling in far-flung and often dangerous countries, she has never enjoyed the closeness with her father that her two older sisters have and has eschewed their more conventional career paths.  She has left behind a failed relationship in London with the man she thought she might marry and is late to hear the news that her father is dying.  She returns to the family home only just in time to say good-bye.

Daniel is called many things—”tramp”, “bum”, “lost.”  He hasn’t had a roof over his head for almost thirty years, but he once had a steady job and a passionate love affair with a woman he’s never forgotten.  To him, the city of London has come to be like home in a way that no bricks and mortar dwelling ever was.  He makes sculptures out of the objects he finds on his walks throughout the city—bits of string and scraps of paper, a child’s hair tie, and a lost earring—and experiences synesthesia, a neurological condition which causes him to see words and individual letters of the alphabet as colors.  But as he approaches his sixties his health is faltering, and he is kept alive by the knowledge of one thing—that he has a daughter somewhere in the world whom he has never been able to find.

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So what do we think any keepers in this group? Four out of the 5 books are strong contenders for me. (Not sure “choose your own adventure” is something I want to try again.)

What about you? What’s the last book you picked based on a cover? 🙂

Thanks for checking out this month’s Big Kids’ Table! ♥

Shelve It: A Pre-July 4th V-Log

weekly feature to share the books magan and estelle are adding to their bookshelves each week

Hello! I know, two weeks in a row of Shelve It? What?!? I find it motivates me more when I do these + it’s been forever since I’ve done a v-log. (Don’t ask me about Instagram videos though… I am a wreck at those. How how how do you say anything in just a few seconds? M is my hero.) Anyway…

Good weekend, so far? I can’t believe it’s Sunday evening. I did so much walking yesterday, did a little reading, and I’m excited to settle in for the evening and also share what’s been hitting my mailbox this week. Some very exciting details that are making me wish for a reading vacation. Do those exist?

Before you check out the v-log, we wanted to wish Rachel (you may know her from Hello Chelly) a very very very happy birthday! She’s one of the sweetest, loveliest people in the world! Yay Rachel! xo

Bought:

Summer of Yesterday by Gina Triana
The Summer of Firsts and Lasts by Terra Elan McVoy
Behind the Scenes by Dahlia Adler

From Atria Books:

After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Out 7/1)
The Price of Inheritance by Karin Tanabe (Out 8/5)
Charlie Glass’s Slippers by Holly McQueen (Out 8/5)
For Once in My Life by Marianne Kavanagh

From Harlequin:

The Beekeeper’s Ball by Susan Wiggs
The Good Girl by Mary Kubica (Out 7/29)

From Scholastic/Chicken House:

Breaking Butterflies by M. Anjelais (Out 8/26)

From Random House/Crowne:

Brunette Ambition by Lea Michele

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On the blog this week:

The Promise by Robyn Carr: lovely small town + sweet romance!
A favorite of 2014: My Best Friend, Maybe by Caela Carter
Wildflower by Alecia Whitaker: Nashville, country music, families, oh my!
Fan Art by Sarah Tregay — not exactly what I was hoping for.
A collaborative country music OPEN ROAD SUMMER playlist for your enjoyment!

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Thanks so much for checking out my Shelve It v-log today! I actually did that one in 2 tries! Woo hoo!

So now it’s your turn. There’s ONE question you can answer from my vlog and now here’s another: what did you buy this week??

Estelle: The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay

The Sea of Tranquility by Katja MillayThe Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay ( twitter )
Publication Date: June 4, 2013 (in paperback)
Publisher: Atria Books
Pages: 448
Target audience: Mature young adult/adult
Keywords: recovery, trauma, high school seniors
Format read: ARC from NetGalley! (Thanks!)

Summary: The Sea of Tranquility connects two people who are living in their own voids of loneliness: Nastya, a girl who escapes to her aunt’s house and a new high school just to blend it and get through the day without being asked about her past and Josh, an emancipated high school senior who, by terrible twists of fate, has been left to fend for himself. When Nastya and Josh form an unexpected and unconventional friendship, the two are forced to remember and deal in ways they have avoided for a long time.

Katja Millay is a very talented, thorough writer. You can tell she has taken great lengths to fully understand the depths of her two characters, and even does this without jipping the secondary characters either (Drew and his mom are awesome).

We begin with two broken people, and piece by piece, come to discover why they are the way they are. Why does Nastya run all hours of the night? Why is she okay with dressing like an emo whore? Why does Josh find such solace in woodworking? And why does everyone at school treat him so differently? It’s rather unlikely that these two characters would find much in common but somehow they do, even if it takes a little work to get there. And then a little more work after that.

Nothing comes easy in The Sea of Tranquility. For me, it took three false starts before I could get into the flow, and even then, I found myself working through the book very slowly. Until there was this beautiful, delicious bubble of Josh and Nastya forming this languid bond of domesticity that I could not get enough of. A certain aspect of Nastya’s character really helped create this intimate chemistry between the two, and I so loved what they did for one another.

Unfortunately, the story veered off track into more of a dramatic realm when more and more tragedy piled up on the character’s plates, as well as a happenstance moment that occurs all too perfectly later in the book. Even Nastya’s voice didn’t always fit her dark thoughts or her actions, and felt a bit romanticized. Don’t get me wrong — Millay created an intriguing story with interesting characters but there was just so much jammed on the page that it had me questioning its believability instead of feeling more for the characters.

Still there is something about this title that is so addicting. Whether it’s how kind of great Josh is or Nastya’s playful but steady friendship with their shared best friend, Drew. Then there’s the mystery (what event led to Nastya’s current behavior), which leads to the ultimate question: can two people who have faced such hardships overcome and begin again?

It’s a rocky road from start to finish, but I’m ultimately glad The Sea of Tranquility put Millay on my radar.

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Sidenote: I believe this book is being marketed as “new adult” for more mature themes (drugs, sexuality, violence) but I am more confused by this designation than I was before. All the main characters in this novel are seniors in high school, and I’ve read various books where there has been equal amount of drugs, sexuality, and violence. (Daisy Whitney’s The Mockingbirds for example.) So what makes this story in particular NA exactly?