In Some Other World, Maybe by S. Goldhagen | E Reviews

In Some Other World Maybe by Shari GoldhaganIn Some Other World, Maybe by Shari Goldhagen ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: January 13, 2015
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Pages: 288
Target Audience: Adult
Keywords: Pop culture, missed connections, growing up, 90s
Format read: Copy from Publisher. (Thanks!)

Summary: It all starts with a movie based on a popular comic. That’s the only thing tying these characters from different places together in December 1992 but as these individuals go off to college and to pursue their “dreams” their lives connect and reconnect in unexpected, heartbreaking, and happy ways.

What if? What IF? I’ve been muttering these two words to myself like a semi-crazy person since I finished In Some Other World, Maybe last night. How many times do we say this phrase during our lives? Wish we said or did something we didn’t, knowing it could have made the difference or maybe not knowing and noticing years later that it could have. It’s frustrating and it hurts but if we didn’t make choices (whether it means letting it all out or keeping something to ourselves), we’d never move anywhere. We’d always be bolted in place.

There are a lot of characters in ISOWM. They all share a common thread: they have an affection for a sci-fi comic turned movie and throughout their lives, it still seems to pop up. (It’s kind of amazing but in this world of recycling material for nostalgia sake — so familiar.) Eons & Empires is that one thing that takes these characters back to a time when their life was on the brink, everything was just beginning. Adam leaving his single mother in Florida to go to NYU; Phoebe leaving her lovable boyfriend to try her luck in Hollywood; Sharon living in New York and still  haunted by her own “what if” when she skipped high school to see E&E.

In a world similar to Love Actually, the lives of these characters begin to intertwine — in Los Angeles, in New York, on a plane ride to Chicago — in really surprising ways. All I could think was: this was hard work on the author’s part. How did she make this work, and so believably? But she did. We see these people affecting each other momentously — relationships, sex, friendships — and then in smaller ones too. Bringing to life the bigger picture: we have no idea what small tiny thing is going to motivate and affect us.

It’s both amazing and scary to think about, isn’t it?

Truthfully, I haven’t felt this engrossed in a novel’s world in a long time. If I could have put my entire world on pause to read it, I would have. (Nonetheless, I finished in a little over a day.) It’s both lovely and heartbreaking how the lives of these characters click together and crack; the missed connections weighed on me so much. As an overthinker, I can’t help but retrace conversations and moments in an effort to find the sense in them, find out where the situation may have gone south. The intensity of that emotional rollercoaster was utterly palpable here; you would have thought I was living it myself.

This is one of those rare books I want to dive right back into, and stock up on copies to hand out to friends and family as gifts. The concept of connection and disconnect is so relatable — from the barista you see everyday to the person you’ve known your whole life and not to mention bonds constantly formed and fractured through social media platforms. We’re always one step, one decision away from our choose-your-own-adventure life. Do you go left or do you go right? In Some Other World, Maybe explores these complexities in the best, most thoughtful way.

Rather Be Reading Buy It Icon

Add in SOME OTHER WORLD, MAYBE to Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Estelle: Forever, Interrupted by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Forevery Interrupted by Taylor Jenkins ReidForever, Interrupted by Taylor Jenkins Reid ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: July 9, 2013
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Pages: 352
Target audience: adult
Keywords: short marriage, unexpected tragedies, dealing with grief
Format read: ARC from Publisher via Edelweiss. (Thanks!)

Summary: Ben and Elsie know each other for around six months before they decide to elope in Vegas. A few days later, Ben is accidentally killed on his bike and now Elsie must come to terms with her short marriage, a mother-in-law she is just meeting, and wondering why her damn marriage certificate has not come in the mail yet.

It’s tricky when a main character like Ben dies so early in a book. Sure, we get to see a sweet, genuine moment before tragedy strikes but as a reader, you don’t know him well. You are not emotionally attached. You are sad because death is a sad thing. You are sad because the main character is understandably having trouble coping.

So I was a little scared going into Forever, Interrupted. Logically, I totally understood Elsie’s emotions but would I feel this devastating blow alongside her? Would I know why losing Ben so suddenly left such a hole in her life? Would I get just why he of all people was the love of her life?

Well, the answer to all of those questions is a big, heartbreaking: YES.

By weaving the story of how the two met within the aftermath of Elsie’s post-Ben life, this blurry image we have of Ben in the beginning truly sharpens and we just get it. By sharing in the joy of their whirlwind romance and also the darker days Elsie is facing, the emotional rollercoaster is that much more effective from all these contrasting feelings.

So this is the thing about Ben. Don’t expect some watered down story that is going to make him look like a saint. (Even though he loves loves young adult novels.) The kid eloped with Elsie before telling his mom he was even in a serious relationship. Needless to say Susan can’t believe she has a daughter-in-law and much transition needs to occur before both women can come to terms with Ben’s death and this family situation they are kind of stuck in. Reid presents a very rare dynamic by exploring Susan and Elsie’s relationship. How do you rationalize the decisions of deceased? Did Susan and Elsie have any obligation to be a part of each other’s lives? And where is that pesky marriage certificate?

The farther I got into Forever, Interrupted the more I felt connected to all of these characters and wanted so much for them to overcome this tragedy as unfathomable as it all sounds. Reid also makes sure the outside world keeps knocking on Elsie’s mourning time as her best friend falls in love with the most unlikely guy and the cute little old man from the library generously extends his friendship. (The supporting characters are fantastic.)

Life goes on. It’s easier said then done. Especially when we end up in a role, a place that we never imagined. I was so touched by Elsie’s story and her spirit (even if she didn’t always believe in her own strength), and, of course, the romance between her and Ben. Even though though I knew how it would all end, I’m still grateful I could watch how everything played out. Reid’s writing feels organic, is full of detail and real emotion, depicting the super highs and lowest lows of love and life.

I know, I know, this is a sad story but I promise you, it’s worth the read. And underneath it all, there’s a lot of hope.

Rather Be Reading Buy It Icon

Add to Goodreads | Buy on Amazon

Estelle: Island Girls by Nancy Thayer

Island Girls by Nancy ThayerIsland Girls by Nancy Thayer ( web | facebook )
Publication Date: June 18, 2013
Publisher: Random House/Ballantine Books
Pages: 320
Target audience: Adult
Keywords: Nantucket, family secrets, sister, summer
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley.

Summary: Three sisters (two step, one half) are forced to spend 3 months together at their recently deceased father’s house in Nantucket in order for them to inherit the house and sell it off.

Nantucket, Nantucket! This place is all I hear about lately. And rightfully so, it is the perfect setting for a summer novel. Small town, beautiful people, clear skies, bright stars, and gorgeous beaches. I’m always wishing I could jump right into the pages of my book and be right there, alongside the characters.

Despite the serene environment, Island Girls is a bit of a drama fest. (In an addicting way.) Rory, dad to Arden and Meg (different moms) and adopted dad to Jenny, has just passed away and stipulates in his will that the girls must spend three months together at the family house in Nantucket in order for them to be able to sell it and reap the benefits. Doesn’t sound so bad, right? Wrong. Very wrong. Back when they were in their early teens, Arden and Meg were “exiled” from the Nantucket house by Rory’s third wife, Justine, after she accused Arden of stealing her necklaces. The sisterhood the three girls had been forming was immediately shut down, and in the recent years, anytime they see each other was as an obligation to their dad.

Now in their 30s, they are all determined to get through the summer without killing each other.

Luckily each of them have some distractions: Arden is looking for a new angle for her TV show (after she was deemed “too old”; shes 34.); Meg is finishing up her May Alcott book, on break from school and standing clear of her feelings for a younger colleague; Jenny hopes to make up for lost years with her sisters and finally find out who her dad is.

Tall orders for three months, don’t you think?

There is something about Island Girls that kept me hanging on every word. The family dysfunction, the cautious friendship growing between the girls, and the most unconventional family reunion near the end; I could not put it down. The novel might not be perfect (the dialogue seemed a little too old for women in their 30s plus there was a fairy tale ending) but I liked how it was a little love letter to Nantucket, the sexy relationship between Meg and Liam, and how these woman did try to make the best out of some crazy situations.

So if you can’t make it up to Nantucket any time soon, Island Girls is the next best thing!

rather be reading borrow from the library icon

Add to Goodreads | Buy on Amazon

Estelle: Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Colgan

Meet Me at Cupcake Cafe by Jenny ColganMeet Me at the Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Colgan ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: July 2, 2013
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Pages: 432
Target audience: Adult
Keywords: bakery, London, romance, friendship
Format read: eBook from Publisher via NetGalley! (Thanks!)

Summary: When Issy is laid off from her job, she decides to take the plunge and open up a bakery — a dream she has had since she was a little girl learning how to cook with her grandfather. The opportunity brings many challenges, friendships, and realizations into her life.

Cupcakes, London, and a gal following her dreams? If it sounds like a cute novel, then it is a cute novel. Really.

Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe introduces us to Issy, who after being forced to leave her easy-peasy job as an office assistant decides to challenge herself by opening her own business. She’s part of a family of bakers and decides to let her passion become her job: opening a cozy cupcake cafe in a space that hasn’t had the most luck with clientele in the past.

I really appreciated Issy’s see-sawing when it came to making this commitment. It’s never an easy thing to take a chance, step out of your comfort zone with the realistic knowledge that it might not all work out. But I’m so glad that she did because the people who come into her life end up making the experience that much more special and important. Pearl, her sassy assistant with cute kid Louis, and even the banker who gives her a loan, the totally cute Austin.

Colgan gives us a really detailed look at Issy’s life — not only her budding business but also her sick grandfather, disasterous romance with her ex-boss, and sweet best friendship with Helena (determined to find her own John Cusack). Sometimes a bit too detailed though. The pacing definitely dragged at points, especially when the reader became privy to everyone’s thoughts in the book. (There were so points where I thought this book could have been cut into multiple volumes — so much going on in everyone’s head!)

Also. The dialogue? Hilarious and witty. I wish there had been a little bit more of it to break up the long paragraphs but Colgan is seriously on to something.

As if Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe doesn’t make your mouth water enough, the author was sweet enough (ha!) to include some yummy sounding recipes throughout the novel. I never felt more like baking in my life. Seriously, though, it was nice (and inspiring!) to read a feel-good story about a character in her 30s working her tail off to get what she wanted. Go Issy!

rather be reading borrow from the library icon

Add to Goodreads | Buy on Amazon

Estelle: The Best of Us by Sarah Pekkanen

The Best of Us by Sarah PekkanenThe Best of Us by Sarah Pekkanen ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: April 9, 2013
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Pages: 352
Target audience: Adult
Keywords: college friends, marriage, Jamaica
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley. (Thanks!)

Summary: Knee-deep in marriage, kids, infidelity, and secrets, college friends reunite for a fully-paid trip to Jamaica for Dwight’s 35th birthday.

There are many days where I sit around and pray for a very successful and kind friend to sweep me out of my routine 9-5 life and take me to a tropical island (all expenses paid!!), where I can frolic in the waves with friends, sipping margaritas, and chatting to all hours of the night.

(Note: Any of these friends can step forward at anytime… really.)

Sadly, I don’t see this happening to me any time soon but I can be happy (cough hate cough) that it happened to this group of friends, while I drool over their opportunity of a lifetime. But in all seriousness, this group of college pals needs this trip more than anything. Case in point: Tina is feeling totally rundown as a mom; Savannah is reeling from her unfaithful (soon-to-be ex) husband; Allie receives some unfortunate news about her health; Pauline is tired of the persona she has built as Dwight’s wife.

You can see how escaping from real life couldn’t come at a better time.

Pekkanen does a great job of weaving the stories of these four women; I really liked seeing how differently each of their lives turned out and how their views on marriage and life-after-college were so vast. There is such truth in how everyone’s relationship is so unique. How do you balance your own interests when you are a mother? Can you forgive someone who betrays you? Does your relationship have what it takes to go the distance? Is it ever too late to let your guard down?

While this crowd is chumming it up like they are back in college, tension builds in paradise when old feelings resurface, flirting speeds into overdrive, unwanted guests arrive, and that hurricane they hoped they would miss is heading right for their house. There’s nothing like being in close quarters to really confront your problems. Despite the drama that ensues, Jamaica proves to be a turning point of every single person in this house — whether that’s good or bad is up to you to find out.

The Best of Us is a book that is meant to be scorched in the sun, stained with your sunscreened fingers, and maybe even splashed with a little ocean water. I was practically salivating over the luxuries these characters were offered, and I literally could not wait to figure out how this little trip would change them all. There’s a great balance to the sexy, sweet, tough, and nostalgic moments that fill the pages. I’m definitely looking forward to checking out more of Pekkanen’s work.

Tequila shots, anyone?

rather be reading worth it icon

Goodreads | Buy on Amazon