Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Review: "Scared Scriptless" by Alison Sweeney

Maddy Carson loves lists and details and these aspects of her personality are what make her a fantastic script supervisor on the set of a successful TV drama. A small-town girl at heart she has very specific rules about Hollywood, one of those being that she will absolutely not date actors! She will, however, take a chance on love and date one of the executives at her company. When Maddy discovers that her beloved hometown of Wolf County is in financial trouble and her parents may have to sell their ski resort and move because of the economy, she concocts an idea for a reality show that could solve all of their problems. However she makes the mistake of involving boyfriend Craig in the project and when he turns out not to be the stand-up guy that Maddy thought, can she still manage to pull off selling her show?

Confusing matters is the fact that Maddy seems to be falling for Adam Devin, one of the new actors on the drama that she works on, despite her rule about not dating actors. As Maddy works her day job, tries to save her hometown from inevitable financial ruin, and tries to resist Adam's advances, she learns that sometimes she has to let go in order to grow as a person.

I haven't read Alison Sweeney's debut novel yet, and I didn't even realize that some of the characters in it reappeared in Scared Scriptless until after I was done reading! It definitely reads as a stand-alone novel, which is great for those who only have the opportunity to read one or the other. Reading it was an enjoyable experience. The writing was surprisingly good. Somehow Alison Sweeney has managed to become a triple threat- she can act, she can host The Biggest Loser, and she can write! Had I not known that she was the person writing it, I would not have not have guessed. There have been times that I have read books written by a celebrity and been unimpressed with the writing but this was not the case with Scared Scriptless! The plot was interesting and this book offered a fascinating look into what happens behind-the-scenes of a TV drama! I'm absolutely positive that Alison's extensive television experience lent a lot of authenticity to Maddy's experiences.

There were a few little things that bothered me about Scared Scriptless. My primary complaint was with Maddy, the main character. I liked her in a lot of ways, but in other ways she was just too timid and she had absolutely no confidence in herself or in her abilities. It was hard at times to stand behind a character that didn't believe that her ideas had any validity. I kept waiting for Maddy to start standing up for herself but it didn't really happen in the way that I was hoping. Another small complaint that I had was that the final quarter just wrapped up too neatly. I love a happy ending, but some of the ways that Sweeney chose to conclude the book seemed unrealistic, especially for Hollywood!

Despite the small things that I didn't love, Scared Scriptless was a great book and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is curious about Hollywood and what happens behind the scenes. Those parts of the book were a lot of fun! I hope to go back and read Alison Sweeney's previous book, The Star Attraction, because I would love to know more about the handsome Billy and his background! He was definitely one of my favourite characters even though we don't get to see him as much as I would like in this book. This light read will be the perfect addition to your beach bag this summer! My thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy for review.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Review: "All Fall Down" by Jennifer Weiner

Allison Weiss is doing it all- she's holding down a demanding job that will only become more so as her blog's brand expands, parenting an overly sensitive young child, running the household and helping to care for her aged father with dementia. She juggles so many balls at one time that she is constantly teetering on the edge of dropping one or another- if she's a good parent she's not being a good employee, and so on. Allison finds herself coping with the overwhelming business of getting through the day by taking a pill once or twice a day. As the pill dissolves Allison feels some of her anxiety slipping away as well. As Allison continues to add things to her to-do list she finds herself taking more and more pills just to get through a few hours, a few days. As her addiction rapidly spirals out of control Allison finds herself on the brink of losing everything that she holds dear and she must decide what lengths that she will go to in order to get well again.

All Fall Down was everything that I have come to expect from Jennifer Weiner. It was gripping and thought-provoking and it was a reflection of everything that goes on in society today. Weiner exposed a different side of addiction within these pages. We often view addiction in a "Breaking Bad' style- that drug addictions aren't something that affects the middle class, the moms with jobs and husbands and two-point-two children, but only affects scary looking people in seedy motels and out on the streets. These days addictions are becoming more prevalent, and All Fall Down is an incredibly timely story. For someone who doesn't have a drug addiction of her own, Weiner really takes us inside of Allison's head. I found myself feeling Allison's desperation for her next pill come out from the pages, and as her addiction spirals out of control and she becomes desperate for her next fix I could feel her panic set in.

It was funny how much I found myself relating to Allison. Despite the fact that I don't have a drug or alcohol addition I found myself agreeing with much of how she feels. I believe that the modern woman juggles too much on a daily basis- kids, husbands, jobs, the household. The strength of a modern woman often amazes me. We are expected to be fit and pretty and good moms and wives and we are expected to contribute to the household income on top of all of that. It's easy to see how addiction could stem from all of these pressures and demands and I think that Weiner painted an accurate picture of today's modern woman.

All Fall Down is perhaps grittier than some of Jennifer Weiner's previous books but I thought that it was one of her best to date. She doesn't shy away from a topic that is difficult yet she treats it with the respect that it deserves. I found it impossible to tear myself away from the story because I couldn't wait to find out what would happen next. I was satisfied with the ending and found it fitting for the story. I'm already impatient for Weiner's next release! My thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book for review.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Review: "Best Supporting Role" by Sue Margolis

It's an unpleasant coincidence that Sarah Green's husband dies shortly after she finds out about his out-of-control gambling problem and decides to divorce him. Not only does she find herself a suddenly single mother, but she has to deal with his outstanding debt and her unresolved feelings for her late husband as well.

When Sarah's favourite aunt dies and leaves Sarah her once thriving but currently struggling lingerie store, she finds her suppressed love for fashion rising once again to the surface. Despite objections from her friends and family Sarah decides to make a go of running the shop herself, even in the face of the risk to her financial well-being.

As Sarah struggles with her new venture, her feelings about her late husband, and her new feelings for a very attractive man, she finds that sometimes in life you do have to take risks in order to have your own happy ending.

Best Supporting Role is the first book by Sue Margolis that I have read, but it wont be the last! My friend Melissa A. over at Chick Lit Central has been raving about her ever since we began e-mailing each other a few years ago, and I've been meaning to pick up one of her books for a while! Best Supporting Role did not disappoint. Our main character Sarah Green is endearing and she's easy to relate to so I'm sure that I won't be the only reader who connects with her in some way. I appreciated her perseverance in spite of the difficulties that life throws her way and it shows us that women can kick butt in ways that are unexpected!

The book was an interesting reflection on risks. Margolis examines risk-taking from several different perspectives, and I appreciated that secondary theme. I definitely understood what the author was getting at- it's important for us to take risks in life, even if they don't pay off because we could possibly learn something, although there has to be a limit to how much you will risk.

I was happy to have the opportunity to read Best Supporting Role. I enjoyed the stories of the main characters as well as the secondary ones, and I especially enjoyed watching Sarah's relationship with her mother develop and grow. This book will make a great vacation read! It's quick and light yet satisfying at the same time! My thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy for review.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Review: "The House At Mermaid Point" by Wendy Wax

The women from Ten Beach Road and Ocean Beach are back! Maddie, Avery, Nikki, Kyra, and Deirdre have been sent to renovate yet another run down house for their fledgling reality TV series, only this time their host is less than welcoming! William "The Wild" Hightower, former rock star and heartthrob, is fresh out of rehab and he can think of nothing less appealing than having his island home in the Florida Keys overrun by strangers. William's son and the TV network have decided that his home needs to be turned into a bed and breakfast in order for William to continue to be able to pay the bills.

As the women continue working on the home despite their reluctant host's objections, they encounter difficulties in both their personal lives and their love lives but somehow they will manage to stick together no matter what obstacles they face!

After reading two books and one short story about the women from Ocean Beach, reading an additional story in the series feels like I'm reading about old friends! The emphasis this time was on Maddie and her personal growth and I was glad that she was the focus. Maddie is one of my favourite characters in the series, quite possibly because I relate to her the most. She has always been the glue that has held their unusual group together but she has also been portrayed as being the weakest member of the group. In The House At Mermaid Point she really comes into her own strength and she develops a fabulous backbone! I enjoyed watching her come out of her shell. There is some emphasis on Avery and Deirdre in the book but Nikki faded into the background a little in this one and I hope that there will be some additional focus on her in future stories.

I also appreciated the romance in this novel! I won't tell you who is romantic with whom but the romance was really fun and I was pleased with how things ultimately turned out.

I'll be honest, though, the concluding chapters of The House At Mermaid Point disappointed me. As I was running out of pages to read I realized that the book had yet to reach its climax and I couldn't figure out what the conflict would be. As the conflict was revealed I found myself feeling that it was too abrupt. It came on without warning and was resolved too quickly. It almost felt like it was thrown in there for the sake of creating drama and that didn't work for me.

Despite my disappointment with some of the concluding scenes I enjoyed reading The House on Mermaid Point and I already can't wait for the next book in the series! I wonder where this unique group of women can go from here, and reading about them feels like reading about people that I actually know. This book would make an excellent addition to your beach bag this summer and I thank the publisher for providing me with a copy for review!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Review: "Desperately Ever After" by Laura Kenyon

Have you ever wondered what happened to our favourite fairy tale characters after their "happily ever afters"? What happened to Beauty after Beast morphs into his handsome princely self? What happened to Rapunzel after she was rescued from her tower? What about Cinderella? Author Laura Kenyon brings these characters and more to life in the first book of her "Desperately Ever After" series, the aptly titled Desperately Ever After. She skillfully brings these characters into the modern day and she continues their stories from where the fairy tale left off. Belle is struggling with her overwhelming desire to have a baby but not being able to get pregnant. It doesn't help that her husbands infidelities are all over the gossip rags. Cinderella adores her husband and her children but can't help but wonder if she missed out on all the things she wanted to do before she turned 30 by getting pregnant on her honeymoon. Rapunzel is determined to make up for all of the years that she lost being trapped in the tower by partying and dating as much as she can. As these women navigate the often difficult task of being wives, mothers, and daughters as well as princesses in the spotlight, they lean on one another for conversation, support and friendship.

I absolutely love the concept of this series! What woman has not enjoyed a princess tale or two in childhood? I'm personally a huge fan of Beauty and the Beast and I will still occasionally watch the movie despite the fact that I'm in my 30's now. I love that Kenyon brought these characters into the modern day but kept them as princesses. Now they are princesses with royal responsibilities, less-than-perfect husbands, and modern troubles. This story was modern with an undertone of the magical! I also appreciated that Kenyon bases each character's back story on the Grimm's Fairy Tale version rather than the more widely accepted Disney version. That brought authenticity to the story.

I enjoyed getting to know some of my favourite fairy tale characters from childhood in a new and modern setting! I'll admit that at first I found it a little difficult to deal with the fact that their "happily ever afters" weren't exactly how I imagined (as in, they weren't very happy, LOL!) but I quickly got over that and became immersed in the drama of their various stories! There were parts of the story that felt slow to me, but that's likely because in the first book there are quite a few characters to introduce to the reader, and Kenyon spends time describing their unique kingdoms. If you're reading the book and come to a part that feels slow moving I encourage you to continue reading! The pace picks up shortly after and I think that future books, with less back story to explain, won't have that problem.

Desperately Ever After has a clever, whip- smart plot, an enchanting setting, and a lot of fun, strong female characters to root for. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it (on the beach!) and I'm looking forward to reading the sequel to this book, Damsels in Distress, which will be released in the summer of 2014.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Review: "After I Do" by Taylor Jenkins Reid


Lauren and Ryan have been together since they were in college. They have evolved from being 19-year-olds in love to almost 30 something's with jobs, a house, and a dog that they mutually adore named Thumper. One day they come to the startling realization that they aren't in love with one another anymore- if they are being brutally honest with each other and themselves they realize that they don't even like one another. Lauren and Ryan decide to take one last stab at being married by spending a year apart from each another to see if they can remember why they fell in love in the first place. There is only one rule- they can't contact one another. Other than that, anything goes.

The following year finds Lauren making some important personal discoveries as she tries to remember why she married Ryan in the first place and if her marriage is still worth saving. By listening to her mom, her grandma, her friends, and even a newspaper advice columnist, Lauren discovers that there is so much more to love, and that there are so many different kinds of love, than she once thought and that it is up to her, and only her, to decide what she wants for her future.

I absolutely no-holds-barred loved After I Do. I loved it so much that I can say without hesitation that it is my favourite book of the year so far, which is saying a lot because I've already read some fantastic books! There was just something about it that drew me in. Perhaps it was the subject matter- being married myself I have experienced firsthand how crazy marriage can be sometimes. I often compare marriage to being on a roller coaster- sometimes things are really fantastic, and sometimes things are most definitely awful, but somehow it all evens out in the end. In After I Do Lauren and Ryan's marriage has hit a rough patch, but it seems never ending and neither partner has the energy to continue with things the way that they are, but they are also not sure how to fix things. They cling to the shred of hope that their marriage, their personal fairy tale, can still have a happy ending and they decide to be apart for a year while they both try to figure out what makes their marriage worth saving. What starts out as a last-ditch effort to save what once was manages to turn into something more enlightening than either expected.

I loved the supporting characters in After I Do almost as much as I loved Ryan and Lauren. The emphasis throughout the book is on Lauren and her family as they try to guide her through a difficult time. I loved the strong female role models in Lauren's life. Her mom, whose marriage ended while she was still pregnant, ended up being a single mom for most of Lauren and her siblings childhood but she managed to do it without resentment or regrets. Lauren's grandma, an interesting and quirky woman, still pines for the man that she spent most of her life loving and she can't wait to join him in the afterlife. I loved the relationship that Lauren had with her sister as well as the one that she had with her best friend from work. Each relationship in Lauren's life brought some new insight into her life and I think that these characters were just as important as our main one.

Taylor Jenkins Reid brought so many different aspects of love and marriage to life in these pages. Love and relationships are such a personal subject. What works for one person may not work for another, yet what Reid reflects on in this book is that all kinds of love and the ways of finding it are both relevant and valuable. Reid has created characters that are all looking for different things in life and who are all going about getting them in different ways, but it was interesting that it all came down to one thing- at the end of the day we all just want to be happy, no matter what our definition of happy is, and no matter how we choose to get there. I'll continue reflecting on this long after this book has found a permanent spot on my bookshelf- my relationship belongs to myself and my husband alone, and only we can decide what works for us.

After I Do is the best book I've read so far this year and I just can't recommend it highly enough! Well-written and incredibly insightful, it made me laugh and cry and reflect on my own marriage in ways that I haven't done before. Whether you're married or not, After I Do is a must read for anyone who has ever been in love. My thanks to the BookSparks Summer Reading Challenge and the publisher for providing me with a copy for review.

Monday, July 14, 2014

"Damsels in Distress" by Laura Kenyon Cover Reveal!


I recently returned from my summer vacation with my family, where I spent a lot of time on the beach reading! One of the books that I just happened to read was Laura Kenyon's Desperately Ever After, the first book in her Desperately Ever After series. I thoroughly enjoyed this story about what happens to our favourite fairy tale princesses after their "happily ever afters" so I'm thrilled that Kenyon is releasing the Damsels in Distress, the second novel in the series in August 2014.

About The Book:

Imagine what might happen if our most beloved fairy tale princesses were the best of friends and had the dreams, dilemmas, and libidos of the modern woman. How would their stories unfold after true love’s kiss? Set in a fictional realm based on New York City, the Desperately Ever After series sprinkles women’s fiction with elements of fantasy, and encourages readers to rethink everything they know about happy endings.

After watching her fairy tale go up in flames, Belle is finally starting over. With a baby on the way, a business to run, and a new love interest she just can’t shake, things are finally looking up. That is, until she learns her independence might revive broken curses the world over. Could “happily ever after” really mean staying with her unfaithful husband? Or will Belle and her steadfast friends find another way?
Meanwhile, Dawn still longs for the life she had three centuries earlier—before her sleeping curse ended in two kids, an unfamiliar era, and a husband she barely knows. So when she encounters the childhood sweetheart she believed to be dead, Dawn must suddenly choose between the past she once wanted and the present she never knew she did.
As both women struggle between love and obligation, they fail to see a great danger brewing in the capital–one that could change everything forever.
Damsels in Distress takes a whimsical look at our most beloved fairy tale characters several years down the road. Part Sex and the City, part Desperate Housewives, and part Brothers Grimm, it’s ultimately about a group of friends coming to terms with how their lives have turned out. They just happen to live in castles.
About the Author:
Laura Kenyon is an award-winning journalist and graduate of Boston College (go Eagles!). Her stories and articles have appeared in Kiwi Magazine, Westchester Magazine, Just Labs, Serendipity, The Improper Bostonian, and Westchester/Hudson Valley Weddings, as well as in myriad newspapers and at PrickoftheSpindle.com. She lives in Connecticut with her husband and their silver Labrador retriever, who's about as well behaved as Beast.
She loves connecting with readers on her blog (laurakenyon.com), Twitter (@laura_kenyon), and Facebook (laurakenyonwrites).