Monday, January 26, 2015

"How Do You Know?" by Meredith Schorr

Maggie Piper is 39- and she's dreading turning 40. It's not that she's not happy, because she is, but she questions if she's happy enough. Her boyfriend Doug is amazing but she has her doubts about their relationship. She likes her job and she's good at it but it isn't necessarily her dream job. She's not sure if she wants kids or not but if she does want them her time to have them is running out. All of her friends seem to have a good idea of what direction they want their lives to take, but Maggie feels like she's a mess. When she sits Doug down shortly after her 39th birthday and requests a break, Doug requests a break-up, and Maggie spends the next year on a tumultuous path towards figuring out what it is what she really wants from life, and if being merely happy is enough for her.

I loved How Do You Know? for so many reasons. I read a lot of women's fiction and chick lit and I found that this book was well-written and very thoughtful. I loved the main character, Maggie Piper. She was far from perfect and she seemed fixated on her appearance as she approached forty but she somehow felt approachable still and she was definitely easy to relate to. I found myself rooting for her. Although we have chosen very different paths in our lives- I had three children and was married by the time I was 30 and she is unsure of the path she wanted her life to take by 40- I wanted her to find her own happy ending. I appreciated her journey towards getting to know herself. It was bumpy and unsteady at times but it was authentic. Maggie's voice felt real and not forced at all, and I honestly didn't know what path her story would take until the very last pages. It's not often that a story can surprise me- I can usually see an ending from a mile away!- and I loved that How Do You Know? kept me guessing.

The supporting characters are fantastic as well. I loved that author Schorr created characters that were all so distinct from one another, yet it didn't feel like she was writing them in just to fill a particular role. They felt like a real group of kick-ass girlfriends who you would be able to rely on during your time of need. All of them supported Maggie in her choices, even if they didn't always make sense! In reality, I wish that I had a group of girlfriends this awesome!

I laughed during parts of this book, and I reflected on my own choices in life during others, but most of all I sat back and enjoyed this one. Schorr has ventured into writing women's fiction (rather than its lighter counterpart, chick lit) with How Do You Know? and I feel like this was a successful expedition. I'm definitely looking forward to future books in this series, and I thank the author for providing me with a review copy in exchange for my honest review!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sunday Salon

Wow! Another week just flew by- I almost can't believe it that here we are at another Sunday! I know that this post is coming fairly late in the day, but it's the first chance that I've had to actually sit down all weekend. I worked overtime yesterday (the norm at my job) and then my husband and I went out for dinner at a local burger joint with my in-laws and my sister-in-law. It was worth the long time that we had to wait for a table! Today I dropped the hubby off for band practice and then headed to my mom's house for lunch and a visit, then picked up the oldest son from a sleepover. After that was grocery shopping (yuck!) but now I'm home and finally sitting. Yay!

This week I finished How Do You Know by Meredith Schorr and I started Three Amazing Things About You by my all-time favourite chick-lit author Jill Mansell! I love it! Reading her latest release is like sinking in to a warm bath- comforting and familiar! I'm not sure what I'll start next because I have too many books to choose from, but I'm sure that it will be something great!

I only added a few books to my bookshelf last week, compared to the week before but they are good ones! I added Jill Mansell's book as well as The Other Wife by Kathleen Irene Paterka and The Day We Met by Rowan Coleman.

Finally, I am lusting after a new eReader and I have ordered gift cards from all of the various rewards sites that I participate in to cover most of the cost. I'm lusting after the Kobo Aura H20- it is waterproof, sand proof and dust proof! Since this will allow me to use my eReader in the bathtub and on the beach, two of my favourite places to read, I'm hooked and I absolutely can't wait. Does anyone already have this one? Thoughts?

That's it from me for today- I have a review to write and then possibly I'll read until bedtime! Happy Sunday to everyone and have a great week!

Friday, January 23, 2015

"Love Is Pink!" by Roxann Hill

Michelle thinks that she has it all- money, good looks, charm, designer clothing and an apartment to die for! She also has her rich, successful dream man, Valentin, but there's one catch. He's married, and its not to her.

The plan is that Valentin will leave his wife over Christmas and publicly declare his love for Michelle, but it is no surprise to anyone but Michelle when he chooses to stay with his wealthy wife and Michelle finds herself stranded in the French Alps with no way home. Hitching a ride back to Berlin with penniless stranger David and his precocious daughter Emma in their rickety old car, Michelle finds herself re-examining the life that she has created for herself and wondering if she is truly happy or if she's been pretending all along.

I'm really torn about what to say about Love Is Pink!. I almost didn't finish reading it. I was half way through and I just about put it aside for good. I wanted to like it! I liked the plot very much. It reminded me of JoJo Moyes' One Plus One, which I absolutely loved. The writing was pretty good too. The book was translated so at times the wording was a bit choppy but it was always grammatically correct. The problem that I had was with the main character, Michelle. She was rude, abrasive, snotty, and her sense of entitlement was off the charts. It was unbearable! She had no problem stealing a married man away from his wife, she was incredibly rude to the people around her who she deemed to be "beneath" than her and then, when a complete stranger offers to drive her all the way to Berlin, she is beyond condescending to him because she believes that he has no money. Truthfully, David (a kind and patient man) and his daughter Emma deserved far better than to be stuck inside a car with her for three days.

Granted, I did continue reading, and Love Is Pink! did get better. Michelle (predictably) begins to change and to realize that a person's worth does not correlate directly to his or her bank account. There was a scene that takes place in a castle that I absolutely loved and I wished that I could actually be there myself! The conclusion was decent and there is a really cute scene between David and Michelle at the end that made me laugh. Unfortunately it just wasn't enough to completely redeem the book for me. I enjoyed it, but I didn't enjoy it enough. If you are willing to suspend your disbelief for a bit and if you don't mind really unlikable characters I would tell you to pick this one up, but for most people I would recommend giving it a miss. The second half of the book just doesn't make up for how awful the first half is. I received this book from the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for my honest review of the book.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

"Before I Go" by Colleen Oakley

Three years ago twenty-seven-year old Daisy beat breast cancer. Life is good, she's in school focusing on her graduate studies and her husband is so close to graduating from veterinary school. In a cruel twist of fate Daisy finds out that her cancer is back on the eve of her third "cancerversary" to celebrate being three years cancer free. Not only is the cancer back, but there is "Lots of Cancer" and it is an aggressive stage four kind this time around. Daisy needs to prepare herself for the fact that death is imminent.

Daisy is understandably scared to die, but she's not just frightened for herself. Who will care for her brilliant yet absent-minded husband, Jack, whom she loves with a ferocity that surprises her? He can't even get his socks into the hamper at night, so Daisy lies awake at night worrying how he will survive without her. They live in a house that Daisy is in the process of fixing up, but with her gone, how will Jack manage to finish it all? One sleepless night Daisy comes up with the solution- she needs to find Jack a wife before she dies and that way she will know that Jack will be well looked after once she's gone.

As Daisy scours online dating profiles and hits the dog park looking for a second wife for her husband she begins to question the sanity of her plan. After all, with only a short time left on this earth should she be focused on Jack's future happiness or on making her last days count?

I absolutely loved Before I Go, and although it's early in 2015 I have no doubt that it will make its way on to my list of "best of's" at the end of the year. Poignant and touching, Before I Go had me hooked from the first sentence. I was touched by the unfairness of the cancer recurrence in a young woman who had so much left to offer the world. Daisy's life seemed to just be beginning, and already it was coming to an end. The scenes between Daisy and her doctor were especially sad, as her doctor gently explained that this time around there was "Lots of Cancer" and that there was truly no way to fight it.

Yet somehow this story manages not to be depressing or maudlin. It wasn't until the end that I actually shed any tears. Daisy's quest to marry off her husband is admirable and often humorous. I can't imagine what it would be like to actually be in this situation, planning to marry off a man that you love so much, yet Colleen Oakley manages to keep the tone light throughout much of the book.

Daisy's personality made her all the more relatable. She felt real to me, like someone who could be in the checkout line at the grocery store behind me, or like someone I would run into at the library. She was stubborn and fearless and fearful and sad and selfless all at the same time. If she were real she is someone that I would most definitely want to get to know better.

Before I Go is a heartbreaking yet simultaneously heartwarming story that had me wondering how I would spend my last days if I knew that I had a pending expiration date. Would I worry about my own happiness, or would I only be focused on the happiness of the ones that I would be leaving behind? With a conclusion that only serves to enhance the beauty of this book, Before I Go is a must-read that will appeal to fans of Cecelia Ahern's P.S. I Love You and Taylor Jenkins Reid's Forever, Interrupted. My thanks to Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books and Netgalley for providing me with a review copy.

Monday, January 19, 2015

"Pear Shaped" by Stella Newman

Sophie Klein walks into a bar one night and she meets a man who is about to change her life- James Stephens. He's charismatic and a bit of an enigma. He likes to eat and drink and have a nap afterwards. He enjoys wild bouts of lovemaking followed by more relaxed cuddling. He's the man of Sophie's dreams- or is he?

His stunning ex-model girlfriend casts a shadow over their relationship. As someone who enjoys indulging every once in a while Sophie feels like she can't live up to his ex. And after a while, James begins to eye up the competition and it is the beginning of the end.

A novel about love, loss, heartbreak and food, Pear Shaped is an often insightful, sometimes sad, look into the life of a girl who truly enjoys her food and everything that comes with it.

I usually love books about women who struggle with their self-esteem and their weight because it is something that I have struggled with my whole life and I can relate to it on a personal level. I have read countless books about women who are overweight and manage to come to terms with it in some way. I was expecting a lot when I picked up a copy of Pear Shaped. I was hoping for a bit of feel-good chick lit (my favourite!) but unfortunately I liked this book far less than I thought that I would.

Let me start with the good things about this book, of which there are plenty! Pear Shaped is really well-written and it's very readable. I read it, almost in its entirety, on an international flight to Denmark. Sophie was a sweet and vulnerable and very likable character in my opinion, and I wanted so badly for her to find her happy ending. I enjoyed the appearance of her mentor, a wise and entirely likable woman. Sophie's job and co-workers were interesting, as were her descriptions of food, and I especially liked the character of Will, a man who worked for a supplier for Sophie's job.

Now on to what I didn't like. What I didn't like could essentially be summed up in one word- James. There was not one part of him that I liked or cheered for. He was essentially building up his own self-esteem by constantly putting Sophie down, and I'm not sure why she put up with it as long as she did. From the sounds of things, Sophie was quite a catch- funny and independent and beautifully curvy, and James was described as being middle-aged and a little paunchy, not to mention overly critical and too mysterious for my liking (who takes off for weeks at a time without contacting his girlfriend even once?). Yet she continues to put up with him long past his expiry date. Why? Because she doesn't feel she can do better? I'm not sure, but there were much better options just in front of her and it was frustrating that she didn't even see them.

I ended up with mixed feelings about Pear Shaped. On one hand I liked the subject matter (for the most part) and I enjoyed the writing and I liked some of the characters. On the other hand I wondered when being a curvier woman became synonymous for settling for a man who isn't remotely good enough for you. The book was interesting, for sure, and perhaps it portrayed a slightly grittier version of this story that I'm used to, but as a whole it just didn't work for me. That being said, it hasn't scared me away in the slightest from reading this author's other offerings. In fact I have Leftovers in my TBR pile right now! My thanks to Bookouture and Netgalley for providing me with a review copy of this book.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Sunday Salon

Wow! It's Sunday again already! My goal for this year was to do more of these, and to make my blog a little more personal. I enjoy reading all about you guys and what you get up to through the week so I am hoping that you will enjoy getting to know me better as well! Since my 48-hour-a-week work schedule got in the way of my blogging more often than not last year I am going to attempt to do a Sunday Salon at least twice a month, and perhaps more if I can manage it. I'll have to take it as it comes!

These past two weeks proved to be busy ones, getting back into the routine of school and work. Last week just flew by, as I find that my day shifts tend to! I rotate between two weeks of afternoon shift and two weeks of day shift and since I'm not a big fan of afternoons those shifts tend to drag on, while day shifts fly by! My youngest two boys, ages 8 and 9, started their swimming lessons last week at our local pool and loved them! My boys are not particularly athletic and have not shown more than a passing interest in sports like hockey and soccer, but they both love to swim! The older of the two has had swimming lessons through the school and he has enjoyed those, and for the youngest one, this is his first time, but after getting over their first-day jitters they are both loving them! I hope to sign them up again for the spring sessions so that they have lots of swimming practice before our vacation in the summer!

I have been doing lots of reading lately! I just can't seem to get enough and that is great! Last week I finished reading The Good Girl by Mary Kubica and Bad Will Hunting by Heather Wardell. I was reading The Good Girl for my online book club and was only supposed to read the first ten chapters of it but I just couldn't stop! It was just that good! That is one of the things that I absolutely love about belonging to a book club, whether in person or online, it challenges me to pick up books that I normally wouldn't and I always end up loving them!

Along with lots of reading I have been doing lots of reviewing! Most of the books that I have been reviewing are the ones that I read in 2014 and reviewed over the holidays. In the past two weeks I have posted reviews for:

Marriage to Measure by Talli Roland (one of my favourite authors!)
The Work Boyfriend by Deanna McFadden (a debut author who I would love to see more from)
Mating For Life by Marissa Stapley (an emotionally complex book, highly recommended!)
Milked: A Modern Mommy Tale with a Retro Twist by Lisa Doyle (enjoyable!)
A Sister to Honor by Lucy Ferriss (complex and eye-opening)
and A Girl's Guide to the Birds and the Bees by Sophie Hart (long title but cute book!)

My mailbox (OK, my e-mail inbox!) has been filling up with wonderful books faster than I can read them (I am definitely not complaining, LOL!). In the past two weeks I have added the following books to my TBR pile: Things You Won't Say: A Novel by Sarah Pekkanen, Reform Your Inner Mean Girl by Amy Ahlers and Christine Arylo, The Moon Sisters by Therese Walsh (an upcoming book club read), Something in the Heir by Jenny Gardiner, The Unconventional Life of Jenna Jaghe by Victoria Ward, Her by Harriet Lane, The Firelight Girls by Kaya McLaren (on recommendation of Melissa at Chick Lit Central), Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, Twin Piques by Tracie Banister, I'll Have What She's Having by Rebecca Harrington, and The Oyster Catcher by Jo Thomas. Whoa! Looking at that list I was busy- and will continue to be so for some time! There are very few things that make me happier than reading, though, and I suppose that I could have worse habits!

Finally, I plan to make February "I Love Indie Authors" month at The Book Chick Blog! I love independent authors and authors that write for small independent publishing houses, and I hope to celebrate that in February! I plan to host a giveaway, post reviews, and feature indie chick lit and women's fiction authors. If you or someone you know is a chick-lit or women's fiction independant author and you would like to provide a copy of your book to give away, please get in contact with me at jonitathebookchick@gmail.com. I would love to feature you!

Happy Reading to everyone, and have a great week!

Friday, January 16, 2015

"A Girl's Guide to the Birds and the Bees" by Sophie Hart

Sex therapist Annie Hall gets a lot of questions about her job- most of them along the lines of what you would expect. For the record, no she does not watch couples "getting it on" nor does she expect them to strip naked in front of her, but she does help couples who are experiencing roadblocks with their sex life move past them by figuring out what the real issue is behind the troubles in the bedroom. There are Nick and Julia, a young couple trying desperately for a baby and finding that sex has lost all appeal to them both. Will Annie be able to fix their relationship before its too late? There are Zoe and Simon, engaged to be married and unable to keep their hands off of one another. They've vowed to stay celibate until their wedding day. Will Annie be able to help them keep their promise to one another? Finally there is Roy and Linda, a couple at retirement age. Roy wants to retire and enjoy his golden years with his wife but she refuses to stop working. Will Annie be able to help them rediscover the magic that has been there all along?

As Annie begins to help these three couples work on their issues she finds herself falling for the handsome guy who works out of her building as well. Having been hurt in the past Annie is reluctant to open herself up to Jamie and to the potential of love. Will she be able to take some of her own advice and be successful in a relationship of her own?

If you're looking for an erotic novel, A Girl's Guide to the Birds and the Bees isn't it. But if you're looking for a fun and witty novel about love and relationships and romance, then you've found it! I enjoyed this clever novel. The character of Annie definitely ties everything together and makes A Girl's Guide... a pleasure to read. Her wisdom was sage and scarily accurate and when her own vulnerabilities to love are exposed she was even more likable. The supporting characters were great as well. I found myself especially enjoying Julia and Nick's story. Nick was so eager to please his wife, and you could tell how much he loved her and wanted to make her happy, but at the same time he was tired with the way things were between them and you could tell that he really wanted to fix their relationship. I couldn't help but like him!

The scenes when all of the characters were participating in group therapy were especially enlightening. I loved that the author managed to make those scenes feel natural instead of awkward and I even managed to pick up a relationship tip or two- a bonus! Sophie Hart definitely did her homework when it came to relationship counselling and it made the story feel all that more authentic.

I did find the scenes when Jamie (Annie's love interest) was explaining to her how to play a video game that he was designing a little tedious. I didn't think that it was necessary to the plot to know exactly how it worked and what the levels were like. I found myself skimming through those parts, though thankfully I believe that it only came up twice!

A Girl's Guide to the Birds and the Bees was a light, romantic read, perfect for curling up with on a lazy afternoon. The characters were all likable, some difficult things were touched on but the book never became too heavy, and the book was well-written and flowed nicely. If you're looking for an enjoyable read that feels like you're catching up with old friends and has a deliciously happy ending you've found it in A Girl's Guide to the Birds and the Bees. My thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a review copy of this book!