Book Club: The Smart One

Once upon a time I had a pretty awesome book club. It consisted of three of my closest gal pals and a couple others, we’d get together monthly to discuss books, life and have a couple glasses of wine at our favorite DC eateries.

Then two of us moved.

One of us moved back.

But after many short sighted (failed) attempts, I vowed to get book club back (after I read this post from Skinny Mom), so Lexi and I put out a call for new members, and BOOM. We had a real book club. Back again and better than ever.

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We met a few weeks ago at Red Red Wine for Sunday brunch in Annapolis to discuss our first read.

On the book…

The Smart One  by Jennifer Close

The Coffey siblings are having a rough year. Martha is thirty and working at J. Crew after a spectacular career flameout; Claire has broken up with her fiancé and locked herself in her New York apartment until her bank account looks as grim as her mood; and the baby of the family, Max, is dating a knockout classmate named Cleo and keeping a very big, very life-altering secret. The only solution—for all of them—is to move back home.

But things aren’t so easy the second time around, for them or for their mother, Weezy. Martha and Claire have regressed to fighting over the shared bathroom, Weezy can’t quite bring herself to stop planning Claire’s thwarted wedding, and Max and Cleo are exchanging secretive whispers in the basement.  Jennifer Close’s funny and tender follow-up to her bestselling debut novel is a story about the ways in which we never really grow up, and the people we turn to when things go drastically wrong: family.  {via Amazon}

Without giving away too many spoilers, I liked the book, but I didn’t love it. The book was very character driven, and none of the characters were blow your mind amazing people. The two daughters were overly whiny and entitled and the son, while you felt bad for him, I also felt very much like “wellp, you brought this on yourself bud.”

The book drags on all their stories and conflicts and ends abruptly leaving you like “really? that’s it?”

On brunch…

Unfortunately, I failed to get pictures of brunch but the New Orleans style brunch at Red Red Wine bar on Main Street in Annapolis is amazing. I had the Crab benedict which was delicious (though, I prefer Eggcellence really)

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Review: “Here I Go Again”

I am a huge fan of Jenn Lancasters. Always have been, and likely always will be. I was pretty stoked to have the opportunity to be a part of this months BlogHer Book Club reviewing her newest fiction novel Here I go again.

“Every high school has a Lissy Ryder. You might have known her as the Prom Queen. The Mean Girl. The Bitch. Lissy Ryder spent her teen years making yours miserable. But you escaped her. And even though you went to college, grew up, and got a life, every now and then you wonder if that thing called ‘karma’ ever comes for the Lissy Ryders of the world. 

Rest assured it does.”

In Here I Go Again Lissy Ryder travels back in time to undo her wrong doings after  disastrous high school reunion right after she loses everything. She encounters one of her teenage victims, who gives her the capability to go back and change destiny. Except Lissy realizes that her bullying had a purpose and propelled so many people to amazingness, and wants to undo her undoings. All works out in the end and she realizes everything really does happen for a reason.

Not gonna lie, I had a hard time getting into this. I found Lissy to be a bit…unsympathetic at first. Annoyingly so. But as the book went on, I found her attempts to right her wrongs and make life better for all a bit endearing. After all, I think anyone who was ever bullied in high school (can we talk about how I am so glad that my generation didn’t have to deal with technology and social media? Bullying in my day was taunting, dirty looks, gossip and banal pranks. None of this viciousness with facebook or anything…thank sweet jebus.) will agree that everything happens for a reason and that karma is a total bia. But having a bully realize her wrong doings and trying to right her wrongs, well, that’s what every bullying victim hopes for (too bad it doesn’t happen nearly that often).

You can join in the BlogHer book club discussion here. Additionally, if you haven’t read Jenn Lancaster’s other books I highly recommend them and for you to check out her hilarious blog and twitter!

 

Disclosure: I was compensated for this post however, all thoughts and opinions are solely my own. 

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Book Review: What Alice Forgot

I love those books that you can’t put down, I tend to just get engrossed in them and lose myself in the stories and lives of the characters. Recently, I had the opportunity to read What Alice Forgot by Liana Moriarty for the BlogHer Book Club and I couldn’t put it down.

I found it to be one of those books that you didn’t know what to expect. It opens with Alice losing her memory by falling off a spin bike, and waking up thinking it was 10 years earlier. No recognition of her children, the way she dresses, or the fact that her and some of her closest friends and family are in cahoots. Not to mention the fact that she’s in the midst of a divorce. Her journey to remember why things are the way they are and how things have changed in the past ten years is not only heart wrenching, but also hilarious.

Imagine having to piece together your life, remembering emotions but not events or people. Imagine realizing how you acted in those ten years was horrible and leaves you feeling nothing but ashamed. That’s what we see Alice do.

An added bonus of the book? Takes place in Australia. Ahhh I love foreign fiction sometimes, when it puts in a life and place that you could only otherwise dream of.

I highly recommend What Alice Forgot. Get to know the characters and lose yourself in Alice’s innocence as she gains back ten years of her life. While you’re at it? Join the BlogHer Book Club Discussion!

{FTC disclosure: I was compensated for participating in the BlogHer Book Club however, all thoughts and opinions here are my own}

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Book Review: Skipping a Beat

I recently commented on facebook that I was having reading ADD. I am currently quasi reading – now two books – formerly three.

Skipping a Beat by Sarah Pekkanen is a cute, telling book about true love, and changing rules. I mean, what would you do if you’re husband came back from a harrowing encounter with death and decided he wanted to undo everything you had worked hard for, and change the rules of your relationship suddenly deciding that he was madly in love with you after ignoring you for the previous ten years? Julia’s world is turned upside down by her high school sweetheart Michael who is a self made millionaire and decides he wants to give it all away after a near death experience. Julia is struggling with the past, the wrongs and her trust of Michael. You learn about their past, and how they got to have such distance in their relationship – and you get it. I think we’ve all been there.

Overall? I love, love, LOVED this book. I’m a self-described chick lit addict, but this wasn’t quite chick lit, well maybe it was. I laughed, I yearned to read more, but also? I cried. The ending had me nearly sobbing (which is awkward when you’re in bed with your husband and you’re reading a book that’s making you cry.). Sarah Pekkanen had a poignant voice, and her descriptions were real without being dry or too wordy. Describing the emotions made you feel like they were your own and not just a fictional character. I’ve never read one of Sarah’s books before, but you can bet I’ll be adding more of her writing to my to-read list.

I’m not going to give away the rest of the book, but I do HIGHLY recommend this book (I did happen to notice it was on one of my other favorite authors’ Jenn Lancaster’s reading list today.)

{FTC Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book – thanks Simon & Schuster! This review does enter me into a contest to win one of 4 prizes. However, all opinions here are my own.}

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Reading…

I’ve been so behind on my goals to read 52 books this year – last year I clocked in an amazing 48 books (so very, very close) unfortunately, working on the floor 30ish hours not including the hours i work at home or the classes I take, means I usually clock 40-50 hour work weeks or so and with no commute to be found, I don’t find much time to read anymore.

Thankfully, I occassionally get asked to do awesome book reviews (thanks TLC book tours!) – so today, I reviewed Everything I Never Wanted to Be by Dina Kucera over on the review blog. She’s offering 30% off over at www.everythinginever.com by entering coupon code “Dina” at checkout. So go check out my review and Dina’s blog!

{FTC disclosure: I did receive this book for free however, all views are my own.}

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Book Review: “Not That Kind of Girl”

I’m a big fan of memoirs. As I learned in a seminar I went to last night about “writing and publishing a book” everyone has a story to tell.

It’s incredibly true. So I recently I finished Not that Kind of Girl: A Memoir by Carlene Bauer.

She tells her story of being raised by an Evangelical mother in New Jersey. Her mother, who endlessly wishes nothing more than for her two daughters to not become “that kind of girl” quite literally – and we all know exactly the type of girls she’s referring to. We’ve either seen them or been them. But that’s not it – she eventually explores her own beliefs, values and widens horizons both spiritual and intellectually. Turning down drugs and sex politely and never with judgment. She belatedly comes of age in New York City on her quest to be a writer (because those stories aren’t a dime a dozen in Manhattan) and makes up for lost time – finding a soul sister in alcohol and meeting men who she doesn’t end up falling in love with – but still holds her value of waiting for love to have sex near to her.

I enjoyed the storyline, sometimes it got a bit wordy for me, but the writing was good. Carlene has a compelling voice to captivate her audience and a unique story to tell. Falling in love, finding yourself in The City in your twenties is a story told often but with her unique voice and values, made it a very worthy read. I sometimes struggled with her wordy descriptions and sometimes too deep explanations but overall, it was an enjoyable read.

4 out of 5 stars

{This review is a part of the TLC Book Tour thus I did receive a copy of the book for free – however all opinions here are my own}

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BOOK REVIEW: Fly Away Home by Jennifer Weiner

So I recently finished (well, last night so yeah. Recently) Jennifer Weiner’s new book, which was sent to me to review. {I was not paid for this reveiw, the thoughts expressed here are my own, however I did receive a free copy of the book from the publisher which values around $14}

First of all, I am the BIGGEST Jennifer Weiner fan. I fell in love with her novels sometime during my first co-op in college with “Good in Bed” and I’ve been hooked ever since and own each and every one of them. So when I got an email to review her new book I squealed like a little pig with excitement.

Her new book (which will officially be released on July 13th) entitled “Fly Away Home” follows the lives of three women – Sylvie, Lizzie and Diana – a mother/daughter trio. Sylvie, the mother of the bunch is publicly humiliated when her husband – a powerful Senator – admits to having an affair with a staffer. Sylvie, after “standing by her man” Hillary style, heads to the beaches of Connecticut to find herself and figure out for once in 32 years what it is that SHE wants. Lizzie, the family mess as she’s often described, finally gets her life together until something happens and she realizes she can’t runaway anymore and Diana, the trophy daughter as she’s often described, falls for a forbidden fruit, and when he rejects her, she has to find what’s important in life – happiness, and what makes her happy. The three women finally rally behind each other after they find out what it is that’s going to make them each happy and the importance of family – especially mothers and daughters – when you’re getting through life’s trials.

I loved it. I devoured it in about three days, which given my lack of free time lately, is pretty good for me. Jennifer Weiner has an amazing way with making you (the reader) feel like you GET the characters. She has an amazing knack for writing out emotions so that you can think “I’ve been there…” and really feel what they’re feeling. While the plot may be defined as “chick lit” I consider her a step up from all that. A step up from the average chick lit novel, with much, much better plots and character development.

I HIGHLY recommend this book – mostly because I’m a huge Jennifer Weiner fan and thinks everyone else should be too, but seriously, her writing is amazing. I have to admit, I did enjoy this book a bit better than Best Friends Forever, which came out about this time last summer. “Fly Away Home” will be out on July 13th, so count down the days or preorder it from Amazon/your favorite bookseller!

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Book Review: Just Don’t Call me Ma’am…

A while ago, I was contacted to review “Just Don’t Call Me Ma’am (How I ditched the South, Forgot my manners, and managed to survive my twenties with (most of) my dignity still intact)” by Anna Mitchael.

Let’s get to the point: I loved it. Seriously, I couldn’t get enough. Anna’s writing was humorous, snarky and had a very Jenn Lancaster-ish vibe to it. What I mean by that, is that she’s relate-able. I adore author’s – especially memoirists, who are relate-able.

The book documents her twenties, starting with a nasty break up, going through job loss, dating, and then of course, going back to the place no one wants to go to when they’re a college graduate…back to mom and dad’s house.

The book also goes a lot into her relationship with her grandmother and how she shaped her life from a very early age – teaching her manners, how to treat others, and how her grandmother supported or in some cases, didn’t support, her decisions in life. But the anecdotes, are really what make the book, seriously. How she decides to take up cooking to impress the boy who eventually leaves her; her adventures into online dating; and how she decided to move north. Just because she’d never been.

It was very real and throughout the book I kind of thought to myself “I’ve been there…and this is exactly what it feels like.” She’s real. She doesn’t sugar coat life, but she does leave you feeling like you want to be her new bff. No lie.

“It’s like my grandmother says, “If you’re not going to bother to learn from your past, there’s no real point in struggling through any tough times that appear in the present.” And now, I will sleep easier knowing my brother did not ingest all those tira-mud-su pies in vain. I’ll sleep longer knowing that if I accidentally sleep in past breakfast, maybe that simply means I’m destined to meet the love of my life while I grab an early lunch.” (p.105)

I HIGHLY recommend this book for any twenty something who wants to see what life is like on the other side. Seriously, we’ve all been through the same crap she went through, and it is just that, it sucks. Break ups suck. Losing your job sucks. Moving back home whether it’s the week after graduation or a month before your thirtieth birthday – sucks. But she makes it all humorous. She adds a light hearted side that makes you feel like you’re hanging out with your gal pal talking about it all over a couple of margs. You can buy the book over at Amazon here.

{FTC Disclaimer: I was not paid for this review. I was sent a free copy of the book valued at 16 big ones, but the opinions here? Are all my own}

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Book Review: Size Eight in a Size Zero World

Back in January, I was asked to review the book “Size Eight in a Size Zero World” by Meredith Cagen. Given that she’s a quasi-local gal to me (Upper East Side in NYC so not really local but we’ll pretend) I was thrilled, because it’s rare that I’m asked to review a book that looks interesting. This one seemed right up my alley!

It took me a while to get to it, I’ve been reading a lot lately, though slower these days with the onset of the new job, but I got to it.

The story is based around Lindsay. A 30 something mother of two living in the Upper East Side, is unhappy. Unhappy with her job, her husband, essentially, her entire life. Then she meets “The Man Upstairs” a beautiful man who treats the opposite way her husband does – like she’s valued and respected. Insert torrid, neighborly affair here with it’s own ups and downs, and you’ve got a cause for a massive mid-life crisis. This book is about overcoming the obstacles to enjoying life, and finding that respect from the ones you love.

Meredith certainly has an interesting voice as an author, but let’s face it, chick lit is chick lit. It was an easy read, for the most part, when I wasn’t annoyed by the main character’s inability to make some change in her life. But I often do that when I read/get into books – I get frustrated when the main character acts petty, and seemingly, unrealistic. When I wish I could just tell them, for real, “OMG WHY WON’T YOU JUST DO SOMETHING WITH X, Y or Z?!?!” It’s my own little thing, and speaks nothing of the actual book or writer, it’s just me taking my books too seriously. Which I often do.

That being said, though the story was cute, I did find some of the conversations in the book to be shallow, mundane and unrealistic. But this is Meredith’s first book, and I hope first of many because it was an enjoyable read. While there were parts of the book I didn’t enjoy, I finished it, which says something (there have been books that I haven’t been able to finish because I loathed them that much). The plot was fast paced, a quick-easy beachy type read. There were certainly parts that had me laughing, and also parts that I could definitely commiserate with. But ultimately, I guess I had just hoped for more – but then again, I often do. Regardless of my personal qualms with the book, which are petty at best, I would definitely recommend this to anyone who enjoys chick lit or is looking for an easy, light-hearted read.

Review: 3 out of 5

To pay it forward, I want to pass this book on – leave a comment if you’re interested and I’ll pick someone at random on Thursday March 25 in the afternoon and post it here.

{disclaimer, I was not paid for this review, the thoughts here are my own.}

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I Caved

Currently reading….

Full review to come upon completion.

[Author’s note: depsite my previous…anti-Twilight tendencies, curiousity got the best of me. And with all the press for New Moon in the tabs recently (and all my trips to Target that have allowed me to read said tabs) curiousity got the best of me, and my subconscious dreamed about Twilight earlier this week. Since then, I’ve been curious. Eager almost. Today, my mum being the awesome mum she is, bought it for me at the Tar-jay. I don’t have high expectations and I probably won’t watch the movie. No promises though.]

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