Review: ALL THE SUMMER GIRLS by Meg Donohue

I had the chance to hear Meg Donohue read from her new book at my local fave indie bookshop (The Concord Bookshop) where I purchased her ALL THE SUMMER GIRLS. This is a great summertime read as it’s set on the Jersey Shore.

Three longtime girlfriends, Kate, Dani, and Vanessa, reunite for one long weekend at the beach. Each one has her own issues and problems: Kate’s fiance has just broken up with her and she then learns she is pregnant; Dani has substance abuse problems and can’t keep a job, meanwhile she is trying to write a cathartic novel; Vanessa is feeling tied down as a stay at home mom and has learned that her husband has strayed. All three are still feeling the loss of Kate’s twin brother, Colin, who tragically drowned when they were last at the shore several years earlier. Each of them also carries her own guilt and secrets about that final night, too.

All in all I liked this book. Ms. Donohue’s writing is fluid and the characters are well-developed. I did feel a bit “old” reading this. The characters are all twenty-nine and still getting their lives together. (I’m in my forties and twenty-nine seems a long time ago!). They all also have experienced a lot of drama! While I liked the subplot of the secrets surrounding Colin’s death, I didn’t feel like I got to really know him as a character. He was definitely headed for self-destruction, and I wasn’t entirely sure why each girl blamed herself so much for his death, but I did like the theme of self acceptance and self forgiveness that came through at the end.

If you are looking for a summer read about friendship and self growth, then take a look at ALL THE SUMMER GIRLS!

Saturday Snapshot: Bath Time!

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On our trip to Florida earlier this year we had the most unique bath that I have ever seen. I could not figure out where the water came from as there was no true spigot into the tub, just handles on the wall marked “H” and “C”. Imagine my surprise when I turned one on and the water came from the ceiling!

Saturday Snapshot is now hosted by Melinda at http://www.westmetromommy.blogspot.com. You can participate by posting a picture you took and linking to her site (appropriate pics please!).

Review: MURDER IN CHELSEA by Victoria Thompson

If you read me, you know I enjoy historical cozy mysteries and the “Gaslight Mysteries” featuring turn of the century, NYC midwife Sarah Brandt. The latest has recently been published and I bought it with a gift card I received from my friend as a birthday gift.

While I think it’s best to read this series in order, one can read them individually. In this installment, Sarah learns that a woman has arrived at the mission, looking for little Catherine and she fears that she will lose the child she has grown to love as her own. However, the woman soon turns up murdered and Sarah and Malloy need to protect Catherine while figuring out exactly who wants her and why. Sarah’s parents get in on the action and help to solve the mystery. At the end – finally! – Sarah and Malloy are together (which has been coming and hinted at for a looong time).

This was an enjoyable and easy read. The only beef I had with it was the amount of surprising personality changes among the characters, especially with Sarah’s parents. At one point, the characters were all looking at each “in surprise” so often that even I was confused how quickly the about-faces had occurred! However, the changes had to happen in order for the plot to move forward and for Sarah and Malloy to get together.

If you have followed this series, I think you’ll like this one!

Review: SISTERLAND by Curtis Sittenfeld

Coming out next Tuesday, June 25, is Curtis Sittenfeld’s new novel SISTERLAND – a story weaving twins, relationships, ESP, marital issues and relationships, and earthquakes into its plot. Twins Daisy and Violet share a special bond and use their ESP to gain popularity in school. When accused of being a witch, Daisy decides to never use her “senses” again. The girls grow up and Daisy changes her name to Kate, marries a stable young college professor, and has two children. Vi embraces her quirkiness and becomes a psychic, using her powers to locate an abducted child. Now in current day, the girls are in their twenties and living where they grew up, St. Louis . Vi becomes convinced that a major earthquake is looming. Kate agrees. Violet’s prediction going public leads to a chain of events that threatens all that Kate holds dear. Will the prediction prove to be right?

This story certainly had a lot going on in it! Along the relationship front, Kate is struggling with her at-home mom role, while building a “best friendship” with her neighbor Hank (whose wife works with Kate’s husband). Violet is tentatively trying out a lesbian relationship. Meanwhile, Kate is quite tethered to her two children who are about 1 and 3 (one is nursing – quite regularly throughout the book). I found the ESP portion of the book really interesting. Their “senses” (as they called them) weren’t extraordinary or freaky. They just knew things with a certainty, or had dreams of things. A lot of it seemed like good guessing and common sense to me (with the exception of finding the abducted child by visualizing his kidnapper). I kept reading this book and couldn’t put it down because it was moving towards the date of the predicted earthquake (October 16). I had to know: would it happen? Would they be okay? What would happen if Vi was completely wrong?

I won’t say whether the earthquake happens or not — but I will say some things do occur that are brought about by everything happening in this book. At one point I almost shouted at Kate: “NO! Wait! Stop! Don’t do this!” I found Kate a very likable character, though she was rather immature and self-centered. I thought it was interesting how the twins were so disparate in personality at the beginning of the novel – almost like two parts of the same person – and then both went more to the middle of the continuum. Violet was a bit of a disaster in the beginning, then made some strides to get her life together. Kate was ultra-organized to the point of being an autotron, and she became more human. I liked this piece of character development.

One thing that did throw me off was the point of view at the end. Throughout the book the story is told in Kate’s voice, moving towards October 16, with various pertinent flashbacks thrown in to provide “back story”. Then, post 10/16, the story moves to a future perspective, telling the story from looking back on it from a few years afterwards.  This shift threw me for a bit and felt awkward to me.

Overall, I really liked this novel. I loved PREP and AMERICAN WIFE and really like Ms. Sittenfeld’s writing. Her characters are well drawn and she has a flair for humor.

Thank you, Net Galley and Random House, for my ARC – I was quite psyched to get it!

Review: DOLLS BEHAVING BADLY by Cinthia Ritchie

A while ago, Cinthia Ritchie contacted me and asked if I’d like to read and review her book DOLLS BEHAVING BADLY. It sounded interesting and funny, so I said yes. In the course of reading this book I misplaced it (it fell under the seat in my car!) so it took a while for me to read and finish it.

DOLLS BEHAVING BADLY is the story of Alaskan single mom, Carla, and her attempts to make it through the grind of daily life. She has a highly gifted young son, Jay-Jay, a pregnant sister, Laurel, an ex that she still hooks up with (Barry), a long dead but still present Polish grandma, and a teenage babysitter who pretty much has moved in with them (Stephanie). Her best friend has her own issues and Carla and she work together at a Mexican restaurant  – “Mexico in an Igloo”. Carla has been inspired by a speaker on Oprah to keep a diary and take control of her life. Add to this a new love interest, anthropologist Francisco, and Carla’s secret side occupation (making erotic, X-rated Barbie dolls) and you have the makings of a laugh-out-loud story with zany antics and characters that are so human and flawed that they become highly lovable.

I laughed out loud while reading this book and couldn’t help but root for Carla and her family. I loved the setting of Alaska (the only state I’ve never visited!) and the fact that while all these people had their problems, they were all just doing their best to get through life.

Thanks, Cinthia, for sending me your book to read!

Concord Bookshop Event: J. Courtney Sullivan speaking on her new book THE ENGAGEMENTS

photo (3) J Courtney Sullivan
I’ve been posting about some great events lately at my local favorite indie bookshop and last night’s event was no exception. J. Courtney Sullivan read from and answered questions about her newly released novel THE ENGAGEMENTS. This is a novel about love and marriage, about diamonds and marketing campaigns. It should prove to be an interesting read!
J. Courtney Sullivan is also the author of MAINE and COMMENCEMENT.
She was quite gracious and a great speaker! I look forward to reading her book.