Posts Tagged ‘Chick Lit’

Best ‘New to Us’ Books in 2014: Heidi B’s Picks

December 17, 2014

I am an eclectic reader, and 2014 saw my reading choices all over the map. I love grown-up chick lit (sometimes known as the more serious Women’s Fiction, or even domestic fiction), coming of age stories, and anything related to how the human body works. Below are my five choices for books I read in 2014 that made an impact on me; most are not new, but new to me. Happy reading!

The Perks of Being a WallflowerThe Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
This is a terrific book that often is unfortunately labeled as a “teen novel.” Chboksy’s debut novel is a cult classic as well as being critically acclaimed; no easy feat. Anyone who navigated adolescence (uh, all of us) can relate to some aspect of Charlie, an awkward wallflower and high school freshman that no one seems to notice. Well-drawn characters, realistic dialogue, and a plot twist at the end all make for a classic.  See my full review.

The ShiftThe Shift by Tory Johnson
The subtitle of this book is, “How I Finally Lost Weight and Discovered a Happier Life,” but this is not a “diet” book. This is one woman’s narrative on how she shifted her entire life, her way of eating, and her place in the world, all in one year. Oh, and by the way, lost the 70 pounds that had dogged her for 40 years. Everyone I know who has read this book has read this in one sitting; a couple of people I know and love have made major changes to their health due to this book. Hat’s off to Johnson for an inspirational read.  See my full review.

Wishin' and Hopin'Wishin’ and Hopin’: A Christmas Story by Wally Lamb
Who doesn’t feel even a tiny bit nostalgic when seeing the endless running of “A Christmas Story” on cable TV? Come on, admit it: you do. Wishin’ and Hopin’ is a delightful Christmas tale by veteran storyteller Wally Lamb; a racier, edgier, more irreverent 1960’s version of the classic Red Rider BB Gun tale A Christmas Story. Set in 1960’s Connecticut and told through the eyes of 10-year-old Felix Funnicello (cousin to Annette), this is a delightful, coming of age story with a nostalgic twist.  See my full review.

The Story of the Human BodyThe Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, Disease by Daniel Lieberman
The history of our bodies, in terms of evolution, is a complex and fascinating subject. Lieberman is a Harvard professor of human evolutionary biology, as well as being a gifted writer. He tells the story of human evolution in a manner that is readable like a biography, and as compelling at times as any thriller. What made humans become bipedal? (hint: to see over tall grasses!) Why did we move from hunting and gathering our food, to farming it? What aspects of our development contributed (and continue to contribute) to diseases that plague us? Lieberman is a talented and popular science writer. What could have easily have become mired in jargon is explained for the layperson. A fascinating read.  See my full review.

The Husband's SecretThe Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty
The premise in The Husband’s Secret is: what would do if your husband had a deep, dark secret that might shatter your life, and like ripples in a pool, the lives of others? This is grown up chick lit with stories of lives that intersect told in alternating chapters. A sharper reader may pick up on how these women’s lives intersect, but I never saw it coming. The ending was a blockbuster.

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Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind by Ann Ross

May 15, 2014

bookcover.phpThe Author Ann Ross starts a new series of Miss Julia. This book is the first in series. Miss Julia is a strong willed, independent, church going proper Lady. Miss Julia had just become a widow, and she was trying to settle down with her new life with substantial estate left from her late husband. Everything is peaceful until Hazel Marie Puckett arrives at her doorstep with her 9 year old son Little Lloyd. Guess what? Little Lloyd is her husband’s son. Miss Julia receives a shock of her life! After 44 years of marriage to pillar of the church and community Wesley Lloyd Springer, she discovers that he was having an affair with Hazel Marie Puckett. She had assumed he was working late at the family bank, but instead he was engaged in more carnal pursuits. The worst thing was that the whole town knew about this affair.

So after Little Lloyd comes in her life a series of surprising events take place. It involves a hypocritical minister, a violent beating, a crooked televangelist. Miss Julia also goes thru a high speed car chase. But when Little Lloyd was kidnapped, Miss Julia had to take matters to herself and find out what exactly was going on. She finds out a surprising revelation in her late husband’s will. Miss Julia not only speaks her mind but also comes to a deeper understanding of the meaning of love, friendship, and trust while living with Little Lloyd. If you would like to know what happens next than do check out this book. If you like reading some light, fun and entertaining story then you should read all of Miss Julia’s books.

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Dedication by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

May 7, 2014

bookcover.phpdedicationFrom the author of The Nanny Diaries and other chick let bestsellers,  Dedication  is for chick lit readers who have dreamed about what it would be like to get public and social revenge on an ex-boyfriend for breaking your heart.

Jake Sharpe is a mega recording star – think: John Mayer. He was also Kate Hollis’s first boyfriend/lover who jilted her only hours before their senior prom in the 1980’s. Jake split from their small Vermont town and never looked back. His first hit single was “Losing,” about his romantic experiences with Kate. The single vaults Jake to stardom and for 10 years Kate has to listen to Jake’s hit parade of music everywhere she goes, all songs that are based on very personal aspects of their physical relationship. 10-years older and wiser, but none the less still smarting from his jilting, when Jake announces he is headed back to Vermont for a music TV special, Kate jumps on a plane with a plan to finally confront Jake with how he has plundered her past, her life, her love – for his career.

With a cast of funny, well-drawn supporting characters, Kate sets out to embarrass Jake in a very public setting. Will she go through with it? Does she get sucked back into Jake’s charismatic (almost sociopathic) orbit? Fall in love all over again, either with the nostalgia or the man? Hmm, I’m not telling. Read “Dedication” to find out. Expect lots of 80’s references and double entendres related to romance and music. Readers who hail from New England will enjoy and relate to the setting.  This was enjoyable, funny chick lit.

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The Bake-Off by Beth Kendrick

March 6, 2014

I love cooking competition shows. It is way more exciting than the Olympics. I love the drama and the cut-throat rivalries. I also love books with sassy women. The Bake-Off by Beth Kendrick combines all those ingredients into a deliciously fun chick-lit novel. Sisters Linnie and Amy do not get along. Linnie’s childhood was pretty much ruined because she was a child prodigy and always competing with her gigantic brain. This affected Amy’s childhood too because she was in the shadow of Linnie’s gigantic brain allowing Amy to have a creative and wild life.

Now all grown up, the sisters are not quite where they thought they would end up. Amy is stuck firmly in suburbia dreaming about the days when expressing herself meant more than choosing Pottery Barn interior paint colors. Linnie is stuck in a dead end job in a casino which is to everyone’s disappointment, a no-brainer. Surprising to no one, these two ladies do not get along and their relationship is bitter.

What these girls need is a little sweetness embodied by their Grandma Syl, who wants nothing more than for her girls to be not just sisters, but friends. Using a bit of old world trickery (and Linnie’s secret desperation to recover a stolen family heirloom) , the girls end up at the final bake off in New York City. They will be preparing an old family recipe, with the key word being sister:  Secret Sisterhood Szarlotka (European apple pie).

The sisters learn a lot from one another once they start speaking. They have adventures with the overly competitive participants and misadventures involving an overnight stay courtesy of the New York City Police Department. Linnie even ends up taking love advice from her sister.

So if you need something sweet and fluffy, check out Bake-Off by Beth Kendrick.

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sMothering by Wendy French

September 13, 2013

What do you call it when you are suffocating because of criticism and meddling at the hands of your mother? It is called sMothering and it is a funny novel by Wendy French.

Our heroine, Claire, lives a peaceful and monotonously boring life. She wakes up, goes to work at her job as a telephone surveyor, goes home to an empty apartment, falls asleep and wakes up to repeat each day in similar fashion. One day her routine comes to a grinding halt when her mother shows up unannounced.

Claire’s mother lives in the middle of the United States and Claire is on the West Coast, so this can’t possibly be a short visit. Claire’s sister, Stephanie, lives nearby but has a strained relationship with their mother because Stephanie is gay. Claire is now left with the task of bridging the gap between Stephanie and their mom, juggling a new position at work, trying to get a cute guy to notice her, and finding out why her mom and dad are not talking. Not to mention, her ex-boyfriend has suddenly reentered her life in the midst of all this craziness.

What’s a girl to do to keep from going insane at her mother’s hands? How does she stop her mom from leaving embarrassing phone messages about feminine hygiene at Claire’s office? Will Claire’s mom ever leave or will Claire be sMothered to death? Most importantly, could the reason Claire and her mother do not get along be because they are more alike than they realize? Come check out sMothering and have a good laugh finding out.

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Time Flies by Claire Cook

August 7, 2013

The dog days of summer are here, and if you are looking for a delightful beach or pool read that won’t melt the brain, a read similar to those from chick lit author Mary Kay Andrews, look no further. Claire Cook’s Time Flies will not disappoint!

New England small town native Melanie is persuaded by her semi-narcissistic husband Kurt to make the move to Atlanta, and years later in midlife Kurt decides to trade her in for a younger model – named Chrissy of all names, to add insult to injury. At the same time life is imploding, her high school reunion looms. Feeling like a life failure, no way in Hades is she going to attend. But, her skills as a metal artist help her get out some aggression, and after blow torching her marital bed she is a bit more positive. While flirting online with an old high school boyfriend, she decides to accompany her best friend BJ on a reunion weekend to remember. That is, if she can get over her phobia of driving and highways…

Melanie is a neurotic you’ll love, and want to cheer on as she makes her way post-marriage in the single world. The dialogue is snappy, and reads at times like a screen play. Not surprising, as Cook’s first novel was Must Love Dogs, which was made into a blockbuster movie. The characters’ antics are at times laugh aloud funny, and other times poignant. Many women will be able to relate to Melanie’s midlife coming of age. What keeps this novel from being one dimensional is Melanie’s revisiting of her first coming of age, via the high school reunion story line. Enjoyable summer chick lit!

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Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding

July 9, 2013

bridgetHelen Fielding’s protagonist, Bridget Jones, is the every woman, crushing on her boss and drinking far too much. She is awkward yet tries so hard to have “inner poise.” She is funny, even when unintentional, and is obsessed with her weight. She is also facing a bleak future of singledom when most her age are getting married and already have kids. Bridget Jones is me.

My first introduction to Bridget Jones’s Diary was the movie that made women swoon over both Colin Firth and Hugh Grant. It was the first romantic comedy that I can recall hearing legions of women talking about and loving. I thought the movie was entertaining but it never really appealed to me. My friends begged me to read the book, and I’m glad I did.

The book is much more witty and biting. It’s the daily journal of a woman facing the challenges of being over 30, single, and just not skinny enough. From the moment where Bridget accidentally drinks too much and eats pounds of candy to drown out her sorrows to the moment when she realizes that her own mother is having more success with men than she is, the novel portrays a hilarious but sometimes sad character. Bridget never knows what to say, always says the wrong things, and somehow manages to pull it off with charm. The book is far less the “happily ever after” than the movie, and is much more an insightful read about the social expectations of women and what one woman is willing to do to achieve happiness.

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How to Murder a Millionaire by Nancy Martin

May 29, 2013

We’re pleased to re-post this book review of the first in Nancy Martin’s Blackbird Sisters Mysteries; we first ran it last year when Nancy was scheduled to visit our libraries, and we’re running it again because she’ll be here this week!

How to Murder a Millionaire

The Blackbird sisters come from an old, respectable, wealthy Pennsylvania family. At least, they did until their parents fled the country. Now they just come from an old family with a somewhat murky reputation. Their parents left a mixed legacy for the three sisters. Libby got the antique furniture, Emma got the artwork, and Nora was left the old homestead. This sounds great, except Nora also inherited the two million dollar tax bill that goes with the land. Of course, like most sisters, they rarely agree and each thinks the others got the better deal.

Nora, the one with the land, has taken a job as an assistant to the gossip columnist of the local newspaper. She’s trying to make a go of it, despite a boss who hates her, when she finds the body of Rory Pendergast. Rory was a close friend to the Blackbirds who also owned the newspaper and gave Nora her job, so Nora is determined to find out what happened to him. Because of the standing of the Blackbird family, the police agree that Nora might be better placed to find inside information about the elite families of Philadelphia.

How to Murder a Millionaire is a fast and fun beginning to The Blackbird Sisters Mysteries. It has an intriguing mystery and the author’s descriptions of fabulous parties and the stylish clothes worn by the well-to-do give you a glimpse into another lifestyle. The historical notes about Philadelphia were also interesting to me. There is a young police detective and a shady character Nora sells some land to who sometimes help her with her investigations.  Both of them are also potential love interests for Nora. In addition, the rivalry between the sisters is very true to life. You can actually want to protect and kill one of your siblings at the same time (not that I am speaking from experience!). I look forward to reading the rest of this series.

Nancy Martin is the author of many mystery, suspense, historical and romance novels. Nominated for the Agatha Award for Best First Mystery of 2002, How to Murder a Millionaire won the Romantic Times award for Best First Mystery and was a finalist for the Daphne DuMaurier Award. Nancy has also written the Roxy Abruzzo mystery series.

Nancy will appear at several Wake County Libraries in this week on a mystery author panel hosted by Raven award winner Molly Weston She will be joined by fellow mystery writers Deborah Coonts and Brad Parks.

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Spring Fever by Mary Kay Andrews

January 23, 2013

Mary Kay Andrews, a pseudonym for Kathy Hogan Trocheck, has come through again! MKA, who lived in Raleigh for a couple of years, is well-known as the creator of sassy, southern women, and Annajane Huggins is no exception.

The setting is familiar: a small town in North Carolina that revolves around a soft-drink manufacturing plant (can anybody say “Cheerwine?). Having been divorced from Mason for five years, Annajane is as surprised as anyone to find herself sitting in the church at his wedding. As you might expect, nothing goes as planned, and Annajane finds herself wondering if leaving Mason was a mistake.

The first third of the book has a lot of flashbacks and background, and it made me a little impatient to get back to the present and move forward. But once we got going, I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Pascoe, NC. The advantage to the slow build is that the relationship between Annajane and Mason seems real and understandably complex. Andrews provides an eerily accurate description of what hard work relationships are as we watch Annajane and Mason struggle to define exactly who they are to each other. MKA is a master at including witty, bright, and fun supporting characters, including the irrepressible Pokey, Annajane’s best friend, who just happens to be Mason’s sister, and perfectionist Celia, Mason’s fiancee with a thing or two up her sleeve.

The narration of the audio is especially well-done, even Mason’s daughter Sophie, and I often don’t like how narrators play the roles of little children. Whether you read or listen to Spring Fever, you’re about to enter a town you’ll never want to leave.

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Don’t You Forget About Me by Jancee Dunn

January 9, 2013

Don't You Forget About MeAh, high school. Some remember it fondly, others with sheer horror. Jancee Dunn’s “Don’t You Forget About Me” is a delightful romp of a novel focusing on Lillian Curtis, who was the cat’s meow twenty years earlier at a suburban high school. Lillian is now 38 years old and life is going swimmingly – or so she thinks until her husband blindsides her and asks her for a divorce. She takes a leave of absence from her TV production career in Manhattan and heads back to New Jersey to lick her wounds. Back in her old room in her parent’s house, replete with the boy band posters still on the wall and old cassette tapes of songs taped off the radio ready to pop into her cassette player. Her mom is making her breakfast every day, and calling for her to get up in the morning. Cozy and comfortable… It just so happens that her twentieth reunion for Bethel High School is coming up, and she’s fixated on reconnecting with her high school ex Christian Somers, who she remembers as the pinnacle of male perfection. As she regresses (staying out late being naughty with old classmates who live in the area among other things,) she learns that the people she thought looked up to her in high school had a very different impression of her teenage self.

 
This could have been the most shallow premise and plot, but Dunn’s hilarious writing style and knack for creating characters with depth keep this novel from being a simple read. Looking back on her teen age years, Lillian is full of nostalgia since her own present life is messy. She meets ex-classmates whom she thought were friends – but who were terrified by her. She thinks Christian is going to be her salvation – and he turns out to be something she hadn’t considered. Lillian’s world is turned upside down, by going back in time. An excellent read, especially for anyone who is feeling nostalgic for the 1980’s.

 

 

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