Genre: chick-lit

Divider

Book Review: The Fortune Hunter

July 31, 2014 Book Review, reviews 7

Book Review: The Fortune HunterThe Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin
Published by St. Martin's Press on July 29th, 2014
Genres: chick-lit, Fiction, Historical
Pages: 480
Source: Giveaway Win
Amazon
Goodreads

 

Recently our book club read The Fortune Hunter {thanks to a giveaway from Reading Group Guides}.   With a cast of characters to rival that of Downton Abbey, The Fortune Hunter wove in and out of the lives of bluestocking heiress Charlotte Baird, her ‘suspected’ fortune hunting beau, Bay Middleton, and Empress of Vienna, Elizabeth of Austria {known as Sisi throughout Europe}.  In 1875 Sisi visits England to escape stuffy Vienna and to pursue her passion of riding.  Bay Middleton is ordered to be her guide through the trails for the fox hunting events.  Bay has his eye set on Charlotte while Charlotte’s brother has plans for her betrothal that do not include Bay Middleton.  Ack, confusing I know, yet quite intriguing, yes?

Welllll, I really wanted to love The Fortune Hunter and I really wanted my book club to love it as well. . .especially since I entered us into the drawing!  Unfortunately neither happened.

Empress Elizabeth of Austria

Empress Elizabeth of Austria

What I thought would be a historical novel filled with intrigue and fact ended up not being a book I would normally read.  Y’all know I have a weakness for Downton Abbey and all things late 19th/early 20th century European history.  While The Fortune Hunter is set in the 1870s and there is a huge cast of characters, so many that I could not keep them all straight, this novel came across [to me] as more of a romance than historical literary fiction.  Romance certainly has its place but it is not a genre that I particularly enjoy.

While my book club felt pretty much the same as me we did enjoy discussing Sisi and her beauty regimen.  Sleeping with her hair tied up to the ceiling and the variety of things Sisi would do and use to maintain her beauty were jaw-dropping to say the least.  She is certainly beautiful and, while I like having long hair, there’s no way I could handle having that much hair!

It was fascinating to read about the monotony that women of means dealt with because they were not deemed smart enough, strong enough, ____ enough to have hobbies and interests.  Goodwin gives Charlotte Baird an interest in photography that puts her in the crosshairs of several of the characters.  A good bit of humor was interspersed by Charlotte reimagining her photography subjects as different animals.  From the first line of the novel “Was Queen Victoria a kitten or a codfish. . .”  I have to admit, I’ve played that game myself, although not by actually altering photos to reflect my imagination!

If you like a bit of romance with your European aristocrats then you will probably enjoy The Fortune Hunter.  It just wasn’t my cup of tea.

Connect with author Daisy Goodwin.  Website | Facebook | Twitter

Reading Group Guide is Available Here.

Listen to a clip of the audio version.

curious – which cover do you prefer – the UK version on the left or US version on the right?

thefortunehunter

Divider

Book Review: The Hurricane Sisters

June 24, 2014 Book Review, reviews 5

Book Review:  The Hurricane SistersThe Hurricane Sisters by Dorothea Benton Frank
Published by William Morrow on June 3rd, 2014
Genres: chick-lit, Fiction
Pages: 320
Source: purchased
Amazon
Goodreads

 

The Hurricane Sisters follows three generations of women living in Charleston and adjacent Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina.  As in any family, this one has its share of dysfunctions, secrets and drama.  The novel opens with the celebration of Maisie’s 80th birthday – mother to Liz and grandmother to Ivy {childhood nickname from his  Clayton Bernard Waters, IV} and his younger sister, Ashley.  Ivy escaped the family drama and emotional digs by moving to San Francisco, but when he brings his partner both in business and in life to the birthday celebration, mom and dad cannot help but express their disapproval of his lifestyle.

The same is true for Ashley.  She is living in her parent’s beach house on Sullivan’s Island with roommate and best friend, Mary Beth {for free}.  Both girls are only making around $10/hour in their respective jobs although roommate Mary Beth has her teaching degree and Ashley “wasted” her time in college studying art.  Clayton and Liz express their disapproval of daughter and Ashley’s seemingly wasting her life away {and parental financial support} by working in an art gallery and painting in the shed behind the beach house.

Grandmother Maisie gets her shots in by being overly supportive of her grandkids and their choices and by bringing up her deceased daughter and Liz’s sister, Juliet, in every other sentence.  This, of course, leads Liz to be extremely jealous and even more combative towards her mother and hateful to her daughter.

Whew! With a family like that who needs enemies, right?

Father Clayton does some kind of investment work in New York City during the week and is home in Charleston on the weekends.  Mother Liz works for the local domestic violence shelter and is quite passionate about her work with the shelter.   Clayton and Liz hired 60 years young debonair, Skipper, to be Maisie’s driver and helpmate but to their mortification, Skipper becomes Maisie’s young stud and moves in with her {the announcement is made at Maisie’s birthday dinner!}.

Just your average southern family.

I really wanted to like this one.  I’ve only read one of Frank’s fifteen novels, Shem Creek, probably a hundred years ago and remember enjoying it, and everything I’ve ever read is so glowing about Dottie Frank’s novels.  I just knew I would love this one.

But.

Perhaps it’s that I’ve been reading more literary fiction rather than contemporary women’s fiction?  I found the dialogue to be grating and stilted.  I understand how the slang words used were part of the storyline, but overall the conversations between the characters {in my opinion} just did not seem real or to flow well.  What does “YOLO” mean anyways? I have an 18, 20, and 22 year old and they don’t talk like that.  At all.

The point of view disagreed with me.  While typically I enjoy hearing from different characters, The Hurricane Sisters had Maisie, Clayton, Liz, and Ashley all taking on different chapters and talking to the reader as if we were sitting in a bar and they were disclosing their most intimate family secrets to me, a perfect stranger.  For example, Clayton’s chapter begins with “Sorry to interrupt but you need to know my story too.”

The neat wrap-up, during an almost hurricane no less, did not seem to be plausible, and it felt rushed – as if Frank had run out of steam with the story.

The things I DID like about The Hurricane Sisters are solid and shows Frank’s ability to know her characters.

The research Frank did into domestic violence was spot on.  The grooming and mind control of a victim;  the victim second and third guessing her own judgment; family members discounting or not recognizing signs and perpetrators being the least expected guy in the room.  Frank did an excellent job showing how even the brightest person can fall under the spell of a sweet-tongued devil.

Another aspect of the novel that resonated with me {probably because of the age of my own children} was the push and pull of Ashley and her parents regarding parental support.  At what point do you push your babies out of the nest and expect them to fly?  Frank really got it with her ability to show the relationship of allowing your child to grow up, stepping back as a parent while learning to be that parent to your adult children.  does that make sense? Much different from being a parent to a 10 year old that’s for sure!

Dorothea Benton Frank is the loveliest of authors – I was fortunate to attend a luncheon with her recently and was completely charmed by her.  Which makes not loving this book the much harder to actually share with you.  With that said, please do tell me in the comments above what you thought of this one if you’ve read it.  Goodreads is filled with positive reviews of The Hurricane Sisters so please do check out some of the other opinions.

What was the last book you read that you expected to enjoy but really just didn’t?  

Was it by an author you truly like and admired?  

Divider

Never Say Never

April 7, 2014 Book Talk 14

Never Say NeverThe Opposite of Maybe by Maddie Dawson
Published by Broadway Books on April 8, 2014
Genres: chick-lit, Fiction
Pages: 400
Source: complimentary review copy
AmazonBarnes & Noble
Goodreads

 

While growing up I insisted loud and proud I would never have children. I swore I had done my time raising my younger brothers and would never go down that road. You see, it was just my mom, me and two younger brothers from the time I was ten years old and my brothers 6 & 2 respectively. My parents were divorced and my dad stationed in Okinawa so I didn’t see him for almost eight years and my mom had to work ALL the time. It was left on me to babysit, cook & clean ~ a task I did NOT relish.

So to say I “insisted” I would never have children would be quite the understatement.

I’ve come to learn that when I insist on something {especially, when I use the term “never”} God thinks that’s kind of funny and turns my never into now.

At age 20 I discovered I was pregnant. I never considered any other option ~ to me, the options were grin and bear it.

My life was in complete turmoil.

  • My mother and I were not getting along.
  • Dreams of traveling the world, successful {and solitary} career was out, and at five months into the pregnancy I developed pre-term labor, was put on complete bed rest and given medication to prevent an early delivery. The side effects of the medication were horrendous.
  • College had to be put on the back burner ~ again.

I was not a very happy pregnant lady. I was in and out of the hospital. And about the only thing I enjoyed about being pregnant was all the food I could eat! My body was still in recovery mode from an almost fatal accident two years prior, and I was grossly underweight.

At 36 weeks there was no stopping the delivery when my water broke. By this time I was relieved to finally allow the baby to come, to quit the medication, to begin living life again. It was all about me, me, me. My needs. My wants.

And then my daughter was gently placed into my arms.

The sense of wonderment.  Joy.   Absolute awe.

I truly knew from that very second onward what it was like to love another human being unconditionally.

It was not just me now. It was not even just me and my husband. My baby girl that I struggled so hard against having opened up my world, changed my life and melted my heart all in a matter of an instant.

And now I look at my baby girl who changed my life in so many ways and cannot imagine how bereft my world would have been had I never said never. I look at her all grown up and with a child of her own and thank God he found my insisting so humorous. And I see the beautiful incredible mom and woman that my daughter has become and thank God He gifted me with this miracle.

This post was inspired by the novel The Opposite of Maybe by Maddie Dawson. At the age of 44, Rosie finds herself suddenly single and pregnant. She tries to hide in her grandmother’s home, but meets two men that will change her life forever. Join From Left to Write on April 8 we discuss The Opposite of Maybe. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes. In no way did this affect my opinion or review.

 

482531_10200398220535080_1513765033_n

Erica & The Little Monkey looking for horses.

Divider

Any Downton Abbey Fans?!?

January 3, 2014 Book Review, reviews 2

Any Downton Abbey Fans?!?While We Were Watching Downton Abbey by Wendy Wax
Published by Berkley Books on April, 2013
Genres: chick-lit, Fiction
Pages: 384
Source: complimentary review copy
AmazonBarnes & Noble
Goodreads

Are you anxiously waiting for Sunday, January 5th like I am?  I must admit it was not til this past summer that I watched the first season. . .and the second. . .and the third. . .gotta love a Roku and Amazon Prime!

Of course over the past couple of years I’ve heard the Downton Abbey craze but never got around to watching it ~ thanks to weeks and weeks of required bed rest I had plenty of time to watch all three seasons and become completely addicted to Downton Abbey!  Soooo, when offered the chance to read and review While We Were Watching Downton Abbey by Wendy Wax, I, of course, jumped at the chance.

A story of three women brought together by weekly screenings of Season 1 of Downton Abbey in their exclusive apartment building in downtown Atlanta.  The hunk of a concierge with impeccable British manners creates a weekly viewing of the popular show in order to bring the building neighbors together.

Samantha married young for all the wrong reasons, and with her husband, owns the Alexander ~ historic and exclusive Atlanta apartment building.  Claire is a writer and empty nester, and finally there’s Brooke, single mom with ex + the new wife moving INto the Alexander just above Brooke’s place!  The women become friends although each are on very different life paths.

I typically love Wendy Wax’s novels.  The last one I read Ten Beach Road made me crave the female friendships Wax portrayed so well.  And in While We Were Watching Downton Abbey I found the friendships developed to be sweet and supportive, but the characters felt a bit flat to me.  I wanted to know what inspired Edward; how the three women really came to know one another to the point of watching Brooke’s children; cajoling Samantha out of a depression and bullying Claire into finishing her book.  I mean the friendship was lovely but the development aspect was lacking.

The Downton Abbey segments were engaging but brief, and I felt like I was talking with a good friend over the major plot points of the show. . .like the Titanic sinking, Lady Mary’s interest in politics and women’s rights, Lady Edith’s conniving and contriving, Upstairs, Downstairs. . .Bates, Anna, Thomas. . .etc.

But unlike the characters of Downton Abbey who were dealing with major life issues, Samantha, Claire and even Brooke did not share in those issues ~ they had a roof over their head, food on the table and decent lives.  Yes they had problems, just not ones I connected with. The plot was predictable and I’m one easily swayed by an engaging plot. While We Were Watching Downton Abbey definitely qualifies as chick-lit.  And not one that draws the reader into an emotional connection.   Have you read While We Were Watching Downton Abbey? What did you think?

 I’d love to know ~ will you be watching “Downton Abbey” Sunday evening or are you one of those really cool British citizens who has already seen Season 4?!?  

Divider