Because I honestly don’t know when I would have discovered author Stacey Ballis without her bestie Jen Lancaster I decided it was appropriate to group these reviews together!
I Regret Nothing, Jen Lancaster
Published May 5th 2015 by NAL
Hardcover, 320 pages
Source: ARC won in Goodreads giveaway
Sure Jen has made mistakes. She spent all her money from a high-paying job on shoes, clothes, and spa treatments. She then carried a Prada bag to the unemployment office. She wrote a whole memoir about dieting…but didn’t lose weight. She embarked on a quest for cultural enlightenment that only cemented her love for John Hughes movies and Kraft American Singles. She tried to embrace everything Martha Stewart, while living with a menagerie of rescue cats and dogs. (Glitter…everywhere.)
Mistakes are one thing; regrets are another.
After a girls’ weekend in Savannah makes her realize that she is—yikes!—middle-aged (binge watching is so the new binge drinking), Jen decides to make a bucket list and seize the day, even if that means having her tattoo removed at one hundred times the cost of putting it on.
From attempting a juice cleanse to studying Italian, from learning to ride a bike to starting a new business, and from sampling pasta in Rome to training for a 5K, Jen is turning a mid-life crisis into a mid-life opportunity, sharing her sometimes bumpy—but always hilarious—attempts to better her life…again.
I admit I will probably read anything Jen Lancaster writes due to my deep love for Bitter is the New Black. I laughed until I cried more than once reading her debut. Bright Lights, Big Ass I even laughed until I cried while reading in public. After BL, BA her books started to feel a bit more familiar. Sometimes still enjoyable, but they didn’t make me cry from laughing anymore.
I Regret Nothing felt like a step back towards the Jen I fell for years ago. Yes, her problems can basically all be defined as “First World” but she’s honest about it and about her efforts to improve herself. She was much more relatable than in Jeneration X. I had quite a mental image of her riding an adult tricycle around Lake Forest and falling into a tourist trap in Italy. I love her descriptions of her outings with her girlfriends- I want to go on trips like that! So while this wasn’t cry from laughing funny for me I’d say pick it up if you need a Jen Lancaster fix!
Also, sidebars are the new footnotes – and these always crack me up! I would miss them if they weren’t part of her books!
Thank you NAL and Goodreads First Reads for this advance copy!
Recipe for Disaster, Stacey Ballis
Paperback, 480 pages
Published March 3rd 2015 by Berkley
Source: ARC from ALA Midwinter Meeting
To an outside observer, Anneke Stroudt is a mess—her shirts are stained, her fingernails stubby, her language colorful. But, despite her flaws, Anneke’s life is close to perfect. She has a beautiful historic house to restore and a loving fiancé who cooks like a dream.
Until Anneke’s charmed existence falls apart when she loses both her job and her future husband in one terrible day. In need of a new start, she packs up her disgruntled schnauzer and moves into her half-finished home, where she throws her pent-up frustration—and what little savings she has—into finishing the renovation.
But at the first step into the house’s overhaul, Anneke is sidetracked when she discovers a mysterious leather-bound book, long hidden away, filled with tempting recipes and steamy secrets from Gemma Ditmore-Smythe, the cook for the house’s original owners. Slowly, with the help of some delicious food and Gemma’s life lessons, Anneke begins to realize that, just like a flawless recipe, she’s been waiting for the right ingredients to cook up a perfect life all along…
I am such a sucker for books set in Chicago so aside from the Jen Lancaster connection I really wanted to read Recipe for Disaster. I love the feeling of familiarity that I get while reading about different neighborhoods in my city. I really liked Anneke! She’s not perfect in body or in temperament so she felt like a real person to me. I definitely loved her friends and wanted them for myself! I saw a Goodreads review that called this the perfect mix of HGTV and the Food Network and I love that description! The house renovations gave me serious envy and I am definitely going to try one or two of the recipes included in the book. I also liked the romantic drama even though it wasn’t at all what I was expecting in the end.
I did find Gemma’s journal to be a cheesey and probably unnecessary addition – but I did love how Anneke taught herself to cook from the recipes and how that helped her regain her self-confidence after her personal and professional lives were falling apart. This book felt a lot longer than it needed to be and I wonder if without the journal it could have been a better length. Or maybe the house details – as amazing as they were – could have been a bit shorter?
Overall a cute summer read. Good friends, romance and yummy food! I really need to put the rest of Ballis’ books onto my TBR.
Thank you Berkley for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion!