Review: Here’s Looking At You

Here’s Looking At You, Mhairi McFarlane

Amanda

Published June 3rd 2014 by HarperCollins Publishers

400 pgs

Source: Edelweiss

From Goodreads..

Image

Anna Alessi – history expert, possessor of a lot of hair and an occasionally filthy mouth – seeks nice man for intelligent conversation and Harlequin romance moments.

Despite the oddballs that keep turning up on her dates, Anna couldn’t be happier. As a 30-something with a job she loves, life has turned out better than she dared dream. However, things weren’t always this way, and her years spent as the butt of schoolyard jokes are ones she’d rather forget.

So when James Fraser – the architect of Anna’s final humiliation at school – walks back into her life, her world is turned upside down. But James seems a changed man. Polite. Mature. Funny, even. People can change, right? So why does Anna feel like she’s a fool to trust him?

I really enjoyed McFarlane’s first book You Had Me at Hello, so I was excited to read her next novel.  Anna is the kind of heroine that you immediately are rooting for.  She was horribly bullied at school and the scene we get is heartbreaking.  Now though Anna has come through it and is educated, she has great friends and a great career; and she’s now a knock-out beauty even if she does not quite believe it herself.  James was Anna’s great love in high school and the chief tormentor in her worst experience.  When we meet adult James its kind of nice to see that he hates his job and his beautiful wife has left him.  He deserves it the jerk!

You can’t blame Anna when she meets James again for not coming out and telling him who she is.  You kind of can’t blame Anna for going along with a friendship with James as things progress.  He’s smart and funny and still wonderfully handsome.  But there was part of me that really didn’t want Anna to trust James too far.  Maybe I was the one that couldn’t get past what Anna went through at school?  Anna and James seemed so great together, I was just afraid he was still too good to be true at first.

McFarlane created a completely engaging cast of characters to both root for and against.  They were more than just foils for Anna and James and I felt invested in each of them.  I loved Anna’s friend Daniel absolutely.  This line given while describing a table he served at work had me snorting while reading on the train-always attractive-

    “We’re firmly in the era of the fussy fuck I’m afraid and there’s nothing we can do about it.”

Too true!  I really think that’s a term I should be using more.  Aside from Daniel, I enjoyed Anna’s family-especially her sister- and their other friends.  I was enthralled with Anna’s love life and her internet dating.  I was so anxious for her to just have it out with James and get things in the open.  The great reveal of Anna’s identity to James was everything it should have been-honest and emotional and it led to a perfect conclusion for me.

I will definitely be waiting for McFarlane’s next book!

4 stars!

Thank you Harper Collins and Edelweiss for this advanced read copy in exchange for an honest review!

 

All quotes were taken from an uncorrected galley proof subject to change in the final edition

 

Advertisements

Review: Then and Always

Then and Always, Dani Atkins

Amanda

Published May 20th 2014 by Ballantine Books

320 Pages

Source: NetGalley

From Goodreads

Image

Rachel’s life is perfect. A handsome boyfriend, great friends and the prospect of starting at university in a few weeks means she’s never been happier. But in a single heartbeat her world falls apart forever.

Five years later, Rachel is still struggling to come to terms with the tragedy that changed everything. Returning to her hometown for the first time in years, she finds herself consumed by thoughts of the life that could have been. But when a sudden fall lands her in hospital, Rachel awakes to discover that the life she had dreamed about just might be real after all.

Unable to trust her own memories, Rachel begins to be drawn further into this new world where the man she lost is alive and well but where she is engaged to be married to someone else…

Then and Always begins at a farewell celebration.  Rachel and her best friends are having a dinner party before they begin to split off to university.  Rachel’s life is pretty perfect right now.  Her boyfriend is gorgeous, her friends are loyal and she’s on her way to become a journalist.  Rachel is trying to take this night all in as she knows that her life is totally about to change.  Then the group sees a car speeding toward the restaurant window; everything changes but not in any way that could have been anticipated.

We flash forward five years and meet an extremely different Rachel.  She’s never recovered from the emotional wounds of the car accident and has significant physical injuries still.  The friendships that were so important haven’t been able to survive the aftermath, with the exception of Rachel’s best friend Sarah.  Rachel returns home for Sarah’s wedding and faces her former friends for the first time in years.  

Rachel blacks out after Sarah’s rehearsal dinner and when she wakes up an entirely different five years have passed.  These five years have been much happier and the future Rachel wakes to is much more promising.  Yet Rachel wants her old life back with its depressing familiarity.  She also wants to know she isn’t completely going crazy.  In this future Rachel has not just Sarah but her dad, a fiance, and her dear friend Jimmy to help her try to find answers.  

This was kind of frustrating because the alternative reality Rachel wakes up to is so perfect–why would she want to change things?  I wanted her to just accept it and go along with things.  Take the great life and just live it girl!  I was so hopeful for her future in this life. Why would you want to be miserable?  I wanted her to have more spunk!  

I wanted to know what made Rachel so incredible that she had this amazing boyfriend, a friend clearly in love with her, and the best friend who can do no wrong.  What about her led her to this perfect life?  I wish we had more history with her.  Rachel’s friends were kind of stock characters- doting male best friend, the cruel beautiful girl, the boyfriend who is too good to be true-and I wished there had been more depth to them.  I think it would have made both scenarios better had they been more fleshed out. Don’t get me wrong, I did like the story overall, I just wanted MORE.  

I read Then and Always in one night because I was so determined to find out what was happening to Rachel.  Was this magic? Was it a delusion?  Would we even get an answer?   I picked up some hints of what Atkins was leading to, but wow that ending was not at all what I expected.  I sat on the couch with tears at the end of this book trying to put it all together in my mind.  This book will make you think about second chances at life in a new way.  I will definitely check out Atkins’ next book to see where she goes from this debut.

3 stars

Thank you Ballentine Books and NetGalley for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

Addendum from Holly: I haven’t read this book, but, reading this review I was immediately reminded of a recent story on This American Life, about a woman who woke up from a coma and had forgotten that she was divorced. This made everything kind of awkward with her ex-husband and her family! If you don’t listen to TAL, you are missing out. Check out Episode 526 for the coma story. And then you’ll have something like 525 more to catch up on…

Review: One Plus One

One Plus One, Jojo Moyes

Amanda

To be published July 1st 2014 by Penguin Group Viking

384 pages

Source: NetGalley

Image

From Goodreads…

Suppose your life sucks. A lot. Your husband has done a vanishing act, your teenage stepson is being bullied and your math whiz daughter has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you can’t afford to pay for. That’s Jess’s life in a nutshell—until an unexpected knight-in-shining-armor offers to rescue them. Only Jess’s knight turns out to be Geeky Ed, the obnoxious tech millionaire whose vacation home she happens to clean. But Ed has big problems of his own, and driving the dysfunctional family to the Math Olympiad feels like his first unselfish act in ages . . . maybe ever.

I will not deny that I’m a bit obsessed with Jojo Moyes right now.  I thought Me Before You was one of the best books I read last year and so I’m willing to read anything she writes right now.

As One Plus One begins we meet poor Jess.  As we learn about her life I just wanted to give her a hug.  She owns a cleaning business with her best friend Natalie.  Jess supports herself, her 10 year-old daughter Tanzie, and her teenage step-son Nicky all while her husband is basically loafing off an alleged bout of depression and not sending any financial or moral help.

Moyes makes you feel like you’re right there in the housing estate (British public housing)  that Jess lives in with her family and makes your heart hurt for their struggles.  Tanzie is too smart for her school and Nicky is just too different to be accepted by his peers.  Jess meets Ed, who comes to her off as a rich jerk, totally oblivious to the people around him such as the woman who cleans his house. Yes, Ed has major problems of his own –what with an insider trading accusation coming up and causing him to flee London — but he while he might be oblivious he is not really the jerk he originally comes of as. He has lost sight of what’s important and through Jess and her kids he’s given a chance to find himself again.

Tanzie is given an opportunity to compete in a Math Olympiad in Scotland and the cash winnings would be life changing for this family. The fates conspire against Jess being able to get her there to compete on time and so Ed becomes the family’s only hope.  Ed’s new luxury car filled with Jess, Tanzie, Nicky and their smelly but unfailingly loyal dog Norman.

Yes, I found the road trip to be slightly silly and unrealistic- but what I loved was the moments Jess and Ed had and the experience this family had together.  They were sad at times and hilarious at times.  I loved Jess, but Nicky’s story particularly broke my heart as I was reading, so I also really loved getting the perspective from him.  This was a story about love, about choosing to make your own family and about standing up for what’s right.  You can easily get past the silly feeling you get with the road trip and just enjoy the ride.

4 stars!

Thank you NetGalley and Penguin Group Viking for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion.

Review: Make It Count

unnamed

Make It Count, Megan Erikson (Bowler University #1)

Amanda

Published June 3rd 2014 by William Morrow Impulse

384 pages

Source: Edelweiss

We’re excited to be part of the blog tour today for Megan Erickson’s debut new adult Make it Count! I think I’d have had fun at Bowler University!

20705734Kat Caruso wishes her brain had a return policy, or at least a complaint hot-line. The defective organ is constantly distracted, terrible at statistics, and absolutely flooded with inappropriate thoughts about her boyfriend’s gorgeous best friend, Alec…who just so happens to be her brand new math tutor. Who knew nerd was so hot?

Kat usually goes through tutors like she does boyfriends—both always seem to bail when they realize how hopeless she is. It’s safer for her heart to keep everyone at arm’s reach. But Alec is always stepping just a little too close.

Alec Stone should not be fantasizing about Kat. She’s adorable, unbelievably witty, and completely off limits. He’d never stab his best friend in the back…

But when secrets are revealed, the lines of loyalty are blurred. To make it count, Alec must learn messy human emotions can’t be solved like a trigonometry function. And Kat has to trust Alec may be the first guy to want her for who she is, and not in spite of it.

In Make It Count we meet Kat, a college student struggling with statistics (if you didn’t struggle too I don’t want to know you) and working her way through multiple tutors.  When her boyfriend’s snarky roommate is assigned as her next tutor she’s almost ready to give up rather than admit she needs help.  She does not expect to befriend and then fall for hunky Alec.

Make it Count was a fun and funny read, but still touched on some serious ideas.  I was not sure how much I’d like Kat at first honestly.  She’s struggled in school all her life and seemed close to giving up when we meet her.  I was afraid she’d simply rely too much on her looks.  But when she’s confronted with the idea of a learning disability, she takes it all in and shows what a strong woman she is.  I thought Erickson did a fantastic job of bringing in Kat’s dyslexia-not something you read about every day-but Kat was so much more than the dyslexia.  She’s funny and loyal and really a believable character.  I loved how she stood up for herself all around!

Let me say this book got HOT and steamy.  Alec apparently can be a tutor of many things.  Wow. I should say, Alec was more than a hunk too.  He was encouraging and sweet-very swoonworthy!

I look forward to reading more about Bowler University! Make it Count was about Kat and Alec yes, but Erickson’s other characters were funny and intriguing.  They felt like real friends you’d have in college-not cookie cutter plot devices.   I’m definitely going to have to read Make it Right when its out!

4 stars!

Enter HERE for a chance to win Make it Count or a Starbucks gift card and Make it Count swag pack!

Thank you Edelweiss and William Morrow Impulse  for this advanced read copy in exchange for an honest opinion!

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the blog tour for Make it Count!

unnamed2

Review: The Heiresses

The Heiresses, Sara Shepard (The Heiresses #1)

Published May 20th 2014 by Harper

320 pages

Source: Edelweiss

Image

From Goodreads…

The series follows one of the most prestigious and wealthy families on the Upper East Side who have built their entire fortune on the business of diamonds.

Due to a clause the grandfather placed in his will, only his granddaughters are set to inherit his massive fortune…these are the heiresses. After the death of their cousin, the remaining heiresses try to figure out if the family curse is real or not, and if not, who killed their cousin, and more importantly, which one of them is next on the hit list?

Sometimes you just need to escape into a fluff book-what could be better than a book about jewel heiresses living in New York and possibly under a family curse?  I’ve never read or watched Shepard’s Pretty Little Liars series, but I have a rough idea of what’s going on and I figured this would could as the same kind of mindless reading, perfectly trashy and fluffy.  I feel like The Heiresses was also written as a future tv series – and that’s one I’d plan to watch for some entertaining tv!

We follow basically 3 of the Saybrook heiresses, Rowan, Aster and Corrine, living their glamorous lives in New York.  I was a bit confused in the beginning with keeping track of who each cousin was, who was a sister versus who was a cousin, and who belonged to which philandering partner.  But honestly, I just went with it without over thinking because that’s just the kind of book this was.

An heiress dies! It may be murder! There’s plenty of sex-both inside and outside of marriage vows, questions of theft, and of course the Saybrook curses hanging over everyone! Are the Saybrook’s cursed to die young?

Some of the plot points I clearly saw coming, but I would say the end result was a surprise.  It was frustrating that not every question about the curse was answered-and I felt there were some glaring questions.  I’m not sure if those were just mistakes-but maybe those will happen in book two.  The book ended with such a cliffhanger that I am going to have to read book two to find out what happens!  This was not a book to take seriously and clearly its not high literary fiction.  It was fun for a trashy read which we all need sometimes in my humble opinion.

3 stars!  Read this one on the beach with a fruity drink for sure!

Thank you Harper and Edelweiss for this advanced copy for review in exchange for an honest opinion.

Review: You Had Me At Hello

You Had Me At Hello, Mhairi McFarlane

Amanda

Published February 24, 2014 by Harper Collins

464 pages

Source: Edelweiss

From Goodreads…

Image

What happens when the one that got away comes back? Find out in this sparkling debut from Mhairi McFarlane.

‘Think of the great duos of history. We’re just like them.’

‘You mean like Kylie and Jason? Torvill and Dean? Sonny and Cher?’

‘I think you’ve missed the point, Rachel.’

Rachel and Ben. Ben and Rachel. It was them against the world. Until it all fell apart. It’s been a decade since they last spoke, but when Rachel bumps into Ben one rainy day, the years melt away.

They’d been partners in crime and the best of friends. But life has moved on: Ben is married. Rachel is not. Yet in that split second, Rachel feels the old friendship return. And along with it, the broken heart she’s never been able to mend.

Hilarious, heartbreaking and everything in between, you’ll be hooked from their first ‘hello’.

Its been awhile since I’ve read a really good chick-lit book (I miss you Bridget Jones, RIP Mark Darcy). That said, You Had Me At Hello was just what I needed!

You Had Me At Hello brings us Rachel right at the moment she realizes that her relationship with her fiance is not making either of them happy.  She is now single for the first time in years and she is learning to live on her own.  Rachel is trying to get over her relationship with the help of the friends she’s had since university; all her friends except for Ben.  We learn that Rachel and Ben lost contact after university, but not why this happened.

McFarlane then intersperses for us the past and present as Rachel and Ben meet for the first time as students and then when Rachel learns Ben has moved to Manchester and contrives to accidentally meet him again. She learns that Ben is married to the perfect wife and tries to pick up their friendship again.  I liked watching the new friendship try to move forward set up with the scenes of their history together.

I also enjoyed Rachel’s friends.  They were funny and were supportive and still made mistakes themselves.  I liked that they weren’t plastics, they felt real like girls -and a guy- I’d like to hang out with too!  Rachel’s problems felt real, like ones I could see my friends getting into after college and using the same copious amounts of alcohol to get out of. Sometimes you just want a light chick lit book and this was perfect for me.

Last, why is cursing just so much more fun when its British?  I really need to tell more people to sod off-not you reading this, don’t take that personally!

4 stars for a fun chick lit read.

Thank you Harper Collins and Edelweiss for this advanced read copy for review.