Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Babyville Book Review

Babyville by Jane Green


Bestselling author Jane Green has won the hearts of thousands of readers with her fresh take on single life and the dating jungle. Now in Babyville, she applies her golden touch to the next phase of a girl's life, in an irresistible new novel about two young women coping with the chimes of their biological clocks, and one independent glamour-girl who tries to tune hers out.

Meet Julia, a wildly successful television producer who appears to have the picture-perfect life. But beneath the surface, things are not as perfect as they seem. Stuck in a loveless relationship with her boyfriend, Mark, Julia thinks a baby is the answer...but she may want a baby more than she wants her boyfriend. Will a trip to New York City with a jet-setting friend - and all the glittering energy and eligible men the city brings - help her discover what she really needs?

Maeve, on the other hand, is allergic to commitment. A feisty, red-haired, high-power career girl, she cherishes her ability to do just as she pleases and breaks out in a rash every time she passes a stroller. But when her no-strings-attached nightlife leads to an unexpected pregnancy, her reaction may be just as unexpected.

And then there's Samantha - happily married and eager to be the perfect June Cleaveresque mother. But baby George brings only exhaustion, extra pounds, and marital strife to her once tidy life. Is having an affair with a friend's incredibly sexy husband the answer?

By turns witty, rollicking, and tender, Babyville isn't really a story about babies - it's about three friends whose lives are suddenly turned upside-down by that life-changing event that hangs over the head of every girl: motherhood.

Review by Brittany:

Jane Green is an author who writes novels that women can easily relate to. This book focuses on three different women and the struggles they have when it comes to motherhood. Each woman in the book feels differently about motherhood; however, each character is relatable, which I think is a testament to the skill level involved in her character development.

The book is separated into three parts, each part focusing on one of the main characters, with cameos by the other characters. It starts with Julia, describing her relationship with Mark and the struggles they are having with conceiving. The second part is about Maeve, a career woman who has a one night stand and accidentally gets pregnant. The third part is about Sam, a married woman who wanted nothing more than to be a mother but is finding it more difficult than she had anticipated.

The layout of the book was interesting and different than other books that I have read by this author. Having the parts separate meant that the focus of the book shifted, including the written point of view. The author made it work by giving updates for each character in each part, so that the reader always knows what is going on with each of the characters. By the end of the book, the reader is up to date with each character's life, which makes the story feel complete.

One thing I loved about this book was the character of Maeve's mother. She plays a huge role in the part of the book that focuses on Maeve's story, and she is truly such a powerful force in Maeve's life. While Maeve doesn't easily admit it, her mother's approval and opinions matter greatly and play a role in the direction Maeve chooses to take in her life. I love characters like that.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was a quick, easy read, and while some parts of the story were emotionally difficult, the author wrote it in such a way that I didn't feel completely obliterated by any of it. I was invested, and each character's life worked out in the way that it was supposed to. I really enjoyed this book.

Notable quotes:

Not that she's unhappy, exactly. But she's not happy either. She just is. For the last couple of years Julia has felt as if she's lived her life floating on a cloud of apathy, and she's really not certain what the problem is.

Sam is only saying all the things Julia thinks when she wakes up in the middle of the night with a pounding heart, almost suffocating with the panic, the need to escape, only bearable because she knows normality will return with daylight.

She didn't mean to say it. Christ, she didn't even mean to think it...

You won't have anything in common anymore, since you are not interested in babies, and they are no longer interested in life.

"I suppose, though, wherever you go, your life is still your life and you're still you."

"I had relationships with wonderful men, but I expected too much from them, and always moved on thinking I'd find the perfect man out there."

...I stand up and walk to the window, where I watch the cars for a while, wondering how everyone else's life can carry on as if nothing terrible has happened, when mine has just been turned upside down.

She also knew she would never do such a thing, but she knew how you could be on the edge, and how little it would take to push you over.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Size 12 and Ready to Rock Book Review

Size 12 and Ready to Rock by Meg Cabot

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Just because the students at New York College have flown the coop doesn't mean assistant residence hall director Heather Wells can relax. Fischer Hall is busier than ever, filled with squealing thirteen- and fourteen-year-old girls attending the first ever Tania Trace Rock Camp, hosted by pop sensation Tania Trace herself - who just happens to be newly married to Heather's ex-boyfriend, heartthrob Jordan Cartwright. But the real headache begins when the producer of a reality TV show starring Tania winds up dead...and it's clear that the star was the intended victim.

Grant Cartwright, head of Cartwright Records, wants to keep his daughter-in-law (and his highest-earning performer) alive. So he hires his oldest son, black sheep of the family and private investigator Cooper Cartwright - who just happens to be Heather's new fiance. Heather should leave the detecting to Cooper. But with a dorm full of hysterical mini-divas-in-training, she can't help but get involved. And after Tania shares a really shocking secret with her, this reality suddenly becomes more dangerously real than anyone ever anticipated.

Review by Brittany:

This book is the fourth in the Heather Wells mystery series by this author, but one thing I loved about this book is that you needn't have read the others to follow along. It's been a long time since I read the other three, but this book covers enough of what has happened that it was a great refresher for me and would give enough information for someone new to the series to just jump right in.

One thing I will say about this book is that it's a little silly. All of Cabot's books, at least in this series, have an element of silliness to them, and the Heather Wells series does center on the fact that she is a "plus-sized" heroine. There are mentions to her size throughout all books in the series, along with her previous success as a pop star. Heather now is the assistant director of a college residence hall, which also gets poked fun at.

However, although there is some silliness here, Cabot covers a lot of serious issues in this book. The primary one is domestic abuse and the ways that this can affect a woman, even once she has escaped the situation. This book also alludes to infertility, leading Heather and Cooper to have a pretty serious discussion about having children. These are both scary things and Cabot does well with covering these topics, while still managing to maintain a certain level of lightheartedness in her writing.

If you're looking for a fairly quick and easy read, this one is a good choice to make. It won't require much thought and will keep you turning pages quickly.

Notable quotes:

I feel as if an earthquake is going on, only inside of me instead of beneath my feet. The ground is shifting, shifting, everything moving in slow motion, but only I can feel it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Lone Wolf Book Review

Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult

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In the wild, when a wolf knows its time is over, when it knows it is of no more use to its pack, it may sometimes choose to slip away. Dying apart from its family, it stays proud and true to its nature. Humans aren't so lucky.

Luke Warren has spent his life researching wolves. He has written about them, studied their habits intensively, and even lived with them for extended periods of time. In many ways, Luke understands wolf dynamics better than those of his own family. His wife, Georgie, has left him, finally giving up on their lonely marriage. His son, Edward, twenty-four, fled six years ago, leaving behind a shattered relationship with his father. Edward understands that some things cannot be fixed, though memories of his domineering father still inflict pain. Then comes a frantic phone call: Luke has been gravely injured in a car accident with Edward's younger sister, Cara.

Suddenly everything changes: Edward must return home to face the father he walked out on at age eighteen. He and Cara have to decide their father's fate together. Though there's no easy answer, questions abound: What secrets have Edward and his sister kept from each other? What hidden motives inform their need to let their father die...or to try to keep him alive? What would Luke himself want? How can any family member make such a decision in the face of guilt, pain, or both? And most importantly, to what extent have they all forgotten what a wolf never forgets: that each member of a pack needs the others, and that sometimes survival means sacrifice?

Another tour de force by Picoult, Lone Wolf brilliantly describes the nature of a family: the love, protection, and strength it can offer - and the price we might have to pay for those gifts. What happens when the hope that should sustain a family is the very thing tearing it apart?

Review by Brittany:

As a long time Picoult fan, I never doubt that I'm going to enjoy one of her books. They all have some kind of moral dilemma that really makes me wonder what I would do in the situation of the characters.

In this book, the moral dilemma focuses on quality of life and whether or not it is moral to pull the plug on someone's life support, without their consent. Two siblings are each trying to win the right to make the judgment call on their father's quality of life and what he might want.

One thing about this book that was a bit of a letdown for me was character development. Normally Picoult writes such clear, humanized characters that I feel like they are real people. I can relate to them and understand the struggles they have and the choices they make. This book didn't have that for me. The father, Luke, is learned about primarily through tales from when he lived with wolves in the woods in Canada. The other characters are learned about through flashbacks and their responses to Luke's condition, but none of them are particularly deep or likable.

The night that Luke and his daughter Cara get into the car accident that puts him in the hospital remains a bit of a mystery. The full events are not revealed until the end of the book, but the entire thing felt a bit anticlimactic. I think this is largely due to the fact that the characters were not well-developed and I didn't feel as invested because of it.

I will say that I was, as usual, impressed with the level of Picoult's research. Her books are always thorough and leave me feeling extremely overwhelmed by her sheer knowledge in any subject. The information she gives about wolves and the way that she can write about living with them without (probably) ever having done it herself is impressive and a trademark of this author.

Overall, the story is good because Picoult just knows how to write a good book. However, this is not a favorite of mine by her as I expect more character development in her novels.

Notable quotes:

It's a funny thing, how - no matter how much bigger I am than my mother - she is still the one holding me, instead of the other way around.

Mistakes are like the memories you hid in the attic: old love letters from relationships that tanked, photos of dead relatives, toys from a childhood you miss. Out of sight is out of mind, but somewhere deep inside you know they still exist.

It's just one more item on a long list of things I never expected.

When people say growing up can happen overnight, they're wrong. It can happen even faster, in an instant.

When you are the family fuckup, receiving credit is almost overwhelming.

"No matter what you do for someone - no matter if you feed him a bottle as a baby or curl up with him at night to keep him warm or give him food so he's not hungry - make one wrong move at the wrong moment, and you become someone unrecognizable."

When something upends the equilibrium - when one child needs you more than the others - that imbalance becomes a black hole. You may never admit it out loud, but the one you love the most is the one who needs you more desperately than his siblings.

Like a missing tooth, sometimes an absence is more noticeable than a presence...

Cara may thing I don't love her as much as I do her brother, but parents aren't the only ones who play favorites.

I feel like my marriage is a Venn diagram, and the only shared space between us right now is an awkward silence.

Can you really be mad at someone for doing something stupid if they truly, one hundred percent, thought they were doing what was right?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Likeness Book Review

The Likeness by Tana French

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Six months after a particularly nasty case, Detective Cassie Maddox has transferred out of Dublin's Murder squad and has no plans to go back. That is, until an urgent telephone call summons her to a grisly crime scene.

It's only when she sees the body that Cassie understands the hurry. The victim, a young woman, is Cassie's double and carries ID identifying herself as Alexandra Madison, an alias Cassie once used on an undercover job. Suddenly, Cassie must discover not only who killed this girl but, more importantly, who is this girl? And as reality and fantasy become desperately tangled, Cassie moves dangerously close to losing herself forever.

Review by Brittany:

This is one of the only books I have ever read that left me feeling like I don't know a single thing about any of the characters, but I love it anyway. Most books that feel like they have limited character development don't make much of an impact on me, but this one is different. The main character spends the majority of the book pretending to be someone else as she is an undercover detective, so I never quite felt like I was experiencing anything in the way that the character would. And even though she constantly describes her experiences with the other characters, I never felt as if I was getting to know any of them.

This feeling did not take away from the novel at all. Cassie is working as an undercover to try to solve the murder of the girl pretending to be Alexandra Madison, so she has put herself in Lexie's life. The police spin the story that she wasn't murdered, only assaulted, so that Cassie can infiltrate the circle and try to solve the crime.

One skill this author has is sliding in the little details that make the end result logical. Tiny things that the reader won't really think about (she never carried her cigarettes with her on her walks) that feel unimportant until they aren't anymore. Piecing together the motive and what happened on the night of the murder is a precarious, careful thing, and the author really works to make it logical and not overly obvious.

French is an author who just knows how to make it work. She keeps the action moving at a consistent pace that makes continuing reading easy to do. Her characters in this book aren't necessarily going to be the most notable characters, but they each play their role in moving the story along. I would definitely recommend this book to those who are interested in murder mystery novels or just looking for a good read.

Notable quotes:

It hadn't occurred to me, till then, that all that silence could have been plenty revealing, in its own way.

"But there's no point in wishing. Once you're stuck with someone, all you can do is make the best of it."

My hand was on the door handle when for a split second out of nowhere I was terrified, blue-blazing terrified, fear dropping straight through me like a jagged black stone falling fast. I'd felt this before, in the limbo instants before I moved out of my aunt's house, lost my virginity, took my oath as a police officer: those instants when that irrevocable thing you wanted so much suddenly turns real and solid, inches away and speeding at you, a bottomless river rising and no way back once it's crossed.

"What could possibly be simpler, or more crucial? You can have anything you want, as long as you accept that there is a price and that you will have to pay it."

No matter how strong you are or how controlled, keeping a secret - I should know - gets heavy after a while, heavy and tiring and so lonely it feels lethal.

"Students and very young people can rent with no damage to their intellectual freedom, because it puts them under no threat: they have nothing, yet, to lose. Have you noticed how easily the very young die? They make the best martyrs for any cause, the best soldiers, the best suicides. It's because they're held here so lightly: they haven't yet accumulated loves and responsibilities and commitments and all the things that tie us securely to this world. They can let go of it as easily and simply as lifting a finger. But as you get older, you begin to find things that are worth holding onto, forever. All of a sudden you're playing for keeps, as children say, and it changes the very fabric of you."

When you're too close to people, when you spend too much time with them and love them too dearly, sometimes you can't see them.

"You've got a bad habit of taking too much credit for the stuff other people do around you."